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The Curmudgeon Showeth His Crust. Again.

23 Jul

by Roger White

It has been brought to my attention recently by more than one loyal reader of TOS that yours truly is nothing more than a crust-covered curmudgeon completely lacking in human compassion and with all the warmth and fuzziness of a diarrhetic barracuda. And that was one of the more genteel comments. Let me just say in my defense that this is not crust. It’s a fine patina of earthbound experience. Tip: baby oil keeps it soft and supple.

Honestly, I have no problem with humanity; it’s the people I can’t stand. People are the worst. Don’t you just hate them?

As long as we’re on topic, and my curmudgeonly cockles have been stimulated, I figured you’d be tickled to be privy to my latest list of grouses and gripes. Yes, these are the things that brown my lettuce, the things that really grind my crankshaft. Curdle my half & half. Chap my — you get the idea.

Athletes and coaches who thank God for their victory.

It’s not so bad, I guess, when pious jocks praise the Almighty for their health and well-being, but seriously, do you really think The Omnipotent One, tasked with thankya Lordwatching over the vast infinity of the cosmos, gives a greasy rat’s behind whether your squad of performance-enhanced mutants scores more points than the other squad of gargantuan goons? If God gave the nod to your team, what does that say about the other guys? And what about when you lose? Is God a waffler? Did He miss that game?

Bicyclists who don those ridiculous faux-competition outfits and aerodynamic helmets.

Pleeeeeze. You’re not in the Tour; the little logos and patches all over your form-fitting body suit are fake and we all know it; and your $750 racing helmet makes you look like a special-needs case. Ya know what I wear when I ride my bike? Shorts and a t-shirt. Works great! Fortunately, with the fall from grace of our own Lancy Pants, some of these pretentious pedalers have ridden into the sunset. Just some of them, mind you.

Republicans AND Democrats.

I hate all politicians, truly. Our whole political system has devolved into entrenched, grandstanding ideologues determined only to curry favor with their followers so they can keep their posh digs and beltway “escorts.” They all preach to the lowest common denominator—mainly fear. Whatever happened to working together—to thoughtfully searching for the most workable compromise? Yes, compromise. Just how and when did that become a dirty word? Look up the definition. Compromise—especially today—is a good thing. It’s how we get along. Someone should read Webster’s definition of the word to members of Congress every day. And then start throwing pies.

Nancy Grace.

I am utterly sick of her fat face. Every time I see her on the tube, I want to slap the Nancethat self-righteous, smug smirk of hers right into next week. Nancy Grace is the reason I still have my foam brick handy to throw at the TV set. Well, her and the Cowboys.

Bureaucracy and all of its attendant inanities.

Here’s an example: Why do we have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms? Who in their right mind thought of lumping these concerns together under one roof? I called up the ATF the other day to ask that very question, but the person who answered the phone referred me to the Department of Frontage Roads, ATF Inquiries and Dairy Products. And why does the Texas Railroad Commissioner oversee the state’s gas and oil concerns? I be befuddled.

Twitter.

I don’t care what’s “trending,” I have absolutely no interest in what Kanye West had for lunch; and I have no need to be apprised of every one of my old college chums’ whereabouts 24/7. Plus I’ve lost all human contact with my two teenage daughters, Lindsey and whatshername.

The Sunday comics.

Calvin and Hobbes is gone; so is Blondie, The Far Side, etc. I used to look forward to Sunday mainly for the funny pages. The words “funny” and “pages” don’t go uh yeahtogether when describing the drek being produced today. Alongside the dull-witted Ziggy and the predictably foul-tempered fat feline Garfield, we have Luann, Get Fuzzy, Candorville, Buckles, and a motley collection of amateur drivel that makes the comic strip that appeared in my college newspaper (whose main character was a cow patty) seem hilarious and incisive by comparison.

OK, that’s about it for now. I feel better. You?

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.

