“Buenos Nachos” – Beginning Spanish for American Tourists

“Buenos Nachos” – Beginning Spanish for American Tourists

So you’re on vacation in Mexico, but you don’t know a word of Spanish. Let me help you out. For starters, if you’re thirsty for a local beer, you might not want to ask the bartender, “Do you have Corona?” Be safe and ask for Dos Equis instead.

So you’re on vacation in Mexico, but you don’t know a word of Spanish. Let me help you out. For starters, if you’re thirsty for a local beer, you might not want to ask the bartender, “Do you have Corona?” Be safe and ask for Dos Equis instead.

It was 10pm at night. We had just arrived, exhausted, in La Paz, Mexico. We were about to spend ten relaxing days on vacation at a charming seaside resort on the Sea of Cortez. Ah, paradise awaits us. A gracious young Mexican hotel staffer assisted us with our luggage and showed us to our room before he bid us a pleasant goodnight.

As I attempted to tell him “goodnight” in Spanish, I suddenly had a deer-in-the-headlights moment. I haltingly fumbled my response, awkwardly uttering “um, Buenos Nachos, señora.” My wife quickly pointed out that I had just told the young man “Good Nachos, ma’am.” That might explain the confused expression on his face as he walked out the door. I meant to say “Buenas noches, señor.” In my defense, it turns out that the resort’s restaurant, I would later discover, did in fact serve very tasty nachos. So in a way, I was eerily correct in saying Buenos Nachos.

Truth is I hadn’t studied up nearly enough on my basic Spanish before our trip. To help you avoid an embarrassing faux pas like mine, let’s review some basic lessons in Beginning Spanish. This should assist you greatly the next time you’re planning on traveling to Mexico – or hiring a roofer to replace your roof.

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed to discover that most Mexicans primarily speak Spanish… all the time. Many of them are shockingly limited in their English vocabulary. So, if you find yourself drawing a total blank on how to converse in Spanish, don’t worry. Do what I usually do. Just speak confidently and loudly in plain English while laying on your thickest Ricky Ricardo Spanish accent. Eventually, in many cases, the local will get so annoyed that they’ll start responding in English. Problem solved.

One of the nice things about the Spanish language is that many of its words are similar to the English word for the same thing. For example: We say “romantic.” In Spanish, they say “romantico.” We say “fantastic.” They say “fantástico.” I say, “Do you have any weed?” They say, “Estas bajo arresto,” which loosely translates to “you’re under arrest.” Turns out undercover police in Mexico don’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to drugs.

At some point, your attempts to explain your request for assistance in loud English with a bad Spanish accent may not be enough to engage in a successful exchange. As unfair as it sounds, you’ll probably need to learn a few useful expressions to get around. Here are a few beginning phrases that may come in handy on your next adventure to Mexico:

“¿Dónde está el baño?” >> which means “Where is the bathroom?”

“¿Conoces algún buen restaurante cerca?” >> “Do you know of a good restaurant nearby?”

“¿Dónde está el hospital más cercano? Creo que me rompí el brazo golpeando una piñata.” >> “Where is the nearest hospital? I think I broke my arm swatting at a pinata.”

“Por favor perdoname. Cuando le pedí sexo a esa mujer, no me di cuenta de que era tu esposa” >> “Please forgive me. When I propositioned that woman for sex, I did not realize she was your wife.”

See these American tourists? They just arrived in Mexico, but none of them speaks the language. That became a problem when Charlie (in the red Hawaiian shirt) tried to explain to the waitress that he is 32 years old. He meant to say, “Tengo 32 años.” But what he actually said was, “Tengo 32 anos:”: “I have 32 anuses.” It went downhill from there.

See these American tourists? They just arrived in Mexico, but none of them speaks the language. That became a problem when Charlie (in the red Hawaiian shirt) tried to explain to the waitress that he is 32 years old. He meant to say, “Tengo 32 años.” But what he actually said was, “Tengo 32 anos:”: “I have 32 anuses.” It went downhill from there.

Sometimes, if you can’t think of the appropriate Spanish word in the moment, you might try inserting a French or Italian expression instead. As they are all Romance languages, oftentimes, the word you’re looking for is similar.

Let’s say you’re in Puerto Vallarta, and you’re in the mood for Chinese food. You want to ask the local for the name of a “good Chinese restaurant.”

In Spanish, it’s “un buen restaurante chino.” In Italian it’s “un bel ristorante cinese.” And in French, it’s “un bon restaurant chinois”

Notice how the words for “a good Chinese restaurant” are all quite similar. On second thought, forget about it. I just remembered. There are no good Chinese restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.

