Monday, November 15, 2010

The Groomsman Chronicles, TopGun Ed. Epilogue: Fragmented Follow-up

As usually happens with this blog post series, there were a handful of events which I find worth mentioning, but which I either forgot about when doing the initial posts, or which didn't really fit into the other posts' narrative structure easily.  Hence, the following bullets of additional material.

  • The soundtrack for the bulk of our journey was XM Radio's "90s on 9" channel, which brought up all sorts of nostalgic memories.  "Man, I remember this song from Freshman year of college," I would say; "I remember this song from Freshman year of jr. high," Shack-Fu would reply; "I think I must have been in elementary when this came out," his whipper-snapper fiance would chime in; "Young punks," old man me would grumble.

  • Every once in a while some song on the radio would engage Shack and I enough that we would start to sing along loudly, occasionally making up hand gestures to go along with the lyrics; most every time this would happen, I would catch a glimpse of his fiance in the back seat, trying to nonchalantly film us with her cell phone.  We later informed TopGun that our vehicle was The Party Truck.

  • While the groomsman and bridesmaids were waiting to make our entrance during the ceremony, conversation led to Special Agent Shack-Fu revealing that he was packing heat underneath his tux, a revelation that caused on bridesmaid to have a minor freak out that one of the groomsman had a concealed weapon, and the Maid of Honor to complain that it wasn't fair, if Shack-Fu got to go in strapped, why couldn't she?

  • When we had eaten lunch at Cracker Barrel on the way up to CO, Shack-Fu and his honey had split a country fried steak.  At one point The Future Mrs. Shack-Fu was so intent on trying to cut into the steak that she didn't realize that she was pushing the plate towards the edge . . . and even after she had dumped the plate into Shack's lap she kept on trying to cut into it for a few more seconds.  Let's just blame that on sleep deprivation, shall we?

  • On the day of the wedding, we went to lunch at a local place called "Once Upon a Sandwich," thinking that it was going to be a little sandwich shop.  But when we walked in, it appeared to be more of a diner setting.  When we asked the lady behind the counter if we should just find a place to sit her reply was a very sarcastic, "Yeah; this is a restaurant, after all."  To which I wanted to reply "Gee, thanks for that extremely helpful and not at all condescending response; I'm sure that won't be affecting your tip at all."

  • During the rehearsal dinner, Li'l Champ prompted us to ask his young cousin how old she was.  When we did, she very casually flashed us three fingers; I was amused at her lackadaisical motion, almost a "Yeah, I'm three years old, no big whoop" sort of thing, but then her mom informed us of the real gag -- she was actually two years old, but had at one point been told that she could have gum until she was three, and thus has been lying about her age ever since in an effort to beat the system.  The fact that she is also remarkably adorable -- almost Flunky Spawn levels of adorable -- means that she is going to be a danger to herself and others when she gets older.

  • Although my joking motto to TopGun for the last few months any time he asked me for a favor was "A Best Man's work is never done!" there were a couple of traditional Best Man duties I did not fulfill.  The first was throwing of the bachelor party, due to TopGun specifically telling me he didn't want one.  I told him that was too bad, because I would have thrown him the most chaste, virginal, sober Bachelor Party of all time -- just hour after hour of the groomsman watching cartoons and drinking chocolate milk.  His response?  "Well, I do like chocolate milk . . ." The other Best Man duty I fell short on was the decorating of the newlyweds' vehicle; this one I have no excuse for other than that it honestly did not even cross my mind until the reception was drawing to a close and I got asked about it by both the groom's sister and the bride's brother.

  • I had forgotten just how much I loathed the rental shoes that usually accompany tuxedos; by the end of the wedding day I was pretty sure my feet were about to fall off.  Am extremely grateful that neither Li'l Random nor Shack-Fu will be requiring tuxes for their groomsman.

  • I made the decision not to pester TopGun for a few days after the wedding, which was difficult -- annoying TopGun is one of my favorite hobbies -- but on Wednesday I felt compelled to send the following text message:  "We interrupt our newlywed-friendly radio silence to bring you this news flash: when it's quiet, I find myself still practicing that damn speech.  I'm cursed!  We now return you to your previously scheduled marital bliss, already in progress."  He, of course, laughed at my misery.

  • I broke my non-pestering rule again this past weekend when I sent TopGun a text about being torn between trash-talking him about that evening's OSU/Texas game and keeping quiet because I didn't want to jinx my team's chances against his.  He replied that he hadn't been watching any football so far that day.  My response:  "No football?  Two weeks in a row?  It's true, marriage *does* change you"

  • Just got a text from Shack-Fu -- turns out the indicator light was just the result of a faulty wire and not a major issue.  So, good that it was as easy fix; not so good that they had to waste extra travel time for something that probably could have waited until they were back in Tulsa.  Still, better safe than sorry, especially where The Power of the Jinx is involved.

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The Groomsman Chronicles, TopGun Ed., pt.4: Of Journeys and Jinxes

Have to say, 5 AM came way too early the morning after the wedding, but since both Cap'n Shack-Fu and his honey had to be back at work in Tulsa the next day, they were gung-ho to get going so that they didn't get home too terribly late.  I, on the other hand, had been able to take Monday off as well, so I was planning on staying at Shack's parents' place again and heading back to Denton the next morning.

As is usually the case on these extended road trips, time appeared to be going much slower on the way back then it did on the way up due to all of us being exhausted. Really the most excitement we had on our way to Pampa was early in our drive when a deer bounded across the road right in front of us; we were all pretty awake for a while after that. But other than that, a pretty uneventful drive.

As we drew closer to Pampa, I started to question my earlier decision to split the drive up over two days.  Yes, I knew I'd be struggling to stay awake due to exhaustion, and that I'd be driving at night, which I tend to avoid if possible due to less than stellar night vision, but the allure of being able to sleep in my own bed and just sleep in as much as possible the next day was overpowering.  Once I'd made the decision, I asked Shack-Fu for advice on what route to take home since my GPS had taken me on a route that added an hour onto my drive time on the way up there; turns out my GPS adds an insane amount of time onto its travel estimates when your route takes you through towns so that what is in reality a 4 hour drive, it projects as a 10 hour drive. In order to navigate by the quicker route, I had to trick the GPS by programming it in stages -- first to Clarendon, then to Decatur, and finally to Denton. 

As we were about two miles away from Shack-Fu's parents' place, my best bud announced "After this weekend, no more driving anywhere for two months!" No sooner had he made this pronouncement then we reached his parents' house, quickly transferred our stuff from his mom's Suburban into our respective vehicles, and went our separate ways.  After I'd been on the road for about an hour I got a call from Shack-Fu wanting to see if I had found my way on the new route all right or if I had run into any problems.  When I assured him everything was going fine, he said he was glad to hear it because his journey hadn't been as smooth:  no sooner had they pulled out of his parents' driveway then some nice indicator lights lit up.  Long story short, they had to drop the car off at a mechanic, load their stuff back into the Suburban, drive it back to Tulsa, and then spend part of their upcoming weekend driving back to Pampa to pick the car up.

"You do realize you jinxed yourself when you said no more driving earlier, right?" I asked, kind, helpful soul that I am; he readily agreed that he should know better by this point in his life.

I spent the bulk of my 4 1/2 hour drive to Denton on the phone with my parents, trusting in their input to help me stay awake as the miles piled on and on.  Finally, a little before 8:30 I crossed into the city limits of Denton.  At that moment, I got an incoming call from Shack-Fu, who was checking up on me again.  I told him I was less than five miles from home, and asked how their trip was going. 

"We've still got about another hour to go" he answered, "but so far it's going really good" This response, of course, prompted his fiance to yell at him for potentially jinxing them yet again. "Um, oh, dang, I mean, um, it's awful, totally awful, my drive back from Quantico wasn't this bad and it was twice as long and I was by myself.  Just horrible."

I assured him that I was positive that last little bit improvised griping had surely staved off his jinxing abilities.

