She Might Be Right

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fumbling For A Question

The old man sat in the chair near the window.

Lunch was eaten. The paper had been read.

From his second-story perch, he was witness to the passing below. Arthritis had forced observation past participation to the fore of his life.

A suburban neighborhood was much more interesting to him than the television set anyways.

From where he sat, the old man could see a boy walking with a girl under the summer sun. Teen-agers. Still in high school, no doubt.

The young man fumbled with his words just as he fumbled with his gait.

He was enamored with the young lady.

But just as the young man wanted to express his feelings, to open up to the girl, there was also hesitation. For every thought that said, "Move forward," another said, "Stand firm."

Nature has its ironies.

To mix in equal doses of affection with fear of rejection creates a stop-and-go concoction that muddies the mind.

This the old man could plainly see from his vantage point. Despite being removed from the scene, despite not being able to hear a word, he knew exactly what was happening.

The young man and young woman walked slowly until reaching the walk leading to her house.

They stopped. They talked some more, most likely about school and movies, mutual friends and music.

The pair created a conversation woven with safety that insulated the boy from his doubts. There were no sentences beginning with "Would you like to ..." nor any with "Let's to to ..." though these were the words running through the young man's mind.

The old man knew that the boy's heart quickened slightly though experience still had not taught him why. He knew that the young man felt awkward and inarticulate around the young lady.

At the same time, the young man wanted to be no place else. This the old man knew.

At times, the young man stumbled in his conversation. There would be dozens of wonderful, expressive thoughts in his mind, but they would all arrive as soon as the girl was out of sight.

He worried about the conversation dying. Mostly, he wondered what she thought of him. But she was trying to keep the conversation flowing, she was smiling and she was making no movement towards the door ... he recognized her interest, but realized that could vanish any moment.

When the times came to leave, the young man planned in his mind a more appropriate time to ask out his fair friend. More appropriate only because it was in the perpetual future.

Just as the young man started to walk away, the girl touched his hand. She smiled and said that she hoped to see him soon.

The young man floated. The old man smiled.

"Grandpa," called a woman's voice from within the second-floor room. "Grandpa, it's so dark in here."

The woman walked across the floor of the room to the window near the old man. She raised the blinds.

"How's that Grandpa?" she asked. "It's so nice out. Now you can see outside."

The old man did not respond.

"What have you been up to?" the woman asked.

The old man didn't look up.

"Just trying to remember someone's name."

Read more!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Still Waiting

It was as Americana as Norman Rockwell. It could have inspired the writing on the Statue of Liberty.

"Give us your tired, your hungry and your poor ..."

Well, that's me smack dab in the middle. To my left, getting as horizontal as any shopping mall bench will allow, was Tired -- a middle-aged man who would have logged fewer miles at a marathon than shopping with his girlfriend.

On my right was Poor -- a 30-something gentleman with a half-dozen bags at his feet from two-dozen stores. He had just enough left in him to pass the torch -- the credit card -- to his wife.

And I was Hungry. About as hungry as I had ever been for food, sunshine, a gentle breeze and a remote control in my hand.

We three not-so-wise men were waiting for someone. Fill in the blank as you wish -- wife, girlfriend, sister, mother, daughter, female acquaintance or just the first woman passing by who said that she was ready to leave. We were three of dozens (perhaps hundreds but I was too tired to get up and count) of men who were stationed on benches throughout the mall on this sunny afternoon.

Each of us could tell you the time. To the tenth of a second.

This was the bottomless wait. It was a game whose timekeeper was Rod Serling.

I had made the mistake only two hours earlier of saying, "Let's split up and meet in front of Sears. We'll get more done."

I had looked down for only a moment to do what any man would do -- synchronize our watches.

I did not hear the starter's pistol fire. She did.

She was out of the blocks with a burst that Usain Bolt has tried to emulate, but can't. Apparently, two hours was considered by her to be a shopping sprint. I was under the impression that it was a marathon.

Whatever led me to suggest going separate directions had left my mind after I had completed my shopping. All 15 minutes of it. I now had 105 minutes to browse.

She, I'm sure, had spent her first 15 minutes rejoicing in the fact that she was rid of her shopping anchor -- me. We had never been shopping-compatible and I am unable to explain to you why. I've had time to come up with reasons -- hours of sitting on that mall bench -- but I cannot.

