Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Trotters Win! The Trrrrrrrrrotters Win!

Yes, I saw the Harlem Globetrotters tonight; yes, the whole experience sucked just as much as I assume it ever has. And yes, you're probably correct to note a bit of snobbiness in my assumption about the whole, sorry business but, really, shouldn't entertainment be entertaining? This wasn't. It was utterly lame and even more boring than the real NBA. The tickets cost $27 apiece, and there were nine of us. I'm no mathematician, but doing the numbers in my head, I'm pretty sure it all adds up to a shitload.

I'm watching the news as I write this, and the doofus anchorman is reporting on the Globetrotters "game" as if it were a real sporting event. Suddenly, I'm no longer angry at the glorified sideshow for emptying my wallet. Instead, I'm more than a bit irritated this pandering, inept journalism, yet strangely comforted by the fact the local newscasts everywhere - from Steubenville to Cincinnati to Chicago -- they all stink. Now I feel pretty good. Ah, the great circle of life, huh? Goodnight!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays.

It's about 12:15 Christmas morning, and I'm sitting here waiting to make sure my kids are sleeping upstairs before I put their presents under our Christmas tree. I don't feel the same sense of anticipation about the holidays that I used to, not even as a I did when I was a in my twenties but, on the other hand, I look forward to it more than ever. I think what's really going on it that I look forward to seeing my children so excited, which is plenty.

Our oldest, who's 12 years old, doesn't believe in Santa. I'd thought the middle one, our 9-year-0ld daughter, was on the fence, but it became pretty obvious over the weekend that she still believes. The 6-year-old, of course, is an immensely enthusiastic believer, making sure the cookies and milk are placed in just the right spot (I always left cookies and a martini when I was his age) and generously sprinkling our yard with carrot pieces for the reindeer.

What I'm thinking about as I write this is that one of the cliches about parenthood that I always heard but never believed is true -- once you have kids, time just flies. Weren't they just born?

Anyway, they're asleep now, so I'm off. Next time I post, one of them will probably be graduating from college.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Girl in the Picture.

I guess I'm the last person on earth to learn this, but I just read today that Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and company are making another Indiana Jones movie. Indiana Jones and the Bingo Night Mystery? Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Golden Dentures? [Insert your own lame geriatric joke here.]

What's really meaningful to me about this piece of entertainment news is that Karen Allen will be in the new film, reprising her role as Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Ah, Karen Allen, how I've missed you.

Her first film role was Katy in 1978's Animal House. I can't imagine there was another movie from the era that had a bigger impact on me than this one. I'm not necessarily saying that was a good thing, but that combination of obnoxious guy behavior ("See if you can guess what I am now") and Katy's sexy flirtatiousness with her boyfriend, Boon (played by Peter Reigert) . . . well, let's just say my 15-year-old hormones were ripe for Animal House.

After a few appearances in tv shows and minor movies, she hit it big, or so it seemed, with her co-starring role in Raiders. The two Indiana Jones sequels that followed were nowhere near as entertaining, and while I'm sure a number of factors beyond her absence contributed to that, she was really good in the first one. And remember her in that silky negligee/nightgown thing?

Then came 1984's Starman. It was a vaguely ET-like movie co-starring Jeff Bridges as an alien who crashes to earth near Allen's remote Wisconsin house. By means I can no longer recall, the alien takes human form and looks exactly like Allen's husband, who died a couple of years earlier. He gets her to drive him across country -- to meet his alien rescuers, I think -- and while she's terrified at first, she comes to trust him and helps him avoid capture. I loved it. (Yeah, I know, I know. Shut up.)

In my memory, she looks just fantastic in Starman, and I believe the stills from the movie prove me right. I'm feeling pretty self-congratulatory about this, much as I do when I reminisce about how I dug WKRP in Cincinnati's Jan Smithers when every other teenaged boy was hot for Loni Anderson. Karen Allen's looks really hold up; maybe I'm finding I like wholesomeness more than I ever thought I did.

Her career never really hit the big time, I guess, but she's worked steadily since then. Now, she's back with Indy but she's not the leading lady. In keeping with time-honored Hollywood tradition, Spielberg has cast a lead actress who's at least a generation younger than the leading man. This time, it's Cate Blanchett sparring with the Metamucil-swilling Harrison Ford. She's great, actually, but come on -- whoever she plays, she won't be any match for Marion.

Finally, here's the thing that really got me as I did a little research on Allen: She's 56 years old. Holy shit! as Katy's old acquaintance Bluto said. It seems impossible but of course it isn't. Among other things, it means I must be older than I feel, but I don't care. In fact, maybe I'm Spielberg's target audience this time, because I know I'll go see his movie, and there's only one reason for that.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I am not Leo Kottke. Don't Talk to Me Like I'm Leo Kottke.

One morning before school, when I was a teenager, I sat in our family room watching the Today show (god, Jane Pauley, you were so hot). After the news, the guest was a guitar player named Leo Kottke. I don't really remember much about his performance other than that my mother said she liked the music and voila, a Christmas gift dilemma was solved.

My mother listened to the record I bought her a few times, but I think it probably wasn't Sinatra-esque enough for her. So, it seemed like the right thing to do when I "adopted" it. That album came with me to college, then to Chicago and, I think -- although I can't find it now -- back to Cincinnati. Sorry, Mom. I wonder if karma's going to get me for that?

I wonder if karma is real at all. A friend and I used to mock a certain tv show. Looking back on it, I'm so appalled that I can't get myself to reveal the name of the show, or the name of its central character. I don't remember now if I shared this with my friend, but back then I kind of worried about whether my making fun of this particular program would somehow come back to haunt me. It didn't -- at least, I think it didn't.

Who knows, though, when it might strike? Earlier this week, I flew to Phoenix for a meeting. I took the latest flight, so by the time I got to the rental car place, it was nearly deserted. The tired clerk checked my driver's license and directed me to my waiting car. "Number two thirty-eight," he growled.

I trudged out to the lot and when I arrived at my car, my name was not on the lit sign above it. Instead, the sign read, LEO KOTTKE.

I hesitated. Had fate handed me the chance to make something right? Could I wipe this small transgression off my slate by just walking back to the counter and telling the clerk he had directed me to the wrong car? One regret erased with one small admission.

You know what? Screw it. It was 12:30 in the morning, and I got in the car and drove off. I'm back home now, unscathed. Take that, karma. Up yours, Guitar Boy.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Even Though You Know What You Know.

When I woke up on December 9, 1980, I saw the newspaper on the kitchen counter. Odd, that, because my father, who rode the bus to work, always took the paper with him. Of course, he'd left it for a reason: he knew I'd want to read the previous night's big story.

I'd loved the Beatles since I was a little kid, when my cousins played the White Album over and over again. It was "Piggies," a George Harrison song, that first drew me in (he said "damn"!) but I quickly became a Lennon and McCartney guy. As I grew up, I'd waver over whose songs were better, John's or Paul's. I still waver over that today, and I've decided that I'll never decide. I do think they each had a special kind of genius that required the presence of the other, even though they didn't really write songs together after their early days. Neither ever did solo work approaching the quality of the work they did as Beatles.

But you could always count on Lennon's music to tell you exactly what was going on in his life. Even as a teenager, I admired that. He was honest in a way that most pop stars never are.

I was 17 when he was killed. As a fan I was sad, of course, but I wasn't part of the generation that grew up with the Beatles. I was only 7 when they broke up in 1970. That morning, after I read the paper, I didn't cry or walk around feeling stunned. I went to school and talked about it with my friends, but I'm sure we talked about a dozen other things, too. We didn't attend vigils or lose sleep.

Now, though -- well, the memory of Lennon's murder moves me more than I can describe. I'm not sure why that is, why I should be more affected by it today than I was when it happened. Maybe it's because I have a greater appreciation of how much he meant to so many people. I wonder, too, if it has something to do with the fact that I'm older now than he was when he died. Plus, he left behind two children; I'm sure that didn't even register with me in 1980. Twenty-seven years later, with kids of my own, "registers" is a drastic understatement. Such a shame they never got to know their father.

