Christmas Eve Billiards

I've recently discovered that pool (billiards), is the only sport I actually find entertaining (if you call it a sport). Watching a couple hours of it tonight reminded me of all those years in my kiddyhood we spent Christmas eve at my rich uncle's house (yes, certain members of my family were upper middle class, in case you haven't guessed by the sheer amount of privilege I seem to throw around). He had this lush refitted basement... a cozy space for gatherings, complete with shag carpet, wood paneled walls, stocked bar, and three types of indoor recreation: table tennis, darts, and pool. He had a really nice pool table with one of those stained glass light fixtures hanging low above it and all the typical billiards paraphernalia (wooden signs on the wall reading: "Billiards is not just life or death, it's more than that!"...etc.) All the essentials.

"Keep your fingers off the table! You want to get hit with a ball?" That's what they'd tell us. Funny as it may seem, the adults (and when I say that, I really mean the DADS, who I guess are adults) hogged the table as they got progressively intoxicated and left us kids to the table tennis and darts to almost "kill-each-other the night away!" My dad walked around the hot room holding a camcorder with a title card on the lens: "Family Christmas Party/ 1995,"... like he was shooting some amateur film, and that was about the extent of his supervision. Meanwhile, all the kids ran wild with the music cranked. The problem with the darts, besides me almost blinding my brother with them, was there were so few unbroken ones and most ended up hitting the board and falling down behind the recliner. At least it was a nice dart board. It even came with a small slate on the door where you could chalk in your score. One could say it wasn't a good idea to let us play with the darts and paddles and not the pool table, but I guess mixing alcohol and projectiles in a crowded setting would've been a worse one.

The pool table was obviously what us kids wanted to have a swing at though, and soon enough we'd get our break (pun definitely intended). When the adults were having a good enough time they'd head upstairs to really "get serious" and let us kids play with whatever we wanted. My brother and I would break out the sticks, balls, and triangle, and stand tippy-toe around the edges of the big piece of shiny, carved oak. We'd chalk the ends like we'd seen the dads do a dozen times, lay our sticks down on the green, and poke random balls around for a good ten minutes, ignoring any idea of stripes, solids, and numbers. Supervision poopervision! Bah... our rich relatives had their own shot glasses to attend to (and by that I mean literally, wearing shot glasses AS glasses half the time).  "Yep, pool's a man's game," I'd smugly say, trying to sound cool between sips of my non-alcoholic Sprite... I mean, alcohol.

Who won and who lost? Who knows. The game would evolve, and soon we'd just be rolling the balls around with our hands to see how many collisions we could set off or knuckles we could break, and eventually do away with the pool table completely and sword fight with the sticks. My brother whacked me good right across the back with a cue, but he was helpless against my 8-ball air assault! At least some time was spent with the stick between my cousin's legs, pretending it was his "wooden pole," if you know what I'm saying, which I wish I thought of at the time because it was a good one. We didn't break anything except a little skin. I got my brother back with a boomerang toss of the triangle right to he gut. Our cousin still thought his "cue-stick woody" was funny. He was right. Good times. Good times.

"Yep, pool's a man's game," I said.

So once the temperature in the room had risen enough and the energy in us kids was finally flushed out, we'd head upstairs to wind down and enjoy the lit fireplace in my uncle's posh living room (watched Jumanji on television one year). This was Christmas Eve to a dorky suburban boy with a rich uncle.

Finally Caught Maya the Bee

Here's a long time project my even dorkier younger brother was able to acquire after all these years--a show we were set in front of countless times during those mindless years from 1990 to whenever it went off the air--way before I was eight (but if you've figured out by now, I was "eight-ish" for a very long time). This was Maya the Bee, some Japanese cartoon from the 70's (aired in the US in the early 90's) about a bee named Maya, her brother, and I think a grasshopper.

The only thing I remember from the show is the episode where they get stuck in a plastic cup of what appeared to be orange soda (they enjoyed it until they realized they were trapped!--should have listened to the grasshopper...).

Anyways, retrieving this show on DVD is quite a trick, particularly since it has appeared throughout the world with varying accessibility and completeness--some episodes released in German were never released in Japan, and the original Japanese DVDs have no English translation sub or dub--making them pointless unless you're an obsessed fan of the show and rarer than unobtanium. Even more, the original English edition appears to have been lost because the company that distributed it in America went under and the rights to the show went all over the damn place, so the only format some of these are available in is old VHS from people who were possessed into taping episodes. That means, in the set I have my hands on now, there are some episodes which are only partial. One episode clips off the last three minutes... another is only three minutes.

Here's what the "one fan besides us" said after having braved the back room deals, shifty go-betweens, and possible danger leading up to making this black market find: 

This is the highest quality set available, and in fact, the only set available at this time. Maya the Bee is perhaps the rarest cartoon I've ever searched for, and finding episodes has been no easy task. I have even decided to include the partially complete episodes I've found as any footage at all is rare, and I must assume that fans will even appreciate viewing fractions of episodes if they're available. After years of hunting, I've been able to compile this rare collection of episodes. I spent months capturing, digitally restoring, and converting the series to DVD format for the first time ever. This ensures quality every time you watch, unlike VHS tapes, which deteriorate over time.

Thank you Stuff I Like.

Blowing Smoke

Yes it was possible to get away with smoking when I was a kid, but only in the winter. All you needed to do was raise your ring and index fingers to your lips as if you were holding a cigarette, or a stick or pencil likewise, and then blow a long breath straight as an arrow into the air. A few puffs and you were indeed smoking... and only the weirdos ever got hooked on it. I hear it's still legal in some parts.

