Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Events...for the Rest of Us!

The human drama of athletic competition…the thrill of victory…the agony of the feet…face it, 99.999999999% of us will never qualify for an Olympic event, even for events that we didn’t really think could be defined as athletic competitions.  I mean really, air rifles?  Is there a Red Ryder category?  Has anyone accidentally shot someone’s eye out?
If the International Olympic Committee can sanction BB guns, they should also consider the following events that represent extraordinary accomplishments by ordinary people:
The 5000-meter Large Dog Walk
This involves leading a boisterous, untrained and completely slobbery dog weighing no less than 120 pounds through a simulated suburban neighborhood.  Participants are required to be out of shape, wear uncomfortable shoes (ingrown toenails are also a requirement), and attempt to prevent the dog from romping through flower gardens or pooping on driveways.  Cats and squirrels will be periodically released throughout the course, which the contestant must attempt to prevent the dog from chasing. 
Popcorn Speed-Eating
This is a team sport, sort of.  A couple will be seated in a simulated movie theater and given a large $7 bucket of popcorn.  One contestant (the woman) will open by taking one handful and savoring it during the opening credits of the movie, while the man must hork down the entire contents before his partner finishes her first handful and then say “oh, I thought you were done” as apologetically as possible.  Style points will be awarded for slurping an entire large soda without belching…which reminds me...
Did you know there is a World Burping Championship?
The Supermom Hurdles
In this event, the participant must attempt to wake, feed, and clothe four obstinate children between 5 and 15 and get them into a minivan and to their respective schools before the bell rings.  This event will include finding lost socks, getting gum out of hair, and convincing the youngest ones that they will definitely be in an accident if their underwear is not clean.  Also, the teenaged drama queen has been up all night texting and Facebooking and has not done her homework that’s due first period.
And what Olympics would be complete without The Synchronized Snack Toss, Face Pulling, Mud Hole Waterskiing, Belly Flops, Blob Jumping, and Rock, Paper, Scissors (which has an organized league—the USARPS)?
It’s time for us ordinary folks to start lobbying!

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Note of Warning

After watching Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones on DVD, I found myself wondering about the movie's premise--that a mysterious alien race cloned a Polynesian fullback forty zillion times and created a huge intergalactic football league.  The details are sketchy as I had O.D'd on popcorn at that point and was no longer coherent, but it got me thinking about why we haven't heard much lately from the scientific community on the matter.

The debate over cloning began in earnest during the 1980's.  Specifically, it had to do with
Magnum, P.I.  Though scientists didn't actually succeed in cloning Tom Selleck, it appears that they did succeed in cloning his moustache, which began appearing on college students, football players, and aspiring game show hosts nationwide. 

Not much has been said about cloning since Dolly the Sheep and a few rogue "clone your dead dog" services that have popped up here and there.

There's a reason you haven't heard more about it.  Cloning technology has long since fallen into the wrong hands.  Shadowy terrorist groups have already harnessed the ability to use cloning to disrupt our communications and create fear and confusion.  An army of clones has been surreptitiously deployed throughout the country.  While it's true that the terrorists have used Mortimer Snerd's DNA, this in no way diminishes the threat.  In fact, they want it that way.

Yes. Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  They've infiltrated the customer service departments at the telecom and utility companies.  The fiends have calculated that we'll all be gibbering idiots by the end of the year.  Yup, yup, yaw.


Friday, July 6, 2012

The Blunder Years

(This column of mine was originally published in 2005 by Absolutewrite.com)

I believe that most authors have had a pivotal moment in their lives when it became clear there was no other choice than to be a writer.
            My moment came in seventh grade, September 1969.  Renate Allen.  She didn’t spell it “Renee,” or “RenĂ©,” it was “Renate” with a silent t.  I believe it stood for “tall.”  More correctly, it meant I was short, like most other seventh grade boys.
            I knew her from Sunday school and our mothers were good friends.  I both loved and hated Sundays—I never knew what to say or what to do with my hands—but I got to sit across the room from her and try to pretend I wasn’t gawking.
            Sixth grade had not been a problem, but over the summer something happened.  Her cooties fell off.  She became tall and beautiful, somehow bypassing the normal seventh-grade awkwardness.  Suddenly the lights came on.  Suddenly everything was crystal clear.  Suddenly I was a complete bonehead.
            I went to great lengths to make her aware of me—I figured out her whole schedule by taking alternate routes between every one of my classes until I was able to pass her in the halls five or six times per day.  If she said “hi,” I was floating on air for the whole day, filled with hope.  If she didn’t notice me, I just knew she hated my guts, and was probably telling her friends what a total dork I was.
            If she happened to be talking to a guy, I was, of course, consumed with jealous rage.  I made a voodoo doll collection representing every guy in the school who was taller than me and/or had muscles and/or a personality.
            Renate Allen filled my life with purpose.  What that purpose was, I was not sure, except that more than anything I wanted to be tall enough to kiss her.  But what could I do?  I was not a jock; I was a nerdy crew-cut third cornet player who wore white socks with green pinstriped high-water flares. 
            I decided that the pen was mightier than the mouth.  I would write her…a NOTE.  Notes could be any length, actually—some would argue that they actually were “letters” if they exceeded more than one page—but the true definition of “note” was in the way you folded it.  Girls usually folded notes into rectangles with wrap-around points that tucked into each other.  That was way too sissy—not to mention complex—for a guy.  We preferred the “triangular paper football” fold, which was less conspicuous because all of us carried paper footballs around for those tabletop matches during homeroom and lunch.  No one would have guessed that it contained the summation of my desires, except that it was about an inch and a half thicker than the ordinary football.   I mentally rehearsed my delivery—pull it from left jacket pocket, flash smug James Bond smile, slide it into her notebook as I passed.    She would read it and be swept off of her feet by my brilliant, witty prose. 
            It had to be a masterpiece—this was, after all, Renate Allen, sans cooties, the most beautiful creature in the seventh grade.  It couldn’t be ordinary, couldn’t be “hi, I like you.”  It had to have the same impact on her that her mere existence had had on me.  But it couldn’t be too mushy—it had to be cool, it had to be funny, it had to be the greatest thing she’d ever read in her life.  I made up jokes, I wrote silly poems, and I even drew cartoons.  She had to know that underneath that crew cut was a mind for which she could and should love me, and maybe she would be patient enough for my body to catch up in a few years. 
In the corner by my bed I kept a tall plastic kitchen wastebasket. By April it was overflowing with wadded-up pieces of notebook paper.  Every day I carried a new note, painstakingly scrawled in a marathon of creativity the night before, and every day I chickened out.  I’d come home disgusted, read the note I’d written, decide it was stupid, crumple it up one page at a time (I averaged about nine pages per note), throw it in the corner, and start over, racking my brain for the magic words that would make her love me.
 I chickened out one hundred sixty-three times that year.  The pile in the corner grew until my bed disappeared and Mom quarantined my room.
            Renate never received a single note from me (although I did finally get to kiss her at a spin-the-bottle party in ninth grade), but through those nightly exercises I eventually became a writer, which above all other endeavors requires the persistence of Don Quixote.   
            Twenty-something years later, I met Lesli.  Due to logistical difficulties, a large part of our courtship was conducted via the U.S. Postal Service.  Suddenly I was an infatuated seventh-grader again, curled up every night on the floor next to my bed with a spiral notebook and colored pens.  Whatever came into my head at the moment seemed like a wonderful thing to share with her, and the more ridiculous, the better.  I found myself recycling much of the drivel I had trashed in my youth.  She fell for it and married me. 
Thank you, Renate, wherever you are.