Archive for February, 2011
What’s the worst thing about being a kid? Is it the evil compulsory consumption of peas? Or could it be having an apparent lack of control over your own life while simultaneously being force-fed unpleasant and wholly unnecessary concepts like responsibility, which are reinforced with the regular cleaning of one’s room and putting away of toys? Is it the nightly bath time or maybe having a prescribed bedtime when you’re not even tired or anything? The bottom line, here, is that childhood is such a drag that the only thing that even marginally takes away its sting is spoiling, doting grandparents who thankfully seem to lack even a basic understanding of the word “no”.
In my mind, though, nothing in the realm of the child comes close to the horror of the group fundraiser.
I have memories of selling so much overpriced crap when I was kid that I can’t really recall exactly what kind of crap I pushed. There were M & M’s to be sure, and the ever popular chocolate bars (which, by the way, seem to get smaller every year). I think in high school, selling Airheads was all the rage, and pimping those in that environment was basically like walking into a crack house and setting up a dollar smack kiosk.
Really, though, it wasn’t all fun and sweets. I spent one drizzly late-fall afternoon going door-to-door with a brochure full of wrapping paper and Christmas chocolates that would be a quarter of the price at a mall pop-up store two months later. Apparently, most of my neighborhood knew that too, based on my sales total for the effort. And that had to be the reason, right? It’s not as if my…um…masterful salesmanship had anything to do with my poor revenue stream. I mean, who doesn’t want to buy stuff from a miserable-looking 4th grader with a wrinkled sales sheet, a monotone pitch, and a flat affect?
Yeah, I’m pretty sure even I’d close the door on me.
At any rate, I feel kids today have it much easier, by comparison. I’m not sure you’re even allowed to go door-to-door anymore, since the boogeyman lurks in every suburban household these days. The last I heard, if you send your kids out in the neighborhood without armed escort and embedded GSP-tracking chips, Child Protective Services picks them up like stray puppies.
As such, it seems to fall more and more to the parents to push product in this day and age, by leveraging the kindness and naiveté of colleagues and extended relatives. I’m no exception to this rule myself. The past two years have seen me squeezing coworkers for both Boy Scout popcorn and Girl Scout cookies, which is pretty remarkable considering that my salesmanship hasn’t really improved. I have, however, finally learned to let the promotional materials do the heavy lifting, while I stay out of the way and try not to screw up the sale-in-progress.
Ironically, it’s the same approach I took when I was courting the Puddinette.
I have to admit, it’s a system that’s mostly working so far. The Puddinpop earned his popcorn-sales patch last year and the Princess Puddinette is well on track to take home some fabulous prizes from her Daisy troop in a month or so. It seems a little unfair to me, though. Sure, the popcorn’s pretty good, but it really requires some effort to sell. You have to make the poor boy give the spiel to your parents with those grandson puppy-dog eyes or add a post-it to the workplace display that reads, “C’mon, it’s for my son”. The cookies, though? As if. All one needs to do is utter the phrase “Girl Scout Cookies” and unruly hordes of people you don’t even know are suddenly fighting each other and waving money at you, clamoring for Thin Mints or Do-Si-Does.
In other words, my son sold about $2 more than his prescribed “quota” (and yes, you bet the kids have sales targets), while my daughter “sold” four times hers by doing essentially, well, nothing. I’m beginning to think they put some kind of crack in the cookies.
That said, we can still place orders until March 20th. So, who needs a box of Peanut Butter Patties?
I am quite sick of it, thank you very much. Indeed, I have had all I can take and if something doesn’t change very, very soon, I do believe I’m going to lose it altogether.
Seriously, this stupid cold/sinus/congestion thing I’ve had going for the better part of a week has gotten on my last damned nerve. I’d sell every last drop of beer in my fridge at this very moment if someone could give me something that would get rid of it.
The fact is that I feel like I’ve been trying to breathe through a ripe Swiss cheese for about a week, and I can’t take a breath and expel it without coughing. All the hacking I’ve done in an attempt to rid my chest of the…stuff…has me feeling like I just worked a 48-hour shift in the backroom of the Canine Card Sharks’ Bar and Billiards Hall. I’m half expecting to get a call from a talent agent at any minute with a contract to join the Camel Non-Filter All Stars, because, well, I sure sound like I belong on the team.
