Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Man

The Man.

He's walking his dog. He's getting exercise.

The Man.

He's got a good job and a well-groomed goatee. He's got a separate pair of shoes for work and for running and for nights out on the town.

The Man.

He keeps up the maintenance on his sensible car. He drops his punctually-paid bills into the mailbox.

The Man.

He regularly attends his place of worship. He volunteers at least once a month.

The Man.

He mows his lawn on Saturdays and calls his parents on Sundays.

The Man.

He does all the things he's supposed to do. But he still feels like there's something he's missing.

The Man.

Friday, October 19, 2007

An Open Letter To The Men Who Work On My Floor

Dear Sirs -

It has been a sheer delight to share the same floor of this office building in Corporate Woods with you for the past 7-plus years. The fact that we've been working shoulder-to-shoulder as soldiers of industry and capitalism has imbued upon me a great sense of pride and patriotism. If not for the vast army of men collectively named "Joe Lunchpail", this country would come to a standstill.

That being said, I have a concern that I feel I must bring to your attention.

As you all are obviously aware, we share a single men's restroom on our floor. It is not a large restroom, like the women's restroom that has a separate changing/smoking/napping/deep-tissue massage room. No, we are left with two urinals, two stalls and three sinks. Since we have upwards of 20 men working on this floor, that means we have a lot of traffic coming through our tiny place of refuge. Add in the handful of men who commute from the 3rd floor while their restroom is being remodeled, and you have a lot of waste being eliminated in a small area.

This brings me to my issue: Half of the time I go to use the urinal, there is urine remaining from the previous person's discharge. And why is that? Because many of you continue to retain the mind-boggling habit of flushing midway through your expulsion yet NOT flushing after you are completed, leaving half of your legacy to remain for the next poor sap who comes in to relieve himself.

This leads me to ask: Are you not repulsed by the presence of urine in the fixture you're about to use? Are you not affected by the smell of said urine, left to marinate until the next person comes along? The only response I can reasonably predict from you is a resounding "Maybe."

Maybe it is a case of revenge: "Someone left this gift for me, so I will, in turn, leave a gift of my own!" If this is the case, I vehemently urge you to PLEASE break the cycle. It is like the never-ending cycle of child abuse, handed down from one generation to the next. Or the Kansas City Chiefs' never-ending cycle of fielding competitive football teams that, year after year, fail to win even a single playoff game. The cycle must be broken!

Maybe you are just hopelessly lazy: "Flush the toilet TWO times?!?! You must think time grows on trees!" If this is the case, may I suggest looking at this situation as a matter of timing, then? If you just wait 15-20 seconds longer, you can flush both the previous man's urine as well as your own urine away in one bold stroke.

I hope you will give careful consideration to my concerns and possible resolutions. I would really hate to have to start using the 1st floor restroom; those guys are just animals.

Yours in bathroom etiquette,


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hearing, But Not Listening

Two attractive, blond, young women sit on a park bench just outside their office. For them, it is break time, a time to vent about what's going on inside or with their boyfriends or how their families are completely loony. They sit casually, cross-legged and turned towards each other. There is a slight breeze but not enough to justify how often they each touch/adjust/flip/pull their hair. They take turns speaking, as those who possess manners tend to do. There is much hand gesturing and animation while one of them talks and what appears to be thoughtful, polite attention from the one who is listening. But upon closer inspection, one wonders whether they are really listening or just hearing. The body language speaks volumes. While the expressive, earnest story is being told, the other will occasionally look at the cars that glide past in the parking lot. Or she'll adjust her skirt. Or look to see who's coming in and out of the building. It even sounds like she's listening because on cue she'll offer up an encouraging head nod or say "I totally know what you mean!" But really she's just listening for the hint that tells her it is her time to speak again. And once she starts talking, the other girl picks up where the former left off. Both girls look forward to their daily breaks when they can go outside and get a few things off their chests. But neither of them feels any better afterwards and they can't quite pinpoint why.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Have A Dream...

