Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gee, Thanks Part Deux

Part II of a two part series....

    Happily, it was the giving of thanks which has endured throughout peace, war, and endless reality TV shows.  No doubt Governor Bradford himself began a tradition which survives to this day: putting relatives on the spot to state what they’re thankful for or else they wouldn’t be allowed to eat food they wouldn’t normally eat any other time of year (think ‘eels’).
    In homes across the nation, this scene will be played out anew (during halftime, of course).  In the true spirit of the holiday, millions of family members will likewise be grilled or have their pumpkin pie withheld.
    This year, though, in a break from tradition, I plan on regaling my family with a list of things I’d be thankful for if they actually happened.
1.  That Jared guy from Subway ate so many Hot Teriyaki Chicken subs that he ended up looking like one of the Klumpfs.
2.  My doctor ordered me to eat at Hooters.
3.  My dentist told me flossing was overrated.
4.  My wife thought the Three Stooges were hilarious.
5.  The French thought Jerry Lewis was not.
6.  They would take that creepy Halls’ commercial off the air.  You know the one I mean.  That college kid and Mom checking each other out while sucking on cough drops just skeeves me.
7.  My golf and bowling scores were reversed.
8.  Man boobs were considered sexy.
9.  Christmas ads didn’t start on Labor Day weekend.
10.  Cashiers didn’t insist I “Have a nice day.”  That’s pressure I can do without.
11.  Once, just once, my order at the drive-thru wasn’t hopelessly screwed up.
12.  McDonalds dropped all the coy pretense.  Honestly, what kid would prefer carrots over French Fries?
13.  Speaking of McDonalds, I’d be thankful if the world was devoid of idiots who needed to be reminded, “Caution:  Coffee is hot.”
14.  Dancing With the Stars took place on I-95 at rush hour.
15.  Congress would forget to set their alarm clocks.  For the next 50 years.
17.  Kanye West would just shut up.
18.  Halloween wasn’t the “Fall Festival”, Christmas wasn’t the “Winter Festival”, Columbus Day wasn’t the “European Pillage and Rape Festival”, and Hanukkah wasn’t the “Festival of Lights.”  Oh...wait a minute...keep that one.
19.  Hannikoh...Chonikuh...Harmonica.  I just wish it was easier to spell.  And, pronouncing it didn’t sound like you had a cold.
20.  Cranberry Sauce was ALWAYS sold in cans with those neat little rings.  I never trusted the looks of the fresh stuff.
21.  They used exploding footballs at Thanksgiving Day games.
22.  Those damn squirrels weren’t plotting against me.
23.  “All Oprah, All Day!”  ‘Nuff said.
24.  Erectile dysfunction was only seen at construction sites.
25.  Donald Duck would just put on a pair of pants.  And, while we’re at it, Mr. Peanut could use a set of britches, too.
26.  Television would just be honest and change the name of the “Food Network” to the “RWFE Channel” (for “Rich White Folks Eating”).  C’mon, does ANYONE out there have anything in common with those people?
27.  Drinking beer and eating Doritos while watching football was an Olympic sport.
28.  If we could stop all those Viagra and Cialis commercials.  Ok, ok, I know, I officially qualify for membership in AARP, but that doesn’t mean I want to see codgers leering at each other.  Speaking of Cialis, I find it funny that the man and woman are in separate bath tubs.  Kinda defeats the purpose, if you ask me.
29.  Size didn’t matter because I just can’t get a job in the NBA.  Oh, you thought I meant something else?
30.  Being politically correct consisted only of knowing:  Elephant-Republican, Donkey-Democrat, Jackass-Al Franken.
    ‘Course, that’s just me.  Ya gonna eat that drumstick?
    Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gee, Thanks

