Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Injustice On The Home Front

I saw a political program on TV the other day (I still call it a "program." I also refer to the fridge periodically as an "icebox" and the grocery cart in my lexicon is a "buggy." Sorry, I spent a very significant amount of time with my grandparents as a child.), and on this TV program a very red-faced gentleman was loudly discussing the obvious problems with a certain "advisor" to the President. Apparently, this "advisor" is a communist.

Sense the shock radiating from me right now.

I am no political animal, but I do know one thing: this country was founded on the sanctity of personal property rights. Its that simple. You can't take my stuff without paying for it, and I can't take yours, and if the government wants something of yours they have to at least pay you for it. Its not a bad system really. In fact, our system of property ownership is why Canada still has more ducks than people.

Everybody is so tightly wound about Mexican border transgressions too - I don't get it. I'm worried about Canada. The Mexicans just want a stable place to work and clean water; Canada is apparently siphoning away our entire healthcare system. If my fate is to be decided by a "Medical Death Board" 40 years from now and I hear the word "Aboot" issuing forth from the lips of someone ahead of me in the heart-transplant-line, I am going to be really pissed.

Go think about that for a second.

But forget about Canada and Mexico - we have a major issue right here at home. As of right now did you know that property rights don't extend to uncles, parents, and grandparents? Sure, thats a "special interest group," but its time somebody spoke out.

Growing up I generally assumed that anything of Granddads was mine, more-or-less by default. The basic reasoning is this: if he had known I had wanted it; he'd have bought me one. The fact that he had one and I didn't just meant that he didn't yet know I wanted one, hence he hadn't had the time to buy it for me. I often relieved him of having to make a second trip to get me one by simply purloining the item in question and appropriating it for my own use.

The same is true for parents and, most especially, Uncles. Uncle Buster crafted a monument to me in his garage. Its a two-story spiderweb matrix of broken fishing rods, fired shotgun shells, and empty packages of fishing lures woven together into the ubiquitious one-finger-salute...And thats just the stuff he knows I swiped.

The grandchildren in our family have so strained and warped Uncle Robert that he keeps most of Wal-Mart displayed in his basement against the possibility that we might come over. Just last week I walked in his front door to spend the weekend (I invited myself) and I said "Hey Robert. Whats up?" Without a word of greeting he looked up at me, wild-eyed, from his easy chair and slowly enunciated "D O Y O U N E E D A N E W S E T O F T R A I L E R T I E -D O W N S ??!!"

Actually, no. I took yours last week.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's Your Funeral

I’ve noticed in big families the accuracy of secondhand communication tends to fade a bit down the line. Take, for instance, the recent news that my cousin Burke L. Slocumb, IV (“Beau”) has gone and gotten himself affianced: I heard the news via Dad, who heard it from my sister. Presumably someone told her second-hand, having heard it from the walrus himself, so to speak.

Further complicating the chain of communication is my family’s general sense that one should never let something so trivial as “the truth” get in the way of a good story; so, by the time I hear of a particularly noteworthy family event it may or may not involve unicorns and the un-dead. Alternatively, the story could have been whitewashed and marginalized to protect various sources to such a degree that it only bears the most basic semblance to actual events. Either way – you’re looking at a loose fabric of truth knit together with strands of pure fabrication.

Concerning Beau’s new relationship status I was initially told only this: that Beau had taken his lovely girlfriend, Jessica Pitts, back to the scene of their first amorous encounter – a 9th grade Christmas dance at a local school. Upon arriving at the sacred location, he got down on one knee and, very romantically, asked for her hand in marriage. After she said “yes” and they tired of the sweaty parking-lot nuzzling that I’m sure took place immediately afterwards, they got back in the truck and went out for a nice dinner together.

