Teaching Irony through Sarcasm

  I have the luxury of working weekends and being able to pick up our son from school most weekdays. I watch with joy as he bounces down the steps from his school happy to tell me all about the things he did during the day. Rarely does he come out upset. Never has he come out needing comfort. Until this week. I was waiting with the other parents as we stood around making fun our kids behind their backs… as we do. The doors opened and he came flying out full of wails and tears. He looked inconsolable. The other parents parted making a red carpet like path for him to have easy access to my welcoming arms. He collapsed to the sidewalk at my knees gasping for air between his breathless screams of agony.

“Oh my son. What happened man?! What’s going on?!” I cried back to him.

“I didn’t have time to finish my stress ball!!! My stress ball! I didn’t have time when the bell rang!!!” He cried out at what to me appeared to an incommensurate amount of tears.

Perhaps I misunderstood him?

“Say that again? What’s this about?”

“We were making stress balls and I didn’t get to finish mine! It’s not done! The bell rang and it’s not done! This is the worst day of my life!!!” He yelled.

I stood stunned. The other parents watched on trying to listen in to get a clue as to what horrors must have happened inside. Several seemed to be bracing themselves for what they may face when their little bundles were released from school.

Once I understood what was happening all I could do was laugh. A lot.

“This isn’t funny! This is horrible! This is the worst day of my life!”

I restrained my laughs but spoke through a smile. “You know what you need son? A stress ball.”

“I know! I need a stress ball and I couldn’t finish mine in time. Oh!!! Why me!!!”

“No.” I added. “What’s funny here is that you need a stress ball because of this stress ball situation.”

He didn’t get the irony. I promised him we’d make some when we got home.

“But you don’t know how! You’ve never made one! This is so horrible.” He argued.

I told him we would google it. I'm sure it's just flour and balloons. We can handle that.

But I didn't watch the youtube video result on how to make them. I actually didn't read anything more than what was in the search results. At home I improvised how to get the flour into the balloon by using the nozzle from a cake decorating kit. I filled it with flour and forced the powder into the balloon by blowing really hard into the nozzle. Really hard. The balloon was now full of flour and my compressed air. Once the stress ball was inflated and after pulling my mouth and nozzle from the balloon all the flour erupted from the contracting balloon back into my face. It really was a pretty spectacular scene. It was like a stylist shouted “Powder!” and then some stranger hit me with a pillow full.

The boy laughed out at what to me appeared to an incommensurate amount of joy.

And I stood there stunned, looking at him through my flour covered glasses and he said, “Now you could really use a stress ball huh dad?”

I think he learned irony.

I used to watch alot of Fanny at my Nana's house

Plenty of sick days from Grade School were spent at my Nana's in Tampa watching this show from her king sized bed. I think it was on at 1pm while she was watching Days of Our Lives in the other room. (Side note - I threw up on her new carpet one day and while she was yelling at me for puking she started throwing up too. As a result, if it was "Bridge" day, I'd sleep in the back of her car in her friends driveway while they were inside drinking Martini's and playing cards. The ladies were afraid I had a weak stomach and would ruin their carpet.)

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I got some lip from a ROBOT

I called to check on room availabilities at a few hotels in Towson for my parents when they come to visit next month. Google, of course, gave me a few pushpins just a few miles up the road so I started calling. What's amazing is that with each call to the front desks, they sent me off to some call center somewhere to field my questions on room rates and availabilities. I'm a mile away asking a question to a lady who could be my neighbor and soon I'm off to another part of the world talking to someone who pronounces Baltimore wrong.

With one call, I get sent to Lilly who speaks remarkably crisp and quite lovely. She asks the standard questions and when given my turn to respond, my questions are standard as well. "I'm wondering if you have any rooms for the weekend of Oct. 4th?"

"That weekend. Let me checking. I am checking. Yes, we have a standard suite available with one king bed and an attached living room for a rate of $116 a night and cancellation up until the day of for no charge. You can book now if you have a major credit card or online at our website."

I ask a follow up. "I may have more guests, can you tell me if you have another room for that weekend?"

"You can cancel up until the day of arrival for no charge either over the phone at this number or on our website." She answers.

"No. I'm not asking that. I have another...."

"I can't answer that," She steps in. "You can cancel for no extra charge by calling this number or online at our website."