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
    It’s the first in a series of year-end celebrations, the others being Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years.  New Years Day is technically the BEGINNING of the year, but what we’re talking about-really-is New Year’s EVE.  January 1st is really just for  Alka-Seltzer IV drips and watching college football until bloodshot eyes roll back into their sockets like hot coals in a snow bank.
    You could make the case that Veterans Day kicks it off, but that is really tacky or that Kwanzaa (Swahili for “A Couple of Days in January”) wraps it up, but it’s the Big Four which put the Seasons in Seasons Greetings.
    I mean, after all, what evokes the holiday spirit more than getting trampled at Wal-Mart by frenzied harpies in bathrobes and curlers on Black Friday?
    As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate how special Thanksgiving is.  A more sober occasion than the frenetic zaniness of the Yuletide season, families gather at Thanksgiving just for the sake of being together, not because they hope to score the latest electronic gizmo.
    Oh, sure, there are parades, football games, and enough food to sink the Mayflower, but Thanksgiving is thankfully (pardon the pun) devoid of the commercialism of Christmas and the bacchanalian excess of New Year’s Eve.  It’s similar to Hanukah, but, even during the Festival of Lights, there is some amount of commercialized gift-giving.
    Gratefully, we aren’t bombarded by wall-to-wall advertisements to get your loved ones the very latest in techno wizardry (“Because, if you REALLY loved Mom, you’d buy her an I-Phone!”) in the run-up to Thanksgiving.  Plus, there’s no such thing as a “24-Hour Thanksgiving Music Station” nor a “Randolph the Hair-Lipped Turkey” special on the Hallmark channel.
    No, Thanksgiving is a calming prelude to the mania which paralyzes every December.  It’s a time to appreciate what we’ve been given in life.
    As the day draws nearer, I think back to that very first day of thanks held almost four hundred years ago...
    Oh, what a day it must have been!
    The brightly colored leaves swirling madly amongst the trees, the autumn wind blowing briskly over freshly-harvested fields, and the forest animals bustling crazily about in preparation for winter.
    And nobody fighting over the remote.
    So it was in 1621 that Governor Bradford of Plimouth (that’s how they spelled it back then, smart guy) Colony thought it was high time to celebrate a day of thanksgiving.
    Frantically scurrying to find a suitable venue at which to hold their celebration, the Pilgrim fathers were disappointed to learn they were too late; all the good days in October and early November had been reserved months ago for the Pequot/Schwartz wedding reception, the Jamestown “We Were First” Commemoration, and the last Mohican family reunion.
    Luckily, a spot opened up the last Thursday of November when the “Mohawks On Ice!” was forced to close when some rogue Hurons stole their loincloths.  So, the Native Europeans invited their friends, the Native Americans, to a grand feast held at the local Moose lodge picnic pavilion (with real moose.  Or, would that be ‘mooses?’  No matter).
    A grateful people, the Pilgrims wished to thank the “heathen savages” for all their help getting the colony on its feet.  After all, the tribe was essential to their gaining a foothold in the New World, long before the Trail of Tears, Wounded Knee, and all-you-can-eat casino buffets.
    Imagine what would have happened had Squanto not taught the Pilgrims to plant dead fish with their corn (“Behold, I bring you the gift of maize!  As long as you don’t mind the smell of dead fish”).
    Prior to that, they just stuck them in their trousers.
    Plus, the tribe brought the eel pies.  Hmmmmmm....eel.
    Many customs today hearken back to this coming together of disparate peoples.  The feast, the fellowship, and the two-hand touch game of lacrosse after supper laid the foundation of that which identifies us as a nation.
    Luckily, some aspects of that first thanksgiving have not survived.  For instance, few people realize that, while turkey was indeed one of the dishes, the main course consisted primarily of venison, cod, squirrels, and SPAM.
    And, as much fun as scalping captive fur trappers from New France was, I don’t think it would go over that big today.  Then again, they were French.  

TOMORROW: The giving of thanks. Or nobody eats.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Behold, the Mighty Tree!

