Monday, December 29, 2008

How I saved Christmas OR Family Christmas parties are a drag

Does anyone else have a weird extended family? My immediate family is weird enough, but my extended family is out of control. I promised my aunt I’d write about our annual Christmas party, so here goes:

It all began many years ago when Grandma and Grandpa Barben got married and had a bunch of kids. And then their kids had a bunch of kids. And then their kids had a bunch of kids. Then one day, someone got the bright idea to squish all four generations into one place every year for a Christmas party.

So each year we get together to participate in holiday festivities, eat and pry into each other’s business.

This year, as part of the festivities there was a piñata, which meant a lot of little kids took turns swinging a bat, which also meant somebody got hit in the face with said bat. Merry Christmas, sucker. And when it broke open, it turns out the piñata was filled with candy and – of course – squirt guns. It was freezing outside and now all the little kids were armed with squirt guns. If I had had a nickel for every time a small relative ran past and squirted water on my crotch, I could’ve bought myself a plane ticket out of there.

Next, Grandma Barben has always been a little eccentric, and has gotten even more so in her old age. At what could only be described as the pinnacle of the Barben Christmas Spectacular, Grandma pulled out a giant red bag full of presents and gave one to each of us. We all unwrapped our presents at the same time and when the flurry of paper shreds had cleared I couldn’t believe my eyes. Or my ears.

Grandma had given each and every one of us, adults and children alike, a hand puppet that looked like a dog, cow or frog that respectively barked, mooed or croaked Christmas carols.

I can just picture Grandma walking into some store and saying, “I would like 50 of the most annoying Christmas presents you have to give to my family,” and the store clerk eagerly replying, “Well you won’t believe what I have in store for you!”

So now there were 50 different hand puppets in one room, most of them operated by little children, all croaking, mooing and barking different Christmas carols at the same time. If you believe in hell, I picture it being a lot like that, only hotter, and with more pitchforks. I thought I had died and really was in hell when the sounds of electronic animal noises crescendoed into a huge clamorous roar. I almost had a nervous breakdown.

The thing that almost put me over the edge was the fact that since I was staying with my parents and younger siblings, I knew that a good portion of those puppets were following me home to torment me for the rest of my break. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I disposed of my puppet quickly, and I will never tell where I hid the remains. Sorry, Grandma. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do when it comes to his sanity. I figure she’ll never find out since I don’t think she even knows what a blog is.

Once my fiendish puppet was out of the way, in the days following I became a Christmas-carol-hand-puppet-animal assassin, picking off the remaining puppets one by one. If anybody left their puppet unattended it was soon wearing concrete shoes and sinking to the bottom of the Rio Grande.

So that’s how I saved Christmas, and I can’t wait until next year’s Christmas party. I'm not sure this year's can be topped.

Monday, December 22, 2008

There's no time like the present

The holidays are coming up and that means presents. Not to be conceited or anything, but when you’re as popular and cool as me, it means lots and lots of presents.

But to be totally honest, getting any amount of presents always makes me a little nervous.

I know anxiety is not a normal response to getting free stuff, but I think it started when I dated this girl who was always buying me “presents,” only they weren’t really presents. They were clothes and shoes, and after a while I put two and two together and realized that she wasn’t being nice at all. She just hated my style (or lack thereof) and was trying to fix me fashionalistically.

That is just insulting. When your significant other starts to dress you, you can know with a surety that:
1. You are married, or have given up way too much control.
2. You look stupid.
3. The good times are over.

Really, she was giving presents to herself because now she could be more comfortable showing her newly fashionable boyfriend to her family and friends. When I discovered her sinister plans, I started giving the stuff away.

Her: “Did I just see your brother wearing those shoes I gave you?”

Me: “Yup.”

Her: WHAT!? Why?”

Me: “Well, I didn’t really like them, and I wasn’t ever going to wear them, and he needed some shoes. So I gave them to him.”

Her: “Do you have any idea what those shoes cost?”

Me: “No. It’s a shame really. I mean, what am I going to wear now to hang out with your friends? I guess I’ll just have to wear some of my old stuff that you hate.”

Needless to say, that was the beginning of the end. Now I worry when people give me stuff that they’re trying to “fix” me with their gifts. I’m still all cranky when someone gets me clothes.

And if I get cologne I think, “What’s wrong with how I smell?” Or, if they give me some music I wonder, “You don’t think I have good music taste?” Or, when I get a book it’s like, “Oh, so you’re saying I’m ignorant now?”

Another nerve-racking thing about getting presents is the obligation to pretend to like whatever it is you get, even if it sucks. Oftentimes, the giver is there watching you unwrap the stuff, so it’s like being in a live play.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but in some cases I have felt like, “Awesome. Some stuff I don’t want or need, and am now expected to wear or use or else you’ll get offended.”

I think the trouble comes down to the “surprise.” Why must it always be a surprise? Can’t we just ask each other what we’d like? I don’t even like surprises. My need to be surprised will always be overshadowed by my need for stuff that I like and will actually use.

The last thing about gift-getting that gives me holiday stress is it can make you feel old. You can tell just how old you are by the presents you receive. The more practical and boring your gifts are, the older and more used up you are. That is Jesse Barben’s Law of Presents and Aging. Take typical man gifts like an electric razor or a tie. Super practical and super useful, but zero fun. If you're getting them, it probably means you have reached an age where you are zero fun too.

I know it’s really not all about presents. Really, it’s all about me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The story of the Christmas Beard

Christmastime is a good time of year. I hesitate to say it’s the best time, because some people might think Hanukahtime, Kwanzaatime or Solsticetime is the best time, and I don’t want to discriminate.

Some people might like other times of the year, celebrate stuff I haven’t even mentioned or not even celebrate anything at all, which is cool too. As for me, I like Christmas and Christmastime. I think part of the reason I like it is because of the traditions, like being with family, making Christmas food and listening to Christmas music and crap like that.

Traditionally, I’ve grown a Christmas Beard the last two Christmases. This awesome Christmas tradition came from the time that I went to school at a university that had a dress code that required men to be clean-shaven, which is a drag. As soon as I took my last final I would quit shaving and would not resume shaving until the first class of the next semester.

Unfortunately, as soon as I started graduate school my face broke out like I was 15 years old again. I think it was all the stress. This is unfortunate because I got on some gnarly acne meds and now they are interfering with my beard growing. You have to put all this stuff on your face and that’s nearly impossible to do with a beard. I’m only three days in and I have decided it’s a lost cause.

So I mourned my Christmas Beard. I shaved it off, built it a little funeral pyre, burned it and scattered the ashes on the Rio Grande. The Christmas Beard would’ve wanted it that way.

With the grieving process over, I started shopping for a new Christmas tradition. In my search I stumbled across “Mari Lwyd,” an ancient Welsh tradition, and I think it just might be worthy enough to replace the Christmas Beard.

I don’t know how to pronounce it, but “Mari Lwyd” is when a group of Welsh partygoers takes a creepily decorated horse skull to a pub or someone’s house and starts singing. Then the people inside have to start a “pwnco.” I don’t know how to pronounce it either (it must be in Welsh, which, as it turns out, is a real language) but “pwnco” is an integral part of the tradition. It's a contest where the people inside and the people outside trade insults in rhyme, no joke. Then, after they have exchanged disses, the Mari group comes inside and they party on.

Hecks yeah! Christmas Beard who? It’s like Mari Lwyd and I were made for each other. We are a match made in holiday horse skull heaven. I can’t get over it, it’s like a combination of Halloween, Christmas and a RAP BATTLE! Come to somebody’s house with a horse skull, spit some rhymes, then come in for a glass of eggnog. That is my kind of holiday tradition, and it sure beats the heck out of caroling. Caroling is like the poor man's Mari Lwyd. The Welsh know how to party!

Honestly, I think Mari Lwyd is a holdover from old pagan holidays that were celebrated long before Christian holidays. But seriously, what Christian holiday didn’t start out as a pagan holiday? Not that there's anything wrong with pagans, as I mentioned earlier, but I know some people get weirded out by stuff like that. I just figure any holiday tradition with Mari Lwyd's winning combination of animal skulls and rapping is cool with me.

