Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa Claus is real

Santa Claus is real because I say he’s real. Santa Claus is real because on Friday, December 23rd he was driving from Happy Valley to downtown Vancouver, WA to buy the only toy coffee maker in the greater Portland area. He had looked at Fred Meyer. He had searched Target. He had been to Toys ‘R Us, The Learning Palace, Walgreens. He had even shopped at the gates of Hell (Walmart at 1:00 in the morning). Santa finally wised up and called the greatest little toy store he knows, Kazoodles. They didn’t have a toy toaster, but the coffee maker was right there on the shelf. So Santa got in his 2001 Subaru Legacy sleighdan and headed north for the 25 minute drive. When he showed up at Kazoodles Santa found an empty building where Kazoodles used to be. “Is this Christmas?!?!?!?!!” Santa yelled. Santa then used his iPhone 4s to find out where Kazoodles is now located. It was 10 miles away on the east end of Vancouver. So, Santa got back in his car and started driving to the other side of Portland’s wonderful sister city to the north. He drove the length from I-5 to I-205 and then headed north yet again (because if there’s one thing Santa’s good at, it’s north) and he exited at Mill Plain. What Santa didn’t know was that Mill Plain is a very busy road at midday on the Friday before Christmas…turns out Santa doesn’t know EVERYTHING. After waiting through a number of green light/red light sequences Santa got to the front and realized that he could have used the left lane and been through in one signal. Seeing this, Santa went ahead and blew through the yellowish/orange/okay-RED light and headed down Mill Plain trying to follow the pseudo-GPS built into his iPhone. He was doing this because a thief smashed out his car window and stole Santa’s 2 GPS units a couple weeks ago while Santa was playing poker in NW Portland. In any case, Santa drove to the spot on the GPS and found a bunch of businesses but NO KAZOODLES! Santa jerked his sleigh into the empty parking lot of a church and stopped to let it leak oil all over the place while he again called Kazoodles. “Yes, Kazoodles? This is Santa. Where are you? I’m at the church. I’ve gone too far? Oh good, will you be on the left or right? The left? Great. I’ll see you in a Christmas jiffy!” Then Santa found he couldn’t turn left on Mill Plain so he did the only thing he could…he turned right. Soon Santa realized he was in Washington so he could make a U-turn. So Santa found a left hand turn signal…which, shockingly, had a “No U-turn” sign. So Santa took a left, then a left into a parking lot, then made a back and forth maneuver that would have made Austin Powers blush, bayyybeeeee, then came bac k out of the parking lot to make a right followed by another right and Santa was on his way. On his way to the strip mall where he eventually located Kazoodles. He entered the store, bent over and grabbed the ankles of his furry red suit and, as only a defeated magical giant elf can do, handed over his credit card to charge $22.95 for a couple pieces of moulded plastic that will inevitably lead his 5 year old daughter into a life of paying $4 each for cup upon cup of addictive hot liquids. Santa then hopped back into his dented green sleigh and got back on Mill Plain. Where in the name of St. Nick did all these cars come from? Santa used the left lane only to realize that the right lane was a ½ mile long line for the freeway that Santa needed to get home. Santa was stuck. He couldn’t squeeze into this line at this point, and quite frankly it was longer than Santa was willing to wait anyway. Santa said the F-word. Santa didn’t know Vancouver well enough to find an alternate route, but he was sure gonna try.
That’s when it happened. Santa’s sleigh found itself as the first car in the left lane at the red light before the freeway entrance. All Santa had to do was beat the thuggish looking gentleman to his right off the line and he would be free as a Christmas dove flying home on the interstate! The light turned green, Santa reved up all 4 cylinders of his sleighdan and found himself falling behind the car to his right. But like the peaceful bliss of a new fallen snow there beside him was a Christmas miracle. The second car in line was busy illegally talking on his cell phone which made him too stupid to realize that the light had turned green. Santa slid in behind Mr. Thug and found himself on that charmed and magical Christmas pathway, I-205.
So for those of you who don’t believe in magic…those of you who don’t believe in Santa Claus. Santa IS real. I saw his reflection in the eyes of a 5 year old girl on Christmas and he was shaped very much like a toy coffee maker.
NORAD Santa tracker: December 23rd from 11:30am - 2:00pm

