Sunday, Boring Sunday

On the seventh day, God rested from his labors. That one day, where God kicked off His sandals, settled into His Heavenly Boy recliner and drifted off for a nap, has become, after several disputations and alterations, Sunday. Sunday is also known as the Sabbath Day, but not like the boring old traditionalists’ Saturday Shabbat or the Muslim’s Jum`ah which they do on Friday just to be different. The typical Christian Sunday has come to be a day where we rest from the cares and labors of the world and slowly let our minds and bodies atrophy into a state of nothingness.

Growing up an impressionable Mormon youth, Sunday was always a special day. So was Saturday as, after all, it is the day we get ready for Sunday. Sunday meant that I had to wear a shirt whose collar always fit just loose enough to avoid complete asphyxiation and I had to figure out how to control my hyperactive self for three hours of reverent time. As my parents refused to join the masses in bringing the requisite Cheerios snacks, drawing pad, or electronic baseball games to church, I found ways to entertain myself.

Usually, this involved me dreaming of essentially the same scenario over and over again. A man storms into the chapel during one of the talks and wields a machine gun in the air. Everyone cowers under their pews and he makes his way to the pulpit where he asks “If anyone here believes in God, stand up now.” No one does, no one except a small primary boy whose convictions trump his will to survive. Occasionally I make my way to the assailant with his bullets finding my spiritually shielded body impenetrable. Sometimes, there were ninja kicks. Other times, he was so moved by the response that he would drop his gun and ask where the baptismal font was. In every case, I was heralded as the boy hero who inspired everyone around him and who was allowed to go without a necktie to church or stay home if channel 13 had a really good movie on.Through my years of aging and day-dreaming in church, I have come to somewhat enjoy parts of the experience. This stems more from the entertainment of a non-professional religious system where any crazy can bear testimony when they feel like it, not necessarily my spiritual magnitude. However, now with two small children, the Sabbath and the preparation required for it have gone from the seventh day to the seventh circle of Dante’s Inferno. We have church at 9:00. If either Miranda or I have a meeting in the morning, we have church at 7:00. This interferes with at least one of our children’s waking time, napping time, feeding time, or pooping time. If we somehow manage to throw clothes on our children to make them look a little less like they live in a shelter, then we have to worry about bringing bags for them. These bags contain the items I dreamed of having as a child which our children are not only allowed to bring but must have in order to keep them quiet for the duration. This may involve one or more devices that may not be operated on a plane during take off.

Luckily, we are devoted Saints and are willing to spend the first part of our Sunday hogtieing and wrestling greased and squealing children in order to attend church and to our duties in said church. When we finally make it home, following any post-church meetings or duties, we are ready to eat the countertops out of starvation. After gorging ourselves on whatever we can find to put into our mouths within seconds of our arrival, we, hopefully drift off into a deep “day-of-rest” sleep, provided one of the children doesn’t decide he is ready to convert to Judaism. When the dust settles, Sunday afternoon encroaches and we are confronted with the option of how to spend the rest of the daylight.

Throughout the workweek, there is rarely any time between when I get home from work and the children go to bed. That time is usually filled with dinner, superfluous church activities, and the occasional tickle sessions. Saturday is for finishing up any chores that I may have or video games that I need to beat. Here we have a whole afternoon, bound by our inability to perform any task that might be considered “work”, and we stare at each other completely bored out of our minds. We could visit the grandparents. The welcome trip out of the house and the free meal are a tough trade-off for the increase of rambunctiousness when our children are set loose in a new environment that makes the trek far from relaxing. We could go on a walk, but that might involve changing out of our pajamas and into something slightly respectable.

And so, for yesterday’s Sabbath, we broke out the activity that epitomizes boredom on every level—the jigsaw puzzle. Of course, for me, the jigsaw puzzle coincides perfectly with my obsessive compulsiveness. It is a tedious task with little reward which sounds exactly like most of what I do in my life, only a puzzle has pretty pictures. And so we put the kids at work destroying the playroom while their mother and I set out reconstructing a puzzle of the Sahara Desert. My children went to bed (something that has become a relative term as of late) and were soon followed by my wife. I, on the other hand, started playing my iTunes with some Andrew Bird and went to town.

Piece-by-indistinguishable-piece I reunited the cardboard coagulations. Before I knew it, I was all the way to the Postal Service on iTunes and nearly to the half-way point of the puzzle. My little brain continued to spin, finding the perfect unison of each of the pieces even after I found my way to bed around one in the morning. I woke up this morning with a crying child who I immediately placed in a bouncing chair while I continued my labors from the previous day. He was very confused, but tried to direct me to which piece I should choose next by crying if it was the wrong one. Needless to say, little got done.

