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Archive for March, 2016

Of Rats and Men and Caddyshack

26 Mar

Many years ago in a far, far away galaxy named Madison, Wisconsin I was single. In between pints of beer I thought it would be acceptable to meet and date somebody. One night through mutual friends I met a woman who I thought may have had the best sense of humor I had ever seen (actually heard – although she seemed to handle slapstick with equal competence). I laughed so much the first night we met that I asked if she would like to get together again.

She said she was available the next night and I should come over to her apartment for dinner. What? No shampooing of the hair? No other plans for the next six weeks? Wait. Maybe this is telling something about me. I said yes immediately. Then she suggested that we watch her favorite movie of all time. Oh, no. Here it comes. What could this be in 1988 – Dirty Dancing? Pretty in Pink? Beaches? So, I asked with teeth invisibly clenched what that movie might be.

She responded with “Caddyshack.”

It sounded like she said Caddyshack. Like a cross examining attorney with the whole case on the line, I asked her to repeat her previous statement. Once again, she responded, “Caddyshack.” I thought it would be an extra measure of caution for me to clarify that this was the Caddyshack I was thinking of – you know, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, just in case there was a black and white French movie of the same name.

“Caddie Chiac” could have been a movie about a trolley (Caddie) that is owned by some people that speak a mix of French and English (Chiac). The whole movie would have the prerequisite amount of “I love you, I hate you lines” and the screen filled with fog – no, wait. That’s just cigarette smoke. In the time I asked the question and before she had a chance to answer me, I had played the trailer of my make-believe movie in my head. I had also realized that even if this was the film, I would still show up.

“It’s a Cinderella Story,” she said.

I was stunned from my black and white dream.

“What did you say?”

“It’s my favorite line from Caddy Shack.”

Now we were truly talking a “Cinderella Story”. I believe my eyes may have batted like a girl Rankin/Bass Reindeer. I exhaled a sigh of what I thought could have been love, which I would find out later was mostly comprised of relief commingling with lust.

Before we completed our plans for the next evening she said she had an important question for me. The question was if I liked pets. Of course, I like pets. Who doesn’t like pets? If she had asked if I liked feral cats I probably would have said “sure”. The term “pet” assumes that said creature is paired off with an adorning human. I can most certainly get behind that. If she had asked if I would like to have a pet, that may not be a simple answer – but in this situation I could probably, once again muster up agreement with her particular leanings, based on the intonation of her asking voice. That’s sort of the beginning of any healthy relationship – right?

The next night I showed up with a bottle of wine that probably was bad, but neither of us had any knowledge to determine one way or another, so we drank it. We had dinner. Most likely spaghetti. Then it was time for the movie.

Before starting the movie she said she wanted to show me her pet. It was in her bedroom. OK. I followed her into the room and the late setting summer sun threw thick orange light in from the outside. I saw what looked like some kind of cage in a shadow in the back of the orange room. I sensed that the pet was going to be a guinea pig or maybe a hamster. I was starting to talk myself into maybe touching my finger to the top of its little rodent head.

“Hey, Ben!” She said with the kind of excitement that warrants an exclamation point.

We approached the cage and I could see that it was actually made of glass, like a large glass fish tank. I didn’t see anything in the tank.

“Do you see Ben hiding?” She asked.

I didn’t see anything. So technically, I guess I did see Ben hiding. If that’s what she meant. She approached and deftly reached in under some kind of plastic bridge. I was right behind her. As she grabbed at this unseen pet I could only see her back – until she wheeled around with said pet in hand – actually both hands.

I was face to face with the biggest, oddest looking guinea pig I’d ever seen. Then I realized that this guinea pig looked remarkably like a huge mouse. But the moment she kissed the top of Ben’s head I realized that Ben was in fact a rat.

I think she was thinking that I was thinking that I might want to pet the rat on the top of the head – maybe even in the region that had just been kissed – by the same lips that she might use to kiss a human person. I pulled myself together to gingerly pet its little bony rat head a couple times.

Kind, pet friendly animal loving reader, this was in a time well before the lovable rat from the movie Ratatouille broke down the walls that kept rats from being highly successful French chefs. The time of my first pet rat encounter was in a time closer to movies like Willard and Ben, when rats were sort of bad.

Well, that was fun. It was now time to watch the movie. And she carried the rat with her to the living room. The rat – Ben, that is – perched on her shoulder as she got the movie and put it into the VCR. We took a seat on the couch together. And when I say “we” I mean me, her and Ben. Ben was on her lap as the movie began.

Eventually, she put Ben on the floor to wander around and get some exercise – I guess. Things were getting better. I had put Ben out of my mind. At some point during the movie we kissed. I even put the rat kissing lips out of my mind – because I’m a guy and that’s the kind of thing guys can do.

As we were making out I realized that her petite slender finger was running along my leg. I knew wearing shorts was a good idea. Her finger weaved back and forth along my leg like nothing I had ever felt. Out of nowhere she pinched me. I paused mid kiss and pulled back slightly.

“You like to pinch?” I said coyly.

