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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.

Hawaii, Part II

Part II of my Hawaii trip. You can read Part I here.

Oh, and quicker turnaround means there’s probably more typos, less brilliance. Assume everything wonderful is legit, anything not hilariously entertaining must be a result of a harsh self-inflicted deadline.

Alcohol:  This vacation hasn’t been nearly as teetotaling as I had feared.

Fortunately, Kona Brewing Company has a wonderful lunch menu that I was able to sneak past the scrutinous eye of the non-drinkers. Seriously, everything looked wonderful. Roasted garlic, by itself, is enough to get my juices flowing, but when you combine it with a Gorgonzola cheese dip, and my breath’ll be smelling goooood for the next fortnight. And that was just the appetizer. For my regular course, I opted for a porterhouse dip (which had peppers and onions, so it was half-Philly, half-French dip). I then took bites of everybody else’s food. Even my daughter’s mac & cheese. I would go back there ten times if I could.

But of course, the reason I suggested this particular lunch spot on our foray into Kona was for that vital second word in its title: Brewing. I knew there would be a brewery in Kona, because a few of their beers, notably Longboard Lager, are quite prevalent in California. Some of their lesser varieties, like Fire Rock Pale Ale and their coconut porter, are easy enough to come by, too. They merged their distribution with Red Hook and Widmer a decade or so ago, increasing all of their geographical footprints. And of course, the beers with the most name recognition must be the best,right? Like Budweiser.

Anyway, I started with a sampler. Gotta keep my options open. One of the reasons you go to a brewery is to try some of their less-known flavors. And if my in-laws don’t realize that four 5-oz beers actually add up to more than a pint, who am I to mention it? And of course, after I do the sampler, I need to buy a pint of one of them, right? It’s an unwritten rule, like at wine tasting. If I don’t, isn’t that tantamount to stealing? The fact that the sampler cost as much as the pint is irrelevant. It’s about principle!

I actually used the sampler to try one of the flavors I’ve seen for sale in California, but never been curious enough to buy a 6-pack of: the coconut porter. I like coconut (more on that in a future part), but don’t really care for porters. Or stouts, for that matter. I’ve tried a few of the newfandangled flavored dark beers, like chocolate porters and coffee porters and oatmeal stouts. They always end up tasting much more like the porter or stout than they taste like chocolate or coffee or oatmeal.

The Koko Brown at Kona? Wow. Coconut. Like, seriously coconut. Almost, and I shudder to say this, too much coconut. Think of how hoppy an 80 IBU India Pale Ale is, and the Koko Brown is that coconutty. When I get back to California, I won’t be opposed to buying a 6-pack of this particular flavored porter. It might take me six months to go through the six-pack, but at least now I know I won’t be dumping five of them down the drain. But I doubt I’ll ever drink two of them back-to-back. It’s intense. If I want a beer, I’ll grab a beer. I’ll grab this one when I want a coconut.

The best part of our trip to Kona Brewery was the growler shop. Mother-in-law decided she wanted to take a growler home to one of the cousins that does work around her house and likes being paid in beer or beer-related paraphernalia. She thinks a growler with the Kona Brewing Company logo on the side would be a perfect gift for him.

“If we get one, do you think you could drink all of the beer in it before we have to board the plane?”

Yeah. Yeah, I think I can accomplish that. I’ll have to buckle down. But what is family for, if not for sacrifice?

March Madness: Did you know there’s a little basketball tournament going on right now? The college bouncy-bouncy types (Or “Dribblers” as Laura Ingraham, who surprisingly is NOT the same person as Dr. Laura, would put it) are engaged in their postseason.

I’m a bit of a degenerate gambler. Probably more on that at a later date, not in this “Hawaii” strain. Maybe next March. Yeah Wombat, that’s how you get them coming back for more – tell them they have to read through a year of your drivel before any sort of payoff.

Wait, does that mean we have to read through another about one of your crappy inside-joke-laden camping trips before learning of your gambling habits?

Yep! WordPress stats, baby!

Normally, I would not be in Hawaii this week. I would be in Reno betting on the games. I usually go there with a group of friends. But every four or five years, my wife makes me opt out of the debauchery that is 48 hours of solid drinking and basketball games to make a proper Spring Break with her. A decade ago, we went to Italy. Five years ago, it was a Caribbean cruise. Look for my next live-blogging, tropical experience in 2023!

Unfortunately, the NCAA didn’t adjust their schedule for me. So March Madness went on, and most of my friends are in Reno right now. I am not. We exchanged these pictures yesterday morning:

Ninety percent of the people would prefer to be in the picture on the left. It definitely has its merits. But man, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s some lonely pangs in my heart at that neon-bedazzled bastion of destitution on the right.

At least I was able to give a little cash to my buddy before he left. Or at least, I would have if transporting money across state lines for gambling purposes was legal. So of course, none of these things actually happened, and all of these wagers were made for “entertainment purposes” only.

But let’s just play pretendsies and claim that I went 4-0 on two two-team parlays on day one of March Madness. Had I got my last two bets texted across four thousand miles in time, I would’ve gone 6-0 and been up over a hundred… um… “points.”

Throughout my history of betting March Madnesses, I usually do well one day and poorly the other. Never 6-0 well, but had I been in the actual sportsbook today, that 6-0 would’ve turned into a 9-3. It’s amazing what happens when you don’t imbibe in free drinks at the sports book all day. Then again, had I been present, I would have gotten that Michigan-Buffalo two-teamer in.

Based on my history, if I was a smart man, whether in Reno or in Hawaii right now, I’d take the $50 I’m up and not do a damned thing with it on Day Two.

So anyway, what was I saying? Because I would be a fool not to bet on a sure thing like Virginia over UMBC.

(Okay, set this to post 12 hours from now and just assume nothing I just said looks foolish by then.)

In-Law Shenanigans: Every family has certain dynamics that are hard for outsiders to maneuver. In my wife’s family, there always seems to be decisions made without discussion, because they are all comfortable with each other. I feel like we’re discussing one thing, and then a mutual decision is reached by all others present that did not even to be on the table at all.

It’s a universal phenomenon. My wife says the same thing when decisions are being made in my family.

A couple of things yesterday seemed a bit odd from my outsider perspective. The day before, we were at the beach when a group of people showed up to board the whale-watching catamaran, which gave us the idea to book it. On Day Two, we had to go back to that same beach to board that same boat. Instead of going back to the same parking lot as before, wWe drove around for ten minutes looking for a spot to park.

When I finally piped up with “Aren’t we going the same place as yesterday?” I was informed that father-in-law is certain there is a closer parking lot. First spot we checked was gated, second was along the side of the road next to lava rocks that looked none-too accessible. Two u-turns and a few turnouts later, and we found the elusive parking lot that was down at the other end of the beach. The walk was to the beach was about the same.

After whale watching, we stayed on the beach. Mother-in-law walked back to the car for her swimsuit and toddler’s beach toys, at which time she decided to… drive over to the first parking lot.

After the beach, we decided to get lunch on the way home. Daughter fell asleep as soon as she hit the car, which limited the options of where we could go to lunch. Of course, we had plenty to eat at the condominium, what with our grocery store and Costco and Target runs we made on Day One, but wife’s family seems to have a “lunch out, dinner home” policy, whether it fits the logistics of the day or not. So we decided to get some take-out home with us.

I assumed we were going back to the food court that we had gone to the night before. There were six or seven options there, so we could all get something different from the night before. But instead, we went to the golf course clubhouse. With child sleeping in the back of the minivan, I was sent inside to see if they even do takeout and, if so, to take a picture of the menu. They do, and I did. We sat in the car, passing my phone around to look at the menu, complete with father-in-law reading each item, including all of the individual ingredients, to mother-in-law, all while the car is running to keep the air conditioning going.

I’m getting ready to go back inside with everyone’s order, when mother-in-law puts the car in gear and drives home. I was very confused, but wife and her family don’t bat an eye. We get back to the condominium, call in the order, then mother-in-law drives back to pick it up. An hour after I was salivating over the burrito that I had passed on at the food court the night before, I sat down to eat some lackluster golf-course fish n’ chips. No malt vinegar. Guess I should’ve added that to the phone order.

You can follow the continuing adventure here.

Hawaii, Part I

I’m trying something a little different this week. I’m vacationing in Hawaii with the in-laws. Baby’s first flight of longer than an hour, and let me tell ya, the difference between a short jaunt and an extended haul is rather pronounced with a three-year old. I started jotting down my thoughts after the first day or two, thinking there’d be a blog post at the end.

But I fear that final post might be 10,000 words and ain’t nobody wantin’ to read that shit. Plus, I’d have to go back and change verb tense, and ain’t nobody wantin’ to write that shit.

So instead, I’m… live blogging? Not really. I won’t be posting in real time or anything. But maybe I’ll post more in installments as the trip goes on. Then I’ll get a whole bunch of new fans that enjoy my posting on a regular basis and then frustrate them when I go back to once every week and a half. I live for nothing more than to frustrate my fans, yo!

