To the Moon Alice!

In my life, I’ve had plenty of birthdays. Of course, this doesn’t make me special or anything, plenty of you reading this have had plenty of birthdays. Unfortunately for you, this is my blog, so we’re only going to talk about my birthdays…sorry.

Most of my birthdays were uneventful, but when they were eventful, they really truly were. For example, when I turned 4 years old, my family was at a family church camp for a week. There were about 200 people at the camp and I have only a faint memory of it. My dad, however, had a very good memory of it. It was one of the most stressful weeks he ever had.

The week began with our trip to the camp, nearly 3 hours away from home. Along the way, my oldest brother became sick…not car sick, but really sick. When he was a toddler, he had gotten into some ant poison and his stomach was never the same. So our week began with my brother in the local hospital near the camp. Then came my birthday.

The camp had a tradition of acknowledging people’s birthdays at supper. I noticed this early in the week and was rather anxious when my day came. I was so anxious, I hid. There are a lot of places at a wooded camp for a 4-year-old to hide, believe me. After a couple hours of searching, my dad finally had to inform the camp leaders I was missing. Next thing we knew, 200 people were searching the camp for me. I eventually came out of my hiding place, darned dinnertime, because I was hungry. Like most 4-year-olds, I had to eat 300 times a day or at least whine about it. That was eventful.

My 8th birthday was eventful because it was the day we landed and walked on the moon. As an 8-year-old, that was exciting. Back then, the whole world would watch what they could about the space missions because it was so new and exciting. Later years, however, they didn’t even show space missions on television anymore because of a lack of interest. That wasn’t the case in 1969. Like I said, the whole world watched and in a little house in Milwaukee, an 8-year-old birthday boy felt like the day belonged to him.

ME: Today’s my birthday!

EVERYONE ELSE: Shut up! We’re trying to watch this!

Well, it felt special to me anyhow. Birthday’s were never a big deal in our house. We didn’t have parties, very few presents, but we always had cake and ice cream. I was good with this.

My 18th birthday took me back to the moon…kind of. The night before I had been to a concert and met some famous people (another blog for another time), but the actual day of my birthday turned out pretty special too. I was cruising around with some friends and we were drinking “shorties.” For those of you who know, these little 8 ounce cans of beer were deceptive. They went down very fast and very easy. That night was no exception. I was feeling pretty good.

It was very late and we rolled up next to an empty bus…empty except for the driver. He must’ve been in a bad mood because when we looked out our car window, he flipped us off. I was in the front passenger seat (the window facing the bus) and knew it was up to me to avenge our honor…and so I did. With my pants down and my butt cheeks pressed against the window, I did just that. It was in the middle of avenging that the unmarked squad car behind us slapped the flashing red and blue light onto the roof of his car and we had to pull over.

After we pulled over, the cop stepped out of his vehicle and came right to my door instead of the driver’s side.

COP: You! Get out of the car!

ME: Ok.

COP: NOW!!!

ME (getting out of the car): OK!!!

COP: Turn around and place your hands on the car. (I did). Spread your legs. (I did and he searched me). Now take your left hand and bring it down behind you. (I did…then I felt the click.)

ME: Handcuffs?

COP: Now bring your right hand down behind you. (I did and felt the other end of the handcuffs wrap around my wrist).

ME: For mooning an EMPTY bus?

COP: You’re a sick man. Now come with me.

He loaded me into the back of his car and off we went to jail. He never talked with my buddies, which was a good thing because we had been drinking, to include the driver. I was booked as an adult for the first time in my life. I had been an adult for less than 24 hours and already I had a rap sheet.

I spent the night in jail and when the morning came, I was paraded out of the jail along with a dozen other men for court. When my name was read, they stated the charge was “indecent exposure.” Well, the cop the night before said I was being booked for disorderly conduct, so this was certainly an unpleasant development. Just then, a lawyer walked up and said he was representing me. Apparently, my friends were busy while I was “doing time.” I pled “not guilty” and walked out to wait for another court date. Two months later, with a fresh haircut and suit, I was given a delayed sentence by the judge. What that meant was, if I was good for the next 12 months, all charges would be dismissed. I promised the judge that I would no longer be a threat to society and would keep my pants on.

