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Of Asian Delicacies and the Idiom Tedium

16 Mar

by Roger White

My mother-in-law loves authentic Chinese food, so when we treat her to dinner, she almost invariably chooses First Chinese Barbecue, way up on North Lamar in far North Austin. It’s so far north you’re practically in Waco. You can’t get much more dead ducksauthentic than First Chinese Barbecue; as you walk in you’re greeted by rows of dead, naked ducks hanging like John Wilkes Booth’s gang at execution. The aroma of spices and meats is practically intoxicating, and the menu’s mostly in what I presume is Chinese, with some hints about what you’re ordering in English. I’m never quite sure if I’m ingesting a pig, a chicken, or some other roasted creature, but I must say it is all quite scrumptious.

No, First Chinese Barbecue did not cut some sort of free-meal deal with me to write this, but I will tell you that the dried fresh squid with black bean sauce is out of this world. (Is that good, Mr. Run?) Again, that’s First Chinese Barbecue. Far North Lamar. Ask for the Oldspouse Special.

Anyway, the dinner is only half of the evening for our Bubbie. Dear mom-in-law then likes to head next door to the MT Supermarket. This store, if you’ve never been, is the Asian version of a Walmart Supercenter. It’s a 100,000-square-foot bastion of the most amazing and unbelievable foodstuffs any Texan has ever seen. I presume these yummyitems are foodstuffs. In this era of PC politeness and easily hurt feelings, I’m trying to tread lightly here, OK, but not in my wildest imagination can I conjure a gastronomical use for, say, pork rectum, pork uterus, or fresh chicken feet.

And on just about every aisle you’ll find small armies of robotically waving ceramic cats. Quite unsure of what a robotically waving ceramic cat has to do with Asian groceries, I looked it up and found that these are actually a Japanese thing. Called maneki-neko (which sort of translates into “beckoning cat”) these oddly friendly felines are considered good luck talismans. I don’t know. I have a real cat, and whenever he starts to wave at me like that it usually indicates an impending ambush.

There are also rows upon rows of sweets, too, both prepackaged and freshly made. These aren’t your typical kitty hellocandies and cakes, mind you. You have chocolate and strawberry Pocky Sticks, Green Bean Ice Bars, Purple Mochi Balls, and all sorts of squishy treats with names like Lychee Jelly Cup and Poo Poo Variety. Keeping the freshly rendered pork rectum in mind, I opted to pass on the Poo Poo Variety.

With this less-than-appetizing terminology stuck in my cranium, I got to thinking. How many other marketing words and slogans—perfectly appropriate and appealing in their native tongue—somehow fail to translate? So I hopped on my google horse, and here’s what I found:

  • It seems that the Pepsi slogan of some years back—“Come Alive!”—actually translated in a certain Chinese dialect into “Make Your Ancestors Come Out of the Grave!” That Pepsi packs a punch.
  • Coors once used the motto “Turn It Loose!” to ramp up sales, but apparently this hip saying translated into “Suffer from Diarrhea!” in some Spanish markets.
  • Pee ColaWhen good ol’ Coke was introduced overseas, some Chinese dialects rendered “Ke-kou-ke-la,” which was about as close to Coca-Cola as they could get, into “Bite the Wax Tadpole.” Yum.
  • When Kentucky Fried Chicken made the leap across the big pond, their slogan “Finger-lickin’ Good” came through in Chinese as “Eat Your Fingers Off.” Ouch.
  • The American Dairy Association, pleased with the hugely popular “Got Milk?” campaign, was flabbergasted to find when it exported the saying to Mexico, its initial translation appeared as “Are You Lactating?”
  • If Green Giant brand foods wondered why their first forays into the Arab markets didn’t go as planned, it may have been that the Arabic terminology for naughty soup“In the Valley of the Jolly, ho ho ho, Green Giant!” came across as “This is the Land of the Intimidating, uh uh uh, Green Ogre!” No Ogre Brand Peas for me, thank you.
  • Ah, and here’s a classic, from the days of the Ford Pinto. Seems that the braintrust of the Henry Ford folks couldn’t understand why they failed to move any of their hot, new Pintos in Brazil when they first put them on the market. Only after the fact did they discover that the word “pinto” is Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.” Yoiks. The Ford guys quickly and as discreetly as possible switched the car’s moniker in their Brazilian dealerships to Corcel, which means “Horse.”

