Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Streak

On the night of June 27th, 1998, I sat in a fifth-wheel trailer in Island Park, Idaho, scribbling in a black ten-dollar hard-bound journal from Deseret Book.  I'd finished my first year of school at the University of Utah after returning from Chicago, and had just arrived at the family place outside Yellowstone for the first time since before I'd left.

Twelve years later, I still haven't missed a daily entry.

As much money as I've spent on camera lenses, computer equipment, and retro Air Jordan's, there is nothing as valuable to me as the ten journals I've filled in the last dozen years.  It's cool to think that I could go back to any day from that period and tell you exactly what I was doing.  All too often in life we worry about the things we haven't done, but journals are a nice way to remember what we have enjoyed.

Here are a dozen examples from the last twelve years:
  • Met George Lucas, Ray Bradbury, and Luke Skywalker.
  • Taught English composition to firefighters in South Jordan.
  • Got paid fifty bucks to be a bouncer at a Saltair young adult dance.
  • Been a Best Man twice.
  • Totaled a 1964 Mustang.
  • Saw James Brown in concert.
  • Saw Sammy Sosa hit a home run at Wrigley Field.
  • Ate a raw Habanero pepper.
  • Finally scored a goal in an official rec league soccer game (that wasn't for the other team).
  • Won a fresh salsa competition and a chili cook-off.
  • Sang lead for a real Chicago blues band at The Blue Chicago.
  • Got mugged in The French Quarter.
Here are twelve things I'd like to accomplish in the next dozen years (assuming civilization is not wiped out by a zombie/robot apocalypse first):
  • Watch a movie at either The Spud Drive-In outside Driggs, Idaho or The Sky-Vu Drive-In south of Monroe, Wisconsin.
  • Become an uncle.
  • Get a book published.
  • Buy another Mustang.
  • Visit the old Tatooine set from the original "Star Wars" shoot in Tunisia.
  • Lose enough weight to fit the medium sized "Elvis meets Nixon" t-shirt gathering dust in my dresser.
  • Sit courtside for a Jazz the Finals! (Brother's gotta dream, right?)
  • Have someone throw their underwear at me while playing drums onstage.
  • Reach 100 "followers" on this dumb blog (this is a hint).
  • Get Natalie Portman's phone number.
  • Convince people to finally start referring to my friend Bill as "Dr. Thunder."
  • Bench press 300 lbs.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sweet Dreams, #176

Some of my dreams are one-hit wonders, like the one where I was Clint Eastwood or the one where I was popping wheelies in a Mitsubishi Eclipse with Salma Hayek.  Others are recurring, like the ones where I'm driving cars with no brakes or running over hippies with a double-decker bus.

One such recurring dream has me serving a second mission.  It's always a nightmare, which is strange, because I distinctly remember enjoying my mission.  Maybe it's because serving a second mission would suggest that I screwed up on the first one.

Here is what I wrote in a notebook after one recent "second mission" dream:

"...I wake up on couch in the living room of a host family during some sort of a mission transfer.  One of the family's sons has a friend who is completely tattooed and is constantly texting with some kind of a fake tail that has been surgically attached at his left hip.  When I wake up I am covered in travel bottles of NyQuil and disappointed that I am on a second mission (and less than one month in).  As I lay on the couch I notice that the family has these little gnome house servants who are sneaking around my stuff stealing items (like disposable contact lenses).  When I confront them about this, one says, 'puck you.'  I think I may be in the middle of a transfer to the office with another missionary (it's his disposable contact)."

I don't know what the part at the end means.  Actually, I don't know what the whole thing means.  If any of you have any ideas, feel free to share.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Look out, you rock and rollers...

Last weekend I bought three pairs of ankle socks.

This will come as a shock to people familiar with my notorious stubborn streak, because I don't like ankle socks.  I haven't had any since at least junior high.  It might have something to do with Shawn Kemp.

