Category Archives: It’s My Life

The Birthday Racket


As part of the parasitic 47%, I signed up for the Birthday Club at various restaurant websites. My birthday is next week. I currently have received, by email, certificates for:

  • Free medium concrete mixer at Culver’s.
  • Free bowl at Flattop Grill. (Must buy a 2nd.)
  • Free dessert at Biaggi’s.
  • Free dessert at Smokey Bones.
  • Free “Creation” at Cold Stone Creamery. (Must buy a 2nd.)
  • Free meal at Wings Etc.
  • Free burger at Red Robin.

Most expire on October 30, which doesn’t give me much time. If I truly wanted to take advantage of the system, I would give each restaurant a different birthday, to scatter them throughout the year. But that’s just one more thing for which I would have to answer in heaven, and my list is long enough.

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The Plural Curse

“Tootsie Roll’s.” I saw it written that way on TV this morning. I don’t like starting my day in a grumpy mood, but sometimes I am overtaken by forces beyond my control.

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Our Annual Pilgrimage

My annual cherry ice cream cone.

My annual cherry ice cream cone.

For the record: Pam and I went to the Van Wert County Fair on Sunday, September 1, 2013.

As best we can figure, it’s the 27th or 28th straight year for us. We’ve been married 24 years. While dating, we discovered that we’d both grown up (at least during my first 9 years when I lived in Indiana) attending the Van Wert fair. So it made a logical date for us.

Yesterday, we left right after church. It was a hazy, humid day that threatened rain. The place seemed like a relative ghost town when we arrived. We always start at the same place: Rager’s (not run by the Optimist club). A sausage sandwich and a ham and cheese sandwich for me (because I was hungry), and only the latter for Pam. Followed quickly by a funnel cake.

I texted my cousin Mike to let him know we were at the fair. He said he and his two kids had a beef show in 10 minutes. So we headed over to the show barn and watched Austin and Whitney show their steers. This was a first for me. There was a lot of bellowing from not-totally-happy steers.

Then we walked through the commercial building (nobody at the Merkle Electric booth), and then got another funnel cake. Time to leave. I headed for the roasted pecans and walnuts (one medium bag of each) while Pam went to the cotton candy trailer, where she was delighted to find that they not offered a Monster cotton candy bag. Which she bought, of course.

And then our last stop: the cherry ice cream truck. A $2 cone for each of us.

Everything is always in the same place, year after a year. In a world that’s constantly in flux, it’s nice to come to a place anchored in time.

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Fraud at the Dessert Counter


See that cupcake? I bought it from the dessert case at Fresh Market. It beckoned to me, this huge lump of diverse calories which Pam and I could split.

You may notice the chocolate chips embedded in the frosting. WRONG. In what ranks as one of the most egregious acts of culinary fraud ever perpetrated, those chocolate chips turned out to be raisins.

Yes, raisins! What depraved sicko puts raisins on cupcakes?

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Seriously, is This Necessary?


We’re talking a Honda Accord. Yes, I was down to fumes. But still.

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Jordi’s New Favorite Place


He’s quickly wearing out the box tops. And he certainly doesn’t look comfortable.

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Celebrity Trash

A guilty pleasure of mine is reading celebrity junk news in “People” and “Us” magazines. But I subscribe to neither. For that, I rely on visits to the doctor, dentist, and hairdresser. So I was severely disappointed this morning when I had a doctor’s appointment, and the waiting room had nothing but medical, travel, and women’s magazines. I may need to change doctors.

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No Longer a Dream Pacifist

In my dreams, I’m never able to seriously hurt anybody. I don’t know why that is. I might be in a raging gun battle with Disney-themed demonic muskrats, but my bullets do no harm. I’ve certainly never killed anyone in a dream. This is sometimes a cause of aggravation, though I’ve never asked God to change this, sort of assuming that God wants it this way.

But last night, I most definitely killed a zombie.

He was a “fast” zombie (not the lumbering type), running full speed at me with a hatchet, and screaming. Yes, a zombie with a hatchet. Bet you haven’t seen that (yet) on “The Walking Dead.”

Dream Steve grabbed him and sliced off his head on a mailbox post (in the alternate universe of my dreams, mailbox posts apparently have razor-sharp edges). Even in my dream, I realized something new had just happened. I stood there looking at the severed head and thought, “Did I actually just do that?”

It seemed like a breakthrough of sorts. Or maybe it was a case of dreamstate backsliding away from pacifism. I’m not sure. We’ll have to see if it happens again.

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Out of Control


At our garage sale today, this boy wanted to buy some of my old Matchbox cars. When his mom said no, he threw a grand mal temper tantrum–yelling and crying abusively. “I WANT MY CARS!!!” he screamed at her, along with other stuff, for at least ten minutes. Meanwhile, she gently tried to explain herself to him in a calm and quiet voice…which was totally futile. The kid needed…well, that’s not very PC today.


The kid went berzerk. It went on, and on, and on. The whole neighborhood could hear the kid screaming stuff at his mom, and she just let him go. Apparently, the mom graduated from the Young Kids Respond to Reason School of Parenting.