My Uvula Has a Beer Belly

22 May

by Roger White

 

I understand about growing old, and I don’t mind it, really. No, really, there are a few perks that tag along with decrepitude. Like being able to take a nap any time of the day without having to explain yourself. Or the well-practiced art of feigning random episodes of deafness when the wife has her chore list out. Oh, another biggie is the ability to dodge zzzzzhelping the neighbors with any heavy lifting. That’s a personal favorite.

 

“Oh, look, hon,” says the wife one glorious Saturday afternoon. “That new couple across the street bought a new hutch. Go over and see what you can do. They need help getting that big ol’ thing out of their truck.”

 

The glorious day turns dark. “Yes, dear.”

 

I toddle over.

 

“Hey, there, young fellah,” I rasp, sounding in the terminal throes of emphysema. “Need a hand?”

 

“Well. If you think you can, sure!”

 

“Okay, now,” I wheeze. “I’ll hop up in the truck bed and push her your way.” I go to climb up in the truck and freeze, back bent double. “Uh, oh.”

 

“You all right?” the wary young couple inquires simultaneously.

 

“Darn it. Ol’ war wound.”

 

“War wound? Vietnam?”

 

“Yep. Battle of Inchon.”

 

“That was Korea.”

 

“Oh, yeah. Korea.”

 

“Well, look, mister. You go on home and rest your back. We can get this. But thank you, anyway!”

 

I toddle away as the gloriousness of Saturday brightly returns.

 

Alas, some very real maladies have visited themselves upon me with the piling up of the years, and these are the things that make me ponder my mortality. My weekly stab at playing tennis, for example, has been indefinitely curtailed because of some vague pain in my lower neck that feels like I have an angry lobster attached to my spine. I went to the doc about it; he felt around for a while, wrote me a scrip for steroids, and sent me on my way. Well, I have a big mat of chest hair now and I’m prone to wild fits of road rage, but roidsI’ve yet to feel any relief from the spine lobster. Doc thinks I’ve torn my trapezoid or something. Sounds like a circus injury, I know.

 

Another aging ailment (AA for short) that has come to squat upon my person is flab. Funny word, isn’t it? Flab. Flab is something I never suffered from as a kid, as a teen, or as a young man. If anything, I could have used a little extra body acreage. I was always skinny as a pipe cleaner—and about as shy. Yes, that is correct. Pipe cleaners are notoriously shy. Anyway, as the seasons have passed and I’m now in the autumn of my years, I’ve noticed my leaves turning brown and…wait, wrong metaphor. I’ve noticed a bit of girth round my midships. The wife insists my beer intake and stubborn sedentarianism are the culprit, but I cling to advancing age as the true cause. By the way, that’s a new religion I’m starting—Sedentarianism—but that’s for another column.

 

The upshot of this is: I’ve a bit of a muffin top, you see. Well don’t stare.

 

The thing of it is, it’s not just our outer bods that fall victim to flab. Noticing that I’ve been yukhaving trouble staying asleep for any considerable stretch lately, I’ve set myself up for one of those sleep studies. Wifey seems to think I have a flabby uvula. Sounds naughty, I know, but no, we all have uvulas, fellahs. It’s that dangly thing in the back of your throat. Mine is apparently sagging into my breathing passage and clogging me up at night. Yes, even my innards have grown old and tired. My uvula has a beer belly.

 

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.

 

I’m Just Rollin’ Along, Like My Dog

26 Mar

by Roger White

Ralph Cooper White is our family dog, and he is all there, let me tell ya. What I mean when I say he’s all there is that what we have is one royally rotund, prolifically plump Fat Ralphpooch. Now, dachshunds are called weenie dogs because of their unique resemblance to foot-long frankfurters, but as weenie dogs go, Ralph is more of a cheese danish. A round, brown, long-haired morning pastry of a hound. Actually, he’s more like a hairy little UFO. But we’ve been trying.

In our efforts to slim Ralph’s frame down to a reasonable facsimile of a normal dog’s, wifey and I take him on nightly walks in the neighborhood. Ralph takes his own sweet time during these forays, so much so that we practically drag him down the street. My dog read dogwife told me, however, that we shouldn’t rush him; she read somewhere that to a dog a daily walk is somewhat akin to reading the newspaper. It’s the dog’s time to relax, his opportunity to unwind. If that’s the case, then Ralph nightly reads the entire Sunday double edition of The Wall Street Journal, cover to cover.

