Saturday, October 11, 2014

36 Years...What I've Learned Along the Way

I chose this picture solely because my daughter is pretty.

I recently had my 36th birthday and it got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about how long it takes for life experiences to become wisdom. I mean, I'm in my late 30's now and I feel like I'm still learning new things, new perspectives every day. But I have picked up a few things along the way and I thought maybe I would just put them in a list here in case some of you hadn't yet learned some of them. So, in no particular order, below are all the things I know...my collective 36 year old wisdom...

        You and your spouse can be soul mates. You can eat together. You can sleep together. You can shower together. You can make love together.  But you never, never poop in front of each other.

        If you pluck out your nose hairs they WILL come back thicker than before...and then you'll pluck them out again.

        Socks are only gross once you take them off...same as underwear.

        There is no such thing as “bad pizza”.

        People LOVE to spend other people's money.

        Tracy Chapman is a woman.

        1 in every 4 times you lend something out you will never see it again.

        There is no immune system capable of combating the disease-incubators we also refer to as “children”.

        65% of junk email is specifically about my“junk”.

        Don't lose your retainer.

        The tighter the jeans, the higher pitched the voice.

        Always keep a spare towel with you.

        Never put yourself in a position to ask “do these back rolls make my tattoo look fat?”

        You don't sing as well as you think you do.

        There is absolutely no good reason to board a plane early.

        Everything in the world, no matter how dangerous, is statistically safer than driving a car.

        People who think they are smart rarely change their minds. People who ARE smart are open to new information.

        When you are not home, your dog is outside barking.

        I like turtles.

        Celebrity is moronic and may eventually lead to our ultimate downfall.

        Social media is the modern day lynch mob...and nobody seems to care.

        'Irregardless' is not a word. It just isn't. Don't say it. Ever.

        People are inconsiderate and self-interested.

        80% of drivers are the self-proclaimed best driver in the world. 10% of drivers live in fear of those 80%. The rest are Asian women.

        Man's finest achievement may very well be pants with zip-off legs.

        Credit card debt is bad.

        Cold cereal is better as a late night snack than as a breakfast food. 

        Hair shouldn't be very important...but it is.

        Hate is a word that should be avoided at all costs...except when discussing the New York Yankees.

–    Money is a tool...and so is Ryan Seacrest.

–    Friends who don't recommend that you watch Impractical Jokers are not real friends...seriously, watch this show.

        And, most importantly...Life is short...don't screw it up.







Friday, September 5, 2014

How not to be a host family

My high school baseball coach was a pretty damn cool guy named Jim Hoppel. He was ex-military and just tough as hell. He was the kind of guy you just couldn't seem to get one over on too because he was always a step ahead of you.

I remember one time we were having a little scrum after practice. It had been raining out and, as often happened, a bunch of the guys on the team broke out into various wrestling matches. Why did we do this? Because we were stupid teenageboys. Well this particular rainy afternoon my best friend to this day, (not yet Dr.) Scott Kennedy, decided he would take on Coach Hoppel. Scott was a good sized kid. He had played linebacker and tight end on the football team and he had wrestled for the school as well. But nobody had ever had the guts to mess with Hoppel. It was pretty incredible because before anyone really knew what was going on Scott had both a) done the stupidest thing any of us had ever seen by taking on The Man and b) amazed us all by getting up in Hoppel's chest and driving him back-pedaling and seemingly off-balance toward a large puddle out behind second base. Holy crap! Scott's gonna get him!

Then, in no more than a nanosecond, JimHoppel bent the laws of physics. I swear to you he was literally falling backward into the puddle with a 220 lb athlete grabbing hold of his shirt right up in his chest and driving him downward when all of a sudden Scott is flying and twisting in the air over Hoppel's body and being half thrown and half pile driven like a rag doll square onto his back into the middle of this brown, muddy puddle. It was perhaps the quickest movement I have ever seen and yet I'm positive I watched it in slow motion. There was no real explanation to where the torque came from to wrench Scott over him like that, but WHIP-WHOOSH-SPLAT. Scott is on his back. But Hoppel isn't done. You see his hand pull up Scott's shirt, he closes his fist, rips his hand away from Scott's exposed belly then thrusts his fist into Scott's face, like a freaking flash, and yells “ODD OR EVEN? ODD OR EVEN????” Then hethrows the belly hairs down onto Scott's astonished and defeated face and casually walks away as if nothing has happened. I'm telling you, I'd never seen anything like it before nor since.

That story was actually a bit of a tangent. I just got to remembering it because Jim Hoppel was the reason I was able to play on a couple of all-star teams that traveled on behalf of the Oregon Baseball Academy (OBA) back in those days. Am I about to brag that I was kind of at one time technically (did I mention “kind of”?) an all-star? Noooooooooooo. This story isn't about the fact that on this particular trip I batted .500 including 2 home runs and a third shot off the very top of the fence. It's not about the fact that more than half my hits were for extra bases and that, oh by the way, this was actually the best pitching I probably ever faced in my life. I'm actually pretty sure that a one-day-to-become MVP of the National League played for the team that beat us in the championship game...a guy named Jimmy Rollins.

None of that is what this story is about. This story is about what happens when unprepared people take 4 complete stranger teenage boys into their home without forethought.

You see, at the time these OBA teams would keep these trips inexpensive by a) driving most of the players across multiple states in a 15 passenger van and b) having us crash with host families instead of hotels. So after a very long, cramped drive from Portland to Salt Lake City with a bunch of sweaty, randy, dirt-bag, 17 year old baseball kids we were doled out to a group of awaiting hosts.