Knowing all this—and understanding that the term in question surely means something delectable in the Asian world—I still can’t picture myself biting into anything of the Poo Poo variety.

Fart BarRoger 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.

 

 

Pondering Life’s Little Scams, Schemes, and Swindles

7 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So I was standing in the shower attempting to loofah my stretch marks when one of wifey’s standing army of haircare products amassed on the shower shelf caught my eye. It was a shiny, dazzling thing, the color of polished gold. The container’s meant to grab your attention, you see, designed to stand apart from the plethora of shampoos and such that crowd the grocery shelves. Marketers never cease to amuse. Gold equals value, see, so this shampoo must be head and shoulders above the rest. Ouch, that was unintentional. So now that the golden suds caught my eye, I looked closer. I had to laugh—more superlatives and blatant hyperbole were crowded onto this little bottle of bubbles than a Barnum & Bailey circus poster.

photo

“Advanced,” “NEW,” “Total Repair,” “EXTREME,” “Emergency,” “Recovery,” “RAPID FIBER RENEWAL” (whatever that is)…and on and on. It’s as if the company’s advertising guys looked up every glowing adjective in the dictionary and simply pasted them all on the bottle. I snickered again, but then I realized, hey, it worked. It’s in my shower, ain’t it?

 

I pointed out all the grandiose gobbledygook to my wife when I exited the reading room and asked her if it was indeed the best haircare product she’d ever used. “Eh,” she said with a shrug. “It’s not that great.”

 

Ah, yes. This revelation got me pondering all the little cons and exaggerations and out-and-out flimflammery that we deal with on a daily basis. I believe we first got the idea that the scam was on as we moved from adolescence into young adulthood. This was about the time we witnessed the gradual, ever-so-subtle phenomenon known as the incredible shrinking product. Remember? Food staples such as hamburgers and candy bars slowly lost their heft over time, almost like magic.

 

gadzooksThe Big Macs and Hersheys of our youth didn’t merely appear larger back then because we were tykes; they’ve been carefully trimmed over the years. Picture your Hershey bar on a fulcrum, like a teeter-totter of corporate trickery; price goes up, product size goes down. Eventually, I suppose we’ll be shelling out $19.99 for a chocolate nibble the size of an unwell raisin. In that vein, corporate candy minds have already given us the “fun size” bar. Fun size. That’s marketing speak for “you pay us regular-size price, and we’ll give you tiny crumbs in a colorful, exciting package. Yay! Fun!”

 

The Mars Company did some more snipping just recently, shaving the size of its Snickers and Mars bars—merely for health reasons, mind you. “Having taken product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste,” a company spokeslizard said, “we have reduced the portion size of Mars and Snickers to bring down the calories.” Right.

 

The soft drink guys did it, too, long ago—under the guise of moving to the metric system. If you’re old enough to recall, family-size cokes once came in one-gallon containers. Touting their shift to the sleek three-liter size bottle as a consumer-friendly move to a more efficient, easier-to-tote container—at the same price!—the cola industry failed to mention that customers were now getting precisely .793 of a gallon of coke for the gallon price. But what’s .207 of a gallon between friends?

 

It isn’t just at the grocery store, though. The scam is everywhere. Corporate lizards abound. If you don’t pay close attention to your wireless service bill, for example, you’ve probably been crammed. We were crammed recently, but thank goodness the wife caught it before it went on too long. In fact, T-Mobile just got slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for cramming. Sounds physically painful, I know, but cramming hits you only in the pocketbook. It’s the practice of stuffing hidden fees into your bill for services you didn’t request—hence the ugly terminology. It’s often difficult to spot the hidden fees because the wireless companies will not itemize them; rather, they’ll show up as “Use Charges” or some other ridiculous, nebulous category.

