Monday, December 20, 2004

Made-for-TV-and-me

One of my favorite things about Christmas - besides the birth of Jesus - is the surplus of made-for-TV Christmas specials, which usually air on CBS and have the words "Hallmark," and "Wish," in the title.

Because I have to admit that sometimes I let the chaos of the holiday season get to me, and I need someone - like Jennie Garth, Patrick Duffy, or even Meredith Baxter-Berney - to remind me what the holidays are all about. So what ARE the holidays all about anyway? Well, from what I've learned from made-for-TV specials, Christmas is all about a) reuniting with your long lost husband who you thought was dead but was really living in the Republic of Congo for reasons that are irrelevant at this time, b) discovering that a mall Santa Claus is the real Santa Claus because you asked him for "true love" and then ended up having simulated TV sex with Patrick Duffy, c) rescuing somebody from a well, and d) realizing that someone who you thought was mean is actually not so bad, and then having simulated, yet wholesome TV sex with them.

Yes - so many made-for-TV holiday specials have taught me so much over the years, but it's been one that has taught me the most. I had never seen "A Very Brady Christmas" before until this past weekend, and even though I only saw the very end, it's a virtual miracle that I've been able to celebrate Christmas for all of these years without learning the lessons from this heartwarming holiday special. Because I know now that if a building randomly collapses on Mike Brady - or anyone for that matter - all you have to do is gather 'round the building and start singing Christmas carols. Of course, it helps if Carol Brady is leading the singing and she's rocking a humongous afro, but it's not necessary. Anyway, if you keep singing, Mike Brady - or whoever else happens to be trapped - will just walk out of the rubble as if nothing happened. Then everybody has dinner, and Alice the Maid, or whatever your maid's name is, says something dumb and everybody starts laughing.

So this morning on my way to work, I just happened to pass a building that had just collapsed (it was very windy today). But instead of letting the people inside die - like I did last year - I got out of my truck and started singing. I couldn't remember any Christmas songs, so I sang "Every Little Step I Take," by Bobby Brown. It worked, and everyone got out safely, except my crazy maid, who fell into a well.

So if you ever find yourself in this situation, thanks to made-for-TV Christmas specials, you know just what to do. And you never know - the person trapped inside may be your "true love," which could mean that someone (you) is getting lucky tonight. And that's what Christmas is all about.

And don't forget about Jesus.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Peyton Manning - An exclusive look

Whenever I think of Peyton Manning - which is quite often - two funny things come to mind. First, there was actually serious debate six years ago as to whether Manning or Ryan Leaf should be the No. 1 draft pick. Secondly, there was actually serious debate two years ago as to whether or not Peyton Manning was overrated. Now these two things might not be "ha ha" funny, like Margaret Cho, if she were funny. No - they're "funny" in the sense of "I can't believe people are so stupid."

The Indianapolis Colts were not stupid however, when they selected Manning with the #1 pick in 1998, leaving the San Diego Chargers to select Ryan Leaf, who went on to have a more hilarious career than Margaret Cho, if you can imagine. And last year, Manning put to rest all the talk of him being overrated by a) winning a share of the MVP award, b) winning a playoff game (two games, actually), and c) becoming the highest paid quarterback since Alex Rodriguez (who played quarterback in high school, but now does something else.)

Peyton Manning is currently orchestrating the greatest quarterbacking display in NFL history. He is doing whatever he wants on the football field. He throws touchdown passes like it's his job. And even though it IS his job to throw touchdown passes, he's exceeding the company quota, to use a more blue-collar analogy. For example, my quota here is to churn out one (1) column per week. But if Peyton Manning were here, he would have already thrown 44 touchdown passes. Does that make more sense? Good.

So how does he do it? How does Peyton Manning make it look so easy? Well, we tried to track him down for a one-on-one interview to find out his secrets, but he declined, claiming he had "never heard of (me)." Of course, I'm kidding - we never tried to track him down. Besides, I think it's better for everyone involved if I just make up what I THINK Peyton Manning would say with regards to topics such as a) football, b) Peyton Manning, c) Ron Artest, d) life in general, and e) Christmas.

Manning told me that the secret to his success on the football field was his ability to spread the ball around. He is obviously blessed with many talented wide receivers, including Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokley, and he prefers not to focus on just one. He told me that he imagines all of his receivers as just one giant bagel, and he likes to "spread the ball around like cream cheese." I thought that was a pretty weird way to put it, but hey - it seems to work.

When asked to describe himself, Peyton Manning never referred to himself in the third person, which is a tendency of many high-profile athletes. Instead, he called himself, "The Guy Who is Going to Destroy Dan Marino's Puny Record." (At one point during the interview, he said, "The Guy Who is Going Destroy Dan Marino's Puny Record is thirsty. Someone get him a drink for crying out loud.") But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he actually WAS referring to himself in the third person, but he was just using an even more egotistical moniker. Nevertheless, Peyton Manning said he was very down-to-earth, and he is actively involved in charity work. Also, he likes kittens.

Peyton Manning thinks what Ron Artest did was wrong, but also added that "it's difficult to say what you would do until you're actually put in that situation." When asked if he had purchased Artest's latest hip-hop album, Manning replied, "No."

Manning believes that life, especially when you're a professional football player, can get crazy at times. He acknowledged that people are always after him for something - whether it be money, free Gatorade, or fake interviews. Nevertheless, he urged everyone (me, in particular) to just "try your best." He added, "If you just apply yourself, one day you can throw 44 touchdown passes. In the game of life." Then I told him to "go long" and he said he was just using "metaphors." Whatever.

And finally, when asked about the upcoming Christmas holiday, Manning said he was looking forward to spending time with his family, especially his younger brother Eli, who is currently experiencing some growing pains as the quarterback of the New York Giants. Peyton said that if he could give his brother anything for the holidays, it would be "a new offensive line." When asked what HE was requesting from Santa this year, Peyton replied, "Nothing. I have everything I want right here. Oh wait - how about a new defense? Do you think Santa can bring me a new defense? I've been extra-specially good this year!"

You sure have, Peyton Manning.

You sure have.

Monday, December 06, 2004

A Christmas Carol...and Staci, and Barbi, and Denise...

The strip club on Route 516 is having a Christmas party!

From what I understand, the date of the party is December 17th - a Friday night, so as not to compete with Saturday evening mass - and will feature "DJ Nasty," and $1.50 ello shots," which I inferred to mean "jello shots," with the "j" most likely somewhere in the Club 516 parking lot.

Now I've never been to a Club 516 Christmas party, but if it's anything like their Easter throw-down, then I'm in luck! (I can't even TELL you about the Easter egg hunt). And I hear that the employees will all be wearing Santa hats - and JUST Santa hats - and that they feature the only eggnog that tastes like Coors Light. Oh boy!

The only problem is that my wife and I apparently have another Christmas party scheduled for that exact night. But it's the same darn party we go to each year, where everybody has their clothes on, and there's no cigarette machine. We have to listen to stupid, generic Christmas albums, instead of jamming to the beats of DJ Nasty - whose holiday play list includes "Welcome to the Jungle."

I was trying to convince my wife that we should blow off this other party and experience the holidays the way they were meant to be experienced: with random naked ladies in Santa hats grinding your lap for money. But she says we HAVE to go to this other party because the host is apparently the "best man from our wedding." So it looks like I'll be paying for THAT decision every Christmas for the rest of my life.

So I guess I have no choice - we're going to the lame Christmas party...again. But hey - at least there's no cover charge. And the ello shots are free.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A dollar and a dream

I walked into a Wawa store the other day to purchase a Gatorade and a coffee cake, and while I was at the register performing my duty as a consumer by paying for my chosen items, I was asked by the cashier if I would like to give one dollar to the "hungry children." I replied - without hesitation - "No." There was no explanation to follow either. A simple "no," seemed, at the time, to suffice.

I did not say, "No, thank you. That was my last dollar," which would have been a lie because I DID in fact have several other dollars, AND I wasn't really thankful at all for being put in that position (the one where you're standing up and people pressure you to give them money for various reasons). I did not say, "No - I have a dollar in my wallet, but that's all the way in the back of my pants now, and I really don't feel like going back there to get it," which would not have been a lie, but didn't feel like the actual reason that I declined. I did not even question which "hungry children" I was being asked to support. Was it the "hungry children of Wall, NJ" - who may have not eaten since lunchtime - or was it the "hungry children that I see in those commercial ads who are surrounded by flies and usually force me to change the channel?"

Anyway, as I left the store, I wondered to myself why I had said "No," and what, exactly, kind of person I was. Was I not ready for the fame and notoriety that come from giving a dollar to the "hungry children" and then having a circular card with your name on it plastered above the Wawa register, along with the hundreds of other Wawa faithful who were pressured into forking over a dollar? Was I worried that my dollar would go towards holiday gifts for the significant other of this adolescent cashier, thus leaving some random child in either Wall, NJ or Ethiopia to go hungry for another hour, or at least until this guy's shift ends and a more honorable employee begins ringing people up? Or was I just a self-absorbed jerk who only lives for the moment, and who wouldn't let a crumb drop from my coffee cake, even if I was stepping over a homeless person?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn't say, "No" because I don't care for people less fortunate than myself. I do. I just thought that if I'm going to help somebody out, I'm going to do it on my own terms. I'm sick and tired of organizations like Wawa, and The Salvation Army, and Sally Struthers guilt-tripping people into helping out the less fortunate, so they can feel better about themselves. I mean, how far are we going to let this escalate? What if you went to the bank to deposit your check, and the teller said, "Would you like to donate half of your check to the Alaskan Seals with Diabetes?" and there's a line of people behind you giving you a look like, "You better do it! What - you don't care about the SEALS?" and the teller is already taking out the circular card to write your name on? I can't live in that kind of world. I refuse to.

