The $100 Calzone Showdown at the Steelhead Corral

Saying my wife has a “competitive nature” is an understatement equivalent to saying Donald Trump has a “bit of any ego.”  This is the woman who, whenever I step my fat butt onto an escalator, will routinely race up the stairs next to it and beat me to the top.  This is the woman who, if you are ever stupid enough to play poker with her, will bleed you of every penny, and smile sweetly while she does it.  If you ever find yourself thinking about competing with her in anything, I have three words for you: “Give up now.”  She is a human D10 Dozer that will crush your every hope of victory.

This leads us to last Saturday night.  It will live forever in infamy as “The Calzone Incident.”  It began so innocently, just five couples getting together for dinner.

My wife ordered a calzone.  When it arrived, everyone marveled at its enormity.  It was the size of a Buick Regal.  A discussion quickly ensued about whether she could ever finish it.  The group’s consensus:  Not in this lifetime.

Then it happened.  Someone I will refer to for the purposes of this column as “Skip,” because his name happens to be Skip Hanson (that’s with an s-o-n), of Omaha, Nebraska, lit the match that ignited The Calzone Incident.

“I’ll give you $100 if you can finish the whole thing,” he dared her, fanning out five $20 bills.  It was a red cape to the bull.

My wife gave his challenge careful consideration for about half a nanosecond, and quickly accepted.  She announced that she would donate her anticipated windfall to her favorite charity, Love Beyond the Orphanage.  Thus, the gastronomical marathon ensued.  And she did not simply accept the challenge.  Oh, no.  That would be too gentle on her victim, Skip.  No.  She would twist the knife.  We sat mesmerized as she cut each piece, dipped it into a cup of marinara sauce, picked up a tabasco bottle and gave it a few shakes, then slide it down the pipe.  Like a machine.  Bite, after bite, after bite.  The cutting.  The dipping.  The shaking.  The chewing.  The sliding.  By my estimate, about one-million times in a row.  And she smiled sweetly the whole time she did it, and especially as she held out her hand for the $100.

 

My Cage Match Moment at the Red Dress Gala

When I approached the octagon at my daughter’s sorority fundraising gala, it was an especially uncomfortable moment.  The fact that my opponent was a middle-aged woman wearing an evening gown made this especially so.

Let me explain.

My daughter is a freshman at Oregon State University – home of the Beavers.  Motto:  “Dam Right I’m a Beaver!”  Also, “We don’t give a dam!”  And so forth, and so on, with the “dam” comments.  Anyway, she recently pledged a sorority, which for the purposes of this column, I will refer to as “Alpha Phi,” because the name of the sorority is Alpha Phi.  (Side note, the “Phi” is not pronounced “fi,” as in “pie,” as you might expect by employing rules of normal English, but rather, “fee.”  So it’s “Alpha-Fee.”  Yeah, it’s irritating.)

One of the first sorority events of the year is the Red Dress Gala.  All the girls wear bright red dresses.  The event unceremoniously begins with all the girls attacking the buffet station like the marines hitting the beach at Normandy.  This is followed by the “guests” (code for dutiful parents) wandering up to see whether the girls have carelessly missed a crumb or two among the buffet tables.  Answer: No.  (These girls were as thorough as Hoover vacuums.)  Now, while some may take my very true description of this event as criticism, please note that anyone familiar with the circumference of my belly, will understand that I owe these girls a debt of gratitude.  That, plus they were kind enough to begin serving alcohol at 11 a.m.

Anyway, back to the cage fight.

The gala included a silent auction.  Mostly themed baskets.  But among them were three bidding sheets for a private parking spot next to the sorority.  One for each school term – fall, winter and spring.  The sorority has very little parking, so this parking space is a coveted auction item.  I wrote down a bid on fall and spring, but winter was already getting pretty steep, and my cheapskate DNA prevented me from initially placing a bid.  After walking away, however, and reflecting on my many, and well known, failings as a father, I ventured back and wrote down a bid.  This is when I noticed a woman, not so subtly, standing guard next to it.  She immediately swooped in (actually, she just leaned over – she was practically standing on it), and wrote down a greater bid.  Then she looked up at me and announced that she had been the FIRST person to bid on the item.

I walked away, and figured I’d swing back later when the countdown began.

At the three-minute warning, I walked back over.  Standing at the bidding station was the same woman.  Only she was now holding the bidding sheet for the winter term parking spot.  She had apparently decided that her last bid would, de facto, be the final and winning bid.  I smiled and reached over to take hold of the edge of the paper.  She hung on and flashed me that look that Hillary gets when someone mentions Monica.  I gave the sheet a slight tug, and she finally released it.  I wrote down my new bid, and not surprisingly, she immediately snatched the paper back and wrote another bid.  A final thirty second announcement came across the speaker, and I considered, but only for a moment whether I wanted to find out how she would react if I were writing down the top bid when time was announced.  This is when I decided to employ one of my life philosophies: “When you encounter an insane person, don’t walk away, run.”  I turned and got the H-E-double toothpicks out of there.  I may someday enter the octagon, but not this day, and not with this crazy lady.  Frankly, I think I made a dam good decision.

