TBT: La Macchina Da Scrivere

Today, April 30th, was a big day for history.

Like BIG big.

I had so much to choose from. Like, did you know that the planetoid, formally known as  Pluto, actually came inside Neptune's orbit today and stayed like that for about fifty years?  That's pretty cool.

In 1995 "Blood Brothers" closed on Broadway after 839 performances, which probably means nothing to you, but landing the lead role in that musical in 1997, changed the whole scope of my life.

Lots of terrible things happening to Jews and Native Americans dating back to before the dark ages and continuing . . . well . . . continuing.

In U.S. news we elected our first president (Washington), established our Navy in 1798, and purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803, so we too are continuing continuing.

Sports fans will know this day as the day the New York Highlanders played their first game against the Washington Senators in 1903.

BTW, the Highlanders eventually became the Yankees, that's why it's important.


Now, if you go anywhere today, or listen to any news, pick up a paper, or walk by a television set, you're gonna be informed that today is the 40th Anniversary of the official end of the Vietnam War.

. . . or police action, if you prefer.

Lot of old people are gonna be crying, cause they have very strong feelings about all that.

Who wouldn't?

So I spent the better part of my morning wondering if I had anything to say about war, or police actions (not to mention the demotion of Planet Pluto) and two things came into my mind.

One is a story, and the other is a quote.

The story happened in 1990/1991-ish which you will probably remember as Operation Desert Storm and I will always remember as my freshman year of high school.

What I remember is the whole front of the newspaper was taken up by the big blocky letters "WAR!"

What I also remember is that we were all pretty excited about it. Somebody was picking a fight with one of our buddies, and we were gonna go in there and kick some ass.

The U.S. International Motto being: "Do your thang, brah, but mess with my hommies and we're gonna drop a world of hurt down on you."

Or something like that.

Remember, we still said the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of class time. Which, and I know this sounds terrible, I can still recite, and just like "The Lord's Prayer" there's a part of me that misses it. Is it naive if everybody does it?

Anyway, so I go home that day, bombs bursting in air, rockets glaring red, and spoke to my father about cool it felt.

He smiled and nodded his head.

"That's pretty much the way we felt at the beginning of the Vietnam War." and he left it at that.

Now if you grew up in the seventies/eighties or thereafter, you think of the Vietnam War as the terrible horrible no good very bad thing that Nixon did. Propaganda swings both ways.

I'm not saying it wasn't.

I'm not saying it was.

It is what it is.

And I wasn't there.

But to hear someone, who was there, make a remark like that, it reminds you to think of history not as a collection of dates and names . . . but as amazing tool for which draw parallels.

My fourteen year old dad felt the same way about the Vietnam War in 1964 as the fourteen year old me felt about Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Let's kick some ass.

Anyway, the other thing was a quote from one of my favorite books, which was this:

"If you can't communicate . . . how do you know he's not trying to kill you?"

The character who said that was referring to aliens, but let's be honest, a monstrous ant-like creature in a space ship, is no less foreign to me than a man who speaks arabic and covers his wife from head to toe in heavy black sheets.

Nor I to him . . . just to make things seem fair.

And neither of us are pacifists. No one is really a pacifist.

Sure you wouldn't punch a six year old in the face, but what if that six year old pulled a knife on your four year old?

Lights out kiddo.

So the spectrum lies somewhere between 'Let's Kick Some Ass.' and 'Let's Think Things Through.'

We probably shoulda thought things through before Vietnam, just like we probably shoulda thought things through before invading Iraq both times. However, if we hadn't spent so much time thinking things through in the 1930's and early 1940's, we probably could've helped avert the Holocaust.

Poor jews.

Always the jews.

Anyway . . . there is good news. (Aside from Pluto being names a planet again)

The good news is that history is changing.


Over millennia.

But changing.

Because on April 30th 1808, Pellegrini Turri invented "La Macchina Da Scrivere"

The machine with which to write.

The typewriter . . . he invented the typewriter.

Though saying 'la macchina da scrivere' out loud is pretty sexy. Especially when my wife says it.

Lah mahk heena day scree veer ray.


And yes, we've had writing forms for a couple thousand years at this point, and the printing press was already a thing, but the typewriter democratized information.

You didn't have to be rich to write rich.

And the information you had, whoever you are, can go anywhere. It ushered in the industrial revolution, the age of the electron, the age of computers, and now, I can communicate with a guy who speaks arabic and dresses his wife from head to toe in heavy black sheets just as easily as I can communicate to my next door neighbor.

Here's what I'd say to both.

"Hey, could you keep it down? I'm trying to write."

Send Us Your Marketing Plan

I've been doing food recipes on Wednesdays, which has been a lot of fun, especially watching my wife roll her eyes at the dinner table because I have to stop and take pictures.

Pictures are important for good marketing.

People like to buy things that have, or are in, pretty pictures.

The reason I'm not doing a bit on food today is that I don't have any pictures.

I sorta forgot.

That, and the pictures I have taken all look a little weird, and sorta gross. The reason for that is I'm not a photographer.

I get lucky sometimes. I've studied it a little bit. I'm pretty good with angles and focus, though my supporters have mentioned that I tilt things too much. But, on the whole, I'm not a photographer.

Especially not a food photographer.

That's like a really really special skill.

You need good lighting, and good plating, and your hand needs to not shake because you're so effing hungry.

That happens to me a lot by dinner time. I'm hungry and my hands shake.

So without a clear topic for today, I decided to skip the blogging portion of my day and go right to the 'work' part. The 'work' part consists of answering emails, checking stats, and scouring the world wide web for writing and music opportunities. It doesn't sound like work, but it's the part of the day that I hate the most, so I call it 'work.'

For an hour or so I sifted through pages and pages of small publishers and literary agents looking for the kind of people that might find me amusing, and I noticed a general theme.

Of course all submissions require a bio, a synopsis, and the understanding that I probably won't ever hear back from them, and if I do, it won't be until 2017, but then there's always that final box in the submission guidelines:

"Send Us your Marketing Plan"

Which . . . and I know this sounds naive . . . seems a little weird to me.

Cause I don't have a marketing plan.

Cause . . . and get this . . . I am neither a publisher . . . nor a literary agent.

You know . . . the kind of people who have marketing plans.

Same goes for music too.

Except instead of a marketing plan, they say "What's Your Draw?"

It's not limited to the arts either. As the retail manager for a mid-sized company I used to get asked about my marketing plan a lot.

Like a lot a lot.

This was a company with an entire marketing department . . . and still they came to me for my input.

At first I was flattered. Of course they want my marketing plan! I am the master of the universe, an all knowing all powerful being. And then twice a month, the other masters of the universe and I would gather together to share our insights and successes and challenge each other to do better next time. Everyone came with new ideas and all their new ideas were great!

And when they weren't great, we cheated the statistics to make our great ideas look at least palatable.

And the new ideas got old.

So we added new masters of the universe to come with their new marketing plans. Except it didn't take long for us to all realize that the new marketing plans, were in fact, just the old marketing plans with renewed enthusiasm.

