Saturday, January 12, 2013

I'm French?!?

I'm not a huge fan of comedians who start jokes with, "Didja ever...?"  Since I am not a comedian, and this is not a joke...Didja ever see that commercial where the obviously clueless interviewee is rattling on about he is perfect for the company, all the while mispronouncing the name of the company...and the punchline is when the dignified and exasperated owner says, "It's pronounced Do MOSS." and then the camera shows his desk to show the nameplate, "Dumass".   What do you know!  A French guy!  I think that was a great commercial and, coincidentally, a word that I am familiar with.  

I don't pull it out and use it as often as the dad on That 70's Show does....but there are situations where describing someone (and their pointless and often dangerous antics) as an uneducated posterior is quite possibly the best choice.  When someone decides to try to ride a wheelie through a crowded parking lot on their motorcycle.  When someone berates an employee for a problem that was not in their control.  When someone wedges their car into a toll booth, and stops the morning commute, because they were trying to save ten seconds and cut in front of the first car in line...It just rolls off the tongue.   dumbass

I am normally not one for questionable language.  I think that people who swear are cheating themselves out of the wealth of words and nuances in the English language.  But there are times (perhaps too many) when I think this one particular exception is acceptable.  Heck!  There are times when I even think it should be a button right next to "like" on Facebook!

Having said that, and trying really hard not to offend any of my French speaking readers by mispronouncing a name in the interest of humor...allow me to tell you today's story.

When Sylvia and I bought our first house we did something that was really smart.  We negotiated.  We got the price down to what we thought was fair and then we said, "We want to keep the refrigerator."  The previous owners had already moved out, the place was empty, except for a penny on the closet shelf (yes I still have it) and a refrigerator.  We were just starting out and it looked nearly new (what do we know) so we asked for it to stay.  They agreed and we thought we had saved ourselves several hundred dollars since now we wouldn't have to go out and buy one.  Then, our awesome Realtor (not to be confused with our criminal Realtor that we had to fire...seriously) gave us a gift.

He said, as the deal was done, that he would be buying us our home warranty.  We didn't know what they were so he showed us the brochure.  It covered the pipes, the heater, the this and the that, and certain appliances.  The stove, covered.  The dishwasher, covered.  Everything else was out of luck.  We thanked him profusely and then asked why the refrigerator wouldn't be covered.  Only the built in appliances...but you can add it if you want.  The fridge looked new(ish) but why take a chance...we added it.

Right after everything was final we started to work.  We don't know what they were cooking but it took a solid week, and several solvents that had skulls and crossbones on them, to clean the cabinets.  We scrapped the hood over the stove in favor of a hood/microwave combination.  And we scoured our new refrigerator.  As I was cleaning it out I noticed that the ice maker wasn't working.  Then when Sylvia really cleaned (you have to pull it out and mop underneath...sheesh) I noticed that the icemaker wasn't working because it wasn't hooked up to a water source.  It still had the hose taped to its back, ready for some handy guy to come and hook it up.  Then I saw why they may have thought it was the problem.  The refrigerator was on the complete opposite wall from the faucet and the floor in between was a cement slab.  No water, no ice.  I'm a teacher, I know these things.  Perhaps what the people did not realize was that on the other side of the wall that held the fridge, was a bathroom...complete with running water!  (we spared no expense when we were looking for a house)

Since we never spoke to the former owners we have no way of knowing why they never thought of that.  Maybe they couldn't afford to do it.  Maybe they didn't know it was supposed to do that.  Maybe they thought that bathroom plumbing was not suitable for kitchen ice.  Maybe they just didn't like ice...Who knows!?  Me?  I like ice.  I like cold drinks.  I like to know that I can get ice whenever I need it.  And, as long as the water for the ice wasn't being taken from the bowl of the toilet, bathroom plumbing was just fine with me.  Enter Extra Ordinary Man!  Not extraordinary, extra ordinary.  I have ample supplies of ordinary-ness.

