LAND OF THE LOST

 

 

lost items

This land has nothing to do with dinosaurs or lost civilizations, it is a land for lost personal items. There must be thousands of portals to this land that is full of items that we swear we just saw a minute ago. We’ve all been there before, on our hands and knees searching for something that we had just put down moments ago and somehow the item has vanished. Has it disappeared forever into the Land of the Lost? Or, will it be recovered before it falls thru the magic portal that loves to suck up everyday items? All of us, at some time or another, have had that feeling of panic when we realize that we have misplaced something. We retrace our steps, look in every nook and cranny (including the couch cushions) and decide it must have sprouted legs and fallen into the secret passageway that leads to a whole land of lost items. The Land of The Lost has an abundance of certain items and keys is right on top. Searching for them takes time and causes massive frustration as you are usually in a rush to get going before you realize that your keys are missing. If your keys slip into this lost land it can also be unexpectedly expensive to replace modern car keys which are microchipped and can cost hundreds of dollars to replace. Losing car keys sucks big-time. Living right next to keys in the Land of the Lost are sunglasses. How many times have you set these down never to be found again. It can take hours to find the right pair and in seconds they are gone forever. I’ve lost so many sunglasses that I just consider it in the cost of living. If ever found they usually are bent or broken beyond repair or you see your friend wearing the exact pair…very delicate situation. Your regular prescription eye glasses are the worst to lose because you are half-way blind looking for the only thing that can give you full vision again. Cell phones also rank among the more expensive things you can lose. The interesting thing about misplacing your cell phone is that it is usually where it is supposed to be. Have you ever freaked out that you couldn’t find your cell phone while you were using your cell phone. Because the cell phone has so many different functions, we often use it to serve another purpose, and then freak out when we don’t feel it in our pocket. Missing credit cards also cause a panic because your first thought is that some stranger is out buying a new boat with it. How many weekend mornings have you woken up from a rough night out and immediately dove towards your wallet. There’s nothing worse to add to a raging hangover than discovering your missing a credit card. How many total hours have you missed at the gym because you were spending too much time beforehand looking for your headphones? I’m convinced that headphones, especially Apple ones, have a certain life span before they just vanish. In terms of numbers socks have the largest population in Land of the Lost. Not even worth searching for, they just go away on their own. It’s as if there is a little sock troll living with us, just waiting to steal more socks…never a pair, just one at a time. Chapstick is also a lesser expensive item that can drive you crazy to hold on to. The “chapstick” theory says that the more pants that you put on in a given week, the greater chance you have of losing your chapstick. Buy this item by the bulk and stop worrying about where you put the last one. Has anyone ever used a Chapstick to the end? Restaurants have a direct portal to the Land of the Lost. Taking off a jacket and leaving it there is routine or actually having and carrying an umbrella into a  restaurant is a sure formula for leaving it there along with your doggy-bag. The good thing about leaving items in a restaurant is you can go back and recover them from the lost and found box. Have you ever noticed how all lost and found boxes look the same, a crumpled up cardboard box half-way full of the items listed above. I find some comfort in sorting thru the box that I am not the only one losing things. To keep your items from disappearing the common advice is to put your keys or other items in the same place each night. Sounds reasonable enough, but while your asleep is when most of the items crawl off their designated place and travel to the Land of the Lost. Has anyone seen my nail clippers?

AUGUST IS THE NEW SEPTEMBER

 

