The Dumb Side

Our Thanksgiving with family has involved a roller coaster of emotions for me, which is something I am still processing.  While I figure out how to write about the experience in a coherent matter, let’s lighten up and do something a bit more fun today.

Over the weekend, I saw an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer entitled “19 Signs You’re Intelligent — Even If It Doesn’t Feel Like It.”  I usually don’t lend much credence to such lists, but if this one is at all accurate, there’s only one conclusion:  I’m dumb.

I didn’t flunk every one of the signs listed, but enough of them describe my opposite that, at the very least, I come out squarely on the dumb side.

And so, without further ado, let’s review how these signs of intelligence (don’t) apply to Uncle Guac:

1. You took music lessons. As a kid?  Nope.  I recall playing a recorder and a pink toy piano with colored keys for a while, mostly with one finger.  I wanted a real piano, which was unreasonable in light of my parents’ finances.  They offered to buy a portable electric keyboard or a guitar, but I declined.  Not the same as a piano.  My sister took violin in school, but the rented instrument mostly sat under her bed collecting dust until it was returned to Alto Music on Route 59.  My mother still says that, if I were such a musician, I would have hauled it out and learned how to play.  Hmm.  Does taking one flute class in college count?  How about taking two flute lessons as an adult before quitting?  I’ve long since sold the flute. Does it count that I can sing?  La la la LA!  Oh, shut up, dogs!

2. You’re the oldest. Admittedly, this is a qualification to which I can lay claim. Rumor has it that this is one of the few things in my life that I can honestly say was completely outside my own stupidity.

3. You’re thin. Hahahaha!! Morbidly obese since birth.  I told you.  Dumb!

4. You have a cat. Not! Oh, man, where do I start?  I could list the little apartments in which we’ve lived that came with “no pets” as a cardinal rule rivaling only “rent paid after the fifth of the month will be subject to a late fee.”  Also, my wife appears to be allergic to cats (and hates them with a passion in any event).

5. You were breastfed. Not a chance. The bottle (heated in a pot of water on the stove of our cockroach-filled Bronx apartment and temperature-tested on the inside of the wrist) was something of a religion in our family.

6. You’ve used recreational drugs. I have done many stupid things in my life, but I am proud to state that this was not one of them. That is actually saying something significant, considering that I attended college in the 1970s.  I retain very unpleasant recollections of dodging a haze of pot smoke and worse until I gave up and ran away to a decrepit single occupancy room hotel downtown for the remainder of my undergraduate experience.  Case in point:  I once attended a student newspaper party held in a three-story townhouse rented by a few of my fellow budding journalists.  Upon entry, attendees were greeted by a sign indicating that alcohol was at ground level, marijuana on the second story and hard drugs in the penthouse.  I turned right around and walked out the door and into the night.  If that makes me dumb, I’d rather be dumb.

7. You’re lefthanded. Struck out again! Not a southpaw.

8. You’re tall. The article states that taller individuals score higher on IQ tests. I’m short, fat and, apparently, just dumb.

9. You drink alcohol regularly. It appears that all those Saturday night keggers at college that I so despised were actually attended by smart people! Turns out sobriety is for dummies!  Who knew?  Being fat, I have developed liver problems that are similar to those experienced by alcoholics.  I guess being a lifelong teetotaler and missing out on all the fun just makes me… dumb.

10. You learned to read early. Ahhh, finally an indicator of intelligence that I can own. I was reading at the age of three, devoured the public library as if it were a chocolate cake and continue to enjoy a good book until this day.  By the way, this is one of the few indicators of intelligence on this list that actually makes sense.

11. You worry a lot. Unfortunately, this is one vice with which I continue to struggle. Although I am a natural born worrier, I like to think I am not quite as intense as I was in my younger days.  I do try to “give it to God” and to allow He who is in control to make things as they should be.  Still, my tendency to worry is not easily quelled.  I’ll have to call this one “neutral.”

12. You’re funny. Nope! My wife is the funny one.  She is quite the wit, and I admire her sense of humor greatly.  As I cringe at the thought of labeling myself as “dour” or “humorless,” perhaps I will just settle on “dumb.”

13. You’re curious. Umm. Ouch!  While I have a diverse set of interests, I’m not one of those people who have to know how everything works.  I grew up on such platitudes as “curiosity killed the cat” and “MYOB.”  My existentialist side will justify my lack of curiosity by asking “who can really know anything anyway?”  Oh, I’m just dumb, you say?  Yep.