Part II is here.

So here’s the first few days in Hawaii:

Cost:. Wow. Sticker shock. Maybe culture shock. Things are a wee bit expensive here. I expected certain things to be more expensive. Beef, for instance. I haven’t seen a lot of native cows walking around the lava fields, so I imagine T-Bones might be at a premium. Maybe milk, too, although I haven’t seen the price of milk yet.

However, we had lunch during our layover in Honolulu airport. And I know, airport prices are airport prices, but the Fish n’ Chips cost $24. Most of the other things on the menu were reasonable (in airport terms). The aforementioned beef (in hamburger form) was $16. Nachos were $14, or $18 with chicken or pork. Fish n’ chips cost a Hamilton more than that.

Um, we’re on an island, right?

Must be the potatoes.

Concierge: I know it’s the job of a concierge to be a sheister. Add to that the fact that we’re at a timeshare. If a 1970s used-car salesman and a 1920s bootlegger had a bastard child, that child… would probably be a little skeeved out by a timeshare concierge. Seriously, this lady couldn’t give a straight answer to anything. As soon as we sat down, she immediately started doing the carnival barker/faith healer scam, gauging her answer based on our reactions.

After she had given my daughter a “very special” keyring.

We asked her which coffee plantation had the best tour. I don’t know, she muses, what are you looking for in a coffee tour? Um, coffee? Maybe a description of how it is made? With, I don’t know, some coffee or t-shirts or shit for sale? Oh, well then you definitely want to try this one. It has all of that. Oh, you mean that’s the one that’s giving you kickbacks and if I had said I wanted a coffee enema you would’ve sent me to the same place? Gosh, thanks. So helpful.

My wife made the mistake of asking which luau is the best. Wouldn’t you know it happens to be the EXACT same one that you can get for a discount if you sit through the timeshare presentation? No seriously, your kid is going to love this particular luau because it has all of the fun luau-y things and none of the bad luau-y things.

But there’s a problem. Wife and I are already signed up for the timeshare spiel in New York this June (I know, I know. It stems from a free Brazilian rodizio steakhouse in Vegas last summer), and we can’t double up in a calendar year. (Although, as it turns out, the luau would’ve only been twenty bucks off whereas the Vegas rodizio was free. Woo-hoo. This particular round of timeshare roulette goes to the Wombat.

But hold on, concierge says. Because you two are so nice and your daughter looks like a wonderful sacrifice to the timeshare gods, um, sweet girl, I think I can finagle a way to float you that discount that I’m authorized to give to any breathing organismand, whoa-hoa, aren’t you in luck?

And, oh hey, I just thought of this, how would you like an upgrade at the luau? And by upgrade, I mean you actually have a place to sit. Otherwise it is be standing room only, did I forget to mention that? So if you want to upgrade where you can actually sit and have food, after the discount I gave to you and only to you, the total comes out to, let me see what the calculator says, oh well, what do you know, it’s the same price it would have been before the discount. 

But you have to book it now, before you’ve had a chance to sit or put down your bags or adjust to the time zone or think or, I don’t know, yelp any other companies.

Sold!

Can I interest you in a volcano tour?

First day festivities: What would you want to do first after you landed in Hawaii? Okay, besides collecting your bag and rental car. Hell, I’ll even let you check into your hotel room, depending on the time of day. I mean that first, “Ahhh…. Hawaii” moment after you’ve settled in.

Was Costco top on your list? It was on ours. But unfortunately, we couldn’t get there until our second day. Because the timeshare was north and Costco was south. And we had a bunch of suitcases piled up in front of those of us in the back seat. Because the trunk was reserved for golf clubs. More on that later.

So after we checked in and unloaded the suitcases (but not the golf clubs), we felt it might be difficult to get a proper Costco run in before they closed. Father-in-law was very grumpy, but he was assuaged by the compromise of a grocer store. We spent the next hour or two purchasing groceries. After which it was very late, at least for our body clocks still three hours ahead, so we went to a food court to get dinner.

Again, we made a point to hit the grocery store on the first evening in Hawaii, then got take-out for dinner.

On day two, we didn’t just hit the Costco, we hit the Target AND the Costco, back-to-back. PARTY TIME!!!

Don’t get me wrong. We’re going to be here a week. Prices are exorbitant in town in this state. At a timeshare resort where a luau costs triple-digits without even having seat, being able to provide our own meals for ourselves is important. Just let me get a goddamned mai tai first.

Speaking of mai tais…

Alcohol: If you’re like me, your answer to the “what’s the first thing you do?” query involved something with a pineapple slice and a little toothpick-umbrella. Not the group I’m with.

Neither of my wife’s parents drink alcohol. They also don’t particularly care for alcohol being consumed around them. So that pretty much knocks out the top five things on my “What I’d Like to do in Hawaii” list.

They also don’t drink coffee. There goes my top ten.

In their defense, I don’t really golf, so I won’t be showing up for their top five, either. The difference is they don’t have to wait for a subtle nod of allowance before golfing, like I do with a beer. And if they want do a second round of golf shortly after the first, I promise I will not make any snide comments about what a bad role model they are setting for my daughter.

At least they’re interested in doing the coffee tours, from a curiosity standpoint. And I’m pretty sure they aren’t opposed to coffee on moral grounds. They do drink soda and iced tea, so caffeine isn’t the road to hell like the good stuff is.

That’s it for the first day-and-a-half. More to report later.

The Definitive Hair Band

When I first started teaching, I thought about going back to school to get a master’s degree.

I had a great idea for a master’s thesis in history: Finding the definitive hair band.

Sorry, that’s not very master’s thesis-y. How about: Analysis of the Hair Band Phenomenon and its Causes and Effects on the Society and Economics of the 1980s.

Fancy, huh?

I would stand out on my classroom porch during passing periods and try to come up with a working history of hair bands with the teacher next door. Sometimes our students would drop a name or two, because it was 2003 and teenagers still had some peripheral awareness of hair bands (Not a true understanding, of course, but at least a working knowledge).

Eventually I decided that a master’s degree wasn’t worthwhile. It would cost $5,000, and my particular school district would only pay me an extra $1,000 a year for it. Take out taxes and I’m looking at a decade before I make the money back, much less the lost hours of my twenties and thirties.

Unfortunately, that meant all of my “research” on hair bands had gone to waste. I could’ve maybe turned it into a book, but that would require writing it. And maybe needing some real research. Hello, Wikipedia!

But before I could get off my ass in order to sit my ass down and write it, the other teacher and I came to a huge disagreement about whether one particular group counted as a hair band. Like a true hair band, we decided we could not possibly go forward with this project, regardless of the fact that it would have brought us untold millions of dollars and screaming fans.

Stephen Hawking has groupies, right?

So the definitive history of hair bands was never written. Until now. Here’s my completely unresearched and unverified search for the definitive hair band (seriously, I haven’t checked the dates of these releases or how they charted or sold or anything) :

History:

Motley Crue (not sure how to put in umlauts, please bear with me) was a pretty straight-forward rock band with limited success. Some good songs, especially on their second album with a remake of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” and what should have become an anthem, “Shout at the Devil.” But only moderate success. Vince Neal was scratching his head wondering why they hadn’t broken through yet, when he turned on MTV. All the VJ’s were gushing about a couple of Twisted Sister songs. The members of Motley Crue thought, “That music is kinda lame. Why is it so successful?”

Of course, we all know what the secret to Twisted Sister’s success: the makeup, the tongue-in-cheek songs.

The hair.

So Motley Crue decided to glam out, and their next album was a huge success. The hair band was born.

Okay, I might’ve fudged some of those details, but I think most would agree that “Theater of Pain” was the beginning of the era. It held a number of the motifs that would come to define the genre. There was a guitarred-up remake of an old song, in this case “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” Late examples of these remakes would be Poison hitting the big time with “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and… oops, the other notable remakes come from the-band-that-shan’t-be-named.

Motley Crue’s next single was the first of what would end up becoming synonymous with hair bands: the power ballad. “Home Sweet Home” is about as awesome of a power ballad as you can get. I know most people will put “Every Rose has its Thorn” or <Redacted until later discussion> up there, but there’s something especially awesome about “Home Sweet Home.” It still stands up thirty years later, and it’s especially impressive when you consider that they were flying blind on that particular gamble. Sure, “Sister Christian” might be a little more kickin’, but by the time Night Ranger was recording it, they were following a tried-and-true formula.

And yes, Kiss fans, I know your band recorded “Beth” a decade earlier, but that’s just a ballad, like “Desperado” or “Yesterday.” Your band didn’t invent the power ballad. Now go cry through your make-up.

