Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oh, Ash Wednesday

Well, seeing as how it is that time of the year, I feel I need to share my very favorite (read: dumbest) story that involves me and Ash Wednesday. It started about 6 years ago, when I began college...

Well, I grew up in rural Wisconsin, as I have mentioned before. My area of the state happens to be rather Protestant (with, of course, the ever present Catholics as well), so I didn't have much exposure to Catholicism. To make my ignorance worse, I was never baptized, confirmed, or involved in any church services (weddings and funerals excluded) since I was 5 years old. You see, growing up on a farm, Sunday mornings meant chores for my parents (and sometimes me), so they didn't take me to church. My mom decided to give my sister and I the choice of going to Sunday School or staying home, so we chose to stay home. Thus began my general ignorance of religious traditions, especially ones that weren't learned in the first 2 years of Sunday school (which was mostly coloring anyway).

Well, my first year in college, I began to notice there were a bunch of people walking around with black smudges on their foreheads. I thought the first couple of people just didn't realize they were there, but upon closer inspection, noticed they mostly resembled crosses. I had no idea what that meant, so I stared perplexedly at most people sporting such markings. This must have made many people uncomfortable, but I was confused and curious (and naive), so I kept right on staring.

I finally finished classes for the day and made my way back to my dorm. I lived on the 10th floor, so I made my way to the elevators. I was joined there by a young lady who lived somewhere high up as well. And, as luck would have it, she had the marks on her face! I finally had my opportunity to corner and confront of those fabled creatures I had been staring at all day! I got in the elevator, hit my button, watcher her hit hers (she was on the 12th floor), and as the doors closed, asked her the burning question on my mind:

"So, what the hell is up with the weird cross on everyone's heads today?"

I was very pleased with myself, but she seemed rather offended at the question. I was confused when she responded with, "It's Ash Wednesday, a Catholic holiday. It represents *something I don't recall and don't want to look up* about Christ." I responded with a meek "oh" and looked at the light telling me what floor we were on. It read 3.

Needless to say, it was a long seven additional floors.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Dangers of Sledding

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, you basically try to keep yourself from going crazy as a kid by doing all kinds of stupid shit. We played with fireworks (oh, there are stories about that), shot each other with BB guns (and later, paintball guns), shot arrows straight up in the air and tried to dodge them (before it was popularized by Garden State), threw rocks at bulls, and tried to pee on electric fences. While this was a lot of fun, these were stupid summer activities, and seeing as how summer lasts approximately 10 minutes in Wisconsin, you really had to find some alternatives to those sorts of things to keep your time occupied. Sure, during the really cold days, you would play video games, but having no console at my house growing up put me at a great disadvantage when playing against my friends. I can only take getting my ass kicked at Street Fighter 2 so many times before I need to do something else. Board (bored) games were okay, but we weren't sophisticated enough at the time to do long, drawn out games like Risk, so most of those were done with in about 20 minutes. Eventually we realized we had to brave the elements and try to find something to do outside. This, of course, led to snowball fights, snow fort building, and best of all, sledding.

Living in the middle of nowhere definitely had its perks when it came to sledding: you had untouched hills that only you knew about/could get to, you had snowmobiles and other devices to act as sled lifts back up the hill, you always had proper winter clothing from having to do chores, and no one around to hear you scream like a little girl all the way down the hill. My friend Nick and I lived right next to each other growing up ("right next to each other" being a quarter mile away from each other in the country), so we always hung out and went sledding at Nick's house. He had a great sledding hill on his property that was a ton of fun to sled on. I can remember one of the first times going on that hill, I was uninformed of the layout of the hill. I have taken the time to draw you, the reader, a diagram of the hill so you can follow my story from here:

Well, you started at the top and you were supposed to follow the red path shown on the right of the image (click on the image to see it in a bigger view). As you can see by the blue path, I didn't make the "recommended" path.

Now, I call it a "recommended" path, but really, it was the only path you could take because of the junk pile with cinder blocks and the briar patch behind it. And you may ask yourself how we managed to navigate such a treacherous path at all. We had sleds like this to guide us. Sure, they look sturdy and steerable, but when you are zooming down the hill at roughly the speed of sound, the front ski has a tendency to skip off the ground with the smallest bump. This causes a temporary loss of steering ability, thus making the rider go off-course if they aren't aware of such things.

I was not aware of such things.

