Preparation for Outdoor Curling

It’s time for another curling update.

My ongoing foray into the crazy, impossible, inviting world of curling continues. Now in outer space!

Okay, maybe not outer space, but almost as crazy. A place where no sane human would ever date curl: outside.

Sure, the sport of curling started as an outdoor venture. It started in Scotland, because the crazy fucks who invented golf needed to keep themselves occupied during the half of the year when all of the water traps had frozen over.

Fun history fact: the reason Scots came up with all of the crazy sports (have you SEEN caber tossing?) is because the English wouldn’t let them have weapons. This was before weapons took the shooty, shooty, bang-bang form, so no weapons meant no pointy objects. So while the English nobles were perfecting things like archery and jousting, the Scots were busy making sports with crooked sticks and rocks. And telephone poles.

Over the past 200 years, however, people had the wise idea to move ice sports indoors, which is how I’ve always curled. But much like the NHL moving a few games a year to the local NFL stadium, there’s always gonna be some wisenheimer who creates, and a bunch of dumbasses like me who sign up for, a chance to experience it “au natural.”

Wait, doesn’t “au natural” mean naked? We’re not going to be curling nude, are we? Is it too late to cancel my trip?

Enter the Sawtooth Outdoor Bonspiel, abbreviated S.O.B. for good reason. Located in the bustling metropolis of Stanley (population 67) in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. Stanley claims the coldest average temperature in the lower 48 states. So, you know, they could probably get away with holding the bonspiel in May. But no, they choose the coldest month in the coldest spot.

It seemed like a really good idea back in September while we endured 100-degree heat in Sacramento. I’d been threatening to check this thing out from the moment I heard about it. But every year, something came up. Things like that other bonspiel in April. Or that family trip to Disneyland I was going to take a day off work for. Or, holy shit, how cold did you say it gets there? Negative five? Isn’t that when molecules stop moving?

But this year we had the typical toxic-masculinity, dick-measuring throwdown during broomstacking (the mandated drinking and bullshit session after each curling match). You know how it goes. “Dude, that sounds epic.” “Would you be in if I got a team together?” “Oh, I’d totally do that.” “What about you?” “C’mon man, gets your testicles out of the jar on your wife’s shelf!” “‘Samatta you? I’d fucking do it fucking shirtless.”

“Hey guys, we should totally open a bar!”

In the end, there were two of us waiting with fingers poised above keyboards and refresh buttons when registration opened at noon on November 1. Good thing, too. Cause registration filled up in less than one minute! I didn’t get in. According to the waitlist, my entry was received at 12:00:57, putting me second on the waitlist. Who woulda guessed so many people could get man-shamed into freezing their testicles off?

Fortunately one of my teammates made it in before me. He’s the try-hard amongst us and woulda been the fastest fingers, regardless. Had probably already calibrated his iWatch with Big Ben and called his internet provider fifteen times that morning to ensure he’s getting the proper megabytes per nanosecond. But to add to his usual alphaness, he had moved to Boise since our throwdown. Joined the club that organizes the SOB, got in their good graces. Learned all the dos and don’ts. Hell, for all I know he was sitting next to the guy who pushed the “go live” button on the website. So we were in, for sure.

To be clear, I don’t think he moved to Idaho specifically to ensure our entry into the outdoor bonspiel, but I’m also not sure it didn’t at least play a part in his decision process.

What ensued was 2-3 months of hilarious preparation. Three Cali dudes with no fucking clue about what to do when there might be white-stuff-that-is-neither-asbestos-nor-cocaine on the ground, led by a recent transplant experiencing his first autumn out of state, sending us constant updates about what 35 degrees looks like, how to dress in 30 degree weather and finally, in December, pictures of genuine snow.

As if being the coldest place in the known universe wasn’t enough, they also schedule draw times when the sun isn’t out. Even if it’s below freezing, the sun can melt the top layer of ice, which will make it very slippery. It sucks for curling, too, as the rock wants to sink into the water. You have to throw a lot harder, with a lot less control. A year ago, I curled in Southern California when it was 120 outside. As hard as they cranked the coolers, they couldn’t get the ice below 26-28 degrees instead of the usual 22 degrees. The result was virtually unplayable ice.

The S.O.B. accounts for these potential issues with nature by scheduling two draws in the morning and two at night. You might play your first game at 6:30 AM and your second one at 9:00 PM. At least there’s supposed to be free beer for the fifteen hours in between. We saw videos of previous S.O.B.s where the temperature for the first stone was -5. The high that day was 12. Yikes!

All kidding aside, I’ve been to the snow plenty of times. I can handle temperatures in the twenties with just a layer or two. One time we rented a cabin for New Year’s and it got down to the teens. I wore a light jacket when we went for a walk.

