Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fat Rednecks and Gangstas: Style Cousins?

               It has happened.  I have crowned myself America’s Next Diet Guru without the need for an exhausting reality program hosted by someone of questionable British heritage.  The evidence, you ask?  I present, for discussion, my Daddy and his 40 pound weight loss (since September 2011).  I have dragged him kicking and screaming toward physical health.  Well, his version of kicking and screaming which is more pouting and angry looks as he is often tired and willfully quasi-ambulatory. 
                I discovered the exact degree of weight loss (39 pounds 11 ounces) when he entered the dining room this morning and asked, “How is it that I’ve lost 40 pounds and I’m wearing the same dad-blasted pair of pants?”  He did not like my answer of, “Those pants have been, and remain, too small.  Belt buckles should sit at your waist, not the middle of your thigh.”
                Men of his generation, the offspring of those called “The Greatest” by Tom Brokaw, are an interesting group, I will say.  Now I’m not sure if this is a Southern thing or not, but all I know is that most of the men I knew growing up in the South begin in high school a lifelong relationship with the same waist size of pant, regardless of issues of proper fit.  Baby Boomer is the name for their generation and although it probably wasn’t a term created to correspond with the alarming rate of waist expansion, the moniker is more than apt, wouldn’t you agree.  I was going to say ample, but there’s no need to be rude.
                It strikes me as humorous that my father’s pants have slowly slid ever toward his knees like a child who has been instructed to clean the yard; a slow, meandering walk, gradually easing toward the intended destination, which I can only assume, is around the ankles and these people spend an inordinate amount of time in bathroom.  I have never known him to be a fashion pioneer but he and his meaty brethren have been (grammatically more accurate) bursting a sag since, at the very least, October 1970 AD, translated ‘After Dustin’.  I know there are those who will say it’s actually Anno Domini or something else Latin, but my interpretation makes more sense, n’est-ce pas?
                Due to the reduction in the protuberance subjecting the upper portion of his lower torso to extreme shade, his pants are now somewhere in the, medically inaccurate, upper-middle-thigh area.  This is just low enough to cause concern but high enough to lessen the likelihood of a glimpse of ‘welder crack’, as he has never plumbed to any degree.  The citizenry of the South San Francisco Bay Area are appreciative, whether they know it or not.  I am accustomed to working behind the scenes, trying to make the world a more pleasant place one person at a time.  Your silence reeks of gratitude dear readers.  You are most welcome.
                If you know anything about me you know that once my father proclaimed his weight loss, I immediately began to deconstruct each section of his person to see if anything else had changed.  Other than the wearing of the new shirts I bought him to replace the ones that were somehow misplaced in an incident in the laundry room that, as it was un-witnessed by anyone except myself and Lulu, shall remain a mystery, he has maintained his “look” as it were.  Throughout my life I have noticed that his stomach had increased at a rate equal to the disappearance of his buttocks.  I did not notice any change in his lack of posterior.  Full disclosure, I try to avoid eye contact with that particular part of anyone’s anatomy prior to my morning coffee.  I prefer my wake-up to include only caffeinated beverages. 
Now, I am no physician, but having worked in the healthcare field more than a decade and as I am hyper-observant to the point of criticality, I can say that most men of this generation are equally disproportionate.  As it is in all real estate transactions, location is king.  And it seems that their buttocks, tired of the view, have migrated en masse, to a better spot.  I suppose the betterness of the spot is an opinion to be validated by someone else interested in the anatomy and physiology of “old men parts”.  I would have said this would include their female counterparts, but I have been assured on more than one occasion by the alumnae of my alma mater, Mississippi University for Women, that this is simply not true.  As I am a student of criticism, not anthropology, I will leave this academic discourse to others.  I do know that I have seen much more old man crack, plumber or otherwise, than I have ever wanted or imagined; mostly within what I used to consider the relative safety of my own home.
                On a positive note, the weight loss has afforded an improvement in his diabetes, or The Sugar as it is known is the countrier of circles.  His blood sugar is relatively under control.  I say relatively as his scores are better than his siblings, for whom gravy is still a beverage.  He has said on a number of occasions, usually in the throes of some dramatic invitation to one of his patented pity parties, RSVP not required, “You know tha sugah is gonna take my feet.”  I typically do not engage when this is presented as a topic of conversation because I, and he, have grown tired of my constant refrain of “carbohydrates are as harmful to your body as sugar.”  His practiced inability to retain this information causes me much frustration.  Each time we discuss the fact that crackers, bread, potatoes, rice, etc. are all carbohydrates he feigns confusion as if he expects to go to bargain market and find a box emblazoned with the word ‘CARBS’.  His avoidance of this particularly labeled box should allow him carte blanche when it comes to eating a meal containing pasta, potatoes, bread with crackers as a vegetable.
                By simply creating pre-portioned meals that give him what he wants in moderation and forbidding the purchase of items such as soda, ice cream and chips, he has unwillingly lost the afore-mentioned “near ‘bout 40” pounds.  Helping him choose cottage cheese and fruit over Peanut Butter Snickers is also a way to remind myself to consume a more healthy diet, as I must eat by example.  He has not cottoned to sharing my love of salmon and Mediterranean food, but he has agreed to mashed cauliflower as a substitute, sometimes, for mashed potatoes and he will infrequently allow “hippie hamburger” in his meatloaf or breakfast omelets.  The rest of society refers to it as ground turkey.
                I predict that he will be able to reasonably fit into his current clothes once he loses about 25 more pounds.  Only at that point might he be at the appropriate weight to for a 44x27 carpenter jean; his pant of choice.  Yes, you read that correctly.  With my measurements of 36x29, I am the Heidi Klum to his Melissa McCarthy.   
                As Dr. Phil is unequivocally larger than I and has several weight loss products on the market, I feel that it would be acceptable for me to launch a second career.  I could call my guidebook; the “Shrinking Redneck Population” to trick unsuspecting Yankees into buying what they are hoping is a sociology treatise.  Of course, I would expect each of you, dear readers, to purchase a copy yourselves, along with the first in my Southern mystery series, A Gone Pecan.  Get thee to or post haste as my last quarterly royalty statement would not have allowed a foray onto the McDonald’s Dollar Menu, a phrase that has just caused grievous injury to my psyche as it escaped my fingers to land on this figurative page.
                If I have an existential crisis, you have no one to blame but yourselves.  Other than my father, of course. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