Possible moral to this story? Adulting sucks because you have to keep your pants on. Seriously, though, who else can claim to have not one, but two major moon events on their birthday? Statistically, I might just be the only person in the world to claim this.

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Working at Camp (Reblog)

Back during the summer when I turned 16-years-old, I went to work at a Boy Scout Camp. Overall, I ended up working at that camp for 6 summers, but this post will cover my first summer. It was my first time being away from home for more than a weekend and I was pretty excited. Even though my job was to be kitchen help, I couldn’t wait to take advantage of the waterfront and the nature.

They gave me my own tent for the summer and I was happy to find it was a large wall tent on top of a large platform. There was plenty of room for my bunk and footlocker as well as a little porch area where I hung a tarp. The bathroom and shower was in a cabin nearby and the dining facility was a mere two hundred yards away.

I barely got unpacked when I was told to go to the kitchen to begin work. I met the chef, the dining hall steward, and the other workers and we received a briefing on how everything operated. My main job was to be inventory and dishes which was no small thing because there would be almost 300 scouts per week during the boy scout portion and about 200 cub scouts per day during their portion. It seemed overwhelming at first, but a few days into camp, everything became routine. I quickly proved that I wasn’t afraid to work and was given extra responsibilities as the summer went on.

I had a blast and made friends easily, a few whom I remained friends with into adulthood. Even though we were mostly kids, there was a camaraderie that I never felt before. We were like a large family that worked together, played together, and unfortunately at times, partied together. The partying felt fun for the most part when I was young, but as a current father and grandfather, I would not be happy to find out my kid went to a camp where the staff partied every night, but we did.

I remember one night where I stumbled upon a couple of the older staff drinking Mad Dog 20/20. They invited me to join and if I had the knowledge I have today back then, I might’ve kept walking. That stuff nearly killed me! I was so hungover the next day, I stayed in my tent until noon pretending to be sick from something else. Apparently, the drinking the night before became an open secret and everybody in the dining hall was justifiably angry with me when I finally showed up. So much for my good impression!

After a couple days, everybody quit being angry with me and I was asked to fill in for the dining hall steward after he left. The job entailed keeping control of the dining hall during the meals, which included announcements, picking which tables would go first to eat, and singing songs before every meal. The Chaplain handled the prayers.

I was surprised to find out I was a natural ham and the job came easy to me. I had no problem leading the scouts in songs and making jokes whenever we had to wait for the food so they wouldn’t get restless. I still had dish duty afterward, but I didn’t mind the extra work. It made me popular and what kid doesn’t want to be popular?

In between meals, I worked on merit badges so I could get rank faster and every week I ran in the Mile Run we conducted so scouts could get a patch. I was a natural runner when I was young and was never beat in the six summers I worked at the camp. It became a goal for some scouts to beat me and made the event fun. I did do the Mile Swim, but I only did that once because I wasn’t very good at it.

Sometimes, after dinner or between weeks, the staff was allowed to leave camp. Since most of us younger staff didn’t drive, we would walk about a mile and a half to the nearest fast food place. It was called, “Mr. Quick” and was next to a bar called “Mr. Slow.” Then some hazing would happen on the walk back.

There was a cornfield along the way that grew both sweet corn and field corn. The trick was to get an ear of sweet corn and then guide the new kids to the field corn where they would be greatly disappointed as soon as they took a bite. I was fortunate enough to know the difference, so I didn’t fall for it. I fell for the next haze, however.

Just before the camp was a pasture with horses. The older kids went down and reached over the fence with clumps of grass to feed them and encouraged us to do the same. None of us new guys noticed they avoided the fence. I was the first one to grab the top as I leaned over to feed the horse. Of course, it was an electric fence and I got jolted pretty good. The amazing thing was that two more kids grabbed it after me and I didn’t feel nearly as stupid after that.

Overall, my experience during that first summer was amazing. I grew up a lot that summer and it encouraged me to go back again and again.

