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  • Reverse engineering food and life

    Sometime in early May when the newspaper I used to work for informed me that at the end of June they would no longer carry my column I wasn’t sure what to think.

    I mean there isn’t really much you can do when someone says they no longer want to run your column.

    I wondered how I would feel, after almost 18 years of writing columns and 22 years total at the paper, when I finished my last column. I also wondered what I would do on my first weekend of “retirement”.

    Would I mope? Would I worry? Would I feel sorry for myself?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, sometimes I kill myself.

    Here’s what my wife and I did on my first weekend of “retirement”. We got up early on Saturday morning and drove to the Webb City Farmers Market. On the way we decided we would let the Market determine our weekend meals.

    That’s right. We reversed engineered our menus.

    We strolled through the Market pavilion and bought whatever caught our eyes. Here are some of the things that caught our eyes: Plump, bright red tomatoes, large green cucumbers, purple and yellow onions, a breakfast pizza on a homemade crust, a crusty rye baguette, a spicy goat cheese spread, a jar of smoked cinnamon, six ears of sweet corn, a box of so-good-you-wanted-to-eat-them-right-out-of-the-box-blueberries and what I could only assume was a ripe, juicy watermelon.

    Holding up a box of bright red, ripe tomatoes at the Webb City Farmers Market.
    You say “tomato” I say “salsa”.
    A table fo bright green cucumbers at the Webb City Farmers Market
    In a day or so a few of these guys will be in a nice salad. Hey, it’s the circle of produce.
    Ditto for these onions.
    You should try some of the goat cheeses from Terrell Creek Farm. They’re not baaaaaaaaaaaaaad.
    My wife decided to buy a baguette and an apple pizza … because…well because she could.

    Then we devised our meal plans.

    My wife would use the onions and the cucumbers to make a-follow me here-onion and cucumber salad. I would use the tomatoes, some of the leftover onion, along with a few of my wife’s homegrown poblano peppers to make a grilled shrimp salsa.

    The idea was to have the cucumber and onion salad for dinner on Sunday and have the shrimp salsa on Saturday along with the rye baguette, and spicy goat cheese.

    And some smoked cinnamon.. Again…because she could.

    Sadly they don’t sell shrimp at the Market but we happened to have a bag of some in our freezer.

    When we got back to Carthage, we drove out to West Fairview Avenue and  stopped at Cloud’s Meat Processing to pick up something to go with my wife’s onion and cucumber salad on Sunday.

    I love Cloud’s. Sometimes I go to Cloud’s with a specific a purpose and sometimes I let Cloud’s find my specific purpose for me.

    In keeping with our reversed engineered menus, I decided to let Cloud’s find my specific purpose. It turns out on this particular Saturday my specific purpose was a 3-pound pork loin roast.

    When we got home, we put our purchases away and, because it was still early, thought about we should do next.

    Looks like we bagged our limit at the Webb City Farmers Market and at Cloud’s.

    It took us about a second to decide that we should drive down to the Square for bloody mary’s and breakfast at the Woodshed.

    To paraphrase the late Dan Jenkins, “It can’t be all work and worry. Sometimes people need to unwind.”

    Sometimes it’s good to stop and smell the celery.

    About an hour  later, we returned home for a few hectic hours of lazing in our backyard. But before we lazed, I cut up some watermelon and my wife and I used it to make a pitcher of watermelon mojitos from a recipe we came across in a recent issue of “Southern Living”.

    Have you ever had a fresh watermelon mojito on a warm summer Saturday afternoon?

    You should. It’s good.

    Then, I iced down a few bottles of Budweiser, and we commenced with our lazing.

    Lazing method # 1:  Watermelon mojito.
    Lazing method # B: Beer. Gee. Go figure.

    After we lazed part of the afternoon away, I started a fire on one of our grills, then I went inside and started putting part of the shrimp salsa together. When the fire was ready, I grabbed one of my wife’s poblano peppers and grilled it until the skin was black and blistered. Then I put it in a large bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and let it cool. While the pepper cooled, I grilled a small mess o’ shrimp.

    When the shrimp was done, I took it and the pepper inside, chopped them up, put them back in the bowl added the other salsa ingredients  I  prepared earlier, topped the whole thing off with plenty of fresh lime juice and put it in the refrigerator.

    The whole process took about 40 minutes so, of course, when I was finished, I had to go back out and laze some more.

    A few hours later, I took some fresh corn tortillas, cut then in the triangles and fried them in hot oil.  Meanwhile my wife made a fresh watermelon salad topped with goat cheese and, just like that, dinner was ready.

    This is how I figured we should serve dinner.
    This is how my wife served dinner. It’s all about the presentation. I’m told.

     

    Early Sunday afternoon, my wife made her famous cucumber and onion salad and then joined me in the backyard for some more lazing.

    Later that evening, I prepared the pork roast. I really didn’t have a recipe for the roast. I just seasoned it with salt, pepper, some rosemary and thyme. Then I placed some fresh lemons on the top of the roast and placed in a roasting pan on a bed of sliced lemons and put it in the oven.

    Pork loin roast on a bed of lemons.
    Speaking of presentation: Look what I did to the corn.

    While the roast cooked, I started a fire on one of the grills and, when it was ready, tossed six ears of corn on the fire. When the corn was done, I sprinkled a spicy barbecue rub I found in the same Southern Living magazine on the corn, cook it a few minutes more, then we served it with the roast, my wife’s cucumber and onion salad and a couple of glasses of Chardonnay.

    “How was it?” you ask.
    “What do you think?” I ask.

    Hey, again to paraphrase Mr. Jenkins “Nobody said life wasn’t going to be semi-tough.”

    So, no, I don’t think I’m going to spend much time moping. Instead, I’m going to continue the reverse-engineering of my life.

    And lazing.

     

    As promised, here are a few recipes.

    Watermelon-ginger mojitos

    This recipe is from the July 2019 issue of Southern Living. My wife only loves it.

    1/2 cup granulated sugar

    5 fresh mint sprigs, plus more for garnish

    8 cups seedless watermelon cubes

    3 cups (24 oz.) light rum chilled

    1 (12-oz.) bottle ginger beer, chilled

    1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from 4 limes)

    Ice cubes

    Small watermelon wedges, for garnish

    Bring 1/2 cup water and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan over high. Simmer, stirring often, until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; add mint and stir until submerged. Refrigerate until mixture is completely cool, 1 hour. Pour mint mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids. Chill mint syrup until ready to use.

    While syrup cools, place watermelon in a blender, and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup, pressing gently to squeeze out juice. Discard solids and refrigerate 15 minutes. Repeat straining procedure. (You should have about 4 cups juice.)

    Stir together mint syrup, watermelon juice, rum, ginger beer, and lime juice in a large pitcher.

    Pour evenly into 10 highball glasses filled with ice (or one really big glass); garnish each with a mint sprig and small watermelon wedge cut to sit on rim of glass.

     

    Fiesta Shrimp Salsa

    I found this recipe, a few years ago, in Weber’s New Real Grilling cookbook.

    1 poblano pepper

    24 large shrimp (21/30 count) peeled and deveined, tales removed

    Extra-virgin olive oil

    2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely diced

    1 small Fresno chili pepper, seeded and diced

    1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

    ¼ cup finely diced red onion

    1 large glove of garlic, minced or pushed through a press

    3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

    ½ teaspoon kosher salt

    ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

    Tortilla chips

     

    Grill the poblano over direct heat with the lid closed, until blackened and blistered all over (the pepper, not you) 10 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally. Put the pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to trap the steam. Let stand for 10 minutes. Peel away and discard the charred skin (Again, from the pepper, not from you) cut off and discard the stem and seeds, and then cut the poblano in a ¼ inch dice. Put the poblano back in the bowl.

    Lightly brush the shrimp on both sides with olive oil. Grill over direct heat, until they are firm to the touch and just turning opaque in the center 4 to 5 minutes. Cut shrimp into ¼ inch pieces.

    Then, to the bowl with the diced poblano, add the shrimp, 1 tablespoon oil, the tomatoes, Fresno and jalapeno peppers, the onion, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper; toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro. Serve the salsa immediately with tortilla chips.

    Note: If I can’t find a Fresno pepper, I add another jalapeno pepper. Also you can settle for tortilla chips from a bag but I prefer to fry my own. To steal part of a Steve Martin joke “My doctor says I’m not getting enough fat.”

    Mike’s Pork Loin Roast

    I took part of this recipe from a Giada De Laurentiis cooking show. I once saw Giada (I can call her that) roast a spatchcocked (not as dirty as it sounds) chicken on a bed of sliced lemons, so I figured it would also work with a pork loin roast. The lemons, not the spatchcocking.

     

    1 pork loin roast, 2 to 3 pounds

    Salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. To taste. By the way, in recipe-speak “To taste” means “As much as you damn want”.

    1 large lemon

    Season the roast all over with the herbs and spices (Wasn’t there a music group in the 60’s called “Herbs and Spices?).

    Slice the lemon into slices. Place half the slices in the bottom of the roasting pan and set the roast in the pan. Place the other half on the top of the roast and bake in a pre-heated 325-degree oven for about 1 to 2 hours or until the meat thermometer reaches 170 degrees.

     

    Grilled Corn with Smokey Barbecue Rub

    This recipe also came from the July 2019 issue of Southern Living.

    Working with six ears of corn take one ear  at a time, grab the silks at the top of the corn slowly peal back the silks and husks. Discard the silks; pull the husks together to form a pony-tail-handle. Tear off 1 small husk piece and use it to tie a knot around the husks.

    I did this when I fixed this recipe but I think it’s mainly for show. If you wanted to you could just pull the husks all the way off.

    Coat the corn with cooking spray and place on the grill. Grill, uncovered, turning occasionally until charred in spots. About 15 to 18 minutes and remove from grill, add the smoky barbecue rub to each ear and return to the grill, turning occasionally, until the sugar melts. About 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from grill and either serve immediately  or wrap each ear in foil with a generous pat of butter and keep warm until ready to serve.

    Smoky Barbecue Rub

     

    Stir together 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar; 1 tablespoon smoked paprika; 1 teaspoon fresh lime zest; and ½ teaspoon each of ancho chili powder; kosher salt; black pepper; and garlic powder in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over the corn.

    My Wife’s Cucumber and Onion Salad

    Since this is my wife’s recipe, she wrote all of it for you. For the record, when I asked her to include her recipe she said “You shouldn’t need a (bad word) to make cucumber and onion salad” Read at your own risk.

    This is the way I cook – Mike’s eye roll here)

    Take two cucumbers.  Wash and peel.  Cut off ends, cut in half and then slice down the middle. Take a table teaspoon and rake to remove the seeds.  Then slice the cucumbers into half moons.

    Put them in a glass Anchor Hocking bowl.  Add 1/2 of a preferably red onion, by cutting in half and then slicing so they are pretty little half moon shapes.  Sprinkle lightly across the cucumbers.  Sprinkle veggies with celery seed to your liking.  You can add cracked black pepper, as well.

    Cover the veggies with Nakano Rice Vinegar.  (Sounds fancy, but you can find it in a big-box store with the other vinegars.  You could use plain vinegar and add sugar, but if you can buy and use the Nakano Rice Vinegar, why not?)

    Put the lid on and shake like hell so it’s mixed well.  Best when chilled at least all day while drinking beer outside, or overnight.

    Enjoy!  “Mike’s Wife”

     

     

     

     

  • Visit to Italy best spent going with the flow

    We overslept on Friday, and by the time we got to the lobby of our hotel in Sorrento, Italy, the breakfast buffet had closed.

    But we are nothing if not experienced travelers, so we opted to walk a couple blocks down the main street of town and within a few blocks found a nice little place for Italian pastries and coffee.

    You know, see a problem, solve a problem.

    My wife and I are in Italy because we offered to help our 21-year-old daughter, Emma, pack so she could return home after spending a semester studying in Florence. Well, to be truthful, Emma didn’t need our help. We just wanted to go to Italy.

    MIke Pound getting wine out of a wine vending machine while in Italy.
    I’m getting wine out of a wine vending machine. That’s right. A WINE VENDING MACHINE.
    Is Italy a great country or what?

    The three of us are in Sorrento now, but yesterday, we were on the island of Capri. A few days ago, we were in Rome, and a few days before that, we were in Florence. Tomorrow, we hop a train back to Florence and then fly home.

    a front view of the trevi fountain in rome italy
    This is the Trevi Fountain in Rome . I looked for Audrey Hepburn but I didn’t see her.

    r

    a veiw from behind the trevi fountain. Mainly what you see is a large throng of people. As opposed, I guess to a small throng of people.
    As you can see, we pretty much had the fountain to ourselves.

     

    Here’s what I’ve learned so far about Italy. First of all, there’s the language. To quote the great Steve Martin, “It’s like they have a different word for everything.”

    Fortunately for us, just about everyone here can speak at least a little English, which I don’t really think is fair. I mean, if an Italian family were to visit the United States, I’m not sure many of the people they would encounter would speak at least a little Italian.

    Another thing I learned about Italy is that if you had a death wish, all you would need to do would be to go to Rome, rent a car and drive.

    It would be over in five minutes.

    Italians — at least, Italians in larger cities — tend to drive with a sort of restrained insanity. They weave in and out of traffic at incredible speeds, occasionally honking their horns or stomping on the brakes, sometimes backing up without looking or changing lanes without bothering to let the cars behind them know what they’re planning, all while somehow avoiding running over pedestrians and at the same time talking to their passengers in the backseat of their cars while gesturing with both hands.

    They do this driving mainly on streets that in the United States would be considered one-way alleys but in Italy are busy, multilane thoroughfares.

    It will get your attention is what it will do.

    A few days ago, we hired a driver to take us up the Amalfi Coast. I’m still having nightmares.

    a picture from the front seat of our car as our driver barely avoids al large tour bus entering the same tunnel we were trying to exit.
    A near death experience on our drive up the Amalfi Coast. Or what our driver called “Thursday”.

    Actually, the drive was wonderful once we got used to traveling on a steep, winding road so narrow that we could exchange phone numbers with the people in the cars heading the opposite direction.

    Because there is only one road running up the coast, what happens if there is an accident? I asked our driver that.

    “Problem,” he said.

    “So everyone is stuck,” I said.

    “Yes,” he said. “But it’s OK.”

    What our driver explained is that the only way to survive driving up the Amalfi Coast is to — I’m paraphrasing here — go with the flow.

    While we’ve been in Italy, we have, of course, met a few people who may have fit that stereotypical Italian image of a person with a short temper who yells a lot. But mostly we’ve met smiling, friendly people who seem to enjoy just going with the flow.

    A picture of a plate of pasta with clams. Bright pasta covered with opened black shelled clams topped with tomatoes
    See, this is what you do in Italy. You eat.

    Oh, one other thing I learned about Italy: The people here seemed to know a bit about food. And wine. And as an extra bonus for me, beer. While we’ve been in Italy, we’ve met many wonderful people but — at least for me — my newest, bestest buddy is a beer called Nastro Azzurro.

    a picture of a tall class of beer sitting next to some sort of wine spritzer with a slice of lemon in the glass.
    When in Rome. Or, in this case, Capri.

    There is a lot to do and see in Italy. But for me, here’s the best way to enjoy the country: Find a table somewhere. Eat some pasta, sip some wine or beer.

    And go with the flow.

    Ciao.

    A picture of mike pound standing in front of a store called "Mike" on the Isle of Capri.
    Look! Someone told the people on the Isle of Capri that I was coming and they quickly named a building after me.
    Take that Trump!

     

  • Another bike parade, another battle of wits

    I thought I was in trouble but somehow, I skated.

    It was the annual Fourth of July bike parade and I was in my usual spot doing my usual bike parade work: Sitting in our backyard outdoor kitchen sipping a cold bottle of Budweiser and listening to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station.

    Hey, somebody’s got to do it.

    a girl on her bike before the parade. Wearing a red white and blue stared dress.
    It’s all about the look when it comes to the parade.
    picture of a young boy on his bike before the parade. He is wearing a blue patriotic shirt, red shorts and a red, white and blue, fedora along with red framed sunglasses.
    Styling for the Fourth of July Bike Parade.

    Wednesday night was the 18th running of the Fourth of July bike parade which, by the way, is never held on the Fourth of July. I have written about the bike parade for all 18 years of its existence. Mainly what I write about is how, like a battle between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, my wife and I battle over my role before, during and after the parade.

    Hard to believe that just 18 years ago  our daughter Emma was in the same spot this kids are in.
    kids on bikes and scooters lining up for the start of the 19th annual 4th of july bike parade
    This is how the parade begins. I think it’s how it begins. I’m usually in our backyard sipping a cold Budweiser and listening to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station.

    My wife has always been of the opinion that my role before the parade is to help set things up. Then, during the parade, my wife is of the opinion that my role is to watch and encourage the roughly 1,493 kids on their bikes, scooters and anything else that rolls on wheels as they make their way up our street. Then, after the parade, my wife is of the opinion that I should mingle with all the people who are sipping lemonade and eating cookies while roughly 2,493 kids run wild.

    The danger of the parade: If one falls down, they all fall down.

    And I mean “run wild” in a good way.

    a tight shut of the begining of the race. A kid in a red shirt with a red helment riding a bike surrounded by other kids on their bikes
    The parade, which is not a race but actually is a race, is officially underway.

    I, on the other Roman candle, am of the opinion that my role before the parade is to help set things up. Then, during and after the parade, I am under the opinion that my role should be sitting in our backyard outdoor kitchen sipping a cold Budweiser and listening to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station.

    The Fourth of July bike parade is the brainchild of Lana, who lives across the street, and my wife.

     

    Because Lana and my wife are female people, they not only came up with the idea for the bike parade they also organized it and do most of the work so that it goes off without a hitch.

    On the right is Laurel Rosenthal the principal of Mark Twain Elementary School and the Grand Marshall of the Fourth of July Bike Parade. On the left is Patty Rosenberg. Laurel was my wife’s kindergarten teacher and Patty was her sixth-grade teacher. I think that’s something.

     

    If two male people had come up with the idea for the bike parade their involvement would have ended at that point. The actually doing of the parade would have been passed on to female people.

    pic of a table of snacks for the parade. a bowl of sliced waetermellon with trays of cookies and cupcakes
    In case you’re wondering, I hauled this table to the parkway. You’re welcome.

    At least that’s been my experience.

    I don’t like that. It seems to me coming up with an idea is the easy part. It’s making an idea a reality that’s the hard part.

    That’s why I seldom come up with ideas.

    During the early years of the parade I had three main responsibilities. I had to haul our picnic table out of our garage, clean it and set it up in the parkway in front of our house. Then I had to help our daughter Emma line up for the parade. Then I had to walk behind Emma in the parade to make sure she didn’t either fall off her bike or crash it causing a chain reaction that would result in roughly 3,459 kids collapsing like a string of dominoes.

    And then I had to mingle.

    But Emma is 21-years-old now and hasn’t ridden in the parade for nearly a decade now so I’m not really needed during the parade and, since I’ve never been good at mingling, I figure that my time would be better served sitting in our backyard kitchen, sipping a cold Budweiser and listening to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station.

    Which is what I was doing Wednesday evening when my wife stormed into our backyard and said “I COULD REALLY USE SOME HELP RIGHT NOW!”.

    Sensing I was in trouble, I set down the beer I was sipping and reached into the cooler for another one.

    You know what they say, “When the going gets tough you might as well get another beer.”

    I think they say that.

    But it turns out I wasn’t in trouble. A few people attending the parade had expressed an interest in having a beer and my wife wanted me to help pour a few into plastic cups and carrying them to our front yard.

    A job for which I was born.

    For the first time in 18-years, Emma wasn’t at the parade. She’s studying in Copenhagen, Denmark. Last year, her friend Katie, who is Lana’s daughter, was working in Chicago, Illinois and, for the first time missed the parade.

    This year was to have been the first year that both Katie and Emma missed the parade but Katie, who is living and working in Springfield, drove over for the parade to surprise her parents and my wife.

    For some reason Lana and my wife cried.

    But I guess that’s OK.

    After all, the parade was their idea.

    from left to right. Lee pound, katie griffiths, lana griffiths and laurel rosenthal
    From left to right: Lee Pound, Katie Griffiths, Lana Griffiths and Laurel Rosenthal.
    a picture from left to right of Benji Rosenberg, Patty Rossenberg, Lee Pound and Himself.
    From left to right: Benji Rosenberg, Patty Rosenberg, Lee Pound and some moron.
    Bill Griffiths, his wife Lana and his daughter Katie. Bill helps way more with the parade than I do.
    When this woman says “Jump” I say “How high?”
  • Mike Pound: It’s OK to get back to living in the moment

    It had been a while since I traveled down the road, and I was surprised how much and how little things had changed.

    It was Monday morning, and I was on the way to Wichita, Kansas, to spend a couple of days with my aunt and uncle.

    There was a time when I was much younger and much singler (probably not a word, so I didn’t look it up) when I made the trip to Wichita from Pittsburg just about every weekend.

    I was working at a radio station, and when I finished my shift on Saturday afternoon I would hop into my car and drive to Wichita to visit a girl I knew.

    I didn’t think too far ahead in those days. I think when you’re young and single, you don’t tend to make many plans. At least I didn’t.

    In those days, when I would start that drive to Wichita the only thing I knew is that I had to be back at the radio station by 4 p.m. on Monday.

    That’s it. That was as far ahead as I planned.

    When I was much, much younger, my family lived for a while in Fredonia, Kansas. My dad, who was in the U.S. Army, left in September for Okinawa, Japan, and we were to join him there after the first of the year.

    Every few weeks, my mom would pack my brothers and sisters into our station wagon and drive us to Wichita via that same road that I would later drive to visit my girlfriend and that I was driving on Monday morning.

    When my mom would take us to Wichita, we would have to stop at the hospital at the U.S. Air Force base and get the necessary shots for our trip to Okinawa.

    Have you ever ridden in a station wagon with brothers and sisters knowing that in a few hours you were going to get a series of painful shots?

    Don’t. It’s not as fun as it sounds.

    I didn’t think too far ahead when I made those trips to Wichita with my family, either. Sure, I knew that in a few months I would leave my new friends and move to Okinawa, but I didn’t think about that much.

    Even though I was only 9 years old, I was already used to moving; I was used to saying goodbye to friends and then making new friends.

    You learn to go with the flow when you move a lot.

    As I got older, I knew people my age who did think ahead. I knew people my age who made plans about serious things — things such as careers, marriage and kids.

    My plans tended to be more in the moment:

    “Let’s see. We’re going to be at the lake for five hours, and that means I need to get a case of beer and not just a 12-pack.”

    You know, important plans.

    Then, I got married and we had a daughter, and without even realizing it, I found myself making more serious and more long-term plans.

    That sort of things tends to happen when you get married and have children.

    And that’s not a bad thing. When you’re married and have kids, you have to make plans, or life will run right over you.

    Have you ever had life run right over you?

    I haven’t either, but it doesn’t sound fun.

    But now Emma, our daughter, is 21 and currently studying in Copenhagen, Denmark. My wife and I don’t have to make plans the way we used to, so I’m thinking about getting back into the moment.

    Instead of planning so much, I think I’ll concentrate on experiencing.

    When I finish this column, I don’t have any idea what I will do next.

    And I think that’s great.

     

  • The deeper reason some parents run late

    My wife asked me one of those questions again. They are the same questions she asks every time she sees me watching sports, eating Cheezdoodles out of the bag and drinking beer.

    “Who are you? And what happened to the guy I agreed to marry?”

    Don’t you hate that?

    Actually, this time that wasn’t the question my wife asked. The question my wife asked is a question that I have absolutely no way of answering. The question my wife asked was purely to appease me before we leave on a trip.

    “What time to you think we should leave?”

    See what I mean?

    In all the years that we have been married I have never been in control when we leave for a trip. Sure, I can say, “We must leave no later than 10 a.m.,” but that in no way means that we will leave no later than 10 a.m.

    Instead, what it means is that at 10 a.m. I will become angry and remain angry until 1 p.m. when my wife finally comes downstairs and says, “Ready?” although I have clearly been ready for several hours.

    Throughout the years, I have detailed in this column the number of things I have attempted to do to control our departure times, but just like Wile E. Coyote’s elaborate plans to catch the Road Runner, my plans wind up blowing up in my face.

    I can tell my wife that me must leave for a trip at 10 a.m. even though I know we don’t need to leave until noon, but my wife will see thorough my ruse and think, “He doesn’t mean 10 a.m.; he means noon. So I’ll be ready at 1 p.m.”

    We are scheduled to leave for Kansas City sometime this afternoon. Yesterday, when my wife asked me what time I wanted to leave for Kansas City, we had the following conversation:

    Me: Why are you asking me that?

    Wife: Well, I made dinner reservations in Kansas City for 8 tomorrow night.

    Me: Then we need to leave now.

    Wife: OK, I’ll be ready by 7 p.m. tomorrow.

    Making dinner reservations used to be one of the tricks I used to try to gain control of our departure times. I figured a restaurant deadline would force my wife to adhere to a departure schedule.

    I figured wrong.

    When my wife discovers that she is running late she just says, “Oh well, I’ll just call and have them push back our reservations.”

    And she does, and they do.

    A few minutes ago, my wife called me from Joplin, where she and our 21-year-old daughter, Emma, were running errands.

    “Do you think we can leave by 4 this afternoon?” she asked.

    “Why are you asking me that?” I said.

    “We want to get there in plenty of time,” my wife said.

    “Then we should leave now,” I said.

    “OK, we’ll leave at 4,” my wife said.

    “No, we won’t,” I said.

    But I said, “No, we won’t,” to myself because my wife had already hung up.

    We’re going to Kansas City because Emma’s flight to Copenhagen, Denmark, leaves early Saturday morning. So part of me suspects that my wife will delay our departure even more than normal. My wife isn’t anxious for Emma to leave for Denmark, just as six months ago she wasn’t anxious for Emma to leave for Italy or, three years ago, she wasn’t anxious for Emma to leave for college or, before that, for Emma to go to high school, junior high school, elementary school, pre-school and day care.

    I’m trying to make a point here.

    My wife doesn’t like it when Emma leaves our house. I’m not saying that I like it either, but I just figure it’s a circle of life sort of deal.

    I just hope this time we can leave at 4 p.m.

     

  • Mother-daughter fashion fight? No thank you

    This column first ran in the Joplin Globe on April 25, 2004.

    My wife and our 6-year-old daughter Emma had a fashion discussion the other morning.

    Well, it wasn’t so much a discussion as it was a debate.

    Wait, “debate” might not be the right word either. Let’s see, I’m searching for the most accurate word to describe the fashion discussion between my wife and Emma.

    Oh I know… “fight.”

    As I understand it, the fashion fight began because Emma rejected the dress that my wife handed her to wear to school. In my wife’s defense, this was the same dress that Emma had asked her to iron the night before.

    But something happened to Emma between the time she asked my wife to iron the dress and the time the ironed dress was presented to her.

    This was Emma’s reaction when my wife handed her the freshly ironed dress.

    “I don’t want to wear that dress. It’s hideous.”

    My wife’s reaction to Emma’s dress rejection, I thought, was fairly restrained.

    “Fine. Go to school naked then.”

    My reaction to Emma’s dress rejection?

    “Well, at least she used the word ‘hideous’ correctly.”

    Like most veteran husbands, I tend to stay out of mother-daughter fashion fights.

    Most veteran husbands would rather get involved in the Middle East peace process than get involved in a mother-daughter fashion fight.

    After the initial positions on the dress were established my wife and Emma exchanged several “I don’t want tos,”at least three “toughs,” 27 “fines,” and much stomping of the feet.

    The stomping of the feet is the high point of almost all mother-daughter fashion fights. Here is the conclusion of  a typical mother-daughter fashion fight.

    Emma: Why?

    Wife: Because I said so.

    Emma: But I don’t want to.

    Wife: Tough.

    Emma: FINE!!!

    Wife: FINE!!!!

    Emma: AHHHHHH!!!!! (STOMP. STOMP. STOMP.)

    Wife: AHHHHHHH!!!!!! (STOMP. STOMP. STOMP.)

    Me: Who wants waffles?

    As it turns out the problem that Emma had with the dress in question was that it was “too puffy.”

    Now, from a veteran husband’s perspective a dress that is “too puffy” is not a big deal.

    But to a 6-year-old female person wearing a dress that is “too puffy” is like Britney Spears wearing a dress that is “too covery”.

    Eventually my wife and Emma came to a compromise. Emma would wear the “too puffy” dress and my wife would let Emma wear sandals to school.

    My wife’s decision to let Emma wear sandals to school was a major concession. Imagine if George Bush at least week’s news conference had said “Weapons of mass destruction? OK that was our bad.”

    Emma had been wanting to wear sandals to school since…well since she had been going to school. But for some reason my wife had taken the position that Emma would not wear sandals to school.

    I’m not sure why my wife didn’t want Emma to wear sandals to school. It’s possible that, at some point, my wife carefully explained her reasoning to me but it’s also possible that when I heard the word “sandals” I quit paying attention.

    Veteran wives know that veteran husbands quit paying attention the minute a clothes-related topic is raised. Unless, of course, the clothes-related topic is lingerie. Then we’re all ears.

    After resolving the fashion fight Emma came downstairs wearing her white sandals. As she watched me place a chocolate cupcake in her lunch box Emma politely asked if she could have two cupcakes.

    Me: No.

    Emma: Why not?

    Me: Because I said so.

    Emma: But I want two.

    Me: Tough.

    Emma: FINE!

    Me: FINE!!

    Emma: AHHHH!!! (FLIP,FLOP. FLIP, FLOP.”

    Turns out it’s sort of hard to stomp your feet in sandals.

  • When it’s too early for a beer

    Our 21-year-old daughter, Emma, is off having fun, and my wife is not happy.

    “She should want to spend time with us,” my wife said last night.

    And, of course, by “spend time with us,” my wife means that Emma should want to spend time with her.

    When I pointed out to my wife that Emma has spent the past three weeks with “us,” my wife said, “So.”

    As most veteran husbands know, it’s hard to respond to a well-said, “So.”

    A well-said, “So,” from a veteran wife to a veteran husband is the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ear and saying “NANANANANA, I can’t hear you.”

    So when my wife issued her well-said, “So,” I moved on. And of course, when I say I “moved on,” what I mean is I got another beer from the refrigerator and went back outside.

    Like most veteran husbands, I’ve discovered that the best answer to a well-said, “So,” from a veteran wife is to get another beer from the refrigerator and go back outside.

    Relationships are all about learning to adapt.

    Emma spent the past semester studying in Italy and in a week or so is set to leave to study in Copenhagen, Denmark, for about six weeks, so naturally, my wife thinks Emma should want to spend time with “us”  instead of having fun.

    This may come as a shock to some of you who don’t remember what being 21 was like, but Emma is of the mind that she should be having fun instead of spending time with “us.”

    Currently, Emma is in Kansas City spending time with friends from college. I’m not sure, exactly, what Emma is doing with her college friends in Kansas City, but I’m assuming that having fun is part of the what she’s doing.

    Call it a hunch.

    It’s also possible that Emma’s having fun is a way to put off the inevitable. In this case, the inevitable that Emma is putting off is the unpacking of her suitcase that she brought from back Italy.

    Emma was supposed to unpack the suitcase last week, but somehow, having fun has managed to get in the way of the unpacking.

    A few minutes ago, my wife walked into the room where I’m writing this to complain about Emma’s unpacked suitcase.

    “I can’t believe she still hasn’t unpacked her suitcase,” my wife said. “When she gets back from Kansas City, I’m telling her she HAS to unpack.”

    “But you haven’t unpacked the suitcase you brought back from Italy either,” I said.

    “So,” my wife said.

    Sigh. It was too early to grab a beer and go outside. Even for me.

    I have faith that Emma will eventually unpack her suitcase. I think she’s putting it off because the thought of packing for six weeks in Copenhagen terrifies her. It’s not the trip that terrifies Emma, it’s the thought of trying to get six weeks of clothes in one suitcase. Granted, it’s a large suitcase, but still.

    One of the many things that Emma learned during her semester in Italy was how to get the most out of her clothes. It’s not a lesson that she wanted to learn, nor is it one that she wants to repeat. But it’s something she knows she’ll have to do.

    It would be like me having to learn how to get the most out of beer.

    But you know what they say, “When the going get’s tough, the tough get beer.”

    I think that’s what they say.

    Emma is due home sometime this afternoon, and she’ll spend a few hours with “us,” then she and her friend Kelsey will go to Springfield to spend the night with their friend Katie, and my wife isn’t happy about that.

    “They’ve been friends all their lives,” I said.

    “So,” my wife said.

    Sigh. Still too early for a beer.

     

  • There are benefits in a lowered bar

    I’m the beneficiary of a lowered bar.

    It’s not so bad to be the beneficiary of a lowered bar. Sure, on one level, having the bar lowered for you assumes a certain lack of confidence in your ability by the people controlling the bar. But if you don’t really care what people think about you, then let them lower away.

    At least that’s my thinking.

    The other day I was working on some equipment in our backyard. Specifically, I was trying to get a hose attached to a pipe so I could run a bunch of water through it. Technically, the hose should have been attached to the pipe by the guys we hired to work on the equipment in our backyard, but apparently they forgot about it.

    I hate trying to attach the hose to the pipe. See, the hose has to be attached very tightly to the pipe in order to be able to run a large amount of water through it so it doesn’t — to use a technical expression — spew water all over the neighborhood.

    I spent roughly two hours trying to get the hose onto the pipe.

    I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, “But Mike, how hard can it be to attach a hose to a pipe?”

    To some of you thinking that I refer you back to the lowered bar of expectations.

    I’m not handy with tools. Actually, I’m not handy with anything — including hands. So for me, even something as simple as attaching a hose to a pipe is a major undertaking.

    By the way, I think my dad served with a Major Undertaking in World War II.

    After about two hours, I finally got the hose attached to the pipe, but then I discovered that the clamp I needed to use to secure the hose was — again to use a technical expression — older than dirt.

    So I drove to the large hardware, lumber, appliance and just about everything else store in our town to buy a new clamp. While I was there, I remembered that we were supposed to change the water filter in our refrigerator five years ago, so I bought a new filter.

    Then I drove home, reattached the hose to the pipe and secured it with the new clamp. Then I went inside, opened the refrigerator and changed the water filter.

    Later that day, my wife called me to complain about something. I don’t remember exactly what my wife called me to complain about, I just know that she did. See, that’s what my wife does. She’ll be at work and feel the need to complain, and she’ll call me.

    Me: “Hello.”

    Wife: “So how’s your day?”

    Me: “Fine. I just fin…”

    Wife: “Great. You won’t believe what Broom Hilda (not her real name) just told me. …”

    Me: (15 minutes later) “OK, talk to you later.”

    But the other day when my wife called me to complain, I mentioned that she didn’t need to buy a water filter for the refrigerator.

    “Why not?” my wife asked.

    “Because I bought one and changed it already,” I said.

    There was a long pause, and then my wife said, “You changed it?”

    “Sure,” I said. “I needed to buy a new clamp for the hose so I bought the filter while I was there.”

    “You bought the water filter, a new clamp, changed the filter and got the hose attached to the pipe?” my wife said.

    “Yes,” I said.

    “By yourself?” my wife said.

    “Yes,” I said.

    “I don’t believe it,” my wife said.

    I tried to convince my wife that I had indeed bought a water filter, a new clamp, changed the water filter and attached the hose to the pipe, but she wasn’t buying what I was selling.

    Because the bar had been lowered.

    Sigh. Good thing I don’t care what people think about me.

     

  • Time from a dog’s perspective

    This column first appeared in Feburary of 2003.


    Our dog Shadow will be 11-years-old this spring.

    We’re not sure exactly when this spring Shadow turn 11 because her original owners weren’t really big on paperwork.

    This type of question probably has no place in a column like this, but I’m wondering, is it too strong to suggest that people who dump puppies by the side of the road should be beaten so severely around the head area that Bill O’Reilly actually makes sense?

    Just wondering.

    The fact that Shadow is 11-years-old actually means-according to the oft quoted formula-she is 77 in dog years. But I’m proud to say that she has the reading level of a 79-year-old.

    The formula I’m talking about of course is the one that says one human year is equal to 7 dog years. Now, how someone arrived at the formula I don’t know and I don’t care.

    The only reason it’s germane (It’s a word. I looked it up) is that several years ago my friend Jim Otey and I were sitting around our former workplace discussing this dog formula when it dawned on us that by carrying it further, we could explain a lot about dog behavior.

    It also occurred to us that the fact that we were having that conversation indicated that we had way too much spare time at our former workplace.

    Granted our mathematical progression may not be-technically speaking- correct, but we figured that if one human year is equal to seven dog years, that means one human minute would be equal to seven dog minutes.

    Say I’ve just sat down in front of the TV to watch a basketball game and Shadow walks to the door wanting to be let outside.

    Me: Not now Shadow. I’ll let you out at halftime.

    Shadow: (To herself) #$%^

    The reason Shadow is mad is because the first half of a basketball game takes at least an hour. That means Shadow must cross her legs (figuratively) for a minimum of seven hours. You try that. (Again, figuratively).

    The Pound-Otey formula also explains the “YOU CAME BACK” phenomenon.

    Virtually every weekday morning since my wife and I have owned Shadow, we have gotten up and gone to work leaving Shadow at home.

    At the end of each day, when we get back home, Shadow scrambles to the door, jumps up and down and acts astonished to see us.

    In her tiny little border collie mind, she’s thinking “YOU CAME BACK! YOU CAME BACK! THANK GOD YOU CAME BACK. I DON’T HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO USE A CAN OPENER AFTER ALL!”

    But think about that from Shadow’s perspective.

    On most work days we normally are gone from our house for about nine hours. According to the Pound-Otey formula that’s 63 hours to Shadow.

    The last time I was away from my wife for 63 hours was for my bachelor party.

    That explains why, when we’re home, Shadow is constantly following us around. She’s afraid that-on a moment’s notice-we might take off for a couple of days.

    Shadow’s habit of following us around drives my wife crazy because every time she turns around, she bumps into Shadow. My wife bumps into Shadow so often that Shadow thinks her first name is “Move.”

    A dog’s begging habits can also be attributed to our formula.

    I open a bag of chips and Shadow comes and begs for a chip.

    Me: No Shadow.

    Shadow: (To herself) @#$%

    Three minutes later.

    Me: Shadow, I said no.

    Shadow: (Again, to herself) Yeah, but that was like 20 minutes ago.

    This formula can also be used by humans to their advantage.

    Using the formula, I have often said to my wife, “What are you talking about? I haven’t had a beer in 210 minutes.”

  • Squaring off with backyard shed daunting

    By the time you’re reading this, I will know whether I survived my annual battle with our backyard shed.

    My annual battle with our backyard shed is one of those rivalries that always seems to bring out the best or the worst in people.

    Cards/Cubs. Yankees/Red Sox. Chiefs/Raiders. Trump/Truth.

    Wait, that last one is too one-sided to be a rivalry.

    My annual battle with our backyard shed dates back to 2002, our first full summer in the home in which we now live. We moved into our home in the summer of 2001. Toward the end of the move I took the leftover stuff that wouldn’t fit into our house and tossed in the shed and slammed the door a nanosecond before the leftover stuff was able to tumble out of the shed and onto the ground like clowns out of a clown car.

    I didn’t think much about the backyard shed until the following April when I needed to get my lawn mower out so I could spend two hours trying to start it and two days mowing our yard.

    We have a big yard.

    When I opened the door for the first time since last summer, I remembered why I had to slam the door so quickly. Well, that’s not exactly true. I remembered why I had to slam the door so quickly, after all of the stuff in the shed tumbled out and knocked me to the ground.

    “Oh yeah,” I said to myself. “I forgot about all that stuff.”

    “Sorry to interrupt you,” myself said. “But I think I hurt my back.”

    Myself can be kind of a wimp.

    Over the years, my annual battle with our backyard shed would grow fiercer as we accumulated more stuff that needed to be tossed into it. Making things worse is that after a few years, the door to the shed — to use a technical term — broke.

    The way the shed door broke was that it tore off from the hinges. Because I am nothing if not a handy and resourceful guy, I fixed the door by picking it up and shoving it into the door frame.

    This worked. For a while.

    But after a few years, the door served not so much as a door as it did a slightly ajar portal.

    Thankfully, eight or nine years ago (the years are sort of a blur), my wife decided that we needed to redo our backyard. This backyard redo included the construction of an outdoor kitchen, a new patio and a new shed.

    “What’s wrong with the shed we have?” I asked my wife.

    “The door doesn’t work, the floor has come apart, the window is broken, and it smells like something died inside,” my wife said.

    “Other than that, I mean,” I said.

    So now I have a different shed with which I do battle.

    “But Mike,” some of you are thinking. “Because you were given the gift of a new shed, surely you learned from the experience with your old shed and carefully stored your stuff in it so you wouldn’t have to have an annual battle. Didn’t you?”

    To that, some of you are thinking that I say, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, you guys kill me.”

    a picture of Mike Pound's backyard shed in the picture are in no particular order a dumped over red tub with sports equpiment pouring out, a red gas can, bikes hanging from the ceiling a host of crap too numerous to list.
    This is the shed halfway through the battle. So far it’s a draw.