Based on my subsequent inquiries: these details are at least rooted in the truth. However, if all you had were the facts, you may have lost a bit of the flavor of the actual event. See, what really happened is this: Beau picked Jessica up for a date in his diesel pickup truck with 375,000 miles on it and, instead of taking her to dinner, he rumbled directly on over to the building where their school dance had been held so many years before. Upon arrival, he immediately put on “their” song, got out of the truck, put his camo hat on, took a knee in the parking lot, and crooned “Jessica, will you marry me?” in his deepest southern drawl. He noticed a somewhat quizzical look cross her face, but she (quite unaccountably) said “yes.” They danced around in the parking lot for a bit (tough to do barefoot without spilling your Natural Lite), then they got back in the truck and drove to “Pig In a Pit” where they enjoyed delicious post-engagement pork meat products…..with Reid and Tripp; his hunting buddies.

Mid-way through her plate of roast swine, Jessica leaned over and said, “That was very sweet, but why did you ask me to marry you in the parking lot of a funeral home?”

Apparently, in his excitement Beau failed to notice that the site of the dance that spawned their budding young love had been sold….and is now a fully-functioning funeral parlor.

Monday, August 17, 2009


They tell me we’re in a depression. Apparently the housing market is in the dumps, your 401(k) is headed downstairs (if it’s not there already) and chances are good you might die soon; or at least if you haven’t – the likelihood that you will increases every day.

The country might not be completely depressed yet, but I know I am.

I didn’t pay much attention to what’s been going on in the economy until I started hearing a lot of talk about nationwide ammunition shortages; suddenly the entire country is up-in-arms about not being able to buy bullets and, generally, I’m on-board. I consider it my God-given right as an American to buy ammunition pretty much anytime or anywhere I please. I also expect to be able to buy bullets at variety locations like large gas stations and Target, and I'm always furious to find out that you can't. It really bothers me because I really can't "one-stop-shop"...ever.

I guess finding out you can't buy bulk bullets in the same place you buy bulk tampons probably shouldn't bum me out, but regardless; I DO empathize with the consensus that a shortage is a bad thing.

Naturally, the shortage hasn't affected me at all because I make it my business to NEVER, EVER be short on ammunition. Period. If I shoot one bullet over the weekend I’ll feel panicky until I have time to buy two more to replace it. I’ve been stocked up since 1989 and let me tell you: I was one very un-picked-on 9-year-old.

It upsets me a bit to know that you can find more .22 caliber ammunition in my dryer’s lint screen than in the average homeowner’s sock drawer (where bullets should always be), but at the same time I’m sort-of glad for that too - it means I have guns and you don’t.

The NRA really wants everybody to have guns....Not me! I don’t want you to have guns. In fact: don’t buy them - I’ll protect you! Or at least I’ll protect me from you when the zombies get to you first.

For these, and other reasons, the shortage didn’t really sink in until I went to Wal-Mart for critical survival supplies a few weeks ago, but it definitely came home to roost after that bleak experience.

Let me put it to you simply: Wal-Mart, last bastion of freedom, didn’t have ammunition. I mean: they had ZERO bullets. The ammo counter looked like a post-apocalyptic scene from Dawn of the Dead. If a tumbleweed had blown down the aisle next to me as I stared, slack-jawed, at the empty metal shelving; I wouldn’t have been more surprised. It was eerie. If you can’t understand why: go watch “Red Dawn” and see how you feel.

As I stood there, dumbfounded to the point of drooling, I noticed what looked to be a blood trail and drag marks headed towards a suspiciously full-looking duffel bag on the sporting goods aisle, but I didn’t investigate. Nope, I walked straight back out to the truck and checked for my double-secret-probationary stash of .22 rifle shells, then drove off.

I don’t want to spend weeks of my life waiting to testify over something like an Alpharetta zombie killing at Wal-Mart. I really just don't have time.

Dirty zombies.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ride The Lightning

I was lounging about the house reading the paper this morning when I noticed that Cabelas lists a fabulous sale price for a device called the "Thunderbolt" personal lightning detector in the "Bargain Cave" section of the paper.

I don't think I want one.

If I'm sitting in my boat, fishing, and my Thunderbolt Lightning Alarm starts furiously screaming at me - what am I going to do? There's no escaping a lightning strike - thats an act of God. There I am, sitting on top of 1,500lbs of plastic and metal, surrounded by electronic gadgetry and looking at 20,000 acres of nothing but water - if God wants me dead by lightning bolt, I'm ready. Lets do this thing.

