Archive for September, 2007


soaking up open-mouthed finger shaking

Nothing fills stadiums in America like college football.

Drum heavy bands, painted faces, and cheerleaders with southern accents that repetitively say, “All right!” and “Whoo!” are all over ESPN.  The index fingers of over-confident frat boys point right at the cameras as if to say, “I’m going to vigorously shake my finger with my mouth open in order to best communicate the superiority of my team over yours.”

And I soak it up.  I soak it all up.


I didn’t got to a big college.  Houghton was the antithesis of a big football school.  During my tenure, the biggest sports event that ever happened was the homecoming soccer game, and even then you were pretty much guaranteed a seat in the bleachers if you showed up.  However, you needed to go at least 45 minutes early to the traditional choral Christmas concert to land a decent seat. 

Maybe if Houghton had a local rival school that was also having a choral Christmas concert nearby we could’ve painted our faces and shook our fingers?  “Your concert stinks!  Ours is more reverant and Christmas-season-specific!”


Listen to what the football announcers say. 

Specifically, listen for how they refer to the ball — the football — itself.  It’s almost always called the football.  Not to be confused with the golf balls or billiard balls rolling around on the field, the announcers use the term football repetitively.  In their intense pressured speech they speak of the two football teams, lead by excellent football coaches in storied football stadiums. 

I’ve wondered if they’re coached on announcing the game that way.  Does it increase ratings?  Does it make us, as viewers, connect in some hardcore way to the physicality of game-play?  After all, this ain’t no sissy baseball game here!  Remind us, again and again, that it’s football time! 

I’ve never been to a tail gate party (parking lot + pre-prepared grilled food = fun?), and the last football game I attended was ten years ago in high school when our team lost the homecoming game by 30 points.  We left early. Maybe in search of a choral Christmas concert?  


I tease about college football, but I really do enjoy it.  It’s such a different world from my everyday life.  It’s apart of America, an apple pie type of reminder of how we’re not all that different from the ancient Romans and their coliseum. 



the literal end of the road less traveled

It’s really just rocks glued together with tar, layed flat and pressed down with a steamroller. 


A team of hard hat wearing, thick fingered men spent years of their lives building the Taconic State Parkway.  With burning cigarettes between their lips, they toiled through mornings of steam rising off the hot pavement, raking the blacktop back and forth so that I, in 2007, would have a smooth ride home.  (That’s right, it was all for me.)

The Taconic Parkway runs from southern New York for a little over 100 miles and ends just east of Albany.  It’s not a major highway by any means.  No commercial traffic.  No rest areas.  No shoulder to pull off on in order to make the woods your personal rest area.  Once you’re on the Taconic, it’s just you and two narrowly winding lanes of pavement.  Beware running deer and gangs of wild turkeys!  


My family took the Taconic to get to church when we lived in Peekskill, NY.  That meant weekly trips for YEARS, back and forth on the same road.

Honestly, I was in a self-important haze for most of those drives.  I looked out the window, thinking about my friends, my schedule, my reflection in the window.  A bi-product of being too young to drive was that I was also too young to care about much beyond my physical reach. If I could hide a gum wrapper in my mother’s hair, that’s what I cared about at that moment. 

I would still put a gum wrapper in her hair, but with a much greater sense of the beauty of the Taconic.

I drove it last night.  I traveled from Tarrytown, NY to where the road ends in Chatham, listening to a crackly radio broadcast of a Yankee game.  Taking any highway to it’s literal end is a little surreal.  I had an urge to stay there, set up camp and sleep there just to stay a longer than whizzing through at 70 mph. 


The tollbooth collector at the end of the Taconic was a white bearded gentleman.  He was responsible for traffic passing in both directions.  I had to sit and wait for 30 seconds while he addressed a car headed south before he turned to hand me my ticket.  I was confused.  “What kind of system is this?” thought my brain, having been thoroughly saturated by E-Z Pass culture.  “One man for…two cars?”  I realized what a demanding toll-booth customer I was being and sat patiently with the crackly radio to keep me company.  The white bearded toll booth collector called me “dearie” before I left, so it was all okay. 

A little dearie goes a long way with me, especially at the captivating literal end to one of the most significant roadways in my life.  If you’re ever passing by that toll booth and you see a camp fire set nearby, it may be me before the police shoo me away.  Maybe I’ll be roasting a wild Taconic turkey?  Unless he gets me first…


mistake #87,324

Saturday morning at home.  Green Mountain Coffee, cider cured bacon and a couple candles burning.  A cat sleeping by a fire place would be nice, but alas, I’m still in a one bedroom apartment. 

It’s gray and rainy this morning, the first real autmnal day of the year.  College football is in full swing and the Yankees are playing the Red Sox tonight.  The maple trees are quickly turning bright yellows and oranges and occasionally I breath in little whisps of that “fall” smell. 

What’s that smell made of?  My friend Becca would say ‘rotting leaves,’ and that works for her, but I’ve always found that a bit…gross.  Instead I imagine that the leaves scent the air as they float down from the branches.  Ahh, that’s cleaner. 



Last year I bought a Yankee Candle called “Autumn Leaves.”  I was ALL excited.  It was even a burnt orange color — very autumn.  Now, I must have smelled this thing before paying for it, but OH MAN, when I got home and lit it I was in for a rude awakening. 