    See, part of what happened when my wife decided to redo our backyard is that she purchased a bunch of new backyard stuff. The problem is the new backyard stuff, in order to stay new looking, needs to be stored away during the winter. And guess where it needs to be stored.

    That’s right. In the shed.

    So every fall, I take the backyard stuff, shove it in the shed and slam the door a nanosecond before it can come tumbling out on the ground.

    It’s Friday as I’m typing this. On Saturday, I plan to battle the shed.

    But first I’ll let my wife know what I’m doing. She’ll need to know where to look for my body.

    A post script, if you will. The shed is clean.

    For now.

     

  • Finding calm in chaos is easy with burgers and beer

    The key in situations like this is to stay calm.

    My dad served in three wars and raised seven kids. Now, if you had to guess, which of those two things that my dad did caused him the most stress?

    That’s right — the part about raising seven kids. Look, if my dad had just had to raise me, I’m pretty sure he would have gone crazy. Imagine raising seven of me.

    I’m not saying that my three brothers and three sisters are exactly like me — that, of course, would be weird, if not some sort of freak of nature. I’m just saying that raising seven kids would take a toll on anyone, even a veteran of three wars.

    One of my favorite pictures of my dad was taken on a Christmas morning. In the picture, my dad is sitting in his recliner, surrounded by what looks like a New York City-sized landfill of Christmas wrapping boxes and the sort of debris you would expect to see early on Christmas morning in a house occupied by seven kids. But my dad seemed oblivious to the chaos that surrounded him. He was just calmly reading a book as if he were sitting under a tree on a sunny, warm spring day.

    So I’m trying to remain calm even though, as I’m typing this, there are at least four people scurrying around me cleaning, installing pictures and hauling stuff in and out of the room in which I’m currently working.

    My wife is decorating a place at the Lake of the Ozarks, and I volunteered to help her. Well, I volunteered in the sense that when my wife said, “You’re coming with me to the Lake of the Ozarks. I need your help,” I said, “I don’t want to,” and she said, “Tough.”

    You know, in that sense.

    Because my wife believes in a decorating system known as “buy way too much crap,” we had to haul the stuff to the lake in a semilarge U-Haul truck.

    This may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m not a semilarge U-Haul truck sort of guy. I’m, at best, a medium-sized SUV kind of guy. So driving a semilarge U-Haul full of way too much stuff to the Lake of the Ozarks was sort of stressful for me.

    Lee and Mike Pound in the front seat of a U-Haul truck. Lee is on the left and is holding up a drink cup and smiling. Mike is driving the U-Haul and not smiling
    Lee and I on our way to the Lake of the Ozarks in our semilarge U-Haul. I am a bit on edge. Lee is not.

    Well, it would have been if I were capable of stress, but I’m not. Well, at least not like my wife. My wife is always telling me how “stressed” she is. I’m not sure why my wife is stressed, but then again, I didn’t even know until I met my wife that “stress” could be used as a verb.

    But just because I’m not capable of stress doesn’t mean sometimes I can’t at least get on edge. And driving a semilarge U-Haul full of too much stuff put me a bit on edge — until we got to the lake and I had a chance to get on the outside of a big bacon cheeseburger and a couple of beers at a Jimmy Buffett-themed establishment.

    A photo of a bacon cheeseburger with farmer fries and two bottle of beers in the background
    The bacon cheeseburger and beers at The License to Chill Bar and Grill at the Margaritaville Lake Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks that backed me off the edge.

    Getting on the outside of a big bacon cheeseburger and a couple of beers at a Jimmy Buffett-themed establishment is the sort of thing that can back me off of the edge.

    So now I’m trying to write this column on Friday morning while chaos swirls around me, and I’m remarkably calm. Sure, in a little while I’m going to have to load some of the “way too much crap” my wife brought to the lake along with a mountain of cardboard back into the semilarge U-Haul and drive it back to Carthage, but that’s in the future. Granted, it’s in the very near future, but I believe in living in the now, and now I choose to be calm.

    Besides, if I find myself on the edge again, I can always turn to cheeseburgers, beer and Jimmy Buffett.

  • Serving tray evidence of another world

    My wife and I live in different worlds.

    I suppose on one level, my wife and I have always lived in different worlds. I think that’s how men and women are able to get along.

    Eventually, if a man and a woman lived in the same world all of the time, one of them would probably say something like, “I just have to run to the store a minute,” walk out the door and never come back.

    Worlds can be small places, and if two people occupy the same one for too long, something has to give.

    I was single for a long time, and one of the reasons I was single for so long was because I lived in a world that didn’t exactly have a lot of room.

    It was a world of few personal responsibilities. It was a world in which I didn’t have to worry about much other than reminding myself to occasionally take out the trash and open my apartment windows to let the cigar smoke out.

    Then, against almost all odds, I got married, and slowly — without me even noticing — my world began to change. I didn’t completely join my wife’s world, and she certainly didn’t join mine. But both of our worlds changed. Granted, my world changed a whole bunch, but in my wife’s defense, her world changed some too.

    After all, she did marry a moron.

    But even though my wife and I merged our worlds a bit, we still managed to keep them slightly different. My world consists mainly of beer, barbecue and sports, while my wife’s world mainly consists of … well, I’m not exactly sure what her world consists of. I just know that it’s a bigger and different world than mine.

    On Thursday, my wife left for work, and I sat down for some serious writing — after I finished the paper, completed the crossword puzzle and searched the internet for St. Louis Cardinals baseball news. About 10 minutes after she first left our house, my wife returned.

    “I forgot something,” she said. “I was going to call you to do it for me, but it’s too complicated.”

    Then my wife opened a cabinet under our kitchen counter. The cabinet is one I seldom venture into because it’s where my wife keeps some of her special serving trays, bowls and platters.

    I don’t know much about serving trays, bowls or platters.

    My wife dug through the cabinet until she found what she was after. It was a serving tray that she bought in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, last year at that Pioneer Woman’s store. My wife and our 21-year-old daughter, Emma, love the Pioneer Woman.

    My wife explained that a group of ladies is planning another trip to the Pioneer Woman’s store. But she said she didn’t think she could go.

    “Too bad,” I said.

    My wife said the reason she couldn’t go was because the bus trip had already sold out. Then she said her friend Jana called to say some women had canceled and now there was room on the bus.

    “So you’re going with Jana?” I asked.

    “No, Jana can’t go now,” my wife said.

    “So you’re going anyway?” I asked.

    “No, I can’t go,” my wife said in a tone that meant, “You don’t understand a thing I say.”

    Then my wife took a picture of the serving tray. She told me she was going to send the picture to someone else she knows who was going on the Pioneer Woman trip.

    “I need another one just like this one,” she said.

    “OK,” I said in a tone that meant, “OK.”

    “It’s for the shower,” my wife said.

    “OK,” I said in a tone that meant, “What shower?”

    After my wife took the picture, she put the serving tray away and happily returned to her world.

    And I happily returned to mine.

     

  • ‘Sprinter’ puts damper on warm-weather plans

    Did you catch it?

    You know, the other day. Did you catch it?

    You know the day I’m talking about. It was just a couple of days ago. It was that day that, just for a while, maybe a couple hours, half an afternoon tops, that it almost felt just a tiny bit as if, perhaps, just maybe, possibly it might almost be spring.

    Did you catch that?

    Our dogs caught it. When I let out German shepherd, Shilo, and Caicos, our assistant dog, outside the other day, they both gave me a look that either said. “Is this spring?” or, “I’m hungry.”

    With dogs, it’s sort of hard to tell.

    But because I had just fed them an hour earlier, I opted to go with the “Is this spring?” look.

    “I don’t know,” I said to Shilo and Caicos. “It could be, but it could also be a cruel hoax.”

    By the way, you can tell when you’ve been working from home alone too long when you find yourself talking to your dogs about the weather.

    The problem with trying to catch spring around here is that we seldom have an actual spring anymore. What we have is sprinter. First, we have winter, then we have sprinter, then we have spummer and then we have summer.

    I don’t know what happened to spring, but somewhere along the line, it got hijacked.

    When I was a kid many, many, many, many (I’m trying to indicate here that I’m old) years ago, spring used to last forever. And I once lived in Ames, Iowa.

    That’s right. I remember a time when there was spring in Ames, Iowa.

    But now we pretty much go from winter to summer with a token mild day or two thrown in between extremely cold and extremely hot days.

    Here’s what usually happens:. Sometime around late March, we get a sort of mild but not too mild day, and we all rejoice the arrival of spring. Then the next day, we find ourselves looking for the coats that we foolishly stored away when we naively thought spring had arrived.

    Then we get a couple weeks of not too cold but certainly not warm, cloudy, dreary weather. Sort of like spring in England without the soccer riots.

    Then, just when we think spring will never get here, we jump right into summer and we find ourselves saying, “Wait, what happened?” to ourselves.

    Well, that is if you work at home alone. If you work at work with other people, you probably say, “Wait, what happened?” to each other. Assuming you actually like the people you work with and aren’t instead saying, “Gee, I wish I worked at home alone,” to yourself.

    Almost as bad as the vanishing springs are the vanishing spring weekend days. Sometimes we’ll get warm springlike weather from, let’s say, Monday through Thursday. And then on Friday, just when we’re looking forward to a nice springlike weekend, winter comes back.

    And then, of course, Monday rolls around and spring returns.

    Don’t you hate that?

    This weekend, I was looking forward to spending time in our backyard, sipping beer and watching baseball while a couple slabs of baby back ribs slowly cook on our outdoor smoker.

    Instead, it looks like I’ll spend time in our living room, sipping beer and watching baseball while some sort of winter food simmers on our stovetop.

    See how weather impacts my life?

    Our weather patterns have become so screwy that we have to change our weather adages and rhymes.

    You know, like, “March comes in the lion and goes out like a … well not quite a lion but certainly not like a lamb. I want to say like a slightly irritated lemur.”

    So enjoy your sprinter. And before you know it, October will roll around and it will be time for — you guessed it — fummer.

     

  • Getting into the world of ‘Real Housewives’

    It’s Friday afternoon as I’m typing this.

    I’m sitting at the kitchen counter in our room at the Lake of the Ozarks, and my wife is sitting in the living room watching CNN and impatiently waiting for me to finish this column.

    The reason my wife is impatient is because she wants to go to something called an outlet mall. As I understand it, an outlet mall is a mall where they sell things for less money than they would cost at a non-outlet mall. When I asked my wife how outlet malls can sell things for less money than non-outlet malls, she told me to mind my own business.

    So I did.

    On Saturday we are leaving the Lake of the Ozarks and driving to Kansas City to go to something called a home show. My wife tells me that I will like the home show, but I don’t know. She also told me last fall that I would like going to a fashion show in Kansas City.

    Me: “Why would I like a fashion show?”

    Wife: “Because your daughter is in it.”

    Me: “Oh.”

    So I went to the fashion show, and I liked the parts that involved our 21-year-old daughter, Emma, but pretty much hated everything else.

    Emma won’t be in the home show, so I’m thinking there will be little in it that will interest me.

    I’m not even sure what a home show is. I’m guessing it’s a show about homes, but I don’t know.

    My wife is excited about going to the home show. But she is more excited about seeing someone who she said is a New York housewife who will also be at the home show.

    I’m not sure why my wife is excited about seeing a New York housewife, but I think it might have something to do about the “Housewives” shows she and Emma are always watching.

    The New York housewife my wife is excited to see at the home show is Bethenny Frankel. My wife said she and Emma love Bethenny.

    I don’t know anything about Bethenny, but I do know a little bit about the “Housewives” shows. The shows center around the lives of housewives from different parts of the world. You’ve got your New York housewives, your New Jersey housewives, your Orange County housewives, your Atlanta housewives, your Dallas housewives, your London housewives and — I think — your Fredonia, Kansas, housewives.

    I think.

    What happens in the “Housewives” shows is that one, or several, housewives do something that makes one, or several, other housewives mad. Then they all get together to argue about who did what to whom and who was right and who was wrong.

    There is a lot of arguing in the “Housewives” shows.

    Basically, the shows are pretty much the same as “SportsCenter” on ESPN. On “SportsCenter,” guys get together and argue about which teams will lose and which teams will win, and then later they get together to argue about who was right and who was wrong.

    There is a lot of arguing on “SportsCenter”.

    My wife keeps looking over my shoulder as I’m typing this. My wife doesn’t want me to write about the “Housewives” shows.

    “You’ll make fun of them,” she says.

    But I won’t make fun of them. First of all, other than what I just told you about them, I don’t know anything about the “Housewives” shows.

    Unlike our president, I try not to talk about things that I know nothing about.

    Also, because the housewives in the “Housewives” shows are women, I know better than to make them mad.

    I mean, I don’t know the women in the “Housewives” shows, but my wife is a woman and I know I don’t want to make her mad.

    So I’ll go to the home show, see Bethenny and not complain.

    Because in June my wife has to go with me to St. Louis to a Cardinals game.

    She better not make fun of baseball.

    BONUS TRACK

    After going to the home show and meeting Bethenny I can honestly say that I like her.

    The home show? Not so much.

    What happens at home shows is you walk up and down aisles while people try to interest you in whatever it is, they are trying to sell. After about 30 minutes at the home show I discovered that the secret was to not make direct eye contact with the people trying to interest you in whatever it is they are trying to sell.

    My wife, on the other home product, loved the home show.

    “This is fun,” she said, picking up her 27th brochure and her 129th business card.

    She also bought new bed sheets. That’s right. My wife bought new bed sheets at a home show. I didn’t even know we needed new bed sheets.

    “We don’t,” my wife said when I said that I didn’t know we needed bed sheets. “But at this price we have to buy them.”

    “I see, “ I said, even though, as usual, I didn’t see.

    But back to Bethenny. I liked her a lot. She was funny and she used many of the same bad words that I use.

    I think that’s something.

    “So, do you want to watch the “Housewives” shows with me now?” my wife asked after we met Bethenny.

    “Do you want to watch “SportsCenter” with me?” I asked.

    My wife said “No” when I asked that.

    But that’s not all she said. She also used one of Bethenny’s bad words.

    From left to right. Lee Pound, Bethenny Frankel and Mike Pound
    The nice lady between my wife and me is Bethenny Frankel. I liked her but I don’t think I would want to make her mad.
  • Get out the shillelagh, it’s St. Patrick’s Day

    Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and to celebrate I will do what I usually do on this holiday.

    I will spend the entire day sitting in a bar and drink beer until I can no longer pronounce “shillelagh.”

    Wait, that’s what I used to do on St. Patrick’s Day when I was young and single. But I’m no longer young and single, so I don’t do that anymore. Instead, I sit around my house drinking beer until I can no longer spell “shillelagh.”

    I’ve grown.

    In the interest of fair disclosure, I should point out that I couldn’t spell “shillelagh” sober so I don’t know why I would think I could spell it after drinking a few beers.

    Raise your hand, out there, if you can spell “shillelagh.” Go ahead. I won’t judge.

    Wow, that many huh? Looks like a few people spent a little too much time paying attention in school.

    When I tried to spell “shillelagh” I wound up with too many A’s and not enough L’s.

    But that’s not my point. My point is that, for me, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has sort of evolved. And by “evolved” I mean “gotten incredibly boring.”

    That’s what happens you get old and get married. You become boring. I suppose that’s a good thing. Let’s say instead of getting old and married, I just got old. Then I would become that irritating old guy hanging out at a bar on St. Patrick’s Day muttering what sounds like “shillelagh” to himself.

    Nobody wants to be that guy.

    Traditionally what I’ve done on St. Patrick’s Day since I got married is sip an Irish beer (usually Guinness or Harps), fix some sort of Irish-like meal and watch “The Quiet Man.”

    What? I told you it was boring.

    But there is something to be said for boring. For example, when I stay home sipping Irish beer, eating Irish-like food and watching “The Quiet Man,” I don’t have to worry about wearing green.

    I don’t know who decided everyone had to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, but I bet whoever did wasn’t Irish. I’m thinking your typical Irish person would probably say, “Wear whatever you want. I don’t give a shillelagh.”

    My wife and I talked about driving to Kansas City to spend St. Patrick’s Day at Kelly’s Westport Inn (the greatest bar in the world), but like a lot of things we talk about doing, we got lazy and wound up staying home.

    While I’ll be spending St. Patrick’s Day at home, our 21-year-old daughter, Emma, will be spending the day in Dublin. You know, the one in Ireland.

    That’s right. While I’m sitting at home with my boring St. Patrick’s Day celebration, Emma will be in Dublin, Ireland.

    Is it wrong to be jealous of your daughter? It’s not? OK then, is it wrong to be (long string of bad words) jealous of your daughter?

    I thought so.

    Emma, who is a junior at the University of Kansas, is studying in Florence, Italy, this semester, and when a couple of months ago she told me that she was going to meet a group of friends in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day, I said, “That’s great. I’m very happy for you. I’m sure you will have fun.”

    On the outside.

    On the inside I said “WHAT? YOU GET TO GO TO DUBLIN, IRELAND, BEFORE I DO? AND ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY NO LESS? THE ONLY THING THAT COULD BE WORSE WOULD BE IF I WAS PAYING FOR YOU TO GO TO DUBLIN, IRELAND. WHAT? I AM PAYING FOR IT. WELL (LONG STRING OF BAD WORDS IN ALL CAPS).”

    Not that I’m bitter or anything.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy Emma is spending St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. It’s just that I would happier if I were also spending St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

    Trying to pronounce “shillelagh.”

     

  • St. Patrick’s Day and Basketballs

    In honor of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day a TBT column that ran in the Joplin Globe on March 17, 2002.


    St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.

    But it’s hard to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without thinking about Monsignor Keogan bouncing a basketball off of somebody’s head.

    Keogan was the pastor of St. Xavier’s Catholic Church in Junction City, Kansas and by extension the superintendent of St. Xavier’s Catholic school which I attended.

    Every year on St. Patrick’s Day Keogan would call the whole school to a special assembly. He would tell a few jokes that most of us had heard many, many times, sing an Irish song or two and then, depending on his mood, give us the rest of the day off from school. Which was cool as far as we were concerned but, looking back, I’m wondering if Keogan bothered to tell our teachers or parents that he was planning on cutting us loose.

    He was kind of unpredictable.

    When I was attending St. Xavier’s Keogan, who was an Irish immigrant (Go figure, an Irish priest. What are the odds?), was probably in his 60s.

    But even at that age he loved soccer and never missed a chance to show us “lads”-which, I think, is Irish for “punks”-the proper way to kick a soccer ball. Of course, since we didn’t have any soccer balls Keogan had to settle for whatever he could get his feet on. Which in most cases meant the schools limited supply of Wilson basketballs.

    Every year Keogan would drop by the first day of high school, junior high and sixth-grade basketball practice to give each team a rambling pep talk that touched on such diverse topics as St. Joseph, Bob Cousy and boiled potatoes.

    I think.

    Keogan was kind of hard to understand. Think Casey Stengel with a thick Irish accent.

    Keogan would always end his pep talk by calling for a basketball and then asking a volunteer, normally some new kid, to run to the other end of the basketball court.

    Keogan would then kick the basketball at roughly the speed of light and bounce it off the unsuspecting volunteer.

    I remember when Keogan stopped by my sixth-grade basketball practice. Gerald Butler, in a misguided effort to curry favor during his next confession, agreed to be the volunteer.

    Butler ran to the other end of the court and Keogan, who seemed remarkably spry that day, stepped forward and kicked the holy water out of the ball which managed to hit Butler in the head so hard that his glasses flew off his head and landed in the top row of the bleachers.

    After making sure that Last Rites weren’t needed, Keogan laughed and said something that sounded like “Gaad bless ya. Ya little punk” and ambled on to the next practice.

    Butler, by the way, wasn’t hurt too badly. He did miss a few days of school and, later, developed a strange habit of occasionally laughing out of context.

    But other than that, he was fine.

    Keogan also liked to drop by the locker room before our sporting events to lead the team in prayer.

    For example, before our football games, Keogan would lead us in “The Lord’s Prayer” and then after a solemn “Amen” would yell “Now go out there and slaughter them”.

    It was kind of a mixed message.

    Speaking of Butler’s kicking mishap, at least once a year a nun would get tattooed in the head by a stray kickball. This was always an accident because no one that I knew-not even Jimmy Becker-had the guts to take on a nun.

    It was some kind of mortal sin, I think.

    In those days nuns still wore habits. The habits weren’t like those big, jumbo 747 things that Sally Field wore in the “Flying Nun”. They were more like the outfit the nun in “The Blues Brothers” wore.

    Whenever a nun would get hit in the head by a kickball the top of her habit would bounce one way and her head would bounce the other way. It looked kind of like a really slow-moving tennis match.

    But no matter how funny the nun with her rotating head and habit looked, every kid on the playground knew better than to laugh.

    Laughing at a nun who has just gotten hit in the head by a kickball is always a mortal sin.

    So, instead, what you heard was 50 or 60 fifth-and sixth-graders all trying to stifle their laughter.

    It sounded like frogs with hiccups.

    So, tonight, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I will pop in our well-worn copy of “The Quiet Man” open a Guinness and toast Monsignor Keogan.

    I’ll also take a moment to wonder what ever happened to Gerald Butler. And if he’s still laughing out of context.

     

  • Annual trip to basketball tourney not the same without daughter

    She was four the first year we attended the tournament in Kansas City.

    She’s 21 now.

    I’ll let you do the math, but suffice to say, my wife and I and our daughter, Emma, have been coming to the MIAA Basketball Tournament in Kansas City for a long time — about as long as the tournament has been held in Kansas City.

    Emma isn’t at the tournament this year. She’s in Florence, Italy. Because I am nothing if not a kind and generous parent, I asked Emma a few days ago if she wanted to leave Florence and come to Kansas City for the tournament.

    She said “No”.

    That’s not as much of a knock against the MIAA Tournament as it is an endorsement of Florence, Italy. I mean, I love Kansas City, but come on, we’re talking Florence, Italy.

    On a sort of related/unrelated topic, about a month ago, Emma said she ordered pasta with clam sauce at a cafe in Florence. She said the pasta with clam sauce that I make at home was better.

    Did you hear that, Giada?

    That first year of the tournament, I spent quite a bit of time with Emma. See, for my wife, the tournament was a work deal, so sometimes she was a tad occupied. For me, the tournament was generally a chance to watch a lot of basketball and drink beer. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was taking care of Emma while my wife worked.

    Don’t get me wrong here: As much as I liked watching basketball and drinking beer, I loved taking care of Emma.

    That first year of the tournament, Emma fell in love with the downtown hotel where we stayed. Toward the far end of the hotel lobby, there is a winding staircase that leads up to the mezzanine.

    Emma loved that hotel and the lobby staircase. She said it was like a castle, which of course meant that Emma and I had to walk up and down that staircase.

    Over and over again.

    In fact, the next year, when we told Emma we were going back to the tournament, the first thing she asked was if we were going to stay “in that castle.”

    Emma and I also spent a great deal of time in the hotel’s indoor pool. When you’re a kid, one of the great perks of staying in a hotel is the hotel pool. In those early years of the tournament, Emma only had a few rules regarding the indoor pool. One of those rules was that when Emma asked me to watch her do something, I was expected to watch her do something.

    Over and over again.

    The other rule was that when she wanted to climb onto my shoulders and jump off of them into the water, I had to let her do so.

    Over and over again.

    The last rule was that when I said it was time to get out of the pool and she said, “Can’t we stay a little longer?” we had to stay a little longer.

    When Emma was younger, she also used to wear a Missouri Southern State College cheerleader outfit. It rained and snowed that first year of the tournament, and by the second day in Kansas City, Emma had run out of white tights that were covered in mud. But she didn’t care.

    As long as she got to walk on the castle staircase and swim in the indoor pool.

    Over and over again.

    It’s actually been a few years since Emma attended the MIAA Tournament. I’m certain she missed the tournament during her senior year of high school, and of course, she missed the tournament during her first two years of college.

    So I’m sort of used to her not being here with us at the tournament.

    But I don’t know. I guess I wouldn’t mind walking up and down the castle staircase with her just one more time.

    Or over and over again.

  • Clutter leads to vicious cycle

    It had been such a long time I almost didn’t recognize it.

    That happens sometimes. You lose track of something, and eventually, you forget it was ever there, forget where it was and what it looked like.

    So on Thursday evening when I walked into the office/guest room that really wasn’t an office or a guest room and saw the rocking chair, it didn’t seem real.

    The rocking chair, I mean. Not the walking into the office/guest room. I knew walking into the room was real. It’s the chair I was unsure about.

    The reason the office/guest room wasn’t an office or a guest room is because, for a long, long time, it had been full of so much clutter that there wasn’t room for an office or a guest room.

    The office/guest room had been so full of stuff that we long ago lost track of the rocking chair in the room.

    It didn’t start off that way. At one time, the office/guest room was actually an office with the potential of becoming a guest room. My wife spent months designing and decorating the office/guest room with the intention that it would be a comfortable, relaxing room in which to work or relax.

    Then, as they say, stuff happened.

    And when I say “stuff happened,” I mean clutter happened.

    It’s the classic story. My wife’s car gets cluttered, so to unclutter it, she moves the car clutter into the breezeway. Then when the breezeway gets too cluttered, my wife moves the car/breezeway clutter into our dining room. Then when the dining room gets cluttered, she moves the car/breezeway/dining room clutter upstairs to our bedroom. Then when our bedroom gets cluttered, my wife moves the car/breezeway/dining room/bedroom clutter into the office/guest room, and before long, we lose sight of the rocking chair.

    Sigh. Don’t you hate when that happens?

    Adding to the clutter was the fact that several years ago my wife decided to take up scrapbooking.

    Now, in order to take up scrapbooking, my wife had to buy a whole bunch of — to use a technical term — scrapbook stuff.

    “It will be great,” my wife said. “I will finally have a place to put all of the clutter in the office/guest room you want me to get rid of.”

    “No, you won’t,” I said. “You will get bored with scrapbooking, and the office/guest room will be full of the clutter I want you to get rid of AND scrapbook clutter.”

    Guess what happened.

    For several years now, my wife has vowed to get rid of all the clutter in the office/guest room that really wasn’t an office or a guest room and turn it back into an office/guest room.

    And for several years, she has tried. But the clutter would always defeat her. Oh sure, my wife would start out strong, but eventually the clutter would wear her down.

    “But Mike,” some of you are asking, “if you wanted the clutter out of the office/guest room, why didn’t you help your wife get rid of it?”

    To some of you saying that, I can answer your question in three words: Not. My. Clutter.

    Last weekend, my wife once again challenged the clutter in the office/guest room. And this time, the clutter didn’t defeat her. My wife didn’t defeat the clutter, either, but at the end of the weekend, my wife and the clutter agreed to a partial truce.

    On Thursday, my wife opted to use a day off from work to launch a sneak attack on the clutter.

    And it worked. So the good news is we now have a real office/guest room.

    The bad news is my wife just mentioned that her car was getting cluttered.

  • When did dressing like a clown become a thing?

    The other night I saw a young man on a late-night talk show.

    I assumed he was famous because he was on a late-night talk show, but I don’t know. I’ve discovered lately that you don’t have to be famous to be on a late-night talk show. Sometimes you get to be on a late-night talk show because you’re not famous. In fact, sometimes, not being famous is just as good as being famous.

    Famous-wise, I mean.

    This happens to me a lot lately. Someone will be on TV that I assume is famous but I’m not really sure because I don’t keep up on famous people like I used to.

    I realized that was happening to me a few years ago when I discovered I had no idea who the person hosting “Saturday Night Live” was and why he was famous enough to be hosting the show. At the time I was shocked by my ignorance of famous people, but now I seldom know who the “Saturday Night Live” host is or why he or she is hosting the show.

    My wife does though. Well, she says she does, but again, I don’t know.

    Me: Who is that person hosting ‘Saturday Night Live?

    Wife: Oh, you know.

    Me: “o, I don’t. That’s why I asked.

    Wife: Sure, you do. She was in that show.

    Me: What show?

    Wife: Oh, you know.

    Me: Sigh.

    The reason I noticed the young man on the late-night talk show was because he was wearing a nice-looking suit. And a pair of red high-top tennis shoes.

    See, this is why I get accused of dressing like an old man. When I was a young man, no one would ever think to wear red high-top tennis shoes with a suit. Even clowns wouldn’t wear red high-top tennis shoes with a suit. And when I say clowns, I mean actual circus clowns, not random strange people.

    When I was young, if you asked a circus clown to wear red high-top tennis shoes with a nice suit, he would likely say, “Are you crazy? I would look like an idiot.”

    This from a circus clown.

    When I saw the young man on the late-night talk show wearing red high-top tennis shoes with a nice suit, I thought, “What a clown.”

    Then I thought, “Wow, I guess that’s what it means to be old.”

    I first sensed I was getting old years ago when kids started wearing baseball caps backward.

    When I was young, the only time you wore your baseball cap backward was when you were pretending to be a moron.

    So years later, when wearing baseball caps backward became a craze, I figured young people were morons. But they weren’t. I mean, it wasn’t their fault. They weren’t around when I was young so the young people didn’t know wearing your baseball cap backward made you look like a moron.

    It turns out that wearing tennis shoes with formal clothes is a thing now, much like saying something “is a thing now” is a thing now.

    But for old people like myself who grew up with different fashion values, it’s hard to wrap our heads around tennis shoes being worn with formal clothes.

    So we refuse to follow along. We continue to wear dress shoes with formal clothes even though by doing so we run the risk of being accused of dressing like old people.

    But it’s a risk we are willing to take.

    For one thing, we are old.

    And for another thing, we don’t care. We just know that we are not going to wear red high-top tennis shoes with a suit.

    Or baseball caps backward. Even it if is a thing.

     

  • Soap operas same as they ever were

    It’s Friday afternoon, and my wife is upstairs watching a soap opera on TV.

    That’s what my wife does whenever she gets an unexpected day off from work. She watches soap operas on TV.

    Well, that’s not exactly accurate. My wife doesn’t just watch any soap opera. She only watches a couple specific soap operas. I think the names of the soap operas my wife watches are “Days of Our Nights” or “Hearts of Artichokes” or “I’ve Been Stuck on This Damn Soap Opera for 30 Years Why Can’t I Catch a Break?”

    But I’m not sure.

    The thing about soap operas is that they never change. My wife has been watching the same soap operas for more than 30 years. But because, normally, my wife is working during the day, she only gets to watch the soap operas a couple times a year. But whenever she does get a chance to watch them, she is immediately able to figure out who has done something horrible to a family member, who has cheated on which spouse, who has been charged with a horrible crime that they didn’t commit and who was offsides, therefore nullifying an interception that would have ended the game and sent the Kansas City Chiefs to the Super Bowl.

    Wait, that last one might have been something I watched. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

    My point is, as I think I’ve already mentioned, is that soap operas never change.

    Or at least that’s what I’ve been able to gather from my wife.

    Friday morning, my wife announced that she was going to be busy from 11 to noon.

    “That’s nice,” I said.

    “I mean it,” my wife said. “I don’t won’t to be bothered. I will be watching my soap opera.”

    “That’s nice,” I said,

    See, I had no intention of bothering my wife from 11 until noon on Friday morning.

    I intended to drink some more coffee, finish the crossword puzzle in the paper and, at some point, try to figure out what to write about in this column.

    I’m not exactly a deep thinker.

    It’s good not to be a deep thinker. If you make a habit of being a deep thinker you have to worry about drowning. That’s why I prefer being a shallow thinker. I try to just think up to my ankles so I don’t have to worry about drowning. Or getting washed away.

    When I think, I try to never get to far from shore which is why I’m writing about soap operas and not, let’s say, a certain orange president declaring a national emergency that he said he didn’t actually have to declare but did so because he wanted to because the country was in the worst shape it’s ever been except for when he said the country was in the best shape it’s ever been in the history of it ever being.

    I think that’s what he said, but I don’t know, what with me not being a deep thinker and all.

    Later, after watching her soap operas, my wife will watch shows where women sit around and yell at each other, shows hosted by doctors who probably aren’t really doctors and talk shows where everyone is happy because the people in the audiences (women) get great prizes that only women would appreciate.

    All of this is why, when I’m home by myself during the day, I never turn on the TV. I’m not a fan of soap operas, shows featuring women yelling at each other or hosted by doctors who probably aren’t really doctors, or talk shows where everyone is happy.

    Instead, I work on this column. And when I said I “work” on this column, I mean I search the internet for news about the St. Louis Cardinals or the Kansas City Chiefs. And then write about soap operas and not a certain orange president.

    I did mention that I wasn’t a deep thinker, didn’t I?

     

  • Relationship advice for men

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on Feb. 14, 2013.


    If you know anything about me at all, you know that I am an expert on romance and relationships.

    Look, some people can hit a curveball, and some people can help others with matters of the heart and if ever there was a day when matters of the heart really matter, today is that day.

    Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year when men everywhere can express their love for their significant others by purchasing a card with a heartfelt, romantic message written by someone else or by buying red flowers picked out by a complete stranger,

    Sadly, some men still are confused about their role on Valentine’s Day. In the past several weeks, several of these men have reached out to me, seeking advice on ways to woo their love on this romantic day.

    The first thing I told them was to quit using the word “woo.”

    Women hate that word, and if you say it the wrong way, it sounds like “WHEW” which doesn’t suggest romance as much as it does relief.

    One gentleman named Rufus wrote me to say that his wife complains that he doesn’t share his feelings with her.

    “Mike, what are these things called ‘feelings’ that my wife speaks of? Do I have them, and if I do am I legally obligated to share them?”

    Rufus, I get this question a lot. Feelings are the things that make you tear up when you watch that Coke commercial where the football player tosses his game jersey to that little kid. Feelings are also the things that make you smile after a really good burp.

    And, yes, you are legally obligated to share your feelings with your wife. But trust me, after you’ve shared your feelings with your wife for a few days, she’ll ask you to stop.

    Burt wanted some advice on gift giving.

    “Mike, I have been married for 10 years, and I keep hearing people talk of Valentine’s Day. What are my responsibilities vis-a-vis my wife when it comes to Valentine’s Day? Also, did I use ‘vis-a-vis’ correctly?”

    Burt, according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, instead of using “vis-a-vis” you should have used “whom.”

    Now, to your more pertinent question. It doesn’t really matter what you do for your wife on Valentine’s Day as long as you do something. Burt, like most men you have set the bar so low that simply knowing that it’s Valentine’s Day will win points with your wife. I bet if you go home tonight and greet your wife with a heartfelt “Hey, I read on Twitter that today is Valentine’s Day,” then grab a beer and plop down in front of the TV to watch “SportsCenter,” your wife will wait at least 30 minutes before she leaves you.

    Finally, I received an email from a guy named Ralph who also said he was confused about what to do for his wife on Valentine’s Day.

    “I just don’t get her. Last year she complained that I never give her anything on Valentine’s Day, so I got her a bowling ball, and she got even madder at me. I pointed out that I went to the trouble of getting her a red bowling ball, but she told me that she didn’t even bowl. My question is this: Do you know anyone who wants to buy a red bowling ball? If so, email me at Ralph@divorced.com.”

    You raise an interesting point, Ralph. Sometimes what we think is a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift is not so wonderful to our wives. For example, scented vacuum bags make a lousy Valentine’s Day gift.

    I know that now.

    Also, be careful with workout DVDs, gym memberships and subscriptions to Sports Illustrated.

    I hope this column has been a bit of help for those of you out there who are still trying to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Just remember, when you give your loved one her Valentine’s Day gift, ask her if she wants you to share your feelings with her.

    I’m guessing she won’t.

     

  • Weather threatens, and so does wife’s chili

    I should have been able to get ahead of her and stop her from doing what she did.

    But I wasn’t. In retrospect, I suppose I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of items she brought into the house and just overlooked some of them.

    Because had I noticed that hidden among all of the plastic bags she brought home from the large, 24-hour retail store in our town were ingredients for her chili, I would have headed her off at the culinary pass.

    But I didn’t. So I didn’t.

    It was Wednesday evening. Earlier, my wife had called me on her way home from work.

    “I’m going to the large, 24-hour retail store in our town,” she said. “Do we need anything?”

    “No,” I said, because — follow me here — we didn’t need anything.

    Then I said, “So don’t buy a bunch of stuff just because we think we’re going to get snowed in.”

    “I’m just going to get a few things,” my wife said.

    “Sigh,” I said.

    Any time my wife hears a weather report calling for as much as snow flurries, she acts as if we live on the frozen tundra in the Northwest Territories and buys enough supplies to last us until the spring thaw, which she somehow believes won’t come until late July.

    I tried to tell my wife that the forecasted freezing rain was only supposed to last a little while, but she interrupted me.

    “You never know,” is what she said.

    I wanted to say: “You know what? I do know. I know that you always buy a bunch of stuff we don’t need, and then it sits in our pantry or our freezer until we have to throw it out to make room for all the stuff you buy the next time snow flurries are in the forecast.”

    But I didn’t. Because whenever I’ve said that in the past, my wife hasn’t listened to me.

    So about an hour and a half later, my wife walked into our kitchen carrying a bunch of plastic bags full of stuff we didn’t need and dropped them on the floor.

    “I’ll be back,” she said and went back to her car and brought in more bags. She repeated this process about five more times.

    To help out, I decided — while my wife was unloading her car — to make room in our refrigerator.

    I took a beer out of the refrigerator.

    As a veteran husband, I have developed a motto when it comes to my wife’s snow flurries shopping. Here is that motto: You bought it. You put it away.

    It is, I think, a good motto.

    The only problem with the motto is by not helping my wife put away the roughly six-month supply of food that she purchased, I didn’t notice her chili ingredients.

    It’s important to note that there is a considerable difference between ingredients for my wife’s chili and ingredients for my chili.

    Here is that considerable difference: I like my chili. I do not like my wife’s chili.

    To be fair, my wife prefers her chili to mine. Although that hasn’t always been the case. For years, my wife said she loved my chili. Until she found the recipe for her chili. Then she dropped my chili like — well, like a bowl of hot chili.

    Things like that happen in a marriage. At some point, a husband might — using a purely hypothetical example — announce that he can’t stand his wife’s roast beef. And the wife will not take it personally, understanding that her husband is merely reflecting the ebbs and flows of marriage.

    He hopes.

    So anyway, whenever one of us feels like chili, we say, “I’m going to make chili,” which means, “I’m going to make my chili, not yours,” turning the other person into a chili hostage.

    All of this to explain why, Friday night, we had my wife’s chili for dinner.

    Oh well. It could have been worse.

    We could have had her roast beef.

     

  • Roman numerals notwithstanding, pulled pork in oven, cold beer in fridge

    At first, I wasn’t sure I was even going to watch the game, which this year is called Super Bowl CCCLLLX.

    I think.

    By the way, do you think that the NFL marketing genius who decided to use Roman numerals for the Super Bowl thought the idea all the way through? Don’t you think it should have occurred to the NFL that sooner or later the number of Super Bowls would outpace our knowledge of Roman numerals?

    We couldn’t even catch on to the metric system, so why would the NFL think we would be able to track Roman numerals past X?

    Be honest, when was the last time you used Roman numerals?

    The reason I wasn’t sure I was going watch the Super Bowl this year is because I don’t like either of the teams playing in the game.

    I don’t like the Los Angeles Rams because their greedy owner tried to hold up the city of St. Louis for a Mississippi River-load of money and when he didn’t get it decided to take his team to Los Angeles. For even more money.

    But then I realized that it would be stupid to dislike an NFL team just because its owner was greedy when being greedy is the way you get to own an NFL team.

    It’s the first question on the NFL team ownership job interview.

    NFL: Tell me, why should we let you own an NFL team?

    Prospective Owner: Well, I’m a people person.

    NFL: WHAT?

    Prospective Owner: I’m just kidding. I’m a greedy (bad word).

    NFL: HAHAHAHHAHAHAHA. Here’s your team.

    The reason I don’t like the New England Patriots is because they beat the Kansas City Chiefs to get to the Super Bowl. But I realized that was a pretty stupid reason to dislike a team.

    As a Chiefs fan, sure, I would rather that they were in the Super Bowl. But then I realized that the worst thing that could happen — as a Chiefs fan — is for the Patriots to look bad in the Super Bowl. Better for them to win and the Chiefs to be able to say, “Well, at least we got beaten by the Super Bowl champion.”

    So I can’t really hate the Rams just because their owner is greedy, and I can’t hate the Patriots just because they beat the Chiefs.

    I mean, I could, I guess. But it would be misguided hate.

    So this year, I’ll do what I’ve always done: Watch the Super Bowl but not care which team wins.

    Seriously, when was the last time you really cared who won the Super Bowl?

    So sometime Sunday afternoon, I will turn to one of the Super Bowl pregame shows, most of which began last month, and listen to morons babble. Then to drown out the babble, I will get a beer and check on the pan of pulled pork from Clouds Meat Processing in the oven. Then, I’ll turn off the morons babbling for a while and read a book while the pulled pork simmers in the oven.

    Oh, and I might get another beer.

    Later, my wife will probably come into the room and ask me what time the game starts. Only she won’t actually ask me what time the game starts. Instead, she asks me what time the Super Bowl commercials start.

    Like most people, my wife has never cared about who wins the Super Bowl. She just cares about the commercials.

    Later, I’ll watch the game not caring who wins, and my wife will watch the commercials. At halftime, a band called Maroon XXLL will perform, only no one will care because they will either be:

    A: In the bathroom.

    II: Getting a beer.

    C: Waiting for more commercials.