14. You’re messy. Winner! See?  Being messy doesn’t make you a pig; it just means you’re smart!  If messiness were the primary mark of intelligence, I’d be right up there with the geniuses.  I am an unapologetic slob.  Not only do I hate cleaning, I believe that I have better things to do.  While it may be unfair for me to leave the cleanup to others, my true feeling is that I don’t care if it gets cleaned or not.  Just go away and leave me to my mess, please.  Reference:  My cubicle at work.  Yeah, I’m one of those.

15. You didn’t have sex until after high school. Winner again! In a very big way, I might add.  I’ll leave it at that.

16. You’re a night owl. Yes! Three in a row!  I have fond recollections of my years working the graveyard shift.  I only wish my work schedule permitted me to stay up all night and sleep during the day.  My circadian rhythm is decidedly not normal.  I love the deep, dark hours of the night, as that’s when my creativity seems to be at its best.  Reference:  I frequently wake up in the middle of the night and begin scribbling notes on my phone.

17. You don’t always have to try hard. And now, my friends, we travel back to the dumb side of Uncle Guacamole. I have to try hard to obtain any measure of success.  Unfortunately, I have a lazy streak a mile wide and often prefer not to try very hard even if it means failure.  Reference:  My checkered college days.  Guess I’m just dumb.

18. You don’t constantly need to be around people. This one falls in my favor. While I do generally prefer to be around people, being alone is just fine as well.  I keep busy, so a lot of the time I barely notice when I’m alone.  That said, I absolutely love being married.  I wouldn’t go back to my single days for a million bucks.

19. You live in a walkable city. Nope. I reside in a rural area where the roosters crow all day and night, the sheep baa across the road and that “thunk” you just heard was a wild peacock jumping off our roof.  I lived in New York City until the age of six when my parents purchased a house in the suburbs.  Eventually, I moved to California, car culture capital of the world.

If I am counting correctly (which, at this point, I am not sure I am smart enough to do), I have satisfied five of the above 19 indicators of intelligence.

Fortunately, being dumb isn’t the end of the world.  If nothing else, I am in good company.  After all, there are a lot of us out here.

Small Town Life in California #1

Although we live in the Sacramento area, our location is quite rural, as is made obvious by the horse paddock on the corner, the sheep baaing across the street and the chickens running around everywhere as if they owned the neighborhood.  It’s quite the antidote to working in the concrete jungle downtown every day.

As one who was born and raised in New York City and environs, I’ll be the first to say that small towns, while soothing in their own way, are rather dull and predictable.  Well, at least that’s what I thought until I recently took a look at a newspaper from over in the next county.  Apparently, the country life can be truly hilarious.  To prove my point, I present for your entertainment a few entries from the police blotter:

Grin and bear it

A caller on Jackson Street in Quincy reported seeing a bear walking on his property for the second time in a week.  He said he would like it to be on file that there is a bear problem in his area.

Uncle Guac sez:  Duly noted.  Better break out the “No Trespassing” signs, dude!

Oh, is that all?

A caller said her soon to be ex-husband called her and then she heard a gunshot on the other end of the line.  Attempts to call the man were met with a busy signal.  A 911 dispatcher was eventually able to reach the man who said everything was fine.  He said the gunshot sound was from him shooting at a coyote.

Uncle Guac sez:  Hang on, honey, I gotta go kill something.  (Sometimes divorce can be a good thing!)

That’s no way to treat your husband!

A caller on County Road A23 near Beckwourth reported being a victim of a hit and run.  He said he was riding an ATV when he was hit by a truck that left the scene.  The caller added that the truck was driven by his wife.

Uncle Guac sez:  Think this one might be heading to divorce court, too?

How’d he get in here?!

An ER nurse reported that a nurse was bitten by a dog in the emergency room.

Uncle Guac sez:  The nerve of some canines!  Didn’t he read the “No Animals Allowed” sign?  (At least you didn’t need to call for an ambulance.)

Typo?

A 2001 Dodge truck swerved, ascended an embankment and rolled over.  According to the driver, they were on Long Valley Road, west of Green Gulch Road, when a deer dumped directly in front of the truck.

Uncle Guac sez:  Pee-ew!  Dis-gusting!  I bet that stank!  Can’t blame you for wrecking your ride, man.

