Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Night Out With The Siblings

I have an older brother and two older sisters. That makes me the youngest. They are all wonderful people. But last night I did something with them that I can't ever remember doing...ever. No, we didn't all read Shakespeare together..we went out to dinner complete with spouses and everything. There were no kids or grand kids. Our parents weren't there either. There were menus and waitresses...the whole nine yards. We weren't celebrating anyone's birthday, no three day weekend was involved. We simply picked a Ruby Tuesday's in Fredericksburg so Donnie wouldn't have to drive so far, and met for dinner.

It's not that we never eat a meal together. We probably are all together for meals a dozen times a year or more, but it's always at Mom's, or Linda's and it usually involves birthdays and is almost always on a Sunday after church. This time we were seated in the bar. It was really quite shocking. I half expected my Mother to suddenly appear to scold us for eating a meal in such close proximity to alcohol.

Donnie was late, having driven all the way from Maryland still in his postal service uniform since he worked all day. As he walked in we all yelled.."NORM!!" We had decided to meet to discuss some family business, but soon it was just a typical Dunnevant get together. After ordering appetizers, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I returned I asked, "What did I miss?" Linda answered, "Nothing. Paula just got in an altercation with a drunk over there for using foul language." There would be no more bathroom breaks for me. This was going to be a fun night!

Although no adult beverages were consumed, our fellow patrons would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. We Dunnevants talk at a rather high decibel level about even the most benign subject. So, as the discussions proceeded into politics we were in full-throat-ed shout-mode. We talked about Obama, a Chinese postal worker who brings his lunch to work everyday in a midsized suitcase, the miracle that is the Washington Nationals' 14-6 record, and someone Donnie works with named "Avis Davis, NOT Mavis".

The seating arrangement was strategic. The four siblings were in the middle with out-law spouses on the perimeter. As we began to talk business, Ron and Pam would lean in towards the center so as to better hear the conversation. Bill refused to be distracted from the giant rack of ribs he had ordered and showed no interest in joining in the conversation except when he abruptly asked me, " You gonna eat that pickle?"

After an hour or so of discussion and in response to my blogpost about Martin's having ruined Ukrops, Donnie pointed out that the same thing had happened in Maryland to his favorite grocery store. It had been bought out by a Norwegian company with the  phonetically challenged name of Ahold....with the "d" being notoriously silent. Hilarity quickly ensued as all of us took turns using the company name in creative sentences like..."Where do you work?..Oh I work for the "ahol" down the street!" And so on... This went on for another 30 minutes since we all had to wait for Bill to eat the three desserts he had ordered. By the time he downed the last bite of Apple Brown Betty, our ribs were sore from laughter, and we all were wondering how come it had taken us so long to plan a night like this.

I tipped our long-suffering waitress generously.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Local Woman Is Last To Admit That Martin's Sucks

SHORT PUMP,VA--  Beth Orinstein, of Wyndham became the very last grocery shopper in the west end to realize that Martin's really does suck late Thursday afternoon after it took her 20 minutes to find a jar of olives. While all of her family and friends had come to the conclusion months earlier that Martin's wasn't fit to carry Ukrop's jock-strap, Beth had stubbornly held on to the hope that Martin's wouldn't turn out to be a crushing disappointment.

"I just wanted to give them a chance, you know?" Mrs. Orinstein said as she tried to steady herself with a mint-chocolate milk shake at Chick-fila. " I guess everyone dealt with the death of Ukrops differently. I just couldn't bring myself to accept that they had been bought, so I just pretended that nothing would change. After all, they didn't take away my rainbow cookies and White House bad would it be?"

Mrs. Orinstein, a mother of three growing boys, was delighted back in February of 2009 when the only noticeable changes in her Short Pump Crossings store seemed to be the hideous nuclear waste green uniforms the employees were forced to wear. The still friendly, if somewhat embarrassed workers still took her groceries to the car for her. Her favorite Ukrops meals to go were available for her to buy at the last minute for dinner on those days when she fell asleep on the sofa watching the Young and the Restless. But gradually Beth began to notice the subtle changes, and soon she went into full denial.

