Friday, July 31, 2009

My Spouse Won't Commingle!

21 clever quips
drunk in recycling binOur city is a full month into this new-fangled single-stream recycling and, frankly, this has not been my hoped-for Miracle of the Blue Bin.

Single-stream, for those still unaware or unconverted, allows for papers, plastics and metals to mix and mingle in perfect harmony regardless of the color of the recycling bin in which they reside.

Newspapers and tuna tins.

Milk jugs and junk mail.

Cardboard and soda cans living together!

Mass hysteria!

Those are not the only taboos now broken. Formerly forbidden items such as egg cartons, paperboard milk and juice containers and non-corrugated cardboard have made their peace with us, too. The city's new recycling company will gladly dump them all into their white trucks with a bone-shattering thunder that, while quite similar to the dumping sound made by the city's old recycling company, now shocks you awake around 6 a.m. once a week with a far more environmentally friendly type of bed-wetting fear.

Everyone loves single-stream recycling. Environmentalists cheer because it should hasten efforts to save our planet and precious resources. City officials do their public happy dances because they expect it to save about $300,000 a year.

Yet, single-stream recycling fails in one grave way. It is not saving my marriage.

My Love and I are nowhere near an appearance with Judge Toler on "Divorce Court," mind you. But a spot on an upcoming "Jerry Springer" episode called "My Spouse Won't Commingle!" -- well, that's a possibility.

See, we each have our foibles. Among mine is using words such as "foibles." Among hers is not being able to separate trash from treasure when it comes to the good of our planet.

Many a time I have wandered into the garage to find a lipstick-smeared Aquafina bottle in a bin clearly marked "For Mixed Paper Recycling Only" or seethed at a shampoo bottle in our bathroom receptacle. I'm obsessive compulsive that way, sort of the Adrian Monk of household recycling, though my perky blond sidekick is a 3-year-old Labrador retriever.

That's why I held such hope for the single-stream movement. I posted the city's detailed brochure on what is and isn't recyclable on the cabinet nearest our kitchen trash. I explained to My Love that nearly everything now went to the recycling bin, key exceptions being foodstuffs normally consumed by humans or non-food stuffs abnormally consumed by our dog, such as batteries, crayons and compact discs.

Best laid plans of mice and husbands, they say.

"Honey," I said, returning from the bins one morning, "this pizza box has to go in the trash."

"What? I thought pizza boxes were recyclable now."

"Only if they aren't grease stained," I said, "and that's a near impossibility given our children's passion for pepperoni and bacon."

Another day she asked whether a plastic berry container was recyclable. I turned to Thing 1, my 9-year-old daughter, at the counter and asked her to tell us what numbers were now good for recycling.

"One to seven," she said with nary a pause. "It used to only be ones and twos."

"What number is it?" I asked my wife, a woman who, for fun, will compound interest on her investments in her head.

"A number two," she said, and sighed a sigh worthy of a word bubble in a "Peanuts" comic strip.

Which reminds me -- dear readers, please do your part. Once you've finished with this column, recycle it appropriately by Digging it, Stumbling it, Tweeting it and so on.

That's the advantage of digital publishing -- my words no longer line canaries' cages.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'm Truly Uncool Today

13 clever quips
... because for the second consecutive year, our central A/C has decided to crap out on the hottest, most humid day of the year.

So rather than sweat it out here with me, you should venture over to DadCentric today because that's where I tell an epic tale of man, boy and bowling alley.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting on a repairman. Or a Canadian cold front. Whichever arrives first.

Could someone bring me a cup of ice and a paper fan?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Libraries Plot Against Our Economy

22 clever quips
Our local library recently considered cutting its hours of operation to make up for its success (being our state's second busiest library) and failure (raising barely a whiff of money to supplement the whopping 91 percent of its $7.76 million budget that city taxpayers already shoulder).

I don't know. Shuttering these commie holdovers may have benefits. It could help stimulate the economy.

Think of all the book, newspaper and magazine sales lost to these freeloader paradises. Don't forget the video rentals, iTunes downloads and Internet service fees being stolen from the pockets of those pillars of our nation -- multi-international corporations receiving lucrative tax breaks.

And what about the artists in need of royalties to live? Ann Coulter is looking scraggier than usual these days, I theorize, because libraries are stealing the Freedom Fries from her plate.

My city's libraries obviously have too many users and not enough resources. Therefore, they need to institute better crowd control measures.

The main library branch downtown already achieves this somewhat by not having any free parking. However, it also rents space inside to a Starbucks -- a haven for intellectual moochers. Methinks it's time to institute a tall Macchiato tax.

