Friday, June 30, 2006

Betta Talk

If there seems to be a hop to my step these days. If I seem happier, more energetic, and generally more agreeable, I can explain. Genie Francis Will Return To General Hospital. That's right, GH fans. Laura's back! And all is well with the world. (Although I need to email MSNBC, as they seem to have an error in the story. The fictional town of Port Charles? Yeah, I don't think so.)

Bone: Welcome in to our first edition of Betta Talk here at If You Read Only One Blog This Year. I'm your host, Bone. Today's guest is my Betta, Pablo Picasso. So named because he has no ears. And I mistakenly thought Picasso was the artist who cut off his ear. So actually, we should be talking to Vincent right now.

Pablo: I hate that name.

Bone: Last week, we took reader questions for Pablo. And today he will attempt to answer them. Shall we begin?

Pablo: Why are you holding a microphone?

Bone: Very well. First up is Heather B. She asks, "Pablo, where is Bone headed off to?"

Pablo: Ha. Him go anywhere?

Bone: Moving along. Carmen has a few questions for you. She asks, "Have you ever seen Finding Nemo?"

Pablo: No, Bone doesn't like animated features. I keep hoping it'll come on cable one night when he's in the office.

Bone: She also wants to know, "Do you try to escape from your aquarium?"

Pablo: Funny you should mention that. Just tried that the other day actually. Didn't work out too well. Don't think that I'll be trying that again.

Bone: "Do you do any tricks?"

Pablo: Feed me enough pellets and I'll do anything.

Bone: And Carmen's last question is, "Do the bubbles tickle?"

Pablo: I just pretend it's my own personal hot tub.

Bone: OK, Pablo, next we have a couple of questions from Larsonbuckeyefans. "How did Bone get his nickname or is Bone in fact his real name? And also if you don't mind, will Troy Smith win the Heisman next year?"

Pablo: Like everything else in his life. From Seinfeld. I don't really know about the Heisman. Bone thinks I like sports because I look at the TV when ESPN is on. But that's really my cue for him to please turn it to Animal Planet. Never works.

Bone: OK. Up next is Renee. She wants to know, "Does it bother you that Bone is leaving you to go eat..." Uh. Tell you what. Let's come back to that one. Lass has a good question. She writes, "Hey Pablo, tell the truth...does Bone snore?"

Pablo: Not so much. But sometimes he screams in his sleep.

Bone: I do not... do I? These questions are supposed to be about Pablo, not Bone. So let's try and stay focused here. One of our newer readers, Ms. Sizzle has a very fish-related question. She asks, "I am curious. Do you have any reservations about swimming around in your own poop?"

Pablo: Yes. Would you enjoy eating a food pellet that was floating ten inches from your own waste? But I don't get much choice. Fish have restroom etiquette rules as well.

Bone: Hey, there are hundreds of Bettas in Wal-Mart that would love to be in your tank right now, mister.

Pablo: It's enough with the microphone. Really. No one can see us.

Bone: OK. Crys is up next, Pablo. Crys is apparently a Betta-owner as well. She writes, "Pablo, do you sometimes sleep on the rocks and look seriously depressed? I was just wondering because Mr. Wiggles, my red betta, seems to like it down there? I've often asked him if everything was okay and twirled his jar a few times to see if he was still alive."

Pablo: Well, we do have to swim around in our own poo. Haha. No, I'm kidding. He's probably just cool. Under control. Like me. We like to be relaxed. Don't like too much stress or excitement.

Bone: Hilarious. He'll be here all week, ladies and gentlemen. 24/7 actually. At The Tank. OK, our next reader has evidently been reading her Pablo bio and press kit. It's MappyB, and she wants to know, "What does Bone do that makes you the happiest? Dance for you?"

Pablo: Actually, that only serves to frighten me. He appears to be convulsing and I think at any moment he is going to pass out. Not to mention, he's usually in his underwear. I like it most when he feeds me. And when we nap together.

Bone: Is it any wonder I love this little fella. OK, Pia has several questions, Pablo. First, she wants to know, "Can Bone sing?" And be careful how you answer this one. Remember who holds your food pellets.

Pablo: Well, Bone likes to sing. I'll just leave it at that.

Bone: She also asks, "How many eight track players does Bone own?"

Pablo: None. But he does have a dual-cassette player so that he can still make mix tapes.

Bone: Not that I still do that. Anyway. Pia's final question is, "Why do you think Bone's still a bachelor?"

Pablo: He's sitting here on a Thursday night, holding a microphone, talking to his fish. For starters.

Why do you think he's still a bachelor?

Bone: OK, next up is GroovyChick. She writes, "I've always wondered, you live in water. We live in air. We drink water. Do fish drink air? My betta, Bloo, takes sips of air and spits them back out. He would like to get together sometime for some freeze dried shrimps and pellets, to talk about how ugly girl Bettas are, if you are free."

Pablo: Freeze-dried shrimp? Why wasn't I told about this?

We do need air. Always leave your fish some space at the top of its tank. Or we'll suffocate.

Bone: OK, Pablo, we're almost done here. So you can get back to your busy life of swimming around and staring at your reflection. The Big Man has a fashion question for you. He asks, "Will it ever be fashionable to wear my MC Hammer pants again?"

Pablo: If Bone has anything to do with it, it will. And the Michael Jackson zipper jackets as well.

Bone: And our final question is from SurrenderDorothy. "OK Pablo, answer me this. Are you the master of your domain?"

Pablo: I am the aristocrat of the aquarium. Bone made me say that.

Bone: Well, that's all the time we have for today. Thanks for your questions. Maybe we'll try and do this again sometime. For now, I think Pablo and I might take a nap. Which basically means me lying down and him eventually getting tired of swimming around and settling in the bottom of the tank on the side nearest me. It's kinda sweet, really.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

"Do you believe that everything I say is really true? Well, what's the difference? Don't you think everything's against us, that there's much too much to lose?"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Sitting across the table from her, looking into her sad eyes, I realized something. She's broken.

She talks of seeing happy couples. And why she never found that person who'd give his everything to make her happy. And all I can do is listen. I had my chances. I let her down.

She's built a wall. It's high. And solid. I couldn't tear it down if I tried. After all, I'm the reason she started building it in the first place.

She's jaded. Disillusioned. She's poured herself out. Given everything she had. Because that's how she thought it was supposed to be. And what does she have to show for it? Emptiness. Scars. Memories of tears. Questions. And no answers.

And all I can do is apologize. For the hundreth or thousandth time.

If I could, I would go back to where it all started going bad. Correct every mistake. Take back every hurtful word. Erase every ounce of pain. Undo every wrong. And make it right.

I would take away the tears and the disappointment. And fill her days with nothing but love. Pure. And true. Leaving no room for doubt. If I could, I would. But I can't.

I can't undo the hurt. I can't go back in time. I can't take back a single word that was said. Oh, how I wish I could. As I drift back to the moment at hand, I realize the sadness in my eyes now matches hers.

I broke her. And I'd give everything I've ever had to be able to put her back together. But I don't know how.

I broke her. But I can't fix her.

If I could, I would.

I swear.

