Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Bachelor Party Manifesto

I figured out a long time ago that when it comes to marriage plans, mine will be a voice of support, and not of decision.  No matter how much I'd like to see my future wedding reception take the form of a massive toga party with music, dancing, and a dozen Weber gas grills, I know that I'll probably be outvoted.

I'm fine with that.

As long as I get a good Bachelor Party.

Long experience, however, had suggested this may be no easy task.  With standard features like strippers, alcohol, and stolen zoo animals off the table, many faithful Mormon grooms-to-be default to lame gatherings that would barely pass for elementary school birthday parties.  A group of guys goes out to dinner, maybe goes bowling, and at some point in the evening someone breaks out a cheetah print speedo he got the nerve to score at Blue Boutique.  And that's if there's a Bachelor Party at all.

When my time comes, I will go out in style.  There will be food.  There will be firearms.  And at the rate I'm going, there will probably be Medicaid claims.

I have caught fleeting glimpses of greatness in the past.  There were the parties years ago that featured full-court dunk ball games behind J.A. Taylor Elementary School.  There was my old roommate Brandon, who brought his henchmen down to San Diego for an evening of BBQ and a viewing of "Hot Rod" before getting sealed the next day.  Then there was the event I attended last weekend, where the simple idea of a roast was transformed into a multi-media extravaganza, complete with slide shows, films, and enough incriminating poop stories to turn you off camping for the rest of your life.

When the time comes to cap off my life as a Menace to Society, I want to shoot guns.  I want to play football.  I want to have gluttonous taco eating competitions.  I want to strap a life-size effigy of myself to a handmade raft, float it out onto the Great Salt Lake, and fire flaming arrows at it for a proper Viking Funeral.  And I want to do the whole thing in a rented jumpsuit that would make Elvis proud.  Is that too much to ask?

I realize I may be getting my cart in front of my horse here.  Like I said, by the time I actually have to plan a Bachelor Party, I may have to call ahead to make sure the rec room at my assisted living facility is available.  But even then, we can have wheelchair jousting duels, cream corn fights, and high-stakes Bingo.

I refuse to budge on this.  This dream will not die.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

They're Coming...

I still haven't decided if this is good news or bad news.

Barbacoa is coming to Bountiful.

Last week an old friend dropped me a line on Facebook that brought tears to my eyes: the old Hogi Yogi off 500 South is about to become the newest franchise of my favorite Mexican chain.  I already frequent the Salt Lake establishments once a week--usually the one on 9th and 9th across the street from the Tower Theater.  But now my spicy pork burrito bowl is only five minutes away.

Last weekend I drove by to confirm the news.  I had no reason to doubt my friend, and a quick stop at the company Web site confirmed the new location at 500 South.  But I had to see it with my own eyes.

It's true.

Barbacoa is coming to Bountiful.

I still haven't decided if this is good news or bad news.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Living the Portable Life

A few years ago I helped a girl move out of her apartment.  I figured that as a one-bedroom, it would be a quick job.  Many hours and many boxes later, it wasn't.  Aside from the numerous boxes of shoes--not shoe boxes, mind you; boxes full of shoes--the item that stood out in my mind was the 36 x 12 x 8 inch box exclusively devoted to smelly candles.  That morning I added another item to my dating "red flag" list.

Last week I helped my old home teaching companion move out of his central Bountiful rambler.  He's married with three kids, and a pretty down-to-earth guy.  Yet I was amazed to watch as his belongings were carted out into the front yard.  Here was a humble family, completely non-materialistic by modern Davis County standards, and yet the sheer volume of their belongings felt overwhelming.  I was reminded of how portable my life really is.

I've moved seven times since I finished grad school six years ago, and none of those moves needed a U-Haul.  Mostly that's because I hardly have any furniture (see: $500 bean bag), and partially because I still suffer from that special single person's disease that leads you to store a lot of stuff at your parents' house.

Maybe it's just my transient Mormon heritage, or it could be this romantic notion I have of living on the open road, but I kind of like the idea of being able to pick up and move with a minimum of effort.  Don't get me wrong; I have plenty of "stuff." I just don't like the idea of having to make multiple U-Haul trips to get it from place to place.

The ultimate manifestation of this lifestyle came in Chicago, when at any given time I had to be ready to move all my earthly belongings--including a rather awkward and cumbersome mountain bike--with a single Ford Escort Wagon.  But even that situation had loopholes.  If I really wanted to keep something that wasn't going to make it to my next area, I just shipped it home before transfers.

As I watched my old ward friend move last week, his belongings looked like the physical manifestation of the metaphorical anchor of his life.  He was rooted.  Domesticated.  I've always assumed that I've wanted those roots, but after years of pop-culture driven idealism when it comes to things like marriage and family, I think I'm becoming more aware of the magnitude of such commitments.  And yet while I'm wary of these roots, I think some of them may be taking hold without my knowing.

