Saturday, September 9

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #20.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #20
"Support Your Local Cat."
(Originally published 11-09-05.)

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As promised yesterday, I wanted to give everyone a full update on Gabe. First, the back story.

If you don’t already know, Gabe is one of my two cats. If you’re a newlywed 20-something couple who lives in an apartment, it’s a prerequisite that you pick yourself up a couple of cats. Upon moving to Madison some years ago, that’s exactly what we did.

Gabe is a Blue Point Siamese male. Since we adopted him from the shelter, his exact age is unknown, although we have since figured him to be about 5 years old. When we saw him in the shelter, his ribs were sticking out from his chest and he looked quite underweight. Since then, we have him at an ideal weight for his breed and age.

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He’s an amazing and intelligent feline. He runs down the stairs when you call him, jumping into your lap and purring without fail. He hasn’t bit or scratched a soul, regardless of what awful things we do to him. When the Missus enters the apartment complex after work, he can tell she’s home before I can. He recognizes the jingling of her keys, separating the sound from all of the other jingling keys he hears all day. He’s playful and wildly affectionate, relaxed and Zen, brilliant and resourceful. He’s pretty much the coolest cat I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen thousands.

Gabe is a needy soul. He’ll cry when he’s not around you, simply because he wants to be in your lap. He’s never annoying about it; he just lets you know that he misses you when you’re away. When you come home from work, he’s right at the door to greet you. He’d fetch me my slippers if I wore them. Most people that meet Gabe say the same thing, that he acts more like a dog than a cat. His loyalty rivals that of a Golden Retriever, only he doesn’t need to be walked and can whiz in the house. He doesn’t have an enemy in the world.

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Gabe’s past, however, seems a bit more sordid. Apparently, he was seized from a house that was overrun with cats, which usually means poor health and disease. The fact that he came from a place like this and still maintains his temperament is a sight to behold. It’s as if he’s making a decision every morning to be nice to everyone he meets. Not to mention, he’s a beautiful specimen. He keeps his coat smooth and well-groomed, sometimes spending hours on a rigid cleaning routine. At first glance, he may appear intimidating and stoic, but instantly becomes your new best friend. He has the prettiest eyes I've ever seen on a non-human.

When we brought him home a couple of years ago, we already had a Siamese female in the house. When she initially rejected his company, rather than fight back, he anxiously chewed the fur off of his feet. Make no mistake about it, this is a cat that loves and wishes to be loved. Now, the two of them curl up on the couch together most every night.

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(He looks upset because he has an ass pressed against his ribs.)

Keeping his past and breed in mind, it wasn’t a surprise that Gabe contracted a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). We first noticed it a couple of months ago when we saw that he had taken to whizzing in the Missus’ bathtub. When cats get a UTI, it hurts too much to pee in the litter box, so they try to find a smooth, cool surface, like the tub (I've been known to do this on occasion when the toilet gets too repetitive for me). We were all set to take him to the vet, when he made a full recovery. We considered ourselves lucky, and forgot about the whole thing.

What we didn’t know was that Gabe had kidney-stone like particles in his kidneys and bladder. Just because he passed the stone and got over the first hump didn’t mean that he’d pull it off every time. This reached a head on Monday morning.

The Missus had called in sick on Monday, as she was feeling awful from the weekend. By the time she woke up, Gabe was already howling outside of the bedroom door. When she opened up, a clearly frightened Gabe ran and hid under the bed, which is something that he never does. The Missus knew something was wrong, and tried to figure out what was up. Gabe was howling in pain and growling deeply, which was completely new for him. Not really knowing what to do, the Missus called me at work and filled me in. I told her to immediately call the vet and set up an appointment. I skipped out on work for the afternoon and raced home.

When I got there, the Missus was feeling rather helpless and scared, and Gabe was no better. He was still hiding in the bedroom, sitting in such a way that indicated that it was the only position that didn’t hurt him. We stuffed him into the crate and took him straight to the vet.

Gabe was in the vet’s office for no more than 30 seconds when we figured out what was wrong with him. As soon as the vet touched his tummy, he screamed in pain and hid under the chairs. “Your cat can’t pee,” the vet told us.

“This is an emergency situation that requires an immediate decision,” she told us. Cats can literally have their kidneys explode on them, killing them slowly and painfully, and Gabe was verging on this circumstance due to a severe blockage. A surgery needed to be conducted instantly, and the vet left the room to get us forms to sign.

For the few minutes me and the Missus were alone in the room together, we talked it over. Without question, we were going ahead with this operation, regardless of weather it meant we would have to live on cheese sandwiches for the rest of the year. The operation required for them to insert a catheter into Gabe’s bladder, working on removing the stones and allowing him to urinate on his own again. Apart from that, we needed a slew of antibiotics, special food and a lot of hope to make sure that he would be okay.