Three strikes, you’re out

A caller at Butt Lake’s Cool Springs Campground said an intoxicated male had driven his truck into a ditch on the side of the road and was spinning his wheels and cussing.  The caller said the intoxicated man had a gash on his head from falling down earlier.  The Highway Patrol responded and the man was arrested on a charge of DUI.

Uncle Guac sez:  Talk about a horrible, terrible, very bad day!  (I’d be cussing, too.  At least the guy wasn’t on crack, which has been a really bad problem lately, and right in the middle of Butt Lake, too!)

Hey, keep your eyes on the road!

A caller who was located about six miles north of La Porte reported that three people were injured in ATV accidents.  The caller said two juveniles were injured when they drove their quad over a cliff.  When their father went over the cliff to help them, he was injured, too.

Uncle Guac sez:  You can’t tell me there’s no such thing as paternal instinct!

They were just singing harmony

A caller said she could hear her neighbor’s dog barking and her neighbor’s pig was squealing a lot.  The caller said it sounded like the dog was harassing the pig.  An officer responded to check on the dog and the pig.  Both animals appeared to be fine.

Uncle Guac sez:  Geez!  Can’t we even have a friendly conversation without someone calling the cops?

 

If you think I’m making this stuff up, you’re giving me a lot more credit for creativity than I deserve.  You can check it out yourself at http://por.stparchive.com/Archive/POR/POR07012015P13.php.

 

 

I Gotta, Um, Er, You Know, GO!

My coworkers and I had a grand old time and a lot of laughs at our recent holiday luncheon.  The highlight of the afternoon was the annual gift exchange.  The emcee would pull a name out of a hat and call the lucky person up front to select a wrapped gift from a very full table.  Alternatively, if you coveted a gift previously selected by someone else, you could “steal” the gift away.  The gifts of alcohol were extremely popular, so it was a good thing that there was a rule that a gift could be stolen only twice.

To add to the hilarity, the emcee started out by informing us that anyone who decided to steal had to either sing a holiday song or tell a joke.  If this was supposed to deter the predilection for stealing bottles of vodka, gin, whiskey and champagne, it wasn’t very successful.  It was a great rule, however, as the terrible singing and even worse jokes resulted in roars of laughter.

My favorite joke of the day, which the teller admitted she borrowed from her young son, referred to the streets of downtown Sacramento that are named with the letters of the alphabet.

Q: Why is it so hard living on O Street?  A:  Because you have to go a block to P.

What is funny about this joke, of course, is the double entendre reference to urination.  You can’t really go wrong with a joke on this subject.  Peeing is always funny, and comedians have been milking the topic for generations.

Before HBO and cable programming generally, you couldn’t make reference to “peeing” in the media without being accused of vulgarity.  Even today, over-the-air radio and TV stations have to watch it, as the FCC has been known to impose some pretty steep fines for gratuitous mention of bodily functions.  This pressure ultimately sent “shock jocks” such as Howard Stern, who appears to delight in “juvenile” humor about urination and defecation, scurrying to satellite radio.

In this day and age, references to the elimination of human waste are judged to be exceedingly mild, at least in the grand scheme of things.  This makes sense in a world in which many give not a second thought to the use of the most demeaning racist and sexist slurs.  It’s all relative.

For example, in the various places I’ve worked, I can’t recall ever seeing someone raise an eyebrow at an offhand description of an impending rest room break as “I gotta go potty” or “going to pee.”  I admit to stifling a giggle when I see the text abbreviation ggp (“gotta go pee”).  I have been lurking around online long enough to remember when this was a way of informing the mates in your chat room why you were going to be afk (away from keyboard).  At any rate, I now know that you can tell a joke that refers to peeing in front of fifty of your coworkers and no noses will be wrinkled.  And you can guarantee that I will be the first to laugh.

Many moons ago, I spent a couple of years working for a tiny community newspaper in New York.  It was a “family newspaper,” both in the sense that the publication was owned by a family and in the more traditional sense of that phrase, meaning that it was unfailingly “G-rated.”  The idea was that all members of the family, including young kids and Grandma, should be able to read the paper cover to cover without encountering any word or phrase that might be deemed offensive.

I remember how, in my college days, where I was one of the editors of the student newspaper back in the 1970s, we made a big point of thumbing our noses at this standard by taking advantage of the opportunity to print the most flagrant vulgarities in 72-point headline type on the front page.  Protesters (and we protested everything back then) were quite fond of including some very colorful language in their chants, cheers and taunts.  Quoting those was a convenient excuse to cuss in a big black headline.

