Pre-school Graduation

My daughter graduated earlier this week.

Okay, maybe graduation isn’t the bet word for it. Promotion? Transition from expensive babysitting to free education?

Tell you what, let’s just call it “Tuesday.”

Because on Wednesday, she went right back to the exact same school, exact same classroom, exact same situation. It seems kind of odd to have a daycare graduation in early June, considering they’re still going to daycare for another two months. First week of August, the week before the local school districts starts, would seem a more logical time to celebrate the kids taking the next big step. But I guess it would be tough to buy graduation cards in August. Shit, it was already difficult to find kid-friendly graduation cards. To say nothing of “Class of 2032.”

But she had a little ceremony, so I guess we’ll call it a graduation. What it really served as was a thank you from the day care to the parents for spending… let’s see, carry the one, and…

Holy shit, have we really spent fifty grand there over the last five years? And all they could muster up for the ceremony was some goddamn Oreos?

But relax. This isn’t a blog whining about giving trophies to every goddamn participant or whatever. I might do that next year when she “graduates” from kindergarten and stays at the same school.

But this one is actually a meaningful transition in her life. Or at least it will be in August. She’ll be leaving behind the daycare that she’s been attending since she was eight weeks old. The next time she leaves a place where they wiped her ass after she shit her pantswill be college.

Seriously though, there were three kids at this ceremony who have been there since her first day there, over four and a half years ago. That’s longer than high school. Sure, she doesn’t remember them being there, but how many high school seniors really remember who sat next to them in ninth grade?

Plus, this might be the last time she’ll be happy to graduate next to the types of friends she has now. By sixth grade, the judgments will be rolling in.

It’s kinda sad. I look at her two best friends now and know, deep down, that they would have nothing to do with each other if they met in third grade instead of near birth.

One of them is on the way to being a total tomboy. She’s either halfway to Birkenstocks or halfway to Doc Martens. She showed up to my daughter’s gymnastics birthday party wearing jean shorts.

I love this kid, though, because she gives absolutely zero fucks. Whereas my daughter is always worried about who is playing with her or who is not responding the way she wants, this girl will do whatever the hell she has the hankering to do at any given point. At the gymnastics party, almost all of the girls clumped together, following each other to whatever ball pit was in vogue for the moment. I think I wrote about a similar chaos theory at her bounce-house birthday party last year.

Tomboy, though, just goes and plays with whatever she wants. So while the line for the slide is seven deep, she’s doing whatever she wants on the trampoline. Then everyone sees she’s having fun, they all head to the trampoline and she’s off to the balance beam. Not saying she’s a trendsetter. She just marches to the beat of her own drum.

Meanwhile, Friend #2 will be a Woo Girl just as soon as it’s appropriate to use that designation. She’s a bit shorter than most of the others. She jumps a lot. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’ll be the kid with the alcohol hookup in eighth grade. She’ll definitely know her way around a kegstand, and have a closet full of straw hats, by junior year.

At the birthday party, Woo Girl showed up in full gymnastics regalia. She usually followed the crowd, but only if the crowd was doing something requiring adrenaline. Swings, slides, trampolines. You wouldn’t find her concentrating the balance beam.

So we’ve got Tomboy and Woo Girl who are absolute besties with my daughter, the prissy teacher’s pet.

I know, I know. Every parent thinks their kid is the well-behaved little angel. And I’ve already posted before that my kid knows a substantial number of Jimmy Buffett songs. She tries to get the Piano Man at her school to play Piano Man, which doesn’t have the most appropriate lyrics for four-year-olds.

But you’ll note I didn’t say she was the good kid. I said she was the prissy teacher’s pet. That moniker comes with substantial baggage. If there’s going to be a kid thrown in the trash can for tattling in fourth grade, it’s probably going to be my daughter. And the ones who will be throwing her in the trashcan are probably Tomboy and Woo Girl, who she can’t get enough of these days.

Okay, you still want proof as to which lane my daughter’s merging on to?

At the “graduation” ceremony, the teachers read out what each child wants to be when he or she grows up. See if you can spot which of the first six students was my daughter based on their responses: 1. Superhero, 2. Veterinarian, 3. Ice Cream Shop Worker, 4. Racecar driver, 5. Mom, 6. Wizard.

No, she’s not the mom. That’s Tomboy, oddly enough. Guessing she’ll change her tune later.

Of course, my daughter was the veterinarian. In her defense, it’s really hard to get into wizarding school these days unless you live under stairs.

There ended up being three other future veterinarians in the crowd and I call bullshit on all three of them. One of them was my daughter’s first friend, who she still thinks of as her bestie despite having very little in common with. Daughter’s exhausted and grumpy on the days she’s played primarily with this girl instead of the newer friends, but it’s hard to explain to her what’s going on.

The first friend became her first friend because she wouldn’t ever talk. Not to the main teacher, not to the secondary teachers, not to the phonics teacher. But she would occasionally talk to my daughter, or at least my daughter would speak for her, so all of the teachers put them together. My daughter got a month of free phonics because they would send her alongside the quiet one to act as whisperer. We asked my daughter if she was actually saying what the girl was saying or if she was just answering the questions on her own. It was usually the latter.

Quiet Girl talks more now. She’s glommed onto the mean girl and is well on her way to being the punk rock girl in middle school. She already looks daggers at people whenever they turn their backs. The only thing she needs to learn is to do that when they’re looking at you, too, and she can wear a Cure T-shirt.

In typical back-of-the-class style, Quiet Girl still doesn’t like answering teachers’ questions. So it’s little shock that she “wants to be a veterinarian.” I don’t know if she actually copied my daughter or if she just remained silent and they asked my daughter what Quiet Girl wanted to be.

The other two “veterinarians” were similarly suspicious. Just copy the answer of the kid that the teachers are always praising the answer of. I can already tell how most of my daughter’s group projects will go for the next thirteen years.

As for the ceremony, it was very cute. The kids sang four songs. They turned “I’m a Little Teapot” into “I’m a Little Graduate.” And the second line of “Zip a Dee Doo Dah” changed “wonderful day” into “graduation day.” They also sang a song called “The World is a Rainbow,” and for the weeks leading up to it, when my daughter was (probably the only one) practicing at home, I kept thinking she was about to sing “The world is a vampire.” Unfortunately, it was some lame 1970s hippie song, not Smashing Pumpkins.

And my favorite song was “This Land is your Land.” If you think about it, it’s not an easy song to teach to a group of people with no concept of geography. Most of the kids could nail the “from California” part, but after that, it got a little dicey.

To the New York Island? Aren’t they a hockey team? The only sport my daughter knows is baseball and she is under explicit instructions that she may not root for any team from New York or Boston. Oh, maybe we’d allow the Mets, because we’re an AL household, so who gives a fuck about the senior circuit.

So instead of New York Island, my daughter started out singing “From California to the Land of China.”

Wow. Those are some lyrics I didn’t know about. Is that what we’re teaching the kids after Trump’s tariffs? That we own China now?

Let’s see, according to Wikipedia, it was written in 1940. So a sizable chunk of China had been conquered by Japan at that point. Maybe Woody Guthrie just figured we’d enter the war and “liberate” China into our possession. We did it with the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, after all.

Hell, we effectively did that in Korea after the war. Damn, that Woody Guthrie was prescient! It’s a good thing our daycare is teaching my daughter the hidden verses.

The next time my daughter practiced the lyrics, she changed them to “From California to the Land of Thailand.”

Wow, holy crap. What kind of imperialist jingoism is this? Last I checked, we never had Thailand. Not in Teddy Roosevelt’s wildest wet dreams. Hell, if you count all the Thai restaurants popping up in California, I think they might own more of our country than we ever owned of theirs.

Seriously, I think Thai restaurants are the new FroYo. Not that I’m complaining, but it makes it really hard to know which Thai place to go to. I can sample each of the FroYo places for $5 a pop. Thai restaurants cost a little more. Unless it’s lunch time.

But alas, my daughter finally figured out that our Land stretches east, not west. From California to the place with the fucking Yankees.

But now, it’s off to Big Kid School.

Only one of the kids from her daycare is going to her elementary school, and he’s one of the boys that she only discusses in passing. Gone will be the Tomboy and the Woo Girl and the Quiet Girl and the Mean Girl.

Maybe that’s a good thing. It gives her a chance at a fresh start. Except I’m going to miss the crazy dynamic from preschool. Who knows how much longer she’ll hang out with vastly different personalities. Another year or two, maybe.

The girl across the street from us is a cheerleader. Not a future cheerleader. A legitimate five-year-old cheerleader. Her mom was a cheerleader in high school. Has the fake tits to prove it. Never made it to college to lead cheers there. And now mom’s got her daughter well down the path to reliving her life. Including a year-round cheer program.

My wife worries about my daughter being in the same kindergarten class with Cheerleader. She thinks my daughter will glom onto another kid she has nothing in common with and it’ll be Quiet Girl all over again. I’m a little less freaked out. I know there’s no future for them. No way in hell are they friends when middle school hits. One of these days, Daughter will start hanging out with friends she actually has things in common with.

Besides, it might not be a bad idea to have someone she knows in the new class. And for the next few years, it’s not bad to have a girl the same age across the street from us. I don’t relish the day when I have to drive her to another neighborhood to play. Or “hang out,” because it won’t be long before “playing” is gauche.

But for now, she’s still in the sweet spot. A sweet spot where the Mean Girl and the Punk Rock Girl and the Spaz and the Cheerleader and the Priss can all get along.

Society will beat that out of them soon enough.

Honest Opinions Elsewhere

The place I take my car for repair has a strange ranking system. They explain it when I’m picking up my car.

“Hey, my pay is dependent upon your reviews. I only get a bonus if you give me all tens and yeses.”

Um, okay. I mean, thanks for telling me that. Because otherwise I might’ve thought of the ranking system as, I don’t know, a way to provide your employer with feedback, instead of just a rubber stamp to give you some extra scratch.

It happened again when I stayed at an airbnb. “The company sees anything other than a 5 out of 5 as a failure and will hurt my search results.”

Do these people and companies not realize the purpose of a ranking system? Do they want my honest feedback on things relating to the service that can be improved, or do they want a guilt-ridden blow job?

Ah shit, man, you quoted me an hour but it ended up taking three. But if I list that as a seven out of ten, then your kid might go hungry. If you have a kid. I don’t know. You didn’t really make a personal connection. Wait, shouldn’t I be the one getting the blow job?

And I don’t necessarily want to fault the employees pleading for my rating. They’ve been put in an awkward position by their employer and/or service provider.They kinda have to give me a heads up that these rating systems don’t work like normal rating systems. I’m a teacher, after all, and in my mind, a 9 out of 10 is an A-. It’s a pretty solid result. Far above average. Almost perfect but not quite. Maybe throw in a blow job next time.

But if the entity that receives the rating is going to consider a 9 the same way they would a 1, then it’s fair to give us graders a warning about that. Because now if I think they gave me a 9, I might as well just give them a 1. Right? Is that the way this is supposed to work?

Although by guilting us into tens, we cease to become graders, right?

And herein lies my problem with this system. If anything other than a 10 is a failure, then why am I even providing a ranking? Don’t make me rank things on a scale of 1-10 if there are only two options.Ask me yes or no questions. Give me a pass/fail option. “Did your support provider offer oral copulation? Yes/No.”

Because what’s the point of a ranking system? One would think it’s a chance for a company to know what things it does well and what things could be improved upon. At the car dealership, I do legitimately get annoyed at the wait times they quote. They always quote on the low side. It’s gotten to the point where I just add 30% to whatever they say. Quote me an hour, I’ll be here eighty minutes. Tell me it’s going to be a couple hours, I might as well go to lunch. Three to four hours? It’ll be ready at the end of the day.

Is this misquoting a deal breaker? Obviously not. I’ve gone there often enough to be able to convert it quickly in my head. So I’ve at least used them more often than I’ve used the metric system. But do they deserve a ten if I brought an hour’s worth of work to do and I’ve now been twiddling my thumbs watching the episode of Maury that’s turned up way too loud in the customer waiting area? No, they don’t. Personally, I’d probably give them a 7 or an 8, but dude’s just told me that anything less than a 10 is seen the same as a 1. So my options are to be a complete dick and take food out of his mouth or else not give them some legitimate feedback that would help improve their experience.

