Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Guy Thing

A cup of dark roast with my son’s best man in a coffee shop on Douglas Avenue in downtown Wichita.

When I look out the window and squint, I can see a generation into the past.
 
I see myself and my best friend, for whom I was best man. Both named Mike, we’re all feathered hair and platform heels, standing next to my '71 MGB ragtop that just lost its drive shaft. 

We met amid the T-squares and triangles in Drafting class as sophomores at Wichita Heights High.

We’ve drifted apart for no better reason than we let it happen.

In Drafting class, we designed houses. Mine, a Brady Bunch-esque split-level rancher with two fireplaces, wet bar and a laundry chute. His, this ahead-if-its-time, post-modern monstrosity with curved walls and a batcave-inspired hidden garage.

He played French horn and dreamed of electric guitar rock star glory. I was a wannabe drummer toiling on treble clef baritone. Mike got me a job at Angelo’s Italian restaurant. I got him one at Mr. D’s IGA supermarket.

Mike turned me on to Steely Dan, fast cars and other assorted vices. I returned the favor with the Alan Parsons Project and Olympia beer.
 
We had an unspoken reciprocal car tricking-out arrangement. Most things with best friends are unspoken. At least when youre guys. Especially young guys.

The back seats and trunk firewall of his ’65 Barracuda fastback folded down, leaving room for a guy and his girl to, uh... 
 
The very same day we upholstered the ‘Cuda with blue shag carpeting, I spilled a chocolate milkshake on the passenger side.

“Woops,” I laughed.
 
“Woops my ass.”

He helped me replace the u-joint in my MGB. A couple weeks later while dragging Douglas, the drive shaft just dropped.  

Clunk.

Milkshake payback? Nah. Our car repair prowess just plateaued with shag installation. Shoulda known better. Our industrial art was Drafting, not Auto Mechanics shop.
 
Mike forgave me for the spilled milkshake and for stealing his girlfriend and actually helped me clean up both messes.

He had a helluva back story. When he was a little kid, his father just up and disappeared, never to be heard from again. He owned a coin shop in downtown Wichita where he trafficked in rare coins, mystery and intrigue. Mike and I had our own theory about his old man.
  
20th century young men coming of age. Bob Seger labeled us young and restless and bored.

No wonder we were best friends. We had the same worldview and confidence in our abilities. Tomorrow didn’t matter. One summer, we hitchhiked around Colorado. Another time, on a whim, we borrowed some motorcycles and rode to Kansas City.

Neither of our first marriages took. He ended up in Colorado. I stayed in Kansas.

Mike and I drifted apart at about the same point in life where my son and his best man are now. Today, one of them is in Colorado, one in Kansas. 

What goes around, comes around.  

I was Mike’s best man. We helped shape each other. The only thing preventing a reconnection is false pride. A guy thing.

In the coffee shop on Douglas, I encouraged my son’s best man not to let him drift away. Then I conveyed the same message to my son.  

The sins of the father need not be visited.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Crisis Averted

AN ACTUAL CONVERSATION (at Dad’s hospital bedside while fixin’ to write a progress email to loved ones.) My father: “That won't go out as you're actually typing it, will it? Don't you have to hit ‘send?’” Mike: “That's right, Pop.” My father: “Okay, good. If you need me to explain anything along the way, I can.” 

I knew the moment my father sought to micro-manage his hospital experience news that today’s earlier medical emergency is now just a fading bad memory. 

Crisis averted.

It started after he tried to get up to do physical therapy. A killer headache hit and he commenced “upchucking” (James E.'s word.) Then Pop experienced severe, debilitating pain all throughout his body. I got all this second hand over the phone from his charming bride before I got in the car and drove from MHK to Wichita.

Word is all this was simply his body exhibiting stress as a result of the surgery. Three things at play here: 

1. Turns out spinal surgery's pretty invasive.
2. Pop’s closing in on 82.
3. He suffers from some pre-existing conditions (Sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes.)


The Wednesday afternoon surgery replaced an existing steel rod in his backbone with a longer steel rod. The operation was prescribed after a round of cortisone shots over the last few months proved increasingly ineffective to combat constant pain he was experiencing in his right thigh. 

