Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Day At The Park

I should have seen it coming.

After scheduling and rescheduling the trip, we finally decided it—the second Saturday of November this year, my family was going to Disneyland! True, we live only a short drive from Anaheim, but a visit to “the happiest place on Earth” still brings with it careful planning accompanied by a youthful thrill. One doesn’t just show up to the place. No sireee. You build up anticipation and then you go and go until you can’t stand a moment longer. That’s how it’s done in my family. Plan. Play. Throw up.

And, it was to be a particularly exciting trip this time since my parents were joining us.

I know. You think you see it coming already. But trust me, you don’t. Though I’m sure you can already tell, it wasn’t gonna be just another “day at the park.” Pun intended. I can do that. My blog. Intended puns are allowed.

Longtime fans of this lil’ ol’ blog will know that Disneyland has proven to be the source of much irony for me over the years. Look no further than my October 2007 or May 2008 blog entries to see what I mean. Yes, that was a moment of shameless self-promotion, but once again, it’s my blog. So, I can do that, too. What’s to stop you from getting your own blog? Do it. I dare you.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Happiest place on Earth.

Those who know me well know that Disneyland seems to press my mischief button, where I find myself marveling at the minutiae that Disney seems to foresee while simultaneously imagining just what I could do at the park to subvert their foresight. That’s quite a challenge. But it’s how my mind works. It always seems to be asking, “At this moment, in this place, what’s the absolutely wrong thing to do… and what would happen if I did it?” It’s a terrible trait and I’m not proud of it. But there it is. An honest moment of self-deprecation. And for free. Ain’t the blog the thing?

Add to my natural mischievousness, a certain surliness prompted, no doubt, by my proximity to my parents. The effect of this proximity is not unlike matter joining anti-matter, or dogs meeting cats, or Obama meeting McCain. It's all nice until it isn't.

It must be said that trips with my parental units have always invited a certain je ne sais quoi, where I revert to the irritable, impish teenager I once was and they become hyper-emphatic exaggerations of themselves. Tell me I’m not the only one this happens to. Jeepers, I’m over 40 and still….

So, with my natural badness enhanced by my regression, you have, my friends, just the right/wrong confluence of earthly forces which has been known to prompt natural disasters, topple nations, or at least make foreign visitors re-think the wisdom of visiting the old U.S. of A.
But on this day, I was behaving. It was all under control—no Tourette's-syndrome-like outbursts from me. I had found some sort of existential zen place, or maybe it was just the calm before the storm.

Either way, it was all business—until we began to notice that this Disney day was looking a little different than usual.

After dropping off a hundred coats and fifty bottles of water at the nine-inch square locker on Main Street, I started to notice that some of the other guests were looking a little bit… well, undead. In fact, a significant percentage of the patrons were wearing some sort of black garment, some manner of facial jewelry, gloves, makeup, bat ears, devil horns… you get the picture. It was like Count Chocula’s birthday party without the crunchy marshmallow parts.

People in Gothic-wear were everywhere! We’re not talking dozens. Not even tens or hundreds. My friends, we’re talking a sea of thousands. Mickey and Minnie were not the only characters in the park that day, but no one was taking pictures with the dude who had a ring through his nostrils.

The others like us—let’s call them “the non-Goths”—were catching on, too. Old ladies, children, foreign visitors, all had befuddled looks on their faces. Was this Disneyland? I’ve been there often enough to know this sort of death march down Main Street is not on the usual menu, but the newbies must’ve certainly been thinking, “There was no one with a skull belt buckle or lip rings in the brochure.”

I couldn’t help but smile. It seemed, after all, I wasn’t the only one who pondered the ways a person (or a horde of people!) could subvert the Disney order of things. I seemed to have an affinity with people who looked like they went bare-face bobbing in a tackle box. And I didn’t mind it. This was funny.

It turns out this day was called, “Bats Day.” It’s an annual event where “Goths” from all over the world (underworld?) come to Disneyland to be themselves, to roam the park amongst the living as though the Haunted Mansion ride had belched up its animatronic inhabitants.

The real humor for me began when a man (I think) who looked like Edward Scissorhands walked by us, fingering his pentagram necklace while walking with his girlfriend (I’m guessing here) who was dressed in a white bridal gown, black Doc Marten boots with buckles, and a top hat. Tres chic. Like Brad and Angelina after a dirt nap.

My 65 year-old mother turned to me and said, “What are they?”

“Goths,” I said.

“Is that their religion?” She was puzzled.

“Not exactly.”

“Well, what do they believe?”

Now I was puzzled. “I think they believe in wearing funny clothes and going to Disneyland. Kinda like us.”

She rolled her eyes on account of my making fun and stopped asking questions.

