See You in 364 Days, Chewbacca

I am so glad it’s May 5th. Not because I have a special affinity for Cinco de Mayo (though, hello nacho bar at work!). It’s just that, if I see one more lame May the 4th be with you post on social media, I am going to scream.

It’s not that I’m anti-Star Wars. I like Yoda as much as the next person. Hell, I once dressed up like C3PO for fun Halloween. (My brother was Darth Vader that year, proving that he was much cooler than me back in the day). But this pun has been so beaten to death, it makes me want to jab a lightsaber in my eye. I chuckled the first time I heard it…but that was three years ago. I haven’t even cracked a smile since.

In case you don’t get it, “May the 4th be with you” is a play on the famous Jedi line, “May the force be with you.” If you don’t know what a Jedi is, clearly your pop culture skills need work. Every May 4th, people take up the rallying cry ad nauseum.

More like, ad nausea.

It started when I arrived at work…

May4th

…and was a steady barrage the rest of the day. Every time I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed to see photos of people’s dogs and lunches and find out the color of their aura or which Game of Thrones character they embody most, I was assaulted with May the 4th nonsense. This trivial fluff was getting in the way of really important matters! Because of the clutter, I almost missed the invitation to “like” my friends’ uncle’s cousin’s neighbor’s daughter-in-law’s nail salon page. Close call, people! And I nearly overlooked the hilarious George Takei meme that was sandwiched between a picture of Bad White Police Officers and that Timehop shot of my friend from one year ago (but God loves me, so it’s all good).

timehopMay the 4th is just too stressful these days. May 5th? Much better.

Or should I say mucho better? After all, it’s Cinco de Mayo, and my newsfeed is going crazy with that topic…

And also Bernie Sanders. He’s running for President. Too bad he’s a Socialist. You just know he’s going to take away all our guns and privatize healthcare.

Ooh, a baby picture.

GREAT headline, The Onion.

My buddy from Wisconsin’s sister is holding a Scentsy party and I’m invited!

What am I doing here, still blogging?! Gotta go……………

Armadillos in Our Trousers

Saturday evening was weird, but fun.

Weird because we went back to our old condominium complex, a year after moving away. It was remarkable how little things had changed. It’s still next to impossible to find parking, because the residents all use the guest spots, so we ended up parking roughly eight miles away. Fun because we met up with our old neighbors, David and Andrea, for the first time since our impromptu drunken Super Bowl party in 2014. They recently learned that Tara and I had never seen This Is Spinal Tap and declared this a grievous cultural omission that must be corrected. So they invited us over for dinner and the movie.

After our long hike to their front door (in which I had to force myself to turn left when I reached their front porch rather than right, where my old door is located), we rang their bell and quickly commenced on catching up. There isn’t much I miss about the townhouse (especially after hearing that the HOA fees have gone up to $250/month), but D & A are good people and I do miss having them as neighbors. And, well, the covered back porch was nice. But that is it. Ironically, this was the first time they’d ever had us over for dinner. It only took us moving away and a year to pass before it finally happened.

This pretentious ponderous collection of religious rock psalms is enough to prompt the question: ‘What day did the Lord create Spinal Tap and couldn’t he have rested on that day, too?’

Dinner was awesome. Andrea showed off by whipping up a spinach salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, a Moroccan chicken with garbanzo beans and quinoa, and fresh berries for dessert. Man, if I knew she could cook like that, I’d have invited myself over years ago. And the movie? Loved it. It’s very Christopher Guest-ish, which is a good thing, especially if you’re into Best In Show. Funny stuff, and very quotable. The movie does for rock ‘n roll what The Sound of Music did for hills. We had a great evening.

Friday wasn’t too shabby, either. Tara and I had tickets to see Pigs On The Wing, a Pink Floyd cover band we had seen perform Dark Side of the Rainbow soon after she moved out here. The show as at the Doug Fir Lounge, a favorite Portland venue, which gave us an excuse to grab a few drinks and settle in for a fun night of rock ‘n roll. They played the Animals album in its entirety (my favorite – awesome!) and followed that up with tracks from Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Wish You Were Here. There’s nothing like a great rock ‘n roll show to set the tone for the weekend.

