Monday, September 27, 2010

I Don't Know What To Title This

Today my employer went all-out and provided Little Caesar's Pizza for all to enjoy. I abstained, firstly, because I don't typically eat lunch, but also because I knew I was going to a pizza buffet just five hours later. My lady-friend went with me, but just had water. Is she dieting, you may ask?

I'll say! She's lost 28 pounds in the last four and a half weeks. You see, on the 24th of last month, she had gastric bypass surgery. Though 5'10" and under 250 pounds, pretty much all her fat accumulates around her stomach. Her cholesterol numbers were higher than John Lennon in the early 70's. I repeatedly asked if she was sure this was what she wanted. She assured me that she couldn't control her cravings on her own, that making her stomach smaller is what was required.

A couple weeks ago, she warned me not to feel competitive, not to get PO'd if her weight goes below mine. Where a few weeks ago, she was obese, now she is simply overweight. I can see her features being chipped away day by day, revealing the person I first came to love more than a dozen years ago, well before people got addicted to shit like FarmVille.

We saw a movie on Saturday: "The Town" starring and directed by Ben Affleck.

The reviews were phenomenal (more than 94% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), so I had high expectations, which actually wound up being surpassed. Taking place in Boston, it's a heist movie which doesn't give short shrift to character development. After the Facebook movie, the next one on my list is "Hereafter". Starring Ben's buddy, Matt Damon, and directed by Clint Eastwood, one of its big set pieces is the tsunami that killed more than 200,000 a few years ago.

And just to show that I'm not going soft, here is a text message that I sent to a friend today:

"Tom's head is so far up his ass that he can see Adam Lambert."

Friday, September 24, 2010

New Age Man in the Land of Sin

Five years ago this November, I took my first (and so far, only) trip to Las Vegas. The occasion was to visit my wife's in-laws who moved there in 2003. I was looking forward to going somewhere where it'd be a bit warmer than Minnesota. As the plane took off in the mid-afternoon, the passengers were subdued. I passed the time listening to my CD headset. This was the first time I'd ridden in a plane since our honeymoon seven years before.

My first plane ride was at the age of three when my parents transported me and my younger sibling to the States after my father's tour was over with the Air Force. My mom said that I threw up as we flew over the Atlantic. Could it be that flying at 30,000 feet didn't sit well with my stomach? Was it the ear popping that compelled me to hurl? Or was it the fact that I would no longer be able to drink goat's milk, the main type of dairy that was available in Greece?

The mood lightened considerably as we drew closer to Sin City. It was as if at the beginning of the flight, the people were told that they might get laid that night, but it wasn't a sure thing. Two hours later, they KNEW they were getting some. As we obtained our luggage, there were signs everywhere for various shows that were playing in town. Celine Dion's was probably the biggest at the time, one that we looked forward to attending in a few days (it was a late anniversary present from her parents).

Our brother-in-law drove us to my wife's parents house where we would be staying for the duration. They lived in a community in which all members had to be at least 55. I shudder to think of how much Viagra existed there per capita. Perhaps not coincidentally, there was a CVS pharmacy located just a few blocks away. All the houses were just one level so that the elder set would never again have to climb stairs. The name of the cable company out there was Cox which was ridiculously appropriate for a state in which brothels are legal. The next day was Thanksgiving. A good meal and time was had by all.

On the day after that, we were driven past the Strip, through New York, New York, gay Pari, and the Lion at the MGM Grand. There was a monstrous Christmas tree placed at one spot. We parked near Paris and while the guys gambled, I went shopping with the girls. Much to my chagrin, smoking was allowed inside Paris. I thought that went a tad far. They should've just gone all the way and had hookers on the street corners, too.

Later, I went with my sister-in-law to New York where we rode the roller coaster.

Priced at close to ten bucks, I got a bit of a crick in the neck from it. As we went out to eat that evening, I saw the first of three Vegas cliches, a bride and groom who had just been married. The other two, which I saw over the next couple days, were an Elvis impersonator and a guy with a cowboy hat counting his money as he came out of the casino.

The next night, we saw Celine at Caesar's. I would've much preferred to be seeing Paul McCartney who was playing at the same time at the MGM, but there wasn't much I could do about it. As we strolled to our seats, I noticed that 16 ounce bottles of Celine water were for sale. The five dollar price tag put me off of them, however. Though I'm not the hugest fan, she had quite a good show. After some time off, she's returning to Vegas for another extended stay next year. In the gift shop afterwards, it was an estrogen fest as women stocked up on Celine discs and perfumes.

The following night, we spent a bit of time in Downtown Vegas. We passed the area where the strip had originally started and saw old-school places like the Sahara (which has a camel as its logo). During the ride, my brother-in-law explained to my wife how to play Texas Hold Em. If it hasn't already become apparent, I have no interest in gambling. While downtown, we saw a number of acrobats doing their shtick about 30 feet in the air as techno music played.

On one of our last days, I was able to convince my father-in-law to take me to a place I might enjoy: a used record shop. While there, I bought Jerry Seinfeld's "I'm Telling You For the Last Time" and the Symbol's multi-disc "Crystal Ball".