Of course it didn't always have to be cigarette smoke. One prance around the backyard in the winter time could have me thinking I was fire-breathing dragon or steam train in one of those make-believe movies I'd direct in my head. And it wasn't just the smoke from within. We also used to run through the car exhaust as the car warmed up, busting its plumes to pieces with chops and stomps or even playing "smoke signals" in it until we were told to stop. The bus either came while we were brushing our teeth or after twenty minutes of waiting around in the driveway, so we had plenty of time to be breathing in all those fumes before school (which probably explains a lot).

You know we're in a special zone when "playing with auto exhaust" counts as a idyllic childhood memory for me. But let's probe this even further.

Here's a question my inquisitive 8 year old mind never ceased to ponder: If warm things steam in the winter, like breath and car exhaust, why not farts? I wanted to see steam shoot out back there on a cold day, but try as I might, it never worked. Why don't we give off exhaust smoke from our tail pipes like cars? It seems like it'd be helpful thing to have in the winter time, but then any fart super power would've been decent to the 8-year-old me. How about farting lasers, or heat rays, nuclear blasts, or even just fart sonar? What about being able to unleash a smell that is literally toxic? The possibilities are endless!

But the 8yo Me digresses.

The One that Got Away

I am not lying when I say that I am engaged, and have been for nearly 20 years. See, there was this girl. She was awesome, and that actually used to mean something coming from me because girls always mystified me, spellbound me, hypnotized me, but I always thought what they were better in concept than in execution. On paper, girls were always like some alien species of advanced, exotic, ultra-intelligent, flawless beings of pure will and grace. Heck, just watching one do a cartwheel used to splatter my brains. To me, they were more on par with adults while we boys were like, wild chimpanzees or something, just flinging poop at each other. While that may have been true for us, in execution though, girls were just a more sophisticated way of arriving at the same end. Nobody's perfect indeed.

With all that build up for this species of radiant splendor and strength and intelligence, just imagine my additional puzzlement when, after spending time with one for a while, she revealed herself to be just another goofy weirdo like me. Smarter, of course, but just as human. We spent a lot of time together playing husband and wife at day care. We slept together at nap time (in the same room at least). We did all that kissy stuff. Heck, we even spent many a romantic afternoon together: lunchtime at the plastic table with our square pizza, summer days poking at anthills at the big old tree, maybe followed by a movie. You know, the normal stuff.

She was six ... but don't get the wrong idea! I was around five or six too, and our playtime courtship developed over many months at my daycare into the all-out genuine relationship that it was. We watched the clouds and picked out the shapes, "Ooh, a butterfly!"  "Ooh, a dolphin!"  She lied through her teeth and I believed her--about how on her trip to Disneyland she'd been turned into a frog by a magician--about how she'd reached outside the airplane and tasted one of those clouds (yes, they do taste like cotton candy!). We played house in the plastic house, she'd get all mad when I wasn't home at a decent hour. I'd tell her how I got all backed up at the office and decided to go blow a few minutes at the sandbox... you know, the typical stuff.

It was all so wonderful, we promised to get married someday. We'd even keep a piece of bark off the tree as a memorial that we were engaged (don't ask). But it was not to be. Shortly before she was taken out of that daycare, we officially broke up. To this day I don't remember how it happened, whether it was something I said or did, all I know is that whatever it was, it was somehow my fault... (that's girls for you). She wouldn't accept my apologies for nothing, and even mocked my desperate pleas. It was pointless to try, we both knew it--even if she wasn't going away, we could never go back to the way it was. But my heart was broken that summer--for maybe two of three hours.

So Kim, just to let you know, if you're not taken yet, I'm still available. (wink)

(Oh yeah, if you're reading this, sorry about the Halloween party and how I got my plastic fishing pole hook caught in your Little Mermaid outfit... that was... only somewhat funny, and I learned my lesson).

"Hi kids, we're home early..."


The eight-year-old me wanted one of these for the holidays. The twenty-four-year-old me does too.

And look, he's even wearing a sweater!

The Great Thanksgiving Beanie Baby Battle

To the 8-year-old me, Thanksgiving meant trips to my gramps with the rest of the family on my mom's side, disgusting carrots soaked in molasses, and of course, the "replica of the inside of the can rendered in cranberry sauce." Add to the plate the driest piece of white meat on the eastern seaboard, and you have quite a mouthful. The drab old-person decor, the stuffy book shelf, the "turntable,"the hanging plants in the living room, the television submerged in a wood cabinet resting on the floor (a game of football running as background noise on it), the brown shag carpet, the adults engaged in dull and endless chit chat... none of it would make the experience all that exciting for any kid, let alone me.

So let me start over. Thanksgiving was about running outside of gramp's house with the other kids for a nice game of tag. I always really did love me some sweet tag. About the only thing I loved more than tag was annoying girls, so how much fun do you think I had when I got to combine those two pastimes into one? Once, my brother and I stole a Beanie Baby Hedgehog from the girls, and it was a temporary victory for boys everywhere because they never got that thing back until it was time for us to go home. I had to prove my smarts. This was war. Sure, they could think they had me cornered on the porch when I "absent-mindedly" ran into that enclosure, but I knew there was nothing stopping me from hopping the railing five feet to the ground, taking off across the driveway and getting way the heck out of sight. I knew it wasn't a drop they wanted to take, and the time it took to walk the steps and come around the house kept them at a distance. I can't stress this enough, it was all for a Beanie Baby.

Whenever they caught one of us, we always made sure the other was off somewhere with the stolen good, or at least, that's what we told them. And whenever they had me in their clutches, I was sure to do what boys do best... play dumb: "I don't know where he took it, go bother him about it. I'm done playing." In reality, the thing had been tossed over the back fence at some point into the neighbor's yard where they'd never think to go looking, but they didn't need to know that. Also, as a boy, I didn't always need to 'play' dumb around girls, but that they already knew. (I never did figure out how.) Needless to say, I had my dumb excuse to get a couple girls to chase me around in circles and impress with my cunning and wits. I still don't know what their excuse was, unless they actually cared about that thing. I sure didn't.