I plan on returning home tonight and, after quickly consuming a meal, descending to my cave to finish my oeuvre. I, after all, was the creator and organizer of this masterpiece. You can blame it on my competitive nature or my OCD or any number of my negative personality traits, but when it comes to jigsaw puzzles, I find myself enraptured, captivated, and entirely devoted to its completion. Maybe it is because, unlike with other aspects of life, the problem of the jigsaw puzzle can be worked out to a positive result by simply devoting a little time and effort. Unfortunately, my devotion is often attached to other things as well. It is Monday night, the Mormon Jum`ah. Unless I can convince the rest of the family to help finish the puzzle, it looks like I’ll be teaching a Family Home Evening lesson tonight. The topic is probably going to be on the Sabbath Day. That or devotion to a cause, no matter how hopeless it may be.

Eat. Pray. Sob Uncontrollably.

I have an interesting relationship with food of the fast variety. For those of you wondering how it is possible to have a “relationship” with food I refer you to Julia Child’s manly hands submissively kneading a lump of dough, and Mickey Rourke using Kim Basinger’s bare stomach like a grill at the Benni Hana’s. Though my relationship might not quite go to that extent, there is some type of emotional connection that I have with fast food. It is not necessarily my love for it, as more often than not I hate it as much as I hate myself for eating it.

The reason why I eat fast food is simply a matter of its inescapable similarity to my personality. I love fine dining and the taste of something with shaved truffles that took an hour to cook and two hours to wait for after ordering. However, when my mind is confronted by two options, the trump card lies in how much time and work will be spent on either choice. This was evidenced as I found myself in the downtown area the other day and was excited for the opportunity to experience some of the gastronomic bounty that could be found there. I drove from street to street, weighing out the options of different restaurants with which to indulge. 15 minutes later, I found myself shoving the last bite of a mayonnaise-greased chicken sandwich from Wendy’s into my mouth whilst driving the last few miles to my home.

My inherent laziness usually influences my dining choices. Even on the rare occasion where my wife and I can enjoy a meal at a restaurant, I shy away from the salad bar because it involves getting up out of my plastic-padded booth. I love the taste of crab, but I refuse to expend so much effort extracting it from its natural packaging. It also works with the things I prepare for myself at home. I will eat a package of saltines for dinner before I put something in the microwave that will take five minutes to cook. Why waste five minutes when saltines are ready right now? I don’t even bother heating up leftover dishes meant to be served warm. I have trained my stomach and intestines to process the shells of sunflower seeds so that I won’t have to try and spit them out. It takes work to be this lazy.

Though it is an overused tool for the typical blogger, I would like to proffer a top-ten list of reasons why I am allowing fast food to ruin my life. By so doing, I hope to gain your sympathy and understanding when it comes to my downward spiral into weight gain, slowly-clogging arteries, and champion caloric intake. Also, perhaps this might be used to explain to the good people at Visa why my debits are frequently made to Carl Bell Jr. and Wendy McDonald.

1- The Dollar Menu. I have to include this one as the title for this subcategory as well as a part of the subcategory. Sometime in the late nineties, something called the dollar menu was invented. This novel idea came just after menu prices and fast food restaurants soared to the point where 99 cents for roughly 20 french fries seemed like a bargain. And so, these places created a dollar menu in order to entice poor people, like me, who also happen to be fat, like me, into a more effective way at getting the empty calories we desperately needed. And, since it is only a buck, you can gorge yourself on, like, 7 items before you reach the price of a typical “sucker” combo meal. Have you heard that commercial where the guy dreams about ordering everything off of the dollar menu. I have lived that dream, baby. I have lived it.

2- Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger. Usually, I shy away from something that has Junior in its title, implying much like a “diet” soda that something loveable from the original version is missing. However, the proceeding “Bacon”, “Cheese”, and “Burger” are enough to sway me. This .99 cent nugget of joy has become so popular that it has eliminated the need for the regular Bacon Cheeseburger. Also, it can be assembled in .7 seconds, which breaks the burger barrier.

3- The Spicy McChicken Sandwich. I once had an argument with the guy speaking to me through the golden arches of the drive-thru because I refused to order it under its Scottish moniker.
“No, I mean the Spicy Chicken Sandwich, please.”
“Ummm, we don’t have that sir. We have the McGrill chicken and we have the Spicy McChicken. Or, perhaps you mean the McFish McFillet. It has chicken too, I think.”
“Just give me the damn spicy one.”
“Alright, seven Spicy McChickens, that will be $7.67 at the first person standing outside your car with money in a fanny pack. Thank you.”
And, without fail, the sandwich results in a Spicy McColon.


