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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Candyland

We aren't a very big candy family. Really, we rarely crave any sweets other than ice cream. We crave that pretty often.

But the candy we have opinions about, we have strong opinions about.

I love Sour Patch Kids, dark chocolate, Baby Ruth, and red rope licorice. Sal is really into Dots and Cadbury Creme Eggs. Those are pretty mainstream and I feel like we could both find a group of people that agree.

I also defend candies that many people abhor. Peeps and Candy Corn... both my jam. Love 'em. But comedians and most people seem to really hate them. Like to the point where I fear physical violence from their reaction.

It's not like I melt Peeps and Candy Corn together to make a solid candied ball that can live in my insides forever. They are candies that I appreciate in moderation during the appropriate holidays.

But if you thought Peeps and Candy Corn were crazy candy choices, just wait until you get to my wife.

Sal loves all the candies I tried once as a child and wanted to throw up.

When I was a kid, my cousin Ryan and I took swim classes together. At the rec center there was to this day one of the best stocked vending machines I've ever seen. We systematically went one by one through the machine, buying a few snacks a week, figuring out things we loved and hated.

There were many things that we deemed were either lame or for old people.

The lame category was the mixed bag of peanuts or the normal potato chips. Stuff that either didn't have a ton of taste or were freely given out at all times.

Then there were the candies that we deemed were for old people. Zero Bars, Good and Plenty, black licorice. All disgusting candies that seemingly seem to be inspired by depression years. (After a short amount of research, all of these apparently were created during boom years, so maybe we were feeling too good about things and had to take it down a notch)

There's a Venn Diagram you could make. It would be pointless because it would essentially be one circle that said both Sallie's name and "Old People Candy."

The purpose of this post wasn't necessarily make fun of Sal's awful candy pallet, but was more of a plea not to let any of these candies into our house because they will sit on a shelf, mocking me with what should be a good thing.

But also, yes, I'm married to an 89-year-old man. Next time you see Sal, ask her if she has a Werther's Original in the bottom of her purse, my money is on "yes."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Will you go to prom with me?

I was listening to the Moth podcast this morning and an Indian American was telling a story about how he was going to go to prom with his best friend and then her family forced her to go with a white guy. He was crushed when he showed up at her door hours before prom and the captain of the water polo team was there.

Although my prom was nowhere near as crushing as that, it was surrounded by the weirdest of circumstances, and everything (including me) did as much as possible to ruin the night.

For most of high-school, my three best friends were this group of girls. It was an interesting dynamic. All three of them were sort of tomboy-ish and I was a sensitive poet future rockstar. In the rare instances where they were doing each other's makeup or clothes shopping, I hung out with one of the girl's gay brothers and played video games.

The leader of our pack was my best friend and I had a hugeeeee crush on her.

It all started the first month of high-school. I was in a new city, new school district, I had a 7:15 am honors geometry class that I hated. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to go in my room, dress in all black, and listen to Korn and be pissed off.

She offered me a piece of candy and introduced herself. From that moment on, she had my undying loyalty.

Anyway, fast forward to senior year, 2003. We almost dated a half dozen times. The timing never really worked out. One of us always had a boyfriend or girlfriend.

I wanted to ask her to prom, but I also knew she sort of liked this other guy. I had sort of shrunk back and figured, "Well, maybe I can pick up an extra shift at work on prom night." I was going to let this goofy dude take my friend to prom.

And then something happened.

The girls started being really secretive. They were hanging out without me. They started skipping our Tuesday - Thursday college class with regularity. We no longer drove around aimlessly on the weekend, stopping at Steak N Shake for cheese fries.

I was regressed to my freshman year where I just wanted to fold inside myself.

Finally, I snapped and asked what was up. My best friend hesitated, and then quietly told me.

I was told that one of the girls, not my best friend, was an idiot. She had sex with her 22 year old boyfriend without protection and got pregnant. And since she was underage (17 at the time) and didn't want her boyfriend to go to jail and didn't want to have a baby at 17, the girls drove to Illinois one weekend and got an abortion. And all the days they were skipping school were check ups at the hospital down the street to make sure everything was OK.

I left my friends house because I had a shift at Bandannas. I felt like I had been kicked right in the stomach. I didn't know how to process things. My brain was swirling.

I arrived to work, dropped my keys off, and decided YOLO. I realized that adulthood was coming quick and soon, my concern for the other guy would mean nothing. I had recently signed a draft card and we were going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. My short life could be over soon.

I called my friend right there and asked her to prom. I caught her severely off guard. She sort of said, "Ummm, I'm not sure. Can we talk about it later?"

Skip ahead a week and next time I saw her, I asked her in person, she said yes.