Anyway, buy some eggnog and practice your rhymes. You never know when I might show up at your house with a horse skull and want to battle you.

And, for an early Christmas and/or other holiday present, here is a link to help you improve your battle-raps.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Baby, you're stressing me out OR Peace of mind in three easy steps and 3,000 easy calories

It's finals week at New Mexico State University and you know what that means: STRESS! And lots of it. To survive, I’ve come up with some time-tested, foolproof methods for dealing with stress.

Method #1: Yell at family or roommates

Stressful situations make the average person want to yell. Family and roommates are the perfect people to yell at. You can satisfy your need to yell, and since they are related to you by blood, marriage, adoption or lease, these people are stuck with you, barring some kind of legal action. Friends can tell you to get lost, but family and roommates are always there, at least until the lease runs out. And they will probably all return the favor someday whenever they get stressed.

In stressful situations it is never a good idea to yell at the people who are stressing you out (teachers, employers, police officers, politicians) because that will only get you flunked or fired and it generally doesn’t accomplish anything. So just stick with family and roommates and you’ll be feeling better in no time.

Method #2: Yoga

Everyone knows that yoga brings your mind, body and, uh, chi into harmony with all the wisdom and nature spirits and so forth. It also refocuses all of your energies and stuff so that you will have nothing but good vibes and your feng shui will be top notch. Something like that, anyway. It will fix your aura right up. Plus, you get to sit on a rubber mat, play with foam blocks, do sweet poses like "downward dog" and use cool words like “namaste.” Just say it out loud: “namaste.” Ahhhhhhhh. I feel calmer already! Maybe I won’t have to yell at my roommates after all. Bless you, Confucius. Or Ghandi. Or whoever invented yoga.

Honestly, this one is kind of tricky for straight dudes to get away with because people kind of look at dudes who do yoga kind of funny, you know? I know I shouldn’t care, but can’t bring myself to do yoga. But I’m sure it’s great. So let me know how it goes.

Method #3: Emotional eating

Nothing cures stress like chocolate chip cookies. Or a bag of almond M&M’s. Or an enormous blue Symphony bar. Or a slice of peanut butter cup pie. Or all of the above. In a bowl covered in chocolate syrup. Topped with jelly beans. And Swedish Fish.

But the magic bullet for stress is Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. “Phish Food” deserves a Nobel Prize for chemistry because of the mind-blowing chemical achievement of fitting a whole day’s worth of calories into one tiny carton. In my mind it deserves two more Nobel Prizes: one for peace and one for medicine. Eat a pint and you won’t be stressed any more, I guarantee it. It will take years off your life, but you will be so relaxed.

Ben and Jerry hold the universe together as far as I’m concerned. My whole life could be coming apart at the seams (actually, it seems to do just that this same time every semester) and Ben and Jerry, being the magical, dairy farming hippies they are, can hold it all together.

The sad part is, I’ve been trying to quit sugary stuff so I am struggling. First, there are the withdrawals: shakes, headaches, flashbacks. And now I have to figure out a different way to deal with stress.

Coming home after a bad day and eating an apple is just not the same.

PS - If you have other cool/effective methods of dealing with stress, please post them in a comment for the benefit of us all.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The truth about truth OR Honesty is still the best policy, especially when it's uncensored and brutal

The other day I walked around with barbecue sauce on my face after an awesome meal for a good five hours. No one had the heart to tell me I was covered in “Sweet ‘n’ Smoky.”

It’s times like these that you need a brutally honest person.

Take my brother Brennan, for example. He would’ve told me, “Hey, you look like a baby who is just learning how to use a spoon. Did any food get into your mouth, or did it all end up on your face? Wear a bib next time.”

My mom is also really blunt, and bless her for it. When I bring a girl home to meet the parents my mom won’t hesitate to tell me what she thought of her. She says stuff like, “She’s a spoiled brat,” or “High maintenance! Does she know you’re majoring in social work?” or "She has freaky nostrils. Don't they frighten you? They frighten me." She’s not mean about it at all, just matter-of-fact.

She’s also not shy about saying positive things either, like, “Wow. I didn’t expect you to show up with a girl that pretty,” or “What does she see in you?”

I think the older you get, the less you care about what people think. Really, who is left to impress? Thus, the older you are, the more able you are to speak your mind.

In my mom’s case I don’t think she started out so straightforward, she just learned to not waste time and to just blurt out whatever was on her mind.

That’s why really old people often get accused of being crotchety and mean, but really they just have something that needs to be said and they know that they are running out of time to say it. And they have faulty memories, so if they don’t say it quick, they might forget it.

That’s not to say my mom is old, she’s not even 50 yet, so statistically she has over 30 more years to be candid. And frankly, I think my mom is just too ornery to die. Plus, having eight kids and living with my dad have made her so tough I think she might possibly go on living forever.

Anyway, don’t get the idea that honest people are mean or rude, because they aren’t. Basically, when you’re honest and sincere, who needs tact? Wouldn’t it be great if someone was talking your ear off and you could just come right out and say, “Hey, I appreciate you and all your vast amounts of awesome knowledge on everything ever, but right now I would be thrilled to death if you would just stop talking. No offense. You’re just making my ears bleed.”

Or, if someone had really bad breath (like locker room mixed with burning hair mixed with onions, for example) and they were talking really close to your face, you could totally exclaim, “I love you man, but if you don’t buy a toothbrush and start using it stat I am probably going to die.”

If I were doing those things, I would want someone to tell me. Wouldn’t you? It's not easy to hear, but no one wants to be that guy.

In a breakup situation, honesty would be great because you don't have to say any of the nonsensical niceties like, "It's not you, it's me." Instead you get to say, "Hey, clearly we make each other miserable so we should break up," or "Clearly you make me miserable so we should break up." You could even say, "Think of this as the divorce that we would eventually be getting if we continued this relationship."

Being honest just saves everyone’s time. If I could have all the time back that I’ve wasted mincing words in my life, I'd probably be able to build a house, write a book and burn some stuff with a magnifying glass and still have time left over.

It’s not easy being an honest person, and they are often unpopular. They're like the mirror you pass when you're getting out of the shower, they can seem cruel as they show you sides of yourself you don’t want to see. Let's face it: nobody likes to hear the truth.

Unless they're walking around covered in barbecue sauce. Then you have to tell them.

Monday, November 24, 2008

No-brainers, ground beef and clones OR Faking your own death is harder than it looks, take it from me OR Band on the run

I need to fake my own death, and I need to do it quick. I owe some bad people a lot of money and I need to go underground for awhile.

The tricky part is, the “bad people” are the Great State of New Mexico, and I’ve contracted to work for them for a year and a half upon my successful graduation - on the condition that they would pay my tuition.

But as it turns out, working for the state is no fun at all, plus my brother Brennan and my friends Shane and Kristen have a van, and they want to go on a full band tour this summer.

Hmmmm. Work for the state and deal with abused kids and crappy parents all day every day OR play punkrockdancepopcore every night in different locations across the country and live in a van? Seriously, which would you choose? If that’s not a “no-brainer,” I don’t know what is. And if you said “work for the state,” then just leave. Read another blog. Oh yeah, and submit your name to the “Lame Hall of Fame.” They induct people every year and you’re a shoo-in.

Problem is, if I don’t work for the state they say I am in “default,” and I have to pay all the tuition money back, which is a tidy, tidy sum. And if I don’t pay it back promptly, Bill Richardson (the governor of New Mexico and former Democratic Party presidential candidate) will come to my house with a Louisville Slugger and break my kneecaps. And I think it’s bad for my credit rating.

Hence the need to fake my own death.

So we were brainstorming ways to do it. Shane had some good ideas (and he has a corresponding blog about them here), but I wasn’t coming up with much.

My first idea was ground beef. I was thinking of throwing a bunch of ground beef and my sweatshirt in front of a train. That way, when I suddenly default on my contract and turn up missing, the authorities will discover my gory “remains” on the tracks. With my sweatshirt at the scene, the cops will have to conclude I’m dead. I think I would also throw in a fake suicide note to seal the deal.

