Showing posts from August, 2011

Wild animals: better on television

Note: This column appears in the 9/1 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/2 issue of the Peoria Times

After four years of blissful enjoyment of my outdoor desert surroundings, it was bound to happen. Last week I came face-to-face with a coyote.

Granted, our faces were about 25 yards apart, but still. I had just finished a jog around the neighborhood, and was cooling down by walking around the cul de sac near our street that overlooks a barren desert that should have been developed years ago (thanks, economy!) when our eyes met.

It was very similar to that time I was viciously attacked by bears (don’t know what I’m talking about? Buy the book!) in that I felt extremely vulnerable. He—I didn’t think to check the genitalia from afar, so let’s go with “he”—sized me up. I have heard that when confronted by a coyote, one should make lots of noise and move menacingly forward as a means of intimidating the great beast. But we were far enough apart that I didn’t feel overtly threatened, plus I …

Classic card of the week

Darryl Strawberry, 1991 Scores

Everybody knows that Darryl Strawberry is a master at blasting. And also that he is The Franchise. But I have a question about Darryl Strawberry, and I’m wondering if Score, the baseball card company, can answer it. Here is my question, and it’s a three-parter: Darryl Strawberry’s mere presence. Important? Also, do people feed off him? Not his flesh, but like, his ability or something? Finally, can he carry a team of nine players including a pitcher and will them to win if he so chooses? (Bonus question: Does he have an exciting swing?)

Darryl is one of those rare ballplayers who makes his team better because of his presence.

Lesser players make their team worse with their presence. Or, worse, only affect their team in the way that they play baseball for that team, and otherwise said team treats that player’s general existence as a matter of indifference. Not cool, lesser players!

When he is on a roll, he carries the Mets.

I do not enjoy the precondition th…

Softening on the water softener

Note: This column appears in the 8/25 issue of The Glendale Star and the 8/26 issue of the Peoria Times

Although Arizona is quite far from New Jersey both geographically and climate-wise, it is still, I think, located in the United States of America, and therefore I was confused and rather annoyed when it was discovered that we would require certain things here that we did not require back east.

For example, sure, some people tint their car windows back east. The people who choose to do this, mostly, do not wish to be seen doing illegal things in their vehicle, and thus, ironically, become magnets for police. When we first moved here I bought a new car, and people were like, “Did you tint the windows?” and I was like, “No, I’m not a drug dealer.” Then I drove my window-tinted-less car around for two days in the summer and all of my CDs melted. Ha, ha … remember CDs? It was 2007. Anyway, I got my car tinted.

Then people were like, “Your home is too sunny! You need to tint your home wind…

Classic card of the week

Michael Barrett, 1999 Topps “Scouts Choice”

Michael Barrett is a “Scouts Choice,” which means—without even having to look at the back of the card—he has grit, heart, a gritty heart, hearty grit, is a winner, a leader, a leader of winners, a winner of gritters, and also he is scrappy, and a throwback to other scrappers, and a leader of throwback heart-having scrappers. But: does he play baseball? Let’s see what the Bowman scouts have to say.

HITTING: Shows nice, balanced, under-control swing…

As opposed to other major league prospects who show not nice, unbalanced, out of control swings in which they fall down and also their pants fall down.

Knows how to put the ball in play…

Asked the secret to putting the ball in play, Michael Barrett leaned in close to the scout and whispered into his ear, “By hitting the baseball in fair territory.”

Has hit the ball harder every year.

The hardness with which Michael Barrett hits baseballs has increased exponentially each and every year. This is an actu…

The joy of Swedish home furniture shopping

Note: This column appears in the 8/18 issue of The Glendale Star and the 8/19 issue of the Peoria Times

Ever been to IKEA? It is a Swedish furniture store. Its appeal, I think, used to be affordability, but that has waned—the Swedish economy is worse than ours, I have heard, and IKEA is their only source of income—and now their greatest appeal is lack of furniture salesmen, which is important, because furniture salesmen make car salesmen seem standoffish. (If you are a furniture salesman reading this, I’m just kidding! If you’re not, I am not kidding. They are the worst.)

Besides being not-that-inexpensive and maintaining the sturdy quality of cardboard, another great aspect of IKEA furniture is that it is all in boxes and you have to put it together yourself, later. This is great for a person like me, who is not very good at putting things together. We currently have a large IKEA bookshelf in our home that we cannot anchor to the wall because I put one of the pieces with the anchor h…

Classic card of the week

Jay Buhner, 1989 Topps

During the heyday of my card-collecting, few things set off the alarm of excitement in my heart more than seeing a distinguished logo on a baseball card—a “Rated Rookie” insignia, a “The More You Know”-type colorful “Future Stars” banner bursting across the center of the card, or, as in this case, a Rookie All-Star trophy goblet logo. To see one of these things meant that you might have something special on your hands. “Something special” being a card that may, in a few decades or so, be worth enough money to cash in and pay off a tiny fraction of a bloated student loan so the creditors will get off your back for two seconds. Or to like, pass down to your son or some crap like that.

