MIDNIGHT BASKETBALL

Way, way back yonder when I was a mere lad in my twenties (watch out for those Perspective ‘Mere Lads’ they can skew your view and make you feel mighty old), I used to hang out in L.A. several weeks a year in between my contract consulting gigs.

I usually crashed on the scary back-breaking, cat-eating fold-out sofa at my buddy Mike’s apartment that he shared with his friend Andrew. OK, the sofa only ate the cat once, but luckily Star Kitty was not too bright so she just thought she went on a short little vacation in Smushy Cushion World. Believe me, I had it worse than the cat as I tried nightly to find angles and positions on that thing dodging the spine piercing bar. Eventually, Mike got a mattress size piece of foam for Smushy Cushion World to better comfort all its entrapped feline and human visitors.

Routines quickly developed and it was not uncommon for me to grab some dinner then make my way over to the live-jazz pub where Andrew tended bar. Over the course of the evening, he would serve me all sorts of crazy, sometimes experimental, concoctions including some with drippy separated stalactite-looking  layered liquors served atop a large flashlight for extra effect. No matter how scary I never complained about a liquid refreshment, even when he served me the mat, especially since most every drink was comped.

In those days Mike worked as a waiter a few blocks away and after pulling a full shift he would wander down for a nightcap with me.  Usually, we then headed over to a local schoolyard, scaled the tall fence and played three to five games of one-on-one moon-lit ‘midnight basketball’. I used to wonder if Andrew was in cahoots with Mike to sabotage my game by serving me the scariest gut-busting drinks known to man just prior to our games.  The truth was, my game needed no assistance to stink and I probably only stayed close because Mike had just been working on his feet for the past six hours.

My first game of the night was usually pretty sloppy but I would run and sweat so much I was dead sober and way more focused by the second. The middle games usually became a slugfest giving me an edge as I repeatedly pounded downcourt for my inside shot. Eventually, Mike’s speed and well-practiced outside shots would wear me down and give him the edge the later games of the series.

This became a tacit common occurrence we both enjoyed for years. Unfortunately, my brain might still want to relive the routine but at my current age, my body might have a differing opinion. The stamina of youth is a very fleeting thing and typically not appreciated till it’s gone.

As we got older with real jobs, wives and families, our midnight basketball games grew less frequent. Originally, each game ended at 21 and since you had to win by two, it was not uncommon for our scores to approach 30. A few years later we lowered the winning score to 15. By the time we were knee-deep into our thirties we had dropped it to 11.  Images of us in our 80s playing a single game to 3 always filled our conversations, wheelchairs clanking against each other way down under the hoop in repeated fouling ‘chair check’ moves.

I miss the simpler times of my younger days. Out there at 2:00 am competitively playing our hearts out while the rest of the world slept. We did not worry about the time, about being out there alone in the middle of the night, about sneaking onto school property, about working all day, about drinking all night, about aches and pains, about who is waiting at home and everything else that creates mental roadblock paranoias. The only worry back then was finding a way to win those games.

I can’t even remember the last time Mike and I played basketball. Life gets busy. I don’t get out to California much anymore. Time passes. While busy running in life’s little circles, I occasionally look up and realize I’ve gotten older than I ever imagined. Those wheelchair games to 3 seem frighteningly close. I have way more responsibilities, a regular 9-5, people counting on me and right now there is a lot of heavy serious stuff going on that weighs on my brain. Does this mean that despite my best efforts to fight it, I might have accidentally grown-up?

I can wax nostalgic and long for the carefree days of midnight basketball but I have to keep a check on the reality of my memories. My brain tinkers with history and works like a sports recap highlight reel just showing the peaks and valleys while dismissing the minutiae of my life. During those years, for every night of wacky worry-free 12:00 AM hoops, there were a hundred other less memorable nights of going asleep lonely and isolated craving the rewards of the type of life I have now. The comforts of a good marriage to not only a wife but an amazing friend. A steady job. A comfortable house. A grounded life.

Memories are like a photo album or a FACEBOOK feed presenting a warped skewed view of life featuring only selected highs and rare occasional lows. It’s not the full picture of the more frequent average days and it hides the fact that with all good there is an awful lot of bad. The fact is, the most amazing meal in the world still eventually becomes flushed shit. I try to integrate the best parts of my old lifestyle with my current but it is not easy.