If a Redneck LOL's, does it make a noise?

                I’ve just finished reading Drop Dead Healthy, the latest memoir of sorts by one of my favorite authors, AJ Jacobs.  I am a lover of all things non-fiction and Mr. Jacobs has documented all manner of activities in his life, like reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year or literally living the Old Testament for a year.  DDH is about his quest for bodily perfection.  In it he talks about androstenone, which causes people to not be able to smell things like sweat, urine and pig spit.  That this could apply to my father should come as no surprise as the man does enjoy his Vienna sausages or as he calls them, “vie-eenie weenies”.  They seem to be no more than potted meat in the shape of a tube.  Not appealing in any manner or circumstance up to and including a plane crash in the Andes Mountains.  I’d rather eat a soccer player.  Well, not really, but you get my point.

  The revelation there is the possibility of an ounce of truth in all my Daddy’s protestations of “I cain’t smell what you say you smell” caught me by surprise.  He might truly be biologically incapable of actually identifying the funk that is him.  As it is a complex aroma, part sweat, part flatulence residue and part old man smell, it has caused me much grief and has been the main source of friction betwixt us since he moved in. 

                This is not the only reason I bring up the book.  Another issue that sprang to mind whilst I was reading is this:  Mr. Jacobs is a witty writer, an enjoyable writer, a writer of great talent.  He is not however, an author who causes me to “LMAO”, otherwise known as laughing my a-crooked letter-crooked letter off. (If you don’t get that joke, I’m to assume you never spelled Mississippi as a child).  No offense to Timothy Ferriss, who praised him on the book jacket.  First of all, what’s with all the vulgarity being thrown about with abandon?  I weep for our future people.  Weep. 

