I’d Rather See Balki

Have you heard that Full House revival might be in the works?

Also: why?

Don’t call me a hater, but I’m really not interested in seeing Jesse & The Rippers twenty years later. And if the last thing Dave Coulier ever did publicly was stomp on Alanis Morissette’s heart (inspiring her revenge anthem “You Oughtta Know” in the process), I could live with that. I simply have no desire to revisit the Tanner clan, especially when so many other deserving sitcoms languish in the television graveyard.

If you’re going to revive anything, how about Seinfeld? Jerry and the gang never got a proper sendoff, anyway. I’d love to see what schemes Kramer would come up with a decade and a half into the 21st century. Besides, we could use some fresh new catchphrases. Think of all the great contributions Seinfeld made to the English language! Spongeworthy. Yadda yadda. “Master of my domain.” Low talkers. Close talkers. Festivus. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I don’t think there’s ever been a show so consistently fresh and funny. I’d love more Jerry!

I’d also be down for a Friends revival, even if the only characters returning were Joey and Chandler. They could do a lot with 22 minutes every week. While we’re at it, let’s bring back Cheers. Or Family Ties. Or Charles In Charge.

Just kidding about that last one. Although…

Hell, even Perfect Strangers is more deserving of a second shot, in my opinion. There’s no such thing as too much Balki.

I kinda miss this guy.

I kinda miss this guy.

So, we leave this evening for Nevada. I’ve been prepping Audrey in advance by giving her some tips on how to fit in. Like, for instance, she has to call a creek a “crick” and the glove compartment is actually a “jockey box.” And scones as we know them here are nothing like the scones out there (or the scones in jolly ol’ England, either). She has spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out how swaggy to look. I had to break it to her that Nevadans don’t give much thought to swag…at least not those in the part of the state we’ll be visiting. Ahh, teenagers.

Yesterday I was packing, and realized I’ve really got it down to a science after so much traveling these past few years. At one point, I even found myself piling up clothes in the order in which they will be worn.

“Hey, Audrey!” I called. “Do you pack your clothes in order?”

“Are you kidding?” she responded. “I’ve got two pages of notes with detailed information on what I will be wearing, and when.”

I didn’t believe her, but…

unnamed_2

She even listed items that were currently in the washing machine as she was compiling her notes. And she’s got outfits broken down by day and night. I’m beginning to think my daughter might be a little bit OCD.

Tonight, we’ll hit Baker City, Oregon. And then tomorrow it’s on to Ely.

Bon voyage!

Get Crazy With the Cheez Whiz

This crazy, busy summer continues to speed right along.

It’s hard to believe we will be in Nevada this week. We’re driving to Ely to visit family and friends. And bringing along Audrey, who is in for a serious case of culture shock because she has never experienced small town life before. We’re leaving Wednesday after work, driving to Baker City, Oregon for the night, and then staying three days in Ely and another in Elko before returning home on Monday.

In case any burglars out there are thinking of taking advantage of the public fact that we’ll be out of town, I need to warn you that we’ve got a very large and very hungry animal guarding the place in our absence.

unnamed

Her bite is worse than her bark, so don’t go gettin’ any bright ideas, okay?

Also right around the corner: Audrey begins high school next week! Where did August go? For that matter, where did May, June, and July go? For that matter, where did her entire freakin’ childhood go?!?!

When August rolled around, I mentioned it was going to be a very busy month. It has definitely lived up to its billing! Last week, we got to see Beck in concert at McMenamins Edgefield Amphitheater in Troutdale. This outdoor venue east of Portland is gorgeous, and the weather was perfect that evening. We had a great time; the self-described Loser put on one hell of a show, with a set that nicely represented his two decades of music. Can you believe Beck has been putting out records for 20 years now? I’m really digging his new album, by the way. I like mellow, introspective Beck more than “get crazy with the Cheez Whiz” Beck. The highlight was probably his duet with opening act Jenny Lewis, a cover of Rod Stewart’s cheesy disco classic “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.” Pretty much everybody was swaying or singing along to that little ditty.

Great venue for a summer evening concert! (Courtesy of edgefieldconcerts.com)

Great venue for a summer evening concert! (Courtesy of edgefieldconcerts.com)

The evening before, our Sacramento newlywed friends, Heidi and Ross, dropped by for a visit. I suppose the 580 miles between us means it wasn’t “dropping by” so much as making a planned trip north and coming over while in town, but still, we appreciated seeing them again. Tara made a fantastic dinner (roast pork loin and homemade mac ‘n cheese) and we spent hours catching up over wine. Our mutual friend Chris was there, as well. Everybody seemed to really like our new apartment, which was nice to hear.

