Friday, September 24, 2010

Where Wisdom Fails

A few weeks ago a friend wrote historical account of King David and how his words had relevance to events of modern times.  Today, I will be doing the same with King David's successor (his son), King Solomon. I must first warn you that this is NOT a biblical reference.  This is a reference to a biblical figure.  SO I don't want any email talking about how I'm changing the bible.  If you want to read the ACTUAL account... read a bible.  If you want to hear MY account... here it goes.

King Solomon was given the gift of Wisdom.  He was wise beyond his years AND experience.  There are other stories that tell of his wisdom and why he was considered a great King.  But I want to focus on one in particular.  It's the story of the 2 mothers and the baby.

King Solomon was busy doing kingly things when he was told that he needed to make a judgment call.  He was told that this was a high profile case where the evidence needed to solve it was nonexistent.  Not wanting to back down from a challenge, he decided to rule on the case.  Plus, he was King so his words would be final.  Also, figuring this was a great moment to gain some much needed exposure for his kingdom, he made sure the local media was summonsed and had a front-row seat to this interesting case.

Bailiff:  All rise!  Hear Ye, Hear Ye!  The (currently) United State of Israel Court is now in session.  The honorable Judge and King Solomon will be presiding over the case.  (Queue the music: Lil Jon - Get Low.  He was known for is wisdom but he was also known to get crunk every now and then!) You my now be seated.

King Solomon: Bring forth the plaintiff and the defendant.

Bailiff: I would love to, your Kingship, but I can tell which is which.

KS: What do you mean?

Bailiff: *sigh* Well, you'll see.  Bring them both in.

At that point, 2 women walked into the courtroom and make their way to the Bailiff.

Bailiff: Place your hand on this stone tablet with the 10 Commandments etched into it and repeat after me. 'I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.' (The women repeat.)

KS: Great.  Now will someone tell me why you are even here.

Woman 1: That woman took my baby!

Woman 2: I did NOT!  You took my baby!

KS: Ladies, ladies!  One at a time.  Woman 1... Would you please tell your side of the story.

W1: Both of us had children at the same time.  We were even friends until the other night when SHE (let the record show she is pointing at W2) rolled over and smothered her child in her sleep.  I was sleeping soundly in my Sleep Number bed... my number is 20, BTW... when W2 came over and TOOK my baby.  I didn't even know my baby was gone until the morning when I realized that I had woken up from the first good nights sleep that I've had since becoming a mother.  Now, may I have my baby?  Please!

KS: What say you W2?

W2: Well, the story she told was the truth.  That is except for the fact that she took MY baby while I was sleeping on my Tempur-Pedic bed.

W1:  I did NOT!!!

W2: You did too!

The two women began to fight as the gathering crowd starts chanting 'Solly! Solly! Solly!'  Of course, the Bailiff breaks it up.

KS: Ladies, Ladies!  I'm not going to warn you again.  There will be no fighting in this courtroom!  Now do either of you have any witnesses?

W1: No.

W2: No.

KS: *sarcastically* Great. OK. Where are the deadbeat baby daddies in all of this?

W1: Ummm... I think you sent them both to war.

KS: Oh! *AHEM* Uhhh...Sorry about that.  Let's move on!  We will solve this right now.  Where is the baby?

Just then a representative from Social Services enters into the courtroom with the baby.  The crowd goes 'awwwww'. Soft background music begins to play. (They have to tug on the heart strings because this is sweeps week.)

KS: Please hand the baby to W1.

Baby: WAAAA!!!!

KS: Now hand the baby to W2.

Baby: WAAAA!!!!

KS: OK... That didn't work.  I thought that would make it an open and shut case.  I guess not.  This is going to require me to use my noodle on this one. (The Bailiff whispers in his ear that there is only about 10 minutes of TV time left so he needs to start wrapping up this case.)

King Solomon thought and thought for what seemed like an eternity on TV time.  But all of a sudden his God-given talent of wisdom kicked in.

KS: Bailiff, may I borrow your sword?

The Bailiff looked confused but obliged.

KS: Bailiff, will you hold the baby?

Bailiff:  Wait, sir!  What are you going to do. (As he goes over and takes the baby.)

KS: Well... since I don't know which woman is telling the truth, I have to assume that they are BOTH telling the truth.  In which case, this baby should be shared between them.  I'm going to cut the baby in half and each woman will get a half a child.

The crowd gasps!  The bailiff gets the 'EWWW' face but then shrugs it off because he realizes that this will be GREAT for ratings!  Just then the women speak up.