"I just couldn't deal with the sense of loss, the relentless disappointment. So I guess I just pretended not to notice when they totally re-arranged all of the aisles in the most annoying way possible. It's like one day I could have shopped for a week's worth of groceries in thirty minuets with a blind fold on , and suddenly it takes me ten minutes to find the condiment aisle."

As Beth stares out the window, her eyes begin to fill with tears and her hands start manically working the straw of her shake. Keeping alive false hope for two years has clearly taken a toll. I ask her to describe the olive incident in more detail, but she just sighs heavily.

" Like everyone else, I have to admit that it did bother me when they took down the "Let's All Go To Church This Sunday" painting. I mean, I don't actually attend church, but it always made me feel better when I saw that thing hanging up there. And yes, it was annoying when every time I needed something on a Sunday I had to go to that dreadful Food Lion. And, there was something endearing about having to stop by Krogers to buy beer and wine on the way home. But today, I just wanted to buy a bottle of olives for God's sake!! What moron thinks to put olives on the baking aisle?!"

As her frustration begins to pour out in torrents now, other Chick-fila customers start to notice, and begin to nod their heads sympathetically, their expressions a mixture of understanding, sadness and anger. " Of course, I suppose I should have asked Mr. Creepy Customer Help-Guy where they were, but then he would have followed me around trying to make conversation for an hour! I want olives, I don't want to make a new friend!! And what's with the grocery carts full of discount wine and beer everywhere?! WE GET sell hooch! Oh, and how about that tacky seasonal aisle they added, with all that kitschy plastic junk that you used to have to go to Walmart to buy?? One day I look up and an entire wide aisle is devoted to crap that costs less than a dollar. Seriously, the next time there's snow in the hell with it..I'm staying home!" As we got up to leave, teary-eyed customers stood and applauded, a scene worthy of a Frank Capra movie.

I thanked her for the interview and being willing to admit that she was the last hold-out, the last person in Short Pump to understand the complete community devastation that the arrival of Martin's has visited upon us. In the half-empty parking lot, she stood beside her Yukon Denali for a photograph. When I got back to the office I tried to reach an official at Martin's for  comment. No one in management agreed to be interviewed for this article, but an anonymous low level purchase agent did admit that the transition has been more difficult than company officials had expected saying only, "For what it's worth, we underestimated the bitchiness of our customers."

In a related item, officials at Bill's Barbecue, Pleasants Hardware, Ben Franklin, The White House of the Confederacy, the Coliseum, and each statue on Monument Avenue all have denied that they are the targets of hostile takeover bids by a consortium in New Jersey.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Fifth Commandment

I've been thinking about the Fifth Commandment a lot lately. "Honor thy father and thy mother..". What does it mean? When I was a child it's meaning was clear. My parents were the authority in my life. They fed me, clothed me, and provided a roof over my head. My mother, through the pain of childbirth, brought me into this world. My father taught me right from wrong, the value of hard work. They both instilled in me a feeling of well-being, that I was loved and cared for. My job was simple. "Honor thy father and thy mother". That meant no back talk, do what I was told, show them proper respect, try not to embarrass them in public.

Now, I'm a father. I have two kids whose job it is to honor me. They do so in amazing ways too numerous to list here, but in summary, they never back talk me, they follow my suggestions, for the most part, and they have never embarrassed me in public or private. On the contrary, I am always eager to inform people that Patrick and Kaitlin are, in fact, my children, if for no other reason than to see the shocked expressions on their faces when they realize that someone as goofy as me could have produced kids with such intellect and refinement.

But, although I am a father, I am still a son. My parents are both in their eighties. They have reached a hard season, a time of  struggle, a time of need. How to honor them? How much time is the proper amount of time to qualify as suitably honoring? What is the correct amount of deference I should show to them when their ideas and wishes are the wrong ones? In the past two years it has occurred to me that it's very much easier to honor your parents when they are happy and healthy. When pain comes, bringing anger and fear with it, honor becomes illusive.