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

The dark at the end of the tunnel

Coca-Cola has had a promotion going on now for a few years called My Coke Rewards. It’s actually an amazing promotion. Every time you buy a box or bottle of any Coke product you receive a code that you can enter on their website. Each code gives you a certain number of points which are then used as currency to purchase items from a wide assortment in their catalog. You’re probably thinking “oh, how neat…a way for you to get a crappy Diet Coke branded hat.” Well, you’re kind of right. You can get a crappy Diet Coke hat. You can also get an even crappier Fanta hat if you want. But you’re kind of wrong too because they have had some really amazing prizes available. In the past few years I have “purchased” a brand new pair of skis (which I sold on craigslist for $180), binoculars, a speaker for my mp3 player, a travel DVD player for use in the car, a yoga mat, gift cards to restaurants, and a few other things I can’t remember at the moment.
Well, the first thing I tried to get with my points was a Wii. It was the pie in the sky prize and it took a LOT of points to get it. I think it took 5600 points to get the Wii. Now you need to know that you get 10 points for a code from a 12 pack, 20 points from a 24 pack and 3 points from a lid to a bottle of any size. So if you’re going to get that Wii you need to have a plan…I had a plan. First and foremost I asked everyone I knew (including, at the time, my MySpace friends) to give me their codes. Most people didn’t think the promotion was worthwhile to pursue for themselves so I started getting codes from all over the place. It was fantastic, but I don’t know THAT many people so I needed other sources of codes. That’s when it hit me…why not check the local bottle/can returns at the grocery stores? It became a treasure hunt for Taela and me. We even started to make it a family outing to go looking for codes.
On one particular family outing we hit the local WinCo where I dropped Taela at the bottle return and stayed in the car with the kids. As I said…family outing. Taela came back with a few caps and box tops and I was pleased as punch. How pleased is punch? I have no idea. But as I was sitting in the car I felt a little rumbling in my tummy. We decided to press on to the next stop which was Fred Meyer. Freddy’s is awesome because their bottle return is at the outer reaches of the parking lot so homeless people use it constantly. Do you know what homeless people don’t have? That’s right…homes. Do you know what else they don’t have? That’s right…internet access. So what’s a homeless guy going to care about codes you redeem on the information super-highway?
So I’m driving the family down 82nd avenue toward Freddy’s…maybe a 5 minutes trip and about halfway there my stomach starts rolling over some more. I need to poop and I need to poop very very soon. “Taela, I have to take a dump.” Caleb laughs. Tenley laughs but only because she’s 2 and she does whatever her older brother does. I don’t laugh. We drive 30 seconds more and I start to struggle a little bit. I’m clenching down pretty hard and I’m able to force the urge back up there and stave off the inevitable for a merciful moment. I look at Taela and say “I’m going to park as close to the door as possible and I’m going to run into the store. You have the keys and the kids.” She thinks I’m being funny. I’m not laughing.
So I get into the left hand turn lane and wait for the signal. The pain starts coming back. I swear to God that traffic signal stayed red for about 12 minutes before we finally got the green. I think I yelled something at the signal itself along the lines of “why do you hate me!?!?!?!?!”. Finally the light turns green and I just floor it. I don’t remember if the tires squealed as I made my way into the lot but if they didn’t it was a miracle of modern science. I slammed into a parking spot near the door and damn near flew out of the car.
Decision #1: Run and risk losing lower body control or walk and lose time? I chose to walk briskly. I couldn’t remember exactly where the restroom was…as evidenced by my having parked at the entrance near apparel when the toilets are over by electronics. I never looked back at the kids or my wife, I just started walking toward the customer help desk trying to clear my mind, trying to remember where the bathroom was…singular focus…you can do this. As I neared the desk I remembered where I needed to go. I needed to get past the desk and over toward the other entrance. Fantastic…except…
Decision #2: Stop and clench down or make an all out sprint? I chose to stop and clench. This was a tough one. I must have squeezed every muscle in my body. Have you ever had to lift something that was so heavy you didn’t know if you could? Standing there I didn’t know if I could. I stood absolutely still and to the outside observer I probably looked as though I were seizing in some fashion. My toes were curled into cramped little balls in my shoes. My face was sweating. My fists were so tight that my fingers ached. And I was successful to the point that not even a turtle-head of poo slipped out. I had forced that urge back up once again but I knew I was running out of time. My body was going to explode and it was going to do it soon. I continued walking maybe 10 seconds longer and found myself under the “Restrooms” sign. You’ve got to be kidding me…
Decision #3: The hallway to the bathrooms was about 3 miles long…do I stop and clench again or just make a dash for it? At this point I was so close that I had to make the dash. It’s a scientifically proven fact, actually proved by Albert Einstein himself, that the nearer you are to the toilet the less ability you have to hold it. Porcelain is literally a crap magnet. When you see the light at the end of the tunnel your body goes into full expulsion mode. Why? I don’t know…ask God when you’re dead. So I start jogging down the hallway. I’m keeping control. Nothing coming out yet. I fart a little and it eases the pressure. I’m relieved. The end is in sight and I’ve held it all together thus far. I round the corner and find the men’s room. I’m literally praying to the Lord that there will be an empty stall. Stall #1 is occupied but #2 is open. I make a sprint to the open door…
Decision #4: Close the stall door or immediately drop my pants and risk someone seeing me take a crap? Now at this point I’m pretty confident I’ve made every correct decision. If this were a Choose Your Own Adventure book I’m thinking the best possible ending has me pooping in the toilet and I’m right there at the climax of the story. I’ve chosen wisely. Yoda would have been proud. I’ve used The Force and it’s led me to exactly the place I want to be. As I enter the stall I already have my belt undone and the top button on my shorts is also open. All I need to do is unzip, drop and relax the 1400 muscles that are now starting to cramp up. Remember that there is a guy crapping away in the stall next to me too so the choice is clear. I will close the stall door, latch it and then crap. This will cost me about 2 seconds of time and when was the last time that 2 seconds killed anyone?
Well, I don’t know when 2 seconds killed anyone, but I can tell you the last time 2 seconds caused a 30 year old guy to sh*t his pants. Decision #4 will haunt me forever…I latched that damn stall and frantically tried to pull my pants down, but as I started pulling my body simply couldn’t resist the magnetic pull of the bowl any longer. I felt the warmth start to spread as I desperately tried to wrangle those shorts down. It was as if time slowed. I could feel the release, the humiliation, the failure, I distinctly remember giving up. I had lost. Somehow, in a heroic last effort, I was able to stop the flow long enough to get my pants to my ankles and sit my bare, sticky cheeks down on the filthy seat beneath me. I was an indescribable mess but at the same time I had never felt so relieved. In that moment I was so relaxed it was like an out of body experience. It was ethereal bliss. There were simultaneous feelings of abject horror and zen-like nirvana. Unfortunately these bizarre contrasting feelings were fleeting and my nose reminded me that much of my body and clothes were covered in diarrhea.
I did what I could to clean up with toilet paper. I took off my boxers and after the guy in stall 1 left I hurried over and threw them in the garbage. I then grabbed some paper towels and wetted them and did what I could to, at the very least, not look like a guy who had just crapped himself. For those of you out there who don’t believe in God you should know that I just so happened to be wearing dark brown pants that day. If that’s not evidence of our creator I don’t know what is.
Finally it was time to make the walk of shame. I came down the hallway hanging my head. I carried myself a little differently, in part because I now had a shameful burden to carry with me and also because certain parts of me were now swinging freely as I walked…unencumbered by the now disposed of underpants. There at the end of the tunnel were Taela and the kids. The kids were laughing. Taela was smiling. “Did you make it?” she asked jokingly. “No.” She laughed. I didn’t laugh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Well, we just got back from Disneyland. What an experience! But that’s not the part of the trip I’m going to tell you about. Be honest, you weren’t really looking forward to me telling you about which of the girls pretending to be Disney Princesses were the best looking anyway, were you? The most bloggable portion of the trip was the time we spent on the airplanes.

What I should say first and foremost is I’m cheap. I hate spending money I don’t have to. I’m famous for it in some circles. That said, my wife thinks I’m a frivolous spender which tells you something about her frugality. Having established all that you won’t be surprised to learn that we planned everything for our vacation on the cheap. How cheap? Well, I booked the flights on Spirit Airlines. What’s Spirit Airlines? It’s the airline that has absurdly low fares but then charges a fee for anything and everything you can think of. Oh…and which travel website did I use to book the flight? Cheap-o-air.com. Seriously.

This was our first experience with Spirit so we didn’t really know what to expect. We knew that we would have to pay for any checked baggage…and any carry-ons. Fortunately we were actually allowed one “personal item” for free. After much thought and debate I decided my personal item should be a change of underwear (in case the plane were to go down I didn’t want the news cameras to arrive to find me in soiled undies). Kidding. I was able to bring my laptop bag and Taela was able to bring a backpack that she referred to as her “purse”.

Next I had to call the airline to determine what it was going to cost to bring car seats and a stroller. I found the 800 number and dialed it. I got through to a lady with some kind of indeterminate accent. She asked for my “confirmation number”. Uh-oh. I was looking at the email from Cheap-O-Air and I gave her the “booking number”. Nope, wrong number. Ok…how about this one, the “reference number”. Nope. Crap. Then…silence… “Hello? Hello? Hello?” Nothing. Well, let’s hope the planes at Spirit are more reliable than the phone system.

I called back and got through to a man with a similarly mysterious accent. For no reason other than to make myself feel irrationally better I let him know that I had been cut off when I had called moments before. He either didn’t understand or didn’t care about that as he asked how he could help me. I said I had seen on the website there is a “nominal fee” for requesting particular seats on the plane. What would it cost to get all 4 of us sitting together? “Oh, sir, it is only $10 per ticket per flight.” Understand that we’re making a connection in Las Vegas on the way down and the way back. That’s 4 legs on this trip times 4 tickets times $10. That’s $160. We’ll pass on this one and assume that common sense will prevail when we board the flight. I mean they can’t possibly seat a 5 year old girl by herself, right? I rolled the dice and it worked out just fine.

Then I asked him if there was a fee for the stroller. “No there isn’t, you will have to leave it at the gate and it will fly for free.” How about the baby car seat that fits into the stroller? “If there is a baby for it then it too flies free.” Great! What about the booster seats for the other two kids? “Pardon me, sir?” You know, the booster seats. “Sir? I don’t understand.” You don’t know what a booster seat is? “No sir.” You know, the plastic seat a kid sits on in a car. If we rent one from the car rental place it’s $10/day and they only cost $18 brand new. Can we bring them as the kids’ personal item? “I don’t understand sir, please hold while I check on this information for you.” For the next 6 minutes I sat there and tried to think of a way to describe a booster seat to someone who has never seen or heard of a one. “I’m sorry sir, I cannot answer your question but here is the phone number for TSA.” TSA? “Yes, TSA, sir. The number is…” Well, at least the guy tried to help. I didn’t bother calling TSA since that would have been useless, but it turned out they checked the booster seats at the gate just like the stroller for no charge. Couple that with Taela’s family’s willingness to check our bags on their Southwest flight and this plan is set to save us $300!

Three hundred bucks…sounds worth it, doesn’t it? Well, the first flight was pretty routine. We had 4 seats in a row. The kids were excited for their first flight. It was great. Then we caught our connection in Vegas. Our seats were close but not right next to one another. I was able to get a lady to trade her seat so we sat two and two. We were in the same row but had the window and middle seat on either side. It appeared that nobody would sit in either aisle seat so we would be next to each other again but at the last minute a guy that must have weighed 350 lbs. sat down next to Taela. That was the last time I saw she and Tenley until we landed in LA. I think you’re still sitting over there and I miss you.