W2: NO!  My King!  I know you are a wise man and your word is final.  But PLEASE don't kill my baby!  Just give her (let the record show she is pointing to W1) the baby.  I would rather see my baby with her than chopped up for ratings.

W1: See, this woman is questioning your decision.  I, for one, think you are a wise, noble and honorably King.  So if you think the baby should be split between the two of us then I agree with everything you said.

KS:  I will be back after this commercial break with my decision.

(commercial break)

KS: OK.  I have made my decision.  There will not be any cutting of the baby today. (The crowd goes 'AWWWW!') W1 agrees that I am a wise King so she thinks my decision should be accepted.  W2 has already decided to give the child to W1 so there is only one thing left for me to do...  (He goes over to the Bailiff and gets the baby.) I'm going to give this beautiful, wonderful... wet baby to its rightful mother... W2. W1 (in a totally ripped from Maury Povich style), you are NOT the mother!  You see, there is no way the REAL mother would allow her child be killed.  Even if it is sweeps week.  So I feel confident that I have made the correct decision.  Now, you crazy kids get out of here!

King Solomon gives his signature smile for the camera closeup and ending music plays followed by the credits.  Another successful show.

Now you are probably wondering why I told that COMPLETELY accurate story.  Well, after reading the story it made me understand one thing... I don't believe that King Solomon RAISED his own children.  He had a few of them but this "wisdom" wouldn't have worked on a 4-year old.  And it DEFINITELY wouldn't work on my 4-year old.  This is the same story but only with a 4-year old:

4-year old: That toy is mine!

2-year old: Mine, daddy!

KS: Now children... You know you should always tell the truth.  That's what good people do.  So if you want to grow up to be a good person and make something of yourselves you need to start with honesty.  Now... whose toy is this?

4YO: Mine!

2YO: Mine, daddy!

KS:  Ok. Fine.  We are going to have to do this the hard way!  Someone bring me the handsaw.  I'm going to cut this toy in half and FORCE you two to share or lose the toy.  What do you think about that?

4YO: Ok. Go ahead!

2YO: Mine, daddy!

KS: You see little ones... With my infinite wisdom I have just figured out whose toy this is.  This toy belongs to the 2YO.  If it belonged to you, 4YO, you wouldn't have given it up to slaughter as you have.  You wouldn't have allowed me to destroy something you love so much.  You would be willing to give it to your sister to make sure it didn't perish.  And now that I know this, you should tell the truth little one.  Whose toy is this?

4YO: Well, father... It's actually MY toy but I would rather see the toy destroyed than to have to share with my little sister.

KS: CRAP!   ... Where's your mother?

I don't know how it is in everyone else's house but that's the way it is in ours.  This happens almost daily.  Our 4YO would rather lose a toy (or anything else, for that matter) that she loves than to have to share it with her little sister.  Now I'm not going to say that Solomon wasn't wise because it was well documented that he was a wise king.  (That is, of course, if you don't count the whole taking of 700 wives and 300 more girlfriends.  There's NOTHING wise about that.  Men have a hard time keeping ONE woman happy.  I would hate to see the man that is disappointing 1000 of them at the same time.)

I just wonder how wise King Solomon would have been considered if he were dealing with children.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Man-Camp 2010 - The Morning of Nature (Part 3)

So, I didn't sleep well the whole night.  Getting back to my roots was not all it was cracked up to be.  It sounded much better in the Smoky Mountain National Park brochure.  But as soon as the sun started opening up its eyes, so did the Scoutmaster.  He was up early because he had a goal to make sure the camp fine didn't die out during the entire trip.  (For the record... it didn't.)  That meant early morning chopping of firewood.

I could hear the chopping off in the distance.  Then it faded away.  Not because he got farther away but more because I was finally starting to fall asleep.  And just when the sheep started counting me... B-BAM!!!!  If you don't know what B-BAM is, that's the sound of a LOG being dropped on the ground and rumbling the surrounding area (like the tent I was just sleeping in).  I was able to brush that one off and attempted to go back to sleep when I heard... HACK! HACK! HACK!  Of course, THAT'S the sound of a log being chopped into smaller pieces... near the tent  That was also the sound of me getting up and getting my day going.

When I emerged from the tent I noticed that Scoutmaster wasn't using the hatchet to chop down the tree.  I could only assume it was still being held tightly from what happened the night before.  But I found out later that his weapon/tool of choice was a machete. (Quick analogy lesson:  Machete is to the knife I had as 50" plasma HDTV is to the screen on my wireless phone.)

