Category Archives: Places I’ve Been

I get around

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.

Divide and Conquer

I was planning on writing about the town of Divide, Colorado on my recent trip to eat dinner with Kristin and her mother, but that was before I discovered the size of the town. Located a bit west of Colorado Springs, Divide basically consists of a gas station, a stop light, and a two story mini-mall. Curious about why a town of this magnitude needs a stop light, I researched the matter at the Teller county library. It turns out the traffic control device was installed in the spring of 1921 as a way of getting people to stop and wander through the inevitably small selection at the local video store.

Most of the residents of Divide drive to the neighboring town of Woodland Park for their consumer needs. A few miles down the road from Divide, this town has its own unique character. The first thing I noticed driving through Woodland Park is the abundance of Conoco / Loaf ‘n Jug convenience stores. I counted a total of four on my way through town. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed except for the fact I drove by two of them that were separated by a small unrelated building. In addition to the many, many occupations I’ve claimed to have no knowledge of in the past, I now must add to the list by saying that I’m not a top level executive at Conoco (or Loaf ‘n Jug for that matter). I just can’t see the logic of placing two of the exact same stores twenty-four feet apart in a small mountain town. I can only theorize this strategy was implemented to cater to the following situation:

A man driving a late model minivan approaches the first Conoco. His wife and two kids are quietly taking in the mountain scenery.

Husband: Well, we have plenty of gas. Honey, do you want to stop for anything at this safe and hygienic Conoco / Loaf ‘n Jug establishment?

Wife: No thanks dear, I think we should just continue on our journey.

Husband: Bobby, Sally, are you two doing okay back there?

Kids: (In unison) Yes dad.

Husband: Great– I’m glad we can spend this quality time together.

And then, 0.0003 seconds later:

Bobby: Dad! Sally threw up on me.

Sally: Dad! I threw up on Bobby. And I have to pee. And I want some candy and soda.

Wife: Your kids need tending to, Jack. And why did you have to drive through that plague of locust? The windshield is a mess! And I need a cigarette. Make that a few.

Husband: Will everyone just SHUT UP for a second? I’m trying to think what to do here. We could turn around and go back to that last Conoco / Loaf ‘n Jug. (Looks at the dashboard) OH CRAP! We are dangerously low on fuel—- we don’t have enough gasoline for a U-turn. We are all going to die!

Wife: (Looks up the road) It is a miracle Jack! There is ANOTHER Conoco / Loaf ‘n Jug just past this building. We are saved!

Husband: Phew! When we get back home I’m going to find the Conoco executive who arranged these convenience stores and give him a big hug.

In addition to the convenience store curiosities, Woodland Park has it’s own unique history. For example, Kristin and I ate lunch at Quiznos. After we ordered our food and sat down to eat, she explained to me how this store front used to be occupied by the Christian Science Reading Room. Kristin just rolled her eyes at my suggestion to combine the two and name it “Sandwiches Good Enough For Jehovah.”

Despite being a quiet mountain town, Woodland Park has an impressive police presence. The ratio of law enforcement officers to civilians is similar to that of a Siberian prison colony. On our way back to Divide, we had the honor of receiving a police escort through town. Things got even more interesting when Kristin threw a cigarette butt out the window. We got pulled over and the officer started off the conversation by saying, “I’m pulling you over because you tossed a lit object from your car. Did you know that is illegal?” He then went on to explain the forest fire danger in the area. While I wanted to discuss the long term dangers of artificial fire suppression, I had a feeling this would not be the optimal time for such a debate.

Kristin, who has no love for the police, didn’t seem to enjoy the conversation very much. To help remember that night, Kristin was given an authentic document from the Teller county police department which gave her two options. She can either pay the thirty-eight dollar fine or be hunted down by attack dogs and officers wearing full riot gear in an ATF training exercise.

After all that, we managed to get back just in time for dinner– which I must say was quite lovely.

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.

Moving Excitement

Goodbye Boulder, hello Loveland. Well, that sums up what I have been up to over the past week or so. For various reasons, I decided to move out of my apartment in Boulder and into a house in Loveland. The most important reason revolves around a drunken late night conversation with Miss Cleo where she said, and I quote, “You have drawn the happy squirrel card. You need to make some big changes in your life, my friend.” The part about change really convinced me to move out of town. That, and I have completely exhausted my supply of wildly inappropriate JonBenet Ramsey jokes.