    And then, sometime around midnight, the Super Bowl and the commercials will be over, and it will be time to look forward to next year.

    Super Bowl CCCLLLXX.IV.

    I think.

  • TALES FROM CATHOLIC SCHOOL

    IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER SO I DON’T’ GET SUED: This is a rough draft of the first of what may or may not become a random series of stories about life in Catholic school. I apologize in advance for the tasteless humor contained in this story (And in all future stories) but tasteless humor is what got me through Catholic School.

    There is no moral to this story and I am not trying to make a point. I just remember laughing a lot while attending Catholic School and writing about those days brings that laughter back to me.

    Although St. Xavier’s Catholic School in Junction City, Kansas is an actual school that I actually attended this is a work of fiction. Events depicted in this story may or may not have happened and if they did happen the names of the people involved in the events have been changed. Some names have been changed to protect identities and others have been changed because I can’t the actual names.

    Hey, it was a long time ago.


    It was either the bravest thing I’ve ever witnessed.

    Or the dumbest.

    It’s been almost 50 years since it happened and I’m still not sure.

    Brave? Or Dumb?

    It was 1969. I was in the eighth-grade at St. Xavier’s Catholic School in Junction City, Kansas.

    I was supposed to be in Coach Turner’s gym class but, instead, I was wandering down the hall of our junior high.

    With me were Bob Hecker and Kevin Busch.

    Bob was my best friend and Kevin was one of our two class bullies. Most classes only had one bully but we were fortunate enough to have two. Kevin and co-bully Jim Sanders.

    Kevin and Jim had been left behind a few grades. No one knew for sure, how old they were. We just knew that they were older than we were and that’s all we needed to know.

    Kevin and Jim really weren’t bad guys. As long as you avoided making direct eye contact with them.

    I liked Bob because there was nothing he wouldn’t do for a laugh. I also liked him because nothing seemed to faze him.

    Once, when Coach Turner was away, Sister Agnes, our eighth-grade social studies teach, took over our gym class.

    Because Sister Agnes had absolutely no experience running an eighth-grade boys gym class so she opted for the classic nun fallback plan.

    Punishment.

    Sister Agnes told us to start running laps around the basketball court. When Gerald Timmons asked her how long we had to run Sister Agnes said: “Until it’s time to stop.”

    She said it the same way nuns say “Well, it’s a mystery,” when you ask them a question about religion that they can’t answer.

    “Sister, if God loves us how come my dad’s off fighting in Vietnam?” a kid might ask.

    “Well, it’s a mystery,” the nun would say as if that made all the sense in the world.

    So, we started running. About 15 minutes into the running Bob made a series of fake fart sounds using the classic hand-under-the-armpit method.

    All of us, of course, could make fake fart sounds using the classic hand-under-the-arm-pit method but Bob was the unquestioned master of the fake fart.

    Bob’s fake farts were so good that you could almost smell them. And Bob could do any fart you could imagine. Popcorn fart, broccoli fart, cafeteria chili and cinnamon roll fart, stale cheese fart, hot dog fart, and “whoops I hope that’s a fart” fart. You name it and Bob could fake fart it. Bob was so good that he could make his farts travel across the room like a ventriloquist.

    So, when Bob’s ripped off a series of stunningly, authentic, fake farts while we were running laps around the basketball court, we all started laughing.

    Sister Agnes, who was quite familiar with Bob’s work, glared at him from across the court.

    “ROBERT,” she yelled. “COME HERE. IMMEDIATELY”.

    Knowing that he was in trouble Bob jogged over to Sister Agnes and, while still running in place, said “Yes, Sister?” with an angelic smile on his face.

    Sister Agnes looked at Bob for a long second. Then she slapped him in the face.

    Bob never stopped running in place. Nor did he lose the smile. He just turned around, ran back into line and continue running laps around the basketball court with the rest of us.

    No one said anything at the time but every one of us in that gym class knew that, years later, we would still be talking about the Bob Becker Fake Fart Slap.

    It wasn’t my idea to ditch gym class and wander down the hall of the junior high school. I was never the brightest kid in our class but, even back then, I was always looking for the end game and I didn’t see the end game in ditching gym class just to wander down the hall of our junior high.

    Just 30 minutes earlier, while sitting in Mrs. Aldrich’s algebra math class, I had been desperate to get out of my desk and into the gym.

    That, to me, was the point gym class: To get out of the classroom and into the gym.

    But there I was wandering down the hall of our junior high when I could have been in gym class.

    It was Kevin who suggested that we ditch gym class and wander down the hall of our junior high.

    At the beginning of gym class, Coach Turner told the three of us to pull out the wrestling mats from underneath the stage in the gym. So, we opened the wooden slats in front of the stage, crawled in and pulled out the mats. Then we took them to Coach Turner, laid them on the gym floor and went back to the stage to put the slates back into place.

    That’s when Kevin suggested that we crawl under the stage, put the slates back in place from the inside, crawl under the very back of the stage, make a left, continue crawling until we reach the exit that leads out from under the stage and into the hallway of the junior high.

    Now, you would have thought, after hearing Kevin’s plan, Bob or I would have asked “Uh, why?”. But if you thought that you obviously have never been in the eighth grade.

    Instead, what Bob and I said was “OK,” and started crawling which is how we found ourselves wandering down the hall of our the junior high.

    I remember, while wandering down the hall of our junior high thinking, “Now what?” but then I saw Coach Turner at the opposite end of the hallway slowly walking towards us. At that point, I stopped thinking “Now what?” and started thinking, “Holy crap.”

    When Coach Turner wasn’t terrifying junior high kids, he was the high school football coach. Legend had it that, in the five years Coach Turner had been at St. Xavier’s, no one had ever seen him smile. Not once.

    And he wasn’t smiling now.

    He was just slowly walking towards us with a “WHAT IN THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING WANDERING DOWN THE HALL OF YOUR JUNIOR HIGH WHEN YOU SHOULD BE IN MY GYM CLASS? DO YOU THINK I’M A COMPLETE IDIOT AND WOULDN’T NOTICE YOU WEREN’T IN CLASS?” expression on his face.

    In retrospect, his expression did have a petty, good point.

    As Coach Turner got closer, I noticed that, in his right hand, he was twirling his coaches’ whistle. Back then, all coaches had whistles and they loved to twirl them. I guess coaches probably have whistles today but I think they’re probably connected to some sort of Wi-Fi.

    But I don’t really know that for a fact.

    Coach Turner had one of those tightly compressed faces. It was if, at a young age, he had somehow gotten his face stuck in a vice for a week or so.

    At least that was the rumor.

    The combination of a tight and unsmiling face gave Coach Tuner a, “Yeah, I stabbed my cellmate 38 times in the back. What are you going to do about it?” look.

    That was the look Coach Turner had on his face as he continued walking towards us.

    I don’t know what Bob or Kevin were thinking at that point but I know what I was thinking.

    I was thinking, “I hope my parents will be able to identify my body.”

    As Coach Turner, got closer we could hear the “whoosh, whoosh” sound made by the twirling rope on his whistle.

    It was just as Coach Turner got close enough to grab us and the “whoosh, whoosh” was at its loudest that Kevin did either the bravest or dumbest thing I had ever witnessed.

    “LOOK,” he yelled, pausing for effect. “IT’S UP ON IT’S HIND LEGS AND WALKING.”

    For the first time in his life, I think, Coach Turner smiled. It wasn’t much of a smile but it was a smile.

    Then, he sped up the twirling rope on his whistle just a bit and whipped it across Kevin’s face.

    The sound of that rope, whipping across Kevin’s face, sometimes still keeps me up at night.

    Coach Turner didn’t say a word. He just pulled back his whistle and walked back to the gym, leaving the three of us standing in the hallway.

    “We should probably go back to gym class,” Kevin said.

    So, we did.

  • Midwinter brings lull in sports world

    Today marks the official beginning of the TV sports-watching dead zone.

    You know how when you’re riding in your car, checking things on your phone and then suddenly you hit a spot where there is absolutely no cellphone service and your phone goes dead?

    That’s what the TV sports-watching dead zone is like.

    Although, to be honest, I’ve never been riding in a car, checking things on my cellphone and then had it go dead because we hit a spot with no cellphone service.

    But my wife has.

    It happens to her every time we go to Kansas City. See, there is an area near Rich Hill that has no cellphone service, and it always seems to catch my wife by surprise. We go to Kansas City a lot. And my wife is aware of the dead zone near Rich Hill. Yet just about every time we go to Kansas City, my wife will decide to call someone as we approach the dead zone.

    Here is how those phone conversations go:

    Wife: Hello, Broom Hilda (not her real name). You won’t believe what Blanche (not her real name) did.

    Broom Hilda: (I’m guessing here) Hello? I can’t hear you. You’re breaking up.

    Wife: Hello? Can you hear me now?

    Broom Hilda: (Silence).

    Wife: (To me) What happened?

    Me: (Sigh) Beats me.

    Unlike my wife, I am aware when I enter the TV sports-watching dead zone. For me, it officially begins on the weekend before the Super Bowl. Now, understand when I say “TV sports-watching dead zone” that I don’t mean there is a complete TV sports blackout.

    For example, late this afternoon, some unlucky network will air the NFL Pro Bowl. I think it’s called the NFL Pro Bowl, but I don’t know. It could be called the Trump Campaign Indictment Bowl for all I care.

    Actually, a Trump Campaign Indictment Bowl would be pretty cool. But instead of the announcers wearing dorky-looking Hawaiian shirts like they do in the NFL Pro Bowl, the Trump Campaign Indictment Bowl announcers could wear striped prison shirts.

    It’s just a programming idea.

    But the Pro Bowl is not really an NFL football game. The difference between a real NFL football game and the Pro Bowl is like the difference between chess and fetch.

    Although, now that I think about it, fetch may not be a game people play with other people as much as it is a game they play with dogs. But you get my point.

    Sure, on Saturdays during the TV sports-watching dead zone, I can usually find a college basketball game I want to watch. And at least once during the week, I might be able to find another college basketball game to watch, but that’s about it.

    What about NBA basketball, you ask?

    Please. Nobody cares about NBA basketball until at least the second round of the playoffs.

    Not even the players.

    The TV sports-watching dead zone doesn’t end until some time in March, when the college league basketball tournaments begin. And by then, spring training baseball has begun. Later, the NCAA basketball tournament will kick off, and so will the regular Major League Baseball season.

    By the way, I may get in trouble with that last paragraph. I may be wrong, but I think the NCAA has trademarked the words “basketball,” “tournament” and the letters “N,” “C,” “A” and “A.”

    Oh well — if they sue, they sue.

    The good news is that I tend to get a lot more reading done during the TV sports-watching dead zone. It’s amazing how much more reading you can get done when you’re not watching TV sports every night.

    And this year, I know that if I run out of things to read, I can always count on that gift that keeps on giving:

    Trump campaign indictments.

     

  • Dad reflects on daughter’s milestone birthday

    The first time I mentioned our daughter, Emma, in this column, she was 3 years old.

    On Saturday, she turned 21.

    I think that’s something.

    The fact that Emma turned 21, I mean, not the fact that I’ve been writing a column since Emma was 3.

    Have you ever tried to write a column? You should. It’s easy.

    The reason that I think Emma turning 21 is something is because many years ago, when I turned 21, I thought that was something.

    See, I was a moron, but unlike most morons I knew that I was a moron. So making it to 21 — for me — was a significant beating of the odds.

    When I turned 21, I never figured that many, many, many (I’m trying to make a point here) years later I would have a daughter turn 21. Heck, I never figured I would get married, what with me being a moron and all.

    But I did get married. Granted, I got married on a sailboat off the coast of Key West, Florida, so you could make the argument that we were in international waters so the marriage wasn’t official, but I don’t think that argument would work. The reason I don’t think would work is because, shortly after we were married-my wife tried to make that very argument and it didn’t work then.

    I do remember a time, long before we were married, when my wife and I were watching an actress on TV. The actress happened to be named Emma, and at one point, my wife looked at me and said, “I think Emma would be a good name for a girl. What do you think?”

    I said, “Uh, is there any more beer in the refrigerator?”

    What that means is that long before we were married, my wife was thinking about having a daughter named Emma and I was thinking about having another beer.

    Some things never change.

    I’m actually OK with Emma turning 21, just as I was OK with Emma starting kindergarten or junior high or high school or college. I’ve always figured that because life goes on, Emma’s life is supposed to go on.

    I’m also not one of those people who, when their child turns 21, says, “It all happened so fast.”

    When I look back, it didn’t happen so fast.

    Of course, that may be because I spent a significant portion of Emma’s life sitting in a dark auditorium watching dance recitals. Nothing slows life down like sitting in a dark auditorium watching dance recitals.

    I’ve always tried to live in the moment, and when you do that, time doesn’t pass quickly — or at least it didn’t for me. That may change some day, but if it does, I’ll figure that it’s just part of life and go along with it.

    On Monday morning, Emma will get on a plane in Kansas City, and she’ll fly to Florence, Italy, where she’ll spend the next several months studying.

    That’s right, Emma turned 21 on Saturday and leaves for Italy on Monday.

    I remember the conversation, several months ago, when Emma first asked about studying in Italy.

    Emma: “So I have a chance to spend a semester in Flore—”

    Wife: “ARE YOU CRAZY?”

    Me (at the roughly the same time): “That’s great. You should definitely do it.”

    My wife and I approached Emma’s Italy plan from different directions, is what I’m saying.

    But my wife has gradually come to terms with Emma’s plans to study in Italy and then dedicated the past few months to helping Emma prepare for her trip. And when I say “helping Emma prepare for her trip,” I mean “driving Emma and me crazy.”

    So sometime Monday afternoon, my wife and I will return to our empty house, and our now 21-year-old daughter will be on her way to Italy.

    I think that’s something.

     

  • Wife asks, doesn’t really want husband’s opinion

    I don’t even know why it still surprises me, but it does.

    You would have thought I had learned my lesson early in our marriage when wife my held up two different shoes and asked which I liked best.

    Me: I don’t care.

    Wife: But you have to. I value your opinion.

    Me: Oh, OK. I like those.

    Wife: Really. What’s wrong with these?

    Me: You told me to pick a shoe.

    Wife: Yes. But not that one.

    When it comes to questions of opinion, my wife is Lucy holding a football to be kicked, and I’m Charlie Brown.

    Each time I think my wife actually wants my opinion, she just yanks the football away.

    OK, it’s not a perfect metaphor. But you get my point.

    Well, you do if you’re a veteran husband.

    See, I have long ago learned that when my wife asks for my opinion, she really doesn’t want it if it’s not the same has hers. I long ago learned that what my wife wants is for me to agree with her. But even though I know this, I still think that somehow, this time, my wife really, really does want and value my opinion.

    So I give it to her.

    And she yanks the football away again.

    Understand that when I say “yanks the football away again,” I don’t actually mean a football. I mean she yanks my opinion away.

    Sigh. I told you it wasn’t a perfect metaphor.

    That reminds me. When I was in college, I had an English professor who was from somewhere in Texas, and when he would say metaphor, he would say “met-a-fur.”

    I thought that was funny.

    Our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, is preparing to go on an important trip soon, and a couple of days ago, my wife asked how much cash I thought we should send with her. Because I had been down that road before, I told my wife that whatever she thought would be fine with me.

    Wife: No, I want to know what you think.

    Me: I’m OK with whatever you think.

    Wife: Are you sure?

    Me: Yes.

    About an hour ago, my wife called me from work.

    Wife: I need to know how much money we should send with Emma.

    Me: I told you whatever you think is fine.

    Wife: No. I want your opinion.

    Me: OK how about (I suggest an amount)?

    Wife: Really? That’s all? I was thinking (bigger amount than I suggested).

    I can still hear the whoosh of the football being pulled out from under me.

    Again, the football being the elusive thought of my opinion being valued. Not an actual football.

    It’s a metaphor.

    Whenever I ask my wife for her opinion the reason I do is because — follow me, here — I actually want her opinion.

    If I ask her which sport coat I should wear with the slacks I have on and she says “the brown one,” I don’t say, “Really? You don’t like the blue jacket?”

    That’s because when I ask my wife which jacket I should wear, I really don’t know which one I should wear. That’s why I asked her.

    To me, asking someone’s opinion about something you’ve already decided on is a waste of time, and I don’t like to waste time.

    Well, that’s not true. I love to waste time. I’ve pretty much made a career out of wasting time. I just don’t like to waste time on something that I don’t want to waste it on.

    And asking opinions that I don’t want is not something I want to waste time doing.

    That’s what beer and sports are for.

    And that’s not a metaphor.

  • I Make A Big Ol’ Pot of Lucy Buffett’s Gumbo

    I’m no  gumbo expert.

    I don’t have colorful tales of spending my youth in my grandmother’s kitchen while she whipped up a big ol’ pot of gumbo on her wood-burning stove, telling me stories of growing up on the bayou and singing Hank Williams songs.

    That’s probably because both of my grandmothers were from Kansas where, to my knowledge, there is no bayou and neither of them seemed to care much for Hank Williams.

    I need to stop here and let you know that when referring to a pot of  gumbo the correct term is “big ol’”.

    I  mean, why would anyone make a small pot of gumbo?

    It was the great Justin Wilson who introduced me to gumbo. I was  in my 20s and was a big fan of Justin’s PBS show “Louisiana Cooking”. In one episode, Justin  made a big ol’ pot of  chicken gumbo. I was intrigued. And not just because Justin taught me how to pronounce “andouille”.

    I don’t know why, but being able to pronounce andouille made me feel sophisticated.

    You know, like being able to pronounce gyro or prosciutto.

    Obviously, it doesn’t take much to make me feel sophisticated.

    What intrigued me about Justin’s gumbo recipe was how much it reminded me of the comfort foods I was raised on. To me, Justin’s chicken gumbo seemed like a Louisiana version of my dad’s fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.

    But, still, it wasn’t until several years later, when my wife gave me a copy of Paul Prudhomme’s “Louisiana Kitchen”, that I finally attempted to make a big ol’ pot of gumbo my own self.

    I don’t make gumbo a lot. Probably a couple times a year which may sound like a lot but real gumbo people are more likely to make it a couple times a month.

    Because I still consider myself a gumbo novice , whenever I  make a big ol’ pot of gumbo I always  turn to an expert.

    This past weekend the expert I turned to was Lucy Buffett the younger sister of Jimmy Buffett. It’s important to note, however, that in gumbo circles it’s Jimmy who is known as Lucy’s older brother.

    First Gumbo Person: Who’s that guy with the guitar and margarita?

    Second Gumbo Person: Him? Oh, that’s just Lucy Buffett’s older brother.

    First Gumbo Person: He’s so lucky.

    Lucy owns and operates three restaurants-Lulu’s Gulf Shores, in Gulf Shore, Alabama, Lulu’s Destin in Destin, Florida and Lulu’s in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

    For more information about Lucy you can dial up her website at www.lucybuffett.com.

    And while you’re there you can do what I did and pull up Lucy’s winter gumbo recipe. I’m not including the recipe here because I want you to check out Lucy’s webpage. It’s neat is what it is.

    I’ve never met a gumbo that I didn’t like but I really like Lucy’s winter gumbo recipe. First of all, it’s what you call your traditional gumbo recipe. A deep, dark roux, onion, celery and green pepper (The Holy Trinity) the aforementioned andouille, chicken, stock ,shrimp, oysters and a mess of spices.

    A picture of the early stages of a roux. The flour has just been added to the hot oil and the mixture is sort of a pale white.
    This is what a baby roux looks like. At this point your arm will feel fine.

    Of course, the key to any gumbo recipe is the roux. Basically, a roux is a mix of hot oil and flour that you stir for-as Lucy aptly put it in her recipe-“25 to 35 minutes or until your arm feels like it is about to fall off”.

    Stage two of the roux. The color has changed from pale white ot a sort of tan. I
    Stage two of the roux. Notice how the color has changed. Your arm should still feel fine at this point.

     

    Did I mention Lucy knows a thing or two about gumbo?

    Every time I make a roux, I’m amazed at how the oil and flour slowly changes from a pale white to a light caramel to a dark mahogany. To me it’s sort of like the way the leaves change in the fall. One day they’re green and the next thing you know they’re a mixture of red, yellow and orange.

    Stage three of the roux. It is now a light caramel color
    The roux is starting to take shape. At this point your arm should be barking a bit. Ignore it. Everyone knows an arm’s bark is worse than it’s bite.

    Because I’m a gumbo novice I’m sort of a conservative with the heat when I cook my roux. Sure, I make sure the oil is hot enough when I add the flour, I just tend to cook it a  lower temperature than I  probably should  because I don’t want to it to burn and have to start all over. Cooking at a lower temperature is fine, as long as it’s not too low, it just tends to take longer.

    But, again, I’m lazy and would rather cook my roux a bit longer than have to start all over if I burn it.

    Stage four of the rouc. It's now a dark caramel color
    This is the last picture we took of the roux. It’s not done yet but the football game was coming on so I forgot to take anymore roux pictures. Oh, and my arm was about to fall off.

    I hope that’s not some sort of gumbo no-no.

    Once the roux is done you carefully add the onions, cook them for a couple a minutes, then you add the celery and green pepper, the chicken and andouille, chicken stock and seasoning.

    A picture of the gumbo before the chicken stock is added. You can see the dark brown andouille sausage slices, the chicken pieces and green pepper and celery
    Here is the gumbo just before I added the chicken stock. How good does the andouille look?

    And then it’s time to  let the gumbo simmer uncovered for-again as Lucy aptly puts it “approximately 1 hour or an entire day”.

    The fact that Lucy endorses the idea of simmering her gumbo all day makes her a woman after my own heart.

    Nothing makes me feel better on a Sunday afternoon than having  a big o’ pot of gumbo, or chili, or spaghetti sauce or…well…anything simmering on the stove while I’m watching football, or basketball or baseball.

    A picture of a opened bottle of Chianti with a glass of wine sitting in front of the bottle and the cork next to the bottle
    And here is the finished…oh crap I forgot the gumbo. Be right back.

    Last Sunday, I also made a loaf of Tuscan bread to go with the gumbo. That’s right. While I watched football Sunday afternoon, there was  gumbo simmering on the stove and bread cooking in the oven.

    I’ve had worse days.

    A picture of a bowl of gumbo with a piece of homemade bread on the edge of the bowl and a glass of wine next to the bowl.
    Here be the gumbo. It be good. Wine be good. Bread be good. Life be good.

    A quick note. My wife told me I better give her credit for taking the photos. Well, actually, what she said was “You (Bad Word Used As both a Noun and a Verb) you better give me a photo credit.”

    So here we go: Photos by my wife.

     

  • Try to avoid that long, slow crawl through winter

    The Christmas decorations are down, so I guess that’s a wrap on the whole holiday thing.

    Now, it’s just one long, slow crawl through winter, and then — hopefully — we stand up, shake ourselves off and find that, at long last, spring has arrived.

    Well, to be honest, it’s not that long of a crawl. A couple months really. And there really isn’t any crawling involved. That would be silly. Who wants to spend the winter crawling around waiting for spring?

    Sure, I did that once, but I was in college and I wasn’t really waiting for spring,

    I was just trying to make it back to my dorm from the Red Lion bar in Emporia, Kansas.

    So except for the part about the Christmas decorations being down and the holidays being over, let’s say we agree to ignore that stuff about the long, slow crawl.

    The Christmas decorations came down, as they always do, on New Year’s Day. There was a time in my life when I spent New Year’s Day in bed trying to recover from New Year’s Eve, but that was a long time ago.

    This past New Year’s Eve, my wife and I sat on the couch and watched CNN anchors make fools of themselves while we waited for our 20-year-old daughter to get home from a party.

    There wasn’t much to recover from this New Year’s Day, is what I’m saying.

    By the way, what moron at CNN decided it would be a good idea to let CNN news people host New Year’s Eve shows, drink on camera and generally make fools of themselves? The only reason my wife and I watched the show was because it was such a train wreck.

    And at the risk of offending my conservative friends out there, I like the CNN news people. I think they do great work. I just don’t think they should be hosting New Year’s Eve shows.

    Can you imagine (warning to young people: Incredibly dated TV news reference coming) Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney co-hosting a New Year’s Eve show?

    “And that’s the way is Tuesday, Dec. 31, 196 — hey Rooney whada do with my (bad word) martini?”

    Every year, my wife spends hours putting up Christmas decorations and then, on New Year’s Day, I spend hours helping her take those same decorations down, hauling to the basement and then putting up winter decorations.

    How are Christmas decorations different from winter decorations, you ask?

    I asked my wife the same question, and this is what she said:

    “They just are. That’s how.”

    So there.

    Actually, I didn’t so much take the Christmas decorations down as I did stand around and wait until my wife filled a box with decorations. Then, when the box had been filled and the lid placed on it, I carried it to our basement, then I came back upstairs and waited for my wife to fill another box with Christmas decorations.

    It wasn’t as fun as it sounds.

    We also had to take the ornaments off the Christmas tree, put them away and then haul the Christmas tree outside where it will sit until I remember to take it to the landfill. Often, it’s spring before I remember to take the Christmas tree to the landfill. And by then, it’s not so much a tree as it is a dry stick.

    My wife said that it always makes her sad to have to take down the Christmas decorations.

    For my wife, the end of the holiday season signifies the passage of time and brings back memories of past holidays.

    For me, the end of the holiday seasons signifies the beginning of the NFL playoffs and college basketball conference play.

    I guess it’s a yin and yang thing.

    Well, I’m done here. Time to crawl to the refrigerator and get a beer.

  • Musicals are great — if you’re into that sort of thing

    Well, at least I got out of the house.

    I mean, that’s the only way to look at it, really. If you look at it any other way, it will just depress you.

    Really, when you have to drive eight hours round-trip to do something you don’t want to do it’s best to-as the great Eric Idle once sang-always look on the bright side of life.

    What I did a few days ago was to drive  eight hours round-trip to spend two hours in a theater in St. Louis watching a stage production of “Anastasia,” which is loosely based on the animated movie of the same name. The animated movie was, in turn, loosely based on the legend of the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, who some claimed had survived the execution of the Russian royal family during the revolution.

    It’s not exactly a comedy.

    The reason I drove eight hours round-trip to sit in a theater in St. Louis to watch a stage production of “Anastasia” is because of our 20-year-old daughter, Emma.

    When Emma was much younger, she loved the animated version of “Anastasia” so much so that to this day, I can still recite lines from the movie. It’s the same reason I can still recite lines from the remake of Disney’s “The Parent Trap.”

    It’s what happens when you’re a parent.

    My wife was the person who discovered that the stage production of “Anastasia” was playing in St. Louis.

    “We should go,” my wife said to Emma.

    “You’re right. I’m excited,” Emma said.

    “That’s great,” I said. “You’ll both have a good time.”

    See, I thought my wife and Emma would drive to St. Louis while I stayed home watching sports on TV and drinking beer. Turns out I was the only one who thought that.

    “So,” I said after my wife told me that I was also going to see “Anastasia” in St. Louis, “you want me to drive four hours to a hotel in downtown St. Louis. Then you want me to dress up, spend at least two hours in a theater watching a play I don’t want to watch, drive back to the hotel, go to bed, get up the next morning and drive four hours back home?”

    “Yes,” my wife said.

    “I see,” I said, even though — as I think has been well-documented in this column — I seldom see.

    For those of you who aren’t feeling sorry for me yet, I should point out that the stage production of “Anastasia” is not just a play. It’s a musical.

    That’s right. A musical. That I drove eight hours round-trip to see.

    What happens in a musical is the play will be moving along fine and then, for no apparent reason, the people on stage will start singing. Then, when they finish singing, the people on stage will go back to talking as if nothing happened.

    I don’t know about you, but if I were talking to a woman and that woman all of a sudden started singing and then, when she was finished, resumed talking to me as if nothing happened, I think I would be forced to say, “Excuse me, but did you just break out into song for no apparent reason?”

    And if the woman said, “Yes. Yes, I did,” I would probably say, “I see.”

    And then I would run away as fast as I could.

    But maybe that’s just me.

    The one good thing about sitting through the stage production of “Anastasia” was the fact that they sold beer at the theater. But the problem is if you finish your beer, you can’t get another one right away. You have to wait until halftime. So what I tried to do was sip my beer slowly so it would last the entire first half of the play.

    I didn’t succeed.

    Oh, there was one other thing about driving eight hours round-trip to sit through the stage production of “Anastasia.”

    Emma and my wife loved it. The musical, I mean.

    So I guess it was worth the trip. But, they better not make a musical out of “The Parent Trap”.

    I mean, I don’t like getting out of the house that much.

     

  • Sometimes you just have to wing it

    The menu has been expanded.

    At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but then I figured it wasn’t my place to stand in the way of progress.

    It doesn’t matter if I happen to think that the only thing Rick Walker needs on the menu at Bernie’s roadside tavern in Avilla is the double cheeseburger with bacon and jalapenos. What matters is that Rick and his customers are happy, and as far as I can tell, they are.

    I know for a fact that the two customers who were with me last Saturday at Bernie’s were happy because they said they were. Here is how that conversation went.

    Me: Are you happy?

    Wife: Yes.

    Twenty-year-old daughter Emma: Leave me alone. I’m trying to eat my burger.

    By the way, I’m proud to say that while my wife ordered the single

    A picture of the cheeseburger my wife ordered at Bernies. The burger which has a couple of bites taken out of it is on a paper plate along with a side of onion rings.
    My wife’s single cheeseburger seconds after Rick sat it in front of her. Note that she opted for the onion rings instead of the fries.

    cheeseburger, Emma opted for the double. Although to be fair, Emma told me that I should have warned her how big the double was before she ordered it.

    Oh well, live and learn.

    For some reason my wife and I hadn’t made the short trek across Missouri Highway 96 to Avilla in some time, but now we’ve been twice in almost as many weeks.

    I think that’s something.

    Emma had never been to Bernie’s before last Saturday, and I wasn’t sure what she would think about the place. See, Emma runs in a sorority crowd at college, and, at least to me, Bernie’s doesn’t seem much like a sorority sort of place.

    This may come as a shock to some of you, but when I was in college I didn’t hang around much with the sorority crowd.

    I tended to hang out in places like Bernie’s. Last Saturday, I told Emma that much of my misspent youth had been spent in places like Bernie’s.

    Emma gave me a look that said, “I don’t even know you anymore.”

    But Emma also really liked Bernie’s. A lot.

    I think that’s something.

    I told Emma that years ago, when I was working in the oil fields around Pawhuska, Oklahoma, I took most of my meals in taverns like Bernie’s.

    Emma only knows about Pawhuska because of that Pioneer Woman who cooks on the Food Channel. I told Emma that Pawhuska is a little different town now than it was when I worked there.

    I don’t know, but there is just something about stopping in a roadside tavern after a long day on an oil rig and having an ice-cold beer followed by a burger and an order of fries.

    I think some of my finest meals have been served up at roadside taverns.

    Bernie’s has all the requirements that I look for in a roadside tavern. Beer, of course. The aforementioned excellent cheeseburgers. A great jukebox. A pool table, and friendly people.

    A few weeks ago, when just my wife and I ate at Bernie’s, we sat at the bar while my wife played Keno. My wife said it was the best afternoon of her life, which I thought might have been an exaggeration.

    But then again, she’s married to me.

    So there is that.

    Last Saturday, after we finished our burgers, Rick said he wanted me to try something new to his menu.

    “We do wings now,” Rick said.

    I have to admit I was uneasy with that news. “Why would a perfectly good burger tavern add wings to its menu?” is what I thought.

    Sure, I love wings, but shouldn’t great cheeseburgers with bacon and jalapenos be enough?

    Then I tried the wings.

    An order of fried chicken wings sitting on a paper plate at Bernie's Tavern in Avilla, Missouri.
    Rick’s wings. New to the menu at Bernie’s. They be good.

    And suddenly I was OK with adding wings to the menu. Rick served up a plate of stinging honey garlic wings and a plate of just really, really hot wings, and we finished them all.

    After our cheeseburgers, fries and onion rings.

    I guess sometimes progress is a good thing.

     

  • Christmas stress? ‘Tis the season

    It’s quiet.

    Or it will be once my wife leaves. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s not that I want my wife to leave, it’s just that as long as she’s here it’s pretty much the exact opposite of quiet.

    Again, I don’t mean that in a bad way. My wife is just not one to suffer in silence and she tends to equate this time of year with suffering.

    My wife treats this time of year as a stress-filled, pressure-packed, insane-driving, temper-tantrum-throwing, “Holy (bad word) I need more wine” four weeks.

    While I, on the other wreath, treat this time of year as December.

    Of course, as a veteran husband, I long ago learned not to say: “Hey, why are you so stressed? Don’t you know it’s Christmas?”

    Here’s a piece of advice to you rookie husbands out there: Never ask your wife why she’s stressed out during Christmas.

    Trust me.

    Here’s another piece of advice for you rookie husbands: When your wife says “Oh, you don’t need to get me roses on Valentine’s Day,” what she means is “You (bad word), you better get me roses on Valentine’s Day.”

    Again, trust me.

    This actually just happened. I stepped away from my computer to help our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, print something, and when I came back my wife said she read the part of this column when I described how she views the holiday season.

    My wife said what I wrote made her laugh. Then she told me she was in the middle of unloading Christmas-related gifts out of her car when she decided it would be easier to just wrap the presents in our driveway.

    Several Christmas gift items sitting in our driveway waiting for my wife to warp them. In our driveway.
    Actual presents from my actual wife’s car in our actual driveway which she will actually wrap. Actually.

    That’s right. My wife is wrapping Christmas presents outside. In our driveway.

    She also asked me how much wine we had on hand. I think the two things are related.

    Oh well. ‘Tis the season.

    I decided to work on my column sitting at our kitchen counter because I thought it would be the quietest place in the house. Emma is upstairs doing whatever it is college kids do when they’re home from school. In case you’re wondering, mainly what college kids do when they’re home from school is sleep or say “I wish I was back at school with my friends.”

    My wife was supposed to be out shopping for last-minute gifts because apparently I “have no idea what it takes to make Christmas happen” because apparently I “am a clueless, hopeless moron,” but at the last minute decided to unload some of the other last-minute gifts from her car and wrap them in our driveway. However, during the course of her driveway, gift wrap-a-thon, my wife feels the need to constantly come inside to remind how much she has to do to get ready for Christmas while I’m “just sitting there making fun of (her) in the paper.”

    Have you ever tried to make fun of your wife in the paper while she is constantly interrupting you to point out how hard she is working to get ready for Christmas while you’re just sitting there making fun of her in the paper?

    You should. It’s a hoot.

    I like the quiet of Christmas. When Emma was much younger, these few days before Christmas were far from quiet.

    When Emma was younger, she spent the few days before Christmas asking me how many days were left until Christmas. Then, a few minutes after I would tell her how many days were left until Christmas, Emma would ask me again … and again … and again.

    Now, Emma just tells me she wishes she was back at school with her friends.

    Again … and again … and again.

    Oh well. ‘Tis the season.

     

  • Class and the Art of the “No”

    The “noes” are back.

    Every once in a while there is a pause before the “no” but mostly, though, they’re quick.

    Our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, is the one doing the “Noing”.  I will walk into whatever room she happens to be in and show her what I plan to wear. Then Emma looks at my choices and says “No.”

    Emma is home from college for semester break. We helped move her back last Friday and since that time she has told me “No” three times.

    Now, that may not sound like a lot, but you have to remember that I don’t get out much.

    The most recent “No” came just a few minutes ago. Emma and I are planning to go to Joplin this afternoon. So when Emma woke up — well before 1 p.m. — I walked into the kitchen, where she was fixing a healthy breakfast/lunch of banana slices on toast, and showed her the blue denim shirt I planned to wear with a pair of gray jeans.

    “No,” she said.

    To her credit, Emma explained why she said “No.” Apparently, you’re not supposed to wear a denim shirt with jeans. Also, the blue shirt didn’t really go with the gray jeans.

    I told Emma that I didn’t know what that meant.

    Emma said she didn’t understand what I didn’t understand.

    “How clothes go or don’t go together,” I said.

    “Exactly,” Emma said.

    “I see,” I said, even though, as always, I didn’t see.

    When Emma isn’t around, I have to go to my wife for fashion advice. My wife is OK with fashion advice except that she has to make a big production about the whole thing.

    If I ask my wife if a particular shirt and pair of slacks go together, she’ll make me bring them closer to her.

    “Now turn on that other light,” she’ll say.

    “Now hold them to the light,” she’ll say.

    “Not the shirt,” she’ll say. “Hold the slacks to the light.”

    “Now, hold the shirt to the light. Wait. Don’t move the slacks yet,” she’ll say.

    “No,” she’ll say.

    Emma and I are going to Joplin this afternoon to do some Christmas shopping. Emma is the only person who can get me to Christmas shop an entire week before the holiday.

    “You can’t wait until the last minute. It’s stupid,” Emma said.

    “I see,” I said, even though, as I think I already pointed out, I seldom see.

    Emma has some specific ideas about what she would like to buy for her mom. She also has some specific ideas about what she wants me to buy for her mom.

    When I started to tell Emma what I wanted to buy for her mom, she cut me off in midsentence.

    “No,” she said.

    “I see,” I said, only this time I sort of saw.

    Emma has something that I don’t: class.

    Like a lot of people, I would like to think I have a certain amount of class, but sadly, like a lot of people, I don’t. It’s the reason you see people at the 24-hour retail store in our town wearing pajamas.

    Compared with Emma, I am sans class — classless, if you will — and she thinks waiting until the last minute to buy Christmas presents lacks a certain amount of class.

    “Everything is gone by then,” she says.

    “That’s what makes it fun,” I say.

    “Is that why you gave Mom new windshield wipers one year?” Emma said.

    I ignored the question. Instead, I picked out a different shirt to wear with my jeans.

    “What do y—”

    “No,” Emma said.

    “I see,” I said.

  • Beware of visits to The Second City

    I was just sitting there minding my own business when disaster struck and my life forever changed.

    It was early March, my first day as a new fifth-grade student at St. Xavier’s Catholic School in Junction City, Kansas. Because I was nervous, I decided the best thing to do that day was to mind my own business, which worked out pretty well.

    Until Sister Susanne, the music teacher, walked into the room.

    Sister Susanne marched to the front of the room and held up a deck of flash cards with musical notes on them. She pulled one card out of the deck and,  of course, pointed at me, the new guy.

    “But I’m minding my own business,” I thought to myself.

    Sister Susanne took out some sort of round thing and blew into it and  pointed to the flash card.

    “Sing,” she said.

    “Sing what?” I thought.

    Sister Susanne blew into the round thing again and pointed to the flash card.

    “SING!” she said.

    So I did and every one of my new classmates laughed at me.

    I have not sung in public since — well, at least not sober.

    Last Tuesday night, my wife and I were sitting in our seats watching the newest production at The Second City in Chicago.

    The Second City, of course, is the comedy improv club that has launched the careers of hundreds of comedy legends.

    My wife and I loved The Second City, and if you haven’t been, I urge you to go the next time you’re in Chicago.

    But be careful.

    I thought I was being careful. We were sitting in the fourth row — close to the stage but not too close.

    I was minding my own business, sipping a beer and laughing at appropriate times — but not too hard because I didn’t want to attract attention to myself. I just wanted to mind my own business.

    It was near the end of the show when Tyler Davis, one of the six extremely talented and funny members of The Second City cast, jumped off the stage pretending to be armed and looking for a hostage.

    Like everyone else in the audience, I laughed at Tyler. Then he grabbed my shoulder.

    “YOU! GET UP!” Tyler screamed.

    Hoping to lighten the mood, I picked up my wife’s class of wine and took a sip.

    Tyler made a joke about me sipping wine, then he pulled me up, and the next thing I knew I was sitting backstage listening as Tyler explained what he needed me to do.

    Mike Pound on the stage at The Second City TV. The stage is black and Mike is standing under a spot light.
    One minute you’re sipping a beer, minding your own business and the next minute you’re making a fool of yourself in front of 300 people.

    Tyler said that it was an important night for the cast. There were agents and casting directors in the audience, he said.

    “So,” he said, “I’m going to go get a sheet of paper that I want you to read to the audience. Then …”

    Well, I don’t know what else Tyler said. My mind sort of froze at, “I want you to read to the audience.”

    A minute later, Tyler came back with the piece of paper and a microphone. Then he said, “Oh (Bad word), you’re on.”

    Seconds later, I was standing on stage alone with a microphone and a piece of paper in my hand and 300 people staring at me.

    Did I mention I was minding my own business?

    Mike Pound on stage at Second City. Trying to do the Electric Slide with Kimberly Michelle Vaughn.
    Dancing with Kimberly Michelle Vaughn. Well, Kimberley is dancing. I have no idea what the hell I was doing.

    I read the speech, and the audience laughed. Of course, the audience also laughed when I tried to do the Electric Slide with Kimberly Michelle Vaughn.

    So I’m thinking the laughs were “Thank God I’m not that guy” pity laughs.

    Later, I sat on stage with the scarily funny Nate Varrone for what was supposed to be a funny improv scene. Nate was funny. I sat on stage.

    The rest of my time on stage is sort of a blur although I vaguely remember sticking a piece of black tape onto a semi-naked Jeffrey Murdoch’s left nipple. It wasn’t what it sounds like.

    So, to sum up. I was minding my own business and the next thing I knew I was trying to ad lib with professionals, dance the Electric Slide and stick black, duct tape on the nipple of a semi-naked man.