Our host family had a decent sized house so instead of bunking with one other guy I was put in a house with 3 of my teammates. One of the guys was a friend and classmate of mine named Jeff Brunold. He was the only other kid from my high school on the team. Jeff was an amazing hitter, but had his senior season cut short because of a self-inflicted broken finger. He had slammed his helmet down (with his finger still in it) after a second baseman had made an amazing diving catch against him. There was also a self-confident, baby-faced kid from a private school in Portland named Ash (it's unbelievable I just found this guy on the internets!) and a tall, goofy redneck from Hermiston named Eric (I actually can't remember his name but Eric will do). We were all picked up by a couple in their early 50s in their minivan. The drive to their house was quiet.

We arrived at their house as it was getting dark outside. When we walked in and started down the hallway it wasn't too difficult to put the pieces together...we were in SLC, there are pictures of about 8 kids on the wall...this is a Mormon family. Well...I wasn't a drinker so this probably wasn't going to affect me a whole helluva lot. STOMP! What the?...STOMP STOMP! Hands flying around. Hands. Awkward silence. What the?... “Boys, this is Lucas. He's our 10 year old. He's deaf so what we do is stomp on the ground to get his attention. He feels the vibrations...it's a way of hearing us.” Whoa! Okay. We're not in Kansas anymore.

So, stomping aside, this household was freaking weird. It just felt strange being there. The dad was a little too old. The mom was a little to submissive. The cute daughter had a picture on the wall, but we never saw her (trust me...we were looking). The reason this family hosted us was because their son who was our age was on the host team scheduled to play against us in the tournament. I have never seen a kid less interested in playing baseball. In fact, he never once spoke to us while were there. Not once. He kind of looked like Napoleon Dynamite and it felt as though his dad had forced him to play ball and he felt like we, as ballplayers, were somehow competing for his dad's affection. Does that sound weird? It was.

The only thing I remember about this kid is that he brought his girlfriend over and watched TV with her a lot. I remember the mom telling us he was “courting her” which was a phrase I didn't know and didn't bother to investigate. I just figured that nerdy boys in SLC 'court' nerdy girls while the rest of us “go out” with them. Whatever.

So that first night it was about 9:00 when we had all our stuff put in the bonus room where we slept. That was when the parents came in and told us it was time to go to bed (and by "bed" I mean the floor and a shoddy sofa) and they would see us in the morning. What?!?!?! I'm 17 years old, I have two baseball games tomorrow, I'm crashing with three other guys, I've been cooped up in a 15 passenger van all day, I'm in a strange town and you're telling me it's 9pm so it's time to go to bed? They disappeared. We hung out for about 10 minutes before deciding we were hungry. All four of us tip-toed our way into the kitchen to investigate. Nothing. What? Nothing. If you've never been a teenage boy maybe you don't know what it's like to be in a constant state of starvation. Where is the food? We went to sleep (a couple hours later) hungry...empty...

The next morning it was cold cereal and off to the field. When we returned in the evening we were expecting dinner, but I don't think they were expecting to feed us. I'm pretty sure they scraped together some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We didn't have much to do since our “host brother” was literally hiding from us (I pictured him cowering under his covers occasionally poking his beady little eyes out to make sure we weren't standing there taunting him with our baseball gear reminding him how inept he was at the game his father loved). We still hadn't seen the cute sister featured on the wall in the hallway. At one point I poked my nose into the garage (hoping for a fridge with something...anything...in it PLEASE FEED ME!) and found it was packed from wall to wall with electric wheelchairs and wheelchair parts. To me it was like a junkyard for all the mutant toys created by the psychopathic neighbor kid in Toy Story.

After dinner (or, as we called it, snack time) we asked if there was a store we could go to (BECAUSE WE WERE STARVING!). They told us we could walk down to the local grocer...it was about a mile away. And so we walked. Well...actually this Suburban full of girls pulled into a driveway about a half mile from the house and we asked them to drive us. They were cute and we were idiots so they quickly dropped us off at the store then high-tailed it out of there. Thanks ladies, I don't blame you.

I remember specifically that Jeff and I bought some food and we started telling the 20-something cute female checker that we were stuck in the host-house-from-hell. They were keeping us alive on a minimal diet and they all stayed locked away in their rooms during the few hours they were awake. She said something like “awwww...I wish I had room to have you crash at my apartment.” Missed opportunities...

So the next day they promised us a feast. And, for the one time, a feast we had. They barbecued hot dogs (pretty sure they were the Bar-S dogs made from chicken, pork and turkey parts  [what in the world are gibblets?]). I was able to eat at least two and maybe three dogs along with all the fixings. A couple other host families and teammates were there, so we figured they were just putting on a show to make it appear they were indeed nourishing us. And something amazing happened at the bbq. The girl on the wall came out of her room. She ate with us. I don't remember her speaking. But she was there. She had a sweet face and shiny smooth hair. And when she was finished eating she dissipated...vanished into thin air never to be seen by any of the four of us again. To this day I question her actual existence. It's entirely possible that in my state of prolonged malnourishment and teenage hormones I simply imagined that there was a cute girl in the house. If you ever bump into Brunold or Ash or even (probably not named) Eric, ask him.

