Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It’s never too early to celebrate Christmas

Note: This column appears in the 12/1 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/2 issue of the Peoria Times

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I know, weird, right? I’ve always been different, I guess.

I’ve been looking forward to this particular Christmas season more so than any since I was a kid. That’s because of our daughter, who is at an age now where she is starting to get it. Granted, she is convinced she is going trick-or-treating on Christmas morning, so I’m not saying she’s a genius, I just mean she’s at the point where she understands that Christmas is something to be excited about.

Sure, a part of me is living vicariously through her. Last year when Santa got her a miniature baseball set, I immediately redirected her to her other toys so I could play with it, and became legitimately upset when it told me I had hit a “single” after I crushed the ball so hard the entire thing fell over. I’m sorry, but if that’s not a home run, I don’t know what is. More so than that though, and corny as it may sound, watching her eyes light up for everything related to Christmas is a better gift than anything I can even imagine, with the possible exception of a larger, more accurate baseball set.

I also feel like Christmas is come and gone before we even know it, and so I have always been a proponent of starting early. I mean, it all leads up to the day, of course, but it’s really a season, and should be celebrated as such.

However—and this brings me to my point—what in the heck happened this year? Are you kidding me with how early Christmas started!? Absurd. ABSURD.

The commercials, the advertisements, the terrible Lifetime movies, the neighborhood lights, the music … it all started immediately after Halloween this year. I was sitting at the Kia dealership in Peoria getting my oil changed Nov. 5 and they were playing Christmas music. It’s the music that really gets me. Every year I look forward to hearing Christmas music and getting myself in the holiday spirit, and after 20 minutes of hearing the same three songs I’m ready to drive my car into an embankment. If you’re starting with the music on Nov. 5, I am never going to make it. I am never going to make it.

Word on the street is businesses started early this year to jumpstart the economy. Now, I’m not naïve to the commercialization of the birth of Christ, and I really don’t want to get on my soapbox here, but if you’re marketing this religious holiday super early for the sole specific purpose of making sales, you—capitalist society—have truly missed the point.

This has been under my skin since Nov. 1, but I didn’t want to comment because I felt if I complained then about Christmas starting too early, I would actually be contributing to what I was railing against. But here it is: Christmas starts after Thanksgiving dinner, and traditionally after a family viewing of "A Very Gaga Thanksgiving." No sooner. This is non-negotiable. I am not opposed to legislation specifying this.

Because it won’t be just this year with the economy excuse. You can’t go back; you’ll only keep stretching the limits to the point we’re roasting our chestnuts at Labor Day barbeques. No wonder our daughter thinks she’s trick-or-treating on Christmas morning. At this point, she might as well be.

So everybody stop it. Thank you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to watch Fa La La La Lifetime movies.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Classic card of the week

Kennan McCardell, 1999 Topps Gold Label

Here we have a sample from Topps’ super-exclusive “Gold Label” collection. Presentation of a Topps Gold Label card at any participating outlet can earn you up to 3-percent off already marked clearance items and VIP access to the fitting room. I doubt this comes across over the Interwebs, but this card is two inches thick and has enough gloss to … gloss a horse? I wasn’t really sure how to finish that sentence. It’s a lot of gloss.

So, according to this card, Keenan McCardell plays football. Let’s find out more about Keenan McCardell, football player:

McCardell conducts himself with style on and off the field.

This is best evidenced by McCardell’s brash-yet-stylish backwards hat that sits slightly askew. This hat is supposed to go this way, but I’m gonna wear it this way! = style. I mean, it’s not like he’s breaking new ground here—Griffey was the first athlete of note to wear his hat backwards during non-game activity, and it looked awesome, AND that hat was fitted. McCardell is wearing a hat with a Velcro strap, which, were he not playing for the team featured on it, we could safely assume came out of the bargain bin at Marshalls. What? Yeah, I said it. I watch Project Runway.

Also, we like to poke fun at the descriptions of various athletes as gritty or throwbacks or hustlers and what not around these here parts. Those terms don’t mean anything and are stupid. But I must say, a player who “conducts himself with style on and off the field” has to be considered the exact opposite of gritty, right? Say what you want about Eckstein, but that guy would play shortstop wearing nothing but a barrel with suspenders, and he wouldn’t hesitate to get that barrel dirty. Warrants mentioning.

An aspiring financial professional,

According to Wikipedia, McCardell is currently the wide receivers coach for the Washington Redskins, a job for which we can assume Redskins owner Dan Synder is paying him $12 million annually. Kudos to you, Kennan, for realizing your dream.