If you’re in a jam, there’s always Google Translate to the rescue. You simply type what you want to say in English, and voilà (that’s French). Your phone’s Google Translate app can instantly transcribe your English message into any one of over 100 languages. Truly incredible.

The next time you’re in, say, Peru, and you want to buy an authentic handmade Peruvian hat from one of the local street vendors, don’t worry if you can’t think of the right words. Just type into Google Translate, “I love this hat. How much does it cost?”

Then show your phone to the merchant and watch as they read the following phrase, complete with accent marks: “Unë e dua këtë kapelë. Sa kushton?”

Notice how they suddenly appear to be confused, raise their voice, gesticulate wildly, and shout in your face, “no tengo idea de lo que acabas de decir”. Your wife quickly pulls you aside and informs you that they said, “I have no idea what you just said.” But don’t panic. Just look at your phone. Notice how you accidentally had the translation set to Albanian. No problema, amigo.

If all else fails, you will want to memorize these two words: “¿habla Inglés?”

You’ll get the hang of it eventually. Maybe not this minute. Maybe not today, but no doubt by bañana – which my wife just pointed out does not mean tomorrow in Spanish. She gently added, “The word you’re looking for is mañana – you idiot!”

If it all feels just a little too overwhelming trying to learn Spanish before your next vacation, then the first time you come across a local and you have no idea what they just said, just smile. Point to your wife. Let her do the talking. Clearly she’s way better at this than you are.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base. Or as they say in Mexico, “Esa es la vista desde las gradas. Quizás me equivoque.”

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2022

The Forgotten Minority Group – Picky Eaters

The Forgotten Minority Group – Picky Eaters

Ah, the frustrations and anguish of being a picky eater. This might as well have been me when I was a young child, being asked to eat my broccoli. Wouldn’t eat it then. Won’t eat it now. It’s not easy being someone like me when you’re at a Lebanese bistro that only serves hummus and lamb.

Ah, the frustrations and anguish of being a picky eater. This might as well have been me when I was a young child, being asked to eat my broccoli. Wouldn’t eat it then. Won’t eat it now. It’s not easy being someone like
me when you’re at a Lebanese bistro that only serves hummus and lamb.

Throughout our nation’s fractious history, there has always been discrimination, hatred and intolerance directed at people who were different. You might think, as someone who is a well-educated middle-class, white male who went to an all-boys private college preparatory school, that I’m a member of the white male, oppressor class. And my wife would agree with you 100%.

But the truth, however, is more complicated. I’m also a member of TWO rarely mentioned, unfairly treated minority groups. For one thing, like millions of other white males in their sixties, I suffer in silence from the cruel  plight of male pattern baldness. Tragically, there is NO CURE. (Okay, I’ve just been informed by my wife that there are about five dozen known cures, ranging from Rogaine to hair replacement, so, um, let’s skip over to my second minority group).

More importantly, I’m also a member of one of the last remaining discriminated minorities that you will never read about in the mainstream media or on Twitter. I’m talking about people like me who are picky eaters.

As “highly selective epicures”, we’ve been ridiculed, mocked, humiliated, and misunderstood all our lives. It’s time someone shined a spotlight on the longstanding pattern of mistreatment people like me have endured from all those foofoo foodies in our lives who think they’re superior to us just because they like Escargots à la Bourguignonne and people like me have no idea what those words mean.

I’ve always been a finicky eater, or as I prefer to be called, a “culinarily-restricted food connoisseur.” In my case, it dates back to my childhood. When I grew up, my mom, who was raised in a small town in Ohio, always served us traditional midwestern meals: Cereal or eggs and toast for breakfast; ham and cheese sandwiches or chicken noodle soup for lunch; and for dinner, some type of beef, along with potatoes, corn, green beans, and such – classic American food from the 1950s. From an early age, my food mantra has been, “If it used to moo, it’s something I’ll chew.”

My mom never served us exotic foreign foods (unless you count pizza, which I’m told came from Italy). So, like my siblings, I grew up with an extremely limited food palate. My wife, on the other hand, will eat ANYTHING. Jellied octopus? No problem. Fried rattlesnake? Sounds fun! Pickled herring? Pass the plate. Cheese-glazed locusts? That’s disgusting. But if you ask my wife, she’ll say, “I’ll give it a try.”

Whenever we dine out with another couple, it’s always the same uncomfortable negotiation about where to go for dinner:

My wife: Where does everybody want to go for dinner?

Me: Have you guys tried Five Guys Burgers?

My wife’s friend Janet: Oh, oh, I know of this great Thai-Vietnamese place. They serve the best tofu-infused frog legs. It’s to die for. But I also read about their scorpion mushroom cold soup that sounds yummy.