The first step in the moving process is to decide where to move. I have known my friend Scott since I was three and I have even gone so far as to travel to Germany with him to visit his parents. Scott lives in Loveland and he mentioned how he needed a new roommate. I thought about it for a few days, and eventually I called Scott back and asked if there was any way I could move in with his parents in Germany. Don’t get me wrong– I think Scott is a great guy, but his mom is a way better cook and most experts agree that Germany has a much better ultra-high speed train network than, say, Loveland, Colorado.

One of the keys to a successful move is to be disciplined and organized. Unfortunately for me, both of these attributes were permanently damaged in a prepubescent winter sledding accident. Despite this handicap, I tried my best to prioritize my belongings to make packing as efficient as possible. Here is a list of actual items I found during the inventory process:

One half eaten box of Total cereal with an expiration date of May 1997.
One empty bottle of shampoo with instructions in some foreign language.
A set of used check carbons from SIX addresses ago.
A zip-lock bag full of obsolete Dutch coins with an estimated value of seven dollars (minus the cost of transporting them back to Holland)

These items were carefully packed first using liberal quantities of crumpled up newspaper and bubble wrap. Once that was complete and double checked, I addressed the rest of my stuff.

One of the problems with packing is that I started with the things I cared about the most. All my clothes and electronic equipment were carefully packed and labeled in boxes to make sure nothing was thrown away or misplaced. On moving day all of this was ready to go. First we picked up the couch and placed it in the truck. The next two trips took care of my bedroom furniture. After twenty minutes all of my furniture, clothes, and electronic equipment was loaded up and ready to go. The problem, of course, was the rest of the crap that had accumulated in my apartment over the past three years– stuff that I didn’t want to throw away, but I didn’t care enough to actually pack. The good intentions I had at the beginning of the process gave way to me running around my apartment haphazardly throwing random objects into garbage bags so I could deal with it all later. The last bag I packed contained– and I am being totally honest here– a Harley Davidson calendar, a handful of razor blades, and my Fred and Barney Fruity Pebbles cardboard cutout.

Most fine wines improve with age. The same is not true for U-Haul trucks. I’m guessing the monster I rented reached its peak somewhere around 1977 based on the painting on the side of the truck of an old fashioned American flag and the phrase “U-Haul: Helping American celebrate her bicentennial.” Now I see why it was the only truck in Boulder available to rent. Everything squeaked and rattled in exactly the way I thought it shouldn’t. On the way to Loveland I looked on the dash and noticed the vehicle had been driven 116,000 miles. Of course there were only six digits on the odometer. I strongly suspect it had been flipped three, if not four, times. And by “it” I mean the entire truck.

Despite the truck’s best efforts to spontaneously disassemble into its 40,000 original parts in the middle of Highway 287, we made it to Loveland without any problems. I even got the hang of the odd standard transmission which had reverse where first gear should be, overdrive where reverse usually is, and third gear crammed into the glove compartment with a hastily written note saying, “Don’t use this until we get it back into the transmission box. Have a nice day.”

Unpacking everything in Loveland went pretty smoothly. The biggest problem was by the time we unpacked all the crap I didn’t really care about, we were all pretty much exhausted. No matter how much I think about it, I couldn’t find a way to unload the front and bottom most section of the truck first. Having survived the move, I would recommend the following simple two step process to anyone else who plans on changing their residency in the near future. 1. Spend half an hour moving the most important things into the moving truck. 2. Unfortunately, the state of Colorado still considers things like “lighting your apartment on fire” and “insurance fraud” to be “illegal”, but I’m sure you can connect the dots.

Olympic Adventures: Part 2

Throughout the journey I could not keep myself from thinking how very odd it was that Kristin kept several restaurant quality meat cleavers in the sun visor of her automobile. Comments such as “you have no idea how badly I need a second spare ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ CD” did little to calm my nerves. Despite all of this, I managed to survive my Olympic adventure with my body and Pink Floyd collection completely intact.