sand castle          summer-pool-party-kid

Since when did kids start school in the middle of August? August is a summer month, not a school month. Even though my 3-kids have all graduated from college, I am representing the thousands of kids who have to get ready for school in the hottest month of the year. August is beach weather. It is perhaps the best beach month of the calendar as the June, July overcast has usually burned off leaving nothing but hot and clear skies. The water is also at it’s warmest…perfect for a day or week’s vacation at the beach. Even if your not a beach goer hanging out in the swimming pool is what August is on the calendar for. I feel sorry for the groups of kids I see making their way home from school in mid-August, particularly those in school uniforms. It is still summer vacation time, time to be in shorts, swim suits and barefeet. Time to see movies in air-conditioned theaters, have sleep overs, play basketball, and yes, read. The dog days of summer should be spent poolside, not in class. Heck, we just had 4th of July celebrations weeks prior…now school? Growing up Labor Day marked the the end of summer and not just another sale at Carpets ‘R Us. The public pools closed, the ice cream truck made it’s last round and school started the next day. We loaded up our new backpacks, put on our new school clothes and made our way to the first day of school, the way it was meant to be. Now, Labor Day is a three-day-weekend complete with homework. End of summer as an event is gone – the last hurrah – the final friendly barbeque with friends and family. The start of school is no longer universal meaning some kids start August 11 or August 18 and so on. What a drag it must be to hear other kids jumping in the pool while your coming home from school in triple-digit heat. It just isn’t right. Trying on new school clothes is a drag enough for kids to endure – imagine it being 90 degrees and humid and your trying on long pants, hoodies and sweatshirts when all you really need is new t-shirts and shorts. The main reason that I could find for the earlier start has to do with standardized testing. The kids starting school in August can take their test before winter break while the information is still fresh in their heads versus taking the test upon returning from break and their heads are empty or full of Sponge Bob cartoons. Low scores on these standardized tests means some schools would lose too much funding…sounds logical without knowing any of the details.

I have fond memories of my childhood summer vacations. It seemed they would last forever and each day was an eternity. Waking up with nothing to do except explore new territories on our bikes, or swimming for hours at a time until our eyes turned blood red from the chlorine. On particularly hot days our parents would drop us off at the old Montrose Theater and leave us there for a double-feature, or at a bowling alley. The YMCA was always open, but that would usually get boring after a few hours – too much supervision when you feel like Tom Sawyer. Then one week per summer we would take a family vacation which was either a hit or miss. The best vacations were spent at a rented beach house enjoying the surf and sand and staying in one spot for a week. The worst trips involved road trips that included several stops and a lot of arguing. I guess that’s the one advantage to having kids starting school early…the hotel and vacation get-a-ways now start dropping their rates in late August. But I would easily give that up to see schools designate the day after Labor Day as the official start day. It has worked for decades…it has only been in the last 10-years that schools moved up the date. The whole month of August is officially summer and should be part of summer vacation.

 

DRIVE-IN MOVIE THEATERS

 

Drive-In-Movie-Theater

