Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hunter-Gatherers and Food Storage

As a mostly observant Mormon family, we (She of we) are attempting to follow Church counsel “to prepare for adversity in life by having a basic supply of food and water.” Just for fun I decided to check up on our progress. My trip to the food storage room revealed some interesting findings. For example, by volume, we have the most of whole wheat and Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper. I entered these two ingredients into the recipe search at www.supercook.com which, surprisingly, returned no results.

My wife assures me that in a real crisis, Charmin Ultra Soft will be as valuable as gold and we’ll be able to trade a single roll for a whole side of beef. Now I’m not sure that this supposed exchange rate takes men into consideration. As long as “natural alternatives” are available in the backyard, I wouldn’t trade a single stick of beef jerky for a roll of toilet paper. However, if my wife is correct and women will set the exchange rate for Charmin, then we should be able to trade our cases of Tampax and Always (with Flexi Wings) for gold ingots—at least that’s what I’m telling myself. Plus my wife tells me these “products” are also good for first aid. However, most men I know would rather bleed out than walk around with a tampon stuck to their wound, but that’s another story.

If I had my way, our food storage would consist of 800 cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. Think about it, Dinty Moore is the perfect food. It contains all the important items from the food pyramid; Meat (Beef) Vegetables (Carrots and Potatoes) Fruit (Tomatoes) Grains (Corn Flour, Modified Cornstarch, and Sugar) and Preservatives (Salt, Caramel Color, and Flavoring).

However, since I’m not in charge of food storage, we have important foodstuffs like Nutella, coconut milk, Mystery Jell-O (really), water chestnuts, diced, sliced and pickled beets and lots of other strange Costco sale items. By quantity, the most common item in storage (at just less than 200 cans) is tomatoes. We have six varieties of canned tomato in storage including:
  • Crushed
  • Diced
  • Stewed
  • Soup
  • Sauce
  • Paste

A recent survey of male college graduates determined that zero percent could distinguish between crushed, diced or stewed tomatoes. Entering these items into the recipe search produced a lot of recipes for items like pizza and spaghetti which also call for meat. I’m hoping that the toilet paper for beef thing works out because there is neither a side of beef nor any Dinty Moore in food storage.


There are however about thirty cans of chicken, turkey, beef and salmon. If you do the math, that’s about one can of “protein” for every six cans of tomato product. This serious imbalance concerned me so greatly that I felt it was necessary to use our scarce financial resources to purchase a .30-30 lever action deer rifle. I decided in a real emergency—one where I might actually have to kill a deer in order to make spaghetti with meatballs—the deer would be happier if the gun was good looking, so I spent the extra money to get the stainless steel model.


Until now I was feeling guilty about my lack of participation in the food storage acquisition process, but the purchase of the deer rifle makes up for my prior non-contribution to our family's well being. It’s an equal partnership now, she’s the gatherer and I’m the hunter. Who knew food storage could be this easy?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Smart Toilets--Technologic Wonder or "Oh Crap?"

The other day at Wal-Mart I experienced the disharmonic convergence of two great ideas.

The first great idea is automatic flush toilets. How cool is this idea? The toilet uses “Smart Object Infrared Technology” to flush itself—eliminating “cross-contamination”. “Cross-contamination” is a fancy phrase meaning; “getting poo on your hands.” If you wonder why this is necessary, think to yourself; "do the highly paid and motivated janitorial staff at Wal-Mart (or anywhere) sanitize toilet handles?" Not likely.

I go to great lengths to avoid touching handles--touching a public toilet handle is as repugnant to me as washing my hands in the bowl itself. Being a tall person comes in handy as I can flush most toilets and even urinals with my feet—although as I get older the handles seem to be getting higher on the wall. Since I know I’m not the only “foot-flusher,” handles are not only cross-contaminated with poo, but also with chewed gum and other stuff from the bottom of shoes.

The second great invention is the “low-flow” toilet. Low-flow toilets are environmentally friendly because they use less water for each flush. Low-flow toilets use computer-modeled hydrodynamics to increase disposal velocity. In other words; they compensate for using less water by flushing with extreme force.

You would think that combining a self-flushing toilet with a low-flow toilet would result in a new "miracle" toilet; it didn't. Instead, it resulted in a dirty, cold-water bidet. As you know, a bidet is supposed to be a low sink intended for washing the “lower regions” with warm, clean water. The toilet at Wal-Mart scrubs your lower regions with cold poopy water.

Let me explain by using a hypothetical example. Let’s say, for example, that you’re sitting on this new fangled self-flushing, low-flow wonder and you tilt to the side just a little bit to “take care of business”. The “Smart Object Infrared Technology” senses you have left the stall and flushes the toilet with the force of a fire hose. The problem is, you’ve not left, nor have you removed your now soaking wet naked butt from the seat. You’re also now afraid to move in case the damn sensor shoots another blast of water into the bowl.

With as little movement as possible you now carefully use the single-ply waxed toilet paper provided to clean up the mess and then leap from your seat to the end of the stall to avoid another shower. You warily eye the sensor and then run from the restroom, (washing your hands first of course) afraid that everyone will see from your damp clothes that you’ve been engaged in warfare with a “smart” toilet.

Next time nature requires I visit one of these technologic wonders I’m arming myself with a rain poncho and bit of old-fashioned duct tape to cover the sensor—after all toilets still have handles.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Christmas List Box

A Parody

When I was little there was a family of poor German immigrants who lived down the street. Their father, with his poor command of the English language, could only find work at the Post Office where he worked miss-delivering the mail. It was always exciting to run to the mailbox and see whose mail we had received that day. We often opened the letters and cards, especially if they were from lawyers or looked like birthday cards (cause you know what’s in those . . .).

Opening other peoples mail was especially fun at Christmas time, we got to read all about the fun vacations strangers had taken and how well their kids were doing in school. But one day we opened a card that would change our lives. It was from someone who was so poor their card was made from a shoe box lid with magazine pictures pasted on it.

When we read the card we felt very sad. It was from Dwight, a widowed father of an five-year-old girl, named Eustice. Dwight was writing his rich uncle in Chicago to ask for some money. All Eustice wanted for Christmas was Jumbo, the Bubble-Blowing Elephant, but Dwight couldn’t afford Jumbo on his meager salary as Transfer Station Manager. “Transfer station” is a fancy name for the place where garbage trucks deposit their cargo for sorting and loading into larger vehicles.

From the garbage, Dwight had collected and assembled most of Jumbo, the Bubble-Blowing Elephant. However, he was afraid there wouldn’t be enough time before Christmas to collect all the necessary parts and so he was writing his wealthy uncle to beg for enough money to buy Eustice a new Jumbo from Woolworths Department Store.

Reading the card made us feel really guilty because by opening the card, we knew that now Eustice wasn’t going to get Jumbo, the Bubble-Blowing Elephant for Christmas. We had misplaced the original envelope and besides we couldn’t tell anyone what we had done because opening the personal mail of others is a punishable federal offense and we didn’t want to go to jail to meet the real “Jumbo”.

