All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
June 24, 2009
Below is a reprint from the August 11, 2004 issue of the Arkansas Weekly.
My nephew, who's heading into the eighth grade this fall, had his first junior high school football practice today. Basketball was his sport of choice last year, and probably for good reason: he's tall, a bit lanky and skinny as a grasshopper. His decision to hit the football field this year surprised me because a) his dad (my big brother) was not a football player, and b) his uncle (me) trudged through one peewee football practice in fifth grade before deciding that after school Get Smart reruns and 12 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were much more enjoyable than being flattened by a kid the size of a Freightliner.
Of course, my nephew also has a mom, and her side of the family included cousins from Texarkana who excelled in football. So I can only deduce that my nephew's thirst for gridiron glory is rooted in her genes.
School sports never interested me. Sure, I played little league for a few years, but I was a right field sucker -- the kind of player the coaches send to right field to daydream, stay out of the way, and possibly catch a high-fly if one ever came our way. I caught onto the right fielder as outcast role fairly quick. The infield was where the action was, and the one time my dad was a coach, I begged him to put me in as a shortstop, only to find myself back in right field literally one hitter later.
When junior high arrived, I thought I had the sports thing kicked: no pads, no problem. Just let me head to class, make decent grades, charm the girls, and the sportsless junior high days would be fine for this boy.
But, I forgot one thing: physical education class.
Yes, fourth period P.E with Coach Bubba Miller.
I have spent thousands of dollars on therapy just to rid the dark corners of my soul of the horror that was seventh grade P.E. The words "Coach Miller" and "fourth period P.E." still send chills to the very core of my lower spine.
This. Was. Hell.
I can still remember the very first words out of Coach Miller's mouth on the very first day of P.E.: "SHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT UP!"
Yikes -- I was a child of fragile disposition. I still kissed my mommy goodnight and had NestleQuik for breakfast. I still played with my Matchbox car collection in my bedroom before dinnertime. I still thought life was all moonbeams and rainbows. I had to ask myself on that opening day of P.E.: Why was this man screaming at me? And where, precisely, was my mommy?
None of my other buddies had fourth period P.E. It was just me, a few other guys my age, and enormous ninth graders who could have used me as a bat. Sit ups, push ups, sprints across the basketball court -- all of this was the norm, and all of this was accompanied with Coach Miller and his merry gang of assistant coaches who did nothing but scream "Hustle, girls!" while walking around the gym. This wasn't my idea of P.E. I mean at East Elementary, kind and gentle Mr. Hicks only had us do jumping jacks and play kickball, not something as harsh as sit ups! In my 12-year-old world, only football players and army guys did sit ups. (Well, at least on television they did.)
In high school, when a slight semblance of maturity began to glimmer in myself, I did try out for golf -- even though I had never played in my life. I realized golf was not my specialty when I tried to tee off from the fairway on my second stroke. I ended up that afternoon with a score of about 379.
The next day, I switched to the tennis team and loved it. Tennis, as most players will tell you, is a very physical sport -- it's not just bopping a little ball back and forth. In fact, high school tennis was so physical for me that blood would pour from my hand after every match. You see, whenever I would play tennis, I let my temper rule. If I missed a shot, hit a ball out, slammed one into the net or served a double fault, I would usually yell -- no, actually I would scream like a mad man -- and then slam the strings of my racquet across my knuckles. By the third or fourth game of a set, blood would literally be streaming out of my knuckles. I vividly remember one opponent from Nettleton looking somewhat concerned from the other end of the court, timidly asking me, "Ummm, man...are you...okay?"
To which I screamed: "NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LET'S GO!"
Needless to say, I lost the match.
I never could control my temper on the court, so after high school, I stopped playing completely. I was afraid I would either have a heart attack from some outburst or get the phooey physically beat out of me by some opponent sick of my screaming.
My nephew isn't like that; he's laid back and takes things as they come. So, I wish him well. He'll pack some muscle on him this year, and probably make a decent wide receiver in the long haul.
And I'm quite sure he can handle it when a coach calls him a girl.
Which reminds me: Coach Miller is not a coach anymore, but I believe he still haunts this area of the county. If he happens to be reading this column, I would like for him to know that I actually thought his P.E. class was top-notch, and I hope he does not hurt me.
All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
June 17, 2009
The recent news about a young South Dakota rancher hitting the Powerball lottery to the tune of over $232 million (!) got me thinking.
If I won $232 million, or even $10 million, what would I do with some of that fresh cold cash?
I would not be like many of these yahoos who blow their newly-won winnings on inane purchases. I'd be incredibly responsible.
First, I'd pay off all of my bills. It's good to clear up all your bills anytime you receive a large influx of capital. Besides, I'm getting tired of avoiding phone calls from my dentist, my bookie from Amagon, my ballet teacher (you gotta problem with that?), my proctologist, my nail salon, my bookie from Thida, my hairpiece stylist, the guy I bought the spinners from for my lawnmower, my bookie from Timbo, my tanning salon, and Thirsty, the angry biker from Sandtown.