After that I bid him good luck on the rest of his journey, and within a few minutes I was at home, ready to vegetate, unwind, and collapse, content in the knowledge that the upcoming iterations of The Groomsman Chronicles will not require day long car trips . . . although the next one will require some air-fare.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Groomsman Chronicles, TopGun Ed., pt.3: The Big Day

After a couple of days of never-ending car rides and very little sleep, I was finally able to catch up on my rest a bit, despite the six slices of pizza I'd had at the rehearsal dinner the night before conspiring against me in the form of a 4 AM heartburn attack.  Following our complimentary continental breakfast, Cap'n Shack-Fu and his honey decided to do a quick run out to nearby Mesa Verde to do some touristy stuff before heading to the church that afternoon, but I declined to join them because (a) I hadn't really brought appropriate clothing for trail walking (b) I figured the couple could use a little alone time with each other that didn't revolve around being cooped up in a car, and (c) I hadn't practiced or worked on my speech at all the previous day and I wanted to get it finalized.  During the few hours I was alone, I made some pretty significant edits and re-writes to tighten it up to right at 6 minutes running time.* By the time the others returned from their touristy activities I had settled on my final draft and tried to put it out of my mind until time for the reception.

After a quick bite to eat, we got ready and headed to the church for the series of pre-wedding photos.  Although we were a few minutes past the time we had been told to get there, we still wound up beating both the bride and groom.  When TopGun got there, he showed us that there had been a mix-up with Li'l Champ's tux -- apparently, they got the measurements of his shirt and jacket reveresed, so the shirtsleeves were so long they had to be shoved up into the jacket, which itself had to be left unbuttoned just so Li'l Champ could breathe. 

Quite the dashing pair, no?

We also discovered that TopGun's uncle did not have a silk pocket square like the rest of us, so we scrapped that from our ensemble, which actually worked out well for me, since Shack-Fu came up with the idea of using my pocket square as a makeshift retrieval device for the wedding rings.

Yes, that's right:  they entrusted me with the rings.  No, I don't know what they were smoking either.**

Anyway, once we had our wardrobes straightened out, it was picture time, both serious

Father of the Bride called the groomsman "Three Horseman of the Apocalypse" -- I am obviously not Famine.




and not so serious

TopGun: Ladies Man Extraordinaire
 
Move over, Charlie's Angels, there's a new team in town

"Hey, did I mention I'm down to 152 lbs now? I did?  Just wanted to make sure you all knew that."

And then the bride was sent upstairs to wait out of sight, where I'm sure she was nervously fretting about the upcoming nuptials, pacing back and forth, chewing on her nails . . .


Then again, maybe not . . .

And before you knew it, it was time for the ceremony itself.  Despite a couple of technical glitches at the beginning (sounds system problems during slide show, door almost swinging shut on bride), once the bride and her father started walking down the aisle


everything went wonderfully, from the vows


to the lighting of the Unity candle

So, uh, you come here often?

to the big kiss

to the introduction of the newly minted Mr. and Mrs. TopGun


the important stuff went off without a hitch.***


After that it was time for all the post-wedding pics with the bride and groom together

Gotta love Li'l Champ's jaunty GQ solution to his shrunken jacket

followed by the signing of the marriage license

She wasn't smiling as much a few seconds later when TopGun pretended to rip it up . . .

which the Maid of Honor and I witnessed (and heartily endorsed)


After which it was reception time. After everyone had had a chance to eat I delivered the infamous toast, the cake was cut, and then the DJ started up the music for the happy couple's first dance.
TopGun just looks overjoyed to be dancing in front of a crowd . . .

 . . .but at least he has something pretty to look at to take his mind off it.
After that there was the father/daughter dance, followed by a few dollar dances, where people could dance with either the bride or groom by paying them a dollar. They tried to get Li'l Champ out to dance with the bride and his grandma, but he balked, using the "I'm shy!" defense. As I went onto the dance floor myself, I paused to inform him that I was going to make it my duty to make sure he danced at least once before the night was through.  A few minutes later, I saw him out on the dance floor


When he came back to the table afterward, he complained to his dad "Todd made me dance with my new cousin!" like it was the most painful experience of his young life . . . after that he was on the dance floor non-stop until time for him to leave.

I didn't do much dancing on the whole, mostly because the bulk of the songs played were country, and mostly because the couple of fast songs I did dance to almost killed me -- stupid altitude!**** But before I collapsed from a coughing fit -- CONGA LINE!

If Shack-Fu's at a reception, there will be a Conga Line.  Bank on it.
Eventually, it was time for the newlyweds to head off to their honeymoon suite, so they were sent through a gauntlet of well-wishers wielding air horns

Is it just me, or is Shack-Fu's expression just a tad manic here?

After sending the happy couple on their way with only a smidgen of hearing loss, we helped clean up and then headed back to the hotel to try to catch a few hours of sleep before getting up waaaaaaaaay too early to head back home the next morning -- after I got my constant body-wracking coughs under control that is.

Stupid altitude.

*Well, 6 minutes while practicing -- no telling how long the actual speech lasted, as I was probably going a mile a minute then.
**When the bride handed her engagement ring over, she admonished me "Don't lose it!" then quickly said "Just kidding."  My reply? "Oh, so I can lose it then?  Phew, that's a relief!"  I then got a preview of her death-glare.
***Except, y'know, technically they did get "hitch"ed . .
****Yes, it was all the altitude's fault, and had nothing to do with the fact I haven't worked out in months . . . yeah, that's the ticket . . .

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Groomsman Chronicles, TopGun Ed., pt.2: On the Road to Rehearsal

The day before TopGun's wedding, Cap'n Shack-Fu, his fiance, and I got up around 5:30 AM so we could get on the road and make it to CO in time to check into our hotel and get freshened up before the rehearsal that evening.  None of us had slept all that well, but we plodded zed-word-like to Shack's mom's Suburban, loaded up our stuff, and hit the road with Shack behind the wheel, me riding shotgun, and Future Mrs. Shack-Fu stretched out in the back seat trying to catch up on sleep -- which turned out to be a bit of a futile effort as Shack and I started coming to life and visiting, getting progressively louder as the miles wore on.  I noticed her occasionally rising up to give us groggy withering glances, but I did not notice the time that a sudden burst of noise from the front prompted her to attempt to slap Shack-Fu upside the head to quiet him down -- "attempt"' being the operative word, as her sleepy strike missed him so completely that we weren't even aware of her foiled attack until she told on herself later.

Not too far into the drive I got a text from TopGun wanting to see if we had hit the road yet.  My response; "why, is there somewhere we're supposed to be today?"  He replied "Only if you value your life."  After I gave him our estimate of when we would be hitting town that afternoon, he realized that we weren't too far ahead of him on the road, so we made plans to meet up at Clines Corners and caravan from there with TopGun leading the way, since he also informed us that the route we had planned to take was plagued with enough road construction to add a couple of hours onto our drive.

Before heading on to CO, however, we had to make a stop in Albuquerque* so TopGun could pick up his sister and niece at the airport, after which we stopped for lunch at a local Cracker Barrel which seemed like it might put us behind schedule, but Shack-Fu and I decided if we wound up getting to the rehearsal late we would show solidarity , and blame it all on TopGun.  "We were just going to grab a quick bite to eat while driving, but noooooooo, TopGun had to have his Double Meat Breakfast!"  Secure in the knowledge that we now had a convenient scapegoat, we soon hit the road yet again.

Several hours later we arrived in CO; since TopGun still had to go pick up Li'l Champ for the rehearsal, Shack, his honey, and I were able to go check into the hotel, get freshened up, and still beat TopGun to the church.  Thankfully, I had met the bride-to-be a couple of times before so there was at least one familiar face who could introduce us around.  But once TopGun showed up with The Coolest Kid in the World in tow, we were able to get started.

