Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Merry Christmas, Bruce

I was luxuriating in bed this morning when my phone rang. I looked down at the phone and, not recognizing the number, I stuffed it under a pillow.

Ordinarily, I tend to screen phone calls from people I KNOW for various reasons (nothing sinister) but I always (and I do mean ALWAYS) answer numbers I don’t know because; what if its publisher’s clearinghouse calling to confirm that finally, FINALLY “Jlaay Ewwing” (me) is a real finalist? Maybe it’s someone calling me with their last breath to tell me a secret destined to make me wealthy! What if it’s an ex-girlfriend calling with groundbreaking news, or a secret crush finally revealing herself?


When it’s an unknown number, ESPECIALLY an unknown area code (oh glory!) – anything can happen. If it’s Dad calling at 6:30 on a monday chances are good he has one question - “want to eat out or scrounge for leftovers?” He’s not calling to let me know that Cindy Crawford called and wants me to call her back – I’m pretty sure of that. He claims that occasionally, but let’s face it – it’s never true; so I don’t get excited about it anymore.

THIS particular morning it was my friendly banker, Jeff, calling; so I called him back. I like Jeff, generally, and we normally chat for a second but today he just said “Hey man did you write 4 checks totalling $12,000 to a guy named Bruce?”

“Yea, it was for three mules and some really awkward yoga instruction” I said.

…..“Really?” He said.


The long and short of it is simply this: I just gave some guy named Bruce $12,000 and it’s not even Christmas.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The BoxerBrief Arson Squad

Ask someone what they think is man’s greatest, most groundbreaking, important invention and you tend to get run of the mill answers like "the wheel", "domesticated animals", "flight", "space travel", "irrigation systems," "the cotton gin", "electricity", "the peanut", and, occasionally, “the spork.” I tend to agree with the latter – why bother with a spoon and a fork, when you can have both in one hand? But lets face it - Carver didn't invent the peanut - he just figured out what to do with it, ok?

Continue asking for awhile and often someone will come across your bows with “fire!” Not bad, I think, despite the obvious truth that man didn’t actually CREATE fire, it’s still a good point – where would we be without it? Pick a product and work it backwards in your mind to its raw materials, then think about the process required to create it and, ultimately, fire is most likely going to play a part in there somewhere; except in beef jerky (man’s other most important invention) - no need for fire there – just the sun. Oops, wait – the sun is made of fire! Got myself stuck in a thought loop there for a second.

Hate it or love it, raw, hot, fire is a part of your life. Open up your heater tonight - what do you see?


What makes your car run? Gasoline? Nope. Not exactly. Fire.

I don’t know about you – but I’ve had a long and fruitful relationship with open flame. Campfires, fireplace fires, bonfire, lighters, fireworks, firearms - it’s a pyromaniac’s world out there and I bleed kerosene. Men are firebugs - it’s like a natural law. I think that’s why we like to have bonfires in the firepit at the Duderanch: they’re cheerful, tend to spur on great conversation, and they keep you warm. Plus, who doesn’t love burning aluminum cans? I know I do.

In fact, we had a great fire here on Thursday night. We told manly stories, had a few drinks, then called it a night. I put the grate over the pit about 11pm to avoid errant sparks and went to bed; smoke-cured and satisfied. This afternoon when I returned home from my last round of interviews I dumped the ashes and headed in the house to change. Ragone was loitering around on the couch and Austin was enjoying a light afternoon nap in his boxers.

I changed out of my suit and hung around my room for awhile in my boxers, then wandered in the den to check on Ragone. I felt a bit thirsty so I bypassed the couch and went straight to the fridge.

When I walked past the kitchen window I couldn’t help but notice that my entire backyard was engulfed in 10-foot-high orange flames.

Naturally my first instinct was to scream like a woman, which I did. This brought Ragone into the kitchen at a clip. He want straight past me through the screen door and began hopping up and down in the back yard spewing forth an ingenious litany of profanity so profound as to defy description. I swear to you the fire receded a bit in the face of his apopleptic fury.

I joined him for a second, then dove back in the house, woke up Austin with “GET UP THE YARD IS ON FIRE CALL 911” then dove under the kitchen sink for the fire extinguisher.