“What?” she replied.

That second I knew to look down. My leg was bleeding and Ben was sitting on the couch next to us. Ben had bitten me. I saw his long tail weaving around and realized it was not her sexy little finger on my leg but Ben’s big ratty tail. I jumped up. I startled Ben and he scurried away – you know, like a rat.

“Be careful. You scared him,” she said.

“He bit me,” I countered.

She kissed my leg where the blood was. Now the blood was on her lips. I hate to dwell on this, but once again, those same lips that kissed the rat that bit me.

“You must have sat on his tail or something. I have some Band-Aids in the bathroom cabinet if you want. I’ll pause the movie.”

Some kind of bandage made sense. Cover the wound so the tetanus or whatever other rat disease could stay in there and do its work. I went into the bathroom and found the Band-Aids and applied one to my rat bite. An odd odor caught my attention. It is a bathroom so not totally unexpected.

The shower curtain was pulled shut and it seemed taut at the bottom, like weight was being applied all along the bottom of the curtain. Just great. I needed to look behind that curtain and there was really no way around it. I pulled it aside at the top and peaked behind. I spotted a couple banana peels on top of what looked like seven inches of spaghetti filling the entire bottom of the tub. Then I looked closer. That spaghetti appeared to be moving. That spaghetti was not spaghetti, it was an entire bath tub of mealworms. Undulating, wriggling mealworms.

For a brief moment my dinner spaghetti almost made an appearance on top of the spaghetti of mealworms. I composed myself and went back out to the living room. Mentioning the mealworms seemed as natural to me as mealworms ridding one of their banana peels.

“You have a tub half full of mealworms,” I opined.

“Yeah. That’s where I compost.”

I stared for a moment.

“I shower at the gym,” she added.

That’s where things ended. No matter how funny you are, a bath tub of mealworms doesn’t add up. Throw in a biting rat and you’ve got a solid deal breaker. I would like to say that I had a heart to heart with her explaining how a rat bite and a bath tub of mealworms just didn’t work for me. I would like to say we exchanged a warm hug and bid our adieus, agreeing that it just wasn’t meant to be. But I didn’t.

She was really attractive and we had Caddy Shack on pause. I sat down next to her and watched the rest of the movie with one eye looking out for Ben the rat and keeping the information in the back of my mind that there was a tub of mealworms in the bathroom.

We went out two or three more times. One of those times involved bringing Ben along on a picnic at a park. The other couples were playing Frisbee or fetch with their dogs and we were freaking everyone out with a huge rat on our picnic blanket.

I don’t even think we officially broke up. We just stopped hanging out and doing things together. It’s possible she just thought I wasn’t that funny. You know, not pulling my fair share of the funny weight in the relationship. Or she could see that I was a rat hater and didn’t have a gym membership for showering.

I saw her a couple months later in a bar and we said hi. Later that night some guy was obviously hitting on her and I could tell she was ok with it. When she went to the bathroom I thought I should go and warn the guy about the rat and mealworms. But who was I kidding. He was a guy. She probably had him at “Caddyshack”.

 
 

Hurricane Trump Headed for Florida

13 Mar

Enormous amounts of heated moist air twisted high in the atmosphere. This is how my son explained the formation of hurricanes per his second grade classroom research. Just the discussion of twisted hot air made me think of the current state of Republican presidential politics.

A lot of people have been piling on Drumpf and I feel bad about that. I should clarify. I feel bad about that not happening earlier, because now we have a full-blown category 5 bashing the shores of this country, set to make Florida one of its next targets.

I wanted to write something earlier, but this political stuff is not my sweet spot. I was too fascinated by the brooding storm to turn away and look at my computer screen – coincidentally where my typed words appear. Besides, who wants to hear another opinion? But I thought, what the hell. Maybe I’ll just weigh in as the non-political pundit, non-celebrity AND the guy who came up with this little analogy comparing Donald Drumpf to a Hurricane. And watch how I do that without once comparing his wonderful hair to a swooping, spiraling hurricane pattern. That’s solid integrity, if I do say so myself.

So, are you sick of the analogy? Yeah, me too. Why don’t I just finish it off? But, first let me ask if any readers are voting for Drumpf. Just raise your hands. Not like you’re taking an oath or anything. If you are a Drumpf follower you’ve at least got to admit that when Drumpf made people pledge to him that they would vote, it looked a little German 1930ish. I apologize for that comment and I don’t blame you Trumpeters if you stop reading now. Just let me get through the next paragraph. I’m even using the more royal name of Drumpf and have not gone to the Drumpf side. Give me a shot.

TrumpSalute-300x300
I grew up on a farm and went to farm auctions with my dad and uncle. That’s the fun of farming. Everyone is on the brink of going out of business and when your neighbor goes out of business, you feel bad, but go to his auction to see if you can get a deal on something – to help keep you from going out of business.

