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My Plea: A Moratorium on Facebook ‘Thoughts & Prayers’

9 Oct

by Roger White 

 

Those of you who’ve quasi-followed my mental droolings over the years understand that sometimes I’ll touch on a subject that’s a tad touchy. And because you know I’m not one to shy away from touching on a tad touchy subject now and again even though the touching of such can make for some uneasy touchy-feely feelings, you tolerate the touchings for the sake of a chortle or two. Maybe even a guffaw, if we’re lucky.

 

This, as you can surmise by now, is one of those touchy times.

 

It’s about thoughts and prayers. I’m sick to death of them. Not actual thoughts and prayers, if anyone truly engages in them. No, I’m referring to social media “Thoughts & Prayers.” And yes, they usually involve capital letters and an ampersand. Jee-iminy Bob Christmas, every time a disaster/mass shooting/hurricane/Trump twitter war/Harvey Weinstein allegation happens (and these have become a daily occurrence here in good ol’ ’Murka), people race to Facebook or their social media avenue of choice to be the first to gush forth: “Thoughts & Prayers” blah, blah, etc., etc.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. If in one’s heart of hearts, a terrible event such as the Las Vegas shooting causes deep reflection and pause—and one truly takes the time to put these victims and their families foremost in their mind for a time, including offering a heartfelt mental telegram to their deity of choice—then that is wonderful.

 

But come on, simply banging out “Thoughts & Prayers” on the keyboard, and maybe even including a warm, fuzzy emoji or two, is doing nothing more than attempting to show everyone what a great and compassionate person you are. “Look at me! See how much I care! And I keyed it in faster than you did!” If you really believe you are helping a situation by calling upon higher powers to ease someone’s suffering, then just do it. And feel good that you did it. Why broadcast it? I’d much rather read about your endless spaghetti dinner at Olive Garden or watch your cat playing the piano than suffer through another maudlin, sickly sweet “Thought & Prayers.”

 

To quote the Big Guy himself, I do believe Jesus touched on the pompous show of piety in the Book of Matthew, did he not? “Take care not to practice your righteousness in front of men to be noticed by them, otherwise you will have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. So when you make gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be glorified by men.”

 

Then again, we are living in the New Age of Narcissism. One of today’s greatest narcissists spends much of his day tweeting out his personal views on everything from pro football to “Puerto Rican whiners”—and we have come to see this as normal behavior.

 

It could simply be that I’ve OD’d on social media. Other than the pious proliferation of “Thoughts & Prayers,” about the only thing more frustrating to me about sites such as Facebook is political rants. A completely non-scientific poll of FB shows approximately 32 billion 678 million political rants per day. And you know how many minds these rants have changed? To quote Dean Vernon Wormer of illustrious Faber College: “Zero point zero.”

 

I suppose we can’t turn the clock back to the good ol’ days, when Facebook was used primarily to share uplifting things such as videos of dogs eating peanut butter or guys getting socked in the crotch by various means.

 

Here’s offering my “Thoughts & Prayers” that we can return to simpler times. Simpler Times for Simpler Minds. That’s my new slogan. And “T&P,” of course. Did I touch a nerve?

 

Roger White is a thoughtful freelance human living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely spousal human, two precocious offspring humans, a very obese but mannerful dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not. 

 

Excitement Is ‘High’ for This Year’s Big Game

27 Jan

by Roger White

Excitement is building to a fever pitch as sporting enthusiasts everywhere gear themselves up for the biggest event of the season—I’m talking, of course, about National Read in the Bathtub Day set for February 9. Seriously, there is a National Read in the Bathtub Day; you can check it out on Facebook. According to the event’s NRIBDonline site, as many as 66 people all across our fair land are planning to attend NRIBD festivities. Mind you, I’m not at all certain whether all 66 of them are going to read in the same bathtub. If so, however, I want photos.

