Friday, January 28, 2011

The Rolling Keiths: You think you know what you know, but you just nev...

The Rolling Keiths: You think you know what you know, but you just nev...: "I love the movie Forrest Gump and it's not just the great acting, amazing soundtrack or hilariously quotable one-liners throughout. The main..."

You think you know what you know, but you just never know.

I love the movie Forrest Gump and it's not just the great acting, amazing soundtrack or hilariously quotable one-liners throughout. The main reason why I think it's so great is that Gump is an idiot, just like you and me, who manages to stumble into a number of scrapes and successes in life through sheer dumb luck. Granted, some luck is good, some bad, but in the end, it's all just luck.

Gump was right, "Life is like a box of chocolates" but he was wrong about WHY. Life is like a box of chocolates, but usually, we do know what we're "gonna get", thats what that little paper insert or the list on the back of the box is for. The problem is not that you don't know what you're going to get, but that once you get what you thought you wanted, it's not at all what you expected. So you look at the little chart, "hmm, dark chocolate hazelnut cream, that sounds fantastic" then two seconds later you're spitting the nastiness out in the trash.

This is a major issue we have as people, we think we know what we like, need, want, or what will make us happy. The problem is that we are wrong...a lot. This is ok, if we can accept it and move on. When we are wrong, if we could back out of the decision as quickly as we did with the wrong chocolate, how much time and suffering we would save. But we don't, for many many reasons, most involving our ego. Backing quickly out of a choice that was clearly wrong would mean admitting that we were wrong, and who likes to do that? Also, maybe the result of a bad decision has some good parts, so we stick it out, take the bad with the good. 

Here's another piece of the puzzle; once people have an experience, they convince themselves that they knew what the outcome was going to be all along. I did a little experiment last week, asking a handful of people, "So, how do you think the Bears are going to do against Green Bay Sunday?" and there was a range of different reasons why everyone thought the Bears would win, some technical and some more emotionally based. Then I asked those same people again on Monday how they felt and I got another range of answers, but everyone apparently KNEW that Chicago would not beat Green Bay.

The end result is people reading "self help" books wondering why the hell they are not happy when they have all the things they could ever want. I went through this phase and cursed myself, "how dare I be unhappy when there are so many people the world over who have nothing, I should be thankful, dammit!" All of our lives, we all have been subconsciously imprinted with visions of what a happy life is supposed to be, but the truth is that those are someone else's ideals. A bum in an alley is likely to be more happy than you at this moment, but we can't believe that.

So, the unfortunate summary that I have for you is that whatever you have in life, good, bad, or somewhere in between, it really is just dumb luck...but you already knew that, right? 

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Father, The Clown

Growing up, my Dad had many different jobs and businesses, most of them quite successful. Some that I can remember are: Dohnut shop manager, painting business, balloon factory worker, carpet cleaning business, head chef at a retirement community, drywall & remodeling business, janitor, and of course... the clown.

Yes, my Father was a clown, Howdy the Clown, actually. My Dad was a great clown and took his clowning very seriously. Though I was not aware of it previously, there are schools for clowning, and my Father attended clown classes and eventually received certification. Dad had a family friend custom sew his costume and he was always adding wacky accessories to the mix just to make it more fun for the kids.

Once, Dad thought it would be cool if Howdy the Clown had a sidekick. It was agreed that I would be Howdy's right hand man. Being a shy kid of probably about 12, I'm still not sure how my Dad convinced me to do this. I am certain that I picked out a clown name, but sadly I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. A costume was quickly thrown together for me and Dad spent hours writing little skits that we would perform. At home we would tirelessly practice these skits for the big birthday party coming up. I remember one where I do something to make Howdy pissed off, like stealing his horn or something. Howdy then chases me around the room with a bucket of "water" and finally catches up with me right in front of the audience, I duck at just the right moment and a bucket of confetti gets sprayed over the kids.

Time has faded the memories of my feelings about that time. Was I mortified to do a clown show with my Dad or was I disappointed that there was only one? I don't see my Father much anymore and I'm not entirely sure if Howdy has hung op his rubber nose for good or not. I think that next time I talk to him though I'll tell him I'm proud of him. Now that I'm a grown man, I know what courage it takes for a man with a family to follow a dream.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 Chicago Boat, RV & Outdoors Show

On Saturday Heather, Malia and I went out to McCormick place for the 2011 Chicago Boat, RV & Outdoors Show. Paul, Connie and Brianna wanted to take the train and bus in, just for fun, so they met up with us a little later. Can I just say that despite the number of times we've been to events at McCormick, it never ceases to amaze me how immense the place is, (2.6 million sq. ft of exhibit halls and 600,000 sq. ft. of meeting rooms, for those interested).