When their head girl had me cornered at the back fence behind the shed, I scaled the wood and hopped it, right into the neighbor's lawn. That's where I grabbed the hedgehog and did a dash across the yard all the way back around and through two rows of very prickly bushes. To my surprised, they chased me. I'd throw it off to my brother in the driveway, only for him to do his signature move of hopping up on the roof of the car. The girls had him surrounded, but he booked it down the hood and cilmbed up on the porch with the thing in his teeth. Luckily I made it to the porch as he was getting torn down and he handed it off to me. I stuck the thing in my back pocket of my jeans, shook my butt at them and said the magic words sure to make any girl cringe: "come and get it nooooow."

Not wanting to have to find themselves in any position near that particular end of my body, they just stood there and crossed their arms, and I walked in the back screen door, my appetite slowly returning for whatever food thing they were starting to serve in there. And so, even as we all piled around that kids' table for the feast of horrors (in the china room), on that special day, and bowed our heads to give thanks for what we had (in our possession... stashed somewhere they'd never find it!), a silent war raged. The grimacing girls lost the battle knowing that in just a few hours they'd win the war anyways. We eventually had to give the thing back. After all, what did such a soldier like me want with a cutesy Beanie Baby hedgehog anyways?

It's not surprising the girls won. What's surprising is they actually put up a fight.

Dirty Songs I Knew

If you asked me what my favorite music was when I was 8 years old, I probably would have said "Jurassic Park music" (because that was my answer once). But if you had sung the first line of any naughty, dirty, schoolyard song, I would have been able to sing the rest right back to you. I memorized this stuff on the long bus rides home from school, as the girls clapped hands and rhymed them off one after another. Everything from the bizarre "Miss Mary Mack" to the barely-acceptable "Mary Had a Steamboat"  got drilled into my not-so-innocent head.

How this stuff spread all over the country in the decades prior to the internet just goes to show the incredible persistance of kids' appreciation for all that is mucky, yucky, perverse, and anything else they can get away with.

Mary had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell;
Mary went to Heaven, the steamboat went to…
HELLo operator, just give me number nine;
And if you disconnect me, I’ll chop off your…
BEHIND the ‘frigerator, there was a pice of glass.
Mary sat upon it and cut her little… 

ASSK me no more questions, I’ll tell you no more lies:
The boys are in the bathroom, pulling down their…

FLIES are in the kitchen, bees are in the park,
Mary and the principal are [kissing]* in the dark!

*(the word wasn't always "kissing"...)

Of course the girls were smart enough to not sing the really dirty ones full of sex and bodily functions in the proximity of adults...and of course we boys weren't. It was no surprise then why the teacher suggested "one potato, two potato" instead when my friends mentioned to her that "Ink, Stink, Purple dink, Poop, Fart, Out!" was our way of calling each other "out" for a game at recess. And you can imagine that "Man from Nantucket," "Magical Fruit," and whatever incarnation of the "Diarrhea Song" you prefer also factored in, along with my specialty--the ones full of gore and violence: ("Burning of the School" sung to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," or anything involving peer torture or the death of Barney.

Glory, glory hallelujah
Teacher hit me with a ruler
I hid behind the door with a loaded .44
And my teacher don't teach no more.


Joy to the World, Josh is dead.
We bar-be-cued his head!
What happened to the body?
We flushed it down the potty!
And round and round it goes!


^That one went out to a kid my friend and I particularly didn't like, named Josh.

And just to rub in the fact that girls were more subtle with these songs, I distinctly remember a girl who teased us with "My My Mother, Your Mother", which includes the famous line, "Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider, girls go to college to get more knowledge." Not one to be put down by a girl, my friend chimed in, "Boys go to Mars to get more candy bars!" It was an ingenious comeback, but it was short lived, and she quickly shot back something about how "boys go to Venus to get a bigger..." [ahem!]. That's when we knew we were outwitted (in more ways than one).

(For more fun songs, visit Milkmilklemonade.com)

Sonic the Hedgehog

I had no clue what a hedgehog was, and I didn't care. It could've just as well been Sonic the Asskicker for all I knew, and it wouldn't have changed a thing. He was an ultra-rad blue animal who could cook the screen meaner than any stale Mario platform crawler ever could (up until then). A few speed dash attacks and a few go-boxes, and you could have Sonic flipping loops, bouncing over enemies, flying over pits, and easily outrunning the screen itself! You see, we boys like games requiring a few basic commands and using them a lot, which is why when it comes right down to "run," "shoot," "run some more," and "shoot some more," (Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition) such games usually register pretty well with our primitive psyches. And Sonic was a prime example... just remember to jump now and then, and you've won.

Of course it wasn't that easy! I'm joking, but that's what you think when you think of Sonic (at least, when you're not thinking about the sheer amount of porn the franchise inspired, ahem!). The Sega marketing team really had us convinced this guy was the "fastest thing aliiiiive!" And speaking of the granddaddy of all Furry dreams, almost as good as getting to play Sonic was getting to play Tails on the one player mode of Sonic 2. What's better than playing a character just like Sonic who has infinite lives and whose only purpose is to make things miserable for the titular character and whoever's playing him? The "one player" (secret two-player) mode on Sonic 2 was a stroke of genius designed to help little brothers forced to play Tails screw over big brothers who were hogging the hog. (It wasn't me!)