This is the kind of meal I was raised on. A nice medium rare steak, baked potato stuffed with butter and bacon bits, and maybe some green beans. But most of our friends are hardcore foodies. And you won’t hear them suggesting we go to my favorite restaurant: Outback Steakhouse. Sigh.

This is the kind of meal I was raised on. A nice medium rare steak, baked potato stuffed with butter and bacon bits, and maybe some green beans. But most of our friends are hardcore foodies. And you won’t hear them
suggesting we go to my favorite restaurant: Outback Steakhouse. Sigh.

My wife: That sounds delicious.

Me: Just spitballing here. But what about Golden Corral?

Janet’s husband, Bruce: Hey, how about that new Afghani-Lebanese place that just opened up in a former homeless shelter? I hear their horse embryo kabob is amazing.

Me: Any takers for Buffalo Wild Wings?

My wife: Or we could try this place I’ve always wanted to check out. It’s an Indian restaurant called the Maharaja Exotic Spice Club. Tres chic. A friend told me that you simply MUST try their spider monkey in barnacle sauce.

Me: Ew. Do they serve anything you might find on Old MacDonald’s farm, like, say, chicken?

All of them: Don’t know. But we’re sure you’ll find something you’d like.

It’s always like this. Last time, we tried an Egyptian joint where one of our friends insisted I try the fried cow brain (and yes, that’s a thing) just to push myself out of my comfort zone. I graciously declined. Then, after dinner, someone suggested we go somewhere else for dessert. Momentarily I got excited thinking we could check out an ice cream parlor or frozen yogurt store. But my hopes were dashed when I was outvoted. We ended up at a small, greasy Chinese food cart standing on the sidewalk, as the group ordered sweet potato ginger dessert soup and bubble tea. I would have had far more fun stopping by the ER instead, to get my stomach pumped from whatever it was I consumed at dinner.

I know my narrow, boring menu of preferred food options is annoying to my friends. I can feel their sneering, haute cuisine condescension when they order their Moroccan Couscous with roasted cabbage, then roll their eyes as I request my chicken and rice. I know they’re judging me.

When the ordeal, I mean meal, is mercifully over, and everybody raves about their fancy four-course tofu repast, I quietly nod that my Caesar salad was “fine.” I try not to draw attention to my embarrassment – because my dining companions are usually plenty adept at doing that for me without my help.

What is this mouth-watering meal you’re looking at? Beats the hell out of me. I’ve no idea. But I am sure my wife will love it. Mine is a much simpler food palate, and sometimes it gets awkward when I don’t even recognize the names of the entrees on the menu. I guess I’ll just have the salad – again.

What is this mouth-watering meal you’re looking at? Beats the hell out of me. I’ve no idea. But I am sure my wife will love it. Mine is a much simpler food palate, and sometimes it gets awkward when I don’t even recognize the names of the entrees on the menu. I guess I’ll just have the salad – again.

I ‘ve been a fussy eater my entire adult life. It’s just a quirk about me that I’ve come to accept is one of my most obvious character flaws. In my defense, over time, I have tried to expand my culinary tolerance. There are several foods I used to avoid which I now willingly consume, such as salmon, crab, scallops, fajitas, cucumbers, and asparagus, to name a few. But no, I’m still not going to try the cow brains, thank you very much.

So, I am making slow (if you ask my wife, excruciatingly slow) progress. But the next time we’re out to dinner, if you offer me some of your Brussels sprouts, please don’t be offended when I politely decline. And don’t bother suggesting I try one of your raw oysters. That’s just disgusting.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2022

Did You Find a Pair of Glasses I Lost?

Did You Find a Pair of Glasses I Lost?

This is the 100% true story about the time I could not find my glasses. And no, they weren’t on my forehead like this image shows. Give me a break. How stupid do you think I am? (Don’t answer.)

This is the 100% true story about the time I could not find my glasses. And no, they weren’t on my forehead like this image shows. Give me a break. How stupid do you think I am? (Don’t answer.)

(Sadly, the following story is completely true.) As I age, I routinely am reminded that my body – and my brain – are slowing declining. I will never again grace the cover of People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive issue, and I’m pretty, were I to have my IQ re-evaluated, it would no longer be anywhere near 250.

Not long ago, I was looking at a small, furry rodent nibbling at something in a park – a type of critter we’ve all seen before. Small with brown stripes and an adorable button nose, kind of like a squirrel but browner and smaller. For the life of me, I could not think of the name. A total brain freeze. Then the next day, sitting with my wife on the couch, it hit me and reflexively, I blurted out CHIPMUNK! Naturally, my wife was startled, and more than a little confused, as that has never been one of my pet names for her.