We knew we only had 3 hours, so we headed straight to the RV's first. The Airstream booth was the first stop, not that we intend to buy an Airstream, since they mainly make trailers, and we won't be towing a trailer around. Airstreams are just cool as hell, both inside and out. For those not familiar with the name, these are the classic looking trailers that are basically a stainless steel Twinkie on the outside. Well, they have very sleek modern styling on the inside as well, not at all like most other trailer interiors. I was also pleasantly surprised by the prices on them, as I always thought they were way more expensive, since these babies really hold their value.

We wandered around a bit more until Breezy, Paul & Connie showed up. The center of the hall had this nice area of activities for the kids and it was all free. Breezy got to try catch-and-release fishing in a pool, climbed a cool rope jungle gym and bounced around on an inflatable slide.

Then is was off to the Dock Dogs competition. This is where trained dogs run along a dock and then leap into the air off the end of the dock, as high as they can, in an attempt to reach a toy, finally landing with a great splash into a pool. I had seen this on tv before, but never in real life and I have to say it was pretty impressive. The dogs we saw jumped as high as 6 feet 6 inches off the dock. These dogs are quick, and after several failed attempts, this is the best shot we could get of the leapin' labs.

They had several boat restoration companies on hand with some really amazing examples of completed projects as well as pre-restored Chris Crafts that showed just how much work they must put into these fantastic restorations. Some of these boats were sunk or rotting away in a barn someplace but now they are flawless. I would actually be too afraid to put these beauties on the water. 
We also saw a few incredible yachts that I'm not even posting pics of because they just didn't do justice, but if you're interested, Google "Formula 45 Yacht".

Lastly, we got back to the RV's. We looked through tons of them and, I must say, we had it in our minds that we were going to have to go with a Class C to live in full time and that hasn't changed after going to the show. Just for fun, we did look at a lot of Class A and the bus-type motorhomes, but we found them to be not a whole lot larger in the interior then the Class Cs. This is actually a blessing, since they cost at least twice as much as a Class C and I had this fear that we'd go into some Class As and fall in love, but thankfully not. On top of all that, how I would drive something 50 feet long is something I don't ever hope to contend with. The RV we really loved is called the Forester. It's 31 feet long and has a back bedroom for us and a hallway with bunkbeds for the girls. 

That's all for now, but believe it or not, next Sunday, we're going to the Lake County Camping & RV show as well. I'm looking forward to this one too, since it's all RV's & no boats. We're also talking about hitting one last RV show in March at Rosemont. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Beware Of Squirrels

Tuesday I had Bob the Tree Guy come out to finally cut down that old dead Oak in the front yard. Bob was a heavy-set older man with a scruffy salt-and-pepper beard and deep-set eyes that darted around occasionally as though he expected someone or something to jump out at him. Bob would heartily laugh at everything he said and when he did you could smell cigarettes and beer on his breath. All of this was clearly outweighed by the fact that Bob was cheap, the cheapest tree man around. When it comes to having to hire someone else to do some stupid chore like removing a tree, cost is really the only factor.

Soon enough, Bob had tied a few thick ancient looking ropes around the biggest branches of the tree and had tied the other ends tight to the bumper of his truck. "Just in case..." he mumbled under his breath as he swaggered back to the tree with the chainsaw. Other than the ropes, Bob apparently didn't put much stock in safety, because he donned no goggles, gloves or lifting belt and used what appeared to be the oldest chainsaw ever with none of the auto shut-off or kickback protection. He was suprisingly nimble, or as nimble as a man of his size could be, once he had fired up the saw and began making his first cuts.

This was when I first saw the squirrels. Two light gray ones that shot down the tree in a quick spiral toward Bob. Whether it was the buzz from the saw or his liquid lunch, I'm not sure, but Bob payed no notice to the squirrels and went about the business of bringing down the old oak. This is when the third rodent, a chestnut colored beauty, dropped down onto Bob from the branch above, landing on his head. This finally got Bob's attention and he quickly threw down the still-running chainsaw and began beating at his balding head. The squirrel was easily dodging Bob's blind swats and hanging on by digging it's tiny little razor sharp claws into Bob's head and neck. Now Bob was stumbling around my front yard with arms flailing screaming "Get it off me...Get it OFFF!!". I could now see little streams of blood running down the side of Bob's head as the squirrel continued to dig in. Bob had finally landed a couple of blows, but this only seemed to make the squirrel more angry. Now the squirrel began gnawing at the back of Bob's neck, turning the back of his dirty tshirt a a deep maroon color. This sent Bob further into a panicked frenzy and he tripped on a tree root and began rolling on the cold ground.