Just joshing. As pumped as I am about NRIBD, I’m referring to the big daddy—ye olde Super Bowl. Or as it’s officially called these days: the Super Nokia AT&T Citibank Anheuser Busch Cadillac Dorito’s Coca-Cola GoDaddy Bowl®TM©(all rights reserved, patent pending). Best I can determine, televised pre-game activities begin at 6:30 a.m. February 2, but actual kickoff of the actual game is actually about 8:30 that night. Or maybe the next night, who knows?

The most fascinating aspect of this year’s big game is the intrigue surrounding the teams involved—the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Sure, it’s a matchup of the league’s Number 1 offense versus the Number 1 defense; and, yeah, it’s seasoned veteran Peyton Manning versus young sensation Russell Wilson. But that ain’t what I’m harping about. It’s Denver and Seattle, man. Think about it—teams from two of the vanguard states pushing the envelope for the legalization of marijuana. Talk about a hawks hookahSuper “Bowl.” See what I did there?

Although fans will surely be as high as so many kites for this clash of titans, I would imagine the stadium will be only partially filled—not because some lamebrain decided they should play outdoors in New Jersey in the dead of winter. No, I’m thinking many of the Colorado and Washington faithful will forget where they put their tickets. Or they’ll get lost between their hotels and MetLife Stadium. Here’s hoping they have a crowd cam constantly surveying the stands. I predict many spontaneous Bob Marley sing-alongs, beachball-tossing contests involving bikini-clad girls riding on the shoulders of thin bearded men, and impromptu tantric yoga sessions. Fans will likely attempt “the wave” at some point, but they will get confused when they stand up, and many will simply leave, trying to remember why they stood up in the first place.

I would also lay money on the prospect of hot dog, nacho, and candy bar concessions running dry before halftime. Pizza delivery shops and Chinese takeout places throughout the greater East Rutherford metropolitan area will all be on call for emergency delivery to the stadium.

Rumor has it that the originally scheduled halftime show, which was set to feature Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, has been scrapped to cater more to the cherrygarciatastes of these unique fan bases. That’s right, halftime will consist of the Grateful Dead, Puff Daddy, and a reading of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, as performed by Cheech Marin.

In a related development, a whole host of companies went into a mad scramble to buy television advertising spots when they realized this unprecedented opportunity. Yep, you’ll be seeing ads for Lay’s Baked Dorito’s, Mr. Natural Toasted English Muffins, Billabong Surfwear, the new Chevy Blazer, and, of course, Stoned Wheat Thins.

I’ve heard that the governors of the respective states even lobbied the NFL to have the timing of the kickoff moved to precisely 4:20. If you have to look that one up, then you’re just real square, daddy-o.

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.

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.

Should My Friends Keep the Dog or Find a New Pup?

2 Jan

by Roger White

Let me tell you a story. By sharing this story I know that I will feel much better. I’m not sure if you’ll feel better after reading it, but that’s not really my concern. I desperately need to tell it.

These good friends of mine, you see, have this dilemma. They own this scruffy, smiley dog, with the obligatory cute puppy dog eyes. For the most part, he’s well-behaved and has even learned to do some pretty good tricks. But this mutt is a bit of a problem pooch.

confounding canineThey’ve had this dog since about 2004, when they picked him up from eastern Illinois. The little guy showed lots of promise, and he was lively. He’s always been lively and entertaining, scrambling around, causing havoc and fun. But they trained him well—or so they thought. The pup began showing signs of misbehaving terribly, however, at the worst possible times. One cold January in 2007, for example, when my friends were visiting in Seattle, the little fellah did some very smelly business in a most public of places. My friends were mortified and went home in shame.

Back home in Irving, my friends seemed pleased with the pooch as time went by—until almost exactly a year later. It was another cold January, in 2008, as my friends were hosting a bunch of folks from New York, when the dizzy dog did it again. Another stinker. It was yet another humiliation for my good friends.