As we stood at the top of the hill, my friend Nick and his older brother Dan began advising me on how to lean into the corners and take the "gentle" curves on the hill. They told me about how I needed to look beyond the first turn to make sure I didn't oversteer and miss the second curve. If you missed the second curve, you would go off into the powdery snow and lose momentum, abruptly ending the fun. Also, there was a ramp they had built towards the bottom of the hill, so if I wanted to avoid that, I had to take the second turn high and stay to the left side of the trail. I felt like I was getting insider stock trading options. I was going to know every in and out of the hill on my first run down! Well, on my fateful first run, I set off down the initial part of the hill. The first run before you have to turn is the steepest and where you gain the most speed. As I came to the first turn in the path, I glanced ahead to make sure I could ease into the second turn and not miss the path.

I did not make it to the second turn.

As I saw the path and came right into the first turn, I whipped the steering wheel to the left, careening down the hill at breakneck speed. Remember how I said if you hit a bump the front ski would lift off the ground? Well, there was a rather large bump/drop off right before the first curve, causing my front ski to leave the ground. So, instead of turning, my sled went straight off the path towards the junk pile and briars with all the control of Evel Knievel after a botched motorcycle jump. My ski came down and made a futile last attempt to listen to my steering command as it met with a cinder block that was frozen to the ground. Inertia, being the harsh mistress it is, stopped my sled, but allowed me to pass through her barriers uninhibited. The briars, on the other hand, did not let me pass. Luckily for me, they were dried from the harsh winter and weren't particularly thick, but that didn't stop them from hurting. As I lay on the ground struggling to get out of my predicament, I heard Nick and Dan say something I will never forget:

Dan: "Watch out for the junk pile!"

Nick: "You gotta turn early!"

Thanks for the timely advice, guys.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First date story number one

Well, as you will discover with this blog, I am world renowned (okay, in my world at least) for my abilities to never succeed on a date, especially the first date. I am exceptionally thick with women, as every man is (or at least claims to be to not have to listen to them), but pretty receptive to at least trying to get along with them. This particular story is about a girl and a foreign film she wanted to see.

I happened to meet a girl in a bar one night and struck up a pretty decent conversation with her. Now bear in mind, this was during my college time, so for me a "pretty decent conversation" probably meant that I didn't fall asleep or throw up on her. That's a feat in and of itself, because I was generally highly intoxicated at bars and would have to have been to be talking to a girl (you see, in addition to being terrible with women, I am terrified of them). Well, we exchanged phone numbers and I actually followed up and called her a couple days later. Eager to go out with this girl, I suggested a pretty standard first date: dinner and a movie. I let her pick the restaurant and movie as I am nothing if not a consummate gentleman. She chose the restaurant (nothing too fancy, but a decent little sit down place) and I asked what movie she would like to see. This is where my woman skills start to shine through.

It's no secret to those who know me that I am a huge horror movie fan. In fact, I've started a horror blog in addition to this one here. So, there happens to be a great Japanese director named Takashi Miike who is pretty well known for being the reason people say "Japanese people are fucked up". His movies are generally very violent and often strange, but well shot and interesting. He had a little movie called Audition that came out in Japan in 1999. Well, a few years later (ie. when I was on a date with this girl), it had finally started making an appearance in the states. The movie is about a man who holds fake auditions to meet women after his wife dies. He meets one and really likes her, but finds out that she is batshit insane, to the point of keeping a man in her apartment in a burlap sack and feeding that guy puke. She ends up torturing the guy in a pretty gruesome scene. Now, it's an unsettling movie at best, hard to watch, but incredibly well done and very tense. It's a movie I greatly admire and still find it enthralling, but hard to watch. Miike has also made some other great movies like Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q, Imprints, and my recent favorite, Sukiyaki Western Django.

So, this girl mentions that she heard there was a great foreign film playing at the student union that night. Well, I bet you can see where this is going. She said it was called Audition and she had heard it was a bit of a thriller. Now, I have already seen this movie at this point, so what I should have said was, "Hmmm, I've already seen that and I don't know if it's a good date movie," or at least warned her about the graphic torture scenes and the overall theme of the movie. Instead, what I said was, "I would gladly see that movie again. Let's go!" Yup, dating mastermind.

The dinner was quite good and we headed to movie theater in a fairly pleasant mood with full bellies. The conversation over dinner wasn't quite as enticing as I had remembered from the night before, but then again nothing is when you aren't drinking. She also managed to say a couple of things during the date that struck me as a bit shallow, like asking me to admire her Prada purse her sister had given to her. When I asked what Prada was, I was met with a stare of contempt and amazement (at the time, The Devil Wears Prada was just a book I hadn't read, not a movie I hadn't seen). Oh well, she was still okay, even if she did mention to me that I didn't really match what she had worn. Well, I apologized for not coordinating outfits with her, which got a bit of a chuckle, but I had the sense that she really wasn't kidding about that comment. On the way to the movie I was planning on warning her a bit about the content when she said something to the effect of thinking farmers were selfish and taking up government grants (I don't remember how the topic came up). Now, I am a farm boy, born and raised. I paid my way through college by milking cows, so I know that farmers don't make that much money and quite frankly could use the grants. But hey, that's just me.

