Sunday, December 31, 2006

Case study: Bursting of an Ego

Objective: To help two sets of friends move over a two-day period.

Method: Using dolly, truck, arms and manliness to move furniture and boxes.

Results: Initial boosting of ego on Day 1 and Day 2 was tragically burst at end of Day 2.


Day 1: Subject helps Friend A and her roommate move on Friday. Task is made easier because Friend A and roommate have already been moving things and are only moving up one floor in building. Subject displays usefulness by skillfully maneuvering boxes and boards on dolly. Subject helps Friend A put together bookshelf and sets up computer. Despite being mild physical labor, subject feels sense of accomplishment.

Results at end of day: despite only four hours of light physical labor, subject’s ego is suitably boosted. Subject leaves apartment feeling good about himself.

Day 2: Subject helps Friend B and his fiancĂ© move across town on Saturday. Task is made complicated by fact that Friend B and fiancĂ© haven’t finished packing. Subject decides to have a little bit of fun and volunteers to drive large U-Haul truck. Subject briefly wonders if he is trying to compensate for something, shakes head no, and then jumps in front seat.

Subject spends next nine hours driving truck all over town, engaging in heavy physical labor lifting sofas, bed frames, dressers and boxes. Subject is filled with great sense of accomplishment. Ego is heavily boosted, subject is the man! Before study can be finished Subject must drive Friend B back to pick up his vehicle. Subject talks friend up about “becoming a mover if this whole PR thing doesn’t work out” and even considers writing a blog about his moving prowess and mad truck driving skills.

Disaster. Subject is pulling into driveway to drop Friend B off. Subject takes turn too sharply and clips driver side taillight of Friend B’s Ford F-150. Clarification needed, Subject sheers cover of driver side taillight clean off. Subject’s ego and sense of importance deflates immediately. Subject filled with sense of horror.

Results at end of day: Subject owes $67 to Friend B for new taillight. Subject awaits merciless teasing at Friend B’s New Year’s Eve party.

Conclusion 1: If Subject couldn’t laugh at himself, Subject would go crazy.

Conclusion 2: Don’t ever let me, I mean Subject, near a U-Haul truck. Happy New Year ya’ll!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas ‘06, The Good, the Bad, and the Disturbing

A brief synopsis of my Christmas vacation thus far: (Go ahead, skip down to The Bad and The Disturbing part, you know you want to, you sadist.)

The Good: Hanging out with a good friend from home and getting a nice bottle of whiskey out of it. Doing Christmas shopping at the last minute. Spending time with relatives from both sides of my family, some that I hadn’t seen in 5 years. Seeing We Are Marshall and The Good Shepard, both excellent movies. Getting some excellent gifts, including an mp3 player (welcome to the 21st century Across the River, we’ve been waiting for you). Being able to relax and still having a few more days off!

The Bad: Having a conversation about the gruesome nature of the torture scene in the movie Syriana with a relative at Christmas dinner is not bad in itself. It is when you are sitting at a table with Congolese Americans who only a few years ago witnessed torture firsthand, and had members of their family tortured and taken away to never be seen again. The quick glance I got from their direction was not an acknowledgment that they had seen the movie and agreed with my assessment. (As to why Congolese Americans were sharing Christmas dinner with my family, I point you toward my Thanksgiving post and say that it’s a long story, but that this was similar.)

The Disturbing: While visiting family in North Carolina, the 7-year-old step daughter of my cousin followed me around like a puppy. "Aww, I think someone’s got a crush on you" said numerous relatives. I haven’t had as much luck with the 18+ ladies lately, but apparently I have all the suitable qualities for a 7-year-old to find attractive. (I’m also sure that the fact that I used "attractive" and "7-year-old" in the same sentence will net me all sorts of interesting visitors.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My mayo rides the short bus

I’ve recently made an odd discovery. My No-Fat Giant-Brand Mayonnaise glows in the dark.

How do you know this, you ask? While opening and closing the fridge I’ve noticed that the stuff gives of its own pasty white glow that makes it stand out from the rest of the contents of my fridge. Normal mayo is more of a cream color. No-fat mayo shines so white it must have polonium in it. Of course the Kremlin denies having anything to do with my no-fat mayo.

Sigh. This is what I get for stocking my fridge with no fat, health foods-“special” foods if you will. While the fridge is closed, I bet my roommates’ foods all sit and make fun of my food.

