A Time to Work

NaBloPoMo 2015Day 4: My Dream Job

I bore easily. It’s how I roll. As much as I would love to be paid to sit on a beach every day, I know I would eventually tire of it. It would take a long, long time for that to happen, but trust me, it would happen. Because of this personality quirk, I have many dream jobs. Most of them involve making the most money for as little work as possible – i.e. the American Dream – but none of them are boring.

Here are my top ten:

1. Lifeguard – In Hawaii.  But I don’t want to rescue anyone.  Too much work.
2. SR-71 Pilot – Those babies are badass. The pilots who fly them are, too. I qualify.  In my own mind, at least.
3. Travel Writer – Visit far away places, sample the local cuisine, and write. Heaven.  Well, as long as I don’t have to eat insects.  That’s not happening.
4. Singer – So far, my only concerts have been in the shower.  My cat has nothing nice to say about my performances. Everyone’s a critic.
5. Spy – I know I would suck at this, but the movie True Lies is to blame for my fantasy that this is even remotely possible.
6. Cat Lady – Not actually “a job,” but my son is convinced it’s my calling.
7. Aerobatic Pilot – I would have to get over my tendency to laugh hysterically during maneuvers, but if I can pull off espionage, I can do anything.
8. Dominatrix – As a mother, I’m used to no one doing anything I tell them to do. Ever.  This would be a lovely change of pace.
9. Grandmother – Forget the mom gig, too much work for too little reward. Grandmas get to do all the fun stuff with kids: get them all twitchy on sugar, keep them up all night, lavish them with noisy, expensive gifts, and then hand them back to their parents for detox. It’s perfect!
10. Empress – I want to be in charge, but elections are lame.  Also, I would rock a tiara.

If you think about it, a writer can be anything they want to be simply by seeing through the eyes of their characters.  In other words, I already have my dream job.  I’m a writer.  Although, Empress Tawn does have a nice ring to it.

Come back tomorrow for Day 5: My Proudest Moment. It should be a good one.  I can’t wait to find out what it is.

What did you say?

NaBloPoMo 2015

Day 3: My Favorite Quote

This is a tough one. I don’t really have a favorite quote. I’ve spent all day thinking about it and I haven’t been able to settle on a single one. Do I get all deep and philosophical or do I go for the funny bone? Do I source a movie, a book, or maybe a comedian? And how do I get it done soon since I’ve already wasted the day thinking about it?  Throwing in the towel on the third day is not an option.

Then it hits me. My absolute favorite people to quote are my kids. Here are ten conversations and observations The Boy (age 12) and The Girl (age 7) have had in the past six months:

(While walking home from school)
The Girl: I want to go to Mexico. They have the Day of the Dead, and tacos, and quesadillas, and a big party.

(While watching a Monster High movie for the first time)
The Girl: Monsters are hard core.

Me: So, what do you want to be for Halloween?
The Girl: I know! A piece of candy! Or pie! Or a PEEP!!
The Boy: You don’t even like peeps, hypocrite.

The Girl: Your hair looks nice. Where did you get that eye shadow?
Me: Why?
The Girl: Because I think it’s mine.

(Working on unit conversion equations)
Me: Do you know how many centimeters in a meter?
The Boy: No.
Me: Okay. Do you know what “centi” stands for?
The Boy: (Looking at me like I’m an idiot) Of course. Chocolate.
Me: …wha…?
The Boy: King Henry Died Drinking Chocolate Milk. Kilo, hecto, deca, deci, centi, and milli.
Me: (Silently cursed myself for thinking I could get through a homework session without wine)

The Girl: Girls are better than boys. Know why?
Me: Um, why?
The Girl: Because me and my friends were chasing boys today and I caught one.
Me: What did you do when you caught him?
The Girl: I told him he’s too slow, of course.

Me: Hey, check out this fundraiser Dairy Queen is doing.
The Girl: Finally! Now I can get ice cream and help kids!
The Boy: Wait… we get ice cream?