It should be noted at this point that if the Missus wouldn’t have called in sick that day, we would have come home to a dead cat. No question about it. Take from that what you will; I’m just giving you the facts.

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We signed the papers and left the vet’s office. Several hours of waiting by the phone later, it finally rang. They did what they needed to do to him, the catheter was still inserted and he seemed to be doing as well as he could have. The thing with UTI’s is that the same thing could come back a week later. We’re hoping this doesn’t happen, but it’s very possible, and is another conversation for another time.

When Tuesday rolled around, we finally got a call from the vet’s office at 2:30pm. The catheter was removed; Gabe was urinating on his own and was ready to come home. We picked him up (along with a ton of medicine and food), gave the Sun Prairie Animal Hospital $500 for saving Gabe’s life, and settled him back into the house.

For the next two weeks, we have to force-feed him two different kinds of medication, feed him prescription food and put an ointment in his ears. If you’ve ever owned or been near a cat, you’ll understand why this will be almost certainly impossible, regardless of how nice they are. After two weeks, we’re taking him back in for a follow-up appointment, and scheduling him for a vigorous teeth cleaning. Remember the house overrun with cats that Gabe was rescued from? Apparently, the crazy cat woman didn’t believe in proper dental habits. Two of Gabe’s back teeth needed to be extracted, barely hanging from the sockets to begin with.

Don’t believe me? I saved the teeth.

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Sorry about that; I just wanted to hammer the point home. What you need to know is that Gabe is safe and sound at home again, shaken but recovering. We're all adjusting to the new routine; doing what we can to keep him healthy and happy. We must keep a very watchful eye on him, make sure he gets his meds and comb over his litter box daily, but it’s worth it to have the family together again.

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I’ll keep you posted on his progress.

Friday, September 8

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #21.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #21
"I've Got Perfect Words To Say."
(Originally published 11-19-04.)

It's a little past midnight on Friday right now, and I'm just getting ready to go to bed. The house is clean, the cats have been fed and properly groomed, and I'm wearing my flannel pajama bottoms. As you can see, married life has turned me into the man I've really always been.

It's pretty obvious that the Missus didn't have to work very hard to rope me into this. I was never much into casual dating, I disliked parties to no extent, and the women I hung out with had such crippling emotional baggage that I almost went gay my Sophomore year. The thought of waking up next to someone I truly cared about was what sent me onward and upward, looking for that person who would settle for a egomaniacal knob like myself. I'm more true to myself lint-rolling the furniture than I ever was pretending to listen to 15-year olds go on about their boyfriends.

Most guys like choices. They compare it to cereal. If you could choose between eating the same bowl of cereal for breakfast every day for the rest of your life, or getting to pick from the variety pack all the time, what would you choose? It sounds simple, but what guys tend to forget is that variety isn't an earned privilege. Just because you're single doesn't mean you get free reign over anything you want. Aside from that, the variety packs always leave me unfulfilled and ashamed.

Nothing turns women off faster than a single guy. Single guys don't know how to take care of themselves. Without a gentle-but-firm female counterpart around, guys fall to pieces. They put on weight, refuse to shave, listen to terrible music, buy clothing that most women can't stand and then they wonder why the phone's not ringing.

Meanwhile, a guy with a significant other is well taken care of. The woman drags your ass out of bed, wipes the crust out of your eyes, and puts a ironed shirt on your back. Suddenly, women won't leave you alone. It's unfair, it's completely baffling, it's women in a nutshell. I couldn't love it more. What women don't like about men, GOOD men REALLY don't like about men.

All around my place of employment, I hear bitter women venting about how much men suck. Suddenly, after 20 years of marriage and 4 kids, they realize that they can function on their own. They finally realize that they married a selfish, unresponsive, sexist prick that has no idea or intention of making their wife happy. The truth is simple. Most men DO suck. Most men think about themselves first, and refuse to make decisions with anyone else in mind. Most men cannot recognize any pain in their significant others unless she's crying or bleeding. Most men are selfish without even realizing it, and when confronted with the facts, will have the nerve to try to blame it on the nagging of the woman.

Listen, jackass. If that woman wasn't there for you, you would have absolutely no idea how to function as a normal human being. Sure, you THINK you'd be okay, but you'd be a damn mess and you know it. You should be so lucky that this wonderful woman has offered you the rest of her life to attempt to whip you into decent shape, simply so she can show you off to her friends at gatherings. Do NOT let her down. She deserves better than you, and you'd better make damn sure that she never realizes that.

