Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dear Mother Nature

This weekend was to be a rite of passage for one of my oldest friends, Papagiorgio.  To celebrate his 30th birthday, he decided to throw a get together at his mother's house.  While I had a more introspective and sedate approach to entering my fourth decade, Papagiorgio wanted to send his twenties away with gusto.  People could swim in the pool, barbeque various meats, drink at the outdoor tiki bar, and set up tents in the large backyard.  It was set to be a weekend long festival of all the things Papagiorgio loves, but it would prove to be marred by the one thing he hates.  For the two decades I have known him, he has refused to wear shorts, whether through a sense of modesty or because he believes cargo pants give him sexual superpowers.  His only concession to this is swimwear, mainly because he cannot find swim trunks that reach his feet.  Should the makers of longjohns unveil a new design called mediumjohns, he would shake his head slowly in disgust.  So vehement is his denial of shorts that he wore jeans throughout the year he lived in New Mexico, and this was his undoing.  His flagrant mockery of the normal human tolerance for heat infuriated you, Mother Nature, and you took it out on his birthday festivities like the weird smelling fat kid that didn't get invited to the party.

The festivities were set to begin on Friday afternoon, with promises of a nine foot hoagie and a keg of Yuengling.  Guests were set to converge from all over the state, and I had the day off.  It was to be a birthday for the ages.  When my sister and I pulled up to the driveway slightly after seven, what I thought would be late, I found that there were few cars.  I went around back to find Papagiorgio at the tiki bar next to the pool with our friend Kurt, the closest thing to Marcus Brody the world has yet seen, and Helga, a girl we went to high school with that I hadn't seen in several years.  Several of the other people that were supposed to arrive had to postpone until Saturday, and unfavorable weather reports made the proposition of sleeping outdoors in a tent less appealing.  Presently, the sky was blue, and we, the few that were about to rock, saluted the occasion with frosty beers and ice cold colas and laughed at the storm.

The first bad omen came when Papagiorgio offered me some of the fabled 9 foot hoagie.  He had been sold a false bill of goods, because what he spoke of in hushed and reverent tones was clearly nine 1 foot hoagies.  Names were called, ancient vengeful gods were invoked, and ultimately Papagiorgio admitted that at best, he had bought three 3 foot hoagies, which is not nearly as impressive as he insisted.  As we argued, the storm clouds rolled in, and suddenly a deluge began.  The five of us tried our best to huddle for protection under the tiki bar, but a loosely thatched roof is not the best umbrella, and we were soon soaked.  Luckily, through the flashes of lightning, our salvation presented itself.  Papagiorgio's stepfather had built a treehouse man cave on the far end of the yard.  It was completely enclosed, had an air conditioner, a loft with a bed, and a television. This is a view of the bed loft, and the chandelier.  Yes, the treehouse had a chandelier.

After a brief and heated argument on why we hadn't simply been in the treehouse to start with, and why Papagiorgio has to ruin everything he touches, we all made a run and ascended to dryness.  We had chairs to sit in, warmth and a place to dry, and best of all, we had a DVD player and a copy of Varsity Blues.  Sometime around the time Moxon asks Tweeter if he thinks he will like jail, we realized we had not brought any food or drinks with us to our newfound sanctuary.  Papagiorgio, ever the host, took off down the stairs, and we saw a dark blur streak across the lawn through the fury of the heavens.  Minutes passed, and Papagiorgio did not return.  None of us were terribly worried at first, but by the time her had missed the "Whipped Cream bikini" scene, we knew there was trouble, because no one would miss that on purpose.  I stood on the lower stairs and yelled for Papagiorgio, and received no answer.  Panic set in as I imagined him falling into a newly opened sinkhole, or tousling in the rain to fight off a surprise attack from his arch nemesis the North American Eastern Grey Squirrel.  I was ready to vault the railing and run to his aid when I saw him loping gracefully through the rain, with a pint glass of whiskey in hand, spilling nary a drop, and boxes of cookies in the other.  Once back in the safety of the tree fortress, he exclaimed, "Have some cookies!  They're really good.  I've been eating them for breakfast for the past three days."   He then took a healthy sip from his ten fingers of Jamieson and pulled a soggy piece of hoagie from his pants pocket and took a bite. 

Thus, Papagiorgio defeated you once again, Mother Nature, as he also defeated time and common sense by spending the last night of his twenties watching Varsity Blues in a treehouse while putting things in his mouth that he shouldn't.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dear Charmin

I will let bears sell me lots of things.  They've sold me soda at Christmastime, because those commercials are kind of nice and peaceful.  They've also sold me honey, breakfast cereal, gummies,  and fabric softener, because why not?  So, I can see why you might think using bears in your commercials would be acceptable.  You might have been right, but your execution is about on par with The Generals defense every time they play the Harlem Globetrotters.  To clarify, this means that you have been made to look like a fool, and most likely your pants have been pulled down in front of a whooping crowd.