When I am struggling with the balance, I need to sometimes remind myself not to dwell on missing past good times but to celebrate them. Enjoy the memories but continue to set myself up to create new good times. Ones that 20 years from now I can look back on with the same dumb grin as I get to thinking about Midnight Basketball. Then maybe a decade or so after that, I can polish up the old wheelchair for the big game to 3.

 

mike dan Jimmy burger

Dan  & Mike in LA mid 80s

 

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ALLITERATION DAN’S WURST FLIGHT HABITS

In my house, one of Dan’s designated duties is defacto dish do’er. Despite a disposition for dallying, I decided decades ago to do the dirty dishes daily. (Sorry… I think I caught a touch of alliteration over the long holiday weekend… hopefully it will pass but I apologize for any lingering after-effects).  My point is, I do not like having a sink full of dirty dishes hanging over my head all day (which literally and figuratively could get very messy). As a rule, I don’t leave the house or go to bed without making sure everything is either clean and back in the cabinets or uniformly aligned in the dish-washer awaiting their eventual splooshy ablution from the appliance gods.

Long before we said our ‘I dos’ the wife and I discussed which things were our biggest ‘I don’ts’ and divvied up our most hated household headachy chores. That is how she became the primary laundry folder with the well-honed creasing, pleating and anti-puckering skills of a Ninja Origami Queen and I developed into Dish King, ruler of all plates, pots and glasses that require de-gunking.

Crazily keepin’ the kitchen clean and not leaving until the sink is empty has become a near-obsessive habit for me. I picture myself stoically standing sink-side stubbornly scrubbing a pile of putrid plates to completion as tornado evacuation sirens roar, flood waters rise up over my ankles, the hurricane winds pound the windows and fiery flames lick up the walls about to engulf the kitchen curtains.

My wife gets to enjoy the spic and span beneficial byproduct of my clean sink obsession but the fact is, it’s just not that important to her. This need for a clean empty sink is my own nuttiness. Luckily, we are both very good at not judging and letting the other wallow in the insanity of their own personal routines, paranoias and obsessions. That said, I know some of my habits just plain annoy her.

Like I have ‘this thing’ I do whenever I fly somewhere. Within my luggage, I always have a plastic bag that I eventually shove in the seat pocket in front of me to hold my newspapers, phone charger, tablet, lip balm, pen, eyedrops, ear buds and any snack I might be bringing aboard. It’s not a grocery store type plastic bag but more like those tall heavier flat ones you would get at a magazine shop… if magazine shops still existed. I reuse the same stuffed bag numerous flights until it falls apart. Although ever changing, the bags usually are from some place interesting I’ve been, so often just the sight of it brings back a memory and makes me smile. I used one from Graceland till the lettering almost completely smudged off and a scary bright pink one from a scuba shop in Nassau for almost as long.

If I am checking my suitcase, I wait till I am just about to hand over my luggage then I open my bag right there on the terminal floor and pull out my tattered traveling tote. When carrying on, I pull out my plastic bag ‘o’ plane-seat crap right after security in that makeshift post TSA checkpoint put-your-stuff-back-on area that always kinda looks like a locker room for people that would never use a gym. When I eventually get off the plane, I repeat the process in reverse.

My wife does all her prep stuff at home and thinks my little system is nuts. She would never open a stuffed suitcase in the middle of a crowded airport floor if all that could be done in advance. Unfortunately, her airport bugaboo is that she is not comfortable unless she is sitting, waiting to board right near the plane. So I end up frustrating her by delaying her routine by indulging in mine.

She humors me and does not say anything as I retrieve or stow my plastic on-flight bag, but I can tell by her expression that she is not happy waiting for me to get through my rebarbative repetitive rigmarole routine slowing her down from getting to her comfort zone by the gate. To make matters worse, she also cannot conceive why I use an old plastic bag instead of a more permanent better-made real case, bag or satchel for my stuff. I have tried to explain, it is just what I do, but just like I don’t really understand why we have to be in eyeshot of the gate long before the flight, we let each other slide.

So recently I found myself napping in the back of an Uber to the airport. I did not wake up till right near the airport. Still woogy, I slipped out of the car and walked right up to the kiosk to confirm my flight. As my luggage tag was printing, I looked up and there was no line, just a woman behind the counter waving me over. It must have been some sort of record; in less than two minutes I went from inside the cab to standing in the security line.