But what if the cops DNA test the ground beef or something forensic like that? I would be up a ground beef creek without a paddle. Then, instead of the headlines reading “Promising young, extremely good looking social worker ends it all with grisly train track suicide,” they will read “Police find pile of ground beef, sweatshirt on train tracks.”

So logically my next idea was a clone. Everyone knows that in science fiction when people want to fake their own deaths they will make a clone of themselves, kill it and then get away scot-free.

But then again I’m not sure that technology even exists yet, and I imagine a clone-making vat costs more than college tuition. Plus, there would be all these moral dilemmas that weren’t there when it was just ground beef.

And so, with forensic science against me, limited funds, and pretty much only two ideas, I have decided not to fake my own death after all. Unless someone else comes up with some better ways to do it, and they don’t mind if I borrow them.

Until then, “Lame Hall of Fame” here I come.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Big K strikes again... but how? OR Mess with natural selection and reap the whirlwind

Listen: the other day in the news I heard about a 1,000 pound woman who was being charged with murder, which is unsettling on a lot of levels.

First of all, they were going to take her to prison, but then the authorities decided that since she is not able to move by herself, they would just put her on house arrest. Simple enough.

But wait! If she can’t move on her own, how was she able to murder someone? It boggles the mind. At least my mind is boggled, anyway. I can’t speak for everyone. They should make a CSI episode about the thousand pound murderess aka “Big K.”

I figure she must just sit in a bed all day and eat. How else would someone get to be 1,000 pounds? Maybe she watches TV too.

This tells me that there must be someone bringing her food or something because people that fat aren’t found in nature. Evolution or natural selection or whatever would have weeded them out long ago. For example, can you imagine a morbidly obese zebra? No, because he or she would be eaten by a lion the instant they got too fat to run, probably even sooner, like when they started slowing down.

Same thing with this lady: Big K would have been out of luck as soon as she got too fat to get out of bed. But in this case somebody kept feeding, cleaning (eeeeeeeeew!), taking care of and generally enabling this woman until she got to be 1,000 pounds, and I hope that person feels bad.

Now on to the murder: the article didn’t say who Big K killed, but I suspect it was her feeder. Maybe he had finally had enough and started talking to her about a diet. She gets upset and straight up eats Feeder with ketchup and a little salt and pepper. Motive and M.O. Case closed. That would be first degree murder, I guess. Or second degree? I don’t know.

Maybe Feeder had even gone so far as to put Big K on the diet and she was really hungry and just ate him out of desperation. That’s, like, manslaughter, right?

Or maybe Big K was just eating away and wasn’t paying attention. Perhaps Feeder got mixed in with the mass quantities of onion rings and bacon (or whatever else it takes to eat to become 1,000 pounds) and she accidentally ate him. An honest mistake. Shoot, that could happen to anybody!

Or maybe Feeder was over-feeding Big K on purpose so that he could take control of her assets (a person who can afford to eat all day has to have some sort of steady income) and she got hip to it and decided to kill him.

Or maybe Feeder was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and Big K accidentally rolled over on top of him and smothered him. Tragic? Yes. Murder? No.

Either way, that’s what you get when you mess with natural selection.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm ignorant! Listen to me!

It’s ok to be ignorant, just keep it to yourself. The problem is, most people like to broadcast their ignorance for the world to hear.

Like the other night they were making fun of Bill Clinton on TV and I said, “Bill Clinton made some weird choices in his personal life, but all in all I think he was a good president.”

One of my friends got totally worked up and passionately said, “No, he wasn’t! He didn’t do anything good!”

So I said, “I guess you entitled to that opinion, but why do you think that?”

He proceeded to say “Uh… um… well… he, uh…”

He hemmed and hawed like that for about five minutes, but the thing about ignorant people is that THEY WILL NEVER ADMIT THAT THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HECK THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT and THEY NEVER WILL ADMIT THEY ARE WRONG.

So I didn’t say anything, I just hoped he was sufficiently embarrassed. I wanted to say:

“Have you ever heard of the Adoption and Safe Families Act? The Family and Medical Leave Act? The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act a.k.a. WELFARE REFORM? And most importantly, do you remember that our country at one time did not have a huge deficit and actually instead had a balanced budget and even a SURPLUS?”

Probably not.

By no means am I defending his personal conduct, and I’m not even hardcore pro-Clinton. I’m just anti-ignorant loudmouth. If you presented me with some facts and a well-reasoned viewpoint, I would listen and I might even change my opinion. But please do not talk trash if you have no idea what the heck you are talking about.

Also, this same guy is always griping about “people that live on welfare” who “take all my tax money.”

I’m like, “Dude, relax. First of all, you don’t have a job, so you don’t actually pay taxes, remember? But I guess it does cut into your money in a roundabout way because I’m sure your dad pays taxes, so it technically cuts into the free money he sends you every month.

“Second, in regard to people ‘living’ on welfare: remember the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that deadbeat President Clinton signed into law? Well, that limits the amount of time a person can receive aid to no more than two consecutive years and no more than five years over a lifetime and requires recipients to work. It has moved tons of people off the welfare rolls. Put that in your ultra-conservative pipe and smoke it.”

This same friend is also convinced that Obama is a Muslim terrorist. I’m sure he has some facts to back that one up too. And even if he is a closet Muslim, who cares? "Muslim" does not equal "terrorist."

But I digress.

The moral of the story is: take five minutes and research something, don’t just go regurgitating some rhetoric that you heard from your dad and pretend like you know what’s going on. Just don’t do it.

PS – I’m stoked about Obama being elected and I’m excited for some change in America. Hooray!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Colbie Caillat infuriates, inspires

Colbie Caillat is terrible songwriter. Seriously, how many more slow, über sappy love songs does the world need? If you ask me, the guy she's singing about will finally love her if she would just shut the heck up.

But I guess the reason Colbie is successful is because something about her music speaks to females age 11 to twenty-something, especially if they are learning to play acoustic guitar. I don’t know what it is.

Ms. Caillat did stimulate my imagination while I was listening to her song “Little Things” (against my will, mind you, they just play her music absolutely everywhere). As I listened, it hit me: I don’t really know what she is talking about but I need to be more positive and more grateful for the “little things” in my life that make my days a little brighter.

So with Thanksgiving fast approaching, here are some things I am thankful for:

First, I am thankful for Fringe and Eleventh Hour and my friends Shane and Kristen and Lori for recommending them. Neither show will ever replace The X-Files in my heart, but together they almost fill the void that it left.

Second, I am thankful for Enter Shikari, this UK trance-core band that has cool dance music that combines hideous walrus yowling with catchy melodies. It’s an interesting contrast but it works for me. Plus, they dance like nobody’s business. I can’t stop listening to them.

Third, I am thankful for the new King’s of Leon song “Sex on Fire.” I can't understand most of the lyrics, I don’t know what it means exactly and it sounds kind of sketchy, but it’s just so catchy. I listened to it about one hundred times in a row and I think I could listen to it one hundred times more. I also think it would be funny to dedicate that song to somebody, like, “'Sex on Fire,' that's our song, baby.” Plus, the singer looks like Charlie Pace/Merry the hobbit and the drummer rocks the sweet mustache.

Fourth, I am grateful for the people in my classes who feel sorry for me because I am the only boy and help me out when I am struggling.

Fifth, I am thankful for this video on how to avoid kissing. I almost died laughing when I saw Bre smash Daniel with a flowerpot. It made my whole day. (Daniel didn't really get hurt, it's a dangerous but well-executed stunt. I checked before I laughed too hard.)

Sixth, I’m thankful for my mom, who loves me enough to yell at me. I was having the Pity-Palooza of all pity parties and I called my mom and told her I wanted to drop out of school, to which she simply responded, “Quit being a whiner and a quitter!” It was intense, but it set me straight.

So things aren’t so bad. I’ve got people entertaining me and looking out for me.

