Saturday, September 29, 2012

Youth Soccer (or Get out of the way, my girl's better than you)

The following story is true. Names (and, to a degree, pictures) have been changed to protect me from being identified by the participants as a real prick who can’t deal with their kids.
My daughter plays soccer. She is six years old and loves playing the game. Last year was her first year playing on a team and she was fantastic. On average she scored 3 goals per game and made as many as 6 in one game. It was a lot of fun to watch.
This year my daughter is playing on a completely different team. Unfortunately this team has 8 kids on it that actually want to play all the time. Because they play 4 on 4, only half the team can play at any given time. The coach has decided the best way to divide up playing time is to come up with two teams of four and play them in alternating quarters. The teams are not always the same.

Awesome Girl (my daughter) 
Awesome Girl

Other Girl (not my daughter, the only other girl on the team, once wore a tank top that looked exactly like a wife-beater ribbed sleeveless t-shirt to practice

Other Girl

 Little Dude (little islander kid who goes to my daughter’s school and has a hilarious little sister)

Little Dude

Blondie (little blonde kid who can play well but has a short attention span and tends to cry easily)
Beaker (skinny little guy who is a little slower to develop than the rest of the players, the coach’s kid called him a stupid idiot at the first practice)

Coach’s Kid (good player, not what you might call sensitive to the feelings of others)

Coach's Kid

Big Kid (he’s as big as my 8 year old, faster than any other kid in the league and has some real soccer skills)
Big Kid

Wrong Way (close friends with Big Kid, whines when Big Kid has the ball and doesn’t pass to him, doesn’t know which goal is which, kicks the ball out of bounds more often than in bounds, yells at other kids when they are in the right)
Wrong Way

So, as I said the team is split into equal halves each game. Tonight Awesome Girl was put on a team with Beaker, Big Kid and Wrong Way. The only consistency so far with team selection is that Coach’s Kid and Big Kid have never been on the same team and Big Kid is always on the same team with Wrong Way. The truth is that most parents don’t want their kid playing at the same time as Big Kid because he’s so good. He has actually started passing recently, but he’s so much better and faster than the other kids that it’s hard for any of the rest of them to touch the ball when he’s in there. The exception is that Wrong Way’s parents always want he and Big Kid together because they’re friends. Their families are close  and there seems to be some kind of family agreement that Big Kid will pass to Wrong Way whenever he can.
Well, now think of this from my perspective tonight. Big Kid has an agreement to pass the ball to Wrong Way. When he’s unable to, he’s so fast that he’s dominating the ball anyway. Poor Beaker doesn’t really stand a chance out there and my little Awesome Girl is kind of lost in the mix trying to get to the ball, but being constantly out-raced to it by Big Kid.

Understand that we only get one game per week and it’s 40 minutes long. This means that I have exactly 20 minutes per week to watch Awesome Girl in action. The first thing that goes wrong tonight is when Beaker is taking a goal kick. This is when you stand by your own goal and pass to a teammate. Well, Wrong Way decided he would make a hard charge at Beaker right as he was kicking the ball, presumably because he was jealous Beaker got to kick it. He was succesful in his aggressive charge at his teammate and had the ball bounce right off his leg and into the other team’s goal. Wrong Way jumped up and down and looked over to his enormous mom. “I made it!” Well, Wrong Way has been instructed about a thousand times which way he’s supposed to be going, but he doesn’t care. A goal is a goal, no matter which end of the field it’s on. His mom tries to tell him that his goal doesn’t count, but he doesn’t get it. Because he doesn’t listen…ever. If I were coach I would tell him it’s not that the goal doesn’t count, it’s that you’ve just hurt your team and scored for your opponent. But I’m not the coach and that’s certianly for the best.
Well, after that Wrong Way’s parents decided to correct the problem by telling him to stand by the other goal. Which he did. Literally. He stood in the middle of the other goal like a goal keeper (there are no goalies at this age level). He was standing in the way of the goal so if any of his teammates were going to score he could stop the ball, turn and try to kick it in for his own glory. Imagine a waiter standing up against the bar to take drink order only to then turn and ask the bartender for the drink simply so he can steal the tips. Same thing. Oh, and the goals they use are about 4 feet wide, so he’s taking up most of the goal. It’s not like it’s a regulation size goal and it would be easy to score around him.
So the first quarter ends and Awesome Girl has played pretty hard, but hasn’t had the chance to score yet. She really wants to score because she hasn’t at all this year (mostly because of the way this team is set up). She is used to scoring every game but the parents think it’s cute when she comes close because she’s a girl. They don’t understand that she actually is a good soccer player. A few nights a week she has me set up obstacle course drills for her to navigate with her soccer ball. She runs these courses for upwards of an hour nonstop getting better and better. She’s talented, but she also works hard at it. I’m not just being a dad here, she’s actually a good player with skills that the other kids don’t have because she practices her butt off.

The last quarter begins and I have told Awesome Girl it’s her time to take that ball on her own and score no matter what. The first thing that happens is she has a shot at a breakaway at midfield. Well, she had a shot at a breakaway. It ended when Wrong Way jumped in front of her, bent over and picked up the ball right from in front of her foot. Thanks Wrong Way…it would be nice if your parents would tell you not to do that. I yell “No Wrong Way! What are you doing?!!??!?!?”
The next thing that happened was Awesome Girl came in from the side and was about to take a shot at a wide open goal. She was DEFINITELY going to score. That’s when Wrong Way came out of nowhere and stole the ball from her kicking it the wrong way back up the field. The ball came bounding back and Awesome Girl kicked it toward the goal, but there was Wrong Way standing right in the middle like a goal keeper and he succesfully took another goal away from my daughter. It was driving me INSANE!