Renewed enthusiasm is the name of the game. It's like Monopoly or the novels of Tolstoy. You'd like to think there is a grand plan, but it will never really end and it's past your bedtime. Pick it up again tomorrow.

So maybe I'm not the Master of the Universe. I could swing a sword like Heman, but I'll never get away with a pageboy hair cut.

If I have a dream, it's not to become rich, or famous, or even critically acclaimed.

(None of that would hurt, of course)

But to get to a point in my life where no one is going to ask for my marketing plans, would be awful peachy.

Not sure if it's possible, not in this line of work anyway, but it's a good dream.

HTT: How To Junk Mail

Hadn't checked the mail box in a while.

That was a mistake.

What greeted me was a three inch stack of papers. Pretty sure it was heavier than my mortgage loan documents.

And of that three inch stack? Exactly two magazines and one bill. The rest was . . . well . . . junk . . . which reminded me of a joke about a guy passing out flyers on the streets of Vegas and saying to people:

"No . . . you throw this away."

Or something like that.

It's a joke that is much funnier in person


This isn't exactly a lecture on waste. We all know it's wasteful. We all like trees. None of us need a $600 dining room set. What bothers me is the time and energy it takes to sift through all that nonsense.

A little personality disorder: I'm the guy that cleans out his email accounts at least twice a day. (Of which I have 4) If I haven't opened an email from some group in a day or two, I'm the guy that immediately unsubscribes from receiving emails of any type, ever again.

Anytime I have to enter my email address, I will spend a few minutes looking for that little box that says "Don't send me any more crap, I've got a life."

And you're probably thinking that 4 email addresses are a bit much, which yeah, I can totally see that, but I've got a personal account, a business account, the account for my pen-name, and the Yahoo account that lets me participate in Fantasy Football.

So really not that much.

I didn't even bother to include my old AOL account which I use just to see the look on people's faces when they see I've still got one of those.

I think I have a MySpace account too, but I'm too terrified to go there.

The point being, of the accounts that I actively use, I keep them very clean.

I have a friend who showed me her iPhone with 666 unopened emails. I needed a heart valve replacement after she showed me that.

Anyway, with SPAM filters on high alert, and a slightly over-the-top dedication to unsubscribing from things, my emails are pretty tidy.

My mailbox . . . not so much.

So in my bi-weekly trips to the mail box and back I have to prepare. I have to clean the kitchen, wipe down the island, take out the trash, put on some comfortable shoes, warm up the shredder, and prepare for this week's "How To Tuesday" for something I've decided to call THE GREAT SIFT.

The mail box is four houses down and happens to sit right in front of that one neighbor who likes to leave her two big barking hound-dogs leashed to a tree that is six feet away.

They are very nice dogs, or so I've been told, but they bark at everything and everybody, and . . . personality disorder number 2: Barking dogs freak me out.

Always have . . . always will. Can't help it.

So either I have to wait, or I send my nine-year-old to get the mail. Barking dogs freak him out too, but he's grown accustom to these dogs in particular and their braying doesn't bother him anymore.

That's called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

I should get me some of that.

Anyway, I'm perfectly fine waiting for the dogs to go back inside, or for my nine-year-old Cognitive Behavioral Success Story to get home from school.

And once the stack of papers has been obtained . . . let THE GREAT SIFT begin!

You may be tempted to just throw the whole thing in the trash, cancel Comcast, and run out into the woods.

You may also be tempted to cheat and not sift through it all, grabbing out whatever you get and letting the rest burn. That could cause problems if your wife is waiting for Season 3 of Grim on Netflix.

No, unfortunately you don't know what could be hiding between the pages, so you gotta go through it all.

Okay, you're gonna be making six stacks.

Sounds like a lot, by try to keep up.

The 1st stack is the Pure Junk Stack. This will be your biggest and most unwieldy stack. Anything with a picture of leather couches, frozen vegetables, or anything with the words "Penny Saver" on the front. We have Craigslist now, get with the times people.

This stack, once finely combed can go straight into the garbage shoot.

The 2nd stack is the Probably Junk Stack, or the Mostly Junk stack. This is for the stuff that you might want to look through a bit. For me, this stack is just the Guitar Center ads. Sometimes they have good sales on the exact strings I use. For my wife, it's the Ulta ads, because she has a lot of curly hair to attend to, and that shit ain't cheap.

This week also includes the furniture ads. It's a one off because while my son was sick last week, my wife slept on the futon in the guest room and decided it was way to uncomfortable for humans, so we might be in the market for a new fold out couch.

If you have an extra few seconds, go through the Mostly Junk stack while you're standing there, and if nothing catches your eye, add it to the Pure Junk Stack.

The 3rd stack is the To Be Shredded stack. This include credit card, mortgage, insurance, and any bit of junk stuff that has your name and address on it. Fraud is a real thing people. Take precautions.

The 4th stack is the Magazine Stack. We get Entertainment Weekly and once in a while some kind of cooking, or eating healthy thing. The EWs will go from the sift stack, to the coffee table, to the bathrooms, and then finally to the trash a few hours before guests arrive. The cooking ones will get flipped through for recipes, added to the library if there's something good, added to the landfill if not.

The 5th stack are Bills. Make sure they are prominently displayed for your sugar-momma to attend to when she gets home from work.

I do live a sweet life, gotta say.

The 6th stack is for letters, birthday cards, pirated movies from my dad, postcards from all our friends who visit Disneyland a lot, and anything else that can be placed in a DVD player or pinned to the refrigerator.

Once you're done, and the stacks are neatly dispersed, it's time to celebrate with beer. If you do not have beer, then some carbonated lime scented water will do just fine.

Weighing Heavy

So my son came up to me last night with something to say:

Dad . . . I just want to tell you that you're a good dad and I love you, but in my dreams you're Gilderoy Lockhart.

Now if you don't know who Gilderoy Lockhart is, it's only because you've forgotten or you've never read the Harry Potter books.

The former, you're forgiven.

The latter . . . not so much.

Gilderoy Lockhart is the teacher in the second book. He's showy, flashy, and fame obsessed, and when push comes to shove, it turns out he's both a coward and a total fraud.

And by the end, he's sort of the bad guy.

My son is fascinated with heroes and bad guys and bad guys pretending to be heroes and heroes who do bad things.

What he meant to say (I hope) is that I'm like Gilderoy Lockhart in his nightmares and not his dreams. Which obviously makes a bit more sense. He's starting to get to that age where he's realizing not all adults are heroes. And thank's to J.K. Rowling's character Gilderoy, he's finding it hard to know who is good and who is bad. What makes a bad guy?

What makes a Hero?

It weighs heavy on his mind.

It weighs heavy on my mind too.

Not that I'm likely to disappoint him any time soon. I still gotta few cool tricks under my sleeve, even if the veneer is starting to crack.

But rare is the hour where I don't consider my own reflection and think such things.