At the staid, conservative weekly newspaper where I was employed in the composing room, however, our problem was not quoting protesters but how to, um, accurately describe the actions for which some of the local loony toonies routinely found themselves arrested.  Should we print “public exposure” when really what we meant was “public urination?”  I can just see some kid reading the paper when it hit local driveways every Thursday.

“Mom, what’s ‘exposure’ mean?”

“That depends on the context, dear.  Usually it has to do with developing photos, like how much light hits the film.  But it can also mean freezing to death, like when someone dies of exposure.”

Our family newspaper found itself in a pickle when a trucker got arrested for pulling off the road into a subdivision so he could pee in a bottle.  Some kids noticed what the hapless guy was doing.  Indecent exposure?  Or just a garden variety case of ggp?  The guy wasn’t exactly a flasher, but who knows what was in that pea brain of his?  Either way, the paper couldn’t get around mentioning that unmentionable, urination.  Ha-ha!  The joke was on the publishers.  “Serves them right for being such prudes” was my first thought as I gleefully typeset the article.

I very much like the approach that my brother-in-law’s mom always took in regard to this subject.  As an elementary school teacher for years, she was no stranger to kids who casually dropped references to peeing into conversations to see what kind of reaction they would get.  She would always interrupt the kid mid-sentence, interjecting “We all do it!”  Never failed to steal their thunder.

One could argue that, even today, we continue to experience some discomfort at public references to elimination of bodily waste, which may explain the use of such infantilized terms as “peeing” and “pooping.”  Admittedly, the liquid version seems to be a bit more acceptable than the solid one.  Few would be surprised at a fellow employee referring to a “pee break,” but one who was brazen enough to say “I gotta take a dump” would likely be considered vulgar.

Whatever you do, however, be sure to keep the bathroom references off the radio and network TV.  ‘Cuz the FCC’s gonna get you if you don’t watch out!

Devotees of the First Amendment need not apply.  After all, freedom of speech must take a back seat to protecting the delicate ears of our eight and ten year old children.

(Cue laugh track)

 

Palabras Con Amigos

no es exit

I know the word “exit” is good in Spanish.  I have the proof:  Here it is on a Spanish sign in a restaurant!  Why won’t the Spanish version of Words With Friends accept it?

I’ve been playing Words With Friends on my phone for a couple of years now.  I usually have about a dozen games in progress at any given time.  Yes, I sneak in turns at work.  Yes, I check my games when I wake up in the middle of the night.  Yes, I play in the car on the way to work in the morning.

Alright, so I’m addicted.  Don’t judge.

Anyone know of a good 12-step group in northern California?

I play in very competitive rated Scrabble tournaments all over the west coast.  On some level, WWF (not the wrestlers) seems like a logical extension.  And yet, many of us Scrabbleheads won’t go near it.  Admittedly, it’s not for purists.  For what I assume must be copyright reasons, the values of many of the WWF tiles are different than those in Scrabble.  Plus, WWF accepts quite a few words that are not legal in Scrabble.  Words like FI and ZEN, for example.  And the “dirty words,” all perfectly acceptable in Scrabble, are no-gos in family-friendly WWF.  Well, except for shit.  I wonder how that one made it through?

Allow me to tell you about my current opponents.  In no particular order, they are:

  • A coworker from three jobs ago
  • A retired lady who used to work for me several years ago
  • One of my wife’s friends
  • A stranger named BigJo who has a Rottweiler avatar
  • Another stranger named 6Griffins
  • Someone named Daphne with whom I play in French
  • A woman named Mely from Argentina with whom I play in Spanish

So I play in three languages.  What’s it to ya?  You already knew I’m a strange one.

At least I speak French, unlike Nigel Richards, who won the Francophone Scrabble Championship in Belgium this year without understanding a word of français.  How is that possible?  He said he did it by memorizing the French Scrabble dictionary.  Go figure.

I didn’t say I speak French well.  But I can get by after having spent my teen years studying French in junior high and high school.  I even visited Paris once and found that I had no problem communicating at all.

Spanish, however, is another story entirely.  Not only do I not speak español, but I haven’t even imitated Nigel by memorizing the Spanish Scrabble dictionary.  Sure, I can order lunch in a Mexican restaurant (the poor employees try so hard not to laugh), I can ask where’s the bathroom and I once told a stranger soy perdido when I needed directions in Laredo, Texas.  I’ve gotten pretty good at reading the labels on cans in the grocery store, at least as far as distinguishing between proteína, grassa and carbohídrato.  I know some of the words to “La Bamba.”