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Squeaky Shoes

I recently picked up a new pair of walking shoes. With as many miles as I’m logging lately, the Vans – fashionable as they are – were no longer cutting it. Even without a fancy little swoosh, these new shoes offer an improved walking experience.

Except at work. Because every time I walk across the bare concrete floor, they squeak.

Jenny was the first one to bring this to my attention. And by “bring this to my attention,” I mean, tease me mercilessly. ‘Cause that’s what she proceeded to do, giving me a complex about my footwear. When I posted about what a big meanie she was being on my Facebook page, did I get sympathy from my friends? Nope. But I did get a brand new nickname.

“Squeaky Shoes Petruska.”

This, courtesy of my mother-in-law. Thanks a lot, Tracy. Should I consider it an early birthday gift?

As far as nicknames go, this one did not appeal to me much. It kind of sounds like the world’s worst mob nickname. But then my sister-in-law came to the rescue with the following comment.

You could always say you got that name because “even though they can hear you comin it don’t mean sh*t.” But you have to say that very “thug -like” while making a gun gesture with your hand.

Which made the nickname not-so-bad. Thanks, Esther. But it did nothing to alleviate the constant squeaking occurring with every step. Fortunately, I’m good at thinking outside of the box. Or in this case, outside of the shoebox. The next day, I showed up at work wearing slippers.

slippersOne thing about Squeaky Shoes Petruska: the guy’s a problem solver. And he don’t take no shit.

About those slippers, by the way…

When I was in the hospital, I brought them along with me. And I am not kidding when I say how badly all the male employees coveted them. Doctors, nurses, you name it – they all really liked those slippers. Even when I’m on my deathbed (ever-so-slight exaggeration), I’m apparently a fashion icon. Good to know. They are pretty cool slippers, as far as slippers go. I’ve had ’em for years and couldn’t tell you where I bought them to save my life. But they put an end to all the squeaky shoe talk in real short order.

Have you ever had shoes that squeaked? How’d you solve the problem? And do you, or have you ever, had a nickname that you either loved or loathed? Feel free to bare all in the comments!

Wojo Goes Mobile

I was watching Barney Miller this morning, as is habit. And yes, I am aware it is no longer 1978. Whatever. My AM routine includes the local news, a cup of coffee, and an episode of the aforementioned sitcom featuring the antics of the men (and occasional women) of the 12th Precinct.

Thank you, Antenna TV, for your perpetual reruns of this great show.

Today’s episode made me laugh out loud. Wojo, Dietrich, and Yemana were marveling over “a phone without wires!” They thought it was the coolest thing ever, and couldn’t believe how advanced technology had become. Here they are, fawning over this thoroughly modern 20th-century engineering feat.

Wireless Phone

You think that’s something? Just wait, fellas.

And by the way, is this thing even real? Did such technology exist in the 70s? This is a regular ol’ telephone, minus the cord, with an antenna attached. And they were walking around the police station using it to make calls. According to my research (and by that I mean reading the “history of mobile phones” Wikipedia page), while the technology dates back to 1946, the first true handheld mobile phone was produced in 1973 and looked like the so-called “brick” we have all seen and laughed at in old photographs and movies. Hell, I was just joking about these primitive phones in my last post.

Martin Cooper showing off the first handheld mobile phone, released in 1973.
Martin Cooper showing off the first handheld mobile phone, released in 1973.

Which leads me to Conclusion A: Barney Miller took creative liberties with the whole “wireless phone” thing. Sure, they had existed for a few years by the time this episode originally aired, but I doubt anybody had ever actually seen one. And that leads inevitably to Conclusion B: Barney Miller was ahead of its time.