It's not hard to make a woman happy, despite what you may think. Allow me to share with you the simple, 3-step process to making a woman content for the rest of her life:

Step #1 - Listen.
Step #2 - Understand.
Step #3 - Repeat.

I'm not writing all of this because I want to impress anyone, or to show off my feminine side. (Although my feminine side is quite a rare wonder.) You just need to understand that I don't like guys very much. For the last 22 years, I've had to listen to the most asinine comments come out of the lips of men, and pretend to agree with it. Friends, relatives, politicians, everyone. It troubles me to no end to think that behind each of these men, there's a women who's upset because of it. No doubt, the women are firmly in control of the relationship, but it's still not fair to hurt someone you love because you're retarded.

Not only that, but I don't think that all these loser guys deserve the women they're with. Regardless of all the mind-bogglingly awful things that we do, men still get more women than any other species on the planet today. This isn't right. The next time your man pisses you off, play hardball. Tell him that you're going to run off with a Yak, or perhaps a Teddy-Bear Hamster. An animal who knows where the nearest stream is, and who keeps in shape on their little exercise wheel. Obviously, it's getting late, and I'm starting to ramble a bit.

My final thought is this. Men, you have no idea how easy you have it. All women ask of you is that you treat them the way you want to be treated. They may never make up their mind about where they want to eat dinner, but they'll never waiver on the respect thing, I promise. Some women have serious problems, some men have serious problems, but the majority of people just want a pair of eyes looking back at them and nodding.

It's the least we can do.

Thursday, September 7

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #22.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #22.
"Toronto Diary - Days 1,2 & 3."
(Originally published 06-27/29-05.)

(These posts have been linked for the sake of keeping the main page from being overloaded with images. They are also very humorous, entertaining and full of color photography. Please enjoy.)

Toronto Diary - Part I.
Toronto Diary - Part II.
Toronto Diary - Part III.

Wednesday, September 6

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #23.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #23
"On Getting My Head Chainsawed Off."
(Originally published 01-09-06.)

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"Screaming Like The Littlest Of Girls: The Resident Evil 4 Story."

I'm what the hipsters would call a 'retro-gamer.' Having grown up in the golden age of home gaming, I've devoted a huge chunk of my childhood (along with an embarrassingly large piece of my adulthood) to video games on my television.

Up in the CDP rumpus room, you'll find an Atari 2600, NES, Sega Genesis and (basic) Coleco Vision in perfect working condition with dozens, maybe hundreds of games. It's a beautiful sight, and I'm quite proud of it. Throw that in with my ever-growing collection of Pac-Man memorabilia, and you've got yourself a shrine to a wasted youth. I sometimes go up there to cry when the Missus is sleeping.

I've resisted the urges to hop on the next generation of console games, strictly because I don't like the direction they're heading. From the time I was 6, right up until now, video game manufacturers have been targeting me as their prime demographic. In the 80's, video games were for kids my age. In the 90's, video games started to be marketed towards teens my age. In the 21st century, video games are outselling feature films, and they are marketing them towards male adults just like me.

I'm in the male minority when I say this, but I don't really like the marketing. I think video games should be for kids, first and foremost; regardless of if they educate or entertain. I recall that feeling of magic and amazement when I played Missile Command for the first time on my 2600; it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. These days, kids have to grow up fast enough as is; now they don't even have any decent games to play. Each day of a child's life is spent wanting to be older, and when they lean their heads against the display case at a video game outlet, it's the same story. That sucks. I can't argue with results and cash, it's just sad that my generation has been the only one fortunate enough to be marketed by this billion-dollar conglomerate for the last 24 years.

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I dragged myself into the new millennium when I purchased a GameCube last month. Sure, it's already 3 years old and out of date, besides being the least-popular console of the 'Big Three,' but I chose it for the reasons I stated earlier. The GameCube has more user-friendly and multiplayer-oriented games, and they focus more on less-complicated titles for novices. In a nutshell, it's a great console to play with the Missus when we're bored. If I wanted to sit by myself and play complicated video games, I wouldn't have gotten married and cut my hair in the first place.

So we picked up Mario Kart and Mario Party for the both of us, along with The Sims 2 for her and Madden '06 for me (all awesome games, by the way). I also acquired the Sonic the Hedgehog collection to satisfy my retro-needs. Sure, I have those original Sonic games in the rumpus room, but that's all the way upstairs. I enjoy the way the GameCube handles; and their limited library is not a problem whatsoever for me and the Missus.

Looking for a good game to utilize the components of a last-generation console, along with something scary and engaging, I picked up Resident Evil 4 last week. Most people will tell you that RE4 is one of the best, scariest and jaw-droppingly gory games ever made. I've never had the opportunity to show my ID when buying a game, so this whole experience was altogether new to me. I played the original Resident Evil on a Playstation that I owned for two weeks when I was 17, and it seemed pretty cool then, so I popped the game in and got down to the getting of getting on.