4- Slurpees. Since my spartan adventure into making my life healthier by giving up carbonation, I have recently found a brilliant surrogate in the slushy goodness of a Slurpee. They mercifully come in both Coke and Mountain Dew flavors. They effectively provide the appropriate amounts of sugar and caffeine that I need. Further proof of this came as Miranda let our two-year-old child nurse about half of the Mountain Dew Slurpee. An hour later, he was watching Charlie and Lola while alternating between manic laughter and hopping on the couch to uncontrollable weeping and pounding fists into the carpet. Nothing makes bedtime more fun than a caffeine-riddled toddler.

5- Taquitos. What once was a quaint Mexican dish has now been bastardized into something rolling along greased metal turbines and heated under a 120 watt lightbulb. It is filled with any number of ingredients, the central of which being pure Crisco. At 2 for 2 dollars, I defy you to not eat four of them. They have a wonderful taste that will leave you wanting to run south of the border, if by “south of the border” you mean some type of euphemism for either a toilet or a bodily function. You choose.

6- Miscellaneous Fare. Remember when gas stations served hot dogs and occasionally nachos as their only prepared-on-site food? I do. Now, if you step into a Maverick, you are assaulted by a variety of menu options. There are countless burritos, though as it does require at least two minutes of microwaving I generally avoid them. There are slices of pizza with various and sundry meats. There are hot dogs that are four feet long, covered in chili, and then wrapped in a greased tortilla. I have never felt so violated after eating something. It is definitely adventure’s first stop, followed by several stops at easily accessible restrooms and one stop by the side of the road in an area of brush.


7- The McKroket. When I visited the Netherlands, I fell in love with the culture, the people, but mostly their unique fast food offering. Step into Ronald’s house and you will find a sandwich containing a creamy blend of, according to the Dutch themselves, “offal and butchering waste”. But it is breaded and deep-fried. It tastes like sin itself, but I dream every night of selling one of my organs on the black market so as to be able to afford the plane ticket to Amsterdam to indulge in its goodness under the basking glow of flashing red lights. I should probably sell my kidney as it will be defunct in a few years anyway.

8- Poutine. On my two-year religious junket to Eastern Canada, I discovered a dish that it is simultaneously repulsive and addictive. It is the carcinogenic cigarette of fast food, and not just because it contains carcinogens and possibly cigarettes. Poutine consists of a heaping plate of french fries with a mound of cheese curds on top, all smothered with a unique gravy. The gravy has the consistency and taste of motor oil and the amount of calories typically deemed unhealthy to use as jet fuel. One taste, and you’ll know how the Quebecois have survived for so many years. Or, actually, you might question it.

9- Chicken Testicles. In China, fast food comes mostly in the form of intricate restaurants with unusual fare. While there, I participated in what is known as a “hot pot”. Diners are seated at a table with a cauldron of boiling water and one of heated oil. A conveyer belt brings plate after plate of mystery meat to your table so you can poke it with a fork and stick it in the pot. What animal is it from? Where on/in the animal was this meat originally? How long should I leave this in to avoid catching any food-borne illness? None of these questions can be correctly translated, and so it is really anyone’s guess. I was however, able to understand one factoid from the aged, smiling distant relation sitting across the table from me. As I plopped the meat into my mouth and jawed its chewy goodness, intertwined with occasional spurts of fluid, I was informed that I was eating chicken testicles. As I swallowed them in one big gulp, I voiced a phrase that was at once a question and a statement of disbelief; “Balls.”

I apologize that I could only make it to nine there. I just had to go throw up a little. As revolting as this selection of vittles might be, you must know that I love them all almost as much as I hate them. They have fed me in a hurry, allowing me more time to watch X-Files re-runs. They have taught me new skills, such as eating around the wrapper and still staying in your appropriate driving lane. They have exposed me to the world of goodness that processed food can provide. However, they have made me fat, lazy, and nearly legally blind. Perhaps it is time for fast food to join the ranks of carbonation, candy bars, and high stakes gambling on Taiwanese horse races as things that I give up for the betterment of my health. Perhaps, going back to my original metaphor of my relationship with food, it is time to break up. I am going to have to leave the chubby, needy fat chick who binges on Ben and Jerry’s to cope with stress and start dating the fit and toned lady in the sports bra who eats organic tofu bites and teaches Pilates on the weekends. She looks a little like Kim Basinger. And, my wife, of course.

Migraine, Your Graine, Our Graine

Last night I was called upstairs by the raspy voice of my somnambulant wife echoing over the Linda Blair worthy cries of my child over the baby monitor. I was deeply committed to David Ortiz driving in an RBI in my childish Wii baseball game I have recently become addicted to, which is why my wife had to beckon me from my downstairs shelter as opposed to my usual slumbering at the edge of the bed at 12:30 at night. I vigilantly completed the trip around the bases and paused the game to attend to my fatherly duties of apologizing to my wife and desperately trying to keep my child from crying.