Right then and there my brother and I were touched by the Christmas Spirit and we decided that we were going to fix this mess and make sure Eustice received her Christmas present! We got an old jewelry box and we wrote “Jumbo, the Bubble-Blowing Elephant” on a piece of paper along with the price and we put it in our new “Christmas List Box”. Then we went to work earning money.

To get money for Jumbo, I delivered newspapers and my brother shoveled snow and did other odd jobs around the neighborhood. Every day we would deposit a few coins into the box and subtract that amount from the total dollar amount we would need for Jumbo. Finally we had saved enough money and my brother and I took the bus downtown to Woolworths. We were really excited about doing something nice for someone and eagerly gave the cashier the big bag of pennies, nickels, and dimes. She wasn’t as “Christmassy” as she could have been when she counted out $20.11 in small change. We even had a little extra money and so we also bought a fresh orange and chocolate bar for little Eustice.

We didn’t want our parents to know what we were doing so my brother went in the front door while I snuck the package in the back door and down the stairs into our basement bedroom. My brother pilfered the wrapping paper from the storeroom and we wrapped Jumbo, the orange and the chocolate bar as neatly as we could.

Finally it was the Thursday before Christmas--time to deliver the present. It had snowed that morning making our street completely white and peaceful. We quietly snuck out of the house with our package. We wrote; “Merry Christmas Eustice!” in red crayon across the front of the package and tied it with a bright green ribbon. We were so excited; this was as good as Christmas morning (except the Christmas where my Mom decided that we needed boxing gloves and my brother hit me when I wasn’t ready and made me cry).

We slipped out the door and quietly stole down the street and waited. Finally it was time; the truck was just around the corner on Thornton Ave. We quietly lifted the lid of Mr. Roberts garbage can and put the package containing Jumbo, the orange and the chocolate bar gently on top of his old newspapers and empty tin cans, softly replaced the lid and hurried back up the street to watch. We could just imagine how surprised Dwight would be to find his Christmas wish answered right there in front of him, mixed in with all of the rotten fruit, broken glass and other garbage. My brother and I both agreed, this was the best Christmas ever!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Successfully assembled—Or was it?

My wife recently completed some kitchen remodeling and I must admit that she did a fine job. Other than saying; “I think that’s a great idea” a lot, I didn’t help much. You see, my wife thinks I’m “tool challenged” and I do my best to reinforce her belief. She’s not the patient sort and usually all I have to do to get kicked off the job is grab the pointy screwdriver instead of the straighty one and say; “I think I can make this one work.” Shezam, she takes over.

There are times however when my services are required, generally where brawn is involved. As part of the remodeling effort I was given the task of installing the new kitchen sink. I think I got the job because the sink weighs more than 70 lbs. It’s actually called a DOMSJÖ because IKEA has the annoying habit of assigning hobbit names to all of their products. The DOMSJÖ also came with a HJUVIK which required assembly.

In America, HJUVIK is pronounced "fo-set." The HJUVIK came with 12-pages of assembly instructions which I’ll reprint here in their entirety; “Turn the stopcock off before replacing the old mixer tap with the new one” and finally; “Flush the mixer tap clean before using for the first time. Unscrew the filter and let the water run through for about 5 minutes. Then screw on the filter again."

The end. The faucet has 36 pieces to assemble and only 44 words of instructions. That's about 4 words per page. Besides reminding me of the unwelcome phrase “I have a headache,” the stopcock isn’t even labeled. What is a stopcock? Why is it called a stopcock? What happens if I turn off the mixer tap instead of the stopcock? All unanswered in the instructions.

The rest of the 12 pages consist of assembly “drawings.” By carefully following the instructions I was able to successfully assemble the faucet. However, a difference of opinion exists on the “successful” aspect of the assembly. Because there were parts left over, my wife thinks the assembly was not entirely successful. On the other hand, I feel that since water (hot and cold) comes out of both the faucet and the sprayer without leaking, the assembly is wildly successful. Since the "extra" parts aren’t indentified in the assembly hieroglyphs, I can’t even tell if they’re supposed to be in the box or if someone on the faucet assembly line misplaced parts from their lunch-break scooter repair.

It’s been a year since the faucet was successfully assembled and I’ve never given it a second thought. On the other hand, my wife has been troubled by those “extra” parts for the entire year it's been operating and she recently inquired about the location of the "extra" parts. So even though the faucet has been functioning perfectly for over one year, she "just wants to see if there is something I may have missed." I’m not bothered by her checking up on me at all, but because I love her and want her to have peace of mind—next time there are extra parts, I’m secretly throwing them in the garbage.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cure for Insomnia

Lately I’ve been having trouble getting enough restful sleep so I decided to search the internet for insomnia cures. My sleeping problem is actually quite specific, it only occurs on Sunday from 1:00-4:00. After some extensive research (Googling “Insomnia Cures”), I came up with the following list of helpful suggestions:
  • Listen to white noise or relaxation music
  • Read something religious
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Establish a routine
  • Wear socks
  • Don’t watch TV

Based on this list, I’m already doing the things necessary for restful slumber, for example:

White noise—Check. I mean what could be more white noise than listening to Sister Najelly Young relate the Old Testament story of Esther? “. . .and then in the thirteenth of the month of Adarthen the king said to Haman that Mordecai sat in the king’s gate with two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh and then Esther who wasn’t Mordecai’s real daughter became the queen . . . z z z"

Reading something religious—Check. I’m in church.

Avoiding alcohol and caffeine—Great big check. The only “mixed drinks” allowed in the church involve fruit punch and Sprite—but never on Sunday. Even the hard-core caffeine drinkers in the congregation leave the Coke in the ice-filled cooler in the trunk of their car. They don’t bring them into the chapel or share them with me.

Establish a routine—Sacrament service from 1:00-2:10, Sunday School from 2:20-3:00, Relief Society/Priesthood from 3:10-4:00. What could be more routine that that?

Wearing socks—I’m not sure what this has to do with sleep but I wear socks to church so I guess I can check this one off as well.

No TV watching—Since there are no TVs in the chapel this is easy. However, I admit to checking the internet for the latest NFL scores which may interfere with my sleep.

Since I’m doing everything right and still not getting enough sleep, I decided more research was in order. Intensive Googling finally revealed the cause of my insomnia—lateral epicondyle adlido costae verae. Don’t worry, it’s not serious. In fact the cure is very simple—sit farther away from the Relief Society president. Lateral epicondyle adlido costae verae is a highly scientific term meaning "elbow striking ribs". It seems the Relief Society president considers spousal snoring bad form and she applies her rather attractive elbow to my ribs whenever it occurs (usually by about 1:35 p.m.)