    One of the benefits I’ve found since retiring from the military, besides the chance to regale the hapless (and slow) with countless “I was there” stories, is that I now have a lot of time to be with my kids.
    Instead of flying over the Arctic Circle, sailing the Persian Gulf, or meandering about the French Quarter in search of churches and monuments (that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it), I now coach youth soccer, umpire Little League (I call this...“hazing”), and act as a piƱata at birthday parties.
    I also get to go on field trips.
    This week, I volunteered to chaperone my daughter’s class in an Outdoor Learning Experience.  This annual event, touted as an invaluable chance to get up close and personal with the glories of nature, takes 90 or so Sixth Graders to an off-season summer camp to endure an educational smorgasbord featuring topics such as Pond Study, Animal Tracks Study, Poison Plants Study, What-First-Aid-To-Use-After-Rolling-In-Poison-Plants Study, and so on.
    It also involved a little unit called:  Tree Study  or what I like to call, Naptime.
    Don’t get me wrong.  The study of trees and their benefits can be quite stimulating, in a “Spend-An-Evening-With-An-Insurance-Salesman.”  Little did I know there was so much to learn, from branch patterns to which is the best kind of tree to make slingshots out of.
    For instance, did you know that trees which drop their leaves are called deciduous, those with pine cones are called coniferous, and those with yard sale signs are called telephone poles?
    When I arrived at Camp Mengele, I was immediately grouped with two other parents who were likewise too lazy to state a preference for something cool like Boating Safety, Shooting At Things, or Pizza Delivery.  To our horror, we quickly learned our combined knowledge of all things “tree” consisted of:  they give us paper, shade, and baseball bats.
    Expressing our misgivings to the “Camp Nature Director and Wendy’s Drive Thru Associate”, Dr. Jones (I am NOT making that up), we were assured we were more than capable of guiding children along the road of arboreal excellence.  Besides, if all else fails, she said, just wing it.
    With those words of wisdom, she squared away her fedora, stuck a six-gun in her belt, and used her bullwhip to swing off to the archaeology pit (OK, she didn’t wear a fedora).
    Watching the first group of shiny-faced cherubs approaching our station, we steeled ourselves for the first of ten forty-minute sessions.  Luckily, Dr. Jones already labeled our trees (Tulip, Ash, Hemlock, Dogwood, Cedar, Hickory, and Stump) and the teacher in charge supplied us with ample answer keys and field guides (which we stuck in our back pockets and forgot about until laundry day).
    Even though we were a little nervous, the three of us were as ready as we were going to get.
    Surprisingly, the first session went pretty well.  Dividing the students into three groups of three, we proceeded to go over characteristics of trees, their uses, and how to measure their growth.
    I learned that, when pressed, the students always said, “Trees lose their leaves, they can be used for firewood, and we use lasers to measure them (I guess that, since lasers sound cool, they figured it was the right answer).
    The students also always said, “Oak” or “Maple” when asked the name of a particular tree.  Unless it was an evergreen.  In that case, they said, “Christmas Tree.”
    Subsequent lessons went just as well.  Luckily, the instructor guides were pretty basic (“Trees are made of ‘wood’”) and we were able to easily impart what we hoped was expert-sounding instruction throughout the course of the day.
    In fact, we were so successful that, when asked what their favorite topic of the camp was, the students invariably answered, Obstacle Course.
    Followed by Boating Safety, Archeology, Orienteering, Animal Tracks, Stream Study, Poison Plants Study, Going To the Bathroom, Lunch, Throwing Rocks, Wiping With Leaves, Garbage Can Hunt, Picking Up Sticks, Throwing Dead Things At Girls, Lighting Farts, Tree Study, and Pond Study.
    We took great pride in knowing we weren’t as sucky as Pond Study.
    In other words, Pond Study blows.
    Think I’ll go hug a tree.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not For Nothin'....