Then we went to Disneyland for five days. Yay!

For the trip home I got us back to the airport a little rushed for time. We were at the front of the check in line. Then a greasy looking guy with a gold chain tangled in his chest hair came up and stood beside us as if he were ahead of us. I used my shoulder to step in front of him and he moved uncomfortably close behind me. I looked at him and said “What are you doing?” He answer: “I’m on the 4:00 to Vegas”. “Me too.” After that I never remember seeing the guy again, but that’s the kind of class you get on Spirit. We made it through the security checkpoint quickly. We made our way to the dumpiest terminal gate I’ve ever seen. It was under construction and there were exhausted looking people everywhere. I couldn’t find an airline employee to save my life. When I finally found one I couldn’t tell if it was a man dressed like a woman or just an overweight, over made-up, over-shaped-eyebrow woman. There was no intercom so they just started shouting for us to board.

We were able to get 4 seats together again on this flight. Fantastic. We made our way on and quickly realized that this flight was damn near empty. There were probably 30 people on board flying from LA to Vegas. Of the 30 there were definitely 3 strippers. The lady sitting directly in front of Tenley was on the phone during boarding: “Yeah, it was busy last night. I gave 5 dances, but I’m not complaining about the money.” There was a young black woman in leopard print 6 inch heels. I don’t know if it was because of her lack of leverage balanced atop those stilts or just her lack of upper body strength but she was literally incapable of lifting her designer bag up into the overhead bin. Someone had to help her.

Just before take-off a flight attendant got on the intercom to address the 30 of us. “Is there an Allie Whozane onboard? Allie Whozane?” It took me 5 seconds to realize she was looking for “Ali Hussein”. Oh great. Ali Hussein went to the front and spoke with the pilot for a moment. Now every single person on the plane is trying not to let their inner racist out. The lady sitting in front of Taela turned around and started laughing about the look on my face. That would have been awkward except that we had already established that she was the lady who talks incessantly about nothing.

Some examples:
- She loves grape licorice. She bought it at CVS Family Foods…no, Ralph’s Supermarkets.
- She suggested to the stripper in front of Tenley that she go to a specific talent agency she highly recommended
- Her son is in the entertainment industry. He was the 8 year old kid in “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central When You’re Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.” He’s now 23.
- Also to the stripper in front of Tenley: "If you believe in yourself and your dream you'll go far." It's nice to know that Disney's "dream" message is permeating society at all levels. No, I promise you're not a walking cliche. Most strippers in LA and Vegas make the big time.

Well, Allie Whozane didn’t forcibly overtake the pilot and we landed just fine in Vegas once more. We had a nearly 4 hour layover and then crammed into the flight to Portland. I’m not a particularly tall guy…we’ll say I’m 5’10” which is, for all intents and purposes, true. My knees were smashed against the seat in front of me. How they fit us into this tiny little space I will never know. During boarding a man said to his wife “why is that overhead bin closed, is it full?” She didn’t know any more than he did and she told him so. I said “there’s a fee if you ask them to open it.” “Ha ha ha ha ha ha,” he laughed.

I kept nearly mercifully falling asleep and then something would inevitably wake me up. Between the lady behind me hacking and hacking as hard and loud as humanly possible, the person behind Taela who raised and lowered the screeching arm to their seat over and over, the two young black women in the row in front of us loudly rehashing their drunken trip to Vegas and my attempts to keep from cutting a huge fart all over the nice lady from San Diego I was seated next to I just couldn’t nod off for more than 30 seconds.
Would I recommend Spirit? I suppose it depends how much you value the money. The 5 of us including our 10 month old were able to fly round-trip from Portland to Los Angeles for less than $600. However I will also say I heard all of the following on our various flights:
“If you want to move forward to the empty seat with more room there is a $25 fee.”
“Next time I’m going back to Southwest.”
When I asked what on the drink cart was free the answer was “I can give you a cup of ice.” I accepted.
“What’s that smell?” At some point I just couldn’t hold it any longer. Sorry, nice lady from San Diego.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy Mallidays!

I love Christmas. I love the music. I love the festivities. I love telling people Merry Christmas. I actually love going to the mall at Christmas time. I love the energy and the decorations and even the litany of weird crap that somebody in marketing at some company thinks I’m going to be sucker enough to buy for my loved ones. During the rest of the year we only go the mall to give the kids somewhere to run around and get their energy out. Occasionally Taela and I will buy ourselves a Jamba Juice (me: Razzmatazz, her: Strawberry Surfrider or Aloha Pineapple), but typically we just walk around and let the kids play and we’re too cheap to buy anything. Christmas time is kind of a game changer. There are sales that make things at the mall worth the asking price.

Tell me this though, who of you out there are encouraging these foreign kiosk vendors by purchasing their overpriced, Made in China, fad items after they accost you? You’re walking along and having a nice conversation with your companion and “Ma’am, would you like to have soft, smooth skin?” Listen, Maurice…where I come from when a pretty man with a fauxhawk and a white v-neck tight enough so I can see every muscle and both nipples approaches your wife and tries to rub her hand he gets a dirty look and some very harsh words under my breath that you didn’t hear as I walked away and wished I had the cojones to say to your face! When did the mall turn into a foreign tourist market?
Last weekend, on Black Saturday if there is such a thing, Taela and I took the kids to the mall…for dinner. We ended up eating at Carl’s Jr. Well, actually Taela went to Charley’s Crappy Subs which by name alone should have been an indicator to move on to the next lousy food option. I was able to enjoy most of my delicious greasy burger until guilt overtook me and I gave what I had left to my lovely wife who could choke down no more of Charley’s contraption. Dear Charley: learn how to make a good sandwich and learn how to spell your name.

We actually did some shopping after dinner. I actually got 10 years younger by purchasing my first pair of American Eagle jeans. It was Taela’s suggestion and at 40% off everything in the store I had to take a shot. While I was admiring my new found youth in the fitting room mirror, Taela took all of the kids to the bathroom. After they came back I had my age-defying denim in a bag and we took a walk into Macy’s. It’s my favorite mall store. Why? I can get relatively nice clothes on super clearance. That’s really the only reason I like any store: moderate quality, low price.

Well, while we were in Macy’s little Micah had a diaper blowout. I suggested Taela take him to the restroom at the back of the store. She said she’s rather find a spot to change him in the stroller than use one of those community plastic boards where every slob puts their poopy kid. She didn’t say it like that, but I could sense her germophobia hanging out a little as she said it. So I suggested she still head back to the restrooms because there is a nice sitting area outside. You are probably thinking “that’s nice, a sitting area is a convenient accommodation.” In this case you’re right. Macy’s has a nice one. There is also a sitting area outside the restrooms in the food court. Whereas Macy’s sitting area is akin to “What a nice cushy seat to rest upon until my family has completed the expulsion of their waste” the food court’s sitting area is more like “oh my God, we’re so 16 years old and we should sit on each others laps and make out and see if anyone notices…I think I saw it on American Pie: Band Camp or something. Does anyone have a flute?” and “grunt…I’m 65 and live with my mother and sitting here watching these teens is so much better than buying dirty magazines at the Gas ‘n Sip.”

Anyway, I was left alone with the two older kids this time as I’m looking through shirts on the clearance rack (65% off!). I was doing my usual: let them run around and hide in and under store displays just enough so nobody says anything and not quite enough so that it disrupts other customers. Then Caleb came up and said “I have to go to the bathroom”. Me: “Didn’t you just go 10 minutes ago?” Caleb: “Yes, but now I have to go again.” Me: “Is it poop this time?” Caleb: “Uhh…”. So I start walking briskly to the back of the store…I’ve learned to walk briskly when taking kids to bathrooms.

