Archive for March, 2009


Under Armour Gear — Punch In The Face

March 27, 2009

I’m trying to get back in shape.  I saw those adrenaline- pumping Under Amrour commercials and thought — yeah, that’s what I need.  Running through tires with a bunch of ‘Roid Rage Hulks and lifting cinder blocks like I’m Mahky Mahk in ’92:  WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUUUUUSSSSSSSE.  So I went out and gots me an Under Armour shirt.  HeatGear.  Black.  Sounds cool — iscool.  Got home.  Put it on.  Well, “put it on” is a simplification — it was more like “paint it on.”  Getting this thing on IS the workout.  Once I fit this tighty over my shoulders, I had already fully exhausted my lats, pecs, bi’s, tri’s . . .  

I finally got the shirt on.  As I strode around the house, I could feel the benefit of this incredible gear.  I felt huge.  Bulging, really.   For a moment, I felt like Ray Lewis doing push-ups in prison.  Like Terrell Owens doing sit-ups in his driveway.  Like Jose Canseco swinging a baseball bat in 1989.  Like . . . well, I guess I’ve made my point.  Then, I got a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror.  I stopped and turned to get a full view of me in all my hugeness . . . and . . . I looked like Kermit the Frog dressed as a turtle-necked poet.  No . . . that’s too kind.  I can’t dis my frog Kermie like that.  To be more accurate, I looked a balding, pregnant 14-year old boy.  Like Sinead O’Connor’s portly little brother.  An absolute freak of nature.  All I could think was:  I can’t believe they forgot to sell me the optional 6-pack ab inserts.  I knew I forgot to buy something at the store.


The “Soul Punch” — Punch In the Face

March 20, 2009

I’ve had it.  No more soul punches.  I’m marking this day down.  I’ve given the last fist pound of my life.   For the (fortunate yet) uninitiated, the “soul punch” or the “fist pound” is the latest hand-to-hand colloquial greeting people (friends?) give to each other when saying hello, goodbye, or whenever there is an awkward pause during a discussion between two adult males.  Speaking of discussions between two adult males, when did we men lose the ability to talk to each other without awkward pauses and barbaric gestures (read:  soul punches) filling the time?  Think about it fellas.  When was the last time you were this uncomfortable talking to another person?  You remember.  You were 16, and you had to get it together to convince someone to go to the Junior Prom with you.  Your heart was beating out of your chest as you asked her to go out on your first date to the Ponderosa Steakhouse.  That’s right.  Because nothing says classy like an all-you-can-eat buffet where kids under 12 eat free.  That  was uncomfortable.  But this is worse, because — now — its a different kind of discomfort.  Back then, you didn’t know what to say to your prospective date.  Now, I know everything I want to say to the other guy, but I don’t want to scare him off.  I want to ask him the same thing Kramer asked George before the K-man headed off to California to shop his treatment for The KeysDo you yearn?  I also want to ask the other guy random thoughts from adulthood, like:  Do you recognize the guy in the mirror?  And Do you also think that if — if — you just had the right directioning as a kid, you’d be a professional athlete right now?  Instead, worn down by the weight of adulthood and domesticity, we just sit there staring at each other . . . and, eventually, one of us reaches out to give the other a soul punch/ fist pound to mark the end of our uncomfortable encounter.  