But I don’t know if I’ve ever been in negatives. Plus, this time we’re not just walking from the car to the house. We’re standing out on a frozen pond for two hours at a time. And while the other guys on my team are going to be walking back and forth and sweeping a lot, I’m going to be standing around getting no cardio. Hey, wait a second!

Guess I’m not just throwing two t-shirts and a pair of jeans in a duffel bag for this trip like I do for the majority of my bonspiels. We’re going full-sized suitcase and nothin’ but jackets.

The try-hard wanted us all to dress alike. He’d been assured that teams at this crazy bonspiel come up with costumes. You’re supposed to pick a motif and go all-in. So long as the motif isn’t tank-tops and g-strings. At a normal bonspiel, tank tops might actually be a thing. You’d be surprised how hot it gets when you’re sweeping a lot. But cargo shorts are about as skimpy as I’ve seen people go for the lower torso. Nobody wants to see g-strings. Actually, scratch that. There are a number of very attractive professional curlers, of both genders, who would probably look damn good curling in a g-string. But inevitably, the people most likely to wear a g-string are the people you probably don’t want to see in a g-string. It’s like when I was 19 years old and excited to see the nude sunbathers in European cities. But all I saw at the English Gardens in Munich were a bunch of 90-year-old scrotums hanging down past 90-year-old knees. Then it started to rain and the 90-year-old dudes took shelter under the same tree as me and started bending over to put their clothes back on. Some things you can never unsee.

In addition to this new “team costume” dictum, we also needed to come up with a team name. It’s tough. You want to be funny but not obscene. Original, but not obscure. There are tons of variations on the words sticks and stones and sweeping (rhymes with sleeping) and tapping and hitting and magical buttons. Okay, I haven’t seen any references to the center of the house being a clitoris, but maybe I just haven’t been to enough bonspiels.

Since we were going to be curling in sub-freezing conditions, some of us wanted to go the shrinkage route. I wanted the full team name to be SHRINKAGE!!! (with each exclamation point being a smaller font size than the previous one). Try-hard thought it was too vulgar. A bit too on-the-nose. Double entendres are fine. Single entendres are tacky.

He similarly kiboshed Shrinking Sticks. And Frozen Dicks. And Cock Up My Ass.

Okay, we didn’t actually suggest the last one. Not really curling or freezing related. But I’m sure he would’ve turned it down.

We finally agreed on Shrink n’ Dinks. I tried, once again, to amend it to Shrinkin’ Dinks, but was again denied.

It turns out there’s a beer made in Idaho called “Cali Creamin’.” Seeing as we are the only team from California, Try-hard thought Cali Creamin would be a good name for us. It’s a super well-known beer in Idaho, so most people in attendance would be in on the joke. Although really, how is Shinkin’ Dinks too offensive but Cali Creamin’ is perfectly acceptable? I had questions as to this particular line d’entrende.

Then we had to decide on costume. Try-hard wanted us to throw random NFL jerseys over our layered clothes. Not really sure if that’s a motif or a path of least resistance. Although I suppose it fits our original team name, because if any group of men have got a case of the Shrinkin’ Dinks, it’s all those ‘roiders in the NFL.

But while broomstacking one day, the other three of us decided to look up warm clothing options. What we needed, somebody posited, was something like a onesie. You know, those red jammies with the white footsies that kids wear. If only there were grown-up onesies.

It turns out there are grown-up onesies. Complete with the back door. They have wonderful wording on them, such as “Moose Caboose” and “Bear Cheek” and “Special Delivery.”

We decided to go with “No Peeking” for the lead, “Trap Door” for the second (in absentia), “Special Delivery” for the third (not shown) , and I would go with “Tail End” to wrap up our order. After the fact, our third went for “Tailgate.” Had he told me, I might’ve switched to “Moose Caboose,” but mine was already ordered.

Then we wonder… should we let the other guy know or should we just order them?

We ended up splitting the difference. We didn’t let him know until after the were ordered, so he couldn’t say no. But eventually we let him in on the secret. He was whining that he wouldn’t know what else to pack.

Which put us right back to team name. We now wanted to make reference to the back door. In curling, there is a shot called “Back Line Weight,” where you throw just hard enough to make it to the very back of the house without going out. It’s useful when you want to knock the opponent’s stone back but not remove it entirely, so that if the other team tries to knock yours out, there’s backing. So I suggested “Back Line Weight” or “Beware the Back Line.” Somebody else suggested “Back of House” or Back House Strategy,” both of which refer to the area of the house (bullseye) behind the button (middle).