Ralph does just about anything to stall the walking process. Sniff this, pee on that, observe the trees, bark at the squirrels, look in neighbors’ windows (wait, that’s me), etc., etc. But the one delaying tactic he uses that drives me nuts is his stubborn habit of rolling in junk. Not just any ordinary junk, mind you. Ralph loves to execute full body rolls in nasty, smelly dead, decaying things—mainly worms.

It makes you think twice about letting your pooch sleep in your bed when he carries the lingering odor of rotten death with him. Many times my wife will wake up in the middle of the night and smack me in the head. “Honey, honestly!” she’ll scold.

“It wasn’t me! Ralph just moved up next to your head!”

Wondering if perhaps Ralph possessed some oddball fascination with either mutant stink or death and putrefaction, I got online and found that this is actually quite a normal behavior. I shall quote from the ASPCA for Kids Site: “Rolling around in stuff that makes people want to barf—be it dead squirrels, poop or rotting garbage—is an instinct that comes from dogs’ wolf ancestors. Scientists don’t know for sure why dogs have that instinct, but they have a few ideas. The most popular theory is that dogs roll yuuuuckaround in the yucky stuff to cover up their natural smell, giving them camouflage and helping them be sneakier hunters. Another idea is that dogs are putting the funky smell on their bodies so they can alert other dogs to what they found. (When other dogs sniff your dog, they’ll get the exciting news that there’s a dead animal nearby.) Still a third idea is that dogs love to shimmy on gross things to claim them as their own—they don’t want any other dogs getting in on that prime piece of grossness.”

Hmm, interesting. So somewhere down the line, a fat cheese danish of a wild wolf rolled in dead stuff, too. One theory holds that Ralph slathers his body in an odor to throw others off the track, eh? I could use that myself. Say, if there was a scent I could ensconce my body in to avoid weekend chores. Men would pay good money for such an aroma, believe me. I imagine it might smell like sweat and wood shavings or something chore-related—maybe grass clippings and grease. I could see it in use:

“Honey, would you fix the . . .” Sniff, sniff. “Oh, never mind, you must be busy.”

Hot dog! Of course, another theory is that dogs roll in dead stuff to stake a claim. If a scent like this worked at the office, this might also be a money-maker. At my workplace in particular, any time someone makes fresh coffee, there’s a land rush on the coffee pot. It’s every man for himself. But—what if they made a scent so powerful, so reminiscent of it's juanJuan Valdez and mountain-grown Columbian beans that every worker big and small would step aside, knowing instinctively that you were the rightful heir to that first aromatic cup of joe? For that privilege, I would roll myself in any old nasty smell. 

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.

Where’ve I Been, You Ask? Don’t Ask

19 Jun

by Roger White

 

Ahoy, fellow earthbound mugwumps. Your friendly psychoneurospiritual travel agent is back. For those devoted few (OK, one) who follow Ye Olde Spouse week in and week out, please accept my hipdeep apologia for the extended absinthe. Absence. Whatever. For you occasional delvers into these parts, I’ve been gone, you see. Way. Far. Gone. And boy, are my arms tired (rimshot).

Spouseman took some time off, seeking clarity, hoping for a gander at the real me and maybe even some face time with That That Is. None of that happened, so I cleaned up the paraphernalia and hauled the family down to Galveston. Then we took one of those giant floating cities on a cruise down Meh-hee-co way. I am still processing the whole thing.

If you’ve never been on one of these behemoth boats, imagine cramming the whole population of, say, Alpine or Marble Falls into a 12-story, 900-foot-long gently swaying apartment building with bad plumbing. Also imagine that each resident occupies living quarters approximately the size of an extra-wide Kenmore refrigerator box.