In 2009, my friends built a new place in Arlington—and this place included a fantastic area where this dog could play. It turns out that this is one of the fanciest places for a dog to play anywhere! They hoped this might improve his behavior. It didn’t. A discouraging pattern began to emerge: Whenever my friends needed this schizophrenic hound to be on confounding caninehis best behavior, he would almost certainly stink up the place. In December 2008 while visiting in Philadelphia, in January 2010 in Minnesota, in December 2011 visiting those same folks in New York—no matter where they took this maddening mutt, he always managed to do exactly the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time, turning what could have been an enjoyable time into a disaster.

A most recent incident may have been the backbreaker, however. While on a nice visit to Washington, D.C., this past December, my good friends were stunned when this confounding canine did it again—right there in the nation’s capital. More smelly awfulness.

Perhaps it has something to do with winter or cold weather. It could be something about public places, being with a lot of people. Who knows? The head-scratching part of this confounding caninewhole ordeal is that the little guy has generally been a good dog. In fact, my friends actually say that this particular pooch has more impressive tricks, statistically speaking, than any other dog they’ve owned. And they really like him; it’s just that his behavior at certain times sends them right up the wall.

And I must say, it’s done the very same to me, as well. I’ve watched this little guy’s antics over the years, and he’s just about given me an ulcer. You see, I’ve been close to these friends for a long, long time. You might even say I’m a fan of theirs. I’ve appreciated them ever since I can remember. They’re proud folks, but they have plenty to be proud of—with a history and tradition of great achievement. They have screwed up royally at times, and the current patriarch can be a bit goofy, but they’re old friends, so what can I say?

 Troy the Dog

I know it has to be difficult for little Tony the mutt. My friends keep comparing him to previous pooches, such as Troy the terrier and Roger the rottweiler, who were fine, fine animals.

The gist of the whole story, I guess, is that my good friends could very well be at a watershed moment here. Do they keep Tony the dog and pray he stops smelling up the place at the worst possible times—or do they find a new pup and hope he has a better pedigree? What would you do?

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.

There’s Football, and There’s Life. But Mainly There’s Football.

4 Sep

by Roger White  

It hit me the other day, my genteel tribe, as I sat watching the glorious first football weekend of the holy month of September. The remote—it hit me square in the back of the head. The wife trying to get my attention again; something about dinner or a burglar or something. That woman’s got aim. Anyway, then it really hit me, as I listened to that specialized vocabulary that signals the start of a new season. That magical lexicon of the gridiron just so happens to have context—and in quite similar fashion, I might add—to the life of this middle-aged hubby, dad of two teenage girls (help me, Lord), owner of a thoroughly over-mortgaged house, and slumlord to two very ill-behaved pets (one fat, incontinent dog and one nasty, lethargic cat).

I began listing in my head these terms that carry dual meaning in my quaint little life, but the terms kept slipping out of my head where the wife konked me with the remote. The den started getting cluttered with all these words falling to my feet, so I figured I should sweep them up and list them.

So here they are, expressions o’ the gridiron and their “other” meanings, in alphabetical order for your convenient reference:

All-out Blitz. Usually run when Mom’s away, this is a designed play in which both daughters beseech Dad in unison to pleeeeeease take them to the corner store for basic life necessities (e.g., gum, ice cream, Pringles).

End Around. Another regular from the daughter playbook, this is a misdirection play used to call Mom’s or Dad’s attention to one daughter while the other one either (A) sneaks in or out of the house; (B) cleans up whatever she broke; or (C) dashes to the bathroom to attempt repairs to her purple hair dye job.

False Start. Called almost exclusively on Mom, this mix-up occurs whenever the family is set to go out, either to a restaurant, shopping, movie, etc., and Mom says “I’m ready.” Family members then wait in the car for another 25 minutes before realizing that “I’m ready” means “another half-hour” with regard to Mom.

Illegal Shift. This penalty is called on either one daughter or the other, depending on who stole the front passenger position in the car after the first daughter clearly called “shotgun” before the outing began.

Nickel Back. This term refers to the change Dad often gets back from mall excursions by Daughter #1, Daughter #2, or Mom—or, more often, all three of them running the same play. (See also End Around.)