Today, an early fear of infection or spinal fluid leakage was ruled out when the headache abated after Pop lied back down (laid back down?) Clearly, any physical therapy will be postponed until the medical pros are certain all these post-op woes are stabilized.

All things considered, Pop says he's felt pretty good since awakening at 3:00 p.m. He had a coupla cups o’ banana pudding since and the pudding remains thankfully un-upchucked.

Shortly after I arrived at the hospital this evening, Pop’s charming bride departed to fetch him some chow (he’s not too keen on the hospital food.) He requested a chocolate milkshake and chicken strips from one of his fave restaurants here in Doodah.

His charming bride said, noop, chicken noodle soup and a milkshake from DQ for you, Ace.

So there.

Tallying them up the other day while awaiting this one, we landed on about a dozen operations in the last 20 years or so. Both knees replaced, a hip replacement, a heart bypass and assorted other invasive bodily adjustments.

One of the clear, overwhelming challenges of approaching the precipice of middle age is coming to grips with the mortality of one’s parents. Pop and I have had the conversation about the end many times. He’s so much closer to it than the beginning. Or even the middle.

I think he’s as prepared as one can be. I do worry about his charming bride, though. Them finding each other after each suffered a failed marriage was God’s work. She’s still at the hospital where she’ll likely spend the night at his side for the second consecutive night.

We should all be so fortunate.    

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Template

Please listen to this music Antiphon: Immutemur (Latin for ‘change’) while reading this post. 

Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan, because what are the chances I’ll ever be in midtown Manhattan again on an Ash Wednesday?

The act echoes the ancient tradition of throwing ashes over one’s head to signify repentance before God. Kneeling within the neo-gothic architecture. ‘Neo’ echoing the concept of new or revived form of.

Sort of apropos for the kid.

‘Revived form of’ embedded with the implication that something was there all along, went away for awhile and is now returning.

I try not to let religion get in the way of spirituality. I look at the big picture. The inverted pyramid of why we’re here.

My Lent begins in the Big Apple. The season of preparation, 40 days of moderation and spiritual discipline. Prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial. It will end back home in the Little Apple (unless the plane goes down.)

Self-denial is a real female dog for me. Before easing onto the glidepath to the precipice, my m.o. tended toward pride and arrogance, rooted in a lack of sensibility and ignorance, disguised as confidence. The young upwardly mobile professional, the one with all the answers.

Mike’s will. Not God’s will.

Like me, it's undergoing renovation.
There are steps I can take. There are rituals I can observe. There are songs I can sing, dogmas to be bought into. The template is as old as the universe and comes to life during mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. But all of it is ancillary to what lies within. I just need to be smart enough to use the friggin’ template.

There’ll be no meat for this carnivore for the next few Fridays. Not because it in itself is worthy of virtue, but because it helps in the pursuit of spiritual health and well-being.

In my lifetime I have proven to myself that I cannot think my way into new acting but I can, in fact, act my way into new thinking. And not “acting” in the Marlon Brando sense. More like acting in the Jesus Christ sense. An opportunity to apply some discipline where the default position is anything but.  

The template provides the discipline.

The notion of repentance, this making right past wrongs, the making of amends, it’s right there in the template. (Subsection IV, Line 53.) I seek nothing but the chance to live my life in happiness. Serenity and peace of mind.

Ascetiscm as a tool for personal and spiritual discipline. For Lent, I will effort to “give up” intangibles, like complacency, breaking promises – and one tangible, Facebook. There’s a certain level of trumpet-blowing wrapped up there that troubles me.

The post pimping this blog entry will be my last until Maundy Thursday. I’ll still blog (feel free to join this page, btw.) For the next 40 days, I’ll plow the time I otherwise would have spent on Facebook into serving my wife and son, helping others, giving some alms, running, reading a book.

Things I oughta be doing all the time, anyway.

As I walk north on 5th Avenue toward my hotel on Central Park, with a cross of ashes on my forehead, I find myself grateful for belief, for the template and for the shot at redemption.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Deftness and Alacrity

The nurse gives me the valium and says I can sit or lay down, my choice. Since I’ll need to be laying down for the procedure, I choose efficiency.

