Tuesday, February 19, 2013

That's How I Got Arrested

Back in the late 70's, there was a New York-based anti-crime activist group called the Guardian Angels.  And, if you rode the subways, their presence was unmistakable.  They traveled in groups and wore red berets, red satin jackets, and had these white logo'd T-shirts.  They were everywhere. You either loved them or you hated them. And, the truth is, if you didn't know who they were, and you saw them coming toward you, you'd have thought you had stepped in the middle of a street fight between Danny Zucco's T-Birds and Leo Balmudo's Scorpions (that's a 1978 Grease reference, folks).  You'd kinda think twice about getting on the train with them. They were a menacing sight to the unknowing.

Oddly, this is how I feel about the Girl Scouts and those damn cookies.  Let's be honest - none of us WANT the cookies.  We do it for the kids and we are supporting a good cause, I think (I have no idea).  But, am I the only one who feels like I can't walk into my local supermarket without being jumped by these little girls in green berets and brown uniforms?  Who among us, having spotted the gaggle of badge be-speckled girls stationed at the door of Whole Foods, hasn't paused, hesitated, maybe even altered their path of ingress to their favorite local market in hopes of avoiding the familiar 6-foot table piled atop with a wall of colored boxes, surrounded by parents in fold-up chairs desperately trying to make eye contact with you in hopes of subliminally guilting you into buying a delicious box of butter laden sugar coated chocolate peanut butter mint coconut sugar from their daughter.  

I don't want to outright say "No" to them.  That just seems so... wrong.  So, I avoid them.  I'll sit in the car, whip out my binoculars and wait for a hole in the defense.  Then, when the time is right, I make my move.  I push a discarded shopping cart down a row of cars trying to park.  When I hear the crash and the ensuing commotion, it's go time.  I bob and weave.  I use other shoppers to pick 'n roll into the store unseen.  I go ninja-style, right behind their backs when they are talking to other people.  Occasionally, if one of them does see me, I'll quickly grab my phone and I'll pull the old I'm On The Phone and I Can't Talk To You Now trick.  I've even been known to use the employee entrance, as well.   But, occasionally, after scoping out the situation from inside my car, I just call an audible and, in the back of my head, I say to myself, "I can get bacon later."  So, I leave only to return later to a new, fresh breed of girl-cheetahs and parent-wolves who look at me like I'm a gazelle with a broken foot.  And, now they know my weakness and they've devised a secret weapon.  No, not the unbelievably adorable girl with the pigtails, puppy dog eyes and dimples.  It's the "Hottie Mom", the MILF.  You know, Halle, Jada, Brooke Burke, types...  I mean, if Angelina pushed her 19 kids out of the way and steps up to me to whisper "Hi handsome.  I've been out here all day and we only need to sell 5 more boxes so I can go drop my daughter off at my EX HUSBAND's house and then I can go back to my empty home, which is nearby, to do some light naked yoga before I open a bottle of wine and slip into something more comfortable", you know I'd buy some damn cookies.  I was a Boy Scout and I just want to do what's right!!  I'd succumb and buy 45 boxes - everything from Tagalongs to Trefoils to Thin Mints, and the new flavor last year, Savannah Smiles (porn-name?).  


Hottie Mom - Savannah Smiles????

My living room

For the weeks after the purchase, I keep one box in the car at all times, just in case I need to go back to the store.  I use it like a cop uses his badge on another cop when he's trying to get out of a ticket.  "Hey pal, I've got one of these", pulling out the box to show to the parents and girl-cheetahs. "Ya' think I can get a pass on this one?  I'm one of you."  Boom... I get the  friendly "you may pass" nod and I can enter the store unencumbered. 

But, then the day comes... I'm hooked on the cookies like Charlie Sheen on tiger blood.  I need a fix bad but I've exhausted my stash.  I'm jonesing, man. I go out late at night and walk the streets to see if my girls are there.  But, I can't find them (probably at home watching Barney, or Dora or whatever kids are watching these days). So, my plan is to go wait for them at the market early the next day...   

That's right, I'm 46, standing on the corner in sweatpants with a roll of singles in my pocket, waiting for little girls to show up, in their little skirts, to offer them a few singles for their goodies.  And, that's how I got arrested.  

But, that was after nine 12-year old girls kicked the living shit out of me.  Even Angelina got in a good kick.  Where the fuck were my Guardian Angels??  

I got home from my arraignment (and a brief hospital stay) and my wife had bought 7 boxes from her co-worker's daughter.  In hindsight, that was much easier.  