Different Types of Hair Bands

To find the definitive hair band, we must first define a hair band. The obvious definitions include (obviously) hair, make-up, and “playing in the general vicinity of the late 1980s?” Hair bands usually had four or five members. I don’t know why. Not all hair bands had to have a remake of an old song, but I think to be counted as a hair band, you needed to have rock songs (usually with sexual undertones that seemed edgy for the time but are downright Disney Channel by today’s standards) and power ballads, in more or less equal number. As the fad progressed, we started to get some hybrid songs that started as ballads, then became rockers.

I can’t say for certain if all of the band members played instruments, but I get the general sense that most of them had a “front man” whose only job was to sing and maybe move their crotch. And keep the peroxide shipments coming in, naturally.

Two bands stick out as extensions of the hair band era. The first is Bon Jovi, which unequivocally began as a hair band. Their first three hits included two rock anthems, “You Give Love a Bad Name,” and “Livin’ on a Prayer,” followed up by ballady “Wanted Dead or Alive” with a B-Side of “Never Say Goodbye.” Their next album was even more hair band. “Bad Medicine” fulfilled the rock quota, “I’ll Be There For You” was the power ballad, and “Lay Your Hands on Me” took that middle road which became increasingly prevalent in the waning years of the 1980s.

But Bon Jovi managed to survive past the hair band era. At first, it didn’t look like they would. When they released their “Greatest Hits” album in 1994, they might as well have been calling it a career. But then they took a little time off, Jon Bon Jovi bought some sports teams, and they adjusted their style of music to fit the new millennium. This might be because Jon Bon Jovi plays (and I believe, writes) his own music, unlike most of the front men, so he could adjust to the changing times. Perhaps the only reason they were a hair band was because that’s what the music industry required at the time. Hell, if Bon Jovi comes on when I’m shuffling my iTunes in my classroom, my students classify it as “Country Music.” The horror!

From the “Hair Band that became something else” to the “Hair Band From a Different Time,” I present the Goo Goo Dolls. Think about it. Their three biggest hits from “A Boy Named Goo” completed the same trifecta as “New Jersey” had: Rocker (“Long Way Down”), Ballad (“Name”), and middle ground (Naked”). If Johnny Rzeznik isn’t the second coming of Vince Neil, I don’t know who is. A

By the way, one of these pictures is Jon Bon Jovi, the other is Johnny Rzeznik. If one of them walked up to you, would you know who it was? I’d probably have to ask them about the Arena Football League and see which one has a comeback.

Image result for jon bon joviImage result for johnny rzeznik guitar

Hey, as an aside, did Def Leppard grow into a Hair Band a la Motley Crue, or did they always just have nine arms and suck? Discuss amongst yourselves.

The Anomaly

Here’s where my co-creator and I encountered our obstacle, a creative difference that rivaled Lennon and McCartney. A disagreement that shook us both to our very cores, calling into doubt the groundwork we had done and the very definition of a hair band. And really, if decent society cannot come together to define who is and who is not a hair band, then can the world survive?

I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to quote Thomas Jefferson in this instance. “A decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Or, to misquote a more recent president. I don’t see red states or blue states. I see people who realize that Guns n Roses is a hair band and people who don’t are wrong.

My friend does not feel that GnR was a hair band. He sees them as much more Metallica than Poison. He claims that “Appetite for Destruction” was a solid, hardcore rock album worthy of Black Sabbath, and that “Use Your Illusion” was a classic double-album that would fit perfectly alongside “The White Album” or “Quadrophenia.”

(Hey, that’s a “Quadrophenia” reference two posts in a row. You’re welcome, Pete Townshend.)

You know all the bullshit that Axl Rose was throwing out about “Estranged,” “Don’t Cry,” and “November Rain” being a trilogy? Yeah, my buddy buys that. Only don’t call it a Power Ballad Trilogy.’ Those were just standard, um, unempowered ballads.

Oh, and that other song I redacted in the “Home Sweet Home” discussion earlier?  I was talking about “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” My friend claims that the o’ in the title makes it an Irish jig.

Okay, not really. He claims “Sweet Child o’ Mine” is not a power ballad because it has no piano.

On second thought, that argument makes about as much sense as calling it an Irish gig.

Quick, here’s a picture of Axl Rose and Bret Michaels. Which one is which?

Image result for bret michaelsRelated image

The Definitive Hair Band

Fortunately, we had determined the definitive hair band before the debate over whether “Live and Let Die” is a remake of a classic rock song. The definitive rock band was easy to determine once we had determined the parameters.

And, to give you a hint, it’s a band that hasn’t been mentioned yet.

Most people jump to Poison. They are certainly the most prominent hair band, but they’ve come to define so much more. Reality shows, diabetes, aging rock stars. If you mention the band Poison to someone, a lot of different things come to mind. Plus, while they had plenty of songs, including some sexual innuendo in “Talk Dirty To Me,” their power ballad trumps their entire career. So while “Every Rose has Its Thorn” might be the definitive song of the hair band era, Poison is not the definitive band.

It couldn’t be a band that existed outside of the hair band era (see: Crue, Motley; Jovi, Bon). It had to be a band with both rockers and power ballads, preferably in equal number. In fact, if the band could only have two hits, one of each style, that would be ideal.

Substantial attention was given to Whitesnake. Tawny Kitaen on the hood of a car was enough to put them into second place. The problem with Whitesnake is that their two songs are effectively both power ballads. Sure, “Here I Go Again” speeds up as the song goes along, a la “Stairway to Heaven,” but it still doesn’t quite qualify as a straight-up rocker. “Sister Christian” speeds up, too, but we all know that’s a power ballad, right?

Wait, did I just put “Here I Go Again” and “Stairway to Heaven” in the same sentence? Yep. You’re welcome, Pete Townshend.

So Whitesnake is damned close, but not quite there. The definitive hair band, though, shares the first letter, W.

Winger.

Just kidding. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

The definitive hair band is, in fact, Warrant.

“Who is Warrant?” you might ask. Unless you were between the ages of ten and thirty in 1988, you might not have heard of them. As it should be. Because if you weren’t between those ages in that year, you don’t really understand hair bands.

Warrant only had two hits. Their first one, “Heaven,” was a power ballad, complete with oddly homoerotic concert footage in the video. Nobody ever found that stuff odd at the time, but it was in a lot of videos. It’s not gay if the four shirtless dudes spooning each other on the stage are wearing spandex, right?

But the song that really helped this band define a movement was their second song, “Cherry Pie.” If there was a checklist for a hair band rocker, this would tick all the boxes. Sexual innuendo? Check. Video with scantily-clad blonde? Yep. Sprayed with a hose? Absolutely. With a slice of cherry pie emulating her pubic region? Naturally.

It should come as no surprise that “Cherry Pie” was released in late 1990 and Nirvana’s “Nevermind” came out in 1991. Once a pinnacle has been reached, it’s time to move on to the next mountain. Disco hit right after “Hotel California,” too.

So there you have it. Thank you for listening to my dissertation.

Where do I pick up my PhD?

Everything After Album #1 Sucks

I’ve been on a trend of reading biographies of famous musicians lately. And by trend, I mean I’ve read a whopping two. But I’m contemplating a third. And if “two with a potential third” doesn’t count as a literary movement unto itself, I don’t know what does.

I read “Petty,” by Warren Zanes, which is obviously a book about people who hold on to every slightest offense and fixate on trivial ways in which they’ve been wronged. No wait, I’m sorry. Different kind of Petty. This particular book was about a musician named Tom Petty. No, I didn’t read it as a result of him passing away. In fact, he died shortly after I finished the book. I hope I wasn’t responsible. I probably could’ve dragged out the last chapter had I known a life was on the line.

By the way, Tom Petty died on my birthday. Tom Clancy died on my birthday a few years earlier. I don’t know who thought “dead celebrities named Tom” was a good birthday present for me, but Messrs. Hanks and Cruise would like to stop that trend at “two with a potential third.”

More recently, I read “A Good Life all the Way.” by Ryan White, about a young pup named Jimmy Buffett. I hear the young kids love that guy. I wrote about him once before. A lot of his songs seem to have fun stories behind them. Either they’re autobiographical or he’s just a damn good poet. Turns out it’s a bit of both.

Next up might or might not be “Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography.” He’s a little bit Tom Petty, a little bit Jimmy Buffett. Not sure I’ll read it, though, because I’m starting to wane on the whole rock star biography thing. The first two were both a bit lackluster.

There are definitely things to like about both the Petty and Buffett biographies. The first half of each book did an excellent job of describing the musician’s upbringing and difficulties breaking into the music business. Both describe how the bands came together and struggled through adversity well. I doubt it’s much better now, but man, the music business sucked in the 1970s. They wouldn’t promote you unless you had multiple albums coming out each year. Tom Petty might’ve fit a little bit of a mold, in the vein of an Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd, but Jimmy Buffett was really screwed. Too country for rock n’ roll, too gaudy for good ol’ boy country.

I knew Tom Petty for most of my upbringing. I was the MTV generation, and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” was one of the definitive videos of that decade. Jimmy Buffett, I discovered later in life, first in college, but not really catching on until well into my thirties. Evidently, I’m not the only one who caught him late. His career has really only taken off in the past decade or two.

