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Archive for June, 2011

So, you may not believe this, but I know Wisconsin’s Secretary of State, Doug La Follette.  I could call him to have lunch, and he would probably say yes.  You see that thing on the floor?  Yup, that’s a name and I just dropped it.  You see, I love name dropping.  I get to name drop so rarely that any time I get to state a relationship with someone of importance, power, or influence, I jump at the chance.  Trust me, the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is about as true as life gets.  And if you drop the right name at the right time, it is amazing what opportunities will open up for you that you never thought possible.

JJ, JT and some boob. Best Super Bowl Halftime EVER!

Depending on the venue will determine what names I am able to drop, and some names are more worthy of dropping than others.  I also never drop a name unless it makes sense to do so, and/or the situation requires it.  I don’t just walk into a room and say, “You know, Janet Jackson was at my high school graduation and heard me sing” – True story.  Now, if someone is telling a story about a famous person that was at their high school graduation, then I now have my ‘in’ to tell my Janet Jackson story.

So, today, when I was given the opportunity to drop a name, I was giddy as a school girl. About a week and half ago, my wife, Leah threw me a surprise birthday party.  Lots of people showed up, I was 95% surprised, and it was very cool.  And although I was not expecting any presents, I got a few.  One present was a gift card to one of my favorite restaurants, Tozinos.  Now it just so happens that the owners of this restaurant are my friends and are the ones that gave me the gift card.  They have several restaurant locations, and I drive close by one of them every weekend when I drop off and pick up my son from his mom.  Unfortunately, when I drive pass this restaurant it is either in the morning before it opens, or mid-afternoon and too early for dinner.  But, everytime I drive by when I am hungry, I almost always stop by to eat.  Today was one of those days.

I had just landed at Chicago O’Hare from Portland, Oregon.  I picked my son up from his mom’s house and was heading home.  I was starving.  I had my gift card in my car and was ready to get some pizza and broccoli salad, one of my favorite items from this restaurant’s buffet.  I handed the cashier my gift card and she attempted to swipe it.  It would not work.  She tried everything and the card would not register on her computer.  She finally told me “This is an invalid card.”  “Are you sure?”  I asked, thinking that this card is from the owner.  She finally said, “Sorry?”  And then she gave me a look as if to say, you got screwed, and said “Who gave you this card?”  “Perfect”, I thought.  I told her, “Who gave it to me?  Who gave it to me?  I will have you know that the very proprietor of this establishment bequeathed that card unto me.  The owners of this restaurant are personal friends of mine, and so you will show me some respect.  I will have you fired unless this matter isn’t resolved post-haste.”  I don’t know if I used those exact words, but it was something along those lines.  The cool thing about this situation was that the woman was clearly nervous, which I thought was awesome.

The woman talked to her supervisor, and then called the corporate office and left a message on my friend’s voicemail.  At this point, I’m thinking, I may have overplayed my “I know the owner” card.  Because at the end of the day, it really wasn’t a big deal.  I texted my friend, and he said that he would get the card fixed, but in the mean time, he gave me something far better than a gift card to a restaurant, he gave me a story.  And I love stories.  It is the gift that keeps on giving.  My son and I finished our meal.  Upon leaving, the cashier wanted to reassure me that she did everything possible to resolve the matter.  I told that she would get to keep her job, for now.  She kissed my ring and then we left.  All in all, the dining experience could not have gone any better.  Hmmm, who knows, maybe I will make a visit to the state capitol.

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My sister used to own a restaurant.  It is a good thing that I never lived anywhere near it.  Even when I visited the restaurant I didn’t expect to pay.  My thought was always, “Don’t you know who I am?  I’m your boss’ brother.  I’m your boss uncle.  I’m your buncle.  So fry me up some shrimp, or I’ll fire your behind!  I’m just sayin …

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So, I feel like my ears are being raped by CNN right now.  OK, that is a weird way to start a blog, but it is true.  I am in transit to a conference in Portland, Oregon and blasting through every speaker of O’Hare and also in the Minneapolis airport is the trial of the mother that allegedly killed her daughter.  I think her name is Casey.  Apparently it is a “Developing” story, but so far it has been a “Will someone please stick knives into both of my ears” story.  I am seriously in agony right now.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic:  When did travelling begin to seriously ‘Suck Ass’?  I actually thought seriously about the appropriate description of the state of travelling today, and after serious mental deliberation, and considering the numerous options, I finally settled on ‘Suck Ass’ as the best label for United States travel today.  A major part of the negative experience are the travellers themselves.  I understand that in a ‘Post 9-11’ world, as everyone calls it, air travel is especially an arduous experience with long lines, heightened security and scanners that reveal your private parts.  On a side note:  I am proud to say that the woman who did my scan at O’Hare gave me an especially bigger than usual smile upon seeing I was not concealing anything dangerous and allowed me to move forward to the air terminals.  I thought the pat down in the private room was a little over the top, but everyone is asked to turn their head and cough.  Right?