Then Awesome Girl had yet another chance. I had just yelled “Get the ball and take it in yourself! Don’t let your teammate steal it from you! Score!” She did exactly that. She took it from the other team, dribbled in from the side, turned a tough angle shot into a more makeable one and kicked it hard at the middle of the goal. Problem was, there was Wrong Way standing there in the middle of the goal…like a goalie. And again he succesfully blocked the goal like he was Hope Solo in the World Cup.
Almost immediately the whistle blew and the game was over.
Maybe it was the caffeine in the Excedrin I took before the game. Maybe it was the smoke in the air from the forest fires. Maybe it was a paternal instinct to want the best for my daughter. But I can’t take this anymore! I’m losing my mind! I get to watch my amazing daughter play for 20 minutes of game action per week and without fail there is one single kid out there crapping all over her glory. I just want to shake his huge mother. Just shake her and ask her why she keeps allowing this to happen. Why? WHY? I want to shake the coach and shame him into making his own kid play with Big Kid and Wrong Way. I want to scream and yell at Wrong Way until I am the first person he has ever obeyed in his entire 6 years on this planet.
But instead I will continue to do what I always do…make comments under my breath on the sideline making the other parents think (realize) I’m a jerk. Listen, all I want is for my daughter to taste the success she derserves. Your kid doesn’t work for it. Your kid doesn’t give a crap. Your kid doesn’t even know what success is. He doesn’t know which way he’s going. He doesn’t care about anything except kicking the ball. It doesn’t matter which direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s in bounds or out of bounds. He doesn’t know the difference and you haven’t taken the time to teach him the difference. Please just tell him to get out of the way. Please!?!?!??!!?
Who knew being a parent was going to mean having to deal with other people’s kids? Bleh!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Baseball, rage and a cheating umpire