According to the Girl Scouts of the USA, Thin Mints is the favorite GS cookie, closely followed by Samoas®/Caramel deLites, then it's Peanut Butter Patties®/Tagalongs®, Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos™.  Here is the cookie list for 2013.  Not all cookies are available in all areas... it's usually limited to just 8 types in an area.
Do-Si-Dos™ - Peanut Butter Sandwiches - (peanut butter cookie with peanut butter filling) - 20 cookies* per 8 ounce box.
Dulce de Leche - (made with milk caramel chips) - 15 cookies* per 6 ounce box.
Lemonades™ (shortbread cookie with a tangy lemon icing) - 16 cookies* per 8.5 ounce box.
Mango Crèmes with NutriFusion™ - (vanilla and coconut cookies filled with a tangy mango-flavored creme enhanced with nutrients derived from fruits) - apprx. 21 cookies per box.
Samoas® - Caramel deLites™ (vanilla cookies covered with caramel on top and bottom then rolled in coconut and striped with chocolate) - 15 cookies* per 7 ounce box.
Savannah Smiles™ (crisp, zesty lemon cookies named in honor of the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting) - 25 cookies per __ ounce box.
Shout Outs!™ (Light and crisp, Belgian-style caramelized cookies) - 40 cookies* per 9 ounce box.
Tagalongs® - Peanut Butter Patties® (Regular cookie with soft Peanut Butter and coated with chocolate) - 15 cookies* per 7 ounce box.
Thanks-A-Lot™ used to be known as Animal Treasures and All Abouts (all same type shortbread cookie with chocolate on the bottom) - 16* per 8.5 ounce box
Thank U Berry Munch (A cookie made with premium cranberries and white fudge chips.) - 14 cookies per 6.17 ounce box.
Thin Mints (thin chocolate-peppermint cookie coated in chocolate) - 32 cookies* in an 10 ounce box.
Trefoils - a.k.a. Shortbread - (a shortbread cookie) - 44 cookies* per 10 ounce box.
Café Cookies (crispy cinnamon cookie caramelized with brown sugar) - 45 cookies per 10 ounce box. (No longer available.)
Cartwheels (a reduced fat cinnamon-oatmeal cookie.) - 30 cookies* per 7 ounce box. (No longer available.)
Cinna-Spins™ (crispy cinnamon snack swirls that come in 100 calorie packs.) - five .85oz. packs with net weight of 4.25oz.
Daisy Go Rounds - (small reduced fat cinnamon cookies) - 5 individual serving sacks in 4.2 ounce box
Double Dutch (chocolate - Chocolate Chip) - 17 cookies* per 7 ounce box. (No longer available.)
Ice Berry Piñatas (reminds me of raspberry-filled Danish) 14 cookies* per 7 ounce box. (No longer available.)
Lemon Coolers (powdered sugar-covered cookies with lemon chips in the inside) - 33 cookies* per 7 ounce box. (No longer available.)
Lemon Chalet Cremes™ (rectangular cinnamon-ginger lemon-filled cookies) - 14 cookies* per 8 ounce box.
Lemon Pastry Cremes (low fat) (lemon sandwich cookie with lemon filling) - 16 cookies* per 7 ounce box. (No longer available.)
Reduced Fat Daisy Go Rounds™ (crispy cinnamon cookies) - 5 servings* per 4.2 ounce box.
Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips (chocolate chip cookies) - 15 cookies* per 5.5 ounce box.
Sugar Free Little Brownies™ (chewy chocolate cookies with chocolate chips in them) - 20 cookies* per 5.5 ounce box. (No longer available). 

Friday, February 8, 2013

RTFAFN: Who is Daryl? He's THAT guy...

Please indulge me... 

Primarily, I like to write for me.  Sometimes for others.  This is one of the times it's primarily for me.  But, after reading this, hopefully the reader walks away with some connection to what was written.  And, if not, that's OK, too.  But, as I stated, this is just me needing to express some shit, ya know?

On January 18th the world lost a great soul.

recently lost my cousin Daryl Foster to Cancer.  It happened remarkably fast and almost without warning.  No warning for him.  No warning for me.  No warning for his family or for his friends.  I guess we all know that death is coming, and we are reminded by it when we watch TV or hear stories from our friends.  But when it hits home - damn, it hurts.

I had trouble describing Daryl to my friends who didn't know him.  I didn't want to use words that have been used to describe so many others, even if those words were true.  He's "special", "friendly", "always fun to be around"...  Somehow, those words just didn't really capture him - at least, not in his entirety.  

I then found myself repeating the same sentence over and over, "he's THAT guy". You know when you go to a bar and one guy comes in later and it seems that everyone knows him... he's THAT guy.