The clock on the wall reads 8:30 a.m. The procedure’s set for 9:30. I know my own system. It will not kick in in time.

My prostate-specific antigen levels have been trending slightly north for about a year. The family doc assures me, “85 percent of the guys who reach this point in the process are cancer-free.”

‘This point in the process’ is a prostate biopsy. The retrieving of tissue samples from within the prostate employing a state-of-the-art medical device my family doc lovingly refers to as the “silver stallion.” 

There's a glint in his eye and hes smiling.

Say no more. Please.

At ‘this point in the process,’ I am on my side in a urologist’s clinic, doing my best to maintain dignity, self-respect and a modicum of modesty, waiting desperately for the happy pill to make me happy.

The biggest challenge is logistical. Finding a date when Jackie can accompany me. Because of the valium, they won’t let me drive myself. And since they only fire up the silver stallion on Thursday mornings and Tuesday afternoons, logistics are no small task.

She drops me off, heads across town to give a speech and will swing back to pick me up. I encourage her to work it into her lead.

“Speaking of falling market shares, at this very moment, my husband is across town...”

I’ve been blessed. Broke my arm in 7th grade, tonsils removed in the 8th grade. All my life I have been blissfully, if not disgustingly bullet-proof.

Genuflect when you say that, pardner.

The approach of the precipice brings new system gates of early detection to clear. At 50, my first colonoscopy. While swimming back up to the surface of lucidity (lucidness?) after that one, Jackie said I was singing ABBA songs...  

“Can you hear the drums, Fernando..?”

I’ll spare you the sordid details of the biopsy procedure. 

Well, OK, just one sordid detail. At the apex of the goings-on, the urologist is wielding the
silver stallion with all the deftness and alacrity his professional experience has afforded. It comes equipped with tissue-retrieving needles, inserted one at a time in various and assorted strategic points throughout the walnut-sized prostate structure.

“It’s gonna sound like rubber bands snapping,” I hear his voice behind me.

“Mm-kay,” I grunted weakly.

I lost track after about a half-dozen snaps. The valium was finally washing through me.

The urologist’s nurse puts her hand gently on my shoulder, leans down in my face and whispers, “You wouldn’t do very well in prison.

Tru dat.

I’m in the 85 percent. Cancer-free. The urologist chalks up the elevated PSA levels to some slight inflammations within the prostate. 

I feel no pain as they steer me to the waiting room. Jackie arrives to peel me off the ceiling. When we get home, I apparently make directly for the office. My wife finds me perched upright on the couch/futon, pondering my metaphysical existence and the meaning of life.

“Hey, didjoo notice the walls in here are like... forest green?”

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Animal Science and Other Lessons

Oh joy! Rapture! I've got a brain! 
                          --The Scarecrow (The Wizard of Oz, 1939) 

She started in 1998 and successfully defended it last month. I don’t need a freshly diploma’d scarecrow to do the math. A 15-year paper chase. 

The motivation can be traced to her Crawford County childhood. Milking cows and tending sheep in the pre-dawn crispness with her father. Inculcating as her mother balanced career and family.

My wife earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Animal Science from Kansas State University. A Multi-Disciplinary Policy Approach to Food and Agriculture Biosecurity and Defense (Jackie’s caps.) 

567 pages of whaddaya gonna do with all the dead cows when the terrorists figure out how to infiltrate mad cow disease into the beef supply? There’s some scintillating dinner table conversation.

My answer was about 566 and 7/8 pages shorter: 

Dig a hole.

What else can I help you with, dear? 

In the circles in which she ran when the endeavor was launched, earning the PhD came with the territory. My argument then: In the scheme of things, what difference does it make if you have one more degree? Will it alter your innate passion, talent and skill for helping young people find their way?

In retrospect, that opinion amounted to little more than a short-sighted rage against the machine.  

In a previous career of my own, I was involved in a handful of tabletop exercises on this general subject matter of ‘what’re we gonna do when the cows go mad?’ I had just exactly enough experience to come away convinced that when and if it happens, it’s gonna be a gold-plated Charlie Foxtrot (please consult your urban dictionary.) 

