Mr. Popularity – The Early Years

Mr. Popularity – The Early Years

This is my high school senior yearbook photo. I know what you’re thinking: Tim, you look so cool – not the least bit nerdy.

This is my high school senior yearbook photo. I know what you’re thinking: Tim, you look so cool – not the least bit nerdy.

I am often asked, “Tim, were you always so popular and beloved by all who know you?” Admittedly this question is usually posed during a recurring dream in which Scarlett Johansson presents me with the Pulitzer Prize for Bad Humor Writing. You may find this hard to imagine, but in my younger days, I was not nearly so popular with the girls or envied by the guys; nor was I as comfortable making verifiably false claims as I am today.

The truth is, before college, where I assumed a totally new identity and back story, I was rather shy and nervous – especially around the fairer sex. I blame this on attending the Albany Academy, an all-boys’ school, for twelve years and being a late bloomer (I expect to start blooming any day now).

In addition to these impediments, I was one of the lucky teens who wore braces, was afflicted by acne, and was slightly overweight. I also lived nowhere near any of the other kids in my school, so getting together with them was a no go. Then sprinkle in a large dollop of parental disapproval from an extremely strict father who perpetually described me as “a disappointment,” and you have the perfect recipe for an awkward young man not exactly brimming with self-confidence.

At the Academy, a private military school, there were the usual cliques – the cool kids, jocks, theater guys, and stoners. I belonged to a very small and eclectic group consisting of one member: me. I was the pleasant enough but somewhat serious “straight arrow” who was considered too much of a bookworm to invite to parties. On most Saturday nights, while the majority of my class was getting drunk at Woody’s house or Hayward’s or Robb’s, I was typically at home, falling asleep watching Mannix at 10:00 on CBS. 

Truth be told, I didn’t really care that I missed all the parties, in part because I did not drink (still don’t), and also, I just was not into that scene. I found meaning in studying – all the time. There’s a word for someone like me who routinely got good grades and devoutly completed all homework before allowing himself to play: A Nerd.

I guess, if I’m being honest with myself (something I try to avoid as much as possible), I was a little behind the curve in a few areas – like what to say on a date… or what to wear on a date… or how to get a date. Continue reading “Mr. Popularity – The Early Years” »

A Night at the Opera – Act Two

A Night at the Opera – Act Two

After my first trip to the Opera last year, I swore I’d never go through that punishment again. I appear to be a slow learner, because I did go again. Read what you need to know to survive. It just might save a life.

After my first trip to the Opera last year, I swore I’d never go through that punishment again. I appear to be a slow learner, because I did go again. Read what you need to know to survive. It just might save a life.

A year ago, I did something incredibly stupid. I listened to my wife. More specifically, I agreed to join her and some friends for a night at the opera. Well, I did it again.

Right about now, you may be saying, “Hey, Tim, buddy, didn’t you learn from last year’s debacle at the opera? You even wrote about it.”  If you’re one of the five people who actually read that column called A Night at The Opera, thank you for your support. My only excuse can be summed up by Winston Churchill’s wisdom, that ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’ Clearly, I failed.

I’m still not quite sure what offense I committed for which my penance was to yawn through another evening of arias and over-acting by prima donnas. But I survived, and I have finally learned. And I’m here to impart my new-found wisdom to those husbands who find themselves caught in a similar bind.

Fellas, lesson number one: never under any circumstances let your wife rope you into going to the opera. Tell her you have food poisoning from her tacos (inflicting guilt helps). Or tell her you’ve been drafted to our southern border to defend our country against 11-year-old Guatemalan kids armed with Hello Kitty backpacks. Whatever it takes to get out of going.

We attended one of the most famous operas ever written: La bohème, by Puccini. Now, in my defense, I was only half-listening when my wife suggested the event. I heard something about Bohemian and mistook it for the recent movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, about Freddie Mercury of the rock group Queen. Turns out the only thing this opera had in common with Freddie was that the lead tenor had long hair and liked to strut around the stage a lot. Continue reading “A Night at the Opera – Act Two” »

Thanksgiving at the Casino

Thanksgiving at the Casino

Ah, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, where the wife does all the work and the husband just carves the bird, then watches football. But this year, our Thanksgiving was nothing like this scene. Not even close.

Ah, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, where the wife does all the work and the husband just carves the bird, then watches football. But this year, our Thanksgiving was nothing like this scene. Not even close.

Every year for as far back as I can remember, we’ve had company for Thanksgiving. But for the first time in our 31 years of marriage, we’d be quietly celebrating alone, just the two of us – and our cats. Where were our daughters? I guess, being adults and having their own incomes inspired them to make other plans. We will cherish their texts from Florida.

Then the day before Thanksgiving, we received an invitation from two friends whom I will call “Dave” and “Susan” (out of respect for Terry’s and Sharon’s privacy), to join them dining out for Thanksgiving.

Of course, I had to decline this generous offer. I had already made exciting plans to prepare Michele a home-cooked meal of microwaved turkey pot pies with peas, accompanied by Uncle Ben’s rice pilaf. Strangely, my wife questioned my thinking: “Excuse me? You declined??? What’s wrong with you? “So, you would rather eat genetically mutated turkey bits and plastic peas than join our friends for the real thing? Call him back and tell him YES, you idiot.” Technically, she didn’t actually say “you idiot.” But I’m fairly certain she was thinking it.