Waterfront Property

For those of you following my blogs, you’ll remember that I talked about the heavy rain and the new lake that formed behind our house. It stopped raining for a bit so it looks like we may have lucked out as far as any home flooding. This morning, however, I looked out my back window and saw a couple squirrels in a tree above the newly formed lake. I can only imagine the conversation…

SQUIRREL WIFE: We’re moving to the country, you said. It’ll be beautiful, you said. Nuts everywhere, you said.

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: How was I supposed to know it was going to flood here?

SQUIRREL WIFE: Oh, I don’t know…maybe because it’s by a river? Maybe because the ground is really low? Maybe because the Andersons told us not to live here because it could FLOOD?!?!

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: The Andersons are always saying crazy things! Remember when they insisted we would get overrun by foxes? That never happened…

SQUIRREL WIFE: Well, this did!

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: Fine…you win…I’m sorry. I’m hungry, do we have any nuts left?

SQUIRREL WIFE: Only the ones we buried.

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: Well, I’ll just go and…nuts! They’re under the water!

SQUIRREL WIFE: I’m so happy I married a genius.

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: Fine! I’ll swim under the water and get them!

SQUIRREL WIFE: No you won’t.

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: Yes I will!

After this, the male squirrel scampers down the tree then hesitates at the waterline. He slowly dips his toe into the water and shivers.

SQUIRREL WIFE: What are you waiting for? Spring?

Angrily, the male squirrel dives into the water. The female watches for a minute before getting worried. A minute later, the male emerges with a single acorn and runs it up the tree.

SQUIRREL WIFE: Oh! I’m so sorry! I was so worried about you!

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: Here you go. I’ll go get some more…

SQUIRREL WIFE: You’re so sweet! You’re just the best husband ever!

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: Aw, it’s ok. Just eat your acorn.

The squirrel female chomps into the acorn and makes a face before spitting it out.

SQUIRREL WIFE: Argh! It’s all pasty from being wet! Couldn’t you at least try to find one not so soggy?

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: Huh? Seriously?

SQUIRREL WIFE: We’re moving to the country, you said. It’ll be beautiful, you said. Nuts everywhere, you said.

SQUIRREL HUSBAND: Good grief…

Yeah, that’s what my imagination tells me is going on. Of course, my cat is next to me, like always, and has a little different viewpoint on these situations.

ME: So, kitty, what do you think they’re saying?

CAT: Meow. (This translates to, at least we won’t starve if we get flooded in.)

ME: I don’t think it’ll come to…

CAT: Meow. (Once again, the translation is, squirrels are good eatin’.)

ME: I don’t think we’ll have to resort to that. Besides, you have enough Meow Mix for the next month or so.

CAT: Meow. (I don’t think you’re feeling me on this, Dazeodrew…)

ME: Fine. Go get us a squirrel.

CAT: Meow? (They live in a lake…you expect me to jump in that?)

So I guess we won’t be eating squirrel tacos any time soon.

Support Our Troops

One of the things that helped me get through my war was support from home. My family kept the letters and pictures of my kids coming and the care packages were awesome. My mom had sent me cookies but I had to let her know that chocolate chips cookies were off the menu…have you ever seen what 120 degrees can do to a mass of chocolate chip cookies? It becomes just that…a mass. It didn’t matter, however, because I ate the mass like it was a giant chocolate chip ball.

I even received letters from little school children I didn’t know. They were labeled “Dear Soldier,” and I replied to each and every one I received. They helped make me feel good about what I was doing…which was fighting for oil. That wasn’t my choice. Joining the army was my choice, but after you’re in, you do your duty. My duty was to fight for oil. Despite that, Desert Storm was a feelgood war for our country. After the politicians gave us the debacle of Vietnam, this war was greatly needed to restore pride in our country. It was also the Vietnam veterans that went out of their way to make sure we received the “Welcome Home” that they never got. They refused to let another generation of veterans go without the thanks they should’ve gotten when they came home. It wasn’t their fault that war turned into such a mess…they did their jobs. They had no choice.