It's sobering, man...even I own a couple of those stinky candles.

Friday, April 23, 2010

11 Reasons I am NOT a Pimp-o-Matic Mega-Stud

After my previous post, one of my faithful readers suggested I might consider the flip-side of my Marryability argument.  I don't know, in the interest of humility or honesty or something.  Well, never let it be said I don't value the input of my readers.  Last time I gave you the reasons I am a catch.  Here are the reasons you might have to release:

1. I am not a homeowner.  When the zombie apocalypse hits, we will not be holed up in the basement with all of our food storage.  Chances are we will hit the highway Mad Max style, gunning down Z's at 80mph and fighting road battles for precious, precious gasoline.  Besides, after you've participated in enough Saturday morning Elder's Quorum moves, you realize the best kind of life is the kind that is portable.

2. I never eat at the table.  For some reason, I have to be watching something or reading something while I'm eating.  I'm not sure this explains why you can often find me eating shrimp cocktails on the couch downstairs at 1AM while watching downloaded episodes of "Fringe," but it's a start.

3. I refuse to use emoticons.  This one goes for dumb acronyms, too.  Six months ago a girl rejected me via text, and the last line of her message was seriously "Best of luck 2 U."  I felt like I was getting dumped by MC Hammer.  Yes, emoticons and hip acronyms may help the interpretation of your tone (IE, sarcasm), but honestly, if you're a decent writer, that shouldn't be a problem.

4. I hate country music.  Let me rephrase that: I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate country music.  This will not change.

5. I hate minivans and SUV's. I love to drive, and I'm hard pressed to think of two vehicles that negate that passion more, whether you're behind their wheels or just stuck behind them on a long road.  Yet these are the vehicles you need once your family passes a certain threshold.  I honestly think I'd rather drive a school bus.

6. I own a $500 Bean Bag. It sounds better if you know that it has a retail value of $1,100.  But not much.  And if you think that's bad, you should hear how much my camera lenses cost.

7. I am a nerd. Maybe the video game thing isn't a problem for me, but my inner geek was branded the minute I jumped in my car and set out for Comic-Con 2007.  Or the minute I approached George Lucas in a Chicago mall.  Or...well, pretty much since this happened.

8. I have a diminished vertical leap. All great athletes have to adapt their games late in their careers.  Karl Malone developed a jump shot.  Michael Jordan did underwear commercials with Kevin Bacon.  I used to be a short speedy guy who could catch you from behind on fast breaks.  Now I'm a short slightly more built guy who just pushes you out of the way.

9. I am physically incapable of tanning. This has made certain recreational pursuits like boating problematic.  I'm kind of like that assassin guy in DaVinci Code, only without the quiet moments of naked self-flagellation. 

10. I like who I am.  There's a prevalent idea out there that suggests every girl gets married with the intention of molding her husband into the man she wants him to be.  I have caught glimpses of this on different dates over the years, and it did not go over well.  I like who I am.  I like my Velvet Elvis paintings.  I know I have weaknesses, and I am working on them.  But let me repeat: I like who I am.

11. I am a stubborn, defiant, competitive SOB who follows his gut and doesn't like to be nagged.  In other words, I am a man.

Monday, April 19, 2010

11 Reasons I am a Pimp-o-Matic Mega-Stud

Last week Roommate #51 posted an essay on the concept of what he calls "Marryability," or a measure of how marriage-worthy a guy or girl is.  It has caused me some deep introspection.  Over the years, I have been described as "a tough match," "intimidating," and "having a perfectly shaped head," so in this age of shameless self-promotion, I thought it might be worth my time to assemble a brief hit list of my own marriage resume highlights:

1. I own my own blender.  I even use it, too.  Just to make virgin margaritas, but that's got to count for something.

2. I've got that "opening doors" thing nailed.  This one has already been well-documented.  I can handle doorknobs, push/pull setups, automatic doors, and most types of windows.

3. I shave my head.  Sure, you could say that male-pattern baldness is a negative, but I say it's a much bigger negative to the guys who live in comb-over denial.  Besides, as we discussed earlier, I have a perfectly shaped head.

4. I have season tickets to the Utah Jazz.  That's right, baby: 41 pre-paid date nights a year!  Just make sure to bring your own oxygen mask and an extra layer; the air gets a little thin in the upper bowl.  On the flip side, the odds of seeing a fistfight are way higher.

5. I have a weakness for certain RomCom's.  Keep in mind, there's a big difference between Romantic Comedies and Chick Flicks (which are still a no-no), but thanks to a Big Brother Complex* I developed for John Cusack many years ago, I can usually be talked into a periodic RomCom, especially if it stars some super-fly hot mama like Meg Ryan or Kate Beckinsale.