I owe Thirsty fifty bucks for betting that American Idol finalist Adam Lambert was actually straight.
Man, I didn't see that one coming.
After all my debts were clear, I'd then buy a nice, simple oceanfront mansion -- something no more than 40,000 square feet, of course. It wouldn't be too fancy. Obviously, there'd have to be a place for my daily sessions of yoga, meditation and colonics. I would need high ceilings to accommodate the Green Giant-size bronze sculptures of myself that I'll have commissioned once I get my first lottery installment. But I'd only commission five. I'm not that egotistic.
The mansion would also have to have a nine car garage -- though "nine car" is a bit misleading since the garage would have to be large enough for the nine Monster Jam trucks I'll be purchasing.
For the kitchen, I would simply have one of those China buffets set up 24/7.
Of course, I'll need to have an airstrip next to the house for my new jet. But I would not want my view of the Atlantic Ocean compromised by the jet, so I'd have to purchase the two mansions next to me and have them torn down.
But otherwise, my newly built home would be just like any other 40,000 square foot home.
I've always frowned upon any type of cosmetic surgery, but I have to admit, I might have just a little bit of work done. For instance, I've always felt I was too tan. So, I'd have my skin slightly whitened like Michael Jackson. Of course, some collagen in my lips would also be nice. I'd like to have some plump Angelina Jolie/Mick Jagger lips -- only twice the size. I've always thought I'd look striking if my eyes were somewhat like those of Marty Feldman. I'd also get a hair weave somewhat similar to a large afro. Finally -- and you may think I'm over the top here -- but I would love to have an exotic nose similar to Jamie Farr's nose from M*A*S*H.
Think of the women who would be beating down my door if I had that look!
I'd have to make some business investments with my newfound fortune. I'd put some cash in a few stocks and bonds. Real estate is always a good investment, and for some reason, I think swamps are sorely underutilized for property development. Plus, since my crews will have to massacre all of the alligators in the swamps, I could make a killing selling their skins to boot makers. For that matter, with all of those swamp critters we'll be slaughtering, I could start a new fast food chain featuring nothing but reptile. I'll call it "Gators & Snakes." We'll have all the fried gator and snakes you can eat. (I bet that stomach of yours is growling at this exact moment.)
I think another solid investment choice I would make would be the telegram industry. After all, this is an information society and if one wants to securely and quickly get a message to someone else in another county or another state, a telegram is the way to go. Besides, since Western Union stopped sending telegrams, there's a big hole in the telegram market.
Western Union. Ha. What kind of company would get out of the telegram business this day and time? Morons.
Finally, I would certainly utilize some of my winnings to help the less fortunate in this world. For instance, women applying for work at Hooters are at an immediate disadvantage if they have not had surgical enhancements on a certain part of their body. To that end, I would pledge to start a fund that offers this particular procedure at no charge for hard-working women who are under the age of 25 and do not have a face that's more at home under a paper bag.
I know. The limits of my goodwill and generosity know no bounds.
So, with the lottery coming to Arkansas, I think every citizen in the state should purchase a ticket for me because, as you can plainly see, I would responsibly utilize the winnings in a much better fashion than most of you.
I'll remind you of this when the lottery begins in a few months.
Thank you for your time.
All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
June 10, 2009
I love Big Macs. I love Big Macs. I'll say it again: I love Big Macs.
I could eat four or five a day with a big scoop of McDonald's fries.
But, of course, at 540 calories, if I ate four or five Big Macs a day, I'd have a set of man boobs that would make Dolly Parton jealous.
Plus I'd have about four more chins.
So, I have to satisfy my consistent Big Mac crave in moderation.
I also love KFC original recipe fried chicken, Long John Silver's fried fish, and (in Little Rock) Pei Wei's orange peel chicken.
Thanks to a handy iPhone application I downloaded, I can access nutritional information for most major chains. Each of those meals also runs around 540 calories, give or take.
Don't the nutritionists recommend 1,500 calories a day for a healthy diet? (Let's put aside fat grams for this argument. That's perhaps a bit of a cheat, but stay with me.) Well, let's say one day at lunch you had the choice of one of those meals I listed. Let's say you also have the choice of a chicken Caesar salad from Chili's. Naturally, most folks would think the chicken Caesar salad was the healthier choice because, you know, salads are supposed to be healthy, right?
But if you chose the salad from Chili's, you'd be consuming a meal with almost twice as many calories as a Big Mac. A chicken Caesar salad from Chili's has 1,010 calories; 76 grams of fat; and over 1,900 mg of sodium. To be fair, a Big Mac has a good chunk of sodium as well, but still...
This might not be a surprise to some of you folks who closely watch your calories. A lot of Caesar dressing is mayo-based, after all. But when I think of a Big Mac or KFC vs. a salad, I would have given the edge to the salad in a heartbeat.