Speaking of, I was out running errands yesterday and found myself in the vicinity of my old townhouse, so I made a detour through the complex and drove by the place. I don’t know what I was expecting to feel, but it ended up being surprisingly little. It felt familiar, I suppose, but no longer home. It makes me realize how quickly we adapt to change.

Beck. (Courtesy of the LA Times).

Beck. (Courtesy of the LA Times).

A similar thing happened years ago. In February 2007, I had ordered some CDs from Amazon (shows you how dated this story is!) and realized when I got the shipping confirmation that they were going to my old address – the house my ex and I had sold five months earlier while going through a divorce. So I drove over there one afternoon and knocked on the door. That was strange enough. When the new owner answered and invited me inside, that really felt odd. It was like stepping through a time portal and being spit out into the past. Except for the shiny stainless steel refrigerator in the kitchen and the scent of Vietnamese food permeating the air, the place was remarkably the same as when I had left it. Same ugly green carpeting, same Pergo flooring, same wooden pocket doors. And yet, it felt like a lifetime had passed since I had last set foot in there. In some regards, it felt like I had never actually lived there. I blogged about the experience, and wrote,

 It felt weird inside there, and natural, at the same time. As if both sentiments could coexist. The house didn’t make me feel happy or sad, but rather ambivalent. There’s a phrase about a house not being a home, and even though it feels like a bad cliche, it’s true. Did I have happy memories there? Of course I did. And last year, I had many sad memories, as well. I guess perhaps those conflicting emotions cancel one another out. I thanked him for allowing me inside…got back into my car and drove home. To my real home this time.

In many ways, the same sentiment holds true today. Even if I had been invited inside my old townhouse yesterday – and I should point out the same amount of time has passed since we moved out, 5 months – I would feel like it is no longer home.

By the way, the current occupant, according to my former neighbors, is a strange and paranoid man who has turned one of the kids’ bedrooms into “a gun room” and the other is devoted to video games. He takes the battery out of his cell phone every night because he believes the government is spying on him. And, he’s deciding which breed of large and vicious dog to acquire as a pet.

Yeah, the neighbors miss us…

Peace, Love & Reincarnation

I’ve been watching a documentary series on CNN called The SixtiesIt’s a ten-part look at the influence the 1960s had on American culture and society, with episodes devoted to topics such as the Cold War, JFK’s assassination, the Space Race, and Vietnam. It covers the gamut from television and politics to sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.

And I find it completely fascinating.

I was alive in the 60s, albeit barely. A whopping eight months of my life existed in that decade. Yet, I find its influence touches so many different aspects of my life, I’m amazed.

I identify with the 70s and 80s more. I suppose that’s natural. My parents tell me I witnessed the moon landing, but for some strange reason I can’t remember a single moment. I suppose that might have something to do with the fact that I wasn’t quite three months old when it happened. While Neil Armstrong was making one giant leap for mankind, I was spitting up on my mom’s shoulder. I was a real underachiever in comparison that summer.

gap0030-01-01-fpDespite my limited engagement with the turbulent decade, I am inexplicably drawn toward it. I have been fascinated with the Vietnam War for as long as I can remember. And Woodstock. Peace signs, hippies, tie-dye. My dream vehicle is a VW Bus (and a very specific one, at that; I want the split-windshield version, which was only manufactured until 1967). I love psychedelic music. Janis, Jimi, The Doors, all are  faves. Harvest gold and avocado green appliances. Beaded curtains. Retro furnishings. Tang. All of these scream me.

We were all watching the season finale the other night. It focused on the counterculture movement: hippies, LSD, psychedelic rock, Haight-Ashbury, the Summer of Love, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Woodstock and free love. While Tara and I verbally embraced the ideals of the hippie movement and appreciated the causes they were championing, all Audrey saw was a bunch of long-haired, dirty drug addicts. Which led to a big discussion on idealism, individualism, and the extreme divides that sometimes split generations.hippie-history-bus

I tried to explain as best I could, from the perspective of an outsider looking in (my birth year notwithstanding), how the countercultural revolution was an honest attempt to shake up the status quo. That it wasn’t just an excuse to get stoned and make love to everybody you met. Those were just perks! (I kid, I kid). Hippie ideals espoused cultural diversity, spirituality, sexual freedom, environmentalism, heightened consciousness, and self-sufficiency. They rejected materialism, opposed war, and believed mainstream society was ultimately flawed and corrupt. Their goal was to develop a Utopian society free from constraint.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s hard not to appreciate that type of thinking.

