sports-boston-red-soximage-on-red-backrgound-boston-red-sox-wallpaper

Didn’t See That Curveball Coming

I like to shop at thrift stores. Not because I’m cheap, but…

OK, fine. It’s because I’m cheap. Though I prefer to call it “fiscally responsible.” Why should I go to Kohl’s and pay twenty bucks for a shirt when I can go to Value Village and pay $2.00 for that same shirt? I’d rather spend my hard-earned discretionary income on important things.

Like cocktails!

Chances are, that shirt has barely been worn…if it has ever been worn. Truly, you can find some great bargains in thrift stores. Considering I’m also a fan of garage sales and vintage shops, it should come as no surprise that I value thriftiness.

On a recent visit to Ye Olde Thrift Emporium, I picked up a brand new Boston Red Sox t-shirt for a song. (OK, not literally. It cost me a couple of dollars, though it would have been cool if the cashier handed it to me after I’d belted out a few verses of “Hey, Jude”).

Now, I’m not much of a baseball fan; my heart belongs to the NFL. I have always liked the Red Sox, but I couldn’t tell you where they are in the standings today if my life depended on it. Maybe they’re in first. Maybe last. Who knows? Not this guy. I am aware that they won the World Series last year, which is cool – though I never watched a single game of that series. Or the playoffs. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a baseball game, either on TV or in person, since I lived in the Bay Area. The ex and I used to ride BART up to Oakland to catch the A’s, but this was back in the day when Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were popular. America’s Favorite Pastime is not Mark’s Favorite Pastime.

Why the Red Sox, when I live about as far from Boston as you can get in the U.S.? I’m not really sure. My first baseball glove had Carl Yastrzemski’s name stitched into the inseam. He played his whole career with the Red Sox. And before Jimmy Fallon was the king of late night he was an actor, and starred in that movie with Drew Barrymore called Fever Pitch about a die-hard Red Sox fan. That was a pretty good flick. I dunno…maybe I’ve just always been drawn to the underdog.

Turns out there was one unanticipated downside to wearing a Red Sox shirt. My boss is a huge Red Sox fan. We’re talking pennants on the wall and bobble-head dolls. I hadn’t stopped to consider this when making my purchase, and it never crossed my mind until I wore it to work one day.

“Great shirt, Mark!” he exclaimed, beaming at me proudly.

“Thanks,” I said. “I knew you’d like it!” (Not really).

“Who’s on the back?”

At that point I remembered my t-shirt featured a player’s name on the back, but for the life of me I could not remember who. It started with an M, though.

“You tell me!” I replied, turning around. I’m nothing if not quick on my feet.

“Dice-K!” he exclaimed.

 

“The one and only!” I said, wondering what Andrew Dice Clay had to do with baseball.

“So, you’re a Matsuzaka fan?” he asked.

Because I’m quick on my feet, I realized that Dice-K must be a nickname for Matsuzaka, the player whose name graced the back of my shirt. Sherlock Holmes ain’t got nothin’ on me.

“Yeah,” I said. “He’s great!”

My boss literally groaned. If you want to know why, here’s the answer. It seems that Daisuke Matsuzako is one of the most detested men in Boston. The Red Sox paid big money to land this much-hyped Japanese pitcher – we’re talking over $100 million – and he turned out to be a bust. He had one good season, followed by five  disastrous ones. Fans couldn’t wait to ride him out of town once his contract was finally up.

This man is not very well liked in Boston.

This man is not very well liked in Boston.

Hmm. No wonder this t-shirt was so cheap…

At that point I just shrugged and said something like, “Well. Once upon a time, anyway.” That, at least, was the correct answer…even if it was nothing more than a lucky guess.

Even when I don’t wear the shirt – and I try not to anymore, now that I know what it means to any die-hard BoSox fan - my boss still assumes I know everything that is going on with the team. Just the other day he was talking about the game the night before, raving about some huge come-from-behind victory. “That was amazing!” I gushed, agreeing with him.

I had no idea what he was talking about.

And yesterday, he asked me, “Hey, did ‘our boys’ re-sign Lester yet?”

“Not that I’ve heard,” I responded, and there was more truth in that statement than he would have guessed.

Now, of course, it’s too late to admit that I’m not as big a baseball fan as I might have inadvertently led him to believe. Liking the Red Sox will never be the same as religiously following the Red Sox’ every pitch in every inning of every game. I just have to keep my head down whenever walking past him, and hope the topic of ‘our boys’ never comes up.

Is it football season yet??

 

 

Our new bikes.

You Say Coke, I Say Caine

Tara and I bought new bicycles over the weekend.

I hadn’t been bike shopping in a long time, so I was a bit surprised by how much had changed. (And by “how much,” I mainly mean price. These things ain’t cheap)! What can I say? I own a ten-year old Huffy. I’m hardly a two-wheel connoisseur, and considering the fact that Portland is sometimes referred to as America’s Bicycle Capital, this puts me squarely at odds with much of the populace.

