Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Charlotte Country Club

The Charlotte Country Club is not a country club at all. I'm sure there are real country clubs down here, but it appears that church has taken the place of the traditional country club in the South. I knew that Charlotte had sort of a Jesus vibe when I first arrived. When you leave the Airport, you take Billy Graham Parkway to the interstate. You pass the Billy Graham Library as well as signs to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's mega church (which is about five miles down the road). Then after you get off at my exit, you pass the Bible Broadcasting Network headquarters and this megachurch and this one and then you get to my house. Yeah, that first one is actually a church and not a Vegas casino. The place actually has named parking lots. Honey, did we park in Moses 4 or Abraham 3 today?

So back to the country club thing. When people find out that you're new to Charlotte, they try to feel you out to find out if you're a 'member' of a church yet or not. The same way that people do with country clubs everywhere else. They don't ask you if you go to church or what religion you are, they ask about membership. I didn't really know that this was an option, this whole membership thing, but I guess it is. Oh, and everyone has a bumper sticker for their corresponding church. At first I thought this was strange, but now I've got a theory that the church bumper sticker must be some kind of parking pass. Maybe if you have the bumper sticker, you get to park in Lot Jesus 1 instead of Lot Moses 4.

People that you meet are usually pretty forward with the church membership courtship process. Referring back to a previous post... the dog park guy who I awkwardly asked for his phone number...Kate and I went out with him and his wife, and we were only about a half hour into our date before we started getting the questions about our membership. Same thing happened with our neighbors. They had us over for dinner, and I don't think we even got to the main course before the sales pitch started. Here's how the conversation usually goes:

New Potential Friend: "So, have you guys joined a church yet?"
Nate (seeming completely uninterested) - "Nope"
Kate (showing more interest/just being nice) - "No, no we haven't"
New Potential Friend's Wife - "Oh, well we're members of [insert church name here]"
New Potential Friend - "[Church Name] isn't like other churches. It's really casual. People wear jeans and drink coffee and the [pastor/preacher/reverend] wears jeans"
Nate (still uninterested) - "Okay"
New Potential Friend's Wife - "We'd love for you guys to come with us this Sunday and be our guests and then go get breakfast afterwards"
Kate - "We'll see what we've got going on this weekend and will let you know"

So then Kate and I talk about it after the end of the date:

Nate - "I don't want to go to church with them"
Kate - "What if we go and then we don't like it and then at breakfast we just talk about church and then we don't go back and then every time we go out with them afterwards they are always thinking/talking about church and it would be really weird"
Nate - "I don't want to go to church with them"

So then I did what anyone in my position would do. I googled the local Catholic Church, found out what time mass was, and then came up with a story that we were going to that church instead. Which, of course, we weren't. I know that lying about church is probably not a very good thing to do, and Law and Order has taught me of the dangers of making up a false alibi, but I thought it was my only option here. Oh, and I'll clarify here that I've got nothing against church. But if a church isn't your particular brand of whiskey, that's okay too. 

It would be really cool if people around here would take that approach with actual country clubs. "Hey Nate, have you guys joined a country club yet? We're members of Quail's not like other country clubs, because you can wear jeans when you golf. If you want, you can come with me this Saturday morning for 18 holes and then we can have breakfast at the club afterwards." 

That hasn't happened yet. Probably never will. But a girl can dream, right?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Must Love Dogs

One of our new Charlotte activities is taking Gilbert to the area bark park. It's an awesome park; just five minutes from our house, lots of dogs, and about eight acres for our dogs to run and play. While I'm sure it's fun for Gilbert, it is also fun for us. The dog watching and people watching are unparalleled. 

We'll start with the dogs. You get to see every breed of dog imaginable. You'll see pug puppies that could fit in your pocket right next to a 200 pound Italian Mastiff. This dog is huge. He could hold his own in any men's locker room. Somebody needs to get that dog some underpants. One of my favorite things to do is to give the dogs new names. Most of the dogs have pretty boring names. You've got your Scouts, Buddys, Snoopys and Marleys. I think those dogs deserve better than the typical dog names. I usually name the dogs based on what they look like, often times based on celebrities. There's an Afghan that I call Sarah Jessica, a couple of labs that are Oprah and Gail (these dogs REALLY like each other). A corgi mix that I call Wild Baby Dingo. The skinny dogs are Lohan, Ashley, and Mary Kate. The list goes on and on. 

