Friday, September 26, 2008

A Ballsy Rant: Lance, Please Go Away

I hate Lance Armstrong. I wish he would go away. But like warts, mosquitoes and Celine Dion, he keeps coming back.

I realize he is one of our "untouchable" Americans immune from criticism just like Oprah, Mister Rodgers, and that guy who played Corky.

However......The guy is a kind of a jerk. He gets a free ride because he's a national "hero." And he's come out of retirement to race again....Oooh count the goose bumps!

First I will acknowledge the good things: amazing athlete, ridiculously motivated and driven, inspirational, has done amazing charity work and he's better at public relations than I am, and that's what I get paid to do.

But let's stop viewing the situation through a cheap yellow plastic lens for a second. He is a bicycle racing star. This is a sport that is huge in France. France! Enough said. He put bike racing on the map you say? Who won this year's Tour de France? Name one other major bike race.

See what I mean?

I don't even care if he cheated, took drugs, or infused his body with the blood of an African cheetah to pedal faster. He did have an advantage that nobody ever mentions because ....shhhhhh! ... it's a sensitive subject. Folks, the man has one testicle.

Okay you think I'm evil. But ask any man what it's like to ride a bike any distance with two testicles. The boys are singing before the first mile marker. Lots of bumps, jostling, shifting. And, oh God, the friction. It's not fun. I know, it's nothing like childbirth. But I don't think any woman could experience any similar exterior discomfort comparable to Man Zone Mangling. Maybe fire. Maybe.

Think about this:
Normal Lance Armstrong - No Tour de France wins.
Unitesticular Lance Armstrong - Seven Tour de France titles. In SEVEN tries.

He's never won with a pair. The uniball is 7-for-7. Surely this is not a coincidence. Guys, back me up here?

Do you think we'd care about some silly race in France if Lance still had two dice? If he was just another normal, healthy and nameless athlete who likes to ride his bike really really far?

Okay, so you think I'm going to hell (just WAIT til I call out Corky!!). There are other reasons not to like King Lance.

He did leave his wife and family after they were unconditionally by his side during his battle with cancer and his ridiculously time consuming training. Did I mention he left to get into Sheryl Crow's bicycle pants? I am in NO WAY criticizing Sheryl Crow. In fact, if you're reading this Sheryl, call me hon, ok??

So Sheryl Crow gets cancer. What's Prince Lance's reaction? He hits the road, prolly on a vehicle with spokes. Hooks up with an Olsen twin. I don't care which one. I suspect he didn't either. Maybe he was with both of them. Two girls, one teste? Good ratio! I am in NO WAY criticizing the Olsen twins. In fact, girls, if you're reading this, call me, ok??

He's the best at his sport. But nobody in that sport can stand him. His is widely expected of cheating and done everything short of renting one of those planes with a banner trailing behind it to declare he is perfectly clean. He's mistreated the women in his life for his own selfish gain.

Gee, kinda sounds like Barry Bonds.

Maybe Barry shoulda lopped off a pinky, nailed Beyonce, and made jewelry from recylced syringes to battle illegal drug use...then he too could have been on SNL and the national pedestal.

Please, Barry, don't you be inspired by Lance Armstrong. We need only one hero/jerk right now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Daytime Television - Can I Choose Waterboarding Instead?

Anyone who works from home or is in between jobs spends a lot of time alone and they realize that keeping sane is like a part-time job in itself. But staving off depression isn't that difficult. I've figured out a sure fire way to keep your wits about you.

Do NOT turn on the television when the sun is up.

Not that I'm anti-TV. I love following my shows, such as Mad Men, Weeds, Californication, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and other brilliant programming. I love me My Daily Show and Colbert Report the next day, like comical slices of cold pizza. And then there is sports. Always a good choice.

Now, I had many good teachers growing up and I got good grades so you know they were miracle workers. But, I think watching one month of daytime television may have erased all their good work. I want to sue somebody for making me dumber. And, of course, I want the trial to be in Judge Judy's courtroom! She's a sparkplug that one!

Let's start with the Today Show. I don't have one specific complaint about the Today Show. It's an institution and the "must see" show while the coffee is brewing. I'll try to be brief with my observations.....

Meredith looks as if she is having an enema, at this very moment. Matt and Al are both so clever in their smarminess (not really), and all the stagehands literally guffaw at the dumbest one-liners they toss out. Let's not even talk about the fourth hour. You know those uncomfortable sketches on Saturday Night Live that never seem to end? Yeah, that's the fourth hour. Every. Single. Day. Despite being the most famous Hota in television history, miss Kotb is not exactly the next Oprah. Most of all, I love the smooth segues -- "After our interview with Alan Greenspan, we will choose one lucky ugly woman from the plaza for a surprise makeover! This will help us determine what truly IS possible when you put lipstick on a pig!"