As a bonus, it turns out they’re not really that athletic as a team.
What’s worse is that to be completely honestly with you, I’m not even sure what kind of debilitating infirmity I’m talking about here. It could be a run-of-the-mill sinus infection, I suppose. I hear people talk about quick changes in weather bringing about that kind of thing and well, the weather in this town is roughly as stable as the world political climate at the moment. One day it might be 60 degrees here and the next Egypt, Libya, and US Midwest are staring down the barrel of revolution.
Then again, this thing might also just be a particularly nasty Common Cold brought about by some nefarious microorganism. I do have three kids in school, after all, which means they each spend the better part of every weekday surrounded by a host of snotty noses, open-air coughs, and unwashed hands. Let’s face it, that place is a bacterial Grand Central Station where millions of free-loading germs are just waiting for an opportunity to hitch-hike their way to my house whenever my kids accidentally step up inside Viral Vinny’s Swap-Meet and Flea Market.
And before you ask, yes, I’ve tried everything I can think of medicinally. I’ve taken doses and doses of DayQuil, NyQuil, NoonQuil, DawnQuil, DuskQuil, and even a dose or two of Next-Afternoon-Quil. I will admit that I haven’t’ yet tried the TwilightQuil, but only because I’m not ready to become a sparkly vampire. I’d almost certainly be okay with being turned into your standard, flares-into-a-dusty-pile-of-ash-in-sunlight vampire if it would get rid of the damned congestion. But if my choices are the angsty, shiny diamond type of blood-sucker and keeping the cold, I guess I’ll continue futilely popping Muscinex, orange juice, and whatever other snake oil I can get my hands on for a day or so more.
So I guess that means I haven’t hit bottom just yet. But this crap better go away soon because otherwise I’ll be planning a trip to Forks, Washington to beg any and every fiery-eyed person I happen to come across to let me take a big healthy bite out of them in hopes of becoming a member of the cold, pale and fangy set.
Either that or I’m going to have to get a job at a coffee shop as a sassy, white-haired woman named Mildred who works the lunch rush and takes no gruff from anyone, especially the cook. Sure, I’ll need a wig, but I figure I’ve already got the gravelly voice for the job.
What’ll it be, hon?
I’ve come to the realization that there are few things in life more rewarding than returning home from a business trip. The kids are always happy to see you and offer warm, enthusiastic greetings as if they might have actually missed you or something. The wife, who, because you abandoned her and your four children for 48 hours, has every right to relinquish all child responsibilities to you and declare that she’s shutting herself into her room with a gallon of ice cream and a Dr. Phil marathon, instead gives you a smile and a nice welcome home smooch. If you’re lucky, there’s a hot, homemade meal soon to follow.
I was lucky. And yes, it’s good to be home.
I spent yesterday and most of today in Greenville, South Carolina for work. For only being an overnight stay, it was a very productive trip. I left feeling good about what we’d accomplished. The best part about it, though, had nothing to do with work. The best part was that I got to have some real Carolina barbecue.
As you can probably guess, I’ve had the Carolina-style ‘cue plenty of times in my life. I’m no stranger to the slow-cooked pulled/chopped pork or the vinegar and mustard based sauces that can be a little a little sweet and tangy or downright punchy. Yes, I’ve had plenty of all that in my day.
I’ve just never had it from Carolina.
I’ve been to Texas several times, and have sampled barbecue from several places in the Lone Star State. Without question, the absolute best brisket and sausage I’ve ever put in my mouth came from there. Sure, I can get brisket here, but I’ve yet to find anyone that does it as well as they can do it.
The question then was whether or not the Carolina pork was so much better than the typical pulled pork you can get almost anywhere. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure. The pork was indeed, sooooo tasty. Was it best I’d ever had, though? I still don’t know; I think I might need to make another trip for more samples. What I can say with absolute certainty, though, is that the sauces I tasted today were without question the best tasting vinegar-based ones I’d ever tried. I briefly contemplated drinking directly from the squeeze bottle, but decided my colleagues would likely prefer I didn’t.
The other thing that really made me happy about the experience was the place itself. It was a little hole-in-wall with aging tables, what seemed like reclaimed elementary school chairs, a dingy white tile floor, and a line of humanity around the whole inside of the place leading to the order counter. That’s exactly what a good barbecue joint is supposed to be like. Show me a place with fancy wait service and/or tablecloths and I’ll be sure they spent more time thinking about the décor or their marketing than the smoking meat. No sir, in my book, the best barbecue comes from the little shack that may or may not be days away from collapsing under its own weight.
