Tuesday, August 31, 2010

People in Your Neighborhood - On the Road Again

As detailed in previous Writings and in academic journals throughout the nation (I assume), I recently returned from a four-day tour of the Midwest. The task at hand? Checking to make sure that seats are installed in correct locations at different college football stadiums. Yes, to some this probably sounds about as exciting as reading the ingredients on a bag of peanut M&M's (Yellow 5 and Red 40? Hello, flavor country!), but I actually enjoyed the trip. For someone who has been known to watch more college football on a Saturday than any person should attempt, it was a great opportunity to check out four college football stadiums that I'd never been to. Sure, the only action witnessed on said fields was some stretching cheerleaders in Ames and wedding pictures in Champaign*, but I still won't complain. I also enjoy the notion of a road trip, in part because there are so many new people to encounter. In the spirit of reader interaction, I urge you to insert your own clever segue into this edition of People in Your Neighborhood here. Just don't actually write it on your computer screen; that doesn't turn out well.

*Luckily, the two events were hundreds of miles and a couple days apart. I imagine wedding pictures might not go well if the groom was gawking as the cheer squad worked to loosen up their hamstrings.

The lunchlady-looking Maid Rite employee with supersonic hearing
I hope, dear reader, that you have seen the Saturday Night Live sketch where Adam Sandler sings "Lunch Lady Land" as Chris Farley plays the role of the song's protagonist. If not, you will just have to imagine a hefty man dressed up in an apron, wearing a brunette wig and a hairnet; that's the lunchlady. Now, picture this lunchlady 20 years later and you have the woman behind the counter at Maid Rite*. The woman actually kind of reminded me of mother of the criminal family in "The Goonies." She also approached her job with the zest of someone performing court-ordered community service.

*Fun fact: Maid Rite does not offer maid service, nor does it serve any flavor of Rite soda... The Writings: We're here to educate.
Lunchlady Doris took our orders* then went back to prepare the food (apparently Maid Rite is all about multitasking). After what seemed to be 45 minutes, but was probably closer to 9 (though, in Maid Rite's spirit of multitasking, she may have run out to change the oil in her car while the food cooked), she returned with our food. As my coworkers and I walked toward the door, one realized that we might need ketchup. Under his breath, he joked that we should just take one of the restaurant's ketchup bottles. It was a very quiet remark. So quiet, in fact, that I had to be filled in on what he said later on. Nevertheless, the queen of the fryer - now back behind the counter and 25 feet away - yelled our way "I put ketchup packets with your fries." Sure, it was probably a case of impeccable timing, rather than an exhibition of the type of hearing that any being would be jealous of, but I was not about to whisper anything in order to test it.

*Note for all: The Maid Rite menu is a deceiving one. At no point does the menu list details on what a Maid Rite sandwich actually is. The author assumed it was a hamburger, and when the lunchlady asked if I'd like ketchup, mustard, pickle and onion on it, I was nearly sure that was the case. Naturally, I was pretty surprised when I hopped back in the rented Jeep, and unwrapped my sandwich only to find a glorified sloppy joe. Such culinary works are not exactly ideal for road travel.

The fight crowd, plus the one girl who had sense
Saturday night, my cohorts and I wandered to a Champaign eatery. Once there, we discovered it was fight night. A UFC pay-per-view event was taking place at that very time, and this locale was a hot spot for fight fans. It turned out that we were about the only three folks in the place that had not come specifically to watch punches, kicks, and chokeholds. I'm still not sure that watching a guy's face bleed makes for great dinner entertainment, but it seemed on Saturday that such views were definitely in the minority. Every single television in the place was tuned to the UFC event; there was not a baseball game or even live coverage of a Canasta tournament to be found. When one fighter took another down with a leg-sweep, the folks rooted like they had just seen a 99-yard touchdown. When blood dripped inside the UFC octagon, the viewers cheered as if their winning Powerball numbers had just been read. And when one competitor was forced to tap out because another had contorted him in a way that would make Gumby cry, nearly everyone in the joint roared as if their favorite team had just won the Olympics, Super Bowl and World Series all at once. It was intense.

The crowd was a diverse one. I saw buzzcuts and tattoos, mullets and tattoos, braided beards and tattoos, and motorcycle jackets and tattoos. Oh yeah, and there I sat in my polo shirt and cargo shorts. I fit in about as well as the guy allergic to body paint at the tryouts for the Blue Man Group.*

*The Writings: Where else can you go for references that actually make it seem like the Blue Man Group is worth paying attention to?

