Category Archives: Loveland, Colorado

Home Sweet Home

Have you ever had one of those days when you come home from the movies on a Sunday evening only to have your longtime friend/roommate/landlord tell you that he is moving in with his girlfriend to a brand new place ten miles away? Welcome to my world.

As if I didn’t have enough to keep me busy between not getting fired at work and arranging my Netflix movie queue on the Internet (OK, maybe that last one doesn’t sound that difficult, but if I don’t keep a constant eye on it, Kristin will fill up the list with her silly choices like the complete cartoon collection of “Jem and the Holograms” while showing absolutely no respect for my culturally enlightening selections such as “Shakes the Clown.” I mean, come on, how can Bob Goldthwait playing (“playing”) a depressed alcoholic clown not be an important social commentary?

Back to the “me getting kicked out of the house” thread, Scott assured me that I could live in the house until it was sold to someone else. This meant that I had somewhere between two weeks and six months to find a new place to call home. Before I started looking for a place I needed to answer several important questions: Do I want to rent or own? What part of town do I want to live in? Could I just sleep at the UPS center and avoid the extensive cost of shelter altogether?

After considering all my options, I decided to buy a place of my own. That way, I reasoned, if I got kicked out it would most likely be due to: A: a freak meteorite hitting my place or B: a complete and long-term finical irresponsibility on my part. In either case, I would only tangentially blame Scott for having to move again.

My search for personal residential real estate began, like any good search, on the Internet. I entered what I wanted in a house and how much I could afford to spend. In roughly 1/10th of a second I got a response back from Google. It offered me, in this exact order, books on houses from Amazon.com, doll houses for sale on Ebay.com, and finally every single piece of real estate, commercial and residential, for sale and not for sale, on the entire planet. Since this didn’t provide me with much useful information, I decided to take a more realistic approach to my dilemma– I drove around parts of town where I wanted to live and looked for “For Sale” signs on houses.

After a surprisingly short search, I found a place I liked and made an offer. For everyone who hasn’t purchased real estate, the negotiation process goes something like this:

Buyer: I will pay you X dollars for this house.

Seller: Well, I don’t know, I think it is worth 2X to the right buyer.

Buyer: How about 1.5X?

Seller: I might be able to swing that. Of course I would have to keep the washer, dryer, and all the windows and doors.

Buyer: If I have to buy all that stuff I would need to take my dying mother off dialysis. Would that make you happy?

And so on.

Once the terms of the sale are agreed upon, the next stage in the process is to arrange financing. Most people don’t have enough money to write a check for the total cost of the house. This is why mortgage companies were invented. In exchange for giving people lots of money to buy a house, the mortgage company has the right to put people through a complex and deeply humiliating loan approval process. This includes, but is not limited to, financial information from the past three generations of relatives, a complete pantry inventory, and, at the sole discretion of the mortgage company managerial staff, a complete urine analysis. “I’m sorry, but the sample you provided us was a bit too dark for our taste. You will never own a house. Have a nice day.”

Once financing has been arranged, the final step in the process is the closing. In addition to having to sign 8000 pieces of confusing yet legally binding documents, the soon-to-be homeowner needs to check for any forms clerical and typographical errors in the loan documents. This included making sure names are spelled correctly, dates more or less correspond to when events actually happened, and that the title company isn’t under the impression that you are buying a used muffler bracket assembly from a 1978 Pinto.

The title company’s main responsibility is to say everything is going smoothly, and then, two days before the closing, inform the buyer that six crucial documents have been mysteriously removed from the closing file. This is exactly what happened during my closing. Imagine this: I’m driving on the east side of Fort Collins delivering packages trying not to fall behind schedule when my cell phone rings. “Hello, this is so-and-so from your friendly neighborhood title company. Look, we just now realized that your place is a ‘pud’. Now that doesn’t mean anything to you, but since it is a pud, we need additional information from your employer regarding your pay from two years ago. If you could just fax that to me in the next half an hour or so, that would be great.” First of all, I’m in a big brown UPS truck, which does not have any type of onboard fax machine. Second, I’m 20 miles away from my computer and still have 4 hours of work to get done before I can get home. And finally, getting any kind of useful information from a company as large as UPS cannot be completed in less than four to six weeks.

Despite all these difficulties, I did manage to complete the process of buying a townhouse (or ‘pud,’ if you will). With that accomplished, I now get to move on to a whole new set of challenges such as moving all my stuff, landscaping the front yard, and putting up window coverings. I was planning on getting some of that done this afternoon, but I just noticed that my “Shakes the Clown” DVD just came in the mail from Netflix.

Turning 30

For the first seven or eight years I knew my friend Brian, he kept telling me the word sopapilla meant “soup thief” in Spanish. Since my entire south-of-the-border language exposure took place at numerous Taco Bell drive-throughs in the Denver metro area, I accepted his explanation without question. Whenever the words “soup” or “thief” came up in casual conversation I would proudly explain to everyone in the immediate vicinity how deep-fried dough can soak up, or steal away if you will, warm seasoned broth when used in a traditional dipping motion. (This often occurred while viewing the movie “Best In Show” when the character Sherri Ann Cabot described the relationship with her new fiancée who was roughly forty years her elder. “We both have so much in common, we both love soup and we love the outdoors, we love snow peas and talking and not talking.”)