 Before starting the rehearsal in earnest, they played a slide show for us since none of the wedding party would be in the sanctuary when it played before the wedding the next day. The slide show consisted first of pictures of TopGun, then of his fiance, and then of the both of them together.  Combined with the little speech TopGun gave before starting it about how thankful they were to have all of us there it was actually pretty touching, and so I responded to getting a little emotional as you might expect:  by mocking TopGun as an exhibitionist for having multiple pictures of himself running around shirtless at various ages.

Hey, you express emotions your way and I'll express them in mine, okay?

For the most part the actual rehearsal was uneventful, although there were a few interesting moments; the most interesting for me involved my interactions with Li'l Champ.  To start off, Li'l Champ's role in the ceremony wasn't to be ring bearer, or anything as pedestrian as that.  No, while I may have been Best Man, Li'l Champ was The Best Best Man, and therefore stood up front next to his dad while the rest of the wedding party entered.

and then moved up to stand right in front of me after the bride's father gave her away.

As you might suspect after my last post, having Li'l Champ and I in such close proximity to each other for extended periods of time while decisions well above our pay grade were being discussed in depth was a recipe for, if not disaster, than at least some minor physical altercations. To be honest, I'm not sure which of us started picking on the other first; all I am sure of is that it was quickly apparent that in the many months since I had last seen him, Li'l Champ had upgraded me from "grappling partner" to "striking partner."

Translation:  I was the recipient of multiple punches to the gut from Li'l Champ's tiny little fists.  Once the hands were restrained, then I was treated to mini-head butts to the gut and some mule kicks to the shins.  Surprisingly, our little struggles didn't appear to draw any attention from most of the wedding party who were too busy discussing the order of the vows or how best to light the Unity candle.  Afterwards, when I told TopGun his son was picking on me, his response was to tell Li'l Champ, "Now, no beating up Todd during the wedding tomorrow," to which Li'l Champ replied "I know," in that resigned tone which comes so naturally to the little ones.

 Not too long after that as we were heading towards the rehearsal dinner, Li'l Champ got over his initial shyness towards Shack-Fu and decided to initiate him into the gut-punching club, only to fall victim to Shack's patented tickle attack which had Li'l Champ flat on his back, giggling hysterically and begging his dad for help.  TopGun, being a good dad, declined, using it as a teaching moment.  The lesson?  "Actions have consequences."

One other rehearsal tidbit:  when the first groomsman, TopGun's uncle, practiced walking in, he and high-fived TopGun and Li'l Champ.  Shack-Fu in turn did one of those finger-wiggling things, and I decided to go with the tried and true fist-bump

Everyone enjoyed the impromptu greetings so much that they requested we keep them for the actual wedding.

For the rehearsal dinner we just had some pizza from a local pizza place.  TopGun and I both had six slices apiece, but the difference is that for him that was the first pizza he'd had in 6 months -- for me it was just another Friday night.

After the rehearsal everyone was invited over to the bride's place to hang out, but unfortunately the part of me that wanted to hang out and get to know the bride and her family more was shouted down by the part of me that was suffering from next to no sleep and elevation changes -- a part that manifested as a blinding headache by the time we reached the hotel**.  So I made my apologies to TopGun, handed over his and Li'l Champ's tuxedos which I'd carted from Texas, and headed back to the hotel to collapse so I could be well rested for the big day. 

*I kept asking TopGun if we could stop by a nice pawn shop while we were there so I could sell off these two really nice rings some dope had entrusted me with, but for some reason he wasn't too helpful. . .
**Although to be honest, that might have had something to do with the fact that I indulged in one last pestering of Li'l Champ before we left, and then sprinted away as he chased, I fact I regretted instatly -- think I was still winded the next day.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

And in This Corner . . . Li'l Champ!

As I was preparing to write the next installment of "The Groomsman Chronicles," it dawned on me that to put certain things into context, I should probably talk a bit about one of the key players who hasn't gotten much coverage here at CoIM:  TopGun's son Li'l Champ, a.k.a. The Coolest Kid in the World*.

I met Li'l Champ last year when he came down to stay with his dad for about a month over his summer break.  He was really shy when TopGun first introduced him to me -- wouldn't say hi or shake my hand or anything.  Think that shyness last a whole, oh, hour, hour and a half tops before we were fast friends. And, as with most of my friends, the majority of our interactions consisted of picking on one another**.

The best thing about Li'l Champ's visit was the floor show I got to watch daily as the then-6-year-old wrestler and budding MMA enthusiast would challenge his dad to a match; and then, after TopGun would get tired of rolling around, Li'l Champ would then saunter up to me and whisper "Hey, Todd . . . wanna fight?" And then, when both his dad and I were through letting him beat up on us for the evening, he would grab one of the pillows off of TopGun's bed and practice his ground-and-pound on it.

But the best part of it wasn't just watching this scrappy little kid picking fights with guys 3 or 4 times his size; no, the best part was that every single match was a gigantic production narrated constantly by the pint-sized ringmaster. 

"Okay, now, dad, you and I have to go out of the room and do our entrances . . . and now, here he is, ladies and gentleman, the one the only . . .GSP! [mimics crowd noise and runs around the room before coming to stand before me]. Okay, Todd, you're my coach, give me a pep talk . . . DAD!  It's your turn to come in! No, Dad, you have to run around the ring! Okay, Todd, now you're the ref, you have to say 'Let's fight!' . . . say it!"

The running monologue would die down slightly while he was actually wrestling around with us, but not a lot, as he would often interject instructions to make our actions fit the narrative in his head.  "Okay, then dad, you hit me in the jaw -- not really, stop it! -- and it rocks me, and I'm wobbly, and you try to take me down -- try to take me down, dad!  But I recover, and I knock you down instead . . . dad, go down!"  Needless to say, TopGun and I both indulged in quite a bit of contrary behavior to get Li'l Champ's goat; good times, good times.

Now, when Li'l Champ and I would be wrestling, it would be straight up grappling -- kid's got an impressive guillotine choke and arm bar, by the way -- but when it was him and his dad then Li'l Champ would pull out all the stops and fists and legs would go a-flying.  And although TopGun did have me stand still and let Li'l Champ demonstrate his pretty impressive leg kicks on me, during that first month he stayed at our place the little brawler never moved into striking territory with me.

That would eventually change.

All in all, I really enjoyed having Li'l Champ stay with us, and looked forward to his return trip for Thanksgiving and Spring Break -- although during the former he was directly responsible for me spending good money to go see Twilight: New Moon at the theater, and for that, I may never forgive him. Still, I have to say I was looking forward to getting to see the little punk again at the wedding -- little did I know that his tiny little fists now had my name written all of them . . . but that's a story for the next installment of The Groomsman Chronicles.

*For anyone out there saying "Wait, why isn't my kid The Coolest Kid in the World," well, all I can say is the day your kid gets a haircut to look like his hero Chuck Liddell and then manages to slap an arm bar on me, then we can talk about revising the ratings.
** I have to say, being an only child, I often take great delight in playing the role of "ornery uncle" to my friends' kids; I bet that info makes all of my own ornery uncles proud.

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The Groomsman Chronicles, TopGun Ed., pt.1: A Best Man's Work is Never Done

As I mentioned in my last post, last weekend I drove up to CO with Cap'n Shack-Fu and his fiance to be a part of TopGun's wedding. But in order for me to meet up with Shack-Fu without either of us having to take an enormous detour to get to our respective home-towns, we instead planned on taking a minor detour to meet up at his parents' house in Pampa, TX, which was kinda-sorta on the way. My plan was to sleep in a little bit on Thursday, drive up to Pampa before it got too late, and wait for Shack and his honey to get there after he got off work and she got out of class.  Then we'd all catch a few Zs before getting up bright and early to start out on the approximately 10 hour drive up to the wedding site.

My plan received a minor hitch when I got a message from TopGun the previous evening asking if I could give him a ride to the airport because the one he'd set up had fallen through.  I accused him of making that up because he was obviously too lazy to make the drive up to Denton on Wednesday night to drop off his and Li'l Champ's tuxedos with me as previously planned; as usual, he side-stepped the accusation without officially denying it.  He's a wily one, that TopGun.