We arrive at the sitting area and nobody is there. Taela must have been walking back to the men’s shirts…I hope she doesn’t have to wait/look for me for too long. Caleb says he can go in by himself, but I’m the son of a police officer and probation officer/presentence investigator…I need to make sure nobody’s in there first. So we all three walk in and sure enough some dude is in there doing his business in one of the sit down stalls. Instantly I’m thinking he’s enormous and hairy and he probably has a deep voice and a nickname they gave him in at the state pen so I usher Tenley into a corner that’s out of the way and I wait because my 7 year old son is not pooping alone with this fella.

Caleb heads into the unoccupied stall and starts doing what you do in the bathroom and then I hear it. Like the soft sound of a baby cooing. Must have been my imagination. I hear baby noises all the time since we have a baby, right? Then Tank, the guy in the adjacent stall, unlatches the stall door and shoves his way out of the stall toward the sink. Wait…that guy doesn’t look so tough. Wait…that guy doesn’t look like a guy. Wait…that’s my WIFE!

Taela: “What are you doing in here?!!?!?!?!?!!?” Me: “What are YOU doing in here?!?!??!!” Tenley: “Tee hee hee”. Caleb: “Plop”. Me: “This is the men’s room.” Taela: “No it’s not.” Me: “I’ll go check again.” I turn and start walking out the door and I hear Taela say “oh, there’s the urinal” and I see this blur go rushing past me that looks vaguely like my wife and my baby’s stroller.

I don’t know if there’s a moral here, but it might be that if you’re a woman the men’s room is good enough to do your business in but afterward you should go to the ladies room to wash your hands? Christmas is such a magical time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What we go through to keep our feet warm

Black Friday. Did you know that the term comes from the fact that in the old days retailers went “into the black” for the year on the day after Thanksgiving? So basically something that sounds dark and foreboding actually means stores are turning a profit. But to me “Black Friday” is dark. It brings out the greed and selfishness and aggression in people that you don’t see during the other 364 days of the year. Black Friday is just as it sounds. Like a black hole, Black Friday is such a strong force that not even light can escape.

Think about it…excluding the few whose fanaticism for fiction rules them to the point of camping out for a week for tickets to Harry Potter, Star Wars, Twilight or Rent, what other phenomenon in our society makes sane people do something as bizarre as lining up on a freezing cold, wet sidewalk at 3:00 am so they can save $82 on a TV they don’t need?

My experience with Black Friday has, fortunately, been somewhat limited. I married into a family that has long made a tradition of attending the Fred Meyer 6-Hour Sale…which most natives refer to as “The Sock Sale”. Let me give you a little rundown on the sock sale. For the sock sale Fred Meyer lines the aisles of their store with cardboard bins and fills them with socks. Socks of all different sizes and colors. Socks for men, socks for women, socks for trannies, socks for kids, socks for babies, socks for dogs and cats and robots and things that don’t even have feet. They’re everywhere. Then, for 6 hours only!, Freddies sells you these socks for 50% off. ½ off socks, you say? That’s like only paying for one foot! Sure it is, but when’s the last time you paid $15 for a 3-pack of socks anyway? And what’s wrong with the socks you bought last year? I hope I’m not about to sound ignorant here, but I don’t think many socks go out of style.

So now you’re thinking “oh, so a handful of people wander into the store before 11:00am to get some cheap foot warmers”. Poor poor you. Before you started reading my blog you also probably thought everyone just simply flushed the toilet when they pooped too. No…people don’t just wander in at 10:00 to get inexpensive socks. The doors open at 5:00am which means people are lined up for an hour (or more, I don’t know because I’ve never been there THAT early) to get in line for this thing. It's dark as night outside which is a more fitting reason to call it Black Friday. Most of these people are women. Many are dressed in sweat pants and silly hats that shouldn’t be worn outside the ski slopes. But listen, it’s cold and people need to bundle. Now Freddies knows all this so they have a mountain of donut holes as well as tubs and tubs of coffee to warm you up once those magic doors allow you entry.

I have never been at the front of the line when the doors open, but I would imagine it’s chaos. I’m nearly certain that the lunatics who arrived early enough to be at the front of the line start chanting something rhythmically, then when the doors open they throw their hands up over their heads, start screaming wildly and break into a dead sprint toward the sock bins. Multiple entrances are opened simultaneously so I also have to imagine that two or three hoards converge on the socks at full speed and they come together like two battling armies from Braveheart. Soon socks are flying in the air like the Muppet Chef making food. Women are crying. Children are missing and left for dead. As I said, it’s chaos.

You’re probably also thinking (rationally) that people probably buy a 3-pack of socks or maybe two and then browse the rest of the store, then head out and go home with warm feet. No. Those who are crazy enough to try shoving a shopping cart through this crowd begin filling their baskets FULL. They use their carts as battering rams to force their way through the sea of people in an attempt to turn it into a river of people. No one…NO ONE…makes eye contact. There is one focus and one focus only…THE SOCKS. To look someone in the face is to humanize them and these people around you are standing between you and your prize. These are people you may have to trample later. There is no room for mercy. There is no room for friendliness. There is no courtesy. There is you and there is socks.

Once you have your fill you push your way toward the register. It’s like fighting a strong undertow. You’re pressing forward but moving backward. You’re struggling to see, struggling to breathe. You sense that you’re pointed in the right direction. You’ve given up on seeing your friends/family again. They are lost somewhere else in this disaster and it’s every man for himself. The Titanic has sunk and the life boats are gone. You’re just thrashing around and trying not to drown. Then, by dumb luck, you find it. It’s the line! But where are the registers? “Is this the line?” you ask. “Grunt” says the lady in front of you. Someone farts, but nobody reacts because you don’t interact here. You stand on your toes…nothing. You jump. You think you see something. You jump again. There it is! It’s a cashier…why is she so small? Oh, because she’s a quarter mile from you. How are you going to carry all these socks for the time and distance it’s going to take to get THERE? You feel like you just took all the laundry out of the dryer and you’re carrying it to the spot you like to fold it, but you have to wait 40 minutes before you can set it down. Socks occasionally tumble off the pile and you have to decide if it’s worth it to try to bend over and pick them up.

Eventually you get to the register and you’re exhausted. It’s 7:40 am, you’ve been here (including standing in line) for nearly 3 hours now and the cashier starts ringing up your purchases. Beep. Beep. Beep. Socks are being swiped over the barcode scanner. Beep beep beep beep. What the hell? Oh my God. $44, $62, $84…I just spent $92 on SOCKS? What the hell is going on? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? WHERE IS CHRISTMAS!?!!??!?!?!?!?!

Now that you know the damage, you have instant buyers’ remorse. You’re sad. You know you’ve done something wrong but you can’t fix it. Why did you just buy all these socks? Your sock drawer is already stuffed full at home. You start to despair when the answer stares you right in the face. There they are…the remnants of the donut hole mountain! If you’re going to spend the better part of $100 on socks you’re going to make damn sure you get your money’s worth. You grab a napkin and you start to make a structurally sound stack of donut balls on your hand. You make a base of 4 but it looks too small. You add two more and you have a 6 ball base. Now you stack two more on top and throw two in your mouth and you’re at 10. You grab a cup of juice and you just start eating away your sorrows. Later, when you wake up from your morning nap you feel like you were hit by a car. Hit by a car? Oh, right…the rest of the story…

One year my mom came to pick me to go to the sock sale. I answered the door 90% asleep and said I just couldn’t do it. She and my cousin went to the sale and I went back to bed…for 5 minutes…and then realized I needed to do this for my family. I threw on some clothes and drove the 45 second drive to Freddies from my house at that time. It was snowing that morning and there was about an inch on the roads. I parked at Freddies, no small feat. I saw an enormous line outside the store and started walking up and down looking for my mom and cousin. I couldn’t find them. It was so crowded that I had to walk on the outside of the cars, somewhat in the parking lot itself. All of a sudden BANG! Something hit me on the elbow. It spun me around. I turned and threw a half punch with my other hand and found my hand sliding across the passing window of a Suburban SUV. You probably think I'm making this up, but it's 100% true. I was hit by a car (granted, there was no injury) in the Fred Meyer parking lot by a crazed sock shopper...technically a hit and run.

