Aug 302016

My lovely wife was a recent unwitting accomplice in an olfactory crime of surprising magnitude.

We’ve made pretty good friends with Aldi. We’re not besties. Probably won’t ever be. Really, they’re rare, but when we find an occasional Aldi-branded misstep, they’ve usually whiffed pretty badly. In our experience, there aren’t many Aldi-branded products hanging out in the B-/C+ range. They tend to be either an A/A- or a D.

baconmenaceThough we have expunged a great many dietary sins from our lives, we still eat breakfast meat every Sunday morning, and three-quarters of the time it’s bacon. I have developed a significant preference for the thick-sliced bacon that is packaged stacked, like a deck of cards, because it’s always super-easy to handle. You’ll never be irritated by a poorly-aligned bacon slicer, or a slab that’s not conducive to being cut evenly, or both. (Can’t stand those tissue-paper-thin “slicelets” that you wind up stacking to cook as one piece, if you can ever straighten the damned things out enough to even do that.)

So Lea found some of that thick, stacked bacon at Aldi. It got the nod this past Sunday. And as I opened it, I noticed it said “maple-flavored” on it.

Hmmm. Usually the only thing I like that is overtly maple-flavored is real maple syrup. If some other product is maple-flavored, I tend to find it much too heavily applied, and it’s cloying. (Same with vanilla. I like vanilla ice cream, but if something says it’s vanilla-flavored, it’s always too much. Vanilla Coke? What is that? Vanilla is already one of the primary flavors of Coca-Cola. I’ll think “Vanilla Coke” is way too much. And I did. But I digress.)

So, yeah, that Aldi maple bacon. The smell was pretty strong when it was frying in the skillet, and my tummy was already a little tender, so I didn’t eat any of it. I sat with the family and had milk and coffee. The smell hung in the air, and it was still there when we came back from church, but that’s pretty normal too.

What’s not normal is that the smell is still there. As I type I cooked that bacon about 60 hours ago, and there’s a maple funk in the house that positively assaults you when you walk in. I mean, you stay in the house for a few minutes and olfactory fatigue takes it away, but go out and come back? Whap! It’s bad. I even got it a bit walking from my study to the kitchen a little while ago.

Even worse, its artificiality and its age have kind of teamed up to turn it even more unpleasant. It’s starting to smell like something that got peed on and then nobody cleaned it up. Ever consider that fake maple smell’s similarity to stale urine? Good times.

Lea has suggested that we make rosemary bread to cleanse the house. Probably not a bad idea.

 Posted by at 10:15 pm
Aug 282016

I played Cards Against Humanity (“a party game for horrible people”) for the first time last night at my friend Beth’s birthday party. I knew in passing that it was pretty depraved, but not much else. Basically you’re asked a question, or occasionally to fill in a blank or two, and you answer with the best card(s) in your hand.

Sometimes the depravity is on the cards already, and you just have to find the best place to plug it in. (There’s not much innocuous to be done with “necrophilia” or “micropenis.”) Other times the depravity is left for you to construct. (I noticed that the pairings including a little invention consistently did well. God bless creativity, even in degenerate cesspools.)

Now I’ve realized for quite some time that I’m a lot of folks’ “tacky friend.” I’m almost always loud. I’m frequently a little too direct. Sometimes I’m a little too quick to tiptoe into the gutter, just to see if you’ll come with me. If you do, then we’ll walk farther—and faster! Ha! Bottom line is that I’m quite certain the word “obnoxious” has been hung on me, both to my face and behind my back, for decades.

And I’m OK with that.

Something that occurs to me about this game, though, is that it’s not necessarily everyone’s “tacky friend” playing this game. We’re just walkin’ around folks playing it together, for the most part. We’re friends from school, or work, or church, or more than one of the above. We’re not bad people.

But, demonstrably, we can draw on one hellaciously deep reserve of vulgarity and otherwise wanton inappropriateness for laughs.

So here’s the big question I’m chewing on. How can we, societally, make something like Cards Against Humanity the gigantic success it is during our nights, while actively cultivating hair-trigger sensitivity to anything and everything that might possibly offend someone somewhere during our days?