We also have SportsCenter. Now I love sports more than anyone. But I don't need to rank the top 10 tight ends in NFL history. And I'm not particularly interested in every detail of Brett Favre's life ("Doctors report he had two helpings of corn on the cob yesterday. We will interrupt our regularly scheduled program if he in fact becomes the first person EVER to break down corn during the digestive process!"). Plus I'm a Mets fan. There are no such things as highlights.

Then there are soap operas...essentially low budget, cranked-out versions of Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy without the oh-so-clever writing and character development of the nightime dramas. It kinda fun to see if you can "name that scene" in two lines or less. Will she stomp out of the room and slam the door? Kiss him? Slap him? Will they get interrupted by that 18 year old floozie with whom Dr. Robert seems to have an odd chemistry? When I say "kinda fun" I mean "kinda fun, like catching your grandparents doing it. In the shower."

But my favorite has to be the cable news stations. After embarrassing themselves at the conventions, they continue to place current events completely out of context. Because they have to fill 24 hours a day, they do silly things like calculate the number of McDonald's apple pies that $700 billion could buy (that would be 2,000 apple pies per American. I hope you're hungry!). Other partisan networks suggest, seriously, that Sarah Palin's foreign relations experience is boosted by her state's proximity to Russia. That of course assumes you consider Alaska a state.

It's amazing how fast these talking heads become experts in the financial markets, meteorology, the American electorate, and of course Britney Spears. It's so bad, I almost think if President Bush wants to do the pundit thing next year, he could make Fox and Friends seem like Nova in the blink of an eye. Then of course Hota Kotb would be Oprah. Oh no!

So to all my former teachers: please send homework!! I need to diagram sentences. I need to do one of those theorem things. Hell, send a dead frog and I'll slice the little bugger open. I'll get right to my homework after The Price is Right. I hope they play Plinko today!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Boxer -- Stocking Stuffer or April Fool's Joke?

A few days ago, I wrote about the fashion faux pas (which I think is French for Easter Egg coloring kit) that is the tennis visor. I'm happy to see many of you agree with me, which could only mean we all have way too much time on our hands.

That is not to say I haven't committed fashion mistakes of my own. I once wore a brown and black shoe to work. But I blame that on being hungover. That's my story anyway. I've worn white after Labor Day. But I looked soooooo good in that sailor's outfit. And the chicks dug it. And there is what we refer simply to as "Corduroy-gate." I vowed never to speak again about that day.

But the mistake I specifically refer to wasn't really my fault. I swear.

One Christmas I got a rolled up pair of green boxers in my stocking. Good stocking stuffer for a guy. Women get jewelry. Men get Life Savers, lottery tickets and underwear. Good trade, huh?

Any man (or woman) who ever owned a pair of new boxer shorts knows that is is just too stiff to wear right away. The Boxers, you sick bastards, the Boxers. Even if you wash the new underwear 15 times, they always have the new boxer feel to them. And that's not a feeling you want anywhere near The Man Zone.

So April rolls around and I've been a bit lax with the laundry. So I reach for the last option, my new green boxers. They feel okay, as if I had any choice besides going commando, or wearing yesterday's pair again. Even I have standards, so I hoist on the new pair.

About an hour later, I'm toiling around the locker room at my gym. Some guys walk around and leave nothing to the imagination. I struggle with that decision, but ultimately I cover up; I don't want to humble anyone else, of course.

So I'm walking around the locker room. Grab a towel. Shave the stubble on my face. I may have even relieved myself. Then, after several minutes, I steal a glance in the mirror because, well, I happen to look great (almost) naked. And then I saw it.

My Christmas boxers, which I thought were plain green, were anything butt, er I mean, but. The underwear was adorned with three words on the rear end.


Yes, I was spreading springtime Christmas cheer on my cheeks. My boxers said "Ho! Ho! Ho!" on the ass. So, naturally, I scurried for my locker with the speed of eight reindeer and removed the cheery evidence.

As soon as the crimson color returned to my normal April Elmer's Glue pastiness, I called the gift giver and said "How come you didn't tell me those boxer's said Ho! Ho! Ho! on the ass? I was prancing around like.....Nathan Lane... in the lockerroom wearing those things."