    Feeling a little grumpy today.
    Grumpy, in addition to being one of my favorite dwarfs (or should that be ‘dwarves’?) is one of our least appreciated emotions.  Not nearly as popular as ‘Giddy’ or ‘Surly’, it still can be quite useful.
    For, it’s when I’m grumpy that I look at life with something less than a cheery “Golly, gee, whiz!” disposition.  At these times, I find myself commenting on things in a “Not For Nothin’” vein.  For instance:
    Not for nothin’ but...
    I wonder what the Reader’s Digest version of the Reader’s Digest would look like.
    Foods I find funny:  Potted Meat Food Product, Circus Peanuts, anything with the word wiener in it, SPAM, “Smuckers,” Olive Loaf, Beef Tongue, couscous (whatever the hell THAT is), and Head Cheese.
    Could be me, but I’m thinking that none of the guests on The Jerry Springer Show ever went to Harvard Law School.
    Why don’t they ever sell you the yard at a “Yard” Sale?
    Why do we get a receipt for our newspaper?  Is that in case we don’t like the news?  “Excuse me, that whole Afghanistan thing just ain’t working out.  Can I have my money back?”
    At 3/4 water, why is it called “Earth”?
    Question:  Why do dogs lick themselves?  Answer:  Because they can.
    Imagine if we all had our own theme music.  Mine would be “Short People.”
    How quick is “Remove Card Quickly” at the gas pump?  And what happens if I don’t?
    There’s no such thing as a bad cookie.  Except for that disastrous “Grandpa’s Toe Ahoy!” promotion by Famous Amos.
    Why does Hawaii have an interstate?
    For the love of all that’s holy, STOP ordering Diet Coke with your Big Mac and fries!
    Ever look in the classifieds and wonder just what in the heck “Free to a good home” is all about?  Is there some sort of screening process (i.e., “I’m so sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Bin Laden, you can’t have the kittens.  How ‘bout a ferret instead?”)?  And, do you still have to pay if you have a “so-so” home?
    I noticed the following road sign a block away from one that said “Blind Drive”: “Dangerous Intersection.”  I guess that goes without saying.
    Speaking of road signs: there’s one in my neighborhood that says, “Speed Hump Ahead.”  I suppose that’s a natural result of “Speed Dating.”
    OK, last road sign comment, I promise.  I suppose that, in this politically correct age, we don’t want to offend the dead, so we’ve switched “Dead End” signs for “No Outlet.”  For the life of me, though, where will I be able to plug in my boom box, then?
    Do condoms and athletic supporters ever come in “small?”
    Instead of the hardware store, shouldn’t Crack Filler be sold at the pharmacy?
    Why do people call them “ink” pens?  I’ve never heard of “jelly” pens.
    Why are “water” crackers dry?
    OK, let’s see if I got this right:  “mouse” to “mice” and “louse” to “lice.”  So, is it “rouse” to “rice,” “grouse” to “grice,” and “house” to “hice?”  But, what about “moose,” “deer, or “fish?”  And, what’s with that whole goose/geese thing, anyway?
    Sheesh, I’m glad my native language is English.
    “Erections which last longer than four hours need to be brought to the attention of your physician.”  Four hours!?  I’m convinced the guy who came up with that time limit is the same one who lies about “landin’ the big one.”
    And, not for nothin’...but if I had an erection that lasted four hours, you can forget about me bringing it to the attention of my doctor.  I’m bringing it to the attention of the media.
    Message to those people who feel the need to rent one of those storage spaces or “PODS”:  You have way too much crap!  Throw it away!!
    Why do we pump “gas” instead of “liquid”? 
    I hate those lightning-fast automatic shut-off faucets in public rest rooms.  While I understand they’re designed to avoid water waste by clods too stupid to turn the knob, forcing me to wash only one hand at a time is incredibly irritating.  But not as much as when water drips into my armpit at the infrared paper towel dispenser.
    If the cleanliness of my underwear ever becomes an issue, then I say the accident wasn’t so bad, after all.  And, while you’re at it, kindly put my drawers back on, thank you.
    Joke Which Isn’t Mine Yet Still Makes Me Laugh:  Ya hear about the blind hooker?  Ya really hadda hand it to her.
    My golf handicap is, well...ME.  And, speaking of golf, I think its “fun factor” would be increased exponentially by windmills or stuffed gorillas at every hole.
    People who keep their Christmas decorations until St. Patrick’s Day:  lazy.  People who insist on lighting their Christmas decorations until St. Patrick’s Day:  lazy idiots. 
    Is it physically possible to be “beside one’s self”?
    Group Paralysis:  what happens at a WaWa when an employee says, “I can help someone over here.”
    Why is it we don’t want our money’s worth when it comes to things like college class or physicals?  “Dammit, doc, I want my prostate checked and I want it checked NOW!”
    The thing that separates man from beast:  Port-A-Potties.
    I’m going to have to change my gym membership away from that new club in town:  “Pontius Pilates.”  I mean, we get a good workout and all but I’m getting tired of having to wash my hands all the time.  Plus, that whole scourging thing is getting tiresome.
    “Kinoki Cleansing Detox Foot Pads”:  Japanese for “Sticky Toe Gauze For Suckers.”
    Why do we feel the need to identify ourselves on the phone to someone with Caller ID?
    Of course, that’s not as silly as how surprised the person with Caller ID sounds when you tell them who you are:  “Ohhhhh, hi!!”
    When did the symbol “#” become known as the “pound” sign?  Isn’t that the symbol for “number?”  Now that I think of it, it would be redundant to tell someone to hit the “number” key on their telephone.
    The next time you laugh at your dog while he’s backing up all over the yard trying to decide where to drop a “yard apple”, remember how you dance in front of the magazine rack before heading to the bathroom.
    If you ever feel the need to “rest” in a gas station “Rest Room”, you’ve been on the road too long.  Or you’re homeless.  Time to find that light on at Motel 6.
    How can you tell if a Smurf is feeling blue?
    And, finally, not for nothin’, but if you read me like a book, I’d be a short story.
    I’m just sayin’...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guys Like Us

