Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holidays and Deleted Icons

Happy holidays, true believers! Sorry I’ve been incommunicado lately. Busy with everything, finishing touches to the novel, moving into a new house, traveling for work, and fending off a kick-butt case of the stomach flu. Just finally catching my breath. Gotta take it easy, I know. Sounds like a new year’s resolution in the making.

If you’re like me, (and I hope for your own sake you aren’t) I can tell you I’m loving the annual angst of the holidays, starting with Turkey Day. Nothing says Thanksgiving like our annual trip to Arizona. All I can say is my people have crossed one too many deserts and it's starting to feel like being “chosen” may not have been such a good thing after all. Of course, Moses would have loved stopping at A&W Root Beer off Interstate 10 for a root beer float, or pausing to browse at the world-famous Hadley’s for some date shakes and Oriental trail mix. Talk about a Hanukkah miracle! Forty days and forty nights at the Cabazon outlet mall? Oy vey.

This year, dinner with my folks in Scottsdale was less about the turkey and more about helping my dad set up his new computer. Don’t get me wrong. The turkey was awesome. My stuffing came out well and the Hawaiian rolls added just the right, “je ne sais quoi.” But this year’s “Big Bird” was not the butterball, it was Dad’s new HP desktop with the widescreen HD monitor. Of course, we drooled over both the food and the machine.

Now, it should be noted that my folks aren’t exactly “tech-savvy,” though over the years, they’ve gained some skills like turning on the computer and monitor, burning a CD, printing out birthday cards, sending email, and surfing the Web. It’s been a journey fraught with potholes and darkness, late night “help-desk” phone calls, and conversations like:

“Hi, Herb. It’s Dad. It’s not too late to call, is it?”

“Of course not. It’s 7 p.m., Dad. What’s up?”

“Well, somehow I deleted all my icons.”

“How did you do that?”

“It happened after I deleted some files from my system folder.”

“Why did you delete items from your system folder, Dad?”

“I wasn’t using them.”

“. . . Um, how do you know?”


“How do you know you weren’t using the files in your system folder?”

“You’re supposed to be impressed that I used the term, ‘system folder’.”

“Dad, you can’t just delete things you think you don’t use. Would you open the hood of your car and throw away parts you think you don’t use?”

“Of course not.”

“Ok, then.”

“So can you get my icons back?”

“Not a chance. You’re gonna need someone there in Scottsdale, Dad.”

“Will that cost money?”

Soon enough, Dad found a kid willing to help and was off to the races. Now, seven years later, he was ready for a new machine and my arrival was the catalyst for the purchase. He found a sale, got his discount, and we got the thing home with plenty of time for me to help set it up.

The new system came with Windows 7, which was cool (though not as spectacular as the commercials would lead you to believe). A few new tricks and features and I was ready to roll up my sleeves. All the while, Dad's got his endless supply "helpful" suggestions (akin to deleting unnecessary system files). I felt myself slowly reverting to the surly, short-tempered teenager I once was and had to practice Lamaze breathing just to stay focused and avoid the use of colorful language.

In the end, I successfully set up the computer, I have a new appreciation of the medicinal effects of red wine, and my parents have a working, Internet-ready machine. They’re happy and I’m officially over it, though admittedly feeling a little tired. Loads to be thankful for!

Fast forward to December, and now I’m ready for our multi-ethnic, non-denominational holiday celebration of Hannukmas…. Kwanzakah? Either way, I’m enjoying the Reggae sounds of Matisyahu—the world’s best (and perhaps only) American Hasidic Jewish reggae musician. Oddly, it reminds me of the ceviche sushi at Riptide—an odd combination, but if you don’t think about it too much you’ll probably love it!

Somehow, it seems entirely fitting to the multicultural flavor that seasons my home at the holiday season. Or, perhaps it’s just that I like surrounding myself with such mind-bending accoutrements. You’re the better judge of that, than I am!

Now, the shopping is mostly done. The food is mostly purchased and awaiting preparation. Let’s just hope I don’t get that flu again! And as I look to 2010, I can’t wait until my parents’ next visit out to see me. Then, instead of playing Help Desk Herb, I can rope my parents into the new “Beatles Rock Band”—a Hanukkah favorite—where they can each don a guitar and play the part of their own favorite “deleted icon.” (Would that make my mom, Yoko?)

Maybe then I can breathe easier, calm my nerves, get some rest, and dream of the California desert, filled with root beer floats. You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world.