After about three minutes of laughter, I heard "That's f--ing funny. How could you not know your underwear contained a holiday greeting."

I thought "Because I was matching a brown shoe with a black shoe" was the wrong answer, so I ate crow and said. "You're right." (And those are two words I HATE to say.) It was my fault after all.

I don't know if any of the guys in the lockerroom noticed. Nobody ever said anything, and there was no outright jeering. I did find it odd to find mistletoe hung over my locker the next day, but I was just happy to have a clean pair of clean back boxers over the Man Zone.

I shortly switched to boxer briefs. I tell people it's because they are more comfortable. But it's really because I choose not to make my rear end a billboard for anyone -- even Santa Claus.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ad-visor-y Opinion: Just Wear a Hat

I've kept my eye on coverage of the Ryder Cup over the last two days. Okay, I've watched every minute and I can't honestly remember if I've showered yet. So I've had plenty of time to ponder the meaning of this exciting global rivalry.

But instead I've become annoyed. It's reminded me of everything that's wrong with sports. No, not Sergio Garcia's "I've never won a major in my life but you'd never tell by my smugness" sneer. No, not the petty "Your fans cheer too loudly when I'm trying to concentrate" debate. And, no, not even Phil Mickelson's man-boobs.

I'm talking the tennis visor.

There is nothing more disappointing than a grown man wearing a tennis visor. Simply stated, you can't trust a man who wears a tennis visor. It's a bad choice and inspires no confidence at all. For the record, there are two occasions in which you could wear a tennis visor:

1. You're actually playing tennis.
2. You have a vagina.

Instead, tennis visors are worn by fraternity dudes who also choose "I'm with stupid" t-shirts while they demonstrate their prowess in non-tennis competitions such as BeerPong or preying on otherwise bright co-eds who won't figure out that visor boy is a douche until about 5 years after graduation. Oh, and European golfers.

Case in point. See this picture of European golfer Justin Rose. Nice, innocent boy. It's not his fault he looks like Frodo, but seems like a decent guy, right? Totally someone you can root for, if you were an anti-American socialist of course. But a nice kid, for sure.

Now compare that with the below photo, with fellow European Ian Poulter, which I believe is Scandanavian for "evil visor-wearing pissant."

I can hear Stenson now, like the devil on our innocent Rose's shoulder...."Dude, now that you got the visor you need to get cool sunglasses, mess up your hair and you too can look like Sean Penn. That guy's bad ass. Hey, wanna play beer pong later and steal nice American girls with our visors and general European-ness?"

Rose even looks uncomfortable in his visor. Poor Frodo. I hope he can defect to the United States and be fitted with a nice baseball hat, like a real man.

Of course if he became an American, he might gouge himself on chicken wings and Big Macs. Instead of looking like a hobbit, he may then grow Mickelson breasts or, even worse, begin to resemble Tom Bosley. Then his choice of headgear would be the least of his worries.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fetching Funyuns: How I Taught My Cat to Fetch

Being out of work and otherwise not interested in rushing back to CubicleWorld, I've found ways to distract myself. Just this week I've taught my cat to play fetch. Kind of.

It goes like this. At the beginning of the day, I move the couch, a chair and other assorted furniture to find the fetchable toys she has otherwise lost. She has literally lost 50 different catnip mice. I think I get a contact high just from having them around. I keep scratching behind my ear and bad habits. And I find myself constantly craving Funyuns!

So first I grab her balls. Uh. Toys, yeah toys. And I hide them between the couch cushions for gametime. When she eventually gets her five-times-a-day hankering for the Kitty Pot, she meanders over, her affection as transparent as Katie Couric in her Today Show days. I launch a mouse, ball, or that scary pig-with-a-bell toy (the last resort) to a random corner of the room. She cuts up my legs, arms, torso, or shoulders to fetch it. I think she's German because she goes from zero-to-60 in about 3 seconds.

She eventaully brings the toy back after doing that ridiculous leg-kicking thing to the poor stuffed mice. And because I have hardwood floors in my place these mice-pigs coast and slide and of course get lost. As soon as she loses a toy she does her Katie Couric-oh-my-God-I'm-sooooo-excited-to-see-you!! routine to get her next catnip filled treat. And,let's face it, I'm the Great Enabler.

As you can imagine this is a tiring ritual. It's not like I'm Captain Kitty, armed with the a great bag of cat toys. I've taken to trying to find the next great unintentional cat toy. Any cat owner knows that they love to abscond with the twist ties, caps to Poland Spring bottles and that plastic thing you remove to open the milk (Does that thing even have a name? Should we create a name?)

