Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Lately, I have been thinking about the Archie series of comic books. Some people think about their jobs, their families, global affairs, etc. I think about things like Archie comics.
For those of you unfamiliar with this series, Archie comics star Archie Andrews, a typical American teen living in the "Anywhere Small Town" of Riverdale, U.S.A. The series follows the wacky adventures of Archie and his assorted friends (Archie's best pal, the apparently tapeworm-afflicted Jughead, love struck Betty, snooty rich girl Veronica, et al) parents and teachers. The series has been around forever (well, at least since the 1940's or so). It was turned into a super-popular TV cartoon in the Seventies, and the "musical group", "The Archies", even had a top-ten song, "Sugar, Sugar". This comic book series has been delighting readers for generations. The series is so successful, I probably didn't even need to write the description above.
I loved the Archie comics as a kid (I liked the cartoon show too, but I was bothered that the characters on the show never sounded the way they did in my head. Veronica with a Southern accent? Come on!).* As a pre-teen, I thought that Archie and his friends' experiences were what I had to look forward to as a teenager. What fun that would be, I thought! Two pretty girls fighting over me! A cool vintage car of my own! Hanging in the Choc'lit Shop and watching my friend try to trick the owner out of hamburgers! My biggest problem would be staying out of detention in school and deciding which hot chick to take to the "big dance".
Of course once I became an actual teen, the reality was little different. Actually, it was quite a bit different. Archie had mislead me, but I didn't hold it against him. If the story lines had depicted the teenage experience in a realistic manner, it would have been one of the most depressing series ever. Imagine a story where an overweight Archie suffers from chronic acne, while two jocks call him names that question his sexual orientation. While a plot like this would have prepared me for some of what teenagerdom had in store, I doubt I would have been a fan of those kind of tales. I am glad the writers of Archie kept me ignorant for as long as they could, and I have always enjoyed the series.
One character in the Archie comics , though, was completely realistic: Archie's "friend" Reggie Mantle. Actually calling Reggie a "friend" isn't really accurate. He was an egotistical, mean spirited, prank-playing, backstabbing, self-centered weasel. To sum up, he was an a••shole. He was also Archie's chief rival for the hand of Veronica. (I know, why didn't Archie just choose to be with the all-around sweeter and just-as-pretty Betty is a question we will never have the answer to. Only Archie knows for sure.) Reggie was constantly causing problems and distress for poor Archie, but Arch still hung out with the jerk. Why?
I don't know. I do know that I am in no position to question Archie's choices. I hung around with plenty of "Reggies" growing up. Jerks whom I called "friends" who would desert me at the first sigh of trouble, lord their good fortune over me and usually make me feel insecure and miserable. Why did I hang out with people like that? Generally, I think it has to do with geography. As a youngster, you're pretty much stuck where you are, and you are stuck choosing your friends from among what's available. Most of the time, the only thing you have in common with a childhood "friend" is that you are both the same age. Later, when you grow up and move on, you happily put most of these "childhood pals" in the rear view mirror. If Archie had been a real person, I doubt he would have any contact with Reggie now.
Perhaps one thing that made the comics enjoyable for me, was that, unlike real life, usually Reggie always got his just desserts. Many a tale ended with him being chased by an angry girl/adult/mob, or sitting in a pile of mud in his new suit. I think this kind of fantasy helped me endure the "Reggies" in my life.
I wonder if any of them are sitting in a pile of mud right now?
* I must mention one of the reasons I loved the comics so much was the fantastic artwork they had. Cartoonists Dan DeCarlo, Harry Lucey and, my favorite, Samm Shwartz were all cartoon giants. Those of you unfamiliar with their work should do a Google search for them right now! Sadly, except for DeCarlo, not much of their work is readily available. A disgrace.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
As mentioned previously, last weekend, lovers and likers everywhere celebrated Valentine's Day. Some celebrated their relationships with a romantic dinner, or a weekend getaway, or going to the local mall and mocking the lonely singles sitting alone in the food court.
Perfect Wife and I came up with a unique new way to spend the day. A way that both tested our feelings for each other, and confirmed that we are a perfect match.
We went furniture shopping at IKEA™.
For those of you who are not in the furniture-buying loop, IKEA™ is a giant furniture store chain that started in some obscure foreign country (Sweden). They claim to specialize in affordable, cheap furniture that you have to haul home and assemble yourself (more on this in a minute). If you are unfamiliar with this chain, you can read all the thrilling details about them here.
Last Saturday, PW decided that she needed a bureau for her clothes. Apparently, the metal file cabinet she had been using to store her delicate underthings was no longer acceptable. We were going out to do errands that would take us past our local IKEA™, so we decided to shop there. In retrospect, we should have thought this plan out a little bit more.