Finally freed from frozen shock, I started to the tree at a fevered pace. I had nearly made it to Bob when the two gray squirrels got underfoot and I stumbled to the ground. They were both on me immediately, seemingly everywhere. I was on my back and one of them was on my face, clawing at my forehead. I was able to grab it by the tail just before it's claws reached my eyes and I held it up in front of me. The gray reared back and bit my hand quickly and I whipped it a few feet away. I managed to get back to my feet and take stock. My hand bled profusely between the thumb and pointer finger but I had no time to consider this, as the persistant little guy was back, this time climbing up the back of my shirt and digging little needles into my back and shoulders. After several fruitless attempts to reach him, I decided to use my weight against him. I quickly dropped backward and crushed him easily.

As I was dealing with the first squirrel, the other squirrel was making it's way up my pant leg. As I was beating at my leg like a madman the squirrel was clawing at my calf, then my knee, and then my thigh. Now the squirrel had sunk it's little fangs into my inner thigh and it seemed that all of my beating just made the squirrel dig it's teeth and claws ever deeper. I really panicked when I saw blood seeping into the front of my khakis. I lunged for the chain saw, still running, and carefully aimed the running blade at my groin area. The saw made quick work of the front of my pants and the twisting rodent inside. When the squirrel stopped moving, I tossed the saw aside and shook my leg furiously to get the thing out of my pant leg, just in case there was still a little life left in him after all. His little body fell out in a tiny heap onto the ground.

Standing up, I saw that Bob was lying face down on the ground, the squirrel no longer on his head, or anywhere else to be seen for that matter. I limped over cautiously, wanting to see if Bob was ok, but not looking to insight the wrath of any more forest animals. Luckily, no other squirrels attacked and Bob was unconscious and in shock, but alive. I brought him in the house to dress our wounds and the two of us both agreed on three things; 1) While we both likely needed medical attention, there was no way we were going to the emergency room with that story 2) We could never tell anyone what just happened and 3) We both deserved a beer.

I left that tree standing, of course, and never saw any ferocious squirrels again. My guess is that they had a nest or something in there, but I try not to think too much about it. A couple years later I put the house up for sale and the buyers wanted to have a contingency that I cut down "...that dangerous looking dead tree in the front yard", but I countered that I'd take $2000 off the price and they could hire someone to do it. After the closing my realtor told me, "Boy, you were awfully generous, the buyers told me they called some guy named Bob and he told them he usually charges $1000 to take out dead trees", "Hmm, I think they might end up having to hire sombody else" I said.

Dream a Little Dream

I didn't dream at all last night. I just woke up with my mind a clean slate, ready for a new day.

Last night I didn't dream that I tried to keep a moose as a pet and it went horribly wrong. The moose was a very loving pet, but just way too big to cuddle, (think of a 1500 pound Grate Dane with antlers and hooves). He pretty much had free reign of the house, so the only way to get away from him was to go into the bedroom, since he couldn't fit his head through the hallway.

I didn't have that dream where I'm walking around trying to talk to people, but everyone is a manaquin. I'm pretty sure this means that people are plastic and I want them to be real. Sometimes I almost feel this way in real life too.

I also didn't dream that I had killed someone but couln't remember why, so I rolled them up in carpet and dumped the whole mess in a nearby lake. Killing someone in real life and disposing of the body seems like it would make it tough to then go about your daily business, but maybe after a while you just forget the whole thing.

I didn't have the dream either where I am someplace important, like an interview, and have crapped my pants. Now that I think of it, what an unfortunate turn of events that would be. You might be the best candidate for a job, well prepared and meeting all of the qualifications, but I'm willing to bet that if you shit yourself you are not getting the job. That seems really harsh to judge someone on that one moment, on their choice to have a couple sliders for lunch.

Anyway, so, no dreams last night, but there's always tonight.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Paid To Poop

Can I just say how great it is to be employed?! I'm not looking to throw it up in the face of the unemployed, I'm just saying. When you go in to an office five days a week, spending more time with co-workers than with your family, sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the silver lining. Me, I'm always trying to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, so I like to busy myself concentrating on all of the awsomeness that comes along with a regular hourly j.o.b..