It’s no wonder they keep quoting the wrong times. Nobody’s ever bothered to tell them it’s annoying. Nobody’s ever given them a B with constructive feedback.

After all, isn’t that what reviews are supposed to be for? I used to wait tables and I considered the tip as a dialogue between me and my customers as to how my service was. Unless the customers were Russian or ordered thousand island dressing. Because those people always tip poorly. But everyone else? I sure as shit never had to tell them that if they weren’t able to tip me 20% they might as well tip me zero.

I ran into the same problem with the airbnb. Was the place fine? Yeah, it was fine. Would I stay there again? Probably, depending on what else was available. Was it the Shangri-fucking-la? No, it wasn’t.

The two upstairs bedrooms at this house didn’t have their own bathrooms. Meaning I had to trudge my ass down some rickety stairs, probably waking the entire house, in the middle of the night to take a leak. Sure, I could’ve drank less before going to bed, but what’s the point of vacationing if you’re not going to drink?

Also, while we didn’t use the “fourth bedroom,” the person sleeping there would have to go through the room I was in to get to the stairs to get to the bathroom. We ended up taking the air mattress out of that room and let the kids sleep in the living room downstairs. Because the kids were there with their parents. And the bed in the room next door to the air mattress room upstairs only had a double bed. Not the best arrangement.  Not a 5 out of 5.

I know there’s nothing they can feasibly do about access to bathrooms upstairs. I certainly don’t blame the owners for this fact. But at the same time, it’s a fair thing to mention in a review, right? It’s probably something worth noting in a review so that other people booking it know that whoever’s staying in the two upstairs bedrooms better be okay holding their bladder long enough to trudge down some stairs in the dark.

But the owners seemed very nice. They were super polite in every interaction I had with them. They even told me they gave ME a good review as a tenant. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Not sure what I could’ve done to be a bad tenant. Clearly they aren’t one of those apocryphal airbnb owners who set up video cameras or they would’ve known we moved their air mattress. And they would’ve known what I did to their bathroom after a night of drinking. Or maybe they’re selling that footage to some fetish site, and they’re telling the other airbnb owners that I’m a cash cow.

Cash cow is also the name for what I left in their toilet. Look for me this week on SomeDudeTakingADump.com

So, again, I’m left with a quandry. I don’t think the place is a 5 out of 5. But the owners seemed nice. So now I have to decide if I want to give a heads up to future travelers via a legitimate review or give a fluff job to the owners.

Instead, I do the same thing I do at the car dealership. I don’t give a review at all.

The Libra in me can’t handle the two sides. I’m sure my students wish I would do the same. Give them an A or don’t give them a grade at all. Turn all of education into a pass/fail system. Although it’s not even pass/fail, it’s brilliance/fail. And really, they told you the consequences, so it’s a “they’re brilliant/I’m a dick” scale.

Apps work the same way, especially games. I notice they want you to rank them early, like when you’re still going through the tutorial. When the game still seems fresh and interesting. They don’t want your review after the game’s grown stale. They also say, “If you’re enjoying this, give us a five-star review.” But in my world, if I merely “like” something, it’s a 4-star, not a 5-star review. Maybe even three. Five stars denotes over the top. Exceptional. The difference between an A and a B.

Goodreads has a good system. If you hover over the stars, they list a 3-star review as “liked it,” a 4-star as “really liked it,” and a 5-star as “it was amazing.” They even have 2-star as “it was okay.” That seems a bit nice. I think of two stars as “Meh.” Or maybe three stars is “Meh” and two stars is “I tolerated it.”

I give two stars to a book that I finished, but didn’t really like. One star, what Goodreads classifies as “didn’t like it,” is usually reserved for books I didn’t finish. Although there was one book that was hovering around two stars, but when I finished it, the ending was so bad that I dropped it to a one star. That was probably a book that I should’ve given up on.

So not every book on Goodreads is either a 5 or a 1. But people still seem to treat it that way. I’m amazed at how many five-star reviews  write about all the problems that they had with the book. Others give a three-star review, then gush about how wonderful the book is. I can only assume those people’s ranking systems have been ruined by the likes of car dealerships and airbnb. None of us feel safe giving our honest opinion. Someone, somewhere is liable to get killed if we do.

Either that or the author was giving them a blowjob.

So here’s a ransom note. The Wombat and his entire family have been kidnapped. A gun is pointed at their heads. Anything other than a five-star review of this blog post will result in some pistol-whipping and hari kiri immolation. Oh, did I not mention there was a sword there, too? No? Well tough shit, you can’t mention in the review that the plot kept changing.

What’s that? There aren’t stars to review on this site? Only a like or dislike button? Wait, there’s no dislike button? So you can either like it or don’t do anything? Wow, this is just like every other review system. Either tell me you like me or don’t say shit at all.

Your wait time should be about ten minutes.

No honest opinions, please.

The Thin Grey (Hair)Line

I’ve got something weird going on on the top of my head recently. Or, to be more accurate, I’ve got something weird NOT going on up there. As in, something seems to be missing. It’s called hair.

The good news is that I still have hair. There’s just less of it. If I style it with gel, or if I comb it a certain way, I can see a strange white sheen peaking through like a mythical unicorn through a weeping willow. It’s my scalp. Where the hell did that thing come from?

A month or so ago, when we were having an early spring weather day, Wife and I did some preliminary yard work. That evening, I had a wee bit of a headache. And the top of my head felt a little itchy. A little discomfort. I mentioned it to Wife and she said, “Yeah, looks like you got a little sunburnt.”

“What do you mean, sunburnt? How can you get sunburn on the top of your head?”

Wife just looked at me while I worked it through.

“Ohhhhhh…..”

I remember having a similar experience the first time I spent the day out after I finally cut my mullet in the early nineties. Okay, maybe it was the mid-nineties. The back of my neck, previously shaded, did not cope well with the garish light of day.

But there are a few differences between the end of my mullet and the end of my scalp. First of all, I could regrow my mullet. Sure, society might condemn it, but the back of my fair Irish neck would be much appreciative. With the shit currently going on up there, I’m out of biological options. Maybe I could go all David Crosby, which would at least return my neck under a protective curtain. But the top ain’t gonna reverse its trend.

Another difference is that I can put sunscreen on the back of my neck. I have a feeling it would be tough to get it on my scalp now. I guess it’s hats for the interim.

I shouldn’t whine. I’m in my mid-forties. I have friends who have had this problem since they were in their twenties. Although, at least those guys are so bald now that they can sunscreen their domes without it looking like that scene from “There’s Something About Mary.”

But dammit, my hair’s always been solid. It’s always been thick. It had a certain body that I thought could withstand the tests of time. When it started graying a few years ago, I remember saying, “Well, at least there’s still enough of it to gray.”

Damn you, Fates, for mocking me so.

Interestingly, the last time I got my hair cut, the smock that they put over me was almost filled with gray. It was a virtual sea of silver, catching the light like a precious metal glowing against the smooth blue contrast of the smock. Sparkling at me. Winking at me. And I remember saying, “With all that gray being cut out, I must have nothing but brown left.”

Will I ever learn to keep my mental mouth shut?

At least the amount of grey being cut off might not be an issue anymore. Who knows how much longer I’ll be going for haircuts in the first place. The price keeps going up and they keep cutting less hair. Rip off!

About a year ago, I started growing my hair longer. On top, at least. Don’t worry, no Return of the Mullet Jedi. It’s something I used to do from time to time when the whim struck me. But I hadn’t grown it out in about a decade. Since right around when Wife and I started dating.

I told myself that I started growing my hair longer because we were looking at some of our early dating photos with Daughter, and one of them mentioned when I used to do stuff with my hair. You know, put product in it. Try to do something with it other than a subtle George Clooney comb-forward.

By the way, when I was in my mid-twenties, I didn’t get the appeal of that ER-era George Clooney comb-forward. Then, when I hit 38 or so, it totally made sense. Early bit o’ gray and, although I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time, the first little bit of thinning, made that the go-to style for a number of years.

But now I’m “growing it out” a bit more, putting product in it more often. The other mid-40s guys in my department is doing the same. I can’t help wondering if we’re subconsciously doing this because it might be our last chance.

Or maybe I’m growing it to hide my scalp. Is this how comb-overs begin? Do I have to reconsider all those dudes I’ve assumed were child molesters all these years? Maybe they didn’t just wake up one day and think they were pulling one over on everyone. Maybe it was a subtle process that developed over years. One day you just want to thicken it up a little and the next thing you know, you’re Donald Trump.

Hey, if the presidential election ends up being two almost-80-year-old white dudes, are they just going to do the presidential debate in rocking chairs on somebody’s front porch?

Anyway, Wife finally got tired of me complaining about my thinning hair. Okay, maybe I don’t really complain. It’s more that I’m astounded. Astonished. Perplexed. Incredulous. I don’t complain, I just keep commenting how strange it is. I turn my head this way and that in the mirror. I squint my eyes. I say, “is it just me or can you see all the way to my brain?”

So Wife decided to “help” by getting me a shampoo for thinning hair. Boy howdy, is that even a thing? Am I missing something? Because if that’s a thing, then why are there still so many bald people? I mean, it’s got to work, right? Don’t we have a Consumer Protection Agency to protect people from faulty advertising? I’m sure they’ll get on the thickening shampoo right after they follow up on my contention that Red Bull did not, in fact, give me any wings.

The stuff smells disgusting. Some mixture of aloe vera and chemical sludge. Although movies in the 1980s didn’t have smells, I associate the smell of this shampoo with the vat of chemical waste that Jack Nicholson fell into to become the Joker in the first Batman movie. Or maybe this is the stuff that made the Toxic Avenger.

And this isn’t just a “put it in and rinse it out” kinda shampoo. The instructions tell me I must leave it in my hair for two full minutes. Not a moment less, nor I suppose a moment more. One minute, fifty-nine and my head will still resemble a chewed-off pencil eraser. Two minutes, one second, and I assume it’s seeped through and giving me brain cancer.

This isn’t great for a guy who a) has a morning routine drilled down to the microsecond in order to sleep in as much as possible and still get to work on time, and b) likes to wash his hair last, with eyes closed. Because now I either have to do my hair first and let it sit there while I maneuver the rest of the shower, subjecting my eyes to the burning trail of napalm that keeps snaking down from my hair, or I have to lather up my hair and then stand there like a dumbass trying to think of a song that lasts two minutes.

I looked it up, so now I try to sing “It’s Only Love,” by the Beatles. But about the time I’m fumbling through “the sight of you makes nighttime bright,” I remember that the original version of the song was called “Thanks for the Hat” and I wonder why Lennon’s so emotional about a goddamn hat, because I can only assume the rest of the lyrics would stay the same, and “Thanks for the hat/and that is all/why do I feel the way I do/thanks for the hat and that is all/but it’s so hard taking a hat from you, taking a hat from yooooooooooouuuuuuu….” just like how Paul McCartney has said the original lyrics to “Yesterday” were “Scrambled Eggs/Oh, my baby, how I love your legs,” which I can only assume were followed by “Now I need a place to hide aweg/Oh, I believe in scrambled eggs,” and now that I think of it, it’s… “ahh! ahh! ahh! Shampoo’s in my eyes! It burns! It burns! I’m meeeeeeeeeltiiiiiiiiing….”

On the plus side, my eyebrows are going to be positively LUSH! Maybe I can at least get the cool kind of brain cancer, like John Travolta in “Phenomenon.”

And I know it’s totally psychosomatic, but man, I can feel that shit doing something to my hair while it’s up there for the full two minutes and not a second more. And it doesn’t seem something overly natural. Well, at least when I die, the corpse’ll have positively dashing locks. Maybe the mortician can give me a dash of Just For Men while he’s at it.

And the sorta crappy thing is that I had finally found a shampoo I liked. After years of going from whatever crappy piece of wax was cheapest on the shelf to whichever one was next to it, all the while complaining about the dandruff I just could never get away from, I finally decided I made enough money to splurge fifteen bucks on a bottle that will last me for six months. And wouldn’t you know it, my hair started feeling fresher and the dandruff was gone. I just didn’t know this new hair god took ten percent tithing.

