24
Oct

My awesome dad.

A little past midnight on October 6, my father decided that he had charmed the world long enough with his cheerful blue eyes, goofy grin, and easy laughter. He was 71 years old.

He didn’t want a fuss made over his passing, so my dad requested direct cremation. I have honored his wishes, but he’s still going to get a fuss. Sorry, Dad, but you were just too wonderful to not tell the world about you…

I had this amazingly intelligent, beyond funny, and steadfastly loving dad, yet not that many people knew him. I suppose that’s the way it is most of the time. A select few individuals get to be an Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates and are recognized by the world. The rest of us come and go with relative obscurity, known and missed by perhaps a few friends and family. My dad certainly falls into the latter category, but he meant the world to me.

When I was a little girl, my dad had a Sunday afternoon ritual. He would buy a weekend edition of the Chicago Tribune, spread it across the living room floor, and spend hours reading it from cover to cover. Of course, I couldn’t just let him read it in peace. When I saw him lying on the floor, I would hop onto the back of his ankles and walk up and down the length of his body over and over again. Each time I would see if I could make it all the way up to his shoulders, which let me tell you, was quite the feat since he would prop himself up on his elbows to read. If I were successful, I would then jump triumphantly from his shoulders onto the papers below and mess them up. Maybe rip them. I can’t imagine that my Wallenda act was as much fun for my dad as it was for me, but he never said a word.

As a kid, I also loved to style my dad’s hair. When I would spy him relaxing on the couch, trying to catch an episode of Taxi or Hill Street Blues, I would immediately ask for his comb. Then I’d grab a cup of water and climb to the top of the couch. For the next hour or so, I would fashion his hair into wonderfully innovative hairdos. During at least one or two of those styling sessions, I would also knock over the cup of water that was precariously balanced on the couch cushions. My dad never yelled at me, though, and the following week, I would do it all over again.

But my favorite way to test my dad’s love for me was when I would make my kitchen creations. Bored, I would stand in front of the refrigerator and grab random ingredients – say relish, milk, mustard, and Kool-Aid – and mix them together into a frothy treat. I would then present it to my father. We would warily eye each other as he would first sniff it, grimace, and finally put it to his lips. I could only imagine how awful it must have tasted (I never tried my own creations), but without fail my dad would take a sip, exclaim a phony “yum!” and tell me that he was going to save the rest for later because it tasted so good. Grinning from ear to ear, I would walk away and never see that concoction ever again.

I could share with you so many more memories of my dad, but these are the recollections that capture exactly who he was… and I don’t mean a man with the patience of Job, though that is true. He just had this gentle, lighthearted nature that made it so easy to be happy around him, and he loved making people smile. I witnessed it all the time.

I can’t remember a single time at the grocery store where he didn’t strike up a conversation with the cashier. He knew by name all the tellers at his bank. And he would always take a few minutes to chat with the host or hostess at each restaurant we visited. Usually, he’d start with some small talk about the weather, then good-naturedly moan about the Cubs, and finally crack a silly joke at which he would laugh the hardest. But without fail, my dad would find a way to make the recipient of his goofy charm laugh.

Even when he got sick, my dad never stopped being his naturally happy self. While in the hospital, he received a stuffed teddy bear that played “I Feel Good” by James Brown when its belly was pressed. My dad would hide the bear under his bed sheets, and each time a nurse or doctor walked in and asked, “How are you feeling?” he’d squeeze it and wait for a reaction. He loved it. They loved it.

I miss him so much.

My dad and I had a great relationship, and I told him many times how much I loved him before he passed. I’m not sad because he didn’t know how I felt about him or because we weren’t close. But I’ll never see his grin again or hear his laugh. I won’t get to witness another moment of his silliness on full display. It’s those little things that make my heart ache… And no matter how much time you have with someone, it’s never enough. You can never have enough memories. You can never have too many moments.

But I am so proud and blessed that this man was my father. He taught me so much. Above all else, though, he was this amazing example of how to live in the moment, find joy in the little things, and always be kind to others. That is his legacy, not just to me, but to all those who knew him. And now, hopefully even to those who didn’t.

I love you, Dad.

12
Sep

Let's make it a true Daily Double, Alex.

