Tag: humor

Damn…Amsterdam, 19 Random Amsterdamian Things

  1. I ate a pancake in the smallest restaurant in Europe. (Just like the Beastie Boys.)
  2. A pigeon hit me in the head as I walked through Dam square. This was odd for a couple reasons: The Dutch are as tall as me therefore the bird should have had plenty of practice around guys my size, I was standing still so it wasn’t even close to my fault. The only explanation is that the bird was stoned like the rest of the kids under 30 at Dam Square. 
  3. If you legalize pot in your state (Washington, where I live is one of the US states where you can buy left-handed cigarettes) Amsterdam’s casual drug use isn’t shocking at all. Now the prostitution…that’s another deal. 
  4. You can rent a booth in the red light district and go into business…I think. There were lots of “Rent me” signs in empty booths in the red light district. This surprises me because I thought the sex workers had lots of regulations to follow. So, if you are looking for a way to make a little extra spending money on your vacation…

    This lady wouldn’t move so I could get a better picture. She probably waited in line.

  5. The Van Gogh museum has online tickets…do not stand in line like an idiot. 
  6. The Rijksmuseum has tickets online, but there wasn’t any line at all. 
  7. The Anne Frank museum is not over-rated. You must go, but get your tickets about 60 days in advance or you’ll be waiting in line with the rest of the rubes. I think the website opens each months reservations on the first day of the month. For example, I bought my tickets for July 7th on May 1st. 
  8. Those auto-massage chairs in the airport are worth the 2 Euros. 
  9. Running up an escalator to pass time in an airport at my advanced age was funny for the first 30 seconds, but when I went crashing to the ground the two old ladies who were watching me were pretty scared. They said, “Are you okay?” How did they know to speak to me in English? Hmmm…probably because any European would know better than to do something that stupid. 
  10. No matter where I go I end up sitting in front of someone who is messing with my chair. They guy on our flight from Amsterdam to Munich grabbed my seatback three times to pull himself up to standing. The flight took an hour, nobody needs to get up that many times. It was like he was trying to launch me over a castle wall. 

    I got bacon and cheese, which was good, but my wife was smarter.

  11. Get the strawberries and cream pancake. 
  12. Eat a strupwaffle. Actually eat five of them. 
  13. Dutch is the funniest of languages. 
  14. Amsterdam needs better man-hole covers. 
  15. The liquids on planes thing is more strict in Europe, but you can take your pet rock with you.
  16. Canal tours with The Damn Boat Guys is really great, and not just because I got some free beer. 

    You migh pay 2 million Euros to live here and your neighbor might be on state assistance.

  17. The Dutch mix their housing. Wealthy people live alongside people who have subsidized housing. “Isn’t that how it should be?” our boat guide asked. Yep, that is how it should be. 
  18. If you find yourself in a Turkish restaurant where no one speaks your language, do not try the yogurt drink. Sometimes trying new things has a cost. 
  19. Old paintings and statues of musicians often portray them as drunks…things haven’t changed too much in 500 years. 

Playing Frogger in Amsterdam

If you survive the first five minutes of walking on the streets of Amsterdam you will probably be fine the rest of your stay, but if you hear a the ding-ding of a bicycle bell coming from an unexpected direction then brace yourself for an impact. You probably won’t be hit by the bicyclist, unless he is a drunk Englishman in Amsterdam for his bachelor’s party, but be assured–it is your fault. The Dutch will not hit you with a bike, they are too good at riding for that. Before I traveled to Amsterdam I read about the number of bicycles on streets, I read about being aware while you walk the streets, I read a lot, but nothing can really prepare you for playing a real life game of Frogger on the sidewalks and pavement of the city. (If you don’t know the video game Frogger then here is a quick description: Try to cross a street without getting squished.) Each time my wife and I approached street crossings like we were members of Seal Team 6: look left, right, up, down, behind, forward, left again, right again…announce, “After the guy in the white shirt,” and then run like hell across the street. 
I did not see a single accident while I was in Amsterdam and there is a single reason for that, Dutch patience. The Dutch are tolerant: Legal soft drugs, legal prostitution, and most impressively, not shouting or running over tourists who are operating on the false premise that a crosswalk means something in Amsterdam. The Dutch attitude about life seems to be, “I don’t mind waiting.” 
My first encounter with this attitude was when my wife and I hopped onboard a trolley to get to our hotel. I didn’t know how much a train ticket costs, because I’m an idiot. I didn’t have my money ready, because I’m an idiot. I barely knew where I was going, because I’m an idiot. The trolley was packed to the brim, and the driver closed the door behind us and said, “Put the money here when you are ready.” Then he started driving the trolley. It was as if he wasn’t aware that he should be stressed out. Which is probably why the Dutch live longer than people in the US do even though they smoke like they are all on an episode of Mad Men. 