Pass Interference. A tactic used almost exclusively by Dad, this is a time-honored anti-flirting measure employed by dads all over, usually achieved by physically stepping in between the line of sight of boys and young men trying to catch the eye of Daughter #1 or vice-versa. Recently, much to Dad’s dismay, this has begun to apply to Daughter #2, as well. (See also Shotgun Formation.)

Prevent Defense. This is a tactic often utilized by Dad to avoid manual labor, mostly on weekends, by pretending to be soundly asleep on the couch (or whatever furniture he happens to be lounging on) when called upon by Mom.

Shotgun Formation. Although an actual shotgun is optional here, this is the classic formation used by Dad by sitting on the front-porch swing when daughters are due home from dates.

Touchback. A nerve-wracking phenomenon occurring almost exclusively on family road trips, this is when daughters #1 and #2 vie for territorial rights in the back seat of the car. The constantly recurring touchback commotion almost inevitably ends with the command, “If I have to turn this car around!”

Two-minute Warning. This mad scramble by Dad is triggered by the appearance of the mother-in-law’s car in front of the house. It takes mom-in-law approximately two minutes to make it from her car to the house, by which time Dad must have himself hidden away in the den or the master bedroom. If not, he is often subjected to many Bombs and Cheap Shots regarding personal appearance, yard maintenance, career ambition, etc.

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 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.

 

Football Tonight: Ursine Mammals vs. Midpriced Sedans!

2 Apr

by Roger White

 

This here story, which you may have heard about already, falls squarely under the “you gotta be kiddin’ me” category, because when I read it, I said, “What the f— … er, you gotta be kiddin’ me.” Yeah, that’s what I said.

Here ’tis, and I quote:

“A Utah school district has decided against using Cougars as a mascot for a new high school in part because of the negative connotation of the word in popular culture. Canyons School District Superintendent David S. Doty said the selection of Chargers as the school’s mascot was driven by the desire for originality, despite a poll of some future students that showed 26 percent in favor of using the Cougar mascot.

“Doty said that although Brigham Young University, as well as several Utah high schools (including one in a nearby district), use Cougars as a mascot, public comments they received reflect a desire to be different—and he noted that some see the word ‘cougar’ as carrying a ‘negative double entendre.’ Spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook said the power of social media has brought the district more attention than desired, referring to articles like this Huffington Post story, ‘Cougar Mascot Vetoed for Corner Canyon High School for Being Offensive toward Women,’ or this Yahoo sports story, ‘New School Can’t Be Cougars Because Middle-Aged Women Might Be Offended.'” Or this here social media story that I’m about to write. Har. Woah, hey, I’m actually writing it right now. AAH! One of those space-time continuum moments. How can I be writing it now if you’re already reading it? Hello! hello! Echo! echo! Scary.

So anyway, yeah, all ol’ Superintendent Doty had to say was that the school wanted to be different. By bringing up the negative double entendre thing, he opened himself up a big ol’ can o’ media worms. I like that. Media worms. Kinda fits.

This, of course, got me thinking about what other teams might have to re-ponder their mascot choices, given today’s milieu of ultra-hyper-crikey-sensitivity. Let us ponder. And re-ponder. Take the NFL (please):

Chicago Bears. Sorry, gay connotation. If you are unaware, a “bear” in the gay world, and I quote from a popular social media source, refers to male individuals who possess physical attributes much like a bear, such as a heavy build, abundant body hair, and often facial hair. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, lest we offend our hairy homosexual brethren, let’s change it to the Chicago Ursine Mammals.

Buffalo Bills. Mmm, negative emotional impact on the financially strapped in our society. Bills, bills, bills. We can’t have that. This needs to be something gentler, something along the lines of Buffalo Payment Restructuring Reminders.

New York Jets. Nope; this offends those of us who can’t afford to fly. From now on, you are the New York Midpriced Sedans.

New England Patriots. This is borderline, but I see possible political overtones here. Just to be on the safe side, let’s go with the New England Citizens of No Political Affiliation.