So everything in my life is going fine– I have an interesting tidbit of information that makes me come across as funny and wise in the ways of the world. Unfortunately, it turns out Brian was wrong all along. The word sopapilla actually means “fried dough sweetened with honey.” My point here is that you can’t always trust what you hear, even if it comes from your best friend. Having said that, I spent last weekend celebrating my thirtieth birthday. I shit you not.

Of course turning thirty is only significant if you have ten fingers. If Kristin, my nine-fingered girlfriend, was put in charge of creating a numbering system it could very well be based on nine. If that were the case, twenty-seven and thirty-six would be important age milestones. I’m not sure the world is ready to abandon the decimal system in favor of the more obscure nano-mal concept. Similarly, if Mickey Mouse or the society displayed on “The Simpsons” were to set things up, we might base everything on the number eight. Since the numbers are really the only thing everyone on the planet can agree on, the odds of this changing by the time I finish writing this are quite small. Hence, my turning thirty is an important sociological milestone in my life. I’m not as young as I used to be, and not as old as I will be. That, and my age ends in a zero for a while.

I started the celebration a week before my actual birthday by going to see the musical “Hairspray” with my mom and Kristin. I was excited to see Ricky Lake play the lead role—especially after seeing her amazing performance as the front of the Filthy Whore ship in the movie “Cabin Boy.” It turned out that the story’s lead character, Tracy Turnblad, was instead played quite well by Carly Jibson. Despite this slight confusion on my part, I found the entire production to be quite enjoyable and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dancing, singing, and jungle love subplots. Keep in mind, however, that I’m part of a small but dedicated group of people who thinks “Cabin Boy” got shafted by the Academy Awards.

The next Saturday, which was my actual birthday, I went to the Comedy Works with a bunch of friends to watch Carlos Mencia. One of the highlights of the show involved Carlos letting two drunken women heckle him. He did a suspiciously amazing job at putting them in their place, which made us all wonder if it wasn’t a setup to make him look good. Another, well, I would call it more of a bizarre occurrence than a highlight, was when I received money at the end of the show. The man sitting directly behind me spent a large percentage of the evening yelling out random comments while at the same time inadvertently depositing tiny droplets of spittle on the back of my bald head. While he didn’t feel the need to actually shut up during the performance, he did feel bad enough at the end to hand me a twenty dollar bill.

To wrap up my birthday celebration, Kristin decided to throw a surprise party for me the following weekend at Old Chicago. She did a great job of coordinating the evening without me getting wind of her plans. Unfortunately, one of our friends called her the night before as Kristin and I were sitting on her couch in the living room. The reason they called was to say they wouldn’t be attending my party. Not that I was eavesdropping, but its kind of hard to be sitting two inches away from someone talking on the phone with the television muted and not listen in to the conversation. Even though the surprise element of the night was compromised I had a great time with my friends eating pizza and soaking up the general atmosphere of downtown Denver.

While I am not exactly sure how it could be measured, I think I celebrated this birthday more than all my birthdays in my twenties. Since I’m not very good a consuming alcohol, I celebrated my twenty-first birthday by going out for ice cream. When I was twenty-four I spent April 3rd checking out Antwerp, Belgium. So while I may say a lot of things that, after careful examination, aren’t exactly factually correct (like when I swore up and down to Kristin there was a “Godfather 4” movie that just happened to never be at Blockbuster), I’ll never again say I’m in my twenties.

One Ecstatic Birthday

While being completely organized has never been one of my strong points, I have yet to forget my girlfriend Kristin’s birthday. One reason for my impressive track record in this area is the fact that we have only been dating for a year and a half. The other, and by far more relevant factor is the consistent effort on Kristin’s part to make sure I remember. After twenty-three casual verbal reminders, three email messages, and one formal printed birthday “wish list,” Kristin did everything humanly possible to ensure that May 27, 1976 was a day not to be forgotten. And don’t even get me started on the “Countdown to My Birthday” lighted, animated marquee sign she constructed (at, I’m sure, considerable expense) in the living room.

Last year I made Kristin a website that anyone in the Internet-free world can go visit at Krisser.com. The site contains a collection of her writing along with various photographs of places she has visited over the years. While the website probably isn’t going to cure cancer or get any new Democrats elected to congress in 2004, it’s a fun place to poke around from time to time. Kristin really enjoys having her own website, despite the constant disagreement with the web design team (that would be me) about the image on the main page showing her in a moderately low-cut t-shirt. But, she does admit that it is better than a picture of me showing too much cleavage.

This year I decided to take a less traditional approach to Kristin’s birthday. While I could have simply gotten her something off her birthday list, I wanted to surprise her with something else. As I drove to the local Wal-Mart I used a highly specialized process of meditation specifically designed to make me think like Kristin. When I arrived at the store I was a five-foot-two, red-headed, nine-fingered woman. Fortunately, nobody else in the store was aware of my transformation.