Lori Chipman
 Growing up I always wanted to be a baseball player. In fact…sorry Lori Chipman, not to minimize what you and I had in second grade – it was real…baseball was my first love. What’s great about baseball is that it’s a slow moving game which teaches you how to constantly fail. Come to think of it I don’t know what I like about baseball, but I loved the hell out of it none-the-less.
The reason I’m telling you this is that as I was driving around Springfield a few months ago I was reminded of something that happened on a baseball field 18 years ago. It was the only moment in my life I can say I completely, without a doubt, lost every measure of control. That’s not to say I don’t fly off the handle from time to time. When it comes to driving and sports I step into combative confrontation constantly, compadre. What I’m telling you is this particular time I didn’t lose my cool, I lost my flippin’ mind.
I was 15 years old and we had a baseball tournament down in Springfield. Being the extremely responsible adolescent I was, I couldn’t go down and stay with the team the first night because I had to work at the crack of dawn the second morning of the trip. My mom was gracious enough to drive me the nearly 2 hour drive down to game 1 (which I pitched, took a no-hitter into the 6th inning and won) then turn around and drive me back home.
Saturday morning came and I rode my bike to work at 6:00 am, served two meals (breakfast and lunch) to a bunch of elderly people who had trouble remembering their own names and rode my bike home at 2:45 as quickly as possible. My mom then again loaded my skinny butt into the stretched black Ford Aerostar (which would later be the ‘limo’ I took to Sr. Prom) and headed back down to Springfield.
My team had won early in the day and I was playing with them in the nightcap. We were facing a solid team that had also won its first two games. Their pitcher was a kid they had brought in from another team just for this tournament. He was a big ole’ horse. He threw hard…there was a reason they had invited him to play. We were getting their best…actually better than their best.
Shaun Vodka
Well, the game was going along like any other game. Very little scoring, both teams playing hard and playing well. We had Shaun Vodka on the mound so you know the other team wasn’t hitting well. Vodka’s fastball and curve both looked like they were shooting straight out of his ear. He could gas it up there in the low to mid 80’s. He was usually, and this night was no exception, very difficult to hit.
Then it happened. I was at bat and Luke Parker was on second base. The pitcher wheeled around and threw a dart to second. The shortstop slapped down the tag as both players fell to the ground. “SAFE!” yelled the umpire. I continued watching. The shortstop had fallen on Luke and he wasn’t making an effort to get up. After 2 or 3 seconds of being used like a couch cushion Luke stood up. When he stood it caused the other player to fall off of him (he wasn’t hurt, he was just resting there I guess). The guy didn’t want to fall to the ground so he kind of clung on to Luke’s jersey so Luke shoved him away...not violently. The field umpire closest to the play said nothing. The umpire behind the plate yelled “you’re outta here!!!!” Huh?
Oh no you di-ent. Oh yes, he di-id! The umpire standing more than 120 feet away decided he had observed enough malice to kick Luke out of the game! All of the parents, including Luke’s dad and Dan Nelson’s dad (from this point Dave and Ron), started yelling at the umpire. It was a horrible call. It was confounding really.  But what are you going to do? This guy is making 10 bucks to stand there in 85 degree heat umpiring a bunch of testosterone filled  little pricks so you’re not exactly getting a guy with a helluva lotta astute judgment.
Luke was a good ball player, so it was going to hurt not having him in the game. Coach Hoppel called me over after the inning said “Keith, you’re at short”. I wasn’t really an infielder at that point in my ‘career’, but I was a competitor. I ended up playing a very good shortstop for the rest of the game. But that’s not what I’m trying to tell you about. What I’m trying to tell you about is Dave and Ron…first. You see, Dave and Ron are still yelling at the umpire. Sometimes loudly, sometimes with quieter condescending remarks. Sometimes with personal insults. The umpire wasn’t liking it too much. Dave was a fiery guy, but he was also a fair guy. He knew his kid had been wronged and he had some paternal instinct kicking in. Ron was an understated fireball. He could softly tear you apart through his mustache and with Dave going crazy next to him it gave him license to belittle this skinny douche of an umpire all the more. It was on.
Now a good umpire would have taken an authoritative course of action that included a verbal warning to the fans followed by an ejection with the possible warning that they risked forfeiting the game for their kids. That’s what a good umpire would have done. But a good umpire wouldn’t have overstepped his partner’s call on the field and thrown a kid out of a game for pushing a body off of himself. A good umpire wouldn’t have had to buy a child’s catcher chest protector to fit his wussy-esque frame. A good umpire wouldn’t have whispered in Coach Hoppel’s ear “if your parents don’t quiet down you’re going to lose this game.” Wait…what?
Oh…that happened. And then so did the calls. I came up to bat with a runner on base. I had doubled off the wall in my first at-bat so I knew I could hit this guy. I fouled off the first pitch. Strike one. Second pitch came in. A curve that had slipped out of the pitcher’s hand a little. It came across at eye level. I stepped out of the batter’s box and heard “Strike Two!” I turned and looked at him and said “What the hell?” Maybe that’s what I said. Maybe I said “are you serious?” Maybe I said “are you f*@%ing joking?” I’m not really sure, but I said something. The next pitch was in the dirt, but I swung…and missed…badly. I figured I had to swing at anything at that point. But one of the odd rules in baseball is you can get to first on a strikeout if the catcher misses it. So I ran, I ran like all hell had broken loose. And I made it. Safe at first. And the moment my foot hit first base the umpire yelled “Foul Ball!” I think it was then I pointed my finger at him. “I didn’t foul that and you know it!” I was yelling as I came back to the batter’s box. Not a word from this 40 year old twerp. The next pitch I swung (again, I didn’t really have a choice) and I foul tipped it. The ball deflected off the catcher and fell to the ground. I stepped out of the box to get my composure a bit and the umpire said quietly to the catcher “pick it up and tag him.” I looked back at the umpire, confused. My mind started trying to connect the dots. None of this was computing…foul ball, tag me and I’m out…wait a second…was he? Was he claiming I hadn’t fouled it and that I had just struck out? Oh Sh9t! I started running to first again, this time I was literally yelling as I ran…”Thaaaaaaaaaat’s the ooooonnnneeee ---- I Fooooooouleddddddddd youuuuuu moroooooonnnnnnn!” The catcher picked up the ball and easily threw me out at first. I turned and started to make my way back to home plate to give the umpire a piece of my mind when coach stopped me and pushed me back toward the dugout. Fine.
Well, the rest of the game went exactly the same way for all of us. Balls were called strikes. Safes were called outs. But Shaun Vodka was mowing down the other team despite the lying, cheating, dirty condom of an umpire. So the score was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the last inning. There was one out and a runner had made it to second base. He was the winning run. Shaun stood on the mound and came set. He stood there motionless and all of a sudden the spineless gimp behind the plate yells “Balk!” When I think about it now it was actually pretty brilliant. You see, for those of you who don’t know baseball, pitchers are not allowed to make flinching or deceptive motions once they come set just before they start their pitching motion. If they do it’s called a “balk” and any runners on base get to advance one base. This diarrhea-faced umpire was getting creative with his spiteful cheating. So the winning run just moved up to third base with only one out.
A few pitches later Shaun threw a pitch that landed in the dirt. The catcher missed the ball and Shaun ran home to take the throw trying to tag out the runner who was attempting to score. The play was incredibly close. When I replay it in my head I think he was out, but you obviously know by now that it didn’t really matter whether the kid was safe or not…he didn’t have to get within 10 feet of home plate and the run would have counted. I heard the umpire yell “Safe!” and the next thing I know I’m sprinting.
Now remember, I’m playing shortstop. And I’m running as fast as my 15 year old legs can carry me. At this point things get a little fuzzy. I know I was running in the general direction of the umpire. The other team was mobbing the kid who had just scored in a celebration around home plate, so when I arrived there was a sea of blue uniforms in my way. I remember looking around quickly and not seeing the douche in black anywhere. Then I saw him…he was 30 feet beyond the backstop and he was walking briskly away. I remember pushing through the other team and basically flying the remaining 20 feet to the backstop fence and hitting it at top speed…in the air. My fingers latched on and I was a few feet off the ground stuck to that chain link like Spider Man. And I started yelling. And I wasn’t yelling things you yell in front of crowds of your mom…although I did use the word “mother” a few times. I distinctly remember screaming from the top of my lungs that he was, to quote Naughty by Nature, “another way to call a cat a kitty”. I used every word I could think of. And I yelled for a good, long time. Then I said something I had never said before and have never said since:  “Come back here! I’ll kill you!” I’ll kill you? What the hell? Who am I?
But it’s not the words that have really stuck with me all these years later. What really shook me was the adrenaline coursing through me like electricity. It was a frightening high. To this day, I honestly believe that had the umpire not fled (and after I started yelling his walk turned into a dead sprint toward his car) I would have leapt on him like a Chimpanzee and beaten him until multiple people had pulled me off. I remember seeing him run away and feeling both a sense of exhilaration from the off my handle rage and deep regret that I wasn’t going to be able to bludgeon him. Honestly, the only reason I can think of that I didn’t chase after him was that I was too enraged to think about going through the dugout 15 feet to my right to get behind the fence. I was out of my mind. I don’t really know how to convey it even now. Because as I’m typing this there is still a part of me that wishes he would have stayed just to see what I was capable of. Yet, having been to that place of unbridled fury, I know I can’t let myself get there ever again.
Here is what he looked like running away:

So you’re probably thinking that I eventually let go of the fence and calmed down and started laughing about the absurdity of it all. You’re probably thinking I finally came to my senses and realized that it was just a game and it didn’t really matter. Wrong. What actually happened is that Coach Hoppel’s brother, Coach Hoppel, grabbed me from behind and yanked me down off the fence. He got in my face and said something along the lines of “this is why we lose games because we’re always blaming umpires and not ourselves.” To which I replied with what I can only imagine was the coldest, darkest, deepest stare back into his eyes that Doug Hoppel ever received. I nearly punched him in the face. And, quite frankly, he deserved it. I played my ass off in that game and I played my heart out too and none of us deserved to have that tournament cheated away from us. If Doug didn’t see it that way then he was a fool.
After things had settled down Coach Jim Hoppel took us down the right field line and gave us the post game talk. During the talk, I was still so lost in anger that I didn’t hear a single word despite being right there in the thick of the huddle. I was doing everything I could to calm down, but it was a slow process. It was like trying to digest liquid hate and it was going to take longer than 20 minutes for me to ‘let it go’. Later Jim pulled me aside at the motel and apologized for “saying that”. I quickly accepted his apology without asking what the hell he was sorry for. Later on I asked some of the other players and they filled me in. It turned out our coach was so angry about how we had been wronged out of the game that in front of me, his half-Japanese player, he said he “wanted to Jap-slap that umpire as much as anybody.” I thought it was big of Coach Hoppel to apologize, but the truth is I never would have known he said it.
There really isn’t a moral to the story, but I do feel compelled to point out that I learned something about my temper that day. I learned that there are limits you can’t let yourself surpass. I realize that other people have stories about actual fights they were in, but this story isn’t so much about the heat of the battle as it is uncontrolled hatred. I literally would have beaten that defenseless twig until someone stopped me or until my knuckles couldn’t bear it any further. So I guess the moral of the story is sometimes you just need to walk away and hope that someday you have the opportunity to piss all over their grave.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I bought a Prius