I turned off the plumbing.  Drilled a hole in the wall.  Bought all of the things I would need.  And with Sylvia's help (and roughly six trips to the hardware store) I had hooked up a filter under the sink in the bathroom that would feed the ice maker, and I was ready to turn on the water.  Slowly I turned...tested the worked...tested the made that satisfying shhhhhhhh sound that tells you it was pouring water into the automatic ice trays.  Success!  (sorry to disappoint you all and your expectations that I would take a shower right there in the kitchen)  We had ice!  (well in approximately three hours we did)  I am fairly certain that I mocked the previous owners of the un-used icemaker for their lack of vision...and lack of chilled beverages!  I may have even mentioned that word.  You know, the French guy.  There were no recordings.  You can't prove anything.

Then we jump ahead a few months to when Sylvia went to Germany...without me...and I stayed behind to go to college and work on the house.  I built shelves.  I painted.  I did this and that.  I missed Sylvia.  And then it happened.  In the middle of the night I heard something that sounded a ghost was being dragged through a meat grinder, while carrying a cat, who was being given a a dog...who was wearing a hideous Christmas sweater.  It was a high pitched moan, wail, scratch, pause, whine...kind of noise.    It was one of those noises that wakes you up from a dead sleep and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight up! The good news, it wasn't coming from the closet.  The bad news, it was coming from our 'nearly new' refrigerator.

I opened the refrigerator door.  It was ghost, cat, dog, and sweater free, but the sound got louder.  I took out the meager contents and for some reason felt the back of the inside.  When I got to where I thought the sound was coming from I did what every red-blooded American male would do in a similar situation.  I punched it.  You have to forgive me.  I grew up watching Fonzie start a jukebox by hitting it.  I was going to try the middle of the night...when I should be asleep.  Funny thing is, it worked.  Silence, other than the hum of the motor.  I replaced everything, shut the door, and went back to bed while making a mental note that I had to activate the home warranty in the morning.

When the repair guy came out...I think his name was Ralph...he explained that the motor was beginning to fail and since it was so old, the warranty would just offer to replace it.  Excuse me?  Old?  How old exactly? Apparently it was much older than the house and the house was in its late teens.  I hereby take back, formally and in writing, everything I have previously said about the former owners...they sure knew how to take care of an appliance!  I called Sylvia and she, trusting soul that she is, told me that I could just go and pick one out.  I wisely refused.  (did I ever tell you about the time that it took us and hour to pick out the garbage can that would live under the sink?)  Then I told her that it was working and would stop working in the future.  Every time the ghost sound happened, I punched it, and the sound stopped.  Besides, if it did stop altogether, I am a camper.  I can live out of an ice chest for a few days until you get back.  She said I was silly but there wasn't a way to force me to buy one without her so I waited.

Sylvia came home and we got ready to go shopping for a fridge.

As an aside.  Let me give you this bit of advice.  When you are offering to demonstrate an unusual sound that you can turn off by punching the refrigerator, and the person you are trying to show says that they don't want to hear not punch the refrigerator to make the sound happen, because that will be the one time that it does not just turn off with another punch.

We bought the biggest, ice-making-est fridge that would fit into our tiny house and even got the thing that would pee chilled water into your glass if you wanted (come on...the water was coming from the know I had to go there).  On the day they were going to deliver it we cleaned it out and wiped it down.  (there is no way we were going to send a dirty refrigerator to the dumps)  All of the food was out and I looked into the inside wall and noticed something that I had never seen before.  It was a little plastic do-dad that was attached near the hinge.  It looked like it might move up and down but why?  I pressed on it and I heard a sound.  Never heard that sound before.  Maybe it has to do with the auto-defrost or something.  I pressed it again.  Same sound, but different.  As I pressed it longer the sound got slightly higher pitched.  I pressed longer got even higher pitched.  Keep pressing I thought, if you break it today it's no big deal!  It's leaving in an hour!