The reason I’m writing this blog post for today is that we always seem to be in a war or on the brink of war. We have military personnel all over the world. They need to know that even if we don’t always support why they are there, we definitely support them and their sacrifice…and make no doubt, they are sacrificing. It doesn’t matter if they’re Special Forces, Infantry, mechanics, cooks, supply, pilots, artillery, engineers, and so on. They are all giving up something to do this.

The support shouldn’t end when they get back home. In the military, we become a family of sorts. We can become closer than siblings, especially in a war zone. That’s why when one of us dies, it’s a big deal to us. It is losing someone in our family. It hurts. We are often ravaged by survivor guilt because we made it back alive. On top of that, we’re often dealing with some of the things we had to do and the things done to us.

Many of us who go to war were just on the playground a few years before. We went from the playground to the battleground before we were mentally ready. We went from killing things in a video game (where it seems cool) to killing things in real life (not so cool). It scars us. We are never the same after this. The reality of death really hits home when you are next to it or the cause of it.

At the time, we are in survival mode. We really aren’t thinking about it because things happen so fast. We just instinctively react. Our thinking comes later…and lasts the rest of our lives. We often question everything that happened, especially if our buddies die. We constantly wonder if we could’ve done something different. We wonder if we arrived at a spot just five seconds earlier or five seconds later, would the outcome have been different?

We often live in the dark, the dark being in our own minds. That’s where support from our family and friends can be so important. Sometimes they can be the only lights we see.

Leave your politics when you see a veteran. Don’t blame our military when they go someplace for a cause you don’t believe in. They don’t call the shots…your politicians do. Show your displeasure by voting, not by disparaging our troops. They are doing their duty.

Football Bets

This next Sunday, my beloved Packers will be playing the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs in Green Bay. Now since I live in Washington state, I’m surrounded by Seahawks fans…to include my grandkids. I always proudly wear my Packers gear, but when they play each other, it takes on added significance in my interactions with other people. It’s always a conversation starter.

SEAHAWKS FAN: Packers, huh?

ME: Yup.

SEAHAWKS FAN: They’re gonna lose.

ME: Ok.

SEAHAWKS FAN: I liked Brett Favre though.

ME: Me too.

SEAHAWKS FAN: It’s gonna be cold in Green Bay.

ME: Always is in the Winter.

SEAHAWKS FAN: That’s gonna help the Packers.

ME: Usually does.

See? A perfectly good two-way conversation with the enemy. Did you notice how friendly I was? Did you notice the Seahawks Fan just conceded the victory to my Packers? Smart fan, that one.

A number of years ago, the same two teams had met in the playoffs. We had just moved back to Wisconsin for a couple of years and my former co-workers in Washington decided to make a bet with me on the outcome. If the Packers won, they would send me some smoked salmon. If the Seahawks won, I would send them some cheese. The Packers won. They would move on to play the Giants.

I patiently awaited my victory prize but wasn’t prepared for what happened next. At the Post Office, I had a veteran friend who gave me a call one day. He said he wanted me to come to pick up a package in person. I thought that was odd, but I went. There were a group of postal workers gathered around my package. I soon saw why. All over the outside of the package were words…words like “Dazeodrew is a Giants fan” and “Go Giants” and so on. It was pretty funny. I opened the package and inside was another box with the same things written. I opened that and there was yet another smaller box with even more written. Then I opened that box and it was a little can of smoked sardines.

A week later I finally got my smoked salmon. Months later, I finally stopped hearing about the first package. There were a lot of veterans who thought it was hilarious. That’s ok…not only did I get some good smoked salmon, I also got a can of smoked sardines. The way I see it, I doubled my winnings. Of course, the cat was a little impossible around my breath…

So this next Sunday will be another special day for the Dazeodrew household. I haven’t made any bets yet, but I definitely been hearing about the upcoming game. You see, at work, I get to wear a football jersey on the weekends. I don’t need to tell you what jerseys I wear, do I? Needless to say, I’m generally surrounded by Seahawk jerseys. On the weekdays, I wear a lanyard (that’s what they call those things you wear around your neck that hold cardholders or badges) that’s all Green Bay Packers. The green and yellow really stand out against my tan shirt. Yes, I’m a fan, and yes, I’m proud.