And the longer I tread in unfamiliar waters, the heavier those thoughts get.

It's the stuff that's built a billion dollar self help industry. The key to a happy successful life CLEARLY, is the ability drop that heavy weight of doubt, push past your timidity, take the bull by the horns, tally ho.

Tell me what success looks like and don't stop until you're there.

I'm only being mildly sarcastic.

I think there's a case to be made for cowards and frauds.

Cause, and I apologize if this gets a bit murky, despite millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man hours spent to convince you otherwise, I really don't think anyone has the foggiest clue as to what success really looks like.

You can definitely draw a line in the sand for yourself, if you like. Build a bridge that can hold a certain amount of cars, paint a wall to match the drapes, solve a Rubik's Cube in 5.25 seconds.

Which just happened BTW. A kid just solved a Rubik's cube in 5.25 seconds. Good for him.

I can do it in under three minutes.

Which is a success for me.

My son can do it in under 45 seconds.

Which is a success for him.

None of us are frauds. None of us are cowards.

Do the math. Do your homework. Practice your scales. Good to go.

Is that how everything is supposed work though? I'm really not so sure. I mean when my son thinks about me in real life, he sees the architect, the engineer, the craftsman, and the day laborer.

The architect who draws the pretty picture, the engineer who makes the pretty picture make sense, the craftsman that makes it all work and the laborer who drills the holes and sweeps the floor.

If the architect considers the pretty picture from the engineer's perspective, well, there's a good chance he's going to realize that he's a fraud.

He might even stop drawing all together.


But if he doesn't consider the engineer's perspective . . . well . . . then . . . he's an asshole.

There are no other alternatives.

And it's important to understand the difference between feeling like a fraud, and actually being a fraud. Not only are the two different, they're virtually perpendicular.

Feeling like a fraud is in so many ways the last hurdle to achievement.

Being a fraud is . . . well . . . asshole.

But back to the beginning, I'm thinking there's more going on in my son's head than he's letting on. I think, because he's an intuitive little snot monkey, and he doesn't yet understand the difference between feeling and being. He is picking up on my own anxious feelings about myself and what I'm doing, and it's weighing heavy on him too.

There's no cure for that.


We'll just have to get through it together.

Because it's how heroes are made.

Morning Meals Five

I felt a bit remiss about skipping this week's recipe blog on Wednesday.

I'm pretty sure I had some excuse, like, my camera phone wasn't working, or I didn't cook up anything new this week, or the dog ate it, or I had to figure out where that dog came from, or I had to spend some serious rehearsal time for Saturday's show, or there were just a lot of books I haven't read.

I think, though . . . I was just lazy.

That happens too.

Or maybe the meds just never kicked in.

Anyway, I thought I makes some sort of amends by doing a food five, which is sort of a 'two birds with one stone' situation, cause I get to make up for my laziness, but without having to do any additional work.

I should really be a consultant.

Anyway, it's just now 9am Pacific Standard Time, and I've already made five meals, one of which I didn't make, and one of which is actually two meals, so it all works out in the end.

Meal One: Coffee.
Okay so I didn't actually make the coffee. My beautiful wife did. And you're also probably thinking that coffee is not a meal, but you'd be wrong. There was a time in my life that I didn't eat a single thing except for a pot of coffee until dinner.

I was skinnier then.

And coffee isn't just an "Add Hot Water" situation in this house. It takes timing and effort and skill, and, thanks to my beautiful wife, just a little bit of magic.

See, you have to know when to make the coffee. She gets up earlier than I do, because God loves her more, and she has to time it perfectly so that it's ready by the time I'm able to claw my way out of whatever grave I'd been sleeping in, but not so early that the liquid gets all scorched by the time I get to it.

It also has to be good coffee. Nearly fifteen years with the best coffee in the world has ruined me for other grounds, and lets face it, I was pretty snobby to begin with. Today's cup is Peet's Anniversary Blend, which every year, highlights some of the best and freshest African beans. I look forward to it every year.

Paying for it sucks, and not being recognized at my local shop sucks even more, but well, that bird has flown.

Then we get to the magic part. Now I don't know if you know this, but in Italy, having the ability to make a good cup of coffee, is considered a special talent. Not like the ability to curl your tongue 'special', but like the ability to bend spoons with your mind 'special'.

Apparently it's genetic and passed down through generations, so even though I spent a third of my life dedicated to the craft, my wife stills makes a better cup than I do.

No reason . . . just magic.

And once I've had one or two, morning is ready to begin:

Meal Two: A bowl of Frosted Flakes.

This is not as easy as it sounds. Even getting this decision is complicated, for there are four or five different options most mornings: Eggs or Waffles or Bagels or Pancakes, just to name a few. Sometimes we are out of the very specific thing my son is willing to eat that morning and Frosted Flakes becomes the consolation prize.

Now I'm not a big fan of sugary cereals. I think I was once. Way back when they came in those tiny multi-packs that were too small for a single serving so you had to decide which of the two different cereals would go together best:

Like you could combine Lucky Charms and Cheerios, but not Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Puffs.

Told you I was a snob.

Anyway, I lost the sugary cereal battle long ago, so there's always a box in my house.

But I can't just serve it up.

There are rules.

A bowl has to be made available, then I have to be observed filling the bowl with the right amount. He could obviously do this himself, but everything's better when dad does it.

Milk has to be set aside and added in small increments so that the flakes remain crunchy throughout the whole meal and once finished the bowl has to be immediately whisked away or the flakes will set like cement on the edges of the ceramic bowl.

Told you it was complicated.

Meal Three: Purple Cabbage Salad with Kale.
Cause I'm a smart boy, I've pre shredded all the stuff while cooking last night's dinner, so all I really have to do is fill the Tupperware and add the toppings. The options for the toppings this morning were tuna, shredded chicken, or a nice cobb with turkey and salami slices, and the bean choice is black, kidney or garbanzo.

Today's choice was tuna with sunflower seeds and kidney beans and a balsamic vinaigrette. Usually there are candied pecans that my wife calls her "spicy nuts."

As in: "Hey baby, don't choo be forgetin my spicy nuts!"

But there were no spicy nuts available this morning.

The lunch bag will be topped off with a bottle of water, a napkin, and a clean fork. I will be asked if I remembered the fork and no matter what my answer, she will check the bag.

I don't blame her . . . I can't be trusted.

Meal Four:  1/2 Tuna Salad Sandwich, juice box, bag of Cheese-its.
Normally I'll make something bland and boring like a few slices of turkey on bread, but today I had some tuna that wasn't going to make it into my wife's lunch salad.

He has been experimenting over the last few days with his sandwich choices and will inform me when I pick him up from school, which part of the sandwich was a hit and which wasn't. Yesterday it was turkey, but with cheese, lettuce, and get this . . . a slice of tomato.

He had tried a slice of tomato on a burger a few weekends back and has been curious as to how it would taste on a sandwich.