I couldn't figure out how to get the retaining pin out, so of course – I had to read the instructions. Bear in mind – we have a vintage 1993-yellowstone forest fire absolutely blazing in my backyard at this point and I’m hopping up and down in terror attempting to read fine-print.

I managed to figure it out, pulled the pin, ran out into the fire, and started spraying. Ragone went for the hose. Naturally, it was tied in a double bow, kinked in 14 places, and in the front yard – not the back.

We managed to get it working, but the fire was too hot – so Ragone and Austin started cutting a fire brake around the edges of the rapidly-spreading flames which, by this point, were headed directly for my house – on purpose, I’m sure.

I was engulfed in thick smoke trying to soak down the hottest parts, but over the crackling roar of the flames I clearly heard Ragone shout “f&ckity, f*ck, f@ck, d*mn, f*ck, sh%t, holy sh*t, its hot, oh its so d&mn hot, oh F*ck me, f@ck, d*mn that hose, d*mn you stupid f*cking, f%ckhead hose, horse’s @ss, son-of-a-b*tch leaves, Austin you f*cker give me that f*cking, d*mn rake!!!!!” Which, I have to admit was exactly what I was thinking. Then, mercifully, the first fireman showed up. Then another. After that a lady fireman ran up, looked at me condescendingly, and said into her radio “better bring up the big hose. Randy.”

Randy, who appeared to be about 17 and was apparently in training, trudged up with a gigantic fire hose and immediately began blasting water all over creation. It was at this point that I realized: I’m in my underwear and black dress socks, and my right sock is completely burned off except for the part around my ankle.

That might not sound too bad to you, initially, but let's back up for a second so I can impress upon you the gravity of this situation. Rewind, if you will to approximately 8:00AM this morning. I got up, took a shower and slid on my favorite pair of boxers. I then marched out of my room into the kitchen for a glass of water. Austin met me in the hallway and said "Hey man. nice boxers." I returned a congenial "Thanks! They're my lucky boxers!" - glad that he recognized how special those particular boxers were. He just grinned. Walking back from the kitchen I caught a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror and realized: the crotch of my lucky boxers is entirely gone. I'm wearing a swiss-cheese boxer skirt with holes in all the wrong places. I do not know how this happened, but it wasn't intentional.

My first thought was "let me change my boxers and throw these away. What if I find myself in a situation where someone might see my boxers?!" My second thought was "Nah. Who is going to see these boxers? These things are even MORE comfortable now - I'm going with it."

Perhaps now you understand.

I don’t know what it is about my life, but anytime something really out of the ordinary happens I always end up standing around in the yard in my underwear surrounded by strangers.

By the time it was all over – we were standing around in the mudhole that was my backyard with 9 firemen, one fire chief, two policemen, a paramedic, and two neighbors – all looking at me for an explanation.

I didn’t know what else to do, so: I offered them refreshments. They declined.

The fire itself was pretty memorable, in fact it may have been the single greatest happening of 2009 on River Springs court to-date; but the thing I remember most clearly was Austin K. Lee, who adjusted his white v-neck, leaned over to me and whispered “you know Jimmy, we have way too many stories that start with us all sitting around the house half-naked.”