Wife says I can still use the good stuff. She says I can do the two-minute ritual with the pagan juice, then wash my hair like I normally would. But this seems counterintuitive to me. Wouldn’t I then just be “cleansing” my hair of whatever napalm I had just put in there? Or is the two-minute meditation long enough for it to seep all the way into my brain in order to be dispensed into my blood stream at regular intervals throughout the day?

So I still resort to the American Crew once or twice a week when my hair is particularly gruesome. Sometimes I use it after the two-minute pagan sacrifice, sometimes by itself. Don’t tell the thickening shampoo. I think the first commandment was “Thou shalt have no hair products before me.” It’s right up there with not coveting thy neighbor’s hair.

So the real question in this whole process is, “Does it work?” I’m an American, and we are fully versed in destroying our bodies and souls in order to maintain a surface beauty. But dammit, if I’m going to sell my soul to the Pompadour God, I want to at least make sure my sacrifices aren’t falling on deaf ears. Unhearing ears behind a curtain of hair is fine.

But unfortunately, I can’t answer if the thickening shampoo is working. Because of the fine print. At the very bottom of the bottle, underneath all the unpronounceable chemical ingredients (wait, is that how you spell hellfire?), it says that results will start to show after six months of use.

SIX MONTHS?

And then they really have me by the short-and-curlies (which, naturally, aren’t thinning), right?  Because anyone who buys this product already has thinning hair. Which means that six months from now that hair was probably already going to be thinner. So if my hair is the same thickness six months from now, they can just tell me that it would’ve been thinner without their product. Heck, even if it continues thinning, they’ll say it would’ve been worse. It’s really hard to create a control group when you’re studying history. We’ll never know if Japan would have surrendered without dropping the atomic bomb. And I’ll never know if I would’ve had less hair six months from now without using the thickening shampoo.

You know what we CAN know for certain about the future? I can guarantee that the bottle of shampoo won’t last six months. I’m guessing they’ve put about a five-month supply in there. Because I’m going to need to buy that next bottle before I can say definitively if it’s working or not. And then five months later, I’ll look in the mirror and say to myself…

“Hey Honey, is that my scalp I see?”

Land of Horrible Human Beings

I saw something this past weekend that annoyed me.

No, scratch that, it pissed me right the fuck off.

How pissed off? I found myself yelling at an inanimate object. Through a car windshield. I mean, if the inanimate object could HEAR me, then that would be one thing, but the mostly soundproof barrier in between, to say nothing of the traffic and other surrounding white noise, makes it a whole ‘nother level of pissed.

Or maybe I was just being cowardly. “Yeah,” the inanimate object was thinking back, “I bet you wouldn’t say that to my fucking face!”

So now, with that pesky bully of a sign out of earshot once again, I’m letting the vitriol roll. Raising my cowardice by going home and trolling the inanimate object on the interwebs. Yeah, how does that feel, motherfucker? You gonna be checking the comment feed?

But I’m still generally annoyed, because now I’m going to make a blog post that threatens to break a couple of my unwritten rules. I try to never get legitimately upset about anything here. Sure, I play the cranky old guy a lot, but I usually am looking for the humor in the things that annoy me. But I’m a little worried this post won’t have the usual humorous tangents. On the plus side, that means it might clock in at less than 2000 words and you can consume it in one sitting.

The other thing I try not to do here is get political. Because I certainly don’t have the answers. And I like to think of my happy little wombat’s pouch of mirthful passive aggression to be a place of harmony. And the first thing to ruin our little happy place is to say an innocuous little thing like “people who believes <insert sensitive political topic here> is a cocksucking demonspawn whose eyesockets should be skullfucked by Hitler.” Followed, of course, by a “See? Everybody’s afraid to debate me.”

So here I go. You’ve been warned.

The thing that pissed me off was an Amber Alert.

“Really, Wombat? You have a problem with saving kids lives? Somebody call Hitler and tell him we’ve got some ripe sockets coming.”

No, it wasn’t an actual Amber Alert. But, as I’ve written before, here in California, some nimrod in the state government gets bored whenever there hasn’t been a child abduction for more than a few days. So he likes to send us little messages using the Amber Alert system, which I’ve recently discovered is called a Changeable Message Sign. Not to be confused with the digital advertising billboards. The CMS is only yellow type on a black background. For years, I thought it was called Amber Alert based on the color of the text. Nope. It was a girl named Amber. I feel bad for her. I mean, not only did she die, but the law that was named after her is being interpreted as named after a color, not her.

Most of the messages they post are annoying, but innocuous. “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”Um, I mean, not legally. But okay, sure. “Don’t drive distracted.” Hey, you know what would help me not being distracted? Maybe don’t flash changing messages at me while I’m driving. “Look twice for motorcyclists.” Good message. I remember when I took drivers ed that motorcycles driving between the lanes is “legal but not safe.” They used to say the same thing about seat belts and helmets and riding in the back of trucks. All the rest have since been made illegal. But somehow motorcycles and antivaxxers are the last great bastions of the ability to kill yourself via hutzpah.

I had gotten used to the same 7-10 messages rotating through, but it looks like Mr. Bureaucrat came back from his sabbatical, because they seem to be testing some new messages recently. I saw a message a few weeks ago that told me to watch out for bicyclists. Not sure if it was a typo for the motorcycle one. If it wasn’t a typo, then my response is no, fuck those guys. Bicycles aren’t allowed on the freeway. Enter at your own risk, motherfuckers.

But my current rage spiral isn’t focused on bicyclists or intricacies of DUI law. Even the Antivaxxers get a pass today, despite them single-handedly bringing back measles and smallpox. Good job, asswipes. I saw one Facebook post from a mother who said her kids weren’t vaccinated and she was worried about measles. She asked if there were any “preventative measures” she could take to strengthen them against it. Yeah. It’s called vaccination, you nitwit.

And there go the antivaxxers. Hey, I know WordPress tells me when a new person starts following my blog. Do I get a notice for the unfollows? I bet I’m about to find out.

Okay, so what’s the message that has thrown me into a tizzy?

“The only prevention for littering is you.”

Yes, that’s it.

Am I being petty? Maybe.  But seriously, California? Did you just tell me that I’m your littering problem? Well, let me, on behalf of the millions of us who have never once thrown a piece of garbage out of a moving vehicle, tell you to go fuck yourself.

Have I ever driven when I shouldn’t have, in the vein of “buzzed driving is drunk driving”? Yeah, probably. And as a former Catholic, I applaud the subtle guilt of the buzzed driving message. I mock it. But yeah, I take it to heart. Tell me to look twice for a dude on a motorcycle? Fine. Do you see how easy it was to give subtle cues without implying thirty-nine million people are lingering somewhere between being a criminal and a complete piece of shit?

We all know where this rhetorical argument comes from. Smokey the Bear tells us that “Only YOU” can prevent forest fires. And that’s been a powerful message for decades.

But there’s a huge difference between forest fires and littering. Fires are (usually) an act of negligence. So when my drunk and/or tired ass is passing out in front of my campfire and I really just want to go crawl into my tent and pass out, then hopefully the thousand times I’ve seen Smokey Bear will pop up in my head and I’ll put the fire out first. Shouldn’t be tough. I usually have to take a leak after all that light beer, anyway. Sure, I could use water to put out the fire, but then the guy lighting it first in the morning, whose been peacefully sleeping for three hours, won’t get that extra little wake-up whiff in the morning.

You know what Smokey doesn’t say? He doesn’t say “Only YOU can prevent arson.” And why doesn’t Smokey say that? Because most of us aren’t arsonists. Arson requires someone taking a deliberate, criminal action. Kinda like rolling down the window of a car and throwing out your empty McDonald’s wrapper. Littering is not an accident, so those of us who don’t litter can’t solve the problem by ourselves.

But the good old Golden State government seems to think we’re all litterers. And probably arsonists, too. And they’ve chosen to  furrow their digitized amber brow at all of us for succumbing to our baser instincts.

Hey seriously, Governor Newsom, if you want to count the number of fast food wrappers in my back seat to know where all of my car-created litter ends up, feel free. I drive by the Capitol building every damn day because, despite having the highest tax rates in the country, we can’t bother to have halfway decent public transportation. BART was supposed to have expanded to Sacramento by now, but it hasn’t even made it to San Jose yet because it’s tied up in fifty years of “environmental impact studies.” Want to know what’s impacting the environment more than ten miles of track? Ten million people commuting along Interstate 680 at an approximate speed of five miles per hour for three hours every morning and evening.

And in the meantime, our roads are about as shitty as they come. I’ve had to replace my windshield once a year for the past five years because of all the shit kicked up on Highway 99. When I ask for a quote from Safelite to fill in a chip, they give a price and say “unless you’re in Sacramento, California.” I say I am, in fact, in Sacramento, California, and the person on the phone chuckles and says, “Oh, then you’re paying twice as much as the going rate.” Because while Sacramento might try to gloss itself as a “City of Trees” or a “Farm-to-Fork Capital,” it should really just opt for “Region of Potholes.”

Last time I went to Safelite to fill in a chip, I had a bona fide crack within a week. So fifty bucks to “fix” the windshield, followed less than a month later by five hundred bucks to replace it.

But hey, at least the traffic (sometimes) moves in Sacramento. The only reason the Bay Area or Los Angeles don’t have more windshield chips is because cars need to go faster than ten to kick up pebbles.

But yeah, you’re right, California. Littering is the real problem. And it’s all my fucking fault.

No, they didn’t tell me I caused the holocaust or assassinated JFK or anything. But that’s part of what pissed me off about the message. It wasn’t a “Please don’t litter.” It was a passive aggressive. “Hey, fuckface, we know you’re the problem.” If you’re going to call me an asshole, then call me an asshole. All of us Californians are quite accustomed to our government’s scorn.

We live in that nanniest of the nanny states. Every action requires seventeen different waivers accompanied by eighteen different fees. We have to ensure that the toilet-paper that we’re dropping into our fluoride water and flushing down our low-flow toilets are biodegradable and dolphin friendly. During the drought, they told us to stop “wasting” water, and we complied like the domestic violence victims we are. Then they complained that we weren’t paying as much for water as we used to. All the Water Boards had employees that they had to pay, even if those employees didn’t have as much to keep track of. If we didn’t start paying more for water we weren’t using, then those people would be out of jobs and we would be responsible for tanking the economy.

They raised the gas tax to discourage us from buying gas-guzzlers, so we bought more eco-friendly cars, which means they aren’t getting as much gas tax revenue, so now they want to force us to have GPS in our cars and charge us by the mile, even though the money raised won’t go toward fixing roads or improving public transportation. Then they also raised the gas tax again.

No, scratch that. WE raised our own gas tax, because the state government has been so good at chastising us and ridiculing us and explaining that they are better than us that we are the only population that actually votes, on a regular basis, yes on propositions to raise our own taxes! And now they want to pay for an investigation into why our gas prices are so high.

And I’m used to the disdain from my government. I know the elected officials think they’re better than us. I love when people describe a presidential candidate as “humble.” Humble people tend to not think they have better ideas than three hundred million citizens. That’s a pretty egotistical act. And that stretches down to the lowest city councilperson. I’m not saying people don’t get into politics for altruistic reasons. But everyone gets into politics because they think they have better ideas than other people.

But I always just assumed that this dismissiveness was based on their assumption that we’re all idiots. All of us unwashed masses that have trouble distinguishing right from wrong and are completely incapable of managing our own finances or driving or, I don’t know, washing our hands before going back to work. And whatever, I’m a teacher, so I’m used to people who I know more than rolling their eyes at me, assuming I have no concept of the myriad of things they think they know.

But now, thanks to my trip on the freeway this past weekend, I think that maybe I’ve been giving these politicians too much benefit of the doubt. They don’t think we’re stupid. They think we’re criminals. We are all on the verge of rape, murder, and mayhem.