And then it hit me.  I got out a glass and held it under the plastic gadget.  I kept pressing until finally, water started pouring into the glass.  There was a reservoir inside this fridge that held water to be chilled and ready to drink whenever you wanted to press that button.  And so, after bad-mouthing the old owners, feeling so superior all these months, enjoying ice at a moments notice, it took until the last day that we owned the silly thing for me to discover...that I was part French.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


When you see a title like "Fifteen" on a random bit of writing, you might be temped to think, "This is surely  a piece that delves deeply into the struggles of the American teenager."  Then you may double check to see that a guy is writing, and think, "It is surely about the confusion involved with being between being a boy and becoming a man.  There is probably a bit about the sorrow of surviving adolescence and the impending freedom implied with obtaining one's driver's license."  Then you might think that I would sum it up with an overall statement like, "The ever-present angst of the average male American teenager is tempered with a healthy dose of hope and promise."

Well, smartypants, I am not going to talk about teenagers at all!  No, today I am going to talk about something far more important!  I am going to talk about the fact that Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company does not serve Dr Pepper anymore!  Whew!  It feels good to get that off my chest.

Now before you (rightfully) call me petty, immature, ridiculous, and bizarre let me tell you that I have my reasons to be this worked up.  But first I need to set the ground rules.  Dr Pepper is the greatest soft drink to ever cross the lips of mere mortals...but that goes without saying.  One of my favorite vacation memories was when I traveled to Texas (the birthplace of Dr Pepper) and noticed that there were no vending machines for Coke or Pepsi...there were only Dr Pepper vending machines.  Ahhh...  These people understand me...  It was refreshing to be able to go into restaurants and just order Dr Pepper without having to ask if they had it. Of Course They Had It!  They even had it at the rodeo's we went to!  It was everywhere!  But I suspect, if Bubba Gump's was to open a restaurant, they would not have it.

Unfortunately, for this particular restaurant, I am also a movie guy.  It is my thinking that if you open a movie-themed restaurant, you should stay true to the movie.  For the most part, they do a pretty good job.  There is a bench out front with a suitcase and a box of chocolates on top.  There are even ceramic running shoes in front of the bench.  They are hollowed out so you can slip your shoes into the (I'm guessing) size 23 Nikes to take a picture.  Inside, they have memorabilia, props, reproductions, notes about location, sayings, nautical items galore, there is even part of a boat (named Jenny) built onto the ceiling.  There are license plates hanging at the table that say, "Run, Forrest, Run!" and "Stop, Forrest, Stop!" so you can signal whether or not you need something at your table.  I have to say I was fairly impressed.

We had eaten there before and the last time we were there I ordered a Dr Pepper like I was in the heart of Texas.  "I'm sorry.  We don't have Dr Pepper anymore."  What?!  Have you seen the movie!?  Look at that guy's shirt!  It says, "I Gotta Pee." Do you know why it says that?  He drank too many Dr Peppers!  They called the riot squad...I was sedated...the kids and Sylvia became very friendly with the people sitting next to us (and pretended they didn't know me)...and worst of all, I almost didn't get my fish and chips.  Ok, so maybe almost none of that happened, but I was shocked that this restaurant, who tried so hard on their memorabilia, let this one detail slip through the cracks.  I half-heartedly vowed (politicians do it all the time) to not eat there again unless they brought back Dr Pepper.  I was, of course, speaking as a drink/movie enthusiast.

I held my promise...for a number of visits to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (a block from the restaurant) but the family outvoted me this time.  We asked if they had brought back the Dr yet.  They slumped like they hear that a thousand times a day and said, "No."  On our way to the table they suggested that I speak to the manager about this and "give him a hard time" since they were tired of hearing it.  Then the waitress came over and started asking questions about the movie.  They are obviously geared toward the "I've seen the movie once" crowd.  She asked things like, "Here at BUBBA Gump's we want to know what was Forrest's friend's name?"  Bubba.
"What did Forrest name his boats?" then pointed up.  The Jenny.
"On what part of the body did Forrest get shot?"  The Buttocks.
"What war was Forrest in?"  Viet Nam.
She laughed at all the help I was giving the kids with the answers and was kind enough to not mention that this was all from a movie that was made when she was one.
We "won" her contest and said that our prize was all the toothpicks and mints that we wanted.

