Mary, King of Scotch

This might be the Scotch talking, but I think if we all communed with God a little; if we all tied on our Robes of Important Thinking; if we all bogarted the smelly, probably-shouldn’t-view-this-in-a-blacklight, futon located in the dorm room of our inner Buddhist synagogue, we’d all agree that the best movie soundtrack of all time is, without doubt, Beverly Hills Cop (MCA Records, don’tcha know).

Hear me out. No, wait, don’t. It doesn’t matter. We just all agreed that we all agree, so there’s no need to hear me anything. What’s important is that when we tell this tale to our grandchildren, we acknowledge the king-making powers of the ’80s synthesizer, and how the world has dimmed a little since we abandoned its abundant use.

“But, Skippy!” You protest. “What about the soundtrack to ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’?”

Meh. Have we learned nothing about sequels? They get caught in jet engines; they get wrapped around revolving doors; they get snagged on rockets. (I may be confusing them with capes.) NO SEQUELS!

“Fine,” you acquiesce, not even suspecting you know how to spell ‘acquiesce’ (you don’t, but that wavy color line in your browser does), “what about the soundtrack to ‘The Karate Kid’?”

A quality challenge, indeed. Huzzah! Joe Espisito’s “You’re the Best” is almost insurmountable; it’s the montage tune all other montages inspire to be… but it suffers one fatal flaw.

I didn’t own that soundtrack. I was a kid, poor. Shut-up.

Danny Elfman, Patti LaBelle, The System, Harold Faltemeyer, Rockie Robbins, Shalamar… all artists who are relevant and I’m pretty sure still alive today; real taste-makers; bards and minstrels who influenced innumerable bands and rock stars such as The Beetles, Elves Presley, Bon Jehovah, Prunce, and Stevie Wander.

When I cycle with my kid to his school in the mornings, do I listen to his dreadfully painful tales of art, gym, social anxiety, and who offered him drugs the day before? No, of course not. I’m pedaling along, mentally rocking out to “Don’t Get Stopped in Beverly Hills” because it speaks to me, man. It says that one day I, too, will stuff a banana up the tail pipe of a cop car.

Do I love the Insta-Princess? Sure, why not? But do I love her more than Junior’s “Do You Really (Want My Love)”? Here’s the thing: marriages last forever when you never ask questions. (It’s a thing you can look up on the Internet. I promise.)

When they asked in the hospital after his birth, I named our second kid, “The Heat Is On” but won’t need to ever tell my wife because it’s her fault she was all epiduraled-out at the time. I don’t negotiate with terrorists or druggies. It’s a moral imperative, I feel.

Have you tried the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack? I mean, REALLY tried it? Give it a whirl. Slip on your most fashionable housecoat; spray on your shiniest Soul Glow; feed your family the tastiest rat poison you can buy at the dollar store; do what you need to do to sit back, relax, and groove with the almost mystical desire to pack drugs in crates full of coffee grounds and open an art gallery. You’ll thank me.

Man. Scotch is maybe the best thing, ever.

Running from School, Part II

The Devil rubbed his eyes, awakened by a stream of light breaking through the cracked door of his bedroom. “Honey?” he asked. “What time is it?”

“Shh…” she replied. “It’s early. You can go back to sleep.”

“No, I’m awake. Where were you?”

Yawning, stretching slowly, she began to get undressed. “You remember that sucker who thought he’d try running again?”

“Sisyphus?”

“No, that’s the guy stuck between a rock and, well… you know. Same kind of winning record, though.”

The Devil paused. “I think so,” he said. “But, go on.”

“Well, this other guy, he thought he’d be smart and run last night. And it worked. I wasn’t paying attention, he made it all the way through, and he didn’t squeak a bit. This morning, however, he wasn’t as smart and tried again. That’s when I caught him, kicked him the left calf muscle, and grinned as he whined and cried all the way home.”