Feb 15, 2002 6:30 PM

Kristin and I climbed into her car and headed out of Boulder. I love taking road trips because there is just so much time for me to explain my views on life to all the passengers of the vehicle without being forced to remove any of the countless tangents of my thought process. For example, I spent a large percentage of the drive to Cheyenne, Wyoming explaining how the turn signal lever in Kristin’s Geo Prizm is functionally superior to the one in my Saturn. In a more conventional social situation I would have gotten to the main points such as lever shape, blinker noise, and the force required to change signal states. As we moved north along I-25 I was able to cover all these topics while still having plenty of time to consider the optimal turn signal blinking rate (which remains unresolved) and how many times the turn signal should blink when changing lanes on the highway (I prefer 5 blinks myself).

Feb 15, 2002 8:30 PM

We arrive in Cheyenne, Wyoming to meet up with two of Kristin’s friends who started their trip in central Illinois. The plan was to meet at the local Denny’s. Before leaving, I had gone on the Internet and printed out a map along with directions for getting to the restaurant. This really helped out the situation since neither of us was terribly familiar with the town. The fact that the Denny’s had recently gone out of business did not help the situation. After contemplating our options, we decided to set up camp at the local Village Inn and wait for Robi and Troy to arrive.

A bacon cheese burger and a cell phone call later we were all at the same place at the same time. Kristin and Robi have been best friends since the beginning of time. Troy is Robi’s landlord and good friend. Out of the four of us, Troy is by far the biggest hockey fan.

Feb 16, 2002 4:45 AM

After driving all night long through Wyoming and Utah we arrived in Salt Lake City. Our plan was to sleep on the living room floor of some Kristin’s friends who lived in town. The fact that her friends had recently gone out of business did not help the situation. Oh, wait, I’m getting confused with the last journal entry. Walking into a strangers house at four in the morning and crawling into a mattress set up on the floor is a feeling I think I’ll never be completely comfortable with.

Having a three year old running around the place four hours after we got to sleep was not exactly normal for me either. Except for waking us up so early I have to say Tanner was a lot of fun. I’m pretty good at managing children I can physically pick up with one hand. He also had a lot of cool toys which meant I was willing to hang out with him whenever we were at the house.

Feb 17, 2002 9:00 PM

All of the planning, traveling, and playing with Tanner have finally paid off. We didn’t know until the night before that our tickets to the Women’s Hockey semi-finals would pit Germany against—yes, you guessed it—Kazakstan. Despite all of our cheering, the Kazak ladies were no match for the Germans and their blitzkrieg approach to ice hockey. The game ended with the German team winning by a score of 4-0. The German women advanced to the next round and the Kazakstanians face a long plane ride home to their homeland of funny hats and vodka enhanced “they actually let us play in the Olympics” Mamushka celebrations. My proposition to go console members of the losing team at a local drinking establishment was not well received by some of the other people in the group.

Feb 18, 2002 1:30 PM

We left the Olympics behind and headed back home to Colorado. Since we are traveling during the day this time around we got to see all the scenery of southern Wyoming with the benefit of generous quantities of sunlight. In all honesty it doesn’t really improve the situation. Perhaps the part of the country is best viewed in the infrared or ultraviolet wavelengths.

Feb 18, 2002 10:30 PM

After many, many hours in the car, we finally got back to my apartment in Boulder, Colorado. I really believe it was worth all the effort to see the game. Given my current financial situation, it will be a long time before I get to see anything like that again. Unless, of course, I can find someone to come with me on a road trip to Kazakstan.

Olympic Adventures: Part 1

Given certain lighting conditions I can appear to be a very busy man. The rest of the time the truth of my productivity is quite obvious. Yes, I’m part of the population who gives late night infomercials about space aged automobile engine lubricants their coveted 0.002 Nelson rating. Despite my incredibly hectic schedule, I have managed to violate the known laws of physics by tearing a hole in the space time continuum large enough to permit a brief trip to the upcoming Olympics. And I managed to do so with a surprisingly small quantity of after market engine lubricants.

While I’ve had enough negative experiences with the opposite sex to start my own television show (stay tuned on Fox for Cops, followed by another two episodes of Cops, followed by the brand new series “When Dates Go Bad”), every now and then something good happens when I’m out on a date. Kristin and I started things out by seeing the movie “Brotherhood of the Wolf.” The story centers around a dangerous monster roaming the French countryside. An extensive search of the area turned up little more than an unshaven and slightly hung over Andre the Giant sleeping rather peacefully in a remote ravine.