Don’t get me wrong, AJ, as I would like to call him should we ever meet, is vastly entertaining.  When I read his books, and this is the fourth one I’ve read, I am enthralled, educated and happy.  I do not, however, LOL.  Not once.  And that means laugh out loud, not lots of love as my best friend Christopher’s mother originally thought.  Full disclosure:  we discovered she thought LOL meant lots of love when she made some random comment about the ethnicity of Christopher’s fiancĂ© and threw in a few “hell fire and brimstones” and ended the statement with LOL.  Now I’ve known some judgmental Evangelicals in my time, but that was a little too far into Fred Phelps territory for my comfort and I asked Christopher just what was up with his Pentecostal mama.   As he did not know, he asked her what exactly she meant by her use of the phrase.  I think it might be a generational thing because I asked my Daddy what LOL would mean to him and he said lot of love, too. 

                And I’m not trying to say I have never LOL’d.  However, I have only LOL’d when reading a very few select people’s work.  John Kennedy Toole, Tina Fey and Wanda Sykes are a tiny minority of writers who make me LOL. I have also not LMAO’d and I don’t know anyone outside of possibly from fraternity brothers in the throes of post-finals celebrations who have actually ROFLMAO.  That, as you may know is rolling on the floor, LMAOing.  Nothing in the history of mankind except possibly Eddie Izzard (in his Dress to Kill concert), Robin Williams doing stand-up in the late 80s or Kevin Hart is that funny.  Dane Cook not that funny.  Amy Schumer is not that funny.  LOL funny?  Sure.  ROFLMAO funny?  No.

                But what are we to say when we find ourselves in the throes of a reaction that needs to be documented?  In order to educate as well as entertain (in the mold of Mr. Jacobs himself) I have decided to create a new language to cover the bases of the reactions I have had whilst reading, Facebooking, etc.  Use it as you see fit.

                GAB – (pronounced like you’d think) giggle a bit.

                SAL – (ditto) smile a lot.

                OMIA/OMID (ditto) open mouth in anger or disgust.

                AEBIS/AEBII – (ditto) arch eyebrows in surprise or interest.

                SHIW/SHIS – (ditto) shake head in wonder or sadness.  Usually follows OMIA/D.

                TLMHWHN – (pronounced Tulim Hewin) tight-lipped mm-hmming with head nod.

                GAWL – (pronounced like you think) gesture accusingly while laughing.  Usually at a person who you have discovered is “so (that person) it’s not funny”, which ironically is funny.

                LCASFATR – (pronounced Lucas Fatter) look condescendingly at someone from across the room.  Of course I’m referring to the theoretical room that is Facebook.
                LSHILAFSTLWRIAAAIDTPITF (no pronunciation offered) laugh so hard I look around for someone to laugh with, realize I am alone and immediately decide to post it to Facebook.  Of course, I could have inadvertently spelled the name of some obscure city in Europe.  If I have, I apologize.

                GMFHBNLMFP (ditto) got my feelings hurt because no one ‘liked’ my funny post from the LSHILAFSTLWRIAAAIDTPITF.

                So there you have it.  I hope I have established a new common language to assist you in getting your point across in cyberspace.  Now, I realize that some of the pronunciations can get in the way, but if we were being honest, how often do we really say LOL in person?  I’m hoping not at all, because if you are then that’s just sad and I will, at the very least, AEBIS and more than likely SHIS.  Just saying.

                To return the focus of this missive to my Daddy, I will say his possibly biological inability to smell certain things has also, apparently, affected his judgment in many ways especially in relation to acceptable behavior in the home.  Now I know that I am persnickety about some, okay many, things, but I truly don’t feel that it is asking too much to expect him to close the door when using the restroom.  He doesn’t, regardless of the activity being executed.  I believe the street vernacular is #1 and/or #2. 

