Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong, Who Cares?

10 12 2012

Why do we care so much about what others think?  At the end of the day isn’t being religious just a belief system?   The way a person decides how they want to live their life.  I’m sure that’s a gross over simplification, but I don’t have the time or energy to dig any deeper for my opening paragraph.

If I practiced a religion it would be humor, I’m a zealot to comedy.  I guess you could say Richard Pryor is my Black Jesus.  I tend to write about what I find funny, knowing it’s not for everybody.  Just recently someone referred to me as “self aware”, which is something I took as a compliment.  My comfort level comes from knowing how I got to where I’m at and who I am.

The chubby kid whose parents divorced when he’s just a wee lad.  Moved around a lot when he was growing up, bouncing him from school to school. The end result was someone who deflects with humor, looks for short cuts and was overly concerned about pleasing those around him.

As with many things in life, change happens.  You grow up, you get married, you have kids.  Having a family just has a way of making everything else come second.  Basically you quit caring about what people think, there are other more important issues to focus on,  and I’ll be real honest, it’s amazing when you get there.   That being said, the core personality we grew up with stays with us, even if it’s buried deep under a layer of  lame oxford shirts, ties, and khaki pants.

Case and point on not caring: I was voted “best dressed” in my Senior Class.  For four years I laid clothes out the night before I went to school.  So obsessed about looking my best and caring about the image I portrayed to people I would hardly ever see again after school.  Yesterday I went to the grocery store to but pop-tarts in grey cotton gym shorts and a yellow spandex workout shirt.  I looked like I just won a stage of the Tour de France… If they held one for past their prime, middle aged, guys in flip flops.

Lately I’ve noticed quite a bit of chatter on Facebook about religion.  Believer vs. Non-Believer to me is as relevant and compelling as Team Jacob vs. Team Edward.  But that’s just my opinion.  To some middle aged housewives Jacob vs Edward is some serious shit and you better have your facts straight and bring your “A” game if you want to try and argue your case.

I feel like I’m in a grey area of hypocrisy for even writing about something that I supposedly don’t care about.  For the sake of argument, lets just pretend that I’m a third party observer with no agenda other than a few cheap laughs.

I mean I get it.  On one side you have the person who needs answers, needs proof.  On the other side you have the person who only needs faith.Proof is obviously irritated by Faith’s overwhelming consensus  that Proof will be sent to a hell that doesn’t exist.

Faith is irritated that Proof is challenging the belief system which they run their life by, usually in a condescending “holier than thou” manner.  And we all know nobody is holier than the born again Christian.

Why is it so important to be right?  I mean aside from the whole eternal damnation thing.  If either side found out tomorrow they were 100% correct, would their life be any different or would it be a bunch of self high fives and Tebowing? (sorry for the dated Tebow reference, I started writing this last year)

One of the hardest things for me to distinguish is the difference between someone posting bible verses and someone posting the latest scientific findings.  To me it’s the same, you’re both preaching from the pulpit.

I’m reminded of an episode of South Park called “Go God Go”: In the year 2546, the entire world is atheistic and dedicated to rationality and science. Atheism is divided into several denominations. These factions are at war with each other over who has the right answer to the Great Question. Cartman is told that their inspiring leader from the past, Richard Dawkins, showed them the way, but it was his “beautiful wife”, Mrs. Garrison, who showed how one must be a dick to people they don’t agree with.

Humans have a desire to be heard, we want others to agree with us and tell us we’re right.  We’re vane, ego driven and love to be pandered to.

What we don’t like, is to be told that we’re wrong or that we’re not as smart as someone else based on what we believe.  Whether it’s directly by saying, “You’re so wrong you’re embarrassing yourself.” or indirectly by simply rolling your eyes.

For me it’s understanding everyone has a different sense of humor.  I don’t expect everybody to laugh at what I say, I don’t criticize or look down upon people who think farts are as funny as a well crafted joke.

Well ok, that’s not exactly true.  I do look down upon them, it’s the lowest form of humor that requires zero talent.  But I keep it to myself.  Anyone who has spent three minutes setting up a joke only to have some jobber fart and get a bigger laugh feels my pain.

If atheism were a comedian it would be Dennis Miller.  So desperate for everyone to know how smart he is, that most of his jokes alienate the general public.  The fact that nobody gets the Dennis Miller reference proves my point.

If religion were a comedian it would be Jeff Foxworthy.  It was good the first time I heard it and simplistic, but if I have to hear one more forced “you might be a redneck” joke with canned laughter, I’m looking for the nearest rafter, some rope and a foot stool.

Which gets us back to my original question.  Why do we care what people think?  To which I don’t think there’s a cookie cutter answer that works for everyone.  I think each of us deals with our own issues, those issues which have defined us and molded the person we are today.  Which may be the root of why we do or don’t care.  We may never have a agreeable answer on whether or not a God exists.  Maybe the better question is, “Why do I care so much if someone believes he does or doesn’t?”