Washington Redskins. This one’s obvious. New name – Washington Human Race Members. (Same with the Kansas City Chiefs. Come on, fellahs, that’s just rude. From here on out, the Kansas City Regular Decent People of Vague Ethnic Persuasion.)

Tennessee Titans. Sorry, too reflective of the Titan Missiles, the Space Race, the Cold War, Kruschchev, shoe-pounding and all that. Your new name is the Tennessee World Peace Initiative.

 

Oakland Raiders. Please, this conjures up images of thieves and thugs and other ne’er-do-wells. Try on the Bay Area Working-Class Magnanimous Helper Types.

Cleveland Browns. This is downright color elitist. You will from here on take the field as the Cleveland All-Inclusive Hues. The helmet, of course, will be white but will change color depending on ambient temperature.

Philadelphia Eagles. Mmmm, too nationalistic. I like the Philadelphia Countries in Harmony.

New York Giants. Honestly, this is simply humiliating to short people. The Big Apple’s team should now and forever be the New York Average-Height Folks. And scratch the Big in front of Apple, while you’re at it. Let’s just say The Apple. Well, now, wait—that also discriminates, doesn’t it? The Fruit. There you go. New York the city its own self is now known as The Fruit.

New Orleans Saints. Really, way too pious and religiously selective. See if this fits: The New Orleans Non-Proselytizing Spiritually Uplifted Cadre.

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

Follow Your Dreams? Well, OK, But Have a Backup Plan

23 Jan

by Roger White

Author’s note: For you dedicated, sort of dedicated, and even not-so-dedicated followers of TOS, I feel I must warn you in advance. This particular installment lacks any juvenile silliness, nonsensical babble, slice-of-life inanity, random wordplay, serpentine stream of consciousness, thinly veiled parody, and/or incomprehensible doublespeak. I’m actually taking a stab at being serious this time. This likely won’t last long, as most of my prescriptions seem to have run out.

As I watch my daughters grow into young womanhood—Lindsey now a thoughtful, creative high school sophomore so marvelously free-spirited yet touchingly conscientious in every facet, and Jamie, our firebrand eighth-grader so fiercely strong-willed and stubborn but so tender-hearted and self-conscious—I struggle to keep them optimistic and open to the great vista of opportunities and adventures that is theirs in their youth while ensuring that they truly understand the many gambles attendant with life’s every turn.

How do you convey to your children that life is to be thoroughly enjoyed yet doggedly pursued with utmost seriousness, that the world around them is not a vile place to be feared but that wariness and caution are also fundamental?

How do you keep those most precious to you warm-hearted and open to the world when, while you’re teaching your oldest how to drive a car, a man pulls up next to her and flips her the finger because she’s driving too slow for his taste? What course do you take when your youngest tells you that some anonymous degenerate claiming to be an online friend wrote such depraved and loathsome things on her web page that the words don’t even bear repeating?

Beyond these random acts of unkindness, how do you also instill in your children the passion to “follow your dreams”—a catchphrase heard so often in movies, media, books, commercials, speeches, campaign promises, and valedictory addresses today that it has become hackneyed and meaningless—when the cold reality is that the vast majority of us grinding out our day-to-day existences have come nowhere near the lofty dreams of our youth?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that anyone should settle for something less than what one earnestly wants to do with one’s career and life. I’m merely advocating, in this reality-TV culture that falsely suggests that everyone can be a star, for a healthy dose of practicality. I fear that many kids growing up today, buffeted from all sides by messages insinuating that instant fame or fortune will be theirs for the taking when some magic day arrives, will be in for a terribly rude awakening when it comes time to settle into that desk job in the corporate cubicle farm.

A glimpse at one episode of “American Idol” confirms this unsettling notion. When the judges break the bitter truth to so many young would-be superstars who can’t carry a tune in a large fruit bowl, the contestants’ reaction of utter disbelief and heartbreak may make for a sort of Schadenfreudean entertainment for the masses, but it also exposes symptoms of delusional expectations held by today’s youth. Yeah, you’re going to win the 750-million-to-1-shot lottery with one ticket. Right.