Last weekend I finally did it. I found the Prius I was looking for and I pulled the trigger and bought it. I had been searching craigslist for months in cities from Portland to Seattle to Missoula to San Antonio and everywhere in between. After a few dead ends including a fantastic plan that had my dad and step-mom buying the car for me in Missoula and the bizarre correspondence with self declared "Bomb Wife and Loving Mother" Whitley Evans, I was finally able to find a 2006 Prius with only 80,000 miles on it in great shape (it has a few scratches and dings, but nothing I’m concerned about) for the price I wanted! It’s great. The lady I bought it from is a physician who works in The Dalles (why The Dalles is special enough to get a “The” in front it as though it’s as important as “the flu” or “the clap” or “the herpes” or "The Oprah" I don’t know, but it could be because it is home to the world famous Spooky’s Pizza). She was selling the car so that she could buy a motorcycle. She was going to be hitting the gym this year to build up enough strength to manhandle a Harley around. Whatever, it’s a goal.
She wanted to sell the car TODAY when I met her Saturday and she wanted the money in cash. Yeah, no red flags here…but I happen to be one of those idiots who thinks “I’m a pretty good judge of character” and I trusted her story so we drove to the credit union. At the credit union I made her show me her ID to match up the name on the title with some photographic evidence that she is who she said she is. She again insisted on cash instead of a cashier’s check because she thought it would be fun if this was as close to a drug deal as possible. It was pretty fun…watching all those hard earned $100 bills get laid out on the table one by one and knowing they were going from me to someone else. She remarked “isn’t it funny that this (pointing to the stacks of paper money being slid into an envelope very drug-dealesquely) equals that (pointing to the north wall of the credit union beyond which the car was sitting)”. Yeah, hilarious.
If I’m being completely honest, Alison was a very very very nice woman and I couldn’t have been happier with her as a seller. She said she would be willing to make right anything that turned up in the inspection I would have later in the week and again I believed her because I’m such a great judge of character and I had judged her character as strong. I hate it when I realize I’m “that guy” but when it comes to “good judge of character guy” I’m pretty sure I am him. What a jerk.
So I took the Prius down to Wentworth to check it out. Why Wentworth? Because I don’t trust mechanics but I know a Wentworth. For the fantastic price of $89.95 (I have no idea if that was a good price since I called nobody else) I found out that I wasted my $89.95. The car is in perfect shape. The brakes are good. The battery is strong. It’s a great car. I didn’t really waste the money…I bought peace of mind blah blah blah. Some might say “I WENT and it was WORTH it!”
As a bonus, when the mechanic was doing the inspection I walked around the streets of beautiful inner SE Portland. I came around a corner after admiring endless gutters full of litter. Lo and behold, in front of me was a small fat man in a tiny three wheeled vehicle. Who be you, sir? Who do you think it was? If I told you his first name was Douche would you know? That’s right, fresh from writing two parking tickets it was Meter Maid Douche Thoreson making yet another appearance in my life. He had already altered my life negatively by putting in motion the events that led to me to quitting Meals on Wheels. Here he was, looking me in the eye without an ounce of recognition. So I followed him on foot, trying desperately to keep up with the ice-cream-man-motorized-tricycle the good citizens of Portland had bought for his use. About block three of what I now refer to as “the chase” I watched him write a ticket then he stopped at another car and was radioing it in to headquarters. I can’t imagine the poor depraved soul who has to answer this idiot’s questions all day: “Yes, Thoreson, that car is registered and has just as much a right to park on the city street as anyone else” day after day after day. Anyway, as he was radioing I just stood there 10 feet away and stared at him. He stopped radioing. “Hey, remember me?” No. “You wrote me a couple of tickets a few months ago.” Oh, around here? “No. I’m the Meals on Wheels guy.” Oh yeah. “I wanted you to know that for the last ticket you gave me when I called you a 'Meter Maid B**ch' I drew a picture of you calling you a douche, wrote that you were everything that’s wrong with the city of Portland and they gave me nearly all my money back.” Oh yeah? “Yeah…I guess that’s how you beat the rap. You make fun of the Meter Maid.” Huh.
That was it, that was all. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for me. I was able to let him know just how little his job is worth. Despite the fact that he makes legitimate money for the budget, the way he uses no discretion when issuing tickets has led to the courts giving back fines to people who draw pictures of him as a fat idiot in a bicycle helmet.
But I digress…the Prius is so great. I drove it for 8 days before I had to fill up the gas tank. That was over 375 miles. It cost me $27.49 to fill the tank. Much of that driving has been with the entire family of 5 in it because the back seat is big enough to fit the three kids. What I have noticed, however, is that because there is a real-time fuel-efficiency meter and I know exactly how much gas I’m using at any given moment I now drive like a grandma (no offense to the grandmas out there). I never want to use the gas because the electric is free. I’m quickly turning into an old Asian woman behind the wheel…but for $27.49 I’m okay with that.
Then Sunday I went and bought this putter.

Now I’m an old man on the golf course who can’t bring himself to bend over a regular putter. Essentially I’ve become a senior citizen in a week’s time which wouldn’t be so great if it didn’t get me discounts at Sayler's Old Country Kitchen with their weather-beaten sign that’s nothing more than a revolving picture of a 40 year old sun-bleached t-bone steak. I don’t know what color to call it, but I wouldn’t say it’s “steak color” at this point.