I went and rented a tux. Now most of you probably didn't know this about me, but I'm not much for formal wear. I had no idea what I was doing. I asked the guy at the mall tux rental place what a good tux was and he essentially rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, you want generic black prom tux."

I showed up to my friend's house and she looked gorgeous. I had made the right choice. She apologized profusely that she didn't look better, but apparently she had to do everyone else's hair all day and didn't have time for hers. She was in a terrible mood from the get go.

This is where the story speeds up because so much happened, the details were lost.

Then we arrived at the prom. Now another thing you might not believe about me is that I'm a terrible dancer. I'm fine for a few seconds, then I start over thinking keeping the rhythm, and then things get really white boy. So we have a couple awkward dances.





My friend's younger sister was also at the prom. She decided to take caffeine pills and wash them down with soda for some dumb reason. So she starts freaking out, and sweating, my date goes to the bathroom with her and is giving her water. Me and the sister's date awkwardly stand there wondering what's happening. We end up leaving prom early.

We go to a house party somewhere around Busch Wildlife. It's a pretty good party. I have a few beers. Everyone at the party does dumb highschool drinking where they are chugging cheap vodka and dropping Skittles into wine coolers. Things get out of hand. Then I walk in on my friend, smoking cigarettes with my only nemesis in all of highschool, and I lose it.

"How can you? This guy is a ... lot's of cursing happened here." Basically, I blew up over a cigarette. We all passed out, woke up the next morning, drove the 30 minutes back home not talking.

The prom hangover lasted about 7 days, and then things were back to basically normal in our small group.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sometimes You Just Gotta Leave 'em Behind

As I get older, I've realized that growing apart from someone doesn't have to be an upsetting thing. It can just be a fact of life.

In middle-school, high-school, and to some extent in college, you sort of assume that the friends you have will always be your friends. You sort of think, only some huge drama will pull us apart.

I've always felt like there are unspoken tiers of friends.

There's the close ones. Generally, you can only have a few people in this tier because it's special. It's the "best friend" tier. These are the people that when all you want to do is go home and rest, going to their house feels the same way. They re-energize you. They are the people you call to have a drink when you've had a rough week.

Then there's tier 2. Sometimes these are former best friends that you grew apart from. Sometimes they are people that if given the right circumstances, could probably move into the top tier. These are people you invite out to your parties or you meet up to split a pitcher or margaritas with.

Then there's tier 3. These are the ones you like seeing, but you don't need to see. Sort of the peripheral people that you don't mind having drinks with, but you wouldn't call them to hang out unless prompted.

The drama comes when two people see each other as different tiers and one of them are not adult enough to shrug it off.

I thought we would be finished with this drama, but at least three different times we've had issues where someone is a tier 2 to us, but they are looking for a tier 1. I know, it sounds like some crazy MTV teen drama. These are basically 13-year-old relationships.

One guy was a shooting star. He was working his way up to tier 1. But the problem came when I didn't have a car, and we worked different shifts. We hung out maybe every other week or so. Which trust me, as a guy that loves alone time, is a lot of friendship time.

Well, this guy didn't see it that way. In fact, he sent me a message essentially dressing me down. It started with "Listen buddy..." Not a good tone to start things.

I invited him out one last time, but the damage was already done. This shooting star fell to earth, back into tier 3 and eventually out of all the tiers.

We've had another recently who was once a tier 1, but we work mornings, she doesn't go to bed until 2 am. She wants to hang out until 9 pm, we are in bed by 10 pm.

These drama situations always bring up terrible feelings. It's the closest I've felt to having a break-up since high-school. There's not really an easy way to handle these because unless both people feel the same way and accept it, someone's feelings are going to be hurt.

I guess the best you can hope for in that situation is that the other person doesn't make you feel bad about it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Record Stories and Shopping with a Vomit Inducing Ending

I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriously, ya never get hurt, ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends. - Almost Famous

Every now and then, Sal and I will take $20 out of the ATM and dive into the dusty archives of a used record store.

It's getting harder to find the wish list records as they become popular again. Things like Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, The Ramones, Wilco, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd are having their prices inflated beyond $30 an album. 

Part of our record shopping rules is that we refuse to spend over $20 unless it's a special edition or one of the holy grail records. 

Following this rule, we made a successful run getting Carly Simon's "No Secrets," Cat Stevens "Catch Bull at Four," The Who "Live at Leeds," and John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Double Fantasy" for roughly $21 at the Slackers in Columbia last weekend. 

Another rule with record shopping is that they cannot be put into the Peaches crate until we've listened to it, making sure that we never skip a record. We spent roughly 6 hours playing records last Sunday while cooking and screwing around on the internet. It's probably my favorite way to spend Sunday.