Ah, hell, I guess it’s not just today’s youth. I’ll fess up. When I was 11, and I caught my first touchdown pass of the season for the Burleson Boys Club Panthers, I was immediately convinced I would be an NFL wide receiver. That touchdown was the only pass I ever caught that season—and for the rest of my football career (which lasted until eighth grade when I broke my collarbone). A high schooler who weighs all of 130 pounds sopping wet stands little chance at football glory outside of his back yard.

When I was 14, I was going to be a drummer in a rock band that would be discovered by a West Coast record label and shoot straight to international stardom. Talent seemed to be the snag here (see “American Idol” above). When I was 19, I was going to own my own legion of vending machines, which held the promise of easy riches and an unending supply of M&Ms, but no one seemed to want to lend a teenage entrepreneur the mere six figures for start-up.

And when I was 30-something and finished my first attempt at the Mediocre American Novel, I was sure I was destined to be the next John Irving. Alas, that dream is still on the runway, desperately awaiting clearance in the thickening fog. So I soldier on, in the cube farm, telling myself that John Irving just might not have it as good as I think he does.

And I also tell my girls, yes, follow your dreams—but have a solid backup plan. If you truly want to be the next Lady Gaga, give it a shot. But stay on course for your MBA, as well. Please.

 

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.

Don’t Take Your Kitchen for Granite

21 Nov

by Roger White

We’ve been camping out in our own house for weeks now, and I think I’m actually getting the hang of it. You see, my dear wife decided recently it was time to upgrade our kitchen and downstairs guest bathroom, and, like the naïve simpleton I am, I glibly went along with it all.

I presumed this entailed dabbing on a fresh coat or two of paint, getting a new commode cover, and buying a fancy oven mitt or three.

No, sir. “Upgrade” by my wife’s definition meant, of course, demolishing all countertops, tearing off all wall coverings, and conducting interviews with no fewer than 59 contractors, handymen, painters, tile folks, grout guys, electrical experts, plumbing people, sink installers, toilet types, granite excavators, countertop wholesalers, and all kinds of strange, hairy men who have been traipsing in and out of our house at all hours doing God only knows what.

So at present our groceries are in little clumps and piles all over the place, and our family forages for food intermittently, pretty much Cro-Magnon style. I keep a stash of chips and cookies hidden in my own special place, just to be safe. Every man for himself, you know.

And for weeks now our humble little abode has taken on the appearance of an archeological dig for ancient artifacts. In fact, amid the dust and debris I was amazed to discover some ancient artifacts of my very own, such as floppy disks from one of my early attempts at the Mediocre American Novel. Floppy disks, mind you. Pre-internet era. Thank God they can only be accessed by now-obsolete technology because I don’t want anybody looking at this stuff. 

“Oh, James,” Harriet opined, deciding it was better not to tell her former lover that the baby she carried was not his or even his brother’s but that of the motorcycle gang leader she hitched a ride with back in Needles, California. Harriet trudged off into the dark and stormy night, not knowing if James would ever want her back or, for that matter, if he’d want her front.

You get the idea. This is treasure better left buried.

Anyway, through all the smoke and drill bits and extension cords and horrible noise, I do believe something is starting to take shape. Our countertops, which I must admit I never really gave a second thought to, are now a gleaming river of exquisite polished granite. I’m scared to put anything on them now. I don’t feel worthy. Our cat’s pretty skittish about the whole deal, as well. When he hops up on the countertop, he’s at risk of skating freeform all the way across the kitchen and into the dining room. Schweeee…..thunk! Meow?

Moreover, our downstairs bathroom sink has been transformed into this fascinating concave of hammered copper, beautiful and odd. I think of Abe Lincoln every time I wash my hands now. (Y’know, he’s on the penny and all.) I feel the need to be very quiet in the downstairs bathroom all of a sudden, I guess because it has taken on this aura of a stately museum. It is gorgeous and finely appointed, and presently I can’t do my business in there because I’m a bit intimidated. When I’m in there, I start thinking, “Man, this room doesn’t deserve this. I should get outta here.” I’m of a mind to rope off the downstairs john with velvet and have a docent charge admission.