The Girl: I must have a cold because my nose is running.
Me: Your nose is running because you’re crying. Again.
The Girl: (crying) I am not!

The Boy: This ice cream scoop doesn’t work!
Me: That’s because it’s a soup ladle.

The Boy: Truth or dare?
The Girl: Dare.
The Boy: Sing a song about how much of a butt you are.
The Girl: I’m not a butt!

And finally, a bonus:

Me: Why don’t you rub my feet?
The Girl: Well, okay, but I’m gonna need some gloves.

Tune in tomorrow when I write about my dream job. I’m fairly certain it will involve explosives, marshmallow fluff, and a spy plane.

Guest Post: A Man’s Most Prized Possession

Thank you to my dear friend Jim for letting me post this gem.  I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed it.  

DEAR DIARY: Sunday, July 27, 2014 “A man’s most prized possession”

Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook: “Tip of the day. Careful where you apply Icy Hot.” I now put the tale to pen, confident that my diary is always under lock and key.

[Tangent: Anyone that argues what the male, from toddler to full grown man, views as their most prized possession, hasn’t been around a male toddler and seen their unashamed fascination with their anatomy (sometimes to the embarrassment of their parents). And if a man ever denies it, he is just out right lying. For me, it has played a part in having three wonderful daughters, been the source of pleasure, poor judgment, and on at least several occasions in my lifetime, particularly in junior high, unscheduled mind-of-its-own embarrassment.] 

My incident with the Icy Hot (similar to Ben-Gay…is that still around?) wasn’t the first brush with disaster for my prized possession in my life.

As a youth growing up in Ohio, we would leave the house at sunrise and not return until sunset, exploring miles of woods, creeks and old barns all summer long.

[Tangent: I am tired of reading posts from my generation on Facebook saying how THEY didn’t spend their lives indoors playing video games, but would be outside experiencing life. It is usually said with a level of superiority over the current younger generation. Guess what? We didn’t because they didn’t exist! Don’t kid yourself, everyone of us would be inside playing the video games of today if they were any good back then. If you want your kids to go outside more, just limit their game time, but don’t deceive yourself with a false sense of superiority. We just didn’t have the same distractions. It wasn’t better values you held as a youth.]

One such occasion resulted in urinating in the woods, shortly after apparently touching poison ivy. Let me just say that Sunday in church resulted in huge embarrassment for my parents as I sat in the pew itching through corduroy dress pants, appearing to all others, to show, even for a preteen, an unnatural fascination with my prized possession. That was not a comfortable week in my life. 

The second brush with disaster was the decision to pee on an electric fence (a result of a dare from a neighbor) one summer afternoon. Not a wise choice I made that day.

And of course there have been several close calls with zippers through the years.

However, the Icy Hot incident began innocently enough. I have been suffering from lower back pain for several days. In desperation, I found an old jar of Icy Hot in a medicine cabinet. My intention was to self-apply it to my lower back and upper buttocks at my hip joints, both of which were extremely sore from muscular pain. 

With my boxers lowered and my left hand holding up my t-shirt, I used my free hand to scoop out a glob of the Icy Hot, reach around, and apply it. I’m sure it wasn’t a dignified sight, but neither was my old man walk the last few days from the back pain, so it was well worth it. Besides, I was alone. And, no one will ever know of this thanks to my crack diary security.

What happened next was even less dignified and graceful. The twisting required to apply the paste caused a sudden back spasm that would have dropped me to one knee. However, with my boxers around my knees and off balance holding my shirt up with my free hand and twisting with a bad back, I went down in a crumpled mess.

The pain to my back was excruciating. So much so that I loudly dropped the F-Bomb.

[Tangent: Remember in a Christmas Story when Ralph drops the F-Bomb? His mother asks where he learned the word, and he wants to tell her that he heard his dad say it on numerous occasions. But because of fear for admitting that, he blames the school bully (who is remotely punished when his mom calls the bully’s mom). Sadly, at moments of stubbed toes and severe pain, I have let it slip around my kids on several occasions.]