I’m considering sitting farther away from my wife but then people will think we’re fighting, plus she throws well and the hymnal will definitely leave a mark. No, I think the real answer to my insomnia is learning to sleep quietly—preferably with my eyes open so that it looks like I’m there. If I ever perfect this technique, please don’t call on me to say the prayer without waking me first.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Golf Balls from Heaven?

The other day I awoke to find a golf ball in my driveway. I found that a bit odd as I live about 4 miles from the nearest golf course—making my home safe from even a Tiger Woods’ like errant shot. Naturally I was curious as to how the golf ball arrived in my driveway. Being the pessimistic sort I figured that it had arrived in the usual way—drawn to earth by gravity after being hit with a club. I set out to look for the “ball mark”. A walk around my newish truck confirmed my suspicions—a big freaking dent in the side of the bed.

When I saw the dent I was pretty angry and I wanted to find the culprit and shove the ball down his throat and then use his head to pound out the dent. I thought to myself; “what kind of pinhead drives a golf ball down a residential street, don’t they know they could kill someone?” The answer came immediately—me. Not me now of course. Now I’m a semi-responsible adult with a wife, kid, mortgage and car payment—me as an errant teenager.

It all came back pretty clearly; I was hitting plastic balls in the back yard when suddenly it occurred to me that hitting a real ball would be more satisfying. I pulled an old ball and a nine iron from the bag and launched the ball from our .08 acre lot randomly into the atmosphere. Adults get urges to do things like this (at least I do) but we only think about them wistfully, 16-year-olds just fire away—consequences be damned.

You’ve heard of “Pay it Forward” where a kind deed gets passed on and it just keeps growing until there are no more nuclear missiles, wars, or drivers on cell phones? Well the dent in my truck was “Pay it Back”, one of my old misdemeanors returning to punish me. Part of me wondered if this golf ball was the same one I hit decades ago—perhaps it stayed in orbit waiting for me to buy a nice truck, and then bam! Payback.

Of course, I knew it wasn’t the same ball because that ball landed in the yard of someone with anger management issues. In addition to his anger management problem, the guy with my golf ball was also bad at geometry. He miscalculated the trajectory of the ball and mistakenly confronted my next-door neighbor, Mr. Williams, who gruffly told Mr. Anger Management (who in his haste to return my ball had impaled his leg on a fence post) to quit bleeding all over his porch.

Now at 16, I might not have been the brightest ball in the bag, but I was smart enough to know that if you wantonly launch a golf ball into the neighborhood it’s a good idea to put the clubs away and go for a ride. I went unpunished for my action as Mr. Williams was kind enough to not correct the neighbor’s geometric miscalculation and rat me out. Decades later I'm wondering; is it payback time for me? If so I hope the golf ball dent is the extent of my “reward”.

Sadly, the wanton golf ball was not the only misdemeanor for which I went unpunished as a youth. If everything I did back then starts paying me back, my insurance agent will no longer be my friend. I think there may still be people in the old neighborhood who enter my name in the online “County Prisoner Information Search” hoping to get a match.

Even though the statute of limitations has expired I can’t divulge all of the details of my transgressions as my son reads these posts and I don’t want him getting any ideas. Furthermore, after my wife told me she might not have consented to marriage had she known everything I did as a teenager, I started talking more about my experiences as a Boy Scout (not the story where the leaders threatened to court-martial me and demote me to Tenderfoot—just the good turn daily and stuff like that).

I’m hoping that the golf ball dent is the extent of my payback. After all I’ve grown up and try and kept oscillations from the straight and narrow to a minimum. I’ll forgive the knucklehead who dented my truck, after all I myself am the beneficiary of forgiveness—that and the statute of limitations.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

“Referee, Referee B-@-$-!-@-R-D!”

Everyone has their favorite season, some like spring for the renewal of life, others prefer fall for the cooler days and beautiful foliage. My favorite season is football. I enjoy attending games in person, watching them on TV, and listening to them on the radio. My wife claims I’m so obsessed that I’d even watch a televised game between the Wofford Terriers and Austin Peay Governors (real teams about which I know nothing).

I like football so much I even referee football. Because there is a place for everyone, football is the perfect game for kids. Big kids, fat kids, skinny kids all have a place on the team. Working together, the boys all labor to set and attain goals. Football teaches teamwork, the benefits of hard work and the importance of doing your job.

There is however, an ugly side of football, something that can ruin the game for everyone. It’s not coaches, players or the referees. It’s the monsters inhabiting the bleachers—parents. Most parents have the best interests of their kids in mind—but when they watch football they leave the objective portion of their “mind” at home. There is something about sports that causes parents to abandon rational thought. There are three main causes for the parent problem; bias, ignorance and susceptibility to mass hysteria.

Bias
I think that it goes without saying that parents have a bias, they want Junior to be wildly successful. But because of their bias they don’t always see action the way it really occurs. Scientific studies conducted on human memory prove human have a propensity to remember erroneously events and details that did not occur. It’s estimated that at least 50% of wrongful convictions are based on eyewitness testimony. Pre-determined bias only magnifies this human shortcoming. For example, many people “remember” Danny Ainge biting Tree Rollins when in reality it was the other way around. (Headline in the Boston Herald the next day: "Tree Bites Man").

Parents see games in a light most favorable to their child—the way they wanted things to happen. They fail to notice, or discount the seriousness of, their kid’s fouls or violations, but if he trips and falls they can’t understand why the referees didn’t see the other team, a pack of Hell’s Angels, and five nunchuck wielding ninjas clip Junior and then pummel him to the ground. “Referee, are you blind? What are you watching out there?”

Ignorance
Referees spend hours each year reading the rule books and must pass two written test to certify as an official. Parents watch John Madden for a couple of hours on TV and then don’t understand why referees don’t know the “rules” as well as they do. They also don’t know that there are differences between NFL, NCAA and High School rules—after all football is football right? Wrong. For example, tripping the ball carrier is OK in high school but not the NFL. Try explaining that to a parent with a TV.

Parent: “Didn’t you see that ref? He tripped my son, the ball carrier.”
Referee: “Yes, I know.”
Parent: “Aren’t you going to throw a flag?”
Referee: “For what?”
Parent: “Tripping.”
Referee: “Tripping the ball carrier is legal”
Parent: “No it’s not; John Madden says it's illegal.”
Referee: “It’s legal in High School.”
Parent: “You’re an idiot; don’t you know the rules?” “Hey everyone, this referee doesn’t know the rules!”
Crowd (In Unison): “Referee, referee B-@-$-!-@-R-D!”

Another area of parental misunderstanding is the holding rule. People shout “holding” at referees so often they’re afraid to hold their wives in bed at night for fear of getting yelled at. There are 22 players on the field and it’s probable that at any given time one or two of them may be “holding”. However, unless the holding prevents a player from moving naturally toward the ball carrier at a place and time that may affect the play, referees are inclined to let it go and warn the players involved. Obviously for the parent of the “holdee” that’s not good enough. For Example; team "A" runs a sweep to the opposite side of the field that gains two yards. During the play their child, who never got closer than 40 yards to the play, was briefly impeded. The parent wants the offender and the referee suspended and possibly even drawn-and quartered. Of course their team never holds anyone, it's always the "other" team.