We are who we are… (literal short)

23 11 2012

Forward:  Most of you who follow my writing know me as a somewhat negative and pragmatic person.  Those of you who have known me in real life, for any length of time, know that I’m not really that same person.  Negative yes, but in more of an upbeat manner and not quite as pragmatic.  Imagine if the Odd Couple were just one person, that would be me.  My writing is Oscar Madison and in person I’m more Felix Unger

Yesterday was like any other Sunday around our house, lazy.  I spent the entire afternoon throwing the football to a neighborhood full of future NFL receivers.  Once I go across the street to the park with my two boys, Conner (7) and TJ (9), kids seem to come out of the woodwork.  The end result for me is a good nights rest, and a really sore shoulder the next morning.

Added to the fray yesterday were two new kids I’d never seen before, Caleb (10) and Chris (12).  After spending some time talking to them, I found out they were new to the neighborhood, brothers from northern California.  They were polite and respectful, two things that are a rarity with most of the kids I come into contact with in the neighborhood.

After an entire afternoon of throwing the football around, it was time to head back across the street and home.  Walking home I noticed one of the kids bmx bike didn’t have a seat on it.  Seriously, how in the blue hell do you peddle a bike around with just a pointed chrome bar pointing at the family jewels?  This had complete disaster written all over it.  I mean you may as well find a WWI German helmet with the spike on it, and weld it to the frame.

So I had to ask, “Hey whose bike is this?”

The new boy Caleb owned up to it in a very sheepish manner, “mine.”

I could tell he was embarrassed and didn’t want to draw attention to it in front of all the other kids.  Just then, in a split second, 3rd through 6th grade came flooding back to me in an flash.  I remembered the freedom and importance of the BMX bike.  I also remembered how having a cool bike meant something, and how having a clunker, aka 4th generation hand-me-down Huffy, was a badge of shame.  Then somewhere four levels below that, in bmx hell, was having a bike with no seat.

Not on my watch.  I could just see it, this kid goes off a sidewalk or small jump and he spends the rest of his life thinking about how nice it would have been to have kids.  I waited for the other boys to clear out and asked him about the bike.

“So where’s the seat?”

“I don’t have one.”

“I.. see that.., so you just ride everywhere standing?”

“Yeah, my legs get pretty tired”

Then he proceeded to tell me it was free from his church.  I knew better than to ask why his parents hadn’t bought a new seat for him.  These are tough times and from the way the boys were dressed, it was obvious the family was on a pretty tight budget.  As luck would have it I just so happen to have a bike that a family who moved out left in the street.  TJ carried it home with designs on my renovating it… It’s sat along side the house for 6 months.  I’ve been busy.

“Caleb, this is your lucky day, wheel that thing over to our driveway.”

What started out as simply adding a seat, turned into adjusting and tightening his handlebars, which actually came off the bike in my hands.  We tightened and oiled the chain, which kept coming off as well.   Then added about ten pounds of air to each tire.  It may not have been the Hollywood ending of the brand new looking bike, but at least it was now serviceable.

To be honest, it was no more than fifteen minutes out of my day and some spare parts, but to this kid it was as if a miracle had just happened.  He spent five minutes testing the new ride, smiling from ear to ear, finally stopping back in front of me with a pretty nice power-slide.

“I forgot what it’s like to sit… I don’t know how to thank you or how to repay you.”

“I’ll make you a deal, next time you have the opportunity to help someone out, do it, and we’re even.”


He shook my hand and headed down the street with his brother, sitting while he peddled.  Ordinarily I’d say that most kids would just blow my idea off.  But I have a feeling this kid will live up to his end of the bargain, and help someone else out.  Which does someone like me good.

It gives me hope that not everyone in this world is a selfish, thankless, self absorbed jerk.  For the next few days I’ll be a little less negative and a little less pragmatic.  I’ll try to remember that although few and far between there are still plenty of good people.  In simple terms, I’ll try not to be realistic and instead think there’s still good in this world and there’s hope for the future.

Oops, Sounds like the feel-good dust is already starting to wear off.  Oh well it was one hell of a 24 hours!

The Absurdness of Sports Rivalries

29 04 2012

Today I decided to get away from it all and go for a hike.  My love affair with hiking is something I stumbled upon recently in my quest to lose weight and get back into what I would classify as “respectable” shape.  Its been a great fit, and so far the only expense associated with this new-found hobby has been a backpack.

Arizona is fantastic for hiking, there are plenty of hills and mountains.  But the real benefit is once you get a little ways in the air, you can see unobstructed for a long ways.  I’ve also found it to be quite relaxing in my own way.  I’m around people all week at work, all night when I get home, so the ability to throw some lunch in a backpack, hike to a rock somewhere and be in limited contact with other people is somewhat appealing.  That is unless you run into a Yankee fan.

On most days my “lid” or hat of choice is one of three Boston Red Sox hats.  And I have to say more often than not it elicits some sort of conversation, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

At one of the view points on the trail today I was taking some pictures when out of nowhere, “How about that finish to the game last night?”  Now yes I am a fan of the Red Sox, but I don’t watch every single game.  In a season with 162 of them, there’s going to be periods when I miss a few.  But somehow I always feel like I’m letting a complete stranger down if I don’t at least engage them is Sox talk for a couple of minutes.  Luckily I heard about an amazing play the shortstop made from his knees a couple of nights before.  “No, I missed the game but what about the play Pedroia made from his knees the other night!”