But there is cable TV. And little mints on your pillows. And every night, you find on your bed all your bathroom towels magically morphed into bizarre sea creatures, cute animals, or whatever else your cabin steward feels like crafting on a whim. I think our guy got bored or perhaps a bit miffed that I kept mispronouncing his name after the first couple of days because by the third night, we found our towels formed into a bust of Jeffrey Dahmer.

Now, your first day on board you must practice your lifesaving drill. Your lifesaving drill involves finding your way past dozens of stairs, bars, and cocktails in coconut shells to your assigned muster station, where you stand like a sweating dork with several hundred other sweating dorks, apparently mustering. I kept trying in vain to listen to the Filipino man in the inflatable life vest while, standing right next to me, three heavy-tonnage drunks from Odessa sang “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” at the top of their lungs.

About all I was able to make out was the following: “…very important to remember that unless you … pour me somethin’ tall an’ strong! … must be inflated properly or … make it a hurricane before I go insane! … could mean death by drowning. Have a wonderful cruise.”

Although the pools aren’t very big, there are a lot of them. There’s a pool by the buffet, a pool by the giant-screen TV, a hot tub next to the casino, a pool on the Lido Deck, a water slide that ends in a pool on the Panorama Deck, etc. And next to each of these pools a heaving throng of scantily clad people jiggle endlessly to the Macarena. Yes, they’re still playing that song. And no, the words “scantily,” “clad,” and “jiggle” shouldn’t be misconstrued. The booties shaking here, wooh—let’s just say this is bounty best left buried. Under many layers of opaque clothing. (shudder of remembrance here)

Rather unfair of the cruise types, if you ask me, to have the buffet parked in such close proximity to the thundering, line-dancing herd. Renders the triple-cheese soup and skillet-seared steak and warm chocolate melting cake a bit unsavory.

Everything you hear about the food is true, though. Good and bad. There’s terrible fare, and there is some spectacular feasting to be had (chiefly at the sit-down dinners, mind you). And yes, you will get fat. Just count on it.

The ports of call in the Western Caribbean jaunt are pretty enough, but you have just enough time in port to be accosted by an army of souvenir hawkers (“because you my friend, only $45”), buy a genuine Cozumel shot glass made in China, eat a meal authentic enough to send the mighty Montezuma himself running, and then crowd back onto the ship like so many sun-scorched cattle. Moo.

It’s all about the money, you see. And your smiling cruise ship people want your hard-earned hash to be slung on board, not on land. So you get a few hours off ship, max. And speaking of the green stuff, unless you are astronomically lucky, are a professional poker player from Amarillo, or are some kind of Rain Man, set not one foot in the ship’s casino. Good God Almighty, you might as well just hand over a C note to the casino cashier and go to bed. I tried many games in there, and I’m here to tell you that cruise ship casino machines are tighter than Bruce Jenner’s face. You’ve been warned.

I hoped to meet some exotic people from far-away lands on our adventure. And I did. Our cabin steward, who fashioned a striking Ted Bundy towel bust our last night on board, was from Thailand, I think. Or maybe it was Seattle. But every single cotton-pickin’ passenger I met was from Texas. It was like being in a Fort Worth bar every night, except with a pervasive septic aroma. OK, then, it was like being in a Lubbock bar every night. Period.

Oh, one more thing. Forget all that jazz about getting your sea legs. The rocking of the ship is not that bad; you get used to it. What’s tough is getting your land legs back. I found myself at work the Monday after I got back, gently swaying and zig-zagging down the hall.

It took an hour and a half to convince my boss I wasn’t off the wagon again.

 

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.

 

 

Reconnaissance Specialist Zorbum 9Smith Reports

29 Feb

by Roger White

 

“Oh, I used to be disgusted,

And now I try to be amused…”

—Elvis Costello

 

“Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.”

—Commander Buck Murdock, Airplane II, The Sequel

 

Floating far above the clouds somewhere over the Great Plains, a gargantuan monolithic door composed of a mysterious synthetic skin slides silently up, and the great silver mothership swallows a lozenge-shaped shuttlecraft.