 

The list goes on. Premium gas, college textbooks, bottled water, anything and everything that movie popcorn manshows up on your hospital bill, automotive cabin air filters, shipping and handling (what the hell is handling, anyway?), hotel taxes, cable activation fees, time shares, movie snacks. It’s a mine field out there, people. It’s a dirty, slimy mine field full of lizards, to mix a metaphor or three.

 

I think I need another shower. Hey, this shampoo looks good…

 

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.

 

 

 

Twas Just Weeks Before Christmas

9 Dec

by Roger White                                                                              

 

Twas just weeks before Christmas, and all through the pad

The family was doing its darndest to rouse Dad.

With Thanksgiving turkey still digesting, somewhat static,

I was instructed quite sternly to fetch the tree from the attic.

 

Up there amid the cornucopia of raccoon and rat droppings

notreallymyatticI found the ol’ tree, a few lights, and Yule stockings.

I emerged stiff and sore from all the crawling and kneeling,

Yet I was thankful this time I didn’t fall through the ceiling.

 

We set up the faux fir, still tall but a bit thinning,

Then we threw on the tinsel and bulbs and the trimming.

The wife and I then noticed something odd and perplexing,

Our usually gung-ho helpers were too busy texting.

 

Our daughters, you see, are now teens oh so typical,

Self-involvement in this species has reached levels almost mythical,

So I barked, “If you two jokers want a visit from Saint Nick,

Ya better put down the phones and start decorating quick!”

 

With some grousing and squawking we got the house squared away,

We even found our old snoring Santa to put on display.

Then the tree lights turned off, an infuriating quirk,

’Cause I had to find that one lousy bulb that wouldn’t work.

 

merrydogmaThen the dog decided to start eating all the tinsel,

I pried what I could from his mouth with my pencil.

Our cat then pounced on the tree like a leopard,

Causing the whole thing to crash into Baby Jesus and the shepherds.

 

It was about this time I started debating my sanity

As I chased my tinsel-munching dog, filling the house with profanity.

So the girls hightailed it to the mall for some shopping;

 I caught a glimpse in the mirror, my hair flecked with rat droppings.

damall 

On Visa! On Amex! On Discover and Capital One!

Charge away, charge away ’til the buying is done.

To Nordstrom! To Brookstone! To Abercrombie & Fitch!

Charge ’til my credit rating’s down in the ditch!

 

So I propped the tree upright and shooed the animals away

And opened a cold one; this was the end of my day.

I toasted my loved ones as they drove out of sight,

festivusmanThinking, “It’s Festivus next year—Frank Costanza is right!”

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Cars Are Today’s Coalmine Canaries

9 Sep

by Roger White

 

You see them more and more these days: dead cars by the side of the road. Sure, the cops and the towing companies attempt due diligence, but they can’t keep up now. There are just too many croaked clunkers all over our highways and byways. I sat and thought about it the other day; you know what the proliferation of all of these deceased vehicles means, don’t you? That’s right, we’re all poor now. Well, 98.8 percent of us.

 he dead

It’s just like the canaries in the coalmine. Miners in our grandpappies’ day used canaries (those brave little birds) to make sure the air was breathable in their unbelievably dangerous underground offices. If Tweety Pie stopped singing and was suddenly on his back with his widdle feet in the air, it was time to haul out of there—the air had turned bad. Well, all those roadside stalled Chevys, puffing smoke with their widdle tires in the air—they’re today’s coalmine canaries. It ain’t good, folks. The air has turned bad.

 

The simple reason for this phenomenon is that our economy is barely breathing. There’s no more economic oxygen. Prices for staples such as groceries and gas are unacceptably high; cost for basic medical care is astronomical—and the whole system of for-profit care is at the very least misguided (and at worst, utterly evil); wages are stagnant; and jobs are about as scarce as an untattooed NBA player. Add to this the fact that the stock market today goes haywire anytime a terrorist sneezes in Yemen—and everyone’s retirement account is somehow inextricably tied to the market—and you have all the makings for a slippery slide right back into 1929, only perhaps worse.

he dead too 

Hence all the inert autos floundering near parkways hither and yon. It’s all about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, 21st-century style. People are barely keeping their heads above water. It’s all most of us can do to feed the family, pay the mortgage, and keep the electricity on. Ancillary things, such as regular car maintenance, swiftly fall by the wayside when the money is just not there. And so, kaplunk. The trusty old Ford keels over because its financially strapped owner couldn’t afford to change the timing belt—which, by the way, costs approximately a cool grand including time and labor and all the extra nebulous charges your friendly fix-it shop always manages to throw in.