This got me thinking about other television shows that were ahead of their time, for one reason or another. These are not necessarily critically acclaimed shows that never found an audience (Pushing Daisies, Arrested Development) and may, in fact, have had long and successful runs – they just did things differently, or did them first. In addition to Barney Miller, which makes my list not just because of the futuristic look at mobile communications but also due to its forward-thinking, realistic depictions of homosexual relationships, I offer you the following (in no particular order).

  1. Star Trek. In 1968, this sci-fi classic boldly went where no man had before, at least on primetime television, and broke the color barrier by featuring an interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Uhura. Despite occasional missteps (tribbles, anyone?), the franchise continues to live long and prosper.
  2. My So-Called Life. This short-lived drama became a cult classic and launched the careers of Claire Danes and Jared Leto. Though its main characters were high school students – nothing original there – their daily struggles with realistic hot-button social issues of the day were far more realistic than those experienced by their peers in the 90210 zip code who were more concerned with saving The Peach Pit.
  3. The Honeymooners. The Kramdens were the antithesis of all those other cheerful, well-dressed couples featured so prominently in the early days of television: they argued, they got into ill-advised schemes, and they were decidedly blue collar. All was not domestic bliss, but at the end of the day, you never doubted Ralph’s sincerity when he said to Alice, “baby, you’re the greatest.”
  4. Seinfeld. No other show spotlighted the flaws and idiosyncrasies of its main characters so perfectly. It succeeded in making a group of whiny, apathetic, self-absorbed New Yorkers likable, no small feat. Let’s not forget all the great catchphrases (yada-yada, spongeworthy, master of your domain). But the most compelling reason for being ahead of its time: in one episode, Elaine is dating a guy with the same name as a serial killer. She is flipping through Sports Illustrated and suggests he change his name to O.J. This episode aired seven months before Nicole Simpson was murdered.
  5. Lost. Love it or loathe it, odds are you talked about it (and those conversations inevitably contained the phrase “WTF?!”). This head-scratcher heaped layer upon layer of unresolved mystery upon you and the whole thing was a mishmash of unconventional plots that included time travel, flashbacks, flash-forwards, obscure references to 18th-century philosophers, and polar bears on desert islands. It never made much sense and the finale was infuriatingly dense, but it was completely original and strangely engrossing. Networks are still trying to come up with the next Lost, years after it went off the air.

That’s my list! What television shows would you consider groundbreaking or ahead of their time?

 

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

We watched Reality Bites over the weekend, and it made me realize how much I miss the 90s.

If you’ve never seen this movie, first off: why not!? Reality Bites, much like Singles, is the quintessential 90s movie. It is an excellent snapshot into what life was like moments before the Internet changed everything, and perfectly defines a generation. My generation. Generation X.

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The movie already feels dated, beginning with the cast. Winona Ryder? She shoplifted her way right out of the spotlight. Ethan Hawke? He’s chosen to write novels and take roles in critically acclaimed but little seen films. Janeane Garofalo? Her political activism scared away the big studios. Only Ben Stiller has had a “conventional” acting career, though judging by the trailers for Night At The Museum 27, he really should slow it down a bit.

There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes.

The other things that date the movie are the things I love most about it, and miss the most about the 90s. There was both an innocence and a backlash against “selling out.” If you were an alternative rock musician and one of your songs started receiving radio airplay, you were shunned. I’m talking about you, Soul Asylum and Gin Blossoms. In the movie, Lelaina’s documentary is picked up by In Your Face (a thinly disguised MTV knockoff), and then corporatized to death, much to her horror. People felt that way back then. The creative soul of an artist was more valuable than any type of currency.

Your integrity mattered a hell of a lot more than a BMW.

old cell phone*304The year Reality Bites came out (1994) computers already existed, but were much simpler, mainly functioning as word processors or very heavy paper weights. Printing was of the dot matrix variety and took roughly twelve days per page. Email was a novelty. It wasn’t until the following year that the last restrictions on Internet traffic were removed and it went mainstream. Ben Stiller’s character owns a cellular phone in the movie, but it’s ridiculously large and impractical. People didn’t sit across from each other in restaurants holding a 4″ glowing screen in front of their faces. Instead, they had actual conversations. “Streaming” entailed wading through water.