What you fail to understand, just like diaper companies and the people that keep giving Dane Cook pilots, is that people don't need to think about bowel movements when they watch tv.  If I wanted that I would watch any number of the redneck reality shows that have descended upon the airwaves like Jack Black on a butter and cocaine buffet.  I do work while the TV is on, I eat with the tv on, and I try to relax while the tv is on.  I don't need to see some freakish talking bears strutting around talking about how they could never get their asses clean before they switched to Charmin.   The joke, "Does a bear shit in the woods?" is a rhetorical question.  You have gone and answered it and flaunted the aftermath in my living room.

Look at this screen grab.  Who thought that a bear staring at it's own filthy butt while his mother watches was the best way to sell toilet paper?  Unless the next thing the narrator says is "Where did they touch you?  Show us on this doll", then this picture is even less appropriate.  This is the best way to sell alcohol, drugs, and perhaps a handgun, but nothing about this makes me want to buy your 2 ply.  Now you have a new commercial out where a nerdy bear with glasses is sitting on a dryer.  He explains that laundry is one way to keep your underwear clean, and Charmin is the other.

I...I just can't even....what the hell is wrong with your company?

There is a thing called decorum.  It is the thing that people followed back in the day where you didn't discuss religion, politics, or bodily functions in public, because nobody ever needs to hear your commentary on any of those subjects.  Now we have a commercial where Honey Boo Boo farts on her family and they all laugh.  We used to be civilized.  This was a country where men wore suits when they went out so that they looked presentable, and they held the door for ladies.  What happened to that world?  The bears ate it up and now the are defecating it on our doorsteps.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dear Men's Magazines

I have come to an unfortunate place in my life where magazines believe that I have become a grotesque man-beast whose general interests diverge too far from the status quo.  Little to none of my interests that do not involve boobs are represented in any significant proportion.  Worse, I am typically left with the feeling that I am completely unknowledgeable about anything relevant to my peers today.  This tends to be a real concern when I had to ask my bosses who Nicki Minaj was, and I wish I had never found out about that troll faced goatsucker.

I've have had a subscription to Maxim magazine since college, which keeps becoming an increasingly larger and more disturbing number of years, no matter how much hoodoo and blood sacrifices I make.  After my age stopped having a 2 at the beginning, hell, for a while before that, I fell out of the tits-and-beer frat boy love fest that has encapsulated.  Yet, somehow, I kept the subscription, even though I sometimes have to Google the cover model to figure out who they are or why they are famous.  I don't want half of the so called "awesome" gadgets they post, and I have little to no use for the exotic beers and liquors they post.  If it isn't gin, there's a pretty good chance I don't care.  If it is gin, chances are I don't really feel like reading about it.

Beyond Maxim, the only other paper magazines I have purchased in the past 15 years have been trade magazines about filmmaking, which are too fine-tuned to count.  You have to be a certain type of person to buy Cinematographer magazine, just like only certain types of nerds will buy quilting magazines, and only my friend Kurt will buy "Small Dutch Women Silently Crying" magazine.  This may be why only the more broad magazines, like "Cat Fancy" and "Southern Living" are the types of magazines that stay in business, because everyone loves kittens and people that lost a war and continue to bitch about states rights.

So, if I were to want to read a magazine more geared to men, where would I turn?  Men's Health and Men's Fitness are magazines full of pictures of men I will never look like, and tips on how to do exercises that my body cannot do that should supposedly help me someday look like those men that I will never look like.  Playboy and Hustler are full of women that I will never be able to sleep with, but apparently there are articles too.  Sports Illustrated covers basketball, which isn't a sport, so it is a den of lies, and I like my New Yorker magazine like I like my coffee: thrown in someone's face, because it was not to my liking. 

You would think with the proliferation of online men's magazines that I might finally find one to call my own.  As always, you are wrong, and the world hates me. is what Maxim magazine would be in the editor in chief went on an ether and ecstasy binge at a Hooters.  It has more stupid dick jokes than Joe Rogan, which is unfathomable.  Any magazine that is geared towards men's clothing, like Primer or A Continuous Lean only focuses on normal sized men, nowhere explaining what shirt can best downplay those aspects of my body that would categorize me as a "galoot".  A gadget magazine like "Gear Patrol" has something that I could actually afford to buy perhaps once every few days, and even then it is something I wouldn't like.

Then came The Art of Manliness.  Chock full of old timey goodness that appeals to my more Ron Swanson tendencies, I thought I had fell in love, but again, I was led astray.  After reading their article on safety razor shaving, I outfitted myself with all the gear, thinking I was in for the best shave of my life.  Five days later after the layers of skin finally began to scab over and the wind was no longer hitting raw muscle, I vowed I would never use the safety razor again.  You should have explained that when you said a "wet shave", you meant that your razor will glide elegantly down your cheeks as it is lubricated with your blood and tears. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dear Blood

You might not realize this due to past experience, but you were made to stay inside my body.  The years of random nosebleeds may attest otherwise, but generally, you do more good under my skin than pooled on my clothes or on some random pool table.  Until tonight, I figured at this point that we had a mutual understanding on this matter.

