Blog Entries

Eating Habits of the Elderly

My mom came to visit last weekend. Always an adventure. But between the “fun” of having someone in our space constantly and the “why is grandchild getting tired of me” and the off-hand comments on our parenting, I found a few oddities about her choice of food.

I found a few of her choices odd because they align with my in-laws, who we dine with more often. My mom grew up in the suburbs of Southern California, my mother-in-law grew up in the rural foothills of Northern California, and my father-in-law grew up in Vegas, so there shouldn’t necessarily be too many common threads between them, geographically.

Except that they were all firmly entrenched in the Baby Boom era. Which means they grew up in an era where Kool Aid was considered healthy and Wonder Bread was the preferred avenue toward the mandatory carbohydrate input of the day. And the only proper spice to put on any dish is salt. And if that’s not enough, add a little more salt.

So it must just be the children of a certain age that have a couple of tendencies toward what I might call double-wide culinary school.

And, other than a few go-to’s, all three of the eaters in question are prone to the finer things in life. Their tastebuds have definitely progressed beyond their meager beginnings. I wouldn’t necessarily call any of them foodies, but they’re not those “same five dishes we’ve always had” types. Especially the females. My mom won’t bat an eye at a Thai restaurant and my in-laws love to discover new gastropubs in San Francisco (provided they have been well vetted by a known source). My mom and mother-in-law are both very good cooks. Both of them can make Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for twenty, and are even sometimes willing to tweak one recipe or another. One at a time, of course, but still. My father-in-law watches every single competition show on Food Network and my mom is hellbent on visiting every Bobby Flay restaurant in the world.

And yet… And yet…

Mustard. 

I love mustard. I will put mustard on just about anything. I’ll take mustard over mayo on a sandwich any day of the week. I hate when you’re at a conference that’s “providing sandwiches,” because those sandwiches are inevitably half mayonnaise, and the mustard is relegated to tiny packets. So there I’ll be, standing over the trash can, trying to scrape off the mayo and using my teeth to open the five mustard packs it’s going to take to offset the slimy meat and… you know what? Screw it, I’m just going to have a mustard sandwich.

My jaw hit the floor when I saw Alton Brown put mustard (and cracked pepper) on a grilled cheese sandwich. My life has never been the same.

And don’t get me started on In n’ Out’s mustard-grilled patties. They’re a slice of heaven, but I can only get them right about 1/3 of the time. Every other time they assume I want animal style.

“Can I get a double-double, mustard-grilled?”

“Okay, one animal-style double-double.”

“No, just mustard-grilled.”

“Okay, mustard-grilled with pickles.”

“No pickles. Just mustard-grilled.”

“Okay, thousand-island dressing.”

“No, I don’t want fucking animal style. I just want fucking mustard-grilled.”

Blank stare. “Okay, I’ll just write animal style, and I assume the cook will know what to do.”

And there’s I’ll be, scraping shit off of his burger over the trash can.

About a year ago, the in-laws were over for a barbecue. Burgers and hot dogs. Of course, all three of the baby boomers prefer hot dogs over Brats or Polish or Italian or Hawaiian, but whatever. I get out the condiments and…

“Do you have any mustard?” Father-in-law asked.

I hand across the mustard. He looks puzzled, turned the bottle over in his hands, put it down.

“No, I mean mustard.”

See, the problem was that I had given him what I consider mustard. I don’t remember which specific type it was. I can’t imagine it was anything overly spicy. Nothing with horseradish, no Colman’s English, no nuclear-orange sweet and hot. It was probably a generic stone-ground. I probably had some better stuff on hand, but I wouldn’t waste it on my in-laws.

And don’t get me started on the coffee swill I bust out when my mom is visiting.

But no, my father-in-law didn’t consider this particular bottle to be mustard. Of course, we all know what he meant by mustard. He wanted the neon-yellow sourpuss mustard. Good, old-fashioned American brands like… French’s. Or Heinz. What I had handed him was a natural-looking yellow-brown, with a couple of speckles indicating that it did, in fact, come from a plant. Maybe even a mustard plant.

I know the seeds are only for effect. I worked in a homemade ice cream shop in college and can attest that the beans in the vanilla bean don’t add squat to the flavor.

Well, I was a tad bit embarrassed at this barbecue to discover that, although I had three different types of mustard in the fridge, none of them were what he was looking for. I resolved to have some the next time they were over, and he settled for ketchup. I was smart enough to not bust out the malt-vinegar ketchup.

The earlier incident had been lost to the annals of experience. We now keep a bottle of French’s yellow mustard around for the in-laws when they visit. I never thought more of it, and often forget it’s in my refrigerator, even though I see it next to the good shit every time I open the refrigerator.

So while my mom was visiting, I absentmindedly asked her if she could put all the condiments out while I was cooking the burgers. Three guesses which yellow condiment was waiting for me when I got outside.

And look, I’m not opposed to the yellow mustard. It serves its purpose. It gets the job done. It’s cheaper and usually more accessible than the good shit. When I’m scrounging together a mustard sandwich from the Subway spread, chances are it ain’t Grey Poupon I’m slathering on the soggy bread. When I’m at the ballpark, if yellow’s all they’ve got, I’m still getting a hot dog. Whereas, if Coors Light is the only beer they have, I’m getting water.

Although I have noticed that more ballparks are giving good mustard as an option. Just sayin’.

Yellow mustard is a perfectly fine product. But if there’s a yellow mustard right next to a stone-ground horseradish mustard, is it really a question which one you should grab? Well, evidently, it is, because I now have one Baby Boomer who refuses to eat the latter, and one that, I don’t know, doesn’t know it exists? Because what surprises me the most is that my mom opened the refrigerator, saw this, and it never even occurred to her to grab more than one.

mustard

Oh, and that mayonnaise is also only there for when Baby Boomers are in tow.

Bisquick

I’m a little less understanding about this second culinary foible.

Whenever my wife’s sister is in town, we do breakfast at the in-laws. I usually try to steer us toward a restaurant. We have a wonderful breakfast place that specializes in mimosas. I am usually overruled.

Breakfast at the in-laws is usually a smorgasbord of chaos. Mother-in-law cooks up bacon and then leaves a bunch of options out for us to cook for ourselves. There are eggs, which I usually opt for. And then there’s a giant batch o’ Bisquick.

I could have said “pancake batter,” but I’m striving for accuracy here. And whatever the fuck Bisquick is, it ain’t pancakes.

The name implies it started as a biscuit mixture. That might explain the odd baking soda-esque tinge that remains on my tongue whenever I eat a Bisquick pancake. Maybe if I were to eat the pancake with a big ol’ batch of country gravy on top, it would taste a little better.

Bisquick officially lists itself as “Pancake and Biscuit Mix.” So even they have acceded to the fact that they are usually used for the former. Didn’t bother changing their name to Panquick, though.

Oh hey, they also say you can make waffles with their product. Just… let me see here… well, it’s the same as pancake batter, but with a little oil. Are they aware that waffles are supposed to taste different than pancakes? No? That might explain why I also didn’t know that until I was twenty.

My mom is on the same Bisquick-wagon my in-laws are on. About six months ago, she was excited to make some Mickey Mouse pancakes for my daughter. She had been practicing! Because it’s super hard to make Mickey Mouse pancakes. You have to… make three pancakes… but simultaneous! And connected! I assume it takes up a whole semester at culinary school.

But sure, Mom, knock yourself out.

She goes to our pantry and comes out a few hours later like a bewildered spelunker returning from the Land of the Lost.

“I’m sure I’m just missing it, but I couldn’t find any Bisquick.”

“Oh yeah, I usually make pancakes from scratch.”

Blink. Blink.

“From that standard, in-every-kitchen-in-America, Betty Crocker cookbook right there.”

Blink. Blink.

“The one you gave me twenty years ago when I moved out?”

“Oh. Um. Okay. I just. I don’t think I’ve ever made them that way.”

So for this visit, my wife decided to get a box of Bisquick at the store.

“Oh, thank you. Thank you so much,” my mom said when we showed it to her. I think she was more excited at the Bisquick than she was when I told her a grandchild was on the way.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m not going all hipster, anti-processed food here. I am perfectly fine with boxed meals. If I could eat Zatarain’s Caribbean Rice fortnightly, I would. I survived a good portion of my bachelor years on Rice-a-Roni, Pasta-Roni, and their ilk. My mom probably had to look behind three boxes of Shake & Bake and a barricade of Mac & Cheese (for the child, naturally…) in her ill-fated search for the Bisquick.

But I’ve got a few problems with Bisquick. First and foremost is the taste. There’s something acrid to it. Something that tastes like they couldn’t figure out if they wanted to taste like biscuits or pancakes (or waffles), so they split the difference and banked on being nondescript enough or ubiquitous enough that nobody would notice. It is not a flavor you would find when you go out for breakfast. Fortunately the IHOP/IHOb rebrand wasn’t alluding to International House of Bisquick. All of these Bisquick-lovers opt for fluffy, flavorful pancakes when we’re out for breakfast, yet don’t bat an eye settling for substantially less when at home.

I suppose I get that a little. I love getting Eggs Benedict when I’m out for breakfast. Because poaching eggs is a pain in the ass. And I can only assume hollandaise sauce would take effort. And I’m guessing the packet hollandaise wouldn’t taste as good.

But there’s a big difference between Eggs Benedict and pancakes, and it’s my biggest problem with the Bisquickers. PANCAKES AREN’T DIFFICULT TO MAKE! Bisquick requires three ingredients: Bisquick, milk, and egg. The Betty Crocker recipe adds four more ingredients: Flour, milk, egg, brown sugar, oil, baking powder, and salt. And I can’t imagine either of the Baby Boomers I know are having issues with brown sugar, oil, baking powder, or salt.

Seriously, I’m shitty at baking because I never measure things correctly. My wife’s the baker and I’m the cook, because I like to toss it in the pan and sample and add a little of this and try to offset a pinch of that. Who does my wife get her baking ability from? Her mother, who loves to bake. My mom makes enough Christmas cookies to feed a battalion. They both make homemade pie crusts and cakes that I would have to buy from the store.

You know what pie crusts and cakes and cookies all have? Oil. And sugar. And probably some baking powder.

Yet neither of them can be bothered to put the extra three minutes and one dirty measuring spoon into a morning meal.

So my mom made a batch of Bisquick pancakes for my daughter. She used the number four mold this time, since my daughter just turned four.

Then she put the rest of the batter in the refrigerator.

Two days later, she busted out the two-day old Bisquick batch. Even my daughter thought that was much. Those refined four year-old taste buds took one bite and said no, thanks.

So my mom made another batch.

Look, I love me some leftovers. But all three of these Baby Boomers are prone to hold on to every morsel of leftover food. A refrigerator becomes a veritable minefield of day-old, week-old, and when-the-fuck-did-we-have-Chinese food. I’m prone to a bit of this, myself.

But Bisquick batter? The whole fucking box cost five bucks. It’ll last twenty years. I may only be a teacher, but I think I can afford a little batter dump.

But then I have to remind myself that our parents grew up during the Great Depression.

Right? Like in “Grease.” The malt-shop, poodle-skirt, Elvis-Presly-pelvis-shaking Great Depression.

A Writing Retrospective

A couple weeks ago, I did something I hadn’t done in almost 200 days.

Or rather, I didn’t do something I had done every day, for just under 200 times in a row.

On May 16, I did not write. No blog entry, no flash fiction, no in-progress novel.

Oh, I wrote plenty on May 16. Notes on essays, probably some e-mail responses, but those don’t count.

Prior to that Wednesday, however, I wrote. Every day, all 195 of them from November 2 through May 15, I created some typed content. I wrote on Christmas. I wrote on New Years Day. On Valentine’s Day. On St. Patrick’s Day. The day AFTER St. Patrick’s Day. I wrote the day I flew to Hawaii, and every day when I was there. On the day I flew to a curling bonspiel, and after every game I played while I was there. I wrote while camping (although it was only a one night camping trip, so I wrote before I left and after I got back).

More specifically, during that streak, I typed at least 444 words into the website 4thewords.com. That website is also the reason I know how impressive my streak was. I don’t even know what my best streak was before this. Maybe twenty days? I mean, I know I sure as shit never wrote on Christmas before. Or any of those other dates written above. Except for Camptathalon, of course.

But 4thewords keeps track of my streak, which thereby makes it easier to maintain said streak. My character gets special wings when my streak reaches a certain number of days.

The website and its various carrots are also the reason that the streak was as impressive as it was. I wrote about it after NaNoWriMo. Wow, the number of throwbacks in this blog post makes it feel like those clip shows that sitcoms used to run in April before everything was available on demand.

But because of 4thewords.com, for the first time ever, I continued writing after November was over. Every day. Some days it’s a struggle. Some days, I drudge back downstairs at 10 PM to put down some drivel. Naturally, I get wordier that time of night. Or maybe, since I’m typing this in 4tw, it might be better to say I get as wordy as a talkative wordsmith crafting his wordiness for a living.

What happened on May 16? It was a conscious decision to not write. No, I didn’t wake up with a general “fuck it.” But, with the finite amount of time available to me between the child being put down and my impending crash into unconsciousness, I opted for what was behind Door #2. The AP Test was two days away and I still had a handful of essays I wanted to return  to the students taking the test the following day.

So I said “Fuck it.”

Actually, after I “fucked it” (fuck ited? wordy wordsmithed it?), I logged onto the website to make sure I didn’t lose my streak. They have a special item that extends a streak without needing the 444 words. I had five of them in reserve. Then I got back on the donkey the next day. I’m now up to 216 days, which they count as 195 legitimate days + May 16 + 20 more days since.