 Posted by at 5:04 pm
Aug 252016
  • Most of my knowledge of Chicago, the band, has been of its competent-but-unremarkable pop music. “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”? Remember that one? That kicked off a dozen pop hits through the rest of the ’80s, all decent but none particularly memorable. I know of early Chicago, but only the biggest singles. So what did I do last night? Well, I’m a mature enough listener now to enjoy that first Chicago album top to bottom. (And a couple others. I bought the debut, the second album, and VI to begin. Having a blast so far.)
  • Pocono got rained out on Sunday, so they rescheduled it to Monday. It’s one of only two 500-mile races on the IndyCar schedule. Did I take off work to watch it? Yes. Yes, I did. I enjoyed it very much, though it deserved a more interesting winner than Will Power. So glad Helio Castroneves was OK after this bizarre pit road accident. Another inch or two and he’d have been killed.
  • If you’ll cultivate a taste for black coffee, you’ll be happy anywhere there is coffee. Plus, black coffee pairs so well with dessert. Yin. Yang. Got me?
  • As I type, we are inside ten days until the first Alabama game of the 2016 season. Are you ready? Does it feel real to you yet?
  • Well, it doesn’t feel all the way to me yet because we still have this cheese dip weather. I hope September is kind.
  • Dad burned Jenny and me out on lemon chicken in 1982 (immediately post-divorce). I discovered last night that I’m still not over this. I guess if it’s persisted 34 years, it may be lifelong.
  • The common lionfish is a devastating invasive species in the Gulf of Mexico. It has a voracious appetite, and nothing eats it. Is a lionfish-zapping robot the answer?
 Posted by at 12:03 pm
Aug 222016

As I type, it is eleven weeks from Election Day. The conventional wisdom for the 2016 presidential election is that Hillary Clinton is all but inevitable. Don’t put a foot wrong, Hill—especially keep it out of your mouth—and you’re in.

Run out the clock.

But just how highly should we value conventional wisdom this time? Are you paying attention? We’ve been tumbling down the rabbit hole for months. And it’s not that up is down, it’s that up is purple.

Many have said it before me, and I’ll say it again here: in Donald Trump, the Republicans put up one of the only candidates Hillary Clinton could beat. In Hillary Clinton, the Democrats put up one of the only candidates Donald Trump could beat.

To say that we don’t have best feet forward here is an understatement.

So what could happen to Hillary? Here are two big opportunities for chaos:

  • Julian Assange says he’s still sitting on quite a lot of Clinton Foundation/campaign/DNC material, for which he’s promised staggered release over the remainder of the campaign. (He has suggested that just before debates would be ideal drop times.)
  • Trump could make a political master stroke. I’m still fleshing out exactly what I think that might look like, but consider with me: what would be the (seemingly) least likely trait for him to exhibit? How about humility? What about a somber delivery of something like “Look, folks. I know my mouth gets me in trouble sometimes, and I know a lot of you find me obnoxious. But please let me take a moment to talk about my love of this country, and why and how it motivates me…”

As crazy as this campaign has been, I have the gnawing suspicion that from here to the end will be the least predictable time of the entire cycle.

 Posted by at 9:42 am
Aug 192016

I happened upon a shorter version of this story in a comment this morning. I needed to read it today, and I also want to retell it.

Three years ago, Aaron and I were riding the elevator down from the beach condo at which we’d just had a vacation. It was the last elevator ride of the trip. It was time to drive home.



“Do you think I could have one more hug before you turn back into your cranky self?”

He wasn’t being cheeky with me. (Wow, I’d have certainly felt better if he was.) He was asking me a sincere question from his perspective.

Ask me how long I hugged him.

I don’t often outright lose my temper with the boys. I never say hateful things to them, or make unreasonable demands of them. But I once inadvertently trained my nine-year-old son to expect and accept my “cranky self” as part of the way life is. Oh, and guess what? He doesn’t like hugging my cranky self as much.

It’s hard to avoid being cranky once in a while. But I’m quite certain I don’t want a cranky self.

 Posted by at 1:43 pm
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