Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Being Classy

In sports, winners and losers are often graded on the graciousness with which they handle winning or losing. In life, class is a little more self-evident. Some people believe that its where you're from or perhaps the clothes you where, or even the car you drive. Not so. Class in life comes down to one thing: Hubcaps.

Nothing says "hey, don't let me into your dining establishment" like pulling into a parking lot with a missiing hubcap. A car with a hubcap missing just screams, "my kids might have to wear clothes two sizes to small." I'd even go as far as to say that had my car had a hubcap this whole time, my blog might be called "The Hundred Dollar Bill Guy." You never know the impacts...

Shortly after we moved to Sterling, we awoke one morning to find that one of our hubcaps was missing. This began a 2 and a half year downward spiral that saw us shut out of various restaurants, clothing retail stores, churches, friends' homes, and many many other places. I would often introduce myself to people and they would respond with..."oh yeah, the guy with the missing hubcap...excuse me, I need to run." Good friends and co-workers would pretend like they didn't see or hear me when I would pass them on the street and honk. It was a blow to my self confidence.

That all changed when, through the caring heart of a generous donor, my missing hubcap was finally replaced. I could finally hold my head up high again...and my family could finally been seen in the same car as me.
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, kind stranger (Justin) for restoring my pride, my self confidence, and most importantly, my class.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Triage 1 and Triage 2

As many of you may or may not know by now, my wife and I welcomed our second child, Jocelyn Emma into the world on April 20th. As far as births go, this one went smoothly, but it was almost missing a key witness...

Because we live an hour and a half away, we had to get up at 3:45 am to get on the roadby 4:30 and be at the hospital for a 6:00 am appointment. There was nothing really remarkable about our trip, we just talked and laughed and shared our excitement about the day ahead. Once we got to the hospital, we parked and they started preparing Melanie for her c-section. Then the fun started.

Sitting in the room with Melanie, I said, "I don't feel very good...I'm gonna go sit down or lay down." I made it as far as the nurses station before I was told to sit down and put my head between my legs because I was as pale as a ghost and if I didn't I'd pass out. So, I shakily sat down and did as I was told. Then, they wheeled me over to a bed in Triage room 2, right next to Melanie who was in Triage room 1. Here I was, laid up with some kind of nausia and dehydration in another room, while the person I was there to support was just fine being prepped in another room.

In the hospital, they have this pain tolerance sign. As seen below. I was right around the top during my little near pass out incident...and Melanie was right around 2 or 3 after her c-section. Yes, I'm a tough guy.

Finally, I was able to stand on my own two and be there when Jocelyn arrived. They handled me with soft gloves and asked me if I was okay every 5 minutes...finding places for me to sit (and insisting I do so) at every step a long the way. Right before I went into the O.R. they asked me how I was. "Good, just a little wounded pride now..."

The end result was well worth it though...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mix Tapes

It’s where the Beach Boys and the Beastie Boys converge. Where Garth Brooks meets Skee-Lo…where Firehouse’s “Love of a Lifetime” can be preceded by Dire Straights “Walk of Life,” and followed by “Ice Ice Baby.” It has evolved to take many forms and has many names, but nothing will ever be as awesome as the original Mix Tape.

Being able to have all of MY favorite tunes on one tape for my listening enjoyment was a radical concept when I first encountered it. But, it quickly became a mainstay for me during my childhood and teenage years.

The thing that made mix tapes so rewarding was that they were something you put in a lot of time to create. So, once you were finished, you knew you had a quality product. Additionally, if you ever made one for your favorite guy or girl or even for a friend, they could know that this was a well-thought out gift. And let’s be honest, these artists are often better at expressing what we want to say on our behalf via song than we are. What girl wouldn’t melt at the sound of Mr. Big’s “I’m the One Who Wants to Be With You,” or REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight this Feelin”? Nothing says let’s go steady quite like Chicago’s “You’re The Inspiration.”

