Tuesday, January 26, 2010


So this one time, I was on a greyhound bus.

How I got on the greyhound is kind of a long story involving a sick son back home in Minnesota, a wedding of our close friends in Des Moines, and a whole lot of factors that put the "ex" into my ex-wife.

But I digress.

So I'm on the greyhound from Des Moines to Minneapolis. If I had been in my car, which was taken back to Minnesota by my now ex-wife, the trip would have been between three to four hours.

On a greyhound? A lifetime.

As I boarded the bus, I began to feel like I was in a scene out of Mad Max. The other passengers were dressed strangely, had crazy haircuts, and I was quite sure that for the first time in my life I was the most sane person in a 30-yard radius.

One man, sitting in the aisle across from me, caught me looking at him and gave me the stink eye back in return. He was covered with tattoos and piercings, and looked as if he probably had killed men twice my size who were twice as fast and twice as smart as me.

Do you know how many stops a greyhound makes between Des Moines and Minneapolis? I do. And if I described them all, the interwebz would explode from too much data.

But on the "mid-way stop" in Mason City, we were given a reprieve to leave behind the dark, stenchy bus quarters for a 20 minute breath of fresh airport, um, air.

As I made my way toward a designated smoking area to light up a Marlboro light, I was drawn to another passenger who looked as if, like me, he was trapped in an alternate universe.

"Hey there. Fun trip, huh?" I asked him in my genuine Iowa boy friendly banter voice. "Yeah, this is definitely different," he replied. He was wearing nice dress slacks, loafers, and a Hawaiian shirt. His head of short red hair was hidden partially by a golf visor. He essentially looked like any other business man you might see at the last day of a trade show in Pensacola ("Hey Stew, it's the last day of the show, let's not wear the company polo shirt, and instead let's be crazy and wear our Hawaiian shirts!").

As he pulled out a second cigarette during our short break, he asked me if I had a light as he just used his last match.

Thinking to myself that maybe I just found someone who could sit next to me the rest of the way and make the trip less painful, I gladly reached into my jeans pocket for my lighter, reaching out toward his hand with it.

As my hand got within a few inches of his outreached palm, he suddenly and swiftly swiped his palm away, and in ninja-like fashion slapped my hand hard enough to make the lighter fall out of my hand and onto the ground between us.

"NO YELLOW LIGHTERS!" he yelled.

"Huh?" I asked, still stunned.


I turned around to the person standing to my right. And there I saw tattoo and piercing guy, looking at me as he made the universal sign for "he's crazy" while pointing toward my new yellow-lighter fearing BFF.


I thought for a minute about explaining that I did indeed buy the yellow lighter in a store, and not in some back alley in Clive. Then I realized there was really only one lesson to be learned from all of this.

Never take the bus. Never.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Tongue Ring Girl Date

Alas, I will never top the Hickey Girl date. It's simply "unpossible."

But there was one other epic date I had a few summers ago that runs a distant second.

Tongue Ring Girl, aka TRG. A woman from a town two hours north of the cities. We had emailed some, and then talked on the phone once before our first planned date.

I had never dated anyone with a tongue ring before, and wasn't really sure what to think of it. I'll admit to being mildly curious.

At first I didn't really notice the impact of her tongue ring on her speech, in the form of a slight lisp. But that was more to do with the fact she smoked two packs of unfiltered Camels per day.

Think of Marge Simpson's sisters' voices, combined with James Earl Jones, and add in a little Sylvester the Cat, and that's pretty much what TRG sounded like.

And she liberally sprinkled her favorite word, f***, into her conversation.

Think of a raspy, deep voice (and not in a sexy Demi Moore kind of way, more like something you'd expect out of a guy with no sleeves named Bubba).

"I effin' think we thould go to the effin' Twinth game for our date. I effin' love the Twins. And Joe effin' Mauer. I would love to eff him." Sideburn envy anyone?

We met in front of my townhouse, and then I drove us downtown for the Twins game. First we stopped off at a downtown hotel bar for some appetizers and drinks.

*Deep TRG Bubba Voice* "I effin' think I'm hungry for an effin' cheetheburger. Eff that thoundth good."

I was starting to wish the Twins played in their new stadium, as there was a light rain falling outside, and it might mean the date would have to be called off for a rainout.

*Deep TRG Bubba Voice* "Tho are you effin' comfortable with firearmth?"

Oh shit. This will not end well.

I stammer a lame response - "Um, well I guess if by that you mean them not being around me, yes."

*Deep TRG Bubba Voice* "Oh I don't have it with me now, I couldn't get it into the dome. I jutht mean if you ever come over to vithit me overnight. I keep it in my bedroom."

How much would it take to puncture the roof of the Metrodome? Hypothetically speaking.

*Deep TRG Bubba Voice* "Don't worry though honey, I keep it locked up there tho my kids don't effin' find it. That and my effin' mini-fridge of liquor. Eff yeah."

Finally we make our way to the dome, and I'm beginning to think of what I could do to leave suddenly. Sudden death in the family? Genital warts flare up? Forgot to feed my cat?