All I'm saying is that my brother and I spent about a combined year of our lives playing each successive Sonic incarnation for the Genesis... Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, and Sonic and Knuckles (which allowed you to go back into the other Sonic games and play as Knuckles). After S&K, don't even get me started, because suddenly the Sonic Team decided it was okay to let us meet ALL of Sonic's fellow woodland creatures, spiraling out of control the moment they had him smooching a human! (Furries rejoice!) But in the beginning they had a winning formula in the mutant idiot fox who could fly, the speedy blue guy in the Mickey Mouse gloves, and the fat robotics maniac with waaaay too much time on his hands, and that's all my brother and I needed. When they added Knuckles, we were more excited about the prospect of a hogo-a-hogo blue and red death match than extended character back story, and boy did S&K deliver!

 

But I'm getting sidetracked once again by my relentless dork fandom. Back in the land of reality, Sonic (and espcially the two-player mode) was the pretext to many acts of violence and property destruction between my brother and I whenever one brother was just too damn good at the game, and for me to say which brother that was would be an insult to my existence as the older brother... (it wasn't me). The Sega actually had to be moved to a neutral location (the downstairs den, which was my dad's office) to keep the destruction to a minimum. But all in all, we still got through each game a hundred times over, and Sonic and Knuckles in under a week's time.

I kid thee not that the one thing I remember about the day my sister was born was being carted over to my grandmother's house at 3am (I was about seven at the time), and getting to watch the now infamous Sonic cartoon that morning. Even with all the hubbub that day, all was right because Sonic was on TV. I'm no furry, but I love Sonic.

"Pass the Banger"

"A banger. What's it look like?"
Some kids don't have to discover their heritage, growing up in homes of a rich cultural background, but for all us undifferentiated white American folk, when discovering our so-called "heritage" for the first time, it's like finding Jesus or doing whatever Tom Cruise did on that couch. What we are privileged to not have to think about, doesn't hurt anyone... until we start thinking about it, that is. That is to say, being "white" really just means you get to make it up into whatever you want it to be, because what it actually is, let's face it, stinks.

And so, as a typical white person, I had to steamroll over others' rich cultural legacies with my own inventions, all so I wouldn't have to feel like I was in any way being "left out" of something. Perish the thought! I'm white after all! So for three years, I had another boy thinking that not only was I "English" by origin, but that I was actually born and raised in England. And not just England as it really is, but a land out of my own imagination that I called "England", knowing that he wouldn't know otherwise. This was an England still stuck in the Industrial Revolution, where children worked in the millworks with those high stockings considered so "oh so dashing."

Now for some reason there was no question about where the accent went in those three years, and the more he seemed to dimwittedly believe my fabrication, the more stuff I pulled out of my you-know-where to tickle his curiosity. My life was too humdrum on its own anyways, so I was just adding some spice. After all, being to this boy's house and experiencing how his family all spoke Portuguese and had all these interesting practices, foods, and belongings, made mine seem so ordinary and American that they could have used a little sprinkling at times.

So this rumor spread to other kids in the school, and when questioned I'd stay in character to the bitter end. Yes, in my country they've never seen square headlights (don't ask), and in my country they call erasers "rubbers," and sausages are "bangers" (they liked me using that word). And I'd purposely embarrass myself on numerous occasions asking for the "crisps" when pointing to the potato chips at a party. I think the worst was admitting that my snack time tapioca was instead some special English "Sunday pudding."

Well, this carried on for a good three years, from third to fifth grade, when this other boy, my best friend by then, actually broached the subject with my mom, "so you were born in England?" Cue bomb blast. The second he asked that, I got up and left the playground without a word. There was no going back in there now... that would have me turning to salt. We stayed friends for a time, but never talked about it again.

"Banger? I barely know her!"

Boxers or Briefs?

It ain't easy being a guy. We have it hard too. There's so many issues we have to deal with, so many hardships we have to endure. The hardest one by far comes at that time in every guy's life when he's forced to pick a side. Forget political ideologies, right and left, right and wrong, underwear choice is one stance you can't afford to waffle on. You have to make a choice and live with the consequences, and the consequences can be many.

Girls have it so easy. Their underwear's best use is when it's worn as outer-wear, with nothing else on underneath it... obviously. For a guy though, underwear's best use is functional, to be doing what it needs to do under the covering we call "clothes." This is why we wear the same pair for days (erm, weeks) on end, and why (when we're alone), we wear nothing else. We know a lot can be deduced from what underwear we choose to wear though, and we won't compromise once we've made a choice. Underwear loyalty is everything, which is why the question about what we go for in underwear is actually quite a test of intelligence, maturity, character, and (sometimes) what 80s Saturday morning cartoon still inspires us. Forget 20-question quizzes in "Does he really love you?" magazines. If you want to figure a guy out, just ask him: "boxers or briefs?" You'll know all you need to know.

Now I've spent a long time thinking about this, and this was the best I could come up with to explain my rationale for continuing to answer the question "BRIEFS." We may not win the battle, but we win the war. Sure, boxers give you room, they're loose, comfy, and let you move and "readjust," and they are great to wear on their own as if they were shorts, because they come with a front flap (which just makes life easier). But they have a lot of flaws. One, they bag up under your pants and you got to keep adjusting them. Two, clothing makers decided that since men were wearing them like shorts anyways, they might as well start putting buttons to fasten them, which just makes "life" more of a chore than it should be. We could live without those pesky button flies all together, we don't need another set on our underwear!

Briefs on the other hand seem to solve a lot of the problems with boxers. They're nice and snug, and fit tight enough to ensure everything stays in its own little package. They're elastic, so they conform to your legs and waist, which means they don't bag up, and gaining access is always simple, just flip the flaps! Perfect. But briefs also have a number of disadvantages. They're not as comfy as boxers, they don't allow any "swinging room" (so to speak), the elastics on the legs give you rashes and indentations, and the fact that they're so slim and skimpy makes them perfect for wedgie torture (which is good if you're the torturer, but very bad if you're the sufferer). Their slim and tight style also means they can't double as outer-wear either, EVEN if you're by yourself eating Cheetos on the couch. Tighty-whities are a bit too embarrassing to wear by themselves, and should never be worn by themselves unless you're female.

