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

10
Jan

Just don't make eye contact, and you'll be fine.As a kid, I didn’t much heed cautionary stranger danger tales, but now I take them to very much to heart.

It probably has everything to do with my days in Chicago. From the time I left my apartment to when I arrived at school, it was like my very own game of Frogger. But instead of trying to avoid cars and trucks – and for the record, drivers are trying to run you over – I was doing my best to miss the weirdos and creepers on the street.

Not to say that Chicago isn’t awesome. It is. In many ways, Chicago is like a big bag of jellybeans. Most of it you can devour and enjoy without worrying, except for those icky licorice ones. And if you happen to like licorice, that’s on you. Weirdo.

I’m sure this is no secret to anyone who has lived in a city, but the trick to avoiding oddballs is pretending they’re not there no matter how eccentric their behavior. There’s a fellow having an argument with himself on the bus? Keep your eyes on your book. There’s a lady petting an imaginary dog on the sidewalk? Check your voicemail like it’s an ordinary day. Because the moment you make eye contact, it’s over.

Now a Los Angeles resident, I’m not nearly as vigilant when roaming the streets of this great city. Probably because I never roam. No one does. We drive, which is highly effective at eliminating most instances of unwanted contact. It’s really nice. Not to say that LA doesn’t have its own oddballs. They hang out in Starbucks and Whole Foods.

But you can’t avoid all the people all the time, right?

So the other day, I was doing my weekly grocery shopping. (For the record, I’m a Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s gal. If I shopped at Whole Foods, I’d probably be hanging out there all day, too, because I no longer would be able to afford rent.) Now when I frequent Trader Joe’s, I prepare myself. First, you have the eager-eyed petitioners outside. Does anyone actually stop and talk to them? Then there are the uber-friendly workers, whom I used to think were oddly cool until someone told me that they’re required to be nice. It makes a whole lot more sense, though. But even the other shoppers will throw a smile your way if you accidentally look at them. However, today I was in Ralph’s, which is normally a contact-free zone. You can then imagine my surprise when I was accosted in the refrigerated cookie section.

Upon assessing the situation, I noticed that the dude in question had a kid, so I relaxed a bit. Though children do not automatically rule out the possibility of being weird, you can usually downgrade the terror alert level from red to a solid yellow. Plus, he had a package of sugar cookie dough in his hand. My initial instincts told me that this was simply a clueless dad.

“Excuse me, but could you help me with something?”

I noticed that this guy had a British accent, which put me into an internal tailspin. Normally I don’t think twice about being brusque with strangers, but this guy was a foreigner. And we all know the bad rap that America gets abroad. Time to turn on the charm.

“Sure! What can I help you with?”

As his little daughter looked on, British man proceeded to ask me about what type of dough would be best for molding into shapes. I enthusiastically indicated that he had already found the best kind for his needs.

“But can you dye this dough?”

The truth is that I had no idea. I was leaning toward no, but given that he had no intention or aptitude to actually make dough, and his daughter was listening to every word we were saying…

“Sure! I mean, you’ll probably have to work it in, but I think you can do it.”

This answer satisfied him. He thanked me with his British accent and quickly went on his way before his daughter could question the purchase. For my part, I felt very pleased with myself as a smug American would. I then inadvertently smiled at a woman examining packages of cream cheese. She immediately averted her eyes.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

31
May

Typically I don’t run races. Why pay good money for something I can do for free in my own neighborhood? Yet once I heard about the Soldier Field 10 a few years back, I was hooked. You finish at the fifty-yard line inside the stadium and get to wave at your sweaty, exhausted self on the jumbotron.

Sign me up.

The first year I was too pumped about being on that jumbotron to really think about much else. I wasn’t even that tired upon finishing the race and naturally assumed that the next time would be just as easy. I was wrong. A year later, I was thoroughly bored by mile two and aimlessly staring down Lake Shore Drive. I had a whole lotta road ahead of me and was already beginning to lose my motivation. How would I ever finish this race? That’s when I began to notice all the other thousands of runners pounding the same pavement. Some were young. Some old. Some questionable as to whether they fully understood what they had signed up for. I saw more than a few individuals heaving as if they had never run a mile in their entire lives, let alone ten of them. Were they doing the race merely for that sweet jumbotron fix as I was?

