Thursday, June 30, 2005

Our problematic pool party

I was at my cousin Cara’s house this past weekend, and it was really, really hot. So, we did the only thing we could – we drank beer. And then my cousin bought a pool.

It was probably the biggest pool you can buy that doesn’t require the use of a bulldozer or a permit. In fact, on the box that it came in there was a picture of the pool, with approximately 25 kids happily playing in it, with plenty of room to spare for other things, like rafts, and urine. The box also informed us that putting the pool together would be as “easy as 1, 2, 3!” However, upon further inspection, we realized that that was somewhat of a general statement, as in, “Step 1: Put together pool. Step 2: Enjoy pool. Step 3: Dry off.”

Actually, we soon discovered that this process would be much more complicated than the box specified, especially after we realized that it came with an instructional video, which, judging from the amount of tape it held, was longer than “The Godfather Part II.” We didn’t have time to watch a freakin’ video – not when it was 95 degrees outside and we were about to construct the first swimming pool in our family’s vast, and pool-less history. We also didn’t need the literary version of the “directions,” as we tossed them aside as well, next to some empty Coors Light cans. After all, we had plenty of manpower, albeit manpower still slightly feeling the affects of a previous night’s wedding, with a combined zero experience in putting together massive blow-up, spontaneously purchased pools.

My cousin-in-law Steve, sister Jill, cousin Todd, and several others went to work on the actual pool, and by “went to work” I mean stared at it for a half an hour, and then realized that we had no means of blowing it up. My cousin John and I put together the ladder in surprisingly efficient fashion, considering that John’s previous night had ended with him passed out, face down while wearing a tuxedo, in somebody else’s bed, and my own experience with ladders simply involved falling off of one while cleaning my neighbors gutters several years back. Nevertheless, it seemed sturdy enough, even though the “warning safety” sign we tried to install on the side of it was symbolically dangling by a thread. John’s response to this problem was, “Whatever. Nobody in our family speaks German anyway. Right?”

Steve tried to use his ShopVac to blow up the pool, until he realized that it was only “sucking” and not “blowing,” which led to several hilarious jokes. Then we regrouped and found a hand pump, and everyone took turns blowing up the pool, which was the best teamwork exhibited by our family since the time I was chased out of a minor league baseball game for dancing on top of the dugout, and everyone met me outside of the stadium so I could get home before the police arrived. After sufficient blowing, we decided this would be the perfect time to start filling up the pool. Without even consulting the video, we determined we should use water.

Cara gave her two-year old son David a hose, and let him stand inside the soon-to-be pool and commence filling. We all stood around and watched, anticipating the gloriousness of what was about to come to fruition. The pool held just under 3,000 gallons, which meant, at the rate we were going, we would be able to swim in approximately three weeks. About an hour into it, my wife and my dad realized that the pool was starting to form an odd shape. They consulted the “directions,” which explained, “If pool begins to take on an egg-like shape, drain and start over.” Our collective reaction to THIS news was a resounding “whatever.” Besides, the pool wasn’t taking on much of an egg-like shape. It looked more like a giant amoeba that had fallen from the sky and splattered all over my cousin’s backyard, and we were trying to bring it back to life by dousing it with water.

There was no turning back now. By this point, we had even begun wading in the giant splattered amoeba, at which point John discovered that two very pointy rocks were almost bursting through the bottom of the pool. Our solution to THIS problem was to have my dad try and finagle his way UNDERNEATH the pool enough to slip a piece of cardboard in between the ground and pool base. We all pulled on one side of the pool while my dad squirmed underneath, which prompted John to say, “If anyone is looking at this from above, they’re going to think a pool fell on Uncle Jack, and we’re all trying to save him.” Also, it didn’t work.

The hard work that John and I had put into the ladder was rendered moot by the fact that the pool was SO uneven, that there was actual a shallow end that you could enter simply by stepping over the side, and a deep end that overflowed onto the grass if someone so much as stuck their hand inside the pool. Also, the side of the pool that the filter was on sagged so much that the filter wasn’t even IN the pool, meaning that the only thing it was really “filtering” was the air outside. Nevertheless, we swam. Like kings. Steve did an unprecedented one-handed doggy-paddle while holding his beer above water with his other hand, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth for good measure. My wife said it was the greatest pool party in white trash history.