I mean, props to them for reading their Rousseau. Or maybe their Thomas Hobbes. Life is nasty, brutish, and short, huh, guys? What? All you politicians aren’t up on your Enlightenment philosophers? You just want to make sure we’ve taught it to the next generation? Awesome. Wouldn’t want to know how many of y’all would fail that high school exit exam that you used to make our students pass.

But don’t mind me. I’m on the verge of robbing this liquor store. I’m surprised they haven’t made ski masks illegal.

But the nice thing about my new realization is how much clearer it makes all their actions so much clearer. They’re not coddling us. They’re preemptively punishing us. Since we no longer enforce the death penalty, maybe they can accomplish the same goal by pothole-caused car crashes. Or maybe we’ll just die of starvation because our gas is too expensive for us to get to the grocery store.

Although, now that I think of it, maybe they aren’t punishing us preemptively. They’re punishing us after the fact. After all, we’re all already criminals.

Because the only prevention to littering is YOU.

Writing Update

I ended up taking a good portion of April off from writing. Or at least from blogging. But unlike those plebiscite sites that come back from a long hiatus with an “I need to blog more,” followed by another six months of radio silence, I at least had the wherewithal to post a few times before acknowledging the fact that I was mysteriously absent for a while.

This wasn’t my first dearthful April. It turns out April is a bad month for me. I teach an AP Class, and with the AP Test in early May, I spend pretty much the entire month of April buried in essays that really need to be returned on a timely basis. The nagging in the back of my head, which usually says “You should be writing” whenever I’m wasting time, switches to “You should be grading” whenever I think about writing in April. Perfect time for one of the NaNoWriMo camps, huh?

Plus that Disneyland post took a lot out of me.

Oh, and there were at least three weekend-long curling bonspiels over the past two months. I don’t want you to think I’m responsible or anything.

Anyway, what I’m really here to talk about is what else has been going on in the background of my writing. March and April also held the latest incarnation of the flash fiction contest I competed in last year. Each competition has five rounds, which consist of a prompt coming out on Friday evening that is due Monday evening. Last year, I competed twice, making ten full rounds, and I placed twice. One time I came in first, the other time in third. Both were historical fiction and can be found on my Published Works page.

But this time I either figured something out or, heaven forbid, am getting better at this shit. Because how many times did I place this go-around? I’ll quote LeBron James when he moved to Miami and they asked him how many championships he would win there. “Not one. Not two. Not three…”

In the end, I’m better than LeBron, because I won FOUR times!

Okay, I didn’t technically win all four of those. I only won once. Plus two third-place finishes and one fifth. So okay, LeBron, I guess I’m willing to acknowledge you might be slightly better at basketball than I am at amateur writing competitions. But only slightly.

But I’m still thrilled. I made it in the running four times out of five. That means four of the five stories I wrote for this competition will be published. Even more shocking, only one of them was historical fiction. That’s the one that came in first. The others were about a teacher and a game show and a furry convention. Yes, that’s right. A Furry Convention!

I also found out that this competition was bigger than I thought. When I was super happy about winning a round last year, I thought there were forty or fifty entrants. TI have since learned that the number is closer to three hundred. And sure, not all three hundred actually wrote an entry each time, but even if that number is in the low triple-digits, I’m pretty proud of having multiple top-five entries.

The one drawback is those losing entries usually provide fodder for this blog on the weeks I don’t have much to write. Unfortunately for all of you, I won’t have a lot of fiction to post in the near future. And trust me, you don’t want to read that fifth story. It was horrible. The literary equivalent of that dentist who says you shouldn’t chew gum.

But keep your eyes out for “72 Hours of Insanity, Volume 6.” Or maybe “Volume VI,” since Amazon seems to be particular about that. My guess is it’ll be coming out in the December timeframe. I’ll probably mention it then. If I don’t, then I’m pretty shitty at promotion and marketing.

Oh, and I finally finished the book I had been writing for four years. And I’m about 2/3 of the way through another book. And every once in a while I feel like I should do some editing. But then I figure, nah, I’ve got some wonderful European history essays calling my name. Editing sucks, y’all. Maybe I’ll blog about that at some point. It would beat the hell out of… anything else I should be doing with my screentime on a given day.

In the meantime, I’ll try to find some more harmless musings about the world around us to keep the blog updated more often.

At least until next April.

Disneyland, Part II

Thanks for coming back. Earlier this week, I wrote about my child’s first trip to Disneyland, which, oddly enough, coincides with my first Disneyland trip as a parent. Not sure if there’s any correlation between those two facts. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

Anyway, last time I hit on some of the big ticket items. It was a great polemic about Mountains of the Space and Thunder and Splash varieties, complete with heroic and doleful tales of Fastpasses and the various sizes of worlds and whether or not any of those worlds contain mermaids.

Seriously, it was a great little blog post. You should read it. And those of you who did read it, shhh, don’t tell the others that I’m full of shit when I said it was a great post. We’ll just keep that between us.

Part Two will be a little bit more disheveled. More random occurrences than deep dives. Some lingering questions. And more of a focus on the two coffee shops in Downtown Disney.

Turnstiles They still use turnstiles in their ride lines. I don’t know why I find that so odd, but I do.

The turnstiles are used to determine the popularity of rides. It counts each person that goes through. You used to be able to see the counters on most of them. On a few you still can, but most only keep it internally. Or probably digitally.

And really, I think that’s why I find their continued presence surprising. How have they not come up with a more convenient, more efficient way of counting how popular a particular ride is? They always seem to know how long it will take me to get to the front of the line. I never knew precisely how they did that, but on this particular trip, I ended up being the test run three or four times. Some employee hands you a random placard when you enter the line and then you’re supposed to hand it to the people that put you on the ride. It’s a standard “drug mule in the airport” operation. I could’ve been delivering nuclear spongecake or whatever the hell that word is that I’m not supposed to Google unless I want the TSA to delve extra deep on their next body cavity search. But I’ll just assume there was nothing nefarious in this particular handoff.

As for the turnstiles, you pretty much have to have the app downloaded on your phone to navigate the park these days. It knows where you are at any given moment. Mine kept telling me when food was nearby and asking if I wanted to mobile order. So one would think that, at any moment, they could see how many people are in line for any given ride. And sure, some rando grandma who doesn’t have the app on her phone might skew the numbers, but we could still assume that the same number of grandmas are in the line for each ride. Okay, maybe assume there are a few more grandmas in the Alice in Wonderland ride than the Matterhorn, but still. Statisticians can figure it out. That’s how they do political polling, right?

Or, I don’t know, you know that every inch of that park under video surveillance from multiple angles, right? Make a computer that can count the number of people in a screenshot at any given time.  Or just use that wait time as the primary barometer. It’s updated on my app, so I know it’s codified and digitized somewhere. If your statisticians aren’t holding on to the data and analyzing it for relative ride popularity, that’s on you, Disney, not me. Don’t make me continually run my junk into metal bars just because you’re lazy.

And while we’re talking about relative ride popularity, can we please get a fucking Fastpass on Alice in Wonderland? What is it with that ride that makes it the longest wait time, all day, every day? We showed up right when the park opened and it was already a 45-minute wait. Speaking of which…

Magic Hour. One of the two parks is open an hour early each day for people who are staying at the hotels or have paid for some extra perks. Basically, give Disney a shit-ton more money than the shit-ton you’re already giving them, and you can go in an hour early. We were staying at a Disney property, so we were capable of getting in early. We were never able to make it. What with a four year-old who’s staying up past her bedtime each night. Or parents who are staying up past their bedtimes. Or the security line that might be more popular than Alice in Wonderland. Or the seventy-mile trek through Downtown Disney, complete with not one, but TWO, Starbucks to distract you en route. I think we made it into California Adventure a whopping seven minutes before we might have otherwise. With Disneyland, we boarded the Monorail at five till.

But we did learn a vital lesson about Magic Hour. And that is, if you are going to the park right when it opens, don’t go to the one with the Magic Hour. We pretty much got to the park at the same time each day. On Sunday, we hit Disneyland right when the park opened and we could walk right onto rides for the better part of an hour. I think we had ridden Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder and Casey Junior and Peter Pan and Small World within the first hour. By contrast, when we got there at the same time on Tuesday, the day of a Magic Hour, Alice in Wonderland had a 45-minute wait, Big Thunder a half-hour, Haunted Mansion 15 minutes, and so on, because people had already been in the park for an hour. Had we instead gone to California Adventure that day, we probably could’ve ridden Radiator Springs and Soaring and the Toy Story ride in the same time it would’ve taken us to ride Alice in Wonderland.

Again, what the fuck is with the demand for Alice in Wonderland?

Toon Town. Speaking of things that need to be updated. The last time I went into Toon Town, the only time I’ve ever been in Toon Town, was when it first opened way back in, I’m going to guess, 1990 or so? I was already in high school by then. So I think we checked it out once for shits and giggles, but knew we were way too old for it. Now that I have a four year-old, it’s prime Toon Town Time. Or so I thought. But really, since Toon Town hasn’t been updated since it started, it isn’t really aligned with current cartoons. Roger Rabbit? Really? What child from this century has ever even heard of Roger Rabbit, much less seen the totally inappropriate-as-fuck-for-children movie?

But that’s not the only Straight Outta 1989 reference in Toon Town. When you visit the houses of both Minnie and Mickey Mouse, their television sets look archaic. The refrigerator doesn’t even have an ice/water dispenser in the door. Ditto with their washing machine and their dishwasher and their answering machine. Answering machine? Yes, answering machine! The answering machine is a focal point of each of their houses. You can push play on the fake audio cassette tapes and hear their outgoing message as well as messages that have been left by their friends. Needless to say, my daughter had no clue of what they were going for.

Oh, and while you’re in Toon Town, after going through their houses, you can see and get your picture taken with Mickey and Minnie. The line to see Minnie was about twenty minutes long. The line to see Mickey? I don’t know. We gave up once we made it around a corner and saw all the switchbacks in the next room. I’m guessing it would’ve ended up being around an hour. And while I was then about to go off on a rant about misogyny as present in the wait times to see mouses of different genders, we then hoofed it over to Donald Duck’s boathouse. There were, like, three people ahead of us to see Donald. And there was no official Disney photographer there. Take your own photos. Poor, poor Donald…

Food. For lunch, we went to the Golden Shower. No, I’m sorry, it’s called the Golden Horseshoe. But it’s easy to get the two confused. They both shove things into your mouth and then entertain and appall you with a show as debauched as it is offensive. The main difference is that a Golden Shower is less expensive. And at the Golden Horseshoe, they don’t secretly videotape you and hold that evidence in order to manipulate you into doing their bidding once you become President of the United States.

I enjoyed the fact that you can purchase beer inside California Adventure. And you know what? It’s not that badly priced. Sure, $9.50 for a 12-ounce pour is extreme, but they’re microbrews. It would probably cost $6 or $7 at a restaurant. At the minor league ballpark in Sacramento, a microbrew will set you back $11. So if Disneyland’s only going to charge $9.50, that’s a bargain. It’s pretty much the same price for a churro, and from an economic opportunity-cost perspective, I will get much more enjoyment out of the beer. At one point, I was happy to find myself at the Karl Strauss stand. I really wanted a Red Trolley. It’s one of my favorite beers. But I thought that would be way too pedestrian. Why should I pay $9.50 for something I could buy a six-pack of back home for cheaper? Especially when this cart has four or five other flavors of Karl Strauss, and if they make such a good red, maybe I should try one of their other varietals. I got the pale ale. I shoulda had a Red Trolley.

Other food adventures: Jack Jack’s Nom Noms makes wonderful cookies. You get them straight out of the oven.

Downtown Disney has not one, but two Starbucks. Starbuckses? Starbi? They are super fast and if you mobile order while you’re in line at security, your order will be ready by the time you’re passing by. But even better than the instant gratification, I got to tick something off my bucket list that I didn’t even know was on it. On the first morning, Wife mobile ordered at what turned out to be the far Starbucks. When I went into the first Starbucks we came to, the order wasn’t there. I thought maybe it wasn’t ready yet, but Wife’s app said otherwise. See what you can use an app for, Disney? So we had to go to the next Starbucks, but we weren’t exactly sure where it was. So what did I do? I walked back into Starbucks Number One and asked them where the nearest Starbucks is. The barista didn’t even bat an eye. “About a quarter-mile up ahead on your right.”