The tomato slice was not a hit, for he only ate 3/4s of his 1/2 sandwich. It made the bread soggy. The lettuce leaf went over big however, so it was added today by special request.

The juice box and bag of Cheese-its need no further explanation.

Meal Five: The Breakfast Frittata
A cup of Kale, a half cup of kidney beans, and sautéed in a pan. Six eggs (beaten), added to the mix and then the whole thing goes into the oven at 385 to cook for ten to twenty minutes depending upon how dry you like you eggs.

This is actually four breakfast meals. Two people for two days, so don't let the six eggs scare you. When microwaving the wedges on day two, I find that 70 seconds is perfect. But oddly, it works best if you do it for 40 seconds, check it, and then cook it for 30 more seconds. I really really don't know why this is.

My wife tops hers with a sprinkle of salt and a few bloops of tabasco. I top mine with a hefty crank of freshly ground garlic salt and a puddle of sriracha. To each his own.

So there you have it, five-ish friday meals.

Only there's a catch.

See, I just went through a bunch of my old blogs, because after rereading today's, I felt like I might have been repeating myself.

And boy did I.


Heres a link to this exact same blog written last December, which highlights two incredible points: One, nothing ever changes, and Two, there's nothing new under the sun. And yes, this looks really lazy, but it's also kind of fun to see the same jokes told in different moods. I was clearly irate in the first one, where today I'm more airy and loving.

The meds must have kicked in.

TBT: Uncle Bob Guiscard

So this week is the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Lincoln's assassination, but I did a bit on him earlier for his birthday and there are only so many "Our American Cousin" jokes available.

If you didn't already know, that was the play Abe was watching when John decided the Reformation would go a lot smoother without the 16th president. He was probably really really wrong about that, but he didn't live long enough to find out.

There is a current revival of the play, but supposedly it's rather droll even for it's time, and there's kind of that awkward moment when the big laugh is supposed to come, but it's darkened by the fact that it was the exact moment that Lincoln got Tupac Shakured.

There's also been a lot about the Armenian Genocide, since it's the hundredth anniversary of that part of history, but I'm not gonna touch that . . . like . . . at all.

So let's skip all the way down to April 16th, 1071.

The day that Robert Guiscard kicked the Byzantine Empire out of the town of Bari.

Robert was a Norman. Meaning he was French and from viking decent, and in no way related to the fat guy on Cheers.

But there's a good chance he's related to me through my french lines on my mother's side.

I shall call him Uncle Bob from now on.

In the picture above, Uncle Bob is the guy in the red cape and turquoise culottes. He clearly wants to rub the bald guy's head for good luck.

He rose to prominence during the invasion of Southern Italy, married his first cousin, invaded Sicily, went back to the Puglia region, became head honcho, divorced his first cousin, because even then that was a no-no, married someone a little further away on the family tree, and ended Byzantine rule in that part of the Mediterranean.

I think he may or may not have established a Pope in Rome.

Wanna fun bit of history? The Moors of Sicily were Shiite Muslims until Uncle Bob came in with his big old Jesus complex and claimed Palermo for Christianity. But don't feel too bad for them, they invaded the island a hundred or so years earlier and drove out the Catholics.

History is all give and take.

Mostly take.

Anyway, the reason it caught my eye, is because Bari is the town my wife's parents come from.

How cool is that?

Given a few months and the ability to read latin, I could probably trace their ancestry back to good old Uncle Bob and the beaches of Normandy (Where the Normans come from.)

That makes me and her related at some point in history. Which sounds gross, but nowhere near marrying your first cousin kind of gross.

Fun bit of family history: My wife's grandfather (or great grandfather, I can never remember) was known as "The Scot" cause he was a big fellow and had a flaming shock of red hair.

Very unusual for man with 900 years between himself and the viking horde.

My wife got none of that.

Dark curly hair and an olive complexion, probably more suggestive that there was a lot more than casual conquering going on with the Sicilian Shiites.

Bari is in the Puglia region in Southern Italy. The heel of the boot, they say. It's also where we get Primitivo, the peppery thick red wine that the rest of the world calls Zinfandel.

Or Zin, for short.

And an acceptable play in Scrabble.

Bari has only recently joined the modern world (I mean historically recent, not like, last week).

In the 1930's and 40's, while the rest of the world was splitting the atom and selling vacuum cleaners, Bari still had a town oven for which to bring your unbaked bread.

Imagine lining up barefoot in the town square to have your dough baked for tonight's dinner.

My mother-in-law did that.

Uncle Bob's ex-wife probably did that too.

It was probably the same oven.

His new and less genealogically close wife probably did no such thing.

Once you're married to a guy who is responsible for establishing Popes, there is no more queueing up barefoot for your loaf of ciabatta.

And it's not that I'm teasing Bari for being backwards, rustic maybe, but not backwards, and at least they had shoes. I've got a picture of my own grandmother during the time my mother-in-law's mother was queuing up for bread, and she (my grandma) and her family were dressed in their Sunday Best, barefoot.

I highly doubt they even had a town oven.

But that's Tennessee during the Great Depression.

And if I were to choose a time and place for wine and bread, 1071 Bari looks a lot more appealing than present day Nashville.

After Uncle Bob kicked out the Byzantines of course.

No one wants to be connected to the Byzantines, who eventually became the Ottomans, who eventually became the Turks, who eventually became responsible for the Armenian Genocide.

Whether they admit it or not.

HTT: How To Tax Season

Well, we're in the final breaths of tax season. Unless you've already filed your extension. Or you're a church or a political action committee (more on that later).

And I'll let you know a little terrible secret.

I don't mind paying taxes.

I know.

Sounds weird.

But I don't. It just seems to me to be the kinda thing you do if you want roads to drive on, and public schools with traffic guards in little orange vests, and a whole bunch of people trying to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of religious fundamentalists.

Clean water is nice too. Air that's breathable. I like taking out my copyrights and knowing that someone is keeping me from being infringed.

It's not a perfect system. Obviously. And it's not a fair system. Obviously. And if I had my druthers I'd prefer if more of my hard earned resources went to education, health care, and public radio and much much less on tobacco and corn subsidies, but there are very good reasons why I'm not fully in charge of such things.

I say 'not fully' because I'm not helpless. I do vote.

We do get to do that . . . you know . . . we get to vote.

If you don't, you should try it sometime, even if as an intellectual exercise. If anything, at least it gives you the right to complain.

It's like what my mom says about playing the lottery: You don't expect to win, but $2 does buy you permission to dream.

I'd say that's worth it.

What I don't like, and I'm sure you're with me on this if you weren't with me before, is cheaters.

Cheaters everywhere.

And not just the blatantly illegal kind, but I find myself loathing the kind of people who have the audacity to 'work the system'.

And it's only probably because 'working the system' is something I'm terrible at.

What's even more disturbing to me is how complicated systems have to become in order to deal with all the people that try to 'work it.'

I was not born with a single 'work the system' bone in my body. I like to check the boxes in all the appropriate places, smile my charming smile, and tell people to have a nice day.