© 2009, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Friday, October 16, 2009

What’s More Dangerous, Balloons or Cleavage?

Greetings true believers. I’m sorry I’ve been negligent with the blog-making lately. Since my last entry, I’ve taken no fewer than six business trips out of state, sold my house, bought a house, and enjoyed my first colonoscopy.

Of all those aforementioned activities, I can’t tell you which the biggest pain in the ass was. Believe it or not, it probably wasn’t the colonoscopy. Another story for another blog—lucky for you.

In short, I survived it all, found my Internet connection, and now humbly throw myself back into cyberspace a-la-Meaghan McCain. Why do I love her? I think I may have a conservo-crush, and it’s not just ‘cuz of the whole “tank top incident.”

You didn’t hear about that? It’s really nothing. Meaghan wore a tank top, showed her Grand Canyon of cleavage in a photo posted on Twitter, then suffered the conservative backlash of those that want all Republican women to look like Nancy Reagan. Now, Nancy may very well wear the cleavage machine tank top at home, but she realizes she shouldn’t post a photo of her wearing it on Twitter. Now we’re really talking “don’t-ask-don’t-tell.”

Maybe I like the fact that Meaghan is tech savvy and her dad is tech illiterate. Or, maybe it’s that she knows she can’t see Russia from her house—and she’s not pretending to love the people who say they can, even though she’s Republican. I can’t put my finger on why I like Meaghan McCain—but if you can figure it out, let me know! It’s kinda bugging me.

But, now that I’m back online in the recreational sense, I’ve come across video news footage that I might generously place under the header of, “momentary lapses of parental judgment” or less generously under “reasons why they should require a license before allowing procreation.”

Let’s start with those goofballs in Colorado—the ones that made a homemade weather balloon/alien spy vehicle only to see it released 7,000 feet into the sky with their six-year-old son on board! The thing floated from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and, by the time it crashed, the kid was nowhere to be found.

The government sent helicopters, neighbors raced after it like tornado chasers in their trucks, but they couldn’t find the kid.

Suddenly, and inexplicably, the parents realized the boy was in their attic playing all along. Um, hello? Was it more likely their kid was floating in space than playing in their house? Didn’t they look there? And why the hell do people make a homemade weather balloon and leave it unattended for the six year-olds to play with?

I came to find out later these same parents were featured on the ridiculous reality show, “Wife Swap,” begging the question—were they just looking for the media attention all along? And, come to think of it, the answer doesn’t matter. They’re ridiculous goofballs either way. How about “Brain Swap?” Seriously.

Then, just as I’m ready to dismiss this incident as anomalous, the next day, I see this news footage of a mother in Melbourne Australia, waiting for a train with her baby in a stroller. She turns away from the stroller long enough to let the thing roll off the platform, with the baby, onto the tracks, just as the train was pulling into the station.

Dudes, I made the mistake of watching that video while sitting in a café and gasped so loud they thought I was choking on a veggie panini. Holy crap. I made them give me the Heimlich maneuver, anyway. It showed they cared.

Don’t those strollers have brakes anymore? And what better time to use the brakes than when parking your infant on a train platform. Hello????!!

The good news is, the kid in the stroller miraculously survived with only a scratch—turns out the stroller took better care of the kid than the mother did. The bad news is, the mom gets to keep the baby. What is the deal with Australia? Does a dingo have to eat a baby to get people to wonder about the suitability of a person’s parenting?

I know I sound harsh, but I’m in a mood here. Maybe it’s Meaghan McCain’s cleavage, but I’m feeling a little angst.

Justified or not, I just want to say this: People, hang onto your children. Don’t send them up in balloons (or leave them alone in attics) and don’t let them roll away in front of an oncoming train or feed them to dingoes. Kids are perfectly capable of creating their own danger and drama. Parents are supposed to help them avoid that stuff! Duh.

“Where the Wild Things Are” (the movie) comes out this week and it’s about a kid that leaves his parents and sets sail on the seven seas to join a tribe of monsters on an island. You see? We’re scaring the kids away!

So, next time your kid is vegging out safely on the couch watching the tube or playing a video game, don’t go crazy with the cries of “too much television” or “go play outside.” Just enjoy the fact that they’re safe, they’re whole, they’re healthy, and they’re with you.

It could be worse. They could be posting revealing pictures of themselves on Twitter.