Here’s where this post gets fun…

A while back, my blogging friend Ron wrote a post about reincarnation. OK, it was 2008. A long while back. He had an experience while visiting Japan in which he felt such an overpowering sense of deja vu, he began to question whether he had once lived there and taken part in the rituals he was observing. I can relate, because I sometimes think I have lived a past life, too. I have long had this unshakeable idea, crazy as it sounds, that I was a soldier who died in the Vietnam War sometime in the 60s.

I will be the first to admit this sounds far out (and not in the “groovy” sense of the phrase). I am one of the least spiritual people in the world, and don’t have a religious bone in my body. But maybe that very ambivalence is what allows me to be so open to the idea of reincarnation. Because I do believe in an afterlife, just not a Pearly Gates version. And if there can be an afterlife, why not a beforelife, too? If the body is merely a vessel for the soul, couldn’t that soul travel to different bodies?

About ten years ago, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall came to my hometown. On a dark and dreary autumn evening plagued by a persistent light rain and bitter chill, I made a pilgrimage to the wall. I just felt drawn to it. My then-wife was not interested in going, but in truth, I did not want her there anyway. When I got there, I ran my fingers over many of the names chiseled in stone. It felt like I was searching for something, though I had no idea what. My sense of deja vu was very powerful that night.

I just…I don’t know. It’s a weird thing, and I feel funny writing about it. Almost like it’s too personal to share. Many reading this will find the idea ludicrous. I guess at this point, I really don’t care. All I’m saying is, if this nagging idea is somehow true, it would explain a lot about my life. Who I am and what I believe in.

If you’ve ever read stories about individuals who have reported past life experiences, they are pretty fascinating. A lot of times, children have knowledge of people, places, and events they otherwise should have no way of knowing about. Here is one such story I find particularly compelling.

AluminumCansReincarnate

Three Degrees of Kevin Bacon

I was driving in the car yesterday, and a Kenny Loggins song came on. I started singing along because sometimes you gotta cut loose. It was actually Kenny’s duet with Stevie Nicks, “Whenever I Call You Friend.”In that moment, I had a sudden epiphany. You know that Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, in which most people can be linked to the famous Hollywood actor via six or fewer acquaintances? I can actually get there in three! Because I work with Kenny Loggins’ nephew.

It’s true. Kenny Loggins is the uncle of Bruce, one of my company’s marketing coordinators. He is so nonchalant about it, too. “Yeah, we got together for a barbecue at Uncle Kevin’s house last July. He made great ribs.”

He made great ribs?! That’s fine and dandy, but I want to know other things. Like, when he bought the meat, did he take the back roads or the highway to the Danger Zone? Did he get to meet the fake gopher in Caddyshack? And did Jim Messina contribute potato salad?

So, my 3 links to Kevin Bacon:

  1. I work with Bruce.
  2. Bruce’s uncle is Kenny Loggins.
  3. Kenny Loggins recorded the title song for the movie Footloose starring Kevin Bacon.

Whoa.

And then, I got really excited because I’ve always liked Stevie Nicks and I couldn’t help but wonder if Bruce knows her. Think about it. Kenny Loggins recorded the above-mentioned song with Stevie, so conceivably they might still pal around. Hell, maybe she was there at that bbq last summer, twirling around in her white flowing gown while scarfing down deviled eggs.

I so want to sit down at a picnic table next to Stevie Nicks and chat about music while eating deviled eggs. I’d tell her how much I love songs like “Rihannon” and “Edge of Seventeen,” but I’d have to playfully chastise her because thunder does not only happen when it’s raining. Minor quibble.

Because of good ol’ Uncle Kenny, I also realized there are only 4 degrees of separation between me and Tom Petty. I work with Bruce > Bruce’s uncle is Kenny Loggins > Kenny Loggins recorded a duet with Stevie Nicks > Stevie Nicks recorded several songs with Tom Petty.