Declining health and the inexorable march of time often conspire with each other to rob us of our dignity. Our parents become entirely different people than the ones who raised us. But I find in scripture no dispensation from the fifth commandment, no time limit, no bail out provision. So, I must find the middle ground between telling them hard truths that they don't want to hear, and giving them the respect that they still are owed. I must honor the commitments I have made in my own life while still finding time to be there for them.

The odd thing about this is that there are two conflicting truths doing battle within me. The first truth is that I have not done enough to fully honor my parents during these years of pain. The second truth is that no matter what I do in the future, it will never be enough to satisfy them.

And still I'm left with the clear and plain words from the second chapter of Exodus.."Honor thy father and thy mother, that your days may be long upon the land that the Lord thy God is giving you." I just pray that my days aren't too terribly long.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rainy Sundays and the "Church Decision"

It's Sunday morning. Overnight a cold front moved in from the west and spread low clouds and a soft cold rain. Looks like it's going to rain steadily all day. Pam is making pancakes. The prospect of church attendance hangs precariously, like the sword of Damocles, over our heads. Soon a decision will have to be made. Do we submit ourselves to the discipline of our faith and not forsake the gathering of ourselves together in worship(as is the habit of some)? Or do we give in to the overpowering desire for an uninterrupted day of domestic bliss, including but not limited to, eating, reading and relaxation? Sensing the spiritual tension, Pam has dialed up Christian music on Pandora.

Perhaps if we listen to worship songs in the background all day this will serve to mitigate the damage. Or maybe the dulcet tones of The Old Rugged Cross will only make us feel more guilt. We could always tune in to channel 12 and watch the service on television. Yes, our church is televised and has been continuously for something like a thousand years, a source of great pride for our Media Ministry. But watching your own church on television from the comfort of your sofa in your pajamas brings very little comfort. You see all of your friends in their nice clothes, friends who did the right thing and made it to church. They might be bored, they might be day-dreaming about being at the beach, they might be thinking about where they will go to lunch afterwards instead of listening to the Pastor's sermon, but they are there, and that's the important thing.

To help the decision making process, it always helps to do a Ben Franklin close. You know..that thing you do by making a list of the positives and negatives on a sheet of paper? Ok here goes...


1. Spiritual pride that comes with the knowledge that you overcame the sin of laziness.

2. Unique benefits of the group dynamic of actually being there as opposed to watching on TV.

3. Stirring music with lyrics that tell the story of our faith, and the comfort that comes from hearing the voices of others.

4. Fellowship of  close circle of dear friends.

5. Inspiration drawn from a powerful and relevant sermon drawn from scripture and the hard crucible of life lived fully engaged in the 21st century.

6. Lunch with friends afterwards.


1. Being in your pajamas until it's time for lunch.

2. The possibility of an unplanned nap.

3. Having time to read, think and write uninterrupted by plans.

4. Freedom to indulge wild hair of everything from gardening to house cleaning.


1. Boredom and annoying predictability of liturgy.

2. Having to sit in a pew for over an hour.

3. Having to endure the occasional, mind-numbingly juvenile lyrics of what passes for "praise-music".

4. Trying to ascertain what possible relevance the sermon might have to what I face on Monday.


1. Guilt

2. The nagging feeling that I'm missing something vitally important.

3. Guilt

4. Guilt

Ok, so that about covers it. It's now 8:54. Decision time is roughly 30 minutes away. T-minus 29 minutes and counting actually. Pam says "We should probably go." As usual, she is right. See ya at church.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Prepare To Be Jealous

My kids got me the coolest birthday present ever. I've been proudly showing it off at the office. Everyone is jealous that they don't have one, although they don't admit it. Instead, they throw their hands up, look at me with perplexed fascination and say something snarky like..."What, are you 12 years old?!"..which is code for, "that's the most awesome thing ever and I wish I could get away with having one of those babies on MY desk!" Here's a picture of it in all it's awesomeness sitting menacingly atop my printer...