"No, I need to know." I start to ask until she jumps in with the cancellation routine. Now I'm thinking. Although very human, she sounds very mechanical.

While she's talking, I interrupt her with some Ferris Bueller, "I'm afraid that in my weakened condition, I could take a nasty spill down the stairs and subject myself to further school absences."

She cut me off mid-stride with, "I cannot help you with that. Good-bye."

God knows I'm a fan of the geeky or side of things and I wouldn't mind having a robot of my own to answer questions directed my way but at some point we the customers need to be right again.

My childhood "Boy named Sue" moment

This is a girls shirt!

In grade school we wore navy blue pants and white dress shirts. The boys had triangular collars while the girls wore the rounded ones that little Catholic school girls wear. There was an unfortunate era when my sister and I wore the same size shirt even though we were two years apart. And, of course, there was that day. One of the days that sticks with you forever and came back to me the other day when i was trying on used sweaters at an outdoor market in Amsterdam.

"This is a girls sweater." I said to Susan.

"Oh no it's not. It looks good on you." She answered.

"Irrelevant how it looks, the buttons are on the wrong side."

Back to grade school. The unlucky day must have been around 5th grade and it was made clear to me by my teacher that I was wearing a girls shirt. She asked, of course, in front of the class. "Are you wearing your sisters clothes?"

The class turned and errupted in laughter.

"Stork-dorks wearing a girls shirt!"

So my question is this, was it I who was half asleep while dressing watching Woody Woodpecker or was it my father who was half asleep while he ironed our shirts that morning. Where were the parental checks and balances to sound the buzzer for these things? Was this just a "boy named sue" moment in which my father tested me on how I would handle the rigors of manhood? The only thing it has taught me is to pay extra notice as to which side the buttons are and what shape the collar is.

Leroy's Got the Mad Munchies

Leroy Eats

A few days ago - Leroy was looking pretty rough. First Agador Sparticus had the sniffles - and then Leroy showed signs of full on Respiratory Infection. We woke up with him mouth breathing and salivating and drooling and looking like he was losing the fight! But with a house showing an hour away, I had to get the dogs out too? I loaded them all up in the VW and off we go running red lights and cutting off school buses.

Bella and Prudence

They kept him overnight and sent him home with meds and orders to rest. To paraphrase, "Fat cats like him need to eat. In a few days his liver will fail if he doesn't eat." But he wouldn't eat! We figured maybe he was turned off by the food since we loaded it up with meds to kill the lung infection. When I gave him his food yesterday, he sniffed it, sneezed and then dry heaved. Today we got him some munchy meds and off he goes!

I'm thankful for warm lemonaide and chicken.

Somalia

A four-day trip the week of Thanksgiving took me to Columbus, Ohio. Seeing as I was to spend the holiday alone in the hotel, Susan decided to drive up from visiting her Grandparents in Pittsburg. She had our cousin Troy with her so we figured we'd play in Ohio for the night and let him see what a glamorous life in a hotel is like. A friend in Columbus was going to take out for dinner until the 'what do you plan to do for dinner' conversation started up in the cockpit with my first officer. He also had some friends in Columbus and said he planned on meeting up with them for dinner. My co-pilot was from Uganda and the friends he mentioned were also from Eastern Africa and they planned on eating at a Somalian restaurant he knew about that served goat. I could think of no better way to celebrate the holiday than with my vegetarian wife, some goat and a bunch of Africans. I asked if we could join them and did we need to wear anything special. Our other friend in Columbus was up for the plan would meet us at the hotel.

The restaurant was advertised as a ‘coffee shop’ on the outside and looked like more of an old butcher shop. The parking lot was quiet and there wasn’t much in the way of foot traffic in or out of the place. In we went.

Aside from a few people scattered about there wasn’t much going on inside – nor was there much in the way of decorations. Just a relatively empty room with some standard diner-like tables and chairs. It did look like it could have been an old butcher shop. Pointing to Susan, the owner asked if I wanted the lady to sit with us or ‘over there’ looking to the section of restaurant on the other side of the dividing wall?