Little man Isaac had contracted a mild fever as a result of his immunization shots at the doctor’s office earlier that day. “Looks like the Jehovah’s Witnesses were right,” I told my wife to no real response at my witty and timely remark. My wife was herself suffering from a recurring health problem that had started rearing its ugly head around the same time that Isaac’s stegosaurusian thighs were pierced by a profusely apologizing nurse. I continued to reassure my wife that the fever was normal while I flinchingly inserted the thermometer into the tiny hole that has brought about so much destruction in the past. As a result of what I can only imagine was the sensation of a cold thermometer in the rectum, little Isaac’s little Isaac let loose all over Miranda’s semi-dreaming head as she mumbled comforting words to him. She looked up at me with the pee dripping down her hair and muttered the four words that I have heard more than perhaps any other phrase throughout our marriage: “I don’t feel good.”

It wasn’t long after Miranda and I were wed that I had my first exposure to this phrase. Miranda had been prone to the crippling condition of migraines ever since she was a teenager. No amount of medicine, physical therapy, or Haitian Vodou magic could cure her of this. I knew about this condition when Miranda and I were dating and after we were engaged. I experienced what it does to my wife around two weeks into our marriage. My sweet new bride would turn into a drooling, groaning she-beast before my very eyes. As the muscles in her neck knotted up, apparently trying several times unsuccessfully for the Pioneering merit badge, her face became skewed and altered and her once sweet and chipper voice morphed into an emphysematic Bea Arthur declaring the painfully obvious “I don’t feel good.”

As a newlywed man, I felt somewhat like a car owner whose beautiful, recently purchased automobile lost its acceleration and made a horrific growling sound only a few miles into driving it. The car also would be completely upset and disgusted that I would ever refer to it as a “car” or compare it to a “thing to be owned” and would forbid me from ever putting something like that on my blog. Of course, I learned to be sympathetic, though migraines along with the pains of menstruation and child bearing were part of the things that I could never truly understand. I tried to rub her neck, run a warm bath, even buy her Sharper Image shiatsu massagers but the only relief that they brought was in providing me with several opportunities to say “shiatsu” throughout the day.

The only thing worse than a mind-numbing, crippling migraine headache is one that is coupled with projectile vomit. More often then not, these two are paired together. They might be considered for common law status in some states. I remember my wife stumbling dizzyingly towards the bathroom and not making it a foot past the duvet before the issuance soiled our carpet. I remember cleaning up regurgitated chunks of the German Chocolate cake my wife splattered on the bathroom walls of my in-laws like a crime scene at a bakery. I remember nearly leveling a mile-marker frantically searching for some item in the glove box with a volume capacity capable of containing the oncoming spew. I have since learned from previous mistakes. At the first mention of the mantra “I don’t feel good”, I get the old towels out from the closet and create an awards show runway from the bed to the toilet to at least protect the carpet from the initial spillage. We always carry the “family size” barf bags along with us on car trips during migraine season. German Chocolate cake is officially outlawed in our home or elsewhere.

We have continued to look for solutions to the migraine problems that plague Miranda. Several months ago, we were about ready to undergo extensive tests that involved brain scans and sleep analysis, something that invigorates me with curiosity and fills my paranoid wife with dread. Just before we were scheduled to undergo the first round of prodding, my wife left for me a test of her own on the bathroom counter to discover, after a hard day picking up filthy coveralls from men with names like Guido, that we were going to have our second child. "Holy shiatsu," I called out from the bathroom. After a few weeks, we dealt with the morning sickness, which was significantly more controllable than the water willy of vomit that comes with the migraines. The headaches slowed to a halt just as the pains of hosting a human embryo began. In fact, the same symptoms had occurred with the birth of our first child.

I soon realized that through our simple act of responsible family planning we had discovered the long-sought-after cure for Miranda’s migraines. All of these years of pain and suffering and all that we had to do was keep Miranda in a constant state of pregnancy. It was just that simple. The positive effects usually lasted through the nursing stages, with only minor flare-ups here and there. I am not sure exactly what kind of diagnosis any “doctor” of “medicine” would prescribe to this, but I am sure that I am right in assuming that my wife secretes some hormone once she assumes her motherly duties which, if properly extracted, can cure the inconvenient migraines of millions of people.