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I'm far from what you would call a 'manly man,' but I can hold my own. I have a soft spot for splatter films and I'm only afraid of like, two things (drowning and Zell Miller). I watch sports constantly and senseless violence bounces off my forehead like a ping-pong ball. Underneath this sensitive indie shell, I guess I'm sort of a club-dragging loser, but within two minutes of playing Resident Evil 4, I pooped in my pants. In fact, I pooped in the Missus' pants, too. If this game is scary and intense to those who play them constantly, imagine what it's like for a guy who's been in a video game time capsule for 7 years.

The first time I screamed like a girl was when I got my head chainsawed off (see top photo). There I was, minding my own business in a filthy, blood-speckled farmhouse. I had just dusted off a few zombie-like townsfolk with a shotgun blast to the noggin (including a few women, which sort of unsettled me), and was admiring a female corpse that had been affixed to a wall via a pitchfork to the head. It was rather nasty, and I can still see it when I close my eyes really hard.

All at once, I heard the door behind me burst open, with the unmistakable sound of a revving Skil saw. I turned around just in time to see this lumbering whale of a man looming over me, wearing bloody overalls and a burlap sack over his head, with cut-out eyeholes.

I screeched like a Yoko Ono record. You should've seen me; I looked like I was being electrocuted. Sparks should have been emitting from my body.

One meaty swipe and a half-second later, I fell to the ground in two pieces. I looked over to the Missus, who was pale-faced and laughing her ass off. It was all over; there wasn't a dry seat on the couch.

The biggest asset to the terror factor is the rumble pack. For those who don't know, your controller vibrates in your hands now, based on the action on the screen. So, when a snake jumps out at you, or say, Burlap Leatherface decides to split you down the middle, your controller jumpstarts you like a difibulator. I'm still not used to it, and I've got a laundry basket full of soiled Dockers that proves I'm not lying.

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You see all those guys? If they catch you, they're going to eat you. In the grand scheme of things, there's no reasoning with someone who plans on digesting you once they get their mitts on your tender brain. No peace treaty. No utopian society. Not even a head start. They're even going to show them eating you, and it's going to be bad, so don't let them eat you. What more explanation do you need?

I'm about 5% of the way through the game, but I fully intend to finish it. To ratchet up the atmosphere, I always make sure the lights are off and the volume is up. I didn't spend $45 so I could play this game at noon with the dishwasher running. I pay top dollar for my scares, which it why I own two Limp Bizkit albums.

That's why video game companies keep following me around. It works.

Tuesday, September 5

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #24.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #24
"I Just Don't Understand."
(Originally published 01-10-05.)

An open letter to the person who stole my lunch at work today.
By: The CDP.

To Whom it may Concern,

This morning, I awoke at 6:15 and prepared myself for work. I washed my hair, checked the news to see what the weather was like, and chose against shaving. Just before I left my home, I packed myself a lunch, as I tend to get hungry everyday at about noon. I've been doing this every day since May 16, when I was first employed here.

The items contained in the lunch were carefully selected by myself days earlier at the local Supermarket. I chose these items because I enjoy to eat them, and I like to make my lunchtime experience as comfortable as possible. I look at lunch to be like a brief vacation from work, as most people do. Today I had brought along a Stouffer's frozen microwavable plate of macaroni and cheese with broccoli, as I do 4 days out of the week. Accompanying this dish was a vacuum-sealed portion of Mandarin oranges, as well as a butterscotch-flavored Snack Pak and a can of caffeine free Diet Pepsi. I brought along a plastic spoon and fork with which to enjoy these dishes.

Upon arrival to work, I placed all these items (save spoon and fork) into the refrigerator that is shared by approximately 50 people in my section. I neatly marked each individual item with a blue Sharpie brand marker, initialing them "CDP". It's office policy to do this, determining who's responsible for what lunch. It prevents old lunch build-up and confusion.

This system was supposed to be foolproof.

That was until 11:58 today, when I opened the refrigerator to retrieve my lunch. The Pepsi, Mandarins and Snack Pak were where I had left them, but the Macaroni and Cheese was missing from the freezer. I chalked it up to misplacement on my part, and did a thorough check through the piles of other employee lunches. Sure enough, my main course was gone. Someone had taken it, and used it for their own lunchtime enjoyment.

