Messy Drawers, Cassette Tapes & Vladimir Putin

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There’s no right or wrong time to clean out a messy drawer, or that one cabinet that hasn’t been touched since audio cassette tapes were still a thing that people actually used. Don’t mistake this as a diss on cassettes— nothing could be further than the truth. I used to love to rock out to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album on my mint green boom box. In fact, I eventually wore the cassette tape out and had to use some of my piggy bank money to buy a fresh copy at the mall. This was a time when you had to actually drive to the store to buy music— so it was a serious commitment. You had to really want something if you were willing to make your mom drive you 40 minutes to the Vintage Faire Mall to get it. After all, in the 1980’s, the only thing you could download from a Cloud was some rain.

Cleaning out an old drawer or shelf can be a therapeutic experience. I know I always feel better, lighter, and calmer when I can de-clutter something. That’s a fact. Unloading possessions is deeply cathartic. While I know that some people get the same feeling from yoga and meditation, I suspect Vladimir Putin gets a similar zing of excitement when he invades Ukraine and polishes his knife collection.

Sorting through old stuff can yield surprising results, too. Once I found a $20 bill in a nylon fanny pack at the bottom of my dresser. Remember fanny packs? Yeah, I wish I didn’t, either. Aside from being horrified that I actually wore the damn thing, I instantly felt like I had won a prize by discovering the twenty bucks inside. It didn’t seem to matter that it was actually my own money, I was still a Powerball winner in my mind.

A few days ago, I cleaned out an old drawer in my bathroom. Inside, next to a crusty bottle of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, and in front of a curling iron that hadn’t been used in over a decade, I found a little box. Inside? My high school class ring! I hadn’t seen the ring in years, in fact, I had forgotten all about it. But, alas, here it was in my hand, smelling slightly of old talc, yet none the worse for wear. It was like finding a $20 bill, only way better. Vladimir Putin probably gets the same feeling when he imprisons dissidents and runs around the Kremlin naked.

So, the moral of the story is this: don’t wait to clean out that one messy drawer in your house. While you may only find old buttons, some matchbooks, and a few dried-up pens, there’s a chance you could discover something awesome. Like a $20 bill, your high school class ring, or— if you’re Vladimir Putin—your secret stash of Soviet-era nuclear weapons.

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If only everyone could be so lucky.

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Muddy Habits

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As the old saying goes, “Some habits are hard to break.” I tend to think that all habits are hard to break— otherwise we wouldn’t call them habits. They’d just be things-we-do-sometimes. Or stuff-we-do-without-thinking-about-it. Or, if you’re President of the United States, it would be called Tweeting-At-3am.

I have many habits; in fact, my life is awash in routine. I find it calming to live life this way. To use another cliché, I am not the kind of person to “fly by the seat of my pants.” In fact, this would be a physical impossibility since the seat of my pants is firmly affixed to my wheelchair. Unless Superman swoops down from the heavens, I’m not flying anywhere. This is not to say that I would object to this concept, though. I wouldn’t— because Clark Kent is hot.

Not all my habits are as healthy or as useful. For example, when I get anxious, I pick at my fingernails. As a kid, I used to bite my fingernails, but when I learned how many germs lurk underneath, I was totally cured of that practice. So, now I pick at them, instead. It is still somewhat gross, but less disgusting. At least that is what I tell myself.

We all have habits, like these, that we shouldn’t do. Given the heaps of rain we’ve had this year in Patterson, I know one thing that no one should be foolish enough to try— and that’s driving a vehicle into, or through, the mud.

Our agricultural land is rich— and heavy. The nutrients and clay make the ground in the Patterson area some of the best soil in the world. But, this heaviness means that if the soil gets saturated, or even slightly wet, it will sink anything that tries to drive through it.

So, please, don’t do it. I’ve seen cars, trucks, vans, tractors, school buses, and most recently, a USPS mail truck, get stuck in Patterson’s mud. It took three men to free the poor, bedraggled mail truck from the sloppy mess.

Take a wrong turn? Decide to try to turn around off the side of a country road? Think again. You better hope you find a friendly farmer or a dude with a huge truck to pull your dumb self out of the mud.

If, by sheer luck, you manage to not get fully stuck, you will make such a mess getting out of the mud that the resulting crater will be seen from space. Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station will be too busy laughing at you to help rig any more elections.

I’ll make you a deal. If you promise to not drive in the mud, I will try to stop picking my nails. While I can’t make any guarantees, I’ll do my best.

