December 30, 2009

Chapt. 9.94.6: The Best Christmas Yet

The Wife and I have only to take down the decorations, and Christmas 2009 will be over.

We probably won't do that right away, though, mainly because of laziness. Besides, I like having the house decorated. So, I figure mid-February or so would be about the right time. By then, we'll have the Christmas dinner dishes washed and put away, and the wrapping paper and ribbon picked up.

Actually, there wasn't much of any of that, 'cuz we're officially empty-nesters and didn't have to buy each other all the stuff we bought when the kids were home. The only wrapping paper we had was from the presents we went out a couple of times and bought for ourselves. I wrapped them up so we'd have something under the tree to open Christmas morning. I told The Wife that we simply would NOT become one of those couples who quit enjoying the holidays because the kids had left.

The Wife was really surprised when she found the snuggie from Wal-Mart that I'd taken off the hanger in her closet and gift wrapped.

So, what came next? Well, my one year and just-short-of-two-months into retirement is (are?) the first chance(s?) I've had since Christmas vacation in high school to watch as many bowl games as I want. And back then, there were only five -- the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton and Sun bowls -- and they all, I believe, were played on New Year's Day. Now, there are 34 and many of 'em are great matchups!

The Wife, bless her heart, has been extremely tolerant and not said one disapproving word re all the football. Oh, once she almost hit me with half-eaten brat when I mumbled, "Uh-huh" in response to something she'd said about slacks, butt and fat. But I saw it coming out of the corner of my eye and ducked. She'd asked me just as the Hogs were driving for a TD! The next day, though, it only took a couple of hours to get the dried mustard and kraut off the wall. My cleanup efforts must have pleased her, because she seemed pretty happy when she got home from her lawyer's.

Seriously, both kids and their intendeds were home for the season and The Wife got to be Mom again and do for them and cook them all BIIIIIG meals. It was really pleasant. And Christmas Eve service at church always puts just the right topper on the tree. After all, Jesus is the reason for the season, regardless of what the P.C. crowd will try to get you to swallow.

Next year, I think we'll go to the Rockies and hole up Christmas week, just the two of us. I've wanted to do that for several years now, and I can't think of anybody I'd rather be there with than my best friend, the sexy wench, The Wife. (I hope she feels he same about me, 'cept for that "wench" part.)

Or if we can't go, I'll take some tango lessons -- and then, maybe, we can just dance....

October 24, 2009

I'm Getting Younger Every Day

One of the websites I belong to asks what we would do if we won $100 million.

I know. First thing after I came to and changed my drawers, I'd go the E.R. to have my heart zapped back to normal. Then, I'd dance a major-league Happy Dance.

Then, I'd give half the money to my church and its schools; pay off the debts of our kids, my inlaws and my outlaws; then buy a log cabin in the Rockies. I'd immediately move in and get to wondering just howintheheck I'd won all that money when I didn't enter anything.

But, hey. it could happen...! We never know what the future holds, do we?

I mean, in 10 years, I may have written a tell-all book, or the ultimate crotch novel. Or even the ultimate tell-all crotch book! So if any of you ever has told me anything in confidence, get your alibis ready.

Almost as important, but maybe not, I hope in 10 years to be coherent, relatively speaking. When I was younger, I thought folks as old as I am now spent most of their time comparing operation scars, trying to remember where they left their keys and drooling on themselves. I was soooo completely...right. (Okay, okay. I'm kidding. I was wrong.)

Almost a year into retirement, I have more to do than I did when I was working. The difference is, it's varied, there's no pressure to do it, and I get to do what I want when I want for however long I want. And I hardly ever drool.

Moreover, I don't think I'll ever run out of little projects to finish, people to visit, experiences to have, places to see, politicians to complain about and stupidity to marvel over. I find myself a bit more romantic, as well, now that I have a little time to work myself up to it.

Some 25 to 30 books I haven't yet read await me on the shelves, and if I can ever find my reading glasses, I'll read a couple. We also have about 25 pounds of photos to be scanned, repaired/enhanced and printed or catalogued. That's somewhere near a good peck-basketful to you and me -- well, to me, at least.

