Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ah the Eighties

Yesterday when I got home from work, my daughter, Tiffany, said to me "Hey Dad, tomorrow at school, it's 80's day. How does this outfit look? Do I look 80's?"

Well now, I must tell you that while my kids have done many things over the years that have made me a proud papa; this one moistened my tear ducts. Because of all the things I've claimed to be expert in,(and there's a lot of them) the 80's is at the very top of my list. This was a decade that introduced me to football, Run DMC, Ac/DC, and a girl named Cindy. Actually, every boy in my neighborhood was introduced to Cindy. Not only was she pretty and um...mature for her age but she had every boy around thinking she loved him. How pretty you ask? So pretty that on one occasion, one of us pretended to sprain an ankle so he could put an arm around her and have her help me, I mean him walk home.

That all came to an end once young Cindy learned how to file a restraining order. You know what they say, "If you love someone set them free, if not, you could end up on house arrest for 12 to 18 months depending on your behavior...or so I've heard.

I have many fond memories from this, my favorite of decades. Like this one: November, 1980. It's the eve of the presidential election and I'm watching the results pour in, state by state.
Being only 12, I wasn't political. Heck, I didn't know left from right, didn't understand taxing or spending and I didn't care to. What I did knew was--that my once proud country was down in the dumps. The cold war was at it's peak, and America didn't have a leader that would stand up to the Russia, the evil empire, as Ronald Reagan would later dub them.
To make matters worse, local people would say, "If the Soviets ever launch a nuclear missile, the first place they'll hit is Jacksonville, Florida because we have three naval bases."
"This is great.", I would tell myself, "I must have won some sort of geographical lottery." How lucky can a kid be right?

I recall being ecstatic as network after network called the election in Reagan's favor. I had remembered seeing the campaign ads in the months leading up to that night. They showcased things like missiles being launched, and they spoke of how this current Governor of California was was tough on defense. I liked that.

At the same time. Iran had been holding 53 Americans hostage for over a year and gave no indication of releasing them anytime soon if ever. Iran's leader the Ayatollah Khomeini, was as evil as they come and back here in the good ole U.S.A., you could buy everything from dartboards to toilet paper with his likeness on it. Flea markets all over the nation were prospering from this patriotic run on terrorist imprinted toys and toiletries.
The hostages were released on January 20, 1981, right after Reagan was sworn into office. Earlier that year, Jimmy Carter had sent out two military helicopters to rescue the hostages. Both choppers crashed in the dessert sands, leaving for soldiers dead. This only reinforced my belief that America needed a protector. Someone who would lead through strength and not be pushed around. Other world leaders would think twice about taking on the United States lest they get a Toby Keith style boot up their a**. And now we had that leader, and I, like many other Americans, breathed a sigh of relief.

Now brimming with confidence and a new found sense of security, knowing that my house wouldn't be microwaved anytime soon, I started out on my journey into what would become my favorite era so far, the wild, wonderful, everything goes, 80's. I remember watching Mtv after school(I can still see the astronaut planting the Mtv flag on the moon) and seeing Dexys Midnight Runners dancing in the streets singing "Come On Eileen." You know, back when they played music videos on MUSIC TELEVISION!

I still remember when rap music was fun and wasn't filled with hateful vitriolic lyrics.
I can vivdly see Doug Flutie, quarterback for the Boston College football team, dropping back and heaving the ball 60 yards into the endzone, and his friend and teammate Gerard Pheland hauling in the pass behind two stunned Miami Hurricane defenders. Whenever you watch a football game and hear the term Hail Mary from the announcers, this is the play they are thinking about.

The movies of the 80's were great as well. Sure, when you watch them now, they may seem a little cheesy, but not then. No way no how! Just look at this line up: "Terminator" 1&2. "Rocky" 1-4. "Rambo" 1&3, "Raiders of the Lost Arc","Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "The Breakfast Club", are you kidding me? I could go on, but I digress.

There were a lot of great memories I have from that time in my life but the 80's was about so much more than movies, music, and merriment, it was about the world being a better place than the decades before. It was about having no more gas lines, everybody was working(everyone who wanted to anyway),and prosperity reigned supreme. So much so in fact, that prosperity is what ended the cold war as we knew it. America simply out-spent the Russians. They couldn't keep up and ultimately collapsed in around themselves. Then in 1989, the last year of that marvelous decade, the Berlin Wall fell.

Now my little girl is standing in front of me so excited that she gets to dress like Molly Ringwald. To her it's all about the style and music of that era, which is fine. But to me, it's much more.

I can still hear Ronald Reagan uttering those historic words...