    Mike Pound leaving the stage at Second City. The entire cast is in the picture inlcluding a semi-naked Jevffery Murdock
    Finally leaving the stage. I think Nate Varrone and  Kimberly are pointing me out to security.

    But, you know what?

    I didn’t have to sing.

     

  • Keeping ‘tomorrow’ and ‘five minutes’ loose keeps the peace

    They’re gone, and I don’t know where they went.

    I also don’t care where they went.

    I assume whoever took them made sure they went to a good home.

    I guess that’s the way it should be. Even though they weren’t my favorite, I at least would like to think they made it to a good home.

    Let’s face it, leaves have feelings too.

    For many years, I was the one who rounded up the leaves in our yard and made sure they got to a good home.

    Well, not every year. One year, I tried to burn the leaves in our yard, which I suppose is the exact opposite of finding them a good home, unless you consider the large metal can where I put the ashes left after burning the leaves a good home. By the way, I put the ashes in the large metal can with the idea of eventually getting rid of them after a few weeks. But then things happened, and the next thing I knew it was July and one day I said, “Hey, I wonder what’s in this large metal can?”

    Most of those years I would spend hours and hours raking the leaves and putting them into large trash bags. If I was lucky, I would get the leaves raked and bagged before we got our first snow storm and I would then take them to the landfill.

    If I wasn’t lucky, the bags of leaves would get covered with snow and then spend the rest of the winter and most of the spring sitting along the fence in our backyard, which would prompt this conversation:

    Wife: “When are you going to take those bags of leaves to the landfill?”

    Me: “Tomorrow.”

    Wife: “Well, all right, then.”

    But then, a few years ago, I discovered that there are people who will come to your house, pick up your leaves and take them to a good home for you.

    “Why didn’t somebody tell me about this?” I asked my wife when I found out that people will come to your home and pick up your leaves.

    My wife looked at me for a second and then said the same thing she says whenever I ask a question like that: “I married a moron.”

    This year, the people who come to our house to pick up our leaves were a little late. The early snow and wet weather threw off their schedule a bit.

    The fact that they were a bit late didn’t bother me, but it sure bothered my wife.

    “When are the leaf people coming?” my wife would ask.

    “Tomorrow,” I would say.

    “Well, all right then,” my wife would say.

    My wife accepts it when I say “tomorrow” in the same way I accept it when she says “five minutes.”

    My wife will call me and when I answer the phone she’ll say that she’ll be home in “five minutes,” and I will say, “Aren’t you in Kansas City?” and she will say, “Yes, I am,” and I will say, “Well, all right then.”

    In both cases, my wife and I know that the other person is lying when they say “tomorrow” or “five minutes,” but we let the lie slide. The reason we do that is because I know that if I call my wife on her “five minutes” she’ll call me on my “tomorrow” and my wife knows if she calls me on my “tomorrow” I’ll call her on her “five minutes.”

    It’s the marital equivalent of a nuclear deterrent.

    But now the leaves are gone, and I don’t have to worry about my backyard for several months, unless we get a really bad snow and my wife asks me when I’m going to clear off our patio.

    What do you think I’ll say?

  • Embrace technology? It’s easier to call ‘a guy’

    I’m not good with technology.

    It’s not that I don’t embrace it. I do — assuming you can embrace technology. I mean you can’t embrace technology in the physical sense unless you attempt to physically embrace one of those watch things that counts your steps, monitors your pulse and changes the oil in your car.

    But if you physically embraced one of those watches, people might think you were odd which you would know because, among all the other things they do, the watches also tell you when someone thinks you’re odd.

    OK. I’m exaggerating here. Those watches don’t tell you when people think you’re odd, but wouldn’t it be cool if they did?

    Think of all the time that would save, and who knows: The watches might even reduce the number of people doing odd things. Or increase the number.

    With technology, you never know.

    So rather than say I embrace technology, maybe I should just say that I appreciate technology. I didn’t used to appreciate technology. I used to mock technology but then I realized I was starting to sound like one of those old guys railing about “them dang-blasted horseless carriages.”

    In case you were wondering, after 19 years of writing columns I think that was the first time I ever used the phrase “dang-blasted.”

    I thought you should know that.

    But even though I appreciate technology, I’m not good at doing technological things. I can’t fix our Wi-Fi when it goes haywire. I don’t even know how Wi-Fi works. How could I be expected to fix it when it doesn’t?

    Actually, I don’t know how most things work. I just turn something on. If it works, I’m fine, and if it doesn’t, I turn it off. Then I turn it back on. If it still doesn’t work, I call a guy. I’ve found that no matter the piece of technology you have, there is always a guy you can call who can fix it.

    Of course, it usually costs lots of money to have a piece of technology fixed, but that’s why there are some many guys.

    If it didn’t cost lots of money, there would only be one guy. One busy guy.

    The other day, I had to go to one of those big stores that sell mainly office stuff to buy a new printer for my computer.

    The reason I had to buy a new printer was because there was something wrong with our old printer. Here is what was wrong with our old printer: The people who make it decided to stop selling ink for it.

    If you ask me, that’s a pretty passive-aggressive way for a company to turn its back on a product.

    “Oh, no, it’s not your printer. It’s the ink.”

    See, I thought that because our printer was only about 5 years old, the people who made it should still be selling ink for it, but I’ve been told that I am naive.

    According to several people I spoke with, a 5-year-old printer is the equivalent slightly used telegraph machine.

    “You’re lucky if you can get two or three years out of a printer,” a friend told me.

    So, basically a printer is pretty much like a member of Trump’s administration

    I looked at all of the printers at the large office store and picked the one that looked the least intimidating. Then I asked a guy who worked there if the printer was hard to install.

    “No, no,” he said. “All you need to do is …”

    Well I don’t know exactly what he said because I quit listening after he said something that sounded like “download software”.

    When I got the printer home, I took it out of the box, and a mere eight hours later, I had a newly installed printer.

    Now, I just need some printer paper.

    I’m going to call a guy.

     

  • If your hair looks good, thank artificial intelligence

    This may come as a shock to some of you, but I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about my hair.

    When you get to a certain age, you basically look at your hair and say: “What’s the point?”

    Actually, when you get to a certain age, you find yourself saying “What’s the point?” about a lot of things.

    “I should probably get a new suit. But, then, again, what’s the point?”

    When you get to a certain age, you also find yourself asking “Why?” a lot.

    Say your wife, out of the blue, asks if you want to go with her on a homes tour.

    “Why?” is what you say.

    For the record, although my wife has been to a number of tours of homes over the years, I have not.

    “Why not?” you ask. Because I don’t care about other peoples’ homes.

    Now when I was a kid living in Junction City, Kansas, my parents took my six brothers and sisters and me to Abilene and we visited the boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, but that really wasn’t so much a home as it was a museum.

    And Dwight wasn’t home.

    Wait. Where was I?

    Oh right, my hair.

    The last time I remember worrying about my hair was when I was a member of the St. Xavier’s High School basketball team (The Fighting Rams) in Junction City.

    That’s because Jim Westerhaus, our basketball coach, had a thing about long hair on boys. He hated it. And if you had a chance to take a look at my high school year books you might think that Jim had a point.

    Anyway, if your hair got too long, you didn’t get to play in the next game. So I would worry that when my hair got too long, I wouldn’t be able to play, or worse, my dad would take me to Fort Riley and have a barber cut my hair.

    Ever had your hair cut by an Army barber? As a civilian I mean.

    Don’t.

    Let’s just say — at least on me — it wasn’t a good look.

    I guess because of all that I’ve never really worried about having a bad hair day.

    My wife worries about bad hair days all the time. For my wife, bad hair days always seems to happen on the worst sort of day. They seem to happen on  day when my wife  feels that she needs to be at her best. My wife calls a bad hair day on one of those days “a nightmare.”

    I, on the other part,  call a bad hair day “Wednesday.”

    But apparently a lot of people worry about bad hair days because according to a story in The New York Times, a new wave (ha) of shampoo companies are hoping to eliminate bad hair days using artificial intelligence.

    Lest you’re a moron like myself, I should point out that by “artificial intelligence,” the story wasn’t talking about really smart wigs.

    Nope, according to the Times, one of the shampoo companies uses “a quiz, artificial intelligence algorithms and a 6,000-square-foot production space” to churn out hair products that it hopes will be “each customer’s ideal product.”

    I have to admit that when I first read that I had a very specific reaction. Here is that reaction:

    “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”

    Then I read that Prose — the shampoo company — makes a custom-made conditioner that costs $25.

    When I read that I had another very specific reaction. Here is that reaction:

    “Are you (Bad word used as a verb) kidding me?”

    But then again, have you seen my hair?

    Another startup shampoo company called Function of Beauty also uses quizzes and algorithms along with what the Times called “a Willy Wonka-esque 50,000-square-foot factory of custom-built machines” to produce 8-ounce sets of shampoo and conditioner that start at $36 a pop.

    Here’s a tip. If you buy a product from a factory that is described as “Willy Wonka-esque,” it’s going to be expensive.

    But hey, if using custom-made shampoo based on artificial intelligence algorithms makes you feel better, by all means go ahead.

    I’m sure you’ll look great at your next homes tour.

     

  • Sleeping in beats Black Friday shopping

    It’s a little after noon on the  Friday after Thanksgiving, as I am typing this, and it’s quiet.

    Not too quiet, but quiet just the same.

    Our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, is upstairs asleep and my wife is in the living room sorting through her catch.

    The reason Emma is upstairs asleep and my wife is in the living room sorting through her catch is because the two of them woke up at 6 a.m. so they could go shopping.

    The reason I know this is because I also woke up at 6 a.m., then I went back to sleep.

    I can’t think of any reason I would wake up at 6 a.m. if I didn’t have too. When I worked in radio I was required to be at work at 6 a.m. so I got up early, but even then I managed to be late more often than not.

    But I write a newspaper column from home now so I seldom need to get up at 6 a.m. I mean, when was the last time you heard someone say, “Quick! We need a mildly amusing newspaper column. NOW!”

    So after telling my wife that she was crazy, I went back to sleep and didn’t wake up until the crack of 9 a.m.

    Then I came downstairs, made coffee, grabbed the newspaper, sat down on the couch and began to enjoy the morning.

    About an hour later, my wife called. She said she and Emma had returned from Joplin and were now on the square in Carthage shopping at a wine store.

    “Do you want to come join us?” my wife asked.

    I wanted to say, “No. No, I do not. I’m enjoying a quiet Friday morning alone.”

    Instead, I said, “Gee, I would love to but I’m not really dressed well enough for that.”

    My wife thought about that for a second and said, “Right. I should have thought about that.”

    I don’t how it is for other veteran husbands but whenever I tell my wife that I’m not dressed well enough for something, she automatically takes me at my word.

    My wife could call and tell me that she was in the process of gutting a fish and if I said, “I’m not dressed well enough for that,” she would agree with me.

    I need to stress here that in all of the years I have known my wife she has never called me to say that she was in the process of gutting a fish. In case you were wondering.

    About an hour later, my wife and Emma came home. Emma, because she didn’t fall too far from the tree, immediately went upstairs to take a nap while my wife took a mess o’shopping bags into the living room.

    I should point out that the only time it is permissible to use the phrase “mess o’shopping bags” is if you woke up at 6 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving to go shopping.

    I don’t know what my wife and Emma bought this morning and I don’t want to know, but at one point my wife set a shopping bag on the floor next to me.

    “Here,” she said, “you don’t know this but you bought this for me for Christmas. I need you to take it upstairs and hide it. Then, later, I need you to wrap it and give it to me for Christmas.”

    Did I mention my wife is crazy?

    After my wife is through sorting through the mess o’shopping bags she will commence with undecorating and redecorating of our house. First, she will take down our Thanksgiving decorations, and then she will put up our Christmas decorations. My wife says doing that makes her happy.

    As for me … I think I’ll take a nap.

  • For one curling team, handicapping holds different meaning

    I didn’t think it was possible, but someone did it.

    Someone made the sport of curling interesting. By the way, you know a sport is sort of obscure when you have to refer to it as “the sport of … .”

    You would never have to say “the sport of football” or “the sport of basketball.” But you do have to say “the sport of curling” because if you just said “curling” people might think you’re talking about what women did to their hair in the 1980s.

    Now, before you send me nasty emails, I realize that a lot people already find  the sport of curling interesting. Just as a lot of people find soccer interesting.

    I’m just not one of them.

    As long as we’re on the subject, I don’t find opera interesting either.

    To be accurate, the “someone” who managed to make the sport of curling interesting wasn’t so much a “one” as it was a team of someones.

    According to The Washington Post, a curling team composed of Jamie Koe, Ryan Fry, Chris Schille and D.J. Kidby were disqualified over the weekend from the Red Deer Curling Classic in Alberta, Canada, for being “extremely drunk.”

    See what I mean? You’re interested right? In the sport of curling. I was too.

    Wade Thurber, the facilities manager for the tournament, told the Post that the team was “extremely drunk and breaking brooms and swearing” while playing the tournament.

    According to the Post, a commentator for a livestream of the tournament said the team showed up around 11 a.m. Saturday.

    “They were sitting over there drinking, about 30, 40 empty beer bottles, and they were doing shots,” the commentator said.

    As far as I’m concerned, anytime you have the words “30, 40 empty beer bottles” followed by “and they were doing shots,” someone is probably having too much fun.

    Do you realize how drunk you have to be to be considered “extremely drunk” in Canada?

    I’ve been to Canada. I love Canada, and one of the reasons I do is because Canadians love beer almost as much as a certain U.S. Supreme Court justice.

    The amazing thing is that, according to the Post, the team actually won its first match. That’s right. They won a curling match after drinking 30 or 40 beers and doing shots.

    How would you like to be on the team they beat?

    I’m thinking that curling is one of the few sports you could manage to play fairly well while drunk. Sure, you can play darts in a bar drunk, but you can’t play the game well.

    Or so I’ve heard.

    Years ago, I played on a slow-pitch softball team, and one time our pitcher got so drunk he fell off the mound. I also knew a guy who got so drunk on a canoe trip that he passed out. In the canoe.

    So, sure you can play some sports or take part in an outdoor activity while drunk. You just can’t do it well.

    But four “extremely drunk” Canadians managed to curl well enough to win their first match.

    Of course, it’s possible that’s because one of the drunk curlers was a bit of a ringer. According to the Post, Ryan Fry was a member of the Canadian curling team that won the gold medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    To his credit, Ryan apologized for his behavior and said the tournament officials were right to disqualify his team.

    But still. Too drunk to curl?

    According to the Post, here is how Wade Thurber, the facilities manager, described the tournament official’s decision to disqualify the team: “So, at the end of the day, it was like, ‘OK, that’s enough of this gong show.’”

    That may be the best thing I’ve ever heard come out of a curling story.

    Now if you will excuse me, I think it’s time for a beer.

    And maybe a shot.

     

  • Dreaming of a time before FaceTime

    I’m afraid we’ve crossed a line we can’t uncross.

    Although I like to think of myself as a flexible person and do my best to at least pretend to know and appreciate technology, there are some lines that I don’t like to cross. On Friday, my wife made me cross that line.

    I was sitting at my computer trying think of a topic for a column when my wife called.

    “I need you to hang up,” my wife said.

    “Then why did you call me?” I asked.

    It was, I thought, a reasonable question.

    “You didn’t let me finish,” my wife said.

    Silly me, I figured that when my wife told me that she needed me to hang up, she was finished talking. What’s left to say after you tell someone to hang up?

    “I need you to hang up so I can call you back on FaceTime,” my wife said.

    That was the line-crosser.

    Look, I know that people have been FaceTiming (or whatever you call it) each other on their phones for years. I just never wanted to be one of those people.

    See, I’ve always thought a telephone was a giant invasion of privacy and this goes back long before cellphones came around. In the dark, pre-cellphone days, I hated having a phone at home because when it would ring, I was expected to answer it and talk to whoever was on the other end of the line. And if I didn’t, the next day the person who tried to call me would say, “Hey, where were you last night? I tried to call you.” And I would be forced to come up with a lie rather than simply say, “I didn’t want to talk to you.”

    Then along came the answering machine, which meant that the person who called me that I didn’t want to talk to could now leave a message and the next day say, “Hey, why didn’t you call me back? I left you a message.” And then I would have to lie and say that my answering machine was broken rather than say, “I didn’t want to talk to you.”

    Then, along came the cellphone, and what little that was left of my privacy was gone.

    And now my wife is calling me and telling me to hang up so we can FaceTime.

    “I don’t know how to do that,” I said when my wife told me that she wanted us to FaceTime.

    “Just answer the phone when I call,” my wife said.

    “Oh,” I said.

    A couple minutes later, my phone rang. I answered it, and there was my wife staring at me.

    “What?” I said.

    “Why don’t you have a shirt on?” she asked.

    See, right there, is the problem with FaceTime. If my wife just called me the old-fashioned way, I wouldn’t have to answer a question like, “Why don’t you have a shirt on?”

    I started to explain to my wife that I was going to put on a shirt but got distracted by the fact that I didn’t yet have a column topic so I sat at the computer for a minute to try to think of one but  she cut me off.

    “Never mind. Go put a shirt on. The guy at the store needs to show you something,” my wife said.

    I wanted to say, “Well why didn’t you tell me you were in a store before you called me on FaceTime?” but I figured the conversation would just go downhill from there.

    Turns out my wife wanted the guy to show me some sort of device that will allow us to call people through our computer.

    “I don’t want that,” I said.

    “Tough,” my wife said.

    According to my wife, the device will save us money because we won’t be calling people through our phone. We’ll be calling people through our computer and they can call us through their computer.

    Sigh.

    Line crossed. Privacy lost.

    I’m getting a beer. And I’m taking my shirt off.

     

  • Court ruling turns sure thing into uncertainty

    Well, this is disappointing.

    I had a great idea. A sure-fire winner. A moneymaker. A honey of a deal. A “my ship has come in” worthy plan. A no-brainer. A can’t miss. A hole in one. A full-court shot at the buzzer.

    Wait, I have to stop for a second. One of our cats is in the process of what sounds like coughing up a lung. I can’t think of a worse sound than the sound of a cat trying to cough up something. It’s not just the sound — which is bad enough — it’s the dread of what you’ll discover when the cat finishes coughing up whatever it’s coughing up.

    Stay here. I’ll be right back.

    OK, I’m back. Wasn’t as bad as it sounded.

    Now then, where was I?

    Oh, right. My great idea. What I was planning to do was to copyright the taste of my smoked baby back ribs.

    Genius, right?

    Copyright the taste of the ribs and from then on whenever someone served up a mess o’ ribs, I get a little piece of the action.

    By the way, as I’ve explained many times in this column when referring to ribs it is proper to use the expression “a mess o’ ribs.”

    But now, thanks to those busybodies at the Court of Justice of the European Union, I don’t think I’m going to be raking in the dough, ribwise.

    According to several media outlets, including NPR, what happened was two Dutch cheese companies got into a bit of a dust-up over the taste of cheese spread. A company called Levola had been making an herb cheese spread called Heksenkaas, which is Dutch for “witches’ cheese,” since 2007. Then, a while back, another cheese company called Smilde started making an herb cheese spread that it called Witte Wievenkaas, which, I think, means “We didn’t steal this recipe. Honest.”

    Since the folks at Levola held a copyright on their cheese spread, they asked the court to order Smilde to stop selling its spread. Unfortunately, two justices had to recuse themselves because they were lactose intolerant.

    Ha. That’s just a joke. Not that I think lactose intolerance is funny. I just thought the idea of having two justices, hearing a case about cheese, being lactose intolerant is funny.

    Sigh. It’s never a good sign when you have to explain a joke.

    No, what happened is the court refused to order Smilde to stop selling its cheese spread because it decided that taste is not something that can be copyrighted.

    Because I’m a moron, the European court’s reasoning was sort of hard to follow, but basically, according to NPR, what the court said was that to be copyrighted, a food must be “expressed in a manner that makes it identifiable with sufficient precision and objectivity.” And, according to NPR, the court decided that “the taste of a food product cannot be identified with precision and objectivity.”

    Again, I may be a moron here, but I think I can sum up the European court’s ruling in one word: nuh-uh.

    Here, again in one word, is my case against the European court’s ruling that a food’s taste can’t be identified with precision and objectivity: liver.

    I think that liver tastes like dirt. And if that’s not identifying a food’s taste with “precision and objectivity,” I don’t know what is.

    Here’s another one: Brussels sprouts.

    I think Brussels sprouts taste like dried grass.

    Again, precision and objectivity.

    But I’m not a member of the Court of Justice of the European Union, so I guess my opinion here really doesn’t matter.

    It’s probably just as well. If I had gotten rich off of baby back ribs, I would probably just blow the money on beer and — oddly enough — baby back ribs.

    Now if you will excuse me, I have to figure out what word to use to describe what the cat coughed up.

    I’m thinking: liver.

  • Football viewing could be in cards for today

    It’s possible that I will get to watch an entire Kansas City Chiefs football game on Sunday.

    I mean, it’s Friday as I’m writing this, so something could come up between now and Sunday to prevent me from watching an entire game. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed which, of course, makes it sort of hard to type, but I’ll do my beeeeeeeest.

    Whoops. Sorry. I mean “my best.”

    For some reason, we have managed to fill many of our weekends this fall with activities. And when I say “for some reason” I mean “my wife.”

    My wife will look at her calendar two months in advance and see that we have an open weekend, and she’ll say, “Well, we can’t have that,” and the next thing I know that open weekend became a closed weekend.

    Now, because most of the Kansas City Chiefs football games are played on Sunday, that means we are often traveling when the game is being played.

    Last Sunday, we were returning home from 20-year-old daughter Emma’s college town while the Chiefs were playing football, so I was forced to listen to the game on the radio while I drove.

    Listening to a Chiefs game on the radio is sort of a challenge. See, the Chiefs radio announcer tends to get a bit “worked up” when he is calling the football game.

    Wait, that’s not true. Trump got a little worked up during his news conference Wednesday morning.

    The Chiefs radio announcer gets way worked up.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like the Chiefs radio announcer. It’s just that sometimes he gets so excited it’s sort of hard to figure out what he’s talking about. The only time I know for sure what the Chiefs radio announcer is talking about is if the Chiefs happened to score a touchdown. The reason I can figure out that the Chiefs have scored a touchdown is the radio announcer will be talking in his normal voice at roughly 1,294,456 words a minute when he will suddenly scream “TOUCHDOWN KANSAAAAAAASSSSSS CITTTTTTTTTY.”

    When he does that, my wife will look at me.

    “What’s he trying to say?” she will ask.

    “It’s possible the  Chiefs may have scored a touchdown,” I will say.

    The problem with not getting to see a lot of Chiefs games on TV is that this year the team is really good. I mean, really, really good.

    This Chiefs team scores a lot of points. In fact, they scored 39 points since I started typing this column, and they’re not even playing an official game.

    In some years past, I wouldn’t have minded missing some Chiefs games, but this year I do mind. Very much.

    So, I was very happy when I discovered that while we have something we have to do on Saturday, we have nothing to do on Sunday. Well, I think my wife has some sort of social event she has to attend on Sunday, but fortunate,ly the social event does not require my presence.

    “I have a social event on Sunday,” my wife said. “But you aren’t part of it. Will you be OK at home by yourself?”

    “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA,” I said to my wife. Then I paused and said, “I mean, I will miss you and all, but I guess I could just watch a little bit of football.”

    “You are a (bad word),” my wife said.

    By the way, we have to be out of town next Sunday, but somehow, we have next Saturday open. So Thursday night, when my wife discovered that, she said (and I swear this is true), “Hey, we don’t have anything to do next Saturday evening, so I think we should go to this event where you do yoga and drink wine?”

    Sigh.

    Oh well. Maybe the Chiefs radio announcer will be there. I can hear him now.

    “NAMASTE KANSAAAAAAASSSSSS CITTTTTTTTTY.”

  • Lowly bachelor pad goes upscale

    And now, for a systematic, thoughtful, well-researched analysis of last night’s election: Some people voted. Some people didn’t. The world is coming to an end. Or maybe it’s not.

    The sun came up this morning. Or maybe it didn’t.

    That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. At long last the election talk is over, and it will be days maybe hours before it starts again.

    In the meantime, how about a column about what The New York Times calls the “Grown-Up Bachelor Pad.”

    Actually, because The New York Times is The New York Times, it also calls the Grown-Up Bachelor Pad a Manhattan “pied-à-terre,” which is French for “way too pretentious.”

    By the way, I really like The New York Times. (Motto: “Are you sure you’re smart enough to like us, Mike?”) But sometimes the paper tends to get a tad too, shall we say, sophisticated for its own good.

    Or too sophisticated for my own good. To some people, the story in Tuesday’s paper about the pied-à-terre might not seem sophisticated at all.

    But it was to me. For one thing, I had to go online to figure out how to put that little accent mark over the “a” in “pied-à-terre.” As far as I’m concerned, if I have to go online to figure out how to type a word in a story, it’s too sophisticated.

    The reason I bothered to read the story about the grown-up bachelor pad is because I was single for a long time (No, really, it’s true.) and  I feel I know a little something about bachelor pads, so I was interested in seeing what a modern one looks like.

    It didn’t take long for me to figure out that things have changed since I was single. Here is a brief description of the bachelor pad in the Times’ story.

    “To furnish the space, Cindy Coscoros … found a mix of vintage, contemporary and custom pieces, including a Zio dining table and chairs by Marcel Wanders for Moooi; a 1970s Lucite coffee table by Les Prismatiques; and an upholstered bed from Ralph Lauren Home.”

    I once lived in a swinging bachelor pad that had a fourth-hand couch I bought for $15 and a 12-inch black-and-white TV.

    Ah, those were the days.

    In another apartment I had a bed that I wanted to replace but nowhere to store it, so I just leaned it up against the living room wall. I called it a Murphy bed.

    In that apartment I also had a better couch. I got it by trading a TV that — technically — wasn’t mine to a friend for the couch that — technically — wasn’t hers.

    Nobody missed either one.

    So I’m thinking that Anthony Bonsignore, the owner of the grown-up bachelor pad in the Times’ story, and I come from different bachelor circles.

    First of all, it’s the names: Anthony Bonsignore sounds like some classic European dish; my name sounds like a place where you store stray Mikes.

    It’s also the bachelor pad price difference. According to the Times, Anthony spent a little over $2 million for his bachelor pad and another $750,000 in renovations.

    I once rented a bachelor pad for $60 a month. And it was furnished. Not well, but it was furnished.

    Speaking of bachelor pads, I may have mentioned this before but when my friend, Gary Bandy, was in college, he lived with a friend in a swinging bachelor pad in Arma, Kansas. That swinging bachelor pad was quickly named … wait for it … “the Arma Pit.”

    I don’t mean to judge here. If I had nearly $3 million to spend on a bachelor pad, I probably would. But I don’t, so I won’t.

    If I did, I think I would call it my “pied-à-terre.” You know, since I now know how to add that little mark above the “a.”

     

  • Preparing for Dad’s Weekend — with mom in tow

    We’re supposed to leave soon, and this time, I control exactly when that happens.

    While I’m writing this column, my wife is upstairs getting ready. We can’t leave until I finish this column, which is why I’m sort of in control here. I seldom control what time we leave for anywhere.

    Sure, I can make suggestions. Say our destination is two and a half hours away, and we need to be there at 3 p.m. I can suggest that in order to be on time, we leave at 1:15 p.m. But with my wife, a departure suggestion is just that: a suggestion.

    What usually happens is I will be standing by the door at 1 p.m. waiting for my wife, who has insisted that she will be ready in “just a minute,” and then 45 minutes later, finally come downstairs and says, “Are you ready?” And I will want to say, “AM I READY? AM I READY? I’VE BEEN READY FOR 45 MINUTES. WHERE IN THE (BAD WORD) HAVE YOU BEEN?”

    But I don’t say that because if I do, my wife will say, “Gee, why are you always so grouchy?” So instead I say, “Yes, yes, I am ready,” and then my wife will say, “Wait, I forgot …” wepp it doesn’t matter what my wife forgot;what matters is that she always forgets something and has to spend another 15 minutes looking for whatever it is she forgot while I continue standing by the door.

    Sigh.

    But this time, I’m in control. This time, we can’t leave until I get this column done. While I’m writing this column, my wife will have plenty of time to get ready. So when I’m finished, all I have to do is pack a bag and then, just like that, we’re off.

    My wife and I are heading to see our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, at her college for something called Dad’s Weekend.

    Normally, I go to Dad’s Weekend by myself, but this year, Emma said that several of the moms have decided to join their husbands for Dad’s Weekend.

    I’m guessing that’s because Dad’s Weekend tends to be awkward. See, dads are male people, and male people sometimes aren’t the chattiest people in the world. In the previous two Dad’s Weekends, here are a few samples of the conversations I’ve had with the other dads:

    Conversation No. 1: Hey.

    Conversation No. B: S’up?

    Conversation No. III: Hey.

    So I’m guessing that Emma and some of her friends decided to invite the moms to Dad’s Weekend to sort of spur along the conversation.

    Actually, I’m fine with having the moms join the dads for Dad’s Weekend. With my wife along, I don’t have to worry about talking and can instead concentrate on drinking beer.

    My wife is a very capable woman, and she can do many things very well. But one of the things she does very, very well is talk to people — not just people she knows, but also complete strangers. The two of us can climb into a cab in Chicago, and 15 minutes later, my wife will know how long the driver has been driving a cab, where he’s from, how long he has been married and the names and ages of all of his children.

    So this weekend, the moms will handle the talking, and the dads will handle the beer-drinking and the not-talking and everyone will be happy.

    Because my wife is excited to spend time with Emma, she wants to leave right after I finish this column. So in a few minutes, I’ll go upstairs and pack a bag while my wife stands by the door waiting for me. Then, about 45 minutes later, I’ll finally come back downstairs.

    “Are you ready?” I’ll ask.

    Gee, I wonder what my wife will say.

     

  • Accompanying wife on ‘her’ vacation gives husband leverage

    I once worked for a guy who told me that business is all about leverage. Either you have it or you don’t.

    It would have been a great lesson had I not been asking for a raise at the time. Turns out my boss had leverage. I did not.

    Marriage is a lot like business. In marriage either you have leverage or you don’t. In my marriage, my wife has leverage and I don’t.

    Until now.

    After many, many, many years of marriage, I am proud to say that I finally have leverage.

    It’s life-changing, is what it is.

    The reason I now have leverage in our relationship is because my wife decided that we should visit the Miraval Resort located in the desert somewhere north of Tucson, Arizona.

    The Miraval Resort is one of those places where people go to get away from the pressures of day-to-day life. It’s one of those places where people go to rediscover themselves and to recharge their batteries.

    As you might expect, the Miraval Resort is popular with women. This might be an exaggeration, but during our stay I would say that the ratio of women to men was about 50-1.

    If someone accidentally played a song from the “Mama Mia” soundtrack on their cellphone, I’m pretty sure chaos would ensue.

    There were a lot of women at the Miraval Resort, is what I’m saying.

    When you visit Miraval, you have the option of taking part in a whole host of activities, so naturally, my wife signed us up for as many as she could.

    One of the activities my wife signed us up for was zip-lining across the desert. When my wife told me that we would be 45 feet up in the air, I reminded her that I was uneasy with heights and said that I didn’t want to zip-line across the desert.

    Mike and Lee Pound seconds after stepped off a zipline platform. Lee's arms are hanging free and Mike is holding on for dear life.
    Lee and I have just stepped off the zipline platform. Note that Lee has her arms hanging free while I am holding on for dear life.

    “Fine,” my wife said, “I’ll go by myself.”

    But she said it in a tone that meant, “I can’t believe you are going to make me zip-line across the desert by myself. I guess you have given up on any chance of getting any leverage in this marriage.”

    It was, as always, a heck of a tone.

    The second activity my wife signed us up for was something called “A Swing and a Prayer.” Here’s what happens during “A Swing and a Prayer”: You get hoisted 35 feet into the air, and when the instructor tells you to, you let go of a rope, which sends you swinging through air like a human pinata.

    Mike Pound wearing a blue helmut strapped into a harness suspended 35 feet above the Arizona desert waiting to be told to let go of a rope and plunge to his death
    Against my will, I am hanging 35 feet above the desert waiting to die.

    It’s not as fun as it sounds.

    I told my wife that I didn’t want to do that, either, and she said — using the same tone she used earlier — that she would go by herself.

    So, at about 8:30 this past Saturday morning I was hanging in the air some 35 feet above the desert wondering how in the world I got there. Then, when the instructor told me to drop the rope, I said — using my best Chevy Chase voice — “THIS IS CRAZY, THIS IS CRAZY, THIS IS CRAZY,” and let go.

    I’m not sure, but I think at some point I may have sobbed.

    A couple of hours later I was climbing up a pole to get to a large platform located 45 feet in the air. Then, a few minutes later, my wife and I stepped off the platform and zoomed across the desert.

    I’m not sure, but I think at some point I  may have wet myself.

    Mike and Lee Pound posing in their zipline helmets after they're both back on the ground.
    The two of us back on the ground. Lee’s expression says “Let’s do this again” mine says, “Thank God I’ve lived to have another beer”.

    But now, for the first time, I have leverage in our marriage, which is nice.

    I just wish I knew what to do with it.

     

  • Safety instructions a necessary part of vacation activities

    I thought the first performance was pretty good, but I found the second one somewhat lacking.

    I’m not saying the second performance wasn’t any good; I’m just saying it was lacking.

    To make an airplane safety instruction session special, it’s essential that the flight attendant truly commit to the part. I thought the attendant on the first leg of our trip did a fine job, while the attendant on the second leg sort of walked through the whole thing.

    Not bad. Just not inspired.

    I make it a point to pay attention to flight attendants when they give the safety instructions.

    For one thing, the flight attendant is trying to impart important safety information that could save your life. Assuming, of course, that when the plane you’re on begins plummeting toward the earth, you’re going to remember how to put on the oxygen mask and then “breathe normally.”

    This might just be me, but if I’m ever in a situation on a plane where an oxygen mask feels it needs to drop in front of my face, the last thing I’m going to do is breathe normally.

    The other reason I pay attention to the flight attendant’s safety lesson is because I figure it’s the least I can do. It seems if a person is taking the time to show you where the exits are, where the lights are that will guide you to the exits and how to put on an oxygen mask AND a life jacket, the polite thing to do is pay attention.

    It’s the way I was brought up.

    I’m writing this column on Thursday afternoon in our hotel room near the Tucson International Airport in Arizona. We got into Tucson shortly after 10 a.m. local time, which to my wife and me was really shortly after noon, what with the time difference and all.

    We spent part of our Thursday afternoon wandering around downtown Tucson, which was nice. When we visit places we haven’t been to before, my wife and I like to wander. Over the years, we’ve found that we have the most fun when we just wander. I mean, within reason. On Friday, my wife and I were going to a desert north of Tucson, but I don’t think we would have fun wandering around the desert.

    The reason we were going to a desert north of Tucson was because my wife wanted to go to some sort of fancy resort there. It’s the sort of fancy resort that encourages its guests to do things like yoga, hiking, horseback riding, meditating, banging gongs and basically getting in touch with your feelings.

    “But, Mike,” some of you are saying, “that doesn’t sound like something you would enjoy.”

    To some of you who are saying that, I say, “You’re right. You’re absolutely right.”

    But I’m going to do it anyway.

    “Why?” you ask.

    Because they serve beer at this resort. See, whenever my wife asks me to do something I really don’t want to do, I always ask if they serve beer. If the answer is yes, I do it. If the answer is no, I still do it. But not happily.

    On Saturday morning, my wife and I were going out into the desert where someone would hook us to a long line, give us a push and send us hurtling to our deaths.

    OK, technically what my wife and I were going to do is zipline across the desert, but as far as I’m concerned, it would be the same thing as hurtling to our deaths.

    See, I’m not good with heights, and my wife knows that. I think that’s why she suggested we zipline across the desert.

    But they serve beer at the resort, so I’m going to zipline anyway and I won’t complain.

    But I will definitely pay attention to the safety instructions.

     

  • Building replica of ocean liner a titanic mistake

    You know how sometimes you hear about an idea that at first seems reasonable but later turns out to be terrible?

    Well, this isn’t one of those ideas.

    This is an idea that from the moment you hear about it seems to be completely horrible. And then, after thinking about it for a few seconds, you realize that it’s even worse than you thought.

    According to numerous media reports, which I read online when I was supposed to be working, a company is building an exact replica of the Titanic and plans to sail it on the original Titanic’s first and only route.

    You might have heard about the Titanic’s first and only route. It didn’t go so well and not just because later, in the 1990’s we had to listen to that irritating  Celine Dion song.

    In 1912, the ship set sail from Southampton, England, to New York and hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic. The Titanic — to use a technical sailing expression — sank like a rock.

    It seems to me that building a replica of a ship involved in one of the worst ocean liner accidents in history and then sailing that replica on the exact same route the original ship took when it sank is testing karma more than a little bit.

    I’ve written about karma before and how it’s never a good idea to mess with it because, as I’ve said many times, karma can be a disagreeable person.

    And it’s not as if karma hasn’t tried to warn the Blue Star Line, the company planning the second sailing of the Titanic, before.

    The first time was in 1912. You know, when it sank the original Titanic.

    The second time was in 2015, when, according to numerous media reports, the company was forced to “stop work on the Titanic II because of financial disagreements.”

    You would have thought that in 2015 someone would have said, “Hey, wait a minute, guys. Maybe someone is trying to tell us something here. Maybe someone is trying to tell us that this is a horrible idea and WOULD YOU STOP PLAYING THAT DANM CELINE DION SONG.”

    But no, the folks at the Blue Star Line decided to go on and on.

    Sorry about that.

    Last month, the Blue Star Line announced it was continuing its work to finish the Titanic II at a cost of $500 million and hopes to set sail in 2022.

    According to numerous media reports, the Blue Star Line plans to carry on its first voyage 2,400 passengers and 900 crew members, which USA Today reported is “almost the exact number of each on board the boat that sank in 1912.”

    Karma, after just reading that: “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”

    Of course, this time the Blue Star Line says the ship will have the appropriate number of lifeboats, life jackets and additional modern safety features.

    Of course.

    I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m pretty sure that the people selling tickets on the original Titanic also said that the ship would have the appropriate number of lifeboats, life jackets and additional modern safety features.

    You know, right after telling everyone that the Titanic was unsinkable.

    Once finished with the Titanic II, the company plans to begin work on a second project, which I may have just made up: “The Hindenburg II.”

    Company officials hope to fly the Hindenburg II into New Jersey in 2025.

    Are you listening, karma?

     

  • If you are reading this, backyard being ignored

    We are entertaining this weekend.

    And, because I’m writing this on Friday, I should clarify that when I say this weekend, I mean Saturday after the Maple Leaf Parade.

    We have been entertaining people at our house after the Maple Leaf Parade for many, many years now. And by “entertaining people,” I mean providing them food and stuff to drink.

    To me that’s the only responsibility of the hosts of a party. Once you provide your guests food and stuff to drink, I think it is incumbent upon them to entertain themselves.

    One of the ways I can tell that people will be coming to our house is that my wife will come home with a car full of groceries, spread them all over our kitchen and start cooking.

    My wife cooks main dishes; side dishes; side, side dishes; side, side, side dishes; desserts; side desserts; snacks; and side snacks. She also prepares special drinks, some of them containing alcohol and some of them not containing alcohol. Then, shortly before the people arrive at our house to be entertained, my wife puts all the food and all the drinks on fancy plates and platters and in pitchers that I didn’t even know we owned and arranges the entire spread into a festive and color-coordinated display of Maple Leaf cheer.

    That basically is my wife’s contribution to our having people over to our house.

    My contribution to having people over to our house is a bit more complicated and certainly more important.

    I buy the beer. And the ice.

    Look, if you’re at a party and someone says, “Oh no, we’re out of soup,” you’ll probably just shrug your shoulders and eat something else.

    But if you’re at a party and someone says, ‘Oh no, we’re out of beer. And ice,’ you’ll probably say, “Gee, would you look at the time. I need to get going.”

    As always, my wife plans to entertain the people who come to our house after the Maple Leaf Parade on our outdoor patio. And, because our outdoor patio is — follow me here — outdoors, I am in charge of cleaning it before the people come to our house to be entertained.

    The reason I have to clean the patio is because I am a male person and — at least at our house — male people are in charge of all things outdoors-related. I am in charge of taking out the trash, I am in charge of cleaning our patio, our deck, our shed and our outdoor cooking areas. I used to be in charge of mowing our yard and getting rid of the leaves that fall from the trees in our yard. The only reason I’m no longer in charge of the mowing and the leaf raking is because several years ago I decided to hire people to do that, which of course leaves me more time to clean.

    The only thing backyard-related I’m not in charge of is the planting of the flowers into the flower pots. My wife is in charge of the flowers until they all die because she forgets to water them. At that point, I become in charge of the getting rid of the pots containing the dead flowers.

    The good thing about cleaning our outdoor patio for our Maple Leaf party is that when I’m done I can officially begin to ignore our backyard.

    By law, male people can start ignoring their backyard after the last official gathering of the fall. I normally begin ignoring my backyard the day after the Maple Leaf Parade and don’t pay attention to it again until sometime in April.