Not that you would know that by reading his biography. But more on that later.

My first gripe about these books is minor and might only affect me. They each assume I know all of the members of Petty’s and Buffett’s band. Look, I bought these books because I like their music, they seem to live interesting lives, and I want to know a little more about how those lives and songs intertwine. I don’t really know who all of their band members on, and I know you devoted a full page to them fifty pages ago, but just dropping their last name here isn’t helping me distinguish who is who.

I spent half the Tom Petty book thinking, “Wait, is this the drummer that is going to stick around?” or “Tom Petty has a bass player?” I’m sure that’s on me and and a simple trip to Wikipedia could’ve told me who would matter in the end. But if I wanted to read the Wikipedia entry for Tom Petty, then I wouldn’t have bought your book? So maybe assume I don’t know the difference between a Stan Lynch and a Benmont Tench, and give me a little context when you’re throwing out five names in a row. They’re called “and the Heartbreakers” for a reason and they weren’t even present on Petty’s most-successful album.

Not that you’d know that by reading the biography. More on that later.

As an aside, did you know that Jimmy Buffett’s “Coral Reefers Band” pre-dated anyone actually being in said band? He was a solo act, but he would act like he was talking to band members on stage. He was leery of adding actual humans to the band because he had such a great rapport with the imaginary ones. That being said, I just finished the book and can’t tell you the names of any of the real Coral Reefers except for Mac McAnally, because he has his own career outside the Coral Reefers. I think there’s also Marvin Gardens and Kay Pasa. Wait no, those were the fictional characters.

But here’s where the two biographies fell apart. After the acts are discovered and start making a name for themselves. The Petty book used the phrase “album cycle,” where the band writes and records an album, then tours to promote said album, then is expected to go back into the studio and record another album. “Their A & R Man said I don’t hear a jingle…” Did I mention the music industry sucks?

That quote was from a 1991 Tom Petty song. Not that you’d know that from the biography. More on that… um, right here.

The Buffett book doesn’t explicitly mention the album cycle, but Buffett also didn’t have hits like “American Girl” and “Refugee” that he needed to follow up on. Buffett always had a smaller, but more loyal fanbase. His concerts were much more well-attended than his album sales or radio airplay would indicate. And with fans that knew all the lyrics! So the record companies didn’t really know what to do with him. That being said, they still expected one to two new albums per year, whether he had new ideas for songs or not.

Buffet’s an odd case. He became the granddad of laid-back, despite never really being the daddy of it. He’s in the top ten of wealthiest musicians despite never having a number one song. “Come Monday” barely made it up to number thirty, and “Margaritaville” topped out at number eight. “It Five O’Clock Somewhere” did make it to number one on the country charts, but that’s primarily listed as an Alan Jackson song. Not that you’d read much about it in the biography. His first, and only, album to reach number one was his twenty-fifth album, which came out just before his sixtieth birthday.

Not that you’d know that from the biography.

Because it’s at this point, with both artists running through a mundane repetition of forced creativity, that the biographies decide that the story’s not worth telling. I’m pretty sure the Buffett book put the entire 1980s and 1990s in one chapter. The Petty book muddles together the recordings of “Southern Accents,” “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough),” “Full Moon Fever,” and “Into the Great Wide Open.” The video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” gets a mention or two, and “Free Fallin'” gets a paragraph, despite it being the longest charting single of his career. I think there’s more mention of an attempted concept album for “Southern Accent,” in the vein of “Quadrophenia,” that didn’t happen, than there is about the actual album. There was supposed to be a song on it about southern racism. That didn’t make it on the album and was never recorded. “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” was actually recorded, and released as a single, with a video that was a failed sequel to “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” but it’s not mentioned at all. Why would the reader want to know bout an actual song that they remember, when there’s so much cool information about something Petty decided wasn’t a good idea to record?

You know Traveling Wilburys? The supergroup with Bob Dylan and a former Beatle or two? You can read between the lines and find it in there, but you have to really know what you’re looking for. But Mudcrutch, the first band Petty formed, that didn’t succeed, gets a chapter.

I understand part of the reason this happens. If you’re interviewing Petty or Buffett, or the people around them, they might not have much to say about a random 1983 album that they produced to fill a contract that peaked at number seventy. The first few albums had a lot more time and heart and soul invested. The problem with that logic is that most of the people reading the book probably discovered the musician through some of those throw-away songs and albums.

I read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” which is more or less an autobiography. He focuses on what it was like to sell that first manuscript but not most of the others. He finds it ironic when people say “The Stand” was his best book, because they’re saying he peaked in the first ten percent of his career. But then he proves their point by ignoring most of his other books.

That being said, Beatles books don’t gloss over everything after “Love Me Do.” But according to “A Good Life All the Way,” a song from “Coconut Telegraph,” written by a thirty-something Jimmy Buffett, is interchangeable with something from “Songs From St. Somewhere,” scribed by a seventy-year old.

Hey, speaking of which, Jimmy Buffett’s album names don’t always correlate with the songs that have that lyric. The line “I gotta fly to St. Somewhere” appears in “Boat Drinks,” released in 1979, but the album “Songs from St. Somewhere” came out in 2013. Even more impressive was when the album name came BEFORE the lyric. The song “Nautical Wheelers,” containing the line “Living and dying in three-quarter time, was on the album “A1A,” which came out ten months AFTER the album named “Living and Dying in 3/4 Time.” Pretty impressive for a guy to think “How should I end this song? How about with the name of my last album?”

It’s a good thing those songs and albums came early in Buffett’s career or else I might never have read about that in the biography.

With Tom Petty, I gave the author a pass on the last twenty years. It’s not like Petty did anything of note after “Wildflowers.” And even “Wildflowers” was a little lacking after “Full Moon Fever” and “Into the Great Wide Open.” I’m going to arrogantly speak for ninety percent of Petty fans and claim that “Last Dance with Mary Jane” was Tom Petty’s last dance with, um, memorable songs.

But Jimmy Buffett is a different story. He became more successful as time went on. His first number one album, “Licence to Chill,” came out in 2003. It gets a few paragraphs. He runs a nationwide chain of restaurants. They get a couple of pages. Satellite radio station? It’s mentioned briefly. Even that number one hit, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” gets less mention “The Christian?,” an unsuccessful song from an unsuccessful album from his unsuccessful attempt at an unsuccessful country-music career.

The book does (briefly) talk about the rest of the world finally catching up with where Jimmy Buffett had already been for thirty years. Garth Brooks and Toby Keith might have gotten the credit for making country music fun and mainstream, but Jimmy Buffett had paved the way for them. But the chapter (yes, one chapter) that covers the last twenty years gives almost as much ink to Kenny Chesney as it does to Jimmy Buffett.

I was really curious about “Bama Breeze,” a song about a bar he frequented in his teens. Did he really have his twenty-first birthday there? Don’t know. It was written in 2004. I don’t think it was mentioned once in the entire book. What about “Fruitcakes?” Did the term for his fans come from the song or did the song come from the name for his fans? Wouldn’t know. It came out in 1994 and is not explained. The book does talk about where Parrotheads came from and some of their annual meetings of Parrotheads, including the ones that Jimmy Buffett has nothing to do with, but nothing about Fruitcakes. He almost got shot out of the sky by the Jamaican authorities, and even wrote a song about it, but it only gets a brief mention, even though a story of boating through dangerous waters outside the island of Bemini gets many pages.

Jimmy Buffett fell off the stage in Australia and added a verse to “Margaritaville” about it. It’s not in the book, but some broken legs in 1981 are featured prominently.

“Delaney Talks to Statues”? “Semi-True Story?” “Nothin’ But a Breeze?” Nope, nope, and nope.

I know it’s a biography of the singer, not a book of song reviews. But for his first six albums, the book pretty much went song by song, explaining the significance of each. Even the obscure songs that get virtually no play on Radio Margaritaville. Then it switches to a “nobody really cares about the details” theme.

Did you know that the album “Take the Weather with You” has a number of tributes and homages to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? Including the aforementioned “Bama Breeze”? Neither did I. I just found that out on Wikipedia. It wasn’t referenced in the book.

So next up might or might not be Billy Joel. I’m torn. Fool me once, shame on you. Is the third book going to follow the same pattern? Am I going to get twenty pages on “Piano Man” and a paragraph on “We Didn’t Start the Fire”? Will it treat “Uptown Girl” as an afterthought? Will I get a detailed menu of every breakfast he ate in 1972 but then have all four of his wives clumped into one sentence?

Only time will tell.

Hey, I think that’s the name of a Jimmy Buffett song. Not that you’d know that from the biography. It came out in 1996.

Camptathalon 2017

The Brain Trust is in the early stages of planning Camptathalon 2018, so there’s no better time to publish the shenanigans from 2017. I used to write these down as soon as we got home, but last year I flaked and didn’t transcribe until January. Then we decided that it was much more fun to remember the summer festivities in the miserable winter weather. So this is the new normal.