Mass hysteria
Mass hysteria ignites when a single individual becomes hysterical during a period of excitement and spreads until the whole crowd is infected. For example, I once faced an angry mob of parents ready to lynch me because they felt I couldn’t count to 12. During a kickoff two referees stand at the middle of the field, one facing the defense, the other the offense. They are there for two reasons; to give the ball to the kicking team and count the players. When the referees are 100% confident that there are 11 players on each side they indicate to each other that there are 11 players on each side. Only then do they move to the sideline.

In this game the two referees had each counted to 11 (twice), suddenly a parent yelled; “They have 12 players.” The referees and the league president re-counted—still only 11 players. Too late, the crowd was infected. Suddenly, accountants, mechanics, doctors, and bankers (the lawyers left to file suit against us) all counted a mythical 12th fifth-grader (yep, this was a game between 11-year-olds). Until then I hadn’t realized that allowing 12 11-year-old players on the field was a capital offense, I was clearly mistaken.

Not only that, but there is no forgiveness for referees. If a referee makes a perceived mistake he must be cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone for all eternity (which is how long this game lasted). For the rest of the game we enjoyed witticisms like; “Referee, number 17 was off-sides, but since you can’t even count to 12 . . . "

Referees don’t care who wins, don’t see clipping ninjas and don't call holding on every play, but they do like your kids and enjoy teaching them the rules. They officiate football because they get to work outside with some pretty good friends and participate in a sport they enjoy. Next time you attend a game, please remember that referees are not infallible; however, they do study the rules, are free from bias and have been inoculated against mass hysteria.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Is there something different about you honey?

My wife, who has spent the last few years growing her hair out, recently decided it was time for a hairstyle change. When a woman is about to make a momentous life-changing decision like this she needs more prayers and support than an ordinary man like me is capable of providing—yet she still expects my advice. Normally I answer either; “sure”, or “absolutely not” to any question regarding her dress or fashion. However, I’ve learned it’s very important to pay attention to the question before responding with a rote answer. For example, a distracted “sure”, in response to; “Will wearing this blouse make me look pregnant?”— earns an undeserved night of chilly stares.

Back to the haircut. Once a woman decides to cut more than 1¾ of an inch off her hair she needs the advice of 12 Internet Sites, Eleven Relief Society Sisters, Ten “Us” Magazines, Nine FedEx Drivers, Eight Postal Carriers, Seven Silly Siblings, Six Gossipy Girls, Five Peeping Toms, Four Grocery Clerks, Three Old Friends, Two Facebook pals, and one very nervous husband. When she has collected their input she analyzes, evaluates, sorts and prioritizes it. She says your advice is as important as input from her Facebook friends and www.hairfinder.com, but unless you’re a trained cosmetologist it’s not true. She gives as much weight to your suggestions as she does to your 83-year-old mother’s--who reminds her that during the depression she used rocks heated by the sun to curl her hair.

Following months of research she finally picks a new hairstyle that fits her face, coloring, age, and lifestyle. Now it’s time for the cosmetologist to turn the dream into reality. This is a good time for family prayer; “bless the cosmetologist that her hands will be able to fabulously style mom’s hair”, is a good starter. If more than seven inches of hair is involved, fasting and prayer together is recommended.

While your wife is undergoing the operation, you pace nervously, hoping that all is going well and that the cosmetologist is not impaired or planning a hair tribute to Farah Fawcett. In the odd chance you actually have to go go work as the fate of the nation depends upon it, add a reminder to your blackberry telling you to compliment your wife on her fabulous new hair style the moment you walk in the door. Do not forget this; it’s very important for your happiness.

Your wife loves you very much and your approval is very important—no matter what—even if the final result looks like it was cut with a blender and styled by the sunroof (it doesn’t.) Smile and lie if you must, there are no eternal consequences. Besides, eternal condemnation is not as bad as what will happen if you blow this moment. This is also not the time for joking, do not say, for example; “I don’t care what everyone else thinks, I like it” (I actually said this— out loud). Tonight is the first time that I get to move my bed inside the house. It’s really more of a dirty blanket, but at least it gets to come in the house.

OK, I didn’t really have to sleep under an overpass wrapped in a dirty blanket, but I learned an important lesson. Haircuts are serious business and it’s not good for your long-term happiness if you screw up your big opportunity to compliment your wife by making tasteless jokes. Honey, I'm sorry. Here's my 500 word written apology. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got dishes and laundry to do.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Don't Need No Stinkin Reservation

Recently the call of the open road became too loud to ignore and we packed up the family and drove off to tour the Mid-west in July. Those who previously thought us sensible and practical (i.e. sane) are now rethinking. In order to experience real “freedom” we left with as few hotel reservations as possible, planning to stop wherever the wind took us—I don’t recommend this.

While traveling through Missouri (those in the know pronounce it “misery”) we spotted a road deceptively marked “scenic route”. Since we’re from the land of “purple mountains majesty” we’d found very little “scenic” about the Mid-west and so we decided to give this road a try. Eight hours later we were wondering why the map maker thought these cornfields were more scenic than those next to the freeway? Suddenly the cornfields parted and what to my wondering eye should appear? Soybean fields! Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Maps also don’t show you things like “road closed” signs; we ignored those and drove around the barricades to discover that sometimes roads are closed for no good reason. Actually, the Missouri river had flooded the road at some point in the last year but the government never got around to picking up the barricades. I think that in Missouri “scenic highway” means “neglected back-road”.

During our eight hours in the cornfields we did pass the purported gravesite of Daniel Boone, but since he’s only a “B list” dead celebrity we only waved as we went by. It’s a purported gravesite as Frankfort Kentucky officials claim to have dug him up and buried him there. Missourians claim the Kentuckians dug up the wrong guy. Anyway, B-lister Daniel Boone was at one time buried alongside Highway 94. This gives me an idea; I’m going to talk to our city to see if we can increase tourism by digging up dead guys and moving them to our town.

As daylight began to fade it became time to look for an affordable place to spend the night. In a story that ends “happily ever after” this is where the family pulls into a clean, safe, affordable hotel (where they have a reservation). There is even time for some frolicking in the pool before bedtime. Sadly, our story ends differently.

The first city we came to after departing the cornfields was Chesterfield. Many Mormons believe that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, for shoppers, Chesterfield is that place—but it costs a lot of apples to sleep in a room there. Apparently people have different definitions for the word “affordable”. My definition is something less than a semester of college tuition.

Moving on, we decided that somewhere near the St. Louis airport would be a good place to look. We now entered a crazy game of musical chairs where we were trying to beat other road-weary travelers to an available hotel room. To make things worse, the car captives were getting restless and hungry. In order to preserve marital harmony my definition of “affordable” was going up faster than the car’s odometer.