We went about our day, sharing rides and tables and places in line with these folks, and I soon came to realize that there were even Goth subcultures:

Pippi Longstocking Goths—characterized by the horizontal pigtails and penciled-in freckles… or was that the plague?

Dr. Suess Goths—the ones with the red and white striped leggings and the droopy gloves. Would you eat them with a fox? Would you eat them in a box?

Matrix Goths—long leather coats and the apparent desire to fold backwards as though dodging slow-motion bullets.

Mad Hatter Goths—those with giant top hats and inexplicable insanity. A very merry un-birthday to you, my pale little friends.

Renaissance Goths—the ones with the frilly shirts and collars. Ironic since “Renaissance” means rebirth and they looked dead. Ha! A little English major humor, don’t ya know?

Pin Cushion Goths—more piercings than a trout farm fish’s lip. Sorta like that guy from the “Hellraiser” movie—the human voodoo doll.

I’m sure there were more Goth subcultures, but to discover and catalog them all would have required more staring than I was prepared to do. They were nice, but I wasn’t gonna push it.

All said, the day was a raging success. It was both Disney and anti-Disney all in one great package. And I didn’t get in trouble once! No outbursts. No insults I couldn’t take back. No sideways looks from suspicious park security people. I was all on my best behavior. But, let’s face it—I had minions to do my evil for me this time around!

And, I’ll tell you this. Before the day was out I got myself an annual pass.

I can’t wait for the next Bats Day. I wonder what I’ll wear…

© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Memo to My Future Self

Only two days until Election Day and I’d like to send my future self a memo. Did you kids know you could talk to the future? Look-see here. You can do it. Just get yourself a blog and you can be like Uncle Herb. Time-traveling, goofball, crazy Uncle Herb. Fasten your seatbelt Barbarella. Here we go.


TO: Future Me (Damn, you look more handsome with each passing day).

FROM: Younger Me (and did I mention you look mah-velous, Future Me?)

RE: The 2008 Election Results
Dude, don’t gloat.

Your guy just won the election handily and without any of those “count the ballot” delays of past elections. This time, it worked out. No chads hanging ‘round here, and that’s just fine. Florida dodged the bullet, and good for them. Cuba didn’t want them and, let’s admit it—that was on the table.

But, Future Boy, you need to take the high road, here. Your friends on the other side of the aisle just lost, and they’re not used to losing. It’s all new. Karl Rove forgot that chapter in his playbook. Should’ve been in there between the chapters on “Never Testify in Front of a Congressional Committee” and “Erase All Emails, Then Conveniently Forget Them.” Don’t be like those guys and rub it in their faces. Just win with dignity, nod politely, and be on your way.

I know what you want. You want an apology from them. Well, it ain’t coming. So, don’t make it all awkward. Just break up. It’s not them, it’s you.

Let them blame you as you snicker off and celebrate. You can drink your champagne, and gobble down your foie gras and cheer on your elitist, socialist, Marxist, communist, friends. But victory dances don’t happen on graves. They happen in end zones. Bury the dead with honor, no matter what you think the after-life will bring them.

Don’t make them feel guilty for eight years of waning international respect or disastrous and deadly foreign policy. Don't blame them for the dollars now worth pennies in your 401K. They know what they did. They pooped in their own diapers and now they have to sit in it a while.

Don’t yell at them, don’t curse. They saw what their votes got them. Let them just think it over. Give them a time out—it’s the new way we do things around here.

Maybe this will lead to a redefinition of their party. If they want Miss Wasilla as their queen, let them bring her back to their hive. I’m telling you now, they’ll lose a few drones. And honey, what could be sweeter?

No, Buck Rogers, your celebrating can’t last long. There’s work to do. You’re not just cleaning up after your party. You’re cleaning up after theirs. And you can’t do it alone. This time, change is big—and bigger than your guy can handle by himself.

So, make nice. Feel good. Job well done.

Suck down the bubbly, wipe those smirky lips on your shirtsleeve and get busy. Team Obama-rama must play clean-up. There’re wars to wrap up, apology letters to send, mop-ups to supervise, and middle-class boo-boos to bandage.

Tell Joe The Plumber to clear the pipes. It’s time for a clean flush.

And remember, there’s nothing worse than a sore loser, except a sore winner.

Oh, and one more thing you sexy future dude—in case I’m entirely wrong and things turned out the other way, blame those bastards. It’s all their fault. Always has been.
© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flying Monkeys of Mass Hysteria

Well, this month has been fun. No sooner have we entered the fall season than we’re faced with the fall of the economy. Just like the yellow leaves dropping from the autumn trees, Wall Street banks are dropping to the ground and starting to pile up. Notice the fancy metaphor? That’s what an English degree will get you, people!

