Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dear Diary: Brotherhood of the Exploding Pants

April 21, 2012

Dear Diary:

It was Saturday, April, 21st.  The day began like few others, in that it was one to which I had been looking forward for two weeks, if not longer.  (It was actually 3 weeks, so it was longer.)  Why so excited?  Because it was the gateway to a weekend that would involve two of my favorite things: women and food.  Not quite “Oprah’s Favorite Things” list, I know, but I’m a simple man with simple needs, a “Man of the People”, an “Every Man”, if you will.  (If you won’t, that doesn’t really concern me.  Never said I was a nice man.)

To my delight –a word I rarely use in conjunction with “my”— the weekend fun had gotten off to an early start as Friday (April 20th for the calendar-challenged among you) involved another of my favorite things: pants.  “Pants???  Aren’t you the one who has tried since 2002 to institute ‘No Pants Wednesdays’?” many of you may be asking.  Yes, I am, but these were no ordinary pants.  No, no ordinary pant were these.  These were pants from the genus commonly referred to as “Lounge”.  More versatile than it’s cousin the Pajama, which is primarily an indoor, nocturnal pant (save for times of illness where it can be seen all day, and the cross-breeding experiment known as the “pajama jean” that can be worn in a variety of settings…but shouldn’t), the Lounge Pant can be seen during all hours of the day.  Suitable for indoor or outdoor inactivity, the lounge pant can be worn for brief excursions to the end of the driveway to retrieve the paper, check / drop off mail, or speak with your neighbor.  They are also acceptable when signing for packages and taking delivery of prepared meals.  Wherever they are seen, they send the following message to observers: “I feel fine…and ‘No’.”  The lounge pant is not available in footed form as if to say, “I don’t need foot covering, as I don’t plan to do much of anything that requires me to be upright or make use of my feet.”  These are not a “chore pant”, and should never be mistaken for or used as such.  Kohl’s had these magnificent specimens on sale for the irresistible price of $9.99.  I bought three pair.  (Was one pair $15.00?  Yes.  Was it worth the higher price-point?  That chapter has yet to be written for, in the true spirit of “lounge”, I ordered them online…and neither shipping nor handling was extra.)

When Saturday rolled around, I was still high from the excitement of having procured reasonably-priced lounge pants.  Would the rest of the fun-filled weekend be filled by unexpected excitement?  Let’s find out. I hopped about of bed, greeted the morn with a smile, fired up the stereo, and danced into the master bath.  I was as giddy as a middle-aged woman sitting with Matthew McConaughey at a Justin Timberlake concert (Shemar Moore at an Usher concert?  William Levy at a Alejandro Sanz concert?)  Why so excited?  Because the day was scheduled to begin with my first-ever appearance at The Southern Women’s Show, end with some quality time with a friend, with a dinner of Bullock’s BBQ thrown in for good measure.

First order of business, The Southern Women’s Show.  Anyone who truly knows me knows that I like my women like I like my diarrhea: explosive, constantly flowing, and originating from The South.  But this was no mere speed-dating “perv-portunity”.  No, I was there on business.  Namely, to promote breast cancer awareness.  After getting my Exhibitor’s badge, I headed into the showroom.  Like any man would do when presented with a map to an unfamiliar place, I refused to acknowledge the existence of any such “map” and winged it.  I started down the leftmost aisle, weaving my way through the throngs of women looking for bargains, discovering new trends, and, most importantly, getting free samples.  I was like a kid in a candy shop, or a grown man in a Target.  As luck would have it, the booth was on the rightmost aisle.  Even though my intentions were always good, I always seemed to get into “situations” when volunteering for breast cancer awareness.  You understand, it wasn’t so much the cancer or awareness portions, but rather the location I was drawing awareness to, that tended to get me into trouble.  Knowing this, I scanned my surroundings for potential “traps”. (Other than the thousands of women, that is.)  My “neighbors” in this celebration of all things woman included several seemingly innocuous vendors selling chocolates, nail care and decoration, and glitter-based skin art.  There was even an emergency exit in the event I needed to make a hasty exit.  So far, so good.
I was greeted at the start of my shift with the following instruction: “We’re gonna need you to stand out in the aisle, look cute, and draw women’s attention.”  The other volunteers also offered to glue a pink feather to my head and accessorize me in pink beads, which could be worn as a necklace or a bracelet. 