So don’t worry, I didn’t lose my wings. Had I not owned one of those items, then I guess my students would’ve just been a little less prepared for a nationwide standardized exam. Gotta have my priorities, after all. Now I have four of the mulligans left. I’ll earn back the one I used next Monday when my streak hits 222. Who knows, maybe I’ll just get a hankerin’ and take a week off from writing. Of course, this is coming from the teacher who has 120 sick days banked, so it’ll take a much more legitimate “fuck it” before I lose that streak.

But still, maybe I should take Christmas off this year.

Oh wait, Christmas is with the in-laws this year? Yeah, I’ll be writing that day.

So what are the results of this newfound verbosity?

On a sidenote, I just looked up verbosity on thesaurus.com, and evidently there’s a word called logorrhea. Like diarrhea, but with words. I definitely need to use that word more.

Okay, here are the stats: I just passed 197,000 words written on the website. Not bad.

They’ve come in all forms: blog posts, which have allegedly become more frequent; flash fiction, and I promise there are more of those on the way, I can only post them after I lose the contest, but I’m 0-for-4 so far, so I’ll start posting them weekly in the summer; e-mails, letters, and Facebook posts (don’t judge); and, of course, the novel-in-progress.

I started the novel way back in NaNoWriMo, 2014. You can read the basis for it here. And a sample chapter that’s four years old. It fizzled out after about 25,000 words, but the idea was still there. Over the next four years, I managed another 15,000 words. In the past 200 days, I’ve added another 75,000+ words to be on the cusp of 120,000 words. That’s too long for a first book, but a lot of those frivolous words will be edited out. I’m guessing it’s closer to 80,000 legitimate words.

How did I triple the output? Well, this will be a shocking answer to some: I actually sat my ass down and wrote. For 200 days. Not always on the book, but I run out of e-mails eventually, and if I want my 444 words, I’m going to have to move that pesky main character along.

I always knew where the book was going. Since I first started, I had this grandiose final scene in my head. Some of the dialogue’s been ready to go for four years. I’ve known where the characters will be placed and exactly how much of the big picture would be revealed (gotta keep a couple things for the sequel, after all).

But getting to that final scene is sometimes a problem. And by sometimes, I mean always. For four years. I’d often get stuck mid-scene. How do I get the characters or narrative through a particular scene? So historically, I would get to a spot, the main character dangling precariously from the precipice, and then I’d take a few days off while I mulled how do get him to the bottom of the cliff. Or a few weeks. Or years.

Then maybe I’d figure it out, and I’d sit down to write the scene, and I’d write 1,000 words and, wouldn’t you know it, the fucker’s still up on his clifftop. Because I forgot I needed a little internal dialogue or a scatological description of how scared he is. And then I’d get frustrated that I spent two months deciding where this scene was going and I finally sat down to do it and I DIDN’T EVEN GET TO THE FUCKING PART I JUST SPENT TWO MONTHS FIGURING OUT!

Here’s how that same scene has played out over the past 200 days: I blog for a day, write a flash fiction over the weekend, and when Tuesday rolls around, I guess I have to write the actual book. So I write 500 words. That’s easy enough. Nothing has to happen in 500 words. He shits himself. Then the next day, he wipes for 500 words. After three or four days, I finally get to the point where I just say “Fuck it” and describe him scrambling down the cliff. Three days later he’s finally engaging in the dialogue I’ve known he was going to get into at the bottom of the cliff.

There are chapters that I know for a fact I will chop 1000 of the first 1500 words. But a lot of times those words were necessary for me at the time, because they helped me work through what the character’s going through. I gain insight into my characters and their world that can be edited to be implied instead of explicit.

It’s the same process I would’ve gone through before, just without the winter of contemplation in between.

So here I am, 120000 words later and guess what? I’m finally to that culminating scene! The one that’s been in my mind since page one. Woo Hoo! Easy sailing from here!

And how’s the scene going? The one that I’ve known the intricacies of forever?

Well, I’m blogging right now.

Because, goddammit, this “easy” scene is just as difficult as any other scene. Maybe moreso because it’s the culmination of four years and 120,000 words of character and plot development. One of the characters who’s supposed to be there is dead. There is a character that showed up around the 70,000 word mark that is vitally important now. rDi I just have him stand around and pick his butt while the corpse of the dead character does something important? Just because I know Darth Vader’s going to reveal he’s Luke’s father doesn’t mean I know how Luke’s going to get there in the first place.

Come to think of it, how the hell is there a Death Star-esque bottomless cylinder in Cloud City? Is everything in the Star Wars universe built by the same contractor?

I think there’s something else hindering my process right now. Do you ever get to the end of a book and slow down your reading? Not sure if you’re ready to be done with it? Well, this book’s been in my thought process for four years. What am I going to write the next day? Sure, I have plenty of new books I could start, but which one should I do? I feel like I’ll be so lost when I don’t have this specific existential weight on me. If I’m not thinking of this specific character and plotline, will I suddenly become aware of a lack of substance in the rest of my life?

Meh. Maybe I’ll take another day off.

But until then, it’s a shit-ton of logorrhea.

Substitute for Love

“I couldn’t find the worksheets you wanted me to hand out-,” the note back from the substitute teacher began.

Oh, you mean this pile right next to the note? The one that has a post-it reading “Third period handout” on it? You couldn’t find that one? Okay, cool cool.

“I saw Ferris Bueller in your cabinet,” the letter continues. “So I showed the class that. We made it to the parade scene.”

Thanks. Good to know from which point I’m won’t be continuing the movie that they weren’t supposed to be watching.

Ah, substitute teachers. The educational suppositories. If only I could just give my students the day off, like in college. Chances are they’d be less-far behind.

We had an incident with a sub recently that got me thinking back on some of the best sub stories.

And of course, all of these stories are “alleged.” Probably didn’t happen. For entertainment purposes only, as my bookie used to say.

First of all, I understand the thankless nature of being a substitute teacher. I’ve done it a few times. When I do it during my prep period, it’s not too bad. There’s a good chance I’ll know one or two of the students. It might even be a non-shithead! We can all dream, can’t we?

I’ve been the other kind of sub, too. The poor, poor paragon of power amidst a sea of hormonal wannabe Che Gueveras. No rapport, and even though you’re pretty sure the offensive lineman sitting in the seat that belongs to Jocelyn Nguyen, you can’t really prove it.

Some subs go the intolerant dickhead routine, writing everyone up, including poor Jocelyn for letting the quarterback be sacked last Friday. I heard about one sub that walked the entire class to the admin office. And I’m sure every single one of those students stuck around en route.

Other subs go the disinterested route. Look, I’m just here to read my book and if y’all could just create the illusion of decorum, then we can all make it through the day.

Allegedly there are substitutes who are approachable and nice and enjoyable to the students, but I’ve never seen one. But hey, if a woman can sue the state of California that Bigfoot exists, then I maybe there’s a mythical, quality substitute teacher, too. Living with Elvis and Hitler in an airplane on the moon.

There’s a reason that most teachers are loathe to take days off. Its a pain in the ass. You have to write a lesson plan that is way more detailed than a regular-day lesson plan. If I didn’t tell the kids yesterday to bring their textbooks tomorrow, then I’m going to have to find something in the nether regions of my filing cabinet, which means I have to go in or hope that the teacher next door to me can figure out my filing system in time to get something off to the copy center all while getting their own shit in order. There can’t be any direct instruction or anything beyond basic comprehension questions, and the basic comprehension questions aren’t going to take the students very long, anyway.

Plus, as noted again, it’s not like the sub is going to follow the lesson plan anyway, unless the most difficult thing they have to do is push play. Hell, pushing play ain’t as easy as it used to be with LCD projectors and external speakers and SMART Boards. So here I am, two o’clock in the morning, hoping to stave off the squirts long enough to e-mail off an exercise in futility. I might as well go into work. My usual genuflection at the altar of the porcelain god goes something like this: “It’s two a.m. If I can make it the next three hours without puking, I’m going in.”

And did I mention that unused sick days roll over and if I can bank more than 180, I can retire a year early? I’m sixteen years in with over 120 banked, so shit, howdy, guess whose students are going to be catching his Spanish flu in the morning?

Of course, sometimes a sub-plan isn’t left, or the worksheets truly are missing, and then you really do have to put on the Ferris Bueller. Having subbed, I know that the third-worst thing is having no lesson plan. Actually, I take that back.  No lesson plan is the second-worst thing a sub can encounter. The second-worst is a lesson plan that I can tell is only going to take fifteen minutes to complete. Have students do the first five vocab terms, then right in their journal about their last bowel movement. 

The worst substitute lesson plan?

“The students are working on a project. They know what to do.”

We, who are about to die, salute you.

At my school, we seem to have a new batch of subs this year that have been interesting, to say the least. There’s a new variation on the “tough ass” guy, and that’s the “I know you’re trying to get over on me.” Dude, you can’t let the kids know you fear them. It’s blood in the water and they’re one sniff away from a feeding frenzy. Add to that a little wrinkle of technophobe, and you have the hilarious recent substitute in my department, who kept screaming for the students to put their phones away because she knew they were filming her and putting her on the YouTube. The students were not doing anything of the sort. Prior to her meltdown, the substitute hadn’t been doing anything worthy of taping.

And yeah, there’s use for technology in the classroom. I can now put my assignments on Google Classroom and cut out the substitute middle man. If I were a sub, I’d love showing up and seeing “the assignment’s on Google Classroom.” As long as the first slide on Google Classroom doesn’t say “Work on Project.”

But you know what? At least, if the students have a laptop out to be on Classroom, they shouldn’t be a nuisance. If they’re occupying themselves trying to get around the district’s porn filter, the substitute is in the clear.

Hey, speaking of porn and substitutes…

And again, let me say this is all alleged and probably never even happened. I’m a wannabe fiction writer, after all. This is surely all made up.

One of the teachers in my department needed a sub last week. None of the rest of us got a good look at him, but by most accounts, he was a well-mannered twenty- or thirty-something who followed the instructions on the lesson plan. The day went off without a hitch.

Then the teacher came back.

The next morning, she was futzing around on her laptop, doing the usual e-mail checking and whatnot. When she minimized the browser, guess what was hiding behind it?

I bet you can’t guess.

Want a hint?

It starts with porn- and ends with -ography.

I was the first teacher she came to. Just kind of casually, while I’m teaching my class, she pops her head in and wants a little advice about the naked lady on her computer.

Hmm. That’s a tough one. Give her some clothes, maybe?

“Should I mention it to the principal or do you think I’ll get in trouble for it?”

Not really sure how the reporter of this particular incident would get in trouble. Would the principal think that, after working for the school for five years, she randomly decided to download a pornographic picture to her work computer and then, rather than just delete it, she reports it so nobody would suspect her? And how conveeeenient that she just happened to download said porn right after a sub day. The perfect cover! What level of inception is this?

By lunchtime, everybody knew about it. The principal told her to alert IT, but more importantly, every other teacher in my department knew about it. Of course, the rest of us are all men, and we were rather upset that she hadn’t bothered to “run it by us” before shipping it off to IT. I mean, how can we make a bona fide recommendation on a course of action without seeing the evidence? We strive to be professional and thorough!

But alas.

A few things to get out of the way first. It hadn’t been set as her wallpaper, which was my first thought of when she said it was behind her web browser. Had it been wallpaper, I would guess virus. But shit, I can’t even read fivethirtyeight.com through our web filter or update Microsoft Word without consent, so it’s hard to believe some random porn virus is making it onto her hard drive.

It also wasn’t a website. It was just a jpeg, or maybe a bitmap. I don’t know what type of file, because she didn’t show me. Or any of us. We don’t know if the model was blonde or brunette, and let’s be honest, that’s the truly lacking bit of info.

We debated if it came from a student or the substitute. Neither option looks good for the sub, by the way. He’s either walking around with a porn flash drive, or else he’s giving students unsupervised access to the teacher’s laptop. As a teacher, I’m almost more comfortable with the former.

We’re now pretty sure it was the sub. The logistics make more sense, particularly with what IT found out. The picture came from an external device at 2:06 PM. Woo-hoo! That was my guess! Looks like I know the mindset of pervs!

Also, my co-worker wasn’t off-campus that day. She was at a “leadership meeting.” I know, I know. We mock our students for ditching class but staying on campus and then we do the same thing. They don’t even serve beer at these leadership meetings! So shortly after school ended, she went back to her room. She said the substitute was fumbling around with something around her computer. In retrospect, probably taking the flash drive out and putting up the web browser to cover up the incriminating photo. This might also explain why the dumbshit didn’t REMOVE the incriminating photo. Because, let’s be honest, this wasn’t the first time he’d climbed upon this particular horse.

Come to think of it, I bet he has a picture that fits that description.

At first I found it funny. I mean, who hasn’t been in a situation where you’ve got ten minutes to spare and are pissed that there’s no porn within reaching distance? I can’t tell you how often a flash drive o’ porn would come in handy. You know, you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. Or you’re at the farmer’s market and those melons just look so scrumptious. Everyone says long walks on the beach are romantic, but what if you’re having a long walk by yourself?

Maybe this guy was just exercising his right to take a break at work. Remember back in the good old days when we had cigarette breaks? Now nobody smokes, and all of a sudden we’re tied to our cubicle until lunchtime. Those rat-bastard business owners were the culprits behind the anti-smoking campaign, because now we have no excuse to stop working once every ninety minutes to feed an addiction.

Maybe it’s time to institute the mid-morning and mid-afternoon masturbation break! Come on, you know all of those people who work from home get them, why not the rest of us? We need we get the CDC to classify porn as an addiction! Who’s with me? Show of hands! Wait, where are your hands?

The CDC classifies addictions, right? That’s why The Walking Dead started in Atlanta. The zombies are just junkies shuffling toward their next hit. I make that same groaning noise most Saturday mornings.