"I'd pick up the pieces. But some scattered too far. You see, they flew when I kicked them..."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Back from the edge of the Earth

I headed to the beach with the roomies this past Thursday. Or ex-roomies, actually, now. Wolfgang, Little Joe, and I spent a long weekend in beautiful Destin, Florida. What trouble could possibly befall three hetero guys spending four days and three nights at the beach? Well, there were a few minor issues.

We stayed at a lovely beach house. I have nothing but good things to say about our upstairs studio with stove, microwave, full-size fridge, and swimming pool view. However, imagine trying to pick up a girl on the beach, and when she asks where you're staying, you're forced to reply with, Nantucket Rainbow Cottages.

One of the most pressing issues facing three hetero guys at the beach is how to get sunblock on those hard to reach places on your back. This is normally a great way to strike up a conversation with a bikini-clad hottie.

However, our first day on the beach, I determined that I have no idea how old girls are. Or guys for that matter. No idea.

To wit, there were two girls tanning next to us. I was about to ask one of the slender, bronze-skinned dames to gently and liberally apply lotion to my back. That's when a young boy who looked to be no older than 14 walked up and struck up a conversation with one of the girls. He asked how old she was. She was 16.

I decided at that point I would not trust my age-ometer the remainder of the weekend. However, that left me with a quandary as to what to do about my back. Although I wouldn't have minded Joe or Wolfgang rubbing me down, there was no way I was going to return the favor.

So we were left to our own devices. Which pretty much ended up with us all looking like we were trying to pull a "kick me" sign off our backs.

I did have a couple of ideas since, however. Such as putting the lotion on a butter knife, and spreading it on my back. Or squirting sunblock on the shower wall and then rubbing my back up and down it. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Something else I discovered on our trip. Little Joe and Wolfgang are two of the most indecisive human beings who have ever drawn a breath. I had to make every single decision, from where we stayed, to when we left, to which route we took, to where we ate, when we went to the beach, and what we did at night. Every. Single. Decision.

Not only that, but it was like they couldn't do anything or go anywhere unless I came along. We stayed up until 2:30 or so playing poker Thursday night. When I woke up Friday morning, around 9:30, they were both up and watching TV. (Joe apparently gets up with the roosters. Although I don't recall hearing any roosters at the beach, he was sitting outside on the balcony every single morning when I awoke.)

They were evidently waiting on me to get up so that we could all go to the beach. I told them at that point, and several times throughout the weekend, to feel free to go to the beach, or anywhere for that matter, without me. We all had room keys. We're already staying at the Rainbow Cottages. There's no need for us to hold each other's hand everywhere we go.

Still, they never went anywhere without me the entire weekend. Not that it bothered me. I found it quite humorous actually. It was kinda like Larry, Darryl, and Darryl go to the beach.

Except they talk. A lot. And sometimes argue like an old married couple. Little Joe put his shoes on Friday for no apparent reason. This conversation ensued.

"Are you going somewhere?"
"You're not going out?"
"Why are you putting your shoes on to sit in the room?"
"What does it matter?"
"I just find it odd."

And that became our phrase for the weekend. "What does it matter?" Most any discussion we had from then on would be ended when someone would say, "What does it matter?" Still, I found the shoe thing odd. Saturday, Joe took a shower, and came out of the bathroom wearing his shoes. Odd, I tell ya.

We did get to go to Fudpucker's for lunch Saturday and to the Donut Hole for breakfast Sunday. Two of my favorite places, as I was making all the decisions.

One other highlight from the weekend for me was bungee jumping. No, it wasn't off a bridge over a river like in a Mountain Dew commercial. It was in an amusement park type thing. But it was still high. And fun.

The worker at the top had a very strong foreign accent. As he handed me this thing that looked like a boxing heavy bag, except smaller and softer, I thought he said, "Hold on tight to this and just keep walking."

But at this point, I wanted to be sure I didn't misunderstand, you know. What if he had said, "Hold on tight, it isn't working." Or "The rope is broke. Don't start walking."

After he repeated himself, I started walking. And kept walking. Didn't look down. Just fell. All I could do was break into uncontrollable laughter, which lasted until my feet were on the ground. It was an amazing rush.

Whenever I go to the beach, I always like to do two things. I like to walk along the shore one last time my last day there. To impress into my brain and my memory the feel, the scent, the sights, and sounds. And I like to go at least one night and sit on the beach by myself.

I walked down to the ocean Saturday night about 12:30. Buried my feet in the sand. Someone was shooting off fireworks to the east. Close enough that I could see them, but far enough away not to interrupt the peacefulness of the ocean at night.

From somewhere in the darkness behind me, I could hear the sound of women's voices. From one of the hotels or beach houses, I supposed. There was lightning off to the west. But no thunder.

I sat there for at least half an hour. Only one couple passed by. Talking. Laughing. Holding hands. Then a bird, a crane maybe, landed about ten yards away and walked to the edge of the water. He seemed unbothered by me.

So there we sat. Him scanning the tide for food. Me looking up at the stars. Listening to the waves. Casting my cares to the wind. Thinking. About all the things I always think about when I'm at this place. The only other place in the world that feels like home.

The bird was still there when I left and went back to the room. Maybe it's there right now, looking for food again at the water's edge. And somewhere there's a couple strolling down the beach hand in hand. Maybe not the same couple. But another.

I always like to imagine the beach is just as I left it. As much as I hate to leave, it comforts me to know the waves are still crashing and the ocean breeze is still blowing. And will be. No matter how far away I am. Or how long I'm gone.

"I remember Sunday mornings, walkin' on the beach. And that place we'd stop for breakfast with the old red vinyl seats. The hours of the tide chart. The way the sunlight danced upon your face..."

Monday, June 26, 2006

I feel like a bad parent

I'm back from my trip. More on that later. Had a bit of a crisis last night. Pablo's tank overturned on my way home from picking him up at Mom's. Everything appears to be OK now. But it really freaked me out. It was like a nightmare.

I stopped the car in the middle of the road. Almost all the water had spilled out of the tank. I was hoping Pablo hadn't fallen out, but I didn't see him inside. Then I saw him in the floorboard. He flopped. I didn't know what to do. Would it hurt him if I touched him? I had no idea.

He flopped again. I saw a small piece of paper in the passenger's seat and gently slipped it underneath him. I put him back in the tank. There was barely enough water for him to sit in until we got home. He couldn't swim anywhere.

When I got home, I transferred him over to a bowl. I examined his tank and there was a small crack in the very top of it, but it was above the water line. So I cleaned out his tank and put fresh water in it. I dropped a food pellet into the bowl and he ate it, so I figured that was a good sign.

I was very worried all night. Still am. Pablo acted scared of me. He was staying away from me. Usually when I come near his tank, he swims over to me. But last night, he was swimming away. He was also resting a lot, being very still mostly just lying at the bottom of his tank.

This morning when I got out of the shower, he was darting around a bit like he usually does. I fed him three pellets and he ate them. Then I came home at lunch to check on him. He was swimming around a bit. I think fish have short memories. I hope.

He's still sleeping a lot this afternoon. Maybe he's resting from all the excitement. Or maybe he didn't get any rest being in a new atmosphere over the weekend. Or maybe he's injured. I don't know.

I don't know what I would do if something happened. He livens up this otherwise lonely place. Seeing my little friend lying on the floorboard flopping around yesterday was about the saddest sight I can think of.

