I just returned from a two-week vacation to Italy, and I have to tell you, it was a nightmare. The first thing I did when our plane touched down in Seattle was to kiss the tarmac. The second thing I did was to find a restroom to wash my mouth. That tarmac was disgusting.
A few months ago, my wife convinced me to go on a European vacation. So we took a two-week tour of Southern Italy. The brochures make it look charming and relaxing: Rome for three nights, followed by visits to quaint mountainside villages along Italy’s rugged coast. Even a boat ride to the fabled Isle of Capri. But the entire experience was anything but tranquil.
We went on an organized tour with 15 other very nice people, who were fairly willing to make limited eye contact with me, despite the fact they found out I was a humor writer. But the moment we arrived in Rome, I knew that I was in for a bumpy ride. Turns out the taxis in Rome have really bad suspensions.
Before the trip I watched several films with notable actors of Italian heritage: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, even Sylvester Stallone. But it was no use. I still could not understand a word of Italian – except “Yo, Adrian”, which, strangely, not one Italian uttered. So I knew I would have to improvise in Italy. Upon our arrival at our first hotel, I attempted to communicate with the hotel clerk by speaking English but using my best Italian accent – which unfortunately sounds eerily close to my best Norwegian accent. It was no use. He couldn’t understand a word I was saying. I quickly discovered that Italians have a different word from ours for just about everything.
I love my wife. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a great life partner, but she’s a lousy sports partner. The problem is she is utterly clueless about sports. Like any patriotic American, I’m a huge sports fan: baseball, football, Australian rules lawn bowling, you name it. But my wife is, how can I put this delicately – an artist.
My wife could no more tell you the number of points in a touchdown than the location of home plate in baseball. Oh sure, she’ll tell you she likes sports. But to her, sports consists of backpacking through the woods or climbing a rock face. Those aren’t sports. As any red-blooded sports fanatic knows, sports require two essential elements: a high def flat panel 56” TV and a large cheese-stuffed, meat-lover’s pizza.
I first suspected my wife wasn’t into sports early in our marriage. One evening, I had to work late so I missed the Monday Night Football game. I called home to ask her the score. After five minutes trying to convince her that pro football indeed could be played on a day other than Sunday, she checked the TV and reported: I have no idea. But I think they’re in extra innings. Seriously, I’d have better luck finding the score in the credits of Breaking Bad than by asking my wife.
My wife will happily tell any random stranger she meets that her husband is far from perfect. On a scale of 1 – 5, I think she’d probably rate me a 2.4.
Okay, so I’m not perfect. When it comes to my looks, I’d give myself maybe a 6 out of 10. My taste in clothes? Perhaps a 4 – although my wife would score me a 1.5 if we’re talking about ties. (What’s wrong with a paisley tie adorning a Lacoste shirt anyway?) My humor writing ability? Hmmm. Are we grading on a curve?
My point is I have plenty of shortcomings, but if you ask my wife, she’ll tell you – especially if you’re a complete stranger – that my most irritating personality quirk is my compulsive need to rank…everything.
For example, in writing this week’s post, I chose Arial 9 point because it’s always been one of my five favorite fonts (right after Comic Sans and just ahead of Garamond). Okay, I admit it. I do have a tendency to rate and rank stuff. I can’t resist asking other people to rank things too. For me, it’s an ice breaker. I’ll often start a conversation with, say, a waitress at a BBQ ribs restaurant, with, “Hi, Carla. Nice rack you got there. Quick question: Which three states would you least like to live in?”
Every generation brings with it a new dance craze. In the ‘60s young people were doing the Twist. In the ‘70s everyone was wearing green leisure suits (and by everyone, I mean my late Uncle Sid from Scranton) and disco dancing was the rage. In the ‘80s line dancing was the latest craze, featuring the Electric Slide, a favorite among attractive women who were way out of my league.
Recently, Korean pop star Psy created a dance sensation with an annoyingly infectious horsey dance to the tune of Gangnam Style. And just a few months ago, millions of people the world over made their best attempt to demonstrate what uncontrollable group epileptic seizures must look like, in a bizarre dance craze called the Harlem Shake.
As our nation’s population grays, it was just a matter of time before another dance craze would sweep the nation – aimed at us slightly older high-steppers. And I’m just the person to launch it. It’s called the Soccer Dad Shuffle. What does a middle-aged family man know about dance moves, you ask? Plenty. I have tripped the light fantastic countless times (and by countless times, I mean more than five but less than nine), including almost three wedding receptions, last year’s company Christmas party, and my neighbor’s son’s bar mitzvah in 1989. (Again, my apologies to Mrs. Bernstein for the damage to her toes.)
So here’s the thing. Sometimes I just can’t seem to turn off my brain. It’s always racing, bouncing from one random thought to the next, making it impossible for me to totally relax.
Oh, sure, I’ve tried various ways to relax and mentally shut down. I’ve tried yoga and tennis and pretending to listen to my wife. But still my mind darts around to other thoughts. Some people have speculated that I may suffer from A.D.D. and yet, I suddenly have a serious craving for pancakes.
Once I even tried hypnotherapy, in an attempt to clear my mind. The hypnotherapist soothingly invited me to close my eyes and envision a cool, gentle breeze on a mild summer day. He said to imagine I was in a lush field of tall grass with yellow dandelions. And all I could think about was how I needed to mow my lawn and pull up weeds. While I was at it, I might as well prune the bushes and power wash the patio. There went my Saturday. I left the session totally stressed out.