Holy shit. I could be the next Heartbreaker! If Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers ever add a tambourine section, that is. Too bad I couldn’t have parlayed this close association into backstage passes for the Tom Petty concert we attended Tuesday evening.

If only I’d heard that Kenny Loggins song a couple of days earlier…

It’s pretty cool that I work with somebody who has a famous relative. Bruce isn’t the only person in the office with an interesting story. One guy played football in college, was drafted by the New England Patriots, landed an acting role on the recently-cancelled television show Leverage, and – in his spare time – is a fire dancer. Another one plays in a rock ‘n roll cover band (we’re actually going to check him out tonight). One woman raises chickens and quail and sells their eggs at a farmer’s market on weekends; another is married to a news anchor for the local CBS affiliate. What’s that famous line? There are eight million stories in the naked city? I can believe it, considering there are four or five good ones in this office alone.

So, how many degrees of separation lie between you and Kevin Bacon? Is Stevie Nicks really a witch? Do you work with anybody interesting? Isn’t this the catchiest song ever?!

unnamed

She’s a Good Girl, Crazy ‘Bout Elvis

And, I can cross another name off my rock ‘n roll bucket list.

When Tara moved here in 2012 and we started going to concerts, I named three classic rock artists I wanted to see before I died: Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. All were long-time favorites of mine, and their music entertained and inspired me.

In the span of a little over two years, I have now seen them all.

That, in itself, is kind of remarkable given that all three performers are well into their 60s. After all, time is finite. How long can they keep on rockin’? Bruce looked like he could easily last another decade. Then again, he is The Boss. Bob remained seated through much of the show, but that didn’t stop him from plowing through his hits with gusto. Tom was definitely more spry. From the opening chords of “So You Want To Be a Rock ‘n Roll Star” through hits like “Into The Great Wide Open,” “Refugee,” “Free Fallin’,” “Learning to Fly” and “You Wreck Me,” he brought it. The new material was pretty catchy, too. By the time he walked off the stage two hours later after the final encore – a spirited rendition of “American Girl” complete with red, white and blue stage lighting to hammer home the point – he had rekindled a rock ‘n roll love affair with the crowd. What a show! And let’s not forget The Heartbreakers, who brought great energy to back him up. Tom is humble, engaging and funny…and one hell of a story teller. It was definitely one of the better shows we have seen. And the timing was perfect: his new album, “Hypnotic Eye,” is #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart – and is the first #1 album of his career.

What’s cool is, the opening act wasn’t too shabby, either. Steve Winwood delivered a great set that included solo material (“Higher Love”) in addition to lots of classics from Traffic (“Dear Mr. Fantasy”), Blind Faith (“Can’t Find My Way Home”) and the Spencer Davis Group (“Gimme Some Lovin'”). After he finished, I turned to Tara and said if we left right then and there, we’d have gotten our money’s worth. It felt like we got two concerts in one.

Afterwards, we stepped out into a gentle rain as we waited for the light rail train to whisk us back to our park ‘n ride lot in north Portland. It was nice to avoid the hassle (and cost) of arena parking. Note to self: next time we see a show at the Rose Garden Moda Center, take light rail. We didn’t get home until after midnight, and had to get up early for work this morning, but it was totally worth the sacrifice!

Afterwards, we learned that my friend and business associate Erik had been at the show. We found this out through pictures he posted on Facebook. Here was Erik’s view of TP&TH:

10556493_10154505579765204_4753434489547935885_n

And here was our view:

unnamed

If that isn’t front row, it’s at least within spitting distance! Can’t say I’m really surprised. This is the guy who once had me over to his mansion on a hill for dinner and beverages. Great guy, that Erik, but I’ve got one thing to say to him:

Help a brother out next time.

So, who’s on your rock ‘n roll bucket list?

The Afterlife is Like Syndication

When did pizza places become synonymous with chicken wings? It used to be you’d call up your friendly neighborhood pizza joint (even picking up the telephone seems antiquated now) and order a pie. They might offer you breadsticks or a liter of Coke. If they were fancy, perhaps a salad. But now, everybody’s got chicken wings, too. I really don’t understand the logic behind this.