One of our unwritten rules is that if there is writing on the slip cover, we grab it. We have an ELO record that says "blank + Sue Haegle heart, true love." The blank is a scratched out name, obviously a love that wasn't to be. But that handwriting on the record means there was a story. It means this record meant enough to someone that they would declare love or "best friends forever" in the margins. To me, it makes the record just a bit more valuable. 

We went to Vintage Vinyl today with Sal's parents to rummage through their stacks.

I like how Vintage Vinyl does it. They know all the cool, hipster kids are going to wander in and find their Radiohead records and gladly pay $30. But if you're willing to dig through the $2.99, unorganized milk crates, that's where you earn great music.

Last year we found Queen's live record in there. Today Sal found a great "Doo-wop" compilation album, featuring "It's My Party" by Leslie Gore.

It's not often we have the time or money to flip through the records, but when we do, we take full advantage.

Storage of our records has always been a head scratcher for us. Ideally, we would have the giant bookshelves built into the wall where you could flip through our hundreds of records easily, sit in the giant leather chair sipping a cocktail, letting the music wash over you while admiring the alphabetized history lesson.

We inherited a Peaches crate where roughly 100 of our records live and like it. It's still a thing sitting on our floor, but it looks legit. The other 50 records we have live in a milk crate, which looks much less classy.

The Peaches crates soak up history in the wood fibers. Decades of dust, pot smoke, tears, smiles, shag carpeting, lead paint; all of this lives in Peaches crates.

We've had our eyes out at flea markets and record stores for additional Peaches crates without luck. I was beginning to think all the crates were made in the 70's and the world's supply was running low. That was until a faithful internet search (during the 6 hour listen-a-thon last week) I discovered and someone bought the rights to the Peaches name and still makes the crates in multiple sizes.

I would still love to find a crate out in the wild, but I think at some point soon, Sal and I will probably just order a new one and start caking it with our own dust. Maybe under one of the boards, I'll gouge deeply in pen, "Dan heart Sal = Forever." And when I'm long and dead, some other kid is going to discover the benefits of listening to a record in the track order it was meant, and as they lay on the floor hearing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, they look at their prized Peaches crate, and make up a story of their own about Sal and Dan. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions are interesting as they are something we promise to do in the new year, which is an amount of time that humans created. Basically, we split up the passage of time based on this glowing gas ball and our rotation around it, and once in every 365 times we move around that gas ball, we say, "I'm going to make myself better in the next year."

Most of the time, we fail. According to Forbes, only 8% of New Years resolutions are kept.

I can proudly say, that in 2014, I completed mine. I wanted to brew 12 beers in 12 months and I did it. My last beer came off the fire on December 30, 2014.

I want to continue my trend of being in this 8% in the new year.

In 2015, I want to accomplish 2 things.

1. Give a donation to 12 podcasts I've been listening to for free.
2. Volunteer to work 20 hours of some sort of charity or community service work.

The first one is relatively easy as most the podcasts I listen to are funded almost exclusively by donations. Next time This American Life or The Moth asks for money, I'll throw $10 to them. Actually, we already have accomplished one of our 12 by giving money to fund a season 2 of our favorite podcast, Serial.

The second one is only slightly harder. Wells Fargo will actually give me paid time off to volunteer. It's something I wish I would've taken advantage of last year. But things get busy, I don't have a car, and I just don't know where to start. Next thing you know, it's 2015. So this year, I'm determined to work for my community whether that means working in a soup kitchen or helping in a community garden, I'm going to do it.

So here's to the new year. I hope everyone finds peace and makes life for them and others just a little bit better.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Four years ago, I gave you all the complete history of Christmas according to Dan.
I covered the history of Santa and his buddy Black Peter, the history of the Christmas tree and lights. This year, I thought I'd bring back that post, with some more classic traditions and terms and explain their history.

Yule Tide/ Yule Log
Yule Tide is basically an old word for Christmas. The Yule Log however... well, it's what it sounds like. It's traditionally a large log burned in the fireplace on Christmas Eve in Europe. This, like most Christian traditions, appears to have come from the Pagan tradition where there was a fire-festival to celebrate the winter solstice.

It seems the log is still burned fairly regularly in Europe, but in North America, it's been replaced by the Yule Log channel. It's a 2-4 hour video loop for a fire with Christmas music playing in the background.

Now if we could only get TV's that has smell-o-vision, we would have the full experience.

Chestnuts Roasting

Most likely, we all know Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire as one of the most classic Christmas songs created. Nat King Cole really nailed that feeling of sitting around the Christmas tree in your pajamas, watching a fire on Christmas Eve. But what does this mean? Is this one of Nat's family traditions? A marketing ploy by the evil Chestnut Growers Association of America?