Then it hit me. My bag!?!?.  My plastic bag o’ plane crap.  My newspapers! My phone charger! My tablet! My lip balm! My pen!. My eyedrops! My earbuds! My snack! No, not lost or left in the car.  I have a routine and it prevented that.  No, I always take out my bag in the airport.  I just did not follow through on my routine and I checked in my suitcase without removing my tattered-up plastic bag from a giant German grocery store with the biggest selection of wurst I had ever seen in my life. Every time I see that plastic bag it makes me smile thinking of the three plus full aisles jam-packed with what must be every sausage known to mankind: brat, knack, bock, mett, weiss, liver, bregen,  jage, tee, curry, gelb, landjager… and on and on.

I walked around in a daze. I felt naked. I wondered what wayward wacky world I was stepping into. What would I read in the airport? How would I recharge my phone? How would I watch movies on the plane?  Will my lips get chapped?  What if I had to write something down? Will my eyes dry out and flop out the front of my face? How would I listen to anything?

My whole routine was breaking down. My rituals and habits lay dying on the crowded airport floor in front of me where my luggage should have been sprawled open with my comfortable old plastic bag easily accessible.  I priced replacement earphones, phone chargers and the rest of my crap but refused to pay $120 at an airport store for $30 worth of junk that I already owned and would be reunited with in about four hours.

I tried to remember what I did before I carried a plastic bag of crap to shove in the seat pocket. I used to just bring a single book.  A book. Hmmmmmmm. I happily scoured the three terminal bookstores till I found one that had been recommended to me months earlier.  I sat by the gate, cracked the spine of the new hardcover, smelt the fresh crisp pages and read. Then I sat on the plane and read.  It was a pleasant change. I really did not miss my torn-up plastic bag ‘o’ crap. I thought how happy my wife would be if this became my new routine. Just a man and his book.

A few days later I got to the airport early for my flight home and everything went smooth except for one little problem.  With my half-read new book wedged in there next to all my usual crap, my holey German plastic bag did not fit in the seat pocket anymore.

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ANOTHER FOWL THANKSGIVING

I wish I had a bunch of warm fuzzy Norman Rockwell-ish Leave It To Beaver-like childhood memories of Thanksgiving but I only have a few scattered jumbled recollections. I mean, growing up I experienced absolutely no holiday bad broken family screaming matches, lonely abandoned crying jags, gluttony whippings, foil covered 4 quadrant Swanson turkey TV dinners on tray tables in front of the tube re-runs or any other traumatic dramatic life-scarring Thanksgiving events.

In my family, we might have been crazy, but life was relatively normal (if there is such a thing). Maybe our world was not unique and special but uneventful is sometimes a good thing. My few memories are joyful but mostly I remember being very thankful for having a few days away from school.

Thanksgiving dinner was either at our house or my Aunt Harriet and Uncle Lester’s place. My Uncle was a bit of a finicky eater so I recall the meals at their house had less green vegetables and more jokes about replacing the turkey with his favorite, peanut butter.  I know Mom fussed in the kitchen making the big dinner but she did that every day. The only things that changed was adding the leaf to the table to enlarge it from seating the usual seven to double that, putting out one of Grandma’s hand stitched table clothes and following Mom’s strict rule of carrying the ‘fancy’ dishes up from storage in the basement one by one to minimize any breakage if someone stumbled on the stairs.

Thanksgivings radically changed after I moved to Miami which might be why I remember them more clearly. One year we drove the two-lane Tamiami trail across the Everglade swamps to have the T-Day feast with our family friend’s the Hunters. Mom’s normal menus never varied too much, so as crazy as it sounds, that was the first time in my life I ever had mac n’ cheese or hot honey glazed ham (not the glob out of a can with the key or sliced by the grumpy guy at the Food Fair deli counter). One of my brothers joined us but it was fun taunting everyone else up in the cold northeast that we were going out on the boat for a ride to Sanibel Island on the holiday.

My first Thanksgiving after leaving for college was interesting at best. The weekend before T-Day a few of us road tripped from Tallahassee to Gainsville and crashed on the living room floor of my friend Allyson’s apartment, for our first ‘on our own’ Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, my girlfriend of three years let it slip that the last time she visited there she cheated on me with one of the people we were about to go to a party with and she had ‘thought she had already told me’. Needless to say, the rest of weekend was rather tense and uncomfortable for everybody.

A few days later I visited my folks for the real holiday up in Memphis where my Dad was on an extended business trip. I uncomfortably shared a hotel room with my folks and we had Thanksgiving dinner in one of the few local restaurants that were open. My Mom and I had fun the rest of the weekend trying to find things to do. One night she even talked my Dad into taking a local tour where we ended up at a very touristy, but eye-opening to me, Blues Club.