The guy in charge of our name combined a few of our ideas and the next thing I knew, we were listed as “Back Door Strategy.” Uh, hello? Shrinkage is bad, but blatant anal sex references are okay? I’m surprised he didn’t go with “Creamin’ the Back Door.”
This time the three of us who enjoy the entendres pushed back. Back Door is too over the top. In the end, after months of round and round, we went with “On the Butt-on.” It’s a curling shot. When all else fails, just put the stone on the button. Of course, if it was so easy to do, then I’d win a lot more games.

At this point, we were ready to go. Seventy layers of clothing and 4-wheel drive rentals and onesies with back doors and “Put it On the Butt-on” in more ways than one.
Come back next week for a recap of how it all went.

Part Two Here.

Part Three Here.

Drinks on Friday

I went out for some drinks last Friday night.

That’s it. End of story.

Oh, you want more?

At my age, that could pretty much be a post by itself. What was once so mundane as to be rote now requires a notarized writ of release, followed by a full physical and psychiatric evaluation.

But at least I get to spend the rest of the weekend patting myself on the back. Which isn’t easy to do with a goddamned hangover. Does anyone have any Advil?

It’s not like I’ve become a complete recluse. I’ll have a beer before bed sometimes. Our household made it through not one, but two bottles of Booze Nog in December. Scratch that, I just checked the fridge and we only made it through one and a half bottles. Maybe by the end of February we’ll find the promised land.

The kitchen table isn’t the only place I drink. Wife and I are pretty good at coordinating calendars to allow one of us to escape for an evening once in a great while. Just never together at the same time, as that would necessitate a second mortgage to pay for a babysitter.

Yes, thirty-year-old me, I have to plan and coordinate my drinking endeavors weeks in advance. Yes, even if it’s just happy hour. You got something to say to me? Guess what? You’re also going to have gout in the future. Enjoy your shellfish while you can, motherfucker!

I usually meet a particular friend for drinks after work once a month or so. Back when we were single, we met a few times a week. We’d have a couple pitchers of beer on a regular day, maybe add a third or a fourth on a Friday or a Monday. The first Monday of the NFL season was often brutal because they do a double header. That’s seven hours of football. Do you know how much Bud Light one must consume to stay glued to a barstool for seven hours of football?

Sure, we could’ve taken a breather. Only watched one game. Maybe jog around the block during commercial breaks. But that’s heathen quitter talk.

Occasionally, a text would emerge from one of our phones around 6:30 the next morning to the tune of, “Upon further reflection, perhaps those last two pitchers of beer weren’t strictly necessary.”

The first four pitchers weren’t mentioned.

But that was then. This is now.

Now we meet once a month, assuming we can fit it into our schedules. We both work 7:00-3:00 jobs, so we meet up at 3:30, have two beers, a firm handshake, and we’re on our merry ways.

Two beers, I said. Not two pitchers. But you wouldn’t know it, the way my body feels the next day.

To be fair, the beer I drink now tends to be of higher alcohol content than the old stuff. Since I drink less often, I might as well enjoy it. The goal is no longer to gorge myself on as much liquid as possible. The goal isn’t to merge with the barstool over the course of an evening.

So in terms of alcohol content, my per-beer average is up. But I only tell myself that when I’m standing in awe of my lack of tolerance.

I used to scoff at those BAC charts that tell you how many drinks you can have based on your weight. For instance, I’m 220ish pounds, so it tells me that if I have three beers in an hour, I’ll be impaired. At my fifth beer, I’m inebriated. That used to be a joke to me. Who is wasted after only five beers? Lightweight!

Hey, I just had to double-check those BAC numbers. Did you know that there are some BAC charts with a designation beyond “Legally Intoxicated” at .08? They list “Possible Death” starting at .30. I mean, that’s good to know, but it seems odd to put on the chart. Presumably, I’m looking at this chart to see if I can drive a car. So I’m probably in the .06-.10 range. Who the hell is checking their BAC when they’re in the .30 range? Can they even read at that point? I think the BAC people just put that in as a challenge.

One year at Camptathalon, we had a Breathalyzer. Don’t ask. We decided against making a competition of it. Sure, the primary competition most floated was a “guess your BAC” game, which shouldn’t be too dangerous. But a bunch of dudes, miles from civilization, trying to compete for the “best” result on a Breathalyzer is rife with problems.

“What’s that? A point-three is potential death? Hold my beer. (And grab me the Everclear.)”

Fortunately I don’t have to worry about possible death. Every chart I’ve seen ends at ten drinks in one hour, at which point my 220-pound ass is only blowing a .16. Possible death doesn’t show up as an option unless you’re under 100 pounds and have eight drinks in an hour. And really, if you’re a grown dude that’s less than a hundred pounds, you might need something to take the edge off.