So why did I finally cave in?  Three reasons:
  1. Everyone at my gym wears ankle socks.
  2. As far as body parts go, my calves aren't so bad.
  3. Dr. Death.
Dr. Death is this guy at my gym who wears black all the time.  Tank top, jeans, military boots.  All black.  He also cusses a lot.

But one day I noticed that Dr. Death wasn't wearing his military boots anymore.  He was wearing high-tops.  Still black.

I didn't ask why he made the change.  I've never had a conversation with Dr. Death.  What was important was that he had MADE the change.

Dr. Death can change.

People can change.

I can change.

Rocky was right.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Radio Doesn't Suck

I am happy to report that my new relationship is going quite well.  It was over two months ago that I terminated my long-term association with KODJ 94.1, and so far the guys on Arrow 103.5 have yet to do any serious analysis of "Dancing with the Stars" or bring on their personal psychic mediums.

In fact, speaking of cosmic coincidences, it turns out I already have a history with my new morning show.  Jon Carter, one of the hosts, also used to do the morning show for Z-93, which was my classic rock show of choice back in high school before the station went country.  Familiar voices can be nice sometimes.

I actually met Carter a few years ago, though I didn't know it at the time.  I was standing in line outside The Depot waiting to get into the Steve Winwood concert with elBreto and The Other Josh when these two guys asked me if I wanted a free t-shirt.  I said yes, because you know, free t-shirt.  Then this other guy in line asked if I wanted to get a picture with the selfless souls who were out clothing the naked.  I said OK.

Later I learned one of the t-shirt guys was Carter.

That's right, kids: radio doesn't suck.


PS: About six months later I was wearing the free shirt at a ward Scripture Study activity one Sunday night when Elder David Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles showed up.  He didn't say anything, but I could tell he was relieved that the youth of the Church was staying true to its media roots.

Komið þið sæl, Suckas!

I had a dream last night that I wanted to fly to Reykjavík, Iceland, but I couldn't because the plane ticket was six thousand dollars. So this afternoon I checked online, and it turns out the ticket is only $4400. So there you go.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Ultimate Power Lunch

Last night was the first session of the summer English course I'm teaching for SLCC.  Since the classes cap out at twenty-five students, I can afford to do a little getting-to-know-you stuff on the first night.  Instead of just have everyone go around and tell the class their name, hometown and major, I try to stir the pot a little differently: I pair them up and ask them to identify three things:
  1. If you could go to lunch anywhere in the world, where would it be, whether it's a specific restaurant or a general location.
  2. If you could choose two people, living or dead, real or fictional, to join you, who would they be?
  3. Finally, what music would be playing in the background? (Regardless of the location)
The results are always varied and interesting.  The food and music choices provide great fodder for discussion, but the question I find most interesting is who they want with them.  A lot of people pick out favorite celebrities, but many go with family members.

Last semester one of my students decided he'd want to have lunch with Jesus Christ and Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion." For obvious reasons, this would be a confrontation I would love to see, even if the argument itself would be pretty much negated by the arrival of the participants.  Instead, I'd love to see the Savior sit down with Darryl Dawkins, AKA "Chocolate Thunder," the ex-NBA power forward who was famous for naming his dunks, shattering backboards, and telling people he came from the planet Lovetron.  That would be sweet.

Usually once we've made it around the class, someone asks me what my choices would be.  My response is different every time, but usually comes down to something like eating Giordano's pizza in Chicago with James Brown and Don King while listening to The Clash.

So...who would you choose?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Blind Date Paradox

I don't know how many blind dates I've been on over the years.  More than some, a lot less than others.  But one thing remains constant: I have never been on a repeat with any of them.

That being said, I can say with gratitude that I have been on only a few BAD blind dates.  I do not have the nightmare stories so many of my female friends can recite chapter and verse as if Freddy Kreuger just dropped them off at the doorstep.  The majority of my blind date experiences have been of the mid-range, "nice girl but no spark" variety, not the "this person is a psychopath; why is he/she licking the glove compartment?" variety.