And through it all, I have become good friends with our main contractor guy, Bruce, who happens to be a Cowboys fan like me. We’ve practically shared half the season together. I’ve noticed, however, that I’ve begun to hope and pray for dull games because if anything really exciting happens while Bruce is tiling our kitchen backsplash, it ain’t good. “Touchdown, Cowboys!” Smash, flinkle, kar-rump. “Uh, Mr. White.”

I’ve also become well-versed in the finer points of Contractor Time. You see, there’s Eastern Time, Central, Mountain, Pacific—and Contractor Time (CT). When a contractor says he’ll be at your house by 8 a.m., that actually means 10:30 a.m. CT. If he says he’s heading to lunch for an hour, what he means is he’s heading to lunch for three hours and forty-five minutes CT. And, when your friendly contractor guy tells you he can have that job finished in two weeks, this, of course, equates to two and half months CT.

I’m just funnin’ ya, Bruce. Ya done good, son. Just remember, no tiling while Romo’s in the pocket. And can I take this oxygen mask off now?

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.

Hey, Fitz! Take This Footlong Hoagie and . . .

26 Oct

by Roger White

Ladies (and you sleekly camouflaged metrosexuals), you must pardon me if I wax sportsetic once again, but my hackles have been raised. Mind you, I had a pretty cool topic this time around, too. About that Harold Camping guy—ya know, the old geezer who keeps moving his predictions for the end of the world back a few months because his Bible math was somehow flawed? Apparently, when May 21, 2011, came and went and all his followers had to repaint their vans and try to buy some of their stuff back, he then corrected himself by saying May 21 was a “spiritual” judgment and that what God meant to say was that we will all burn on October 16, 2011. Oops. Well, when October 17 dawned on a non-fractured, unscorched earth, Harold was in full backtrack again. “Oh, well, here in Leviticus, you see, I neglected to carry the three and divide by Moses.”

Ah. Of course.

But no, as creepy as guys like Harold are, he’s not a hackle-raiser in my book. No, the alien in my belly of late is one Frank Fitzpatrick, columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Understand, kids, as I attempt to relax my hackles through third-eye meditation that I am a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan. And I am old. Which means I’ve been watching the Pokes since the days of Jethro Pugh and Chuck Howley and Howdy Doody and Mirabeau B. Lamar and all them there.

If you know just the teensiest bit about the Cowboys, you know that there are no two cities that enjoy hating them more than Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Well, ol’ Fitz of the Inquirer recently put to paper the myriad reasons he hates my beloved Cowboys, so I found myself utterly unable to resist rebuttal.

So herewith you’ll find Fitzpatrick’s reasons for loathing Dallas, followed, respectively, by my reasons for wanting to aim my southern end toward the City of Brotherly Shove. You may not get some of the references unless you own every single Cowboys yearbook and every edition of the weekly subscriber newsletter from August 1960 to the present, but here goes:

Fitz: Tom Landry’s hat. Did he think he was hiding his baldness? The Cowboys first coach wore fedoras right through the Age of Aquarius, shielding his head while the rest of us were expanding ours. I could maybe see the need for one on a December Sunday in Green Bay. But indoors in New Orleans? Or Miami? It was an affectation of the arrogant.

Me: Dick Vermeil’s lachrymal glands. Was there ever a whinier, more emotionally histrionic car salesman of a coach than Vermeil? He could break down sobbing reading a cereal box. Remember his tear-stained announcement of retirement because of “burnout”? Hey, can I do that? “Really, I’ve loved every one of you words and syllables, but it’s time to move on..waaahh!”

Fitz: Jimmy Johnson’s hair. Speaking of inappropriate headwear. The guy apparently missed wearing a helmet so much that he created one out of hair, mousse and his Arkansas sensibility.