I think about just how to extract this hormone as I finish putting on my feverish child’s diaper and usher my wife into bed before toweling off her soiled hair. I kissed her still mumbling lips as I tucked her in and heard her call my name, squint her eyes, and inform me “I don’t feel good.” I love my wife more than anything and I truly wish I could find the antidote flowing somewhere just below her skin if only to save her from moments like this in the future. I lay down next to her and whispered the only other repetitive phrase that might give “I don’t feel good” a run for its money—“I love you.” And then, ever so quietly, “I will find a way to extract your magic migraine juices.”

Pointers from Pelé

As a companion piece to yesterday's blog entry, I would like to clue you in on a list of e-mails sent from my computer prior to the 2-4 loss that our soccer team experienced on Thursday last week. I offer this to you lest there be any question as to my loyalty and determination to lead this team, The Creative Cremators, to victory.

Sup Cremators. I was thinking that we all try this again and go for a preparatory lunch together today. I was thinking IHOP since we can load up on the carbs and the breakfast meats. Anyone has any better ideas, I am open to ideas, but only momentarily. We have to get the fire back in our belly, and I can think of nothing better to do that then a crèpe stuffed with whipped cream and some sausage on the side.

I was thinking around 11:30-11:45. Let me know if you are in. First ones to respond get to start today.

So, Dave and Doug and I have created our own separate Soccer music playlists for your enjoyment. The idea is that you can listen to one or all of these playlists for the rest of the day to adequately prepare yourselves for the revenge we will exact on our unlucky opponents today. They can be found in my dropbox in the folder entitled “Soccer Music”. If you are wondering which to listen to, Dave’s is metal-ish, mine is hip-hopish, Doug’s is world-infusionish. Just listen to the one that best suits your pumping-up needs. And, if you need a CD instead, I would be happy to burn one for you. Just let me know.

And Jason and Dave will start as forwards today. The rest of you can grab the bench. Anyone else up for lunch today to go over strategy? Fazolli’s was tossed out there as an option. Let me know if you are in for that too.

Go Cremators!
Default Soccer Head Coach for Some Reason


Two hours left until game time. If you are playing, start listening to some pump-up music now!

Be to the game, ready to go, by 3:15. We have to discuss strategy before the opening whistle.



Ok, you have 30 minutes till game time. Time to take your performance enhancing drugs people.

By performance enhancing drugs, I mean Procosa.

By Procosa, I mean steroids.



Do you guys want me to set up a practice tomorrow or would Monday work better. Democracy will have the final say.

Good job today everyone. We did a LOT better. If we all went to lunch together and you all took your ‘roids, we would have won, but, hey, what can you do.

And sorry if I yelled at you on the court today. I was trying to be a more vocal goalie. You probably deserved it though.

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM April 10, 2009
Location: A Vietcong Treehouse Prison

Soccer Practice. We will run some drills and scrimmage. Be there.

Which Brazilian Footballer Are You?

You have, no doubt, recently been inundated with several requests on your social networking site of choice to take a test to determine how your personality traits reflect what you might be in an alternate universe. Because of these, I have recently discovered that my real eye color should be green, I most resemble Edward Cullen over other teenage vampires, and Ted Bundy is the serial killer I most align my philosophies with. I know, I know. I could have sworn I was a Berkowitz, but these things are “amazing accurate” as they claim to be. These quizzes are all the rage amongst people who are desperately seeking something to define their personality and are not willing to let that something be confined by the rules of individualism, grammar, or social normality.

This trend reminds me of one that existed several years ago before the net was the internet and we were still frightened of its potential. Though it may be hard to believe, the trend originated from a book that instructed people to take a test to determine what color their personality was. The test was fairly simple. What made up the bulk of this best-seller was the detailed descriptions about each and every color. Reds like to party late into the night. Greens eat the heel on a loaf of bread every time. Whites enjoy shopping at Amercrombie and Fitch. That one was a personality/race twofer. My mother gave this test to me as part of her Dr. Spock-infused parenting strategy, but as I was only around 10 years old, I feel that the personality die may have been prematurely cast. If memory serves, the results showed that I was nearly equal parts of every color mentioned. I was a human crystal spectrum.

The reason for this is, well, I am not sure that I could tell you. I am a walking contradiction in many fields, and my personality is no exception. I am fairly sure that if I were to pay a psychiatrist to analyze my personality, his beard would explode. I am occasionally active and occasionally dormant. I have to have my living and working spaces immaculately clean, but more often then not they are hopelessly disorganized. I am intensely reclusive at times and compulsively social at others. You might even say that I have multiple personalities. Not like Viki on One Life to Live might have, though I do occasionally take on the air of a countess in hiding. I just have several different personalities that may emerge at any given moment. I can sense that you are still freaked out. Let me expound.In high school, I was really just your average geeky student who sat in the second to back row of the classroom and preferred reading Sylvia Plath over going on dates. At the end of my junior year, however, I managed to win the amazingly heated popularity contest of running for school office and became my school’s Vice-President. This involved making announcements every morning, emceeing assemblies in front of the entire school and occasionally community, and socializing with every kid I met. Far from being uncomfortable with this situation, I thrived in it and I loved it. But, I had not changed my personality at all. Even as I danced to Janet Jackson amongst the scantily dressed cheerleaders in front of a thousand kids and teachers, I still had the deeply hidden J.D. Salinger somewhere inside of me, yearning for that solitary cabin in Montana.