© 2009, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ode To The King

When I was twelve years old, I decided to buy my first record.

My family had just gotten a new stereo and my parents were playing their own albums over and over. Englebert Humperdinck and Herb Alpert spun, followed by Tony Bennett and, of course, Elvis and the Rat Pack.

When it was clear I wanted in on the musical action, my parents told me I could spend my allowance to buy my own record.

I immediately knew what I wanted. The kids at school had been talking about some album called, “The Wall.” I wasn’t sure whose album it was, but it was clear—if you wanted great music, you needed, “The Wall.”

So, off I went to the record store. Truth be told, it wasn't a record store, but rather the record section of the drug store. It didn't matter. My allowance was burning a hole in my pocket and there were records to be bought.

While my mom was off gathering aspirin and shampoo, I headed for the music. I was too embarrassed to ask for “The Wall,” because it meant I’d have to admit my ignorance—I had no idea who'd recorded it. Instead, I went right for the Pop Music section and started with “A.”

I thumbed through the records one after the other (and, kids, when I say, “records,” I mean those big, round vinyl numbers they put in cardboard sleeves). This was before CDs or iTunes, when we all had to work for our allowance. Yes, I’m a little bitter. Memo to kids—earn your keep!

Anyhow, I got to the “J’s” and found it—“Off the Wall” by Michael Jackson. He had sparkly socks and the album featured cool sounding titles like, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” and “Rock with You.” I was ready!

I happily offered up my allowance, rushed my mother out of the cosmetics section with proclamations of her beauty and statements about the needlessness of such cosmetics, and raced to our Buick. I had the record out of the plastic and cardboard sleeve before I hit the living room.

For the rest of the day, I ate up my new Michael Jackson record. I spun my disk repeatedly until I had every song memorized, right down to each “hee-hee-hee” and “woo-hoo-hoo.”

I sang out loud, lyrics like,

It's Too High To Get Over (Yeah, Yeah)
Too Low To Get Under (Yeah, Yeah)
You're Stuck In The Middle (Yeah, Yeah)
And The Pain Is Thunder (Yeah, Yeah)
You're A Vegetable, You're A Vegetable…

I knew I was really onto something when my folks heard the music and liked it, too. Not so sure how they felt about my singing…

My mother came over and eyed the album. “Wow, he's so grown up now.”


“Michael Jackson was that cute little boy in ‘The Jackson 5’,” she explained. When I gave her my confused face, she sang, “A-B-C… Easy as 1-2-3….” Then I knew what she meant. I loved those kids and their symmetrical afros. "He was the little boy, the youngest one."

Kids rule, even when they grow up! Michael was our ambassador! Kid and grown-up all at once.

On Monday at school, I strutted the halls, unapologetically singing, “Momma-say, momma-saw, Ma-mongoose-saw,” (incidentally, NOT the real lyrics) when someone asked what I was singing. I proudly reported I got Michael’s “Off the Wall” album over the weekend and knew every song.

That’s when I was informed that the cool album the kids had been talking about wasn’t Michael's “Off The Wall.” It was, “The Wall,” by Pink Floyd.

Now, you’d think I would’ve been humiliated, embarrassed, and ready to return my album to the drug store. But you’d be wrong. It was too late. I was hooked. Michael had me at, “Hoo-hoo-hoo."

I never did buy that Pink Floyd album. I was a Jackson fan, and I didn’t care if it was cool or not.

I can only imagine now how the Pink Floyd Album would’ve changed twelve-year-old me. My parents would surely not have been as enthusiastic about Floyd. And if they think I’m a rebel now, imagine… (“Hey teachers, leave those kids alone!”)

I have to say, my love-hate-love of pop culture was (and still is) well served by Michael Jackson. Even through his scandals, eccentricities, surgeries, single silver gloves, marriages, baby-danglings, and his changes in color (it doesn’t matter if you’re black AND white!), I’ve remained a fan of his music.

“Thriller” got me through high school and “Bad” got me through college (okay, full disclosure—coffee helped a lot, too!). My point—Michael was with me all the way.

I was entertained by his toe dancing, wild spinning, and moonwalking (just try that in your kitchen!). I coveted his friendships with Liz, Diana, McCauley, and his monkey (who doesn’t want a monkey?). I even pondered questions I thought I’d never ponder—like what life would be like without a nose—all thanks to Michael.