First off, pizza is Italian. And chicken wings are not. They originated in Buffalo, New York – about as far from Naples as you can get. And yet, every Tom, Dick, and Harry who sells pizza also sells chicken wings. We ordered from Domino’s last week, and couldn’t even get to the checkout screen without being bombarded by an ad for chicken. Yes, I’m QUITE SURE I don’t want to add it to my order, thank you very much. And Domino’s has taken things a step further; in addition to wings, they’ve got “specialty chicken bites” which are nothing more than gussied-up McNuggets coated in sauce and cheese.

How does this make sense?

How does this make sense?

If I’m ordering something coated in sauce and cheese from a pizza place, it’s going to be pizza.

This would be the equivalent of serving Pad Thai with pretzels. Or sushi with french fries. Or tacos with tater tots.

Only, that last one really happens. “Mexi-fries,” anyone?

Speaking of food, this weekend there are three big food-related events happening around town: The Bite of Oregon, the Clark County Fair, and the Alberta Street Fair. I’m a little annoyed that these aren’t spaced out better. We have 13 weeks of summer, and all three occur during the same weekend. It’s not even a matter of logistics so much as money. Who can afford all three? So we’ll pick one, and it’ll be The Bite because The Bite rocks. Besides, my bevy of belly-dancers is once again absent from the Alberta Street Fair, so really, what’s the point?

R.I.P.

Audrey has fallen into quite a routine this summer. First off, she’s been taking tennis lessons, and has gotten pretty good. But those don’t start until 2 PM, so to kill time before then, she’s been watching old television series on DVD. I usually come home for lunch, so I’m able to catch an episode or two before heading back to work.

First up was The Office. Watching the escapades of Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, and Jam (Jim and Pam – right?) in their prime made me realize just how freakin’ good that show was. Week after week, for many seasons, it delivered big laughs without fail and was one of my all-time favorite comedies. I miss seeing the gang from Dunder Mifflin.

Eventually she ran out of new old episodes, so I suggested she check out Scrubs next. She was too young to appreciate the show when it originally aired, but oh how loved it. Zach Braff’s sitcom was side-splittingly funny, and the fantasy sequences that were a staple of the show were cleverly unique. Like The Office it grew stale the longer it dragged on, but in its prime there was nothing funnier on the air than Scrubs. 

18ixrp49kpnkvjpgSeeing these old favorites again, I had a revelation that a cancelled TV show is like a dead friend or relative. You mourn the loss of both and grieve their passing. These are people you saw on a regular basis. You invited them into your home, and shared in their laughter. And then suddenly they’re gone, never to appear again. Except in reruns, of course, which led to another thought:

The afterlife is kinda like syndication.

I’d expound on that thought further, but the preseason is about to begin and I’m ready for some football. Go, Broncos!

 

Dory boat returning to shore.

I Survived the Ghost Pepper

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta recharge your batteries. Tara has been working a lot of long hours lately, and craved a weekend getaway. When she suggested an impromptu adults-only trip to the Oregon coast, who was I to argue? We were able to find a last-minute deal on a beach house in Pacific City, and headed out Friday afternoon for a much-needed break. unnamed

Only, I almost died before we reached our destination. We stopped at a roadside farm stand/general store for some fresh produce; it was one of those places that has a whole bunch of samples set out. Little plastic cups filled with mustards, jams, dips, and hot sauces. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to try a ghost pepper hot sauce.

It was not a good idea to try a ghost pepper hot sauce.

I dipped a pretzel stick in the cup of hot sauce. No big deal, right? It wasn’t…until I put the pretzel stick in my mouth. The second it hit my tongue, I knew I had made a grievous error. To say it burned is an understatement. It actually scorched my tongue and the roof of my mouth. I stumbled to a glass display case filled with beverages and grabbed a carton of chocolate milk. My mouth burned for the next twenty minutes, no exaggeration.

And like spicy foods! But this hot sauce was in a league all its own.

You’d Be Amazed What You Can Cook On An Electric Skillet

We had driven through Pacific City before, but never stayed there. It’s much less touristy than some of the other Oregon coast towns like Newport, Lincoln City or Seaside. We were able to snag a cozy studio on the middle level of a beautiful house on a bluff with a view of the Pacific Ocean. It had a bed, love seat, dining table, and kitchenette. Unfortunately, there was no stove – but we made do with an electric skillet (two, in fact, since we’d brought one from home). We ended up cooking all our meals there, instead of going out to eat. It was hard to resist being able to relax and take in such a nice view! We had pasta with bay shrimp and asparagus the first night, bacon and eggs Saturday morning, steamed clams and New York steaks that evening, and scrambled eggs with English muffins Sunday. Everything was cooked in the skillets.