So anyway, I figured, "What better time than the holiday season to take a stand by not freely giving to those less fortunate than myself?" Ha ha - that was a joke. Sort of. I AM going to do my duty as a man, and as a Catholic, and as a human being, but I'm going to do it when I want to, where I want to, and without a line of people of behind me. And I don't care how many homeless people I have to step over to do it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Frost art

If somebody out there has a worse ice scraper than me, I'd like to meet that person. That way, we could compare ice scraper horror stories, maybe over a cup of coffee on a cold winter night, while our respective vehicles waited outside, acquiring multiple layers of frost that neither of us would be able to defeat. We would probably call a cab.

It was last winter that I said to myself, "Mike, you need to get a new ice scraper." But then summer came, and purchasing a new ice scraper was the farthest thing from my mind. My scraper was left unattended underneath my seat, along with my trusty first-aid kit (one day I fear that I may actually need that kit, and I will open it to discover that there is only a note inside that reads, "Call 911.") It wasn't until recently, on a crisp November morning, that I walked out of the door only to realize that my vehicle was a startling shade of white, like it had seen a ghost, and tried to protect itself by covering its' glass components with frost.

Luckily for me, it takes my defroster approximately 3 hours to activate, at which point it blows out several breaths of lukewarm air, while simultaneously using 14 gallons of gas. "I had better get my ice scraper," I said to myself. So I began the long journey around my vehicle to the other side, but I slipped on some ice in the development parking lot, somehow regained my balance, and arrived at the passenger side door with my arms outstretched, like a surfer arriving at shore. I quickly looked around to see if anyone just saw that, and then I got my ice scraper.

My ice scraper has two features. On one end are bristles, which can either be used to dust snow off of one's vehicle, or to brush the teeth of a wooly mammoth. On the other end is the scraper part. The only problem with the scraper end however, is that it does not scrape. When I glide it across my front windshield, it makes three vertical lines, each exactly .00000000001 millimeters in width. Instead of actually removing the frost from my vehicle, it appears as though I'm doing some kind of calligraphy on my windshield. If any of my neighbors were to watch this, they would undoubtedly say, "Hey honey, get over here. That idiot from upstairs just slipped on the ice, and now he's trying to write his name in cursive on his front windshield again."

Since I obviously can't be late for work, I furiously scrape just a portion of the area of the windshield I need to see in order to drive. But then as I start driving, I realize that if something were to cross my path, like a duck, or maybe a mailman, I would never see it, because I did not have time to scrape the other 97 percent of my windshield, or the windows on the doors. This does not bother me however, as I continue to view the road ahead through the top loop of my steering wheel, crouched over like an old lady, waiting for the freakin' defroster to kick in, and using my windshield wipers to assist in the process.

So while I am fairly confident that I possess the worst ice scraper in the free world, this feeling of pride has not made me the safest driver on the roads of New Jersey during the hour of 6:00am to 7:00am each weekday morning during the months of November through March. I think I may have to either purchase a new ice scraper, or save money and just use a pencil to remove the frost from my vehicle each morning, which would be more effective than my current method. Until then, if you see a big red truck on the road in the morning, that appears is being operated by no one in particular, please get out of my way. My defroster has not kicked in yet.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Beat the clock

The alarm clock in our bedroom is nine minutes fast. The reason for this is that the interval time in between snooze bar hits is nine minutes, so if the alarm goes off at 6:00 am, I can hit the snooze bar with the comforting feeling that it's REALLY only 5:51 am, so I have plenty of time for another dream in which I win the World Series with a walk-off home run, defeating some random team that features my cousin John and Nelson Mandela. The thing is, I usually set the alarm for 5:00 am, so the hour or so before I have to get up for work is spent like this: "Yes - I can still sleep! Yes - I can still sleep! Yes - I can still sleep! Yes - I can still sleep! Yes - I can still sleep! Yes - I can still sleep! Yes - I can still sleep! Yes - I can still sleep! What?! It's 6:03 already? Crap - I have to get up. I hate (fill in the day of the week)!"

From this point, I hop into my truck (not immediately - I usually get dressed first...usually) where THAT clock is seven minutes fast. I don't know exactly why I chose seven minutes, but it seems to work, because I am never less than an hour and a half early to my place of employment. When I get to work, I try and figure out how many more times I could have hit the snooze bar and still have made it on time. Then I turn on the copy machine, and spend the rest of the day humming the theme song to "Titanic," or whatever other crappy song was playing on the radio at 6:03, which was really 5:54.

My wife is more consistent. The clock in her car in nine minutes fast, directly corresponding to the alarm clock, which basically means that my wife is always nine minutes ahead of everybody else on planet earth. On New Years Eve, she is kissing everyone and downing champagne before Dick Clark even starts counting down.

My mom is even more drastic. If setting your clock ahead were a touchdown celebration, my mom would be Terrell Owens. HER clock is more than a half an hour fast, yet she still only manages to make it to her destination just in time, for reasons we may never know. My sister's clock is also set well ahead of actual time, but I think this is because when she first plugged in the alarm clock, she just assumed it was 12 o'clock. She still can't figure out why no one else's clock flashes.

It's difficult to say why people set their clocks ahead. It really makes no sense whatsoever. If you know that your clock is set ahead of time, then it really defeats the purpose of setting it ahead of time. But I couldn't live any other way. My dad always reminds us that my grandfather used to say that "five minutes early is ten minutes late," which we all translated as "Let's set our clocks ahead so Dad doesn't get pissed and leave without us again." But I don't know how my wife got into setting her clock ahead, because my father-in-law's motto is "What? We've got plenty of time," which is usually said as Dick Clark is counting down. I guess her clock etiquette is more of a defense mechanism than an embedded habit. Whatever the case, it has worked out well, because we are both always at least a half an hour early to everything. Unless we have to wait for my mom, in which case we will make it just in time, except that her and my dad won't be talking when we get there. My mom may have to start using west coast time, like my sister.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Image over-haul

A lot of people who know me assume that I can do manly things like build decks, not because of my physically imposing presence (I have a cleft lip that appears to be the remnants of a fight that I lost) or my tattoo, but because I drive a pick-up truck. But in reality, the only manly thing that I really know how to do is drive a pick-up truck, although I have been known to mow a lawn or two in my day, if that counts. Oftentimes other pick-up truck drivers will look at my truck up and down, and then ask me questions like "What kind of truck ya' got there?" to which I will reply, "red." Then they will ask me how many "cylinders" it has, and I will pretend that someone is calling me on my cell phone.

I drive a pick-up truck because when I graduated from college, I got a job in the field of construction. At that point, my background in construction consisted of living in a house (my parent's house) that was more than likely constructed at some point, although I was never sure how. Anyway, I don't know how I got this job, or why I accepted it, but I needed a pick-up truck for it, so I could haul building materials all over the "site," like wood and nails, and sometimes Mexicans, who the company often hired to clean stuff up. It didn't take long for everyone to realize that I had no idea how to build a house, mainly because during my first week on the job, it took me 2 1/2 hours to install a doorknob, which was never "officially" installed correctly, but would eventually require a replacement door. Anyway, after that incident I ended up sweeping basement floors with my new Mexican friends, who would always ask me for a ride home. Then I quit.

Anyway, here I am years later, with the same pick-up truck, which no longer has the same manly effect because I now drive it around wearing a shirt and tie (I used to drive it while wearing work boots, and making mean faces at other cars while "Like a Rock" blared from the radio). But I still can't actually DO anything manly, which is evidenced by the fact that I had to call my dad to come over last week to fix the sink. He brought over his "bucket o' manly tools" and then went to work, while using terms like "gasket," "washer," and "can you get me some paper towels?" He tried to show me how he fixed it so I could do the same if it should become clogged again, but I wasn't really paying attention.

My wife is utterly unimpressed by my inability to fix or build anything, although I am very good at carrying heavy things up the stairs. Just this past weekend, my wife's uncle gave us some firewood, and I loaded it into the back of my pick-up truck in a very manly fashion, and when I got home I carried it all upstairs. But then I got a splinter, and my wife took it out with her tweasers. Then I quit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Half-inning from hell

If it's not bad enough watching playoff baseball on the FOX Network, with it's shameless promotions and useless gimmicks, there is a chance in 2004 that the St. Louis Cardinals will be in the World Series. FOX's marquee broadcast team - Joe Buck and Tim McCarver - are St. Louis Cardinals through and through. Buck is the current Cardinals' broadcast voice and son of Jack, the former Cardinals' broadcaster, and McCarver is the former Cardinals' catcher, and proponent of everything Bob Gibson, the former St Louis pitching great. Whether or not the Cardinals make it to the Fall Classic this year, it deserves to be examined what a FOX broadcast would be like under these circumstances. Hmmm...

Joe Buck: What a night for baseball as we get set to call Game One of the 2004 World Series. Hi everybody. I'm Joe Buck, and next to me is my good buddy - I think you all know him - Tim McCarver. Tim, it's been 20 years since the St. Louis Cardinals have been in the World Series. Do you think these guys have goosebumps?

Tim McCarver: They certaintly do Joe. I remember being in the World Series as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals years ago, and I definitely recall having goose bumps all over my body - even in places I can't mention on the air. But luckily for me, I had Bob Gibson on my side, and Gibbie - probably better than any player in the history of the game- had a way of turning goose bumps into outs, if you know what I mean.

Buck: I sure don't Tim. But it's pretty obvious that FOX couldn't have found two better, and more impartial announcers for this series than you and I, my friend. We have absolutely no affiliation to either team in this World Series.

McCarver: There's another team in this Wolrd Series besides the Cardinals?

Buck: Ha ha! Good one buddy. But seriously, let's go down to the field where Kenny Albert is standing with Cardinals' slugger Jim Edmonds. Kenny?

Kenny Albert: Thanks guys. I'm down here with Cardinals' center fielder Jim Edmonds. Jim, how does it feel to be playing in your first World Series for the great city of St. Louis?

Jim Edmonds: What do YOU think, idiot? It feels great. By the way, your father's a cross-dresser.

Albert: Back to you guys in the booth.

Buck: Thanks Kenny. That interview was brought to you by Budweiser, the King of Beers. Budweiser - I'm lovin' it. Let's now go back down to the field where recording artist Kenny G. will be singing our National Anthem...on his saxophone, of course.