Let's just say we use different shopping strategies.

I look for something specific. She does not. For variety, I'll buy the same shirt in two different colors. She would never. If I see something that I think is worth buying, I'll buy it right then, not after putting it down to look through 10 other stores only to come back to the first store.

I've discussed all of this with Tired and Poor. They feel likewise. We've also found that we share common opinions about the American League pennant race and the fact that Marianne, not Ginger, was the prettiest of the castaways on Gilligan's Island.

After that discussion, we kept ourselves busy by forming a huddled mass. We were poster children for Ellis Island.

I never did learn the real names of Tired and Poor, nor the names of the scores of men I watched from my box seat as they wandered aimlessly about the mall.

We did, however, share a feeling if only for the afternoon. We were fodder for Rockwell's creativity.

We were still-life. So were our watches.

Read more!

Hat In Hand

I stood there hat in hand, humbled by the lack of respect given to my fashion sense. That hat, incidentally, was the product of years of honing and updating. But not for a second does she realize the time I spend on style.

It could be that she doesn’t care as much about clothes as she lets on. It could be that she just disagrees with my style and thus disavows its existence. Or it could be that I haven’t said a word to her about fashion (never will for that matter) and she’s making the natural assumption that I haven’t given it the first thought.

I have. Given it a thought, that is. Too many thoughts for that matter.

Mind you, I rarely wear any shirt other than the first one that touches my hand when I reach into my closet each morning. I use the same method for selection pants, which is what I call matching tops and bottoms.

I still haven’t figured out whether I’m supposed to match the color of my socks to my pants, my shoes or the bedroom ceiling despite the fact that she leaves me daily voice mails with the correct answer to that conundrum.

And stating that I’m colorblind is one part self-suspicion and one part cover story.

But baseball hats … ladies, those hats that sit piled on the top shelf of the hall closet are the beginning and end of a man’s wardrobe.

The hat in my hand was a Washington Nationals’ blue chapeau with no padding (keeping the lines close to the form of my head) and a hint of red color outlining the white script ‘W’ on the front.

Color-wise, I have no idea what shirts of mine that this hat matches. But it does match everything that I stand for in sports wearables and that’s something that I’m going to have to lay out for her before our next discussion about my baseball hat.

Rule No. 1 is that you can’t wear the home team’s hat in your town. Anyone can wear a home team’s hat. You can’t tell the fan from the office co-worker who hasn’t gone to a game in the past five years, but suddenly considers himself the authority when the home team is in first place late in the season. Don’t ever put yourself in a position to be mistaken for a bandwagen jumper. It’s like wearing last year’s fashion.

You can’t wear two items from the same team at the same time. If you go out in public with a Mets hat and a Mets t-shirt, you look like you think you have a chance to make the team, that you’re just waiting for the call from management and you’re ready the instant it comes. It would be like wearing Prada shoes and a Prada t-shirt … like you happened to be in the right place when the Prada truck tipped over.

You also can’t wear two items from different teams at the same time. You look confused. If your hat endorses the Cowboys and your shirt endorses the Redskins, you shriek that you hate yourself. Pick a team for the day and move on.

You can’t wear the hat of a team that’s not local but is hopelessly popular nationally. This would be akin to showing up at a party wearing the same dress as every other woman. Every woman knows that you want to be up to date with style, but freshly unique. It’s the same tightrope walked by men shopping for hats. I love LeBron James, but I’d never be caught dead in a LeBron James jersey.

There are actually many, many more rules that I have to keep in mind whenever I pick out a hat. But I fear that her eyes will glaze over when I get to the second rule and by this point she’ll be throwing herself out of a moving vehicle.

So I realize that I won’t ever tell her about the detailed thought process that went into buying this Washington Nationals hat … the perfect hat for me: the team isn’t doing well so no one wears their stuff; I don’t have a Nationals shirt; I don’t live in the District of Columbia; and LeBron james doesn’t play for the team. That is a convergence of ideal fashion on one man’s skull.

I could tell that she didn’t realize any of those finer points when I asked her what she thought of my new hat.

“It’s kind of wild,” was her first comment. Her eyes locked on my forehead and I couldn’t remove them once I had asked her opinion. “That ‘W’ is all squiggly and all over the place.”