Last month, I walked into our garage to retrieve something. But by the time I got there and turned on the light, I had no recollection of why I went there in the first place. And then there was the time last week, when I logged into Netflix on my computer and it asked for my password. Something I have done a thousand times. But in that instant I had another deer-in-the-headlights moment, completely blanking out as to my password.

What makes this even crazier is that my password for every website is the same: SmellyButt#1776. And just moments ago, I have this vivid memory of having shared my universal password with anyone reading this article. So, enjoy my Netflix account, everybody, I guess.

What was I thinking? Clearly, I wasn’t. And that brings me to the point of this article. It’s about what happened the other day. Consider the following Exhibit A in the case that I must be losing my mind.

Ever since I turned 45, I have worn glasses. All the time – except when I’m sleeping, and even then, sometimes I go to bed and forget to take them off. I entered the local IGA grocery store, wearing my glasses and, of course, wearing a mask due to Covid. (At least I remembered to wear a mask this time.)

As often happens when I wear a mask, my glasses began to fog up. So I pushed my glasses onto my forehead so I could see, and I continued with my shopping. After about 20 minutes of shopping, I placed my hand to my forehead. That’s when I noticed, oh crap! My glasses were no longer on my forehead. So, I retraced my steps from the previous 20 minutes, reversing the path I had taken, as best as my faulty memory could recall.

I should add that my glasses’ frames are clear, so they would easily disappear into the floor, making them a particularly vulnerable target for any shopping cart or shoe. After 30 minutes of searching high and low (but mostly low, since I assumed they were on the floor and not on the top shelf of the candy aisle), I gave up. They were nowhere to be found.

I went up to one of the cashiers and asked if anyone had turned in a pair of glasses. “I do have a pair of glasses, sir. Could these be yours?” he asked. But, even without my glasses, I could immediately tell they were not mine, as mine had clear frames and the ones he showed me were pink, with what looked to be a Hello Kitty design. “Thanks anyway, but no, those aren’t mine. I guess I will keep looking.”

Then another friendly young cashier chimed in. “Could you describe them? Do they look anything like the pair you’re currently wearing?”

I felt my face. There they were. I had been wearing them the entire time. At some point, I must have absentmindedly pulled my glasses down to inspect a package and forgot to push them back onto my forehead. I turned red with embarrassment and immediately proceeded to issue a loud public announcement for all around me to hear, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to bring your attention to the biggest idiot in the entire store – That would be ME!” (I actually said it. What’s more, no one refuted it.)

What happened to me came eerily close to a children’s story I told to my then-toddler daughter Rachel, who loved wearing her furry white winter hat everywhere. (No, this is not my daughter. Rachel was way cuter.)

What happened to me came eerily close to a children’s story I told to my then-toddler daughter Rachel, who loved wearing her furry white winter hat everywhere. (No, this is not my daughter. Rachel was way cuter.)

What makes this story even more ironic is that when my two daughters were young, I often made up bedtime stories for them. My favorite such story was one I told my daughter Rachel when she was just three years old called Rachel and Her Missing White Hat. The story I wove was about Rachel’s favorite white winter hat that she loved so much she wore it everywhere.

But one day she could not find it and, as I yarned in my meandering story, she looked everywhere:  throughout the house, all over her school, at the farm, and yes, even the grocery store. She could not find her favorite hat anywhere, I would tell her – UNTIL she finally looked in the mirror, and, voila! It had been on her head the entire time.

So, there I was, in the grocery store, literally re-enacting the very children’s story I had told to my toddler at bedtime countless times.

They say that as you get older, you start to revert to your childhood. I didn’t realize they meant it quite so literally.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021.

My Lame Utah National Parks Vacation

My Lame Utah National Parks Vacation

These are the “Mighty Five” national parks of Utah. We recently visited all of them and hiked…. and hiked… and hiked… and hiked…. You get the picture. This is my expert review of these five highly over-rated parks.

These are the “Mighty Five” national parks of Utah. We recently visited all of them and hiked…. and hiked… and hiked… and hiked…. You get the picture. This is my expert review of these five highly over-rated parks.

I don’t want to sound negative, but my recent two-week vacation visiting all five of Utah’s national parks was, well, disappointing. I was utterly unimpressed. Utah contains five national parks that they call The Mighty Five: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion – or as I prefer to call them, The Forget ‘Em Five.

My wife and I went with two other very nice couples. They all seemed to have a great time. But I can only conclude that it’s because they never get out much. What sad, pathetic lives they must lead. I sure hope they’re not subscribers to this blog.

Here’s what we did: We hiked – I mean, EVERY SINGLE DAY – for hours at a time. Every day, out of the hotel by 7:30am to start trudging over rocks and in between trees, in search of well, rocks and trees.