Likewise, when you and your boyfriend or girlfriend were going through a rough patch, nothing says, let’s put this petty fight behind us like Air Supply’s “All Out of Love,” or “Here I Am.”

Creating a mix tape was a chore in and of itself. Collecting all the tapes, coming up with the perfect order, recording them on your duel cassette boom box, not an easy task in the least! Not to mention making sure you have enough tape space at the end of each side so as to not cut off a rockin Huey Lewis and the News or Michael Jackson tune.

Naming mixes was always a good time as well. I would often name my mixes after one of the songs that summarized the contents therein. Names such as “Sledge Hammer,” “Can’t Touch This,” and “Bad,” often donned the white strip on side A of my mixes. Plus, you could also name each side of the mix like “This Side,” and “That Side.”

Upon completion of a mix tape, I would spend hours up on hours listening to them on my awesome yellow walkman. We made sure there were enough batteries around so that the music never stopped for too long!

Since the inception of the mix tape, several advancements have been made in mix technology. People can now create mix CDs, and even create personalized playlists on their iPod or MP3 player. But you know and I know that nothing will top the original. No drag and drop gizmo allowing you to listen to thousands of songs all in a row will ever be able to match the pure sound of a hiss of the beginning of a mix tape, the awkwardness of the transitions as you try to make each song fade in and out smoothly, and the simple joy found in the completion of and subsequent grooving to and excellent mix tape.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Angry/Lazy Mailman

As many of you may or may not have noticed. My dad has started a blog called “Faces of Culpeper.” It’s one of the fun projects he is doing now that he is retired to highlight some of the hard-working every-day folks that make Culpeper one of America’s top 10 small towns. I highly recommend you check it out.
One face you won’t see on that blog, however, is our mailman.
No, not this mailman:
…or even this mailman:

But this mailman:
Now, bear in mind that this is only my assumption of what he might look like…I’ve never actually seen him. Part of the reason I haven’t seen him is that he rarely delivers the mail if there is even a hint of an obstruction in front of the mailbox. In fact, this particular mailman appears to have a 5-10 foot radius (in any direction) wherein he will not deliver the mail if something may appear to be in the neighborhood of quite possibly coming close to blocking his truck from getting to the mail box. Such was the case this past weekend as my car was parked 3 feet from the mailbox. The mailman came and the mailman went and no delivery was made.

I did some research in anticipation of writing this particular entry and I learned that the U.S. Postal Service has been around in some form or another since 1775, when it was created by none other than Benjamin Franklin. I also learned that the famous motto attached to the postal service: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” Is not actually its motto at all. This particular motto is attached to the James Farley post office in New York, but does not extend beyond. Apparently, it is derived from a quote that refers to the ancient courier service of the Persian Empire. (If it's on Wikipedia it must be true).

In Culpeper, our carrier’s motto appears to be: No Impediment Too Small.”

Perhaps I was just spoiled growing up in the 80s with Cliff Clavin as the model for what a mailman should be.  An everyday guy who makes his rounds, does his job, and goes to the local watering hole after a hard day’s work.
At this point, I would even settle for the mailman from the Chevy Chase classic Funny Farm who nearly mowed people down delivering the mail…not even slowing down to drop the mail in the box but just chucking it out the window as he drove by. I mean, at least I would get it.

So, when you’re out at your mailbox today pulling out those bills, ads, self-mailers, occasional pertinent letter, and other such items in your mailbox, remember, somewhere out there in the town of Culpeper, VA, there is a mailman not delivering because a small ant hill has formed in front of the mailbox and it is just too much to ask for him to climb over that little Mount Everest and deliver the mail.

Cliff: “If I wasn’t wearing this uniform, I’d ask you to step outside.”
Norm: “If you weren’t wearing that uniform, we’d all step outside.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Evening With Mike & Mike in the Morning

Given that ESPN Radio Hosts Mike Greenberg & Mike Golic (Mike & Mike in the Morning) are setting off on tour in support of their new book, I thought I would share my experience attending the last book tour they went on and what happened that night.