We ended up eating twice at the Red Rose Tavern twice, not because we had heard anything about it nor that it was particularly good the first time. But without being able to go through the castle, you have to circle around Disneyland, so we usually found ourselves around Fantasyland when we were hungry. Plus they have mobile ordering. The main reason I reference the Tavern, however, is because of this sign:

IMG_20190310_095721_539

I can only presume that this means that, after 11:00 am, they continue to serve breakfast, but it’s rather ashamedly.

Quick Hits. At one point, the Monorail honked. What the hell was it honking at? Was there another monorail on the track? Did the driver see some cute mouseketeer and was trying to get her digits? There shouldn’t be any reason that the only vehicle on a track that is suspended thirty feet in the air should ever need to honk.

When we were driving on Autopia, a duck crossed the road. We all had to come to a stop. Boy, back when I was a kid, everybody would’ve been slamming into the stopped car in front of them. But nope. Here everyone just voluntarily slowed down to match the car’s speed in front of them. I’d say this is representative of my aging and maturing, but there were kids behind me who also stopped. Maybe it’s just that the ride is so boring compared to the rest of the park now, that the only kids who ride it want to treat it like a true experience instead of a thrill. Or maybe this is just the result of the suspicious disappearance of bumper cars from American society.

Speaking of the old rides, remember when the submarine ride was the most boring ride in the park? Then they added some Disney characters and now it’s an hour-long line. Because before it was about science and now it’s about Disney characters. Just like Small World. But you know what? I didn’t like it before and I still don’t like it. I’m not normally prone to claustrophobia, but man, you get me on that ride and I become imminently aware that I’m under water. I caught myself holding my breath for long periods of time, subconsciously thinking I needed to preserve my scant remaining oxygen. Give me a ride where you plummet from deathly heights any day. But there is nothing appealing or enjoyable about being under water.

A word of advice: If you decide to go to Disneyland by yourself and you’re looking to take advantage of their “single rider” program, go for it. It’s super convenient. It cuts the wait time substantially for a number of rides. I’ve known groups who all go in as single riders to get through the lines quicker. But if you are going the single-rider rout, a family of three like mine is your bread and butter. So do me a favor. Even if it’s a little bit overcast, which I know is a daunting, precarious situation for you SoCal’ers who make up the majority of single riders, what with your access to affordable season passes and whatnot. But please, Single Riders, please don’t wear an ankle- length tab trenchcoat for your wondrous daytrip to Disneyland. It makes us family of three people a little bit nervous when you’re put in the compartment with us.

I saw quite a few t- shirts that said “most expensive.” A play on the old “best <birthday/vacation/anniversary> ever” shirts, only now they admit the reality that their cost is way more remarkable than any fleeting joy. And these shirts appeared to be officially-licensed Disney apparel. I don’t know whether I should be appreciative of Disney getting in on the joke or aghast at the utter don’t-give-a-shittiness of it.  I mean, they’re actually charging people to wear something that acknowledges how they’ll grab every last penny out of your still-bearing heart. But the best pairing of this particular trope was a couple I saw walking side by side. Her shirt said “best anniversary ever. ” Wanna guess what his said?

There was a yacht rock cover band playing in front of Pixar Pier at California Adventure. We didn’t stay to listen to them for long. In fact, we were really just buying a soda or a churro or some similar product within earshot. They finished up one song and started another. It was “Africa,” by Toto.  Of course it was. My daughter’s response? “Hey, Alexa plays this song at home. ” One of the sides of this parent-child dynamic is in for a ride awakening when she goes to kindergarten and all of her friends were raised on Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.

Finally, the app needs to show bathroom wait times, too. Just saying. It usually rivals that odd the most popular rides and unlike the Matterhorn,  the consequences of a mistiming goes fast beyond a drained telephone battery.

Disneyland, Part I

About a month ago, I took my first trip to Disneyland as a parent. And needless to say, I’ve got some stuff. I’ll hit some of the big ticket items today, and return with some quick hits later this week.

Obviously, I’ve been to Disneyland plenty of times before. I grew up in Orange County, so Disneyland was more or less a babysitter for some substantial latchkey portions of my youth. And I’m an Angels fan, so I probably am not quite as filled with wonder for The Mouse Corp as those who only encounter it via their movies and a bi-annual trip to Anaheim.

That being said, it’s been a few years. And of course, the last time I went there with a four year-old, I was incapable of writing a blog. Or writing at all. Or changing my own poopy diaper.

So if you’re looking for the best spot to view a certain parade or ice cream cart with the shortest line or the brightness in my daughter’s eyes the first time she saw the line for Alice in Wonderland, you might want to look elsewhere. If you want a crotchety old man whining about the good old days of Disneyland, you might get a little of that. But it’s really just a snapshot of what’s changed, what remains the same, and how the hell we’re supposed to maintain our phone battery for 16 hours if we have to bust out the Disneyland app every five minutes.

Bibbity Bobbity Boutique I had one role,  and one rule,  when I became a father of a daughter. I know Chris Rock says all I have to do is keep her off the pole. But that’s still a few years away. In the meantime,  when she was born,  I said “no princesses.” I have a friend who went full princess with his daughter. She had every single Disney doll in her room, and every night,  she picked out the proper pajamas to go with the proper doll which might also go with the proper sheets and the soundtrack that accompanied her to never-never land. (Although I’m not sure if she ever dressed up as Peter Pan to head to neverland.) Princess,  princess,  princess, and as a result, that girl is a motherfucking  PRINCESS. And, in line with Chris Rock,  we can all agree that princess is the first step to stripper, right? I mean, if Ariel was willing to give up her voice to please the patriarchy, can her dignity be far behind?

And why would we want our daughter to adore to some antiquated title of nobility, whose greatest life accomplishment is being born to the right parents, when there are so many other options of strong women for her to emulate. Let’s tell her the story  of Angela Earnhardt. Or Sandra Day O’Connor. Or, if we want to stay in the fictional realm, let’s go Squirrel Girl. Anything’s bet than Stockholm Syndrome and the Beast. even if it’s the Hermione version.  Hey, how about Hermione as a goal?

So, now that my daughter’s approaching get fifth birthday, that means she’s about a quarter of the way to adulthood. The quarter mark is a good spot to send a progress reports. So lets see how I’m how I’m doing.

Bang up job,  Wombat!

Of course,  this photo is brought to you by the princess makeovers available at Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, hidden in the far, far corner of Fantasyland. And, in case you were wondering, it is NOT included with the price of admission. I don’t know precisely how much it costs. When I asked my wife, “Do I want to know how much this costs?”, her answer was,  “No.” Good enough for me.

I do know that we didn’t pay for the whole shebang. She didn’t get to meet any of the princesses or take a picture in the pumpkin carriage.  That’s the full  package,  not the low-end crackwhore package our poor daughter was subjected to by her evil, natural-born step-parents.

While I was in the Boppity Boppity Buttfuck,  I heard a daughter ask her dad how much the makeover would cost. She wasn’t there for a makeover. Evidently, it also serves as a giftshop. I totally didn’t even know it existed, though I’ve been going through this nook and cranny for forty years. Probably just something my teenage/bachelor/non-parent male had blinders to.

By the way, the castle in the middle of Disneyland was closed when we were there. How the hell do you close something that effectively serves as a thoroughfare? It made it a pain in the ass to get to certain parts of the park. Damn you, Disneyland for making me walk!

Anyway, when the non-makeover daughter asked her father how much a makeover would cost, he said,  “I don’t know. Probably fifty bucks or something.” I almost fell over in amusement, but I don’t think I’d be able to afford the copay if I fainted. Or the giftstore crap I’d probably break on the way down.

The Consumerism is Strong. On Day One, we went back to the hotel for a nap and the only way to get my kid back to the park was to entice her with a stop at the Disney Store. Let me repeat, she didn’t want to go back to Disneyland. She only wanted to go to the Disney Store. And every time we got off a ride, she wanted to shop in the gift shop that each ride conveniently dumps you out into. And really, what’s it going to hurt? All she wants is these stupid little pins. I doubt they cost much more than… Holy crap! Are those pins made out of Golden Showers?

On the first night, during that compensatory store visit, she bought a Baby Sven doll. At least they called it a Baby Sven, but it looked more like the leftover Eeyore dolls that weren’t selling. So they wrapped a cute little swaddle around it and all of a sudden the donkey becomes a baby reindeer, and a fifty year-old property is rebranded as the hottest thing in the market right now.

Daughter carried Baby Sven around for the next thirty-six hours. It had a fun little handle so she could swing it around, often tossing either Sven or the swaddle into whatever stagnant water could be found. I think somebody vomited on Haunted Mansion when we were on it. I’m surprised she didn’t immediately become an artillery captain measuring the windspeed to gain the proper trajectory for ballistic arc to land in the vomit like a World War I trench.

But seriously, how do you vomit on Haunted Mansion? It’s one of the smoothest rides in any amusement park. I’d normally assume alcohol, but the closest inebriation you can get is in the other amusement park and costs $10 for a 12-ounce pour of 6% alcohol. So I’m at a loss. Maybe Dude should have gone next door to the Winnie the Pooh ride.

Oh hey, did you know they have a “Pooh Corner” in Disneyland? Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near any restrooms. They really needs to find someone with a sense of humor to design their park.

Sorry, where was I? Oh right, Baby Sven. By Day Three, that swaddle was the most sodden, disgusting piece of cloth in America. But it didn’t last much longer, because when we took the Monorail into the park, somebody commented on her doll. So Daughter took off the swaddle to show it off. I don’t know precisely what happened next, but when we exited the monorail, Sven was swaddleless. A woman ran after us, asking if we dropped a blanket. We said yes. She said she put it “on the platform,” so Mama trudged back up the exit stairs to look. Daughter got a look of abject horror, of existential dread, on her face, and started asking what would happen if Mama can’t find the swaddle.

So maybe it’s that she had already played through the permutations in her head. But I was impressed with her reaction when Mama came back down, empty-handed. A look of sadness, of profound loss. Her shoulders drooped, her cheeks fell, she looked down toward the ground. A single tear fell from her eye. And then she looked back up and said, “Well, it’s okay, I guess.”

And I’m thinking, “Woo Hoo! How’s that for parenting? Our four-year old has the coping mechanisms of a Tibetan monk!”

Then she says, “We can just go buy another one.”

Did I say Tibetan monk? I meant American suburbanite.

It’s a Cross Promotion After All. I’ve gotta give credit to my four-year old. She didn’t shy away from anything. The first ride she wanted to go on was Haunted Mansion, and we ended up on that bad-boy three times. We also rode Splash Mountain three times. Twice in a row at one point, because it was an overcast day so you could pretty much walk right on it. She did the Matterhorn and Big Thunder without missing a beat and she cracked up the entire time we were on Guardians of the Galaxy. Thank God she’s got my instinct for thrill rides. As opposed to some of her friends, for whom Pirates of the Caribbean was too scary.

But then there’s the OTHER ride we went on three times. Ugh. Because if a kid’s favorite things in the world are unicorns and rainbows, you know she’s going to want to hit It’s a Small World over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

I’ve never been a fan. Okay, that’s probably not true. I’m sure at one point, I loved it. But once I hit the age of reason, I realized how truly horrible of an experience it is.

I used to call it “It’s a Stereotype After All.” Because nothing conveys the idea that “there’s so much that we share” than to imply that all Scots wear kilts and Indians are snake charmers. Yeah, that’s the way to foster tolerance and inclusion.

But now there’s something way worse than a little old-fashioned essentialism going on in that ride. In typical Disney fashion, they’ve eschewed ideas of love and inclusiveness for a chance to highlight more of their characters. Go fuck your world peace, we’ve got some movies to shill.

It’s obnoxious. Peter Pan is flying around the London portion of the ride. Pinocchio is in Italy. Donald and the Three Caballeros are in Mexico. Aladdin’s in the Middle East. And Lilo and Stitch are surfing in Hawaii. That’s how you know they haven’t updated the ride in a couple of decades. Otherwise they’d have Moana.