Even if they end up losing, I will always be a Packers fan.

3 Feet and Rising

I spent the morning watching the newly formed lake behind my house rise due to the heavy rains we’ve been getting. There was a poor squirrel trying to get from tree to tree without falling into the waters. In our driveway, there is a sizeable pond forming. We also have one of those flow septic systems and when the ground is as saturated as it is, well, you can probably guess what could and has happened if we flush the toilet one too many times.

We’ve learned quickly that on these days, we can’t do laundry, we can’t use the dishwasher, and if we must shower, it has to be quick. An alternative would be to run outside naked with some shampoo and soap, but it’s only about 45 degrees out so that shower might even be quicker. I’m not sure what the police reaction time would be if the neighbors see us though…

In my life, I have been lucky enough to not witness many floods. I’ve had plenty of times where we had to bail out a basement or garage or two, but never a threatening flood that could engulf the rest of the house. This might be the closest I get to that.

When I went to the Mideast for the war in 1990, we had torrential rain that they said hadn’t happened in hundreds of years. The rocky and sandy ground was saturated and everything was flooded and wet. Every hole we dug filled up quickly with water until we realized we were just wasting time. Sandbags would only help so much and were used more to keep water from our tents than anything else. Sandbags are heavy…wet sandbags are really, really heavy. We were actually grateful when the rains stopped and we had a sunny morning…that is until it hit 120 degrees. That standing water went away quickly and the desert erupted with flowers that hung around for a day or two before the intense sun burned them away. It was beautiful for a short moment.

I remember once when we lived in Wisconsin a horrendous thunderstorm rolled through. The hail was the size of golf balls and left dents on our vehicles. It was so heavy and lasted a few minutes, but the tornado that was reported just missed us. It was late Spring and the heavy hail tore leaves from the trees. The leaves flowed to the sewers and clogged them up. I was watching from the front window when the realization of the clogged sewers hit me. I ran outside.

Armed with a heavy rake, I worked my way through water that was freezing cold and up over my knees. I looked and saw my neighbor waving at me from his lawn. His face said it all…better you than me, it seemed to say. I didn’t wave back.

I reached the sewer and began to rake the leaves out of the grate. The water rushed so forcefully it nearly took my feet out from under me. After a few minutes, I seemed to be making a difference. The water rushed down the sewer and slowly lessened after about five minutes to puddles. The way I saw it, I saved a number of our basements around our house. If I would’ve had time, I would’ve built a channel of leaves right into that neighbors yard who just waved and didn’t help.

Anyway, here I am again and there’s nowhere for this water to go. We have at least another 36 hours of heavy rain to go according to the weather report and I’m wondering where all the water will end up. I’m not really too worried that it’ll get into the house, but the garage might catch some flooding before it’s over.

If it continues, I might put a “donate” button on my blog so I can build an ark. It’s worked before…

Innocence Shattered

I’ve heard people say that kids today are disrespectful, don’t have a work ethic, and expect to have things handed to them whenever they want it. Kids no longer play outside and they are stuck to their electronic devices instead of learning to socialize person to person. According to many people, kids are different now than they were fifty years ago. Well…no kidding.

What bothers me about these statements is that a 3-year-old won’t suddenly decide for themselves that they are going to grow up disrespectful, lazy, and glued to an electronic device…there are adults who help make them this way. Electronic devices are the new babysitters of this generation just like television became the babysitter of the previous generation. It frees up a parent to do whatever they think is more important if they occupy their little ones with video contraptions that suck them in. Small wonder that kids are different now.

When I was a kid (yeah, we all hate this line) us kids didn’t know what sex was until our teenage years. We were afraid to get caught saying dirty words. We were pushed out of the house to play instead of being enclosed in the house and attached to gadgets. Yes, it’s true that it’s a much more dangerous place outside than it was when I was little, but nothing stops us from setting rules to keep our kids safe. Yes, there are dangerous adults who would love to steal our kids, but here’s a news flash…they’re everywhere and they love electronic gadgets. They might even have a better chance luring your kid through the internet than they would luring your kid from the backyard.

When I was a kid, we were more innocent and naïve than the kids of today. We didn’t have access to all the bad stuff that’s only a mouse-click away for today’s kids. Some parents control their kids access to dangerous sites and chatrooms and some even keep the time allotted for electronic devices to an hour or so after homework or something like that. It doesn’t always work, but I applaud the effort.

It’s not just the internet that’s destroying our kids innocence, but television as well. Gone are the days of The Munsters, Leave it to Beaver, and Happy Days. Welcome to the days of smut, death, and brutality. The kids of today are bombarded with this stuff. The worst part is, many adults are not bothered by this nor think it harms kids in any way.

I remember talking to a young parent and they were telling me how “Game of Thrones” was part of their Family Night. I understand Family Night. It used to be a night where the whole family could sit down and watch something good for everybody, like Disney. I was confused how watching “Game of Thrones” could even be remotely good for kids.

ME: Isn’t that a little too mature for your kids?

YOUNG PARENT: Oh, we cover their eyes during the sex scenes.

ME: Do you also shut off the volume?

YOUNG PARENT: Oh, we don’t worry about that! The kids are way too young to know what’s going on.

ME: Hmm, the couple of times I saw that show they were pretty verbal about it.

YOUNG PARENT (now getting annoyed with me): Well, I’m pretty sure I’m more of an expert of my kids than you are.

ME: That’s true. You’re also the most influential person in their lives. If you think rape is ok, so will they.

YOUNG PARENT: Who said anything about rape?

ME: Game of Thrones.

Please don’t think I’m condemning that show. I really don’t have an opinion about it either way. What I do know is that if I had been exposed to that kind of stuff when I was a little boy, I may have turned out a little differently. I may have decided to become disrespectful to women (other than a few female characters, the rest were used for one thing by the male characters), I may have lost my work ethic because it appears you can get so much more by using brutality, and finally, I may have learned to place less value on life, not just my own, but other lives as well.

I am not an expert at parenting. I am not Doctor Spock and I am not an expert on human behavior. I winged it just like everybody else does. Where I find the difference is that I did my best to prolong my kids’ innocence for as long as I could. I figured they would deal with adult issues soon enough. I also figured it was my job to prepare them for these issues, rather than let them learn from an electronic babysitter.

Obviously, this blog post is just my opinion. That’s why it’s a blog post.

Snuff the Rooster (Reblog)

We all have certain things that’ll wake us up. Some people wake up to music, some to calming ocean sounds, some to the sound of trains or traffic, and some to the sound of a rooster. I know there are plenty more, like crying babies, barking dogs, mewling cats, and that lady next door who’s always yelling at the kids, but this is a blog post, not the book of lists. You get what you get.

So you may have guessed, maybe not, but this post is about alarm clocks. Most of us wake to things that make some kind of noise. Some of us need a lot of noise and some of us only need a little noise to get us up. Some folks, like my parents who were deaf, only need a flashing light to get them up. In fact, my dad was so brilliant that he created a baby monitor that would flash when we would cry at night as babies so they wouldn’t have to continuously check on us all night long.

Me, I need something annoying to wake me up. Seeing that it would be most unpleasant to have somebody who I dislike stand by my bed until morning and start talking when it’s time for me to get up, I’ve embraced technology. One of the alarms I can pick for my cell phone is a rooster. It wakes me up and I don’t even have to feed it or clean up after it! Also, I’m still on speaking terms with some of my neighbors…

Of course, my back-up system is my cat. She’s not very dependable and can’t tell time, but she is fully capable of waking me up. The problem is, she thinks the moment the sun comes up is when she needs to start her job. She’ll sit on the bed and if I move or even twitch, she starts yowling and crawling all over me.

CAT: Oh! You’re up! Feed me!

ME: Leave me alone, I was just rolling over.

CAT: But you’re up! Feed me!

ME: Not yet! I’m still sleeping!

CAT: No you’re not…you’re rolling around and talking to me. Feed me!

This seems to go on every 15 minutes from when the sun comes up to when the rooster finally crows. Then the cat gets offensive.

CAT: Oh sure, you get up for that annoying bird sound! Feed me!