I was born in 1954 which puts me in the middle of drive-in movie goers. Drive-in theaters reached their peak in the late 1950’s and 60’s. For those born after 1980 they probably know their local drive-in movie as a place for swap meets or church revival meetings. But going to a drive-in is still possible and I recommend that everyone try it once in their lifetime. There is nothing to compare a summer’s night at a drive-in to.  By the way, a drive-in theater is an outdoor cinema consisting of a large movie screen, a projection booth, a concession stand and a gigantic parking area for the autos. Customers can view movies from the privacy and comfort of their own car. I think most of the younger generation has at least heard of them, but have never been to one. It has been 20-years since I have been to a drive-in…since the children were all 10-years old and less. Drive-in movie goers tend to fall into two groups, 1) the family station wagon group – the whole family including the baby can go together and watch a movie. What most people my age remember as a kid was that the drive-ins had a outdoor playground right up front by this enormous screen. Since the cars arrived at twilight it left time for kids to play outside the car until the movie was about to start. This was the best part about the drive-in as a kid, that and the concession stand. I doubt that in today’s times parents would let their kids just roam free at a huge drive-in at dusk without supervision. I don’t know if it was just safer times in the 50’s & 60’s or parents weren’t as traumatized about kids playing in public. I must admit it sounds scary just writing about letting your children roam free in the dark with a parking lot full of strangers. Or, maybe our parents were watching and we just didn’t know or care.  The drive-ins in the early 60’s all had parking spots marked out and each spot had access to a speaker you would hang on the driver’s window. The sound quality was terrible and the scratching and banging on the car window was just part of the experience. Now that it was dark it was time for the movie to start. The younger kids were put in their pajamas, as it was inevitable they would fall asleep before the double feature was over. The second biggest thrill as a kid was going to the concession stand. It usually was right in the middle of the parking lot and was well lit. It seemed enormous in size with so much to choose from and the prices were fairly close to retail, not like the movie theaters today. After being limited to two items, one food – candy, and one drink – soda pop we made our way back to the car and settled in for two movies in a row. Impossible for a kid to make it through, especially since one of the movies was usually a stinker. As a parent we took our 3-kids to the drive-in a few times and repeated the same plan of action as when we were kids and the drive-ins were still structured the same. The biggest difference were the cars, station wagons were out and mini-vans were in. The second group in attendance were 2) – teenagers and date nights. It was the perfect date night. It gave you a legitimate reason to be alone with your date for four long hours. A lot was practiced from the sex-ed class during that time. You could see some of the cars with the windows all fogged up and know there wasn’t much movie viewing going on there. Those lucky enough to have vans or trucks could park there vehicles backwards and open up the rear door for viewing turning your van into a den. It was also fun to go as a group especially on slow nights like Wednesday when admission price was one dollar per car for as many people you could fit in. You could bring beach chairs if the car got too crowded. Drive-ins used attention-grabbing gimmicks to boost attendance like petting zoos and music groups to play before the show. On weekend nights in college when they charged by the person we would stick one or two people in the trunk as we drove through the entrance which sounds rather stupid now. I guess it was just the thrill of getting away with something.