It may well be. But even Charlie Foxtrots can be managed. The flying monkeys can be brought back to Earth. The first place those in power-wielding and button-pushing positions will turn – is the latest research.

Yo. We got 567 pages o’ that action. Right here in this purple thumb drive, my friend.
 
15 years later, she caught up with the paper.
It’s the same premise behind the Biosecurity Research Institute at K-State and soon, the adjacent National Bio and Agro-defense Facility here in MHK.

By God, somebody better be out there protecting my cheeseburgers.

Turns out I’m married to one.

If you were to chart it, Jackie’s PhD work’d look like an upside down bell curve. Lotta work at the beginning and end with fits and starts in the middle.

When the line began trending down, I learned (the hard way) not to seek dissertation status updates. I listened intently when the topic came up over dinner with friends and family.     

There are valuable lessons to be gleaned in a 15-year ebb and flow of PhD pursuit while parallel tracking career and family obligations/aspirations. There were times when she pondered chucking it. Surrender, Dorothy. But that’d mean walking away from all the time and emotion invested so far.

That was never really a viable option.

Jack McClaskey’s early morning chores were infused with so much more than the care and feeding of farm animals. Barbara Jean McClaskey managed a nursing department at Pitt State while raising six kids.

Oh joy. Rapture. Jackie has a brain, a heart, courage and a home.

And I don’t need a house dropped on me to see how she came by them.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blind Faith

Most people rarely venture this far off the beaten path in the Flint Hills. That explains the trailer house meth lab I passed on the way. It’s March 2004. NPR’s coverage of the Madrid subway bombings. The deeper I travel into Wabaunsee County, the worse the carnage from Spain.

I’m looking for an Australian Shepherd puppy and was put on to these people by a friend of a friend. We have one Aussie at home, Fido, a black tri. My wife, who knows these things, says Fido needs a running mate. Shes mentioned a red tri.
  
My destination is in a hollow near Munkres Creek. The pups yip and yap at my approach. Mama’s the only other dog around. It’s not as bad as the puppy mills I witnessed as a reporter. How’s that for setting the bar low? To describe the house as ‘dilapidated’ is generous.

Clueless, I ask the woman who emerges if any of these critters is a red tri.

“Sure.” 

Can I pay you extra to take care of her until I come back on my wife’s birthday?
  
“Sold.”

Caveat emptor.
  
I return in May with Jackie. She takes in the surroundings and silently questions her husband’s judgment. The puppy trembles allaway home. We name her Rover. To go with Fido. (We dig clich√©s.)

Rovie’s afraid and spends the first few nights outside, under the deck in a corner. It will take all summer to housebreak her. Six months before she attaches to Jackie. I feed her twice each day but it will be years before she befriends me.

Like her father before her, my wife is a dog whisperer. She eventually sorts it all out: Rovie’s first four months were spent in a cage. During what I was to learn is a very finite puppy-people bonding window, she had little, if any, human contact.

Window closed. Damage done.
  
And she’s a red merle, not a red tri.
  
All that’s on me. 

Today’s Rovie’s 10th birthday. She’s still skittish, standoffish and allergic. Over the decade she’s warmed up to only a handful of people. But she’s ours and we owe her our best.

Last summer Rovie lost nearly 20 pounds. She takes her twice-daily insulin injections without complaint.

She runs into furniture and walls. Cataracts and glaucoma are natural consequences of diabetes. Our poor pup has lost her sight and it breaks our hearts. I’ve become my dog’s Seeing Eye person. 

Rovie no longer likes to go for walks. Without sight, she’s just too scared. Independent of each other, Jackie and I begin the mental and emotional ‘quality of life’ gymnastics. 

Then our vet tells us of a new study at the K-State Vet School involving diabetic dogs with vision issues. Rovie’s enrolled in the study and in line for cataract surgery next month.

Ten years after being liberated from the heartless prairiebilly, this man's best friend seems more content than ever. She knows the boundaries of her comfort zone. When I give her drops in each eyeball four times a day, she licks my hand.
  
