Sunday, March 30, 2008

Over-30 Softball: Blast To My Past

I don’t remember seeing Bill & Ted there, but I think I mastered time travel. Why would I attempt to relive my youth, when they weren’t my glory days?

This was several years ago, but a friend of mine asked me if I was interested in joining an over-30 softball league. He said it’s all in fun and not competitive at all. Really? It’s not baseball but it’s still a competitive sport and it’s still a bunch of men. But they’re adults now and we’re all over 30. And I love playing baseball. How hard can softball be?

Oh. My. God.

Over 30 doesn’t mean old, or non-athletic, and it definitely doesn’t mean non-competitive. Some of these guys were huge and everyone was competitive.

It started with me being picked last. Awesome! I’m not very tall but I can still play. I just don’t look like I can play, especially when I’m standing next to Count Jockula.

Then there’s the good-natured taunting. Please. I think they made me cry, more than once. I just wanted to go home.

No, instead of enjoying myself I’m straight back to when I was 12, and awkward, where I didn’t care about making the big play, I just didn’t want to embarrass myself.

They put me in the outfield, of course, but in adult softball that means Action City. Although I am entirely capable of catching a fly ball, now the batters just pick their spot and hit them way short so I chase them like I don’t know how to play my position, or way over my head so I can pop my glove up just 80 feet shy of my target.

Now I begin the nerd-player mantra: “Please don’t hit it to me, don’t hit it to me, don’t hit it to me.” Hit it to the third baseman! I can back him up. He’ll look like the fool and I’ll be playing my position.

Then I get my turn at the plate. It’s slow-pitch. Who can’t hit a slowly pitched softball? After I realize everyone is watching me, apparently I can’t. If it came down the pike like a baseball, I’d have a chance. I’m fine in the cages. But even though it’s slowly pitched, it comes in a really steep arc. I actually have time to swing all three times in one pitch and I’m outta there!

After the strikeout comes the walk of shame. No one offers the insincere condolences I got when I was 12 like “You’ll get ‘em next time.” Total and absolute silence.

I play with the Brawny towel guys who all get home runs. They’re disappointed if it doesn’t clear the fence, which makes an evening of softball double-headers (they usually play two) a lot longer than I expected. Even if I do get a hit, I don’t exactly point to left field before I swing and I have to sprint to first base. Sprint? I haven’t sprinted in over 20 years. My quads are in hibernation and my hammies are tighter than my sphincter was when I was playing left field. When I jettison from home plate, for some reason my head suddenly weighs 400 pounds and I run like a Vaudeville tap dancer bringing it home, and wipe out right before I get to the actual base.

And if this hasn’t been fun enough, there’s the heckling. I have a million comebacks for nearly every situation except sports heckling. It’s like that nightmare when you’re being chased, and you’re legs are Jell-o and when you open your mouth to scream, nothing comes out. Except it’s not a dream - I’m paralyzed because I know I can’t trash talk when I’m going to suck.

Recovery time after a softball game for nerdletes like me is worse than a week-long bender (I can only imagine). Besides involuntarily reliving the events over and over in my head, and constantly checking over my shoulder to make sure no one is about to stuff me in a locker, I have to suffer through the muscle pain and make things up every time someone asks why I’m walking funny: “I’m auditioning for a John Cleese tribute.” And then I remember women play softball, only it’s fast pitch and they’re a lot better at this. You don’t have to ask, I’m ready to turn in my man card.

Just for fun my ass. I’m in my 40s and was made to feel like a pre-teen again. Why would I do that? Don’t fall for it, unless you’re a jock looking to regain some of your lost glory. Then I’m sure it’s fun for you, but I bet I can kick your ass at Risk or Jeopardy mothertrucker. What is "Be careful what you wish for, Alex?"

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fishing for Dyslexics – Are you kidding me?!

Have you seen this sign around town? Just to be clear, I am not poking fun about the language-based learning disability dyslexia itself, which affects so many children and adults. It's this sign.

First, reading letters out of order is one possible (though not universal) manifestation of dyslexia. So who exactly is this sign meant for? Someone who may have trouble processing language, and they’re supposed to read it while driving by? And read and memorize a 10-digit phone number that isn’t 888-888-8888?

And why is Dyslexia in all caps like you’re shouting? I’d think you’d want to go for a more subdued and professional approach.

I wanted to know what was up with these signs – I see them everywhere around Columbia, Maryland – so I Googled them. It turns out they are advertising assessment and therapy for one of the many franchise clinics of the Dyslexia Institutes of America (DIA) (

So the way to attract potential patients is by posting road signs the same way you would advertise an open house in real estate?

If you are considering contacting them, I encourage you to check out their web site and ask for the staff credentials. Why? Here are the requirements to open a franchise (pulled from their own web site

"You do not need highly specialized training and are not required to diagnose or prescribe treatment for your clients. Each Clinic simply have on staff a director, either full or part time who is a certified teacher, preferably (sic) with experience in Special Education. As your service provider, we will prepare all client assessment results and therapy prescriptions for you. Your clinic will interview and test new clients, and administer and monitor their ongoing treatments.”

So at a minimum, they need to hire a part-time teacher, preferably with experience in Special Education. OK…what about training? Here’s what every new franchise receives:

“A two-week training period is provided for all new franchises. During this training you will learn management, operations, marketing, testing, and therapy procedures of the clinic. You will be given hands-on training and observation in therapy procedures and diagnostic testing. Manuals for operating the clinic will be provided for you.”

Wow, a whole two weeks and a manual. So you don't need 5 to 7 years of graduate school or an internship like a clinical psychologist. That's convenient!

If you’d like more concrete information on Dyslexia, here’s the web site for the International Dyslexia Association (IDA):

Let’s just hope someone doesn’t start franchising assessment & treatment clinics for depression and anxiety. I can see the signs now: “Depressed??? Worried??? Pissed??? Call Depression Institutes of America RIGHT NOW before something really bad happens.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A&F me? A&F you!

My teenage daughter (nearly an adult now) and I make the best of our time together. We have found a lot of fun things to do, like going to the Maryland Science Center, the Renaissance Festival, and the Walters Art Gallery. Seeing Spam-a-lot was just the best (you can probably imagine what it means to a geek like me having a daughter who loves Python). We tried the movie thing for as long as we could, but it just didn’t work for me: ( So we usually just grab a meal together on a weekend. But our time together isn't always event-based; sometimes it’s the routine chores of life, including clothes shopping.

My daughter had a $50 gift card for Abercrombie & Fitch. If you ask anyone where the kids shop for clothing, this store will be the number-one response. And with a generous amount like that, she should be able to add a few nice items to her wardrobe.

It was a first-time shopping experience for me. Personally, I love faded t-shirts, weathered baseball-style caps, fleece and rustic jeans. It’s all comfortable, practical, and usually easy on the wallet. So I thought I might find something for myself too when we went in. What I didn’t realize is the hefty premium A&F charges for the privilege bestowed upon you to brandish their logo (it’s on practically everything they sell). Maybe it’s not an automatic privilege; maybe you have to pledge first with the frat boys that greet you as you enter the store. I’m just kidding. No one greeted me.

Web site prices for the items I listed above are $29.50 (t-shirts), $24.50 (weather caps), $79.50 (fleece) and $79.50 (jeans, $89.50 for destroyed). So apparently cotton has become a luxury fabric.

The store itself was a trip back to all of my favorite John Williams 80s movies, only this time the pretty rich kids are the cashiers. (I am still the nerd.) And even though I know technically they’re there to help me, I still felt like I stumbled into a party I wasn’t invited to. But no one kicked my ass, or stole my girlfriend, or wrecked my dad’s sports car, or threw me into the pool.

You can’t miss your local Abercrombie & Fitch. It’s the store you thought was a night club, only it’s 2:00 in the afternoon and it’s on the second floor of the mall. If the bump-bump-bump of their techno pop remixes doesn’t kick off your migraine, the permeating smell from of one of their two colognes (41 – jeez, I’m even older than their freakin’ cologne, or Fierce – it just reeks of preppy jocks pantsing nerds) will.

Needless to say, I wanted out and fast. But she had a $50 gift card to burn and the math wasn’t on our side. She could get a t-shirt or a cap, but not both. Or she could put a down payment on a hoodie or a pair of jeans, but I’m pretty sure lay away isn’t something one requests here. I could throw in $30 but that felt like paying the devil his due, and I wasn’t at the crossroads and I hadn’t brought my guitar.

After a lot of searching, we found a cute sweater (without a logo) for $30 on the closeout shelf, a shelf that screamed: “here are some clothes that are sooooo last year, and now they’re half-price for you poor kids”. The shelf is up high, in the back of the maze, and items are just thrown in a pile instead of folded and faced. Hell, I’m not proud. I’ll look through their leftovers and they can hit me with a spotlight.

So we grabbed the sweater and one other close-out item (tank top, pair of socks, scarf, Satan’s gavel, I don’t know) and it rang up just north of $50. The kids at the register were nice, and, of course, pretty. But it's not their fault - according to their web site: "Want to be an A&F model? Start by working in our stores." So we had two small items that could have fit in a zip-loc bag. They handed me a two-panel billboard with handles.

OK, now I’m pissed. This is ridiculous. I’m not embarrassed that I shopped at A&F. I’m embarrassed that I’m supposed to let everyone in the mall know I just shopped at A&F, even if they’re two stories down and 100 yards away. And I don’t consider myself a prude or a homophobe, but do I have to carry a bag with this dude on it?

Observe, my choices are:
[Bag Side A] a wet, young male body complete with an erect nipple, or
[Bag Side B] his soaked khakis clinging to his crotch.

I checked out their web site and it was just as uncomfortable as the store experience. The photos for a few of the sections (Mens, Womens and Photo Gallery) are provocative shots of young models. Look, just because they’re 18 on paper doesn’t mean much when they look 18 or younger. I’m sure Old Man Herbert from Family Guy would looove this site. My daughter offered a good perspective – if they’re advertising clothes, where are the actual clothes and why is everyone naked?

I understand I’m not their quoted target audience of 18-22. However, I’d argue that their target audience wishes they were 18-22 – I see a lot more middle- and high-school rather than college students in their gear.

Even their Google search web site description is pretentious: “The highest quality, casual, All-American lifestyle clothing for aspirational men and women.”

Aspirational? Really? Aspirations are high achievements for which one strives. Clothing is aspirational? Really? I wouldn’t call becoming a walking billboard-follower-conformist who gains self-esteem through mimicking the styles or actions of others, and judging or persecuting those who don’t, a high achievement. Ask your kids what it’s like when you’re not in with the in kids. "Kids will be kids" my ass. People are people, regardless of the age, and everyone is accountable for their words and their actions.

The career pitch on their web site talks about diversity and inclusion ( – yet their customers, in my cynical and myopic perspective, are all about conformity and exclusion. I’m not claiming A&F is the evil empire. I’m sure their employees are quite cool. And if you can sell simple products competitively at a premium, enjoy it. While you can.

As for their customers: look if you have money, I’m happy for you – there’s nothing wrong with having money. If you’re into fashion and clothing, that’s totally cool. If A&F is your favorite brand, enjoy it. Just don’t be a Stepford kid: someone who feels he/she has to dress a certain way and judges others who don’t. Be aware of the marketing game and understand that clothes, styles, logos, looks and many of your friends are all temporary.

A&F, at least turn that damn music down. You’re a clothing store, not a club. Except you are a club, I know. But you’re not a night club. Look, I have a headache and all I want is an Orange Julius.

My Father’s Jacket

This is my father’s trench coat. He gave it to me many years ago and bought it decades earlier. When I first wore it, it was big on me. I even had to cuff the sleeves. Now it fits beautifully. And since I’ve never thrown it in the dryer, the only logical explanation is that vintage coats shrink over time (most likely due to the tropical Mid-Atlantic climate).

I did a little research, actually about three hours, and learned it’s a vintage Foxhead Rock-Knit trench coat that was popular in the 1950s/60s. Mine was specially tailored for a now-defunct Baltimore clothier (Norman Wetzler). After reading some classic magazine ads sold on eBay, it was specially tailored for many different shops.

It is protected by Dupont ZePel Rain/Stain Repeller, and to this day still repels both rain and stains.

It’s a funky deep blue color that you just don't see around very often. I get compliments all the time for this one-of-a-kind find. It’s a nice, heavy trench coat that I wear in the winter as an overcoat and in the fall as a rain coat. It’s long enough to cover the back of my calves to prevent rain backsplash when I pick up some speed (I hate wet jeans) – kind of like truck mud flaps without the naked silhouettes or Yosemite Sam.

It’s my favorite coat and still feels great. But the best part about this jacket, of course, is it was my dad’s. Every time I put it on, I think of him. And it really feels like he’s with me. I probably should have mentioned earlier he’s alive and well! This isn’t meant to be a melancholy piece. I just decided to write this today because my dad is one of my most faithful blog readers and the biggest supporter of my comedy. And shouldn’t he get to enjoy reading this now, instead of looking down (or perhaps up) at me many, many, many, many years from now? And I don’t miss the chance to say, boy I wish he knew how much I love this jacket. And him.

Thanks, Dad! I love you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Things People Over 30 Just Shouldn’t Say

If you have to ask yourself “Can I pull this off?” or “Can I say still this?”, the answer is always a resounding “No.” Not only are these words not meant to be in your vocabulary, by the time you know them, they’re already retired.

Drop any of these into a conversation with kids and their facial expressions will confirm my hypothesis. Of course, once you have confirmation, it’s great fun to use these words with your kids, especially when their friends are around. The next time you have to pick up your teenage daughter from school early, have the office buzz her classroom: “Ms. Reynolds, please send Elizabeth down to the office. Her father is here to take her for her bedonkadonk reduction appointment with Doctor Bu-tay. Thank you.”

So here’s my list (and I expect it to grow with your input):
  • Oh snap
  • Adding –iz– or –shiz- to any syllable
  • Celly
  • Booty, Boo-tay, Bootylicious, Bootylectable, Bootrific
  • Bling, Blingy, Bling Bling
  • Cheddar
  • Bedonkadonk
  • (Unless it cradles a sleeping baby) Crib
  • Shorty
  • Props
  • Boo
  • Bangin’
  • Blunt
  • Grill
  • Hatin’ or Hatin’ On
  • No Diggity
  • Wha Wha?
  • I feel you
  • I feel you, dog
  • You feel me?
  • Text speak: IDK, BFF, BRB, TTYL, LOL, NFW, WTF, OMG, STFU
  • And unless you’re asking for bread in a Jewish deli, Holla and Hollah-back are off limits

And just because certain words were cool in your day doesn’t mean you have a license to use them with no expiration. I suggest retiring the following:

  • 1950s – cooties (haven’t they found a cure?), hopped up (on reefer no doubt), "Think fast!", neato, necking, pop a wheelie

  • 1960s – skuzz bucket, fink, fuzz, five-finger discount, far out, groovy, commie pinko

  • 1970s – foxy (stone cold or otherwise), “Good night, John-boy”, party hardy, harshing my mellow, boob tube, “Smooth move, ex-lax”, “Breaker-breaker 1-9, you got your ears on?”, narc

  • 1980s - tripindicular, grody (partially or to the max), heinous, radical, gnarly, tubular, bodacious

  • 1990s – fly, homey, beotch, phat, whassup, po po, shwing or sha-wing, talk to the hand, whack

  • And finally, things that our grandparents shouldn’t say (ever):

  • “S’up, bitches?!” when addressing their bridge group

  • Yeah, I totally hit that (in 1948)

  • It’s been four hours and that little blue pill just won’t wear off. Where’s your grandmother?

  • Has anyone seen my teeth? I thought I left them soaking in the Efferdent, but it might have been the soup…

  • Aw it’s just a little snow. Let me drive.

  • Feel free to add to the fun. AMF!

    Friday, March 07, 2008

    American Idols: Unless you’re signing the lyrics, keep those fingers quiet

    I don’t know about you but I find it incredibly distracting that so many contestants keep count during their performances by tapping or flexing their fingers around that oversized wireless microphone (I’ll save the phallic innuendo for another day).

    It’s almost as annoying as the mandatory sweeping crane shot in every Idol performance, where each week they attempt their best Constantine Maroulis (raise the shoulders, drop the chin, stare through the eyebrow ridge, and slowly lift one corner of your mouth into your best smarm). For total cheese, toss in a wink.

    Why do they all insist on following the same, horrible patterns? Break out, dog. Be unique!

    We see “entertainment methods” mimicked all the time. In a music video in 1989, they set the camera looking up with the dude looking down and he mugged for it with waving pistol hands and a few overly exaggerated self-hugs, and the school of hip-hop video was born.

    We know American Idol teaches them all this madness. And now, they’ll even teach your kids. It’s called Idol Camp. Not kidding.

    Yep, for three grand you can send your precious little 10 year-old future superstar away for two weeks to the San Bernardino Mountains so they can learn everything they need to become an American Idol. And for that money, I’m sure they cover everything, including mic tapping, keepin’ it real, and pitchiness. I bet they even offer a camp discount for their first set of porcelain veneers.

    Look, parents, your kids can’t learn in just two weeks that the only way to find true self worth is by seeking judgment in the harsh world of entertainment, or pageants, or blogging. No, that message will take years to instill.

    You could just sit them in front of the tube with all 136 episodes of Fame and a case of Red Bull, but, unfortunately, only Season 1 (and the original movie) is available today.

    As for you Idols, if you really want to be viewed as professional musicians, then count in your head, move with the rhythm, pump your foot, tap your free hand on your ass, or go old school with a tambourine. Better yet, a cowbell.

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    Is it my turn yet? Where’s my “Roger”, Wilco?

    I saw an episode of Law & Order recently (one of the three television series currently running on NBC — they’re so absolutely unique I can’t believe I don’t remember which one – DUHN DUHN) — and a developmentally challenged and incredibly bright character said “The End” every time she finished speaking, whether in conversation or when providing her testimony. I thought it was really cute. And then I thought it was brilliant.

    We don’t have a definitive or graceful way of letting others know when we’ve actually finished our thought. In the world of electronic communication, we have different ways to inform each other when we’re done. With two-way radios or walkie-talkies, we can use “Roger” and “Wilco”. I was curious of the origination so I looked it up on Wikipedia. The letter R was used in Morse Code as shorthand for “received”, which evolved to “Roger” in radio. “Wilco” was short for “will comply”, as in “will comply with your orders, Captain Stillman.”

    You also have “Over” and “Out” - over means “The transmission is complete and I turn the channel back over to you.” Out means “The transmission is complete and I am outta here.”

    And let’s not forget the brilliant use of both from one of my most favoritest of movies, Airplane:

    Roger Murdock: Flight 2-0-9'er, you are cleared for take-off.
    Captain Oveur: Roger!
    Roger Murdock: Huh?
    Tower voice: L.A. departure frequency, 123 point 9'er.
    Captain Oveur: Roger!
    Roger Murdock: Huh?
    Victor Basta: Request vector, over.
    Captain Oveur: What?
    Tower voice: Flight 2-0-9'er cleared for vector 324.
    Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.
    Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?
    Tower voice: Tower's radio clearance, over!
    Captain Oveur: That's Clarence Oveur. Over.
    Tower voice: Over.
    Captain Oveur: Roger.
    Roger Murdock: Huh?
    Tower voice: Roger, over!
    Roger Murdock: What?
    Captain Oveur: Huh?
    Victor Basta: Who?

    With the telephone we have “Hello” and “Goodbye”, or that really annoying Nextel chirp. Even in Congress they have to yield time to each other. But what do we have in conversation?

    Sometimes there are visual cues. If you’re lucky enough to be speaking with an Italian like me, the overuse of hand gestures will tell you when we’re done. Of course, you may not want to risk the interruption since you assume we’re all connected.

    Or there are vocal intonations that hint to us you’re winding down. But too many times you just wind back up, or start a new thought entirely. And some people are so determined not to give up the floor, they filibuster like they’re whoring for Big Oil, and have developed some freakish power to both inhale and exhale while speaking so they can go on forever, never actually making their point and have zero intention of shutting the hell up.

    If you pause for more than four or five seconds, I assume you’re done and it’s my turn. But I’m wrong too many times and then have to apologize for interrupting you when you were actually silent.

    I just wish there was a way for us to let everyone know when we’re done, like a simple “The End” or “Over”. I’ve mentioned Victor Borge's audible punctuation before, which I totally loved, but even that just let you know his sentence was complete, not his actual thought.

    Perhaps a Mary Katherine Gallagher curtsy-split-ta-dah at the end of our thoughts would tell everyone we’re through and it’s someone else’s turn to speak. I can only hope.

    Seacrest out.