Red Sox nation is like any other brotherhood, the only thing missing is a secret handshake.  That being said, for every ying there must be a yang or in this case a Yank.  Fans of the Red Sox and Yankees are predisposed to not really liking each other, even at the casual fan level.  For every engaging comment I get, there is a “Boo Red Sox, go Yankees” comment.

Towards the mid way point of the hike I somehow got on a similar rest schedule with two Yankee fans, which lead to the first “Boo Red Sox” comment of the day.  After several friendly yet derogatory exchanges I decided to play nice and hold a somewhat forced, normal conversation.  However, without the common bond of disdain between these two teams, there really isn’t much to talk about.

The trail I was on was not a loop, so basically you hike to the end turn around and hike back.  At the turnaround Yankee fan got about a five-minute head start on me as I finished up a granola bar and some Powerade.  As he walked by I wished him well and said, “Enjoy the rest of your day, don’t let me catch you, I know how you Yankees like to fade going down the stretch.”

After a forced uncomfortable laugh in the 92 degree Arizona sun, he knew it was on.  We were no longer hiking for our own well-being.  We were hiking as representatives of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

I kept pace with him almost the whole way back, constantly staying 3-5 minutes behind.  Like vintage Lance Armstrong in the alps, I was just waiting for the mountain portion of the trail to make my move.  I overheard him mention a calve problem which I knew would be problematic in the vertical climb.

Sure enough, half way up the mountain I caught up with him resting in the shade.  At that moment I caught my third or maybe fourth wind and put the hammer down on the throttle.  Heat stroke and nausea be damned.  I felt like the driver who decides to pass on the final pit stop at the Indy 500, bald tires and next to no gas, it’s ride or die time!

Of course it ended up being a blowout.  I think I finished like ten minutes in front.  There was no fanfare, no recognition and no yellow jersey, just personal pride.  As I sat at a shaded picnic table dumping water over my head, I saw him finishing, clearly favoring the bad calve.  We made eye contact and both acted as though nothing was on the line, but secretly knowing otherwise.

My name is Thomas Colvin and today I dominated a 70-year-old Yankee fan in the name of Red Sox Nation.

“Lets Go Red Sox!”

A Coastal 4th of July

16 06 2011

The 4th of July has always been my favorite holiday.  Not that I’m any more patriotic than the next guy, but because my birthday is the day after.  It’s always been about parades, BBQs, presents, and real fireworks.  You know, bottle rockets, firecrackers, roman candles, etc.

The bummer of it is, I’ve lived most of my life in two states that frown upon real fireworks.  Nothing says, “lets celebrate our freedom” like being given a pack of snakes and smoke bombs.  While I’m sure the sparkler was cutting edge in the late 1800’s, today it’s a symbol of sucky fireworks.  Really, Oregon?  You’re one of the greenest and wettest states, but you’re hanging in there with the boring fireworks.  The new buzz phrase is “safe and sane” more like “safe and lame”.

Other crappy items you can add to that list of lame: pop-its, Crackling Fountains and my personal favorite of all time disappointments: The Piccolo Pete.  This thing lets out a high pitch whistle that sounds like it’s winding down to a nice big explosion.  Instead you get nothing but silence, like there was a misfire.  It’s the “USA Up All Night” of fireworks, just a huge tease that leaves you wanting.  That’s right, I’m talking to you Rhonda Shear.

Ironically, if you want to get the good stuff to celebrate independence, you have to seek out a historically oppressed people.  Back in the day in our neck of the woods it was a place called Tokeland.  I first heard about Tokeland Indian reservation in 1987.  We had just moved back to the Oregon Coast after being in exile in the greater Tri-City area, specifically Richland, for seven years.  My uncle Jack was visiting and asked if I wanted to see something cool.

Uncle Jack was the type of renegade anti-establishment guy who any young kid gravitates toward.  His primary interests were vinyl records and car audio systems.  He had a room at my grandpa’s place that was filled with boxes of vinyl records stacked to the ceiling.  In addition, he lived part-time in a sweet van that was similar to the A-team van.  Only it was a rust color that a decade later would actually be just rust, but that’s another story.

The “something cool” he wanted to show me was a pack of jumbo black cat bottle rockets.  These were still the days when you could find the glass Coke bottles without traveling to Mexico.  So he pulled out a pack and we lit them off, dropping each bottle rocket into the Coke bottle and listening to that whoosh and then a “pop.”

“Where did you get those?” I asked.  He responded, “Tokeland,”  which is located across the Columbia River in Washington.  Thinking back, things were so different 20 years ago.  There were no smart phones, there was no Internet, thus no mapquest or GPS.  Places like Tokeland were almost mythical in stature.  Usually it came down to some dude drawing a map on a napkin from the Dairy Maid.  Directions to places like this, we akin to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The first time I went there, I went with my parents and my other uncle, Vince, who had brought his family.  I remember looking at the selection in awe with my cousins.  They had everything, including two certain urban legends.  That’s right, the M-80 and the M-1000.  Just as the rumors had always stated, they were not out on display.  These were hidden under the counter for serious buyers only.  You had to ask the salesman a couple of times before he would break down, almost as if he wanted to make sure that you weren’t a cop.

Well thank god for my uncle Vince, because for entertainment purposes he was indeed a serious buyer.  In retrospect it almost went down like a drug deal, the heavy artillery was put in a small brown paper bag and slid nonchalantly across the counter.  There were other drug terms as well.  When you buy bottle rockets, it’s not by the pack, it’s by the brick.