Well, all of us had been complaining to the coach about the living situation. I'm sure we embellished, but it really was a crappy host family. We may as well have been staying in a cheap motel. We complained about the lack of food. About the lack of interest anyone in the family took in showing us anything. We rightly complained about the stupid kid who was supposed to be showing us around but instead was “courting” (whatever that meant). To be frank, I was a little worried my body might end up buried in that wheelchair graveyard.

So they gave us a new home! No kidding. We finished our last game on like day 4 and our coach let us know that our bags were at the field and a new family was going to take us in. Like a stray dog through an open door I was giddy, wagging my tail and looking for somewhere to pee. So this lady picks us up in her mini-van. She had two little kids (I really can't say how old...maybe 4 and 6?) so we're packed in there pretty tight. I didn't really think much of it when she a) got lost on the way to her house and b) came to a stop at a green light. I should have. Oh...and I don't recall saying goodbye to or thanking or even seeing the other host family again. It was a clean divorce...we let them keep the kids.

We did eventually get to her house. She introduced us to her husband. She let us know they were the one non-Mormon family in Salt Lake. And then she said the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. She said, “here in this freezer we stocked up so you can feel free to have anything in here any time you want. We just stocked up at Costco.” Is this heaven? “No, it's Utah.”

Next morning we head up for breakfast. 15. I think they had Eggos for us. As many as we wanted. It was awesome. Butter, syrup, mmmmmore please! Wait...15 what? Oh right. 15 as in 15 empty beer cans upside down in the kitchen sink. Wow. Well, maybe that accounts for the stopping at green lights and whatnot. But who cares? They're nice and there's food and their house downstairs is perfect for us and I just used all three forms of the homonym "thare" in one run on sentence! They had a Nintendo downstairs and a TV. The kids liked playing with us. We were allowed to walk around the neighborhood. All the world was right.

One night we put an old shoe on top of a rock wall and threw dirt clods at it until it was knocked off (I made the final blow). One night we went on a walk and found a construction site...climbed into a big backhoe, found the key and tried (unsuccessfully) to fire it up. One night we walked by a sign outside a music shop that read “BEAT THE RUSH, REPAIR YOUR HORN TODAY.” About two seconds later it read “BEAT THE RUSH, REPAIR YOUR HORNY TOAD.” Word play high jinks!

Over the course of a few days the other guys had hit if off pretty well with the dad. At this point he was pretty clearly an alcoholic. Every morning there were X-teen empty beers in the sink...this was a nightly ritual. We were downstairs when the drinking happened so we didn't really know the routine, but the evidence was clear. So the other guys were asking him to buy us beer. We had some money our parents had given us for the trip...we just needed a buyer. He wasn't opposed, but his wife was. So the deal was dead. I really didn't care because I didn't drink. You may or may not believe this, but my first sip of alcohol was when I was married and nearly 22.

So the last night came around and, no shizz, this guy comes through with a half-rack of cheap beer. Eric grabs one. Ash grabs one. Jeff grabs one. Eric goes for number two. Door opens. The mom comes in. The poop hits the fan. She looks at us like we're the devil and yells something. She then marches straight upstairs and we start hearing an argument. It's not good. “How could you?” “Contributing to the delinquency of...” “Supposed to be supervising them!” “What about our kids?” “I'm taking the kids and leaving!” What? Yes. That's what happened. Rustle-rustle-rustle. Plead, plead, plead. Door slam. Car engine. Doppler effect (vroooo-ooo-oooommmmm). No more mom. Dad comes downstairs, points at all of us and says “You little sh*ts! You had to ruin it for all of us, didn't you?” Door slams. Car engine. Doppler effect. We're all alone.

We were all pretty shaken up. I didn't feel guilty because, as I said, I didn't even want the beer. The other guys kept drinking as they contemplated the consequences of what had just happened. We had just broken up a marriage. I did the only thing I could think to do. I went upstairs and microwaved one of those amazing frozen, single-serving, deep-dish pizzas they used to sell by the barrel at Costco and licked the silver cardboard lining clean.

The next morning the dad had come to his senses. He was sober. He was sorry. He apologized to us and told us this had been bubbling under the surface for a long time. He would drop us off at the field with our stuff because it was the last day and we were headed home after the game. We found out at the field from the mom's sister that this was the first time anything like this had ever happened between the two of them. She had never taken the kids and left...ever. To this day I wonder what ever became of them, but I don't really remember anything about them other than that amazing pizza and I don't think they make those things anymore.

Oh...and that last day was the day I hit both those home runs AND the ball off the top of the fence. BOOM!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Norm makes a friend



Trivia question: What's better than having a time share in a tropical paradise?

Give up?

Answer: Having a close relative that has a time share in a tropical paradise.

My dad and step-mom bought an annual two weeks in Cancun a number of years ago. They went for the best weather weeks of the year. And the best part about it is it has two separate rooms that both have access to a common living area. So Dad and Catherine can (and do) take the main living quarters while another couple can (and does) take the secondary bedroom/bathroom area. AND...get this...we're as close as blood relatives can get (my dad and I even have the same NAME), so Taela and I typically get precedence for the years that we choose to go. We have been down there 4 times now and it's freaking muy bueno!

Relaxing in Cancun
Well, it had been a few years since we had taken advantage of this amazing standing offer so Taela talked me into going this year. I was all “ok...if that's what you want, honey” out loud while internally I was all “how great is it that my wife thinks she has to convince me to vacation in paradise?”