“Ladies,” I explained firmly, but respectfully, as I am a Southern Gentleman…and was grossly outnumbered, “I am not some doll to be accessorized.  Some toy to be played with.  I am a man…not a mannequin.”  I then stood out in the aisle with pink tote bags dangling from my arm…because I wanted to…as a man.  It’s called dignity, people.

Trouble began to rear its ugly head when a young, brunette came by the booth.  For the record, the only thing hotter than an attractive woman wearing a short, flowing dress with knee-high boots is that same woman sucking on a tiny spoon long after the free sample has been devoured.  “Do you check yourself regularly?” she asked with a grin.

Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator”, I ran through a list of possible responses.  Unlike The Terminator, it took me a while to run through all of the potential responses / ramifications. I also had a brief smile on my face at some of the more “inappropriate” ones, most of which were at or near the top.  (I don’t have much of a poker face.)  “Yes, I do.”

“Good,” she continued, “because can’t men get breast cancer, as well?”
“Yes, they can.”
“Well, then you should check yourself regularly…I mean, it shouldn’t be a surprise.  Men have these, too,” she said while lifting her chest.
“Yes…yes, we do.”
“Are you going to be in the Bachelor Auction?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why not?”
“I have a thing about being auctioned off in The South.”
“Understandable, but it’s for a good cause.”
“I believe they said the same thing to my ancestors…they also promised free travel.  Just not my thing.”
“Okay, well, keep checking yourself.”

“That wasn’t too bad,” I thought to myself.  “If that’s the worst that happens today, I’m good.”  Of course, if that was the extent of it, it wouldn’t be my life.  The tote bags proved quite popular, and we had soon exhausted the day’s supply.  Problem was, it was only 11:00 AM, and I had two more hours left in my shift.  The woman that owned the booth, apparently afraid of my dignity’s impending return, decided it would be fun to replace the dangling tote bags with strands of pink beads.  When you mix the following elements: attractive women, beads, me, and breast [cancer] awareness, Trouble is not far behind.

Woman: “What do I have to do to get some beads?”
Me (looking to the heavens for guidance): “Just ask.”
Woman: “That’s it?  Nothing else?”
Me: “That’s…that’s it.”
At about the same time, more trouble was brewing over at the glitter booth.  Everything was fine when women were getting the designs placed on their cheek, shoulder, arm, or upper back.  The “trouble” began when a woman in a peasant blouse decided to get one of her breasts “be-glittered”.  Once she opened that door, other women decided to follow suit.  (The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions, but the Southern star that leads you there is actually a glitter-covered breast…Or so I’ve been told.)  “Beads, and glitter, and boobs…Oh my!”  I feared for my Soul…

Fortunately, my shift ended before my head exploded.  (My soul had been a lost cause since ’86.  I believe it was a Tuesday.  It was raining.)  After a quick knowledge-transfer to the next set of volunteers, I headed for the exit.  Had this been a concert, shopping mall, or dance recital, I would’ve looked for the path of least resistance.  Since this was the Southern Women’s Show, however, I decided to “go salmon” and head upstream against the current.  It was a good decision.  A really, really good decision.

The second order of business was to make my way down to my parents’ house in Durham, NC with a brief stop to Bullock’s BBQ.  I had called my mother the night before to get her order.  She told me exactly what she wanted.  She didn’t need a menu…Neither of us did.  This, after all, was Bullock’s.  I entered Bullocks into the GPS.  The road resembled a series a smiley faces ending in a gate that floated in the clouds.  I wasn’t sure whether it was supposed to signify the Pearly Gates of Heaven or the Cloud City from “Empire Strikes Back”.  Given that my chances of ever seeing either were roughly equal, I didn’t dwell too much on the meaning of the symbolism.  I just wanted barbecue, Brunswick Stew, and, of course, hushpuppies.  As I rounded the turn to Bullocks, my stereo tuned itself to the local Gospel music station, a single beam of light shone from the sky, and the car floated along the road as if on a cloud.  “Could still make the argument for Cloud City,” I thought to myself.