Of course, I live in California, so “miserable winter weather” means fifty degrees and occasional rain.

Then again, it’s been 70 this February, whereas last year’s Camptathalon was cold and rainy, so this might be serving the opposite purpose this year. In fact, we couldn’t go to the spot we had originally booked because it was snowed in. After five years of drought, we forgot about that whole “snow” thing. Probably for the best. The plan had been to go to the same campsite two years in a row, which is just wrong. Mother Nature intervened to maintain order in this chaotic world.

I should also note that, since it rained most of the day Friday, much more alcohol was consumed than usual.

You can read about the origins of Camptathalon here, but the tl;dr is that it is an, um, athletic? competitive? um, it’s a contest that takes place over a camping weekend betwixt four to six middle-aged men. We then timestamp everything that is said. Six months later I transcribe said script, with neither comment nor context, and we can all attempt to figure out why the fuck some drunks thought that was funny enough to write down six months ago.

Thursday Night (indeterminate time): Sparky and Tony show up.

Friday:
8:51 Sparky almost sets forest on fire, and he hasn’t even had a beer yet.
8:57 Early bird gets the worm. Dude, it’s almost, 9:00, lazy bird.
9:26 Rick shows up.
10:21 “Let’s do Home Run Derby over the creek.”
“That’s a horrible fucking idea.”100_5438.JPG
10:25 First Homo Moment: Rick and Sparky’s armrests brush up against each other.
10:52 “It’s starting to come. See? That’s a sizeable crack.”
10:58 Sparky reminisces about going to Butt Lake for the first time.
11:19 Chris arrives with Dick Butt. Tony photographs Dick Butt.100_5442.JPG
11:21 CHEESE BALLS!!!

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11:29 First “That’s what she said” of the weekend.
11:32 I paid 50 cents for a romance book by Christine Rimmer. Gonna be pissed if there are no rimjobs in it.
11:33 Hail
11:45 “There’s a flame!”
“Mother Nature blows better than I do.”
12:11 McGyver arrives with more tarps. Rain and hail ensue.100_5446.JPG
13:00 Everyone wants a Bangy Khan!
13:01 Sparky: “It’ll stop raining soon.” Bullshit.
13:03 Sun comes out. “You son of a bitch, Sparky.”
13:18 It would be a perfect day if it stopped raining. Kinda like it would be a perfect date if only she’d give me a blow job.
13:25 Re Donnie Moore: “Apparently he could locate a bullet better than a fastball.”
13:27 “At least we don’t need to worry about bears. They are fucking hibernating right now.”
13:34 Put Dick Butt in the bear locker. Bear might want to look at him before heading to class.
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13:58 Chris tells about something.
14:10 John arrives. Camptathalon may begin.100_5458.JPG
14:15 Hail, round three.
14:31 “What DOESN’T go with a 14-year old Thai whore?”
14:35 Entire kitchen blows over in wind.
14:49 First go thru of 1990 Topps Baseball Card set bought at thrift store.100_5450.JPG
14:59 Hail, Round Four
15:00 “I will see your Otis Nixon and raise you.”
15:12 “Chafing means ‘I Love You.'”
15:20 Where does Tony snore? See where the light touches.”
15:25 Hail, Round Five.
15:35 Official Camptathalon Opening Toast.20170609_152944.jpg
15:48 “I will share this with you because I’ve been drinking all day.”
16:20 First Camptathalon Event: Poker.
16:24 General discussion of point value for Camptathalon events. Reward winner (5 pts, 3, 2, 1, 0) or punish loser (5, 4, 3, 2, 0). Punish loser wins.
17:05 Re: weather. “Oh, it’s going to be fine.” “Fuck you.”
17:30 “I love balls. They’re so wrong, but they’re so good.”
17:37 Sparky “wins” loser libation by being first eliminated from poker. Loser libation is: Mickeys 40. “Don’t worry, I didn’t keep it cold.”100_5460.JPG
18:31 Loser Libation has been vanquished.
18:45 Rick out, John out. Losers start 1-4-24.
20:11 Rick is a cocksucker. 1-4-24, bitches.
20:50 Draft (Stolen from the Poscast): Best President: (Editor’s Note: Our drafts were snake style, so John picked Polk with pick #4 and JFK with Pick #5, Garfield was last pick of draft)
Tony                   Chris       Sparky      Rick           John
T.R.                    Lincoln   Truman   Jefferson   Polk
Wilson               FDR          Ike            Reagan       JFK
Washington    Obama   Madison   Nixon   McKinley
Garfield           Clinton    Taft         Adams   J.Q. Adams

Second draft: Beer
John                                 Rick                        Sparky                        Chris                 Tony
Negro Modelo        Sier Nev Pale        Innis & Gunn            Red Trolley         Fat Tire
Ballast Pt Sculpin   Shiner Bock   Sam Ad Winter Lag.    Boont Amber   Pliney Elder
Hamms Select       Arrogant Bastard       Smithwicks          Wookie Jack       805
Weinhardts     Miller High Life     Scrimshaw      Blackhawk Stout   Sam Ad Boston L

Third draft: Horror movies
Rick                                        John                    Tony              Sparky                  Chris
Friday the 13th                Halloween         Shining     Children of  Corn        Alien
Nightmare/Elm Street   Jaws             Poltergeist         Scream          Cabin in Woods
The Thing                      The Ring           The Grudge       Identity                 1408
Silence of Lambs   House 1,000 Corpses    The Others    Cujo             Donnie Darko

23:05 There’s a lot of 1990 Topps cards around the fire. I don’t think the bears care about 1990 Topps cards.

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Saturday:
7:00 Rick, Sparky awake.
7:09 “Where are my baseball cards?”
7:59 “I made a decision and it was probably a poor one.”
8:00 “On second thought, maybe I did yack last night.”
8:53 We have not seen John yet, but have heard rumors he is alive, so that’s good.
9:10 Breakfast complete. Trips to the shitter on the docket.
9:22 Someone left the lotion by the rimjob book.
9:54 John finally emerges
9:57 Official Motto of 2017 Camptathalon: Many decisions were made, and most were poor.
10:04 Event #2: Chipping
10:20 Standings: Rick – 8, Chris – 7, John – 6, Tony – 4, Sparky – 3
11:04 Mehkong comes out to play. Confidence is high (EDITOR’S NOTE: Chris brought some Thai rice whiskey. Much of it had been drunk Friday night, but not noted).
11:50 Event 3: Home Run Derby
12:05 Worst. Home Run Derby. Ever. First round: two with 0 HR, three with 1. Sparky beats Tony in the “Jack-Off” for last place, three jacks to one.

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12:36 Standings: John, Chris, and Rick – 11, Sparky- 5, Tony – 4
13:26 “It’s all gone downhill.”
13:37 Do we really have to do the fucking butter toss?
(Editor’s Note: Two hour time jump. Naps being taken.)
15:54 Oregon Trail card game: Non-sanctioned Camptathalon event. (Coop played earlier, forgot to timestamp)
16:15 Sparky dies of dysentery
16:20 Chris dies of snake bite.
16:31 Tony dies of snake bite.
16:34 Rick made it to Oregon.
16:35 Adventure Bocce
17:20 Sparky and John engage in a “Toss Off” to determine third place.
17:25 Standings: Rick – 18, Chris – 16, John – 13, Sparky – 12, Tony – 11
17:32 John’s first beer of the day. Don’t call it a comeback!
18:50 Final Event: Cards Against Humanity
19:00 John gets 7th card, finishes Camptathalon with 18.
19:10 Chris gets 7th card, finishes Camptathalon with 20 points. If Rick goes out next, he wins. If not, Chris wins. The tension is high.
19:17 Rick gets 7th card, finishes Camptathalon with 21 points and the victory.
19:18 Sparky finishes with 14 points, Tony with 11.
20:33 Tony yacks. That makes three of the five of us. 60% is passing.

Sunday
Put the wood in the bear locker. In case the bear has woodshop tomorrow.
Cheese Balls 2, Campers 0

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Olympic Curling Guide

It’s the Most! Wonderful! Time… of the year.

Christmas? Bah! Valentine’s Day? Nope. Live Punxsutawney updates? Umm, maybe, but that’s not what this specific post is about.

It’s Curling-on-TV season!

You might know this, incorrectly, as the “Winter Olympics.” But there’s really only one reason to watch the Winter Olympics.

Okay, maybe two. Matt Hamilton’s porn-stache and the Norwegian team’s pants. But both of those will only be seen during curling matches.

As many of you long-time readers (ie people who know me in real life) know, I took up curling four years ago this month. You can read about it here, but here’s the tl;dr: it had always fascinated me and while watching the last Olympics, I decided to google if there was any place I could curl within, say, a hundred miles. Turned out that, yes, they curled about five miles from my house. Who knew?