The truth is, we like briefs because they're more supportive and easier to wear, but we will wear boxers just because they look cooler and are comfier. This is why "boxer-briefs" were invented, and are the obvious compromise. They may just be the ultimate winner here, and the most ingenious idea ever, but we're not discussing the subtleties of the so-called "boxer-brief" because it's not a part of the dualistic question posed.

But enough about function. Let's talk about style. Obviously, boxers come in a wide variety of colors and pictures, and briefs have tried to make it with the colors but it just comes off as if you've color-coded your week. The funny thing though is, there's just something more "mature" about boxers, so many guys wear them just because of that, even if they have cutesy little pictures on them! It's like the life cycle of the average male's underwear goes full circle. We start out as kids wearing Ninja Turtles briefs and then grow into "tighty-whities," and then maybe we either go into the land of colored briefs or we go full-tilt into Boxers. We're constantly on the run from the tighty-whitey, and why not? It's tough to shake that "just escaped from the ward" look every time you catch yourself in a mirror when you're changing. But we still like having pictures on our underwear regardless of age, especially at the boxers stage.

Once you've made the decision to continue with briefs to their next technicolor evolution (one color for every day of the week) and take a step into that proverbial locker room, you're still not sure you're going to be dwarfed by the guys already jumping on the boxers bandwagon. But when they reveal theirs and they're full of all these cutesy "flying toaster" or "valentine heart" cartoons, you'll be glad you're a briefs-wearer. Of course anything flannel or plaid and you're screwed, but then again, at least you can easily get at the merchandise without resorting to pulling down your underwear like you did when you were five.

So underwear is a complicated thing. Guys think about it a lot. It's on our minds. Our brains are constantly calculating comfort down there. We know we look like mental patients or complete losers in underwear while girls look, well, fantastic in it... so for us it's just about being comfortable, and ruling the world in our spare time.

But which is better? Who knows. What do I wear? I wear briefs. My eight-year-old self wore briefs. I was raised on tighty-whities, mostly around my waist, sometimes under my clothes, and a least a fraction of time on my head. Briefs have always been there for me, they gave me support and comfort through the hard times, they picked me up when I was...well, getting a wedgie, and whenever I adjusted my underwear in public... it was always a "snap."

That's why I was, I am, a briefs guy.

'Man Pain' is Hilarious

Any guy who has experienced "man pain" knows you can pretty much forget about getting anything more than a few chuckles from onlookers when it happens. You could be on the ground, writhing, even cross-eyed and puking, and it's nothing but "ha ha" from anyone in eye shot. This is because "man pain" is different from other types of pain in that only us guys are capable of feeling it, and when we are, it's usually completely our own damn fault, so it's guaranteed funny. Hundreds of America's Funniest Home Videos clips of "dad and son games of catch" gone horribly wrong prove this fact of life to be true. The concept of objects coming into forcible contact with a guy's genitals is just comedy gold.

I think I know why it really is so damn funny. See, there are two reasons we blush when someone asks us "where it hurts," and only one of which is tied to having the dangling, vulnerable parts in question. The main reason we blush is because in that moment we're finally forced to acknowledge the special brand of stupidity that inevitably comes with having those parts, because chances are, we were asking for it. Those two things are what makes "man pain" so easy to laugh at, and I, regrettably, happen to have both the parts and the hair-brained idiocy that would cause them to get slammed by something. But see, I only find it "funny" when it happens to guys who are not me, so there's nothing funny about the following story (warning: you may find the following story funny if you're not me).

This is how I lost my virginity to my bike. The neighbor two houses down used to allow the girl next door and my brother and I to ride our bikes in their long driveway. We spent many an afternoon riding long circles up and down it because we were too wussy to ride in the streets with the cars and the threat of instant death. Somehow, we were supposedly safer if confined to the driveway than we would be on the (somewhat) busy suburban... back road, if that makes sense. Unfortunately, the protectionist driveway culture of the 90's wasn't counting on my temporary "lack of brain" syndrome, and once when I was probably about nine or ten, I got so lulled into watching the asphalt pass below my pedals for a time that the tar failed to protect me. I wasn't watching where I was headed.

BAM! It came to a sudden halt and threw my body forward like those crash dummies in the commercials. My butt slid off the seat and hurled my crotch (and all it contained) right into the bar beneath the handlebars with extreme prejudice, and the two of us, bike and I, fell over together on the asphalt. As my brain kicked back out of its haze, I realized what I'd done in my trance. I had slammed into the back bumper of the car sitting stationary in their driveway! That's right. I hit a car that wasn't even moving. My first thought was "I hope nobody saw that." My second thought was "oh no! Not good! NOT good! Ow!"

It was the most nauseating "man pain" describable. My vision was cross-eyed. Drool trickled from my chin. I feebly threw my hands between my legs as if trying to hold whatever was left down there together as I staggered forth, soon dropping down to all fours. I could have puked as it shot right up to my stomach. There's no walking that off! And to top it, there was no "oh he's hurt!" There wasn't even a "are you okay?" or even a condescending but sympathetic "...ouch." There was nothing but "Hahaahah!!," "how does that feel?" and "wow, that was stupid..." Meanwhile I couldn't even freakin' SEE, never mind stand, and damn was it humiliating, but whatever. "No I'm okay..." I squeaked out. Yeah right. Even when my mom found out about the incident later that evening, after I'd managed to wobble home, all I got from her was, "haha, you weren't planning on having kids one day anyways, right?"