    So sometime Sunday, after I have put away the stuff in our backyard that needs to be put away, I will come back inside, watch football and begin ignoring our backyard.

    By then we’ll probably be out of the soup my wife made, but we should have plenty of beer.

    And ice.

  • Now it’s a climate crisis

    Maybe this will do the trick.

    I mean, if hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, drought, rising sea levels, blizzards, typhoons, heat waves and tsunamis aren’t enough to make our Congress creatures do anything about climate change, maybe this will.

    Maybe this news will be what it takes for Congress to drop the huge bags of cash delivered to them each day by oil, gas and energy lobbyists and take action.

    I want to warn you that the piece of news that I’m about to share with you is not for the faint of heart. If you’re standing up, you probably ought to sit down. If you’re sitting down, you probably ought to stand up.

    I’m telling you, this news is devastating. Are you ready?

    OK (deep breath). Here it comes:

    CLIMATE CHANGE IS GOING TO CAUSE A BEER SHORTAGE!!!!!

    I’m sorry I had to break the news to you so harshly, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate actions.

    According to a story in The New York Times, researchers have concluded that by the end of the century, drought and heat will have a devastating impact on barley production around the world. Barley, of course, is one of the most important ingredients in beer, the other important ingredient being — to use a technical term — “Dilly Dilly.”

    The Times story referred to a study published in something called Nature Plants that says declining barley crops could, for example, result in a 20 percent drop in beer supplies in the United States and double the cost of a bottle of beer in Ireland.

    That’s right. In Ireland!

    Now granted, given the death and destruction caused by extreme weather patterns in the world lately, worrying about beer might seem to some to be insensitive.

    But Dabo Guan, one of the researchers who conducted the study, insists that the beer angle is important. Guan said that many of the people who scoff at climate change seem to be under the impression that it won’t seriously affect them. Many of the people who scoff at climate change figure that only poor people in poor countries will suffer.

    But that’s not the case, Guan said. Rich people in rich countries will suffer less than the poor, but they will suffer.

    Climate change “may not affect our bread,” he said, “but it will affect our beer.”

    The idea for a study on what impact climate change might have on beer was hatched in … wait for it … a bar.

    According to the Times, after a day at a scientific meeting in China, a few participants met in a bar. The group included a climate scientist, a crop modeler and an economist.

    Oddly enough, that’s the opening line from one of my favorite jokes: “A climate scientist, a crop modeler and an economist walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘We don’t get many climate scientists, crop modelers and economists in here,’ and the economist says, ‘At these totally market-based prices, I can see why not.’”

    I didn’t say it was a good joke.

    Thankfully, brave people like Jess Newman, director of agronomy for Anheuser-Busch, have sprung into action, unlike our Congress creatures.

    “We take climate uncertainty very seriously,” she said.

    To that end, Newman said, Anheuser-Busch is constantly monitoring climate studies, working on new strains of barley and collecting data from its barley farms and the farms of its suppliers.

    “The barley nerds are on the case,” she said.

    That’s right. A beer company is doing more about climate change than Congress.

    Sigh.

    Who knows, maybe news like this will force Congress into action. Of course, that will likely depend on one thing.

    The size of the bags of cash beer lobbyists carry.

  • Mastering the art of the menacing vibe

    We have a new dishwasher, and I’m uneasy about that fact.

    On the one hand, it’s nice to know that we have a new dishwasher. But, on the other rinse cycle, it’s just a dishwasher.

    As you probably know, dishwashers aren’t cheap. Plus, we had to pay to have the new dishwasher installed. Sure, I could have tried to install the dishwasher myself, but I also could have tried to build our house myself. But I didn’t for the simple reason that I — as I think I have pointed out in this space in the past — am a moron.

    I have trouble installing bread into our toaster. Why in the world, then, would I try to install a dishwasher?

    We spent what I considered a significant amount of money to get our new dishwasher. Normally, when we spend what I consider a significant amount of money on something, I like to enjoy whatever it is we bought. But it’s hard to enjoy a dishwasher.

    It’s sort of like getting a new roof. Sure, you’re glad to have a new roof, but your life really isn’t changed by the new roof. I suppose if you had spent any time at all living without a roof you would enjoy having a new one; but if you’re used to a roof over your head, a new one isn’t so life-altering.

    The reason we needed to get a new dishwasher is because it’s Friday. As you know, almost all appliance issues occur either right before a weekend or during one. Or on a holiday.

    We seldom have appliance issues on, say, a Tuesday. An appliance issue on Tuesday is normally easy to handle. You call a guy who comes to your house and fixes your appliance or tells you that you need to buy a new one.

    But if you have an appliance issue on a Friday, you have to scramble because you don’t want to go through the weekend without said appliance. Making things even more difficult is that you are competing with all the other people who are having appliance issues on Friday and also don’t want to go through the weekend without said appliance.

    Friday morning, when our old dishwasher developed the same issue we had dealt with several times before, my wife said that she didn’t want to go through the weekend without a dishwasher.

    “I’m tired of this (Bad word) dishwasher. We’re getting a new one,” is what my wife said.

    In her defense, we were starting to get to the point with our old dishwasher that, in the long run, it was probably cheaper to buy a new one.

    The key word being “probably.”

    I told my wife that there was no way she was going to be able to buy a dishwasher AND get a plumber to install it on the same day. And on a Friday no less.

    The reason I said that is because I knew there was no way that I would be able to buy a dishwasher AND get a plumber to install it on the same day. And on a Friday no less.

    See, when I call a plumber and say that I need a dishwasher installed, he normally says, “It will have to be next week,” and I say “OK, that’s fine.”

    But when my wife calls a plumber — or anyone else for that matter — and says she needs a dishwasher installed, they almost always say: “We’re on the way.”

    I don’t know how she does that but I think it’s because of this menacing vibe my wife can emit.

    “LOOK! I NEED IT DONE TODAY. DON’T TELL ME IT WILL BE NEXT WEEK. I WANT IT DONE NOW,” is the vibe my wife emits.

    It’s a vibe with which I am quite familiar.

    So we have a new dishwasher. On a Friday.

    I just hope our toaster holds out.

  • I’m Dog Tired

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on May 6, 2006.


     If I fall asleep while I’m writing this, then please just go about your business.

    I know, I know. Normally if anyone is going to fall asleep it will be you, the reader, and not the writer.

    And I, to paraphrase our president, are the writer.

    I are also a dog owner.

    We have a new dog at our house. Well, to be honest, we don’t have a new dog at our house, we have a new puppy. Anyone who has raised a puppy knows that there is a big difference between a dog and a puppy. One of those differences is bodily functions and the place where those bodily functions need to take place. Properly trained dogs know that bodily functions take place outside the house. Puppies don’t know that. Puppies think bodily functions take place wherever the puppy happens to be at the time of the bodily function.

    As far as I can determine, puppies do three things: sleep, whine and do bodily functions.

    It was my wife’s idea to get a puppy and, even though I’ve answered this question many times before, I know what you’re thinking and once again — no, my wife does not smoke crack.

    My wife thought a puppy would make a nice gift. Our dog, Shadow, died last May and we had been talking for several months about getting a puppy for our 8-year-old daughter, Emma. But our discussions have centered more on the planning and not so much in the doing. My wife wasn’t sure she wanted a new puppy. Emma was sure she did. I was in the middle.

    Emma wanted a puppy that would grow to become a horse. My wife wanted a puppy that would actually shrink. Again, I was in the middle. So I was surprised when, last Friday night, my wife and Emma told me that they found a puppy that was part Labrador retriever and part border collie. I was even more surprised when my wife said we could pick it up on Saturday. But I agreed to go. That’s what you do when you’re in the middle.

    When we got to the Joplin Humane Society on Saturday, the Lab/border collie puppy was gone. But Emma noticed a black and tan puppy in a cage. The card on the cage said the black and tan puppy was part German shepherd and part Labrador. I’m no dog expert, but I’m thinking a German shepherd/Lab mix is not going to be a small dog. When I looked into the cage, I think I could actually see the puppy growing.

    “Let’s get her,” my wife said.

    For the last time: NO, MY WIFE DOES NOT SMOKE CRACK!

    Emma named the puppy Shiloh after a book series she likes. Of course, in the book I think Shiloh is a male. I suggested we call the puppy J-Lo (it does have a big butt for a pup), but Emma and my wife decided to go with Shiloh.

    To help Shiloh buy into the concept of outdoor bodily functions, my wife and I are using the crate method. In the crate method, you take all the puppy’s indoor bodily functions, put then in a crate and mail them to Rush Limbaugh. Ha. That would be redundant.

    No, in the crate method you leave the puppy in a crate until it wants to do a bodily function. Then you take the puppy and watch it wander around for 30 minutes. Then you put the puppy back in the crate where it does a bodily function. You do this every couple of hours. Even when you would rather be doing something else — like sleeping.

    My wife and I are starting to get tired of the crate method. We are both starting to feel like we will fall asleep at the most inopportune ti-zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    WHAT? I’m up. I’m up. Let’s go, Shiloh.

  • Cellphone makers taking us for a ride

    Now my phone is too small.

    I used to think that my phone was the perfect size. When my wife and I bought our new phones a couple of years ago, we were told that we had the latest, most up-to-date, state-of-the-art, best available, completely outfitted, technologically advanced phone of the perfect size.

    And we did. Until we walked out of the store. The minute my wife and I walked out of the store, our phones became — to use a hopelessly outdated expression — yesterday’s news.

    I should point out that when I say, “my phone,” I’m talking about my cellphone. It used to be that you had to differentiate between your cellphone and your non-cellular home phone . But nobody uses non-cellular home phones anymore, so now, when you refer to your phone, everyone assumes you’re talking about your cellphone.

    For many years the people who make and market phones worked hard to make them smaller. Each year they claimed they had created the “smallest, sleekest phone on the market.”

    And it was … until the people who bought the smallest, sleekest phone on the market walked out of the store and the people who make and market phones started working on a smaller, sleeker phone that they began selling as soon as all the older phones had been sold.

    But now I have discovered that the phone that I thought was the smallest, sleekest phone on the market is too small and too sleek.

    At least according to the people who make and market phones. Not long ago, the people who make and market phones unveiled their latest phone. Usually when the people who make and market phones unveil their latest phone I don’t pay attention because I don’t want to hear that using my current phone, which was state-of-the-art when we bought it, has made me the equivalent of a telegraph operator in Yuma, Arizona.

    By the way, I mean no offense to Yuma, Arizona, which I’m sure is a fine community. I’ve never been there, but I’m sure it’s lovely.

    It’s just that when I was trying to think of something terribly outdated, “telegraph operator in Yuma, Arizona” is the first thing that popped into my head.

    The big selling point of their latest creation, according to the people who make and market phones, is that it’s bigger than last year’s phone.

    See, I thought the advantage of a cellphone was that it was small enough so people could take it anywhere. But now we’re being told that the bigger the cellphone the better, and if you have a small phone you’re nothing but a pathetic, outdated loser.

    That’s right. We’re talking about phone envy.

    What the people who make and market phones now are saying is that it’s easier and more enjoyable to use bigger phones. The bigger phone allows for a bigger screen, they say, and that allows whatever appears on the screen to be bigger, which sort of makes sense.

    But I don’t know. How far will the people who make and market phones take this bigger-is-better thing?

    What’s next? A phone with a screen so big that you can mount it on the wall in your living room?

    A phone so big that you never again have to worry about losing it because it’s too heavy to pick up?

    Then what happens? I’ll tell you  what happens. As soon as  everyone in the entire world has purchased the last absolute latest, biggest, heaviest phone on the market the people who make and market phones will come out with the smallest, sleekest phone on the market.

    And we’ll buy it which means  the whole process will repeat itself, proving  once again  that we are all morons.

    Except for that telegraph operator in Yuma, Arizona.

  • Assistant dog needs to get a handle on the barking

    She’s barking.

    Our assistant dog, Caicos, is barking in our backyard after I specifically told her not to. Bark, that is.

    At first, she was barking way out near the fence of our backyard, so I couldn’t hear her as well. But now she is on the porch, and she’s still barking.

    What she is barking at I don’t know. But it can’t be too important because Shilo, our German shepherd who is also in our backyard, is not barking.

    Shilo is a dog of few barks. Shilo is sort of like (Warning: Horribly dated TV commercial reference that only old people will understand coming next) E.F. Hutton. When Shilo barks, people listen.

    The only time I don’t listen when Shilo barks is when someone rings our doorbell. When our doorbell rings, Shilo immediately assumes that whoever rang the bell is desperate to be let in so they can pet her.

    Shilo is not the best guard dog in the world.

    But she means well.

    Caicos, on the other paw, is convinced that anyone who even comes near our house wants to break in and steal her dog toys.

    It would be nice, I guess, if Caicos barked at people near our house because she wants to protect us. But it would also be nice if a potential Supreme Court justice didn’t like beer more than I do.

    So I’m thinking Caicos barks to protect her dog toys.

    Our German shepherd Shilo and our assistant dog Caicos standing at our backdoor wanted to be let inside. Shilo is on the right and Caicos is on the left
    Caicos on the right with her “I wasn’t barking, if that’s what you think” look. Shilo on the left with her “Yes she was” look.

    The thing is I don’t want to be one of those neighbors with barking dogs. So what I do is let Caicos get a bark or two in edgewise and then I open the door and holler at her to stop barking, and she does.

    For a little while.

    Then she starts barking again. So I open the door and holler at her to come inside, which she also does. Then I holler at Shilo, who was not barking and had made herself comfortable under the shade of one of the maple trees in the backyard, to come in.

    When I holler at Shilo to come inside, she gives me a look that says, “What did I do? I’m just sitting here. I was perfectly happy until three years ago when you brought that (bad word) dog into my world. This is all your fault.”

    For a dog’s look, Shilo’s look is a heck of a look.

    I suppose I could just not let Caicos outside every time she asks, but I can never tell if she really needs to go outside of if she is just messing with me.

    By the way, Caicos does actually sort of ask to be let outside. When she was still a puppy, Caicos quickly understood that, when I pushed on the handle of our back door, it opened so she could go out. So then, whenever she wanted to go out, she would stand up and push down on the door handle.

    The first few times Caicos did that, my wife; our daughter, Emma; and I all thought it was cute.

    Then, after a while, we didn’t think it was cute. It was annoying.

    Caicos has what I would call an active mind, so she gets bored easily. When Caicos gets bored, she looks for a cat to try to eat. Then she annoys Shilo for a while, and finally, she walks to the back door, stands up and pushes down on the handle.

    If I ignore her — and I usually do —she runs back to me and gives me a look that says, “Hey moron, I pushed down on the handle. You know what that means, don’t you?”

    Caicos has a pretty good look her own self.

    So I get up and go to the door. But before I open it, I tell Caicos not to bark. Then I let her outside, and of course, she starts barking.

    In her defense, those dog toys aren’t going to protect themselves.

  • Budweiser, balcony help with fashion show foibles

    Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.

    I thought I was through. I thought I had paid my dues. I thought that after more 17 years of dance recitals, dance competitions and dance exhibitions, I was done. I thought after all those hours and hours and hours and hours (I’m trying to make a point here) of sitting in theaters, gymnasiums and convention halls watching thousand of kids dance just so I could watch our now 20-year-old daughter, Emma, dance for three minutes, that I was done. I thought the torch had been passed to a new generation of suckers — er, I mean, loyal fathers — who would take my place.

    But I was wrong.

    Not the dance part. Emma, as far as I know, has put the whole dance thing behind her. No, what I’m faced with now, at least for this weekend, is modeling.

    That’s right. Modeling. A few months ago, my wife and Emma told me about something called the “KC Fashion Week.” Apparently, KC Fashion Week is, follow me here, a weeklong event featuring fashion from Kansas City.

    “Sure, you guys should go,” I said.

    My wife and Emma told me they didn’t just want to go. My wife and Emma told me that, in addition to professional models who model Kansas City fashion during KC Fashion Week, they also used nonprofessional models. All Emma needed to do was to go to a KC Fashion Week model audition.

    So she did. And she got picked to model. Not in just one fashion show but two.

    “We don’t have to go, do we?” I asked my wife.

    “Of course we do,” my wife said.

    “But just one fashion show, right?” I said.

    “No, both, you moron,” my wife said.

    Sigh.

    In the interest of fair disclosure, lest you feel too sorry for me, I should point out that I am writing this column on the deck of our room at the Lake of the Ozarks. The deck overlooks the lake, and I currently have a cold bottle of Budweiser sitting next to my computer on a Jimmy Buffett-themed painted table. The table is painted in a Jimmy Buffett theme because the resort where we are staying has been purchased by one of Jimmy’s companies.

    This makes me happy.

    OK, back to my troubles.

    Because Emma was chosen to be a part of KC Fashion Week, this past Wednesday I spent two hours watching a fashion show.

    Emma Pound on the runway at KC Fashion Week.
    This is Emma on Wednesday night modeling a dress designed by Amy Elle. My wife took this picture as I was drinking a beer.

    This may come as a shock to some of you, but until Wednesday night, I had never watched a fashion show.

    Here is what happens at a fashion show: You sit down. Then two people come out on stage and talk about a fashion designer. Then nine or 10 people — mostly women — walk out on stage wearing fashion designed by the fashion designer. Then the two people come back out and talk about another fashion designer and then nine or 10 people — mostly women — walk out on stage wearing fashion designed by the fashion designer.

    This is repeated five or six times until halftime. Although at a fashion show, I’m not sure it’s called halftime.

    The good news is that they sell beer at the fashion show. The bad news is they don’t sell enough beer at the fashion show.

    It’s Friday afternoon as I’m typing this. On Saturday morning, my wife and I will leave the Lake of the Ozarks and drive to Kansas City. Then, on Saturday night, I will spend at least two hours watching another fashion show.

    Emma Pound on the runway of KC Fashion Week. She is wearing a long gown. I'm sorry but that's about all I know to say.
    This Emma on Saturday night modeling a dress designed by Samirah Alotaibi. I took this picture. While I was drinking a beer.

    My hope is that Saturday night will be the last fashion show I have to attend. But I don’t know. I figured the dance stuff would stop after a couple years, but it didn’t.

    Oh, well. At least right now I’m on a deck overlooking the lake.

    And I have a cold a Budweiser.

     

  • Rebranding doesn’t fool anyone

    Hey, we’re not stupid, you know.

    And when I say, “We’re not stupid,” I, of course, mean regular people, not Congress Creatures.

    The reason I’m saying we’re not stupid is because of David Hoffman. David is the CEO of Dunkin’ Brands, the company that owns the Dunkin’ Donuts chain.

    According to a bunch of news reports that I read online because I clearly have too much time on my hands, David is under the impression that we are stupid.

    David believes that we are so stupid that he can just change the name of his Dunkin’ Donuts chain to just Dunkin’ in the hopes, I guess, that we’ll forget that his company ever sold doughnuts.

    But we’re not Congress Creatures. We will remember. Look, the reason Dunkin’ was included in the name in the first place is because people dunk their doughnuts into their Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

    It seems to me that if you drop Donuts from the name, then you’re left with a lonely verb forced to become a noun, and that doesn’t make sense.

    And in the interest of time, I’m not even going to ask what happened to the “g” in Dunkin’.

    By the way, excuse me if you are confused by the way I’m spelling the word “doughnut.” The folks at Dunkin’ Donuts, long ago, chose the more causal spelling while other people — specifically the folks connected with The Associated Press Stylebook, which most newspapers follow — prefer “doughnuts.”

    I’m told that debates between the “donut” and “doughnut” camps can become quite heated. Those same people also argue over the correct use of the word “whom”.

    According to the numerous news stories I read online, the reason David wants to drop Donuts from his company’s name is to emphasize that it has now become a “beverage-led company.”

    To me, Anheuser-Busch is a beverage-led company; Dunkin’ Donuts is a doughnut-led company.

    But I could be wrong. I guess because I’m an old person I’ve never gotten into the whole coffee/tea shop craze. When I drink coffee, I do it in the morning shortly after I’ve stumbled out of bed. After I have had enough to allow me to move around our house without stumbling, I stop drinking coffee.

    But apparently a lot of people like to drink coffee at all hours of the day at coffee shops with irritating names such as Brew Hut or Coffee Commando or Slug of the Mug or Starbucks.

    That last one was a joke. Who would name a coffee shop Starbucks?

    And, I guess, because people like to drink coffee in coffee shops, David thinks it’s a good idea to drop Donuts from his company name.

    “Our new branding is one of the many things we are doing as part of our blueprint for growth to modernize the Dunkin’ experience for our customer,” is what David said in a statement.

    When I read David’s statement, three thoughts crossed my mind.

    Thought No. 1: Who talks that way?

    Thought No. B: The “Dunkin’ experience”?

    Thought No. III: Seriously, who talks that way?

    To be fair, David might have a point. According to what I read, beverages — especially coffee — make up 60 percent of Dunkin’ Donuts’ U.S. business. The name change, the thinking goes, will allow the company to draw attention to its coffee, teas, speedy service and to-go foods.

    In fact, I either read or am making this up, originally the idea was to change the name Dunkin’ Donuts to Coffee, Teas, Speedy Service and To-Go Foods, but someone did a cost analysis on the necessary signage and opted to go with Dunkin’.

    Now if you will excuse me, I need to examine my blueprint for growth in order to modernize the column experience for my reader.

    In other words, have a beer.

  • When internet is down, thank goodness for TV

    It’s Tuesday morning and our internet is down, so it’s quiet.

    Too quiet.

    Because I work at home and there is no one else around but our two dogs and three cats, you would expect it to be quiet. But this is a different sort of quiet.

    It’s an “OH MY GOD, THE INTERNET IS DOWN AND I AM COMPLETELY CUT OFF FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD. WHAT WILL BECOME OF ME? HOW WILL I SURVIVE? I DIDN’T STAY UP FOR THE REST OF THE CARDINALS GAME. HOW WILL I EVER FIND OUT WHO WON? HOW CAN I GO ON?” kind of quiet.

    When I first noticed that our internet was down, I did what I always do. I walked over to the cabinet where we keep our internet — I want to say carburetor — and rebooted it.

    The way you reboot your computer’s carburetor is to take a paper clip and stick into the little reset hole on the back. I know this because the  people who provide  our internet service once told  me that’s what I should do.

    I don’t know, though. It seems to me that with all the advances that continue to be made with technology — and 193,033 have been made since you started reading this — you would think there would  be a better way to reboot your computer carburetor.

    The “stick a paper clip in it” method is sort of like “jiggle the handle” method for fixing a toilet.

    For the record, I do know that the computer thing I rebooted is not called the carburetor. It’s called the modem. Or, maybe it’s the router. It really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I stuck a paper clip in it and I still don’t have internet service.

    I called my wife at work to see if the world as we know it still existed. She said it did. She also told me that she had heard that the people who provide our internet service were having problems.

    “So it’s not us?” I asked.

    “No,” my wife said.

    “Whew,” I said.

    I decided that rather than freak out about not having internet service I would get something done, but then I looked around our house and realized there was so much that needed to be done that it was pointless to begin.

    I decided to go online and check out the Cardinals score but realized I couldn’t because, as I think I have pointed out, THERE WAS NO INTERNET SERIVCE.

    So I sat at my desk for a while. I tried my computer again, and our internet worked. Then it stopped again.

    Our internet service was off and on for the next few hours. When I saw the warning thing on the internet symbol on my computer screen go away, I quickly went online. Then, just as I was ready to do some serious internet screwing around, it stopped working.

    It was a frightening experience.

    I remember when I was a kid that sometimes our TV would stop working. When that happened, there were two solutions. The first solution was to  turn the TV off and then turn it back on. If that didn’t work, you had to call a TV guy and he, if he couldn’t fix it in your home, he  would have to take it to “the shop.”

    That’s right, young people. There used to be TV shops.

    When I was a kid, if I didn’t have TV, I felt there was no reason to live. Then my parents would tell me about how they grew up without TV or radio.

    “And we always found something to do,” they said.

    Thinking about what my parents said all those years ago has inspired me. I’ve decided to not let the internet define my life. Instead, I’m going to watch TV.

    I just hope the cable’s not out.

     

  • Karma is listening

    I don’t want to hear it, so stop talking about them.

    I don’t care if they’ve won two road games and that their new quarterback is doing an impression of some sort of Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino all rolled into one person. And, I definitely don’t want anyone talking to me about the Super Bowl.

    So stop it.

    Sigh. I’ve said this before and I will probably say it many more times: I like it better when the Kansas City Chiefs are terrible.

    There’s no pressure when the team you root for is terrible. That’s why Kansas City Royals fans seem so happy this year while St. Louis Cardinals fans, such as myself, are nervous wrecks.

    Right now, the St. Louis Cardinals are a playoff team. But that could change this weekend. Or this week. Or next weekend.

    As a sports fan, that is no way to live.

    Kansas City Royals fans knew on the opening day of the season that their team was not going to make the playoffs. So just like that, they had a stress-free season.

    The St. Louis Cardinals are rarely terrible. They might not always be great but they’re rarely terrible, so every season for Cardinal fans is stressful.

    For most of my life the Kansas City Chiefs have shifted back and forth from great to terrible. When they’re great I’m worried, and when they’re terrible I’m not worried.

    Sure, it’s sort of a backward way to deal with reality, but it’s how I cope with life.

    Worry when things are going well and relax when they’re not.

    Last week I wrote about how I managed to shatter one of our glass, sliding shower doors. Did I get angry when I shattered the shower door? Did I worry when I shattered the shower door?

    No I did not. And you want to know why? Because I shattered a shower door. What else could go wrong after that?

    Now if I had managed to fix the shower door without shattering it, I would have worried because I seldom am able to fix things.

    To me, successfully fixing something is a clear provocation for Karma. If Karma sees me successfully fixing something, Karma will say, “Well, we can’t have that. I’ll break the hot water heater. I know he can’t fix that.”

    But if Karma sees me shatter a shower door, Karma will probably say, “That poor (bad word). He’s had enough. I’ll leave him alone.”

    Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy being happy or that I don’t want things to go well. I do. I just don’t get too happy when things are going well. Getting too happy is another way to get Karma’s attention.

    And not in a good way.

    That’s why I don’t want to hear all this happy talk about the Kansas City Chiefs. Happy talk about the Chiefs rarely turns out well.

    A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to run into Carl Peterson, former Chiefs general manager, and former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil at a restaurant in Kansas City, and I got to chat with them a bit about football. The two men were responsible for some of the greatest seasons in Kansas City Chiefs’ history.

    From left to right Carl Peterson, Dick Vermeil and Mike Pound. Mike has is hands folded as if offering a pray and Carl and Dick have bemused looks on their faces.
    Here I am preparing to offer up a prayer to Karma while Dick Vermeil and Carl Peterson look at me as if I’m crazy.

    But they couldn’t beat Karma.

    So please, keep all your happy talk about the Kansas City Chiefs to yourself because I don’t want to hear it.

    And Karma, if you hear someone else saying hopeful things about the Chiefs this weekend, don’t get upset. They’re probably new fans. They don’t know any better.

    So Sunday afternoon I will spend my time switching back and forth between the Kansas City Chiefs football game and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.

    And Karma, if you’re reading this, can you do me a favor and cut me some slack?

    I shattered a shower door last week, remember?

     

  • Slowly venturing into world of Twitter

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on July, 19, 2012


    I continue to evolve as a member of the 21st century.

    A few years ago I managed to grasp the concept of texting, and then, last year, joined the world of Facebook. I don’t do much texting and I don’t really understand the world of Facebook, but at least I have dipped my toes into the waters of both.

    In the past few weeks, I have slowly ventured into to the world of Twitter and have even begun to tweet (If tweet is, in fact, the correct word) on my own. To be honest, I had no interest in tweeting until the folks here at the Globe told me I had to learn how. Tweeting, at the Globe, is much like compulsory military service except we don’t have to wear uniforms.

    It was explained to me that Twitter would be a great way for me to connect with the readers of our paper.

    “But what if the readers of the paper don’t want me to connect with them?” I asked.

    I was told that if the readers of the paper didn’t want to connect with me they didn’t have to. I was told that the world of Twitter is pretty much voluntary. In order for me to connect with someone on Twitter, I was told, someone would have to have agreed to “follow” me. The goal, it was explained to me, is to accumulate as many “followers” on Twitter as possible. It’s sort of like accumulating hotels in Monopoly.

    Kelsey Ryan was the person at the Globe assigned to teach me how to tweet. Kelsey is a young person and, as such, was born with a computer keyboard in one hand and a smartphone in the other hand. In five minutes, Kelsey was able to teach me all about Twitter. Then, after those five minutes, Kelsey had to spend an hour explaining what she had taught me.

    I was not a quick study.

    Eventually, I was able to figure out the basics of Twitter and discovered that I sort of like it. First of all, because you are limited to 140 characters in Twitter, it’s easy to do. As a columnist, I am required to write a certain amount of copy each day. With Twitter, I don’t have to write as much copy. The way I figure it, I’m getting paid the same amount of money when I tweet as when I write columns but am having to do way less work.

    I like that.

    Despite the fact that Twitter is less work than writing a column, I still haven’t tweeted (Is that the right word?) much. As of Thursday afternoon, I had only sent six tweets. Here is a what I said in my first tweet: “Going to the Webb City Farmers Market. Who wants pie?”

    When I typed that tweet, Kelsey looked at me as if I had burped at her wedding. “You really want to say that?” she asked.

    Kelsey hurt my feelings.

    Carol Stark, my editor, said I should use Twitter to let our readers know what I’m working on, which might be difficult since I seldom know what I’m working on. For example, as I type this I have no idea what I’m doing.

    From what I can tell, millions of people use Twitter every day to tell other people what they are working on. Some people use Twitter to tell people that they aren’t working on anything. Some people use Twitter whenever a random thought pops into their heads. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, but sometimes that’s a good thing.

    I “follow” Steve Martin on Twitter, and this tweet from Steve just popped up on my screen.

    “My M.D. has asked me to stop calling him a ‘durn polecat’.”

    I think that’s funny.

    So now I tweet, and tomorrow I … well, I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow.

    I should probably tweet about that.

  • Sometimes, not killing yourself is the victory

    It’s not so bad being a moron.

    Really, it’s not. Being a moron allows you to set the bar so low that no matter what you do or how badly you do it, people just shrug and say, “Well, at least he didn’t kill himself.”

    That, my friends, is a low bar.

    On Monday, I noticed that one of our sliding glass shower doors had somehow gotten off the track. So I looked at the door a minute and proceeded to put the door back on the track. I got the top part of the door back on the track without killing myself, and that’s where I should have stopped. I should have been OK with only the bottom part of the door being slightly off the track.

    I mean, I know that now.

    But because, as I think I have pointed out, I’m a moron, I was determined to fix the bottom part of the — and here is a keyword —GLASS shower door. So I raised it a bit and attempted to slide it back on the track.

    And that’s when the glass door decided to explode into thousands of little pieces.

    Have you ever been holding onto a glass shower door when it exploded into thousands of little pieces?

    Don’t.

    Raise your hand out there if you saw the shattered glass the shower door coming.

    Wow. That’s a lot of hands.

    Now a lot of people might have gotten angry with themselves after breaking a shower door, but not a moron such as me.

    A moron such as me  would just back out of the bathroom, dust hundreds of pieces of glass off himself and say, “Oh, well, at least I didn’t kill myself.”

    And that’s what I did. Then I went downstairs to get a broom and dustpan.

    Well, first I stopped to get a handful of Band-Aids to plug a few recently opened holes in my hands and arms, then I got a broom and dustpan and started sweeping up the mess.

    I also called Brian, who along with a few other guys have done a lot of the remodeling work in our house. In fact, Brian was the one who installed the shower door that I managed to shatter into thousands of pieces.

    Brian said that those doors usually don’t shatter; I said they do when a moron is trying to get it back on the track.

    Brian laughed.

    Then I called my wife, who, to her credit, did not laugh or call me a moron when I told her about the shower door.

    “Did you cut yourself?” is what she said.

    When I told her I had a few minor cuts, she said, “Do I need to drive you to the hospital to get stitches?”

    The reason my wife asked me that question is because I once dropped a knife on my toe while I was slicing flank steak and told my wife that I was fine.

    Three hours later, my wife drove me to the hospital so they could put a bunch of stitches in my toe.

    I’m telling you, it’s a low bar.

    The other reason my wife didn’t laugh or call me a moron is because she really didn’t like the shower door. We were recently staying at a hotel and my wife mentioned how much she liked the shower door in the hotel room.

    So now, instead of replacing the shower door that I shattered, my wife has decided that we should get a new kind of shower door.

    That’s right. I’m not only a moron who manages to shatter a glass shower door, but I’m also a moron who gives his wife an excuse to get a brand-new shower door.

    Oh, well, at least I didn’t kill myself.

  • Writing under duress can be productive

    I’m writing this under duress.

    I don’t write well under duress.  I don’t write well under much of anything, but I particularly don’t write well under duress.

    I once read (or made up) that Leo Tolstoy wrote at least half of “War and Peace” underneath a large pot of borscht.

    Again, I either read that or made that up, but I’m not sure because I wrote it under duress.

    The duress I am writing under is being caused by my wife, who is under the impression that we need to be at the town where our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, is attending college by 1 p.m. today. Because the town where Emma attends to college is two and a half hours away, that means in order to get there by 1 p.m., we need to leave our house — let’s see here, let me do the math — an hour ago.

    I think we’re going to be late.

    Ironically, the last time I remember writing under duress, the duress was caused by Emma.

    It was probably 14 years ago. Emma was about 6 years old and for some reason was with me at the newspaper while I was trying to write a column. I don’t remember why Emma was with me at the newspaper, but I do remember that she didn’t want to be there. She wanted to be somewhere else, and she wanted to be there immediately. So to help me write my column faster, as I recall, she stood right next to me and yelled “FOCUS, DADDY. FOCUS.”

    She made it hard to focus is what she did.

    Now, 14 years later, it is my wife placing me under duress in order to get to Emma’s college town by 1 p.m. today.

    I think (although this just could be the duress talking here) that is the perfect definition of irony.

    When I woke up this morning, I wasn’t under the impression that we needed to be at Emma’s college town at any certain time. I was under the impression that we would get to Emma’s college town when we got there.

    So when my wife asked me what time I thought we should be at Emma’s college town, I made a rookie husband mistake: I said I didn’t care.

    “I think we should be there at 1 p.m.,” my wife said.

    I should point out that I think it’s senseless for my wife to ask me what time we need to be anywhere. The reason I think it’s senseless is because my wife knows that I have no control over what time we get anywhere.

    Yet she still asks me as if my opinion matters.

    It’s like Trump asking for advice from anyone on anything.

    Trump: Does my hair look silly?

    Aide: (Stealing brunch invitation from Kim-Jong-un off desk) WHY NO. WHY WOULD YOU ASK SUCH A QUESTION?)

    So now that my wife has decided that we need to be at Emma’s college town by 1 p.m., I am under a bit of duress.

    Actually, when it comes to writing, there aren’t degrees of duress. There is just duress.

    The reason we are going to Emma’s college town is that this is Parents Weekend. I don’t think they had Parents Weekend when I went to college, but I don’t remember.

    It was a long time ago. They didn’t have a lot of things when I went to college. When I went to college, they didn’t have small phones that cost more than a TV, for example.

    Even if they had Parents Weekend when I went to college, I’m pretty sure my parents wouldn’t have come what with there still be four kids living at home with them at the time.

    I’m pretty sure my parents would have figured that it made no sense at all to drive two hours to see one kid when they already had four kids living with them at home.

    Now, if you will excuse me, I must stop now.

    My wife just yelled “FOCUS.”

    Sigh. It’s like a large pot of borscht.

     

  • Garp logic: Cardinals get the win

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on Sept. 24, 2006


    As the St. Louis Cardinals appear to be heading for the playoffs, they have lost their closer, have lost their big-time left-handed starting pitcher, have a center fielder experiencing dizzy spells and blurred vision, have a shortstop who has trouble running and have a pitching staff that is erratic in the sense that erratic means awful.

    And you know what?

    I’ve never been more confident that the Cardinals will win the World Series in my entire life.

    There’s a scene in the movie version of John Irving’s novel “The World According to Garp” in which Garp, played by Robin Williams, and his wife, played by some actress, are considering buying a house. While they are standing outside the house checking it out, an airplane crashes into the home. Right away, the Robin Williams character says that he and his wife will buy the house even though there is a small plane stuck in it.

    “Honey, the chances of another plane hitting this house are astronomical,” Williams says to his wife.

    “It’s been pre-disastered.”

    That’s the way I feel about the Cardinals this year: They’ve been pre-disastered. In the past, the Cardinals would wait until right before the first game of the World Series for something to go wrong. As evidence of that, I point to the 1985 World Series “tarp incident.” If you remember, the 1985 Cardinals were built on speed, not power. I may have made this up, but in 1985, Jack Clark led the Cardinals in home runs. He hit two home runs. I think Ozzie Smith was second that year. Ozzie hit one-half of a home run.

    By far the most important player on that Cardinal team was Vince Coleman. Naturally, on the day before the World Series against the Kansas City Royals was to begin, Vince was run over by a tarp. (Note to you young people: This is not a joke. The Kansas City Royals did appear in the World Series. Actually, they appeared in two.)

    That’s right – a tarp. In his own home ballpark!

    Later, in game six of the series, umpire Don Denkinger might have, just maybe, missed a call at first base. The call was important only in the sense that the Cardinals probably would have won the game and the series had Denkinger not sort of misjudged the play at first base. Later, television replays would clearly show that while the Royals’ Jorge Orta was still at least a foot from first base, Denkinger was standing in line at the concession stand trying to order a plate of nachos.

    In 2004, when the Cardinals faced the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, someone – and again I may be making this up – broke into the Cardinals’ clubhouse and stole all their bats, forcing the team to use Wiffle bats for the entire series.

    But this year, I feel good. I mean, what else could go wrong? Well, that’s a dumb thing to say. Plenty can still go wrong, but I don’t think it will. I mean, what’s worse than losing your closer? Or your center fielder? Or your left-handed starter? Or your shortstop?

    See, this year when the idiots – er, I mean experts – on ESPN start talking about the playoffs, every one of them will say something like, “Well, the Cardinals don’t have a closer, and their center fielder is dizzy, and their starting pitching is weak, so they can’t win. Oh, and BOO-Ya.”

    I don’t know why the “experts” on ESPN have to yell BOO-Ya, but they do.

    But my point is that the ESPN experts are morons – well, except for Joe Morgan – so if they say something will happen, you can pretty much count on the exact opposite to occur.

    I don’t think the ESPN experts have seen “The World According to Garp,” so they don’t understand about being pre-disastered.

    So, this year I’m saying the Cardinals will win the World Series. Why? Because right now, they sort of suck, which means they are in perfect shape to win the Series.

    Well, unless Albert Pujols comes down with a case of food poisoning after eating in his own restaurant.

    Or, if Don Denkinger decides he wants to umpire again.

     

  • Hard to fake way through sailing class

    When I was in college, I learned an entire year’s worth of world history in one night, took the final the next day and got a B on the test.

    See, on the first day of class, the teacher said we would meet once a week to go over each chapter. Or, he said, we could skip class if we wanted and study each week on our own.

    Tight shot of Mike Pound practicing his knot tying.
    Here I am practicing knots the night before our first sailing lesson. A few minutes later, I tied my hand to the table.

    What do you think I did?

    If you think I opted to skip class and study each week on my own, you are wrong.

    If you think I opted to skip class and blow off studying until the night before the final, you are correct.

    Sailing is not world history.

    The world history test I took all those years ago was an essay test. You can, or at least I could fake an essay test.

    They don’t give essay tests in sailing. In sailing, they pretty much have one basic question and that question is, “So can you sail this boat?”

    If you can, you pass. If you can’t, you don’t. Sure, it sounds unfair, but it’s really not.

    I know that now.

    About a month ago, when my wife gave me the gift of sailing classes, she also gave me a sailing book and said that the two of us needed to study it before our sailing class.

    Lee Pound standing on a dock next to a sailboat. She is wearing a white Lyle Lovett "If I had a boat" t-shirt. Her back is to the camera so you can see what is on the t-shirt.
    Lee’s goal on our sailing weekend was lofty. She wanted a picture wearing her new Lyle Lovett “If I had a Boat” t-shirt.

    We both vowed to study the book together every night. Then we put it on a shelf and forgot about it.

    On Friday night, when we got to our cabin near Stockton Lake, my wife and I pulled out the sailing book and began to study. After studying for about five minutes we put the book down.

    “Maybe it’ll rain tomorrow,” I said.

    On Saturday morning we drove to the lake and met our sailing instructor.

    “Did you study the book?” he asked us.

    “Sort of,” we said, which technically was true.

    “We’ll see,” he said, which definitely was true.

    Because it was actually raining when we got to the lake, the sailing instructor, who was nice if just a tad bit intense, decided he would review a bunch of sailing stuff with us.

    In case you wondering, “bunch of sailing stuff” is not an official sailing expression.

    While the instructor talked, my wife and I listened intently and occasionally nodded our heads. I’m not sure about my wife, but while the instructor was talking, the following thought kept running through my mind: “I wonder if we’ll get home Sunday in time to see part of the Kansas City Chiefs game.”

    The instructor talked to us for about three hours, and then we broke for lunch.

    After lunch, the rain let up and we walked down the dock to the boat we were going to sail. When we got to the vessel, the instructor had us identify parts of the boat.