With the threat of financial disaster looming, and the world wondering what you can get for a dollar, the administration is once again shooting up a flare, calling for hasty action and giving little regard to the impact its “solutions” may have on the average American. Drag out the bongo drums of fear and beat them again. Babaloo!

Anyone recall the Patriot Act? Vote first, ask questions later. Raise your hand—who’s willing to give up a few personal freedoms if it means you can sleep better at night? Yikes.

And remember the President’s plan for how the average American can fight terrorism? Go shopping! Oh, we went shopping, all right. We bought houses with magic mortgages. See how that turned out?

My dear friends, I don’t wish to become overly political here in my happy blog space. I like thinking that my blog is neutral; the Switzerland of the Internet. Yodel-lay-hee-hoo…! Do I smell cheese?

But you see? I can’t help it. I have the distinct feeling they’ve just substituted weapons of mass destruction with weapons of mass hysteria. Decide now, or face certain doom! It’s as though our President has, once again, released his army of flying monkeys to swoop down and pull our hair until we’ve given in to the madness. Vote by Friday or the economy will melt down! These are our choices? Do as they say NOW or give up all hope? Surrender Dorothy! And your little dog, too.

Take a breath, America! This is when we need smart, qualified, consensus-building people in leadership positions. It’s the smart people who ask questions. Questions like:

Why do we need to decide our fate by Friday?

Did someone order lunch?

Who the hell is Hank Paulsen and who put him in charge of our money? (okay, that’s really two questions)

Why is 700 billion dollars the right number to fix the economy?

Hey, where’s my lunch?

Why would McCain need to suspend his campaign to fix this? Does he have the secret code?

Who ordered the pastrami?

And, the painfully obvious question: why would we contemplate giving fix-it money to the same greedy goofballs who caused the problem in the first place? Hellooo?

I know “regulation” is a four-letter word to my right-leaning compadres, but I think we just finished conducting the open-market low-regulation test. Test over. Didn’t work. Click your heels together, people! Wake up. There’s no place like accountability! Let’s give this thing some teeth. Regulate!

We’ll go ahead and give you kids the 700 billion dollars, but you can’t spend it on candy and records, okay? And, your mother and I are going along on the date. We’ll just sit in the back to be sure everyone keeps their hands to themselves.

Mr. President, put your flying monkeys back in their cages. They can throw poo at us from there, if they must. Somewhere over the rainbow we’ll get our economy back on track without you, thank you very much.

In the meantime, you’ll forgive me for a month or two while I stuff my diminishing Monopoly money under my mattress. I think I’ll also start wearing a top hat and a monocle, just to get people talking. Do people wear monocles anymore? They should. Maybe McCain should wear a monocle. Sarah Palin's glasses caused a stir. How about a McCain monocle? A McMonocle.

Anyhow, here’s my action plan: We’re gonna put smart leaders in Washington—smart people with the willingness to ask questions, speak truthfully, and inspire confidence. People with international experience and respect overseas, you know, cuz of the whole global economy thing. Duh!

I’m sorry, Mr. McCain. Love that you served the country. You took one for the team and we really owe you one, there. But it’s NOT our vote we owe you. Sarah Palin? I mean, really? I think Mayor McCheese has more relevant public service experience. At least McCheese admits he’s a meat head. And he’s been to foreign countries. Couldn’t you find anyone else? Wasn’t H.R. Puffenstuff a mayor? I seem to recall Puffenstuff wearing a sash connoting some importance. He even knew a kid with a magic flute and had experience negotiating with evil powers. That could come in handy. Maybe a sash would help Sarah Palin, too. No, come to think of it, she already has a sash. I think it says, “Miss Wasilla—Runner Up.” Yeesh.

Okay, here’s my point: I know how I’m voting. I’m voting for change. I’m voting for smarts. I’m voting for inspiration. That's what I need. You vote how you like, but please vote because you expect something good from the leaders you choose. Come out, come out, wherever you are and vote, my munchkins. Accept only someone smart. Someone who inspires goodness and hope.

Remember, good ideas can stand scrutiny. Bad ideas crumble under scrutiny. Good ideas can take a little time. Those who offer bad ideas don’t want you to think about them for too long. And you’ll know a bad idea cuz it dissolves when you get it wet.

And you’ll be left thinking, what a world, what a world…

And the monkeys won’t know what to do.

© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Grinding to a Halt? What’s Brewing?

Like almost every American adult (and a few wired kids), I drink Starbucks coffee. Not because it’s the best coffee out there—I don’t believe that it is—but because it’s always an arm’s length away. We’re talking convenience, folks.

Need a hot java? Starbucks is there. Want a pound of dark roasted beans ground up for home brewing? Find the ‘bucks near you. Even if you just want the latest Sheryl Crow CD, guess where you can go? Functional, there-when-you-need-it, convenience: It’s the American way. And, the caffeine can never be too close. When you need the jolt, you need it NOW, right?