Either way, people watching during the Soldier Field 10 has become my dirty little secret to success. The racers come in all shapes and sizes, but I have definitely noticed a few familiar types. Most annoy me, but then again, most people do no matter if I’m trekking against Lake Michigan or checking out at Target. (I’m talking to you, Ms. “Accidentally” Ram Me In The Backside With Your Shopping Cart.) Below is my unscientific list of the most common runner archetypes:

1. The absent-minded professor. Usually over the age of forty, this runner is totally in his own world. He’s a bit on the slow side, which is fine, until you try to pass him. The instant you attempt to go around him, he moves over to block you. Then you’re forced to awkwardly stop short to avoid tripping up both you and him. This cycle can repeat a number of times before you finally are free of his invisible prison.

2. The cat burglar. This runner is usually a dude, too, but much younger and faster. He’s the guy who is constantly trying to squeeze himself through the spaces between other runners, yet is rarely successful in accomplishing this feat without knocking into one or both of the unsuspecting victims. Moreover, this dude barely utters an apology and just keeps on running to inflict more carnage on those in front of him.

3. The chatty Kathys. As the name implies, these runners are women, and they always come in packs of two. Quite frankly, the chatty Kathys amaze me. I don’t know how they do it. It’s hard enough for me to weakly mouth thank you to anyone who cheers me on during the race, let alone engage in a full-blown conversation while running. Also impressive is that these women typically move at a fairly fast clip.

4. The tease. This runner can be male or female. Regardless of gender, they both display what I consider very bad running manners: they speed up and then slow down without any warning whatsoever… So here’s the deal. I oftentimes use other runners to keep my pace; however, I try to do it discreetly by running in sync behind them. I’ll shadow someone who I think is a good match when all of sudden they slow down two or three clips for no apparent reason. Or maybe I’m not as stealthy as I think, and they’d rather not have my annoying ass following them to the finish line.

5. The odd birds. This is the category in which I lump runners who can’t be explained any other way. Case in point? Tutu lady. I noticed this woman as I was on my way back to the stadium, though I heard her before I actually saw her. To my left I overheard a young man politely comment, “Nice hula,” to another runner. Okay, he’s a dude and didn’t know the difference between a tutu and a hula skirt. Yet instead of graciously accepting his compliment, or gently correcting him on his misused terminology, I listened as someone barked back, “It’s not a hula! It’s a tutu! Because I’m tutu cute!” I immediately had to know who this person was and turned around to find a fifty-something woman in braids and a handmade orange and navy tutu – it’s the Soldier Field 10, after all – huffing and puffing down the path. After that, I couldn’t escape her. Though she didn’t quite look the part of a runner, she definitely could keep her pace with me. She also made it her personal mission to verbally berate anyone who had decided to take a breather and walk. “Come on! Don’t stop now!” she would scream at the bewildered participants. Even I was afraid to slow down for fear that she would publicly chastise me.

The Soldier Field 10 has become a tradition of sorts for me. It marks my official start to the summer. It allows me the opportunity to come home and see family and friends. And it reminds me that running is about more than just winning… It’s about making fun of people.

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

24
May

Graduation time is here. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed students the world over are donning their caps and gowns as they bid farewell to high school and college. It’s also that time of year when noted celebrities give profound commencement speeches about the purpose of life and why you should floss your teeth everyday.

My opinion? Those lovely speeches are wasted on the wrong people.

Once upon a time, I too was a high school senior. In fact, I was the one giving a speech at my graduation, as I was the class salutatorian. Being salutatorian is a dubious honor at best. Does anyone care – or even remember – who placed second in a presidential election? Or more importantly, the Super Bowl? Yet you would think that since I fared well academically I would have been off and running come college, ready to tackle the world with both arms.

Nope.

I floundered during my first few years of school. In fact, I failed college, both academically and pretty much in every other way as well. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing or what I wanted. I only went to my *first* college anyway because my best friend applied there. She decided to do the pre-med sequence, and that sounded pretty good, so I did, too. I figured that becoming a doctor was the natural choice for me. After all, I had won my high school’s science award. However, not only did I perform horribly in every single one of those classes, but also I realized that I wasn’t that upset about it. Yet it was the not being upset that upset me. Even more disturbing was that the courses I enjoyed the most were – horror of horrors – the acting classes I was taking to fulfill my general education requirements. What the hell was happening to me?