But despite my suspicions of chicanery, I responded as I had to pretty much every request TopGun had made of me for the past six months, whether it was wedding related or not:  "Of course I will, Champ.  Boy, a Best Man's work is never done, is it?"

So, instead of sleeping in as previously planned, I was up bright and early to make sure I'd gotten everything packed and ready to go, and headed over to Frisco to pick TopGun up and drive him over to Love Field, where he'd catch a plane to meet his mom, and would then ride up to CO with her.    After dropping him off, I headed back towards Denton, eventually sending the following text to TopGun after I passed by my apartment complex at precisely noon:  "On the road since 9AM and just now leaving Denton to head to Pampa.  The things I do for you, Champ"  He replied with "Lol . . . sorry man. Thanks for the ride . . ."  I told him no need to apologize, I was happy to do it, just knew that if I didn't bitch about it a little he'd start to think something was wrong with me.  His response: "I was getting worried . . ." Despite my needling him about the extra drive time, I was glad to get that last bit of one-on-one time before all of the wedding craziness began.

On the whole my drive to Pampa was uneventful; the only thing worth mentioning is that I made the mistake of trusting in my GPS to point me to the fastest route instead of doing any research myself beforehand, the end result of which was my drive taking an hour longer than it should have -- a fact I wouldn't confirm for myself until my drive home a few days later.  Thankfully, even with the extra hour's drive-time, I managed to make it to Pampa and find Shack-fu's parents' house with no problem around 5:30 -- which just left another 5-6 hours before Shack-fu was scheduled to arrive.  I spent most of that time visiting with Shack's mom -- his dad's out of the country for work right now -- and playing with their chihuahuas, Molly and Buster. 

When Shack-fu and The Future Mrs. Shack-Fu got there we visited briefly, but quickly headed off to get some sleep before our all-too-early departure time.  I was being put up in the office with a nice air mattress, and had just collapsed onto it when I heard something unexpected:  a music-box like rendition of "Greensleeves."  Thinking it was coming from the hallway outside, I ignored it -- big mistake.  Because it turned out to not only be coming from inside my room, it was music provided by a Christmas clock which was set to play the song every hour on the hour.  Needless to say, my sleep that evening was not exactly restful; the song would wake me up hourly, but I was always too groggy to get up and find the source of the music in the dark before it stopped playing. 

Not the worst start I've ever had to a road trip, but not exactly the best either.

So ends day one of my trek to TopGun's wedding.  Come back soon to find out about the long drive on day two; some serious synchronicity on the road; and how I ended up in handcuffs before the day was over.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Toasting TopGun

This past weekend I hopped in a car with Cap'n Shack-Fu and his fiance and headed up to Colorado for my former roomie TopGun's wedding.  But while I plan on writing a bit about the overall trip, today I want to talk about one of my responsibilities as Best Man, one that consumed my thoughts for several weeks prior to the ceremony:  the Best Man Speech/Toast.

As I mentioned before, I accused TopGun of only asking me to be Best Man because he knew I'd obsess over writing the speech for months and months and he's sadistic like that.  But although I did start thinking about the speech when he asked me back in June, it wasn't really until the beginning of October that I began to devote most every waking moment I was alone to writing, re-writing, practicing, then re-writing some more.  If I was in the car driving somewhere I wasn't listening to music or podcasts; I was running through the speech.  My Netflix and DVRed shows started to pile up because I couldn't focus on anything other than trying to get the danged thing down.  I even gave up on the idea of doing NaNoWriMo because I knew I wouldn't be able to write anything non-speech-related until after it was all said and done.

Quite a lot of effort for a little over a thousand words that clocked in at 6 minutes, huh?

I had several people question my obsessive tinkering, telling me to "not over-think it"; to "just wing it"; to "just get up there and speak from the heart." I, in turn, had to ask them "Are you sure you've met me?"  Because, let's face it, historically speaking, winging it and just speaking from the heart have never turned out well for me -- I stammer and stumble searching for the right words and never can quite manage to articulate what it is I really want to say. As for not over-thinking things, well, I'm pretty sure that's physically impossible for me.
Plus, TopGun kept telling me "I know it's going to be great!" with that devilish, sadistic grin of his, and danged if I was going to half-ass the blasted thing.

Seriously, though, my thinking was that if TopGun was going to honor me by asking me to fill such an important role on his special day, then the least I could do is put my best efforts into honoring him as well. 

Writing the speech presented quite a few challenges; in a lot of ways I can look back on the experience as an interesting writing exercise, but in the midst of it all I could see was a sea of challenges to overcome.

CHALLENGE #1:  Outside of one heartfelt, impromptu toast I'd seen Shack-Fu give at a friend's wedding, my experience with hearing such toasts was largely restricted to works of fiction.  So, as any good librarian would, I proceeded to do some research into the topic; however, being a fairly lazy librarian, my research was comprised mostly of searching Google and YouTube.  One thing I discovered very quickly from viewing multiple YouTube clips is that there a lot of people out there who stumbled upon the exact same off-color Best Man speech online and decided to run with it; after hearing the exact same bad jokes told in a variety of American and British accents, I despaired of finding any examples to give me inspiration. I was eventually able to track down a small handful of original and personal toasts, but in the end they didn't really help me much with addressing my challenges.

CHALLENGE #2:  TopGun and I had only known each other for around a year and a half, so I didn't have nearly the depth of experiences to pull from that I would have if I was writing a speech for, say, any of the HyperForce 3000 clan, all of whom I've known for over 4 years now and with whom I've shared a great deal of mini-adventures rife with anecdote potential.  But although TopGun and I became very close friends while rooming together, very few of our interactions are really anecdote-worthy* and those that are require more set-up than is practical for a brief speech.  Heck, the best TopGun anecdote I have -- which happens to be the basis of his nickname -- actually takes place before he and I are even introduced to each other.

CHALLENGE #3:  Finding the right balance in the "TopGun and me" anecdotes, making sure that they were more "TopGun" and less "Me".  After all, as funny as I may find my "If at any time today you've wondered 'What the heck was TopGun on when he asked this dork to be his best man?' the answer is 'cough syrup with codeine'" gag, the truth is that although it's a joke ostensibly built on TopGun's behavior, it's more of a self-deprecating jab at myself  than a representation of who he is. I wound up jettisoning most of my initial draft as I found that I was often talking more about myself than I was about my pal; granted, it was all in terms of my reactions to TopGun's behavior, but it came across more egocentric than I felt comfortable with, especially in front of a crowd I barely knew. Which brings me to . . .

CHALLENGE #4:  A lack of familiarity with the majority of my audience, and vice versa. A lot of stuff that I might have included if I were speaking to a more familiar audience had to be removed as the set-up and exposition necessary were too time consuming. Plus, I found it difficult to craft a speech effectively when I had no insight into my audience's taste, sense of humor, history, etc.  The whole "sense of humor" thing being the big stumbling block -- sure, I was confident that TopGun would appreciate my jokes, but while the speech was in his honor, I still had to worry about keeping the natives from getting restless.  Speaking of jokes . . .

CHALLENGE #5: Finding the right balance and tone of humor.  If Pop Culture and YouTubing taught me anything, it's that these Toasts often turn into Roasts, and while my close friendship with TopGun may have been built primarily on a shared passion for being smartasses, his wedding reception wasn't the appropriate place to indulge in our tradition of constantly ripping on one another.  Which is not to say that I didn't have a few jokes at his expense -- pretty sure he would have been disappointed if I hadn't -- but on the whole, I tried to keep the jabs to a minimum.   This was incredibly difficult to do, as every time I excised one bit of TopGun mockery, another bit would rise up to take its place.

And last but not least . . .

CHALLENGE #6:  Editing.   As I said, this experience was almost like an extended writing exercise, with the biggest challenge being the intense amount of editing I performed over the months.  Even when I settled on including an anecdote or comedic bit, I would work and rework that section until I had found the most economical use of words possible to get the point across without losing any of the weight of the concept.  I think I can honestly say that this was the most thoroughly edited piece of work I've ever released into the public.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that there's no extraneous verbiage in the piece -- I am still me, after all -- but I worked hard at condensing stories and ideas as much as possible.

