Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's coming! It's coming!


I ordered my Neuton mower today!!! We sold some things on eBay and - having found the new china cabinet of my dreams at half the price I expected to pay (albeit, I am roadtripping 3 hours to Pennsylvania next weekend to get it) - we had enough set aside to get our dream mower.

WOO HOO!

Happy, happy, joy joy joy.......

A whole lotta nothing

I fear the summer doldrums have begun to set in. It seems like not much is happening, although with the heat and the humidity, my irritation factor is unusually high.

The highlight of the week thus far is that we may be power-washing the house and getting the diesel school bus funk off of the siding. Who says adulthood isn't something magical?

I just got back from the gym where I had a minor confrontation with one of the few noticeable jerks in the place. Okay - right up on the wall, in big letters - as well as in the package you receive when you joined - the cardinal rules are that you:

a. wipe down the equipment after you use it
b. don't cut in front of anyone else who is using the circuit
c. reset the weights when you are done

Said jerk was consistently breaking rules b and c. He'd work out on one machine - dash over to the free weights and do something else - dash back and jump on another machine right in front of me - then run off and do something else.

I realize that I'm a big boy - and that it really isn't a major issue to reset the weights myself. But those of you who know me know how big I am on THE PRINCIPLE - and on good manners.

So - as he jumped on the machine in front of me and placed his spray bottle and towel on the seat of the machine I was about to use, he got "the look."

"The look" can best be described as an over-the-glasses look of disdain and annoyance - conveying the idea to the intended recipient that not only has he/she caused you great inconvenience, but that he/she has also very likely has stepped in and reeks of dog feces, and does not even possess the IQ to realize it, being that they are the product of an unholy union of a pair of profoundly retarded siblings.

And that they are poor and smell of spoiled milk and shame.

Anyway - after he got "the look," he quickly snatched his spray bottle and towel and mumbled an apology.

Having already started wheeling my rocket-powered indignation-mobile up the on ramp of high dudgeon, I glanced his way and said, very politely,

"No problem. And, oh - when you have finished, would you please reset the weights?"

This was accompanied by "the look's" younger sibling. the "I really shouldn't have to be speaking to you" look.

"Why?" he asked. "What weight do you want it at? You only have to move the pin to what you want the weight to be. Why do I have to reset it?"

The look returned once more as I said, very quietly, "never mind. Forget I said a word."

This translates, roughly, to: "You are a rude, rude pig from hell with a bad mustache, bad hair, and pale, hairy chicken legs. If I had super powers, I would flash fry your pathetic ass on this spot then dance on the ashes and chant bad things about both your parentage and the size of your genitals."

My workout was essentially ruined, but I slogged through anyway.

And I continued to dutifully reset the weights on every machine after I had used it, wiped down the seats, the pads, the handles - and no one but me seemed to care.

But that's enough. Somewhere a great karmic tally is being kept.

And I am waaaay ahead of this schmuck.

Ass.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Old friends: part one


A very good friend of mine from high school – we’ll call him “Theo” - just sent me the most amazing photos from his eldest son’s high school graduation.

And when I say “amazing,” it’s not because everyone in the picture was performing acrobatic feats or taking part an all-naked graduation – I say it because Theo has grown into a parent…and a husband…and a real professor at a real university. And he married a girl we knew from high school – and she is a lovely woman and mother in her own right.

They have two very handsome, intelligent looking sons – neither of whom, I am led to understand, has ever stolen anyone’s identity, written bad checks, tortured small animals or committed any sort of felony on their way to adulthood. In fact, they are good, smart kids – young men who are enjoying themselves and their young adulthood, and are a credit to their parents.

Much like Theo and me at their age. (Although, I will confess to being less of an actual credit to my parents than Theo – just better at covering my tracks)

Theo and I met because our families went to the same church in our small Indiana town. It was a “groovy” church for the time – with a fairly progressive retinue of pastors passing through there. In fact, when I explain it to people, I simply say “picture a Unitarian church with a cross on the wall,” and you’re pretty much there.

It was the kind of church you went to because you were expected to go to church – not because you had any soul-wringing desire to. Basically, you went so people in town couldn’t say that you didn’t go to church.

We were so wildly progressive, in fact – and I don’t know if Theo was in the youth group yet when this happened – our youth group was actually shown Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” as a church activity.

“Children – please view this film on the hubris of man’s technological rape of the environment and the potential decimation of traditional western civilization as we know it. We will then have punch and cookies and discuss.”

Ahh – the youth group. What a seedbed of potential anarchists and movement leaders we were. When I think back to the kids in that group – and the stuff we got up to – and were ALLOWED to get up to - oh man.

I mean – really. And while I’m not sure how much of this Theo knows, the space behind the altar and the narthex (the little room behind it) were some of my first interpersonal “proving grounds” during youth group overnights. And that’s all I will say about that publicly…er…ahem.