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"


Friday, January 15, 2010

Of Doctor Visits, Diets, and Drama

James sits in the waiting room patiently sifting through the mass of useless magazines on the table in front of him.
After browsing through a "large print" version of Reader's Digest and finding nothing of interest, he spots an issue of People magazine which is showcasing a popular country singer on the front cover. Mildly intrigued, he turns to the story only to find out that it's about the entertainer and his wife having just had their second child. Wow. That's riveting, but I think I'll stick with my subscription to "Sock Drawer Illustrated".

In case you haven't figured it out yet, James is me. And this is what my life is like these days. Doctor's appointments, one after another. X-rays, needles, poking, prodding, coughing, and a stack o-of do-o-ctor bills (Sang to the tune of "12 Days of Christmas.").

The reason for my exciting new lifestyle you may ask? Well I'll give you a hint, it's only five millimeters, has jagged edges, and it was conceived in the depths of hell.

That's right, a kidney stone, or in my case, kidney stone(s). You see, these little guys have one job,and that is to travel through your body and terrorize you all along the way. I've named the one that's been giving me fits. Heck,we've become so familiar with one another I guess you could say we're almost pals. I call him M***** ******!

Like everyone else, I have known some people that I wasn't crazy about in my lifetime, but I would never, EVER wish these things on even my mortal enemy! No matter how nefarious a character they may be. Well, maybe except for Al Qaeda members. Hey,that gives me an idea. Whenever the good guys capture one of those dudes, they should plant a remote control stone,with spikes on it,in the bad guy's kidney. So then whenever some vital intel is needed, just grab the remote and send little spike on a journey through their urinal tract. Is that sadistic on my part? If so, I got that way from spending all of this time around doctors.

Now where was I?...

Oh yeah.

So most of the Doctors I've dealt with have been pleasant, and seemed to perform their duties well enough. It's just that... well...I'm sick of them. Sick of sitting and waiting.Sick of wondering when all this will finally be over. And as I type this on my Blackberry phone, I'm waiting. AGAIN. Waiting to be possibly violated by some guy with a rubber glove and giant hands, or some lady at the desk who'll probably be informing me shortly, that while I was waiting, my insurance provider abruptly went out of business and will not be covering today's visit. Next she will probably tell me how I am now personally responsible for footing the entire bill. I imagine myself asking her what my options are to which she most assuredly will reply,"You can have a peppermint or a lifesaver out of our candy jar...but only one or the other.That's the only option you have. Now Mr. Brooks,will that be cash, credit, or first born?"

Getting back to my point...

Up until a few months ago, I wouldn't have been caught dead at the doctor's office (well that's an awful analogy now isn't it?). It's bad enough that one doctor has already told me not to eat bread,potatoes,pasta, or chocolate- CHOCOLATE!!!- now this one is telling me not eat nuts or peanut butter, and that I have to drink one and a half gallons of water per day.

"Surely you jest." I say.

He wasn't jesting.

After pleading with him for a tasty alternative to fill in the gaps, he smiles from ear to ear and enthusiastically quips, "Carrot sticks!"

I almost committed assault.

Then he tells me that another wonderful benefit to my new tasteless, boring diet is that I can also munch on celery sticks. Obviously excited I ask,"With peanut butter on them?" Now he was pondering whether or not to commit assault.
After finishing up my paper work and delivering some final instructions he stood to shake my hand. I grasped his hand, looked him in the eye and thanked him for his services.

Our parting conversation went something like this:

You're doing really great James. Be sure to drink lots of water and eat those carrots sticks.

Me- I hate you!

Doctor- Um,look at the time. Well I better get to my next patient.

I'll bet I'm his favorite patient. After all, he did tell me to come back again in six months.
Oh would you look at the time. I'd better get going.

Those carrots sticks aren't gonna buy themselves you know.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Big Fat Starbucks Adventure

Here in Ocala, Florida, we're not used to what happened to us this week. We froze our butts off. That's right, it was so cold, the politicians had their hands in their OWN pockets... hey-o!

I've never been much of a coffee drinker, but this morning I made an exception. I drove over to the new Starbucks on the town square. I really like our little downtown area. The recent Improvements along with the pride of the vendors have combined to make this a really nice place to go for dining and shopping without having to fight all of the traffic and hustle and bustle of the newer, more recently developed areas. The natives call this place Brick City. Named after all of the all-red brick buildings that used to dominate this original hub of town until the great fire burned many of them to the ground. Most were rebuilt, but with different exteriors than the originals. But the nickname, Brick City survived, fully intact, and that's alright by me.