ME (mainly because I do not speak cat so early in the morning): Do you need to go outside?

CAT: No, I took care of that already as I’m sure you’ll find out. Feed me!

WIFE: Why are you up so early and what’s wrong with the cat? Does she need to go out?

ME (putting on my shoes): Uggghh! What’s in my shoe?

So, as you can see, I usually don’t get to sleep in. If I do, it’s because I got up at the break of day, fed the cat, and let her out before climbing back into bed. Then again, if it’s not a weekend, there’s still the rooster. It has to be snuffed every weekday morning.

After taking care of the cat, my morning shifts into a routine of sorts. If it’s really early, I’ll make myself an espresso drink and get to work on my computer. If it’s a little later in the early morning, I’ll put my coffee off until I go to get my wife her espresso drink from my favorite baristas down the road.

This is where my morning brightens up. I walk into the store and am immediately greeted by “Hi White Chocolate,” or “Good morning White Chocolate.” Yes, they call me White Chocolate. If you haven’t read it already, I wrote an entire blog post about this strange phenomenon about being nicknamed as such. They make me smile and I often feel as if the rest of my day will be good…even if my shoe is a little wet.

So, let’s take inventory. Alarms, check. Rooster, check. Cat, check. Espresso happiness, check. I think I covered everything I wanted to cover in this post…except, of course, I could go on about the cat…

White Chocolate (Reblog)

For the last 19 years, I have rewarded my wife for putting up with me by getting her an espresso drink every morning. No matter where we lived, no matter where we were, and no matter what the weather, I’ve managed to come through almost every time. The only times I failed, I was out of town working. Yes, I really, really, love my wife. Recently, we were in the Cascades in Oregon and the nearest espresso was 30 miles away…I went. It’s an obsession to come through for her, even though she doesn’t expect it, especially when we were in the Cascades.

For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been using the same espresso stand located at my favorite grocery store. I’ve gotten to know all the baristas and watched them come and go. I’ve even run into some of the former baristas and we talk like time never passed. It was about 2 years ago that I seem to take an extra step in my relationship with the baristas, one in particular. She’s a sweetheart and never fails to make me smile when I see her. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all sweethearts and treat me very well, but this one began something that lives to this day. She gave me a nickname.

One day, I went in and they were trying to guess my name. I let it be a mystery, so I was given the nickname “White Chocolate,” after the drink I get my wife every morning. It took them nearly three months to figure out my name…it was my debit card that betrayed me…and even some fellow customers knew me as White Chocolate.

At first, I was touched, but as time went on, I began to feel funny about the nickname. It made me think of something dark and dirty, like I was a star of questionable movies or something…

GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Hi, I’m Candy.

ME: Why hello (I say in a deep smooth voice), I’m White Chocolate.

GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Ohhhhh…

See what I mean? It could be taken totally out of context! I’m a good loyal husband! I would never be in one of those movies…unless, of course, the pay…wait! No! Never! Besides, I do not have a deep smooth voice! I’m blessed with an old southside Milwaukee accent! It would ruin the whole movie!

GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Hi, I’m Candy.

ME: Hey dere! (I say in a thick southside accent), I’m White Chocolate. Wanna head down dere ta da lake and have a buncha beer, hey? Wait! Let’s get a barrel-a-beer and get all da guys down here!

GIRL OF ILL REPUTE: Ummmm…

It just wouldn’t work. I’m not cut out for that line of work.

As time has passed, I’ve found myself liking the nickname. It creates a lot of conversations in the coffee line. Walking into the store unannounced usually doesn’t happen anymore. The minute I walk through the doors I’m greeted with, “Hi White Chocolate!” Then everybody and anybody in hearing distance has to stop and take a look at who this person is that gets such a greeting. I can live with most of the looks of disappointment (what were they expecting?) but sometimes I get a talker.

TALKER: White Chocolate, eh? (said while leaning in a little too close into my personal space).

ME: Um, yeah.

TALKER: Why do they call you that?

ME: Well, it began…

TALKER: That’s a strange thing to call a person.

ME: Yeah, well it…

TALKER: I had a milk chocolate once.