So they’re standing beside their van, grandparents in front, probably terribly embarrassed by this huge temper tantrum, waiting for the kid to calm down and for everyone to climb in the van so they could drive away. Everyone around looking at each other with expressions that said, “Can you believe this? Why does she allow it?”

Finally, probably the only person there who didn’t have kids–ME–took action. I walked out to the van. “Hey,” I said, getting the boy’s attention. He stopped berating his mom and looked straight at me. “I’m NOT going to sell you my cars,” I told him in a firm voice.

A blank, bewildered expression spread across his face. And the temper tantrum immediately stopped. Just like that. Magic.

Was it a male voice? Or just a voice speaking to him with authority? (Mom and Pam said that if they, as women, had told the boy the same thing, it would have had no affect.)

And what was the back story with this mom and child? How did they get to that level of dysfunction? Was he one of these modern kids who, if his mom had touched him at all, would have cried, “That’s child abuse!” Was there a dad in the picture at all? Custody issues? Did the kid have some kind of medical or psychological condition? I have no idea. Hate to be too judgmental and simplistic about how to deal with a situation I know nothing about.

The whole thing was astounding and perplexing. And it reminded my parents that, because they had three boys with mild temperaments, they had it pretty easy.

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My High School Legacy, from the End of the Bench

That's me, kneeling in front on the right, next to Coach Gentry.

That’s me, kneeling in front on the right, next to Coach Gentry.

I played–actually played–on my high school basketball team in ninth and tenth grades. That was in Arizona. Then we moved to California, where I attended Tulare Union, a school twice as large. I made the junior varsity team, but that’s as far as it went. Belonging to the team and seeing action are two different things.

In our daily practices, I worked and sweated and grunted just as hard as my first-string teammates. On game days, I suited up in a uniform identical to everyone else’s, except for the number and the lack of sweat-stains. I participated in the pre-game warm-up drills–free throws, fast breaks, lay-ups, etc. Just before tip-off, I added my hand to the huddle and joined in a zealous “Let’s go!”

But after that, it was, “We’ll take it from here, Steve.” If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. I didn’t have it, and didn’t know where to find it.

So I would plop into my seat at the end of the bench, cheer my teammates to victory, dream of a never-meant-to-be-game-winning-honor-and-glory-forevermore-last-second-jumpshot, and wonder what in the world I would do if the coach actually put me in the game.

“What? You want me to go out there, onto the court? But I might accidentally touch the ball and make us lose the game. Are you sure, Coach?”

Coach Gentry was an easy-going guy in his first year as a basketball coach. To defend myself, I could claim he was too inexperienced to recognize talent when he saw it. The truth is, even a rookie coach can recognize a lack of talent. And so I collected splinters, watched, rooted, hollered, and brought home a clean uniform for Mom to wash.

Cut to Creative Writing class. There, I starred for Mrs. Harbour. I sunk half-court swishers, slugged home-runs, threw touchdown bombs, drilled aces. I think she liked me.

That semester, Mrs. Harbour assigned a writing “decathlon,” you might call it, in which we had to compose various types of writing. A rhymed poem. Free verse. Haiku (the most ridiculous thing this side of Form 10-40, don’t you agree?). An essay. A short story. An interview. A news feature. And a parody.

Ah, the parody. Only a week or so remained of the basketball season, and I didn’t plan to try out for the team my senior year. Nothing to lose. So here’s what I wrote for Mrs. Harbour.

Mr. Gentry is my basketball coach; I shall not play.
He maketh me to lie down at night with aching muscles;
He wind-sprinteth me beside cool-drinking fountains.
He restoreth my thirst.
He keepeth me off the playing floor, for his team’s sake.
Yea, though we lead by 50 points, I will fear not messing up, for I still won’t play.
In practice, thy whistle and thy slave-driving, they tireth me.
Thou anointest my body with sweat;
My pores runneth over.
Surely exhaustion, anonymity, and depression shall follow me all the days of the basketball season.
And I shall dwell at the end of the bench forever.

It was just for Creative Writing class. Mr. Gentry would never see it…would he?

A couple days later, Coach Gentry stopped me between classes.

“Mrs. Harbour showed me your poem,” he said, as all color drained from my face and I envisioned running about 5000 laps. “It was funny.”

“Uh, thanks,” I said, quickly scooting away to my locker.

Had I known Coach Gentry would read that parody, would I have written it? I doubt it.

But it gets worse. Mrs. Harbour immortalized that parody at Tulare Union High School. For years afterward, she distributed mimeographed copies to her English classes as an example of a good parody. A real live literary masterpiece by someone who attended TU. A treasure from her star pupil, who at this very moment was no doubt writing The Great American Haiku. (“Can anything good come out of…yes! And I taught him everything!”)

For all I know, that frivolous parody still makes the rounds at Tulare Union. It is my only mark on that school, my legacy. If Mr. Gentry remembers me, it’s not because of my forgettable jump shot. It’s because of that one silly little poem.

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