Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Chorus Abhorrus

My daughter has been singing some strange songs around the house lately. By strange, I mean unfamiliar. If that’s the case, why didn’t I say “unfamiliar” instead of “strange”? I don’t know. They are unfamiliar to me, not to her. If they were unfamiliar to her, I doubt she would be singing them. Like Czechoslovakian folk tunes – I never hear her singing those, because she is not familiar with them. Nor am I, so if she were singing them, I would not know. Maybe those are the songs she’s been singing. I don’t think she’s Czechoslovakian. I have never seen her wear a babushka.

It wasn’t until a day before my daughter’s chorus recital, when ex-Mrs. Rub told me it was the following day and we needed to have her to the school by 6:30 in the evening that I realized my daughter was in the school chorus. I think I may have been aware of this fact, but honestly, I pretend my way through life so much, I’m not always sure what is reality and what is that giant potato in the shape of Abe Vigoda doing on my couch! Oh, no worry, he is merely petting the dog. This, the chorus recital, not the Abe Vigoda potato, explains my daughter’s singing behavior of late.

I arrived at the school multi-purpose room (MPR), with the son by my side, at approximately 6:45 pm on the night of the recital. The MPR, as some call it, is basically a gymnasium with fold out cafeteria tables built into the walls, so that the room can serve as a food oasis during lunchtime in addition to being an incubation center for the athletes of tomorrow. I asked the Principal about this exotic building naming convention. She informed me that if the children knew they were eating their lunches in a gym, they would be scarred for life and would never be able to dine in public, rendering the future of the restaurant business doomed. I doubted her claim, but she was wielding a yardstick, so I did not argue. To change the subject, I asked her if she minded being at the school at such a late hour in the day. She suggested a tour of her office to show me how, in the good old days, they used to administer corporal punishment to the naughty, naughty students. I took my seat.

After enduring some inane chit-chat with the son, where we both decide the other is an idiot (and both correct), a scope of the room for hot moms and a discussion of some kid scheduling details with the ex (about exactly what, I’m not sure – some things don’t change), the chorus, all dressed in white tops and black bottoms (some pants, some skirts), entered the MPR gymnasium food court. Mr. Hoek, the musical director, dressed in the same manner, only larger sized clothes, led them in.

The chorus consisted of two boys and about twelve girls. Boys of that age (fourth grade) aren’t into singing much – not in front of people, anyway. Peer pressure ridicule looms large for them. There are not many other afflictions worse than getting ribbed by the guys for doing something seemingly “girly”. Boys don’t realize that the payoff of singing could be an in road to the affections from the ladies. They don’t realize it because they don’t care at that point in their lives. In a few years they will care, and they won’t care so much about getting the business from the fellas. Weird, huh?

Mr. Hoek, a very tall and slender man, with short brown hair, Jimmie JJ Walker facial hair and wearing black Converse MPR shoes, welcomed us to the performance. He explained that their first number, The Concert Etiquette Rap, was a lesson to the audience on how to behave during the show. Apparently, there has been a history of unruly and horny parents causing distractions. The song preached the basic etiquette: be quiet, pay attention, applaud thunderously, etc. I think they went a little too far with the refrain, “Keep your pants on, Daddy-O, that school marm just ain’t no ho!” I stopped searching the room for hot moms when I heard that, so maybe they know what they’re doing.

The children’s performance of this song was adequate. It was a rap song. Honestly, I cannot tell the difference from a good rap song and a bad rap song. It’s hard for me to give you a judgment of their performance on that song. I CAN tell you that their singing during the rest of the show was pretty bad. Most of them were out of tune. Their tempo, as a group, was off and inconsistent, for the most part. Any attempt at harmony was ear hell. The two boys were lip-syncing. Thinking back, I should probably have thanked them for that. Overall, it was pretty much terrible, by adult standards. We were subjected to a kazoo orchestra performance for one song, which sounded like a bunch of bees with speech impediments. Considering bees make their buzzing sounds with their wings and not with their voices, you can imagine how atrocious that sounded. Some members of the chorus, during one song that my mind has blocked out of my memory so I don’t commit suicide, played soda pop bottles containing water at different levels to produce different tones, while the others sang. Fortunately, the soda pop bottles were in tune. Unfortunately, that only exacerbated the inconsonance of the singers. The show was the longest forty-five minutes I ever suffered. None of this, of course, applies to my daughter. She was wonderful, but you couldn’t hear her very well. Why is it that the untalented ones are always the loudest?