One hotel had lots of empty rooms, but none of them were clean. In a gesture of good-will designed specifically to alienate the unprepared traveling public, the manager had given staff the day off--after they cleaned all the RESERVED rooms. My “affordable” was still going up. Next door was another hotel, a chain that I’m not fond of. I asked the clerk at the DAYS INN if there were any rooms available and if they were clean. She stopped talking on her cell-phone long enough to tell me that it wasn’t the Waldorf-Astoria but that there were available rooms. In order to save my own life I took the room and released the captives from the car.

While we were unloading our luggage a couple of cute little boys staying in the room above ours were playing a game of “gangsters and drug lords”—chasing each other around the parking lot shouting; “I’m gonna put a cap in your ass”—adorable.

The room at the DAYS INN didn’t smell like any violent crimes had recently occurred there and was reasonably free of trash. At least the sheets appeared clean. After a quick meal we snuggled in for the night, me and my 9mm handgun in the bed closest to the door.

The next morning I didn’t have to coax anyone out of bed. Everyone was so anxious to tour St. Louis that they practically raced from the room—at least that’s what I choose to believe. Next time my whims take me to St. Louis, I’ll make reservations—in Chesterfield.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Aging in Dog Years

The other night some disrespectful young women called me something behind my back that really hurt me. Now I’m not really the sensitive type, I’ve been insulted many times during my life and as a football referee I’m used to being called names--sometime by hundreds of people in unison. But even I, calloused as I am, think there are insults that should remain un-hurled, words left unsaid and thoughts unspoken.

It’s been almost a week since I was grievously disparaged and yet it still hurts—I just can’t seem to get over it. If you’ve read this far I bet you’re wondering what this girl said that so badly wounded someone like me whom my wife thinks has all the sensitivity of an elephant. Well, the pain is still fresh so I’m a little reluctant to write the word, especially in a family friendly forum such as this. However, at risk of censure from the FCC I’ll tell you what she called me, it was “Dad”.

Dad? Isn’t that an honorific, a term of endearment, a sign of affection? Of course it is--in the right context. The right context is when your son says “Dad, I love you”. The wrong context is when some insolent girl at the theatre says to your wife “your dad came to see you tonight”. So there’s no confusion, my wife’s dad passed away years ago (Bless his heart) and so she was referring to ME, the spouse!

Sure, maybe I’m a year or two older than my wife (OK, maybe it’s five or six) and even if she were “29”, I’m not in any universe old enough to be her father. (OK, OK she’s making me disclose that it’s “exactly 8.33 years older”). But even at exactly 8.33 years, we’re still members of the same generation, so unless I’ve aged in dog years I couldn’t possibly look like her “dad”.

In the 5,670 days we’ve been blissfully married, my wife and I have pretty much done everything together—making it logical to assume that we’ve aged at about the same pace and would look equally older. Of course, over the years a few minor physical differences have arisen that may account for some variance in "age-appearance" (I’ve lost hair, gained weight and added wrinkles) but I think that these fall safely within the margin of error and should be ignored.

Maybe the solution to the problem lies in the traditional remedy for middle age--a bright red convertible. With a car like that, everyone will think the hot brunette sitting next to me really IS my wife—and then they’ll feel badly that she married someone old enough to be her dad!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Foul Free Food

If someone comes to my door and tells me they’ve brought free food, it doesn't matter if it's a take-n-bake pizza, a brick of frozen Costco lasagna or a seven-course gourmet meal served on the best china--I have the same exact reaction; “Free food!!” Oh yeah, and gratitude.

Assuming the food wasn’t fashioned from road-kill or one of the neighbor’s terriers I’m pretty happy with the thought that nourishment appeared, on its own, at my house. When this food arrives, I’m going to over-indulge, undo the top button of my pants and watch TV. I think that most guys share my same sentiment towards “free food”.

So friends, what could go wrong with the concept of free food? We’ll let’s say your neighbor is grief-stricken because her darling terrier (the one that treats your lawn as a litter box) or her Great Aunt Mabel, "passed". The woman is inconsolable. To assuage her grief the neighborhood women’s cabal offers to bring meals to the mourning family. Inevitably, one of the meals is assigned to your spouse. Suddenly worry and “what ifs” arrive and free food becomes foul.

Your spouse will worry that the food she serves you (lasagna bricks and take-n-bake pizzas) won’t be good enough for the neighbor. Their free meal also has to include salad, home-made bread, dessert (you don’t get any because you’re dieting) and a beverage; otherwise “it just wouldn’t be a meal.” She worries the hand rolled sole fillets topped with seasoned scallops and crabmeat she made will be dry or cause an allergic reaction in one of the neighbor kids. She agonizes over timing the delivery to ensure the food arrives piping hot and frets that Glad-Ware won't be as acceptable as the traditional Tupperware.

Finally, the appointed day arrives and your kitchen is filled with baking, basting and broiling. Your wife makes two extra trips to grocery store to acquire the just the right herbs and fresh vegetables (“after all, it wouldn’t be a meal . . .”). Finally, the meal is prepared and packaged for delivery. Anxiously you set your own table because you think you’ll soon be feasting on sole fillets, scallops, crabmeat, fresh bread and maybe if you’re lucky, some dessert.

You help your wife load ALL the food into the car so she can "Danica Patrick" hot and fresh to the neighbors. Suddenly you realize there aren’t any sole fillets, scallops, crabmeat, fresh breads or desserts left for you—just dirty pots and pans. And worse, since your wife is exhausted from slaving in the kitchen all day, your chances for getting some “compassionate service” of your own vanished with your dinner. Dejectedly you break out the mini-wheats, curse “free food” and the neighbor’s stupid dog.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Don't Try and Make Me Good--Just Shoot Me!

I have an important new Church calling that carries with it a nearly sacred responsibility. As my mother reads this she’s thinking; “It’s about time.” On the other hand, my siblings are wondering if the guy who used to eat oranges to make his saliva sticky and then sit on their chests to see how long a spittle string could get before breaking off on their face, is worthy of any calling—ever.

But it’s too late, the task is mine to magnify and I intend to do my best. When the position first became available I felt a little guilty for aspiring to hold such an important position but my carnal nature took over and I knew that I had to have this assignment. No one could do it as well as me. After all, I’ve spent over 40 years developing the skills that made me the best choice for the job.

What is this almost important assignment that I’ve been entrusted with? It’s Elder’s Quorum Timekeeper. I know that it may not sound as impressive as Sunday School President, but it’s still important. My responsibility it to make sure that Priesthood meeting ends on time, and I intend to magnify the heck out of this calling. If I live right and keep the big commandments, maybe we can even end early—oh the blessings!

You may wonder what makes this calling so dang important? It’s important because the least of the Saints (me) can only tolerate so much preaching. After I’ve reached 10,800 seconds of Sabbath preaching I need to see some sports on TV. After three hours in the pew, to paraphrase Bro. Kimball, “Don’t try and make me good, just shoot me.” That’s J. Golden, not Spencer W.