My dad and I had a ritual that began when I was in junior high. Every couple of weeks, I’d get off the bus after school and notice his car sitting in the driveway. That meant he had knocked off early from work not only to beat me home, but also to beat me at our favorite game show, Jeopardy! We both had developed a fixation with this program. Rice-A-Roni was also part of the ritual. Couldn’t tell you why. But each time I would walk through the door, I’d find my dad at the stove, stirring a saucepan full of our favorite Jeopardy! snack. We’d quickly fill our bowls with a heaping helping of that starchy goodness and settle in for a half-hour of answers and questions.

My dad never went easy on me. Didn’t matter that he had 35 more years of worldly experience; his goal was to destroy me each and every time we played. In fact, if he cleared a category, he would looked over with a huge grin and point at me so that it was perfectly obvious just how awesome he was at this game. A lot of categories were cleared and many fingers pointed.

I never cleared a category. I mean, seriously, I was 12. I was lucky if I got 10 questions right during a show. But as the years went by, I slowly gained on my father. By the time I was a senior in high school, I could even do some finger pointing of my own. He still could obliterate me in American history, though. If the Civil War or U.S. Presidents were categories, he would actually squeal with glee. Abraham Lincoln? Forget it.

Then I went off to college and our Jeopardy! matches came to a sudden halt. Even during those first few years when I was home during the summers, we never resumed our long-standing competition. More years passed, I moved to California, and that was that.

Until last month. When I moved in with my dad, his Jeopardy! fixation returned with a vengeance. Earlier in the summer, I would try to schedule my daily visits to coincide with the 2:30 p.m. airtime, but my stupid job would sometimes get in the way. Now that I work 20 feet away from my dad, he refuses to accept, “I have a deadline” as an excuse. If I don’t respond to his first warning yell, I will promptly hear a second “Anna! Jeopardy!” that repeats in 15-second intervals until I shut down my computer and head for the living room.

My dad has become much more opinionated about the categories. He usually hates them. Even I have to admit that the folks over at Jeopardy! have tried a little too hard to spice things up. They once named all the categories after Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Granted, it was for the Teen Tournament, but needless to say, my dad was none too pleased.

Apparently everything about the Teen Tournament bothered my dad. To protect the innocent, I won’t name any names, but upon telling Alex that he wanted to be President of the United States one day, my dad said of one contestant, “I bet he’s not liked much at school.”

Aside from his colorful commentary, my dad hasn’t been very vocal in actually attempting to give the questions. Among its many lame side effects, cancer apparently makes you tired all the time. Then my dad’s doctor prescribed him steroids to help with the inflammation in his lungs. The good news is that his new prescription has helped tremendously with his O2 levels. We haven’t had to bump up his intake in two weeks. The bad news is that my dad has completely annihilated me during the last few Jeopardy! airings as well. Who knew that those little pills would turn him into a Jeopardy! savant. He’s even taken to saying “I got it!” or “I got it before you!” or some variation thereof after every. single. question. he gets right.

I should be annoyed… I’m not.

Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

22
Aug

No curfews, Dad!After moving to California nearly 10 years ago, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The farther away I was from my dad, the less he cared about my whereabouts.

It’s true. When 2000 miles away, I would sometimes go for more than a week without hearing from him. If I did manage to track him down via phone, I could barely keep him on the line for more than five minutes before whatever baseball/football/basketball/hockey game wrestled away his attention from me. However, when I would visit Chicago, my phone would blow up before I could even exit the plane. Once he confirmed that I did indeed make it safely into the Windy City, I would then be instructed to call him after getting my luggage. From there, I would be told to ring again when I got my rental car. Given that I hadn’t lived with my parents for many years, I’d typically rent a hotel room while in town. Inevitably, I would also be given orders to call after I checked in. One time, I stopped off to get something to eat. While waiting on my Subway Sandwich Artist to add a little sweet onion sauce to my veggie patty sub, I could hear my phone ringing. “You should be at the hotel by now.” My father’s tracking capabilities are scary.

Now that I’m actually living at home, his skills have only gained in strength. Should I leave to get groceries, grab a Starbucks, or even go for a run, I’m told ahead of time how long I should be.

“It shouldn’t take you more than a half-hour to pick up some Sprite and those Stouffer’s I asked for.”

“So, what? You’ll be gone until seven o’clock?”

“It’s getting dark. You’ll be back in an hour.” (Note, not a question.)