This morning I listened to Lennon's songs from Revolver. So amazing. I hope his sons and widow have taken some comfort over the last 27 years in knowing how much joy his gift has brought to so many.

A Sorry Tale.

Here's a lesson in the pitfalls of procrastination.

From the day I started this blog, I'd saved up an amusing little story. Here's the set-up: My wife Red (god, how she loves being called that) and I know a couple - J and C - who'd planned for months to take a week-long trip to Paris. They arranged it so that J's frequent flyer miles would cover the flights for both of them, and he did everything he needed to do at work to be able to take the time off. Meanwhile, C arranged the childcare for their four kids -- no easy task, considering that three of them were at two different schools, and the youngest was only a couple of years old.

They did it, though, and on the day of their flight to France, they left early for the airport, so they could relax and have a pre-boarding cocktail. And so they did, sipping their drinks and talking about how they looked forward to spending some time together, just the two of them, in the City of Light.

When the time came to board, they gathered their things and headed toward the gate. They'd checked almost all of their bags, so they anticipated an easy trip through security, but guess what they discovered -- C's passport had expired a year earlier. Disaster, right? I mean, ugly-public-argument-level disaster. But no. J, being a kind, loving and romantic husband and all that sort of thing, basically said, "That's okay, honey. We'll find something else to do." With that, they left the airport and drove to Paris, Kentucky.

Now, the joke: Last summer, my wife suggested we go to Paris (France, that is) to visit friends. I wasn't totally on board at first, mostly because of the expense, but Red found a direct flight that I could cover with my frequent flier miles. Once that sunk in, I started getting excited about the idea. She didn't have a passport, though, and I kept reminding her about our friends, just to set up the punch line, which was that if we got to that day and she didn't have her passport, I'd be off to Paris on my own; I wouldn't be speaking to her for about a week anyway, so I might as well be in Europe.

The problem: She got her passport and killed the joke, and now we're going to Paris. What a buzzkill.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Governor of Ohio Forces Teenagers to Have Sex!

Or so local columnist hack Peter Bronson would have you believe. He visits the "Voice Your Choice" abstinence rally (an abstinence rally? really?) quotes a handful of rightwing crackpot anti-sex freaks, cites bogus studies and pulls lame anecdotes out of thin air, then concludes by quoting a slogan he claims to have read on a t-shirt at the rally: Manhood is proven by a person's ability to control his passions - not his ability to satisfy them.

(Just as an aside . . . huh? Also, how does all that fit on a t-shirt? Finally, wear that shirt and it's a given you won't get laid -- no abstinence education necessary.)

Needless to say, Bronson's column virtually ignores the truth, which is that Governor Strickland favors comprehensive sex education that includes, but isn't limited to, teaching kids about abstinence. You know, the kind that deals with . . . oh, what's the word? . . . oh yeah, reality, that's it.

Hey Bronson! Teenagers have sex! You didn't (and, okay, I didn't) but a lot of them do. Maybe giving them the tools to avoid pregnancy, disease and death might not be such a bad idea. Time for you to relax a little, Pete. Maybe when you go to your next holiday party your can wear a shirt with one of your "abstinence rally" sayings: A lady's beauty is marked by how she carries herself with class and dignity - not her measurements. Chicks will think you're sensitive; you might even get lucky.

Monday, December 3, 2007

My Art Comes First.

Ken Burns' latest work, the 16-hour documentary, The War aired on PBS a few weeks ago. I recorded it, but haven't watched yet. My father is a World War II veteran, and so I want to watch the film, but it also has the feel of something I should watch, you know? And that kind of makes me shy away from it.

The other problem is that I've been extremely busy with my own project, which I've just finished, a film called Silly and Shaggy. It's a documentary about Ken Burns' hair. Please tune in, and don't worry, it's only 12 hours long.

And, oh yeah, that reminds me . . . hey, Don Imus! Get a fuckin' haircut, will ya, old man?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Is Mama Bear Dating Again?

Stan Berenstain, the man who, with his wife, created the wildly popular Berenstain Bears book series, died two years ago.

Not to speak ill of the dead or anything, but dude -- your books suck.

Brother and Sister Bear are two confused cubs who can't get out of their own way. Room-cleaning and shoe-tying induce panic in them both.

Papa Bear is a bumbling idiot who never, ever gets anything right.

And Mama Bear . . . well, Mama Bear is a know-it-all harpy who's worn her husband to a tiny little nub and has the cubs afraid of their own shadows. Sources say she was modeled on Jean Schmidt.

It'll take years of psychotherapy and family counseling to straighten out that mess.

And they don't even look like bears.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

That Reminds Me of a Story.

Once a few year ago, on my lunch hour, I went to a sandwich place, Au Bon Pain. I'm very international, you see. As I ordered my sandwich (au jus) the woman behind the counter said, "You know who you look like? You look like that one opera guy."

"Opera guy?" I asked, hesitantly.

"Yeah," she said, "you know, that one. Sings loud."

"Pavarotti," I smiled, certain she meant someone else.

"Yes! That's it, Pavarotti! You look just like Pavarotti!"

Several years before that glorious moment, I worked for a summer at a small grocery store near an apartment building where a lot of elderly people lived. The same few would show up in the market at the same time every day and buy just a couple of items because, I suppose, they couldn't carry much. (Too bad they didn't think to get an old lady cart like this one.) There was one tiny woman who, like clockwork, arrived at 3:15 every afternoon. One day, she studied me quizzically for a few minutes before walking to the counter.

"Do you know who you look like?" she asked.

In that moment, I wondered who it could be. Some Golden Age film star -- Erroll Flynn, maybe? Or hey, I thought, how about a Cool Hand Luke-era Paul Newman?

"Who?" I said.

"Sylvester Stallone!"

I must have looked a tad disappointed, perhaps even crestfallen. "What's the matter," she asked, "don't you like Sly?"

"No, not really . . . "

"That's okay," she said. "I think he's real ugly."

So when I got an email recently from an acquaintance who said she saw a guy who looked just like me, what else could I think but, "That lucky bastard!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Grabbed My Hat and I Began to Run.

Last week, a friend called to suggest that we train for the Flying Pig Marathon together. It's in May '08, and because I've run some marathons before, I know I have plenty of time to train if I get busy now, but it's been two years since my last one, and I've never felt so out of shape. My girlish figure is gone, and my physique is Pavarotti-esque (from when he was alive, that is). I just finished a 3-mile run; my lungs are searing and my legs feel like lead. I have a long, long way to go.

The last marathon I ran was New York in November '05. Here's that harrowing tale, which I wrote a day or two later.

Looking Back in Self-flagellation: NYC Marathon 2005

My best marathon time ever was 3:55, and it took me over an hour more than that to finish NYC last Sunday. And now I can't find my hair shirt anywhere!

Of course, that p.r. was thirteen years and eight or ten kids ago, so maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself . . . okay, yeah, I should be. I'd had a pretty good training season -- my legs felt strong and I'd run two twenty-milers that made me think I could finish in 4:15 or 4:30. Perhaps it's time to admit I'm not Ethiopian.

The day started off well. I'd had a fairly good night of sleep in the world's smallest hotel room and when I left at about 5:30 to meet a friend at his hotel, I found the morning dawning free of rain, if a bit warm. We trekked with thousands of others to the New York Public Library where the buses to the start awaited us. The line snaked all over the place but things moved quickly; the New York Road Runners and city officials really do an amazing job.

The ride out to the start on Staten Island was interminable. That's really my only complaint (other than that I think it's a tad unfair that so many beautiful women live in one city). I'd run NY six times before, and the ride to the start had never taken more than 40 or 45 minutes. I thought we were in for a revolt as our bus inched across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Aching bladders do tend to put people on edge, don't they?

The Marathon starts on the Verrazano. It almost defies description, the feeling of being out there, looking out into the harbor and, beyond that, to the Manhattan skyline. Even on a hazy day, it was amazing, and everyone out there, all 35,000 plus, were shot full of adrenaline because of it.