Well it's not like I gots me extra milk thingys hanging around the couch. And she sure as hell ain't getting my Funyuns. So I've needed to be creative and I think I might have come up with the perfect unintentional cat toy -- the pistachio nut. It's small and wobbly. It can make it's way across the living room in about 1.12 seconds. It provides the enterprising cat with the opportunity to hone her motor skills by pulling two shells apart. It contains and mmmm-so-salty treat inside for the sodium-loving feline. And they come in packages of a thousand. So when Pussy Katie comes calling, a simple launch of the lovable nut sends her scurrying for at least a minute. Times a thousand minutes. Perfect.

I quickly learned though that this is not the perfect solution. Occasionally she returns the nut, and has been known to place it among the unlaunched pistachio pile. Yeah, that's fun to place a hairy nut in your mouth. Maybe for some. Not for me, pal.

The biggest downside to the pistachio-as-pussy-toy? Injury potential. At 3:14 in the morning, I went to fetch a Poland Spring (hide the cap!!) because I had consumed 100 pistachio nuts (plus 2 previously sucked nuts) and was thirsty. Sonofabitch! I stepped on a random nut and cut my foot. That's a lot of fun in the middle of the night. And of course it's because of my bright idea.

So what's on tap today? I've learned my lesson. I'll be perfecting my resume (again) and proof reading outgoing cover letters 10 times. I'll be tossing the bag-o-nuts. But not the Funyuns. Mmmmm, artificial onion taste in a chemical-laden crunchy treat. I may never work again...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tapas - Great for Everyone!

So there I was the other day, having a get-to-know-you quasi first date-slash-interview with someone I met from online. She was with a friend; the built-in buffer that ensures against awkward silences. Or so she thought.

A few minutes after arriving, we were exchanging stories and talking about our favorite hotspots around town. I mentioned that one of my favorite restaurants, Barcelona, was opening soon in my town.

Barcelona, I explained, is a local chain. The food is great. The bar scene is always pretty good. They asked me what kind of restaurant it was.

Over the chatter at the busy bar, I said it was a tapas place.

That answer went over like a fart in church. The ladies got quiet. To fill the void, I said something like "I always have a good time at Barcelona, it's a cool place."

So the date-to-be and her friend are kind of quiet. Playing with coasters and looking down a lot. Now I don't tell the best stories, but I didn't think this was snoozefest kind of conversation. I mean, we could have had shorter conversations (Sarah Palin's experience?).

So I said "I can't wait for Barcelona to open up here. It's going to be great!"

So the friend, who really is very lovely and sweet, quickly and curtly replies "Great for you maybe" while demonstrating what best can be described as "Oh no you didn't" body language.

I couldn't understand why they were upset to have to drive 15 or 20 minutes to enjoy Barcelona with me.

"It will be great for you guys too," I said, wondering what the problem was.

Then, as if on cue, the date-to-be looked up from her coaster and said "Do they serve the food topless?"

Oh......THAT was the problem.

"No," I said. "Tapas. Like the appetizers?"

So after about 10 minutes of laughter (did someone just snort?) and several plays on the word tapas, we were able to get the conversation back to normal.

I suppose it was a good icebreaker because we had a great night full of laughs. And, yes, I'm seeing the date-to-be again in a few days. Since Barcelona isn't open yet, I'll need another place to take her. I'm thinking Hooters....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Meet the Neighbors: The Golden Years

I live in a condo complex with more than 350 units. So, naturally, I've never met 347 of my neighbors. But my unit shares an entrance, dare I say foyer (must be obnoxiously pronounced foy-a, and with a French accent), with three other units.

When I moved in, legend had it that these three neighbors were elderly women. One thing I learned early on was that elderly women don't make many public appearances. In fact when the foyer (French accent please) smelled like stinky garbage, I began to wonder when the flies would show up. My first meeting with my neighbors, I feared, would be over their cadavers. I have such a positive outlook on life, huh?

(As a quick aside, on my second day in my complex, the police knock an my door and asked if I had seen my next door neighbor. Her family hadn't heard from her in two whole days, so they thought she might be off to the great condo complex in the sky. Of course I had no answers, I didn't know her unit number, her name and my unit was mostly empty with some boxes around the place. Hellllllo Person of Interest! The neighbor, Gloria, turned up shortly thereafter. I think she might have been at a Bingo tournament. Maybe shopping for mothballs. How the hell do I know, I just moved in.)