One of the reasons why I love what I do is because I don’t have a boss watching my every move. As long as I get my work done by the assigned deadline, no one is taking note of when I arrive to work or clock out for the night. To be honest, though, I was the one doing the watching and note-taking when I had my last office job. I didn’t even enjoy doing that for other people; hence, my decision to leave cubicle life behind. Now, a new boss is in town, and I live in his office.

Perhaps his behavior is in retaliation for my own militant antics. Pretty much on the quarter hour, you can hear me ask, “You okay? You need anything? You need a refill?” (He loves his Sprite.) My father has decided that the living room couch is the perfect place for mid-morning, post-noon, and early evening naps, so I’m usually drilling him with questions as I make my way to the kitchen for a bite to eat or my own refill. If he doesn’t answer me, I quite literally get in his face to see why. Apparently I’m not the twinkle toes I think myself to be because more than once I’ve startled him awake. “Huh? What? Yeah, I’m fine.”

Given that he recently received at-home oxygen, I’ve also become a fan of checking his O2 levels on a more-than-needed basis. This is in part because he could go unconscious if his oxygen runs too high. Also in part, I’m absolutely fascinated by how this tiny device can magically know how much oxygen is in your blood when clipped to the end of your finger. I test myself as often as my dad. When I hit 99, I feel as smug as if I just got a perfect score on the SATs.

My dad isn’t as mobile as he’s been in weeks past, which may also explain his ceaseless need to know where I am at all times. He’s still a dad, after all, so I’m sure there’s some protective thing going on. Given that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to accompany me for errands and the like, I think he just wants to know that I’m okay. And that’s cool. Probably for the better, too.

Did I mention that my dad is the worst backseat driver ever? I don’t need directions to the same Walgreen’s we’ve gone to at least 10 times now. Gah.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

15
Aug

Diet, schmiet.

“Live every day like it’s your last.”

My dad is certainly taking that advice to heart. Which, ironically, is probably bad for his heart.

We found out about the cancer when my dad was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack. His third. While his smoking was likely the main culprit in his health decline, his eating regimen might have been an accomplice as well. My dad has always been a meat and potatoes man, minus the potatoes. What’s the point in eating those when you can just have more meat?

Since receiving his diagnosis, he has thrown all dietary caution to the wind. It began when he was still in the hospital. Because a heart attack put him there, he was placed on the cardiac diet – or in his words, the “no flavor” diet. Not to say that he could eat only fruits and vegetables; on the contrary, hamburgers, beef stew, and even bacon were on the menu. I think my dad might have set a record for ordering the most hamburgers in a row of any patient ever admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital. And the puny side salad that came with it? He would immediately shove it toward me. “You’re a vegetarian. That’s what you eat anyway.”

Once he came home, my dad made up for lost time. Now that I have become his personal chauffeur, I accompany him each time he goes on a grocery store run. If Jamie Oliver were to look into my dad’s cart, he’d cry hot, silent tears. Hotdogs. Meatballs. Frozen Salisbury steaks. Oh, and a bottle of V8. Can’t forget those veggies.

My dad’s passion for meat is rivaled only by his ardor for desserts. He doesn’t discriminate. Cake, muffins, ice cream, candy bars, cookies – it’s all the same sweet goodness to him. Unfortunately, my dad happens to be an extremely generous man, so each time he sits down with a sweet, he insists that I have some as well. I can almost hear the seams on my jeans screaming for mercy.

He used to also fancy himself quite the cook – my dad can make a mean steak so I remember – but nowadays would rather just throw a Stouffer’s into the microwave. Since I neither eat nor cook meat, he waves off any dish I want to make. So aside from his sweet treats and frozen meats, the only other culinary option my dad will consider is takeout.

It began with Jimmy John’s. Before I moved in with my father, he’d tell me to pick up a few sandwiches prior to heading over to his place. At first, I was more than happy to oblige. For some unfathomable reason, Los Angeles doesn’t have Jimmy John’s, so I was downright giddy to grab a #5 and #6 before seeing him. The store was just down the block from his condo anyway, so it took only about 90 seconds (they are crazy fast at JJ’s!) to get my sandwiches and get on my way. So convenient. Too convenient.