The machete was an AWESOME choice but it did bring back some deep rooted fears.  The reason I don't get scared watching scary movies is because my mind can't wrap around the "impossible".  When something just isn't REAL to me I don't get caught up in it (minus fantasy football and sci-fi (no problem believing sci-fi)).  So when I was watching those Friday the 13th hacker/slasher films in the early 80s they didn't bother me.  Even at a young age I knew for a fact that no one was REALLY strong enough to take a machete (Jason Voorhees weapon of choice) and literally dismember someone with one swing.  That just wasn't possible!  And the thought stayed in the realm of impossibility until I watched Scoutmaster chopping this TREE into firewood.  NOW that movie is real to me and I will never be able to watch any of them again.  I will be telling my therapist the same thing in our next session.

This is the day of nature as my title suggests.  And one thing happens when a group of guys are void of women for at least 24 hours is that they start going primal.  It's small at first and grows with each passing day there is no female presence.  It starts with the chopping wood.  Then it goes to the grunting (usually due to aches and pains depending on the age of the camper).  Then it goes to the favorite area among men... the Gas of Passage. (It's kinda like a Rite of Passage only it smells a whole lot worse.)  With that statement it is also noted that women pass gas as well.  I know this for a fact.  But I have never seen women pride themselves on their ability to clear out a room (or campsite) with a single blast.  I have never heard of women naming their flatulence.  I have also never seen a woman go over to another woman (or man for that matter) for the sole purpose of unloading butt bomb on them and then running away to keep from being collateral damage to their own explosion.  I'm guessing that MOST of that (with a few exceptions) is distinctly male.

I don't want to downplay this ritual in any way, though.  Apparently, (unbeknownst to me) it is a highly-celebrated tradition.  It is also one that lasts the ENTIRE day.  At one point I could have sworn two butts in our group were having a full-blown (pun intended) conversation with one another (complete with questions AND exclamations).  I would also like to note that 2 of our butts were silent (mine being one of them).  And it wasn't that my behind didn't want to join in the fun and put its 2 cents in... It was really that mine didn't have much to say.  It would act like it wanted to join the conversation but then change its mind at the last minute.  I found that very disturbing.  I felt like Rudolph not being able to join in any of the reindeer games.  Everyone else was just tooting away (and by everyone else I meant the Scoutmaster and the Rookie) and I was just a brass section outcast.

Part of the reason for my lack of organic, homegrown methane is that I made sure I cleared out my system before we headed down to the campsite.  Why is that, you ask? (I know SOME of you are asking.) That is because the shortest time to get to nearest "bathroom" was 2.5 hours (longer for wireless - even longer for emergency help).  And that is being very generous.  When I was 17, "roughing it" was cool.  Now that I'm in my mid-30s, I don't particularly like the idea of dropping a deuce in the forest.  And it's not that I wouldn't do it, it's just that I didn't want to if I didn't have to.  (After explaining to my wife what you have to do when you use the bathroom in the wilderness (before and after) she has opted out of ANY and ALL camping trips that put us more than 10 minutes from the nearest potty.)  That doesn't sound too manly but I have to draw the line somewhere.

But with all of that (olfactory disintegrating) auditory FUN going on, the morning was really set aside for important things.  We had to setup our clothes on the makeshift clothes line to get the most of the 3 hours of direct sunlight we were going to get.  Our clothes were soaked from the rain on the way down.  We also had to finish getting enough firewood to last a few days.  That took a bulk of the morning.  (Another side note: It was really impressive watching the Scoutmaster and the Rookie cut into (and through) these really large trees with that machete.  The Dr. and I used the hatchet and we weren't nearly as affective as they were with the military issue machete.  But we managed and are better people for it... blisters and all.)

The clothes were on the line drying.  We had plenty of firewood.  It was time to explore the wilderness.

That is where we will begin Part 4 of this 5-Part experience.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Man-Camp 2010 - (Part 2.5)

I will be posting the next part of the series soon.  But I wanted to post this so people can get a visual of what I was saying about the hike and camp.  Here is a pic that one of my friends took as we were getting ready to head down the mountain.  I wish I had a pic for size comparison but here is me with my small backpack, skinny #2 pencil walking stick and my trusty (borrowed) knife on my side (for protection against birds and other smaller wildlife).  I might post more pics as I get them.