Now he’s gone and I take pause. Think what you will about the man and his surreal life. But his mark was unmistakable and undeniable. He influenced a lot of little dudes like me who didn’t stop ‘til we got enough.

The King of Pop is dead and we’re on our own.

I have a new desire for sparkly socks and the nagging feeling that I might be the next king of pop.

And The Whole World Has To Answer Right Now
Just To Tell You Once Again . . .
Who’s Bad?

© 2009, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Age Inappropriate

This month, the parental units came for a visit to our humble abode—their first since our addition of the Rock Band video game to our family dynamic; and by dynamic, I mean, dysfunction.

As a result, our living room, the central point of our house and shrine to our big-screen TV, has changed since their last visit. Now, it’s not just the place for the couch and the TV, it’s home to two guitars propped up against the wall and a black, plasticky but imposing-looking drum set.

I tell myself it’s like Jon Bon Jovi’s house, or at least how it would be if he was less famous, and, er, talentless, and, um, lame beyond words. Okay, it’s nothing like Jon Bon Jovi’s house, but it’s rocking now, okay?

Anyhow, the presence of the faux instruments draws the color commentary from the parents.

“Oooh, has someone taken up the drums?” Mom says this precociously, knowing my son has begun drum lessons (of the real variety).

“Those aren’t real drums, Grandma.”


“Those,” I explain, “are the ‘Rock Band’ drums.”

More confusion. “He’s in a rock band?”

“Uh, not exactly, Mom. Those are the drums and those are the guitars for our new video game, Rock Band 2. We play it on the TV.”

Disapproval face.

“You should play, Grandma!” My son thinks everyone should play everything. I love it. And he’s right.

I say, “Yeah, Grandma, you should play” (I say that ‘cuz I’m evil). “And Grandpa should play, too.” Oh, I love being evil. And my evil is equal opportunity. No one is spared.

“I don’t think so,” Grandpa grumbles. He crosses his arms.

My son’s enthusiasm gets Grandma excited, even if she’s confused. “Oh, come on, Grandpa. Let’s try.” She can’t resist her grandkids. She gives Grandpa a look and then appeals to me. “Tell your father to try.”

I say, “C’mon, Dad. It’s like karaoke.”

Ok, momentary sidebar: I have a rule—don’t air the family secrets on the blog. It’s not right, and not fair. Of course, I have another rule. If something is funny, break the rules.

So here it is; family secret: my parents love karaoke. They have a machine at their house plugged into the TV. The real deal. They croon to Elvis and Frank whenever company comes over. They’re like drunken Japanese businessmen, but without the sushi. They can’t help themselves.

It’s the same every Thanksgiving we go to visit. No quiet moments. Those are filled in with, “Jailhouse Rock” or “My Way.” In my dad’s head, he’s Elvis. And when he gets started, there’s no stopping him. He starts with “just one Elvis song” and then it’s suddenly American Bandstand. He’s like Angelina Jolie and African orphans. He can’t stop at just one.

“How is it like karaoke?” he asks. I’ve gotten his attention. “I don’t want to play the guitar or drums...”

“That’s okay.” I smirk and pause for dramatic effect. “You can sing.”

Big eyes and an Elvis smile. “Okay.”

So, I hand him the microphone and get the Xbox controller to scroll through the list of songs—rock songs from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s… “Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac?”


“Livin’ on A Prayer?” See, maybe it is like Bon Jovi’s house.


“Hungry Like the Wolf?” I know I’m on thin ice now.

Dad scowls. “Don’t you have any Sinatra?”

Uh-oh… “No, Dad. It’s ‘Rock Band.’”


“Um, how about, ‘Eye of the Tiger?’”

“I don’t know that song.”

“Sure you do. From Rocky?”

Mom starts singing it for him. Dad frowns again.

“Just try it,” my daughter says smiling. She’s encouraging, I guess. Or, she’s inherited my sick sense of humor. Either way, I’m proud of her.

“Okay,” my dad says, though he doesn’t sound quite so excited anymore.

But, with my mom on guitar, my son on the drums, my daughter on bass and my father at the microphone, the song begins.

Now here’s a tip: If you haven’t experienced something truly surreal, put your AARP friends and relatives in a faux-band and sit back to watch. It may not be “American Idol” but it’s just as entertaining. And in the home version, you can be Simon Cowell.