Coming to Terms with My Man-Girdle

I’d love to tell you I threw out my back lifting a Buick to save a small child, but I was actually reaching down to tighten a lawn sprinkler head.  I was not attempting to lift the full weight of nearly one ounce piece of plastic, mind you, just twisting it tight.  This was not the first time I had thrown out my back.  I blame it on carrying around a heavy brief case for 20-plus years and throwing my spine off kilter, but deep down, I also harbored the guilt of shoveling down hundreds of pounds of peanut M&Ms over that same period.  (Oh, they do go down smooth.)

The first time I threw out my back was several years ago.  I was engaged in the physically challenging act of reaching down to pull a file from a lower cabinet.  In any event, a searing, paralyzing pain shot up my spine, and I knew I was in big trouble.  Later that day, a chiropractor introduced me to the nirvana of an “elastic lumbosacral belt.”  This is an eight-inch elastic strip of material that you stretch across your lower back and then secure in front of your belly with Velcro.  Instant relief.  A gift from God.

But here’s where the story takes a cruel twist.  The next morning when I’m dressing for work and pulling on my suit pants, I realize I’ve got some extra room.  My pants are actually baggy.  The belt securing my lower back has coincidentally, and quite delightfully, pulled in my belly and given me a much unearned svelte midsection.   I moved over to the mirror and turned sideways.  A smile crept across my face.

After a few days, the pain in my back subsided, but out of caution (I told myself), I continued to wear the belt.  However, this came to a sudden halt when my wife asked me a few days later, “Do you still need that belt?”  This forced me to stop lying to myself.  I wasn’t putting on a lower back support belt.  I was putting on a girdle.  A Man-Girdle.

Sadly, it was time to hang up my beloved belt and face the truth.  And it forced me to begin doing what any other guy would do in my position.  I immediately went out to my yard and began tightening every sprinkler head I could find – the ones that needed it, and the ones that didn’t.

How to Maximize the Oregon Solar Eclipse Experience

I think I speak for everyone when I say that few topics are funnier than a solar eclipse, because few things are funnier than praying your small children and pets won’t burn a hole in their retinas staring directly at the sun.  And as if that isn’t funny enough, we here in Oregon aren’t just worried about any old pedestrian solar eclipse.  We are bracing for a TOTAL eclipse.  So, not only do we have to worry that our children and pets will burn out their retinas, we have to worry that they will TOTALLY burn out their retinas!

On August 21st, the moon will pass in front of the sun and turn day into night.  The path of this “Total Eclipse” is a 70 mile wide swath which will stretch from South Carolina across the US and through Oregon.  The excitement here in Oregon is electric.  Official local tv news reporters (identifiable by their Official windbreakers) are already announcing that the Total Eclipse will be Incredible!  Almost impossible to describe.  Well, unless you can picture every time you’ve walked outside at night.  Then you CAN actually picture it.  (In fact, isn’t this just a “mini nighttime?”)  Should we really be getting excited about it?  YES!  Yes, we should!  Because the media has told us to.  The excitement is palpable! (We are told.)  And this is absolutely true!  It is true among high school science teachers, amateur astronomers and the owners of flea bag motels.  According to the news media, every hotel room and camping site has been booked for the last one million years.  So if you want to experience the delight of being in the dark for about two minutes (during the daytime!!!), bring a sleeping bag.  You’ll be camping out in a culvert.

And remember, the best part of viewing a solar eclipse is getting to wear those special protective glasses.  Not just because they keep you from burning your eyes out, but because they make you look so snazzy.  I’ve already been wearing my pair around town.  (The envious looks I get from strangers is priceless.)

So grab your sleeping bag, head to Oregon on August 21st, and prepare to be astounded!  You will get to wear Special Glasses!  It will be Dark!  During the Daytime!!!

Why You Should Never Betray a Hummingbird

By Jack Edwards

My hummingbird feeder is notable for three reasons:  1. It’s antiseptically clean, 2. It’s filled with fresh delicious “nectar,” and 3. It’s completely devoid of hummingbirds.  In fact, several local hummingbirds have not only requested, but RECEIVED, a declaration from the Oregon Hummingbird Association to ban my feeder.

Here is what I know for a fact about hummingbirds: 1. They are super tiny, 2. They flap their wings super fast, and 3. They hold petty grudges.  “But, Jack,” you say, “you’re not a licensed ornithologist.  You don’t know anything about animal psychology – except for what you picked up reading Marley and Me.”  This may be true, but you need to remember one thing, Marley and Me was a great book.  They even made it into a movie.  And one other thing, I got my birding education the old fashion way, from the Ornithological School of Hard Knocks.

Last summer, our neighbors down the street, we call them “The Poodle People,” because they have standard-sized poodles, invited us to dinner.  We ate on the Poodle People’s back patio.  And much to our delight, about 500 hummingbird feeders where hanging everywhere.  Okay, more like four or five, but in any event, it was the Grand Central Station of hummingbirds.  We loved it.