I digress.  the problem with travel these days are the travellers.  I am telling you, the workers at O’Hare went out of their way to be super nice.  I got ‘good mornings’, ‘how are you today sir’, ‘let me help you with that’, ‘you need a bin?’, ‘have a great day’, from just about everyone.  Now, if you read my blog, you know that people are nice to me where ever I go, it must be my face or something, but this was beyond just my ‘entice people to talk to me in spite of my desire to NOT talk to them’ personality.  These airport employees were genuinely trying to make the experience as pleasant as possible.  So why are people so cantankerous?  Here is a list of behaviors that I simply think are uncalled for:

1.  Employee – “That will be 25 bucks to check your bag.”
Traveller – “What?!?  That’s highway robbery.  This is an outrage!”

Guess what?  You’re right, but you know what, the person at the counter is not going to disobey their company’s rules because you think the baggage charge is unfair.  Unless you have been living under a rock, you knew that you were going to be charged, so don’t act so surprised.  So, shut up, pay your 25 bucks, and get out of line so I can get my boarding pass.  Next time fly Southwest and then you can complain about not having a seat assignment.

2.  Employee – “Sorry ma’am, but your carry-on is too big, we are going to have to check it for free.
Traveller – “What?!?  It fit on the other plane!  You guys suck.  Huff and puff.  Give up bag begrudgingly.

Part of the reason these things bug me is because these travellers never make their complaints private or quietly.  They want everyone in ear shot to know that they have been wronged by the system.  What makes it even worse when they look around for perfect strangers to join their cause.  They look at you, or even say to you, “This sucks right?”  Don’t involve me in your tirade.  You want to start a revolution?  Pick a better topic and just thank your lucky stars that you have the means to take an airplane in the first place.  You can literally go across the country in FOUR FREAKIN’ HOURS!  How awesome is that?  Chill out.

3.  Travellers rushing to the door and waiting in long lines and ‘protecting’ their spot.

If you are a frequent traveller of the skies, I have a secret to tell you:  Whether you are first in line or last in line, your seat is the same and the plane will not leave without you.  You are rushing to sit down and wait for everyone else.  This is also true on the other side.  No matter how quickly you get off the plane, your luggage will arrive the same time as mine.  You are rushing to wait at the baggage carousel.  Chill out.

4.  Flight Attendant – ‘Please turn your cell phone off.”
Traveler either does not turn off their cell phone right away or does so with an attitude.  Your phone call or text is not that important.

5.  My favorite traveler annoying behavior only occurs during the winter.  People pissed off because they have to wait for the wings of the plane to be de-iced.  Seriously?  A similar version of this happened to me in Paris, France.  A bomb threat was called in and they had to unload every plan at Charles De Gaulle.  Most people were patient, but there were a number of travellers that were openly complaining about the delays.  Do you want to take a guess to what nationality these people were?  You guessed it, Americans.

Well, travelling does suck ass, but I bet it would be a lot better if people were a little less angry about it and took a moment to realize how convenient we have it here.  As long as turbulence is low, landings are safe, flight attendants are cute, and I get my ginger ale, I’ll be happy.  I do miss free food and a higher percentage of flights with in-flight movies, but what are you going to do.  Besides, if you really hate flying, there is always the bus.  You think the people on plains are bad, wait to you see the freak show on Greyhound.  In the mean time, chill out.

In order to make my flying experience tolerable, I have a few rituals/beliefs.  You see I am not afraid of flying, but I am a nervous flyer.  Here is a list of my flying rituals/beliefs (Not a single one of these is exaggerated):

  1. I believe if a cell phone is left on it will cause the plane to crash
  2. I’d rather pee on myself than get up while the fasten your seatbelts sign is illuminated
  3. If someone else gets up while the fasten your seatbelts sign is on the plane will crash
  4. I think take off and landing are the most likely times the plane will crash
  5. I am most nervous during takeoffs, planes rarely crash when landing.  Not true, but I believe it which is all that matters.
  6. Once I hear that first ‘ding’ I believe everything will be OK
  7. Once the plane is at cruising altitude, it should never go down for any reason.  It can go up to a higher altitude, but not down until landing.  Going down to land is OK.
  8. If I don’t drink ginger ale, the plane will crash.
  9. If there is a baby on board the plane, the plane is less likely to crash, not impossible, just highly unlikely
  10. I have the same rituals and prayer on the tarmac to takeoff and I never miss a part of the ritual or prayer.  If I forget something, the plane will crash