Maybe that's why in spite of my track record, I still have to keep considering these opportunities.  At the age of thirteen I saw the Utah Jazz overcome an 8-point deficit to the Chicago Bulls with 40 seconds left in regulation, so I don't have a history of giving up on hopeless causes.

Plus my parents met on one.

One reason so many blind dates don't work is that the people arranging them don't do a lot of homework on the people they're setting up.  They tend to minimize things, thinking "Guy X has a sense of humor.  So does this single girl I know.  Bingo!"  Or in my case, age becomes the magical ingredient.  "Josh is in his 30's.  So is this single girl I know.  Bingo!"  As if I won't have anything in common with a 25-year-old.

To be honest, the biggest problem with blind dates is a little axiom that everyone knows but tries to ignore: if there is no physical attraction, the game is over.  It can take a dozen dates to figure out if someone matches my personality (recovering night owl) or shares my values (road trips and homemade salsa), but I can tell within 2.17 seconds whether I want to kiss her.

I've tried to lay down the law with blind dates.  I've tried to persuade my would-be matchmaker to invite us both to the same party, and see if we hit it off naturally.  I've tried to get them to ask themselves honestly, "would Josh ask this girl out on his own?" I've tried to mandate that the dates are kept to one-hour quick-release power lunches at sniper-proof public locations that don't require tips, or that the person propositioning me provide a photograph beforehand.  But none of those strategies ever really work.  How do you in good conscience look at a photograph of a real live human being, then look at your well-meaning friend (who may be related to this person), and say "no thanks?"  You can't.  Instead you mumble some excuse, crack a joke to get them off-topic, or tell them you'll let them know if you're interested (knowing you'll never get back to them).  Or you just suck it up, go on the date, and try to be as much of a gentleman as humanly possible, because you know that even if you aren't interested in the girl in the least, you would never forgive yourself if you knew you had hurt her feelings.

...and the cycle continues.

On the way home from almost every one of my blind dates, I think the same thing: "Josh, you just need to man up and ask out the girls you're interested in."  If that's what comes out of it, then maybe blind dates aren't such a bad thing.

Monday, June 07, 2010

White Stuff

There are two perspectives one may take on my eating habits. The first is that they are horrible, reprehensible, and borderline unforgivable. The second is that they are a lot better than they used to be.

Prior to my mission, my culinary pickiness was as distinctive a personality characteristic as my knack for drawing and my obsession with Star Wars. There were about four foods I liked, and I wouldn't touch anything outside that list with a fifty-foot spork.  But after two years of obligatory dinner appointments with local member families and potential church investigators I feared to offend, I at least learned to muscle down a number of foods I deplored.  I still didn't like them, but I could usually slide my disapproval under the nose of the unsuspecting host.

These days I'm still pretty picky.  I don't think I will ever embrace tuna fish or macaroni and cheese, no matter who I have to impress.  Just can't do it.  I also despise most all forms of white sauces.  Ranch dressing, clam chowder, sour cream, mayonnaise, stuff like that.  I don't know why it is I don't like white sauces, anymore than I can explain why the sound of Country Music makes me feel violent inside.  Mayonnaise just seems like a perfect way to ruin any sandwich, and ranch dressing strikes me as the kind of thing you embrace once you lose the ability to detect flavor in general, kind of like how old guys get into golf because they can't play basketball anymore.*

But in spite of my irrational hatred of white sauces, recent weeks have seen a narrow crack of daylight  in my infantile wall of obstinance.  Against all odds, I have come to embrace horseradish.

I think it happened at a restaurant some time back where I ordered a shrimp cocktail, and somehow got some horseradish on my shrimp along with the cocktail sauce. The result delivered quite a kick, and I was instantly converted to the condiment.  I was so impressed, in fact, that the last time I went to Dick's Market to buy cocktail sauce, I also snagged a little bottle of horseradish to help fuel the fire.

