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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Boomers, Beatles, and Better Reception

Someone asked me recently if I thought my generation was wasting the resources of our elders. I was so surprised at the question, one of my disposable contacts popped out and I could hardly see to keep my SUV on the road.

As one of the youngest of the generation that knows all about life and has tried it on like a clearance rack sweater, I am, by birthright, a baby Baby Boomer. Sure, I’m over fifty, if hugging the back side of fifty like a first-time skydiver hugs a parachute counts as over fifty. So I know a little bit about resources: Green stamps, recycleable plastic, and the theme songs to twenty years worth of television advertisements, situation comedies, and bad movies.

I’ve lived through hard times. As the youngest, I was the one who always had to do the antenna aerobics to get a good picture on the television. When Romper Room came on I had to hold the rabbit ears skyward like the Statue of Liberty’s torch, and I didn’t dare move until Miss Nancy put down her magic mirror. These days I automatically do arm rotations whenever the HDTV signal goes bad. My kids think I’m crazy, but I'll pose like the Frankenstein monster until we get the signal for Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, strong and clear.

I also remember a time when a shiny foil plate full of tater tots and fried fish was a gourmet meal. When you had to wait til the other people on your party line finished their conversation before you could use the telephone. When you had to wind the film in the camera before you could take another picture. When the flash was something you needed to take a picture, not something people were taking pictures of.

Knowing something of this kind of hardship, Baby Boomers are wary of wasting resources. But as sure as the Beatle’s hit, “Hello Goodbye” is now an advertising jingle for Target, we’ve recycled enough resources to provide fertilizer for generations to come.

So the kids these days had better not pick on me.

I know all the words to the Mountain Dew jingle, the Green Acres theme song, and the big screen version of Born Free.

And I’m not afraid to use them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Pet Tree

“You brought it home. You should take care of it.” I hated to be difficult at the risk of disrupting household harmony, but I’m pretty sure this sort of thing is covered in the Constitution.

“I gave it water every day this week.”

“And now you can clean up after it.”

“But I got it for the whole family.”

I polled the audience with a glance. Son One’s face was three inches from the television screen. He held a video game controller and was pressing buttons faster than I can type to rid the world of aliens. Son Two was carefully accessing You Tube on his brand-new-from-Santa laptop to upload a video of himself making a video. He was clutching his tongue between his teeth in the classic “Don’t mess with me while I’m thinking” pose. I never realized You Tube required that much concentration.

Sooner or later even the Captain of the family Ship of Life has to learn the consequences of random acts of kindness. “It’s not looking good for family unity.”

He sighed. “A month ago everybody loved it.”

“A month ago everybody hung their hopes on a fat guy fitting down our chimney.”

“I can’t believe they don’t want to have it around.”

“Actually nobody knows it’s there. After two weeks the new wears off, the dust settles, and it becomes invisible. That’s nature’s rule.”

He cleared his throat meaningfully and swung into his “last chance before grounding” voice. “Now hear this. Someone needs to take ownership of the Christmas tree. It’s drier than your Aunt Edna’s pot roast.”

Son One rolled his eyes and blasted two aliens with a single shot. Son Two aimed a peace sign and a grin at his web cam and pushed the black button.

About that time, the Captain’s personal dog and first mate, a rambling Labradorish thing who is his sworn companion, front seat navigator, and right paw in all things domestic trotted up, bubblegum-colored tongue languishing out of one side of his mouth.

“Well there’s your champion waterer right there. His resume is as long as our driveway. There isn’t a shrub that didn’t have his help during the drought.”

“At least someone cares.”

We watched together as the big dog strolled over and took personal charge of watering the Christmas tree, which was so old the needles piled on the carpet like dirty underwear on the laundry room floor and the branches were slick as ski poles.

Bill smiled fondly. “See he cares. He still has the spirit of the season.”

“That’s great,” I answered, blotting the tree skirt with Bill’s windbreaker. “But if that’s the way he says Merry Christmas, I’d rather not hear what Man's Best Friend has to say on your birthday.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not Working

I’ve been watching the deal Conan O’Brien made with NBC and I’m not afraid to say that he’s an inspiration. He’s gathering millions of dollars to leave his show and not be the Tonight Show host. He might be allowed to take a late-night seat as early as September, but until then he’s hauling in big bucks like a half-ton hauls manure, not to work.

I’ve decided that for my next career move, I'm going to not be a secretary. I thought about not being a late-night talk show host, but there appears to be too much instability in the field. Not to mention competition for the unavailable openings. And I could use some of the secretarial experience I've saved up during the last 20 years fighting the copier wars in my new position of not being one.

