Friday, January 27, 2012

20 Signs That You Might Be Spending Too Much Time On Pinterest

1. You no longer remember the names of your children. Or if you even have any.

2. The last time you looked at the television, “Friends” was still in prime time.

3. You would rather be on Pinterest than pick up the dry-cleaning, let the dog out, have sex, pay bills, or eat things containing chocolate. (That last one is a sure sign that the devil has spoken to you.)

4. On Sunday mornings, you attack the paper boy at 5:45am so you can read the ad circulars first and get some pins up about new stuff before your friends do. He’s suing, but you don’t care.

5. You are very confused when you can’t find the “Pin It” button in the circulars.

6. You have a low opinion of people with only one or two boards. You find this lazy and irresponsible.

7. You discover that you have three boards of your own that you don’t remember creating, and you can’t tell by the titles what you meant to do with the boards. (Possible products of a drinking binge, improperly balanced medication, or just old age. Who knows.) But you like the stuff you pinned in them even if you don’t understand the grouping, so you shove them down to the bottom of your board page and hope you have a revelation about their births before anyone asks questions about them.

8. You realize that you have pinned the same exact quote on four different boards, with slight color variations being the only difference. (Oh, and one of them has a really sweet panda bear that caught your eye.) It takes a full week for you to decide which three of them to delete, because the pins are your children now and its hard to pick one as your favorite and let the other children have crappy, abandoned lives.

9. You get really angry with people who use their own captions with YOUR pins, because you worked super hard on that original, witty caption and all they came up with is “Bunnies are SO cute!”, and there’s not even a bunny in the pin.

10. But when their new caption is actually funnier and better, you still get mad, because it feels like they are getting a little uppity and pointing out to the world that you have sucky writing skills.

11. You constantly refresh the screen just to see if your “Repin” and “Like” stats go up. And you seek therapy if they don’t. (“Doctor, I just don’t understand why people don’t click on me!”)

12. You purposely pin not-so-interesting things just to keep your name at the top of the feed, because if you roll too far down that feed people will forget you and you will live a life of misery and loneliness.

13. There’s really no reason to have two Ryan Reynolds boards, one “with shirt” and one “without shirt”. (And those of you with stalker tendencies will have a third board: “Skanks that better keep their hands off my man. I’m just waiting for him to figure out that he needs me and we can get married and I won’t have to work and I can pin all day”.)

14. You delete older pins from back in the day when you clearly didn’t know what you were doing and you pinned stupid crap about nothing. This is the same thing as hiding your high-school yearbooks from your current lover. The past is the past, you have better outfits now.

15. You actually have a board named “I’ll figure this one out later, gotta keep moving”.

16. You keep wondering when the Pinterest People are going to start handing out awards for content and design. After all, you have amassed the largest collection of cats playing with empty boxes that the world has ever seen. That alone is worth a merit badge. And where are they going to hold the national Pinterest Convention? (“Pint-Con?”) We need to start pinning hotel options for that mess. These thoughts keep you awake at night.

17. You consider gaining another follower to be far more important than Moses doing that boring Red Sea thing.

18. You carefully review the boards of those people that have followed you, before daring to follow them. Can’t have no scrubs jacking up your feed, you need the good stuff coming down the pipe.

19. You lie to people about how much time you spend on Pinterest. “I was working on a spreadsheet for how to feed the homeless” is code for “I spent the entire weekend pinning 217 images of kumquats”.

20. You actually have a Pinterest tramp-stamp. And you’re not ashamed.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cruise Control - Part 22: Mary Jane Appears On The Scene

Click Here to read the previous entry in this series…

  So we’ve arrived in Jamaica, and we’ve been somewhat kidnapped.

