Build a Better Badger

Random stories of my time spent at the center of the universe…

October 24, 2012
by thebadge
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I Spy…

Am I taking helicopter parenting to a whole new level because I just spied on my daughter during recess for the third time?  Is it really so bad? After all, Emmy’s school is right on the way to most places I go when I want to drive way out of my way…

 

October 20, 2012
by thebadge
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No, no, no…

Emmylou came up to me this morning and asked, “Daddy, what does foxed-out mean?” “Foxed out? I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve heard that expression before.”  “Use it in a sentence,” I asked, thinking she probably meant out-foxed. “Emmylou, you are foxxxxxed-out.”

-Brow furrowing, blood pressure rising- “It doesn’t mean anything Emmy. Who said that?” “Just this boy who chases me all the time.” “No.” “No what Daddy?” -Shakes head violently…begins to foam at mouth- “No, no, no…”

October 4, 2012
by thebadge
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Uhmmmm…

I just left Emmy’s school. I thought I would be proactive and pay for a months worth of hot-lunch. I waited in the office forever but no one ever showed up. Finally a young blonde woman came in and offered to help. I handed her $40 cash and told her it was for Emmylou Badger. She wrote Badger on a sticky note, stuck the note on the cash, then set it on the counter four inches from me and left the office. I stood there for a second and was like, “Ummmm…” As I was leaving, a group of late students walked in. I’m more than half-way expecting a tearful phone-call from a hungry five-year-old.

September 19, 2012
by thebadge
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I have to go on record as agreeing 100% with Mitt Romney’s description of 47% of the country being complete mooch’s. In fact, this phenomenon is going on in my home at this very moment. Fiona has lived with us for over a year now and has failed to contribute financially to our family or society as a whole. She has failed to acquire any type of useful skill-set, other than throwing her juice on the floor and pulling all the toilet paper off the roll. Furthermore, she has shown no initiative at all in any area and spends the large majority of her day napping. You’re right Mitt, I have seen the 47%, and she is completely covered in strawberry juice.

May 27, 2012
by thebadge
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“What time is it?” I asked rubbing my face and squinting in the morning light creeping in through the blinds. “Why are you putting a magazine in my face? Go back to bed, seriously…” I pointed my finger in the direction of my daughters room to show that I meant business.  “But daddy, I want to show you this dress… It’s so beautiful,” she replied in her sing songy I’ve been awake for hours without the use of caffeine voice.  “What is?” I asked trying to feign interest.  “Look” she said again pushing the picture closer to my blurry eyes.  “Yes, it’s very pretty, now go back to bed,” I ordered.  “Daddy, I need this dress,” She implored with a whine that made me perch up onto my elbow.  I looked more closely at the picture, “Okay Emmy, that’s a 2,500 dollar Escada gown, we’re not buying that.”  “Is that a lot?” She asked.  “Yeah, it’s a lot. It’s too much, go back to bed.” I said flopping back down onto my pillow. “Well, how can I go to sleep when you just destroyed my dreams” She whimpered while climbing down from the bed—her In Style magazine in tow.  Not one for dashing the dreams of a five-year-old I called her back.  I sat up in bed and explained to her, “There’s no way we can afford a dress like this Emmy, but there are plenty of beautiful dresses we can afford,” I said hopefully. “Like maybe the Brave dress at Target?” she asked wiping the tears from her eyes.  “Sure, we could buy that one,” I said.  “Okay, I guess I could have that one instead,” she said happily as she loped dreamily back to her room.  Smiling, I settled back into bed, Fiona was still asleep and there was still a half hour left on the alarm.  I had just averted a morning tantrum and was extremely pleased with myself.  An extra half-hour of sleep and all it cost me was the Brave princess dress.  Ooooh, actually though… at some point in the last couple of days I think I remember her being told by mommy that she couldn’t have that dress…

April 21, 2012
by thebadge
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I Kill You!

Moments ago I walked into a darkened living room and inadvertently set off one of Fiona’s motion activated toys.  I instantly went into some sort of Matrix Kung Fu/Karate Kid Crane-Kick hybrid pose preparing to do battle with what had to be a charging elephant.  It took my brain a second to realize that there was probably not a charging elephant in the room and was more than likely Fiona’s toy elephant.  That shiz was a primal response though.  I mean, that kind of response is deep in our DNA, it harkens back to our early Homonid ancestors having to battle with Cave-Bears and Saber-Tooth Tigers.  Even though I was startled I was still prepared to inflict harm… I was prepared to dole out an old-school ass-kicking.  Oh, the scream?  Well, sometimes my war cry sounds a little like an 8-year-old girl… Still lethal though… Highly lethal…

March 16, 2012
by thebadge
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More Confessions of a Helicopter Dad…

I had just pushed the snooze button for the third time this morning and began to feel a little guilty about sleeping in.  It was past time to start the day and if I wanted a shower I was going to have to get up before the girls.  I had just shoved the covers to the foot of the bed in an attempt to force myself up when I heard Emmy get out of bed.  “So it begins,” I said with an already exhausted laugh.  I waited to see Emmy’s face appear at the foot of the bed imploring me to get up so I could turn on PBS kids and get her breakfast.  Minutes went by, but she did not appear.  I listened for a moment.  Strange noises that I had never heard in the morning began to emanate from her room.  What is she doing in there I wondered…  The noises became clearer, she was in her closet… she was picking out an outfit. I bolted upright in bed, swung my legs around and put my feet on the floor.  I was too late…

I know that these noises wouldn’t seem very serious to most people, but to a dad who has always had complete creative control over their child’s wardrobe, this was serious.

“Emmy, what are you doing?”

“I’m picking out an outfit.”

“I already picked one out for you.  It’s right there on the chair.”

“I don’t like that one Daddy, it’s time for me to choose my own clothes.”

“Choose my own clothes,” these words were like a knife in my heart.  Now don’t condemn me as a helicopter parent just yet, I mean of course I let her choose her own clothes from time to time.  She typically will dress herself on weekends, or if  we’re just hanging around the house, and even on school mornings I will give her choices and listen to her ideas and input.  But for the most part, I am responsible for her appearance.   I have picked out the last six-hundred of Emmy’s outfits, I have helped her cultivate and design her wardrobe and signature look.  I was absolutely not prepared to relinquish creative-control this morning.  I was not prepared to let go of the last four years of picking out her outfits.  I mean, what was it all for? So she can look like a crazy person dressed her?  When I look around at other children when we’re out,  many times they have crazy tangled hair, and are wearing mixed elements of sleep-wear, princess-wear and school clothes.  “Not on my daughter,” I would think to myself. I have been adamant about Emmy always having brushed hair and a “cute outfit” when she is out in social situations.  But I am beginning to wonder, have I placed to much importance on this?

Emmy did eventually give in and wear what I had picked out, and as I watched her walk into her pre-school this morning, I noticed she was surrounded by little girls who had obviously dressed themselves.  They had crazy unbrushed hair, mismatched patterns and solids, shoes that didn’t match their outfit… But they all looked like they were having fun, they all looked like they didn’t care.  I watched Emmy running around with her friends in her perfect outfit and brushed hair.  As I watched her I began to think that maybe it was time to start letting her dress herself.  Maybe it was time to start letting go of my control. I thought about my own childhood; when I was growing up my parents didn’t care what I wore to school as long as I had clothes on.

I started to feel bad, have I really become the Rachel Zoe of toddlers?  Has my control over Emmy’s outward appearance really become that important to me?  I believe it is time to let go… It’s time to let her make her own choices, let her make her own mistakes.  It is time to relinquish creative control to my beautiful daughter who will most likely make it all work in the end.  Besides… Fiona will be walking soon, and for a few more years, I will have a blank canvas. The possibilities are endless…

March 11, 2012
by thebadge
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What goes through your brain .3 seconds after realizing you have awoken a sleeping baby.

I just wanted to place a little kiss on her chubby little cheek. She must not have been sleeping soundly because she instantly stirred and began to whine while her little mouth searched for her missing binky.  A baby that is prematurely awoken from sleep is nothing to be trifled with.  As a matter of fact, I would say those first precipitous moments is where you need to make real sleep-saving decisions… Imagine yourself diffusing a time bomb with 1.3 seconds left on the clock… and that clock is ticking down to detonation and meltdown… tick… tick…tick…

Internal monologue of an idiot that has just woken a sleeping baby:

Fuck! She’s waking up, fuck why did I smooch on her?  Oh fuck, where is her binky? She’ll totally wake up if she can’t find her binky in the next 1.3 seconds!  Damn, where is it, she’s probably on top of it. Crap! Wait, (feels under baby waking her even more) it’s not under her.  It must have fallen on the floor, (feels around in semi-darkness).  Awww yeah, here it is! Damn, it’s probably dusty and covered in hair now.  Would Ellen clean this? Yes, she probably would.  Damn Ellen and her attention to detail and general enthusiasm for properly taking care of our children. Would it be quicker to rinse this in the bathroom sink or run to the living room and grab a fresh pacifier?  Fuck! I’ll rinse it! Fuck! She’s moving her little head all over trying to wake up and cry and let Ellen know I’m a jackass! Shit! (Whispering) “Go to sleep Fiona… Here’s a nice clean Binky, Shhhhhhhhh…” Awww, you’re going back to sleep, your little binky is helping you fall back to sleep.  Damn! You are so fricking cute… (Kisses chubby little cheek again)  Ohhhh shiiiiit!!!!, ( Whispering again) “It’s okay Fiona don’t cry, go back to sleep…”

-Ellen from other room, “What’s going on? Is Fiona awake?”

“I don’t know, I’ll go check on her.”

February 27, 2012
by thebadge
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Idioms Ain’t Got Nuthn’ On Me!

This morning Emmy came running out of her room to proudly display the outfit that she had chosen all by herself.  She looked up at me and asked, “Daddy look at this outfit I picked out! Don’t I have incredible eyes for fashion?” I looked at the crazy outfit she had most likely pulled from the hangers knocking many others items to the floor in the process and and said, “It’s definitely something Emmy, but I think the saying goes, I have an ‘eye’ for fashion.”  Emmy looked up at me confused and then answered, “Daddy, you’re silly, I have two-eyes, and they both look good with this outfit.”

February 24, 2012
by thebadge
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At Least There Was A Happy Ending

I love listening to Emmylou in the backseat  when I’m driving her somewhere.  She sings,  babbles, tells jokes with no punch lines, and my favorite  little stories about Princess Emmylou.  This mornings story caught my attention.  It was a little sad, but it had a happy ending.  It went a little something like this:

Once upon a time there was an evil square headed baby.  She had a cute little square head and smiled all the time so everyone loved her.   She had a secret though, she loved to steal all the attention that was meant for the beautiful Princess Emmylou.  She would use her evil smile to steal all the love in the entire house.

One day, princess Emmylou was very sad because she got in trouble for putting her feet in the square headed babies face and she had to go to sleep in her own room with no stories.  She was very sad.  But then the square headed baby realized that it was all her fault that Princess Emmylou was sad, so she forgave Emmylou for being mean and they pinky swore that they would be best friends.  Now Princess Emmylou and the square headed baby are living happily ever after in Disneyland.

That’s pretty much the story verbatim and strangely based on a true story.  Guess it’s time for an Emmy and Daddy date.

January 16, 2012
by thebadge
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How Quickly it Can All Go Wrong…

“I’m not sure which one to clean up first” I thought to myself.  “Should I clean up the vomiting 4-year-old, or the baby that just had a giant blowout while sitting in her Bumbo chair?”  It was like bodily fluid triage, and I couldn’t seem to get my head around it.  Only moments before everyone was happy; Emmy was dancing around the living room to the Nut Cracker, Fiona was laughing at her sisters dance moves and I was in hipster heaven browsing a vinyl collector website on my laptop.  How could it all go so wrong, so quickly?

I heard whimpering and little cries but it wasn’t coming from Fiona.  I began to look around for Emmy but couldn’t find her, she had been in the living room watching the Nut Cracker, but now she was nowhere to be found.  Finally after a brief search I saw a tiny lump under the covers of our bed.  I pulled back the sheet and a very sad Emmy looked up at me.  “I’m so tired” she whined, “and I’m thirsty”, and with that she began to vomit all over my side of the bed, including my pillow.  I grabbed one of Fiona’s dipaers which was the nearest thing that I thought might hold what ended up being at least a gallon of vomit.  I quickly opened up the diaper and held Emmy’s hair back as she violently purged into it.   Surprisingly enough it held a lot of vomit.