I got out of my car and headed inside.  On the way in, I noticed that someone had dropped a hushpuppy on the concrete pathway leading up to the main building.  I bent down to “investigate” further. 
“You’re not going to eat that, are you?” a stranger asked
“Five-second rule,” I responded.
“How do you know how long it’s been there?”
“I only saw it five seconds ago.”
“The clock starts when it hits the ground; not when you see it.”
“If food hits the ground, and there’s no one there to see it.  Did it really hit the ground?”
“The fact that it’s on the ground would suggest yes.”
“I’m not here to get into a philosophical discussion around this topic with you…Unless, you have the time.”
“I really don’t.”
“Fair enough.”

I went inside the restaurant, got my food, and headed for home.  While I was headed back to my car, I noticed that lone hushpuppy still sitting on the ground.  I looked around, saw no one, and leaned down to “investigate” once again.

“You’re not going to eat that are you?” a different stranger asked.
“Why not?  Heat kills germs..”
“That is true, but it was dropped after it was cooked.  So…”
“It’s pretty warm out.”
“Actually, it’s rather brisk.”
“The fried casing protects it from germs.”
“So, you’re going to open it up and remove the ‘meat’?”
“Just leave it.”
I got into “Shakira” and headed home for some food and fellowship with the fam.  As always, the meal did not disappoint.  (The “fam” was touch-and-go, but for the most part – 60/40— they were good, as well.  Had my siblings been around, they probably would’ve tipped the scale in the other direction.)

The third order of business was to catch up with a friend.  I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks and had promised her a massage.  So, I got changed --sports shirt, black khakis, sport coat, and a casual shoe.  I was dressed to the nines, and looked like a 10.  (That’s an 11% Return on Sexy.)

(Editor’s Note:  The following events occurred as they are reported; without embellishment.  Some things you just can’t make up.)
After we exchanged pleasantries and caught up, it was time to make good on my promise.  Wanting to provide the full experience afforded to clients of the McCloud Mobile Spa and Relaxation Clinic (McCloud…get your relaxate on.), I handed her a 2-piece box of Godiva chocolate to enjoy.

“Chocolates?  For me?”
“The McCloud Spa aims to provide an experience that excites all five senses: taste, touch—“
“You’re funny.”

As she was enjoying the first piece of chocolate, I removed my sport coat and sport shirt to reveal a black, tank (oft referred to as an “A-shirt”)…100% cotton…ribbed…tagless...made by the loving hands and inspected by the discerning eyes of an American textile industry still trying to find its place in this new economic reality.  It was as easy on the skin as it was the eyes, and provided the range of motion necessary to deliver a fully-relaxing experience.  A quality garment.

The lighting was adjusted, the music was set, she was lying comfortably on the couch, and I pulled the ottoman into position.  I had created the perfect spa moment.  A moment so perfect, in fact, that Fate could not just sit idly by.  For when I straddled the aforementioned ottoman, the otherwise still air was suddenly filled by a brief, but very loud, “RIP!!!”, and I felt a blast of cold air against my thigh.

“Did you fart?!?” she asked as she was jolted from her Oasis of Serenity.
“No, I didn’t fart!” I responded. 

When I looked down in the direction of the noise, however, I wished that I had farted.  The loud sound and accompanying rush of air was the result of my pants quite literally, coming apart at the seams.  This was no small, sitcom-ish tear, mind you.  (That’s not worth Fate’s time.)  No, this tear started at my man region and ended two inches above my knee.