  Okay, not kidnapped, exactly. More along the lines of “forced to deal with something one would rather not deal with whilst on a tropical island”. And by “we” I meant myself and Crispy. I had no idea where anybody else was, and that lack of knowledge was starting to get on my nerves just the tiniest little bit. Anyway, the unpleasantness went something like this:

  A hyperactive man who was clearly reinforcing possibly unattractive Jamaican stereotypes had rudely forced Crispy and I to participate in some local custom that involved virginal tourists being subjugated  to un-requested madness. As this man prodded us to an apparent staging area just to the side of the ship’s gangway, he was babbling in an over-emphasized accent and insisting on being our best friends, shoving us toward his buddy, who was quickly snapping presumably trashy and expensive photos. The man threw his arms around our shoulders and made us pose.

  I was so not in the mood for this.

  And he was amazingly sweaty. Drippingly so. I’m not really a fan of sweat, not even my own, unless the wetness occurs during a bout of strenuous and physical intimacy. Then it’s kind of enjoyable and erotic. Not when we’re on a pier in Jamaica, surrounded by billions of tourists that I don’t know on a first name basis. In such a setting, I don’t want to be hugging anything that can easily shoot out of my grasp like a bar of soap at a tawdry YMCA. (Although I might have been a bit more cooperative had someone arranged for The Village People to be giving a performance nearby.)

  But I played along, mainly because any form of resistance seemed to energize the man even more and I just wanted this to be done. He rambled on about this and that, ramping up the exaggerated patter until I thought his dreadlocks were going to explode. When he finally released us from his jabbering performance, he seemed to be expecting a tip of some kind for providing local color. He was greatly mistaken.

  Happily, it was right after this that we ran into most of the rest of our zip-lining party. Karen and Janet were there, both of them being polite at this point, but obviously quite ready for things to get moving, as we had places to do and things to be. Dawn and Tara were also present and accounted for, wearing basically matching mother/daughter outfits and sunglasses, both of them being fully trained in this skill. Tiffany and Terry were still AWOL, but surely they would show up at any second, right?

  Well, not exactly. The happy streams of people that were surging past us failed to reveal any recognizable faces. I started to sweat, partly from the sun (which was already pretty intense at that hour of the day, thusly justifying the pale-faced, probably Norwegian staff woman onboard who had been bellowing “Don’t forget the sunscreen!” as we tromped past and completely ignored her) and partly due to the ticking of the clock. Tiffany and Terry had best hurry, or there would be brutal disappointment in some manner.

  I thought back to my earlier conversations with those two, trying to recall if they had given me explicit instructions on how and when to disembark the ship. I didn’t recall anything like that, but it was not out of the question that I had been distracted by something shiny and didn’t fully understand my given orders. Such personal failures happen much more often than I care for them to happen. Let’s blame it on my troubled upbringing, shall we?

  A check of my watch revealed that we had roughly 10 minutes until our tour bus was scheduled to depart, trundling us off to the jungle setting wherein we would be hurled along somebody’s clothesline for the grand zip-lining experience. The outcome of this situation did not appear promising.

  I turned to the other members of our already-reported party. “Maybe you guys should go on ahead, just in case.” No reason for everybody to miss the excursion. But in a moment of bonding or perhaps simple misunderstanding, they all chose to stand guard as a unit. Probably so we could collectively terrorize the tallying twosome as a solidified coven when the errant duo finally arrived.

  Luckily, it was at this precise point that Tiffany and Terry came strutting down the ship’s runway, both of them fashionably attired and, for the most part, managing to skirt the crazed Jamaican Man and his paparazzi sidekick. (I’m assuming that there may still have been a few random photo captures of someone’s breasts, based upon the way the Man and his Kick high-fived each other after reviewing the latest snaps.)

  Tiffany and Terry made their way to our little gathering, with Tiffany still waving at her fans, something she always has to do when making an appearance in public. We calmly explained to them that we had roughly three seconds to get to the bus or our agenda for the day would be severely altered. Both of them nodded their heads and became instantly focused, being veterans of many past incidents in our family where speed was of the essence or there would be tears and smeared mascara.