What is wrong with you? I cannot for the life of me understand how someone can open a freezer, take out something that is clearly not theirs, and claim it for their own. Did you think it was your own lunch? If so, wouldn't there be an extra Macaroni and Cheese still sitting in the freezer? There wasn't, so that argument won't work. Did you not see my initials on the top of it? Even if you didn't, you couldn't possibly forget that you brought something completely different to eat for lunch that day, or perhaps you brought nothing at all. Which leads me to another upsetting aspect of this. Did you forget your lunch at home and decide to steal mine, or did you purposely leave your lunch at home so you could steal someone else's? Either way, that's not even close to cool on your part.

Perhaps you're a diabetic, and you needed the sugar. May I remind you that there's not much sugar in Macaroni and Cheese. Only 7 grams, to be exact. There's candy bars for sale right next to the refrigerator that have 5 times the sugar that was in my lunch. They were only 70 cents. No, you made a conscious decision to take someone's lunch, knowing full well that that person wouldn't be able to eat today because of your laziness and selfishness. Shame on you!

Usually, I would bring along 2 or 3 backup lunches in case something like this would happen. However, I was in a hurry today and didn't have the time. You see, I hurt my neck badly this weekend, and it's hard to turn my head back and forth. I'm in a good deal of pain, and it's hard to work as efficiently as I usually do. Today was very draining, and I was really looking forward to that lunch to pick me up and help me through the rest of the day. Imagine my disgust when I found out that you took it from me. Sure, I had oranges and pudding to eat, but I was reminded of a saying that my Dad used to tell me before I went to bed:

"As far as good meals go, lunch takes the cake, but snack pak and mandarins, a lunch does not make."

You bastard. I hope that you don't know who I am. I hope that you're a new employee or something, because my initials were on the top of that lunch you ate today. Why don't you like me? Why did you take my lunch? There were, like, 30 lunches in that freezer that were bigger and more expensive than mine, but you purposely dug through those to get to mine. For the life of me, I cannot understand why you wanted to hurt me today. I wasn't at work all last week, so I couldn't have done anything to piss you off recently. Oh, and don't bother pretending that your initials are the same as mine, because I'm the only "CDP" in the damn book.

Save it, Judas. You stood there for 4 minutes and 30 seconds while my lunch rotisserated in the microwave, thinking about what you were doing.

I hope that the Macaroni and Cheese tasted like stale lies and betrayal, because I went hungry today because of what you did.

With Deepest Regret,
The CDP.

(Here are some tips to prevent yourself from neck injury while sleeping.)

Monday, September 4

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #25.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #25.
"Biggest Downer Ever. (Welcome Back!)"
(Originally published 01-26-05.)

The time has come to talk about death.

Well, that wasn't the right picture at all.

Oh well, I'll fix it later. Besides, it lightens the mood a bit. It's best to talk about death over muffins and your favorite breakfast beverage. Not death in general, or the death of you, for example. This is much more important, because it concerns the death of me.

I decided to crunch some numbers and attach some sort of equation to my mortality. Knowing me, you'll understand that I have to do this in order to get an accurate grasp of something like this. I'm not trying to be too depressing, and I sure as hell don't want this to turn into some chain e-mail, like "Cherish these moments!" It's just that I find myself wasting a lot of time during the day, either willingly or otherwise (work + sleep, for example). Every week, every day and every hour adds up, so pay attention to where they all go.

Let's get started.

God damn it.

The average passing age of a person living in the US is about 74 years. This breaks down to about 27,010 days in a lifetime. I'm a non-smoker, vegetarian, a rare drinker, and I don't do drugs. I do, however, suffer from crippling stress and have a family history of serious medical problems.

I'm figuring I'll make it to 70, barring an accident, of course. Anything beyond this has always been considered bonus time in my book. Making it to 2052 sounds like a decent enough goal.

This means that I will have 25,550 days in which to live my life. Problem is, I'm already pushing 23 years old. Doing the math, that leaves me with 17,155 days left. I've already used up 8,395 days in my couple decades on the planet, averaging to about 33% of my life already being over. That's ONE-THIRD! Make a pie graph out of that, and you'll see how much of a segment that is. Did I use that 33% of my life wisely? I think I was more responsible with my first 22 years than most. Plus, it got me to where I am now, which is better off than I ever thought I would be. If it was pass/fail only, I can look back and honestly say that I passed. I have few regrets, a few traumatic moments and a few really good moments. I'm satisfied enough.

So, I have 17,155 days left. What am I going to do with them?

Well, before I start rationing out how I plan to spend the rest of my time here, we have to subtract a few necessary functions.

I sleep about 6-7 hours a night. I can't function without it anymore. I'm sure this number will only get larger as I get older. For the sake of argument, let's say that throughout the rest of my life, I will sleep an average of 8 hours a night. That's 33% of your day, and 33% of your life spent unconscious on a mattress.