Steamer clams cooked in an electric skillet? Yes, please!

Steamer clams cooked in an electric skillet? Yes, please!

Oh. We might also have had a few Bloody Marys. And evening cocktails. R&R, remember?

Mostly our weekend was all about doing a whole lot of nothing much. We went for a walk on the beach Saturday morning, but other than a couple of runs to the grocery store in town, stayed in the house or on the deck, listening to music and reading.We attempted a jigsaw puzzle. Tara “napped.” (Right, mom)?

The Giant Sand Dune: My White Whale

Checkout was noon on Sunday. On our way out of town, we stopped at the beach, because all weekend the sand dune at Cape Kiwanda was taunting me. This is no ordinary dune; it’s 220′ feet high and features an expansive view of the coast. I decided to tackle the arduous task of climbing up.

Cape Kiwanda sand dune.  My White Whale.

Cape Kiwanda sand dune. My White Whale.

That black strip running horizontally near the top is a stone ledge where people can sit and take in the view. That was my destination.

“Have fun!” Tara said. “I’ll be checking out these tide pools over here.”

Smart woman, my wife. One thing I did not anticipate was how hot the sand would be. I was barefoot, because trying to make that climb with footwear would have been even more difficult. And it was nice and sunny, whereas the day before had been mostly overcast and cool. After two or three steps, I discovered my feet were sinking into the deep sand…and it was hot in there. But I’m a stubborn guy, so I kept going, one step at a time. Had to pause on my way up three or four times and sit down because, holy hell, my legs were rubbery and felt like jelly after a couple of minutes. Eventually, I made it to the ledge, and was rewarded with a stunning view.

View of the Oregon coast looking south from atop the sand dune.

View of the Oregon coast looking south from atop the sand dune.

After that adventure, it was time to begin the trek home. We got back around 3:30, and spent the rest of the evening recuperating.

Here are some more pics from our wonderful weekend getaway!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Loowit Trail Sign

Up Close and Personal With a Volcano

August came in with a rumble this morning. Tara woke me from a sound sleep to inform me it was “thundering out.” Before I could even question whether thundering was a legitimate word, it started thundering out. Woohoo! That woke me up. It was right overhead, too. That’s the best kind of thunderstorm.

So. August. Months ago, in looking at the calendar, I realized this would be the busiest month of the year for us. We have two trips planned (Oregon coast, Nevada). Two concerts to attend (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Beck). The Clark County Fair. The Bite of Oregon. And Heidi and Ross, whose wedding we attended in May, are planning a tentative visit. Whew! Somehow, we’ve got to squeeze other things in there. Like work. And breathing.

As busy as this summer has been, it doesn’t really feel like we’ve done anything. I mean, we have – there was that trip to California and all – but I think we set the bar high for ourselves the past two years. It’s harder now, especially with a kid (albeit a pretty special one) living with us full-time – not to mention Tara’s work demands. She’s been in the office more weekends than not. All the more reason why we are looking forward to our adults-only weekend getaway in Pacific City…which begins today!

I mentioned we set the bar high these past two years, but it was high even before Tara was part of my life. Truth is, I got in the habit of doing fun things by myself years ago – pretty much before the ink had even dried on the divorce decree. (Pretend for a minute the whole thing wasn’t digital. I’m going for drama here). Yesterday, I stumbled upon some photographs from the summer of 2009. You know what I did five years ago? This:

Loowit Falls

“This” is Loowit Falls, a waterfall located in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet: the crater of Mount St. Helens. And I hiked right up to it. Well, it’s a little distance away from where I was standing – zoom lens and all – but still. Impressive, huh?

For a few years there, I was a pretty avid hiker. I still love it, but it’s been hard to find the time to get out and do it. In the summer of 2009, I learned there was a “hidden” waterfall in the crater of Mount St. Helens, and decided to check it out. This was no small feat: it involved a two-hour drive to Windy Ridge, the non-touristy side of the mountain, and then a 9-mile hike across the pumice plain and back with no shade to shelter me from the blazing sun overhead. Even with hiking shoes, my feet were badly blistered – and I didn’t pack nearly enough water, which led to a near case of dehydration and heatstroke. It remains, to this day, the most challenging hike I’ve ever been on. But totally worth it.