There’s a Starbucks in the strip mall on the corner. If that doesn’t work, there’s one across the street from that one on the corner. You can even see the cross-the-street one while standing in line at the corner one. Wave at the other barista, kids! Hellooooo!

Yes, it’s ridiculous.

So, why should it have surprised anyone when Starbucks announced it would be closing 600 of its stores? We’re lousy with Starbucks. You can’t throw a Starbucks without hitting another Starbucks—even if that did make any sense.

But isn’t there enough coffee to go around anyway? What the hell did we drink before all those Starbucks? Did we ever drink coffee? Well, maybe we did, but most Americans never drank lattes or espressos. We had a dirty cup of Sanka from Denny’s or that swill from McDonald’s. Does anyone remember “instant coffee?” It’s almost offensive now. And was there even such a thing as a “Frappuccino” before Starbucks? I believe they made that up.

Those people are inventors of food and language! Like McDonald’s. Who ever heard of a McNugget before those dudes?

And I can tell you this—before Starbucks, I thought drinks only came in small, medium and large; you know, like tank tops and sweatpants. But now, you’ve got, “tall” (which is small), “grande” (that’s medium) and “venti” (which really should have been called, “enormo”—that’s a kooky name everyone would have understood). Come to think of it, they should let me name things. That’d be my job. The Namer. Cool. I’m writing that down on my résumé: “The Namer.”

Starbucks created its own vernacular, with its venti sized half-pump, double-shot, half-caf, macchiatos. Say what? What ever happened to the cup-a-joe? If I was going to open a café and name my drinks, I would have called them, “cup-of-yodel-de-doo in sizes wee, chunky, or giganto.” Crazy fun names. See, I can name things as good as them. Hello, franchise!

Speaking of fun, here’s a fun trick you can try yourself: Go to a Starbucks and ask for a small cup of coffee. Watch and listen. The heavily-pierced kid behind the counter will look at you like you’re a crazy person talking an alien language. They’ll say something smirky and annoying like, “Do you mean a tall drip?”

You look right back at them, okay? And squint like Dirty Harry, and say, “No siree, pin cushion kid. I meant what I said—gimme a small cup of coffee.”

When they see you’re serious and unwilling to look away, they’ll admit it. They know just what you want. It’s fun. It’s like playing chicken. Try it out and let me know if it works as well for you as it does for me. One warning—from that point forward, when you go back to that Starbucks, they’ll know EXACTLY who you are: troublemaker. Of course, if that’s uncomfortable, you could just switch to the other Starbucks across the street. Then again, they may be closing that one. Hmmmm....

Now, I must say it, since you may see me at Starbucks ordering it: I’m a fan of the triple grande soy lattes. Hypocritical, you say? Perhaps. But, in my defense I can only say this: I like what I like. And those things, I like. It may have taken me a while to figure out what to call them, and even longer to realize there was such a thing as “soy milk.” But now I know my drink. By the way, how do you milk a soy? Do beans have udders? I guess I’m still confused.

My problem is, at four bucks a pop, I can’t afford those soy lattes very often, even though I now know how to pronounce them and what size a grande is. It’s sad, because I’ve figured out the Starbucks-to-English size conversion. I’ve even managed to learn how to order without laughing. Just when they start closing ‘em down!

But, with the economy in the crapper, I now just order a cup of coffee. Seems like most folks are just getting plain old coffee now, too—the sorts of drinks missing the “achino” and “achiato” at the end.

And, even though it’s a bit sad that they’re closing down a few of these Starbucks, I get it. Less money in the coffee-coffer means fewer coffee shops. And maybe people are tired of converting their language for the sake of those who are also taking their money.

When is convenience too convenient? Apparently when we stop giving funny names to our expensive coffee drinks and just go back to the small, hot, cup of joe. Maybe someday soon, when the economy is back on track and we’re feeling frisky again, Starbucks will open more stores, come up with more ridiculous names, and we’ll be waving at, what will then be, the two or three Starbucks in the same mall.

When that happens, I’ll have you over to my new alternative café and you can order my signature chunky, yodel-de-doo, with soy milk. Then again, I won’t laugh if you just ask for a hot cup of joe—small, medium, or large. Don’t worry, there won’t be Sanka or McSwill. Just coffee.

But don’t ask me for a macchiato. I have no idea what those are.
© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It’s a Weird World After All

May was weird. Here in So Cal, we’ve had a year’s worth of weather packed all into one month—rain, cold, wind, sweltering heat, you name it. Yeesh. Does anyone wonder anymore if climate change is real? Wake up, people! Polar bears are floating away on ice caps and Southern Californians are being knocked unconscious by giant hail. Not that anyone has noticed we’re unconscious. They just think we’re laid back. And we are.