I wasn't actually on the bridge for the official start but that was cool. I heard the cannon go off and burst out of my portolet; it took me about thirteen or fourteen minutes to get to the starting line, not bad, considering. I was an orange start, meaning my group started on the bridge's upper deck. (Note to future NYCers who start on the lower deck: run in the middle of the road until you get to Brooklyn. Men will pee anywhere, including from a bridge at the start of a 26.2 mile race and, well, anything that comes down from the top has to go somewhere. It can get windy up there, let me tell you.)

Once into Brooklyn, I quickly advanced and joined the front runners. I found the police escorts a bit annoying, since the motorcycle engines' noise almost drowned out the cheers of the thrilled onlookers. Almost. But I could hear you, my friends . . . oh yes, I could hear you! To run through your borough is to take a quick trip around the world, getting high-fives all the while.

Pop quiz time! Something I wrote in the last paragraph was a lie. Can you spot it?

Eleven miles or so in Brooklyn, then a short trip through Queens. Saw some friends there, all of whom were drinking cold beer -- definitely activity prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

Then on to the 59th Street Bridge which, for me, was the second great adrenaline rush of the Marathon. Watching the Manhattan skyline approach, hearing the music and the crowd get louder and louder -- really remarkable. Off the bridge, around the bend and up the long First Avenue stretch, and that's when it starts. You see an attractive woman and think, "Wow, she's the most gorgeous woman I've ever seen." But then, seconds later, "No, she's the most gorgeous woman I've ever seen."

And so on and so on for about 45 city blocks. Sure, some may say I'm shallow, noticing the dark-haired girls in all their NY sexiness at a time like that, but you know what I say? I say it's heroic, being true to biology even as my legs felt like lead.

At the 20-mile mark, on the narrow bridge from Manhattan to the Bronx, so many people were walking that running was impossible. It was right about then that my body really started to feel ancient, and I never really picked up the pace after that.

Limping back into Manhattan, I was so far behind my projected time that my fan club had left Marcus Garvey Park by the time I arrived. When your fan club includes little kids, I guess you need to expect the occasional impatience-related meltdown.

Fifth Avenue was kind of tease, especially at the north end of Central Park, but the crowd support was phenomenal, and the avenue and Park were beautiful.

Finally, mercifully, I turned into the Park. Running with a gait not unlike that of Frankenstein's monster, I navigated those last, rolling hills, thinking how good a Coke -- a real one -- would taste after I crossed the finish line, if I could live that long.

Miraculously, I lived to cross that line and collect my medal. I might have been foaming at the mouth a bit when my wife took this photo but, fortunately, that wonderful autumn, late afternoon lighting in Central Park worked in my favor. Shortly after that, I tearfully announced my retirement from the sport.

But you never know.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

He's Eatin' Pizza.

My family and I spent the Thanksgiving weekend near Chicago with my wife's family. Evidence that I am old: my legs ache from playing football on Friday morning. Other than my wife's brother-in-law and me, the game's oldest participant was eleven. That kid can move, though.

On Saturday, we left my sister-in-law's house and headed downtown. I used Priceline to get a hotel room that was inexpensive and very close to Michigan Ave. and although our room was vaguely grimy ("I'm not showering in that dirty place!" said my 6-year-old son) a good time was had by all. The area was jammed with doughy tourists and suburbanites, and I did my part Doughboy pride by taking my family to Gino's East. I did this despite the facts that: a) it's probably the single biggest tourist-magnet restaurant in town; b) if there are no tables available, they make you wait in line outside in the cold, even though the bar is wide-open; and c) the signature dish, deep dish pizza is not, in fact, pizza, but rather a casserole with thick crust (there oughta be a law).

Nevertheless, we had a good time. The walls at Gino's are covered with graffiti, which my 6-year-old enjoyed immensely, since he can now spell "fart." I wondered if I ever wrote my name on the walls anywhere in the place when I lived in Chicago, but chances are, I guess, that they paint over everything more than once every 15 or 20 years.

Certain areas of the restaurant, however, are off-limits to graffiti.

I used a camera phone to take this pic in the men's room just before I got arrested. And look what else:

That's right, it reads, "Dylan '07." Bob Dylan wrote his name over the urinal at Gino's East! He did exactly what the sign told him not to do! He pulled the cap off his Sharpie*, looked in the eyes of the Man and said, Take that, Man!

Zimmy, you're the man. Not the man, but the man. You know what I mean, man.

*I realize there's an anatomical joke to be made here. See you in comments!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Set Me Down on a Television Floor.

I guess this has been what the young kids with their blogs and their face books and their my spaces call a "light blogging" week. I traveled for a few days, had a million things to do over the weekend, and now seem to be having trouble thinking of anything to post about. (Did you notice how I just ended a sentence with a preposition? I've always been a rebel.) Is this writer's block?

Let me tell you what I just did. I lugged an old television set out to the curb. It's out there now, sadly awaiting its fate. Does it have regrets? Is it sorry for having sucked me into hours of mesmerizing trash, when I could have been doing better things, like surfing for porn? I have a feeling it will be rescued by a kindly, if misguided, TV addict who will soon be disappointed to realize that he needs to smack the side of it every three minutes to keep the picture from vanishing. Good luck to you, my trash-picking neighbor friend!

My wife bought the TV twenty years ago; it was black and clutter free and at the time, it seemed quite high-tech. As I hauled it outside, though, it felt as if it weighed a hundred pounds, a big, crappy antique.

The first TV set I remember was my parents', way back in the middle of the last century, when I was a little kid. It only received three channels -- it didn't even have UHF. I know what you're thinking: Why didn't the child welfare people intervene? All I can say in response is that things were different in those days.

I would get home from school at about 3:00 and watch Dark Shadows, a vampire soap opera. That's right, you heard me -- a vampire soap opera. Barnabas Collins was the main vampire's name, and I'm sure there were all kinds of not-so-subtle sexual references, what with the biting of the necks and all, but I just wanted to see the guy turn into a bat. Now, as I look at a photo of him, I realize why I thought he was so cool -- he was played by George Harrison, badly in need of a gig as his band disintegrated. You go, Quiet Beatle!

Once or twice a week, I'd walk down the street to a friend's house, a rich kid who had a TV that pulled in five channels. Five! That was living! One of the extra stations was channel 19, WXIX, the home of Larry Smith's Puppets. Larry and his gang would cut up between cartoons. His cast included Snarfy the Dog and, I think, something called Nasty Old Thing who, as far as I can recall, did not wear a stained trench coat and reveal himself to unsuspecting passersby. I could be wrong about that.

The puppet I recollect most vividly was Hattie the Witch, aka Batty Hattie from Cincinnati (not to be confused with the Cool Ghoul). That's Hattie on the far right in the picture below. I remember her being wartier. In retrospect, she reminds me of my old boss, only less ill-tempered.

Funny I'd think of all this now, when it hasn't crossed my mind in years. It makes me wonder a little if this the kind of thing I'll obsess over when I'm eighty-five. I guess there are worse things to remember.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Live on Tour.

On Monday afternoon, I flew to Atlanta for an evening dinner and all-day Tuesday meeting with some of my new colleagues. (See photo to the left for an example of typical Atlanta architecture.)

I don't do that well in cocktail party situations, when I don't know the other guests. Ever since my teen years, I've never liked going to big parties unless I'm in the company of my friends. So, the drinks before dinner on Monday were awkward, but dinner was another story. Dinner parties are easy, because you're there, sitting at table, everyone thrown together. There's none of this having to march up to a group of strangers and interjecting yourself into their conversation. I guess not everyone sees it that way, huh?

The next day's meeting went well, although I can't shake the feeling that I have no clue what's going on. There were moments when I thought, "You people might as well be speaking Chinese, for all I understand." I'll get over that, though -- eventually.

From Atlanta, I flew to Orlando, where I am now. I'm here at Disney World for a department conference. My family and I visited a couple of years ago, and before that, I'd never had any desire to come here. In fact, I'd actively resisted the idea for a long time. Once we got here, of course, a good time was had by all, but it's weird being here solo. It just makes me miss my kids.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Everyone's Gone to the Movies.