My wife promptly bought a hummingbird feeder, and we hung it in our backyard.  In no time, a skinny drab-gray colored hummingbird “took possession” of it.  This hummingbird had all the grace and hospitality of your average serial killer.  If any other hummingbird so much as flew within a mile, it would launch a vicious, all-out, kamikaze-style attack.  And it is here, sadly, that I must make my confession.

Due to the uninspiring physical appearance of our mean-spirited hummingbird, I stopped filling the feeder.  I abandoned it… but only for a short time.  By “short time,” I mean the end of last summer, into fall, through winter, and concluding at the end of spring.  Okay… and just into the first part of this summer.  Unfortunately, within this short time, word spread through the hummingbird community that this feeder was a “dry hole.”  The more ornery hummingbirds wrote letters to the editor criticizing my neglect.  Other, more unruly hummingbirds, organized protest marches (at least the ones living up in Portland).  Property was damaged.  Cars were overturned.

As a result, when I filled my feeder three weeks ago, the hummingbirds (even the less attract ones) turned up their noses (if they have noses).

My options are now limited.  Tomorrow, I’m going over to the Poodle People’s backyard to offer my sincere apology.  If that doesn’t work, I only have one choice left.  I’ll throw away the feeder and buy a dog that looks like the one from Marley and Me.

How Oregon Wildlife Officials are like Drug Dealers

By Jack Edwards

We’ll get to the disturbing similarities between wildlife officials and drug dealers in a moment, but first, the background:

Every year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife holds a “Free Fishing Weekend.”  This is the one weekend of the year that people can fish without a license.  Now, let it be known that when veteran Oregon anglers hear the words, “Free Fishing Weekend,” they all think the same thing, “RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!”  The notion of free fishing has kids and their cheapskate parents swarming over Oregon waterways like cats in a sardine factory.  It’s not pretty.  On the other hand, we must afford the unwashed masses some sympathy, because this “free” excitement is all part of an Oregon Fish and Wildlife officials’ Ponzi scheme.  For those of you who, like me, survived the Alsea public school system, let me explain:

As you know, the best method for a drug dealer to build a lucrative customer base is to let folks try the product for free.  “The first one’s always free.”  Well, Oregon wildlife officials have taken a play from the drug dealers’ playbook.  This “free” weekend is nothing less than an attempt to lure (no pun intended) young fisher-people to the water so they will develop an irresistible urge to fish, to develop a “habit.”  It’s truly diabolical.  Why would these officials stoop so low?  Because an Oregon fishing license now costs as much as a brand new Bentley.  Okay, not quite that much, but it’s a noticeable investment.  An adult annual fishing license in Oregon is now $38.00.  Gulp!  But wait, here’s an option – If you only want to fish one day, you can get a one day permit for the bargain price of $19.00.  Nineteen Dollars!  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that for this price it must include a professional fish guide, transportation and meals.  You would be wrong.  It only includes the professional guide.

So getting back to drug dealers… I mean, Oregon wildlife officials, yeah, the first one’s free because they’re trying to hook you (this pun WAS intended).  And let me warn you, that the picture you have now painted in your mind of Oregon Fish and Wildlife officials sitting back in their offices laughing and spooning copious mounds of caviar onto imported crackers is all wrong.  They use local crackers.

Top Three Funny Things About Being the Victim of a Smash and Grab

By Jack Edwards

I know what you’re thinking.  With all the humor that a smash and grab creates, why limit the list to three?  Well, I’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and I need to reserve time to sweep up the glass and get the repair estimates.  So here’s the story-

My daughter, who I will refer to as Emma for the purposes of this column, because her name happens to be Emma, parked in front of our house last night.  Because she is a teenager, 92% of her brain is dormant.  (This issue will not be resolved until she gets her real job after college when she is shocked to find out the landlord actually wants to be paid the rent on time each and every month.)  But I digress.  Emma left her purse on her front passenger seat  before dutifully locking the vehicle.  We live in a very nice neighborhood, a very non-smash and grab type of neighborhood.  She was, therefore, lulled into a false sense of security.

Fast-forward to this morning when I go out to get the morning paper and discover her passenger side window smashed in and her purse missing.

Humor Point #1  (And I swear to you that I am not making this up.)

One of Emma’s first comments was, “At least they only took my purse.”  She was factually correct.  Perhaps because the thief was so blinded by the credit cards and cash in her purse, he neglected to spot the candy bar wrappers and dirty socks sitting IN PLAIN VIEW on the floorboard, which he so foolishly left untouched.

Humor Point #2

After weighing whether to call the police, I gave a ring to the non-emergency number of the local police department.  “Do you even come out for something like this?” I asked?  The nice lady answered that unless we had some way to identify the thief, like he dropped his cell phone or his wallet, or perhaps used a grease pen to write his name and phone number on the windshield, “No.”

Humor Point #3

This space will remain vacant for future humor expansion.

In conclusion, if anyone knows a drug addict who has an aversion to dirty socks and candy bar wrappers, please contact me immediately.  I’m pretty sure that with that type of lead the police would jump on this case like stink on a monkey.

A three minute vacation for your brain.