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Our Daughter Could Be a Banana Slug, or Maybe a Gorlok

10 Apr

by Roger White

 

There are certain events and milestones in one’s earthly existence that make one realize one is brushing up against one’s own mortality. Wifey and one—I mean, I—brushed up against one of these awareness-of-impending-antiquity events recently when we escorted our youngest offspring to a college and career fair at the convention center. Jamie’s a junior in high school now, and I’m a senior. In life.

It dawned on me, watching the myriad college counselors and admissions folks—some of them looking to be approximately 12 years old—that if our ol Methy himselfyoungest spawn is hunting higher education options, that must mean I’m way past AARP recruiting age. As in dirt, comma, older than. See Methuselah. See Codger. See your Chiropractor.

This preoccupation with my own demise and decay aside, my flabbers were downright gasted at just how many colleges, universities, service academies, trade schools, and other alleged higher ed institutions were represented at the fair.

Did you know, for example, that there is a Colorado School of Mines? At the little table set up for the Colorado School of Mines, I joked with the counselor that some of the school’s most prominent alumni must be Big Bad John, Darlin’ Clementine, and Loretta Lynn’s dad. The counselor didn’t appreciate the humor. I then asked the guy if they were looking for prospective students or prospector students. Again with the stone face. Tough crowd.

Actually, the now-peeved counselor explained, the Colorado School of Mines, a public research university devoted to engineering and applied science, has CSMone of the highest admissions standards in the country. This I did not know. I also did not know that they offer athletics. Their teams are—no, not the Miners—they’re the Orediggers. I went to point this out to Jamie, our college-hunting offspring, but she was long gone, off with her mom at the University of Hawaii table.

I noticed that the University of Hawaii table was jammed with people—young and old—poring over the brochures and literature, which seemed to feature many more scenes of island splendor than actual college information. Questions from prospective students also seemed not so much directed at curricula and faculty credentials as they were concerning recreation facilities and proximity to the beach.

Come to think of it, any college table associated with Hawaii (and there were more than you might think—Honolulu Community College, Leeward Community College, Windward Community College, Windy Leeward Land Ho School for Lei-Making) was overrun with eager would-be island scholars.

At the table set up for Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne (I think that’s, like, overseas somewhere), I noticed that they offered a Masters in Bursary Information. I asked what exactly that was, but I didn’t quite understand the answer. In fact, I wasn’t sure if the friendly muttonchopped representative was speaking English. From the brochure, I found that the ozNorthumbria also offers a PhD in Numeracy. Yeah. I suspect they also feature a BS in Proper Powdered-Wig Wearing (for pre-Law students), and a Bachelor’s of Understanding What the Hell Ozzy Osbourne Is Saying (BS in UWHOOIS).

Some of my other personal faves included the University of Arkansas-Monticello (primarily because their teams are known as the Boll Weevils), Webster University of St. Louis (the Gorloks, whatever a Gorlok is), Scottsdale Community College (the Fightin’ Artichokes), and the University of California-Santa Cruz (the Banana Slugs).

The UC-Santa Cruz lady made mention that despite a budget that is about half the size of similar schools, their athletics program boasted 15 All-Americans last year. She didn’t say exactly what sports that the Banana Slugs were named All-American in, but judging from the neon yellow mascot and the, oh, “relaxed” look in the UCSC lady’s eye, I would bet unicycle polo, dog surfing, and quidditch are among them.

Jamie came away from the fair with tons of brochures, pens, decals, and other freebies but with little notion of just where she plans to apply. Her mom and I figure any decent school that produces an independent Jamie the slugswith an expanded worldview and ability to make large bucks—and that does not require a second mortgage on our humble abode—would be just fine.