The point is, be safe out there. Black Friday can kill you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Setting Sail on Home OwnerShip

When Taela and I bought our first house we didn’t really know what to expect…at all. I’m pretty sure everyone feels this way. I very clearly remember pulling into the driveway for the first time as home owners and seeing a guy who looked a lot like Ned Flanders at the fence (note: his name was Mike and he was a remarkably nice guy and good neighbor). He said “you must be the Joneses”…hmm…Lesson #1: a neighborly expression I need to acquire. I remember the first night we spent there as well. We set up our guest room first(something you have room for prior to having three kids…you’ll eventually have to go to Costco to buy its replacement which happens to be inflatable and comes with a pump). We decided to sleep in our guest bed the first night because we hadn’t moved anything into our master bedroom. Why? you ask. Because our master bedroom was lavender. Now if you’re a guy like me you’re thinking to yourself “what is this ‘lavender’?” and I’m here to tell you: good question. Lesson #2: lavender is a cross between pink and purple and it gives off the feel of death to those who haven’t acclimated to it. Oh, so you had to paint a couple of walls, Keith? Yes, a couple of walls plus a couple more and…look up!...the ceiling. The ceiling was lavender? Yes. Why did you buy this house? We didn’t know what we were doing, that’s why. Are you leaving out any other details about the room? Well, yes, it also had a 4 foot diameter black ring-of-fire sun emblazoned on one wall.

So we decided to sleep in the guest bedroom on our first night and all I can remember thinking was “we have this entire, enormous (1700 square feet poorly laid out by an architect who somehow thought the split-level floor plan could utilize space) home and I feel comfortable occupying just this one little bedroom with my lovely wife. What are we going to do with all this space?”

Well, the first thing we did was head over to the Home Depot for the first time. This answers the age old question “do homeowners actually go to the Home Depot for the first time or were they there all along?” There was a first time and during it we bought a gallon or two of yellow paint. Yellow is bright and sunny and exactly the opposite of the blackberry yogurt cave we had purchased.

So I went off to work the next morning and when I came home Taela had put on a coat of primer she found in the garage. Lesson #3: when buying a house is you also are buying 30 cans of mishmashed paints, thinners, primers and lacquers. The previous owner wasn’t allowed to put them in the garbage because they are toxic, he was too lazy to take them to Metro, so he decided to do you a favor and hand over the remnants of the colors that once were…although you’ll never figure out which can goes with which room. So I walked into the bedroom to see the work that my diligent wife had done and she kind of sheepishly said to me “I’m not sure it’s quite right.” I took a close look. Is primer supposed to be thick, rubbery, gray and textured in the shape of every brush stroke? No…”I also don’t think it’s quite right…where’s the can?” Hello can, what say you? “Well Keith, I say ‘concrete primer and sealant’”. Well, Mr. Can, thank you for your honesty. Lesson #4: Only paint with paint and only prime with primer.

So we called our parents to find out what we were supposed to have done in the first place and made trip number 2 to Home Depot. In retrospect we should have first bought stock in Home Depot THEN driven over but no matter how hard you try you can’t change the past. We bought ourselves a bucket of Kilz primer. You know the one. Then we spent a long time slapping it on the walls. I should digress here for a moment to let you know that Taela’s sisters, my mom and possibly other people helped on this project, but this was close to a decade ago so I’m not remembering who deserves credit and who doesn’t. My apologies to those who have been omitted by my struggling memory.

Great! White room! This must be what it’s like to be insane…clinically clean looking white walls with just a touch of soft, rubbery padding underneath. Oh…and a faded blackish-gray ring of fire peering through the layer of primer. So we slapped on another coat of primer over that sun, then another and were finally satisfied that it had been given its long overdue burial.

Next step: paint. I’m pretty sure Taela and crew painted the walls when I was at work again. I came home and opened the front door (which is down the stairs, around the corner, down the hall and through a door away from the bedroom) and went instantly blind. I cried out “Jesus! Jesus! Looking upon your glory has blinded me. Please have mercy!” then I realized it wasn’t Jesus. It was the glow coming from the bedroom. I climbed the stairs and pushed my way down the hall toward the blazing radiance. I walked into the room and if Taela didn’t come running down the hall yelling “No! No! Not without sunglasses!” I would certainly have sustained permanent injury to my retinas. In any case I walked into a room that had recently lost its sun on the wall and BECOME the sun all in one day. Lesson #5: the sample color swatch does not look the same as the entire room painted that color.

Hello Home Depot, can you please give us a cream color? “Oh, we thought you wanted yellow.” Don’t you worry about that, Home Depot, cream color when spread on a wall will certainly be yellow based on what we just learned. So we painted the wall for the fourth time. This time a cream color that almost looked as though it had a hint of yellow. It was basically off-white but at this point we just needed to get ourselves into our room and start living. Lesson #6: THE SAMPLE COLOR SWATCH DOES NOT LOOK THE SAME AS THE ENTIRE ROOM PAINTED THAT COLOR.

Remember when I said I didn’t know what to do with all that space? Well, now I didn’t have quite as much space to wonder about since each coat of paint shrunk the room ever so slightly. All I can do is hope that someone will read this before purchasing their first house and it will save them, literally, minutes of time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I got some digits

A few years back I opened a Christmas present from my mom. It was one of those smaller gifts that all the men on the same level branch of the family tree get one of. I’m pretty sure my sister’s then-husband had already opened his, but the truth is that nobody ever really noticed or cared much about what that guy was doing so by the time I started tearing into the wrapping paper the element of surprise was still very much intact. I noted the shape and flexibility of the gift before I dug in so I wasn’t surprised to find a soft cover book inside. What did surprise me was the kind of book it was. “Uncle John’s Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader. Huh. Thanks?” is pretty close to my reply. In my mind I’m thinking “Why would my mom think I need something like this to read when I’m taking a dump? I’m a little more cultured than this…Mom, when I crap I read Smithsonian Magazine”.

Well, the book sat around and collected dust for a while and then, one fateful day, I was hit with that urge. That time when your body is telling you it’s time to find some porcelain and find it now. The book must have been near me because when the urge hits like this it’s time to grab whatever is nearby and just run like hell.

So I found myself sitting on the terlet with this book in my hands and I was amazed at how perfectly the item fit the need. I mean this book was jam packed with trivia galore. It had brief news stories, quirky stories, the history of items and words and phrases. It is hundreds of pages of mostly useless, usually fascinating information broken down into 2-5 minute reading time chunks. Brilliant! Soon enough I was collecting as many of these books as I could get my hands on…unfortunately because of the retail prices I buy them all used and usually at thrift stores at that. Now I have an impressive collection and a head full of more forgotten trivia than you could imagine.

So one of the recurring themes is a section Uncle John does on the origin of phrases. I have a phrase that I’ve never really understood the meaning of, maybe some of you know. People often say “I know that like the back of my hand.” The only use for that phrase I have ever really found is changing it to “I know that like I know the palm of my hand” to get a cheap laugh every now and then. Why would someone know the back of their hand intimately? The only way I can really see the entire thing is by extending my arm out and flaying my fingers like a woman who has just painted her nails. It’s a little too effeminate a pose for me.

So that got me to thinking…what’s up with the back of my hand and how does it relate to anything?

Now, we all have our body parts that annoy us. For me, my hands have never been one (or two) of those. I have always wished my ears weren’t so big and that my teeth were straighter and that my belly was thinner, but I’ve always been cool with my mitts…I’m hoping this little study doesn’t ruin that for me.

One thing that affects my hands is that I bite my finger nails. I have done this since I was very young and I’m nearly certain that the teeth I use to bite them are actually worn flat because of it. I don’t bite my nails because I’m nervous, I just do it out of habit…that and an OCD compulsion to do it once they reach a certain length. Let’s examine my fingers one by one:

My pinkies are close enough to identical to talk about them in unison. Pinkie is near and dear to me, but somewhat nondescript. The fingernails here are bitten to perfection. In two days I will certainly have to bite them again, but right now they’re not bitten down to the nubs, they’re not bleeding, they’re not so long that they get caught on things I’m idly passing in the mall…they’re perfect. I wish I could stunt their growth right here. You can see I have some hair between my knuckles. Listen, part of me is from Okinawa so many parts of me have hair sprouting from them. Deal with it.

