Saturday, November 29, 2008

You Can Pick Your Nose, But . . .

I was reading a blog by Jacob about Thanksgiving, and i was struck by this line:

We all in some way or form feel the need to want to "stay close" or "in touch" with our relatives. Why? Is it because you like them and/or share common interests and ideas?

It got me to thinking about the concept of family. Most people i know get along well with a couple of their family members, well enough with more family members if exposed in small doses, and not well at all with the rest though they pretend to for the sake of peace. I was thinking it would be nice if one could get on as well with all the family as they did with the ones they got along with the best. It seems unfortunate that one can't pick one's family members at times.

. . . which got me thinking. What if you COULD pick your family? Imagine having the ability to surround yourself only with people you like, and who like you in return. Gone would be the maternal complaints that you need to settle down and start having a family. No more disappointment from your father that you didn't go to medical school, or become a famous defense attorney. Sibling rivalry? Never again! Your siblings would be supportive of your endeavors, or you could opt for no siblings at all. If you didn't want to work, you could fix yourself up with rich parents and live the socialite life. The possibilities are endless!

It seems like a good fantasy on the surface, but there's one glaring flaw: Just because your new family of people you like are fond of you doesn't mean they'd be fond of each other. Imagine you've picked Martha Stewart as your mom and, say, Gene Simmons as your dad. I can't see those two getting along at all. While they'd think the world of you (assuming they never found out you were the one who paired them in the first place and started resenting you for making their lives miserable), they'd drive you insane with their constant fighting and bickering.

The other major problem with the idea of family member selection is: your current family. Whether you like them or not, they had a major role in shaping you into the person you are today. If you changed your family, you'd also change yourself. Could be a good thing or a bad thing (how would you know till you did it?), but would that be okay with you?

Being around people you dislike or don't get along well with can be an exercise in character building. With the family, it's also an exercise in patience and respect, and in the building and maintaining of relationships. These are the people who keep us from being one dimensional with their nitpickiness and their criticisms. We may not always like what they have to say, but sometimes there's truth at the core of the unpleasantness of what they're saying. Not always, but sometimes.

So i don't know if i'd pick my family members even if i could. Would you? Who would you pick?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What I'm Thankful For, Today and Every Day

A list, in no particular order. . .

My dog. He's alive and annoying and adorable and i love him to distraction.

My Husband. Like my dog, only bigger and with less hair. (Just kidding, honey, you know i love you!)

My Stepson, Ryan. I'm always happy when he's here, but he's home today, when i didn't think he would be. I love you too, Ry, even though i never say it.

My Nana. She's home and thriving, but she's still having a hard time. Don't worry, Nanana, you'll get used to that thing. It doesn't change who you are.
I love you.

My Aunt Trisha. She's there keeping my Nana sane (sometimes) and helping her with her difficulties.
I love you.

My Sister. She's cooking dinner today for those who want to be there. Don't worry, San, one day they will want to be there, too; i hope before it's too late.
I love you.

My Other Sister, Angie. Though we're not really family, we should have been.
I love you.

My Little Goat Brother. He broke his leg, but it brought him home from the Gulf. Your future wife rocks, Goat! I wish i could be there.
I love you.

All of my friends and family. I'm not nearly as good to you guys as you are to me.
I love you all.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fudge vs. Fuck

Anyone know one of those people who says "fudge" instead of "fuck"? "God bless America" instead of "Goddamn it"? "What the crap?" instead of "What the Hell?"? "BS" instead of "bullshit"? It's obnoxious.

Ever gotten a look like you just slapped someone when you actually use one of the words instead of substituting the PC version of it?

I confess, i don't understand the compulsion people feel for word substitutions. The heat of emotion you were feeling at the described moment was completely lost when you told people about that "a-hole" who cut you off in traffic. Seriously, if 'asshole' is the word you're reaching for, why not just use it? Otherwise, there's a whole smorgasboard of nonexpletives out there available and ready to be used. How about 'jerk'? 'Jerk' conveys how you feel about the person who cut you off in traffic without making you sound like you're afraid the FCC is hiding behind a bush waiting to slap you with a fine and/or piece of duct tape for saying 'asshole' when it's perfectly obvious you really wanted to.

It isn't that i disapprove of people who don't want to curse; quite the opposite, it's difficult in this day and age to be one of those people and i have a lot of respect for non-cursing folk. But these aren't the people you usually overhear using words like 'bee-yotch' when referring to a female they don't get along well with.

No, my problem is with the people who insist on self-censoring with similar sounding words. Think: 'frickin' instead of 'fucking'. At that point, why not just say 'fucking', or omit the expression altogether? "I asked you to take out the frickin trash half an hour ago!" doesn't pack the same punch as "I asked you to take out the fucking trash half an hour ago!", so why not just reduce it down to "I asked you to take the trash out half an hour ago!"?