Unfortunately, the same force that propelled this boy to slam into a parked car on his bike also prevented him from learning anything from the experience, as more bike accidents were sure to follow, but I did learn that "man pain" really does hurt and that it ... really is freakn' hilarious! I mean, the "oof!", bend-over, the crotch-grab, the wince, the rolling on the ground ... it's good stuff! Now don't get me wrong, I don't recommend, or condone, anyone going walking around aiming for the sweet spot just for target practice (there are less violent ways of getting a laugh!), nor do I agree with bullying down there (seriously guys?), and girls get a pass at doing it for self defense... and whenever they need to prove a point. But if it happens by accident (and it will), laugh only if it's funny. Otherwise, call 911!!

Cool Kids Wear Flannel

Flannel was a way of life in my formative years. If you weren't wearing your plaid shirt, unbuttoned and loose, hanging over a white tee-shirt, supported by blue jeans and red chucks, you simply weren't cool enough to be taken seriously. I kid you not. It was a white-trash trifecta of coolness, and gave the impression you could crush a beer can with the best of them. It was the natural evolution of grunge rock perhaps, only on the third grade level.

Well, as with most cool things, I was never wearing flannel much at the time. I never wore the shirts unbuttoned over that trailer park kid white tee-shirt with the jeans torn up. I wore my sweatshirts and corduroy jeans. I wore my Reebok sneakers (which may or may not have lit up with flashing lights in the heel). I wore my hair straight and not disheveled. I had these thin circular glasses propped on my face. I bathed once and a while. Given all these facts, you can probably guess that I wasn't one of the cool kids in the mid-90s, but I tried obsessively to get into that inner circle. And gentlemen, I may have made it further towards acceptance by the flannel jerks than any dork ever has.

Here is my tragic story of profound heroism, and how it all went so wrong. To this day, flannel brings back memories of desperation and ambition gone awry. Of me sitting with my friend Nick behind a divider wall in the classroom, sitting in those little yellow plastic chairs at eight years old, him teaching me how to burp on command of course. It was school after all, and if we were supposed to be learning how to read dumb Little Bo Peep stories about little girly girlies getting all up in a whirly whirly over who-gives-a-CRAP?!, we figured we might as well be learning how to do something useful. See, burping is all in the way you turn your neck...

Anyways, there was this other boy I knew... and yes, he too could burp like a champ, really low pitched and loud, which is a very important... So anyways! He was awesome for a lot of other reasons: stone washed jeans, flannel shirt unbuttoned, white T-shirt, shades. The whole nine yards. Did I want to be him? Of course. Since that wasn't possible, suffice it to say I wanted to be cool like him. He had this gang of other third grade Cobain disciples, and I remember desperately wanting admittance into such an esteemed sanctum. I was so desperate in fact, I would've done anything. I would've uttered every swear word in existence with perfect pronunciation to be in the group. I would've climbed the tire castle on the playground to the top just to see how far I could launch spit out of my body to be in the group. I would've huffed the inside of this kid's Chuck's sneakers and held it like a bong hit for ten seconds three times over... to be in the group. And I mean, three really long huffs (I mean, drags) on his really, really, really rancid, festering, nasty, sweaty, intoxicating, hallucinogenic, delirium inducing, vomit producing, radioactively-smelly sneakers!. I would've taken twenty rock-thrown nutshots up against the brick wall in back of the school... without flinching (or puking!)... to be in the group. I would've poked my hand with a pen tip to the point of drawing blood... to be in the group.

And I know I would've... because I actually DID do all those things just to get these jerks to like me, and of course they actually thought it was the damn-dern funniest thing they'd ever seen, but trust me, this stuff gets real when you're a kid. Becoming "cool" in elementary school is literally life or death. I would've died to get "in" on whatever the hell they were actually doing, and all it probably was was just...I dunno, hanging out by the swing set? Shooting the shit? Being jerks? But no matter. It wasn't about doing all that stuff, it was about doing all that stuff with people who think you're cool. That's the point. Getting to do literally anything "along with them" was that freakin' important to me!

So no word of a lie, I passed through their rigorous series of harsh, painful, smelly, and often humiliating rituals and rites just to be counted among them. I hopped on every tire circling the playground at school without falling off once. I made a complete swing on the ropes and walked up the slippery metal slide. I climbed to the top of the tire pyramid on that playground. I wore shirts that, while not flannel, could be unbuttoned to expose that ever-necessary trailer park pit-stained tee-shirt. I attempted to burp the alphabet (only got to the G, I think). Hell, I let them poke my hand with a pen until blood was drawn! I was not afraid. Give me "cool kid status" or give me death!! And you know what, as crazy as it sounds... it actually worked.

At the end of it all, after all the degrading, demoralizing, humiliating, painful, injurious, testicle imploding, burp reverberating, macho nacho-ness abounding, they were finally proud to call me one of them. They let me sit at their lunch table. They let me hang out with them at recess. I'd finally made it. I was one of the club. I was cool. I had every protection they could afford. There was no more teasing. An official proclamation went out to all the other cool boys. I was part of the wolf pack. It was probably the greatest achievement of my life (especially considering the last 20 years...). And so, that's when I lost it!

It turns out that cool kids are so "cool" they don't have to go announce to the teacher what they were put through to order to become cool. One whiff of that and she came down stern on the whole crew, all the boys who I'd so conveniently named by name, and that was that. "Cool kids don't rat," they said afterwords, and then there was nothing but hostility for the rest of the year. Oh well. As Bob Dylan once said, "Life is bad, life is a bust, all you can do is do what you must." I quickly went back to combing my hair and wearing sweatshirts. That was a must.

The moral of the story is, "90s kids man... 90s kids."

