Monday, December 31, 2007

It's official (unedited)

The Queen is now a wife.

There was little doubt. Little did I know I'd have an important role in it happening, but I did.

Saturday was quiet and low key for me. I dipped my feet in the pool in the afternoon prior to the wedding, but otherwise it was an uneventful day leading up to the wedding, held on the public beach in Marco Island. It wasn't crowded on the beach at 4:15 p.m., but there were numerous people who were curious as to what was going on, as one would expect.

Other than the bride's simple white dress, you wouldn't immediately realize there was a wedding about to take place. I suppose the fact four women wore the same basic black dress, while four men wore matching black shirts and tan shorts, gave something away. The most obvious sign was the metal arch we constructed and tied flowers around. That stood near the water, with the bride and groom underneath it during the ceremony.

While it wasn't particularly wavy that day, the small waves lapping at the shore were enough to make it difficult to hear the minister as she faced the wedding party. With about 15 of us standing behind her watching, we heard very little. Oh well, it was your basic ceremony, I didn't miss anything fascinating.

My job began immediately after the ceremony. The Queen forgot to bring her marriage license. Although the minister is supposed to have it before the ceremony, it was decided it could wait. That's where I came in. I was nominated to run back to the house where The Queen and her husband were staying. I'm not sure if there was a reason why the signing of the license couldn't wait until Sunday, but I was asked to fetch it, with a sense of urgency about the whole thing.

There I was, running across the beach toward my car, directions in hand. I was on a mission. Despite a little trouble finding the bag containing the manila folder which contained the envelope with the licenses in it, I succeeded, much to the relief of The Queen, who was standing by on my brother's phone, hoping I would find it. (She wasn't sure where it was, but was convinced it was in the bedroom of the house. She was right, but my delay in finding it caused a moment of panic.)

If not me, then someone else, but as far as I'm concerned, if it wasn't for me, The Queen and her boyfriend wouldn't be husband and wife.

While I enjoyed having an important job on the wedding day, I missed a couple entertaining moments.

The area of the beach where we chose to hold the ceremony, was down the beach a little ways from the public access point to the beach. That was to get away from the highest concentration of people on the beach. As it turned out, we chose an area near a decent size hole somebody had dug into the beach, which seemed to be entirely covered with tiny shells. The only indication of sand along the Marco Island beach was right at the edge of the water.

After I departed, the minister -- an older woman -- managed to step into this rather sizable hole, and down she went. She wasn't hurt, it turns out, and most people thought it was funny, although they had to hold in their laughter when she fell, I learned.

While I missed one of those "America's Funniest Videos" moments, I also missed the starstruck goofball offering the celebrity a beer. When we arrived at the public parking lot for the beach, several people were standing around waiting for the rest of the wedding entourage to arrive. The celebrity was amongst them.

A shirtless dude in his 50s, holding a bag of chips, immediately recognized the celebrity, which surprised me a bit. He didn't think twice about jumping into our circle to say hello and shake his hand. I thought it was a bit bizarre that this guy was so enamored by an actor young enough to be his son, but even old guys can be starstruck, I guess.

But it didn't stop there. The dude found his way to where we were on the beach and made sure to greet the celebrity again. At this point I knew the guy was creepy. He seemed to watch our wedding entourage for quite a while from a short distance, seemingly pointing out to a few people he was talking to that the celebrity was part of our group. I found that rather tacky. At a bar, I understand it, but when the celebrity is at the beach for a wedding, leave him be.

While a few people were fascinated by the idea that a wedding was taking place on the beach, and a few others were aware that a celebrity was amongst the wedding party, most people paid no more than a glance if they were passing by, which I thought was nice.

The celebrity stalker, however, wasn't finished. I missed it since I was on my mission, but the stalker had returned to the parking lot prior to the wedding party, waiting for the celebrity to make his way back. Now with a shirt on, the stalker jumped out of his vehicle, with a beer for the celebrity, and proceeded to talk to him again, pointing out he is buying real estate in the area and is a semi-retired life coach who thinks he could help the celebrity. I was a bit dumbfounded when I heard the story, but I bet crazy shit like that happens to the celebrity all the time.

I'm guessing the one thing the life coach doesn't teach is tactfulness.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Surreal (unedited)

I've seen touristy Florida before, but somehow the surrealness of it still boggles my mind.

On Friday afternoon I made a cameo at the local Pubix grocery store. I was looking for a little booze and figured a state that sells single cans of beer in its convenience stores would sell liquor in its grocery stores. I was wrong. You could get beer at Pubix, you can get plenty of wine at Pubix, but vodka and gin, those are taboo. Instead I had to go across the highway to a Walgreen's, which has a separate little liquor store. Why there wasn't a normal liquor store in the area I don't know.

The area where we're staying is on the outskirts of Naples, and it's bizarre. There are tons of resort developments all clustered together, along with housing developments. The housing developments around here aren't that spectacular. They look like nice houses, decent in size, but these aren't gigantic mansions. I'm sure they're high buck nonetheless, and it's odd to see that some of these developments have gated entrances. It must be a vanity thing. Burglars in Miami are never going to find their way across the state to some remote area outside of Naples, and if they do, I'm sure every home in the development has a security system. The gated entrances seem to be a bit of overkill, but it must make people feel better about their status in life.

What I can't figure out is what the hell you do around here if you live in one of these developments. I guess you go golfing somewhere on a daily basis, or perhaps you have a boat docked somewhere and you drive to your marina. But I'm use to real cities, like Minneapolis, where parks, corner convenience stores, neighborhood hardware stores, bars and restaurants all intermingle. You don't see any of that. I'm sure people know their neighbors and have places to go and things do to. Perhaps they all drive into Naples to go bowling, see a movie, check out a library book or rent a DVD. But you don't do that around these developments, for whatever reason. I don't care how much money you have to have to live here, I don't care how sterile and white it is around here, I don't care if the beautiful gated neighborhood is simply a winter residence for people with too much money, it seems so artificial and bland.

From there the surrealness got worse. After talking to my buddy Roast Beef for an hour, and learning he's getting married in February in Maui, marking another chapter in his bizarre life, I headed to Marco Island for cocktails with the wedding entourage. Wow, that was more entertaining than I would have imagined.

My cousin, The Queen, is getting married to her longtime boyfriend. Her boyfriend grew up with a dude who is a bonafide celebrity. I have seen him in at least seven movies, including two as a co-star, so yeah, he's a celebrity. The bar we were at was on the water, so it draws its share of people each evening. When the wedding party arrived there after the dinner, word of the celebrity's appearance spread quickly.

Our group gathered upstairs from the bar, on a patio overlooking the water. There were about 25 of us from the wedding party up there, taking up a bunch of room. But a few people wandered up there for a while, some obviously trying to get a look at the celebrity, who is quite down to earth. At one point he sat down to chat with the boyfriend's mother, who watched her son's friend grow up, move away and become a celebrity. I was quite impressed.

When those who worked their way upstairs decided it was a good time to interrupt the wedding party for a picture, the celebrity politely obliged. People would thank him, and he would thank them in return. It was fascinating to watch. The boyfriend said that it's a lot worse a lot of places he goes, this was a low-key night.

The funniest thing to watch, however, was Mandy. She is The Queen's friend and co-worker who has a boyfriend, evidently. How would I describe her? I'm not sure. Vapid is not the right word, but that was the first word that came to mind. She's very plastic looking -- probably 100 pounds, soaking wet with a toolbelt on -- and probably highly fascinated by celebrity. She certainly was fascinated with the male celebrity that came to his buddy's wedding without a woman on his arm.

I never was introduced to the celebrity, even though I was within 5 feet of him many times during the evening. Mandy made his acquaintence quickly, however, and wouldn't let him get too far away.

Mandy pounded a few drinks, fawned all over the celebrity, clutching him whenever she had a chance, and made it obvious she wanted to be a starfucker. Many of us in the wedding party were talking about her through the night, as she turned out to be quite a source of entertainment. Ultimately he shot her down, and she seemed a bit pouty. Given she was drunk by the end of the night I'm sure she has no clue how embarrassing she was, and she probably doesn't care. But watching Mandy in action was worth the price of admission and the perfect cap to one of the more surreal days I've had in many, many years.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Soul searching (unedited)

I still feel guilty that I have so little appreciation for this past Christmas. I should be thankful for all the blessings I have, and I am, but somehow that doesn't keep me warm at night.

So yesterday I began my adventure to Florida. I flew standby thanks to Monica, and although my travel to south Florida didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked, I made it to West Palm Beach around midnight. Three hours later I was arriving in Naples.

Spending several hours waiting for an open seat at the Newark airport gave me a lot of time for soul searching. If I was to tell Rush this, he'd probably comment about how the exercise took me 20 seconds or that I probably failed to find anything during my search. But having a lot of time to yourself, not knowing when or if you're flying to south Flordia, turned out to be too distracting to work on my "Snakes on a Sudoku" puzzles or read a book. I worked on the puzzles for a while, but ultimately I would end up pondering my life, and what it all means. I'm not sure I answered many questions, but I pondered quite a bit.

As if I hadn't had enough time for that at the airport, I drove for about two hours to get to the resort. I enjoy being out on the road, I wish I could spend more time and money on the highways of life. It's often a great experience. I miss making road trips to Michigan to visit Roast Beef. If I manage to live past 58 and can actually afford to retire I doubt I'll be buying an RV and driving around the country, I'll be too old and cranky for long days on the road, I'm sure. I have to find ways to do these things now, while I still have a good heart and energy.

Driving down the east coast of Florida wasn't that exciting. Highways at night in Florida aren't much different than anywhere else in the country. When I reached Alligator Alley, however, and started heading west to Naples, I got a charge out of that. As soon as I hit Allegator Alley it was noticably different from my journey down the Florida Turnpike.