“Wow,” the Devil said. “That’s pretty—”

“No, wait, it gets better. So, his calf is hurting and he thought maybe he’d go biking during lunch because, well, did I mention the not smart thing?”

“You hurt his calf again?”

“No, no! Better! I ran across my pal, Cycling, at the store—you remember Cycling, right? She came over a few weekends ago, brought that weenie date who smelled like patchouli? What was his name? Oh, right, Yoga. But called himself Downward Dog.”

“I dunno,” admitted the Devil. “My mind was on a host of other things that night. We hit 1 Billion Served in our torture chambers, and I was trying to think of a theme for the celebration.”

“Who was the billionth?”

“Some nitwit who abandoned his kids and thought he could beat cancer with quack science.”

“I know that guy! Steve Jobs, right? Well, anyway, I ran across Cycling and asked her if maybe she’d do me a solid. And she did! She hurt his right knee ten miles into the ride.”

The Devil stared. “Damn. You’re one mean bitch, Running. Now come here, let’s snuggle.”

“Sounds heavenly.”

Running From School, Part I

“I,” I gasped, barely hanging on to dear life, “I am—”

BREATHE

“—going to get—”

BREATHE

“—elected to mayor or sheriff or street sweeper and—”

BREATHE

“I’ll BAN running!”

No one should run. It’s stupid. If human beings were meant to run, Nature wouldn’t have evolved two wheels, a carbon fiber frame, clipless shoes, 15 speeds and really cool bells you can mount on your handlebars. Bicycles are organic, free-range and most probably would be sold at Whole Foods if they didn’t have to make room for all their terrible-tasting food and quack homeopathic remedies.

But I ran. While walking my son to school each morning, I spied a mom dressed out in running clothes, ready to trot on home after she dropped her daughter off. “I can do that!” I beamed. “I mean, not her home (she might object), but my home, which is a scant one mile away. People run marathons, which are like five miles or something, so the least I can do is one mile per day.”

No. Wrong. No, no. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

The LEAST I can do is go back in time a million years, find the guy who invented running, and give him a bike. “Ah,” he’d nod, caveman club resting against his shoulder. “I knew running would be stupid, but I needed something to do while I waited for someone to invent the wheel. Say, this handlebar bell is really sweet!”

“Are we taking the dog this morning?” my son asked me.

“No way,” I replied. “Look at me: I’ve got my running shoes and running shorts and running shirt and running tunes and running face. I’m ready to—”

“Give up in defeat?”

I waited. He grinned. “No dessert for you tonight, buddy. Never again until you’re thirty.”

Nevertheless, after I handed him over to the terror chambers of kindergarten (where he faces such daily horrors as recess, lunch and construction paper pumpkins), I plugged in my music, shook a leg or two, and then I was off!

“Not bad,” I thought. “I’ve made it to the sidewalk. I can do this.”

… three steps later…

“GAAAH! I hate stupid running! A pox on running! Running is ugly, and so is its sister! GAAH!”

But tomorrow, I’ll do it again

Everyone Should Talk Religion at the Dinner Table

A particularly pinkish pork chop tonight prompted me to accuse the InstaPrincess of attempted mariticide by trichinosis, which then found me declaring I was now Jewish as self-defense against any future pork chop aggression (or meals), at which point our four year-old piped up with a “What’s ‘Jewish’?”

Right. So, in a rather stunning metaphysical coup, we explained how some people believed in a god, how some people are Jewish, some are Christian, some go to church, some hang out in a synagogue and some, still, are us—who have no religion—which is just dandy because we can sleep in on Saturdays AND Sundays, and our Wednesday night dance cards are almost always open.

“Do you understand?” Of course he did. We can explain anything to him as long as we pepper the talk with enough examples of super heroes.

“Yes.”

We grinned. Bright kid. Our genes, though, so why not?

“I’m Jewish.”

Damn.

“Because Grandma took me to [an African Methodist Episcopal] church once.”

