Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Pits

There was a special on avacados that day. Everyone loves a good deal but—as anyone who’s ever bought an avocado knows—avacados are tough to buy in bulk because you only get about a 24-hour window to enjoy them as they pass between hard as a rock and mushy as a nursing home. So Phil Thompson just bought two. 
Phil Thompson got home with the avacados and set them on the counter. He wasn’t sure what he’d do with them. Make guacamole? Slice them up and put a little salt and olive oil on them? Really, what else can you do with an avocado? Thinking about this, for a second Phil began to regret his purchase. Like seasonal cherries or heirloom tomatoes, Phil felt like he only bought the avacados because they were on sale. Because he had. The more he thought about it, the more Phil felt like he had been taken for a ride. An avacado ride. That’s when Phil hatched a plan.
Rummaging through the trash in the garage, Phil found his receipt for the avacados. 2 for $4. Phil began to imagine the other things he could have bought with those four dollars. Three-quarters of a gallon of gas, a gallon of milk, a six pack of soda. Why was he only imagining liquids? He didn't know. But why, he thought, was he duped into buying these things?
Striding into the store with a purpose not often seen at the local Piggly Wiggly, Phil approached the customer service desk and demanded the manager. A stout woman with a fondness for nurse’s shoes, Carol Riley had only been the store’s manager for seven months but no amount of experience could have prepared her for this showdown.
Setting the avacodos on the counter, Phil explained to her how he wanted to return them for a full refund. Carol informed him of the store’s return policy on perishables: they don’t do them. Hearing this, Phil began flailing his arms and ranting about how this was an outrage and a mockery of the whole concept of capitalism. No one really understood what he meant by that. His assertion that Margaret Thatcher would never buy avacados at Piggly Wiggly thoroughly confused everyone because she didn’t even live in the States. And as the Prime Minister of England, she likely didn’t eat too many avacados. What's more, the avacado (or persea americana) is really an equatorial fruit that thrives in more tropical climates, not the northern latitudes and certainly not the damp British isles. But then again, she was the prime minister so she could probably get her hands on anything she wanted. It was still a weird thing for Phil to say. 
Carol tried her best to calm him down but Phil was inconsolable. The wheels finally came off when Phil threw a March of Dimes brochure display to the ground and began to climb over the counter. A security guard who'd been posted near the door arrived just in time to grab him by his pants and throw him to the ground.

Unfortunately, in the ensuing mayhem the avacados crashed to the floor causing their softened husks to split open, their green guts squishing out. Now they were of no use to anyone.
Months later, as Phil Thompson picked up discarded cans and cigarette butts on the shoulder of highway 183, his mind sometimes drifted to thoughts of a big bowl of creamy guacamole. Next to it maybe there was a bowl of tortilla chips and a pitcher of cold margaritas. Maybe his friends were there. And maybe someone would remark about how expensive avacados had gotten recently and Phil could assure them he knew a place where you could get them cheap. 2 for $4, even.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Garden Variety

He was a shovel thief.
Most people when they hear that are confused about why a guy would steal shovels. But if you think about it, you can steal pretty much anything and for this guy that thing just happened to be shovels, strange as that may be. Maybe he had a lot of holes to dig. Maybe he didn’t like buying things. Or maybe he just liked the danger of sneaking into sheds and onto porches to steal shovels. Whatever the reason, the man was a shovel thief.
Most of us are taught at a very young age that stealing is bad.  But it was clear this guy’s parents never imparted this lesson onto the young shovel thief. We still wonder how it all started. Was he always a thief? As a toddler, did he steal a sand shovel and like the feeling? Did this future shovel thief boost one of those little three-pronged hand rakes from a neighbor's yard as a teenager? Did one thing lead to another?

What led the young thief to choose a life of shovel thievery, we may never know.
But for the residents of Vista Acres, the shovel thief wasn’t just a curiosity. He was a menace. Leaving one’s garage door open was as foolish as hanging one of those “come and take it” flags out front and actually meaning it. Only instead of a snake your flag has a shovel. "No, please, come take my shovel. Seriously." Every morning in the Acres, as the residents were fond of calling it, emails reporting shovel thefts forwarded around like Obama jokes. The clubhouse at lunch was a beehive. 
Then one night, Frank Treadwell heard a rattle outside his garden home in the Lakes section of the Acres. The nice section of the Acres. The area with the nicest shovels. Those yellow and black ones with padding on the handle that Home Depot puts up front. The ones on an endcap display with a catchy slogan like "A deal you can dig!"

