Saturday, February 27, 2010

How I Learned To Love Animals And To Ignore My Parents At The Same Time

When I was a kid, my mother said, "There will absolutely be NO PETS IN THIS HOUSE!" Here, then, is a list of all the

Pets I Grew Up With

1. Gerbils: Xavier and Myrtle
2. Mice: Shasta, Pepsi, and Millie
3. Several Turtles whose names I forget
4. Dozens of tanks of tropical fish, including a piranha
5. A few garter snakes
6. Hamsters: Peanuts and Amy
7. Dog: Dusty
8. Guinea Pigs: Cory, Toby, and Eric
9. Chicken: Elton
10. Bunny: Shiloh

It is worth noting that every single one of these pets lived in the house, except the bunny, who had a deluxe pen outdoors. Not one of these pets made it into our home with my mother's prior approval or her permission. They merely showed up and she could do--and did--nothing about it. My father merely shrugged his shoulders and smiled, knowing his involvement would be nil. Also, my mother immediately liked all of them with the exception of the snakes and the mice, which brings me to a story that is very telling about my mother.

When the mice showed up, Mom was supremely irked, and she made my sister Susan and I promise to keep them upstairs so that she didn't have to see them. As usual, we had no idea how to take care of these pets, and we didn't realize how easily mice can escape any enclosure, no matter how small the opening provided. The mice getting loose was an hourly occurrence, and my mother started threatening to suck them up in the vacuum. One day, she saw Susan's mouse, Millie, the most Houdini-like of the three, scurrying along the livingroom baseboards as we were getting ready to leave for school. "That's IT!" my mother screamed. "NEITHER OF YOU GIRLS IS GOING TO SCHOOL UNTIL YOU FIND THAT MOUSE!"

Millie enjoyed the run of the house for most of the day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Can You Come Out To Play?

Everyone is making a bigass deal out of these Zhu Zhu pets, the motorized hamsters that became the must-have gift last Christmas. Crappy toy, in my opinion. What can you really do with it? No staying power there. Reading that article got me thinking about my own Favorite Playthings from my childhood (way back before computers and microchips but well after dinosaurs and log cabins). Here's my list of

Top 5 Toys

1. Spirograph
2. Etch-A-Sketch
3. Play Doh
4. Fun Flowers Thingmaker Set
5. Crayola 64 Crayon Box

These toys all had major staying power because they were interactive and produced something. They weren't necessarily--bad word here--educational--but you did more than just wind them up and watch them.

Spirograph: This was the most incredible toy. I'm sure someplace some engineer thought altruistically, "I'm teaching kiddies about parabolas and geometry and sine and cosine" or something mathy like that, but I never thought that. I just picked out a disc, stuck a colored pen in the hole, and started carefully fitting the teeth together of disc and stationary part. It was awesome the way a beautiful snowflakey-looking shape suddenly appeared. I used to sit and do this for hours. Once for Christmas I got a huge pen with about two dozen different colors of ink in its barrel that could be used interchangeably. It made Spirograph 24 times more exciting.

Etch-A-Sketch: Man, this thing also kept me busy forever. I got so I could draw almost anything on it, but my favorite thing was a nice, neat house with windowboxes, front steps, and even a house number. I was always curious about how it worked, but my dad told me, so I never had to break it open. I still love this toy, and both my kids always had one. Truth be told, I think I played with it far more than they ever did.

Play Doh: Let me tell you, I played with this stuff far longer than is probably normal or healthy, and the fact that my little sister is five years younger than I am prolonged my Play Doh Playtime, a fact for which I am immensely grateful. I especially loved that simple extruder toy, The Play Doh Fun Factory. I used to sit and make a ton of pretend baked goods, plates of pretend restaurant entrees and desserts, you name it. I was especially proud of of my Play Doh Fruit Plates.

The Fun Flowers Thingmaker Set: This toy would never fly in this day and age, for it reached temperatures of probably five hundred degrees, used bare metal plates without a safety covering, and the Plastigoop had more poison/toxicity warnings on it than a medical waste facility. Basically, it was a nightmare. But I loved making the rubbery little flowers and faces and leaves and then putting them on florist's wire and...having them. Bunches and Bunches of them. My mother detested cleaning up the oily residue of the Plastigoop from the carpet and table and floor (during one memorable summer, she even forbid me from playing with the Thingmaker on the concrete front porch), but she never seemed even remotely concerned with the dozens of burns I got on my fingers. Moms back then were way less hovery.