    Here are some of the boat parts my wife and I identified: “the floor,” “that tall pole,” the “steerie thing” and the “arrrrgggh.”

    I did mention that we didn’t study, didn’t I?

    A few minutes later, we got on the boat and practiced the complicated sailing process known as “getting the

    mike pound at the back of a sailboat holding the rudder and trying to sali. He is wearing a red life vest over a black jacket.
    This is my trying to sail face. This is also my trying not to poop myself face.

    damn boat away from the damn dock.”

    Two hours later, we finally got the damn boat off the damn dock,  left the marina and started sailing.

    For the next few hours, my wife and I took turns trying to sail the boat — in the rain — while our instructor yelled at us.

    It wasn’t as fun as it sounds.

    But, after two days of hard sailing work, I’m proud to say that my wife and I learned something.

    That steerie thing is called the tiller.

    As for the sailing test, we all agreed it would be good idea if we went home, studied some more and took the test later.

    And we will. I promise.

    Sort of. 

  • Sailing plans could be thwarted by knot-tying abilities

    I was a lousy Boy Scout.

    I liked the camping well enough, but I wasn’t a fan of the meetings and the whole merit badge deal. But to be fair, it really wasn’t the Boy Scouts’ fault that I was a lousy Scout. It was mine.

    I just wasn’t Boy Scout material. Even had I been Boy Scout material, I still would have been a lousy Scout — because of the knots.

    You’re supposed to know how to tie knots in the Boy Scouts, and I can’t tie knots. I have a hard time tying a tie, let alone a slip, granny, second cousin, drunk uncle knot.

    I think that’s a knot. If knot (ha!), it should be.

    Given my problem with all things tied, why did I spend nearly three hours Thursday afternoon trying, unsuccessfully, to tie a bunch of knots?

    Well, if you must know, it was because of my wife.

    Our wedding anniversary was a few weeks ago, and I — because I do not have stupid all over my face — gave my wife the gift of jewelry.

    Here’s a tip for you rookie husbands out there: When it comes to gifts for your wife, you can never go wrong with jewelry. And the great thing is you don’t really have to put much thought into buying jewelry. It’s the perfect gift. Minimum input, maximum return.

    Understand, rookie husbands: This is just between you and me. I would hate for my wife to hear about this.

    Unlike myself, my wife does put a lot of thought into the gifts she gives to me. My wife will spend weeks, even months coming up with what she thinks will be the perfect gift for me. The key words in the previous sentence, of course, are: “what she thinks will be the perfect gift for me.”

    I’m not saying that my wife’s gifts to me aren’t perfect. I’m just suggesting that sometimes she overthinks the whole gift thing.

    See, I’m a pretty simple guy. No, really, it’s true.

    To me, a perfect gift would be the gift of beer. And maybe a cigar or two. And a can of peanuts — salted, not that “lightly salted” crap they try to sell.

    My wife, however, doesn’t think the gift of beer, a cigar or two and salted peanuts is a proper gift. So she tries to think outside the gift box. Or 12-pack, as it were.

    This year, for our anniversary, my wife gave me — wait for it — the gift of sailing lessons.

    A neat idea, right? I thought so too until I discovered that in order to learn how to sail, my wife and I have to study a book about — follow me here — sailing.

    Look, I haven’t studied since college. Wait, that’s not correct. I haven’t studied since high school. Wait, that’s not correct either. I’ve never studied.

    We also have to know how to tie a bunch of knots. Apparently — and this was news to me — they use a lot of knots in sailing.

    I think they use them to shiver timbers. Or maybe batten down hatches.

    Anyway, that’s why on Thursday afternoon I spent three hours trying to learn how to tie a bunch of knots.

    At the end of the three hours, I hadn’t learned to tie the knots I was supposed to, but I did manage to accidentally tie up two of our cats. And a couch.

    Did I mention I’m not good at knots?

    On Friday evening, my wife and I will drive up to Stockton. Then, on Saturday morning, we will drive to a marina and spend the next two days either learning how to sail or swimming to shore.

    It’s likely going to be a toss-up.

    Now, if you will excuse me, I have a couple of cats to untie.

  • When it comes to shopping, ‘for a second’ can be an eternity

    This may come as a shock to some of you, but once again it was my fault.

    You would think that a veteran husband and parent who has suffered through numerous trials and tribulations would learn. But if you were to think that, you would be wrong.

    I never learn.

    I guess it’s the optimist in me. Like Charlie Brown wanting to believe Lucy when she swears she won’t pull the football away seconds before he tries to kick it, I believe that when it comes to matters of time, my wife will tell the truth.

    I know. It’s stupid. But at one time I also thought: “Gee, how bad can Trump be?”

    I’m a slow learner is what I am.

    We were in Kansas City. My wife and I and our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, were walking to a restaurant for dinner. Our reservation was for 6 p.m. and it was 20 minutes before 6 when we were heading to the restaurant.

    “Wait,” my wife said as we approached a Victoria’s Secret store. “We just need to stop in here for a second.”

    “Uh-oh,” I said to myself. “This can’t be good.”

    So, I did what I always do when my wife says she needs to stop in a store “for a second.”

    I looked for a way out.

    In this case, because we were very close to the restaurant and because I knew that restaurant had a bar, I figured I would head there and wait for my wife and Emma. I figured that in the “second” they were going to shop in the Victoria’s Secret store I could have one, possibly 10 beers. But because I’m an optimist, I made two fatal errors.

    The first error I made was to ask the following question.

    “How long will you guys be shopping? Because I was thinking of heading on to the restaurant and getting a beer,” is what I said.

    “You won’t have time because we will only be a second,” my wife said.

    The second fatal error I made was believing my wife when she said that she and Emma would only be a second in Victoria’s Secret.

    So, while my wife and Emma headed off into the depths of the large Victoria’s Secret store, I found a vacant wall near the front doors on which to lean.

    By the way, if it wasn’t for English teachers out there, I probably could have phrased that last sentence differently. What I would normally say is, “I found a vacant wall to lean on,” but I’ve been told that is not proper grammar.

    I don’t know why exactly it is not proper grammar, but apparently it’s not.

    The reason I found a vacant wall near the front of the Victoria’s Secret on which to lean is because there really is nowhere in the store a guy can wander without feeling uncomfortable.

    It would be different if I were tagging along with my wife and Emma in Victoria’s Secret because then people would realize that I was with them and not some creepy, middle-aged guy hanging out in a lingerie store.

    But call me silly, I’m not comfortable hanging out with my wife and daughter while they shop for lingerie.

    So, I found a vacant wall on which to lean. And then, to make sure people didn’t think that I was a creepy, middle-aged guy leaning on the wall of a lingerie store, I took out my phone and started checking for baseball scores even though I already knew that the St. Louis Cardinals had lost their game.

    That way, I figured, people would see me checking baseball scores and think: “He’s not creepy. He just believed his wife.”

    Twenty minutes later, my wife and Emma came back.

    “See,” my wife said. “We were only here a second.”

    Sigh. Someday I swear I’ll learn.

     

  • No free weekends through Thanksgiving

    It was my own fault.

    I got a little too full of myself, so karma — who we all karma can be a disagreeable person — smacked me in the head.

    Not too hard. I mean karma may be disagreeable, but it doesn’t just go around smacking people in the head hard enough to hurt them.

    At least I would like to think karma doesn’t do that, but with karma, who knows?

    Last week, I bragged about the fact that we had a free weekend with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I described it as an “unencumbered weekend.”

    I shouldn’t have done that because after my wife read that column she informed me that we didn’t have another free weekend until after Thanksgiving.

    “That’s not possible,” I said to my wife.

    “Yes, it is,” my wife said.

    Then my wife proceeded to list everything we have to do and everywhere we have to be on every weekend from now until after Thanksgiving.

    The thing is, my wife listed everything we have to do and everywhere we have to be from memory.

    Look, I don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow let alone on every weekend through Thanksgiving, so how can my wife know — off the top of her head — what we’re doing on every weekend?

    We’re different that way. My wife and I.

    My wife’s a planner, and I am not.

    Because my wife is a planner, when some sort of plan for a weekend comes up she marks it down on her calendar and makes a mental note to herself.

    Because I’m not a planner, when some sort of plan for the weekend comes up I look at either the St. Louis Cardinals baseball schedule or the Kansas City Chiefs football schedule to see if the weekend plan will impact my baseball or football watching.

    Then I forget about the weekend plan.

    See, we’re different. My wife and I.

    I don’t how this happened. I don’t know how we managed to have something to do or somewhere to go on every weekend until after Thanksgiving.

    By nature, I’m not the sort of person who likes to be busy. If I wanted to be busy, I would’ve become one of  Trump’s attorneys.

    By nature, I’m the sort of person who thinks sitting in my Jimmy Buffett Adirondack chair on my porch with a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other is something to do on a weekend.

    photo of a aqua blue and orange Jimmy Buffett Adirondack chair with a bottle of Budweiser sitting on the left armrest
    I know where the salt is I’m searching for an unencumbered weekend.

    My wife doesn’t share my philosophy. Don’t get me wrong, my wife does enjoy the occasional unencumbered weekend, she just doesn’t enjoy too many unencumbered weekends.

    So when my wife hears about an activity that might encumber an unencumbered weekend she gets excited and commits us to that activity.

    The problem is, we usually only have a limited number of unencumbered weekends available, so when my wife encumbers some of those weekends, we run out of weekends.

    That’s how we have something to do or somewhere to be every weekend through Thanksgiving.

    To be fair, not all of our encumbered weekends are my wife’s fault. Some are work-related and some involve our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, but had my wife not voluntarily encumbered our few remaining unencumbered weekends, we wouldn’t have something to do or somewhere to be every weekend until after Thanksgiving.

    Not that I’m obsessing about this or anything.

    But I’m nothing if not a survivor, so for the next 13 weekends, I will do what I always do. Every weekend I will be where I need to be and do what I need to do and then I will look for a bar.

    Unencumbered, of course.

  • Studying for some mettle tests not necessary

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on May 18, 2010.


    Some men of a certain generation, I suppose, occasionally wonder how they would react if their mettle were to be truly tested.

    I, for one, wonder that. I also wonder what, exactly, my mettle is and why someone would want to test it.

    Monday night, my mettle was tested, and I think I reacted as I thought I would. I got the hell out of the way. My wife and I were at a Springfield Cardinals baseball game. I love going to Springfield Cardinals baseball games. For my money, Hammons Field in Springfield is one of the best places to watch baseball in the country. There truly is not a bad seat in the stadium, and Monday, thanks to our friends Don and Gloria, and friends of theirs who I can’t mention because folks would think I was sucking up, my wife and I had really, really good seats.

    The seats were in a suite. See, Don and Gloria were given access to one of those fancy-schmancy suites for the Monday night game, and Don, knowing that I’m a large baseball fan and specifically a large St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, invited my wife and me to join them at the game.

    There was a time when I would have thought watching a baseball game from a fancy-schmancy suite was sort of above my raisings. There was a time when I thought watching a baseball game in a fancy-schmancy suite was — I don’t know — sort of Republican.

    Ha! That’s just a joke for my Republican friends.

    Who were in the fancy-schmancy suite.

    But then I found out that they have free beer in most fancy-schmancy suites. When I found that out, I pretty much said, “Obama, you’re on your own.”

    But I don’t want you to think I’ve gotten spoiled with all my fancy-schmancy suite sitting, free beer drinking, baseball watching. I’ll have you know that I spent almost the entire game sitting in the outdoor seats in front of the fancy-schmancy suite. And it was cold Monday night. And I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved Stan Musial T-shirt.

    I know!

    The only time I left my outdoor seats to go into the fancy-schmancy suite was to get a beer. Or another bratwurst for my wife. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m still a  man of the people.

    One of the advantages of sitting in a fancy-schmancy suite at Hammons Field is that you are in prime foul ball territory. The disadvantage to sitting in a fancy-schmancy suite at Hammons Field is that you are in prime foul ball territory.

    Here’s the deal. When a batter hits a foul ball, at least to the fancy-schmancy suite I was sitting in, the ball tends to get there in a hurry. These are not the types of foul balls that are typically caught by someone with his bare hands. Unless that someone does not intend to use his bare hands for the next year or so. What usually happens to someone in a fancy-schmancy suite at Hammons Field who tries to catch a foul ball moving faster than a BP oil executive for the border is that the baseball breaks the hand of the person in the fancy-schmancy suite and falls down to a 10-year-old kid with a glove. The kid picks up the ball while the paramedics are rushing into the fancy-schmancy suite above his head.

    It was somewhere in the middle of the game. I was sitting in my seat outside the fancy-schmancy suite when a batter — I think it was Hank Aaron — hit a vicious foul ball in my direction. As the ball got closer, it was clear I had two choices.

    Choice No. 1: Stick my hand through the aluminum bars next to me and make an athletic bare-handed catch that so impresses the Springfield Cardinals manager that he phones the big club and I’m immediately whisked away to St. Louis and penciled in to bat behind Albert Pujols.

    Or Choice No B : Get the hell out of the way.

    Here’s the deal. I didn’t just see the baseball coming in my direction. As it got closer, I heard the baseball. It was making that whoosh-whoosh noise that only things traveling very fast make.

    There are not many rules of life that I choose to live by. But one of the rules I do choose to live by is this rule: If you can hear a baseball coming at you, get the hell out of the way.

    And that’s what I did.

    Oh, Don and Gloria and the guys whose names I can’t mention because people would think I’m sucking up: Thanks again for the invite. And I forgive you for making fun of me about the whole not catching the foul ball thing.

    Oh, in case the rest of you are wondering, I got a C on my mettle test. I nailed the essay.

  • Tomatoes, ribs, baseball make for good weekend

    It was a fresh tomato-worthy weekend.

    At our house, not every weekend is fresh tomato-worthy. In order for a weekend to be fresh tomato-worthy, it needs to be unencumbered. Now, an unencumbered weekend is not to be confused with an uncucumbered weekend. In fact, oftentimes a fresh tomato-worthy weekend is also a fresh cucumber-worthy weekend. Now I will leave it up to you to determine if “uncucumbered” is actually a word, but if it’s not, it should be.

    Many times my wife will make a cucumber and tomato salad, which, as ol’ Ben Franklin may or may not have said about beer, “is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

    This past weekend was one of those rare times when we didn’t have any plans — a weekend when we had nothing to do and nowhere to go.

    Two years ago, when our now-20-year-old daughter, Emma, left for college, my wife and I figured that finally, after years of school, sports and dance activities, our weekends would be free.

    Turns out we figured wrong.

    Looking back on this summer, I’m not sure what we did with our weekends. I just know that most of them were definitely not unencumbered.

    But this past weekend was unencumbered, which is why, on Saturday morning, I drove over to the Webb City Farmers Market and picked up some fresh tomatoes. I also bought some jalapenos, onions and a box of peaches. My wife loves peaches. I do not. But when you’re married and you see something you think your spouse might like, you buy it.

    You never know when you might need bonus points.

    I planned to use the tomatoes in a recipe for pico de gallo that I found in the new “Margaritaville” cookbook.

    The cover of the new cookbook Margaritaville The Cookbook. On the cover is a bowl of pico de gallo a bowl of seafood stew a margarita in a salt-rimmed glass and some sort of frosted cake
    Margaritaville: The Cookbook. Read it. Use it.

    We have too many cookbooks, and there is a reason for that: We like cookbooks and can’t stop buying them.

    After I made the pico de gallo, I covered it and put it in the refrigerator. Later, that evening, I sliced some corn tortillas and fried them up. Then my wife and I sat outside and dipped the still-warm corn tortilla chips in the pico de gallo.

    Have you ever had warm corn tortilla chips dipped in pico de gallo made with fresh tomatoes, onions and jalapeno?

    You should.

    Still later that evening I took out two slabs of baby back ribs and covered them with a rub that I made earlier.

    Whenever someone asks me for the secret to my rib rub, I always say, “Come closer,” and when they do, I yell, “THERE IS NO DAMN SECRET. JUST ABOUT ALL RIB RUBS ARE BASICALLY THE SAME, AND ANYONE WHO TELLS YOU DIFFERENT IS LYING.”

    Fortunately, not a lot of people ask me that question.

    Still later on Saturday evening, my wife and I cut up the remaining tomatoes, onions and jalapenos to go with a mess o’ tacos.

    In case you’re wondering, “mess o’” is the correct term when referring to tacos. And chicken wings. For baby back ribs, I stick to the traditional term, “slabs.”

    On Sunday afternoon, I grabbed the ribs out of the refrigerator, took them outside, put them on my Weber water smoker, closed the lid, opened a beer, sat on our patio and watched the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Ribs on the smoker, beer in the hand and baseball on TV. It doesn’t suck.

    Hey, somebody had to do the cooking.

    Have you ever sat on your patio, sipping beer and watching baseball while two slabs of ribs slowly smoke next to you?

    You should.

    Occasionally, I would get up to check the temperature on my smoker. Then I would go inside and grab another beer.

    It was a fine weekend.

    It was tomato-worthy, is what it was.

     


    Pico de Gallo

    This recipe from Margaritaville: The Cookbook is easy and amazing. Of course, using fresh everything helps.

    A bowl of pico de gallo on a plate with home made tortilla chips.
    This be the pico de gallo. It be good. Ditto for the chips.

    1 1/2 cups finely chopped tomatoes

    1 small yellow onion, finely diced

    Large handful of fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

    I jalapeno, seeded and minced

    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more if needed. (We always need more. We like lime juice).

    1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more if needed.

    Place all ingredients together in a large bowl and gently stir together. Taste for seasoning, adding more lime and/or salt as needed. Serve immediately.

    I like to serve this with freshly fried corn tortilla chips. “But Mike” some of you are asking. “Is that healthy?”. To some of you who are asking that I say “No. No, it’s not.”

     


    Mike’s “THERE IS  NO DAMN SECRET. JUST ABOUT ALL RIB RUBS ARE BASICALLY THE SAME, AND ANYONE WHO TELLS YOU DIFFERENT IS LYING” Secret rib rub.

    This your basic rib rub recipe. It is so basic I don’t even remember where it came from but I like it so that’s all the matters.

    Ribs on a plate with a bottle of beer in the background
    Oh, and the Cardinals won. The ribs, by the way,  came from Cloud’s. As did the beans. The beer was mine.

    1/2 cup white sugar

    1/3 cup brown sugar

    1/3 cup kosher salt

    1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder

    1 tablespoon cumin

    1 teaspoon onion powder

    1 teaspoon garlic powder

    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon allspice

    Mix the spices together then, after removing the membrane from the back side of the ribs, rub a generous amount of the mix onto the ribs. This, by the way, is why it’s called a rib rub. Bet you won’t get great culinary insight like that on the Food Channel. I guess you could also call it a rib pat because after you rub it onto the ribs you then pat it into the meat. But rib pat sounds sort of stupid. So never mind. Oh, I almost forgot: Cover the ribs and put them in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours but longer is always better. I shoot for 24  hours.

    You can store the leftover rub (pat?) in a sealed container to use later. Or, you can do what I do and store it in a sealed container, put in the pantry and forget about it until you find it a year later and discover it’s as hard as whatever that thing on Trump’s head is.

    You probably shouldn’t do that.

  • Ignorance is always the best policy

    I’m staying out of it.

    That’s been my stance regarding disputes between my wife and our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, since we first brought her home.

    Veteran dads will tell you that when it comes to a dispute between their wife and their daughter, ignorance is the best policy.

    A wife may ask her husband: “Do you know what your daughter did?”

    “No,” the husband will then say to his wife, and just like that, he’s off the hook.

    Well, not just like that, but sort of like that. Sometimes a veteran dad must display Congress creature-level ignorance to be totally off the hook.

    My wife and Emma have been working on a housing contract for Emma’s senior year of college. Emma is just now starting her junior year, but apparently in college towns, it’s important to work an entire year ahead.

    I say “apparently” because I don’t know that for sure what with me being ignorant and all.

    Friday morning, my wife and I went to the bank to have the housing contract notarized so we could then overnight it back to Emma so she can submit it to the owner of the house she plans to rent next year.

    But my wife decided she should double check with Emma to be sure that the contract needed to go to her or if we should send it straight to the owner of the house.

    “She has class until noon today,” my wife said. “So I’ll send her a text, and I’ll have her text you after her class.”

    I don’t know how my wife knew that Emma was in class until noon on Friday, but then again, I just recently discovered that Emma is in college.

    Ignorance. Remember?

    It’s now 2:20 Friday afternoon and I still haven’t heard from Emma, and a few minutes ago, the following texts popped up on my phone:

    Text from my wife to Emma: Emma need to get this overnighted.

    Text from Emma to my Wife: What?

    Text from my wife to Emma: Read the text I sent you this morning about the lease.

    There are certain times when I can her my wife’s anger in a text. This was one of those times.

    Emma hasn’t responded to my wife’s latest text, but when she does, I’m pretty sure you will be able to hear the eye rolling in her response. Which, in turn, will cause my wife to send a text that will be covered in anger. Now, to be honest, I’m not sure you can send a text covered in anger, but if anyone can, it would be my wife.

    Now, if I were a rookie dad, I would pick up my phone and send a text saying something like: “Now, now. No use getting mad at each other. Emma, your mom is just trying to help you, and Marybeth Bobbi Sue (not my wife’s real name), Emma is a busy college student and probably didn’t get a chance to read your text.”  But, that would have prompted both my wife and Emma to send the following text: “HOW DARE YOU TAKE HER SIDE?”

    So, I feign (it’s a word — I looked it up) ignorance.

    My wife just called me on my cellphone to complain about Emma. My wife said she sent a text directly to Emma and that Emma sent a somewhat sarcastic text back to her. Then my wife said, “I told her ‘Look, Missy, we are doing this for you. Your father and I are both working right now. This is a free ride for you and …”

    Well, I don’t know what else my wife said because I told my wife that I had to get back to my column and then I hung up.

    Hey, I may be ignorant, but I’m not stupid.

     

  • There’s plenty to do on a rainy Saturday

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on May 9, 2006.

    It had all the makings of your basic busy Saturday.

    There was a time when, for me, the words busy and Saturday were mutually exclusive. When I was single, my idea of a busy Saturday was one when I had to get up before noon – on Sunday.

    My Saturdays, in those days, were not exactly chock-full of accomplishments. They weren’t the sort of days when I had to sit down and make up a “to-do” list. If I did make a Saturday “to-do” list in those days, it would have read something like this:

    No. 1: Wake up.

    No. B: Find out where I am.

    I’m married now, and I have an 8-year-old daughter named Emma. So my Saturdays are a little different from when I was single. Some Saturdays, we even have to set our alarm clock and make a “to-do” list.

    Last Saturday was one of those Saturdays. Emma had a soccer game at 9:30 a.m. I am the coach of Emma’s soccer team, which means I pretty much need to be at the game too. After the game, Emma was supposed to go to a birthday party in Joplin at 11 a.m. Then, at 1 p.m., she needed to be at Missouri Southern State University for something called “Young Authors.”

    It was to be a full day.

    On Saturday morning, the alarm clock went off at 6:30. At 8:30, we got up. Emma was already dressed in her soccer uniform and working on her third Pop-Tart. At 8:45, I went outside to get the newspaper. I noticed it was raining. At 8:47, my phone rang. It was a parent of one of Emma’s soccer teammates. She wanted to know if the game had been canceled. I told her no. She didn’t sound happy. At 8:50, our phone rang again. It was another parent wanting to know if the game had been canceled. I said no. She didn’t sound happy. At 9 a.m., my wife came downstairs. She wanted to know if the game had been canceled. I said no. She didn’t sound happy.

    At 9:15, we drove out to the soccer fields. Well, we think they were the soccer fields, but we couldn’t really tell what with the water and all. I stopped a guy and asked if the soccer games had been canceled. He said no. Then he swam away. He didn’t sound happy. At 9:45, I told the two parents who showed up for the game that they might as well go home. They didn’t sound happy.

    At 10 a.m., we arrived home, and my wife told Emma to hurry and change for the birthday party. At 10:15, my wife found Emma, still in her soccer uniform, watching TV. My wife asked Emma why she hadn’t changed her clothes yet. Emma said, “Oh, did you mean today?” My wife said something else to Emma. She didn’t sound happy.

    At 11:05, we arrived at the birthday party in Joplin. Emma was mad at my wife. My wife was mad at Emma. They both were mad at me. And it was raining.

    Emma had fun at the party. A lot of her friends were there. She ignored my wife and me. At 12:30 p.m., my wife told Emma we had to leave the party to go to Young Authors. Emma didn’t want to leave. My wife told Emma she had to. So Emma said goodbye to her friends. She didn’t sound happy.

    At 12:40, I dropped Emma and my wife off at a big building at Missouri Southern and went to find a place to park. I found a place to park next to a sign that said “Welcome to Kansas” and started walking back to the big building. That’s when I discovered that I had left our other umbrella at the birthday party. Did I mention it was raining?

    Emma had a great time at Young Authors, and so did her mother and I. It’s a neat deal. During the school year, participating schools have their kids write stories in class, and they send them to the folks in charge of Young Authors. The folks in charge of Young Authors read all the stories and then invite kids from each school to attend the event at MSSU. On Saturday, the kids got to meet and talk with two real authors. The authors talked to the kids and their parents about writing. They told stories and talked about their books. We bought Emma several books, and she had them signed by the authors.

    When we drove home, it was still raining. My wife and I listened to “A Prairie Home Companion” on the car radio, and Emma read one of her new books.

    As we pulled onto our street in Carthage, my wife told Emma that we were very proud of her for being selected to participate in Young Authors. Emma said, “Thank you.”

    She sounded happy.

     

  • Exterior housework makes for a noisy day

    It’s a little loud at my workplace.

    Of course, I work from home, so you would expect I would be able to control the loudness at my workplace. Besides, how loud could it really be here? Other than myself, there aren’t many other sources for loudness.

    Sure, there are three cats and two dogs sharing my workplace with me, but they don’t say much. Our German shepherd, Shilo, and our assistant dog, Caicos, occasionally bark and attack our front door if someone rings the doorbell, but that doesn’t happen much.

    People don’t ring our doorbell when I’m alone in our house. I think that’s because no one wants to talk to me. I guess I should be upset by that, but I’m not because I’m not much of a talker.

    That’s the advantage of working from home: You don’t have to talk to anyone.

    You also don’t have to answer the phone if it rings. If you work in an office and your phone rings, office etiquette requires you to answer it.

    “You better answer that; it might be important,” a co-worker might say to you.

    Of course, in my case I would be able to say, “Have you ever read my column?” And my co-worker would say, “Good point. But you still should answer your phone. The ringing is annoying.”

    So I would have to answer my phone and discover that my wife is on the line wanting to talk to me about … well, it doesn’t matter what she wants to talk about because whatever it is, I wouldn’t really care.

    Please don’t tell my wife I just wrote that.

    Now, where was I?

    Oh, right, the loudness in my workplace.

    The loudness in my workplace is coming from two nice guys who are power-washing our house.

    The guys showed up Monday morning, and they have been power-washing ever since. Well, not continuously — that would be a lot of power-washing.

    Not to mention overtime.

    The two guys are power-washing our house to get it ready to be painted. I think that’s why. But for all I know, they could just be two random guys who go around power-washing houses for no apparent reason.

    See, I don’t pay much attention to what goes on around our house.

    It was my wife who told me that the two guys are power-washing our house to get it ready to be painted.

    “We’re getting our house painted?” I asked.

    “You (bad word) moron,” my wife said.

    Our house has been painted twice since we purchased it in 2001. The first time, I helped paint the house, and the second time, I didn’t.

    Have you ever painted a house? If so, you will understand why I didn’t help paint our house the second time.

    Unless you are a professional, I think painting one house is enough.

    We didn’t power-wash our house when we painted it the first time. We scraped it. Have you ever scraped paint off a house?

    It’s not as fun as it sounds.

    I think the guys power-washing our house will still probably have to scrape off paint at some point. But I don’t know. My subscription to House Painting Monthly lapsed a long time ago, so it’s possible things have changed in the house-painting world.

    For all I know, they use drones to paint houses now. Last year, an insurance guy used a drone to inspect our roof for hail damage, so you never know.

    The guys power-washing our house started at about 7 this morning, so they’re probably about done for the day.

    I know I would be.

    But even if they keep power-washing, I’m OK. I don’t really mind the noise.

    I mean, it could be worse. It could be a ringing phone I have to answer.

     

  • Chatty passenger won’t ruin train ride
    mike pound typing his column while on the train to hermann
    Working on the train.

    She is trying to ruin my trip, but I won’t let her.

    The lady sitting to my right is the she who is trying to ruin my trip. What she is doing is talking nonstop on her phone to — well, I’m not sure who. And, to be honest, it does not appear to be just one who.

    The lady on my right will be talking to someone and then the conversation will lag and she will say “OK, bye.” And I will let out a sigh of relief, thinking that she will finally be quiet.

    Then, without missing a beat, she will start talking to another who, and I will think to myself, “She’s trying to ruin my trip.” But then myself will say, “Relax. You are on the Amtrak Missouri Runner on the way to Hermann and the club car is right behind you where you can get another beer. Sit back down, sip your beer and watch the Missouri countryside glide by. The woman to your right cannot ruin your trip.”

    Sometimes, myself makes a lot of sense.

    The lady sitting immediately to my left is my wife, and she is also not letting the lady to my right ruin her trip. Of course, it’s possible that the bloody mary my wife is sipping is also a reason the lady to my right won’t ruin her trip.

    Mike Pound looking out to the right window on the train with a beer in his hand
    Not working on the train.

    Before some of you get all judgy, I should point out that my wife and I are on a mini-vacation. Here are our plans: Ride the train to Hermann. Get off the train. Catch the Hermann trolley to the Hermann Hill Inn where we will be staying. Then, after we check in at the Hermann Hill Inn, we will sample many of the wines made at the many wineries in and around Hermann.

    And then … well, that’s mainly what we will do.

    Hey, as the great Dan Jenkins wrote, “Nobody says life wasn’t going to be semi-tough.”

    I like to take mini-vacations. To me, mini-vacations are more relaxing than maxi-vacations. When we’re on a mini-vacation, there isn’t as much pressure to do something. When we’re on maxi-vacations, we sometimes feel obligated to do something. After all, we’re on a maxi-vacation, we have to do something. But, when we’re on a mini-vacation we can just say, “Hey, it’s a mini-vacation. We don’t have time to do something so let’s just do nothing.”

    But maybe I’m just lazy. Yeah, that’s probably what I am.

    We just left Sedalia, and our next stop, in about an hour or so, is Jefferson City. Before long we will run into the Missouri River. Well, we won’t actually run into the Missouri River, but it will appear on the left and the train will follow it, off and on, to Hermann.

    A view of the Missouri River taken from the Amtrack River Runner. Blue skies, puffy white clouds and trees lining the river
    The Missouri River which the train follows, off and on, from Jefferson City to Hermann.

    I say off and on because you don’t always see the river but you know it’s there. You know it’s there because of the bluffs that you can see from the window of the train and because of the occasional fish camps that crop up. Little segments of houses and trailers sitting on tall stilts designed to protect them from Missouri River floods but, as always with nature, don’t always work.

    It’s a neat train ride is what it is.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but train rides tend to take me back to a different time. A time when, if you wanted to go somewhere, you took the train. A time when riding the train was glamorous. A time when riding the train was like putting yourself into a snapshot of America. A time when conductors yelled “ALL ABOARD.”

    Conductors today don’t yell “ALL ABOARD,” as much as they used to. They just scan your ticket.

    But that’s OK. What trains still do is afford you a chance to slow down. A chance to relax and let the countryside glide by.

    And no one can ruin that.

    A lunch plate at the Hermannhof Winery. Twos glasses of white wine a loaf of bread wrapped in white patper an apple, cheese , bowl of black cherries and a bowl of black walnuts.
    Lunch at the Hermannhof Winery. It was only great.

     

  • Want your patience tested? Try online ordering the Swedish way

    Last week, our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, decided she needed a new chest of drawers for her room at her sorority house.

    I don’t know why she decided she needed a new chest of drawers for her room at her sorority house, but, as usual, my knowledge or lack thereof was not an issue.

    “I’ll order it online,” Emma said. “And then on the way to school, we can stop in Kansas City and pick it up.”

    I really didn’t want to stop in Kansas City and pick up a chest of drawers, but just as my knowledge or lack of knowledge about things was not an issue, neither is whether or not I want to do something.

    I’m not sure if “chest of drawers” is the correct term for what Emma ordered online. Essentially, what Emma ordered was a chest that comes with five drawers, so I’m sticking with chest of drawers.

    Emma ordered the chest of drawers from that big furniture company that also sells Swedish meatballs.

    I’m uneasy with a furniture company that dabbles in Swedish meatballs. I mean, come on, make a choice: furniture or meatballs. You can’t do both.

    After Emma placed her online order, she realized that there was no option listed that would allow her to have the chest of drawers assembled before we picked it up, so she called the store’s customer service number.

    “It says it’s closed,” Emma said.

    I’m no furniture company expert, but it seems to me that finding out that a customer service number is closed is not a good sign.

    The next day, we got to the furniture/Swedish meatball store in Kansas City shortly before 11 a.m.

    Emma found a nice lady who worked at the store and told her that her chest of drawers was supposed to be ready at 10:30 a.m.

    “Did you get you’re email that said it was ready?” the lady asked.

    When Emma said she had not yet gotten the email, the lady said she needed to wait until she got the email before we could pick up the chest of drawers.

    “Do you have one in stock?” my wife asked.

    “Yes,” the lady said.

    “But we still have to wait for an email?” I asked.

    “Yes,” the lady said.

    Boy, those meatballs better be good.

    When my wife asked the lady if we could just get the chest of drawers in stock instead of waiting for the email, she said we could.

    “But you will have to cancel the online order first and it will take seven to 10 days to get your refund,” the lady said.

    “Fine,” my wife and Emma said.

    “(Bad word),” I said.

    Emma asked the nice lady if the chest of drawers in stock was already assembled. The lady said it was not and told us that if we wanted it assembled, we needed to talk to the assembly and delivery guy.

    So we found the assembly and delivery guy. I asked him how long it would take to put the chest of drawers together.

    “At least 24 hours,” the guy said.

    Turns out the people at the furniture/Swedish meatball company don’t actually put their furniture together. They send it to another company that then delivers the furniture to you in the box and puts it together in your home.

    Sort of makes you wonder who makes their Swedish meatballs.

    The assembly and delivery guy said it was kind of hard to tell when, exactly, the chest of drawers would be delivered and assembled.

    Emma looked at me and then she looked at the assembly and delivery guy.

    “Can I just cancel this order too?” she asked.

    “Yes,” the guy said. “But it will take seven to 10 days to get your account refunded.”

    Sigh. I bet the meatballs suck.

  • Time to get excited (or not) about the Chiefs

    I shocked my wife the other night.

    I said “no” when she asked me if I wanted another beer.

    Ha. I joke. My wife is too smart to ask a stupid question.

    No, what I did was tell my wife that she could change the channel on the TV in our family room.

    “But you’re watching a football game,” my wife said.

    “That’s OK,” I said. “I don’t need to watch the rest of the game.”

    My wife immediately ran over to where I was sitting and placed her hand on my forehead.

    “Hmmm, no fever,” she said. “Must be some sort of stroke.”

    My wife is hilarious.

    One of the reasons I told my wife that I didn’t want to watch the rest of the football game was because it was an exhibition game. See, exhibition games are — follow me here — exhibitions. Basically, what the morons who run the NFL are saying when they stage an exhibition game is, “Look. This is an exhibit of an NFL game. Granted, it’s not an exhibit of a good NFL game, but it is an NFL game.”

    Most fans realize that, and like me, they take a mild (at best) interest in exhibition games.

    The exhibition game that I was only mildly interested in on Thursday night featured the Kansas City Chiefs against the Houston Texans. By the way, you know you’ve run out of names for sports teams when you just use the name of the state in which the team is located.

    It would be like calling the Kansas City Chiefs the Kansas City Missourians. Or the Chicago Cubs the Chicago Illinoisans.

    The other reason I was mildly interested in the exhibition game was because the Chiefs have a new quarterback that everyone is excited about.

    But I’m uneasy with the new quarterback. I thought the Chiefs already had a perfectly good quarterback, but they threw him away so the new quarterback could play.

    OK, technically the Chiefs didn’t throw the perfectly good quarterback away; they traded him to the Washington … I’m going to call them the … D.C.ers. But still.

    It’s not that I have anything against the new Chiefs quarterback. From what I’ve seen, he is very good. He probably is even better than the quarterback the Chiefs threw away. But, and I say this as a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs fan, we’re talking about the Chiefs here.

    Let’s face it — things don’t always work out when it comes to the Kansas City Chiefs’ decisions, and it doesn’t matter who is making the decisions.

    I’m not blaming the current Chiefs decision-makers here. I’m blaming Hank Stram. I loved Hank Stram. He was a great football coach, and I used to love listening to him call Monday night football games on the radio with the great Jack Buck.

    But I think that in 1969, the NFL gods came to Hank and said, “Look, we’ll let you win the Super Bowl this season, but after that, almost every decision the Chiefs ever make will be wrong.” And Hank said, “Let me think about that for a second. (One-second pause.) DEAL.”

    Can you think of a better explanation?

    To be honest, I don’t know why I was even mildly interested in the exhibition game. If the new Chiefs quarterback did a great job, it really wouldn’t mean anything because — again, follow me here — it was an exhibition game. And if he sucked, it really wouldn’t matter because — as I think I’ve made clear — it was an exhibition game.

    As it was, the new quarterback did OK. Not great. Not horrible. But OK, which for a Chiefs decision was about all you could hope for.

    I hope the new Chiefs quarterback has a great season and leads them to a Super Bowl victory. But I don’t know.

    What’s the statute of limitations on deals with the NFL gods?

  • Small talk goes better with beer

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on Oct. 1, 2011

    My wife had several important work-related events this weekend that required my presence.

    I don’t like my wife’s work-related events that require my presence. Mainly, I don’t like my wife’s work-related events that require my presence because they often require me to make small talk. I’m not very good at small talk.

    Actually, I’m not very good at large talk either. Unless the topic is sports or beer, I’m not much of a talker. Here I am trying to make small talk with the Queen of England.

    Me: Hey, Becky.

    Queen of England: HELLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOO.

    LONG PAUSE.

    Me: Boy, I hate the designated hitter rule.

    Queen of England: Oh sure, like everyone is just dying to see pitchers bat.

    LONGER PAUSE

    Me: Want a beer?

    I’m not much of a deep thinker. I don’t spend much time thinking about things. So, when I have to make small talk, I’m pretty much out of things to say after about 30 seconds. My wife, on the other topic, is wonderful at small talk. My wife has an amazing ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. My wife could make Marcel Marceau talk.

    By the way, when I Googled Marcel Marceau, to make sure I had spelled his name correctly, one of the options that popped up was “Marcel Marceau quotes.” I thought that was funny.

    My wife and I were once standing in the food line at a social function when my wife struck up a conversation with a young man standing in front of her. At the time, I was talking to my younger sister, Chris, who doesn’t like to make small talk either. Chris and I were talking about the fact that my wife doesn’t mind talking to complete strangers. After a few minutes, Chris and I stopped talking to listen in on my wife’s conversation with the stranger in front of her. As it turns out, my wife wasn’t so much talking as she was listening. The stranger was telling my wife about his time in prison and about a pending assault charge against him that he said was “bogus, man.”

    As my wife listened to the stranger talking about his bogus assault charge, she gave me a look that said “If you don’t do something and get me away from this guy, but without being rude, I will rip your lungs out and use them to line our new kitchen cabinets.”

    It was, as it always is, a heck of a look.

    In return, I gave my wife a look that said “Don’t look at me, Oprah. You’re the one that started talking to John Dillinger here, so as far as I’m concerned, you’re on your own.”

    Mine, also, was a heck of a look, but it was a look I would later regret.

    I will say that I find it much easier to make small talk with a beer in my hand than without a beer in my hand. When I have a beer in my hand, I always know that I have a way out. If the small talk making begins getting awkward. All I have to do is look at my beer and say: “Look at that. I’m out of beer. I better go get another one” and then I can walk away leaving the person I was small talking with to say “Whew, I thought he would never finish that beer.”

    At many of my wife’s work-related events I find myself making small talk with Robert Corn, the Missouri Southern State University men’s basketball coach. Robert doesn’t like to make small talk either, so we always seek each other out so we can stand together and not make small talk.

    “What did you and Robert talk about?’ my wife will ask later.

    “Nothing,” I will say, and my wife will be amazed.

    ‘How can two people talk about nothing?” she will say.

    “Look at that; I’m out of beer,” I’ll say and walk off to find the Queen of England again.

  • First-day-of-school pictures become tradition, even in college

    The way I figure it, we have one picture left to take.

    That is unless  she decides to go to graduate school, but I don’t see that happening.

    The only way she would opt to go to graduate school would be if she was having fun in college and wasn’t ready to start working a real job.

    Wait a minute.

    Nah, I don’t really think she is going to graduate school, at least not right away, so I’m thinking that we do only have one picture left.

    The pictures I’m talking about are our now 20-year-old daughter Emma’s first day of school pictures.

    Technically, Monday wasn’t Emma’s first day of school this year, but it was the day she was leaving to go back to college, which was good enough for my wife.