Please let him be OK.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ask Pablo

I'm all packed and ready to go. Ready for the sun, the sand, and the warm ocean breeze. Oh, and I cleaned. Who cleans before going out of town?

Well, I thought Mom was going to come by and feed Pablo while I'm gone. But I ended up taking him over there.

This is the longest I've ever left the little feller. I was actually afraid Mom might see these leftover Festivus Human Fund Cards lying around and think I'm in some kind of cult.

Meanwhile, I thought this might be a fun thing to try since I'm going to be away for a few days. I saw Renee and Carmen do this several weeks ago.

While I'm gone, if you have any questions for my fish, Pablo Picasso, you may ask them in the comments.

Pablo will attempt to answer your questions when I get back from Florida next week.

See you in three days, Pablo!

"I took off for a weekend last month, just to try and recall the whole year. All of the faces and all of the places. Wonderin' where they all disappeared..."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Just say no?

"I know less about women than anyone in the world. But one thing I do know is they're not happy if you don't spend the night. It could be a hot, sweaty room, with no air conditioning, and all they have is a little army cot this wide... you're not going anywhere." - George Costanza

I don't know a lot about women. I'm not sure any guy ever truly does. But I'm learning. And one thing I've learned is that in certain situations, when you are asked certain questions by certain females, the only wise and acceptable answer is most certainly not yes.

I refer to such situations as automatic no's. Let's look at a few common examples.

"Do you think I'm getting fat?"

Why do girls ask this? We're not saying yes. I used to actually ponder this question. Seriously. As if I might really say something other than no. I would not be sitting here today had I ever answered yes to this question. Besides, you should know by now, a woman's physical appearance is not that important to men.

Now I waste so little brain energy on this question that I'm able to spend it on more important matters. Such as, can they still do a Beverly Hills 90210 reunion? Or now that the cast is all over 40, would it just be sad? Why can't I hula-hoop anymore? I could when I was a kid. And whatever happened to the "other" dad on My Two Dads? I mean, he was good in BJ & The Bear.

How about this one. "Do I call you too much?"

Another automatic no. "That would be impossible, Honey" is also acceptable here. She could be calling twice an hour, all day, everyday, and I could be on the verge of putting a gun to my head and blowing my brains out everytime the phone rings, and I would still say no.

Why? Because I know that if I say she might be calling just a tad too much, there's a chance that eventually she might stop calling at all. I know, I know, that's almost kinda sweet, isn't it.

Here's another. "Do you think she's prettier than me?"

This reminds me of a Jeff Foxworthy bit from a few years ago. His reply was something like, "Lord, no. I just hate tall blondes with big breasts."

Those are all relatively easy automatic no's. Any man who wants to maintain a relationship with a woman, and live to see the sunrise in the morning, should already know these. Now let's turn our attention to some less common situations.

"Would you mind if I mowed the lawn this week?"

While it is difficult for a rugged mountain man like myself to admit, times they are a-changin'. So I cringe as I say no to this one. I might respond with something like, "Well, I definitely don't want us to get stuck in ancient male and female stereotypical roles. So tell you what, you mow the grass and take out the trash and I'll... stay inside and watch General Hospital... and take care of the kids... even though we don't have any kids."

There's also the increasingly popular "Would you be mad if I made out in front of you with my hot girlfriend?"

Sometimes it's best to dress up your "no" as if you're having a hard time deciding. For this one, I might go with a heavy sigh, followed by, "I guess not. The things I do for you."

It stands to reason that just as there are automatic no's, there are questions to which the answer is always yes. Questions such, "Do you like my family?"

I learned a long time ago that a girl can say whatever she wants about her family, call them every name in the book twice. But that doesn't give me the right to say anything that might possibly be construed as even slightly negative about them. It's her family. Not mine.

Here's a question I used to sometimes answer with a no, but have recently discovered it should be an automatic yes. "Are you watching this?"

I could be half-asleep, eyes nearly shut, drool running down my chin, potato chips scattered down the front of my shirt, hypothetically speaking. The ballgame having gone off and given way to a Two Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place rerun, and I'm still saying yes.

Because I know the second I say no, she's turning it to WE to watch Bridezillas, Lifetime for the Meredith Baxter Birney marathon, or worst of all, TLC to watch that baby show or that wedding show.

I've made that mistake before. Five minutes into A Wedding Story, my frail, pleading voice can be heard coming from the vicinity of the couch. "Uhh, honey? I thought you were mowing the yard this week."

"He just keeps on movin'. Ladies keep improvin'. Every day is better than the last..."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Ex-Files: Summer of '91

This post is the second in a series. For now, I'm keeping it to girls I dated for at least two months. Also known as, until the new wears off.

It was the Spring of 1991. My favorite sports teams were in the midst of an incredible hot streak. The Reds had just won the '90 World Series. The Bulls were on their way to winning the first of their six NBA titles. And my Crimson Tide and Dallas Cowboys would soon follow suit in football. Life was good. And about to get much better.

I was at the mall with a couple of friends. In the arcade. Or as I liked to call it back then, my office. That's where I met Shelly. She was with friends as well. And one of her friends, Christy, had evidently come into the arcade with the sole intention of finding and introducing herself to my friend Mark.

While Christy went looking for Mark, Shelly and I started talking. We invited the girls to play putt-putt that night after leaving the mall. And as we sat on the bench by the 18th hole, I asked for Shelly's number.

The next few months we talked. Dated. Made out. A lot. Hung out at the ball fields, which was the cool thing to do then. And when Christy broke up with Mark for one of his best friends, we kept dating.

Shelly was pretty. I always thought so. My friends approved. Which shouldn't matter, but does when you're 18. She was plain and simple. And I mean that in the best possible way. I liked that about her. She had big, dark eyes. And brownish-blonde hair. More blonde than brown.

I fell in love. For the first time in my life. Heels over head. It sounds trite. And you may not think it possible. But I was in love with that girl. As much as an 18-year-old boy can be anyway. She introduced me to Beverly Hills 90210. How could I not love that?

She lived way out in the country. I'm talking two miles out a one-lane dirt road. Many nights that summer were spent on her parents' couch. Or on the front porch swing, looking out at the stars, listening to the crickets. And occasionally seeing the one neighbor who lived past them on that dirt road driving by like the mailman on Funny Farm.

It's amazing how much I've forgotten. And a little sad. There was a trip to Opryland with her church group sometime late that summer. And one night I got overly excited while making out and bit her lip, causing it to swell up and turn purple for three days. Why couldn't that be one of the memories I forget.

We dated the whole summer. Then came the fall. I'm not sure why we broke up, unless it was the lip-biting incident. I remember her acting like something was wrong. And then handing me a letter when I came over one night. What is it with these girls and letters? It said something about getting too serious and being too young.

She had told me a few weeks earlier that her mother had been talking to her and was worried about us getting so serious. So I always figured it had something to do with that. Either way, I was crushed. Shelly was my first broken heart.

Songs that remind me of her include "Everything I Do" by Bryan Adams, "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark (don't ask, cause I don't know), and "Then Again" by Alabama. It came on the radio as I drove home from her house that night. That was the first time I remember crying over a girl. Wouldn't be the last.