It may not mean much, and I'm guessing a painful slap of reality is probably still waiting for the moment I'm forced to adapt to the menu of married life, but for now I feel happy with my progress, and I'm sure my family is, too.  In fact, I'd like to think that somewhere my paternal grandmother is smiling down at me as I sit on the couch at 1AM eating a horseradish-enhanced shrimp cocktail and watching downloaded episodes of "Chuck." If that doesn't do the trick, I'm sure she'll crack a smile once my firstborn decides he hates tacos.


*I am dreading this day. I simply can't embrace any sport that doesn't allow heckling.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Hate Restored

Maybe I knew the Jazz weren’t going to beat LA in the playoffs this year.  Maybe my years of experience teaching argument have taught me to recognize both sides of an issue.  Maybe I’m just growing up, and not letting silly things like pro basketball get to me anymore.  Whatever the reason, I was surprised this spring to realize that I don’t hate the Los Angeles Lakers as much as I used to.

With all due respect to the wise, charitable Josh that’s fighting to emerge, this epiphany didn’t sit very well with me. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy in my Laker hatred over the years, and I can’t discard it without a fight.  So during Game One of the Finals last night, I made a pro-con list to figure out if what I was feeling was legitimate or just an aberration:

Reasons to Like the Lakers

1. Jack Nicholson:
The Lakers are notorious for bandwagon celebrity fans, but I can’t count Nicholson as one of them.  “The Cuckoo Man” has been a courtside season ticket holder since before I was born.  He’s legit.

2. Kobe’s 3-Ball: I don’t like Kobe Bryant, but I do respect his abilities.  He's got one shot where he’s somewhere outside the three-point arc, with a defender right on top of him.  Suddenly he explodes into the air and fires a line drive three-ball at the hoop that swishes with such authority it’s like a punch to the face.  It’s a shot of pure defiance.  I kind of like it.

3. Kurt Rambis: My Laker hatred traces back to 1988, when the Jazz took LA to seven games in the second round of the 87-88 playoffs.  But even back then, I had to like their scrappy backup forward, with his Buddy Holly glasses and post-hippie homeless man haircut.  Who wouldn’t?

Reasons to Hate the Lakers

1. Yellow Home Uniforms:
Everyone in the NBA wears white uniforms when they play home games, except the Lakers, who wear yellow.  YellowSeriously.

2. Bandwagon Celebrity Fans: Laker home crowds are the NBA’s answer to the Large and Spacious Building from the Book of Mormon.  And the obligatory “celebrities in the crowd” montage?  Nauseating.

3. Phil Jackson: Captain Smug...Captain Smug.

4. The Black Mamba: Sorry, you can’t give yourself your own nickname.  Especially when you do stuff like this.

5. Derek Fisher: I wish nothing but the best for his kid, but every time Fisher hits another deep three against the Jazz, he personifies everything that sucks about cheering for a small market team.

6. Sasha Vujacic: I don’t know Sasha Vujacic.  I have never met Sasha Vujacic.  All I know is that whenever I see Sasha Vujacic, I want to slap him.  Hard.

7. Utah Laker Fans: I don’t have a problem with transplanted Californians who bring their love of LA basketball to Utah.  I do have a problem with native Utahns who latch onto LA because it’s easy, then buy tickets to Jazz-Laker games and gloat about all the championships they played zero part in.

8. Pau Gasol, Gary Payton and Karl Malone: Hey, remember that time the Jazz traded a lottery bust, some no-names and a couple of crap picks for one of the top power forwards in the league?  You remember that other time when those two future Hall of Famer’s signed modest contracts with the Jazz so they could make one last run for a title?  Yeah, me neither.

OK, that feels better.  Hatred restored.  Let the games resume.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Had the iPod on shuffle play on the way in to work this morning.  As I entered the construction zone on I-15 in North Salt Lake in a mild downpour, this song came up in the playlist.

I thought it was appropriate.

Happy June, everyone.