I graduated from high school and went on to college where I believe that I was possibly the first person to earn their degree without speaking a single word to any other teacher or student. I had no friends in college and I made no effort whatsoever to change that situation. I got married while in college which relieved me from the burden that I had of not flirting with the women around me who were in flirt overdrive. In marriage, though, I was thrust into the situation of having to make friends with neighbors. I would be perfectly content living next to someone for 45 years without knowing their name until I saw it next to their picture in an obituary. Luckily, Miranda is social to the point where she makes cookies in the shape of trees for our neighbors on Arbor Day.

When I started my new job back in September, I situated myself in my cubicle and began getting used to working well with others. After a few weeks, though, I realized that I could spend several days staring at my computer screen with limited human interaction. It was wonderful. My boss remarked, in a worrying tone, that I was very quiet and shy. Obviously lacking many social skills, I had no idea how to remedy this situation before I was fired and sent back to work picking up soiled (and I do mean soiled, not just with soil, if you know what I mean) uniforms.

Luckily, I didn’t have to do much. The situation presented itself to me, allowing my dominant, charismatic, and personable side to come out like Bruce Banner’s decidedly green-personality alter ego. Our in-house fitness center was encouraging different departments throughout the company to form their indoor soccer teams for competition starting the next week. Seeing this and having a mild interest in soccer stemming from my ownership of a single FIFA Xbox game, I decided to start forming a team. Through a frenzy of group e-mails, I was able to recruit seventeen people in our department to my team, which I aptly dubbed the Creative Cremators. I organized pre-game practices and took the helm as goalie. I brought a whiteboard to practices and games where I outlined several strategic game plans. I organized my players into positions and yelled out direction to them from the goalie box and the sidelines. I stopped doing what I should be doing at work in order to fulfill the needs of my team as game time approached.

In the most recent game, I happened to throw my body around on the hardwood floor to prevent a goal from being scored. In recovering to my feet, I realized that I had left a significant portion of skin, originally attached to my knee, on the gym floor. I subbed out for three minutes while I doctored my wound, professional boxer-style with q-tips and alcohol, and tried to hide the blood from the referee. I entered back into the game and continued to yell for my defenders to defend and my strikers to attack. When the blood dripped from my sock onto the court, I rubbed it in with the sole of my shoe and continued on to our inevitable loss. Even in defeat, my commitment to the team could not be questioned as I smeared my spilt blood on each opponent’s hand that I shook in the post-game compulsory congratulations.

For some reason, I was again shedding the quiet poetic kid personality and was becoming the vice-president of my high school. Everyone knew me, finally, and listened to the myriad of things that I had to say. Though I knew little more about soccer than the fact that you can’t pick up the ball with your hands, people accepted my counsel and I became their default leader and coach. After soccer is over, I will most likely slip back into the comforting reclusion of my messy cubicle where I can be dormant and sedentary once again.

In many ways, I guess that the test my mother imposed upon me when I was but a child did go on to prove what I would become; a multi-colored personality with conflicting characteristics. If I learned anything from dying Easter eggs this weekend, it is that when you blend all colors together, you get a deep, lovely, brown. That is me. That is just my personality, or my personalities, and they are inescapable.

And I am totally a Pelé.

The Year of the Bra

I recently put out a call, via the Bag Stranded Facebook group, for guest author submissions. The reason behind this is that occasionally I have more to do with my week than to figure out how I can twice or thrice embarrass and ridicule myself for your entertainment. Not often, but occasionally. And so, a good friend of mine, Marintha Halladay, answered the call and submitted this wonderful story in which you are about to embark. If you are reading this, feel free to e-mail me your own story for consideration. The one rule is, if it is about me, you will receive preferential treatment.
Note: This story has nothing to do with me. I am not the assailant mentioned. The lawsuit is pending.

The Year of the Bra

by Marintha Halladay

I often title my years by events or memories that define them to me. Some are self-explanatory, some may require a brief explanation, but all represent some memory that has not been able to escape my thoughts! There was the Year of Monopoly, the Year of the Yard, The Year of Obligation Vacation, and of course there was, the Year of the Bra.