Half the time, the things people are saying are just as ugly as, if not uglier than, the words they're cutting out. Do they think it'd hurt their coworker's feelings any less if she heard em say "I wish that fat beyotch would wash her stanky hams so she'd quit funkin' up the washroom" instead of, "I wish that fat bitch would wash her stanky ass so she'd quit funkin' up the bathroom"? (Someone said this about our secretary on Thursday.) They're not making themselves look like the better person by removing 'bitch' and 'ass' from the discussion.

Words are powerful. Think about the words you want to use, choose them carefully, and your point will seldom be lost on someone. And maybe, just maybe, you'll also save yourself from sounding like a jackass because of how you're saying something, if not because of what you're saying.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Brain is a Bad Eighties Radio Station Stuck on Repeat

Lately when i wake up in the morning, the very first thing my brain does is pick up in the same spot of Michael Jackson's "Bad". It's agonizing! My waking routine goes something like this:

Alarm sounds.

I get up and turn it off (on autopilot).

My brain starts playing (at full mental volume) "Nooo wants to BEEE deFEAted! Showin' how funky and strong is your fight. . . It doesn't matter who's wrong or right. . ."

You get the idea. It's been happening this way for weeks now. WEEKS! I get in the shower and sing loudly in my vain attempts to uproot this unwanted morning soundtrack from my mind and supplant it with something more palatable. Unfortunately, my brain is rebellious at that time of the morning, and it knows that i fumble for control over it like Helen Keller with a Rubik's cube. As i struggle for dominion over its processes, it skips around from one song i hate to another song i hate, for most of the duration of my morning shower.

This tainted love you've given, I give you all a boy could give you!"

"What's new, Pussycat? WOOOAHWOAHWOAH!"

"We're caught in a trap. I can't walk out. Because I LOOOVE you too much baybeh!"

"Why, why WHYYYYYY DeLIlah!"

"We built this city on Rock and ROOOOOOOLLL!!!!!"

"When the children cry, let em know we try!"

The moment i give up, it reverts right back to Mr. Jackson belting out his idealized version of a fight. Ultimately i triumph once i get out of the shower and into the living room. My secret weapon of mass disruption: iTunes. Not, fair, i know. But i do have to show my brain who's boss every now and then.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Longer-Than-Necessary Prelude To The Story Of Why I Hate Squirrels

I woke up on the retarded side of the bed this morning. When i was assembling my lunch before i left for work today, i pulled out four slices of ham (1 point), some lettuce, a wedge of laughing cow cheese (1 point, and a delicious substitute for mayo on a sammich), an apple (1 point), and a can of Amy's cream of tomato soup (2 points). Yummy soup and sammich day at work, perfect for the dreary drizzly kind of day it was already shaping up to be :D

Except that I completely forgot the bread. Way to go, Einstein.

So lunch time rolled around, and Steve and Jessica decided to eat at El Amigo (which i jealously tried my best not to think about. . . nope, no thoughts of chicken gorditas here!). That worked out well for me, because El Amigo is in the shopping center next door to a grocery store where i could go in and score some bread while Jessica picked up their bags of Mexican tastiness. Yay, plan in place, we set out for Scherrerville.

We took Jessica's new Honda Pilot so she could show it off to me (bonus: we didn't have to use MY gas). While i was playing around with the seat warmer and some of the other gadgets, she swerved violently onto the right shoulder. Startled, i looked around trying to see what she was trying to avoid. . . there were no obstructions in the road, and we were the only ones driving on this street. Noticing me looking around, she said, "I almost hit a squirrel. Poor thing, he's gotta be getting cold!"
Without thinking, i kind of snarled at her, "You should have hit that fucking thing!"
She looked at me, nonplussed. "Why?"

I just stared at her. There was no possible WAY i could have missed telling her the Why I Hate Squirrels story. So that's all this lunchtime story is: a prelude to the Why I Hate Squirrels story.

The Story Of Why I Hate Squirrels (may they all die in a fire)

It started as a scritching in the wall of my bedroom in that primitive apartment on S. 76th Ave., which I dismissed in the beginning as a tree branch dragging across my window. I was working the midnight shift in those days at my current job, and the sun light streaming into my 90+ degree bedroom was hard enough to try to sleep through without this annoying scritch-scritch making my life difficult. It would stop after a few minutes, and just as i was finally dropping over the edge of sleep, it would come again. Scritch. Scritchscritchscritchscritch. Silence. This couldn't be a tree branch.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, the scritching became more or less continuous. It now sounded like i had a family of huge mice (I had to think to myself "huge mice", because "rats" made me want to run screaming from the place never to return) living in my bedroom wall. The scritching gave way to gnawing noises, and occasional tussels punctuated by injured animal noises were becoming a regular thing. If i pounded on the wall, they would stop making noise for a couple of hours, but eventually this ceased to faze them at all and they would carry on regardless of how much i pounded and yelled. I took to trying to sleep on the couch during the day, but my couch was nothing more than a two-recliner loveseat that even I am too short to comfortably lay on for very long. Uncomfortable couch or sharing a bedroom with a family of some variety of rodent were the only two choices i had at the time. My step kids had a bunk bed in the other room, but for some reason i just didn't feel right sleeping in either of their beds, so i returned to my own room, unaware of the surprised that awaited me there.