I soon noticed, however, that I was not the only square peg in the room. One table over, a young woman sat, head resting on her arm with a glazed look in her eyes and a "how the hell did I end up here" look adorning her face. It was the type of body language typically reserved for college-level accounting classes. While the rest of her table hooted and hollered intelligent things like "Whoa" and "You see that?" this girl looked like she might soon attempt to see how close she could come to jabbing her fork into her retina.

Luckily for all involved, the girl with sense did not follow such urges. After all, knowing the crowd in the place, the violence probably would have been met with applause.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Notes from the road

After 1,400 miles and thousands of stadium steps all completed in a four-day span, the author's mind is a bit scattered and his body is a bit worn (plus lightly roasted). We'll hit a lot of highlights from the road trip in upcoming Writings, but I'd be doing you - the reader - a disservice if I tried to get them all right now.*

*This is what we in the blogging business call "an excuse for being lazy."

Though I will hold off on dishing out the meat-and-potatoes of the notes from the trip*, I will provide one lesson from the road that I just learned today: The western Illinois portion of U.S. Highway 36 has to be PETA's least favorite stretch of road in the nation. The four-lane traffic way was pasted with more roadkill than a hillbilly Thanksgiving spread. If you ever find yourself on this stretch of road, please, bring a shovel.

*Yes, I take notes about things I'd like to write about later while on trips... Don't worry. I've identified the problem and I'm seeking help. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh Deer

As I drove the highway leading from Riley to Manhattan tonight, I thought to myself "Wow, it would be unfortunate if a deer would materialize out of seemingly nowhere, run in front of my car, and ultimately end up as a new fixture in my grill. After all, I need to get home and pack for a work trip, plus, I don't really condone the slaughter of wildlife with motorized vehicles. Plus, the deer probably would not be fond of the whole predicament either... And let's not even begin to think about the PETA backlash"*

*Yes, my thoughts while driving ramble in much the same way as my thoughts while writing.

Not more than 4.376 seconds after completing this thought in my head, a deer darted across the road. Had it not been for my trusty breaks (thanks, Chevy*), said deer would be - at the very least - one very sore mammal right now. As things stand, I was able to avoid hitting it by about 10 feet.

*Look, motor companies, free advertising to the 3.5 people that read this blog. That could be you; just give me a car... Think about it.

I write this blog (while I should be packing) not to relate a pointless story of the near-demise of a deer, but to clear up one thing: though it may sound like it, I cannot control things with my mind. Sure, I thought of not wanting a deer to parade in front of my vehicle like a drunk with no sense of direction and then a deer did just that, but the situation was a coincidence. Nothing more.

How do I know?

Minutes later, I thought to myself "Wow, it would be unfortunate if a woolly mammoth would materialize out of seemingly nowhere, and run in front of my car, meaning I would ultimately end up as a new fixture in its hindquarters. After all, I need to get home and pack for a work trip, plus, I don't really condone striking beasts thought to be extinct with motorized vehicles. Plus, the mammoth probably would not be fond of the whole predicament either... And let's not even begin to think about the Smithsonian backlash."

I saw no woolly mammoths on the drive.

I rest my case, and I'm glad I could clear that up for everyone.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

They say it's your birthday...

Since Friday, I've been a part of more birthday action than most pizza-place-owning animatronic mice could imagine possible. I guess that's what happens when one hits a milestone like turning 28.

(Waiting for realization that turning 28 is about as notable as eating a cheese sandwich... There it is. Let's move on.)

The birthday shenanigans started up on Friday, when (on the actual anniversary of the blog author's birth) I decided I would pick up some donuts and take them to work to share. Little did I know that one of my customer service staffers would bring in brownies and another coworker would trot in with cookies. Feeding a sugar craving at work is never a bad thing, however there was enough glucose there to put Willy Wonka into a diabetic coma. I left work that day with the feeling an eight-year-old has after too much Halloween candy, plus a plateful of leftovers. (Let my dentist rejoice.)

Friday night, the party moved to my parents' home, where our family enjoyed a quiet evening of insightful conversation... with a good mix of my two-year-old niece's brand of celebrating mixed in. I'm not sure I could name the last time I'd listened to "The Wheels on the Bus" as a way to ring in my birthday, but I wouldn't change it if I could.

On Saturday, there was an actual milestone to celebrate, as it marked my grandpa's 95th birthday. The party brought more time with family and more toddler mayhem. The company was good and the occasion was great. Though he can't get around like he used to, it was undeniably enjoyable seeing my grandfather have the chance to interact a bit with his great-grandchildren, just as he did 20-plus years ago when his grandkids were young.