So you see, I always think of summers as being filled with adventure. And this month, we’re going to start making up for a relatively slow one ourselves.

How has your summer been?

Ill_CatchMe

Catch Me If You Can

Have you ever seen the movie Catch Me If You Can? It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, a real-life con man who successfully posed as a pilot, a doctor, and an attorney in the 1960s before being captured by the FBI. It’s a great film, and an amazing story. I’d always wondered how somebody could be slick enough to get away with so many elaborate ruses.

Over the weekend, I found out when I stepped into Frank Abagnale’s shoes.

Tara is a social butterfly, and wanted to go to a local meet-up for an opportunity to connect with new people and maybe make a few friends. I’m all about supporting my spouse even if it’s not something I’m personally interested in, so I went along with her.

From the moment we stepped into the room, I felt uncomfortable. For starters, we were all seated at a long table in the private room of a nearby German restaurant. Not a big deal, but everybody in the group around us was at least 70 years old. We were easily the youngest couple there, until another younger couple sat down next to us. And there was no organized topic of conversation; we were simply asked to slap on name tags and talk with the people around us. I found the idea excruciating, but decided if I was going to be stuck there for another hour and a half, I might as well have a little fun.

“Whatever happens,” I whispered to Tara, “Just play along with me.”

When the woman across from me asked what I did for a living, without missing a beat I replied, “I’m an audiologist.”

And with that, I spent the next 90 minutes playing doctor.

Now, I’m not generally the lying type. If anything, I am honest to a fault. Because every time I fib a little, it seems to backfire on me. I just figured I was never going to see these people again, and was in the mood for a little storytelling. I honestly did not plan on pretending to be a doctor until I opened my mouth, and those words came spilling out. Fortunately, I work with audiologists on a daily basis, and develop content for ENT clinics every single day. If there’s one thing I know, it’s hearing. My friends have even come to me for medical advice, so it made perfect sense.

If Leo (Frank Abagnale) can get away with it, why can't I?

If Leo (Frank Abagnale) can get away with it, I bet I can, too!

When the lady across from me said, “Perfect! I’m a high school music director and could use your advice,” my stomach sank for a brief moment. I could have come clean right then and there; after all, my little white lie was still hanging in the air, only thirty seconds old. But I decided to soldier on, curious to see whether I could actually bullshit my way through this.

I have to say, I pulled it off pretty admirably. She asked for advice on preserving her hearing, and I suggested custom high-fidelity musician’s earplugs that provide balanced sound reduction without affecting mid and high frequencies. This reduces loud noises while allowing speech to come through clearly. She then wondered if her two-month old baby would benefit from hearing protection if she were to bring her to a high school football game. I told her earplugs were a must for an infant’s sensitive hearing, and suggested she prevent them from falling out of her baby’s ears by wrapping a scarf around her head to ensure they stayed in place. This is a real solution I picked up during research for articles I have written. Suddenly I felt giddy. Here I was, helping somebody by dispensing medical advice! No wonder many doctors infamously have a God complex.

“How did you decide to become an audiologist?” somebody asked.

I got a real pensive look on my face, cocked my head to the side, and replied, “Well, even from a young age I knew I always wanted to help people…”

I got so wrapped up in my fake story, I was even starting to fool myself. When I got a text from Audrey, I wondered out loud if it was my message service paging me with an after-hours emergency.

Tara has a hard time keeping a straight face in situations like these, but did a pretty good job playing along. She has difficulty fibbing herself, so when the woman next to her, whom she was engaged in deep conversation with, asked what I did for a living, she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “What do you do, dear?”

“I’m an audiologist,” I replied, the words flowing smoothly now.

“A what?”she asked, and then laughed.

“Ha-ha,” I said, recognizing immediately the little hard-of-hearing joke. “I’ve never heard that before!”

Cue laughter from the rest of the table.

I have to admit, I had a surprisingly good time once I got wrapped up in my fake life. So much so that I was almost disappointed when the meet-up came to an end. No harm, no foul…right?

Of course, with my luck, we’re liable to be shopping for groceries one of these days and have somebody recognize me. “Excuse me, Dr. Petruska,” they’ll say. “I need to schedule a hearing exam.”

At which point I’ll say, “I’m sorry, but I’m no longer an audiologist. I decided to become a pilot instead.”

Frank Abagnale, you’re a bad influence…

 

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??