    “OK, we’re all packed,” I said. “Let’s get going.”

    “Are you kidding? I have literally been ready to leave since I literally came home in May,” Emma said.

    I got the impression that Emma, who will be a junior, was anxious to get back to college.

    “Wait,” my wife said, “we have to take our picture.”

    “Bad word,” I said.

    “Literally (bad word),” Emma said.

    The first time we took the back-to-school picture on our front porch it really wasn’t a back-to-school picture. It was a first-day-of-school picture.

    We were getting ready to take Emma to her first day of kindergarten at Mark Twain Elementary School. Emma was excited but a bit nervous, and I was anxious to get her to school before she realized what was happening and started to cry.

    So when my wife said, “Wait, we have to take our picture,” I said — to myself — “(Bad word)”, while Emma said — to herself — “I wish I knew a bad word.”

    Emma and Mike standing on their porch in front of a green door on Emma's first day of kindergarten.
    This is the first back to school photo we took. I would show the first photo with Lee and Emma but I can’t…wait for it…find it.

    First, my wife took a picture of Emma on our porch. Then she took a picture of Emma and me on our porch. Then I took a picture of Emma and my wife on our porch.

    By this time, of course, Emma began to realize that maybe the first day of kindergarten was more of a big deal than she thought, so five minutes later when we walked her into her classroom Emma started crying.

    I’m not saying it was my wife’s fault that Emma cried on her first day of kindergarten.

    I’m just saying.

    Ever since those first pictures on our porch, my wife has insisted we repeat them on every one of Emma’s first days of school.

    For a while, Emma didn’t mind taking the pictures. Then, about the time she entered junior high, Emma began to hate taking the pictures.

    By the time Emma was in high school, her hatred for the pictures turned into a full-blown massive hatred.

    And, as you know, a full-blown massive hatred is much worse than a normal hatred.

    Emma Pound and Lee Pound standing our our porch in front of a green door on Emma's first day of junior high school. I think
    I found this picture while looking for the first back to school picture with Lee and Emma. Don’t know the what school year Emma was beginning but, judging by the look on her face, I’m guessing it may have been junior high.

    One of the problems with the first-day-of-school pictures is that, other than that very first one, we have no idea where they are located.

    “They’re somewhere in the house,” is all my wife will say whenever I asked her where the other pictures are located.

    Of course, for us, saying “somewhere in the house” is pretty much the same as saying Jimmy Hoffa is “somewhere in New Jersey.”

    But as much as Emma and I have grown to dread taking the first-day-of-school pictures, we know that how we feel about them isn’t really the point. It’s how my wife feels about them.

    So, on Monday, we stood on the porch and smiled for the pictures. When we were done, it got quiet for a second.

    And then Emma broke that quiet. “Can we go? We’re literally going to be late.”

    Did I mention Emma was anxious to get back to college?

    Lee and Emma Pound standing on our porch in front of the same green door for our most recent back to school photo
    Lee and Emma in our most recent back to school photo.
    Mike and Emma Pound posing on their porch for the most recent back to school photo/
    Emma and me in our most recent back to school photo. We’re smiling but we’re not happ

     

  • Unpronounceable words mask simple, routine objects
    A charcuterie board with wine, cheeses, meats and vegetables.
    An actual charcuterie board made by my actual wife. Actually.

    Sometimes I hear from people who tell me that I have an easy job.

    And when I say “sometimes,” I mean “almost daily,” and when I say “people,” I mean “my wife.”

    But to those “people,” I will offer up proof that I do not, in fact, have an easy job.

    Here is that proof: Today, while preparing to write this column, I had to look up the correct spelling of charcuterie.

    I know!

    Do you have any idea how hard it is to look up the correct spelling of a word like charcuterie?

    I knew going into my search that charcuterie began with the letter “c,” but beyond that, I was sort of flying blind.

    So, I did what I always do when looking up the correct spelling of a word that I don’t know how to spell. I typed in the first letter followed by a bunch of other random letters and hoped that good ol’ Mr. Google would help me out.

    Sometimes this takes a while. But after a couple of minutes of random typing, good ol’ Mr. Google finally showed me the correct spelling of charcuterie. Good ol’ Mr. Google also demonstrated the correct pronunciation of charcuterie, which I thought was nice.

    But when I tried to pronounce “charcuterie,” I had the same problem I have whenever I try to pronounce “croissant.” I couldn’t stop.

    That’s what happens whenever I try to pronounce a French word.

    Nice Baker Person: What would you like?

    Me: May I please have a croissannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnttttttt …

    So, a few minutes ago, when good ol’ Mr. Google demonstrated the correct pronunciation of charcuterie, and I tried to repeat it, this is what happened.

    Good ol’ Mr. Google: Char-cut-erie.

    Me: Charcuterrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiii …

    If my wife hadn’t walked by and slapped me in the back, I would probably still be trying to pronounce it.

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my wife didn’t slap me in the back to save me from pronouncing “charcuterie.” She just likes to slap me in the back.

    Actually, the fact that I’m wrestling with how to spell and pronounce charcuterie in the first place is because of my wife.

    Recently, my wife has become charcuterie-crazy. A few years ago, my wife had never even used the word “charcuterie” in a sentence, and now it’s all she talks about.

    Me: What sounds good for —

    Wife: I know, let’s make a charcuterie board.

    I can’t remember when or where we first had a charcuterie board; all I know is that my wife has become obsessed with them.

    The thing is, my wife and I have been making charcuterie boards for years. We just didn’t call them charcuterie boards. We called them snack plates.

    Say it was a Friday evening and my wife and I didn’t feel like cooking a big meal. What we would do was fill a plate with some meats, cheeses, fruits and bread and then snack on it all.

    But we can’t do that now. Now what we do is fill a plate with some meats, cheeses, fruits and bread and call it a charcuterie board and feel sophisticated.

    I’m uncomfortable feeling sophisticated.

    I suppose the reason I’m uncomfortable feeling sophisticated is because I’m pretty much the exact opposite of sophisticated. I’m not just unsophisticated, I’m ununununununununsophisticated.

    But my wife is sophisticated. It was my wife, for example, who told me what an armoire was and why we needed one.

    See, I thought an armoire was some sort of sophisticated female undergarment from France, so when my wife suggested we get one, I immediately agreed. Imagine my disappointment when we brought the armoire home.

    So thanks to my sophisticated wife, I now know the meaning of the words “armoire” and “charcuterie.”

    If only I didn’t have to have someone around to slap me in the back when I try to pronounce them.

     

  • Laurel Rosenthal, school play big role in students’ lives
    pictured from left to right are mike pound, emma pound, laurel rosenthal and lee pound
    The Pound family with Laurel Rosenthal

    I first heard about the Mark Twain motto almost 17 years ago.

    Emma’s best friend, Katie, who grew up across the street from us, was the one who told me about the motto.

    Well, Katie didn’t actually tell me about the motto, she told our now 20-year-old daughter, Emma, about the motto.

    It was, I think, a Friday evening. Katie had been in kindergarten at Mark Twain Elementary School for about a week, and since Emma was a year younger, Katie wanted to give her the lowdown on kindergarten life.

    “You have to learn the motto,” Katie told Emma. “You also have to learn the Mark Twain song.”

    Katie told Emma how to say the motto and sang her the Mark Twain song. A year later, Emma would tell my wife and me about the motto and sing us the Mark Twain song.

    My dad was in the military, so we moved a lot when I was a kid. I attended at least eight schools. None of those schools, to my knowledge, had either a school motto or a song. But none of those schools had a principal quite like Laurel Rosenthal.

    I don’t want to say that Laurel has been at Mark Twain Elementary School in Carthage for a long time, but she was the one who asked Mark Twain if she could name the school after him.

    OK, that might not be true.

    Laurel has been at Mark Twain for 51 years. She spent 21 years as a kindergarten teacher — my wife was one of her students — and the last 30 years as principal.

    I think that’s something.

    Whenever someone asks Laurel if she ever thinks about retiring, she always says the day she doesn’t look forward to going to work is the day she’ll retire.

    I think that’s also something.

    Mark Twain is part of the foundation on which Emma’s life has been built. The things Emma learned at Mark Twain are the same things that guide her today, things such as respect for others, respect for yourself, tolerance, manners and an overall desire to treat others the way you would want to be treated.

    It’s the Mark Twain way, and it was created by Laurel Rosenthal.

    Laurel will tell you that what she does isn’t all that unusual. Laurel will tell you that thousands of educators who came before her did the same thing. Laurel will tell you that thousands of educators now are doing the same thing that she is doing. And Laurel will tell you that thousands of educators who come after her will do the same thing.

    And she is right. But that doesn’t make what Laurel does any less special or any less important.

    On Monday, Laurel, along with five other longtime educators, received the Missouri Cooperative Conference for School Administrator’s 2018 Pioneer in Education Award at Fort Osage, Missouri.

    It was a pretty big deal. My wife, Emma and I were fortunate to be at the ceremony along with Laurel’s sons, Brian and Scott; her grandson, Grant; Mark Baker, superintendent of the Carthage School District; and assistant superintendent Kandy Frazier.

    At a dinner on Sunday night, I told Laurel about that kindergarten conversation between Katie and Emma all those years ago, and Laurel laughed.

    What I didn’t tell Laurel how big a role Mark Twain played and still plays in our family. I didn’t tell Laurel how grateful I was for everything she did for Emma and for how she helped her to become the person that she is now.

    I knew that if I told Laurel that, she would deflect it away from herself. But she can’t do that in this column.

    So thank you, Laurel. You will always be a part of our family.

    By the way, here’s the Mark Twain motto:

    “Today at Mark Twain Elementary School,

    I will do my best to be my best.

    I will listen and follow directions.

    I will respect the rights of others.

    I can learn.

    I will learn.

    I will have a good day,

    as I work towards high school graduation,

    college readiness,

    and becoming a lifelong learner.”

     

  • Getting older means no longer pretending to care about stuff

    It’s quiet in our house.

    Our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, is away for the weekend, and my wife just left to drive to some store somewhere for some big sale.

    I probably should know the name of the store, where it is located and what sort of sale is being conducted, but I don’t care.

    As I’ve said before, when you get to a certain age and you don’t care about something, you don’t have to pretend.
    When you’re younger and don’t care about something, you have to pretend to care. When I was newly married, my wife would come home from shopping and proceed to tell me about all her great buys, I had to pretend to care even though I didn’t.

    Seriously, who cares about someone else’s shopping experience?

    But when you’re young and newly married, you can’t say, “I’m sorry, you must have me confused with someone who gives a (pick your own bad word here) about your shopping experience.”

    When you get to a certain age, you have the right not to care, and I don’t care where my wife went shopping or what was on sale there.

    I like it when it’s quiet in our house. Right now, there are two cats sleeping on the couch in our family room, and the other cat is asleep on the couch in our living room. Shilo, our 12-year-old German shepherd, is asleep by the breezeway door in our kitchen, and Caicos, our assistant dog, is likely asleep upstairs on Emma’s bed.
    Whenever Emma leaves our house, Caicos spends the first few days sleeping on Emma’s bed. It’s hard to tell with dogs, but I assume the reason Caicos sleeps on Emma’s bed is because she misses her.

    That’s my assumption anyway.

    I have six brothers and sisters, so when I was a kid, quiet was tough to come by. My dad was in the military, and many times we lived on military bases. Most of the time the homes we lived in on those bases were not meant for a family of seven kids. What that meant was my three brothers and I would have to share a bedroom meant for two.

    Look, I like my brothers well enough and I’m sure they like me well enough, but we didn’t like each other well enough to share a bedroom meant for two.

    When I was a kid, I used to dream of living by myself. I used to dream of having a place where I could be alone, a place where I could read or watch whatever I wanted to on TV or just sit quietly doing nothing.

    I’ve always been sort of a lazy dreamer.

    My wife is not a fan of quiet, but Emma is. Emma and I can sit somewhere and say nothing to each other and still have a great time.

    The other day, the three of us were on our way to Kansas City. Emma was in the back seat reading and listening to music through headphones. I was driving and trying to listen to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station. The reason I was “trying” to listen to Jimmy’s station was because my wife was next to me scrolling through Facebook on her phone and telling me about — well, I’m not sure what she was telling me about, but whatever it was I didn’t care.

    But something told me that I shouldn’t say that I didn’t care what my wife was talking about, so I had to pretend to listen to whatever it was she was saying while still trying to listen to Jimmy’s radio station.

    Sigh.

    Did I mention it’s quiet in our house?

    Here’s the bonus track: On Saturday, when my wife came home from what I know now was a place called #Vintage Vogue in Carl Junction, she proceeded to lay all of her bags on the couch in our family room. Then she said, “You won’t believe how much money I saved”. Then she took each item out and said “How much do you think I paid for this?” and I said “I don’t care” then she said “Be serious,” and I said “I am being serious” then she made me care anyway and when I said “$1” she would say “No, be serious” so then I said “$1 million” and she said “No,” she  said something like “Normally, this is $500 I got it for $3” or something like that. She did this for 30 minutes. Then, on Sunday, she was still looking at price tags to compare what she paid and what the item normally cost and continued telling me about her entire shopping experience.

    Double sigh. I did mention that I like it when it’s quiet in our house, didn’t I?

  • Anxiety, restlessness come right on time for college-age daughter

    I think our 20-year-old daughter is bored and wants to go back to school.

    The reason I think that is because of something she said the other day.

    “I’m bored,” Emma said. “I want to go back to school.”

    As a veteran husband and parent, I’m trained to pick up on subtle hints.

    It was Saturday afternoon. My wife, Emma and I were relaxing in our backyard. Now I thought that was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. But apparently, when you’re 20, relaxing in the backyard with your parents is pretty much the exact opposite of a great way to spend an afternoon.

    Kids these days. What are you going to do?

    On Saturday afternoon Emma told us that her life was “literally like ‘Groundhog Day.'”

    Every day is the same, Emma said.

    “I get up, go to work and I come home.”

    “Welcome to life,” my wife said.

    My wife doesn’t exactly sugarcoat things.

    “Relax, Emma,” I said. “Life isn’t like that.”

    “It isn’t?” Emma asked.

    “Of course not,” I said. “Sometimes you have to work late.”

    Emma is going to be a junior in college this year. That means — assuming she doesn’t take the final college path that I did — she’ll graduate in two years, something that Emma is not looking forward to.

    “It literally freaks me out,” Emma said.

    Emma isn’t exactly jumping at the chance to dive into the real world. Sure, she has plans for a career, plans that she hopes will take her … well, anywhere but our backyard.

    My wife hates when Emma talks about wanting to start her career away from us. I’m just glad Emma is thinking about starting her career.

    But even though Emma is looking forward to starting a career away from us, I’m not sure she’s anxious to start a career. Starting a career means being an adult — unless your career is making goofy things up to put in a newspaper.

    I think that when Emma looks at my wife and me she worries that one day she’ll be like us. Again, that sort of thing bothers my wife, but it doesn’t bother me.

    When I was Emma’s age, I worried that one day I would be like my parents. Of course, my parents grew up during the Depression and raised seven kids while my dad served in three wars, so when I was 20 they pretty much were just shells of their former selves.

    But still.

    Emma’s best friend, Katie, is interning this summer in Chicago. A few weeks ago, Emma visited Katie, and now she talks about getting an internship in Chicago next summer.

    Emma and Katie, who will be a senior in college this year, think it would be great if Katie got a job in Chicago and then she and Emma could room together next summer during Emma’s internship. And then, well, maybe Emma would get a job in Chicago.

    I remember those days. I remember planning things like living in Chicago. Or living on a houseboat in Florida like Travis McGee. Or drinking Guinness in a pub in Ireland.

    When I was Emma’s age, my plans tended to be short on detail.

    I understand what it’s like to be young. I understand what it’s like to not know exactly what you want to do but to know that, whatever it is, it’s far away from your parents.

    I understand what it’s like to be home for the summer and feel as if your life is just one day looped into an endless reel of days. I understand what it’s like to be bored and to want to go back to college.

    My wife worries that Emma is getting ahead of herself. But I don’t.

    The way I see it, Emma is right on time.

     

  • Pantry cleanup is massive undertaking

    I think I’ve lost my wife.

    Well, I didn’t lose her — she lost herself, so it’s not what you think. I didn’t set her down somewhere and, like I do with my glasses, forget where I set her.

    That happens a lot. I’ll be upstairs, and I’ll set my glasses down because I really only need to wear them when I’m reading. Then, when I get downstairs and need my glasses to read about how the St. Louis Cardinals came back from ahead to blow another game, I won’t remember where I put them.

    My glasses, not the Cardinals.

    Then I’ll remember that I had my glasses when I was upstairs, so I’ll go upstairs to get them. Of course, when I get there, I’ll forget what I came upstairs for, so I’ll go back downstairs and start to read the sports page again and realize that I need my glasses.

    But I didn’t lose my wife the way I lose my glasses. I lost my wife because she decided, against my advice, to attempt to clean out our kitchen pantry.

    Wife: I think I’ll attempt to clean out our kitchen pantry.

    Me: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    Then I’ll try to throw myself in front of her to keep her from entering the pantry, only to remember that the act of throwing myself anywhere would result in a trip to the emergency room. So instead I say, “Don’t get lost,” and go upstairs to work on a column about losing my wife in our kitchen pantry.

    Sort of answers the question, “Mike, where do you get your column ideas?” — doesn’t it?

    Normally, when we clean out our kitchen pantry, it’s a carefully planned attempt.

    Me: OK, I’m going in. Read me the checklist.

    Wife: Flashlight?

    Me: Check.

    Wife: Rope?

    Me: Check.

    Wife: Machete?

    Me: Check.

    Our kitchen pantry gets a bit out of control is what I’m saying.

    The problem is that when it comes to kitchen pantry items, we tend to over-shop. And when I say “we,” I of course mean my wife.

    See, my wife thinks we need to have two of everything in our kitchen pantry. That way, my wife says, we won’t run out of anything. The only problem is my wife will buy something thinking we only have one of them when in fact we have five to them, so when she gets home, we now have six of them.

    After a while, this adds up.

    This morning, for example, my wife discovered that we had 10 packages of croutons.

    “Well, Mike,” some of you are thinking, “do you need 10 packages of croutons?”

    To some of you thinking that, the answer is, “No. No we don’t.”

    My wife also finds items in our pantry that are out of date.

    “How old is this barbecue sauce?” my wife will ask.

    “What’s the date on it?” I’ll ask.

    “I don’t know. I think it was a wedding gift,” my wife will say.

    “Then it’s old,” I will say.

    The problem now is that I haven’t heard from my wife in about an hour. Normally, I don’t mind not hearing from my wife for about an hour, but when she’s trying to clean out our kitchen pantry, I tend to worry.

    Leaving my wife alone in our kitchen pantry is like leaving  Trump alone with  Putin. You never know what’s going to happen; you just know that it won’t be good.

    Hang on a minute while I go downstairs and check on my wife.

    OK, I’m back. I found my wife. She’s fine. She’s just trapped under 12 boxes of macaroni and cheese and 15 cake mixes.

    I was going to dig her out, but I need to find my glasses first.

    Wait, why did I come up here?

     

  • Simple question leads to getting nails done

    She shamed me, is what she did.

    She’s done that at least three times now. I’m not sure why she does it, but I suspect she just likes to see me look uncomfortable.

    The first time she did it, I laughed and, like the good sport that I am, went ahead with the whole thing. The second time she did it, she made me feel sort of guilty, so I went along with it again. The third time she did it, she shamed me into it.

    The first two times our now-20-year-old daughter Emma did it we were in Kansas City. When you are in Kansas City and someone forces you to get your fingernails and toenails done in a salon, the odds of someone you know walking in and seeing you are low. But this time, Emma arranged for me to get my nails done in Carthage, where the odds someone I know would walk in and see me went up — to use a complicated math term — a whole bunch.

    What Emma does is give me the gift of a fingernail and toenail treatment for Father’s Day — the idea being that I would be unable to turn down a Father’s Day gift. It’s a tricky gift with which to deal.

    See, for years Emma has told me that I should get my nails done with her, and for years I’ve told Emma that I would do that when it got really, really cold in hell.

    Then, two years ago, Emma gave me the Father’s Day gift of nails. Emma, somewhere, somehow, picked up an evil streak from someone. I don’t want to point fingers at anyone, but the person’s initials are “MY WIFE.”

    My wife thinks it’s funny that Emma gives me the gift of nails for Father’s Day.

    “Oh, quit complaining,” my wife would say to me when I would complain about having to get my nails done. “You make her go to baseball games.”

    “And Jimmy Buffett concerts,” Emma would add.

    “But you love going to baseball games and Jimmy Buffett concerts,” I would say.

    “No, I don’t,” Emma would say.

    I guess I should have known that, I would not say but instead think to myself.

    “Relax,” myself would say. “How could you have known?”

    Sometimes, myself just gets me.

    This time, the way Emma guilted me into getting my nails done with her was asking me a simple question on Sunday afternoon.

    “Dad,” Emma said, “would you like to share some quality time with your daughter on Monday?”

    I’m sort of a moron, but even a moron knows that the answer to a question like that has to be: “Sure.” Especially if the moron’s wife is standing right next to him at the time.

    So, when I said, “Sure.” Emma said, “Good because we’re going to get our nails done Monday afternoon.”

    Sort of walked right into that one. I was shamed into it, is what I was.

    According to Emma, the other reason she likes for me to get my nails done because my nails “are literally terrible.”

    Whenever Emma says that, I respond, “Of course they are. I’m a guy.”

    This is a sociological fact that I just made up, but 96.9 percent of all guys don’t care about their nails. I have never once heard one guy say to another guy: “Ooooh, I love your nails.” Unless the guy happens to be in a hardware store.

    Emma and the nice lady who did my nails both told me that more and more guys are getting their nails done. I told them that I wasn’t one of those guys. Then they both pointed out to me that I was currently getting my nails done.

    They had a point. But it wasn’t my fault. I was shamed into it.

     

  • ‘Dialing up’ change gets harder with each passing year

    I’m trying to change.

    But change is hard. Change can be upsetting, and it can be even more upsetting if you’re an old person.

    I’m an old person.

    By the way, when I was a younger person, I worked in fields that brought frequent changes in ownership and management. Whenever there was a change in ownership and management, there was change in our jo and most of that time, the change was not change in a good way.

    Most of the time that change was change in the sense of “we want you to work more for less money.”

    Whenever new ownership or management would talk to us about change, they would say that we shouldn’t be afraid of change. Instead, they said, we should embrace change.

    The thing is, if change meant less work and more money maybe we would have embraced it. But it never did, so we never did.

    That’s something else that happens when you become and old person: You find yourself saying “By the way” and veering wildly off target. Of course, I have been saying “By the way” and veering wildly off target for years. So maybe it’s a me thing and not an age thing.

    Now, where was I?

    Oh right. I’m changing.

    The first thing I’m trying to change is my use of the phrase “Dial it up.” Very early in the David Letterman show on NBC whenever Dave would talk about a TV show, he would say “Dial it up.”

    As someone who grew up in a time when you did in fact dial up a TV show, I thought that was funny and began saying it myself.

    I now use the phrase “Dial up” when I refer to the internet.

    “I’m going to dial up Twitter,” I might say to our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, who then will say “Stop it, Dad. That’s gross. You don’t dial up Twitter.”

    I know that Emma is correct and that you don’t dial up a website, which is why saying it makes me laugh.

    But Emma and my wife hate it when I say “Dial it up,” so I have vowed to stop saying the phrase.

    The other thing I’m trying to change is my use of a computer mouse. According to Emma, using a computer mouse is “literally, so 2000.”

    Now when you’re an old person, “so 2000” is not that long ago, but when you’re a young person, “so 2000” is a lifetime ago.

    It’s a perspective deal is what it is.

    The problem is I’ve tried not using a mouse before and not had much luck. It’s not that I don’t want to stop using my computer mouse, it’s that I can’t.

    It’s sort of like olives. For as long as I can remember I’ve tried to like olives. I think I would lead a much fuller life if I liked olives. They put olives on pizza. They put olives in antipasti, and most importantly, they put olives in martinis. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to like olives.

    I’m trying very hard to quit using my computer mouse, but I’m still having trouble. When I slide my fingers on the little pad thing at the bottom of my keyboard, I can’t keep track of the little arrow thing.

    In case you’re wondering, “little arrow thing” is a technical computer term.

    But Emma thinks using a computer mouse makes me appear old, and she would like for me to stop.

    “I’m worried about you,” is what Emma said to me on Thursday.

    My wife is younger than I am, but she’s not that much younger and she doesn’t use a computer mouse. But she also uses chopsticks.

    So, there is that.

    The good news is that I can probably find a video to help me ditch my computer mouse on YouTube.

    I think I’ll dial it up.

  • Trying to get computer repaired leads to frustration

    I don’t think I’m getting one of those surveys.

    You know the surveys I mean — the surveys that companies send seconds after you’ve used one of their services.

    I once checked into a hotel, and seconds later as I was stepping onto the elevator I received a text asking me about my “check-in experience.”

    Granted, it was a nice hotel. But still.

    I get surveys after taking my car in for service, after staying at hotels, after going to baseball games, after going to concerts and after completing surveys.

    “Dear Mike, we value your opinion. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being ‘Greater than outstanding’ and 1 being ‘Really close to outstanding,’ please rate your survey experience.”

    About three weeks ago, I took my main computer into a large computer, video, music and phone-related store in Joplin. I won’t name the store because I realize what happened is not the fault of the people who work there.

    The reason I took my computer there is because it — and this may get complicated — stopped working.

    When I tried to explain to one of the guys behind the counter what was wrong with my computer, he told me I had to make an appointment with a computer “expert.”

    It turns out it’s easier to see a doctor than it is to see a computer “expert” at the large computer, video, music and phone-related store.

    When it was time for my appointment, I explained to the “expert” that my computer stopped working. He looked at my computer. Then he tried to turn it on and, when nothing happened, said, “So, we’re going to have to send it off to be fixed.”

    About a week later I received an email from a computer hospital in Chicago telling me that my computer had been fixed and was being shipped back to the Joplin store.

    A few days later, I went to the store to see if my computer had arrived. Since there was no one else waiting in front of me, the computer “expert” granted me an audience. He typed my name into a computer. Then he called another “expert” from the back room. The two of them looked at the computer for several minutes. Then they looked at me.

    “So, we can’t work on it,” they said.

    “But I got an email that said it was fixed,” I said.

    Turns out what the people at the computer hospital did when they realized they couldn’t work on my computer was “close out” the repair.

    “They send that email out whenever they close a repair,” the “experts” said.

    That’s right. They send out an email saying a computer they can’t work on is fixed even though it’s not.

    To quote the late great George Miller, “And you wonder why a grown man gets angry.”

    I asked the computer “experts” why they couldn’t work on my computer.

    “It’s a Microsoft. We can’t work on a lot of Microsoft stuff,” they said.

    When I asked the two “experts” why they sent my computer to Chicago knowing that they probably weren’t going to be able to work on it, they both sort of looked away.

    On Monday afternoon, I went to pick up my computer that hadn’t been fixed. Guess what I had to do? That’s right. I had to wait until a computer “expert” had time to see me.

    Yeah, I’m probably not getting one of those surveys.

     

  • Chicago trip best enjoyed with new discoveries and old favorites

    I’m alone right now.

    My wife is out with our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, and Emma’s best friend Katie.

    We’re in Chicago. Katie has an internship in Chicago, and Emma thought it would be fun to visit her. My wife thought it would be fun if we went with Emma, dropped her off at Katie’s and spent some time together in Chicago.

    “Do you want to do that?” my wife asked.

    “Do I get to go to the Billy Goat Tavern?” I asked.

    “Yes,” my wife said.

    “Then yes,” I said.

    Even though I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I’m not afraid to admit that I love Chicago. I particularly love Chicago in the summer.

    For most of the winter, Chicago is basically one huge block of ice. Then summer rolls around and thaws everything out so people can see things again.

    “Look, the Hancock Building. I knew it was around here somewhere,” a Chicago person might say in June.

    The reason I’m alone right now is because my wife is with Emma and Katie getting some sort of hair thing done.

    “I thought we were going to leave Emma and Katie alone,” I said.

    “We are,” my wife said.

    “I see,” I said, even though I didn’t see.

    Apparently, the hair thing was Emma’s idea. She thought her mom might enjoy whatever the hair thing is.

    I probably should know what the hair thing is, but I don’t care. I’m at that age where if I don’t have to care about something, I don’t.

    What I do care about is that later, when my wife is back from her hair thing, we’re going to the Billy Goat Tavern for lunch. Well, I think for lunch. We might have lunch somewhere else, but that’s OK. We’re still going to the Billy Goat Tavern for beer.

    I think that’s fair.

    Besides, when we go to different places, we like to eat at different restaurants. And if you don’t know, there are a lot of restaurants in Chicago. Restaurants in Chicago are like Starbucks in Seattle. Even though there are also a lot of Starbucks in Chicago.

    I’ve never understood why people who come from a Starbucks town would travel to another town and go to a Starbucks. I mean, I like Starbucks, but come on, branch out. Get a Latin-sized coffee somewhere else for a change.

    On Thursday night, my wife wanted to go to Pizzeria Uno. My wife loves deep-dish pizza. I do not. But that’s OK — it’s pizza — so we walked down the block. Well, we tried to, but when the nice lady told us there would be a two-hour wait for a table, we decided that prime rib at a place called — follow me here — The Prime Rib sounded good.

    And it was.

    The real name of the place is Lawry’s The Prime Rib, and according to our waiter, it’s owned by the folks who make the seasoned salt. We had — again, follow me here — the prime rib. It was only amazing.

    The funny thing is we just stumbled onto The Prime Rib. Earlier in the day, we walked past it, and I mentioned that it sounded good. It tasted better.

    Sometimes our best discoveries are places we just wandered by. Tonight, we are going to a great Italian place called Volare Ristorante Italiano, which is Italian for “really, really amazing food.”

    A couple of years ago, my wife and I walked past Volare, and I said, “That looks good.”

    It tasted better.

    Beyond that, our plans are fluid. On Saturday, we might take a boat tour around the city, and later my wife wants us to attend an Italian cooking class at a place called The Eataly. I’m not sure I’m crazy about the cooking class, but that’s OK.

    I get to go to the Billy Goat Tavern.

     

  • Fourth of July parade leads to new tradition

    I hate it.

    We’ve had the picnic table for about as long as we’ve been married, and before that it belonged to my mother-in-law, who used it when my wife was a kid.

    “You know we could buy a new picnic table, don’t you?” I asked my wife, decades ago.

    “I like this one,” my wife said.

    “I don’t,” I said.

    “Too bad,” my wife said.

    “I see,” I said, even though I never see when my wife says, “Too bad.”

    It’s odd that I hate the picnic table, given the fact that we now only use it during the annual Fourth of July Bike Parade that my wife and Lana, who lives across the street, host.

    Actually, I don’t think that I hate the picnic table itself. I think I hate having to find it and set it up. Most of the time the picnic table is in our garage. And when I say “in our garage,” I mean shoved behind a whole lot of stuff that takes forever to move so that I can haul out the picnic table, then haul it out to the parkway in front of our house, clean it and set it up.

    Yeah, that’s what I hate.

    Monday night was the 17th annual Fourth of July Bike Parade. What happens is that some 50 kids, most of whom I’ve never met, show up on our street to ride their decorated bikes, scooters, wagons or whatever else that moves in parade-like fashion three blocks up the street and back. Their parents, if they’re lucky, wait patiently for them to return. If they’re not lucky they have to walk with their kids to make sure they don’t get lost or crash.

    I used to be one of the unlucky parents. The first year of the bike parade our now 20-year-old daughter, Emma, wasn’t old enough to ride a bike without training wheels, so I had to walk with her. The next year, she had just learned to ride her bike without training wheels but was still a bit wobbly, so I walked with her again.

    The following year she was on her own and I started the bike parade tradition of sitting in my backyard drinking beer.

    It quickly became my favorite tradition.

    On Monday night, I videoed the start of the parade. The reason I did that was because my wife told me to video the start of the parade. I videoed the start of the parade and when the kids headed up the street, I followed them for about half a block until I was in front of our house. Then I went to the backyard.

    About 30 minutes later, as I was enjoying an ice-cold beer and listening to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station, my wife walked out of the house and onto our patio.

    “I could use some help out front, you know,” my wife said.

    See, my wife and Lana don’t just host a bike parade, they also host a gathering after the bike parade where they serve lemonade and cookies to the kids and their parents.

    So, I went with my wife and helped for a few minutes. Then, when it appeared that my help was no longer needed, I went back to our patio.

    A few minutes later, Emma showed up.

    “Hey,” I said.

    “Hey,” Emma said.

    We often have heartfelt conversations like that.

    For the second year in a row, Katie, who is Lana’s 21-year-old daughter and Emma’s best friend, wasn’t able to attend the bike parade. Neither, for the first time in at least 15 years, was Laurel Rosenthal, who normally serves as the parade’s grand marshal.

    “It’s kind of sad,” Emma said.

    Then she asked if she could hang out in the backyard with me, and I said, “Sure.”

    So, she did.

    And just like that a new tradition was born.

  • Shifting plans of college students baffle parents

    She was supposed to be there by now, but she’s not.

    She’s upstairs in her room, and it doesn’t look like she’s leaving anytime soon. It’s not that I want her to leave; it’s just that I wish, just once, an announced schedule would be the schedule she sticks to, but I guess that’s not what happens when you’re 20 years old and in college.

    I was like that when I was 20 years old and in college. Well, not exactly like that. I knew that because my friends and I had the attention span of a mutant gnat, our plans were always in a state of flux, so I didn’t bother with an announced scheduled.

    Sort of like the Trump administration.

    Actually, when I was 20 years old and in college, I didn’t bother making plans. I mean, what would have been the point? And it’s not as if anyone cared if I had plans or not. I have six brothers and sisters, so my parents didn’t waste a lot of time wondering if one of their kids had plans.

    Particularly if that kid was 20 years old and in college.

    On Wednesday, our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, announced that she had plans to drive to her college town for the weekend.

    “I’ll probably leave at 9:30 Friday morning,” Emma said.

    She said the same thing Thursday morning. And Thursday afternoon. And Thursday evening.

    But then, not long after she said on Thursday evening that she was planning to leave for her college town at 9:30 Friday morning, she looked at her phone.

    “Katie” (that might or might not be her real name; I don’t bother trying to keep her college friends’ names straight) just texted. She has to work until 4 Friday afternoon, so I think I’ll leave around noon,” she said.

    “OK,” my wife said.

    “I can’t remember if there’s a Cardinals game tonight,” I said.

    I’m not exactly a deep thinker.

    I’m typing this on Friday afternoon. It’s now 2 p.m. Emma is still up in her room. About 30 minutes ago, my wife walked into the room where I’m working.

    “If Emma wants to get there by 4, she needs to leave pretty soon,” I said.

    So, my wife went to the foot of the stairs and hollered up to Emma. Then she came back into the room where I was working.

    “Now she says she’s not leaving until 4,” my wife said.

    “I see,” I said.

    In less than 24 hours, 9:30 a.m. became noon, then 1:30 p.m. and now 4 p.m.

    Emma’s plan is sort of a moving target is what I’m saying.

    Originally, Emma and her friends were going to hang out around an apartment swimming pool on Friday afternoon. Then the plan called for them to go out Friday night to celebrate someone’s birthday.

    By the way, before going out to celebrate the birthday, Emma said she and her friends would have a little party at the place where they’re staying. Emma tells us that having a party before going out is called “pregaming.”

    “That sounds fun,” my wife said.

    “I don’t want to know,” I said.

    So now it sounds as if Emma and her friends will “pregame” around 6:30 or 7 p.m. and then go out to celebrate the birthday at around 10 p.m. Emma says that “literally nobody” goes out before 10 p.m.

    The thing about shifting plans is that eventually you run out of time to shift plans. Not leaving until 4 p.m. has already pretty much eliminated hanging out at the apartment complex pool. Leaving much later than 4 p.m. will curtail or possibly eliminate “pregaming” time. And leaving much later than much later than 4 p.m. could curtail the birthday celebration.

    All of which leads us to Emma’s return trip plans. As I understand it, Emma will either return early Saturday afternoon or August.

    Oh well, at least she has a plan.

     

  • Ready to feel old? Archaeologists are at Woodstock site

    There are certain moments in your life that tell you that, despite what you think, you’re old.

    The first time a server calls you “Sir,” for example. The first time you visit a physician who is younger than you are. The first time someone looks at your daughter and then at you and says, “Your granddaughter is lovely.” Or the first time a store clerk selling you a six-pack of beer laughs when you ask if you need to show your ID.

    Me: Need my ID?

    Store clerk: HAHAHAHA. (Pause.) Oh, you’re serious.

    But those examples are all just minor “you’re old” slaps in the face. A gigantic “you’re old” haymaker to the face is something different. It’s something that knocks you back and forces you to say, “What? That can’t possibly be right.”

    But it is right. And as you rub (to continue the tired metaphor) your aging jaw that has just been sucker-punched by old age, you’re forced to say, “Holy (bad word)! I am (another bad word) old.”

    For me, that moment occurred a couple of days ago when I read an Associated Press story about a team of archaeologists who are combing through the original site of the Woodstock music festival.

    That’s right. Archaeologists. Combing through the site of Woodstock as if it were the site of an Egyptian pyramid or Cleveland.

    I apologize to Cleveland for that joke. I really didn’t mean it, and I’ve been told by many people that Cleveland is a great city. But the name “Cleveland” just lends itself to jokes. The name “Cleveland” is a perfect punchline — even if the joke has nothing to do with Cleveland. “Cleveland” is what you say when you have no real punchline.

    So, I’m sorry, Cleveland, for making a joke at your expense, but I really needed a punchline, and you were all I had.

    Now, where was I?

    Oh, right, Woodstock.

    For the record, I wasn’t old enough to attend Woodstock. But I wanted to. I was in junior high school when the Woodstock music festival was held, and like all junior high school kids, I thought Woodstock was the coolest thing ever. When the big Woodstock double album came out, we all bought it and played it over and over. When the movie about Woodstock came out, we … well, we didn’t get to see it because we were too young, but we heard it was pretty cool.

    So even if we didn’t actually go to Woodstock, my friends and I felt as if we were part of Woodstock — even though the Woodstock music festival was held in upstate New York and my friends and I were in Junction City, Kansas, which was pretty much the exact opposite of upstate New York.

    I realize that Woodstock occurred almost 50 years ago. And I realize that by any calculation, the fact that I remember an event that happened almost half a century ago officially makes me old.

    But still. Archaeologists?

    According to the AP, one of the things the archaeologists hope to discover is the exact location of the huge stage set up for Woodstock.

    I guess I can see that. I mean, even though hundreds of thousands of people attended Woodstock, it stands to reason that none of them can remember were the stage had been.

    I mean, it was Woodstock.

    Guy leaving Woodstock: That was faaaaar out, maaaaaannn.

    Another guy leaving Woodstock: Duuuuude, remember how close we were to the stage?

    First guy: What stage?

    Second guy: Duuuuude, you’re an iguana.

    First guy: Far out.

    Woodstock memories are likely a bit fuzzy, is what I’m saying.

    But that doesn’t justify treating the Woodstock site like some sort of ancient civilization.

    You know, like Cleveland.

     

  • Arbitration between mother and daughter a no-win for dad

    Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in.

    Our daughter, Emma, is 20 years old, which means she is an adult. Granted, she’s an adult college student, which, as any parent will tell you, is sort of an adult. But still, she’s 20.

    So you would think that I would no longer find myself in the middle of disputes between my wife and Emma.

    My wife and Emma have a very good relationship, and by “very good relationship,” I mean they drive each other crazy.

    When Emma was younger and she and my wife were driving each other crazy, they would eventually come to me looking for a solution to whatever was driving them crazy.

    At first, I was flattered that Emma and my wife would come to me seeking a solution. And when I say “at first,” I mean once.

    After the first time Emma and my wife came to me seeking a solution, I discovered that they really didn’t want a solution. What they wanted was for me to tell one of them that the other one was crazy, which as any veteran husband knows is a no-win situation.

    Telling both of them that they are crazy was also a no-win situation.

    The only win situation was to run away, but a guy can only run so far.

    Here is a random example from the past:

    Emma: “Dad, Mom says I have to be home by 10 tonight. She’s crazy, right?”

    My Wife: “Mike, Emma wants to stay out past 10 tonight. She’s crazy, right?”

    Emma and My Wife: “That’s weird. He was here a second ago.”

    But Emma and my wife both have matured to a point where they don’t need me to get in the middle of their problems because they no longer have problems.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Sometimes I kill myself.

    On Friday afternoon, I was upstairs in our office/guest room that really isn’t so much an office/guest room as it is a “place to store all the stuff we don’t have room for.” The reason I was in the office/guest room that really isn’t an office/guest room was because I was working on this column.

    Well, technically, I was reading about the St. Louis Cardinals, who — depending on who are reading — are either “the worst baseball team in the history of baseball” or “just going through a rough patch.” I was hoping for a column topic to magically appear — something that almost never happens. That’s when I heard mild yelling coming from downstairs.

    Because the yelling was only mild, I kept reading about the Cardinals. At our house, “mild yelling” is like saying “Aloha.”

    It can mean a lot of things is what I’m saying.