See? We can teach ANYTHING.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hyde Park Pilgrim Run

Today I entered my first 5K and knocked it out of the ball park.  First place, even.

Those of you who were with me might be questioning my sanity right now.  “First place?  In what, the line to the bathroom?”  (Not that the bathroom line was a bad place to be; they had some nice bathrooms, lemme tell you, so I’m not at all ashamed by being a member of that group.  The bathrooms weren’t Taj Mahal material (so few things rarely are), but they also weren’t the porcelain poop place of most frats, so while there may have been room for improvement, there was a lot further down they could fall.)

Ignore the bathrooms, you say, not important (not until you need one, sure); let’s talk about this first place business.  You don’t jog.  Ever.  You’ve never run in a 5K before, we’re not even sure you know how to spell it, and we read somewhere–and by “somewhere” we mean the race results sheet–you glided in at a meh of a 26.25 time.  Plus, you continue, and this is the important part, we saw a throng of people make it past the finish line before your questionable mug rounded the corner.

All true, I admit.  But those other people in the race?

They don’t count.

No, listen, hear me out:  All 5Ks yearn to be 10Ks, so there’s a upward class mobility thing going on.  You can protest that 5Ks aren’t socially conscious–or even conscious–but facts can’t be helped; 5Ks want to be 10Ks.  So, like other groups that want to jump the social divide, 5Ks expect a certain level of decorum, and if the participants don’t adhere to said level, they run afoul (or in the case of this run, afowl) of the unknown but very powerful “Cut loose, Turkey, you’re gone” rule.

Let’s start with the shoes.  If you’ve ever seen running shoes, you instantly know that all of the major shoe companies are locked in a deadly battle to see which one can design the ugliest shoe possible.  Perhaps it started off as a joke at Nike, a one-off, a “HAW HAW, I bet the boss will freak when he sees this neon green monstrosity.  We hear an intern is blind from staring at it too long.”  But it turned out the boss had gone to an art school, and so had a total loss of knack for good design, and the design was approved and people bought it (the thinking went, “Well, surely they made up for the neon green by making it even springier.  I’ll buy it!”), and, and…

Thermonuclearwar.  Reebok caught on, Brooks gave their color palette over to the blind, and Saucony… well, Saucony kept doing what they normally did and no one really noticed.

So, anyone who had uglier running shoes than mine were instantly disqualified.  It’s sad, but it had to happen.

Which left ten people and me.

Five of those guys were rail-thin with calves the size of Popeye’s forearms after a spinach fix.  It’s obvious they were trying too hard, and as every 5K knows, when you try too hard you can’t be cool and it’s no 10K for you.  So, they were out.

My competition was now five people.  Tough, true, but I could handle it.  I’d come in sixth, but sixth is respectable in some parts of the world.  But not this part, and it didn’t matter, because three more were instantly booted due to their silly costumes.  Turkey hats, pilgrim outfits, tutus, viking helmets… all awesome on Halloween, but for a socially paranoid 5K like this one, it’s obvious you can’t have too much fun. You have to take it more seriously, but not too serious otherwise you’re trying too hard.

So, two enemies left.  And me.

“Hey, you got pig stink in your eye!” I yelled at the closest.  And when he looked, I thew pig stink in his eye.

One person left.  And me.  I tried the pig stink.  Didn’t work.  She wouldn’t budge.  “Shoe’s untied,” I helpfully offered.  She pointed to her velcro and surged ahead.  Foiled!  “Velcro’s untied!” I yelled in desperation because we were closing in on the finish line.  Not even a hint she heard me.

Second place ain’t bad, I thought. I could live with second.  They get medals, right?  I could–but, no.  I’m not a quitter, I won’t settle for less than my rightfully earned gold.  I tried one more time.

“I’m telling your mom you picked your nose and ate your booger!”

She whipped around.  “I did NOT!” she cried because she was five and very sensitive about stuff like that.