He was named to Mr. Blackwell’s 1998 list of Best Dressed Athletes in Sports.

“Athletes in Sports” is redundant, no? Anyway … I don’t know—I’m not saying Keenan McCardell was not/is not extremely stylish; I just have a hard time believing that Mr. Blackwell paid enough honest attention to sports, where people wear uniforms, to notice. I mean:

Ugh, what was she thinking? Madonna was a polka-dotted nightmare on the red carpet for the opening of “Evita.” Cry for her, Argentina … you too, America! That tragedy of a dress was worse than anything either country has faced since World War II. Was Argentina in that one? Who knows. The point is, get some new Material, Girl! … Equally offensive was Michelle Pfeiffer at the London Benefit to Cure Infectious Disease. Honey, you’re not 28 anymore, and brown knee-high boots do NOT go with that color sequin belt, mkay? You look like the end result of a fight between a hooker and Paul Bunyan. The Baker Boys are fabulous, but they shouldn’t be styling you … On the bright side, wide receiver Keenan McCardell of the Jacksonville Jaguars looked stunning as he emerged from the locker room after a tough divisional loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Classic fit black suit with a lavender tie that pops? Mmm, mmm, mmm. It won’t be long until this wide receiver finds his tight end, or whatever happens in football.

Did you know?
I also watch "Fashion Police."

Did you know Part II?
The Redskins have wide receivers?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lost in translation

Note: And edited version of this column appears in the 11/23 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/25 issue of the Peoria Times

I began taking Spanish classes in seventh grade. I had no idea what was happening.

This confusion continued throughout high school, where Spanish remained my most difficult obstacle to a well-balanced intelligence. I could understand and translate certain words, but I simply could not grasp tenses and the fact that words had genders. The library is a lady but a book is a man? I'm sorry, but that's not what the Bible says.

I remember those rare occasions when I felt I was kind of getting it, and the teacher, sensing my newfound confidence, would begin speaking at a normal pace, and my head would explode and I would run out of the classroom holding my ears. Were it not for -- I'm not proud to say this -- a particular high school Spanish teacher who was not very adept at monitoring the classroom during testing, I never would have graduated.

In fact, six years of study be darned, I bombed the Spanish portion of a test entering college and was forced to start from scratch. That I could say "Me llamo Miguel" earned me an A-plus in Spanish 101, but the next three semesters were a downward spiral of ineptitude that finally, mercifully culminated in the most joyful D-minus I ever received.

I have always preferred to use clichéd excuses for my failures at another language, like, "Some people get it and some don't; I don't, and it's not my fault!" and, "If I just spent like two weeks in Spain, they'd be asking ME "Donde esta la biblioteca?" But the truth is, I honestly wish I could speak Spanish, especially now, living in Arizona, which is closer to Spain.

I'm not one of those people who is offended by Spanish because this is America and bald eagles and what not. I'd rather be able to broaden my horizons and communicate more effectively. My attempts to do so, however, often fall flat.

Last weekend we installed new flooring in our living room. Rather, I should say we had new flooring installed, since I have never properly installed anything besides iPhone apps in my entire life. Instead, two fine gentlemen of Mexican descent did the installing, and I tried my best to make them feel at home.

When attempting to communicate with those who speak Spanish, I rarely use words like, "Si," and "Gracias," because I feel it only exposes my inability to grasp Spanish. Instead I use English slowly and loudly, as if I am talking to a two-year child of any nationality, with exaggerated hand movements: WOULD YOU (pointing) LIKE (rub heart) SOME COFFEE (awkward motion of bringing a mug to my lips; Ouch, this pretend coffee is hot!)?

Wanting to get further on their good side, I offered to play some music for them as they worked. Spanish music, perhaps? Of course! I went to the Spotify program on my laptop and searched "Spanish music," because that was as specific as I could be. A group called Mecana came up. Click! The music began playing and, even for someone unfamiliar with the genre, it sounded awful. I looked at the guys and shrugged, "Is this okay?" They gave me a sheepish and unconvincing thumbs up, which is Spanish for, "Not really, but please go away."

I was fairly certain I was playing for them the Spanish version of Celine Dion, especially after I later researched Wikipedia, which said, "Spanish music critics do not consider the band one of the most representative ensembles of the aforementioned cultural wave." Also, one of the members of Mecana is named Nacho, which seems offensive even to me, and I am Caucasian.