Anyway, as you can see here, Jay Buhner drank his beverage of choice—Buhner Juice: a potent long-standing family recipe of orange juice mixed with pretzel stand and school play intermission refreshment-famed “orange drink,” and vodka—from the Topps All-Star Rookie trophy goblet, a lux…

Who plays where – battle of the babes

Note: This column appears in the 8/11 issue of The Glendale Star and the 8/12 issue of the Peoria Times

We have a Yankee room in our house. This is pretty much what it sounds like, unless you are a million years old and still associate Yankees with northern folk. It is a room filled with New York Yankee-related pictures and memorabilia. The room was not, amazingly, my wife’s idea, although she has never been opposed to it. One time, she even bought me, as a gift, a Yankee lamp. It was the greatest day of my life.

Having a Yankee room was a concept of the mind of a young, passionate Yankee fan with an extra room, no children, and a lot of Yankees stuff. Initially the room was a place to put all the team-related things I had acquired throughout my life, but it slowly morphed into a reason to acquire more stuff. That said, I had embraced a minimalistic approach—less is more, and I wanted to feature only the classier signed photos and nostalgic items, such as my box of Derek Jeter corn fla…

Like Plax, but pink

Not to bring up this again, but ... this.

The message was clear?

Here is Peter King today discussing, for some reason, backup quarterback Brad Smith and the, apparently, amazing impact he will have on the terrible football team, the Buffalo Bills:

On Sunday Smith stood in shotgun formation on a sweltering afternoon at St. John Fisher College, with four receivers spread across the line. At the snap he felt pressure, rolled right, took a step toward the line as if he'd run, then stopped in the face of a strong rush and flipped the ball ... 55 yards in the air. It fell shy of Stevie Johnson, but the message was clear, and the threat. Buffalo has a new toy.

That new toy is ... an incomplete pass machine? I am confused.

However: Where can I get one of those?!

The Green Beret

In the book, there is a section devoted to occurrences at a fictional and hypothetical newspaper that I totally never used to hypothetically work at and completely made up off the top of my head. Here is another part in that series, which is not in the book, because I just wrote it like, the other day. I hope you enjoy. All of this is true, in a hypothetical kind of way, except the names and some very minor details ...

The sales team—and by sales team I mean woman with eight kids who wore sweatpants to work and sometimes brought a few of her kids in and who didn’t “sell” as much as she drove around doing personal errands—at the paper was somewhat understaffed. This, rather gloriously, resulted in a revolving door of eccentric personalities who, for reasons ranging from “not having a driver’s license” to “clashing immediately with Hank” (the same Hank who had hired them), lasted, on average, three days.

Eventually, Hank became so frustrated with the sales process that he decided to sell …

Whereabouts unknown

I never know where to put my cell phone when I’m walking around and stuff. Where am I supposed to put it? I am a man.

Years ago I purchased, for my cell phone, a belt clip. This was nice because I could put my cell phone in it. Then I read on the Internet somewhere that belt clips for cell phones aren’t cool. Get a fanny pack, dorkface! I got rid of my belt clip, and by “got rid of” I mean I broke it in a way that was accidental and purely coincidental to my realization that belt clips aren’t cool. Perfect timing!

Then I was like, “Maybe I can put it in my pocket!” So I put my cell phone in my pocket. Not my pocket with my keys, but my other pocket, with my Bert’s Bees lip balm. It fit, but it jutted out of my pants and stretched the fabric. “Is that a cell phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” is what someone said to me once. So I was like, “Are you implying that my penis is squared-shaped and flat and exists on my upper thigh? I am happy to see you, but I do not have …

Looking up in a world of downers

Note: This column appears in the 8/4 issue of The Glendale Star and the 8/5 issue of the Peoria Times

I wouldn’t necessarily call it naïveté, but when I was younger I had a much more minimalistic outlook on life. Sure, I thought about the bad things every now and then, but it never really stuck with me. People get sick? That stinks. Hey, Woody Woodpecker is on! This is, I think, an integral part of a child’s makeup, as no kid should be contemplating such matters.

When I was a teenager, and then a young adult in college, I retained a fundamental understanding of reality, but I was nevertheless, like many of that age throughout history, invincible. Even when news or a particular event would strike my mind as something to consider, I still acted otherwise. With blinders, blissfully undeterred.

Suddenly I am a full-grown adult with a family and a slew of new perspectives and fears, and when unfortunate news is revealed—no matter how far removed from my own day-to-day life—it stays with me in…