...and it isn't meant to mock Dr. Martin Luther King. I've had that Regina Spektor song "Real Love" stuck in my head ("stuck" carries a poor connotation; let's just say it's been on a continuously pleasant loop) for the last couple of days. And today, while listening to that song in my head, I have this vision: A bunch of friends laying on a couch; intertwined but comfortable, not sitting stiffly side-by-side; blankets on those who want them. It would be cool or cold outside, making it reasonable for everyone to be inside cozied up to one another. And nobody would be talking. Not necessarily silent; there might be that song playing or some other soothing, melodic music. But no one would utter a word. For maybe an hour. Those who felt inclined to nap would do so. Those who wanted a foot rub or massage of some sort would receive one. Those who just want to lay back and have someone stroke their hair would be permitted to do so. It would be peaceful and warm and dreamy. I realize this echos the sentiments of a couple of earlier posts, but it's a bit different. It has a feeling of utter contentment, if only for a while. And total understanding without having to voice it. I suppose "intimacy" would be a good word. Anyway, it was just a dream I had on a rainy Wednesday afternoon...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Denny is an oddity. Not in a bad way, though. See, nearly everyone in his family is an addict. Three alcoholics on his dad's side. A sex addict on his mom's. His father-in-law, while not blood related, is another addict in his life; a Webster's-certified workaholic. And every single person in his family smokes. Every. Single. One. All but Denny, that is. Denny doesn't smoke. Oh, he'll puff on the occasional cigar or pipe. But he's never even placed a cigarette between his lips. And he partakes in his fair share of alcohol. Except that he rarely drinks alone. And he spends a fair amount of his time alone. That is, when he's not spending time with his friends. And he's been doing a lot more of that lately. In fact, when he isn't spending time with his friends, he expends a goodly amount of energy thinking about them. He'll call to see what they're up to. He'll text them to let them know he's thinking of them. He's constantly creating new ways for them to interact, whether it's by email, internet or planning events. He's often inspired to buy them gifts. And he feels so safe and secure when he's with them. He'll share all his ideas and plans and worries. He tells them about his Family-O-Addicts and breathes a sigh of relief that he managed to avoid being like them. And his friends sigh in agreement.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Real Love

Sunday night. The new week is nearly here. But they're putting it off as long as possible. A small candle burns on the coffee table, their three wine glasses sit nearby. Kendra and Lily are curled up cozily at each end of the sectional sofa. In between them, Neal sinks deep into the corner of the couch. The blond glow of the candle rests lightly on their faces. Their conversation slows to a stop and the only thing that interrupts the peaceful silence is the soft melody of a piano from the radio. Minutes go by and no one says a word. Tension and anxiety do not exist in this place, at this time. Everyone is lost in their own thoughts. Finally, the conversational hiatus reaches a conclusion when Lily says, "It feels so wonderful to be free of drama and stress and conflict, just for this moment." Neal, parroting the currently playing Regina Spektor song says, "You know why? It's because of what we have. It's real love." Lily furrows her brow and says, "It's not just the three of us that share that." And Neal responds, saying, "I know, Lily. That comment was supposed to be about 30% truth and 70% wit." After a few beats of silence, Kendra admits, "I still think it was sweet." And the three of them silently agreed that it was.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

These Five Stand Alone

A couple of weeks ago Chad, Lisa and I went up to the gallery where Chad's art was being displayed and wrote a number of short stories about the various works. I wrote eight stories in all and I will eventually post them all here. But I want to get pictures of the pieces that inspired these stories to post alongside. The five stories I am posting today are ones that I feel can stand alone, art or no art. But these are much more meaningful to me when one has seen the art and heard what it has said directly. The titles of these stories are the titles Chad gave his pieces.


"Look at that guy over there."

"Yeah, what a fat slob."

"Dude, I dare you to go over there and touch him."

"Touch him? Are you nuts? That's sick!"

"Come on. I bet he wouldn't even feel it."

"Seriously, he looks like a toad. He's just staring blankly into space."

"Fine. I'll give you five bucks if you do it."

"Five bucks? Alright. But you better pay up. When's the last time you think anyone's touched that guy?"

That's exactly what the fat, toad guy was thinking just before he got up and walked home.


Why does everyone think I'm beautiful? I mean, I see practically why they say that. I look in the mirror on occasion. But do people say it just because everyone else does? Is there some sort of beauty equation that I'm not aware of? Has there been an oral tradition, handed down over the years, that has created and shaped the accepted definition of beauty? I don't know the answer, but I know what I am and that is beautiful.


That was the final straw. She had had it, though she couldn't explain why. There he was, so comfortable and confident and lacking in nothing. But he still didn't fill her with passion. She turned away from him, searching for a painless way to end things. Painless for him. And painless for her. But things don't always work out the way you plan them. He reached out and touched her shoulder. Lightly at first and then pleasantly firm. And the passion that she didn't think existed started to glow like a long forgotten ember. And once that fire started to burn, there was no putting it out.