And with the wacky weather, there seems to be a host of bizarre world developments of the social sort (not the cyclones and earthquakes, mind you—but those were weird, too!). I’m talking about the wave of weird news from such erstwhile partners in evil as Apple and Disney. Darth Vader and the Emperor. Bush and Cheney. Captain and Tennille. Okay, maybe just Captain. Tennille was less evil. Captain didn’t talk and I never trust the quiet ones. Anyhow, I digress.

First, Apple. I learned that Apple has announced they’re fresh out of iPhones. Yup. It’s true. They made only so many of their first generation gizmos, and folks apparently sucked them all up. Now, we either buy them on eBay or, if you’re like me, you wait for the next generation model (or maybe even the next).

Let the money-burners deal with the quirks and bugs of the first generation devices, I say. I’m no “early adopter” when it comes to expensive technology. I believe in guinea pigs and canaries in coal mines. It’s always a risk to be the first to try something new. It’s like I imagine it must have been for the first cave people that decided to try eating an artichoke. Have you thought about it? That must’ve been hilarious. “No, Grock. I think you have to boil it first, and then you pull off those spiky leaves. Only eat the soft part, Grock. Oh, no! Silly Grock. Can someone help him with the bleeding, please?” And who decided King Crabs were edible? Talk about trial and error. Wish I could’a seen that!

But, Apple isn’t saying that the first iPhones were buggy or glitchy and quirky (it’s my techy friends that tell me that). Rather, Apple says, “The first phones were AWESOME! But, um, they were so awesome that we not only stopped making them, we’re not, uh, making any more. So, there. Just wait for the next model.” Okay, whatever. I wasn’t buying anyway.

The second weird piece of news comes from Darth Apple’s evil twin, Darth Disney. It appears the rumors in Anaheim are true. Disneyland’s famous ride, “It’s a Small World” is officially closed for renovation. I’ve heard the evil empire must refurbish the flumes and the boats because the ride’s passengers (i.e. you and me) weigh more than the average rider weighed back in the 1960’s when the ride was designed. We’ve surpassed our parents, but in all the wrong ways. Those sixties radicals (I was a mere infant, so don’t blame me) were apparently thinner than we are now in the new century. It’s us, their offspring, who have fat asses. Of course, you’re thinner when you’ve burned your bra, right?

The thinnies from the sixties were the perfect size for the ride back then. But now our friends, the Disney “Imagineers” have to make the ride’s flumes deeper and the boats more buoyant to keep the ride from coming to an embarrassing and screeching halt every time our weight causes the boat to hit bottom. Too much ass for too little boat, so they say. Or maybe they didn’t say that. Okay, that was just me. Disney folks can’t say “ass”—they strike those words from the press releases, don’t cha know?

I’m sure the Disney engineers had a field day with their ideas for a fix which were, no doubt, shot down by the top brass (or top dog—would that be Pluto or Goofy?). The dorky engineers and their evil corporate bosses must’ve had a conversation like this when they were listing solutions to the "scraping-the-bottom" problem:

Engineer: How’s about we allow fewer people per boat?
Executive: No, that would mean longer lines and crankier guests. Next?

Engineer: How about we add more boats?
Executive: You gotta be kidding? We’ve already bribed the Fire Marshal to allow the bazillion boats we already have lined up, port to stern, inching through this ride!

Engineer: Why not just encourage healthier snacks in the park and reduce the weight of the average rider in the first place?
Executive: What?!! Healthier snacks cost more! You’re clearly not Disney material. You’re fired. And you’re dorky.

Don’t get me wrong. I think people of all shapes and sizes should have equal access to the fun and frolics offered by Darth Disney. And I’m no stranger to the churro. But, it does make one stop to think about how long ago these rides were designed—and what the assumptions were back then. At least on “It’s a Small World,” the ride goes so slow, the risks have been relatively small. But what about the speedy coaster dashing through the Matterhorn? Did they assume people had a better grip than they do now? We all have carpal tunnel, blackberry finger disease these days. We can’t be expected to hold on!!

All I know is, on that ride, the person sitting in front of you better be someone you know well BEFORE the ride, or you’ll surely know them well by the time the ride is over. I’m talking about a free lap dance, my friends. “Happiest Place on Earth?” Oh, yeah! And, no, lap dances are not mentioned in the press release, either.

Well, I suppose I should be happy that Darth Disney is updating a ride for safety and comfort reasons. Lately, all the “upgrades” have been about adding Johnny-Depp-Jack-Sparrow to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride or putting new music in Space Mountain. Maybe it’s time for the real upgrade.