  While the score from one of the Mission Impossible movies played in the background, our team scurried to make it past the little welcoming desk where overly happy people were trying to welcome us to their island. We didn’t have time for pleasantries, even though they were wearing very cute outfits and there was the vague promise that free adult beverages were available just off to the side. To ensure quick processing, we politely but firmly shoved a few slow-ass tourists out of the way.

  Once through that mess, we encountered another obstacle we didn’t have time for, namely a maze of little shops where 47 different retailers were offering the same model of bongs supposedly made from plumbing pipes ripped out of Bob Marley’s home. Fascinating as I briefly found that to be (dude apparently had a lot of plumbing), it just really wasn’t the time to be perusing potential Christmas gifts for the bad sheep of the family. (“Hey, Joe Dean, look here at this Bob Bong we brought you from Jamaica. Now please stop selling your teeth to buy drug paraphernalia.”)

  We made it passed all of the folks loitering in the primitive shopping mall, along with all of their distinctive aromas. (Why are there so many cultures in the world that don’t value daily bathing? Is there something I’m missing?) We then spied a woman prancing around in a vaguely official uniform who was giving off an aura of possibly being privy to directional information. We descended on her, en masse. Where do we go to meet the buses?

  She pointed.

  At the other end of her finger was an area with lots of little signs on poles, advertising the various excursions, with snippets about “Snorkeling With Dolphins” and “Submarine Tour of Old and Wrecked Ships” and “Drunken Fiesta on a Beach”. Hurray! Trouble is, there were no longer any people lined up at these signs. No matter, can’t stop now. We raced to the non-existent line for the Zip-Lining tour.

  And we waited for a while as absolutely nothing happened.

  Then, miraculously (I bet good ole Bob had something to do with it), a woman came sauntering in a door, waving a clipboard. People bearing clipboards know things, right? We pounced. She responded. Why, yes, the tour buses for the Zip-Line extravaganza were still in the parking lot. Follow me.

  We loved her instantly.

  So our merry band of dysfunction followed Mary Magdalene-Mon out into the parking lot, where rows of buses were belching fumes into the air. She led us to a particular bus, spoke briefly with a man standing beside it who might have been the driver or might have just been a serial killer on a break, then she turned to us and indicated that we should climb aboard.

  We did so. Or tried to do so. Turns out there were only four seats left on the bus, and there were eight of us. My sister Dawn, who did not have a designated place to stick her fanny and was therefore still outside the bus, proclaimed quite defiantly that this arrangement would not work. We were all going on the same bus or this whole thing was not going to happen.

  Part of me was not thrilled with this Norma Rae moment, as I was one of the lucky four with a fanny-place, and I was rather enjoying the cushiness of my temporary home. But the other part of me knew that she was right, and I climbed back over the couple from Canada who had been very accommodating when I first staked my claim, but were now not so thrilled with me butting them in the face a second time.

  Mary Magdalene-Mon, still efficient but obviously not satisfied with all aspects of her profession, led us to another bus. This one happened to have enough seating for the entire tribe, although a few of us had to perch on these odd fold-down seats that effectively sealed off the back section of the bus, a not-really-happy thing that could prove irritating should we need to hastily evacuate the bus in the event of a fire or the inability to withstand another round of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”.

  I guess it didn’t matter, though, as Mary scribbled something on her clipboard, murmured another something to the serial killer who was indeed the bus driver, patted the side of the bus in a manner that could have meant “God speed” or “Please have this one fumigated before you return” and then she marched off, presumably to a place where over-worked bus-designators can unclench for a few moments until the next ship of fools arrives.

  The serial killer selected a gear and we drove off.