Over the course of a three-hour hike, one gets a bit parched. And yet not a single one of the “Mighty Five” had a Starbucks – I know this for a fact, because I asked hikers coming from the other direction “How far to the Starbucks” and every one of them looked at me like I was deranged.

Here is my takeaway review of the five national parks:

Arches National Park: If you like reddish-brown rocks and a handful of crumbling arches, then you’ve come to the right place. But seriously, you might want to see a doctor first, because, what’s wrong with you? And the arches are not even that good – with several of them revealing large chunks where part of the arch has given way. And they don’t even let you jump on them or ride your scooter across them.

Canyonlands National Park: Lots more of those reddish-brown rocks, which my artiste wife was constantly correcting me by saying “they’re actually the color of burnt sienna.” Thanks, sweetie. This place also has no shortage of rather large crevices, which once again my wife constantly pointed out were more appropriately known as “canyons.” Whatever. Same difference.

If you like seeing a giant hole in the ground, then be sure to check out… The GRAND CANYON INSTEAD. Because, honestly, this place totally copies the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon that we know of today was formed roughly seventy million years ago – a full ten million years before the formation of Utah’s Canyonlands. So, they had TEN MILLION years to come up with something unique and different. But no, they just had to plagiarize another national park. Talk about mailing it in.

Capitol Reef National Park: If you’d like to visit a landscape that feels like the surface of Mars, but with Big Horn Sheep, this park might be to your liking. But if you ask me, don’t waste your time – unless you have a Big Horn Sheep fetish, in which case, I don’t want to know about it.

Thinking of going to Canyonland, Arches or Bryce? Save your money and go to Disney World instead. Take the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride (seen here). The scenery is the same, plus your train goes through a splash zone. A much better value.

Thinking of going to Canyonland, Arches or Bryce? Save your money and go to Disney World instead. Take the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride (seen here). The scenery is the same, plus your train goes through a splash zone. A much better value.

Oh sure, Capitol Ree’s environs look other-worldly, much like Mars. But I saw the Matt Damon movie, The Martian three times, so I think I know what the surface of Mars looks like. (It looks like Capitol Reef.) So, this park is just copying the look and feel of that movie. I hope Matt Damon sues you for millions.

Bryce Canyon National Park: This park is filled with a unique rock formation called “Hoodoos.” The hoodoos all had the same color: Orange. Bright flaming orange. Here’s an idea – why not try adding ANY OTHER COLOR BESIDES ORANGE? Perhaps a pinch of purple or mauve?

The rock formations reminded me of the Terra Cotta Army of Xi’an, China. Only the Xi’an exhibit has far more places to sit down and signs explaining what you’re looking at. My advice? Check out the China exhibit instead.

Zion National Park: This was the last of the five parks we saw. Like the other four, this place was another one-trick pony, with canyons, switchback trails, and crumbling rock formations. (Okay, so technically, that would make it a three-trick pony.)

The food selection at Zion, like most of the parks, was extremely limited. All it offered were Big Horn Sheep, Mule Deer, and chipmunks – which you have to kill and prepare yourself. And let me tell you, the chipmunks were disappointingly gamey.

There, I just saved you five thousand dollars in airfare, hotels, meals, and Smokey the Bear stuffed animals for your kids. No need to thank me.

In all of these parks, which range in altitude from 4,000 to 8,000 feet – the trails all have two things in common: First, they often are right at the edge of a daunting sheer cliff with a 2,000 footdrop-off straight down. And second, there are virtually no railings anywhere. Apparently the National Park Service has concluded that if someone’s enough of an idiot to take a selfie perched on the ledge of one of their precarious cliffs, they deserve what’s coming to them.

When the group wanted a break from hiking – which for me was after about 15 minutes – we took some side trips to investigate dinosaur tracks and pictographs. The dinosaur tracks turned out to be giant paw prints left from some 65 to 125 million years ago. If you looked really closely, you could almost make out ambiguous blobular impressions in the rock that looked nothing like dinosaur prints. What am I missing here? The high point of my dinosaur tracks exploration was when our rental car got stuck in the mud, and I had to push us out. So, yeah, I guess that’s a story I can embellish and tell my grandkids someday about how I save our car and its five passengers from sliding off a 2,000 foot cliff.

Pictographs are ancient paintings in the rock made between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago. Most of the ones we saw looked like space aliens or antelopes painted in reddish brown, I mean burnt sienna, on the sides of cliffs. If you ask me, these drawings are basically just primitive graffiti. Those ancients really had a good PR machine, I guess.

Zion has one cool trail called Angel’s Canyon, which is so treacherous that every year a couple of idiot hikers fall off the cliffside trail to their death. So, I have to give Zion style points for that. Pretty intense.