There were plenty of lights, billboards and businesses along the turnpike, but Alligator Alley offers almost none of that. At 2 a.m. there aren't a ton of cars crossing the southern portion of the state, there are few exits and few signs of life in the form of billboards or gas stations across Alligator Alley. There's a sense of alienation while driving across Alligator Alley at night.

I haven't driven through the desert between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, day or night, but from the descriptions I've heard, driving across Alligator Alley overnight is a lot like driving through the desert at night. Given the millions of people who flock to Florida for retirement, and the millions more who flock here for warm weather in the winter, it seemed odd to be driving for 80 miles through the state and see so few signs of life, relatively speaking. But the open road, the general darkness all around me, the techno music on Y100 from Miami and a little fog here and there made for an enjoyable trek to Naples.

Despite all the uncertainty and doubt I dwelled upon in Newark, driving across Florida was a nice contrast, full of optimism and hope. I already know I can't repeat 2007, but at the end of the year I can say I'm better off than I was at the start of the year. And that's something I have to build on, it's the only way I'll survive.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

All I want for Christmas... to forget it happened.

I’m a lousy human being, I must be.

I had so little lust for the holidays this month that I don’t deserve to live. Most people enjoy the holidays, even if they don’t have a lot to be grateful for. I don’t have an embarrassment of riches, but I have enough that I should be grateful, yet instead of grateful all I have been is slightly annoyed by the holidays.

My brother has had to adjust to dividing his holiday time between his family and his wife’s family. I don’t have that problem, and for that I should be grateful. My friend Chuck has lamented the pilgrimages she and her husband have made to spend time with both families. I don’t envy that. Nice problem to have, but I don’t envy it.

I have a Christmas Eve tradition I’m less than enamored with. I buy one or two final gifts during the morning, stop by Doug’s house to drop off a cheap gift that either his family – or at least his children – will enjoy, then head to mom’s house so she can go to the earliest Christmas Eve mass available.

I have to be at her house so I can stay with my sister, who gets kicked out of her group home on Christmas Eve so the group home staff can have the night off. I don’t mind doing it, but it seems like it has become a tradition, and while some people love tradition, the thought of making the pilgrimage to mom’s house each Dec. 24 for the next 10 years is not particularly appealing. If the ghost of Christmas future was to visit me tonight and show me I’d be spending my next 10 Christmas Eve’s that way I probably wouldn’t handle the news too well.

I also tend to spend Christmas Eve at mom’s. After dinner I watch TV and go to bed, rather than drive home, only to return in the morning. During this Christmas Eve I had to make an evening journey to the gas station, as I have a bad rear tire that has a slow leak, and since I can’t get it fixed until the 26th I have to fill it a couple of times a day to avoid it going flat. As I drove up University Avenue to a gas station I passed a bar that appeared to be open at 9:30 p.m., which surprised me since 99 percent of bars close on Christmas Eve. I was very tempted to stop in for a few drinks. I could have used them.

I should be grateful that I can count on having dinner on the 24th at mom’s house and spending time on the 25th with my extended family. Some people have to compromise during the holidays, some people don’t have the luxury of going home, wherever home is, and some people don’t have much family to spend the holidays with. One of my former co-workers only has a twin brother to spend the holidays with, so Christmas is a highly pointless time of the year for him. A lot of people would envy my situation.

And why shouldn’t they? Not only did I have family to spend the holidays with, Monica stopped by my mom’s house so we could exchange presents. The fact that I warrant time for her to stop by my mom’s house during her Christmas day travels should be enough to make the day worthwhile. It was definitely the highlight of my day.

So why would I prefer to forget today? In addition to my lack of enthusiasm for Christmas, I crunched my mom’s car.

We gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house. Mom asked if I’d be willing to drive. I accepted, without hesitation, despite the fact that it was snowing and the roads were crappy. I’ve driven through such crap for years, I wasn’t concerned.

We had almost made it to our destination when I slid into the back end of a Jeep Cherokee. We were off the freeway and within a mile of our destination when I pulled into a turn lane. Everything was fine as I slowed down, but when I needed to stop behind the Cherokee, the car wouldn’t stop. We slid right into it. I angled the car a bit so that I crunched the corner of mom’s car. It wasn’t a high-speed crash, but the headlight of her car versus the corner bumper of the Cherokee was hardly a fair fight. Thankfully my aunt and uncle’s Cherokee only has a minor scrape to the bumper. Yeah, that’s right, I rear-ended my relatives.

At the gathering, everybody noted “that’s what insurance is for,” and God knows my mother can afford the insurance deductible, but it’s four weeks before she leaves for two months in Alabama to celebrate her retirement, and now she has to deal with the hassle of getting the front end of her car repaired. Nobody was hurt, but that seems like little consolation tonight. It’s hard to enjoy your evening after a stupid crash like that.

All I wanted was to get through Christmas and move on with life, now I’ll never forget it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Back in time (unedited)

I’m not part of a blogosphere, but the one blogosphere I’m occasionally tuned into has a new “meme” circulating. (I still don’t understand the how and why of the term meme, even after trying.)

Members of the Wand of Wonder have been tagging each other to write a letter to their 13-year-old selves. I wasn’t tagged, so I’m not going to write that letter, but I did think a lot about what I would write if I could actually deliver a letter to myself way back when. The purpose of the meme seems to be to review your life since age 13, and write about what you’ve learned since that time, usually revealing things that a 13-year-old version of yourself would never expect. I’m looking at the exercise from a far more practical perspective, obviously.

And I’m assuming that if I am writing a letter to myself at age 13, it would be delivered in an envelope. That’s crucial to what I would do.

My letter would explain in careful detail to 13-year-old Fonzie that the letter is coming from Fonzie circa 2007. It would also contain a separate letter stating “do not open until your 21st birthday.” Why?

This is where the “Back to the Future” mythology enters the picture. Knowledge of the future, and changing the course of human events, will alter the future. We learn that over and over in the trilogy.

Let’s say I write a letter to my 13-year-old self, telling young Fonzie about all the good times and bad times that are forthcoming, all the things I did or didn’t do. Chances are that would greatly alter the course of my life, and my life as I know it today would cease to exist. In theory my new life would be better than the one I have now, but there’s no guarantee. That’s a gamble I’d be willing to take, but cautiously.

One Wand of Wonder blogger gave his 13-year-old self stock tips. The right stock tips and other information would easily alter the course of his life, perhaps for the better, but there’s no guarantee.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t want to arm myself with profitable information, but if I had that information at age 13, as soon as I was able to put that information to use, whatever age it turned out to be, my life would change forever. Perhaps I’d go on living the same life for years, never taking the stock tips seriously until some time in my 20s when I realized how valuable the information is.

I wouldn’t want to take the risk that I’d never go to college. That would definitely change my life dramatically.

But if I waited until my 21st birthday to provide young Fonzie key information, I’d likely have made the same choices up until that point, never knowing how the content of the second envelope would change my life.

So why 21? A couple of reasons.

When I turned 21 I still had nearly two years of college to go. My last two years of college were a great experience, but I’d give myself a lot of advice about how to shape my future beyond college.

I was working on the college newspaper during my final two years, preparing for a career in journalism. I wouldn’t tell myself to abandon journalism and the newspaper, but I’d strongly encourage myself to get a second degree in business or something broad like that, and I’m spell out compelling reasons to pursue a career in something other than journalism. I don’t hate what I do, it’s just not rewarding enough at this point in my life to want to do it all over again.

I’d suggest to my younger self that there’s nothing wrong with spending a sixth, or even seventh year in college pursuing another degree. I really enjoyed the last two years of college, and while there’s something to be said for moving on and joining the workforce, if I needed to hang around school for another year, it’d be worth it.

I would also spell out a detailed plan on how I could finance a year or two of college without living like a poor college student. I’d detail a plan of how I could take a marginal amount of money and parlay it into a modest nest egg for a year or two. I’d spell out how I could go to Las Vegas for a week and bet a modest amount of money on a series of sporting events, turning it into more cash than any college student should have.

I’d limit that information, however, giving myself just enough information to build a two-year college nest egg. I’d detail the plan very carefully, provide plenty of cautionary advice and make it clear that there’s a finite amount of information available, and that if I screw it up, I’m stuck living like a poor college student and doing things the old-fashioned way. If I gave myself the keys to success for a lifetime of gambling I am sure the riches of excess would get the best of me at that age, and I’d end up paying a high price.

All of this assumes that my visiting Vegas at the ripe young age of 21 and betting hundreds of dollars on any one sporting event wouldn’t somehow affect the outcome. That’s a risk I’d be willing to take.

I’d also limit how much I could win in my first trip to Vegas because I wouldn’t want to deprive myself of the experiences of working for a living. Jobs suck, bills suck and life is hard, but I know I wouldn’t handle an embarrassment of riches at that age. Today I’d be just fine. At age 21, I’d have one gigantic party, but I wouldn’t trust myself to do the right things.

I wouldn’t limit myself to one trip to Vegas as my lone source of easy income. I’d also provide myself with some investment advice to help make sure as I worked for a living I was setting myself up for a very early retirement.

And I’d probably include one more letter within that second letter. This letter would read “do not open until Dec. 25, 2006.” That letter would contain a few more stock tips and several sporting event results, along with a lot more advice. I figure by 2007 it’d be OK to have a little more info for easy money. Presumably I will have worked hard in life up until that point.

So why not give myself the bonus information in the letter I open on my 21st birthday? If I had that info then I’d always know I could fall back on easy money if all else failed, and perhaps I’d drift through my 20s and 30s haphazardly.