 

Unfortunately, we can’t really hightail it out of this particular coalmine, can we? And from all appearances, it’s a damn deep mine. In many ways, it’s downright disgusting. There truly is no middle class anymore; there are the mega-uber-wealthy, comprising less than 2 percent of the population—and there are 250 million shades of poor in these United States. The average corporate CEO income today is about $4,615 per hour; minimum wage is $7.25, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

the trapMore and more of us are carrying four- and five-digit credit card balances and are using credit cards often to pay not for entertainment or the occasional luxury item but for groceries and monthly bills. In many cases, it’s unavoidable. My neighbor down the street recently posted on Facebook that her electricity bill for one month was more than $400—and her home is less than 1,900 square feet. AARP magazine noted that in 1963 a 49-ounce box of laundry detergent cost 69 cents; today, it costs $8.00. A movie ticket in 1963 was 86 cents; today, just under $10. Even adjusting for income, we’re much worse off now than we were 50 years ago. Boy, it’s getting tough to breathe in here.

 

Keep your eyes on the roadside, people. The air has surely turned bad.

 

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.

 

How to Unclog the Duodenum of Texas

8 May

by Roger White

Guess from whence I’m writing this installment, my kaleidoscopic cohort. In my car. That is correct. I haven’t touched the accelerator or the steering wheel in the last six minutes and nineteen seconds—traffic is this clogged—so I figured I might as well put the time to good use. Or silly use, anyway. I can now see a spider web forming from my front left hubcap down to the highway pavement. And I swear that little fuzzy monster is grinning at me. One should not be able to see spider webs and smiling arachnids on the highway.

puttputtSuch is life in Austin. I read the other day that traffic here in the duodenum of Texas ranks fourth-worst in the nation. The entire nation! Only LA, Honolulu, and San Francisco are worse. We’re more cars-trophobic than New York, Boston, and D.C. even. Get it? Cars-trophobic? I made that up, so no copying. I mean, cripes, Forbes magazine recently named our little—correction—NOT little burg as the fastest-growing city in America. It’s gotten to the point where I, your most genteel of scribes, have sunk to the point of using crude, contemporary slang that I vowed I would never employ. Alas, here goes: Trying to get from Point A to Point B in this town now officially … cough, “sucks.” Ew. I said it. I hate that verb. Kids today do not have the verbal alacrity to describe any experience, flavor, relationship, teacher, concert, class, ex-friend, or social exchange with any nuance at all because all they can say is that this or that “sucked.” This is why I hate the word. It bashes creativity. That being said, however, I again acquiesce because I, too, can conjure no other description of living in this town today. Other than it sucks. Like, man.

where am iWhy doth it sucketh, you ask? I’ll tell you. There are too many of us here. Come on, already. Stop moving here. Get this, and I quote from a local news source: “The Austin metro area added 67,230 people during the last 15-month period—4,482 people a month.” Cheese and crackers, folks, that’s 149.4 people glomming onto the city per day. I’m not sure where the .4 comes from, but for the love of Mike, somebody shut the gate.

It’s our own fault, really. Austin is so artsy-craftsy. Everybody and their therapist is an oh-so-sincere musician with a new folk song coming out about riding the backroads to Babylon or somesuch; we have organic food fairs every weekend that feature gluten-free honey-caressed love veggies that have been hand-raised by Buddhist hippies who live in a house made of dirt; everyone young and old runs and bikes by the lake—even the fat people; Robert Plant shops for groceries south of downtown, even though nobody recognizes him anymore because he apparently looks like Marty Feldmanmarty er robert now. Plus there’s a god-forsaken concert or charity run or awareness walk or some civic-minded, hug-inducing love-in wherein they block off every street in or around downtown—every goddamn week! It, uh… well, it sucks.