So there's a really great group of people that all time-share down there the same time every year. We have come to know many of them because Dad and Catherine are tight-knit in this group. They are all nearly inseparable...during happy hour. I mean there's a lot of bonding to be had when you're laying motionless in the sun for hours and hours on end....looking forward to that refreshing margarita at whatever o'clock. The point is there's a great group of folks from all over the country and may different walks of life who have made a little community and it's totally boss.

Happy Hour Group
Well...because we have been down there a few times before we are pretty much over the touristy things to do. We don't need to go to the markets anymore. We sure as hell don't need to see another bull stabbed to death by a scrawny looking matador (which literally translates to “killer”). But there was one thing I had always wanted to do but never had. I wanted to go tour Isla de Mujeres. Was it because “Isla de Mujeres” means “Island of Women”...no-ish. It was because I had heard...and seen in some pictures, that La Isla was still somewhat authentic to what vacationing in Mexico used to be 30 years ago. Quaint little towns with small markets. Cantinas on the beach without all the corporate fanfare. Places where locals sought their own recreation, not bikini contests (yes, we actually stumbled across a bikini contest up the beach from our resort on hotel row this past trip).

So a handful of us from the happy hour group decided we would head over to Isla de Mujeres and form what the regulars call a Biker Gang to tour the island. Why do they call it a biker gang? Because what you do is go over there and rent either a golf cart (wuss) or a motor scooter (macho, macho man) to drive all over the island seeking the sights and sounds of paradise.

Most of the Biker Gang
So I'll fast forward a bit. The Island of Women is beautiful. There are amazing little towns with old buildings and narrow streets that give you a feel for what it's really like to live in a small Mexican community. There are breathtaking views everywhere. We ate on the beach at a restaurant that serves a bbq mackerel platter that's just incredible. Oh, and there was a cat walking around in the sand begging for our fish. Oh, and the bbq grill was dirty and disgusting and right next to the piss trough they called a men's restroom. Oh, and Taela and I witnessed the garbage man literally vomiting as he took in the rotting fish stench of the restaurant's refuse. Talk about being in Mexico!
Me, Taela and Norm @ Playa Tiburon
Wood pile and fish prep

But by far the highlight of our time on the island, the magical island of women, was our trip to the little roadside stand that the ladies in the group love to visit on every trip. The women from a lovely little family sells all sorts of decorative seashells right in front of their home. We made a special trip to the far end of the island just to buy from them.

So our chain of motor scooters came to a stop across the street from this roadside stand. We all dismounted our bikes like Ponch and John...moving a bit more slowly than normal because it gave us an air of authority. What I haven't yet mentioned is that at least 3 members of our biker gang were active or retired cops. We were bad arse!

Biker Gang...preparin' to transact

Shells were not the only available merchandise
Well the ladies are all looking at the shells and the little 13 year old girl is doing a good job explaining all about them. This is a male conch, this is a female...blah blah blah. The matriarch of the family is sitting behind in a spot back behind the booth. She is holding a very young baby and casually supervising the older daughter's saleswomanship.

My lovely wife loves babies!
I notice that my dad and Norm have moved off into the only shade to be had over against a wall. They've had enough of women fawning over dead mollusk exoskeletons and it's hot so why not take a break from baking in the kinda-near-equatorial sun? Oh...Norm. Norm is awesome. Norm is, if you watch Parks & Recreation, exactly like Ron Swanson except with personality. Norm is the guy that doesn't have to say much but you know he probably has the answer. He has one of those mustaches that makes him instantly respectable (as opposed to those mustaches that you want to singe the ends off with a lighter). Norm is the guy in the room that everyone instantly likes and they should.

Norm & Keith Sr. - Shady
So my dad comes back to the group to take some pictures. This leaves Norm on the wall by himself. Now, coming down the wall (seemingly out of nowhere) is this skinny dog. I'm not too keen on dogs myself so it puts me on guard a bit. I mean, who knows what this dog's intentions might be? Maybe he wants to bite me or my wife. Maybe he wants to give me a disease. Maybe he wants to rub his gennies on my leg. But lucky for me Norm is between me and this dog. And the dog decides to befriend him. I open the camera on my phone and snap a few shots of the dog with Norm. They are literally dancing with one another. Norm says something like “this is so cool! Strange dogs usually shy away from me.” This is kind of weird because Norm and Lori have pugs and there is no stranger dog than a pug. But Norm and this dog are bonding big time. Dancing, petting. At one point the dog gives a little dog lick kiss right on the ole mustache. Adorable!




Then s*** got real.

The dog leaves Norm in the dust, trots back behind where the woman is rocking her baby and grabs something out of a small trash can with its mouth. It carriers this thing 40 feet down the grassy strip next to the wall. It starts tearing into it to open it up ready to greedily devour its contents. Words cannot describe the rest. But fortunately, video can.

Warning...what you are about to see is real and unedited. If you have a weak gag reflex you should stop now and assume the worst. Otherwise...enjoy!


Monday, February 10, 2014

The Fix


My wife, Taela, is amazing. She is great at everything she does because she has the rare ability to focus on things she has passion for. She's an amazing musician, an exemplary nurse and a wonderful wife and mother.

She also has the ability to make big, life-altering decisions at just the right time. Without her instinct and drive we wouldn't have reaped the benefits of buying our first house when we did nor would we have locked in a historically low interest rate when we most recently refinanced our current home. But most of all Taela has known when it's time for us to make-a somebabies!