At their peak 25% of the nation’s movie screens had been a drive-in. Today that figure is less than 1% and showing no signs of recovery. The cost of that much land, the whim of nature at a outdoor venue, and the advent of VCR’s and video rentals for family time brought the drive-in theater to an end. Many drive-in movie sites remain, repurposed as storage or flea markets sights. They usually have a 50’s-art deco feel to them . In the Los Angeles area the best drive-in is the Pacific Theater in the City of Industry. It has been well maintained and has current movies. Your can bring in your own food if you want to pass on the cool concession stand. Summertime is the best. The sound now comes through your car radio, so no more damage to the car window. Try it out once with family, friends, or a date night…it’s a slice of Americana.

AFRAID OF SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN?

 

jaws                 jaws 2

It was the summer of 1975. She was young, pretty, and care free as she ran through the night along the sand dunes toward the ocean. Her name was Chrissie Watkins. She pealed off her clothes before diving in the ocean. It was a peaceful picture of a perfect summer night. The water was calm as Chrissie swam toward a buoy as a bell rung. She paused as the dawn sun peeked above the far horizon. It was perfect. Then it was over, ruined, forever. There was heart beating music, screams as poor Chrissie Watkins got yanked every which way and finally under the water forever. It was horrifying to watch. A shark attack by the most famous shark of all-time. Jaws. Thanks a lot Jaws. The hit movie , ranked second scariest movie of all-time behind Poltergeist, taught us that swimming in the ocean equals human buffet for great white sharks.I was recently at dinner with a group of 8-people all over the age of 50 and everyone there had distinct memories of the first time they had gone to see Jaws at the movie theatre. Interesting enough the memories still lingered and several were afraid to swim in the ocean believing there would be a great white shark just waiting there to gobble them up. The shark is always there, lurking, somewhere deep in our subconscious, but ready to resurface every time we try to enter the ocean. What is it about a 39-year old mechanical shark that we can’t shake? Fear, that’s what. Not being able to see through the murky water to what is swimming below or next to us. The good, rational news is that you stand a better chance of being struck by lightning, twice, than being eaten by a shark. Does that help if you are on a pleasure boat and getting ready to jump in ocean water over your head…hell no. That damn shark is right below just waiting for the chance to maul you and end your life in a bloody mess. Even if you don’t get killed the instant you dive in the shark will appear not long after and people will be yelling “SHARK” as you race back to the boat only to be shredded up when your just feet away from safety while your friends on the boat watch in horror. If you are actually lucky enough not to be attacked while swimming the shark will surely appear just as you reach the boat and rip off your legs as you try to climb back on board. He has been waiting for this day for 39-years. You are the one he wants to eat and you can’t convince me otherwise. Fear is a good thing. It is an emotion intended to keep us alive and Jaws scared the crap out of us. A professor at the University of Wisconsin has been studying the Jaws effect for over 30-years says ” Thinking about Jaws when you are in the ocean, in a way, is a rational response, since there are sharks in the ocean”. DUHHH. Her survey was completed more than 30-years after Jaws was released and still 43% reported experiencing “enduring problems” with swimming in the ocean, all because of that monster fish. ” I feel intuitively that I am destined to die as a result of a shark attack” one student reported. That’s right, Jaws has had many offspring in the past 39-years and they are just waiting for you to venture out in the water. They are just deep enough to be out of sight but as soon as you enter their turf the attack will begin, no question about it. When swimming in the ocean I would always suggest swimming with a companion. That way you can have your companion jump in first and see if anything happens to them. But make sure that they have seen the movie first because Jaws descendants only attack people who have seen the movie. A mutant Jaws descendant with great intellectual powers has a list kept deep underwater of all those who have seen the movie Jaws and are planning to pick them off one-by-one. One thing for sure, don’t go swimming in the ocean at night. There will be an all points bulletin to all great whites about your whereabouts and you will be eaten by a pack of sharks, which might be less painful than the agonizingly slow death only one shark can bring. The sharks have a lot of ground to cover so if they don’t get you the first time, feel lucky, because your name is now on their “hit list” and they are bound to get you the next time you enter. The Jaws family considers it an insult if you dare to try and fool them. We saw the movie with a group of 8-people and there are only six of us still alive. A Jaws son got one, Gary, while he was snorkling off the coast of Hawaii and a second, Mike, was fishing off the Southern coast in a small boat with a friend when he put his hand in the water to clean off fish blood and a Jaws child grabbed him by the hand and pulled him out of the boat in to the ocean where he became a late lunch. The friend lived because he had not seen the movie. So if you think it’s safe to enter the water now, forget it, there is a whole new generation of Jaws sharks waiting for you to just stick your little toe in the ocean. I feel safe because I gave a fake name when I went to see the movie. I used the name of someone I didn’t like and he had his head bitten off while boogy boarding…kinda feel bad about that.

A NEW GENERATION OF WHITE TEETH

GROWING OLD BACKWARDS

white teeth

For those who think things were better in the past, I just say look at the people’s teeth. It used to be normal to have a yellow tint to your teeth, even the movie stars didn’t have the pearl white teeth that we see on today’s kids. Today as I look at the next generation of kids and young adults I can’t overlook how white and bright all their smiles are. What happened? When I was a kid we went to the dentist twice a year as recommended, checked for cavities and if any were found the dentist would drill them out and fill the cavity with a silver colored mixture of silver, copper, and mercury. It wasn’t until later that physicians realized mercury was a toxic material so a lot of kids were walking around with a mercury contaminated mouth. If your teeth were not straight then god awful…

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A NEW GENERATION OF WHITE TEETH

 

