Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Rear Passenger

My 6-year-old Nicholas is all boy, which is good seeing as how he's a boy and all. His high testosterone level also helps explain his infatuation with the Strongman Competition that ESPN is currently airing approximately 29 hours each day. When you think about it, those contests aren't that different from a typical day in the life of a lot of 6-year-olds. Find heavy stuff, pick it up, move it somewhere else. In fact, those musclemen are really nothing more than a bunch of little boys. Except for the massive quantities of performance-enhancing drugs coursing through their veins. That and their raging hemorrhoids roughly the size of Paris Hilton...only not as disgusting.

Which brings us to an exchange I had with Nicholas on the way home from a friend's house the other night. (I'd record this always-entertaining backseat banter with my kids if I didn't think they'd grow up and successfully sue me for invasion of privacy.)

Nicholas was going on about how awesome these vowelly-challenged, Eastern European beefcakes were that he'd seen on TV that day. Mind you, he couldn't pronounce a single one of their names. Most of them look like something our 3-year-old, Anna Claire, would concoct if she commandeered the keyboard. In fact, I'm going to type in a bunch of characters right now without looking, and I promise it won't be that different than the names of these strongmen participants:


Sure enough, that very guy finished third on last night's show.

I told Nicholas and Andrew (who's two years older and interested in much weightier matters in life, such as when the next Power Rangers series will begin) that those guys work really hard to get that strong but that there are some negative side effects. I said, "One of the bad things that happens to some of them is really gross, but I'll tell you if you want to know."

Gross is a relative term, especially if the relative in question is your 6-year-old son. So I proceeded to explain the intense pressure that lifting heavy weights puts on one's digestive system - pressure that's roughly equivalent to the new half pound beef and potato burrito at Taco Bell - and how many of those guys will tell you that when they lift that much, it feels as if their plumbing is about to come out their - ahem - their drains. That led to a rather graphic discussion of hemorrhoids, after which Nicholas said very sincerely, "What's the gross part?"

Exactly. After all, what's a little butt barnacle when you're 6? Blood and poop are practically currency at that age.

And some never grow out of it. Which means you might one day see Nicholas competing in one of those Strongmen contests. Of course, he'll need to come up with a different name, preferably one with no vowels. Where's Anna Claire...

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Cereal Offense

One of the things that makes America great is its dedication to the continued development of new and often sickeningly sugary breakfast cereals. I believe it's been our manifest destiny. Would the great chefs of Europe ever have come up with Mud N' Bugs? When was the last time your kids asked for Muesli? Do I even need to answer these questions?

Yet for whatever reason, only two cereals come in a remotely functional bag: Corn Pops and Smacks, both of which ironically had the word "sugar" in their names many years ago before people were aware of the damaging effects of sugar and also when kids were a lot healthier than they are now.

We can put a man on the moon and Ashlee Simpson in the Orange Bowl halftime show, but we can't get more cereals to use these partially resealable bags?

Listen, if you want to hear Larry James talk about the plight of the inner city or Mike Cope challenge the church to be more Christlike, that's fine. Just know that I'll be here, asking the questions everyone else is afraid to ask. Now if you'll excuse me, Count Chocula is waiting.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

New Year's Leftovers

Seeing as how my last attempt at posting quotes went so well, here's another. This from Italian philosopher and novelist (The Name of the Rose) Umberto Eco. He's no Dr. Evil, but I found this provocative:

"I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us."

Think about the things you learned from your folks that they weren't necessarily trying to teach you.

My mom taught me that it's never a bad idea to have a couple of show tunes memorized. (If you can remember the choreography, even better.) And that a little chocolate goes a long way. But one of the most important things she taught me was that marriage isn't about getting your way but surrendering your will.

My dad unintentionally taught me that being late doesn't make you virtuous, but it does make you adventurous. He taught me to challenge the biological precepts of food refrigeration and that eating mayonnaise that's been stored in the pantry isn't a death sentence. But more than anything, by leaving show business and devoting the best years of his life to finding safe homes for at-risk kids, he taught me that the underprivileged aren't all there by choice. And that you're probably never too far from the will of God when you err on the side of mercy.


In less than 48 hours over Christmas Eve and Day, both Johnny Oates and Reggie White died. One after a long illness, one suddenly in his sleep. Both way too young. I had the privilege of covering both men as a sports reporter. Each was a deeply committed follower of Christ, though White was always more vocal (which perhaps explains why he was chronically hoarse). In an era in which sports figures' faith is so publicly professed, these two backed it up in private. Writing a 1997 article in Wineskins Magazine about Oates' epiphany in the bowels of Yankee Stadium remains one of the highlights of my career as a journalist.


Two words I want to use more often in 2005: laureate and shard. Honorable mention goes to mawkish.


With so much of the world's attention focused on relief efforts in areas hit by the tsunami, Playboy has announced you'll soon be able to download playmate pictorials directly onto your iPod. We all have to do our part. Thousands dead, millions starving or homeless. At least I have my pocket porn.


One of the undeniable joys of Christmas is giving gifts to loved ones that you really would like yourself, then commandeering said gift and playing keep-away. Got the Saturday Night Live Best of Will Ferrell DVD for Amy and can't quit rewinding the skit with Garth Brooks selling his soul to Ferrell's Satan in exchange for a hit song...except Satan keeps coming up with crap, and eventually the deal is scrubbed. Funniest SNL sketch I've ever seen.

Then there's the handheld Tetris game my sister gave Andrew. He's played it twice, me the hourly equivalent of four days. I now speak fluent Russian and suddenly have a taste for borscht, which, by the way, tastes really good after being left unrefrigerated for a couple of days. Thanks, Dad.