After about twenty minutes of shopping, I decided on a set of steak knives, and a headset for her cell phone. As I was heading towards the checkout area, a motorized bubble making machine caught my eye. Not literally, thankfully. It basically consists of a series of plastic loops that get immersed in bubble solution and then move in front of a small fan. It looked like fun and was consistent with my birthday shopping mission. I picked it up, paid for everything, and went home to wrap Kristin’s presents.

I swear I didn’t know it at the time, but one of these seemingly innocent gifts might very well be [NOTE TO READER: prepare for sudden topic change.] TURNING MY GIRLFRIEND INTO AN ECSTACY ADDICT!

A few days after Kristin’s birthday, I saw an anti-drug advertisement on the television. It turns out that blowing soap bubbles is a common activity for people high on ecstasy, also known on the street as “E.” Or is it “X”? Well, the word ecstasy doesn’t even contain the letter X, so now I’m not quite sure. And why do the letters “CS” make an “X” sound?

Putting my annoyances of the English language aside for the moment, the commercial displayed half a dozen other types of ecstasy paraphernalia. After letting the facts digest for a few moments, I called Kristin at her office to address the issue. Here is the gist of the conversation:

Her: Thank you for calling, how may I help you?

Me: The game is over, Madame Lovejoy. I know you are hopped up on E!

Her: Huh? Is that you, Omar? This is Tiffany. Do you want me to get Kristin for you?

Me: Oops, um, yeah. Thanks.

Kristin: What’s up? I was in the back room catching up on some filing.

Me: So are you an ecstasy addict?

Kristin: Uh, no. Why would you think something like that?

Me: I found out people who get high on it like soap bubbles—and you have a soap bubble machine.

Kristin: Well, honey, you bought it for me as a birthday present. It wasn’t even on my wish list.

Me: STOP TRYING TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT! And what about those angel wings? That is another sign.

Kristin: I don’t own any angel wings. Maybe you are the one on drugs here, Omar.

Me: What, are you going to pretend I don’t spend time carefully examining every image of that Victoria’s Secret catalog you get every few weeks? Every issue has women in various states of undress wearing angel wings.

Kristin: You are driving me nuts.

Me: And the television commercial told me that small stuffed animals are another sign. You can’t deny that you have a large basket of them on the living room floor.

Kristin: HELLO! Those are for the dog. You love watching her play with all the squeaky toys.

Me: Things are worse than I thought. Now you are giving your dog drugs? Have you no sense of right and wrong?

Click.

Me: Hello? I can’t hear you. Must be some problem with the phone line…

Well, that phone call didn’t seem to resolve anything. Kristin is still denying being an ecstasy junkie, and this whole episode has put a bit of a strain on our relationship. While I’m not really sure if I learned anything here, I have decided that next year I’m going to just pick something from Kristin’s birthday wish list. And I might even consider buying her one of those silly, girly DVDs she is always talking about starring some silly, girly actor like Hugh Grant and/or Colin Firth. If that isn’t a sign of true love, I’m not sure what is.

Handicapped

The world in which we live is far from perfect. The English and Metric systems of measurements are still fighting it out, the Republican party completely pummeled the Democrats in recent mid-term elections, and the soda I just opened exploded out of the can and soiled my last clean T-shirt. While I like to believe otherwise, I have to admit that Kristin, my significant other, is also a little less than perfect. While many of her personality traits fall into the “quirky” category, quite a few people have asked me, “What’s it like to have a girlfriend who is missing a finger?”

For anyone keeping track of this type of information, Kristin is missing her right ring finger. Actually, I wouldn’t say she’s been missing it, Bob. (NOTE TO SELF: Watch “Office Space” movie later on tonight.) In all honesty, she never had the digit in question to begin with. It all started twenty-some years ago when the stork paid a visit to Kristin’s parents. To save some money, Kristin was ordered unassembled. Her parents carefully unpacked all the baby parts and started reading the extensive directions. Unfortunately, they were too busy trying to locate “slot A” and “tab 3” to notice the dog ran into the other room with part RF-0004. By the time they realized the situation, it was getting rather late and the decision was made to wrap things up before the new episode of “The Love Boat” came on at eight. Perhaps if Ethel Merman wasn’t a guest on the Princess Caribbean that night the situation would have been different.

In some ways Kristin’s life is more difficult because of her missing finger. One problem she constantly faces involves finding a decent pair of gloves. Most glove manufactures only make gloves with exactly five fingers on each hand. When she does find four fingered gloves, they usually are constructed of inferior materials and do not reflect current fashion trends. Also, most department stores will not allow customers to mix and match the four and five fingered gloves. Kristin is currently looking for a “complimentary glove life partner”– another woman with similar hand size that is missing the left ring finger. Despite an extensive Internet search, no such woman has been found.

Another problem Kristin faces on a daily basis is balance. Since the right side of her body has slightly less mass her internal balancing mechanism has to constantly readjust for this irregularity. When I first explained this to Kristin, she did not believe me. To prove my point, we drove to a nearby field to test my hypothesis. I blindfolded Kristin and told her to walk in a straight line back to the car. Sure enough, she started drifting away from the straight line after a few steps. She eventually walked in concentric clockwise circles with a radius of roughly forty-seven meters. To help correct this situation, I suggested that she start wearing a watch on her right hand. While not a perfect solution, it does seem to balance her out.