Hide and Seek Tag

My allergies!
We used to play this game I invented called "Hide and Seek Tag." When I say "we" I mean the girl and boy next door, and my brother and I. My brother was always a year younger than me (kind of strange how that always seems to happen with younger brothers), and all the neighborhood kids were about the same age as we were. In any case, this game was exactly what it sounds like. First you hide and seek, and then when found, you run for the hills. It's a manhunt, with one on the lam and everyone else "it," like a kind of reverse-tag. The girl was one year younger than me and at least two years more mature (kind of strange how that always seems to happen with girls), and for that reason only, I always seemed to be the one on the lam, forcing everyone to chase me.

And I didn't exactly play fair. Even when hiding, I was constantly on the move. You got to be, because you want them to totally exhaust every potential hide out and have to come calling you out, "okay, we give up!" You want the girl rolling her eyes. After all, it's only fun when you're the only one really having fun, right? Well, that is, until they just left me in the poison ivy patch to go off and enjoy their summer afternoons in other ways. I didn't come out of my calamine cocoon for a week, and nobody missed out on the fun except me.

The neighborhood was a maze of fences, cars, backyards, basements, trees and shrubs, and I found a way to exploit them all for hours onto dusk on many an after school afternoon. The bush beside the front steps of the neighbor's house was a great spot. They could literally stand over you and not see you. This was real jungle warfare, poison ivy or not... allergy to poison ivy or not. Getting caught was worse. Don't give up on me soldier! And yes, clearly we were soldiers because what else would you be if you were carrying around a gun that looks like a Super Soaker?

The girls kind of ruled the neighborhood just because they could get us in trouble, but we boys actually lived in it. We had more fun out there in the neighborhood with our own war games, hopping over fences and stomping on flowers. The Martians had landed! They were everywhere. They were girls in disguise! “Quick men! Kill the aliens!” Oh man, we swarmed that girl next door good once. My brother even soaked her with his squirt gun. Defeated! We exchanged high-fives as she ran off back to her house dripping wet.

“Success men! Let’s get another one!” I used to lead the charge. I always loved anything scifi. So we'd go find another one while she was in her backyard over at Steven's place in her swimsuit. We'd creep along in the bushes beside their house like Rambo, even wearing the bandanas, our guns set to maximum soak. She’d be out there just sitting by her swimming pool in her blue swimsuit, just doing that thing girls do where they lay in the sun. She wouldn’t see us coming!

“Right men, now listen up,” I'd whisper to the next-door boy with the stammer, “this one’s sexy. No lollygagging! We got a job to do! Get in, kill, and get out! Understand?”

“Sir yes sir,” he'd whisper.

“Lock and load. I’ll see you on the other side, on the count of three…” I'd whisper, but he'd just go right ahead and charge her.

AAHHHHH! I ran right up to her that day by the pool and just started soaking her with my squirt gun fully loaded. She jumped up and screamed, “What that! Get away from me!” '

I strand over her on either side and give her a good blast in the face and then take off running. Mike comes up behind and blasts her good in the back. Then the real fun begins. The chase it on!

“Run! Run! Go! Abort mission! Abort mission! Target is not destroyed! Repeat, target is not destroyed! Send for back up! Whoa!” I keep talking into my pretend walkie-talkie on my sleeve as she chases me all around the backyard like crazy. I go after him and try to help but then he goes and hops the back fence, so then she turns on me, pissed as all hell and coming at me like a bulldog!

“Man down!” I yell as I take off for the bushes, only to be yanked back by my shirt collar, kicked in the ass, and then pushed straight down into those thick bushes. Damn did that sting. We got away though. We lived to tell the tale. We took off running down the street, out of ammo. We had to fill up our guns for another round back at the bathroom sink at his place.

“Who next?” he asks.

“Bridget,” I say. Two aliens down. Two to go. That’s always a blast.

Facing the T-Rex

A three hour tour.
Don't let anyone kid you, males of the species do have thoughtful and emotional depth, we just more often than not choose to ignore it. It's better that way because most of the time we guys tend to screw things up whenever we start thinking we're on to something "deep," and besides, females don't want that from us anyways (no matter what they say... search your feelings girls, you know it to be true!). But when our emotions do come out, they do so in the strangest of places, particularly when you're eight-years-old and your already-favoritist movie has landed on the big screen, finally, after three months of  commercials and previews. It was a clear summer night in June of 1993 and me and my brother were out for whatever reason with mom and dad, begging them to let us into a little monster-movie-at-heart known as Jurassic Park.

I tell you this because I have proof, but more importantly because it won't make me look any worse in front of the half of you who share a Y chromosome (because I already conceded that I'm a dork). Now I know lots of guys across the ages (comedians) have testified on behalf of our half in saying that "nothing much goes on" in our heads, and while it's probably true for those ones who perpetuate this, I'm going to put my foot down and say that it's not true of the vast majority. In fact, a lot does go on in our heads when we're watching movies like Jurassic Park on the big screen, but it usually devolves into "oh man that's so awesome," or "holy shit I want one," or just "oh man is she hot." That may not seem like much, but trust me, that's the 8yo brain firing back on, which I think it has to if you're actually sitting down to a movie like Jurassic Park. Yeah yeah "playing God." Yeah yeah "morals." You want the money shot. You want the T-Rex.