McCarver: A lot of people don't realize this, but Bob Gibson also played the saxophone on his non-pitching days. That's how he came to get the nickname, "Mr. Saxy Pants."

Buck: Another beautiful melody by Kenny G. I don't think Steve Sax himself could have done better. Tonight's National Anthem was brought to you by the new hit FOX drama, "North Shore." Critics are hailing it as, "A mix between 'Melrose Place' and '227,' with an extra two scoops of hottness." That's the new season of "North Shore," starting November 5th, only on FOX.

McCarver: If I could go back to baseball for a second here, Joe. If the '27 Yankees were "Murderer's Row," then the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals are "Serial Killer's Lane." There is just no break in this lineup for opposing pitchers.

Buck: Speaking of murder Tim, stay tuned after the game for FOX News, where they'll have all the info on today's murders, and the weather with Nick Gregory. The 2004 World Series gets under way right now, as Tony Womack fouls a fastball back for strike one.

McCarver: If you look at the flaming icon on the upper right hand part of your screen, you'll see that last fastball came in at 93mph, a very good sign for people NOT rooting for St. Louis...if there's anyone out there that stupid.

Buck: Since a lot of people probably don't know what one is, here's "Scooter" to explain how a fastball works.

Scooter: Hellllloooo everybody! No, you're not drunk - you're actually watching ME, Scooter, a cartoon talking baseball here to explain what a fastball is. When a pitcher throws a fastball, he holds the ball with his fingers, and zip-zip-zippity-ZIPS it to the catcher as fast as he can! Watch me - WEEEEEEEEE!!!.

McCarver: That's a great job by Scooter, and a good job by FOX, as they try to target this broadcast to the real fans, the kids.

Buck: You make a great point, Tim, even if every kid in America is fast asleep, considering it's almost midnight. Womack grounds out to first for out number one.

McCarver: Let's take a look at the "ground cam" to get a closer view at that ground ball. As you can see, Womack gets jammed with the inside pitch, and watch out! It looks like that grounder is coming right into your living room. What a great shot from the "ground cam."

Buck: I thought I was going to need my glove for a second there. Wow - what a wonderful job by FOX. With one out here in the first, now's the perfect time to say hello to Larry Walker, the Cardinal's first baseman who's "miked up" for tonight's broadcast. Larry - Joe Buck and Tim McCarver here. What would you say is your plan for this upcoming at-bat?

Walker: Uhhh, can I like, talk to you guys later. I'm kind of busy. I'm about to step into the batter's box during the biggest game of my life.

Buck: We'll try and get back to Big Larry in between innings. That interview was brought to you by the new hit FOX drama, "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss." Starting November 7th, watch as 12 smarty-pants candidates compete for a fake job, with the most obnoxious boss...EVER! From the makers of "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance," it's "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss," starting next Tuesday, only on FOX. And as Walker takes ball one, I'll turn to My Big Fat Obnoxious Broadcast Partner, and ask him - who needs to step up in this series for the Cardinals to be victorious?

McCarver: Heh. Well, I've been called worse than that before my good friend. But the guy who really needs to step up for St. Louis is Scott Rolen. He really needs to get his bat going in the middle of that order for the Cards to be able to do what they want to offensively. He's also very handsome.

Buck: Walker flys out to center for the second out of the inning. Up next for St. Louis is the great Albert Pujols, and let's take a look at his in-box profile. As you can see on your screen, Albert's favorite food is Frankenberries Cereal, and his favorite group is "The Terror Squad." He says his friends would describe him as "nice," and "a hard worker." And this hard worker takes a breaking ball for strike one.

McCarver: What that profile box forgot to mention Joe, is that Pujols is a dead fastball hitter, and he'll wait on that pitch until he sees it. If he does connect with a fastball, watch out, because he can provide some offensive fireworks.

Buck: Speaking of fireworks, if you look at the bottom left hand corner of your screen, you'll see the FOX-generated exploding fireworks, with the day and time for Game Two of the 2004 World Series, only on FOX. That's another great job by FOX. It must feel just like the Fourth of July in living rooms across America. Pujols gets the fastball right there he was looking for, and just misses it, as he fouls it staight back into our superimposed ad for the brand new season of "The Simpsons" on FOX. Starting next Sunday, catch Homer, Marge and the gang, as "The Simpsons" begins it's record 16th season, here on FOX.

McCarver: If Homer was up at bat right there, he'd definietly be saying "D-oh!" after just missing that fastball, which was right over the plate.

Buck: Pujols takes a breaking ball low for ball one.

McCarver: Bob Gibson never missed the strike zone that badly. He was the greatest.

Buck: Pujols chases a low and away slider, and the weak grounder to first is scooped up, and the Cardinals go three up and three down here in the top of the first. St. Louis not showing their "Cards" just yet. That first half-inning was brought to you by the new hit FOX drama, "House." He's a limping doctor who doesn't play by society's rules about being a doctor. And his name is "House." That's "House," starting next week, only on FOX. We'll be back after this word from FOX.

McCarver: You know Joe, Bob Gibson used to be a doctor on his non-pitching days.

Buck: Sure, but did he have his own show on FOX?

McCarver: No, but he should have.

Buck: Knock, knock?

McCarver: Who's there?

Buck: FOX. We'll be right back.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

These pictures of you

I've often found myself strolling down the aisles of a local supermarket, and saying to myself, "Ya' know - I wonder who the Produce Manager is here. Is it a man or a woman? And what does he or she look like?" Luckily for me, most supermarkets have an entire wall dedicated to their most famous employees, accompanied by huge 35" x 45" close-up photographs, with a label specifying each person's job title.

This "Wall O' Employees" is integral to the average person's grocery shopping experience. For example, let's say that you asked the idiot teenager at the deli counter for a pound of Boar's Head turkey breast, and he goes and gives you 1.19 pounds, completely going over what YOU were willing to pay for turkey breast on that particular day. You ask him to see the Deli Meat Manager, and some other teenager comes out claiming that HE'S the manager. "What a farce!" you think to yourself. So you haul yourself over the "Wall O' Employees" only to discover that this moron isn't the Deli Meat Manager! The REAL Deli Meat Manager is Roy McDougall, and he has three chins and a unibrow. You instantly demand to speak to Roy, but are told that he's on disability thanks to a meat slicing accident, but you are able to speak with the Assistant Deli Meat Manager, Karen, who's picture will only adorn the wall if Roy dies. She takes the excess turkey out of your cold cut bag and puts it in her pocket, prints out a new sticky label, and you're on your way. Problem solved.

There are a million instances per day like the one I just described that make it quite obvious just HOW important the "Wall O' Employees" is. It's unfortunate that it took me so many years to realize this, because when I was in college, and much less mature than I am today, I used to steal these framed photographs and hang them in my dorm room. I thought it was soooo funny that nobody in the local supermarket knew what happened to the picture of Jim Bettle, the Poultry Supervisor, OR Kim Igglesworth, the Assistant Pharmacist. Little did I know, that these humongous photographs were placed on the "Wall O' Employees" as a benefit to shoppers everywhere, and I was depriving my fellow man of having the full, complete grocery shopping experience. Shame on me. But on a positive note, I'm pretty sure one of roommates dressed up like Jim Bettle for Halloween one year, which was amazing considering he had only a gigantic head shot to go by. Those were good times.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Red Light Special

My mom was waiting at a red light in my hometown of East Brunswick, New Jersey, when she was approached by a man handing out flyers. (As a side note, while waiting to get on the GW Bridge last year, I was solicited by a man offering a telephone - not a cell phone - but a TELEPHONE that attaches to a wall in your place of residence, with wires and everything. Because, like most people, when I'm in the market for a new phone, I want one NOW. I don't have time to go somewhere like Radio Shack, and haggle with some employee who "graduated" from high school. I need a cheap, plastic phone, while I'm in my car, waiting to cross a humongous bridge, just like everyone else. Unfortunately for this particular individual, I was not in the market for a new phone that day.)

Anyway, back to my mom. The flyer she was handed turned out to be an advertisement for a gutter cleaning service in the area. It looked somewhat professional, with the name of the "company" on top, and a listing of what they actually do, which is clean gutters. And it was weird, because as my mom was waiting in the car that day, she was thinking to herself, "Man, I haven't had those darn gutters cleaned since I was pregnant with Mike. I've been meaning to get it done for some time now, but I wonder if there's a place in the area that does this kind of work?" And wouldn't ya' know it, as she rolled down the window to ash her cigar, she was handed that piece of paper.

So as I was saying, the advertisement looked fairly legitimate. But then my mom scrolled her eyes down to the bottom of the piece of paper, where she saw what appeared to be the slogan of this particular gutter cleaning service. And boy was it ever! Many companies are defined by their slogans. They even become second nature to the average American. For example, "Leave Off the Last 'S' For 'Savings'" has been behind many mattress purchases. Also, "Rock-Rock-Rock, Rock Away Bedding...YEAH!" has helped sell all of the mattresses left unsold by the former slogan. And although my mom has spent many years familiarizing herself with witty slogans, the one she witnessed that day took the cake. It was this:

A Lot of People is Switching Gutters to Us

Now my mom has been fooled by gutter cleaning services before (haven't we all?), but the second she saw this, she knew that she had finally met the people she wanted to give her hard-earned money to. After all, it wasn't just a "few" people that is switching gutters - A LOT of people is switching gutters! "A lot of people can't be wrong," my mom wisely figured. Plus, these guys must be so busy cleaning gutters, that they don't have time for "proper" grammar. I mean, who can focus on English when the world is full of dirty gutters?

But then when my mom read it again, she said, "Wait - are these guys selling gutters, or do they want to clean the gutters I already have?" But then she read the part again about how "a lot of people is switching," and she was sold. She was going to call them yesterday, but the phone in the house isn't working anymore. I told her where to go.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

For Giants, time isn't now...it's later

It's difficult to make generalizations about the New York Giants' season this early, unless you're me, in which case it's very easy. I would venture to say that the season is lost, and in order to find it, someone is going to have to send out the proverbial search party, where people wear yellow helmets with lights on them, except that those people will be searching for a while because a season is not a tangible object that can actually be found. So maybe instead of saying that the season is lost, I should instead say that the season is over, minus the little formality that the Giants have fourteen more games to play.