So I met my friend for a few happy hour beers at around 3:30. I had two pints of beer (sixteen ounces, not those imperial 20-ouncers) followed by a “small” beer, which I assume to be in the 8-10 ounce range. We said our goodbyes and I was off to my next adventure around 5:30.

That next adventure was “Curling Night in America,” one of the worst ways to watch a curling match. It’s a program that NBC runs where they film some non-competitive games between the United States and some hand-selected teams that we invite over because we know we can beat them. You won’t see U.S. vs Canada or U.S. vs. Sweden. Instead, you’ll see Japan and Australia and Italy. Not places known for their curling prowess.

As if blowouts aren’t enough reason to avoid a sporting event, these things are also pre-recorded. The curling matches they’re showing now took place last August. We could totally look up the results if we wanted to. But we don’t, because they’re pointless exhibition games.

I know, who’s ever heard of NBC showing tape-delayed Olympic sports, huh? But “Curling Night in America” is even worse than, say, the Miracle on Ice or, I don’t know, every single Olympics broadcast EVER. Seriously NBC? It’s one thing when the Olympics are on the other side of the world and going on live when we’re all asleep, but the 2016 Olympics were in fucking Brazil, and you still tape-delayed most of them.

But “Curling Night in America” is even worse because it’s edited to fit into a two-hour block. So they’ll randomly skip an entire end of curling, the equivalent of an inning in baseball. So imagine you’re watching the World Series game. They go to commercial after the second out in the first inning and when they come back it’s the bottom of the third. And the score is 3-2, but they don’t bother telling you how the runs were scored. That’s “Curling Night in America.”

It gets even worse at the end of each broadcast, because you know precisely when the game is going to end. They try to build suspense, going to commercial right before the final shot of an end, a make-or-break rock that might tie up the game and force an extra, sudden-death end. Will he make it? Will she miss by an inch? Oh, so enticing.

But then you look at the clock. If it’s 8:35, they’re going to make the shot. If it’s 8:50, we’re coming back from this commercial break to see a miss and be done with it. How lame. That’s why sports are supposed to be broadcast live. If you know ahead of time that the pitcher is only going to throw one more pitch, it takes some of the joy of it. The NFL doesn’t say “Any Given Sunday.. except not this Sunday.”

But “Curling Night in America” works as a good recruiting tool for my curling club. The other people in the bar don’t know we’re exaggerating the oohs and ahhs. So once or twice a month a bunch of us head out to a local cantina and make a ruckus.

That’s where I was headed after my two-and-a-half beers last Friday night.

But first I had to stop for a coffee.

This was hardly the first time I caffeinated in between drinking sessions. On one Friday night when I was a new teacher. I went to happy hour, then hit Starbucks on the way back to school to announce the football game, then went back out to re-buzz after the game. Then it was back to coffee in the morning. I swallowed the cat to catch the bird. I swallowed the bird to catch the spider. I swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I swallowed the fly because cocaine is too fucking expensive.

That’s what that song is about, right?

Of course, back then, I wasn’t drinking the coffee to my buzz. Far from it. I might have been trying to mask it. Or I might’ve just wanted a coffee. Whereas this time, I was thinking,  “Holy crap, I’ve already has a few beers and now I’m going out to get more beers and it’s almost my bedtime. Where can I find some meth?”

Unfortunately, I had to settle for coffee. With cream.

Not milk, mind you. Full fucking cream. I could’ve suckled up to a cow and not noticed much difference. I never get cream. I’m a black coffee guy. But I wanted more calories in my stomach. I wanted more volume in my stomach. If I could’ve ordered a coffee milkshake, I would have.

The hipster batistas were giving me the “gee I wonder why you’re getting coffee” look. Then, as if I wasn’t feeling old already, they asked what I was doing this fine Friday evening. I told them where I was headed. Each one blinked back.

“You know,” I explained, “the pub over on J Street.”

The blinks continued.

How the hell have they not heard of this place? It’s been there for… well, I don’t know how long it’s been there. But I’ve been going there a good twenty years. It was the hip, cool place to hang out after work when I was a restaurant server. Back in… the last century.

Holy crap! Do you mean to tell me the skeevy, decrepit bar filled with septuagenarians that my grandpa went to in 1980 didn’t start as a skeevy, decrepit bar filled with septuagenarians? Was the wrong side of the tracks, at some point, the RIGHT side of the tracks? Hmmm…

This might explain why people keep throwing their hips out at our Learn-to-Curls.