“That was like the death cry of a cat, falling off a building. Hideous!” Why do we love that Simon? Maybe he’s got a little evil in him, too…

As the song proceeds, it’s clear my dad can’t read the lyrics scrolling across the TV, in spite of being a foot away from the big screen. Did Elvis ever have that problem?

Instead, Dad begins to sing from memory.

After a verse or two, it’s clear the memory ain’t what it used to be. I try to remember when Rocky III came out and whether or not my father has even seen the film….

Every few seconds he blurts the word “Tiger!” in beat with the song, and then mumbles the rest. It’s like, “Tourette Syndrome—The Musical.”

Hey, that’s good. Maybe I’ll write that down for later. Another good idea like my screenplays, “Supermodel Astronaut,” or my new one, “Ninja Leprechauns.” Man, how do I do it? The good ideas just flow, people. Get yourself an English degree. I’m telling you!

His blurting continues and the mumbling follows as the song plays on and Mom struggles between watching the TV, watching the guitar, and listening to my dad.

I’ll give him this—he mumbles on key. The blurting, not so much.

When the song is finally over, my mother proclaims, “Well, I sure do have respect for real guitar players, now!”

“That’s not a real guitar, Grandma.” My son is very literal.

“Well, I’m just saying it’s hard.” Then, probably out of fear that she’s upset my son, she adds, “But, that was fun.” She sounds only half-convinced.

After the one song, Dad hands me the microphone. He’s had enough.

My kids convince Grandma to try the drums and start a new song. “Hungry Like the Wolf” never sounded like that before, but they don’t know that song anyway, so it sounds perfect.

Halfway through the song, my mother realizes that the drums are color coded to match what’s happening on the screen and announces her surprise. “Oh, there’s the yellow...”

My son rolls his eyes.

My daughter smiles at me. We’re thinking the same thing. This is heaven.

In the end, I have to say—it was a great memory. I highly encourage you all to try the recipe:

  • Two geriatric participants—shaken
  • One tween, one teen—usually warm, sometimes cold.
  • Musical instruments (faux instruments work best and they’re cheaper to replace in case you have an “incident”)
  • An evil streak (not too hard to find, trust me)
  • A few free minutes (very hard to find, but do it!)

Blend these ingredients in your living room until totally uneven, misshapen, and inappropriate. Then, play.

Serves 6.

The kids seemed to enjoy it, but the real kudos goes to the parents for putting up with it. Afterward, Mom needed a nap and Dad wanted coffee.

The whole episode reminded me of last summer when the kids convinced my folks to try the “Harry Potter” jelly beans—the ones flavored like vomit, rotten eggs, and dirt.

Dad popped one in his mouth, knowing he might be in for a surprise, but apparently unfazed by the risk.

My son had asked, “What flavor is it?”

Come to think of it, my father had the same look on his face after “Eye of the Tiger” that he did after he tried that jelly bean.

He chewed, frowned, and then simply said, “It tastes like someone farted in my mouth.”

Then, like now, I had the same thought: Music to my ears.

© 2009, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Friday, April 3, 2009

What We Leave Behind

Every kid is asked the same question when they’re young: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s one of those safe questions asked by aunts, uncles, and complete strangers intended to solicit some sweet or precocious response from the kid. Innocuous, harmless, and fair to ask. The kid’s answer is often something totally imaginative and potentially impractical—cowboy, supermodel, astronaut, fire fighter, or veterinarian (right up until the kid realizes veterinarians have to put dogs to sleep, then it’s back to astronaut). Bonus points for those supermodel astronauts. Hey, that should be the title of my next screenplay, “Supermodel Astronaut.” Okay, people, that’s copy written, so leave it alone.

But what happens when you’re 40-ahem-something and people are still asking you what you want to be? You’ve tried a few things, with moderate success, but still feel like you haven’t quite hit your stride. Sound familiar, or is that just me?

The rude snit in me wants to reply, “Who says you have to grow up in the first place?” or “I’m still deciding. Wait for the memo.” I’m a work in progress, man!

Let’s be honest. We all want something to show for ourselves. We want to leave behind an indelible mark on the world; some brilliant accomplishment everyone can say uniquely defines us. But how long do we have before people stop waiting on us for our “mark”? Is it ever too late?

Dr. Steven Covey, the author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” tells us we should write down the things we want to accomplish in a mission statement with steps to achieving our goals clearly articulated.

This week, with the exception of this lil’ ol’ blog, all I’ve managed to write is a shopping list. I guess “leaving my indelible mark” must’ve gotten lost somewhere between “Cap’n Crunch” and “Paper Towels.”