   Lucky me.  I was one of the fortunate few selected to receive the latest in a string of chain e-mails.  Only this time, instead of a “can’t miss” financial scheme from a Nigerian king, this latest one tried to persuade me that women have it worse than Paris Hilton at a Mensa meeting.  That I was even chosen to receive it proves I’m not the insensitive Neanderthal my wife swears I am (hey, I cried when-SPOILER ALERT-“Old Yeller” died!).
    Evidently, the sender thought I’d get a kick out of a list which trumpets the misery of armpit shaving, heel wearing, and eyebrow plucking.
    Sure, I liked it in a “you go, girlfriend” kind of way.  But, I hesitated to share that at our last Super Bowl party.  I really didn’t want the gender police to come crashing through my door, demanding surrender of my Guy Card.
    But, burkhas and bikini waxes notwithstanding, I can’t see how it’s all that bad being a girl.  Ladies, c’mon!  Do bullies ever kick sand in YOUR face at the beach?  
    So, the next time you ladies are patting yourselves on the backs and high-fiving during the next Lifetime Channel Marathon (“All PMS! All Day!!”), you may want to consider what it’s like to be a man.
    Indeed, what makes up guys like us?
1.  We worry about being called to the chalkboard while daydreaming. “Is that a banana in your pocket, Mr. Penwasser, or are you just happy to diagram sentences?”
2.  We avoid getting kicked in the...uh...well, you know where.  At all costs.
3.  We must know how to fix a car or our very manhood is called into question.  At the very least, we need to know how to lift the hood and stare meaningfully at the engine as if we knew a carburetor from a Double Beef Whopper With Extra Cheese.  Hmmmmmm, whopper.  Oh, and calling AAA doesn’t count.
4.  We’re counted on to be the breadwinners, even if our wife’s maiden name is “Trump.”
5.  Refractory period.  ‘Nuff said.
6.  Ladies don’t suffer from performance anxiety...if you know what I mean. 
7.  Women don’t have to worry about being told they “throw like a girl.”
8.  Two words:  Body parts.  Zippers.
9.  Shrinkage.
10. What in the name of androgyny is an “ubersexual”?  I’ll take torn jeans, ratty sneakers, and washing my hair with soap anytime.
11. Gotta know the difference between a crescent wrench and vise grips.  “That metal thingie” may work for my wife, but it’ll get ME laughed out of Home Depot.
12. We’re supposed to be able to whip up 100 pancakes, cook an omelet which would make a French chef weep, and barbecue an elephant on the grill.
13. Knowing how to golf, bowl, fish, hunt, and shoot pool are key elements to membership in the Guy Club.
14. We actually know the answer to the age-old “Ginger or Mary Ann?” conundrum.
15. YOU say “Clothes shopping at the mall.”  WE say “Cart pushing through ‘Guy Hell’.”
16. Church service at 9:00.  Kick-off at 1:00.  Still think God isn’t a ‘he’?
17. The “Best of Oprah” puts us to sleep faster than a 20-inning no-hitter.  
18. Guys never say “adorable”, “precious”, or “cute.”  Ever.
19. Men know that, when confronted with the dilemma of two of three stalls being occupied, the obvious solution is another bathroom.
20. Faced with the prospect of sharing a king-sized bed with another guy or sleeping in the dog’s bed, we’ll choose Rover’s crib anytime.
21. Farts make us laugh.
22. Sorting whites from darks can’t be any harder than computing an ERA, fixing a lawnmower, programming the VCR, or baiting a hook.
23. Shrieking at the sight of a mouse loses many valuable “Guy Cool Points.”
24. Why is it always, “Honey, I heard a noise downstairs.  Please go check.”?
25. You may have fat ankles, but have you seen that hair on our backs, in our ears, and from our noses?
26. We pat each other on the fanny in the huddle but, never, EVER make eye contact at the urinal.
27. Nobody can convince me that “#1 Grampa” baseball caps, black socks with sandals, and metal detectors on the beach aren’t dorkier than blue hair.
28. You have “The View”, we have “NASCAR.”  You have Brad Pitt, we have Jessica Alba.  You have HGTV, we have ESPN.  You have Martha Stewart, you can have Hugh Grant.     
29. Menopause, schmenopause.  Try male pattern baldness, prostates the size of small dogs, and man boobs.
30. Last, but by no means least:  erectile dysfunction. 
    My list complete, I crack open a can of beer, prop my feet up on the coffee table, and flip on SportsCenter.  Chuckling to myself, I can’t help but be proud that I sport a Y chromosome.
    As I further pondered our differences, though, I have to be honest.  I suppose we do have it equally good and equally bad.  I mean, for every stray nose hair we have there’s unwanted facial fuzz for you.  For every nightclub shootout, there’s an obnoxious pick-up line at Happy Hour.  
    Women never have to worry about six-pack abs.  But, then again, men never have to fret over “Does this make me look fat?” 
    A bit deflated, I compared the lists and decided no one sex has it over the other.  
    But, suddenly, like a lightning bolt from out of the blue, I was struck by one undeniable fact.  One truism that makes me so happy to be a guy that I could belch out the alphabet and stick my hand in my pants:
    Women have to kiss guys.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I have "onychomycosis."