Now if they could only get Colbie Caillat to stop singing…

Monday, October 20, 2008

Starting a family is hazardous to your coolness OR Baby humans ruin street cred

Based on some convincing evidence that has recently come into my possession, I’ve decided that the best thing a person can do to become instantly boring and cranky is to have children.

Exhibit A: My dad, who used to be a race car driver. No joke. By day he was a mechanic and by night he would race cars. Of course, that was a long time ago and there are no pictures to prove it, but I believe him. I’m sure that somewhere there are cave paintings of my dad behind the wheel of a wicked race car to corroborate his story.

And since there aren’t any pictures, this is what I estimate my dad looked like in his racing prime:

At one point my dad was also the Albuquerque Police Department’s “Phantom,” which means that night after night they would clock him speeding and chase him but they couldn’t catch him. So they started looking for him. The Albuquerque Police Department was looking for my father. He knows this because eventually they tracked him down and told him so. And then they wrote him a huge ticket.

This is what I estimate my dad looked like when he was running from the cops:

Next is Exhibit B: My mom, Pamela, who used to be a rock and roll animal. She went to all sorts of sweet shows and concerts, hung out with tons of rock stars and had the best record collection this side of anywhere. You could hum her a few bars of any song and she could not only tell you the band, but also the year the record came out, the record label it was on, who produced it and the names and shoe sizes of all the band members.

This is what I estimate my mom looked like back then:

Or maybe like this:

Well, I don’t think she actually plays bass, but you get the idea.

But this is a real picture of my parents now:

This begs the question: What happened to them? Where are the skinny, good looking, exciting young people of yesteryear?

They had kids.

My dad is an accountant now, which is about as far away from “race car driver” on the cool job spectrum as you can get, but I guess you gotta pay the bills. The only mechanical things he works on any more are clogged drains and broken dishwashers and other things his kids break.

My mom hasn’t been to a concert in years, and all the rock stars she used to know have all died of overdoses. She can’t even remember anything about music anymore. I asked her who sang a song that came on the radio the other day and she got so upset. She said, “How should I know? It could be Siegfried and Roy and their striped tigers for all I care. There’s no room for that crap in my brain anymore, it’s all been pushed out by kid stuff like doctors appointments and gymnastics and parent teacher conferences!”

So remember: reproduce with caution. It just may be the last cool thing you ever do.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Scully is the only woman for me (Yes, I'm writing about Scully again. Deal.)

Ok ok ok. I have to – no, I need to – write something about Scully. You know, the red-haired FBI agent skeptic on the ‘90s cult sci-fi classic The X-Files? Yes, that Scully.

The last time I wrote about Scully was earlier this year on Valentine’s Day, so I figure enough time has passed that I can bring up the subject again.

Here’s my summary: Scully is beautiful, feisty and smart. She rocks the conservative pantsuit and high heels, yelled at Xzibit in the movie (and that dude is gangsta) and she knows everything about science and medicine and does at least one autopsy per episode.

Ok, so I’m in love with a made up character on a ‘90s science fiction show, which sounds like the pinnacle of pathetic-ness, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If loving Scully is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but this fall some friends recommended some shows, specifically the X-Files rip-offs Fringe and Eleventh Hour. Since The X-files is obviously off the air and I’ve already watched all the episodes on DVD a minimum of one hundred times each, I have a Scully-sized hole in my heart.

So I felt a little guilty but I started watching and I was horrified to learn that there are two women trying to take Scully’s place, and I’m not having it.

First, let’s talk about Fringe. Granted, I enjoy the show, and even though she’s an FBI agent Olivia Dunham can’t hold a candle to Scully. First of all, her voice is too deep and her hair is weird. In the first episode she was naked in a vat of chemicals with electrodes and sensors taped to her and it really didn’t do anything for me. If it had been Scully I would have been freaking out.

But anyway she’s also a whiner, like “My boyfriend was a traitor. Waaah!” Let me tell you something, Olivia: Scully would’ve already shot him in the face, gotten over him and started doing an autopsy.

And I’m pretty sure Olivia has already cried. Only three episodes and you’re already crying? Girl, please. The only time Scully cried was when she figured out that aliens had tampered with her ovaries and stolen all her eggs. I know if my eggs were stolen I would be upset too.

Second, there’s Eleventh Hour. There’s only been one episode but I can already tell that FBI Special Agent Rachel Young is trying too hard. In the first episode she was running around in a robe pointing a gun at people. Tacky. And she has weird eyes. I hate to say it but homegirl pretty much looks like Kermit the Frog with a ponytail. I’m sorry. It had to be said.

Plus, she’s not that smart. She’s basically a bodyguard to Jacob Hood, the show’s Mulder-ish character. And she can’t autopsy crap.

So ladies, if you can’t stand the heat, I suggest you stay the heck out of the science fiction kitchen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Re-recording life

I was thinking about it and thank goodness that when you’re leaving a message on someone’s phone you can go back and re-record it if you mess up.

Like when you get done you can press pound and it will say “If you’re satisfied press this key, if you want to re-record your message press this key.”

This came in handy one day when I was calling this girl and while I was leaving the message my voice cracked. It went something like this: “Hey just give me a call back when you have TiMe.”

I was mortified. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to quickly press pound and I got to go back and re-record it. Otherwise that humiliating moment would have been digitally preserved forever, cause who’s gonna erase a ridiculous message like that? I can picture it:

Girl #1: “I’m so bored. What should we do?”

Girl #2: “You wanna listen to that voicemail message again? It’s hilarious. I mean, go through puberty already! What a dork!”

Luckily I was saved by the power of pressing pound. Man, I love that feature. It’s a lifesaver. I wish I could do that with other things in life. Like, the next time I’m having a conversation with some girl and I realize “Oh, man. That sounded creepy,” I would simply press pound on my phone-of-life and give it another shot, re-recording it until I say the smoothest thing possible.

I would re-record a lot of stuff, believe you me. I would re-record all the times I fell on the ice or slipped on a wet floor or tripped on a crack in the sidewalk. I would re-record all the times I’ve tried to go in the “out” door or walked into something. I would re-record all the times I've called someone by the wrong name. I would re-record all the times I’ve asked someone when their due date was and what the sex of their child was only to realize they aren’t pregnant, just a little overweight. I would re-record the times I’ve made a “your mom” joke and then found out that the person’s mother was dead.

I would pretty much be the smoothest person ever. But I guess where’s the fun in that? I know I’d be sad if everyone else suddenly got a phone-of-life and became suddenly smooth. I like laughing at other people just as much as they like laughing at me.

Just be aware that if you leave me a message and your voice cracks, I'm never deleting it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Banana bread bachelor

Recently I attended a party where I had to bring food. I brought banana bread and this woman ate some and then said to me, “This is amazing! Why aren’t you married?”

Apparently banana bread aptitude makes a man more marriageable.

But seriously: is baking banana bread really something women consider when they are dating somebody? I doubt it.

Girl #1: “How was your date with Wilford?”

Girl #2: “It was awesome! The conversation wasn’t very good, we didn’t have much chemistry and he’s kind of weird looking. But he makes amazing banana bread, so I think he’s the one.”

Not likely.

I’m not fooled. I know girls aren’t into banana bread, nor am I foolish enough to think they care if a man can cook.

I used to think women were only into money because I dated this one pretty girl, and, like most pretty girls, she was dating me and, like, seven other dudes at the same time. She ended up picking one of the other dudes over me, even though I thought he and I were evenly matched in most respects. I finally decided that it all went wrong on the first date when she asked “What’s your major?” and I answered “Social Work” and he answered “Dentistry.” Everyone knows that dentists trump social workers in the dating arena. Dentists easily make in one month quadruple what a social worker will make their entire career. Social workers work for dentists to supplement their social work incomes. A dentist comes home, sits in a reclining chair and shouts “Social worker! Bring me my slippers and the evening paper, and while you’re at it ask that other social worker what’s for dinner and then tell the other social worker to give the accessory chihuahua a bath and clip his toenails!”

But then I met some women who married elementary school teachers, who are also destined to live in squalor. Teaching is the only profession that makes less money and gets less respect than social work besides manure shoveling. Anyway, after that I decided it was because women only cared about looks.