After an uneventful game where the Twins won 4 to 1 and she outdrank me in beers 8 to 2, we made our way back for the drop-off at her car in front of my townhouse.

*Deep TRG Bubba Voice* "Tho I was effin' thinking, you know, my job ath an effin' nurthe ith pretty tranthferable."

While wondering whether to fake a seizure or a heart attack, I ask in a soft, scared tone, "What do you mean?"

*Deep TRG Bubba Voice* "Well I could eathily move down to the effin' thities and get a new effin' job."

Eff this effin' shit, I'm thinking to myself.

Quickly, I have one of the most genius ideas in my entire dating career. I grabbed at my pocket. "Oh, I'm effin' vibrating," I said out loud, while grabbing my cell phone out of my pocket. "Oh no. I better go. It'th my effin' exth-wife. Thith might effin' take awhile."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hawkeye by the Grace of God

Being a Hawkeye fan, sadly or not, is a big piece of the fabric that's woven into my life.

Anyone who meets me knows soon thereafter that I go a little bat shit crazy for my Hawkeyes. I mean, I have a son named Nile, for God's sake.

But believe it or not, my identification with Hawkeye football is not related solely to their wins and losses.

See I am a B.F. Hawkeye Fan. (Before Fry, as in Hayden). I used to trudge to elementary school wearing a Hawkeye t-shirt, only to be greeted by laughs from the kids wearing Nebraska and Iowa State (yeah, that's how bad it was) shirts.

I remember many a Saturday as a kid, as I'd be playing outside in the piles of leaves my dad had just raked. He of course did his raking while listening to Jim Zabel on WHO 1040 either on a headset or with the stereo speakers blaring out the window. And loss after loss, and they were constant, my dad would always say "Well, they tried hard. Wait'll next week." Or "Wait until we play them next year."

So I had it instilled in me at an early age that you don't give up on your team, and you don't talk bad about them, even when they flat out suck. Ever. It's just how we rolled.

Outside of that aspect, the wins and losses aren't the main focus for me because so much of the game culture on a Saturday afternoon in the crisp fall air of Iowa City is so perfect.

The smell of beer-soaked brats slowly sizzling, waiting for you to smother them in mustard and sauerkraut.

The sound of the marching band in the distance, the drums rat-a-tat-tating in anticipation of the upcoming pre-game show.

Enjoying good food and cheer with quality people. There is something about people from Iowa. I've met people from all corners of the world in my nearly 40 years, but there's no group of people I'd rather spend time with than a group of Iowans gathered to cheer on the Hawks.

The people of Iowa are hard working, humble and dryly hilarious.

We tend to get embarrassed when someone compliments us in public. We don't typically care much how much we paid for our blue jeans, or if they were designer label. We generally prefer a simple life.

That is why Kirk Ferentz, the current head football coach, has been so successful at Iowa, in my opinion. Unlike Fry, who could tell tall tales and puff out his chest with the best of them, Ferentz is very mild-mannered. He's Clark Kent sans glasses, and with chewing gum.

And while Fry's gregarious ways were just what Iowa football needed during his era, Ferentz's lower key, hard-work approach has been just what the program has needed today.

Work hard. Stay focused. Don't talk shit. Remember to be humble. And courteous.

So for those out there who don't understand why I spend so much of my energy on a silly football team, perhaps this gives you some insight into what makes it so compelling to me.

In a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the performance of 18-22 year old kids on a synthetic grass rectangle help me re-connect to my roots, and remember the lessons I learned growing up. Work Hard. Stay focused. Don't talk shit. Remember to be humble. And courteous.

I'm proud of Iowa's big win in the Orange Bowl a few weeks ago. Without a doubt it was the biggest bowl victory that Iowa has had in my lifetime. But I'm not just proud because of the win. I'm proud of Ferentz, and the players, and how they went about winning. And how they carry themselves.

And I'm proud to be a Hawkeye.

I'm an Iowan by birth, but I'm a Hawkeye by the grace of God.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year doesn't get you New Results

I have always found it interesting how much we, as humans, obsess over our New Year.

I'm guilty of it as well.

"Last year sure did suck, so this next year HAS to get better."

Does it? Not really.

The world we wake up to this morning, the first of 2010, is the same world we said goodbye to at the stroke of midnight last night.

The economy still sucks. We still have two wars going on in faraway lands. We've still got enemies of our country who are hell-bent on destroying us. And your day-to-day problems and my day-to-day problems have not magically disappeared. We didn't suddenly get a raise overnight. Or a job. Or our self-esteem.

Before you decide that I'm the most cynical person you know, let me say that one thing we do have this morning, metaphorically at least, is a fresh blanket of snow.

The paths we took, both good and bad, over the last year are covered. Still visible, but barely. Visible enough that it is easy for us to take those same paths again this year. Hidden enough that if we choose to go another route, the former ones will fade into the snowy landscape, becoming distant memories.

Now is where we come in. Do we repeat our paths of the past? If we do, we must remember Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

If we are smart, we'll remember the results of our last trip down the path. And we'll take risks, even if they mean failure in the short term, by taking a new path.

So get ready to explore in 2010, if you wish new and different results. Take a different path.

Happy New Year, my friends, and happy new path making.