Having an odd number of fingers can have certain advantages. For instance, Kristin has landed a role in the upcoming movie “The Princess Bride 2.” I don’t want to give away too much, but she spends her adolescence as a metalsmith apprentice. In her spare time she creates a custom four-fingered mace for the climatic battle scene with the mysterious six-fingered man. And Fred Savage, well, he is an evil robot. Unfortunately, the shooting schedule has been delayed because the casting director is currently looking for another eight-foot-tall French wrestler to replace the late great Andre the Giant.

The best thing about Kristin’s missing digit is holding her hand. With most people, this process is usually complicated by the issue of finger placement. Personally, I like my thumb to be on top, but I also like to have my pinkie on the outside. Now I can have it both ways, and the overall situation is a lot less crowded. Four fingers seems like more than enough to establish a positive connection. For this reason, I believe this condition will eventually work its way into the process of human evolution. Four fingered people will be highly sought after for their superior hand-holding abilities. Through the process of genetic manipulation (either by the multiple generation-spanning process of natural selection or through shady scientific DNA meddling of mad scientists) human beings of the future will simply stop growing so many fingers. Which actually makes a lot of sense– I almost never use all ten of my fingers at the same time.

What does Kristin think of all this? Not too much– most people don’t comment on her missing finger. I guess its just human nature to assume people aren’t missing body parts. While most normal people don’t consider her condition to be much of an issue, Kristin did qualify for a disabled drivers license when she lived in the state of New York. (NOTE TO READERS: No, I’m not making that part up. The only exceptions to that rule are people who lost fingers through illegal offshore wagers or in the making of “Jackass” style home videos.) Of course that does little good since she hasn’t lived there for more than a decade. So until Kristin decides to drive 2000 miles to renew her driver’s license, I just like to think of her as the woman who puts the “hand” back in “handicapped.”

Working Man

I must start out here by admitting that, by any objective measurement, when it comes to being a productive member of society, I haven’t been “giving it my all.” First off, I’m not exactly sure how to calculate “my all.” I don’t want to run the risk of giving too much and not having any for later. But on the other hand I don’t want to be stingy and only contribute half of what I am capable of producing. And now that I think of it, who exactly do I give “it” to once it’s ready? Can I do it on the web? Despite all of these legitimate questions, I actually got up, put on “going outside” clothes, and found myself a job.

Everyone who follows my web site knows that I have spent a considerable amount of time writing about various aspects of my life. Most of these aspects revolve– either directly or indirectly– around my continual unemployment. With the exception of doing some web design consulting work, I have been unemployed for a period of almost two years. While I like to recognize the effort I put into writing as “making the world a better place,” the general goodwill I generate can not be converted into more tangible concepts such as “rent” or “biweekly excursions to Taco Bell.” Perhaps if my marketing skills were as finely honed as my ability to surf the Internet I would be able to make a living through my writing.

Not that I’m giving up on my dreams (especially the one about building a time machine to travel back to the 1960’s so I can replace Larry Hagman in the “I Dream of Jeanie” situation comedy), but I have come to realize that having a job is a great way of keeping myself busy until my writing career skyrockets. While being a world-famous writer first would have been a lot easier for me on several levels, I recently started working part-time at UPS.

On September 25, 2002, I started working at the UPS sorting facility in Loveland, Colorado. Each morning I wake up at 3:30, get dressed, and drive to work. Yes, that is 3:30 A.M. Once I get there, I help load delivery trucks with packages. Not exactly rocket science, but there are a lot of challenges.

I had some difficulty adjusting to the physical nature of my job. Before working at UPS, I generally slept in my bed from 3:30 to nine in the morning. The most intense function my body was responsible for was to breathe in and out and produce a constant supply of drool for my pillow. I would hardly ever lift heavy boxes during this time. Now that I am working five days a week I move somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 boxes of various sizes and weights from a moving conveyor belt into two different delivery trucks. When I first started, it was a lot of work. It still is, but after a few weeks I don’t feel as though I will die of exhaustion at the end of each four-hour shift.

The other aspect of my job is to make sure that only certain boxes get loaded into the delivery trucks. While my job would be considerably easier if I could just take random packages from the belt and load them haphazardly, it turns out this would create much more work for the drivers. So not only do I have to get very specific packages into the trucks, I have to load them in very specific spots. As if that wasn’t enough, there are also rules about how to load packages in general. If there is a box marked “Glass– FRAGILE” I have to be very careful about what NOT to place on top– like an anvil, for example.

Yes, I said anvil. No, I’m not kidding. UPS will ship just about anything that weighs less than 150 pounds and isn’t very radioactive. In addition to the aforementioned metalworking equipment, I have loaded a variety of large and cumbersome objects. Tractor tires, large pieces of metal, and countless spools of various wires get shipped every day. One day I saw an anvil in a cardboard box. (Note to all anvil distributors out there: There is no need to use protection when shipping your anvils through UPS. In case you weren’t aware, these devices are designed to endure countless impacts of scalding hot metal on a daily basis. This will cause a lot more damage than will occur during the typical shipping process.)