There are a lot of movies out right now that I'd like to see -- No Country for Old Men and American Gangster, to name just two -- plus the upcoming trip into Bob Dylan's secret life, I'm Not There. Last night, though, I saw Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie. Why? Because I have kids, lots and lots of kids, and my wife would be pissed if I took them to an R-rated blood-fest, or the story of womanizing, drug abusing rock star. She's old-fashioned that way.

So, we saw the animated Bee Movie. I have a lot of residual affection for Seinfeld, based on the glory days of his tv show, and the movie isn't bad, exactly, but it's forgettable. I'm virtually certain I laughed once or twice, but as I sit here today, I couldn't tell you much about the plot, and I couldn't come up with any lines worth quoting. That's what's really a shame about the movie: the guy who was Seinfeld doesn't say one thing worth remembering in a 90-minute film.

I love movies, and always have. These days, I see so few that when I watch something mediocre like this that could have been so much better, I'm really disappointed. I read reviews and keep a list of films I want to see, but I just can't get to them like I used to. Maybe my New Year's resolution will be to see more movies in 2008. I realize that's not exactly up there with "give more time to my favorite charity" or "put aside old resentments," but -- oh, just stop judging me, damn it.

There was a time when I'd say I wanted to be a film critic. Needless to say, I never actually pursued it, but I realize now that if I had, I would have found that criticism is a lot more difficult than I'd imagined. In my mind, I saw myself watching two or three movies during the day, then heading home to dash of my insightful, witty and often withering reviews before a martini or two with other critics who were secretly jealous of me. See, I'd managed to become popular and wealthy without compromising my aesthetic principles. They hated me for that -- hated me, even as they wanted to be me or sleep with me or both.

The reality is that I don't have the kind of mind that can come up with any true insight about a movie. I probably would have ended up as a small town, local news, "this movie has too much sex!" plot-recapper who doubled as the weekend non-meteorologist weather guy who dresses in a hot dog costume for church cookoffs. And they still would have wanted to sleep with me.

I still try my hand at the occasional review, though. If I ever get out to a movie again, I'll write another. In the meantime, here's one I wrote a while back.

Grizzly Man

I finally saw Grizzly Man, the fascinating, harrowing story of Timothy Treadwell, a true headcase who marched off into the Alaskan wilderness every summer, to live among the grizzly bears. This went on for thirteen years, until one of his ursine friends got too hungry to resist the temptation of Treadwell and his girlfriend.

Werner Herzog directed the film, using beautiful footage shot by Treadwell himself. It begins with a great scene, a couple of bears just walking through an open field in the vast landscape of Alaska. I began to tense up almost immediately after that, when Treadwell comes into the frame, starts talking to and about the bears, and when one gets close, sticks his hand out and touches its snout.

Dude! Don’t you see the teeth on that thing?

Treadwell was a self-styled “protector” of grizzlies, although the “protecting” seems largely to have been a figment of his imagination. Herzog, narrating, notes that the bears live in a huge national park and so are already well protected. In fact, if Treadwell knew much about the animals, there’s not a lot of evidence of that in the footage Herzog used. At one point, Treadwell says, (paraphrased) “Until I came up here, no one knew about these bears. No one knew they could decapitate! No one knew they could bite!”

I’m no naturalist, but I’m pretty sure people knew grizzly bears could bite. (As I was walking my dog the other night, another guy made a huge arc to my right as he passed us. When he said he was afraid of dogs, I told him mine wouldn’t hurt anybody. “Hey,” he said, “if has teeth, it can bite.”) So the film begins with that glimpse of Treadwell’s state of mind, and documents his growing self-delusion. For whatever reason, I was particularly unnerved when, after one of his favorite bears relieves herself on a rock and moves on, he walks to the pile she left behind and lovingly places his hand on it.

“You might think it’s weird that I’m doing this,” he says (paraphrasing), “touching her poop like this. But it was in her, it was part of her, and she’s so beautiful.” Yikes.

It’s really a sad story. In Treadwell’s mind, he was doing good things for the animals, but from outside his head it’s hard to believe someone so clueless and self-absorbed managed to make it through thirteen summers up there. He admits to alcohol problems in his past, and friends and family report drug abuse and unmedicated manic depression. I guess I pity him and dislike him at the same time.

Grizzly Man reminded me of a book by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild, the true story of a promising recent college graduate, a star student and athlete, who abandoned his possessions, changed his name to “Alexander Supertramp” and walked off into the Alaskan wilderness, where he ultimately died after getting lost, injuring himself and eating poisoned berries. He was reckless, he was a fool, and just the pseudonym he chose for himself was enough for me to dislike him. Yet there was something likeable about him.

Treadwell’s delusions of grandeur got two people killed. Periodically throughout the movie, a coroner describes the remains he examined and, more disturbingly, the audio recording of Treadwell and his girlfriend being attacked by the bear. He talks about how the recording helped him determine exactly how the pair died; it’s beyond brutal. His girlfriend, who was afraid of bears, must have been there strictly out of loyalty to Treadwell. She didn’t have to die.

Why don’t I completely hate him?


Special Hidden Bonus Track

For my brief review of Brokeback Mountain, click here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I'm at the Apple Store . . .

. . . playing around with Photobooth.

I believe I'm willing to pay $2,000 for a new iMac, just so I can get this software.

uh oh, here comes the sales guy . . . I mean, here comes the Apple iPod Leopard OS X iPhone iGenius from the Genius Bar . . . gotta go, bye.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Japanese Woman in Her Underwear.

This is not porn! No, this young, half-naked Japanese woman is helping save the environment by wearing a specially designed bra that contains a pocket to hold compact chopsticks, thereby reducing the use of disposable chopsticks. Thank you, young, half-naked Japanese woman!

Al Gore, if you're reading this -- and I know you are -- you'll want watch this important video of the young, half-naked Japanese woman doing her part to combat climate change:

Now, that's Nobel Prize-worthy.

In other news, site traffic here at Dodging Lions has increased dramatically. I will investigate this surge once the young, half-naked Japanese woman story blows over.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Life, art, etc.

A comment by Misplaced to one of my earlier posts reminded me of a true tale, which I will present in the form of one-act play.

The scene: LDP toils in the fields beneath a blazing Cincinnati sun. His broad back strains as he labors and he sweats the sweat of a working man. Buzzards circle menacingly overhead. Somewhere, a phone rings, and LDP turns his square-jawed face toward the sound. Reluctantly, he drops his tools and paces across the estate and through the back door of his house.

He picks up the phone.

LDP: Hello?

Misp*: Hey! What are you doing?

LDP: I'm cleaning dog crap out of my back yard. What are you doing?

Misp: I'm at the beach.

LDP: The what?

Misp: The beach?

LDP: You're at a waterpark?

Misp: No, a real beach. In Nice!

LDP: What's Neaps?

Misp: No, Nice -- in France.

LDP: Wait, you're in the south of France?

Misp: Yeah!

LDP: (bewildered silence)

Misp: And guess who I just met!

LDP: I -- uh --

Misp: Pete Townshend! I just met Pete Townshend!

LDP: I have to go now. (He gently places the phone handset in its cradle as a single tear rolls down his cheek.)


*Back then, Misplaced was still known as Misp, which is what we called him on the rough-and-tumble streets of our childhood, when we attended the school of hard knocks.

Monday, November 5, 2007

I Can't Explain.

In the late 1970s, when I was a teenager, I listened to the Doors a lot. That's right, when I could have been discovering the Ramones, the Clash, Elvis Costello and Talking Heads, I was listening to the Lizard King and his sidemen. (Sample lyric: Ride the snake . . . to the lake . . . the snake is old . . . and his skin is cold.) I am not proud of this.

On the other hand, I also loved the Who. Loved them. They were pretty well past their prime, but I didn't care. I had a photo of Pete Townshend in my locker and and for I'd go for weeks listening to nothing but his band's music. A few weeks ago, I listened to Quadrophenia for the first time in years and was surprised to realize that I knew the all the lyrics to every song. Man, those guys were good.