While the dogs are entertaining, the owners are really the stars of my little reality show. There are some crazy dog people. I guess we would probably qualify as such (depending on your criteria) but these people are nuts. The crazy ones are usually women in their 40s or 50s. They always come along (well, except for their dogs) and always come at the same time. Spotzie's mom says things like "oh, Spotzie gets cranky and has nightmares if I don't bring here here." Ashley's mom freaks out anytime another dog approaches her dog. I'm not quite sure why she brings her damn dog to the bark park if she is going to freak out with dog on dog contact, but whatever. I'm pretty sure that these women dress their dogs up and send out their Christmas card/picture with just the dog in it.

There are several bark park rules. Some are written, others are just common sense. The first (written) rule is no children under 16 allowed. This rule is not followed very closely. I'm okay with the typical 8-12 year old being there with mom or dad. Not because I like children, but because I think it's fun when my dog starts humping their dog, and the kid says something like "mommy, what's that dog doing to Scooter?" It's awesome that my dog can determine when they have to have the birds and bees (or dogs and dogs) talk with their kids. Some people really break the 'no kids' rule. There was a lady who brought her newborn in one of those hippie cloth sling things across her chest. I think she made it about ten minutes before realizing how incredibly stupid that was. Oh, and last week there was a lady who brought a kid in one of those SUV strollers. She just parked her stroller next to the bench and started talking on her cell phone while a dozen or so dogs sniffed/jumped on her kid. Gilbert was more interested in the diaper compartment below the stroller and focused most of his energy and poor behavior on that.

While child endangerment gets honorable mention, the winner of 'dumbest thing to do at a dog park' is bringing food. Bringing dog treats in your pocket is pretty stupid, but somewhat understandable. People think that if their dog misbehaves, they can just bribe him with a treat. What they don't realize is that every other dog in the park (including mine) will realize that they have treats and will maul them. So dog treats are dumb but understandable. Bringing in a picnic lunch for you and your kids is just idiotic. It doesn't take too long for someone to realize this. As soon as my dog (or another dog) steals their cheeseburger they get the idea.

So that's life at the bark park. It's a pretty good time. I've gotta go now. It's lunchtime and Gilbert knows it's time to go to the park. I don't want the baby to get fussy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Spoiler Alert

One thing that I typically dislike is when people give away the ending and/or plot twist of a movie that I haven't seen. I get pretty annoyed when someone 'ruins' the movie for me. RJ is particular good at giving away the end of movies. He's seen pretty much everything, especially if it's some kind of independent art film. If it's something about a 7 year old autistic Cuban boy and the joy that his crayola crayons bring, then RJ has probably seen it. Anyway, he had a streak of giving away about three movies in a month stretch. The first two giveaways were accidental, I think. Once he realized how much it pissed me off, I'm pretty sure the 3rd one was on purpose.

So I've sworn off giving away the end of movies, but now is the time to break from my rule. The dog dies in the end.

If anyone is planning on seeing Marley and Me, good. It's a pretty good movie. Kate and I saw it on Christmas Day. We had both read the book, so we pretty much knew what to expect. It follows the growth of the dog and the family through the dog's ENTIRE life. I just assumed that everyone else that went to the movie on opening day probably would've already read the book as well. Apparently everyone else in the movie had never read the book. Maybe they didn't even know there was a book. Maybe they are just huge Jennifer Anniston/Owen Wilson fans. Or perhaps they just liked the onslaught of commercials and product tie-ins that were constantly on TV promoting the movie during the holidays. Whatever it was, the whole 'dog-dying-in-the-end" thing seemed to be a surprise for about 75% of the theatre.

The movie was sad, even for people who knew the story. Kate was crying, and she knew the damn dog was going to die. Pretty much the entire theatre was crying. I've never been in a place with so many adults crying (funerals included). Even though everyone was crying, you could tell that some of the crying people were completely blindsided by the dog death. They were the ones that in addition to the typical crying sniffles also had the crying gasps, or the full on sobbing. They should update the courtesy message at the beginning of that movie to say something like "Please silence your cell phones, keep your feet off the seats, and try to cry quietly." Kate and I were sitting next to a 40-something guy. He looked like he might be a plumber or electrician. During the dog's last days, his wife actually leaned over and asked him if he was alright. It was full on man-sob. he clearly hadn't read the book.

I understand why the studio people decided to avoid the whole 'the dog dies in the end' thing in the previews. It was supposed to be a feel good family movie. It was rated PG. It opened on Christmas day. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a dead family pet. But I think some kind of heads up would've been nice. Maybe something like "An amazing pet teaches one family about loyalty, love and loss." Or just something more obvious like "Marley and Me: The dog dies in the end."

So sorry to break my rule and give away the end of a movie. You'll thank me later.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Cartoons

Editor's Note: The following post might end up sounding like Andy Rooney. If you are one of those people who turn off 60 minutes before he starts talking, you might not enjoy this post. Sorry, but I just have to post on this subject, and I can't think of a way to do it without sounding like an old man with bushy eyebrows.

What the hell happened to cartoons? It's the weekend. It's the morning. Why can't I find any good cartoons? The stuff that is on is garbage. And it's not just network television. The stuff on cable isn't much better. As I see it, I have at least 4 channels that should get me some quality cartoons: Cartoon Network, Noggin, Nick, and Disney. Cartoon Network comes closest. They at least carry some good old school cartoons, they just bury them. In college we found out that they had the smurfs, but they only had them on from 3-4 AM. For about a week we set our alarm clocks for 3AM and woke up for smurfs. And by 'we', I mean I convinced my roommates that they should wake up and watch smurfs with me.

Anyway, Cartoon Network seems to save prime time for this anime stuff. I think there's an accent mark somewhere in Anime, but since I don't understand or like it, I'm not going to dignify it with proper punctuation. I tried to give this anime stuff a shot. I just don't get it. Put it in a box with Harry Potter, Radiohead, and Fax Machines. Label the box "Stuff that I really tried to understand but I just don't get it."

So Cartoon Network is out. So are Nick and Disney. I try to watch them sometimes. When Kate is around, she calls me a dirty old man (it's usually some tween comedy on there) for watching Disney. Doesn't Disney have the licensing rights to all of their cartoons? Why spend money creating new shows when they could just show today's kids all of the stuff that we watched? And every time I turn on Nickelodeon, that damn Drake and Josh show is on. I don't know why, but something makes me want to punch those kids. 

And then there's Noggin. I watched a couple hours of Noggin last night (we'll call it research) and almost had a seizure. Somewhere between "Pinky Dinky Doo" and "Wa Wa Wubzy" I realized that they aren't even trying with plot or character development. It's basically just a bunch of shapes and bright colors bouncing around. We should show this stuff to terrorists to try to break them. I'm no scientist, but I think Noggin is one of the major causes of half of the child population being on Ritalin. 

So I'm starting my own cartoons-only station. Here's a sample day of programming:

6:00 AM - 8:00 AM - Smurfs. I love Smurfs.
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM - Woody Woodpecker. Basically just so I can watch Chilly Willy. He really made that show.
9:00 - 10:00 - Tiny Toon Adventures. Mostly for the theme song.
10:00 - 11:00 - Scooby Doo. We'd put a strong emphasis on episodes that included the Harlem Globetrotters
11:00 - Noon - Garfield + U.S. Acres. The U.S. Acres characters really made this show. I mean, a walking talking egg? A pig named Orson? I think this was the only cartoon pig not named after a pig food product. Think about it, they aways name them stuff like Bacon or Hampton or Porky. Lame.
Noon - 1:00 - Muppet Babies. I put this on at noon because some days I'm gone at lunch, and I don't think I could take baby gonzo and baby fozzy everyday. They overact sometimes. 
1:00 - 2:00 - Duck Tales. I always wanted to go swimming in Uncle Scrooge's money.
2:00 - 3:00 - Captain Planet. Terrible show, but I do an awesome impression of Ma-Ti (the 'Heart' character)
3:00 - 4:00 - Inspector Gadget. Great show. Penny was hot. There, I said it.
4:00 - 5:00 - Gummy Bears. I now think that some company like Balco created this show so that people who grew up in the 80s wouldn't see anything wrong with taking something like steroids to get bigger, faster and stronger. It's basically just Gummy Berry Juice, right?
5:00 - 6:00 - Thundercats. Snarf.
6:00 - 7:00 - Heathcliff. I have no idea why he doesn't get more respect as a good cartoon. He is so much cooler than Garfield. They're pretty much the same cat, but Heathcliff is out being a badass at a junkyard while Garfield is just sitting on his fat ass talking about lasagna and listening to his whiny owner. Sorry for the language, but I'm pretty passionate about this one. Oh, and I've always wanted to hook up John Arbuckle with Cathy (Eeek!). I think they'd be perfectly miserable together. 

So that's my daily programming. There are plenty of others that we can put in from 7P - 6A. I have a few others that I like, but none of them deserve a daily slot. If you'd like to make a case for your favorite cartoon, I'll take it into consideration.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Senior Moments

My wife lives in a nursing home. She has been for a month, and I still laugh every time I say it. Technically, it's not really a nursing home. It's an independent living townhouse that is connected to a nursing home, but you get the idea.

Oh, and it's in the armpit of Indianapolis. For our Hoosier readers, you might see the place when you drive past Exit 103 on I-65. It's pretty much on the interstate, behind the Panda Express and a stone's throw from the scrapbooking superstore. I can't make this stuff up.

So here's the story. Yes, we did move to Charlotte about six months ago and have been enjoying the warmer weather and lack of blue laws. Everything in Charlotte has been pretty perfect, with the exception of Kate's job situation. She found a job here in Charlotte, and then broke some kind of record for putting in her notice during her 3rd day on the job. While that's a pretty amazing feat, it pales in comparison to the fact that she was talking about quitting when she called me to tell me she got the job. Now that's impressive. About this time, the world economy decided it was time to collapse. You might have read something about that. 

So then Kate's former employer in Indiana called her and asked if she could come back and cover a 3 month maternity leave. They'd take care of housing, and she could fly back to Charlotte on the weekends. Since I still come back to Indy every month, it didn't seem like too bad of a gig. Better than not working, right?

I think we underestimated a couple of things. First, we forgot how much the Midwest really sucks during the winter. I thought I was done with the term "thundersnow' forever when we moved to Charlotte, but it is now back in my vocabulary.

Second, we may have underestimated the unintentional comedy factor of living in a senior community. Honestly, all of her neighbors are either old or really old. Except for the few who are extremely old. Somewhere between old lady in Titanic old and Supreme Court Justice old. 

The first time I came to visit, I was coming in from a work trip and got to Indy around 1:00 AM. I then took a cab (a 91 Dodge Caravan without a muffler) and arrived at Kate's garden home around 2AM. Now, we've all visited a nursing home. Maybe to see a great aunt or even a grandparent. Imagine what it would be like if a super loud, beat up minivan pulled into your grandma's nursing home at 2:00 in the morning and a large 28 year old man got out. Yeah, it's a perfect setup for a joke, or maybe even our own reality show. The bathroom in her townhouse has an alert button, just in case you fall down in the shower. I could go on and on.

But despite the terrible weather (still not sure why anyone lives there) and the fact that her neighbors are watching everything she does and are probably scared that these young kids are going to steal their medicine and feed them to robots, we've got a couple good things out of the deal. First, I can tell people that my wife lives in a nursing home (yep, still makes me laugh). And Kate and I will have a great story to tell the grandchildren someday.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Guy on Guy Action

So when I started this blog post, I was going to write about the way that dog owners react when they see their male dog hump another male dog. I decided to scrap that subject, but will keep the title. I think it still fits. 

The new topic that still fits the title is guys asking other guys for their phone numbers. It's one of those awkward interactions that shouldn't be that big of a deal, right? Oh, and to clarify, this isn't any kind of a pickup situation. It's an asexual interaction, usually between two straight guys that have just met and think there is some friend potential. 

It has happened to me a few times recently. Mostly because I'm awesome, but also because Kate and I are actively seeking new friends in our sort of new city. So we're being more friendly to nice looking strangers than we usually are. Anyway, we've met a few people in random situations. Then you get to the end of the initial kickoff conversation, and it comes time for one brave man to ask the not as brave man for his phone number. The first time I did this (met a nice guy at the bark park - I think my dog was humping his) I was actually kind of nervous. There was that "what if he rejects me" kind of feeling. I mean, we were probably going to see each other again since we lived in the same area and both frequented the Bark Park. Would it be awkward if he rejected my advance? Or what if I get his phone number and then never call, that wouldn't be good either, right? I think this has gotten a little easier with cell phones. I guess the cool thing that the kids do these days is instead of exchanging numbers, just get the not so brave person's number, and then call them so they'll have your number. Those crazy kids and their cell phones. Yeah, I think this method is probably better than writing your name and number out on a scrap of paper. Because then you're walking around with another guy's number in your pocket.