I must have done something right because shortly after our first date Kristin invited me to go with her and some friends to attend the Olympic women’s hockey event. After asking a few standard questions anyone put in this situation would politely bring up, I learned that one of Kristin’s friends in Utah changed her mind about going to the game. I quickly accepted the offer. It will keep me out of trouble for a while and I’ll achieve my life long dream of being an official Olympic alternate.

After consulting the Internet for driving instructions, we plotted our road trip to Atlanta, Georgia. After a little more research, it turns out they decided to move the Olympics to the state of Utah. Go figure. While it seems like a whole lot of effort, it actually works out better for us since we will be driving with the rotation of the Earth instead of against it. Once again we asked the Internet how to get to our destination. After thinking about it for a few seconds, a route appeared on the screen that takes us through northern Colorado, southern Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and finally Utah. Once we enter our destination state, we will drive around in increasingly smaller concentric circles until our car runs into some lake. I’m not sure what the “vortex” option on the travel web site was talking about, but I really don’t have time to go back and investigate the matter in more detail.

Quite a bit of attention has been paid to the extravagant nature of the Olympics. None of this will be lost on me. Especially as I’m sleeping on a futon in an unfamiliar house full of people I have yet to meet in a state I’ve never seen in person. Or as I’m screaming across the complete mountain time zone in a late model Geo Prism. But I made it quite clear to Kristin that I sing along to the radio unless someone’s ears start to bleed (in which case I merely hum along to the music).

One of the biggest stories in the news involves the increased security surrounding all official Olympic events. Given the recent terrorist events this seems like a fairly reasonable course of action. While the Secret Service and FBI are reluctant to give out information regarding specific details of possible threats, the general concern involves an unplanned visit by a high profile Afghan resident who goes by the name Geraldo.

Is going on a road trip with someone I just met a very good idea? Are the Olympics as exciting as everyone makes them out to be? Should I leave my favorite CDs at home in case Kristin is really a homicidal maniac who plans on killing me and occasionally casually throwing bits of my chopped up body out the car window along I-80? There is only one way to know for sure. Stay tuned for next week’s story which will either be titled “Olympic Adventures” or “Sure I’m being chopped up into little pieces, but at least my Pink Floyd collection is safe at home.”

Annoying Janet

This week Brian’s girlfriend Janet got added to the “People I Annoy” list. Having known each other for a couple of years now, Janet and I get along reasonably well. She has yet to invite me over to a slumber party where everyone stays up all night to eat microwave popcorn, drink diet Pepsi, and watch Brad Pitt movies, but we are also not to the stage where I would find it necessary to hold her hostage in my garage in a convoluted scheme to help Brian discover his long lost true love like in the movie “Saving Silverman.” Mostly because that would make me the character who realizes he is gay and goes on to marry his ex-con militaristic homosexual football coach on stage at a Neil Diamond concert. Like I need to go through that again.

The whole situation started at the train station in France named “Paris Nord”. No, it’s not a typo, it’s French. Translated into English it means “the last stop before Eurodisney.” OK, maybe my French skills aren’t as finely honed as, say, anyone in Europe who hasn’t lost their tongue, but I’m not making up the Eurodisney part. I planned to “rendezvous” (once again, that’s French) with Brian and Janet at the station after their plane landed in Paris earlier that day. As much as they love French train stations, Brian’s parents trusted our navigational skills enough to remain back at the hotel.

By the time I got into town and settled into my hotel room, it was really too late to go out and do anything. I sat down on the bed and did little more than contemplate paying 400 units of the local currency for an 8 ounce water bottle from the “courtesy” bar. (Another French term meaning “we know you are too lazy, scared, or stupid to walk to the store.”)

The next day we toured the city and learned quite a bit about the history of Paris. In the morning we saw the factory where they make French people snooty. Later on in the afternoon we saw the building where all the tacky models of the Eiffel Tower are put together. This assembly process takes place in the very same factory that manufactured the metal beams for the original tower. That was until the 1980’s when the plant ran out of space and had to be relocated in the nice pristine rolling hills of Southern Asia. We finished off the day with a classy dinner. By then it was about nine o’clock at night. Everyone in our “entourage” except Brian and I decided to call it a night. We left the hotel after casually telling Janet “We’re going to hang out for a while.”