The highlight of the evening was when they were about to sing Dona Nobis Pacem. Mr. Hoek, who evidently doesn’t teach singing, and is merely baby sitting fourth graders after school for an extra grand a year, asked the audience if anybody knew Latin and could tell everyone what the English title of the song was. I waited to see if anybody was going to answer. I had been secretly translating the title since I saw it on the program.

The translation of Latin into English is no easy task. You must follow stringent guidelines. First, you have to figure out what all the words mean. It helps to have memorized each Latin word’s English meaning. If not, you need to, at least, know the meaning of similar English words derived from Latin words. I favor the latter method. In this example, “dona” sounds like donate, donor, donation, etc, so there is a good chance it means “give”. “Pacem” is similar to pacify, pacific, pacifier, etc., which are all words relating to “peace”. As for “nobis”, who the hell knows? Although, I did remember that “nobis” meant something like “our”, using the former method described above. Once you have determined the possible meanings of the words, start mixing them around and manipulating their forms, if needed, to form some sort of legible sentence, and then hand it in.

I must warn you, some Latin teachers will tell you that each Latin word in a given sentence has a specific suffix that will tell you what part of speech it is, and where it belongs in the translated English sentence. However, I speak English, and that is not what suffixes do in this country. Nice try, Mrs. Latin teacher. You can’t always trust them. They’ll even make up English forms of words, like gerund, just so they can give you extra useless endings to have to remember. I’m not buying it. Gerund. I’ll believe that right after I believe the buying of the Brooklyn Bridge from a guy in the street is a good investment.

I had determined that the three words in the sentence were “give” “peace” and “our”. “Give peace our” didn’t make much sense (although I had turned in goofier sounding sentences back in high school). I jumbled the order until I ended up with “Give our peace”, which sounds better, but not quite correct. So, I added “to us” to the end to get, “Give our peace to us.” That version didn’t sound quite complete. I added, “you bastard”. “Give our peace to us, you bastard”. That was it. I did it. It was during the kazoo mess that I figured it out. I was prepared with the correct answer, in case the question came up.

The last thing I wanted to do was to blurt it out immediately after Mr. Hoek asked the question and look like a bigger dork than I am. So, I sat back calmly. Once I realized there were no other scholars in the group, or at least none that needed to show off as much as I did, I declared for all to hear, “Give Us Peace” was the name of the song. Luckily, I had forgotten the sentence I had determined, and at the last second, made something up. Mr. Hoek gave me a verbal A+ (I’m not sure what he said, exactly, since I was basking in my insolence, but he probably said something like, “What are you doing here, you should be at Harvard or curing cancer or something!”) Finally, four years of sitting in Latin class in high school had paid off. I could tell by the look on my daughter’s face that she was thinking, “Oh no, that’s my dad. I wish I was dead!” I’m kidding of course…

Abe Vigoda Potato: Excuse me, Mr. Rub.

Moist Rub: Yes, Abe Vigoda Potato?

Abe Vigoda Potato: First off, I’m not a potato.

Moist Rub: Rutabega?

Abe Vigoda Rutabega: No.

Moist Rub: Then, what are you?

Abe Vigoda non Potato nor Rutabega: I’m Abe Vigoda, himself.

Moist Rub: Oh. Good. I thought you were a potato.

Abe Vigoda: Well, I’m not. I can’t help the way that I look. I’m very old. I’d like to see you when you’re my age.

Moist Rub: Not if I looked like you, you wouldn’t. Are you sure you’re not a root of some sort?

Abe Vigoda: I don’t think it was very nice of you to have criticized your daughter’s chorus the way you did. They worked very hard on those songs. They’re young and learning. Learning the capacity of their voices. Learning to sing together in a group. Learning how music can be meaningful in their lives.

Moist Rub: I understand all that. But, you weren’t there. It was pretty bad.

Abe Vigoda: Some people think that a child singing is the most beautiful sound in the world.

Moist Rub: Sure, if that child happens to be in The Osmonds or The Jackson Five

Abe Vigoda: No, regular children. Their voices resonate with the beauty of innocence and sincerity, of love and compassion, of humanity and a carefree existence – all which is lost in adulthood.

Moist Rub: That must be why everybody was clapping. I guess I was too busy translating Latin to have understood the true magnificence of their performance.

Abe Vigoda: I guess you were. Next time, try to experience it for what it is, and not for what you expect it to be.

Moist Rub: I don’t think I will be able to.

Abe Vigoda: Sure you can. Try.

Moist Rub: OK, Abe Vigoda. Thanks for setting me straight. Now, can you please do me a favor?

Abe Vigoda: Certainly, Mr. Rub.