So I did my very first Learn-to-Curl in February of 2014. Since then, I’ve become a league coordinator and drawmaster (“schedule dude”) for a number of bonspiels (curling tournaments). I’ve curled six different places in California (again, who knew?) and have traveled to Seattle and Vegas to compete. I’ve won two different bonspiels (not the A-Bracket, but if I get my picture taken with a trophy, it’s a fucking win).

I’ve met and competed against former Olympians. I even beat one! Once. Out of six attempts. I’m now 1-5 against Edie Loudon (she lives nearby, so I see her often). And maybe 0-4 against all other professional curlers.

The trick to beating an Olympic curler? Beat the other people on their team. It also helps if you catch her on the last day of a double-bonspiel, meaning she’s curled about eight times over the last 48 hours. I know it doesn’t look like it on TV, but curling is tiring.

I even met Olympic gold-medalist Kaitlyn Lawes and she let me touch her gold medal. And no, that’s not a pervy euphemism. She literally let me touch her literal gold medal. Look:

Gold Medal.jpg

I think I was even more excited by that picture than if she had let me “touch her gold medal.”

Professional curlers are very nice. Kaitlyn even said I could take a picture with just the gold medal. I figured she should probably be in the picture, because a) she’s cute, and b) she earned it. But man, if that were my gold medal, I wouldn’t let somebody touch it, much less take a picture with it around their neck. You try to take that thing from me, you better be an Olympic biathlete.

And now it’s another Olympic year. The requisite “Hey, check out this quirky sport” stories are running in media outlets everywhere. We love it at our club. A year ago, we couldn’t beg enough to get a mention in local media. In the past six weeks, we’re getting contacts from newspapers, radio, and local TV (the NBC affiliate, naturally). Our Learn-to-Curl program, which often has only one or two customers, is booked solid. We’ve put 100 people through a LTC in the past two months, and the Olympics hadn’t even started yet. We even added a second class most weeks and people are willing to come out at 7:45 Sunday morning to try it.

So yay, curling on TV.

Of course, I can usually find it any time I want. ESPN3 shows most of the upper-tier Canadian curling. American curling is a little harder to find, but that’s okay, because it’s not as good. I know it’s ironic that Canadian curling is easier to find in the U.S. than American curling, but there’s a reason the Canadians dominate the sport. It makes it a little hard on my Olympic rooting interests, but the Americans usually make that easy by being in last place.

But there’s still something special about watching in the Olympics. It’s the one time NBC doesn’t fuck up the flow of the game with asinine editing. During their normal broadcasts, “Curling Night in America,” they jam a three-hour game into about ninety minutes. So they’ll finish one end (like an inning in baseball), take a commercial break, and when they come back, there’s already six stones in play in the next end. Or they skipped an entire end. Imagine watching the World Series and, after the first inning, they jumped ahead to the sixth and said “Oh, by the way, the score is now seven to five.” That’s how the average curling match goes on NBC. Also, since it’s edited to fit into two hours, a lot of the drama is gone. Are they going to tie it up and force an extra end? Oh, it’s 7:50, so I guess not.

I’m not saying NBC doesn’t fuck up coverage in the Olympics, but at least it’s fucked up in the normal way. They show two ends, then go away for twenty minutes of luge, then come back. That’s just Olympics 101. At least they have an app now.

This year, they’ve added a new round of curling called mixed doubles. In it, each team only has two players instead of the usual four. Each end only has five stones, instead of eight. So the games take about half as long.

I’m undecided on mixed doubles. It’s not real curling. It’s a made-for-TV sport. But maybe that’s not a bad thing.

I’ve tried mixed double before. Well, maybe not mixed doubles, because I was curling with another dude, but “open” doubles. It’s a weird beast. In normal curling, you have your skip making a target with his broom at the other end of the sheet. Then you have two other team members to sweep your rock. In mixed doubles, you only have one other teammate, so one of those vital pieces are gone. You’re either aiming at nothing or you have to sweep your own rock.

When it was first designed, the assumption was that people would still want a target, so they would sweep their own rock. It’s not that difficult. Most mediocre curlers can jump up and follow their rock. A lot of us jump up and follow our rock, anyway.

The first time I tried mixed doubles, the person holding the broom said I was coming out in the right direction, but something was happening to the rock when I released it. Turns out I was subconsciously clipping my release in order to jump up and sweep. Add to that the fact that I’m losing about fifty percent of my sweeping power because one of my shoes has a Teflon bottom, which isn’t great for leverage. I also have a tendency to start sliding faster than my rock, so pretty soon I’m sweeping backward.

I guess I wasn’t alone, because the next time I saw professionals playing it, their strategies had changed, too. Now many of them opt to have their teammate sweep their rock instead of providing the target. Depends on the curler and depends on the shot.

So that’s a little “inside curling” you can wow your friends with. Watch for when their teammate is right next to them and when they’re at the other end. If the former, they care more about weight than location. If it’s the latter, they’re probably trying to draw through a smaller port.

Mixed doubles works better for TV because there are more rocks in play. An end in team curling can last twenty minutes and resolve nothing. I’ve seen a number of matches where one team throws a guard, the other team hits that guard out, and the first team throws another guard, for six shots in a row. That can get tedious. Then with the final shot, there’s one rock in the house (bulls-eye), and the skip hits it out to score zero because that’s a sound strategy. In mixed doubles, you almost never see a blank end (no score). Usually there’s six or eight rocks in the house.

In addition to those “This Crazy Sport” articles we see this part of the quadrennial, I’ve seen a fair number this year that lead with “It’s not as easy as it looks.” Um, yes and no. Is it a difficult sport to learn? No. You can do it in an hour or so. But at the Olympic level? Yeah, that’s tough. They’re good. Again, compare it to baseball. Is swinging a bat and making contact with a ball difficult? No. Most five-year olds can do it. But I wouldn’t like my chances standing in against Justin Verlander.

Curling’s the same way. The professionals play at an entirely different level. They see angles that don’t exist at the amateur level. Sometimes I’ll wonder why they are calling a certain shot. Then they’ll ricochet off three stones, just as they planned it, and I realize “Oh, they called that shot because they can hit that shot. I would’ve knocked my opponent’s stones in if I tried that.”

That whole “knowing what they’re throwing,” is one of the great reasons to watch curling on TV – you can hear them discuss their strategy and sometimes the two of them will debate what to throw, giving the viewer insight we don’t get in other sports. The catcher and pitcher use secret signs to debate their strategy. We don’t get to listen in on an NFL huddle. But in curling, they’ll say where they want to hit a certain rock and what they think it’ll do if they hit it there.

So check it out. Listen to the skips.

And trust me, it’s just as easy as it looks. Come on out to your local club and we’ll show you just how “easy” it is 😉

Super Bowl Sunday Plans

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing this Sunday. There should be quite a few options. I hear the first Sunday of February is a great day to go skiing. I bet the grocery stores will be nice and empty. Maybe my bathroom needs re-grouting.

Who knows.

I know what I won’t be doing: watching the Super Bowl.

I don’t remember the last time I missed a Super Bowl. There have been years when I barely watch it, because a fair number of them have sucked. But I was at least in a room with the game on, so I could occasionally turn to the screen to see a big play, or to check the time it took to sing the national anthem, or to mark off a box on my “Commercial Bingo.”

This year, I can’t even muster that much attention. Not even the prospect of deep-fried crap can entice me. I’m not even going to GAMBLE on the Big Game, and that’s saying something.

Part of it is my belief that it will be an absolute snoozer of a game accompanied by seven hours of announcers swinging from Tom Brady’s nutsack. But it goes beyond that, because a lousy Super Bowl with annoying announcers and played-out storylines wouldn’t normally be enough to push me away. I did mention deep-fried crap and gambling, right?

This year, I’m going out of my way to not watch the game. I want it to be the lowest rated Super Bowl of all time. I want NBC to consider switching over to a re-broadcast of “Heidi” to get viewers back.

Will I be successful? Probably not. In fact, I just had to google which network the Super Bowl was on, which I think means Roger Goodell and Tom Brady each get another reach-around. But you know, think globally, act locally.

I haven’t been following much of the hype, but I imagine the East Coast media is talking about Boston vs Philadelphia as the next best thing to Boston vs New York. We have the greatest quarterback/coach/owner/team/fans/celebrities of all time against the long-suffering, much-maligned quarterback/coach/owner/team/fans/celebrities who are finally getting their shot. Since both cities are along the Bos-Wash corridor, where all the wonderful people live, they clearly have the greatest fans in the country.

Bullshit. These two fan bases should be tied for the worst in football, if not all of sports. Only Yankee fans might be more superciliously sanctimonious, and that’s only because their “rebuilding” took about five years shorter than it was supposed to.

Just the Yankee way, man. Aura and mystique, yo.

They’re insufferable for different reasons. Philly fans are generally just despicable human beings. I don’t need to rehash all of the famous examples, right? Cheering injuries, even for their own players. Throwing beer bottles at their own players. Booing Santa Claus. Intentionally barfing on other fans.