As you can see I REALLY look like I'm ready for a camp out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Man-Camp 2010 - The Descent (Part 2)

Before I get to the descent down the mountain, there is a little housekeeping that needs to be done.  I was asked this but I didn't realize there was a difference.  In the Rocky Mountains (and probably EVERY other mountain chain) people drive to the base of the mountain and ASCEND the mountain as the first part of their hike.  When they are done, they DESCEND the mountain to get back to their vehicle.  The Smoky Mountains are a little different.  You drive to the top of the mountain.  That's where you will find your trailhead. You then descend the mountain to your campsite (in a valley).  When you are done, you ascend the mountain, get back in your car and then drive back down the mountain.  Weird... I know.  But that's the way it is.  You learn something new every day.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress...

We crossed the threshold of the trailhead.  So there was no turning back.  The Scoutmaster, The Dr., The Rookie and myself (with my baby backpack and #2 pencil) made our way to our old campsite.  It was going great!  The air was fresh.  The scenery was beautiful.  And the first few hundred feet were filled with excitement and anticipation!  Each step just as I remembered it almost 20 years ago....  Then came the next few hundred feet...  The steps were slower (even though we were going downhill).  The scenery didn't seem quite as important.  Something was different.  The next few hundred feet were the feet of discovery.  I found the "something" that was wrong.  It was sitting out on the trail staring me in the face.  I found the last 15 - 20 years of my life just waiting for me to catch up to it.  And those extra years were really asking me what the hell I was doing hiking down the side of a mountain without any preparation or getting in any kind of shape!  I had no answer.

All I know is that when I was a teen I heard crickets and birds on this trail.  Now, with all of us in our 30s (some farther in than others), the crickets and birds have been replaced with gasps for air, grunts from aching muscles and general uneasiness.  The trail was the same but WE were different.  And I don't know which one of us was a savior.  Some kind, gentle soul made the world a better place with just 2 words... break time!  We all rejoiced.  Unfortunately, you couldn't hear it because we were all out of breath.  But the good news is that before the hike started, I called this hike the 'no pride' hike.  That meant we put our manly egos aside and if someone needed a break we would stop.  No ribbing.  No poking fun.  Besides, when someone called for a break, we ALL needed it whether we admitted it or not.

After about 1/3 of the 4-mile hike (or about 1.32 miles (just guessing because there are no mile markers in the wilderness)) we started to get a rhythm.  We knew how fast to go and how far to go without pushing ourselves.  This trip was looking up.  Then something hit me on the head. At first I thought it was that same stupid bug that had been trying to get into my ear since the beginning of the trip.  (I really, REALLY hated that bug!)  But it wasn't a bug.  It wasn't even an insect at all.  I look up to try and figure out what it is.  Just as I did, another one landing on my glasses... SPLAT!  You've got to be kidding me!  It was a drop of rain.  And it brought ALL of its little friends to play.  GOD was making us earn this man-camp.

This was fine because it completed the Trifecta: The first trip down the mountain was in the snow (I wasn't there for that one).  The next trip was at night (an awesome story (wish I was blogging then)).  This last trip was in the rain.  It wouldn't have been much of a problem if I didn't wear glasses. (I actually wear contacts but the economic downturn meant you prioritize differently.  And contacts didn't make the cut.)  There were times I couldn't see the trail from all of the rain on my lenses, but I managed. As a matter of fact, we didn't lose a single man when I was trail leader.  So I considered it a success.

Another thing that was different on this trip was our memory.  I promise you we passed the same tree/rock/roots combination a thousand times.  This deja vu affect really plays tricks on the aged mind.  It caused one of us (not me) to claim every few hundred feet that we were almost there.  For those who haven't been camping this is the equivalent of the 'are we there yet' syndrome on long trips.  It actually got to the point (spawned by extreme exhaustion) to where I was going to attack if I heard it one more time.  The only thing that kept me from doing so was the fact that I was carrying a #2 pencil and everyone else was carrying a weapon of single destruction.  So I endured the constant torture.  But truth be told, I was thinking the same thing but I wasn't saying it out loud.  Every time I saw the tree/rock/roots combination I thought we were close as well.  But trust me... we weren't.