My grandma has as cat named Ringer. Here are my little ringers. You can see that I have the stylish plain gold wedding band. I did that intentionally to show how unpretentious I am when I’m rolling around town flaunting my status in my 2001 Subaru Legacy sedan with the dent in the side from the random idiot who chucked a half full Mike’s Hard Lime at it when my wife parked on the street at work one night while she was pregnant (ok, I don’t think she was pregnant at them time but it’s possible and it makes the story better). The nails are a bit too long on both fingers and immediately after photographing them I bit both of them off. You can see that my ring is getting a bit snug…I eat a lot of milkshakes, sue me. Oddly, both of these fingernails have always reminded me of the face of the reporter on Sesame Street.

I don’t have much to say about tall man or pointer so I figured I would put them together. This also saved me the embarrassment of flipping you all off. Now that I’m really examining here, I’m noticing that my fingers look like fat earth worms. I’m starting to get a bit grossed out and I’m wondering if my worm digits are sliming the keyboard as I type this. Is there anywhere on my body that pores/hair follicle holes are any more apparent than they are on the lower part of my fingers? I hope not. You could lose spare change in there. Also, until I graduated high school I used to get those bold white blotches under my nails. I was always told they were calcium deposits from drinking a lot of milk. I drink a ton of milk every day in order to do my body good, but the “calcium deposits” are gone. Never trust science. Oh man, you know what they really look like?

Thumbs are gross. It’s lucky for them that they are the only significant difference between man and beast (oh, that and cognitive reasoning…and salvation). For those of you who are fans of the show Survivor, I think my thumbs look a lot like Russell Hantz. That makes me a bit sad, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. They are short and squatty and the nail is usually bit down like Russell’s misshapen, conniving little fat head. I don’t know if you can tell from the pictures, but for years I have been trying to regrow my right thumbnail back up to the same height as the left. I have bitten the nail down so low so many times that it was starting to “yellow” lower and lower which made it impossible to keep nails of similar length. It’s starting to come back now so I hope you’re having to miss out on viewing that mutation. Sorry.

Also, I have hairy feet, but that’s another story…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

End Petlessmess

Before diving into today's edition of KeenKeith I should mention that those of you who didn't read the previous post in its entirety missed out on my attempt at writing like The Onion. Take a read, you may enjoy it. And now...without further ado...drumroll.....

At work we have a small kitchen/lunchroom where I eat most days. It’s nice because there’s a refrigerator and two microwaves so I can bring whatever leftovers my kids think they're too good for and roll the dice by choking them down over the hour I take for my lunch. In case you don’t know I’m a human garbage disposal. I have only three rules about leftovers:

1) If meat has turned green I will not eat it. Gray is acceptable.
2) If it’s growing, it’s going…to the trash. This is why I always throw away bleu cheese.
3) If it stinks, me thinks…it’s going to the trash. This is why I always throw away bleu cheese.

Outside of those simple rules I will eat pretty much anything. I don’t have a time limit (yes, week old gray meat is fine by me). The people I eat with often get confused about my rules. Sue, who is likely to say just about anything, often says I eat moldy food. I don’t. I will, however, argue til I’m blue in the face that you can eat refrigerated eggs months and MONTHS after their printed expiration date.

Well, there are a few rules in the lunch room that are loose and sometimes broken. One rule is that you are not to microwave fish. I get it. Fish stinks. But sometimes it’s Thursday and your wife made a tuna casserole on Sunday so you’re running out of opportunties to eat this stuff before it starts violating rules 1-3 above. Sorry but my rules supercede your community rules, lunch room.

One of the ladies I work and eat with, we’ll call her “Jan O.” because that’s her name, has some idiosyncrasies. One of her quirks is that she literally gags at the thought of peanut butter and jelly together. She claims she has been like this since she was a little girl. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. She doesn’t like the smell of peanut butter mixed with jelly, she hates the idea that someone markets the peanut butter and jelly swirl in a single jar. It’s weird, but we like “Jan O.” so we have fun with it and we don’t make her puke by swirling the two together right in front of her.

Speaking of jelly…and “Kristina Solberg” this is where you might not want to read any further…my wife’s cat started looking weird a few weeks ago. She is an outdoor cat named Scout who has access to the laundry room and garage so it’s not like we’re petting her every day and hearing her stories about the dramas in the backyard. Well I looked at her a few weeks ago and there in the middle of her forehead right above her eyes was this swirled, flattened mass of fur. I touched it and it was hard. I didn’t know what the heck was going on. Taela looked at her and we were just stumped. It was very hard and all the fur in that area was kind of glued into this flat mat.

Well, we didn’t do anything about it. I hypothesized that, because she is friendly and because the Russians that share part of a fence with us have really weird, sometimes cruel, kids, maybe someone had intentionally glued her fur…for coming into their yard? I don’t know. Well, about a week ago I noticed the flap of fur had peeled up a bit so I pulled it off. Under it was short fur that I figured was regrowing to fill in the spot that had been affected. Great. All better. I did examine the fur I had extricated and found that it looked like cowhide and smelled funky.

Well, two nights ago I went to the garage to get something (beer) and looked down. There was a pinkish spot where the hard mass had been. Huh? Yeah, pinkish. Kind of like the filling in a cherry pie. I picked up the cat and called Taela over. The kids came running too. I said something like “it looks like jelly, do you think someone is really messing with her and put jelly on her fur?” Caleb, my 7 year old, said “yeah, that does look like jelly.” I was about to bury my nose in and smell it when Taela (being the nurse that she is) pushed on the forehead right next to the “jelly”. More jelly started squishing out of the jelly hole! Imagine taking a jelly donut and squeezing it in your hand. I’m talking gooey, pinkish jelly glopping out of this cat’s face. Scout! Why do you have so much jelly in your face?

Well, it turned out the veterinarian didn’t think the jelly was jelly at all. It wasn’t jam either. No, it wasn’t preserves of any kind. It was blood mixed with pus. How glad am I that I didn’t dive in to smell it? Very. $260 later the cat has a drain in her face and a cone on her neck. Poor Scout. Poor us! Feline facial drains ain’t free!

The moral of the story is when your cat comes to you and looks like its face has been hit with a hammer, it’s likely that a raccoon has buried its claw in there and it’s going to get infected. Don’t wait for the jelly filling to tell you something’s wrong.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Chive

WASHINGTON – In a controversial move the Senate today passed a bill expanding the definition of federally protected minority groups. SB 3427, better known as “Wyden Hate” after its author Ron Wyden (D – Oregon), will bring under hate crimes protection many previously unprotected groups which have long lobbied unsuccessfully for full federal protection as minority classes. The new groups to be given minority status include “racists and other organized movements of hatred directed toward other protected minority classes.” Both major political parties agree that this language will close the loophole in current hate crimes and minority status legislation that allows for discrimination against bigots.

Spokespersons for groups such as the neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and the Skinheads say they feel vindicated by the legislation that, once signed into law by President Obama, will finally legitimize the equality they have been fighting for all along.

“This historic bill will ultimately bring equal opportunity to all Americans. It has been said that the Civil Rights movement stopped short of its potential for making change,” said former Klan Grand Wizard David Duke in a statement. “Today that potential has been filled. No longer will racists, sexists and people who throw the word ‘tard’ around in polite company be looked at any differently for their personal beliefs.”

Minutes after voting was complete Reverend Jesse Jackson remarked on live television that “I knew Dr. King. I knew Dr. King and believe me when I say that he knew me as well. In fact the depth to which I knew Martin can only be matched by the depth to which he knew me.”