I especially hate turbulence.  If I am not sitting next to my wife or my kids, I need two things to happen for me to remain calm during turbulence, and they both involve the flight attendants.
1.  Flight attendants need to be unphased by the plane shaking.  If they show any fear on their face whatsoever, I will FREAK out.  The only exception to this are clouds.  I understand why a plane experiences turbulence in clouds, and therefore I am OK with cloud turbulence.  My brain soothes me with knowledge.
2.  Secondly, and linked to the first, is that the attendants must be good looking.  They have to be a minimum of a 6 on the flight attendant beauty scale.  This is also true for men.  When it comes to flight attendants, I am bisexual.  If I am going to obtain solace in your calm face, it must be a face that I do not mind looking at.  Being a good looking flight attendant should be a requirement for the job.

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I am not anti fat people.  I am overweight myself, but is there anything more demoralizing than needing a seat belt extender when you fly.  I guess it could be worse, you could need to buy two seats.  I’m just sayin …

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So, I think being a father is hard.  I have been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to be a good father.   With my two youngest, I am SuperDad.  I just show up and they give me a smile as if I am the greatest thing since sliced bread.  My oldest son has higher requirements of greatness.  It makes me wonder what it takes to be a SuperDad, but more importantly, what does it take just to be a dad.  For example, is there a recipe for being a good father?  I would imagine it is similar to cake.

There are a couple of essential ingredients that are required to make a cake, and then the rest of the ingredients will just determine how good or bad the cake tastes.  Every cake needs, flour, sugar, butter and eggs. You don’t even need water to make a cake.  As a matter of fact, you don’t even need the flour, but unless you have a gluten allergy, no one should eat a flourlesscake.  It’s just wrong.  Bottom line, if you have these simple ingredients, a cake is what you will eat.

Many ingredients make a good cake

So here is my Essential Dad recipe:
1.  BE THERE:  The most important ingredient to being a dad is just showing up.  It is sad the number of dads that are not around for their kids.  I do not understand this.  I am part of my kids and they are part of me.  If I were to leave them, it would be like leaving my arm, or my leg.  A lot of people think all you need is sperm to be a dad.  This could not be farther from the truth.  Donating sperm is the easy part.  It’s like sticking your key into a car ignition, turning on the car, and saying, “Look at me!  I can drive.”  No you can’t.  So, a shout out to my dad, who in spite of divorce and not always living under the same roof as me or my brothers and sisters, he has always been there for support.  My oldest brother and sister and I do not share the same biological father, but my dad treated them as if they were his own.  Was he the perfect dad?  Of course not, but he had an abundance of this essential ingredient, he was and always will BE THERE.

2.  GOT YOUR BACK:  In my opinion, fathers should be the definition of “I got your back”.  There should be no greater safety than in the presence of your dad.  Just last Saturday I went on a 3-hour canoe trip and the boys came with me.  It was Isaac’s first time in a canoe.  It might have been his first time in a boat period.  We went on this trip with colleagues from work, and two people in particular, Bruce and Linda were an awesome help and support.  You see, Brett Jr. got in the boat first was going to sit at the front, and Isaac sat in the middle.  However, to Isaac, as we were about to push from shore, the boat rocked way too much for his taste, and he felt strongly that he was going to fall in the water.  With every sway of the boat his cried out, tears streaming down his fear-stricken face.  I thought for certain that we were going to have to go back to shore and forget about this trip down the river.  Bruce and Linda (in kayaks) straddled the boat to steady it, and they helped Isaac walk to the back of the boat to sit in between my legs.  It was better, but he was still afraid.  I could feel his whole body shiver as I started to row the boat forward.  He held tightly to my legs for the first 15 minutes.  I just said over and over again, “You are safe with me.  I WILL protect you.”  He would ask me, “Is the boat going to tip over Dad?”  “Not today” I said, “Not today.”  About an hour into the trip, Isaac found his courage and moved to the middle of the boat, and even helped row.  He was very proud of his rowing accomplishments, and so was I.  “Dad is going to keep me safe.” He said.  “You got that right buddy, you got that right.” I told him.  We survived the three-hour trip down the river and had a great time.  Upon putting Isaac to bed that night, he said, “I had a great time with you Dad.”  I said, “So did I buddy.”  It was a great day.