During my years traveling on the road, Thanksgiving was a grab bag. Sometimes I was stranded alone in the middle of nowhere left to eat pizza or Chinese take-out in a sterile corporate apartment, a few times I was close enough to share the day with family and several other times I road tripped to my friends in Chicago who always warmly welcomed me with bubbly T-Day morning mimosas. By the time we cracked the second festive bottle of Georges Duboeuf holiday time Beaujolais Nouveau, I could care less that we were having a vegetarian dinner.

For most of the last 17 years, since my wife and I got together, my Mother-in-law would come down from Iowa for the long weekend either alone or with other family members. Thanksgiving morning the TV would be turned on to the parade and then the dog show. After much coffee and a small breakfast, the feast preparations would begin.

As the chilly house would slowly warm up with the yummy smells of the big meal cooking, my Wife and her Mother would scour the newspaper circulars and set up a game plan for their dreaded Black Friday shopping excursion. Eventually, a meal was devoured and once I was able to comfortably stand again, I cleaned the kitchen while they called the rest of the family to work on holiday gift lists.

A variation of this has been my Thanksgiving for more years then I lived in New York. For more years than I lived in Miami and spent in college. And it has also been my Thanksgiving for more years then I was a nomad on the road.  But unfortunately, the news this week is not good and my Thanksgivings might be changing forever yet again.

My Mother-In-Law’s health is deteriorating. She could not travel to Texas last year so while it seemed like a fun novelty when we broke tradition and I spent Thanksgiving with a buddy in Vegas while my Wife enjoyed relaxing while not having to venture out at 6:00 am on a dreaded Black Friday shopping trip, this year things have turned colder and bleaker. With the news that my Wife’s Mother is getting worse, it really is hitting home that Thanksgivings have already changed forever.

Life is full of changes. Some bad, some good. no matter how fast you run from the bad or try to capture the good moments in a bottle to keep forever, time just keeps on chugging away. So on this holiday if you find yourself with a friend or relative enjoying YOUR usual traditional Thanksgiving, give everyone at the table a little extra hug. Take a minute to appreciate the moment and remember someday, for better or worse, it will be different.

 

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THE INFAMOUS GAINSVILLE THANKSGIVING WEEKEND.  Crashed on the living room floor of Allyson’s college apartment the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Mike (who was unhappily also celebrating a birthday) on the sofa, Dan on the extreme edge of a mattress, girlfriend as far away from Dan as possible under a mass of blankets on the floor.

 

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TINK

I was having one of those days at work where no matter how hard I tried, my desk’s In-Box stack remained significantly taller than my Out-going pile. I imagined being in one of those cartoons where the precariously stacked sky-high towers of papers loomed way over me all hunched in a Cratchit-like pose at my desk as I trudged away in a pion-level ‘Milton in the basement storage room’ style cubical. I sensed a nasty eye twitch would kick in if I got one more ‘the sky is falling’ immediate attention needed crisis phone calls.

I had already long-ago finished my morning coffee,  more recently slammed my second espresso shot of the early afternoon and was contemplating going for the caffeine-fix trifecta when my body reminded me that I really should make some internal room before I intake any more beverages. When I am in ‘Dan crazy busy’ mode I do not even think about the restroom but once the thought hits my brain, I GOTTA GO… with about twenty exclamation points.

With very little extra time to spare before I left I liquid trail down the hall, I raced to the nearest rest room and quickly took my usual nondescript position in front of one of our office building’s bland bathroom urinals. As I stood there giving my kidneys the equivalent of a level 5 stress test, the tension left my body and I felt my muscles relax. Then immediately the tension returned when I heard a light sounding “tink”.

A “tink” sound is usually never a good thing but a “tink” sound in front of a urinal is pretty much always guaranteed to be bad. Worried what might now be in, on, under or near the heavily-used public lavatory urinal, I slowly looked down to figure out what “Tink”ed.
We have all heard the old joke about a woman describing the pain and difficulty of childbirth as being akin to pulling your upper lip up over the top of your head and down to the back of your neck. I am not crazy enough to debate the differences between the sexes. Obviously, as a guy I can only sympathize, not empathize, with the wide array of physical, emotional and societal difficulties woman go through.

Being born a white Jewish male, I already innately feel enough guilt over things I have no control over; I’m drawing the line at beating myself up over a Y chromosome. That one is not my fault. My folks were boy makin’ machines. Even my only sister was lumped in with a male twin. That said, I understand and readily admit in a lot of ways men have it easier. Case in point, I can walk into the nastiest truck stop rest room and very easily empty my bladder without completely removing any clothing, contorting my body into awkward positions and not having to touch one damn thing in the place. Forget the zillions of other reasons, that one alone should win the advantage prize.