UC-Santa Cruz would be cool, though. I would be the owner of a bumper sticker that proclaims: “Proud Dad of a Banana Slug.”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

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Here’s to the Olympic Motto: Swifter, Higher, Stronger, Sneakier

7 Aug

by Roger White 

 

Ah, my cantankerous cohort, if you’re like me, you’ve been basking in all the reflected, tape-delayed glory of the London Olympics, no? And if you’re like me, you’ve been inspired by the relentless spirit and determination of Olympians such as South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who runs on specially made prosthetic springs. Yes? And if you’re like me, you’ve been absolutely flabbergasted by that water polo player from Belarus who was born with only a head. No? OK, wait a minute.

 

Seriously, in what has otherwise been a stultifying, sweltering summer, the XXXth Olympiad from jolly old England has supplied a refreshing sports fix. Maybe I shouldn’t use the word “fix.” Because, alas, as with just about every other one of these world block parties, there has been juicy controversy. For example, did you catch the bantamweight boxing match where the Japanese guy knocked down his opponent six times—and lost? I’m not one to yell collusion in a crowded auditorium, but you be the judge. The referee for the match, Turkmenistan’s Ishanguly Meretnyyazov, ruled that Azerbaijan’s Magomed Abdulhamidov defeated Satoshi Shimizu, even though Abdulhamidov could scarcely stand up for the decision. Shimuzi was running around doing backflips. Sanity eventually settled in and the decision was overturned—and referee Meretnyyazov was booted out of the Olympics.

 

Meretnyyazov later admitted to being in cahoots with Abdulhamidov, apparently due to Turkmenistan’s longstanding desire to build a Wal-Mart on land owned by Abdulhamidov’s uncle, Spraodovlugyzatsonivyplakolov Urryupanpayemov.

 

But that wasn’t even the major hullabaloo. Four, count ’em, four women’s doubles teams were disqualified from the badminton competition for intentionally losing matches to gain a more favorable draw in the next round. Heavens to Murgatroyd! The BWF was shocked, shocked, I say. (That’s the Badminton World Federation to you and me—and yes, there is such a thing.) Let’s back up a minute here. I can see both sides. This is the Olympics, and fans paid plenty of precious pounds to see their favorite shuttlecock swatters play their very best. But. And it’s a big but. In many other sports, easing up on the gas and resting yourself when you’ve been assured a spot in the next round is done all the time. Look at the NFL (if you can). When a team has clinched a playoff spot, the coach often decides to rest his starters—and the team often loses a meaningless next game.

 

Both sides have a point, but there is a much bigger picture to consider. And that much bigger picture is this: Badminton? Seriously? Don’t get me wrong; I’m a staunch believer in anything that gets one off the couch and moving about. Yes, I am an athletic supporter. I’m just not so sure about awarding Olympic medals to folks who compete in what is essentially a backyard pastime while waiting for the burgers. I mean, criminy, we might as well have Olympic horseshoes or Olympic barbecueing. Hmmm. Come to think of it, Olympic barbecueing might be fun—until controversy rears its ugly head again. “U.S. Olympic Barebecueist Lee Roy Heinz was disqualified today when his charcoal tested positive for lighter fluid.”

 

Well, get this. Olympic barbecueing sounds positively mainstream compared to some other events that actually saw the light of day in Olympic games past. For example, solo synchronized swimming was a real Olympic event from 1984 to 1992. Think about that for a minute: Solo. Synchronized. Swimming. Other former events include tug of war, rope-climbing, and, of course, the plunge for distance. What was the plunge for distance, you ask? In this spine-tingling event, competitors dived into a pool and were required to remain motionless underwater for one minute or until their heads broke the surface. The plunger who recorded the longest distance won.

 

“Grandpa, how did you win your Olympic medal again?”

 

“I was a world-class plunger.”

 

This event, of course, gave rise to the short-lived Olympic Marco Polo competition.

 

Here’s another one: the one-handed weight lift. I’m serious. Each competitor had to perform lifts with each hand, with the winner determined from the combined score. Although this event was discontinued after only three Olympic games, it did lead to the one-handed pole vault, one-armed rowing competition, and one-legged mile run. The one-legged mile was held only once, however. Competitors had yet to finish two weeks after the closing ceremonies. Ah, well. See you in Rio.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Let’s Talk about Keith. And Teeth. And Sir Edward Heath.

