The Hot Dog and The Hamburger

November 16, 2009

I had to be about 8 years old, which would make my best friend growing up, Chili Bean, around 7 yrs old. What would take place on a sunny day at Venice Beach would explain a psychological pattern that would show itself in various ways over the next 30 years!!

My friend’s mom decided that it would be good for us kids to take a long walk down the beach; you know, mellow us out a bit. Now, mind you, being that we’re just kids, starting the walk from Bay Street in Santa Monica and making our way down to the Venice Circle might as well have been a hundred miles, but the payoff would be huge – if we didn’t kill each other with our antics and maintained a small measure of civility along the way, we would be rewarded with a hot dog from the local food stand. Well, what seemed to be hours later, we finally arrived, surprisingly with no cuts and bruises. I can still remember my hands churning within each other like a mad professor as my anticipation grew for the “hot dog of the century”. My best friend felt the same – “Bro, we’re so getting the killer hot dogs!!” Well, Moms made good on her promise and there we were, two surf rats, salty and sandy, brimming with stoke as we’re about to eat our own hot dogs loaded up with the works.

Now stop for a moment and allow your minds to go to “Slo-Mo” vision – you know, like in the movies. So I’m watching my friend as I’m eating my hot dog and as he takes a bite of his own, the hot dog itself teeter’s up and out of the bun, does a double-tossed backflip and blam, hits the sandy concrete below our feet!!! Now being the best friend that I am, I immediately double over and bust out in laughter. As for Chili Bean, he does the complete opposite – as if wearing a pink tutu and stubbing his toe while attempting to twirl, he breaks out in this wussy cry and makes a total scene!! Yeah, it only makes me laugh harder! Well, as you can imagine, Moms comes running over and cradles her little baby girl, asking him what’s wrong and what happened. And so pointing to the ground and spilling out words through his “sincere whimpering”, he tells her how his hot dog dropped and that his entire world is shattered! No worries, Moms to the rescue – “Babe, would you like me to get you another hot dog?” Now at this point his wussy whimpering gets even louder – uh, are boys supposed to hit such high notes? – and while shaking his head from side to side to convey “no”, Moms suggests to him that perhaps “he would like a hamburger instead!?” Oh yeah, now his head is going up and down! Hold up, how is this fair! Why does he get to upgrade? This wasn’t part of the deal. Whatevers. So there we were minutes later, sitting down, me eating my Hot Dog and Chili Queen eating his Hamburger – all the while he’s looking at me with this snide grin and saying – “Ah ha, you got that lame hotdog and I gotta hamburger!!” I could do nothing but shake my head in disgust and think “Sissy!!”

In the years that would follow, that one day would set the tone for Chili-Ana always trying to “one up” me, no matter what we would be doing. If I came over to show him my new precious Star Wars Yoda figurine, he’d bust out the entire set – figurines and spaceships and smack they didn’t even have in the movie- most likely because he broke out the pink tutu and cried to Moms that he had to have this!! At the time I’d be like “Dang, homie, you’re a spoiled punk! Oooh, lemme play with Chewy!!” When I showed him a hand-me-down surfboard that my uncle gave me, he pulled out a board that his brother bought him while they were in Hawaii from a famous “brand name” company! And the list goes on and on.

A few years ago we were at the gym working out and I just cranked out some bench presses.  So Chili asks me – “How many did you do?” With my body shaking from exhaustion I claim “10” and so what does he do? Yes, you guessed it – he struggles past 10, barely making it to 11!! With that same stupid grin, which showed itself so many years ago down at Venice Beach, he looks at me and gives the nod. Yes, things have come full circle, my friend – it’s all about the Hot Dog and the Hamburger!


The Sky Rocket

November 11, 2009

What is it with men and fireworks? Perhaps it’s the same as women with flowers – it simply warms the heart; the only difference with fireworks is that on occasion it burns, too!!

Years ago, the Peoples Republic of Santa Monica allowed fireworks on the beach for the fourth of July. Man, that was genius! The beach would literally be transformed into a scene out of Apocalypse Now, less the helicopters. The air was full of energy and well, fire, along with the occasional boom – Fire Rockets shooting into the air, bursting into all kinds of colors and followed by outbursts of “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” by onlookers. Then there were the things that spin – sorta like flaming Chinese Stars of Death. And for the kids, oh yes, the kids – we had Snakes, Flowers and Sparklers – how’s that for child safety!

For those who don’t remember or who have been shielded their whole lives, Snakes were these little black nubs that looked a lot like pieces of licorice – you simply put them on the ground, take a box of matches or steal your dad’s cigarette lighter, spark ‘em up and watch them smoke and burn as they “appeared” to be rising out of the ground. Of course, we as kids were always being screamed at by our parents to step back away from the smoke and watch at a safe distance – “Uh, Mom, does 8 inches count?”