Nevertheless, when I think back to those days, I remember them with only fondness. And a smile. There was a sense of innocence in that summer, one that seems to get lost too often as we get older. It was young love. Pure, sweet, and simple. Just like her.

Thus went the summer of '91. Kinda like the summer of '42 without the sex. Or the older woman.

I ran into Shelly a few times after that summer. At ball games. At a concert. And most recently, at Wal-Mart two or three years ago, or more.

Not long after she got married, they tore Opryland down.

I loved that place.

"Oh how quick they slip away. Here today and gone tomorrow. Love and seasons never stay. Bitter winds are sure to follow..."

Monday, June 19, 2006

"You left a stain on everyone of my good days..."

In less than 96 hours, a blogger some of you may know (Me!) will be in (hopefully) sunny Florida. Barring any unforeseen encounters with Alabama's finest, of course, tryin' to catch us ridin' dirty. Called and booked a beach house Friday. Will be leaving Thursday after work and returning Sunday night.

Uh, speaking of ridin' dirty, my sister relayed this story to me over the weekend. (Hopefully this won't hurt my ratings in the 80-99 demographic.)

A girl she used to work with was assisting an older couple who had come into the office. After a couple of minutes she began to notice an awful stench. And its ripeness was growing by the second.

It got so bad she thought it was about to make her sick. So she excused herself and went out of the office to get some fresh air. She told a co-worker about this real-life olfactory nightmare. They speculated as to what it might be.

When she came back in, the smell was all but unbearable. It was an oddly familiar scent but she couldn't quite place it. At long last, the couple left.

That's when she saw it. A big wet spot in the chair where the man had been sitting.

No. It couldn't be... Could it? He couldn't have... Could he?

And all at once she recognized the scent. Urine. He could, would, and did.

She didn't know what to do. She went out to tell the manager what had happened and saw the man walking out the door, big wet spot on the back of his pants, confirming any remaining doubts she may have had.

So, bladder control problems: Sad or humorous? I guess it all Depends on which side of the stain you're sitting on.

Either way, looks like I may have to re-work my rules of public urination.

We close with some Seinfeld dialogue, from "The Couch":
Jerry: Is it...? Could it...? Could he have...? It is!! Poppie peed on my sofa!
Kramer: Are you sure?
Jerry: Well, what is it then? My new sofa! Poppie peed on my new sofa!
Kramer: I'm sure it'll come out.
Jerry: I don't care if it comes out! I can't sit on that anymore!
Kramer: Ah, you're making too much of it.
Jerry: Yeah, you're right. It's just a natural human function. Happens to be on my sofa, instead of in the toilet, where it would normally be.

"They see me rollin'. They hatin'. Patrollin' and tryin' to catch me ridin' dirty..."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Flashback: My Old Man

This would seem an easy choice, since it's Fathers Day weekend. However, this post still feels almost painfully personal to me, even to this day.

This was originally posted on July 21, 2005...

When I was quite young, probably five or six, Huntsville was the nearest place that you could legally buy alcohol. As far as I know, Dad has never even had a sip of alcohol since I have been alive.

For some reason, Mom and Dad liked to drive around on Saturdays and Sundays. And more than one time, when we would cross the river going towards Huntsville, Dad would tell me he was going to get drunk. He was kidding, but I thought he was serious. I don't know why that terrified me so, but I would cry and say, "No, Daddy! Please don't!" Gee, I can't wait to play that trick on my kids.

Some of my favorite memories are lying awake at night and asking Dad to tell me stories about when he was growing up. I could picture the stories in my mind as he was telling them. He was, and is, a simple man.

Whenever we would get a newer vehicle, Mom would drive it, and Dad would always take the lesser one. He never seemed to care too much for material things. He thought the kind of person you are was more important than what you had, and that is what he tried to teach me.

I like to think that's one of the things I got from him. Along with my height. Thankfully. As my Mom is about 5 feet tall. I've heard too many girls say they have an issue with dating a guy who is shorter than them. I'm glad Dad's genes won out in that battle.

Dad never cared for sports, playing or watching. And even though he knew that Saturdays in the fall meant the rest of the family would be gathered around the TV or radio for the Alabama game, he'd always have to ask us later who won.

Still, I remember him shooting basketball with me a few times in the backyard. He had one of those I-feel-sorry-for-him-because-his-form-is-so-bad-but-at-least-he's-trying shots. Kinda warms your heart.

Of course, all the memories aren't good. He had a short temper and yelled a lot when I was younger. Then there was my "I hate you" stage. (That was fun, huh, Dad?) He wasn't perfect. Neither was I. But I guess when it comes to looking back on the past, I tend to dwell on the good.

His father died before I turned two years old. He never spoke much of it, but I always wondered how he dealt with that. He did not have much family, just two half-brothers who were at least fifteen years his elder. His mother passed away in 1986 (I think). So Mom's family, eleven brothers and sisters, became his family.

On the 4th of July weekend of 1998, I was at work on an early Sunday morning when Mom called and said that she was at the hospital. Dad suffered from acid reflux, and he'd had an incident that night which triggered an asthma attack. He couldn't get his breath and a lot of fluid had gotten in his lungs. The ER nurse had told Mom to "call the family in."

Those words hit you like a ton of bricks, stop you in your tracks. If you've never gotten that call, there is no way to explain it. I rushed up there to see him. Thankfully, some paramedics happened by, inserted a tube in his throat, and long story short, after a few days in the ICU, Dad was OK. But I remember so many of Mom's brothers and sisters and cousins being at the hospital that day. Dad was never like an in-law to them.

Last night, I was trying to think of one memory, one story, that would sum up Dad. Well, this is the best I could come up with. When my engagement ended, in 1999, I was crushed. As I had spent basically all my free time with my girlfriend/fiancee over the past four years, suddenly I had nothing to do. Worse, I didn't want to do anything. I couldn't eat. It was as close to depression as I have ever been.

I could tell Dad was concerned. One evening after work, he took me out to dinner, just me and him. We had never really just gone out to dinner just to be going. Soon, this became a Monday evening ritual.

The first couple of times, we talked mostly about what I was going through. But after that, we would just talk about life in general, work, anything and everything. Our Monday night dinners would eventually come to an end, after several months, or a year, or more. But that always meant a lot to me.

When I was little, anytime I would have to ask Mom and Dad for money or anything, I would always say, "I'm gonna pay you back someday." And I had every intention of doing so. But after 33 years of accumulating debt, it has become clear that I will never be able to repay the balance in full.

I decided a few years ago that really the only way to repay my parents is to try to do the same things for my kids, if ever I'm so blessed.

So, anyhow, happy Fathers Day, Dad. And thanks for not getting drunk.

"The roots of my raisin' run deep. I come back for the strength that I need. And hope comes no matter how far down I sink..."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Running on tracks with boys

Reason #38 I can't get into soccer: "France and Switzerland played to a scoreless tie." (Heard on sports radio yesterday.) Sounds scintillating. Wish I had TiVo'd that one. Or, just wish I had TiVo. If I want something that just drags on and on and no one ever scores... well... nevermind. On with today's post...

I make the following statement having demonstrated an unblemished lifelong pattern of staunch heterosexual behavior... It's not easy to meet nice guys.

As I have gotten older, my number of single friends has dwindled. Some have gotten married. Some have moved away. Some just started freakin' me out.