And, one has to wonder if people who’ve actually done that—left their mark—even bothered writing a mission statement. I’m guessing, no. Sorry, Dr. Covey. Bad habit.

I do know this (courtesy of my pals at Wikipedia): many, MANY, famous people managed to make their mark when they were my age or even younger. Sit down for this list, true believers. It’s a bit of a shocker:

Thomas Jefferson—my favorite wig-wearing founding father was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence (of course, he had help, but come on! 33?)

Dr. Martin Luther King—the leader of the civil rights movement was 34 when he wrote, “I have a dream,” 35 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and died at 39. Okay. I had a dream, too. Let’s just say Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman are very friendly in my dream and leave it at that. I know, I’m no Dr. King. But my dream is good too, people!

Elvis Presley—“Heartbreak Hotel” hit #1 when the King had just turned 21. That was the halfway mark. He died at 42. A little less conversation, a little more action, please.

Babe Ruth—the baseball legend was the first player to hit 60 home runs in one season when he was 32. The Babe retired at 40 years old with 714 homers. And kids, take note: no steroids. It was 100% chunky white man power back then.

Rosa Parks—That “old lady” who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man? She was 42 when she did that! A legend for sitting still. I think she was onto something. I love sitting still. And, why did we think she was old? Yeesh.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt—Our 26th president got the job at 42. Of course, he was VP at the time and his President, McKinley, had been shot, so Teddy kinda slid into that one… I guess it still counts. Would Dr. Covey have wanted Roosevelt to write, “Get the boss shot” on his mission statement? Hmm…

Buzz Aldrin—flew to the moon when he was 39 and never stopped to ask for directions. I drove to Arizona from California when I was 39 courtesy of MapQuest. I guess Buzz wins. But I’ll tell you this: Buzz couldn’t stop at the outlet malls on the way. In your face, Lightyear! Kiss my $30 jeans!
Now, some people choose to take the “reality show” path to make their indelible mark. But, to me, that’s more like a dog leaving his mark on a tree. Not exactly indelible and not really how you want to be remembered. Unless your reality show is, “American Idol” and then you get Herb’s free pass. Love Idol, people! Go Gokey!

So where’s that leave us?

The sentimentalist would say our children are our mark.
…All I have to say to that is, ask your kids if they think of themselves as your mark. When they’re done laughing at you, come up with Plan B.

The pragmatist would say, not everyone has to leave his or her mark. Just do what you can, the best you can.
…Okay, but still not feelin’ the love. Dreams aren’t pragmatic. I’m reminded once again of Ms. Berry and Ms. Kidman. Dreams are for the non-pragmatic in us.

The defeatist would say, stop worrying about it. Your mark only matters when you’re dead.
…That’s our plan? Death? I’m thinking I wanna enjoy the mark I leave as long as possible. I’m all about the not dying.

Buddhists will tell you, if you don’t get a chance to leave your mark, you’ll get a “do-over.”
…I suppose you might just have to leave your mark as a chicken or a squid, but them’s the breaks. Yes, Buddhists say, “them’s the breaks.” Just ask a Buddhist.

I say this: Life is that thing that happens while you’re figuring out how to leave your mark. Some of us, through a confluence of skill and luck, get to leave a mark. The rest of us throw our fates to the wind. Maybe a mark. Maybe no mark.

But I know this—we all wanna try. It’s human nature. It’s in us like Gatorade.

So get out there people. Make your mark. Make it good. Make it something you’re proud of. Write that manifesto, build that house, sing that song, join that social movement.

Or, hey, get yourself a blog!

…And check back here—let me know what mark you’ve made, what you’re plan is, or how you’ve just resigned yourself to coming back as a very ambitious squid.

© 2009, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rocking My World

Okay, I’m officially a kook.

This was proven, once and for all, in one of those awkward moments of clarity while I was driving down the 5 Freeway toward Dana Point (that’s California, don’t cha know?). I passed a building with a sign that said, “Gas and Logs,” and my juvenile mind starting playing the word-association game show, “The Twenty-Thousand Dollar Pyramid.” See what I mean? A kook.

Folks my age or older will surely remember that show from the 70’s and 80’s. You kids out there—go to YouTube and you’ll see for yourself. Dick Clark was the host of the show, featuring a big pyramid built out of triangle panels that would spin around to reveal categories to the audience. A Hollywood celebrity would offer “clues” related to those categories in the form of seemingly random words, blurted out to a contestant who couldn’t see the categories. The contestant would have to guess the category from the clues.