For one, there's all the free coffee you can drink! Seriously, I do enjoy coffee and it's hard to complain about the quality of the coffee when it's free, (although I sometimes still do). On top of the coffee, there are free sugar, Equal, Splenda, and non-dairy creamer available. Oh the things we take for granted. At some point in history, like maybe in the 40's or something, business owners must have thought, "WTF, we get you free coffee and now all you greedy little bitches want cream & sugar too?! What  do you think this is, the Hilton?" But now we expect it. Don't forget a water cooler, 'cause who the hell drinks out of the tap anymore? Sure, most villages in Rwanda have more fatalities due to unclean drinking water then any other cause of death, but we need ours from Culligan, if you please.

Then, there's the bathrooms. They're all fancy now, with high-velocity hand dryers that sound like a jet taking off. Plush toilet paper that I can't afford for home. Guys, is it just me, or since the advent of smartphones, do you find yourself going into the stall way more than you need to? Checking email, stocks, sport scores and Facebook. It's true, the sit-down pee isn't just for your weird uncle Harold anymore. On top of this, you don't even have to punch out when you go to do your business! I can't tell you how many times I'm 15 minutes into the "Giant Drop" and I think, "Hot damn, I'm on the clock! I mean, they're actually paying me to take a dump!"

Also, there's food. Lots. And we get to the point that we expect it and when it's not there we bitch because we had hoped we wouldn't have to actually pay for our lunch today. This is sad and I know it, yet I've had more than my share of bagel lunches so I shouldn't talk. There's birthday lunches, holiday feasts and potlucks seemingly every day of the week, I can't imagine why we're an obese nation. My place does movie theater style popcorn twice a week complete with all the salt and butter you can shake a clogged artery at. This is the same place that gives discount memberships at the local gym, go figure.

On top of all of this, there is perhaps the sweetest of all aspects of being employed...vacation days. Ironic, isn't it, that the most beloved part of your job are those days when you aren't there? Maybe this shouldn't surprise me, since, when you're a kid, your favorite part of school is recess. You're off doing whatever, or nothing at all, and getting paid for There's not really much that can beat that.

And that is why I love being employed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy Birthday E

When I was a Freshman in High School, I was obsessed with Elvis. Not sure why, I mean, Elvis is okay but in hindsight, there are so many amazing dead rock stars that I could have idolized. Plus, being a dweeby little poor kid was social impediment enough without my unhealthy love for The King.

And my fascination did nothing to help my blossoming love life. It turns out that the ladies are just not that into a guy that can tell you how many times Elvis played outside the US (5) or that Elvis was the first pop star to ever hit $1 million in record sales or that when Elvis was on Ed Sullivan about one third of the US population watched.

But all stats aside, Elvis was just cool as hell. Elvis had a construction crew build a secret room in the pool house at Graceland so that when the ladies would go change into their swimsuits the guys could sneak into a room behind a two-way mirror and watch the women change. Elvis would rent entire out entire movie theaters or theme parks just for his friends and family. Elvis would fly himself and his entourage, nicknamed the Memphis Mafia, halfway across the country in his own private jet just for his favorite sandwich. Elvis had a black belt in karate, a pet chimpanzee named scatter and had a tv installed on the ceiling over his bed. Elvis wore a cross, Hebrew letter chai and the star of David stating, "I don't want to miss out on heaven due to a technicality". 

Face it people, Elvis was amazing, and when I look back, I do now realize that maybe I was obsessed with good reason. Long Live The King.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Showering With My Mom

Hey everyone, whip out your calenders! January 19th through January 26th is the RV show at the new and improved Lake County Fairgrounds. You all know I've been walking around in a turgid state, (Wiki that shit!), for like a month now waiting for the RV show and now it is a mere 2 weeks away!! I couldn't be more excited if Elton John himself were going to be there. (Not that Elton has anything to do with RVs, I just like to combo platter my passions).

For the last several months I've been perusing what Heather calls my "RV porn", drooling over the keyboard while gawking longingly at everything from vintage '76 Mini-Winni's to the latest model Airstream. Now I finally get to stand among these gentle giants, the sequoias of motor vehicles, to breathe in that sweet new-rv scent, to mount the drivers' seat like a rugged (yet kind-hearted) cowboy and pretend that I'm atop my trusty ol' paint headin' home after a long ride on the dusty trail.