  Now, the area just outside of this little port was fairly industrial. Maybe they always are, I don’t know, not having had many experiences arriving at a port in a foreign country and then boarding a bus that will take me to a place where I can pay people to let me ride a clothesline over gaping chasms. It might be standard procedure to drive past questionable buildings where there are odd, leaky 55-gallon drums stacked alongside said buildings while rusty, clearly inoperable cars are parked nearby. Perhaps this is that they mean by “atmosphere” in the travel brochures.

  But we soon progressed out of that area and found ourselves in a more city-like area. We were now seeing cute little houses and cute little shops and cute little cars that were apparently driven by people who were out of their minds. It was this last bit that caught my attention. Was it normal that people just dart about with no respect for lane boundaries, proper turn-signaling, and, I don’t know, potential casualties from their automotive decisions?

  Then we pulled up to a stoplight at what appeared to be a major intersection, and I got a second dose of local culture. I was in the midst of aiming my camera out the window, attempting to take one of those travel photos that end up being important only to you and that no one else will ever care about, when I lowered my camera in surprise.

  The man driving the car right next to us was clearly smoking a joint. And not in a furtive way. He was really happy, and he was ready to share, holding the reefer out his window at the surprised, touristy faces that were reviewing his actions. Wanna hit?

  Actually, it turns out that I was the only one who was surprised, apparently. The other folks sitting around me, including members of my own family, were discussing the situation with nonchalance. Yep, pot is legal in Jamaica. Smoke it anywhere you want, no problem.

  Why did I not know this? (More importantly, why did everybody else know this and not me?) Not passing judgment, not at all, I went to college, enough said. But seriously, I didn’t know if I was really cool with people sucking down on ganja whilst on the open highways, especially if the munchies kicked in. Because you do crazy things when you have a drug-induced fixation on a particular food combination that you would never consider when weed-less. (According to people I have spoken with, of course.)

  The random driver beside us, realizing that no one was going to partake of his kind offering, whipped his hand back and took another deep drag, with burning embers dropping off his special spliff and extinguishing in his beard without any notice on his part. His reddened, watery eyes made it clear that singed hair was a small price to pay for basic happiness.

  Connecting the dots, I glanced forward to our own driver, he who was in control of the bus and our eventual fates. His eyes were a perfect match to Mr. Friendly on the left. (Have these people never heard of Visine?) Was the entire island stoned? Were we really being taken to a place where people could zip-line, or were we about to become drug mules in a tawdry scheme resulting in us living in dirty hovels, wearing ugly clothing and having sex with strangers just to pay the light bill? (Because isn’t that what always happens in Lifetime movies?)

  The light turned green and the bus continued through the intersection…

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Cruise Control - Part 21: Searching For Zero

Click Here to read the previous entry in this series. Click Here to start at the beginning.

  The breaking dawn of Wednesday morning brought something with it we hadn’t seen in a while.


  Terry was the first to make this joyous discovery. Sadly, he did so in a time frame that is not one of my favorites. I do not leap out of bed with the first ray of sunshine. (And I don’t understand people who do.) I wake slowly, reluctantly, and anything miraculous that might transpire during early morning hours is simply unimportant to me. I’m not invested in anything until I have exhausted all valid excuses for further slumber. Then we can talk.

  Speaking of conversation, Tiffany, who also does not believe in societal interaction until after 10am, spoke up from her little daybed mere inches from my head. “What is that noise?” It was quite clear that she forced these four words from her mouth whilst barely controlling the urge to cut someone.

  “It’s Terry,” I reported, half-heartedly thinking about opening my left eye but getting no further than that. “He’s out on the balcony. I believe pictures are being taken.”

  Just then, we heard a burst of rapid clicking, as if one of those super-thin beings was strutting down a runway and wearing an ensemble that had just provoked a legion of photographers into a frenzy. (We also heard what might be the sound of someone tripping over a poorly-placed deck chair and slamming their head into the side of the ship, but this second noise was never fully investigated.)

