Friday, October 26, 2012

I'm into creepy karaoke

I’ve only seen it a few times, and at the same place, so maybe there is some karaoke out there that isn’t so creepy, but so far, for me, it’s one of those train wrecks you can’t turn away from.  I feel like I’m ready to write a sit-com pilot, based on the recurring characters that show up and sing their hearts out each week.

There’s an assortment of trucker-types: middle aged men who know the lyrics to a bizarre array of obscure, and sometimes more than vaguely suggestive, songs.  There’s one in a flannel shirt with a beard, who played roulette and sang I Want You Back, all in falsetto (I think he was trying to use his falsetto, anyway). 

Then there’s the guy who wears old grey sweatshirts with team logos, shop teacher glasses, and dad jeans.  He brings his wife.  She sits there and rolls her eyes, while he perseveres through Hank Williams and Johnny Cash – he generally hits the final note like a pro. 

There’s also a round faced guy who looks a little more ethnic – we think of Guillermo on Jimmy Kimmel.  He sings pretty decent, and hasn’t made the hair on my neck stand up with his song choices, but we do wonder if he works as a parking lot attendant by day. 

I’d try to give you an example of the really creepy fare, but, if you can imagine, not one of those songs am I otherwise familiar enough with to be able to recount it.  Carl, Bob, and Ralph are in a rotation all night, so if new faces don’t wander into the Bar & Grill, the Karaoke DJ (is that what you call the person running the machine?) brings up the level of the show by doing their own number.  The one guy has a great Neil Diamond sound.  Pretty awesome on They’re Coming to America, but a little disconcerting on those off the wall Willie Nelson and Whitney Houston numbers he pulls up.

Two younger guys (probably the future Carl and Bobs) came in and joined up for some pretty awesome duets and trios the one time.  They got the girl who was running the machine to join in for Life in a Northern Town and they did such a cool version we were actually looking the song up and adding it to our playlists the next day.  It gave us a glimpse of why other, perhaps less warped than us, people actually like to come see karaoke sometimes.

We’re going back tonight for the Halloween Karaoke, and trying to bring some of our friends down with us.  They advertised prizes for best costume, and best costume with song.  We’re going as cheerleaders.  Any good song suggestions, in case I get my husband tipsy enough to sing?

You sing foolish songs to the music of harps, and you make up new tunes, just as David used to do. Amos 6:5

Friday, October 19, 2012

I love grocery shopping...normally.

I love grocery shopping.  It’s the one situation where I can spend $120 a week and feel not a moment of buyer’s remorse.  I don’t have to spend 15 minutes in the condiment aisle, considering the pros and cons of, “Oh, man, I love this peanut butter, but do I really need another jar of peanut butter?  What is my husband going to say if comes home and finds another jar of peanut butter in the cupboard?”

The one thing, however, that can quickly ruin an otherwise glorious trip to the grocery store, is a lousy cart.  I do, in fact, often decide which store to patronize, based exclusively on the quality of their shopping carts. 

The worst is Walmart.  I shop there only when necessary, because they have the hinkiest carts in the universe.  You have to live for excitement to enjoy that moment when the cart suddenly veers into a rack of glass jars, as one of the wheels inexplicably decides to stop turning.  There are usually layers upon layers of filth and grime on the push handle – the flavor of which apparently pleases my one year old – and the minute you load the basket with a gallon of milk and a rump roast, the whole cart pulls to the side and one of the wheels offers a rhythmic hitch to the rest of your excursion.  And that doesn’t even get me started on the child restraint issues.  What would it take to occasionally replace those plastic latches on the seatbelt?  Does my toddler need the opportunity to high dive from the seat to the tile, while I’m digging through the produce, trying to find one, decently ripe avocado?

Target, by far, has the best carts.  They have the kiddy carts with the big red seat that allow two kids to ride in style at a time.  I sometimes go out of my way to shop at Target, just to enjoy the sweet, smooth drive of their Cadillac carts.  Of course, for what they charge for beer, they can afford to keep their carts nice.

Fareway is really my ultimate favorite.  They have a small town grocer mentality.  Their meat counter is renowned for great deals and great cuts.  They even empty your cart for you at the checkout, push your groceries out to your vehicle and load them in the trunk while you stand and watch them, or strap in your toddler.  Hyvee and Dahls – it takes over an hour to get my shopping done, as I have to wade through aisle after aisle of unnecessary varieties and absurd merchandise, intended to rope me into impulse purchases.  But at Fareway, I get what I need and I get out – in 45 minutes or less.  And their carts are always in good, working order.  Or at least they always were…

This week, Fareway failed me miserably.  My toddler wanted to ride in a "car" cart, so I put her in, but didn't stop to strap her, because she's always been content in the car.  I was already three isles into it (and therefore a million miles away from the other carts), when she started climbing out to do her own shopping.  I went for containment, but found that the seatbelts in the car were broken, so I was out of luck.  Obviously, I didn’t meet my 45 minute shopping goal, because the highlights of the trip included repeated confrontations over her picking things off of shelves, doing at least half my shopping carrying a wiggling worm who wanted to escape from my hip, and knocking over a giant cardboard display full of boxes of tea.  The good news was that in her attempts to escape me, she only bonked her head twice, once in front, once in back.

God bless the staff at Fareway, though, who never seemed troubled at all by my ill-behaved little turkey, even when 50 boxes of tea were strewn across the aisle.  After she threw her final meltdown in the checkout line, when I was ready to push the cart with the broken straps off a cliff, the sweet older gentleman pushing our groceries out to our car gave my little terror the warmest smile, pulled out a candy necklace and said, “Maybe she will like this; thanks so much for shopping with us today.”