Zion has one cool trail called Angel’s Canyon, which is so treacherous that every year a couple of idiot hikers fall off the cliffside trail to their death. So, I have to give Zion style points for that. Pretty intense.

I don’t get the whole national parks allure. I guess if you’re into meandering through some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever find on our planet, then sure, go ahead and check out Utah’s national parks. But it’s just not my sort of thing. That’s because there are no benches for resting, very few signs, and good luck finding an espresso bar – or even a snack machine – anywhere along the trail.

I’d have to say my favorite place we hiked during our tour of Utah’s national parks was our final night – when we reached Vegas. There Michele and I made one final trek – down the famous Vegas Strip to see the Bellagio’s towering fountains, as we listened to them roar to the sound of classical music. Ah, so mesmerizing – and not a canyon or ancient volcano to be seen. The volcano’s two doors down at the Mirage.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021

The Burden of Being a Good Sport

The Burden of Being a Good Sport

If you look up “Good Sport” in the dictionary, it should simply show a photo of me getting hit with a cream pie, then smiling afterwards and saying, “Man, you guys got me. Well played.” It’s a part of my quirky personality and the reason my kids refuse to be seen with me.

If you look up “Good Sport” in the dictionary, it should simply show a photo of me getting hit with a cream pie, then smiling afterwards and saying, “Man, you guys got me. Well played.” It’s a part of my quirky personality and the reason my kids refuse to be seen with me.

I’m not the most handsome man in the world, nor the smartest, nor the most successful at business. But there is one area where I shine: I’m a good sport. I can take a practical joke in stride, laugh it off, and not seek revenge (most of the time).

Throughout my entire adult life, friends and co-workers have delighted in pulling practical jokes on me or otherwise looking for ways to thrust me into embarrassing situations. They know I‘ll laugh along with everyone else at my very public humiliation. I really don’t really mind. I believe that they’d never attempt these stunts if they didn’t like me. Or maybe they viewed me as an easy mark. Yeah, now that I process this further, the latter explanation is starting to make a lot more sense to me.

Ladies and gentlemen: the stories you are about to hear are true. Only the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

In my freshman year at UVa, my dormmates signed me up for a computer dating event without my knowledge. I was understandably mystified to receive a letter that I had a date scheduled for Friday evening, since my social calendar was wide open from September through the end of Spring semester. I donned a suit and tie and went to the dance to meet my mystery match.

30 minutes into our first (and this may surprise you, our LAST) date, this guy storms in, gets in my face, and shouts, “That’s my fiancé, buddy. This date is over.” Apparently, the two were indeed engaged and thought it would be fun to see who they each got matched up with. Lucky me. I just wish I had had the presence of mind to have a snappy comeback like, “Hey buddy, she may be your fiancé but tonight she’s MY date. So take a number.” Several hilarious snappy comebacks would come to mind after our aborted date. But I didn’t say anything in the moment because, um, I was a good sport.

I was pretty OCD about grades in college, and often pulled all-nighters to cram for final exams. After one such ordeal, I came back to the apartment and collapsed on the couch. I was dead to the world when my roommates (Larry, Assad, and Bill) hovered over me and clapped loudly. As I came to in a fright, they snapped a photo. Ok, ha ha.

Well, two weeks later, I find Larry, Assad, and Bill huddled around our 13” black & white TV. They appeared rivetted. I asked what was so newsworthy on this lame cable channel at 3pm on a Thursday. Bill answered with earnest, “Tim, you gotta check this out. This station has some fantastic programming.” Intrigued, I peered over his shoulder as every 10 seconds a new screen would appear announcing local matters of no import. “These guys need to get a life,” I mused.

I always wanted to be on television – just not looking like this. Maybe some Hollywood agent would catch this program and offer me a comic gig with Jim Carrey.

I always wanted to be on television – just not looking like this. Maybe some Hollywood agent would catch this program and offer me a comic gig with Jim Carrey.

Then came a series of birthday announcements featuring images of adorable young children with messages like, “Happy Birthday, Melody Bishop, age 7” and “Birthday Wishes to Amy Johnson, age 5” followed by… “Happy Birthday, Timmy Jones, age 20.”

Staring back at me was the photo my roomies had taken after my all-nighter. I looked like a crazed serial killer, eyes maniacal, pointing at my next victim. The guys at the station evidently loved the photo because they continued to air my birthday message for three weeks. But I laughed because that’s what good sports do.

College was truly a training ground for me in becoming a really good sport. One morning while heading to classes, I noticed a giant 3’ x 2’ poster plastered to our mailboxes, with another extremely unflattering photo of ME!  Beneath my visage was a disquieting headline:

COME HEAR TIM “BARFY” JONES LECTURE STUDENTS AND FACULTY ON ICE CANDLES AND SNOW PICNICS AND THEIR EFFECT ON THE OUTER COSMOS. Tuesday night, 7pm at Wilson Hall.