So, JoAnne Worley or Tony Randall (do you kids even know who they are?) would say, “Cherries…Apples… Peaches…Little Jack Horner’s Thumb…” and the contestant would respond with a guess like, “Things in a Pie!” Bingo! Twenty-K!

The losers on the show got a lifetime supply of Legg’s pantyhose or Rice-a-Roni. There’s a lesson, kids: failure can be sexy and delicious. Wow, that’s like a fortune cookie thing! "Failure can be sexy and delicious." That there’s a keeper, my friends.

So anyhow, I’m driving along and there’s the sign—“Gas and Logs,” and my goofy brain blurts out, “Things that come out of an ass.”

I know. Totally random. I’m sure that’s not what the sign maker had in mind.

Apparently, I’ve been playing “Twenty-Thousand Dollar Pyramid” since 1979 and had no idea. Very disturbing. Where’s my Twenty-K? Or, at least my pantyhose and rice…

So, fast-forward to the very next day. My kids decide it’s time to cash in their holiday gift cards to buy the new video game, “Rock Band 2.” For those unfamiliar with this game, it’s like karaoke on your TV, but with instruments. We got ours to play on our Xbox. If you don’t have an Xbox, don’t worry. You must already know you’re a relic, and the absence of an Xbox in your home clearly makes you irrelevant. The world is passing you by, and you don’t need me to tell you that.

My kids, on the other hand, will be happy to explain that fact to you in excruciating detail. They explained it that way to me. Fortunately, I held out long enough so I didn’t have to fork over the 200 big ones. We got our Xbox free from Ellen DeGeneres. She’s nice that way, with the Xbox-giving. Totally another story, for another time.

So, with this Rock Band game, you get a set of faux-drums, a faux-guitar, and a faux microphone, and then you pick which one you want to use to demonstrate your faux-talent. I’ve now tried them all and can happily report, I am equally gifted at all three instruments, which is to say, not at all gifted in any of them.

But the game is fun! The catch is, you have to keep up with the music, or else you end up prompting the game’s audience to “Boo” and “Hiss” at you. Yes, folks, if you didn’t feel bad about yourself already, you can buy a game to make you feel that way. Ain’t technology grand? Come to think of it, kids perform that function, too, with the hissing and the booing.

Put them together and it’s a total hoot for the parents. Sexy and delicious, remember. Losers rule!! Woo-hoo. I’m losing it, people.

Now, I’m rocking with the guitar like Eddie Van Halen while my daughter sings and my son pounds the drums, with everyone laughing at how ridiculous we are in our suburban living room acting like we're cool. With no curtains on our windows, I can only imagine what we must look like. A family of kooks.

As I’m faux-strumming to “Hungry Like the Wolf,” my son says, “Dad, you’re doing it wrong.”

Ya' think?

I swap my guitar for the drums and seem to have better luck—I make it all the way through, “The Eye of the Tiger” without getting booed, and when I feel like maybe I've missed my calling and ought to have taken my show on the road, my daughter says, “You got 67%. You still suck.”

And so my brain says, “Things spoiled kids say to their parents”—Bingo! Twenty-K! And you twerps are goin’ home with panty hose and rice! In. Yo. Face!

I try to explain that I’m good at the Pyramid game, even if I’m not good at Rock Band, and that oughta count for somethin’. They say they’ve never heard of, “The Twenty-Thousand Dollar Pyramid” and I explain it was a game show.

Blank faces.

So there I am, old and pathetic, sitting on the couch in front of faux drums, recalling the good old days when twenty thousand dollars was quittin’ money, when game shows made for solid entertainment, and when kids wouldn’t tell their parents off in their own living room. Back when electronics stores were small shops run by old men with bifocals not “big box” stores run by kids with pimples.

Of course, Circuit City is closing and it occurs to me, as I muse over the good old days, that there may be deals to be had. In the morning, I rush over and get an extra Xbox guitar for Rock Band 2 for 40% off so that I don’t have to swap out when my kids wanna play the first guitar.

I may be a loser, but I got the credit card.

Bingo! “Things pathetic 40-somethings say to themselves to feel better.”

Sexy and delicious.

See, there I go again. Kook.
© 2009, Herb Williams-Dalgart