Are we really going to say these people deserve happiness? If there was a chance that they’d become decent if the Eagles win, maybe I’d root for them. But Philadelphia’s won a number of titles. The Phillies have won the World Series twice. The 76ers won three NBA Championships. The Flyers have won twice. And yet Philly fans have remained Philly fans.

Oh, and did I mention I would’ve won $1500 if the Phillies had lost the World Series in 2008? But no, this isn’t about that.

No really. I don’t hold a grudge. I don’t think about the paid-off car or the high-roller suite or whatever. Who cares if I put $10 on Tampa Bay to win the World Series back in March only to have them come up three games short and, to add that extra little Philadelphia-fuck-you, let’s suspend the final game for two days to stretch out the misery.

But seriously, Joe Maddon, why didn’t you just start David Price when the game restarted? It’s a tie game, so treat it like a fresh game, albeit one you only need to win four innings of.

Okay, enough about Philly. Let’s move on to the Mass-holes.

Boston suffered for a very long time. But holy shit, as soon as that turned around, they became Yankee fans, right? Their winning every year is ordained by God. Only making it to the AFC Championship or the ALCS is a disappointing season. And Tom Brady’s balls taste better than Joe Montana’s taint on John Elway’s chin.

Is that the same Tom Brady whose first major success happened as a result of the Tuck Rule? Yes, that was the correct call for the rules at the time. But you can’t tell me he didn’t have a horseshoe up his ass on that play.

Oh, and remember that time, in 2006, when Tom Brady, down by eight with six minutes left, threw an interception on 4th and 5 that sent the San Diego Chargers to the AFC Championship Game? No, you don’t remember that, because Marlon McCree decided to run the damn ball back and proceeded to fumble it. That horseshoe is permanently attached to Brady’s sphincter.

But, the Mass-holes counter, that’s part of Brady’s magnificence. That he can get players to drop his interceptions.

But whatever. Players get lucky. What really separates the mediocre from the great is what they do when they get those opportunities. For instance, after Brady got a little bit lucky with the tuck rule, the Patriots seized the opportunity by… filming the Rams’ practices from underneath the bleachers.  And after the Chargers game, they… filmed defensive coaches so that they knew when a blitz was coming.

And what fortune were they following up on when they started sending janitors into opposing locker rooms to take pictures of game plans? Before or after they deflated the balls to cut down on fumbles?

You’re right, Mass-holes. Clearly you’re the victims in all of this. The NFL is picking on you.

And Brady’s such an upstanding, nice guy that he made Kraft send Garoppolo to the west coast because he doesn’t want Belichick to win after he’s gone. Hell, if anyone knows about a QB getting the starting job because of how well he played when the real starter was out, it would be Brady, right? I’ll take Drew Bledsoe injury for five hundred, Alex.

Speaking of making the best of luck, how about the officiating in the playoffs this season? It’s almost like the refs are rooting for the Patriots. It’s not like they’re patting Brady on the back after a win or anything, but… wait, what?

Seriously, there were two calls in the Titans-Patriots game that were atrocious. Eric Decker got called for offensive pass interference after converting a third down. Patriots receivers were making similar moves all day. But they play was reversed, it was 3rd and 9, and the Titans failed to convert.

Then there was whatever the hell that call was in the second quarter. Fourth and five, two of the Titans defensive linemen jump and then point to an offensive lineman. The back judge throws a flag and rightfully calls a false start. But then, wait a second, somebody realized 4th and 10 would mean the Patriots have to punt from their own endzone. And if Tom Brady doesn’t like a call, they have to change the call. Except the play had been called dead, so they can’t call offsides. And the D-linemen didn’t make contact with the O-line, so they can’t call encroachment. So they just make up a penalty called coming into the neutral zone, which I’m pretty sure is legal as long as you’re back onside by the time the ball is snapped.

What they basically called was a defensive false start, even though the offensive players flinched. Oh, who am I kidding? What they called was “A Bill Belichick team doesn’t make mistakes, so let’s give them a first down. Five yards.”

The frivolity continued in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots were called for one penalty, on special teams, for ten yards. The Jaguars lost 98 yards on six penalties. Are the Patriots a more disciplined team? Sure. But do they also get away with a hell of a lot more than the Jaguars? Absolutely.

And let’s not forget the catch-that-wasn’t-a-catch in the Steelers game in week sixteen. Shall I go on?

I’m not saying it’s a fix. I’ve seen a fixed game before. Game six of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals was fixed, and I don’t think there’s a soul on Earth who saw it and thought otherwise. The NBA wanted a game seven in a very competitive, highly-rated series. Whichever team won was going to roll the Nets in a pretty boring Finals.

So the NBA made sure game six went to the Lakers, to the tune of twenty-seven free throws in the fourth quarter. The Kings got nine. Boy, that ratio looks awfully similar to the Patriots-Jaguars last week, huh?

A lot of people in Sacramento think it was fixed because the NBA wanted the Lakers in the Finals, but I don’t buy that at all. The Kings got a number of calls in game seven, which went to overtime. Had they been able to hit their free throws, the NBA would’ve been perfectly fine ushering them into the championship. The NBA fixed game six, not game seven.

And the NFL hasn’t been fixing the Patriots run. These calls are much closer to all of those other NBA games.

In the NBA, star players are not held to the same standards as others. Jordan pushed off defenders on a regular basis. Kobe always had wide-open shots because of his flailing elbows. Lebron can plow through anyone he wants if he’s en route to the basket.

In the NBA, I understand why it happens. The league can’t really have all of the stars fouling out of every game. I don’t think Kobe would’ve made it out of the first quarter if he got called every time his elbow made contact with a chest or a face. And if Kobe’s out of game six, then who can the refs send to the free-throw line? Shaq? Only if the Lakers were the team that was up three games to two and the Kings had to win.

I think the NFL refs definitely have some of that subconscious bias going on. Either they are in awe of Brady or they are afraid of Belichick. The Patriots are not being held to the same standards as whomever they are playing.

Here’s how I think the inner monologue went on those two penalties in the Patriots-Titans game: Huh, the Titans aren’t a very good team. They shouldn’t be converting that third down/forcing a Patriots punt. I better throw a flag/change the call to make sure this doesn’t get out of hand.

As Tony Romo said, if those two penalties go the other way, we might be looking at a Titans 21-7 lead instead of a Patriots 14-7 lead. And that just can’t happen.

And when Gronk swim-moves past a defender and knocks him to the ground? Well, that’s just what Gronk does. He’s such a great physical specimen.

Must just be all that Yankee aura and mystique, huh?. Ho do ya like them apples, Mass-holes?

Did the same thing happen in the Super Bowl last year? Did the refs get caught up in the story of the greatest comeback in history? I don’t know. Were there some questionable holding calls against Atlanta? I think so. Did the Patriots hire another janitor to go spy on the Falcons? I wouldn’t bet against it.

This Super Bowl will be no different.

If Carson Wentz were playing this weekend, he might’ve gotten the benefit of the doubt. An up-and-comer taking on the old-and-weathered. That’s a good story, and Wentz has been anointed as someone worthy of good calls.

But Nick Foles? Go ahead and assume every first down he gets will be heavily scrutinized by the refs. They say you can call holding on every play in the NFL. But if Tom Brady has seventy seconds in the pocket, well that’s just good blocking right there.

That’s why I won’t be watching. Nobody to root for and I’ve seen it all before.

I guess if I had to root for anyone, it would be the Eagles. I’m an Angels fan, and if Mike Trout’s favorite football team can win a championship, maybe he won’t feel the need to leave for the east coast himself in 2020.

Plus the celebratory riots in Philly will be so much better.

Children’s TV Review (The Shitty Ones)

Last week, I gave my account of some of the shows dominating children’s television these days. Some of it’s not too shabby. Some of it’s actually a little bit enjoyable. But for the good shows, you need to look at my last post.

This week, it’s the fun post. Here we focus on the abysmal.

There are two shows currently atop this particular mountain of shit.

(Oh yeah, this is an adult blog. If you are underage and got here through the fiftieth page of Google results, go away.)

1. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Having grown up in Orange County and rooted for sports teams that Michael Eisner only saw as cross-promotions, I might have a certain anti-Disney predisposition. Yes technically, the Angels won the World Series while a Disney property, but that’s only because Disney was looking to sell and hoping to raise the sale value.

So I rage at the hypocritical message embedded in most Disney shows and movies. Be who you want to be! Except if your hairline is a centimeter too long, because then your ass is fired. Hard work will be rewarded! Hey, work ten-hour shifts five days a week in 100-degree heat and then we’ll fire you at the 5 1/2 month mark because you’d get discounted tickets if we let you work six months. Commercialism is bad! But don’t forget to buy some Minnie Mouse tampons on the way out of the park.

So okay, I might not give Mickey a fair shake. But that doesn’t mean this show doesn’t suck.