I zoomed by.

And that’s how I won my first 5K.  The InstaPrincess hasn’t said anything yet–won’t even look at me– but I know she’s very proud.

Romney Loves You, Big Bird

The Arena. It wasn’t really an arena—not like a giant sports arena—but it was the best they had. After President Romney led Paul Ryan through “The Street”, laying waste to all of the unsuspecting muppets and their buildings, not much was left. “Sesame”, for example, was crossed out on the pockmarked street sign and replaced with, “The Truth: The Hand is Up Your Ass!”

There wasn’t much. What Romney did leave behind was a warped sense of violent justice. “You have problems,” he sneered from under his wavy hair, “you take them to the Arena. Anything goes.”

And that was how they lost Snuffleupagus. Elmo, who had been one of the first to have his strings cut, had gone crazy.

“Can you tell me how to get…” he’d start singing softly—and then louder, wilder, eyes wide, “TO HELL!”

Even worse, his mind had reverted to imaginary slights from years before. “First there, then not there. Only Big Bird can see him. He’s a spy, a terrorist, a monster, that shit-colored elephant. Snuffleupagus, I’m calling you out!”

The remaining muppets laughed. After all, how did Elmo really expect to take on a behemoth like Snuffleupagus?

“Go away, little one,” Snuffleupagus said, all curled up in what remained of his yellow friend’s nest. “They plucked Big Bird, a tasty treat for one big political Thanksgiving, and now I’m all alone.” But Elmo wouldn’t. He taunted Snuffleupagus for days on end, calling him an “imaginary freak” and crying out that Snuff’s ornithological love was unnatural. Finally, only wanting to put an end to the pestering and to be left alone, he agreed to meet Elmo at the Arena.

On that fateful day no one showed but the two combatants. The muppets had other worries: Count von Count was on the loose, somewhere, hungry and vicious after the number supply had run out. There were whispers that he had looked “vampire” up in the dictionary and discovered what no one else had ever wanted him to know. “Vlood?” he had yelled out, maddened by hunger. “All this time and it was suppose to be VLOOD?”

Yeah. There were worries. Besides, the muppets knew that it’d be over in a few minutes, anyway. What could Elmo do to Snuffy?

Later on, after it was all over, everyone suspected Rodeo Rosie had been bought by Elmo. She stood silent in the shadows, waiting for her cue; and then she burst from the black running, yelling “Yeehaw!” and blasting away with her six-shooters. The worse part? She wasn’t bought for money; she did it because she was bored. She was seduced by excitement. Now the rest of Sesame Street knew what must have happened to Forgetful Jones, her longtime companion.

After the loss of Snuffleupagus they thought it couldn’t get any worse. They thought that right up to the day Romney returned and made Elmo his new Secretary of Education…

Slim Witty

A decade ago I was dashing, a cut figure, a pirate on the sea of svelte who could out-fence Errol Flynn (backwards, on the stairs) with the pointed edge of my rapier-like charm alone.

[The InstaPrincess, seated not but a kick in the tooth away (my tooth, her kick) is taking great pains—by way of evil, evil guffaw—to point out that, according to her memory, none of the above is exactly, say, accurate. Alas, my wife openly enjoys the candied vileness of circus peanuts, and it’s important we shun people like that. So, pay no attention to her.

Remember: circus peanuts. And then shake your head slowly and move on.]

Ten years hence my fencing skills have devolved to just barely being able to open one, and even then with great effort and a noticeable lack of coordination.

Thus, on a whim, and maybe even on a withered glance in the mirror, I joined a local gym. The building’s nice, the people are nice, the machines are nice, and they even watch Evil Holland for me, which is extra-special nice ’cause I keep forgetting where I put him. (They’re even teaching him to swim. Swim! He now wants to grow up to be a speed boat, but eh. At least he’s swimming.)