All this has to be more than just coincidence, right? Can all Gods creatures overcome wrongs inflicted early in life?

Put me down as a yes.

A window that was closed is opening.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lower Volume

“Can’t you see there’ll come a day when it won’t matter?”
                                               --Boston, Peace of Mind (1977)  

I suppose I should be flattered. 

In today’s mail, within an embossed silver envelope, an “exclusive invitation” to join the Manhattan Country Club.

It arrived about five years too late.

A polite decline awaits.

There are a host of practical reasons: I don’t play enough golf to make it worth my while, I don’t play any tennis, my days of cannonballing into the deep end are behind me, I don’t drink and I haven’t been a Republican since the turn of the millennium.

(A proud member of the fastest growing American voting bloc demographic – unaffiliated.)

The last time I played golf on anything resembling a regular basis was the fall of ‘98, when I’d taken a leave of absence as the message guy on the Governor’s staff to perform the same function on the re-election campaign. After winning the August Primary, the General Election victory was assured, so those of us on the campaign staff honed our short game.

A sweet gig for a couple of months. Play some golf, return a few calls, knock off early. Repeat. Win re-election with 73 percent of the vote.

Boom.

Then there’s the country club perception. Here’s mine, right or wrong: Rich white guys who drive big cars, support Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush and rock the natty sweater vests on the fairways.

There was a time when that was all in the world I ever wanted.

There was a time when I’d have been all over an invitation to join the country club like white on rice. (Sudden thought: What if I prefer brown rice?) Call me a recovering Young Upwardly Mobile Professional. The first step is admitting you’re powerless over the double bogey.

As I stand at the precipice of middle age, the volume of my Earthly aspirations has been turned way down. These days it’s much less about me and more about just tryna do the next right thing.

Which brings us to another practical argument. Why join the country club if I’m not gonna lead with it? 

“Hi there. Mike Matson’s the name. Card-carrying member of the Manhattan Country Club. Damn glad to meet you. Doncha wish you had a natty sweater vest like mine?”

As American society evolves, as we collectively become less homogenized, will the underlying appeal of the country club diminish? To answer yes assumes a societal attitude shift away from elitism and status seeking.

It’d be nice, but we’ll still be flawed human beings. Less homogenized, prolly the same amount of flawed.

My personal Baloney on White Bread with Miracle Whip existence (my caps) will never morph into Thinly-Sliced Prime Rib on Sourdough with Grey Poupon.

What once consumed and defined me just doesn’t matter that much anymore.

Now that I’ve reached the point in my life where they want me in the country club, I no longer want them.  
 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anxious Dreams

The dream takes one of two forms. I’m either sitting in front of a live microphone with no copy or I’m late.

There may be some deep-seated repressed expression revealing my collective unconscious that compensates for the underdeveloped components of my waking psyche. 

Or maybe the sketti sauce I pounded down my throat last night was too spicy. 

(I’m goin’ with the sauce.)

The dreams stem from actual early career experiences. As an anchor/reporter/writer for a statewide radio news network, life was governed by the clock. The experience instilled a modus operandi within very strict time deadlines. 

The newscasts hit at exactly the bottom of every hour. 07:30:00. Not 07:30:02 or 07:30:10. Not 07:29:57.

07:30:00. Straight up. 

At its peak, the network boasted some 70-odd radio stations across Kansas. The poor schlub manning or womanning (personning?) the control board at the affiliate station in Iola or Garden or Emporia would backtime local programming so when they flipped the network switch at 07:30:00, they’d hear... 

“From the Kansas Information Network... this is Mike Matson.” If I was late, Iola’d flip that switch and...
 
...dead air.

What today we'd call an epic fail.

Timing trumped content. You had 5 minutes, exactly. No more, no less. Within the 5 minutes, a 60-second network commercial (which paid my salary) and a 30-second “local avail,” short for “availability,” for the affiliated stations to insert their own local “spot.”
 
So in addition to the noble mission of informing the masses of the goings-on relevant to their lives, dozens of local white-belted Herb Tarleks all across the Sunflower State were counting on us to feed their kids.