And maybe that’s what Apple has in mind, too. Maybe, these days, it’s all about the upgrade. It’s an election year, right? Maybe we’re all hoping to make things better…

Then again, smaller asses would be good, too—or at least considered an upgrade. Like I said, weird month.

© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My NRA Card

Today, my National Rifle Association membership card came in the mail.

Okay, full disclosure: it was a temporary NRA card—one of those plastic deals with my name slightly misspelled, placed with sticky goo on a letter so that it can be seen through the plastic window of the envelope in which it came. Of course, after opening the envelope, I quickly learned (should I choose to pay twenty-five patriotic dollars) that a permanent, personalized card would soon follow.

And a bit more disclosure—I consider myself a liberal with no desire to own a gun, touch a gun, use a gun, or write a manifesto explaining my need for a gun. Let it be known, if I ever write a manifesto, I’ll post it right here for you. Because I love you. Because nothing says I love you more than a blog-posted manifesto. But I digress…

Back to my envelope. Much to my surprise, upon receiving my NRA card, I was thrilled—thrilled because an organization that I would NEVER join has wasted its money to send me their solicitation. It was the same thrill I felt when I got a letter in 2004 from George and Laura Bush along with a signed photo, asking for my support in George’s bid for re-election. My wife refused to let me frame and hang the photo in the house. Where did I put that thing?

I couldn’t help but think then, as I do now, that I’d love to follow the Byzantine trail that leads from me to the conservative spam list on which my name must appear. Did it all start when I printed my email address on the contest form to win the Hummer at the mall while my wife wasn’t looking? Guess it serves me right.

But my ironic thrill did not end simply at the arrival of my new NRA card. No, my thrill grew once I read the letter which accompanied my temporary card, warning me that the “freedom-hating Hollywood elite” were recruiting allies and spending millions to ban and confiscate our guns, “just like they did in England, Canada and Australia.” Heaven knows what hell-holes those countries have become. Tea-drinking, crumpet-munching, Queen-loving, non-gun-owning freaks. No thank you. Sign me up for the real card.

The letter went on to reveal that there are many benefits of an NRA card. These benefits include (if I act now!) a heavy-duty duffel bag bearing the NRA logo. Cool! This duffel would be the perfect place to carry my guns of choice when visiting a local mall or place of higher education or Jamba Juice. Ooh, I love those. Have you had the Mango Madness? Yum. Pairs well with expressions of your Amendment II rights.

Another amazing benefit of true NRA membership is one’s choice of NRA magazines filled with, “eye-popping photography, information-packed reviews of the hottest new guns, gear and ammo, hundreds of hunting tips plus all the news and strategies you need to defend your freedoms.” Tempting, my friends. Oh, so tempting. I just hope the magazines are worded clearly enough so that a knucklehead like me doesn’t confuse my hunting tips with my strategies for defending my freedoms. Here, I’m reminded of Dick Cheney shooting his lawyer. Which was that—a hunting tip or a freedom fighting strategy?

But my favorite is the third benefit—an NRA member “credentials package,” including a guide to insurance, Friends of NRA events, safety training, and up to 60% off on Starkey® hearing aid products.

Guh-wha? Hearing aid products? I kid you not. It says that verbatim!

That tells me that either gun ownership harms people’s hearing (and I believe that it does—but isn’t that a fair price for freedom?), or that there’s a skew towards gun ownership by people already hard of hearing. Is there a deaf militia out there? Who knew?! That’s either very liberating or entirely scary. How do you plead for your life when the man with the gun to your face can’t hear your pleas? Not fair.

Charlton Heston—once president of the NRA—passed away this month. Think what you will of the man, of the roles he played in “The Ten Commandments” or the equally Biblical, “Planet of the Apes,” but I was surprised my solicitation for membership didn’t evoke Mr. Heston’s memory. Lost opportunity, perhaps?

Then again, I always wondered how the NRA reconciled Heston’s leadership with their indictment of the aforementioned “freedom-hating Hollywood elite.” Maybe they regarded him as an exception to the rule. I’m sure he would have been happy to put a bullet between the eyes of one of those “damn dirty apes.” (Again, “hunting tip” or “freedom strategy”? Maybe both). Did Heston like Jamba Juice? What the hell am I talking about?

At this point I only know four things:
  1. I’m on some sort of conservative spam list and sort of loving it

  2. Charlton Heston is dead and officially being left out of NRA solicitations

  3. I have an inexplicable craving for Jamba Juice
  4. I have a new item on my to-do list—write a blog-posted manifesto sometime in the future

Is this what it’s like to be a card-carrying conservative? I’m giddy.

© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Saturday, March 22, 2008

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Great Time Famine

Daylight savings is killing me.

Don’t get me wrong—I love the idea of sunlight at the end of my day. I’ve just never been fond of waking up in the dark. Way too confusing. When I wake up from a dead sleep, my brain only works binary: Dark—Bad; Light—Good.