I'm thinking of the Who now because I'm watching a documentary called Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who. It has all the usual VH-1 rock-doc elements: tension among the band members; drug abuse; cheating managers; the whole bit. But it also has rare footage, insightful commentary and incredibly powerful music. I'm kind of rocking back and forth right now as I listen to "A Quick One While He's Away," and I remember doing the same thing years ago, in a movie theatre at a midnight showing of The Kids are Alright, except then I managed to break the chair I was sitting in.

Of course, there's the sad stuff: 45 minutes into the show and we've already seen Keith Moon's now-ancient mother saying, "He was always a good boy, always did what I asked him. That's what I don't understand." It won't be long, I'm sure, until we get to the band's infamous 1979 concert in Cincinnati, when 11 people died.

Right now, though, it's "Happy Jack" and "I Can See for Miles." I look forward to "Baba O'Riley," when, undoubtedly I'll reminisce about the time I was visiting a friend in college and he leapt up in a picture-perfect Townshend imitation and hit his head on a door frame, resulting in a hurried trip to the emergency room for stitches in his gashed head. That's called sacrificing for your art.

I'm trying to do real work right now, but the music is drawing me in, and I can't think of anything else. I suppose I should have grown out of this by now, but in a way, I'm glad I haven't.

In Which I Summarize My Thoughts from My First Two Weeks on the Job.

Don't fuck up . . . don't fuck up . . . do NOT fuck up!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Well, the Moral of This Story . . .

A Texas town is for sale, exclusively on eBay. I'd write a fictional story about that, but who'd believe anyone would ever pay for a piece of that state? The other thing is, it's already been written. There's a Donald Barthelme short story called, "I Bought a Little City," and I listened to a reading of it in a New Yorker podcast on my way home from Chicago last weekend. It's an odd, wry piece, the kind of writing that a part of me feels as if I might have inside myself somewhere, although the rest of me realizes that's just wishful thinking. It's a funny story, but with a little bit of menace. Listen to it here.

I've always had it somewhere in the back of my mind that I'd like to be a writer. I never really did anything about it, and although I enjoy working on this blog, I doubt one or two silly posts per week will ever get me anywhere. I heard "I Bought a Little City," then read it, and it seemed so easy, as if I could just come home, sit down at my laptop, and knock out something just as good. I guess that's what the pros do, though -- they make it all look simple.

And that brings me to another New Yorker podcast I heard on the same trip: Richard Ford reading John Cheever's "Reunion." It's an amazing story, "economical," as they say in the podcast commentary. And talk about making it look easy.

Writing like that is inspiring and discouraging at the same time. Know what I mean? I guess I'll keep plugging away at this blog, knowing what my limits are, but allowing myself the occasional delusion.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sing it to You Right.

The trip to Chicago was brief but exciting. On the way there, I made better time than I have in probably 17 years. I drove by myself, a thermos of coffee and an iPod my only friends. I call the the thermos "Speedy." He's nice.

My family had left Cincinnati at noon on Friday. They drove through heavy rain for several hours, and my 6-year-old son vomited a number of times. My wife was in a remarkably good humor when I arrived, all things considered, although it might have been the exhaustion talking. After spending some time with her family, we left the kids with her sister and drove to meet our friends Sara and Steve at their house in Evanston, where we piled into their car and headed downtown. I wore an old, novelty watch and when Steve asked what was on it, I told him it was a newsboy. "A what?" Sara asked.

"A newsboy."

"You have a nude boy on your watch?"

"Yeah," I said, "I got it in Thailand." (That was funny at the time, but now I'm afraid it might get my blog shut down.)

We had an excellent dinner, during which Steve convinced me to get duck confit salad. "The duck is marinated in its own fat," he told me. How could I resist? It was delicious, and the wine and the rest of the meal were, too, but the best part was the conversation. As I've mentioned before, I've known Steve since we were 5 or 6 years old; I've known Sara since the two of them were dating in college, which was over 20 years ago. It was a good feeling, just hanging out.

The concert was kick-ass (this blog now rated NC-17). Amos Lee, a serviceable, competent singer and guitar player performed seven or eight songs that all sounded alike, or maybe it was one long song.

Elvis Costello took the stage next and sent Amos back to rock star school. Elvis had no band, just his guitars and his voice. I saw him in a solo show like that in Ann Arbor, and a quick search of the internet -- friend, advisor, secret lover -- reminds me that show was in 1984. I can close my eyes and envision Elvis of 23 years ago, and I can say that the Elvis of last Saturday sounded just as good. (I guess I'm getting to the age now where almost anything I do, see, say, hear, etc., is an opportunity to engage in nostalgia.)

And Bob Dylan? Steve pointed out that he sounded like the kid with asthma on Malcolm in the Middle, but the fact that I've listened to his music every day for the last 30 years gave me a distinct advantage over the non-fan. Where I understood every word, my wife claims all she heard was "Mwah wmah whah Minnesota mwah . . . "

To which I say, Yeah, and?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

One More Cup of Coffee.

I was supposed to leave for Chicago last night after work, but I was wiped out. I'd really forgotten what's it's like to be new to a job. So far, the people seem really nice, but there are so many of them. And so much work! On the bright side, I'm only 20 years away from retirement. So close, I can taste it.

Now it's time for me to start driving to Chicago. As usual, the long lonesome road will tempt me to a life of long-haul trucking: black coffee; cb radio; and speed. For this weekend, though, I'll stick to the plan -- early drinks and dinner with my wife and friends, then Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan at the Chicago Theatre. Listen for my squeals.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Pity the Poor Immigrant.

Cleaning out a filing cabinet the other day, I found my first passport, which I got in 1974 in preparation for a trip to Italy with my parents. My wife pointed out that in this photo, I look more like a kid coming to the U.S., perhaps in steerage.

I had several observations: 1) hey kid, nice collars; 2) that haircut looks better on me than it does on Ken Burns; and 3) I was 10 years old and had a little nascent facial hair -- now that's virility for ya.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Notes from Maggie's Farm (part 4)

My first day at the new job went reasonably well. I say "reasonably" not because anyone did or said anything that gave me pause; in fact, if anything, I provided them plenty of reasons to regret their hiring decision. See, I was sick all weekend, with some pesky combination of cold and flu-like symptoms. Saturday, I was sluggish all day, and on Sunday morning, I almost fainted after about five minutes of throwing a football with my son. After that, I slept on and off all day, then tossed and turned all night.

Believing calling in sick on my first day would be a rather inauspicious start, I dragged my ass out of bed and went to work this morning. I had this delightful combination of intestinal distress and one of those head colds that renders it impossible to hear what anyone says, yet somehow makes your own voice echo and rattle around in your skull. As I walked around the office, meeting my new colleagues, my conversations sounded like Charlie Brown talking to an adult, with the adult voiced by a muted trumpet. "Hi, I'm Louis," I'd say.

"Wah-wah, wah wah-wah waaaahh" they'd respond.

"Thanks, I'm really looking forward to it," I'd reply, except in my head I heard, "THANKS! I'M REALLY! LOOKING FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD! TO IT IT IT IT!"

"Wah-wah, wah wah-wah-wah?"

"Oh, about seven years," I'd reply, taking a wild stab at what they might have asked. This went on ad nauseam -- and I do mean nauseam.

I have some groundbreaking observations from my week off that I want to report -- for instance, can I be the only person who thinks Barbara Walters looks as if she smells of formaldehyde? -- but now, I'm off to bed, hoping for a healthier day tomorrow.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Jugglers and the Clowns.

The gym at 11:30 in the morning is a very different place than it is at dawn. Generally, it's much less crowded at the later hour, and the mix of people has changed: fewer knuckleheads admiring their own biceps in the mirrors, and more moms. Sitting at my coffee shop retreat now and reflecting on this, I conclude the late-morning crowd is flat-out better. Chalk up another point in favor of not having a job.