Moist Rub: Please put some clothes on. You’ll be less apt to be mistaken for a potato.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Bicycle Built For Two

Not to turn this into a bike log, but it’s better than bitching about work. So I leave my laptop in my bag, blow off my work, and hop on the bike this weekend. About 1/8 of a mile into the ride, I nearly run into the side of a minivan. Normally I don’t have to worry about traffic on that cul de sac, but today’s garage sale was attracting a steady flow of 1989 Dodge Caravans all looking for a deals on 8-track tapes and broken lawn chairs.

[Side note: While going through all our crap and prepping for our own garage sale a couple months ago, we found something they call a unity candle from our wedding. You do your vows and then jointly light a candle that’s supposed to represent the Second Circle of Hell. Well, we found our hell candle and the following conversation ensued:
Mrs. F’er: You want this?
Sid: Not really, do you?
Mrs. F’er: No.
Sid: Really?
Mrs. F’er: No. Is that bad?
Sid: No. Garage sale it is.
A week later, a strange woman in a Dodge Caravan paid us $1 for an official “Mr. & Mrs. F’er, May 17, 1998” candle.]

But I digress. At mile 3, I cut through a local park and was going to photograph the place for the blog but I didn’t think that standing in a park wearing spandex and sporting a homeless guy beard while taking pictures of teen girls on the playground would endear me to the local residents of Flower Mound, recently voted a top ten place to raise a family. So I pedaled onward.
Mile 5 presents the busiest intersection – FM 2499, which requires Frogger-like skills to cross without becoming roadkill. I pass Flower Mound High School and arrive at Peter’s Colony Road. I envision Peter Griffin from Family Guy standing naked in a nudist colony and laugh. Sometimes I picture a bunch of cartoon penises wearing powdered wigs and those 18th century colonial hats. There are a few churches in this area, so on Sundays I have to be extra careful to dodge all the cars filled with the Lord’s love racing to get to church on time (and then subsequently motoring home to catch the Cowboy’s kickoff in the fall). I get to mile 7 and get the ride the fastest downhill on my route. Although unlikely, a crash here would turn my supple skin into ground beef, so I try to focus and avoid thinking about cartoon penises and whether Betty was really hotter than Veronica in those Archie comic books.
After a few turns at mile 8 I hit the steepest climb on the route, a short uphill through the exclusive River Oaks Estates subdivision, where it looks like they negotiate group discounts on Hummers, sporty convertibles, and illegal immigrants to handle their landscaping needs. When I’m in shape, I only require one finger to discretely nudge a lung out of my throat and back into its proper position. When I’m not in shape (like now), I usually fall over onto a lush lawn and have to use both hands to violently restore them to their internal organ status. I guess the Tour de France will have to wait this year. Hell, I guess the local Kiwanis bicycle rodeo might have to wait. Luckily, a long rambling slight downhill run that follows gives my cardio system a chance to recover. Unluckily, what goes down must go back up and I begin the long rambling uphill on Shiloh Road into an uncooperative headwind. I get passed by a fellow cyclist (slightly more fit than I) and decide to jump on his wheel and draft for a bit. I’m able to hang at his pace for about a minute, but my cardio system isn’t onboard with the idea anymore and insists that we go it alone. Bastard cardio system. Finally I approach Hawks Road around mile 12 and enter the gateway to my little cycling nirvana. The next 18 miles I pedal through Bartonville, Argyle and Double Oak and will probably only pass a dozen cars, and the cars will be far outnumbered by the horses that hangout on the various ranches, estates, and horse properties. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words and I’m too tired to type that much, so join the ride and enjoy the scenery. Click on the pictures if you need to see the full size version.

We really do have Longhorns in Texas. I want those for the front of my truck.


Damn kids.

Eventually, I make my way back to civilization and I’m welcomed back to McMansionville, where the homeowner’s association fines you if your farts don’t smell right.

I don’t live there. I couldn’t afford the fines. All the homes have pools, but nobody is ever in them. The kids are in their rooms playing Xbox on their plasma televisions, while their parents are in the study filling out their college applications. This is also the point where I need to start paying attention again and start hip checking the soccer moms in their Excursions, Tahoes, Yukons and Suburbans for a little room on the road as they race to pick up Jacob and Emily from gymnastics class.

Back through Peter’s Colony Road and the images of patriotic genitalia, past the high school, Frogger past 2499, through another few neighborhoods and I’m back in the park. This time there are other people out there, so I snap a shot.

How much more family friendly can you get than flying a freaking kite in the park on a Sunday afternoon? Where’s Norman Rockwell?

