Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tummy Dearest

I never really appreciated you, my loyal, trusty stomach until you crapped out on me during our recent trip to Vermont.

I knew things were not right when, as I studied a plate of rib eye (medium rare), scalloped potatoes, and baby string beans, you groaned up to me that you were not able to participate. I can’t even recall the last time you could not answer the call to duty.

You have always been my reliable, eager partner in our gustatory shenanigans. Every buffet, cocktail hour, cookout, was a challenge you welcomed. “Bring it on”, you would say in your husky grumble. Try the goat? Sure, you would gurgle.

You swelled with pride when Kathie would pat you and say that she thought you could grind down pig iron. You jiggled with glee the time the waiter at the Spanish restaurant asked if we would like to pack up what was left in our Paella pot. Upon seeing there was nothing there he said: “Oh, you ate it all. Most people don’t.” It was one of our finest moments.

You have always had my best interests at heart, but I have let you down on too many occasions. You know that we may have hit a bumpy patch with me being jobless, so you, like the good half Irish stomach you are, have been bulking up for the Starving Time. And how do I thank you? Would it kill me to go to a larger pants size so you can have a little comfort? My false pride says no, so you are forced to dangle beyond the beltway exposed and alone.

And you have always had the best interests of mankind at heart, as well. You knew, as our Mom told us, children in China would starve if we didn’t clean our plate. A lifetime of clean plates? China an economic juggernaut? Coincidence? I don’t think so!

Still, in the words of Kenny Rogers, You Picked A Bad Time To Leave Me, Lucille.
On vacation, no less...On the American Plan, no less...gourmet meals every night, no less. If I didn’t know you better, I would say it was spiteful, almost bilious, on your part.

Still, I am sure it was something that I did to upset you. Kathie blames my using the old ice cubes in the personal fridge that was in our room. Maybe so, but how was I to chill my glass of wine without walking 100 feet to the ice machine? I would have had to put my shoes back on. You know me better than that.

I am proud of you though. You rallied on the last night and made short work of a shrimp scallopine and finished with a flourish by downing the carrot cake.

What is that you say? Isn’t the damn chicken done yet? That’s my boy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Me & Tubby PC

The TV ad for Macintosh characterizes the PC as a somewhat overweight but neat and prissy man. The Mac dude on the other hand is slim, young and contemporary.

I’m cool with the Mac guy, but I disagree with the PC portrayal. He should be a big, fat, whiney slob who is also a nag and a pack rat. He also is prone to hardening of the arteries.

I have always had Macs at the office and at home. A year or so ago, Kathie and I purchased a Dell PC laptop thinking that this was the way the world was going. As usual, the world is going the wrong way.

I hate the damn thing. My Mac was just like the guy in the ads. He was cool and laid back and just let me do my work. Tubby PC is always yapping at me about something: “you must get this update NOW!”

He also has his own agenda. My favorite is when he announces that something that he has just done, totally without my permission, has been completed and the computer will shut down in 2 minutes. Hello, I’m still working here!

He’s fat because he eats too many cookies. This apparently has had a very negative impact on his circulatory system. He has slowed down now to a speed that even the designers of the original Univac couldn’t bear. When you ask him to do something, you can hear his little gears grinding away as he struggles to get it done. He’s like an obese guy trying to mow his grass with a push mower. You can practically hear him huff and puff.

Sometimes like me when I am standing in front of the refrigerator trying to remember why I am there, he forgets what he is doing and nothing happens. Then I have to reclick the icon to remind him and start the huffing and puffing all over again.

He also has a sarcastic sense of humor. The little hour glass he displays on the screen while he slowly labors is a constant reminder of my life slipping away.

I asked my brother-in-law who was a systems analyst before he retired and is still into computers why it behaves like this. He explained that it picks up all sorts of extraneous stuff, i.e. cookies from the internet that slow it down over the course of time. His fix for this is to buy a new computer.

My fix is to swear at Tubby PC and to weigh my chances of reaching the neighbors pool if I hurl him like a discus.

This didn’t happen with my Mac. Apparently the nefarious sorts who produce cookies, viruses, worms, etc. can’t be bothered with Macs because there are too few of them. That’s fine with me. Let them keep picking on the fat kid.

I will buy a new Mac laptop at the earliest possible moment, i.e. when I have the money.
Of course, I will have to go to the store to do it. It would be asking too much of Tubby for me to try to order it over the internet.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pass the Veggies

I think I might do okay as a vegetarian.

The reason this came up is that my son, Kris, recently announced that he is becoming a vegetarian. He read a book about all of the yucky stuff they put in meat these days. He apparently has not yet read the book about all the yucky stuff they put in vegetables these days.

Kris is very disciplined about things like diet and exercise, so this may, in fact, be a life style change.

So this got me thinking about how I might do as a vegetarian. Well, the first barrier has already been cleared: there are no meat products in a martini. In fact, I could not think of one single alcoholic beverage that contains meat. There might be one that’s made from distilled pig’s knuckles or something. I wouldn’t put it past the Germans to come up with something like that, but I’m not going there anyway.

That critical baseline having been established, I am also good on some of the other staples of my diet: there’s no meat in pretzels, potato chips, pizza, cookies, pasta or cake. Now I know what you vegans are thinking: you have to watch out for your egg products, cheese, shortening, etc. To which I respond, go chew on a twig. Vegans are like Orthodox Vegetarians. I am setting my sights on becoming more like a Reformed Vegetarian.

This brings us to that other staple of the vegetarian diet: beans. I am so cool with beans. I like them baked, refried, sautéed, you name it. I will miss those big chunks of pork fat that come in the canned baked beans, but come on, some sacrifices are necessary. Also, since the invention of Beano, some of the social consequences of over bean indulgence have been mitigated.