There’s one other reason I’d encourage myself to wait until I’m 21 to open the second letter. Assuming I lived my life the same way while holding the contents of an unknown letter, I’d still end up going to the same college, meeting the same friends and doing the same things I did for the first 21 years of my life. If I never went to college, I’d never meet several people I still count as friends today. I’d risk those friendships by pursuing a different career in my 20s, but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice them outright by changing the course of my life in my teenage years.

But there’s one drawback to that logic. Everyone I count as a friend since graduating college would likely never make my acquaintance. I have several friends through my years in journalism, and although none of them are people I spend a lot of time with socially, I’d never have any of them as friends, I am sure, and that’s a sad thought.

Would it be enough to stop me from sending a care package to a 13-year-old Fonz if actually presented the opportunity? That’s a tough question. If I said no, would that make me a heartless person?

It would have been a lot easier had I simply been tagged and told to play along with the meme, but the easy way isn’t always for the best.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Relatively painful

My mind is working overtime these days, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. I must have one of those trendy attention deficit disorders, because sometimes there’s so much on my mind it makes my head spin.

Perhaps reminiscing about my family dinner from Saturday night will take my mind off bigger and better things. Somehow I doubt it, but writing this is the equivalent of a cheat sheet. When the next family get together rolls around I can look back on this and remember a few of the factoids I gathered at the 2007 Christmas gathering, as well as the excruciating pain of attending one of these events. I exaggerate, slightly. (Mom called me very cynical.)

This is your final warning: entertainment value of this blog may be rather low.

For 17 years my mother’s extended family has held an annual holiday dinner at a restaurant. There’s a committee of about five people who organize it. Not that it takes five people, but when you have five people to organize the date and location, mail out the invites and collect the payments, nobody has to do any real work.

The family comprises my grandfather, his siblings and all their descendants. That’s a lot of people.

My grandfather was one of 13 brothers and sisters, if I remember correctly. (Each year I try to learn something about my heritage, and although I typically do, I’m not learning much, so even after all these years, I know very little.) My grandfather is the only one still alive, that I know. He just turned 80 this fall. He was younger than most of his siblings. I know he had one younger sister, and I think there was another sibling younger than him.

Regardless, he’s the only one left. Amongst the siblings there have been 38 offspring. That’s an average of just less than three children per sibling. When you factor out the brother who was killed during World War II and the sister who was mildly retarded, that ups the average to nearly 3.5 children per sibling.

Grandpa was awfully busy in his lifetime, from the age of 19 to about 37. He and my grandmother, who died five years ago, had 10 children, all of whom are still alive and live in Minnesota. Of the 38 offspring, my grandfather is responsible for more than 25 percent. He was the man!

Four of the 38 offspring have died, I learned, so there are 34 potential cousins in the pool. For my mom, nine of those 34 are her siblings, so that means she has 24 living cousins on grandpa’s side. Oy! I thought having 12 cousins on mom’s side (11 living) was a lot.

My mom actually gets together with some of her cousins periodically, so these folks aren’t foreign to her. But they’re all Greek to me, except for the fact I see them once or twice a year. I’m starting to learn who a few of them are, not that it gets me anywhere.

My grandfather, being younger than most of his siblings, has nieces and nephews who are close to his age. My mom is the oldest of grandpa’s 10 children, so many of her cousins are younger than her, but some are older. And naturally many of these 34 cousins have children and grandchildren, but the offspring don’t seem to attend. A few do each year, but the annual group is primarily a portion of the 34 living cousins and their spouses. I’m not sure, but I think I was the third youngest person in attendance. So why the hell am I there if nobody else is representing the grandchildren? (One of the two who I think was younger than me may have been a great grandchild of the original 13…she had to be.)

I end up sitting around, talking a bit with my aunts and uncles while pretending to remember people I have allegedly met during previous gatherings. I recognize a few people, actually, but don’t ask me to name them. Yet they all know, somehow, that I’m the newspaper reporter.

I deliberately arrived after the social hour so I didn’t have to engage in chit chat. I sat with my mom, one aunt, three cousins and one spouse of one cousin. (I’m not sure which member of the couple was the cousin, but what does it matter?)

Conversation included discussing my Uncle Bill at the next table. Uncle Bill brought a woman he has been dating for a few months. He met her through the internet, and tales of people meeting people through the internet ensued. My mom, curiously, failed to note that it was the very same internet that led her other son back to Minnesota, and eventually the altar.

Somehow I was roped into this conversation, to which I did my best homage to Homer Simpson? “Do they have this internet on computers now?” I did, however, express mild interest in the concept. “If this internet ever catches on, I’m going to have to look into it.” This was the point where mom dubbed me very cynical.

I think the two female cousins that weren’t with a spouse are single, although I’m not sure. At least one of them is, as the female member of the couple at our table asked one of these other two women if she was a cougar, and then asked if she had heard about cougars and proceeded to explain what the term means. There went my appetite for the $34 dinner I had yet to be served.

I did meet Uncle Bill’s new lady friend. She’s nice, and she use to live in my newspaper coverage area, so she knows the local political players and some of the happenings in my stomping ground. I bet we talked for about 15 minutes, the least painful 15 minutes of my night. And it all happened thanks to this fancy intronet people keep talking about.

I think I’ll be busy setting my hair on fire when this holiday dinner rolls around next December.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The best is yet to come

I have a great blog topic, a fabulous one, but it will have to wait for a while. Instead I’ll have to pen a few random thoughts and be satisfied with that for now.

1. On Sunday I stopped at the gas station. As I was pumping gas a car pulled up on the other side of my pump. The driver caught my attention as he exited the vehicle. I didn’t see him, I heard him, and all it took was three words to get my attention: “Suck my balls.”

I leaned over just a bit, as I had to sneak a peek at the driver. When I did, I noticed that there was a woman sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car. I assume he was speaking to her. The tone of his comment wasn’t the least bit jovial. It’s not as if he was saying, “You want to go home, get drunk and have sex? Oh, suck my balls!”

I immediately wondered why this woman was with a guy who spoke to her like that. (I assume she was a wife or girlfriend.) What a way to live. I don’t know much about domestic abuse, but I know that in some cases it’s not that easy to get out of an abusive relationship, for one reason or another. Or perhaps she was perfectly happy with her relationship, what do I know?

Immediately after the dude was done telling, presumably, the woman to suck his balls, I heard him say something like, “If you f---ing touch that I will kill you.” Was he talking to the woman? Nope, he had opened the back door of the car. A young girl, probably 3 or 4, emerged from the car and must have spotted something on the ground that aroused her curiosity. So she was impolitely warned not to touch it. That made me sad.

This young girl was quite use to such treatment, evidently. She didn’t seem phased by the threatening tone, she simply responded by asking a question.

I couldn’t help but wonder, in retrospect, which will happen first: she’ll be pregnant; she’ll develop a drug problem, she’ll end up in juvenile detention. I can’t imagine this poor girl is going to grow up to be a successful, happy high school graduate.

Perhaps I’m overreacting, but I don’t think so.

2. My cousin was showing some of her jewelry in an arts show earlier this evening. The show features artistic items of all sorts, from pictures and paintings to pottery and jewelry. My cousin has been a jewelry designer for several years, so it wasn’t a surprise she was showing a few pieces of her work.

What surprised me is the fact that she teaches a jewelry design class at the arts center that hosted this show/sale. It’s not surprising that she teaches her skill, what surprised me is that she has been teaching at the arts center for six years. She teaches one night a week, it’s not her regular job, but somehow I never had a clue.

It makes me wonder if I’m really that out of the loop regarding my extended family or if it’s simply dumb luck that the topic never came up in any conversation I’ve been a part of. Or perhaps I knew this once, and I’m simply a victim of my bad memory.

Whatever the case, I have to believe several of my relatives were invited to the show. I’m not on a short list of relatives to invite, that much I know. And although I wasn’t there for a majority of the show, I was there for a while, and as far as I know I was one of two relatives who made an appearance. The other was my uncle, my cousin’s father.

A Thursday night arts show in the far west metro isn’t the easiest thing for everyone to squeeze into their schedule, but I managed to do so. Not bad for a guy who gets a bum rap for not being more involved with his family.

3. Two weeks ago tonight I was sick. Since then I have been congested. It has been worse, not better, in the past few days, so I went to see the doctor today. He determined I have a sinus infection. I’m not sure I’ve ever had one, at least not one that has been diagnosed. Now I get to take amoxicillin for 10 days.

I was highly unimpressed with the service from the pharmacy of my local Target. I don’t think I’m going back there for my next prescription, but they put my pills in the cutest little red bottle. And at least I had an excuse to buy more bottles of 9-cent mustard!

4. I’m having another bonfire on Friday night. It’ll be me, Doug and perhaps one of his friends I’ve never met. It’s not a social event, it’s just an excuse to enjoy a crisp autumn evening, a few drinks and burn a few more cards and letters from my past. At the rate I’m going I’ll be having a bonfire every weekend for the next six months before I finally sort through all my stuff.

I may be slow, but I know that once the ball gets rolling, that fire is going to burn out of control.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And I like it

I'm not going to start posting links to cheesy 80s songs, but I can't stop listening to this song at work.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The bonfire of my vanity

So on Saturday afternoon I had a bonfire.

I had the bonfire for a few reasons. Initially it was intended to be a ritualistic burning of the past 30-plus years of my life. I’m not going to burn everything I own, but I have to get rid of stuff, stuff that I don’t need, and more importantly, I don’t want.

But I can’t burn it all. I have far too many baseball cards to just throw away, even if collectively they’re not worth a hell of a lot. But I couldn’t care less about 99 percent of them. If I kept just a few cards from the entire collection, I’d be happy. The same goes for the years worth of comic books I collected.

Collecting baseball cards and comic books kept me from developing a teenage drug habit, I argue, but in the end all I have is a lot of dead weight I’ve been hauling around for years. I’m not going to burn my collections, but I’m going to find a way to get rid of them this winter, one way or another.