Anyway, I’ll see you on the roadway…probably in my rearview mirror yelling at me because I’m going 8 mph under the posted speed limit while I’m laughing about how I’m currently getting 75 miles to the gallon which is pushing up my 45 mpg average for this particular tank of gas. Fred Flinstone didn't get this kind of gas mileage!

Friday, June 1, 2012

My lucky day at the gas station

It seems like every time I think of something interesting to write about the story ends up making me look like the idiot. This post is no different. I usually consider myself to be pretty intelligent but you can see from my occasional lapses in judgment that I keep my brain pretty well in check with poor decision making.
So a couple years ago I was driving home from work and was low on gas. I decided to stop at the Johnson Creek exit off of I-205 to hit the Fred Meyer gas station. This is typically a pretty congested area at rush hour, but the low fuel light was on and the only gas stations between Freddy’s and my house are terribly overpriced.
So I exit the freeway and take a right down toward 82nd Ave. The plan is to cross 82nd in the far right lane (there are two left turn lanes and two straight lanes) then turn right into the Fred Meyer parking lot. I’m in luck because there are only about 10 cars in front of me waiting at the red light and…dumb-frocking-luck!...the light turns green as I’m approaching. As I draw near the line is doing what all lines do at green lights, namely, it’s stretching out like an inch worm as each driver slowly reacts to the car in front of it. (Sidenote: I fantasize nearly every day that just one time when the light turns green every driver in line will start moving forward all at once in a synchronized motion thereby saving everyone valuable seconds which over the course of my life would save me a day or two). I happen to be the very best driver ever to sit behind the wheel of a Galapagos Green 2003 Honda Element (insert bread box or toaster joke here)... I have my speed measured out just right so that I won’t have to brake when the guy immediately in front of me starts moving. It’s then I begin to realize that my plan has been foiled. As I approach I can see that the maroon pickup in front of me isn’t moving at all. As I draw even nearer I see him turn on his turn signal. Great.
Blink…blink…blink…goes his signal. He’s not moving. I finally have to hit the brakes as I approach. He just sits there. A car tries to let him in. He’s too timid to take advantage of it. That car passes, another tries…same result. I throw up my hands and say to myself “come on!” I see his beady little eyes in his rearview mirror. He sits there…blinker blinking. There are cars lining up behind me. The light turns yellow. He flips me off. The light turns red. He moves over to the straight-only lane immediately left of where he was. Great..he’s just prevented 8 cars (most importantly ME) from making this light and he’s going straight through this light anyway…wait a second. Did he flip me off?

I pull up next to him and roll down my window. He doesn’t roll his down. “Why did you flip me off?” He holds up his fist. At this point I size him up. He’s kind of a squatty, nerdy dude in a t-shirt that’s a little too tight for his beer belly. He may or may not live in his mom’s basement and he’s probably 37 years old. Wait…did he just raise his fist at me like he wanted to hit me? I mouth as I’m doing hand motions to communicate through his window “roll down your window (making circular motion with my closed hand) so we can talk (making an opening and closing motion with my fingers and thumb like a sock puppet) about why (I shrug my shoulders) you (I point at him) flipped me off (I point at my middle finger).” He holds up his fist again. “Oh, I see (pointing at my eyes). You’re a real brainiac (I point at my temple). “ He points to the gas station. “Okay. I’m (pointing at me) going to the gas station (I make a nozzle-like motion then point to the gas station) to get gas. You (pointing at his stubby little figure) can follow me (I wave him over like we’re playing red rover) if you want.”
The light turns green and I go to the gas station. I look in my side view and see he’s followed me. Great. So I know I’m going to have to get out and go talk to this idiot to make sure he doesn’t follow me home. Time to go into defuse mode. I get out my credit card so I can start getting gas before walking over to talk to this numb nuts. I turn to the attendent at my window…oh crap. That’s no attendent. That’s Stubs McFistyfart.
Him: “You’d better think twice about who you threaten.” He’s still not intimidating me, honestly, but he’s probably off his rocker so I try to swallow the sarcasm I want to use. This is a critical point and something that didn’t come naturally.
Me: “You think I threatened you? You flipped me off. Tell me how you think I threatened you.”
Him: “You were tailgating me.”
Me: “Do you know what tailgating means? You were at a complete stop at a green light. How could I have been tailgating you? Tailgating implies that you were actually moving.”
Him: “You’re lucky I just got out of prison or I would drag your a—out of that car and beat the living sh-- out of you.”
Me: (Well this just took an unexpected twist. I wonder if he could actually do it). “I guess it must be my lucky day then.”
Him: “Yeah, I guess it is.” He starts to walk away, looks back and says “you’d better think about who you threaten.”
Me: “I DIDN’T THREATEN YOU. GET A GRIP.” Did I really say “GET A GRIP”? No, but I think I said something in my head like “holy s…that was as close one. And these business casual threads ain’t fightin’ clothes.”
I watched him drive away as far as the eye can see to make sure he couldn’t follow me home.
This is what he would look like if he was in a giant diaper and was fatter and less beardy...and had a soul:

Oh, remember how his little truck just sat there blinking at the light? Well that’s exactly the opposite of what his eyes did when he was (note the irony) threatening me. This dude was calm and cold. I was full of adrenaline and thinking about how to use the door of my toaster as a first strike weapon. I had just figured it would take about 15 seconds of me holding my own before a gaggle of gas station attendents would break up the fight and call the police when he started walking away.
To quote Headliner from Arrested Development in their smash hit ‘People Everyday’: The moral of story is you’d better look very hard at who you step into. You might get killed or shot and it’s not worth it. Africans need to be loving each other and you’re not.
Wait a second. I told you I was going to look like the idiot in this story. Nevermind about that, I’m obviously the hero.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