                I also don’t feel that it is, to use his words “actin’ like Queen Elizabeth is comin’”, to require a properly closed trouser (buttoned and zipped) for any and all meals, snacks and TV viewing.  What he does when I am not home would, I feel quite sure, both alarm and unnerve me and I’d just rather be in the dark.  His level of comfort is much too close for me, if you are picking up what I’m throwing down.

                Additionally, I have made small requests in relation to meal time conversation.  I have asked that clinical details of bodily functions, fluids and various other words that begin with F be saved for his actual physician.  I do not want to know what came out of where while I am trying to enjoy my “concoctions” as he likes to call anything with which he has no familiarity which can be something as mundane as hummus and pita.  When I described the ingredients, he just stared at me.  Chickpeas “sounded weird” and tahini sounded like “somewhere rich people go for vacation”.  In my zeal to establish a frame of reference using things he understands, I ended up calling it a Mediterranean version of refried beans, which lessened my enjoyment, can I just say.

                One of my readers accused me of being too focused on my father’s flatulence and related activities and maybe I have been a little bodily-function-heavy in my postings, but I have always been told to write what I know.  And living with him the function that dare not speak its name is an almost visible addition to our little family.  I fully expect it, at some point, to take human form, not unlike Hepatitis and Urine who stand outside as if working the doors at many fine establishments in the French Quarter.

               And that's all I'm saying for now.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fine and Dandy means something else, doesn't it?

                I’ve come to find that it’s fairly difficult to take over the world without either start-up capital or a doomsday device.  Seeing as how I have neither in any capacity (my Dad’s flatulence being dangerous but not life-threatening…yet) I am at a crossroads, dear readers.  And I’m not referencing fellow Southern icon, Ms. Spears’, movie debut.  While it was actually not so horrible as to give rise to thoughts of gouging one’s eyes out it was also not so great as to admit having seen it without the relative anonymity of great distance twixt you and me.  Sometimes Netflix runs out of options, people.  Stop judging me.  Or at least just judge me for the faux hipster outfit I’m wearing today, only 5 or so (?) years late to that particular party.  While I am not wearing intentionally nerdy glasses, I am wearing a teal cardigan, teal, navy and silver striped skinny tie, navy chinos that are almost too short and grey suede wingtips.  I thought I looked ever so cute, but when I presented myself after breakfast, my Daddy paused for moment before he continued clippity-clopping toward the door in his house shoes, his eyes awash with the possibility of gain as we were Wal-Mart bound.  That was quite the feat for someone who is more vocal with his opinions than I. 

                We were on yet another yarn run to the part of town where I’d prefer never to sojourn. My inner-Dandy is appalled I admit traveling to this mart of walls.  My inner-Redneck reminds me of the great value and mocks the Dandy’s outfit.  This is what takes place in my head. No devil and angel in me.  How pedestrian, the Dandy might say.  The Redneck would then make a joke about me never walking.  Is it any wonder I can’t concentrate on what others are saying most of the time?  I’m not self-involved, I’m merely distracted.  I accept your apology.

                Now, you know that I am not above sinking to a level of mundane from time to time, but today has taken its toll on me both psychologically and gastronomically.  After fighting the 67% of the citizenry of Guatemala that inhabit the geography around this particular shopping center who were also, apparently, needing a 6-pack of Lunchables for $5, my Dad suggested a stop at Taco Bell for an early lunch.  I assume this was his way of celebrating Cinco de Mayo.  Considering it was 10:00 AM, I thought it should have been considered a poorly chosen brunch, but since he had consumed his breakfast at 5 AM prior to taking the first of his many pre-noon naps, I figured he was probably hungry.  Having learned to chaperone him lest he feloniously consume grapes from the produce department, he had actually not eaten anything in the store other than the oxygen needed for him to punctuate his every step between the sad little greeter and the extravaganza of color and foliage that is the crafts section; the yarn sharing aisle space with the fake flowers.