Maybe these habits won’t be that hard to break, after all.

Rain, Pizzas, and Things That Annoy Me

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We all have things that annoy us. The things that make us grumble and roll our eyes. Overpaid celebrities that complain about the hardships of being famous. Potato chip bags that are only 35% full when you buy them. People who don’t text.

If you are over 70, I will give you a pass on that last one. Otherwise, get with the program. And, for goodness sake, don’t leave a voicemail. Many of us consider voicemails to be, at best, an irritation and, at worst, a harbinger of doom— like a Sean Spicer press conference.

Yet, despite these examples, there are few things as trite as a Californian complaining about the weather. After all, we live in the land of sunshine, moderate temperatures and the Kardashians. What more could we possibly want? Plus, here in Patterson, we enjoy vistas of palm trees, lushly cultivated fields, and more pizza places than one town could conceivably need.

Seriously, though, we have a lot of pizza places. As a town, we must consume more pizza than I think. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have quite so many places to buy it, right? Our per-capita pepperoni usage must be— to borrow a word from Mr. Trump— huuuuge.

Anyway, given the drought plaguing our state, I’m thrilled to see all the rain. Truly. It’s been the focus of our hopes and prayers. However, when you’re used to sunshine and palm trees, if you don’t see the sun for the better part of a week, you start to feel blue.

The other morning, during a brief pocket of sunshine, I stopped in the middle of the Savemart parking lot, turned my face to the sky and let the warmth and Vitamin D soak into my face— along with UV rays that will eventually make me haggard and wrinkly.

I am fully aware that I sound privileged and whiny. I should be nothing but grateful for the rain we have received. Especially considering there are some places in South America’s Atacama Desert that haven’t had measurable rainfall in 500 years. That’s a long time. If you’re waiting for rain in the Atacama, you might have to live and die 7 or 8 times just to see it happen. And you thought waiting in line at the DMV was bad.

But, please forgive me for complaining. Sociologists would place me as an older member of the millennial generation. According to them, we millennials can’t help ourselves from exhibiting these behaviors. While I’m not certain I agree with this assessment, my hipster reward card does have enough stamps on it to qualify me for a free soy latte made with sustainably-grown coffee, organic vanilla and freshly-harvested unicorn tears.

Nonetheless, I will do my best to continue to be grateful for the rain. But, if that fails, I’ll just drown my sorrows in a pizza— or seven.

The Not-So-Super Bowl?

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Where’s the pomp? Where’s the circumstance? Where’s the nachos?

Each year, the fervor around the Super Bowl reaches such a crescendo that by the week of the game, I am OVER it. The kind of OVER it I usually reserve for fads that have dragged on for just a little too long— like manbuns and Justin Bieber’s career.

However, am I the only one that has noticed that the nation’s excitement for the Super Bowl this year seems somewhat muted? Where’s the endless news coverage? Where are the beer commercials and the scantily-clad models eating dripping, fatty burgers that they would never, ever eat in “real life?”

This is not a complaint, mind you. After all, I like professional sports about as much as I like Hawaiian pizza. And, trust me, I do NOT like Hawaiian pizza. It’s gross and unnatural. Whoever thought of putting pineapple on a pizza should never get to eat pizza again. In any state, including Hawaii.

But, I digress.

Is the excitement for the Super Bowl as fervent as usual? Maybe it is and I’m just intentionally living under a rock. Sometimes I do that. Like that time 15 years ago when I refused to accept that the television show, Friends, was really ending? Or that time last week when I didn’t want to accept that Barack Obama wasn’t our president anymore?

There’s no way that football’s popularity is waning. After all, a testosterone-driven culture, like ours, doesn’t just change overnight. America doesn’t just wake up one day and say, “Fuck Football— I’m going to sit here and knit myself a sweater, instead.”

We aren’t that evolved… or that crafty.

Unfortunately.

#groundhog

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Aside from Mickey Mouse and Rudy Giuliani, Punxsutawney Phil is probably the most famous rodent in the world. Since 1887, the chubby groundhog has emerged from his burrow every February 2nd to give a super-scientific weather prediction. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter… if he doesn’t, there will be an early spring.

Due to the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, the event has gained a nationwide following. This morning, The Today Show broadcast the event live. I watched it, transfixed. It was folksy and quaint… I hadn’t seen that many old white guys in one place since Rex Tillerson’s Senate confirmation.
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Hundreds gather each year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to witness this event. They drink lots of beer, wear weird top hats, and hoist poor Phil in the air triumphantly like baby Simba in the Lion King. When he did that this morning, a large part of me hoped that the groundhog would pee on top of the man’s head. Now that would be good television.