D. Thoreson: Meter Maid, The Final Chapter

I never expected that there would be a part three to the Meter Maid Douche Thoreson story. If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 yet you should do so now by clicking on them here:
In fact, if it’s been a while since you read them it’s probably a good idea to skim them before reading on. I had little need to do so prior to writing this final installment because the emotional trauma I endured loathing this public payroll leach is now seared into my memory like the fish you ate that gave you food poisoning. Now every time I have to feed a meter in the City of Portland I taste the vomit all over again.
In “D. Thoreson Meter Maid Number 2”, my less-than-subtle title intended to make you associate Douche’s name with poop, I told you all about my experience in the court room. As it turned out, going to parking ticket court is about as far from television courtroom drama as anything you could imagine. It’s just a judge hating his assignment and time after time reducing fines by 50% regardless of any other factors. It’s a gigantic waste of time…and money since you have to pay to park downtown where court is held.
As you probably remember, I made myself the bad guy back in “D. Thoreson Meter Maid” when I used an expletive in reference to The Douche on the parking receipt I left in the window as I delivered Meals on Wheels. What you may or may not have realized is that my trip to court was for the original parking ticket. The ticket I received after taunting Douche with my note was still in process at the time of the last writing. That was by design because I wanted to see how court went the first time to determine if it was worth my time to waste Douche’s and Multnomah County’s time by again pleading not guilty and demanding a trial. Well, after my experience I realized that I had done about all I could do and reaped basically no reward.
So, reluctantly, I decided to plead “no contest” and kiss my $39 check goodbye instead of demanding to be heard by someone who wasn’t interested in listening. Here is a copy of the letter I sent to the court:

If I’m being completely honest, time has healed some of the wounds from this experience. I don’t have much pent up malice left in my heart for ole’ Douche anymore. This is despite the fact that the City of Portland has now issued me 3 parking citations in the past 6 months while the person who smashed out my window and stole two GPS units from me walks free. Priorities…
I will say that I do feel a sense of loss after having quit the Meals on Wheels route. When I quit it prompted John to quit which prompted Peggy to quit which shut down our company’s participation with Meals on Wheels altogether. Since that time Francis passed away. She was 94 and had outlived two husbands and a daughter. It was her time to go, but I was still sad to hear the news. Last I heard, Ron was still up on the 6th floor in his wheel chair telling stories. I think about him sometimes. He’s the kind of guy who leaves an impression on you.
Well, back to my third and (hopefully) final ticket. Imagine my surprise after sending THAT letter in my defense when an envelope arrived at my home this week. I took it inside and opened it up. At first I thought the court had decided to charge me MORE after reading through my case. My blood was beginning to boil again, but alas the court wasn’t charging me more. The court was cutting me a check in the amount of $33.

I was still found guilty, but ultimately my fine ran to a net total of $6. That means all in all it cost me the price of a burrito to have a 10 minute heated conversation with Douche Thoreson after calling him a female dog. If it were a Mastercard commercial it would look like this:
One undeserved parking ticket and subsequent afternoon in court: $24.50.
One parking ticket received in retaliation for calling a man a “B---H”: $6.00.
Being able to loudly tell a meter maid his true contribution to society in front of a handful of random strangers and now the entire world through the magic of the internet: PRICELESS.
One final message to you, D. Thoreson, spelled out with my fine money:

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Prius

Recently I have begun to consider buying a Prius. My car is getting to that point where things are going to start breaking down with regularity and I’m tired of spending so much on gas…speaking of gas, if your wife ever asks you what you want from Costco and you’re on a new health kick because your blood work came back with a computer generated note reading “you’re on borrowed time” don’t tell her “get me a healthy snack food” because she’ll come home with a full pallet load of Fiber One bars that, when you eat one, will make you fart hard enough to literally propel your office chair forward a measurable distance.
So I’ve been talking to everyone I know who has a Prius and researching the internet about them. I asked a guy at work about his and he said it’s fantastic and later followed up via email to tell me how buying an environmentally conscious car can allow me to be a better salesman because it will help me to forge an instant bond over political issues. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the only political statement I’m making is “I’m cheap”.
When I want to buy a car I basically search craigslist every day for weeks to get a feel for prices and what year and mileage I feel comfortable with at my price point. I’ve been doing this with Priuses for a while now and I know what I’m looking for. The only problem is that as gas prices started to spike, the market for used Priuses went out of whack and the only way to get one for blue book price was to buy one with a rebuilt or branded title. I’m not going to buy a previously totaled hybrid car I know nothing about so I’ve been patiently waiting for a good deal to come along.
That’s when it happened. One Wednesday afternoon when the insurance world was quiet I ran my typical search parameters on craigslist and the perfect one popped up. It was a 2006 for the price I wanted to pay, which immediately led me to believe it was previously totaled. I was shocked and excited to see that had not been totaled. It had 98,000 miles on it, which wasn’t ideal but was acceptable because I know these cars can go a few hundred thousand miles if you take care of them.
 I sent the following email to the posting address…the person who posted the ad was named “Whitley” so I went with the personal touch:
“Hi Whitley, I’m looking for a Prius right now and yours seems to have everything I’m looking for. I wish it had a few less miles, but I would have to pay more for that. Are there any little nuisances or minor issues with the car? Pretty much all craigslist ads seem to read the same…great care, runs well…I’ve never owned a hybrid so I’m not great at knowing what questions to ask. I would be interested in taking a look at it this week if possible. Thanks, Keith.”
I received a reply not long after:
“It’s a good car. No issues that are not listed. Give me a call when you would like to look at it or if you have any questions. 503-310-XXXX. Thanks, Whitley Evans” (I added the XXXX so I’m not advertising anyone’s phone number on my blog).
Ok, sounds legit.
“I am unavailable tonight, but could come take a look/test drive tomorrow after work if that fits with your schedule. Let me know if that works. Keith (cell number)”
“Tomorrow night is fine. Give me a call when your free. I’m available all day.” (“your”…grrrrrr)
Awesome. The ad says this is in Gresham which isn’t far from me. I can head out there, fall in love with this car (because I’m already in love with the price) and buy this thing before the weekend.
The next day came and I thought I would cut out of the office a little early to go check this car out. I called the phone number and left a voicemail asking to come look at the car this afternoon. An hour went by, two hours, three hours. Hmmm….maybe this guy’s a flake. Oh well…you can’t throw a rock in the city of Portland without bouncing it off a Prius and having it ricochet off another Prius so no big deal.
I leave the office later that afternoon and head toward home. I’m not 2 minutes from the office when the phone rings. I look at the number and it starts 503-310 so I’m thinking it’s this dude, Whitley.
“This is Keith, how can I help you?” (it’s a work issued phone and it’s still technically business hours)
Young woman’s voice: “Paul?”
“No, this is Keith.”
“This isn’t Paul and I’m not your dad. Who is this?”
“Did someone call me from this number?”
“Are you selling a Prius by any chance?”
“Uhh…oh yeah! In fact I’m driving around in it right now! I’m sorry, my phone said my dad called me, that’s funny. I just told it to call him back and it called you. I thought you were my dad’s friend pulling a prank.”
“No prank here. Your email said you were available all day today. Can I still come out and see the car?”
“Uh, no. I’m busy today, but I’m available all day tomorrow. Text me when you’re available.”
“Ok, will do.”
Okay, that was a ditz. Did she really just drop a ‘who’s my daddy?’ on me??? I need to hit the Google machine to see if this is legit or not. Craigslist is a weird place and I don’t want to get jerked around. Well, Google didn’t have much to say. How about Facebook? Okay…here’s something. Here’s a Whitley Evans from Gresham…wait…Holy S. What the hell is this?