Viva La Duderanch

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

25 Things About Me! NOT YOU!!! ME!! ME ME ME!! ME!!!

1. I broke the hubcap off my Uncle Buster’s truck in 1986 and blamed it on the hound dog, Barney.
2. My house has a name and everyone who lives in it eventually gets married and moves out…..except me. Which I think means I’m going to have to sell it and buy a new house that likes me better than my roommates. Stupid house!
3. On the way back from the deercamp one day I asked my friend Agador Spartacus (name changed) if he preferred sex or deer hunting. When we pulled in his driveway an hour later he was still working through the pros and cons; then, his wife walked out of the house and we forgot what we were talking about. That’s one of my favorite conversations EVER.
4. I want to go to Africa and hunt big scary angry things with claws and teeth and tusks, but I really don’t want to get eaten. “Eaten by something” is probably my second least favorite way to die – right behind “crushed by something.”
5. I am not afraid to hang big, mounted, too-large-for-the-room animal heads in my house wherever I feel like it and I’m going to keep it up; so get used to the idea.
6. Granddad gave me a cigar when I was 8 to prove the point that tobacco would make you sick and not to mess with it. I smoked it to a nub and asked for another one. Right then Grandma walked in and he got in trouble, then he got mad at ME for smoking a cigar. Hey, did you want me to smoke the cigar or not? Make up your mind.
7. I know my cousin Maggie harbors a long-buried desire to go hunting with the guys, but she refuses to admit it. Come clean, Maggie, and we’ll buy you a rifle.
8. I can hit a chimney swift, flying, with a .22 rifle and so can my cousin Seth; but we bet you can’t.
9. I shot a squirrel in the head (on purpose) with a pellet rifle at 97 yards and I have a witness. Actually, I have two witnesses: Seth, and the neighbor whose birdfeeder the squirrel was sitting on. Only one of the witnesses was impressed.
10. I am always ready to go on an adventure of any kind.
11. Aaron Harris is one of my most trusted confidantes and greatest friends. He snores and gurgles in his sleep like a wounded grizzly bear, but still has the audacity to complain about MY snoring. It’s our only regular area of personal contention.
12. Emily Jones is one of my best friends, ever, in the world, period. Sometimes I have to holler at her, then she hollers at me, then we go out for dinner and fight over the check.
13. I would trade the next 30 years for October 1989, Grandma’s house, and a red ryder bb gun sighted in just the way I like it.
14. If I could get any one thing to put in my yard right now it would an Olympic trampoline. I would set it up behind the house so that when I bounced just high enough my head would pop up over the roofline every so often and people passing by on the street would see me and freak out.
15. I can’t think of anyone I actually “hate” but I can think of a whole bunch of people that would be much better off on an island together…with no electricity…..or telephones…..or clean underwear….If we could wire all the houses and broadcast their antics on the internet – that would be even better.
16. Dairy products make me feel itchy and hot which leads me to believe that yes, I’m still allergic to them.
17. I recently conquered my lifelong fear of sour cream by accidentally biting into a taco that was absolutely slam-full of it….but the conquering nearly killed me.
18. I’ve chosen a life without motorcycles, even though I love them, because I know my limitations: one of them is an inability to NOT go fast on machines that are built to GO FAST. When confronted with temptation I always think “well, I’ll just hop on here and putt around for a second to get a feel for the road” then 20 seconds later I’ve got bugs in my teeth, one eye won’t open, and my brain is screaming “I BET IT WILL GO FASTER IF YOU JUST LEAN INTO IT A BIT.”
19. I got on the back of a waverunner once with a tall blonde woman and to this day I still hate…………waverunners.
20. I hate to love fishing because it alternately bores me to tears and thrills me to death. Fishing with me is like watching a horror movie - long periods of boredom and awkward social interaction punctuated by moments of sheer terror and glory.
21. Michael Brock, John Dickens, Cody Broome, my Uncle Robert and Aaron Harris have the best dating stories the world has ever known. I could tell you one of their legendary dating stories entitled “BoomBoom Boiler Room”, but I refuse to contribute to the downfall of humanity.
22. I slammed on brakes once to scare a date who wasn’t paying attention to the road. That taught me the important lesson that sometimes I think things are funny that other people don’t think are funny…ever.
23. If I had to list my top 1000 favorite things in life it would include everything you might guess and some things you might not, like: marshmallows in the microwave, gasoline smell, fire, The Ragone when he’s on his game, The Ragone when he’s way OFF his game, leather smell, Labrador retrievers, burned gunpowder, heavy recoiling firearms, driving, Strib Stribling and Josh Youssef (preferably together), the word “dillydally”, and beef jerky.
24. I once dated a woman whose perfume gave me a headache and made my stomach hurt. Then one day I realized: it’s not the perfume.
25. Austin Lee just walked into the room in his nearly-see-through boxers with his gut hanging out, stopped at the dining room table, tied Ragone’s necktie around his neck, then danced around the room singing “I could be a Chippendale, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.” Nobody seemed surprised.