I applaud the college freshmen that know exactly what they want out of life and how they’re going to get it. I fell into the latter category, though; I was an eighteen-year-old with a long road ahead of one or two hits and many misses before I realized what my life should be. A total of four schools and two degrees later, I am just finally beginning to somewhat feel that maybe I’m perhaps getting close to possibly figuring out what I might be good at… I think. Moreover, if you had told my eighteen-year-old self that I would one day be a writer living in LA, she probably wouldn’t have believed it. Partly because I never thought a career could be something that didn’t feel like work, and partly because I never thought I would willingly move somewhere with worse traffic than Chicago.

That’s not to say everyone should go about it my own winding way. On the contrary, I took a few licks here and there that I would very much like to forget. Yet those mistakes taught me the most valuable lessons. FYI, never enter into a living arrangement with a friend who is less than 100% financially reliable. If even once you have to convince yourself, “No, really, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” then run – don’t walk – from the leasing office. Now that’s something I wish someone had told me when I graduated high school.

Taking stock of your life at the end of high school or college is like getting a car wash in the middle of a Midwestern winter. It’ll be covered with ice and salt again in fifteen minutes, so what’s the point? Graduates may think they know it all, but the truth of the matter is that it takes a few years – or decades – before the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s exactly when those eloquent speeches might actually mean something to us.

For all of you who now pull all-nighters because of a colicky baby rather than a chem final… For anyone who prefers to blow off steam with a nice cup of chamomile tea instead of a keg stand… Now’s the time to hit up YouTube. Search “commencement speech.” At the top of the results is Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address. Take a minute (or 15 of them) to watch it.

Done yet? Cool. Pretty much everything he says is awesome, and certainly his words regarding death now hold a greater poignancy because of his passing last October. However, I’m drawn to the part about connecting the dots. As he states, you can’t connect them going forward. Most twenty-two year olds have accumulated zero dots to connect anyway, so they can’t really understand what he means, but hopefully the rest of us do. Looking back on the years since high school and college, can you see the connections? Regardless of any missteps you may have taken along the way, can you see the picture of your life taking shape? It’s like those dotted images in kiddie coloring books. It can be difficult at times to make out what it’s supposed to be, but then all of sudden you see the blooming rose or soaring eagle. If you too can look back at your life and see something beautiful, then congratulations. Better than any 4.0 GPA or graduation honor, that’s something truly worth celebrating.

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

17
May

As mentioned in a previous post, I live across the hall from two rather harmless yet somewhat bothersome twenty-something boys. Rarely do I see them; however, I certainly can hear them. All. The. Time.

Contrary to what you might think, I’m not all too happy about this. Sure, at first it was mildly amusing to listen to their in-depth analysis of the latest Lil Wayne album, or why Scarlett Johansson is hotter than Kate Upton, but the novelty wears off quickly.

However, last week I overheard a rather intense exchange between my neighbors, which I immediately knew I must record for posterity. I have transcribed their conversation so that their pearls of wisdom may be remembered always by future generations. It is this sage advice that I now share with you. To protect the identities of these young men, I will refer to them only as Dum and Dee. Without further adieu…

Dum: “Dude, I don’t know what the f*ck is going on! I can’t figure out this chick!”

Dee: “Whaz up, bro?”

Dum: “It’s this girl. She’s driving me crazy, yo. It’s nuthin’ like how it was with Allison. Dude, that chick was awesome. She paid for everything.”

Dee: “Bro, you call the shots. It doesn’t work when a chick is in control.”

Dum: “Dude, I know! But I don’t know what to do with this f*ckin’ chick. I keep tellin’ her that we’re just gonna do it casual, but she won’t listen to me.”

Dee: “Dude, the man calls the shots. That’s only way it works.”

Dum: “Yeah… I dunno. I kinda like it that she’s being so aggressive, ya know? Think I kinda like her.”

Dee: “Then just do you, bro. Just f*ckin’ do you.”

Dum: “Yeah…”

Dee: “No. Seriously, dude. Listen to me. If you like… I dunno, like, if you f*ckin’ like to go hiking and sh*t, then that’s your thing. So just do your thing.”

Dum: “Right… I dunno. She got me all confused and sh*t.”