You know that one person who all the ladies seem to want to dance with... he's THAT guy.

You know that one guy who just seems to know the scores and stats of every sports team, regardless of the sport... he's THAT guy.

You know that guy that seems to have watched every single episode of every show ever produced, no matter how obscure... he's THAT guy.

You know how there is one person in your group of friends who is the life of the party... he's THAT guy.

You know that person who hugs you so perfectly that, guy or girl, you feel like that hug was made especially for you.... he's THAT guy.

You know that person at every family gathering that seems to make you laugh your ass off at his joke and antics... he's THAT guy.

And, the list just keeps going on and on.  So, when the family asked me to assist in the writing of his obituary, I honestly thought, although difficult, I could do this. I guess, on occasion  I have a creative bone in my body that flares up and allows me to be inspired to write something that doesn't suck.  But, this was the same as someone walking up to a comedian and saying "you're a comedian, make me laugh".  Collectively, we knew that we didn't want just a list of dates, accomplishments and "is survived by.”  We wanted to capture Daryl's essence. In the end, we wanted people to be reaffirmed in what they already knew about him and, maybe, just maybe, they might learn a little more about him. However, after several attempts, and probably due to our emotional state, we found that writing about him was immensely difficult.   

Upon hearing the news of his passing, friends, co-workers and family took to texting and social media to share their feelings. It was then, after listening to all the people speak of him and how much he directly affected their lives, that we were able to find some if the words. But, it was my cousin Chelsea who delivered the obituary at the funeral service.  And, without out a doubt, her rewrite and subsequently her delivery that day was standing-ovation worthy.  In her innocent and eloquent way, and in just a few short minutes, she was able to make us laugh and cry and really remember Daryl. 

So allow me to repost her eulogy/obituary in it's entirety:

Daryl Theodore Foster was born on August 30th 1957, and although I would not enter his life until many years later, I have no doubt that from that day forward; he changed the life of every person he met in the best possible way.  His passion, his light, his humor, his positivity, his impossible charisma –these are not qualities you develop. They are gifts that you’re born with. How blessed we all are that he invited us, with open arms, to take part in all them.  
He really was the very best of everything. He had the best smile and the biggest laugh. We all know he gave the best hugs.
I feel totally confident in saying that there was never a more well rounded sports fan than Daryl Foster. Not only did he travel across the country and back following the Raiders, Cowboys, and Trojans, among other teams, he could probably name every starting player for every NFL, NBA, and MLB team from the past 40 years and then some. He watched Tennis, Golf, Indy car racing, Hockey, he probably watched professional bad mitten for all we know. ESPN should have sent him a special commendation for being their most frequent viewer. Even when he was in the hospital, I think his biggest complaint was that they didn't have ESPN. And while I know Uncle Daryl’s spirit is here, with us, today, I’m sure, tomorrow he will be where he was every year around this time, in Hawaii, watching the NFL Pro-Bowl from the best seat in the house.
Aside from being an ultimate sports fan, he somehow managed to be a true TV fan. He could talk to you about almost any show on any channel from any decade.  He made sure he gave every new show at least one good shot. He knew every episode of Seinfeld like the back of his hand. He was dangerous in a trivia game.
When he wasn't watching games on TV or in person, he was cheat- I mean, playing board games at home with the family.  He was always full of tricks and surprises and his strategies were questionable but for that, we forgave him instantly. 
Speaking of family gatherings, Daryl possessed the exceptional skill of walking in the door, not a minute before or a minute after, but exactly when dinner was on the table, regardless of what time dinner was meant to start.
I was asked to make mention of his love of food, especially rice and grits, although I feel it really was more of a love of butter that he would occasionally put rice or grits underneath. He did love a good steak and lobster dinner, although, again, I think he was just in it for the butter. 
Without a doubt, he was the best dance partner any of us had ever had. Throw on some Earth Wind and Fire or some Atomic Dog, or some Michael Jackson, (you would have thought they were related), and the party had been declared. Daryl, himself, was a walking party. 
Frankly I don’t know how he had time to do anything here at home, when he was so busy travelling all over the world. He went to Rio, China, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and all over the United States. It was routine for him to call from the airport and say, "I’m gonna be here or there for a couple of days, see you when I get back". You’d think, "I didn't even know you were going out of town, it’s a Wednesday". Travelling was just part of him. Whether it was for a game or a special event, or just to show up for the people he loved, no matter where they were.
He had a wicked sense of humor and was the slickest of pranksters. He’s the only person I know, who could play a trick on you, and have it make your day. Whether it was with an out of left field comment that was somehow perfectly timed, or a fully fledged elaborate prank, Daryl had the secret to make people laugh, truly, and from their soul, just like he always did.
As a family, we felt it whenever we were around him and we saw it everywhere we went with him. Almost every outing we had, whether it was out at a birthday dinner or at the Long Beach Grand Prix, without fail…from across a room or a crowd, someone would say, “is that Daryl?” or “Daayyy-o” and he would stop and talk and you couldn't tell if it had been 10 years or 24 hours since he’d seen that person. The excitement and the investment was the same, either way.  I’m convinced we could go anywhere in the world and uncle Daryl would run into someone he knew.
In thinking about my uncle, I recall the emotions I felt, emotions I’m sure most of us in this room felt, upon hearing about his diagnosis. The feeling that this could not really be happening, that someone with this kind of an impact could not be taken from us, the hope that maybe there had been some kind of mistake, or that it would just be hurdle that we would all get over. Beneath all of that, there was fear. Fear that one day far too soon, we would be here. Some fear that when a loved one dies, there is a struggle not to forget. There is fear that someday, the sound of their voice won’t come to us as quickly or we won’t be able to remember exactly how a joke was told. Little things. One thing we never forget, is how someone makes us feel. No one who knew or even met him for a short time will ever forget how Daryl Foster made them feel. 
Daryl is the true definition of a family man. He treated everyone he knew like family. He connected all of us as part of one big family. Daryl’s family.  He hugged like no one else. He laughed like no one else. He brought people together like no one else. He loved like no one else.