Of course, a discussion of my writing process would be incomplete without a mention of the part that brought the most joy:  constantly pestering TopGun with text messages like "Finally got the speech under an hour and a half; amazing what a difference taking out every other cuss word makes!" or "Think I'm going to remove the interpretive dance section . . . wait, that's crazy talk, it's the cornerstone of the whole piece!" Yes, I would randomly pepper him with messages calculated to insure that he was as tortured by my speech-writing process as I was.


His response?  "I don't know what you're complaining about; it shouldn't be that hard to come up with awesome stuff to say about me." I assured him that I had a whole section devoted to how I was sure he was a robot sent back from the future for the express purpose of making me constantly aware of my own inadequacies.**

In the days leading up to the wedding, I frequently joked about how I'd be working on the speech right up until the last minute, and that wasn't too far from the truth.  I put the finishing touches on it about an hour before I had to be at the church for pre-wedding photos; and, while I was happy with the final result, I have to admit that if I had another day to work on it, I probably would have wound up changing it even more***. 

So, how did the speech turn out?  Well, I started off talking about what an honor it was to be Best Man; segued into my First Impression of TopGun**** anecdote; followed it up with a list of things I respect, admire, envy, and treasure about my good pal; reassured everyone that I wasn't saying he was perfect and gave a couple of examples of his sadistic sense of humor*****; and ended with a word to the bride about how gaga in love with her he was, followed by a cheesy "May your love grow exponentially stronger every second of every day" toast. I think I only got choked up once, but I have to admit the actual delivery of the speech was a bit of a blur; after it was over I was certain that I had left a part of it out, since it had sped by******.


As for how the speech was received . . . well, TopGun's uncle complained I didn't make fun of TopGun enough, and TopGun's son, Li'l Champ, at first looked bored out of his gourd  
Li'l Champ's bored and Shack-fu's perplexed -- got 'em right where I want 'em!
 and later looked like he was contemplating if his dad's admonition to stop punching me in the gut for the duration of the wedding******* was still in effect or not
"One good jab in the solar plexus oughta shut this windbag up . . ."
but on the whole it seemed to pretty well received. People laughed at most of my jokes

They're laughing with me, not at me, I swear!

 and I had several of the family tell me that I had captured TopGun perfectly.  Plus, both the bride and groom said they liked it, and that's the most important thing. My goal was to honor TopGun and let him know not only how much respect I have for him, but also how much his friendship has meant to me; anything beyond that was just icing on the cake.


*Hard to spin a good yarn around "So, this one time TopGun and I had this really amusing conversation via text messaging"
**I was, of course, kidding about that -- I had removed the whole robot thing long before I mentioned it to him.
***And this is part of why I've never gotten anything published.
****I believe the phrases "Total Showoff" and "Incredibly intimidated to have Captain America himself move in" were used
*****When I told him I'd gotten fitted for my tux, his immediate response was "Great.  Are they going to have enough fabric?"
****** For those wondering, yes, I did the speech sans written copy or note cards -- if I've retained anything from my Competitive Speech days, it's a pathological avoidance of speech-making aids.
*******More on the gut-punching later, I promise

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Great Minds, Yadda Yadda Yadda

Last night as I started watching The Ultimate Fighter: GSP vs Koscheck I sent a text to PigPen and TopGun saying "Well, it's time to see how much Koscheck is going to tick me off this week," knowing that both of my pals share in my Koscheck-loathing.  A few minutes later TopGun responded with a text commenting on how much Koscheck was already getting on his nerves. We then proceeded to text a running commentary back and forth during the episode, ripping on Koscheck and his team for the cockiness, self-delusion, and bad sportsmanship while expressing our concern over the first fight of the night -- after all, the inclusion of two fights in an episode usually means the first one is a short one, and, as I texted to Clay, I was a bit afraid that the shortness of the fight might be because Koscheck's fighter managed to knock out GSP's.

No sooner had I sent that text than the fight started and, seconds later, ended in the greatest way possible:  GSP's 6th pick, derided by everyone for only having one move, took out Koscheck's number one pick with --you guessed it -- his one move.  I immediately started to laugh hysterically and grabbed my phone to text my joy to TopGun.  However, as soon as I picked it up I knew that I couldn't convey my thoughts effectively in text-format, so I decided to just call him.  Unfortunately, the call went straight to voicemail, so I waited patiently for the beep so I could record a message that was just my maniacal laughter.  But before the leave-a-message-beep sounded, there was another beep -- the call-waiting-beep.  Sure enough, it was TopGun calling in, so I hastily switched over to take his call and unleashed my crazy laughter at him, as he responded with cries of "That was awesome!"

He then confirmed what I had suspected:  the reason my call went to voicemail was because he, like me, felt that the moment had been too spectacular to leave to texting, and had been calling me at the same moment I was calling him.

This is an example of why the most oft-repeated phrase in the house during our time rooming together was "Get out of my head!"

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Up in Smoke

The summer of 1995 was filled with some big changes in my life:  I turned 20, finally got my drivers license, got my first car, and officially moved to Stillwater full-time. However, the biggest change that summer came about several weeks after my move when I got a call letting me know that my parents house -- the only home I had ever really known -- had burned down.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt in the fire -- neither of my parents were home when it happened, and luckily they had let the cat out before they left.  After confirming that no life was lost, the next thing my parents assured me in that call was "Don't worry: your comic books survived."  To be honest, the condition of my comic book collection hadn't even crossed me mind until they brought it up, and it caught me off-guard.  It would catch me even more off-guard over the next few weeks when every single family member I would talk to would bring up the survival of my comic books almost immediately.

Of course, when I finally got a chance to go see the charred husk of my childhood home, their emphasis made more sense, as my bedroom's location on the opposite end of the house from the living room where the fire started meant that it was the least damaged, although all that meant was that my room suffered mostly heat and smoke damage rather than fire and water damage. It was an odd experience sifting through the debris, attempting to find anything salvageable.  I could see the spot where all of my longboxes filled with comics had been sitting, and was amazed to see that on one side of that spot there was the melted remains of my plastic pencil sharpener, and on the other side, the melted remains of my record player.  The fact that the cardboard boxes filled with comic books wrapped in plastic bags had emerged from the ordeal with little more than some smoke stains to the boxes was unbelievable.  I was able to recover a few other smoke damaged books and papers, many of which are still boxed up in my apartment.  However a great number of these items, including my high school yearbooks, were placed in storage at my Grandma Ann's house along with all of the stuff my parents had already recovered before I got there.

Over the years since then, I've often told the story of the fire, and invariably someone will make a comment about how relieved I must have been not to have lost all those comics because of how much they were worth, to which I would reply, "Actually, the only books I had that might have been worth something had been put away for safekeeping in my parents' room, so they didn't make it."  A nice bit of irony there, don't you think?

So, what's brought this incident to my mind?  Well, let's fastforward 15 years -- following my Grandma Ann's passing earlier this year, my family was able to sell her house fairly quickly, with the end result that my parents' current house is now overflowing with stuff they had to remove to make the sale.  Friday night I got a call from my dad who had been sorting through the stuff and found something he thought might be of interest to me.

"Was going through the stuff we brought over from mom's," he tells me, "and came across some of your comics."

"Really?" I replied, momentarily stumped at what it could have been -- the only thing I could think of off the top of my head was my long-lost run of original Offical Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which had disappeared at Papaw and Grandma Ann's farmhouse when I was still in Junior High, and that possibility was, to say the least unlikely.

"Yes.  It says it's a 'bagged, collector's edition complete with trading card' of '--"

"X-force #1." I finished for him, momentarily shocked.

"That's right.  And there's five of them!"