After I power through the large half-coffee-half-cream, spilling a bit for good measure as if the nose-ring-clad, twenty-something baristas hadn’t rolled their eyes at “grandpa” quite enough already, I was on my way to what might as well have been Howard Cunningham’s Leopard Lodge.

Where I promptly ordered a full plate of fish n’ chips. Can’t be too safe.

I also ordered a beer. When I handed over my card, the bartender asked if he should keep the tab open. I told him to keep it open. Mainly out of habit, but partly because it feels so wrong to limit myself. After all, the night was still young, at least according to the clock on the wall and not my internal clock. But maybe the pre-recorded curling match will feature a surprising come from behind and I’ll buy a round for the whole bar. Perhaps being in a bar that I frequented at 28 will make me feel 28 again. Who knows, I could have five more beers and Uber home in the wee hours of the morning.

And then get the look on Wife’s face in the morning when we’re have to come back downtown to get my car, which will probably have a parking ticket by then.

Aw, who was I kidding? I knew exactly how many more beers I was going to have and I had enough cash to pay for it. Sure enough, when I bought that second beer, tummy full of deep-fried breading n’ chips, I closed out the tab.

Then the moment the curling match came back from its final commercial break and the Japanese failed to send it to an extra end, as we knew they would, I beelined it for my car to head home. It was 9:00. I was exhausted!

Then came the harrowing drive home. Hoo-wee. A fog had settled on the land. Only it wasn’t fog. It was dark. I think they call it nighttime? Glare from car headlights blinded me. And it’s hard to recite the alphabet backward, even if I’m sober.

I was practicing all the lines I would tell the cop while I dutifully put my hands at the ten and two positions, except when they were prying open my droopy eyes.

But I also did the math in my head. I ordered my first drink at 3:30. It was now 9:15. I had consumed four-and-a-half beers.

Let’s give me the benefit of the doubt. The beers at the first place were strong, so maybe it’s the equivalent of three of the 4.5% beers mentioned on the BAC chart. And I think the English pub was pouring imperial pints. So maybe those two beers were closer to three.

Still, that’s six beers over a course of six hours. One beer per hour. Okay, the Fuller’s ESB is a whopping 5.5%, so let me be manly and up that number all the way to Shit, I’m going to be bold and round up to seven. Seven full beers!

Let’s put aside the fact that I used to do seven beers in an hour. Not that I’m proud of seven beers in an hour, but hell, even the 100-pound dude would still be marginally alive at that point. Seven beers in an hour, according to the chart, would put me at a .11. Back in the 1970s, that would’ve been barely above legally drunk.

But this time, I didn’t have those seven beers in an hour. I had them in six. The BAC chart says I burn off .015 BAC, or one drink, per hour. So even if I had drank them all in one hour, I would’ve burned off .09 of that .11. Notwithstanding the fish n’ chips, coffee, and cream.

That .02 is also the number the chart gives me for drinking one beer in an hour. Which makes sense, since I’ve effectively had one per hour, with only a slight addendum. Some charts are nice enough to say that, at .02, driving ability might be impaired. Of course, those ones put everything on the chart as “possibly impaired.” They’re trying to make a point.

The more honest ones don’t list the possibly impaired until .04. Because the first thing the cop’s going to do is smell your breath. And the .02 probably ain’t gonna show up.

If a cop had pulled me over that fine evening, I would’ve told him to take me into the drunk tank and he would’ve thought I was just trying to play the “fugue state” game from Breaking Bad.

“Sorry, sir. All you’ve had tonight is fish n’ chips.”

Like I’m Beavis and Butthead in the episode where they get non-alcoholic beer.

“You’re not drunk. You’re just a dumbass.”

I couldn’t agree more, Ozzifer.

How Not To Advertise

My favorite church is up to it again, y’all.

For the uninitiated, I live close to a megachurch. It’s got it’s own empire or something. I mean, I can only assume it’s dotted all the t’s and crossed all the i’s and blown all the proper DMV employees to ensure it stays a non-profit, but it had to be the most conglomeratey non-profit ever to non-profit. What would Jesus drive, if not a Porsche.

What’s that?  We’re not supposed to orally copulate DMV employees? And it’s not even the proper level of government to grant tax-exempt status? Oops. Color me chagrined.

But seriously, this megachurch used to be competing with another megachurch nearby. Then the one near me bought the other one out. Then the two of them merged with a third, just as the good lord intended.

Did I mention that they regularly move their services to the home of the local basketball team? No, not a high school gym. I mean the 20,000-seat NBA arena.

Good thing the bible doesn’t say anything about pride or gluttony.