Poor health foods, they sure do try hard to be normal. It’s not their fault they were made this way. I mean, come on, no-fat mayo, low-calorie burritos, and Lean Cuisine microwave dinners are food too! They may be missing a carb or two, but they’re still good meals. They may have their own “special” isle in the grocery store, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

One day we’ll live in a world where all foods will be created equal, where low-fat foods will taste and look exactly like their high-fat counterparts. Until that day though, I think I’ll leave my glowing mayonnaise in the fridge, instead of putting it into my stomach.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dying trying

Those of you within a few miles of Clarendon at about 5pm on Sunday may have heard an odd noise echoing through the streets. The sound can best be described as a cross between a 1967 Chevy backfiring, and an elephant giving birth, repeatedly. The noise was both disturbing and unnatural, and unfortunately it was all coming from me.

This season I’ve teamed up with my pal 50, to launch the 2006/2007 “Get Fit, or Die Trying” tour. It features me, Across the River, desperately and awkwardly trying to get in shape, but probably dying along the way.

I came up with this goal outside of the normal “New Year’s resolution” setting. In May one of my best friends is getting married, and damn it, I want to look good for the wedding.

The scene that you would have witnessed on Sunday evening was a sad one. For some reason I had decided to “go for a run” for like the first time in 10 years. “How hard can it be?” I thought. “I’ve been doing treadmills and free weights for the past month. Surely that will have built up some sort of endurance.” As I took the first step off my front porch and broke into a full on sprint, I instantly became aware of how wrong I was.

The stabbing pain in my lungs built to a crescendo almost immediately. My breathing soon changed from short inhalations to desperate gasps for air. My lungs cried out to the world “I AM IN PAIN, HEAR ME WHEEZE!”

While dogs stopped and howled, and “real” runners blew on by me, I ambled on like a wounded animal. My legs flailed awkwardly, my body bent over slightly because of a stitch in my side, and I gasped for the sweet, sweet air for all it was worth. I imagine to passersby’s I looked like Gollum or something, stumbling along and mumbling in a hoarse voice “My preccciousness, my precioussss, cough, cough, aiiirrrr.”

Needless to say my run did not last long and I’m glad I got back to my house ok. I suspect that the neighbors were already calling the police to notify them that one of the animals had escaped from the National Zoo and had found its way across Memorial Bridge. “I think you can still catch it officer. We saw how slow that thing moved. It couldn’t have gotten far.”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I still get a kick…

My regular lunch walk today was slightly delayed by a carpenter’s strike/rally/protest/rise against the wood-working man. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t annoyed. In fact after two years of living in the general area, and one year of actually working in DC, I’m still in amazement at all the things that go on, that many metro DC folks might take for granted.

Call me a big dork, but:

-I actually thought it was kind of cool how last week during the Christmas tree lighting my walk to the metro was impeded by secret service shutting off the street. Most people in the U.S. have traffic or weather to blame for causing commuting delays, DCer’s “Oh, yeah, the Secret Service caused a delay, you know same old, same old.”

-I still get a kick when I see the monuments and important buildings, the Washington Monument, White House, etc.

-It’s sad that Sen. Tim Johnson was recently hospitalized with stroke-like symptoms. However, all I could think of when I heard the news report was “Wow, I walk by that hospital every day.”

-I saw Al Gore speak a month ago and I didn’t even find out I was going to the event until a few hours before. Most people outside the beltway will probably never see a vice president/presidential candidate in their lifetime.

Maybe all this wonderment is because of growing up in the capital of the Confederacy and then going to school in a town called Farmville. Richmond politics revolved around finding new ways to dreg up the past. Farmville politics was typically something like “To bring in an Arby’s or not to bring in an Arby’s,” or “Let’s have a vote on a noise resolution to shut up those pesky college kids.”

Anyways, I’ve laid my dorkiness on the table. Mock me if you will, you jaded souls, or better yet, let me know what still gives you a kick.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What’s in a heritage?

Like many Americans I’m a mutt. Maybe not as full-blown as some, but basically some years ago, in-between killing each other, the English, Scottish, Irish, Scotch-Irish, and a little French, decided to breed, and all I got out of it was a generic last name.

Or so I thought.

I used to take more pride in my heritage. I used to identify proudly with my Scottish heritage. My mother’s maiden name is McCarter and I figured that being half Scottish was something to be proud of.

Then an odd thing happened. My uncle and a distant cousin of mine went to a McCarter family reunion in Wales. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why a Scottish family reunion was taking place in Wales. When they got back they had an interesting story.

Looks like I’m not really as Scottish as I thought, in fact I’m Welsh. Seems like long ago a Mr. McCarter decided to move from Scotland to Wales and begin diluting his blood with Welsh women. Generations later and the majority of the McCarters that I’m related to are living in Wales, therefore making me about half Welsh.