Which is exactly how I felt when I stumbled out of the place after lunch, heavily laden with a picnic plate full of pork, beans, and mac-and-cheese.
Yep, it was a pretty darn good trip, indeed.
I should probably take this opportunity to wish a happy President’s Day my flocks of adoring, err, extremely tolerant readers. So, then, Happy President’s Day. I hope everyone observed the holiday in the usual and accepted fashion, by purchasing a mattress at a reduced price! Tell me, how did your mattress shopping go?
We didn’t buy a mattress today, although we should have. I’ve been complaining about our mattress for the better part of three years now. For some reason, it was fine and dandy when the Puddinette and I first exchanged vows. I’d wake every morning, refreshed, renewed, and ready to face the day. But now, well, I can only assume that because I’m getting old I’ve lost some fundamentally key flexibility quotient. That must be why three out of every five days I more roll out than rise up from bed and creak and groan like a septuagenarian cowboy who just spent an evening on a patch of cattle trail in the rain.
So, yes, we probably should have spent our President’s Day shopping for a comfy new mattress. But we didn’t, because, well, nobody wants to buy a mattress.
Why is that, exactly? How many people do you know that make a regular habit of running out and picking up a new Posture-Power or Magic Foam Numeral bed? Outside of situations where people just got married or just happened to get a new bed as part of a furniture suite (which necessitated a new mattress as well), I can think of only two occasions in my entire life when someone I know personally actually bought a mattress. One of my coworkers did it not too long ago, and my parents did it sometime in the not-so distant past.
Then again, I’m pretty sure the one my parents just replaced was close to my age, if not, in fact, older. So we can squarely place them in the “put off the new mattress for a while” camp.
So why does everyone drag their feet? Well, I suspect there are two reasons. First, have you looked at the price of those things? Holy crepes, I could buy several very entertaining electronic devices for the cash I’m going to end up dropping when we finally give up the putting it off. Sure, the bed is something I use every single day and has a much more significant impact on my daily outlook that an iPad probably would, but can you use a new mattress to play Angry Birds? Exactly.
The second reason I believe people procrastinate on mattress replacement is because of what it says about the owner. Namely, that sleep has become the most important activity he or she takes part in using that bed. Sure, sleep really is the most important, if not the most interesting, thing a person is likely to do on that mattress, but who wants to admit that to themselves? No, no, looking at a bed and finding yourself contemplating its potential for a good night’s rest is something that you don’t do until you’re middle aged, washed up, and exhausted on a daily basis.
Or you sound like Clint Eastwood’s character in “Unforgiven” every morning.
Which is exactly what I sound like most days when my alarm goes off.
I wonder how long those President’s Day sales prices will last.
My appointed task this afternoon was the assembly of a brand-spanking-new adjustable basketball goal for the older boys. Actually, to be completely honest, while it is absolutely new and was still in the box until just this afternoon, we’ve really had it for two months. Santa brought it for Christmas, but didn’t have the decency to put it together. And as I’ve mentioned before, this part of the world has actual winter, meaning that every day that I’ve had enough time to work on it, the outside temperature has been roughly equivalent to Antarctica’s average afternoon low.
My ability to work with tools is limited enough. I don’t need to add environmental handicaps to my mediocrity.
Since we were blessed with some downright pleasant weather this week and today reached an absolutely balmy 54, I decided it was time to get out the tools and put together that basketball goal. Unfortunately, the manufacturer’s instruction manual left a few things out.
Some other tools would certainly have been helpful.
That second panel really isn’t that much of an exaggeration. Sure, the liquor probably wouldn’t have helped much, but a couple of extra pairs of arms would have made the whole operation go a lot smoother. Then again, having a seven year-old “helping” was surprisingly less actual help than you’d think. As it turns out, having a child dribble a basketball right beside one’s head while holding a backboard assembly flush to a 12 foot-long steel post while trying to make a pair of holes meet up just so doesn’t really help all that much. Also, being asked if you’re almost done so they can shoot baskets Every. Thirty. Seconds. will tend to, um, wear on one’s patience.