As for the branches and their liberally paved asphalt lots, I'm thinking that city residents should be required to purchase annual $20 "Park and Read" passes from the city, just as they have to to use the beaches in the summer. Oh, some do-gooders will try to be "green" and take public transportation or walk, but that's just another attempt to undercut our nation's devotion to propping up our floundering domestic car manufacturers. These tree-hugging sneaks will be forced to hand over $5 at the door and wear ankle bracelets for further monitoring.

Key to my plan is the library banning people between the ages of 13 and 21 from using their facilities. These essential cogs to our economic development need to be at the mall racking up expensive text messaging bills on their parents' dime between chugs of Red Bull and purchases at GameStop and abercrombie.

But until our fair city wisely institutes these changes, I'll continue to do my part. So excuse me now -- I'm late returning Thing 1's copy of the movie "Hairspray" for the eighth time this year.

Monday, July 20, 2009

And That's The Way It Is: Walter Cronkite and Me

13 clever quips
I don't recall why I came into the newspaper office on a Saturday morning, but it wasn't because I was planning to meet anyone of note.

I was wearing over-sized glasses to give my eyes a break from excessive contact lens wear and a thinning orange T-shirt featuring a huge green cartoon alligator. I remember it being humid and feeling sticky.

One of my coworkers told me Walter Cronkite, the legendary CBS anchorman, was up the street signing a new book on sailing he had co-authored. I grabbed some stuff off my desk and ran up the avenue to Waldenbooks.

When I got to the table, he looked up and smiled.

"Hi, Mr. Cronkite," I said. "I apologize for not buying your new book, but I'm a just a poor reporter at the local newspaper, so I hope you understand. Would it be OK if you signed my AP Stylebook instead?"

Looking up over his reading glasses, he gave me a grandfatherly chuckle.

"Not at all," he said.

When he finished signing, he asked, "Just print journalism? No TV?"

"No TV," I answered. "Just print, sir."

"Good for you," he said as he handed back my book and smiled.

Two decades later, it's now a few days after Walter Cronkite's death at age 92, and I finally realized what the person once voted the most trusted man in America was saying to me.

He wasn't commending me on my choice of vocation. Instead, I think the old guy was dissing my appearance.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Swimming in a Vicious Circle

27 clever quips
The swim club we belong to (and the one Patty stalks me at) had a rash, no, an explosion of problems last summer. Ones that required the entire pool to be closed, drained and disinfected. I lost count after the first three times we arrived in the late afternoon only to find the place closed down but suffice to say it happened with, um, regularity.

In response, the club this year plastered the locker rooms with highly informative posters. A filled swim diaper hanging out of a child's bathing suit, for example, is known in the environmental health industry as a "teabag," a term that I'm sure inspired more than a few snickers (along with Baby Ruths jokes) in the men's locker room where it was hu- … displayed.

The club also instituted a mandatory 15-minute closing of the pool every two hours in hope that kids will hit the bathroom. Instead, they all hit the snack bar.

When the 6 o'clock break started today, the Things and I took a seat at a picnic table to share a paper boat filled with hot and spicy curly fries. At the table across from us, two moms are trying to keep their combined five kids under control during what appears to be dinner.

One of the kids, who is maybe 4, hops out of his seat and takes two steps to the base of the grassy slope behind the tables. Suddenly, his green swim trunks are around his ankles.

"Good to see the new policy is working," I say to Thing 1 who is taking in all the action.

"Yeah," she says through a mouth of fry mush. "His mom is going have a good story to tell his girlfriend someday."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dog. Me. God?

18 clever quips
Not being a believer in signs from God, Buddha, Mohammad or -- in life's more hurried moments -- those posted by highway employees, I was not fazed by Murphy's yanking me by his leash toward every entry of the church.

Not the first time, at least.

A few days later, though, we passed St. Cecilia's again. This time my companion leveraged all his 75 pounds of fur, paws and tongue against me to essentially hoist my stumbling legs up not one but two side staircases leading to these reported portals of salvation. At one point, he leaped at the closed red doors and I fell to a hard stop with my hands on the stone threshold.

It was a midweek afternoon; the parking lot, empty; the air, still. I'm sure the church was unoccupied, so unless the Holy Ghost was inside test baking a batch of hosts in new savory bacon, liver and beef flavors, I failed to comprehend my Labrador retriever's sudden desire to get religion.