Reconnaissance Specialist Zorbum 9Smith exits the shuttlecraft and immediately reports to Captain Vnnn-pu. After the traditional Andromedan earlobe-sniffing ceremony of greeting, Specialist 9Smith readies for the debriefing.

“9Smith,” Captain Vnnn-pu mindmelds, “your mission was to observe this planet’s most advanced, most powerful nation and report on your impressions of its culture. What are your findings?”

“Honored Captain, if you would open your mind to Subchannel Y, I have prepared a Mental PowerPoint presentation,” 9Smith melds. “I believe you will be most intrigued, as was I. Please disregard those first two slides. That is me at a ritualistic labor ceremony of the Western world.”

“What is this ritualistic labor ceremony called?”

“The happy hour,” 9Smith reports. “Work force representatives convene at small, local shrines to partake of what I can only presume are holy elixirs, plot overthrow of their labor overlords, and perform pre-mating functions with work force representatives of the opposite sex.”

“I see. The gyrations are quite peculiar. And what is that device on your subcranium?”

“That is termed a lamp shade,” 9Smith melds, referring to his notes. “Apparently, this is a sacred crown worn during the advanced stages of the happy hour ceremony.”

“Good.” Captain Vnnn-pu nods, mentally smiling. “You must have gained their trust to be honored so. And your report?”

“This is a land of many ironies, Captain. And I know how a good irony sets your drachio-chords to vibrating.”

“Yes, yes. Juicy irony.”

“Observe your mindscreen, Captain. These are just a few examples:

“In this culture, personal vehicles that would save the most currency for drivers—vehicles the earthlings have finally invented to run without using deceased dinosaur fluids—are priced out of reach for those drivers who would need the currency savings the most.”

“Most odd,” Captain Vnnn-pu notes.

“It becomes worse,” 9Smith melds. “Domestic energy alternatives, such as solar panels, energy-efficient windows and doors, and appliances that cost the least currency to operate—and even longer-lasting, currency-saving light-producing modules—are the very things the poor among this society cannot afford.”

Captain Vnnn-pu mentally sighs. “Continue.”

“It seems that humans who operate their personal vehicles the fastest on earth streets and highways are generally the humans least qualified to drive at any speed.

“Further, the media with the most power to influence humans in this culture—movies and television—and would therefore obviously hold themselves to the highest standards of storytelling, worthwhile entertainment, and adherence to the principle of doing the most good for the most people, instead regularly produce such products as ‘Booty Call,’ ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’, ‘Deuce Bigalow,’ ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians,’ and ‘The Jerry Springer Show,’ to name just a few.”

Captain Vnnn-pu shudders, his drachio-chords humming.

“Also, professions that have the potential to make the most positive impact on cultural progress—such as teaching—are consistently near the bottom of the human pay scale, while those who play children’s games for a living make millions of earth dollars per year.”

“Astounding.”

“What’s more, these fully grown children-men are idolized and revered by most everyone in the society—namely the males—despite the children-men’s propensity to disregard the society’s laws and morés, injure one another and themselves with firearms, ingest illegal performance-enhancing substances, and generally behave like preteen humans.”

“I must sit,” Captain Vnnn-pu admits. “My drachio-chords. Go on.”

“Those humans with the most varied and abundant life experiences, who would be revered and honored by any thinking society—the elderly—are by and large relegated to the shadows, often to die alone, in poverty, or in dormitory-like detention centers known as care facilities.

“Get this, the humans who vie for public office are most interesting. These humans claim to have ‘the average Joe’s values at heart,’ yet they are generally among the most very wealthy and privileged among them. From my observation, the average human citizen wouldn’t have anywhere near the financial means, the family pedigree, the television actor’s visage, or the innate ability to switch sentiments on a whim as do these humans. A most perplexing and frightening breed.”

“Who are these humans?”

“They call them politicians, Captain. A most untrustworthy type, yet the humans bestow upon them the most power of all, it seems.”

“And this ‘average Joe?’”

Specialist 9Smith mentally shakes his subcranium. “Apparently, not the brightest of creatures.”

“Please, the drachio-chords.”

“Lieutenant Kranki-5, please get the captain a container of neep juice.”