There also appears to be a lot more people interested in where you'll be doing your "not a late night talk show host" work as opposed to people who are interested in the activities of your "not secretary" work, who are mainly the people who call on the phone to offer you insurance or sell you a copier or ask you to change your phone service. As far as not being a secretary goes, I'll make less money, but I feel there will be less stress in not filing than in fretting about career advancement opportunities that are not available in television. I’m not sure how long you have to be Conan before you get to be Oprah, and I don’t want to find myself lying around the house moping about the whole thing.

I thought about not being an accountant, but I really don’t care for higher mathematics. I don’t even like to carry in the groceries, much less a carry a one over into the tens column. That’s just too much responsibility for me.

I could not be a waitress, but what if I didn’t drop the Lobster Ferragamo in somebody’s lap? I’d probably end up not getting fired and not going broke and not losing my house. I’d never get over it.

So before long, late night TV will be back the way the good Lord and NBC intended, Conan O’Brien will be cashing his unemployment checks, Jay Leno will be in his old chair, and David Lettermen will be cashing in on the whole deal.

Meanwhile there are worse things. The late-night talk show brigade could not be the head programmers at NBC. Come to think of it, neither should the folks who really are.

Perhaps they could all get jobs not working in Homeland Security.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Dog's Life

“Mom! He’s poisoning the dog again.”

Son Two’s voice dripped with injustice.

It was one of those days. I dropped my belongings in a pile by the door and let the recliner draw me in like it had a La-Z-Boy certified tractor beam.

“He’s just licking my foot.” Son One grinned as Bo tickled his ivories.

“Last time he did that he was sick all over the living room. It looked like a CSI biology experiment.”

“If you ever uncovered your feet he might lick yours. You’ve had the same socks on since 1993. There's enough gunk on the bottom to make you two inches taller.”

“At least I wear socks. Your shoes squish when you walk like they belong to Spongebob.”

The big dog paused and looked around the room as if polling the audience. Sure, he lifts his midnight snacks from the litter box, but a face that sweet shouldn’t have to stoop to this level for friendship.

“Come here, Sweetheart.” I called the big Lab over to sit by me. Nothing makes a bad day better like a hug from somebody who doesn’t care if you’ve borrowed his razor.

With a regretful glance, Bo strolled over to my chair, heaved the remains of his day of foraging at my feet, then looked up expectantly, waiting for a treat.

Figures. Dog logic dictates that when the stomach empties, it's time to put more inside. Human logic states that when the chips are down and you think nothing else can go wrong, the dog will throw up.

I think I'll get a ferret.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Take a Risk

With the exception of a spirited round of Monopoly in which at least one family member gave in to displays of aggression (which eventually led to excommunication of the indicated party from Monopoly eligibility), our family has always enjoyed board games.

However, now that the boys are grown, I’m less likely to find Candy Land or Battleship in my house than I am to find the kitchen table sporting a board with a colorful world map, and everyone at Risk. Or, on random weekend nights it’s not unusual to come across a fighter, a thief, a rock troll, and a Feegle balanced on chairs and stools around the table entranced in a role playing adventure based on Terry Pratchett’s DiscWorld novels.

It no longer shocks me to hear such statements as, “If you’re a dwarf, you get to use bread as a weapon.”

Or to hear a tiny blue man screech “Waily, waily, waily,” when he gets caught guzzling kerosene by the Head Lady In Charge.

Or to come across a rock troll muttering, “They have sledgehammers, so I’m wielding a man in armor. (Granted, trolls don’t have the command of the language that, say, a personification of Death might display, but I think I’m fairly close with the translation.) All in all I find that Rock Trolls are inclined to engage in fisticuffs. If you call planting warriors in the ground like rows of corn, fisticuffs.

What I do have trouble with is the care and feeding of the players. Ever since we found out The Captain of our little clan has higher numbers than Stephen Hawking can imagine when it comes to triglycerides, we’ve cut back on nonessential food items.

Unfortunately “nonessential” is an abstract term whose meaning has come under intense discussion at our house. The latest example came Friday night when the alternate species filed into the kitchen for game night.

Apparently, “Man Snacks” do not include diet ginger ale and sugar free pudding.

Nor is angel food cake with raspberry fruit spread acceptable as an alternative.

You just can’t please some rock trolls. I explained the dietary restrictions in my calm, peacekeeping voice.

“Don’t worry about her,” the thief whispered to the Dungeon Master as I left the room. “This is nothing. You should hear her when we play Monopoly.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Christmas Claws

I figure it’s time to take down the Christmas tree when the lights haven’t worked for two weeks, there’s a mysterious lump under the tree skirt that resembles petrified reindeer poop, and local landscapers offer to buy the pile of mulch in the corner of my living room.