Finally, two hours and an impressive (and perhaps shocking) litany of muttered curses later, the assemble-ation was finished. Of course, the thing still wasn’t quite ready for use. Without filling the base with some medium capable of acting as a counterweight to the backboard and rim 10 feet above, as soon as a basketball touched it the whole thing would come crashing to Earth like the meteors in the opening scenes of the movie Armageddon.
Such a result would perhaps be slightly less than optimal.
Although I felt like I’d just put together the Brooklyn Bridge by hand, alone, I nonetheless then began the process of attempting to insert 300+ pounds of play sand into a 3×2 plastic base through a hole the size of a nickel, using a plastic funnel. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried something like that yourself, but for reference, allow me to suggest that your average bag of home improvement store play sand isn’t exactly the right stuff for the job. I’m not sure exactly what kind of sand might slide through a funnel effortlessly, but what I’d purchased needed the kind of encouragement a you’d have to apply to push an Asian elephant through a nuclear submarine hatch.
And then repeat that process with six more bags of sand.
Lucky, finally, our very own basketball goal rose from the ground triumphantly, and my sons shot baskets for 15 minutes. Of course, by then, it was dark and time to come in for showers.
Still, Achievement Unlocked.
Now, who wants a game?
Went to a wedding
Bud Light was the offered beer
Yes, bourbon, thank you!
The weather widget on my desktop PC told me it was 64 degrees outside when I got home from work today. Sixty-four degrees. Fahrenheit. On February 17th. I don’t know about you, but where I come from that’s a sign of full blown chaos.
Sweet, warm, wonderful chaos.
I suppose there’s a chance it means that the End is Nigh, but then, I couldn’t see my breath today so I’m mostly okay with that.
Seriously, is spring upon us already? Is that even possible? Personally, I think Mother Nature is being a huge tease here, and this time next week I’m going to look outside and see my driveway once again covered in something cold that rhymes with “lice”. But for now, let’s stick with the positive side of things; I’m going to be content with however many days of this fabulously moderate weather we happen to get.
In fact, it was so nice today that I couldn’t help but think of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “Locksley Hall”, which gives us the famous line, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Yeah, that’s right. I said it.
The thing is, though, I’m no longer a young man, per se, regardless of my maturity level, and I’m pretty much stocked up on love in my life. The Puddinette and family do me fine in that regard. So, then, as the weather turns to spring, to what does my, um, fancy, turn to?
For one, baseball, of course, but that’s another post. Otherwise, well, I think we should celebrate the fact that we’ve (mostly) made it through another winter intact.
I do believe we need to have us a party.
Ironically enough, the official start of spring is March 20. Eight short days before that, March 12th, is, well, my birthday. As I’ve said in the past, I like to use my birthday as an excuse to get a babysitter and spend the night out with good people. Usually, that means the friends I’ve known since I was but a whippersnapper myself. This year, though, I’m thinking about something different. I’m thinking about maybe something a bit unusual, with perhaps a few more people.
I’m thinking I’d like to go out and have a few cocktails with all of you. Seriously, I really want to meet the people who I’m fortunate enough to be able to count as a reader. At least, readers that are interested in having a beverage or two with us.
So, yes, let’s have us a Puddintopia Party.
Being me, I really don’t have much of a plan, of course. On Saturday, March 12th, I’m taking my wife out somewhere, and I’m hoping anyone who reads my ramblings, either on Puddintopia or for Hoperatives, will join us. I don’t know where this silly event should take place, though. Someplace in downtown Cincinnati, I’d think, to be fair to people from both sides of the river. Someplace casual, obviously, because, well, I’m a pretty casual guy. And, the place clearly needs to have a good selection of craft beer.
So, do you have a suggestion for me? I really hoping someone does or I might have to resort to a dartboard. More importantly, who’s in? If you happen to have a location suggestion for me, or even better, are interested in coming out, let me know. Post a message to facebook, send me a tweet, leave a comment, or shoot me an email. Heck, send smoke signals if that works for you. I really hope to hear from you. And I promise to provide details as things become clearer.
The Puddinette, of course, thinks I’m crazy. And she’s probably right. It’ll probably end up just the two of us, a few tumbleweeds, and a lot of crickets. If so, that’s okay too. We get along pretty well and can always use time alone.