This should give you a pretty good idea of just how very bad I am at my Spanish language WWF games.  One of my first problems was figuring out what to do with that maldito W.  That nasty little critter is worth 10 points in the Spanish game.  That’s because there aren’t any words in the language that use that letter.  Why should there be?  There is no “W” sound in Spanish.

Gradually, I discovered that the W can be used in Spanish to spell some international words that are pretty much the same in every language.  There is won (a monetary unit of Korea, or what does not happen to me at the end of any game played in Spanish) and there is watt (as in a unit of electricity, a thoroughfare here in Sacramento, or watt the hell am I doing playing in a language I don’t know?).  That’s about the sum total of my Spanish W knowledge.  All of my other attempts have bombed out.  I tried web (apparently, the word is la red), I tried war (it’s la guerra), I tried west (nope, it’s oueste).

Actually, that about sums up my strategy for playing Words With Friends in Spanish.  There are no “challenges” like there are in tournament Scrabble, so I can just try one combination of letters after another until I get lucky.  Throw it at the wall and see if it sticks, as they used to say back in the day.  If at first you don’t succeed, try again, try again, try again, grit your teeth, curse, hold yourself back from throwing the phone across the room because it cost $750 and you can’t afford to replace it.

Amazingly, I recently played my first bingo (play using all seven tiles in the rack) in Spanish WWF.  The word was melones.  Actually, I first tried an anagram, lemones, but then I remembered that the Spanish word for “lemon” is actually citrón.  No matter, I got my bonus points!

Of course, I finally got busted.  Mely, good sport as she is, tried to start a conversation with me over Zynga’s chat feature.  In Spanish, of course.  I was able to fake a few sentences before I had to sheepishly admit that no hablo español muy bien, soy gringo.

What really surprises me is that she still keeps playing with me, two Spanish games at a time.  I figured she’d stop at the end of our first few games, but nope, she keeps rematching me.  I guess I had it coming.  Serves me right for trying to be a big shot.

I’d better turn on the SAP function on the TV or start watching Univision or listen closely to the lyrics of all those unintelligible songs, replete with choruses of ¡ay, ay ay! that they pipe into Chevy’s Fresh Mex.

The ultimate irony is that I recently won my first game with Mel en español.

Su idioma es mi idioma.

Tomorrow on A Map of California:  Can a sane person support both Trump and Sanders?

NaBloPoMo 2015 Logonanopoblano2015dark

Want to Be a Kid Again? Now You Can!

It seems that a lot of us are trying to recapture our childhoods lately.

I think I get it.  It’s not just a longing to return to a time of no responsibility, fun and friends.  It’s also about returning to a more innocent time, a time when things weren’t quite as complicated for either kids or adults.

What exactly that means depends largely on one’s generational membership.  The definition of “a simpler time” is bound to be vastly different for millennials than it is for baby boomers.  And when it comes to my octogenarian parents, it seems we are talking about something else altogether.

My mother cites A Christmas Story and The Book Thief as movies that accurately depict the way kids were treated in the 1930s and 1940s.  Elementary school teachers were the schoolmarms of folklore who grabbed you by the collar and yelled in your face and who regularly meted out the punishment of mandating that miscreants write the same sentence over and over again on the blackboard.  I have difficulty understanding why anyone would want to return to such treatment, but I do realize that it is a matter of perspective.

Even as a child of the sixties, my understanding of the age of innocence bears no resemblance to my 18 year old niece’s concept thereof.  Just tonight, on American Idol, Ryan Seacrest announced a return to the days when “the hashtag was just called pound.”

Oy, you’re making me feel old, Ryan.  When I was growing up, before the age of the touch tone telephone keypad, it was called “the number sign.”  And when I was really young, my elementary school compadres and I simply referred to the symbol as “the tic-tac-toe board.”

I suppose it was inevitable that smart entrepreneurs would cash in on the desire to explore our inner child or go back in time to the halcyon days of our youth.  Still, I found it a bit jarring when I read an article in The New York Times today about how coloring books for adults are a hot commodity.  Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford has released “Secret Garden” and “Enchanted Forest,” the first two in a series of adult coloring books.  Her publisher, Laurence King, hasn’t been able to keep them in stock; ample press runs keep getting sold out.