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When I first decided it was time for a new bike, I figured I’d find a decent one for oh, let’s say a hundred bucks or so.

If you look up the word “delusional” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of me.

Delusional

The first thing I learned was, a good bike can set you back thousands of dollars. This was news to me! I assumed there had been some sort of technological revolution and bicycle manufacturers had added features like motors and roofs and doors, but then I realized those things already exist and are called cars. Seriously, who pays that much money for something that has a bell and a banana seat?

“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.”

The second thing I learned was, bikes no longer have bells and banana seats. Instead, they’ve got Shimano shifters and carbon cranksets and front-suspension forks and dual position hydraulic disc brakes. Hell, even the pedals are described as “Sirrus, 1.5mm Varus angle, nylon body, symmetric alloy cage, low profile bearing system, toe clip capable” on one website I was looking at.

You can’t just buy “a bike,” either. Nowadays you have to choose between various types of bicycles. There are road bikes, mountain bikes, comfort/hybrid bikes, utility bikes, cruisers, Cyclocross bikes, fixed-gear bikes, and so forth and so on. When I was a teenager, there were kid’s bikes and ten-speeds, and that was pretty much it.

Suddenly, I had to do actual research, and the whole bicycle-buying experience went from “fun” to “work.” But I did my due diligence anyway, and decided I wanted a hybrid bike. It seemed like the best of both worlds: a compromise between a mountain bike and a comfort bike, with a lightweight aluminum frame, upright sitting position, and medium gauge wheels. Hybrids are made primarily for paved roads but can also handle dirt trails. I also decided I did not want to spend thousands of dollars, which meant I was shopping for a Schwinn instead of a Specialized.

After checking out no fewer than six or seven retail outlets, I finally found what I was looking for: a Schwinn Trailways Hybrid/Comfort bike with 28″/700c tires, front suspension, spring-loaded cushioned vinyl seat, 21 gears, and a bunch of other specs that mean nothing to me but that I’m sure are impressive. Best of all, it only set me back $249.99. (Funny how I now consider that inexpensive for a bike. A month ago, it would have made me cringe).

“It’s the first machine we master as children and the one we abandon when the seductions of the automobile take over.”

Tara chose an aqua blue, vintage-looking 26″ Schwinn Delmar Cruiser. Not only is it totally retro, it’s really comfortable, too. Most Cruisers have only a single gear (no shifting required) and come with curved handlebars, padded seats, balloon tires, and coaster brakes. Hers cost less than mine. Well played, wife of mine. Well played, indeed!

So now I guess we are “bicyclists,” whatever that means exactly. We went out for a ride last night after dinner, and are even talking about commuting to work by bike now. Once in awhile, anyway. Maybe. You know how they say “it’s as easy as riding a bike”? That makes me laugh. Because figuring out gears, pedaling against the wind, and having to deal with that little seat are not exactly easy. At least not when you haven’t ridden a bike in years.

Why did the banana seat disappear, anyway? My first real bike back in the 70s had one, and that thing was comfortable. I’d be okay with bringing it back in style. I’m just sayin’.

Learning curve aside, I have to admit, riding the bike is fun! I’m glad I took the plunge.

Anybody want to buy a used Huffy?

 

Our new bikes.

Our new bikes.

scrabble-tuesday

It Happened On a Tuesday

I’ve often said Tuesday is the most unappreciated day of the week.

Think about it: Monday gets a lot of bad press because everybody dreads it – but at least they talk about it. Wednesday is Hump Day, the halfway point of the work week. People like Thursday because it’s almost Friday (and they get to post old photos on social media sites). Friday, duh. And of course, Saturday and Sunday are The Weekend. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Poor ol’ Tuesday, though. What does it have going for it? Election Day, I suppose. So, one out of every 208 Tuesdays has excitement. (Local elections aren’t nearly as fun as Presidential elections, so they don’t count). Tuesday also kicks off Mardi Gras every year, and there’s no denying that’s a fun celebration…but it can’t even revel in that particular glory, because it’s called Fat Tuesday. How unflattering! Talk about a backhanded compliment.

You never hear anyone say “yeah baby, it’s Tuesday! The second day of a miserable week!” Nothing really happens on a Tuesday if you think about it.

Tuesday gets no respect. Greeks and Spanish-speaking people consider it an unlucky day, particularly if the 13th lands on a Tuesday. Seriously. You know how we get all uptight about Friday the 13th? They feel the same way about Tuesday the 13th.  The Great Depression began on a Tuesday. Of course it did. And 9/11 happened on…well, it was neither Monday nor Wednesday.

Tuesday is so unappreciated, I’m writing a post about Tuesday on Thursday. Think about that.