The novelty of loading large heavy objects wore off after a few days on the job. The more interesting packages are generally of more average size. For example, a few weeks ago I loaded a box that said “live crickets” on the side. Upon closer examination, I noticed another sticker on the top that said “Caution– Live Animals.” Below the text was an outlined image of a dog, cat, and turtle. While I didn’t actually open the box, I really hope that there wasn’t a puppy dog inside. And while I haven’t personally witnessed this, I have been told that large shipments of live bees are shipped towards the end of the summer.

So while it may not be my dream job (especially since it lacks Barbara Eden in her prime walking around in a Jenie costume addressing me as, “Master”) I am pretty happy working at UPS. I get a good workout, a steady paycheck, and I get to wear a cute brown outfit to work each day. Just kidding– only the drivers get to wear the company uniforms. I just wear shorts and a T-shirt on most days. Which is just another benefit for me. So until further notice, I am no longer unemployed.

Dog Park

After watching Kristin’s dog for a week, I have come to the conclusion that two dogs are better than one. Many great comedy legends have come in pairs such as Cheech and Chong, Penn and Teller, and Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman (as seen in the 1987 full-length motion picture “Ishtar”). These groups’ total value is greater than the sum of their parts. For example, when Penn leaves the room all that is left is a curly haired mute fellow wearing a suit quietly preparing for the moment when he will extract his revenge on his cruel comedy partner. I put Henry and Murphy in the same category– despite the fact they haven’t quite achieved the same level of commercial success.

Being a dog isn’t such a bad gig. The more I watch Henry and Murphy, the more I realize how pretty much everything that happens to them is a source of joy and entertainment. When someone comes into the house they can hardly contain themselves. When the phone rings their tails start wagging despite the fact that neither dog is capable of adequately operating a telephone. I highly suspect that if both dogs weren’t fixed as puppies these experiences would be literally orgasmic.

Even when sleeping (which, by my estimates, takes up an average of twenty-two hours of any given day) they take time to enjoy themselves. Both dogs seem to have an active dream cycle. I’m not a licensed pet psychologist, but they seem quite happy in their dreams. They generally dream about playing with their dog toys or making the humans beg to be let outside to go to the bathroom. Either way their tags wag and their feet twitch– something which I will always find amusing.

Maybe I’m developing self-esteem issues here– sometimes I really wonder why these two dogs are so excited by my presence. Its not like I make a habit of keeping large chunks of cooked meat in my pockets. Then I realize why they love me so much– all I have to do is say the words “DOG PARK.” They stop whatever they were doing (the odds favor sleeping) and run around frantically between myself and the front door.

The first step in going to the dog park is to get both dogs inside the car. While I am generally happy with the performance of my two-door Saturn Coupe, I have to admit this is not the most efficient vehicle for transporting large mammals. Getting Henry and Murphy into the back seat is always a challenge. Neither of them like to spend time in such a confined space, but they do understand they will be running around with a bunch of other dogs once the car reaches its destination.

On the way Henry always finds time to shake his body violently enough to ensure that every hair on his body that was even considering shedding itself is now floating about in the interior of my car. The experience is similar to being stuck inside a novelty snow bubble that has just been moved around. Well, maybe without so much water.

For anyone who has never been to a dog park, I would like to point out that the actual experience bears little resemblance to the movie “Dog Park.” No matter how many times I go, I never see Luke Wilson or Janeane Garofalo with their favorite pets. For the most part people walk around and make small talk about their pets. Gossip about scandalous dating triangles among people at the park is a rare occurrence. The last time I went the most interesting person was an older man who sat on a rock and spent twenty minutes intensely drawing a sketch of a minivan in his notebook.

Once we enter the fenced in area of the dog park, the dogs immediately start running around sniffing everything they can get their noses into. I have read that some dogs noses are many times more sensitive than humans. This explains why most people don’t spend more time sniffing their work and living environments. For the next hour or so Henry and Murphy get to run around, socialize with other animals (canine and human), and anything else they can manage to do from within the confines of the area. Eventually, they come over to me, sit down, and look at me as if to say “OK, this ‘dog park’ thing is a blast, but we really have to go home and get back to sleep.”

Hair Daze

The other day I woke up, looked at myself in the mirror, and said to myself, “Is this going to be yet another bad hair day?” On a more typical day I would have simply gotten my hair wet and wrestled it into something resembling a hair style. I’m not sure why, [EDITOR’S NOTE: Maybe because your girlfriend– who would have done everything in her power to stop you– was out of town at the time.], but I decided on the slightly different approach of completely shaving my head.

Before I go on, I need to explain the nature of my hair. For reasons I don’t completely understand, my hair doesn’t succumb to the traditional forces of gravity. If I don’t get my hair cut once a month it gradually transforms into a big, fluffy, brown afro. While this style looks good on some people, I also have to deal with my genetic disposition for a receding hair line and male pattern baldness. So while things could be a lot worse, I just have to accept the fact that, just like Richard Simmons, the world is not going to love me for my hair.

While my mother has above average eyesight, she has recurring visions of me with wonderful curly hair. One explanation involves her confusing me with some famous “nice hair” actor such as Hugh Grant or Fabio. The only other reasonable cause for this behavior involves my mom receiving information from a parallel universe– exactly like ours, but with extensive advancements in the area of hair genetics. When I visit her, she always says I should “grow out my curls.” This usually leads to me bringing out my senior picture as a visual aid for my rebuttal. In addition to the obligatory suit and tie, the image shows me with fairly long frizzy hair– not a curl in sight. When presented with this evidence, my mom politely looks away and goes back to her fantasy world.