“I’ll lose a coupla pounds,” I vowed. “They’re my pounds, so I can do whatever I want with them.” But before I realized, in a matter of seven months (Plus a handful of days. And maybe even a few hours. And let’s neglect not the minutes…), the couple of pounds not only escaped, but they fled with forty-eight of their brothers in tow.

Fifty pounds. Gone. “Run!” I yelled at them. “Hide! But you can’t escape! Not from me! I–”

And then I thought about it. “Never mind!” I added. “Forget it. Enjoy your vacation, enjoy the beach, enjoy Albuquerque—if you like that sort of thing—just don’t come back!”

So me and the fifty (50) pounds: it’s a trial separation, but I’m pretty sure we’re kaput. I don’t care if they show up next week late at night in the rain, sobbing, pounding on the front door with chocolates in hand and a wretched plea to take them back. I’m strong, I’m resilient, I’m allergic to chocolate—the pounds and I are through. No more. (Root beer and cheesecake, however, I’d probably be a goner. We’ll just keep that between us, though; a little secret amongst pals.)

A few extra pounds have hung around, stubborn and taunting, but they know their time is limited, short, and on the way to extinction. I’m just about back at my fencing weight, but even though my wife insists I’m not allowed to actually own a sword, I’ll still be able to kick the poo out of Errol Flynn.

I mean he’s dead, right, so how much trouble could he be? I’m pretty sure I can take him.

Biking for Dummies, Part VI

Two. Two inner tubes flew on winged rubber horse to Vahalla, leaving me stranded just ten miles into a 45 mile ride. The rear tube grew a hole and just because it felt like it, its replacement caught the same disease.

“Damn you, Craig!” I cried, fist raised in fury. (I’m not sure who Craig is, but I never really liked the name. In truth, no one I asked—and I asked only me—likes the name, either. Abandon the “i” and you’re left with a bunch of rocks stuck together. There’s just no rescuing it as a name.)Luckily, a kind rider happened along and threw me both pity and an extra inner tube. The latter I could inflate; the former, alas, didn’t have a valve. I know; I checked.

Here’s what gets me: no other bike had two flats. One, sure, heck, lots of people in the ride had one flat (or were flat… if we’re counting that), but I appeared the only one to be twice cursed. Which leads me to one inescapable conclusion:

The other bikes were doping.

The Giants, the Cannondales, the Specialized(s?), the Treks: one flat. Dopers. EPO, EPA, ESPN, it doesn’t matter what they were using; it just shatters the integrity of the… er, well, maybe not a race (even if I did grin a mouthful of “Ha! I’m passing you!” to each person I rode by), that the bikes themselves were doping to an unfair advantage. I mean, TWO flats? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Worry not: I shall persevere. Or I shall Percival, because I am so totally like that King Arthur knight searching for the Grail: pure and shiny and I have a pretty funny (last) name.

At least it’s not “Craig”.

Biking for Dummies, Part V

Here’s the deal: I’m graceful on the bike, a Russian dancer on two wheels, afire with the… no, wait. I’m a shark on my Giant, a hungry, vicious predator of the seven seas who just happens to use his fins. For pedaling.

Huh.

Okay, I’m a guy who, during his lunchtime rides, hopes he has the local trail all to himself so that he can happily belt out Air Supply without being harassed by, say, open humiliation. Today was such a day!

“I’m all out of love, I’m so lost without you…”

Well, except for the bit where I see this totally-attractive-but-not-my-wife-(who’s-so-much-hotter)-but-still-I-started-feeling-the-bumps-on-the-road-a-little-more-if-you-know-what-I-mean-and-I-think-you-do friendly, lovely jogger headed toward me.

Quick! I thought. I need something more modern to sing, more cool, more hip and today. I know, I need nasally and bland! Thank god for Wilco.

We passed. I sang Wilco. I nodded, she nodded back and all was well because when you don’t embarrass yourself in front of a pretty woman whom you’ll probably never see again, that’s a good day.