He had to think everything through. Thoroughly. That's why she loved him. That's also why she hated him. See, she was nothing like that. For her, things flowed freely. Conversation. Decisions. Wine. Love. But he agonized over everything. Fish sticks or taquitos? Should he have another drink? When will she discover that he is an unworthy companion? But she stays true to herself. She pours another glass of wine and decides that whatever will be, will be. And he stays true to himself. He goes to bed early. And lies awake for most of the night. And decides that whatever will be, will be.


Does he even remember what I look like? Does he remember what it feels like to feel me? To be felt by me? When he is alone, am I one of his Top 5 thoughts? Have I ever been? Will I ever be again? I can still smell his scent. Does he remember mine? Does he even care? Do I? Does he remember the way he used to say my name? Does he remember my name? Does he remember who I am? Who I was? Who I can be? Does he remember what we had? Does he remember?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Merge Lane

His girlfriend was driving. He sat in the passenger's seat of the '89 Cavalier. Things weren't going well. Not in their relationship. Not in their car. "Why does she always do this? She always looks back and slows to a stop, not realizing that if she just looks forward she'll see there's plenty of room to operate."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Bald Man

A bald man walks past me in the hallway. A bald man with sad eyes and a goatee, wearing an 80's vintage striped Polo shirt knockoff that is tucked into his dark blue jeans that are cinched to his waist by his brown leather weaved belt that resides three feet above his bright white tennis shoes. He is holding a large, hardback novel that he is keeping open about halfway with his thumb and it is making a slight crinkling noise because of the cellophane book jacket and his slow, measured steps. He softly says "Hey." I nod and say hello as we pass. One more bald man in a sea of bald men.

Monday, October 01, 2007


The four of them sit on the couch, boy-girl-boy-girl. Layla with her legs across the laps of Nate & Karen and Charlie on the end. A soft, periwinkle blanket encompasses and unites them. They drink wine. They watch "Categories". They tease one another. They are warm and comfortable. They talk about creating things that are controversial. Their confidence swells and imagination blossoms from the nourishment of their shared intimacy. Though they were once apprehensive, now they are emboldened. Alas, it is late and they must go. With great care, they tuck Karen into bed. And then they evaporate into the night.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Widow Kowalski

"If those kids kick that ball into my yard one more time...," Mrs. Kowalski thought to herself. She was drying dishes at her sink and looking through the cheesecloth-like curtains at the handful of neighborhood kids playing kickball in the street in front of her house. She looked on as Stevie Nichols kicked a screaming line drive past Peter Schaub and on down the street. As Chris Perkins retrieved the red rubber kickball from the drainage culvert, Mrs. Kowalski thought to herself, "How many ball have I confiscated and yet they just seem to find another one and keep playing..." Just then, Ben Simmons hooked a ball that seemed to hang in the air forever before it dropped directly into the rose bushes beneath Mrs. Kowalski's nose and kitchen window. Before the ball had even landed, boys were scrambling in all directions to escape the Wrath of the Widow Kowalski. "That one's mine!" shrieked Mrs. Kowalski while she hustled away from her sink and out the screen door. "You boys come back here!" But none of them did. Mrs. Kowalski gathered up her sixth round, red annoyance and wished that, just once, one of the boys would try to talk her into returning their kickballs.

Friday, September 28, 2007

In Her Head

Debbie had a gift. She can write. It doesn't matter what the style, short fiction, social commentary, satire, reflections. The thing is, her muse comes and goes. One day, Debbie will be really excited and whip up something very satisfying. Then three weeks will pass when all her ideas careen around the inside of her skull, ramming into the sides and each other, doing their best to become nonsensical. A friend will comment about what a delight it is to read her work and will ask why she doesn't write more. Another friend encourages her to stick with it, that her talent will shine through and some day she'll make it big. Debbie files these comments on a shelf in her brain and wonders what the true definition of a gift really is. If she only uses her gift sparingly and not for commercial gain, does it stop being a gift? If it is only a hobby, does that make it less of a talent? She doesn't want to waste what she's been given. And she desires to use her gift to give to others. Sometimes it's just hard. "I think I'l write about that," Debbie says to herself. But the idea ricochets off a dozen other thoughts and sinks to the bottom of her head.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


A good friend from work finally went out to lunch with us the other day. He had been out of the office because his wife was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Sleep was hard to come by, he told us, just as positivity was hard to hold on to. I told him that times like these enabled us to be more compassionate towards others who may be suffering unbeknownst to us. He agreed as we got up from the table. On the way home that day, I delivered a number of invectives against my fellow motorists.