I know nothing about being Welsh. I don’t know any Welsh drinking songs and I can’t name any Welsh mythical heroes.

Why does it really matter you say? You’re still a foockin anglo, you idiot, as white as they come. When the sun is hot, do you not burn? When the dance music comes on does your step not falter?

But what’s the fun in being just…white. I mean besides the fact of knowing that my ancestors at one point subjugated about 3/4's of the world’s people.

Not much fun I’ve concluded, which is why I’ve recently started taking heritage with a grain of salt. Sure, be proud of past deeds that your ancestors and family have accomplished, but for the love of god don’t get too caught up in it.

I mean, for 24 years I thought I was Scottish.

What if this had been 800 years ago and I had proudly marched onto the fields under a Scottish banner to fight the English and their Welsh allies, only to find out I was Welsh? That would have been a bummer.

Friday, December 8, 2006

"In a smoky daze," or “Holy ___ there’s a fire!”

I had a very long, bad day. That’s really my only excuse for not noticing the strong stench of smoke permeating the air.

The heater must be turning on, probably just some dust burning.

As the smoky smell became stronger I became vaguely aware of sirens and flashing lights outside.

There’s a fire station a few blocks from here. That or it has to be spillover from all the politicians attending the Christmas tree lighting in DC today.

The low rumbling of vehicles in the background barely registered. I was vaguely aware of flashing lights outside my window. As the smoke poured out of my neighbor’s house, and the fire trucks parked themselves outside my window, I didn’t even move from my chair.

It was a sharp knock on my door that finally wrested me from my apathetic haze. One of the roommates more aware of his surroundings than me proceeded to inform me of the situation.

Lethargic no more I jumped from the chair to the window and proceeded to string to together a chain of expletives that would have made my Irish ancestors proud. Blue and red blinking lights flashed through thick clouds of gray smoke pouring out of the side of the house. Firefighters slowly made there way inside the house and a crane from one of the fire trucks was swinging toward the second floor.

After mixing together a few more expletives (this time mixed together with some biblical figures for good measure), I proceeded to go outside for a better look. The fire and police department limited how close I could get, but the damage didn’t seem extensive. From what I could tell no one was hurt.

Moments like this are supposed to shame us into being thankful for what we have. It’s supposed to make our life’s problems seem insignificant. Right now I’m still angry about my life’s “insignificant” problems, but am equally angry with myself for my sense of observation failing me. Danger reared its ugly head today and luckily for me it went after the neighbor. When it comes back, maybe a little closer this time, will I casually dismiss it again?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Must be a slow news day

George Clooney's pig Max dies at age 19

Let's see I've seen CNN, USA Today, and BBC have covered it and according to Google News 166 other news outlets have published something about it.

Be brave my readers. Let's pour one out for our dear friend Max and think about him as we munch on our BLT's for lunch today.

Why we write

I promised myself when I started this blog two weeks ago that I wouldn’t get too personal and that I wouldn’t use this as a public forum to air my private grievances. I do this not only because it’s not my style, but also because quite frankly the pettiness that happens in life isn’t worth dignifying with writing. I don’t write for you-I don’t write to try to get kudos from friends, to attract the attention of women, or to try to express biting social commentary (though the last part may happen…minus the biting part). I write because it’s a part of me, and I write this way as a second expression of myself.

I once had a friend remark that she was becoming increasingly frustrated by the writing that she read from a lot of men. When she met them in person they inevitably turned out to be much less charming than they seemed via the various emails, poems and other pieces of writing she had seen.

I had to laugh and nod, not because I’ve experienced this problem with women, but because I could identify with the men she was referring to. My writing is a completely different side of me.

It’s the opportunity for me to play the politician, the comedian, the cynic, the optimist, etc…

Hi, my name is Across the River, formerly Not Your Monkey when I guest posted on The View from Dupont’s blog. When I was at the bloggers happy hour last Thursday I had a brief conversation with Roosh V, in which he jokingly asked me if I had any questions, and if there was any knowledge he could impart to a new blogger such as myself. Thanks Roosh, I think I got it figured out.

Also kudos to Circle V for this fine picture from the blogger’s happy hour. I’m the one on the right attempting to swallow my own tongue.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

On Bush, Iraq and Garages

This past Friday, Bush gave Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a ringing endorsement.

"He's the right guy for Iraq," said Bush, standing alongside al-Maliki at a news conference after nearly two hours of private meetings. "We're going to help him, and it's in our interest to help him, for the sake of peace."