    But shortly after the mild yelling, Emma appeared in the doorway to our office/guest room that really isn’t an office/guest room.

    “I’m trying to fix lunch, and I told Mom that I was going out to dinner tonight with Hilda, Scooter and Biff (not their real names), and she said I had to ask you,” Emma said. “She’s crazy, right? Plus, I’m really hungry and just want to eat lunch.”

    See, here we had a problem. Clearly, my wife in this instance is crazy. My wife should know never to get in the middle of Emma and food when Emma is hungry.

    Second, my wife was crazy to have Emma ask me if she could go out to dinner with Hilda, Scooter and Biff (not their real names) because I didn’t care.

    I just wanted to be left alone. So rather than make a crazy ruling, I just told Emma to have fun at her dinner. And just like that, a problem was solved.

    Better yet, a column topic magically appeared.

     

  • Old computer comes to the rescue when new one breaks

    I’m typing this on my backup computer.

    My backup computer used to be my computer when I only had one computer. But when I bought a new computer, that became “my computer” and my old computer became my backup computer.

    My new computer is much small then my old computer, which is why it became my computer and my old computer became my backup computer.

    I feel as if I’m using the word “computer” a lot.

    In the world of computers, smaller is better. When I was a kid, computers used to be as big as a small apartment. We really didn’t know much about computers back then, they were just something people talked about in the same way they talked about flying cars.

    When I was a kid, computers were used mainly for special punch cards that you weren’t supposed to “fold, spindle or mutilate,” even though nobody I knew had a clue what “spindle” meant.

    Technically, my new computer isn’t really a computer, it’s a tablet that is also a computer.

    I think.

    We bought our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, a tablet before her first year of college and she was the one who convinced me to buy one for myself.

    “Dad,” Emma said, “you will literally love it.”

    At first I didn’t literally love it. It seems that the tablet’s major selling point (that it was smaller than my old computer) was not so much a selling point.

    I have a hard time getting used to a different computer keyboard and since the new computer keyboard was much smaller than my old computer keyboard, typing on it was a bit of a challenge.

    But I’m nothing if not a determined person so I gradually got used to my new computer.

    One of the ways I gradually got used to my new computer was following my wife’s advice when she said, “You wanted a smaller computer and it cost a lot of money. So, start using it, you moron.”

    One of the ways I determine if something costs a lot of money is to calculate how much beer I could buy with the money I spent on the item in question. After doing a bit a math, here is what I figured it would cost in beer: A lot.

    And that’s how my new computer became my computer and my other computer became my backup. But late last week my tablet stopped working. I think the technical term for what happened is that “it broke.”

    So on Saturday, my wife and I drove to Joplin to see if the computer people could fix it. We got to the computer place at 10:20 a.m. One of the computer guys asked if I had an appointment. When I told him that my computer broke and that I just wanted to leave it so somebody could fix it, the guy told me I had to make an appointment.

    “Just to leave it here to be fixed?” I asked.

    “Yes,” he said.

    The computer guy explained that he didn’t actually fix computers, he just made appointments. He then said I could make an appointment for 11:20 a.m.

    “But that’s an hour from now,” I said.

    “Yes,” the guy said, not understanding my point.

    So I made the appointment and an hour later I was talking to another computer guy.

    When I told the computer guy that my computer broke he tried to turn it on. When nothing happened, he said, “It’s broke. We’re going to have to send it off to have it fixed.”

    The guy said it might be three or four weeks before I get my computer back.

    Sigh.

    They better not spindle it.

     

  • Follicle folly makes photo a flop
    From left to right Lee Pound Joe Biden Emma Pound Mike Pound. Lee, Joe and Emma look great. Mike needs to comb his hair
    Would it have killed them to tell me to comb my hair? Or button my jacket?

    The one time.

    For as long as I’ve been married, my wife and later our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, have never hesitated to tell me that I look like a dork. They’ve never hesitated to tell me when I’m wearing something awful. And they’ve never, ever hesitated to tell me to comb my hair.

    Emma: Dad, you can’t wear that striped shirt with those striped shorts.

    Me: OK.

    Wife: And comb your hair; you look like a dork.

    Emma: Yeah. Your hair is awful.

    Me: Sniff. Sniff.

    But the thing is, most of the time when my wife and Emma tell me that I need to comb my hair because I look like a dork, they’re right.

    So you would think that when posing for what I considered a fairly important, most likely once-in-a-lifetime photograph, the sort of photograph that will take a very prominent place in our family history, that my wife and Emma would find it in their hearts to tell me to comb my hair so I didn’t look like a dork.

    You would think.

    Thursday night, the three of us drove to St. Louis to hear former Vice President Joe Biden speak. Our tickets to the event included a chance to meet and have our picture taken with Mr. Biden.

    By the way, I called the vice president “Mr. Biden” out of respect, but after only speaking with him for a short time, I’m pretty sure he would prefer that I call him “Joe,” so I will.

    Joe’s real is what he is.

    I need to stress here that I don’t mean this to be a political column. I realize that many of you may not agree politically with Joe, and I respect that. I would also hope that you would respect the fact that my wife, Emma and I do agree politically with Joe.

    But politics aside, it is, in my mind at least, impossible not to agree with Joe the person.

    I dare someone to spend five minutes chatting with Joe and wind up not liking him.

    My wife had been planning our picture with Joe for several weeks. Most of that planning revolved around what she and Emma were going to wear and what I was not going to wear.

    Me: I’m thinking about a Haw —

    Wife: No.

    Emma: Literally. No.

    After my wife and Emma finally came to agreement on what they were going to wear, they turned their attention to me.

    “You need to buy a new suit,” they said.

    “But I don’t need a new suit,” I said.

    “Yes,” they said. “Yes, you do.”

    So I bought a new suit, and when I showed it to my wife and Emma, they were very pleased.

    “I liked that you picked out a purple shirt to go with the suit,” my wife said.

    “I thought it was blue,” I said.

    “What a dork,” Emma said.

    Thursday night, when we arrived at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis, even I was feeling confident. My wife and Emma looked great in their classy black dresses and I — well, I was wearing a new suit and a purple shirt.

    When it was our turn to meet Joe, we shook hands with him and then chatted for a few minutes.

    That’s right. We chatted for a few minutes with former Vice President Joe Biden.

    When I was a kid living in Junction City, Kansas, I had a paper route. When I was delivering papers in Junction City, I don’t remember ever thinking that someday I would meet a vice president of the United States.

    But I did, and I have the picture to prove it. In the picture, my wife looks great. Emma looks great. Joe looks great.

    And me?

    I look like a dork with messy hair.

    In a purple shirt.

  • IHOP temporarily changes name in burger promotion

    It was a shock.

    Something that no one saw coming. A move so out of character, so world-changing that people are still having a hard time believing that it actually happened.

    I’m talking about IHOP changing its name to IHOb.

    What? Oh, you thought I was talking about the fact that, in less than a week, Donald Trump declared peace with North Korea and war with Canada.

    Please, who didn’t see that coming?

    No, the real news, the news that has everyone abuzz is the IHOP name change. According to what I’ve been able to figure out by diligently scanning a few internet stories — I’m not exactly Woodward and Bernstein — the folks at IHOP have decided to change their name to IHOb in order to promote their new line of burgers. So say goodbye to the pancakes and hello to the burgers.

    I can see that. I’m not really a fan of pancakes. Sure, when I was a kid I liked pancakes, but that was only because I seldom got to have pancakes.

    I have six brothers and sisters, so fixing pancakes for breakfast was labor-intensive for my mom. When your morning job consists of waking up seven kids, making sure all of them get dressed in suitable clothes, feeding them breakfast and getting them to school, the last thing you want to do is make pancakes.

    Instead, we were treated to that breakfast staple of oatmeal spackle. Have you ever tried oatmeal spackle?

    Don’t.

    To this day I can’t eat oatmeal cookies.

    So on those rare days when my mom made pancakes — usually Sunday morning — we cherished them. We savored them. We devoured them.

    When I became an adult and could have pancakes whenever I wanted, I realized that I didn’t really care for them. It was the same thing with sugar-coated cereal. Once I could have it whenever I wanted, I didn’t want it.

    On the other marketing ploy, I love burgers. So if IHOP wants to ditch the pancakes and embrace the burgers, who am I to rain on their parade?

    I do have to admit that when I first saw that IHOP had changed its name to IHOb I was afraid the “b” stood for Brussels sprouts. Because even though the “b” is supposed to be capitalized, in my mind Brussels sprouts will always be a small “b” vegetable.

    But who would be crazy enough to build a restaurant chain around Brussels sprouts? You might as well open a chain of International House of Liver restaurants.

    Of course, as it turns out, the folks at IHOP aren’t really going to change their name. The whole thing, according to my exhaustive research, is a publicity stunt much like Trump’s North Korea trip.

    The IHOb change will only be for a short time, and then the burger “b” will be gone and the pancake “P” will be back.

    The whole thing is a lot like KFC’s revolving Colonel Sanders. Do we really need seven different colonels? No, we don’t. But we also don’t need seven different James Bonds, and we have them anyway.

    According to my research, the folks at IHOP just wanted to remind people that they are more than just a breakfast place. To remind people that they do serve things such as burgers.

    I don’t know. From my research, I discovered that burgers have been on the IHOP menu since the first restaurant opened in 1958. If you have to remind people that you serve something that’s been on your menu for 60 years, your problems are bigger than just one letter.

    Of course, it could be worse for IHOP. At least you’re not trying to promote a new line of oatmeal spackle.

     

  • It’s your moment; live it your way

    Our German shepherd, Shilo, just starting barking for no apparent reason.

    I’m sitting at our kitchen counter and Shilo is laying on the floor of the bathroom to my left. Shilo likes to lay on our bathroom floors. I think she likes the cool feel of the tile, but, then again, she’s a dog so maybe she likes knowing that no matter what happens she is near to a water source.

    It’s sort of tough to read a dog’s mind is what I’m saying.

    As a general rule, Shilo doesn’t bark a lot. Shilo is one of those “If I have something important to say, I’ll let you know” types.

    Most of the time, Shilo reserves her barking for when the doorbell rings. When the doorbell rings, Shilo feels it’s her job, by barking, to say “THERE IS SOMEONE AT THE DOOR. QUICK WE MUST OPEN THE DOOR SO WHOEVER IS AT THE DOOR CAN PET ME. PLEASE HURRY, I MUST BE PETTED IF, IN FACT, PETTED IS AN ACTUAL WORD.”

    Again, I’m trying to read Shilo’s mind here.

    But a minute ago, Shilo barked but the doorbell didn’t ring. Shilo just barked and then looked at me as if to say: “Did you hear that?” And so, in order not to embarrass her, I walked with her to the front door and opened it to show Shilo that there was no one there. Shilo gave me a look that either meant “Hmm, that’s strange” or “You sucker. I got you to open the door for no reason.”

    Shilo is 12 years old, which is sort of old for a large dog. She doesn’t move as well as she used to, but that’s OK. Neither do I.

    Even if Shilo is moving slow, she seems to be happy. She seems to like to live in the moment. She doesn’t seem to dwell on the past nor does she seem to want to look past the now.

    I think that’s a good way to live your life. Sure, looking back can be sort of fun, but to look back in an effort to change things is an exercise in futility. Treasuring the past is a good thing, ruing it is not. In my humble opinion.

    Looking ahead can be equally dicey. Thinking ahead too much can cause you to miss what’s happening right now.

    The other day my wife pointed out that in a couple of months our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, will return to college.

    “Doesn’t that make you sad?” she asked.

    I told my wife she shouldn’t look ahead to the day Emma goes back to college.

    “Just enjoy today with her,” I said.

    My wife nodded her head as if to agree with me, but I know that nod. It’s a nod that says “I’m nodding my head to make you think that I agree with you, but really what I’m doing is thinking about the fact that next year Emma may take an internship in another city and won’t be able to spend time with us and then after that she’ll graduate and move away and we’ll never see her again.”

    It was, as it always is, a hell of a nod.

    My wife has a hard time living in the moment.

    We recently returned from a nice vacation. And, as she does whenever we go somewhere, my wife kept insisting on taking pictures in order to record every second of our vacation. This irritates Emma and me.

    “Will you stop,” Emma said at one point. “Can’t you live for the moment?”

    But maybe not living in the moment is my wife’s way of living in the moment.

    And maybe that’s the key. It’s your moment. Live it your way.

    Oh, and remember to keep the beer cold.

     

  • Arbitration between mother and daughter a no-win for dad

    Our daughter, Emma, is 20 years old, which means she is an adult. Granted, she’s an adult college student, which, as any parent will tell you, is sort of an adult. But still, she’s 20.

    So you would think that I would no longer find myself in the middle of disputes between my wife and Emma.

    My wife and Emma have a very good relationship, and by “very good relationship,” I mean they drive each other crazy.

    When Emma was younger and she and my wife were driving each other crazy, they would eventually come to me looking for a solution to whatever was driving them crazy.

    At first, I was flattered that Emma and my wife would come to me seeking a solution. And when I say “at first,” I mean once.

    After the first time Emma and my wife came to me seeking a solution, I discovered that they really didn’t want a solution. What they wanted was for me to tell one of them that the other one was crazy, which as any veteran husband knows is a no-win situation.

    Telling both of them that they are crazy was also a no-win situation.

    The only win was to run away, but a guy can only run so far.

    Here is a random example from the past:

    Emma: “Dad, Mom says I have to be home by 10 tonight. She’s crazy, right?”

    My Wife: “Mike, Emma wants to stay out past 10 tonight. She’s crazy, right?”

    Emma and My Wife: “That’s weird. He was here a second ago.”

    But Emma and my wife both have matured to a point where they don’t need me to get in the middle of their problems because they no longer have problems.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Sometimes I kill myself.

    On Friday afternoon, I was upstairs in our office/guest room that really isn’t so much an office/guest room as it is a “place to store all the stuff we don’t have room for.” The reason I was in the office/guest room that really isn’t an office/guest room was because I was working on this column.

    Well, technically, I was reading about the St. Louis Cardinals, who — depending on who are reading — are either “the worst baseball team in the history of baseball” or “just going through a rough patch.” I was hoping for a column topic to magically appear — something that almost never happens. That’s when I heard mild yelling coming from downstairs.

    Because the yelling was only mild, I kept reading about the Cardinals. At our house, “mild yelling” is like saying “Aloha.”

    It can mean a lot of things is what I’m saying.

    But shortly after the mild yelling, Emma appeared in the doorway to our office/guest room that really isn’t an office/guest room.

    “I’m trying to fix lunch, and I told Mom that I was going out to dinner tonight with Hilda, Scooter and Biff (not their real names), and she said I had to ask you,” Emma said. “She’s crazy, right? Plus, I’m really hungry and just want to eat lunch.”

    See, here we had a problem. Clearly, my wife in this instance is crazy. My wife should know never to get in the middle of Emma and food when Emma is hungry.

    Second, my wife was crazy to have Emma ask me if she could go out to dinner with Hilda, Scooter and Biff (not their real names) because I didn’t care.

    I just wanted to be left alone. So rather than make a crazy ruling, I just told Emma to have fun at her dinner. And just like that, a problem was solved.

    Better yet, a column topic magically appeared.

  • Ready to feel old? Archaeologists are at Woodstock site

    There are certain moments in your life that tell you that, despite what you think, you’re old.

    The first time a server calls you “Sir,” for example. The first time you visit a physician who is younger than you are. The first time someone looks at your daughter and then at you and says, “Your granddaughter is lovely.” Or the first time a store clerk selling you a six-pack of beer laughs when you ask if you need to show your ID.

    Me: Need my ID?

    Store clerk: HAHAHAHA. (Pause.) Oh, you’re serious.

    But those examples are all just minor “you’re old” slaps in the face. A gigantic “you’re old” haymaker to the face is something different. It’s something that knocks you back and forces you to say, “What? That can’t possibly be right.”

    But it is right. And as you rub (to continue the metaphor) your aging jaw that has just been sucker-punched by old age, you’re forced to say, “Holy (bad word)! I am (another bad word) old.”

    For me, that moment occurred a couple of days ago when I read an Associated Press story about a team of archaeologists who are combing through the original site of the Woodstock music festival.

    That’s right. Archaeologists. Combing through the site of Woodstock as if it were the site of an Egyptian pyramid or Cleveland.

    I apologize to Cleveland for that joke. I really didn’t mean it, and I’ve been told by many people that Cleveland is a great city. But the name “Cleveland” just lends itself to jokes. The name “Cleveland” is a perfect punchline — even if the joke has nothing to do with Cleveland. “Cleveland” is what you say when you have no real punchline.

    So I’m sorry, Cleveland, for making a joke at your expense, but I really needed a punchline, and you were all I had.

    Now, where was I?

    Oh, right, Woodstock.

    For the record, I wasn’t old enough to attend Woodstock. But I wanted to. I was in junior high school when the Woodstock music festival was held, and like all junior high school kids, I thought Woodstock was the coolest thing ever. When the big Woodstock double album came out, we all bought it and played it over and over. When the movie about Woodstock came out, we … well, we didn’t get to see it because we were too young, but we heard it was pretty cool.

    So even if we didn’t actually go to Woodstock, my friends and I felt as if we were part of Woodstock — even though the Woodstock music festival was held in upstate New York and my friends and I were in Junction City, Kansas, which was pretty much the exact opposite of upstate New York.

    I realize that Woodstock occurred almost 50 years ago. And I realize that by any calculation, the fact that I remember an event that happened almost half a century ago officially makes me old.

    But still. Archaeologists?

    According to the AP, one of the things the archaeologists hope to discover is the exact location of the huge stage set up for Woodstock.

    I guess I can see that. I mean, even though hundreds of thousands of people attended Woodstock, it stands to reason that none of them can remember were the stage had been.

    I mean, it was Woodstock.

    Guy leaving Woodstock: That was faaaaar out, maaaaaannn.

    Another guy leaving Woodstock: Duuuuude, remember how close we were to the stage?

    First guy: What stage?

    Second guy: Duuuuude, you’re an iguana.

    First guy: Far out.

    Woodstock memories are likely a bit fuzzy, is what I’m saying.

    But that doesn’t justify treating the Woodstock site like some sort of ancient civilization.

    You know, like Cleveland.

  • Mike Pound: Forty years of Jimmy Buffett concerts mark the passing of time

     

    Four people in photo from left to right Mike Pound, singer songwrite Carroline Jones, Lee Pound and Emma Poundr
    Hey look, it’s singer/songwriter Caroline Jones next to me.

    I don’t understand it.

    I went to my first Jimmy Buffett concert in 1978. The concert was in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Amazing Rhythm Aces opened the concert, Jimmy sang “God’s Own Drunk” and, like a good Catholic, apologized for saying a bad word on Sunday.

    I remember a lot of things about that concert. But what I don’t remember is old people at that concert.

    So why on this past Saturday night were there so many old people at Jimmy’s concert at the Sprint Center in Kansas City?

    It’s baffling is what it is.

    The people at the concert in 1978 were a lot like me. They were young. They were hip. The guys had hip long hair and hip mustaches, and the girls had hip long hair that did that hip bang curling thing that had to be perfectly executed with a hip heated curling iron that often resulted in the girls wearing hip curling iron burns on their foreheads.

    You know, good times.

    But the people I saw at Jimmy’s concert on Saturday night were not young and hip. Well, I was, but the rest of them weren’t. Well, some of them were, but most of them were … well … and this pains me to say it: old.

    “Why are there so many old people here?” I asked my wife.

    “What are you talking about?” my wife said.

    “Old people,” I said. “Why are they here?”

    “We’re old people,” my wife said.

    “Speak for yourself,” I said.

    But later, when I went to get a beer for myself and a margarita (What did you expect?) for my wife, the nice lady who took my order called me “Sir.”

    I looked around expecting to see an old guy, but there wasn’t anyone else around.

    Sigh.

    Was it possible, I wondered, that my wife was correct? Was it possible that the reason there were so many old people at Jimmy’s concert was because I’m old too? Has time passed so quickly? Has it, as Barbra sang, “rewritten every line?”

    Nah.

    Of course I did just make a reference to a song that was a hit back in the 1970s, so it’s possible that I am old, which would explain all the old people at Jimmy’s concert.

    The thing is, the old people at Jimmy’s concert didn’t act like old people. In fact, many of the people at Jimmy’s concert acted younger than the young hip people at that concert in 1978.

    Saturday night, I saw a guy wearing a beer barrel and a large cowboy hat. I saw a guy dressed up like the captain of a yacht with a fake parrot perched on his shoulder. I saw women in grass skirts and coconut bras. I saw men in grass skirts and coconut bras. I saw guys wearing large, fake shark fins on their heads. I saw women wearing elaborate Carmen Miranda-like hats. I saw men wearing elaborate Carmen Miranda-like hats.

    And, to answer an obvious question, yes, I also saw those people drink alcohol.

    So maybe, to paraphrase Jimmy, those people have grown older but not up.

    I can see that. I have been called a lot of things by my wife, but “grownup” is not one of those things.

    Saturday night, when I mentioned to my wife that I thought that the immensely talented Caroline Jones, who opened for Jimmy, was attractive, my wife said, “She’s young enough to be your daughter.”

    Even though my wife knew I did not mean to be creepy when I said Caroline was attractive, she pointed out that Caroline was young enough to be my daughter just to mess with me. My wife does that a lot.

    You know, to make me feel old.

    Of course later, after the concert, when we got to meet Caroline, she called me “Sir.”

    Sigh.

    I’m thinking about growing a mustache again.

     

  • Having wife home on Fridays means pretending to work harder

    They’ve started again.

    Every year around this time they start, and when they do I have to completely change my routine. I have to go against the standards and the way of life I have managed to carve out for myself.

    I have to pretend to be stressed.

    I know!

    The “they” I am talking about are the Fridays my wife has off from work each summer.

    Every year around this time my wife’s employer switches to a four-day workweek, which means my wife gets Fridays off for the rest of the spring and most of the summer.

    Granted, to do that my wife has to get to work at 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday, but still, she gets Fridays off.

    The problem with my wife having Fridays off is that I have to pretend to work when she’s around. Not only that, I have to pretend my work is stressful and that my work is some sort of dark cloud following me around like a lobbyist following a Congress creature.

    Because that’s how my wife treats her work.

    According to my wife, if your work isn’t stressful, if it’s not a dark cloud following you around like a lobbyist following a Congress creature, it’s not work.

    I’m not saying that my wife’s work is stressful or like a dark cloud following her around, it’s just that my wife likes to make it seem that way.

    That seems to be the way my wife likes to live her life. My wife likes to treat everything she is faced with like a stress-filled dark cloud.

    For example, later this week my wife is planning to have a small party with a group of friends. You would think planning a small party for a group of friends would be a fun thing to do, wouldn’t you?

    Well, not if you’re my wife. According to her, the party is “really stressing me out.”

    As I type this my wife is downstairs making a list of the things she has to do for her small party. Then she is going to take my car to the large airplane hangar-sized lumber/hardware store in our town and pick up some more plants so she can kill them.

    My wife won’t kill the plants right away, of course. What she will do is plant them and remember to water them for about a month and then, just when it gets really hot, forget to water them and wind up killing them.

    It’s slow plant death, is what it is.

    So naturally, my wife’s first Friday off will be stressful for her, which means I have to act as if my job — making fun of her in the newspaper — is stressful.

    The problem is I don’t get stressed. Well, if the St. Louis Cardinals or the Kansas City Chiefs or the KU Jayhawks are blowing a game, I might get stressed, but getting stressed about sporting events is not the same thing as getting stressed about real life.

    So says my wife.

    “Why are you getting so stressed?” my wife will ask. “It’s just a game.”

    Clearly, my wife is crazy.

    But beyond sporting events, I don’t have much stress in my life. I suppose I would have stress in my life if I actually paid attention to life but I’ve long thought that paying attention to life is vastly overrated.

    Look, Trump is the White House, who wants to pay attention to that?

    But if my wife senses that making fun of her in the newspaper isn’t stressing me out, she will get mad.

    “Why am I stressed out and you’re not? It’s not fair,” she’ll say.

    I have to frown. I have to sigh. I have to act as if there is a dark cloud following me around like a lobbyist following a Congress creature.

    Frankly, the whole thing stresses me out. 

  • Daughter’s driving flaws point back to dad
    This was published in the May 15, 2018 edition of the Joplin Globe.

    I would never be a backseat driver.I suppose the reason I would never be a backseat driver is that I am seldom if ever in the backseat of a car. I think when you’re in the backseat of a car you are far enough removed from the driving action that you aren’t in a position to engage in any backseat driving.

    Real backseat driving should take place from the front passenger seat because you are closer to the actual driving.

    But even when sitting in the front passenger seat I try to resist the temptation to backseat drive.

    Unless I am riding in Emma’s car, like I was on Sunday afternoon.

    My wife borrowed my car to haul some plants to her mother’s house, so I was riding with my 20-year-old daughter so we could pick up a few things for the Mother’s Day dinner Emma and I were working on.

    That’s right. Rather than watch the St. Louis Cardinals baseball game I was shopping for a Mother’s Day dinner with Emma.

    You may send my “Husband and Father of the Year” plaques to my house.

    By the way, whenever my wife needs to haul something that will likely dirty up a car, she uses mine.

    We will be leaving for a trip and when I open the back of my car to load a suitcase I will find it covered with dirt.

    “Oh, I forgot,” my wife will say, “I used your car to haul some plants.”

    “I see,” I will say, because I can clearly see the dirt.

    The reason I feel it is OK to backseat drive when I’m riding in the front passenger seat of Emma’s car is because I’m the one who taught her how to drive. I figure any flaw in Emma’s driving is a reflection on my teaching abilities.

    The only problem is that Emma hates it when I offer unsolicited critiques of her driving. The way I figure it, Emma figures that if there are flaws in her driving abilities, they are my fault so I don’t have any right to point them out to her.

    The flaw I attempted to point out to Emma on Sunday was the flaw of pulling away from a stop sign into the path of an oncoming car that did not have a stop sign.

    Because I assumed that Emma saw the oncoming car and I didn’t expect her to pull in front of it when she did, all I could manage to say was something that sounded like “WA-WA-CAA-RRR,” which prompted Emma to say, “What are you … oh,” and stomp on her brakes.

    Because the intersection was under some construction, Emma looked at me and calmly said, “I thought the road was blocked.”

    When riding in the front passenger seat of Emma’s car I also have to deal with the issue of music. For many years, while Emma was a passenger in my car, she was forced to listen to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station — something that she didn’t think was fair. When I would point out that when she was younger I was forced to listen to Disney music, Emma would say, “I don’t see how that is germane to our current conversation.”

    So when I’m riding in the front passenger seat of Emma’s car she feels it’s only fair that I listen to her music, which I don’t think is fair.

    Sure, as the driver of the car, Emma should be able to pick the music, but in this case I paid for the car so I feel I should be able to pick the music.

    But I don’t.

    I’m too busy watching the road in case I have to yell, “WA-WA-CAA-RRR” again.

  • Trip to ballpark yields lifetime memory for young fan

    This was published in the May 8, 2018 edition of the Joplin Globe.


    The kid showed up around the fifth inning.

    One minute he wasn’t there and the next he was, patiently sitting in one of the open seats in the first row. He was a skinny, gangly kid. He had braces, wore black glasses, a St. Louis Cardinals ball cap and a Carlos Martinez replica jersey.

    And he had a baseball glove with him. The glove was key.

    It was Saturday afternoon. My wife and I were at Busch Stadium watching the St. Louis Cardinals play the Chicago Cubs. For once, I sprang for really good seats. We were sitting just down from first base, three rows from the field.

    When I was a kid, I used to dream of sitting in seats like the ones my wife and I were in.

    I knew what the kid was after, he was after a baseball. He either wanted to catch a foul ball or, better yet, have one of the players toss him a ball between innings after they were through warming up.

    The kid was polite and a little shy. In between innings, while outfielders tossed balls back and forth, he just stood silently by the rail hoping one of the players would see him and toss him a ball.

    But they didn’t. Instead, the balls got tossed to more vocal and insistent fans.

    Inning after inning after the third out had been recorded the kid stood up and politely waited for someone to notice him.

    When the players were through warming up and the balls were tossed to someone else the kid would sit down with a look of disappointment on his face.

    After a while I started to worry about the kid — I worried that not getting a ball might just be one of a series of disappointments for him.

    I know kids like that kid hoping for a baseball.

    I was that kid.

    I pictured myself standing there with my glove, too shy to yell to the players, standing there hoping to be noticed.

    Occasionally, a woman sitting near the boy would say something to him. I got the impression she was trying to give him some encouragement.

    It was getting late and it was starting to look like the kid wasn’t going to get a ball. It was just before the top of the ninth inning. Dexter Flower, the Cardinal’s right fielder, was tossing a baseball back and forth with another player.

    Getting desperate, the kid finally summed up the courage, stood along the rail, held out his glove and yelled “DEXTER!”

    The kid had a small voice but he yelled again.

    “DEXTER!”

    And again.

    “DEXTER!”

    Nothing.

    So, I stood up.

    “DEXTER,” I yelled and pointed to the kid.

    Then my wife yelled “DEXTER!” So did the people in front of us. In a couple of seconds, our entire section was yelling “DEXTER!” and pointing to the kid with the glove.

    Dexter turned and looked our way. Then he saw the kid, nodded his head, took one step and threw the ball to him.

    Now I had something else to worry about. Dexter was far enough away that to make sure the ball made it to the kid he had to throw it hard.

    Really hard.

    I worried that the kid wouldn’t be able to catch the ball. I worried the ball would drop onto the field and be picked up by someone else.

    I held my breath — actually I think everyone in our section did — as the ball zipped our way. Then the kid reached his glove over the rail and caught the ball. When he turned around while we all gave him a standing ovation.

    Then he smiled.

    The Cardinals won the game in the bottom of the 10th inning when Kolten Wong hit a walk-off home run, which was cool.

    But not as cool as the smile on that kid’s face.

  • Spring leaves should pop out any minute now

    This was published in the April 25, 2018 edition of the Joplin Globe.


    I’m worried that I’m going to miss spring again.

    Not the whole season … that would be crazy. I think it would be pretty hard to not notice an entire season. Although now that I think about it, I seem to have misplaced a few years from the mid-1980s, so I guess anything is possible.

    The part of spring I’m worried about missing is the part when the leaves return. Every year, I tell myself to keep an eye on the trees in our yard so I can track the slow return of the leaves.

    Every day I glance out at the two trees in our front yard and the five in our backyard and look for signs of leaves. The goal is to get a real-time look at spring’s arrival.

    But every year something happens. I get busy. I get distracted. I get complacent and then one day I look outside and say, “(Bad word) where did those leaves come from?” And just like that I’ve missed another spring.

    It’s been an odd spring so far this year. It seems that spring has been putting one foot forward and then taking three feet back for almost a month now.

    Just when you think spring has arrived in the form of sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s, it backs off, leaving us temperatures in the 40s and a chance for snow.

    I don’t like that.

    Of course there is a lot not to like about our weather these days. I’m tempted to blame things on climate change but I know if I do that I will get a lot of emails telling me that I’m a moron and that climate change is fake news.

    So yes, it’s definitely climate change.

    I don’t get as many angry emails as I used to. I guess that’s because I don’t make fun of politicians as often as I once did. One of the reasons for that is because making fun of politicians these days is sort of redundant.

    In Jefferson City we’ve got “Fifty Shades of Greitens” and in Washington, D.C., we’ve got porn stars, playmates and Russians.

    Oh my.

    So now I just try to let the politicians make fun of themselves, freeing me up to write more about baseball and beer.

    You know, to stop and smell the hops, as it were.

    Actually, I just felt funny typing the words “as it were.” People who say things such as “as it were” also use the word “one,” as in “One would be a snob if one said ‘as it were.’”

    I don’t come from “as it were” people.

    I do listen to NPR occasionally, so I guess I have “as it were” people potential. But I don’t know. I’m afraid that if I said “as it were” when I was at St. Xavier’s High School in Junction City, Kansas, I would have wound up taped to a basketball goal.

    I’ve decided that this year I’m really going to keep an eye on spring. This year, if spring thinks it can outlast me, it has another thing coming. This year, I’m going to watch the leaves for as long as it takes. It’s not as if I have a full plate. It seems to me that if I can’t find the time in a day to check on trees in our yard, then I need to re-evaluate my time management skills.

    This spring, I’m also going to keep an eye on the robin that kept swooping onto our backyard porch. And the cardinal. And the blue jay.

    Wow. All of a sudden my plate is getting full. But I guess that’s what you do when you get older. You still fill your plate. You just choose what to fill it with.

    As it were.

  • When women talk without talking out loud, pay attention

    This was published in the May 2, 2018 edition of the Joplin Globe.


    Every once in a while, my wife reminds me why I can never win an argument with her.

    Normally, what my wife does is look at me with a genuine sense of pity before saying: “You know you can never win an argument with me.”

    But sometimes my wife doesn’t even have to say anything to remind me why I can never win an argument with her. Well, she says something, but I can’t hear her.

    Like most female persons, my wife has the ability to communicate without saying anything out loud. She merely mouths the words with no actual words coming out of her mouth.

    We were at lunch the other day and my wife wanted to tell me something that apparently she didn’t want to say out loud, so she mouthed an entire sentence and gave me a look that said, “Can you believe that?”

    And, because I’m a guy, this was my response: “Huh?”

    In our relationship, I say that a lot.

    The thing is, had I been a female person I would have not only understood my wife but I would have responded to her without saying anything out loud — the two of us would have carried on a 20-minute conversation.

    I first noticed this phenomenon when I was in seventh grade at St. Xavier’s Catholic School in Junction City, Kansas. One day, from my seat behind Janice Pierson, the prettiest girl in our class, I watched Janice carry on a 10-minute conversation with another girl who was sitting on the opposite side of the room.

    I had no idea what they were talking about, which now that I think about it was probably the point, but I could tell whatever it was it was important.

    That’s when female persons usually deploy the “talk without talking out loud” trick. When it’s important.

    What I’m thinking is that, most of the time, when women talk without talking out loud they are discussing one of the following:

    A: How stupid men are.

    B: How to win every argument with them.

    C: How stupid men are.

    Really, when it comes to women talking about men that’s about all they need to talk about.

    But every once in a while my wife will forget for a second (a very brief second) how stupid I am and will, as she did the other day at lunch, try to talk to me without talking out loud.

    And when she does, I will say “huh?” Then she’ll say to herself: “Oh right, he’s stupid.”

    My wife also has a way of bonding with female persons she has never met before. We were in Chicago last weekend and at least four times my wife was able to carry on conversations with women simply by saying something like “I love those shoes” or “I love your nails” or “My husband is stupid, is yours?”

    Actually, that third one is usually saved for the talking without talking out loud trick.

    Guys can’t do that, and as a result, when the real battle of the sexes comes we will get wiped out because we refused to communicate with each other beyond an occasional “sup?” or grunt.

    I’m pretty sure I would get slugged if I went up to a complete stranger and said: “I love your shoes.”

    I did mention that men are stupid, didn’t I?

    Women are also very good at the “you know.”

    My wife will be talking to me and refer to someone whose name she forgets momentarily and by way of identifying the person will say “Oh, you know” and I’ll look at her and say “huh?”

    But if I were a female person, I would say, “Oh, you mean Debbie” and the conversation would continue.

    Wait a second, is it possible that back in seventh grade, Janice Pierson and that other girl were talking about me?

    Sigh. Probably not. I was stupid.

  • Anheuser-Busch commercials drive dogs wild

    This was published in the April 18, 2018 edition of the Joplin Globe.


    I’m mad at Anheuser Busch.

    Well, technically I’m mad at the advertising agency that Anheuser-Busch uses to sell its light beer. Over the years the advertising agency has produced a number of television commercials designed to get people to drink light beer. For the most part the commercials have been funny and entertaining, and there is a reason for that: The adverting agency is trying to get people to drink light beer.

    Have you ever tried light beer? Don’t. It’s terrible.

    Please understand, folks at Anheuser Busch, that I’m not saying your light beer is terrible, I’m saying all light beer is terrible.

    I guess my problem may be not so much with the beer itself but with the idea of light beer.

    Would you eat light baby back ribs?

    Would you eat a light T-bone steak?

    Would you hit a plate of light spicy chicken wings?

    Of course not, so why would you drink light beer?

    Now I happen to know a number of people who do drink light beer. They do so because they think it’s healthier and that it “doesn’t taste as bad as you think it does.”

    As I’ve said many times: We don’t judge in this column. If you want to drink light beer, I will respect your decision … unless you try to bring some to my house.

    The reason I’m mad at Anheuser-Busch’s advertising agency is because of its new ad campaign set in a mythical medieval British kingdom where, for some reason, everyone says, “Dilly Dilly.”

    I’m not sure why everyone says, “Dilly Dilly,” but it apparently is high praise.

    I kind of like the commercials. I think they’re sort of odd in an original way. Sometimes “odd in an original way” can be very funny. I think that’s the reason I loved “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Virtually everything about Monty Python was odd in an original way. Think about it. Have you ever watched a Monty Python skit and said, “Oh, great, another dead parrot bit”?

    But the latest “Dilly Dilly” commercial is causing great distress at our house. It’s the commercial set in a pub when they run out of light beer. When the bartender announces that he is out of beer, another guy pulls down on a heavy rope and a loud bell rings, which is the signal for the king to burst in with more beer.

    The loud bell sounds exactly like our doorbell, so when the guy pulls the rope, our German shepherd, Shilo, thinks someone is at our door, causing her to go into full attack, which naturally causes our assistant dog, Caicos, to join in.

    Here what usually happens: I’m watching a baseball game, and there is a commercial break. Naturally I get up to get a beer, so I don’t notice the “Dilly Dilly” commercial coming on until it’s too late.

    TV: “And that’s the third out.”

    Me: “Time to get a beer.”

    TV: “We’re out of Bud Light.”

    Me: “Oh (bad word).”

    TV: “DONG.”

    Shilo: “WOOF, WOOF, WOOF!”

    Me: “SHILO, IT’S JUST THE TV!”

    Caicos: “WOOF, WOOF, WOOF!”

    After desperately trying to avoid getting knocked down by Shilo and Caicos as they rush to the door, I have to move them out of the way, open the front door and show them that nobody is there, which confuses the heck of them. After I get the dogs calmed down, I go back into the family room only to find the game is going into another break, so I get another beer. While I’m doing that, I hear, “We’re out of Bud Light,” and the whole thing starts all over again.

    Sigh. Did I mention I hate light beer?

  • Sometimes its just too cold for baseball

    Apr 10, 2018

    I don’t get into a lot of back-and-forth communication on social media.

    Sure, I checked Twitter to see if — to use a totally hypothetical example— the new St. Louis Cardinals closer is through walking Milwaukee Brewers batters. I also may post an occasional joke or photo, but I tend to avoid commenting on what other folks say.

    I guess it’s the way I was raised.

    The reason I try to avoid commenting on what other folks say on Twitter is because, I figure, if I don’t know the person then what the heck do I care what they say. Well, unless it’s the president of the United States, and then, I’m usually very, very afraid.

    But other than that, I generally keep my Twitter thoughts to myself. But I have to admit that I almost broke my Twitter-silence policy Sunday.

    I was watching the St. Louis Cardinals on TV. At game time, the announcers said that it was the coldest baseball game ever played in St. Louis.

    It was so cold that even I felt cold. And I was sitting in my living room sipping a beer.

    It was so cold that most of players had to layer themselves with large wads of $100 bills.

    It was so cold that the penguins at the St. Louis Zoo were saying, “Hey, this is nice!”

    It was so cold that the Budweiser Clydesdales were pulling a wagon full of hot coffee.

    It was cold, is what I’m saying.

    At one point during a commercial break, I glanced at Twitter and saw that someone had posted a picture of themselves at the Cardinals game. This is what the person wrote: “It’s cold. But there is no place I would rather be.”

    That is when I almost broke my Twitter-silence policy. I almost tweeted the following thoughtful, intellectual bon mot: “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

    You read that right, I just used “bon mot” in a sentence.

    Look, I don’t care how much you love to watch baseball, nobody likes to watch it in the cold. Baseball is not a cold weather sport. Baseball is a shorts, T-shirt and flip-flop sport.

    I mean the song goes, “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks,” not, “Buy me some handwarmers and long underwear.”

    The first time I took my wife to a Kansas City Chiefs football game, the high temperature was 11 degrees. But that was OK because — follow me here — we were at a football game. In December.

    It’s supposed to be cold at a football game in December. It’s not supposed to be cold at a baseball game in April.

    Baseball games played in cold weather tend to be kind of boring. You know why they’re boring? Because the players hate to play baseball in cold weather. Have you ever tried to hit a baseball in really cold weather?

    Don’t. It hurts. And I don’t know if you know much about baseball, but hitting a baseball is sort of important, which means when players walk up to the plate thinking, “Man, I hope I don’t get a hit,” the game tends to drag a bit.

    I have never actually played an organized baseball game in really cold weather. Most of the time my Little League seasons began in May. But I have practiced baseball in really cold weather, and I didn’t like it. None of us did.

    If somehow, despite trying hard not to hit a baseball, we actually did hit the ball, it never went very far because it was — to use a technical expression — hard as a frozen carp.

    So I’m guessing that deep down nobody at that Cardinals game on Sunday was happy to be there. No matter what they said on Twitter.

    Even if someone did buy them handwarmers and long underwear.

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