Two days later, according to my cousin Cara, the pool collapsed. 3,000 gallons of water went all over her backyard, and the pool deflated, all of which may have been for the better, because I think John peed in it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

An open letter to Kevin Brown

Dear Kevin,

When the Yankees traded for you and then signed you two years ago for $800 billion, I was so excited. I hadn’t been that happy since the time I looked down at my feet and saw that my athlete’s foot had gone away, even though it came back the next day.

Anyway, I’ve been a big fan of yours for years, and I’ve followed you throughout your career. All those great times in Texas, when you were leading the Rangers to the Promised Land, except back then the Promised Land was fourth place in the AL West. Not quite the Land of Canaan, but hey – whaddya gonna do? It was probably Juan Gonzalez’s fault. The Orioles then took you on board, followed by the Marlins. Then you made it to the World Series with the Padres, but the Yankees got lucky and swept you guys. That wasn’t your fault either – I mean, could Tony Gwynn have BEEN any fatter? Was he eating the batting donuts by accident? Sheesh.

Anyhoo, I knew even back then that you’d be a perfect fit for the Yankees – what with your surly attitude and ability to never crack a smile (even that time when Phil Nevin was tickling the bottom of your feet in the Padres’ dugout. Man, I thought you were going to KILL him!). You were all business – even after business was over and everybody was sleeping – and I LIKED that about you. After all, there’s no room for joy in baseball, not when the rosin bag has been carelessly placed on the WRONG side of the mound, and somebody on the grounds crew needs to be fired.

Then you went to L.A., and I thought to myself, “Man, that’s a lot of stops for such a great pitcher!” Luckily, every city has a place called the DL, which is where you could usually be found, icing down your strained collateral tendonitis shinbone, or whatever was ailing you at the time. Fortunately for me, you came back in 2003 virtually injury-free, and pitched well enough for the Dodgers to convince the Yankees to scoop you up in the offseason, via a trade for Jeff Weaver. Mr. Weaver had great “stuff” - and by stuff I mean hair - because most of his pitches ended up somewhere in Queens. He obviously couldn’t pitch in New York, and I wasn’t sad to see him go, because we were getting YOU, even though you were already 39 years old, and your back was being held together with duct tape.

I can still remember the press conference when the Yankees acquired you, and you held up your new jersey for everyone to see. Actually, I was surprised that you didn’t injure yourself doing that, because those jerseys can be heavier than they look. Then you turned to Brian Cashman and whispered, “You guys have a DL here, right?” What a kidder you are!

Anyway, I would say that 2004 was a rousing success, except for all of the times you had to pitch. Nevertheless, I admired how you always looked on the bright side of things. For instance, if you gave up a hit, you were like, “No big deal – I’ll get the next guy.” And when THAT guy got a hit, you were like, “No biggie – I’ll get the next guy.” And when THAT guy got a hit, you were like, “That’s okay – I’ll get the next guy.” And when THAT guy got a hit, you were like, “My shoulder hurts.” You were never too hard on yourself, which seemed to rub off on your teammates. Like sandpaper. Even after the game against Baltimore, when you only gave up three runs and came back into the locker room and punched a wall, breaking your hand. To me, it showed remarkable restraint that you didn’t just tie yourself to some nearby railroad tracks and wait for the inevitable, because let’s face it – three runs is a LOT of runs.

Game Seven of the ALCS was also a lot of fun to watch. You were ON that night. On the mound, that is, giving up lots and lots and lots of runs. Oh well – it was just the Red Sox. No big deal.

Which is why I was thrilled when the Yankees didn’t lose faith in you for 2005. Well, I guess it’s hard to just lose faith when you still owe faith $27 million. Nevertheless, you have so many great attributes that are irreplaceable, regardless of your horrendous pitching. Like, the way you talk to the media with that, “If you guys were a wall I’d punch you right NOW!” kind of ferocity. And your distinct delivery, where you look back to centerfield before you release the ball. Someone I know describes it as a “Please God, don’t hit this” delivery, even though they usually do. In fact, I think you’re the only pitcher in the league who looks into the outfield both before AND after he throws every pitch.