For one thing, IKEA™ stores are huge! If a Wal-Mart™ Superstore feels a tad big for your tastes, know that IKEA™ makes Wal-Mart™ look like your local bodega. We also went on a Saturday, when virtually every other person in Southeastern Massachusetts was also looking for furniture. As if the surging flow of humanity wasn't bad enough, with the exception of PW and I, it seemed nearly every shopper had brought a least one child with them. One child who was far too young to enjoy a trip to a furniture store. There were shrieking children everywhere.
I know, crowds and noisy, unsupervised wee ones are an expected part of the weekend shopping "experience". We knew that, and we would have been fine with it, had it not been for the rest of the IKEA™ shopping experience.
You see unlike other stores, at IKEA™ you can't just go to the department you want and select the item you need. Here, once you enter the store, there is no turning back. You must follow a path through the entire store and into every department until you find the item you need. They refer to this as a "one way layout", which I think is Swedish for "rats in a maze". After you have found the item you wanted, you might think you can now proceed to the checkout, pay for your selection and leave, right? WRONG! You are at IKEA™! They have a unique shopping system all their own, which I hope never catches on at any other retailers.
Instead of putting your selections in your cart, at IKEA™ you are given a pencil and a piece of paper, and when you see an item you like, you write down the information posted on the product and proceed to the "warehouse". Once there, you hunt through a bunch of shelves for the item you want, load it into a cart and finally proceed to the checkout. If this sounds confusing and you think you might need help from an employee, you're in trouble. While there are plenty of employees around and they do seem very polite and friendly, they are all masters of disappearing when you need them. If you get lucky and happen to nab one, they will most likely inform you that they cannot help you with your particular problem, and suggest you go find another employee in another section in the store to assist you.
Once you have cleared all these hurdles and have purchased what you came for (as well as a few of the impulse items stacked near the cash register), you ain't out of the woods yet. You still have to get your purchases home. Unfortunately, a lot of IKEA™ customers aren't very good at estimating the square footage of their car's interior. One of the only joys of shopping at IKEA™ for me, is watching some poor soul try to stuff some huge object in a tiny vehicle. Last weekend we saw a great example of this, as a fat guy sweated and swore trying to squeeze a king-size mattress into a Volkswagen Rabbit®, while the rest of his purchases rolled around the parking lot.
Once home, of course, you still have to put the furniture together. This is one of the ways IKEA™ "saves you money". Instead of having some exploited worker in a foreign land assemble your items for pennies an hour, the company has you do it yourself, and passes the savings on to you! This wouldn't be a big deal, IF the assembly instructions had some written explanations instead of being in cryptic sign language, AND if all of the parts needed for assembly were included in the package.
That's right, after leaving the store and vowing to never, ever return, the next day we had to go back to IKEA™. Apparently, missing parts is a common occurrence at this chain, as we met many, many fellow customers with the same problem. The staff also treats it as an everyday thing. They didn't even pretend to be surprised by or apologize for our problem. We also once again pledged to never set foot in an IKEA™ again. So far it has been four days, and we haven't broken that vow yet. Keep your fingers crossed.
There were some good things we took away from our shopping trip: Once we got the furniture together, it was pretty nice. Also, PW and I rediscovered that we are annoyed by all the same kinds of things and people, and renewed our vow to only leave the house when absolutely necessary. Happy Valentine's Day!
PW also has a new appreciation for the lawn furniture and milk crates that used to furnish my bachelor pad.
Friday, February 12, 2010
This is For All the Lonely People
Hello Young Lovers wherever you are! This Sunday is Valentine's Day. This is one of those completely unnecessary Holidays that is here simply so that manufacturers of romantic merchandise can unload more of their inventory on gullible consumers. People in a relationship don't need a special day of the year to let their nearest and dearest know how they feel about them. We can say, "I love you", "I'm so glad you're mine" or "Get out of my house I never want to see you again", whenever we like.
True, it is nice to set aside a special day to surprise your sweetie with a loving token of your affection. What if you don't have a sweetie, though? For those folks out there without a special someone/something in their lives, Valentine's Day can be a bitter reminder of their lonely status. It doesn't have to be that way though!
Sure, there are a lot of wonderful things about being in a loving cohabitation: The smile on your loved one's face when you return home after a long day. Sharing all the joys, sorrows and bills with your best friend. Not to mention the occasional roll in the hay. These truly are the moments that make life worth living, and those single folk out there without a significant other can only watch in envy.
To all you singular folks out there, though, turn that frown upside down! You have plenty of things to celebrate! To name a few:
• You come home to complete silence. Sure, it's nice to come home to a loving embrace. Isn't is nice though, to come home to complete and utter nothingness? No noisy coworkers, no questions to answer, just the pure bliss of you. Alone with your thoughts.
• What's for breakfast/lunch/dinner? When you live alone, the answer is: Anything you want! With no one else to have to plan meals with, you can eat how you please! Cold Kentucky Fried Chicken™ for breakfast? Ice cream sandwiches for lunch? Potato chips and Slim Jims™ for dinner? Go ahead! You have no one to critique how you build your food pyramid.