I walked into the room to see a dark spot on the wall that hadn't been there before. It was a hole. So the bastards had finally broken through, i thought, as a tiny head poked through the wall, and after seeing me, withdrew back into the safety of its lair.

That was a squirrel head!

I had squirrels living in my wall! I was both relieved that it wasn't rats after all, and exceedingly annoyed at the undisputable evidence that there were indeed rodents living in my wall. With the last vestiges of my denial dispelled, I took a folding TV tray and propped it up against the hole in the wall so that they couldn't come through while i slept, then laid down to make the huge effort it now took to sleep through all that scritching, scratching, gnawing, fighting and general ruckus the squirrels relentlessly engaged in.

Over the course of the next few months, the squirrels broke through the wall in numerous places. The whole wall underneath the window was rapidly on its way to becoming one big patch kit. I would come home sometimes to find nothing wrong with the wall, and sometimes i would come home to several more holes in the same day. Snow and rain came through the holes into my room. We'd called the landlord several times, and though he did his best to make repairs and keep them out, they always returned. The last thing i wanted to do was lay poison in there, have them die in the walls, and cause a stench. I thought the noise and wall breaches would be easier to live with than the smell of decaying rodent, though not by much.

One afternoon after i'd finally gotten to sleep, i thought i felt something gently land on the foot of my bed. I'm a pretty light sleeper. I sometimes dream so vividly that it wasn't unusual for me to be asleep and dreaming, thinking i was awake. I ignored the gentle landing as i'd ignored so many other times when my dreams startled me awake. Then the darting movements began, and i opened my eyes to see the thing i'd been dreading over the course of the last year or so: a squirrel frozen in mid step on the foot of my bed, contemplating me with its beady black little eyes and walking on me with its dirty, potentially rabid little paws. I screamed before i could bite it off, and the squirrel leapt for the portal to sanctuary, the bushy tail disappearing behind it with a little flourish. I shakily gathered my blanket and pillow and went to sleep in Ryan's room.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Missouri: The Show-Me [Your Tits] State

The funniest thing happens once you cross over the border from Illinois to Missouri. You don't notice it right away since this border is smack-dab in the middle of St. Louis, and the only things in your sight are the rush-hour traffic you didn't leave early or late enough to avoid, and the pretty arch glittering in the late afternoon sun.

But once i left the distractions of St. Louis city limits behind behind me, i began to notice it: Missouri sure likes its porn! It started with a billboard.


Simple, inobtrusive (and by that, i mean it's just text with no. . . more visual description of services offered), but attention grabbing. Okay. There's an adult video store ahead, no biggie. I drove on to find this gentle reminder


with a little more information. Ah, there's an arcade included! Score! Nothing really struck me as odd about it. . . i mean, everyone needs something to do on a Saturday night, and this place doesn't really have all the entertainment options of a thriving metropolis. I drove on again, without giving it a whole lot of thought until a few miles past the Arcade, i spotted another one.


Two, within fiftyish miles. The longer i drove through Missouri, the more porn shops i noticed. Some were small, simple establishments, discreetly advertised


while others wanted to make damn sure i noticed them


Some were blunt, cut-to-the-chase, and boringly named


while others were blunt, cut-to-the-chase, and a bit more creatively named.


Some were considerate to the needs of their clientele and were conveniently located next to overnight accommodations


while others considered the budget and disability needs of their customers.


Some were completely unremarkable in any way at all.


One of them even appeared to have multiple locations (or the owners had the same idea and are completely unaware of the other).


This one occupied an entire strip mall.


This one catered specifically to the early birds.


It would seem everyone in Missouri is open and okay with the porn industry and the fun it can bring. Except these guys.


But they clearly appear to be in the minority.

I'd never seen so many public opportunities for jerking off in one state in my entire life! I took these pictures from my car while i was driving home from Oklahoma, so if the quality is amiss in some of them. . well, i defy you to take better pictures while trying not to wreck. One thing is certain, though: if you're traveling through Missouri and you're lonely, you have no one to blame but yourself! Opportunity has kicked in your door and given you a lap dance.