 “Is there more?”

“Oh, much, much more, Captain. I will relate only a few, however. This one possibly intrigues me the most. The very nature of accruing wealth is quite obviously tipped in the favor of the already-wealthy humans.”

“What is wealth again, 9Smith?”

“The accumulation of personal currency. Unlike Andromeda, sir, where every citizen is guaranteed equal access to life necessities, here one must earn and trade currency to ensure continued sustenance, care, and shelter.”

“Most curious.”

“It is a true subcranium-scratcher: The cycle of wealth begetting wealth and poverty begetting poverty appears solid and unshakeable. For the large part, it appears the wealthy human tribes will always be the wealthy, and the same with the poor humans. Any real attempt at wealth-sharing appears lacking.

“Also, human corporate leaders—bosses, they are called. In companies large or small, these are the very humans who have no need to park closest to the building because no one apparently cares if they are tardy. Yet, oddly, these are the humans with the most convenient vehicle parking spots.”

“Bosses, eh? Perhaps bosses cannot walk so well.”

“I do not know. But in a related observation, these bosses many times are given personal vehicles free of charge, when their ability to purchase such vehicles is many times greater than those humans who appear to work longer hours and park much farther away.

“Continuing, humans have more work-saving devices and more automated systems than ever in their history, yet this generation seems destined to work many more years of their lives than several generations previous.”

“And why is this?”

“It all has something to do with some dreadful collision.”

“Collision?”

Specialist 9Smith refers to his notes. “Yes, a terrible crash on, let’s see here, Wall Street.”

“Strange. Proceed.”

“More is known now among humans about health and nutrition for young humans, and more affordable access to quality choices for human children is available to  more families than at any other time in human history, yet childhood obesity and diabetes appear to be at epidemic proportions—and human childhood hunger remains a problem.

“Additionally, with the advent of cable and satellite, humans now have thousands of television wavelengths available for viewing every night, yet when one mindmelds with the humans, it appears the choices of quality programs are nowhere near as desirable as, say, A.D. 1962—when one could choose from among “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Gunsmoke,” or “The Ed Sullivan Show” from among the three network channels the humans had then.”

“Andy Griffith. Was he a great leader?”

“On the local level, yes, Captain. Apparently an outstanding officer of the law.”

“Please, no more, 9Smith, no more. Anything positive to report?”

“Well, yes. One of the culture’s leaders here announced that humans may soon be able to keep their shoes on when they arrive at air travel centers.”

“Shoes?” Captain Vnnn-pu queries. “Why on Andromeda would the humans need to take off their shoes at air travel centers in the first place?”

“It’s a long story, Captain.”

 

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.

I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s Full of Zebra/Ostriches and Couchmallows

5 Oct

by Roger White 

If you’re like me, you have these nebulous questions in your head about what you might call life’s little givens. And, if you’re even more like me, you ponder on whether these questions are substantial enough to bring up in public or simply leave unanswered for fear that said public will back away slowly from you and call for psychiatric assistance on your behalf.

Here’s an example of one of life’s little givens that I’ve been contemplating for many years—well, mainly since I was a little kid and personally watched Bobby Hayes run down a football field faster than anything I’d ever seen before. Is it a given that humans will continue to become faster, stronger, and more athletically refined indefinitely on into the endless future, or at least until our sun goes supernova and we all die a horrible, fiery death and cockroaches rule the planet? And even then, will cockroaches evolve into ever swifter, hairier, and more repugnant strains of roaches than their forefathers?

I mean, when I was a tyke, Hayes was earth’s fastest human, and at the time I thought there was no way anyone anywhere, with the possible exception of the dolphin people of the Andromeda Galaxy, would ever cover 100 meters faster than Bullet Bob. His world-record time of 10.06 at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 was topped only by his come-from-behind anchor leg in the 4 x 100 relay in those games, during which he ran so fast that several timers’ watches liquefied and Hayes’ track shoes actually disintegrated into smoke and dust. Surely, I reasoned, Bob Hayes epitomized the zenith of man’s quest for footspeed. Of course, I was wrong. Not only has that record been lowered time and again over the years, today (at least as of this writing) Usain Bolt of Jamaica currently holds the world record in the 100 meters at a genuinely insane time of 9.58 seconds. A two-ton station wagon dropped from the Empire State Building can’t fall that fast.