Dee: “Bro, I’m tellin’ ya… Chicks can smell out that sh*t from a mile away. If you don’t do you, they will pick up on that sh*t like that!”

(Snaps fingers.)

Dum: “Yeah… Think I should call her?”

Dee: “F*ck, no. Let her call you.”

Dum: “Yeah, you’re right. Thanks, bro.”

Dee: “Dude, I got ya.”

(Indiscernible sound. Possibly a man hug.)

The end.

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10
May

I have a secret… I’m not a fan of deep dish pizza.

Whew! That felt good to get off my chest. Because I’m from Chicago, most everyone assumes that I must love Chicago-style pizza, which isn’t the case. Sure, I’ve had it dozens of times, but that’s only because I am a fan of eating, and that typically trumps any so-so feelings I may have about what I’m inhaling. Come to think of it, that’s exactly why I’m not a deep dish gal. I become nauseated after just a few slices. That gooey, cheesy goodness is amazing going down… until it settles into my stomach like a pile of bricks. I hate feeling hungry, but being overfull is even worse.

Luckily, this hasn’t been an issue since moving to California. Los Angeles has its own eating culture. I know of just a few decent pizza places around town, all of which serve New York-style slices; however, LA abounds with Mexican and Asian-inspired eateries. And raw restaurants. And In-N-Out. So when you can’t stomach one more sea vegetable salad, just grab a double-double cheeseburger animal style instead.

Yet not too long ago a friend said that she wanted to celebrate her birthday at an “authentic” Chicago-style pizza joint. She had mentioned the restaurant Masa before, and I’ll admit that my curiosity was piqued as to whether it could actually replicate this staple of Chicago cuisine. I may not love deep dish pizza, but that doesn’t stop me from getting super snobby about it. Alas, the pizzeria was on the other side of town. The only time I’m ever that far east is when I get a jury summons and am forced by law to show up; the odds were slim to none that I would ever be motivated enough to drive there and see if it had the goods. However, it’s an unspoken rule that we each get to call the shots when our birthday rolls around, so Chicago-style pizza it would be. I prepared by fasting the day of to ensure that my belly would be grateful to have anything filling it by that evening.

Masa was packed. Though as strange as this may sound, I love crowded restaurants. Maybe it’s because subconsciously I know they must have pretty good food if so many people want it. Or perhaps it’s the positive energy of people relaxing and enjoying themselves with friends and family. Whatever it is, I dig it. Plus, I was there with some of my best friends, so the night was off to a very positive start.

Soon enough our entire party had arrived and were served the restaurant’s complimentary bread. Have I mentioned how much I love complimentary anything? Free bread, free chips and salsa, those little mints at the hostess counter… I am on it like white on rice. And even though I would probably shop there anyway, it doesn’t hurt that Trader Joe’s has at least two free sample tables every time I pick up groceries. So yeah, I was quickly becoming a fan of Masa.

Then came the pizzas.

They were ginormous. They were also vegetarian-friendly, so I had my pick of three steaming monstrosities. I eventually decided on the one with the most veggies. More vegetables equaled less cheese and sauce. Less cheese and sauce equaled better odds of dodging indigestion. Per usual, I inhaled it. Couldn’t help myself. Not sure if the food was actually that good, or I just have major willpower issues, but my first slice was gone in less than two minutes. I knew I should have stopped there, but didn’t. Not wanting my carb-fueled serotonin rush to end, I abandoned all restraint and grabbed a second slice. This time it was a solid block of nothing but cheese, sauce and crust; I finished it quicker than the first. I would have happily indulged in a third slab of that deep dish deliciousness except I noticed that no one else was taking another piece. Though my gluttony instincts are strong, my vanity is stronger. I didn’t want to look like a total pig in front of my friends, so instead I waited until I was home to devour another slice. I was even thisclose to eating a fourth. However, food coma finally set in and I crashed before I was able to scarf it down.

Yet miraculously I woke up feeling absolutely fine. No deep dish hangover for this gal. So maybe that’s the key to eating Chicago-style pizza… Just stuff yourself so full that you pass out. It’s much easier to deal with the repercussions of overeating when you’re unconscious. I wish someone had told me this years ago.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

12
Apr

Certain things make me nervous. Like seeing eighty-year-olds behind the wheel. Or watching the Blackhawks when Corey Crawford’s in the net. Running out of coffee creamer is enough to spike my blood pressure, but by far the worst is making a call to customer service.