Ah yes, the patented President Bush endorsement. Al-Maliki has joined the ranks of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and former FEMA chief Michael Brown. It’s more of a curse than anything, with Bush being some sort of incompetent King Midas–everything he touches withers.

Despite the mistakes of mammoth proportion that the administration has made, I’ve always felt that pulling out now would lead to Iraq turning into a failed state and more of a haven for terrorists than it already is. However, it’s getting harder and harder to separate my support for the war from the cowboy attitude that the Bush administration continuously exhibits. How can I say that think the best course of action is to “stay-the-course” yet lack any confidence in our leaders to effectively do so?

My biggest worry is that in Bush’s quest to leave any sort of positive legacy, he’ll withdraw the troops before Iraq is ready, and declare victory while knowing full well that Iraq is completely screwed. For a disturbing read on a president who did just that, I highly recommend Larry Berman’s No Peace, No Honor.

In other news the Air force has determined that garages everywhere are a threat to national security: Military Jams Garage Doors.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Bloggers Happy Hour

View from Dupont convinced me to hit up the Bloggers Happy Hour with her last night, and I'm glad I went. It was good to meet a number of ya'll including Roosh, Ar-Jew-Tino, Last Stop Suburbia, Journey to Self Improvement, and Total Information Awareness.

I know I met a lot more of ya'll, but my ability to remember names and faces was slightly inhibited by the whiskey.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Video games and exercise don’t mix

I am afraid of the conclusions that are going to be drawn by gamers who pick up Nintendo’s new video game system, the Wii.

Unlike other video games systems, the Wii features a controller that looks like a remote and that you can wave around your television to interact with the game. Gamers can use the controller to do such novel actions such as drive a car, swordfight, or play tennis.

It’s this last one that scares me. Tennis. As in you wave your controller to swing a tennis racket.

Video game nerds everywhere are beginning to fantasize about being able to exercise and play video games at the same time. “Running around my living room swinging this controller wildly will keep me physically fit.”

The cycle of delusions must stop here. This is just the latest in a series of farfetched conclusions that we video gamers have reached to justify our anti-social habit.

Example 1: It improves hand-eye coordination (List “excellent hand-eye coordination” as one your skills for the next job you apply for and see where that gets you).

Example 2: The ladies always appreciate a man who’s good with his fingers (Next time you’re with a lady, let me know how doing the konami code goes over).

Unless you enlarge your living room to the size of a regulation tennis court and actually plan on running around madly swinging your controller, you will not be able to use your Nintendo to become physically fit. You will not loose any weight, and will most definitely loose what’s left of your dignity.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Slouchers of the world unite

Today we have been vindicated. As reported in Medical News Today a recent study states that sitting up straight is actually worse for your back than other positions.

This is great news for us slouchers and recliners and is the best news since those chocolate studies starting coming out saying that dark chocolate is good for your health.

Next up, studies stating that beer is part of a balanced diet, video games improve cognitive ability, and that it's physically impossible for white men to dance.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Don’t try this at home kids: silver screen inspiration

I’m recently guilty of being inspired by a movie.

To ill effect.

After watching Happy Feet, I became convinced that I could become a dancing penguin. But seriously, I think many of us may be missing the points that movies are supposed to make and are being inspired in the wrong ways. It’s like the guy who sees Apocalypse Now and joins the army. The student who watches Dr. Strangelove and becomes a Nuclear Physicist. The teen rebel that watches Easy Rider and becomes a Harley Davidson mechanic. The woman who watches Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and becomes a bird watcher.

Now obviously, we all abuse our movie inspirations in much less blatant ways, whether that be aspiring to be action heroes or thinking that we can realistically woo the girl of our dreams through some sort of 12 step self-improvement program.

What makes us think that things good or bad are going to be rapped up in neat little Hollywood ending package? We can’t really blame Hollywood, because first and foremost they’re there for the entertainment value, not to school us in life.

However, I do think that every inspirational title that comes along deserves a Jackass style intro: “Warning, this movie is fictional, do not attempt to emulate these characters. You will fail.”

When Hollywood does come to its senses and institutes this warning system, maybe some of us will start looking to real life for our inspirations, or at the very least it’ll save me money on dancing lessons.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Pass the mashed potatoes and the moussaka

I guess my mom was experiencing empty nest syndrome. She decided to fill that nest with 3 foreign exchange students from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. When I look back on Thanksgiving day, I have a lot to be thankful for. At the top of the list is that it didn’t go horribly wrong.