Repetition brought a knack to eyeball copy + “sound” and know how much it’d take to round out the 3-and-a-half minutes. I became proficient at editing, backtiming and ad libbing on the fly to stretch and fill time.

Bill Oliver reports. 

Bill Oliver has more on the story. 

Bill Oliver has more on the story from McPherson. 

Bill Oliver has more on the story and its impact on the community of McPherson. 

In McPherson, Bill Oliver has been following this story from the start and this morning filed this report. 

Started this gig in Wichita where the on-air studios were adjacent to the newsroom. About a year later, Stauffer Communications swooped in, bought the hardware and a couple of soft-tissued assets (me and a colleague) and moved us to Topeka, where our “network newsroom” was a closet, one flight of stairs and two hard lefts away from the on-air studio.
 
Co-workers in the hallways learned to move to one side at the bottom of the hour. 

COMIN’ THROUGH! 

Funny how an early career experience impacts your life. My appreciation for my home state didn’t start there, but the very nature of the work no doubt infused some value. I’m grateful the success spectrum became a bit more nuanced as the career progressed. 

But then again, that prolly has more to do with my perceptions of success.

Or maybe just my dreams.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sophomoric Hijinks. Literally.

The collar was turned up on Cleo Rucker’s overcoat as he stood shivering next to the bus. He reached into his pocket, tapped out an inch of a Pall Mall, pulled it out with his teeth, flicked one of those brand new Bic disposable lighters and inhaled the entire cigarette.

In about 30 seconds.

Those of us in the bus boarding queue dropped our jaws, widened our eyes, elbowed each other and nodded our heads his way, not wanting to point with our fingers.

“Check out C.R. He’s smoking!

I was a sophomore, third chair (out of three) treble clef baritone in the Second Band at Wichita Heights High School. Our band, all sophomores (save a handful of no-talent juniors) combined with the two-years-more-developed First Band to form what became known throughout the Midwest high school instrumental music community as the Mighty Falcon Marching Band.

C.R. came up with the moniker and made sure p.a. announcers, school district flaks and others in a position to share the good word knew it. He had a little Prof. Harold Hill in him.

As marching bands go, we were sort of a big deal. Four years earlier, our forebears marched in Richard Nixon’s first Presidential Inaugural Parade (H.R. Haldeman’s caps) in the nation’s capital and just a few hours before C.R. sucked down the Pall Mall, we had the honor of marching in the Cotton Bowl Parade.


January 1, 1973.

At 15, I was four scant months into my high school career and at the bottom of the ways of the world learning curve. The hard edges of my ignorance and naiveté were getting rubbed down, little by little, day by day.

Our band director smokes?

C.R. plied us with multiple and assorted door-to-door financial opportunities to raise the scratch to make the trip. Band candy, magazine subscriptions and these ginormous cardboard salesman’s cases filled with useless household gadgets.

“Yo lady, howdja feel about buying one o’ these hypodermic butter dispensers? Ya just stick a stick o’ butter in here and push down.”

“What if my butter’s refrigerated?

“Uh...”

We sophomores hung together, since the upperclassmen/women would not waste their precious time on the likes of us, so when Senior Steve Johnson (not his real name), second chair alto sax in the First Band chatted me up on the bus ride south from Doodah to Dallas, I thought maybe I’m not such a geek after all.

We’re talking sports and cars when he nonchalantly drops, “You’re Viki Matson’s little brother, right?”

Viki Matson – senior, first chair flute in the First Band, National Honor Society. Has this sort of entourage of acolytes who follow her around. She – and acolytes, oblivious to her kid brother.

In downtown Dallas, C.R. puts us up in the Hotel Adolphus, for years the tallest building in Texas. The elevators had these pressure sensitive buttons. We soon learned that right before you exited the elevator, if you reach back in and run your finger down the row of buttons, floors 1 through 23, they’d all light up. And the elevator would stop at every floor. With no one getting off.

Yuk, yuk, yuk.

Sophomoric hijinks. Literally.

At night, we'd congregate to play cards and smoke Kool menthols. Someone said some brewskis’d go down smoothly and then I remembered Steve Johnson was pretty proud of the fact that he’d just turned 18.