My roomies were pranking me again – and they were just getting started. At my first class – a 300-seat lecture hall – this same giant poster was plastered on all the walls and even on the professor’s lectern. Same thing for my next class, and  the next… you get the point. Even the hallways were covered with this same mortifying poster. I vividly remember sitting behind two girls who were staring at the poster commenting, “This guy looks like a dork. What a freak show!” Well played, roomies.

In grad school, my girlfriend pulled a most unexpected prank for my birthday. She came to my apartment, handed me a rabbit, shouted “Happy Birthday!” and walked away. I thought, “Somebunny’s pulling my leg,” only it wasn’t a joke. The rabbit really was her birthday gift. (Rabbit cage, food and $600 in subsequent vet’s bills not included.) My relationship with this rabbit would continue three years longer than that with my soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.

This is exactly how I felt each time I had to dunk myself in the icy cold fountain, for a worthy cause. Great fun. And I found my subsequent pneumonia to be hysterical.

This is exactly how I felt each time I had to dunk myself in the icy cold fountain, for a worthy cause. Great fun. And I found my subsequent pneumonia to be hysterical.

My reputation for being a good sport followed me into the working world. During a United Way fundraising campaign, my boss signed me up for the “Dollars for Dunking” event. Every time someone donated $100, I would take a plunge into an outdoor fountain – in January – in a suit and tie. Let me just say, fundraising records were broken that day.

But nothing will quite match my ultimate indignity – the time my (formerly) dear friend Mark volunteered me to assist a street magician with his act. The fellow needed a sucker for his grand finale, which sadly wasn’t to make me disappear. That would have been a far less humiliating outcome.

As the performer scanned the crowd of 500, Mark thrust my hand high and shouted, “Tim will do it!”. What ensued was nothing short of a stripping of my dignity – and apparel. I was helpless as this street performer coaxed me into removing first my shoes, then socks, shirt, undershirt, pants…until all that remained to cover my nearly naked body were my tighty-whities. The crowd went wild, chanting, “Take it off, Tim.”  To find out whether I ultimately succumbed to their wild pleas, you’ll just have to read the full story here.

Being a good sport has defined my nature throughout life. I really have not minded all the embarrassment – and occasional humiliation – inflicted by supposed friends and obviously jealous co-workers. After all, it just means they like me…. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021. Edited by Betsy Jones.

A Newcomer’s Guide to Hockey’s Newest Team – The Seattle Kraken

A Newcomer’s Guide to Hockey’s Newest Team – The Seattle Kraken

This is a Seattle Kraken player trying to score. Modern ice hockey was invented in Canada in 1872. That’s because Canada is totally covered in ice and snow 9 months of the year. It quickly became the national sport, eventually overtaking the previous #1 pastime, getting drunk and making beaver hats.

This is a Seattle Kraken player trying to score. Modern ice hockey was invented in Canada in 1872. That’s because Canada is totally covered in ice and snow 9 months of the year. It quickly became the national sport, eventually overtaking the previous #1 pastime, getting drunk and making beaver hats.

Most people know very little about the sport of hockey. But did you know that, except for baseball, the National Hockey League (NHL) is the oldest of North America’s professional sports leagues? The NBA was launched in 1946, and the NFL started in 1920. But the NHL dates all the way back to 1917 – a full 41 years before the Professional Bowlers Association was founded. Isn’t that fascinating? Okay, maybe not, but stay with me.

I live near Seattle. This October, for the first time since 1924, we launched an NHL franchise. Now, hockey is the sport everyone here is talking about.

The newest NHL team is called the Seattle Kraken (pronounced “KRACK-in”). If you’re like most hockey fans, you probably have many questions, such as “What is a Kraken?” and “Seriously, what the heck is a Kraken?” and “Technically, shouldn’t there be an “s” at the end, as in the Seattle Krakens?” and “What the hell happened? Were all the good team names taken?”

These are all excellent questions. To be clear, the name is KRAKEN (not to be confused with CRACKLE, one of the three Rice Krispies cartoon characters). I did extensive research into the name’s meaning, by which I mean I Googled “what is a kraken.” It turns out, according to Wikipedia, it’s “a legendary sea monster of gigantic size and cephalopod-like appearance from Scandinavian folklore that was fifty feet in length.”

The sheer size and fearsome appearance of this evil beast have made it a common monster in books and movies about the sea. Most Americans first heard the term “Kraken” in the film Pirates of the Caribbean. So, yeah, it’s basically just a big, fat, ugly squid.