Nasal assault!

It took the candle about 10 minutes to destroy any scent of normalcy in my home.  It wasn’t a mellowed, well rounded scent, but rather a bitter & pungent slap to the nostrils.  Sleeping next to a bathtub full of Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds perfume would’ve been less insidious.    The candle most certainly didn’t smell like “autumn leaves.”  If I could rename it –and if anyone at Yankee Candle is listening, please write this down — I would name it “Mistake #87,324.”


The ghastly candle is still living in my apartment.  It’s on a little shelf over the stove.  I still like the burnt orange color.  It’s permenantly capped..a candle dunce cap…and sitting in the corner until it decides to play nice with the rest of my other candles.

Back to Saturday morning at home.  I want for nothing.  If I lived a more extravagent life in a larger home with more material things, maybe I would realize what I’m missing here.  But contentment is found in the unawareness of better things, and I’m content with this coffee, bacon and candles.  As long as Mistake #87,324 stays over by the stove, we’re all going to be okay. 


my man-butt-pocket-wallet indentation

I gasped walking through the parking lot into work today. 

If you had been next to me, you would have thought that I locked myself out of my car, or left a firey pot on the stove at home.  You know, something relatively important that warrented stopping in midstride and gasping, “Oh NO!”

My hand was in my right pocket, desperately feeling around.  It was empty.  I had forgotten my chapstick. 


I am addicted to chapstick.  My most favorite pair of jeans that I’ve ever owned have been retired because there was a chapstick hole worn through the right thigh.  Over the course of time, the denim was worn down and frayed by the material being pulled taught over a chapstick tube in my right pocket.  They’d still be in my jeans rotation if only the hole wasn’t so embarrasingly messy looking.  Also, I couldn’t explain the hole in any other way — it was clearly my version of the man-butt-pocket-wallet indentation. 

Back to this morning.  My panic was short lived by the comforting realization that I had a chapstick in my bag as well as an extra at my work desk.  I came prepared.  These days happen about once a year and when they do, I’m more prepared than a Boy Scout on a nature hike.


The addiction took hold when I was a teenager and I’ve had a tube in my pocket every single day of my life for at least the last 15 years.  And if the pants I’m wearing have no pockets, there’s a tube stashed somewhere near me, in some clever way. 

Currently I’m on the couch in my apartment.  From here I can see 5 tubes of various types of chapstick.  I’d list them, but you probably don’t care what they are.  Just thought I’d point out the extent of my fascination with waxy lip coatings.


It’s a cheap addiction.  I support it with a few dollars per month, so I don’t intend on breaking it any time soon.  Considering other addictions, I could have done a lot worse.  Now, the trick will be keeping you all from pranking me by hiding them all from me…


like petting a cat backwards

The word “Narnia” finds its way into my conversations several times each winter.  I’ll exclaim, “It’s Narnia!” when I see wooded land covered in crisp snow.  Maybe I say “Narnia” more than I’m letting on…OK, so I say it all the time in the winter.  Clearly, I like snowy Narnia.

The kids from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe walked into a dark closet — going back, back, back into the blackness until they found Narnia.  There, beyond the fur coats and pine needles, was brilliant country where they lived out their adventures.


The closest that I’ve come to finding a real Narnia was cross-country skiing at night, but that’s a whole other entry.  For now, I’m stuck standing in front of a wardrobe.

I grew up with the understanding that the youngest child of a family was usually the wildest.  The fewer worries, fewer reservations, fewer responsibilitiess, fly-by-seat-of-your-pants kid.  Maybe that was true of me when I was much smaller, but not anymore! For the present me, walking into a dim and mysterious wardrobe is like petting a cat backwards.  I’ll claw you.


However, Narnia is set beyond the wardrobe.  I don’t know how many Narnia’s I’ve missed in my life because I’ve been terrified to walk through a dark closet to get there.  I pray it isn’t many, and I pray that I’ll have the courage to walk through the next one.



what’s funny on a friday?


I heard someone say once that “funny things are only funny because they’re true.” 

At the time it rubbed me the wrong way.  I could surely think of things that are really funny because they’re untrue.  Take Miss South Carolina’s recent blundering interview answer in last Friday’s Miss Teen USA pageant as an example.  Her answer is funny, but is it true?

When I reconsidered the notion that things are funny because they’re true, I realized what’s most funny about this clip is not what she’s saying, it’s who is saying it.  Consider the messenger.  A southern teenage beauty queen made up to look as perfect as possible, crashing in front of our eyes when asked an intellectual question. It’s as though we’ve known all along that pageant contestants were full of it, and now we finally have proof!  That’s what is true, so that’s why it’s funny. 

I wish the cartoon above wasn’t so funny…I wish it wasn’t spot on.  It harkens to every interview I’ve conducted with a cashier who wants to be a marketing executive, or a lumberyard laborer who wants the HR manager gig. The upper management of my company suspiciously avoids speaking of such interviews, lest our jobs here become literal and figurative jokes.

There’s no way that I can write about funny-vs-unfunny to any sort of conclusion.  I guess I just wanted to show you some of my favorite funny things on a Friday afternoon…