2 Jan

by Roger White

My reading list of late, aside from the requisite comics and sports sections, has included Life, the autobiography of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, or Keef, as most of you know him. It is a fascinating read, I must say, not simply because you get to peek behind the heroin- and cocaine-caked curtain of Sir Keef’s life and gain a foothold of understanding of how this supremely talented Brit bluesman/rock icon with the biological resilience of a mutant cockroach has managed to stay alive lo these many years, but you also get a marvelously witty insight into the keen and strangely aloof mind of a songwriter — what makes him tick, the amazingly broad array of cues he picks up on as inspiration for his songs, the unbelievably rich life he’s led (from stealing and reselling used bottles to scrape enough money together to eat to jetting from Morocco to the south of France with the world’s most beautiful and exotic people), and his wonderfully unique take on life and how he’s riffed through it plucking those nasty, jangly rhythms with nary a scratch despite spending more than 50 years on the hard edge of a lifestyle that has taken down many a talented man and woman long before their time.

Some have called the Stones “the world’s most dangerous rock and roll band” in their prime, and if they were, then Sir Keef was the man wielding the blade. A dear friend of mine lent me the book, and going in I thought, yah, another ghostwritten alcohol-slopped tell-all with some deftly dropped names and a few juicy “gotcha” moments with just enough backstory on some of the Stones’ most famous numbers and people and hangers-on to keep me reading. Man, was I wrong. Richards can tell tales. And his insight into musical concepts, history, and how circumstance, events, and people being in certain places at certain times caused modern popular music to evolve as it has is quite remarkable. So, do I recommend picking up this book? Hell, yes. And there are many photos. Later on we’ll get ice cream.

Anyway, all this to say, wow, I far underestimated Sir Keef’s literary acumen; however, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I have always stood (sometimes sat, depending on the subject and my current blood pressure) in slight awe of most things British. I mean, Richards may or may not be smarter than your average rock guitarist, but a little voice inside me tells me his British upbringing brings a little to bear. Think about it. British musicians basically took American rock and stepped it up to a higher, thinking man’s level, didn’t they? Most of the best, most progressive rock outfits in history come from our tiny mother country: The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Yes, The Moody Blues, The Zombies, The Who, The Yardbirds, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, ELP — need I go on?

The same goes for comedy. The Brit sense of humor has always struck me as two beats faster, more subtle, and exquisitely more wry than that of the comics on this side of the pond. Don’t get me wrong; I love Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Stephen Wright, and all the others as much as the next guy, but when it comes to writing, content, delivery, and timing, no one tops the Brits in my book. Monty Python, Faulty Towers, Dudley Moore with Sir John Gielgud in “Arthur” – to me, that’s comedic nirvana. I know that some of you don’t get Monty Python. I also know that you are the people who faithfully attend NASCAR events, wear camouflage vests to restaurants, and worship at the altar of Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy. That’s OK. I have no problem with that. (I can just hear the crayons hitting the paper now: “If’n yew love them faggoty Brits so much then why don’t yew git on outta here and move over thar then. That’s rite, jus take the bus on over thar, ya dam trater.”)

Anyway, where were we? Ah, humor, music, insight. All that. I guess the only thing I can’t understand about our dear British comrades, being that they are so refined and intelligent and talented, is the thing with their teeth. With everything the mighty British Empire has achieved through the ages, you would think they would have caught on to the whole dental hygiene kick by now. I mean, gads. I guess the followers of Larry the Cable Guy and our Union Jack cousins do have something in common: a somewhat laissez-faire attitude on ye olde oral health.

Criminy. How I got off on teeth and NASCAR is beyond me, but if you do happen upon Keith Richards’ book, by all means…. Now, where’d I leave my floss?

 Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Here’s to the Royal Couple! Clink. Hic.