white teeth

For those who think things were better in the past, I just say look at the people’s teeth. It used to be normal to have a yellow tint to your teeth, even the movie stars didn’t have the pearl white teeth that we see on today’s kids. Today as I look at the next generation of kids and young adults I can’t overlook how white and bright all their smiles are. What happened? When I was a kid we went to the dentist twice a year as recommended, checked for cavities and if any were found the dentist would drill them out and fill the cavity with a silver colored mixture of silver, copper, and mercury. It wasn’t until later that physicians realized mercury was a toxic material so a lot of kids were walking around with a mercury contaminated mouth. If your teeth were not straight then god awful braces were recommended. The braces were the size of train tracks and at night you had to wear a neck brace to hold them firmly in place. Braces were only recommended for the most crooked of teeth, if your teeth basically went north to south you were fine. We had three kids in our family and none of us were put in braces. It was by far the minority to have to wear braces and the verbal abuse for wearing them was unrelenting. Whitening of teeth was just unheard of in the 60’s and 70’s. It was in the 1980s when in-office bleaching techniques became widespread in the dental profesion. By the mid-1990s, people could easily get teeth whitening products over the counter. I started noticing it on television first where smiles seemed unnaturally white. The cast of “Friends” all had perfectly straight and white teeth. It looked fake at first, but as the masses began whitening, it became normal and those of us with unbleached yellowish teeth were freaks. When asked to smile I would get a chorus of “E-w-w-w-w!” It was soon my turn to be the parent and bring my kids in for their dental visits. Without fail all three kids were advised that they would need braces to correct their smile. I am convinced no one is born with perfectly straight teeth but if someone in authority tells you your child needs braces you do it rather than face a lifetime full of guilt. We spent thousands of dollars on each kid’s braces and of course teeth whitening when they came off. You do it because they are your children…no questions asked. You don’t want other kids calling your children “horse mouth”, “hillbilly” or “it looks like your kid was eating apples thru a chain link fence”. Fortunately braces had become far less evasive and some transparent, but the kids favorite part was picking out the color of rubber bands that went along with the braces. At least for all the effort their teeth do look fantastic and all have wonderful smiles. So does almost every other kid their age. I have seen some over-do it and their smiles come off as florescent rather just white. It is most obvious when older people have their teeth super whitened, teeth like the rest of the body are supposed to age. But all things considered people’s teeth are by far more attractive than they were a generation ago. For the record teeth are naturally yellow in color. The outer most covering of the teeth (enamel) is white. However the layer below this, which is dentin, is naturally yellow. The outer layer is translucent which makes the color yellow more apparent. This cannot be changed without the use of advanced whitening methods. I try to explain this to my kids who all give me the E-w-w-w when I smile, but to no avail. Let’s face it whiter teeth are more attractive than yellow. Maybe thru a genetic mutation future children will be born with naturally white and straight teeth.

WHAT CELEBRITY ARE YOU OBSESSED WITH?

 

katy perry       justin-bieber-2012-justin-bieber-31066942-2100-1500

Come on, admit it. You are a junkie for celebrity news. Why? What is it about the bigger-than-life actions of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie or Nicole Ritchie or the continuing train wreck news from Lindsay Lohan that makes it so compelling for Americans to drop everything and tune-in. They’re just like us – only better. They’re richer, shinier, more beautiful versions of ourselves. With all the fancy dress-up occasions and flashbulbs popping like crazy on the red carpet, it’s like the prom every day. The overwhelming media attention given them informs us that they are what we want to be. First of all, they’re always there. The media insists that the constant coverage is a result of their audiences desire for more news, more details on every facet of celebrity lives. The opposition says that because we are so submerged by the constant stream of media news that we become junkies for more news. I tend to think the first is true…people cannot get enough news about their favorite celebrities. Prior to the 90’s, there were two major sources for celebrity news, one televised and one print. Soon after the millennium the rise of the internet as a news resource became a major influence particularly among the young. With our ever-increasing access by virtual means into the lives of just about anyone, celebrities’ every move is recorded and broadcast into our lives as if we were right there with them. You can carry your favorite celebrity in your own pocket. Privacy isn’t what it used to be, so it’s easy to feel that we know all about the lives of Kanye and Kim, David Beckham, or whoever your fav is. There is a sense of entitlement to celebrity lives which feeds the celebrity frenzy. The effect is felt most by the younger generation who were born after 1990 and have known nothing else other than the current media frenzy that celebrities create. With all of our instant access and supposed need for more and more “gossip” sociologists believe we are suffering from a “Low level cultural depression”.  The notoriety of the entertainer and the almost religious fervor of their most dedicated fans is a symptom of dissatisfaction with one’s own predicament. Kids see fame as a cure-all for problems. And whereas previous generations may have been interested in the so-called fabulous life of celebrities, the difference today is that kids feel fame is achievable. I remember watching the Academy Awards with my parents and while it was a wonderful night to see the Hollywood Stars all dressed up, it was soon forgotten and we continued our regular, sometimes mundane lives.With today’s reality shows and  YouTube showcasing the lives of the unknown masses and creating instant fame for those who have no reason to be famous, there is the belief that someday soon they could join the ranks of those whose faces are seen on People and Us. Here is a big down-side with celebrity obsession…the motivation for following the lives of the famous, whether it be boredom, dissatisfaction, or loneliness in one’s own life-often can lead to increased isolation from the real world. Being older I was often amazed and almost impressed with how much the younger people at work knew about even the slightest of celebrities. It was like a game to see who could get the “dish” the soonest and the news comes out fast. I once took a lunch break and went to the gym for a 1-hour workout at LA Fitness. I saw David Hasselhoff at the gym and by the time that I returned to work his picture at the gym was already posted on TMZ…that is fast.