As a kid I loved collecting crap. As an adult I hate it. I’d love nothing more than to have a lot of space and a lot of disposable income to collect all sorts of cool stuff, but I don’t have either, so perhaps that’s part of the reason I lost a lot of my appetite for collecting. I’m not the same person I was as a teenager. Hell, I’m not the same person I was five years ago, for better or for worse. (I’d like to think I’m on a road for the better, but the jury is still out.)

There are a lot of things I don’t need any more. I have several shoe boxes full of old cards and letters. Somehow I was convinced I couldn’t throw away those generic birthday cards my relatives signed on an annual basis. There was sentiment in them, after all. But somewhere along the line I realized that the burden of keeping generic Christmas cards outweighed, literally, the sentiment behind them. It was time to move on. I’m living for the future, not the past, after all. I can’t hold onto everything from my past, otherwise I’ll be burdened with it in the future.

Some day I may be old and tired, longing for memories of my youth, wishing I had held onto all those cards and letters, all the comic books of my youth. But I hope that day never comes. I hope I’ll be able to keep making memories rather than be relegated to living through them. Sure it’s nice to look back at pictures of friends and family, but I don’t need pictures to remind me of my adventures bicycling the MS 150, I need the energy to keep doing it year after year. And if the day comes that I cannot bicycle 150 miles during the second weekend of June then I hope I’ll be doing other things to enjoy life, not sitting around reminiscing about what I did in my youth.

Although I didn’t sort through all of the old shoe boxes prior to the bonfire, I sorted through about half of the collection. I kept a small stack of correspondence from my closest friends, including my childhood friend in Indiana, whom I hear from once a year. I ditched short notes from my grandmother in Chicago, including one with a racist comment in it. (Grandma spent her entire life on the south side of Chicago, long before there were “civil rights.”) I got rid of almost every birthday/holiday card I was given. I burned letters from grade school and college friends I have completely lost contact with. I burned letters from people I struggled to remember.

I glanced at some, I read a few, I disposed of most of them. In some cases all I had to do was see the return address and I knew it was going right in the burn pile. I read a few of those forgotten missives before they went into the fire, but I had no regret about burning them. I burned cards and letters from the early 1980s, stuff I hadn’t looked at since that time. And what little of it I did look at did little for me. Sure I may have jogged a memory or two by reading all those old cards and letters, but I have plenty of memories as it is. I’m more interested in making new memories, not reliving the memories of the past.

I also burned a few other things that I have been hauling around in boxes for years, but I have a long way to go. I have a collection of newspapers from my first professional job, all 14 months worth. I’m going to go through them some afternoon soon and find the most memorable and amusing articles from that point in my life, clip them out and recycle the scraps.

I have copies of miscellaneous newspapers I have collected from over the years, newspapers from cities around the country. I have newspapers from random states I have visited because I always thought it was cool to compare and contrast the newspapers of yesteryear. It still is, but I no longer have the interest or space to hold onto copies of the Houston Chronicle or the Orlando Sentinel from 10 or 15 years ago. That collection of newspapers, some probably 25 years old, will be offered via Craig’s List to a new owner. Somebody out there will want them, and I’d like to see them find a better home than the recycling bin.

Other things aren’t likely to have any value to anyone else, and will end up in a future bonfire if necessary. I’m not getting rid of everything. I still need my bicycling and camping equipment. I still want my Halloween decorations, even if I didn’t get to use them this year. But it’s time to stop pretending I’m going to play broomball again. It’s time to stop pretending I’m going to really learn how to ice skate. That equipment has to go, one way or another.

It’s hard to let go, but it is harder to hold onto the past.

'Cause yesterday's got nothin' for me, old pictures that I'll always see. Time just fades the pages in my book of memories. – from “Yesterdays” by Guns ‘n’ Roses

So although I didn’t burn as much as I would have liked, I started, symbolically, to sever ties with my past.

But simply having a bonfire to burn a few faded memories wasn’t enough. I had to make it an event of some sort, so I turned the bonfire into a social gathering.

Since my apartment is too small to host a social gathering I took advantage of the bonfire as a way to gather a few friends from the various circles of my life. I’m not sure what inspired me, but I realized that because many of my friends have children it’s not easy to have a social gathering unless the children are involved. So I invited friends with children to join me for an afternoon of gathering around a pile of burning wood, with the occasional memory tossed in for fun.

I had juice boxes, Halloween candy and smores for the kids, a rather simple activity with prizes and a complimentary bottle of mustard for each family. Children ranging from 5 months to 11 years old attended, along with their parents, for a few hours of socializing. The kids created their own fun, thanks to the random stuff they found in my landlord’s vacant lot next to his house, and only one child ended up crying. I think I ended up with 11 children making an appearance that afternoon.

I was busy making smores, helping kids find miniature flying discs hidden in the trees and, occasionally, chatting with the parents. Three hours were over before I knew it.

The event started out as a way to burn off a lot of excess crap I don’t need. It turned out to be a social gathering for several of my friends. As I’ve said before, my friends mean the most to me in this day and age, and I hope that Saturday afternoon’s social gathering will serve as a reminder of that fact as I continue to sift through boxes of crap I haven’t touched in years.

But until then I’m content with the thought I had as I reflected upon the day that was in my crappy old bed late Saturday night: I am a great guy. And obviously humble, too.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

58 is enough

Sometimes I think I’d be happy to die at age 58.

Chip and I have talked about this a few times, and neither of us came up with enough reasons why we’d want to live to be 88 years old. (Ironically I once thought I wanted to live to be 107 years old.)

Disease and illness is a part of life for the senior population. Nobody lives to 75 without health problems. If you can get to 58 without cancer or a nasty disease, you’re lucky. What are the odds you will dodge those bullets for another 10 years?

By the time you’re 58 you’ve already been through something, most likely. And even if you’re in good shape, doctors will be probing your prostate and putting you through other uncomfortable tests. At that point it’s only a matter of time.

People can still live healthy, productive lives when they reach 70, but no matter how well you treat your body, old age is going to take its toll. Sure, I’ll still have hair if I’m alive when I’m 77, but I’ll have old man skin, breasts comparable in size to that of a high school girl, although not nearly as perky, and a collection of disposable diapers for those moments when the old man’s body has an involuntary spasm. Ooooh, sign me up for that program!

And let’s be honest, there’s a reason they don’t have strip clubs featuring dancers over 40. You may be old, but if you’re not dead chances are a near-naked 21-year-old at the shopping mall is going to register the last sign of life below the Mason-Dixon Line, not the 75-year-old widow eating prune pudding for dessert at the senior center lunch program.

There’s nothing I want more than to be some cranky old man watching young hotties flaunt their bodies, reminding me my best years are long gone. Chances are I’m not going to be as successful as J. Howard Marshall, so there’s not going to be an Anna Nicole Smith to feed me pureed meals in my old age.

In a perfect world a 58-year-old guy will have a wife to grow old with, enjoy the sunsets with, discuss colonoscopy results with and perhaps visit grandchildren with. Last I checked the world isn’t perfect.

When the last pope, JP2, died he was 84. I was 34 at the time. The thought of another 50 years of life held little appeal to me, especially if my final years are comparable to JP2’s final years. That guy knocked on heaven’s door seemingly every other year, yet repeatedly managed to rebound. I was sure that guy was going to live another five years when he finally cashed in the communion wafers.

But the thought of another 50 years, oy ve! I wasn’t sure I had the energy for another 34 years, let alone 50.

I think it was at that point I determined 58 was a decent age. You start to become an old man, but if you take decent care of yourself, you’ll be OK. David Letterman reminded me of that not so long ago. When I realized he was 60 and looked decent for his age, 58 seemed about right.

If you can dodge a lot of significant health problems by 58, you’ve had a good run, and chances are the odds will catch up with you beyond that point. And if you’ve had more than your share of health issues at that point, chances are you’re not going to be magically healthy beyond that point, so there’s not a lot of reason to hold on.

While I have thought about this far too much, it’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m not going to take a flying leap off the Golden Gate Bridge on my 59th birthday. It’s not up to me to decide.

While I agree that life is too short, unlike an aging athlete trying to hang on in the 59th minute of his playing career, if I make the most of the time I have on this planet, would I complain if I go out with a little left in the tank? Well no, I’d be dead, how could I?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Seven nights of Fonzie: Night 8

The “Seven nights of Fonzie” blogs are unedited before a live audience.

On the seventh day, the Fonz did rest. But I have one more thought I need to dwell upon, if but for a minute.

So as I mentioned, I recently read one man’s thoughts about the meaning of life and it got me thinking about the meaning of my life. Perhaps that’s what started this whole ball rolling, and woke me up to the fact that I haven’t done enough with my life in the past two years.

While I don’t know what the meaning of my life is, I’m not going to worry about it. If I’m meant to be a husband or father, I will, I am sure of it. If I’m meant to spend my life serving others, some day I will. If I’m meant to spend my life doing what I have to do to get by, and enjoying the ride as often as I can, so be it. I have some long-term plans for my future, some of which may be realized, some which inevitably won’t. But I’m not going to worry about the future at the expense of the present. There has to be a balance between the two, certainly, but now that I have a plan in place for a better future, I can’t keep my life on hold. It has been for a year, and although I’m not completely satisfied with where my life is today, if I wait until my life is perfect, I’ll never start living. And life is too short for that.

And with that the Fonz will take a few days off before returning to regular blogging, whatever that means.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Seven nights of Fonzie: Night 6

The “Seven nights of Fonzie” blogs are unedited before a live audience.

There are plenty of things I need to do with my life, that much I know. It has been two years since I made a major decision to not just go through the motions of life, but to appreciate it, to value it. I have done things in recognition of that, but not enough to be satisfied with the end result.