  Separately and instinctively, we both decided that the safest and best-advised response to these developments was to remain exactly where we were and not do anything. However, these precautionary measures soon proved irrelevant, as the balcony door was suddenly ripped open and Terry bounded inside. “We’re here! We’re in Jamaica!” (Or something like that. I’m sure the reportage was much more detailed, but I was distracted by the flood of sunshine which was now pouring in said door, causing my skin to begin sizzling and my fangs to drop.)

  Tiffany sat up in her petite daybed, tossing aside her sleep mask with admirable Joan Crawford-esque disdain. “Are we in port yet?”

  Terry shook his head. “Not yet, but we’re almost there. You’ve got to see this, come on!” He was very excited, and I felt the first stirrings of actual interest in the day, but I remained steadfast in my brave and noble intentions to stay bed-bound.

  Tiffany, however, took a traitorous turn, throwing back the covers, lunging out of bed, adjusting things that needed to be adjusted, and then tottering toward the dual-beckoning of Terry and balcony door. They joined hands and skipped through the portal, with Tiffany releasing a squeal of delight once on the other side.

  She continued squealing.

  I continued pretending that neither of them existed.

  Finally, after one nearly orgiastic howl of delight, I caved. Cursing, I bid adieu to the warmth and sanctity of the bed (I shall miss you, my beloved), and stumbled out onto the balcony, joining Ansel Adams and Joan Crawford at the railing, where I couldn’t help but let out a gruff little squeal of my own. Let’s just say that there is something quite satisfying about pulling up to an island, by boat, in the middle of nowhere. I approve heartily.

  But the vision of the island soon caused another important piece of information to click into place in my grudgingly activating mind. We had to be on that island within an hour or so, ready to board a bus and be transported into the advertised jungle. This was Zip-Line Day and we had to get a move on. No piddling around or there would be no zipping.

  Thus commenced the delicate give-and-take ballet of multiple people attempting to freshen and spritz at the same time in a space roughly the size of a cigar box, with the requisite accidental breast-fondling and tripping over toothbrushes and air. But we had done this choreography many times in many places by now, and we had it down to an art, rushing out the door 37 seconds after the first person had stepped into the shower.

  Breakfast was also a quick affair, especially on my part, because I had never been on a zip-line before, and I did not want to shamefully discover that one should not fly through the air with a full belly. I ate only enough to ensure that I did not drop dead from hunger halfway up the mountain, especially since my family would probably just leave me by the side of the road since it was entirely too hot to be carrying anything about.

  At some point during all these preparations, probably due to a bad decision on my part, I became separated from the group of clan members who were going on the zip-line excursion. (The rest of the family was going on a different tour, something that involved splashing in the water and humping whales, not really sure. I wasn’t going on that one and didn’t really study the details or care.) I decided, considering the clock was ticking, that I should head for the deck where we were supposed to disembark and hope for the best.

  Another poor decision.

  First, I had to make my way to “Deck 0”. I found this to be a troubling name for a destination. Deck 0? It didn’t sound like good things would happening in a place like that. Why didn’t it have a “real” number? Was it less important than the other decks? If people had to go there to get off the ship, I’m thinking that’s a very valuable function to have and the deck deserves a better name.

  Adding to these concerns was the somewhat-confusing directions about how to get to this numberless deck. As in, there weren’t any directions. Well, there might have been some valuable instructions somewhere, I just couldn’t find them. I only had the vague notion that one must head toward the bottom of the boat, which is the same thing some people were doing in The Poseidon Adventure, and we saw how well that worked out.

  Of course, none of the elevators and stairwells that I selected actually offered a straight-line run to The Land of Zero. So I had to wander around, making random choices and haphazardly working my way toward the ocean floor, repeatedly gaining (losing?) two floors and then having to back up one. I was beginning to hate life and the concept of physical movement.