Apparently this was a women sit away from the men type establishment. I did think for a second that I wanted to sit with the ladies but figured just asking if Susan could sit with us would be a stretch. He said here in the United States he let the decision be made by the man of the family but back things weren't this way. So the only white girl in the restaurant ate in the men’s section with us. She did drive most the day to have Thanksgiving with us and making her sit with women would go over about as well as if I asked to sit over there. Looking at the dividing wall did make me wonder what was going on back there. It took me back to grade school and all the stories about what went on behind the wall near the convent. "I hear the nuns have a pool back there and they all were black bikini's."

The menu was delivered in his terms, “high talk and low tech”. He gave us the options personally. “Chicken steak with rice.” “Chicken steak with spaghetti.” “Salmon steak with rice.” “Salmon steak with spaghetti.”

Susan asked if there were any vegetarian dishes? “We have lettuce.” “No goat?” I asked. "We sold all the goat today already. The chicken steak is very good though.”

We all ordered the lemonade, which he said several times was made fresh. “It is Somalian lemonade.” He said, again.

I’ll tell you what that means. Anytime a drink is served “Somalian” it is served warm. We learned there isn’t much ice in Africa. My first officer told us when he went home to Uganda they all accused him of being an American after he kept insisting on having ice in his drinks. This is one of the many reasons why we are spoiled. That and Tivo.

And then came the banana’s. Again, my first officer explained.

“They are crazy about banana’s there. You get them with everything. And they are better there. They are fresher. You don’t eat them until they are ready and you don’t pick them too soon. You know you are a Somalian when you eat too many banana’s.”

Although there weren't any yams or turkey sandwich’s, it was what Thanksgiving should be, dinner with friends old and new. We learned about life in Africa from actual Africans and heard their stories of immigrating to the United States. After dinner, one of the men invited us back to his house for some Sudanese tea with his family. We met his children and played with their babies. They took us in to their house for our holiday. Again, it was a great thanksgiving.

Who’s the boss?

I would have missed more school as a kid if Tony Danza had a talkshow rather than a blue van full of Milano's. I've learned so much from daytime tv today. The day began with the Orange County Chopper guys taking me on a tour of Ireland, Scotland and France! Even though I was comfortably nestled in my Nashville Double Tree bed with my free cookie - i could almost smell the exhaust from the vintage Triumph motorcycles they were loaned! During commercials I flipped between some shitty MTV show about rich kids and their sweet 16th birthday party and PeeWee's Big Adventure. There is no basement at the Alamo.

But the real treat came from Mr. Danza. You can't really apreciated how crappy his show is simply from seeing Conan make fun of him at 1am. I thought his show was pretty bad then but those were just outtakes!

Today we made chocolate eggs by draining the egg out of the shell through a small hole (VERY CAREFULLY). To make this work, you have to make faces and dance around and look like an italian clown wearing a tight sweater. All the women went wild!

Next you fill the eggshell with chocolate and let it cool. Tadaa! It is very important to sterilize the inner egg shell with boiling water and vinegar or when you crack the shell it may smell like egg. Tony did his best to imitate the face you would make when you are caught off guard by tasting egg in your milk chocolate. All the women went wild! I think they have cue cards.

The greatest thing about daytime tv... at least for me are the commercials and the things I learn.

The tampons with braided string allow you to jump in the pool with your friends. I guess when women menstruate they lose something in their bodies natural buoyancy and fear they may sink but with these braided tampons they get some sort of extra inflation to keep them upright. It works like a waterwing, I guess?

And it only cost a quarter

And It Only Cost a Quarter

It was a Jesuit, shirt and tie, all guys’ high school. Everyone drove to school or had a ride. I rode the city bus. “H.A.R.T. Line” was the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Association. They had a big red heart for a logo. Most were faded to a semi-brown heart that looked more like the ones on anti-smoking ads. The buses were smoke-free although smoking may have been a welcome relief to mask the random odors floating through the cabin. Looking back I think the decision to send the boy home on the bus was a character builder. Maybe it was a message to do well in school. But with transportation only a quarter from school on a student pass, how could a parent go wrong?

The driver on bus number 7 was Richard Diggs. Dick Diggs we called him. I met Diggs the first day my dad dropped me off. I boarded armed with a quarter and my newly pressed Jesuit shirt and tie. Although I wasn’t the only wearing a hat I was the only one wearing a beanie. “That some kinda Jewish hat you got there, son?” Diggs asked.