But even if I push myself to do things I want to do, be it playing a guitar or running a marathon...even if I find a new job that not only pays my bills, but allows me to see and do things I wouldn’t dare think about today, will it be enough?

It wasn’t long ago I read one man’s pondering about the meaning of life. And even if I know that it’s the people who choose to share my life that means the most to me, what should I be doing with my life? Is acting upon that knowledge enough to satisfy me in the long run? Will I ever know inner happiness? Will I ever be able to let go of all the regrets, disappointments, losses and frustrations of life and be happy? If there’s a pill offering it, I’d take it in a minute.

I don’t sit down every night and meditate, I’m not a philosopher, I’m not sure I’m even a deep thinker. I’m probably not even the smartest guy in the room, and I’m the only one here.

I don’t weigh myself down with the subject. I don’t curl up in the fetal position in the corner of my storage room/living room every night, mumbling to myself.

Yet I can’t help but wonder, after 37 years, will I ever find a life that not only trumps life’s disappointments, but also makes me happy to have it? I’d like to hope so, but I don’t even know what that life is at this point. And the sad part is that I’m no closer to solving that equation than I was two years ago.

It doesn’t matter what it takes, I have to find it, or hope it finds me. Either way I hope I know it when I find it. Perhaps then I’ll know what the meaning of my life is. And maybe I’ll be so damn happy I’ll look back on this time and laugh. I know I’ll be thankful to finally reach that point.

It’s time to go off into the night, to live another day and to get that much closer to whatever it is I’m destined to find. I’ll have to give this topic a little more thought. There may not be a lot more to say this week. On the seventh day, Fonzie may rest.

Seven nights of Fonzie: Night 5

The “Seven nights of Fonzie” blogs are unedited before a live audience.

What have I learned this week? I have to make some changes in my life, because I’m not doing enough with it. I need to find an artistic outlet, other than writing, which hardly feels like art, and I need to change career paths at all costs, because I’m not doing myself any favors.

So what else is there?

Well, there’s at least one more thing I need to do, and it’s probably the biggest challenge facing me. I don’t even like thinking about it because I don’t know if I can push myself to do it again, or if I can realistically expect to accomplish the goal within the next year. It’s time for me to run another marathon.

I ran one, if you can call it that, in 2000. Doug and I trained for it and put forth a modest effort. We didn’t join a running club or training program and we didn’t research training regimens. We just tried our best to work up to a marathon distance in time for the Twin Cities Marathon. I was well conditioned to run 16 miles, but I didn’t have what I needed to run 26 miles successfully. I finished, but it took a little more than 5 hours to complete. Doug and I didn’t plan on running together the entire time, but we did, for the most part.

I knew I wanted to do it again, armed with better knowledge of what it takes to succeed, but somehow I never found the inspiration. I’d like to see if I can finish a marathon in 4 hours, but more than that, I’d like to simply do it again. Yet I don’t know if I have the commitment and drive. That’s a goal I will have to ponder further.

They say nobody runs only two marathons in their life. Some people run one, are satisfied with achieving their goal and never run another one. Those that decide they have to push themselves to try a second time don’t usually stop after two because they become hooked by it.

Decisions, decisions. As it is, I couldn’t run a mile right now to save my soul, no matter how many miles I have bicycled. I think the hardest part about running a marathon is having to start from scratch.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Seven nights of Fonzie: Night 4

The “Seven nights of Fonzie” blogs are unedited before a live audience.

The problem with writing unedited blogs is that it exposes how lousy my writing can be when I try to let the thoughts flow freely. Sure, I back up mid-sentence and change my sentence structure, but once I’ve moved on, it’s too late. But making sausage ain’t exactly pretty.

I’ll be pretty busy most nights, beginning next week. In addition to my occasional weeknight newspaper assignments, I’ll be working harder than ever to find a new job. I look for a new job occasionally, but I have to find a new job soon. I’ve been told by more than one person that being unhappy with your employment situation has an influence upon other aspects of your life, and that’s logical.

My former co-worker, Keri, bounced around a bit since leaving our prestigious company a year ago. her first move wasn’t satisfying, so she tried something new. She ended up on a wild ride before finally landing a job that seemed unorthodox for her, but she’s very happy with it.

Sometimes I wonder why I haven’t made something happen, why I’ve penalized myself by toiling for the bastards that I do.

Moving to Minnetonka wasn’t what I was planning at the beginning of the year, but the experience has slowly helped me wake up and evaluate my choices, or lack thereof, in recent years. My life has improved since I moved in April, but not enough to make me happy. I’ve known for a long time that I’ve hit the point of diminishing returns at the newspaper, I wish I could turn back the clock, but I can’t. All I can do is ensure the bastards stop stealing from me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Seven nights of Fonzie: Night 3

The “Seven nights of Fonzie” blogs are unedited before a live audience.

I’m not sure I want to admit to my family that I value my relationship with my friends more than that of my family. In reality members of both groups would go out of their way for me if I needed the help, I have no doubt about that. And I don’t expect to be relied upon by my friends as I expect to be relied upon by my family. I have no regrets about the fact I’ll be the one who is responsible for my mentally retarded sister some day, assuming we both outlive our mother. I guess it’s good to realize I’ll be important to my family in the years to come, but somehow the relationship I have with my family isn’t the same for me as it is for many others. That doesn’t make it wrong, but it’s unorthodox, and it sounds wrong.

As I noted previously, I need my friends more than they need me. Most of my friends have gotten married and have children. They have other priorities, and that’s how life is, but I don’t, really.

I have made new friends over the years, but I don’t have the same kinds of friendships I had in college or in the years after, before everyone was married. I have done a lot of things to keep myself busy over the years, and it seems like it’s getting harder, not easier, to keep up that pace. Whether that’s true or not, I need to find new challenges to keep from stewing in my own juice.

I promised myself in 2006 I would push myself in new directions, because I wasn’t going to keep living my life the same way I was as of Oct. 7, 2005. In a few ways I have done that. But not enough.

I will be working plenty of extra hours on the weekends this winter, because I not only want to pay off some bills, I want to pay for a trip to Florida for my cousin’s wedding. I’m going to be busy, and I have more bills than I need, not to mention an expensive car repair forthcoming, but despite all that, I need to do things for me, whether it’s trying something new, doing something I wouldn’t normally do or learning something I am too lazy.

There will never be a good time to start, and I wish I would have pushed myself 10 years ago when I toyed with the idea, but it’s time to learn how to play the guitar. Not because I’m planning to be in a band some day, not because I want to perform for others, but simply because I don’t pursue creative outlets. As far as I can tell, I suck at them all, so there’s no logical one to choose. But I have often regretted I never had the patience or the interest at a young age to learn a musical instrument. I have regretted it for years, but no longer. Better late than never.

It’s going to be a bit tricky to make a lot of progress this winter, not only because I’m working every weekend to pay my bills and future expenses, but because I’m going to be busy many weeknights, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Seven nights of Fonzie: Night 2

The “Seven nights of Fonzie” blogs are unedited before a live audience.

While I liked the title of this blog series, I’m not committing to a seven-night run. If I have done everything I need to do after four or five nights, I’m done. If it takes eight or 10 nights, so be it. The goal is to write every night for the next week or so.

When Rush and I were discussing “The Bridge” on Monday at lunch, a documentary about people committing suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, he said that no matter how bad things were in his life, and there have been times where things haven’t been too magnificent for him, he has never found that all the negatives in his life overpowered his desire to experience the good things life has to offer.

I had already been pondering the purpose of my life when we had this conversation. I’ve been doing that for a couple of weeks now. I’m not sure if I’ll ever decide what the purpose of my life is. I really should, shouldn’t I?

The purpose of life is different for different people. Some just want to cash a paycheck and live it up on Friday night. Some want to raise a family and experience the joys that brings. Some want to spend their life making things better for others, directly or indirectly.

What is the purpose of my life? I have an idea, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to answer that definitively.

But what joys are there in life that I look forward to? What is it that I look forward to in life?

I bicycle every summer, I have for years now. Most years I participate in some sort of fundraising event, a test of endurance and fitness. I haven’t always been motivated to do so in support of a cause, it’s just a nice byproduct of my effort. I do, however, feel like I have a greater level of commitment to Multiple Sclerosis in recent years. I use to ride the MS rides simply because they were well done. Now I ride them because I have a friend whose brother has MS, and that makes me sad.

So I look forward to the challenges of bicycling, for the most part. If that was taken away from me, that would be hard to live with.

I go camping every Memorial Day weekend with a trio from college. There are a couple other camping trips in addition to Memorial Day weekend that occur most summers. I rarely miss one. I miss my mother’s birthday some years because of my Memorial Day weekend camping trip, but I always make that trip, and typically find time for a couple of others.

There’s not many specific dates, but I enjoy the chance to get together with my wide web of friends, from Tes, whom I’ve known for more than 20 years but only see once in a great while, to Scott and Kristin, whom I’ve only known for a few years, but see as often as anyone.

It sounds heartless, but I value my friends more than my family. I am not the black sheep of my extended family, but I’m not the most connected, either. I try to be. Nobody would think poorly of me if I didn’t fly down to Florida at the end of the year for my cousin’s wedding, a wedding most of the Minnesota relatives won’t be attending. But the chance to be at a family event with my relatives has never been a question of “if I can make it,” but rather “how can I afford to do it.”

I don’t live that far from my mother, but I saw her maybe once the entire summer. She keeps quite busy, as do I, so it didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. Perhaps I take it for granted that she’ll be around a long time.

My brother lectured me about not being more involved with our family, and I still have an issue with it, but rather than hold a grudge, I’m trying to let it go and be a little more involved with my family. I may not be calling my mother on a weekly basis, but I have always shown I care, even if I’m not calling and dropping by every week. (I bet none of them realize how often I made a point to visit my grandfather in the first months after my grandmother died. I lived close to him at that time, so that was part of the reason I visited him as often as I did. I don’t need credit for it, but sometimes I get a bum rap. Life is too short to care about that.