The plan was to enjoy the special Thanksgiving Day All-You-Can-Eat buffet at the Tulalip Casino. The restaurant did not take reservations. First come, first served. We arrived at what we thought was a reasonable hour: 1:00 p.m. I gave my keys to the valet and we headed inside the casino. I was surprised to see hundreds of people playing the slot machines. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but nothing says Thanksgiving like playing the Beyoncé-dollar slots.  Continue reading “Thanksgiving at the Casino” »

A Sign I Have Too Much Time on My Hands

A Sign I Have Too Much Time on My Hands

Do you know the distance from my house to the South Pole? Of course, you don’t. But I do. That’s because I recently erected a giant sign pole complete with weather vane in my front yard that displays the direction and distance to several far-flung places, including the South Pole. How far is it from our house here on Camano Island, Washington to say, Cape Town, South Africa? Glad you asked: 10,199 miles southeast. Distance to Pitcairn Island? 5,022 miles almost due south. Moscow, Russia? I have no idea. But I can see Russia from my back door, so no matter.

For years, I’ve been fascinated by those rustic towering poles with signs pointing to remote locales like Timbuktu (yes, that’s an actual place). Maybe it’s the wanderlust in me or my long-held interest in maps. Or perhaps I’ve read too many National Geographic articles about the lost tribes of Borneo. Whatever the reason, I decided to plant one of these (poles, not Borneans) in our yard as a fun conversation piece. Prior to this project, the only thing quirky about our house was my wife’s husband.

I asked my wife if she’d be okay if I built one of these and gave it a prominent location on our front yard. To my amazement, she did not protest in the slightest. Even when she woke from her nap, and I asked her again, she was still moderately amenable. She had just two conditions: first, I had to promise to not do a sloppy job. Second, I could not try to conscript her assistance with this fool’s errand. Deal, I said, knowing all too well there was no way I would live up to the second condition. Continue reading “A Sign I Have Too Much Time on My Hands” »

My Visit to Whimsical Chumleighland

My Visit to Whimsical Chumleighland

I recently took a trip back in time, and it did not require inventing a time machine or ingesting any hallucinatory drugs. I simply drove ten miles to a quirky, iconoclastic place in the middle of nowhere called Chumleighland in the Woods. It was named in honor of its owner, Reverend Chumleigh – who, I soon discovered, is not an actual reverend nor is that his real name. So why is it called Chumleighland? Heck if I know. Why did God make the Duck-Billed Platypus? There are some questions to which we may never find the answer.

What a fascinating, strange visit it turned out to be. My wife and I had seen small ads in the local newspaper about this odd-sounding place hidden away in the forest near the southern tip of our island. We had no idea what to expect. We followed Google Maps but when it announced, “You have arrived,” we could not locate anything resembling a building, a park, or even traces of previous human contact. 

Suddenly, I spied a tiny sliver of a clearing in the woods, barely wide enough for a refrigerator, with a closed gate. Then out of the thicket emerged an older chap with long grey hair and a scraggly beard. He gave off a Gandalf meets Jerry Garcia kind of vibe. He donned a t-shirt that read “It’s Mueller Time” and featured a cartoon rendering of Robert Mueller in cool-looking sunglasses. “Do you know how we get to Chumleighland?” I asked uncertainly. “Just drive into the grove. Park anywhere and follow the torches. Oh, and watch out for the cats.” That was my introduction to the good Reverend Chumleigh.

We parked by a massive oak tree, as there was no parking lot. Dutifully, we followed the torch-lit path, which meandered beside a miniature train track, like what you’d see at a children’s petting zoo. “Oh, the train should be running again by next week. I just have to clear some felled trees,” explained our ebullient host. Somehow that almost made sense to me. Continue reading “My Visit to Whimsical Chumleighland” »

My Short-Lived Career as a BINGO Announcer

My Short-Lived Career as a BINGO Announcer

Throughout my life, I’ve held a variety of jobs – from Sales Director to Director of Sales and everything in between. Given the chance, I could have been a superstar selling advertising, life insurance or legal research to anyone from astronauts to Aborigines, had my employers not fired me for poor performance and incompetence. So, you can imagine my excitement when I recently heard about an opening that sounded right up my alley: Working the BINGO booth at our local county fair.

When word got to me that a local non-profit needed help with the fair’s BINGO operations, I knew I was the perfect candidate. When the BINGO Boss man called, I was totally prepared. I had updated my resume to reflect relevant skills that made me uniquely qualified for this challenge – most notably that I was adept – even under pressure – at differentiating most letters from numbers.   

I was surprised at how few questions the recruiter posed during the interview. His opening pitch was, “Are you willing to work the BINGO booth at the fair this weekend?” From the get-go, I picked up on serious buying signals. Not to appear immodest, but I am a tenacious negotiator. I asked him what the base salary was. He said there was no salary. I interpreted that to mean it was commission-only. No problem, I thought. That just means the sky’s the limit.

I asked about stock options, how the health insurance plan worked, whether the job came with a matching 401K and when I’d be eligible for my four weeks of vacation. In the end, we reached what I feel was a fair compromise: No salary, vacation, stock options or health coverage. But I wrangled free entrance to the entire fairgrounds – including behind-the-scenes access to the rabbits exhibit and the tractor pull competition.    Continue reading “My Short-Lived Career as a BINGO Announcer” »