They may as well bill it as a "God-detector", because thats basically what you're working on - figuring out if God wants you to die right away...or sometime later. And to be honest: I don't want to know, 10 seconds before I get hit by lightning, THAT I'M ABOUT TO GET HIT BY LIGHTNING! That sort of ruins the whole point of getting hit by lightning in my opinion.

I'm not exactly sure what the manual says to do if your Thunderbolt Alarm goes off (because even at $39.95 I didnt buy one - I bought a $90 tackle box instead that wasn't on sale); but I know whats going to happen to me - the same thing that ALWAYS happens to me when things go awry on a boat: I'm going to fall in. The alarm is going to ring and sploosh: I'm going over the side in a panic at high speed, and my pants are going to come off.

Then, because I will have forgotten to hook up the kill switch on the motor - the boat will keep going, run over me, and I'm going to drown. Why? Because I got hit by lightning? No, an electronic gadget cheated me of going out with a bang. Instead: I'm going to be the idiot that fell out of his own boat and let it run over him on a blue sky day....

....all because the "low battery" warning went off on his Thunderbolt Alarm.

Thats a big shortcoming with technology and scientists: they're obsessed with knowing ahead of time whats going to happen to us. The worst part is - they can't ever seem to figure out FAR ENOUGH ahead of time to do me any good. 10 seconds before my lightning ride leaves the station, I want to be thinking about how great dinner is going to be, or boobs, or something generally happy - not "The Lightning Bolt That Is About To Kill Me."

Come on guys. Build me a device that makes gum never lose its flavor, or brings Michael Jackson back from the dead, or something else useful like a real lasergun.

I bet you can use parts leftover from a Thunderbolt Alarm.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Pass To The Left

“Let’s go for a bike ride” Tyler said to me, grinning. “you’ve got a bike, right?”

No, I actually don’t have a bike at all; (yet another thing my 12-year-old self would slap me for) but I gave Dad one a few years back. I know where he lives; so I slid by his place one morning before he was up and I swiped it.

When Tyler arrived at my house with her nerdy blue Schwinn in tow – I initially felt a tiny shot of superior bikesmanship. My gleaming Novara Aspen (red) looked professional and neat. I may have even made a derogatory remark concerning “Wal-Mart” brands; but I was immediately put in my place with “Oh YEAH? Well you don’t even HAVE a bike. That bike is your DAD’S bike. You’re riding your DAD’S bike you big nerd. I have my own 18-speed MOUNTAIN BIKE!! All you have is your DAD’S BIKE!! HA!”

So much for brand names.

The big idea was to cruise down the Alpharetta Greenway bike trail (a paved two-lane “trail”) and enjoy a little metropolitan nature; not a bad idea I guess. I like nature. I like to be outdoors. But that was before I realized that my biking companion has absolutely no sense of proper bike-lane management, or any sort of serious views concerning the rules of the road. At one point she looked over at me, wrinkled up her nose, and loudly announced "My handlebars smell weird" - a clear violation of decent biking etiquette.

About 3 or 4 minutes down the trail, as Tyler gleefully whirled and wheeled lane-to-lane chasing butterflies, skipping cracks (you’ll apparently “break your mothers back”), shouting “HEEYYYY JIMMYYYY LOOK AT THAT THING” as loud as possible directly at terrified wildlife, clicking and clacking around with her gearshifters, weaving through groups of joggers, and generally making a biking hazard of herself; I realized: she is a 6-foot-blonde rolling missile, and I am a nervous wreck.

Every few minutes a grim-faced, humorless, “serious” biker would appear over my left shoulder, shout “LEFT!!!!” and thunder by in a loud WHOOSH, narrowly missing Tyler, The Helmetless Wonder, who was busy swerving in-and-out between the dotted marks of the centerline. At least half the time I don’t think she even realized she was being passed – or that she was in the wrong lane.

It was a scary experience; largely because I spent the majority of the time mentally preparing a cheerful voice to use when calling her parents from an emergency room pay phone; but also because: my biking skills have atrophied dramatically since 5th grade. I constantly felt like I was about to fall over and, for some reason, I have a greatly heightened sense of how much that is going to hurt.