But that kind of business expansion requires some powerful advertising. Fortunately these guys have some pithy Pontius Pilate on staff. And they must have bought stock in a printing business. Because on a regular basis, they post wonderful posters, often with unintentionally hilarious phrases beckoning us all with messages of how much better we’ll feel if we come.

As God intended.

Which is how they became my favorite church.

Oh sorry, did you think they were my favorite to attend? You haven’t read much of my stuff, have you? I’m contemplating publishing a bunch of my posts under the title “An Asshole Looks at Forty.”

So if you came here looking for a liturgical discussion of my favorite proverbs, you can run along. If you want to know if the patience of Job exceeds the patience of a Hand Job, you’re in the right spot.

For those who enjoyed that and stuck around… well, shit, you might want to leave, too. Because shit’s about to get a bit darker. But it’s not my fault. It’s the church’s fault.

You see, unlike my previously favorite advertisement which was based on the premise that Jesus abhors mobile technology, the new sign makes me feel uneasy. I still chuckle, but it’s more in the “Holy shit, do they know what they’re implying here?” Instead of the usual,  “<SNORT>. Come!”

Okay, here it is: “If I Only Let God…”

I don’t know how comfortable I am with that.

There’s a certain level of appeasement going on there.

I think this was the attitude present leading up to World War II.  “If we only let Hitler… remilitarize the Rhineland. If we only let Hitler… Anschluss with Austria. If we only give Hitler… a little bit of Czechoslovakia,” then we can have peace.

No, I’m not comparing God to Hitler.

But I kinda think this church is.

Even if we’re not talking about appeasing, there’s an uncomfortable level of symbiosis there, an unhealthy cession of responsibility and agency. And yeah, I know that’s step number one of the twelve step program, so this isn’t the only church that says we gotta stop taking responsibility for our own actions. That’s why I don’t join a twelve-step program. Aside from the fact that I don’t wanna give up the booze.

But that’s why this advertisement rubs me the wrong way.

It sounds like the internal struggle that victims of date rape and domestic violence endure, doesn’t it? “Well, I don’t really want to, but I feel like I need to let him…” of “I can’t leave him. I deserve this because I never let him…”

But it’s okay if it’s God, right? I mean, he has a great track record. What with the destruction of the Garden of Eden and the flooding of the entire Earth and the plague of frogs.

But shhh, church goers. Put on a happy face. You know how God can get if we don’t let him watch the football game.

Maybe I’m being overly harsh, that I’m purposefully misinterpreting the message of this sign. Except that underneath the big “If I Only Let God…” there’s some smaller subscript. You have to be close up to read it. Presumably it’s only for the true believers who have already been enticed by the big message.

The subscript completes the sentence in a number of ways.

“If I only let God love me.”

Okay, I can live with that.

“If I only let God change me.”

Now I’m feeling a little uneasy.

“If I only let God use me.”

That’s it. I’m tapping out.

Don’t come whining to me when the whole congregation ends up in South America with some Kool-Aid.

One Tooth Down

Daughter just lost her first tooth, which means it’s time for the Tooth Fairy to come and visit. Another round of parenting fun.

Sorry, did I say fun? That’s not the word I was looking for. Is there an adjective that means anything you do is going to be a monumental fuck-up and make you the laughing stock of the parenting community and a cautionary tale spread throughout all of suburbia until the end of time, alongside razor blades in apples? What is that, if not fun? I’m sure the German have a word for it.

First of all, when they hell did kids start losing their teeth so early? 

I had Daughter late in life – just shy of my fortieth birthday. I was marginally aware of some parenting things in my twenties on account of two nieces I was close to. And I have some oddly prescient memories of my own upbringing in the 1970s, nut-hugger shorts and all! Bowl cuts before they were white supremacist!

I’m pretty sure I lost my first tooth around the end of first grade. I know this because when I lost my first tooth, well, I lost my first tooth. I was trying to chew through a helium balloon string on my hand when my tooth went flying into the grass. I was freaked out that I wouldn’t get my money from the Tooth Fairy. So I went home and wrote a note, an action I wouldn’t have been able to do in Kindergarten.

I was young for my grade. I was born in October, so the memory in question would’ve made me about six-and-a-half for me. They’ve changed the laws since then, so now I wouldn’t be in the grade I was in. I’d be one of the older kids in my class instead of the younger. I would’ve lost my first tooth at the end of my Kindergarten year instead of my First Grade year. But I still would’ve been six-and-a-half.

My daughter is five-and-a-half. Granted, she’s somehow always been physically advanced. Each of her teeth came in on the early end of the range. She’s regularly in the 90th percentile for height, which I don’t understand because I’m 5’8″ on a good day, Wife tops out at 5’5″, and we’re both taller than our parents. Never did I think I’d be trying to gear a progeny toward volleyball and basketball to take advantage of her height.