I figure the creator, whom or what ever he/she/it/us/they might be, in their infinite wisdom knew they had to get things done fast since they were working on a tight schedule with less than one-week to produce the entire universe. That type of time frame seems rather tight, arbitrary and kind of, like the business goals big corporation executives come up with in a board room without consulting the underlings doing the actual grunt work.

I picture them all jacked up on caffeine late in the afternoon on day six looking down at Man and Women, their latest greatest creation, and noticing that although pretty amazing, there was still a handful of glaring problems. Pressured by the arbitrary schedule and not wanting to work on Sunday spending the newly designated day of rest making much-needed major mankind redesigns, I imagine the high and powerful powers acted just like those modern-day business executoids, deciding  to just go ahead with the roll out of the unbalanced inferior-designed Humankind on schedule but throwing in a few quick afterthought last-minute fixes to handle the glaring design flaws and imbalances between the sexes.

That seems like the only logical explanation. It’s like just before release they realized that woman unfairly have the brunt of the headaches having to deal with menstruation, child birth and less given physical strength, so rather than redoing everything to better share the burdens with men, to compensate they simply slapped into the programing seven extra years of life expectancy for women and called it even..

I really think I am on to something here. I mean, how else to you explain testicles? It just seems like they ran out of time to design an internal cooling system for the male’s procreation stuff, so rather than going over-time doing it right, they tossed on the quick fix of just hanging it goofily right off the side where things can easily get damaged or painfully knocked around. That would be like GM deciding to put an engine’s cooling system in a flimsy plastic bag dangling off the side of the back quarter panel an inch below the gas tank opening.

Personally, I am not saying either sex is better than the other, just different. And both have their our own issues and experiences that are hard for the other to relate to. Like as a man, it’s hard to explain urinal etiquette to a woman. The whole eyes up and forward thing, no glances, no actual commenting to others about the fact that everyone is currently touching themselves, no overly aggressive post-urination tap, tap tapping… and I am not even going to mention the dramatic rule differences for full wall, half wall and trough.  Let’s just leave it at there are unwritten guidelines you pick up on pretty quickly.

I thought I had learned all the bathroom etiquette rules but then I started traveling and realized things are different all over the world. A few years ago I was at a convention in Switzerland and thought I had stepped into the wrong restroom. No one had warned me that the Men’s washroom attendants were female over there. That created a whole new layer of thought that I had not contemplated before.  But none of that was on my mind when I heard that ‘tink’ sound the other day.

I looked down and realized a button had popped off my shirt and was slowly sinking to the bottom of the urinal. Many thoughts flashed through my mind.  Although it would be better to try before it totally sunk to the bottom, I had no desire to reach in the unflushed pool of liquid to retrieve it. Although the prospect of fishing it out after I flushed was not that much better, I also assumed it would be washed down the drain if I tried.  I quickly decided I could live without that button and instead tried wiggling around a little hoping to feel if there was a spare attached to one of those uncomfortable skin-scrapping tags inside the shirt. Luckily I was alone in there because I think my little wiggle was in violation of a couple of urinal rules…  though far less then reaching in there to retrieve a button would have been.

I have heard of people using phones that have been dropped in a toilet. I’m not sure I would want to use it after it took a swan dive into there. No matter how much I scrubbed it afterwards, every time I put it up to my face I would think about where it had been. I recall a bar in Atlanta that had glued a silver dollar into the urinal to test people. The whole incident got me thinking what would I reach in there to retrieve. A pair of glasses -maybe, a contact lens – no. My wallet – yes, a dollar bill- nope a hundred dollar bill- yes. And a shirt button – apparently a resounding NO.20170603_090832

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REPEAT??

My somewhat snarky aside comment in last week’s blog about shampoo bottle instructions always ending with the word ‘repeat’ spawned a surprisingly convoluted conversation about whether the ‘repeat’ step is necessary for maximum hair cleaning or just a manufacturer’s manipulative method to con people to use more product.  I did not realize what I was stepping into; apparently, people’s opinions on hair care directions can be as intensely divisive as the abortion debate.

