Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Public Invitation

WARNING: This entry is rated PG-13. It references public restrooms and a man named Joe. If you are uncomfortable reading about restrooms or Joe please skip to my last blog, which has nothing to do with restrooms or Joe. Thank you.

My wife, kids, and I drove from Salt Lake City to Jackson Hole Wyoming today and I was obliged to make the usual stops for gas, sustenance, a break from the banshees that are my kids, and, of coarse, the potty break. I say “potty break” not because I’m exploring a softer side of myself but because that’s what you say when you pull into a gas station with kids. “We’ve got ten minutes for a potty break. Everybody out.” And this is only because men know they’ll look like trailer trash if someone hears their kid say “Dad, I’ve got to use the crapper.”(1)

So anyway, there I am, on my own potty break, taking care of business when I realize I’ve failed to bring reading material with me to help pass the pleasant moments. And so I do what any forgetful person in my situation would do, I read the fascinating comments and lines of poetry conceived and left by the great minds that have come and sat here before me. There are lines that tell me what John is or what Carol did or who Steve loves or what I am or what I can sit on and while I spin. To me the bathroom stall is the worlds blank slate, a communal page on which the unknown poets and philosophers lay it all out for the common man to consider and contemplate. They have given us verses to rival those of Hemingway, Thoreau, Emerson, Quinn, and Dickens, to name a few; emotion wrenching verses like: “Here I sit my buns a-flexin’, just gave birth to another Texan.” In fact, to prove the quality of the modern bathroom stall writer I’d like to perform a small test. I’m convinced that unless you earned a degree in literature you will only pass this test by chance. Guess, if you can, which of these three excerpts and authors is not found in and did not write a classic novel.

1) “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
-Walt Whitman

2) “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.”
-Jane Austen

3) “Janice Wright is a fat ho-bag!”

(The answer can be found under footnote 2 )

This brings me to the purpose of this post. As good, and as thought provoking as most of the writings are, I am most intrigued and perplexed by the writing of invitations. Without fail someone, let’s say his name is Joe, is offering a good time if the reader will but call Joe and schedule the good time. Upon reading such invitations I’m left to wonder, who is this lonely person who is willing to share his good time with perfect strangers? Has Joe no family, no friends, no associates to whom he can turn in his time of wanton leisure? Is Joe old, young, rich, poor, gainfully employed, dependent on state aid? What type of success has Joe experienced with this type of marketing in the past? I’m really curious to know if Joe has a specific activity in mind or if he’s just open to a plethora of activities. Not everybody likes everything so I would suggest to Joe that he include a menu of possibilities to narrow his search.

Call Joe for a good time. 555-1234
Joe is interested in movies, rollerblading, scenic hikes, baking yummy desserts, and discussing good books.”

This strategy would target Joe’s desired audience while not falsely encouraging other guys looking for a good time who may have a completely different field of interest.
I would call Joe myself to see if our interests align but I only see these invites in towns I am only passing through, and never have enough time for an ice-cream cone and small talk let alone a trip to the local art museum. Since I am without the time to investigate myself I am left to wonder, has Joe found that friend he is looking for or is he still waiting for the right guy to sit down, without a book, and start reading? I guess I’ll never know. So I just want to say to all the “Joe’s” out there, may you find many friends and may they all be as sweet and true as the words left on a bathroom stall.

1. Interesting fact: the expression “the crapper” only became popular after the advent of the flush toilet invented by Thomas Crapper – a blanket apology to all his descendents who share his unfortunate name. You should take comfort in the words of Bill Shakespeare, “What’s in a name, even a crappy name?”
2. Congratulations if you said #3. Either you are well read or you know Janice Wright personally.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Delayed Sting of Cupid's Arrow

In this season of love I am compelled to contemplate the nature of romance – compelled by our society, commercialism, and my wife who insists all household upkeep will cease if I fail to contemplate it to the tune of flowers, candy, and gaudy jewelry. I say gaudy not because of my wife’s taste but because I call anything made of precious metal or jewels that you wear “gaudy.” I’m a simple man with a thin wallet.

This is my first multi-kid Valentine’s Day and as I look back I realize how much our relationship has changed since our first Valentine’s together. And not just because all trips outside the house take military-like preparation, but the very nature of our love changes. It is inevitable. Some would say the change is natural and if embraced will lead to a richer, deeper connection with your spouse. Others (me) say, bull crap. This is a rip-off.

Allow me to illustrate with one of many examples. No matter what the occasion, Valentine’s included, when I go to bed I can expect that within one to thirty minutes one or both of my children will be lying between my wife and I doing one or more of the following: crying, coughing, moaning, sucking, sneezing, tossing, turning, flailing, or Maggie’s personal favorite – lulling herself to sleep by kneading our neck skin between her fingers. (That one may sound weird but it’s true. It’s like we’re being strangled by an injured, but determined, Chucky doll.)