Apparently my father is a man of habit because one week we got Jimmy John’s about four days in a row. I didn’t think it possible, but I was all JJ’ed out. Given that nearly the entire menu is inedible to me, I soon tired of my once favorite #6. So I Jedi mind tricked my dad into going somewhere – anywhere – else. I convinced him to try Potbelly… and now we’ve probably eaten there about 15 times in the last month. My dad finds the roasted goodness of the Italian subs at Potbelly highly superior to the bland cold cuts of Jimmy John’s. I once got him to try Jersey Mike’s, but the disdain on his face when informed that the Reuben doesn’t come on rye immediately told me that we would never pass through their doors again. He hates Subway, but won’t elaborate on why. And Chipotle’s meat is too hard. Now no matter what I suggest, he asks for Potbelly. And though my belly is aching for something different, I will not say a word. If my dad is on a mission to eat as many Potbelly Italian sandwiches as humanly possible while he has the strength and appetite to do so, far be it from me to oppose his quest.

Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

08
Aug

Back where I belong.

The tagline I thought up when I started this blog was “Tales of a Chicago girl in a LA world.” Well, this girl has found herself back home.

Two months ago, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. A few weeks later, I packed up my suitcase, left Los Angeles, and flew back to Chicago with a one-way ticket. Hence, the radio silence for the last few months.

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t think I would write about what’s been going on. For one, I didn’t want to betray my dad’s privacy. Second, I really, really didn’t want to spend more time writing about something that’s been on my mind every minute of every hour since May 31, the day I was told that a mass had been found in my dad’s lung. But I missed my blog.

Thing is, I talk about my life on the blog… and my dad for that matter. I knew that if I were to start writing again, it would be disingenuous to exclude my dad’s illness from my entries. So here I am.

I figured this was as good a time as any to restart the blog because this weekend my dad and I will officially become roomies. After more than a decade of living parent-free, I can only imagine the hijinks that will ensue once I move in. Why, you ask, after being back in Chicago for more than a month haven’t I already moved in with him? Well, I pay my bills by writing for the World Wide Web, and my dad doesn’t even have an email address, let alone a computer or Internet connection at his place. When I asked if he could set up wifi for me, he repeated, “Hifi? What’s that?” So for the last few weeks, I’ve been bouncing from house to house of no less than four crazyawesomeamazingwonderful friends who would probably just let me become a permanent resident at any of their homes if I asked. As of today, though, my dad’s condo is officially online. So now my nomadic existence comes to an end and a new adventure begins.

To state the obvious, cancer blows. My plan is not to focus on it – at least, not on the blog. Whether or not you have been touched by this illness, I think we can all agree that it’s horrible. I don’t know if I have anything original to contribute to the “how to cope with cancer” conversation. I’m still figuring that out anyway, so my strategy is to concentrate on everything else. Like how to cope with my dad’s incessant interest in watching golf. He has about a thousand channels – an Internet novice, yes, but my father is no stranger to the wonders of cable – yet if golf is on TV, he must watch it. To me, watching golf for five minutes is like getting stabbed with a million tiny tees for five days. I’m not so sure how this roomie situation will work out.

I’m also not sure just how long I will be in Chicago. For as long as my dad needs me? For as long as I can? Forever if it meant that my dad would be okay?

The other day he asked if I was keeping up with the blog. I tried to answer honestly without somehow making him feel responsible for why I wasn’t updating it. Then about as awkwardly as you could imagine, I asked if I could talk about his condition. His answer? “Sure. Tell everyone to send me a dollar.”

That’s the other reason why I decided to go back to the blog. My dad is awesome. I’m sure other people feel the same way about their fathers, and far be it from me to disagree. I don’t think dads being awesome need be an either-or proposition among sons and daughters. But instead of waiting until the day that I don’t want to think about to tell everyone of my amazing dad, I’d thought I’d start now. Plus, I promise it’ll make for much easier reading. If I were to write about how awesome my dad is in a single post, I might break the Internet. It’d be that long.

If you’d rather not read about some guy you don’t know, and many of you have never met my father, I get it. And to be honest, I probably won’t be able to help some sad stuff from creeping in every once in a while. I don’t blame you if you’d rather use your free time to look at kitten memes. But if I may offer a rebuttal… This blog is about the small, stupid, and sometimes happy stuff that happens in life. To be sure, my dad’s cancer diagnosis has made that mission harder. Though most definitely stupid, cancer is neither small nor happy. But even if he can’t beat his diagnosis, I will do my damnedest to make him and you and even myself smile in spite of it.

