THE GREAT PHONINI – The World’s Greatest Telephone Magician

THE GREAT PHONINI – The World’s Greatest Telephone Magician

Prepare to be amazed. Introducing the one, the only GREAT PHONINI, the world’s greatest telephone magician – and as far as we can tell, the ONLY one.

Prepare to be amazed. Introducing the one, the only GREAT PHONINI, the world’s greatest telephone magician – and as far as we can tell, the ONLY one.

[The telephone rings] RRRRRINNGGG! RRRRRINNGGG!   

Guy answering his phone: “Hello?”

Telephone Announcer: “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, INTRODUCING THE WORLD’S GREATEST TELEPHONE MAGICIAN. And now, for your listening amusement and AMAZEMENT, it’s the one, the only, THE GREAT PHONINI!”

Guy: “Excuse me? Who’s calling?”

The GREAT PHONINI: Thank you very much for coming. And now –

Guy: “What? I didn’t come anywhere. I’m in my living room. Is this Barney? What’s up, buddy?

PHONINI: “It’s not Barney. It is I, the GREAT PHO-NI-NI!! And you are about to hear some magical miracles like you’ve never heard before. Now, close your eyes and – “

Guy: “Um, hold on a minute. Did you just say, ‘you’re about to HEAR some magic?’ Is this Barney? You really had me going there for a minute.”

PHONINI: “Like I said, it is not Barney. It is I, the GREAT PHO-NI-NI. Imagine for a minute that you can see this gorgeous buxom blond woman standing beside me. This is my incredibly talented – and sexy – assistant, Gretchen.”

Guy: “Um, sure, Barney, I mean, All Great and Powerful Oz.”

PHONINI: “This isn’t the Wizard of Oz. I’m the GREAT PHONINI, the world’s greatest telephone magician. If you could see her, I am sure you’d agree that Gretchen is quite stunning. Gretchen, will you please enter this giant box before you?” [He pauses explaining that Gretchen needs time to get situated in the box.] “Very good. Caller, notice how I open the box and there are no hidden compartments of any kind. Now, if you will count to three… “

Guy: “Seriously? Okay. This better not be a weird sales pitch from T-Mobile. I told them four times now I am not interested in their upgrade package. Okay, ‘1, 2, 3.’ “

PHONINI: “Abracadabra! As you can hear, Gretchen is gone. Hard to believe, right?”

Guy: “You got that right. Dude, you realize we’re on the fricking phone, right? I can’t see a thing. You expect me just to believe you that she’s magically vanished? How about we switch to FACETIME so I can see?”

PHONINI: “I don’t have Facetime. My flip phone can only make audio calls. But trust me. If you could have seen what just happened, you’d be blown away. My lovely assistant is gone. But would you like me to bring her back?”

Guy: “Back? Back from where? Next to you on your couch? But what the heck. I’ll play along. Sure. Amaze me. Please, Lord, bring her back. Whatever.”

PHONINI: “I will now say the magic words: Hocus Pocus. And voila, Gretchen’s back. ‘Gretchen, did you miss me?’ She’s nodding yes.”

Guy: “Okay, who is this really? And if you really are the GREAT PHONINI, how do you expect me to believe you made Gretchen disappear. Let me guess. Gretchen is your basset hound, and you just threw her a ball to make her momentarily disappear, until she came back with the ball, Am I right?”

PHONINI: “You’ll just have to trust me. Now for my next incredible feat, listen as Gretchen ties me up in unbreakable chains and a straitjacket. ‘Now, Gretchen, make it as tight as possible, dear.’  [There is a pause and there are sounds of grunting and clanking chains in the background.] There, I’m completely tied up. And now Gretchen has attached my chains to a fifteen-foot high crane. [Grunting and breathing heavily] Now I’m upside down, [more grunts] hovering precariously over a steaming cauldron of boiling oil that is over 1,000 degrees.”

Guy: “Hmm. Let me guess. In a minute you’re going to tell me that you somehow escaped from your terrifying predicament miraculously within seconds of the crane lowering you into the boiling oil.”