To do this, we need to wind the clock back 4 years.

The year is 2006 and it is late March. The NCAA tournament is in full swing and the countdown to my wedding is on. Being an avid listener of Mike & Mike in the Morning, I find out that Mike Greenberg is doing a book tour in support of his then new book Why my Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot and will be in Georgetown for a book signing. I thought this would be a really fun thing for my wife-to-be and I to do. We could meet these radio hosts that I looked up to and it would just be a fun night on the town…I even had a joke prepared to tell “Greenie” when I got to the front of the line that I knew would be a home run.

More background: In the fall of 2005, Mike & Mike ran a promotion called the “40-yard-blitz” wherein they would show a key word during a college football game broadcast. Fans could then enter the key word on a website through ESPN and if the word was correct, they’d be entered in a daily contest to win a 42” flat screen TV. Admittedly, I was obsessed with this contest and I wanted to win the TV. What better way to start off my marriage than with a brand-new TV? Melanie as not as thrilled with the contest and it reached a bit of a tipping point when we (read: I) halted a Friday night date night to watch an Army/Iowa St. football game to get the key word. That’s Army and Iowa St….

So, I purchased the book and off we went to meet Mike & Mike in Georgetown. (Here is where I need to digress once again). Georgetown is a place that I don't like going. If there is a hell, and I have the unfortunate fate of having to go there, I’m confident that I will have to cross the Key Bridge to get there. It’s crowded, always busy, drivers stop in the middle of the road for no reason, delivery and moving trucks block lanes of traffic for hours at a time, pedestrians wander out in the middle of the road for no apparent reason (the crosswalk just doesn’t do it for them). Bottom line…I am not a fan of going into Georgetown…but I made the sacrifice so I could meet Mike & Mike and have a nice evening out with Melanie.

When we got to Barnes & Noble, there was a long line. We got there in the last hour or so of the signing and were some of the last ones to make it. As we waited patiently for our turn the excitement was building. Here were these two guys I enjoyed listening to and really looked up to. It was exciting to get to meet them.

Just as I was about to get my turn, something happened. Greenberg’s face went completely blank. It was as though he had seen a ghost. The person in front of us was a woman in her late 30s/early 40s and she had Greenberg in a complete trance. She apparently was someone he had gone to high school with (or perhaps college) and was someone he had clearly had some affection for many years earlier. After what seemed to be a few long moments, he shook her son’s hand and gave her a hug. He said goodbye and as I approached his eyes remained locked on his blast from the past.

Finally, it was my turn. I had my 40-yard-blitz joke all lined up and I was ready to go! As I set my book down to be signed, he remained in a haze. I said, “everything alright?” Finally, he was able to shake the cobwebs off enough to address me. He said, “Everything is fine, she’s just someone who I used to know very well and think very highly of.” He then asked me my name, (still stunned at what had just happened and not completely paying attention). As I gave it to him and introduced him to Melanie, I fired up my joke; “Yep almost lost her to the 40-Yard-Blitz.” (A clear joke about focusing on winning the contest and not going on dates with her). He responded, “What does that mean?” I explained that we were engaged, but I spent so much time focusing on trying to win the contest that I was worried she wouldn’t stick it out with me. He didn’t get it. “Well, you said you’re getting married…congratulations and best of luck to you.” He shook my hand and sent me on my way.

As I walked out with Melanie by my side, we stopped to get a quick autograph from Golic. He was on the phone and looked tired of being there. (Understandable, not his book) Not quite the experience I thought it was going to be when I planned it. I don’t exactly know what I was expecting, but whatever it was, that wasn’t that.