I finish eating my food and pick up my book. The driver's seat of my car cradles me. Small streaks of light filter through the pine tree that I park beneath. My mind wanders from what I'm reading. I am tranquilized by the shade and soft breeze. Hazy shadows that resemble a woman's long eyelashes bat at me from the page. My head nods. It is time to return to work.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

People Helping People

I just saw this quote on today:

"I want to call him and support him, you know, be there for him."

--Ron Artest, on hearing Michael Vick's public apology for his involvement in a dog fighting scandal

This is like Paris Hilton calling Lindsay Lohan and offering to be her designated driver. Or Pete Doherty volunteering to be Amy Winehouse's AA sponsor. Or Jason Giambi proposing to be Barry Bonds's workout partner.

As you may recall, Ron Artest is the former Indiana Pacers guard who charged into the stands to fight a fan during a game in the 2004-2005 season. To be fair, Artest IS trying to clean up his image and make a positive impact by his involvement in Wheelchair Charities and Xcel Universities, a virtual university to help out youngsters in New York City with academics and no emphasis on basketball. And he should be commended for trying to help out someone who obviously needs some guidance.

But doesn't he understand how ridiculous it sounds when he comes out and makes a statement like this? It's like hearing a public service announcement from Snoop Dogg about not smoking pot. Or Michael Jackson telling you to get involved in the lives of children.

Believe me, I am all for giving folks a second chance and using your platform to make a difference in the world. But sometimes you just have to keep your mouth shut and work from behind the scenes. Ron, next time send Mike a note and save yourself the ridicule.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

He Moves In Mysterious Ways

Great Mysteries of the Universe:

* Is time travel possible?
* Why are yawns contagious?
* How many licks to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?
* Why don't young Hollywood starlets get someone to drive their booze- and narcotic-addled selves around?
* Why does Royals starting pitcher Scott Elarton continue to get payed to play Major League baseball?


I find this last mystery particularly relevant given the Royals' 9-4 loss to the Yankees last night, a contest in which the aforementiond Mr. Elarton pitched. I had debated as to whether I should attend Tuesday's Elarton/Chien-Ming Wang pitching matchup or Wednesday's Gil Meche/Mike Mussina matchup. The past history of Elarton's previous starts told me I should wait until Wednesday, but the siren's song of receiving a Powder Blue #5 George Brett Pine Tar-stained T-shirt was a tempation I was forced to give in to.

I should have trusted my instincts.

I knew Elarton had been lousy all year (meaning the handful of starts he's been able to make when not camped out on the Disabled List). Little did I know just how awful he's been until I looked up the stats this morning. Here are a few nuggets to chew on:

* He's pitched 37 innings this season--and given up 44 runs.
* His monthly ERAs look like this: May 7.65/June 11.15/July 37.80 for a Grand Total of 10.46.
* He's given up at least 3 runs in every start and he's never pitched 6 innings in a start.
* He's given up 12 homeruns, with at least one in each start before last night when he didn't need a homerun to give up 7 runs.
* He only has one more strike out than homeruns surrendered: 13.

In case you hadn't figured it out, this is mind-numbingly terrible. The only saving grace is that he missed all of April, part of May and most of July.

But what I find most galling ISN'T that Elarton himself is a miserable pitcher. He seems to be a nice, hard-working fellow who really cares about his performance on the field. He just doesn't have the ability he used to have before a cascade of injuries reduced his effectiveness to Nick Blakeley-level.

No, what's most galling is that Dayton Moore and Buddy Bell keep running this guy out there, knowing full well what results should be expected. It isn't hard to find a pitcher who can give up less than a run per inning, it really isn't. And you can find them on the cheap.

The only reason I can see for the stubborn insistence by management to allow opponents to carpet bomb the Royals while he's on the mound is that they want to showcase him for a potential trade. The only problem is that by showcasing this set of skills, they're just insuring that NO ONE will want to take him off our hands.

The time has come to release Elarton. I realize millions of dollars have been spent paying his contract and rehabbing his multiple maladies, but the Royals need to face it: It's a sunk cost. You aren't getting that money back and by continuing to play him you're making the cost less bearable.

This is a mystery that shouldn't be so difficult to solve.

My prayers have been answered:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Gazing At My Reflection in a Pond...

