Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring Has Sprung...Wait a Minute...No, It Hasn't

    Everyone thinks it’s the forecast from Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil which sets the tone for the rest of the winter and gets us psyched for the glorious return of Spring.
    See his shadow-six more weeks of winter...or is that six more weeks of people still turning on their outdoor Christmas lights?  Well, in any case, that furry little rodent know-it-all has nothing on the mid-winter circular from Home Depot.
    Having just received my sale ad from that “Mecca of the Do-it-Yourselfer,” I’m raring to go put my shorts on and putter around the backyard in search of that evildoer, crabgrass.  Never mind that the air outside is as cold as a Hillary Clinton pajama party and a trip to the mailbox requires a Zamboni.  Pish, posh, there are roto-tillers and patio furniture to be had!
    As I wistfully flipped through the pages of this harbinger of milder weather, I couldn’t help but be awed by the dazzling variety of ways to jazz up my backyard.  From garden tractors to plastic flamingoes, I can buy enough goodies to keep my neighbors green with envy until Labor Day.
    Luckily, though, nowhere in the paper did I find those twin banes of home embellishment:  garden gnomes and lawn jockeys.
    Brought to you by the same people who brought you trailer parks and truck tire floral arrangements, garden gnomes and lawn jockeys are to good taste what Tiger Woods is to marital fidelity.  Once believed gone the way of roller disco and leisure suits, they’ve come roaring back into the national consciousness like a Lenny and Squiggy comeback tour.
    Inspired, no doubt, by all those insipid Travelocity commercials, the custom of misguided homeowners to sprinkle their lawns with all manner of inert forest folk has now become as common as Viagra salesmen at AARP meetings.  Yep, I can just hear the man of the house pompously crowing to his family, “There!  You don’t see anything like THAT at Donald Trump’s house, do you!”
    Indeed, you don’t.  And shouldn’t.
    Don’t get me wrong.  I applaud any attempt to improve a home’s “curb appeal.”  Surely, anything is preferable than lavender aluminum siding and wooden cutouts of old ladies bending over.  Yet I can’t help but feel a little creeped by a bevy of tiny stone people with pointy hats peering at me as I take my dog for a walk.
    Sheesh, creepy!  These miniature Wilfred Brimley look-alikes make me feel as if I’ve wandered into a Stephen King novel.  At any minute, I’m afraid they’ll come to life and drag me, kicking and screaming, to their secret lair inside the Keebler oak tree. 
    At least the Smurfs were cute.
    I mean, if you want brainless stumps camped out on your front lawn, why not just ask Lindsey Lohan and Keith Olbermann over for a barbecue?
    As gauche as those little critters are, though, they’re not even in the same league as lawn jockeys.
    Refusing to just go away (a lot like Jimmy Carter), these driveway guardians have remained a fixed part of the cultural landscape, despite the perception they perpetuate a part of our past which we’d just as soon forget (whaddya know, a lot like Jimmy Carter again!).
    Symbols of an aristocratic class which has long since disappeared, lawn jockeys have all the social sensitivities of cigar store Indians.  Despite having undergone some minor modifications to make them more palatable to the politically-correct, they nonetheless remain offensive anachronisms.
    Originally painted brown, these foot-long sentinels held up lanterns at the ends of driveways which, more often than not, led visitors up to a dwelling which would be more at home in Hooterville.
    Thankfully, as society slowly began to realize that flaunting little brown statues was not such a hot idea, they started to disappear.  This burst of social consciousness was a little late, to be sure, but at least they recognized the possible offense they could cause.
    However, there remained some folks who thought all they had to do was paint the little guys and-voila-instant Rainbow Coaltion!  Of course, these are the same people who’d think nothing of detailing their pick-up trucks with housepaint.
    The problem with this approach is that they’re not fooling anybody.  Now, instead of absurdly-grinning brown jockeys, we have absurdly-grinning PINK jockeys!  Throw a tarp on the roof and a garishly-painted statue of the Virgin Mary on the front lawn because we now have class, Loretta!  Yee-ha!
    Eschewing the caveman approach, the more enlightened opt to purchase little white (and by “white” I mean a shade which would make Casper the Ghost look like George Hamilton) lawn jockeys.  Fancying themselves eminently sensitive, these “wine-in-a-box”  people actually believe installing palefaced driveway monitors demonstrates their heartfelt devotion to equal opportunity and bad taste.
    I guess the implication that you have servants is okay if they’re the same color as you.
    Hey, wait a minute, how about killing two birds with one stone?
    If you’re going to insist on garish outdoor displays, why not just replace your lawn jockeys with your garden gnomes?
    Not only will they eliminate the possible stigma of you being cast as a heartless oppressor, the sight of garden gnomes will probably scare away any uninvited visitors.
    Just keep it quiet.  We don’t want the Yard Pixey Anti-Defamation League to catch wind of this.        