Flash Forward to 2004:

The 4th of July is kind of a big deal in Warrenton, more specifically the 4th of July Parade.  People set up lawn chairs early to get a prime seat.  Getting pelted with rock candy from fire engines and clowns is life-changing.  When I took my wife home for the first time so she could see where I came from, it was over 4th of July weekend.  Did I have ulterior motives for picking this weekend?  Sure our anniversary is on the 4th, but I wanted to get her to the parade.  As we unfolded our lawn chairs, a single tear of pride rolled down my cheek.  Soon after the parade began, several tears rolled down Ally’s cheeks as she came to realize what she had married into.

Flash Back to 1993:

One of the high points in my life was getting “popped” with a “brick” in the back of my 1985 fire engine red Camaro.  Ah, Seaside Dairy Queen with Kelly Ray, I remember it like it was yesterday.  Dirty cop, looking in the back window with a flashlight, without probable cause.  One of those, “turn them over to me and I won’t give you a ticket” scenarios.

Had smugglers blues been playing on the radio, I would have done a huge burnout in the parking lot, leading to a high-speed chase.  The crowd would have cheered me on as Kelly opened a bottle rocket barrage from the T-top.   Instead, I think a more subdued Crazy by Seal was jamming, and I handed them over.  I’m sure Officer Friendly and his kids enjoyed them.

Flash a Little Further Back to 1987:

Sorry, I skipped ahead, we need to take the story back on track in the late ’80s.  On the day of the 4th we were going to have dinner and fireworks at our place on Smith Lake.  It was one of those awkward situations where it was the whole family including both my real dad and my step-dad.  Any who… I’ve noticed that when my real dad and uncle get together, they revert back to two 13-year-old kids, which was great for me because I was right around that age.  Now we could all act like kids together.  Allow me to explain:

Most of the fireworks purchased were of the rocket variety.  Because of this, my uncle had the great foresight to bring a large piece of PVC pipe to duct tape to the side of the back patio, at an angle.  What a great idea– you simply light and drop.  It was like a six-foot-long mortar cannon.  As the night progressed things started to get creative.  Uncle Vince realized that if you took the top off of the bigger rockets, and removed the two firecrackers, you could fit an M-80 inside.  So instead of two firecrackers going “pop-pop,” there was a pause and then a “KA-BOOM.”  I would classify it as something louder than a shotgun blast.  Let me put it this way, there was enough of a boom to rattle windows.

With the ante being raised yet again, my uncle took the PVC and hoisted it over his shoulder,  Then he yelled, “John Wayne!” and fired a rocket at my cousins and me who were out by the lake.  Don’t worry, there was no m-80 on board for that particular rocket.  That would have been irresponsible.

With the night winding down, there was one last rocket left.  Think of a bottle rocket only three feet long with a really thick red stick.  This was to be the grand finale.  However, the previous success with attaching m-80s to rockets had all the grown ups hard at work trying to figure out how to increase the payload.  Engineers at NASA don’t work this hard.  There was a buzz in the room, and a look of satisfaction adorned three grown men’s faces.  Here it comes, the big reveal:  Attached to the sides of this enormous rocket were two m-80s, but they didn’t stop there.  Strapped to the middle was the  pièce de résistance, an m-1000.

This was going to be awesome!  All the boys gathered on the back patio as my uncle lit this bastardized bottle rocket.  Looking like a futuristic space shuttle from hell, he dropped it into the tube.  Then there was a mighty “whoosh”!  We all looked up toward the black sky, ready to track the launch.

Warrenton… We have a problem.

It appeared the payload was too heavy, even for this massive rocket.  After the loud “whoosh” and nothing happening we all looked back to the tube, just in time to see six inches of the rocket peak its head out.  Then like a frightened turtle, or George Costanza in a cold pool, it receded back into the tube.  It was at this moment, that everyone did the most disorganized Chinese fire drill I’ve ever seen, looking for a place to hide and take cover.  Three seconds later, where there once was a six-foot PVC pipe there was only air, and the smell of gunpowder.

Obviously a major malfunction…

The explosion was so loud my ears were ringing, and I had managed to make it around the corner of the house.  My mother, who was inside cooking came out to find jagged pieces of the PVC shrapnel embedded in the side of the house.  As if she wasn’t pissed enough, everyone laughing and talking about, “how awesome that was” didn’t help matters.  But that’s what guys do.  We do something really stupid and ill-conceived and then laugh about how awesome it was that we didn’t die or lose an eye.

This year our two boys are getting old enough to appreciate fireworks, so I’m doing what any good father would do.  I’m driving 240 miles to the New Mexican border to buy illegal fireworks.  “It’s the smugglers blues”!

God bless The United States of America, and God bless Tokeland.

The Fortress of Solitude

10 06 2011

It appears there’s a dirty little secret becoming more popular in the United States: couples sleeping in separate beds.   Statistics from the American Sleep Foundation confirm about 1 in 4 couples are onboard.  I know right?  But the ASF actually exists and this trend is legitimate.