It was back in the days of Elementary school. I was of a young prepubescent age. Hormones were just beginning to pour through the minds and bodies of my young classmates and myself. I was young enough, that I had not yet come of the age where I was taken to the special informational program called the Maturation Program- a seminar where someone explains to you what will happen to your body as it matures in the next few years; a program so embarrassing and uncomfortable, your mother had to trick you into going with the promise of ice cream at programs end.

Being of such a young age, and not yet blossoming into womanhood, I had little knowledge, if any, about what would soon happen to my stringy childish body. At this time in my life, I had no need for the so called “over the shoulder boulder holder”. I hadn't given any thought to this simple supportive device. I had never contemplated owning one, nor had I dreamed of the age when I would finally need one. The time would soon come for me to purchase this symbol of the presence of female hormones in my body, but unfortunately, it would not be decided by me, nor would it be decided by dear old Mother Nature.

It was the first week of school. What grade is not important to the story, and even if it was, I am not telling. We all know enough to know the school year had just begun. We were still getting used to a new teacher. We were busy making new friends, and making ourselves familiar with a new classroom. On this, the unfortunate and unforgettable day of my tale, we had just gathered in a line at the classroom door as instructed by our teacher. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the order of the line. I suppose it was a first come-first serve kind of a deal as I was placed somewhere in the middle. I know this, because my last name always placed me near the back of the alphabetical order, and today there were an unusual amount of students behind me. The boy directly behind me would normally be close to the front of the line. However, today fate had brought us together!

We were getting ready to go to lunch. Some of my classmates were goofing off around me, but I was standing quietly, keeping my arms to myself as we had so often been instructed to do. I was obediently and patiently minding my own business, and waiting for our time to go. Suddenly from behind, a hormone filled male hand ran up my back, like a shark darting in for the kill. The hand attacked with the same speed and force of a Great White when charging his prey! The target had been spotted and great haste was needed to obtain his goal. It was sudden enough to first cause me to stupor, but then as my wits returned to me, I spun to confront my attacker. It happened so quickly then. I was turning around, curiosity filling my somewhat insecure childish self at who would do this to me... and why. Then came the ultimate betrayal! In that horrible instant forever burned into my memory, he shouted out for the entire class to hear, “Ewww! She's not wearing a bra!” Everyone turned. All eyes were now fixed on me. My attacker continued to further humiliate me. “I was going to flip her bra, but she's not wearing one!”

The “ewww” was said in pure disgust, just as the old peasant woman in Buttercup's dream. “The Queen of Slime! The Queen of Filth! The Queen of Puuu-tresc-ence! Boo! Boo!” The disgust in her face mirrored exactly that of the boy who had just discovered I was not wearing a bra. I am sure the confused and abashed expression I now wore, was equivalent to that of the hurt Princess Bride when she too was called out by her unintentional cause for disdain.

My ears and neck were burning! My face felt flushed. Tears were welling up, but being forced to stay. I was shocked, and wished more than anything I could have super human powers that would allow me to either turn invisible, or have lightning fast speed to escape this humiliating situation! I felt like a Queen of Filth and Rubbish!

Those awful words will forever be pressed into my memory! “Ewww! She's not wearing a bra!” Not a physical wound to warp my body, but a mental wound that is still there, mangling my scarred self-image. My mom took me shopping that very night. The next day I came to school wearing a brand new white and completely unnecessary bra. I would not be caught in that horribly embarrassing situation ever again! Need it or not, the next time a curious hormone filled pest of a boy tried to flip my brassiere, there would indeed be something there to flip.
I would eventually overcome my disgrace. I would again be able to face my attacker, which was good because he would continue to share my classes until we would graduate from high school. I also later learned that I was not alone; most of the other girls in my class did not yet own a bra.

So ended the Year of the Bra. Everyday since, I have faithfully worn that sometimes white, somewhat necessary, and often inconvenient, simple supportive device. I have need for it now (though debatable), but in the back of my mind, I still find comfort in the fact that it will be there if needed for other reasons.

Hairy and the Recedersons

A few days ago, I sat down for a haircut on a barstool in my kitchen. My lovely sister has been cutting my hair recently as economic and practical conditions forced me to leave Amir, the gay Iranian at the Fantastic Sam’s, to ambiguously massage someone else’s scalp. And now, my haircut has been reduced to running an electric trimmer across my head, alternating between the #6, #3, and #1 attachments. As each passing stroke of the clippers separated me from another clump of my fading youth, I remembered my glory days at the barber.