I guess my burning question is when do we reach a point of critical mass, or do we ever reach such a point? Will there be a moment in history when scientist types say, “Okay, 5.3 seconds is the fastest any human will ever run the 100 meters, ever. So stop trying, people. It’s over.” Or—and this is the scary part—will we humanoids keep stubbornly developing until some mutant guy built like a two-legged zebra/ostrich runs the 100 meters in 0.25 seconds in the year 2107?

Same goes for other sports. Do you remember the classic old tennis matches from the days of yore? Say, for example, those terrific Borg versus McEnroe battles. I recall being glued to the set during those epic bouts: Borg the automatic baseliner against McEnroe the tempestuous serve-and-volley master. Such exquisite tennis. Such creative expletives. Such objectionable hair.

Have you tuned into those old matches lately? Yesterday’s heroes, the very best in the world for their time, now look like juniors playing on a court of molasses. The ball moves so s-s-l-o-o-o-w-w-w-l-l-y. After years of exposure to today’s ever-cyborg-like game of one-shot points and 150-miles-per-hour serves, it’s difficult to watch the tennis of even a decade or two ago and not think, heck, I could beat those guys. (Well, not me personally, but  . . . ) Today’s top players are fashioned like Kareem Abdul Jabbar with Schwarzenegger arms, and they play with rackets designed by Lockheed Martin. In a few years, we may not have to actually play any matches at all. Each player in a tournament will simply e-mail his or her top service speed into a central computer, and winners will be determined scientifically. Headlines will read something like “McEnborger to Win Wimbledon Next Week.”

Ditto for football. Dipping into my childhood personal reference bag once again, when I was 12 I met Dallas Cowboys legend Bob Lilly at a savings and loan grand opening in my tiny hometown. It was 1972; the Pokes had just won Super Bowl VI a few months earlier. Here was big Bob, the All-Pro defensive tackle, six foot five and 260 pounds of gridiron god. To me, he was a human mountain. Today, you have high school and even junior high players weighing in at more than 350 pounds. Some pro teams charter a team plane just for the linemen and another plane for everybody else. Lilly might qualify as a running back these days, or maybe even a trainer. No offense, Mr. Lilly, please don’t hurt me.

Same applies to basketball. The real reason the NBA went on strike this year was to give basketball arenas around the country time to refit the goals to 18 feet high. This just might make dunking a trifle harder, but they’re not sure. They are also contemplating redesigning the hoop to be one inch smaller than the physical dimensions of the ball, just for fun.

Now for you astute readers with long memories and grudge-type personalities, this column does not contradict what I opined some time back about us all morphing into atrophied mushbrains due to our chronic over-exposure to computers and acute lack of physical movement. This is a two-pronged evolution. Just as there will be no middle class by the year 2107, there will also be no “normal, average humans.” You will be either a mutantly gifted zebra/ostrich or a mushbrained couchmallow. There will be no middle ground. Kind of like today’s political scene.

Fortunately for me personally, my best predictions show me not quite making it to 2107, so I don’t have to choose. But you whippersnappers out there best be thinking: zebra/ostrich or couchmallow? Either way, you’re probably going to need a new wardrobe.

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.

Wake Up, People! We’re Not Full-Bodied. We Are FAT!

31 Jul

by Roger White

As is the case with many things and ideas of late, inspiration for this installment came as I sat on my comfy couch, papas fritas (potato chips to you who haven’t read the bag lately) and a cold one at the ready, watching the tube.