The more we heard about this particular story, however, the less funny it became. As the layers peeled of the onion, or the clothes of the porn star, the substitute came out like a less-polished knob.

As I mentioned, the picture appeared on the computer at 2:06 PM. What I didn’t mention was that school is over at 2:20 PM. So there were students in the room when he whipped it out of his pants. The flash drive, that is. I hope.

Maybe he was just getting it ready, hiding it behind a browser so that he could be ready to reward himself for a (hand-) job well done as soon as the students left the room. Nothing’s worse than having to wait to open windows when the urge to wank is upon you, right? I’ve heard tell of some teachers doing the same with a flask in the desk, so who am I to pick one vice over the next?

After lunch, my co-worker asked her final-period TA about the substitute the day before. “What was going on the last fifteen minutes of class? Were the students up and walking around? Was the sub out talking to them?”

“No, he was behind the desk.”

Woo hoo, I win the prize again!

“What was the substitute like?”

“He was really nice.”

So far, so good.

“He talked with me a lot. Joking around with me about stuff.”

I warned you it was going to go south, right? Because this is when it became not as funny for me.

Because what, precisely, made this guy think he absolutely could not delay seeing a naked woman while in a classroom of thirty teenagers? Was it just a rough end-of-day? Or was it one particular conversation with one underage girl? When I was thinking of it as a simple “wank at work,” it was funny. A victimless crime. But if it’s a more focused action… well, I don’t know. Huzzah for not following through on your urges, I suppose. But there are plenty of temp jobs where I’m sure he could wank away till he’s chafed raw. Then why would you become a substitute teacher, where there are always other people in the room?

Oh course, we all know the answer to that one, right?

Look, I like porn as much as the next guy. Or at least, that’s what I thought. But I’ve never carried it around on a flash drive, a twenty-first century version of pocket pool. I’ve never been so consumed to see nudity that I use another person’s computer in a room occupied by thirty teenagers. I’ve also never forgotten to take down said picture on said other-person’s computer. I mean didn’t he see the “Danger, you’re pulling out” warning when he removed the flash drive?

Or did he just think the pull-out warning was for the picture? Hey-ho! I’ll take “The Obvious Joke” for $500, Alex!

Most importantly, I’ve never spoken to a seventeen year-old girl and then felt the overwhelming urge to see a naked woman right then and right there. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. So maybe I don’t like porn as much as the next guy. And you know what? I’m perfectly fine with that.

 

 

Curling, Parts 1 through %$@*&$

Since my last effort at real-time blogging seemed to work, I’m trying it again. Only this time, instead of Hawaii, I’m off to lovely Seattle. And I ain’t going for no fun-fun time vacation, neither. This time, my game face is on. It’s curling bonspiel time, motherfucker!

No, I won’t be live-tweeting every shot. I won’t be attaching a GoPro to my broom. I probably won’t even post the thing until after the weekend is over. What I will write down my thoughts and reflections after each game, as my team works our way through the weekend tournament. The highs and the lows that inevitably come from these tourneys. The “I curl better than John Schuster”, followed by the “Why the fuck do I do this stupid sport?”.

One of the reasons I’ve chosen this particular bonspiel to live-blog is that we’re here to fucking win it!

Don’t I always want to win? Sure. But this time, there’ll be no Olympians in my way. This bonspiel is called a Five-and-Under. It’s not for toddlers, although that would be friggin’ awesome on a whole nother (hilarious) level. In this 5&U, everyone in this tournament must have less than five years of experience. This is my fourth year, as with two others on my team, and our skip is aging out this year. So if we’re ever going to win it, this is the time.

This is my third time at this particular event. Two years ago, it was a mish-mash of different players thrown together at the last minute. We won our first two games, but lost our third, which is the first elimination game. The team we lost to went on to win the entire tournament, so as far as I’m concerned, we might have been the second-best team there. We would have lost to that team whenever we faced them, but so did everyone else. Second-place may be first loser, but who’s the one that lost first, hmm?

Last year, my team was a bit more purposeful. We combined two players from our team with two players from a team that went all the way to the final game. They lost that game against the same team we lost to. So combine the first loser and the last loser, and what do you get? We lost our second game, which is actually better than losing your third game. It isn’t an elimination game. Instead, it drops you into the “B Bracket,” and we went on to win that bracket. Not bad, but there were some personality conflicts. Shaq and Kobe all over again.

This year, it’s finally the team I’ve always wanted to bring. A team of people I like playing with that also has a chance to win. Me and the guy I’ve played with all three years (he’s the skip that is aging out) finally convinced two of the guys we curl with locally to venture out of California. Well, it wasn’t the two guys that needed the convincing as it was convincing their wives. But we finally did that, and now we’re ready to go 5-0 and take the crown.

Let’s do this.

Game One. 

Game one only counts in the standings. But it still counts in the standings.

Three of the four curlers on our opponent team have been curling less than a year. Oh, and one of those three hadn’t shown up yet, so add some fatigue to their inexperience. Yes, you can get fatigued while curling, especially if you’re taking extra shots and are the only sweeper.

Their skip, the only person with more than one year of curling, could hit some draws. Unfortunately for him, we made him draw every end, and he could only hit “some draws.”  A draw is where you’re just trying to slowly go around a guard and have your rock sit in the house. You’d think that would be easy. It’s not. Give me a guard or a takeout any day over a draw to the button. The difference between a draw and a rock that sails through, hitting nothing, is two-tenths of a second on your delivery.

In our first end, we scored two, and thought we were going to cruise to victory. We played the second end a little loose, and all of a sudden, they had two points in the house. We took out one with our final shot, but they had one more shot and a wide-open draw to score a second point and tie the game. He came up short, so they only scored one. Whew!

That scared us enough to bear down. We scored two in the third end and four in the fourth and cruised to victory.

These are the types of games that can be dangerous. We didn’t hit all of our shots. Far from it. Yet we won 12-2, and we were being generous to keep it that close. We could have scored fifteen or more. There were two ends where we had all eight of our stones in play. We would put two in the house, then set up six guards. If we wanted to, we could’ve put more of them into the house. At least I think we could have, but I was light on a lot of my throws. A better team could’ve taken advantage of that.

Like the team we’re playing tomorrow. They beat some of my friends at the same time we were playing. Every time we looked over, we assumed we’d be playing our friends next. They were up 4-0. Then they were up 5-3. After we were off the ice (a 12-2 game tends to go faster than a close game), they gave up three and lost 6-5. Ouch. They made the mortal sin of continually scoring one point per end, which is a very precarious way to play. In the final tally, they won five of the seven ends that were played, and the other team only scored in two of the ends, but that’s not what matters in the end.

Our friends said we should have no problem beating this next team. We’ll see. It’s hard to judge which part of their game was the fluke. Were they a lucky team in those two ends, or were they good enough to keep limiting their opponent to one point at a time? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

The only other item of note in game number one was the double balloon. At a number of bonspiels, they have a cowbell stuck to the end of a balloon. If anyone on your team hits a double-takeout (Removing two opponent stones from the house with one shot), you ring the bell and move the balloon to your sheet. It sits there until another game steals it with a double-takeout of their own. Whoever ends the game in possession of the balloon gets a free pitcher of beer.

I’ll repeat that: A free pitcher of beer!

The goddamned balloon had been in our goddamned possession for damn-near a half-hour. When our skip got in the hack to take his final shot, he turned around to look at the balloon. “Okay, we still have the balloon, so I’ll just throw a guard.” When his fucking shot was halfway down the fucking lane, some other fucking team rang the fucking bell.

I’m a little bitter. Can you tell? Nothing is so demoralizing as, in the midst of sweeping our final shot, knowing that I’m now going to have to pay a whopping thirteen dollars for my next pitcher of beer. That bell was worse than the bell that starts the final day of school. Something so close, and yet just out of reach.

We had time to play one more end. We discussed with the other team the possibility of playing one more end just to set up doubles. We tried to convince them that they could use another end as practice. Heck, that was the only reason we had played the final end, already up 10-2. But this time, they just shrugged. The spirit of curling says that the winner buys the loser beer, so they were getting free beer regardless of if it came via us or a balloon. Besides,the way they were playing, we couldn’t guarantee their ability to put stones in the house for us to take out.

So pitcher on me! Worst. Thirteen Dollars. Ever.

Interlude.

The curling club that’s nice enough to give us their ice for this shindig has their own league that runs on Friday nights, so the organizers of our event usually find an activity in Seattle for us to comradarize at that night. Last year, it was a Mariners game. This year, they’re out of town, so we went to a grown-up mini golf and duffleboard place, instead.

What’s duffleboard, you ask? Good question. It was a question most of us had, and oddly, it was not defined on their website. I guess they just want you to come on down and check it out.

Duffleboard is part shuffleboard, part mini golf. They set up a “green” on a table. You use a stick with a flat end, like the letter T, and push the golf ball across the board. You get points based on where the ball ends up. On a soccer table, you push the ball from corner kick territory and are supposed to bank it off of a defender into the goal for the equivalent of a hole-in-one. If you missed the goal long, it was two strokes, three if it was on the near side of the goal, up to five or six for missing the defender and leaving the ball out in the middle of nowhere. Another table was set up like SafeCo Field (hole in one for hitting it through small holes in the home run fence, two for a slightly large hole without a defender, six if you couldn’t push it out of the infield). There was also a Seahawks #12 table. I’m sensing a Seattle theme. Then we came upon a basketball one, which I found odd because Seattle hasn’t had basketball in twenty years. The table had a picture of Key Arena. I don’t think that’s even standing anymore.

The duffleboard was fun. More fun than the actual mini golf. The mini-golf course was seven holes making the word “Seattle.” However, to make it grown-up, the letters are all chopped up with boards and kegs and awkward lanes. To wit:

I get it. I’ve played mini golf with the daughter, and one would assume adults need something with a little more nuance, a bit more adversity. But this place also had beer, and one would think that drunk adults might not need too many wrinkles. Just think of the joys of stimulus-response time if they were to put in a windmill

In the end, the duffleboard was much more fun, cheaper, and we didn’t have to wait a half hour for a tee time. They might want to pump that up a little on their website.

One more thing from Friday night. The bar didn’t take cash. Card only. I really wanted to go all economics teacher on them and mention that fiat currency is “good for all debts, public an private,” but decided against it. Because they had beer and I really, really wanted to incur a private debt.

Game Two. 

Curling is a team game. And thank God for that. Because I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in game two, but we still managed to take the W.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on myself. My first two shots were beautiful. Pristine. We had one beautiful stone fully covered underneath a proper guard. In fact, maybe I should wax a bit more eloquent about that first end. We only scored one. It wasn’t even the one that I had put in the house, because that got jostled out by the best player on the opposing team – a twenty-year old girl who could pretty much hit anything out of the house whenever she wanted. I can’t throw upweight half as well as her.

So the end itself wasn’t all that spectacular, but did I mention I hit both of my first two shots? Because in case you hadn’t heard, I did.

The next twelve shots I took? Yeah, best not to talk about them. Maybe my hangover was starting to fade too much.

There were at least two ends where neither of my rocks ended up in play. That’s bad. It doesn’t give the rest of my team much to work with. Unless I want to claim that I was keeping it wide open for my teammates to take out the other team’s stones. Yeah, yeah, that was my plan all along. Like when Kobe bragged about giving his teammates so many rebound opportunities when he missed.

Mind you, not all of my shots were horrible. Many were, but some were not. Unfortunately, the non-horrible ones still weren’t very good. The best I could call them was “something my teammates might have a chance to do something with.”

But hey, we won, right? I’d rather play shitty and win than to be on top of my game in a loss. After we scored one point in the first end (did I mention my shots in the first end? No? They were magnificent!), the other team came back and scored two in the second. In the third end, we couldn’t get anything going and, starting with their wee-lass doubling out two of our stones (what’s the point? She wasn’t even old enough to drink her free pitcher, so she might as well have kept our rocks in play), neither team let any stone stick around. The result was a blank end, meaning nobody scored. That was intentional on our part when it came to the final shot, because it’s better to hold onto the hammer (final rock) than to score one and give the hammer back to the other team. Especially if we’re already down one.

At that point in the game, I was nervous. If they could take out our stones and were already up by one, then it would be difficult to score more than one, and we had already seen what this team will do if you keep scoring one against them. Or zero, as we had just done.

But in the third end, we scored three. We didn’t deserve it. In fact, I thought we only had two, but there was a stone, way in the back of the house, still in play by maybe only an inch, that counted. It had been sitting there for five minutes, just minding its own business, laa, laa, laa, don’t mind me, and what do you know, we score three.

That’s when the wheels came off the other team. Their second was still shooting lasers, but everyone else on the team was missing. Did I mention I’d rather play shitty in a win than play well in a loss? Annie fucking Oakley over there was the Reverse Wombat in this particular game.

So we made it through to the  quarterfinals. Because we’re 2-0, we are still alive whether we win or lose the next game. If we lose, we head to the B Bracket. If we win, we’re into the Championship Round. Goal number one of any bonspiel is to still be playing on Sunday. Mission Accomplished!

Good thing, too, because the team we’re playing next looks solid. They played right after us, so we stuck around to do a little scouting. The team they played came from our sister club, so we’ve played them pretty regularly. Our sister club team, who we’re comparable to, fell behind 4-0, but made a game out of it, coming back to 4-3 before giving up one in the final end.

So there’s a chance there, if only our fucking lead can get his fucking stones in play.

Oh, and there will be karaoke off ice while we’re playing. Expect a second interlude.

Game Three.

Fuck.

A.

Duck.