I'd probably be a hell of a lot more financially successful in life if being a squeaky wheel was something I was remotely good at. But I'm not a squeaker, I'm a WD40 kinda guy.

For today's How to Tuesday I thought I'd like to apply at little grease to a few little sticking points.

First: Did you know that every dollar that goes to funding the IRS results in a net gain of $6 to the National Budget? That means for every dollar we invest, we get back $6.

And that's just playing by the rules. That's not even having to change a single line of the tax code. Sure it's political suicide to suggest such a thing, but seriously Congress, sneak it past us. Fund the IRS on the Monday after a really good episode of Game of Thrones, we won't even notice.

We're really not paying that close attention.

Second: Close a few loopholes. Not saying all of them (though the first I'd wanna tackle is off-shore tax shelters cause that's being a shitty American, looking at you Apple). I'm saying you get like five people in the room to go over the tax code. Each person has to read out loud a section. The litmus test for cutting any program should be any line that requires the reader to follow up with this question "We really do that? Really? Jesus!"

Third: Speaking of Jesus. And Allah, and Jehovah, Vishnu, Jim Jones, Brigham Young, and L.Ron Hubbard.

I'm not saying they don't provide a service, cause they do. God will provide.

But do they really provide a different service than Starbucks?

Their books don't need to contain nutrition facts, but you gotta admit, religion is nothing but a brick and mortar establishment of the ephemera.

Organized religion is retail.

I'm just saying, food for thought really, that it's in our constitution that the government will not establish any religion, and isn't tax exemption the same as subsidizing, and isn't subsidizing the same as paying for?

Caution though. The Kool-Aid might be cheap, but it's extremely hot.

Fourth: Speaking of really cheap Kool Aid, the age of high fructose corn syrup needs to come to an end. Nixon was pretty much a genius in not only increasing our national food stores, but using government money to keep millions of growers afloat, but world wide distribution is no longer a matter of weeks, it's a matter of hours, we don't need to produce so much stable goo any longer, we can produce actual food.

Fill my dinner plate with the meats of capitalism, and not the socialized system we have now.

It's a thing to consider.

In closing however, all of this is just at the top of my head. As I said earlier, the tax code is not perfect, nor is it fair, nor is it remotely fixable in my lifetime, but I do get to vote.

Which gives me the right to complain.

However quietly I choose to do so.


Modern Art

I've seen a lot of art in the last few weeks. Hours at the Portland Art Museum, and just this past weekend at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. The Crocker beats the PAM by a long shot. It's bigger, cheaper, and has a better flow to it. And because, when it comes to modern art, at least the Crocker's got some interesting things to look at.

Orange on white canvas, though I'm sure having some historical significance, or whatever, just isn't all that interesting after the second look.

Sorry Rothko . . . I tried.

And you gotta feel a bit bad for modern artists because now . . . no matter what they do . . . or what medium they choose to work in . . . they're just lumped in with everything else deemed modern.

They can't be impressionists any longer.

They can't be romantic, rococo, or baroque.

They can't even be abstract.

Nope. They're all modern now.

Whatever that means.

It kinda reminds me of how everything post Nirvana at the record store got shipped off to the "Alternative" section.

There was a time when Blondie and The GoGo's were considered Punk. Now nothing is punk if it's not indicative of The Ramones.

Or The Sex Pistols

Or The Clash.

It's all pop/rock now.

Or Indie. Which is just a nice way of saying that it doesn't sell very well and is only recognizable to your younger sister's creepy boyfriend.

Though I guess a better example of lumping stuff together is the ubiquitous 'World' music. Simply anything that's not from America or Britain and sometimes Canada.

Imagine writing country songs in Lithuania and being told that the section of the record store your albums are to be placed in is the thin dusty "World Music" shelf, simply because you were born in the wrong hemisphere.

How do you get your albums in the country section?

Move to Nashville.


Back to modern art,

It helps sometimes to read the description of each painting because even if you don't get the artist's view, at least you can get the curator's conception of what the piece was/is about and you can feel a little less stupid.

Though . . . that's not always right.

Take the painting above.

It's called "The Vampire"

or is it?

I sure thought it was. My wife and I found this painting hiding in a corner of the Metropolitan Museum of Art back in the spring of 2001 while trying to use cocktail napkins to clean the dye that was running off my new leather jacket.

We immediately fell in love with the painting and I found a print of it later that year which is now hanging above our dining room table.

A friend asked about it and I love when that happens because I get to launch into a much more detailed version of that story than I just told.

Then a curious thing happened.

I mentioned that the red-head in the painting was the vampire, and my wife, who I've been virtually glued to for 15 years, corrected me.

No . . . it's the man who is the vampire. Look at his face, he's all pale.

That's because the vampire is sucking out all his blood.

Nope . . . you're wrong.

She's clearly the vampire.


This painting has been hanging in various places of our homes since before 9/11 and somehow we've never agreed as to who is who and what is what.

Modern indeed.

Turns out all three of us, me, my wife, the curator at the MET, were all wrong.

The painting is called "Love and Pain."

Edward Munch never explained. There was too much uncomfortable awe and shock at it's unveiling, so it was left to the curators to attempt some kind of story.

The red head in the painting has been variously described as a lover, a prostitute, Munch's sister, and of course (proving that I'm not right, but clearly less wrong than my wife) a vampire.

Clearly less wrong.

The man however, is just a man.

How boring.

How un-modern.

But here's the thing. We love this painting. Not just for it's beauty (and mild creepiness), but for that ability to launch into a good story that is more about US than the painting itself. Now . . . with all this new information . . . it doesn't diminish in flavor at all. Now we get to look at the painting with new eyes, and the story of US gets even richer.

Can't say the same thing about Orange on a White canvas no matter how hard you try.

Sorry Rothko.

Facebook Five

So . . . for those of you who go to this blog directly . . . good for you and thanks

Those who find it on Facebook . . . well . . . there's a problem.

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in a while.

Totally not true.

And you may have noticed at times that you'd get a pop up dissuading you from going to my site. I may not be viral, but I might be contagious.

Anyway, a lot, of weird little bits have been happening. First, my thumbnail pictures weren't going through, then they would go through but they were all blurry, then I was getting tagged with having to a whole bunch of stuff in order to get this blog passed Facebook's security . . . and now . . . well now I can't post directly at all. I can post a link, but that's it.

The link blocks my ads, btw, which I don't see a lot of income from. But a penny is a penny is a penny.

What concerns me is that I have no idea why. I've never received any notice from Facebook about my content, or even a little note that says "Hey . . . cool it with the metaphors."

So since I'm going to be dealing with this all day, I'm gonna make a quick little Friday Five about why Facebook fears me . . .

One: I don't buy their stuff.
They really want to sell me ads to increase 'likes' or promote my website. I get a little bloop at least twice a week telling me I should really do something. I smile at the bloop, and then delete my browser history. Always delete your browser history.