One of those basement-produced As Seen on TV! ads came on—this one for the patented and groundbreaking Furniture Fix. Have you seen this? The product of higher minds than mine, Furniture Fix is a set of six interlocking plastic panels you place under your sofa cushion to prevent unsightly and uncomfortable sagging. (And if you order in the next 20 minutes, you get a second pair for only shipping and handling! Go, man, go!) In the television ad, two gargantuan “sumo wrestlers” are enlisted to sit on an unfortunate couch bolstered by the patented Furniture Fix supports. Guess what? No sagging! The thing is—and this is what got me thinking—these alleged sumo wrestlers didn’t actually appear much larger than a lot of folks you see on the street today.

Hmmm. Ya see, the crafty sales folks for Furniture Fix realized they needed to present these two sofa-sitting behemoths as “sumo wrestlers” so as not to offend the general public. Truth is, a great many people in the good ol’ U.S. of A. are . . . let’s call it oversized, these days. We used to term this condition “fat,” but this is the era of tender-stepping political correctness. Generously proportioned is what we say now. Full-figured. Adipose-enhanced.

I say damn the PC torpedoes; I’m calling a spade a spade. Wake up, people! We are FAT.

And you know why we’re fat? Simple, really. In the old days, when work meant work, folks on farms, in construction, heck, even in office settings did much more actual, physical labor. As in walking, lifting, moving about. Not so today. And the food we once consumed was mainly fresh, not prepackaged, flash-frozen, and deep-fried. Does anyone hear that song “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans wafting in the background?

“Your legs got nothin’ to do,

Some machine’s doin’ that for you…”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I recognize genetic predisposition; I understand about medical conditions; I’m taking into account infirmity and unavoidable circumstance. However, by and large (pun!), we have become a nation of lazy, lard-addled lumps of lifeless inertia.

Unfortunately, how we’ve come to terms with this development isn’t exercise. No, we embrace our girth with terms like body acceptance, plump pulchritude, and my favorite, “more lbs. to love.”

America, being the keen capitalist nation we are, of course, caters to our blubbery broadmindedness with all sorts of products and services aimed at making our expanded personal spaces easier to manage. If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed the shift from ads for personal fitness machines to “lifestyle augmentation devices.” In other words, corporate minds recognize that we’ve given up.

Companies such as Voluptuart, chunkEbusiness.com, Amplestuff, and many others provide a broad (pun!) range of items just for the, um, girth-gifted. There’s Mr. Big Chair, a portable seat capable of hefting 800 pounds. There are fanny packs with extenders designed to fit any waist size, up to and including Andre the Giant. They have hand-held shower sprays specifically for “big people” (which means they come with approximately 27 feet of extension hose). There are pistol-grip remote toenail clippers, long-handled remote shoehorns, even, uh, “wipe extensions” that hold toilet paper. ’Nuff said. One company makes airline seatbelt extenders and titanium hammocks capable of holding many African jungle animals.

Interestingly, our nation’s chunky challenge is apparently a byproduct of healthy economic development, a researcher told The Washington Post. “The obesity problem is really a side effect of things that are good for the economy,” said Tomas J. Philipson, an economics professor who studies obesity at the University of Chicago, a city recently named the fattest in America. “But we would rather take improvements in technology and agriculture than go back to the way we lived in the 1950s when everyone was thin. Nobody wants to sweat at work for 10 hours a day and be poor. Yes, you’re obese, but you have a life that is much more comfortable.”

To add to the mix, our calorie intake has skyrocketed, now at more than 2,000 calories a day compared with 1,800 in the 1970s, according to the Calorie Control Council. Childhood obesity affects almost 40 percent of children in many states. It’s estimated that one-third of children born in 2000 will develop obesity-related diabetes, said ObesityinAmerica.org. Obesity now impacts 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States—triple the rate from just one generation ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is truly scary. I remember when I was in elementary school (eons ago), there was an average of one fat kid per class. We called him, affectionately, the fat kid. I wonder, do today’s childhood classrooms have one skinny kid they affectionately call the beanpole?

Urgh. My chips and brew don’t look so good all of a sudden. I’m sorely tempted to find my tennis shoes and go for a brisk run. Almost.

But gads, it’s so hot out. And look! “America’s Got Talent” is on in a few. Get me another beer while you’re up.

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.