As a movie guy, I laughed at her easy questions.  And then I asked her a question.
"How many Dr Peppers does Forrest Drink?"
Which is fifteen more than I can get here because you don't serve them at all!"
(I'm sure I was her favorite customer all night)

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I just looked through the writing I had done for my college creative writing class thinking I would be able to grab something that was written and then pass it off as new. (kidding)  Trouble is, it's a collection of assignments and the short stories and such are still out there in Neverland.  I can remember three stories vividly...and would love to get my hands on them to work them into a screenplay and make bazillions of dollars...but I don't know where they are.  What I did find, however, was a group of the teacher's comments on the writing I've done.  One of them turned out to be prophetic.  It said, "You do really well with things (subjects) that, to us, seem trivial."

Boy, if that doesn't sum up this blog in a sentence!  Trust me, I am not saying that I am doing really well at anything...but I do have a lot of fun talking about trivial things!  The time I hit the keys on the keyboard with my eyes shut, and wrote a post about that.  That time I spent eight paragraphs talking about some lady's tattoo.  How about when I talked about my superpower...the ability to make women have to pee from laughing.  If this isn't trivial...I don't know what is. Much like the beginning of Huck Finn...anyone trying to assign importance to this blog will be examined.  Anyone seeking deeper relevance will be sedated.  That's just really not what I am going for.  And unlike Mr. Twain...I mean it!  I did just recently have someone tell me that they didn't always agree with everything I wrote in the blog, but they enjoyed it.  Curious.  I don't think I have held too many positions that were open to anything but ridicule.  Oh well, it is also very possible that my memory is fading quickly...which is why I'd better get started on today's topic.  My teacher, and her guiding me toward subjects trivial, would be very proud of today...

I've never seen a family that didn't have them.  We all have one in our family.  Mine is fairly secure.  The kids' used to be open to variety but that time has passed.  Last but not least, fear not...Sylvia has one too.  Regular visitors have them when they come over.  My nieces just claimed theirs when they were here for Christmas.  It's funny though, even though they want them when they are here, no one has ever taken theirs home when they leave.

What on Earth am I talking about?  Spots.

This season, and the groups of people who come to the house, have me thinking about spots.  Not dalmatians, not dice, not the area on the rug visited by friends with plates of food and questionable balance or even puppies and their even more questionable bladders.  No, I am talking about places at the table.  When you read that you immediately thought of your spot.  I'm not judging.  Merely pointing out an observation.  We had quite a few people over for a meal this year and the one thing that happened, every time, when we were almost ready to sit down was for people to stand around the table and wonder where they were going to sit.

The conversation inevitably turned to "spots" and "where do you normally sit?"  At this time it is really difficult to be both OCD and polite at the same time.  Part of me wants people to feel comfortable so I always say, "Sit anywhere!  We're not formal."  Another, darker side of me needs to be restrained because it is mumbling, "Don't sit there. Don't sit there. Don't sit there."  That is when it is nice to have kids.  They always add the instructions for the music-less musical chairs.  Dad sits there.  Mom sits there.  We sit here and there.  Depending on how many people and how many sections are added to the table, the options for where to sit dwindle with each passing second.

There's always someone (me) who is ready to offer specific advice about where to sit.  Depending on who the guest is, I will offer my own brand of smart aleckness to answer the "where should I sit dilemma."  "On Your Bottom!" is a perennial favorite in my family.  I suppose the only time that would be helpful is if we had visitors from Ork (if you are old enough to remember the show then you hopefully will remember the unusual way that Mork sat down...I am nothing if not exceptionally current.  Hey!  Do you remember the episode of Three's Company where they had the misunderstanding about something!?  Funny)

OK, so I have a confession to make now.  I have been sitting (no pun intended...well maybe a little) on this particular piece of writing for a while.  I keep coming back to it and don't feel right to start another until this one is ended. (pun)  I don't want to leave a post behind. (pun)  This subject has been a pain in the...well you know what I mean.  I'm going to sign off.  Start a new topic and hopefully don't leave you sitting on the edge of your seat.

SPOTS!?!  It seemed like such a good idea at the time.