Making matters worse, Spotify links to Facebook, so in the feed for all two hundred of my supposed friends was the news that "Mike Kenny is listening to Mecano on Spotify." So this choice of music was embarrassing for everyone involved.

I could have simply asked them for a more specific recommendation, but I was paranoid that further attempted communication would make me look like more of an idiot. This situation is what eight years of Spanish study had earned me.

The next morning the men returned to finish the job, but this time my wife's cousin was with us, who speaks Italian, English, and Spanish. She took over, speaking to them fluently as I looked on in awed, jealous wonder. She discovered many things about their personal lives, including that, sure, they'd love a bagel! Then she was off to work, and I worried that the guys thought we had actually hired someone to come over and communicate with them for a few minutes.

Nevertheless, armed with that perceived street cred, I handed them their breakfast as they walked out the door, saying, "Here are los bagels!" They were very happy and impressed. They probably thought I was Spanish or something. I just may get this language yet.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Classic card of the week

Jermaine O’Neal, 1998 NBA Hoops

If you’re like me, you’re not missing the NBA that much at all, but you are kind of missing the 1998 set of NBA Hoops basketball cards that feature down-to-earth street talk and other helpful tidbits about various NBA players.

That said, here:

Yeah, we’re feeling you.

Was there any question we were feeling Jermaine O’Neal? OF COURSE we’re feeling you, Jermaine. If we weren’t feeling you, we probably wouldn’t have created this basketball card featuring your image and statistics. Our feelingness of you is therefore implied. Nevertheless, I would be overjoyed if, during the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, each person who speaks on behalf of his party’s elected candidate begins his speech, “Yeah, we’re feeling you.”

Sidebar: Jermaine O’Neal’s hair is blonde on this card. Remember when stuff like that happened in the late 90s? Frosted tips for white guys and blonde hair for black dudes? If anything can finally bring our two races together, I think a collective acknowledgement that stuff like that never happened is a decent start.

Youngest player in the NBA, no doubt!

See, this is where NBA Hoops cards really separated itself from your run-of-the-mill sports card. Traditionally, cards would just list a fact. Like, “Molitor led league in runs scored in ’82 with 136.” BO-ring! But when you add the “no doubt” moniker + exclamation point, you’re speaking to the kids:

"Yeah, we’re feeling you. Led league with 136 plates in eight-to-the-tiz-oo, no doubt!"

See? More:

We’re not fooled though;

Many people with no background on him who first saw the 6’11” Jermaine O’Neal on an NBA court wearing an NBA uniform were like, “Who is that child running up and down the court and WHERE ARE HIS PARENTS??!!” But NBA Hoops cards was like, “Chill out, home-slices. Don’t be fooled by the rock that he got. He’s just Jermaine; Jermaine on the block.”

we know your game is straight up MAN sized.

I remember when my own game finally finished the pubescent cycle, and all of sudden my game’s voice had deepened and it had acquired old-awkward-man-at-the-park strength and I was grabbing rebounds and throwing outlet passes and calling timeouts because someone had lost his contact lens on the court.

If the random, uninformative words on the back of this card did not fulfill your appetite for Jermaine O’Neal, please visit his Wikipedia page, which is longer than “War and Peace” and features information like, “At that same time, O’Neal’s mother met a new man, Abraham Kennedy …”

It’s a good read, no doubt!

Did you know?
Ryan Seacrest once challenged the singer Sisqo to a blonde-off. Sisqo won.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Forever isn’t two cents away

Note: This column appears in the 11/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/18 issue of the Peoria Times

I recently purchased stamps at the post office. This somehow caused a minor argument between my wife and I.

You see, I did not specify what type of stamps when I verbalized my order of “Stamps, please,” and thus I received “forever” stamps. A few years ago, when the post office was raising its rates every two weeks, I intentionally purchased several books of forever stamps at the market price, confident that in 2041, when envelope postage is a robust $2.90, we will be laughing all the way to the bank, retroactively profiting from what few envelopes we actually send out, as everything by then will be communicated telepathically. This is, of course, assuming we have not lost our forever stamps.

Anyway, the reason I had purchased stamps was because we were out of them and had a few items that required mailing, which is the most exciting sentence I have ever written. My wife, however, upon discovering the new stamps I had purchased were forever stamps, refused to use them in this, the year 2011, and instead demanded I add them to our present stash of forever stamps in the fireproof box that also includes our passports and a $50 Michael Jordan basketball card, which is my sole contribution to our retirement fund.