Two: Not enough baby pictures.
I took a lot of baby pictures in my youth's youth. But I try not to share them anymore, because, simply, I don't want you to know what my kids looks like. BTW, he won't fall for that candy bit. He gets enough at home. You'd be better off tempting him with cheeseburgers.

Three: Not enough motivational posts.
I do want you to feel good about yourself, but I'm not gonna tell you to get off your ass while I'm sitting in yesterday's clothes, not having showered since Tuesday, and eating more than my fair share of cheese.

Four: I complain about the wrong things.
I could write an entire satirical essay on the effects of climate change that blames everyone (especially Californians) for not having solar panels on their houses and get three 'likes' while my step-son will post the words 'homework sucks' and he will get seventy-two 'likes' fifteen comments and a scholarship to The University of Arizona for their master's program in social media.

Five: Maybe . . .  I am Dangerous
It could happen. I could start a revolution. Think of Jonathan Swift and Thomas Paine and all kinds of writers and thinkers who have changed the world. It's not without precedent, and none of them had dinner recipes.

Anyway. Who knows when and or if the problem can be fixed.

Until then . . . link up . . . I'll get my pennies elsewhere.

TBT: Surrender to the Masters

I ran out of cute pictures a while ago.

There's only so much of my silly face with bad hair cuts one needs to post on "Throw Back Thursday" before everyone has gotten the point.

The point being we all had bad taste when we were young.

So instead, each Thursday morning I get up, pour some coffee, and check the web for fun historical facts that happened on this particular day.

It means that not only do I get to play along . . . I also get to cheat. Two of my favorite things.

Anyway, April 9th is my evil-step-mom's birthday. (she's not really evil in any reasonable way . . . way too delightful, but it's much more fun writing 'evil-step mom'. Brings me back to my Disney princess roots, especially since I'll be scrubbing floors later this morning.)

This is also the day that Robert E. Lee surrendered and the American Civil War was officially over.

It wasn't technically over. There was still a lot of fighting going on in New Orleans . . . yet another reason why the world is a better place because of text messaging.

In 143 A.D. Septimus Severus became Caesar of the Roman Empire. It's unclear if he is the great great great great grand uncle of Professor Snape.

Genealogy gets a bit murky in the dark ages.

Also . . . a lot of golf facts.

Along with the portraits of Robert E. Lee, and busts of long dead Caesars, there was Veejay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, other golfers who's names escape me now. They all seemed to have taken home the Green Jacket on April 9th.

Green Jacket? you ask.

That's right. The prize for winning The Masters Tournament at Augusta.

Happens every first full week of April.

And you don't actually get to keep it if you win.

You have to surrender it the following year.

Which seems cruel to me, but I'm not golfer, so I wouldn't know what to do with a green jacket if I had one.

Other fun facts are that Lee Elder was the first african american to win the tournament in 1975, one year before I was born, and 110 years after Robert E. Lee surrendered.

The first african american to be admitted to the Augusta National Golf Club didn't happen until 1990. They could win the tournament, but they weren't invited to lunch.

They let girls in sometime after that.

Well . . . okay . . . 22 years after that . . . but hey . . . now it's "Lunch for everybody!"

Which I'm pretty sure is a line from the Gettysburg Address.

One of the first girl inductees was Condoleezza Rice (pictured above in her own green jacket). She is the former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, she speaks five languages, including Russian, and is a classically trained and concert ready piano player. (not to mention a scratch golfer)

She ain't no princess and she gets to keep her jacket.

I'm not even qualified to scrub her floors.

And when I said I wasn't a golfer, that wasn't totally true. I do golf. I enjoy golf, though if you say "Golf" over and over you'll start to understand how really weird language is, and if you do it in public, no one will sit next to you on the bus.

Lunch for thought.

I'll even watch golf on television. Which I know sounds even crazier than saying the word 'golf' over and over on a crowded bus, but I find it relaxing to see such a silly thing being taken so seriously. It makes me consider the silliness of all serious things.

I've been trying to get my son interested in golf, but trying to get him interested in something that he's not currently interested in, is like putting a leash on your cat and taking it for a walk. His grandpa (My evil-step-dad) is slowly nudging him in that direction too.

I'm not sure either of us stand a chance.

(And my step dad isn't evil either . . . but . . . you know . . . I'm a princess)

And it's not just for selfish reasons that I want my boy to take up the noble game. He could be really good at it. He's got length, speed, balance, and pretty remarkable hand-eye-coordination. It also happens to be a fact that college scholarships for golfers are some of the least claimed at American Universities.

He's gonna need scholarships.

Cause I'm all outta money.

Which means, even though I'm white and male, no one is ever going to consider inviting me to join the Augusta National Golf Club.

No lunch for me.

There are rules.

But I do have a massive flat screen TV, food in the fridge, and an unscheduled hour between Cinderella-ing the floors and picking up my son from school.

You hear me, Masters Tournament at Augusta? I may not be part of your little game, but I will be watching.


Chicken Soup for the Existentialist

2 Chicken Breasts
2 Carrots
1/2 Onion
3 Celery Sticks
2 Potatoes
All purpose flour
Olive Oil
5 cups of stock (any kind)

Now there's nothing quite like a bowl of soup.


Especially on a rainy day.

Of which we've had two.

And I missed the first one.

Anyway, as soon as the rain started coming down I gave my wife several soupy/stewy/chowdery options for dinner. Chili, beef stew, chicken soup. She proceeded to give me several reasons why it should be my choice, and then gave me several reasons why my choice should be chicken soup. I don't know how she does it . . . but she was right both times.

So chicken soup it is.

Or was.

Now growing up as a kid (as if there is any other way) my impression of chicken soup was a salty frothy noodley thing that gets poured out of a can or shaken from a flavor pouch, a little water, a little heat, and you're good to go.

I continue to feel that way. At 38 years old I could still live off of Top Ramen and cold pizza if pressed, which means two things; One, I'm good at being poor, and two, I've never quite grown up. Both of which I'm okay with.

Anyway, there was point in time in which I wanted to learn how to cook things from scratch, both as an intellectual exercise, and to validate all the kitchen training I'd received at my mother-in-law's knee. Chicken soup was high on that list.

The kitchen smell alone is worth every minute, but unfortunately, chicken soup from scratch takes all day, is very messy, and it's one redeeming quality is that you get to say you'd made it from scratch.

There has to be a way to get all the goody goodness of flavor and kitchen smell without so much fuss. And . . . of course there is . . . or I'd be doing something else this morning.

First step is to cut everything up into bits.

Because chicken is so dangerous, I prefer to cut up everything else first and set aside. The onions should be diced thin, as should the carrots and celery. I don't know how you feel about the size of your potatoes, but I like them to be at least spoon sized. I don't want them to break apart and dissolve into the brine too easily. If you don't like potato skin, gold potatoes are best. If you do, red potatoes are even better. Russets are fine I guess whatever.