Quick, now. What does that mean?

One of the marvels of the modern world isn’t indoor plumbing. As cool and hygienic as that is. No, it’s the chance to visit with a physician on a regular basis. Well, at least one who won’t use leeches to cast out demons. Unless you live in medieval England. Or California. Or until government-run health care.

It was during one of my infrequent visits to the doctor that I was pronounced a sufferer of a dread disease whose name is as hard to spell as osteop....ossteyo...osteeo...oh, you know, that bone disease thing.

Does this scourge spur telethons? Do celebrities wear ribbons at the Academy Awards to proclaim their faux empathy for the afflicted? Are there snazzy bumper stickers on every SUV? Do we need to notify our doctor if it lasts longer than four hours?, no, no, and-thankfully-no. Rather than some exotic malady which energizes world governments on the order of a “Save the Banana Slug” frenzy, onychomycosis is nothing more than an infection of the nail bed. Or, as I prefer to call it: “Old Man Toe."

Brought on by a fungus (I know-EWW!!), Old Man Toe manifests itself primarily on-you guessed it-the big toes of middle-aged men, resulting in discolored, brittle, and hardened nails.

Clinically speaking, it looks icky. And is the number one reason why old guys wear black socks with sandals.

Except for having to give up my dreams of being a world-class grape stomper or wood nymph, “OMT” hasn't really affected me. I can live a happy, productive life without ever having to worry about being stigmatized-except at the beach.