I disagreed, arguing that it didn’t matter they were forever stamps, as I could simply use them as regular stamps for now and if some impending rate hike were revealed, I could easily purchase additional forever stamps then. The cost of gas alone to go back to the post office was not worth the investment. Well, you can guess who emerged victorious from this battle of wills. I debated secretly mailing out items with the forever stamps anyway, but figured if she found out, which she undoubtedly would, it would cause a much larger argument about stamps, but really about trust, which I simply wasn’t ready for.

So I went back to the post office. Luckily, my previous order was not extensive, but this time I intended to not return to the post office for at least six years, so I bought an entire roll of stamps. I also decided I better get Christmas stamps then, too. I asked the postal employee if the holiday stamps were in, and he pointed to a display in the far corner of the room that I could not have seen with a telescope, and I worried if I went over there to browse, he would have called up the next person on line and I would be there for another 20 minutes. So I asked, “Do you have any religious holiday stamps?”

His response was, “Pfft. Depends what religion you are.” Frustrated with myself for saying holiday instead of “Christmas”—although I’m sure his response would have been the same—and frustrated with how political correctness has hijacked religious observance, I was tempted to tell him I was a Scientologist looking for stamps honoring evergreen trees. But I didn’t want to offend a government worker.

I spent almost $100 on stamps. Although I had hoped to avoid the post office for several years as a result, I am sure I’ll be back again when they raise their rates to purchase stamps that account for the difference. Even though we will be swimming in forever stamps, I highly doubt there will be a time when my wife will find it fiscally appropriate to use them, and so for us, their very description will ring true. We will have them … forever.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Classic card of the week

Steve Sax, 1989 Diamond King

This is the second artist’s rendering of Steve Sax we have examined around these here parts. Which one is better? Difficult to say. Purely subjective. For me personally, the colorful lines randomly zig-zagging in the background really take this one to another level. Do those lines represent the unique yet aimless nature of our very existence? Prolly. Or, it could have just been like:

Donruss executive: Background’s too white on this Sax.

Diamond King artist: I could put some lines on there, all different colors, going this way and that. I’ll make it look like the background of an 80s grade school picture.

Donruss: This is the 80s. Why are you referencing this current era?

Diamond King artist: I don’t know. I’ll go get my ruler.

However those colorful zig-zaggy lines speak to you, they leave no doubt that Steve Sax was a baseball player.

But what kind of baseball player?

Steve Sax is one of the rare players who made the transition to playing for the New York Yankees without a hitch.

Indeed, the majority of players who were not originally drafted by the Yankees but instead brought to the organization from somewhere else experienced hitches. I think we all remember the time that crop of ’90 free agents and trade acquisitions all simultaneously began wearing their gloves on their feet and wore helicopter beanie hats instead of baseball hats. Quite embarrassing. I don’t know what it is about the bright lights of NYC—especially during the Sax years, when the Stadium was half-filled and there was zero postseason pressure—that made lesser men cave, but the evidence is undeniable. It sort of makes you wonder why the Yankees even bothered bringing in outsiders, and how they were able to compete amidst the complexities of so many hitches. This all begs the question—how did a guy like Sax do it?

He did it by playing well.

Bucky Dent, Mgr, 1990: C’mon in here, Jesse. Have a seat.

Jesse Barfield: Sure, what’s up skip?

Dent: Jesse, you’re pressing out there. I can see it. Ever play in New York before?

Barfield: Well, yeah, last year—

Dent: See that’s the thing. You can’t handle it. It’s obvious. Too many lights, too much media, too many accessible corner shops with cheap vegetables. You got a hitch in your thingamagig.

Barfield: I don’t know what that means.

Dent: Jesse, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to be more like Sax.

Barfield: How so? You want me to play second base and hit five home runs?

Dent: I want you to play well.

Barfield: I am playing well. I have a 127 OPS+ to Sax’s 80.

Dent: You’re talking gibberish. Just get out there and play well, okay? Like Sax.

Sax, a former Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers in 1982, was the most consistent player for the Yankees last season.

Steve Sax, 1989: 158 games played, .387 SLG / .751 OPS / 113 OPS +
Other guy, 1989: 158 games played, .477 SLG / .828 OPS / 133 OPS +

But go ahead, please continue:

If the Yankees can acquire more players with Sax’s skills and attitude, they’ll be on their way to winning again.