Once everything is chopped and as far away from the chicken breasts as possible, go ahead and start cutting the meat. For best results, chop the chicken up into little finger tip sized squares. Careful not to cut your own finger tip. If you like big meaty chunks, go ahead, who am I to judge?

If you do not have a garlic press . . . go out and get yourself one. If you're too lazy to do that (and I totally understand) make sure you crush the garlic with the flat side of your knife before chopping up. The reason for this is that the cellular insides of the garlic need to be released and can only do that by being crushed. If you just slice the cloves, you're never breaking the cells and you won't get the full load of taste and aroma.

Okay, heat up your soup pot, add a little olive oil, drop in your crushed bits of garlic, wait for it to smell good. Once it smells good, sprinkle just a bit of flour on to your chicken bits, not enough to coat the pieces, just enough to create a roux that will thicken the texture of the soup come feeding time. Put the chicken in the pot and brown.

Now, in a frying pan, saute the onions until they get translucent then add the carrots and celery until they start to sweat. It's important to cook all this separate from the chicken cause it releases all kinds of aromatic flavortastic goodness. One the veggies are sweating balls, sprinkle a few bits of ginger root (if you got it, powder if you don't) add them to the chicken and stir it all around.

You might say "Why ginger?"

And the answer might be "Cause it's awesome."

You'll probably notice that the flour has made little crusty bits on the bottom of your pot and you're a little worried that it will be a bitch to clean later. Don't worry . . . it'll all work out in the end.

Taking Stock: As I said in the ingredients list, you can use any kind of stock you want. Beef might taste a little weird (good weird not bad weird), and vegetable might be a little bland, so the preference is for chicken stock.

You've got lots of options when it comes to chicken stock. First you can make the true stuff. Boiling shit for hours. Try it once and you'll never have to do it again . . . I promise. You can get the high end stock from Whole Foods or your local equivalent, but it'll cost you and, in my humble opinion, it is the least tasty of all the options. You can get the mid-grade stuff at any supermarket (Trader Joes has the best) or . . . you can do what I do, and dissolved two bouillon cubes in some hot water.

It's cheating . . . I know . . . but you're already locked into the fresh ingredients and the cubes have the perfect amount of salty "flavor pouch" flavor. No one will ever know the difference and if for some reason they do, you have my permission to unfriend them forever. You don't need those kinds of people in your life.

Add the stock. Bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and simmer for an hour.

Every few minutes or so, walk out of the house and then walk back in again.

When the whole house smells like heaven, including the garage and the boys' bathroom, it's time to add the potatoes.

Shouldn't take much more than 20 minutes for the potatoes to get soft and you're good to go.

Taste the brine. You want it to be just a hint on the not too salty side. Salt is the kinda thing that people can add themselves. If it's too salty add a half a cup of water and bring back up to a boil.

Set your table.

The table should include salt, pepper, a little bit of fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, and bread. You worked hard on this dish and it's gonna taste like you worked all day, don't leave a drop on your bowl that can't be soaked up with a chewy slice of sourdough.

Ladle into bowls. Serve.

Okay, I know y'all are crazy for low fat, zero carb versions of everything, and boy have I got a treat for you.

First, you don't have to add the flour to the chicken. I like it because it gives a thicker texture to the liquid, but the original recipe doesn't have it, so it's just as good without.

Second, you can (and should) replace the potatoes with chopped cauliflower. I think it's so damn good this way, I'm reluctant each time to even bother with the potatoes, but it will tweak the flavor a bit, and sometimes my wife is just not in the mood.

Go figure.

You can also just add water instead of stock if you're watching your salt intake. All the fresh ingredients are there and you can zest it up with just a dab of whatever fresh himalayan pink crystals you got hiding in your cabinet.

Breaks my heart to say it, but you can also skip the bread.

Sad emoticon. : (

Now, since I can't leave well enough alone, I might also suggest adding a few slices of fresh jalapeños that have been soaking in balsamic vinegar while you were cooking the other stuff. Not saying you gotta. And if you don't like spicy then it's not for you . . . but if you want a little heat . . . it's damn delicious.

Damn delicious.

Total time: 2 hours (most of which is sitting on the couch catching up on Justified Episodes)
Servings: Three dinner bowls and two lunch bowls.
Wine Pairing: Buttery white, or soft red.
Number of times your SO will roll their eyes into the back of their head and make soft cooing sounds: At least four.

HTT: How to Alaska

I've been to a lot of places.

Okay . . . maybe not A LOT of places.

But . . .  you know . . . places.

And I've flown on enough airplanes to feel pretty confident in how the whole system works. When to buy tickets, which lines to stand in, how much to pack in my carry on, when the steward is having a bad day, how to keep calm in bumpy weather, how to make a small bag of pretzels last an entire hour, those kinds of things.

But my recent trip with Alaskan Airlines has shown me a whole new level of stuff I'd never even really considered before and, unfortunately, how unprepared a traveler I am.

or was.

I'm better now.

I've learned.

Which is exactly what I thought I might share with you today's How to Tuesday.

Most of you might know some of this stuff. Some of you might know all of this stuff. But the rest of you should probably take notes.

Okay, first things first:

Step One: The Luggage Fee.
Now I haven't been living in a cave the last decade (as I've said . . . I gone places) so I am well aware that some airlines charge a luggage fee. And let me say for the record that I am not wholey against this.

Being an airline is tough. Especially an American one. Not just because we're fat, but because our airlines are not subsidized by the government. Which is the way we like things. But that creates an unfair advantage for our competition. So be it.

So I can see adding a luggage fee to the price of the ticket. Perfectly reasonable.

I can also see an added fee for extra luggage. My opinion being that if you can't travel without your entire wardrobe, you should either stay home or be penalized for being indecisive. I'm really sorry for those of you with young children (in more ways than one, cause I've been there), but I didn't drag my son on a plane until he was 8 years old, for that very reason.

So I can honestly say I was a little shocked that a modest bag for two people for three days, cost an additional $25. Had I seen such a charge when I bought the ticket . . . I would not have thought twice about it. And . . . if the idea is to offer a discount to those who don't require luggage for their trip . . . great . . . I still would have paid the extra $25 because I really hate dealing with unwieldy carry-ons.

But to be surprised at the check-out counter was just mean spirited. And what's worse is the look of shame on the faces of employees, who probably gets yelled at by every third customer who walks up and is blindsided with hidden fees.

Remember . . . I DO NOT MIND paying for what I'm paying for. I'm a firm capitalist, damn it. You got something. I want it. You tell me how much. I pay for it. You give it to me. If you need to charge me a shipping fee . . . fine. Just let me know. How exactly is that confusing?

Speaking of confusing . . .

Step Two: Checking In
Now . . . let us say that you're not bringing any luggage with you. Why should you have to wait in line at the checkout place when you can easily go online and check in and hour or even a day ahead of time? No reason. So now you can do so.

I think that's pretty neat.

But let's say you are bringing luggage. Okay . . . well . . . you're gonna have to wait in line anyway, so why bother checking in ahead of time?