No one would have guessed the popularity of adult coloring books, which may be explained at least partially by the calming influence that they are supposed to exert upon holders of the magic crayon.  Hence, Chiquita Publishing has come out with a series of Zen-themed adult coloring books that promise “easy meditation through coloring.”

I wonder if I should buy stock in Crayola.

Adult coloring books are nothing, though.  Wait til you hear about… adult pre-school!

We refer to the pre-school that my two year old grandniece attends as “day care.”  So I’m glad that I (barely) avoided the gaffe of referring to adult pre-school as “adult day care,” which apparently is something else entirely.

So if you have money to burn, live in New York City and wish to relive the days of finger paint, show and tell, dress-up and nap time on a hard cot, you can be four years old again in Brooklyn, thanks to Preschool Mastermind, the creation of Michelle Joni Lapidos and her teaching assistant, Miss CanCan (Candice Kilpatrick).

It’s too bad that free, universal preschool pretty much runs out its statute of limitations around the age of five.  For those of us who exceed that age by a few decades or more, preschool will run you $333 to $999, and that doesn’t even include the cost of such essentials as arts and crafts supplies, snacks and field trips.

Apparently, indulging in a second childhood isn’t as cheap as it used to be.

Tantrum

One of my favorite put-downs has always been “What, are you two years old or something?”

Lately, however, I have been rethinking the wisdom of this phrase.  My grandniece, who really is two years old, has helped me to see the error of my ways.  If I put aside the likelihood of public embarrassment for a moment, I am forced to admit that I am jealous of her.

A couple of years ago, in one of my early posts on this blog, I took issue with a former boss who claimed that she wanted to be six years old again.  As I recall, I recited a litany of reasons for my disagreement with that point of view.  I stated that I enjoy being an adult, thank you, and would never wish to return to a time when I could make none of my own decisions and was subject to the whims of those around me.

Okay, so I was wrong.  Admitting to one’s mistakes is supposed to be a grown-up thing, right?

On second thought, I don’t want to be six again like my old boss did.  I want to be two again.

My current boss says that one of the reasons she chose me to work for her is that I am mature.  I told her that she must not know me very well.

This evening, my little grandniece schooled me well and truly.  For reasons not totally understood by me (and probably not even by herself), she decided to throw an unholy fit right here in the living room.  I’m talking about a regular kicking and screaming, crying and carrying-on tantrum.  I believe it was set off by being provided with a bite of an ice cream rather than having the entire ice cream handed over to her, as she felt was her due.  (Although the real reason that she put on this show probably runs a whole lot deeper.  Doesn’t it always?)

I thought the whole thing was killer cool.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to freely express our emotions in a manner that included throwing ourselves on the floor and yelling “Mommy! Mommy! Moooommmmmyyyyyy!” for, oh, about ten minutes or so?

It would be ridiculous for an adult to do this, of course.  Or would it?  It might sound silly to you now, but I bet you’d feel better when you were done.

I know next to nothing about psychology, but I’ve heard that Gestalt therapy sometimes trucks in exercises like this.  Why not?  I remember my high school psych teacher telling the class about scream therapy, which has to be a near cousin of the tantrum.

Know what the best part is?  After a few minutes of leaving my grandniece to her histrionics, my wife picked her up, carried her over to my wife’s chair and proceeded to rock and cuddle her.  She quieted down almost immediately.  My wife says that my grandniece gets so upset that she is no longer able to calm herself down.  I think this is true of adults as well, but we instead try to calm ourselves in decidedly insalubrious ways such as drinking, doing drugs, overeating, gambling. shopping, engaging in passive-aggressive behavior or general bitchiness.  I daresay that my grandniece’s method of letting it all out is far more healthy than nearly any employed by adults (and cheaper, too).

I really might be tempted to try it, if only to prove that I’m not as mature as people think I am.  My problem would be how to get my fat behind onto the carpet and how, with my bum knees, to drag myself back up again afterward.  I wonder if the true statute of limitations on tantrum throwing is not age but weight.

Adults are expected to act their chronological ages, and failure to do so is met by sanctions ranging from shunning to being locked up in a mental hospital where you can freely do your tantrum thing in a padded cell.  No one can reasonably expect to be rewarded for throwing a good old-fashioned tantrum, and certainly not by a cuddle and a kiss.

Unless, of course, you’re two years old.

Which is why I urge my family to save some money when my birthday rolls around by not buying those three boxes of candles.  This year, maybe they won’t have to burn through a whole box of matches and keep the fire department on standby.