I was always one of those people that thought there was going to be some moment in time when everything would be perfectly ripe for adding to our family. I was going to be successful and have a great job making tons of money. We were going to be living in our dream home...that kind of thing. But Taela knows more about life than I do. And people kept telling me what everyone else in the world already knew...namely that there is no perfect time to have kids. Kids are additional human lives brought into your family for which you have ultimate, constant and enormous responsibility.

So first we had Caleb. Anyone who knows us knows how amazing he is. Then we had Tenley. Equally amazing! Then there was this period of a few years in which I was (I thought) completely satisfied by the general size of my fatherhood. But people would ask me all the time if we were going to have a third and the answer I gave would always sound like this: “I think we are set, but my wife has this biological need to have a third. Her work has her delivering babies all the time so I don't think that need is going to go away.” She would say either we had to have a third or I needed to “get fixed” because being in between was too much for her.

And so along came Micah. That kid is fantastic. She was TOTALLY right. He's the funniest little booger and our house wouldn't be complete without him.

And then it was time to “get fixed”. Here's the thing...I didn't even know I was broken! The only thing I knew about getting a vasectomy was how pitiful my cat was in the aftermath of having him neutered. And that was pathetic. He rolled off my bed and dragged himself after me any time I left the room. But he didn't have the strength to do anything but squeak. I certainly didn't want that to be my fate.

Well, fortunately for me it turned out that getting a vasectomy and being castrated are two (slightly) different things. The doctor explained that he would be going into something he called my “scrotum” (a word with which I was unfamiliar) and he would be cutting and tying off my “vas” (which, he corrected me, is not the same as a “vag”). After thevas is severed my sperm would no longer be able to do something called “fertilize eggs” which apparently has literally absolutely nothing to do with Scotts Turfbuilder or store-bought chicken products sold by the dozen.

My instructions for the procedure were as follows:
  1. Shave everything you can reach “down there”
  2. Wear tighty whities

So apparently I'm supposed to be en vogue and out of fashion all at the same time!

My wife drove me and the kids to the doctor's office. The family waited in the...drumroll...waiting room while the procedure was performed. In my head it was going to go like this: a pretty nurse was going to “prepare the area” and compliment what she saw. The doctor was going to numb me up, then badda bing! badda boom!..five minutes later I'm sitting in the car with a bag of frozen peas in my lap. Instead it went like this:

I was told to get naked and lay on a table. An unattractive nurse very clinically sterilized my bag of goods and failed even one time to mention anything about how nice they looked even as she was poking my nads through a hole in a sterile cloth. The doctor then entered and we immediately began talking about golf. He was very good looking and he was a better golfer than me AND his junk wasn't laying out in the open for both of us to look at so I felt at a distinct disadvantage. Talk about not being in a position of power. For just a moment I considered the idea of trying to get aroused just to get the upper hand, but quickly decided he would probably take that as a compliment which would only further humiliate me.

The doctor was very good about letting me know what each step would entail. First he was going to numb up the right side. He stuck a needle in somewhere and I felt some uncomfortable pressure before the blissful numbness. The numb was delightful. I then began studying the ceiling. I looked for shapes in the texture. I listened for sounds outside the room. I considered what it would be like to have an out of body experience because, quite frankly, anywhere was better than here. I felt him go in through his freshly cut sac hole. I felt tugging and pulling. He said something about how my skin was nice and easy to incise. We then uncomfortably laughed about how old men have thick scrodes. He said I was going to smell something. It was going to be my burning flesh. It was a pretty gnarly smell, but hey...unlike where I'm writing this right now this was no day at the beach. I could deal with a little barbequed Keith smell. And then it was done! No big deal...well...halfway done.

Time for the left side. Needle poke: numb. “Can you feel this?” No. “How about this?” Nope. “Okay...here we go.” Home freeeeeeeeeeOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!

Me: “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts” It was odd because I was looking right at this guy and I swear that, visually speaking, he wasn't turning the screws on a vise with my left testicle about ready to pop inside it. But that's exactly how it felt! “Hold on...I'll numb it more.” It took precisely 11 hours and 47 minutes for him to administer the additional anesthetic...or so it seemed to me. It was probably more like 30 seconds but it was an eternity that I have never forgotten.

After that he continued about his work and the pain was, mercifully, gone. But as he worked I felt strange. I felt the same as I did the time I gave blood. I know what you're thinking...you're thinking “like a wuss?” Yes...kind of. But also like I was going to pass out. That was a huge shot of adrenaline for a naked guy who just had his tube tied. He said he'd keep an eye on me and I wouldn't be the first guy to pass out on him during this procedure (are you sure you're doing it right???). Tug tug, pull pull, sizzle sizzle, sew sew...

After it was complete he gave me a few minutes to compose myself. Then he had me stand up and slowly put my underwear on (not provocative-like, but careful so as not to blow a gasket). I had brought boxer-briefs (because I didn't want the hot nurse to say something like “1982 called and they want their panties back”). The doctor looked at me like I'm an idiot (I feel like I type that a lot) and says these underwear won't provide as much “support” as the tighty whities. As he said “support” he cupped his hand under my balls and lifted them up...apparently because I was such an idiot as to not know what “support” means. Then he went and grabbed a huge wad of gauze...I'm talking 30, 40 pads of it (which has to be about $1,500 worth when itemized on an ER bill) and shoved it all under my dangles. I must have looked exactly like one of those ballet dancers (come on...you know they stuff).

The doctor then gave me a sealable container and told me to “fill” it in a few weeks after I had sufficiently “flushed out my system”. I was to bring back my pearly treasure for them to examine.