So there we were. We packed in the movie theater and watched the spectacle unfold as if we were ascending to little kid heaven on the spot. A lush jungle hung before us, full of eye-opening carnage and huge dinosaurs, presided over by Sam Neill, paleontology's answer to Harrison Ford from the decade prior (whatever "paleontology" meant). I wanted to BE this guy. Seriously, how much cooler does it get than to be one of them paleo-tolo-orthodontics, but actually be wearing the Indiana Jones hat and literally running with the gallamim-i? To literally stare down a T-Rex and have the fucking T-REX blink first! He's the gruff muscle of the movie, okay, but who's the brain? Ian Malcolm. Now if you're like me, your body is about 2% muscle and 95% bone marrow, so you're going to need someone to represent you, and they couldn't have gotten a cooler nerd for this part than good ole Goldblum, Ladies Man Extraordinaire (it's part of the name). Only he could do the water drop trick on the hand and actually win the female over by doing that (don't ask how I know). His uh... seduction was uh... all in the ahhh! Strange attractors anyone?

So what do they add to balance out all this bridled (Grant) and unbridled (Malcolm) testosterone but... a girl? Why yes, and a girl who actually knows her shit for once and still managed to put thoughts in my head late at night. The amazing thing is, she's not just there to get hit on. With Grant off with the kids (Timmy pretty much being my avatar in the movie at that point), and Malcolm half dead in the hay, it was really up to the girl to save all the guys. Heck, Timmy is reduced to completely useless quivering while his SISTER (also a girl) literally HACKS into the park to turn the power back on. Everyone has their moment of glory in a way, so it's great that movies finally caught up with real life. Oh but this is getting too deep, gotta switch back to 8yo me and talk about what I actually liked about this movie growing up.

Jurassic Park cars that drive themselves: "awesome dude, I want one." Taser guns to shoot at raptors: "awesome dude I want one." Helicopter: "oh man that's so awesome." T-Rex car chase: "holy shit this is the best thing I ever seen! I need a change of pants!!" But the T-Rex was too lumbering and mechanical after a while, so that's when we got the raptors. That's when we got those spitty green guys. That's when we got raptor chase scenes! That's when we got cutesy Three Stooges-y slip squeal sound effects when Newman hit the deck down a waterfall! Ha ha. Heck, the only thing missing is a guy on a toilet... no wait! There he is! How do you manage to make a toilet joke into a terrifying death scene (in a movie that's not called Bad Taste)? I don't know, but they done it, and was the 8yo me certainly glad they did! Oh man. But let's take it a step even further. Let's remind our "target audience" here (KIDS!) that dinosaurs do, in fact, poop. "Big piles of shit" too! Gross!.. but more importantly: Hahahaha! 

And so there I was, seven-years-old, totally enjoying it, totally not scared, and totally unable to follow what chain of events lead to this string of awesome, hilarious, and unforgettable scenes. As far as I was concerned the "story" had something to do with a bunch of people going to see an island with a bunch of dinosaurs on it. What did I care how they got there? They had me at "island with dinosaurs on it." Give us walky-talkies, stun guns, and Unix-based OS's. Give us raptor run-ins, big "birds" with teeth (yes, I did learn something), a T-Rex tossing a car off a cliff, and give us at least one guy getting eaten off a toilet, and you've got us hooked. In fact, we'll spend the next year and a half begging for the coloring books, backpacks, pencil cases, video games, and whatever dinosaur cereal box you can find (yes, Jurassic Park Crunch! Bring it back!). "You've patented it, and packaged it, and you DID slap it on my plastic lunch box and now *bang* you're gonna sell it *banng* you're gonna sell it!!" 

And I totally bought it, and happily kept buying it, because what can I say? I loved this stuff. And I mean it. But no matter how silly, simple, and unfettered the male mind may seem, I promise you this, we'll still cover our heads in our blankies at the "scary parts" in the dark theater, and still "love" every minute of it.

"Man creates dinosaurs, dinosaurs eat man... 8yo me loves it."

Portrait of the Writer as a Boy Dork

"I'm a fart-smeller!" 
Hello guys and girls! What you've landed on is not a blog about me, per-se. It's a blog about the eight-year-old version. It's about the little dork I was in all of his uncouth, untamed wildness, brainy stupidity, and humiliating openness. It's about a pleasure seeker, a treasure hunter, and a noble heart. It's a commentary on boyhood from someone glad to have lived it (and survived). We all had some strange ideas as kids, but the various workings and non-workings of this brain from the years 1990 and 1998 probably produced some of the "noblest" you've heard. So like I say, here I will post my (rather peculiar) kidhood thoughts straight from that freaky mind to your squarish screen, for your enjoyment and/or repulsion.

Let me introduce myself though. My name is Mark. I'm 24 years old [at the time I write this!]. I'm whiter than Wonderbread and male, so what could I possibly have to complain about? Even so, that's as typical as I get. The rest of me is some odd mesh of book worm, writer, artist, audiophile (that means "music lover" you wingnut!), and classic movie fan. I read books about philosophy, wax on AND off, and enjoy the calm comforts of nostalgia, hot coffee (dark roast), food, and sleeping, and every now and then a good fart noise. Now that's quite a mix fer sure, but I'd like to think that I'm pretty much a "dork" through and through.

Now let me get something straight: I don't do the whole "anger issues" thing here... I celebrate my 90s childhood! "Dork" should not be a pejorative term! I wear it like a badge of honor (in a manner of speaking). It's a lifestyle. It's genetic... maybe. It's freedom to be what you are. According to Urban Dictionary, a dork is:

Someone who has odd interests, and is often silly at times. A dork is also someone who can be themselves and not care what anyone thinks.

Dorks are typically more noted for their quirky personality and behavior rather than their interests or IQ which may or may not be on level with traditional geeks or nerds. They tend to be more humorous and extroverted and don't mind laughing at themselves or with others at themselves, as the case may be.

So we got no reason to hate on the dorks. Bland is boring. If you can't laugh at yourself, then... well, you get that idea. I think we should celebrate what makes us unique. Are we dorks not human? Kick us, do we not say... "oof!"? Unique... yeah, that's what you can call it.

History will remember the name Enterprise. Welcome aboard.  --Admiral Mark