I hate to take down the Christmas tree because as long as it is in the room, that corner is as close to decorated as it is any time during the year. I have teenage boys in the house. Once the tree is gone, that spot will automatically give way to a pile of cast off T shirts, sixteen pairs of old tennis shoes, and a large tabby cat. Actually, the cat may be lost somewhere in the maze of branches. I haven’t seen him since before the lights stopped working, but every now and then I can hear the angel on top purr. I think she's had a little too much catnip.

When the breeze of the ceiling fan caused a pile of pine needles the size of a sand dune to settle on the floor, the man who promised to love, honor, and teach the teenagers to drive crossed his arms and regarded the Christmas tree with raised eyebrows.

“It's gotta go.”

I came up beside him, licking the sprinkles off the last holiday cupcake. “It could be a Presidents Day tree. You could hang little pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on it.”

“The kind of pictures you find on small bills? What if I make it easy and just slip you a twenty?”

“What if I go to the mall and take out my New Year's anxieties on the clearance racks?”

“I don’t have enough presidents for that sort of stimulus package.”

“Well, how long does it take for wood to petrify?” I mused.

“Why do you ask?”

“Maybe we could leave it in the corner all year and pass it off as a sculpture.”

“If dead plants make great sculptures, we have an entire art museum around here.”

The man had a valid point. I’ve killed enough vegetation to decorate a dozen zombie weddings.

I reached for a drooping branch. "According to tradition, all of the decorations should be put away before the New Year starts.

A paw shot out of the center of the tree, snatched the marshmallow snowman off of my cupcake with one claw and disappeared without a sound. A pool of dry needles puddled on the carpet at my feet.

We stepped back a safe distance from the tree. "Let's leave it," I said handing him the tattered remains of the cupcake. "I think the ghost of Christmas past lives in there and he means business."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Doggerel Days

Once upon a weekend sunny
Tried to think of something funny
Searching through lines of illegible notes.
While I scrambled, thumbing pages
Looking for the laugh of ages
Came there then a scratching sound
Pawing at the kitchen door.
“Darn the doggies evermore!”

I was deep in concentration
Humor lost to contemplation
Dialogue from his Playstation
Which as parents we deplore
Curious, stilted conversation
Made me chuckle even more.

Then the doggies made their entrance
As it is in every instance
Muddy feet on my clean floor
Paws and tails were wildly flailing
Patience in persistence failing
I succumbed to waily wailing
As they muddied up the floor.
“Darn the doggies evermore!”

I lost my pen and grabbed a pencil
Wrote a tale with hands prehensile
Shining like the Christmas tinsel
Of the doggies at the door.
Lashing through the kitchen wildly
Hit a spot to put it mildly
Slid across the kitchen floor.
Dog ballet; I laughed still more
They crashed into the outside door
Thank the doggies for this lore!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Resolutions: Doggies & Potties & Zombies, Oh My!

The Resolution Trend is upon us, and much like the leg-warmer trend of the seventies, it crawls up your leg and leaves you with cold feet. But if Resolving is the thing to do, I may as well jump right in and point out my shortcomings. Lord knows if I don’t do it, the teenagers will.

The rules are simple: No setting goals that involve Paris Hilton in appearance or scope, no setting goals that involve such a vast amount of weight loss that a colon cleanse is indicated, and no setting goals that will prove detrimental to your overall lifestyle - honestly, it will not make you a better person to bake like Paula Deen. You’ll just spend more time in the kitchen, you’d have to expand to more extensive stretchy pants, and while you’re at it take a look at a recent picture. The woman is obviously a zombie. I haven’t seen eyes like that since Mystery Science Theatre 3000 ruled the airwaves.

So, with our ground rules, if not our sanity, intact, here are my Resolutions for 2010:

To eat at least one meal without sharing with the dogs. How many bites does it take before the Labrador remembers that he still doesn’t like olives?

To go ahead and take the batteries out of the TV remote/game controller/digital camera before the boys beat me to it. Personal satisfaction is the name of the game here.

Find one easy-to-prepare meal that everyone in the family will eat. Perhaps I’ll also go in search of Leprechauns and buckets of gold.

To come home from any destination (including a trip to the mailbox) at least once without heading immediately to the bathroom. Honestly, predictability is so 2009.

To go a full day without complaining about the speed of my Internet access, all the while bemoaning the days when people had to rely on the Pony Express or fax machines to deliver information.

Not to make more resolutions that I can feasibly accomplish. Which I automatically failed to do in Resolution Number One.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make the dog a sandwich. Extra pastrami, no olives.