A few narcissistic nuggets for your consumption:

* I can't stand it when drawers and cabinets are left open. I have no idea where this comes from, as I'm not much of a neat-freak.

* Any food that has reached or surpassed its expiration date is totally off-limits to me. If it's milk, I may not use it even if it expires the next day. This goes back to drinking some expired milk in high school. I had a drink before I left for school in the morning, but by 3rd hour I was feeling awful. So awful, in fact, that I barfed in the bathroom at school. This is monumental because I don't like to throw up AT ALL, much less in a public place. I went home and spent the rest of the afternoon puking and dry heaving. I even went to a Young Life meeting that evening, thinking I couldn't possibly ralph any more. I spent more than my fair share in the bathroom, though I never actually let myself blow chunks. So my reasoning is "Better to be safe than yakking up your guts in a porcelain germ factory."

* I try to walk softly. I don't like it when people bang around on their heels. I'm not a big fan of unnecessary noise (as you'll find out in upcoming paragraphs). Some of this originates from an experience in early grade school. Our class was walking up some stairs and generally making a big racket, as 6- or 7-year olds are apt to do. And I was wearing cowboy boots. But my teacher stopped and said to me "You're doing a great job! You are the quietest person I've ever heard while wearing cowboy boots." That phrase stuck with me my entire life, so now I sneak around like a ninja, avoiding detection at all costs.

* The sound of my own urination bothers me. I've always thought the fire hose sound of someone taking a leak was quite uncouth, though I don't hold anyone else accountable to my way of thinking. But I do whatever is possible to minimize the decibel levels of my own excretion.

* I patently refuse to buy beer at sporting events. Out of principle, I just can't pay $8.00 for watered down Bud Light. And it never ceases to amaze me how many people will take out a seond mortgage on their home just to get plastered on ballpark beer.

* At work, I start out with twelve different windows open. They must be in the same order, every time. First, program: Microsoft Outlook. I keep a tight reign on my email inbox, so it deserves the top spot. Next is our company's accounting software. I only have to use it in the morning, but it serves as a buffer between Outlook and the third program, Microsoft Excel. I generally have at least six spreadsheets open at any given time, so I use it a lot and like to have it seperated from Outlook. The fourth program is an Internet Explorer window opened to one of the pages on our intranet. I keep it in this spot so that I remember to check on it several times a day to see what's been updated. Next is another Internet Exporer window that allows me to access the next two programs: one, a program that shows the real-time market prices for wheat and the other a program that keeps track of the trades we've made in the market. After I open those two programs, the IE window I had to use to open them up becomes my go-to window for surfing the internet. The first site I go to each day? The last five windows are all IE windows opened to the various railroad websites that I use to track where our railcars of wheat are currently located. The Union Pacific railroad gets first billing followed by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (which uses two windows) and finally the generic Steelroads website that keeps track of cars on the short lines. If something happens during the day that closes out one of these windows, I'll most likely close out the whole lot and recreate the original order. Then, I put my trash in a brown paper sack, fold it neatly, wrap it in aluminum foil and carefully place it in my waste receptacle...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Morning is Broken

Recently I've been fully engaged in thinking about myself and my endless number of quirky personal preferences, habits and lifestyle choices. Writing is included in this list, but I have sorely neglected it over the past few months. So I thought it would be a fun idea to start a series of self-absorbed essays that folks can read and yawn over in between watching "The Girls Next Door" and watering their lawns.

I figure a good starting point would be in the morning. Actually, that's not completely true; I don't really like the A.M. portion of the day. Regardless, it seems to make sense chronologically. But more importantly, I should repeat that I dislike the first few waking hours of the day.

I suppose my disdain for daybreak stems from the fact that my body seems to be naturally wired to stay up late. Also, I actually enjoy staying up late. That doesn't bode well for morning's bid to win my affections. To me, morning just seems desperate and over-eager. The sun popping out and disturbing the tranquil pleasantness of sleepy darkness is the morning's way of repeatedly tapping me on the shoulder and saying "Look at me! Aren't I pretty? Please give me your undivided love and attention! Please?! Please! Please!!!"

Physically, the beginning of the day is irksome. I wake up in the morning with "sleep"/mucus/eye boogers. My stomach feels unsettled. I have an urgent desire to use the restroom. If I've excercised the day before, my muscles are sore. My mouth tastes like the bottom of a dumpster. My ear hurts because I've somehow slept on it while it was folded over against my head.