You see, Daryl made us better people just for having known him. We are blessed that he was in our lives and will miss him very much.  May he be an example to all of us of how one person can make an impression and a difference in another's life.

He will forever be our Atomic Dog.

Friday, February 1, 2013

RTFAFN: Series Finale

The series finales of 30 Rock and The Last Resort were excellent.  I would love to have seen The Last Resort continue, but I'm glad they were allowed to finish out the season with closure, unlike so many other shows.  It's a shame really.  This was a REALLY good show and Andre and Scott were great in it.  They had a wonderful chemistry.  And, honestly, the show was different - not derived from stale old story lines that have been re-purposed a thousand times.  It was fresh and new. I just think that it was in a bad time slot and would have found a better audience on a different day.  And, well, 30 Rock was just a superb show.  As much as my wife hates Tracy Jordon, she liked the show, too.

Let's see what "The Americans"  with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys will bring.  I remain hopeful for something to help me take my mind away on a weeknight.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

RTFAFN: Sex in a Nanosecond

I had a very interesting conversation with my cousin on New Years Day evening. You know how people sometimes say, "Live in the present, not the past"?   Obviously, we all understand what the intent of the proverb is: "Live in the now, don't worry about the future, what's done is done, live each day, blah, blah, blah..." But, his take was just as valid.  For the purposes of this RTFAFN, and knowing most of the people who would read this, I'll assume your past just isn't that bad. Overall, you've had a pretty good life, right?  Sure, there were the money issues and the overdue credit cards and the breakups and the fights and the unwanted pregnancies and the car accident and the pastor who touched you and the poor grades and your presidential election/gun law/Prop 8/marijuana law that may not have gone your way and your mother never loved you and you got laid off and the estranged sister you never talk to and your girlfriend cheated on you and the (insert sports team) lost  the (insert sports teams championship game) and Hostess went out of business and the divorce and Pluto isn't a planet anymore and the illness and the deaths and the... wait... I lost my train of thought.  Oh, yeah... What my cousin said that flies in the face of that previously stated proverb is, unless your past just sucks to hell, what's wrong with living in the past?  We are all a product of our past - our past experiences, our families and friends who have come and gone, the people we have loved, even the people who have angered us and caused us great sorrow and pain. We are the sum of our up-bringing, be it good or bad. And, we live today as an amalgamation of all those parts. It's a hell of a lot longer than the present.  You can look back at it and see all that you have accomplished. You can see the children you've raised and the home you've built. In a much more materialistic sense, you can see the car, the house, the latest iWhatever, the shoes, and all the other cool stuff you've bought.  And, you have evidence in the form of pictures, videos and memories. Additionally, there is no planning for the past.  It's set and solid and done with no potential changes, unlike your fickle future.