Al Sharpton added, “Today, November 8th in the year of our lord two thousand and eleven, will be remembered. As the day. The day! WE! As Americaaaaans. Were declared fully free.”

Wyden Hate is the culmination of a national movement which gained nationwide support and popularity over the summer. Known as Free2H8, the movement came in response to a swell of anti-racism protests that popped up throughout the country. Free2H8ers have clashed with many anti-hate group rallies in major cities throughout the United States since the first known such clash occurred at Portland, Oregon’s Pioneer Courthouse Square in late May. At that rally Portland Police, fully clad in riot gear, began to beat back the crowds of anti-haters (commonly referred to as Racistists) only to find they were being assisted by a new mob of anti-anti-haters. Amidst the confusion several haters, anti-haters and anti-anti-haters were shot with bean bags which left dark bruising and caused at least one rioter to crap his pants.

In a printed statement Ron Wyden said, “Today we turn the page of history. No longer will our children be raised into a culture of racistism. We will teach ours and future generations to accept all views. We have taken a giant step toward the eradication of hate-hate and perhaps to a lesser extent hate-hate-hate. We have brought into the light those who discriminate against other races of people they see as inferior and we have told them ‘fear no longer.’”

Other groups protected under the Wyden Hate law include sexists, religionists, heightists, ageists, wealthists, uglyists, fashionists, mentalists and major league a**holes.

One old man who has been following Senate Bill 3427 closely on C-SPAN while drinking hooch and wearing his suspendered pants up over his hairy, naked stomach remarked “finally I’m free to call a n***er a n***er without feeling ashamed.”

The President is expected to sign the bill into law after returning from his vacation to the Hamptons. In his absence the White House issued the following: “This administration came to office on the tide of hope and change. Today we have taken progress to a new level. As a country we have not only eradicated the toxicity of discrimination, but we now also offer unbalanced legal protections for those who practice the discrimination that we have eliminated. God Bless America.”

According to recent polling the vast majority of Americans support Wyden Hate. Polling shows that Americans have grown weary of “people who hate bigots”.

Opponents of the bill are few but include a small grassroots movement that has emerged on social networking site Facebook purporting to be a centralized organization in support of hating the hatred of the hatred of protected classes. This bold group has on many different levels gone to war with those Americans who casually throw out the phrase “don’t be a hater.” The ‘Hate the Player, Don’t Hate the Game’ contingent has yet to comment. Other splinter groups have sprung up but have yet to make a significant impact on the debate. These groups include “Faggots are a bundle of wood” and “Chinks are something found in used armor”. A spokesperson for “Nips are a cheese cracker that pale in comparison to cheez-its” declined comment for this story.

KeenKeith Press and its affiliates

Friday, November 4, 2011


After years of living in the past, last week I was finally able to join the future.

A lot has been said about the impact of Steve Jobs on our society. The advancements he made in technology are astounding and it is with great pleasure that I announce to you that I have made a quantum leap and now possess the greatness that is the iPhone 4s.

For years I have known people who own iPhones and I have been jealous of these handy little devices. I can clearly see that iPhoners are able to surf the web more quickly, efficiently and fully than I ever could on my Blackberry. The touch screen is an amazing concept. The gyroscopiatic (with technology this profound the “old language” isn’t enough to do justice so I feel compelled to enhance my adjectives to express the full grandeur of this marvel) properties allow for applications to sense the most minute tilt of the device. It’s clearly an amazing tool with nearly unlimited capabilities. Oh…and it makes phone calls too.

When my iPhone was delivered to the office it was like Christmas morning for me. It was as if I had been living in a one dimensional world…just a single ray heading off in a straight line of Blackberry dust when all of a sudden the universe exploded into a 4 dimensional expanse of space-time. It was as if someone had given me a barrel full of multi-colored M&M’s when all I had ever eaten were brown rabbit turds.

The first thing I learned is that the new iPhone comes with a personal assistant. Her name is Siri and she is brilliant. Now I have to tell you that she has a little more pride than I was expecting. She won’t help me clean myself after making solid waste. She also won’t comb my hair, brush my teeth or wash windows. Come to think of it she doesn’t always know her place, but she is very helpful when it comes to other every day tasks. All I have to do is verbally ask her for something, she puts it in writing then answers my question. Some examples:

Aside from Siri, the iPhone 4s gives me access to so many countless things I’ve never known I’ve always wanted. Obviously this new device is going to help me write more insurance business. No doubt having all the world at my finger tips at any given moment will free me from the shackles that have held me back in the past. I have spent a great deal of time scrolling through the app store to find more and more tools to make my career…my life…better. Here is a list of what apps I have installed. Their benefits are likely too many to mention, but most are obvious. You will no doubt envy me so I ask your forgiveness in advance for gloating.

My apps:
1) Flick Home Run – This game is designed so that I can use the tip of my finger to hit cartoon baseballs. It has changed my life.
2) Bobble Me – I can take a picture and turn the person in it into a bobble head. Imagine the power I now wield.
3) NameScream – I can choose any common name from the list then have either the Lunatic, Creeper, Devil, Ghost, Banshee or Zombie tell that person anything from “Happy Halloween” to “I’m under your bed” to “you’re hot”. Communication will never be the same.
4) BroStache – I am a Geico commercial.
5) Sound Board – I have 20 different sounds at my finger tips. If you tell a corny joke around me I can give you the rim shot (badum-CHING). If you tell a dumb joke I can give you the wah-wah-wah. If you leave the room I can make it sound like Scooby Doo just scrambled out. And I will.
6) Bleep Button – I no longer have to cuss to make my point. I can merely imply 4 letter words while making a bleeping noise. Think how much easier it’s going to be to get into heaven.
7) Shotgun Free – Can you take your phone, pump it as though it’s a shotgun and then shoot it with nothing more than recoiling from the imaginary kick? No? Then I guess you’re not me.
8) Revolver – Let me just say that Russian Roulette has never been so fun.
9) Prank Mirror – Now I can look at myself in ways I never could before. I can look deep into my soul. I can become truly introspective and view myself in different lights…many different lights. The app allows me to truly get to the root of all that is KeenKeith…and what I have found so far is beautiful…some examples:

For whatever reason my wife thinks much of the time spent on my new IPhone is wasted. I have heard from other husbands and wives that this is a very common reaction. While I completely understand why anyone would be upset about me diverting my attention to something other than them I believe it’s obvious from what I have just told you that the iPhone is essential, not merely a toy or entertainment. To anyone who disagrees with me I have only this to offer:

Disclaimer: Any immoral or illegal suggestions above are for illustration and entertainment purposes only. I do not use my company phone to buy drugs or hire prostitutes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Behold, the all-important 10th blog entry! Yes, we've reached double digits and if you haven't read them all then you have some serious laughs left in the chuckle bank!...

There has been much debate in recent years over the “National Pastime”. Baseball was the national pastime for a century before yielding to “America’s Game” …American football. American football is not to be confused with “The World’s Game” which we call soccer and everybody else calls football. It’s all very confusing and there’s much to be said on the subject. Baseball happens to have been my first love, but the word “pastime” seems appropriate because true baseball fanatics are hard to find anymore. Football has taken over the national consciousness from high school to college to the NFL. Soccer has taken over the city of Portland in a way I never would have thought possible. But here’s what they’re all missing and I can’t think of a way any of them can close this glaring hole: none of these sports involve yelling at the top of your lungs at spiders.

Let me tell you a little story. My wife’s family has a long tradition of meeting at a park in Oregon City every 4th of July. Nearly every year the extended family (cousins and second cousins and first cousins once removed and great-great-great aunts and ladies named things like “Doris” and “Betty” and men with names like “Dick” because that wasn’t a funny thing to call people back then) gets together for cheap hot dogs and too much chocolate and old stories. Well, when I married into this family I began attending this every year and there was one common theme at each: I know 10 people out of 60 and I’ve seen all 10 recently so I really don’t have any catching up to do. Thank God Andy married Tara so I can have somebody to throw things at, whether that be a baseball or a football or a Frisbee or an insult or a stick. At least I’m not sitting on a bench pretending I’m interested in the grass I’m staring at.