I swear, those of you reading this as one full post after the fact will believe that I, like the masterful storyteller I am, went back and changed my Game Two write-up for juxtapositional purposes. I promise that is not the case. The reason I decided to track my progress through this weekend was because this ain’t my first go around, and most bonspiels come with highs and lows in rapid succession. And we just experienced the fuck out of those highs and lows.

Remember when I said I’d rather play shitty and win the game than play wonderfully and lose? Well, I played great in game three.

Seriously, let me take a moment to explain some of my wonderful shots. Draw to the button? Yeah, I hit three of those. Guards? No fucking problem. There was this one shot – there were two guards, one ours, one the other team’s, that were about two feet apart from each other. Behind the gap, sitting right on the T-Line (that’s the horizontal line that goes through the middle of the house, making a T, or maybe a t, depending on your angle). I threw a take-out that went right through the port, knocked their rock out of play, and then rolled just a little to the right, under the cover of one of those guards I had just passed through. If I were to pull a John Elway and walk away at the height of my curling career, it might’ve been after that shot.

My vice (that’s the guy who shoots third – vice skip, right before the skip) also had a double takeout that end. Ring the cowbell, motherfucker! We scored four points in that end, to go up 5-3.

Then we lost the game.

At least we held onto the double-balloon for the free pitcher of beer this time. Trust me, we needed it.

Prior to that four-ender, the other team made an odd decision. They were up 2-1 in the third end, and with their final shot, the house was wide open. According to Hoyle, you should blank the end – throw through, intentionally score zero, hold onto the final shot. Instead, they drew for one point and gave us the hammer back. The following end was the one we scored four. That’s why Hoyle says what Hoyle says.

After that four-ender, we stole one, which means we scored one despite the other team having the final shot. We were feeling good. This game was following the same pattern as game two. Take a few ends to feel out the competition, then exploit their weaknesses and keep stealing points. We were up three with three ends left to play. Ninety percent of the time, the team who’s up by three with three ends left will win. All we have to do is play conservative and not give up big ends.

Oops.

They scored two in the next end. Had we been a tad more conservative, we might have held them to one. Feeling all Big Johnson, we went for a knockout and forgot about the counter-punch.

No problem. Only two ends left, and we’re up one with the hammer. If we score two, they’ll have to score three. Early in the end, we got one near the button that they couldn’t do anything with, and we guarded it. There were a couple times we could have tried to get a second rock in, but instead we just guarded the fuck out of that one rock. Once it was secure, we tried to get a second rock in, but the guards work two ways. We probably waited too long to try to get that second point, but whatever, we go to the final end up by two.

They score two. Fuck a duck.

Our skip was heavy on two draws in a row that would have cut them to one. If we cut them to one, we win the game. In the grand scheme of things, if one person is going to hit their shots and the other is going to miss, you want the lead missing and the skip hitting. Not vice versa. As games two and three demonstrate.

So what do you do when a curling game ends in a tie? The skip on each team draws to the button. The closest one wins.

I hate this practice, but it’s a necessary evil, especially in knock-out bracket play. I coordinate the league at our home club, and I give the loser of a draw to the button the equivalent of the NHL’s overtime loss. It’s worth one point instead of two. A team that is 3-3 with a DTB loss is better than a legitimate 3-3 team, worse than a 4-2 team. Because, especially at our level, a draw-to-the-button a brutal crapshoot.

I had no faith in my skip making the draw to the button, having been heavy and outside on his last two shots. But, DAMN, he got it within five inches of the button (Thanks to my phenomenal sweeping). Five inches is nothing. I’ve scored many of these competitions, and twenty or thirty inches is usually good enough to win. Hack, I’ve seen seventy-two inches win (seventy-three is the maximum, meaning you missed the house entirely). So five inches, we’re punching our ticket to A Bracket.

The other team got within three inches.

Fuck a duck.

Welcome to B Bracket.

We played well, even excellently at times, for one hundred minutes. For fifteen minutes at the end, we fell apart. Such is a bonspiel.

Hey, guess who we’re playing in the morning? The two people that the skip and I played with last year, that we separated from to go our own way. Grudge-match extraordinaire. At least we’ll finally figure out which two people on last year’s team deserved the accolades.

Again, I promise I did not add this shit in to the top to add suspense.

Interlude Two.

I wasn’t in much of a karaoke mood after that last game. The guy that runs it even came up to me, said I killed it last year, and wondered what my first song would be. I told him we had just suffered a gut-wrencher and to give me a little time.

Fortunately, the spirit of curling brought one pitcher our way via the loss, the double-takeout balloon gave us another one, and then I was finally ready to sing.

I started with “As Good as I Once Was,” by Toby Keith, at the request of my skip, who was not feeling as good once as he ever was after that last game.

I followed it up with “Baby Got Back” and “Chocolate Salty Balls.” Then it was home to (write this up and) get ready for tomorrow morning. Did I mention our first game is at 8:00 AM?

Game Four.

Boy, am I glad I didn’t punctuate last night’s come-from-ahead, two-inch loss with some form of “I’d rather get blown out in a game than lose such a close one.”

I was definitely thinking it, but I wasn’t stupid enough to write it. Maybe even thinking it was a bad idea.

Game four started off bad, then got worse. In the second end, we gave up three points even though we had the hammer. The two flashes (when the stone hits nothing and sails right on through, waving like the beer bottle in the Laverne & Shirley credits) that our vice had were bad enough, but the two flashes that our skip had right after definitely didn’t help. Four misses in a row tend to be problematic.  When a quarterback throws four interceptions in a game, that hurts the team’s chances of winning. Our opponents only had one rock in play when we missed the first shot. By the fourth, they had three.

But the fun wasn’t over, as we gave up one more point the following end, and before our bodies had acclimated to the ice, we were down 5-0. In our defense, we battled back to 5-3, but down two without hammer in the final end doesn’t give you a lot of options. But hey, at least we were hitting some of our shots. And our skip’s final shot, going through a port smaller than the one I had hit in game two, in order to almost knock out three opponent stones, was a helluva shot and almost brought us back from the dead!

New team motto: Playing best when it matters least!

I remember reading, a long, long time ago, before the Cubs and Red Sox ended their respective curses, about the different types of painful sports losses. There’s misery and agony. Agony is acute, misery is more pervasive. The Cubs have tended to have more misery. Usually in last place, losing ninety games a year with no big prospects or future or hope. The fans don’t expect to win and wear their “lovable losers” badge with a sense of pride. The Red Sox, on the other hand, were usually a good team, fighting for division crowns, often making the playoff. Yet every time they thought this was the year, Bucky Dent happens, Billy Buckner happens. Agony.

After this weekend, I can speak from experience. Neither is great. The misery route sucks more while you’re on the ice. Slumped body language, looking at the clock to see how much longer you have to endure, trying to be a good sport when really you want to scream expletives at the top of your lungs through sobs in the corner.

But the good news about sucking is that, by the end of the game, you’re already resigned to the fact. Even though that last game was against people we know, with every ounce of pride on the line, and even though I will be reminded of that loss umpteen times whenever I curl against them, or even see them, in the future, this shitty showing ain’t going to be the one that I remember when I look back on this tournament.

Giving up three, then losing by two inches? That one’ll stick with me for a long, long while.

Billy Buckner was a career .289 hitter with over 1200 RBI. Ask him what he’s remembered for.

Conclusion

Two and two. 2-2. W, W, L, L.

Doesn’t matter how I write it, it doesn’t look any better.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended a bonspiel with that exact same record. And in that order. If I did it in the opposite order, two losses followed by two wins, I’d be called the C-Bracket or D-Bracket champion. But win, win, loss, loss usually equates to some bullshit title. In this case, we were called the sixth place team. The seventh-place team got a pin for winning the B Bracket. Kinda like College Football, it’s all a matter of getting those losses out of the way first.

At least they made this bracket so the 2-0 teams weren’t eliminated if they lost their third game. Been there, done that. Nothing’s worse than watching the teams that played horribly still alive on Sunday while you’re eliminated because you had the audacity to win early.

Not sure why my teams tend to start strong then finish weak. In theory it’s because the competition gets harder as the weekend goes along, but in practice, that’s not always the case. Hell, the final was between a team from our sister club (who we’ve beaten more times than we’ve lost to) and the team that beat us by two inches. And the way they both played that final game, I think we would’ve had a damn good shot.

Then again, it’s always easy to make your hypothetical shots when you’re sitting in the warm room with a beer in your hand.

Maybe it’s a fatigue thing. We are well into our thirties and forties, after all. Maybe it’s that other teams adjust better. Not sure. If we lost the same way each time, that would be one thing. Sometimes the front end (aka me) falls apart. But this weekend, the best player on our team lost his touch and didn’t get it back.

I guess that’s why sports exist, though. If we played the two-inch team ten times, we’d beat them seven or eight. The Patriots would probably have a similar record against an Eagles team with a back-up quarterback, but who is the Super Bowl champ?

And all things considered, going 2-2 in a curling tournament ain’t such a bad thing. Hang out with friends, drink lots of beer, get more than my money’s worth. At least that’s what I’ll keep reminding myself over the next few days when I’m hobbling around like I’ve been doing lunges all weekend long. Oh wait, I HAVE been doing lunges all weekend.

Obviously, I didn’t post this multiple times over the weekend. Something about getting back to the airbnb at midnight after a few pitchers might be conducive to stream-of-consciousness drivel, but not for editing and publishing. I’ll go back and clean it up a little, but I promise, all of the entries (before this one) were written in real time. I wanted to capture the ups and downs of a bonspiel, because my bonspiels typically go through these highs and lows. The good shots linger for a short time, while the misses get scorched in your brain for longer.

It’s like ol’ Blue Eyes said, you’re “flying high in (3:00 PM on Saturday), shot down in (seven hours later).”

But the real bonspiel experience was the plane ride home. My club sent 23 people from Sacramento to Seattle this weekend. Eighteen of us were on the same flight home. First at the bars and restaurants, then sitting at the gate, then walking down the aisle, there were familiar faces everywhere. Here are the husband and wife who beat me and lost in the B Final. Over there are members of a team that went 0 and 3 in their very first bonspiel away from home. Right behind me is a family of three who shifted their lineup at the last minute because their fourteen year-old son wanted to play on an all-teenager team. The teenager’s team went 2-2, winning the middle two games, while his parents went through a grueling 1-3 weekend, their only win coming in the E Bracket against the team I had played first – the ones with three years of experience combined. Who even knew they made an E Bracket?

Maybe I shouldn’t complain too much about my 2-2 weekend after all.

Cat-astrophe

My mom was visiting last week for some time with her granddaughter. While she was here, she proudly claimed she “fixed” my cat’s dietary issue. Three thousand dollars later, the cat came home from the hospital.

And boy, are my arms tired.

Sorry, don’t know how to punch that particular line. Line that particular punch? How does one verbify punchline?

Sorry, where was I? Oh, right. My mother almost killed my cat.

In her defense, we didn’t know what she was doing was wrong. However, the problem wouldn’t have gotten quite as acute, or cost me quite as much money, if grandma were not visiting.

My cat is eighteen years old, far past the life expectancy for one of his ilk. One of the few twentieth century kitties still roaming around. He’s been with me from my mid-twenties into my mid, um early forties. Through six moves and six “roommates,” if you count wife and child as roomies.

In fact, he is the longest-tenured roommate in my life, surpassing my mom. I moved away to college one month shy of my eighteenth birthday. The cat came to live with me, small enough to fit in my hand, in November 1999. So last November, he had been living with me for eighteen years, one month longer than I lived with my mom.

No, I don’t think she was taking it out on him.

The cat hasn’t been fully healthy for a few years now. He has trouble keeping down food. Lots of kitty vomit around the house. Thankfully I’ve got a toddler, too, so we can just wait until they’re both done and replace the carpets. Of course, he’s always hungry because he pukes up what he just ate. If Oprah still had a show, she’d probably book him for a very special kitty-bulimia episode.

Despite always whining at his bowl for food, he’s really not a fan of cat food. He’s never liked the dry shit (his words), but more recently, he’s not a fan of the wet food, either. He’ll take two or three bites and leave the rest for the other cat to hoover. Then Old Dude counter-surfs for human food. He’s pretty spry for an old dude, especially when I’m sitting at the kitchen table trying to enjoy my own goddamn food that I had to work pretty goddamn hard for, cat, so maybe you best go get your own fucking job if you really want to eat your own goddamn taco meat.

At his last weigh-in, before the tuna incident, he was down to nine pounds, which isn’t particularly healthy. Meanwhile, the other cat in the house has ballooned up to fourteen pounds. We’re now under instructions to make Fatty lose weight. Do you know how hard it is to make one cat eat more while making the other one eat less?

So when my mom decided to feed him some tuna while I was at work, I didn’t think much of it. She said he liked it and she was going to feed him more tuna the next day. Sure, Mom, more power to ya.  

Oh, did I mention he’s been diagnosed with kidney problems? And the worst thing for bad kidneys is a lot of protein? There isn’t any protein in tuna, is there?

Of course, he was diagnosed with kidney issues four years ago, which was the first time I ran a blood panel on him. The vet said his kidney levels were a little elevated and I might want to do something about it. It’s good to know that animal doctors are just as vague as human doctors. A little elevated? What the fuck does that mean?

We opted out of any specific kidney-related diet or behavioral changes that year. Said we’d fix his diet and make him do little kitty aerobics and make sure he never went outside and, I don’t know, make him floss more. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to say when you’re being chastised in a doctor’s office?

The following year, they ran another panel and came back with the same answer: slightly elevated kidney functions. Alright fine, the flossing didn’t work. Speaking of flossing, the poor bugger actually had to have a tooth removed that year. He’s down to three of the good teeth left. It hasn’t affected his ability to eat, but it has given him a really gnarly Billy Idol sneer.