Now, my cousin wasn't trying to be overly philosophical.  His perspective was that people cannot live in the present, as the present is very fleeting. The present lasts a mere nanosecond and then it's gone.  I mean, what can you get done in a nanosecond? Well, nothing you want to brag about.  Blink? Breathe?  Whoopee.  Both are involuntary and will continue until you die.  A math problem? No.  Fall in love? Against what other people may say - no.  It took me a few dates. Sex? NO. (More like 9 minutes. And, I'm over-exaggerating). Point is, to literally live in the present is difficult.  And, to do so philosophically is not that much easier.  Life is hard and we all got a lot of shit going on.

You can't live for the future either, because you absolutely have no idea what the future holds and you can't predict it. Sure, you can make some educated guesses: I'll get up and go to work tomorrow; that dick in the yellow Ferrari is going to take up two parking spaces forcing me to park on the roof; Jason in Accounting is going to steal my Lean Cuisine from the fridge AGAIN; that hot girl will wink at me like she does everyday just before she asks me to do her work for her; I'll do the hot girl's work for her; I'll go home late and have some form of breakfast cereal for dinner. Yes, all very probable.  But, we all know that one corporate restructure, one car accident, one little pregnancy test can put a wrinkle in your day.  So, sure, use your educated guesses to feel safe about your next steps (hide the Lean Cuisine and stop at the store on the way home for one of those roasted chickens under the heat lamps) but, know that at any point, the best laid plans for the future can drastically change through no fault of your own.  Some would say that God has a plan and we are just along for the ride.  I have no idea if that's true.  All I know is, if God does have a plan, I'd like to see the blue print.  I'd love to see it plotted out in Microsoft Project.  I'd like to have a weekly executive meeting with all the department heads (health, accounting, life designer, marketing and PR, IT, human resources) and discuss milestone achievements and risk assessment and determine how we are going to get to the end game.  Maybe come up with a Plan B contingency, should God's first plan not do well in focus groups.

On Facebook, like many of you, I've collected a wealth of rich and interesting relationships. I have friends who I've known for the better part of 35 or 40 years (one girl with whom I went to nursery school). I also have friends from PS 26 elementary school, Walt Whitman JHS, Roosevelt High School, Mercy College, various jobs I've held in New York and here in California, people I've met at parties and, of course, nearby and distant family members. I feel incredibly blessed to have an amazing family who, year after year, get closer as we deal with sickness, the loss of loved ones, promotions, graduations, the beauty of newborns and marriage. So, with that, I thank all of my friends, all of my family, my beautiful wife and all of the surrounding elements that may not have always been very kind to me. Through my daily interactions with them, they help shape the person I am today.  So, this is their fault.  :-)   I'm not the perfect person, but who among us is?  However, I think I am a good and decent person.  And, I think my friends and my family are all good and decent people.  And, much of that has to do with where they came from.

Wishing you all and very Happy New Year.

Monday, December 31, 2012

RTFAFN: The Mayans weren't wrong

If you ask me, I'm not 100% sure the Mayans were wrong. I fully believe the world would have ended if it weren't for Jack Bauer. There were others who thought the world would end. Some first century Christians though that Jesus would come back within the first generation to end the world.  He didn't.  The year 1000 came in and went. But maybe they got the math wrong. Jesus was supposedly 33 when He died for our sins.  So... maybe it was the year 1033. No.  That wasn't it. Christopher Columbus claimed that the world was going to end in 1658. Nope. Jehovah's Witnesses thought it was going to be 1975. I think we can all remember Y2K. Then of course we have the Rapture which was going to be May 21st...oh wait... no, October 21st... or something. I'm just going to opt to believe that time traveling Jack Bauer has continued to save us over and over again. He just couldn't stop the end of the Twinkie.

Friday, December 14, 2012

RTFAFN: Connecticut School Shooting

I can remember a time when all we had were drills for natural disasters and we had to learn fire evacuation routes. The only security in the hallways of our school were appointed student hall monitors and the occasional teacher who used to stand at the doorways of their classrooms making sure that students got to the rooms before the bell sounded. Today is completely different. Today is completely disturbing. Hollywood bank robbers, Columbine, freeway shooting, a mall, a movie premiere and now CHILDREN dead in a quiet Connecticut neighborhood school getting shot while attending class. I'm not familiar with any of this and I'm sick.  What has happened to our society? What does this mean for the next 30 years? Is it our gun laws? Is it widespread mental illness, depression and/or quick tempers? I really don't know. My random thought is "our future is grim". My prayers go out to the families in Newtown, CT.

Friday, December 7, 2012

RTFAFN: Homer's Got A Point

I recently heard on the Simpsons Marge say to Homer "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" (which I'm sure we have all heard before) to which he replied "what do you want me to do, carry around one egg in each basket"? I gotta agree -  seems a little silly to carry around all those baskets.