I sometimes skip breakfast and dinner, so on those days, lunch is my only meal. Now, having a Big Mac doesn't seem to make me feel so guilty.
Viva la Big Mac!
I recently watched an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher where the topic dealt with the problems of our American food supply. Dr. Michael Pollan, author of the book In Defense of Food, was the guest, and basically, he and Maher said that a good portion of what Americans eat is full of chemicals, steroids, preservatives and other unnatural additives. Plus, they noted, eating steaks contributes to global warming because of the oil used in the corn industry and the flatulence of cattle.
Yes, cow farts contribute to global warming, they said. I'd heard that before, but I thought it was a joke.
But Maher did say one thing that even Dr. Pollan thought was a joke.
Oranges from grocery stores, Maher said, should not be consumed.
Pollan laughed, but then realized Maher was not kidding.
Why? Because Maher believes that oranges are harvested while they're still green. They turn orange, he said, after they are injected with dye.
I laughed too, but then I decided to hit the internet for an answer.
Oranges are naturally variable in their color, especially early in the season. They may be dyed to a uniform orange color by using a vegetable dye. Oranges so treated are stamped 'color added'. Oranges may be ripened in rooms with ethylene gas. This is a harmless procedure which augments the natural ethylene gas that is produced by most ripening fruit, according to healthrecipies.com.
Hmm. That doesn't seem as ghastly as Maher painted it. Still, it's a surprise.
Finally, in case you're interested, this Friday in Memphis, the original Jaws will screen on the enormous screen at the Orpheum theatre in downtown. If your kids haven't seen this horror masterpiece, seeing it in an old fashioned theatre setting like the Orpheum would be a treat. Showtime is 7:15 p.m.
And then on June 19, the Orpheum will feature National Lampoon's Animal House. Obviously, it'd be best to keep the kids at home for that one.
All Over the Mapy
by Rob Grace
June 3, 2009
My son, Hutton, is big on reality shows.
Man vs. Wild. Cops. Mythbusters. Trick My Truck. Dirty Jobs. The Deadliest Catch. Little People, Big World. Jon and Kate Go Irate -- or something like that.
In fact, I think he watches more reality TV than regular television stuff. Which is OK, I suppose. I'd rather have him watch a guy getting his hands filthy and blistered doing hard work on programs such as Dirty Jobs or The Deadliest Catch rather than catching re-runs of Full House or that awful show featuring Urkel.
I always wanted to punch Urkel.
Anyway, the other afternoon the two of us were in the country, riding around some backroads in a beaten-up old Kawasaki Mule -- which is sort of like a four-wheel-drive golf cart on steroids.
I let Hutt drive because he's getting at the age where he needs to learn the basics of Driving 101 plus it gives him a boost of confidence that all 11-year-old boys could use.
"Hey," he said to me. "Let me wear your sunglasses."
I slipped off my aviator-type shades and handed them to him. He put them on, and they looked like they were about two sizes too big for his head.
"OK," he said as he drove along. "Now. Pretend like you're a cameraman, and you're filming me for an episode of Cops. I'm the youngest sheriff's deputy in America, OK?"
"OK," I said.
"Well, ask me some questions," he said. "We're on Cops."
"OK," I said. I held up my hands as if I was holding a video camera. "Uhhh...so you're the youngest sheriff's deputy in America, huh?"
"Yep," he said. His wrist was on the top of the wheel with his hand lazily hanging off the other side. His eyes stayed steady on the road. "It's pretty cool."
"I bet. How could an 11-year-old get a job as a sheriff's deputy?"
"That wasn't a problem. My dad's the sheriff."
"Oh," I said. "I see. So, do you ever get concerned that you might get hurt in the line of duty?"
"Yeah," he said, casually glancing over to me then back to the road. "I do get a little scared now and then. You know, there's some mean people in this world of ours."
"Sure. Does your mom get nervous?"
"Oh, yeah. Absolutely. But, I try and call her every night and tell her I'm OK."
"What about your wife? Does she get nervous?"
With that question, he broke character.
"Dad! I'm 11! C'mon!"
"I'm sorry," I said. "You're right. You're right. You're too young to be married."
"Right," he said.
"So then, does your girlfriend get nervous?"
"Dad! I'm 11! I don't have a girlfriend! I don't have a wife! C'mon!"
"I had a girlfriend when I was 11," I said.
He made a frustrated sound.
"Well," he said. "That's just weird. Besides...I'm a sheriff's deputy. I don't have time for a girlfriend."
"OK. OK. One last question: Why did you become a law enforcement officer?"
"Well," he said. "You know, I told you my dad's the sheriff."
"Right," I noted.
"And, you know, uh, I like to give back to the world."
"Right," I said. "Plus you look pretty cool in those shades."
"Yeah," he nodded. "I know."