Then he walked me out to the waiting room and presented me, like announcing the happy couple at a wedding, to my family. And there I stood...bruised but not broken. Sad but not dead. Manly but not really.

They asked me how I was. “A bit woozy but fine.” They were proud of me and sympathetic. We got into the elevator and went down to the first floor. I took about 10 steps down the hallway toward the exit and said to Taela “I can't make it to the car. I need to sit down or I'm going to pass out.” We found a chair in the hall and I sat in it. I breathed in deeply. You know the old ladies that volunteer at the hospital and just sit up front and welcome you but they don't really know enough to answer your questions? That lady was sitting at a desk right next to us. She was probably 90. Taela asked what she could do. I said I wanted to get down on the floor because if I fainted I was going to fall there anyway. So I slowly got down and laid on my back on the floor of the hospital. The old lady at the desk began laughing. “Huh huh ha ha ha ha ha!...you don't look very good! Ha ha ha ha!” Well at least I don't look 90.

I almost passed out, recovered. After 5 minutes or so I stood up and we walked out the door only to stop 20 feet short of the waiting car (where the kids were already buckled in). I had to sit down against a concrete pillar. Another 5 minutes and Taela was helping me into the passenger seat to return me home...a mere shadow of the man who had left so boldly on this adventure not 90 minutes before.


And then, for the rest of the weekend, peas on my crotch and sports on TV.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Progressive, Flo, and the Snapshot Discount



“That’s a buncha bullcrap” is the only thing you can really say about Flo. So you’re telling me that this actress who was relegated to the phone systems closet in Mad Men has somehow “made it” because she is now in some hypnotic white room staged as a woman we all want to punch in the face? If I hadn’t been with Progressive for the past 15 years I would boycott them based on their ad campaign alone.
Ever heard of the “Snapshot Discount®”? Of course you have. That’s because you heard it from That’s a Buncha Bullcrap Flo. What That’s a Buncha Bullcrap Flo is trying to get you to do is put a small device into your car that will allow Progessive to track you 24 hours a day for 6 months. Now THAT’S A BUNCHA BULLCRAP!

Initially we tried the Snapshot Discount® because we drive our SUV pretty infrequently and they offer up to a 30% discount with it. We ordered it and followed the instructions by putting the device into the OBD-II slot under the driver’s side of the dashboard. This is the slot that DEQ uses to test your emissions and the mechanic uses to charge you $100 to “diagnose” your Check Engine Light. It’s basically a USB port to your car’s computer system.
So we put the device in and started driving very carefully. VERY CAREFULLY. Because we soon found out that there were a few things Progressive was looking to ding us on:

1)      Number of trips
2)      Mileage
3)      Driving during DANGER hours
and finally…
4)       Hard Braking Incidents (Now That’s a Buncha Bullcrap!)

Hard braking incidents, as defined by Progressive, are times during which your vehicle is decelerating by at least 7 miles per hour per second. Think about that. How long does it take you to go from 22 mph to 15 mph? No idea, right? That’s why THAT’S A BUNCHA BULLCRAP!
We actually did very well with the SUV. We ended up getting an initial discount of the full 30%. You get that after 30 days. Then they tell you to leave that damn device in your car until the end of the 6 month policy! Now THAT’s a buncha bullcrap.

So we left the device in for months. Every time you drive the damn thing you drive in fear. You think about it constantly. You worry. You fret. You joke about it listening to your conversations but you end up believing it so you have phony confersations with your spouse about how safe you are (while you’re flipping the bird at a 90 year old woman who just cut you off…hypothetically). So after having this little demon in our car for nearly half a year I finally received an email from That’s a Buncha Bullcrap Flo to return the device. We had earned a (I guess) permanent discount of 28%. Shwew!
Well, you know I bought a Prius. What I might not have mentioned was that while I’m getting amazing gas mileage I actually have to pay a higher insurance premium than the Subaru it replaced. Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t make much sense other than Prius drivers are typically the worst drivers on the planet. What is it about environmentalism that makes people such a bad fit for soceity? The point is that we ended up putting the device in the Prius and then checking the log on the website daily. That’s a Buncha Bullcrap! I was getting hard braking incidents on top of hard braking incidents. And they added a really nice new feature to the Snapshot®…it beeped at me when I had an “incident”. Except that it didn’t beep every time! So now I’m thinking I had two incidents in a week when really I had 7! NOW THAT’S A BUNCHA BULLCRAP!!!!

By the end of the Snapshot® trial I had lost 6 pounds, 3 years off my life and was rewarded with a 2% discount. Thanks for nothing, That’s a Buncha Bullcrap Flo, thanks for nothing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Fountains - 01 Pilot


The following is my first attempt at a serial. Later I will hopefully add many installments and introduce many characters. All of it is true and occurred at my first place of employment. I hope it's as entertaining now as it was nearly 20 years ago when most of happened...

She was older than me. Quite a bit older.
 
I was 15 and it was my first day joining the wonderful American workforce. I had gangled my way down the long corridor to the employee lounge where the time clock was bolted to a wall and punched in. For the first time in my life I was on the clock and something about that felt powerful. Every moment I spent that first evening in my short-sleeved light blue striped shirt and navy shorts felt like a million bucks...that's because it was a million bucks, or at least it would have been after 200,000 hours. Now it's illegal to pay a $5 wage in Oregon, or anywhere in the US for that matter, but on that day in that place when I was 15 and she was much older than me it was empowering and wonderful and I felt alive.