But I’m actually here to say that not every Tuesday is so Tuesdayish. Take this past Tuesday; it was a downright great day! Because there I was, toiling away at work, completely oblivious to the crowd of coworkers that had stealthily gathered around my cubicle. Imagine my surprise when they suddenly yelled, “Surprise!”

“I hate to tell you, but my birthday was a few months ago,” I said.

“We’re not celebrating your birthday,” they told me. “We’re celebrating you. The boss has declared today Mark Petruska Appreciation Day.”

I thought this was a joke, but it turns out they were not joking. We left the office early and met for Happy Hour at a nearby restaurant/pub, where everybody went around the room and told me the things they appreciated most about me, while plying me with free drinks. Talk about a humbling experience. (Turns out my hard work is appreciated, but my sense of humor is appreciated more. You know what they say about all work and no play). And then, to top things off, my boss gave me a back rub. Masculine hands or not, I liked it.

That Tuesday when I was really appreciated.

That Tuesday when I was really appreciated.

This was all seriously unexpected. I told them that everybody works hard and I don’t deserve to be singled out. “Your humility is one of the things we love most about you” was the response. Embarrassed or not, I was also extremely flattered. I’ve raved about this company often, and now you know why. I have never received this kind of recognition before. Usually my employers are too busy laying me off. When one of my coworkers asked me to rate my job satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 25 (only Sarah would come up with such a wide-ranging scale), I gave it a solid 23. And I was probably holding back a little.

I counted up every job I’ve had in my life, and that number is 9. I have no idea whether that is excessive or not, but it does include retail jobs in high school and college. I’ve lasted anywhere from one month to ten years – but whether a short stint or a long stretch, none compares to this one. I’ve had good jobs and I’ve had bad jobs, but this is the first truly great job. You know what they say: it isn’t “work” when you’re doing what you love!

I once quit a job because my boss thought I was stealing fifty-pound bags of gravel from the stockroom. Ridiculous. He later apologized, but I couldn’t work for the man after that. I lost another job when the store went out of business. Twice, I was laid off when my position was eliminated. I haven’t always had the best career luck, so having a whole day dedicated in my honor is okay in my book!

And it happened on a Tuesday. There’s hope for the poor day yet.

What was your best job? How about your worst? Anything exciting ever happen to you on a Tuesday?

 

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The Accidental Sunset

Friday evening, we stumbled upon one of the most beautiful sunsets we had ever seen.

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I say “stumbled upon” because we did not set out in search of a sunset. We’d actually decided to celebrate the end of the work week with dinner at Beaches, on the Columbia River waterfront. We got there a little bit after 6:00, three hours before the sunset. A combination of factors (a few drinks, leisurely conversation) meant we were there until about 8:45. When we left, we decided to stroll along the water. Though the evening was warm and humid, the sky was beautiful. And when we rounded a corner and saw the above sight, it became stunning.

I should point out that this photo is untouched in any way. I am not averse to adding filters and touching up pics. I’ve long said photography is an art form, anyway. But this was one of those instances in which Nature had the final word. There was nothing I could add to this photo to improve it – it’s perfect in all its unadulterated glory.

As I was snapping pics with my phone, a guy walking by started making fun of me. “Ooh,” he said to his girlfriend, “Sky so pretty. Must take picture.” Or something along those lines. It’s a good thing I don’t give a damn anymore, or I might have been irritated. What’s the big deal, anyway? Everybody is snapping pics with their phones nowadays.

Maybe that was his point.

unnamedWhatever. The sky was beautiful, and I relished every second of it. As an added bonus, we had a nearly full moon hanging over the eastern horizon.

Well played, nature.

Saturday evening we headed into Portland for another celebratory dinner, this time at our favorite tapas place, Navarre. We don’t normally go out to eat at nice restaurants two days in a row, but Tara has been working hard and got an unexpected raise last week, so we figured that was a worthy enough excuse. We brought Audrey along, and that was interesting…because this was no mere burger joint. Our dinner consisted of plates of food that could have been plucked from the nearest farm: Duck. Lamb. Rabbit. She had no problem with the first two, but drew a line at the rabbit. No amount of cajoling could get her to budge, either. I raved over the tender braised meat, and the succulent flavor of the vegetables, and the heartiness of the sauce, but all to no avail.

“Come on,” we said. “It’s delicious.”

“I can’t eat anything with a cute face!” she replied.

“Just one bite,” we urged.

“Not a chance,” she insisted.

And then, as if to prove a point, she whipped out her phone and held the screen up for us to see. “How could you eat this cute little fella?!” she asked.

Rabbit-Nature-Very-Cute-HD-1024x640Ouch. That’s a low blow.

Thankfully, by that point the rabbit was probably half digested already. Otherwise, I might have had a few qualms myself.