"Yes, one for each of the different cards," I commented.  He started to tell me that there were a few other books with them, but I didn't really need him to tell me the other titles, as I could picture them in my head fine:  the first Excalibur Special Edition that introduced my favorite X-team, and the first couple of issues of The 'Nam which dad had purchased himself.

Yes, after all these years, it turns out that the books I had put away for safekeeping had survived the blaze after all -- they had just gotten swept up in my parents' original salvage run and lost among everything else, thus making my long-standing ironic story ending unusable.

"But," you might be thinking, "shouldn't you be happy that the valuable books survived?"

Well, my Book Monkeys, for those of you unacquainted with the vagaries of the comic book explosion of the early 90s, and the subsequent implosion, let me sum it up this way:  those five "collector issues" I had purchased were emblematic of the speculator's mindset which drove the comic book industry for several years, in which comic book companies churned out countless variant issues which were snatched up by countless comic book fans wanting to be in on the ground floor of the next big thing, with nobody thinking through the fact that if everyone and their dog owns a copy of X-Force #1, then it's never going to be worth anything because, well, everyone already owns a copy.

Long story short, a quick view on eBay shows bagged copies of X-Force #1 going for as low as $0.99 cents -- and getting no bids.

So, in the long run, the value of the books did go up in smoke after all -- just not the way I had always thought.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Totally Worth It

I spent this past Saturday hanging out at PigPen's house, watching whatever random stuff would catch our attention on TV:  old reruns (Star Trek: TNG, South Park, Two and Half Men), some UFC fights, lots of college football, and an assortment of movies ranging from the execrable Old Dogs to the mildly entertaining Planet 51 to the odd-ball Sci-Fi cult film Dune.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Dune -- yes, it's a mess, but it's a gloriously entertaining mess.    One scene that's burned into my memory is this one:



Not just because Wrath teh Berzerker used to mimic it all the time in college -- although he would change "For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!" to "For he is the Knickknack Paddywhack!" -- but because little Alia there is one of the creepiest characters in cinematic history.  And as PigPen and I watched the last part of the movie, I struggled to hide an evil little smirk as I planned the opening salvo in the following exchange:

ME:  Man, that sure is one creepy little girl
PIGPEN: Yeah, pretty creepy.
ME:  Y'know, I used to wonder how in the world they could have ever found someone that creepy . . . but then I found out she was played by a young Alicia Witt.  Once I knew she was really a ginger, it all made sense.
PIGPEN: [nods his ginger head slowly then punches me in the leg]
ME:  It was worth it.
PIGPEN:  Figured you'd say that. [punches me again]  Still worth it? [and again] How about now? [and again]

If you think this lead directly to PigPen and I beating the crap out of each other like the good ol' days of Benjiman Street, well, you would be sadly mistaken.  No, the beating the crap out of each other didn't happen until several hours later as PigPen decided to demonstrate the advice he was yelling at the UFC fighters on me.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Catching Up With the Cast: PigPen and Cap'n Peanut

Continuing the catching up trend, we now move on to the inseparable duo, Cap'n Peanut and The Lovable PigPen.  You may remember that PigPen and Peanut had gotten an apartment together in Lewisville not too long before I started renting a room at Shack-Fu's place.  After their initial lease was up, however, Peanut moved back to Era, and PigPen stayed with some other friends near Plano for a few months while looking for a new place.  The downside of this for me was that this move both of them further away from Denton -- in opposite directions -- making it difficult to find times for us to hang out.

A few months back, PigPen's search bore fruit, and he moved back to Lewsiville, this time as a home-owner. It's a pretty nice place, although the preponderance of hardwood floors makes me less inclined to engage in roughhousing -- which is probably better for my general health, true, but since approximately 95% of my friendship with PigPen has been based on physical violence, it's a little disappointing.  At least we still have verbal abuse to fall back on.

As for Cap'n Peanut, well, here's where here's where the news starts to get a bit bigger:  in a little over a month, Peanut will be joining the Navy.  His desired area of specilization?  EOD -- which stands for Explosive Ordinance Disposal. Yup:  Peanut wants to be on the Navy version of the bomb squad. And here I had been thinking Peanut was one of my saner friends . . .

On the one hand, I'm really proud of Peanut for his decision to join the military and his acceptance into EOD school -- but on the other, I hate the thought of another of my closest friends moving off, especially when it involves such a dangerous career choice.   But the gripping hand is that Peanut is excited about the new direction and looking forward to the challenge and moving on to a new phase in his life, and as much as I'll miss having him around, I'm glad he's found something like that. 

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Catching Up With the Cast: TopGun and Cap'n Shack-Fu

Here's the first of several posts to get everyone get caught up on what's been going on in the many, many months since I went on "hiatus."  But first:  a recap!

When last we left off, Cap'n Shack-Fu had graduated from Quantico and been stationed in Tulsa;  I was renting a room in his house in Denton; and his pal TopGun moved to the area for work and became my new roommate, whereupon he and I bonded over our shared smartassery. And now, on with the post.

This past March TopGun informed me that he was going to start looking for his own place closer to his job, ostensibly because he was tired of the commute; within a couple of days he had found an apartment just a few miles from his office and made plans to move mid-May.  I was pretty bummed -- not only because he and I had become really good friends over the year we were rooming together, but also because the vacant room meant that I was going to have to start searching for a new roommate to help pay the rent -- a process I was not looking forward to.

Plus, he was taking his nifty SelectTech dumbbells with him, the jerk.

When moving day came, however, TopGun managed to distract me from pining for those wonderful click-weight dumbbells briefly with a bit of news:  a few weeks earlier he had bought an engagement ring, and was planning on popping the question to his long-distance girlfriend in Colorado when he went up to visit her over Memorial Day weekend.  The proposal was successful, and he cam back an engaged man. He also came back with a bad case of bronchitis which was severe enough for him to get some pretty hefty cough medicine with codeine -- a fact I mention solely because a few days later he asked me to be Best Man at his wedding and I'm still pretty sure the codeine played a big part in his decision making process.*

Of course, as honored as I was to be chosen as TopGun's Best Man, it still didn't change the fact that his move out was forcing me to search for a new roommate.  Although it turned out I needn't have worried about the tortures of interviewing potential roomies as I received not a single reply to any of my ads. By the time June rolled around and no potential roommates had surfaced, Cap'n Shack-Fu decided to put the house on the market and I started looking for a new place to live.  Due largely to a decision making process that can best be described as "Better the Devil You Know . . ." I decided to return to the apartment complex I had been living in back before I moved in with Biz-Z and Maverick. However this time I upgraded to a two-bedroom due to the amount of crap I've accumulated over the last several years.

When I moved Shack-Fu and his girlfriend came down from Tulsa to help out, as well as to grab some stuff of his that was still at the house.  They weren't able to fit everything into the truck they'd borrowed, so they knew they were going to have to make another trip when the house sold -- which wasn't looking promising for a while, as over the course of three months there had only been 3 or 4 people come by to look at the place.  But eventually a potential buyer was found, an offer was placed, and everything lined up for them to close on the house**.  Of course, this necessitated Shack-Fu making one last trip to retrieve the last of his stuff from the garage.  Unfortunately, when he went to rent a trailer to help haul his stuff, he discovered that none of the big name rental place would rent out a trailer to someone driving an Explorer.  After some frantic searching, he finally found a solution . . .

They called it Rusty
Yes, Shack-fu found a place that rented horse trailers, so he and his girlfriend made the trek down to Denton hauling a rickety trailer they dubbed Rusty. After I got done dying laughing at the sight of B.A.R.T. pulling Rusty down the street, I helped them empty out the last of his stuff, locked the place up, and bid goodbye to the house on Wicker Way. 

*I also accused him of picking me solely because he knew I would obsess over the Best Man speech for months and months, so the request was really a subtle form of mental torture.  He never really denied it . . .
**Today, as a matter of fact

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Reinventing the Blog Phase Three: Back at the Mothership

The third step in my new blogging setup is the refocusing of the mothership of CoIM onto my day-to-day life and random thoughts that don't fit into Categorically Thinking or The Locquacious Librarian and the Reviews of DOOM.  With luck, I'll actually be able to get out of the apartment and do enough stuff to keep the posts coming a little more frequently.  I plan on using the next few posts to get everyone caught up on what's been going on with myself and some of the major cast members: who's moved, who's gotten engaged, who's joining the military, who's had a baby . . . y'know, minor stuff like that.

