Sunday, March 1, 2015

Superiority Complex Thrives in Middle Age

One of the benefits of living half a century is being superior to young people. The hard part is convincing a young person that Iron Butterfly was the name of an actual band.

I look forward to the day, although I will not live to see it myself, when these pups are themselves half a century old, and some kid asks them this sweet, delicious question: "Kanye who?"

It is hard to have respect for anyone who doesn't know what Billy Beer was. I know there are people who still have cans of it in their garage, and I salute them, both as a fan of history, and as a noted pack rat.

Somebody will need to show the people of the future how dumb we once were, not to help them avoid our mistakes; really, just for bragging rights. A pinnacle of ludicrousness is still a pinnacle.

Mine is the generation which disco-danced unironically. I wore bell bottoms whose bells could have easily concealed a large Tom cat wrapped around each ankle. History will not give the proper due to bell bottoms, or their importance in the sadly under-reported arena of ankle-ventilation. Tales of awesomeness at this high a level must be handed down orally.

I do not expect teenagers to know who the Byrds were, or their singular observations about tambourine men. These teens were born too late to benefit from insights dealing with "jingle jangle" mornings. They must make do with the observations of Taylor Swift, who, let's face it, would never come up with a lyric involving "a trip on a magic swirlin' ship."

One cannot help but feel a certain generational pity.

Teenagers of my era, when they were too chicken to ask a girl out face to face, would call her on a rotary-dial phone, which mercifully provided ample time, several seconds per digit, to chicken out from a distance. Texting has removed this buffer, and, worse, creates a written record of once-private conversations. These will be hilarious in 20 years, read at open-mic nights in bars, but at what cost?

I do have pity. I am not a monster.

My parents were "the greatest generation," and I am a "Boomer." One can only wonder queasily at what tag today's youngsters might end up with. The "Tumblrs"?

Well, I wish them the best, just as long as they keep paying into Social Security.

. . .

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Celebrate Washington's actual birthday with this short quiz

On this day, February 22, in 1732, George Washington, inventor of the three-day weekend, was born. This set in motion a series of events which would, annually, lower appliance prices and get kids Mondays off from school in numbers he could not have imagined.

George himself reportedly only received the equivalent of an elementary school education, and yet he was smart enough to never belong to a political party. This is a man worth celebrating via a brief history quiz.

Washington is commonly known by Americans as:
a) "America's baby-daddy"
b) "Old Splinter-jaw"
c) "The father of our country"
d) "M.C. Brit-smacker"

The biggest myth about old GW is:
a) He had wooden dentures
b) He held a pathological hatred for silver dollars
c) He had an enormous "obelisk"
d) He wore a wig. He did not. He wore what we today would refer to as a "powdered rug"

America's second president was:
a) Like we care

If Washington were alive today to see himself on the $1 bill, he would probably say:
a) "Lookin' gooood, G-dog!"
b) "Oh yeah, you can tell that was the day I had the borscht."
c) "Franklin's on the freakin' hundred? It figures."
d) "Farm boy cleans up nice. Forget the 'e pluribus unum.' Put 'Farm boy cleans up nice.'"

Washington is famous for living:
a) at Mount Vernon
b) at Mount Vesuvius
c) to mount deer on the hood of his carriage
d) long enough to totally over-use the phrase "that pipsqueak John Hancock"

George Washington's middle name was:
d) All of the above. Correct! He did not have one, although unofficially it was "Hessian-buster"

GW famously lost:
a) more battles than he won, yet showed leadership which rallied the cause to victory
b) his temper every time somebody referred to him as "First Dude"
c) his shirt whenever he played games of H-O-R-S-E against Jefferson for money
d) the nation's respect after that whole "Cherry Tree-gate" debacle

Most Americans think George Washington:
a) was married to Martha Stewart
b) had his hand inserted into his coat in those official portraits because he was petting his "comfort ferret"
c) could have made a killing in bobble-head dolls
d) is overrated because, despite many other fine qualities, he simply could not dunk

Washington was so popular he could have declared himself king, but gave up power so that democracy could prevail. He also named his dog Sweetlips. I cannot decide which of these I like better about him.