17,155 days quickly turns into 11,437 days. Woah, I need a muffin break.

(Munch,munch) You know, 11 thousand and some odd days isn't that much time, and we're not even close to done subtracting crap yet. Let's talk about eating, for example.

We spend at least 2 hours a day just eating stuff. You can't live without food, so I suppose it's good that we devote that much time to Cinnamon Toast Crunch and grilled cheese. Sure, we use this time to converse with each other and watch "Cops" on FX, but the bulk of this time is purely spent shoveling grease into our collective maw. Doing the math, it seems that I will spend at least 22,874 hours eating food. That averages out to 951 days, almost 3 full years spent doing nothing but eating. My total amount of days has now dropped to 10,486.

You know, that food has to come out at some point. You'd be amazed at how much time you spend in the bathroom on a normal day. Taking into consideration expelling of waste, shaving, showering and preparing for Inaugural balls, I spend at least an hour a day in the can. That's being mighty conservative, too. This translates into 437 total days, and my number has now become 10,049.

Do you have a job? I sure do. It makes me sick to think that I spend more time during the day with total strangers than with my wife and family. For 5 days a week, I spend 8 hours and 45 minutes at my job, essentially getting paid to not see my wife. Assuming that I have a full-time job until the age of 55 (Jesus, I hope not), this will translate to a whopping 2805 full 24-hour days spent at work. My death clock has now spiraled down to 7224 days. Considering that I've already been alive longer than that, it's starting to get a little sobering.

Here's something I'm a little hesitant to admit. I watch a whole assload of television. Actually, I think I watch at least 24 hours of television a week. That equals 2248 hours of television every year, and 2444 entire days watching the tube. This leaves me with 4780 days left, kids. (Notice that I didn't say anything about cutting back on it.)

Speaking of television, I spend a lot of time on the computer outside of work, too. I would argue that I spend an average of 10 hours a week on this thing. This translates into 520 hours of computer time a year, and 1,018 total lifetime days spent looking up useless trivia and Googling my own name. I don't plan on giving this up, and my death clock is now ticking down to 3762 days.

I like the blueberry ones the best, but I don't like blueberries on their own. Interesting.

When I get home from work, I can't just sit on my ass and drink Wobblers until the Missus comes home. I have to balance my checkbook, change the cats' crap-boxes, make the bed, things like that. I would figure that on any given day, I spend at least 2 hours doing things that I really don't want to do. We all spend many hours doing things that we'd rather not be doing, but have to. This translates out to 728 hours a year, and a lifetime total of 1,426 days spent doing things that we hate. It's truly unfair, and it makes my amount of usable days tick down to 2336.

How's my math? I've been checking and double checking, but I keep thinking that something's wrong. Turns out that my math is correct, It's just not very pleasing. Don't doubt me, I have a calculator and I passed Algebra II with a D-minus.

So, what am I missing? Plenty! I don't know if you're like me, but I have a car and I live in Madison. I spend more time behind the wheel of a car in a day than most people do all week. It's sort of like the slogan for the Marines, only for driving. There's no doubt that I spend at least 10 hours a week driving around. It's an average, and it's conservative. Throw in a few trips back home, and one week will more than make up for a quiet week spent locked up in the apartment. That's another 1,018 damn days behind the damn wheel of my damn car, and I'm down to 1318 days.

So, what are we left with? According to my calculations, by subtracting just the bare minimum of normal things that I do on a daily basis, I'm left with a little over 1,300 days in my life which I can use however I like. I didn't consider health problems, I certainly didn't consider having children, I didn't consider anything that wasn't certain. Best case scenario, I have maybe 3 years left in my life that are currently unclaimed. These bits and scraps of totally free time will be handed to me in 30-second chunks sporadically over the next 47 years.

Woah. What am I going to do with them?

Well, for starters, I'll analyze it until it's gone. I'm doing that right now, and it keeps me happy. Secondly, I'll do a lot of general worrying and venting about everything. Life is interesting, and I'll never stop finding faults with it. Everyone does it, and you know it.

If you're younger than me, you probably have more free time. If you're older than me, well...sorry I brought this up.

Have a muffin.

Sunday, September 3

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #26.

CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #26.
"The Long And Winding Road."
(Originally published 03-28-06.)

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The boat almost left without us, and you know I can't swim.

I had heard from my mom that American English, the world's greatest Beatles tribute band, were playing at a resort in Mishicot, about 150 miles north of Madison. Some of my family members had seen them a few months back and gave them glowing reviews, so we wanted in on the action. Besides, we desperately needed something to do over the weekend. Anything to get us out of the house and into the unseasonably warm weather we were having.

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Opting to forget about the show until the last possible minute, we reserved one of the last rooms (2 queen beds? perfect!) and snagged a pair of the last 'A' Section tickets, speeding out of the city at about 2pm on Saturday afternoon.

The drive to Mishicot was beautiful, as is most any road trip through Wisconsin. The resort was on the right side of lake Winnebago near lake Michigan, a place that I've seldom been in my 24 years as a Wisconsin resident. The only time I remember being over there was when I was about 6 years old. I went there with my parents to watch a friend of my dad race in a stock-car tournament. A blinding downpour cancelled the event and my family's 1983 Buick Skyhawk literally burst into flames on the highway. As presumably toxic black smoke billowed through the air vents and into our lungs, my dad had to hitchhike back to town to find someone to help us out. We vowed as a family never to return, and that promise still stands 18 years later.

We had never been to this particular resort before, so when the webpage started talking about The S.S. Fox Valley and a Magical Mystery Cruise and lido decks and port bows and whatnot, we assumed that at least some of the entertainment would be taking place on a boat or cruise ship.

Nope, not even close. How silly of us.

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In reality, the Fox Hills Resort had just decorated the place to look like a cruise ship, and no agonizing detail was spared. Every employee was wearing Love Boat-style uniforms, people kept saying 'welcome aboard!' to us, and there were Hawaiian leis everywhere. I helped myself to a handful and showed myself to my room, trying very hard not to 'salute' any of the poor costumed people forced into this charade. I was secretly glad that I wasn't really on a ship, because I'm afraid of the water and would somehow find a way to tumble overboard. It always happens.

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Despite being built in the 60's or 70's, the resort was actually pretty cool. The staff was great, the rooms were nice and the floorplan was unlike any hotel I've ever stayed at before. Long and skinny, it really did look like a cruise ship. Stairways went to nowhere. Hallways would end without prior warning. It was like the Winchester Mansion, but more claustrophobic and less ghosts.

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Also, there was gambling (yay!) for charity (boo!). There was also wireless internet, so I made sure to bring my laptop for no reason whatsoever, other than to appear cultured in the lobby that was covered in life preservers and tiki torches. The walls between rooms were thinner than the ones in my apartment; and with all the alcohol and foolish hats I was seeing the guests carry around with them, I was mentally preparing myself for a long night of sleeping in the car.

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After we unloaded, we got ready for the 4:30-6pm pre-party at the pool (they called it the lido deck or veranda or something). Basically, for those of us who purchased the Titanium-Clad package deal for the night, we got to go to this 90 minute, all inclusive, 'all you can eat/get as drunk as you possibly can for free' gathering before the show.

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When we walked into the pool area, all the employees were standing in a line, decked out in their best sea captain outfits, each sporting copious amounts of liquor and cheeses.

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I shed a single tear, told them where I would be sitting, and kindly asked them to check on me every 45 seconds until I was asleep or floating face-down in the pool.

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Not being used to this sort of thing, me and the Missus sort of felt bad to have these people handing us free stuff over and over again. Once we realized that we did, in fact, pay for this in advance, we made a vow to rob them blind. It was nothing but Rum Punch and tortilla roll-ups for the duration. We made a point not to speak to each other, because that would waste valuable time spent eating and drinking. There would be plenty of time for chit-chat before the concert.

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I was stumbling around well before 6pm. Each trip back to the bar got me closer and closer to realizing my dream of seeing someone fall in the pool, although the person in question would have been me. When it was all over and they filed us drunks out, I called my mom for some reason. I wanted her and my sister to show up, as I knew they really wanted to see the show and only lived a half hour away. I even told them I'd pay for the tickets, and they could share our 2 queen bed room if they wanted to stay the night (read:I'll pay for everything). They politely declined, told me to drink some coffee and hung up.

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There were still a couple hours before the concert, so we shot some pool in the game room, which had themselves a genuine Dig-Dig machine.

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I tried to steal it, but it was bolted to the ground for some stupid reason. Still not fully satisfied with being well-fed and drunk on the hotel's dime, the Missus ordered a pizza and I hit the bar. The guy delivering the pizza was exceedingly late, so we only had about five minutes to mow it down before the doors opened for the show.

I should mention that this resort was chock-full of middle-aged resort folk, Beatles fans, alcoholics and barflies. It was like a packed college dorm with 40-50 somethings instead of complete dumbasses and horribly-tanned waifs. I couldn't even stumble through the halls in peace without some English teacher or small engine mechanic grabbing at me and screaming 'WHOOO!' for some reason. Empty bottles were everywhere, the 50's music was inescapable and I couldn't stop laughing. It was like spring break for married couples and lonely divorcees.