[Over the phone] “And now, The GREAT PHONINI will magically turn this rabbit into a bouquet of roses. Abracadabra, Presto Chango. Would you like a rose, sir?” “Um, who are you, dude, and how did you get my number?”

[Over the phone] “And now, The GREAT PHONINI will magically turn this rabbit into a bouquet of roses. Abracadabra, Presto Chango. Would you like a rose, sir?”
“Um, who are you, dude, and how did you get my number?”

PHONINI: “How did you know? Have I called you before? Anyway, just watch, I mean listen. [Over the phone, we hear more loud grunting and clanking until finally, PHONINI coughs and then whispers in an exhausted voice.]  “Wow, that was close. For a moment there, I thought I was going to meet my maker.”

Guy: “And who is your maker? T-Mobile? How’d you get my phone number anyway? Was that magic, too?”

PHONINI: “And now for a mystifying card trick. Caller, pick a card, any card.”

Guy: “Why are you saying, ‘caller?’ You called ME, remember?”

PHONINI: “Have you chosen your card? Write it down on a piece of paper.”

Guy: “This is ridiculous.”

PHONINI: “Have you written it down, sir?”

Guy [grabs a piece of paper and writes down the four of clubs]: “Okay, okay. I’ve written it down.”

PHONINI: “Very good, my fine chap. Is this your card?

Guy: Is WHAT my card? I can’t see what you’re holding.

PHONINI: Oh, right. My bad. Well, then. Would your card by any chance be the seven of hearts?”

Guy: “Nope. Very impressive.”

PHONINI: “Oh dear. Well then, surely it must have been the Jack of Spades.”

Guy: Strike two, El PHONINI.”

PHONINI: “My, this is quite embarrassing. My good fellow, would you mind going to your refrigerator and opening the door?”

Guy: “Dude, you’re starting to creep me out. If this is Barney, you really need to stop your day drinking, buddy. Okay, I’m at my fridge and I’ve opened the door.”

PHONINI: Excellent. Now, open the crisper drawer and grab that orange sitting there.”

Guy: “Wait, what? How did you know I have an orange in my fridge?”

PHONINI: “Lucky guess.“

Guy: “Yeah, yeah. Seriously, how did you know I had an orange there? Is T-Mobile bugging my house with hidden web cams?”

PHONINI: “Now, take a sharp-edged knife and slice your orange in half.”

Guy: “You know, I’m this close to calling the cops on you. But okay, here goes.” [Guy grabs a knife and slices the orange down the middle.]

PHONINI: “Please peel the cover off the orange. Tell me, what do you see?”

Guy [peels the cover off, as instructed]: “What the f*ck? There’s a card inside the cover of my orange.”

PHONINI: “Would you mind sharing what card appears?”

Guy: “How in the HELL did you do that!!!”

PHONINI: “What, pray tell, is the card you have found, sir?”

Guy [thunderstruck with confusion]: “It’s the four of clubs. That’s my card! THAT’S MY CARD!! How did you do that???!!!”

PHONINI: “It’s magic. Thank you for being a great audience. And now for my very final act, I will make myself disappear.”

And in a flash, the GREAT PHONINI vanished. The line was dead.

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

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Apparently My Wife Doesn’t Like It When I Kiss Other Women

Apparently My Wife Doesn’t Like It When I Kiss Other Women

Sometimes I can disappoint my wife and, without intending to, hurt her feelings. For example, recently she was telling me something about something – not really sure what her point was. I was watching a football game at the time. Then she asked me a question about something or other. Apparently, “Sure, honey, that’s great” was not the response she was looking for when she asked me (I later learned) “When do you plan to start making dinner?” So, she got a little peeved, if you can believe this, just because I had not listened to a single word she’d been saying for the past five minutes. In my defense, it was a playoff game.

Don’t get me wrong. My wife is a wonderful person. But she asked that I not mention her by name in this story and therefore will be referred to as “Joanna.” I love Mic – er, Joanna dearly. But sometimes, it seems I can’t quite measure up to her lofty expectations of her husband. Now and then she’ll roll her eyes in annoyance over the most trivial infractions. Like the time I left the toilet seat up after I used it. Or the time I ate the last slice of German Chocolate cake without consulting her first. Or the time I kissed another woman.