Her name was Francis...but let me back up a bit here...

Adam McKenzie was one of my best friends in middle school and high school. He was one of those guys that was good at everything. He ALWAYS made straight A's. He was tall and good looking. He was a solid athlete. He came from an amazing family. And he was the first of my friends to get an actual, real life, paying job. You see, his brother was a food server and was able to put in a good word with Rosalie who hired Adam in a snap. When you're paying $5/hour and you find a good employee, you take his word when he recommends another person eager to serve.

Despite being in the same grade Adam was a year older than me, so it was natural for him to find employment first. And it was after he was hired that I began to notice something different about him. It seemed that every time he wanted to do something such as “eat lunch” or “go to the movies” he could. Why? Because he had these strange little green rectangles in his wallet that he told me were called “money” and he could actually trade these slips of paper for pretty much anything he wanted if he had enough of them.

Well, the style in the early 90's didn't include any tailed coats, but I'm here to tell you that didn't stop me from instantly riding Adam McKenzie's coattails right to his boss for an interview. Now what was it I was saying about Adam? Oh right, he was good at everything and, fortunately for me, that included being a model employee. So like his brother before him, his word to Rosalie was as good as gold for the beneficiary and in this particular instance that beneficiary was me.

After filling out my very first application, having my very first interview and completing my very first W-2 I was ready to make my very first taxable income. I nervously walked my skinny legs into the kitchen that first day, worried to death because Adam wasn't working that shift. I was told to ask for Toby.

“I'm Toby. Put on a hairnet,” said a small, mid-20's, possibly recovering drug addict, certainly living in a trailer, GIRL. (Years later I would have a similar situation come up on my first day working at Oswego Lake Country Club...the day I sought out my now very good male friend Jade to issue me my uniform). The thing about Toby was that if life hadn't aged her so prematurely she probably would have been pretty.

Wait...did she say “hairnet”?

So Toby was the Assistant Dining Room Manager, or perhaps The Assistant to the Dining Room Manager or maybe she was the Dining Room Manager who was the understudy to the Kitchen Manager. In any case, Toby quickly showed me how to line up cups and fill them with the correct beverages. Then it was time to hit the floor.

You see, there were two sides to the food service business. There was the back of the house (the kitchen) where the food was prepared. And there was the front of the house (the dining room) where it was my job to put a smiling face on the establishment. After being learning some menial tasks in the back of the house, it was time to walk through that understated doorway from the heat of the industrial kitchen onto The Floor where the real action took place.

And that's when I met her. “Francis, this is Keith” said Toby rather loudly. “What?”. “This is KEITH!”. “What?” “KEITH!” Me: “Yes, I'm KEITH!” Francis: “Oh, Keith...rhymes with teeth.” I laughed. “Don't laugh, now I'm serious. Now I will never forget your name.” And, by God, from that day for the next 5 years that 90 year old woman, Francis, never did forget my name. I told you she was older than me.

 
And thus began my adventures working at The Fountains at Town Center Village. I was about to find out just how much fun assisted living could be.
 




Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's what's on the inside (of the tortilla) that counts

A few years ago I found a small monthly tear-off calendar at work and put it on my desk. On it I taped this picture:
 
 

Each time I ate a burrito I would mark it on the calendar. I called it my Burrito Calendar. I love burritos.

In light of this I have decided to bring you my Top 5 Burritos in Portland list. There are many, many possible criteria for a list like this, but I have simplified the process. I have simply ranked these stuffed tortillas of goodness in the order of how much happiness they give me while I am eating them. So, without further ado, because prior to this statement there was so much ado, I give you...drum roll...the list.

Trivia: "Burrito" is Spanish for "little donkey". Also, "Boca Raton"...as in Boca Raton, Florida...is Spanish for "Rat Mouth".

Honorable Mention: King Burrito
Ingredients: Unknown

Listen, I have never been to King Burrito. I don’t even know where it is. But one time I attended a networking luncheon put on the Portland Business Alliance and everyone had to go around the room and tell their name and where they worked. I stood up and said “I’m Keith, I work at such and such and, sadly, I’m a huge Chicago Cubs fan which means I’m basically a loser all the time.” You probably think that has nothing to do with King Burrito. Well, it kind of doesn’t and you’re a know-it-all. Pipe down and let me explain. The next time I had to give my name, rank and serial number I was at a South Portland Business Alliance meeting and when it came to me I said “I’m Keith, I work at such and such and I LOVE to eat burritos. I’ve eaten 34 of them this year (this was in March).” After that people came up to me and told me all sorts of things about burritos. A recurring theme was a food cart called King Burrito. If that young, eager Farmers insurance agent is this worked up about a burrito served out of a wagon then I’m all in and you, King Burrito, have just narrowly missed my top 5.
 
Note: See, I told you I've never been there. I just checked the website and it turns out it's not a cart at all, it's a hole in the wall taqueria!

Ingredients: Carnitas
White or Brown Rice
Black Beans, but the Pinto Beans w/ Bacon are equally good
Corn Salsa
A little Sour Cream
A TON of Cheese

I know, I know…I’m choosing a huge corporation with a major ownership stake by McDonald’s as my #5 burrito. So what, you hoity toity snobby food critic? It’s freaking delicious and it’s big enough to make me full. The employees are great because, as corporate (as opposed to franchised) employees they have to do pretty much anything you say. They are friendly and helpful and, hey, owner Jim isn’t breathing down their neck about food portions like Jen does over at every Subway shop in the Milwaukie/Clackamas area.