  Slightly sweating, I became concerned at one point that I really wasn’t seeing a whole lot of other people. As in no one. I was on Deck 1, very near my goal and yet so far, off in some super quiet section with lots of closed doors, standing in a stairwell where the next section of steps, presumably leading to the mythical Zero, had been roped off. In a noticeably hurried manner that indicated “something very bad has happened on the next floor but we haven’t told the right people yet so please go somewhere else and not talk about this”.


  Well, I could just step over the rope and head on, which would at least get my ass on the right deck, finally, even if I still had a lot of maze to get through before I found the cheese. On the other hand, I didn’t want to become another statistic in whatever situation had led to the roping of the stairs, a surprised participant in destruction and mayhem.

  Thinking of possible victims and grisly fates, I studied all those doors around me. Why were they all closed? Where was everybody at? Why was it so quiet? Was this the serial-killer section of the ship? It was certainly big enough to have one. There was just something not right about the area, like Shelley Duvall was hiding behind one of the doors, trembling and holding an eventually ineffective butcher knife.

  Perhaps I wouldn’t be jumping rope right at the moment. Maybe the next recess.

  I turned and headed back up my current choice of stairs, down a hallway to another stairwell that I swear hadn’t been there mere seconds before, down a flight on that one, my heart racing a bit as I did not discover a warning strand of rope, down another flight, and I came to a halt in a landing area with a door in each of the three other walls. Well, I was finally on the damn Zero Deck. Now I just had to choose a door. Maybe Monty Hall was standing around somewhere, waiting to assist me?

  I picked the middle one. Because that’s how you win elections. I stepped through, discovered another short stretch of hallway, followed that, made a turn to the left, and found myself at the top of three short steps.

  At the bottom of the steps was a massive room, packed with roughly 4 billion people who were pouring off two packed elevators and heading toward Security lines where they where scanning room cards as people stepped off the ship and onto Jamaica.

  Well, hell. Why couldn’t I have just found those elevators? Geez.

  “Uncle Brian!”

  I turned in response, and I spied Crispy heading toward me. The expression on his face was transitioning from “I have no idea where I’m at and no one will ever find me” to “Cool, I know that person, we can be lost together and it won’t be as painful”.

  “Have you seen anybody else?” I asked, scanning the crowd.

  He shook his head. “Nope. Everybody was right there and then all the sudden they weren’t.”

  I knew the feeling. “Well, let’s wait a sec, and see if anybody shows up.”

  We stood there as people streamed past. People who were looking at us the way people do when something happens that breaks the monotony of life. (Why are those two guys standing over there? Why aren’t they walking with everybody else? Have they done something wrong? Is that why that one stairwell was roped off? I better openly stare at them in case I need to pick them out of a lineup later.)

  That quickly got on my nerves, so I decided it was time for Plan B. “Let’s go on through Security, just in case they’re waiting for us on the pier. Surely they wouldn’t just get on the bus without us.”

  Yeah, right. If any of them had already gotten into the Bloody Marys this morning, they were probably driving the bus and halfway up the mountain by now. But you gotta have faith.

We quickly got through Security (they scan your card and shove you along, nothing intricate there) and soon stepped out into the beautiful Jamaican sunshine that had started the day. It was very nice. We got to enjoy it for roughly two seconds before a crazed, drug-addled man sporting dreadlocks attacked us with exuberance, dragging us off the gangway and away from the ship.


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Friday, January 20, 2012

20 Random Thoughts After Re-Watching The Very First Harry Potter Movie

1. Wow, those kids look like they’re about 6 years old.

2. Hermione was pretty bitchy back in the day.

3. Daniel Radcliffe/Harry has exactly two facial expressions: “total surprise at being famous for basically doing nothing” and “grim determination as he prepares to face off against a monster that the adults really should be killing instead of sitting around and making stupid rules about not going in the forest”.

4. Maggie Smith/Professor McGonagall has exactly two expressions: “prim disapproval of basically everything that is going on” and “sad acceptance of the fact that no one understands how much she suffers for her art (I won an Oscar, people!)”.