Consider this my coming out of the closet moment.  Not only was sleeping alone one of the best moves I ever made, but it just may have saved my marriage.  The wife and I have been married nine years this July, together for ten this October.

To try and pinpoint how exactly this happened is pretty easy.  Most of us with kids have had the pleasure of an extra two to four tiny cold feet somehow ending up in our bed.  Now I don’t care if you have a California king, you are an established swinger, or both.  Four people in a bed is, as it turns out, three people too many.

I hung in there for years, sacrificing sleep for something I thought was supposed to be the norm.  But I’ll bet the tradition of couples sleeping together was based more on square footage, than actual desire.

In the early 1900’s, blue-collar men were building skyscrapers in New York.  Or working 16-hour days on the Golden Gate bridge in California.  I’m sure they thought every night at quitting time,  “Ah I can’t wait to get home, have some potato peel soup, and fight for covers and pillows.  If only my shanty was bigger than 300 square feet.”  Why do you think they didn’t wear harnesses?  If that were me, I’d go to work every day hoping to take a header off the top.  Finally, some peace and quiet.

Homes today are significantly bigger than in your grandparents’ time and in preceding generations.  I’m skipping our parents because, as baby boomers, it’s a given they usually mess something up so we can learn from their mistakes.  The marital bed is one of them.

Anyway, after a few years of this, one night around 1 a.m., I gave up and headed to the couch.  A defeated man can only handle so many sharp little toe nails, cold feet, and headbutts.  I’m not sure what it is about a headbutt when you’re asleep, but the evolutionary response is to come out of a deep sleep throwing punches.  For the safety of those involved, the writing was on the wall.  A long-term solution needed to be put in place.

The sofa is stage one on your roadmap to freedom and sanity.  It’s easy and doesn’t require too much thought.  You simply stagger toward it with a pillow in hand.  After a few nights you realize, “Hey, we have a perfectly good guest room.”  You make your way down the dark hall, aim for the middle and just face-plant on the nice cool pillow.   There are no other obstacles or boundaries so you naturally try to touch all four corners with your arms and legs.  It’s like taking the nacho with all the guacamole, cutting the center out of a birthday cake, or peeing in the pool.  All of these things are so wrong, but they feel so right.

Then, just like that, you’re hooked.  Like a junkie taking his first hit of heroin,  it becomes your reality.  This is no longer a guest room, it’s your Fortress of Solitude.

Just like Superman, when you have to get away from putting out fires, saving kids and damsels in distress, or dealing with your a-hole boss, you head to the Fortress.  It’s a place where you can get away from it all and collect your thoughts.  Of course, one of the keys to making this whole thing work is keeping it a secret.

Don’t let everyone in the house know how great it is and what you’ve got going on.  In the context of relaxation: kid’s are like little Lex Luthors, tiny evil geniuses and the wife is sadly similar to Kryptonite.  Once they know you’re having fun in there, they’ll want to start hanging out.  Then, before you know it, you’ve got popcorn and Skittles in the sheets, and you’re getting yelled at for a drool spot on the pillow sham.  Not cool.

In the coming weeks the wheels start turning.  “I’ll bet if I added a nice TV to that room, some discretely placed surround sound speakers and started a little movie collection, that would be pretty cool.”  Guys, don’t sell yourself short by retreating to the garage.  The “man cave” is a non-climate-controlled area for bottom feeders.  Believe me when I tell you the guest room is where it’s at.

Step up and be a man, make a stand.  Stop pretending to enjoy lame late-night television like: Law & Order, NCIS, CSI, etc.  Control your own destiny when it comes to late night programming.  As an adult, if you want to be able to watch Hot Tub Time Machine or Inglorious Basterds, that should be your right.

Since I moved in I’ve made a few upgrades.  Of course, as mentioned before, there is an extensive video library of more than 200 classics.  Dolby surround complete with a center channel.  Oh, by the way, I now have my own closet space, which was a major upgrade.  Guys with walk-in closets, you know what I’m talking about.  The wife takes all the high-rent areas, namely all those little cubby holes.  You get the one short bent bar in the corner.  Your stuff is so jammed in there it looks like it was air packed.

The common misconception is that something must be wrong with the relationship, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Don’t kid yourself, you can profess your love for someone on Facebook as much as you’d like: “Our hearts beat together as one.”  Reality is, when you’re around someone all the time, it’s nice to get away and have your own space.  This includes “you” obligatory contrarian whiner, who I’m sure is thinking, “I can’t imagine being away from my soul mate blah blah blah.”

You just don’t get it, and chances are even though you’re all about being needy, your partner isn’t.  But it’s not all about me, it’s very much a two-way street.  The wife doesn’t have to listen to my “light” snoring, and she gets full control of her remote.  Not to mention the additional closet space.  I was compensated nicely for the additional closet space.  Apparently it’s a big deal.  Who knew?  Did I mention that Brad and Angelina sleep in different rooms?  That’s right, even Brad Pitt knows what’s up.