But then the promotions became even worse. Woody and Jessie from Toy Story were in… well, I don’t know, the American part of the ride? I don’t explicitly remember anything dealing with the Lower 48. But now there’s a cowboy world. Because, you know, if you’re going to curtail to stereotypes, then I guess Cowboys and Indians, it is. Ignore the fact that the park is actually in a very suburban, cosmopolitan part of that same country. If it’s America, then let’s put a sheriff’s badge on a cowboy. Especially if said cowboy happens to be a Disney property.

And seriously, Native Americans, how can you not get on board with the message of the song? Are you saying you didn’t get along with the cowboys? But “there’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware…” that it’s going to be taken from you in exchange for smallpox-laden blankets. So that’s a win-win, right? So glad they threw Toy Story characters into that portion of the ride, because who doesn’t want their genocide a little bit cuter?

But wait, there’s more! Because after “The West” and Hawaii portions, we went to a place whose inhabitants really need to hear the message – underwater! Because Ariel’s a Disney character. So they’ve turned an entire room of the ride into mermaids and groupers and racist crabs. I mean, I guess it fits with the fiction of the ride. If we’re going to say that we all have more in common than we have different, then we might as well say mermaids exist, too. One seems just about as rooted in reality as the other.

Although I do wonder what room was taken out to put Ariel in? Which nationality was relegated to a tiny corner of another country’s portion or thrown out altogether. Did the Native Americans used to have their own room, but now they have to be thrown in with Whitey? So sorry! And that apology’s coming from me, not Disney. Disney is just saying “Fuck you, you’re not as important as that extra sale of a thirty year-old DVD.”

Maybe, since the ride was last redesigned before Moana, they had shrunk down the Scandanavian portion. But that won’t last for long. You know that, when they do their next maintenance, all the blond-hair, blue-eyed Abba-clones will be replaced by Anna and Ilsa and Sven and Olaf. Unless, of course, the anti-semitic Walt Disney wrote in his last will and testament that the park must always show proper deference to Aryans.

Space Mountain. Space Mountain was closed when we went, so my daughter will have to wait another five years or so to ride that one, since I think Disneyland is sold out for the next decade once Star Wars land opens. I know that they routinely shut down rides for updates and maintenance, and our bad for going in the slow part of the calendar. Heaven forbid we actually want to get on rides. But this particular year seems a really odd year to close down this specific ride. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s, like, some new land opening in Disneyland at the end of May. If you weren’t aware, then you probably weren’t on our Big Thunder train. Because the thing damn near tipped over at the top of the first hill when we all simultaneously leaned to the left to get a better view of the Millenium Falcon poking its nose out of an impound lot in Mos Eisley.

The new land has to do with, like, some Stars and maybe some Wars. Hopefully that doesn’t pique your interest, because every hotel in the area is booked the entire week that its open. In fact, the impending opening of Galaxy’s Edge was the main reason we were going to Disneyland at all. I initially said no until my daughter could go on all the rides, because the worst day of my life was when I went to Six Flags Magic Mountain at a height of 46 inches. And this was in the days before kids lands and variable height requirements per ride. So I spent the whole day sitting on benches with my aunt while my sister and mom went on all the rides. I wasn’t going to subject my daughter to the same life-defining torture. Almost made it. She was tall enough to ride everything except the Indiana Jones ride (who woulda guessed that ride would be more restrictive than Matterhorn?) and the Incredicoaster. I got to do the latter. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s hilarious.

But we had to take her now, because I have a bad feeling it’s going to be even more crowded than usual for the next year. Or two. Or fifty. At least by the time my daughter is fifty-five, she can go on all the rides.

But seriously, if Star Wars land is opening in a month, why would you close Space Mountain now? I’m thinking nobody’s going to give a crap about that ride for the first year or two that Galaxy’s Edge is open. Not only will its theme seem even more dated than usual, but it’s on opposite sides of the park. Maybe they’re trying to have it updated in time to coincide with the Star Wars theme, but Space Mountain seems to coincide more with the other cheesy 1970s sci-fi, not the fantasy-inspired Star Wars.

But whatever. Maybe they’ll use the time after Star Wars Land opens to finally put Arendale in Small World.

The Case of the Missing Fastpass. Okay, so a weird thing happened with my Fastpass when I was in California Adventure. And it happened twice, which makes me think it’s more feature than a glitch.

We had a Fastpass set up for Soaring. We had already been on it once. It was the first ride we went on, and my kid loved it. Have I mentioned that she’s a ride fiend? I mean, it’s not like Soaring is super fast or shaky or whatever. But it does kinda feel like you’re hovering in midair with the ground hundreds of feet below. I’m fine with any ride, but even I get a little lurching feeling in the pit of my stomach on that ride. There’s a certain helplessness to it. It really feels like they should rename the ride “Falling” instead of “Soaring,” because that’s the sensation that I get.

Regardless, the kid loved it, so we re-upped on Soaring for later in the day. We had a 2:00 PM Fastpass, and we were planning to use that as a chance to get back near the entrance and maybe go rest in the hotel room for a bit. But the, at about 1:55 PM, I got a notice on my phone that the Fastpass for Soaring was canceled. It was replaced with a “Wild Card” Fastpass, which I could use on any Fastpass ride.

Odd, I figured, but maybe Soaring had shut down. The wait time for Soaring dropped from about two hours to about thirty minutes within a five minute span of my Fastpass being canceled. But the wait time never actually bottomed out at zero, nor was it ever listed as “temporarily closed.” Maybe the drop in wait time was only based on them canceling everybody with a Fastpass. Fuck all those people who had foresight, let’s get you people in line on the ride.

I wasn’t sure if the “can use it on any Fastpass ride” meant any ride OTHER THAN Soaring or not, nor could I figure out if Soaring was currently running or if all of those people were waiting in line for thirty minutes in the hopes that the ride might come back online. And I didn’t really feel like hoofing it over to Soaring to find out, so meh, kid just enjoyed Goofy’s Sky School, so let’s go once more without the wait this time.

But then it happened again. We had timed two Fastpasses back to back to end our day. Radiator Springs and then Guardians of the Galaxy. Like I said, my kid’s not messing around. But right as we were about to get on Radiator Springs (Even with the Fastpass, you have to wait for twenty minutes on that ride. Without a Fastpass, it takes two hours.), I get a notice that my Guardians of the Galaxy Fastpass has now become a wild card.

But this time, I’m ready. And more importantly, this time it’s a ride I haven’t already gone on so I’m much more reticent to just go on Goofy again. So I watched the wait time like a hawk. It dropped a bit, but was still showing 45 minutes. And again, this time I’m curious if the drop was from all the canceled Fastpasses.

Only one way to find out. We walked over to Guardians of the Galaxy. Turns out it’s running perfectly fine and our wild card Fastpass works perfectly fine for it.

So while I joked about it the first time, I’m now wondering if this is a thing. It never happened the two days we were in Disneyland, but happened twice on our one day in California Adventure. But California Adventure has fewer rides and closes earlier. Whereas you can still get a Fastpass for most Disneyland rides well into the evening, you have to book the California Adventure ones long in advance. So maybe they overbook some. Maybe when that wait time creeps up toward two hours, they “release” a bunch of the Fastpasses into the wild to alleviate the wait time. After all, one time it worked on us and we went on a different ride. And really, if my daughter didn’t have her heart set on Rocket Raccoon and Groot, maybe we would’ve just gotten right back on Radiator Springs.

But at the same time, that’s kinda chintzy. Look, if you want to give me the option to swap my Fastpass out for something I’m currently closer to, that’s fine. But the first time it happened, I was under the impression that I could not go to the ride I had booked earlier. Again, Disneyland, we have the app, you have the turnstiles, you know how many Fastpasses you’ve given out at any given time. This shouldn’t be a problem. And this definitely shouldn’t be, as it appeared to be, a standard operating procedure.

You can read Part II here.

Wherefore art thou, Easter?

I don’t get Easter.

I mean, I understand it’s a holiday based on, depending on your religion, the resurrected Jesus Christ or the fertility goddess Ishtar. Ishtar, of course, is the one associated with bunnies and eggs and super long movies with virtually no plot that fall flat at theaters despite a star-studded cast. It’s like Dune, but it takes place in the desert. Wait, Dune takes place in the desert, too? Hmm… I’m starting to note a trend. Better tell George Lucas before he sets half of his Star Wars movies on Tatooine.

The thing I don’t get about Easter is its staying power as a major holiday.

Again, not questioning the importance of the date in the Christian mythos. But again, that ain’t got shit to do with the fact that bunnies like to fuck.

Let’s be honest, we’re becoming a much more secular society. Our “Holy Days” have become holidays. Last time I checked, we don’t take Ascension off work. Or Epiphany. If we really want to see how much we celebrate major religious holidays, check out all the Catholics sporting the ash on Ash Wednesday. I think I saw, like, two. Back when I was a “Good Catholic,” I remember being regaled all day with such erudite religiosity like the phrase, “Hey, you got a smudge on your forehead.”

And sure, we’re a predominantly Protestant nation, but then shouldn’t the Protestants be explaining to me why Catholic practice, vis a vis the ashes from the fronds burned on the previous Palm Sunday as an inadequate representation of the Word of the Lord, per the sola fide doctrine of Martin Luther. But nope, they only tried to wipe some grease off my forehead. When I explained to them that Ash Wednesday was the beginning of Lent, and it was all based on Easter, the holiday with Peeps, they could only wonder why the ash wasn’t pastel-colored. Maybe because the groundhog didn’t see his shadow that year.

The Holy Days that have stuck around as holidays, of course, are the ones that have secularized themselves. Saint Valentine’s Day, for instance, has become a day where we celebrate a brutal Prohibition-era gang murder by showing our internal organ and painting everything the color of blood. Similarly, Saint Patrick is widely celebrated as the inventor of Guinness. We no longer celebrate All Hallow’s Day, but rather its Eve, when the spirits of all of our ancestors put on skimpy nurse costumes. Oh Grandma, I didn’t need to see that.

And let’s not forget the Fourth of July, when Jesus, en route to bury gold plates in Pennsylvania, stopped just long enough to shove a bayonet up King George’s candy-ass. Then he ripped off his robes a la Hulk Hogan and shotgunned a brewski. At least, that’s what the bumper stickers on the truck with the Confederate flag driving in front of me seems to think is the true message of Independence Day. The day, not the movie. Actually, on second thought…

And then of course, there’s Christmas. I’ve written before about how the holiday itself is based on the birth of the Roman god Saturn, not Jesus. And virtually everything we associate with it – trees, logs, lights, presents – comes from old pagan rituals based on the shortest day of the year. Or as a marketing ploy for Montgomery Ward.

But it’s cool. A few “Put Christ back in Christmas” whiners notwithstanding, most of us are cool with the secular nature of Christmas. Take away the Jesus, and I’ll still be there for the gingerbread lattes.

Which brings me back to Easter. Again, those of you who are devout Christians, I totally get that it’s pretty much the most crucial holy day. If dude didn’t wake up from his three day nap, then the whole religion is kind of a sham.

And I’ll even concede to them the most frustrating thing about Easter: that it can’t make up it’s fucking mind. The moving nature of Easter is what shows us that, unlike Christmas, it’s actually based on the Bible. It’s always the Sunday after the first full moon of Spring, because that used to be the basis of their calendars. None of this December 25th bullshit.

But the Easter that I’m critiquing is the secular one. The world of Easter egg hunts and disgusting chocolate and jelly beans. Why is that still a thing?

My mom asked what I’m doing with my daughter this weekend, and I told her I’m leaving her to curl in Seattle. She was surprised that they would schedule a curling bonspiel on Easter weekend. I shrugged. It’s always been the third weekend of April. It’s not the curling club’s fault that Easter decided to crash their plans.

But it didn’t stop with my mom. Half my fucking family wants to send my daughter a new basket or a gift card or a new bonnet.

Bear in mind, my mom hasn’t been in a Catholic church for any reason other than a wedding or a funeral since John Paul was pope. And, I’m guessing Ronald Reagan was still president. My wife’s parents have been churchless even longer, but we’re under strict instructions to call them every second of the day on Easter so they can ask if the Easter Bunny left a bunch of rabbit shit on our back lawn.