6. I have cool scars.  Chicks don't dig sissy-boys, they dig scars.  Because nothing says "sexy" like evidence of past lacerations.

7. I own my own business.  Sure, I may have only created it for tax reasons, and yeah, maybe I named it after a Monty Python sketch, but seriously, I own my own business.  That's cool, right?

8. I am not into video games.  I have plenty of free time to talk to you and make out and stuff.

9. I have a reasonable bench-press.  I won't be impressing anyone at the NFL combine, but I hear the basic threshold is the ability to bench your own body weight, and I've got that kicked by a long shot.  Especially if you believe that I weigh 115 pounds.

10. I am handy with a shotgun, and know all the best ways to deal with zombies.  Of course, it helps if they are the size of clay pigeons and operate at a distance of 25-50 yards.

11. I play the drums.  Playing the drums is a lot of fun, but as the foundational element of the band, you often feel left out of the creative loop.  On the other hand, once I heard that drummers make good lovers, so there you go., why are there 11 highlights instead of a clean 10?  Because guys with marryability don't conform to the cultural conventions of a shallow society (or the rules of grammar).  Ladies, if you really want to score a Pimp-o-Matic Mega-Stud, you have to be ready to dial the volume up to 11.


*Meaning "John Cusack is the big brother I never had," not, "I think John Cusack is watching my every move."

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Social Troll

Pop quiz: What is the significance of the number 51 in my life?

A. Moving violations on my driving record.
B. Times I casually reference my one-gig stint in a Neil Diamond cover band (annual).
C. Roommates I have had outside my immediate family.
D. The number of girls I have kissed (annual).

To date, the correct answer is C, though if my recent pace holds up, the answer will be A in about five years.  B could be correct if I actually worked the numbers, and I will remain silent on option D.

It's a little sobering to think about; I've had more than fifty roommates in my adult life.

Well, sort of my adult life.  I'm counting the dozen or so who I either served with or shared apartments with during my mission in Chicago, and while they certainly count as roommate experiences, I'm not sure I would really call my state of mind "adult" for that period of  time, and I have plenty of pictures to prove it.

Still, regardless of the category, you have to admit that 51 is a pretty substantial number.  You could read it a lot of ways.  You could say it's a good thing, because I've never gotten into a fist fight with any of them (though I did get close for a stretch in Freeport, Illinois).  Or you could say it's a bad thing, since I've never lived with the same roommate for more than a year and a half.  I don't know; is that a bad thing?

Crunch the numbers a little further, and you find that my personal record for simultaneous roommates is eight, during my third semester of grad school at Utah State (pictured, and yes, that's Peter's kind of a long story).  And of my eight non-mission residences, four of them had me sleeping in basement bedrooms (five if you count the time I spent watching old "X-Files" episodes in the unfinished basement of my Woods Cross place).

Add it up, and I guess that makes me some kind of social troll.  I'm not sure what that does to my marryability index, but then again, "marryability" seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

So are moving violations, apparently.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: An Open Letter to KODJ

Dear KODJ,

Sometimes when an old relationship gets stagnant, you just have to cut the cord.  I had been waking up to your station for more than ten years, but as of last week, I can't take it any more.

It probably started when you began to phase the "oldies" out of your playlist and shift the format from 50's and 60's to 70's and 80's.  I love a lot of stuff from the 70's and 80's, but nowadays it feels like anything pre-Beatles has been rendered obsolete.

It got worse when your female co-host decided to spend generous portions of every morning broadcast talking about the latest happenings on "The Bachelor," "Dancing With the Stars," and "American Idol." I know a lot of people like reality TV, but I am definitely not one of them.  Especially when there is so much better television out there.

But the morning your host decided to have her personal psychic call in to the show to do a segment (without an ounce of self-awareness or irony, I might mention)...that's when I decided I couldn't take it anymore.

You lost me, just lost me.

This morning I woke up to a new show on 103.5.  They used to be the Classic Rock foil to your Oldies, but now you guys pretty much play the same stuff.  There weren't any reality TV updates, though.  No psychics, either.  Just some awkward transitions between Billy Joel and Def Leppard songs, with a little banter in-between.  It's not what I would call a perfect new relationship, but for now it will do.  I have to wake up to something.

Just so you understand, I don't expect everyone to mirror my own taste.  I've known I've been in the minority around here ever since Z-93 sold its soul to Country back when I was in high school.  I just figure that if I'm going to leave, you might as well know why.

So long, KODJ.  We had some good times, we really did.  Breaking up really is hard to do.  Neil Sedaka wrote a song about that.  He's not on the radio anymore.

Take it easy,

The Professor

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Undead

I've been teaching English composition for well over six years now, and in that time, there is an inevitable transition in every semester where I go from grading "fun" papers to grading "serious" papers.  This is the moment where instead of writing personal narratives, reviews, or process analysis papers, my students have to compose the dreaded research paper, and make some kind of argument about an issue that brings in outside sources.