When I’m teaching (a mistake that someone regrets monthly) it’s easy to magnify my calling. I just look at my watch a lot and then say; “Well, that’s all I have unless someone wants to bear their testimony about the principle we’ve studied today.” After a few moments of gaze avoidance, we have a prayer and go home—on time.

The tricky part of ending a meeting on time comes when someone adulterously enamored of their own wit and wisdom is teaching (you know who you are—no, no you don’t). Trying to get one of these guys to stop on time is like trying to keep bees from honey, gum from the hair of a three-year-old or girls from a mission homecoming. It’s dang near impossible. However, I have developed some techniques that may work in your own ward.

First and easiest is the watch glance. Start subtly five minutes before the meeting is scheduled to end and escalate every minute thereafter. Some theatre training will come in useful here as the fifth time requires a shirt-sleeve roll-up, full arm extension, and watch to the eyeball salute. That usually works.

If the watch glance has failed several weeks in a row you need to escalate to tactics like talking to you neighbor as if the meeting had ended, calling your wife on the phone to discuss dinner, or my personal favorite, praying. Praying? Yes, prayer. Within my three-hour learning tolerance I learned about the efficacy of prayer. Here’s how it works; once time is up, raise your hand as if you’re asking a question. When acknowledged, rise and offer the benediction. I guarantee a punctual meeting ending.

I learned this tatic in college. In this particular congregation the monthly testimony meeting routinely ran 30-45 minutes long. Undoubtedly there were some in the congregation who thought it was spiritually spectacular to run that much past the scheduled conclusion—Needless to say, I wasn’t one of them (can you say Telestial material?). One Sunday I had been asked to offer the benediction and so at 30 minutes past time I got in the testimony line determined to instead offer the benediction and hastily depart. Unfortunately, no one got in line after me and so I waited for the hymn.

The Bishop is probably still wondering why I got in line so early if I was only offering the prayer. I never told him why, but I’d have done it. After all, there were sports on TV and I was over quota.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ode to the Dandelion

Oh spontaneous spring
Golden blooms not sown
Awaken by blossoming
Absent then grown
Fair to behold in God’s own field
But their flower in mine elicits a groan
Oh the weapons I wield
When seeds are blown
Onto my lawn
Happier, if to the neighbor’s they’d flown
Where they battle with brawn
Not Weed-B-Gone
Oh wretched dandelion
You ruined my Zion!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What Odor is your Transgression?

The other day I was wondering where breaking the Word of Wisdom ranks among the “thou shalt nots”. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(LDS) I believe in keeping the Word of Wisdom (WoW) which forbids coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco. It’s not that the forbidden hold any interest for me, I was just wondering. Like when you’re little and you wonder if you can jump off the garage roof without injury. (Answer: Usually, unless it’s the neighbor’s taller garage and your knee hits you in the mouth.)

When compared to the Big Ten, it seems like the WoW might be commandment 9.5, right between lying and coveting. Not the most serious in my book, but bad enough to keep you out of paradise. A “friend of a friend” keeps a pack of cigarettes in his glove box. If he feels the inkling of an impending church assignment he asks the Bishop to go for a ride and then asks for a map—strangely, no calling ever comes.

By the smell, everyone knows when someone has been smoking. To demonstrate our collective error we often shun someone who has so obviously transgressed—but what if every sin had a unique odor? I know it would make Bishop’s interviews easy. “What’s that I smell Brother Green, a hint of pornography?” The Bishop could schedule appointments just by walking the hallway with an appointment book. “Sister Smith, I smell that you’ve been gossiping again, can you meet me on Wednesday? Brother Jones, I detect the scent of stealing, how’s 8:00?”

What if we had the power to assign an odor to each of the Commandments? Thou Shalt Not Kill would be easy, it would smell like a rotting carcass—I can’t think of a worse smell. Adultery (fornication, pornography, etc.) would smell nearly as bad, perhaps like a pig farm. Stealing would smell like a skunk, Sabbath breaking would smell like a swamp, and so on.

My point is that we all sin—but some sins aren’t as odoriferous as others. But just in case, I’m using Irish Spring in the shower today and looking for that 16-year-old bottle of cologne that I bought before I was married. That should do it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Meet me in Hell

The last few weeks I’ve been substitute teaching in my son’s Sunday school class. Yesterday the kindly Sunday School President stopped by and invited me to a meeting after church. I explained that since I’m not a “real” teacher my attendance was doubtful. You see, there are few things that I hate more than meetings. Had Joseph Smith lived longer he would have added a 14th Article of Faith stating: “We believe the Ten Tribes choose to remain lost until such as time as meetings are removed from the earth. We also believe that when the earth receives its paradisiacal glory the meeting will have no more power over the hearts of men. We further believe the only thing better than a well-planned meeting is no meeting at all. ”

I live this pretend Article of Faith better than most of the real ones. I’ll gladly help with anything you ask (even teaching 13-year-olds) just don’t make me go to a meeting. The very mention of the word “meeting” fills my entire being with revulsion and my nights with terror. One meeting I’m still seeing a therapist over involved region sports. During the meeting one of Satan’s minions hijacked the meeting for about 20 minutes complaining that he wasn’t able to get email addresses for every Stake President in his region. After all, how can we attain salvation without these email addresses?

It took every ounce of self-control I had to keep from raising my hand and asking “does anyone else here give a damn about the addresses?” By the stupefied expressions on their faces I know that the rest of the attendees did not. I did all in my power to “encourage” the moderator to move forward. I tried talking, playing games on my phone and finally resorted to using exaggerated hand signals for “move on” or “wrap it up” (picture the guy with the red flashlights that directs airplanes to their proper location—that was me). All to no avail. This guy wouldn’t stop and the moderator would not move on.

I was contemplating drastic measures. I thought about tightening my tie enough to cause me to pass out. “Now Brother (I wish I could remember his real name because I would use it here) look what your talking has done, you've killed Brother Jones.” Just before I could enact my plan “he who cannot be named” stopped talking and the meeting ended. I ran to my car and have never returned. Twenty fanatical home teachers could not drag me back.

A few years ago the Church asked us to hold fewer meeting so that we could have more family time. One bishop scheduled a meeting with all of his ward leaders to discuss . . . having fewer meetings—I don’t think he got the concept.

If I’m ever captured by corporate spies trying to learn the secret family butter-mint recipe, I’ll withstand waterboarding, bamboo shoots and beatings . . .but if they mention the word “meeting”—well, a guy can only stand so much.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dress Like a Man (Mansense)

In this age where there is significant confusion around gender appropriate clothing I thought I’d write to offer men some help in selecting an appropriate wardrobe. If you consider yourself fashionable or stylish, please stop reading now--this column is not for you. If you worry about your skin, hair or teeth—stop reading now because you are a metrosexual--a fancy word for sissy. When I went to school, wearing earrings, or dyeing or shaving your body hair would get you beat up. I like to think that there are still places where this could happen—maybe in Wyoming.