As this has occurred, I have noticed that there haven't been many new friends to replace the departed. So that now I'm left with only a handful of good, single, male friends.

Thus leaving me with predicaments such as the one I faced this past weekend. I wanted to go to Cincinnati to see the Reds play. I had the weekend off. I figured, why not. Of the couple of friends I have who actually like sports and might go on such a road trip, one had to work Saturday night, and the other was helping his girlfriend move a couch.

Sure there were girls I could have asked. And girls are great to hang out with. I think every guy needs at least one girl in his life who is just a really good, close friend. The problem is, at least with the single girls in my life, many have an interest in being more than friends. I tend to shy away from such interaction to avoid possible awkward situations. Bascially, I'm horrible at saying no.

And if I approach a girl, ask for her number, and tell her I just want to be friends. Well, that sounds like a line. So now I'm back to trying to meet guys. Except, at my age, it isn't easy to meet new guys to hang out with.

Once you reach a certain age, it seems to me the friends you have are pretty much the ones you're stuck with from here on out. Once you're out of college, there aren't that many places to meet new people. Or at least, to do so requires a lot more effort. This can be a bit of a problem for the thirtysomething, but still virile, bachelor.

I suppose the most common place to meet new friends post-campus is on the job. But everyone I work with is either still in college or well over forty and married. So we don't hang out that much outside of the workplace.

Other common places for meeting people are bars and clubs. I don't know about any of my male readers, but I'm not really comfortable going up to a guy in a club and asking for his number.

It's easy to strike up a conversation with a guy while watching the game on TV. But once the game is over, that brief friendship is over as well. We've all been around that guy in the bar who is a little too clingy. A little too chatty during the game. Nobody wants to be that guy. I can only imagine if he asked me to hang out later. Freaky!

Also, what if I meet a gay guy? Then I have to wonder whether he wants to be more than friends. As you ladies know, there's nothing more uncomfortable than having to tell a guy you're not interested in him romantically. Besides, as I said, I have a hard time saying no.

Last night while I was running the track, I passed a guy on my first lap who looked to be in his late 30's. As I got about a quarter of the way around my second lap (it's a 1.5 mile track), I hear footsteps behind me. I turn around and see this guy has picked up his pace and is now following me at about 15 yards.

Then, as I get about halfway thru that lap, he jogs up beside me and strikes up a conversation.
"How many laps you running?"
"Just two tonight."
"No, two."
"Oh. Me, too... what lap are you on?"
"This is my second."
"Mine, too."
"It's not too hot at night."
"No, this is good."
And he jogs on ahead.

OK, this is very odd. I've never had a guy say more than a passing "hey" to me on the track. As I near the end of my lap, I see he has completed his run and is standing on the side of the trail with his hands on his knees, recovering. And I have to run a ways past him to get to where I parked.

I wonder should I say anything? Will he say anything? Was he just being friendly? Or did he want to hang out later? What's the etiquette here? Will it be rude if I don't speak as I go by?

As I approach him, he raises his head as if he is going to say something. But he doesn't. So as I pass by I say, "Take it easy." He doesn't respond.

Why did I say that? Why! Take it easy. Take it easy. Duh! What does that even mean anyway? How could I be so stupid? He wasn't interested. He was just being friendly. And even if he was, who would want to hang out with someone who's best guy-to-guy pick-up line is "Take it easy?"

Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna meet a nice guy.

"I'm runnin' down the road tryin' to loosen my load. I got seven women on my mind..."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Open door policy?

I got a new next-door neighbor about, uh, two or five months ago. He seems to work odd hours. I've only seen him two or three times since he moved in and we've never said more than "hi" a time or two.

The other night I had gone to Taco Bell. I don't think he was home when I left. Sat in the Taco Bell line for about twenty minutes. Seriously thought about calling the 1-800 "how did we do" number. But then the drive thru worker said, "Sorry for your wait." Somehow that eased my frustrations.

I feel I have a good rapport with the fast food industry. I've known drive-thru workers. I've been a drive-thru worker. OK, so I haven't been one. But I've known some. Remember, fast food workers can spit in your food at anytime. I always try to keep that in mind. And not give them any extra incentive to do so. But now we're a bit off topic.

When I got home, the neighbor's truck was there and the driver's door was wide open. I tried inconspicuously looking in the cab to see if he was leaned over dead or something. But I didn't see him, and there were no signs of a struggle.

I figured maybe he'd just gotten home and was planning to come right back outside to get something else out of the truck. So I decided to go in and eat and see if it was still open when I got done.

It was about 10:00 or so by the time I got done and looked out the window. Door still open. No sign of neighbor. So now I figure I have to tell him.

But what if he thinks I did it? Plus, I'd been home at least thirty minutes already. He'll wonder why I didn't tell him when I first got home. Why had I waited? What had I been doing this whole time? All these things scenarios begin running thru my head and I don't know what to do.

Then it crosses my mind maybe I should just shut it myself. I could shut the door. No one would ever know about this little incident. But what if he hears me? What if he looks out and sees me walking back to my house? How would that look. Or what if the complex has security cameras?

And what if someone has already stolen something out of his truck? My fingerprints would be all over that door. How did this get to be the crime of the century? I was only trying to be a good neighbor.

Or maybe he meant to leave it open. Maybe the lock is broken and if I shut it he'd be locked out. Maybe I should just not say anything. Maybe no one heard or saw me come home. I could say I'd been home all night and I hadn't seen the open door. No! I can't lie. Stop it, Bone. You're overthinking again.

I peek thru the mini-blinds one more time, hoping against hope that my eyes have betrayed me and that the door has been closed all along. No dice.

I decide to ring his doorbell and hope for the best. It takes him a minute to come to the door. I hear him turning the lock. This is it.

He appears sleepy-eyed and wearing green scrubs. I deduce he must work at a hospital. He shook my hand. About the time I got out, "Hey, I just came home from Taco Bell and noticed your truck door was open..." he had already seen it. And was walking towards it mouthing, "What the..."

He said something about how absent-minded it was. That it had been a long day at work. And thanks for telling him. And had I seen the dead body in the back.

I assured him I had not. And quickly retreated to my locked, safe abode. Another near-disaster averted.

"Turning back, she just laughs. The boulevard is not that bad..."

Monday, June 12, 2006

I love surprises

I must begin today by saying thanks to Dea for helping with my new banner. I took the picture and she mostly did the rest. Sometimes I try and imagine how thankful she must be that I have her email address and AOL screen name. Anyway, thanks Dea. It has gotten several compliments already. And just for that, I'll try and take it easy on you next time in Yahoo pool.

Reason #138 that I need to be married: So that someone will be there to stop me from going out the door in the morning to face the world looking like an idiot.

I remember when I was young and my Dad would wear one blue and one black sock. It wasn't a fashion statement, it was unintentional. I would think, how in the world does that happen? I'm beginning to understand.

I almost always wear a t-shirt under whatever shirt I'm wearing. And a couple of these t-shirts, as they're worn mostly as undershirts, are a bit ragged and/or have pit stains.

As I was walking into work this morning I realized that (1) I had forgotten to put on a belt and (2) I had forgotten to put on a shirt over my undershirt. It was like one of those scary underwear dreams. Except I did have my jeans on. And I wasn't at school. And I wasn't crouching in a corner covering myself.