I’m in Richmond celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. We’re a small family, so Thanksgiving is normally a small affair to begin with. My sister is in New Orleans and couldn’t make it back home. My uncle on my mom’s side is on a trip to New York. My dad’s side of the family is doing Thanksgiving in North Carolina.

The ham was eaten the night before and was replaced on the dinner table by a number of middle eastern side dishes such as moussaka, tabouli and lots of pita bread that my parents thoughtfully bought at a local bakery.

That dinner was merely awkward is a blessing in itself. My parent’s are well meaning folks, but they’re fairly conservative. My worry wasn’t that they would try to offend, but that something would come out wrong from my dad’s mouth. "I don’t see what the big deal is about displaying images of the Prophet Mohammad" or "Let’s discuss the Israel/Palestinian conflict."

Thankfully, most of the day was spent with short burst of uncomfortableness, like my dad spouting off all the names of his middle eastern co-workers, somehow hoping to impress them with the fact that he not only works with middle easterners, but can also pronounce their names. Or when he decided that it would be a good idea to give them a tour of his fruit trees in the backyard. Looking through a window while I was washing dishes, I could see their shivering and had to wonder if they thought we were trying to kill them.

I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Good health, a loving family, a steady job, new friends, and most of all that in a small suburb just west of Richmond, an international incident was averted.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

An Introduction, Sort Of

When God makes you fat, gives you a bright red hanging scrotum for a neck, sticks a large amount of thick plumage on your rear end, and bestows you with an echoing call that lets everyone know who you are, you better have something that gives you the edge over predators. And you my noble friend were blessed with a keen intellect. Here’s to you turkey, you Stephen Hawking of the woods.

I know what you’re going to say. "Intelligence? We sit down to eat thousands of turkeys every Thanksgiving, not to mention year round. How smart can they be?”

I hate to tell you this, but what you were eating, and what you are about to eat for Thanksgiving is not a real turkey. It is his dumber, domesticated, inbred cousin. They are the West Virginians of the turkey world. A real turkey would not let itself be served on your dinner table so easily. I know, for I have faced the beast, and heard his gobble…let me set a scene for you not too long ago…

It is a beautiful autumn day, the leaves are falling, the chipmunks are scurrying, the birds are chirping…and two hunters are walking through the woods with high powered rifles, hollow point bullets, full camouflage, and a death wish for any animal with an ounce of meat or a tail to claim.

Three hours of driving, close to an hour of hiking through dense woods, and another few hours of seeing nothing but sparrows, and you better bet we were determined to kill something. I swear, I’m not a murderous person, but if Bambi’s mother herself had shown up, I have no doubt we would have mowed her down in cold blood.

We finally decided to stop walking. We were positioned on a slight incline overlooking a dried up riverbed. We waited. I passed my time periodically examining the riverbed through the scope of my rifle. The other hunter spent his time examining various brochures about the county we were hunting in. It was the first time we were hunting in this part of Virginia, and our lack of knowledge would be our undoing.

I remember hearing the far off warbling of a turkey gobble. I sat up instantly, scanning the woods for the source. My hunting companion was also alert, but also strangely still engrossed in one of his brochures. It was then that I saw the source: not one, not two, but about a dozen turkeys walking in a line down the riverbed.

“Ohhhhhh,” I said quietly, and tried as hard as I could not to misfire. I leveled my scope and took aim at one of the brightly colored necks. How stupid of them I thought. A dozen turkeys walking single file, making enough noise to alert every hunter within a mile to their presence.

Before I could pull the trigger, my hunting friend killed my buzz. “It’s not turkey hunting season for two more weeks.” What? He pointed at the brochure. “In this county, turkey hunting season starts two weeks from now.”

Many thoughts passed through my head in a few, brief moments: The desire to pull the trigger. Fear of the game wardens that patrolled these areas at this time of year. Our own stupidity. And most of all the absolute genius of the turkeys still strutting less than 100 feet in front of us.

Those bastards, I thought. They knew it wasn’t hunting season. They decided to take the entire goddamn extended family out for a jaunt through the woods, just because they knew they couldn’t be touched. Gobble, gobble, gobble, two more weeks you stupid motherfuckers, gobble, gobble, gobble.

And so comes to end the tale of my experience with this shrewd bird. And so also comes to end my first post on this blog. Not much of an intro piece I know, but if you are interested in seeing the beginning, I’d suggest you mossy on over to The View From Dupont’s blog and along with reading her fine writing, check out my two posts. I may eventually crib pieces of those writings to form a more formal introduction for myself, but as of right now, I prefer to just jump in.