A sparsely populated locker room is a good locker room. When I'm there, whether I'm showering, shaving, changing clothes, or what have you, I do whatever I can to send out "don't talk to me" vibes. Sometimes this means keeping my iPod's earbuds in even if the music stops; other times, it means I try to look angry as hell, as if I'm about to snap. I've found this dual approach works, and it's spared me many an unwanted conversation with Chatty McTalkathon, who's always there when I arrive at 5:45 a.m., dressed head-to-toe in heavy, black sweats. He yaks away to the hapless and less prepared guys who glance furtively around the room, wishing for a secret exit -- maybe a trapdoor -- that can get them out quickly and without a fuss. Meanwhile, I just look pissed as I stuff my things in a locker and head out to the gym floor. Usually, I see him out there for a few minutes, but by the time I'm back in the locker room an hour or so later, there he is, stripped down to his tighty-whities, talking up a storm. (And yes, that's his real name. I know it is because his sister Gabby lives across the street from me.)

Unfortunately, some things in a locker room, you can't avoid: sights and sounds so horrible that, once they enter your brain, become permanently seared in your memory. That may be unique to men's locker rooms, where there is absolutely no privacy. My wife -- whom we'll call "Red," because other than "Big Red" there are no nicknames that a redhead likes more -- was shocked when I told her a couple of years ago that the men's showers at our gym were "community" style. You see things you'd rather not, because there's no way around it. Our conversation went like this:

LDP: You can't imagine, the hair on some of these guys.

Red: You mean you look?

LDP: Well, there's no choice. Any way you turn, there's a body -- a flabby, spotty body. I could walk around with my eyes closed, but then I could end up touching, which I have to think would be even worse than seeing.

Red: Yuck.

LDP: Tell me about it.

Red: Well, I wouldn't look.

LDP: Wait, you've never looked at another woman in a locker room? I find that hard to believe.

Red: Well, it's true.

LDP: So you'd never look? Never sneak a peak? What if it's Monica Bellucci in there with you?

Red: Who's Monica Bellucci?

LDP: (stunned silence)

LDP: Okay, then . . . Angelina Jolie?

Red: Nope.

LDP: Come on, not just a little glimpse as she wrapped herself in a towel?

Red: (exasperated sigh) What're you, 16 years old?
I'm not exactly sure how, but that ended our conversation.
All of which brings me to something that happened the other day. I worked out and showered, as usual, then proceeded to the sinks to shave. Luckily, Marty Moleback had already finished his ablutions. Marty is probably in his mid-70s; he likes to stand naked at the sink and put one foot up on the counter. He proceeds to smear lotion on his leg, from toes to upper thigh, then repeats the process on his other leg. He'd just finished, so I had the whole row of four sinks to myself. I chose the one on the far left, in keeping with my zone-of-personal-space policy, and began to shave.

A moment or two later, I heard a blow dryer start to my left. Instinctively, I turned my head, but the guy there wasn't drying his hair (probably because he was bald). Instead, he had the dryer pointed at his . . . nether regions. This struck me as a violation of the rules of etiquette, but I doubt Emily Post addresses the subject. When I told my wife, she was taken aback, but not as disturbed as I thought she should have been.

LDP: Come on, isn't that just creepy?

Red: Did he fluff it?

LDP: Did he what?

Red: Fluff it. You know, tease it, make sure everything got dry?

LDP: I have no idea.

Red: Didn't you look?

LDP: No, I did not look. Ick.

Red: You're homophobic.

LDP: I fail to see how not wanting to watch a guy tease his pubic hair and adjust his scrotum makes me homophobic.

Red: (exasperated sigh) What're you, 16 years old?
Oh, well played, Red. Well played. But I'll continue to keep my eyes to myself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Idiot Wind.

President Bush's press conference is going on as I write this. He just finished tripping all over his written remarks, and now he's stumbling and smirking as he "answers" reporters' questions. What's left to be said about this guy? How did such a colossal idiot become the world's most powerful man? I see him, and I get why the whole world hates us. And yet, I keep watching. Am I a masochist?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lift Up Your Glasses and Sing.

Just got home from the fantastic Bob Dylan concert. Amos Lee was the opening act, and he was good, but Dylan wiped the floor with him. When I say "wiped the floor," I mean Bob came out on stage, grabbed Amos by the ankles, and mopped the sweat off the stage with him. It was cool; you should've seen it.

Read Books, Repeat Quotations.

First off, let's clear the air: Yes, those are my legs. It's okay to be jealous.

My feet are up as I begin the week that will almost certainly be the high point of my so-called career. I'm between jobs, with no employer until next Monday. I walked my kids to school this morning, and on my way home, I stopped at a coffee shop. That was two hours ago, and I'm still sitting here at a window seat, watching the passing parade of retirees, students and stay-at-home mothers. Something I realized about myself a long time ago is that I'm not one of those people who "need to work." I mean, I need to work to pay the mortgage, but I don't have that inner drive or whatever it is that some people have, that keeps them going to their jobs day after day, long after they could have retired comfortably. Perhaps this explains my less-than-meteoric career trajectory, but I'll tell you what -- sitting here reading, people watching, writing -- I could do it every day. I know a lot people, men in particular, see this as a lack of ambition, but to them I say, Who gives a shit what you think?

"But what would you do all day?" The answer to this question -- why, I'd do exactly this all day -- strikes me as so blindingly obvious that I can't imagine why someone would ask in the first place. An old friend of mine and his wife recently moved to Paris, where she's going to grad school and he's writing. I imagine he must hear that question all the time. Personally, I admire the decision even as it fills me with a jealous rage so great that I refuse to speak to him.

Cincinnati's no Paris (it's a very close second) but I have no doubt I could fill every day with something that would interest me. I'd love to give writing a serious try, but I'm plagued by my lack of talent. Still, I'm enjoying sitting here typing away. I could stroll across the street to the park after this, maybe write there for a while, or read the paper. Then, walk home, maybe do some laundry and have lunch, make the beds and walk the dog. By mid-afternoon, I'll be ready to head back down the street to pick my kids up from school.

Does that sound unambitious to you? If so . . . well, please see my response above.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'm (Still) Not There.

I mentioned in another post that I'm seeing Bob Dylan in concert next week (woo hoo!) but I'm missing out on the I-can-die-now combo of him and Elvis Costello (awww) because for reasons unexplained, E.C. is skipping Cincinnati. Maybe he's pissed that he didn't get here in time for the world's largest chicken dance, I don't know.

Anyway, last week I got an email from a friend in Chicago; her husband Steve’s birthday is later this month and she suggested that my wife and I go up there and join them for . . . the Elvis Costello/Bob Dylan concert at the Chicago Theatre (woo hoo!) So I'm thinking about Bob Dylan all over again and my mind is wandering all over the place. It occurs to me that I used a one of his lines as my "senior quote" (now there's a phrase that makes me cringe) when I graduated high school 25 years ago, and here I am today, and how many times have I quoted him just in this shiny, brand-new blog? I realize some people might see this as sad, sorry and even pathetic. I prefer to think of it as an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" kind of thing.

I became a fan when I was maybe 15 years old. This was the late '70s, when Dylan was in his Jesus phase and liking him had long since ceased being cool. I was hooked pretty quickly after hearing Blood on the Tracks, and Steve (the same one who’s turning 44 later this month) and I dug through his catalog and we each developed our own set of favorites, making mixed-tape after mixed-tape.

He and I saw Dylan live in 1981 or '82; I remember turning to an acquaintance and saying, "If he leads off with 'Serve Somebody,' I'm walking out." But I stayed, we all stayed. What a show, a mere two-and-a-half decades ago.

Later, in college, a girlfriend taught me how to write "Bob Dylan" in Hebrew, which gave me innumerable notebook doodling ideas when I should have been taking notes in class. Meanwhile, that new skill was well-timed with the release of Infidels in 1983, one of several Dylan "comeback" albums, and his first secular music in years. A cassette of that record was the soundtrack of a 4 1/2-hour drive Steve and I took from Cincinnati to Ann Arbor, during which we drank beer and smoked cigars with the windows closed. When we showed up at the home of a friend of his, the friend’s minister father did not invite us in, despite our delightful manners. I guess he was more of a "Born-Again Bob" kind of guy.