Ok, dude, is this legit or not? Apparently this Facebook account has been used when Whitley commented on some pregnancy Facebook site so I am led to believe it’s a working account. She’s describing herself as “Bomb Wife and Loving Mother” so it’s probably not one of those “come to my website to view the really good pictures” kind of deals. But seriously, why is this chick trying to seduce the camera with her cleavage as she’s sitting in the driver’s seat of the Prius I want to buy? It doesn’t add up, but I can’t think of how this could be a scheme so I’m still giving Whitley the benefit of the doubt.
So the next day I text, as instructed.

Yeah right…now you’re just screwing with me. Jerk…oh wait…I sent it to the wrong number. I was off by a single digit!

No reply. At this point the craigslist ad has been flagged for removal so I’m sure there’s no Prius for sale. Maybe Paul and Dad were really getting a kick out of the phone calls to Whitley’s phone. Who knows? The fact is I’m probably better off not test driving anyone’s car whose plunging neck line is that low. I’d hate to start giggling when asking about the front air bags. God forbid I can’t figure out the controls and I have to ask “how do I turn your headlights on?”
Enough…I’m still looking for a 2006ish Prius with 100,000 miles or less if you know anyone.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Daddy has peanut butter running through his veins."

For most of my life I basically believed I was invincible. The most severe injury I’ve ever suffered is a dislocated shoulder. The most serious illness I’ve ever had is probably the strep throat. Well, now that I’m pretty much in my mid-thirties, it turns out I’ve outlived my invincibility. In fact, I’m highly vincible. I’m now just hoping I can delay vince as long as possible. Damn you, vince…which leads me to my next point:
I haven’t been feeling well lately. It’s part of the reason I haven’t been writing as often. I just haven’t had much energy. I have been getting headaches many afternoons. I feel lethargic. Everything has felt heavy and burdensome.
Cut to seemingly unrelated scene: I am on my wife’s insurance plan through her job at Providence. Embarrassingly, I paid for my own insurance at my current job for a year before realizing that I was free to add to Taela’s plan. Even more embarrassing? I work for an insurance agency. So anyway, Providence said they would give us each $400 in “walking around money”…or maybe it’s to pay for medical bills…if we each take a blood screen at Quest Diagnostics. Taela and I went in one morning only to be told that we are supposed to fast before the test. I said “I’m as fast as I’m ever gonna be” but it turned out they meant we weren’t supposed to eat or drink before they drew blood. I said “Edward didn’t care what Bella ate before he sucked her blood” but they didn’t think that we very clever so we left.
Taela went back and had the screening done. I went in by myself about a month later. I walked into the tiny little waiting room and there was an old couple there. The seats were set up with three in a row, then a small table then two more seats. The old people were whispering something to one another as I walked in. Apparently they didn’t want me to hear it because they shut the fudge up immediately when they saw my imposing figure step in. I was dressed for work which meant slightly worn-out business casual pants that are a little too snug in the waist for my comfort and saggy in the butt along with a recently ironed, but still somehow aggravatingly wrinkled  dress shirt.
So, anyway, I walked in and the old woman was startled by me and she scurried all 4 feet to the front desk to sign in. I signed in behind her and turned to sit down when I noticed something that immediately teed me off. The old man was sitting in one of the three seats to the left and he had his jacket and some sort of reading material laid out on the chair next to him. The old lady was sitting in one of the two seats on the other side of the small table. So, somehow, these two people have found a way to take up damn near all of the 5 seats in the waiting room and I have to choose between sitting next to the man’s crap or his old lady. After making a crude silent joke to myself about how these two things are probably synonymous (hardee har har!) I chose the latter. I figured if two people are going to take up an entire waiting area I was going to make it uncomfortable for them too, so I snuggled in next to somebody’s great grandma, laid my computer bag down next to her and proceeded to play Words with Friends on my phone. I mean, come on old people…you’ve been married for 75 years. Go ahead and pretend like you can put up with sitting next to one another.
When it was my turn I gladly followed someone in scrubs back to a little drab room and answered some questions...probably because I trust anyone in scrubs. Yes, I fasted as quickly as I could. No, I don’t smoke (and neither should you). The punk-rock-by-night medical-assistant-by-day who was helping me seemed disinterested but cordial enough. She put my arm in an automated blood pressure cuff and pushed the button. Literally as the thing is inflating to take my blood pressure she starts rolling up my sleeve and talking about the my veins and how she’s going to stick a sharp metal object in there in order to suck out my blood. I’m not a pansy about needles (don’t verify this one with my wife as she may or may not have the same opinion), but when you’re in the middle of taking a blood pressure test it’s probably best for accuracy’s sake to keep the thoughts of dermal penetration to a minimum. Well, it was all over in a minute or two (“That’s what she said! That’s what she said!” Michael Scott) and I was on my way after having nailed yet another test in my illustrious life.
Then the results came. Now I’m no scientist, but if I were I would tell you that when a test says your triglyceride level should be below 150 and yours is 585 you’re probably doing something wrong. Fortunately my cholesterol was right in the sweet spot of ‘expected’. It is supposed to be between 125 and 200…mine came in right between those at 199. My body mass index was above normal as well at a not-so-svelte 27.2.