• Watch what you want, when you want. There's a Deputy Dawg marathon on TV, but it's opposite the Project Runway finale. If you're living with someone else, this might cause a problem. Not for you, you lucky, "lonely" person!
• Home Decor. If you live with another, they might not agree with you that lawn furniture is acceptable in the living room, or that your life-size Darth Vader bust is the perfect focal point for the Dining room. That is, if you even choose to have a Dining room. Perhaps you would rather have a "stuff" room, and fill/pile it with various items you are too busy/lazy to find the perfect spot for. If you live alone, no one but you cares, so you can! Try getting a partner to agree to this arrangement!
• The definition of "Clean" is yours, and yours alone. A normal person (like me), knows that every month or two is often enough for such tasks as "vacuuming", "cleaning the bathroom" and "emptying the garbage". When you live with someone else, however, you might be surprised to discover that they consider such time-wasters weekly tasks! Strange, I know, but there really are people who feel that way.
• Complete. Utter. Privacy. Wanna walk around the house in your underwear, or less? Unless you have a really understanding partner, it ain't gonna happen. Ditto for weeping at cartoons from your childhood, going to the bathroom with the door open, playing Alan Sherman records for hours and a host of other things that polite society frowns upon.
There are plenty of other reasons for you singletons to celebrate your alone-ity, but you get the gist. Believe me, there are plenty of "happy couples" out there who are far more envious of you than you are of them.
I'm not one of them though. I have the Perfect Wife, and if I didn't have her around, no amount of sitting in my underwear eating cold chicken and watching cartoons could substitute for how happy she makes me.
Besides, she doesn't mind if I have cold KFC for breakfast. The open bathroom door is another matter, though.
Happy Valentine's Day, all!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Sick of Being Sick!
Hello, Faithful Readers! Once again, I have let quite a bit of time pass between posts. Sorry about that, but this time I have a really good excuse. A legitimate, unarguable excuse.
I was sick. Really sick. We're talking "ride-to-the-emergency-room-in-an-ambulance" sick.
It started last week, when, all of a sudden, I was hit with a horrible pain in my abdomen. This pain was accompanied by, to put it politely, me puking my guts out. I was also sweating like a stevedore and shaking like a Mexican space shuttle. Now normally, I try to avoid going to the doctor, especially when I don't feel good, but these symptoms were too painful to ignore. So, off to the hospital I went.
I learned one thing from my stay at the hospital: If you are sick, the hospital is the last place you want to be. If you already feel crummy, the hospital and its staff will make you feel even crummier.
It starts when you arrive at the emergency room. Before any doctor examines you, someone from the finance office comes to examine your health coverage. If you somehow make it past this crucial exam you are wheeled in your gurney to an isolated spot in the hallway since, "all the examination rooms are full". Don't worry, though, "the doctor will see you shortly". I realize that "shortly" is a relative term to a hospital staff, since my wait was about an hour and a half. I'd hate to see what "a while" means to them.
After the doctor gave me a quick look-see, and (finally!) gave me something for the pain, I was wheeled into an exam room, and was forced to change into a rather revealing "johnny". These outfits are the great equalizer. Everyone, man or woman, young or old, feels like a complete fool in these things. They do ensure that you stay in you bed, though. If you try to walk around in them, everyone you pass will get a nice peek at your "naughty bits". Not pretty.
After waiting around a bit (bit=1+ hour), I was told they were going to run some tests on me. I was stuck with all kinds of sticky plastic things that connected to wires that were connected to monitors of some sort. I don't really know what these tests revealed, since the nurses said I would have to ask the doctor, and I never did see the doctor again in the ER after our first brief encounter. Something must have been wrong with me though, because I was told I would be spending the night. I would be given a room, "as soon as one became available". One finally became available at 4 a.m. While I was glad to finally have a bed to crash in, I was concerned that a room opened up for me at such a strange time. What had happened to the former occupant? Surely they didn't decide the patient was cured in the wee hours of the morning and checked them out. Did they pass away? Escape? I tried not to think about it.
So I finally had a place to sleep. If I could have slept, that is. Sure, my roommate (who was admitted for alcohol poisoning and was quite verbal about not wanting to go to rehab) was a tad noisy, but he was nothing compared to the nurses! All night long, blabbing in the hallways, banging carts and barging into your room at all hours and flipping on the lights. I have been in quieter kindergarten classes! I literally got no sleep.
Fortunately, they eventually discovered the source of my pain, and I was able to get the @#%* outta there and go home. Unfortunately, as of this writing, they are dragging their heels about what kind of treatment I should get.
Don't worry about me though, Dear Readers. I feel pretty good today. Rocco the Wonder Dog and Perfect Wife are better nurses than the ones I had at the hospital. Hopefully, my health will return 100%, and I can begin to suppress the memories of the past week.
Unless I need a follow up visit...