For one, they have the power. As much as we would like to think that threatening to cancel our service would make them tremble with fear and guilt… They don’t care. I know this to be true because I’ve worked in customer service, or rather I’ve worked in places with customers. Most stores emphasize that you should consider the customer king, but at the end of the day, we all know the deal. No one person is going to single-handedly take down Target or Bed Bath & Beyond.

I once worked in a clothing boutique, and for the record, twenty-something women are the worst customers ever. Every week, I would get some chick trying to return a dress that not only looked worn, but also reeked of smoke and alcohol. Apparently you don’t go clubbing in the same outfit twice. So I would refuse the return. And she would pout. And I would just stare at her with a smile. And eventually she would angrily stuff that disgusting dress back into her bag and stomp out of the store. Why? Because I had the power.

Secondly, I hate when customer service representatives bombard you with countless “offers.” It’s like walking into Trader Joe’s for a loaf of bread and being pummeled with apples, eggs and jars of salsa as you’re trying to check out. Doesn’t feel good. The pseudo enthusiasm in a customer service rep’s voice as he informs me with rapid-fire speech about the great price I can get for bundling my bills is both commendable and slightly confusing. Is basic cable really that exciting? Then I burst his bubble and tell him no anyway.

So… I had to call customer service the other day. My internet bill had increased by 20% in the last two months, and I wanted to passive-aggressively express my disapproval. The first guy I got on the line was your classic CC rep. Way too excited about his job and way too eager to sell me services that I didn’t want. After a series of polite yet firm refusals, I finally got him to explain what was going on with my bill. To my surprise, he then told me that I could decrease my bill by getting rid of an unnecessary feature. Before I knew it, he was transferring me to another department to make the change and thanking me for my business.

However, my conversation with the new rep started off a little rocky. She went through the same spiel as the first guy and again I responded with “no,” “no” and “no.” Was this some kind of bait and switch situation? I knew it was too good to be true. Yet before I could hang up, she asked that I hold while she consulted her supervisor… A few minutes later, she got back on the line and informed me that they could reduce my bill to less than half of its current price!

Needless to say, I was highly suspicious. I hadn’t threatened to cancel my service once, so why was she being so nice to me? That’s when she asked what I did for a living, and we got to talking. I found out that she lived in Orange County. I mentioned that I had attended grad school there. Then we started chatting about how bizarre the entertainment industry can be. She told me about a trip she took with her daughter to see all the fancy shops on Rodeo Drive, but unfortunately it was cold and rainy that weekend… That’s when it dawned on me that this woman wasn’t just a customer service rep. She was a real person. This was merely her job, and as it is for many of us, it didn’t define who she was.

We ended up having a perfectly lovely conversation. Also, I’ll now be saving over $300 a year on my internet service. Thanks, AT&T!

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

15
Mar

 

Trash talk is fun, right? Politicians do it. Athletes do it. Morbidly obese fifty-year-old men that live in their mothers’ basements do it. Just go to any sports site and you can waste an entire day – “waste” being the operative word here – reading the hilarious and sometimes crazy scary comments that are written back and forth between the super obsessed fans of any professional sport. Yet should my team lose, I can still save face because even if I secretly suspect that I have the He-Man power to will my team to win or jinx them to fail, I know in the depths of my mere mortal heart that I had nothing to do with either outcome.

But it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame when you’re playing the sport; then you have no one to blame but your unskilled self. I don’t usually trash talk about my physical prowess because, well, I don’t often have the opportunity. I run solo, so there’s no exercise partner to eat my dust, and it seems a tad inappropriate to ridicule the elderly man I see wobbling down the sidewalk in a full three-piece suit and cane everyday since I already scare the bejeezus out of him whenever I whiz by. I think he might be hard of hearing so my derisive efforts would go unappreciated anyway. And though I could kick some serious sun salutation ass, it seems wrong to brag about it given the whole namaste shtick they preach in yoga.