Perhaps that last example warrants additional clarification. I couldn’t very well deny that I had kissed another woman because, technically, I did it right in front of Joanna. She saw the whole thing. I must have misread the other woman’s buying signals because when I kissed her, like Joanna, she was none too pleased about it. This woman, who I’ll call “Sarah,” was, to my surprise, so put off by my sudden romantic overture that she slapped me across the face. But I have an explanation for my actions: She was really attractive. (My wife has informed me that does not make what I did okay. I guess I just disappointed her again.)

In retrospect, I can see how my actions might have been slightly hurtful to Joanna. Perhaps I should have asked her for permission before I took Sarah in my arms, caressed her hair, and kissed her. I probably did not make things any better when later that same evening, I approached Sarah again and once again planted a passionate kiss on her lips. My wife caught me in the act this second time as well. (She sure can be a busybody.) My encore kissing performance just made matters worse. I now appreciate how, from Joanna’s perspective, I probably mishandled this affair, because, to be honest, I didn’t give a second’s thought about how my actions would impact my life partner.

I imagine Joanna was asking herself, “Who is this man I thought I knew? Can’t he see I’m right here?!?” I should add that on my second romantic overture, as our mouths came together, Sarah didn’t slap me. She didn’t push me away. Quite the contrary. She acted as if she really liked it – a lot. She put her arms around me and swooned. It was magical – except for the small part about Joanna being a witness to this scene. I was concerned that she might not speak to me for the rest of the evening – or make me dinner.

I am not proud to admit that I pursued this tawdry affair for three weeks. I only saw Sarah on Friday and Saturday evenings, and on a couple Sunday afternoons. Before each visit, I rehearsed what I was going to say to her to win her heart again. And my lines worked perfectly. Each rendezvous was as exciting as the previous one. But after three weeks, Sarah abruptly broke it off, without so much as a goodbye kiss. She decided she had to put our affair behind her. I never saw her again. I would never feel the touch of her ruby red lips or her hands as they forcefully slapped my face, ever again.

I have to say, Joanna was surprisingly forgiving. Because after having witnessed me kiss Sarah not once but twice, on the way home, she barely brought it up. What a great gal! But to be honest, I’m not really sure why any of this should have bothered her in the first place. For starters, Joanna and I weren’t even married at the time. We were just dating. I had never said I wouldn’t see other people.

Spoiler Alert: When Joanna and I were dating, I got cast as Sky Masterson in a community theater production of Guys And Dolls. My character had to kiss his female co-star, Sarah Brown, twice in each of our show’s eight performances. Hey, I was just doing my job!

Spoiler Alert: When Joanna and I were dating, I got cast as Sky Masterson in a community theater production of Guys And Dolls. My character had to kiss his female co-star, Sarah Brown, twice in each of our show’s eight performances. Hey, I was just doing my job!

Oh, and I’m not sure if this next part is important, but the woman I kissed was a fellow actor in a community theater production of Guys And Dolls we were in, in Miami, FL, the city where Joanna and I first met. We were on stage in front of 400 people just performing our lines, which included two kissing scenes.

So, if you ask me, I really think my wife should have taken up her concerns with the director, not me. I was just following the script.

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

[Author’s Postscript: The story above is 100% true. In the play, my character, a rogue, suave gambler named Sky Masterson, falls in love with a character exactly his opposite: an upright, devoutly religious Salvation Army worker named, you guessed it, SARAH Brown.

Our characters kissed twice in each of our eight performances, which were performed on Friday and Saturday nights and matinees on Sunday. In the first instance, the virtuous, innocent Sarah is mortified by Sky’s slick, overly bold unexpected kiss, so much so that she slaps him in the face afterward. And my co-star did not hold back! But later in the play, the two characters fall deeply in love and Sky kisses her again, this time, with her swooning in his arms – just the way my wife swoons every time I kiss her. Um, sort of . – TEJ]

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2022

“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.

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 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.

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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