Now, having cranked the clocks back an hour, I don’t just start my day tired, I start it confused and in the dark. And it doesn’t help that they’ve changed the months when we’re supposed to mess with the clocks, either. Just more confusing. And confusion only makes me more tired. Evil cycle!

But, let’s admit it. We’ve been tired for a while; tired before we jimmied with the clocks (to be honest, I’ve been confused and in the dark for a while, too. But that’s another story). There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done:

- Dog fed
- Lunches made
- Kids to school
- Me to work
- Wife to work
- …Worky-work-work… (a whole other time crunch there!)
- Kids picked up
- Kids taken to soccer/tae-kwon-do/baseball/sport-of-choice
- Cooking the din-din
- Eating said din-din
- Homework reviewed
- Oops, feed the dog again!
- Bills paid
- Calls returned

… and that’s just Monday!

Okay, I just felt my blood pressure rise. It’s too much! Fifteen pounds of work crammed into a ten pound bag. And you’ve no doubt observed that, if this was Tuesday’s list, there would be no time for “American Idol.” That’s what Tivo’s for, right?

This weekend, when I was in the middle of sorting through our six-point-font family calendar (designed to capture all the crazy details of every crazy week) my kids suggested that we don’t play outside with them enough.

Hello? Could that be because you’re at soccer/tae-kwon-do/baseball every moment you’re not in school and I’m not at work? Don’t they let you kids outside at recess and lunch anymore? I’m getting migraine headaches from overhead fluorescent lights and my eyebrows are frozen from recycled air conditioning. I’d love to have recess outside!

Of course, it’s on the weekends I actually do get outside, but those are the times they hold the games for those sports activities they practice at during the week, not to mention the time we chauffeur the little mongrels to the birthday parties, sleepovers, and shopping dates. It’s also when we crack the whip on the house chores, or balance those anorexic bank accounts, drained by all that gallivanting we’ve done throughout the week...

But their point is not lost on me—and here it is: The kids don’t have enough time, either. They want to play ball, go to tae-kwon-do, play soccer, AND spend time outside with their parents.

Don’t be mistaken. We do spend time inside with the kids. We play family games a few nights a week or cheer on the American Idol du jour (provided the mongrels aren’t grounded from television).

But, what they really want is to play outside, breathe in the not-so-fresh air, hear the asthmatic birds chirping, or feel the warmth of all that daylight we’ve supposedly saved by shifting back those infernal clocks.

So, now that the sun is out later, I can already see it—playing outside will find its way into the family calendar (hello, five-point font!), and all those other evening activities and chores will be pushed further and later into the night.

That only means I’ll be getting to bed later and waking up even more tired, more confused, and more in the dark. Did I mention the evil cycle? I’m so tired, I forgot.

And that, my friends, is why they make coffee.

© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Your Heart or Your Head?

Ah, February. The runt month of the year. Usually only twenty-eight days long, but alas this is a leap year. February gets twenty-nine days. Still not enough to be like all the other months, but let’s hope for February’s sake, it takes the sting off of the inadequacy. Twenty-nine days of love. Which brings me to Valentine’s Day.

Now, you’d probably guess that an old cynic like me would have a load to say about how commercial and wrong Valentine’s Day is—that it’s just some money-grubbing scheme set forth by geriatric Mrs. See and those scabs at Hallmark, designed to rob guilt-ridden young people of their money or face the ire of their snubbed loved ones. And actually, that sounds about right.

Then again, I’m a romantic at heart (no pun intended). As corny as it sounds, I do love my wife and at Valentine’s Day, I like to let her know that. I even tend to include my children in the gift/card/candy/flower cornucopia, letting them know I’m rather fond of them, too. My wife always says I love the dog the most, but in February, that’s hard to prove.

I’ve learned in recent years that the legends of St. Valentine which have prompted our pronouncements of love may have been entirely misunderstood or misrepresented. As far as "they" can tell, these legends were taken from the English writer Geoffrey Chaucer’s interpretation of Valentine’s Day in his Middle English bore-fest, “The Parliament of Fowls.” As an English Major, I wasn’t a big fan of the Canterbury Tales—Middle English just wasn’t the language of my peeps—and this "Parliament of Fowls" I simply never read. I preferred Blake. I loved Milton. Chaucer—not so much. And now, it appears he may have been more than just a Middle English blabberer, he may have been a gossiping misinformer! (Okay, did I just get my English Major Membership Club Card revoked?)

According to the always reliable Wikipedia (is it me, or does that conjure up thoughts of witchy wiccans?), there were no fewer than eleven dates recognized as St. Valentine’s Day prior to 1969—and multiple dudes who came to be known as St. Valentine! And, if any of the legends are true, not a single one of them has anything at all to do with romantic love.