The ballroom where the concert was being held was a nice enough place. There were tables reserved for us supercool A-Section folk, and a dancefloor for those who couldn't seem to get their appreciation across by merely clapping. Our seats were great, although I didn't get many good photos. The lighting showed up very poorly on the camera, and my hands were less than steady.

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(Photo of actual American English show.)

In short, American English was perfect. Spot on. Note-for-note amazing. They looked, talked, sounded, played and bantered exactly like the Beatles. Their harmonies and attention to detail were surreal; along with their period costume changes to represent the eras and songs of the Fab 4. The PA wasn't the greatest, so when they put in too much gain or all sang at once, the faint pops and hisses sounded just like vinyl. I can't say enough good things about these guys; they are professionals all the way. They knew how to handle drunks getting on stage without dropping their accents or losing their charm. George sounded like George, John sounded like John, Paul played bass left-handed. From where I was sitting, their mannerisms and playing style looked uncannily like I was seeing the real deal.

They played for three hours, and the dance floor consistently had about 100 people on it at all times.

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(Photo of actual American English show.)

I hadn't heard a lot of the songs they played for quite some time, which gave me the chance to enjoy their music in a new light and mindset. Look, if you honestly don't like (or at the very least, respect) the Beatles, you probably don't like music, or shouldn't. Any and every American and English band for the last 45 years has been inspired by their work, period. If it's been a while since you've listened to Sgt. Pepper's or The White Album, I suggest you do so sometime this week.

Watching all these middle-aged folks dance, sway and make fools of themselves moved me. At first, I was annoyed. After all, I didn't pay to watch them stand on chairs and scream 'Ringo!' over and over. Then it started to make sense to me. This is how normal people have fun, and I had to respect that, even if it didn't agree with me. I looked around and saw a lot of people doing a lot of different things, wearing ugly clothes and drinking ugly beer, but everyone was happy. If I wanted to sulk and piss my night away, I certainly could have (I've done it many times before), but a lot of things made sense to me at that point. Beatles music and, to a far greater extent, alcohol, are the great uniters, and for three hours it mattered not what you were on the other side of the ballroom door. That's neat to me.

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When the show was over, hundreds of people spilled out into all corners of the S.S. Fox Valley, even louder and stumbly-er than before. On my way to the vending machine for some water, I went past the pool and again remembered why it's not such a bad thing that I can't swim. Booze + hot tubs + dozens of middle-aged people = the most bizarre game of grab ass ever played. I'm still not entirely certain that this place wasn't a front for a swingers club.

Judging by all the open doors, along with how many people kept stopping me to talk in the halls, I might be right. I was nice to the first few people who accosted me, but eventually I just clutched the ends of my blazer in fear and made a beeline for my room. Perhaps it was because of how dead-ass sexy I looked that night (see top photo). I got to bed around 3am.

We woke up around 9 on Sunday morning and checked out before 11. Not needing to head home so soon, we decided to spend the afternoon in Kohler, a small village a few miles south of Mishicot.

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Kohler is a weird place. It was built by rich white people, lives by a doctrine of perfection they call 'The Master Plan,' and the median income is in the six-figures. The U.S. Open is regularly held on one of their many golf courses, and every house comes equipped with an extra-high gate. Our kind was not welcome here, which is why we went. Kohler is also home to the Kohler company, manufacturer of fine home fixtures and designs. There's a good chance that your house has a Kohler sink or toilet.

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Oooh, the water's coming out of the mirror!

We wanted to tour the company, but we needed to eat first. All the country clubs looked rather intimidating, so we stopped at a gas station to ask where all the eateries were. "There are no restaurants in Kohler," sniffed the clerk. She was serious; there aren't any places to eat in Kohler. Period. This place reminded me up and down of The Truman Show; I was waiting at any moment for a stage light to fall out of the sky. We had to actually drive to the next city over just to find a place to eat. Worse still, it was an Applebee's. I'd rather eat drywall; but we compromised.

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They take their toilets pretty seriously here. Same goes for their showers, which are fully capable of stripping the flesh from your bones, should you choose that particular setting.

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At this point, I want you to know that I think it's funny what my life has amounted to. When I was a kid, I would have absolutely despised a day trip such as this. Nowadays, it doesn't seem the least bit strange to ask the Missus if she wants to go and see the 2006 line of bidets.

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Maybe I'm getting older. Maybe I'm an idiot; I don't know. It's probably the company I keep. Frankly, I could go to a kick-me-in-the-balls-with-a-steel-toe-boot convention and have a good time as long as the Missus is around.

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For such a deep tub, it wasn't nearly long enough to accompany my massive 5'9" frame. And what day out would be complete without me trying to hit on a woman made of plastic?

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The streak continues. After our tour through Poop Towne, we made it back home before prime time.