Yes, I am aware that the Giants won this past weekend, defeating the Washington Redskins 20-14. They even looked, dare I say "pretty good" at certain points. But the Redskins, who were working with the vaunted Brunnel-Ramsay two headed monster at quarterback, actually turned the ball over SEVEN times. Using my football mathematical equation, that means that the Giants should have won 95-3. Instead, the Redskins had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter, until they turned ball over. Again. I would like to give the Giants credit where credit is due, but I can't, because that would ruin this whole column.

You didn't need an expensive telescope to forsee how the Giants season was going to go, for several reasons. First, telescopes don't see into the future. Secondly, it was apparent from the outset that no major improvements occurred this offseason for a team that finished 4-12 last year, on the heels of an 8-game losing streak. And I know what you're probably saying to yourself, "What the heck are you talking about, idiot!? The Giants hired a new coach, drafted a franchise quarterback, and signed a two-time MVP with a grey beard!" And you'd have a point by saying that. But ironically enough, it is that very same grey beard that signifies the main problem with the Giants in 2004: Beards don't win football games (most of the time). Oh, and several players on the team aren't getting any younger.

To use an analogy that I think is quite relevant in this case, the Giants are like a football team - let's call them "the Giants" - that have several veteran players on the downside of their careers, and also several young, and very talented players that represent the future of the organization. The only problem with these "Giants," however, is that the future is NOT now. It's in the future.

So you can see how this scenario compares to the Giants, who are in a very similar situation, but from a football standpoint. For example, Kurt Warner is a former MVP, which is good and all, but the Giants would be much better off with a current MVP. Will Eli Manning, the new face of the franchise, ever be that "current MVP?" It's difficult to say. But I believe that he has a much better chance than say, oh I don't know, Kurt Warner. In fact, I would say that if Eli Manning ever manages to rid himself of that "I'm so scared I can't remember what to do" aura, that he will be the best quarterback the Giants have had since Kerry Collins.

The Giants also have a very young offensive line, which is, quite appropriately, trying to protect their grey-bearded quarterback, who, when tackled, sometimes actually just hands the ball to the other team. And any moron knows that it takes several years for an offensive line to jell, at which point they create an impenetrable wall of protection that eliminates sacks and produces 1,800 yard rushers with ease. For the Giants, this point isn't scheduled until 2007, so it's important for everyone to be patient.

The Giants are also fortunate enough to have one of the youngest, and most talented tight ends in the league, Jeremy Shockey, who can easily intimidate the opposition by making the first down signal after a three yard catch, even if he just dropped the last ball thrown to him. That is the kind of fortitude the team will need heading into the future. On the other side of the ball, the Giants boast several young talents all named Will - Will Allen, Will Peterson, and William Joseph - that have the potential to be the next generation of a tradition-based Giant defense. Plus, if you take the "son" off of "Peterson," then all of these guys have two first names, which is good news for a football player. Just ask Marcus Allen. And Lyle Alzado (minus the "zado").

Which brings us to the present state of things. The Giants are in a transition period, which is to say that they're trying to transition from 4-12 to 12-4. But this can't happen overnight. In the middle of that transition there is a period called "what the heck is going on here?" and that is where the Giants are at right now. The core of this team in 2000 - Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan, Amani Toomer, etc. - are still hanging around waiting to collect their 401k. Plus the organization brought in Warner, who management thought would provide "a chance to win now," except "now" really meant "four years ago." And "now" the Giants are stuck in an ultra-tough division with no way out, unless they get to play the Redskins at home for the rest of the year.

So the bad news is that the Giants aren't that great. The good news is that I have them winning the Super Bowl in 2007. But the bad news is that I had the Colts winning the Super Bowl last year. But then again, I didn't have my telescope.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Where the deer and the buffalo roam

"Either your neck hairs are strangely stubby, or you need to shave your back again." This is the kind of advice guys like myself get at the HairCuttery, where I go for a cheap haircut, and leave with grooming tips from 290 pound women who wear DMX t-shirts under their haircutting apron.

If you don't have back hair, consider yourself lucky. I am currently on a once-a-week back and neck shaving program, and if I go more than two weeks without shaving this area of my body, I can use styling gel to spike my back and neck hair, and make myself appear like a 6'3" walking hunchback, if I choose to do so. Not to mention, I have a mole on the back of my neck, and if I'm not careful shaving, I will cut it, and it will bleed for approximately three consecutive months, which means I have to wash a lot of sheets.

I don't know when I realized that I had back and neck hair, although I probably was aware at the time that most members of the opposite sex don't find this feature sexually attractive. I was hesitant to begin shaving there, fearing that the hair would just grow back thicker, but I had no choice, if I ever wanted to get married.

Now that I am married, clearing my back and neck of unwanted hair has become a team effort. A while back, my wife and I purchased a waxing kit. It's difficult to describe the sensation of having your upper back waxed, but I can say that it is probably similar to the feeling Mel Gibson experienced at the end of "Braveheart," except on your back. Also, it didn't work. Among other things, my back hair is wax repellent, and I don't consider that something to be proud of.

I just never want to be one of those guys I see in the gym locker room, who gave up caring about neck and back hair some time ago (if they ever did), and have a back-of-the-head hairline that reaches deep into the abyss of their gym shorts, where it most likely connects with lower back and ass hair. That is not the kind of man I want to grow up to be. Call me a dreamer, if you will.

The other day my wife excitedly showed me an ad for laser hair removal. While many young couples try and save some money for a romantic vacation, I am going to try to set some money aside so I can have my back hair surgically removed. Maybe they can do my mole too. That would be great.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Someone fought the bank, and I won!

Guess who's $0.49 richer thanks to a lawsuit that he didn't file? That's right - me!

Yep, I received my $0.49 check in the mail just the other day. Well, actually it was sent to my mom's house, at which point my mom proceeded to illegally open government mail with my name on it (I have spoken to my lawyer and he suggests suing her for upwards of $0.60, which he gets half of). Nevertheless, she did hand it over to me eventually at a family function, so everybody in my extended family could watch me open it, and then have a hearty laugh because I am still poor.

Apparently, some guy named Edell (Vladimir Edell, maybe?) sued the Bank of America because the Bank of America screwed him over in some way that was probably explained in detail to me through some correspondence, of which I most likely threw away because it wasn't a check. Nevertheless, he won his case, which resulted in me finally receiving the $0.49 I have been waiting for all of these years, that I didn't know I was entitled to.

I know what you're saying. "But Mike, I thought you originally belonged to Fleet Bank, but then left them because they're the worst bank in the world, and transferred all of the money you don't have to PNC Bank, formerly the Garden State Arts Center?" And you're right. However, what you're forgetting is that when I was in college, I was an esteemed member of Nations Bank, which is now Bank of America, because a branch was located conveniently right next to my dorm. That way, when I had to cash my $56.00 work-study check every other Friday, I could just go next door, and then immediately to buy beer, which kept my average checking account balance at roughly $3.05. That is how banks in college work.

So the whole time I was moving merrily along in college, working nonstop on history papers and resorting to stealing chicken fingers from the cafeteria just to survive, Bank of America was stealing $0.1333333333333333 from me EVERY year! Can you believe it? Me neither. But it's good to know that justice is finally being served, thanks to some guy who's name I already forget.

So if I ever decide to become a rapper - which, quite frankly, still crosses my mind every now and then - I have one-up (or is it down?) on the popular 50 Cent. My name could be 49 Cent, and I would most likely rap about how major corporations can screw you over if you don't pay attention, and how you better hope that some guy you've never heard of files a lawsuit so you get your money back, which is the kind of content all the kids are listening to today.

And if you (yeah - YOU!) don't think I'm depositing this check then you're crazy. Every little bit helps when you're newly married and a new homeowner and you're stealing chicken fingers from the supermarket just to get by.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Fantasy football highlights, '04

Instead of making bold predictions about the upcoming NFL season, which starts in just a few days, kicked off by a very football relevant performance by Elton John (who, I hear, once watched half of a football game), I'm going to tell you all about my fantasy football draft from last weekend. The reason for this is because I have no idea what's going to happen in the NFL this year. I know that the Patriots will be good, I think. After that, I'm lost. If the Bengals win the Super Bowl, I won't even be shocked, unless they do so because every other team in the league gets trapped in an avalanche while mountain-climbing. So I'm not even going to pretend like I know how this season is going to turn out. But I DO know how my fantasy football draft turned out, because I was there, I was told.

For those who don't know, fantasy football is a game whereas people like myself draft real players (unbeknownst to the actual players) for fake teams, so people like myself can maybe win some money, which will hopefully earn people like myself back the $123 we spent on fantasy football preview magazines. Sounds fun, right?

Our league consists of 10 "owners," who are mostly my cousins and people they know from work, plus one guy who has a keg tap. If anyone out there has additional devices that will help us draw beer from a giant barrel, you are more than welcome to join our league. We are a close-knit group, except that one would think that we all hate each other if they were to see us on draft day, or any other day for that matter.

Some leagues do their live draft online, but we always decide to get together, because it is much more fulfilling to make fun of each other in person. And that's really what fantasy drafts are all about. It doesn't matter what players get picked, who does the most research, or even who wins the league. It's all about making fun of each other to the best of our abilities.

Jack is our fantasy commissioner, and he loves his job. In fact, he thinks it IS his job, and often misses his real job because he is busy contacting Yahoo! with regards to recent rule changes. Jack is the only member of our fantasy league who even attempts to maintain some semblance of rationalism as the draft wears on, mainly because he spent the previous night making unlimited charts and graphs that the rest of us eventually spill beer on. Without Jack however, none of us would even be in a fantasy league. We would just sit around and talk about it while we waited for Jack to come by and set it up.