I probably make more effort to stay in touch with my friends than I do with my family, I’m sure of it. And there’s a good reason. My friends choose to have me in their lives, my family, by default is stuck with me. My mom doesn’t owe me anything, and I’m certainly grateful for all she has given me. My friends, however, don’t have any obligation to me.

I have a relatively meager life, not entirely by design, I haven’t done enough with my life to be happy with where I am today and I wonder if I’ll ever be one of those dynamic people everyone marvels at. I know I’m not satisfied with everything I’m getting out of life, I’m not sure if I will figure out how to be. But none of it matters, because the thing that pushes me to keep going in life, even when I have a hard time pushing myself, is that I have friends who value me half as much as I value them.

There’s so much I can, or want, to do with my time, but all of it takes a back seat to the time I share with my friends, whether it be camping with them, (and their children,) in Wisconsin, bicycling with them around Minnesota or sitting on their boat while they fish.

They are the reason I am here, I am sure of it.

Seven nights of Fonzie: Night 1

I think too much, and I haven’t bicycled as much since the end of August as I typically do in the fall, for a combination of reasons. Bicycling gives me time to do a lot of thinking, so perhaps it seems like I think too much these days simply because I’m not doing it as naturally, while chafing my ass on a bike seat.

So after my lunch conversation with Rush today I decided it was time to sort out my thoughts. I decided the way to do it is this way, through blogs. I am calling this the “Seven nights of Fonzie.” I’m going to blog every night, not necessarily before I go to bed, about what’s on my mind. I’m going to do it until I make a couple of key decisions. I think I know what those decisions are likely to be, but I can’t say for sure. This will help me get there.

As I was driving to a meeting, I deliberated whether or not this was an exercise worth posting. Why not just blog in a text file that I never publish? Well, for starters, the jukebox is highly anonymous, at least for now. I don’t post anything, and I mean anything, that I wouldn’t want my friends or family to read. But do I want my friends and family to have access to this blog some day? I don’t see why not, should they be interested.

One thing I struggled with today, why not keep a private journal instead of a public blog? Wouldn’t I write things I’m feeling without having to censor them? Of course, but I’ve rarely been interested in writing anything that personal. I once thought that would be helpful, but it wasn’t. It didn’t make my life better, it just provided a painful reminder that my life wasn’t getting better. I burned that notebook and have never regretted it.

Posting my thoughts for the world to see in theory will create greater accountability for my life. That isn’t exactly true. I posted my bicycling mileage periodically, knowing I’d have to push myself to beat the 2,120 miles I pedaled last year, but I’m not even going to get to 2,000 this year. Perhaps seeing my blog and being reminded all winter that I failed to meet last year’s total will inspire me to greater success next year.

It’s not fun looking back at failure, so by that logic I hope my next several nights of writing will serve as a reminder to me this coming winter, as I continue to push myself in some way, shape or form.

My ground rule is simple. No editing, and I mean none, other than a simple spell check at the end of the night. If I don’t catch a grammatical error along the way, I cannot change it later. If I don’t like something I wrote, I cannot go back and delete it later. I can amend my statements in future blogs, but other than letting the computer fix my spelling, I cannot go back and censor my writing. It’s not a rule to foster my laziness, it’s about honesty.

Several things have been on my mind lately, and I’m not sure how far back I want to dwell. That may work itself out naturally. For now I’ll dwell on something recent, “The Bridge.”

Rush and I both enjoy documentary films. Rush is a bigger movie buff than me, but we’re both interested in documentaries and question the how and why of them. Why did the director deem the topic worthwhile? Why did he focus on these elements of the story? Why didn’t he address these topics? What is his bias? What did he leave out in an effort to convey the message he’s trying to convey?

We got on a documentary kick last winter. I don’t watch many movies during bicycling season, so I’ve only seen one documentary in the past several months, until I rented “The Bridge.” (I’m on a free month of rentals thanks to Netflix.) I had heard about The Bridge last year, and the controversial nature of the film. The director spent a year filming footage of the Golden Gate Bridge from the shores of San Francisco Bay. His camera operators were watching for suicide jumpers. They’d focus in on lone individuals who would pace the bridge, stare out into the bay for extended periods of time, etc. They never knew who the person was or if they were about to witness a suicide jump, but they captured several of them, as well as some aborted efforts.

If I remember correctly, there were 24 suicides off the bridge in 2004, the year of the film. (Three bodies were never recovered.)

I never realized that the bridge was an attractive destination for suicide jumpers. I never thought about how devastating a jump off a high bridge was. Once you reach a certain speed, hitting the water is still going to do a lot of damage to the body, I suppose. I don’t know how most people hit the water, but anything other than feet first, straight as an arrow, is sure to mess you up good. They never explained what exactly kills people when they jump off that bridge, which was one of many shortcomings of the film.

And they interview a young dude who survived a jump. He was injured, but somehow he was able to survive the impact and reach the surface. He was in a bit of distress, and could have easily drowned, but he thinks something helped keep him afloat at the surface until a rescue boat arrived. He thinks sea lions recognized he was a human in the water and circled under him, somehow helping keep his body at the surface. He remembers something brushing up against his body at some point. He talks about his experience in the movie, although they don’t have footage of his jump.

So I watched the flick a week or so ago and gave it to Rush. He watched it this past weekend. We talked about it over lunch, discussing what we found interesting and lacking in the film. We wondered how many people go out there, take a look down, ad realize they don’t want to jump. We also wondered how many people climb over the railing and onto the support beams below, only to be talked off the edge. (There’s a pedestrian sidewalk across the bridge.) The film shows a couple of people who climb over the railing and contemplate jumping, only to return to the sidewalk. Do these people know they’re not going to do it, and subconsciously go through the motions as a cry for help? I can’t imagine they calculate these steps as a plan to get attention, but who knows?

One woman wasn’t talked off the edge so much as she was pulled off. A guy taking pictures on the bridge was approaching the woman as she climbed the railing. He took pictures of her in action, including standing on the edge. As he approached her, taking pictures, he started talking to her. He couldn’t quite convince her to willingly climb back up onto the sidewalk, so he reached over the railing, jeopardizing his own safety, and grabbed her clothing near the shoulder. He pulled her and lifted her up, eventually getting her over the railing. She didn’t fight him so much as she seemed to simply resist his effort. But in a spectacular fit of strength, he pulled her up to safety. The documentary cameras caught this scene in action.

There was so many questions I wish the filmmaker would have answered. Instead the film was dedicated to the stories of several people, most of whom were dead. They captured spectacular footage of a guy finally plummeting to his death. Well, I guess the footage wasn’t spectacular, it was the way the guy went about his jump that was different than most. His friends and/or relatives, like others they profiled, were interviewed for the movie.

As Rush and I talked about the movie, its flaws and its accomplishments, we talked about the courage it took when standing there on the bridge, preparing to jump into the unknown. I don’t know if that’s a word either of us used, but to me it does take courage. Some argue you’re a coward if you kill yourself. I think it takes a lot of courage, unless you’re in so much pain it’s hard to get through five minutes of your day. It’s courageous to stare death in the face and then meet your maker. Your life may be a mess, but there are many things you know, even if the future is unwritten. When you jump off that bridge, you’re facing a far more uncertain future. Chances are your life is over. What then? Nobody knows exactly what awaits them, if anything, in the afterlife.

And if it’s not the end of your life, will you be able to walk again? Will you be a human vegetable?

Rush put it best when he said that he’s never considered suicide. He said that no matter how lousy things have been, he has never wanted to stop experiencing the joys life has to offer. That was one hell of a powerful statement, and it got me thinking about the joys of life. I will ponder those further for night 2.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My personal mantra

I know it's rare for me to post a short blog entry, but miracles really do happen!

I didn't coin this phrase, I learned of it in a story about a minor league baseball player who died about 10 years ago. I failed to find the story during an online search a few years ago, and that makes me sad. Nonetheless I have a dog tag that says the following, and I consider it my personal mantra, although most people don't know it:

"If today was the last day of your life, is this how you want it to be remembered"

Plenty to see

A few random facts before I start the writing process:

• Michael Jackson’s best work as a solo artist came before “Thriller.” While I enjoy the song “Human Nature,” SWV’s Human Nature remix of “Right Here” trumps Jacko’s cute little ditty.

• The only Beatle I have seen in person is Ringo Starr, and I’d pay money to see him again.

• I bypassed a chance to see the Black Crowes tonight, and I’m sure I’ll regret that at some point down the road.

So I spent my Tuesday evening watching a lot of visual entertainment. Part of me feels like a waste of flesh, but I also vowed to tackle a fresh, new and exciting personal project this winter, starting in November, so I can forgive myself for a night in front of the television.

Amongst the visual entertainment I enjoyed:

I watched “How to Lose Your Lover,” a chick flick. I rented this movie solely because if features Jennifer Westfeldt of “Kissing Jessica Stein.” She’s hard to resist, yet far from a sexpot. I can’t explain it, but she’s scrumptious. I have to start watching “Notes from the Underbelly” on ABC, or has it been canceled? She’s in it, that’s all I know.

The movie wasn’t the most entertaining chick flick on the video store shelves, but it was amusing. I’ll watch her as Jessica Stein another 100 times, however, before I’ll see How to Lose Your Lover again.

I also watched the second day of Drew Carey’s tenure as host of “The Price is Right.” There’s a website devoted to every facet of TPIR, but I don’t frequent it. I did, however, learn from another game show website that the debut of Drew Carey as host of TPIR was actually the seventh episode he taped. The popular theory behind the logic is that since every contestant won the top prize in his/her game, it was a good episode to lead off the Carey era with.