Image courtesy of phanlop88 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

09
May

There's always a catch. Always.

It was just another day at the grocery store when I heard the distinctive screech of the intercom and a crackly voice call out: “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please! If you will kindly make your way to the back of the produce section at the end of aisle 17, we are about to hand out free gifts to our shoppers!”

This was unexpected. Is this what they do at Ralph’s every Wednesday night? I was slightly perturbed that perhaps I had been missing out on years’ worth of complimentary food. Like any other red-blooded American, I loves me some free stuff, so I instantly U-turned my way to aisle 17.

I didn’t have far to go, but by the time I reached the produce section, at least a dozen other carts and their eager owners were already waiting for their loot. I also noticed that I was a good 30 years younger than the other shoppers, and FYI, one sweet white-haired granny cut me off as she adroitly maneuvered her cart directly in front of the display counter.

Given that the display was rocking some serious movie premiere spotlights, I suddenly felt ill at ease regarding what was about to proceed. All I wanted was a free sample of whatever new flavored water I assumed they were trying to hype. What was with all the glitz and glamour? Must everything be for show in LA? That’s when the display lady made her entrance.

Display lady had a smile on her face that was much too joyous for 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night at Ralph’s. No way was she that happy to see us. Also, she didn’t have on a Ralph’s uniform, which further worried me. I began to suspect that my desire to get something for nothing was going to cost me.

“How is everybody doing tonight?”

The crowd gave a cool response, which only made her repeat her question. To avoid having to fake nice a third time, we mustered a decent yet insincere “good!”

Display lady then took out from behind the display counter a cantaloupe that had undergone some sort of Frankenstein-esque lobotomy. Though still intact, it had a series of V-shaped incisions along its exterior. This was our free gift? Produce rife with salmonella?

Confirming my worst fears, display lady then asked, “Who here loves fresh fruit?” I, for one, did not raise my hand, but several of my compatriots with no regard for their own safety did. That’s when display lady again surprised us with a monstrous creation from behind her counter of horrors. This time it was an oversized cucumber surgically reworked to resemble Jaws. I was equal parts awed by her cutting skills and terrified of what she would pull out next. I also came to the sad realization that I was just another sucker who was about to sit through this lady’s spiel to hock goods that were obviously not going to be free.

Remember the Ginsu knife? Or really I should put it this way: “Remember the Ginsu knife?” Because that was the next question out of her mouth. Seriously? That’s what this whole elaborate setup was for? I actually got duped into watching a Ginsu knife demonstration?

Apparently the company that made Ginsu knives has since retired the name. Why, I don’t know, since you’d think trading off such a famous brand would be a no-brainer. Regardless, now they’re calling their new knife the Master Cut 2. But because no one knows what the hell a Master Cut 2 is, they have to trap poor, naïve grocery shoppers who want free sh*t with their bait and switch tactics.

So for the next 15 minutes, I stood there in agony as display lady showed our group how the Master Cut 2 can cut through tomatoes, two-by-fours, and hammers. I swear. The woman made us watch as she sliced into a metal hammer head. Impressive. Most impressive. But I still ain’t gonna pay $29.99 for it.

I finally made my getaway when she asked who of our group liked BBQed steak. Given that I don’t eat beef, I feigned disgust at her obvious lack of respect for vegetarians and stormed away.

But to her credit, I did get my free stuff. It was a plastic thingamajig that apparently was responsible for the handiwork on that poor cantaloupe. So now I can perform my own deranged experiments on fruit. Totally worth the half-hour of my life that I will never get back.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

02
May

You hear me? You hear me now?Eavesdropping on other people’s conversations is fun. Though I have never tapped anyone’s home, I have on multiple occasions put my ear to a wall or door to get better acoustics. The best is when you catch random bits and pieces while standing in line at the airport or waiting for your drink at a bar. It’s a win-win situation. They don’t know me. I don’t know them. I will never see them again, so no matter what they say, I can’t hold it against them in the future.

Phone conversations are entirely different. Though people are just as likely to say ridiculous things over the phone, I’m amazed by how many people have uber private conversations via cell phone in completely public spaces. To make it all about me, it’s super awkward to listen to them. Last Halloween, my boyfriend and I had to suffer through a convo that some dude was having on the phone with his girlfriend in Party City. Because everyone was desperate to buy whatever cheaply made and overpriced costumes were still in stock, we were stuck in the checkout line for more than a half-hour as this guy professed his undying love for some chick. I’m all for being a lover and not a fighter, but I’m also an uptight American who would rather you keep in the bedroom.