To be honest, for about a year or so I was reaping the benefits, while at the same time secretly embarrassed about the situation.  During conversations I would let slip, “my room” or “Ally’s room.”  This was usually met with a confused look, at which point I would come clean.  There were only a select few who new about this “arrangement.”   As time went by there was increasing chatter from this inner circle like, “Man, that must be nice” or  “How do I do it without her getting mad?”  To which I would respond, “You don’t choose the Fortress of Solitude, it chooses you.”  Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

I’m heading into year three of this little arrangement and I’ve noticed that things over the last few years have been the best between the wife and I.  Not sure anyone would argue that having a good nights sleep is not important.  When you have children, “alone time” is also at a premium.  Not just taking a break from a six- and eight-year-old, but taking a break from everything.  That includes each other.  Most adult couples our age, friends of ours, have to go through a magnum of wine to get the same effect.

Looking at things from my wife’s perspective, a stay-at-home mother.   Being around two small children all day is like being a deep-sea scuba diver .  When it’s bed/husband time, if she comes up too fast, she risks getting the bends.  To avoid the bends it is absolutely imperative that she spend time in a “decompression chamber.”

For those who don’t get the analogy, by “decompression chamber,” I mean alone time in her bedroom.  Light some candles, maybe take a bath and listen to some Bob Marley.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen anyone with the bends, but they’re really close to what I would describe as “severe bitchiness.”  Every year millions of couples suffer from this affliction needlessly.  The more you know…

So we journey along the road in this thing called married life.  I with my “Fortress of Solitude,” her with her “Decompression Chamber” and all is right with the world.  I encourage you to join me is standing tall and proud.  Click that like button and behold the revolution!

The Business of Family: A Hostile Take Over

13 05 2011

Like most kids from my generation I grew up with a step-parent by way of divorce.  In business terminology is it any different from mergers and acquisitions or in some cases a hostile take over?

To be honest I don’t really care for this piece, but I’m tired of messing with it, so here we go.  Don’t forget to read between the lines and draw your own conclusions.  Remember this is a parody and not necessarily drawn from my own experiences.

Lets examine divorce as though a child was playing the role of a corporate employee.   Located throughout the story you’ll see “click here”  feel free to examine these to  add a little flair to the story.

You’ve been on the job for several years, you’re a model employee, well liked by middle and upper management.  You’re on the fast track straight to the top.  Then through no fault of your own the company decides to split into two separate companies, when one of the owners is forced out.  One gets all the assets and the building, the other owner gets to keep the name.  It’s already shaping up to be a bad deal, but it gets worse. (click here)

You show up to work one day and realize that your boss, mentor, and guy who had your back is no longer there.  Rumor has it he was last seen carrying everything he owned in a cardboard box headed to his car.  The guy whose sole purpose was to make sure you succeeded within the company and been unceremoniously booted.  To make things worse they replace him with some upper management brown noser who knows nothing about you and is only interested in his own success, not yours.

Now you have to start over from scratch.  All of your previous accomplishments and accolades are meaningless.  Not to mention there is some serious resentment.  You’ve been with the firm longer, you know the ins and outs.  You could recite the employee handbook from cover to cover.  But all you know is now you’re taking orders from the new guy who took your best friends job.  Business etiquette requires that you show your supervisor respect, even though it has not been earned or even warranted at this point.

At some point upper management finds out that you may have some concerns over recent changes.  So they do what any good business does, hold a “team” meeting.  During this meeting one-sided discussion will take place in the form of a smear campaign designed to discredit the previous business partner.  There will be innuendo stating that this person had a silent partner, and that expense reports were fixed to cover lavish trips to places like Reno.  You’re also informed  the court ruled there was a breach of contract centered around your being hired.  Now the owner who only got to keep the business name has to pay monthly restitution thus paying your salary.  In standard corporate fashion they try to wrap it up on a high note.  There is grandiose talk of how they’re “here for” and “they only succeed if you succeed”. (click here)

But all you know is the previous boss was cool and the new guy sucks.

Nine years go by and you do your job with little to no praise.  Sure you get the standard vacation time, cake on your birthday, enough swag to keep you quiet and out-of-the-way.  Then the company decides to expand and bring in some fresh faces.  These employees were hired under the new regime and thus go straight to the head of the line.  You start to feel as though the writing is on the wall and you’re going to get forced out.  Now things start to get competitive in a race you just can’t win.

As you all know first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.  ~Alec Baldwin from Glen Gary Glen Ross (click here)

I mean sure you’ve got thirteen years of experience under your belt, but two new employees hired three years apart are now being fast tracked in the management trainee program.  It’s not their fault, they didn’t do anything except get hired.  Besides what do you have to worry about?  You have thirteen years worth of stock options, that means you have ownership!   Not so fast, rumor has it the company is buying back all those outstanding shares with the intent to devalue them and re-issue new stock.  You just got the Willy in your Wonka…  (Click here)

Meanwhile your original boss is on his fifth failed business (marriage).  He keeps trying to talk you into coming over and working for him.  He shows you pictures of exotic locals and lavish parties.  In your heart you know it might not be a bad idea but you’ve got so much time invested with the current company.  It’s by no means ideal but you know the lay of the land, and know how to fly under the radar.  You become comfortable and complacent in your new role as a corporate slave.  Like most employees in today’s economy you’re just happy to have a job.

A few more years go by and those newbie employees are excelling at everything they do.  They have to full support of the company, from the owners perspective everything they touch turns to gold and they are rewarded as such.  Your “presence” is nothing more than a reminded of the way things used to be, but you survived and manage to gut out twenty years.  It’s seen its ups and downs, your accomplishments have been on your own shoulders and without the help of anyone else.