OK, on to my fashion advice, let’s start with hats. Wear them. Except of course in places where it’s not appropriate to wear hats (really just church). Hats hide receding hairlines and keep you from having to shower as often. For example, if you’ve been in the yard splitting logs all morning and suddenly your wife (real men have wives not “significant others”) reminds you that you have a meeting with the bishop in five minutes, you can just put on a clean hat and you’re good to go (unless you’re meeting at the church). If you are meeting at the church it’s time to demonstrate (again) that you can shower and dress in less time than it takes Mrs. Wonderful to choose the right color Shade shirt to go under her peasant blouse (I’ve no idea what that is).

All hat styles are appropriate except for berets. It’s a little known historical fact that in 1940 the French economy was in a recession. The French thought that by inviting Germans to their country they could sell more berets and lift the country to prosperity. Unfortunately, the Germans stayed but did not buy any berets until 1944 when the Americans asked them to either buy berets or leave the country. They left France without purchasing any berets (and so should you).

There is of course an exception to the rule. If you are in the Army Special Forces (AKA Green Berets) you can wear berets all the time, even to church.

Man shirts can have either long or short sleeves but they must have sleeves. No matter what Richard Simmons says, ripping the sleeves off of your t-shirt does not make you look tough, cool, or manly. It makes you look like you received your diploma from a beer can. Man shirts come in blue, green, white, red, tan, brown and black. Women’s shirts come in colors like hot pink, tangerine, heather and salmon. Helpful hint: If the name of the color has more than one syllable then it’s women’s clothing.

Neckties are appropriate for many occasions (really just church). The main purpose of the necktie is to draw attention away from your stomach. The larger the stomach, the wider the tie must be. If you’re going to have the 2000 calorie triple Whopper for lunch then just add a couple of inches to the width of your tie and no one will notice the extra weight. Bowties are iffy, kind of like lusting in your heart. It’s wrong but not THAT wrong. Wear with care.

Pants are worn ON the hips and should be long enough to touch the ground. Man pants come in black, khaki, navy or denim. In a disturbing trend I’ve noticed a few so called men wearing “manlottes” which appear to be women’s culottes (the French again?) in a “plus” size. Avoid this. Some men think “gaucho” rhymes with “macho”, making gaucho pants OK. It doesn’t and it’s not—ever. You can wear shorts (which must end at the knee) or you can wear pants (end at the floor) anything in between is for the fairer sex. If your shorts extend below the knee you must hike them up to avoid the appearance of femininity.

Socks are optional, but if worn, must be dark or white--no fancy colors. Since no one thinks hairy toes are attractive it’s best to wear closed toe shoes—but it’s your choice. If you’re comfortable with your hobbit toes, go ahead and wear manly sandals, just don’t shave the hobbit hair that’s supposed to be there.

Finally, when purchasing new clothes keep this rule in mind: if an article of clothing sounds French, has pleats, or comes in bubblegum, day-glow yellow, or ultra teal—ask the sales clerk to direct you to the real men’s clothing department.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

40 Bottles of Goo

When I woke up this morning, my bathroom countertop seemed cluttered. To see why, I inventoried the items stored there. At this moment there are more than 40 containers on my bathroom countertop. The “0” after the “4” is not a typo, the number is 40 and that excludes toothpaste, mouthwash and hand soap (the things that are “mine”).

So you’re thinking to yourself: “What’s in all those other bottles, tubes and cans?” Since I didn’t know myself, I read some of the labels. One of the tubes is marked “Body Soufflé” ─sounds kinky but I think it has something to do with cannibalism. “Here honey, let me rub some soufflé on your back.” Good thing I’m a light sleeper.

While inspecting the abundant tubes covering the counter I noticed that there are different moisturizing lotions for the hands, feet, face, elbows, and shoulders. I shudder to think what would happen if you accidentally mixed up the tubes and applied hand lotion to your face. Would little fingerprint lines suddenly appear? If so, there is a tube on the counter that hides lines.

In keeping with the Soufflé theme, there is also a can of mousse. To be honest, I know what mousse is for─ hiding receding hairlines. At least that’s what I use it for. There, it’s out in the open, I admit it, my hairline is receding. It’s an Oprah moment. My hairline is gradually retreating. If there were as many women as men with receding hairlines, Oprah would rally her viewers to march on Washington D.C. to demand Congress fund the search for a cure. Men just use mousse to comb the hair that’s left, “over”.

There is also a tube I’ve not tried labeled “Age Defying Cream.” I want to know if it will help shrink my age-expanding gut or restore my youthful hairline. Somehow I doubt it. I think this potion is used to treat the age lines (wrinkles) that my wife absolutely does not have, anywhere, at all.

In conclusion, I don’t know what most of these tubes and bottles are for (Nor how much they cost). But the application of these lotions and potions keeps my wife looking tan, fit, young, smooth, soft, rejuvenated and sensual—and who can complain about that?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wyoming Highways

I was in Wyoming recently to “help” the extended family brand their spring calves. Being at the ranch reminded me of an experience that happened years ago. My cousin, whom I’ll call “Glade” (because that’s what his parents named him), and I were riding in the back of my Uncle’s Cecil’s truck. Cecil was driving from his new home site on the southeast bench of the ranch to his temporary home on the north side of the ranch. Glade lived in-between the two locations. Since it was nearly lunchtime Glade and I decided that we wanted to go to his place for lunch. If we rode with Cecil all the way to his house we would have to walk back to Glade’s.

Since we were about eight-years-old our brains were only the size of turnips. We could have tapped on the back window of the truck and said “hey, we want to get out here.” Cecil would have stopped and we would have walked to Glade’s house for cow-tongue sandwiches. Now tongue sandwiches may or may not have been on the menu that particular day, but they often were. I remember taking tongue sandwiches to school in Salt Lake and showing the little taste-buds off to the other kids. There’s nothing like eating something that can taste you back. With enough mustard, cheese and milk I could choke one down.

Instead of asking Cecil to stop, the little turnips in our head decided to come up with another plan that was far more clever—jump! With this plan we wouldn’t have to bother Cecil at all. We would just leap onto the highway, walk uninjured into the house and say; “I’ll have a tongue sandwich—extra taste buds please.”

Now at that time the highway speed limit was 60 or 70 mph. Even our underdeveloped turnip-brains knew we couldn’t jump from a truck going that fast without at least a cut or a bruise and so we decided to check the speedometer before committing to the jump. I remember looking through the back window and thinking that something in the neighborhood of 25 mph was barely faster than crawling. The dare was on. Glade said that if I went first he would follow.

The decision had to be made quickly as we were passing Gade's house and so I jumped. I don’t remember all the pain but I remember being surprised that I couldn’t keep my balance when I hit the asphalt. I also remember falling to my knees, elbows and finally face. As soon as I stopped sliding across the asphalt I looked up in time to watch Glade keep his word (I’ve always admired him for that). Glade did pretty much what I did except the cut on his knee was much deeper than my widespread road-rash.

