Complimenticus Interruptus

“You look good, honey,” my wife said to me yesterday morning with a smile.  “You’ve really slimmed down before our big trip.”  Although I had lost weight and girth (and doing so before our anniversary trip to a far away beach was a motivator), the comment didn’t feel right.

Oh no.  No, no, no,” I refused.  “The pants are big.  Biggest pants I have.  And the shirt is baggy.  Fashion slimming technology.”  She turned away with a whatever look.

Apparently, I’m just as averse to having my goodness pointed out as I am the badness.  And as I stroll back through some painful memories, I can see this is nothing new.

On my very first weekend at college, a market of sorts was held in the main campus hall.  They sold t-shirts and cassette tapes, including bootlegs of Jimmy Page experimenting with Zeppelin’s sound quality.  On this one he’d placed a microphone deep inside a toilet, and on that one inside a heap of tomato aspic, etc.  I bought those tapes by the dozen.

And, of course, there were posters of all kinds – black lights, Ansel Adams, sports, babes, metal bands – anything to fill the empty spaces on dorm room walls.

I was looking at an M.C. Escher print, probably the now-ubiquitous sketch of the staircases or the globe-reflected self-portrait.  And a girl, very cute, more than cute in my memory, walked up behind me and leaned around my shoulder.  “I like that one too,” she said.  “Wanna see what I really like?’ She pulled me by the arm over to another table.  What is she doing? I thought.  I don’t even know who this girl is!

She picked up a glossy print of two kittens and said “I like this one. What do you think? Do you like cute, little, kittens?” I remember her lips were like those of Marilyn Monroe, sparkly and full.  And the words cute, little, and kittens were exhaled more than spoken and seemed to take minutes to float from her mouth.

I said nothing, simply because I didn’t know what to say.  And this is remarkable because the arc of my life since has been distinctly plotted by a series of failures to keep my damn mouth shut despite my complete ignorance.

And I swear to whatever god you worship that she rephrased her question and asked it yet again:  “Would you like to see this poster on my wall?” Again with the lips and breath and Whoosh!

Then something somewhere in that mass of grey pudding in my head squirmed.  I knew this was friendly contact, but did that mean there was an implication that she was compli…? Did she….?

“Oh, no,” I said.

“Are you sure, cuz I kinda like it?” she said.

“No way,” I said.

And as she turned away, she had that look.  The whatever look that I’ve gotten a thousand times since.

Sa-wing, battah!

So, even if only in the fantasy reel that plays and replays in my head, I will have a do-over, please, and return to that lovely girl who threw me a pitch so fat that I might still learn the joy of swinging.

“Would you like to see this poster on my wall?” she asks.

“Yes. Yes I would,” I respond without hesitation.  POW!

Now, does anyone know how to get to first base?

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Prepare To Be Mounted – Part 2

Let me first apologize for the lack of pictures from the weekend hiking trip (see Part 1).  My digital camera, though a mere 5.7 ounces and fits in any pocket, was quickly spotted by Friend #1, determined to be an unnecessary addition to the load, and was tossed into the trunk of my car.  “That shit adds up, man,” he explained as he transferred yet more crap from his pack to mine in the parking lot of Vogel State Park.

Despite boasting that I was probably in the best shape I’d been in for 15 years, I soon realized that the equation changes when you become a human mule carrying 30 pounds of jerky at 2500 feet above the carpeted living room where you normally perform your silly hops and buttock pinches.  Not to mention the trails themselves.  Although not specifically mentioned in the trail guide, Bear Hair Gap Loop and the Coosa Backcountry Trail were apparently designed by Dutch artist M.C. Escher, i.e. no matter which direction you choose, you’ll be going up.

I also discovered that under such conditions I develop a temporary sort of Turrets syndrome (for any Turrets sufferers or sympathizers out there, I’m not making fun of the affliction, just myself, so don’t get your panties in a bunch).  Within the first 30 minutes of our ascent toward Slaughter Mountain, and the close-by but no less comforting Blood Mountain, I noticed that I would blurt out some winded nonsense like “hoooowaaaah” or “ussshhhhoooooga.”  At other moments, perhaps when I got hungry, which was about every three minutes, I’d say “BAM” as if channeling the human ewok Emeril (thanks to Anthony Bourdain for that description) and on another occasion exclaimed “manna from heaven!” when I saw a skink slither up a chilly stream that crossed the trail.

We had carefully read the warning signs about bears and shared other various assumptions we brought with us, all of which suggested that the best way to survive a black bear encounter was to fall to the ground in a fetal position, something I assured my friends came naturally to me.  But nothing could have prepared us for what we encountered.

Not far in, we heard noises behind us.  This god awful noise got louder and louder, closer and closer, until the sinking feeling in our pits gave way to recognition.  It was French.

“Shit,” I said. “Or should I say ‘merde.'”

For some reason I decided this was a good time to take a pee.  About mid-stream, Friend #2 gave me the waving hand sign, which I was pretty sure from having watched Top Gun a million times in high school meant “turn left,” which I did.  Now facing back down the trail, I saw what looked like a teenage girl bouncing along through the edge of the trees, so I had to stop and quickly zip up.

I can honestly say I had no previous animosity toward the French.  But this family of four sounded like ten.  As they passed by, the father and son started shouting “Setanta!” at each other.  “Setanta! Setanta! Setanta!”  As I now know through Google, this isn’t French at all.  For some reason, they got great enjoyment out of yelling this word, which is either the name of an Irish boy or of a European soccer channel.  Next time I go to a bibliotheque (that’s a library) in Paris, I will be sure to return the favor and shout “Seamus! Seamus!” or “ESPN! ESPN!”

We did everything we could to get away from them, but without success – we took detours, let them pass, sped up to put distance between us.  But they lingered like a fart in an elevator.  Finally we gave up, picked out a camping spot, and began setting up for the evening, and only then did they disappear.

That evening we built a fire, more because I like to burn stuff than anything else.  But it also got us talking about how different our lives were the last time we got together without a child or spouse present.  “It’s a strange thing, life,” I said trying to be profound while lying almost prostrate like a snow crab, stretching out my cramping right quad that was pulling my groin half way down to my knee.

After a sleepless night thanks to 25+ mph winds, we packed up and had to get back to civilization, meaning duty and family.  But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Well, I’d trade the French.  Jesus, those people!