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Open Wide Part Deux

    Of course, anything more complicated than cleaning has its own "features", too.  It's then when the industrial-strength tools (“New from Ronco, the people who gave you the ‘Do-It-Yourself Prostate Check’!”) are trotted out and our mouths become dartboards.
    We yearn for the tranquility of cleaning as the dentist administers painkiller with a No. 2 pencil before it's time to drill a tooth, fill a cavity with molten metal, or peel away our gums in pursuit of the evildoer “plaque-the germ which causes gingivitis."
    And, I think you'll all acknowledge the terror inspired by three little words:  "Impacted Wisdom Teeth."
    Luckily, I've not been blessed with the dubious distinction of wisdom teeth.  Due to a genetic quirk in my make-up, I've never had the pleasure.  Guess all that asbestos in my crib spared me.
    On the downside, I have more metal in my mouth than a refugee from "I, Robot" thanks, in large part, to a childhood filled with the likes of "Sugar Pops", "Sugar Smacks", and "Super Sugar Crisp."
    Granted, cavities and tooth decay have obvious drawbacks.  But, there's something to be said for all my shiny fillings.  Not only can they tune in my favorite radio stations, they've pretty much exhausted the number of places where a cavity can actually take hold.
    Of course, a rigorous program of conscientious dental hygiene probably would’ve done the trick just as well, too.
    All this being said, you can't beat the care I've received.  Not only do I not have to place my teeth in a jar at night, I'm free from the ill effects of gum disease, tooth pain, and discoloration.  To say nothing of halitosis.  I hope.
    So, the next time you dread going to the dentist, remember the alternatives.  By eliminating dental care, not only will you end up looking like one of the Royal Family, you may also condemn yourself to eating foods no harder than tapioca and sporting gums which recede to your eyeballs.
    Oh, and while you're at it, remember to floss, willya?



Thursday, February 4, 2010

Open Wide Part I

    As I helplessly watch my body slowly succumb to the ravages of Father Time, I realize it’s in my best interest to take better care of it.
    Gone forever are the days when I thought a well-balanced meal was a double-beef Whopper with cheese and extra mayo, a daily bowl of Raisin Bran (AKA “Colon Blow”) was only for my dad, and getting up at dawn was for the Amish.
    Now at the threshold of middle age (ok, well past the threshold; I’m looking behind my shoulder at middle age), one beer makes me sleepy, hot dogs give me gas, and I actually read nutrition labels...with bifocals.
    Therefore, to achieve my goal of hanging in there as long as Keith Richards (without that whole mummified look), I made appointments to visit my doctor and dentist.
    Oh, sure, visiting the "Rinse and Spit" club is a chore and I don’t enjoy the prospect of latex-clad fingers in my mouth (some people probably do).  But, as four out of five dentists will tell you, "It's your responsibility to take care of yourself as long as you can until you become a burden to your grandchildren, so quit whining and open wide."
    That being said, a visit to the dentist, while undeniably beneficial to both my dental health and his ability to take  vacations to the Caribbean, is not without its share of discomforts.
    Take cleaning.  Doesn't it strike you as odd that metal is used to clean our teeth?  Now, I wouldn't advocate using cotton candy to shine my enamel, but, at the same time, using a screwdriver to scrape my molars doesn't seem right, either.
    Once my teeth have been violated, it's time for a good polishing.  Dipping a Dremel-like device into a cleaner-I swear it's Comet-the dental tech proceeds to spit-shine (an unfortunate phrase, I know) my pearly whites until they're, well...pearly white.
    I don't know about you, but the combination of the little drill’s high-pitched whir with the cleanser's grit does not a "fun" experience make.  Unless you got a big kick out of Lawrence Olivier in "The Marathon Man" (“Is it safe?”).
    After that, I'm treated to a courtesy flossing by a tech with knuckle hair and gorilla fingers who scolds me for improper dental care, all the while trying to pass clothesline between my ravaged teeth.     
    I swear, the next time I'll wear a sign around my neck that says, "Yeah, I know.  Floss."
    Speaking of....
    The “Top Four” from “Life’s Little White Lies Hall of Fame”:
    1)  I only had a couple of beers.
    2)  No, those pants don’t make you look fat.
    3)  I mailed the check yesterday.
    4)  I floss every night.
    The funny thing about this procedure is his (or her) insane insistence on maintaining a running conversation.  Talking to me is okay.  Just don’t ask any questions which require an actual response.  At the very least, it makes me look stupid when I grunt an answer.  At worst, I start choking on my own spit when asked my opinion on world events.
    Things have gotten better over the years, though.  For instance, gone are the days when we rinsed our mouths in those little sinks found only in dentists' offices.  Instead, we now have nifty vacuum dealies, which, when placed in our mouths, remove unwanted dental by-products...and prevent us from drowning in the chair. 
    Although, I can't shake this phobia of having my tongue sucked right out of my head.