This is something that never crossed my mind in the hat store. When I saw the letter in question, I immediately locked in to the symbol of Washington baseball, not fearing that I was about to purchase something that looked like it was designed by a Satanic cult.

“Wild? Do you know what team the ‘W’ is for?” I asked.

“Team? ‘W’ … I thought it stood for something women’s … like a women’s league of some sort. I mean the script is swirly like a women’s handwriting, it could …”

At that point I took off my hat. I did not put it back on as I walked to the hall closet where I now stand.

The fashion statement that I bought last month took a good 15 minutes of in-store time to purchase. (Don’t laugh ladies, that’s 14 more minutes that I spent on that than any other article of clothing in my closet.) But it took her just a moment to make me feel silly wearing it.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to go back to the hat store. Shopping might sooth this man’s shattered nerves.

Read more!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daytime and Nighttime

Daytime and Nighttime had a modern relationship.

They talked about spending more time together. They mapped it out on the calendar.

Somehow though, that time together was always on one of next week's pages of the Franklin Planner. Never present tense.

Daytime and Nighttime, you see, were quite proud of what they and each other were doing in their chosen fields.

The root of their problem was this. Daytime worked a standard shift. She fought morning traffic to the office with drive-time radio filling the background.

Nighttime always worked an alternate shift. His job began at dusk.

Their relationship had always been so. Daytime and Nighttime. Some said that they were too different to form a lasting union. Others noted that opposites attract.

Daytime and Nighttime just knew that it was love.

Daytime, with her golden hair, was the optimist of the two. Warm and friendly, she could be downright sunny most of the time.

Nighttime, tall and dark, saw the glass as half-empty. A brooder to some. Deep in thought to others.

Nighttime could nonetheless touch you with his clarity, with ideas that could open eyes like star-light.

There was a period, in their salad days, when time together wasn't an effort. It needed not to be planned by phone. They gracefully slow-danced through their poorest of economic times.

For when Daytime and Nighttime were together, there was harmony.

All the beauty and color of every sunset known. All the promise and good intention of every sunrise imaginable.

They were good to each other.

But this is a modern fable. And this is the era of two-income households.

Nighttime soon began to fare well at his workplace. He was in the right place at the right time. They liked that he was consistent and reliable.

Daytime's career shortly thereafter took a similar upswing. Her boss liked her enthusiasm. She weathered any storm that crossed her desk and came back the next day like clockwork. Eager as ever.

What developed was this: A pattern of momentary union followed by extended periods apart.

Daytime saw Nighttime for a brief while every morning before she went off to work. He waited up for her, giving her a kiss goodbye before putting himself to bed alone.

Nighttime got to see Daytime every evening for all too short a spell. They'd talk. She would give him a hug and send him off to his overnight job. Then, she would dine alone.

The majority of their communication was etched in texts and Facebook postings.

Although they only saw each other but in passing twice a day, the joy of their relationship remained obvious. When together, they shone brightly enough to fill the sky. It was enough to make their neighbors stop and comment on the splendor of their marriage.

And that, my friend, is why Daytime and Nighttime remain a couple to this day.

In their youth, they believed that they had time in the future to pull back on one career or another. But each household bill and each paycheck bound them tighter and tighter to their occupations.

So Daytime and Nighttime spend their time apart thinking about those times when they were together.

Someday soon, however, they must take a leap away from financial security. A difficult leap away form the feeling of self-worth that comes free of charge with a career.

It is a leap that few take nowadays. Here's hoping that Daytime and Nighttime do.

It is, after all, a leap into each other's arms.

Read more!

The Unkindest Cut Of All

The grass needs to be cut.

Of this I’m certain. Or at least I sounded certain when I said those words to her.

What I do not know is what the DNA of the matter is. But I’ve come to realize that part of being a man is lobbying to cut the grass.

She didn’t need to look out the window to see if I was correct in my assessment of grass length. She was certain that cutting the grass has become something of a periodic male hormonal imbalance that leads me to whine and push and generally become impossible to live with every week to 10 days.

I reason that the grass will look better if it’s cut.

She counters that no one is coming over today or tomorrow, so we can spend our time (I believe that women use the royal we when speaking about their mates’ free time) on bigger projects like sponge painting the living room or the dog room or the dog.