Before I go any further with the story, I should point out that Brian and I had not seen each other for the better part of five months. We talked on the phone and exchanged emails, but that doesn’t compare to hanging out in person. Up to that point in our friendship I don’t think we had ever been apart for longer than two or three weeks at a time. We had quite a bit of catching up to do. And to be honest, I really like to gossip about everything– as evidenced by the fact I spent large quantities of time writing about every minute aspect of my life, posting it on the Internet, and then begging the world to read it all.

After leaving the hotel we aimlessly walked around the city. We eventually found our way to the “Louvre” (yet another French word—this means “huge art museum with strange pyramid in the courtyard.) We sat down and talked about random aspects of our lives for “a while.” (I know that’s not French. The quotes are employed as a foreshadowing device. When I tell the story in person I make the “finger quotation mark” gesture.) Eventually the conversation started to focus around our observation that it was no longer dark. This quickly led to a “have we really been out here for seven and a half hours?” discussion.

Anyone who eats a traditional French dinner and then sits outside all night will eventually feel the need to evacuate his or her bladder. Now I’m not saying we peed “on” one of the most famous museums in the world, but I’m not going to say we didn’t pee “in the general vicinity” of said structure. After our immediate biological needs were addressed we headed back to the hotel. I commented to Brian that he wouldn’t even have to wake up Janet in the middle of the night when he got back.

This was completely true, but made largely irrelevant by the fact Janet fell asleep when we left and woke up a few hours (less than, say, seven and a half) later to notice a lack of her significant other in the room. Deciding that we had been out longer than “a while” she became very concerned about our well being. She called Brian’s parent’s hotel room. Brian’s mom was not at all concerned with our being out all night in a foreign country with no explanation of our agenda. She did what she could to put Janet at ease by explaining this is completely consistent with our past behavior.

Despite these reassurances, Janet stayed up the rest of the night envisioning our lifeless corpses floating down the river in the heart of Paris possibly to be violated in some unnatural way by a medieval sewer dwelling monster. In reality I was busy explaining to Brian all the things I saw in Amsterdam floating around in the canal water. And to this day, I can’t quite put into words exactly how that smells.

I don’t know exactly what happened when Brian got back to his room. I, on the other hand, went back to my hotel room occupied only by the bottle of outrageously expensive water I was flirting with the night before. The next morning (45 minutes later) we all met for breakfast. Janet made a point of saying she wasn’t mad at us. While I’m admittedly not an expert on this matter, I’m pretty sure that when a woman specifically says she isn’t mad that implies on some level she isn’t exactly happy either.

After all was said and done, I’m not sure Brian and I really did anything wrong. But we both feel bad Janet stayed up all night worrying about our welfare. Fortunately it didn’t ruin the whole trip. I think I did a decent job of patching things up with her a few days later when I assisted Janet in the fine art of getting drunk on plum wine at a Japanese restaurant in Amsterdam. But that’s another story.

Trip To Pennsylvania

They say getting there is half the fun. While I am not sure exactly how that phrase came into existence, I seriously doubt it applies to excursions involving airline travel. If it does, however, I can only expect to enjoy the rest of my trip the equivalent of receiving a full body pat down by a 45 year old bald man wearing purple latex gloves. But eventually the driver let us get into the taxi cab and took us to the airport.

Getting through the security in the airport was no cake walk either. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have eaten that second bowl of Total cereal before leaving for the airport. It turns out that having 200 percent of the recommended daily allowance of iron was more than enough to set off the metal detectors. For reasons that I honestly do not understand, my request to be examined by a nearby perky attractive young female security guard was not well received.

Just to keep everyone on the same page here, I recently traveled to Taylor, Pennsylvania to spend time visiting relatives I haven’t seen in more than five years. My mom and I found a good deal on airplane tickets back to the east coast, so we flew from Denver right into the Scranton / Wilkes Berre airport. I suppose a more accurate way of describing the situation would be to say our plane gently landed on the runway next to the airport.

We didn’t plan this ahead of time, but we arrived in town the day before my cousin’s oldest daughter’s birthday party. Seeing Ted really put the amount of time since my last visit into perspective. Here is the main gist of our conversation:

Ted: Hi Omar, I haven’t seen you in forever! What have you been up to since we saw each other last?