And then afterwards, we found ourselves scarfing down blue cheese truffles from Pix Patisserie. Could the food we consumed on Saturday have been any weirder?! (For the record, they were amazing. The saltiness and creaminess of the blue cheese was offset by the sweet chocolate. The combination worked surprisingly well).

Speaking of weird food, we had family friends from Hawaii visiting a week ago, Dave and Elaine. While we were sitting around chatting, Dave asked us all, “What is the weirdest thing you ever ate?”

Great question. I could have said kangaroo, or tongue, or chocolate covered insects, or ibex. In the end, I went with alligator, though nowadays that really isn’t very exotic. Audrey has had cow testicles. Dave answered with goat brains. It was quite the stimulating dinner conversation, let me tell you.

How ’bout you? What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?

 

Photo Bombs

Last year, one of my blogging buddies – the estimable (and soon-to-be-wed) Jess Witkins – “introduced” me to a friend of hers on Facebook named Todd Youngman. She thought our senses of humor were similar, and we might get along. Jess and I have read each other a long time now; I think of her as a friend, no less so than any of my “real world” acquaintances. Which is the way of the blogging world, at least in my experience. I happened to marry one of my blogging friends, after all! Because I respect Jess’s opinion, Todd and I did become friends. She was right: he’s a funny guy. In fact, he’s a literal comedian who lives in Rochester. He has performed with comics like Josh Blue, whom I have long admired. I quickly grew to look forward to Todd’s Facebook posts.

One of Todd’s trademarks is posting Photoshopped pictures of himself online. These are really good, too. Case in point:

183539_4085117960091_793152227_nThere was that time he met the President…

1004625_10200720126979347_1409788961_nHe even wound up starring in a very successful drama series on AMC.

62885_10201122213351255_1343993220_nAs you can tell, Todd’s Photoshop skills are quite impressive. He blends himself in seamlessly. Some of the pics are so good, I believe for a split second they’re real. Maybe Todd is like a real-life Forrest Gump, appearing with many popular and historical figures throughout time.

Having seen his Photoshopped pictures, I was inspired to try and create my own. The only problem? I don’t have Photoshop. In my defense, that shit’s expensive! But even if I could afford it, my shots would pale in comparison to his. The fact is, I’m just not good at that stuff. In fact, it’s pretty clear that I am The World’s Worst Photoshopper.

Don’t believe me? The proof is in the slideshow.

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I’ll be the first to admit, these are bad. Really bad. I could blame it on the fact that I’m using inferior programs (there’s only so much you can do with Face In Hole), but in honesty, I just think my design skills suck. Maybe I don’t have the patience to carefully trim out the background or seamlessly blend the parts into a cohesive whole. It’s a good thing I’m not on the bomb squad. I’d be like,

Snip the red wire where it intersects with the blue one? I ain’t got time for that…this is close enouBOOM!!

My photography skills aren’t bad, I’m just no good at layering.

Which also explains why I can’t build a decent burrito to save my life.

And yet, I keep trying. Mama didn’t raise no quitters! (She didn’t raise no Photoshopping geniuses either). Try as I might though, I can’t convince my friends I appeared on this year’s Oscars telecast…

45c867de619112328315(And no, I have not been invited to next year’s Academy Awards. Ellen says I ruined this otherwise happy shot. Whatever! I don’t like Los Angeles anyway, so the joke’s on her).

Besides, I have bigger fish to fry. Barack’s got me running all over the world with him…

16f587de619d27331ddFor the record, he’s got a pretty nice backhand.

I even once appeared in a now famous post-election photograph celebrating an unexpected voting triumph. I looked on smugly from the comfort of my wheelchair while showing the world the Chicago Daily Tribune got their headline wrong.

DeweyYeah, my Photoshopping skills suck. But at least I’m having fun with the whole thing!

redblue

So What?

Our closest star is a cruel and indiscriminate beast, inflicting its wrath upon my hapless skin with wild abandon.

Guess who got a sunburn yesterday?

Aside from that and an array of mosquito bites, my weekend was pretty stellar. Thursday night we went to the movies and saw Edge of Tomorrow. Think Groundhog Day meets Saving Private Ryan meets Alien. Neither of us are Tom Cruise fans, but we both really enjoyed this film. Friday was the epitome of a lazy day. We did some drinking; listened to music; drank; cooked some food; drank; watched fireworks; and drank. Years ago the 4th of July was a very big deal; everybody in the neighborhood where I lived would get together and set off fireworks for hours. Nowadays, it’s a much more relaxed occasion – not to mention cheap. Plenty of people in our apartment complex stockpiled fireworks and were lighting them off that night, so we got a front row seat to a free display. Saturday was another lazy day – we went out to breakfast, ran some errands, then went to my parents’ house, where some family friends from Hawaii were visiting. Had a nice dinner and a great time catching up. I hadn’t seen Dave and Elaine in 11 years! Sunday, we hit the road at 8:00 AM for a drive north to Olympia, where we met up with Anne and Tara’s nephew, Anthony. We hadn’t seen them since early April. I’m quite fond of Washington’s state capital, and decided a long time ago I’d like to live there. It’s a little less than two hours north of Portland, one hour south of Seattle, and is a good-sized town, very scenic, with lots of attractions. I even sent away for relocation information years ago, but then life happened and the move never became a reality. Still, it’s a nice place to meet up, and we spent a few hours in Heritage Park playing with the kiddo, walked around Percival Landing, found a little cafe where we grabbed some lunch, and then parted ways. Today, it’s back to reality.