When the weather cooperated and time was inconsequential, this church tended to be on one of our long, meandering routes. We had passed it, as well as the Greek Orthodox church next door, a hundred times before without incident beyond the occasional need for him to pee on a non-burning bush as dogs tend to do. He would halt and linger to sniff around the church-run elementary school on the rear of the property, but that made sense. A building full of PB&J smeared, irregularly bathing miniature humans who can be taken down with a good sideswipe of the tail is, to a dog, like a bar with free happy-hour appetizers, dollar drafts and no bouncers checking IDs is to a college freshman.

After this second incident, which required much dragging and coaxing to get Murphy the mile and a half back to our house, I made up my mind. We'd walk that way again tomorrow and if Murphy wanted to take me to the Lord, well, I just hoped He had brought enough Snausages for two.

There we were, ambling through the back entrance to the church property the next day. Murphy made his usual lunge for the elementary school, but the snap of chicken jerky in my pocket steered him back on the possibly righteous path of faded asphalt leading across the parking lot to the church's basement door.

It was there, at that spot where I once entered the building as a member of the Holier Art We Than Thou Youth Group, that Murphy -- dear divine Murphy -- veered left.

Around on the church driveway we went without him making a single glance or motion toward the church. Instead, Murphy led me over a stone wall into the parking lot of the neighboring Greek church. He sniffed the lot and surrounding woods as I smiled because I wouldn't mind trading cup of sacramental red and a side of guilt for an occasional shot of ouzo and a gyro.

But again, we bypassed this house of worship and headed back to the sidewalk and the way home.

That's when the lightning hit. Not a literal one like that which allegedly knocked Paul off his ass, blinded him and led him to become a disciple of legendary outfielder Minnie Minoso (hence, the founding of St. Paul, Minnesota). More like a metaphorical one made of watermelon rinds, potato chips bags and hot dog bits.

For Murphy suddenly bolted next door for the baseball fields outside a public elementary school. Here, he ran around in circles: sniffing, snorting and munching everything the fourth and fifth grade students had dropped, dribbled or simply failed to put into the trash earlier that day during their end-of-the-year picnic.

He scoured those fields for a solid 15 minutes and no jerk of the leash or jerk holding the leash was going to get him to leave this puppy paradise.

I dropped the leash and let him scrounge for a while until I got tired of waiting. I started walking home in hope he'd miss that thinning-haired kid who feed him and follow. When that didn't happen, I gave in. I walked back, put my arms under his belly and lifted him up, carrying him across the field until we finally hit the cracking, secular public sidewalk once more and began the back to our heathen den.

The lesson, however, had been learned: While "dog" spelled backward may be "god," you must also remember that "food" spelled backward is "doof."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Stuff You Gotta Watch

13 clever quips
Some obsess over celebrities and pop culture, but I'm all about sunscreen and the UV index.

You should have seen that coming. I've written one post begging my son to lather up, at least two others about the killing powers of that big yellow Death Star and, via Twitter, lectured Shamelessly Sassy on the best sunscreens for sensitive skin available to those in the United States with (wink, wink) Canadian supply ties.

This is what happens when too much sunshine can spark a nasty flare of your daughter's autoimmune disease. You overprotect. You overanalyze. You imagine things that aren't there.

(Such was the case in this little incident with her and her bike that you can read about on DadCentric.)

Anyway, I'm online yesterday, looking up the local UV index. Oh, I'll check personally, too, with my trusty UV Hawk sunlight meter (Honey! Quick! Come look! They now have a waterproof model!) but I always like to get a baseline before I take the kids over to the local swim and tennis club. So, I'm looking and this is what I find on my faithful AccuWeather forecast:

dog walking indexDog walking index?

What the weimaraner is the meaning of this?

If I venture out, are my chances good of being trampled by a herd of leashed Pekingese followed periods of mixed breeds and the occasional Rhondesian Ridgeback? Should I fear stepping in a poodle or some one's Shih-Tsu?

(Which reminds me that I'll have a new post, right here on this blog, for you very soon about my local travels with Murphy. Uh, that's my dog. I know, I haven't written much about him lately. He's even gotten his breeder to start hounding me by e-mail me asking for more Tales from the Tail.)

But none of this matters anyway because the skies darken and it starts thundering and raining something fierce. The wind picks up and I'm running around the house shutting windows, arms flailing, unplugging appliances, searching for batteries and beef jerky, barking about Doomsday and Horseman and that someone better eat that last banana before it rots into a blackish pool of gunk and who left their underwear in the kitchen again ... and heck, since swim time is canceled and the world is ending, I log on to Twitter.

That's when I find out I made Blogs.com's list of Top 10 Deliberate Dad Blogs. Right smack at the top, too.