Then I saw some women marry men who looked liked they should be behind the wheel of the Ugly-Mobile. In many cases they were also manure shovelers with no direction in life and just plain mean.

So not only is love blind, it is also poor, stupid and has bad self-esteem too. There is no rhyme or reason to who women end up loving, and I guess the bottom line is that I have no idea what women want, but I take comfort in knowing that they don’t know what they want either.

Oh, and I told the banana bread woman I’m not married because I was severely abused and have trouble forming emotional relationships. Not really, but that shut her right up.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Weirdness is universal

I'm in graduate school so I've been in college for a long time, and most of that time I've had roommates and most of them have been weird. Coincidence? Definitely not.

The fact of the matter is everyone is weird up close. This means that in casual, infrequent interaction most people can come off looking pretty normal, but when you start living with someone, that’s when stuff gets weird.

This is because the real person will only come out once you’ve spent enough time together. Nobody can stay on their best behavior 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Eventually the uncensored version is going to come creeping out, and when it does, be ready. It’s like Animal Planet, you’re observing human animals in their natural habitat.

Living with someone puts you at ground zero when it comes to bad hygiene. Some roomates don't shower. Some roommates I’ve had shower but don’t use soap. Others don’t shower so that they can put the time they saved by not showering into playing World of Warcraft. One guy never showered, he just washed his hair every few days in the bathroom sink with antibacterial soap.

Another thing that will differ wildly is personal boundaries. For instance, when I moved into one place my roommates and I sat down and agreed to share our stuff. I was thinking that meant eating somebody’s Pop Tarts if you were out, or possibly watch their Transformers DVD.

Then I was walking home from school one day and saw one of my roommates driving my car, whereupon I proceeded to lose my mind. Turns out he thought sharing cars was part of the sharing deal so he had helped himself to my keys and run a few errands all over town. I get to borrow his shaving cream, he gets to borrow my car. Totally logical.

Another roommate I had would just open my door and walk into my room without knocking or anything, which is unbelievably alarming. I was like, “Dude, you can’t just walk in here! I could be naked! Or I could have a girl in here! Or both!”

That’s not likely, but still. It’s the principle of the thing.

And dude also did not know how to say "excuse me." He would just push past.

But nothing lets your peer into a person's sheer lack of initiative like living with them. Most of my roommates have never had jobs and spend their days watching TV, DVDs, TV on DVD, playing video games and occasionally going to class. Honestly, I'm way jealous.

And I never would have discovered these things about these guys if I hadn’t lived with them. That’s why couples divorce and separate, because once they start living together they start to realize they married a weirdo.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Onions are the answer

I don’t want to be a social worker anymore. I thought I could help people, but it turns out, I can’t. Even if I could, I don’t want to anymore. So I'm turning to onions for help.

First of all, I think I am the only man majoring in Social Work in the whole world and I feel like the odd man out. In all my classes it’s me and 34 women. Same thing at my internship: women as far as the eye can see and then me. It all sounds good, and someone like me could definitely benefit from odds like that, except they’re all old, married, have a life partner or have more problems than the people they’re trying to help.

One of them told me that most male social workers are gay, inferring that I must be too. Thanks. Actually, I’m not gay, I just wanted to help people. So sue me.

And no social worker I know has a realistic outlook. One part of the social work profession is ridiculously optimistic bordering on delusional and think they can save the world. Bless their little bleeding hearts, but they’re crazy. The other part is ridiculously jaded, cynical and has started to hate people. Can you really blame them? But it would be better if they weren’t social workers at all.

I hate going to my internship. On an average day I sit there and make copies. On a really crazy, exhilarating day I get to send a fax.

Some people have told me I am squandering my talents. I’ve worked at Jiffy Lube off and on and this past summer they offered me a management job where I would make more than I will as a social worker with a master’s degree and a clinical license. Fantastic. But I turned them down to go get my master’s degree and clinical license.

How messed up is that? A high school dropout hustling air filters can make more than a college graduate. And speaking of things that are messed up, what kind of system pays the most needed people (teachers, social workers) the least and the least needed people (athletes, actors, rock stars) the most? A messed up system.

I think I’ll get my MBA instead and go to work for some corporation where I can get money and respect, because social workers get neither.

I started out wanting to save the world but I don’t want to anymore. Well, I guess I still want to, but I am too tired and too poor and in too much debt. I am less concerned now with saving the world and more concerned with never having to eat ramen noodles ever again. But it appears that my ramen eating days won’t be coming to an end anytime soon since, as I’ve mentioned, social workers perform crucial services but still get paid peanuts. There is no light at the end of the poverty tunnel.

And what concerns me the most is I am rapidly losing my faith in people.

One of my friends is a horticulture grad student who is studying onions, and I’ve decided that I am going to do the same. Onions might make you cry sometimes, but they can’t be nearly as depressing as people. Onions don't beat their kids or spouses. Onions don't do all kinds of shady things to get money or power. Onions don’t oppress or discriminate against other vegetables.

Onions have only one humble desire and that is to flavor your fajitas, and I can't help but love them for that.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Everyone knows Vikings can’t swim

I love summer but pool parties are depressing. People are always throwing them, but I can never go because I am hairy, chubby and blindingly white. Nobody wants to see that at their pool party.

Maybe I could get away with going if I were just hairy or just chubby or just blindingly white, but since I am all three it is just out of the question.

If they did a survey of “The top 5 things people don’t like to see at the pool” it would probably look like this:

1. Hairy people
2. Chubby people
3. Blindingly white people
4. Sharks
5. Jesse Barben

I don’t know much about genealogy, but I’m pretty sure my family tree has its hairy roots in Scandinavia, or wherever Vikings are from, because I have all their evolutionary adaptations. I mean, everyone knows Vikings had evolved to be wicked hairy and a little chubby to keep out the cold so they could sail around in long boats, wear horned helmets and pillage excessively without catching pneumonia.

The trouble is I don’t really need to pillage and I don’t even know where to buy a long boat or a horned helmet. I probably couldn’t even afford them if I did. Plus, it’s really hot where I live so all this Viking stuff has really outlived its usefulness. I guess there weren’t any pool parties in Scandinavia or Iceland or wherever. Eventually my descendents and I will hopefully evolve away from being hairy, white and chubby, but unfortunately that probably won't be in time for the next pool party.

I have a roommate who is sickly thin and as hairless as a naked mole rat, so maybe if we went to a pool party together we would average out to two normal people and could enjoy the pool party without fear of ridicule.

Or I could try and find someone hairier, whiter and chubbier than me, stand next to them and look pretty good in comparison.

I just never thought I would be showing up to parties seeking out fat hairy people.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I'm getting married!

I hate for people to find out about it from my blog, but I would like to announce that I am getting married. You might ask, “To whom?”

“To whomever,” is my response.

I don’t care anymore because I am burned out on dating. I can’t think of stuff to do anymore. I can’t bring myself to pay for someone else anymore. I can’t “define the relationship” ever again. Above all, I cannot have one single more conversation about school, work, family or the weather. The futility is maddening.

So I am set on settling. A miserable marriage that I rush into can’t possibly be worse than more years of dating. Plus, if you go into marriage knowing it’s going to suck, you won’t be surprised and disappointed like most people when it inevitably does suck.

Sure, I won’t be “in love,” but a few years of marriage seems to cure most people of being “in love” anyway.

I almost settled this summer. I was majoring in a subject I didn’t even like anymore, living in a new town in a house that smelled like cats with only The X-Files on DVD to keep me company. Life was looking pretty bleak. And since there are always a few women with ticking biological clocks who will marry just about anybody, I was inches away from calling one up and promising her a ring.

Luckily my 15-year-old sister intervened. She called and made fun of me until I saw reason.

Lindsey: “You’re stupid. And if you settle, your wife will most likely be just as stupid and then your kids will be doubly stupid and that’s just cruel and genetically irresponsible.”

She had a point, although she’s never had to “define” a relationship or pay for someone else’s dinner.