I actually like most of the characters on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and, obviously, I am aware that Disney knows what they’re doing when it comes to children’s shows. This has all of the tropes one expects. The songs are repeated at the same time every episode. The characters find themselves in problems that the viewer has to help with by picking the right number or the right color pattern.

One might expect Disney to come up with something a little more original than a “Blue’s Clues” ripoff. But hey, if they’re able to bring Clarabelle Cow into canon and sell some cow dolls, all is good.

The start of the show is a little skeevy. Mickey is walking alone through the woods. He turns to the camera and asks the little kids if they want to come inside his secret, magical clubhouse. He tells them to say the magic words and his pervy little hideout pops out of nowhere. It’s got a giant slide coming out of the roof, a mini golf course, and all the accouterments one might associate with Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

No, I’m not saying Mickey Mouse is a child molester. However, I might think twice before leaving my child alone with the show runners. Hey kid, Say “Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse” and something’s going to pop out of nowhere.

Then again, Steve from “Blue’s Clues” seemed a little off, too.

But the real problem I have with “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” is Toodles, an anthropomorphic, mouse-shaped holding tray.

I guess it’s not mouse shaped, it’s Mickey Mouse shaped. Damn you Disney, for raising three generations of humans to refer to a large circle with two smaller circles on top as “mouse-shaped.”

At the beginning of every episode, they load Toodles up with four tools that they will be able to use to get past obstacles. One of them is a mystery tool and the others range from ladders and balloons to, I think there was one episode that utilized a bologna sandwich.

Then every time they encounter a problem, they whine to the heavens, “Oh, Toodles!” and the little shit comes flying from wherever he’s lazing around. Seriously, they’ve called him from Mars and he put on a space helmet to make it there before his three-second synthesizer theme-song was done. Like a drug dealer afraid that his junkie customers will find a new source or, even worse, sober up.

And when I say they call him for every time they have an obstacle, I mean: Every. Fucking. Time. “Hey, there’s some crumbs across the path. Instead of cleaning them up or stepping over them, lets see if Toodles has a fucking dustpan.”

In other shows, the characters talk though problems and multiple solutions. Some shows even encourage kids to try again if the first one fails. But Disney doesn’t want kids to learn perseverance or patience. If the next generation become critical thinkers, Disney might need a new business model. What they want is a generation of crybabies who think they are incapable of solving life.

It’s called learned helplessness and it’s rampant in the students I teach. “I can’t do it.” Encounter one setback and you might as well give up. “Why haven’t you done the last three homework assignments?” “Well, once I missed one, I figured I couldn’t pass so why try?”

Call for help. Google it. There is no possible way a human being can work their way through anything.

Some say they “just can’t do” history. They’re not good at it, like it’s shooting a three-pointer. How the hell is someone not good at history? Not enough jump? Wrong arc? Poor arm strength? Those are the reasons I am “not good” at three-pointers, although I’m sure I could get better if I tried.

But I don’t see how someone can be “bad at history.”  History is not a particular skill that one does or doesn’t have. You might not be good at reading or writing or listening. But if I ask “Who won the Civil War,” even if the answer is “I don’t know,” that still doesn’t mean you’re bad at history.

In other subjects, maybe that works. “I struggle conjugating a verb” or “I always get stuck on the quadratic equation” make sense. But how can you be bad at history? “Man, everybody else can Stalin much better than I can.”

But, of course, the learned helpless statements are never as focused as conjugating verbs or solving equations. It is perfectly acceptable to just say “I can’t do this so I’m not going to try.” As they argue over who won the 1978 Super Bowl…

Maybe they should just call Toodles.

But at least I had to watch fifty episodes of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” before I could really pinpoint my problem with it. For the single worst kids’ show on TV these days, it was apparent right from the start.

Peppa Pig. Oh, this shit is horrible. In fact, I hesitate to call this show shit, because Peppa is a pig and pigs like shit. And I don’t want Peppa to enjoy anything about life, as she’s sucked all the enjoyment out of mine.

This show is from England, the same country that, a generation ago, sent us Teletubbies. Have you ever seen Teletubbies? Have you ever watched an episode of Teletubbies and thought, “If only we could understand what the Teletubbies are talking about.” Well, Peppa Pig is that show and, let me tell you, we were better off not knowing.

Peppa is a little girl pig. Her parents, oddly enough, are named Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig. You might think that those are just the names that Peppauses for them. But there are scenes where Daddy Pig is at work and his co-workers refer to him as Daddy Pig. I am called Daddy around my house, but none of the other teachers in my department call me Daddy, or even Mr. Daddy. Four of the other teachers in my department are also fathers. That would be very confusing.

Then again, Daddy Pig works around other animals, so they probably just use their species to distinguish between one father and the next. Maybe he’s in a meeting with Daddy Horse and Bachelor Mouse. Maybe D.I.N.K. Armadillo pays for lunch, while Co-habitating Camel usually shows up late after partying all night.

Maybe I should start referring to all of my co-workers by their ethnicity. I can’t think of any drawback to that.

Oh, and Peppa’s grandparents are Grandma Pig and Grandpa Pig. That must’ve been very awkward when they were growing up.

Come to think of it, Berenstain Bears does the same thing. The first two children are named Brother and Sister. If they were twins, I could maybe see it, but Brother Bear is clearly older by a few years. I know it was the 1970s, when 2.1 children was a foregone conclusion, but it’s pretty ballsy to name an only child, Brother. What if the second child had been another boy? Would his name have been Younger? Or would they just have named him Sister and had a “very special” book about gender identity? And, oh by the way, they had a third child later in the series. They named her Honey. What the hell? Is she not a sister as well? Seriously, Brother, Sister, and Honey are the three Berenstain Bear children. Good thing they’re religious and can pray the counseling away.

Back to Peppa Pig, she has a number of friends who are also alliteratively-named animals. There’s Rebecca Rabbit, Suzy Sheep, and Zoey Zebra, although zebra is pronounced in the (incorrect) British way so that the first syllable rhymes with zed, not zee. One character I feel bad for is Pedro Pony, because he will presumably have to change his first name when he grows into full horse-hood.

Daddy Pig is a fucking trainwreck. He’s not good at anything, but thinks he’s good at everything. He can’t read a map and gets grumpy when they get lost. He’s fat, but whines about being fat. All the while, he’s trying to teach moral lessons to his kids. Great role modeling, Britain! No wonder you lost the empire.

As for the eponymously-named Peppa, she is a whiny little bitch. Or, since she’s English, I guess the proper verbiage would be a whiny little bird. She is mean to people and is constantly complaining about being bored.

In one episode, she’s playing soccer (and errantly calling it football). They do boys versus girls, because of course they do. When the boys score the first goal, she whines that it’s a stupid game and doesn’t want to play anymore. After the girls score the second goal, all of the boys and girls start arguing. Daddy Pig helicopter-parents in to serve as referee. The boys score next, but it’s in their own goal. So now she love soccer, even if she’s still calling it football.

In another episode, she’s riding a bike. Every time she’s on a downhill she brags about what a good bicyclist she is. Then when she goes uphill, she says riding a bike is stupid and wants to quit.

Maybe she should have called Toodles?

I wish I could say there was more meat to that episode, but these synopses pretty much cover the whole thing. The average episode is about six minutes long, so Nick Jr puts five of them in a row to fill a half-hour slot. Every time an episode ends, I wait with baited breath to see if that was the final one, but there’s only a twenty percent chance. I don’t like those odds.

Most episodes end with everybody falling over laughing over something that is very unfunny. The animation for the entire show is very crude, so when I say they fall over laughing, I don’t mean they hunch over and start slapping their thigh and then fall to their knees. No, instead they are all standing upright in one frame and then are completely horizontal on their backs in the next frame. Then they shake, laugh, and snort another second or two until the episode is over.

And again, the thing that caused them all to fall over backward was something hilarious like a whiny child saying she didn’t like biking uphill. Clearly that is enough to cause people to lose their vertical fortitude.

Peppa has a little brother named George. He is one of the few tolerable spots of the show. He can only say a few words, two of which are “Dinosaur, rawr.” Even though he’s barely a toddler, he’s good at all of the things Peppa sucks at, which is pretty much everything. Of course, this just causes her to complain more, which is just what the show needs.

Peppa terrorizes her poor brother. She plays keepaway, she belittles his accomplishments, and I’m pretty sure she’s pushed him a few times. Just the things we want to teach our children.

Nick Jr starts all of its shows with a list of what the kids are learning while they’re watching. “Paw Patrol” says they’re learning about teamwork and community. “Dora the Explorer” highlights problem-solving skills and Spanish language. Most of them are a reach, but at least the intent is there.

According to them, “Peppa Pig” teaches children about emotional development. Bullshit! Peppa never develops emotionally. Peppa is the antithesis of a well-developed child. Unless you want your child to be a rude and entitled quitter.

But I’m here to help. Here ya go, Nick Jr:

When watching “Peppa Pig,” your child is learning about how to bully and not take accountability for their actions. With any luck, they’ll be President of the United States someday.