After finally finding a parking space (Apparently this weather gave a lot of people the same idea), I crossed the street and headed towards the coffee shop. I passed by a new sushi place, looks top notch, and Gause and Son's Jewelers always looks terrific, as it has for many years as the anchor of downtown. The first thing I noticed upon entering this caffeine craver's paradise was how this national chain store was able to spend the money necessary to fill out this cavernous space in this old brick building and actually give it kind of a cozy feel. Previous occupants had attempted this but it always seemed as if the space just swallowed everything else around you and made you feel like you were the only person in the building and you would need a compass to find your way out.

But there was something else I noticed. The people. Everyone sort acted the same. Almost "Stepford Wife" in their mannerisms. Every one looked as if they shopped at the same store, spoke as if they read the same books, and of course, knew EXACTLY how to order their coffee. I would like to take a moment to address this. I am admittedly jealous of people that know how to speak the Starbucks lingo. As I said, I'm not much of a coffee drinker so, me ordering from Starbucks is akin to John Wayne walking into Victoria's Secret and describing to the sales girl what kind of "little number" he's looking to pick up for his wife. In other words- It aint pretty.

So I'm standing in line, nervous about what I'm going to say when it's my turn, and the little guy behind the counter taking(or should I say giving) the customers orders isn't helping to ease my nerves at all. He kind of half-shouts at the lady in front of me "What are you gonna have!", and she immediately recites something that sounded french to me, to which he replies, "NEXT!" Oh no, it's my turn, I say to myself, what am I going to say?- I mean, I just want a cup of coffee right? I'm cold, all I want to do is warm up a little... that's all. But this guy, this tyrant, this Starbucks "Coffee Nazi" has me all worked up. So I step forward and say something like, "Uh...I'll have a skinny, super charged, peppermint, java express with cream". He looks at me and dryly says, "What size?" Huh? "WHAT SIZE?!" Oh uh, medium I guess. "What's your name"? name is James I proclaimed - proud that I knew the answer so quickly.
A couple of seconds later the girl behind the counter called my name, I picked up my order and was in warm, caffeine bliss shortly after. As I approached the exit I caught the eye of a gentleman who was wearing a stylish, tan leather jacket. He looked to be in his mid 40's and appeared to have all the answers. He gave me a look that said "You're in the club now pal". I looked back as if to say, "I have a cool jacket too I'm just not wearing mine right now".

So it is with new found confidence that I leave the warmth of the building and enter into this bold new latte' universe, caffeine infused and well equipped to handle anything that life hurls my way. Now maybe I'm ready to jump onto the sushi bandwagon I say to myself as I once again pass the fashionable new squid joint. Nah,one culture shock to my system is enough for today.

Happy New Year or ... 2010 is my year to win. My Resolutions For This Year

I never have been much for cliches. They say you should try to avoid them when writing. I say you should avoid them in every situation lest you become “that guy.”
You know the one, the guy who greets you with “What’s up dog?”, or when you ask him to confirm the date you get this jewel: “All day until midnight.” Sans the one I already put in the title above, I’ll aim to stay cliche free as I list my resolutions for the new year.
Here goes:

1.I will not gain back all the weight that I worked hard to lose in 2009.
From July through December I altered my diet to not include pasta, bread,or starches. I also ran until my eyes started bleeding sweat. The manager at the gym told they were gonna bill for having all my “sweat tears” steam cleaned off of the treadmills. I’ve yet to see a bill, however, so that could have just been a rumor.

2.I will be kinder and more compassionate to my fellow man. (and the chicks too)
Have you ever been driving down the road and you accidentally cut someone off and by chance their car goes careening out of control, bounces off of a school bus and plunges headlong into the duck pond? Then the driver gets out of the car, starts waiving their fist at you and yelling something about hearing from their lawyer, and screaming out “I can’t swim” and you’re thinking, “I’m gonna give this jerk a piece of my mind. Well, that was a long time ago and I’m still a little steamed but you know what? I’m gonna let that one go this year.

3.I will finish what I start
You can walk into my garage at anytime and you’ll find several bags marked “Lowes” or “Home Depot,” filled with unused items. These bags are usually the sign of unfinished projects. Some projects actually DO get finished so I’m not a complete wash in this area, however, I’m no Ty Pennington to be sure. Hey that gives me an idea for a new project...hmm.

4.I will be thankful for what I have
Men are wired funny. You know when you see some petite woman driving down the road in this huge, 30 foot long S.U.V., chances are it was her husband that wanted her to have it and she would probably be perfectly happy in some Honda Accord or something. Yeah my wife’s 5’3” and drives a Chevrolet Tahoe. So what’s your point?

So this year I’m gonna stop looking at what others have, I really am. Life’s too short to be walking around with a scorecard. My babies are getting older everyday and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.

You feeling me dog? You feeling me?