Since there are no returning champions or other criteria to require presentation of the show in the order in which it was taped, it is easy to present the episodes in a random order.

I still stand by my argument that in a year Carey will be a natural as a host. But until then it will be a bumpy road viewers will travel. Carey’s performance in episode 2 was better than episode 1, for what it’s worth, but I’ll spare further commentary on TPIR for a while. Even I am sick of dwelling on it.

Tuesday night also offered a comedic treat. Richard Simmons was a guest on “ The Late Show with David Letterman.” Simmons and Letterman are a great comedy duo. It’s a shame Simmons hasn’t been a guest on Letterman much in recent years, but every time he is, it’s damn funny. If they sold a DVD of Simmons’ appearances on Letterman, I’d buy it in a New York minute.

I laughed several times during Simmons’ appearance tonight. I think my favorite moment was when Dave said something like, “I’ve stopped trying to figure out the shorts and the tank top, but what’s the deal with the oil?”

Letterman’s comment that Simmons is the only guest in 26 years to appear on his show in shorts and a tank top, and the fact that the outfit hasn’t caught on as a fashion statement, was probably the second best moment of the night.

And finally: I tuned into part of the NBC prime time interview with Utah Sen. Larry Craig. I should write an entire blog topic about how ridiculous the hour was, but I’ll stick to brief comments about it.

First off, it’s sad that an ass clown like Craig is such a national media phenomenon. But I’m as guilty as much of America, I’m enthralled by his story.

But I do not think that the Craig saga is worthy of national attention. It’s a sad indictment of broadcast journalism that Matt Lauer’s interview with Craig and wife was worthy of prime time exposure. There’s no chance this topic would be covered in prime time if NBC doubted it would be a ratings bonanza. It’s the same as the “To Catch a Predator” broadcasts, the shows are about ratings, not news worthiness.

Lauer’s interview was weak. Most of the time he allowed Craig to paint himself as a sympathetic victim. Yeah, right, a guy who has been dogged by rumors of homosexual tendencies for 25 years was just the unlucky victim of an airport bathroom misunderstanding. Sorry, Larry, my odds of hitting the Powerball jackpot are better than the odds of you being mistakenly caught in a gay sex sting.

It was highly entertaining to hear the jackass say, several times, that all of his actions – including the initial arrest and booking, keeping the incident a secret from his family for two months and his guilty plea that became public knowledge – were a mistake. The guy made more mistakes than a blind driver on Ventura Boulevard. What a complete ass clown!

I do give props to Lauer for asking Craig if he was bisexual. (Craig said no.) That has been my contention all along, Craig is not gay, as he claims, he is bisexual. Lauer asked a few tough questions, but his interview overall let Craig paint himself as an innocent victim. I highly doubt that’s the case. I don’t know what’s most pathetic: Craig painting himself as a victim, his wife standing by her man or me watching the interview as I made my dinner.

But the ultimate slap in the face is that after an hour of this crap, more than enough time for Craig to state his case, NBC will share more of the interview during Wednesday’s “Today Show” broadcast. Yeah, right, an hour wasn’t enough time to share all the noteworthy nuggets from the interview. How despicable. Lauer should be ashamed of himself, but I’m sure his fat paychecks pacify him. I’d question who combs his hair in the morning if I doubted that he can look at himself in the mirror, but there’s no question he sold his integrity years ago.

I’d like to think I’d place a higher value on my integrity, but honestly, if I was offered millions to compromise my journalistic integrity, I couldn’t resist.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A work in progress

Two random facts to kick things off:

• Tom Green is an ugly son of a bitch who has no business being a celebrity.

• “Paradise City” by Guns ‘n’ Roses is my second favorite song of all time. The opening 19 seconds is probably my favorite 19 seconds of music.

The wait is over, the Drew Carey era of “The Price is Right” is here, and it’s a work in progress.

Game show geeks across the country have probably been debating the new era of TPIR on message boards for 13, 14 hours now. I’m not interested in that, but how can I resist blogging about day 1? I can’t.

Previews of the new season showed that the set was redesigned slightly. It’s the same basic set, but the colors and graphics are different. (Word is that the set is now mobile, or more so than it was, meaning they could potentially take the show on the road for a week or two to cities around the country.) I wouldn’t call the new look updated, as the set still has a retro feel to it, but it’s different. The new look still pays homage to the most recent edition of the show, but the look of the show evolved under Bob Barker’s reign, so it’s not illogical to tweak the design with a change in host. Hell, “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” have undergone changes over the years, it’d be foolish to expect TPIR to look exactly the same when a new host takes over.

Besides the cosmetic changes it sounds like they made minor updates to much of the music during the show. It’s all recognizable, but it seems to be updated slightly, which is fine. (Although for my money they’ve never improved on the theme music for Wheel of Fortune, although 99.9 percent of Americans wouldn’t have a clue what the original theme music was if Chuck Woolery started dancing nakedly to it in the confines of their bedroom, but I digress.)

Here’s a brief list of my complaints about Drew Carey after day 1:

• He’s not a natural at hosting a game show. When Barker started, he already had experience as an emcee. Carey had recently hosted a few episodes of “Power of 10,” but that’s it. I don’t consider his stint reigning over “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” to be a traditional emcee gig.

• He seems too amused by the contestants. He doesn’t have to come across as better than them, but he doesn’t have that professional, detached air about him.

• He references the announcer multiple times, and refers to that announcer, Rich Fields, by his first and last name. That makes him seem like a guest host rather than the “star” of the show, and he is introduced as the star at the opening of the show.

• He likes to address the models by their first name, as if they’re regular members of the show. Maybe they are, but when Barker stopped banging the models, suddenly there was a revolving door of models. (That’s been the case for about the past eight years.) Some of them hung around for a few years, but you never knew which models you would get from day to day. For some reason Carey’s referencing models by name seems out of place.

• His transitions in and out of segments are weak. They’ll get better with time, but right now they suck.

• It will take a while to learn how to talk about every one of the 70-plus games authoritatively, but his inexperience providing commentary during game play is painful. TPIR rubes can tell you all sorts of trivia about the first game ever played under Barker’s reign. Carey’s first game was “Money Game,” where you have to pick the first pair and last pair of numbers in the price of a vehicle from a board of nine sets of numbers. Carey never referenced the game by name, which looked rather amateur to me.

While Carey’s first day as host fell short of a train wreck, it wasn’t good. It’s not as if the guy walked onto the set cold and had to nail it without rehearsal, so he should have been slightly more polished than he was.

I give him props for not trying to be a comedian. The show’s format doesn’t emphasize that skill. He can interject a little comedy now and then, as Barker did, but he’s not hosting a late night talk show.

I also appreciate the fact that the show doesn’t ignore Barker’s legacy. The studio in which the show is taped was renamed the Bob Barker Studio several years ago. They refer to it by name in the opening of the show.

The final game of day 1 was “Barker’s Bargain Bar.” They didn’t rename the game, or eliminate it, which I appreciate. Carey made a joke about the game’s namesake, but the fact that they didn’t detach the show completely from Barker, at least initially, is a classy touch.

Overall the show needs a lot of work to achieve the polish and shine it richly deserves, but for now I can live with it. I realize it’s a work in progress, and I’d rather have the show on the daytime schedule than see it go away, no matter how long it takes to get it right with a new host.

Heck, I’m wondering if it’s time to make a seventh appearance in the studio audience. Eventually they have to call my name, don’t they?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I didn’t see it coming.

I spent a lot of time running around this past weekend, and I learned a thing or two along the way.

I started my Halloween job last week. (It’s my second year on the job.) I guess you could argue the two hours I was paid to sit through a tedious orientation the previous week was the start of the job, but the actual Halloween attraction opened to the public on Friday evening, and I spent the first of 10 nights as a “mad doctor.” I’ll spare the details of the experience, particularly since I blog about them elsewhere.

So I get home Friday night and manage to keep busy for a few hours, doing what, I don’t recall. I intended to get up bright and early on Saturday, take care of business and head to the Minnesota State Fair grounds for the big annual comic book convention. I like to pay homage to my past by reminiscing in a room full of comic book geeks. I also can count on running into a couple of friends when I’m there, friends I don’t see that often through the year for one reason or another.

One of those friends, Pat, has been selling off a lot of his unwanted collection the past couple of years through a small dealer’s table at the show. So I try to help him for a few hours by watching over his table while he takes a break or peruses the merchandise.

But I had to be at the Halloween gig at 2 p.m. Saturday, so that meant I wouldn’t have a lot of time to offer Pat on Saturday. Since his wife is home with the children during the weekend, he has nobody else to help him out, therefore I have taken it upon myself to be his unofficial employee.

I intended to get up bright and early on Saturday, but I overslept. I needed the sleep, evidently, and that put me way behind my personal schedule, which included purchasing Diet Pepsi at Target and buying birthday cards for two people, including one whose birthday is the same day as mine. When I finally arrived at the convention I had at most an hour to offer Pat, which he was more than grateful for, primarily so he could visit the restroom.

I was late to work on Saturday, but I really didn’t need to be there two hours before my attraction opened, so it was no big deal.

I arrived home at midnight Saturday and sat down to write for a while. I spent far too long writing e-mail and updating my Halloween blog. Sometime after 2 a.m. I started sifting through boxes of my old comic collection, looking for a few things I could add to Pat’s tables on Sunday. He always offers me the chance to do so, and I figure I might as well make $20 for the trouble of being there.

The problem was I spent far too long reminiscing as I sifted through boxes of unorganized comic books. I couldn’t remember why I ever decided to buy some of the stuff I did, forgot I even had some of it and wondered what I should try to unload. I wasn’t bringing a ton of stuff, but I wanted to pick out some odds and ends that had a snowball’s chance of selling.

The next thing you know it’s 5 a.m.