Seattle fans are thrilled to have a new professional sports team, especially since their hopes of having a professional baseball team are still several years away (sorry, Mariners fans) and our Seattle Seahawks football team has totally cratered this season, losing their star quarterback due to injury.

Fans have come up with several creative chants to rally their new team: “Release the Kraken” and “The Kraken are Attackin’” and “The Kraken suck.” That last one was from a jaded fan who’s ticked that they’ve been losing most of their games so far.

As a marketing expert, I came up with an idea sure to pack them in the seats: Free Krak to the first 5,000 fans. Okay, that one may need a little more work, not to mention spell-checking.

For the newcomer to the sport of hockey, the object, as best as I can tell from watching a few games, is to beat the crap out of the other team and pummel them into submission. If that doesn’t work, they may try a back -up strategy of attempting to get a small cylindrical object into a net.

For the newcomer to the sport of hockey, the object, as best as I can tell from watching a few games, is to beat the crap out of the other team and pummel them into submission. If that doesn’t work, they may try a back
-up strategy of attempting to get a small cylindrical object into a net.

In ice hockey, all the players are required to grow beards. It’s an unwritten rule – sort of like the policy that all the best players must come from Russia or Manitoba. Or that you can only have one black player per team. Don’t ask me why. I don’t make the rules.

There are six positions: three offensive players (center, left wing, right wing), two defensemen, and a goaltender (or goalie). By far, the most challenging, high-pressure job in hockey is that of goalie. The selection of who gets to be the goalie is determined by a vote of the players coming to a consensus as to which teammate everyone feels warrants the most thankless job.

You can easily spot the goalie. He’s the one covered in more protective padding than a Michelangelo sculpture being shipped to the Louvre. The goalie’s job is to protect the net. The opposing team’s job is to make the goalie wish his team would do a recount on the vote that assigned him to be goalie.

If a player commits a penalty, he gets sent to the penalty box. Think of it like a timeout in your room but for men with beards and bad hair. Minor penalties are two minutes in length. Major penalties (for things like fighting) are five minutes. Body checking the referee into the boards would be considered a major penalty and is generally frowned upon – except in Boston. Boston Bruins fans love it when their Bruins play dirty.

The main reason people go to hockey matches, of course, is not for the actual game itself, but to egg on their players to take off their gloves and start a fight. Winning the game is a nice bonus, but what really matters is getting the chance to watch in person while a chaotic melee erupts, and your team pummels the other team’s players into bloody submission.

But if you’re one of the few who cares about how the game is actually played, then here are a few things as a hockey newbie you should learn. First, this game has a lot of jargon. The hockey rink is called the “barn.” Another name for the puck is “biscuit.” A “hat trick” refers to three goals scored by the same player in a game. Meanwhile, a “Gordie Howe hat trick” is when a player picks up a goal, an assist and a fight in a single game. (Hall-of-Famer Gordie was a notoriously hot-headed player who was always getting into brawls.)

Let’s go over a few Do’s and Don’ts for the uninitiated hockey fan.

Do dress warmly. Hockey arenas are cold. Remember to bring a winter cap and gloves. Just because your team might be the Tampa Bay Lightning doesn’t mean they play in a swimming pool surrounded by palm trees. Ice is cold. Dress appropriately.

Don’t ask me to explain the icing rule – or for that matter, offsides in soccer. I’ve never been able to figure out either of these rules.

Do throw your hat on the ice if your team’s player scores a hat trick.

Seattle is the home of the newest NHL hockey franchise – the Kraken. What is a “Kraken”, you ask? Hell if I know. Nobody here really knows. But you gotta love the team’s motto: “They’ll kick the Krack out of you!”

Seattle is the home of the newest NHL hockey franchise – the Kraken. What is a “Kraken”, you ask? Hell if I know. Nobody here really knows. But you gotta love the team’s motto: “They’ll kick the Krack out of you!”

Don’t try to retrieve it while the game is still going.

Do plan to see lots of brawls break out between the players. Hockey is a violent sport.

Don’t jump over the boards and join the fracas – unless your team really looks like it’s losing the fight and could use your help.

Do feel free to express your anger at the referees after a bad call. Everybody does it.

Don’t direct your tirade about the horrible officiating to the fan sitting next to you – unless he’s rooting for the other team and you’re confident you can take him.

Hockey is a great, albeit brutal, sport. Sort of the modern-day equivalent of gladiators but with blades on their feet. I have no idea what kind of year our Seattle Kraken are going to have. As a first year expansion team, I’m not optimistic. But I hear their starting left defenseman is missing three teeth and has a well-earned reputation for body checking opponents over the boards. Sounds like my kind of fun. Let’s Get Krackin!

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021