So I best I can do is trash talk about my pseudo skills in pseudo sports such as the fine game of bowling. Now before some of you out there start hooting and hollering that bowling is a sport… Calm down. I will retract my statement when bowling is added to the roster of Olympic events or a Congressional probe is launched to investigate the alleged doping of those who live and die by the pin. That’s when bowling becomes a real sport.

Anyway… I did a lot of bowling as a kid, yet have no idea why. I don’t know if my dad was banking on me becoming the next Ernie McCracken or it was simply a way to entertain me for a few hours; regardless, I was at the alley a lot. I also bowled quite a bit with friends. Some adolescents get their kicks swiping a bottle of whiskey from the old man’s liquor cabinet or seeing how cool they look smoking in the girls’ bathroom. My crew preferred a little pin action, and eventually I became cocky in my bowling clout.

But that was a long-ish time ago. Now I bowl maybe once every two or three years. Not often enough to keep me in my prime; however, though my actual skills may have deteriorated over the years, my bravado has not. So come last weekend when I had the chance to throw down, I was ready to obliterate my competition, and I let him know it. More than once in the days leading up to our bowling face-off, I warned my rival of his inevitable demise. I think the words “I am going to destroy you” might have even left my mouth at some point. His response? An amiable “okay.”

My first ball was a gutter.

Happens to everyone. I immediately shook it off and announced that I just needed to warm up a bit. Soon enough, I got into a groove and was consistently taking down eight or nine pins each round. I even got a couple of spares. Still, I knew I couldn’t make good on my trash talk until that elusive first strike.

That’s when my foe went ahead and got one before me. I could feel a thin layer of sweat beginning to form over my body, and it wasn’t from physical exertion. What was going on here? I hadn’t bowled a game without making at least one strike… ever. At least that’s the way I remembered it in my mind. Time to rally.

And I got one. Meaning, I got one pin. I was imploding fast. Though I had been leading throughout the game, my opponent suddenly overtook me in the eighth round, and I never recovered. Nor did I ever get a strike.

“Wanna play again?” he excitedly asked. Damn right I did. Now my pride was on the line.

The second game went a little like this: he bowled either a spare or a strike each time, and I continued down my spiral of shame and didn’t even crack a hundred. Needless to say, he won – by a lot – though I was put out of my misery fairly quickly because of his numerous strikes. So did he rant? Did he rave? Did he shout, “In your face, sucka!” while doing a happy dance around my humiliated self? Nope.

The best trash talk is when you don’t have to say anything at all.

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

01
Mar

Nothing puts me in a good mood faster than hearing a great song on the radio. And when I hear a great song, I must blast it. And because LA has fabulous weather eleven months of the year, I must blast it with my windows down.

However, I do abide by the golden rule and never blare my radio while at a stop. All bets are off if I’m cruising down the 405, but at a light I instantly turn down whatever song to which I’m rocking out. I know most people don’t love Ke$ha the way I do. Yet not everyone follows my example. Many a time have I been trapped at a light and forced to suffer through someone’s fondness for Nickelback or Lil Wayne. When that happens, one has three options. One, you play it cool and do nothing. Two, you employ the passive-aggressive route and roll up your windows. Or three, you go the aggressive-aggressive route and turn up your radio to out-blast them. I usually do all of the above. At first I try to ignore them, but soon enough it’s clear that my tacit disapproval of their musical taste isn’t helping my situation. Upon having to suffer through yet another refrain of “How You Remind Me,” I finally crack and roll up my windows. But by then it’s too late; the song is firmly lodged in my head, and in an effort to banish said perversion from my mind, I dial up whatever tune is currently playing no matter how much I may hate it in comparison.

So the other day, I was driving along when the flow of traffic suddenly slowed to about ten miles per hour. Construction. Turning down “Party Rock Anthem” a notch to perform a quick mental ETA recalculation, I noticed a car ahead of me the next lane over. What caught my eye of this otherwise nondescript Honda Civic was the origin of its license plate: Maine. Hmm, don’t see that too often out here. Though because I have undiagnosed ADD, as soon as I noticed it, I forgot it again and turned my attention to inhaling my Shamrock Shake. All was right with the world when at some point it dawned on me that I was humming along to Adele… except that Adele wasn’t playing on my radio. I immediately looked around to see who in my vicinity was crying; obviously some fellow driver had to be going through a very painful breakup because as far as I was concerned that was the only reason why they would crank “Someone Like You.” Making a little more headway in my lane, I realized that Maineiac was the said offender. As I came side by side with this vehicle, I was shocked to find a dude driving it. (Yes, I assumed it was a chick.) That’s when Maineiac casually leaned his cobalt blue Adidas tracksuit clothed arm out the window and flicked a few ashes from his cigarette. Say what? A dude from Maine with a preference for Adele, Adidas tracksuits and Marlboro Golds? Who was this strange creature?