As for the draft itself, we spent about five hours at my cousin Cara's kitchen table, flipping through newspapers and magazines with confused looks on our faces. I had the sixth overall pick, and decided to select a top tier quarterback, Peyton Manning, rather than a second tier running back. I did however, pass on Baltimore Ravens' running back Jamaal Lewis, mainly because he is awaiting a drug-related criminal trial beginning in November. Call me old fashioned, but I like my fantasy football players to be able to leave their house without getting shocked. (Just for the record, this is the second of my last three fantasy drafts whereas a star player dropped off because he was awaiting trial. And players don't earn fantasy points for being found "not guilty," but we may have to change the rules eventually.)

Some of the more interesting picks - and by interesting I mean horrible - involved Jeremy Shockey getting selected in the third round , Mike Vanderjagt getting taken roughly five rounds before any kicker should be, and Ron Dayne getting selected at all. Everytime the phone rang in the house, somebody would say, "That was Ron Dayne. He still can't believe he got picked. He wants to send a fruit basket" - or somethin to that effect - to a chorus of laughs. The Brett Favre selection set off a well-timed, "That was a good pick...in 1993." But the cream of the crop was Marvin, a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan, selecting Corey Chavous in the eighth round. And if you don't know who Corey Chavous is, exactly. That pick actually left us speechless. For about 10 seconds.

(As a side note, after Larry Fitzgerald was selected, my cousin John screamed out, "He's the worst running back EVER!" which may in fact be true, although Fitzgerald plays wide receiver. John did not have a good draft.)

The good news for me is that my best running back, the oft-injured Fred Taylor, had an excellent, and injury-free 2003. The bad news is that it's 2004, and Fred Taylor probably just broke his leg while I was writing this. But that's okay, because I also have Travis Henry, who is currently injured, and may lose his starting job anyway to Willis MaGahee. But overall, I'm happy with my team. Then again, I was ecstatic with my fantasy baseball draft, and I may finish that league in eighth place, which will leave me with no money for the upcoming fantasy basketball season.

Overall, the draft was a success, except for the fact that I got sick from eating approximately 22 pieces of fried chicken. Jack was at the computer until midnight inputting all of the team information determined within the last few hours. We all helped him out by watching the USC / Virginia Tech game. Ron Dayne never stopped calling. It was a great night.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Gary Sheffield: You had me at "hello"

Big Time Sports' recognition of the feats of Gary Sheffield has been long overdue. In honor of Sheffield, I have been working on several opening lines to this column, like "The Shef is cooking up an RBI special, and it' delicious," and "Can you smell what the Shef is cooking? It's great baseball," and my personal favorite, "Shef boy-are-dese Yankees something else, or what?" But then I realized that none of these lines make any sense, and are all predicated on the assumtion that Gary Sheffield is an actual chef, which he is not. Nevertheless, he is very good at baseball.

I, along with Yankees' fans worldwide, had assumed that the off-season acquisition that would make the biggest impact in the Bronx Bombers' lineup this year would be, quite obviously, Miguel Cairo. But even though Cairo has played well this year, it's been Gary Sheffield that has separated himself from the pack. And that "pack" is not just Sheffield's teammates, but also the rest of the American League.

Let's talk numbers. Here are Sheffield's: .297 batting average, 33 home runs, 98 RBIs, and 101 runs scored. He also leads the AL in walks with 79. But Sheffield isn't all about the numbers. He likes words too. And if he were writing this column, some of the words he would probably say would be, "don't forget about my great plays in right field this year," and "what are talking about, steroids?" And he's right (about the defense) - Sheffield has eight outfield assists this year, tied for second in the American League. That figure doesn't even begin to describe how many base runners have thought twice about taking an extra base, out of fear that they will be gunned down like the scum that they are.

But even though Sheffield does enjoy playing great defense, his favorite part of baseball is hitting, as evidenced by his infamous bat wag. The bat wag is not just a timing device, it's also a means of intimidation on Sheffield's part, similar to Dikembe Mutombo's finger wag, except that it's intimidating, and not hilarious. The bat wag tells opposing pitchers, "throw your junk my way and you'll be using a bed pan for a month,' or something similarly vindictive. You can just never tell what phrase the bat wag will come up with next.

What has made Gary Sheffield so valuable to the Yankees this year is not just the fact that he earns over $12 million, and that theYankees just could not afford to lose him somewhere, like in the airport. Okay, fine, maybe they could. But regardless, Sheffield's abstract value lies in the fact that almost every one of his hits has been a "big hits", as in Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." Just last week, Sheffield hit a game-winning two-run home run to give the Yankees a much-needed win over the Cleveland Indians, and snap the team's five-game losing streak. Two weeks ago, Sheffield muscled a down-and-away slider against Minnesota Twins' closer Joe Nathan for a home run that would help the Yanks win that game as well. Three weeks ago Sheffield hit a game-tying two-run home run against the Oakland A's, a game that, you guessed it, the Yanks would go on to win. It seems like every time there are runners on base in a big situation, Gary Sheffield brings them home, as if they were his kids, and were not having a good time at summer camp.

Unfortunately, there are some negatives to Gary Sheffield. It is rumored that he may put steroids in his Frosted Flakes. I do not know if this is true or not, but I must admit that, going into this season, I was very skeptical as to how Gary Sheffield would perform in New York, especially in the middle of a steroid controversy. And not only has he won me over with his great play, but he has repeatedly denied the allegations against him, saying, "I eat Cap'n Crunch." And I have to believe him. Why? Because I want to.

One concern I do have about Sheffield is that his shoulder may fall off of his body and land in the outfield grass. You see, Sheffield suffers from bursitis in his right shoulder - which is a disease that causes your baseball bat to wag involuntarily - and has received cortisone shots to numb the pain. The pain is so bad that he even recently hinted that he may retire after this season, unless George Steinbrenner pays him enough to buy another shoulder.

Sheffield is currently struggling through an ankle sprain that has kept him out of the last few games, and the Yankees haven't been the same without him. But by the time you read this, Gary Sheffield will probably be back in right field, still in one piece, and still vying for an AL MVP Award that he may certainly win when all is said and done. Until then, try the delicious RBIs. In fact, the Shef recommends it.

(I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

That's it - We're going home

I walked into a Toys 'R Us store the other day for the first time since "He-Man" was the hottest cartoon on the planet. I won't get into why I was there, but I will say that I am currently a Godfather two times over, and my Godsons don't necessarily accept Best Buy gift cards.

Since it had been so long since I had walked through those hallowed automatic doors, I was fairly intimidated upon entering the store. For one, my mom wasn't with me, which was a first. Secondly, I had no idea where to go, plus I was wearing a tie, which signified that I DID grow up, and was no longer a Toys 'R Us kid - a fear of my youth that had come to pass.

As I walked around aimlessly for what seemed like several hours, a thought occured to me. All of these years I was under the impression that this store was a happy and festive place. After all, it was filled with toys. And when I walked in, I had expected to see Geoffrey the Giraffe galloping about with a bunch of excited kids, while the more well-to-do children rode around in automatic Tonka trucks that probably got better gas mileage than my own, real truck. But after I realized that giraffes don't gallop, I was reminded that Toys 'R Us itself actually exists as a means to experience inevitable disappointment, no matter what your age. This fact was evidenced by the various phrases I heard throughout my wanderings down the aisles:

Put that down!

Wheres your sister?

Put your sister down!

Im leaving! Are you staying here? Fine! Well see what your father thinks about THAT when he gets home!

But Billy's mom bought him one!

Do you wanna go live with Billy's mom, cause that's fine with me!


I'm not paying that much for a piece of plastic. Put it back.

I think I made stinky in my pants.

Put it back.

You can ask Santa Claus for that.

F@#* Santa Claus!


WHAT DID YOU SAY!!!

Yes, any false nostalgia I had experienced from the outset of my errand was immediatley dashed once reality set in. I was having flashbacks of getting dragged back into the parking lot, driving home in silence, and then hiding in my room - with no new toys - dreading the moment the clock hit 4:30 p.m., when dad usually got home from work.

Anyway, I didn't find anything in the store, mainly because I didn't recognize any of the toys, and couldn't afford 95 percent of them. But some good came out of it anyway, in that I'm finally content that I'm no longer a Toys 'R Us kid, and Best Buy has Elmo videos.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Professor fails to teach fundamentals

There is a show on ESPN called "Streetball," where various streetballers with names like "The Professor," "Hot Sauce," "Mr. Dribblesworth," and "Sir Dunks-A-Lot" travel the country playing basketball and doing crazy dribble moves until the crowd goes wild. It is an enjoyable show, and like any reality television show, the viewer is asked to ignore certain, very obvious aspects of each episode. For example, the streetballers don't necessarily play basketball by the "normal rules," in that they often carry the ball, walk, use props, sit in the stands when they're supposed to be playing defense, and don't tuck their shirts in. They are like the Harlem Globetrotters if the Harlem Globetrottters actually played in Harlem, and not Madison Square Garden. The only problem with this is that the line between "Streetball" and the NBA has become very thin, and many professional players have crossed that line, which is bad because that line signifies out-of-bounds, which is also against the rules to cross.

With the embarrassing showing of our NBA players at this year's Olympics, this issue deserves to be examined. Not that I, personally, am embarrassed by our basketball team's poor play. I usually only get embarrassed when I fall down the stairs, or when my fly is open while I'm waiting in line to order deli meat. But regardless, there has been much talk about how we play basketball here in America, and why we can't beat European countries, like Puerto Rico, who were introduced to the sport of basketball only three weeks ago. Plus, I just got word that Puerto Rico isn't even a European country, which makes THAT loss even worse.

It's become quite apparent that the aspect of teamwork (as in, passing the ball to other people) has been lost in today's version of pro basketball, with its streetball mentality. Basically, in "Streetball" whoever gets the rebound takes the next shot, whoever has the ball dribbles endlessly, nobody moves on offense, and defense, well, forget about it. This philosophy has apparently transferred directly to the 2004 version of the Dream Team. The weird thing is that, we - the United States of America - are only 12 years removed from watching the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled (and Christian Laettner) work like a well-oiled, basketball machine on its way to winning gold in Barcelona. With the original Dream Team, it wasn't about egos, or points, or even "Hot Sauce," it was simply about winning.