I told him it was something we had to wear as freshman and it was tradition and we could burn it at a homecoming bonfire in a few months but he didn’t care too much about the details. He was all business. In the future when I realized I only had to wear my beanie on campus he’d asked, “Where’s that funny looking Jewish hat, Son. Shouldn’t you be wearing that hat?” He’d continue on the address system as I took my seat. “I think you may have left your hat at home, Son. You want I should turn around so you can get that funny little Jewish hat of yours?”

Unbeknownst to me, my father followed Diggs that first day to map out the route and see how long it’d take to get to school. I guess he followed a few cars back so as not to alarm Diggs. The plan didn’t work. Again, this driver was all business. Soon I noticed the bus taking evasive actions. Charging through yellow lights and making quick lane changes. Passengers would bounce free from their seats with each abrupt turn causing them to inadvertently hit the “Next stop” button. Each lane change was met with a “Ding – Stop Requested” followed by Diggs yelling, “Is that a real stop or someone hittin’ that button?”

Another sharp left and another “Ding – Stop Requested.” “Just trying to lose this Jack in a white Blazer truck!” Mr. business Diggs yelled. “I think I gotta white guy tailing us!”

“Ding – Stop Requested.”

I turned, aided by the bus’ momentum, and saw my dad a few cars back. Although his car was more agile than the city bus it didn’t possess the guts behind the wheel that we had. We were successfully pulling away. “Woah!” I yelled up from the back of the bus. “That’s my dad.”

The words bounced off each passenger on the way up to Diggs causing each to turn their head as they grasped the meaning behind my yell. Some translated the words faster and turned faster but overall it was a wave a twisting bodies starting from me and progressing to the front.

“What kind of kid are you who’s gotta dad has gotta follow you on the bus?” The lady next to me asked, “If your dad is going the same way why didn’t you save your quarter and maybe stop as McDonalds too?”

“This is my first time on the bus. I guess he just wanted to make sure I got to where I’m going?”

“It ain’t that hard.” She reasoned. “You pay your money and get on. You push the button when you want to get off. Simple as that. Pay to get on… push to get off.”

“I understand. I guess he just wanted to see how long it took.”

“All you gotta do is read the map.” She said. “ It tells you how long each bus takes. It even tells you what time they leave. What time it goes and what time it stops. Simple as that.”

“Yes, I know. I guess he just wanted to see for himself.”

“He could have scene it for himself on the paper there. Simple as that. I’ve been riding the bus for years and never had no trouble. Always on time. Always running on time. You should just push the button now and get in with your dad since he’s going the same way. Maybe he can stop off and get you some McDonalds.”

I soon learned that this is what I was paying my quarter for… the experiences. Some of them I’d offer fifty cents for if I had to do it over again.

One of the stops along the way home each day was at a K-Mart. It was a transfer spot where people would often switch busses. It was an intersection in the routes where you could get a transfer ticket and jump to a different route.

There was a day when a rather large black woman got on at the K-Mart stop. She had just done some shopping while waiting for the bus and came on board with all her bags. She was wearing typical H.A.R.T. Line summer attire… a single, large moo-moo. While maybe this fashion has its roots in Hawaii as beachwear it has made its home surrounding the fatty flesh of women across America. It’s looks like nothing more than a non-fitted one-piece bed sheet fashioned into a dress. A kids ghost costume with a hole for the head and arms.

She sat directly across from me in the seat clearly labeled “Reserved for Handicapped Riders” and even was able to harness herself in using the safety straps for wheelchairs. I watched her fumble through her bags. I played with my beanie to look busy. She pulled out a can of generic aerosol deodorant. She shook it up to get maximum spray. Armed with the can she reached up though her legs, under her moo-moo and aimed the can up from about belly level. She fired. She continued to fire. In all, she shot deodorant for about thirty seconds.

It emanated from every hole of her non-fitted bed sheet. It gushed from her armpit holes hiding her meaty arms in a fog of unscented aerosol. It rose from her neck hole like Old Faithful. It soon crept out from the same opening she took aim from dropping to the floor like a fog machine in a carnival haunted house.

Waiting for the air to clear I wondered if the same women would be there when the show was over? Maybe she was a superhero and this was her guise used during the transformation? Maybe she’d come out as a wonder-twin in a leather suit or a crime-fighting robot?