As I lay there sleepless with my daughter’s hands on my neck or feet on my face I think how ironic this is. The very product of our love is now lying between us working to dismantle that love. It is as if by some primal instinct they know what they’re doing. Subconsciously they’ve teamed up and are preventing us from bringing competition for resources into this world – a twisted “survival of the fittest” if you will. And they are winning. Lately, most nights, I’m forced by sheer exhaustion into the guest room in hopes of getting enough sleep to sustain me through the next workday, but just as I get comfortable morning comes and there’s Maggie on top of me whining “Food food” while putting her fingers to her mouth (learned from her sign language video) just in case my ears aren’t fully awake yet. I climb out of bed still half asleep and on the way to the kitchen she throws me a knowing smile, this time unaccompanied by a sign only because the video hasn’t yet taught her how to sign “Maggie: 660, Dad:0 – Only 25 more years to go and Mom’s eggs will be all dried up. Now make me some Cheerios sucka!”

I accept my defeat the same way every morning. In a blurry stupor I go the kitchen to make Maggie some breakfast while my wife lays in bed on her side to feed Cash like a farm animal who roots until he hits the mother-load. (I think that’s where that word comes from). I pour the cereal and watch Maggie grip and work her spoon with all the coordination of an epileptic in full seizure and as she flings more food than she eats I can’t help but think how these mornings are so un-reminiscent of past childless mornings when my wife and I would wake up late, she would rest her head on my arm, and we would talk about the night’s dreams and whatever else might drift into our minds. Then I stop myself lest I be accused of being married to the past, and softly say - Deeper and richer. Our love is growing deeper and richer.

This is my bed Valentine's night. This picture was not staged.
Now that's love!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Did you see the Sequel?

So I’ve been sitting around thinking a lot about Jurassic Park lately. I doubt this is surprising to anyone since, aside from being one of the finest films ever produced by Hollywood, it is also thought provoking on a surprisingly formidable level, and anyone who tries to tell me they haven’t experienced countless sleepless nights staring at the ceiling while contemplating the possibility of dinosaur and man coexisting, whether in harmony or dissonance, is a bald face liar and is probably, as I speak, beating out the flames that were once his pants.

Of all the possibilities, metaphors, and philosophies purported by the movie that could arouse great discussion among great minds, the one that has recently provoked the most contemplation in my own mind is that of motive. Why, I ask myself, did they go back to the island two more times? The first visit (movie) was great and totally believable. However, since the trilogy has come and gone, movie critics and philosophers alike have tried to discern why the producers would dishonor it with the hair-brained sequels that followed?

Why did the characters succumb to such weak motives as were provided by the movies’ writers? Millions of dollars went into these high budget films and the best they could come up with was tripe like, "The dinosaurs are asexual and are breeding with themselves and now they want healthcare!" All I’m saying is give us a believable and interesting reason to go face flesh eating man killers like, "Air Force One crashed into Dino Island and the President and the First Family are hiding in the wreckage while constantly being stalked by predators." Half the country, the good Christian half that is, would be over there faster than you can say Hallelujah, armed to the teeth, drunk on Budweiser, and chomping at the bit to send every last reptile back to Hell where, as the Bible teaches us, they came from. So maybe you’re not republican, so how about this, "The CIA just received pretty reliable intell that there is a good possibility that the dinosaurs might be developing WMD’s." We’d have the military over there before congress could even convene to sanction such an action. (I’m sorry, I forgot. You’re not republican.)

But alas the characters go based on preposterous motives. Never mind that last time twenty guys got eaten by Velociraptors, 5 guys were torn in half by a T-Rex while sitting on the pooper (which only adds to the humiliation), Newman (from Seinfeld) was blinded then eaten by the Umbrellaheadasaurus, and two guys were raped by the Rape-a-saurus (one died from VD and the other is still in counseling). Never mind all that, they go back, and not in stealthy fashion either. They don’t go with an elite strike force using choppers with whisper mode and other high tech gear. They go with loud ground vehicles manned with jittery nameless minorities who try to stay quiet but fail every time they hear a twig snap and scream like a bunch of thirteen-year-old girls at a slumber party.

The endings were generally just as disappointing as the beginnings in these lack luster sequels. From my hazy recollection nobody found any WMD’s but only discovered it was a ploy by “The Man” to kill the dinosaurs so we could harvest the fuels made from their fossils.

That’s two strikes Hollywood. Careful what you write in the future.