Can you imagine the original Dream Team shooting 3 for 24 from three-point range during the Olympic Games, against Puerto Rico, a team that doesn't even have one guy that, height-wise, comes up to Tim Duncan's nipples? If anything, Michael Jordan himself wouldn't let that happen, and would sooner punch one of his teammates in the face during the game than allow that guy to miss even three shots in a row. And missing three shots in a row is something not one member of the original Dream Team, sans Christian Laettner, would ever do anyway.

I'm so sick and tired about hearing how various countries have caught up to the U.S. in basketball. Other countries have not improved, we've simply REGRESSED as a basketball playing nation. Am I to believe that Italy is now better than America at basketball? Really? I don't think so. In fact the only reason that Italy beat the U.S. in a preliminary match last week is because the Italians have not been adversely influenced by "Streetball," because there are no TVs in Italy. Or streets. And nobody in Italy, to my knowledge, calls himself "Sir-Dunks-A-Lot."

People are making so many excuses for our poor Olympic play, like "We're not used to the zone defense!" and "Our best players aren't even there!" and "They use square basketballs in Greece!" But the simple reality of the matter is that American basketball is getting a wake up call in Athens, and that wake up call is America's mother, getting America out of bed because it's time for school. The school of fundamentals, that is. And nobody can watch "Streetball," or have dessert, until they do their homework.

And tuck your shirt in.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

A mouthful of regret

When I was growing up, I rarely brushed my teeth, which, in retrospect, was probably a bad idea. I don't know why I avoided brushing my teeth. It's not like it hurt. Yet, I hated to do it.

In fact, I hated doing anything that involved my teeth. When I had my braces on as a kid, I never wore that God-forsaken headbrace at night, or put those attractive rubber bands in my mouth during the day. On one particular visit to my orthodontist - who was evil, and had chairs in his office shaped like teeth that I still see in my nightmares - he asked me if I had been wearing my rubber bands, to which I replied "yes." Then he told me to put them in, but I didn't know how, and rubber bands began slipping off of my fingers, shooting across his entire office, hitting other patients. This resulted in myself, my orthodontist, and my mother having a very heated discussion, on top of tooth-shaped chairs, about how I will never amount to anything unless I start wearing my rubber bands, which I never did.

Because I never brushed my teeth, it was not a pretty sight when my braces came off, roughly four years after I had them put on. There were whole turkey sandwiches behind the metal on my top teeth. But everything was okay, because my orthodontist gave me a retainer to wear, which I accidentally dropped down the drain the following day.

Then I went to college, where most nights I would forget to brush my teeth, mostly because I couldn't remember which dorm room was mine. As a result, my summer vacations were basically spent in a reclining chair in my dentist's office, with a copy of "Teen People" in my lap, and my mouth wide open for seven consecutive hours. You know you never brushed your teeth as a kid when you consistently have to interrupt your dentist's work because you have to go to the bathroom. Fortunately, my dentist has this great contraption that you put over your forehead and that plays movies. The last time I was there, I watched TWO movies while my dentist worked on my teeth, and then I left with a humongous red line on my forehead that didn't go away for two weeks.

Luckily for me, I have a great dentist, who has been able to virtually fix a mouthful of teeth that was ignored for years. They are straight, white enough, and can still chew food with the best of 'em. Unfortunately, the last time I was there, he discovered that I grind my teeth violently at night, and now I have to wear a mouthpiece to bed every night, for the rest of my life, which my wife says is starting to smell.

So it was yesterday that I received the notice in the mail that I dread the most. No, not the mortgage bill, but a postcard with Garfield smiling on it, reminding me to make an appointment for my once-every-six-month cleaning. Maybe this time, he can just clean my teeth, and I can leave. But, he will probably take some x-rays, look at them while making sad faces, tell me the "good news" is that he has a bunch of new movies, and then put a gas mask over my face and stick needles in my gums.

I now brush my teeth several times a day, and even use mouthwash. But I can't help but wonder what my life would be like if I had worn those damn rubber bands.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Family softball: Hazardous to your health

I normally use this allotted space to discuss recent happenings in the world of professional sports, and then insert bad jokes periodically. But this week we’re going to try something different, because quite frankly, I’m getting sick of professional sports, with all of its’ ridiculous contracts, weed smoking, and non-televised games due to greedy cable companies. This week, we’re going to talk about people who play for the love of the game. People who play for pride. People who play, mostly, for beer.
My family.
Last weekend was important for many reasons, not the least of which was the commencement of the 1st Annual Kenny Family Softball Game, which was held at Johnson’s Park in Piscataway, and commanded the usual celebrity crowd, including “Pop� (my grandfather), Frankie Muniz — who was mistakingly under the impression that this was Rock & Jock 2004, and subsequently left in disgust — and Park Ranger John, who assured me that, as long as he didn’t see any labels, he would assume we were drinking apple juice. He was, by far, the finest Park Ranger I have ever come across, and I’ve met two in my lifetime, including John. I cannot recall the name of the other one, but I ran into him in a different park, at midnight, when I was sixteen, with a labeled beverage in my hand. He was not as pleasant.
We couldn’t have picked a nicer day to have this much-anticipated game, unless that day was about 30 degrees cooler. And the field itself was perfect, other than the fact that it was covered with duck droppings instead of grass, and had no fences, indicating to every duck in Central New Jersey that they are welcome to come by and use the facilities. But once the teams took the field, and the apple juice was tapped, everybody was ready to have a great time, and everybody did, except the White Team, which lost the game.
As far as the game itself was concerned, the team spirit was apparent from the outset, when, after I placed my wife at second base, she informed me that she was not going to run, or move, unless the ball was actually hit towards her, in which case she would move ever so slightly out of the way, so as to let the ball pass by, like a matador. And she proved true to her word, for the most part. My wife was there less for the game than for the potato salad. Luckily for us— the Blue Team —we had my brother-in-law Joe playing the all-important position of “behind the girls.�
Ironically enough, the only time during the game that my wife did run was while she was on base, after a pop fly, with no outs, which resulted in the first converted triple play in family softball history, initiated by my cousin-in-law, and fan favorite, Steve. On his way back to the dugout, Steve aimed some taunts in my direction, which included, “Why don’t you go write about THAT, jerk!� Only he did not call me “jerk,� but much worse, although not as bad as what my wife called me for neglecting to tell her not to run after a pop fly with no outs.
The game featured many other highlights, including my father-in-law’s head-first slide into first base, which may or may not have been an accident, but proved to be a crowd pleaser, except in the case of my mother-in-law, who was busy dialing 911. Nevertheless, he was safe, and that’s all that mattered. My sister Jill, who pitched a gem, had a great no-look catch on a hard ground ball back to the mound, and was so excited, she forgot to throw the runner out. Also, Joe had a fantastic diving catch in the outfield on a fly ball most likely intended for my mom, although she was unable to focus after Joe pushed her out of the way. He was named the MVP.
But the highlight of the day occured when my cousin John hit a scorching line drive into the outfield gap, which appeared to be an easy home run. As I received the cut-off throw, I thought it pointless to even bother throwing home, being that John was already about five feet from home plate. But I did anyway, and as the ball was released from my hand, John apparently tripped over a duck dropping and was reduced to a cloud of dust. My Uncle Dave, the catcher/umpire, begrudgingly tagged him out, almost unable to add insult on top of injury to his beloved nephew. I, along with the rest of the apple-juice drinking guys, was less-sensitive to John’s plight, and spent the rest of the day addressing him by his new name: Jack Cust.
Most importantly, our softball game was free of serious injury, although there were two very close calls. My dad, who had made it a point to stretch out before the game, even going for a three mile walk beforehand, pulled up lame at third base with a tight hamstring in the first inning. He spent the rest of the game guarding the keg, and critiquing my performance, which eerily reminded me of Little League. In a separate incident, after a ground ball was hit to me, I threw it to first, mistakingly assuming that my cousin Mark, who was playing first base, would be covering the bag. Also like Little League, Mark was somewhere in outer space, and the throw raced just past the head of my 10 month-old godson, who was the only one really drinking apple juice.
Overall the game was a huge success, except for some whines from the White Team about the teams being unfair, mostly because all of the members of the Blue Team were able to run the bases without falling down. After the game, we all congregated for a picnic, had a great barbeque, and my sister Kelly and her husband Ken led some others in a game of non-extreme frisbee. We, however — most of the guys and my cousin Cara — participated in the most difficult and dangerous game of all: horseshoes minus the sand. Try it. It’s impossible.
I’ve always wondered why baseball players get so much respect for playing everyday. I mean, it doesn’t appear to be such a physically demanding sport. Then, I woke up on Sunday morning, after the 1st Annual Kenny Family Softball Game, and seriously wondered whether I’d be physically ready for the 2nd Annual Kenny Family Softball Game. So, I now have a new respect for baseball players. But I’d still like to see them play horseshoes, without sand, after downing 11 cups of apple juice. That’s a real man’s game.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Non-retirement speech

A lot of people often say to me, “Hey Mike — you’re young, untalented, undeniably charming, AND a great lover. Have you ever thought about retiring early, before your writing gets worse than it already is?� That’s a great question, and a very relevant one for this week, considering that Miami Dolphin running back Ricky Williams recently retired after just five seasons in the NFL. But enough about Ricky Williams. Let’s talk about me.

Retirement isn’t in the plans for me just yet. For one, I still love to write. Secondly, I have no other source of income. And finally, as much as I would love to stay home all day and watch reruns of “Mama’s Family� and “Judge Joe Brown,� I would probably go crazy, at which point I would have to call a news conference that nobody would attend where I would declare my intentions to drammatically return to the field of writing. I would have to wear a #45 jersey, instead of my usual shirt and tie. And, needless to say, I would prefer not to have go through all that, because most news conferences feature bagels and juice, and I just don’t have that kind of money.