Got out of college, moved to Chicago, and my first couple of years there passed in sort of a blur. I listened to Bob Dylan on and off, but I wouldn't say he provided the soundtrack for that period. In 1989, when I was in Rome on a boondoggle studying, I attended another Dylan show, this one with "festival seating," which I guess in Italy means pulling away the yellow police tape and letting the throng of drunks stampede to the stands. Being one of that throng, I don't remember much about the show except that Edie Brickell was the opening act and I think she really dug me.

So now I'm seeing him two more times in the next few weeks, once with a guy I've known since kindergarten. It's dawning on me as I write this that it's pretty cool to have been friends with someone for that long. I'm glad we're getting the chance to get together for something we'll both enjoy, and it'll be great fun to throw our underwear on the stage together.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Notes from Maggie's Farm (part 3)

Last week I wrote "goodbye and thank you" email that I'd intended to send out to my colleagues today, since my last day on the job is tomorrow. I'd written it and saved a draft, adding addressees as their names occurred to me. Unfortunately, after a few rounds of this, I inadvertently clicked "send" one afternoon, and the email went out about 10 days before I'd planned. At least I didn't write anything stupid or insulting, as is my wont, but it must have looked as if I wanted to get the word out so there'd be plenty of time for me to receive adulation and free lunches.

I've been with this company for more than 7 1/2 years, which is far longer than I've ever held any other job. There's good reason for that: of the three jobs I've had since law school, this one was easily the best. When I addressed the email, I thought about that and realized I'd worked with a lot of really nice people over the years. I'll be lucky if I have the same kind of co-worker at my new company.

Anyway, speaking of free lunches, look what I found as I cleaned out my desk! Who's hungry? (Sorry, gizzards available only at select locations.)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

So I Hocked My Sailor Suit.

First off - my urine is clean! So says LabCorp, although I could have told them that. Just held that cup up to the light, swirled it a bit . . . well, you know the drill. I'm not telling you anything you don't know, right?

The test result cleared the way to a new job, which means the opportunity to redesign my look. I know what you're saying -- don't paint over the Sistine Chapel ceiling! -- and you make an excellent point. Rest assured, I'm not talking about an extreme makeover or anything; my brow is already youthful and smooth as glass, my lips deliciously pouty. No, what I want to do is reassert myself with a look that emphasizes my intellectualism, my urban hipness, my hip urbanness, and of course my to-the-very-core sexiness.

And what could do that better than a new pair of glasses? After an exhaustive search, I'm down to two frames that I think really complete my image. Here they are:

The "Harry Caray"

The "Uncle Jun"

I know, I know . . . they're both so hot that it's not even fair. I rock a pair of jumbo eyeglasses like not too many other guys can. So which should I get? As a a little token of my appreciation for your opinion, here's a naked picture of me. No credit card necessary.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Notes from Maggie's Farm (part 2)

I gave my notice and handed in my letter of resignation. Woo hoo! Or, as a friend of mine used to say, "Party ass, man!" (Not to be confused with, "Party, ass man!")

Sick of the poke of the Man's thumb in my eye, I marched into my boss' office and said, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more!"

And I stared -- oh, I stared long and hard -- and then I said, "I'm not out of order! You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order!"

I sensed I was on a roll. "Cut the horseshit, son," I said. "Who dropped a whole truckload of fizzies into the swim meet? Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner? Every Halloween, the trees are filled with underwear. Every spring, the toilets explode.

"Now you listen to me, you smooth talking son-of-a-bitch," I continued, "let me lay it on the line for you and your boss, whoever he is. Johnny Fontane will never get that movie!"

Did I show her, or what?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Property of Jesus.

A few days ago, the Cincinnati Enquirer (a local publication loosely referred to as a “newspaper”) ran an unusually sensible opinion piece, titled, “Congress needs to step in, make birth control more affordable.” Needless to say, the article was not written by an Enquirer staff member. Instead, a local graduate student wrote it, and she argued persuasively that via a simple fix by Congress, contraception could and should become accessible to college students and low-income women. She pointed out that until last January, birth control was relatively affordable, but costs soared as a result of the federal Deficit Reduction Act.

Seems obvious, doesn’t it, that affordable contraception is a good thing?

“No!” shouts local resident Clyde Stauffer, wearing his bathrobe and shaking his fist in his front yard:

The writer . . . set forth a position that may be expressed as follows:

Young women have a "right" to engage in unlimited sexual activity.

They have a "right" to be free from untoward consequences of such activity; therefore

Congress has an "obligation" to act so as to facilitate those "rights."

I don't believe either of her premises is correct (hence the conclusion is invalid). I don't believe the authors of the Constitution thought that one of the duties of the legislative branch is to promote untrammeled fornication. The writer's concern for an unimpeded educational outcome for these young women is commendable. She might better spend her energies on suggesting changes in their behavior to that end, rather than seeking congressional action in support of questionable activities.

Clyde clearly didn’t get any in college – and believe me, I feel his pain – but he so totally mischaracterizes the column that I wonder if he even read it. Plus, isn’t untrammeled fornication the very best kind of fornication there is?

Meanwhile, in a related story, desperate, pandering presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (remember when he seemed like an okay guy?) says Christians make the best presidents and the Constitution established the U.S. as a "Christian nation." Now, I'm not a historian or a lawyer or a Revolutionary War re-enactor, but I'm pretty sure there's no mention of Jesus in our founding documents. I'll go back and check, but I think I'm right on this one.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?

During my lunch hour the other day, I went to one of those lab testing places for a drug screening. No particular reason; it's just something I do. If you don't get it, well then that's your problem. Don't go judging me -- I'm sick of being judged by squares.

On this day, I found a cozy little place nestled comfortably under the expressway overpass near my office. Seeing only one other car in the parking lot (whose owner might have been at the check cashing place next door) I strode confidently through the front entrance. "I'm here to give a urine sample!" I announced with pride.

A very old couple in the waiting room halted their whispered conversation as their eyes followed me across the room. The massive woman behind the glass glanced up briefly, then returned to her telephone conversation. I arrived at her desk and smiled. "Hi, I'm LDP," I said.

She didn't look up, or even miss a beat in her phone dialogue. "Yeah," she said into the mouthpiece, "I lost my license . . . yeah, that's right . . . aw, hell yeah! I had to walk! By the time I got there, I was all sweaty and shit!"

"Excuse me, " I said, "but I'm here for --"

"I'm with somebody right now," she barked. "I know it don't look like it, but I am."

I stared. She said, "Go sit down."


I turned and saw the old couple. The man was talking, trying unsuccessfully to keep his voice down. The woman stared straight ahead, looking frustrated and a tad dizzy. Her companion got louder. "I don't have herpes," he said.

She folded her arms and said nothing.

"I don't have herpes!"


"Come on, now," he said, "I don't!"

The old woman opened her mouth, which I can only describe as jack-o-lantern-esque, and emitted a noise that sounded somewhere between, "Bah!" and the clucking of an angry hen.


Slowly, methodically, and without making any sudden movements, I took a seat on the other side of the room.

The rest of my appointment was essentially uneventful. Eventually, the woman behind the glass called my name. She turned out to be really nice, although she lacked what we corporate climbers like to call a "sense of urgency." She led me to the back, handed me a clear, plastic cup, and pointed to a small bathroom. "Go to it," she said.

And did I go to it? Oh yes, I went to it. But you wouldn't understand.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Loss Will Be Your Gain.

I just returned from the ballpark, where the Reds took a one-hit, 4-0 thumping at the hands of the Chicago Cubs' second-stringers. Good news, though: the place was packed. The inevitable bad news: the place was packed with Cubs fans. The crowd was 35,000 strong, and about 25,000 were there to celebrate Chicago's clinching the Central Division crown.

It's funny, Wrigley Field is a great place, and I had plenty of fun there when I lived in Chicago, but a day there is a less a sporting event than it is the world's largest chugging contest. The typical crowd there isn't exactly known for its baseball acumen. I'll hand it to all those Cubs fans who made their way to Cincinnati, though. That was pretty cool, and they had the ballpark rocking like it never has in its five-year history. I'd say it must have been pretty demoralizing for the Reds, but how much enthusiasm could they really have left after six months of having their asses kicked?