“Good thing you’re wearing dark underwear.”
“Good thing I’m wearing underwear.”
“Where are you going?” she asked as I was getting up.
“I was going to drive back to my parents and change into some jeans.”
“I don’t see why this has to interfere with my massage.  Gets to rubbing…You know, they sell slacks with an extra-large crotch at a store in the mall.”
“First of all, ‘Thank You’.  Secondly, I don’t think that's the problem, but feel free to tell your friends that it was.”
“Hand me my other piece of chocolate.”
“Stop staring at my crotch.”
“I don’t see what one has to do with the other…chocolate.”
“What’s the magic word?”

The “luxury spa” mood had been replaced by two friends cracking jokes and telling stories, which is exactly what we both needed.  Today was a good day.

Cue “The Cube”…

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dear Diary: Tangential Rants of My Inner Mindscape

April 15, 2012

Dear Diary:

Sunday, April 15th in the Year of Our Lord 2012.  The day began like any other, which is to say after a great night’s sleep brought upon by a combination of the bosom-like comfort of my Sealy pillow top mattress and the confidence-inspiring Old World craftsmanship of my Broyhill bed.  (Broyhill…sleep easy.)

After leaping from the bed in what can only be described as a perfect dismount, I gave myself a stretch (a.k.a. a mornin’ yawnin’) and used the FIOS remote to fire up my Vizio television.  (Vizio…you’re welcome, America.)  Whilst I leaned against my Bowflex Treadclimber (Bowflex, right-sizing America since…whenever they started making products).  I’m not an historian) something disturbing caught my eye.  My hands were peeling to the point that it looked as though the skin had been stitched together by an old blind woman…or a young, sighted woman who was really bad at stitching.  How could these hands, which were entrusted not only with bringing my innermost thoughts to the wanting masses, but also with delivering relaxing massages to the overworked muscles of young women everywhere.  (Damion McCloud; he’ll rub you up…Still working on my tagline.)

In an effort to bring my rough, calloused hands in line with the strong, healthy skin that covered the rest of my marble-like physique, I went into the master bath and applied some Vaseline Men extra strength lotion.  (Vaseline Men…it doesn’t have to be awkward.)  Though the lotion did not instantaneously revitalize my ravaged hands, in fact, it seemed as though it only made it mad, it did leave a musky scent reminiscent of Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche.  (Drakkar Noir…yeah, we’re still around; don’t act like you don’t know it.)

Concerned that the mutant-like scaly-ness would spread to the rest of my body, turning me into a creature that only a mother, or Cher’s character in “Mask” (Not to be confused with “The Mask”, which was a hilarious Jim Carrey vehicle that brought laughter and Cameron Diaz to the world, “Mask” was a heart-warming tale that showed the world that true beauty comes from within.
“I thought that was ‘Moonstruck’.” 
“No, ‘Moonstruck’ taught the world that you can’t force love.” 
“I thought that was ‘The Beatles’. 
“No, they taught the world that you can’t buy love, which was later taught by the movie ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’.  Thank you, Patrick Dempsey.”
“You know, I don’t know why you choose to engage the voices in your head, but since you do, I’ve always viewed ‘Loverboy’ as more representative of Dempsey’s early catalog.”
“The one you keep calling ‘Mystic Pizza’”.
“Ahhh…Why didn’t you just say, ‘Mystic Pizza’?”
“Because the movie’s called, ‘Loverboy’.”
“But you know I call it ‘Mystic Pizza’…Could’ve saved us both a lot of heartache.”
“Not talking to yourself would have the same impact.”
“You’d miss me.”)  Where was I?  Oh yes, scaly-ness.

I decided to get a professional opinion.  Since all of the ladies (and high school seniors) at the makeup counters were busy, I decided to consult a dermatologist.