Although it’s going to be volleyball, cause the kid’s inherited my (lack of) running stamina.

But the crazy thing is that Daughter isn’t the first in her Kindergarten class to lose a tooth. Far from it. She’s a May baby, so she’s somewhere in the middle of the age range, maybe a little on the younger side. There are a fair number of six-year-olds in her class. But most of them are losing their teeth before they turn six. Heck, the September and October babies are already down three or four teeth. That was second-grade shit back in my day!

I know this isn’t the only indication of kids developing physically more quickly these days. Puberty is hitting two to three years earlier than a century ago. Middle school used to be the puberty years. Sequester the seventh and eighth graders to protect them from the olders and to avoid traumatizing the youngers. But puberty usually hits around fourth or fifth grade these days. And then I end up teaching 16 and 17 year-olds who are well beyond their “learn by” dates. 

Diet gets a good deal of the credit or the blame. After all, a century ago everybody ate dirt or, even worse, vegetables! I don’t think beef was even invented until after Sputnik launched. And if Junior’s on a regiment of pizza and Ding-Dongs, he’s going to growing tits and pubes. 

Except it’s not like we were withering away in the Carter years. We might have waited in lines to get gas, but there was no delay at the McDonald’s!

But now we put probiotics into our food. Or maybe it’s the soy in our milk. Or chickens genetically altered to resemble Pamela Anderson. Seriously? A half-beast is a full pound? Put a bra on that hen!

Maybe it’s the rBST in our milk. I have no idea what rBST is, I only know that I have to pay extra to get milk without it. And then I’m supposed to ignore the fact that this organic milk has an expiration date months later than milk should naturally last. I think the non-rBST organic milk in my fridge is going to last longer than Daughter’s other 27 teeth. 

So yeah, I don’t have the foggiest idea why kids are losing teeth the first week of kindergarten. All I know is that, as a parent, five years old is way too early to be losing teeth. We’re still adjusting to schooling. I mean, shit. I’m still trying to figure out how to explain what a sight word is. Now I’ve got to play Tooth Fairy, too? 

Oops. Spoiler. Hopefully there isn’t some random 6-year old that found this on her very first Google search. At least I won’t spill that other big secret. You know, the old dude in the red suit. 

Hey kids, Iron Man is TOTALLY still alive at the end of Avengers: Endgame.

Although, if my prescience about my own mindset forty years ago is legit, it seems that I gave up on the Tooth Fairy long before than I stopped believing in San… uh, “Iron Man.” It didn’t take long for this nascent free marketer to question how the fairy economy worked. After all, if Mr. Fairy ain’t using these teeth as a natural resource for some larger picture, then why the hell is he sneaking into my room in the middle of the night to take my Chiclets? Perv!

I held out my belief in the other guy much longer. I mean, the dude runs a sweatshop, and ain’t nothing more ‘Murican than making a bunch of cheap shit in a foreign land with near-slave labor. Plus, using Pascal’s wager, if I stop believing in Santa and it turns out he’s real, I’m losing out on a ton of shit. The Tooth Fairy? Meh. If he holds out on me because I no longer believe, I can find a quarter lying on the street and come out even.

Not that it’s a quarter anymore. But back in my day… 

Which leads to the worst part of any tooth loss and subsequent visitation from the smallfolk. Anyone know what the going rate on a pearly white is?

I know for damn sure that it’s going up much faster than inflation. The Fed better not be adjusting the interest rates based on lost teeth. Or maybe they should, then I can get a better COLA.

And I know from when my nieces were in this age range that the Tooth Fairy pays more for the first tooth than for subsequent teeth. Not sure why. He clearly knows nothing about the Law of Supply. If he wants us to keep producing his resources, he’s got to up the price, not lower it. What is he, some sort of drug dealer, giving us a sweet deal on the first go-around so that he can milk us for years to come? 

Seriously, Tooth Fairy, what the hell are you doing with these things? Because you’re acting shady as fuck.

We opted to give Daughter five dollars for the first tooth with the intention of lowering the payout to one dollar in the future. Wife’s been asking around and we’re “in the range.” Daughter told me that her best friend got three bucks for the first one. Unfortunately she told me this after she lost her tooth, and I’d been carrying around a crisp 5-note for two week by then. And it would be awkward to go buy a pack of gum to get change and complain that the singles are as dirty as a stripper’s g-string.

Hey, how do you tip strippers in countries that don’t have paper for their basic currency? I don’t think the g-string will keep the Loonie in place, and there’s no fucking way I’m tipping a fiver every time. Shit, a five-pound note is worth almost ten dollars. That’s one expensive thong! Well, a five-pound note was worth ten dollars before Brexit. Now it’s worth substantially less. Probably about the value of a baby tooth.