So, my clarion call to you, my fellow dwellers of the duodenum, is to, um, suckify the city its own self. If people are coming here by the droves because we’re so weird and wonderful, then the only way to reverse the trend is to unweird ourselves. You, over there in the hipster jeans with holes in just the right places, put down the guitar. That’s it, don that gray shirt and apply for that assembly line job at the pliers factory. You there, the lazily grinning hippies selling arugula out of your van. Take a shower—separately, please—put on some real underwear, and drive to Phoenix. You see, we have to tone down the originality and show some real, authentic normalness. Drabness even.

While researching the absolute worst cities in America, I read on more than a few sites that Stockton, California, ranks as a shining example of, er, genuine suckitude. Take a look (and I quote from the internet, so it’s gotta be legit): “In July 2012, Stockton became the largest city ever to file for protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Also in 2012, the city was ranked one of the most dangerous cities in America. In 2013, Stockton was ranked as the third-most illiterate city in the U.S., with less than 17 percent of adults holding a college degree.”

Ah ha! Citizens of Duodenum-ville, rise up! And dumb down! Engage in some petty thievery. Kick a tourist or two in the groin. City planners, dabble in a little malfeasance. Cook a book yea stocktonor three. Mr. Mayor, get caught with a city secretary in a Bangkok hotel. Then, and only then, will we stem the tide of people crowding into our fair hamlet. In short, to prevent this city from sucking so badly, we must make it suck somewhat. I think.

In the meantime, I’ll sit here, watching that little smirking spider make a home in my hubcap. Man, this sucks.

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.

Falling Off My Very Own Personal Fiscal Cliff

31 Jan

by Roger White

 

Pardon me while I faint. KLOMP!

 

Whew. Okay, I’m back. You see, I just checked my bank balance after the deposit of my first paycheck of 2013. I was anxious—fretting is the better word—over what sorts of new and exotic deductions would further erode my take-home income this fine year. But I had no idea it would be this bad.

 

Well, my Social Security deductions went through the roof; health insurance coverage for my family soared like a Roman candle (ooh, ahh); and we just added our oldest daughter ouch ouch ouchto our automobile insurance coverage because she’s of that age so new and terrifying to all parents. Lindsey’s actually a good driver, but try telling that to a car insurance company. To car insurance companies, teenage drivers are like the proverbial golden geese, except with braces and acne and blue jeans full of holes.

 

Holy smokes. Counting federal income tax, Medicare tax, dental insurance, life insurance, anti-insurance insurance, death insurance, dismemberment insurance, dismemberment cleanup insurance, disability other than dismemberment insurance, retirement, retirement insurance, and, of course, insurance against not having enough insurance insurance, I’m practically taking home less actual money than if I wasn’t working. Counting cost of gas, car upkeep, work clothes, lunches, the imposition of regular hygiene, etcetera, I do believe I’m virtually paying for the privilege to go to work.

 

Wha? Wha happen? How did it get to be like this? I thought that after about 30 years of the daily grind, I was supposed to be doing at least okay, relatively speaking. And speaking of relatively speaking, I’m certainly glad my relatives are speaking to me, because I may very well have to hit them all up for some low-interest loans. These be hard times, people. And the weird part is, my family’s not extravagant. We really don’t have any corners to cut to re-mash our household budget because all of our cuttable cutting cornerscorners have already been trimmed long ago. We’ve cut so many corners that every piece of furniture in the house is circular. We’re so bent on cutting corners that we switched from Saltines to Ritz crackers. (Get it? No corners. Bah-doom boom.) We’re saving coupons, taking cold showers, eating at home, bundling services—you name it. We’ve bundled so many services that AT&T provides our cable, phone, internet, water, electricity, sewage, and even medical and pharmaceutical needs, I think. The last time I was on the phone to the AT&T technician in India about a cable outage, he reminded me that I needed my regular allergy shot. That’s how bundled we are. I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch just about every day, and I’ve worn the same dress shoes since Bush was president—the first Bush, that is.