I reason that the grass will be much tougher to mow the longer it gets. Exponentially so. It’s easier and less time consuming to cut the grass two times in two weeks than once in two weeks.

She counters that it really doesn’t matter. We’re talking about an extra half-hour or so being a self-propelled mower … big deal. There are other more difficult, more time consuming, more back-breaking things to do that we can label major projects; things that take 20 hours to get done that we’ll only budget an afternoon to complete.

(That last sentence was my wording. She said something about cleaning out the craft room or shopping for comforters or landscaping the entire neighborhood … I really don’t remember the specifics. What came from her lips to my ears to my brain was that we were going to take on something big today. Something really big.)

What I don’t get is the notion that mowing is a joy, not a chore, to me.

She thinks this is so. She tells me that I mow too much. She jokes with others that I’d mow day and night if I could, such fun have I walking that same green route over and over and over.

For the record, I am not happiest when mulching. The deck does not become tougher to stain if left a year or two or eight. Beds do not become harder to make when left unattended for a month. But cutting grass and changing the car’s oil demand timeliness.

I’m pretty sure that the grass needs to be cut. And I think it needs to be done soon, if possible.

I’m telling you that there’s a small family of possums that has taken up residence in my tiny back yard and hasn’t been seen in the past three days. The grass is that long.

I believe that the dog went in there to hunt them out two days ago. I’ll let you know how that went when poor old Bailey climbs out of the rain forest that my back 40 (feet, not acres) has become.

I can tell you all of that, but of course I can’t tell her any of that. I realized a long time ago that hyperbole is a one-way street with women.

Were I to say that I’ve sent our children out back with machetes to work a path to the swing set, she’d roll her eyes.

But to the benign statement that the grass might possibly need to be mowed in the near future, she volleys back this: “We haven’t painted a wall in years (actually two rooms in the past 18 months). Why can’t we just do one of my projects for a change because we’re always doing yours? (I don’t have projects. I have a quest for television time. There is a difference.) I can’t believe you won’t even consider doing this. (Consider? We’re talking about it.) Why can’t I ever get stuff done around the house that other women get done?”

Obviously her combination of verbal blows caught me at least once or two hundred times in the melon. I say obviously because no man with his full senses would reply with this: “Other women? I do lots of stuff for you that other guys don’t do.”

Over. Count me out.

When asked to produce a list of said items of toil, I couldn’t produce a single one until the 284 that passed quickly through my mind as I lie awake at 3 a.m. that night.

I too am surprised that I didn’t sleep better that night. Usually I sleep quite soundly after sponge painting for eight hours and moving heavy boxes around a craft room for another four hours.

(Incidentally, if it was a man who figured out that painting with a sponge leaves a nicer “effect” than painting with a roller, I’d like that man to e-mail me pronto for his comeuppance.)

But at least I used my time awake in the night to formulate a new plan. She on the other hand was sleeping, giving me a clear edge in preparation.

Here is what I came up with:

If possible, I’d like to set some time aside to cut the grass. Not this week, of course. Or next. That wall in the basement does need to be moved four inches and that’s a higher priority. Wait … how about if I put brick pavers over our existing grass?

Read more!

John Wayne Didn't Do Laundry

And you thought they searched long and hard for Richard Kimball. Consider that an overpublicized game of hide-and-seek.

Looking for an adequate role model ... now there's a real manhunt.

Tell me whose example is to be followed when you're working the night shift and trying to fill your daytime hours? There just aren't many male role models for the part.

John Wayne? I can't picture the Duke separating his whites from his colored laundry with Oprah on as background noise. And I don't think Errol Flynn ever spent a Tuesday afternoon edging the lawn.

So I figure that I've been left to my own devices as far as being home during the daytime. In other words, I'm in sad shape.

The quietest place in which I have ever been was my house on the first day that I started my job.

Mind you, the opportunity to write for a newspaper offered many perks: Placing my future in a medium that had no future; being able to tell people that I worked at The Daily Planet ... honest; carpal tunnel syndrome; and working nights.

How could I refuse?

I had no idea, however, that being at home during the daytime could be so quiet. With the neighborhood kids at school, there are no in-line skaters nor any bouncing balls to fill in as background sound.

In fact, I swear that the clocks kept time without ticking. The fridge operated without making that mechnaical shiver that apparently happens only during sleep time.

None of this was covered in the job interview.