“What brings you here?” the dermatologist asked.
“These!” I screamed as I pulled my hands from my pockets in dramatic fashion.  “What IS this???”
“When did you start working out on the Treadclimber?”
“A few weeks ago.”
“Do you clean the bar that you hold onto after every use?”
“So, you think this could be the result of some sort of bacterial or fungal contamination?”
“Could be.  Of course, I could be wrong.”
“Do you think I should buy moisturizing gloves?”
“That would be only slightly less concerning than your intending to buy full-bodied mannequins for ‘The Duke Room’…slightly less.”
“Then, what do you recommend?”
“I don’t know!”
“What the hell kinda dermatologist are you?!?”
“You realize this entire conversation is happening inside your head, right?”
“Yes, I do.”
“You really need to get out of your head, get into your car, and – don’t.”
“Don’t what?”
“Don’t go off on a Billy Ocean-inspired tangent that moves into Billy Idol, onto ‘White Wedding’ and ends in ‘Eyes without a Face’.”
“Fine, but, for the record, it would’ve ended in ‘Flesh for Fantasy’...”

After applying some more lotion, I took my dermatologist’s advice and called a friend to see if she was interested in catching a movie before I had to head to my Great Aunt’s house for an early dinner and some fellowship.

“What do you want?”
“Are you mad at me?”
‘About WHAT?”
“You’re STILL mad about THAT?  Look, we were doing a re-enactment of ‘Empire Strikes Back’, we were at the tauntaun scene, and you were the only one who had a big dog…and a small child.  I am not going to apologize for my dedication to cinematic authenticity.”
“He still has nightmares resulting from being placed inside of his best friend who he had just watched being sliced open!”
“Well, that I will apologize for…In all fairness though, I had to play Darth Vader and Lando Calrissian.  You know how hot it was wearing a wig under that helmet?  You don’t hear me complaining.”
“You loved it…”
“Of course, I did.  I got to play the greatest voice in cinematic history AND a character brought to life by Billy Dee Williams…He was in ‘Mahogany’.”
“Don’t what?”
“Don’t go into a tangential rant starting with Diana Ross, moving to Diane Carroll, which takes you to Diane Cannon, invokes Dionne Warwick, and ends with you singing ‘That’s What Friends Are For’.”
“Am I that predictable?”
“Would seem so.”
“Fine.  Well, if we’re not going to do anything.  I’m gonna ride the Trainer, then head down to Petersburg for supper (a.k.a. ‘Who eats dinner this early?’)”

With two hours to kill before I had to leave, I changed into my workout attire, logged into the ifit website, hopped onto my stationary, and downloaded a course around the Eiffel Tower.  This was a course mapped by another user who then shared it with whoever wanted to experience Paris through her eyes.  Within the first few minutes, something became readily apparent: the Eiffel Tower is in a much better neighborhood than Seattle’s Space Needle.  (Editor’s Note:  Both maps were created by the same woman.  She appears to have an obsession with large-scale phallic symbols.  Of course, I could be wrong.  Sometimes, a banana is just a banana.  The fact that both courses were in the shape of a banana, however, leads me to believe I am onto something.)  For those of you have never been to the Space Needle, let’s just say the neighborhood made me nervous, and I was 3,000 miles away in Richmond, VA.  Sorry, I mean North Chesterfield…sounds a lot more pretentious than it looks. The nearly 15-mile trek through The City of Lights took me past many beautifully architected buildings styled in the traditional Parisian way (i.e. as though they were looking down their noses at me).  I made my way through back streets; occasionally screaming, because the route planner had me going the wrong way down one-way streets (near-death can be scary…even virtual near-death).  As I rode up the Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe, one recurring thought…kept…recurring: “When was the last time France experienced a triumph?  When they re-launched Renault?  (Drive the Change???  As long as “The Change” isn’t a car made by Renault, I agree with you.

Once I was done with my trip, I grabbed a quick shower, got dressed, and headed for scenic Dinwiddie.  Having never driven from my house to my Aunt’s place, I entered the address into my Garmin GPS.  (Garmin…We’ll get ya there.)  The system began performing calculations based on distance, known speed limits, and traffic alerts to determine an Estimated Time of Arrival.  Like many GPS users presented with this information, I responded with a definitive, “I can beat that.”