Telling his wife Vicki to stay in bed, Frank made his way downstairs to try to get a look at what might be the trouble. Padding across the tile floor of his kitchen he spotted a shadowy figure just beyond his glassed-in sun porch. Was this the shovel thief? Had his own shovel already fallen victim to the elusive bandit? His hand felt along the wall until he located the switch for the outside floodlights. He flicked the switch and the lights came on with a football stadium’s intensity. And there, lit up like the Statue of Liberty (only this one was holding a shovel), was Tom Blankenship. Tom Blankenship lived in the section of the Acres that was considered the least desirable: the Pines section. Tom Blankenship was the shovel thief. Almost no one saw that coming. Except maybe Debbie, his wife. She had to have known. 
In the days and weeks that followed rumors flew about Tom and his wife Debbie. He was somehow responsible for the great sewer backup of ’94. She singlehandedly threw the bake off of ’01 leading to Carol Feinstein’s unlikely victory. They both had a hand in the coup d'etat that led to Rick Hemingway’s ascension to head of the Homeowner’s Association back in ’09.  None of it could be proved but boy, it sure was it fun to speculate.
Tom and Debbie eventually sold their condo at a loss and simply skipped town. Some people remember him simply as Tom, the insurance appraiser who grew up in nearby Centerville. Others remember him as Tom who led the local Boy Scout troop during the early 90’s when his boys were scout-age. Still others remember the man who overdid it with decorations every Christmas. But for those who owned shovels, he was remembered as one thing and one thing only: the shovel thief.
The residents of the acres never did find out what happened to all those shovels but then again, most of them still had AOL email addresses and had never heard of Craigslist.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

An American Watches Some Soccer

I said it four years ago and I’ll say it again now but I really, really want to like soccer. I really do. But man alive, there are some things that have got to change before I can take it seriously. Let’s break it down shall we? 
We Americans are a tough bunch so we’re never going to have warm feelings about someone who drops to the ground grabbing their legs as if they’ll never walk again only to moments later spring up and start running again. Not gonna happen. I understand you’re trying to get a call but come on, be a man. You go down like that you better leave on a stretcher, son. And don’t be a baby when the calls don’t go your way. It appears to me that most calls are coin tosses anyway. 
Wildly Inaccurate Shots
I hear stories about soccer teams practicing but then I see games where dudes launch off shots that end up in section 200 of the stands. What’s up with that? Y’all ever practicing shooting the ball? Seems to me that would be maybe 50% of practice time for the guys up front. 
Wildly Inaccurate Passing
Again, I’d think passing would be something teams would practice a lot. So to see guys totally whiff a pass is confusing to us Americans. 
Not Trying Hard Enough to Intercept Passes 
Often I’ll see a back-checking (I speak hockey better than soccer) defender positioning himself between two opposing players as the ball is passed between them. Stick a leg out! Take a chance and see if you can’t poke that ball a bit and then make a play on it. Play to win, as we say here in America. 
Kicking the Ball Out of Bounds 
I understand that when a team is driving the ball down into your side of the field it’s tempting to stop the bleeding by kicking the ball out of bounds. Sure, it allows you to get more gauze pads but it also gives your opponent more time to get all of their blood downfield. Seems to me a kick back upfield or to a teammate in the center of the field would be more advantageous. But that’s just me.  
Going Backwards 
Yesterday the US team took the ball right at the opening and passed it twice all the way back to the keeper. Our first move was to go the wrong way. The way I see it, we were already halfway to the opponent's goal so what could be gained by going back and having to then cover the whole field? It’s stupid. Go forward. This isn’t that hard. 
Wasting Time
You’re down by a goal with say 10 minutes left in the game. Where’s the urgency? Ball goes out of bounds? Don’t dilly dally, grab that thing and get it back in. Again, America likes a winner so do your best to make that happen. 
Goalie Uniforms 
I get it, you need to stand out from the rest of the team. But why not choose a color related to your country or team? The team’s wearing white? Maybe wear red or blue. But neon green or yellow? Come on. We see you, we see you. 
Shaving Cream 
Just when I thought soccer couldn’t get more precious they’ve now given the refs a can of shaving cream for marking out free kicks. You could always just point to a spot. I mean, soccer doesn’t seem too overly concerned about accuracy so why start now? 
Extra Time
Speaking of accuracy, why not just stop the clock when someone gets hurt or someone runs on the field or whatever? But randomly adding an arbitrary amount of minutes on to the end of a game? Not in this country, pal. 
Here in America we have a little system for differentiating players who are currently in the game versus those who are out of the game. We call it a sideline. I believer soccer has one, too. So why in god’s name do the reserves need to wear those x-ray-at-the-dentist bibs? We can tell who’s playing, we don’t need special bibs. 
Scoreless Games 
I like watching grown men kick the ball around for 90 minutes with no result as much as the next guy but come on. Make the field smaller or the goal bigger or something. And ties? Come on. If there ain't a winner there ain’t gonna be much of a crowd, at least here in the US of A. 
Calling it What We Want
It’s “soccer.” They play “games.” Between two “teams.” On a “field.” Who cares what terms we use to describe it? Must we call it a football match between two sides played on a pitch? I say call it what we want.