I almost started this post off saying that this was the final step in my new blogging set-up, and it is -- for now.  However, as I get back into the swing of writing, I've considered starting another space to post some fiction; Bubblegum Tate has been toying with serialized fiction and was challenging me to do so as well.  Not sure if I'm quite up to that just yet, but I really would like to put some stories down in print a little more often than once a year during NaNoWriMo.  So, stay tuned for more on that if/when the urge strikes. 

But for now, three blogs and I'm out.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Reinventing the Blog Phase Two: The Loquacious Librarian and the Reviews of DOOM

Let me start off by saying this:  naming things is hard, y'all!

Seriously, if my new review-centered blog is still named The Loquacious Librarian and the Reviews of DOOM within a few months, I will be amazed.  But, I've already delayed rolling it out longer than I wanted because I've been struggling with the naming, so I finally bit the bullet and went with my most recent bit of "inspiration."

But I digress . . .

As you may have gathered, I have decided to go ahead and do a separate blog devoted solely to my reviews of literature, cinema, theater, etc.  Which means no more Movie Mondays or TV Tuesdays here at CoIM.  A moment of silence please.
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Okay, now that that's over, head on over to The Loquacious Librarian and the Reviews of DOOM to find out a bit more about changes to my rambling review structure.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Reinventing the Blog Phase One: Categorically Thinking

My first step in the new multi-blogging format is the creation of a new blog tentatively titled Categorically Thinking.  The idea for this blog was inspired largely by my friend Rebel Monkey who for the past several months has been posting a "Question of the Day" on Facebook, first as her status and then later on creating a Facebook group to move the QotD into the discussion boards.  On days when her questions would veer into pop culture territory, I would generally find myself compiling long lists of possible answers, often with explanatory text; I'm pretty sure the times she specified "You can only pick ONE movie/book/song/etc." were aimed mostly at me.

This list-making facet of my personality is not exactly news to me -- not to long ago I went pretty crazy with the Living Social "Pick Your 5"application on Facebook, constructing pretty specific lists -- Top 5 Time Travel Drama, Top 5 Time Travel Comedies, Top 5 Time Travel Movies That Made Me Want To Strangle the Writer/Director, etc. -- but often feeling stymied by the inability to give any context to my lists in terms of criteria and limits.

And thus Categorically Thinking was born.

I was originally going to do Categorically Thinking as a Tumblr blog. Why Tumblr?  Because I've seen a lot of folks move to it as their micro-blogging provider and I was curious to try it out and see what was what with it. But I quickly discovered that 'what was what' was that Tumblr is not comment-friendly for people without Tumblr accounts.  And since I'm pretty sure few if any of my regular readers has a Tumblr account, that would be problematic, especially since I want to make this as interactive a process as possible.   To that end, I will be asking for suggestions for topics -- Bubblegum Tate has already provided me with a few comic-book related suggestions, so feel free to chime in as well.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Reinventing the Blog: An Introduction

Greetings, my blog monkeys; long time, no see.

Due to a combination of the start of the new school year, the start of the new TV season, partaking in Rebel Monkey's Question of the Day on Facebook, and the fact that I am living sans roommate for the foreseeable future*, I have found myself once again bitten by the blogging bug. However, I've also been struck by the need to change things up a bit.

So, partly inspired by some other bloggers I follow, I'll be shaking things up a bit by branching out to a multi-blog format. CoIM will still be the place to find all of my real-world adventures** but most of my pop culture-y stuff will start to live elsewhere. This way, people like Cap'n Shack-Fu who don't give a flying flip about what TV shows I watch but still want to read about my neurotic life have a place to go without having to wade through my Top 10 [Insert Random Genre] Movies lists or TV/Movie/Book reviews -- and vice versa.

The next question you might be asking is "how multi is this multi-blog format going to be?" Well, that's a work in progress; still trying to decide just how specialized I want to be in the pop culture stuff. My initial thought was to split it up into two -- one focusing on reviews of what I'm currently watching/reading, and another that is more general thoughts on different genres, creators/actors, tropes, etc. -- but now I'm wondering if that's necessary.

Ugh, haven't even started and already second-guessing myself. The more things change . . .

Anyway, within the next day or two we shall have the introduction of the first phase in my own personal blog reinvention.



*More on that soon
**Too strong a word, perhaps?

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And Then Came Mourning

This past Saturday morning my phone started ringing at around 9:30 AM. My first thought was not "who in the world would be calling me this early on a Saturday?" as it would have been most any other time. No, instead my thought was this: "Grandma Ann must have passed away." I answered the phone and found that my prediction was true, and that my last surviving grandparent had passed away sometime around 5AM. My parents gave me the details, and I visited with them for a little bit before they had to go because someone was at the door. Once I hung up I immediately sent a text to several friends, and then posted the news on my Facebook status, and then went back to watching whatever it was I had been watching before the call came in. By that afternoon I had received dozens of condolences from friends, family, and co-workers, chatted briefly with a cousin about plans for services, and watched several more hours of movies and TV.

I had not, however, yet shed a single tear.

This, as those who know me well can attest, was a bit unusual. After all, I'm the sort of person who tears up at the drop of a hat; tears of joy, tears of rage, tears of despair -- if the emotions are powerful, they escape from my bleary, reddened eyes, and there's nothing I can do to stop them. At best, I can delay them; when I got word of my Grandma Kidwell's passing several years ago while I was at work, I almost managed to get to the front door without losing control. But then my shock-induced clumsiness caused me to accidentally rip a box of markers from the wall next to the whiteboard where I was signing myself out, and all pretense of self-control went crashing with them.

Still, while the lack of overwhelming emotion was odd, I was able to rationalize it. After all, when my mother first called me to say that Grandma Ann had started to go downhill and the doctors said she probably wouldn't last a week and that I should probably head home immediately if I wanted to say goodbye, I had a breakdown so overwhelming that I was glad TopGun wasn't at home to witness it. Then I got a call from dad several hours later saying that Grandma had bounced back a little bit and wasn't in quite the danger zone they had originally thought, but it would still be a good idea to come say goodbye if I wanted her to know who I was. So I headed to Miami so I could find closure and peace with the idea of my Grandmother's impending mortality.

That was a month and a half ago.

Since then, Grandma's health has been a roller coaster ride, with her going back and forth between periods of confusion and coherence, times where my dad and uncle were sure she was about to pass and times where it seemed like she might last for months. But every time she'd fade, the bounce back would be just a little less than the time before. And even when she seemed to be making progress, he health had deteriorated to such a degree that she was unable to take care of herself and needed supervision 24-7 -- a situation that was complicated by her unwillingness to go to a nursing home. Back when she was in full control of her faculties, she even threatened to starve herself to death rather than go into a home, so my dad and uncle were put in the unenviable position of trying to balance respecting her wishes against doing what was best for her. For most of the last few months, my uncle had been staying with her full-time, first at the nursing home and then at her own house, but he finally had to return home to Maine, at which point my dad took time off of work to stay with her. By that point the writing was definitely on the wall, as Grandma was sleeping the majority of the day, and even when she was awake, she wasn't really there. In less than a week, she finally went to sleep and did not wake up.

All of which is to say, in effect I've been mourning the loss of my grandmother for the better part of two months, so maybe the fact that I didn't have a repeat of my initial breakdown wasn't that unusual.

Except, of course, that it's me we're talking about, and a lack of overwhelming emotional response should really be a red flag to anyone around me.