After a long day of work and putting in my time in the gym, I sat in my chair to enjoy some iced tea and Gaslight Anthem before dinner.  After a few minutes, I realized I had forgotten to make a phone call, and I stood up to take the call outside.  Gravity and I haven't always been besties, and this became no exception.  I was immediately back in my chair, confused at why my legs refused to work, why my head was fuzzy, and why my neck was wet.  I touched my neck, only to pull my hand away more sticky and red than the cherry cobbler fiasco of Memorial Day 2011, when I bled all over the cherry cobbler.  

Somehow, my head had opened an extra hole, of which I was blissfully unaware.  I had nothing but soft fluffy recliner goodness to cushion me, and somehow my brittle skin split with extreme prejudice.  I soaked through a a paper towel, and finally thought I had staunched the flow.  Carefully, I made my way towards the door, intent to make the phone call.  As I lifted my hand to reach for the doorknob, whatever gesture my fingers made opened another portal to the blood realm, and I had to sequester myself to the bathroom until this bizarre interpretation of "Are You There God? It's Me, Greg" came to an end. 

Look at my shirt. 

This is a surprising amount of blood for me to have had absolutely no clue that I was cut or how it had happened.  Obviously, I had angered some deity.  The blood god demanded a sacrifice, and only Greg brand Sangria would slake Quetzalcoatl's thirst.  That, or The Walken was angered that I wore his graven image, and his fury knew no bounds. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dear People Who Call Baseball Boring

It's been my experience that those that can't enjoy baseball tend to use the same tired excuse: it's too slow.  It's also been my experience that these people are also the same people that complain at being bored and need constant stimulants.  I don't want to generalize, and I don't want to sound superior.  I have plenty of flaws, but you will rarely here me say that I am bored. 

I hear the complaints that the players are spoiled millionaires, and don't deserve admiration.  There are some that carry that label, but so many others start charities and work hard to use their fortune and status to help others.  In anything there will be those to admire, and those to abhor, so that argument doesn't hold water for me. 

To be a fan is to know when a call has been blown, when a certain pitcher should be brought in instead of another, and which hitter you want up in any given situation.  To be a fan is to be able to meet someone you've never met before that is wearing your team's clothing, and to be able to talk like old friends.  I sat in a cigar store in Northfield, New Jersey in 2009 when the Phillies first signed Cliff Lee.  Me and ten guys I had never met high fived, hugged and gushed like fanboys about how we were destined for another World Series.  Cliff was ours now, he was one of us, and we were thrilled. 

What you need to understand is that it isn't about the watching of baseball.  It is about community, about being a part of something bigger that yourself.  We baseball fans form an allegiance with a team, and form an alliance with that team's fans.  We join together in the stadium, in our cars, in front of our televisions, and we hang on every pitch.  The broadcasters become your friends, and you their confidants.  If they are around long enough, they become a member of your family.   My father will tell me to put Larry on when we are working on something, and I know he means for me to put the Phillies radio station on so we can listen to Larry Andersen's color commentary.  The day Harry Kalas died, millions in the Delaware Valley lost a close friend.  He was the voice that came across every car radio at rush hour, every television at dinnertime, and every radio in ever kitchen.  To get baseball, to love baseball, you need to buy in completely.  If you can't do that, you'll never enjoy it.

My father has always understood this, and he taught me.  He doesn't have a favorite television show, because that would mean that he might feel compelled to watch that instead of the Phillies game.  He learned from his mother, my grandmother.  She understood, as she sat in the gazebo my grandfather built in their small backyard, that a baseball game coming over the radio on a summer afternoon isn't the worst thing you can do to be happy.  Later he learned that baseball can help us forget as he and his seven brothers and sisters, and all their kids sat in the hospital as his father was recovering from a heart attack.  We sat in the hall with a little radio, listening to a game that ultimately went 22 innings, and ended at 4:30 in the morning.  My mother understands too, as she cries tears of elation in our living room after the Phillies win the World Series in 2008.  She learned from her parents, who would vacation in Florida, conveniently during spring training, so they could catch the games and meet the players. 

My uncle Dave understood as well.  He asked for the game to be on the television in his hospital room, even though the Phillies have been awful lately.  He still had to watch, even if they were bound to lose.   Uncle Dave passed away last night, after the Phillies lost after an embarrassing blown call in the 9th.  He missed them win this afternoon after an impressive burst of offense in the first two innings, but he'd be happy to know they pulled it off.  That's why we watch, for those moments that make us happy when there isn't much else that can.  Uncle Dave got that, and it will make me miss him more.