However, since it IS kinda yucky looking, my doctor deemed it prudent to prescribe a cure for this particular brand of podiatric leprosy.

He told me there wouldn't be too many side effects-apart from possible liver damage, headaches, nausea, drowsiness when operating heavy machinery, heart arrhythmia, pregnancy, dry eye, pink eye, black eye, rib eye, bulls eye, stink eye, rickets, whooping cough, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, chicken pox, measles, mumps, heartworm, tapeworm, ringworm, inchworm, lockjaw, eczema, elephantiasis, gingivitis, halitosis, sleeping sickness, post-nasal drip, flatulence, incontinence, termites, ingrown fingernails, shingles, diarrhea, back acne, ear wax, bees wax, bees knees, water on the knees, water on the brain, brain freeze, and Tastee Freeze. Throughout it all, I assured my physician that I was willing to take the risk, if only to be able to walk barefoot in the sand without causing children to flee in panic.

But, when he brought up possible sexual side effects, I told that quack to take his cure and shove it. After all, if Hillary could live with Bill, I could live with Old Man Toe.

Sadly, OMT is only the latest sign that I'm inching closer to senior citizen discounts at the movies and thanking the Lord each time I wake up.

I try hard not to drown in a sea of self-pity as my body lurches inexorably toward total breakdown. Still, it's hard to ignore indicators that I'm no longer a fresh-faced 18 year old. Indicators like...

When faced with two choices, I choose the one that will get me in bed before 9:00.

I stubbornly hang onto my collection of LPs, even though a replacement stylus for my record player is as common as a Rosie O’Donnell sighting at a salad bar.

There was a time when the most uncomfortable part of a physical was having my blood drawn. That was before the digital exam. Oh...yeah...YOU know what I mean.

I remember when bell-bottoms went out of fashion. Before they came back INTO fashion. If leisure suits ever come back, though, I'm just gonna call in sick until I die.

There are people working for me who weren't even BORN when I graduated from high school.

To those people, I say, "Well, back in MY day, an internet was used for fishing, microwaves were how midgets said goodbye, and cell phones were used to call your lawyer from jail.”

I cracked a rib playing Wiffle Ball. WIFFLE Ball.

There was a time when Mick Jagger didn’t look like my grandfather in spandex.

My hairline is receding to my collar, but I can braid what comes out of my nose. Considering that I sport sock rings on my calves, dents in my head from bifocals, and a varicose veins road map on my shins, it’s obvious to all that I’m a real hottie.

Forget that big screen TV at Christmas. Give me a warm pair of socks anytime.

I now eat antacids like I used to eat Doritos. And Doritos like I used to eat broccoli.

I own a tee shirt which says ”Old Guys Rule.” How sad is that? If it means the laxative counter at CVS, I suppose so.

I can never figure out whether I'm "jiggy" with it or "down" with that. I guess old guys should never speak "hip" lingo. Like earrings and ponytails, it just makes them look silly.

I pay attention to Wilfred Brimley diabetes commercials, watch those Time-Life “Best of the 60s” info spots, and reach for a pencil and paper whenever ads for “The Villages” come on.

At the amusement park, I more often than not say “No, that ride makes Dad a little queasy.” And, that’s at the merry-go-round!

I’m afraid to fart.

Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, and Marilyn Manson...what freaks! Black Sabbath, KISS, and Alice THERE'S music!

I know the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure. And what "good" cholesterol is.

Donald Duck and I have some things in common. Neither one of us wears pants in the house nor can anyone understand us.

I know the words to the theme song from "H.R. Pufnstuf", prefer Curly over Shemp, and remember Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. Now, if I could just figure out how to program my VCR...or is that TIVO?

Belts and suspenders holding up pants with elastic waistbands. Yeah, that’s what I’M talking about.

Hot dogs give me gas, beer makes me sleepy, and fiber is my friend.

I’m actually disappointed when the mail doesn’t come on time.

I wonder what happened to my belt buckle and feet.