For that matter, none of this was covered in my frame of reference. School was always a daytime thing, no matter how hard I tried to convince my parents that it didn't start until noon.

And men always had a job to occupy themselves during the day. Every dad in the neighborhood went off to work in the morning. When they came home, it was dinner time.

Even the real role models had day jobs. Mike Brady was tied to his office chair from 9-to-5. Archie Bunker wouldn't be caught dead hanging around his Queens' duplex in the afternoon. Even Al Bundy knew that nighttime was the right time for being at home.

I soon realized that the only people that I had actually witnessed at home during the daytime were women. June Cleaver spent her days doing everything from scrubbing toilets to sandblasting the bricks. All while wearing pearls.

Donna Reed juggled vacuuming and dusting along with solving everyone's problems by the time the final credits rolled.

And Carol Brady spent every day at the Brady homestead despite having a maid who did everything around the house. In hindsight, the woman wasn't all that bright.

Since I wasn't about to grout tile while wearing pearls, I did some grocery shopping only to find other male night-shift workers who were also lacking role models.

They wandered through the aisles with grocery lists on Post-It notes stuck to their foreheads. They sorted through coupons looking for bargains on Stroh's and macadamia nuts.

We bonded.

The silence, however, was waiting for me when I returned home. So, I turned on MTV and turned up the volume. I danced like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. I slurped up some soup, making more noise than a vacuum cleaner.

Just like June Cleaver used to do during the commercial breaks.

Read more!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Short Drive To Confusion

Walter Mitty never finished higher than 10th at the Indianapolis 500.

Sure, he was a real go-getter when it came to fantasy. But put him behind the wheel at the old Brickyard and Mitty would be driving 30 mph with his hazard lights blinking. All the while, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti would be honking their horns as they passed him saying, "My but he looks an awful lot like Danny Kaye."

This was what I thought about as I made my way to the car.

Not about the best route to get to my destination. Not about the rules of defensive driving.

Nope, I was thinking about Walter Mitty. Your basic picture of a soon-to-be unfocused driver.

Still, there was no question as to who was going to drive.

I always headed for the driver's side. She always made a beeline for the passenger seat. (Some day, I'm going to have to learn how to beeline.)

Why? I don't know.

Take a quick poll of the two of us and you'll find that it's not unanimous as to who has the better driving skills. In fact, I'll usually vote for her and she'll most often cast a ballot for me.

Neither of us has made the AAA Hall of Fame. Nor the Major League Hall of Fame for that matter.

Call it one of the last frontiers of true gender inequity. One of the last few areas that we as humans move in a knee-jerk sexist fashion and don't even question ourselves.

The man drives. The woman is the passenger.

Why, I bet that Marc Antony always took the reigns on the carriage when he and Cleopatra took a spin around old Alexandria. Sure, she could rule one of the most advanced nations of the known world. Sure, she could trace her lineage to divinty.

But this is driving. And driving is the man's job.

(Just a moment while I scratch myself.)

The funny thing is that Cleopatra would have gone along with the notion of her being a passenger.

Do women feel that men drive too often? Or are they just smarter than us and use us as chauffeurs?

So, this is what I was thinking as I waited at a red light. And this is what I was thinking as I waited at a green light.

Until, that is, the guy behind me put his fist through his car horn.

Now, I'm not buying into the school of thought that men know more about engines than women.

One time a friend and I stopped on a long trip to put oil in the car. One of us removed the dipstick and the other poured the oile into that hole.

Nevermind that the oil container didn't come close to fitting. Nevermind that more oil was reaching the ground than the engine.

We were two guys who thought we were able to do the simplest of car maintenance. In reality, we were poster boys for mechanical ignorance.

Ah yes, that tripl. I remember that trip as if it just happened.

In fact, I was remembering that trip as I drove past my exit on teh freeway. And then as I drove past it once again in an attempted double-back.

But it didn't matter how many mistakes I made.

It didn't matter how many points I had or didn't have on my record. Let's call the whole idea of trying to figure out who drives pointless.

How many times have a man and woman both walked up to the driver's door at the same time, stopped and decided to flip a coin to see who would drive? For whatever rationale, the man drives.

I tried to reason why as I drove through a speed trap. Maybe it was those annoying flashing blue lights distracting me, but I couldn't come up with one.

Read more!