All this instant coverage often leads to confrontations between celebrity and the paparazzi. I can definitely see how an A-celebrity can be pushed to the limit from this kind of hounding. What I don’t think everyone realizes is that your B & C-actors and wannabe actors seek out the paparazzi’s attention. The more coverage , the better. They want their picture on any possible media outlet to hopefully be seen by the right producer who will make them famous and then they can hate the paparazzi if they get famous. I don’t think we are in any great danger as a society with our fixation on celebrity life. I think it is just a small minority who try to replace their own lives with that of someone famous. It is just a change that technology brought us into this mass supply of celebrity news. The internet separated generations and the new generation is comfortable with the new technology and will continue to be. For the rest of us what we don’t know won’t hurt us regarding celebrity news. FYI – currently the most followed celebrities are Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, Rhianna, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, and Jennifer Lopez.

WHAT HAPPENED TO DRINKING TAP WATER?

 

kids at water fountain       waterbottles(4)

When did America become so thirsty that we needed to carry around a fresh water supply with us continuously? What did we do before bottled water became available? As a kid I don’t remember people falling over from dehydration in the streets because they weren’t carrying a water supply. Sure, as kids we would carry around plastic canteens while playing army, but I don’t recall the adults having a water supply attached to them. They would stop by the nearest drinking fountain and take a sip and keep on their merry way. If at home it was easy to fill up  a glass of water from the tap and have an unlimited supply of water. We never thought twice about the safety of tap water as it came from local municipalities and that meant it had to be good. We just turned on the kitchen sink, filled our glass with water, and drank it…a lot of it. It never had any adverse effects on us that we know about and generations before us had been doing the same thing. In recent decades sales of bottled water in this country have skyrocketed largely as a result of a public perception of purity driven by advertisements and packaging labels featuring pristine glaciers and crystal-clear mountain springs. But bottled water in the United States is not necessarily cleaner or safer than most tap water according to almost every scientific study made public. In fact 25% of bottled water comes from the same municipal supply as tap water. The water is treated, purified and sold to us, often at a thousandfold increase in price. Most people are surprised to learn they’re drinking glorified tap water, but bottlers aren’t required to list the source on the label. Aquafina, for example, is H2O that comes from public water sources. Nestle’ Pure Life and Dasani are just the same. It is a known fact that tap water is far more heavily regulated than bottled water. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, regulates tap water, while the FDA regulated bottled water. However, FDA regulations do not cover water that is packaged and sold within the same state, and so 60-70% of bottled water is fairly unregulated. Also bottled water is required to be tested less frequently than city tap water. So why the drastic surge in bottled water sales? Ironically, public concern about tap water quality is at least partly responsible for the growth in bottled water sales. But the major reason is perception fueled by marketing designed to convince the public of bottled water’s purity and safety. Marketing so successful that people spend from 250 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than they do for tap water. This all came to light to me during a trip to San Francisco to visit my daughter and son-in-law. They took me to the Academy of Sciences Museum which is a beautiful museum inside Golden Gate Park and one of the most eco-friendly natural history museums in the world. I highly suggest giving it a visit if your in the Bay Area. The tour guide point blankly said that tap water is safer to drink than bottled water, not to mention the effect of plastic water bottles on the environment. Less than 25% of bottles are recycled. I was in disbelief when she told us about tap water in comparison to bottled water. I had long been a heavy water bottle user buying cases at a time from the supermarket. I didn’t care what the brand was, I just bought what was on sale at the time. As a kid, teen, and young adult I had never thought twice about putting a glass under the tap to get my drinking water and used public water fountains regularly. Then I too became suddenly dehydrated after seeing the bottled water commercials and needed to carry one with me constantly. I still buy bottled water, Arrowhead, for it’s convenience and the fact that if guests are over and I serve them tap water it’s likely to be left untouched. But I have gone back to putting my glass under the tap for a drink and honestly it feels strange. I have been so conditioned to think tap water is bad that it is tough to overturn that thought. I think the two best solutions are to attach an additional water purifier to your tap to take away any lingering doubts you might have and if you need to carry around a bottle for fear of sudden death due to dehydration just use one and keep refilling it. I see many younger people doing this which is note worthy. It’s also curious to note that the same people who are so afraid to drink from the tap have no problems with using the water fountain at the fitness clubs, which is just tap water cooled. ” Ever wonder about those people who spend $2.00 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backward” – George Carlin.