What’s so bad about the soul punch/ fist pound?  First, I’m pretty sure it was invented by a germ-a-phobe (or a small group of germ-a-phobes) in Southern California (read:  Howie Mandell) who started using the soul punch as a relatively germ-free alternative to the handshake.  Also, a hairy knuckle to hairy knuckle connection is — let’s face it — a little creepy and not very satisfying.  But there is an even greater reason to join me in boycotting the soul punch.  Because — even if it was originally intended to replace the handshake, it has devolved into a repalcement for the more elegant and more comical high-five.   And that’s where the soul punch went wrong.  You can’t replace an icon.  The high-five is the perfect hand-to-hand connection between mammals on all levels.  Don’t believe me?  Try a little experiment on your own.  When something goes well tomorrow, you’ll have two choices:  the soul punch or the high-five.  Take turns trying one or the other.  I guarantee the high-five is more fulfilling, more gratifying, and more of a true “Yes!!!” feeling than the soul punch.  See, to perform the soul punch properly it has to be very slow and deliberate with both participants slo-mo’ing the entire thing as if, once their hands connect, they’ll become charter members of the SuperFriends and will — at that moment — acquire the ability to turn into useful crime-stopping animals (my apologies for the obscure SuperFriends reference).  The high-five, on the other hand, is all spontaneity, sass, verve and . . . life.  When a high five is right, it is right.  Think about the best high five you’ve ever connected on.  You remember:  it felt like lightning bolts were jumping off your connected fingertips toward Heaven . . . and when those lighting bolts reached Heaven . . . the clouds parted . . . and Jesus himself appered in the form of Queen’s Freddie Mercury . . . singing “We Are The Champions.”  THAT’S what a great high-five feels like.  Plus, the high-five has so permeated the very fabric of our culture that we get to witness great high-five flubs every day: on the Price Is Right, at the local Arena Football Game, and during heated political campaigns.  That’s right:  all across America people are wiffing on their high-fives, creating hybrid two-hand to one-hand connections, and falsely interpreting a high-five offer as a one-handed hug.  And that’s what makes the high-five great.  Because it consistently proves that spontaneous human interaction is both compelling and hilarious.  So — come on, boycott the soul punch and keep it real with the high five.  And to ensure you give the high five its proper due, make it a “two-handed to two-handed” high-five with your high-five buddy.  That’s what we call a “double-double” . . . and it makes the Howie Mandell soul punch look like a cabbage patch doll picnic.


Running a 5K Road Race — Punch In the Face

March 5, 2009

I’m trying to get back to my fighting weight.  Problem is, I haven’t been in a fight since before the Roller Skating Party in the Fifth Grade.  So now I have to lose 150 pounds in time for beach season.  It’s gonna be rough. 


So I’ve started running.  I have one goal when I’m running and only one goal:  to stop.  That way, when I go for a run, I run as fast as I can for as long as I can, so I can get back to sitting around the house doing nothing. 


In a rush of testosterone and physical optimism, I decided to run a 5K road race.  Nothing like an incredibly barbaric activity to shock my body (back) into shape.  Plus I don’t mean to brag, but I ran a little in high school . . . Freshman Cross Country Champ.  Bishop Gibbons High School.  Big Ten Conference.  That’s right — I know what I’m doing.  I also had a secret weapon:  at the end of the race, I’d start to yell “AISH!” with each breath.  I’d really AISH it out.  It was my Call of the Wild that would intimidate the competition and propel me to victory.  


I showed up at the 5K road race ready to race.  Just one problem:  I’m not Cross Country Champ.  I haven’t seen him for a long, long time.  As I walked up to the starting line, the darnedest thing happened:  Cross Country Champ appeared out of nowhere and started walking next to me.  Before I know it, we’re in step with each other — and he got right into my head:


Cross Country Champ [looking around at the Competition]:  What a joke.  I’m gonna kick some A-$-$ (aka A-double dollar signs) today.


Me:  Listen, kid.  You haven’t been around for a while — more than 20 years.  I know you were great – you were the best. But that was a long time ago.  Let me handle this for now – we’re just gonna take it nice and easy.


Cross Country Champ:  [Ignoring Me] Huh?  [bouncing up and down like a caged animal] I don’t like that guy over there. Who does he think he is?  We’re taking him down.  [shouting] Hey – You.  Yeah you.  Gibbons is in the House!  You hear that? [cheering] G-I-B-B-O-N-S that’s the way we spell success. Go Gibbons.  Go! Go! Go Gibbons! 