After 3 hours and 15 minutes we FINALLY made it to our campsite.  It was great.  We hit the trailhead at 4:30 PM and we landed on our campsite at 7:45 PM.  After such an ordeal, civilized people would rest.  They would sit on the ground and thank all that is holy for getting us there safely after everything we had gone through.  But we left civilization 4 miles and a few thousand feet of elevation away.  So the Scoutmaster says we need firewood and shelter.  That was code for 'I'm getting the firewood while you set up our tent.'  We got it and started to work.  He and the Dr. went to cut the firewood and the Rookie and I set up the tent.

This wasn't a huge deal.  I was happy to set up the tent.  I had done this before.  It was getting dark at the site and we needed to play to our strengths.  So they got the wood and we set up the tent.  They did an awesome job!  They got some great firewood.  Within 30 minutes we had a HUGE fire that was keeping us warm.  The  tent, on the other hand, was a different story.  The Rookie and I were working on a time frame.  The sun was going down so the clock was running.  We set that tent up in record time.  We were proud!  That was until we tried to get into the tent.  That's when we noticed it was facing the wrong way.  The fire was pleasantly warming up the back side of the tent.  Luckily, the tent manufacturers had US in mind when they were making the tent.  They knew that one day some idiots would set the tent up backwards and need to move it around.  So it was lite and easy to move... with 4 people.

We got the tent turned around the right way.  We got the fire going.  We changed out of our wet clothes.  The only thing left was to go to bed.  I know that's one thing I can definitely do.  So we picked our spots in the tent.  I was the second one to pick but I was LAST in the order that counted.  I picked the worst spot in the tent because there was root in my back (or side depending on how I slept).  I didn't complain because I'm not a complainer (in spite of what you are reading in my blog).  I just assumed that everyone else was sleeping on a root too because we were in the wilderness... the home of back roots.  The odd thing, though, is that there wasn't a tree for at least 15 ft.  What's the ROOT doing there to begin with?!?

The root and I finally came to an understanding.  We came to an agreement to live in the same space at the same time.  I knew it was going to be tough but that was the plan.  And the plan worked until a variable changed.  We had been trying to go to sleep in our isolated campsite for about an hour when I saw lights.  I'm not sure how many lights but there were definitely lights.  I decided to keep my mouth shut and see if I could determine what was going on.  We were in a campsite 4 miles from the nearest trailhead.  It had been dark for at least an hour and a half.  So why are there lights???

I was going to keep this quiet until I could tell what was going on but the crew was not as asleep as I thought they were.  Apparently, the Dr. was just as awake as I was.  The last time we came to this site we saw 5 people in 4 days... and NONE of them traveled the trail at night.  So this was pretty crazy.  So the next few minutes sounded like this...

Dr.: What is that?
Scoutmaster: What is what? (obviously just getting to sleep)
Dr.: What is that light?
Scoutmaster: It's just the campfire.
Dr.: That's not a campfire! (I agreed because I was facing the light and the campfire was behind me.)
Scoutmaster:  You are right.  Shhhhhhh....

At that point we all prepared for something moving toward us in the night.  I have to admit it was very exciting! There was a light coming toward us and it was something I was not prepared for.  We knew there was a chance for bears but not bears with flash lights.  So this was elevated into something serious (especially since the last time we came to this site we only saw 5 people in 4 days.)  Someone was making a midnight run into our camp.  What do we do next?

Here's the part where I wish I had a night-vision video camera.  It would have been a perfect scene for a movie.  We were all prepared for an impending confrontation and that's where the funny comes in.  The  camera would have panned to the Scoutmaster and would have seen him on one knee with his gun (completely licensed to carry (even in a National Park)) waiting on the intruder at the entrance of the tent.  The Rookie had his handgun in the same position waiting to backup the Scoutmaster.  The Dr. would not be outdone so he had his hatchet (capable of severing a limb with one swing) in the ready position in case someone tried to invade the tent.  And what did I have (just in case)... I had a baby knife.  Yeah... the small theme continued.  I had this baby knife waiting just in case the 2 handguns and a hatchet failed!  If there had been a camera here this would have been a funny sight to see. (Spuds would have been proud!)

Luckily for him (and us) the person was a good guy just getting a late start on his fishing outing.  So all was well.  But that didn't sit well with the rest of us who thought the campsite was going to be empty like it was almost 20 years ago.  We now had to share this site with someone.  And at least 2 of us wouldn't sleep because of it. The other 2 (with the guns) slept very well.  I know this because their snoring proved they didn't fear anything.  I just found it hard to sleep with a root in my back when there is a stranger in the midst.

Oh, well... I decided to TRY to sleep and worry about this the next day.