We had party lines; they have cell phones. We had mailmen with pith helmets; they have “You’ve Got Mail!” We had Pong; they have Guitar Hero. We had mindless entertainment on network TV; they have...uh, let’s call it a draw.

Of course, the moral of the story is be happy, for youth is fleeting. As inevitable as death, taxes, and “Survivor” reruns, the youth of today will be in expand-o-slacks tomorrow.

And, wearing black socks to hide Old Man Toe.

Monday, November 2, 2009

11 11 18

Happy Veterans Day!

I know most of you are expecting a wise-guy approach to this subject. Most of the time I oblige because there’s just so much of the ludicrous in our lives (if you think I’m wrong, just remember there’s a Senator Al Franken). But, when it comes to the eleventh day of the eleventh month, not so much.

So, this one time, no wisecracks, no innuendos, no witty asides. In a break from my usual “schtick,” I’m going to play it straight and briefly speak on the significance of November 11th.

On November 11th, 1918, the Germans surrendered to the Allied powers in the Forest of Compiegne, thus ending what was then known as the Great War. Little did they know there would be a sequel 20 years later, but that’s another story.

The following November, President Woodrow Wilson declared that “Armistice Day” would henceforth be observed in honor of those who had fallen during the “war to end all wars” (didn’t do too well with THAT one, did we?).

Following the Second World War (the “good” war, an oxymoron if I ever heard one), the town of Emporia, Kansas changed “Armistice” to “Veterans” Day. The idea was to honor everyone who had served in the armed forces rather than only those who’d fought against the Kaiser.

As the years went by, the idea of setting a special day aside for veterans slowly took hold throughout the nation. In 1954, Congress made the name change official while President Eisenhower called on all Americans to observe the day. But, surprisingly, it took until 1971 for Richard Nixon to declare it an official federal holiday.

In the years since, we’ve seen it become little more than an excuse to hold blowout sales on everything from bed linen to used cars (“Buy this Chevy because Patton would have wanted you to.”). Ceremonies marking the day have been lost in the madcap frenzy of pre-Christmas commercialism. In fact, what was once a universal day off has turned into pretty much a “federal government employees only” respite.

I don’t have a problem with this, per se, if it was still recognized for the solemn event that it is. After all, Veterans Day is much more than sleeping in late and watching Sponge Bob Squarepants in your pajamas while wolfing down a bowl of “Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.”

Unfortunately, many people don’t even know what Veterans Day is all about. As a part-time schoolteacher (my other jobs being “Rodeo Clown” and “Squirrel Juggler”), I had the occasion to be working last November 11th. I was flabbergasted when the morning announcements proclaimed Veterans Day merely as a “day to recognize older people who had a lot of experience.”

What!? Now, I don’t wish to denigrate Grandpa’s fly-fishing prowess and, boy howdy, ain’t it cool that Great-Aunt Sadie can knit a quilt with her feet, but c’mon! Since when is bowling a perfect game the same as convoy duty in Iraq? Quick answer-it’s not.

As a result of the announcer’s misinformation, I spent the balance of the day quizzing my students on whether they knew what put the “veteran” in Veterans Day. Sadly, I was depressed by their appalling lack of knowledge as very few of them actually understood what all the fuss was about. But, you can bet your bottom dollar they knew who the frontrunner was on “American Idol,” that’s for sure!

Shocking as it was, you know they weren’t the only ones who had no clue that the 11th of November was different than any other day. It goes without saying there’s a need to set a few things straight.

So, I call on all of us who know better to teach others about Veterans Day. Urge those around you to take a moment to remember our veterans and those who are still in harm’s way.

You don’t have to go to a flag-raising ceremony, attend a parade, or even buy one of those “Buddy Poppies” (although I do, because I enjoy talking to those guys). You don’t have to agree on this war or that war and you certainly don’t have to watch “The Sands of Iwo Jima” at attention.

If nothing else, reflect on the service of all those who have worn, and continue to wear, our nation’s uniform. From Lexington to Baghdad, they deserve our respect and our thanks.

As a veteran myself, I salute them all.