I guess I also don’t want to become that bitter-fun-sucker person who is always complaining, scoffing at romantic comedies and raining on everyone else’s love parades. Nobody likes that guy/girl/old man/old woman. And I suppose that somewhere out there is someone who can stand me who I can also stand.

So I gave up on my dreams of settling and have reluctantly returned to the dating game and it’s miserable. So far, this one girl made me watch High School Musical. It was terrible, man. It was just as bad as I imagined it. And then the next day she told me that she didn’t think we should go on dates anymore. I just said, “I wish you had told me that before I watched High School Musical.”

Expect an announcement in the mail soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What's in a name?

Everything. A good name will open doors and build bridges, and conversely a bad name will close doors, burn bridges and get you made fun of behind your back.

Kids need good names more than anyone. If you name your child a weird and crappy name, you may as well beat them up before you send them off to school and save the bullies the trouble. I won’t give any examples, but some of my friends and family have doomed some of their kids to getting ridiculed for life.

My brother-in-law, Rafa, wants to name his first son “Luigi.” All I know is that if the kid gets word of that through the umbilical cord, all the ultrasounds will be of him shaking his fist at Rafa.

The thing about names is they inevitably shape what the child will become. For example, if you want your kid to grow up to be a full-time pot smoker, just name him or her something like “Sunshine” or “Marley.”

Businesses need good names too. A business should say what it does, you know? Like naming a hamburger place “McDonald’s” is just stupid and could confuse a potential hamburger consumer. Luckily for obese people everywhere, McDonald’s has done well in spite of a poor name choice, but places that came after have learned from their mistakes, choosing more straightforward names like “Burger King” and “Taco Bell.”

Certain places have names that just make me not want to give them my business. For example, there is a restaurant called “The Blue Burrito”. Sick. A blue burrito? That’s just unappetizing. First of all, how did the burrito turn blue? I don’t plan on ever finding out.

There’s another place called “OK Automotive.” No way. If I’m gonna pay somebody a bunch of money to fix my car, they better do a heck of a lot better job than just “OK”. And just down the street there is another place called “OK Brakes,” which sounds more to me like “OK Car Accidents.”

I saw a billboard for “Pay Less Homes.” Don’t get me wrong, I like to save money. I will “Pay Less” for shoes all day long, but a home is not something I really want to skimp on.

Some places have misleading names, like “Discount Tires”. I went there and bought some tires and when I went to pay I said, “I would like a discount please.”

They were like “Do you have a coupon? Do you have a family member who works for Discount Tires? Are you a senior citizen?”

I said, “No, but this is Discount Tires, man. Gimme a discount.”

They didn’t give me a discount. But I did drink a bunch of their complimentary lobby coffee, though. Well, I would have if I drank coffee. Instead I just poured everyone else in the lobby a cup, even if they didn’t want one.

And I stole every single straw.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I am not opposed to infanticide

Yes, I am not opposed to infanticide. That means “killing infants,” specifically four-year-olds. OK, that’s not true. But I am in support of physical punishment. That means “beatings”. OK, that’s not true either.

I don’t even believe in spanking children, but all that almost changed one fateful morning. I was visiting my family and I woke up and went to put my contact lenses in, only to find that my contact case was open and my contacts were missing. I checked my eyes to see if I had forgotten to take them out the night before. I hadn’t. Maybe I had misplaced them as I stumbled in from a night of debauchery? No, I try not to be under the influence of any kind of substance other than ice cream, so unless it was some particularly strong Chunky Monkey, not likely. Did someone else mistakenly put my contacts into their own eyes, thinking they were theirs, a disgusting but innocent mistake? No one else wears contacts in the family, so that was out.

Then I thought of Raquel.

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents are masochists and had eight children. Raquel is the youngest and is four years old. She also has a reputation for being a kleptomaniac, and she had seen me putting my contacts in the other day and asked me what I was doing, so that made her my prime suspect.

I showed her the case and asked “Did you play with this?” She looked at the floor and just shrugged. Without my contacts I couldn't see her facial expression, but she was acting suspicious.

“How can you not know?” I asked incredulously. “Seriously, did you play with this or not?”

“No,” she said, still looking at the floor.

So not only had she effectively blinded me, now she was lying about it.

With a little more interrogation she came clean and together we tried to find my contacts. We crawled all over the floor looking, but found nothing. Raquel couldn’t remember what she had done with the contacts, or at least that’s what she said. I’m thinking she might’ve flushed them, so now I am doomed to bump into stuff and squint until I get some more contacts when I return to school.

I complained to my mom but she was unsympathetic.

“Oh that’s nothing. She has so much stuff that belongs to me, I don’t even keep track anymore. She steals from everybody.”

She didn't even care! Completely unconcerned. I guess having eight kids and dealing with their ridiculous behavior makes a person insane.

And the next day Raquel got into my laptop and somehow e-mailed all my friends a message that said “dkadpaooifihaofoiahhdpqopdihhaspsdpodoihhewwq.” Fantastic.

I went and got a vasectomy immediately. OK, that’s not true, but I sure thought about it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Grocery lines cause anxiety, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure

Few things in life are more frustrating for me than the grocery store. I can handle the shopping process, but paying for the stuff is always an ordeal.

Where it all starts to go wrong is I always get in the wrong line. I always check really carefully and select the shortest line, but it seems like no matter how short a line looks at the outset I always get stuck behind someone who needs a price check or wants to argue about prices.

Jerk: “$1.25? I coulda swore that was a dollar. I know there are twelve people behind me and it’s only 25 cents we’re talking about, but can we get someone to go check?”

Other times I’ve gotten stuck behind some parent who can’t control their kids and the kids are throwing stuff out of the cart, punching each other and demanding candy. I tried to offer a kid some candy once to speed the process up, but that only got security called on me.

I started using the self-checkout things in hopes that the smart people were more likely to use a self-checkout machine and the line would move faster. But even with the self-checkout I always manage to get stuck behind some 90 year old man who got in the wrong line by mistake.

Old Man:
"Hey, where is the checker? I need some service here! I need to pay for these prunes!" (Or whatever old people buy.)

Clueless old men aside, I love the self-checkout stands because they don’t judge. Triple strength Gas-X? No judgment here. Jock itch ointment? Hey man, it’s your business. A grocery clerk might look at you, laugh to herself and then hand the item to the bagger who will also laugh to himself, but not the self-checkout. The self-checkout machine remains mercifully neutral.

I think I will just start stealing instead. It will save money and time and if I get caught, getting arrested can't be half as embarrassing as buying that stuff.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The universe evens things out once again

A female friend recently told me she didn’t like to go the mechanic because she was afraid to get taken advantage of because she was a woman. She said this wasn’t fair, but I told her that it was.

I told her that it all comes out even when a man goes to get his hair cut.

She said, “They told me I needed to buy all this stuff and I’m not sure I even needed it.”

I replied, “You aren’t special. When I got my hair cut, I had to buy shampoo-mouse-gel or something like that with smoothers and moisturizers.”

I couldn’t help it. The girl cutting my hair told me it made me look hot. And that it was made out of tea and trees. And she kept calling it “product,” and I don't even know what that means.

You think I’m stupid, but I’ve seen bald guys walking out of there all loaded down with stuff. I mean, they’re bald, so life has already dealt them kind of a harsh blow and now they’re being victimized by beauty school girls. That’s harsh.

And the only person I feel more sorry for is a red-haired bald person getting swindled. That is just one too many injustices to bear.

It happens other places too, like one time I was looking for some jeans and a saleswoman helped me find a good size and style. I went and tried them on and when I stepped out of the dressing stall to look in the mirror the saleswoman was lurking and proceeded to freak out, saying "Those look great! You should totally get them!"

I was immediately suspicious because she was way too enthusiastic, so I said "Do you get paid commission or something? Cause you are too excited about my pants."

"Um, they're just really cool jeans," she said, looking at the floor. She wouldn't deny the commission thing. She was a slick one, I almost got hustled.

Maybe my friend and I should stick together: I'll go with her to the mechanic and she can go with me to shop for clothes and get my hair cut.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go look up "product" in the dictionary.