I’ve done the math, and I’ve determined that a team constructed entirely of Steve Saxes would hit 40 home runs and win 39 games, but lead the league in attitude. That would be much better than the five World Series titles they have won post-Sax. Because of all the hitches.

Did you know?
The Saxian philosophy of "playing well" has been adopted by several current Major League Baseball players.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Homecoming and coming home: an account of grievances

Note: This column appears in the 11/10 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/11 issue of the Peoria Times

Punch me in the face if this column ever takes on a “kids these days!” or “when I was young, things were like this!’ tone. I never want to be the one making sweeping generational generalizations out of frustration and a false sense of nostalgia. I’m sure the 1720s witnessed its share of ungrateful, punk kids who lazily ditched the intricacies of word-of-mouth to play on their fancy newspapers all day.

That said, allow me to be specific about my angst. There are several groups of kids in our neighborhood who roam free of the restraints of parental supervision. Recently, united by their brute incivility, they have joined forces. Some of their accomplishments have included setting the local plant life ablaze—in order, I assume, to send a smoke signal to airborne local law enforcement to save the rest of us from their wrath—and washing the street of debris with their own urine. I wish I were joking.

The father of three of these children—the ringleaders—can often be seen working out shirtless in his garage, oblivious to the surrounding chaos, as if the in-street fisticuffs and free-flying curse words are par for the neighborhood course, or less important to address than the military press.

As a result, the remaining sane ones in the neighborhood have been forced to parent the various roaming children, if only to protect our own property and way of life. While one of my neighbors has taken an active role in becoming a feared yet respected father-figure disciplinarian, I myself have responded by trying to think of various ways by which to avoid destruction and also passively teach harsh, painful lessons. For example, an invisible electric fence for humans was a purchase I openly considered making. I also look forward to the day I can use the air horn I purchased to ward off coyotes while running to make children fall from the branches of the tree in our front yard.

We complained about such matters to each other as my wife and I waited in the car with our daughter in my in-law’s driveway last weekend. Next door a group of dressed-up high schoolers took pictures in the front yard, a preface to the night’s homecoming dance. My mouth was left agape by several of the outfits these young girls donned, and I half-jokingly demanded that my wife cover our daughter’s eyes.

By then, my mother-in-law had joined us in the car, and she laughingly warned us to just wait for the day when our daughter wants to dress like that. We, utterly confident in our ability to ward off such potentially requested attire with proper parenting, shunned the thought. From the driver’s seat, I assured my daughter that she’d never be the girl dressed like that, just as in my mind I assured myself she’d never be the neighborhood Denise the Menace, nor be influenced by kids like that.

Our daughter, who is 2, still intently staring at the glitz and glamour across the way, responded to my bold prediction thusly: “Wow, look … boys!’

I swear … kids these days.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Classic card of the week

John Franco & Bobby Thigpen, 1990 Fleer

I want to point out that here it appears as though John Franco is smelling a nasty fart, and that Bobby Thigpen is trying to be sly about having dealt it. Franco’s “Who farted?” face pales in comparison with the greatest one, but still, I commend it. And Thigpen? You’re nasty. It smells like you ate a day-old egg and sulfur sandwich. Get a hold of yourself, man.

Enough with the fart observations though. I can do other things.

Relievers Bobby Thigpen and John Franco had one thing in common in 1990,

They were relievers? They were the TOP GAME SAVERS as you pointed out on the front of the card? They played baseball? They enjoyed “Cats?”

but it’s likely neither one was thrilled about it.

Hmmm, this is getting tricky now. Let’s see … they both had bouts of diarrhea? They enjoyed “Cats?” I am stumped.

Thigpen, the American League save leader, and Franco, tops in the National League, wound up on teams that finished second in their respective divisions.

Man, that is the dumbest lede on the back of a baseball card that I have read all morning. That they both pitched for second place teams should be a side-note on a card paying them homage for their skills at acquiring lots of a dumb statistic, not the introduction. Also, you can do a lot worse than second place. It’s all relative. In college, I once placed second in some drunken cross-dressing beauty pageant event whereby I dressed like Britney Spears and danced on stage by thrusting my groin in the direction of a crowd that included at least some faculty, and I was thrilled. So let’s not go making assumptions.

(By the way, unfortunately, that story is absolutely true. The guy who came in first place swept the talent portion of the event by gracefully roller-blading through the crowd while dressed like an ice skater. It was pretty amazing, actually. My subsequent efforts reeked of desperation.)