Mr. Google makes reasonable arguments that fall on both sides of the ‘repeat’ chasm. So, at first glance the answer is very grey (not the hair color but the blur between black and white). It will come up again later but I’ll save you the trouble of waiting or peeking ahead and announce that my big climactic voice-of-Solomon answer to the infamous is it neccesary to ‘repeat’ debate is… (drum roll, please…) (oh the anticipation is killing me…) …  sometimes.

Last week I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. Without spitting or drooling I tried to answer my hygienist’s seemingly simple question if I wanted a fluoride rinse or not.  Like a waiter that holds-up untill the split-second a diner shovels in the meal’s biggest forkful before asking ‘is there anything else I can do for you’, my hygienist appears to always ask me questions right when my mouth contains the deepest pool of saliva and tarter scaler water that has just rose to the precipice of overwhelming the spit vacuum and is about to gush out of my mug like a New Orleans’ overwhelmed levee during a category five hurricane.

Aside from Orin Scrivello, I do not know of anyone that enjoys going to the dentist. When I was a kid my Dad referred to our family dentist’s office as Gene’s Pain Parlor. I do not know if all dentists of that era were as heavy-handed but you never left this guy’s office without your jaw throbbing.

I can still vaguely remember the ache from those visits but what I clearly recall is the effects of the laughing gas. They would slip that mask pumping the nitrous oxide into my brain and suddenly the two big grey rectangular industrial box spotlights above the dentist’s chair were transformed into a flying dragon’s eyes or a soaring spaceship’s lights swooping through the ceiling to carry me on a trippy adventure.

After Dr. Gene Ebling (sp) finished pounding on my chomppers with the gentle touch of an African plains lion goring apart a freshly caught zebra and still woogy from my snoot full of goofy gas, I would stagger over to pick out my good behavior reward, a crummy teeny plastic toy from the sectioned box he kept shoved under a shelving unit. near the waiting room fish tank. As my Mom drove me home, my head would clear, the ache would become more pronounced and I would stare down at the dumb toy I was holding regretting my less than focused choice.

Things usually go a bit smoother with my current dentist with the exception that his front office staff is as useless as a jellyfish with a neti pot. Unfortunately the fear of an unknown new dentist keeps me there. I can deal with consistently bad book-keeping more than a potentially mangled mouth. I guess the other frustrating thing is even though I have been using the same hygienist there for over 15 years, we still go through the same song and dance every visit about the damn fluoride rinse.

This magic dental super-special swish might be ever-so slightly beneficial to the care of dan at dentistmy teeth, but it is not covered by any insurance. It always feels like they are trying to make 20 quick extra non-insurance bucks off me with a cup of fancy mouthwash. Its the same shake-down feeling I get at the register of a store when the commissioned sales-guy suddenly brings up buying a useless extended warranty priced just low enough that I consider it.

But that is not that Dental flim-flam con game that makes me think of the possible sham in the shampoo bottle ‘repeat’ directions. You see, when I was a kid I thankfully only went to Gene’s Pain Parlor once a year. It was after we moved to Florida that my family discovered not all dentists were miserable and painful. Mom felt guilty she had been inflicting that much torture on us for so long.  But again, with my new light-handed relatively painless dentist, all through High School, College and my early working career I only went to the dentist once a year.

Somewhere along the way that changed. I do not recall exactly when, but now it is common practice to visit the dentist twice a year. Somehow the American Dental Association added a ‘repeat’ to their yearly visit directions. So just like I do  with the shampoo instructions, I question the necessity of the dental visit ‘repeat’.

There, it’s out in the open. I was one of the folks that felt the shampoo ‘repeat’ thing was just savvy marketing. A genius of a plan that I imagined was conjured up in some nondescript tall office building by a low placed entry-level J. Pierrepont Finch type schlub of an employee who eventually ended up riding the ‘ add the word “repeat” to the instructions’ idea that doubled the company’s profits and propelled him up the corporate ladder to the top floor corner office C- Suites.

But eventually, during our conversation, I gave in and agreed that the ‘repeat’ direction maybe was not so nefarious.  Yes sometimes it is completely unnecessary. But I was educated by folks far less folliclly challenged than me that sometimes repeating is a must. If you have crazy thick dense hair, repeating is always needed.  If you only wash your hair just once or twice a week, to deeply clean your coif, you have to reapply a second time. They piled on and pointed out more and more reasons to ‘repeat’.  I guess to my defense they should have known better; asking a bald guy about shampoo is like asking Wayne LaPierre about gun control. Your going to get a one-sided biased opinion.