But don't just take my word for it. Listen to the perspective of another Reds fan:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Notes from Maggie's Farm

My boss storms to the threshold of my office, waving a few sheets of paper in her hand. "What is this?" she yells. "What is this?!"

It crosses my mind that maybe it's time for me to seek other employment. In fact, as I mull over the odd little outburst, I wonder why I didn't have this particular epiphany earlier. Perhaps something should have dawned on me when, during a conversation on her first or second day on the job, she uttered the phrases, "I'm a bulldog," and "There's a new sheriff in town." In one sentence.

I'd always wondered if there were people who actually talked like that. Turns out, there are. Well, there's at least one.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Send for the Nurse.

I have a hideous wart on my toe. To be precise -- and precision is key when discussing lumpy, gray skin growths -- this wart is on the "knuckle" of my left big toe. It's unfortunate, because I'm an otherwise perfect specimen of virility. When people stare at me, I want them looking at my square jaw and Nordic features, not at this monstrous deformity. I've experimented with all kinds of cures, to no avail. Someone told me I should freeze it off, and I tried that, but standing there in the kitchen for hours with my foot jammed between the ice cream and the box of corn dogs got really old, really quickly.

So today I got online as the kids like to say, and started searching out the definitive cure. I Googled the term "foot wart," and for a few minutes resisted the temptation to click on the "images of foot warts" link. But I'm weak . . . oh, I'm weak. And in that moment of weakness, I learned there are far more people out there with warts on their feet than I ever would have dreamed. Briefly, I mentally outlined plans for a wart-footed rights movement, before deciding I didn't want to go anywhere near those freaks.

The other thing I learned is that there are wart fetishists out there -- a substantial number of them, apparently. God bless America! You think they have wart porn in Iran? Take that, Ahmadinejad.

Monday, September 24, 2007

He Drank Coca-Cola, He Was Eating Wonder Bread.

Let's see . . . I just polished off a sausage pizza; what would be good for dessert? Ooh, I know! A crust covered in Oreos! With frosting! And it's only four bucks . . . maybe I'll get two, save one for breakfast.

Do they have this in other parts of the world? If not, then I'm never leaving home again.

Actually, I freely admit that my eating habits could be better -- much better. But a cookie pizza? The apocalypse is nigh.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

This Time Tomorrow, I'll Know You Better.

I've been tagged by Kate at Innisfree. The idea is to give a little snapshot of where I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, etc. There's more to the survey than that, but I'm not doing it all, because I don't play by anybody's rules, Jack.

10 years ago: It’s safe to say that by September 1997, I’ve settled comfortably into domesticity. My wife and I have long since moved from the fantastic apartment we lived in for our first few years in Cincinnati, and into our money pit. September '97 is after the furnace died in the dead of winter (which happened a few days after we closed on the house) but before a water main buried four feet below our front lawn breaks, resulting in a geyser of Old Faithful-like proportions. On the upside, we’ve had our first child, who by this point in ’97 is nearing two years old and beginning the talking storm that continues to the present. I work in the legal department of an HMO/health insurance company. I’ve been there for about a year and it’s still a pretty good job, albeit in a soul-sucking suburb. I’m two months away from running my fourth NYC Marathon.

5 years ago: Two new children, one new job. By September 2002, my kids are 6, 4 and 1, and the money pit is vastly improved, the result of a kitchen remodeling and the addition of a bathroom on the first floor. It looks great, mainly due to my wife’s eye for color and design. No reason for us ever to leave, right? Meanwhile, I’m about two-and-a-half years into a different job, in the law department of a manufacturing company. Good place, good boss, and a legal group respected throughout the company (corporate legal departments are often loathed by the businesses they support, so this is a good thing). No reason for me ever to leave, right?

1 year ago: It’s September 2006, and we’re comfortably ensconced in our new, bigger, money-pittier house. Say, does that gigantic tree in the front yard look . . . unhealthy to you? My two older children, now in fifth and third grades, are in the midst of their school magazine drive. Somehow they con me into buying about 20 subscriptions. (Us Magazine, by the way, is for readers who find People too wordy and challenging.) At the office, my boss has handed in his resignation. I feel pretty hopeful as a result, and why not? I’ve been there for six-and-a-half years, I know the organization, my performance evaluations have been excellent, I’m next in line for the job according the company’s succession planning, and my boss is recommending me for the position. In my head, I plot the details of my post-promotion regime.

Yesterday: I wake up at 5:15 a.m. to meet a couple of friends for a 4-mile run. I have a few minutes before I leave the house, so I check my blog for the anticipated flood of comments and offers from publishing houses. (What the hell, people?) I go out for my run, it’s a beautiful, cool morning, and I regret not having trained for a fall marathon. I get back, shower, shave my entire body, and dress for work. Then I wake the kids and they tumble down for breakfast: Pop Tarts and Lucky Charms. My wife follows and is, let’s say, distressed by this meal. She’s not a morning person. I enjoy a little bit more time with my family, then haul myself to work. My boss leaves early to attend an out-of-town conference; the mood lightens considerably. That evening, we meet friends for a quick dinner, and I take my 11-year-old son to his guitar lesson, where he’s learning to play the Beatles’ “Birthday.” Later that night I fall asleep in front of the tv as I watch the Reds’ post-game show. I wake up at about 1:00 in the morning to the sounds of some atrocious sports program, with three former athletes and a third-rate, smarmy, Letterman-imitating host, all yelling at one another. Off to bed.

Today: I miss my run as a result of my poor sleeping habits. My 9-year-old daughter wakes up first, goes downstairs and voluntarily practices her piano. She sounds good on “Fur Elise,” and the music makes me think about Schroeder playing for Lucy. I go downstairs and the two boys come next. We all discuss the school lunch menu for today – rotini with tomato sauce – then off to work. Shortly after I get there, my wife phones to tell me the guys have come to do some repair work on our roof, and they’re also going to give us an estimate on replacing the front porch, which needs to be done before we have the house painted. Thinking about this, I wonder how much longer I need to work before I can retire. I pull a file and look at the numbers, and then I vomit.

Tomorrow: The eagle flies on Friday, baby. Time to get my drink on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm Not There.

Bob Dylan rules my fall.

It's still summer, I know, but as it wanes I'm reading the biography, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, and I can't stop listening to Mark Ronson's remix of one one of my favorite Dylan tunes, "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)." The remix adds some horns and a heavier beat to the sarcastic kiss-off song, and it all feels right. Its video is an addictive walk through Dylan's career, with clever references to some of his other songs tossed in here and there.

Next up, on October 1, he releases Dylan, a compilation of his "greatest songs." Have they all been released before? Yeah. Do I have them all in my collection already? Almost certainly. Will I buy this anyway? Yup. Is this what you kids these days call being a fanboy?

Then, on October 15, I'm seeing him live in concert for the first time in 18 years. The show might be great or it might be terrible, and although I'm inclined to lean toward "great" even before I've seen it, I hope he really pours it on so much that even the doubters and the people who don't really want to be there -- say, for instance, wives whose husbands drag them there -- even they enjoy the music. (The next night, just up the road, he's doing a show with Elvis Costello as his opening act. All you other pretentious English majors out there know what I'm talking about when I say, now there's a dream team. Nobody wants to go with me, and I can't go alone, because who will catch me when I faint?)

And the celebration continues on November 21, with the release of I'm Not There, director Todd Haynes' "rumination" on Dylan's life and times. The movie stars six actors as Bob, including the sometimes gorgeous, sometimes cadaverous Cate Blanchett, who plays the cryptic, "gone electric" Bob. Take a peek at this trailer:

I have a feeling Todd Haynes is a pretentious English major.

Unfortunately for me, the movie opens in New York. Opening night is just a week before my birthday, though, so now you big-city sophisticates and hipsters who were wondering what to get me have your problem solved. Thanks in advance -- that's really sweet of you.