As I write this, you just left a game against the Pirates with a mysterious injury brought on by four earned runs. I think it was your back again. Or shoulder. Or ankle. Or finger. Or leg. Or armpit. Or scalp. Or athlete’s foot. Or buttocks. Wait – WAS it your back? I can’t remember. Anyway, I was just writing to remind you that we DO have a DL here, except it’s not actually HERE. It’s in Guam. And once you go, you can never come back.

And one other thing. When you’re packing your suitcase, try not to hurt yourself. And don’t forget the duct tape. All checks will be forwarded.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Boss, and a case of mistaken identity

I discovered something last week, to my dismay. My cell phone number is only one digit off from Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman’s cell phone number, which goes a long way towards explaining why I, your everyday frustrated Yankees’ fan, was on the horn with George Steinbrenner himself at 3:30 am this past Tuesday. Fortunately, I was able to illegally record our dialogue, and I will now release it to the public, because that’s what he gets for waking me up from my dream about winning the Pulitzer Prize at an awards show hosted by Angelina Jolie.

Me: (Groggy) Hello?

George: Brian, wake up! What the hell do you think this is – sleepy time? We’re a .500 baseball team, and you’re acting like that guy who fell asleep for a long time, and then woke up and he was all old and wrinkled.

Me: Rip Van Winkle?

George: What? Winky who? What the heck are you saying? Stop talking gibberish, and explain to me WHY, the $200 million of MY money that YOU spent, has been magically transformed into a giant pile of pinstriped dog doody?!

Me: Wait a second. Hold up. Is this George Steinbrenner?

George: Ohhh, yeahhhh. (Clapping hands.) Bravo, Brian. You’re a regular Carrot Top there with your brand of comedy. WHO THE HECK ELSE WOULD BE CALLING YOU AT 3:30 IN THE MORNING – MEL FREAKIN’ GIBSON?!

Me: Oh, ummm, actually Mr. Steinbrenner, I think you may have dialed –

George: An idiot? Darn right I dialed an idiot! Did you WATCH the game last night, or were you snoozing away again, like your friend Henry Winkler?

Me: Ummm, actually, yeah – I did watch the game last night.

George: So WHAT happened? Why can’t we beat the MILWAUKEE BREWERS, Brian? Why is Mr. Randy Johnson himself pitching like he doesn’t even care? And did you SEE him at the plate last night, Brian? He looks like a giant pencil with an eraser on his head, and he swings like a girl! How much are we paying for this – to embarrass ourselves every night?

Me: Ummm, a lot?

George: DARN RIGHT A LOT! Why is Posada striking out with the bases loaded and no outs? When is Matsui going to get a hit? Is Mariano Rivera still on the TEAM, cause I haven’t seen him in THREE WEEKS?!

Me: I think he is, but I’m not –

George: Ya’ know, we start off the year playing like crap. Then we win 10 straight, 16 out of 18, and I’m thinking to myself, “Ya know George – maybe you DIDN’T waste millions and millions of dollars on a bunch of underachievers who have no idea what it means to play for the New York Yankees. Maybe they just needed a little kick in the rear – a little push on the old caboose.” Then the Red Sox come to town and THEY push us on the caboose all right! You might as well have taken a picture of David Ortiz standing on top of a pile of our pitchers, giving a salute, and sticking a Boston flag in the back of Carl Pavano. Just embarrassing, Brian. Then the ROYALS – the ROYALS, Brian! The last time the Kansas City Royals swept the New York Yankees you were probably in diapers, blowing your mother’s hard-earned money on thousand-dollar pacifiers! Ya’ know Brian, I wish I was still in the shipbuilding industry, so I could build a huge ship, invite you on it, and then throw you overboard.