Anyway - the youth group was wild enough that we were routinely relegated to the “cry rooms” at the back of the church during Sunday services. Simply because it was easier than trying to control us in the actual nave itself.

Theo’s mom and my dad sang in the choir and would endure weekly ordeals of suffering through an hour-long service, while watching their offspring, furniture, hymnals and God-knows-what-else being flung around the cry room behind the plate glass window. Church, for us, occasionally ended with a few bruises, possibly a torn dress shirt and, quite often, a terse ride home.

And since we’re in this particular brain fold of mine right now, I should also mention for posterity that there was another member of the choir that Theo and I probably need to track down and grovel before in supplication, begging her forgiveness for being total DICKS to her.

Her name is Kathy and she was older than us – probably in her late teens - early twenties at the time – and I think was not quite ready to be an adult yet. Kathy was also extremely “well-endowed” and very dedicated to singing in the church choir.

Unfortunately, Kathy had a vocal vibrato that would stop a charging baboon in its tracks. She had one volume – LOUD. Somewhere along the line – we determined that her singing style landed somewhere in between an ailing moose stuck in a tar pit and a hand-crank fire siren.

And during a brief and unglamorous period when Theo and I were IN the choir – we would mimic the actual siren hand-cranking behind her and/or hold our hands to our heads, simulating antlers during her solo

We also, for whatever reason, called her “the Easter Moose” – probably because she routinely got the soprano solo for that otherwise blessed event.

Anyway – you get the picture. We were dicks.

So – where am I going with all this?

I don’t quite know.

As I look at the photos of Theo and his family, awestruck that he and his lovely wife created and nurtured two such fine young men, and prepared them and stand poised to launch them into the world and their own adult lives…I am catapulted back to the times we shared and wonder just what the heck happened to me.

Ha – kidding.

No – I am reminded of the feelings of friendship – near brotherhood - and the times of shared joy we had. Thinking we were among the coolest kids out there and that the world was ours to conquer and enjoy.

And now – as adults – feeling the rekindling of a comfortable, old and joyful association, combined with a newfound sense of pride and awe in Theo’s accomplishments –as if he were a long-lost brother returned home. (Or vice versa, since I am the more likely one to have shown up on the doorstep from a stint at the rescue mission)

And I wonder – what stories will Theo’s boys have to share when they are our age? Are they old enough to hear about the hilarious hijinks that their father and his friend got up to in their youth? Would they even care – or would they shake their heads in pity at poor old Dad and his gay, functional-alcoholic school chum?

Who knows? – but, hell, I’m on a roll.

Be sure to tune in for possible future installments that may feature:

  • Theo and DuPree threaten some boy scouts
  • Are we the cool kids we think we are - or just band geeks?
  • Band camp, blasphemy and talcum powder
  • Getting high, listening to rock opera and watching Andy get fascinated by a paper grocery bag
  • Necking on the bus with the band ho
  • Theo and DuPree - so smart they screw up Rice-a-roni
  • Penning a classic adventure story of heroes, wenches and graphic depictions of genitalia, leading straight to the high school dean's office
  • and much, much more...
unless, of course, Theo's boys or university students ARE reading this, in which case we will feature:

  • Theo and DuPree - saints for our times
  • We say "No! Bad drugs! Naughty, naughty drugs."
  • We only smoked Kools to keep our future children safe from the evils of tobacco - know thy enemy!
  • Uncle DuPree really likes women - he's just undercover for the CIA

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Running on empty


Ah - the joys of being a "work-at-home" employee.

This morning, I hit four consecutive days of running errands, grocery shopping and going to the gym - with less than 1/4 tank of gas in my car.

Just a month ago - I was paying $50-60 a week in gas to commute just two days a week to my assigned office location.

Now - since changing my work designation - I am giggling maniacally every time I pass a gas station. I am pleased to report that I have only filled up ONCE since gas prices starting skyrocketing again due to hurricanes in the Middle East, the start of the summer travel season, and the Bush administration once again turning a blind eye to the corporate greed of the petroleum producers.

I have also reduced my commuting stress level - avoiding the endless backups due to summer road construction, increasing numbers of gas-sucking snowbirds clogging our highways with their 20-mph lumbering tract homes on wheels, and the general angst of having to listen to the same NPR news story four times in one trip.

However, it's not all a bed of roses.

Now that I get to run errands and schedule work around my life, I am having to deal with new road challenges. Namely, the elderly and the psychotically meek.

Both classes of drivers tend only to come out during the business day - when the sun is high and the chances of night blindness - and teenagers - are low.

The elderly are a given and I try to give them the respect and leeway they deserve. Therefore, I do not curse, spit or offer them helpful driving suggestions through rapid hand motions. After all, I hope one day to be among their ilk - but I have instructed B to snatch my keys and my license away at the first sign of driving incompetence.