. . .

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bad service results in empty stomach, entertaining story

To Yelp or not to Yelp…that is the question.

I ate out with a large group last week, and the waiter literally forgot my order. I suspect it was some sort of passive-aggression for ordering chicken at a steakhouse.

Or perhaps it was just karma finally coming around to remind me what a bad waiter I once was. I do not remember ever forgetting someone's order, but, of course, I wouldn't.

There were nine of us. Most ordered steaks. I wanted to try the ribs. The waiter thought they had run out of ribs, said he would go check, and disappeared.

A few minutes later I watched him taking another table's order. When I caught his eye, he came over and assured me he had just been poised, nay, eager to update me on their lack of ribs.

I told him I would have the fried chicken. "It's good," he assured me. This was, I would not realize until later, the last thought he would have about me or my chicken.

The steaks began arriving in ones and twos over the course of the next 45 minutes, like flights from San Francisco. Eventually, "What's up with the chicken?" was a question raised by my sympathetic but amused table mates to the waiter, who disappeared again.

"I'm sorry for the delay," he said when he returned. "It won't be long now."

"What's the holdup?" I asked.

"Oh, the…chicken breast, you know, was thick…"

I did not point out to him that no chicken breast on Earth could withstand 45 minutes of concerted heat application.

Finally my friend visited the chef, who told him the waiter had just forgotten the order. The chicken arrived soon after.

"There won't be any charge, obviously," the waiter said, "and I'm sorry again for the delay." He was clearly sticking with his breast-too-thick genetically-modified-to-be-impervious-to-heat alibi.

The bird had been deep-fried to a hardness not often found outside of diamond mines. I carved at it ineffectually, only managing to carpet the table in front of me with charred skin. I took the leftovers home in a box, though, planning to turn them over to the ASPCA as evidence of cruelty.

As I left, I let the air out of the tires of the car in the parking lot I figured looked most like a waiter's. I might have guessed wrong, but if so, the universe will tell me eventually.

. . .

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Trying to be a leftie is getting out of hand

I forgot to post this column Sunday, so this is standing in for the Wednesday Wa Pic:


I somehow strained my elbow pruning a bush last week, another sign that physical exertion in middle age is best left to characters in movies.

I normally treat my gardening like I do my taxes—as an annual chore best put off entirely until somebody notices.

(I hope my next door neighbors, who both work for the IRS, do not read this. They have seen my yard.)

The injury is to my right elbow, and I am right-handed, which means doing a lot of normal things hurts. I have been wearing one of those forearm straps which supposedly protects your elbow tendon so it can heal, but all it seems to do is carve a fascinating pattern into my flesh. The main effect is that now my elbow and my arm hurt.

So I am trying to do things left-handed that I have never done in my life before, like shave. I am a lather-and-blade guy, and wielding a razor with my left hand is like having some stranger reaching over my shoulder and shaving me.

It is not a precise process, or one for the faint of heart. Tears have been shed, and I don't just mean by my webcam audience.

Spreading peanut butter left-handed sounds easy until you realize that your left hand, after half a century spent slacking off, is basically a one-year-old made out of fingers. It slops jelly halfway across the counter, drops the knife on the floor. In seconds it ends up covered to the wrist in goo. Thankfully it doesn't need a diaper, because I could never get it off one-handed.

I look at my left hand admonishingly. "What have you been doing all these years?" I hissed to it one morning as I walked out to the car. Then, because a neighbor saw me, I had to pretend I had the tiniest iPhone ever in my palm.

"Yeah, milk! Get some milk," I called to my hand enthusiastically, then tapped it to hang up.

Sometimes that theater degree pays off in the oddest ways.

Driving one-handed is not recommended, but I do it. The slick of peanut butter makes it harder.  I have not shaved off my lips yet. I tell myself that learning to floss one-handed is a valuable life skill, like taking down a boar, only messier.

I tell myself a lot of things these days. Mostly left-handed compliments.

. . .