ME: Oh, well, they call me white choc…

TALKER: Not sure where it was made, but it gave me the trots quite awful, know what I mean?

ME: Oh, I’m…really? You got the trots from chocolate?

TALKER: Happens all the time (he says while grabbing his drink).

ME: So that double pump chocolate mocha you just…

TALKER: Yes, sir. Good chance it’ll run right through me in the next half hour or so.

ME: Um…

TALKER: Hey? You want to hang out or something? I’m a good listener!

So, I guess I have mixed feelings about the nickname at times, but when it comes from the baristas, I know it’s meant in a good way. Besides, it’s nice to be greeted so warmly every morning.

BARISTA: Hi White Chocolate!

ME: Good morning!

OLD LADY IN LINE (whispering to her friend): I think I saw him in a movie once…but I think his voice was different…

Dancing Fool

I’ll be the first one to admit that I really don’t have any rhythm. For some reason, I was born with an ear for music, but my body doesn’t have a clue. For those of you who are fifty or older, I was that guy back in the 70s and 80s that you laughed at if I dared to go on a dance floor. I looked like a cross-wired robot flailing limbs all over the place. I usually never got a second dance with anybody and I would notice they drank a little more heavily after dancing with me. I think they were trying to drink away the embarrassment.

It all began when I was about 8 years old. This is when I discovered that I was completely rhythm-less. I was asked to be a ring-bearer at a wedding and my parents were thrilled. They fitted me in my little tux and dress shoes about 4 months before the wedding. When the wedding day arrived, I had already outgrown my shoes. I was miserable. What made it worse was that the flower girl stood a good foot taller than me and seemed to despise me. I really don’t think any 8 year old should have to deal with that kind of pressure.

At the reception, just after the bride and groom dance, it was expected that the wedding party (groomsmen and bridesmaids) dance the second song. Fortunately for me, it was a slow dance…I thought at the time I could pull it off. Unfortunately for me, I had to dance with the flower girl…while wearing too-tight shoes…and with the flower girl pretending to smile. I managed to get through it with only stepping on her feet a half-dozen times. She wasn’t happy. When we finished, I learned some words from her that I hadn’t known before. Later, my brothers informed me they were words I wasn’t allowed to use.

When the formal dances were over, most of us kids left the main floor for a separate room reserved just for us. They had tables covered with snacks and a jukebox for our listening pleasure. I took advantage of being away from the adults to take off those awful shoes. I felt so free after that so I decided to dance with the other kids. Remember, I was only 8 years old so I didn’t know how awful of a dancer I was yet.

A couple of my favorite songs were played and I went on the dance floor to show off my non-existent skills. The first song was “Temptation Eyes” by the Grassroots and I moved my body all over the floor to the music…or so I thought. Of course, my most critical brother had to point out how stupid I looked. He pointed out that all I did was move my feet around.

CRITICAL BROTHER: Your arms look like limp noodles.

I took his criticism to heart and resolved to do better on the next song. I was overjoyed to hear that it was “Dizzy” by the Archies. It was actually sung by Tommy Roe, but my copy of the song that I cut out from the back of a cereal box said otherwise. It was the Archies and I decided to dance like what I saw them do in the cartoon. I kept my feet still and swung my arms like I was a Rockem Sockem Robot. I made it only a minute into the song before hearing the laughter all around me. It only took a glance to see everybody was laughing at me. I ran out of the room.

I attempted to dance a few other times in my life, but even though I had foregone the earlier styles of dancing from the wedding, I still looked comical at every attempt I made. It wasn’t until I discovered slam-dancing that I found my unique niche in the dance world. That type of dancing required only two skills…jumping around like an idiot and slamming into the people around you. I was born for that kind of dancing. The only problem was that it was dominated by guys. It really didn’t impress too many girls and I grew tired of dancing with guys.

It always puzzled me that I could run quickly across a monkey bridge, step lightly and gracefully on any sports field, and speed across rocks in a stream to get to the other side, but couldn’t perform a dance move to save my life. It just wasn’t meant to be. I would definitely make a better DJ than a dancer.