According to Phil’s prediction this morning, we will have six more weeks of winter. After seeing his shadow, he returned to his burrow— his job complete.

Time will tell if the groundhog is correct…

On this day…

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I knew this would be one of those weird days— the kind you look back on and think, “What the #%$& was that?” You know the feeling? That hallucinatory haze between dreaming and wakefulness… the confusion that comes when you watch a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio… or that uneasy feeling in your stomach when you eat too much queso.
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When I woke up this morning at 7am, it was pouring rain. The kind of rain that Californians only dream about— right before we go buy some hipster coffee and an inflatable raft at Home Depot. As the water filtered down the rain gutters like tinkling wind chimes, I lay in bed with one question in my mind: “Should I turn on the TV and watch the Inauguration coverage?

I fiddled around on my iPhone for a while and played Words with Friends. This is how I procrastinate. I had a momentary burst of excitement when I was able to use the letter X on a double word score. 32 points, baby.

Now, I felt ready to face the day. Girding my loins and feeling like Donald Trump on Cialis, I reached for the TV remote. I clicked it on…

…and was met with a big blue error message on the screen: “COMPLETE SIGNAL LOSS.”

It was raining so hard that my satellite dish was literally unable to get a signal.

I suddenly knew this was a message from a higher power. A higher power that didn’t want me to watch TV. It was like Morgan Freeman had come down from the heavens to warn Jim Carrey to stop being a selfish dickhead. I had seen Bruce Almighty— I knew what this meant.

I turned off the malfunctioning TV and had some breakfast. While eating my fiber-tastic English muffin, I decided to do the one thing that used to help me process things when I was a kid. To write out whatever fact was bothering me— ten times in a row. It used to work really well, even back in 1990 when Disney cancelled my favorite-television-show-of-all-time, DuckTales. So, this morning, I tried it again.

Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Donald Trump is President of the United States.

And so it is.

The Surreality of 2016

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As I sit at my keyboard, I try to think of a word to encapsulate the year 2016. I do my best thinking while consuming coffee or sugary dairy products, so I had decided to combine the two and make a homemade eggnog latte.

Before I continue, I’m fully aware that eggnog can be controversial. It’s something that people either love or really, really hate. Much like Hillary Clinton. There’s no middle ground. But I’m one of those people that adores eggnog. I don’t care if my cholesterol takes a 15-point hike during the holidays, I’m still gonna drink it.

Sipping my beverage, I find out that dictionary tycoon Merriam-Webster already announced its Word of the Year – “surreal.” An adjective, it describes something “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” From happenings in politics, sports and culture, to local news around Patterson, it seems like an apt summation of 2016.

In national politics, we began the year with roughly 14 presidential candidates from the two major parties – among them former governors, U.S. senators and even a brain surgeon. Yet, of all those candidates, the eventual winner was a wealthy former reality television star with a questionable haircut.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games were the sport highlights of 2016. When the world descended upon Rio de Janeiro, we were treated to many feats of athletic prowess. Our local Paralympic hero Danielle Hansen earned a silver, while superstar Michael Phelps brought home 6 medals – including 5 golds. We haven’t seen that much gold pillaged out of South America since the 16th century.

If that wasn’t enough excitement, we also got to witness four-time Olympian Ryan Lochte’s performance as a drunken and idiotic man-boy destroying a Rio public bathroom. Good times.

Anyway, in terms of pop culture, I would like to discuss the dominance of superhero movies and why the hell we need so many television shows featuring zombies. I’m sorry to break it to you, but superheroes and zombies are fictional. There’s more of a chance of me leaping out of my wheelchair and dancing the Macarena than there is of anyone getting attacked by a zombie. I don’t care what you read on the internet.

Speaking of fictional things, this year we also had folks roaming around looking for cartoon Pokemon on their smartphones. While the popularity of the game has waned, the surreality of it has not.

Finally, in less time than it takes to find Pikachu, the new Flying J truck stop on Sperry Avenue was completed. I’m not sure what kind of super-fast wizard built that structure, but they were clearly in Slytherin House. That’s some dark magic happening right there. I wasn’t aware that something could be constructed that quickly. I think someone should refer those folks to Caltrans.

While 2016 may have been surreal, here’s hoping your new year is not. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2017!