Me: [shaking my head and trying to lead the Cross Country Champ away from a sure physical confrontation]


Freshman Cross Country Champ:  And who’s this guy over here?  I think he’s giving me the eye . . . [to another runner]  We’ll settle this on the course!  If you can keep up . . . [back to Me]  I’m sorry.  Were you saying something?


Me:  Forget it.  Let’s just not die.


Freshman Cross Country Champ Guy leads me up to the front of the starting line and . . .


BANG!  We’re off. 


Cross Country Champ takes us out of the shoot like Tom Cruise running through the airport in . . . every one of his movies.  We’re 30 steps into the race, and I’m already spent.  In full-out panic mode, I start to “AISH” it out.  It appears to have little impact on my present competition.  After that, I pretty much blacked out.  I vaguely remember telling some guy who passed me to “go get ‘em  . . . for all of us” but, even now, I don’t know what that means.  Or what it could mean . . .  


After the race, having regained consciousness, I was leaning over a post-race table of snacks — bananas, muffins and PowerBars — and I had one final thought before being re-checked by the EMT’s:  if I’m too weak to unwrap the PowerBar package, how am I ever going to get the power inside me?


Friendless and 35 — Punch In The Face

March 3, 2009

I just got tickets to the big game.  You know — the game where everyone who’s anyone will be this weekend.  It’s gonna be huge, and I’ll be right in the mix.  And I don’t just have one ticket.  Me gots four of ’em.   That’s right.  Let the positioning begin, fellas.  Will it be my pals from my Thursday poker night?  Or maybe the guys from the Monday night flag football league.  I can’t forget my Saturday morning running club buddies — they love going to the big game.  There’s only a few problems:  I can’t play cards (can’t even shuffle cards), I’m pretty sure a flag football league would be the 7th layer of H-E-double hockey sticks for me, and the running club doesn’t exist.  Check that — the running club exists, and I always picture myself jet-setting around the country with a bunch of others runners kicking A-double $ in Masters’ competitions, but my bed’s too cozy to get out of bed to join them.  So what I’m saying is . . .

I’m friendless. 

It’s a fact, and I say it without any self-pity.  Okay, maybe an ounce of self-pity.  But I honestly don’t take my friendless-ness personally.  Maybe I should take it personally, but I’m convinced that whether or not a Gen-X’er has friends comes down to a 4-factor test based on the following:  1) age; 2) marital status; 3) familial status; and 4) employment status.  Let me walk you through these factors to illustrate my point.        


If you’re 35, you’re certainly not too old to meet new friends.  But definitely in a “friend valley” age-wise.  I’ve got none of the friends I had at 25 (okay — 2, but we’ll keep it at “none” for dramatic effect) and I won’t have my 50 year-old friends for several years.  I wish I could say the loss of my friends from 10 years ago was due to dramatic circumstances that ended in knock out, drag out arguments in the middle of a barren city street at 3:00 a.m.  But I can’t.  I pretty much lost all of my old friends because I don’t go to Dave Matthews Band concerts and I don’t know what a Fantasy Football League is or how it works.  Actually, I know what Fantasy Football is, and I play it all the time in my mind:  I imagine I’m running punts back against a defense of swimsuit models who are trying to tackle me with big pillows.  So, there you go — Fantasy Football.  What I don’t understand is:  how do they form leagues around these football fantasies?  Would I have to join a “team” of weirdo’s who share the same football fantasy as me?  Maybe this is why I don’t have any friends . . .   As for my 50 year-old friends, I just haven’t met them yet.  I’m looking forward to it, but I got about 10 years before I lower my friend standard to the point where I’ll call someone my friend because we meet for a round of golf every Saturday.

 Marital Status

Fellas, I’ll make this one short and sweet:  if you’re married, you may have a couple of “married friends”, but no real friends to speak of.  All you have is your wife’s friends.  And their husbands.  That’s it.  

Familial Status

This’ll be even shorter.  If you have kids, you don’t have friends — you just have other tired parents at 3 year-old birthday parties at the petting zoo.  That is if — if — you even have enough energy to nod at these other people while your feeding apples to the llamas.