Three more miles and I’m home. I stink, but I feel good. I take a self-portrait.

You remember the Donny & Marie Show? She’s a little bit country, he’s a little bit rock n’ roll. Me and the wife are like that with bikes. I lean more to the roadie side and she’s more a mountain biker, but we do both. I prefer to zone out, clear my head, sing some Neil Diamond tunes, and knock out some miles. Mrs. F’er prefers to get dirty, jump rocks, fall down, and get bruised up so that I look like a wife beater. When our schedules coincide, I’ll jump some rocks with her and she’ll take the occasional ride to smell the cow shit with me. Life is good. So in compliance with the Equal Opportunity Biking Act, here’s a photo from her ride on Friday with her boyfriend.

Thanks for coming along. Next time you might want to try pedaling a little harder.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Movin' On Up

You might have noticed that my posts have not been as frequent or extensive as in the past. I can explain. You see, many years ago, I got set up with a girl who was new to town. We’ll call her Iguacu. This is very soap opera-ish, so pay close attention. You see this girl (Iguacu) came to town to manage a BBQ joint when her ex-boyfriend needed help staffing the expansion that was going on. But the ex-boyfriend had a new girlfriend. The new girlfriend thought that her buddy Sid might like Iguacu and arranged the meeting. It would also occupy Iguacu and hopefully distract her from fanning old flames. It did, in fact, work out and I eventually phased out my own old girlfriend who had recently been convicted of embezzlement and was busy repaying her debt to society.

I kind of liked Iguacu, so after about six months you can probably guess what happened….

Blog Reader: Awww… they got married and she became Mrs. F’er!

No, the fake titty whore kicked me to the curb and didn’t even have the decency to return the remote control for my garage door. That’s cold. It’s like disclosing to her the location of the Batcave and then having her draw a map for the Joker. But I weaned myself from the free BBQ and learned to hunt and gather food elsewhere. Looking back, I think I really liked the free BBQ and beer better than her anyway.

Shortly thereafter, I had to get my moppish locks shorn so I made my way over to the mall to visit my hairdresser. I always enjoyed my time with her during my appointments - she was hot and actually seemed to “get” my twisted brand of humor, and I dug her pink hair, nose ring and funky shoes. Unfortunately, word of her styling talents were getting around and her prices were rising faster than the price of gas during an oil embargo. Just as I was resigned to finding somebody new (I couldn’t justify $37 for a men’s haircut), I found out that she had just broken up with her boyfriend. So I asked her out and must have caught her by surprise because she agreed to go out with me. I kind of liked her, so after about six months you can probably guess what happened….

Blog Reader: Oh, no! She kicked him to the curb, too!

No, I took her to Mexico, suggested we get married, caught her off-guard again, and the following year she became Mrs. F’er in a beautiful ceremony just a few blocks from where President Kennedy got his head blown off.

Remember those rising prices I told you about? Well, eventually it changed the demographics of her clientele from fun, young upstarts like me to snooty, obnoxious types that deserved a pair of scissors in the temporal lobe. Rather than lose another woman to the big house, I agreed when she proposed a new career in massage therapy where clients mostly just lie down and shut the hell up. She was digging that but realized that spending day after day listening to the CD’s of new age soundscapes might lead her to dig out those old scissors and take a stab at her own temporal lobe. So she went back to college while continuing to operate her massage practice.

Mrs. F’er pursued her interest in forensic science and even did a gig with a crime scene unit. Believe it or not, real crime scene investigators do not run around in Versace suits and Prada shoes and solve exciting murder cases in 60 minutes every day. In fact, they spend most of their time attempting to lift fingerprints off storage sheds after meth addicts bust in looking for Neil Diamond 8-tracks to pawn. But when there were dead bodies around, Mrs. F’er was more interested in what the medical examiner was doing. So she finished her degree and got a job as an investigator for the medical examiner’s office, where she gets to examine dead bodies, take gruesome photos, and type up reports based on her investigations in the field before the bodies get shipped off to the morgue. In her spare time, she enjoyed hanging out in the morgue with the pathologists doing the autopsies. That means she knows how to kill me or you and get away with it. I don’t mess with her and neither should you.

Life was good and then about a year and a half ago she announced she wanted to apply to medical school. I had made the offer the previous year when she had finished her undergrad – “OK, Mrs. F’er – medical school is on the table, or you can take the job at the medical examiner’s office… deal, or no deal” She didn’t take the deal and started poking dead bodies. I put a rubber glove on my head and blew it up with my nose. So I was kind of surprised a year later when she knocked the glove off my head and brought it up again.