Me: Ya’ know, Mr. Steinbrenner, I’m NOT –

George: Capable of making an informed decision? Ohhh – you don’t have to tell ME that Brian. Do you know how I look when guys like Javier Vasquez and Jose Contreras are pitching so well for other teams, and we get overpriced prima donnas like Brown and Johnson who come over here and crap the bed? It doesn’t make me look good, Brian. I’ll tell you that. That’s why I felt compelled to issue this conference call, to clear the air, and find out what’s going on here.

Me: Conference call?

George: Yes, conference call, you MORON! You know I never do things without a team of advisors. Say hello to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and my good friend, Donald Trump.

Me: Uhhh, hey guys.

Giuliani: Brian, it’s not good for my political career to be seen at games where the team I’m rooting for is losing. Do I have to start going to METS games, Brian? I hope not.

Trump: Brian, judging by your performance so far in 2005, if you were on “The Apprentice,” I’m sorry, but I’d have to say, “You’re fired.”

Me: Alright – that’s enough. I don’t know WHO you think you are waking me up at this hour to scream at me, and belittle me in front of others. This is YOUR team, GEORGIE boy. Our whole roster is made up of the overpriced and aging stars that YOU salivated over at some point, from Giambi, to Sheffield, to Brown, to Mussina, to Johnson. You tell Cashman who you want, and he goes and gets them. THAT’S his job. So don’t come crying to him when things don’t work out as planned. You saw Vasquez and Contreras pitch here, so don’t even try and tell me that THEIR absence is the reason we’re losing now. I know we’re not playing even close to our potential right now, but all we can do is hope that things turn around. This is our team – the manifestation of years and years of coveted free agents signing multi-year contracts. The bad news is we’re playing terrible baseball right now, we’ve depleted our farm system, and all of our underachievers are virtually immovable because of the money they make. The good news is we have a team centered around Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, a pitching staff that can only get better at this point, the best manager in the game, and enough time to turn this thing around. We’ve made our bed, and it’s time to sleep. And speaking of sleep, that’s where I’m going back to right now. And Trump, shut up.

George: Okay, Brian. Points well taken, but I don’t know where you get the cojones to refer to yourself in the third person. Only I can do that, so take note. And we better get this thing turned around soon, cause I’m getting reeeeaaaal antsy over here. And you know what happens when I get antsy, Brian? People end up on the unemployment line - THAT’S what happens. If we don’t win it all this year, you owe me $200 million, so start saving. Do you hear me, Brian?

Me: (Click).

Friday, June 03, 2005

The hand that rocks the remote

The realm of nanny-related entertainment has come full circle, and it’s about time.

The history of nannies is a fascinating one, with many twists and turns. They first arrived on a big boat called the Mayflower, but at that point in time they were known as “midwives,” and their responsibilities included a) disciplining their master’s children, b) teaching their master’s children, c) knitting, and d) having their master’s children. This was good because it gave the actual, non-biological mothers of these children increased time to do things like go to Curves.

When television arrived years later, on a separate boat, someone – I think it was Karl Marx – had the idea to incorporate the lifestyle of the nanny into the stream of mass entertainment. It all started with “Mary Poppins,” which was so influential that it bypassed television and went straight to the movies. “Mary Poppins” was a British nanny who flew on an umbrella to save children from misbehavior by singing her ass off. She would later go on to star in “The Sound of Music,” but not before teaching millions and millions of children worldwide how to be disciplined by someone other than their actual parents.

But that was only the beginning of the nanny-craze. Immediately after he saw “Mary Poppins,” Tony Danza wrote the script to “Who’s the Boss.” Except this time, there was a twist – not only did Tony Danza NOT use an umbrella (he was from Brooklyn), he was also a man, which strayed from the overall perception of nannies being overweight, British, singing females. And “Tony,” as I will refer to him from hereon in, had increased responsibilities as a male nanny. Not only did he have to perform the usual duties of cooking and sleeping, but he also had to raise an obviously gay son that wasn’t even his, deal with the rapid maturation of an increasingly good-looking daughter that WAS his, curtail his lust for an increasingly non-attractive Judith Light, AND deny advances from a slutty, wisecracking grandmother all at the same time. Tony made the best of his situation however, as he could often be seen doing “crazy” and unorthodox things like vacuuming the curtains, and making grilled cheese with an iron. Also, he lived in the garage, where he would cry at night.