Can you imagine running into someone like Drumpf at a farm auction? Of course not. But if you did, that guy might be called a “Blowhard”. It’s sort of a funny word when it’s written. Most of the common sense oriented people I grew up knowing and know today would think a “Blowhard” is a guy who might say outlandish stuff and be all about themselves. Sometimes the “Blowhard” might even say what’s on your mind but you couldn’t bring yourself to say it. Possibly, because it was really something that shouldn’t be said (ah, and maybe deep down you knew that it shouldn’t be said because it was wrong, misinformed and not very nice –that’s really why you didn’t say it – except to your circle of friends who also said the same stuff and knew deep down it was wrong and not very nice).

Am I convincing any of you Drumpf friends to unfriend him? I thought probably not. But, bear with me. I think you’ll like how this hurricane analogy ends. I’ll give you a hint. There’s sunshine on the Drumpf fans.

We had a local blowhard. I remember my dad smiling at him and nodding and listening while looking for an escape route. Sometimes these blowhards can work themselves into a county clerk position or even make it up to higher levels of government. And that is a real shame, because these people will say anything to advance themselves. You could say this of your most hated Democrat or most hated Republican. Hell, I bet you’ve got a couple of names rolling off your tongue right now.

For good or bad, these politicians believe that what they are doing is for the good of the country and they generally stay a course. The blowhard – who makes you pick up your pace, so as to not bump into at the auction entrance – will say anything for the good of themselves. The blowhard has no time to listen. I guess that’s because he’s busy blowing hard. Hot air coming out of him to no possible end. Some will call the blowhard fancy words like “authoritarian” or “narcissist” or less fancy like “con man”. But we know he’s just a blowhard. Sometimes he may go by the moniker of “Loudmouth”.

Most of us wouldn’t be tricked into making the blowhard from the auction President of the United States. In my modest opinion, we also shouldn’t elect a blowhard from a TV show or a blowhard building contractor to be the president. If I were voting for Tump I would worry for my grandchildren that one day some Russian leader will make fun of his small hands. Then you’ve got President Drumpf offended and launching missiles with one of those tiny fingers (For the record, I never noticed how small his hands were until he held them up at a presidential debate and explained his whole situation to the American people). See what I’m saying, people? Pure blowhard move.

As usual, I digress. I promised to wrap up my analogy. You get it. Drumpf is the hurricane because he’s twisted hot air. Back in July of 2015 it looked like he was just regular blowhard hot air. But something happened. People at the auction started showing up and listening to him, more or less entertained and seriously irritated by the other people talking.

The other thing I learned from my son’s second grade class is that the hurricane can’t just happen on its own. You’re way ahead of me. You got it. There needs to be a “pre-existing disturbance” like, for example, a Tropical Depression. Maybe just really depressed and frustrated people for this analogy. And finally, there needs to be a large body of water feeding the hurricane. I guess we can say FOX news is that body, but that would not be fair and balanced. CNN and any other news outlets, where the name Drumpf could be heralded, were happy to feed the growing storm.

When Pat Paulsen ran for President five times (those under 40 may need to Google this one) between 1968 and 1996 no news outlets carried any of his speeches – and he was really funny. I think it was because he just didn’t seem like a serious candidate. He may have become a serious candidate had most news outlets covered all his speeches. Sorry, Pat. The news people of the time were not interested in that kind of fun news. However, things have changed.

Now everyone is running for their cars, grabbing bread and water off grocery store shelves and boarding up their windows. Meanwhile Drumpf supporters are standing in the eye of the storm with the sunshine of Drumpf smiling down on them like that big sunny, giggling orange faced baby in the Teletubbies (those over 40 may need to Google this one). I would say he’s preying on a group of people who are fearful and tired of the slow workings of a democracy, and in turn putting at risk many ideas held dear in this country – all in the name of having a blowhard get his way.

I would hope that Drumpf supporters will not go with the blowhard, but I find solace in the fact that I believe the hurricane will dissipate. I don’t think that he will ever quit – he shouldn’t, he’s winning. He’s in the process of being a winner. He’s a totally big winner with what looks like about 15% of the voters in the country picking him.

In true political fashion, the uncharacteristically large egos of those seeking the presidential title should diffuse each other. You know, like two negatives make a positive. The Republicans will do all in their power to wrestle Drumpf’s mantle away from him pre-convention or during convention. If unsuccessful, the other leading candidate will run as an independent. If Drumpf can’t get his tiny hands on his party’s thrown he will run as an independent.

In my optimistic view Drumpf will not become the next President and the hurricane will blow through having done its damage. I hope I’m right. But I’m still preparing for a long storm. I’m guessing my words may not have dissuaded any Drumpf fans. If Drumpf does become the Republican nominee, I’m planning on turning this essay into a reality TV show in an effort to get it in front of a larger audience.

My bigger concern is for the next hurricane season. It looks like it’s fairly easy to dupe the American people in a major way. And now all the news channels see how great the frenzied media pulls in the ratings and money. All that’s needed is a better looking man or woman with good, normal looking hair, regular sized hands and a willingness to say anything. Be on the lookout at the next auction you attend. You could find a blowhard who will be the next political hurricane and possibly our next President.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

 
 
 
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