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.

Why Alaskan Moose Don’t Attend Kindergarten

Every word of this story is true.  Well, almost every word of this story is true.  Okay, part of this story is true.  Okay, okay, this story was inspired by a true story (that someone told me about).  Let’s call it, “Hollywood true.”

It involves a man being abducted by aliens who conducted a series of disturbing experiments involving his….  Wait.  No. That’s not the story I was going to tell you about.  The story I was going to tell you about involves a moose.  Actually, several moose.

Dan Joling, a writer for the Associated Press, recently penned an article warning Alaskans about “grumpy moose.” One moose kicked a woman in the head while she was out feeding her chickens.  (If you’re keeping track, this is reason 185 why you should never own a chicken).  Another moose charged at some folks at an Alaskan ski resort – twice.  (Say what you will about moose – they’re persistent.)  The “take-away,” if you will, from Joling’s article is that if Alaskan moose attended kindergarten, they would come home every day with notes saying that they didn’t “work and play well with others.”

On a related note, my wife’s family has a cabin in Montana.  Here is how you get there:

Step 1.  Drive to the state of Montana.

Step 2.  Continue driving into the state at Montana’s legal speed limit of 500 miles an hour.

Step 3.  When you  reach The Middle of Nowhere, make a sharp right turn at a sign that says Fish Creek Road.

Step 4.  Continue driving for several more hours, and after bouncing along on a gravel road for three full eternities, you finally arrive – at a location where you need to continue driving for several more hours.

Step 5.  When your kidneys finally unionize and demand humane working conditions, you reach the cabin.

The cabin sits in a valley where no electronic communications exist, nor will they ever exist.  People in the darkest, most remote corners of the jungles of Borneo will have four full bars of wifi before any electronic communication penetrates this valley.  What do exist in this valley, however, are moose.  Now, I would love to tell you that these Montana moose are not grumpy like those rude Alaskan moose who keep kicking women in the head as they feed their chickens.  However, I am not in a position to do so.  This is because WE STAY AWAY FROM THE MOOSE.  My wife’s family is very large (to be precise, after the last baby was born, including cousins – the number stands at 1,383,052).  All of us, at one point or another, visit the cabin, AND THIS KEY, none of us is clinically insane (Well, there is…  No!  I’m joking!  Not a single one of us is clinically insane).  So we stay away from the moose.  We exercise a Zero Tolerance Moose Policy as it pertains to moose and all moose-related creatures.  The nuances of their personalities, therefore, remain a mystery to us, unlike, may I point out, the Chicken Lady of Homer, Alaska.  So that’s the point of my very true story.

However, now that I’ve told my moose story, on second thought, maybe I should have told you about the alien abduction instead.

I Hit a Pothole on My Rosetta Stone Road

I began studying Korean four weeks ago by optimistically learning the sentence: “Please speak Korean very slowly.”  After putting in this time, one thing has become abundantly clear.  As a result, I have learned a new sentence.  This new sentence will be instrumental during my trip to Korea this fall.  Here is my new sentence: “I am very sorry; I do not speak Korean.”  After saying this, any Korean words I manage to cough up will  be impressive.

True story-

Last week, I told someone at work that I was studying Korean.  Now, keep in mind that for the prior three weeks I had been devoting a minimum of 30 minutes each night, often longer, studying Korean.  She said to me, “Say something in Korean.”  I paused for a moment and reached back deep into the recesses of my mind, trying to find the perfect word or phrase.  Then I said, “I can’t think of anything.”  And this was true.  I drew a blank.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Through the magic of Rosetta Stone, I have learned to say the following:



Bad (Actually my wife taught me that one.  And, no, don’t ask.)

I am sure there’s a method to the madness of Rosetta Stone, and I’m in it to the end.  However, so far I’ve learned a lot about cats and dogs.  I’ve learned how to say the basic colors, including the word for black.  However, when I told my wife the word for black, she told me, yeah, that’s one word for it, but everybody uses a different word.  So that was a little irritating.  I told her that I was going to be loyal to Rosetta Stone and use their word.  She shrugged.  I’ve also learned a lot about, for some reason, eggs.

In the meantime, I have decided that I will have a sentence ready for the next person who asks me to say something in Korean.  It will be on the tip of my tongue.  I’ll have it in the chamber ready to fire.  I will tell them:   “I am very sorry; I do not speak Korean.”