Well, a couple of years ago during this picnic the kids were finally old enough to run around. They weren’t yet old enough to run off and do their own unsupervised thing, but they were old enough to circle the party making quirky noises and occasionally run into something hard/sharp/hot and start crying. That’s not the worst thing in the world because then you have the opportunity to hold them and console them and kill time all the while looking like a compassionate parent who didn’t just send your wild and crazy offspring running around to bash their face into a piping hot barbeque. Well, someone had the idea that it would be a good idea to send the kids off to go play in the tree next to the structure the party is held in. Before you go and judge “someone” who did this you have to understand that this tree is some sort of hemlock tree that isn’t really climbable. It’s not pokey like a spruce so the kids could go into it kind of like a tent and run around it kind of like little Indians (I don’t know why I wrote that but I’m not a racist…except when I’m trying to outpace my opponent).

Anyway…the kids are playing in and around this tree and I decide it will be funny to scare them. So I go up to the tree and I get behind where my son is and I yell at the top of my lungs. The 50 strangers probably looked at me like I was half nuts and looked at my wife pitying her for marrying this idiot but I didn’t see any of that.What I saw was the spider in the web in front of me flinch. By “flinch” I mean it raised a couple of legs in the air and flailed them around. “RAAAAH!”. I tried it again. Flail! “RAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!” FLLLLAAAAIIIILLL!!!!!

I was onto something…I was onto something BIG. So I found another spider and I yelled at it too. Flail! In fact, I found out, the louder I yelled, the more the spider would flailed around. This was great. Pretty soon the kids are yelling at the spiders. From a distance I’m sure we looked like idiots, but like I’ve always said “it’s better to look like an idiot from afar than be far from an idiot.”

So for the rest of the summer my son would find spiders in the backyard and as long as they were in their web we could go right up to them, bark loudly and watch them freak out. We started rating our Spider Yells by the number of legs that made it into the air. A 2-legger is a pretty weak effort. A 4-legger is about what you’d expect a girl to be able to do – sidebar: I’m not being sexist and saying that girls are worse spider yellers than guys…I’m simply saying that calling someone a girl is the same as calling someone a wus. Now when you can get a 6-legger you’re really making progress because now you’re talking about only 2 legs sticking to the web with a full 75% waving in the air. I’ve yet to see the holy grail of spider yelling, the 8-legger, which I would imagine means the spider full on falling from its own web. Maybe I should buy an air horn to see if this can truly be accomplished.

Here is the link to the YouTube video of some Spider Yelling…or if I’m really technical maybe I learned how to embed it after writing this. Please forward this blog and/or the video links to Spider Yelling to everyone you know. People will love you just as you now love me.

Spider Yelling 1

Spider Yelling 2: Extreme Spider Yelling!

My charge to you is to go out while there are still a few straggling spiders in the yard. Find one in a web and scare the hell out of it. Yell at the top of your lungs. Your neighbors will think you’ve lost your mind, but the joke’s on them because you will know you are enjoying the emerging movement of people who enjoy screaming not because of, but AT arachnids. You’re a pioneer in the sport of Spider Yelling. Yell loudly and yell proudly.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Comparison

We have been church shopping for a while now. If you’ve never done it, it’s not the easiest thing in the world. It’s great meeting new Christians and learning how they worship, but it’s also difficult because you go into each place with a loose preconceived notion about what it is you’re really looking for. We’ve tried maybe 5 churches in 5 months, but we’d yet to find the right match for us as a family. Some places have good music but weak sermons, some have good sermons but no real children’s ministry, etc. etc.

Well, last Sunday we decided to try out Mars Hill Portland which is a plant from a large and thriving Seattle-based church. We really liked everything about it. In fact, I even had the chance to relive some of my political campaigning days after the service when a group of 20 protestors chanted outside and screamed at everyone, including children, about how we were bigots who are going to hell. I mean, what’s not to love about that?

I’m not really here to write about the sermon or the church. What I really want to write about is a bit taboo, but if you can’t blog about these things then what’s the use of having a blog? I pick my nose. I’ve done it for a long time. I’ve refined it as I’ve matured. No longer do I “flick and hope”. No longer do I “smear and hide”. I’ve become more of a “roll into a ball and discretely drop” guy. More on this later.

The title of this blog post is “A Comparison” so you’re probably wondering just what it is I’m going to compare. The truth is I’m seeking your judgment. I’d like to open a healthy debate if possible. So here goes: What’s worse…nose picker or ill-mannered church guy?

On ill-mannered church guy:
When we arrived at Mars Hill on Sunday we didn’t realize just how many people would be there. It was the first open worship service at this location yet there were probably between 200 and 300 people there. We were pointed to the balcony so we headed upstairs and sat in the first row with Micah in tow. The balcony slowly filled and after the singing was complete a young couple came and sat directly behind us.

They arrived just as the sermon was starting yet immediately the two of them began whispering to one another. Not a statement or two, but prolonged conversations. This happens to be one of my pet peeves so, in light of the fact that I was at church among other Christians, I had to consciously put my instincts aside and ignore the chatter. I know, I’m so good at taking the high road. Soon their conversation was joined by something new…they were watching something on a smartphone…which I tried to convince myself must have been a Bible app. The girl’s jangly bracelets chimed over and over and she whispered and talked with her hands while huddling over the phone with the guy.

Soon I felt something brush against the hair on the back of my head. I turned slightly to look and saw the guy was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees in what I call the “reading while taking a dump” position. Apparently he was leaning forward so far that he was literally touching me. Shortly after that I realized he was snorting up snot pretty frequently very close to my ear. He had a touch of the sniffles. Then he burped within 10 inches of my ear. The whispering continued until the end of the sermon and when it was time to sing again I heard the guy say “there, we made it” then both got up and left.

First: what were these two doing there? Second: who was more wrong…the two inconsiderate parishioners behind us or me for being so annoyed by them? Third: Was their behavior more or less acceptable than frequent nose picking?

On nose picking:
I recently saw a bumper sticker that read “I <3 2 Fart”. I thought to myself “it’s about time someone said it”…am I right? So I’m taking the same logic and applying it to nose picking. Sure, we could all blow our noses. I get that, it’s fine. But there’s just something so satisfying about precision mining rather than dynamiting the whole tunnel. I am most prone to pick while driving. I also often pluck my nose hairs while driving. That’s more painful, but it’s better than tickling my upper lip every time I breathe. I mentioned the roll and dispose technique earlier and that’s what it comes down to. Roll the booger between your fingers and toss it out the window, roll and toss into a garbage can, roll and fling on the ground if you’re outside. If you’re still a wiper you need to stop. There are better ways than smearing a wet snot glob on the underside of a table. Oh, and another thing, don’t eat your boogers. While it’s been proven to strengthen your immune system, it’s disgusting. Everyone has to draw a line somewhere and that’s where I draw mine. I never want to floss chewy nose clods out from between my teeth. Never. Also, I never want to make out with my wife only to find a hidden glob of Play-Doh stuck somewhere in there. They say that in the Middle East people wipe their poopers with one certain hand and they shake hands with the other. Similarly I have found it’s a huge advantage that I am solely a left-handed picker. Being right-handed I rely on that hand for everything which frees my left to dig for gold at practically any time. Unfortunately, recently my nose has changed its booger crust formation habits. I don’t know if a new well has sprung or if the original nasal flow has been diverted into a new creek bed but the fact remains that I have a new spot in my nose that is constantly uncomfortable with dry cling-ons. The worst part is that this particular area is most easily cleared by the fingers on my right hand. Imagine the hygiene issues! Great…now I have to wash my hands with “soap”. The trials I have to endure are rarely this difficult, but you should know that I’m coping and I’ll get through this.

Feel free to comment. Feel free to share. But lastly I’m here to say this: I may be a nose picker, but I’m a considerate nose picker.