I backed “Shakira” out of the garage, went up the driveway, and headed towards 288.  My first opportunity to make up time was on the backroads between my house and 288.  It was risky, because it required “lone-wolf speeding” (i.e. a single car driving excessively, but not recklessly).  I maneuvered through the corners, mindful of possible speed traps.  When I hit 288, the roads were clear…too clear.  Only a minimal amount of time could made up here.  Fortunately, I-95 provided better coverage, which allowed for “pack speeding” (i.e. three or more cars acting as one).  The key to “pack speeding” is that the cars in the pack had to trust the leader to drive at a measured pace.  Disapproval of the leader was shown either by closing in as if to say “move along or move over”, or holding back as if to say “you have no discipline; you’re on your own”.

We unexpectedly hit a slow patch of traffic.  There’s nothing like the sight of brake lights and a wobbling rear end combined with the sound of screeching tires to grab your attention.  Especially, when there’s a car quickly filling up your rearview mirror.  Literally a million thoughts went through my head.  “List ‘em.”

“You said, ‘literally a million thoughts went through my head’.  If it’s literal, list them.”
“What’s the braking distance of a 2010 Camaro?”
“How new are her tires?”
“What’s the reaction time of the person behind me?”
“Four…Wait, that doesn’t count. Three…”
(several minutes later) “Am I wearing clean underwear?”
“Two thousand, forty-eight…”
“…The woman behind me is kinda cute; wonder if she’s single.”
“Seven hundred twenty thousand, two hundred, thirty-one…”
“…Did I leave the air conditioning on?”
“Nine hundred eighty-six thousand, four hundred six…”
“…Are my “art” videos and magazines located in a place that says, ‘I don’t want kids to find this, but I’m not ashamed…I really do read the articles’?”
“One million…I’m impressed.”
“…And I almost missed the turn off to I-85.”

“Shakira” let out a roar as I executed a perfectly legal passing maneuver around a fully-loaded car hauler.  Not legal in the United States, but legal.

I turned off of I-85 onto the
Squirrel Level Road
exit, and headed left toward food and fellowship.  The speed limit dropped to 35 miles per hour.  I stared in frustration at the clock and estimated arrival time readout.  “How am I supposed to make up time at this speed?”  Fortunately, the good men and women of Dinwiddie County saw fit to raise the speed limit to 45 after a short stretch.  No sooner did my spirits start to rise than was I greeted with a message I had never before seen on a speed limit sign: “End of Speed Limit 45”.

“End of Speed Limit 45?!?  What does that even mean?  Should I return to 35, increase to 55, or use my best judgment?”  I stared at my GPS for assistance.  It offered no suggestions.  It was as though she knew I was trying to disprove her initial estimate and was taking it personally.  “Typical,” I thought to myself.  If my many years of knowing, studying, shopping with, and angering women had taught me anything, it was that if you want to best a woman, you employ another woman and put them in competition with one another.  Since my GPS was not integrated into “Shakira”, they were two separate women.  “You can beat her initial estimate, can’t you, baby?”  Shakira growled her confirmation as I pushed her through the turns and over the hills, hugging the road like a new mother hugs her first born…and her last born…but not the middle child.  (Oh, no, that would be too much to ask.  Middle children live off of the physical leftovers and emotional hand-me-downs no longer suitable for the favored siblings.  Where was I?)

As “Jill” announced the decreasing distance, I continued to push “Shakira” towards our destination.  (Yes, “our”, it’s a team effort.)  As I pulled in, I was greeted by a relative.  I was so happy to see family, and that I did not drive into the side of the house, that I forgot to see what time I arrived. 

‘What’s that?”
“I thought you said something.”
“No.  Let’s eat.”
“Food’s not here yet.”
“What’d you say?”
“Come again?”

The food, though late, was still early enough in the day to be called “supper” (Supper…It was good enough for Jesus.) but not late enough to be called “dinner”.  After much food, fellowship, and packing of leftovers (for dinner later that night), it was time to leave.  I said my goodbyes, gave my hugs, and got into the car for the return trip.  I pushed “Go Home” on the main screen.  Again, after much calculation, she displayed an Estimated Time of Arrival.

“I can beat that…”