Come to think of it, we’ll probably be a crowd one way or another. I’m sure I’ll have family on hand and my co-workers are already way excited about the event. One of them has even promised to make “pudding shots” for the occasion. I’m not sure what those are, exactly, but they sound like something I’ll regret.
They also sound like a lot of fun. And that’s exactly what an event to celebrate the arrival of spring should include.
So, who’s with me?
I thought it would be a good idea to write a little more about my adventures at last weekend’s Cincy Winter Beerfest, and maybe talk about the actual beer festival some (as opposed to whining about how old and tired I am these days. I figured that kind of post would be right up the Hoperatives’ alley. So swing by over there and see what I have to say about the The Line of Doom, a guy a named Peanut, and potential restraining orders!
Oh, and beer too.
Guy’s Night. The very phrase is enough to bring consternation to even the most secure woman in a commitment relationship. In fact, it ranks only behind Mother-in-Law and Bachelor Party in the list of phrases likely to get a lady’s fret and/or irk up. For dudes of a certain age, though, middle aged guys with young families, responsibilities, and more time dedicated to a lawnmower than a social calendar, Guy’s Night is occasionally an absolute imperative.
Saturday was Guy’s Night for me and my pals, and it was as wonderful as it was costly.
The annual Cincy Beerfest took place for this weekend, and as soon as I suggested to my group of friends that we should perhaps make a night of it, the response was overwhelming and unanimous. We don’t get together often without our significant others and/or families, so it’s always a big deal when we settle on such an occasion.
I suspect that immediately, many of you are probably flashing back to images of the movie The Hangover as I talk about attending a beer festival with guys I’ve known since before college without the caring, yet responsible oversight of our wives. It wasn’t like that, I promise. Nobody found a baby, nobody stole any tigers from either the Cincinnati Zoo or a former boxer, and everyone made it home safely and sensibly.
I suppose I might have given the wrong impression with yesterday’s “Saturday” image in the Picture Haiku. I can see how you might look at that and see nothing but a bunch of people with sloshing mugs going full-on at a frat-tastic kegger. But, really, as you can see in the comparison below, my representation was clearly of a much more reserved, dignified craft beer tasting.
Craft Beer Tasting:
College Keg Party:
Then again, for as great a time as we all had, the evening wasn’t completely without causality. In the end, I woke up the next day feeling more than just a little worse for the wear. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Puddin, really, at your age? The thing is, though, I’m not talking about the usual after effects of an evening spent with perhaps one too many adult beverages. Sure, my head was a little wounded, but that wasn’t what really got me. The real cost of the whole event came in exhaustion. I’m not talking here about the kind of tired where you think to yourself, “gee, Wally, an extra hour of sleep sure would be great” at 9:30 am. No, no, I’m talking about the type of bone-weary worn-out that happens only once a year or two, where you find yourself looking at your cat dozing in a patch of daylight and you’re suddenly taken with the urge to shave it completely bald just out of blinding nap-envy.*
The fact of the matter is that I’ve reached middle age. What that means is, no matter how badly I might want to pretend that I can still stay out until 1:30 in the morning likes those whippersnappers do, the price I have to pay for it grows steeper and steeper every year. It’s Tuesday, and I’m still kind of a little tired from the whole thing.
Now, does that mean I’m going to swear off Guy’s Night in the future in an effort to keep well-rested for the remainder of my days? Not for a second. The point of such an outing is that every once in a while, each of us needs to be able to hang out with old friends and pretend it’s still The Day. Everyone sometimes needs to forget for four or five hours about the pressures, responsibilities, and stress that spring up in the course of one’s life, no matter how good one has it.
I wouldn’t trade my responsibilities for anything; most of them are the result of choices I’ve made and that’s exactly as I’d have it. And, besides, many of them pay much greater rewards than I ever imagined possible.
Still, there’s no substitute for being able to get away for even a handful of hours with the freedom to make no decisions for anyone else but me. There are no toilets to plunge on Guy’s Night; it’s Smitty’s night off.
Next time, though, maybe one of those decisions about me should be to get myself home, um, earlier. I’m too old to be this tired.
Oh, and for the record, the Puddinette never bats an eyelash or has a fretful moment when Guy’s Night comes around. Yes, in fact, I do realize how good I’ve got it.
*It was Carl Jung who wrote, “There is no coming to consciousness except through pain.”
**Just kidding. Also, we don’t have a cat. No cats were shaved or injured in the writing of this post.