But the second I talk in a dismissive manner toward the holiday, I get scolded. I better not blaspheme about not really caring for Cadbury Creme Eggs. That colored sugar in the middle must somehow symbolize our fallen Lord.

But not our risen Lord, because that’s clearly the jelly beans.  I’m pretty sure Saint Peter, when he saw the stone rolled away from the cave, didst spake, “Hey, do you smell pectin?”

And don’t get me started on ham. I can’t be the only one who goes through this conversation every spring:

“What are we doing for Easter dinner?”

“Uh, I don’t know. Ham, I guess?”

“That’s what I was afraid of. What about steak?”

“Yeah, steak sounds good.”

“…”

“…”

“So, ham?”

Well, at least I’ll have some deviled eggs to go with the ham sandwiches I will be packing in my lunch through Labor Day. Because clearly they don’t make ham in any size smaller than seventy-five pounds. Costco is known for selling the smallest hams on the market, right?

And yeah, I know there’s the whole hunt for eggs thing. But the kids grow out of that a shit-ton faster than any of the other things, right? I enjoyed trick or treating well into double-digits. And Santa Claus’s present are still fun. But finding some plastic oval with some shitty candy into it? Aren’t most kids over that by seven or so? The Easter Bunny is much closer to the Tooth Fairy than it is to Santa Claus.

And really, what matters the most isn’t if it’s still fun for the children, but if it’s worthwhile for the parents. If the joy I see on my daughter’s face outweighs the pain in the ass it is to prepare, then it’s worthwhile. Again, Halloween is totally worth it. Christmas? As annoying as it is getting “Allen Wrench Fingers” putting together a bicycle after downing a bottle of wine Christmas Eve, it’s all forgotten when she comes down the stairs the next morning.

Okay, maybe it’s not all forgotten, because I’m still mentioning it in April. But it still seems worth it

But Easter? I spent an hour coloring eggs last weekend, and I’m already over it. Hell, even hard-boiling the eggs prior to the coloring was a pain in the ass. And you know those eggs are never going to be eaten, because I’m totally going to forget to make deviled eggs out of them and I’m going to have to eat the ham by itself because I’m too busy trying to remember where I hid all the crap on the lawn.

Back in the 1970s, my parents hid the hard-boiled eggs, too. Except we didn’t find one. Sometime in June, we couldn’t figure out where that horrible sulfur smell was coming from until we lifted the couch and found something that smelled like it had been buried in the cave with Jesus.

Which is why I don’t understand how Easter’s still a thing. Especially now that we’ve added leprechaun traps to St. Patrick’s Day and Ewok villages to Arbor Day, what is worthwhile about Easter?

Wait, don’t we make Ewok villages for Arbor Day? We should totally do that. Not that Arbor Day is a thing anymore. Because, unlike Easter, it knew that it was overstaying its welcome. And anything Arbor Day can do, Earth Day can do better.

Which should be the situation Easter finds itself in, too. Dinner is better on Thanksgiving. Candy is better on Valentine’s Day and Halloween. The obsession with sex is better on those two holidays, too. Easter used to symbolize the changing of the seasons, but I’ll take Memorial Day and Labor Day for that task. And if we’re really focused on a holiday specifically for springtime, we’ve got St. Patrick’s Day for that. And green is way more pleasing to look at than pastels.

Heck, even the religion elements of Easter are outdone by the pagan holiday that is Christmas.

But you wouldn’t know any of this by talking to my family or my wife’s family. All of them want to know what special plans we have for this Sunday. Which, and how many, egg hunts are we taking her to? And how many chocolate bunnies is she getting? And how many courses is dinner going to have?

And again, none of these people who are super excited about what we’re doing with our daughter has been to a regular church service since the twentieth century.

And they’re sending her shit in the mail. My mom sent her a full basket. My aunt sent her leggings and wanted to know what gift cards she would like for Easter. I don’t know, is Target a proper spot to have a conversation about capital punishment techniques used in the conquered areas of the Roman Empire? My wife’s family is out of town, because similar to my curling bonspiel, they always have the same week of the year at a timeshare they own, and Easter can’t make up it’s fucking mind. But they want to make sure we send them pictures of the eggs and the hunting and the baskets and the bunny ears. Which totally sucks, because if not for that request, we probably wouldn’t have to deal with the eggs and the hunting and the basket and the bunny ears.

Not that I’m going to be dealing with it. I’m going curling.

Because Easter can’t make up its fucking mind.

Oh, and when is it next year? Yeah, I got a thing that day, too…

Whither Toto, Good Sport?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Yacht Rock. In that masters-level dissertation on one of the definitive Yacht Rock bands and two of their definitive songs, I caught myself before going off on a tangent. It’s rare for me to catch a digression, so let’s all celebrate with the digression in full:

Generations are weird things. For the most part, the people that determine the boundaries of a particular generation are full of crap. Historically, generations were supposed to be twenty years long. Hence, by some estimations, everyone born between 1946 and 1965 are Baby Boomers. By that rationale, someone who was born the year after JFK was assassinated has had the same general reference points in their life as someone who was 17-years old at the time. And that’s, obviously, utter bullshit. Recently, I’ve seen a number of social scientists shrinking the size of a generation down to a fifteen-year birth span. So in their eyes, the Baby Boom ended in 1960.

Regardless of the definition, it’s wrong. How in the world would someone born in 1958 have the same overarching life story as someone born in 1946? Let’s take a look at the definitive moments of a Baby Boomers lifetime. The JFK assassination, that great loss of innocence that ushered in the teenage years of a standard Boomer, happened when 1958-kid was five years old. My kid’s almost five years old and she doesn’t even know who the president is. The Summer of 1968, when the rest of this guys “generation” were college students protesting the Democratic National Convention, he was ten. He was fifteen years old when the Vietnam draft was suspended in 1973. How the hell can you be a Baby Boomer if you never had to worry about the draft?

So sorry, everyone born after 1955, but there is no way you are a Baby Boomer. And let’s be honest, you probably know that. You know that the Bee Gees had a bigger effect on your life than the Beatles. You probably have more in common with me than with my parents.

Lately some social scientists have started splitting the generations in half. Early Boomers and Late Boomers is now a thing. Then they try to come up with some kitschy phrase for the “left out” half of the generation, like calling the Late Boomers “The Jones Generation.”

A similar issue is now going on with Millennials. Originally, that generation was supposed to be the babies born in the nineties, but then it started creeping backward. Recently, I’ve see the standard definition of “Millennial” as being born between 1983-1997, but I’ve seen some of those designations stretch as far back as 1981 and as far forward as 2000.

And of course, now we’ve got a “Post-millennial” thing going on, which was recently defined as everyone born after 1997. Not to make you feel old or anything, but the period of time from 1997 to the present is already over the standard twenty-year gap.

And once again, the Millennial thing makes no sense. If JFK was the definitive event of the Baby Boomers, then it’s gotta be 9/11 for the Millennials, right? And can we honestly say that someone who was nineteen or twenty when the towers came down has had the same general life experience as someone who was four? The twenty year-old might remember bringing liquid through airport security, the four-year old assuredly does not. One of the political podcasts I listen to say that the definitive moment for people born after 1990 is more likely to be the financial crash of 2008 than 9/11. Hence the affinity of the under-30 set toward socialist politicians, because they see capitalism, not terrorists, as the thing that upended the tranquility of their early life. A crash, by the way, that happened six years before my daughter, technically in their “same generation,” was born.

(Oh hey, slight editing note: in that last paragraph, where I wrote “the towers came down,” I initially, subconsciously wrote it as “the wall came down.” Want to guess my generation?)

I have a friend who was born in 1981. He really doesn’t like being lumped in with Millennials. Similar to the post-1955 Baby Boomers, he wants to split that generation from the eighties and nineties in two. I’ve heard the early 1980s babies referred to as “Xennials,” which is part Gen X, part Millennial, and entirely fucking stupid. My friend prefers to be called the Oregon Trail Generation, because that’s the game they all cut their teeth on. My niece was born in 1995. If you showed her Oregon Trail, she would probably have trouble distinguishing it from Pong.

And the computer experiences of 1980s babies and 1990s babies go well beyond their favorite video games. My 1981 friend remembers floppy disks and pre-Internet days. My 1995 niece has always been able to point and click her way through the World Wide Web.

I, on the other hand, was too old for Oregon Trail and primarily remember it as a game one of the kids I babysat playing while I was in Junior High.

Wait, did we used to babysit in Junior High? That seems young. Would I leave my daughter with a thirteen year-old? Yikes. I don’t even know if I’d trust an eighteen year-old. Meh. As long as they don’t let her play Oregon Trail, it should be fine.

Interesting, I hear you saying, but what the hell does any of this have to do with Yacht Rock? I’m glad you asked.

You see, I’m from that generation that no longer exists, according to this wonderful infographic that CBS recently ran:

Image result for generation x left off list cbsnews

Aw, good old Generation X. We love the fact that y’all have forgotten about us. And that our generation appears to be shrinking by the day.

Growing up, I was barely considered a Gen Xer. One of the many, many variant explanations for where the X in Generation X came from was was because it was the tenth generation of Americans. Assuming a generation lasts twenty years, they used to describe Generation X as ending at the bicentennial in 1976.

So, being born in 1974, I always remember hearing I was closer to Generation Y (a name that ended up not sticking), and I even remember thinking at the time that that was bullshit. Because if Generation X was defined by cynicism and latchkeyism and a general understanding that the world and our parents didn’t really want us there, then sign me the fuck up. Because look at this chart of birth rates following World War II:

Image result for birth rates since world war ii

You see where that bad boy bottoms out? Early 1970s. Nobody wanted us. And we knew it.

Of course, as time’s gone on, and as we’ve had to move things around to define Millennials properly, we’ve now, rightfully, extended my generation all the way to 1980. The Generation that defied labels is now absolutely, definitively known as encompassing the years 1961, or maybe 1965, to 1980, or maybe 1975. So, meh, if you happened to be born in a random ten to twenty year span, you might be part of this generation that gets dropped off of any sort of discussion of the generations.

Politics aside, I find myself rooting really, really hard for the likes of Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro, or maybe Nikki Haley in 2024, because they might be the only shot Generation X has of getting a president. The Baby Boom’s been in the Oval Office since 1992 (1988 if you count Veeps), and now people are already gushing over Pete Buttigieg as the first Millennial candidate. By 2028, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be old enough to run, and I’m pretty sure the news media has already appointed her to the presidency for the rest of time after that. Kamala Harris was born in 1964 and you just fucking know that if she wins next year, the Boomers will claim her like they did with Obama (1961).

So Generation X, it’s now or never.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with Yacht Rock?

Well, it all comes down to that early/late split of my rapidly dwindling generation. We didn’t have a JFK Assassination or a 9/11. The closest thing we might have had was the Berlin Wall coming down, but that was a win for the good guys, so it doesn’t really count. The Challenger explosion? Okay sure. I remember where I was, but it was much more of a singular event than anything with lasting social or political consequences. Nobody who was alive in 1986 ever talks about what it was like in the good old days before the space shuttle exploded, and that now we all have to drink our Tang differently. All we really have is some off-color Christa McAuliffe jokes.

Quick. Quick! What color eyes did Christa McAuliffe have? What was the last thing she said to her husband? What does NASA stand for? Why are they sponsored by Sprite?

(If you answered something relating to blue and feeding the fish and “Because they couldn’t get seven-up,” then you, too, were in grade school in 1986. Congratulations!)

So now that my generation is only ten years, with no line of demarcation, what’s left to distinguish the early part from the later? What is the great divide that differentiates a pre-1970 baby from a post-1970 baby?

One word: Toto.

Two more words: Rosanna. Africa.

If you thought I was talking about a woman and a place, then you probably aren’t part of my generation at all. Go play your Oregon Trail or your Pong. Still with me? Then put down the Donkey Kong and follow me.

“Rosanna” and “Africa” are two songs on the Toto IV album, which came out in 1982. I assume the album was named after the band’s affinity for taking drugs intravenously. “Rosanna” was the first single off of that album, which was released in April of 1982. It spent most of that year on the charts. “Africa” was the third single from that album, released in October of 1982, and did most of its damage in 1983.