Flowers, or Ground Bloom Flowers, were these objects that looked like a giant firecracker, but instead of exploding they would just spin around and around, changing all kinds of colors in the process. As the years would go by, these simple eye-treats would eventually become hockey pucks of pain! But that’s another story.

As for Sparklers, who doesn’t remember Sparklers!?! Wire hangers dipped in what appeared to be like gun powder and that when lit, would produce sparks that would burst all over your hands and clothes for what seemed to be like an hour (although, in real time more like a minute) as you waved them in your hands as if holding cheerleader pom-pom’s and then eventually dying down only to leave you with a orange-glowing piece of metal that now became a branding iron – “Mijo, stop chasing your sister, you’re making her cry!!” Ah, memories. The poor beach would be littered for weeks, but it was like treasure hunting for us kids. We’d be looking for things that didn’t light or fizzle – yep, the fourth of July all over again.

To make a long story longer… I love fireworks. And as I sit here thinking about it, over the years it’s becoming very clear to me that I haven’t learned a thing! Let’s take a stroll down memory lane in reverse to make my point:

Around the time I was 24 yrs old, I was chucking Flowers off a balcony 15 stories high, making bank-shots off a church roof into an empty school yard. It just so happens that one falls into an oversized tire and catches fire in the empty gunny sack that some kids left within the tire itself!! I had to put down my beer, run down 15 floors of steps, hop a fence and dump sand from the children’s sandbox to put the thing out! Nice.

When I was 22 yrs old, I was rooming with 3 other friends of mine in Hawaii when the fourth of July came rolling along and wouldn’t you know it – a Fireworks booth is set up right in front of our house along the street. Need I say more? Later that evening we had the bright idea of getting into a fireworks war. We were lighting packs of firecrackers and throwing them like grenades – FIRE IN THE HOLE!! It got so bad that at one point my buddy and I who teamed up against the others were running for our dear lives while those giving chase were launching missiles at us from a Roman Candle! It’s amazing nobody went to the hospital.

Around the time that I was 18 yrs old, my buddy and I had a bunch of Piccolo Pete’s that we were lighting down at the beach. Upon watching the fuse zip down before a blink of an eye, I had the wonderful joy of having that firework go off in my hand – smoke, screaming noise from the Pete, and melted skin. With lightning quick thinking, my friend hands me an ice-cold beer and makes it all better. No hospitals that night, either.

Ah, and then there was when I was 11 yrs old. I was on a Baja excursion with my dad that seemed like forever. Still, when in Baja, you have to take advantage of the fireworks! They’re everywhere. In fact, go buy a six-pack of beer and they throw in a couple of fireworks for free! How’s that for trouble?!? Anyway, my friend and I now have these massive M500’s, which are just about the power of a half-stick of dynamite. Well, my turn to light it, right, so I put it in some rocks, light it up, turn to run and yep – trip on a stinkin’ boulder and fall to the ground within feet of the …..BOOM!! My ears rang for the rest of the week, but you should’ve seen the rocks we blew up!

This now brings us to The Sky Rocket, perhaps the starting point of all my troubles. I was around 7 yrs old and down at my second home – Baja California. We were visiting relatives during the summertime and it was melting hot. If you ever want to touch the sun, just go down to San Felipe during the summer and your desire will flee! Anywho, the whole family is outside trying to enjoy a peaceful summer night. Well, guess what I have? Yup, when in Baja …you get the point. So my dad lets me hold my bag of Sky Rockets and tells me to “be careful”! Who, me? Of course I will. The next demand was simple – “ …and don’t shoot the Sky Rockets at the car!!!” Easy enough; the car, an old Dark Green Ford Maverick, is like 50 yards away in the dark with all the windows down because it’s hot – how’s a sky rocket going to get into the car? They’re made to go high up into the sky and pop, right?!

So I’ve got this all figured out – I take an empty Coke bottle (back then they were made of glass), placed my Sky Rocket within, which at this point is aiming straight at the moon, call out to my parents and say “Hey, watch this!” and then light the fuse …

With the entire family watching, mind you, the Sky Rocket sparks for takeoff, leaps from the Coke bottle about 3 feet into the air and then decides that the moon isn’t good enough and so whips around parallel to the ground, flies 50 yards into the dark in the WRONG direction, enters the beloved Maverick through the WINDOW that’s rolled down and goes haywire like a raccoon in an animal box, bouncing here and there, high screech belting out smoke and BAM! – explodes INSIDE THE CAR!

With my head down, completely defeated and now praying to God to spare my life, I can still now hear the words that came from my fathers’ mouth – “MIJO!!” Yes, I know. No hospitals that night; and no ice-cold beer to cool my behind from the whippin’ that ensued. Still, for a very brief moment I thought to myself: “Man, that was cool.”