My mother would drag me to the basement of our neighbor and convenient hairstylist, Colette. After much convincing, I hopped up on the barber stool, complete with phone book, and endured the procedure. Every time that I went for this haircut, I heard Colette inform my mother that I had “thick and luscious” hair. Being cursed with a sound grasp of vocabulary at even such a young age, I found it odd to compare my hair to edible foodstuff. But, I did not know much about these things, and so I sat back and tried to determine whether I was receiving a compliment, or an insult. Turns out, it was more of a curse.

I first realized my inevitable future of male pattern baldness sometime during my sophomore year of college. The loveable U shape of scalp skin that would appear around my thinning tuft of hair in the middle of my head began to widen little by little. I went out with a small group of friends (actually some friends of a friend since I didn’t have any friends) to see a brazenly edited version of Pretty Woman brought in accordance with the PG rated and religiously shackled campus life. Before the movie rolled across the screen of the musty campus theater, one of these people, who I had met for the first time, asked me if my grandfather was bald. Apparently, as a Biology major, she was doing intensive research on baldness and genetics. At least that was what she was doing until she found someone to make her a wife and save her from the need of having an education. From that point on I gained a complex, occasionally touching my hairline to see how far back it had squirmed away from its natural position, and was convinced I would lose it all.

My life went on, as it generally does, and several different stress factors were added to it. Each new load of responsibility placed squarely upon my shoulders seemed to drag my hairline back further and further towards them. In fact, one might even be able to construct a graph with the amount of hair left clinging to my head as a Y-axis and the stress and crushing responsibility experienced through life as the X. Something like this, only with photographic evidence:

I knew that the inevitability of my flawed genetic makeup was working hard against me; having a father who resembled Mr. Clean minus the earring and with a Grecian-crown tuft of hair wrapping around his head, as well as a maternal and paternal lineage of balding English coal-miners. I refused to believe in my ultimate fate until one day, I noticed the back of my head from a conspicuously placed security camera at a grocery store. With that rear aerial view, which revealed my bald spot like a satellite image of a North Korean missile launching site, I resigned to my doom.

I have often said that my body is an anomaly, and not the kind that is intriguing in an attractive sort of way, but rather one that must be studied by science and chronicled to help encourage prevention for future generations. One of Newton’s laws of physics, which I do not currently have the strength or will to research, states that matter is constant and conserved. When something is displaced, that same thing merely shows up in greater number elsewhere. Maybe it was Epicurus. Well, the law definitely applies to the matter of my hair being displaced from the top of my head. I will pause for a moment to let the women and faint of heart decide whether to continue reading.

If I were to remove my shirt, chances are you would not be able to differentiate my body from that of a Gabonese ape. It is true. For every hair of my head lost to some emotional stress, a new one seemed to sprout and emerge from somewhere along my torso. Front, back, sides, crevices; the growth pattern is rather non-discriminatory. In the winter, it serves as a built-in blanket to keep me, and any small animals I might be laying next to, warm through the night. I do not deign to go swimming in a public pool as I would be sure to frighten young children. I once had an angry, pitchfork-toting mob show up at my front door to rid me from the village. I am hideous.

It was sometime shortly before my wife and I would say our vows to each other that I realized she would soon be privy to my ursine characteristics come our wedding night. I forewarned her of the fact, to which she lovingly responded that she didn’t care, though I saw the fright in her eyes. A few weeks into our marriage, my wife said that if it bothered me so much, she would help me take it off, all the while asserting her neutrality in the matter. We first attempted use of the Australian hair-remover Nads, so named because the pain resulting from its use can best be compared to a horsewhip repeatedly scourging its namesake. A few waxed strips on the shoulders, and I was done, not willing to let my new bride see me openly weep. So, instead, I opted for the only other solution I had at the time. I sat stark naked, like an ashamed koala, in a shallow bathtub while my wife made use of an entire package of disposable razors to clear the brush between my 6th and 7th vertebrae.

The “old wives” knew what they were talking about when they said that it would just grow back thicker the second time around. They must have spent some time at the shallow bathtub as well. And so today, I bear the curse of a roving, balding, half man/half alpaca like creature. Occasionally, I watch television or go to a movie and I wonder why I don’t see any movie stars with my condition. There is Pierce Brosnon, but he still has head hair, a smooth back with distinguishable shoulder blades, and his chest hair is more like human Astroturf. I sometimes find myself looking at Richard Gere, a man more than twice my age, yet with a head of hair like a graying Chia. If it weren’t for my disfigurement, I bet I could have been acting opposite Julia Roberts whose character, despite her career, (the details of which I am not entirely sure of) decides to pretend to be my girlfriend. If not me, at least Ed Asner could fill the role. Thick and luscious indeed.

Oh, and, when you get a chance, check out the head of hair on Epicurus. That was one hairy hedonist.