Its called the USB Desktop Missile Launcher. It plugs into the USB slot on your computer and from there I can access its awesome camera display and pick my targets (unsuspecting fellow workers who happen to wander into my office). I simply press the arrow keys to line up the coordinates and then I press the space bar and it fires a nerf-like projectile with stunning speed and accuracy. If that's not enough, the firing of the missile is accompanied by an amazing sound effect of explosions which serves to further startle the victim. I have to say that it has been quite a while since I have received such a practical and useful present. It's the gift that keeps on giving. I have only scratched the surface of the manifold capabilities of the DML. It says in the manual that I can activate attack mode via Skype! So, as long as my computer is on, I could initiate a launch sequence from the comfort of my home office via skype. Now, this is why America is the greatest country ever. We keep coming up with amazing products like this. Uh..wait..says the danged thing is assembled in China.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What goes on in Vegas....

The news has been full of stories about government waste lately. From the lavish Vegas bash thrown by the GSA, to the fabulous Hawaiian vacations enjoyed by GSA's director, Jeffrey Neely, to the $800,000 in travel expenses incurred by the Secretary of Defense for 27 weekend trips home...all courtesy of the taxpayer. None of these stories surprise me. None of these stories anger me. This is exactly the sort of thing I expect of a government as huge and influential as ours. This sort of unaccountable waste is as predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. It's inevitability stems from this basic fact about human beings, ie..people are much more prudent concerning their own money than they are concerning someone else's money.

Here's a thought experiment. Suppose you were walking down an empty street and stumbled upon a wad of ten one hundred dollar bills. There is no one around to return the money to, no way to determine to whom it belonged, so you realize that it's your lucky day. How do you spend that money? Do you calmly deposit the $1,000 into your savings account and thank God for his rich blessings? Or do you reason that since this is an unexpected windfall, why not treat yourself to a new set of golf clubs, or a weekend at the Spa? My guess is that you would spend this largess in ways that you would never dream of spending your own hard-earned money. This is human nature. It happened to me once. Years ago, I completed my three year study program and finally earned my Chartered Financial Consultant professional designation. The company I was working for at the time gave me an unlimited gift certificate to a high end store that sold business products like fancy briefcases etc. Since the certificate had no limit, I went hog-wild. I bought a beautiful all leather Hartmann case that I still use today. It cost $ 1996!! If I had been spending my own money, my budget would have been 50 bucks. It's always easier spending someone else's money.

This is the intrinsic problem with government. Every nickle that government spends is someone else's money. The larger and more powerful that government is the less connection there is between the sources of the money and the spenders of the money. As budgets get more complex the less accountability there can be. Sure, every now and then something particularly egregious pops up like this GSA party and a Congressional hearing is called where the guilty spendthrifts are slapped on the wrists. But for every story that we know about there are ten that we will never discover.

There is one political party in this country that IS the party of government. The Democratic party believes in the power of government as a driver of social justice. It believes in the righteousness of the collective, in the roll of government as referee, umpire, and inspector.  Democrats are loud and enthusiastic champions of full funding for their vision of this powerful government. Unfortunately, there is no political party with anything approaching influence that champions a dismantling of and downsizing of government. The Republican party talks a better game but when they get in power, the only thing that gets downsized is the rate of growth of government, and then, only if we're lucky.When both major political parties in a country generally agree on an ever expanding roll for government, the result is never ending deficits.