After a quick scan revealed only minor level one stains, I briefly contemplated toughing it out with what I had on for the rest of the day. But decided that was no way to begin my week. So I went home and added the two forgotten items to my Monday outfit, magically turning "sloppy weekend loungewear" into "casual Monday." Who says you can't go home.

George: "I can't stand doing laundry. That's why I have 40 pair of underwear."
Girl: "You do not."
George: "Absolutely. Because instead of doing a wash, I just keep buying underwear. My goal is to have over 360 pair. That way I only have to do a wash once a year."

I went to CVS after work today. Bought a four roll pack of toilet paper, an eight pack of Reese's cups, and a twelve pack of Dr. Pepper. At Wal-Mart Saturday night, I bought a half gallon of skim milk, a twelve pack of Sun Drop, and some fish food. This, in a nutshell, is my life.

Why do things always come in threes, sixes, eights, or twelves? Why are there no eleven packs? Or seven packs? I think seven packs would be ideal. Especially for underwear. That'd be one pair for every day of the week. Or what about a 365 pack? Now that's a real underwear dream.

The weekend turned out to be much more eventful and exhausting than I anticipated. I received two surprise phone calls Saturday. My sister called around 11:00, as I was lounging in my underwear, having just finished my hot cakes and sausage from McDonald's. She invited me to go out on the lake on their boat.

We boated--is that what it's called--and swam whilst discussing such pressing matters as whether a grilled cheese sandwich or fried bologna sandwich would taste better at that very moment. I said fried bologna. She said grilled cheese. Sometimes I wonder how we're even related :)

Also on Saturday, I got a surprise call from an old friend. The only girl I've ever formally and soberly proposed to. Yes, her. The ex-fiancee. I really need to come up with a name to use for her on the blog.

She was in town and wanted to go out. In a rare occasion which can only be compared to all the planets aligning, I had no prior plans for the evening. We played putt-putt and had dinner. Writing my name below hers on that scorecard was like a ten year time warp to the past.

After that, we went and watched people singing karaoke. That's usually some good, cheap entertainment. The best are the people who seriously believe they are on their way to the top.

We were gonna sing a duet to "Love Shack" but the line was long and we left before it was our turn. That would have been interesting. Got home around 2:30. As always, it was good to catch up.

Oh, before I forget. I must give a shout out to the woman in the pleated khaki shorts, knee socks, and tucked-in faded maroon Duck Head t-shirt who sang Shania Twain's "The Woman In Me." I was feelin' ya, momma. Next stop, Nashville.

And also, two big hellos to the voluptuous female who was sitting across the table we were standing by, wearing a top that showed the outskirts of her areolar region. She kept offering me a seat. And at one point offered us all a full view of her 38 double-D's. Butros... Butros... Ghali!

I just love surprises.

"Huggin' and a-kissin', dancin' and a-lovin'. Wearin' next to nothin' cos it's hot as an oven..."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I Wonder

I wonder where she is right now
Is the sun shining on her face
Was she at work today
Or maybe shopping downtown

Is she happy
Or does she long for something more
Is it something from her past
Or that thing she's never felt

Does she sit up nights alone
Wondering if, wondering when
Will she settle for something less
Or will she hold out hope

Do I know her name
Have our paths ever crossed
If not, will they cross
If they have, has our chance been lost

Have I talked to her this week
Or do we hardly ever speak
Or have we never talked at all
And how will I know

Did I see her at the store today
Or did I pass her on the street
Is she a thousand miles away
Or right behind my eyes

Will I know it when I meet her
Or did I know it when I met her
Will I do something to lose it
Or is it already gone

Will it be magical
Hard work, or will it come easy
Do you really just know
Or take your best guess

I wonder if she's reading this
I wonder if she even exists
I wonder

"I'm glad I didn't die before I met you. Now I don't care. I could go anywhere with you, and I'd probably be happy..."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Day Two: Natchez Trace

My plan was to be on the road by 10:00 Saturday morning. My ultimate goal was to see and photograph the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge. I had passed beneath it once before, travelling from Nashville to Memphis, and was fascinated with it. Remember thinking it looked like something out of the video game Halo.

I awoke around 8:45 after a peaceful night's sleep at the Belmont, showered and went into the dining room for breakfast. Had a bowl of cereal, a glass of orange juice, and a couple bites of a honey bun. Loaded up the car. Said goodbye to the innkeeper. Took a picture of the outside of the hotel. And was on the road shortly after 10:00.

Stopped to fill up on my way out of town at a BP station. There was no pay at the pump option. The gas pumps didn't have credit card machines in them, so you had to go inside to pay. That only added to the slower pace, the old-fashionedness--and yes, the quaintness--of the town.

About fifteen minutes down the road, I realized from the map that while I was on the right highway, I was going the wrong way. So I had to backtrack. All the while I was listening to a local AM radio station.

At 10:25, the announcer came on to read the day's local birthdays and anniversaries. Then he announced the winner of the daily birthday drawing. Then proceeded to announce each winner of the drawing for the past week, going all the way back to the previous Sunday. Finally, he said, "Tune in at the bottom of every hour for the birthdays and anniversaries." They read the birthdays off every hour?

That was followed by a rather lenghty live community calendar. Which was followed by a pre-recorded ad that said, "Tune in for the funeral announcements three times a day." Throw in a few commercials, and it was 10:39 by the time they played another song. It was like I was driving around in my Model A Ford waiting for FDR's fireside chat to come on.

It was nearly 11:00 by the time I got to the Trace. End to end, the Trace is 444 miles long. It's almost entirely two lanes and the speed limit is 50 the whole way. There are no stop signs or traffic lights. No stores or commercialization. Mostly just trees and fields on either side of the road and signs that say "Historical Site 0.5 miles." The bridge is located around milepost 438. I entered the Trace around milepost 302. So I had about 140 miles of driving ahead of me.

One of my first stops was Colbert Ferry. The story here was a man who operated a Ferry along the Trace across the Tennessee River. And that he once charged Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry his army across. I encountered a lady and little girl walking a puppy here. As I approached the puppy started barking. I spoke.
"I was gonna say what a cute puppy, but now I'm not so sure."
"She acts mean, but she's all talk," the lady replied.
The puppy then proceeded to walk around and in between my feet, pulling on her leash. Looked like a Spaniel. It was cute. All the while the little girl was saying, "She is cute. She is cute."
"She sure is. And so are you," I said, as I walked back to my car.

There was a hike there, but I didn't take it. The next place I remember stopping was Rock Spring. I did take a 20-minute hike along a trail there. And took some pictures. I was nervous at first about leaving my vehicle and walking off into the woods by myself. But soon got used to it.

There wasn't much traffic along the Trace. There were a few cyclists. But the most common site was bikers. Mostly riding alone or in pairs. Rarely would a car come up behind me. Maybe three or four times the whole trip. It was nice to drive along at 50 miles an hour and not be in a hurry or feel like I was going too slow.

Three different times I had to slow down, almost to a stop, to let what I believe were wild turkeys cross the road. One of the times there was a mother with her young. She made sure all the young crossed first, then she followed. It was beautiful!