Another important reason that I refuse to retire is that I just couldn’t do that to the great people at The Courier. This newspaper, even though it has miraculously thrived from 1954 to January of 2004 WITHOUT “Big Time Sports,� needs me. In fact, each morning everybody in the office pleads with me not to retire, before they demand I get them some coffee.

Contemplating all of the various reasons that I refuse to retire forced me to do some serious contemplating, but about other people. People even slightly more famous than me. Like, for example, the aforementioned Ricky Williams.

Ricky Williams — let’s call him “Ricky� for short — has been receiving a lot of heat regarding his early and abrupt retirement. And by “heat� I mean criticism. And by “criticism,� I mean threats. You see, the people in Miami are crazy for their Dolphins, and even more so for their football team. So, they were understandably less than thrilled when they discovered that their star running back, Ricky, no longer wants to “be in the business anymore.� This, of course, means that the Miami Dolphins, who usually blow their season around December, most likely blew their season two weeks ago, when Ricky suddenly retired.

Even Joe Fan is confused by Ricky’s decision to walk away from professional football. Said Joe, “Why would a guy, who’s making like a billion dollars per carry, and probably gettin’ all kinds of crazy hot chicks, want to walk away from THAT? I mean, it’s football! You only play once a week, for like three months out of the year! How hard is that? And didn’t he sign a contract? Doesn’t he have to honor that? Plus, what about all the hot chicks? You know what I mean?�

But there’s a flip side to this issue. Ricky, who several years ago was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, and more recently tested positive for marijuana, has his own issues. Those issues are social anxiety and not being allowed to smoke weed, due to the NFL’s drug policy. Upon his retirement, Ricky said, “I’m finally free. I can’t remember ever being this happy.� How can you argue with that? It’s Ricky’s decision, so what gives Joe Fan the right to say anything about it?

Said Joe, “What gives me the right? What gives me the right? I’ll tell you what gives me the right! You see these season tickets in my hand? Do you have any idea how long I waited for these? I waited 30 years for these! My great grandfather was put on the waiting list for these tickets back in 1951, when the Miami Dolphins were the Washington Senators! Now I finally got ‘em, and I had to pay a pretty penny too! I worked for these tickets! And now I gotta watch Travis freakin’ Minor run the ball every Sunday, because this guy wants to ‘be free’? No, I don’t think so!�

So as you can see, there is more than one side to this issue, and it appears as though the people in Miami will have a lot to discuss in the coming years, like how big Shaquille O’Neal is in person, and what the heck they are going to do with all of the Ricky Williams jerseys they bought.

But I have my own opinion on this retirement question. I’d much rather see a talented athlete retire early, than watch a stats compiler stick around for too long. The list of guys who missed the retirement boat is endless, like Willie Mays, Emmitt Smith, Ricky Henderson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Freddy Adu. On the other hand, there’s a certain aura surrounding those particular stars who left too early, at the height of their careers, like Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Taylor Dane, Smarty Jones, and Arsenio Hall. Only time will tell if Ricky will be added to this prestigous list.

Time’s up. He didn’t make it.

As for me, I’m going to continue to do what I do best: not retire. I have commitments here, and I love what I do. Plus, they don’t give us drug tests.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Reunion Number Two

All new homeowners have little problems that arise with their new house, I would assume, like squeaky doors, and windows that jam. But we - that is, my wife and I - have a rather odd problem in our new house, and I was wondering if, by chance, that this problem is more common than I think.

You see, the toilet in our guest bathroom occasionally regurgitates feces, and this feature was surprisingly not included in our homeowner's contract.

Let's say that I have a bowel movement in our guest bathroom, which is quite common considering I am not allowed to have bowel movements in the main bathroom, because that's where my wife keeps important things, like 345 bottles of lotion. Anyway, I will flush the toilet, like a good husband, and everything appears to be okay in our new house.

So let's say it's the next day, and I have the urge to perform another act of defecation. I will open the lid of the toilet, and right there staring back at me, like he just went to hell and back, is yesterday's lunch, with a look that says, "Hey Mike, remember me? Do you have any friends I can play with?" And of course, I do. But that's not the point.

The point is that this is the guest bathroom, meant for guests, and my wife seems to think that any potential guests will be turned off by this feature, although I'm quite sure that any of MY guests would find this quite humorous, and would inquire as to how much I paid for this feature, and where they could get it. This is why I am not allowed to have guests over. Nevertheless, our guest bathroom has deemed us unable to have ANY people over, which is to say, it has become a real party pooper.

I think this all stems from a plumbing problem, and my wife thinks we should get this fixed, although my knowledge of plumbing begins and ends with Liquid Drano, which I have already tried. For some reason, it did not work.

So, is this a common problem? A better question would be, can you fix it? If you can. please contact me immediately. I'll be in the guest bathroom, getting reacquainted with some old friends.

Also, bring some Liquid Drano, because our door squeaks too.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Phat and all that

There is a man who lives in my development, most likely a modest, hard-working, Youth Group organizer at the local parish, who drives an SUV with a license plate that reads “Eyez Off,� which is to signify that everyone in the world, because they drive lesser vehicles than his, is not worthy of even making eye contact with his pimped-out GMAC SUV with the tinted windows. In fact, the windows are tinted so that if some crazy person actually had the audacity to lay their eyez ON his “ride,� they wouldn’t be able to see who the Youth Group leader is that is driving it. And then they would turn to stone, unable to withstand the hottness of the GMAC, to which this modest man would most likely reply, “I told you so...bitch.�

Of course, this man is not the only person who lets his vehicle do the talking. And in most of these cases, the vehicle is saying, “Look at me. I’m a jackass!�

Like the other day, while I was in the parking lot of the local supermarket, staring across from me at the word “Princess� plastered on the top of the windshield of a 1992, barely breathing Dodge Spirit. I was taken aback by the fact that an actual princess would drive such a vehicle, considering that most princesses are known for riding in the back of horse-drawn buggies, and do not work at A&P, where the “P� does NOT stand for princess, so I’m told. Another reason that I was slightly confused was because my mom used to own this exact model vehicle, and I used to drive it to high school after I got my license, leaving my poor mom with no vehicle whatsoever to get to and from her job, where she worked long hours to feed me. “This was also not the life of a princess,� I thought. But then when I saw the princess coming towards her “carriage,� with her slightly non-attractive gut hanging out above her low-rider jeans, smoking a cigarette, and talking on a cell phone, I realized that, most likely, she just wantd to be considered a princess because of her diva-like lifestyle, which most likely included milkshakes, marijuana, and boyfriends that are approximately 35 years older than her, and in jail. In fact, if the world was in correct order, THIS person would have had a license plate that read “Eyez Off,� and I would have happily obliged.

And then there is the guy who used to drive down my block while I was outside shooting hoops, with the car windshield that read “Phat and all that.� I never got the chance to meet this individual, so I’m left to assume that he was, really, phat and all that. But alas, I’ll never know for sure, unless we cross paths again, which is unlikely, considering I try not to make eye contact with any vehicle that passes, out of fear it may be the wrong one.

So it seems like the cars people drive can say a lot about them. Like, for example, I drive a 1997 Ford F-150 that is totally out of alignment, and that makes a weird and loud buzzing noise that sounds like the muffler is going to fall off whenever I press the gas pedal. I am considering placing a witty statement on my windshield that will adequately describe my personality, and how I would like to be perceived by society. I think it will say, “For sale.�

Monday, July 05, 2004

Continental Airlines: Where Passing The Buck Is Easier Than Refunding One

Hey - do you know what’s a highly underrated form of exciting entertainment? No? Well, try sitting on a mammoth plane, in the middle of a runway in Newark, New Jersey, not moving, behind 10 other mammoth planes, for 2 ½ hours because “Air Traffic Control� said so. This exercise is doubly exciting if you have a connecting flight, of which you were originally concerned how you would kill time in the airport waiting for, but now are hoping is filled with passengers looking around desperately at an empty seat, and saying things like, “Where the heck is Mike Kenny?� and “Don’t even think of taking off without Mike Kenny, Mr. Pilot!�

Unfortunately for me, that hope was futile, and I missed my connecting flight by a whopping five minutes, thanks to Continental Airlines, whose motto is, “Don’t Blame Us. We Already Have Your Money.� In retrospect, I probably should have steered clear of traveling on an airline with such a motto, but I was desperate to get to Phoenix, Arizona, where my wife was graduating from Graduate school, which is a lot of graduating for one girl to handle. She needed my help.

So there I was, in Houston’s renowned “Bush Airport,� with my friend Derrick, and nowhere to turn, except in the general direction of Continental Airlines customer service. Or a bar. We chose the latter.

After we refueled, we discovered through a customer service rep, that no more flights to Phoenix were going out that night, and that we would have to wait until the next morning to depart. I could sense the obvious concern of my wife, through the cell phone, as she insisted that I “do something about it,� although, she was unaware that I had accidentally left my plane AND my pilot’s license back at the house.

When it became obvious that we would need to stay at a hotel that night, I naively figured that Continental Airlines may be able to help us out in the matter, since, by all accounts, it was not OUR fault that our prior flight had sat on the runway longer than the “Lord of the Rings� trilogy. I was unaware however, that it was not Continental Airline’s fault either, and any blame should be directed at Air Traffic Control, who apparently do a horrible job of controlling air traffic. Then, upon further investigation, I was informed that there was actually “some kind of storm� coming from the west which caused the delay. So, as I deducted from my dealings with Continental Airlines customer service, it was actually God’s fault that we missed our connection. And God is not in the business of giving out free hotel rooms.

So, we booked a hotel (a Quality Inn, which, in their best interest, would be better off changing their name to simply “Inn�), went to a Bennigan’s in Houston (which was amazingly similar to the Bennigan’s on Rt. 1 in New Brunswick, New Jersey - “A little taste of home,� I thought), and went to a local bar for a drink. When our cab never showed up at the bar to take us back to the hotel, some random girl named Emily, after confirming we were “not psychos,� drove us back, thus providing the best service we had witnessed all day. Emily, as it turned out, did not work for Continental Airlines.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Elvis is in the building

As is quite comon in the professional workplace, an Elvis impersonator visited our office the other day. Why? I'm not exactly sure.