Unfortunately, when the air did clear it was the same rather large black woman that joined us at K-Mart albeit better smelling. As if to answer my puzzled look she explained, “Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.”

That piece of wisdom only cost me a quarter.

My theme park - My babysitter

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I grew up in the theme park Busch Gardens and its water park sister Adventure Island. They were my babysitters. They were Grandma’s house. They were home. They were where I went when school was out for the summer, where I went when I was too sick for school or where I went when the parents didn't want me around for the day. They were where my sister and I did our homework and worked on after school projects. We weren’t latch key kids. We were turn style key kids. “Pick you up at the gate at 5” was as synonymous as “Don’t give your grandma a hard time.” Growing up, my parents both worked in management there. He was the VP of Marketing. She did the same but for the Special Events department. Both titles had there own distinctive perks for two spoiled theme park kids. Marketing, through the eyes of a child, was more about trade than advertising. We had plenty of coupons and free food cards to eat wherever the current ad campaign was partnered. One month it may be a stack of free Taco Bell tacos for dinner. The next we’d have our fill of subway six inch meatball subs.

Special events was hosting parties after the park closed. Often we’d pack up our homework and have to go to the park at sunset. After dining on whatever the banquet was serving for their guests we’d ride the rides until forced to do homework. The lure to finish was the promise of Churro’s and Strawberry Mirage’s for dessert from the stand outside the dolphin show. You might think the lure would be the actual dolphin show. When you’ve seen it as many times as we had it becomes no lure at all. Yet the dolphins get excited and jump through the same hoop for the same raw fish as last night?

During these events, the party would be held in one of the many themed sections of the park. The company would rent a section and have all the rides and shops open for them during their event. This would mean we’d have all the rides and shops open for us. Being that there were often more rides than people… there would be no lines. We’d have our run of the park. Ride all the rides we wanted or hit the water slides until our bathing suits wore thin. Often we’d not even get off the ride... they would just run it until we told them to stop or it looked as if we were too sick to continue.

The Python

The Python

Busch Gardens is an African based them park. Even though I’ve never been to Africa, I feel that I am somewhat of an expert. I grew up in the suburbs of Tampa but African craftsman, belly dancers and snake charmers were my neighbors. As a child, I could probably bang out a brass pot or weave a leather sandal given the right tools. 
My treasure map was the printed park map or Busch Gardens. My friends would play hide and seek in Timbuktu or in the Congo or take a nap along the train ride through the African plains. I would wait for my father along the eastern edge of Lake Victoria or outside Stanley Falls. I'd use my Busch Bucks to buy a pith helmet from the gift shop to go along with the rest of my theme park wardrobe at home. The place that kept me most entertained was the Sultans Arcade. If the parents were looking for me… they knew to look in the arcade. I grew up thinking how great it would be to work in a game room. (I was given that chance in high school and it wasn’t that great.) I was there for the release of all the great games of the late 70’s and 80’s. This was my babysitter and home away from home. Being that I was there every day the clerk would give me a key to open the game and manually trigger the switch to simulate feeding it a quarter. I was there the day Paperboy came out. I was there the day Dig-dug was delivered. I remember watching them take the plastic off Hard-Drivin. But I was also there when they wheeled some of the greats out to sell them off to bars or laundry mats. My games were shipped out to undeserving drunks who would actually pay money to play them.

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Walking around the parks now as an adult I have the nostalgic feeling of going home for a visit. Like seeing your babysitters house from an adult eye... things look a lot smaller. I am reminded of so many pivotal moments from my childhood. Where I fought with my best friend or where I was shutdown after revealing a crush on a schoolgirl. I can pick out the spots where I was scolded for arguing with my sister and where we’d both have to sit and do our homework until we got along.

Maybe one day I'll make it the actual Stanley Falls. I hope they sell Churro's.

Collection of pictures.

https://photos.cltampa.com/60-years-of-thrills-these-vintage-photos-of-busch-gardens-tampa-show-how-far-the-park-has-come/?slide=1&c034379

My touch with fame - geek fame

Last week I emailed Adam Curry a story about listening to his podcast at altitude. I checked my mail daily like a schoolgirl and danced like a nancy when he not only acknowledged my email but read it on air. Since then, my email has been turned into a mashup and now part of his show opener. Here are the two files.

Audio clips

To subscribe to his podcast go to www.podcast.org