Extreme Vetting: Family Pet Edition

I am OFFICIALLY calling on the United States Commerce Department to launch an “all out investigation” into the devious and patently unfair marketing strategy (i.e. “scheme”) of one of our nation’s preeminent industries.  I think you know what industry I’m talking about.  I also think you agree with me that this industry has been “coddled” by Washington Insiders far too long.  I am, of course, referring to the “Dog Industry Cartel Kerfuffle.” (No, I will not use this group’s acronym.  This is a family friendly column.  Get your minds out of the gutter).

This industry is using a blatantly unfair marketing advantage in promoting its brand, to wit: Puppies.  By unfairly exploiting puppies, pictures of puppies, and stories about puppies, et cetera, the average American is placed at a gross disadvantage.  This outfit even stoops to marketing to children.  Walk into the children’s section of any library and what do you see?  Picture books about puppies.  And not a balanced view of puppies.  No.  It’s all one-sided.  It’s all Pro-Puppy.

This all leads me to a friend of mine.  For the purposes of this column, I’ll refer to her as, “Janene,” because her name happens to be Janene.  Janene is an “industry insider.”  She has two dogs.  The first dog her family got was Peanut, a Chihuahua-King Cavalier designer dog.  (The whole industry is becoming high-tech – Another unfair advantage).  We all thought Peanut was a small dog until Janene got her second dog, Paparazzi.  Now, compared to Paparazzi, Peanut looks like an aircraft carrier.  Paparazzi is a Yorkshire terrier.  He weighs slightly less than your average cotton ball.

As his name suggests, Paparazzi has a certain flair.  He has caught the attention of the owner of a female Yorkie who is interested in him breeding (or in today’s dog parlance, “hooking-up”) with her dog.  Janene would get the pick of the litter, and she asked me if my family might be interested in a Paparazzi Junior.

Here’s the rub.

I’m married to someone whom you might not characterize as a “dog lover.”  Her list of concerns include: 1. They are dogs, 2. They tend to shed hair, and finally, 3. They are dogs.  If my wife were Superwoman (which in many ways she is), then dog hair is Kryptonite.  Well, guess what?  Yorkie’s don’t shed.  So that takes care of her number 2 concern.

Now, I just need to solve problems 1 and 3.

Ken Kesey Owes Me $5.20

Yesterday, I accidentally ate a hamburger the size of a Greyhound Bus.  Only it didn’t go down so smooth.  This was all Ken Kesey’s fault.  Yeah, I know he’s dead, but that doesn’t make it right.

I live in Eugene, Oregon, where author and Grateful Dead groupie Ken Kesey is revered.  He’s like a white Buddha.  In fact, the city dropped a bronze statue of him reading to kids smack down in the middle of town.  The “disenfranchised” use it hang their clothes to dry and/or display their valuable home-crafted trinkets for sale.  Drop by to visit it sometime.  Go in a group.  Take a can of mace.

But I digress.

Kesey wrote a book called, Sometimes a Great Notion.  It’s supposed to be really good.  I haven’t read it, of course, but I saw the movie starring Paul Newman, which was filmed in Oregon.  It was really good, and I cried when Paul Newman’s character drowned.  Anyway, I’m certain that’s where the tragedy of this hamburger nightmare started.

The McDonald’s Worldwide Conglomeration of Death (because there’s something seriously wrong with that outfit), recently came up with their own “Great Notion.”  They named it the “Gran Mac.”  It’s like the classic Big Mac, only several stories taller, and the diameter of a sewage drain lid.

The saying goes that it’s not how many times you fall down that matters, it’s how many times you stand back up.  Well, I fell down yesterday.  I tripped and fell face first into a Gran Mac.  I didn’t want to do it.  But this beast was an artery-clogging siren calling me to her rocky shores.  Polishing off that monstrosity of a burger (if you can call this aircraft carrier-sized block of carbohydrates and fat a burger) was backbreaking, or I should say, jaw-breaking.  My mandibular muscles are still aching.  And the carcass of that thing is still rolling around down in my lower intestines.  It’s churning away like a muskrat caught in a whitewater river sinkhole.

The entire experience is my shame.  And before you ask, “no,” I haven’t gotten back up yet.

So, Mr. CEO of McDonald’s Worldwide Conglomeration of Death, I only have one comment for you: “Sometimes it’s NOT a Great Notion.”

A three minute vacation for your brain.