Weekend recaps are fine and dandy, but what I really want to talk about today is caring about what others think of you. Or more to the point, NOT caring. I discovered a new blog over the weekend called Wait But Why. It’s a remarkably well-written and thought-provoking site that delves into some pretty heavy topics, but in a lighthearted way that includes lots of charts and crude drawings. It covers science, psychology, history, and more. One of the posts was called Taming The Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring About What Other People Think, and was nothing short of eye-opening. The point of the article is, humans evolved with an over-the-top obsession of caring what others thought about them because, back in 50,000 B.C., we all lived in tribes and social approval was a necessary component for survival. Nowadays, not so much – but it’s still there, hardwired into our brains and our psyches. And it’s an incredible waste of emotion.

Our bodies and minds are built to live in a tribe in 50,000BC, which leaves modern humans with a number of unfortunate traits, one of which is a fixation with tribal-style social survival in a world where social survival is no longer a real concept.

This is something I’ve long felt. Sure, it’s important to care enough about your job that your boss won’t fire you, and you had better care about your driving lest you run somebody over. Those things are basic. But by and large I’ve never really subscribed to the notion that it’s necessary to please everybody all of the time. In fact, it’s impossible. I have always celebrated my joie de vivre, my zest for life and talent for not taking it too seriously, but like most others I do find myself caring what other people think about me. But that has been gradually changing, and after reading the above referenced blog post, I’m more committed than ever to doing things for me. Not because they’re the socially acceptable or politically correct thing to do, either. In fact, some of them likely won’t be. But why should I care? It’s more important to listen to your Authentic Voice, that complex, constantly evolving, internal voice with its own moral code, likes and dislikes, topics of interest, etc. Back in those tribal days the Authentic Voice often lived in quiet obscurity, and that worked because conformity was the key to acceptance and survival. Nowadays, it’s dangerous. Letting others influence your behavior at the expense of listening to your Authentic Voice makes you extremely susceptible to criticism, rejection, and all kinds of emotional pain. Worst of all, it turns you into a sheep. You might find your political opinions, for instance, are merely Jon Stewart’s talking points. Or your disdain for Walmart is there because hating Walmart is the fashionable thing to do.

Don’t worry, my hatred for Walmart is real.

I owe a lot of the way I think to my wife. She is the type who will wear pajamas to the grocery store without a second thought. At first I was aghast over this practice, but now I realize it just doesn’t matter. Tara is very much into the whole “don’t worry, you’ll never see these people again” mindset. And while that is sometimes false, I see now that the true point is, even if you DO see those people again – so what?

Realizing you are not the center of the universe is liberating.

Realizing you are not the center of the universe is liberating.

So what? That is a great motto for life. So what if that one coworker thinks I’m an ass? So what if my neighbor laughs at me when I crank up ABBA? So what if that Facebook friend hates my anti-gun sentiment? It doesn’t matter. I am me and to pretend otherwise would be the ultimate betrayal.

Friday night, we were walking to 7-Eleven, and passed by a grassy incline. “We should roll down the hill!” Tara declared. Audrey looked at us with horror. There was another couple approaching, and she wouldn’t be caught dead doing such a childishly immature thing in front of them. But Tara and I did. The other couple laughed at us, but we didn’t care. It was simply a fun and spontaneous thing to do. (In the interest of full disclosure, we might have been drunk).

I had Audrey read the article above over the weekend, and she was astounded. Said it would change her life. So I asked her afterwards, if we were walking to 7-Eleven tonight, the same couple was approaching, and we decided to roll down that hill, would she join us? Without missing a beat, she said yes.

That was actually a proud moment for me, as her father. Teenagers are the ultimate “I-won’t-do-that-because-other-people-might-laugh-at-me” people. But oh, if they would only learn that while they think they are the center of the universe, in reality few people ever pay them any mind. We all think everybody else in the room is thinking about us, silently judging us if we don’t act a certain way. In reality, everybody else in the room is thinking that everybody else in the room is thinking about them, silently judging them. What a silly, narcissistic notion. Back in 50,000 B.C., if your tribe thought you were odd they’d kick you out, and you’d probably be devoured by a sabertooth tiger. Today, here’s what will happen:

Absolutely nothing.