This was all very shocking to Taela which is weird because she’s seen me naked. Then I realized something: I’ve been feeling like crap lately because I’ve been eating like crap and not exercising at all. Again, I’m no scientist, but I put this all together on my own. I thought back to all the Carl’s Jr. meals and bags of potato chips and midnight milkshakes and realized something…there are consequences to my dietary choices. Who knew…and why didn’t they tell me?
Here is a pie chart of my recent eating habits:
So now I’m basically going to get back to healthy by going on a diet I have titled “Not Eating Like a Jackass”. Every now and then I say “no I don’t need thirds” and I’m trying out something called “white meat” for a change (I know this sounds like overt racism, but in my research I have learned that this is an actual term for certain meats that did not come from a cow). It’s interesting…not quite like burger, but still very edible.
To tie it all back together, since the day my wife convinced my kids that I have “peanut butter running through” my veins, I have begun to eat more like a responsible adult and I haven’t had any headaches. I’m still slow and fat, but I choose to play the Wii games that make me stand up so I’m making some progress on the exercise front too. My sister told me to watch “Forks over Knives” on Netflix, but I said “hell no, I ain’t gonna be no Vegan!”
In closing, I will now blog more often because I have more energy. I haven’t had any headaches in two weeks. Soon the chins around my throat will shrink and my fat-induced sleep apnea will subside and I’ll be as energetic as that horrible little should-be-smashed to bits by a Louisville Slugger pink bunny from those battery commercials.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Little Slice of Paradise

Long ago my wife’s family made Disneyland their primary vacation destination. In fact the first time I ever stepped foot inside the Wagner house (I was there to “study”) it was apparent from the multiple Disney frames depicting various trips to the Magic Kingdom that Disney was a big part of this family’s life. On our first anniversary Taela and I drove to Disneyland from our apartment in Klamath Falls. In fact, in the 11 ½ years we’ve been married I have been to Disneyland at least 5 times. Why am I quantifying all of this? I don’t know. Oh yeah…I was going to tell you how much my wife loves it there. The place instantly turns her into a little girl again. Her face lights up like Christmas morning. Disneyland literally alters her personality. It truly is magic for her.
As for me, my Disneyland is a mystical golf haven on the southern coast of Oregon named Bandon Dunes. Bandon Dunes recently overtook Pebble Beach as the top ranked golf resort in the United States. It features not one, but four world class golf courses. Many holes are built on the cliffs above the ocean. Teeing off at Bandon Dunes is like travelling to Scotland 100 years ago except instead of waving your magic wand to get there all you have to do is drive up in your SUV and plop down your credit card.
A couple of weekends ago I made my fourth trip to Bandon Dunes. Last year we put together a group of six guys and had the time of our lives. This time we had three of us (Bryan, Scott and me) for the first day, then James joined us late on day two. Because James wasn’t able to play on Friday we were matched up with a stranger. His name was David and it turned out he was a nice enough guy. He said he was the “assistant dean” of the University of Washington. The four of us had played a few holes together and we were having a good time. I started off not playing very well and I was aggressively cussing out Bryan for beating the hell out of us and taking all our money. Bryan Gray (not to be confused with Brian Gay, the PGA Tour player...he gets that all the time) is a former club pro (well, assistant pro but try telling him that) but he hadn’t played a round in 8 months so it’s not as if he was on top of his game.

In any case, I was having a great time despite consistently hitting the ball like a giant turd face. Scott was trying not to absolutely lose his mind because he was playing like a blind leper.

We got to about the 6th hole and I had already put down a Heineken. I figured it was time to wash that down with a Coke Zero so as Bryan was teeing the ball up I cracked open my pop and took a mouthful. The problem was that this soda was really fizzy and it hit the back of my mouth kind of funny. Instantly it triggered a cough that sent the entire mouthful of Coke Zero flying. The ocean happened to be to my right…the wind comes in consistently from the ocean…David happened to be standing to my left…sorry David. As I coughed I could see the foamy spray take flight. I looked up and there was nothing to be said or done. The only guy in the group that I didn’t know was now wearing the entire first would-be-gulp of soda delivered straight out of my mouth. I absolutely spewed my drink all over this guy’s jacket as he was wearing it. I’m certain some got on his face and probably even in his goatee. He didn’t laugh.
On Saturday we hit the course early. I could tell you all about how the sideways hail storms came in a couple of times. I could tell you about how the group in front of us was slow and made us wait all day. I could tell you how beautiful the course was. I could tell you that Scott hit every ball he swung at (unlike the day before). But you don’t care about all of that. If you want to go to Bandon Dunes then go there yourself. It’s amazing and it’s somewhat affordable in the winter time. As a golfer it’s damn near as good as it gets.
I could tell you all sorts of things about the golf rounds, but instead I’ll tell you that after 36 holes of golf we headed into the pub for some dinner. We were all exhausted and sore…and hungry. Three of us ordered the Bandon Cheeseburger (which comes with Tillamook instead of Bandon cheddar cheese, by the way), one of us ordered Fish & Chips. I was one of the burgers and when it showed up I was elated.

It was finally time for me to fill my belly up with something hot and greasy. I picked up that big, round, heavy burger and brought it to my mouth. I took a giant bite and began to chew. Mmmmm…what’s that?
“Guys.” What? “Holy S.” What? “Look at my plate.” What? “Look at it!” What? “Right there.” Oh no.
There on my plate, right in the middle of where the bun had been resting, was something you never want to see mixed with your food. Was it a bug? No. Was it crusted on food? No. Was it a hair? Yes. Well that’s not so bad, right? It was a body hair.
I'm not going to say exactly which part of the body this particular hair appeared to have come from, but I think you know. I will remember Bandon for a lot of things...unfortunately causing me to lose my appetite while eating a delicious cheeseburger is now one of them.