I was so intrigued by this odd mix of qualities that I almost rear-ended the car in front of me. Traffic had now come to a virtual stop, and we were rolling only inches at a time. Unbeknownst to me, the other lane was closed up ahead, so Maineiac decided that the best thing to do was brake, lean halfway out his window and give me the evil eye.

Full disclosure: I can let my road rage get the best of me from time to time. I admit that on more than one occasion I have denied some jerk from cutting in front of me, but really I’m just trying to make it a teachable moment for them. Apparently they forgot the old adage of no cuts, no butts, no coconuts. However, this was not one of those times. I wasn’t even given a chance to go Hulk Anna before Maineiac went ahead and did it for me. I quickly turned from curious to confused. Why was he being such a… well… douchebag? Can someone who blasts Adele and adorns himself in Adidas tracksuits even have the right to be a douchebag? I had no other choice but to let him in… and burst out laughing. He did not take kindly to my response and gave me a lovely one-fingered thank you in return. A minute later, we cleared the roadblock, and Maineiac went speeding off into the horizon.

So what’s the takeaway from this tale? I dunno. Nothing I suppose… Other than dudes from Maine who blast Adele and wear Adidas tracksuits and smoke Marlboros are douchebags. Just in case you ever run into one.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

12
Jan

We can breathe a collective sigh of relief… The holidays are over.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, life as we know it becomes a smorgasbord of food, presents and parties. For a few blissful weeks we forget the diets, grudges and budgets to delight in delicious meals, time with loved ones and our plethora of new gifts and gadgets. At least that’s the way it usually starts out. However, this spirit of festivity typically warps into something less jolly once we begin to notice the expanding waistlines, inflated credit cards bills and the annoying way that our mother has to repeatedly ask if we’re taking our vitamins. I’m not ten years old anymore, Mom. Now go make me a sandwich.

But really I love my family. It might have taken moving two thousand miles away to realize that fact, but it’s true. When we get together, it’s always a good time. We eat. We laugh. We watch football. Does it get any better than that?

Sure, things can get a little tense from time to time. It’s the holidays after all, and we’re family after all. But it’s not religion or politics that tears us apart.

It’s games.

My cousins are big game people. I don’t mean that they like to shoot lions and rhinos; they merely like to kill their opponents in Scattergories and Trivial Pursuit. Their closet is filled with every game known to man; they don’t discriminate. Strategy games. Knowledge games. Spatial recognition games. If it has dice, cards or play pieces, my cousins have it.

The game playing always starts innocently enough. Usually we sit down with some yummy snacks, a little holiday music in the background and smiles all around. Yet within minutes, the mood begins to change. The jovial small talk shifts to an uneasy silence. With the exception of “Did you go already?” no one speaks.

That is until your own flesh and blood screws you over during their next turn.

“Shoot, I needed that!”

“I’m sorry.”

“Great, now I have nowhere to go.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Well, I might as well just quit. I can’t do anything anymore.”

“I’m sorry.”

The season of goodwill toward men? Apparently not when you have twenty-five points riding on your connection from San Francisco to Miami. (Confused? Pick up Ticket to Ride, and you will know only too well what I’m talking about.) You may get a “sorry,” but we all know that your cousin isn’t really sorry. If she were sorry, she wouldn’t have just blocked your only route to Phoenix. You may share the same DNA, but that doesn’t mean your family won’t throw you under the train tracks. Literally.

Slightly more fun is when you’re the one doing the mass killing. Of course, you specifically asked to play TriBond because you rock the trivia games, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward when your little cousin is miserable because she can’t get out of the start circle. Still… Being a winner just feels so good. Not a chance are you going to throw the game.

But that’s just it. It’s just a game. A game that has enough power to sever familial ties built on years of love and understanding… Oh well, at least we have eleven months to repair the damage before the next round of devastation ensues.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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