Even worse is when someone’s arguing over the phone. You’d be surprised by how many of these conversations I’ve witnessed in Starbucks. Apparently paying $5 for coffee can make someone irritable. It’s hard to really know what’s going on in these conversations because both parties are working overtime to cut each other off, so all you really ever hear is “would you let me talk?” or “you’re not listening to me!” Perhaps the person on the other line isn’t listening, but I can guarantee you that everyone else is. The absolute worst, though, is when you are privy to a breakup happening over the phone.

Breaking up via phone is on my top five list of douchebaggery actions. Probably because it happened to me. If you don’t want to date someone anymore, that’s cool. But then man up and tell her face-to-face. Don’t call on a random Tuesday night and say, “My feelings for you have plateaued.” Not that that’s how it went down with me or anything.

Now most of the womenfolk I know are in complete agreement with me, so you can imagine my surprise when I overheard a chick doing the breaking up over the phone. I wasn’t at the airport, nor was I in Starbucks. I was simply jogging down my own street… and I could hear her a block away. You see, this lady wasn’t just ending a relationship; she was ENDING A RELATIONSHIP.

“WE ARE OVVVVVVVVEEEEEEERRRRRR!!!!”

I could hear her screaming this single phrase over and over and over again. At first, I thought I was hearing a Lifetime movie through someone’s open window. When I pinpointed the real source of the drama, I then became concerned that perhaps she was in trouble. (It was dark, so I couldn’t tell at first if another person was in the car.) But once I ran past her, I finally understood what was going on. She was a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I tried to slow down to better hear what horrible things the guy on the other end of the line obviously must have done to deserve such rage, but her voice went all Charlie Brown “mwa, mwa, mwa” once her car was behind me. As I jogged on, I pondered the possibilities. Did he cheat on her? Did he steal money from her? Did he cheat on her with a hooker that he paid for by stealing money from her?

Then I felt bad. No matter how awesome you might feel in your moment of fury, breakups suck. I’m sure that underneath her wrath, she was silently mourning the end of her relationship… Nope. About forty-five minutes later, I was again heading toward her car. She was still there and still raging. In fact, I think she had gotten louder. And if I’m being really honest… it impressed the hell out of me.

Go on with your crazy self, girl.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

18
Apr

The wind beneath my wings!

I’m a little slow when it comes to television hype. I got into Sex and the City only after watching the series finale. I finally understood why everyone loved Family Guy when watching an episode eight years after it premiered. (I have yet to jump on board The Simpsons train.) And it was only three months ago that I finally saw American Idol.

I never needed to watch American Idol to know who was getting the boot. With each new season, a huge billboard goes up on Pico Boulevard – and I’m assuming other major streets around LA – that displays the headshots of the top ten contestants. And every week, one unfortunate soul gets a huge, humiliating, red ‘X’ plastered over his or her face. So it never occurred to me to tune in until one evening when my boyfriend and I couldn’t find anything good on TV. That’s when we caught one of the audition episodes.

Though critiquing the contestants – especially the crazies – was entertainment enough, my bf and I were fascinated by what the judges had to say… and whether or not we concurred with their opinions. To our collective horror, we seemed to be locked in agreement with virtually every assessment that Nicki Minaj gave to each singer. Also, I discovered an inverse relationship between Minaj’s outfits and her performance reviews: the crazier she looked, the saner her advice was. My boyfriend and I gasped several times at her innate wisdom. She’s like a bleached blonde Buddha.

Carey on the other hand… It’s a good thing that she can sing because that girl cannot give a decent critique to save her life. Most of the time, she simply blurts out a series of “dah-lings” and “you’re so you” and “I love what you’re wearing.” But I can’t really fault her. Though the Mariah of today is a far cry from the chick that came on the scene with “Vision of Love,” she’s still got the goods. Because she’s such a phenomenal singer, though, I don’t think she understands how to talk to someone so obviously below her. It’s like asking Meryl Streep to explain the finer points of acting to Megan Fox.

From what I hear, I missed the heyday of American Idol judging. Apparently watching Simon Cowell eviscerate contestants was entertainment at its finest. Meh…. I tuned into The X Factor once to see what the hubbub was about, but the only thing offensive about Cowell was his ridiculously tight T-shirt.