Once I made the decision to shave my head, I gathered together all the tools needed to complete the procedure. Much like a skilled surgeon, I didn’t want to have to drive to the grocery store in the middle of the operation. I placed everything I needed on the bathroom counter: a pair of office scissors, hair clippers, shaving cream, and a new razor. To provide motivation, I taped images of Telly Savalas and Charlie Brown to the mirror.

I picked up the scissors and started cutting large clumps of hair from my head. I watched as they fell into the wastebasket I placed in the sink. Things were going well until I started looking in the mirror to decide where to cut next. That was when the concept of “mirror image” started to sink in. I would move the scissors in exactly the opposite direction since left and right are switched around. Soon questions started to pop into my head along the lines of, “Why is left and right switched, but not up and down?”, “Are mirrors like this in the southern hemisphere?”, and “Should I rent ‘The Dirty Dozen’ after I’m done shaving?” I considered sitting down at my laptop, pointing my web camera at my head, and looking at the image on the screen to improve my aim with the scissors. In the end I decided A) I didn’t want hair getting stuck in my keyboard, and B) I don’t have a web camera.

When most of my hair was gone, I put the scissors down and picked up the hair clippers. In the past I had only used them to trim my beard. I wasn’t sure if they would be powerful enough to shave my head, but I was already well past the point of no return. In retrospect, this was the easiest step in the whole shaving process. Being careful not to shave off my eyebrows, I quickly finished phase two.

The last step was for me to get in the shower and get a nice close shave. I don’t know the “best” way to shave, but I prefer the shower to standing in front of the bathroom mirror. In the twelve or so years I’ve been shaving, I’ve never been able to develop the technique I see on razor commercials where the model takes a single swipe from his ear to his chin in exactly 0.3 seconds– revealing perfectly smooth skin. If I shaved anything like that I would puncture my skin and expose a large portion of my jaw bone. Since this was the first time shaving my head, I stuck with short and deliberate strokes of the razor. This ensured that my scalp remained on my head and not on the floor of the shower.

After I finished in the shower I stepped in front of the bathroom mirror and thought to myself “Wow– I can’t see anything with all this condensation on the mirror.” So I went into my bedroom and looked at a mirror that wasn’t all fogged over. Despite a bit of razor burn, I was pretty happy with the outcome. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and asking everyone’s opinion. In the end I realized its just hair, and I’m pretty sure its going to grow back.

Being bald isn’t really as different as having hair. This is mostly due to the fact that I never really spent much time thinking about the stuff on top of my head. The biggest difference is that everything seems a lot cooler. [NOTE TO SELF: Solution to global warming?] I also save a total of thirty seconds each day since I don’t have to shampoo or comb my hair. Of course I lose about ten minutes each time I shave my head, so I guess I’m not really saving any time.

What does Kristin think of me now? When I would talk about shaving my head, she would always have five or six reasons why I shouldn’t do it. She even suggested I buy this “Cosmo” CD-ROM that would let me see what I would look like with different hair styles. Needless to say, that idea never got off the drawing board. She was in Florida when I did the deed, and not too happy when I told her over the phone. Despite all her protests, concerns, and delaying tactics, she likes it. A lot. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Grrrr!]

I still haven’t decided if I’m going to keep my head shaved or let it grow back. Once the weather cools down I might feel the need for more hair. But at the moment it’s still quite warm and I live in a house without air conditioning. But until then, think of me as a modern day Cujo. Or maybe I’m thinking of Kojack. Whichever one has less hair.

The Dog Days of Summer

Every now and then I wonder what my life would be life would be like if I got married and had a couple of kids. The only thing I know for sure is my television viewing habits would not change too much. If any of my future children want to spend countless hours in front of the television set I’m going to make sure at least two-thirds of their programming options revolve around World War Two documentaries on the History Channel. Since my days of matrimony and reproduction are not in my near future, I have recently experienced the next best thing: Spending a week with two dogs in the house.

I currently live in a house which, on average, contains one dog. This dog, named Henry, belongs to my roommate, named Scott. One of Henry’s most unique physical characteristics is the fact that he has two different colored eyes. Scott, on the other hand, has two eyes that are, for the most part, the same color. Total strangers often times come up and ask about Henry’s eyes. Rarely do they ask about Scott’s eyes.

But enough about my roommate’s chromatically symmetrical eyes– this is a story about the dogs. Henry has long beige hair that is in a constant state of renewal. While I haven’t submitted the following theory to the rigorous process of the scientific method, I strongly suspect that on an average day, Henry’s body sheds more hair than the local Great Clips. When Henry and I are alone in the house he generally sleeps in the basement all day long. Every now and then, just for a change of pace, he walks up the stairs, looks at me blankly, and then proceeds to lay down next to the kitchen table before falling back asleep. His overall interest in Scott and I only peaks when he needs to go out side, be fed, or be taken on a walk. Henry and I get along quite well this way– we don’t expect a whole lot from each other.