At this point you decide you’ve had enough and you’re tired of the glass ceiling so you decide to start your own business with only one goal in mind.  To be more successful than the place that held you down for so many years.  The business model is designed by doing the opposite of everything your previous employer did.  Your business is all about its employees and creating an environment for everyone to have success and to be recognized.  Not based on corporate greed and self advancement. (click here)

The business although benevolent in its appearance has another objective.  That objective is to surpass the previous company.  Maybe you drive them out of business or maybe you become so successful that you buy them out.

Businesses grow and businesses fail, the same can be said of the American family.  In summation: (click here)

The Big “O” Goes Hollywood

25 04 2011

I’m a huge fan of non-linear story telling.  So in the spirit of Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, I give you the final chapter in my journey home last year.

This picture cracks me up, try to find the one beverage that doesn’t belong.  Here’s a hint:  It’s not Rainier.

The Olney Store has been around ever since I can remember.  Over the years there have been many incarnations.  It’s been a general store combined with a bait and tackle shop, a movie rental store and of course currently a General Store slash Bar. 

I have fond memories of this little store going all the way back to being a small child.  In the summer as little kids my cousins and I would walk there from the farm-house with only a couple of bucks each.  We’d load up on Jolly Rancher sticks, candy cigarettes, a can of the beef jerky that looked like chewing tobacco,  and of course a Sioux City Sarsaparilla.  Half of you are thinking, “ahh the good ol days”, right out of a country time lemonade commercial.  The other half are deeply concerned that three out of the four items purchased were child versions of beer and tobacco. 

Visually it was like any country store you’d see in a movie: dusty wood plank floors with ruts worn in them from years of foot traffic (the type of wear that can only happen from close to a century of people dragging their feet while wearing work boots); coolers that are so dated they’re advertising RC Cola, 7 up and Crush; all around the door there are Polaroids of fisherman holding that prized Steelhead.  (each picture with the name and date written in black magic market at the bottom)… 

To put things in perspective it’s been 25 years since I’ve seen a Polaroid or RC have ad space over Coke and Pepsi.  For years it was the owner and his wife working the register.  Always in the standard work attire; overalls.  That’s all I ever saw him wear, the shirt would be different but always the same faded blue denim Carhart overalls. 

Now that I think about it the denim overall or coverall is a staple in just about everyone’s wardrobe in the region.  I even had a pair that I would wear when I visit my dad.  It’s basically a blue-collar leisure suit or the swiss army knife of work attire.  You’ve got all those fancy pockets on the bib, for things like cigarettes, eye glasses, and of course my personal favorite: The carpenter’s pencil.  You know, the really flat pencil that only gets sharpened with a pocket knife.  Oh yeah pocket knife, that’s another great fit for the bib.  Then of course you have the standard loop on the outer thigh for a hammer.  Try not to be jealous but did I mention my coveralls were pin stripped?   

Anyway enough fashionista talk and back to the story.  If there were a global apocalypse, two things would survive.  Cockroaches and the Olney store.  Not only is it recession proof it appears to be finding its stride in the 21st century.  Like a fine wine it only gets better with age.  If it had a theme song it would be, “In the year 2525,” by Zager & Evans.

Flash forward to 2010…  The Olney Store has since re-invented itself as “The Big O Saloon & Olney Store”.  Not only is it a happening place, it has an almost cult type following.  They even have their own Facebook page, 742 likes as of writing this story.  That blows me away, 742 likes for a place that seats 20.  Someone is a marketing genius!

 Meanwhile…. while the Big O was redefining the Clatsop County bar scene as we know it.  I was throwing a swanky little shindig of my own not more than a mile away.  On the menu was Smoked Salmon, garlic cheese bread, Oysters and Beer.  Now from an earlier story you know I got sidetracked on the beach and in my rush to get supplies I left off hotdogs and marshmallows.  I mean it was an outdoor party with a bon fire, what was I thinking?  Not to worry, one of the other dynamic innovations the Big O offers is once the general store side closes, you can still buy those items through the bar.  Marketing genius I say! 

One of my oldest friends Joel came to the outing with his wife and two young boys.  The boys weren’t really feeling the “seafood” vibe, and who can blame them.  I wasn’t initially thrilled about the oysters until a few beers into the evening.  Once I reached the tipping point — known as the blood alcohol level to hunger ratio — they were the best thing ever!  The kids didn’t have the benefit of alcohol.  So we thought we’d head down and buy some hotdogs and buns from the “O”. 

Now I’m not sure if it was the time of day we showed up, or what we were wearing, but when we walked into that bar we could not have been less well received.  I may as well of had a pink sweater tied around my shoulders and Joel a Chihuahua on a diamond studded leash.  In unison a bar full of wannabe tough guys and lumberjacks looked over their shoulders — no doubt wondering who in the hell these outsiders were.

The actual bar where you “belly up” was full.  Now what I wanted to do was wedge my way in and order shots of whiskey for myself and all these hard-working men.  Letting them know I’m one of them. Afterall, I grew up in these woods!  Instead I have to order a pack of hot dogs and hope that nobody hears me.  It’s not my first rodeo; drunken blue-collar dudes are not going to let a guy wearing a sweater vest order a pack of weenies, without saying something.