Saturday night, I helped a friend (who happened to be born the day after me in the hospital room next to mine) celebrate his birthday. Today, there were no official birthday celebrations, but I brought home a leftover slab of ice cream cake roughly the size of a Honda Accord and had to figure out how to fit it into my freezer. The task is now complete, though I'm a little worried about being crushed by a falling chunk of DQ's finest the next time I open my freezer door.

The birthday weekend is now complete, and it was one that was truly enjoyable thanks to contributions from family and friends. With that in mind, we close this Writing with some words of wisdom about birthdays.

- Without family and friends, a birthday celebrates little more than the fact that you have yet to be hit by a bus.

- Without family and friends, "birthday" is nothing but an eight-letter word that rhymes with girth-ray.

- Without family and friends, birthday party photos prove to be more depressing than the draft history of the Kansas City Royals.

- Without family and friends, a birthday is nothing but a reminder that (age here) years ago, people actually thought you were cute.

- Without family and friends, a birthday is nothing but a reminder that (age here) years ago, people actually thought you had potential.

- Without family and friends, a birthday is nothing but a reminder that people will try to profit from anything; even from copyrighting the birthday song.

- Without family and friends, The Writings entry on birthdays would have been composed of nothing but transcriptions of the lyrics to The Beatles' "Birthday" repeated over and over until I reached 2,000 words.

I think we're all thankful for family and friends now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gotta get back in time

Recently, I purchased the 1985 World Series on DVD. For someone like me*, the buy was a no-brainer. I now have the chance to relive the only World Series championship in Royals history. Not only does the DVD set commemorate the last time the Royals were in the Series, but also the last time they were in the playoffs.** Now, like Marty McFly, I'm heading back to 1985. (Though I'm not wearing one of those weird life-jacket-type vests while doing it.)

*This is a very heavy statement, but in this occurrence it refers to someone who pays way too much attention to the game of baseball and has been hopelessly optimistic about the Kansas City Royals for as long as he can remember.

**And, some might argue, the last time they were relevant.

I was just a chubby (... okay, hefty) three-year-old when all this excitement actually took place in Kansas City. As a result, I have no memories of the historic occasion. (I'm told I was probably too busy crying about wanting more donuts to pay attention to baseball.) With that in mind, I'm going to enjoy the opportunity to take in all 17-hours of action contained in the DVD set. (What do you mean I should do something more productive with my time? I'm multitasking right now.)

I fit Game One of the series in last night, and I'm moving on to Game Two tonight. Even though I know the results of every game already, for someone like me (there's that phrase again) watching it all is a lot of fun. Along with the results, I also know the following...

In 1985, facial hair was prevalent in the world of baseball, and it was not worn for shock value or comic relief. It was just the thing to do. Bored? Grow a mustache to look like a state trooper from Rhode Island. Really bored? Go for the full Grizzly Adams beard. There's more facial hair in this series than at most hobo conventions.*

*Do hobos have conventions? Looks like it... I'd rag on their website, but I don't know that there are many folks fluent in web coding in the hobo community.

In 1985, if the image they just showed was accurate, Japanese broadcasters were welcome at the World Series, but they were forced to broadcast from a linen closet. Cameras just showed four Japanese broadcaster crammed into a space about the size of your average Easy Bake oven. Those on the other side of the world probably wondered why there were so many players named "Wow, this discomfort is like something I have never experienced" in American baseball.

In 1985, the Royals were freakishly good on the mound, on defense, and on the basepaths. Considering that they won the World Series, that probably should not be any surprise, but if you've seen any Royals games over the last, well, 15 years, you realize that great fundamentals are not always on display. (Cue video montage of Royals dropping pop flies, running into each other in the outfield, running into each other in the infield, getting hit in the back by cutoff throws, and getting thrown out at home by 13 feet... Feel free to play appropriate Benny Hill music during said montage, if you prefer.)

In 1985, the phrase "super slow-mo" was oft used to describe instant replays. The footage on said replays was as blurry as video recorded through a frosted submarine periscope, but the slow-mo was super nonetheless.

In 1985, perms were big. Wow.

In 1985, the "ultimate toy," according to broadcaster Al Michaels, was the satellite dish. In 2010, they're the ultimate lawn art.

In 1985, sporting glasses (glasses so large that one would need to do daily neck exercises just to wear them) while playing competitive sports was not uncommon. If an announcer ever said such a player had a "good head on his shoulders" he probably meant that it was astounding that the player's head could support such frames.