Without fail, students who have written papers about summer vacations and romantic comedies suddenly default to harsh and bitter topics like abortion, stem cell research, and drug legalization.  Valid topics for sure, and often well-written at that, but topics that seem to lack a bit of the life and zest that previous papers carried. 

In the days that run up to the due date, I plead with my students to broaden their academic vistas and not feel tied to such hardcore issues, but then the dreaded day arrives, and I face a pile of epic sermons on the weightier issues of the day.  Every time I immediately resolve to provide my next batch of students with more examples and one-on-one counsel to help them find something to write about that they might not have considered.  For their sake...and for mine.

That's why mornings like today are so satisfying.  Once I couldn't stand the inane radio ramblings of my usual morning show any longer, I dragged myself out of bed, determined to grade at least two argument papers before heading off to the day job...and promptly graded two papers on the impending zombie apocalypse.

Now that's the way you start a Thursday.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Professor's Book Club: Outliers

For someone who claims he wants to be a writer when he grows up (all April Fool's gags aside), I do a painfully small amount of reading.  However, I have managed to muscle through a few titles recently, and I thought I'd pass them along.

The most notable book I've read so far in 2010 is a book by Malcolm Gladwell called OutliersOutliers is Gladwell's attempt to redefine the way we understand success in modern times, or more specifically, the way we understand the genesis of success.  I'm usually not the kind of guy who reads "success" books, at least of the Tony Robbins or Og Mandino variety, but Gladwell illustrates his points by examining the lives of pop culture figures like Bill Gates and The Beatles, so it's easier for schlubs like me to pay attention.  Plus the author boasts a killer electric afro (Obligatory Hendrix Perm?), which means I will hang on his every word.

The result is very complex and well worth reading, but it basically boils down to the idea that there is no single source we can point to when answering why certain people succeed in life and others don't.  IQ, talent, and class advantages all factor in, but even when all those things are equal there are still other seemingly fate-determined elements that put one person in the right place at the right time (thus creating the group of titular Outliers), while leaving someone else in complete anonymity.  Bill Gates was an incredibly gifted child, but if he hadn't gained almost unheard access to a computer terminal when he was in his early teens (and been born at the precise time that would land him in that spot in the first place), he never would have become the man we read about. In that sense, the book might better be titled Timing.

This is all well and good, but what the book doesn't address is the assumption it makes about the definition of success itself.  What of the people who weren't born at the right time, or given the unique opportunities or blessed with the astounding talents of the Outliers?  Are we doomed to mediocrity and unfulfilled lives? Perhaps Gladwell felt it was a given that for the sake of his discussion, we would only be addressing those in our society who achieved greatness in terms of fame and fortune, but the idea I found surfacing most often throughout the read was that if worldly success was only partially dependent on factors we could control, we probably shouldn't use it as an absolute benchmark for our own personal happiness. 

I'm guessing Gladwell would probably agree.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A Greeting

Come on, guys...go check the first letter of each sentence in that last post.  Highly unoriginal, I know.  But you have to admit that I could no sooner quit writing than I could chew off my own leg.  (Chewing would be physically impossible.  I could, if necessary, saw off my leg if given the proper utensil.)  And I'm especially not going to quit writing because a couple of publishers shot me down.  Keep in mind, I've been dating since 1992.

The Wounded Mosquito is not going anywhere.

It's true that I've been painfully slack in posting lately, an error I hope to address soon.  Let's just say I've had a lot of stuff going on.  Since late January I've essentially been working one full-time day job and teaching two night classes, which means my free time has become a lot more infrequent and valuable.  Plus I'm still trying to decide whether to continue this blog as an extension of my old USU column (the original intent) vs. writing posts that are shorter and more frequent (the advice I get from anyone who knows anything about creating a blog with a successful following).

It would seem that, as per usual, I am struggling with a commitment issue.  Kind of puts a different spin on that 1992 stat.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A Farewell

After almost a month with no posts, you had to see this coming.  Part of me is really sad to have come to this decision, but it feels like the right thing.  Recently I’ve encountered a number of setbacks in my writing pursuits, both through this blog as well as through a manuscript I’ve been circulating among some local publishers.  I got my hopes up for a while, but as the rejections kept coming, it forced me to take a long, hard look at where I am in life.

Life, it seems, is taking me in a different direction.

For the foreseeable future, I am officially closing up shop on the Wounded Mosquito, if not on my writing efforts in general.  Optimism is a good thing, but as they say, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the essence of insanity.  Of course, I couldn’t say goodbye without saying thank you to the few loyal readers who have supported me through my efforts, either through following this blog, reading over my manuscripts, or merely offering encouragement as I tried to build a steady audience.  Loyalty is an incredible virtue, one that far too few possess these days.

So long, suckas.