I'd also like to learn Spanish, something more socially acceptable than the bar language I picked up in Puerto Rico (not that P.R. is a low place, but we former sailors cultivated friends in low places.). Also in 10 years, maybe I'll have finally grown up....Realistically, probably not. I'm really just a 15-year-old in baggy, wrinkled skin.

Patmywife tells me I'm closer to a 9-year-old and to zip up my fly. I think she just doesn't want to cut the breadcrusts off my PB&Js anymore. But she'll be sorry. I'm holding my breath 'til I turn blue....

Okay, I'm done. Can't hold it any more. Besides, In 10 years, I just may have learned to tango -- if I can still move.

Then, maybe, I'll just dance....

If You Can't Aggravate Your Loved Ones, Who Can You Aggravate?

I love Patmywife.

Oh, we bicker and spat. Even yell occasionally. But no spitting, biting, kicking or hitting. And thank goodness for that! She'd probably kick me into the next county or pound me into mush. No need to, though. We're best friends. She's the only woman I've ever met that could put up with me.

She was born and raised on a small cattle operation, you see, and grew up dealing with bullheadedness. She's strong as an ox (oxette?) and very tolerant, loving and beautiful.

Early on, I made the conscious choice to put my family first. It was undoubtedly the best thing to do -- and I am dead certain it contributed to the lofty career heights to which I rose (he said, tongue planted firmly in cheek). Truthfully, I never made much money, but we never starved, either. And given how things have developed up to now, I am extremely rich!

We've been married since 1975 and have two grown kids, neither yet married. We're very proud of them. Except for a couple of minor incidents during their high school years (...They never DID get the VW out of that elevator....), they've been the true joys of our lives. And to think there was a time when I seriously considered not fathering any children. What a pessimist I was.

Of course, the two of them would give me much greater joy if they'd just follow all my advice. Patmywife says that wouldn't be good, 'cuz if they did everything I tell 'em, they'd just be younger pair of mes -- and the world can't take any more mes.
And who wants to live their childrens's lives anyway? I've had enough difficulty getting my own right. Let the kids muck their lives up themselves. I don't have the time.

So, maybe I'll just dance....

October 22, 2009

Sect. 29, Pt. B: Bottoms Up, Hey?

I had just finished sending my son a virtual brew for his birthday (Happy 32nd, Keedo. We love ya!) when I stumbled across some beer-rating sites.

Out of curiousity, I looked up Cerveza India, an island-brewed "refreshment" I encountered when I was in the Navy in Puerto Rico, lo, those many years ago. The ratings for that beer were surprisingly positive. Either the brewers had improved the brand in the 40 years since I first tasted it, or they hadn't experienced the same drink I had.

When I was stationed on the Diamond of the Caribbean, I made a serious and committed effort to drink the island dry. (Thank the Lord my metabolism doesn't seem inclined toward alcohol addiction.) In two years there, I gulped down massive amounts of brews ranging from Pabst to Heineken to Busch to Schaefers to Lowenbrau, and so on. Plus, I drank about any kind of wine and hard liquor I could get my hands on, and enough cold duck to keep those little suckers wearing webbed booties for life. You name it. If it was available, I sucked it down. I was an amateur drunk trying to break into the pros.

During that whole time, I managed to get down only a can and a half of India. It was that bad.

Of the dozen or so comments I read tonight re the brand, only one approached the reality I experienced. The rater noted it was "hard to get down." To me, that was an understatement. It was nigh impossible!

Having said all that, I was a young kid trying to kill as many brain cells as I could in record time when I was hitting the bottle...or can...or glass...or bota bag...or stein, or etc. Plus, it's only fair to note that the tropical heat can quickly turn otherwise good libation into the most rot-gut stuff anyone ever guzzled -- and I'm certain the base package store and Enlisted Men's Club had their fair share of storage and acquisition problems back then. After all, it was the era of the $250 toilet seat (or whatever the gouge was). In other words, what we got on base in the form of liquid entertainment might not have been the most well-stored, -transported or -cared-for after it left the brewery.