Finally one day I met one of them. I was coming in from my morning run (Okay it was a walk and occasional jog. Are you happy?) and this lady, whose name I still don't know, was expending quite an effort to pick up her morning paper which I had placed in front of her door before leaving for my morning run/walk/jog/hop/skip.

I say good morning when she looks up. Apparently frustrated with her lack of dexterity, she looks up at me and says, I swear to God, "They call them the Golden Years. They're full of shit." Well, good morning to you too!

I tried my best, and said "Maybe today will be a better day" to which she responded as if I had written her script, "Maybe I'm Cindy Crawford. I haven't had one of those better days for three years."

Well it's nice to meet you I thought as a scampered up the stairs to my unit.

One of the elderly neighbors checked mean moved out before I got the pleasure to meet her. Now there's a younger couple in that unit. They watch Cops a lot, so I haven't exactly brought them the freshly baked apple pie yet.

And Gloria, the occasionally missing neighbor, has become a fairly regular supporting cast member in my life. I've got some stories about her too, but I can't give away the store in one post. Stay tuned for more about the Golden Girls, stories from the produce aisle and the rest of the assorted uninetional humor from my life.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Not Many of Us Around Here.....

I'm so 20th century, but as someone who likes to fancy himself as a writer (hey -- I used to get paid to do it!) it's time to enter the blogosphere. At least that's what the kids are calling it. By "kids" I mean anyone more than five years younger than me and/or those who do not shower or appear to fret over personal hygiene.

Why today? Well obviously it's the 7th anniversary of the worst day of our collective lives. I was a reporter on that day and while it was the worst day of my professional life, it also reminded me of both the power of words, and the responsibility of the journalism profession. Today we should take just a moment to remember, and the rest of the day distracting ourselves. A few days after 9/11, I went back to writing my regular humor column. It was tough to laugh, but so necessary. Like everyday, we need to laugh today.

So to start, I will tell a story that some good friends found funny as I recalled it last night....

Not so long ago, I was in the produce section of my neighborhood grocery store. I was wearing flip flops, shorts, and a $5 navy blue University of Illinois t-shirt I bought because, well, it was $5 and I liked the blue and orange colors. Brought out the color in my eyes, or something. (They are blue. Ice blue, thank you very much.)

As I was perusing arugula, scoping tomatoes and admiring a good variety of melons, a middle aged man passed me and nodded, as if we somehow knew each other. I barely noticed but it didn't totally escape me; I returned to my fruits and vegetables. As our carts passed again, he stopped and said "You don't see too many of us around here." Now, I'm often the last one to "get it" and I hate appearing confused so I managed a smile and said "Yeah" and then searched for the juiciest Macintosh I could sink my teeth into. Then I wondered.....

....Does he think I'm a juicy Macintosh? Does he wanna sink his teeth my god, I'm getting hit on in the grocery store. By a man. Who could be my fathers much slimmer, younger brother. I mean, I'm wearing Old Navy sandals -- do they send a gaydar transmission???

I better go look for some cereal. No, raw meat. Something slaughtered. Yeah, that's it.

He finds me again and says "Champagne" and again I panicked and said "Yeah." Then I thought, oh my god, did I just accept a date with a middle aged man over a glass of bubbly delight? Then it hit me. Actually, then I opened my eyes. His hat said "Illinois" just like my eye-sparkling t-shirt. And it all made sense. (He was asking if I attended the main campus in Champaign, IL)

I was embarrassed, but then I realized I was trapped. He said "I graduated in '68, a few years before you, which in fact was a few years before I was born. When were you there?" I said "1993," ignoring the fact that I went to Iona College a wonderful small school north of NYC. It's maroon-and-gold color scheme does not positively highlight any of my features.

I figured that was the end of it, until he said "Wow -- the same year as my daughter! What was your major?" Communications I said, which was true, but at a maroon and gold institution. "That was her major too. Do you know (Julie Smith)?"

Nah, it doesn't ring a bell, I say, hoping that the bell of my cell phone would ring at that moment. A ha, the cell phone. I excused myself to answer what he thought was a vibrating cell phone (a tactic I would have avoided just minutes ago) What's your name, he asks, in that "i know you're on the phone" whisper-slash-lip reading tone. "Joe Kirby" I said, using the name of one of my uncles.

I scurried to the frozen food section pretending to talk to anyone but the Illinois Alumni Office. I managed to lose the Class of 68 in the grocery store.

I do often wonder if his daughter knew a Joe Kirby. Lord knows it's a small world, especially in the produce section.