This brings me to the second dog– Murphy. Belonging to my girlfriend Kristin, this dog is half Greyhound and half Black Lab. While her shedding habits occur on a much smaller scale than Henry’s, she does have her own list of peculiar habits. Most notably, she is very skittish. It is quite natural for animals to be scared of things like sudden noises, unfamiliar places, and the actor known as “Carrot Top.” Murphy, however, is pretty much scared of everything that isn’t Murphy. For example, I took Murphy out one night and she ran as far away as she could on the leash from the slight rustling noise produced by a series of plastic flags on the “for sale” sign on the house next door. On another outing she was overcome with fear because a tumbleweed was a few feet away from the sidewalk. I suppose I would have had more sympathy for the dog if the shrubbery in question was actually moving in any way.

Another quirk about Murphy is that she doesn’t want to be more than three feet away from Kristin or myself at all times. This makes walking with Kristin and the dog quite a chore. While Kristin generally refrains from spastically running around me in tight circles, the same cannot be said for the dog. Murphy always wants to be at the exact midpoint between Kristin and I while at the same time running around in circles. The interaction between the three of us is analogous to Luke Skywalker’s two-sunned home planet of Tatooine (but on a much smaller scale.) That would, of course, explain why Luke’s mother and stepfather had such difficult time harvesting crops.

Each of these dogs, by themselves, is generally calm and well behaved. So I figured that bringing Murphy over to my place in Loveland while Kristin was out of town for a week wouldn’t drastically alter my lifestyle. Unfortunately, I didn’t take into effect how the two dogs would interact with each other. The most immediate effect I noticed when I brought Murphy home was what I call “The Canine Cold War Mentality.” It usually starts out with both dogs sleeping peacefully on the floor in the main living area. This is known as Defcon 5 (or mauve, if you are using the new Homeland Security color coding system). If the dogs were the United States and the Soviet Union, this situation would be analogous to the first few months after World War Two or the eight years Bill Clinton was in the White House. This state of peace and quiet is inevitably shattered by a strange noise outside, one of the dogs sneezing, or the random motion of air molecules in the room.

Once this happens, one of the dogs will look up, causing the other dog to look up. (Defcon 3) Not to be outdone, the first dog stands up. (Defcon 2) This escalation procedure continues until both dogs are frantically running around the house barking at the top of their lungs. (Irreversible Intercontinental Thermonuclear War) After a few minutes
they calm down and eventually go back to sleep. (Analogy breaks down here.) While most people would consider this to be a minor inconvenience, I find it quite difficult to lay down on my couch and concentrate on the afternoon episode of “Trading Spaces” with such a racket going on in the background.

Another issue I’ve discovered with Murphy is how she goes to the bathroom. Like human females at nice restaurants, Murphy cannot go do her business alone. Being a smart dog, she knows where the backyard is. Being a smart person, I usually leave the back door open so both dogs can go outside whenever they feel the need. It seems like a simple enough solution, but whenever Murphy’s bladder fills up, she will run through the house until she finds me. Then she sits down and starts whining frantically until I walk with her outside and watch her pee. Which is exactly what I want to do at two in the morning. At least I’m not asleep yet.

Despite these minor issues, we all got through the week without any major problems. Eventually Henry and Murphy
both realized they were going to be living in the same house together. My threats to send them to Tatooine for the summer must have done the trick.

The New Kid In Town

Now that I’ve lived in Loveland for a month, I feel a much stronger connection with the town. To be honest, when I first moved in, I knew little more than the two main streets in the area. Depending on my starting point, finding my way back home was at times quite a challenge. Thanks to my technique of randomly driving around town for little or no specific reason I have identified many, if not all, of the points of interest Loveland, Colorado has to offer.

One of the first things I did after moving in was to locate the nearest Walmart. Fortunately for me, it was only a few blocks away from the house. I drove over and stocked up on soda and other random items that seem to find their way into my shopping basket whenever I enter the store. Unfortunately for me, I drove to the exact same location a week later only to find it was gone. Well, the building didn’t go anywhere, but the essence of the company was nowhere to be found. After a few minutes of playing Columbo, I discovered a large note on the door, explaining that a new store had opened up on the other side of town.

But this wasn’t just any Walmart—- the new building housed a “Super” Walmart. Which means it is basically a traditional Walmart with a complete grocery store stuck on the side. And it stays open all the time. Given my well-documented erratic sleeping habits, this schedule was quite a welcomed change. To test things out, I drove over at midnight to examine the new structure. It literally has tons of stuff. I can’t say offhand exactly how many tons, but everywhere I looked I just saw more stuff. Having just moved all my stuff from Boulder, I was not really in the mood to acquire more stuff. But I did feel the need to buy something, just to be courteous to the Walmart establishment.

In order to make everyone happy, I bought a ninety-seven cent bottle of hair gel. While I’m still not sure if my hair needs the “ultra hold” or “maximum goo” style, the bottle I purchased does seem to be functioning within the expected parameters. And now I have one more item to add to my “ways to entertain myself at two in the morning” list. (Going to Walmart that is, not contemplating my hair gel needs.)