Monday, July 21, 2008

All the hairy details OR Hair today, gone tomorrow

I think I'm in trouble. I hate to say it, but girls aren’t into hairy dudes. I think they might have been in the past, but not anymore.

These days, girls only want a guy who is slightly hairier than they are. Which leaves me out in the cold because I can grow a beard in about 30 seconds, and the rest of me is correspondingly hairy.

I think I was born in the wrong decade because in the 70s body hair was king. Everyone had chest hair and sideburns and mustaches for days and it was hot. If I was living in the 70s I would have been a sexy, sexy man and an object of much feminine desire.

Take James Bond for example: all the "007"s of yesteryear had chest hair like a grizzly bear, but Daniel Craig, the newest Bond, is like a hairless cat. I'm afraid he is just a reflection of the changing times.

Being hairy is one of those things that I can joke about all day long, like I might say things like, “Ha ha, I’m the missing link.”

But if someone else tries to make a joke about it, I get mad.

Some dude: “Hey, man. You’ve got hairy arms. You're like 'An American Werewolf in London,' ha ha.”

Me: “Yeah, except we're not in London, jerk! And your mom has hairy arms.”

But things come in and out of style, so I’m figuring it’s only a matter of time until we have a Body Hair Renaissance and it becomes cool to be hairy again. I can’t wait.

And when that joyous day comes, we can usher it in with a parade. The parade will consist of lots of floats with hairy dudes with button-up shirts that have the first two buttons undone so that awesome tuft of chest hair will be crawling out.

Happy body hair day everyone! Send me a card.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Déjà vu at graduate school OR Et tu, graduate school?

Last week I packed up all my stuff into my Chevy Prism and headed down south to start graduate school and I gotta say, it's not all it's cracked up to be.

The good news is I have been reunited with my three closest friends from my undergraduate days: lecture, textbook and multiple choice test. Oh, how I've missed you guys.

I guess I don't know really what I expected. Oh wait, yes I do. I expected grad school to be a little more than undergrad with extra reading, but how wrong I was! Between the two classes, in the first week alone they want me to read 13 chapters in four separate textbooks, 1 novel and 5 online articles. In my estimation that comes out to be approximately 686 pages in one week.

I can't do it. I'd rather die. I exaggerate a lot, but in this case I'm serious. I'd rather throw myself in front of a moving train than try and read that many pages in one week. Good thing I've also gotten reacquainted with another old college friend: faking it.

Then what do I do once I have obtained all this wonderful knowledge? Do I go to class and discuss and synthesize it with my professor and peers? Nope. We go to class and the teacher turns out the lights and turns on Power Point and proceeds to drone on about the corresponding slides for three hours and forty-five minutes! We are supposed to get two 15-minute breaks, but sometimes the teacher becomes so enraptured with hearing himself/herself talk that they forget to give us our breaks. So we just sit in the dark.

Other aspects of the grad school experience have let me down as well, like the weather. It has been overcast everyday, but it only rains when I am riding my bike to and from school so I get road gunk all over my pants and when I get to class it looks like I have bladder and bowel problems. I watch out the windows at other times but it never rains until I get on my bike.

And then there's my living situation. My roommate has a cat, so our house smells like cat, and consequently I am sure that I now smell like cat.

And the oven doesn't work. So I eat a lot of cereal. Like, breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

Hooray for higher education.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Late bloomer serves cold cup of comeuppance to high school mean girl

A girl from high school contacted me through the internet, saying we should “catch up” over dinner. I decided to go, out of morbid curiosity.

Morbid because in high school this girl was the hottest and coolest and consequently never cared about me. We were in totally different high school castes. I was surprised she even remembered my name. Now she was contacting me, asking me to dinner? Something weird was going on.

So I showed up at the restaurant brimming with interest, and when my high school “friend” stepped out of a booth, I was more than a little surprised. She was no longer the vision of sultry hotness she had been eight years ago. She had aged, put on some weight, and just generally looked worse for wear. Time had not been good to my friend.

I, on the other hand, had benefited a little from the passage of years. My skin had cleared up, I had gotten a better hairstyle and the college experience had left me with a lot more confidence than I had had back when homegirl used to ignore me.

And even though she looked quite different, some things never change. She was still one big raging ball of ego. For instance, she didn’t let me talk. I pretty much ate quietly while she told me all about her last eight years. I nodded when I knew she expected me to and said “right” when I thought it polite, but mostly I was thinking about breadsticks. She never even asked what I had done in the last eight years. As far as she knows, I was in a coma.

At the end of the night she said, “This was fun! Let’s go out again this week!”

I replied, “So basically, being hot didn’t get you as far in the real world as it did in high school. And in the years since, you haven’t accomplished anything, have been in tons of bad relationships, wasted all your youth and beauty, and don’t have much going for yourself. And now you remember that I was a nice guy and you think we should date. As flattered as I am to be your absolute last choice, I’m gonna have to say no thanks.” And then I calmly threw my drink on her and stalked out of the restaurant.

Ok, I actually didn’t do or say any of that. I wish I did, but my mother raised me to be too polite. Instead, I just exchanged numbers and now I ignore her calls and texts. Not quite the same, I know.

Either way, it’s true what they say: “revenge is a dish best served cold.” And with breadsticks.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Country music is the new punk rock

Yeah, it’s true. Country music is more irritating to more people than punk rock, as it turns out. Who knew?

When I was an angry teenager I wanted to make people mad. I got into punk music, partly because it is loud and fast, but mostly because it offends a lot of people. My mom hated all of the songs I listened to growing up because the vocals could only be loosely termed as “singing,” most of the lyrics were vulgar and they were all played at the same tempo of 1,000 beats per minute.

And once you’re into punk music you have to have get into punk fashion, meaning you rip up your clothes, put spikes and safety pins on everything and get a weird haircut, all equally annoying to parents.

Now I’ve mellowed with age and my tastes have diversified. To the horror of my parents and “punk” siblings, my horizons have broadened so much that I’ve even gone down that dark road called “country music”. I’ve even gone so far as to buy a few CDs.

I was playing some Brad Paisley the other day and my mom walked in and made an angry face. “Do we have to listen to this? I wish you’d only play this when I’m not home. Or out of the state”

My brothers and I were driving in my car and I was playing some Sara Evans and you’ve never seen people so upset. “What is this? Pull over! Let me out! I’ll walk before I listen to this crap!”

I still like to antagonize people a little bit, so country music is perfect for me because it is more divisive than religion and politics put together.

I think I will get a cowboy hat and some boots. That might send them right over the edge.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wedded world has a dark underbelly

Like Sting says, “I never made promises lightly, and there have been some that I’ve broken”. But instead of walking in fields of gold, I want to figure out what the heck is wrong with married people.

Story background: I majored in Social Work. Consequently, I now work at Jiffy Lube.

So the other day I was talking to a fifty-something customer and I told him that his oil change would be finished in ten minutes and he proceeded to freak out and babble incoherently.

“Oh no! I thought it was gonna take lots longer! I gotta get out of the house for longer than ten minutes! I just got away and I’m not going back. Maybe I could tell her I was at Jiffy Lube for two hours but go some place else. But she’ll know! She always knows!”

And then he looked me right in the eye and almost shrieked, “Are you married? Don’t ever get married! Promise me you’ll never get married! Promise me! Promise!

I hastily promised not to get married, ran like heck and never looked back. The crazy, fearful look in his eye will haunt me until I die, and some questions remained clogged in my mind: was this guy crazy, or was he dangerously sane? Most importantly, is marriage really that bad?

So I asked some other people about their marriages and was unsettled to find that, even though they all said their marriages were great, they all included some kind of disclaimer or caveat. Like, “It’s a lot of work” or “Sometimes it sucks” or “Most of the time we love each other, but sometimes we really hate each other.” Awesome. Sign me up.

I told my friend about this experience and he laughed and asked me why I haven’t gotten married yet. Feeling sarcastic, I told him that I haven’t yet found a woman who isn’t crazy. He looked at me incredulously and then burst into hysterical laughter, tears rolling down his cheeks and everything.