 

Yes, if this first measly paycheck of the new year is any indication, my little family has barreled over our own personal fiscal cliff. All we’re waiting for is the big thud. I’ve actually sought out assistance to soften the thud. I’ve been to many an online “cost savings” site. They all say about the same thing. Buy store brands. Duh. We’ve been doing that forever. And I must say, “Everything’s a Dollar” brand beer is quite the sacrifice. They say to use up your leftovers and freezer foods. We’ve done that. Just last week, we Our Gourmet Joeused up our last can of Manwich and our final jars of Tang powdered orange juice and Taster’s Choice instant coffee, all circa 1972, I believe. Another savings tip from these online cost-cutting gurus is to buy only what’s on sale. Well, we tried that one, but now we’re stuck with 30 jars of gefilte fish, 10 pounds of leeks, and two dozen turkey necks.

 

Who’s up for pot luck?

 

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.

They’ll Take My Lawn Darts When They Pry Them from My Cold, Dead Hands

26 Nov

by Roger White

Every Christmas season, right on cue, under the guise of “the public interest,” some Grinch-worshiping cults masquerading as nonprofit research groups publish their annual lists of the most dangerous, evil, and malicious child-eating toys of the year. I have a toy bone to pick with these guys—not a large toy bone, just a small one. In fact, it’s small enough to lodge in the throat and necessitate a trip to the emergency room. But nevertheless…

Don’t misunderstand, I acknowledge the need for watchdogs in our society, especially when it comes to the safety and well-being of our tiniest community members. There is surely no call for manufacturing and marketing such items as Mister Mickey’s Mini-Molotov Cocktail Set or Captain Smiley’s Fun with Asbestos Removal. But some of the selections for the naughty toy list are a bit nitpicky, if you ask me.

Take this year’s U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety, for example. The PIRG Nerds spent all of their time from September through November hanging out in toy stores and malls playing with all the toys, games, and gadgets. (Side note: I want a job at PIRG.) According to the PIRG report, “Our investigation focused on toys that posed a potential toxic, choking, strangulation, or noise hazard.” The report mentioned nothing about all the obnoxious, overly-sexed, street-walker-dressed dolls aimed at the preteen set—but then, maybe I’m being a prude.

 

No, PIRG’s pet peeves involved amounts of lead, tiny magnets in toys, little toy pieces that kids could swallow, loud toys, and toys that contained something called phthalates. Not only do I not have the foggiest idea what phthalates are, I don’t even know how to pronounce them. Trying to pronounce phthalates produces enough spittle as to discourage me from even investigating them, and I recommend the same for you. This is the “if you can’t pronounce it, it can’t hurt you” school of consumer protection. I will note that the PIRG study reported that the state of Washington had the toughest phthalate protection laws on the books—they went as far as making toy manufacturers that used phthalates spell out the amount of phthalates on the toy. This, I’m sure, caused toy manufacturers in Washington to increase the size of their toys just so the word phthalates could appear on the toy.

As for the rest of the hazards on the list, come on. We’ve become a nation of coddlers. As far as lead goes, I found out after the fact that all of my beloved Hot Wheels cars of the late 1960s were slathered in lead paint. I never ate one of my Hot Wheels cars. I crashed them a lot, maybe even burned one or two to see how neat it would look, but I don’t recall ever licking or munching my toy cars. And I turned out fine. No, really, I did. The dangers of magnets, choking, poking, burning, toxins, all that? Let me just say that when I was a tyke, we had Creepy Crawlers (basically an open hot plate used to cook plastic goo); giant lawn darts, which my pals and I would use as WWII bombs on our toy tanks and soldiers (we wore makeshift helmets on the battlefield); BB guns, which we would fire at each other to reenact famous battles throughout history; stingray bikes with no safety helmets or silly pads; and junior chemistry sets complete with instructions on what to do if you caught fire. And we all somehow made it through to adulthood with nary a scratch.

Well, I wouldn’t say nary a scratch. There was that incident with Jimmy Peterson’s left eye. And, oh, yeah, Bobby Scoggins never could catch a ball again after that one time—and jeez, I forgot all about poor Stevie Blackwell. He was a fun guy, rest his soul. OK, OK, never mind. I suppose some of the old toys are best left in the old days. Who’s up for some Slip ’n’ Slide?!

 

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.