HAPPY FOURTH

fourth of july

The 4th of July happens to be my favorite holiday. The sole purpose of the day is to celebrate, which means having fun. No presents to wrap, no services to attend, no relatives you must see, no brunches…just friends, food, beer, flags and fireworks. I fell in love with the holiday as a kid when I went to my first fireworks show. I remember the warm summer air, running around a grassy area in bare feet with what seemed like a thousand kids, which probably was more like twenty. Parents for some reason let all the children off their leashes on this day to explore and have fun with all the other kids. The day was spent swimming all afternoon in a pool, lake, ocean, or even the classic Toys ‘R Us plastic pool. Squirt guns were always an essential toy to have on this day although compared to today’s water blasters they seem very chinsy. The old squirt guns were the size of a small pistol with one hole to fill them up and it took an eternity. You would have to submerge the gun underwater until the bubbles stopped coming up. Then it was full and you got maybe 10 shots of a measly spray to try to get your friends wet. It seemed fun at the time but nowadays kids use the long tube blasters which can drench your enemy with one pump. It’s like a revolutionary war musket compared to robo-cop machine gun. The bar-b-que was already running hot with coals and meat was the choice of the day. Fourth of July was not created for vegetarians. By evening your eyes were blood red from the chlorine in the pool and your face and shoulders the same shade due to the sun. Is it ever not sunny on the Fourth? Not in my memories. The evening would roll around but it was still light outside, only the temperature had dropped a few degrees and the parents had let all their guards down. After a second feeding of hamburgers and ribs the children would usually be back in the pool while the adults continued to drink their beer and wine. Without fail one of the dads would allow each kid to take a sip from his beer and it always tasted terrible. Eventually the sun would begin to set and with the first sign of darkness we would beg our parents to let us light the sparklers that had been under protective care all day. These sparklers were the real deal when I was young, made out of sulfur, charcoal, and aluminum and capable of burning off a child’s clothes in seconds, not the sissy safe and sane paper sparklers used today. Of course we were told to be careful after each one was lit, which we were around the parents, but left alone the sparklers could be very intimidating as you chased your friends around with sparks flying everywhere including your own face. It was also mandatory that you would try to spell your name with a sparkler. As darkness came so did the big show…fireworks. What could be better than laying back on a blanket on soft grass and watch fireworks go off overhead, that is the best. A moment in time that you wish would never end. People would oooh and ahh with each new burst of colors lighting up the night’s sky. The occasional white blast with a sonic boom would shake everyone up and an occasional dud would be standard. The big thrill came at the end when a barrage of fireworks would turn the sky into a multitude of blazing colors, it was incredible to watch as a child. The only sad part about the grand finale was that it meant the end to the fireworks, why can’t it just go all night long?

Fourth of July hasn’t changed much since being a kid. It’s been fun as a parent to see the excitement in my children’s eyes as they experienced the same festivities as I had. When we finally moved in to a house with a swimming pool we were able to host our own Fourth of July party which continued every year until our most recent move and the children had moved away. Now I have to wait for grandchildren to experience the same magic with and I’m sure it will still center around friends, family, swimming, patriotism, meat and the grand finale of fireworks. Happy Birthday America!