But this time, we figured he was fifteen and showed no interest in getting a driver’s permit, so we might as well splurge and get him the kidney diet. And wouldn’t you know it, the skinny cat that is very finicky about what he eats… didn’t like the kidney food. He had a tendency to avoid it and then, when forced to munch on the day-old crap in his bowl, proceeded to vomit it back up.

Meanwhile, Fatty has some of the best kidneys you’ve ever seen in a five-year old cat. You could eat off of those fuckers.

When we took him back for his Sweet Sixteen checkup, wouldn’t you know it, his kidney values were a little up. At this point, we figured fuck it. Whether we give him the good shit or the bad shit, he’s going to get the “D-” in kidney class. Dude’s sixteen years old, so let him enjoy life. Let him eat what he wants to eat.

Except maybe not tuna.

A couple days into grandma’s week-long visit, I noticed he was walking a little wobbly, but whatever, he’s eighteen now, I’m surprised he’s not using a walker by now.

The diarrhea was a bit off-putting (in MANY ways – the bed comforter will never be the same). And by the time my mom left, it was clear that he was not just having a senior moment. There was something clearly wrong with him. He was dehydrated, which you wouldn’t think you can spot in a cat, but you can. He was having trouble walking up stairs. When he tried to sit, he splayed out with his back legs, then flopped. When he face-planted in front of the water bowl, I didn’t think he’d ever get up. I lifted him and there was almost nothing there. When we got him to the vet the next morning, he weighed at seven pounds, and I think that was being generous. Two pounds may not sound like that much of a difference, but it was a quarter of his already-depleted body weight.

The first thing the vet said when they saw him was that they didn’t think they had what he needed at their place. He was going to need a legitimate animal hospital. Of course, they still ran $350 worth of tests.

If you guessed “elevated kidney functions,” give yourself a gold star.

By the end of the day, he was in the hospital. The new vets commented on the lack of detail in the previous blood work. “It would be nice to know how far ‘off the charts’ his BUN is.” I agree.

The new vets decided to hydrate him. I could’ve told them he needed that. Then again, I wouldn’t’ve had a fucking clue HOW to hydrate an animal that chooses if and when he will drink water. I learned that, even at the best of times, cats don’t hydrate themselves enough.  It’s not like with humans, where you can just spike the water with some Crystal Light or EmergenC or lime or vodka to get them to drink more.

Wait, I’m not supposed to be hydrating myself with vodka? No wonder my marathon training’s stalled out.

They gave my cat electrolytes. It’s what cats crave!

They also wanted to keep him for forty-eight to seventy-two hours to see if any of the treatments were working.

Our initial deposit was three thousand dollars. Yikes. I knew it would be expensive. We have an odd sense of what medical procedures cost in this country because they are usually paid by an insurance company.  Many people are surprised that a quadruple bypass heart surgery actually costs a bit more than the $20 copay. And the rest of us that are on the same insurance plan as you would really love it if you put that last chicken wing down next time, cause our premiums keep going up.

So I know that services cost money, and if this place is going to staff around the clock, said staff needs to be paid. Particularly those staff of the veterinary PhD style. Not too mention all the shots and specialty food and supplements can’t just be covered by some random government MediCat bureaucracy.

That being said, $500 for an ultrasound seems excessive. Pretty sure my cat isn’t pregnant.

Can’t I just get Kaiser or Blue Cross to pay for it? Or maybe claim it as a tax deduction? Animals can now be classified as therapy necessities. Isn’t keeping them alive, then, a psychological necessity. Can I at least claim moving expenses since he had to live in the hospital for a few days?

This is where my cat might want to give extra bonus purrs to his mommy in the future, because the asshole father that he’s been living with for eighteen years was ready to cut bait and run. It’s not that I’m miserly or heartless. Had I received a guarantee that he would survive, I would’ve happily paid it.

Okay, maybe not happily, but I would’ve paid it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good gamble. If they had said, “Pay the three grand and your cat has a seventy to eighty percent chance of survival,” I would’ve jumped at it. But the “pay three grand and it might not do a damn thing,” is a bit of a hard sell. Can I at least hedge my bets?

So my first instinct was to remind my wife and myself that he’s an eighteen year old cat. Hell, we could give him a kidney transplant, a brand spanking-new robotic Kidneytron 3000, and he still might die from a hairball in two weeks. It’s not like we resuscitate people on death row or anyth… Wait, we do? Oh, for fuck’s sake, can I just charge my cat with some special circumstances?

So we ponied up the three grand to get our seventy-two hours of hospice care before having the awkward conversation with our daughter. Hey, at least the kitty hospital had 24-hour visitation rights. I don’t think many human hospitals have that kind of compassion and understanding. On the first night, we visited the cat only to find him still heavily sedated from his visit to the first vet, even though it was ten hours or more since the administration of said sedatives. They just escorted us into the cage area to give him some pets that he did not seem to notice.

By the evening of day two, they were able to put us in a little family-visit room before ushering him in like a prisoner being granted a conjugal visit. They even brought his dinner, hoping that seeing his family would bring his appetite around. He scarfed down the food, showing no interest in the water. Woo-hoo!  His demeanor was a bit trepidatious at first. Then he became ornery. I cringed when he tried to leap down from the steel table-tray they had put him on, despite still having a PICC in his front leg. I intervened and lowered him down to the floor myself, and he walked over to stare forlornly out the window. Did I mention it felt like a prison visit?

This was the first point that I started to think the three thousand might not be going to waste. Because this pissed-off stare, accompanied by a “are you shitting me?” meow is precisely the way my cat of the last seventeen years would react. Not the lethargic wraith of the past few days. He was pissed at being cooped up inside. Now he was saying, “if you could just put me on the opposite of this goddamned window, I’ll find my own fucking way home, thank you very much, and if you want to be helpful, you could have some goddamned dinner ready for me when I get there because I might have to kick some fucking ass while en route.”

Just no tuna.

His magical numbers in his blood had come down a bit the next day, but were still very high. Of course, not having a baseline, it was hard to say how close these numbers were to the normal “elevated kidney functions” he had been coping with just fine for four years. We were given the option of taking him home or keeping him in for one more night to see if the professionals could bring them down any more. Since we hadn’t used up all of the deposit, we were playing with house money anyway. Sure! Keep him one more night. And lets buy a round of Alpo for the house while we’re at it.

Day three brought more or less the same results as day two. Meh. It’s not like that $750 would’ve gone to anything more worthwhile.

We arranged a pick-up, which ended up being delayed a half-hour or so because all five visitation rooms were occupied. Saturday night’s alright for fighting, huh, frisky folks? Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

Oh, and we still hadn’t used up our initial mark. Seventy bucks coming back our way! Woo-hoo! Don’t call it a comeback!

Kitty’s back home and all is right with the world.

Except for the home care element. We have to do is make him take a pill every day.

And shoot some white liquid down his gullet after every time he eats. He hates it. Scratches and bites the shit out of me and my wife. Half the cream ends up on his fur, he spits the other half of it out. It looks like the culminating scene in a… uh… genre of movies that often have punny titles about shafts or moistness or… college coeds.

We’re supposed to feed him and shoot our wad down his throat once every eight hours. Not sure how feasible that is in a dual-income family. And if we hadn’t been a dual-income family, I doubt we would’ve made it this far into the process.

We also get to hydrate him subcutaneously. I hoped that meant a pill, or worse case scenario, we fill a syringe with a couple ounces of water. Until they rolled in the IV stand like it’s a goddamned cancer ward. Turns out we have to put 100 milliliters a day. One of those IV bags is a liter, so we have to get a tenth of that bag into him each night. We have to use a different needle every night. We didn’t have a standard needle depository like you get from the human hospitals, paid for by insurance companies, or from f=your friendly-neighborhood drug dealer. So we’re putting the discarded needles in an empty Baskin-Robbins quart. Can’t wait to explain that needle collection to CPS.

Fortunately, you can lift the skin on a cat’s back and they don’t feel the needle going in. Unfortunately, it takes a couple minutes to get the 100 mL in, and cats aren’t known for sitting still when you want them to. After I take the needle out, he’ll sit still for the next three hours, but as soon as it’s in his back, he has the burning desire to waddle over to the other side of the couch.

I’ve also noticed (or at least my bloodied hands and forearms have noticed) that the cat tends to be less amenable to the injected-water thingy on the second or third day in a row. I think the initial vet said most customers only to the subcutaneous fluids two-to-three times a week. Having poked my own hand when he bolted out last night, that sounds like a capital idea. Now where the hell is that Baskin-Robbins quart, so I can dump the feline-and-human-stained needle?

The vet tech said that sometimes the needle will go through two layers of skin and you’ll be dumping water out the other side. That happened on our third attempt. She said all I had to do was pull back on the needle a bit and it would be back inside him. Nope. Then I was just spraying the water all over the initial opening. That was fun. I tried to re-engage, but the sweet spot was even harder to find when it was surrounded by matted fur and a very cantankerous, wet, pussy cat.

Just like those movies I was talking about! Just kidding, just kidding. I would never compare my cat to a…

Oh, who am I kidding? He’s been sedated, had things shoved in his mouth, and has more needle holes than a crack whore. Is there really any line of work he could go into other than prostitute or porn star? Maybe it’s time for him to start earning back some of that precious coin.

After all, he’s eighteen years old. I  hear there’s quite a market for that age.

Bouncing Birthday Bacchanal

Just went to my first children’s birthday party, and… Holy schnikey, y’all!

This wasn’t the first birthday party my daughter, nor my wife, had gone to. This was the first one, however, when I couldn’t find something more important and painless, like a root canal, to skip it for. I’ve already had my vasectomy, so either I show up to this one or I admit I’m a horrible father. I’ll have plenty of other chances to do the latter as the years go by, so I might as well go to this party.

Also, my daughter is approaching the big four-oh. Not forty, but four. Oh! I’m going to have to be present for that one, too, so I figured this was a good chance to do some advance scouting. It turns out that a middle-aged man randomly showing up to watch a bunch of little kids frolic and play is frowned upon.

The first few birthdays my daughter went to were at other kids’ houses. The kids in question put invitations in her cubby at daycare, so I guess we’re counting them as “school friends.” I don’t know whether my daughter was specifically targeted or whether it was a “Just put an invitation in everybody’s cubby.” Again, this is key intelligence we need before our own child’s birthday.

My daughter’s other recent birthday party was for the child of my wife’s friend. Not sure if it’s an upgrade or a downgrade to go from “school friend” to “forced friend.” I’ve seen pictures from my fourth birthday party, and it was attended by a whopping three other kids, all of whom were children of my mom’s friends and who I had virtually nothing in common with by the time second grade rolled around.

Still had to play with them through sixth grade, though. What is the magic age when you finally get to invite only the people you want to your party? Five? Ten? Sweet Sixteen?

Hold on, I’ve planned a wedding before – the answer is you NEVER get to only invite the people you want.

The party I went to last weekend was that of a girl from our neighborhood. My daughter plays with her at the local park. My wife and her mother coordinate via Facebook Messenger. How did my mother accomplish these things in the 1970s? They must have just shot signal flares up into the air when en route to the park. It’s either that or, GASP!, plan in advance, and who the hell has the wherewithal to do that? What happened if my mom had pre-booked a park visit and I wanted to binge-watch an extra episode of “Sesame Street?” Oh yeah, we only had three channels and they all showed soap operas during the days. Never mind.

The first thing I noticed about this particular party was the number of children present. My rough estimate was the high forties. How does a five-year old know fifty people? My wife and I were in our late-thirties when we got married, and we only managed to get close to a hundred guests. And again, most of those people we didn’t really want to invite.

Except for you. If you’re reading this and were at my wedding, you were TOTALLY on the good list.

Allegedly this girl got fifty people at her birthday party by inviting all of the kids in her daycare class. So maybe I was right about the invitations we’ve got. It’s like Valentine’s Day, when even the freak in the class gets the generic Flintstones Yabba-Dabba-Heart card.

But this fact, by itself, doesn’t equate to the cacophony of children that were there. We’ve had some birthday “invites” stuck in my kid’s cubby that we didn’t feel inclined to attend. Usually we ask our daughter if she gives a shit about the kid in question. At other times, she never even needs to know that the freaky kid that still watches “The Flintstones” is having a party this weekend. If she has a problem, she can fucking learn to read.

So maybe this kid with the fifty friends has some secret draw. Maybe she’s the candy pusher in the club. Maybe she has a future in wedding-list design. Or maybe the norms at her particular daycare are more stringent than at ours. Her party was at 10:00 in the morning, and she was scheduled to be at another kid’s birthday party at 4:00 that afternoon. Maybe the whole Stepford-lot of them were going to follow the same path throughout the ‘burbs like some goddamned Hale-Bopp Comet.

Let’s do the math. If the contingent is fifty kids, there’s only fifty-two weeks in the year. Take out some of the major holidays and they probably have to schedule two kids each Saturday. Hell, our neighbor-kid’s real birthday might not even be until mid-July, but this was the weekend she pulled in the birthday party lottery.

What kind of daycare has fifty kids in a class, anyway? State law says there shouldn’t be more than sixteen kids per adult, so unless they’re in some multi-purpose room with five adults casing the perimeter, there shouldn’t be that many kids.

So maybe what was really bringing fifty kids together was the location. This particular party was held at a place called Bounce U. Like its name implies, this business is a giant warehouse with a shit-ton of inflatable bounce houses inside. The warehouse was divided into two rooms, each with four or five inflatable bounce houses. Our party just under thirty minutes in the first room, then moved onto the second room while, presumably, another group of hopped-up ought-somethings piled into room number one behind us. Twenty to thirty minutes later, the well-oiled machine deposited us into a party room for pizza and cake. Three groups in the business at a time, one more congregating in the lobby area, and never the twain shall meet. I guess it’s more than a twain, put quadrain ain’t as poetic.