I thought that this might only be something that people my age struggle with, but then I went golfing with my Dad today. Yeah, it's December 26th and I played golf today. Anyway, my dad and this other 60-something guy that we were paired with hit it off pretty well. They both live in the same 'active senior' mini-town, have similar interests (or interest - golf), and both like to play fast. So at the end of the round, the guy looked in his pocket for his business card to give to my dad, and when he couldn't find one, looked like someone had killed his dog. So sad that he couldn't give my dad his contact info so they could set up a future golf game. The thought apparently didn't even cross his mind that he could write down his phone number and give my dad his digits. So this either means that Larry wasn't very smart, or it becomes even more difficult to ask another guy for his number as you get older.  And Larry seemed pretty smart. Oh, the old guy approach to this is just to get the other guy's last name, so he can look it up in the phonebook. 

You crazy teens with your cell phones can't do that, can ya?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Miracle

It's the holiday season and I'm in a giving mood. Instead of using this post to discuss the awkward six month blogging sabbatical that we have taken, I'll write about some Christmas traditions. Well, they aren't really traditions, but some stuff that I've always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to. I know, it's pretty lame that my first post in six months is just a list, but give me some time and hopefully I'll get back in the swing of things. So here goes...stuff that I've wanted to do around the holidays. Feel free to steal any of these ideas, I'm sure I didn't come up with them myself:

1. The Christmas letter. We've all received those cards from the perfect family that talks about their perfect life and their perfect kids. I've always wanted to create my own Christmas letter. Usually the idea goes one of two ways. The first idea on this topic is to just write about the most embarrassing/mundane/depressing things that happened to me in the past year. Most people only focus on the highlights. If you fill it with the bad stuff that happens, I think it'll make it more believable.

The other way to go is to make up a fake family and just talk about all of the awesome things that they are doing. Something like "Timmy and Tommy are doing great in Kindergarten. Timmy loves soccer and led his team in goals, while Tommy is reading at a 5th grade level." Oh, and to make it extra good, I could give each member of my fake family their own paragraph where they write in the first person (especially awful with pets and babies). Something like "Mommy says I'm a good sleeper."

So this has been on my list of things to do for a few years. It lives in the 'that's inappropriate' file. At least that's what Kate says.

2. Away in a manger. Two ideas around this theme. The first is to have a live nativity scene in my front yard. Like with Donkeys and stuff. Now that I think about it, Donkeys might be expensive. I'm not sure if I can even rent a donkey or if I'd have to buy it. Instead, maybe I'd just dress our dog up and put him in the nativity scene. Yeah, that would probably work better.

The other idea here is for Kate and I to dress up as Mary and Joseph for our Christmas Picture/Card and then to dress Gilbert (our dog) up in swaddling clothes. As you can imagine, this one is also in the 'that's inappropriate' file. 

3. Incompatible Inflatables. So I hate inflatable Christmas decorations that people put in their yards. The one way that I think this could get fun is if we put some of the traditional decorations in the yard with some of the um, trashy decorations. I was thinking maybe the three wise men along with Pooh and Tigger. Or maybe Mary, Joseph, and Garfield.

4. Guerrilla Mall Santa. I haven't really thought this one through a whole lot. I was at the mall last week buying RJ's 30th birthday gift (an airbrushed t-shirt with dolphins on it and his name, but that's for another post). Anyway, there was a line of about 100 kids waiting to sit on Santa's lap. It wasn't even that good of a Santa. So my thought is I could just sit on a random bench at the mall in a Santa suit. I'd charge half of what the 'official' mall Santa charges for pictures, and would give way better candy canes. This idea sort of falls apart when I think about the fallout. I'm guessing the mall brass probably wouldn't like this (since I'm undercutting their prices and offering a better product) so they'd probably find some way to press charges. I'm okay with that. What worries me is what the story would look like on the news. At the end of the day, I'd be a grown man at the mall dressed up in a costume trying to get kids to sit on his lap. There's really no way to sugarcoat this one. If nothing else, it would be an embarrassing moment to include in next year's Christmas card.

Happy Holidays. I promise it won't be six months before the next post.