I really can't wait to see all of the latest options available in action, like the bathrooms where you aren't sitting in the shower when you're on the toilet. This was a serious pet peeve of both Heather and I from the beginning. While I am not entirely against occasionally peeing in the shower, there is something terribly wrong with doing your business on a toilet that sits smack dab in the middle of the shower.

Maybe this serious design flaw is intended to do one thing...get you to take shorter showers. I mention this notion of shorter showers because nearly every RV we've ever looked at, with the rare exception of some behemoth buses that are the size of a city block, in nearly every one, the size of the hot water tank is six gallons. Six gallons, as in, the number before seven. I really couldn't believe this when I researched it, I mean, hell, I piss more than six gallons a day, how could this be?!

Of all of the odd conundrums that have arisen in my mind when I imagine living in an RV full time, it may surprise you to learn that this six-gallon water heater is my greatest fear. I love my long hot showers...really love them. I can't honestly fathom how it could be possible to shower with six gallons, is this not America? And what about when you have guests stay over? I remember this little apartment my aunt had when I was a kid. Whenever we stayed overnight, all the kids would have to take a shower together or else they would run out of hot water. That's fine for the kids, but what if my Mom visits?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Just Listen

This last week it was so unusually pleasant and warm outside that I wandered out to the back patio and just breathed it all in. It was more cozy than any other December day in memory and I couldn't believe that just a few days before a foot or more of crusty snow had blanketed the ground. How fantastic it was to see my sweet green lawn again, freed from it's icy prison and basking in the afternoon sunshine.

I would have expected that the ground would be a wet, soggy mess, but no, it appeared to be dry. So mesmerized, was I, that I decided to lay down on the lawn and soak up the sun while I had the chance. I lay on my back with my eyes closed, just breathing. It was a quiet day, and soon, I could hear the sweet little blades of grass all around me whispering to one another.

One particular blade of grass was louder than the others and I turned my head this way and that until my ear was tilted just over that one brilliant spindle. The creature told me his life story that day. As I listened most intently, he told me of how he began as a young sprout, against all odds, struggling to find his place in the sun. Of how he grew, working hard to fight disease, blight, intense cold and blistering heat. That sometimes it would be a week with no water and he would begin the wither and think that perhaps this time he might not make it. But then rain, oh glorious rain would pour down upon him and he would soak it all up like a sponge and praise the mother earth again.

Most days, he said, his life was uneventful, and many times he would feel that he was just one more blade of grass in the seemingly endless sea of my lawn. But then magical things would happen.

Some mornings, if the conditions were just right, a dewdrop would form right on the end of each and every blade of grass in the lawn and they would glisten like diamonds in the sunlight for as far as the eye could see. Then, as the dewdrop grows fatter, it does a slow waltz down the entire blade of grass, finally ending its sweet descent at the roots.

He told me about once, when a brilliant blue butterfly landed on him and rested there for some time, gently fluttering it's wings. That butterfly was the most beautiful living creature that the grass had ever seen and the purply shadow cast by the sun through majestic wings made the grass feel sweet and warm.

After some thought, I realized that this single blade of grass is no different than I.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Well, we got all the holiday decorations down, packed and back in storage last night. This is most definitely a new record to which I partially credit, "Operation Downsize" for less decorations and a much smaller tree this year.

In packing away the Christmas crap, I inevitably discovered a few more sets of lights that didn't work. I am a firm believer in the notion the life is far too short to mess with non-working christmas lights. I have no problem going out and buying replacements rather than wiggle each little bulb in some sad effort to locate the bastard bulb causing the whole string to go bad. On the other hand, I also apparently have difficulty throwing away the dead strings of lights, and I end up with a tangled mess of junk. I've decided to combat this terrible problem of mine by snipping off the bulbs and then making a list of creative uses for the old string of lights. Without further ado, I give you 100 uses for a dead set of holiday lights (well, not really a 100, what kind of time do you people think I have?!):

1) Use it to lasso a badger
2) Make a clothesline
3) Strangle the next person who cuts in front of you in line at Walmart
4) Make a leash for your pet ferret
5) Put up a Tarzan swinging rope in your back yard
6) Make a whip for your weekend S&M sessions
7) Friendship Bracelets!!!
8) Tie one end to a dead tooth and the other to a doorknob & then slam the door
9) Make homemade matching outfits for you & Lady GaGa
10) Tie up your children
11) Build a trap for woodland creatures
12) Pretend it's a pet snake
13) Build a rope bridge to your mailbox
14) Use it to tie logs together for a raft
15) Heavy duty fishing line
16) Make your child homemade braces

Any further suggestions would be greatly appreciated.