                As the Dandy prepared his witty quip, he is oft much slower than I, the Redneck reminded me that I had toyed with the idea that I wanted, nay needed, to try a Dorito Loco Taco Supreme.  A taco with the shell made of Nacho Cheese Doritos.  A dish that will be served in heaven along with iced tea, fried pickles, pecan tassies and chicken minis from Chik-Fil-A.  Of course, the Redneck won, although the Dandy refused to allow me to purchase anything else off the menu.  My father chose a #11 (two bean burritos, two tacos, drink).  He can’t remember his ATM PIN or that he should change underwear  more than once a week but he can recount the Taco Bell menu, a place he has frequented exactly zero times in the last 8 months.  I just adore selective memory loss.  Don’t let him fool you; nothing gets past that man, especially sardines and pork skins.

                However, I return you to my plight, as it were. I haven’t blogged much in the past few weeks as I have been traveling the highways and byways of this fair land completing many projects for our esteemed federal government all on your tax dollar.  And I thank you.  The fried pickles and queso (not in the same meal) that I had the luxury of imbibing during my most recent visit to DC helped bookend a delightful week with my group of management trainees.  One of the duties I retained from my previous position is National Program Manager for my division’s management trainees.  There are, at present, 27 scattered across the VA system; VA being Veterans Affairs, not Virginia.  They were presenting their research projects and did a marvelous job, as they had been subjected to a patented Dustin-critique on several occasions throughout their year of data collection and analysis.   I spent the first day of the conference, where they would present to the national leadership, micro-judging everything from their jokes and wardrobe choices to their speaking skills and eye contact.  It’s almost like preparing someone for Miss America. Hyper-scrutiny is par for the course these days.  Once they make it past my micro-judgment, they are ready for anything, do you hear me?

                When they finished their presentations, they surprised me with a tribute for all my hard work and support with a thank you and listing of what they called Dustin-isms, like my brutal honesty which they described as “[he] isn’t afraid to call an ugly baby, an ugly baby.”  They also liked some frequent phrases like, “Just saying”, “I’m Awesome!” and “Nobody’s Perfect, but Jesus”.  They presented me with engraved cuff links and a business card holder that was engraved with my name and their favorite Dustin-ism, “Own It and Move On”.  This has become my career mantra because owning it and moving on is something that you just have to do when you don’t understand why something has to be done but it’s mandated and you can’t change it.  Welcome to public service, y’all. 

                Full disclosure:  I didn’t realize I used that particular phrase so much until the participants at my Procurement Training Conference in San Antonio last year created a dance move using the hand gestures I apparently use whilst repeating the phrase.  The motions are somewhat like pulling fruit off a limb above your head and then brushing it to the side. 

                I can tell you that the presentation from the trainees left me overwhelmed and, in a rare occurrence, speechless.  I admit that I teared up just a bit and had to just hug some people and have a seat.  I felt like Sally Field in the graveyard in Steel Magnolias, without the convenience of Shirley Maclaine to slap in order to laugh through the tears. 

                I said all that to say this:  I may have found a way to dominate the world after all.  I am making the world, if not better, at least a better dressed place, one management trainee class at a time.  I am helping make the federal government more efficient, friendlier and more attractive as well.  You are most assuredly welcome.  Trust me, it was more selfish than altruistic; I have to work with these people.  Cute, smart and fun trumps apathetic, double-knit swaddled and angry any day.

And nothing gives me a greater feeling than taking my “life as an art project” approach and, if not actually grooming any followers, at least making unique individuals like my inner (and outer) Dandies more acceptable through a stealth campaign with a touch more awe than actual shock.  Although most passersby, my Daddy included, don’t quite know how to react to my fuchsia chinos. I just tell myself that look is one of envy and carry on with my head held high, Diet Snapple Peach Iced Tea attached to my lips, eyebrow arched just so.

 In other words, I have owned it and moved on. 

My Daddy seems to have simply rented his delightful lunch.  That bald dude from Midnight Oil was right; sometimes the sins of the father are visited upon the son.  I hope you’ll pardon me but I have to go; my eyes are burning and I have lost the ability to structure a sentence.