So I go to bed, knowing I want to be at the convention before it opens to the public at 10 a.m.

And miraculously when the alarm sounds at 8:30 a.m. I get up and get moving. I was sure I would instinctively go back to bed and oversleep, but I didn’t.

I had to bypass breakfast at Burger King in order to make it before 10 a.m., so I settled for an aging banana as my lone source of nourishment for the day, unless Diet Pepsi qualifies as nourishment.

Pat and I both spent some time walking around the convention during the day, but we spent a lot of the time at his tables, catching up on all sorts of topics. I’ve known Pat for about 20 years, and whenever we sit down we talk for hours. Despite living about 20 minutes apart, we only sit down once or twice a year.

The convention ended at 5 p.m. Sunday and I was intending to be there until the end, more or less. My friend Monica had offered to get together for dinner on Sunday evening to celebrate the one occasion I ignore for the most part, my birthday. She suggested a St. Paul area restaurant, as that’s a relative midway point between us.

I wasn’t clear what time we had settled upon, so I called her on Sunday afternoon to confirm that we were still on for dinner and at what time. I said I’d like to stay and help Pat load up his stuff, even though he wasn’t expecting it. I asked if we could meet at 6 p.m. instead, and she hesitantly said OK.

Not long after I got a call saying that she couldn’t change our reservation from 5 p.m.

I found it odd that we even needed a reservation for a Sunday evening at this restaurant, let alone we couldn’t change it that late in the afternoon, but I never suspected anything was up.

While I intended to get to the restaurant about 5 p.m., I was a little slow getting my stuff pulled together and out to my car. During my last trip into the convention I stopped at the restroom. As I was leaving the restroom Pat was coming toward me, motioning me toward the door prize table. For about one second I thought he had big news for me.

As we reached the table, he said something like “meet the new owner of this computer.” I don’t remember exactly how he said it, but it was clear he was implying that he was the new owner, not me.

A fancy computer system was donated to the show, and entries into the drawing for it were $1, with the proceeds benefitting a charity. We each bought one chance, and he was the winner. If it wasn’t going to be me, I’m glad it was my friend. But for one second I thought I had a kick ass birthday present.

So I finally depart the convention and head south through St. Paul. I call my friend because I’m running late and I want to make sure she’s there. She is and suggests she’s sitting in the bar getting drunk. I’ll spare the details of the five-minute comedy of errors that resulted in me crossing a bridge twice to get to the restaurant, a bridge I didn’t want to cross once because I was on the right side of the river to begin with!

Once I get to the restaurant at about 5:20 p.m. there’s no sign of my friend at the bar, so I start to wander through the restaurant, looking for a small table with one woman sitting at it. I’m not finding any single diners anywhere, and as I walk past a couple of groups I hear my name called out, much to my surprise.

Monica, it turns out, had contacted a few of my college friends and arranged a dinner get together, which is why we couldn’t wait until 6 p.m. to begin. It was JayHawk, German Bear, Doug (the famous trio from my annual camping trip to Wausau) and their wives. Doug’s two children joined us, but JayHawk’s son stayed behind in western Wisconsin as did German Bear’s four children in suburban St. Cloud.

To say I was shocked was an understatement. I had no clue anything like this was being planned.

The dinner was a rather routine birthday gathering of friends. In this case the friends have all known each other for years, and while we all see each other in some capacity or another, it’s rare when the four of us from college and their three wives are in the same place at the same time.

Monica didn’t go to school with us, but I’ve known her since college, when Doug and I met her. So everyone in attendance knows her, too, although I’m the only one she sees with any sort of regularity. While Doug and I stopped to visit her on the way to Wausau in May, I’m not sure how many years it had been since he had last seen her prior to then.

I was running on fumes by dinner, but that was easily forgotten once I got there. I was overwhelmed by the fact that my friends had gathered on my birthday. I’ve never had any sort of surprise birthday gathering in my life, and I certainly didn’t expect it this year.

I wouldn’t say my life was forever changed as a result of that dinner, but at a co-worker’s wedding on my birthday two years earlier, I made a life-changing decision. Sometimes I wonder why I made that decision. Dinner on Sunday night reminded me why I did.

So how does a guy wrap up a birthday spent with comic book geeks and some of his best friends? He goes home, watches his anemic Chicago Bears pull off an improbable comeback in the second half of their Sunday night football game in Green Bay and then watches “Kissing Jessica Stein,” because nothing says “happy birthday” like a movie about characters dabbling in lesbian love.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The women I love

I had a revelation a couple of weeks ago. It may be time to add a new name to the list, for the first time in six or seven years.

At least I know I’m not dead, yet.

I never planned to make a list, it just happened. I’m not sure who made that list first, but I noticed many years ago that I was drawn to a couple of women in particular, Andie MacDowell and Drew Barrymore.

Sure I was hot for Vanna White back in high school, but perhaps it had something to do with all those letters she was turning. Had her career been as a TV newscaster I probably wouldn’t have been in love with Vanna back in the day. Chances are she wouldn’t have had me tuning into CNN on a regular basis. “Wheel of Fortune” came first, Vanna was a nice bonus.

But when it comes to my list, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the movies or television shows are. All that matters is that it’s another showcase of the women I love.

While I can still kick ass when it comes to solving Wheel of Fortune puzzles, Vanna fell off my radar years ago. But at some point after graduating college I became enamored with Andie and Drew, and that holds true to this day.

They were the first two women I was drawn to for their unrelinquishing sexuality, even when they weren’t playing it up.

Andie and Drew took very different paths to their careers in film, and have projected two very different personas, but I’ve been in love with both of them for years. (And yes, it was a dream come true in 1994 when they co-starred in “Bad Girls,” a lame cowboy flick.)

They’re two of five women that have made the exclusive list over the years. Well, two of four. No. 5 still has her membership pending, and although she’s late to the party, better late than never, I say. This is not a ranking, but rather a chronological recount, starting with No. 1:

I’m not sure when the first time I encountered Andie MacDowell was. It might have been “Groundhog Day,” a movie that cracks me up to this day. (I try to make a point to watch it every Feb. 2.) She wasn’t particularly stunning as a local television producer, but she left a distinct impression upon me, enough that I started making a point to check her out regularly. She mesmerizes me, I can’t explain it and at this point I couldn’t care less why she does.

At one point I’d seen all of her films, “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Green Card,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and even “Hudson Hawk.” At 49, she’s the oldest woman on the list, and as beautiful as ever. She has often been panned for her acting, and while she isn’t a critical darling, she’s not that bad. And recently I learned she has divorced her second husband, so the window of opportunity is open again!

It would be hard to pick between her and No. 2:

When Drew emerged from her drunken teenage years, she played edgy, troubled young women. The kind you wouldn’t want to bring home to meet your parents, but the kind you couldn’t resist, either. She graduated to mainstream flicks and a diverse body of work. She maintains her wild streak, but damn, she cleans up well.

For a few years these two were the only two that held the key to my heart, until along came No. 3:

I can’t explain why, but somehow I was captivated by Joey Lauren Adams when I first saw “Chasing Amy” more than 10 years ago. I had loved “Clerks,” so after suffering through Kevin Smith’s follow up, “Mallrats,” I went to see Chasing Amy the first chance I had in the Twin Cities. (I had been living in Canada at the time.) While Joey was in Mallrats, she had a small part in it, and didn’t really capture my imagination. But in Chasing Amy I was mesmerized. I saw it again at a budget theater and rented it twice before the end of that year. In the years since I’ve probably seen it another 10 or 12 times. (Ironically I still don’t own it in any format.)

I’ve seen almost all of Joey’s movies, some have been big budget mainstream flicks, some have been small, artsy flicks. She’s known for her slightly annoying voice, and it doesn’t bother me a bit.

I can’t explain why she fascinated me so in Chasing Amy. I don’t think I’m attracted to lesbians, although if I am, that could explain No. 4:

Piper Perabo is best known as the young, naive girl who wants to make it big as a songwriter in “Coyote Ugly.” Given that pop music is all about shaking the money maker, you can’t really fault her character’s wet T-shirt exhibitions atop the bar. Even though the movie was lame, it was love at first sight.

She has had a mixed bag of work, much like Joey and Andie. She has appeared in small and supporting roles in a few big budget flicks, such as “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “The Prestige” and “Because I Said So,” and has a lot of artsy flicks to her credit, many of those with significant roles. And in at least two of them she plays a woman with lesbian tendencies. She’s adorable.

So for several years it has been the four of them. Sure, there are plenty of beautiful women in entertainment, although Angelina Jolie does little for me. She’s not unattractive, but she doesn’t make my heart stop. That’s heard to do, VERY hard to do.

But a couple of weeks ago while watching Letterman he had a guest I vaguely remembered seeing before. She is by far the wackiest, but is vying to be No. 5:

Amy Sedaris, 46, has carved out a niche for herself during the past several years with her offbeat sense of humor and style. The woman is wacky. As I watched her on Letterman recently I was highly entertained by her sharp, eclectic wit. From there she went from being another pretty face to the latest object of my desire.

I’m not very familiar with her work, although I know I’ve run across it a few times. I think her most notable work is the television series “Strangers with Candy,” which spawned a prequel film by the same name last year. I have never seen the series, which ran on Comedy Central, but I know one film on my short list the next time I hit the video store. Somehow I have a feeling there’s going to be some lesbian undertone to the movie, I just know it. (Ironically I was dying for a “Kissing Jessica Stein” fix on my way home from a city council meeting tonight. That’s another DVD I have to finally buy.)

I have no idea what the story is behind the set of Amy photos I posted. When I did a simple Google search of her name, that was one of two images it returned. But let’s be honest, what’s not to love about a woman who rolls around in whip cream and sprinkles for a photo shoot. Can I get an “amen” people?