What I did learn however, is that Elvis impersonators make no apologies. This particluar Elvis, who was decked out in full Elvis garb — a white jumpsuit, collar up, sunglasses, and white boots — walked in like he was wearing a suit and tie. There was no, "Hi, I'm Bob. You're probably wondering why the hell I'm in the middle of New Jersey dressed like Elvis Presley. It's because I am an Elvis impersonator, and I believe strongly in what I do, which is why I wear this outfit everywhere. I sleep with this on, in case you were wondering."

No, there was none of that.

I would assume that our noteworthy publication was doing a story on this Elvis. After all, in the last three weeks, we have done features on the Catwoman — a local lady who housed 35 cats and kittens in conditions deemed abusive, and who was forced to turn herself in to the SPCA, and the Wolfman — another local who has lived out of his van for the past 43 years, though I'm still not sure what, exactly, besides his lengthy beard, earned him the "Wolfman" moniker. I guess it doesn't really matter.

Whatever the reason he was here in the first place, I think it kind of boosts morale on the job whenever you see Elvis by the water cooler, hanging out like he's just killin' time before lunch. I may be starting to question what kind of publication I'm working for, but that doesn't mean I'm not enjoying every minute of this. It's not everyday that you get to see the King.

Monday, June 21, 2004

A little story

I am the circualtion manager at a newspaper in New Jersey. This means that I have to deal with drivers, those people directly responsible for getting our newspapers to the stores, homes, sewers, etc. This may sound crazy, but older people who deliver newspapers for a living aren't always the most stable of folk. Luckily for me, most of my drivers are very good workers, and good people at that. But I ran into a little problem a few weeks ago that brought me to the conversation I became involved in today.

One of my drivers, let's call him Mr. Alcoholic, went on a drinking binge three weeks ago, never picked up his papers, and stole the money that he had already collected from the stores that was supposed to go directly to me. This is status quo in the field of newspaper drivers, so after I threatened to press charges, I finally got the money back, all in singles. I wore gloves as I counted it. But alas, our newspaper has a policy against going on drinking binges and stealing company funds, so unfortunately I could not allow Mr. Alcoholic to continue delivering our publication.

So I went through my files and I found a note from a woman who had called a few months back looking for work. I called her and left a message explaining that we had an opening. Three days later, when I had not heard back from her, and was getting desperate, I called her back again. This time she answered.
"Did you get my message?" I asked.
"Yeah," she said.
"So...are you interested?" I implored.
"Yeah, definitely." she replied.
Now obviously, my desperation prevented me from asking her why, if she wanted this work, did she never call me back. But whatever.

So this woman, let's call her Ms. Alcoholic, comes into the office to fill out the necessary paperwork. As she's filling out forms, she asks, "Does it matter that I have Lyme Disease?"
"Uhhh, not at all. I mean, it won't affect you from delivering the papers, right?" I asked.
"I don't think so."
"Okay, then it's not problem at all."
Long pause.
"You know what Lyme Disease is, right?" she asks.
"Yeah, I'm familiar with it."
"It's when you get bit by a tick, and then you get Lyme Disease."
"Ummm, yeah. I know."

I needed two forms of identification from Ms. Alcoholic, and I was shocked to discover that she actually had a license that was not expired. Her other ID, because she had no bank, ATM, or credit card, was her birth certificate, which it turns out, I should have kept for collateral.

I thought it was going to be a good marraige, our newspaper and Ms. Alcoholic. But I guess I should have seen it coming. After she delivered the papers that week, and got paid, I never heard from her again. I tried to call numerous times, but to no avail. I hope she enjoyed the money. Maybe she spent it on Lyme Disease research. Or Vodka.

So yet again, I was out a driver. But I had a plan. I had this one woman driver who already had a small route with us, and I discovered that she had just quit her route with another newspaper. So I called her up and asked her if she wanted the extra work.

"Uhhh, maybe," she said. "Ya know, I'd like to put you in touch with my ex-husband 'cause he was looking for work, but he just got his leg removed the other day."
"Oh, yeah," says I. "That'll definitely make delivering the papers a little tough."
(Side note: When dealing with newspaper drivers, one tries not to ask such petty questions like, "Really? What happened to his leg?" Trust me. You don't want to know.)
"Oh no," she replies. "He can drive okay. He just can't get out the car."
"Yeah well, as you know, a lot of times you guys have to get out of the car to bring the papers into the stores, so that's gonna be a little tough."
"Yeah, I hear ya'. But ya' know what? I'll take that extra route, and then when Billy gets his peg-leg, I'll hand it over to him."
"Okay, great. I'll be here on Monday if you want to come in. I'll print out your new route and you can check it over and see if you have any questions."

So today came, and the woman never showed. So I called her up. At 3:00p.m.
"Hello? Oh - I'm sorry did I wake you up?" I asked her.
"Uh, yeah, that's okay. I was just laying down for a bit."
"Oh, sorry. Listen, I was just wondering why you didn't come in today to check out your new route?"
"Yeah, sorry about that. I was planning on coming in tomorrow. You see I'm goin' through menopause and when I get my period I bleed all over the place. I just didn't feel like leaving the house like that, coming over there, and bleeding all over the place."

Now I may not have the best eye for these things, but I think she's a keeper.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Liquid Fantast Part II

This was written a couple of weeks after it's predecessor...

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a great idea that I had. Well, now I have a new idea, and it’s to forget about the old one.

As many of you may remember, I thought up a wonderful invention: an additional shower faucet that releases liquid soap into the water stream, thus making the act of taking a shower more efficient. I was a bit apprehensive about releasing my idea to the general public, or that is, all of you, because I thought many of you jerks would think the idea was stupid. Then I realized that most of you don’t take showers anyway, so why would I care what you think?

Actually, the responses were very positive, and a lot of you actually liked the idea. And as you all know, I had already submitted my name and contact information to the ISC (Inventor’s Submission Corporation). Well, their “patent specialist� called me back last week, and if Mel is in charge of getting things invented, then it’s a wonder how we even have toasters.

I came home from work one day last week, and my dad, who had read about my idea (and because of his plumbing expertise, probably feared he would have to help initiate it) informed me that I just missed the callback from the ISC rep. I think he found it amusing that I actually submitted this idea, and so did I, but what did I have to lose? So I got Mel’s number and planned to call him back the following day.

I do a lot of things at work that I’m not supposed to do, but this was the first occasion that I actually used company time to call in an idea about an additional shower faucet that releases liquid soap into the water stream. Mel sounded like an old, disgruntled employee who had heard one too many horrible ideas. He confirmed all of my information was correct, and then said, in a dull monotone voice, “So, what can I do for you?�

Now, maybe I’m crazy, but I assumed that this was the part of the conversation where I should start talking about my idea. So, I delightfully began to explain my idea to Mel, until he immediately cut me off with a “whoa, whoa, stop right there!� At this moment, I figured that somehow, after hearing “Well, my idea is an addit…� that Mel knew exactly where the conversation was headed, and was anxious to inform me that these extra shower faucets already existed. But as it turned out, Mel said that he could not, legally, listen to my idea until I had met with him and signed a letter of confidentiality, and discussed the details in person.

Mel specified that he was available between the hours of 11am and 7pm Monday thru Friday. His office was based in Bloomfield, NJ, and he would be sending me directions in the mail. Now, what time did I want to make an appointment?


“Whoa, whoa, stop right there!� I felt like saying. It was embarrassing enough to even be having this conversation, considering the triviality of my idea and the fact that Mel was assuming it was a cure for cancer. But there was no way I was missing work to haul ass to Bloomfield, NJ and talk to Mel about an idea that a) I’m not even sure already exists and b) if it doesn’t, who’s to say it’s even feasible? I asked Mel if he could just send me the agreement in the mail or something, and he actually laughed, saying, “If I were you, and I were discussing something as important as my idea, I wouldn’t trust anyone who said they would send something in the mail!� Boy am I stupid! Mel made me feel like this was the first time I was submitting an original idea with the hopes of getting it patented, which if course, it was.

Mel reiterated the fact that I had to meet with him personally to discuss the idea. He told me I was “very fortunate� to be provided with an hour of his time, which is apparently very valuable, for free. After all, I wouldn’t have to put down the $2,500 deposit to find a suitable manufacturer until after we decided if the idea was workable or not. Wow, what a deal! He then informed me that I should bring all of my sketches and blueprints and any other information pertaining to my idea, with me when we meet. “Who does this guy think I am, Thomas Edison?� I asked myself. If I were smart enough to think of idea that involved blueprints, Mel would be the last person I would talk to about it. I asked Mel if he could just listen to my idea and tell me if it already existed, and he said, “I’m available between the hours of 11am and 7pm Monday thru Friday.�

I told Mel I was a working man and could not find the time to meet with him during those hours. Mel let out another huge sigh, and said, “I just had heart surgery, okay? I can’t be dealing with this kind of stuff, alright? I feel I’m being very flexible here. Now, I’m available between the hours of 11am to 7pm Monday thru Friday – take or leave it!�

I wasn’t sure what heart surgery had to do with my idea, and I did not ponder the oxymoronic nature of set hours being flexible. But I knew that this would be my last conversation with Mel, the ISC “patent specialist�.


After an extensive online search, I eventually located a complete library of existing patents. My idea of adding liquid soap into the water stream is a concept already covered under Class 239, Section I of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, entitled Fluid Sprinkling, Spraying, and Diffusing.

I think I’m much more content knowing that my idea already exists than I would be excited if I were to have found out it didn’t, and be forced to do something about it. It’s kind of ironic that my idea was supposed to play on the laziness of people, but in the end, I would have been too lazy myself to even go through with making it.

It turns out I won’t become a millionaire from naturally soapy showers, although I am kind of confused as why I wasn’t taking a naturally soapy shower last night if my idea already exists. But at least I can say that I had an idea once, and did more than just sit on it.
I called Mel.

And told him to sit on it