If you are a Democrat, I know what you're thinking. "What, you think government is the only institution that wastes money? Big corporations waste money too!!" Yes, they do. But when a corporation goes on a wild spending spree, then what's left of the free market will punish them for it. Their stock price will suffer, market share will decline, and people will lose their jobs. Unless, of course, you're too big to fail, in which case the government, using someone else's money will bail you out, insulating you from the consequences of your bad decisions. Kinda like welfare. But in government, no matter how wasteful, ineffective, outdated or redundant your agency happens to be, your budget never actually gets cut. Maybe every now and then it's growth rate is slowed, but there's never any cuts to the perpetual motion machine that is big government. So, we better get used to $850,000 dollar parties in Vegas for government bureaucrats.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Buffett Rule...Stupidity on Steroids

The White House freely admits that even their most optimistic projections of the next ten years shows staggering, out of control deficits. 2012's deficit alone is 1.5 trillion dollars. This is an unsustainable national tragedy that demands serious reform to correct. So, what is the President's plan? The Buffett Rule.

Yes, the Sage of Omaha, the third richest man on the planet is famously annoyed by the fact that he pays taxes at a lower "rate" than his secretary. Our President, never content to let a perfectly good annoyance go to waste, immediately seized on his comments and decided to make the "Buffett Rule" the centerpiece of his strategy to rein in the fiscal insanity facing the country. Yes, passing a law demanding that anyone making one million dollars a year be required to pay a minimum of 30% in taxes is President Obama's solution to the trouble we face. Yes, the financial train wreck we find ourselves in stems from the horrible fact that the rich earn much of their income from appreciating assets and thus pay only 15% tax on that income. Guys like Buffett and Romney are awash in capital gains income. The Buffett Rule, we are told by the President,"will help us close our deficit. This is not politics, its math."

I will not here debate the wisdom of whether or not capital gains should be taxed at a lower rate. I will not debate the charge that millionaires don't pay their fair share of taxes. I will not even debate the politics of such a tax proposal during an election year. I prefer to examine exactly what kind of "math" the President could possibly be talking about?!

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that full implementation of the "Buffett Rule" would raise 5 billion dollars in revenue to the Treasury. Other analysis estimate the number to be closer to 3 billion, but for argument's sake, I'll take the CBO at it's word. 5 billion dollars....or enough money to close our current 2012 deficit in roughly 500 years. 5 billion dollars....or the amount of money our government borrows every 24 hours. We are facing a tsunami of deficits and debt as far as the eye can see and the President's plan is...the Buffet Rule. Wouldn't it be better if the government just confiscated all 44 billion dollars of Warren Buffett's net worth instead of settling for 30% of his yearly income? Better yet, why don't we confiscate every dime from everyone who showed up in the Forbes 400 richest Americans list this year? In exchange for all of their money, the government would agree to provide them reasonable housing, food and medical care. Desperate times call for desperate measures. When the American people see the patriotic sacrifices being made by the super rich, our collective sense of fairness would be satisfied, and with all that money we could, we could...close the 1.5 trillion dollar deficit for 2012. Yep, we would only fix the problem for one year. Then in 2013, there wouldn't be another 1.5 trillion to confiscate. But, for one glorious year there wouldn't be any fat cats not paying their fair share, and certainly that would be worth it...right?

When Republicans talk about illuminating "waste, fraud and abuse" from the federal budget as a way to balance the budget I get angry because the amounts of money involved are like treating a knife wound with a band-aid. When Democrats call for millionaire tax hikes as a way to close the deficits I also get angry. Both approaches amount to score settling appeals to political interests, and do nothing the address the big problems driving our nation to the edge of a fiscal abyss. Those big problems are out of control spending, and a tax system that has successfully managed to remove half of our citizens from the tax rolls. Any real and enduring fix will HAVE to include dramatic reductions in federal spending AND tax increases..on EVERYONE, not just the Warren Buffetts of this world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Graduate School Journal...Part 2

Yesterday Pam and I got to spend much of the day doing the tourist thing around Princeton while Patrick was in meetings. We bought some books, walked through some shops in Palmer Square and then spent some time on the Princeton campus. Absolutely gorgeous. Patrick's meetings went well, although I think the financial realities of life here were brought home to him in his meeting with the financial aid people.