OK, Fareway, I’ll be back – but would you please fix the seatbelts in the car cart?  And don’t think for a minute I actually rewarded her behavior with candy.  I think you know who deserved a treat after that shopping trip.

Their chariot wheels got stuck, and it was hard for them to move. Exodus 14:25

Friday, October 12, 2012

One dog, one vote

I generally hesitate to talk politics, especially because I really don’t think Jesus was a Republican or a Democrat.  I see a lot of damage done to the gospel by Christians invoking their faith in support of one party, one candidate, or one issue, over the others.  While I do think that employing our faith in our ethical and political decision-making is essential and logical, up until this week I thought one-issue voting was a misguided practice.  I believed that it was a tool used by people of faith to try and manipulate one another – as if Christ came to earth to reshape the American political environment around a single issue – a particular sin.  That without examining any other aspect of a person’s life, choices, or faith practices, you could conclude whether they are truly a faithful follower, exclusively based on their voting record, sounded absurd to me.  That, of course, changed in 30 short seconds, when I saw the powerful message I’ve posted here:

Many churches want to tell me how to vote.  Many pundits want to tell me how to vote.  Many powerful, well-funded special interests want to tell me how to vote.  But now my dog wants to tell me how to vote?  For real?  My dog gets a say in how these elections should turn out?  Animal cruelty is now the single-issue litmus test I should employ for electing candidates?

Take it easy – I love animals and Steve King does kinda sound like a creep.  But I also love steak, and I could definitely see the sport in pelting a deer with an arrow and taking it home for dinner.  I absolutely love going to the races and seeing the swift and majestic horses run, even though it sometimes results in their untimely demise.  No, of course, I don’t support dog fighting.  And I definitely wouldn’t take my kids to watch two animals fight to the death.  But I’m not sure how heavy my concern is for whether pets get included in disaster plan legislation.  If my own home were to catch fire, I can assure you, getting the dog out would definitely be at the bottom of my "disaster plan," compared to making sure all the people get accounted for; it would, frankly, make me sad if first responders had to weigh a legal obligation toward my pet against getting back to the firehouse and being available to help other humans.

Let’s get real.  When we are consider the plethora of issues and problems with which our communities are struggling, when we confront all the exploitation and injustice that goes on around us, when we dream of how to make the world a better place – has the propagation of special interests gotten so out of hand that now even our pets get a say in the political process, provided they make a donation large enough?

 He responded, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Mark 7:27

Friday, October 5, 2012

I broke the seal.

Somehow, the embarrassment I felt wasn’t nearly commensurate with the absurdity of what was happening.  On the other hand, too many beers, topped off with a shot or two, does help numb your inhibitions.
It was 1996 and my husband and I had recently started dating.  I was a senior in college and he had just graduated the spring before.  He immediately found himself at ease with my friends, which was really a big plus, because it made it that much easier to make time for dating when he could just join right in with my other friends.  He seemed to take it in stride when we held quiet cocktail parties, instead of raging beerfests (although he did not get the reaction he had hoped for when he crashed the Christmas party dressed as Santa Claus).  He laughed along, instead of asking to be let out of the car, when we got carried away with snorting contests on the way to the bars.  And he even thought it was funny when one of my friends suggested one night, as we were heading out to a pub, that it would be funny if, on the way back, we stopped at a nearby home where there was a boat parked in their driveway, and took a photo of everyone by the boat.
It was not a particularly unusual night at the pub.  There were a couple shots exchanged, and plenty of beer consumed, since only one of us had to drive home.  We had actually squeezed all six of us into a 5-seater car, just to ensure that no one would drink and drive.
One of my friends frequently repeated a mantra on nights like that, “Don’t break the seal,” she would say, “Once you break the seal, you’re going to have to use the bathroom every five minutes for the rest of the night.”  How right she was.  Before we left the pub to head home, I thought I would arm myself against the constant hilarity of my friends and the coldness of the night by taking a quick trip to the restroom.  I felt much better as we piled into the sedan, and my boyfriend offered me his lap.
“Hey, guys, are we going to get the boat picture?”
“Of course!” we all chimed and the driver headed over to the house in question.  We all were joking and laughing pretty hard the whole way, giving me an all-to-familiar sensation that, in the back of my mind, rebuked me for my foolish decision to empty my bladder before the drive.
When we got to the boat, we were certainly not the most smooth criminals to ever cross onto someone’s property, as it took quite a feat to get all of us out of the car and posed by the boat.  In the mean time, I found myself succumbing to the kryptonite tri-fecta: laughing uncontrollably, breaking the seal, and insane Iowa cold.  Despite the warmth of beer, coursing through our veins, all of us felt the sharp sting of the bitter cold, and I, in particular, quickly realized that while my face, hands, and feet were freezing, my thighs were, by contrast, suddenly quite warm.
I couldn’t even hide what was happening, and there was another roar of laughter as I squeeked, “Oh, no!  I’m peeing my pants!”
To which my friends replied between chortles, “Oh, no!  You’re riding home on your boyfriend’s lap!”
And, yes, my boyfriend let me sit on his lap for the, thankfully brief, ride back to our apartment.  And somehow it didn’t even feel like a fight to maintain my dignity, sitting on my love interest, wearing urine-soaked pants.
I see in retrospect there were many rules for right living I broke that night: “don’t trespass,” “wear your seatbelt,” and “don’t break the seal!”
Stupidity is reckless, senseless, and foolish. Proverbs 9:13