From outside the room, I hear third-of-three daughter call out, “are you okay, Dad?” with genuine concern, since I only use the F-bomb at times of severe pain.

I promptly thanked her for checking and said that I was. And for that brief moment I was. But, if you have ever used Icy Hot, you know there is a delay.

Somehow, mid mangled fall, I had tried to pull my boxers up from around my knees to aid in balance with the hand that, you guessed it, was covered in Icy Hot paste. Sadly as the boxers came up just as my fall completed, my hand made contact with the entire area of my prized possession. 

And for a very brief moment, I thought all would be okay. Until the medicine began to do what it was designed for. It started with a slow burn, reaching a crescendo of heat shortly after. This time, I let three F-Bombs in a row fly, in very rapid succession, not even having the mental capacity to question the poor parental skills I was showing. 

So, diary, that is why I shared my humorous warning on Facebook yesterday. 

P.S. Don’t take yourselves so seriously in this life and learn to laugh at the things we are faced with every day. And don’t forget to write for fun every once in a while. I was inspired to write this by Mike Rowe’s (of Dirty Jobs and Deadliest Catch fame) tales on his Facebook page, including an intestinal disaster while painting the Golden Gate bridge. Laugh at life, laugh at yourselves. And be careful where you apply Icy Hot.

Walking Log #2 – Oh Look! A Bunny!

Today, I learned that sometimes there are simply too many distractions to allow my mind to incubate anything useful – or even coherent – during my walk.  Here are my notes:

Dreamed of giving birth in the shower.

I should print “Darkling Drake” so I can have a hard copy to review

Leaves a brighter green against the dark blue clouds

Hey! Don’t poop on me bird!

Yep. Picking up that candy wrapper.

What if I don’t think of anything when I walk?

Shit, I’m tired.

There are baby birds in that nest!  Aw!

Yeah.  Maybe this whole “take a peek inside my head while I walk” idea isn’t as genius as I thought.

A Tale About a Whale

A very good friend of mine once said, “It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a big pond.” He was referring to his Maui Wowi Hawaiian business, but I think it also applies to most anything. But it’s a funny thing about fish in bowls:  it isn’t necessarily true that a fish will only grow as large as the tank will allow.

Long ago, my parents once had a 40 gallon fish tank, in which – among the mollies, neon tetras, and tiger barbs – they kept the required bottom feeder, a Plecostomus. We called it the P-fish because we couldn’t pronounce plecostomus. It was tiny when we first brought it home from the pet store. Many years later, not so much.  In fact, my kids were able to re-dub the monster fish it had grown into “The Whale.”

Image

A reasonable facsimile of The Whale

I kid you not, this thing was immense.  At least a foot long.  It once jumped out of the tank and fell down a flight of stairs and survived. No, it thrived.  It outlived generations of fish, and probably ate quite a few of them toward the end.

When I inherited The Whale, it had to have been about 1000 years old in fish years, and it was way too big for the tank.  I contacted a local pet store to see if I could sell it or even donate it just to get rid of it. They weren’t even remotely interested.  They informed me that this particular type of fish will outgrow it’s tank every time, and I would be very lucky to find a new home for it. My only recourse? Release into the wild, serve it up for dinner, or wait for it to die. None of these options were very appealing.

I plead the 5th as to which route I took. However, IF I went with the first choice, I would have consoled myself with thoughts along the lines of, “It’s not like I released a python into the Everglades,” or “I certainly didn’t flush a baby alligator down the commode.” This thing was essentially a catfish that needed a bigger bowl, and IF I had it in me to do something as potentially illegal as introducing this creature into a foreign ecosystem, I would have taken precautions to be sure that its new home would be big enough to guarantee that we wouldn’t have a real whale to contend with in about 20 years time.  If I had gone with the second option, I would have consoled myself by thinking, “Everything tastes good fried.”  The third choice wasn’t really a choice at all.