So we make our way to the corner of the bar.  “Um excuse me, could I get a pack of hotdogs?”, I said.  The bartender looked at me like I was ordering some bizarre fetish shot for me and my boyfriend.  With a confused look on her face she responded, “What do you want?  I can’t hear you!”  This time I was going to use my god given Italian talent of talking with my hands “Um Just a pack a pack of hotdogs,” I said as I made a small square with my hands, like two giant C’s facing each other.  Then it all made sense to her “Oh ok give me just a second.”  Success, I was going to get out of here sans any smartass comments from the peanut gallery!

Now for all of the “Big O’s” innovation, they really dropped the ball on what happened next.  I could see the bartender walking towards me with said pack of hot dogs and they were not in a bag!  It was at this moment that everything went into slow motion as she handed them across the bar… Joel screamed, “Nooooooooo!”.  I had a confused look on my face.. Abraham Zapruder continues to roll film from across the grassy knoll.   As soon as those tube-steaks were in my hands, things returned to normal speed.  Just in time for a very loud, “Looks like you boys are gonna go play hide the Weiner!” then there was a round of “LOL-ing” and chaos.   The bar is situated in a triangulated pattern and just like JFK, I never even saw where it came from.  Kill shot, lights out, to the back and left, to the back and left… 

Now normally in these situations I won’t even hesitate with some sort of smartass comeback.  Similar to Deep Blue playing chess against Kasparov I instantly ran 10 million scenarios, all of which end badly if I say anything.  So I did what you do in these situations, I took the hit.  It sucked, but like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, sometimes the best course of action is to just smile and say, “Thank you sir may I have another!”  In my mind, I thought, “You haven’t seen the last of me Big O… I’ll be back!”  but I decided to stop short of telling them they’d “rue the day” while shaking my fist.

So anyway three hours go by and “I’m back”.  This time it’s after the party and I’m with a good friend Bryan who had flown in from Des Moines, Iowa.  We were on our way to the Labor Temple when we decided to stop less than a mile into our journey for a drink.  I know I come off looking like a total booze hound but to be honest I really don’t drink that often.  I like to get all of my drinking done in about 5 to 7 days, then I shut it down for the rest of the year.   

It must have been close to 10 or 10:30 and by this time the crowd had thinned out.  There were just a few people, including a few of the world-famous stars of “Ax Men”.  (Earlier Bryan was star struck when we ran into some of the Dangerous Catch crew at buoy nine, now this.  You just don’t see this type of celebrity unless you’re at a Lakers game.)  So we sat at the bar and got an immediate pissy attitude from the bartender.  “It’s last call!” she snarked. 

Well hello to you too, clearly daddy didn’t pay enough attention to someone.  Just get some more tattoos, and sleep around, that’ll make it all better.  Without too much thought we ordered, “Two shots of Jäger”… at which point I asked random ax man guy if he knows what Jägermeister means in German.  He grunts and looks at me like he crapped his pants an hour ago and isn’t interested in conversation.  I went ahead and gave him the answer, “It’s Master Hunter”  Just then our shots show up, we came up with some funny toast in regards to being Master Hunters and threw em down.  By the way, the one thing that both of us seem to notice is that other people are still ordering drinks as if the “last call” was some sort of lie.

Just as I was going to call out the quench wench for obvious bias towards the deep end of the gene pool, Axe Man chimes in with, “Shot of Jäger”.  Bryan and I looked at each other and both thought, “Hey maybe he’s coming around and he’s going to join in.”  Just as we both started to say something along the lines of, “see there you go,” we were immediately cut off with, “no no no… I do  Jäger all the time”.  I should also mention he refused to actually look at us when he spoke.  As if possibly he invented it or his family brought it to America from the old country.  

Now if there’s one thing I’ve never been good at its holding in a laugh.  I’m the last person anyone wants with them at the following: (library, wedding, funeral, hospital, church or anywhere else laughing could be seen as inappropriate).  It usually goes like this, something funny happens and then I happen to make eye contact with the only person who also thinks it’s funny.  Bryan actually learned this the hard way by looking at me during his wedding.  Now granted I was one of his groomsmen, but not directly in the line of sight.  Somewhere in the vows, talking about for ever and ever, he made the mistake of looking at me.  At which point I gave him my best Robert DeNiro shoulder shrug and face, “lil bit, you insulted him a lil bit.”

The combination of false bravado and arrogance was too much for either of us to handle.  Besides I’d had about all I was going to take of the “hillbilly chic” attitude.  As usual it took but one glance, and we both started laughing.  The quieter we tried to be, the worse it was.  When Bryan dropped the phrase, “what an ax hole” under his breath, that was it.  I had to do the standup into a big laugh signaling that our time was up.       

“This place is dead lets hit the Temple, I hear they have karaoke that will blow your mind.” I said just loud enough for the bartender to hear.

 “Man I’m hungry, breakfast sounds so good”, Bryan replied. 

 “Yeah good luck finding breakfast around here this time of night.” 

 As we drove off into the night I moved our custom-made CD to track 5, Big Bad JohnThis one’s for you ax man, enjoy that  Jäger as the sweet sounds of Jimmy Dean rain down on you.