Cecil immediately noticed that his truck was much lighter. Looking in the mirror, he saw his nephews sprawled across the highway so he stopped to ask if we were OK. Glade, who hadn’t started to cry yet, answered that we were fine and so Cecil drove home.

Picking ourselves up, we limped toward the house. Glade’s knee was bleeding profusely and he was afraid that we’d get into trouble and so he decided we’d hide in the granary (my plan was to cry louder). Glade enlisted his younger siblings to go to the house and sneak out some toilet paper and bandages. Aunt Margaret found us, either because the other kids spilled the beans about the two turnip heads hiding in the granary or she saw little kids sneaking TP and bandages out of the house.

I don’t remember getting into trouble because I think the adults felt badly that their offspring were stupid enough to jump from a moving truck onto the highway. Glade had to go to the doctors to have his knee stitched up. I think I just walked around with road-rash on my face until it healed. Luckily, there are no photos confirming this incident but if you look closely you can still see the scar on Glade’s knee.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Bishop, you Stink!"

I’ve spent many of the last 20 basketball seasons toiling as a church basketball official---euphemistically I have a “church calling” as a referee. Based on my years of high school and Church officiating experience, most objective observers feel this is one calling for which I’m well qualified.

Sometimes, like Single Adults to a Church dance, I return to officiating because I can’t help myself, but mostly someone finds out my striped secret and turns me in to the Stake President. Once I’ve been ratted out, a “calling” comes faster than a four-letter word from the mouth of a less active player (In the Church, all the less active members over 6′2″ get “fellowshipped” in time for basketball).

Usually I don’t mind refereeing a bunch of has-beens and never-weres but there are times when my patience wears thin (like when I called 911 to have Brother “I-pay-tithing-and-you-can’t-make-me-leave” ---leave). Back in the old days you could get paid for officiating church basketball but now it’s a calling–-same work, only "spiritual" pay. Some guys without the "call" get to referee by being asked to stay and officiate the game after theirs. They quickly learn that coming to the game with an excuse is as important as bringing a ball or basketball shoes.

Regardless of how you got roped into spending Saturday mornings refereeing a bunch of groggy and bedraggled members, it’s still a volunteer position in a church with a lay ministry. The enormous difference is, no one feels it’s necessary to scream at members holding other callings.

But let’s pretend. . .

Imagine yelling out at a Sacrament meeting sustaining (After all, it’s under the same roof) “Bishop, that’s a bone-headed call!” Or, at the Ward Dinner; “Sister Smith, this casserole stinks.” Or in a Bishop’s interview; “I know we broke different commandments but you’re not punishing us equally . . .moron!”

There are apocryphal accounts of members behaving poorly in other settings, but unlike basketball, it’s the exception rather than the rule. In basketball, even those who don’t yell at the refs can’t stop themselves from offering unsolicited advice. “That was a foul ref.” Or; “Ref, he’s over my back.” (No, he’s just taller, younger and still has a 30″ vertical leap.) I don’t offer advice to players and I tell players who want to help me to please wait until I ask…I never do.

Referees don’t get 100% of their calls right, no one does that, but today’s NBA leader in field goal percentage only makes 60% of his shots. I guarantee we get way more than 60% of our calls right. Any Ward team making only two-thirds of their shots would win every game. They never do, but that doesn’t make their losing the referees fault. We get over 90% of our calls right.

I’m as competitive as the next guy but I’m also old enough to realize that IF you win all your games you get crowned “Hogs Corner Utah North Region Basketball Champion.” What does this prestigious title get you? A Celestial promotion? A nursery calling? A Get out of Home Teaching Free card?

Nope. For all that exertion you get a cheap one-size-fits-all T-Shirt.

I propose the church either canonize the practice of screaming at every member who fails to magnify their calling—or universally abolish the practice. I think we referees will vote for abolishment.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The only “magic” is in the name

My thoughts on Six Flags Magic Mountain . . .

First of all let me state that kids consider me a middle-aged bore. From that perspective let me describe my experience at Six Flags Magic Mountain. I visited the park to help chaperone a church youth group. One of the kids wasn’t able to make the trip and so we had one extra ticket we decided to sell at the gate. We figured that someone waiting in line to pay $59.99 would jump at the chance to pay $20 to get into the park.

Since we don’t live in California, we were unaware that trying to recoup some of your money in this fashion is called “scalping”. Californians frown on scalping as severely as armed robbery. As soon as my wife offered the ticket to a kid she was escorted from the line by an undercover “Loss Prevention Agent” (from their job description: “Imagine coming to work every day in disguise!”). The “agent” who had a tin Magic Mountain badge and a non-functioning walkie-talkie threatened to jail my wife for scalping. Apparently, if you read the fine print on the back of the ticket it says the ticket has a value of 1/10 of 1 cent. If you try and sell it for more than that amount you’re a scalper. (“Hey buddy, can you spare 1/10 of a cent, I’m making a deal?”).

Since my self-described “not-middle-aged” wife didn’t assault the “Loss Prevention Agent”, she only had her name entered into the agent’s violation book and was allowed to enter the park with a stern warning. (The ticket was confiscated since it had been used in the commission of a real crime). After spending a few hours in the park, I discovered the real crime is charging anyone more than $20 to enter the Unmagic Kingdom.

Just inside the door is a cyber café where we decided to check email and news from home. Well I’m not sure who they’re using for an ISP but I’m pretty sure that my page is still waiting to load . . . OK then, onto the rides. Roaring Rapids looked tempting for us “white bread” relics. We walked there ready to “Roar with delight” while we rushed through “Western America’s first man-made white-water river.” What we didn’t realize is that they’re still using the original boats. I know the “river” was only inches deep but sinking in one of America’s first man made fiberglass boats wasn’t appealing. We walked away squirting water with each step.

Taking a break from “roaring with delight” we decided to take in a show—oops, none scheduled for the entire day. Since old people “have to go more often”, I decided to visit the restroom. It appeared that I beat the cleaning crew there—by a week. I think I still have an imprint on my rear from the graffiti etched into the seat. Perhaps the filthy conditions are part of a two-part plan to discourage restroom loitering. Part two involves blasting ice cold air directly onto people using the single available stall—it certainly shortened my stay.

One of the lesser known facts about the park is that there are rides that aren’t covered by the exorbitant admission fee. For example, Cyclone 500, Dive Devil and Thrill Shot cost more money—lots more.

If you get hungry you can pay $12.99 for a double-cheeseburger meal. Since it said “double” on the menu I thought it meant enough food for two people—nope, only enough for one but “served with a smile”. If I was charging $13 for a hamburger I’d give everyone the biggest smile they’d ever seen—and then I’d take their money and go to a amusement park where they value their guests, maintain the facilities, and clean the restrooms.

PS—The kids said the park was great and they had a fun time.