To add to my auricular miseries, I have to listen to the bubbly morning news anchors who somehow manage to report on the brutal murders of the evening before with the same sing-song delivery of a Sesame Street character. And it's tough to find a forecast from a weatherman who isn't zany, jolly, or chipper on top of being, most importantly, inaccurate.

The drive into work provides some respite. It allows me time to be quiet and let my body wake up to the inevitability of another day. I manage to sing along to a couple of songs so that my speaking voice doesn't sound like the torturer's in "The Princess Bride". This comes in handy when spewing invectives at fellow drivers who are too busy shaving/putting on makeup/brushing teeth/reading the newspaper to stay between the white dashes painted on the street.

Once I get into the office, I look forward to completing my only deadline-oriented task of the day without being bothered. It generally doesn't work out that way. The-Guy-Who-Inexplicably-Always-Comes-In-An-Hour-Before-Anyone-Else-Does feels like it's his duty to say "Good morning, Nick!" because someone once told him that he wasn't personable enough. After I grunt "Hello," I plop down in my chair and attend to the responsibilities set before me, all the while wondering why people insist on using the greeting "Good morning!" My boss comes skipping in, glowing like a LiteBrite, ready to tackle the day like a linebacker drilling a quarterback. I just try to duck and move until I finish my task.

I then head down to the snack machine to purchase some nourishment. No coffee for me. I don't see the appeal of drinking dark brown sludge to wake myself up. All I need is some small offering from the Sugary Bread food group. If someone brings in donuts or bagels, all the better. If not, I'll scrounge up a buck to buy a honey bun or some Hostess cupcakes. This delectable treat combined with time to scour the internet for news and baseball scores added to the three hours I've now been awake equals a much more manageable morning. Not a good morning, mind you, but that will have to work.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I don't like birds.

Yet, I've been forced to think about them fairly regularly for the past few days. First, though, a little background...

I have thoroughly disliked birds since I was a kid. I don't remember how old I was when my severe distaste developed, but it doesn't really matter. I saw the Hitchcock movie "The Birds" when I was a kid, but that didn't really bother me. What really bothered me was a dream I had. I was on my grandparents' front porch and I was being repeatedly attacked by a bird, fluttering around, beating its wings furiously against gravity and my face, pecking and clawing and scratching. Every time I'd try to wave it away, I would miss because it had flown to some other hemisphere of my head. Needless to say, I did not wake up in a good mood that next morning.

Which leads us to the present. This week has been bird-filled, kind of like the pie in "Sing A Song of Sixpence". (What sickos came up with classic nursery rhymes, by the way? A King digging into a pie filled with blackbirds? I guess that's a topic for another day...) First of all, it's that time of the year when Canada geese are migrating and the office park I work in happens to be a popular rest stop along the way. So I'll often hear the honking of geese throughout the day as they fly over. Or, as the case was yesterday, two of them just decided to hang out on the sidewalk in front of my building and honk. They were kind of milling around and honking, looking like they were trying to hail a cab or something. It was like a Far Side comic come to life. And as my desk is right next to a window, I had a good view of their antics. This, of course, led to one of my office mates coming over to see just what it was I was staring at. He cracked that I ought to go down and grab one. I cracked back that I ought to bring one up into the office and watch hilarity ensue.

Then it hit me: I could never do that.

All I could picture was myself holding this medicine ball-sized creature in my arms while its two-foot-long neck/beak combo unleashed its worst on me like an out-of-control fire hose.
I sat back down at my desk and listened to the sultry tones of goose honking the rest of the morning. After a while, though, I decided to look outside and see if the two wayward travelers were still loitering on the sidewalk. To my surprise, they had left, leaving only their greenish-brown calling card on the pavement. But I still heard faint honking. I looked all over the place for the source, but I couldn't find it. At this point, I was starting to wonder if the ventilation system was making this noise but I couldn't pin it to that, either. I remembered seeing geese standing on the roof of our building a while back, so I figured that must be it: They're holding a board meeting on our roof and I was the unlucky chump who had to record the minutes.

Several nights previous to these encounters, I had a less sonorous bird experience. I was walking out to my car at night. Just before I got to the parking lot, something bowling ball-shaped zipped silently past my face. I realized that an owl had been perched on the handicap parking sign a few feet to my left and as I was starting to walk past, it hurled its seemingly un-aerodynamic body right past me. Thankfully, it happened so fast that I didn't have time to freak out.