Still, at this pace, it soon became evident that I was going to have to be selective with my stops. One stop that I wish I hadn't skipped was the Meriweather Lewis Site. Which has a monument to the explorer of Lewis & Clark fame. He died along the Trace, of gunshot wounds, while travelling from Louisiana to Washington, D.C.

I wanted to stop at places where there were hiking trails, but the maps weren't always clear on that. I also tried to stop at any place with Falls in its name. Two such places were Fall Hollow and Jackson Falls. Both had fairly steep trails.

I got off the Trace sometime around 3:00 and drove into Columbia, Tennessee, to get lunch. Brought the food back to Jackson Falls and ate at a picnic table there. Then I hiked down to the bottom of the falls. The hike at Jackson Falls was the longest and most intense that I went on that day. I was a bit disappointed as there wasn't much water coming down. I got much better pictures at Fall Hollow earlier in the afternoon.

The hikes were my favorite part of the whole trip. Just walking thru nature, nearly untouched by man. Hearing birds singing. Seeing all kinds of trees, plants, flowers, insects, in their natural habitat. The hikes were my favorite part.

It was probably 4:30 by the time I got back on the Trace. I don't think I stoppped again until I got to the bridge. And there it was.

Spanning more than 1600 feet across. Rising 155 feet below the valley below. It was beautiful. With its graceful arches and artful design. I remember when I was little, I was scared of bridges. Now I'm fascinated by them.

I took several pictures, both from bridge level, and then from the valley down below. And then it was time to go.

There was a Krispy Kreme in Franklin that had been calling my name for the last couple of hours. I stopped off there, and then hit the interstate home. Back to life. Back to 80 miles an hour.

But sometimes, every once in awhile, it's good to slow down.

"Don't tell me how to be. Cos I like some suffering. Don't ask me what I need. I'm just fine here finding me..."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Day One: Belmont Hotel

Em eye crooked-letter crooked-letter eye, crooked-letter crooked-letter eye, humpback humpback eye...

Took a short road trip this weekend. Spent the night in Mississippi Friday night, then drove up about 140 miles of the Natchez Trace on Saturday.

This post was basically lifted directly from the pages of my spiral notebook, since I am one of twelve people in the United States with no laptop. It seemed interesting at midnight Friday night as I was lying alone in a hotel bed in a small town in Mississippi. Then again, a spider on the wall would have probably seemed interesting at that point in time.

I really have no idea how to describe the furniture and decor, as my descriptive furniture adjectives are limited to "pretty," "old-lookin," and the colors in the 16 count Crayola box. Perhaps some of you would like to take a shot.

Spending the night at the "historical" Belmont Hotel, advertised as the oldest hotel in Mississippi. It was built in 1924. There just feels like a lot of history here. Best I can tell, it's the only hotel in this town of 1900-plus people. Actually, I would say it's more of a bed and breakfast.

I searched online for hotels or hostels near the Natchez Trace. The website where I found this one said a room would be $55-$60 per night. But when I called ahead to see if there were any rooms available, I was told it would only be $35 plus tax. Decision made.

I arrived sometime after 9:00 tonight. The drive over was uneventful. The Belmont is a block off the main road thru town. The street was completely dead, and rather dark, when I arrived. There were only two cars parked out front. And I didn't see a sign that said hotel. But I was fairly certain this was the building, from the picture I'd seen on the internet.

Approaching the front door, I noticed a for sale sign in the window. As I was already a bit hesitant about staying at any hotel for only $35 a night, I thought to myself that might be a bad sign. But while it's obviously an old building, and looks it, from the outside. Upon entering, it quickly becomes clear that the place has been well taken care of and refurbished.

There's a staircase along the left wall of the lobby. The front desk is located on the right side of the room, about even with the foot of the stairs. I pressed a buzzer on the front desk and within seconds the innkeeper appeared. He was a shorter gentleman, wearing a black shirt and black pants, who looked to be in his fifties. He had closely-cropped grayish-white hair and a kind voice. I paid for one night and was given a key to my room, and another key to the hotel's front door. Apparently it is locked overnight. One of many charming peculiarities about the hotel.

Behind the front desk and thru a doorway I saw what appeared to be a dining room. I thought it to be almost elegant, with chandeliers and solid wood tables. I really liked all the furniture in the lobby and dining room. As well as the rugs, curtains, mirrors, wallpaper--everything.

After showing me to my room, the innkeeper said they would put out breakfast in the dining room in the morning. He also pointed to a door off the left side of the dining room and said that I could find ice and "cold drinks" there.

I assumed my room would be upstairs. It's not. The door to my room is underneath the staircase. The first thing I noticed about the room were the high ceilings. I'd guess they are at least fourteen feet high. I could have jumped on the bed and never once come close to hitting my head on the ceiling. Not that I did.

I imagine this whole place--guest rooms, lobby, dining room, decor--looks similar to what it might have looked like seventy, eighty years ago. It's wonderfully quiet and homey. I love it! It's quaint. That's what it is. And quaint is good.

After I brought my bags in and got settled, I decided to go get something to drink from the "ice and cold drinks" room. I found the ice dispenser and filled a bucket with ice, but couldn't find the drink machine. I was about to give up when I saw a mini-fridge in the corner. I opened it and found it stocked full of can Cokes, Diet Cokes, and Dr. Peppers. On top of the refrigerator was a box with a slot in the top, labeled "Drinks 50 ¢ each." The honor system!

I couldn't help but smile as I put a dollar in the box and took two Dr. Peppers. And even now, I'm smiling as I write about it. So much about this hotel and town brings to mind an earlier time. With a slower pace. Like somehow the world has mostly passed it by. And no one here seems to mind. It almost feels like I've gone back in time. And I almost wish I didn't have to leave. I love this place.

It's midnight now. Planning to get up tomorrow, have breakfast, and start up the Trace, which is only five or six miles from here. Gonna finish my Dr. Pepper and go to sleep. Until tomorrow...

"Today I took a detour down a back road, thru a little town whose name I can't recall. There were old men on benches playin' checkers. Children playin' hopscotch on the square. And high above a statue of an unknown soldier, Old Glory was waving in the air..."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday Flashback: Male Restroom Etiquette

May be doing a short road trip this weekend. An overnight trip, or maybe just a long drive. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week's Friday Flashback.

Of all the posts I've written, this is one of my three or four favorites. Not that I have them all ranked or anything. It's the quintessential Bone. Me in my element. The restroom. If there are two things I know about, it's Seinfeld and restrooms. And it really didn't take that long to write, either. I hope you enjoy it.

This was originally posted October 21, 2005.

Picture the following... You find yourself at the airport, with an impending renal requirement. After walking past several gates, you finally see the restrooms. The urinator's oasis. You rush inside. Fortunately, it's not crowded. There are maybe 15 wall stalls, and only a couple are taken. You position yourself at the second stall from the left, four urinals down from your nearest fellow leaker, unzip, and let it go. Ahhhh.

Suddenly, without warning, midway through your discharge, your personal space is invaded. Without any thought for common sense and everything that is good and homophobic, someone sets up camp at the far left urinal, right next to you! What the freak?!

This situation happened to me recently. Twice! I had to fight my natural instinct to yell out "What the crap?!" to the offending parties. As a friend of mine said to me when I relayed this story to him, "You can't pee with someone right next to you!" Indeed!