This looks like a good place to start Part 3.  Good night (or morning/noon/night depending on when you are reading this).  Come back for part 3 of the Man-Camp 2010 adventure.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Man-Camp 2010 - The Genesis (Part 1)

This past weekend, my friends and I restarted a tradition we had back in high school.  We decided to go back to our old camping spot in the Smoky Mountains.  We never really pinpointed the last time we made this trip but I would beg to say it was between 15 and 20 years ago.  And if I didn't learn anything else about the trip, I DID learn that a LOT has changed in 15 years.

First off, I'm not a seasoned camper.  When it comes to camping I'm about as comfortable as President Obama being the keynote speaker at a Tea Party Rally.  I'm also about as experienced as Sarah Palin is with foreign policy.  So you can see there are a few challenges.  But I'm very resourceful when I need to be and I have a lot of fun just hanging out with my friends.  So camping is a fun getaway.

Of course, being a guy, I waited until the last possible minute to pack.  I mean, we had only been planning this trip for 7 months.  But also being a guy, I didn't have much to pack.  I got everything I would need for this little trip ready in less than a hour.  I didn't have an actual hiking backpack because my friend was bringing one for me.  So I put everything in a laptop backpack (see... resourceful).  I said goodbye to the wife and kids and I was on my merry way.

It didn't take long for the first thing to happen that made me question the trip.  I got onto the interstate and start heading toward the Smoky Mountains.  I happen to look at my directional gauge and it was saying W.  Now, I wasn't GREAT at Geology but I do know my West from my East.  The mountains are in the east (from where I live) and I am traveling toward the sun (which is rising).  I guess that's another thing to add to the list of things to get fixed.  I'm not sure where that ranks with the Anti-Lock Brakes probably gone as well as the driver's side airbag but I would bet it's pretty low.  I have almost made a game out of it.  I want to see if I can get ALL of the warning lights on my dashboard to light up at the same time.  That may take some planning but I believe I can do it.

It's a pretty long trip so the night before I gathered some music.  I found some old CDs (even though using old and CDs seems rather redundant now) that I listened to years ago.  I have an odd variety in my taste of music I listen to from Hip Hop to Country to Rock to Pop to RnB (sometimes hard rock (borderline metal) and Celtic).... the list just goes on.  So these CDs are a hodgepodge (another word that I didn't realize was a real word) of junk I put together to listen to.  And, of course, it's all OLD music because I haven't burned a music CDs in years.  But I found 3 disks of music that kept my loud off-key singing company on this journey.

(I'm actually going to post a little mini-contest on this site to see who can guess the songs on the travel  CDs I was listening to.  I will give the artist and you guess the song.  After a while I will narrow the field down but adding the year the song was written.  Then if people still can't get it I will add the album it came from.)

After about 5 total hours of loud singing and travel (from Knoxville to Gatlinburg the traffic was evil) I met up with my friends and we got ready to descend down the side of the "baby" mountains.  My wife thinks they shouldn't even be called mountains because she lived next to the Rocky Mountains and the Smokys are over a mountain shorter than her precious Rockys.  My thing is they meet the minimum requirements for being called a mountain.  So no matter how SMALL something is, it still gets to keep the name by definition.  (And that goes for EVERYTHING.  It may be small but it should still be called what it is called... and not "funny" little nicknames. The little nicknames are not funny... ever!)

Speaking of small... My friend (who shall be named Scoutmaster) brought my backpack.  And I'm not going to complain too much because he purchased it.  So I wasn't picky.  But he pulls out his backpack.  It was a nice respectable, MANLY backpack.  It looks like he could pack his clothes, food, first aid kit, his wife, his kids and his truck in that thing.  The next person on this trip will be called the Dr.  His backpack wasn't as big as Scoutmasters but it was still impressive.  It was a NEW backpack so it was spacious and made of some of the newer high-tech material.  It was very nice.  The 3rd member of the crew will be called the Rookie because this was is first multi-day hike and camp.  But even HIS backpack was a larger one.

So Scoutmaster brings me my backpack.  And as I stated before, it was still called a backpack... by definition.  I looks like I could store a toothbrush and a Dora the Explorer doll... that's it.  (Good thing I left my Dora the Explorer doll at home.  It was a hard decision but it looks like a wise one!)  Again, I'm not complaining.  The way I saw it was a smaller pack is a lighter pack. Umm... I was wrong about that one too.  Apparently, I was the one designated to carry the lead (as in the heavy metal, Pb, on the periodic table) reserves to the campsite.  Because everyone knows you can't have a successful outing without ample supplies of lead.  I moved the lead around and was able to take my items out of my laptop backpack and place them into the backpack (thankfully) provided for me.

NOW, it's time for our hike to begin.  That was until the Scoutmaster asked, "Does everyone have their walking stick?" Silly me!  I didn't get a walking stick.  But a good Scoutmaster always has backups.  His walking stick was a LOG!  It was awesome.  It looked like something straight out of Lord of the Rings (even having metal bands around the top and bottom).  The Dr.'s walking stick wasn't as aged or as natural of a make as the Scoutmaster's but it was still very impressive.  It was a finely craft smooth chunk of wood with a thin piece of rope tightly wrapped around the top like spiral staircase covering the top 6 - 8 inches of the stick.  Just like the Scoutmaster's, this walking stick could be used as a walking stick or a weapon if a bear decided it was tired of talking politics and wanted to talk about cuisine.  The same could be said of the Rookie's walking stick.

But since I didn't bring one, I was at the mercy of the "what's left" pile.  And just like to kids who is always picked last in kickball, I was presented with my "what's left" options.  I had 2 choices.  I had the choice of a walking stick that resembled a mechanical pencil and one that looked like a #2 pencil.  And since this was all feeling like a test to me, I chose the #2 pencil.  I guess I shouldn't call it a pencil because by DEFINITION it met the minimum requirements for a walking stick.  I could use this as a walking stick or as a weapon if a squirrel wanted to jump up to me to impress his girlfriend.  With this stick (which I'm grateful to have) the squirrel would be toast! (That theory was never tested but I feel pretty confident of the outcome... I think.)

Now that all of that was out of the way, we decided to head down to the belly of the "baby" BEAST of a mountain. As the Scoutmaster took point I couldn't help but think in my head "One ring to rule them all!"  Unfortunately for this analogy that makes me a hobbit.  Even worse, I'm not even Frodo... I'm Sam.  But hey, there has to be some benefits to being a hobbit that's over 6ft tall.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.

Friday, September 3, 2010

So, who needs civilization?

By the time you read this I will already be gone.  (Unless, of course, I decide to post this tonight.  Then I will be sleep.  But TOMORROW I will be gone... If you read this then... anyway!)  This weekend I am going on a fellas camping trip to the Smoky Mountains.  My wife is from Colorado so she laughs any time I call them the Smoky Mountains.  She acts like I'm trying to prove something by calling them mountains.  That's what they are.  That's their name.  Even if you are a small mountain, you are a mountain nonetheless.

So I will be going camping for a few days.  I will be away from everything.  No computer.  No phone.  No internet.  No TV.  (I guess I could just say I will be away from anything that requires electricity to run.)  It's going to be interesting since it's the same campsite we used to go to when we were in high school.  That normally wouldn't be a concern.  But we were a LOT younger then.  So the idea of 50 - 75lbs backpacks and a 4-mile hike down a mountain doesn't sound as fun as it did back in the day.

If you had asked me in high school what I thought about making this trip this many years later I probably would have told you that by then I would be so rich I would hire someone to carry my pack for me down the mountain.  Well, that didn't happen.  I'm just rich enough to hire someone to get the bags out of the car and that's about it. (But I'm just poor enough that I will do that myself.)

Another sign that I'm getting old is that my pre-trip mindset was completely different when I was younger.  Back then I was thinking of a lot of things I wanted to do that would make a great story.  Thinking about it now, I'm really just hoping to get out of the camping trip without ANY major stories to tell.  The last time we made this trip we were cautioned of bear sitings at our campsite (but we went anyway), we almost lost a friend (because we hiked at night (not too bright (pun intended))), we couldn't find the site (again... night hike down a mountain), we slept ON the trail the first night (did I mention it was night), we almost lost half of our food (night hike with a cooler of food tied to a thick stick carried by two people (man we were idiots), and we had one of us completely navigate 25ft of the trail in pitch dark while sleep walking (and yelling) without falling or waking up... And all of that was just on the way to the site! (I probably should have made a complete post about that trip.)

So, here's to hoping it will not be as "eventful" as the last trip.  I'm sure we will have fun. And I will let everyone know how it was when I get back to civilization.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You Sneaky Little Readers

Yesterday, I learned a few lessons about my readers and the people I'm around on a daily basis.  After writing my previous post about Fantasy Football and reading the responses as well as several email (never sure if the plural of email is email or emails) that I received, something because VERY clear.  The question of why do a lot of men play Fantasy Football is not really a question at all.  It's really a sneaky rhetorical inquiry designed to see if we, men who play a lot of Fantasy Football, will try to explain the unexplainable to people who couldn't care less.  And you know what... I fell for it!