Seriously, it was flawless. Disneyland could probably learn a thing or two from this company about each group thinking they have the run of the place.

Our particular group had two “Party Pros” assigned to us. Their shirts say “Party Pro” on the back. They’re, like, fifteen years old. I was skeptical at precisely how much partying they had on their professional resume. Talk to me when you’ve graduated from bounce houses to keg stands.

When we finished the cycle and were preparing to leave, I saw three or four more “Party Pros” in the front lobby, waiting for the parties that they were about to go all pro on. None of them cracked eighteen. In fact, I don’t think I saw an employee of legal voting age the entire day. The logical part of me knows there must be an adult supervisor somewhere, some shadowy silhouette behind a one-way mirror like the creepy banker in “Deal or No Deal,” but I never saw any definitive evidence.

When the children were in the rooms with the giant inflatables, it was a study in groupthink and societal interaction standards. All of the children would swarm toward one bounce house. Five minutes later, they would all go on to the next one, leaving the previous Mecca looking more like Chernobyl. At any given time, there would be thirty-plus kids on one inflatable, while at least one other one was not being used at all.

I kept looking for the one kid to buck the trend, but he or she never arrived. No future real estate mogul who would lay claim to the dessert oasis inflatable, knowing that it would soon blossom into the next Las Vegas.

Can anything really blossom into Vegas? Is there a word for growing into degradation? MardiGras’ing?

Remember that scene in “A Beautiful Mind,” where he analogized some scientific theory to hitting on women at the bar? That all the molecules swarm toward the hot chick? I think that was the point. And the kid never grew up. That was the whole movie, right?

Anyway, instead of a bar at happy hour, the schizo scientist could’ve just gone to a kid’s birthday party at Bounce U. The untapped potential of perfectly viable viaducts was on regular display. Only at the birthday party, it wasn’t even the hot chick that all the molecules were going toward. It was whatever bounce house the hive-mind deigned worthy at that particular moment.

“Seriously, kid. The slide RIGHT NEXT DOOR, with three kids on it, works the exact same as the one you’re waiting in a line with thirty other kids for right now. Don’t believe me? Check back with me in four minutes.

The worst case scenario was in the second room. If they make “A Beautifuller Mind,” the whole damn movie could take place in this five hundred square feet. One inflatable in this room had an Ultimate-Ninja/Most-Extreme-Championship-style “jump across the giant balls without falling off” course. It was the only inflatable with a rule, which was “only one person on a ball at a time.” There were three balls, so the most you could have on the “course” at any time was three. More often it was one or two, as somebody would have fallen off or some kid was standing petrified on the second ball, contemplating a two-foot leap like he’s Indiana Jones about to pull the skull idol off the pressure plate.

Meanwhile, there would be ten kids lined up on the ledge, ready to take the first leap. Okay, maybe not “lined up,” but “clumped up.” You’ve seen youth soccer, right? Regardless, at any moment there were four times more kids waiting to jump than actually jumping. Nothing like waiting in line for five minutes in order to have ten seconds of fun. I guess we’re preparing them for Disneyland, huh?

And while these kids spent eighty percent of their time waiting for the ball jump, three other bounce houses went virtually unused. There was a pretty cool mountain-shaped bouncer, getting steeper as it rose, no handles. Like going up a slide, but a slide in the form of a very malleable bounce house, where you’re guaranteed to not reach the top and will instead slide back down in an orgiastic bouncefest. Or at least that’s how I assume it would have worked, because I never actually saw a kid use it. All the kids were too busy standing not-so-patiently on the ledge next to the ball jump. Maybe it’s reserved for the single adult employee.

As for my kid? She just followed the birthday girl around. Painfully so. At one point, they were supposed to make a “silly face” for a group picture. She turned to look at what face the birthday girl was making, then made the same face. Sigh. She’s a bit of a follower.

In her defense, the birthday girl was the only person she knew there. But my wife claims she followed the same M.O. at  the other birthday parties she went to. At her last one, there were five kids from her daycare class, but she still followed the birthday girl around.  Hell, her “bestie” only has that designation because she was the first one to invite my daughter to one of these shindigs. Daughter followed her around the whole party, decided they were best friends, and only now, a year later, is she starting to realize that their personalities aren’t all too compatible.

Wife’s not happy about this particular aspect of daughter’s personality. Not too happy about it myself, but for different reasons. Wife can’t stand it because it’s so opposite of how she engaged with others as a child. I, on the other hand, see a mirror upon my own upbringing.

And by “upbringing,” I mean everything up through last week or so. Never been the social butterfly. Put me in a large group of people where I only know one person, and I’m probably only talking to that one person.

It kinda sucks seeing the worst parts of your personality manifested in a three-year old who doesn’t even know she’s supposed to bury that shit. At least I’ve grown enough so, if said person is the person of honor, I won’t incessantly follow them around. I’ll probably just sit in the corner, check the scores of the game, and nurse my beer.

My daughter doesn’t really have those options, and someone sitting in the corner without beer and sports on the TV is probably just a freak.

Maybe I need to load her some “Flintstones” cartoons.

Transportation Shithole Assheads

As many of you know, I recently went on a trip to Hawaii.

But this post isn’t about Hawaii, per se.

This post is about to most wonderful part of any travel adventure: the Transportation Safety Administration.

This was the first “long haul” flight I’ve been on in a while, what with a three-year old and all. But I’ve had plenty of short and long trips throughout my life, both before and after 9/11, both with and without a small human in tow. I know the TSA and its procedures well enough. And they’re utter bullshit.

This time through the anal-probe carousel that is Security Clearance, the agent was nice enough to give my daughter a sticker. I have suspicions as to why this time, her eight or tenth time flying, she was gifted a sticker, but at this juncture, I’ll just mention the form of the sticker:

Hawaii TSA

How fitting. Of course she’s a junior TSA agent. Isn’t every toddler? She rifles through bags that don’t belong to her, not bothering to put back or refold any displaced items. She makes arbitrary, continuously-changing rules with little basis in reality or logic. The consequences for breaking said rules, however, are dire. She is also prone to some inappropriate tantrums and is entirely unaware of personal space.

One time I was flying on Christmas and the TSA unwrapped one of the presents in my checked luggage. It was a cookbook. They placed the torn-open wrapping paper inside the front cover of the book. Hopefully you sleep better at night knowing that pancake recipes aren’t falling into the hands of terrorists.

My biggest problem with the TSA is the lack of consistency from one airport to the next. In Sacramento, I have to remove my laptop and my kindle from my carry-on bag and put each in its own bin. In San Diego, laptops come out, but tablets stay in. On a recent trip out of Orange County, all of them could stay in the bag. Same airport, different time? No.

I take back my earlier comment. My three-year old is way more consistent. Her make-believe ice cream stand seems to have squid ice cream every time I ask for it.

I thought the whole point of federalizing airport security was for consistency. If what is allowed or not allowed is based on the whims of the high-school dropout hoping to see ladies’ boobs at the MRI machine, then we might as well return the process to local control.

On a recent trip out of Sacramento, I was asked if I had any food in my carry-on. Food? I know about liquids, but when did food become an issue? The agent said food was allowed, but they would have to take it out of my bag and open it or cut into it in order to make sure it’s legitimate food. My aunt in Southern California has an avocado tree and I was planning on returning with many avocados. If the jackasses cut into each one, that would greatly reduce the amount of time they would be of use to me.

Fortunately, the return trip was out of Ontario, so no mention was made of food. Also, this did not come up the next time I flew out of Sacramento. So terrorists, if there’s some new food-based plan of attack, don’t try to get it on a plane in Sacramento. They might or might not be onto you, depending on who’s working. The other 5,000 airports seem to have missed that memo, though.

Part of it might be personal. You see, I have an Irish last name and a relatively common first name. Which means there’s an IRA terrorist with the same name as me. Hooray!

For most of the 2000s, this meant I was often “randomly selected” for additional screening. Often at the gate. Nothing’s worse than being pulled out of the “first come, first seated” Southwest line and watching all of the window seats passing me down the tunnel.

It happened often enough that I started to wonder if it wasn’t all that “random.” Not that the government would lie to us or anything. But maybe I was being singled out because I was a twenty-something male, traveling alone, usually without any checked luggage. Or maybe it was because I had ordered a copy of “Triumph of the Will,” the Nazi propaganda film, for use in my classroom.

But it was really just fun and games until airlines started using those kiosks and online check-in. You see, Mister IRA-name can’t use either of those methods. Mister IRA-name needs to physically hand his ID to a real-life human being. How many of THOSE do you see at the airline desks these days?

Thankfully, a Southwest Agent (not a TSA agent, mind you) finally told me one time that it wasn’t my Nazi film or my demographics, but my name that was tagged. The Irish terrorist is thirty years older than me, so just seeing my birthdate was enough. I started booking with my middle name and have never had a problem since. Which is nice, because these days, if you can’t check in 23 hours, 50 minutes early, you’re going to being sitting in a middle seat.

With my curiosity piqued, I googled my name and learned more about the OTHER guy. He killed a cop in Belfast while escaping from jail. Yikes. Except it also appears that his whereabouts are fully known. You know, the whole Good Friday Agreement and “What’s a little car bomb amongst friends?” He still lives in Belfast. Meaning it probably ain’t him boarding a flight to Burbank.

But whatever, TSA, good job protecting us from British separatists. Wait, did the IRA want to leave or stay in Britain? I don’t remember. I’m American, and we try to ignore white terrorists. But the 3/8 Irish in me says, “Go Catholics! (or Protestants) Get rid of those rat-bastard Protestants! (Or Catholics) Semper fi, motherfuckers!”

Semper fi is gaelic, right?

All of this talk of “random screenings” and excessive scrutiny brings me back to my recent trip to Hawaii. We got the magical TSA Pre-Check designation. I had assumed I was ineligible, but it turns out that, as long as I’m not the first name on the reservation, it’s all good. “Right this way, Mrs. Smith and your husband, Mr. Bin Laden.”

The reason I could pre-check on this flight was because my in-laws, who booked the reservation, have paid for the privilege of pre-check. And if you’re willing to give money to the government, then you are clearly one of the “good guys.”

So I was prepared for an expedited security process with the TSA Pre-Check. But I figured it would be faster because there were fewer people in front of us. And that was part of it. But wait, there’s more! If you order in the next fifteen minutes, you get…

I was allowed to leave my laptop in my bag. No questions about food. No standing spread-eagle and holding my breath while the perv behind the screen checks out my junk. And, are you sitting down for this last one? I was able to keep my shoes on.

What the fuck? Aren’t shoes non-negotiable? Isn’t the shoe the single most-used weapon in the entire history of hijacking?

No? It was only one attempt made by one dude one time? And it failed? Hmm. Does the TSA know that?

Regardless, how the hell does the purchasing of a security clearance mean I don’t have explosives in my shoe? Wouldn’t someone with the resources to turn a shoe into a bomb also have the resources to pay for pre-check? And, to repeat, we only had to go through the metal detector, not the MRI, and I don’t think C-4 triggers a metal detector.

And maybe my in-laws had to go through some additional screening to get a pre-check validation. But I sure as hell did not. And I don’t even think you have to be a citizen in good standing, because my brother-in-law is British and I’m pretty sure he gets pre-check.

And I know, there is really nothing more American than”money = good.” It is a practice going back over a century, when first- and second-class passengers were able to go through quick look-overs on the ship, while the steerage (human cattle) class had to endure hours of lines and inspections and possible quarantine at Ellis Island.

Not at Angel Island, mind you. Those immigrants were not white, so they ALL had to go through the lines and inspections and quarantine. Wasn’t it Chester A. Arthur that wondered aloud why we have to let in immigrants from a bunch of shithole countries? No? Was it a more recent president?

I hate to go all populist, Occupy loser here, but seriously, what is it about poor people’s shoes and laptops that make them more likely to be used as weapons?

It’s either that, or the TSA would still be able to detect weapons with laptops in bags and shoes on feet. But if that’s the case, why do the riff-raff still have to do the whole rigmarole?

It has to be a marketing ploy. I assume fewer people would buy the pre-check if they still had to do the shoes and the computer thing. And of course, the only thing the government cares more about than curtailing our liberties protecting us is money. So if a terrorist hijacks a plane but there’s a new park in Tulsa, everyone’s cool with that trade-off, right?

All I know is that, if the government treated everyone the way they treat the rich, we’d all be making it through security in a matter of minutes. But would we feel safe if we went through security too fast? Because the TSA’s job is only to make us feel safer, not actually protect us.

If I have to take off my shoes, then cure up the Louis Armstrong, because it’s a wonderful world.

Unless I paid a lot for those shoes. Those shoes stay on. Membership has its privileges, and everybody’s happy.

Including my daughter. She got a fucking sticker!

We never got that kind of kickback in steerage class.

Hawaii, Part V

This should be the final installment in my Hawaiian vacation travelogue. Travel-blog-logue? Hell’s yeah. You can go back to the beginning or not. Today will be a little mish-mash of my final days on the Big Island, as well as some of the minor bits that have fallen through the cracks in the previous days.

Backyard: Okay, what the hell is this?

Hawaii Confined1

This was right next to the putt-putt golf course in our back yard. I assume it houses some underground equipment for the nearby pool or faux-river or, hell, the fitness center that has more dust than Betty Ford’s muffin. You find equipment stored underground like that all the time. But as I got closer, the wording struck me as odd.