Discovery of ‘Dad Particle’ a Significant Scientific Breakthrough

6 Jul

by Roger White

Ponca City, Oklahoma (AP)—In a culmination of 50 years of theoretical speculation and weeks of intense media frenzy, two teams of researchers at the Fatherhood Institute for Research Nerds (FIRN) recently announced they had independently discovered evidence for the long-sought elementary particle that dictates behavior by dads and thus significantly impacts the family universe—the elemental unit popularly known as the “Dad Particle.”

To thunderous applause from a standing-room-only crowd of domestic behaviorists, journalists, and several unknown men from the soup kitchen across the street gathered at FIRN—as well as from other groups of fatherhood researchers around the world watching by webcast—the leaders of the two teams said they had definitely observed a particle they termed a “Riggs bison,” so named because this sub-atomic speck of matter found deep within the brains of fathers, interestingly enough, greatly resembles one-time tennis great Bobby Riggs riding an American bison.

 

“We have now found the missing cornerstone of fatherhood physics,” said Rolf Molf, FIRN’s director general. “We indeed have a discovery. We have observed a new particle common to all fathers. This astounding breakthrough will give wives, mothers, daughters, sons, and anyone else who might give a rat’s behind some answers as to why fathers old and young do some of the amazingly dimwitted things they do. As to why this particle looks like Bobby Riggs riding a buffalo, we have no idea.”

“Bison,” interrupted Assistant Director General Haye Seed.

“Whatever,” Molf said.

If there proves to be one and only one Riggs bison, its discovery would provide confirmation of the so-called Standard Model for Behavior of Dads (SMBD). “It appears to us that this ‘Dad Particle’ determines fundamental fatherhood characteristics, such as affinity for lying horizontal on couches during weekends, slipping an extra fiver to a grounded daughter, and watching reruns of old football games ad nauseum,” said Molf. “On test subjects, we removed the Riggs buffalo and within days these men were shopping with their wives, asking directions from service stations, and actually limiting their beer intake to one or two cans on the weekend. It was remarkable.”

“Bison,” insisted Seed.

In 1964, two groups of dad theorists each proposed that the brain of the average American father is pervaded by a molasses-like field, now called the Riggs bison field. As fermions (father-like thoughts) pass through the field, they acquire mass. And a quite tasty molasses-like flavor, at that. Without this Riggs bison field, a dad’s tendency to, say, hog the remote, would literally fall apart; even a father’s boisterous belch would no longer exist.

One of the “fysicists,” (shortened from “fatherhood physicists”) Peter Short of the University of North Ponca City, predicted that if this field were hit by the right amount of estrogen energy, it would produce a unique phenomenon, which came to be known as the “knockdown dragout.” Short was present at the FIRN announcement and said afterward: “For me, it is an incredible thing that has happened in my lifetime. Now, dads everywhere can point to this discovery and say, ‘See? It’s not my fault.’”

Discovery of the “Dad Particle” was made possible by the FIRN super collider, which took approximately an hour and a half to construct. Built atop the running track at Ponca City High School’s Wildcat Stadium, the super collider sends two dads, mounted on tricycles, in opposite directions on the 400-meter track. When the dads collide, at super-slow speed, their heads are then immediately examined via MRI. The MRI results are then X-rayed, and the result is then mimeographed and faxed to the press box.

“It was there, in the Wildcat Stadium press box, where speculation first took hold that the Riggs buffalo may have been found,” Molf said. “I still have goose bumps.”

“Bison,” Seed corrected.

 

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.

Word to the Wise: Listen to the Gandalf of Groceries

9 May

by Roger White

Little by little, year by year, experience by experience, as time has whizzed past my noggin, and my ears have begun to sprout those old-man hairs that somehow generate from deep in the inner canal and hang gray and curly down the earlobe like so many tiny dried-up noodles, it has slowly started to dawn on me how stupid I am.

No, really. I don’t mean slackjaw stupid like Junior Samples of “Hee Haw.” It’s not like I can’t balance my checkbook or anything. Well, technically, I can’t balance my checkbook, but that’s not what I’m talking about. But while we’re on this, if you can freely round up and use imaginary numbers in advanced calculus (as I’ve learned from my high schooler offspring), why can’t the credit union let you do the same? Many of my beginning-of-the-month checkbook entries contain the addendum “give or take.”