I’m telling you this tale because, lately, I’ve begun to relate to The Whale. I’ve been feeling like a fish who has outgrown her tank, and been unexpectedly released into a much, much larger body of water (allegedly). Once I started writing, I was suddenly a minnow in an immense sea of bloggers, writers, authors, editors, and publishers.

It’s exhilarating – and scary as hell – even more so than flying had been at times.  Just like the proverbial “small fish in a big pond,” I’m going to have to learn the waters, grow, and just keep swimming – or, in my case, writing – so that one day, the sea won’t seem to be such a big, scary place after all.  Either that, or start eating mayonnaise so that I taste good on toast.

I have friends who tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book.  To them I say: “Come on in! There’s plenty of room and the water’s fine.  Just stay away from the mayo – I’m sure it’s gone bad by now.”

Guest Post: V is for Vino

Yet another installment from my favorite ghostwriter.  I have a feeling this one may sound as familiar to you as it did to me.  Enjoy!

We take so much for granted these days. Turn on the switch and you get light, twist the handle and you get hot water, walk into any kitchen and find a corkscrew.

I grew up camping. Partly for the tradition, partly because it makes for a cheap vacation, and partly because it makes you appreciate modern conveniences. When you have to cut the wood and make a fire to heat water so that you can wash your dishes, that becomes a great reminder to turn off the hot water at home when you’re not using it.

Last week, I found myself “camping out” in yet another hotel room. In many ways, hotels aren’t that different from camping. You have a suitcase instead of a backpack, and a microwave instead of a fire; but it’s still a version of “you” with a handful of “your things” in a foreign environment.

I had a full 24 hours off, so for dinner I elected to go buy a can of almonds, some cheese, and a bottle of wine. The one thing I did not have – and did not think to purchase – was a corkscrew.

I should probably set the stage in a little more detail. On this trip, I didn’t have a car. This meant a two-mile walk to the nearest Chevron, which took over an hour and involved two trips across a four-lane highway, which is tantamount to playing “Frogger” but with one’s self as the frog. Therefore, going back to the gas station in hopes that they might have a corkscrew was not an option.

I am a trained aviator. In flight school, they drill in the edict to “use your resources”. But unfortunately, the front desk, the housekeeping staff, and the maintenance department didn’t have one corkscrew between them. And let’s be honest here, you can only ask for a corkscrew so many times before people start offering you 800 numbers.

If you’ve never Google’d the phrase “open a wine bottle without a corkscrew,” I highly recommend it. Mankind is an ingenious – and largely alcoholic – species.

The first option was simplicity itself. I don’t know if it actually works, but apparently if you strike the wine bottle firmly and repeatedly against a wall the sloshing will gradually work the cork out.  Since I was in a hotel room, several hours of slowly and rhythmically pounding a wine bottle against the wall seemed an inconsiderate choice.  Amusing, but inconsiderate.  All those years in Boy Scouts I carried a Swiss Army knife with what I thought was a completely useless corkscrew on it, and now here I am.

Another option involved converting a wire coat hanger into a pair of tiny claws.  I also found detailed instructions on creating a six inch long, ½ inch diameter dowel, and tapping it with a hammer until you drive the cork into the bottle. Then you “up-end” the bottle so the cork will float away from the neck while pouring the entire bottle of wine into the decanter.  But this begs the question: who has – or can fabricate –  a six inch dowel, a hammer, and a decanter; but no cork screw?

I swear I’m not making this up.

There were ideas involving shoe horns, butter knives, and drills, but the one that caught my attention was “the screw method” – pure genius. The individual behind this must have been as desperate as the guy who ate the first lobster.

Now this method assumes you have a Leatherman Multi-Tool, which I do.  In a nutshell you find a screw, twist it into the cork, and use the pliers to pull it out. The hard part is finding the right screw. You obviously need one with a pointy tip and large threads. But in a hotel room you’re only option is to “borrow” a screw from something else, and unfortunately, you don’t know what kind of screw it is until it’s out.