OK, the list was in alphabetical order.

"Deliberate," hmm, it's not quite "definitive," is it? But I was deliberately trying to knock up My Love both times my armed forces succeeded in invading her fertile shores so I'll settle for technical accuracy.

Little victories. Thanks for the nod, Backpacking Dad. And to all of you, too.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Love the Smell of Horsehide in the Morning

17 clever quips
My hometown is the "baseball capitol of the world" if you believe the misspelled sign that once graced the outfield of one of the local ball fields. To a degree, it is true. Regardless of season, someone here will debate you on Yankees vs. Mets, Yankees vs. Red Sox or George Steinbrenner vs. Bernie Madoff.

This is why we don't have a professional team in town. We're so busy arguing the obvious -- that the Yankees are evil incarnate -- we let franchises slip away to other cities. As a result, you'll find me on certain weekday mornings between the first wind sprint of spring training and the World Series' last out with a scorecard and a grin about 30 minutes northeast.

That's where the Bluefish, Connecticut's entry in the independent (read "has-beens and never-weres") Atlantic League play a few midweek games at 10:35 a.m. "Why?" I always wondered. "Who goes to these games? And, most importantly, at that hour, can one buy a beer?"

Pulling into the ball field's parking lot several weeks ago answered the first two questions. Behold! A sea of yellow school buses. This immediately gave me pause regarding my third question, for, even if they sold beer during these kiddie matinees, how creepy would one look imbibing it among the pubescent masses?

Yet, at 10:20 a.m., I approached a vendor, held out my driver's license and a Jackson, and summoned up my will like Oliver Twist seeking extra gruel. "Um, ah -- would it be too early to buy a beer?" I inquired.

"No, honey, not at all," she answered. I felt better … until she didn't bother to check the birth date on my ID and, instead, she held my twenty up to the light. "We get a lot of counterfeit bills from time to time," she said.

The games I have attended to date this year were on "Winning Inning Wednesdays," on which one lucky fan collects $10,000 if his or her ticket is chosen. But first the Bluefish must perform a specific miracle, such as turning a triple play (not sure it's happened in the team's 11-year history) or smacking back-to-back homers (the team had hit only 15 in all of its 37 games last time I attended). Odds of winning -- you're joking, right?

But baseball is statistics and probabilities. This is why some Madison Middle School eighth-graders had come to the June 3 game. The students had been taught to keep score so they could later collaborate on the numbers they compiled to make predictions and decisions. These would include whether one-time, three-sport, all-state star and now Bluefish outfielder Adam Greenberg -- famous for being hit in the back of the head with the one and only pitch he saw in the Major Leagues -- was an effective leadoff hitter. The answer, sadly, is "meh."

The beauty of minor (or sub-minor) league ball, though, is not usually the game, but its intimacy. Feeling connected to the three National Guardsman being applauded after being chosen to sit in the "best seat of the house" couch behind home plate just because they had stood in front of you in the ticket line. Noticing the catcher who, after blowing a tag play, reacts to one irate fan by not-so-subtly adjusting his jock in the man's direction. Listening to the night-shift worker at a local hospital give an enthusiastic play-by-play to his 2-year-old son to try to coax the boy's interest beyond the bag of raisins he's munching.

Morning baseball is now my favorite kind in Connecticut, although I might need to star mixing a little coffee in with that beer next time. By the seventh inning stretch, I'm ready for a nap.

* * *

Congratulations to The Cheek of God who won my JumpStart.com giveaway on this site and Janna Bee who won the giveaway I hosted on DadCentric.com.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

JumpStart.com Membership Giveaway

15 clever quips
jumpstart logoIf you have kids between ages 3 and 7 who like computer games but you are iffy on the safety and educational value of those silicon babysitters, then have I got a deal for you.

I'm giving away TWO 3-month memberships to JumpStart.com, an online virtual 3D world for kids. JumpStart.com comes from the award-winning makers of JumpStart and Math Blasters educational software.

You have two chances to win:

The first membership, which also includes a CD-ROM game "Trouble in Town" that works with the Web site, is being given away on DadCentric.com. You can read my review on JumpStart.com and enter the contest over on that site.

The second membership is exclusively for "Always Home and Uncool" readers. Just leave a comment on this post (make sure you either have an e-mail address in your comment profile or leave one in the actual comment so I can contact you if you win) and I'll pick one person at random. Deadline is Friday, July 3 at 11:59 p.m., Pacific Coast time.

Please pass this contest onto your friends via e-email, Twitter and your blogs. Thanks!

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