I grabbed a cool rag and wiped Emmy clean.  I carried her into her room and set her carefully into her bed.  I placed a large bowl next to her and instructed her to just point her head at the bowl if she felt like she needed to throw up.  She really seemed like she got it, though I should have known she wouldn’t be able to grasp the concept when it came to crunch time.  I helped her take a few small sips of water and went about stripping the vomit covered sheets and blankets off our bed.  As I was on my way to do a load of puke-covered laundry, I noticed Fiona looking like she was not happy, actually she was making a face that told me she was closing in on a major melt down.  Upon closer inspection I noticed her entire back was covered in poop.  Because she had been sitting in her Bumbo chair, when she pooped it shot straight up her back and right out of the diaper.  Breast fed babies will sometimes go three to four days without pooping, so when it finally comes there is a lot of it, and that poop is usually very loose, very wet, and very much the color of baby poop.  Then I heard it, crying and vomiting coming from Emmy’s room.  I ran back into her room at a full sprint to make sure she was using her bowl, which of course she was not.

The puke was everywhere.  It was right out of the Exorcist, except the Exorcist girl never looked up at her daddy with huge teardrops pouring from her eyes saying, “I’m sorry Daddy, I didn’t use my bowl.”

I picked up the poor puke drenched girl and began to help her get undressed for a shower.  Her hair was fully saturated with vomit and her clothes and bedding were also soaked.  I needed to quickly get Emmy in the shower and get this load of laundry started.  As I was testing the water for Emmy I began to hear the beginnings of a meltdown coming from the other room.  I couldn’t leave Fiona covered in poop for very much longer.

I got Emmy into the shower stripped the bed, threw all the vomitty bedding and clothes into the laundry room and went to change the poop covered Fiona.  The poop was far reaching, when I was finally able to get the sleeper off of her it was all the way up to the back of her head.  I grabbed handfuls of wipes and began to blot and wipe away the mess; careful not to get any on myself, the couch, the floor, Fiona’s hair etc… Which is exactly where the poops far reaching effect ended up.  I tidied up the mess the best I could and went to check on the little vomit girl.  She was curled up in a ball on the shower floor.  This made me feel horrible.  I snatched her out of the shower with about 5 oversized towels and laid her down on our bed, which was bare except for the mattress pad.  I went to check on Fiona again who was making either hungry or tired noises, which to me sound exactly alike.  Fiona was definitely tired; she was yawning and rubbing her face while letting out little cries of exhaustion.  She needed to be swaddled and put into the swing.  I began to wrap her up in a blanket, but once again, the crying noises which precede Emmy’s projectile vomiting were heard from our bedroom.  With Fiona in one arm, I picked up the up-chucking Emmy and took her to the bathroom leaving a bright trail of bile behind us.   I wrapped her in some blankets and laid her down on her bare mattress, (the only thing in the house not covered in poop or puke) and offered her a sip of water.   I felt awful, I wanted to take all her pain away and make everything better.  I asked her “Emmy, can daddy do anything to help you, do you want anything, some 7 Up or Ginger Ale maybe?”

The poor little puke girl looked up at me and asked, “Daddy, would you mind grabbing me some leggings and a twirly skirt?”

November 25, 2011
by thebadge
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Just Another Wednesday Morning…

I was almost out the door this morning and actually ahead of schedule for once.  Fiona was loaded in her car-seat and her diaper bag was packed with all her ten-million accessories.  I just needed to round up Emmy so I could drop her off for pre-school.  That’s when I heard it… A parent’s ears become highly sensitive to child produced noises, and this noise was unmistakable.  It was the sound of a full cup of juice hitting the floor.  I walked into the kitchen and found Emmy staring at a giant puddle of juice.  “The top popped off when it hit the floor” she said meekly.  I could tell she felt bad so I went to the garage to get the mop without scolding her or emitting long sighs of what I like to call “fed-upness.”

When I came back into the kitchen the giant spill seemed even larger.  I called out to the living room, “Emmy, did you walk through all this juice?” “It was the only way to get into the living room” she hollered back.  Now came the long sigh…  The juice had spread under the refrigerator and table and was slowly making its way to the heater vent.  I began pulling the chairs out from under the table when Emmy walked casually back into the kitchen right through the juice puddle.   Actually, if I really had to describe it, I would call it more of a cavalier saunter.  She looked up at me and actually asked for more juice. “I’m still thirsty” she said looking up at my reddening face.  “Go to the bathroom and drink some water,” I directed.  It really wasn’t worth it to bark at her this morning, as I was already in a bad mood from not getting enough sleep the night before.  Yelling at Emmy for a fairly harmless mistake was not going to help my mood.   I began to shift the fridge over so I could at least partially mop under it.  Then I heard Emmy yelling from the living room, “Hey Ghost Rider, better hurry up with the mopping because Fiona just had a blow-out poop in her car-seat!”

I wrung out the mop into the sink, a half gallon of dirty apple juice streamed down my wrist and arm soaking my shirt sleeve.  I looked out the window at my giant yard of un-raked leaves and let out a long sigh of fed-upness…

October 11, 2011
by thebadge
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The Vikings: Your Backyard Friends…

Last night before heading out to a lecture about Viking long-ships, I leaned over and gave Emmy a smooch goodbye.  Emmy looked up at me and said, “Daddy you don’t have to go to the lecture, I know everything about Vikings.” Intrigued I asked, “Really?” She stood up put her little arms up in the air and said simply, “The Vikings were tough.” She went on to explain that the Backyardigans did an entire episode on Vikings and the one thing she learned was that Vikings were tough. There was even a song to go along with it proving her point. I laughed gave her a hug and left for the lecture. At the end of his very interesting albeit lengthy lecture, Dr. Hale (an expert at giving 3-hour-lectures) said, “Now, as you leave tonight, the one thing I want you to remember about the Vikings is that they were…tough.” Touche Backyardigans, you win again.

October 7, 2011
by thebadge
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My Stoner Buddies

So I have these three neighbor kids that are always hanging around my house asking if they can do some chores. I usually put them to work even though they do it terribly and I end up having to help them. I keep paying them because they’re hilarious and more importantly, they think I’m hilarious. Well, the other day when they were sweeping up my back patio for me, I noticed one of them dropped a… very small, very pathetic bag of weed. I sort of felt like I had to say something to them, they are pretty young and all. I quickly devised a sort of plan of action. I sat them down and asked did they like girls. They all agreed that girls were awesome and did I know how they could get girls… Unfortunately I had to tell them that each and every girl in their age group is completely unique and there wasn’t much I could do to help them with that. But, I did let them in on a well-known secret in the “adult world.” I told them that instead of spending all their hard earned money on crappy, twiggy, seedy (seriously this was barely weed) weed, when they could be spending their money on some new gear and maybe a haircut. Their jaws dropped. It was true. They had heard rumors that girls were more interested in guys that had haircuts, clean clothes and shoes without giant holes in them. I admitted, it’s not the only thing girls are looking for, but it will get you a foot in the door to maybe, possibly talking to a girl… My stoner buddies agreed that they would eschew the holy sneakers and stained t-shirts for something more… well if you could see these guys, pretty much anything would be an improvement. Moral of the story, if you want to get the girls, you gotta stop spending all your money on crappy weed. Get the good weed instead… Wait… Yeah, that’s probably right actually.

October 7, 2011
by thebadge
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Monday Morning Birdies

I stayed up too late watching Breaking Bad and awoke in a Propofol haze. I had forgotten all of our morning routines and it was costing me valuable time on a Pre-school day. “Daddy, don’t forget it’s show and tell” Emmy screams from the bathroom waking Fiona.  I struggle to find something for show and tell but eventually give in to Emmy’s demands of taking her scooter.  I stumble into the garage nearly breaking my neck on the very scooter I am searching for. I ask a third time, “Isn’t there something smaller we can take to show and tell?” Apparently there is not as my question is met with cries of 4-year-old anguish.
I somehow manage to load Emmy into the car and we make our way to pre-school.  As I am rounding the corner to pull into the pre-school parking lot a  high pitched squeal of delight peals from the backseat, “Daddy, I can make my finger stand up all by itself!” I grit my teeth and squint into the rear-view mirror knowing full well that whatever I see is 100% my fault… And there it is… A tiny bird reflecting back at me…
· · September 30 at 9:41am

June 3, 2011
by thebadge
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Old Paratroopers Never Die…

This Veteran’s Day I happened to catch a show called War Letters.  I was extremely moved by some of the letters and it prompted me to write a story about a chance encounter I had with a World War II veteran named Joe.  Back in December of 2009 I went to the VA hospital for one of my regular check-ups, I was told they were backed up and it would probably be about an hour wait.  I decided I would just stay and make myself comfortable. I had brought a book and my iPod just in case, so I wasn’t too concerned with having to wait the extra time.  Two minutes into my first chapter an old vet who was also waiting for his appointment came and sat next to me.  It took him at least five minutes to sit down as he repeatedly misjudged the distance to the back of the chair and then slowly rose up and tried again.  Eventually he settled into the uncomfortable waiting room chair and reached for a magazine, this started the entire process over again.  I reached across the table and grabbed the magazine that he was hopelessly trying to reach without having to stand up again.  He thanked me and asked my name.  I told him my name and started to go back to my book but he reached out to shake my hand.  I put my book down so I could shake his hand and prepared to make some small talk with him.  All the old vets at the VA love to make small talk and I figured I would just get it out of the way.  What happened next though would change the way I look at these old vets.

The old man introduced himself as Joseph, Joe for short.  Joe asked me if I drank coffee, I replied that I did in fact drink coffee.  He then said with a laugh and a quirky smile, “Michael, if you will buy me a cup of coffee, I will tell you one of the greatest stories you will ever hear.” So I bought him a cup of coffee, and then he told me one of the greatest stories I have ever heard.

When I returned with the coffees Joe had pulled out a tattered and stained card from his wallet; when I sat down he handed it to me and asked that I be careful with it.  It had his name on it and it said that the bearer of the card was a member of the Caterpillar Club.  I took the card and looked it over a couple of times and handed it back.  By the end of his story I would know what this card meant, and I would gain a new understanding for the human condition and for what the true meaning of brotherhood is.  I would also learn firsthand what it was like to be part of the largest airborne invasion ever known. I strained to hear his voice as his oxygen tank whistled and wheezed with ever breath.  His story was captivating, and I hung on every word.  Sadly, it was clear to me that this man’s story would soon fade away with his disappearing generation.  This story had probably bought Joe many cups of coffee as he was very well rehearsed.  He knew the story backwards and forwards, every detail still crisp in his mind and he didn’t leave out even the slightest detail from his experience. He told his story so well that I felt the cold thin air as the door of Joe’s plane opened as he shuffled out the door into the abyss of war.

All of it mesmerized me, and as he related his story to me there wasn’t a hint of exaggeration, and no delusions of grandeur.  It was just the facts and emotions of a man who experienced something that not many others had.  I have struggled with my memory to remember the story as he told it to me, but already it is fading.  Something told me as I was hearing the story that I should ask more questions, maybe even ask if I could record an oral history of his story.  Instead I sat quietly and listened.  When he was all done with the story he sat back in his chair and he thanked me for listening.   I looked at Joe as he shook with pain every time he coughed.  It made me sad to think that his story would soon disappear into the silent annals of history.

Shortly after his story, my name was called to go back for my appointment.  I turned to Joe and he smiled and thanked me again for the coffee as I shook his hand one more time.  That was the last time I saw Joe, though I still ask about him whenever I’m at the VA, just to see if he’s still hanging around.  The orderly’s at the front told me they thought they’d remembered seeing him recently, but that these old guys drop off all the time and that I should check the veteran’s obituaries.   I would really love to talk to him again, and maybe hear his story one more time.  I know it sounds trite, but they just don’t make’em like Joe anymore.

June 3, 2011
by thebadge
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Things Always Look Better After the First Mile…

The plan was to just drink water.  I had also put a two-hour cap on the bachelor party as well.  I was going to walk-in, say hi, mingle a little and then go home and get a full 8 hours of sleep before the race.   It was somewhere around 2 a.m. before I realized that things had gone wrong.  I was taking huge drunken gulps from a tropical mixed drink called a Scorpion, when I remembered my initial plan.  Where had I gone so wrong?  Someone bought me a beer, I remember that much.  Then another.  I think three or four more followed.  Rum and Coke, Rum and Coke, Rum and Coke… Drunk… Beer, beer, Scorpion… Drunk-drunk… I think that’s basically what happened.

I wandered around the Nugget for a while taking long pulls off of bottles of water hoping I would sober up enough to get home.  Unfortunately, I was really drunk, and  it took some time to sober up.  I watched the precious minutes and hours of my full Eight-hours of sleep click away down to nothing.  Six-hours, five-hours, four-hours…

I have a strange quirk in that I don’t like to break promises and I don’t like to let people down.  I knew as I was blinking drunkenly and trying to get a clear fix on the time displayed on my cell-phone that time was running out.   I had entered to run a race that is put on by a local charity every year.  My good friend Jamie had mentioned that she wanted to run this race and she had worked hard training for it.  She asked me if I would run it with her and coach her through the run taking away any chance of her not finishing.  Now it was looking like I would probably be holding her back if I could even make it to the race.

When I finally made it home I drank more water, took Motrin and rifled through my closet for clean running clothes so I wouldn’t have to struggle to find them in the morning.  The next three hours were spent in and out of “drunk sleep.”  Drunk sleep for you non-drinkers out there isn’t exactly sleep in the sense that you fall asleep, actually you wake up every fifteen minutes and then fall back into a very light slumber, usually snoring and jolting awake.   After  finally falling into a steady sleep, though probably still pre-rem sleep, my alarm went off.  Thankfully I had the foresight the night before to put on a nice alarm tone that wouldn’t startle me.  Being startled from drunk sleep is the worst feeling ever.

Somehow I was able to get into the shower, though I don’t remember washing my hair or anything else for that matter.  I just stood under the water making deals.  You know the kind of deals I’m talking about.  “Dear lord…”  No matter how religious or non-religious you are you always make deals with god and they all start the same way. “Dear lord, if you help me get through today, I will never drink again.  Please don’t let me puke on this run lord, please don’t let me humiliate myself.”

I was supposed to meet my friend Jamie at her house which was only a couple of blocks away from the run.  When I got there she met me outside, she must have sensed something different in my gait or my appearance more likely, that tipped her off to my situation.  She very sweetly released me from my obligation to run with her, but I had made a promise and as I mentioned before, I honor all promises.  I looked down at my shoes and noticed that they were untied, this was a harsh realization that  I was even worse off than I had first thought.  Jamie and I walked over to where the race started after her fiance wished us luck.  Upon reaching the starting line of the race I saw that there were a lot more people than I thought there would be.  This was both good and bad.  I figured we could hide in the middle of the pack and people might not notice how drunk I still was.  The bad part was, there were a lot more people to witness my projectile vomiting if the mood struck.  I started to warm up my muscles but gave up quickly as it seemed pointless to warm up muscles that had zero energy.  I hadn’t eaten anything that morning and Jamie chided me a little for it.  Another one of my quirks is that I am always harping on people about the importance of eating breakfast.  My stomach was in trouble this morning though, and even the thought of eating made me sick.  So here I was with a throbbing head and and dizzy nauseated stomach as I pathetically feigned warming-up.

All around me were energetic people that had gotten their 8-hours of sleep.  There were peppy caffeine laced conversations going on in every direction, their chipper voices hammering away at my sluggish post-binge-night brain.  They were discussing pre-run rituals and meals, energy snacks, the best running shoes and everything that reminded me of how much I wished I was one of them, and not a hung-over thirty-nine year old that had partied like a 29-year-old the night before.

Jamie was a little nervous.  This was her first organized race, but not only that, she was also running for a cause that was very near to her heart.  I was beginning to feel like I had let her down and the run hadn’t even begun. This is what I had signed on to do.  I was gonna coach her through this run.  She certainly could have done it on her own but when you’re not sure of your abilities you look to your friends for help.  I had to get straight.  I gave her a reassuring hug and reminded her how awesome she was and how important the cause was that she was running for.  We stood around forever waiting for the start of the race, I was beginning to feel a little better as I shivered in the morning breeze.  Finally they gave us the go ahead and the race started.  Unfortunately Jamie and I had positioned ourselves pretty far back in the pack and had to contend with jogging-strollers and slow-movers, which surprisingly enough I was not.  We began to quickly overtake slower runners, scooting by them one by one.  I would glance over my shoulder every fifteen or twenty steps just to make sure Jamie was still there.  She was hanging close and her pace was quicker than I had anticipated.  This filled me with adrenaline to see Jamie passing other runners and generally looking like she was enjoying herself.

My stomach was beginning to settle down and I felt less like vomiting than I had all morning.  Though my stomach was void of any food, I’m sure I still could have conjured up some fantastic dry-heaves or bile expulsion, had my stomach not calmed down.  When we came to the first aid station I jogged quickly past forgoing any re-hydration.  I didn’t want to give my stomach any chance to change its mind and revolt.   I figured I would pay for being dehydrated at some point in the day, but for now, I was feeling pretty good and we were still passing other runners and making good time.  Well, decent time anyways, I mean I was still hungover as hell, let’s not forget that…

The race was over before it had begun.  We turned a corner after what seemed like a really short amount of time and there was the finishing chute and finishing clock.  We ended our run in a respectable amount of time.  Very respectable for someone who was drunk only hours before.  Jamie was beaming, I could see the pride filling her, it showed greatly in her giant smile.  Her small victory in a way became my small victory too.  I was glad I had done the race, and I was really glad I hadn’t vomited on anyone.

So, I suppose I should tell you that I learned something from this experience, after all, we are trying to build a better Badger here… Here’s all I know… Follow the plan.  Follow the plan.  Follow the plan.  I am now sincerely dedicated to following “the plan.” But if I don’t, at least I know things will always start lookn’ up after the first mile…

 

May 14, 2011
by thebadge
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The Rise of Vapid Media: It’s Mostly My Fault

The lines blur when appointing blame for the rapidly increasing culture of trite media that is dumbing-down our country. It is a bit like the chicken and egg problem: which came first? Is the media dumbing us down, or are we asking the media to provide us with the barest minimum amount of information so that we can feel informed even if we’re not?  The media seems to take the biggest hit when assigning blame for our lack of knowledge and understanding of the world around us, but is it their fault? I don’t believe it is.  Americans appear to crave sleazy media whether it’s assassination tell-alls, celebrity sex-tapes or reality television.  We have all been lured in by its appeal, however trite and low-brow it may be.  Indeed, we are all to blame for the proliferation of lowbrow entertainment; Americans have slowly and unconsciounsly allowed our culture to be dumbed-down. In our culture of free-trade and supply and demand, of course the media will provide what sells, and apparently what sells is vapid sleaze.   To state it in its most base terms, if there wasn’t a demand, there would be no reason to produce sleazy media.

I started to brainstorm for this blog entry by asking some close friends why it is that they watch reality television shows, such as “Jersey Shore”, “American Idol” and “The Biggest Loser”.  I got the same answer each time, “It’s all that’s on.” But after pushing them further, they admitted that that probably wasn’t true.  The answer invariably changed to, “It’s the easiest thing to watch, and I don’t have to think about it.”  Essentially, this is why sleaze media exists because there are enough people willing to watch what’s on without thinking and without complaining.  Though some argue that the media deserves most of the blame; we’re still watching what they put on and if they’re getting good ratings and advertisers dollars, why would the media stop producing sleaze?  We must somehow accept responsibility for the fact that on any Sunday night, PBS’ Masterpiece Theater will get maybe half the viewership that “The Family Guy” will garner in the same 9 pm Sunday night time-slot.  Though entertaining, “The Family Guy” will not help us understand the complexities and nuances of the issues that confront us daily, be they social, cultural, political or environmental.  It will, however, entertain us for a half an hour, and that is what people desire, to be lulled into a state of not having to worry or think too hard.   Meanwhile, PBS programming such as Masterpiece Theater is in peril of losing funding.   How’s that for reality?

In real life we are currently engaged in the War on Terror.  We have troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we are currently enforcing a no fly zone over Libya.  Yet, the main source of media attention when I logged onto Yahoo this morning was Charlie Sheen, James Franco, and an article about the Go-Daddy CEO killing elephants.  I had to ask myself after having read all three articles without thinking, “Isn’t there something better I can be reading?”  I have to be able to accept the blame that there are better pursuits available to me when logging onto the Internet than reading about the exploits of Charlie Sheen.  And so must other television viewers in the U.S.

There was a time when Americans watched academic or scientific programming during prime-time hours.  Today audiences might sit and watch The Apprentice.  In 1969, audiences sat and watched men walk on the moon, but when was the last time one of the space shuttle launches was televised on network television?  When was the last time we saw images from the International Space Station?  There are still people living on the international space station, and yet we would rather watch people trying to remember lyrics to obscure one-hit-wonders from the 1980’s, or watch something as pedestrian as Kim Kardashian going shopping.  Maybe people would take more interest in something like the International Space Station if it was presented as a reality television show—“Real Astronauts of the International Space Station.”   Perhaps the producers could create some dramatic tension between the Astronauts and Cosmonauts, or introduce some catchy lines that would be repeated on Facebook posts, akin to Jersey Shore’s “T-shirt time!” and “Cabs are here!”

Reality programming may seem harmless, but Jennifer L. Pozner, the Executive Director for Women in Media and News believes that it is not just harmless fluff.  In her book Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, she warns, “We do ourselves a disservice by watching reality TV with our intellects on pause. We can enjoy the catharsis and fantasy these shows offer, but unless we engage our critical filters, we leave ourselves open to serious commercial and ideological manipulation” (Pozner 2010). By tuning out our brains and forgetting to critique the social and moral implications these programs could have we are essentially rolling over and allowing the media to dictate our interests and our TV viewing lives.

So why do we do it?  To understand the reasons why we the viewer should shoulder most of the blame for what ends up on television, we must look at the reasons why we indulge in such lowbrow entertainment.    There are numerous reasons why sleaze media ranks supreme.  I think for most, lowbrow entertainment is a release or an escape from reality. For some people, it’s the same reason that they have to slow down to see an accident, or to go to the mall just to sit.  It’s to watch other people. It’s our human nature to be interested in what is happening in someone else’s life.  It is a type of voyeurism; we want to look into the private lives of those around us. We want to learn about their scandals, idiosyncrasies and shortcomings.  If you look up celebrity news on the Internet you will find a of multitude sites that report on what celebrities are doing, posting unsuspecting pictures of them, in ridiculous poses, with captions like, “Naomi Watts, without Makeup!” Some people feel their lives are boring and they want to see what another person’s life is like.  Writer Brett Easton Ellis believes we should be prepared for our paparazzi-laced voyureistic cultre and that we should  “Accept the fact that we’re at the height of an exhibitionistic display culture” (Ellis 2011).  Is Ellis suggesting that we as a society accept this dawning of a new television genre because it is a current function of our culture?

So why do we care what celebrities, politicians and reality stars do in their personal lives?  Why do we care what Snookie from Jersey Shore is doing at the club and who she hates in the house that week? According to MIT literature professor David Thorburn, “We [Americans] have a special fascination with the shenanigans of celebrities and personalities. It has to do with the intimacy we feel toward a figure we admire, so that we know them as people.” Indeed, we know things about celebrities that we don’t even know about our ordinary acquaintances—and that carries over into our fascination with various forms of backstabbing and revenge (Grove 2010).

Thorburn also points out that some cultural historians liken our fascination with tabloid stories about misbehaving movie stars and politicians, to the ancient Greeks’ enchantment with myths about the gods on Mount Olympus.  Thorburn writes, “The gods were not worshiped because they were good, they were worshiped because they were so unbelievably powerful.  They were essentially human beings who were misbehaving on such a grand, Olympian scale, they were fascinating—and surely betrayal and backstabbing were part of that mythology” (Grove 2010).

This theory could go a long way to explaining why reality television has become so popular for our modern culture. One could argue that watching trash television or logging on to perezhilton.com is in our DNA, slowly introduced through thousands of years of our predilection and fondness for vacuous entertainment and gossip. For most, lowbrow entertainment is a release and an escape; people lose their jobs, lose their homes, get sick and many other life altering realities; reading about one of your favorite celebrity’s follies or watching “Jersey Shore”, acts an escape for a few hours. I suppose that the appeal of vapid sleaze may come down to its surprising capacity to comfort and reassure.  I may be having a tough day, but at least I’m not Tamara from the “Real Housewives of Orange County”, right?

Additionally, the academic community has also attempted to identify the source for our lust with reality television.  In a survey that examined the reasons for the public’s fascination with reality programs, Ohio State University professor Steven Reiss Ph.D. reported that it’s not all people with lowbrow interests that are attracted to vapid television programs.  In fact, he states, “People who say they enjoy intellectual activities are no less likely to watch reality TV than are those who say they dislike intellectual activities” (Reiss Ph.D.).  If this is accurate, then this is explicit evidence that we are all to be held accountable for the explosion of trashy television.  Reiss also goes on to discuss why trashy television shows have rapidly increased in our country,

“Reality TV allows Americans to fantasize about gaining status through automatic fame. Ordinary people can watch the shows, see people like themselves and imagine that they too could become celebrities by being on television. It does not matter as much that the contestants often are shown in an unfavorable light; the fact that millions of Americans are paying attention means that the contestants are important” (Reiss).  It’s easy to place ourselves in the shoes of these fake celebrities, especially when their lives are so much more appealing than our own.

The high visibility of celebrity breakdowns lures us in even further.  Catch phrases and the popularity of actor Charlie Sheen’s meltdown doesn’t happen purely because the media wants us to experience it, it’s because someone thought it was funny, amusing, bizarre and worth their time.  It’s this action that cues the media to take hold of this and run with it.  They’ve found their audience, now they just have to sell it, which seems to be all too easy. Whether it’s Perez Hilton or  “Jersey Shore” that we wish to blame, the majority of the blame for our country’s seeming dependency on vapid sleaze must be squarely placed on the viewer. After all, it is our freedom of choice that allows us the access to celebrity tabloids and reality television.  We are all capable of making choices, and the easiest decision we probably make everyday is that of whether to watch a Nova documentary or veg out to “Jersey Shore”.   Though the media certainly hasn’t slowed in producing its lackluster offerings, neither has the consumer’s proclivity for viewing vapid media. As long as the public is willing to watch it, it will exist.

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
0 comments

Mass Download Pooping & The Awful Specter of Reality

I had to go. I had to go really, really bad.  The snacks I filled up on in Yerington were not agreeing with my aging digestive system.  As I frantically searched my truck for something resembling toilet paper, I said out loud in my best self mocking tone, “since when is a Polish Dog with all the fixn’s a bad idea at five-thirty in the morning?”  Things were definitely not sitting well and I was getting those low guttural cramps that forewarn of awful things to follow.  The small pangs began to get bigger, building with intensity and frequency.  Something bad was on the horizon, the very immediate horizon.

I was a very long way from the nearest restroom, probably a good three hours on terrible muddy roads.  I had traveled south from Carson City, and then east through the Mason and Smith Valleys into the the Sweet Water Range.  I drove for hours on dirt roads  along the Walker River to my final destination which was a nice section of the river that has great fishing and a hot spring.  The road I had taken turned out to be not much more than a goat trail that required 4 wheel-low to manage it.  At one point my vehicle was straddling a creek and then I found myself pitched sideways on the side of a mountain.  When I finally made it down into the little valley I realized that I was probably the only person around for 100 miles in any direction, except for maybe the random off-roader that might drift by off in the distance.

I had rigged up my Sage 6-weight with my Ross Canyon reel and set off to find some good slick runs so I could fish some dry fly’s.  It had taken me almost 5 hours to get here from Reno, so I felt that I definitely deserved to catch some fish, and I wasn’t about to leave without some good pictures of my trophy trout, hard earned from a trip down the muddy goat trails.

I had just gotten my waders on when I felt the first cramp.  Low and inside.  I dismissed it, but in the back of my head I was cursing myself for gorging on jelly doughnuts, coffee and a Bahama Momma dog.  In case you were wondering, the Bahama Momma is an even jucier and spicier version of the Polish Hot Dog.  It was delicious, but I savored it only after I had jammed the entire thing in my mouth while trying to read my map by the green light that emanated from the CD player in my dash.

I began to wade out into the Walker which was still running pretty fast.  It was late May and there was still some snow on the ground in the shady areas.  I began to cast and instantly got a hard hit.  I set my hook immediately and began to coax in a small Brown trout.  It was only about 7 inches but had beautiful markings and fought hard for its size.  Just as I was fishing around in my wading jacket for my camera and pliers I was hit with a staccato of knee weakening cramps.  I quickly released my fish and started to back out of the water.  I had been through enough episodes of too much sushi, too much fast-food, too much Thai and anything else that makes your body reject you in the most violent way possible next to projectile vomiting.   I threw my pole and landing net onto the grassy bank and made my way over to my Isuzu Rodeo.  I began to look through my fishing box, it usually contained all essential items needed for any worst-case fishing scenario.  Coffee, a small stove, matches, an extra hat, gloves, miles of extra tippet and leaders, tons of fly’s–in every imaginable pattern, a couple packages of Ramen noodles, even a compass.  There was however, no toilet paper.  I tore through the box again, sure that I had just missed it.  Then I remembered, I had loaned it to a gentleman while I was fishing at Pyramid Lake and told him to keep it.  I just couldn’t imagine  someone asking to borrow toilet paper let alone returning it after he had used it.  There was just something very uncivilized about the whole transaction.  Yes, I realize that when you use toilet paper in a public toilet you are using something that someone else has most likely used.  But, I just couldn’t stand the thought of seeing my roll of toilet paper marching into the awful Port’o'Potty at Windless Bay, just to see it come marching back after only god knows what.  So I said “Just  keep it, I have plenty more.”  Well, that little hang-up of mine had definitely come back to haunt me.

I began to search under the seat for anything paper; receipts, magazines, paper bags, whatever.  I had received a plastic bag at the gas station, that was no help.  I had a small slip of a receipt for gas and one for food.  Both too small to be of any help for what was surely about to come.  What else was there? I looked around and my eyes fell on my map.  The map that had brought me here.  I made a mad grab for it and set off looking for a suitable place to allow my insides to mutiny.   I didn’t care about ants, Mountain Lions, Badgers, Vowels or anything else that seemed like a distant second in things to be worried about.  I just needed a place out of sight just in case someone besides myself was crazy enough to brave the 3 hour drive from Yerington through mud and muck.  I found a suitable spot, well hidden, and not near any apparent animal burrows, not because I was afraid of being bitten mind you, just out of respect to the animal…

What happened next was something that is only talked about when one has had way too much alcohol to drink.  It was almost spiritual in a way, because I honestly felt like I had had an exorcism.  If there were any demons in me they were certainly cast out now.  I was probably ready for a colonoscopy after that unleashing.  No Go-Lightly colon cleanser necessary, just a Bahama Momma dog with spicy mustard, onions and relish washed down with four jelly doughnuts.  Yes, four of them.  I was staring at the sky and begging god to please let the terror stop.  I asked Satan if he wouldn’t mind loosening his grip on me and allowing the pain to end.  I would have prayed to whatever god Tom Cruise prays to if I thought it would help, I just needed it to end.  Just when I thought it was over, it would start all over again.  This whole affair lasted about forty-five minutes.  I was exhausted, I didn’t even feel like fishing now.  I reached over for my map and realized… I needed it.  I needed it to get out of this place.  There were so many little roads leading in every direction that I didn’t think I would be able to navigate it without my map and the notes I had made showing which roads I had turned on.  I thought to myself, don’t be ridiculous, you’re a smart, well okay, capable person, you can figure it out.  But did I want to take that risk?  What else could I do, this was really my only option to, for lack of a better word, clean up.  Then an idea hit me, the way all great ideas that are completely worthless do.  I could use my water bottle to splash myself clean.  You know, kind of like a bidet.

I agree with you, this idea was definitely not well thought out.  First of all, how was I going to get to my truck, it was at least twenty-five or thirty yards away.  I didn’t want to walk there and make an already horrible situation even worse.  I decided my best bet would be to duck walk.  Yeah, I know.  I began duck walking towards my truck, my map in one hand and the other hand holding my pants and waders out and away from the place of  explosionary horribleness.  I duck walked over the cheat grass and weeds, past scratchy thorny sage brush, and down a muddy slope towards my truck.  By the time I got there my quads were burning so bad, all I wanted to do was stand up and shake the burn off, but there was no way I could stand, not like this.  I reached up to the door and tried to open it but it was locked.  Why had I locked the damn door!  I began to fish around in my pants, which wasn’t easy because they were bunched around my shins and over the top of those were my bunched up waders.  Finally through the grace of god or Tom Cruise, I found my keys and unlocked my door.  There sat my water bottle–on the passenger side.  I began to waddle around to the other side of the truck praying this idea would work.  I grabbed my Nalgene water bottle and began to toss small handfulls of water up under my bum.  What I didn’t realize was that at some point this whole idea was going to make the whole region wetter and well, lets just say wetter and leave it at that.  I began to panic, this was not going to work, there was too much destruction down there.  It was like throwing a water balloon at a seven-thousand acre forest fire.

Then another idea hit me.  It was a terrible idea but one that I knew would work.  I took off my wading jacket and threw it as far away from the carnage as possible.  Then, I took off my favorite Woolrich flannel shirt and began to tear off the sleeves.  They did not want to come off easy.  Leaving the shirt sleeveless was not part of a sleeves job description.  So once again I had to fish around in no-man’s land for my Gerber pocket knife.  I finally located it and began to cut the sleeves away from the shirt.  I chucked the living part of my favorite flannel in the same direction as my wading jacket, and then I began the job of cleaning up… And what a job it was.   I left shortly after, my pride and my body had both taken huge blows and I was done.  I wanted to go home and have a burning hot Silkwood radiation shower and go to bed.  I packed up my box, broke down my rod and began the arduous climb up out of the little valley.

Every so often I still put on the sleeveless flannel shirt.  I think it looks kind of cool without the sleeves.  My wife usually gives me a disapproving look when I walk out of the bedroom wearing it, so I usually go back and change, but eventually I will find a perfect event to wear my sleeveless shirt to.  I guess the one thing that I learned from this whole experience, is that nothing can beat preparation.  Being prepared is…  No, actually the one thing that I really learned from this whole ordeal is that, if I could afford it, every time I wipe my bum, it would be with a feathery-soft flannel shirt sleeve.  I would prefer  Woolrich, but Columbia will work in a pinch.  Oh yeah, I also learned that it’s probably a good idea to wait  until you’re back in civilization before gorging on Bahama Momma hot dogs with all the fixn’s.  It will save you from much heart ache and pain.

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
0 comments

The Fickle Finger of Fashion aka. The Fashion Beat-Down

We have all been drawn in by foolish fashion choices—those ill-fitting shoes and an 8-hour workday, jackets that only pretend to keep out the cold, men with scarves when it’s not cold, (really guys? this is only cool if you’re on safari) and numerous other absurd fashion choices that just don’t make sense.  Sometimes it’s all about the look though, right?  I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but sometime around 1991 I bought a pair of MC Hammer pants.  Yes, the ones with the crotch that hangs down around your knees in loose layers like someone you might see in Bahrain or Lebanon.  I didn’t however wear them proudly, and unfortunately realized my fashion mistake too late.  Only minutes after leaving our hotel room in Wichita Falls Texas, bound for a trendy nightclub, did I realize the giant error I had made.  As I was climbing into a cab I looked back at the hotel, had I come to far to go back and change?  I decided I had, and so it began–the pants rejected me as much as much as I rejected them.  Because my legs were too short for the giant Hammer pants, the folds of extra material kept tripping me up.  I was unable to walk more than a few feet at a time without grabbing the waist band and hitching up the pants.  When I tried to go onto the dance floor the pants would quickly work their way down towards my ankles.  Needless to say I didn’t look half as cool as I had pictured myself looking when I purchased the pants.  Then there’s the Z. Cavaricci debacle, but we’ll save that for another time.  “Don’t mind the high waist, these are men’s pants!”

We’ve all made these fashion missteps right?  Well, I witnessed a huge fashion misstep today.  Literally!  While sitting and studying at school today I happened to notice a young girl, maybe around twenty or twenty-two.  I noticed her mostly because of her strange gait.  She appeared to be clomping like a stiff legged Clydesdale or a cartoon Frankenstein more than a petite 20-year-old woman.  Then I noticed them–the culprits.  When this young lady got up this morning she must have sensed rain because she was wearing a pair of fashionable, just below the knee, Burberry rain-boots.  Back on the ranch we used to refer to these kind of boots as Wellingtons or irrigation boots.  Wellingtons are the worst kind of boots because they are altogether uncomfortable but also completely practical when setting dams for flood irrigation, or tramping through a manure filled barn.

This young lady looked extremely stylish and I’m sure she pictured how cute she would look when she decided to go out in them today.  I’m sure the appeal of these boots has hit us all, as we leaf through a magazine and see a group of attractive young people frolicking in the rain in their Ralph Lauren green tartan rain-boots.  Anytime we see pictures of happy people life-styled in a magazine we are instantly filled with images of our own frolicking, “If I only had some of those cute boots, imagine how much fun I would have frolicking!”

The main problem with this kind of thinking is that the only time these boots have ever been appropriate is when slogging through muddy fields to change your irrigation flow or chasing down a spaniel that has forgotten its commands.  These are not comfortable everyday boots.  For one they are made from a stiff PVC and do not bend at the ankle.  Because of the lack of ankle movement it makes your walk very awkward, jerky and well, dangerous I guess.  Falling in a muddy field in front of cows is one thing, falling down stairs on your butt in front of a hundred people is completely different.

It was the boots.  They didn’t give her the dorsiflexion needed to properly flex her ankle so she could navigate the stairs.  She landed hard and slid down at least four steps before coming to a stop.  It looked super painful but she shot right back onto her feet.  She quickly looked around to see at least fifty pairs of eyes staring back at her doing their best to stifle laughter.  A couple people walked over to help her but she shooed them off and laughed at her folly.   I imagine she will re-think the boots tomorrow, or maybe she will learn to take stairs sideways like a cross-county skier.

I suppose the lesson here is that fashion is a a fickle master, and even if you are completely unfashionable, you will still eventually be punked by a passe fad, a dowdy frock, a frumpy sweater or maybe something as simple as wearing jeans with an outdated rinse, (acid wash anyone?).  Perhaps it will be a French wide-spread collar and your ignorance of knowing how to properly tie a Windsor knot (the only acceptable knot to go with a medium or wide spread collar, but never on a button down collar), or maybe it will be unwittingly wearing socks with sandals, or the [gulps] Texas Tuxedo (denim on denim).  Whatever it is, even the most in vogue, chic, and stylish people will eventually have a taste of a “fashion beat down.”  Even during the good times, when we look in the mirror and think “you make this look good,” fashion will still do its best to make you its slave.  It will betray you, and it will make you suffer.  Though despite the risks, we still insist on making the effort, which is commendable.  So drive on Burberry rain-boot girl,drive on.  Own the fashion, or it will own you.

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
0 comments

Celebrities, Is There Anything They Can’t Do?

How many times have you been watching a commercial only to recognize the voice of a celebrity? Sometimes I feel like asking “don’t you already have a job?” Why do I want to hear Kelsey Grammer hawking Toyotas? If you open a fashion magazine today you will rarely see a super model, instead you will most likely see actresses such as Jennifer Anniston or Gwyneth Paltrow gracing the pages of Vogue. It seems celebrities have cornered the market in all things media. So when I hear about another musician or actor promoting their art, I usually turn my nose up. Fair assumption? Maybe, maybe not.

Celebrity artists aren’t new, in fact they have been a part of our culture for years. Some of the most notable are John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennet and Anthony Quinn. John Lennon made a name for himself as an artist before his passing and his drawings still fetch in the thousands of dollars at auction. But why should we care what an actor or singer does outside of the craft they have already made themselves famous doing? Does actress/painter Jane Seymour inspire and challenge us? How about Ron Wood and Mark Mothersbaugh, are they going to be as provocative and creative as they were in their music careers? Is celebrity art worth caring about? Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Knight seems to think so, he writes, “Some of this stuff is seriously worth looking at, Hopper’s 1960s photographs, say, or Martin Mull’s poignant paintings of suburban alienation and Herb Alpert’s colossal sculptural monoliths. The rest? Well, maybe we’ll only know for sure when a courageous art museum steps up to the plate and gives us a chance for deep engagement.” (Knight 7/12/2010)

When we view a painting by actress Eve Plumb best know for her role as Jan Brady, are we going to view it differently? How do we go about interpreting what a celebrity artist has to say without referring to them as their former selves? I had to look at a lot of celebrity artists to answer this question. I viewed nearly 300 pieces of celebrity art before making any decisions. There are literally hundreds of celebrities creating art, whether it was through painting, sculpture, or mixed media. Moby, Michael Stipe, Mick Fleetwood, Anthony Hopkins, Pierce Brosnan, Tony Curtis, Janis Joplin and David Bowie were just a few that I viewed. I have to admit that I was very impressed with their skill and process. Some of the paintings were as good or better than anything Peter Max or Julian Schnabel are doing, of course this is only my opinion.

When I viewed the photographic images of Actor Jeff Bridges and former Vice Presidential first lady Tipper Gore, I quickly made up my mind that they are important contributors to the art world. Jeff Bridges’ panoramic images were breath taking and Tipper Gore’s images of Rwanda were prolific and haunting. What I expected was a coddled view of the world through a photographer’s lens, but what I saw was exactly the opposite. The photographs were stripped of any pretense or ego. I will go so far as to say I was moved by their art. I could see the thoughtfulness in their composition. These photos are not snapshots, they are emotion expressed through pixels and silver gelatin.

Yes, in my opinion, celebrities have their place in the art world. Maybe not all of them, but the vast majority of celebrity artists are creating an honest expression of themselves through art. I probably won’t rush out to buy one of Eve Plumbs watercolors, but I certainly won’t dismiss her as an artist. Maybe celebrities truly have cornered the market.

 

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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Get a Piece of the Rock

It has always been common knowledge that the U.S. military makes people rich.  To be more specific, it makes big corporations with government contracts rich.  Over inflated charges for equipment, logistics, services and the like have run so rampant that it has practically become a running joke in our society.  But this phenomenon of “war profiteering” I stumbled across, is much worse than any $300.00 hammer or $400.00 toilet seat.  Much, much worse.

According to David Evans of Bloomberg, The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has failed to inform 6 million soldiers and their families of an agreement enabling Prudential Financial Inc. to withhold lump-sum payments of life insurance benefits for survivors of fallen service members, according to records made public though a freedom of information act. (Evans 9/14/2010)

So essentially this is how Prudential was able to justify withholding the lump-sum from families of fallen soldiers.  After a soldier died, the family was notified by Prudential that the life insurance funds were being made available to them.  Nine out of ten families asked for their funds to be made available to them in a lump-sum.  Prudential would then send them a checkbook instead of one single check for the lump sum.  The checkbooks received by the families are attached to what are called “Alliance Accounts” and have been the standard form of payout since June of 1999.

Those unspent funds (lump-sum) that were supposed to be in the beneficiaries hands, were then invested by Prudential Financial.  All earnings on these investments went directly to Prudential, the VA and the families of fallen servicemen did not receive any of these profits.  It is estimated that Prudential made about 500 million on these investments.  “Every veteran I’ve spoken with is appalled at the brazen war profiteering by Prudential,” says Paul Sullivan, who served in the 1991 Gulf War as an Army cavalry scout and is now director of Veterans for Common Sense, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington.  “Now vets are upset at the VA’s inability to stop Prudential’s bad behavior.”  The VA allowed Prudential to issue these accounts for 10 years while the contract required lump-sum payouts is “more evidence that the VA was asleep at the wheel for a decade”, says Sullivan. (Evans 9/14/2010)

This form of war profiteering seemed to slip by unchecked and unanswered for a decade.  Even officials at the very top had no idea that it was going on.  U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (who was in office in 2009) said “Until today I actually believed that the families of our fallen heroes got a check for the full amount of their benefits, this came as news to me.”

An official probe has finally begun and lawsuits are sure to follow.  Families that were supposed to receive lump-sum payouts under the terms of the contract before it was amended in 2009 may even be entitled to interest earned by Prudential.  As a private corporation Prudential Financial has every right to earn money on investments and to show a profit for their shareholder’s.  Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Halibuton; these companies have all made billions of dollars in profits from wars, but you can argue that they have never profited directly from the families of dead soldiers.  Paying $300.00 for a hammer may be ethically wrong, but what Prudential had done is both ethically and morally wrong.  I thoroughly intend to watch how this story unfolds; though I cringe at the thought that this is another big American corporation that will receive a paltry fine and a slap on the wrist.   Justice may pass just this one by.

 

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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Toddler Karma’s Gonna Get You

I know she saw me waiting, but she still slipped into my spot with her hulking Yukon as I sat there mouth agape.  I had purposely waited for this spot because it was on the end of the row and there would be plenty of room to get Emmy out of her car seat.  This is a New Year I thought to myself.  Being a kinder, gentler and more forgiving person is the goal I have set for myself for 2011.  Obviously I am going to fail miserably at this resolution, but I would like to make it at least a week before I abandon all hope of becoming a better person in the new year.  I muttered something about karma and set off in search of another parking spot with easy car-seat accessibility.

Well, as all things go around, they also come around.  Sparks is a small place and the stores at the Legends mall are even smaller.  After browsing for awhile in the shops I found a cute outfit for Emmy at the Carters outlet store.  I rarely need to try anything on her as she is a perfect 3T from head to toe, so we took the outfit up to the front to pay.

Now I sort of feel like saying something like “low and behold” or “and who should be standing there but none other than…”  That would be too easy though.  I believe what happened next was just karma in its most base form.  The woman who stole our parking spot didn’t just happen to be waiting in line in front of us in a busy children’s clothing store for any reason but she had some karma coming.  Maybe she had her reasons.  Maybe she was in a hurry, or  maybe she just didn’t see us waiting.

I’m not sure who noticed it first, Emmy or me.  I was holding her on my hip so she was pretty much eye to eye with the woman’s gumball sized goiter on her neck.  It was very noticeable, even more so by a 3 year old.  “Daddy, what’s on her neck?”  I knew exactly what she was asking but I ignored her, hoping she would not ask again. “Daddy, she has a big lump on her neck.” She was pointing now and  I shushed her as my face began to redden. “But what is it?” Emmy asked loudly and without any shame.  There was no cruelty intended in the question, just a toddler’s inquisitive mind working faster than mine.  The woman definitely heard, she gave a half turn and a stern look in my direction.  I pretended not to notice, just as she had pretended not to notice me waiting patiently for a parking spot to open up.  Of course I was embarrassed and I certainly didn’t want to hurt this woman’s feelings in any way; but at some point I did tilt my head skywards to give a little wink.  A thank you to the heavens for the candidness of 3 year olds.  When John Lennon sang of Instant Karma, I am almost positive that he had toddlers in mind.

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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Badge’s Cosmic Plea For Forgiveness

So, I guess you heard.  I’m gonna be a father again. Well, first of all I can’t tell you how strange it is to be called a “father.” A father seems like someone that smokes a pipe, reads the paper, washes the car, sets a good example, disciplines his children etc… I think you get where I’m going with this—I don’t really feel like that kind of father. I do feel like a pretty decent dad though. Yeah I let Emmy get away with a lot, yeah I sometimes don’t set the best example; but so far I still feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of raising her. She’s well adjusted, doesn’t have any weird hang-ups and she honestly loves and respects me, which really blows my mind. Now with another daughter on the way I am starting to think about the future. Sure I’m doing an okay job now, but what about when they hit their teens? What will become of the friendship and mutual respect we have now? Then there’s the question that seems to haunt me lately.  It seems to follow me everywhere I go.  People love to tell me, “better get those guns ready…” “Oh, you better put her in a convent,” “Man, you’re gonna have a tough time when she gets older…” The list goes on and on.  So what about that?  Is this my future?  These innocent comments and subtle warnings haven’t fallen on deaf ears.

I remember when my sister started dating; my dad would clean his guns when guys would come by the house to pick her up. I dated girls that had scary dads too, dads that would threaten me passive aggressively or swab out a pistol when I came to the door. The scary thing is, I mean the truly frightening thing about those encounters was the thing that bothers me the most right now. I was never afraid of those dads. Not one of them. It didn’t matter if he threatened me or cleaned a shotgun; I generally had no fear of them or any fear of reprisal for breaking their daughters hearts. The thing was, I knew these dads had no power over their daughters, or me. I knew that these girls would do whatever they wanted to do. These dads couldn’t come on these dates with us and I knew these girls wouldn’t share close details of their personal lives with them. I had it all figured out, and I got away with a lot.

I know, I know, I’m awful, but it was a really long time ago. Sure I feel bad about it now, and I do feel that these worries are all part of some sort of karmic retribution or the fickle finger of fate body slamming me, whatever you want to call it, I probably deserve it. I honestly don’t like to think about it. I can’t imagine somebody ever hurting one of my children. But these thoughts slip in don’t they? They seem to get by the gatekeeper of things that we don’t want to address. When I watch Emmy playing and I see that she is growing and learning, it makes me realize that she won’t be little forever. I know that in ten short years or so, she will be dating and the shoe will be on the other foot. It breaks my heart to know that someday Emmy or the little one still bouncing around in mommy’s tummy may have their heart broken one day. I guess in a way this blog is sort of an apology, a cosmic plea for forgiveness to those dads I rebuffed with such impertinence all those years ago.

But! There is a big but here, and a bright side to all this. After talking to Ellen and sharing some of my fears, she helped me realize that I’m way scarier than those dads. You see, I’m always willing to go the extra mile to truly screw with someone’s head, and I have no regard for most people’s feelings. Thank you Ellen for helping me to remember what a truly awful person I am and what I can accomplish when I really put my mind to it. Plus, if we work hard and if we teach them well, we may never have to worry about our daughters dating boys that might hurt them. Maybe, if I show my daughters how a woman should be treated; with respect, admiration, gentleness and all the things a woman deserves, maybe these nightmares will never see the light of day. I like my chances to be honest. Maybe I will never be that traditional dad that doles out advice and keeps the lawn mowed, but I love my girls and I love my wife, and that may be all it takes. I think I must still have it all figured out.

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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An Ecological Conscience: Restoring Our Relationship With Nature

Dating as far back as our early hominid ancestors, man has had a deep-rooted relationship with the natural world.  Our early ancestors lived with nature; they had a bond with their environment.  It fed them, clothed them and it was a part of them as much as they were a part of it.  Some people still foster that deep relationship with nature, and some put it down in words so that others might feel the ancient bond we have with the Earth.   These words and writings are an appeal to man to develop an ecological conscience.  An ecological conscience is a form of communion with the natural world, it binds people to that world with respect, understanding, and admiration; moreover it is the mortar that fills the gap in our lost connection to nature.  An ecological conscience can be a portal back to what our ancestors knew—that we must live symbiotically with our planet.  To ignore their knowledge would be ecologically disastrous for our home, for human beings cannot survive without cultivating an ecological conscience.

There is compelling evidence and argument that our society has ceased to heed the teachings of our ancestors with regard to cultivating an ecological conscience.  Man is changing the weather and poisoning the water we drink because of exploration and the need to harness every available bit of energy and resource we can find.  Our relationship with the natural world is becoming more distant with every oil-rig drilling and every pipeline laid.  Nature writer Rachel Carson wrote, “Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species—man—acquired significant power to alter the nature of this world” (Carson).   I believe her words act as a watchdog and a warning. With the acquisition of power to change comes the need to act responsibly and without haste.  Carson recognized the trend toward ignoring the necessity of listening to Mother Earth and wished to sound the alarm.  This alarm resounds then and now, as nature writers use their words to protect us, to raise a red flag and to persuade us to wake up, thereby instilling an ecological conscience in those that listen.

Aldo Leopold used this type of persuasive writing as well.  Leopold emphasized that we need to develop a code of decency to protect our public and private lands, an agreement, or contract with the nature.  Leopold also contends that, “The first step is to throw your weight around on matters of right and wrong in land use.”  To me this is quite a prolific idea and generates a feeling of change in how we should protect out relationship with nature.  Leopold warns, “Stop being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible”.  In saying this he is essentially giving us license to develop our own conscience, regarding our connection to the natural world.  His words empower us and help us retrieve that innate agreement with nature that we have pushed to the recesses of our busy culture.  Furthermore Leopold believed that conservation must come from conviction, a strong belief that we must do what is ethically and esthetically right mandating that we establish an ecological conscience.

Awakening an ecological conscience is paramount to our survival and longevity as a race and society, without it, we will remain oblivious and ignorant to the fleecing of our planet.  Without an ecological conscience we are left with few tools to help rekindle our relationship with the natural world. Technology and science may have some answers in helping to restore our natural world.   The problem with that is technology created many of our ecological disasters and even though it may be able to undo some of those problems, we have come to learn, technological solutions cannot inspire us spiritually, and they cannot move us emotionally to open the portal to our ecological conscience.  As Jane Goodall wrote, “Technology alone is not enough.  We must engage with out hearts also.” This quote is quite profound because of its veracity; engaging with our hearts is really the only way to fill our souls with the desire to develop an ecological conscience.

Our relationship with nature is the essence of an ecological conscience and is the interconnection that makes life on Earth possible.  An ecological conscience helps us hone our beliefs into tack sharp ideals and it fosters the oldest connection that man has, our relationship to the natural world.  Loren Eisley wrote in 1957, “The nature of the human predicament is how nature is to be reentered.”  Nature must be found again; furthermore we must restore the world that brought us into being (Eisley).   Developing an ecological conscience will allow us to unite against the effects that man is having on our planet, and reclaim our lost relationship with the natural world.

 

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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It Wasn’t Kitsch, It Was The Real Deal

The first thing I noticed were the huge radio headphones she was wearing, these weren’t the kitschy kind you get from Best Buy that play Mp3′s.  These were the real deal.  She was completely oblivious to the world around her.  Though I suppose most of the people at my gym are lost in their own worlds; no one so much as looks in your direction let alone takes the extra second to remove an earbud before asking if you’re “done with that machine yet?”  The ipod ranks supreme at my gym, most people stare intently at the tiny screens in between sets and grunts.  So why was this woman wearing such outdated equipment?  Had I time warped?  Did she know that a lighter more comfortable version of her outmoded technology existed.  I couldn’t help but stare and ask these questions.

She had walked into the cardio room with the kind of confidence it would take to pull of her outfit, which was something to marvel and awe at.  She was probably in her late 40′s or maybe early 50′s.  She had on so much makeup it made it tough to tell her actual age.  I was surprised she didn’t notice me staring at her as she warmed up before taking the treadmill next to mine.  She began to sing out loud with whatever music was playing on her massive earphones.  I  really admired her carefree attitude.  She never once looked around to see if anyone noticed or minded her singing.  I stared at her outfit desperately trying to make sense of it.  She was wearing rolled up jean shorts over shiny, (yes shiny) pantyhose.  She had thick scrunch socks on and they were definitely scrunched.  I remember my sister wearing these socks in the late eighties with high top Reebok aerobics shoes, and that is exactly what this woman was rocking.

I was completely fascinated by her running style, though I don’t know if I would actually call it running.  Imagine a long legged deer prancing through the forest, or better yet, imagine a Lipizzaner horse prancing around a ring.  She would prance like this for a few minutes and then get off and walk to the mirrored wall and then, yes… JAZZ HANDS!  JAZZ HANDS!  I couldn’t stop staring and now she had all eyes on her from the treadmills and eliptical machines.

Finally I recognized one of the songs she was singing, it was Sarah Brightman’s All I Ask of You from Phantom of the Opera.  She had a decent singing voice but the jazz hands while prancing was really throwing me off my workout.  Then it came, or should I say, came off.  She stripped down to a tank top exposing giant, I mean GIANT boobs.  No sports bra in sight.  It looked really painful as she pranced along.  People coming up the stairs to use the elipticals were greeted by her bounding on the treadmill; giant breasts heaving up and down with her cadence.  Their looks were priceless, open mouth confusion is the only way to explain it.  Then she did the unexpected, just when I thought she couldn’t get any weirder; she turned around on the treadmill and started running backwards while singing Ave Maria… I loved this lady.  I loved that she was carefree, I loved that she didn’t care that she looked like a relic from the cold war.  I loved that she knows where to buy high top Reebok aerobic shoes.  Yes, to answer your question.  She was batshit crazy!  But so what if she was stuck in 1982, I think I was probably at my  best in 1997, and that is exactly where I’m going.  Minus the very heavy Panasonic personal CD player.

I couldn’t stop staring at her, she was truly fascinating.  Just as she was about to stop her treadmill again to dance in front of the mirrors I dropped my ipod.  I tried to jump with both feet to either side of the treadmill belt to retrieve it but missed, my left foot hit the side of the fast moving belt and I began losing my footing like a character from Scooby Doo.  after desperately trying to regain balance I went down hard cracking my forehead on the pulse bar before crashing onto the belt and then face scrubbing onto the floor.  I fell into a little pile at the base of the evil machine beaten and humiliated.  My large breasted neighbor calmly reached over and tapped the emergency stop button on my treadmill, but not before giving me a knowing look and a crooked smile.

I recognized the look she gave me… It was pity.  It was as if she was saying, poor clueless bastard.  Yeah, poor clueless bastard indeed.

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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Ten Years

There are plenty of mornings that you wake up and think, this is just a regular day, nothing too special about it.  But today, I was awoken by my eyes being pulled open and numerous sloppy toddler kisses placed on my face.  I sat up in bed and realized that my life is perfect, and even though I dread this day every year, it started great.  It’s been ten years; but I don’t feel the way I thought I would.
Today is the ten year anniversary of my dad’s passing.  Last year on this day I thought to myself, next year will be ten years; I wonder how I will feel about that?   The truth is I still feel sad.  I still miss him.  Sometimes I still go for the phone to call him when I have just gotten good news.  What is it about an anniversary like this that we put pressure on ourselves to feel something.  Why should ten years feel any different than nine years?  Strangely enough, it’s more what I’ve learned over the last ten years that means the most.  I have learned to let him go in the last ten years and I have learned that I cannot let his passing be mine.  We must let our loved ones pass, and we must forgive them for what they take when they go.
I have thought a lot about death over the last ten years.  I was even faced with my own mortality over those years.  The thing I have taken away from all that thinking, is that I am not afraid of death.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I am not as– afraid.  I don’t believe we all face death alone, though if we let it, we will let others deaths affect us alone.   The physical act of my last breath doesn’t frighten me as much anymore.  It doesn’t eat away at my subconscious like it used to.  But there is one thing that still scares me from time to time.  There is one thing that still preoccupies my mind, and that is being forgotten after I die.
The thought of being forgotten is truly haunting to me.  If you think about it, this is why benches are dedicated in parks, why charitable foundations are set-up, and I believe this is why mankind strives to make its mark on history.  It’s all for posterity, and because the thought of being forgotten in the annals of time is too saddening to think about. When we pass we must leave something behind, something that we can be remembered by.  It may just be a plaque on a park bench to some, but to someone else it is a lifetime of memories and dreams.  When I think about my own passing, I hope that the thing I leave will be a legacy, and not grief.  I suppose my legacy is that of my beautiful children.  I hope that if I instill some of my ideals, some of my hopes and some of my qualities in them, I will never be forgotten.  If we leave a legacy, a piece of ourselves, for years to come, we will not be forgotten.  I think my dad knew this too, and that is why I think he didn’t die alone.  In his last thoughts, I like to think that he knew we would be okay, and that he would not be forgotten.

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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Saturday Night, Makes it Alright

We all enjoy music in our own personal way.  Music is a very personal experience actually.  Live music on the other hand is a little different.  Sure it’s still a personal experience, but it’s also a shared experience.   When we’re at a concert we are surrounded on all sides by people listening to the same song, at the same moment; it’s almost a spiritual event.  Unless you’re surrounded by the Gap girls that is…  But I’ll get to them in a second.
The other night while I was at a concert I looked around at the other people in the audience and realized just how fascinating it is to watch others participating in the same experience as you are.  I looked around at the people surrounding me and picked out some of my favorite folks.  Of course in front of me and to the left, there was the 45-year-old white guy bobbing his head.  That’s a given at any concert.  This guy was really enjoying the music too; he bobbed along for the entire concert, every once in a while he would clap or let a our little hoot here and there, but for the most part he just sat and enjoyed the music.
The woman directly in front of me never seemed to look up from her phone during the entire concert.  Throughout the entire concert she was updating her Facebook status or taking pictures of the stage.  I’m not sure she was really even at the same event I was.  She seemed to experience the concert for the people reading her Facebook updates.  She never clapped, never wooed and never hooed.  Honestly it made me a little sad.  Thank god for the woman on my left, she was exactly the opposite.  This woman felt the music, it seeped in through her pores and coursed through her veins.  At one point she had her hands in the air and both eyes shut tight.  I think I admired her for her ability to become lost in her own world, nothing else mattered, nothing else existed except for her and the music.
Next there was the hipster doofus.  He was probably one of my favorites.  This guy just really needed attention.  He danced, hooped and hollered and pulled his cell phone out with the candle flame app.  He had on ironic sunglasses and a too tight plaid shirt.  He seemed to have a lot of energy at first , but once his friends tired of his shenanigans or maybe he just ran out of his “I’m so clever look at me” steam, he went and sat down and appeared to pout through the rest of the concert.  My absolute favorites though, were the Gap girls.  That’s really the only way to explain them.  These girls were at the concert to say they had been there and not to actually experience anything.  When they weren’t on their cell phones they were chatting very loudly with one another.  Every once in a while they would stop chatting for a second to shout Woo Hoo!!! But then they would go right back to their conversations.  Sure at first I wanted to turn around and tell them to shut the fuck up, but I quickly tuned them out once my 39-year-old head started bobbing along to the music.
It just made me realize that we all experience things differently.  A concert is a mash up of so many personalities, beliefs, attitudes and conventions, that is a great social experiment.  Obnoxious Gap girls aside, I really enjoyed the people around me as much as I enjoyed the music.  So bob on 45-year-old white guy, bob on… It’s all part of the experience.

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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They Did Not Bring Sexy Back

I was at Target today and just happened to notice that the William Rast collection is now being featured in the front of the Men’s clothing section.  If you aren’t familiar with the William Rast label, it is a partnership between designer Trace Ayala and singer/actor Justin Timberlake.  Here’s what Target says about their collaboration,

This limited-edition collection offers edgy leather jackets, outerwear and premium denim in affordable prices. The men’s collection incorporates rugged style in plaid and military-inspired button downs, graphic tees and nylon biker jackets, while the women’s collection blends tomboy style and feminine tailoring by adding hardware embellishments on chic separates including, western-style blouses, sleek blazers and vests. The entire collection ranges in price from $16.99 to $199.99 and will be available only through Jan. 22, 2011 at most Target stores and Target.com.

Target has carried the Mossimo label for years which in my opinion has always put out solid affordable basics.  They have also been carrying the Converse label for about 3 years now which is a very innovative and well designed collection based on the John Varvatos for Converse line which is up to several hundred dollars more expensive.

I remember in the late nineties when Target began carrying an inexpensive version of Haute Couture by Isaac Mizrahi.  Perhaps this is in response to how well his line was received.  I feel like Mizrahi’s concept was much better executed though.  My honest opinion after viewing the William Rast collection was not a good first impression.  In fact I felt that the collection was contrived, self-important and lack-luster just to name a few.  The jackets and shirts looked very similar to the same clothing Target was already carrying.  It felt cheap and over detailed.  The jeans were a poor fit and didn’t come close to looking like a modern Slim Straight fit that is the most popular selling jean at the moment.  It was somewhere between a baggy and loose fit jean.  The jackets, shirts and sweat-shirts were over-embellished and utilized too many zippers and epaulets.  It looked like a poor Old Navy or Gap knock off.

I honestly expected much more from Timberlake and Ayala as they both seem to have a great sense of style.  Maybe we weren’t meant to be quite that stylish though… Not for target prices anyway.  I noticed on one of the sleeves of the sweater and sweatshirt, that three rubbery lines had been laminated on the upper arm area.  No good design reason, just affixed there in upper-arm land taking up space.  Timberlake and Ayala seem to be saying, “We understand that this line is boring, so we threw some stuff on here to make it look more interesting…”  Well, it didn’t work.  Big swing and a miss for Target, the William Rast Label and regular guys that want a little haute couture on a Target budget.

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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They’re Baaaaack

Unless you are at a concert or watching a musician onstage, music has become a very personal experience.  Many people who listen to music these days do it through a pair of headphones attached to an iPod or computer.  I personally use my iPod so much that I can’t remember the last time I actually purchased a CD.  Digital music has removed compact discs from their number one spot in sales just as CD’s kicked Cassette tapes off the scene in the early 1990’s, and tapes did the same thing to Record albums in the mid 1980’s.
So has digital music completely kicked all formats off the map completely?  Not yet, CD sales may be declining, but there has been a huge resurgence in vinyl. Audiophiles are drawn to records because there aren’t any anti-piracy restrictions and people claim they just sound better than their digital counterparts.  According to writer Matthew Jacobs in his article Vinyl Records seeing resurgence in Popularity, record sales have sky rocketed with 2.1 million vinyl records being sold in 2008, and 2009 saw the highest number of record sales since 1991.  That means record sales went up 14 percent while CD sales plummeted 35 percent.  (Jacobs 2/17/2010)
I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and remember well what it was like to get a new album.  My friends and I would sit around and listen to the new Cure or New Order album.  It was considered bad form to purchase a new album and not invite friends over to listen.  It was a social experience to listen to an album, and this practice may very well be making a comeback.  In the article Vinyl Gets Its Groove Back, Time magazine writer Kristin Dell discusses the re-popularization of vinyl.
Like the comeback of Puma sneakers or vintage T-shirts, vinyl’s resurgence has benefited from its retro rock aura.  Many young listeners discovered LP’s after they rifled through their parent’s collection looking for oldies and found that they liked the warmer sound quality of records, the more elaborated album covers and liner notes that come with them, and the experience of putting one on and sharing it with friends.  The music industry, hoping to find another revenue source that doesn’t easily lend itself to illegal downloads, has happily jumped on the bandwagon.  Contemporary artists like the Killers, Cat Power and Ryan Adams have begun issuing their new releases on vinyl in addition to the CD and MP3 formats.  As and extra lure, many labels are including coupons for free audio downloads with their vinyl albums so that generation Y music fans can get the best of both worlds: high-quality sound at home and iPod portability for the road. (Dell 1/10/2008)
I began a search for retailers that are selling LP’s.  Electronics retailer Best Buy popped up immediately along with a few you wouldn’t normally expect such as Barnes & Noble and Urban Outfitters.  Numerous bands also have their music available in vinyl if you visit their websites and enter the shop portion.
Numerous movies have been made with a nod to record collectors that are always portrayed as eccentrics, such as in the movie High Fidelity.  But not just collectors are interested in the distinctions between digital music and vinyl as Kristina Dell discovered.  Sound quality LP’s generally exhibit a warmer, more nuanced sound than CD’s and digital downloads.  MP3 filed tend to produce tinnier notes, especially if compressed into a lower-resolution format.  “Most things sound better on vinyl, even with the crackles, pops and hisses,” says David Mac Runnel, a 15 year old high school sophomore from Creve Coeur, Mo., who owns more that 1,000 records.  “Crowding around a record player to listen to an album with friends, discussing the foldout photos, even getting up to flip over a record makes vinyl a more socially interactive way to enjoy music.”  “It feels better to listen to vinyl.” (Dell 1/10/2008)
So not just nostalgic 30 and 40 year old’s are taking part in this vinyl revival; teens are fascinated by its subtleties as well.  Record companies have even begun to market to the newer generations by offering albums in eye catching colors and shapes, yes shapes.  So besides the record companies and used record stores, who stands to profit from this resurgence?  Matthew Jacobs writes,
As the recording industry sees music lovers nostalgically return to the days of 70’s and 80’s rock fads, technology junkies are taking advantage of the opportunity to pick up another top of the line gadget.  Two turntable production companies set up shop at the Consumer Electronics Show in January to display fresh models of formally outdated record players.  Former turntable giants Crosley and ION audio have been able to rebuild their businesses thanks to the resurgence of vinyl-record players.  ION is capitalizing on its ability to combine the returning fad with digital music- the ION Profile turntable includes an iPod dock, which allows music to be transferred directly from a record to an iPod or other portable music device. (Jacobs 2/17/2010)
The resurgence has made it profitable to produce vinyl again.  Record companies producing vinyl are not the only ones profiting from this comeback; used record stores and almost defunct electronics makers (turntables) have all made comebacks.  Record players are not just for electronic boutiques anymore either, they are readily available at retailers such as Best Buy, Target and Costco.  Amazon.com has even introduced its own vinyl shop, which makes it much easier to find collectables as well as new artists.
I for one have already purchased a record player and am busy digging out all my vinyl as well as the stuff I inherited.  Had I gotten rid of these albums years ago as my wife urged, I would not get to take part in this vinyl revival.  I know it can’t ever be the same as 1985 but I’m at least going to give it a try, if I could just find my headphones…

May 5, 2011
by thebadge
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The Captain

His friends called him The Captain, and for years I wondered why. I think that I get it now. He was the type of man you could look up to.  He was imposing and fearless, but also funny and warm. Most people called him engaging or charming. These things came naturally to him, but they’re qualities I have struggled to gain my entire life.

The last time I saw him he was standing in the icy-cold moonlight under the naked branches of the Silver Maple. He watched us until our taillights disappeared into the night. The cold never seemed to bother him.  He had rancher’s hands. They were the kind of hands that could loosen a stripped hose coupling in minus ten-degree weather with no gloves and no tools. His hands were as big as catcher’s mitts and just as hard, but when one of those hands rested heavily on your shoulder, you felt warm and protected. They had a calming effect and when they rested on your shoulders, somehow you knew everything would be okay.

I used to watch him tell stories; he was a master storyteller and could captivate an audience.  Saturday nights on the ranch were magical. As the shadows began to grow long, out came the coolers and the deep pit would get stoked and re-covered. Then the stories would come. I could listen to the Captains stories over and over and I would laugh harder each time. His characters came alive and his descriptions were so detailed and vivid it was like you were right there with them. His travels took him to unusual places and he befriended strange people. The kind of people that you might not believe existed, but his tales became so legendary that no one ever doubted the existence of these happenings.

Some day I will try to write down these stories before they are forgotten… I only hope I can do them justice.

I spent many years wanting to be more like my dad, copying his mannerisms and even going so far as  stealing some of his jokes to pass off as my own. I always felt that I had been cheated out of getting his personality, but now as I am growing older, I see the gifts my dad passed on to me; compassion, tolerance and maybe a little bit of his sense of humor. When I stare at my reflection now I see his face in mine, and it makes me smile.

A few years ago I sat along the creek that runs through a high alpine meadow, the one that lives in the shadow of a dormant volcano. The water is pure snow runoff and will numb bare hands and feet in seconds. The cornflowers were beginning their descent into fall but still they seemed to stand at attention when I quietly rounded the bend into the lonely meadow. It was a son’s job, a job that had once been my father’s. I sat there amongst the Cornflowers and Fir trees until the shadows grew long and the sky became purple. I knew I still had a long walk out and it would be very difficult in the dark. I gathered my things, gave one final toast, and began the long hike down the mountain. I left my father there, just as he had left his father there 16 years earlier. It was always a sacred place to our family.  Now it is also the resting place of my father, The Captain.

The Captain Part 2

After his death I began to fish almost immediately. I had dodged fishing trips with my dad for years, but now I began to fish almost frantically, the way someone searches for lost keys. I searched in the riffles of Goodrich Creek, just below the dam in a nice slick run that fishes well on a #16 Parachute Adams.  Until my high school years, we fished every weekend, and practically everyday during the summer months.  I had forgotten for many years about fishing, I had forgotten about the bond it built.  I had forgotten about the importance of being a son.  I found fishing again, and maybe some solace in the Goodrich riffles.  Now, I feel like fishing is a connection to my past, and to my future.

As I write this it has been 3 years since he has been gone. I am sitting alone on the bank of Goodrich Creek, furiously scribbling down these thoughts on a paper bag from Holiday Market.  It’s still early in the season and there are ice crystals on my line.  I think the Captain would be proud of this life I have made for myself. I pour another cup of coffee as the sun begins to warm me up.  This will be a good day.

May 4, 2011
by thebadge
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The Vampires of Sparks

It started out as a normal evening. I never intend for these things to happen you understand, but by ten p.m. we would be nursing our wounds and watching the sky for possible vampire attacks. 
A couple weeks ago on a bike ride in the hills around Sparks, I stumbled upon a small dugout hideaway. It was actually pretty spacious and kind of cool looking. I duck walked in and started poking around. There were strange writings on some notebooks. They were filthy so I grabbed a stick and opened some of the pages. Someone had cut out strange fetish porn and pasted it on the pages along with cryptic sentences about “wanting to feed” and “uncontrollable blood lust.” After reading some of it I quickly and quietly backed away from the den of this would be Sparksian Vampire. The writings were very disturbing and made Anne Rice seem like a born again christian.

I had to share this new find, but who would believe me, who would believe a crazy story like this? I could think of only one person who would be game for hunting vampires by moonlight.  I called my friend Ray,

I figured I would have to use a little finesse though. “Hey Ray, want to go for a moonlight bike ride?” I didn’t actually tell him we were going to find a vampire by moonlight. I didn’t actually tell him what we were looking for at all until we neared the dirt trail that led up to the ore ditch.  Though, after I told him what our mission was, he was excited as a kid at the idea of checking out a vampire den.

We cycled up the steep hill to the ore ditch and left our bikes by a tree.  We walked the last 50 yards to the where the den was hidden in the willows. “Holy shit,” Ray exclaimed. “That’s a fucking hideout.” We had only one small led light between us and it cast only a small amount of light. We both peered into the cave and waited for the other to go in. “Go on, check it out” I said. Ray slowly crept into the den, “Jesus, look at this thing, it’s huge, it goes way back in there.” He walked a little further in and began poking around. “Look at this” I said, ” a secret exit over here in the back. “Bring the light over here.” We looked at the exit and wondered when was the last time was that someone had snuck out the back. Suddenly, in a moment of Blair Witch panic, we began to hear noises everywhere.

“It’s just like the Blair Witch thing,” I said, “It’s just our minds playing tricks.” 

We poked around for another couple of minutes becoming pretty confident that whatever was living there was gone. Ray turned to go back into the den through the back entrance when something came crashing through the bushes behind us at full speed. “Jesus Christ! Run” “It’s a fucking homeless vampire!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. I had unfortunately made a poor footwear choice that night as I was in cycling shoes and was slipping all over the place as I tried to run. Ray took off at a full sprint. I yelled out for Ray to shine the light on the ground so we could see where we were going, but just at that moment Ray ran straight into a small hill. It popped up right out of nowhere, it was about 3 1/2 feet high and about 3 1/2feet around.  He hit the hill at a full sprint and I saw him go down hard. He hit the mound so hard that I felt the ground shake. I thought to myself, “don’t trip on whatever Ray just tripped on.” Of course I ran straight into the same hill Ray had just gone over. I toppled over it and into Ray who was already scrambling to get back on his feet. “I just ate shit!” Ray yelled. I was trying to get up but kept slipping in my cycling shoes, “Fuck, I can’t breathe!” I tried to say.  I had had the wind knocked out of me and I was gasping for air. “Holy shit, did you hear that?” Ray asked. Whatever it was, was right behind us in the dark. For a full moon night it was dark as hell and we couldn’t make out what it was. 


We grabbed our bikes and raced down the dark hill at top speed. I had no idea where we were going and I was using the force to take me down the hill. We circled around the neighborhood a few times trying to throw any vampires flying around off of our trail.

We sped back to my house to clean up and check the damage. We walked in the back door into the kitchen.  My wife Ellen was in the kitchen and gasped when she saw Ray. She looked at me and said “Oh my god, what did you do to Ray?” “Nothing, I didn’t do it” I said. Ray’s face looked like raw hamburger, we cleaned it up the best we could and applied some Neosporin. “Damn, your face got messed up” I said as I handed Ray a beer. 

Have you ever noticed how Friday nights are perfect for an adventure? Okay, okay. I know. More than likely the person living in the den was just a crazy bastard, put out on the street from an overcrowded and underfunded Nevada mental hospital. The crashing we heard was probably a dog or a coyote. Ray’s face however, did get totally beat up.  Ouch!   I’m with you folks, I mean, let’s be real.  Of course there aren’t any vampires in the hills around Sparks. Of course there aren’t…

May 4, 2011
by thebadge
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Yellow Mustard

It started innocently enough… “Hey, do you want to go out for breakfast for dinner?” My favorite breakfast for dinner place is the Black Bear Diner. Good food, good service. What I forgot was that I have inadvertently let Emmy get away with really, really bad table manners at home, and she was coming with us.  Bad table manners and all.  She’s 15 months, I mean how good should her manners be?  You know, it wasn’t the yelling, and it wasn’t her throwing food on the floor, and it wasn’t her dumping a cup of milk everywhere.  It was the mustard…

Emmylou has a strange addiction to mustard. Yellow French’s mustard. She eats it on everything. When we can’t get her to eat something we dump mustard on it and she goes at it like a pack of Hyena’s.   This was a mustard night. She wouldn’t eat the kids meal and so I packed on a little, mmm okay, a lot of mustard. She was completely covered in it… Her face, her hair, and of course her hands.

Emmy had been flirting with everyone in the restaurant, giving them smiles and saying hi. It was such perfect timing, because I was just about to clean her hands when a woman that had stopped to say hi and play a little peek-a-boo, got a little more than she expected. She bent over to pick up a crayon that Emmy had dumped on the floor and when her head was bent down…  Emmy reached out with her mustard covered hands and grabbed her head. Mustard instantly went in the woman’s hair; when she pulled away Emmy took the woman’s sunglasses and a fist full of hair.  The woman snatched back her sunglasses and began to put them back on her head, that’s when Emmy grabbed her around one of her legs. At this point the woman had more mustard on her than Emmy had. It all happened so quickly we barely had time to react. Ellen grabbed Emmy’s hands away and began apologizing.

The woman appeared a little put out after realizing she was covered in French’s mustard.   I say… You don’t play peek-a-boo with a mustard covered baby and expect to get off scott-free.  I sorta, kinda enjoyed the whole experience. Yeah, I’m gonna be one of those kind of parents I guess…

May 4, 2011
by thebadge
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Old Man Balls

So, the other day at my new gym, I was taken to school by two older gentleman. It seems that I had gone into the whirlpool in the buff and that is a huge no, no. They were practically yelling at me, saying that I was stupid and couldn’t read the sign. “Trunks in whirlpool.”  I explained that I hadn’t actually seen the sign until I was already sitting in the whirlpool.  I also tried to apologize and explain that I was new to the gym, but they wouldn’t have it. Well, I have to say that pissed me off, so I began to yell back, “Well where the hell are your shower shoes!  Oh, and by the way I saw you in the sauna and your old man balls were all over the benches with no towel under you, at least the whirlpool has chlorine to kill any germs!”  The mean old bastards immediately retreated and proceeded to narc me out to the front desk.  It was quite embarrassing to get a talking to by the 20-year-old girl behind the counter about going into the whirlpool naked. I ducked out red faced and angry swearing a blood revenge.

So today when I saw the old bastards that yelled at me, I got crazy pissed and decided to walk around the locker room with my junk hanging out.  I tried to wave it from side to side as I walked past them, which was numerous times… I was very cavalier about my nudity for the 10 minutes it took them to change. Though, I did put trunks on when I went into the Whirlpool. I’m no rule breaker.

May 4, 2011
by thebadge
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$67.00 on iTunes…Ooooh Heaven is a Place on Earth…

The year was 1984 and my first sixth grade dance loomed ahead.  I say loomed because I had no idea what to expect. I decided I needed to practice and that is exactly what I did–I practiced my heart out for this dance. I wanted to impress not one, but two girls. Shannon Wellman and Heather Nutcher. I remember them like it was yesterday. Shannon was a brunette and was the first girl at our school to wear Levi’s 501′s, Heather was a wiry blonde who wore Sperry Top Siders (very des rigeur in 84′) and had a bob.  These girls were the “IT” girls. So, like I said I practiced dancing every night for an hour or so when I should have been doing homework. Unfortunately for me, I figured all dances were going to be slow dances, and when a fast dance came on I had just planned on jumping around.  When that Friday afternoon finally came around I was petrified. I hadn’t realized that practically all the songs were going to be fast songs!  I really hadn’t given much thought as to how to dance to fast songs!

Luckily for me, in the sixth grade, very few boys got out to dance to the fast songs.  The girls pretty much danced in little groups while most of the boys sat along the east wall of the cafeteria.  The girls kinda stood and swayed to the music, while giggling and whispering in each others ears. We had a real DJ who was spinning vinyl (this was at least 3 or 4 years before cd’s made their first appearance) and he had these groovy stop lights and little strobes on top of the speakers. I drank orange punch and ate chocolate chip cookies and hoped I wouldn’t actually have to dance . It was about the 12th song in, and then he spun it man, he spun it. Sister Christian filled the air.  I spotted Heather Nutcher dancing with a group of girls on the opposite side of the room; I walked straight up to Heather and asked her to dance, amazingly she said yes. I put my hands on her waist and she put her hands on my shoulders and we just sorta shuffled around in circles on the dance floor, exactly the way I had practiced it. Heather and I never said one word to each other or even looked each other in the eye.  She looked at her friends, the ceiling, the floor, everything but me, but I didn’t care. I was the envy of every sixth grade boy at Hoover Junior High. My two best friends Jon Boyer and Larry Holmberg nodded in time to the music and watched me as I tore up that dance floor, well, shuffled the heck out of it anyway. The 3 1/2 minutes that song lasted were some of the best minutes of my life, I will remember them always.  Shannon and Heather went on to become A list girls and I eventually moved away, but that dance is as fresh in my head as it was in October of 84′.

I guess all this nostalgia comes from my $67 iTunes purchase of 80′s music today.  I went crazy and downloaded Michael Jackson, Belinda Carlisle, Lionel Richie, Foreigner, Twisted Sister, Men Without Hats, OMD, Cyndi Lauper, all the 80′s icons. Yes, tonight I’m rockn’ to the 80′s friends. So, sleep tight folks, and remember… “Oooooooh heaven is a place on Earth.”

May 4, 2011
by thebadge
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Side Boob Good, Side Flap…Not so Good. July 2008

Friday night I found myself at a local downtown pub with some friends from work. While I was there I witnessed a most impressive case of fashion faux-pas, with questionable daddy issues to boot.  I felt as though I had somehow wandered into a discotheque in Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan or some kind of Stan…  She had strange features and an interesting swagger, almost masculine. The thought crossed my mind too, but she was with some very straight dudes… As a matter of fact She was with a group of three guys, I thought she was definitely linked to one of the guys but then started making out with another. 

The best part was that she was wearing practically nothing! She had on a shiny red top that had no sides and didn’t have much of a back.  I guess it was kind of a halter top.  Whatever it was, it left little to the imagination. Here’s the best part, instead of a great peek at side boob, all there was to see was side flap. She had breasts that appeared to have been good size at one time in her life, but were now deflated and compressed hard against her bony chest.  I have never been a huge fan of side flap but this flap was really bad.  It actually resembled a change purse I got from a box of sugar smacks as a kid, and I am almost positive I saw her retrieve her ID from under it.  It just wasn’t a good look. I seriously needed to share this wonderful spectacle with the rest of the world, I hope I didn’t sound too judgmental.  I know, I can’t believe I wrote that last line either.