And please note -- this is important:

This piece is not an effort to savage anyone's product. My experience with the brew was 40 years ago. Things change. A good characteristic of free enterprise is that there's a product for every taste, and a taste for almost every product. And, if a manufacturer survives, it's because it caters to the whims and demands of its clientele. Apparently, Cerveza India has done that over the years. Otherwise, it wouldn't be in business today.

I think the differences in the poles-apart perceptions I have, in this case of what a good brew is, and those of others is very interesting. Maybe someday, I'll be smart enough to find some deeper meaning there.

Or, maybe I'll just dance....

July 18, 2009

Episode 12-2/3: What's YOUR Favorite Line?

I like movies, but I'm not what you would call an "day-vo-tay of la cin-eeh-maaw."

I don't expect movies to have any great social meaning or redeeming value, make a profound statement or illustrate some universal truth. And I don't give a rat's patootie whether or not Kevin Costner in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" spoke with an authentic British accent. (I suspect that if a modern-day Briton, or any of us, met someone who spoke true 12th-century English, we wouldn't have a snowball's chance of understanding, anyway.)

I like movies for their entertainment value. Over the years, I've found them to be my mini-vacations from stress, responsibility and the normal pressures of life. Nothing more. That's one of the reasons I get so irritated by the sewage that Hollywood scriptwriters put into the mouths of their characters.

Now, don't misunderstand. I'm not a prude. I've slung my share of raw epithets. But do the people who make otherwise good flicks think that we won't watch if the F-word isn't bouncing around in their movies like a verbal ping-pong ball?

Take "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," for example. Steve Carell was pretty funny, as were his supporting actors. It wasn't a bad flick. In my mind, however, it could have been an excellent one. I've heard drunken sailors who didn't spout as much crap as the scriptwriters put in that dialogue. Do they actually BELIEVE that everyone talks like that?

Okay, wait....

Umph! There. I'm down off my soapbox now. Let's continue.

Some of us like campy trash flicks like "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." Others like serious historical drama such as "Valkyrie" (which I Netflicked last night and loved) or "Schindler's List." Some us can't get enough gore in our films (If you're one of those, I worry about you.). Some of us like Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd or the Marx Brothers.

My dad refused to go see anything other than westerns, war movies or gangster flicks. He just couldn't suspend his belief -- a requisite, they tell me -- enough to really enjoy any sort of fantasy or sci-fi. And he thought slapstick was infantile idiocy.

Mom, on the other hand, apparently loved infantile idiocy. I never realized until she was well into her 80s that Mom was a closet slapstickian . She was visiting us around the holidays several years ago, and I came home from a late evening meeting to find her in the rocking chair, glued to the tube. The Three Stooges were on, and she was chortling up a storm. Apparently, the Stooges had slapped and gouged their way into Mom's heart decades earlier, and when she found out they were on one of the cable channels at 11, she'd been surreptitiously tuning in after the rest of us went to bed.

Myself, I like a bit of everything -- except I hate slasher flicks. By contrast, though, I can really get into a good suspenseful horror movie, as long as it's not needlessly graphic. I like shoot-em-ups, sci-fi, fantasy, drama, even some classic p.i./spy flicks. But what I really enjoy are well-done satire and comedy, both slapstick and subtle. Different strokes, they say....

Now, I come to what I really sat down to write about: a poll of sorts.

We all have our favorite movies. Additionally, we all have movie lines that have stuck with us. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," from Rhett Butler in "Gone with the Wind," for example. Or, "I'll be back" from Schwarzenegger's terminator in "The Terminator."

My all-time favorite line is actually a short exchange between Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) and Gen. Kuhster (the late George Macready) in "The Great Race". Disguised as a monk, Fate's henchman Max (Peter Falk) had helped hero, The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis), break out of a dungeon. So, Kuhster tells Fate.

Fate: "Escaped?"
Kuhster: "With a small friar."
Fate: "Leslie escaped with a chicken!?!?!?"