That’s a lesson we could all benefit from.

 

World Cup 2014

Carnival and Kangaroos

Oops, I did it again.

Subconsciously, I’ve been on a quest to simplify my life. I feel there are too many distractions in the modern world, and they’re getting in the way of the truly important things. Excellent case in point: I love reading, but usually only have time for that before bed. Up until a month ago, whenever I went to bed, I’d grab my phone and catch up on Words With Friends. Twenty minutes later, my eyes would be growing heavy, and I’d find myself too tired to read. Well, that was no bueno, even if I had just nailed a triple word score for 47 points.  The solution? Quit playing WWF. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game – but it was too much of a distraction. So I simplified my life by eliminating it from my daily routine. Now, I have plenty of time to read!

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.

Simplifying your life, it turns out, is addictive. Thrilled with all the extra reading time, I cut back in other areas. I update Facebook less frequently. I cancelled our series recording for Hell’s Kitchen because, quite frankly, we were only watching it out of habit. Hell, I even stopped showering on a daily basis, because who needs to be clean every single day (and now I’ve got tons of extra time in the mornings)!

OK, I’m kidding about the no-showering part. But when I saw this new theme featured on WordPress, I was intrigued. It’s decidedly less cluttered than my last theme, and puts the focus on the content. It’s actually designed for “longform” writing (that is, people who can’t shut up – like me). It’s definitely a very minimal design: there are no widget areas on the side, no extraneous links, no tagline, no bright colors. You have to click on a funny-looking button on the left to find the About Me section and other pages, and if you scroll all the way to the bottom, there are a few links to archived posts, my blogroll, my book, etc. But I did away with a lot of extras, like the calendar of posts and Instagram pics. Simplicity, remember? I’ll try it out for awhile and see how I like it.

Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy.

In the meantime, let’s talk about soccer! Because everybody else is. It seems that this year’s World Cup has grabbed the attention of Americans like no other. I’ll admit, I have not been immune to soccer fever, either. It helps that my office has a flat screen television mounted to the wall, one that has been tuned to every World Cup match for the past couple of weeks. It also helps that one of Portland’s nicknames is Soccer City, USA. We’ve even got our own Major League Soccer team, the Timbers – and a legion of rowdy fans supporting them. It’s hard not to get caught up in the frenzy.

I first discovered the beauty of soccer eight years ago, during the 2006 World Cup. That was a very challenging summer for me; my first marriage was crumbling, and I needed a distraction. Bored at home one day, I was flipping through the channels and landed on one of the World Cup matches. Brazil vs. Australia. Had you mentioned those countries to me earlier, my mind would have turned to Carnival and koalas, not soccer. 40 minutes in, and the score was tied at zero. How typical, I thought with disdain. No wonder soccer has never caught on in this country. I reached for the remote control, but something stopped me. Namely, the action on the field. I quickly realized the sheer athleticism these players demonstrated, and how exciting the game truly was. Those who deride the lack of scoring are missing the big picture: the gameplay itself. By the end of the match, I was hooked. Even worse, I started calling it futbol, complete with annoying accent. I ended up catching five or six games during that summer. In fact, it was during one of those matches when I told my mom, who had stopped by the house to drop something off,  that I was getting a divorce. For that reason, soccer will always be inextricably linked with change and growth…at least to me.

Four long years went by, but when the World Cup rolled around again in 2010, I found myself every bit as captivated. That was the Year of the Vuvuzela. The next year MLS came to Portland, and I would periodically watch Timbers games. And now, the World Cup has returned once more. Am I still just as entranced by the sport as before? Well, here’s a shot of my desk at work yesterday, during the USA-Belgium match.

World Cup 2014

You call that a lack of productivity? I call it multi-tasking. Hell, my boss should reward me for displaying initiative (figuring out how to live stream the game to my second monitor) and a can-do attitude (watching the game while simultaneously working). Best of all? That was the Univision feed. Meaning the entire broadcast was in Spanish. Which I don’t speak a word of. So, I guess you could say I still have more than a passing interest in the game.

Ultimately, the U.S. lost yesterday’s match in overtime, but it was a hard-fought battle full of action and suspense. Great play, guys. Let’s make a real run for the top in 2018.

I hate when this happens!

Time For a Grope Hug

Last night, I redefined the word “embarrassing” when I accidentally groped a female friend.

Yes, it was an accident. I swear. One that I immediately confessed to Tara.