Me: Well, not too much lately– I’m working on being a writer. Oh yeah, and I have built a new web site. What about you?

Ted: I got married and have three kids.

While I generally don’t get invited to many birthday parties for four year old girls, the big screen television equipped with satellite cable and complete NFL game coverage made sure that all age groups were equally entertained. The older males at the party were preoccupied with determining how the outcomes of the games would effect the playoff prospects of their favorite teams. The small girls at the party amused themselves after all the presents were unwrapped and examined by everyone. The amusement, of course, was derived almost exclusively from a large cardboard box.

The largest box was about three feet high and two feet square at the base. The girls, who where dressed up as their favorite Disney heroines, wanted nothing more than to get inside the box. Not being able to think of any good reasons why they shouldn’t be inside the box, I picked them up one at a time and placed them inside. The next thing I know I am rolling them around on the floor inside the box. Their experience seemed quite disorienting and nauseating, which is exactly why they found it entertaining beyond description.

After ten minutes, the box gave up and burst open, causing the girls to pour out onto the floor. After one final round of exuberant giggling, the girls moved on to a slightly more high tech entertainment device: the karaoke machine. I had one of those “life isn’t fair” realizations while witnessing the girls completely mangle Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA.” Everyone at the party thought they were cute and adorable, but when I do the exact same thing in a seedy college town bar after a downing a couple shots of tequila none of the nearby perky attractive young females seem to have similar feelings of admiration.

Everyone knows that the fine art of residential use lamp repair has fallen out of favor over the years. During my stay in Taylor, I got a glimpse into this rare electrical experience as my three uncles worked to fix two of my grandmother’s broken lamps. My rough calculations led me to the conclusion that the replacement plugs and wire consisted of less than one percent of the total cost of the project. The rest of the budget included the beer that was consumed during the repair process.

Over all I had a great time in Pennsylvania. I really enjoyed playing with some of my younger relatives, some of whom I haven’t seen since they were negative two. While I can’t predict the future, I am going to try and get back there in less than five years from now. I’ll bring my extensive karaoke skills and a much, much bigger cardboard box.

Weirdos in Town

I truly believe that people, organizations, and entire nations expose the true content of their character when cruelty and misfortune test the limits of human endurance. When the fringe elements of a culture force their views on the rest of society through radical and unlawful acts, we must strive as a country to respond with swift justice. I’m referring to, of course, the recent theft of the ceramic penis art display from the Boulder Public Library.

Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, here is some background information on how this whole thing started. Robert Rowen, age 49, recently stole 21 ceramic penises on display at the Boulder Public Library to honor Domestic Violence Awareness month. Robert then placed an American flag in the area to replace the art. The next day Robert confessed what he did and the police recovered the stolen property.

I would like to spend some time analyzing the actions of this Robert guy. I often get criticized for oversimplifying situations, but my first reaction was something along the lines of “if something visually offends you, THEN DON’T LOOK AT IT!” I must admit I don’t know exactly what state Robert was in the first time he viewed the ceramic dildos. But unless the library staff physically restrained the man in a chair with his head strapped down and his eyes forced open like the government did in the movie “A Clockwork Orange,” he would have been able to leave the vicinity of the display of his own free will.

Perhaps most simple minded folks would have just walked away and have forgotten the whole ordeal by the time they got to the book check out area. But not Robert. He was so offended by the display that he came back to the library, walked over to the display area, put his hand around each of the 20 ceramic penises as he placed them in a box, and took the offensive material back to his house. The irony here is that the person supposedly most offended by the artwork is the one who is sure going out of his way to spend a lot of time with them.

And then there is the message Robert is sending to his young child. While it’s possible that my sense of right and wrong may change a bit once I have kids of my own, I just don’t see how bringing twenty stolen sex toys into the same house with a five year old female is a very good idea. While there has been no evidence to suggest the daughter had any contact with the stolen artwork, the general message conveyed to the child is that theft is an acceptable action when settling disagreements.

I’m not sure why Robert seems to think he gets to impose his sense of right and wrong on the entire population of Boulder County. Is it OK for people to steal books from the library if someone deems it offensive? I don’t like the four way stop sign on the road next to the library, but that doesn’t give me the right to go and cut them down with a hack saw. Robert needs to learn a similar lesson.