Uppity Peet’s

November 10, 2009

So this morning my wife and I decide to go and grab a cup of coffee before she heads to the office and I back to mine. After a brief back-and-forth as to where to go, we head to the “uppity” side of Santa Monica and hit the Peet’s on 14th and Montana. Now there’s two types of people that you’ll run in to at that shop – those who apparently don’t have to work and have cash to drop daily on overpriced “she-she” cups of coffee and then there are those middle-aged and above “Chucks”, (short for Chuckle Head) decked out in their Good-Lawd-Never-Wear-Spandex Tour de Suckaz cycling gear, hobbling around in their click-in shoes and mobbin’ all the tables! This really comes as no surprise, seeing that they’re constantly in the way while riding on the streets – why should it be any different when they’re elsewhere?!? Oh, don’t get me started. Anywho, the whole purpose of this mindless banter is to relay the brief conversation that took place behind us while waiting in line to spend $10 bucks on two coffees and a sugar roll!
Middle-Aged Chuck: “Hey, you still riding?”

Out of curiosity I turned around to see who he was asking. Now what makes this whole conversation outstanding is that M.A.C. is asking his buddy whom obviously has been riding under the radar as of late –  and the kicker is A.M.A.C. is fully decked out in, yep, you guessed it right,  Good-Lawd-Never-Wear-Spandex Tour de Suckaz cycling gear!! Rich, simply rich.  Shaking my head, I then proceeded to whisper in my wife’s ear the response that should’ve been given:
Above Middle-Aged Chuck: “No. I just woke up, stayed in my pajamas and came to grab ….You DipStick!”
Really?!? No, Really!!!??!  Did you just ask that question? No wonder they all group together and cause pointless traffic jams and then get upset when cars go driving by honking their horns and given them the Stink Eye – they have NO COMMON SENSE!

Who knew getting a cup of coffee would offer so much adventure?!?


In Search of the Handyman

November 7, 2009

As the screen door stood clinging to its doorframe with one hinge, my wife proceeded to look at me with her scowled face of disappointment and ask, “Are you going to fix that?!?” “Sure,” was my reply. And with that, my dear friends, came the sigh that would lead into the ongoing dispute of a stereotypical misconception – the ever-endeared “handyman”.

But what really is a handyman? I’m sure women around the globe, especially those who are married, would be quick to step up to the plate on this one and share their versions or definitions on this ‘you set yourself up on this one’ question. However, there will be no need for that. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language – Fourth Edition defines handyman as “a man who does odd jobs or various small tasks.” True, I have done some “odd jobs” in my time and “various small tasks” such as “move that here, pick that up, etc.,” yet does that qualify me as a bonafide “handyman”? Well, let’s take a moment to develop this further, shall we? It’s obvious that this is something that doesn’t come naturally. In fact, many a job offer is extended in the working world to those who have been skilled in such a trade. Yeah, blah, blah, blah.

Unfortunately, many today fail to accept this point and thus apply this title to men in general. You’re right, enough with the pleasantries – women apply this title to men in general, period. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there, that would be too easy. Now comes the antagonizing. Perhaps we’re familiar with the following “attempted” ego-busters:

“Aren’t you ashamed that you’re not a handyman?”

“So-and-so’s boyfriend/husband fixes things, why can’t you?”

Oh, and my personal favorite – “Be a man!!” (Really, people?)

Now these are just a few of the “attempted” ego-busters that we men have to endure. I say, “attempted,” because, for most men, we will not get a complex or curl up in a corner and start crying over the soft attempt of emotional scarring. No, for the most part, we will state some simple truths, such as:

Shrugging our shoulders and saying “Oh well,” or “Whatevers”

“I have no qualms of accepting the fact that I am not, and most likely will not be, a ‘handyman’.”

Oh, and my favorite – “I have no problem paying somebody to come and fix it – I’m promoting job security!”

And just ponder over this point for a moment: if we, as “men”, were to say to our dear loved ones – “be a woman!” – well, does the saying “kiss of death” mean anything? Instant tears of rage would form in those once soft, supple eyes and throughout the following days we would hear ringing in our ears “you’re mean”, “rude”, “it’s not the same thing:”, or finally “you don’t love me.” Charlie Brown of Peanuts summed it up nicely with one word – “UGH!”

Obviously the debate can go on and on, and no doubt it will. So the next time you get nailed with this stereotypical misconception – “be a handyman”, simply state the truth – the Search continues. In fact, if society is in such a need for a handyman, then why do we have duct tape?

The Time Has Come!

November 7, 2009

And now it is here. Oh no! Look!! Now it’s GONE!