After all, I only need two candles on my birthday cake.  Just don’t buy me any Frozen or Little Mermaid merchandise as presents.

You wouldn’t want me to throw a tantrum now, would you?

50 Ways to Know You’re from California

Randy's Donuts

Some things are uniquely Californian.

Although I was born and raised in New York City and its suburbs, now that I’ve been living in California for 20 years, I feel like a native.  It seems a bit strange to say such a thing, particularly since I remember that when I arrived in the Bay Area in the ‘90s, I thought it looked a lot like New Jersey.  The homogenization of America notwithstanding, I still believe that each region has maintained at least a few quirks and peculiarities.

This makes me think of one of my favorite novels, E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News.  Her protagonist, who moves from upstate New York to his ancestral home in Canada’s Newfoundland, initially experiences a bit of a culture shock.  However, he realizes that he has finally made the transition when he orders fried bologna for breakfast at a diner and one of his new friends remarks “You have gone native!”

You know you’re from California when . . .

  1. You’ve eaten bok choy and jicama… at the same meal.
  2. You know what a California stop is, and you have the ticket to prove it.
  3. You know the difference between Pico de Gallo and Coto de Caza.
  4. You pronounce the Spanish names of California cities without a trace of a Spanish accent.
  5. You don’t think pineapple as a pizza topping is strange.
  6. You really do know the way to San José.
  7. You write “San Jose” without the Spanish accent mark.
  8. You like avocado on all your sandwiches.
  9. When you want an avocado for your sandwich, you go out to the back yard and pick one off the tree.
  10. You refer to every expressway or parkway as a “freeway.”
  11. You don’t refer to numbered highways as “routes,” but you preface every highway number with the word “the” (“the 99,” “the 101”).
  12. You’ve been to Disneyland more than five times… as an adult.
  13. You can explain in detail the driving route to Mexico, although you’ve never actually been there.
  14. You’ve eaten at Pea Soup Andersen’s… both of them.
  15. You know the Grapevine isn’t in a vineyard.
  16. You’ve been stuck on the Grapevine in a snowstorm more than once.
  17. You know where the State of Jefferson is located.
  18. When someone asks you for directions to Stateline, you say “The one in Tahoe, or the one down by Vegas?”
  19. You know the correct pronunciation of “La Jolla.”
  20. You have mandatory earthquake preparedness drills at work and at school.
  21. You know what the EDD is (and you’re glad you do).
  22. You know what the FTB is (and you wish you didn’t).
  23. You know which roads into Yosemite are open in the winter.
  24. You get angry when anyone mentions “high speed rail.”
  25. You know the distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but you think Niagara Falls must be pretty close to Manhattan because they’re both in New York.
  26. You drive for 12 hours without crossing state lines. (Oh, all right, some Texans can also do this.)
  27. You know the difference between Rancho Cordova and Rancho Cucamonga.
  28. You don’t think that Santa Clara is Santa Claus’ wife.
  29. You’ve FAXed yourself to work.
  30. When someone says they’re from the South Bay, you say “which one?”
  31. You know how to get from Milpitas to San Francisco and back without paying a toll.
  32. You’ve had to install snow chains on your tires to get to the beach in Santa Cruz.
  33. You think sourdough bread is one of the five food groups.
  34. You don’t think that Shasta is a brand of soda.
  35. You know what “the palm and the pine” means… and you know how to get there.
  36. You’ve seen scorpions, black widow spiders and snakes… and all of them were in your house.
  37. You know the difference between Chino and Chico.
  38. You got a DUI from the CHP on the PCH.
  39. You think poppy seeds belong in your garden, not on a bagel.
  40. You know where to find the “Sun Fun Stay Play” and “Water Wealth Contentment Health” signs.
  41. When you book an “Oceanside” room, you expect it to be near San Diego.
  42. You’ve eaten garlic flavored ice cream.
  43. They stole your peaches at the ag station.
  44. You like eating pomegranate seeds.
  45. You don’t know what Hellmann’s mayonnaise is.
  46. You know the difference between carne asada and carne adobada even though you can’t speak a word of Spanish.
  47. You’ve been cruising, but you’ve never heard of a midnight buffet.
  48. You know what “Cyn” stands for.
  49. You think formal dress means wearing socks.
  50. You pay a five-cent deposit on a soda bottle but only get 2½ cents back when you turn it in to the recycling center.