Take the humble outlet cover. No good. Every one of them, it turns out, has a flat end.  And the “screw” that holds the handles onto the dresser drawers? Also a bust – those are actually bolts.  I’d also say that 75% of the screws in the window frame, air conditioner and bed are either decorative, or have that stupid little swale (the window frames in particular) to prevent removal.  The majority of the screws in the phone, TV, and fridge are either plastic, or too short to be worth a shit. And the ceramic bastards that hold the commode to the floor break REALLY easily.  The little gold balls on the lamps aren’t screws at all, they’re nuts. But whatever that metallic thing is that falls off inside the lamp when you remove the nuts sounds a lot like a screw. We’ll never know.  The fire detectors don’t make use of screws at all. They largely use epoxy to hold them to the ceiling.

BUT… If you look under the coffee table, those things are held together with good old wood screws.

Cheers!

Next time I might try tapping it on the wall for a few minutes just to see. If nothing else whomever comes to the door to complain might have a corkscrew.

Guest Post: “Ustedes Me trae de papel”, Uncle Bill…

A dear friend of mine has offered to “ghost write” my U – Z posts for the A to Z Blogging Challenge so that I can take my time to get back into the swing of things. I don’t feel comfortable accepting credit for another’s work, so I decided to present this to you as a guest post. Enjoy!
 

 I’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language. Of course, I haven’t wanted it enough to actually do it, I’ve just coasted through the past 15 years saying,“I want to learn a foreign language,” so that I could forestall the actual task of doing it.

I did take one semester of Spanish in college, but that was primarily because the T.A. was incredibly cute. Consequently I paid attention to entirely the wrong things. One thing I do remember is that without “context or need”, learning progresses slowly.

Fast forward 12 years. I find myself in the unlikely position of flying to and from Chihuahua, Mexico on a weekly basis. And when I say “weekly,” I mean that I’m flying down on Monday, staying the week, and flying home on Friday. Chihuahua has become my home away from home.

As the corporate pilot I have little to do in Chihuahua except wait. The best corporate pilot resume I ever saw listed 12,000 hours of flying experience and 36,000 hours of waiting for passengers. At the end of the day, we’re paid for readiness, not productivity. An airline pilot (like a city bus driver) can take the number of miles multiplied by the number passengers and come up with a value that approximates their contribution for that year. But a corporate pilot is valued more like an ambulance driver or EMT. As far as I know, no city out there judges the worth of their rescue-squad by the number of passenger-miles logged in a given year. We’re paid for readiness. Consequently, I find myself with hours and days to pass in Chihuahua, Mexico.

To many people and all-expense paid week in Mexico sounds like the prize of a lifetime, and in Cabo, San Lucas or Belize it might be. But Chihuahua is not a resort town. Chihuahua is a gritty, industrial city in the high desert of the central highlands of north-eastern Mexico. It’s the Allentown, Pennsylvania of Mexico. Working class and working poor side by side in a utilitarian march to produce cement, auto parts, and grain. That said, Chihuahua is also the state capital, and home to most of the history between the U.S. and Mexico.

But for now, my concern is the Hampton Inn, Chihuahua. This could be any Hampton Inn anywhere in the world until you call the front desk. Given that Chihuahua is not a tourist-town, there’s not impetus for the general population to lean English. In other words, I’ve finally found the “context” within which to learn Spanish. And I’m determined.

Now, before I finish, I need to tell you a quick story about my late Uncle Bill. Once back in 1963, he went to Paris on business. He was as determined to learn and speak French as I am determined to learn and speak Spanish. In those days, most European restaurants did not bring a glass of ice water to the table as is now the custom. Uncle Bill thus found himself with the opportunity to practice his French by ordering “oeuf de la glace,”which he thought was “water with ice.”