The best they can figure, the guy we now recognize as THE St. Valentine went to jail for trying to convert Emperor Claudius to Christianity (no comment there—just too easy!). In prison, he apparently blessed the blind daughter of his jailer and miraculously restored her sight, just before getting his head lopped off for offending the Emperor in the first place. Ah, the good old days.

Now, it may be a stretch, but as a man who’s been married for nearly 17 years, I can totally see the connection between romancing the woman I love and getting my head lopped off. Happens all the time. As cuddly and loveable as I am, I tend to say the occasional offensive thing which inevitably leaves my head in a basket, my wife scowling over me/it.

Which brings us back to chocolate and cards. Nothing puts a head back like candy and swoony words. So, maybe Chaucer was actually brilliant. Maybe he’s the man who foresaw the way it all would play out in the future, and knew we’d need at least one day each year to make nice with the loved ones. So, hurrah for old Mrs. See and hello, Hallmark. Tell them all, Geoffrey Chaucer sent you.

And before you go cursing Valentine’s Day, remember where your head is.

© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

So, last week I’m merrily pounding away on my new Dell laptop when I find that the “Q” key only functions intermittantly (and here, I thought that was “dub-ya” that only worked half the time!)

Anyhow, I know that Dell offers online support, so I dive into chat-land with “Zack” the help-desk dude from who-knows-where—Houston, Bangladesh, Trenton…? He offers to update my drivers, but I tell my new friend Zack that drivers probably ain’t the problem. I got a “Q” issue.

He says, “no sweat.” The laptop is still under warranty. He’ll replace the whole keyboard. He asks if I want a tech to come out, or if I want to do the swap myself.

The voice in my head, which sounds hauntingly like my wife, reminds me that I tried to fix my daughter's camera last month. Instead of fixing it, I managed instead to give myself a small shock…twice. Ahem. Yeah. Felt those in my teeth. Still can’t concentrate.

But I consider myself technically proficient (if not technically adventurous) so I ask what sort of work a swap like that would entail. My man Zack sends me a link to a web page with instructions on the swap to help me make an informed decision. I get to the part of the page where Dell says if I screw up my swap, the warranty’s kaput (not in those words, of course. But the point isn’t lost on me—no do overs.)

I tell Zack to send the tech, and two days later, Justin arrives.

From here on, I’ll refer to Justin as the Dell child, since he looks like some boy from my daughter’s junior high school class. She’s thirteen.

Dell child arrives at my office wearing a blue, long-sleeved dress shirt which I immediately presume he nicked from his dad’s closet. To match, he wears ill-fitting dress slacks and chunky black sneakers, passable as “dress shoes” if you don’t look too hard.

I fought heartily—you’d be proud of me—not to ask Dell child if his mom knew he was skipping class to come replace my keyboard. I almost asked for a note from home or a hall pass before letting him continue. I have a bit of a cruel streak, don’t ya’ know?

He said very little, most of which was spoken in a voice that screeched up and down the scale like puberty had just hit that morning. Awk-ward.

He sat at a table, pulled out a set of tiny tools, and swapped my old keyboard for a new one in less than five minutes. It was like watching Orange County Botox—it was over and done with before I knew it, and I didn’t feel a thing. Of course, I could still speak without drooling, so the Botox metaphor just doesn’t work, does it? Erase. Do over. Never mind.

He rose from his seat and recited a cute little speech about how I might get an electronic survey from the folks at Dell about his service, and how he’d love it if I could give him all “fives” or some such thing. His recitation reminded me of the little girl who came to the door this week in her Girl Scout outfit and rattled out her rehearsed lines about cookie sales. In fact, Dell child and Girl Scout may very well have been the same person. When you get older, the young kids all blend together. I didn’t really listen to her and I was too distracted to listen to him.

It occurred to me in a rush not unlike nausea that my world requires this kid. I rely on my computer every day. But as it turns out, my computer relies on Dell child. Kids run things. Kids run everything. I’ve just been too busy to realize it.

Now, of course, since my encounter with Dell child, I’m seeing it everywhere. Kids. Running everything. Been to the movies lately? Hate to tell you, but that place pulls in a hundred grand a day and the eight people running the joint were all born in the 90’s!! I think the popcorn has been there longer than they've been alive.

I swear, I’m going to card my optometrist—he's young, too. Is it “bring your kid to work” day? It’s bad enough to be told you have to wear glasses to read. Does a kid have to be the one to tell me? Sheesh! Move over insult, here comes injury.

Man, I’m getting old and now I’m sounding old.

Starting tomorrow, I’m devoting two hours a day to playing on my son's new Wii. That should keep me young!

Of course, if that thing breaks down, I know who I’ll have to call to come fix it.

© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart