My Temple of Doom: Part Two (and Three)

Hey guys. Nice to see you again. If you haven't already, go ahead and read Part One before reading this. It will make you moderately less confused.

“Eh, what was that?” I said with a start as I jerked my aged head back from where it slumbered on chest. My glasses slipped from my nose and fell into the mound of mashed potatoes on the plate in front of me. Though blurry, I could see the faces of my progeny, like floating specters, arranged around the table and staring at me intently.

 “Grandpa, are you okay?” Jill or LaJean says to me. “You kinda dozed off there.”

 “I…how long was I asleep,” I say through a dry and raspy old man’s throat.

“You just nodded off for a few minutes.”

“It seemed like I’ve been asleep for three years,” I manage to say with a voice eliciting concern. Laughter softly spread around the table as slight worry gave way to the realization that old men will be old men.

“The year was ’99, in the old century…”

“No grandpa, you already said that part,” some other kid said, obviously disrespectful of his elders. 

“Eh? Well, where was I then?”

“Um…I think you were saying something about a minotaur.”

“Ah yes…the minotaur…”

As we made our way down the hall, the kindly translucent matron asked me if I was endowed. A little bit more explanation for you non-LDS folk, those we like to call “Investigators.” The term “endowed” simply means that you have gone to the temple to take part in one of the worship ceremonies. It is not really that simple, but let’s go ahead and make it that simple. Also, once you are endowed, you wear that special Mormon underwear you’ve been hearing so much about.

And, it is because of that special Mormon underwear that the matron was asking me if I was endowed. If so, they would offer me some loaner special Mormon underwear along with a stylish white jumpsuit so as not to get my own special Mormon underwear wet. If not, they would kindly offer me a pair of regular, incredibly unspecial tighty whiteies to go under the suit.

I answered that I had not been endowed (as that would come for me a few months later) and Tina and I were taken to another kindly matron at the clothing distribution area. She as well asked me if I was endowed because these elderly temple workers are nothing if not real sticklers for the underwear rules. I responded in the negative and was offered a white jumpsuit that looked like a deflated blow-up sumo wrestling suit and a pair of white briefs that looked like they were meant for a seven-year-old Mormon boy.

In the locker room, arranged just to the side of the baptisimal font, I put on my loaner clothing. I attached the safety pin hook of my locker key to the zipper of my jumpsuit and made my way into the font. By then, Tina was already there and we went into the font together. There is usually a volunteer worker who performs the baptisms, but as I was planning on performing the baptisms myself, he graciously stepped aside and let me do my thing. Bro knew I was on a date after all.

Each person that is baptized for the dead typically does so for about ten names, meaning they go down in and back up out of the water ten different times as proxy for a deceased person. I had managed to find my rhythm and baptize Tina about five or six times before a frantic temple worker came out of the locker room and to the edge of the water. He pointed his boney finger down directly at me. “J’accuse!” he would have said, had his mission to France not been sixty years earlier and he would have still remembered what it meant.

Now, I invite you to imagine something that you have done wrong in your life. Maybe it was being caught in a lie or stealing a candy bar from the 7-11. Perhaps it was taking that swing of alcohol (or coffee, or tea, or Coke—you know, the devil’s beverages). No matter the guilt or shame you may have felt at that time, I can promise that when you feel the shame of an old man accusing you for having violated the most sacred of rites, even unknowingly, it feels worse.

Wilford Brimley has the diabeetus as well as a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  
I suddenly realized that all of those people asking me if I was endowed only had a little to do with the options of underwear I had. You see, any member with a recommend can be baptized for the dead (get dunked) but only endowed members can perform the baptisms (do the dunking). Imagine making a bologna sandwich out of communion wafers, or playing “Born This Way” on the shofar at Temple. Yeah, kind of like that. But worse.

My apologies for not having been told this somehow basic principle and tenet of our faith fell upon deaf ears, probably literally. I slunk to a corner of the font while the temple volunteer, with just one shake of his head to signify his disapproval of this whole scenario, came in to redo the baptisms I had profaned. Tina then exited the font, no worse for the blasphemous wear, and the volunteer motioned to me to then be baptized. I hadn’t planned on doing this, obviously, and was worried that my slightly tweaked back would not allow me to go under the water the requisite number of times. But, I knew that if anyone needed his sins washed away, it was totally me.

I am the worst at getting baptized. The bad back and the panic of drowning kept me from being fully immersed. No matter the force with which the worker tried to push me down, I bobbed to the surface like a loose water wing. They got me under officially a couple of times and then decided that they would close up shop for the day and save some of the saving for people who might actually know what they were doing tomorrow. I entered the empty dressing room with depression and guilt all swirling around me. I got in the shower to wash the chlorine off and thought about how not only had I messed up the whole date at such an early hour, but I had probably messed up whatever I had going for me into eternity as well. I exited the shower, thinking that Satan probably wouldn’t even want somebody that couldn’t shovel coal into the right wheelbarrow or whatever task he had in store for one of my caliber. I wrapped a small towel around myself, committing to try to make the best of this horrible situation, trying to convince myself that the date was not lost, even if my soul very well might be. There was a glimmer of hope in my heart as I dropped my wet jumpsuit down the laundry shoot and into the basement, just as I saw the placard above the chute saying, in engraved, extra bold letters “REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR LOCKER KEY.”


I did not remember to keep my locker key.

My locker key was safety-pinned to the zipper of my jumpsuit and now lay in a pile of other jumpsuits in the inaccessible basement of the House of the Lord. I stood there staring at the placard for a long while and made several reassessments about that bit of hope I had felt only moments earlier. After stifling words that at this point were merely icing on the cake of my eternal damnation, I finally began to think through my options.

Option 1: Wait for someone else to come into the locker room and save me. However, I had been the last baptism of the day, meaning that nobody would be coming back into this locker room until the font opened back up again on Tuesday morning. Option One was out.

Option 2: Wait it out until Tina sends someone to look for me. I cared for Tina dearly, but it might have taken her until Tuesday morning to do something like that anyway.

Option 3: Try to bust my way into the lockers. I found my way to the locker that held my coveted clothing. I first thought that, this being the temple, perhaps the members could be trusted enough that all the keys worked for every locker. I took the key out of the neighboring locker and soon found that the Mormons are not as utopian a society as one would have you believe. I then thought I would Fonzie the thing open with my fist. Again, this was not a possibility. If I had a hanger or a credit card or something, I could maybe try to jimmy my way in. But I didn’t have those things. What I did have was a towel the size of dinner napkin and an ever-increasing sense of doom.

Option 4: Let’s go fishin’ for a jumpsuit. I could see down the chute and the large bin where lay the literal key to my salvation. It was right there, just one story below. The chute was too narrow to fit my not-too-narrow body. However, I found a supply closet next to the chute that had a long pool-cleaning net, as if the temple workers had to scoop up autumn leaves or rescue drowning kittens from the font. But, I saw that it would be just long enough to potentially snag my fallen jumpsuit. I tried it out, making an irreverent ruckus as the poll banged along the aluminum walls of the chute. By this time, I had abandoned the washcloth-towel, committing to the one-man Lord of the Flies scenario I was in. After several attempts, I knew I would never be able to get it out, or even come close.

Option 5: Recon. I could potentially take it upon myself to don the mini-towel once again and sneak through the halls of the temple outside of the font until I found a worker or a visitor or some unsuspecting wanderer who would hear my tale of woe and dread and save me. After all, I had already profaned the temple; why not add a little indecent exposure to the list of crimes. I could not bear to bring myself to that point and so I slunk onto a bench and offered prayers to the God I was hoping to serve that day.

I asked Him that, if it was in His wisdom to get me out of this predicament which He must have found undoubtedly hilarious, I would try to do better with my life. It wasn’t really one of those promises to repent as it was a realization that I, sitting cold and naked in a dank abandoned locker room, had been sufficiently humbled. I realized that I shouldn’t have tried to combine my worship with my pathetic attempts at wooing women. I needed to remember to keep my thoughts and my heart in the right place in both pursuits. It wasn’t that it was wrong to go to the temple with my girlfriend, but I could have gone there with the spirit of seeking out my own spiritual enlightenment as well as helping providing a service for ancestors who had passed on. It should not have been seen as an initial leg of an all-day dating marathon that hopefully ended at the finish line of Makeout City. I could strive to be a much better person and, if the Lord saw fit to transfigure me out of this horrible situation, I could work at relieving the burden of my own shortcomings by trying to lessen them.

I don’t know if I managed to say “Amen” to that pitiful prayer, but if I did, I heard the beautiful sounds of another baptism being performed just after I said “Amen.” Apparently, they allowed an even more special exception to the late baptism rule. I gathered several mini-towels, adorned myself as best as I could and sat on a bench near the curtain separating the dressing room from the baptisimal font—like a bride in an arranged marriage eagerly waiting to meet her husband on their wedding day.

The face that appeared from behind the curtain and then contorted in surprise was about what I could have been expected. We locked eyes for a few seconds before I said in a quavering voice, which I found had become quite dry and raspy too, “It seems that I left my key on my jumpsuit which is now at the bottom of the laundry chute. Could you please help me find someone to kindly retrieve it for me?” 

He did so without saying a word and, within a few minutes, the angry man that had earlier discovered my unsanctioned acts in the baptisimal font handed me the blessed key with an unsavory scowl. I wanted to kiss his old-man scowl and then joyfully dance a bit with him right there at the entrance of the locker room, but I had to take care of more pressing/naked matters.

Tina was waiting for me patiently in the lobby, only slightly curious about the Château d’If I had just endured for the past hour. Our relationship would only last a few months following that fateful day, ending while I was a Mormon missionary looking to make good on the promises I made and while she was trying to find someone who wouldn’t find himself locked up, nude, in a confined space throughout their marriage.

Since that time, I have not been baptized for the dead at the temple, though I have performed some of the baptizing, seeing as how I have now somehow been given permission to legitimately perform them. I’ve also been able to attend the temple countless other times, including to marry my beautiful wife Miranda who got tricked into spending an eternity with me. It is a place of sacred solace for me, despite the British sitcom misadventures that occurred there at one time. I feel that I have learned many lessons from this, the unquestionable most embarrassing moment of my life. Have patience. Be steadfast in your beliefs, whatever they may be. And, perhaps most important of all, please remember to keep your locker key.

Fade back to an old man, surrounded by generations of family members comforting him around the dinner table. A single tear falls down his cheek as he finishes his harrowing tale. Then, silence.

“Will someone put Grandpa's dentures back in?” McKaitlyn or MacKylysha or something says. “They fell in the mashed potatoes like an hour ago and he is just over there mumbling.”

They put them back in. I smile and bow my head. I smile because this family, all of these wonderful future generations, is part of the promises made and given at the temple. And I smile because the gravy in the future tastes pretty good.

Jacoby Ellsbury, former Boston center-fielder and current Yankee traitor, knows the song "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree."

My Temple of Doom: Part One

In my mind, I can imagine a day, far off into the future. With a warm fireplace flickering in the background, my children, my children’s children, and even the faint cries and coos of their children all sit around a table festooned with a holiday feast. The finest silverware clanks from forks and knives and the cheerful conversation and reminiscing of times shared together as a family fills the air. I sit at the head of the table, snug in my red knit sweater. I am not eating, but I’m taking in each sound and smell of the festive event and the warmth that spreads across the generations of my family—my heritage.

“…and then I found out he was standing right behind me! Can you believe it?” the unnamed spouse of an unnamed grandson laughs to the rest of the table. “So, what about you, Grandpa?” she says, looking at me though I am still rather uncomfortable with her referring to me by that name. “What’s your most embarrassing moment?”

“Oh, Dad doesn’t talk about that,” a son quickly retorts. “Believe me, we’ve tried to get it out of him for years. We should probably just change the subject. Could someone please pass me the green beans?”

“But, why won’t he talk about it? Everyone is sharing their own,” the spouse says.

“No, really, we shouldn’t keep bringing it up. Could you please just pass the…”

“The year was ’99, back in the old century,” I finally say, loud enough to silence the rest of the table. Everyone listens intently, even the youngest children. Sadness and nostalgia flicker across my eyes which stare straight forward as if looking directly into the memories I’ve tried so long to repress. Some would say they could see the faint reflection of a waving American flag in my eyes as I began my harrowing tale.

I made my way to my girlfriend’s house one summer morning. The sun had not yet come up and there was still a briskness in the air for July in Utah. I walked to her door, dressed in a shirt and tie and knocked gently so as to not wake up the other sleeping residents. It isn’t a usual occurrence to begin a date before 6:00 in the morning, but there was little that was usual about what was to come.

The plan for our date was to go to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead. That last sentence would either make perfect sense to someone who is LDS (you know, the Mormons) or would be horrifying to someone who is not. To summarize as much as possible for those who might be in the later categories, Mormons frequently make their way to temples to perform certain acts of worship. Much has been said about the “secretive” nature of temples, but what happens inside temples is not so much “secret” as it is “sacred”. That being said, the things that do happen are probably far less interesting than anything you are imagining at the moment. If Bill Paxton knows all about it, then it probably isn’t too much of a secret anymore. As I tell this story, I hope to keep that sacredness intact even while I use the most powerful tool of the devil—blogging. When it is all said and done, I am still a Mormon and I still believe that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us all as His children, but who might have a vendetta against me for some reason.

One thing that is done inside temples is baptisms for the dead. Rather than digging up the remains of infidels to dunk their skeletons in water, Mormons perform the baptism vicariously for that person—which is more efficient though much less CSI. This is something that youth 12 and older are invited to take part in and youth 16 and older are prone to exploit for a religious-themed dating experience. I know. We are weird.

World-renowned shooting guard, former second baseman, and all-around good guy Danny Ainge is a Mormon.
But it was for just such a purpose that I was waiting on the front porch of my girlfriend’s house at such an, interestingly enough, ungodly hour. After a few minutes and a few extra knocks, my girlfriend Tina (you remember “Tina,” don’t you?) came to the door, bleary eyed and pajama-clad. “I totally forgot that was this morning,” she claimed. She then also claimed that she could get dressed in just a couple of minutes. It took her closer to around 45 minutes all of which were spent with me sitting in the split-entry waiting for my chance to piously impress.

At long last we were off to the temple. Utah, being home to no fewer than one billion Mormons, has several temples. That morning, we decided to go to the Jordan River Temple which is near the south end of the Salt Lake Valley. Once we made our way there, a man with a suit coat and an earpiece met us at the front door as if we were to meet the President inside (which if you vote Republican this year might just be a possibility…our plan is near fruition!) and told us the temple was closed for cleaning. I was perfectly content with the idea that the Lord would recognize our effort and we could now go and enjoy a delicious Denny’s skillet breakfast. Tina, however, would not be dissuaded from her religious duties, so she suggested we go to another temple. So we went downtown, at the north end of the valley, and visited the Salt Lake Temple. If you are not LDS, you still would recognize the Salt Lake Temple. Its Camelot-esque architecture juts out from the otherwise conservative buildings of the Salt Lake City skyline. It is also used as the stock image for inspirational stories about the benevolent Mormon church and horrific cautionary tales about the occultist Mormon church.

At the entrance, rather than a sacred service agent, we were met by an aged, motherly matron, one of several volunteers, mostly retired, who spend their days in the temple dealing with people like me.

“Can I help you?” asked the elderly woman behind the counter, all in white from her hair to her clothes to her translucent skin.

“Yes, we are here to do baptisms for the dead,” I said, with a little too much pious pride.

“Oh dear,” the matron said as she looked at her white watch. “The last baptisms for the day take place at 10:00,” she said kindly. It was 9:56. Apparently, baptizing is a morning-only activity. They have to empty out the font before The Price is Right starts or something. “I’ll see if we can take you back there.”

She eventually came back to us and said that they would make a special exception for us and would take us back. If there was something we needed, it was to be made as a special exception. The matron led us quietly down a flight of marble stairs and through the labyrinthine hallways of the Salt Lake Temple. They were like a labyrinth because they were very maze-like, not because there is a Minotaur who might come out of a corner room and chase you through the hallways with a cleaver. I am not saying that there isn't one of those too, but I also can't say that there is one (wink). However, something akin to that horror was unknowingly waiting for me on the other side of the baptisimal font on that fateful day.

“Um, grandpa, can we take a break now and go get some popsicles or something for desert? I mean, your story is great and all...”

“Micah…you hush up now,” my daughter-in-law reprimands. “But if you are getting up, I’ll take a banana Creamie.”

Kids these days. They just can’t appreciate a good story.

To be continued… (which it is here if you need to get to it immediately.)

Gladys Knight, of Pip fame. Yeah, we got her too. Seriously.

Absence Makes the Heart Something Something

It has been over a year since I have written an article for this blog of mine. One year. We can call it a sabbatical, but I am still not entirely sure what that means. Let’s call it a sabbatical, though.

There are many reasons that I could offer you as to why I have not written in this blog for a year. For one, things have been pretty busy. My regular job has gone from one where I play the Wii and write sexual innuendo for the purpose of selling vitamin supplements to one where I respond to 2,500 emails a week and dream of the days I used to write sexual innuendo. I have also taken on a second job, much like a whore might work for two pimps to pay for all of those Star Wars toys that her bastard children so desperately need. With these and many other things going on, it has been hard to find time to write though it is what I love to do.

It isn’t like anything has happened during this 2010-2011 season anyway. I mean, I went deaf for about a week. I also split my jaw open with the business end of a crowbar. I had what was single-handedly the weirdest day of my life with a certain former star of a zip-code-based television show from the ‘90s. I went to Disneyland. Again. Like a sucker. I had dental surgeries performed under the guidance of Tactics of the Spanish Inquisition for Dummies book. I also was about as sick as I have ever been in my life over the joyous holiday season. Oh, and I also went deaf. Did I say that already?

You would think that all of the various and sundry miseries would be perfect fodder for some good blog articles. But, as the fates would have it, the miseries themselves were what would keep me from writing on the blog. Not that the whole year was completely miserable. There were some good things that happened to me. Something in October, I think. Yeah, there were definitely a few minutes in October that went alright.

But much like the peacock in the backyard that spurned me on to write, like, two other blog posts last spring after taking a comparatively short hiatus, I have also had several other events that have made me specifically think “this is something that would be perfect for Bag Stranded.” Yes, it is always nice to share my misfortunes with others so that you all can laugh and feel better about whatever inferior problems you happen to be going through. But I also like to share my opinion about certain matters, as I am planning on doing in the future. In my mind, there are few people whose opinions I genuinely value. My father, for one. A few wizened friends. My wife, because I have to. I really don’t put much stock in my own opinion. But that won’t stop me from sharing it.
Like Australian rules football. What is up with that? Am I right? I had a hard time sleeping one night so I tried to find something on television that would help me on my journey to a fitful night’s sleep on my microfiber couch. I found just such programming on the delightful ESPN2. They were covering an Australian rules football game with two teams that were the best of the 1,434 teams playing in the league. This rousing match was between the Staewell Swifts Baggies and the Mitiamo Superoos. I know—an incredible match, by crikey!

If you have never had the chance to see a game of Australian rules football, set your DVRs to stun. The game is an interesting mix of American football, rugby, soccer, foosball, jai alai, and Maximus Meridius reenacting the Battle of Carthage in the Roman Coliseum. As much as the Australian people might try to distance themselves from the idea that their country was formed as a penal colony for the worst brand of criminals, their national sport keeps bringing them back to the crazy.
This is an actual legal move in Australian rules football, known as "huck the wallaby".

I watched the match for a solid hour and came to the conclusion that there were absolutely no rules to the game whatsoever. It seemed like one team would try to get the ball to the other side of the absurdly long and oblong field. However, once they got to the other end, they would either kick the ball, throw the ball, touch the ball to the ground, bite the ball open with their teeth, place the ball gently in the awaiting pouch of the end zone kangaroo, or just turn around and start running like mad toward the other goal line. If the ball should make its way out of bounds (represented by one of the countless squiggly, indiscernible lines spread out across the field) the referee is the one to throw the ball back in. But, in the interest of fairness, the referee is forced to turn his back to the field of play and throw the ball behind him, like a bride with her bouquet if the bride was deranged and the bouquet had to be thrown in a 50-foot vertical arc to the bridesmaids, all sloshed from a few cans of Fosters, who would fight for it to the point of biting off earlobes just to get a completely arbitrary amount of points for dropkicking the bouquet at some hidden area of the wedding dance floor.

The facts that things like Australian rules football exist fill me with a boyish fascination for what else the world has to offer. Not only what it has to offer, but what I can experience, summarily fail at, and then make fun of. It has my hope that sharing those experiences, as well as the countless other embarrassing experiences from my past, will keep me continuing to write on this newfangled media known as a blog (or LAWG, I think the B might be silent). I would also like to publish all of these painfully plagiarizable articles into an actual bound book, even if it is spiral bound. That way you can take Bag Stranded with you wherever you go and the internet does not yet exist. Getting published would be a long shot, but sometimes you just have to throw everything up in the air, behind you, in a 50-foot arc, and hope someone grabs onto it.

And hopefully sharing these experiences will also keep you coming back, though you have been so disappointed in me before. So, as my way of thanking you for waiting for me this past year, I would like to share with you my most embarrassing moment. It is important that you understand how big of a deal this is for me, though. When I first started my current job, I took part in the tradition of sharing my most embarrassing moment in the weekly department meeting. As I had done in nearly every instance before or since, I shared some little trite affair that was perhaps only marginally embarrassing. Those embarrassing moments were not an affront to God and man as my actual most embarrassing moment actually is. This is the very definition of embarrassment and it will be my pleasure to share it with you.

In my next blog post. Which should be up on Friday. As long as I am not too busy. Maybe let's just plan for the end of the year. The year 2012, just to be safe.

If this is how the Australians teach their kids sport, what chance have we, America?

Welcome, Moz Faithful

Hey there. If you came here from the recommendation of the brilliantly magnificent Janice Whaley and her Smiths Project blog, I welcome you. I was once a blogger here in a former, less busy life, but have taken the late summer, early and late fall, and early winter off. But, please follow me anyway and, once I come back (starting in January, fingers crossed), it will be with some truly lackluster vengeance.

And, just for you fans of Janice and of Morrissey, here is the article I wrote about Morrissey a while back for your reading pleasure in the meantime: There is a Light that Occasionally Goes Out.

Also, leaving a comment might just expedite my return.

Bag Stranded Reread: Summertime, and the Living is Not Easy

Well, it is Friday, and unfortunately, I have had to deal with more than my fair share of crap today. So, I will not be able to finish my weekly post. But, never fear, a new post will be up on Monday and it will be disgustingly delicious. Trust me. In the meantime, to celebrate the return of ABC's Wipeout as well as the return of the hellish summer heat, here is a Bag Stranded Reread of a blog that I posted last summer. Hopefully it will hold you over through the weekend.

Enjoy, and feel free to leave new fresh comments too! That means you, Mom.

My Father, the Snake Assassin

I’ve been mowing the lawn at my parents' house as my father’s health has, for the moment, taken a turn for the worse. As he is the owner of the much famed and much accursed Smith work ethic, it has obviously been difficult for him to allow me to do the yard work in which he truly prides himself. Of course, it was never too difficult several years ago when I lived under his roof. At that time, yard work served as my daily meal ticket. Not only was I responsible for mowing the lawn once a week, but I also had to weed the garden, water the flowers, and tend to the no less than 80 rose bushes planted around the house. Forget my chores and I would receive the common lecture rating my existence as equal to those of the beloved flowers. “How would you like to sit in the sun without water for a week?” I often considered this as a viable option of getting out of my yard work chores, especially as I sat there, hose in hand, for hours in the blistering Utah summers, like a slightly more depressed Belgian statue.

But, far from being a taskmaster, my father was an instructor who taught me both the value of a well-kept yard and several important life lessons along the way. Landscaping lessons like how to fertilize rose bushes in the spring or the proper way to edge a lawn were combined with the valuable life skills of killing grasshoppers with fingernail polish remover and exploding tomato worms with a well-placed firecracker. There were also times that we threw around a football in the backyard or had batting practice with fallen apples. But the greatest sport, and one of the greatest lessons my father ever taught me, was the fine art of Olympic Snake Throwing.

Otherwise known as “OST”, “Slithery Shot-put”, or “The Beautiful Game”, Olympic Snake Throwing combined the thrill of competition with the thrill of cultish snake handling—something that many other sports would do well to incorporate. The game is played spontaneously upon finding a snake in the yard on any one of the many occasions when we were outside doing yard work. My parents lived behind a field that had a small irrigation canal running right next to their property line. This made for an ideal breeding ground for snakes and our backyard made for the proving ground for young snakes to do battle against the legendary human giants of my father and I.

The first rule of Olympic Snake Throwing is that you don’t talk about Olympic Snake Throwing. The second rule is that you always wear gloves. The object of the game is to hurl the found snakes from our backyard into the field behind our house. Points are awarded based on distance and bounce as well as style and overall technical composition of the program. The reason for the second rule is that the captured snake will take to urinating and defecating on its captor as a last line of defense, which interestingly enough is how I got kicked off of the junior high wrestling team.

In interest of full disclosure, I should point out that these were garter snakes, though I can see how this story would be much more interesting with rattlesnakes or pythons. There was no real danger of becoming a dead fellow with these snakes. Garter snakes are so named because in ancient times they were removed from a new bride’s upper thigh and cast into a crowd of drunken Neanderthals. But a snake is a snake, and snakes are pretty damn scary. Sure, we occasionally felt bad about our sport, especially when PETA drenched our family car in fake snake blood (it was actually just pig’s blood). But we felt that we were doing the world a favor by disposing of these menacing pests. We fancied ourselves the St. Patricks of Magna, Utah; only instead of drowning the snakes in an Irish sea, we hucked them into a rocky field for sport.

"You just pick 'em up and huck 'em." -The Beloved St. Patrick

I had many memorable moments playing Scottie Pippen to my father’s Michael Jordan. It always took me a great deal of courage to pick the snakes up myself, so I first learned how to do it by watching my father’s technique. On my first try, I ran toward the field, screaming like a girl as the snake writhed in my gloved hand, and threw the beast slightly less far than I needed to. It did not clear the chain link fence and was instead impaled on the top wires. After receiving the thumbs down from my frowning mother who peered through the kitchen window, my father took a shovel and flicked the pierced snake off of the fence and then, promptly, ended his misery. Yes, this was a blood sport, but that didn’t mean we were without mercy.

I also had one of my first lessons in sexual education when I threw what I thought to be an extra long garter snake into the field. The entire incident happened in slow motion and I swear that I heard a Verdi opera in the background. The two snakes flipped through the air, their entanglement in the throes of love being so rudely interrupted, until their unholy union was broken and each landed in separate spots of the craggy field. "Dad, what was that?" I inquired. "Ask your mother," came the loving response. The years went by and the snakes were hurled into the fields by the dozens. We knew that if any of them survived the catapult, they would think twice before entering Smith property again. That was, of course, until the snake uprising.

The year of the rebellion, the snakes began entering our house. We would find them in the pantry, under our couches, and hiding behind our toilets. We did not know how, but they came into our house through any hole they could find and they terrorized our family. This, of course, was unprecedented. We had never gone into the field hunting for them, yet they were brash enough to attack us where we lived. I burned through several pairs of gloves and my father blew out his rotator cuff in our efforts to push back the invaders. Wherever we turned, the snakes threw themselves under our lawn mower blades, wound themselves around the aptly named serpentine belts of our car, and conducted air raids by jumping out at us from the trees. Eventually, peace came to the land and we saw fewer snakes in the ensuing years. At first, their absence was welcome. But eventually, we would come to miss the gruesome sport and long for the days of the epic battle between snake and man, and prepubescent boy.

As I mowed my ailing father’s lawn I just happened to run into a very old friend. I nearly stepped on a medium-sized garter snake as it slithered onto the field of battle. Having my bloodlust atrophy somewhat with age, I was prone to let him go and continue to mow the lawn. That was until I turned the corner and saw the serpent eyeing me, daring me on to reignite past tradition. I turned off the engine and the snake took off, hiding in the long, untrimmed grass. I ran to the shed and rummaged through it without finding any gloves. I knew I would have to turn to what my father always called “Plan B”. I grabbed the shovel from the dusty spot it occupied on the side of the shed and bent down low, inspecting the grass blades for any sign of movement. After a few minutes, I tracked it to below the border of the pear tree. After kicking around, it made its way out and then promptly met its end after several blows of my shovel. After standing there like King Leonidas with Spartan sword in hand, I offered the deceased a respectful bow before burying his pieces in the fertile soil of the tree. “It is finished,” I said under my breath with adrenaline still coursing through the veins of my clenched fist. “The battle is mine.”

After finishing my mowing job, I hurried into the house to tell my father about the experience. Even while obviously suffering from his chronic and debilitating illness, and even with my mother berating me for once more killing another of God’s creatures, I could still see the feeling of pride well up in his eyes. Though I may have thought I was suffering under his tutelage when I was younger or dismissed his instruction as unnecessary, it is now clear that my father taught me more than I could have ever asked for. Aside from murdering reptiles, he taught me, by example, how to love and protect your family, how to know and push past your limits, how to give thanks and love to other, non-snake creatures, and how to be a good husband, father, and man. I can only hope to be able to teach my son half of what my wonderful father has taught me over the years, though my own son’s affinity towards snakes might prevent him from enjoying their execution when he is old enough. I will always be indebted to my dad. And even though advanced age and illness might prevent him from competing in future Olympic Snake Throwing competition, there will always be fireworks and tomato worms.

Try and tell me that you don't want to just blow this thing up.

Jar Jar Mitzvah

Once a month, Miranda and I get together with two other similarly-aged couples for a rousing game night. For people our age who are burdened with the duties of parentage and struggling in middle/lower/perceived management, it is our last bastion of freedom. Our games range from the party variety (Loaded Questions) to the nerdy variety (Settlers of Catan) to the nerds of the party variety (Guitar Hero, Burt Bacharach Edition).

During these games we often find out rather privileged information about each other. Often this information comes unsolicited and is difficult to forget, no matter how hard we try. But one of the most shocking admissions came one night when I found out that one of these friends had never experienced what we, and most of the rest of humanity, consider a crucial action signifying entry into manhood, even though most of us had all basically done it as boys.

“I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies,” he said with a shame that was as thick as the morning fog on Endor.

With the exception of my dear wife, who thinks that she “saw that one Star Wars with the cute little teddy bear people,” we were all dumbfounded. This man’s wife, who had been told about this condition beforehand, shook her head in shame and embarrassment that it was now well-known that she had to take a serious step down when exchanging marriage vows.

We vowed at that moment that we would redeem his dignity and manhood by having a Star Wars marathon where he would be indoctrinated in the world and ways of Star Wars in one sitting. We were ready to suggest that he be strapped into a wicker-back chair with his eyelids taped open à la A Clockwork Orange, but he had never seen that movie either. But he was ready to embark on the venture under his own free will. So we set the date and anxiously awaited our voyage to a galaxy far, far away.

In telling other people about our plans, it was remarkable how similar the reactions were. First, nobody could believe that there was yet someone alive who had never seen any of the Star Wars movies before. Then, when people considered our planned marathon, it was as if every person we talked to had considered such a thing before. But like telling off your boss, biking across the state, or eating every item off of the Denny’s breakfast menu in one sitting, it was something that you only thought about but never actually set out to accomplish.

After the gasps subsided, the inevitable first question was, “So, what order are you going to watch them in.” It was a valid question, seeing as how George Lucas started the franchise with episode IV because the world was not ready for one Jar Jar Binks. Of course, we watched them in chronological order by release date, something that every inquirer seemed to agree with, having personally made that decision in their minds years ago. It was as if they asked what prayer we would utter on our pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall, knowing they would obviously choose the Prayer of Sorrow. “Next year in Naboo,” they said under their breath. “Next year in Naboo.”

Star Wars has always played an intricate part in my life. Of course I am far from the biggest Star Wars fanatic. I might not know the serial code on Boba Fett’s blaster, but I have also seriously considered purchasing a tauntaun sleeping bag. One of my earliest memories is of watching A New Hope on TV when I was about three years old. Just as C-3PO and R2-D2 traversed the unforgiving desert sands of Tatooine, the plastic tube I had in my ear to prevent infection worked its way out into my fingers, ensuring that I would have to go through another medical procedure to put one back in. Even at three years old, I envied the life of an android. A few years later, I was able to go to Disneyland for the inaugural year of Star Tours, back when Michael Jackson was involved for some reason. Even after that, I roughly played with Star Wars figures with no regard for their future value. All I knew is that my Banthas belonged in the mud pit in the backyard.

I thought they smelled bad on the outside.

I watched and rewatched all of the available episodes during my childhood and adolescence. The playground rumors that episodes I through III were going to be made in the near future were set aside along with the rumors that MC Hammer was a Mormon, Jose Canseco injected liquefied Smarties before every game, and a banking crisis would cripple the US economy in 20 years. Eventually though, the rumors were confirmed, to much weeping for joy that my generation would live to see the long-awaited prophesy fulfilled.

Of course, as a prelude to his prequels, George Lucas revolutionized the industry by re-releasing, for the fourth time, episodes IV, V, and VI in the theaters. Only this time they were über-digitally enhanced with ÜberHX Technology™. Each movie also had some wholly unnecessary and terribly fake-looking additions, like plastic surgery on a 55-year-old woman that had once been the beauty that brought thousands of young, nerdy boys into manhood. But, I still went to see these re-releases for the first show on opening day. One of the proudest moments of achievement in my scholastic career was walking out of a particularly boring pre-calculus class, with a parental letter granting me full indemnity, in order to go see The Empire Strikes Back. It is good to know that I had parents that knew the priorities of a worthwhile education in the force.

Eventually the prequels came out. When I saw Episode I in the theaters, the sheer excitement of the throngs of Star Wars faithful was infectious. The news broadcast stories of people dressed in full Wookie regalia who had been waiting in line at their local movie theater for weeks. Sitting in the theater on opening day, when the frightening Star Wars logo burst onto the screen to the sound of John Williams sneezing, the response of the audience, cheering and screaming, was orgasmic. By the time the outdated blue credits sputtered onto the screen, we were all filled with shame and regret and the desperate need to take a shower. As anticlimactic as the junior miss episodes of Star Wars were, true fans like me still accepted them as a necessary part of the franchise, if only for the intrinsic hotness of Natalie Portman.

My friends and I sat in front of a gigantic television set for the now-much-hyped marathon. We cozied up on our separate couches and let the Doritos and caffeinated beverages flow. In many ways, it was what I had always imagined the life of an adult to be when I was a child. And yet, I never felt so childish as I did sitting there on a Saturday morning and accomplishing none of the actual responsibilities that I had in my life. But by seeing all of the movies in succession, it was as if my experience was heightened. I felt the frozen snot of an upside-down Luke on Hoth. I shed a little tear at the quickening of Yoda. I gave a slight fist pump when boy Anakin won the pod race. I moaned “Nooooo!!!” along with Vader a few minutes before the end of our experiment. We watched roughly 14 hours of film when all was said and done. My friend walked away from it a man, albeit a now nerdier man than ever. And I walked away with a greater connection to one of the greatest stories ever told.

My son, who just turned four, has recently discovered Star Wars for himself and is now able to identify in the most obscure of characters. Though he was somewhat upset that he did not receive the Princess Leia figure for his birthday, the battle-ready Yoda and clone fighter were enough to appease him for the time being. I look forward now, after my recent re-education, to being able to raise him up in the ways of Star Wars. I sense that the force is strong with this one—the force to become unreasonably obsessed with a series of movies. I will take him as my young padawan and together we will take on the mission of the Jedi; to protect the universe from evil and tyranny. Or at least build forts with the couch cushions and use paper towel rolls as our light sabers over the weekend. There will always be responsibilities waiting, but sometimes, you just need to go down to Tosche station to pick up some power converters.

The valentine cards my son will be giving out his first year of school.