It has been a great trip. I can see Patrick living and thriving here. The school exceeded expectations. Last night we drove into the town of Windsor to see "The Artist". This is the Oscar-winning silent film by mostly French actors, directors etc.. It was amazing. The score, the glorious lighting of black and white, the phenomenal acting required when words are absent, all made for a terrific movie. Of course, the first thing Patrick said afterwards was how amazing the music was. Nothing has changed in that regard since he was five.

So, now we head back to Richmond. This time four months from now I'll have two kids in graduate school. That thought seems outrageous to me. I barely survived the University of Richmond. It was everything I could do to sit still long enough to endure an hour long lecture. Now, thirty years later I have two kids who can't wait for the next class.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Graduate School Journal...Part 1

I'm in Princeton, New Jersey with Patrick visiting what will be his home for the next two years, Westminster Choir College. We have toured the campus and walked through this most charming of what the people up here refer to as "townships". Everywhere you look you see stately old buildings covered with ivy. Coffee shops outnumber Walmarts about 28 to zero. There are chocolate shops seemingly on every corner, quaint bookstores and upscale boutique shops of every description line the streets. There are beautiful, ornate churches everywhere. I've seen Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Catholic and even an Assembly of God, but no Southern Baptist! If ever there were a place perfectly designed for a kid like Patrick to thrive, this is it. As a student at this school, he will get to sing in choirs that perform in Philadelphia and New York, even a performance at Carnegie Hall in the fall. There's a train station within walking distance that goes straight to Grand Central Station in New York that I'm sure Patrick will wear out. What an awesome place for my son to be. So blessed.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Tradition At The Dunnevants

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Kaitlin will be driving up from Winston late this afternoon. Patrick flies in late tonight. We will all be together, just the four of us for the first time since the new furniture arrived. Patrick's room is now where the movie room used to be and vice-versa. Hope he's fine with the new arrangement. Our new kitchen table's inaugural meal with all four of us will be the much anticipated Easter morning breakfast. This meal is famous in Dunnevant family lore because of Pam's "empty tomb rolls". She flattens out a tube of canned biscuits, then inserts a marshmallow and wraps the flattened dough around it to form a ball. This dough ball then gets dipped in butter and rolled through a bowl of some sort of heavenly ambrosia containing sugar and cinnamon. Everything gets loaded into muffin tins and thrown in the oven. Then these babies are served up on a plate with bacon, scrambled eggs and fresh fruit. When you dig in to the rolls, the inside is hollow since the marshmallow has melted, adding its thousand calories to the mix. The empty tomb rolls make us think of our Saviors' resurrection from the dead. It's all quite wonderful.

This year will be like all Easters in my family. There will be an egg hunt...with a twist. My two kids have always been insanely competitive with each other. Everything had better come out "equal" in the end or both of them will claim that the other is guilty of a "big braggy show". So, twenty years ago it became evident that just hiding a random number of eggs around the house and letting them go at it was problematic. This always resulted in one of them having more eggs than the other, an intolerable outcome for my strangely communistic children who always insisted, like Stalin and Mao before them, in equality of results!! To insure peace, Pam came up with the brilliant idea of buying an identical number of color-coded plastic eggs, giving each of them an identically sized bucket and letting them get after it, knowing that as long as neither of them were color-blind, they would end up with the same number of eggs, and we could go to church on speaking terms. This plan worked so well, we've done it the same way ever since, even though my "children" are both in their early twenties, college graduates, and surely beyond such pettiness. Somewhere down the line I came up with the idea of saving my pocket change all year, and instead of filling the eggs with teeth-rotting candy, filling them with quarters, nickels and dimes. This proved to be a raging success as well, although making sure that the money came out equal in the end was and is a labor-intensive process.