OK, Johnson, here’s the deal. Score us some brewskis and I’ll put in a good word for you with my sister. One 6-pack of Lone Star passed around 2-dozen sophomores. Not enough for a buzz, but sufficient to make Steve Johnson a legend among the class of 1975.

To kill some time in Dallas, C.R. took the Mighty Falcon Marching Band to the movies. Man of La Mancha. Peter O’Toole tilting at windmills. Sophia Loren’s endowment on the big screen before a theatre full of raging sophomore hormones.

“To love pure and chaste from afar...” 

On the trip home, I squeezed through the acolytes in the back of the bus to get next to my sister. Yanno Vik, this guy Steve Johnson’s sort of an ace. 

She looked at me as though I was from Mars, wrinkled up her nose and offered:

“Eww...”

I made my way back to Johnson and let him down easy.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Best of AN ACTUAL CONVERSATION

AN ACTUAL CONVERSATION is just that. Actual words spoken between my wife and I. Verbal cross sections... snapshots of our existence. When shared via social media, they tend to take on lives of their own and have proven somewhat popular, he said modestly. So with all the humility I can muster, here are a few faves from 2013. 

Jackie (watching me successfully program the microwave): “GOOD JOB!” 
Mike: “You say that as though you lack confidence in my microwave programming capabilities.
Jackie: (complete and utter silence.) 

(While exiting a restaurant in the rain.)
Mike: “If you wanna wait here, I'll go get the car.” 
Jackie (charging through the door): “I won't melt.” 

Mike: “Why's the TV so loud?” 
Jackie: “I’m tryna drown out your singing in the shower.” 
Mike: “Was it that loud?” 
Jackie: “Omigod yes.”
(For the record, I was belting out a rousing rendition of Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show's ‘Sylvia's Mother.’) 

Mike (bound for the kitchen during the Royals game): “Gimme a play-by-play.” 
Jackie: “He pitches the ball... he swings the bat.” 
Mike (returning to the living room): “You're no Denny Mathews.” 
Jackie: “I wasn't trying very hard.” 

Jackie: “Will you fix me a Crystal Light Fruit Punch, please?” 
Mike: “I’d be delighted.” (Drink preparation commences, during which I begin singing, for reasons unknown, the Gloria Patri, with elevated volume.) 
Jackie: “...and some Advil, too, please?” 

Jackie (while walking down the hall from the bedroom to the living room): “I just noticed you have your nameplate above the office door. How long have you had that up there?” 
Mike: “A little more than... (pause for emphasis) ... a year.”

(During a rare MM-JM same car MHK to Topeka commute.) 
Jackie (on the phone to a downtown protein shake outfit): “Hi Greg, it’s Jackie. German chocolate with coffee, be there soon.” 
Mike: “Man, you have it wired.” 
Jackie (somewhat sheepishly): “Uh... yeah.” 

Mike (eyeballing kitchen cupboard contents): “If the apocalypse hits, looks like we oughta be able to survive a coupla weeks on tomato paste.” 
Jackie: “I think I'd prefer to die.” 

Mike (entering the house after an ICT to MHK commute): “Why's it so dark in here?”
Jackie: “Two reasons. The sun's going down and you're still wearing your sunglasses.” 

Mike (entering the house after mowing the lawn): “Whaddayawannado for dinner?” 
Jackie: “I brought home Chinese, but it’s prolly all cold and nasty by now.” 
Mike: “Nothing says love like nuked moo goo.” 

Jackie (on the phone): “Are you already home?” 
Mike: “Yep. Why?” 
Jackie: “If you were still out and about I was gonna ask you to swing by the place we ate last night to see if I left my purple aviator sunglasses there.” 
Mike (after a long pause, contemplating the appropriate response): “I'll swing by and check. 

Jackie (on the offerings of a new downtown MHK restaurant): “Much of their menu is small plates.” 
Mike: “You mean like pilates?” 
Jackie: “No. The word is tapas.” 
Mike: “Then, what’re pilates?” 
Jackie: “It’s a yoga exercise.” 
Mike: “Oh.”