2 May

by Roger White

I simply cannot tell you what the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton meant to me. No, wait, actually I can. In four words.

Toad in the hole.

As most regular guys will attest, all the pomp and majesty and gowns and uniforms and beefeaters and archbishops and romance and cleavage do very little for us. Well, maybe the cleavage. Otherwise, to the average American Joe Blow—who comprises 92 percent of the U.S. male population (97.7 percent of Oak Hill men, huzzah!)—watching coverage of the royal hitching could be likened to sitting through a televised reading of the Congressional roll call.

Ho. Period. Hum. Exclamation point.

Highlights of the actual ceremony for us Joes?

• Posh Spice (aka Mrs. David Beckham, hubbah hubbah)

• Pippa Middleton (Kate’s sister, who followed the bride around carrying the dress’s caboose—again with the hubbahs)

• That gorgeous droptop Aston Martin the royal couple tooled down the road in. Now we’re talking. I did some research and found that this awesome ride, which Wills borrowed from his dad, is a 1969 DB6 Mk2. This car, sweeter than any bridal gown the House of Steve McQueen or whatever could produce, is fueled by a four-liter double-overhead cam six-cylinder powerplant, churning out over 280 horsepower at 5,500 rpm. Not a V6, mind you. No, this is an old-world inline six. Righteous. William cruised off to his mom’s palace using a five-speed manual transmission, by the way. So there was no playing handsies in the car; he was working a stick. How ’bout that for wedding reporting, guys?

So, anyway, about the toad in the hole. After watching the newly minted royal spouses speed away in a car likely worth more than double my lifetime earnings, I figured that was it for me—no more happy royal nuptial news, please.

Then I heard National Public Radio’s coverage of various “wedding watching” parties across the country. Apparently, many, many ladies throughout our fair land got up at three a.m. to bear personal witness to all the glitter and gowns and unicorns and such. But they didn’t simply crawl out of bed and turn on the tube. No, they gathered in brightly colored klatches, baked up all sorts of British fare, mixed up champagne and orange juice, champagne and cranberry juice, champagne and prune juice, champagne and more champagne, and made genuine little festivals out of the whole affair.

I’m thinking the female work force in the U.S. and U.K. was pretty sparse later that day.

Listening to the women carry on at these shindigs in NPR’s story made me a tad envious, I must admit—and hungry. Some of the properly British dishes served at these gala gatherings included chocolate scones, bubble and squeak, toad in the hole, egg in a basket, fruit bismarcks, smoked haddock, truffles, rashers, black pudding, and, of course, fish ’n’ chips with Guinness.

First off, bubble and squeak. Sounds like a bathtub cleaner, I know, but it’s really quite yummy. You take leftover roast and veggies, throw in some potatoes, cabbage, carrots, peas, and other odds and ends and fry it up in a pan. To be perfectly cheerio, you serve it with pickles.

Toad in the hole?  Sausages in pudding batter, slathered in onion gravy, and baked like a casserole. Sausages in anything, onions on anything, I’m there. The Pavlovian dog in me heard the bell quite plainly.

What else. Ah, yes, egg in a basket. Remember the movie Moonstruck? When Olympia Dukakis was frying up an egg in a piece of toast? Again, ding! Rashers—basically, that’s British bacon. Fruit bismarck? Easy, that’s essentially a big ol’ mixed fruit pie gobbed with powdered sugar and whipped cream. The rest of the royal rations you can probably guess.

And, of course, the whole lot is washed down with ample servings of champagne with (insert fruit here) juice and/or beer stout enough to walk on.

As I listened to the recipes pile up in this story, I realized the common denominator was booze of one sort or another. Aha! There, I determined, lay the ulterior motive for many of these stately soirées. These ladies only claimed interest in the House of Windsor’s succession rituals just to catch a buzz. Sheesh, some people.

Well, it’s all over and done with, anyway. Hand me a Miller Lite, will ya? The game is on in a few.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.