When we were little you could bounce your face right off the sidewalk and, provided nobody was looking, climb right back on. If an adult was looking – and you cried enough, and the damage was bad enough, you might get ice cream out of a good crash-and-cry. At least, that was my general strategy.

Now that I write it all down on paper it looks like the strategy of a little fat kid; which may explain why Mom always dragged me straight to the “husky” section at Marshalls.

Biking, by today’s namby-pamby standards is a bit hazardous; but back then only the ultra-nerdy kids wore helmets. I homeschooled for crying out loud - and not even I had a helmet. If you wore a helmet, you may as well plan to sit in the street crying all afternoon because somebody bigger was definitely going to take your bike away and push it off into the creek.

NOBODY wore a helmet, but I don’t ever recall hearing about any major head injuries among our friends back then. I think kid’s skulls have gotten softer. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with America –all these soft skulled kids running around everywhere. At 4-years-old my cousin Beau landed updside-down with an entire motorized ATV on his forehead and didn’t even need stitches. If he didn’t need a helmet for that, you sure don’t need to spend the extra kwan on Styrofoam helmets for your nerdy little herd of sweaty human goats.

That’s another thing that bothers me – bike helmets are made of STYROFOAM. When was the last time you saw a NASCAR champ hop behind the wheel with his noggin wrapped in plain Styrofoam? Maybe it’s the best substance in the world for impact absorption at low speed; but you won’t catch me wearing it: way too flammable. It’s a legitimate concern, because if I fall off my bike at top speed you better believe something is definitely going to catch on fire.

And I lied: I DID have a helmet.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Imperialist Yogurt Mogul

“What is YOGLI MOGLI?” Tyler asked from beside me on the front seat of the truck. “Is it a Yoga place?”

“No, it’s actually a YOGURT place, but you were close,” I said. And I meant it. She was literally “close” – there’s a yoga place next door. Confusing, I’m sure. I'd love to see what sort of stampede goes on in that Yoga place everytime the UPS guy accidentally delivers candybar toppings instead of yoga mats.

To make it simple just remember, if you’re humorless, fat, sweaty and wearing spandex – you meant to go in the YOGA place, not the YOGURT place; and for the record if you add 6oz of crushed Butterfinger bar to 4oz of 98% fat free yogurt – it’s not fat free anymore, and you're eating "candybar" not "yogurt." Sorry, there’s no such thing as “magic”, and crushing up a candy bar so it can be “sprinkled” doesn’t change anything.

We decided to explore the bounteous goodness of Yogli-Mogli and take to-go cups home for after-dinner dessert with Dad and George (who, in the absence of Mom and Margaret, have taken to eating exclusively red meat at all three meals). The sign on the wall said “self-serve yogurt - $0.36 per ounce” which, to me, sounded reasonable. We filled up our three small pint containers, and sat them on the checkout guy’s electronic scale.

“Hey look we got 2.6lbs of frozen yogurt! I’ve never bought ice-cream by the pound before”, I noted, cheerfully, unaware of the disaster that would shortly befall me. The echo of my happy voice hadn’t yet faded when the miserable imp of an employee chimed in with: “That’ll be $18.63”.

“WHOA HOLY CRAP!!” blurted Tyler, smoothly, spraying a fine mist of pistachio-slobber across the countertop; “DID YOU MIX FLAKES OF SOLID GOLD IN WITH IT?”

He and I stared at each other for a second while Tyler collected herself and I, unable to top that response, simply paid the pimpled extortionist his due. Then, I headed for the door with 2.6lbs of rapidly-melting, 98% fat-free, cultured enzymes and a completely shell-shocked girlfriend in tow. Have never actually suffered "sticker shock" from a frozen dessert before, I believe she actually considered saying “no we don’t really want it anymore”; and I wish she had; because a blog about someone attempting to RETURN frozen yogurt would have been much funnier.

The moral of this story is: Yogli-Mogli is for rich people who can afford to pay for things “by the ounce” (truffles, caviar, and now apparently soft-serve yogurt). I can still get a "Nut-Brown-Crown" at Zestos for $1.99 and feel just as sick afterwards for half the cost; so suck down that Yogli-Mogli, fatso, at least you’re stimulating the economy.