However, my boyfriend was taking great offense to a certain wannabe Idol: Lazaro Arbos. Now when we first met this shy, unassuming contestant, we were as enamored of him as the rest of America. Lazaro has a stutter, yet he still found the courage and perseverance to audition. You go, Lazaro! So when my bf and I found out that he had made it to the top ten, we were thrilled. But by the next show, we were looking guiltily at one another, both of us thinking the same thing… Lazaro had to go. For the record, Lazaro’s stutter isn’t an issue when he sings, so don’t get all in a tizzy that we’re discriminatory a-holes. Plain and simple, he wasn’t as strong a singer as the rest of the crew. In fact, he was easily at the back of the pack, vocally speaking. But week after week, just like his namesake, Lazaro would keep rising from the dead and live on for another show. And my boyfriend would get increasingly more indignant with each non-Lazaro elimination. Mind you, this is a man who graciously smiles each time that my beloved Blackhawks steamroll his broken down Red Wings, which incidentally happened during each of their meet-ups this season, but I digress… He simply could not accept the fact that America was pity-voting Lazaro to the top.

Though mildly surprised, I accepted it. Dancing with the Stars has already taught me that the American public doesn’t know its cha cha from its samba when it comes to judging good dancers. How else do you explain Kristie Alley, Rob Kardashian, and Bristol Palin all making it to the finals? I figure that American Idol voters know just as little about singing talent. (Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are statistical aberrations.)

But finally justice was served. Last week, Lazaro got his walking papers, my bf was appeased, and sanity was restored to the American Idol world. If I’m honest, though, watching last night’s episode without Lazaro was a tad boring. Here’s hoping that Mariah and Nicki finally give America what it wants: a stiletto throwing, hair extension pulling, fake fingernail breaking catfight.

Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

11
Apr

I'm sure he understood.Yesterday a goat’s head was sent to Wrigley Field. My response to the person who did it?

Bravo, good sir. Bravo. Most Cubs fans I know just sit on their lazy asses and moan year after year about our perennially lovable losers. And then there are the ever optimistic – some may say naïve – fans that dream each April of a Pennant run only to have their hopes dashed by June. July if we’re having a really good season. But it takes a real fan to sever an innocent animal’s head and send it anonymously to Wrigley so that his contempt could be known. So again, bravo.

Just one question, though… What exactly are you protesting? Is it that we already have a losing record a mere week into the new season? Is it the overpriced tickets? The lack of parking? The shabby confines of Wrigley Field? Or the fact that we haven’t won a World Series since before the First World War? ‘Cuz there’s that, too.

Or maybe you were simply trying to remove the Curse of the Billy Goat.

That makes sense. After all, the Cubs were already suffering a Pennant drought for almost 40 years when Billy Sianis made his famous claim that the Cubs “ain’t gonna win no more.” Naturally his threat is the exact reason why we’ve continued to fail in winning the World Series for the last 60 years. So perhaps a goat’s head is precisely what the Cubs organization has needed all this time. What fools we’ve been!

And you know, the sacrifice of a goat’s life is nothing when you think about the monumental sacrifices that our players make everyday on the field. Like when Marmol sacrificed our 5-1 lead to the Braves last week, and we ended up losing 6-5. It must have torn him up that night, his only consolation being that he still has a contract for $9.8 million. I also admire his humility when asked about the booing that preceded his introduction at the Cubs’ home opener on Monday. Instead of admitting that he had failed Cubs fans and would resolve to do better, he simply said, “I don’t have to worry about it.” Right on, Marmol. It’s that kind of attitude that will surely get us a playoff run this September.

But back to the goat’s head. What’s a goat anyway? Apparently this animal has an IQ of 60, which is about that of a dog. Keep in mind, though, that this is all according to science… And what has science ever done for Cubs fans? So yeah, you probably killed a creature with reasonable intellect. You might even say that you butchered an animal not unlike your own pet Fido, but whateves. It was for a higher cause, right?