 

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STUPID DAN IN TROUBLE BY DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT

When it comes to divisive topics like religion, politics and work, in my blog, I keep my opinions to myself.  It just seems stupid to annoy and alienate when my goal is to entertain and amuse not get people mad at me. That is also why I do NOT typically discuss my Wife. It would be stupid to share her personal life details or make Dawn the butt of my bad jokes. Our Dog’s house is nice but I don’t want to live in it.

Of course, last week I did earn a poke in my ribs from her by posting the old oft-repeated joke ‘since my wife sleeps with her back to me, I always wake up at the crack of Dawn.’ And I guess maybe I just proved I am a bit stupid since I said it again. I get why that annoys her. Her whole life she has heard crap like that or Delta Dawn or when she gets up at 6:00 AM its by ‘Dawn’s early light’. I get it. At least my beautiful wife is named after an equally beautiful part of the day (note the subtle complementary segue). It’s better than being named Dusk or, what I likely will be called after she reads this, Mud.

I really do understand how she feels, I was constantly teased too. When I was real little there were not a lot of kids in my neighborhood of similar age. When a group of them started calling me Danny Doorbell, I got annoyed. Not really from the taunts but because it is such an incredibly inane name. What the hell does Danny Doorbell even mean? I was used to being made fun of, I had four older siblings. And for a brat like me, any attention was better than no attention. My issue was I thought I deserved a much more creative moniker. Doofus Dan, Daniel Dingleberry or Doody-Face Danny all would have been far less lame.

While the kids my age were busy Danny Doorbelling me, the older kids usually just ignored me. The times I was noticed, it was not pretty.  It was New York and I was a stupid defenseless dork, obviously I was used to being harassed. I think I still have the mental and physical scars from those dodgeball games with the older kids at Boy Scout meetings. Another time I recall being slapped in the head and called a synonym for a cat simply because I crossed my legs at the ankles. If I did not have a clue what the cool sneakers were, how the hell was I to know the masculinity factor of a lower leg cross?

One day while walking to the park, a bunch of guys driving by in a car hit me with a half full cup of melted ice cream. Who throws ice cream out of moving car? Even worse, who actually gets hit by ice cream thrown from a moving car? Apparently, stupid little Danny Doorbell did.

On Halloween one year, the cranky old lady down the street poured a pot of water on my head from an upstairs window.  Sure, my older siblings that I was Tricks Or Treating with might have harassed her for years, but what did I do? I was a little kid in a dumb clown costume too stupid to get out of the way of a flying bucket o’ water. Street smarts are learned and at that point I obviously had none.

When I was a little bit older, barely passed the trick or treating age, my friend Johnny and I decided we were going to be like the big kids and throw eggs on Halloween.  That’s what big kids do, right? I mean it’s not ice cream from a car but… We dreamed of seeking revenge for constantly being picked on. We each stole two eggs from our respective refrigerators but again, I was stupid and did not really think this whole plan through.  What the hell were two little wussy dweebs going to throw eggs at?

After carrying them around in my coat for half an hour not knowing what to do, I tossed one at a light pole two blocks from my house. Then I realized my other egg had cracked inside my jacket pocket. Apparently before I had even finished scraping out the seeping glop, Mom had already gotten a phone call from a neighbor ratting us out.

I threw one friggin’ egg and got caught.  It’s not like I could even deny it. Mom might not have been an expert mystery sleuth like Scooby Doo, but with an egg carton in the fridge suddenly two shy of a dozen, smelly raw egg residue in my pocket and an adult eye-witness, there was no getting out of that one.  Let’s just say no one was signing dumb Danny Doorbell up for the Little Einstein award.

This is not a new revelation, I know I was a stupid little kid. That’s how I broke my nose when I was three. I was too stupid to put my hands out when I fell. I did not want to spill the 10-cent jar of bubble juice I was holding or lose the little plastic stick you blow through. So, I held those things safely in each hand and broke my fall on the cement driveway with my face.

Just after my brother got Broken Nose Danny Doorbell inside, the little Greek girl from across the street Voula Montesantos, that later called me Danny Doorbell and eventually just ignored me, came over to our house to play. She got one look at my mangled face and went running home screaming and crying. I’ve had the same effect on women ever since, but that is just another reason why I have to be nice to the wife. Otherwise she might catch on that I’m a complete cretin and go running away just like Voula.

How my wife has put up with a goofus galoot like me for 17 years, I’ll never know.  That is why I do not purposely try to annoy her too very much here in the old blog or anywhere for that matter. I really attempt to be a good husband and treat her with the respect she deserves. That is why last week was so hard on me.