Today, I went to Wendy's and got some lunch to eat while sitting in my car. I rolled the driver's side window down as it was pleasant outside, but not the passenger's side window. And thank God I didn't. As I was eating my burger and listening to sports radio, a robin came flying right at the closed window and perched itself on my door. In response to this action, I let out a decidedly unmanly "Aaahh!" The robin looked in at me with its evil, soulless eyes while I tried to catch my breath. One of its buddies then came along and challenged it to a worm eating contest that I viewed as it played out in front of me in the parking lot.

After the robin had its fill of worms, it then decided to challenge another robin. Except this one appeared to be a familiar opponent: Itself. It was perched on the door of another car in the parking lot, looking at itself in the side-view mirror, posturing and pecking as if it was another bird. I watched this for a couple of minutes with my hand at the ready to roll up my window in case it should come back my direction. I then noticed that it had relieved itself upon the door of the car it was sitting on. I thought to myself, "That poor sucker. He's going to be wondering why he has such a large concentration of bird crap on his door even though he's parked out in the middle of the lot, away from all trees and overhead lines." Of course, the next day I went out to my car to find a nearly identical pattern of bird droppings on my car door.

And to top it all off, the only birds I really like, the Jayhawks, picked the worst possible time to play their worst game of the year and were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament one game short of the Final Four.

Man, I hate birds.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Losing It

I was driving home from work one night, thinking about how I really need to make an effort to get in shape and drop a few pounds. Should I start going to the Community Center, maybe 24 Hour Fitness? Maybe I should get one of those contraptions they sell on TV. Of course, I also need to cut down on the double-cheeseburgers and Chipotle mega-burritos.

As I emerged from my fitness daydream, I realized that a car had been following me for some time. Since I take a fairly distinct and circuitous route home, it seemed more than a coincidence that this car would be still be tailing me after such a long while. From what I could tell, it was a Ford SUV, an Explorer or Excursion or Extortion or something. It was black, so black that it was almost green. And its windows were tinted, including the windshield, which I thought was illegal. The windshield wasn't as dark as the rest of the windows, though, so I could still see into the car if the light was right.

I decided to alter my course a bit, just to see what would happen. I waited as long as I could and then veered off onto the exit ramp for Shawnee Mission Parkway. Sure enough, the driver of the SUV wrenched the steering wheel and continued the pursuit, fishtailing through the grass and back onto the pavement.

Just as the car righted itself, the sun shone perfectly the windshield and illuminted the driver. It wasn't a man at all; it was an amorphous blob with no actual arms to steer with, just extensions of goo wrapped around the wheel. It was somewhat translucent but with a shade of pale yellow or beige, kind of like the last few sips of a watered-down iced tea.

While my mind was trying to sort out this bizarre set of circumstances, I noticed the personalized license plate of my pursuer: THEWGHT.

And then it all clicked:

I was trying to lose "The Weight".

Somehow, the combination of my physical flab and my mental picture of it had loosed itself from my body and become its own entity, chasing me through the streets of Johnson County.

I regrouped and focused on the road ahead, intent on losing "The Weight" for good. I accelerated and started zipping in and out of traffic. "The Weight" was not to be deterred; it deftly manuevered through the holes that I had navigated and stayed right on my tail.

Then I had an idea.

I picked up an apple that had fallen out of Samantha's lunch sack that morning and started eating it. I also grabbed the passenger-side seatbelt and started doing curls. I looked into the rearview mirror again and noticed that "The Weight" had lost some ground. Quickly, I lowered my seat back as far as it could go and started doing mini-crunches, leaning just far enough back that I could still see where I was going. With each sit-up I completed, I noticed "The Weight" dropping further and further behind.

When I finally got home, I looked around, hoping that disgusting sack of fat wasn't lurking behind a bush or fence. Once I realized that the coast was clear, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I had lost "The Weight". Right then and there I resolved to start eating less Twinkies and to quit using elevators.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Loosely Based On A True Story

The following story is a fictional account of what might have happened at Samantha's Spelling Bee recently if she and I were both stark raving jerkwads. I was going to post a "sweet" and "sour" version, but I've done sweet before and this just seemed like more fun. So, enjoy and remember that while based on a true story, this did not actually happen...

"Dad, I'm going to be in the school Spelling Bee tomorrow. It's at 1:30 if you think you can pull yourself away from the office."

"Thanks for the late notice. I'll be sure to ask my boss if it's acceptable for me to leave for two hours in the middle of the day. Do you think you have any shot at winning?"