Fish and bread are also good in the Reformed lexicon.

So, you are starting to get the picture: you can be a vegetarian without actually having to eat a bona fide vegetable. I think if more guys realized this, more of us would be vegetarians.

I have always viewed vegetables under the best of circumstances as a necessary evil and a way to cleanse the pallet and conscience after downing a pound and half of meat. I can remember as a boy negotiating with my mother exactly how many peas I would need to eat before I would be allowed to leave the table. The agreed upon number was twelve.

Under the worst of circumstances there is broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. I will still stamp my feet and clamp my mouth shut if any of above appears on my plate. I am not alone in this. The first George Bush hated broccoli as well and famously observed: “I am the President of the United States and the most powerful man in the world. I don’t have to eat broccoli if I don’t want to.”
I am thinking of starting my own form of vegetarianism: Reformed Reformed Vegetarian. Under this system it is permissible to eat the flesh of animals that are vegetarians, i.e. grazing and grain fed critters. They have already done the heavy work of converting the unsavory vegetation into tasty protein. Why re-invent the wheel?

Of course, animals that eat the flesh of other animals are off the menu. No more cat burgers or dog chops for me. Tough, but it’s for my own good.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Resume

I have been trying to put my resume together and, boy, is it a challenge.

A “recruiter” recently told me that the two biggest obstacles I face in my search for employment are my age and the “one dimensional” nature of my experience. By this he means, basically, I’ve had the same job for 35 years. It’s going to take some literary magic to re-package a one dimensional old bat like me.

Of course, for a mere 5,000 bucks he would take a shot at it. It’s nice to know that my life can be made marketable for about the cost of a root canal. It would be even nicer to know I had 5,000 bucks.

He suggested that I “de-emphasize” my age by chucking the chronological approach to resume writing. For you first time readers, I am 63.

He suggested going with an accomplishments and skills approach rather than a year by year list of positions and activities. Of course, using this technique, while factoring in my one dimensionality, I am left with a one line resume. Pithy, indeed.

I am not sure I agree with this. If your resume has no references to years and dates, I think the average employer will catch on that you are hiding something. I mean these people are employers, not employees, for a reason.

A friend of my thinks I should just lie about my age. When I asked her what she thought I could get away with, she said 61. Not only does this not help, but it also hurts my feelings.

Another approach I have considered is to pretend I really don’t know how old I am: “I was raised by a family of seals in the South Atlantic. They didn't have calendars.” This would be confirmed by the layer of blubber around my mid-section. Or maybe I will have a section on my resume called The Lost Years. It would be blank, of course. This would perhaps give me a certain romantic cache, while clouding the whole age issue.

Maybe I should deal with it head on. Let’s face it the major reason corporate brass doesn’t want to hire seniors is they are afraid we will go face down in our pudding in the company cafeteria upsetting everyone.

I can assure them that I am in sound health, except for that vagueness thing, and bring many things to the dance like experience, wisdom and one dimensionality.

My mere presence can raise the morale of the entire staff by making them feel superior: “At least I’m not like him, I have a future.”

And besides, many of the younger set find uncontrollable flatulence humorous.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Didn't Get Run Over

I have turned in the keys and closed the office in New York City. After 40 years I will no longer be getting my daily dose of the Big Apple.

How would I sum up my years in NYC? I didn’t get rich, but I didn’t get run over.

I say that with considerable pride, because it is very easy to get run over in New York. Mix in cab drivers from exotic locales whose last vehicles were two wheel carts pulled by goats, the most aggressive pedestrians in the world, crazed cyclists, roller bladers, dazed tourists, and now various forms of motorized and unmotorized scooters, and the end result is zillions of citizens squashed like bugs every day.

Not me, though. No tire tracks on my back. I finished the fight standing up.

I didn’t accomplish this in a wimpy way by stopping on red and crossing at cross walks.
Oh no, I was a NY Pedestrian. In this city, being a pedestrian is a competitive sport. New York walkers view a red light in the Italian manner: it is merely a suggestion. They know the Don’t Walk light will blink twelve times before the traffic light actually changes, unleashing the vehicular horde. Thus they will launch themselves on the eleventh blink knowing they may make it across before the traffic reaches full speed. They will not dash either. A moderate increase in walking speed and a deaf ear to the honking horns is the approved style.

Seeing a fellow New Yorker execute this maneuver is like seeing a matador perform a difficult and graceful pass and then turn his back and walk away from the stunned and confused bull. You can only admire his sang froid.

The competitive nature of walking in New York is evident at corners. You approach the corner, the light is red, and there is no break in the traffic. You position yourself two feet into the roadway. Only tourists wait on the curb. The next person along moves past you and positions himself three feet off the curb, and so on until the last and most daring walker places himself just beyond the safety of the cars parked along the curb. When the light changes, or there is a sliver of a break in the traffic, they’re off!

Every child is warned not to cross between parked cars. Well, come on. The between-the-parked-cars-dart is a vital tool in the New York walkers’ kit. You wouldn’t get anywhere without it. It is particularly useful on cross town trips where the walker's pace is often faster than the traffic, thus increasing the chances of making a successful dart. It’s risking your life, but worth it to avoid the light at the corner.

Adding to the challenge of getting around on foot has been the enormous increase in recent years in the number of bikes, skaters, and scooters. What makes these people scary is that they are walkers on speeding vehicles. They have the same laissez faire view of traffic regulations as a pedestrian while moving at blistering speeds.

Before you make your sprint across the street, you now must factor in whether there is a bike or scooter bearing down against the flow of traffic.
And since these people consider themselves pedestrians, they have no problem tearing along the sidewalk. New York is now the only city where you have to look both ways when leaving a restaurant.

Whew! It’s a wonder anyone makes it out alive.

Well, I did. Not getting killed is something that looks good on my resume.