I guess the moral of the story here is; if you plan on attending a Mike & Mike book signing, you might want to get to know the people next to you in line and move up or back a few slots if you find yourself next to a lost love of one of the hosts. Otherwise, you may wind up like I did, just as dazed and confused as Greenie and wondering what just happened.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Eagle Has Landed

If there was one news story that overshadowed the national championship and opening day of baseball, it was the acquisition of Donovan McNabb by the Washington Redskins. Since I’m into making public pronouncements these days, let me just say that I don’t like this move…I LOVE it!
For better or worse, the Redskins have had Jason Campbell as the full time starter for 2 or 3 seasons now. Unfortunately for Campbell, he hasn’t had much of an offensive line, and he hasn’t had much coaching. This has led to a lot of people feeling as though he did not get a fair shake in the nation’s capital. That might be true, but sometimes when a regime changes, everything has to change. Exit Zorn and Campbell, enter Shanahan and McNabb.

For the Redskins, this move gives the offense instant credibility…even with a banged up offensive line. All of the young WRs will get a numbers boost from having McNabb under center. Some people have said, “If they don’t fix that line, McNabb will be running for his life.” While true, McNabb will at least be running forward, something Campbell struggled with. Additionally, McNabb has far better instincts and will be able to escape the pocket when it collapses around him, giving the WRs and TEs time to get open, or to check down to one of his stable of Running Backs; Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, or Willie Parker.

For the most part, I like the way the offseason is shaping up for the Redskins. It has been very difficult for the national pundits to keep the gloves up when discussing the Redskins because it has been easy to take shots at them in the past. To a man, (with the exception of a few) most of them like this move for the Redskins, though they don’t hesitate to throw in the line “Same old Redskins, winning the offseason again…” But the thing they fail to mention is that they’re doing it in a much more planned out and calculated way, and most of these moves aren’t costing them that much.

I believe that this is just the first domino to fall for the rest of the Redskins offseason. I can see a scenario where they move Jason Campbell, Andre Carter, Carlos Rogers, and Rocky McIntosh all for draft picks. None of these guys except for maybe Carter could demand anything other than a 4th or lower, but it’ll help add depth to a team that is in desperate need of it. And of course, I do believe they will address the offensive line.

Regardless, the Redskins always keep it interesting…

The Champ

There is nothing quite like making a public prediction and being right. If this has never happened to you, you should totally try it some time. I'm not talking about jumping on the Obama bandwagon and then later proclaiming "yes we did," or pretending like you knew all along that the Saints would topple the Colts on a Peyton Manning interception. No no, I am talking about a good, honest, bold prediction that, good or bad, you stand by. Believe me, I've had several go the other way on me...but not this one, not this time.

To have a full understanding of why this is so meaningful to me, I have to take you back to last December. I was in the midst of a potential run to the title game of the MC Gridironers Fantasy Football league as well as the League of Social Detriment (don't ask). In both leagues, I was primed to make the championship, but the bottom fell out when I went against the grain and sat 2 of my star players in favor of players that were at the time heating up. So I sat Reggie Wayne and Randy Moss in favor of Robert Meacham and Knowshown Moreno. Had I not benched them, I would've coasted to the title game and likely championship (putting some coin in my pocket along the way! Regrets? I have a few.
Back to my bracket...

I entered a total of 8 brackets this year with the exact same picks and I finished in first place in all eight of them, picking 44 of the 63 games correctly. When Georgetown (one of my final four picks) went down, I thought I was toast, but the Devils kept winning and kept winning and some of my big upset picks went through! While this was happening, the brackets were turning my way as Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse all fell...and West Virginia (another popular pick to win it all) fell to Duke in the semis. In the two money brackets I entered, I had one of them won before the final four even started and the other one was won when Duke took out West Va.

People can hate on Duke and Coach K all they want, but they survived and advanced...and put a little extra coin in my pocket in doing so! Finally! Agonizing over my brackets paid off! Until someone knocks me out of next year's bracket challenge, you can just call me The Champ.