Because if you ask a Gen Xer, instead of asking which Kennedy assassination affected you more, we can ask a far more scientific quandary. What is the definitive Toto song?

Don’t get me wrong. I love “Rosanna.” The groove, the harmonizing, the lyrics. I would put it far higher on the Yacht Rock scale than “Africa.” It was a power ballad before power ballads were even a thing. And everyone I know who was born before 1971, when you start a sentence with, “Hey, you know that one Toto song…” will respond with, “Rosanna?”

My generation? Or microgeneration? We will assume you’re talking about “Africa.” I know they were only released six months apart from each other, but “Africa” had legs that extended well into the mid-1980s. The video for “Africa” features a wacky storyline, something that was clearly created after MTV had become the titular channel for a generation. As such, the song and video lasted well into 1984 and 1985.

The video for “Rosanna,” on the other hand, didn’t get much play on cable in mid-decade. In fact, I just had to look it up on YouTube, and I don’t recognize it at all. It certainly doesn’t sit well with a 2019 mentality. Totally skeevy stalker video. Although maybe it was seen as inappropriate at the time, too, since the band appears to be locked up in detention cell behind a chain-link fence. Or maybe they’re on an inner-city basketball course? Was that a place that pervy white dudes with porn ‘staches would hang out in 1982?

Regardless, “Rosanna” was made to exist on the radio. “Africa” was made for MTV. And really, isn’t that a generational divide as great as any? In fact, now that I think about it, that might be one of the definitive breaks in not just my generation, but the twentieth century writ-large. very Forget the Stock Market Crash. Save your Pearl Harbor. The Nixon-Kennedy debate? Please. The single most monumental turning point in all of history is the moment in time between “Rosanna” and “Africa.”

And I was there for it! I saw it happen, in real time!

Gen X for the win!

Now leave us alone while we keep showing up for work and paying all your taxes.

College Mascots

March Madness is upon us. So I guess now is as good a time as any to write about my favorite college teams. Bear in mind, none of these teams have anything to do with how good the colleges are or the teams are. Or what sports they play. If you want to know the 13-seed most likely to pull an upset, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

All I’m here for are the mascots.

My high school does a “college day” every Wednesday, where they encourage teachers to wear college gear. Of course, ninety percent of the teachers at this Sacramento-area high school went to one of two colleges, such that our students actually roll their eyes at Sacramento State and UC Davis.

I wanted to be different, so I set out to find hats of obscure teams with fun mascots. One Wednesday, I might be sporting a Northern Arizona Lumberjacks hat, and the next I’ll bust out the UMKC Kangaroos. Not really sure why they’re the Kangaroos. Last time I checked, there aren’t a lot of marsupials in the Kansas City area. Then again, there aren’t a lot of Mastodons in the wherever-the-hell-IPFW is. I think it stands for “I’m Peeing in your Front Window,” and I know for a fact that there are no mastodons near my front window. Or Fort Wayne, for that matter. Or Fort Worth. I’m just covering my bases, because I’m not 100% sure what the FW stands for. The only thing I know for certain is the “I’m Peeing” part. And there are no mastodons anywhere one might find oneself peeing.

Not that I bought any IPFW hats for our college days, because IPFW doesn’t sell hats that contain both the college name and the mascot. I can get a hat that says IPFW, or a hat with a menacing elephant, but I can’t find one with both items. Seriously, IPFW. You have a pretty cool names and an awesome mascot. Yet you sell no hats that combine the two. I assume marketing is not one of the majors that is offered at IPFW? It’d take room from that vaunted prehistoric zoology department.

You know who else is super shitty about putting mascots on hats? Canadian schools! I know, I know. Who the he’ll knew there were universities in Canada? I was surprised, too. And they’ve got some damn good mascots, too. For instance, did you know that the University of Calgary are the Dinos? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. The apparel department at the University of Calgary are alson unaware they are the dinos, as you can’t purchase any hats that indicate that fact.

The University of British Columbia are the Thunderbirds. The University of Winnipeg has Wesley Coyote. The University of Manitoba are the bison, which looks suspiciously similar to the University of Colorado’s Buffalo. But there aren’t any hats for the bison, so your best bet for repping Manitoba is to buy a Colorado hat and then put a Manitoba sticker on it.

As far as I can tell,  Nunavut Arctic College doesn’t even have a mascot. How the heel does the name of your school include the word “arctic” but you can’t pick a mascot? You probably have some legitimate options, like a polar bear, that aren’t available anywhere else in the world. Kinda like all the indigenous kangaroos in Kansas City made that such a logical pairing. But no. No mascot at Nunavut Arctic College. Hell, in America,  even our elementary schools have mascots.

The University of Saskatchewan has Howler the Husky. The University of Saskatchewan also often uses the shortened name of U-Sask. Pretty cool name. I wouldn’t even need a Husky on it if I could buy a U-Sask hat. But I can’t.

And inside Saskatchewan, we have the city of… You know what? I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to my hat collection. One of my favorites belongs to St. Peter’s University,  which I guess is in New York. It’s not that I’m a big fan of St. Peter’s, it’s just that their mascot is the Peacocks. How, I ask, could I NOT wear a hat that had not only the word “Peter,” but also a derivation of both “Pee” and “Cocks.”

Because,  although I’m the only non-sophomore in the room,  let’s be honest,  I’m also the most sophomoric.  Do you know how hard it was to be the only one stifling giggles when I had a student giving a book presentation about all the beaver hunts the Russian settlers used to go on in the Pacific Northwest? And by “the only one stifling a giggle,” I don’t mean that everyone else was laughing uncontrollably and I was the only one to keep it under control. I mean I’m the only one who was finding it giggle-worthy in the first place. All the rest of my students were paying rapt attention to the wonderful information about the relative value of rodent-pelts.

“Yeah, so there used to be a lot of beavers. And these men were trying to get as many beavers as possible. It was a real sense of accomplishment for these men as to who could nab the prettiest beavers.  Like, if they could get more than one beaver at the same time, that would be really impressive.”

“Thank you for that very informative report about the history of my college days. Um,  I mean the non-British colonies.”

And this all brings me to what this article is about.  My favorite colleges,  which have nothing to do with the quality of the educational facilities or sports acumen. I gave a dream conference. Eight schools that should play each other on a regular basis. I don’t care about travel costs or the competitiveness of the matchups. I mean, sure, Alabama should destroy Oregon State in football every time they play,  but then again,  shouldn’t it be a bloodbath every time the Crimson Tide visit the Beavers?

(Russian traders notwithstanding)

Okay,  so here’s my conference.

Alabama. See above. Although I don’t really know if they should play anyone other than the Beavers.

Oregon State. These guys would be the MVPs of the conference,  year in and year out.  Who doesn’t want to pound Beavers on a regular basis? Just ask my sophomore book-report girl.

Ball State. See what I mean about Alabama? The crimson tide should never come anywhere close to Ball State.

Sacramento State.  This might seem an odd addition if you don’t live in Northern California. But this school usually advertises itself as “Sac State.” The cheerleaders even wear uniforms that just emblazon “SAC” right across their chest.  So knowing that, are y’all as upset as I am that we don’t have an annual “Ball-Sac Classic” in every sport? I wonder what the trophy would look like.

Wichita State. These guys have gained some traction over recent years as their basketball team has done well. Their first year of prominence,  the networks were completely unaware that their team name,  the Shockers, had a completely different connotation than “one who shucks wheat.” But if you look closely at the stands at one of their televised games, you’ll see evidence of the OTHER type of Shocker. If you aren’t aware of the Shocker, then you don’t spend much time on Urban Dictionary. It’s a rather crude, misogynistic play on a sexual move. I don’t want to get too graphic. Maybe I can use some of the pithy phrases associated with it. Like “Two in the pink, one in the…” hold on, that might not be appropriate. What about “If two fingers don’t rock ‘er, give ‘er the…” No, I can’t finish that thought. This has to stay a family friendly blog, what with its references to bloody ball sacs and whatnot. Regardless, the international symbol for shocker is the ring finger being held down by the thumb. What you’re left with is the pointer and middle finger paired together, while the pinkie (the Shocker) is off on its own. I’ll let you figure out what it’s there for.

South Carolina. I think I once wrote an entire blog entry all about my love of cock. No wait. That sounds wrong. What I mean is that, while watching college football, I like to see a lot of penetration. Like, when the University of South Carolina has a good defense, there end up being a lot of cocks in the backfield. Hold on a second. I think this is all coming across incorrectly. What I mean is it’s great to see the Cocks rise to the occasion. It would only be fitting if the winner of the Ball-Sac Classic were to team up with the Cocks for a hopeful encounter with the Beavers. Unless the Crimson Tide is in town.

University of Southern California. Nobody likes having the Trojans in their conference. They just seem to get in the way. And the pleasure that you normally get from that encounter between the Cocks and the Beavers is totally deadened by the presence of the University of Southern California. But in this era of lots of travelling matchups between various cocks and balls and sacs, it’s probably a good idea to keep the Trojans nearby. Safety first when it comes to college sports. We don’t want to have to figure out which concussion protocol to follow when there’s an errant Shocker involved.

Hey, did you know there’s been a recent tiff between the Cocks and the Trojans? The University of South Carolina is upset that the University of Southern California are the ones usually ascribed the moniker “USC.” It’s a somewhat common gripe in a country with thousands of colleges and only a finite number of letter combinations. The Buffaloes usually go with the awkward phrasing of “Colorado University,” because the California schools have already stolen the “UC” designations.

And of course, I’m sorry to spoil the Cocks’ wild dreams, but the real USC is in Southern California. Isn’t that just like the Trojans to get in the way?

And so that is the conference I wanted to see. I wanted to see Cocks and Shockers and Beavers and Ball Sacs. I want all of their games to be televised nationally and only to be announced by comedians who know how to toe the fine line of double entendre.

But there was always a problem with my conference. It only has seven teams. You can’t have a conference with an odd number of teams. You can’t have a team off every gameday. Plus, there are three sets of natural rivals and then poor Wichita State is all there by its lonesome, like a pinkie hanging around the back door.

So I looked long and hard (yeah, baby) for an eighth team to add to make it a full conference. I guess the St. John’s Red Storm is only a pale impression of the Crimson Tide. The Rams of Colorado State or Rhode Island? Meh. The Presbyterian Blue Hose had potential until I realized that they were talking about tights worn by Scots. Plus I’d have to change the spelling. I could switch around the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes into Golden Showers, but the beauty of the conference to this point is that I haven’t had to change a word. The meaning, sometimes, but Wichita State are legitimately called the Shockers.

And Navy have the audacity to call themselves the Midshipmen, when we all know they should be the Seamen.

The Massachusetts Minutemen had promise. I imagine it’s not a very good pickup line in the Bay State. “Hey baby, let me be your minuteman.” Do the cheerleaders have to stop their cheers in the middle or else the players won’t be able to finish their play? Like I said, it’s got potential, but I don’t see the Minutemen ever engaging in enough foreplay to encounter a Shocker. And they probably need matchups with the Trojans on a regular basis.

I was ready to give up on my dream conference until I started looking at those Canadian schools who hide their mascots. That’s when I found…

The University of Regina. Regina is the capital city of the Canadian province of Manitoba. It’s home to the Canadian Football League’s Roughriders. (I bet it is). The Mounties also have their training there. (I bet they do).

Of course, these jokes are only funny if you know how the name of the city is pronounced. It looks like the last two syllables should read like name Gina. The University of Re-geena. And why would Gina have anything to do with Roughriders and Mounties?

But it’s not pronounced that way. You see, much like they mispronounce the word “about” and misspell the word “labor,” those poutine-lovers pronounce a long I in Regina. So it rhymes with with Dinah. Or Carolina. Or…

So yeah… I mean, I guess… Ball State and Sac State make it into my conference by name alone, so I guess I can let the Rajin’ Gynas in on name alone. Sure, it seems odd to throw in a Canadian university. They have 110-yard football fields and I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to figure out how many centimeters it is from home plate to first base.

Let me peruse it while I look up their mascot and… whoa, ho, ho!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you:

The Regina Cougars.

My work here is done.