At Chipotle you are basically on an assembly line of delicious tortilla stuffings. The key here is you can never have too much cheese, so you order like this: “Put on a ton of cheese. Just when you think you’ve put on too much add one more handful.” It has taken years to perfect this request because they are trained to put on small sprinkles thereby making you ask for more countless times like the girl giving free haircuts at the beauty school who is too scared to cut anything off. BUT…they HAVE to give you as much as you want despite however many fingerfuls it takes. Tell them to keep going until you say “stop” and you’re golden…or white, since the cheese is an amazing blend that looks the color of a Wisconsin girl in winter.

Ingredients: Refried Beans
A Chile Relleno
Cheese

I know I know…you’ve been to Muchas Gracias and you love the Oregon Burrito. Good for you. Go write your own blog. As for me, I too have had the Oregon Burrito and it’s decent. I happen to think the potatoes take away from the flavor instead of soaking up the flavor, but maybe I caught the OB on a bad day. Here’s my take on burritos: if you can put a relleno in the middle of it, it’s good. I first encountered this in a crappy hole in the wall down in LA with my dad, stepmom and sister. My dad took us to the most likely place to get shot in the entire city so we could have some authentic LA Mexican food. People don’t smile in that place…that is until I bit into my chile relleno burrito! Then I was smiling and I think my obvious lack of gold teeth targeted me as an outsider.

That said, I brought that mentality back to Oregon with me. So, screw you Oregon Burrito, I’ll take the Mexican Burrito. Oh…you can’t find the above item on the menu at Muchas Gracias, you have to ask for it special. Just say “Give me the KeenKeith special”. They will look at you like either a) they don’t speak English well enough to know what you’re saying or b) you’re an idiot. After you get past that embarrassment you simply say “can you squirt some of your lardy lard lardy beans onto a tortilla, smother it in cheese then add a relleno?” They will say “yes, that will be $4” and you’ll be the fattest, happiest person on the block.

Ingredients: Seasoned Ground Beef
Rice
Cheese
Potatoes
Peas
Almonds
Raisins

Thought I was kidding, didn’t you? Well I’m not. They cook up the meat with all this crazy crap in it that doesn’t seem to go together at all, then they serve it to you in this yellow wax paper as if to say “no, we really are Latino”. I have yet to meet anyone who loves this burrito the way I do. It’s tied for number one for me and I struggled with this because it’s on an equal plane with my numbers 1b and 1a.

So you get this burrito, you unwrap it and wad up the yellow wax paper and set that aside. You then grab the green sauce and just drench the tortilla with it and dig in with a fork and knife. No regrets…no regrets.

Ingedients: Chile Relleno
Rice
Refried Beans
Guacamole

The above is a description of the Super Burrito. Running a close second is the Chile Relleno Burrito which is just as wonderful as the dangerous Los Angeles burrito my dad risked all our lives for. Honestly, the only way you can do wrong with Super Torta is by not going there. They have tongue on the menu which in and of itself makes it an authentic experience. You can also buy rock candy out of their quarter machine. Rock candy? Yes, rock candy. I have always assumed that's because there's so much poverty in Mexico that people have to eat rocks there.

Ingredients:
Interior: Shredded Beef
Sweet Rice
Refried Beans
Exterior: Cheese
Sour Cream
Sweet Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

“What?!?!!!??!! Salad Dressing? Grosssssssssss!” Shaaaaaaadup. It’s awesome. So this is another assembly line burrito. They have a location in Clackamas in the Home Depot parking lot on 82nd. They are opening a new west side location, I think it will be in Beaverton.

So the shredded beef is amazing. It tastes like Yankee Pot Roast…which is weird because Yankees are Northeast and this place is definitely shooting for Southwest. I don’t care about that. What I care about is how mouth wateringly good the meat is. How sweet and soft the rice is…and most importantly how tangy delicious that salad dressing is. It’s literally the best salad dressing I’ve ever tasted and I don’t even bother with the salad anymore. I could drink that stuff straight from the container. Instead I have them soak the burrito with it.

The Latino workers look at me like I’m nuts when I ask for the salad dressing, but the white guy knows us and doesn’t even ask. He doesn’t eat his burrito that way, but he can identify with our American urge to smother everything with sweetness. The only think that would make this place better is if I could find a way to actually bathe in the sweet vinaigrette. I’m sure it would make my skin soft, smooth and scrumptious.

Well, I hope you're able to visit all of the above fine establishments. Also, visit this place just north of SE 92nd and Foster.
 
 
I have never been there but the following is a list of reasons you should patronize this establishment, which also happen to be reasons I will soon be trying it out:
 
1. The interior walls are bright green which makes it light up like lime sherbet at night.
2. Check out the police car. Ever gone to a crappy restaurant with police officers eating there?
3. Note the nutty yellow bird on the sign...it's practically screaming "I'm delicious!"
4. Some dude apparently likes to mess with his bicycle in the alley.
5. Look at orange shirt guy. Any Mexican food place in a neighborhood where you have to constantly be looking over your shoulder MUST have great food. I'll bet they even serve tongue.

If you have yet to develop your burrito pallet I suggest you get on that right away. The burrito craze has grown so wildly that there is a section on Weidler over near Lloyd Center that has a Muchas Gracias, a Chipotle, a Taco Bell and a Q'Doba Mexican Grill within a half block of each other.

Oh, disclaimer: burritos will make you fart.