The few articles discussing this seem to agree that this tradition started in mountainous regions where cereal grains couldn't grow. Like present day humans, who undo 11 months of dieting and working out by stuffing every sweet baked good offered into our mouths, chestnuts become sweet when they are roasted. Thus, these people just wanted a sweet snack around the holidays.

Elf on a Shelf

A relatively new tradition, parents position an elf around the house every night in order to keep their kids in line.

This was inspired by a book written by Carol Aebersold, Chanda Bell, and Satan himself. It's all about teaching children to give into Big Brother, and you'll be rewarded with Capitalist gifts. Just make sure you stay in line, otherwise Darth Elf will kill your parents.

I'm not the only one who thinks those blank, souless eyes are creepy. There's an entire Pinterest board dedicated to him being creepy. Tumbler is filled with Elf on a Shelf having sex with Barbies, murdering GI Joe, and writing creepy messages in sugar. In fact, just search "Elf on a Shelf Creepy" returns 426,000 results on Google as of 12/22/14.

Leaving Cookies and Milk for Santa

No one appears to know exactly when this started, but most people reference children leaving hay and treats for Sleipnir, Odin's eight legged horse, in hopes that the duo would stop to rest and leave treats for children.

Now it's an excuse for parents already high on ham and eggnog to cram a couple of cookies into their gullet, always leaving at least one half eaten cookie on the plate.

Some children would leave carrots for the reindeer as well and it wasn't until I was older that I linked having some sort of roast with carrots a few days after Christmas as the way to get rid of those carrots.

Christmas Caroling

I haven't had carolers to my house in nearly two decades, but I know it still happens. In fact, my cousin and his buddies have a few beers and spread holiday cheer to the suspecting neighborhood every year.

Pagans used to sing and dance for various rituals. The Winter Solstice has traditionally been December 22nd, so singing songs of praise that the days were going to get longer became tradition. Christians eventually took this idea, put a lot of Christ into the pagan songs, and took them as their own.

Christmas Cards

In the true spirit of marketing and Christmas being tied together, the Christmas card was thought up by Sir Henry Cole, who wanted to figure out a way to get the average person to use the post office.

He came up with the Christmas Card with John Callcott Horsley in London in 1843.

Now, any number of services will print up a collage of pictures of you and your dumb pets with the entire story of the past year on the back. These can be most often seen covering up refrigerators until January 3rd, where they are promptly stacked several inches high, and thrown in the trash can. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sitting Around the Radio

With how busy Sal and I were this year and how much traveling we did, we bonded over several podcasts. These were the ones that I would see downloaded in my app and ignore for several days knowing that we were headed for Chicago, Columbia, Rolla, or Madison. 

There were some old standbys that have tapered off like Hollywood Babble-on, but there are some that have become such favorites that we don't talk to each other until the end of each episode like The Moth or WTF. 

There's only been one podcast that has us hooking the phone up to to speakers while we sit around, staring at the radio like kids waiting for an Ovaltine advertisement between the Lone Ranger episodes.



That podcast is Serial. You've probably heard of it. It's the number one podcast in the world right now.  It's a story, told weekly, much inspired by famous documentaries like Thin Blue Line and pulp stories of the 50s. 

It's a look at a crime that took place in 1999, a teenager that might have been wrongly convicted, and all of the witnesses, jurors, and evidence (sometimes lack thereof) that lead to Adnan Syed being imprisoned. 

I love mysteries. And in an increasing environment where half the country doesn't trust the justice, this podcast was due to catch fire. 

I started listening to Serial without Sal. But after six or so episodes, I needed a ringer. Sal has this annoying ability (she gets it from her mother) to solve a mystery within 15 minutes of starting the movie. I thought for sure, she would hear a piece of evidence I missed and Sal and Dan would be famous detectives, doing the talk show circuit with Sarah Koenig, because we had solved the case much of the world could not. 

Over the past 13 weeks, we've listened to the weekly episode. Discussed in depth the topic of the episode. We changed our opinion multiple times. I've re-listened to every episode 3 times. Scoured Reddit and Facebook for more information and fan theories, always wanting more.

Around week 8, I realized since Adnan was still in jail and no retrial had happened. We weren't going to find out the solution to this mystery. I was worried that I had dedicated all of this time to this story and there wouldn't be a satisfying conclusion.

The final episode was this week, and surprisingly it was a satisfying conclusion. No, we did not find out who actually committed the murder, but what we did find out was significant evidence went un-used, Adnan's lawyer might have been losing it a little, and the jurors seemed significantly misinformed. 

If nothing else, Adnan was not proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he committed a murder, and thus, we hope this goes to retrial.

We donated a few dollars to have season 2 created. This podcast has pulled us in far more than any television show or film or videogame has since we've been married. I cannot wait to see what topic they tackle next year.