I remember the first time I ever went online. I started chatting with somebody on the east coast, and thought that was the coolest thing ever. I remember telling my wife, “I’m talking to some girl in Pennsylvania RIGHT NOW. How cool is that?” Because the only words she heard were some girl she did not find it nearly as cool as I did. Go figure. It was innocent, though! I also recall buying my first mobile phone. This had to be 2003 or 2004, and the truth is, I didn’t know what the hell we were supposed to do with them. There was no texting then. I justified $80 a month to the wife by saying they’d be great to have in an emergency, but no emergency ever materialized. A few years and a couple of upgrades later, I got mad at the Sprint salesman because he was trying to sell me a phone with a camera.

Lelaina: Can you define “irony”?
Troy Dyer: It’s when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.

“I have a camera,” I told him. “Why on earth would I want one on my phone?!”

Clearly, I was living in a pre-Instagram world. Turns out they didn’t have any phones that didn’t come with built-in cameras anyway, so I bit my tongue and made the purchase. And complained bitterly about it afterwards. Looking back on it now, I can only laugh at the absurdity of my reaction.

firstwebsite
The first website ever.

I am not under any orders to make the world a better place.

Technology has improved my life in many ways, I cannot deny that. It has made me smarter, and definitely makes my job easier.

And yet, I still long for those days right before everything changed. For that Reality Bites world where idealistic quotes like “the only thing you have to be at age 23 is yourself” still rang true.

You Are What You Eat

Tonight, I’m planning on watching my favorite horror movie of all time.

Wouldn’t that make more sense around Halloween? you may be wondering. Hey, I love The Shining as much as the next person. The Exorcist is creepy. That damn doll in Annabelle is enough to give anybody nightmares. All are fine horror movies best viewed in October. But the movie that inspires abject terror in me takes place on Thanksgiving. Avert your eyes now if you are easily frightened. You might want to have any small children leave the room, lest they peek over your shoulder and catch a glimpse of this fright-inducing flick.

charlie-brown-thanksgiving

Don’t get me wrong. I love Peanuts. When I was a kid, I had comic book collections and a stuffed Snoopy doll and Charlie Brown sheets for my bed. Some of my fondest memories involve watching the holiday specials on TV every year. I even remember the Dolly Madison commercials that accompanied them. I have Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas album. “Linus & Lucy” is the default ringtone on my phone.

But.

The Thanksgiving special terrifies me. And it’s all because of The Chair. The damn, evil chair.

Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Chair Fight

This otherwise harmless-looking canvas Adirondack chair is like the devil incarnate. You know how a lot of people were afraid to go swimming after watching Jaws? I was afraid to venture into the garage, because that’s where Snoopy liberates The Chair from – and havoc ensues. The two circle each other, fists clenched. Snarling is involved. They trade punches. And then, in one truly terrifying scene, The Chair appears to seriously maim our beagle hero. As a kid, I thought Snoopy had been killed, and burst into tears following this horrifyingly bloody turn of events.

Death by Adirondack

Nobody can survive an attack so vicious, right? Snoopy has clearly been squished flat, his canine body broken and battered. There will be no more dogfights with the Red Baron for him. Somebody else will win the prize for best Christmas light display this year. Woodstock is going to have to find himself a new best friend.

Fortunately, Snoopy survives the attack, and The Chair is finally corralled into submission. Franklin ends up sitting on it to eat his ice cream sundae, buttered toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans. But this child’s psyche has already been scarred.

Franklin chairAnd then, the audience is lulled into a false sense of complacency. Amends have been made, Peppermint Patty has apologized to Chuck for being an ungrateful little brat, and they’re all headed to Charlie Brown’s grandma’s condominium for a real Thanksgiving dinner, joyfully crooning over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go!