Me: Rich Kotite. Need I say more? Okay, I will. Rich coached the Iggles about the same time Jimmy coached Dallas. The results speak for themselves. And when Rich said publicly he was going to look around for other coaching jobs midseason in 1994, Philly lost its next seven games. Richie was promptly canned. And he had absolutely no hair. Zip. Bupkiss.

Fitz: Jerry Jones’ face. It’s been lifted more frequently than Kyle Kendrick. The current owner’s narcissistic infatuation with Botox speaks volumes about his ego, his team and his disposable income.

Me: Christina Lurie’s hair. The wife of the Eagles’ owner looks like she was used as a ground wire at a General Electric power plant. Really, can’t anything be done? No wonder Jeff “accidentally” smacked her in the face when he was attempting a high-five (see Youtube).

Fitz: The old stadium. Who builds a football stadium in a place called Irving? Has there ever been a Texan whose first name was Irving? If so, I’m betting he didn’t wear spurs. Anyway, is the weather in Texas so bad and are the fans so delicate that they needed to cover the stands with a roof? Typically arrogant Cowboys fans liked to say the reason there was a hole in the roof was so God could watch his favorite team. If God’s really a Dallas fan, how do you explain Leon Lett?

Me: The Vet. Easily the worst playing surface in the history of the league. More careers likely ended prematurely at the Vet than in Vietnam. Seems fitting that both Paul Owens and Tug McGraw, who made appearances at the Vet on its final day in use, both croaked soon after. Was like playing on a field of ground glass and asbestos, many said.

Fitz: The new stadium. Aside from Rick Perry, is there a more ridiculous monument to Texas excess? A $1.5 billion shopping mall of a stadium in a state  where the governor seriously considered laying off 100,000 teachers.

Me: Lincoln Financial Field. Let me get this straight: When the stadium opened, the Eagles imposed a ban on hoagies and cheesesteaks being brought into the stadium, citing security concerns? Guess you can never tell when a lunatic fan’s going to smuggle in a loaded hoagie. The smart call would have been to ban snowballs.

Fitz: Michael Irvin.  Tough to like the man who still holds the NFL record for most felonies in a season.

Me: Donovan McNabb. Webster’s defines “loser” as a person who has failed at a particular activity. The photo accompanying this definition in the unabridged Webster’s is one of Donovan McNabb in the playoffs.

Fitz: Deion Sanders. Enough said.

Me: Kenny Jackson. Eleven TDs in eight years for a first-round pick. Nice payoff there, guys.

Fitz: Lee Roy Jordan. This 1960s Cowboys linebacker was obnoxious long before that trait was in vogue.

Me: Tim Rossovich. At least Lee Roy didn’t set himself on fire. And hey, Jordan was good.

Fitz: Tony Romo. Dallas’ maddeningly erratic QB once dated Jessica Simpson, perhaps the reason his quarterback rating that year was lower than her IQ.

Me: Michael Vick. This one’s almost too easy. At least Romo only dated a couple of dogs; he didn’t kill them.

Fitz: Barry Switzer. If there ever was a more oily football coach — not counting Johnson and his hair tonic — I can’t recall him. He’s his sport’s answer to John Calipari and Bobby Huggins.

Me: Buddy Ryan. Choosing between lunch with Hannibal Lecter and Ryan—coin toss. At least Lecter would offer intelligent conversation.

Fitz: The star. I like most stars. The Christmas star, movie stars, Converse All-Stars, Ringo and Sally Starr. But the mere sight of one of the blue Cowboys variety is enough to make me physically ill.

Me: The whole blue-collar, world-against-Philly crapola.  Look, my wife’s sister lives up there. So I know. Give us a break with the attitude. It’s wearing thin. Ya need a new shtick. Loserville sounds good.

Fitz: Dallas. Don’t think I’ll ever be able to disassociate the city from the JFK assassination. Dallas stole my innocence. And where was Joe Bob Isbell on November 22, 1963?

Me: Low blow. You were really reaching on this one, Fitzy boy. I think it’s the whole five Super Bowl titles versus none that may be behind it. Oh, one more thing: How did the Phillies and Sixers do this year? Now, let’s compare…

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.