What I'd like to ask everyone who reads this is, "What is YOUR most absolute, all-time favoritist FUNNY movie line?" No overused stuff ("Here's looking at you, kid," "Life is like a box of chocolates," etc.).

I look forward to hearing from you. I think this could be fun.

Or, maybe we can just dance....

January 30, 2009

Act 3-1/8, Scene Y: On Being a Vet

When I left the Navy in '73, I couldn't get out quickly enough. I was ready for a change. The service just wasn't for me.

On the plus side, six years had reinforced what my folks had preached about responsibility, and the Navy added to that. I became a man. (Don't smirk. It's true. This is a SERIOUS column.) Additionally, I met a lot of guys I felt -- still feel -- I could count on, if push came to shove. I saw much more of the world than almost all my childhood friends, and I had experiences they'll never duplicate. (I told you, no smirking!)

Moreover, the job security was great. Had I stayed in for 20 years and kept my nose clean, I'd have wanted for little. I may even have had a second career, possibly with the Uncle Sam -- and my current pile of retirement bucks undoubtedly would be bigger. (Wow, I just made the Navy sound really good! I almost want to re-up, 'cept that I'm waaaay too old -- you can smirk over the "re-up" part, if you want.)

In the end, though, the minus side overwhelmed the plus. My first three days in bootcamp convinced me that I would return to college. Later, though my job was more mechanical than the electronic rating I held, it was also more limited. Transistors and integrated circuits, harbingers of the computer age, lay in my path. And I really hated electronics. My Navy future, therefore, didn't look promising.

My family moved an unbelievable number of times during my childhood. I went to three different kindergartens, for cryin' out loud. (Of course, at 26, not all of these things ran through my mind. I just wanted out!) On some level, I think I knew the nomadic life wasn't for me.

The U.S. military was, and is, peopled with thousands of outstanding men and women. The very few incompetents (and one or two scumbags) I did encounter, however, made civilian life extremely attractive. I was certain that, shed of the military, I'd have an out I didn't otherwise, the Johnny Paycheck Option. That is, if what I'd be doing "in the real world" became unbearable, I'd just tell 'em to "Take This Job and Shove It!"

This may seem egotistical, but I just couldn't accept the real possibility that some incompetent petty idiot literally could hold the power of life or death over me. Of course, I've since found that civilian life has its warts, too -- especially as marriage, kids, a mortgage and other responsibilities creep into your life -- and the JPaycheck Option quickly vanishes.

Life has taught me that it takes a special sort of individual to make the military his or her life. It's not mine, but I admire my friends and others who have served, and I thank God they did!

Most what follows here is from a career Navy friend of mine, with whom I've recently regained contact. I think he sent this particular message to me because I recently retired, but he sent it to others, as well. It offers much insight, whether we're a one-hitch vet, a "lifer" or have never been in the military. I've edited it a bit for style, brevity, etc., mostly because, as a former editor, I can't help myself. Here it is:

* * *
When a veteran leaves the "job" and retires, some of his friends may be jealous, some pleased and some may wonder if he knows what he is leaving behind. Those of us already retired, do.

We know, for example, that after a lifetime, the camaraderie that few experience will stay with us as a longing for those past times. We know the military life is a fellowship that lasts long after we've hung our uniforms in the back of the closet. And even if we throw them away, we'll wear those uniforms with every step and every breath that remain in our lives.

We also know how the very bearing of the man speaks of what he was, and in his heart still is.

Conversely, these are the burdens of the job:

Veterans still look at people critically and see what others either don't see or choose to ignore -- and we'll always look at members of the military world with respect for what they do, because we know.

"Lifers" have a lifetime of knowing. Never think for one moment a vet escapes from that life. We merely escape the job, leaving active duty.

So what I wish for you is, whenever you ease into retirement, in your heart you never forget for one moment that you are still a member of the greatest fraternity the world has ever known.

* * *
I've thanked my career veteran friend for sending this little essay. It hits the bullseye for me. I hope you got something out of it, too.

If not, well, maybe we can just dance....