The scene shifts back to Snoopy’s doghouse and we are subjected to an even more frightening scene as we observe Woodstock resorting to cannibalism.

woodstockcannibaltruth-1

Adding insult to injury, Woodstock battles Snoopy for the wishbone. And wins.

And you thought the Donner party were a bunch of animals.

Here are ten fun facts about the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. Pay special attention to #4.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! Try not to eat your fellow diners.

FOOls in the Rain

Some people claim that rock ‘n roll is dead. I disagree. Because yesterday morning, we stood in a line hundreds deep for Foo Fighters tickets. In the cold rain and wind. For three hours. For a concert that is ten months away.

We must really like you, Dave Grohl.

10559666_10205282078640433_419723977629634675_nThe Foo Fighters have long been one of my favorite bands. I saw them once before, in 2008, and that concert was one of the best I’ve been to. So when they announced a show in Portland next September – coincidentally, it’ll be on our second anniversary – I jumped at the chance to buy tickets.

And then I found out they were selling ’em old school. A special pre-sale at the Rose Quarter box office was being held Saturday, from 10-2. Be there or be square, as the cool kids used to say. Otherwise, tickets were going up for sale on December 5th.

“We should totally get up super early on a weekend and stand in line for tickets in the pouring rain for hours!” Tara said.

Maybe those weren’t her exact words, but they’re what I heard. Nevertheless, this was the Foo Fighters we were talking about. There was a certain charm in lining up for tix like they used to do before the internet. I decided it might actually be fun!

Umm…do I look like I’m having “fun”?!

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Yeah, it poured on us. But only for the first hour. And then the sun came out. But the wind negated any warming effect that big, bright object in the sky was having.

And then, just for fun, it started raining again.

Fortunately, we were surrounded by a bunch of interesting people, all united for a common cause. And more importantly, all soaking wet. The phrase “misery loves company” should not be understated. We were cold and wet, sure – but so were they. The line seemed everlong (see what I did there?), but we were making slow and steady forward progress. We even had some free entertainment to help us pass the time.

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In the end, the rain and wind and cold didn’t matter because we ended up with really good seats for the Foo Fighters concert next September 14. We’ll be much closer to the stage than we would have been if we’d waited until December 5 to buy our tickets.

Our friends thought we were fools for standing in the rain for hours. I say it was well worth a little soaking to see Dave bring it to Portland next year!

What do you think? Would you wait in line for hours to buy tickets for your favorite band?

Grape Juice With a Kick

Tara and I met up with a friend to go wine tasting over the weekend. This was a new experience for us, and I gotta say, it made me feel like…

fish_out_of_water

I like wine, but I’m hardly a connoisseur. Hell, it took me several tries just to spell the word connoisseur. And I’m a professional writer! The whole experience is rather intimidating if you’re a wine novice like me. The person pouring the wine is talking about “oakiness” and “tannins” and “a nice finish” and I’m thinking ooh, what a pretty shade of purple. 

And then there’s the tasting menu. How are you supposed to pluck out “notes of grapefruit and lavender with a butterscotch finish”? All I taste is grape juice with a kick.

I think I was thrown off by the town itself. When we made plans to go wine tasting, I was picturing stops like this…

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Instead, we apparently wandered into that creepy town where the children of the corn resided.

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That would be Carlton, Oregon. I’d never even heard of the place before Saturday. Is it any wonder? Apparently those who wander into town never leave. Was this my payback for flirting with a nun, I wondered?

Creepy signs aside, at least the wine tasting in Carlton was convenient. The main street looked like this: wine shop, wine shop, cafe, wine shop, wine shop, cafe, wine shop, jam shop, wine shop, wine shop. We got buzzed without walking more than half a block. And then after leaving town, we did stop at the nicer-looking winery pictured above. There, we got into a heated debate that did not involve pinot noir vs. syrah, but rather, Prince vs. Michael Jackson.