Because when it comes down to it, sports are all that matter. Think about it. What is more important than watching multimillionaires swing bats, shoot balls, and catch touchdowns? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they do it for the love of the game, right? If the players in the MLB, NBA, or NFL were paid the same as firefighters or public school teachers, I have no doubt that they would still pursue the glory of the World Series or Super Bowl just for the fans. And to any naysayer who claims that all baseball players are steroid users and all football players are alleged rapists and all basketball players are consummate philanderers… Like you’ve never done anything wrong. Hypocrite. If you can’t understand why sending a goat’s head to Wrigley Field isn’t a perfectly sane measure to take, you obviously don’t know anything about anything.

One final note to the gentleman behind the goat head prank… If and when the authorities find you, and I sincerely hope they do since anyone with your evident genius deserves his due recognition, be prepared for a firestorm of media attention. Yes, sir, you will reach a status the likes of which Steve Bartman could only dream. So good on you. You deserve every bit of the acclaim that you receive.

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

04
Apr

The customer is always right... about to get b*tch-slapped.Working retail is awful. I say this because I know. I’ve enjoyed an illustrious retail past and have enthusiastically sold everything from garbage bags to showerheads to makeup remover. But by a long shot, working women’s retail is the worst of the worst.

I love my gender and have no plans to change it anytime soon. But let’s call a spade a spade… Women can be a neurotic bunch. I suppose the men folk might get weird about their appearance, too, but women take the cake. You can’t really blame us ladies, though. Once Photoshop was invented, it was over for most of us. Now you can’t turn a corner without finding a billboard or magazine with a gorgeous and totally fake female plastered on it. What that woman looks like in real life, I don’t know and nobody else cares. It’s the finely crafted perfect body you see before you that counts.

Now imagine working in women’s bathing suits.

It was hell. Every 15 minutes or so, I would walk into the fitting area only to find a mountain – and I do mean mountain – of bathing suits piled high in each abandoned room. Though the store had a limit on how many bathing suits a person could try on at a time, I worked the seasonal department by myself, which meant that I was usually outnumbered by women on the edge carrying no less than 40 suits with them into a fitting room.

Women get cray cray when it comes to bathing suits. Fellas, if you want a sneak peek at just how scary your lady can get, offer to go bathing suit shopping with her. Odds are she’ll turn you down quicker than you can say “I’ll buy,” because why would anyone subject themselves to the horror of showcasing her pale and dimpled body under fluorescent lighting no less, but if she happens to say yes… If you make it through the afternoon, you’ve become a man, my son.

I think my straw-camel-back moment occurred the day I realized that someone had tried on two-dozen or so bathing suits during the one time of the month when no woman should be trying on anything that isn’t already in her closet… if you catch my drift. Horrified, I finished my shift and simply did not return the next day. I’m not proud of the fact that I just bailed on my job with no notice, but I draw the line at bodily fluids. I still remember my manager’s voicemail message, telling me that I wasn’t in trouble and could come back at any time. The desperation in her voice made it clear that I wasn’t the first employee to unceremoniously bequeath the seasonal department to a soul braver than I.

So my point with this trip down memory lane? I have mucho respect for those that do work in retail. Because people are awful to you all the time. They don’t care if you’re already waiting on four other customers. They don’t care if you’re two hours overdue for your lunch break. And they certainly don’t care if they hurt your feelings. (I’m looking at you, Robert Schuller.)

Most of the time when I go shopping, I like to fly under the radar. I’m an able-bodied person and can usually find what I need on my own, thank you very much… until I do need help. Like when I was looking for a dress that I had found on a store’s website. Just one look at the overcrowded department, though, and I knew I’d never find anything in that chaotic mess of cotton and polyester. So I walked up to the nearest salesperson, “Could you please help me find a dress that I saw online?”

I took her bored look to mean that she had some time to kill, so I continued to describe what I was looking for.

Her: “I don’t know anything like that.”

Me: “Oh, okay…”

Her: Exaggerated sigh. “Let’s look online.”

She led me to the cash register.

Her: “Find it for me.”

Now I spend pretty much my entire day sitting in front of a computer, but I’m a Mac user. I have as much ability to operate a PC as I do a spinning wheel, Morse code machine, or anything else obsolete.

I looked for an external mouse. Nothing. She then directed me to a two-inch by one-inch mouse pad. I tried in vain to navigate it. She then casually mentioned that it was a touch-screen computer. I began to wonder why she hated me.

Finally I found the dress.

Her: “Yeah, I don’t know anything like that… I gotta go to a meeting.”

And off she went.

I never saw her again, but I don’t blame her. Retail is awful.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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