But the nanny-craze didn’t stop THERE either, if you can even imagine. Shortly after “Who’s the Boss” tanked, a show aptly named “The Nanny” began airing on all televisions that didn’t blow-up at the impact of Fran Drescher’s voice. THIS time, the presentation of the nanny was RE-reversed as, not only was Fran Drescher a moderately attractive woman who was last in line when God handed out vocal chords, but she was an American who half-heartedly raised the children of a British person! Can you believe it – us Americans trying to raise children?! Well-behaved BRITISH children nonetheless?! Sheesh. Anyhoo, that show sucked.

There was also a movie about a nanny who wanted to murder the family she was working for and take the baby for herself, but then was killed in a picket fence-related accident. That was the low point of the nanny-craze, because then everybody started trying to raise their own children, because they were scared of nannies, which, in turn, created Eric and Lyle Menendez. And Eminem.

Which brings us to the here and now. The nanny-craze is BACK, and if you don’t believe me, just check out the 17 nanny shows on television right now, like, “Nanny 911,” “Super Nanny,” “Nanny Dearest,” “Has Anyone Seen My Nanny?” and “Nanny – Special Victims Unit.” The funny thing is, each one of these shows has the EXACT same premise, but that hasn’t stopped my wife and I from watching all of them, all the time.

The current trend of nanny-related entertainment has returned back to the Mary Poppins style, and Mary Poppins has, apparently, gained 120 pounds. For example, each one of these current shows uses British nannies. In fact, on “Nanny 911” there is actually a lair of British nannies who, at the beginning of each episode, watch televised highlights of badly-behaved families, until the Master Nanny assigns one of her subjects to the family in question. In “Super Nanny,” it’s the same British nanny every week, and she arrives at her destination in a 1960’s style Brit-mobile, with the license plate “SUPRNANY,” so as not to confuse her with all of the other super nannies on the road being chaffuered in 1960’s style Brit-mobiles.

The crux of each show is this: Unfit American parents have a child. They cannot discipline him/her because they are spineless pushovers who couldn’t raise a cactus, much less a human being. Unfit American parents have 11 more children. The children take over the house, until every moment becomes a scene from “Lord of the Flies.” They hit each other, curse at their parents, break things, urinate on the dog, listen to 50 Cent, etc. The parents put a call into “Nanny 911,” or one of the many other nanny hotlines with operators standing by.

(As a side note, unfit American parents also inexplicably have a beautiful home, which would indicate that they are adept at certain things, like business-related activity, although this is extremely odd considering their children eat dog poop off the floor.)

An overweight British nanny arrives at the front door one day. The kids don’t know who she is, so they urinate on her. She is aghast at the behavior, but is only there to assess the situation at this point. Eventually, she sits the parents down to inform them, in a nice British tone, that they are worthless blobs of crap. But she will help them. The mother cannot warm up to the Super Nanny because those are HER kids, even though she was the one who had to call the Super Nanny because little Jimmy kicked her in the crotch last Tuesday. The dad could care less because he does absolutely nothing that involves disciplining his children, and except for his brief appearance at the sit-down nanny interview, you would not even know he exists.

Nevertheless, the nanny goes to work, which involves a) setting up a schedule of when to eat, and where to poop, b) teaching the parents to communicate with their children through words, and not indifference, and c) preaching non-violence to the kids, except in the face of extreme circumstances, like if somebody steals your crayon. With seven minutes left in each show, it appears as if there is no hope, because little Suzy just barfed up detergent and aspirin, but after the commercial break, everything is fine. The nanny has made the inept parents realize that the kids aren’t the problem – they are. Because they’re idiots. In turn, they have been able to utilize the nanny’s techniques in an adequate manner that makes the nanny believe that they “get it,” although things will undoubtedly go right back to normal the second Super Nanny removes her fat butt from the premises. Everyone tells the nanny that they love her, and they symbolically give her a key to the house, but specify that it’s only to be used in an emergency, like if they move.

Then the nanny gets stabbed to death by a sharp picket fence. So if you're in the market for a nanny, you're going to have find someone else.

Operators are standing by.