Later, we went to Vegas's biggest souvenir shop. On the way there, I saw a homeless man begging for money at the intersection. I rolled down my window and gave him a couple bucks when my wife and father-in-law weren't looking. They figured he was just gonna spend the money on boos or drugs. If I was homeless, I'd probably do the same in order to forget the pain. We found jack shit at the store, but I didn't have a problem with having more money in my wallet. That evening, we went to a restaurant called Terrible's. It was located inside a casino which was also called Terrible's.

Despite the name, I found the food to be quite palatable.

The next day, we headed back to Minnesota. I can't say that going to Vegas dissuaded me much from the opinion that it's overrated; I had more fun watching "The Hangover", but at least I can say that I've been there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Nard Dog

Sharing an apartment with an adolescent Saint Bernard is no mean feat as this video from 1999 attests. The music I had playing on the stereo probably exacerbated things.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Phy Ed

Me and Physical Education had quite the relationship during my school days. One of my earliest joys was playing kickball in grade school, though I was often picked last (or close to last). One afternoon, I asked a guy in the grade above me if I could join in. He said I could, but that if I flew out, I was off the team. Wonder of wonders, I popped it up and was outta there. And, of course, there was the time that I REALLY popped it up. Click here if you're not familiar with the story.

Some of my classmates could really make it sail, so much so that the outfielders would have to go down a steep decline that went into a creek. It was quite dangerous when I look back on it, but, hey, it was the 80's. The janitor, Les Schmoker, could be seen every few days on the roof of the school throwing down rubber balls that had "unintentionally" been kicked up there.

In the 6th grade, I was able to join an exclusive club of guys who played football off to the side in the school's driveway. Two of them were Jason and Russell Speltz. They were really into sports and it felt good to be able to play with them. It certainly helped my self-esteem having been a bit of a loner the years before in no small part because of my shyness. One afternoon, while playing, I saw my mom tending the garden in our backyard; our house was located across the street and a few houses over.

On a lazy summer evening, I was playing football in our backyard with David Rinn when an older fellow named Tom Jacobi who had been bullying me passed by on his bike. My dad, aware of the situation, managed to get him to stop and told him to cease doing these things to his progeny. Tom appeared to take it well, but when he was about 30 feet away on his bike, he loudly said: "Fucker!!" My dad yelled, "Come back here and say that, Big Boy!" He was PO'd at being swore at by a snot-nosed high school kid. I found out later that Tom got in serious trouble with his mother for all the mischief he caused. I only wish that he was on Facebook so that we could have a laugh over the long-ago incident.

I was in for a rude awakening in 7th grade. We were required to wear a gym uniform (T-shirt and shorts). What's worse is that men were compelled to wear a cup. I was full of anxiety as I put the cup on followed by the uni. We walked a few blocks to the closest park where I saw an old friend from 1st grade named Shelly Smith (I'm really dropping the names here, aren't I?). The reason I remember this is because at the time we were all sitting in a circle doing stretches. I became self-conscious as I realized that some of the girls could see my cup. I resolved that day to never again wear one.

Another uncomfortable aspect of junior high Phy Ed occurred shortly thereafter as we hit the showers. Me and one of the Farrell twins were looking to get out of doing so, but an instructor said that we must do so. With our "tails" between our legs, we did as we were told. I didn't even really soap myself off, I was so self-conscious. My mindset wasn't helped by the guy who seemed to glance at every guy's dick as he threw a towel at them.

Still more trauma was experienced during the two weeks we had swimming. It wasn't so much that I didn't know how to swim, but that I had to wear what amounted to a pair of Speedo trunks.

I was all too eager to get into the pool so that others wouldn't be able to see my all-but-bare 13-year-old body. One morning, as I sat at the toilet at home, I cursed the fact that of the seven days of the week it could be, it just happened to be one of the two in which I would have to "swim".

My last year of Phy Ed was 10th grade; it wasn't required in 11th or 12th. One sunny day, they had us run around the smaller portion of Lake Winona (it's pictured below with the school behind it).

I was surprised at how much I put into it, doing my best to keep up with some of the stronger and more fit guys on the team. The coach, Mr. Kendrick, was so impressed that he asked if I'd be interested in joining the track team. I said I'd consider it, but later declined; one of the things I didn't like about running was how out of breath it made a person.

College required that we take just two Phy Ed classes. The first I opted for was Personal Fitness. I was suprised that first day when Mr. Gunnar said that we only needed to attend that first class if we covered a certain amount of ground in 10 minutes. We couldn't run, though, it had to be walking; walking fast was fine. Excited at the possibility of getting an easy A, I walked with alacrity. I felt sorry for some of the chunkier girls. It appeared that they'd be seeing Mr. Gunnar weekly for the next couple months. This other lady was able to finish ahead of me, but I was close behind.

A couple years later, I took Bowling. Also taught by Gunnar, there was no option that if you scored over 150 that first day, you'd be scot-free for the rest of the quarter. I'm kind of glad that wasn't the case, however, as I had a great time bowling with my classmates. Cups and showers seemed a lifetime ago as I rolled that ball down the lanes that Winona State had in the Student Union area.

We got out of one of the classes because Gunnar's mom died and another because he just didn't show up; his woman probably ditched him. I polished a split one morning and was beaming as Gunnar saw it and said, "Great shot!" The last day, we did a written test on the basics of the game which I had no problem with. I confess to being a tad melancholic as I left the alley that day.