5. How did Dumbledore wash that beard of his? Or not have nightmares about garbage disposals?

6. Alan Rickman must have had a very understanding pharmacist.

7. Those “viewing towers” at the quidditch matches were really cool, despite being essentially pointless if you actually wanted to watch the game.

8. There are hundreds of kids mucking about at Hogwarts, but at any given time there are only four kids in a given classroom. And one of the four is usually Hermione, waving her attention-craving hand in the air and yearning to answer another question from the teacher before her head explodes with all that knowledge.

9. They only have one caretaker in this place? No wonder he looks so mean and old.

10. Hagrid, dude, it’s about that hair.

11. Hey, the woman who plays Harry’s nasty aunt is the same woman who showed up on True Blood last season and made Pam’s face not be pretty any more, which of course led to dissatisfaction, war, and debate about Marnie’s right to open a pseudo Pottery Barn shop.

12. What’s the horrid, spoiled cousin’s name, the one with all the presents and the whining? Runtley? Grunt boy? Doesn’t matter. Just kill him. Life’s too short to put up with that mess.

13. Why do they let Hagrid live in that little hut off by himself? Nobody else gets to have a cabana.

14. You’d think somebody could figure out how to make those staircases not move. This is a school, right?

15. Wouldn’t it be easier to just have someone cast a spell on you so that you would automatically know all the spells and wouldn’t have to go to class? Or is this a union issue?

16. I don’t want the paintings on the wall to talk. I don’t care if I get to wear a pretty robe and wave a twig around, I need my decorating accessories to be quiet.

17. Seriously, they had a multi-million-dollar budget and they couldn’t come up with a scar for Harry that didn’t look like a third-grader got crazy with a magic marker?

18. Practically the whole school year goes by, with unicorns being ravaged and ugly goblins being let loose in the lavatory, and no one thought to take a peek under that one guy’s turban?

19. There’s something wrong with that whole scoring thing for the House Competition. Hermione and Ron got the same amount of bonus points for the little underground death-chess thingy toward the end of the movie, even though all she did was stand there, with her and her hair looking anguished, while Ron did all the work and almost died about 40 times. And he rode a horse. Hermione didn’t ride anything. I’m thinking somebody needs to file a grievance.

20. I would never take off the Invisibility Cloak. Ever.

Friday, January 6, 2012

10 Things I Learned About My 9-Year-Old Niece Over The Holidays

1. She is often airborne.

  The lovely lass has been taking gymnastics lessons for some time, and apparently the leaders of this possible cult encourage their members to practice ALL the time. This results in startling moments when said lass will perform sudden handsprings across the kitchen counter whilst the bleary-eyed adults are just trying to sip their morning coffee.

2. She doesn’t have bones that can easily snap like the dried-out older people.

  As can often happen when trying to get the best score from of the Olympic judges that are possibly hiding in the laundry room, excessive zeal during an otherwise spectacular tumbling maneuver can lead to missed targets and small bodies slamming into innocent walls. Post-crash, the little trooper simply springs up and races off to prepare for another exhibition, whereas any adult involved in the slamming would be in traction and fully qualified to star in a Hallmark movie about plucky people who can no longer use their body parts but still have a good enough heart that Tori Spelling will marry them at some point.

3. The global energy crisis has been resolved.

  She never stops moving. Ever. This is what is known as a “natural, unlimited resource”. No one has to drill for anything and the planet remains green and friendly. We just need to make a few clones of my niece (based on observed energy output, I don’t think we would need more than half a dozen little dynamos or so to light the entire universe), convince them that it is fashionably acceptable to run about whilst tethered to a power grid (“sweetie, ALL the cheerleaders are wearing cords these days”), and not charge anybody a penny for the output, since youngsters don’t even need or understand money.

  We’ll probably get a Nobel Peace Prize for this, what with people no longer needing to go to war over oil and stuff. (I’m sure folks will soon find another reason to justify international conflict, but hopefully this won’t happen until after the nice people in Sweden have handed us a check.)