Because . . . and I can't for the life of me understand why this is a thing . . . because the airlines overbook their flights.


Because they have exactly 120 tickets to sell, so they sell 125.

No shit.

Again . . . I don't live in a cave . . . I've heard the word "StandBy" before. But . . . I just kinda logically thought it was one of those things that came with trying to purchase the 121st ticket.

Like . . . we've got no more room . . . but there are always late minute cancelations . . . so you give us money and we'll put you on "StandBy."

This is not the kind of ticket I would purchase because I don't trust my luck with that sort of thing but I can see the allure.

But that's not what that means.

Apparently they sell 125 tickets and the first 120 to "Check In" get seats, and the remaining five are put on "StandBy"

What "StandBy" means is that the airline will do their best to find you an alternate flight . . . or . . . give you a credit for 400% of the price of your ticket (probably to soften the blow that your three day vacation just got ruined and you can't recoup the Hotel room or the new pair of walking shoes.)

But a credit? Not a refund . . . a credit.

Now since I will never be flying Alaskan Airlines again unless my child's life depends on it, WTF am I gonna do with a 400% credit? That's like going to your insurance company after your car was totaled and them sending you a See's Candy Gift Certificate instead of a check.

I mean . . . it's a nice gesture and all . . . but who's gonna use $15,000 worth of mediocre chocolate?

(reading that . . . I take it back . . . I know exactly who)

But still.

So because we didn't check in online, we were put on standby. We were also told that the soonest flight would require a lay-over in Los Angeles and get us to Portland in twelve hours. (More than it would take to drive there), or we could wait until the next morning.

I was a bit torn. My whole vacation was ruined, but I felt such painful empathy for the people who work for a company with such a ridiculously shameful system.

We were told to chill out and cross our fingers.

Which . . . oddly enough . . . worked.

Step Three: Turns out that if there is a mechanical failure in the engine of the plane your were planning on boarding, it's a really good thing, if you've been placed on standby.

I wouldn't have though so either . . . but there it is.

See . . . if a flight is delayed because of mechanical failure then the poor poor staff has to work very diligently to reroute the passengers who have connecting flights elsewhere. Like . . . if your destination is Hawaii and the connecting flight is in Portland, but you're obviously gonna miss it, the staff will find you another way to get to Hawaii on time.

Which is awfully nice of them.

I mean . . . in any other universe . . . it would be a logical expectation . . . but remember . . . we're dealing with the kind of people that would sell 125 tickets for 120 seats.

Asshat douchebags.

Anyway . . . thanks to the fact that the plane, whose seats we had already paid for in full, had engine failure that was going to delay people by at least an hour, space was made for us.

And we only ended up being an hour behind schedule.


Step Four: Finding out why it takes an hour and a half to get to Portland from Sacramento, when it only takes 45 minutes to fly to San Diego.

Because . . . you're not flying on a jet.

Your flying on a propeller plane.

I shit you not.

Indiana Jones style propeller plane.

Dun da Dun Dun

Dun da Dun

Exciting really, but there are a few things you need to know.

Step Five: Things you need to know about flying in a propeller plane.

First it's bumpy. You not flying as high and you're essentially strapped to a tube connected to the engine of a rebuilt Dodge Dart.

Second . . . that shit is loud. Like 'sitting next to the speaker of a Metallica concert' loud.

Thirdly . . . it's small. So that carry-on bag that you thought would fit in the overhead compartment . . . won't. Expect delays, banging, and a flurry of foul language.

Still . . . it's exciting.

Step Six: The return flight.
Okay . . . so you've been through it all before. You did the online check-in the day before so you have an actual seat, you've got the $25 cash for your luggage, and you're emotionally prepared walking out onto the tarmac and stepping into a Volkswagen Bus that is going to somehow be driven at 30,000 feet about the ground . . . you're good to go.

Feel free to enjoy the complimentary five ounce beer.

You've earned it.

Play Date

I was trying to look up when the idea of a "Play Date" became a thing.

It certainly wasn't a part of my generation.

We were given bicycles and told to go outside. If there was a park near-by, that was nice. If not, then there was usually some kind of cul-de-sac, or creek bed, or parking lot with which to find find some kind of juvenile entertainment. If we got thirsty there were garden hoses everywhere, if we had to pee, there were trees.

Another reason why it's tough being a girl.

At some point, and I'm not necessarily blaming the Reagan Administration, but at some point, outside became dangerous. Unsupervised activity led to terrible terrible things. No longer was the worst case scenario scraped knees and head lice . . . no no no . . . now there are kidnappers and pedophiles and drunk drivers and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Not to mention internet porn.

A parent would be crazy to allow unscheduled activity, but we also know, cause we've read all the books, that 'unsupervised' activity is is the cornerstone to raising children to understand their place within the social hierarchy.

Play is good.

Play is important.

Play is essential.

But how to we instill a sense of youthful exploration while ensuring our progeny never leave our sight?

Enter The Play Date.

We meet up with friends, coworkers, fellow Jesus-ists, or Facebook connections who have children that are roughly the same age as our own. We set the parameters, make sure there aren't any potentially lethal objects around (like sticks or dirt), and talk about the weather with the adults while still keeping one eye, or even one parent on savior duty.

At least I think that's how that goes.

I don't know.

I'd never been invited to one.

We just happened to luck out that our particular cup-de-sac was filled with age appropriate children running around in packs and a police officer across the street who parks his cruiser in such a way as to be pretty intimidating if you happen to be a bad guy.

I got my son a bike and told him to go outside.

An exception was made that he was allowed to come back in to pee, and juice boxes are readily available, but aside from that, he gets to grow up pretty much the same way I did.

I think that's good.

I hope that's good.

Won't really know for another twenty years.

Anyway, I'm not necessarily poo-pooing the play date . . .  because there's a flip side.

Maybe, just maybe, it's not about the children at all. It's probably really about the parents. Adults need some unsupervised activities too.

Once that bald little head starts crowning, you (and hopefully your partner) are sentenced to a virtual island only accessible by pontoon boat.

It's not that you've lost all of your friends and family, it's just that everyone you know isn't anywhere near your level.

The people in your life who have been through it, become smug and condescending.

The people who haven't . . . couldn't give a flying fart.

You got each other (hopefully) . . . and that's it.

And for two years you're not even in the same arena. It's tag team time, but then slowly, cautiously, you're able to relax a bit, drop your guard, maybe even lock your bedroom door.

And then comes that moment when you realize that you haven't spoken in full sentences for the better part of the year because you and your wife have so many inside jokes and recognizable looks  that you don't remember how to communicate in full sentences.

We need play dates just to feel human.

I recently found out that some close friends are moving to a house that is super close to ours.

And I'm like over the top super excited.

Sure we would get together a few times a year, wine tastings, the occasional birthday party, but now we get to say things like "Hey . . . I made too many pork chops . . . you wanna come over for dinner?"

Casual, whatcha doing?, unscheduled, unsupervised play dates.

Without all the scraped knees and head lice.

And with beer.