In 1985, proper spelling of Cardinals was not required to get your sign shown on national television. Isn't that right, fans with the "Cardnials" sign?

In 1985, again according to Al Michaels, MacGyver was "America's newest hero." In honor of MacGyver, I've pieced this Writing together from a paperclip, a plastic comb, and a cassette tape of Journey's greatest hits.

In 1985, the Royals fell behind in the World Series, two games to none... For some reason I have a good feeling about things. Call me crazy, but I think the Royals will take it in seven.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lesson of the weekend

My weekend was an enlightening one. I learned all sorts of valuable life lessons; things like: the winds of a microburst are crazy strong* and it's probably not really smart to be outside while such an element of nature is occurring. I also learned that if a person hooks up jumper cables in incorrect fashion, they can make smoke appear out of nowhere. (It's like a magic trick that makes you think, but also leaves you terrified that your car is going to explode... TaDAAAA.) On top of those lessons, I also learned that a very determined two-year-old (no matter how tired she might be) can stay up as long as she likes as long as she keeps finding new ways to entertain herself (and her easily amused uncle).

*Note: I don't mean "strong like a crazy person," mostly because I've never witnessed the strength of the mentally unstable. Instead, I just mean "absurdly strong."

Alas, all of these lessons are trumped by the most recent. I happened upon this bit of knowledge earlier today, and I have not yet figured out what the proper response is. Perhaps I should leave it to the reader(s) to decided.

The top lesson of the weekend is: One can find The Writings on the second page of a Google search for the words "frank solich pregnant cheerleader."

Should one be encouraged when they discover that the all-mighty eyes of an online search engine view their blog as one of the top 20 repositories of knowledge relating to former University of Nebraska football coaches and knocked-up cheer squad members? I'm fairly confident that I've mentioned Mr. Solich once prior to this Writing and that was in regard to the way he was hosed and canned after winning nine games. Oh well.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Note to self: Don't be that guy

Let's begin by clarifying one thing: I am the last person that should be giving relationship advice. It's obvious. Such wisdom is even scripted in the Book of Blatantly Obvious, chapter 1, verse 2.*

*What wisdom is contained in chapter 1, verse 1?  If you're watching anything with Vin Diesel in it, you have too much time on your hands.

That said, I know this much. I would never pull this move:

That's right, with a baseball flying directly at his girlfriend from 300+ feet away, Bo chose to dive away and leave the lady to fend for herself. It's a move that takes any sort of chivalric movement and mashes it to Dippin' Dots-sized bits. After watching the clip, one might guess that Bo is not the freshest beer in the fridge, yet, this girl could apparently tolerate him for more than two minutes at a time. His way of showing his appreciation? Avoiding her (like he's avoided book-learning) when imminent danger presents itself. After the ball nails his girlfriend in the arm, Bo breaks into the type of laughter usually reserved for the audiences at celebrity roasts.* Bravo.

*Please note the correlation here: Your girlfriend getting his by an object flying 90-miles-per-hour when you could have done something about it: not funny. 98% of sentences uttered at a celebrity roast: not funny.... Thank you for your time.

The spectacle that some might deem "The Dodge of the D-Bag," occurred earlier this week, but the fallout has been quick-hitting. The couple appeared on "The Early Show" this morning and relived the story.*

*If you take the time to watch the clip of "The Early Show" appearance, you're in for a treat. Not only does Harry Smith basically call Bo a giant cotton-headed ninny-muggins, but he carries on with a tangent about how Bo should have caught the ball. When Harry mentions the carnival, I thought for sure he was going to say, "And if a carnie attacks your lady, you grab him by the braided mullet and fight right back." ... Wish you had come through on that one, Harry.

It also turns out that the young couple may not be heading to any more cripplingly depressing Astros game as a pair. They announced, on national television, that they've split. Per the young lady "it's not because of the ball." That may be true, but I'm guessing it may have come up while the two were arguing about who seemed like more of a cliched version of America's young generation while being interviewed during the game. (While I have no doubt that both members of the former couple are quite skilled at putting together thoughtful, intelligent arguments, I'm sure this one was a tie.)