We had met up with our friends, Mark and Kara, for dinner. (If you think it’s a bit odd that Mark and Tara hang out with Mark and Kara, you are not alone. Audrey is still skeptical they actually exist. And the similarities don’t end with our names. Tara and Kara are the same age, and both are with guys in their mid-40s named Mark. Whoa. Mind blown). Anyway, we’d gone to Ava Gene’s in Portland to celebrate (the other) Mark’s birthday. This is the type of place that is dressy by Portland standards, meaning you actually have to wear long pants. It was also named Restaurant of the Year by Portland Monthly so, as you can imagine, it’s quite popular. And quite delicious. And quite expensive. It takes at least three weeks to get reservations (ours were made over a month ago), and even then you’re bound to end up seated at an odd time. Like 8:00. Which is fine; we’re used to eating later, and it was Saturday night. No harm done. The food was very good, even if we couldn’t pronounce half of what we ordered, and the conversation lively. We didn’t get out of there until after 10 PM. So we said our goodbyes, and hugged Kara. Only when I did so, my left arm was up around her shoulder, but my right arm somehow ended up lower. I think I was aiming for her waist, but Kara is pretty tall, so my sense of spatial relations was all off. I thought I was patting her back but discovered I had a handful of ass instead.

I hate when this happens!

I hate when this happens!

This is one of those things that could only happen to me.

When you find yourself unexpectedly cupping somebody’s ass, you have to be cool about it. Recoiling in horror is rude. But lingering sends the wrong message. So I gave it another little pat, pretending I didn’t know what I was touching, and hoping all along I wouldn’t get slapped.

Fortunately, I did not. Neither of us said anything. On the way to our car I told Tara what had happened, and naturally she laughed at me while opining that the entire incident was “hilarious.”

“Oh, the perils of being short,” she said.

“I’m not short!” I said defensively, looking my wife directly in the eye while standing on my tiptoes. “It’s just that SHE is TALL.”

OK, I wasn’t really standing on my tiptoes. I do have a couple of inches on Tara (though she’s right in that the NBA would never have come knocking on my door).

So, I would like to publicly apologize to Kara for the accidental groping. It was purely unintentional, I swear. And I hope she doesn’t actually read this blog post (though she has visited on occasion, so you never know).

The honey mascarpone gelato, by the way, was smooth, creamy, and delicious. Because I want to end this story on a sweet note.

Mmm. Gelato...

Mmm. Gelato…

At least I wasn't THAT guy!

Life is the Ultimate Sitcom

At the grocery store last week, I beheld a wondrous sight.

unnamed

You might recall, just a couple of months ago, how I lamented the fact that the price of limes had skyrocketed. This was due to a combination of factors including bad weather, a citrus blight and the influence of the Mexican cartel. Well, good news: the weather has improved, the rash has cleared up, and the cartel is back to selling drugs instead of poaching fruit. All is right with the world!

And the price of limes has fallen dramatically. During the height of this epidemic, a single lime cost 99 cents. Now, you can get five for the same price. Hallelujah! The lime shortage has ended. Things were looking pretty dire for awhile there, folks. Bartenders were leaving them out of drinks (or jacking up the prices of margaritas), and airlines were dropping them from their beverage services. For a gin and tonic lovin’ fool such as myself, this was terrible. I am glad this crisis has been averted and everything is back to normal.

First world problems, don’tcha know.

High on School

Audrey’s last day of school was Friday, which means she is now technically a freshman. Hard to believe my youngest will be starting high school in the fall! It seems like just yesterday she was down on all fours, getting into things she wasn’t supposed to and spitting up everywhere.

Wait. That was yesterday. But it was the cat.

Anyway. Audrey is mostly excited over the prospect of high school, but a little apprehensive, as might be expected. “Nobody likes freshmen,” she said the other day, looking to me for guidance and supportive words of wisdom.

“That’s for sure,” I said. “You are so going to get stuffed into a locker on your first day.”

Of course, I was jesting. For one thing, lockers are about the size of shoeboxes now – if they even exist at all. Unless she’s got some mad yoga skills I don’t know about, she has nothing to fear.

“Were you popular in high school?” she asked me.

At least I wasn't THAT guy!

At least I wasn’t THAT guy!

Ha! Popularity was something I aspired to, but never quite reached. I came close by association a couple of times, but I was always more a Cameron than a Ferris. Turns out chicks dig the star quarterback more than the editor of the school newspaper. Scoring touchdowns is all well and good, I suppose, but how were Johnny Football Hero’s grammar skills? I might not have been able to complete a flea flicker pass to save my life, but I could conjugate the shit out of verbs. I will never understand why cheerleaders didn’t fawn over that, but hey – their loss! I may never have ascended the peak of Mount Popularity, but I didn’t belong to any of the other well-established high school cliques, either. I wasn’t a loser, a loner, a stoner, or a dweeb. I just kind of…was. And in high school, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For the most part, I enjoyed my high school years. I regret never going to the prom, and wish I’d participated in more extracurricular activities, but overall it was a good experience. I’m sure Audrey will do just fine.