After he calmed down, he wiped his eyes and said, “A woman who isn’t crazy? You might as well be looking for a unicorn or a leprechaun because, like unicorns and leprechauns, sane women don’t exist! You need to save your time and money and just look for the least crazy woman. Once you find her you have to hurry and make her your wife or else you’ll be stuck with someone even crazier than she is.”

“Is your wife crazy?” I asked.

“Crazy as a loon,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“It sounds like you’re crazy,” I accused.

He thought for a minute and said, “Yeah, I guess I must be.”

Sounds like I won’t be breaking that promise anytime soon.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Oldest child gets even

I think my parents are masochists because they had eight kids. I was the first and because I am so awesome they had and adopted seven more, but being the oldest I got screwed.

I was pretty much a human guinea pig, I think all first children are. You get to be somebody’s crash course in parenting with the hope that your parents learn something and you survive. Then, whatever they learned on you they can apply to the other kids, if they are brave/foolish enough to have more.

In addition to being raised by experienced people, the younger kids have it better in a lot of other ways. The biggest disparity is money. My parents had me when they were in college so we never had anything. I played with jars full of dimes and empty spools of thread and dirt. Now my parents are established and doing pretty well for themselves my brothers and sisters rooms are overflowing with toys that all run on batteries. I can’t even imagine.

We drove the crappiest cars too. I can’t even count all the times we were stranded on the side of the road in some junk heap. Now my parents have nice, or at least nicer, cars that were manufactured within the last twenty years. And, the most important distinction between the two eras is that the cars of my childhood never had working air conditioning or were manufactured before air conditioning was invented. I’m just sorry that my brothers and sisters will never have the opportunity to take a road trip in the back of a non-air-conditioned station wagon because heat stroke builds character.

Now my parents are extremely liberal with their money, they practically throw it at my younger siblings. When I was a kid and I would ask for money my dad would say, “Do you think money grows on trees?” And I would think, “No, do you think I would be having this conversation if I could simply go outside and pick money off a money tree instead?”

So their parents have experience and money, and if that’s not enough the younger siblings can get away with way more stuff because my parents aren’t as smart, or maybe as motivated, as they used to be. My little brother Quinn got sick with the flu and discovered that when you are sick you get to stay home from school and get out of doing stuff. He’s well now, but whenever there’s something he doesn’t want to do or there are vegetables he doesn’t want to eat he just says he is getting sick. I’m surprised Old Mom hasn’t caught on, Young Mom would’ve gotten hip to that right away. Or maybe Old Mom is on to him but is too tired to care.

There are a few perks to being the oldest. For instance, I did learn how to swear very early on. My dad was really good at it when I was younger and so my development in that area was advanced. He has totally mellowed with age, though, and is not quite so articulate these days, so my younger siblings will have to wait until they get into public school to learn.

But advanced profanity aside, I do think I got the raw deal. Of course, when I became an obnoxious, self-absorbed, bratty teenager my parents used to say to me “Well, if we had known that cute little children grew up into this, we would have stopped having them! Now we’re stuck with a whole bunch!”

That is how I get even.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Beard-man Begins

Man, I hate being misunderstood. A friend of mine just accused me of being “obsessed” with beards. Please. I have a healthy appreciation for facial hair but that does not mean I am obsessed.

My healthy appreciation for beards started very early in life with my dad, who has always had a beard for as long as I can remember. My mom says she likes his beard because it helps to hide his double chin and look less fat. They have been married a long time.

Anyway, I guess I just grew up thinking that when you are a boy you don’t have a beard because you can’t grow one, but when you are a man you grow a beard.

Another reason why I like beards is because they have always been forbidden. When the celebrated day when I started growing facial hair did come, my beard never came to fruition because I’ve been restricted from growing a beard my whole life. First, in high school I worked at Jiffy Lube and they have employee grooming rules that state that no employee may have a beard. Then I was a full-time missionary, and obviously an awesome beard would clash with a suit and tie so I couldn’t grow a bead for another two years. Finally I enrolled at BYU-Idaho, a pretty conservative college with it’s own stringent grooming rules that ban facial hair. Why all the discrimination against beards, I’ll never know.

Aside from in between semester experimentation I’ve never had a beard and that is a tragedy. I am a full-fledged man without a full-fledged beard, so I might as well be a pre-pubescent twelve-year-old.

So when graduation approached I was never more excited for anything in my whole life. Not for graduation, but for growing a beard. I was fairly bursting with anticipation. My preparations included a countdown that started the month before graduation. I made a calendar where I peeled off a sticky note that had the number of days left until I could grow a beard. I told everyone I knew about my beard plans. I made a collage of people with beards. That is not “obsession,” that is called “enthusiasm”.

So I graduated and grew a beard only to turn around and get my old job back at Jiffy because I couldn’t find any other job. I did major in Social Work, after all. Maybe the beard and I are just not meant to be.

But let’s face it: beards are awesome. Mustaches are for molesters. The only way I would grow a mustache would be to protest something, like “I won’t cut this mustache until the war is over” and e-mail the president pictures of my creepy protest mustache. Goatees are for thirty-something guys who think they’re still cool and dudes who can’t grow a full beard. “Soul patches" are just gross. Dizzy Gillespie could pull one off but that’s because he had soul, see? So, if you are not Dizzy Gillespie or someone with an equivalent amount of soul, freaking shave that mess.

Beards are the only true form of facial hair. Anybody who’s anybody has one. Could Abraham Lincoln have led the country through a civil war and united the north and south without his trusty beard? No way. Could Karl Marx have come up with the Communist Manifesto if he were clean shaven? Not likely. Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Jesus, Chuck Norris, ZZ Top; the list goes on and on. Wherever there is awesomeness, there is a man with a beard.

I hope someday I can grow my beard and finally become a man. Am I obsessed with beards? You be the judge.

Monday, May 26, 2008

When I was a surrogate mother

While I’ve been living at home this past month I’ve been trying to help my frazzled, overworked mother out with household stuff and after only one month I gotta say that motherhood is the crappiest job ever.

And I’m not even technically the mother, but I have been doing tasks that have traditionally fallen to mothers and that mothers, even women who work full-time, still get stuck with even today. I’m talking about cooking and cleaning.

The first thing I learned is that nothing makes you hate your offspring, or surrogate offspring a.k.a. little brothers and sisters in my case, like cooking for them. I sit there and chop and mix and bake and all I get is attitude from the little jerks.

They come up to me like “We’re starving! We must eat this instant!” So I politely say, “Dinner will be ready a few minutes.” Then they look at whatever I’m making and say “Ew, what is that? Is it good? Will I like it? If I don’t like it, which is very likely, will you make me something else?”

So I chase them out of the kitchen brandishing some sort of cooking utensil, finish dinner and then try and call them back into the kitchen to eat.

“Um, hold on a minute, let me finish what I’m doing,” they invariably say.

What?! I thought you punks were starving!

After I drag them all back into the kitchen they descend upon the food like a swarm of locusts and devour everything in sight. This process takes about ten minutes. The labor ratio ends up being over two hours of cooking to yield less than ten minutes of destruction. Extremely depressing.

Then as quickly as they came they vanish, leaving the kitchen in shambles. I have to drag them back into the kitchen again, chasing them down individually, begging, pleading and threatening to get them to come back and help clean up the devastation.

And not only can they destroy a kitchen in less than ten minutes, they can destroy pretty much any room in the same amount of time. I think I could vacuum, scrub and organize until judgment day and still some little kid would come in while my back was turned and dump part of the elementary school sandbox out of his shoes onto the floor, throw toys everywhere, eviscerate a bookshelves and cabinets, color on the walls with crayon or puke on the carpet.

So when some lady seatbelts her kids into a car and proceeds to drive said car into a river, I think I will judge her less harshly now. That is bad to say, but it’s true.

I’m sure that stuff like this led to the feminist movement. Women probably started to think, “Why are we stuck with this crap?” Next thing you know there’s burning bras and all kinds of stuff. Shoot, if I wore a bra, I would burn it after this month. Actually, I might need to start wearing a bra soon because I don’t have any time to exercise now that I am cooking and cleaning, and I feel some man boobs coming on.