Of course, it's much too painful to try and cut off the flow and move. But it was all I could do not to switch stalls midstream. These events have prompted me to compose this entry.

There are unspoken rules of men's room etiquette. I don't know how we know them, we just do. Well, most of us anyway. Some are common sense. Some, otherwise. I will now attempt to acquaint you with some of the more important rules and procedures for the very natural process of urinating in a public forum.

Rule #1. Always, ALWAYS leave a buffer zone of at least one urinal between you and the nearest peer. Always. Simple enough? Apparently not for the dysfunctional pee people I encountered. I will allow some leeway on this rule if and only if there is some sort of partition between urinals. But even then, skip a space if at all possible.

Rule #2. If it is impossible to skip at least one urinal, then check for an open stall. Yes, that's right the good old traditional sit-down toilet. Most of these are fully-enclosed, except for perhaps a foot or two of space at the bottom.

If no stall is available, then I recommend leaving and coming back at a later time. Although waiting is acceptable, as long as you wait over by the sink. Don't wait directly behind someone who is doing his business. I mean, really, most of us have been in prison at one time or another, and it's just a little uncomfortable, that's all.

Rule #3. Once you're at your station, employ the three 'S' method of public urination. Snuggle, Straight, Silent. Get in close, look straight ahead, and don't speak.

No one likes a loosey-goosey-necked urinator. Don't look around. No one likes a long-distance bomber either. Get as close as possible to the porcelain without touching it. And don't make small talk. It's not a social event. It's a bodily function.

Besides, you should be more worried about what you would do if someone were to steal your wallet right at this very moment. Because really, this would be the opportune time to do so, don't you think? That's what I always think about when I am peeing anyway.

Addendum A. (The Stall Clause). If you're using the toilet... defacating... and you get done, please wait until the restroom is completely clear before exiting and washing up. You've just done that. And we don't want to put a face with the odor, Stinky. Really.

I guess that will do for now.

Next, let's look at a couple of examples. These are situations that you might very well encounter, and how best to handle them.

Situation 1: There are five urinals and three stalls. Urinals #2 and #5 are occupado. What do you do?

Answer: Since it would be impossible to skip a urinal on each side, check the stalls. If you can't find an open stall, you may pretend to wash your hands until a urinal comes open, or just leave and come back in a little while. If urinals 1 and 5 would have been occupied, you could have safely and properly squeezed in at urinal 3.

Also, as a side note here, let me say this. Beware of the stinky stall surprise. For some reason, people either don't like to flush public toilets, or don't know how. If you encounter this unpleasant stink bomb, exit the stall immediately and find another appropriate location.

Situation 2: There are three urinals. The far left one is occupied. The other two are open.

Answer: This one is easy. Use the far right urinal. For added protection, you might also employ a 30 degree turn, what I like to call the privacy turn, away from the other urinals. This works especially well on an end urinal.

Now for some reader questions. Or questions that I made up and attributed to readers. Whichever.

One readers asks, "Bone, what if I enter an empty restroom? Is there a best choice of urinals?"

I'm glad you asked. You're only going to be in there for a short time, hopefully, unless you have some sort of problem. So it doesn't matter so much. Still, to be safe, choose an end urinal. Then, if someone were to violate the one-urinal buffer zone rule, you could still do the 30 degree turn and get a small measure of privacy.

Also, sometimes the sinks are next to the urinals. If this is the case, choose a urinal away from the sink. That way no one who might come in to wash his hands will be tempted to sneak a peek, if you know what I mean.

Another reader wants to know, "What about the restrooms that have large tub-like basins to pee into, Bone? What's proper etiquette there?"

I know exactly what you're talking about. And this is pretty much a judgment call. First, I would try to find an unoccupied basin. If there are none, look for a stall. Still no luck? It might be possible to urinate in the same basin as somone else. It really all depends on the basin size.

If there's any chance your streams could cross, then you definitely want to avoid that. How awkward would that be. I mean, if you're gonna do that, you might as well hold hands. Even if no one is there, always position yourself near one end of the basin. Similarly with the restrooms that just have streams of water running down the wall into a drain (I hate those), it's a judgment call. A good rule of thumb always is to allow as much distance as possible.

In closing, I hope we can all see from these points I've tried to make that when a man enters a public restroom, the choice of stalls is not some haphazard, random, close-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best process. That's OK in the bedroom. But not here. This is much more important.

The renality of it is this. It's a logical process. And it's not that difficult. With apologies to Janet Jackson, we all live in a urine nation. So let's make the best of it. You can't just go anywhere. However, if you apply yourself and follow these simple guidelines, you too can engage in proper public urination. And that means a better, safer, more pees-ful world for all of us.

Also be looking for my future diatribes, including:
Outdoor urination: When? Where? And which bushes are prickly?
High and low urinals: The long and short of it
Proper flushing technique: The kick flush (You can always burn your shoes later)
Proper handwashing: The paper towel first technique
Hand blowers: Patience rewarded
The split-stream: That rarest of all male urination phenomena

"Ain't it funny how a melody can bring back a memory? Take you to another place and time. Completely change your state of mind..."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Office mascot

A conversation between the secretary and me, overheard this morning somewhere deep inside Building A at Branch Davidian East, also known as, where I work...

"Bone, I have a surprise for you. It's in my office."

I get out of my chair and follow her down the hall, my curiosity peaked. What could it be? A hot, new voluptuous college intern? Are they finally going to extend the doors on the bathroom stalls all the way to the floor for some real privacy? Maybe those men in black suits and sunglasses are here to talk to me again...

We get to her office and she points to a chair. In it I see the cutest little brown puppy ever lying in a cute little puppy bed.

"Aww, it's so cute!" I say, as I kneel to pet it.
"Rocky got it for me." Rocky, her husband. The puppy appears to be sleeping. Its stomach moving up and down as it breathes.
"What kind is it?" I ask. Softly petting its head, not wanting to wake it.
"It's a little Dachshund."
"Hmm. I've never seen one that small."
"I know. Ain't he cute?"
"I love it! Are you gonna bring it everyday?!" I ask hopefully.
"Yeah!" I'm very excited now.
"It's so cute!" I say, as I stand up to go back to work. Then I see the wicked, deceptive, evil smile on her face.
"It's not real."
She starts laughing, picks it up and turns it over. It's completely stiff. And flat on the bottom.
"Augh!!" I'm crushed. "I thought it was real," I speak almost pleadingly now, in a can-it-please-be-real tone.
"But... but... I was so excited!" Now I'm more like a child who's just been told there's no Santa.
More laughter.
"I was even afraid I was gonna wake it up!" I say, almost angrily.
Still more laughter.

Augh!!! They fooled me, Jerry. It's not being fooled that bothers me. I can take a joke better than most. It's just that my hopes were crushed, like a tiny ant by a heartless sledge hammer. I'm so disappointed. I wanted a puppy. It looked so real. Even now, I just went out to see it again. It's still "breathing."

On the bright side, I guess my role as office mascot is safe for a while longer. Oh, let's face it. There is no bright side. What kind of sick, demented person came up with the idea for a puppy who fake breathes?!

"Don't say you're easy on me. You're about as easy as a nuclear war..."