Man of many quotes.

3.  TEACH:  I sometimes struggle with this ingredient, and wondered if it was essential, but this may be the most important job of being a father.  Otherwise, as a father, what is my purpose?  So, I take teaching very seriously.  Unfortunately, as my oldest son gets older, I am discovering that I am becoming less intelligent.  As Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to  have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at  how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Although Brett Jr is a very compliant child, I am beginning to notice more and more that

Money or humor that enabled him to marry up?

he does not worship the ground that I walk on.  Luckily for me, I still have Isaac and Violet to remind me of how great I am.  I must cherish these years, for one day I am sure that Violet will bring a boy home one day that I will hate.  Is it too late for me to buy a shotgun?  Maybe I can convince her that dating is evil until age 30.  When I look at my daughter, I think about one of my favorite Chris Rock quotes, “Keep my baby off the pole!  I mean they don’t grade fathers but if your daughter is a stripper you fucked up.”

Well, that is my recipe for being a father.  Of course there is more, but I hope fathers every well include the basic ingredients.  Of course there is always icing, sprinkles, and decorations, like bike rides, canoe trips, camping, talks about life, golf lessons, playing catch, shooting baskets, wrestling, fishing, etc. etc. etc.

So many thanks to my dad for taking me fishing, teaching me how to use a hammer, providing me a foundation for my faith, and etc. etc. etc.  Essentially, the icing on the cake with lots of sprinkles.  Happy Father’s Day.

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It would simply be impossible for Superman to become a father unless he discovered a female Kryptonian on Earth or super heroine.  An Earth woman would not survive the process.  The problem?  One word: Orgasm.  Superman’s orgasm would kill Lois Lane.  I’m just sayin…

Marriage, maybe. Kids, no way.

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So, I have decided that I am officially old.  I don’t think I am old because of my age, although turning 40 in just over three weeks doesn’t help, but it’s official because of my son.  Last Sunday I picked up my son from his mom.  He was playing a game on her cell phone in her car.

A Very Addictive Game

The game was Angry Birds.  I had never played Angry Birds.  I had never seen Angry Birds.  I heard about the game, but had no idea how to play it.  Brett’s mom suggested that he show me how to play the game.  He did, and he was quite good at the game.

Do you know why this game made me feel old?  I have always been up to date.  ALWAYS!  I am up to date on pop culture and I am up to date with technology.  I was creating web sites before there were programs to make web sites.  That’s right, I know how to write HTML code.  Of course, no one does that anymore, but when I did, very few knew how.  Did it make me cool?  Of course not!  But that’s not the point.  The point is, if you were to ask me about anything a 10 year-old to a 25 year-old would know about, I would know about it.

I have always felt that I would feel old when my children did things that I thought were stupid.  Isn’t that the definition of being old?  I feel like sitting on my porch and yelling “Damn kids!”  The first sign of me getting old was when my son and I were at a movie and we saw a preview of ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never’.

Would it be wrong to forbid any Bieber CD to exist in my house?

My son turned to me and said, “I might want to see that.”  WHAT!?!?  I am sorry, but I just can’t support that.  Now, I did not actually say that, but I thought it.  I felt like saying, that’s not music, I will show you some real music.  And that is exactly what an old person would say.

I have always prided myself in being up to date, being hip, cool with the kids, and down with the homies, but no more, I am outdated with no chance for an upgrade.  I wake up with aches and pains, I am nowhere near the shape I used to be, and my favorite activity is golf.  I practically have one foot in the grave.  So, what am I going to do about it?  I plan on embracing it.  I have no problem with getting older.  I will break 80 in golf this year, I just bought a brand new bottle of Ibuprofen, and I am delusional enough to believe that I am capable of getting my 25 year-old body back, and if I don’t, “Choice Man!  Choice.”

Remember this movie? Then you are old too.

I like my life.  I am getting older and that’s OK.  Besides, what’s the alternative?  If I am not getting older, I’m dead.  So, it’s you and me Father Time.  Bring it on!  Besides, I just completed Angry Birds and I am only missing three stars.  Take that Brett!

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I am a fan of Justin Timberlake.  You read that right, a huge fan.  I think everything he does is brilliant.  I love his music, his acting, and he golfs.  If I ever meet him, I will ask him to be my new BFF.  You may think I am crazy or pathetic, but I have a JT man-crush.  He just looks like he is having fun.  If I ever become famous, I plan on handling my fame the same way that he does.  He is awesome.  Did I mention he golfs?  I’m just sayin …

This may be my new look. What's not to love?

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