The meek - however - are something I don't understand. Frankly, if you are that afraid to be driving - and we all have seen them

  • hermetically-sealed in their four wheeled death chambers
  • hunched over their steering wheel like they are clutching a life ring in a shark-infested ocean
  • deer-in-headlights eyes locked firmly ahead and never moving
  • their foot permanently attached and always slightly pressing the brake pedal
  • an expression of sheer and utter panic on their face
- you should explore alternate means of transportation - really.

It amazes me when someone takes a full minute to negotiate a right turn, or when one of the uber-meek actually comes to a FULL STOP when merging onto a highway.

What kind of life must these people lead when they are not terrifying and frustrating normal drivers?

I am picturing them hiding behind heavy lined draperies in their sterile, white-walled homes and plastic-wrapped furniture, air purifiers buzzing away to suck the poisons and allergens out of their bleach-scented air.

To me, driving is a fluid and graceful - and enjoyable - exercise. The union of man and machine - the grace of a skillfully executed lane change - the harmony of wind and music through open windows. Driving actually relaxes me - and I happily embrace the opportunity for an occasional multi-hour road trip.

I hope it stays that way - but for now I am happy settling for the piece of mind that comes from not having to fork out $300-400 a month for the privilege of sharing the road with these people.

Whoops - tea is ready - time to slip my bunny slippers back on, refill and get on that conference call.

Woo hoo!!!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Clay Aiken goes wild, throws fan from stage...


..or at least that's the first thing that I thought of when someone told me that musical performer Akon had actually hurled someone from the stage - and into the crowd - at a recent performance in Fishkill, New York.

Of course, given my initial misunderstanding of the situation, I already had an image burned into my head of poor little 98-pound Clay Aiken -- quivering on his stick legs, struggling to lift one of his inbred, overfed, emotionally-retarded Claymates with his waspish girly arms over his head -- and then hurling her into the audience.

I didn't see how that could be - so I had to have a rethink.

Although, it's pretty damned funny when you think about it. Especially the potential hissy-fit that would have accompanied it.

Ha ha haaaa - I love my imagination...

And the fact that it happened in Fishkill (known to the locals as "Fishpit") - opens up a whole new line of jocular opportunity. But I digress...

The upshot of this whole thing is that I was forced to dip my psyche into the bizarre world of obsessive fandom - just to get a link and mock them.

And it's a scary place. As I was looking at the Claymate site link above, I could almost hear the broken circus music playing in the background, preparing me for a ride on the mental instability tilt-a-whirl - followed by a plummet on the post-adolescent fan worship hormone roller coaster.

I actually have a very bad case of post-traumatic stress disorder when it comes to the rabid stalker-fandom surrounding mediocre celebrities. My life was touched by it, you see, when my best friend from high school (we'll call her "Jo") began to stalk Barry Manilow and - after achieving her goal of singing a duet with Barry on stage in Cleveland (after following him around the globe on tour) - proceeded then to stalk none other than ... Donny Osmond.

Jo lives in Chicago and had rekindled her adolescent love affair with Donny when he toured with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreambarf (honestly - is there a more insipid show out there? I mean - you know your career is OVER when you are touring in Joseph).

During a friendly visit, my other half - B - became an accomplice to Jo's obsession and attended the show twice with her - and then lurked in the alley near the stage door with her - both times - for a glimpse and, eventually, a photo op with the toothed one himself.

I nervously played along and supported Jo's right (who was well into her late twenties, early thirties when this was happening) to stalk these individuals. I mean, she didn't seem the type to have a firearm, and she didn't display any overt psychoses or a desire to boil any pets belonging to Donny's children.

But then the horror came home to roost.

The photo that B took of Jo and Donny in that dim, confused alley adjacent to the Shubert Theater appeared as her Christmas card that year - wishing all a "Merry Christmas from Jo and Don."

And then - adversity was visited upon our home when B received the Toronto Touring Company cast soundtrack CD set of "Joseph" (did I mention career? Over. Toronto Touring Company. Over. Way over.) on Christmas morning.

And given B's abhorrence of MY musical soundtracks (He yells "fag" at me when I go on a Gypsy/Mame/Funny Girl CD bender), I was able to throw that back in his face - nicely , of course - and we then calmly negotiated the playing parameters around the gift - and managed to save Christmas morning.

The CD set - to my knowledge - has stayed unplayed since that long ago morning, tucked away in the back of the CD drawer.

Jo, happily, found the man of her dreams and married him. She is no longer stalking has-beens in the dark theater alleys of the world's major cities.

But every once in a while, when I least expect it - as happened when I landed on the Clay Aiken fan site earlier today - I feel that cold, familiar chill creep up my spine as I recall...

...and somewhere, in the back of my head, that out-of-tune and ironic calliope stalker music begins to play...

..and I am afraid.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Gardens galore

Well, here it is - June 2 - and the gardens are already going gangbusters!

I finally created my own Flickr account to share photos - so much easier than e-mailing photos everywhere!!!

Anyway - have a look - we are rapidly becoming a showcase for David Austin roses - and are about to be overwhelmed by them.

What a problem to have, eh?