Now that Scott and I have cleared out all the unwanted vegetation from the yard, I have taken on the responsibility of mowing the lawn. For one thing, I haven’t had a lawn to mow since I was in high school. Secondly, the area covered by the lawn is so small it is not a big deal to fire up the lawn mower once a week. The lawn mower is one that mulches the grass instead of collecting it in a bag. In addition to being environmentally better for the planet, it keeps me in a much better mood since I don’t have to spend time hauling bags of dead grass all over the place.

One of my favorite aspects of living in Colorado are the two seasons. Winter and summer both make their presence felt throughout the year—- but not in any particular order. Sure, in December it is more likely to be winter and in June, odds favor the summer. I was mowing the lawn a few days ago when the sun was shining and all the other meteorological signs pointed to summer. By the time I had finished, the situation had completely reversed and it was quite clear that winter was stopping by for a visit. A few hours later it started snowing. If I had postponed mowing the lawn I might have had to shovel snow off it first. Fortunately, winter didn’t want to stay very long and things were back to summer status the next day.

After holding a brief funeral service to honor the premature demise of the raspberry bushes, Scott and I planted some new seeds in the garden. It turns out that world of genetic engineering hasn’t advanced to the point of being able to produce “seven-layer burrito” seeds. Given that limitation, I went back to the Super Walmart (which hadn’t been moved since my last visit to buy the hair gel) and bought various packages of seeds. According to the instructions, if planted correctly, the seeds will grow into various forms of vegetables. My specialty seems to be more in the area of killing vegetation, so I’m sure an attempt to grow a useful garden will be quite an adventure. (NOTE TO SELF: don’t run over the garden with the lawn mower.) But at least now I know where I can buy gardening equipment in the middle of the night.

Getting Dumped

After moving all my belongings to Loveland, I started the whole process of getting settled into my new surroundings. It was at this point in time I really became jealous of Scott’s dog. When Henry moves somewhere his entire settling process consists of figuring out where to go to relieve himself, sniffing everything in the area two or three times, and then falling asleep in the middle of the floor for the rest of the day. Henry doesn’t worry about hooking up stereo speakers or rifling through boxes trying to find a clean pair of underwear.

Over the years Scott has put a fair amount of effort into landscaping around the house. While it is not quite ready to be featured in “Better Homes and Gardens,” the yard is completely free of unmarked sinkholes and nonfunctioning automobiles. The one area I thought needed the most work was the garden on the side of the house. The area has been overtaken by trash, weeds, and, on occasion, a small band of street hardened juvenile delinquents. One night I told Scott I was going to attack the garden and clean it up a bit.

Before I go any further here, I have to ask the rhetorical question “How was I supposed to know the difference between weeds and a series of dormant but healthy raspberry bushes?” Needless to say, Scott overestimated my abilities to identify “good” versus “bad” plant life and we are not going to have any fresh raspberry pie in August. But on a positive note, the efforts produced a large pile of dead plants that had to be thrown away and we now had a good reason to go visit the city dump. We attached the wooden side rails on Scott’s pickup truck and started piling trash in the bed.

The next piece of vegetation that got loaded into the truck was a sickly looking tree that was living in the back yard. I’m not really sure what Scott did to it, because the tree looked quite healthy and vibrant propped up in the living room when I stopped by for his Christmas party. I honestly suspect Scott didn’t talk to the tree enough. In an attempt to revive the tree, I dug a small hole in the back yard and stood the tree up. My theory was the tree stump would sense the connection with Mother Earth and grow a complete new set of roots in a few days. Everything was going fine until these small gusts of wind kept tipping the tree over. Of course by then the self esteem of the tree was too depleted and we were forced to give up and throw it in the back of the truck.

The next item on the list was an old beat up desk that Scott’s previous roommate conveniently left in the room that was going to become my office. At first glance it appeared to be a simple wooden desk that could be easily carried down the stairs and given to Goodwill. Upon closer inspection, however, the desk was a monster. The entire structure was built from solid inch thick particle board and held together with generous quantities of screws, wood glue, and some sort of futuristic “Star Trek” force field. After a solid hour of attacking the beast, we carried its dismembered corpse outside and prepared it for final burial.

Once all the trash was loaded up, we tied a tarp over everything as best we could and headed out to the dump. While everything seemed to be securely tied down before we left, I suspect the air flow dynamics of traveling fifty miles an hour altered the stress forces in the back of the truck. About half way through our journey, the wooden side railings decided to spontaneously shatter into several pieces. The down side to this event was that half the junk we were hauling flew out on the road. The up side was… well, I don’t think there really was one.

The really funny thing (and by “funny” I really mean “pain in the ass”) was that with the side rails broken there was no way we could fit everything back into the truck. After some deliberation, we left some of the junk on the side of the road and took what we could to the dump. Once the first trip was completed, we went back and got the rest of the stuff off the side of the road. It really helped prolong the “going to the dump” experience into an entire afternoon ordeal.

Despite the setback, our goal was eventually achieved. We made it home in one piece and without any of the garbage we left with. Just to make us feel a little bit better about the whole situation, we checked the mail when we got back and found a coupon that would have saved us the twenty dollar fee at the dump.

And, of course, the dog was still sleeping on the floor when we got home.