So, I decided to try massage. I’d be able to close my eyes and listen to soft music, maybe even some wind chimes, while a professional masseur melted all my aches and cares away. Sounded perfect. Well, things didn’t go quite as I had hoped. Here’s a recap of what went on in my mind as he worked on my back, arms, legs and hands for sixty minutes.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed I’ve begun to put on a few pounds. I noticed this primarily because my wife kept saying, “Hey, you’ve put on a few pounds. When are you going to do something about it?”
In my younger years, I used to treat my body like a temple. But lately my body has become more of a Temple of Doom. So I’ve decided to do something about it.
I tried various fad diets: the Nothing-but-fruit diet, the Everything-but-fruit diet, the Mango & Salmon milk shake diet, the “All-You-Can-Eat-Just-So-Long-As-It’s-Cabbage” diet. None of them worked, in part because I usually gave up after about 40 minutes.
I recently discovered – much to my chagrin – that there are no short cuts to fitness and good health. So I came up with eight very simple daily commitments in the areas of fitness and nutrition. I once raced in the New York Marathon. (Okay, meandered might be more accurate description of my pace.) Heck, by comparison, this should be a piece of cake. Drat! Now I’m craving a piece of cake.
I believe it’s every American’s duty to do their small part to make our country a better place to live. That’s why I’m calling on President Obama to take immediate executive action to DEPORT MY NEIGHBOR BERT ZABLINSKI NOW! Have you seen his lawn? The last time his grass was less than a foot high, dinosaurs roamed the earth. And don’t get me started about his front yard collection of 47 plastic African garden gnomes or his 14-foot tall sculpture of Elvis giving the finger which he made using only Budweiser cans and Cheez Whiz.
Someone has to take action. Why not the President? I discovered this great web site called We the People, which lets you directly petition the White House. It gets over 300 petitions a day, many from people able to construct nearly complete sentences with nouns and verbs.
The We the People Petition-the-White-House web site was launched in September 2011, and has since received more than 142,000 petitions and 9.2 million signatures. The volume of petitions has spiked since Obama’s re-election in November 2012, mostly from disaffected white southerners furious about Obama’s apparent plans to take away everyone’s guns and require us all to convert to Islam. I must have missed that news story.
[This message brought to you by the Greater Seattle Tourist Information Bureau.]
Greetings, visitor. Welcome to Seattle. If this is your first time to the Emerald City, we’d like to share some fun facts about our great city to help you plan your trip.
Hey, did you ever wonder why they call it the Emerald City? It’s because everything here is always green. And that’s because it rains in Seattle 342 days a year. Isn’t that fascinating? So bring your bumbershoot and get ready for some fun out of the sun!
When packing for a trip to Seattle, don’t worry about packing your sunglasses – because you won’t need ‘em!
FUN FACT: Many Seattle residents live their entire lives without ever seeing the sun.
Some Seattleites believe the existence of the sun is a myth, sort of like Mount Olympus of ancient Greek legend. (Ironically, there actually is a Mount Olympus in Washington State – but thanks to the clouds no one from Seattle has ever seen it.)
This Sunday is the biggest single day of the year in sports: No, I’m not talking about the Fresno Kennel Club Annual Dog Show taking place this coming Sunday – although granted, that is a very big sporting event. No, I’m talking about this Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. I believe it’s Super Bowl MCLXXXVIIIVX, but I could be off by a couple I’s.
This week I am donning my wife’s BBQ apron to share my secrets to throwing a winning Super Bowl party. A Super Bowl party is a great opportunity for men to bond with their buddies over the world’s greatest spectator sport (after female mud wrestling) and for the ladies to bond with other wives in the kitchen while checking on the status of our Meat Lovers’ pizza and replenishing our salsa dip – I noticed it’s getting a bit low, honey.
Fellows, when hosting a Super Bowl party, there are three parts to consider: preparations BEFOREHAND, what to do DURING the party, and finally, clean-up activities AFTER the party. Of course, most of you guys can skip Parts I and III, as those parts can easily be handled by your wife. Just put her in charge of the food and stay out of her way. She loves being in charge of something.
[Tim Jones, noted humor writer and the driving force behind the humor blog View from the Bleachers, in a shocking press conference, admits to using banned performance-enhancing substances to help him write his column. Below are excerpts from that press conference.]
“This is not easy for me to admit. But the time has come for me to finally come clean. Rumors have been swirling about my behavior in recent months. And I simply could not live a lie any longer. For the first time anywhere, I need to make a public confession to all eleven of my readers:
For years I have been using banned performance-enhancing substances to help me produce my blog. And in the process, I’ve repeatedly lied to my readers, friends and family.
About the time people started wondering about Lance Armstrong, insiders started suspecting that I too might be using performance-enhancing substances to give me a competitive edge. They started noticing that my blog posts were getting increasingly unhinged. When I claimed in one post that I was a direct descendant of Jesus, it raised a lot of eyebrows. When I later wrote that I was contemplating switching my vote to Romney, my close friends and family members became deeply concerned about my mental state. But it was when I finally presented in last week’s post my solution to America’s gun problem – arming every American with bullet-proof vests – that authorities could tell I had gone completely off the rails.