Unfortunately for Uncle Bill, he’d missed the subtle but important difference between “eau” (which is water) and “oeuf” (which is egg). After several insistent exchanges, the waiter retreated to the kitchen, and 15 minutes later, my uncle received a bowl full of ice with a boiled egg on top. “Oeuf de la glace” instead of “eau de la glace.” His attempt to become a suave and debonair, cross-cultural attaché’… had instead made him that guy.

Now, if you recall, I’m on day number two of my first week-long stay in Chihuahua. The lady responsible for room service is at the door, and I’m confronted with my first attempt to communicate in Spanish.

“No necesito el servicio de cuarto,” I fumble out. This means “I don’t need room service.”

“Si,’” she replies.

“¿Dos botellas de agua?” I add, hoping to get one bottle to use for brushing my teeth and one to use for coffee.

“Si,” she replies and hands me two bottles of water. Victory!

As she starts to push her trolley down the hall, it occurs to me that they give you microwave popcorn at this hotel – which I like – and that I’ve already eaten my one bag. Maybe she has more!

“Un Momento Senoria…” I blurt out.

She stops.

“¿Puedo tener un bolso de…” I can’t remember the name for “popcorn,” most likely because I never bothered to look up “popcorn.”Honestly, when have you ever seen “popcorn” on a “most used list” for foreign language training?

She’s waiting…

I punt, “Papel?” That sounds like popcorn right? Surely she’ll figure it out.

She looks confused.

I start to pantomime the many tiny explosions of popcorn.

She looks more confused.

I add the over-exaggerated grin of a clown, somehow hoping that “overt happiness” will somehow convey “popcorn.” I try again, this time with grin, handgestures, and a few small jumps in the air. I add, “Puedo tener unbolso de papel?” followed by numerous small popping sounds with my mouth. Pop. Pop. Pop

Suddenly, her eyes widen. The moment of comprehension – we’ve communicated! I’m very happy. She turns and runs down the hall. She’s yelling to a co-worker, “Papel del armario… Papel del armario!!”

I can’t imagine why the request for popcorn is so urgent, but I’m pleased that I was able to communicate my desires. A minute later she comes rushing back with… six rolls of toilet paper and a look that says “you poor man”.

I’m now that guy.

Instantly, I realize that I’ve managed to get the words for “popcorn” and “paper” mixed up. All I can see is Uncle Bill’s bowl of ice with an egg on top. As I recall the hand-gestures, the little jumps, and the enormous grin, I am mortified. I don’t dare try to fix it now. All I can do is take the arm-full of toilet paper, and offer “Gracias” with a look of relief. What must she think is going on in that room?

Part of me chooses to believe that Uncle Bill is looking down on me, smiling. Part of me knows the room-service staff is shaking their heads and smiling at me (while they laugh uncontrollably).

And so the family tradition continues, “The crazy American wants what?!” Every trip since then, that one particular room service lady always gives me a look that can only be described as a knowing glance. (eye roll)

——

Epilogue: Its two months later, my Spanish is better. I’m again trying to sally-forth with confidence. Today we arrived very early, so early that our rooms were not ready yet, so we retreated to the Applebees across the street for breakfast to pass the time. I ordered eggs, beans, and tortillas and my partner ordered French toast.

After the food arrived, I wanted to ask for a bottle of Tabasco. I know that “salsa” means “sauce,” that “caliente” means “hot,” and that in Spanish the modifier precedes the noun- instead or “Red Truck” you have “Truck, Red”. So in my most confident tone possible I asked: “Tiene salsa Caliente?”.

To which the waiter replied: “…que’? “

I repeated my request until he relented.

Several minutes later, I was presented with a bowl of ketchup that had been heated nearly to boiling in the microwave. It turns out that in Spanish, “hot, spicy” and “hot, temperature” have entirely different nouns. (“The crazy American wants what?!” Uncle Bill, where are you!?)

My partner looked up from his French toast; “This is like the popcorn thing, isn’t it?”

I raised the bowl of hot ketchup, “Cheers”.