The first step was taking the MCAT (Medical School Admissions Test). I figured it was like the SAT – you read some passages about penguin habitats and answer some questions and then you’re done. Turns out that the test is all about biology, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry, and carburetor rebuilds, as well as the obligatory penguin habitats. Surprisingly, people pay for the privilege to take this exam. She locked herself in a room for four months and spent the entire time memorizing chemical reactions, discovering new elements on the periodic table, reenacting cellular mitosis, and calculating the centripetal force on her ass when I take a corner at 40 mph in the F150. She took the test last April, a year ago, and then had to wait three months for them to get around to finding a scantron machine to grade it. The score was competitive, so next began the application process.

To apply, you send your MCAT score to the school, along with transcripts, letters of recommendation, a pepperoni pizza and the all important personal statement. The personal statement gives you 500 words to explain why the hell you would ever want to go through the time, pain and expense of medical school rather than just get an MBA, buy a gray suit and a Blackberry and make the same money without worrying about uninsured patients or malpractice suits. Oh, and also try to explain why you’re different from the other 8,000 pre-med biology majors that have the same MCAT score, the same killer GPA, and have been volunteering at clinics in Africa every summer since pre-school. So Mrs. F'er focused on her love of examining dead bodies and her time on the vaudeville circuit as a professional cat juggler. You also have to send them money.

She applied to all eight Texas schools so that we could take advantage of the fine public universities that our tax dollars paid to support over the last 14 years, as well as about 12 out-of-state schools as a backup plan. After you apply, the admissions committee reviews your package and throws out your application if your MCAT score sucks, if your GPA sucks (e.g. anything below 3.975 out of 4.0), if they think you’re lying about inventing penicillin, or if they are offended by your cat juggling experience. If you make the first cut, then they send you a secondary application where you tell them that you weren’t kidding about all the stuff on the first application, tell them why you want to go to their school in particular, and send them more money.

Depending on their mood and the weather on the day your application arrives (and whether they feel cat juggling would add to the diversity of their student body), you may or may not be granted an interview. So here’s what happened.

Unfortunately, all Texas schools had already met their quota of cat juggling death investigators and sent violent rejection letters that caused me to shed a tear as I saw the dream of in-state tuition shatter before my eyes while out-of-state schools rubbed their hands together with evil glee in anticipation of out-of-state tuition payments. Those schools granted her a total eight interview invites, five of which she accepted. Which means you then take time off of work, rack up some unreimbursed travel expenses, tour the school, meet the deans, confirm with a straight face that everything you wrote on your applications was sincere, and attempt to explain to admissions committees how you would solve the health care crisis despite the fact that your own government doesn’t have a clue. If you survive that without cracking, then you might get an offer. Mrs. F’er, after dealing with me for the last 8 years, breezed through this phase and received four acceptances and a wait list. Or as she put it, “Holy crap, I’m going to medical school.”

Which brings us to today. She narrowed down her choices and ultimately picked a school in Chicago. While this was going on we also had to do some major prep work to sell the house, and we put it on the market last month after hiding all the porn, packing up my extensive cabbage patch doll collection, and repairing all the damage from the last time Moist Rub, Stiv_OO, and Captain Break-It visited. Despite my attempts to quit my job, they’ve made arrangements to transfer me to the Chicago office and continue my servitude. As of today, the house is under contract, and we may be moving as soon as Memorial Day. Which is a little unsettling since we don’t have a place to live and, while the offer from Mom is nice, it’s a little creepy living as a married couple in the room you grew up in.

Beginning after Labor Day, Mrs. F’er will spend the next two years learning and memorizing every detail of the human body so that she can pass the first step of the licensing exam and explain to me what the hell they're talking about on House. After that, she will get to spend about 60-80 hours a week for the following two years dodging body fluids while doing rotations at hospitals around Chicago. Then she will get to apply for a four year residency and hang out with cool people like you see on Gray’s Anatomy. If all goes as planned, about eight years from today she will be released into the wild and get to spend the rest of her life doing autopsies.

To recap, I asked out my hairdresser so that I didn’t have to pay for a $37 haircut, and now I’m paying four year’s tuition at a private medical school. I haven’t done a present value analysis, but I have a feeling it would have been cheaper to pay for the damn haircut. But I’m pretty proud of her and it will all be worth it after the loans are paid off and I can retire early and buy my own BBQ joint to hang out at.

By the way, Wednesday is her birthday and we're taking donations for the Leper Pop Scholarship Fund. Thank you for your support.