I expected something along the lines of “Authorized Personnel Only.” Maybe even a nudge-nudge “No Admittance,” although we all know that every place admits somebody, of else there wouldn’t be a door. I would’ve even been fine with a “Danger” or a “High Voltage” warning. What I was unprepared for was this:

Hawaii Confined2

Confined Space? What the fuck does that even mean? Whatever’s underneath these doors is the same size as the cover, right? Is this like a reverse-Tardis, where it’s smaller on the inside. If that Doctor Who reference wasn’t obtuse enough, my first instinct was to write “A Pylon from Land of the Lost” – this rabbit hole can get a bit scary when I’m writing more than once per week.

What dumbass made the inside smaller than the door? Is it maybe concave? An upside-down pyramid? Ooo! Ooo! Like a Pylon!

But why does this particular warning exist at all? There was no keyhole anywhere on it, nor any conspicuous levers nearby, so whoever has access to it should already know the dimensions, correct? I doubt some random guest stumbled upon a secret panel in the nearby health spa, ran over to the exact metal panel it opened, then said, “Whoa! It’s confined! Better go back to my rum punch.”

Plus, wouldn’t even this random blue-hair SEE that the space beneath the door was confined once they had magically opened the door? Making the warning, again, pointless.

Unless… Doesn’t confine also mean to trap or imprison?

Uh oh. Didn’t they film “Jurassic Park” here?

More Signs: Here’s a slightly more entertaining sign:

Hawaii Dive

I know it doesn’t look like much. Just a standard “No Diving” sign next to a standard pool. A shadow-dude in a diving position with a red circle and slash.

Except for the little artistic embellishments. The accoutrements  that add a little sense of flair. Flair in the “Office Space” sense.

I love Dude’s head crashing into the bottom of the pool. Sure, it’s always implied that that’s why you don’t dive, but rarely is it drawn in such detail. You don’t see a picture of a syphilitic penis on a pack of penicillin, after all. But here, you see Dude clearly in a lot of pain, what with the lightning bolts at his neck and the, I don’t know, is that an explosion or a blood splotch where his head is hitting the cement?

Not to criticize a guy who’s clearly in a lot of pain, but the form on his dive was pretty weak. What the hell are your arms doing, Dude? Was that really a dive or were you trying a new, upside-down doggie paddle? Not blaming the victim here, but had you dove like a normal human being, you’d probably only be suffering from a couple of broken wrists, instead of the bad case of electricity neck and mild scalping you’ve got going on.

The other thing I liked about this graphic was that this was one of the few versions that was outside the pool. Most were inside the pool, right next to the depth marker, which seems a bit too late. A wonderful, upside-down vision of what you will look like a split second from now as you whizz past into the four-foot depths.

Coconut: I’m a big coconut fan. Wife is not. She was hoping to get it out of my system while in Hawaii. She failed.

Stateside, it’s not always easy to get coconut-flavored concoctions, although it’s becoming easier, especially in Summer. But in Hawaii, it is everywhere and in everything.

Grocery store, first day, wife says” “Look, honey, coconut cookies.” Got ’em. And are those coconut chips? Okay, if I must.

Second day, Costco. Coconut Clusters. Mother-in-law says she usually goes through a bag of those by herself if she’s in Hawaii for a week. Well then, I guess it’s two bags this week. (Editor’s note: We only made it through one bag, which means the other one’s going home with Daddy!)

Day Three Breakfast: Pancakes with coconut syrup. And to think I was about to go for the kalua poak benedict. Good thing wife pointed me in the other direction, because that coconut syrup was divine. When I wake up in a cold sweat two weeks from now, trying desperately to hang on to memories of once not being stuck in a classroom with hormonal teenagers every day, that syrup will be what is coming out of my pores.

Day Four. Coconut brittle with macadamia nuts.

Final Day: Coconut Mai Tai.

And have you heard of this libation called a pina colada? If only they had coconut-covered macadamia nuts, I’d be in- whoa-hoa, what’s that I see at the airport?

The only coconut-flavored product I didn’t partake in was coconut. Because those are a pain in the ass to husk.

So sorry, Wifey. While my coconut obsession was temporarily abated, it was not cured.

Coffee: Last day in Hawaii, let’s check the culinary checklist. Macadamia Nuts: check. Coconut: check. Coffee: Oops, not yet.

So while in-laws were getting their last round of golf in, nuclear family drove up into the hills to check out a plantation. Plantation? That seems racist. Can’t call it a vineyard, but farm seems so… yokelly. Whatever. Two of the plantations seemed to get the best reviews. One required reservations and weren’t open until 10:00. The other did not and was open at 9:30. Considering in-laws’ tee time was at 7:15, we opted for the earliest/least planning required.

Not sure how the 10:00 AM one could’ve been any better. This place was awesome. Thirty-two hundred feet elevation in the “cloud forest,” which totally sounds like a Star Wars location, complete with a nature trail attached to get the little one’s wiggles out after she had to sit through the “boring coffee talk.” Of course, during the walk, she had to listen to me sing “Nature Trail to Hell (in 3D),” and might have preferred boring coffee talk by the end.

Everyone we met there was nice. When we first got there, they said the first tour would start at 10:00 and ushered us into the gift shop for some free samples “in the meantime.” Okay, don’t mind if I do. At one point, a lady from the shipping department came and refilled her travel mug from one of the carafes.

“At least you never have to worry about running out of coffee around here,” I told her.

“We never run out, but it seems like I have to brew the next batch a lot,” she responded.

No pour-overs in the break room, here.

Did I mention they had four iced teas for tasting, as well?

The tour itself was very informative. I’ve been doing winery tours since I was 21, and have done beer tours at everything from brew-your-own to all of the big three. But this was my first coffee plant. They showed us ripe, unripe, and overripe cherries (the coffee beans are inside cherries). The tour guide squeezed a ripe cherry to get the bean out, put it in water, showed us the next step called “removing the silver lining.”

We went inside the plant, which was scarcely larger than a garage, with machines that could do all of the processes he just showed us in a more continuous process. Then another machine could sort by size, and they had a newfangled computer doohickey that could even sort the beans by color(there’s a sweet spot in the color range).

Then he asked if we wanted to see the roaster room. Of course we did. He said no one’s ever said no. Even people that don’t like coffee still like the smell of it, right? They had three roasters that they called papa bear, mama bear, and baby bear. The last one was mainly for a couple pounds at a time. They sold a different tour experience where, with guidance, you could pick your own cherries, sort your own beans, and roast your own coffee to take home. Sounded great till I saw it was over two hundred bucks. Nah, I’ll take the free tour, thanks. I’ll buy the good shit you’ve got in the gift shop. The last thing I want to do is pay five times as much for whatever crappy swill I would make.

All in all, I’m glad we fit this into our final day.

And now I can go out-snooty all the hipsters I see at Philz and Blue Bottle.

Hawaiian Language: I owe French an apology.

Sort of. For the apostrophes. Hawaiian has way more apostrophes than French. But French, you’re still on notice for having a whole bunch on non-pronounced letters in your words.

Hors d’ouevres. I rest my case.

Hawaiian has no unpronounced letters. It’s about as phonetic of a language as you’re going to find. If the word is spelled out as ha’la’poluki’i, then it’s pronounced like it looks. I assume this is because Latin letters were added to a spoken language after the fact.

The Hawaiian language seems primitive. I don’t mean primitive as in uncultured. I mean “in the early stages of development.” Italian is a primitive language, in that it was the earliest language to evolve from Latin. Thus it has fewer letters than French or Spanish or English.

Hawaiian has, like, three letters. Okay, maybe a few more, but not many. As far as I can tell, the only consonants in Hawaiian are H, K, L, M, N, P, and W. And let’s be honest, H and W are bullshit letters. They could be replaced by all of those apostrophes.

So only five hard sounds are found anywhere in the language. It’s got to be hard to come up with deep concepts using only five hard sounds. Since they can’t come up with new combinations of sounds, they just add more of the same combinations to make longer words. Almost every word is a combination of smaller words. Aloha is a combination of “alo” (presence) and “ha” (breath of life). I assume mahalo (thank you) must combine two other words with “breath of life.”

But eventually, there have to be words that don’t include a breath of life, right? Or else every word does, making it pointless.

I’ve become a bit of an amateur linguist of late. What I mean by “amateur linguist” is that I listen to a podcast. Isn’t that the modern equivalent of junior college?

The podcast, Lexicon Valley, talks about how sounds are produced and how languages progress. “Mama” is the first word most babies produce because first they are just yelling “ahh,” then they close their lips and make an M sound. Hence: “Ahhh,maaaa,maaa.” The second place most babies find to stop the vowels is where the teeth will pop out. Hence “Dada” or “Tata” are variations of their second word/sound.

Except not in Hawaiian. Hawaiian has no equivalent of the T or D sound. The main sound they make with their tongue on the top of their mouth in N and, ironically, L. Think about how many languages have trouble with the letter L. Particularly a number of Asian languages, which one would think are the closest neighbors of a Polynesian language. And yet Hawaiian, with only five hard sounds, mastered L.

But at some point, the ability to communicate must be inhibited with this limited combination of sounds, right? If I have to wait till the end of the word to know what you’re saying, that would seem difficult. Wait, are you saying palalulu or palalula? And is there no mumbling in Hawaiian?

At the airport on the way out, I saw a Hawaiian word search magazine. At first I thought that must be really easy. There can’t be too many words. I mean, if three of the words you have to find are Hono, Lulu, and Honolulu, you only have to find it once, right?

But on second thought, holy crap, wouldn’t that be difficult? How do you start a word search? You find all the words with the obscure letters, right? Hey, these two letters have an x. Look for an x. And drizzle has two z’s next to each other. Should only be one place like that in the whole puzzle, right? (And the predictable bastards probably put them diagonal from each other, trying to be tricky, but that also means they’re toward the center.

What are you going to look for first in a Hawaiian word search? There are only ten letters, and I’m not sure if any of them appear more or less than any of the others. And yeah, look at the front cover of that bad boy:

Hawaii Word Search

You know what’s worse? No apostrophes.

Hawaii, Part IV

Thanks for coming back for Part IV. To catch you up, I’m visiting Hawaii for the first time in over thirty years. I’m with my three-year old daughter, my wife, and her parents. The in-laws have been coming to Hawaii regularly since the 1970s. My wife went with them often into her twenties, but she’s been gone a good decade, too. I’m reporting back on the oddities of Hawaii, the “joys” of traveling with a toddler, and the… um… yeah… of traveling with in-laws.

The trip to Hilo: We didn’t have anything planned for Day Four, so we opted to head over to the other side of the island.

We loaded up toddler’s tablet with a new episode of “Vampirina,” just like our forebears did in the covered-wagon days, and drove up north. She had barely tolerated the hour-long trip to Costco, and all the beautiful “nature-y” things the rest of us enjoy looking at are lost on her. So Disney Junior, it is.

Before crossing the northern slope Mauna Something-or-Other, we hit a macadamia nut store. I was hoping for something like wine tasting in Napa, with the driveway winding through groves of macadamia… uh, vines? trees? bushes?  Couldn’t tell you how macadamia nuts grow, cause the store was not, in fact, in a grove of macadamias.

The brochure said we could see how the nuts were flavored and canned. By the letter of the law, that was accurate. If my dumbass thought that meant I’d see them harvesting and cracking open nuts, that’s on me. Instead, we saw one guy cutting open plastic bags of macadamia nuts and putting them into a spinner with some flavor salt. We then saw a machine put nuts into a can, put the lid on, and label it. Where those nuts originally came from was anyone’s guess.

But what it lacked in agriculture, it made up for in free tastings. Holy crap! There were a good ten different flavors of macadamia nuts there, and each one had a bowl of free samples. They also had samples of macadamia brittle and coconut brittle and kona coffee brittle. And popcorn, for some reason. I didn’t question, I just sampled.

Oh, and we grabbed some macadamia nut ice cream on the way out. No free samples of that.

After we crossed the island, we stopped off at Akaka Falls. They were lovely. Wife remembered the hike being abysmal when she was a teenager, but it was fine for these forty-something legs. Only a few thousand steps, according to my Fitbit. And if you made a circle, you could see two different falls, although the closest we could get to Kahuna Falls was still far off and seeing it from the side.

Then there was this:

Hawaii Akaka

Not too shabby.

The Falls were now visible from the parking lot. In-laws remembered that not being the case. We asked the dude working the parking ticket meter if they had moved something. He said there had been a storm that had destroyed some of the largest trees that were obstructing the view.

“From destruction comes beauty,” he shrugged.

Evidently he’s never seen an earthquake in the Nevada desert.

Lunch: Lunch has become something of a trial since we got here. If lunch on Day One hit a hundred percent, then the ensuing days have progressively dropped to seventy-five percent, then fifty percent on Day Three. What was in store for Day Four? If you’ve studied your math, you would know there’s only one slice of pie left.

Nobody knew Hilo well, so I did what humans have been doing for thousands of years when in strange lands. I checked Yelp. Marco Polo did the same. Look it up.

“This place called Puka Puka sounds interesting, if you can get over the fact that it’s named after a double-vomit.”

“What’s it got there?”

I follow the link to the website, recite some of the items. They are met with general ambivalence.

“Here’s something called the Lunch Spot. Oh wait, it closes at 1:00.”

I call out another one. Wife looks it up. We’ve already passed it.

Mother-in-law, who is driving, pulls into a parking lot for us to decide. Hey look, it’s a standard suburban shopping center, complete with a Burger King, KFC, and a Panda Express. There’s a Jamba Juice and a Subway across the street.

And you know, nothing says authentic Hawaiian like orange chicken. So that’s where we went for lunch.

At least I went for their special “Eight Treasure Chicken.” They didn’t have that the last time I went to Panda in California, so I’ll pretend it’s a Hawaiian specialty (and ignore the fact that I’ve seen billboards for it back home).