The question now has become, at what point do we retire the Easter egg hunt? Last year Jon was with us and I thought perhaps that would have been a good time to bring the festivities to a close. But, Pam, being the creative party-planner, people pleaser that she is, came up with the idea of buying a bag of plastic baseballs to hide for Jon so he wouldn't feel left out. I was fine with it, but drew the line at filling his baseballs with my change. Seriously though, one of my kids is in graduate school, and the other will be this fall, and we're still hiding twenty year old plastic eggs around the house for them to find? Yes, we do. Knowing their Mother as I do, we will be hiding those eggs for them every year until it comes to the point where our grandchildren start getting annoyed at having to share my change with their parents.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Mystery Of Kim Kardashian

This morning I was getting dressed for work in the usual way, only this morning it happened to be at the exact moment when Ann Curry of the Today show was interviewing Kim Kardashian. So, essentially, this blog writes itself.

Before I proceed, I should confess up front to never having watched an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. The sum total of my knowledge of this woman comes from what I am able to glean from the covers of Us, People, and the National Inquirer as I'm standing in line at Martins. With those fine publications serving as my data-base, I can confidently assert that Ms.K has very large breasts, wears spectacular clothes, seems to be quite fond of large athletic black men, and wears copious amounts of makeup.

What I have never understood is why she is famous. Does she have musical talent, does she act, is she a model? I mean, what exactly does she do, and how did she get her own television show? I watch the television screen for clues to her success. She is sitting there in a fabulous blue dress into which her bountiful assets have been poured. Just for arguments' sake, I will assume that her physical beauty has not been genetically manipulated or surgically enhanced, that what we see is, in fact, real. Well done, Mr. and Mrs. Kardashian, well done.

But as she begins to speak, I am astonished by the perfectly pedestrian drivel that comes out of her voluptuous mouth. This girl is virtually identical to practically every super-beautiful girl in the history of the world. There is nothing unique or captivating about her. She has the intelligence of your average late night dime-store clerk. Not one word that she speaks is in the slightest way interesting. When challenged by Ms. Curry as to whether her ill-fated marriage to Kris Humphries might have been some sort of publicity stunt, she seemed genuinely shocked that anyone on earth could possibly have come to such a conclusion. Rarely have I seen a public figure with less self-awareness...and I'm American, so that's saying something!!

So the mystery of Ms. Kardashian remains. Absent any obvious talents, I am forced to assume that she is famous, for being famous. Like Paris Hilton before her, we will watch her with shameful fascination. We've already watched one marriage collapse. There will be more. Then there will be some sort of substance abuse which will require stints in a series of celebrity rehab centers. Perhaps that will be the genesis of yet another reality show, following Kim throughout the despair of the 12 step recovery program.( Step one...lay down the curling iron and slowly step away from the vanity table!).
Then we will watch as her narsicism ratchets her down ever lower until finally, she ends up hawking her tanning beds on Craig's List. But, about the time we think she's disappeared forever, there will be a religious conversion, and a shocking tell-all auto-biography, in which we learn that Kim was sexually abused by her creepy step-dad Bruce Jenner. Tears will flow as Oprah tenderly squeezes out all the salacious details during a prime-time interview that will be the highest rated television show of all time. The headline in the National Inquirer the next day will scream.." Kim's Painful Ordeal Takes Toll On Figure."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Birthday Checklist

Today is my birthday. As has been my custom since turning 50 I try to perform some feat involving physicality, not to prove my relative fitness, but more to document the progress of my inexorable decline. Today it was a 5K run, a distance of 3.1 miles. I ran it outside on a rather hilly tract I have measured out in my neighborhood. My time was 27:50.7. Two years ago my records indicate that I ran 4 miles on a treadmill in a time of 31:48. Three years ago I ran 3 miles on a treadmill in 23:39. At this pace I will soon manage to break the 30 minute barrier for one mile!

Since it's my birthday, there's a paragraph that I need to get out of my system...

Yesterday I tried to help my daughter fill out her first 1040 form. I haven't done my own taxes in over 20 years since my return is practically an inch thick, costs me $500, and I don't understand a word of it. So, I probably am not the best person to ask for help filling out even the most benign IRS form which I assumed something called the "EZ" 1040 form would be. Nope. Even at this entry level introduction to the labyrinth that is the IRS, I was hopelessly over matched. "If line 24d is greater but not equal to the total on line 17, proceed to tax table on schedule ADJ" was one of the more straightforward instructions found on this two page EZ1040 form for tax-paying beginners. After 10 minutes of this I was muttering under my breath about the "pencil-necked, soul-crushing, blood-sucking, parasitic bureaucrats who work at the most evil construct ever spawned by the United States government."