"If you mean 'Do I think I can win and go on to surpass the crowning achievement of your pathetic grade school career?", then the answer is 'Yes.'"

"Listen, finishing sixth in the District spelling bee is not pathetic. Of course, I should have finished first if it wasn't for that idiotic word 'goad'. I knew every word that came after I was eliminated. I should have won. 'Goad', my ass."

"Well, if you've finished reminiscing about your past failures, then I think I'll go study now. You know, kids are a lot smarter these days than they were in 1985. I'm guessing 'goad' doesn't even qualify as a spelling bee word anymore."



The day of the Spelling Bee arrives. Samantha sits in her Bit-O-Honey-colored metal folding chair along with the rest of the Spelling Bee contestants. She sits in a leisurely slump, legs crossed and arms folded with a disinterested yet smug look on her face. She knows she's going to win this two-bit snooze-fest. And she'll show her dad just how much smarter she is than he ever was. "How do you get eliminated on 'goad'?" she thinks to herself as she gazes out upon the entire population of her school; teachers, support staff and parents are dotted among the kids who are just happy to be out of class.

The practice round comes and goes without incident. Samantha gets in front of the school and spells her word with ease, all the while looking like a kid you'd like to punt. Dad disguises his feelings of irritation, envy and a little pride with a stare that could pierce a bullet-proof vest.

Round One begins and Samantha is given the word "vacant".

"Pretty tough word to begin with. We'll see if her over-confidence betrays her," Dad thinks to himself.

"Vacant. V-A-C-A-N-T, vacant."

"Very good!" comments the emcee, eminently proud that she gets to preside over such an illustrious educational endeavor.

As she heads to her seat, Samantha shoots a glance at her dad that is one part "Duh!" and two parts "Top that, old man!"

The first round ends with a dumpy little girl stumbling over a 3rd grade-level word; she's the first of the herd to be culled. Samantha cruises nonchalantly through the next two rounds.



As each round passes, a couple more kids are banished to the loser seats. In the fourth round, the pressure begins to mount.

The emcee announces, "Your word is 'jealous'," through permanently smiling teeth.
The first crack in Samantha's demeanor appears. The cockiness melts away. Dad's right eyebrow raises.

"Jealous. J...E...A...L......"

She stops and looks nervously at the judges and then into the crowd. She briefly catches her dad's eye and just as quickly looks away.




"That's correct!" beams the Botox-enhanced emcee. A sigh of relief washes over the crowd. Samantha smiles and reclaims her seat. Dad's icy gaze refuses to melt.

There are only five kids left. Dad is starting to think that she might be able to pull this off and relegate his grade school legend to the scrap heap. But just as he started plotting a way to sabotage her challenge to his spelling throne, fate intervened.

After the other four contestants managed to weave their way through "cabbage", "merchant", "height" and "kernel", Samantha stepped up to the podium and was greeted with the word "tantrum."

"T-R..." and she stopped. She knew that once you spit out a letter, you couldn't take it back. She stood there fuming, trying to decide whether it was worth her breath to even try spelling the word correctly. She knew the word; she had just gotten careless and jumped ahead of herself. She decided that if the stupid rules wouldn't allow you to take a letter back, then she wasn't going to bother with spewing out any more letters.

She spun toward her seat and inadvertently knocked the microphone to the ground. Still furious from her lapse in concentration, she left it and gave a swift kick to her seat in "Loser's Row". The clanging of the metal chair interrupted the murmuring of the school children and startled the now-bewildered emcee who had just finished meekly declaring that it was, in fact, in incorrect answer. One of the teachers who was helping facilitate the Bee tried to put her arm arround Samantha and comfort her, but Samantha wasn't having any of it. She just pursed her lips and stared into the eyes of her father who was staring intently back at her, with just the smallest trace of a smirk on his lips.

The competition finished with Whitney Taylor successfully spelling "molecular". The eliminated contestants each shook the victor's hand out of sportsmanship, all but Samantha. She slowly made her way to her dad who was still stationed at the back of the gymnasium.

"Nice job, kiddo," Dad said as he reached out to put a hand on Samantha's shoulder.

"Oh, shut it," she snapped as she slapped his hand away. "I hope you're satisfied that your 'legacy' is still intact."

"Well, truthfully? Yes, I am. But you'll be back next year and I have a feeling that fifth place won't be good enough for you."

Samantha didn't respond. She slipped on her coat and walked out of the school with her dad. The whole way home, the only phrase that ran through her head was "Just you wait, old man. Just. You. Wait."