The day after I annoyed her with my ‘crack-o-Dawn’ joke, my wife awoke and told me I had been really, really mean to her in one of her dreams. So mean, she admitted, that she might still mentally be holding a little bit of a grudge against me. I appreciated that she warned me but how do I defend myself against something I did not do? I mean, yeah, I can be a butthead sometimes; I told the damn ‘crack-o-Dawn’ joke two weeks in a row, but I can’t be held responsible for Dream Dan being a jerk.  I have enough trouble controlling the occasional remaining vestiges of stupid dorky Danny Doorbell, now I have stupid old Evil Dream Dan to worry about too.

D D SAN FRAN

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THAT OLD BASTARD TIME

A few years ago, I was riding on a tram in Germany when I spotted an old tavern out of the window. It was a time-worn traditional timber framed building that looked like it had been there forever. From appearances, I assumed it stood in that exact spot when the plates of the Earth bent and shifted forming the oceans, mountains and continents right around it.  Like it had been open serving tall steins of beer to Yahweh, Eros, Brahma, Allah, the Kotoamatsukami clan and all the other creators during their seventh day break. Obviously, I had to go!

At the next stop I immediately hopped off the sleek modern electric trolley and stepped onto the centuries old city streets. I mentally tossed out my current lunch plans and doubled back to investigate the old pub. It was now or never; I was deep in the ‘savor’ stage of Dan travel mode that always kicks in when I know I am leaving a place soon having no clue when or if I might ever be back. When I am in the mood, I walk around hyper-sensitive to my surroundings trying to absorb every detail and subtle nuance of the place into my brain’s memory banks. I have never asked because sometimes it’s better not to know, but I assume my pathetic ennui expression at those times drives my wife nuts.

You know, even though I say stuff like that, I do crazy love my wife Dawn. And I like my job, house, friends, family, pets, neighborhood, life… the whole package I have is pretty good. I really should not whine and complain as I am so prone to do in these pages.

I have daily routines where I get up at the crack of dawn (my wife sleeps with her back to me) to make sure my elderly dog has not redecorated the floor overnight (sometimes I’m early enough), I feed all the animals (and try to stop the young ones from stealing the near-blind old pup’s food), sip some java, write this blog, head to work, come home, eat, sleep… and like it says on the shampoo bottle, ‘repeat’.  It’s nice. It’s comfortable. It’s what I dreamed of having for so many years when I was a crazed traveling nomad working as a consultant.

But you always want what you don’t have. Sometimes in the middle of the day I look up from my little finished pile of work, on my little desk, in my little office, in my little building, in my little suburb, in my little City and think I’d rather be traveling the gigantic globe, having adventures, visiting family and friends, strolling on a beach, sipping wine with the beautiful people at a five star, chugging beers with buddies in a dive… but mostly I dream of having enough time to not think about time.

Way back twenty years ago when I was on the road, I traded the comforts of a normal life for giant chunks of time off. I also was insanely lonely, isolated, insecure and dreamed of living a normal traditional calm life like the one I have now. Oh, I sure as hell enjoyed all that free time off to be carefree and play, but like a kid with a 63’ Corvette, I think I was too young to handle it and truly appreciate it.

As has every human that has toiled and labored before me, I dream of my version of relaxing. For me that means being unburdened and carefree enough to be able to alter the day’s plans at a second’s notice. To be able to step away from the crowd of people rushing through their daily routines and just hop off that train to leisurely walk back to a groovis old pub than see where the day takes me. Over the years those dreams have evolved to include having my Wife beside me to share the experience, but that is not our world right now.

Our world is busy and full of stress. Every night we compare notes about how behind schedule we are at work and way over-booked at home. Loved ones are sick, the windows are dirty, the cat needs to go to the vet, the door we ordered in May is not yet installed, the sprinklers, the gutters, my tires, that crack in the ceiling, the dentist, I need to lose weight, is there another hurricane… The pressure weighs me down. As I rolled out of bed this morning at 4:48 to the jingling sound of an antsy pup, I already felt like I was desperately behind schedule.

Minutes turn to hours, hours to days, days to years… How is it almost November already? How did everyone around me get so old? How did I get so old!?!?!

The warm early afternoon sun had already melted away the sharp edges of the brisk March morning chill. I slid off my light jacket as I walked the few blocks back to the little German pub that time forgot. It was closed. My experience would have to wait for another time… but when? It always comes back to that old bastard time.

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