Thigpen helped the Chicago White Sox to the third-best record in baseball by notching a Major-League record 57 saves. Bobby shattered the previous mark of 46 established by Dave Righetti in 1986. In fact, Thigpen and Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley (48 saves) both broke the mark. Righetti placed fifth in the AL in 1990 with 36 saves.

Even for a dumb stat, 57 saves is a lot of saves. Way to go, Bobby! How about you, John?

… Franco captured the save title, 33-31, over Myers.

Thirty-three saves? Wow, that is … only 24 saves less than your co-champion over there. If saves could be converted into public shame, that is the roughly the difference between 1st and 2nd place in the aforementioned college beauty pageant. And now that I think about it, that may be less of “Who farted?” face on Franco than a “How did I get here?” face, with Thigpen being like, “Pfftt. Yeah, how did you get here, dude? Also, I farted.”

Thigpen’s mark would be broken by Francisco Rodriguez, who Franco’s Mets later deftly acquired, and who paid back the organization by assaulting his would-be-father-in-law at Citi Field. You see, it all comes full circle … ?

So today we covered farts, diarrhea, cross-dressing beauty pageants, and would-be-father-in-law physical assault. Next week we will cover other, different things. Who knows, maybe even baseball. Hope to see you here!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The man in the garlic tuxedo

Note: This column appears in the 11/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/4 issue of the Peoria Times

We traveled back east recently for my brother-in-law’s wedding. A great time was had by all, although we did experience our fair share of minor stresses.

For starters, my father-in-law wasn’t feeling well. This was cause for concern, because it takes a major bout of sickness for him to even reveal he’s not feeling 100-percent. He could be battling the bird flu and he would still go spinning at the gym in the morning and then claim he had thrown up afterwards due to “bad water.”

As in all cases of sickness involving my father-in-law or his family and friends, the solution was simple—garlic. He boasts an entire menu of garlic-based, home-health-remedies. He once had me chew straight garlic cloves for a severe sore throat and also famously forced my wife to ingest a garlic-lemon-honey concoction to treat a scorpion sting. There is literally no ailment, in his mind, that could befall a human and not be adequately treated with garlic. For his own purposes he had developed something in liquid form, although the ratio of garlic to liquid was at least 10-to-1. He consumed a shot of this, it seemed, every 20 minutes.

Also, my brothers-in-law, including the groom, had rented tuxes that didn’t fit, and the new ones were slated to get in the day we were leaving for the upstate NY wedding weekend. By the time my father-in-law and I had time to go try on our tuxes, they needed to fit because we’d be leaving the next day.

The car ride to Men’s Wearhouse, though he had proudly warned us it would, reeked of garlic like nothing I could have imagined, and I could almost see the fumes penetrating out of my father-in-law’s pores from the back seat. I was praying the tuxes fit for the sake of both the wedding and the Men’s Wearhouse employees, who would have had their hands full with my healthy perturbed father-in-law, much less my sick, breathing-hot-garlic-fire father-in-law.

It was a battle before even entering the fitting room, as my father-in-law, by just looking at the bagged tuxedo shoes prepared for him, expressed his disdain for them and claimed he’d be wearing his own. The workers pleaded with him that he should take the shoes just to be safe. One helpful employee reminded him that most brides prefer everyone in the wedding party to look the same, to which my father-in-law responded, “What bride? Pfft. I’m the father of the groom.” He then kindly added, “I don’t like your shoes,” and that was that.

My tux fit okay, but when I walked out of the fitting room, my father-in-law was standing outside of his, rolling his eyes, with tuxedo pants that ended around his calves. The workers insisted it could be fixed with some minor tailoring. I imagined how pleasurable it must be to do on-the-spot tailoring for a skeptical, annoyed, Italian man protruding garlic fumes, but such was the predicament they had placed themselves in.

The tailoring sufficed—in retrospect, they were lucky he wasn’t feeling well, because if he were on his game, he would have made them tailor him a new Armani suit at no cost for his troubles. We all eventually managed to receive tuxedos that fit, and my father-in-law bravely forged through his sickness to the point where he was eventually dancing with a small plunger-like device on his head during the wedding reception. He danced in his own shoes.

After the festivities he reluctantly made it to the doctor, where he was prescribed some actual medicine. This was good, since he and my mother-in-law were traveling with us back to the Valley. One of their first stops upon getting here was Albertson’s for some fresh garlic. After all, among the litany of people my father-in-law doesn’t completely trust are tailors and doctors.