I’M NOW A FUTBOL FAN

 

United States of America vs Mexico - Men's International Soccer

Just like the Olympics the World Cup takes place once every four years. But while the Olympics is a showcase for hundreds of different events ranging from track and field to swimming the World Cup focuses on one international sport, football, or soccer as it is known by in the US. The game is gaining an audience in the US as the popularity of the sport continues to grow here. In 1994 the United States hosted the World Cup and a lot has changed in the past twenty years. Children in the US now get exposed to soccer at an early age with the growth of youth groups like AYSO. I believe this is where the majority of parents also learn about the sport. For generations while countries around the world cherished their beloved football, the US for the most part couldn’t have given a crap about it. We had our own American football played by real men making tackles, blocking, and running with the ball in our hands towards the goal line. We just couldn’t grasp the concept of a game played with the feet . I remember in Jr. High when the coach said we were going to be playing soccer we all just looked at him with blank stares on our face. It was my first experience with the sport and I was 12-years old. A 12-year old in most any other country would already be a proficient player having spent their childhood playing pick-up games of soccer with their heroes being soccer players also. All I knew at the time was to kick a ball into a net to score. I had no idea how many players were on a team, much less any of the rules. My coach didn’t know much more as he divided the entire class into two teams on the school’s American football field , threw us a basketball since we didn’t even have soccer balls at the school, and told us to kick the ball until it went under the goal posts. There were about 20-kids on each team and we all wanted to score, so all 40-kids just moved around in a mass kicking a basketball. The coach sat back in his chair and read the sports section of the newspaper and occasionally looked up to make sure no one was hurt. The kids eventually bored by a game they had no understanding of soon began venturing off the field until the coach noticed the game had dwindled down to about ten players per side with the others either hiding behind storage sheds or just laying in the grass. That was my only experience with soccer for my entire childhood. Having grown and now with children I got my first glimpse into the game and some of the rules as they all participated in AYSO. With your kid playing it becomes a fun sport to watch. You actually know now what offsides is, what dribbling is, the difference between a goal kick and a corner kick, the positions and an appreciation of the endurance it takes to play the sport. The MLS (Major League Soccer) finally making it as a professional sport after several failed attempts has also added to soccer’s popularity in the US. I actually bought a mini-package to LA Galaxy games and Landon Donovan became a household name. The next big step will be to buy an actual jersey and wear it to a local bar when the US is playing. That sounds like a lot of effort compared to just turning it on at home on my big-screen TV. I hear people line up at the bar at 9am for a 3pm match…not my style.

Back to Brazil, this year’s host country. Some observations, 1) putting a soccer stadium in the middle of Amazon rainforest is either considered a great engineering feat or a huge waste of time and money. Playing one of the world’s most grueling sports in the Amazon jungle couldn’t be good for the body. I’ll be curious what that stadium looks like in four more years, probably like the Temple of Doom from an Indiana Jones movie. 2) Soccer players are actually actors in disguise. The way they intentionally fall in faking an injury gets to be too much at times. It originally looks like their leg has been shattered in ten places when they fall, but if a penalty isn’t called they are right back playing at full speed…Oscar nomination. 3) They let fans bring in anything that can be carried in to a soccer stadium. Big drums, air horns, signs, costumes are all part of the being in the crowd. It’s fun to see but I wonder if any of these fans could get past security at a Laker or Dodger game with a bass drum in their hands. 4) The fans love their teams. I’ve rarely seen such passion for a sport as I do in soccer. It looks like mass hysteria when a goal is scored and when a team loses it’s like a funeral. Having the US in the tournament makes it 100x more interesting to watch. Only 32-teams worldwide qualify for this prestigious event and it is now not a matter if we qualify or not, but how far in the tournament the US can go. I actually know what day and time each US game is and make sure I’m in front of a TV to view it. Soccer has come a long way in the past twenty years in the US and the word is spreading fast. Viva futbol!