But the problem with giving Daughter a five-dollar bill, or three one-dollar bills, or really any sort of monetary denomination, is how little impact it will have for her. I’m not saying she doesn’t understand the value of money. She does, to a certain extent. Maybe not as much she will at seven, when God and nature decreed children to lose their teeth, but she understands that money is exchanged for goods and services, and that when one has a finite amount of money, one must assess the opportunity cost of a purchase versus holding onto said money for a potential later use. 

It’s not the concept of MONEY that she’s missing. It’s the concept of cash.

Seriously, how much cash does one use these days? We take Daughter grocery shopping with us. She hits Home Depot and Target with us on a weekly basis. We go out to eat, we talk about online orders with her, we donate to SPCA. She’s used gift cards at Baskin-Robbins and Starbucks. 

What we don’t do in front of her is take out paper currency and hand it over to a cashier. We don’t get change. I often give her whatever change accumulates in my pocket at the end of the day and she stores it in a Moon Jar. But if her primary notion of cash is that it is to be put away and never exchanged for goods or services, then she’s not going to get too excited when the Tooth Fairy leaves her some pointless green piece of paper. If he really wants kids to be happy about turning over their teeth, he should be leaving a Target gift card. Or maybe some Bitcoin.

We just started Daughter doing chores. Only we don’t pay her cash. We place a dollar amount for each item, and when she gets up to a certain amount, we get her a gift card. She gets to choose where. Unfortunately, her last choice was IHOP. Is it too much to have her get a BevMo card? Then I can tax it just like I do her Halloween candy.

We must not be alone in this regard. Because as the excitement of cash has diminished the Tooth Fairy experience has been replaced by a shit-ton of pomp, circumstance, and fluff. We used to put the tooth underneath the pillow and voila!, a quarter replaced it the next morning. 

Now there’s a booklet (basically an oversized wallet) and an envelope and a tooth “pillow” that’s really just another stuffed animal, as if Daughter doesn’t have enough of those. We put the tooth inside the booklet, along with a note welcoming an odd man inside my baby daughter’s bedroom, tied a bow around it and put it under her pillow. Then beside the bed, we put the tooth stuffed animal, under which we placed the empty envelope.

Then we learned the secret handshake of the Freemasons and Illuminati and she was off to la-la land.

Then we (children, look away!) took the tooth, put the fiver in the envelope, wrote a note FROM the Tooth Fairy thanking Daughter for her note TO the Tooth Fairy and for the very nice tooth and how we/he can’t wait for her to lose more teeth so we/he can return to her bedroom while she sleeps and give her more money. But not in a pervy way.

Wife even found a special Tooth Fairy card

(Now you’ll note I knew I lost my tooth in first grade because I could read and write, but then I said my kindergartner wrote a letter to the Tooth Fairy. The difference is that I wrote my letter by myself, whereas Daughter’s letter was about 90% letters provided by us. The joys of half-way through Kindergarten. “Mommy, Daddy, how do you spell Thank? How do you spell You? How do you spell Tooth?”)

After all the notes and pillows and incisor sleight-of-hand, we have to figure out what to do with the damn tooth. Do we flush it down the toilet like a dead fish? Is there a spot for it in her baby book? Not that we’ve kept up on her baby book since she was, like, a week old. Plus if we put it there and she someday decides to peruse said book, she’s going to wonder why we, instead of the Purveyor of Fine Bones store in Fairytown, are the ones in possession of it. 

Seriously, whoever came up with this whole thing didn’t really think it all the way through.

Wife put the tooth and the note in an envelope. Not sure if future teeth will go in there as well, but I assume that someday, when Daughter’s older and the gig is up, we’ll look back on it and laugh. She’ll read the note she wrote as a sweet, innocent, 5-year-old and be saved from her teenage cynicism for an evening. Then she’ll see the tooth and think her parents are freakazoid hoarder sickos. 

And then we’ll tell her that, congratulations, she gets to start paying her own health insurance the following month.

When Daughter woke up, it was pretty much as imagined. She was super jazzed to see that the tooth was gone. And ooo, there’s a note from the Tooth Fairy. Can we read it to her? And let’s snuggle with the tooth pillow and can we read the note again?

Oh, and what’s this in the envelope?

“It’s five dollars.”

She promptly puts it on the floor next to her and goes right back to the note. I should’ve just given her a fucking quarter like the good old days.

Oh well. Now it’s on to bunnies fucking chickens to celebrate our risen Lord. 

Who wants therapy