OK, maybe we were really buzzed at that point.

But I loudly contended that Prince was a far better music artist than the vastly overrated Gloved One. Our friend Chris, on the other hand, thought I had lost my marbles.

“Billie Jean!” she declared.
“Purple Rain!” I countered.
“Thriller. Zombies.”
“‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.'”
“Your guy changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol,” she said.
“Your guy dangled a baby over a ledge and bought the Elephant Man’s bones,” I responded.

We were both rallying the people tasting wine around us to our side. Chris got some random woman to agree with her, but then her husband sided with me. I think the whole thing ended in a draw, but c’mon…

…I’ll take Prince over Michael Jackson any day.

How ’bout you?

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The Crosby Show Airs Again!

Last week, I reported on my run-in with the fake David Crosby outside the Keller Auditorium in Portland. I wondered who he was and why he enjoyed tricking people into believing he was a rock ‘n roll star, but figured that was pretty much the end of the story.

And then, while driving home from the Oregon coast on Sunday, I got a text from Audrey. My parents watched her while we celebrated our anniversary weekend, and took her to an Oktoberfest celebration in Portland. What Audrey texted caught our attention.

Your fake David Crosby is here. 

Wait. Seriously?! I didn’t really believe it was the same guy…until Audrey sent us the following photo.

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Here’s mine, from five days earlier.

10660365_10202875049578081_4602986690754332541_nLest there’s any doubt, when Audrey approached him, she showed him this pic and asked if the man in the photograph with his arm around dear ol’ dad was him. He confirmed that yes, indeed, it was.

Like father, like daughter. What are the odds?

I wish she’d called him out on his fakery, but then again, she’s only 14 and should not be provoking a strange man. Teach your children well and all that jazz, right?  I’m just dying to unravel the mystery.

A comment on that post did help to shed a little light on the situation. A man named David (I’m assuming that’s his real name, although my track record with Davids isn’t the greatest these days) was at the Crosby, Stills & Nash show last week, and had his own run-in with the un-Crosby. He wrote,

My wife (saw) him from 50 feet away when we were parking and yells “that’s David Crosby” and he waved. About 5 minutes later as we walked over all excited that he was still there I knew it was not THE David Crosby but a very close second. We talked to him for a few minutes when the REAL David Crosby came out of the back door of the Keller Auditorium 15 feet away from us and walked into his bus.
We did talk to the look-a-like for almost a 1/2 hour and watched the excitement he caused with people thinking he was the “real thing”. Very pleasant fellow that said he has been mistaken for Crosby for a very long time…several people came up to me after they seen me talking to the look-a-like and asked if it was really him and I told them politely that it was not. Some of these people did not believe me and I told them to just ask him……he was honest. Some of these people thought I was his body guard. Take a picture anyhow…….what would it hurt.

Interesting! It appears that Fake Crosby relishes the attention and doesn’t go out of his way to tell people he isn’t the real deal…but won’t continue the charade if asked point blank.

I don’t know how to feel about that. On the one hand, we’re the ones who assumed he was genuine, and you know how that equation goes: ass, u, me. On the other hand, he was signing CSNY albums.

Tsk, tsk.

Kind of Hard to Beat Brinner

Last night, we had brinner.

I don’t know about you, but there’s something especially exciting about having breakfast-for-dinner. It feels forbidden. Rebellious. Naughty, even. I couldn’t help but think to hell with convention as I bit into a sweet, chewy pumpkin waffle drizzled with maple syrup last night. By the time I speared the accompanying sausage links with my fork, I was waving my fist in the air and shouting, “Damn The Man!” Sure, Tara and Audrey looked at me peculiarly, but I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

You know what I’m talking about, Christopher Turk!

So, how about you? Do you ever indulge in brinner? Does it feel like you’re breaking the law when you do? And what’s your favorite brinner meal – Poached eggs? Oatmeal? Pancakes? A frittata?  Do share.