Dream a Little Dream of Me

Saturday morning when we woke up, Tara said she’d had a dream about me the night before.

“Ooh, yeah, baby!” I replied.
“I hate to burst your bubble, Fabio,” she said.* “But it wasn’t that kind of dream.”
“Oh? Anything interesting happen in it?”
“Yes. You died.”

It’s never a good thing when your wife dreams of becoming a widow. She “assured” me that I had “only been shot to death” in this dream. Huh. I wasn’t real assured, as a matter of fact, even when she pointed out that the smoking gun belonged to a neighbor. I was actually pretty shaken. I told Audrey about the dream, and she said, “That’s funny. I dreamed you were stabbed to death last night!”

What the hell?!

Normally I like it when people dream about me. It makes me feel popular (see above: was not popular in high school). But if they’re going to dream about my impending death, I’d rather not show up in their dreams, you know what I’m saying?

In the Interest of Full Disclosure

Regarding the asterisk (*) above…

Tara didn’t really call me Fabio. I might, on occasion, “creatively enhance” our conversations in order to make them more appealing to blog readers. It’s like in sitcoms, when people have really witty conversations filled with snappy dialogue. Real life isn’t like that! But how great would it be if we all had a room full of writers in our brains, dishing out amazing lines for us day and night? For that matter, what if whenever we walked into a room for the first time, people started applauding? And what if strangers laughed every time we said something funny?

Life. It’s the ultimate sitcom.

dewey-defeats-truman

Maybe Dewey DID Defeat Truman

I found out recently that people in Africa are walking around wearing shirts emblazoned with Denver Broncos Super Bowl XLVIII Champions on ‘em. Which I thought was a bit odd, seeing how the Broncos got their asses kicked by the Seahawks in this year’s Super Bowl.

Sniff.

(It’s okay. I can admit it: losing 43-8 is pretty bad. But we diehard fans stick by our teams through thick and thin).

I wish...

I wish…

Anyway, it turns out the NFL orders up championship gear for both teams before they ever take a snap. This way, fans can purchase mementos immediately following the game. It’s called capitalizing on the momentum. Or greed. Whatever. The losing team’s stuff is boxed up and sent to a warehouse after the game, and eventually shipped to Africa, where it is donated to people who could otherwise never afford such high-quality clothing. And, presumably, such high-quality bobble head dolls. Apparently, this practice has been going on for years, and is not just confined to football. Which means somewhere in Tanzania or Uganda, there is an alternate universe where the Broncos are Super Bowl champions this year. It occurs to me that, should aliens happen to land in the middle of Ghana, they are going to have a skewed perception of our society. They’ll board the Mother Ship thinking the Miami Heat won their 3rd straight NBA Finals, O.J. Simpson was convicted of murder, California Chrome became the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years, Dallas Buyer’s Club won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Winklevoss brothers run Facebook, Dewey really did defeat Truman, dodos are popular zoo attractions, Beta tapes still rule, we won the Vietnam War, women can’t vote, Goonies sometimes do say die, Bernie Madoff was a shrewd investor, Pete Best was the “popular” Beatle, the Soviet Union won the Space Race and the 1980 Olympic gold medal in hockey, Justin Guarini was the first American Idol, Atlantis is a popular vacation destination, and ATMs dispense a lot of two-dollar bills. Actually, ray guns or not, they’d probably flee in terror believing dinosaurs still roam the earth. dewey-defeats-truman

Hey, it’s not so far-fetched. My ex-wife is fond of rewriting history all the time.

Do you suppose it’s possible that parallel universes really exist? I know the idea is farfetched, but I think about it sometimes. Perhaps every single decision we ever make in life is reflected in a separate, alternative reality full of entirely different outcomes. Take Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken. You know the one:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -

I took the one less traveled by.

What if Frost’s protagonist had taken the road more traveled by? How different would his life have been then?

Everybody can relate to that. Who hasn’t thought about how different their life would be if only they’d done this instead of that? I ponder those things all the time. I’m not just talking about wishing I’d invested in Apple stock in 1980 (though, yeah – that would’ve been pretty cool). I mean those big, life-changing events that might have seemed insignificant at the time. Like, what if I never had given my ex that second chance? Neither Rusty nor Audrey would have been born. Or suppose I’d been hired by the utility company for a crappy call center job when my unemployment checks were about to run out and I was desperate? I probably never would have ended up with this dream job. There are so many variables in life, it boggles the mind to think of the many different consequences to our actions.

People talk about Heaven and Hell, Olympus and Valhalla, and they’re all different examples of alternate universes. Much like Dorothy’s trip to Oz. Clarence the angel showed George Bailey a world where he had never been born in It’s A Wonderful Life. Even Plato pondered this, and he was a pretty smart dude. I think it’s an idea not entirely without merit.

Deep, man. Deep…