There. I feel better already. However, having just read the part about blood-sucking parasites it occurs to me that there is an agency of our government that was the ACTUAL spawn of the IRS and the CIA. That would be the department of Homeland Security, and it wouldn't surprise me if there isn't some pencil-necked employee sitting in a cubical doing nothing else but monitoring blogs for combinations of words that might be deemed "dangerous". Perhaps they use some sort of algorithm that screams  an alarm whenever the words "blood-sucking" and "bureaucrats" appear in the same sentence. On the off chance that this is the case, let me just say that I was not referring to any specific actual employees of either the IRS,CIA or Homeland Security, all of which are part of the grand mosaic that make up the engine of our self-government. I was merely voicing the minor frustration that many of us feel when trying to comply with the law of the land. So, no need to push the "audit this guy" button. haha...

Birthday checklist:

1. Take freshly baked molasses cookies made by Pam to the office.  CHECK.

2. Get taken to lunch by my office mates. Take full advantage of their rare display of generosity. CHECK.

3. Read scores of birthday wishes posted on my facebook page and say a prayer of thanks for each one. CHECK.

4. Enjoy steak dinner at Firebirds with great friends. CHECK.

5. Ponder the inevitable and relentless physical and mental decline that awaits you in the years to come. CHECK.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools and the Week Of My Birthday

Anyone who knows me knows that I love April Fools Day. Its the only day of the year where my predominant personality trait is celebrated, the one day where what I really love to do isn't "frowned upon in this establishment!!" Those lucky enough to work with me in my office have learned to fear this day. They enter the office gingerly, vigilant eyes scanning the ceiling, doors and walls, determined not to be victimized. They perform even the most menial tasks with extreme caution, never knowing when a remote controlled rat might dart out from underneath their desks, or when a large bucket of ping pong balls might suddenly pour down from the heavens. Even the most benign surface might by covered with some odious gooey substance of unknown origin. Strange odors waft from the most unsuspecting places. I'm telling you, it's a thing of beauty. But not today. Once every seven years my big day falls on a Sunday. It's like the Governor's pardon, or the year of Jubilee for everyone else, but for me it's the mother of all letdowns.

Today is also the beginning of the week of my birthday, a seven day celebration of the day, 54 years ago, when I was born. That's the way we do it in the Dunnevant family. One day just isn't enough. Birthdays have lost much of their cache with me in recent years. When I was a kid I couldn't wait to be older, I counted the days until I turned 13 as if I was going to win the lottery. 18 was cool. It meant I could drink beer legally, and vote. Oddly enough I found that drinking beer legally, in a bar wasn't nearly as fun as sneaking around. Then 21 came and went. It wasn't as big a deal in 1979 to turn 21 as it is today. 30 was weird. I was a father by then and it didn't seem possible that I was 30. I had always been told never to trust anyone over 30. Could I now not trust myself? 40 was a blur, 50 even blurrier. Birthdays have become more like reminder posts than occasions of celebration. They are like those signs you see on the interstate..."last rest stop for 100 miles"..reminders that something unsettling is in your future. I'm not exactly sure when it started, but it used to be when I would accomplish something athletically like a personal best time in the mile, or hitting a wind-aided 300 yard drive I would brag about my superior skill. But somewhere awhile back I started saying..."not bad for a       year old." How did that happen?

So, I will grin and bare the week of my birthday, and be thankful that I have not assumed room temperature, which, after all, is the only other available option. Perhaps I will go out and do something physically demanding to prove to myself that I've still got it, whatever "it" is. Then after I return from Patient First in a sling with a prescription for pain killers I'll feel much better!