As an added bonus, the code to get into their bathroom at the Panda Express (because the mall area in Hilo, Hawaii is ground zero for vagrancy) was 1918. The Condo we’re staying in on the West Side is #1111, so I’m getting a cool “Armistice Day” vibe going on here. 11/11/1918 – Let’s hear it for World War I! Huzzah Trench Warfare!

Nevertheless, at the rate we’re going, I’m expecting McDonald’s for lunch tomorrow.

Hilo: The town itself looked nice, from what I could tell driving through it at breakneck speed en route to a unique lunchery. Kinda stuck in the 1950s. I expected Kona to be like that on Day One, but Kona (or at least the part of Kona I saw) was mostly urban sprawl. I would’ve liked to spent some time walking up and down the streets of Hilo, maybe frolic on the greens at the University there.

But, because we have a Toddler Dictator, we headed straight for the zoo. The zoo was free to enter, which made me nervous. A friend of mine went to the North Platte (Nebraska) Zoo once, and he joked that the animals on display were the ones that happened to be in that location when the cages went up. A donkey, a cow, a horse. I figured the Hilo Zoo would be something similar, since there are already quite a few exotic animals in Hawaii and, you know, it was free.

The final verdict? Well, they had a tiger. Allegedly, they had two, but I only saw one. The tiger enclosure was huge and it was too fucking hot for me to walk over to the other side of it. The one tiger we saw was trying to sleep in the shade.

Other than the tiger, it was a lot of birds, but they did have some lemurs that were very conversant. I had never heard lemurs babbling quite like these. The ones I’ve seen are usually squawking. Turns out they were just whining for lunch, because the zookeepers were coming up right after we walked down to see the monkeys. Then it was an iguana and an alligator. Basically, it was a lot of tropical animals, because Hawaii is hot and humid. Can’t imagine polar bears being all too happy here.

Allegedly the polar bears at the San Diego Zoo are quite happy. They change their diet to a low-fat variety (more to fit in to SoCal than anything else), and when given the choice between frigid water and temperate water, the slimmed-down polars actually prefer the temperate. Then again, San Diego is a dry heat, and Hawaii is most assuredly not.

The zoo was laid back, which was nice. They had a lot of benches that were painted to resemble the animals nearby. Very ornate. I only took a picture of the tiger bench because it looked like they were about to get “frisky:”

Hawaii Bench

There was a park near the entrance, and once my daughter saw that, it was all she wanted to do. We held her off for a while, but eventually we had to give in. We weren’t the only ones. At any given animal exhibit, we might’ve seen two other patrons. At the playground, there were twenty.

Saddle Road: For our route back from Hilo to the Kona side, we had a couple of options. We could have gone back the way we came, only now we were ten miles south and a wee bit inland, so that route appeared to take an extra half hour. Or, according to Google maps, we could go straight across.

“The Saddle Road?” my in-laws asked. “Are you sure?”

Hell, no. I’m just telling you what the magical Google god said. It’s listed as Highway 200. I don’t know what the fuck a Saddle Road is.

So I did what any self-respecting 21st Centuryer does. I googled Saddle Road.

Google sent me to a Wikipedia entry, where you know you can trust everything. Hey, did you know Wikipedia gets its name from a Hawaiian word, wiki, which means “made-up shit”? Or maybe not. I looked it up on Wikipedia, so who knows?

Anyway, the Saddle Road, which runs in a valley, which I assume looks like a saddle, between two volcanoes, used to be off-limits to rental cars. Hence my in-laws’ aversion to it. But now it’s a-ok, according to legal expert Wikipedia. As we drove it, I thought, why the hell would this have ever been a no-go for rental cars? Then I saw “Old Saddle Road” running off to the northeast, and yeah, that shit was one-laned and windy as fuck. I bet it had potholes, too.

The Saddle Road has a pretty major elevation gain, too. I think it goes up past 6,000 feet. And in Hawaii, that elevation means you’re in the clouds. At a certain point, visibility dropped, and we were in a very picturesque fog/rain combination, where the condensation almost seemed to float around the car and the pockmarked black lava landscape like an otherworldly phenomenon. Of course, it’s “picturesque” in the metaphorical sense, cause it was way too dark in those rainclouds to actually take a picture.

Yeah, add that in with a one-lane, windy road, and maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea when Avis disallowed this route.

Hawaii, Part III

Part III of my Hawaii trip. You can read Part I and Part II if you want. But you aren’t missing much context by starting at the midpoint.

Pools: We hung around the resort a lot more on Day Three. In-laws golfed in the morning, giving wife, baby, and me a chance to go out to breakfast. Wife and I enjoy eating out for breakfast. In-laws are mostly opposed to it. They think there isn’t much you can get out that you can’t make yourself. They’ve clearly never seen me try to poach an egg.

There are three pools at our timeshare/resort/codominium complex. I think I’ve referred to it by all three of those names thus far, and I don’t see myself settling on just one going forward. So assume I’m talking about the same place.

Because we have a three-year old, we’ve come to name the pools through an intricate nomenclature system. There’s the slide pool. It has a water slide. Did I mention that there isn’t a lot of deep context here? There’s the deep pool, because it’s the only one in the entire complex that is deeper than 4 1/2 feet. Ergo it is the one that requires child to be in floaties, cause if I can’t touch, I can’t grab her when her very-novice swimming skills fail her. Child calls the deep pool “the square pool,” because she just doesn’t have the wisdom and nuance to know “deep.”

Then there’s the warm pool, and holy crap, I’m being generous. How often, when it’s 80 degrees with 80 percent humidity, do you get OUT of the pool to cool off? It’s the pool closest to our condo, so on the first day, we tested it out for a bit before hitting the store. That day, the weather was a bit rainy and windy, so the fact that the pool was lukewarm was appreciated. The following day, the outside temperature was twenty degrees warmer and I figured the pool would be the same temperature it had been before, meaning ten degrees cooler than the outside.

Nope. Even the blue-hairs said the pool was “really warm.” My wife said it was “like a bathtub,” but that is a disservice to bathing. If bathtubs felt like that, I would have medieval body odor. This was more like a… I want to say sauna, but it’s a little more… I got it! A broth!

Maybe we’ll head back to the deep pool tomorrow. Put the wings on the toddler and throw four months of swimming lessons out the window.

Golf: It’s a resort in Hawaii, so obviously there’s a golf course. Two, in fact. But what I’m more impressed with is the golf course right in our back yard.

Not a full golf course, of course. Not even a driving range. But a putt-putt golf course. Not putt-putt as in miniature golf. There are no windmills or “Hole-in-One” tunnels. But putt-putt as in a place where you can putt. I think the locals call it a… um… green?

Actually, the locals here would probably call a putting green a ha’la’a’ua’ma’lai or something similarly unpronounceable, but more on that later.

What we have in our backyard are three legitimate putting greens.

Hawaii Golf

Kinda cool. Yesterday, two random dudes were playing a skins match against each other. They each played two balls at a time. They tied on the first hole, but the second one has a pretty wicked slope on the right-hand side. One of the guys didn’t read it properly until his second ball and three-putted his first. After that hole, they called out the score, saying how many holes and strokes he was behind.

But the score they called out didn’t match the two holes I had just witnessed, meaning it was an ongoing competition. I assumed that meant there were other holes throughout the complex. Maybe there were a total of eighteen holes spread out between all of the backyards. I walked around a few other people’s backyards, but couldn’t find anything.On the map of the complex, there is a symbol of a golfer, denoting putting greens, behind our unit. As far as I can tell, that symbol isn’t anywhere else on the map.

Seems odd to put three putting greens tucked into a few backyards, and nowhere else in the entire complex. I know they need room for three pools, plus barbecues and tennis courts and a fitness center that looks like it was last used in the Carter Administration, but I think there’s room for at least one other putting green.

Which brings me back to the competition between these two golfers. If the competition wasn’t snaking through the compound, it must be an ongoing competition wherein they play the same three holes over and over, every day. And if that’s the case, how did dude not know about the wicked slope on the right-hand side? Shit, my toddler figured that out after just watching them once.

March Madness: Quick update: as predicted, I got my ass handed to me on Day Two. No, I didn’t bet on Virginia, but I did go from 6-0 on Thursday to 1-4 on Friday. Unfortunately, the one I got right was part of a parlay, so really it was an 0-fer day.

The good news was that I adjusted my betting based on what I knew was coming. I dropped each of my parlays down to $5. No way I would have had the fortitude to do that if I was in Reno. I would’ve been chasing the dragon all day long. If I double my bet each time, I only have to hit once to break even…

All-in-all, I sent my friend to Reno with $35, and he will be returning with $72. Not bad.

Allegedly.

Lunch. What’s the opposite of that whole “Fool me once” aphorism? When I am right the first time, then wrongly assume I’ll be right in the future?

On Day One, we had a wonderful lunch at the Kona Brewing Company. Day Two was a lackluster golf course clubhouse, to go. On Day Three, after the in-laws came off the golf course, we needed to grab lunch. I figured, for the second day in a row, that we would go to the food court we had grabbed dinner at on Day Zero (the night we arrived). For the second day in a row, I was overruled. Turns out I’m the only one that really wants to try that burrito place.

Instead, we all decided to go to a place called an Ale House on the map of the complex. Kona Brewery was so good, the Ale House must be solid, right?

Yeah, not so much.

This place was a glorified bar. I mean, props to them for having a kids menu complete with crayons. But to call it a “grill and bar,” one has to put air-quotes around the first two words.

Father-in-law thinks this used to be the golf clubhouse, but as the resort expanded, they moved the first hole to a more centralized location. Of course, nobody was thrilled with the current golf clubhouse the day before. Could a long-abandoned golf clubhouse-turned-dive-bar break the mold?

Should’ve been clued in by the fact that it was noon and we were the only patrons. Second strike was a full page of the menu taken up with many wonderful-sounding pizzas, marked with the caveat “only available after 2 PM.”

I asked if this was accurate, and the server said that, yes, their pizza guy doesn’t come in until two o’clock. Sound business decision, if you ask me. And I assume this newfangled “pizza” creation is something that only one person on the whole flippin’ island can figure out how to make.

I got the buffalo chicken sandwich, which listed as having buttermilk ranch and bleu cheese dressing. I assumed, as at most wing establishments, I’d get to choose between the two. Nope. They don’t have bona fide bleu cheese dressing, so the sprinkle bleu cheese crumbles on top of a ranch dressing that quite clearly just came out of a pouch.

Wife settled for tacos. She was equally unimpressed.

But hey, at least they were offering $5 Smithwicks & Guiness for St. Patrick’s Day. Wait, is $5 a good price for Smithwicks and Guinness?

Luau: For our evening meal and entertainment, we went to the luau we had been roped into by the timeshare concierge.

The last time I was in Hawaii, I was in fourth grade and Ronald Reagan was still president. So the amount of time that has passed, and the fact that nine-year-old me might not be the most accurate recorder of events, means my recollection of what happens at a luau might not be all that accurate. I mean, can you imagine, but I didn’t even THINK about blogging my experience back in 1984!

I seem to remember we had to drive or take a shuttle way out to a remote field. People came from hotels all over the region. We did the limbo. They lined everyone up for a kissing line (yeah, “come get groped” wouldn’t fly in 2018). I remember it being a very immersive experience.

This time, it was in a courtyard at the hotel attached to the timeshare complex. Rows and rows of tables were set up for food. There was no room for a limbo. It was clear early on that we were going to be sitting and watching, not participating in, a show.

But there were free mai tais! I don’t remember those when I was nine.

The food was excellent, though. I ate way too much. I assumed there’d just be pork at the end of the salad buffet, so I filled up on salad. Big mistake. There were four different meats plus rice and mashed potatoes and I had no room on my plate. Or my stomach, but that wouldn’t become apparent for another thirty minutes. Good thing they weren’t expecting me to do the limbo or anything, cause all my fat ass could do after that meal was sit and watch the dude with the six-pack abs doing his dance.

And maybe have another free mai tai.

Am I the only one who feels like kalua pork should have a Kahlua flavor?

The show after dinner was great, though. All of the kids were invited up to the front. I tried really hard to not be a helicopter parent, and my daughter tried really hard to not be an only child. I couldn’t actually see her curly hair at the end of our table, but I watched the spot in between to make sure she wasn’t wandering off in a different direction. When they were told to go back to their parents, everyone was relieved to find she hadn’t been abducted by the knife-wielding maniac that is always lingering around helicopter parents and only childs.

The show had the standard polynesian dances and costume changes. I particularly liked when they dressed up in jeans and checkered cowboy shirts to commemorate the 1908 national rodeo championship, which was won by Hawaiians. Very odd to see people looking like Chris Penn in “Footloose” performing typical Hawaiian dance moves.

The scantily-clad ladies with grass skirts and coconut bras were impressive, too, but let me go full homo by returning my attention to six-pack dude. I mean, there were other guys, too, but a few of them had somewhat pudgy dad bods. Polynesians aren’t known for the svelte look.

Three of the guys, with Sir Six Pack taking front and center, finished the show with a fire dance. Holy shit. They started with torches lit at one end, then used their mouth to transfer the fire to the other end of the stick. I hope it was a trick, a button hidden somewhere on the torch, but there definitely seemed to be fire in their mouths when it was done. Brought to you by Zantac.

When the fire batons were lit, they started spinning them in circles, twirling them in the air, throwing them back and forth to each other. The normal stuff you’d see with a baton gymnast, except these particular batons were flaming on both ends. Sir Six Pack ended the show by lighting two batons on fire and twirling and tossing them both. At times, it looked like he was carrying a fire bicycle across his body, a fire wheel hanging from each shoulder. Then he moved the wheels to front and back. Child was sitting on my lap by this point, and I almost had to push her out of the way to get a better view for her safety.

When it was finished, even I was sweating. Although that could’ve been the eighty percent humidity.

Or the three free mai tais.