64 Crayola Crayon Box: Not only was this The Big Box Of Crayons, it had a built-in crayon sharpener! This was THE BOX OF CRAYONS. I got one of these for Christmas every year because it made My List every year. Sometimes, I got one for my birthday. Holy Crap, I loved this box of crayons. This used to be The Biggest Box They Made. There were days I would take the crayons out and just organize them in the box: you know, put all the greens together, all the oranges together, all the blues together, etc. I knew the names of the colors like the saint names in the prayer of the Eucharist at mass: apricot, burnt sienna, thistle, sepia, bittersweet, magenta, cornflower...ah! What the Crayola people have done to some of these classic colors is shameful. I still find coloring in a good coloring book very therapeutic. Good luck with that, though--finding a good coloring book. Most are shills for cartoon characters. Sad.

You know what's next, Stuff readers: your turn to take that stroll down Memory Lane and identify your favorite childhood toys. Let's see what you toss into the playpen.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Been Gone Since Like...November: Come Here Often?

Oh, hello there. Come here often? What's shakin'?

Yes, it's been a while since I've been here. There is no excuse for it. I want to make that known right now. Nance will tell you it's because I'm a slug, lazy, and sometimes apathetic about most things. What do I say to that? Good call, Mother. Also, that I have been, albeit regrettably and inexplicably, cantankerous as of late.

Now that we are caught up, let's get down to brass tacks. ("Brass tacks"? How old am I?)

My new favorite night is Thursday. Thursday is Boyfriend Night. What is that? Basically, if girls can call each other girlfriend, we can call each other boyfriend...and we do. The place: Harry Buffalo on Boyfriend Night. Let's explore some of the worst pickup lines that I may or may not have used on Boyfriend Night, in descending order of how much I like them. Not based upon their results, but how much I like them. I may (or may not) have been a couple of pitchers deep when these lines were (or were not) uttered.

5 Worst Pickup Lines

5. "Hey, I'm Jared. Does your boyfriend know you're here tonight? Just checking."
4. "Whatever you're drinking, I'll buy one."
3. "Hi, you feel like coming and sitting with us? If you do, great, and if not, that's cool too. Just asking."
2. "Are you drinking Bud Lite? Oh, good thing. Why? Because it's awful and you look like you need a Long Island. I'll take care of that."
1. "Hello, can I buy you a water?"


5. This is an EASY way to see if the girl is attached to someone. Either it's a "yes" meaning "I have a boyfriend, guy. Back off," or it's a "no" meaning "I have a boyfriend, and he doesn't need to know I'm here. Back off, guy". Or, even better, it could be "I don't have a boyfriend". What's that? Oh, that works out well. See what I did there?

4. Basically, this is being straightforward. All you want here is to buy a drink. Who turns that down? Nobody. And that's the key. If you buy the drink, she accepts it, and then reveals that she has a boyfriend, you didn't get rejected, she was CLEARLY interested, just has someone already. In fact, it's HER FAULT for leading you on. See? Basically, you are spending three bucks to see if a girl has a boyfriend, is a cheater, or just likes to have a good drink from a guy with a dominant beard. Three dollars well spent, I say.

3. Nonchalance at its finest. No urgency, not smothering, basically saying, "I'm interested, but only if you are." This needs no further explanation. So simple. So perfect. Plus, it'll give her and her friends something to talk about. You, sir, have done your job. Make interest known? Check. Put ball in their court? Check. Give them a discussion topic for that night and if they see you there again? Check...and...Check. Well played, sir.

2. First and foremost, Bud Lite sucks. Ok? Budweiser? Fine. Bud Lite? Why bother? Second of all, who doesn't love a Long Island? I know I do. And you probably do too. It's got enough booze to be manly, but it's sweet enough to be girly. It's the perfect drink to have WITH a girl. Also, you've communicated that you have good taste. What's more, you have also let her know you have her best interest in mind that evening. Basically, for a beautiful girl to drink anything other than a Long Island is preposterous. Biggest drink turnoff for me and my boyfriends? Cranberry and vodka. Cliche, boring, stupid, and makes me want to throw the drink across the room. Top drink I would immediately fall for a girl if she ordered it upon my offer to buy? Gin and Tonic. I'm marrying that girl. Hands down. As long as it isn't Beefeater.

1. COME ON! This....this friends, is flawless. You are doing so much here. So much that I will, in fact, give this its own top five. An unprecedented move here at Stuff:

A. You are showing your amazing sense of humor.
B. You are still clearly demonstrating an interest.
C. Follow it with "Oh, I'm sorry, that was rude. My name is Jared, what are you drinking?" and it shows humility, willingness to admit you were an ass, and willingness to atone for your ass-holier-than-thou attitude.
D. If it fails just brush it off as "She doesn't have a sense of humor. Not right for me." It's about built-in outs.
E. Water is free. That is all.


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