Employment Status

Got a job?  You don’t have friends.  You have the “Krazy Krew” from work that teases you about the fact that you like to order the same thing from the Chinese take-out place each week.  And they try to convince you to call the local morning show to request some Bon Jovi each Friday — a lil’ Bad Medicine before the weekend. 

So, there you have it.  A simple equation: 35 +  Married + Kids +  a job = me and three empty seats at this weekend’s game.  If you see me at the big game, feel free to mock me.  Heck, beat me up in the parking lot.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  My posse of friends left 10 years ago.  I don’t really know my wife’s friend’s husbands.  The petting zoo parents are napping. And the Krazy Krew at work doesn’t really exist — I work at home, and the Krazy Krew is entirely comprised of the cat.  And my Curious George doll.  Now that I think about it . . .  I’ll get ready for the beating now.   Feel free to Punch Me In the Face.  It’ll be poetic justice.


Vacation — Punch In The Face

March 1, 2009

Two types of vacation:  the  “Go Somewhere” vacation and the “Do Nothing, Go Nowhere” vacation.  I’m not down with either type. That’s right, Sports Fans:  Vacation, A Punch In The Face.

First, the Go Somewhere vacation.  Being from the Northeast, that typically means going somewhere in the Caribbean.  Ah, the Caribbean.  Nothing like the natural tension between  an essential tourism industry and intense poverty.  I can hear you now:  But C-ROC, the people in the Caribbean are so nice.  I’m sure that’s partially true, but let’s not confuse smiling with being nice.  I’d grit my face and smile too if making my living depended entirely on whether or not a couple of drunk co-ed’s from Kutztown State decide to have their hair braided.  But C-ROC, the weather and the beaches are so beautiful.  Yeah, I get it.  But every time I’m on a vacation in a tropical setting, I keep thinking:  What am I doing here?  I feel like there are only three types of people who really deserve a tropical vacation:  1)  soldiers just back from the war; 2) celebrities (hey, what else are they going to do other than pose for paparazzi photos while they frolic in the water?); and 3) migrant workers.  If you pick lettuce 15 hours a day, you need a week in an ocean view cabana.  Me?  I’m hunched over a computer in a temperature-controlled office three steps away from a Keurig coffee maker and a drawer full of Power Bars. That’s right K-cups and Triple Threat Bars — a vacation in my mind with each sip and bite.  Plus, I like being home — that’s why I live here.  I like Chili’s for Dinner, Dunkin’ Donuts for dessert, and Target for after-dinner entertainment — don’t knock shopping for black athletic socks until you tried it.  The Go Somewhere vacation isn’t for me.

That leaves me with the Go Nowhere, Do Nothing vacation.  I’d get to stay home.  It really doesn’t sound that bad — I can already taste the Chili’s Chicken Tenders and feel those thick black athletic socks snug around my calves.   But I’ve tried that, and even though it’s okay for a day, I just can’t take it.  Having time to actually do the things I enjoy reminds me of how much of my actual life I miss out on every day.  I don’t want to have those thoughts — thoughts of being able to spend more time with my family and friends, and exercising without guilt or panic.  In fact, these very thoughts are exactly the reason why I keep my nose to the grindstone.  As an old cowboy once told me, “No need to be ponderin’ the meanin’ o’ life . . . you’re here now, and, God willin’ you’ll be here tomorrow.  Now get back to the herd.”  (Okay, an old cowboy never really told me that . . . but I can imagine a Jack Palance-type guy with an Irish brogue telling me that and it’d really make an impression on me and my outlook on life.  After all, Palance could do one-arm push-up’s at the age of 87.  I could never ignore such a combination of wisdom and brute strength.)  So, following that fake advice, I’ll just keep my head down.  Buried in the sand.  Like an ostrich.  Hey, it’s cool and dark down here.  Not too shabby.