Note to self: Please never wear a ballcap in a fashion so askew, either. You are not now, nor have you ever been, a 90s hip-hop artist.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Smelt ya later

Nearly a week has passed since the last post here at The Writings. In that time, plenty has occurred, but nothing has been commented on. With that in mind, you may be asking yourself:

"Did the author recently fall prey to an unfortunate smelting incident through which he lost use of all fingers that he typically uses to type, and, if so, when and why did he begin smelting? (After all, smelting seems to be a specialized process and not the type of activity one might take up as a hobby. Plus, the author has never written of any sort of interest in smelting, or even of metals in general in the past... This is a guy that has written about a duck with political aspirations, for goodness sakes, surely he'd at least figure out a way to mention extractive metallurgy in some way if he actually had any interest in the subject. Seriously, what's up with the smelting?)"

With that in mind, I'd like to crush any such rumors of my interest in smelting. Such does not exist, and any rumors one hears to the contrary are probably being spoon-fed to the mainstream media by members of the Hair Club For Men looking to overrun this blog for reasons yet unknown.

... That, or I haven't updated in awhile because I haven't been hit by any good ideas, forcing me to craft a completely fictional excuse for not updating in nearly a week. I'm not sure which is more believable.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The rhymeless rapper over there

In news that can only be classified as the good sort, it seems that my old next-door neighbor has moved away. The lad, affectionately deemed DJ Dingus or Mixmaster MustGo by the author, left without even dropping a farewell rhyme. Now, I must attempt to cope with the departure. I'll do it in the way he would've wanted: by putting together some horrible rhymes (set to the tune of the theme to Fresh Prince of Bel-air, for those who enjoy dated 90s sitcoms).

The Rhymeless Rapper Over there

Now this is the story all about how,

My neighbor had less lyrical talent than an emphysematic cow.

And I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there,

I'll tell you all about the rhymeless rapper over there.

One door to the east, he moved in,

About a year ago, the situation was definitely no win,

For me, because he thought he was cool

Attempting to rap but sounding like a fool,

His dreams were misguided, ‘cause he was no good,

Why he carried on every night I never understood.

His rambling, pointless lyrics carried through my paper-thin wall,

Why must every sentence end with “yeah-uhh” and begin with “y’all”?

The only thing louder was his lady, who was, frankly, no peach,

Why’d she call her parents every night just to scream and screech?

On my long list of neighbors, he's right at the crest,

Of those I hoped would move. I’d gladly take the rest.

Walking down the hall today I noticed his place was cleaned out,

The utter joy I felt made we want to shout.

Now in my home, earmuffs I don’t have to wear,

'cause I no longer hear the rhymeless rapper over there.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

You must be dreaming

In the midst of my slumber last night, I had a dream that I was in line at a sub sandwich eatery. It was the sort of place where you place your order and then travel along a lengthy counter, detailing how you prefer your sandwich be dressed to an employee on the other side as if he or she is your personal assistant.*

*"I'll have lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayonnaise... And don't forget to pick up the dry-cleaning and take Sparky for a walk."

In the dream, I had yet to have the opportunity to go on the enchanting journey of dressing selection. I held my spot in line like a limestone fence post while others in front of my heehawed over the toppings of choice. Suddenly, a young man who looked as if he was mad at the world* walked into the restaurant. 

*Note: By saying "mad at the world" I do not mean that he strolled in yelling "Die Earth, Die!" while spraying two aerosol cans. I also do not mean that he held a personal grudge against former NBA player World B. Free.

The kid was dressed like me*, but rather than getting in line, he zipped over to the employee side of the counter.

*Note: By saying this guy was "dressed like me" I don't mean to convey the idea that he was wearing the exact same apparel as me... I also don't mean that he was wearing very similar clothing with a color scheme opposite of mine, which might imply that he was my evil twin or a Bizarro Derek. It wasn't THAT weird of a dream.

Though he did not don the garb of a sub shop employee, the new guy starting tossing dressings on sandwiches with the speed and gusto of a Japanese steakhouse chef. He was a whirlwind of lettuce, bell peppers and mustard. The exhibition of sandwich mastery continued and the line began moving more quickly. But, as suddenly as the show began, it ended. The shop's manager, apparently alerted by someone that actually was employed at the place, came out and pulled the kid aside.

Luckily, at this point in the dream, I was close enough that I could hear what the middle-aged woman, who appeared to have enjoyed a free sub or two in her time there, said to the youngster: "Now do you remember what we spoke about last time? We decided that you're talents would be better utilized making Big Macs right now. I'm sorry."


Now, dear reader, I'm relying on you to tell me what this dream could possibly mean. Interpret this for me. I will pay heed to your wisdom, as you must have a better take on it than I do. After all, my only thought is that it means that I'm now becoming a smart ass even in my sleep.