No, I’m referring to life’s little lazy assumptions, usually made by husbands, I’m afraid. Here’s a good example: the grocery store. For years, when my lovely wife would come home from her semi-weekly food foray with her right eye twitching like a frog leg in a middle school science experiment and using language like my grandpa did in the throes of one of his periodic Battle of the Ardennes flashbacks, I would smile sweetly, offer moral support, and think to myself, “Come on, it’s putting milk and eggs and root beer in a shopping cart, get some coping skills, woman.”

However, as with the vast majority of my domestic dealings, I found I was oh, so mistaken. I volunteered to venture to the store for family foodstuffs recently—on my own, I must add—and I am here to report that setting foot into the hellish and mystifying jungle that is the local grocery store filled with single-minded shoppers is as terrifying and nerve-crumbling as stalking wild moose with a bow and arrow. In fact, if my family developed a taste for wild moose shanks, I would rather take my chances with the bow and arrow.

I felt smug and confident going in. I had my wife’s list; I had my cell phone. How hard could it be? I should have sensed that I was in for trouble when a sage-looking old gentleman, with a white Gandalfian beard and ice-blue eyes, met me going in as he was going out through the sliding doors. He looked at my list, then at me, and he issued a slow, mournful shake of the head. Beware.

The rest was a panicked blur. I will tell you that there is a definite current and flow to grocery shopping, and if you disturb this current by tarrying too long trying to decipher the difference between cans of diced, crushed, or chopped tomatoes, you will get caught in your own little shopping eddy and spend a dizzying half-hour fighting your way back into the mainstream. I swear I heard “Dueling Banjos” in the distance.

This may be an over-generalization, but, heck, there is always some truth at the heart of generalizations because that’s why they’re generalizations in the first place. Women are ruthless grocery shoppers. There, I said it. However politically incorrect it may be, I must tell you that in the grocery store you will be run over, sideswiped, given the royal stink-eye, and physically blocked from your desired Chips Ahoy or lean bacon strips by scores of snarling wimmen maneuvering their carts like Richard Petty on prescription amphetamines. My simple theory is that this is their domain, and no man is going to make his hairy presence felt in this, their habitat. I stood quietly behind a diminutive graying little woman for a solid seven minutes while she read every ingredient on a can of artichoke hearts. In any other setting, I would have thought, “what a sweet old lady,” but here, she eyed me with a chilling glance, with a look that dared me to utter a sound. I stood frozen, half-smiling until she moved on, and only then was I allowed my turn at the watering hole… I mean, the selection of extra virgin olive oil.

Mind you, I prefaced this column confessing my stupidity, so allow me this: How is it extra virgin olive oil? Virgin, yes. But extra virgin? These olives never even thought about going all the way?

Anyway, once I understood the shopping cart pecking order and began to fumble my way around the aisles with a modicum of competence, I found that the list my wife gave me, so simple in the beginning, began to read like hieroglyphics. Everything, and I mean everything, became exponentially more complicated than I ever imagined. For example, apples. The word “apples” was on the list. OK. I hack my way to the fresh fruit section. Sweet mother, I discover, there are 27 varieties, shapes, sizes, and colors of apples, laid out over two aisles of angry, glassy-eyed shoppers. I use my life line. Red delicious, she says. All right, bag ’em. Go, go go. Paddle, boy, paddle.

Same thing happened with the orange juice. Do we need Vitamin C-infused, low pulp, no pulp, extra pulp, mega-pulp, or family style? What in heaven’s name is family style orange juice? You pour it in glasses at the dinner table, and each glass of juice begins arguing and grousing about the food? Anyway, I’m at the juice aisle, and in the time it takes me to use the life line again, I incur the wrath of those in the flow behind me. I’ve created another eddy. The swirling starts again. Help me, Mr. Wizard!

By the time I muddle through the checkout and wander to the exit, I find my hair has become long, white, Gandalfian. I spy a naïve, cocky lad on his way in, his little list in hand. I shake my head at him, slow with just a hint of a wry grin. Beware.

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.