4. She can wear absolutely anything and still be adorably cute.

  Uncle Brian:  “Sweetie, that outfit is the cutest thing ever. Who got that for you?”

  Niece (rolling eyes, because adults are just so stupid and you have to explain things to them): “I made it out of popsicle sticks and dryer lint. Last week when the Disney Channel wasn’t working because I landed on the remote control and it got stuck and we had to watch America’s Stupidest Redneck Weddings for three days.”

  Uncle Brian: “Are you going to be a fashion designer when you grow up?”

  Niece (rolling eyes, because she was nine years old and clearly a mature woman in her eyes): “Nope. I’ll just let Mommy keep buying me things to wear. Most of the time she does a good job.” (Then her rolling eyes briefly stopped on a wadded-up Kohl’s sack that had been shoved in a corner, presumably containing a horrid garment that had not met couture requirements and had been left out as a warning against future Mommy slip-ups.)

5. There is absolutely nothing wrong with watching the same episode of a young-adult program at least 714 times.

  During one of these repeat sessions, Guiness Book of Tweenager Records called and wanted to interview us for shattering the old milestone. I told them they might as well wait, because we still had two days left in our visit and could easily watch this same show another thirty times. They have a plane on standby.

6. Hip nine-year-olds have their own language and knowledge base.

  I often felt like Forrest Gump in that extended bit of the movie where he kept running and running. We didn’t really know why he was doing that or where he was going but we just assumed we would understand more when he got there. I never did understand some of my niece’s oratory destinations, but at least I got a nice telegram from Sally Field explaining that sometimes its better to have a small part in the movie than not be in it at all.

7. My niece really, really, really likes to win at video and board games.

  Enter the arena at your own risk. Pay no attention to the caged lions off to one side that can be released with a small signal from Angelic Niece. Hunker down and pray for daylight.

8. My niece has a vast and healthy imagination.

  Any playtime activity (which is basically any waking moment) can turn into a fantastic adventure full of creativity concerning otherwise mundane things, proving that you don’t need fancy, over-priced toys that require multiple batteries be shoved up their butt.

  The most exciting visit to the Imaginarium? We took the Woody and Jessie dolls from Toy Story, rechristened them Snickers and Jolly Rancher to better suit our indie, on-the-fly, Quentin Tarantino script, and set out on a quest to recover a holy receptacle that had been stuffed with candy before being whisked away by one of the many evil Pig Kings that live in the niece’s mandatory pile of stuffed animals.

  It was a treacherous journey, with both of us dying several times, mostly due to the murky “rules of engagement” that my niece kept changing on a whim (I’m assuming she was a double agent with the Porky People), but we’ve learned from video games that you just have to push a button and everybody is breathing again, so it was all good. We eventually triumphed, cramming sugar-based products into our mouths and then racing out to the family room to share our adventures with the other relatives. They just looked at us and then went back to watching America’s Funniest Redneck Plumbing Incidents.

9. Mandatory bedtime is an outrage against the youth of the world, and those youths have banded together to form Occupy Living Room to have their grievances addressed.

  Sadly, the social and political network in this country is still dominated by The Big People With Money. Big People who can still pick you up and carry you to the slumber chamber which you dread (even though said chamber was the delightful land of Snickers and Jolly Rancher mere minutes ago, where sugar caches could be discovered in the most amazing places).

  And then you are ungraciously plunked down in the cushy bed, where you will pout for the three minutes it takes you to fall asleep (700 cartwheels does take its toll after all), drifting away while the adults continue swilling from glass bottles, consuming a forbidden nectar that makes them increasingly louder and happier and erroneously convinced that they can beat all takers in something called “beer pong”.

10. I really need to get back to Tulsa more often than I do.

  Jolly Rancher still has more treasures to find, and I want to be her sidekick whenever I can…