Now, that's not to say I wasn't sad, or that some tears hadn't fallen. When I read the card a friend from church had written, I teared up a little; words of comfort and support from my best friends did the same. But when Sunday evening rolled around and I still hadn't really been able to feel the impact of her passing, I started worrying a bit. As I told L'il Brother late that night, I was a little scared of when and where the emotional dam was finally going to break. I even tried to jump-start it as I lay in bed, focusing on the sense of loss and the realization that I would never see her again on this earth, but all that did was make it harder to go to sleep.

The next morning I got up at 6 AM to get ready for my morning work-out with TopGun. While waiting for TopGun, I started watching an episode of Torchwood, the slightly darker spin-off of Doctor Who. Although the tone of this particular episode had been fairly light-hearted through most of it, towards the end the characters attended a funeral, at which the estranged father of the deceased sang "Danny Boy." And while that didn't quite bring on the waterworks, I could tell it had primed the pump.

Shortly after the funeral scene ended, TopGun came out of his room, cranked up the music on his iPod docking station, and it was workout time. We started doing Hindu push-ups, and I found myself struggling with them more than usual; I switched to regular push-ups, and found that even those were proving unusually difficult. I punched the ground and cursed at myself in frustration. TopGun shook his head at me and said the same thing he always said when I let my frustrations get in the way: "Stop with the negativity; it doesn't help, just makes things worse."

Cue the waterworks.

I did manage to walk hurriedly into my room and close the door before really losing control, but for the next several minutes it all came pouring out -- all of the sadness and sorrow that had been building up in me for the past two days. After I had exhausted that first torrent of emotion and had composed myself a bit, I headed back into the living room. Not too long after I had gone into my room, TopGun had taken his iPod and went back to his to continue his workout; I could hear the music coming from the other side of the house. Feeling strangely invigorated, I dropped down and knocked out a couple of sets of push-ups with no problem; apparently my earlier attempts had suffered from the emotional weight I had been carrying around.

TopGun came out to check on me, and I told him I was feeling much better. He said that he could tell I'd been holding everything in, and he was glad I was finally able to let it all go; I told him that I had been trying to let go and had failed utterly, and then joked "Who knew all it was going to take was you yelling at me?"

The mind is a funny thing; two days of sympathy and condolences and sad thoughts hadn't made a dent in my emotional shut-down, but let me watch one British Sci-Fi show with a funeral and have my good friend give me the same advice he's given me time and time again, and the dam gets blasted to smithereens.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking that it's not a very fitting memorial for my grandmother, and you would be right; very little of this post has been about the person she was, or what she meant to me. I'm not sure I'm quite up to that at this point.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Wii Temper

There are some people out there who would describe me as a very laid-back, easy-going, even-tempered kind of guy.

These people have obviously never watched me play video games.*

I have long maintained that video games bring out the worst in me; I probably have a harder time controlling my temper -- and my tongue -- when playing a video game than any other time . . . and that includes dealing with The Lovable PigPen.

TopGun has recently borne witness to this less than stellar aspect of my personality thanks to my new Wii. At first he just caught a glimpse when he would get home while I was playing one of the Finaly Fantasy games at the beginning of the month, but I tended to stop playing when he came in so as not to embarrass myself too much. But now he has seen the full force of my video game fueled frustration thanks to countless hours of Wii Sports . . . particularly the tennis game, which seems designed to drive me completely insane.

After my ten gazillionth primal scream of rage at my inability to successfully return a volley with my backhand or keep a regular return in-bounds, I turned to TopGun and said "Sorry, Champ." He told me there was no need to apologize, as he found my imminent mental breakdown highly amusing and entertaining**.

The obvious question is "If you find these games so frustrating, why keep playing them?" Well, the obvious answer is that I am a bit masochistic and a glutton for punishment -- for evidence, see pretty much any blog post tagged "Roughhousing." But even beyond that, the overly competitive side of myself that is responsible for most of my negative outbursts refuses to let me quit. My desire to master the game is more powerful than my desire to maintain my sanity -- unfortunately, my ability to master the game feels nigh unto non-existent at times, and so my grip on sanity and serenity is sure to be fleeting.

*Or play racquetball. Or volleyball. Or anything requiring hand/eye coordination.
**Alternate post title: "With Friends Like Champ, Who Needs PigPen?"

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

TopGun's Turn of Phrase

This past weekend TopGun and I got caught up on a lot of shows which had been languishing on my DVR waiting for us to both be free to watch. One of these was the first four episodes of Chuck, including the highly entertaining two-part episode with a heavy focus on Chuck's brother-in-law, Devon "Captain Awesome" Woodcomb. During one scene, Sarah makes a comment about how Devon is great at everything, to which Chuck replied "Hence the nickname." Naturally, this prompted TopGun to turn to me and say "So I guess I should be called 'Captain Awesome' from now on, huh?"

A little later we watched an episode of Better Off Ted in which Veronica and Linda become embroiled in a highly competitive game of Linda-bagel . . . don't ask. Anyway, Veronica has a monologue about how she's great at everything, and the word "hubris" gets thrown around a few times by different characters. So, when TopGun was jokingly bragging about something later, I responded, "Wow, what hubris -- so, should I call you Captain Awesome or Veronica?" After that, while we were playing Wii Sports I settled on combining them and called him "Captain Veronica Awesome" for the rest of the evening.

He played along quite nicely, and soon, whenever he would make a particularly impressive shot he would exclaim "That's Ver-awesome!"

I'm actually a bit jealous he came up with that before I did, but I suppose I should expect nothing less from ol' Veronica Awesome.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TV Tues - Law of Conservation of Jackassery

I have no idea why I'm still watching Heroes.

What's sad is, this is the third season in a row where I can say that; you'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now. But, no, I've clung on to this train-wreck long past the point where it gave me actual pleasure to watch it.

At the beginning of the current season there was a glimmer of hope; the carnival storyline held a hint of mystery, the new characters were more interesting than annoying on the whole, and there was nary a sign of Mohinder anywhere at all. But it wasn't too long before that glimmer faded and died in the face of the asinine "Put Nathan's memories in Sylar's body" storyline left over from last season, coupled with what I've decided is Heroes' fundamental rule: there will always be at least one character on the show who will be self-righteous for no good reason and/or act like a complete idiot for no good reason, regardless of how the character has been portrayed in the past. Now, most of the time, both roles would be served by Mohinder -- oh, how I loathe that character -- but with him gone for most of the season, the torch of annoyance was passed on primarily to Parkman, although Hiro, Claire, Peter, and Noah have all borne it at one point or another. Last week's episode where Peter storms into Emma's apartment and smashes her cello instead of just talking to her about his vision is one example; last night's episode which found Claire heading to the carnival instead of talking to her dad is another. And don't even get me started on how often people have had a chance to kill Sylar and let him walk. Yes, I know, he's supposed to be immortal, but if you lop off his head, then that takes care of that -- Parkman's attempt to play "Cask of Amontillado" with the comatose Sylar last night drove me up the wall.

And yet, I'll be sticking with the show at least through the end of the season and, if it somehow, miraculously gets renewed, there are good odds I'll be watching it next year as well. Because, if history has taught us anything, it's that I'm a glutton for punishment.

Besides, I have to have something to complain about in my TV Tuesday posts, right?

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Movie Mon. - "Well Played, Kable."

Only one review today, my blog monkeys; I'll try to pick up the pace next week.

Gamer:
a sci-fi action flick starring Gerard Butler as Kable, a death row inmate who gets drafted into participating in a game that could allow him to win his freedom by being a living avatar controlled by a teenager playing in a flesh-and-blood video game. At times quite predictable, but for me it was worth watching just for a handful of surprising (and sometimes surreal) scenes, including a cameo by Milo "Peter Petrelli" Ventimiglia as a pervy character named "Rick Rapist" and a bizarre song-and-dance number by Michael C. "Dexter Morgan" Hall. As a mater of fact, most of the scenes I enjoyed in the film were ones featuring Hall as the eccentric genius responsible for the technology used in the game. Not a great movie by any stretch, and the ending felt forced and inorganic -- especially the horrendous "Well played, Kable," line -- but on the whole, I enjoyed it for its bursts of randomness if nothing else.

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