So at this point, she's made it pretty abundantly clear we aren't working out as a couple. I decided not to tell her the content of the movie. Well, at the peak of the torture scene, I happened to exchange glances with her and if there were a way to say "I'm never going on another date with you" with your eyes, hers said that to me right then. We walked out of the movie and she just laid into me about how I should have said something to her to warn her about that and how she couldn't believe that I had agreed to see that with a girl. I shrugged, said I still liked the movie. She said she was going to go home and responded by walking away and saying "O.k."

Needless to say, there wasn't a second date.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

We'll See what happens

Well, it's been a while since I was a blogger, but I think I need to get back on this. I thought about starting a website, but I hate web editing. So I decided to go back to blogging (to get a little writing out there). The question: what do I write about?

Well, I've had some interesting life experiences over the course of my life and I have been known to spin an entertaining yarn every now and then, so I've decided to write some of my life stories down. I don't know how long this will last nor how often it will get updated, but I'll try to keep it up for a while. They won't be in any particular order, just however the stories come to me. We'll see just how raunchy/personal I will get with the stories, but I'll try to keep them entertaining. Without further ado, I'll get to the first story...

Last night I happened to be watching a comedian who wasn't particularly funny, but he brought up hitting a deer with his car. This reminded me of the two times a deer has connected with my car in the past. Both times were a few years ago now, but I felt like it would be a good starting point for this blog. The first encounter was pretty standard: it ran in front of me, I swerved, it kept running like a deaf kid chasing a bouncing ball in the street, I ran it over, it died, I swore, etc. The second encounter however, went something like this...

I used to work on a farm for about 7 years on and off. It was a summer day and I was off work early (I had to be at work at 5 am and it was about 5 pm). A nice, short, 12-hour day was a welcome thing to me, so I buggered off and didn't let my boss find anything else for me to do. As I rounded the last corner to get back to my parents' house (I was back home for the summer to save and make money), I noticed a large plume of smoke coming from the side of the road ahead of me. It was a car on fire and the guy who owned the car was along the road trying to flag me down. I asked if everything was okay (a dumb question to someone who's car is on fire), and he asked if I could give him a ride to his friend's house in town. Being the good Samaritan I am, I said sure. I asked him if he wanted me to call 9-1-1, but he said that was okay, he would from his friend's house.

I drive him back into town (about a mile back in the direction of the farm) and as I pull into his buddy's driveway he says to me, "Thanks for the ride man. I've had a couple drinks so I didn't want to be there when the cops got there." He then got out of my car and ran into the house. At this point, a couple of questions arose in my head: why was he drinking before 5 pm on a weekday? Did someone else call the cops before I got there? Did I really just inadvertently aid and abet a drunk driver?

Well, as it turns out, someone did call the cops as a police car and two fire trucks zoomed past me. Knowing they would block the road off to get to my parents' house, I decided to take an alternate route home. I drove on a couple back roads to get around the scene and as I came down a hill, something out of the corner of my eye moved and caught my attention. That something, as it turns out, was a deer, deciding the best path to the other side of the road was through the passenger side of my car. Why the deer decided to be out in the daylight and try to go through my bright red car, I don't really know, but I do know that I did not hit that animal; it hit me. The head hit right at my passenger side rearview mirror and the backside of the animal (I managed to spin it around) hit somewhere on the back fender of my car. I swore rather loudly, slowed down, and got out to assess the damages. Well, the mirror was still attached by a thread, the door handle was broken in half for that door, and there was a large dent in the rear fender caused by its ass. The reason I know it was the deer's ass that hit my rear fender was because at the back of that dent was a large splatter of crap spreading over the back of my car. Yes, I literally hit the shit out of that deer. What made me angriest though was watching the damn thing get up and limp away. I hadn't even gotten the satisfaction of killing the deer.

Well, as it turns out, when it hit the door handle, it dented it in so much that when you rolled down that window, the door would pop open. This was helpful for when I wanted to open the door up for someone from the inside without touching it, but sucked otherwise. Apparently my relatives saw a deer a couple days later in that same area limping quite badly, so I figured he just had it out for my family. I don't know, but it still angers me to this day. And that's why I enjoy eating venison so much.