But that wasn't the most disturbing thing I realized after yesterday's post.  I also realized that my readers and my friends are pretty sick and twisted.  I received WAY more interest in my wife being in the league.  And more to the sickening point... They wanted to know about her BEATING me!  Again... couldn't care less about the question asked... couldn't care MORE about finding out the finer details of my wife playing in the MEN'S league and beating the crap out of her husband.  That's just wrong people!

First of all, that has NEVER happened and WILL never happen.  What self-respecting man would let his wife beat him in Fantasy Football? (Ha!  That's my rhetorical for you! :-P)  It hasn't even been close.  My wife only wishes she had the Fantasy Football skills that I display.  Sorry to disappoint all of you who were interested in Mrs. Que's story.  You really thought my wife was hanging with the big boys???  Whatever.  The only reason she is the last remaining female in this MAN'S league is because I run the league.  I have a soft spot for all of the begging, pleading and the eventual waterworks that come from me putting my foot down on the issue.  For that reason, I usually pick it back up and allow Mrs. Que to play.

(That last paragraph is completely not true.  I'm pretty much stepping in to save Mr. Que's life on this one.  I'm his conscience.  And if he goes, I go.  And I'm not ready to go.  He sometimes says things he doesn't mean.  He doesn't like being backed into a corner by other people.  So, I'm going to force him to tell the true on this one.  I will set him free.)

Since my parenthetical EGO (which oddly sounds like my wife at this moment) has felt the need to sell me out and backstab me I am forced to tell the truth.  Yeah, my wife has beaten me once in Fantasy Football. (ahem) Ok. Twice. (EXCUSE ME)  Fine!  She has beaten me several times.  There, I said it!

The first season my wife (then girlfriend) was in the league was interesting to say the least.  There were actually a few ladies in the group and they ALL played very well.  I can't remember if I invited Mrs. Que to the group or if she asked if she could be in the group.  Either way, I didn't think much about it at the time.  I asked everyone else in the group and they OK'd the new additions to the league.  I'm sure the rest of the fellas were thinking the same thing I was... no big deal.  Well, that changed in a hurry.  I think she started the league in first place and ended the season in first place.  She took home the league trophy in her first season.

That in itself was bad.  None of my friends wanted to talk to me after that.  Honestly, I didn't want to talk to myself.  Was I hustled?  Was she a FF (Fantasy Football) guru?  Did she sucker me in with that beautiful smile and irresistible pouty face?  I mean... I knew she knew her stuff but to win the whole thing.  Must have been a fluke.

Well...  next season must have been a fluke too.  She played and won the 2nd place trophy.  What made this worse is that I hadn't won the league since we started buying trophies.  So the last trophy I had won was an old Tecmo Bowl (Nintendo Fooball Game) tournament in college (many years before this).  I got a cute little trophy.  One of her favorite past times was to place her rather LARGE first place trophy next to my little Tecmo trophy that I used to display around my apartment. (That's not funny, folks.  I don't even know where my Tecmo Bowl trophy is now.)  She would even comment on the size of my little trophy.  (Talk about an ego buster.  I'm surprised we even got married after all of that.)  But I'm a big boy so I could take a little ribbing.  It was when she took out the newspaper ad and bought the TV spot during the Super Bowl that I really began to have a problem.  OK, that part didn't happen.  But it did in my mind.  And that's what REALLY counts.

Since then, she has generally ranked higher than me by the end of the season (including last season where she won our division and was literally 1 play away from winning 3rd place overall). (I didn't even make the playoffs.) I blame my friends for this because they laugh at her picks every year.  For some reason, this makes her team better.  So I don't laugh.  I don't even smile.  I just move on knowing that by the end of the season, odds are she will be ahead of me.  I'm not proud of it but it is what it is (she hates when I say that).

So that was more of what my readers wanted me to say.  Fantasy Football is mostly played by men but that doesn't necessarily mean we are better at it.  My readers every year ask me why I play but that's not REALLY what they want to know.  I have been married for a few years.  So I should have seen that one coming.  I will say this, though... The season I finally win again, you better believe I'm buying a MUCH bigger trophy than that little one my wife has from winning the league a few years back.  And that's my answer to the question... rhetorical or not.