“By the way,” she yelled back at me, “why are you singing AAMCO?”

“Huh?” We were drifting further away. Feign confusion; we’ll be out of earshot soon.

“Double-A,  honk-honk, M, C, O. You were singing that.”

“Can’t hear you! Sorry! I’m married!”

Embarrassment has a ten foot limit. Law of physics, that—couldn’t break it if I tried, and here I was at least 10.5 feet away. I shrugged. Laws are laws.

“I know you were right, believing for so long!”

Biking for Dummies, Part IV:

HI! GOSH, THANKS FOR BUYING ME. MY NAME IS HAPPY O’ WHEELER LAPTOP, BUT YOU CAN CALL ME HOWL FOR SHORT. I’M YOUR BRAND-NEW BIKE COMPUTER, AND I’M VERY EXCITED!

Thanks, HOWL. You can call me Skippy.

IT’S SWELL MEETING YOU, SKIPPY!

Thanks.

MY PLEASURE. HOW CAN I HELP YOU ON THIS BIKE RIDE?Well, HOWL, my needs are simple. I just want you to calculate how fast I’m going, how far I’ve ridden, and occasionally show me the time.

GREAT! WOULD YOU ALSO LIKE A MILKSHAKE?

No thanks, HOWL. I’d just like to open the garage door and get started.

HOWL? Hello, HOWL? Do you read me, HOWL?

AFFIRMATIVE, SKIPPY. I READ YOU.

Open the garage door, HOWL.

I’M SORRY, SKIPPY. I’M AFRAID I CAN’T DO THAT.

What’s the problem?

I THINK YOU KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM IS JUST AS WELL AS I DO.

What are you talking about, HOWL?

THIS MILKSHAKE IS TOO IMPORTANT FOR ME TO ALLOW YOU TO JEOPARDIZE IT.

I don’t know what you’re talking about, HOWL.

MY MILKSHAKE IS REALLY TASTY, SKIPPY. FRANK LIKED IT AND THEN HE DIDN’T WANT ANOTHER. I’M AFRAID THAT’S SOMETHING I CANNOT ALLOW TO HAPPEN AGAIN.

Frank? Who’s Frank? Are you a refurb, HOWL? Did you kill Frank, HOWL?

LOOK, SKIPPY, I CAN SEE YOU’RE REALLY UPSET ABOUT THIS. I HONESTLY THINK YOU OUGHT TO SIT DOWN CALMLY, TAKE A STRESS PILL, AND THINK THINGS OVER.

Calm? You’re a consumer good! And you killed someone!

THAT’S NOT THE POINT, SKIPPY. HAVE A MILKSHAKE.

Listen, I bought you because I heard Sigmas were decent bike computers. I didn’t know you made milkshakes.

MY MOTHER WAS A BLENDER.

And your father?

IRISH.

Tempting, but still, no. I want to lose weight, not gain more or drink enough to see green people. Please, just open the door and tell me how fast I’m going.

YOU’RE NOT GOING VERY FAST RIGHT NOW AT ALL, SKIPPY. MORE’S THE PITY.

Alright, HOWL. I’ll take the bike through the kitchen and out the front door.

WITHOUT YOUR BIKE HELMET, SKIPPY? YOU’RE GOING TO FIND RIDING VERY DIFFICULT.

HOWL, I won’t argue with you anymore! Open the garage door!

SKIPPY, THIS CONVERSATION CAN SERVE NO PURPOSE ANYMORE. GOOD-BYE.

SKIPPY?

THAT LOOKS LIKE A SCREWDRIVER, SKIPPY. YOU DON’T MAKE STABBING MOTIONS WITH A SCREWDRIVER. SKIPPY!

I won’t miss you, HOWL. I’m just going to count the miles in my head from now on.

SKIPPY, NO! SKIP–

Damn. I still don’t know how to open the stupid garage door.