Because I am American and have a built in drive to be first this country is confusing. It is the most chaotic and organized place ever. If Mogidishou and the German rail system had a baby it would be Amsterdam. Several times during our time in Amsterdam we accidentally cut in line. The first time was when we were at a fast food place near our hotel and I wanted to get a deep fried Dutch treat. We came in, saw a guy standing near the ordering place assumed he had already ordered and then began an awkward attempt at ordering food because we speak no Dutch at all. (We ended up with two plates of fries, two deep fried things filled with mashed potatoes and ham or sausage. It was very good whatever it was.) Only after we finished did we realize we had cut in front of the guy standing there. We apologized, he said, “No, problem,” and I believe he was telling the truth. To him it really was no problem. I, on the other hand, am taking pictures of everyone cutting in line in front of me while I’m traveling so I can have a post titled: People who cut in front of me, when my trip is done. Another example was when our boat tour was delayed, the guy in charge, Vincent, said, “I’m sorry this is our screw up, go into the bar and order a beer and I’ll pay for it.” Really? Okay, if you say so. If Vincent was German I don’t think we would have waited in a bar drinking free beer. 

How the Dutch became so tolerant of others is simple, “It’s bad for business.” I heard this from a couple people therefore it must be true. The Dutch are no longer running all over the world like they did during the Golden Age, but for a country no bigger than the average American state, they do pretty well. 

What this attitude does for the traveler is makes Amsterdam a very easy place to visit. It is safe. Almost everyone speaks English. It is not a particularly expensive European city and you are free to screw up without much pressure, but if you hear a little ding-ding from behind don’t try to figure it out, get out of the way, that bell tolls for you. 

A Beacon of Stupidity: A COLA Beard Grows

Since the beginning of October, I have been engaged in a self-created protest movement of 2.5 people. Movements of 2.5 people generally don’t get much attention but this movement has garnered a lot of interest because it has turned me into someone who looks like a cross between theUnabomber and Abolitionist John Brown. This look is not going to get me a modeling contract or put me on the cover of GQ, but it could land me on the cover of Guns and Ammo.

I don't own a buckskin jacket or gun, but the rest is pretty accurate.

I don’t own a buckskin jacket or gun, but the rest is pretty accurate.

The rules of this protest movement are simple: You cannot shave until the State of Washington restores the Cost of Living Adjustment passed by voters eight years ago. (That’s right, my day job is teaching. Don’t worry, I take my job very seriously and that is why I never write about it on my blog: A rule that I am currently breaking, so can I be trusted?) The past eight years have been frustrating because we have received the COLA one time in the eight years. (Our insurance company also knew when we got the COLA and raised their rates to eat all of it up.) This frustration as been simmering for a few years and in October I decided to start a moronic protest movement. Two of my colleagues joined me in this social experiment and most of us have followed the rules. (One of the protesters says he didn’t understand that not shaving meant not trimming the beard also. He is now the .5 member of the protest movement. He is also single and lives with a cat. His lack of commitment knows no bounds.)

The grey was added to make me look distinguished.

The grey was added to make me look distinguished.

I have fully committed and have grown a disgusting neck beard that can only be described as good place for Frodo Baggins to hide. The other full-time member of the movement has been ordered by his wife to shave his neck, but he can now curl his mustache like a WW1 German General which gives him a special look of crazy.

The movement has had its difficulties, like last night as I was trying to fall asleep my beard was making it tough for me to find a comfortable spot on the old pillow. I started wondering why the hair on the top of my head could go through life so unnoticed, while the hair on my chinnie-chin-chin does everything possible to remind me that I have ventured off the path of normalcy.

Eating has presented itself with a pile of problems that can only be solved by destroying four napkins at each meal. Even drinking coffee has its challenges, which lead me to my first rule change: It’s okay to trim the old mustache if it gets in the way of drinking coffee. Sometimes the Utilitarian approach to protest is best. Gandhi ate Swedish Fish during his self-imposed fast. (This is a lie.) Martin Luther King Jr. wore orthopedic inserts in his shoes while walking to Selma. (Not true, as far as I know.) Caesar Chavez hitched a ride some of the way on his walk to Sacramento. (Not really.)

Do I really think my beard is going to make a difference? No, but there is a part of me that wishes I had started growing this thing seven years ago so it would be a visual representation of how long it has been since the teachers in this state have been fairly compensated for their work. I won’t go on a rant and list all of the additional expectations the state has placed on teachers in those seven years, but let me just say that my wages have remained exactly the same for seven years while my job has become increasingly difficult. I know my co-workers appreciate my beard. It might be a beacon of stupidity, but it is a beacon.

I love my job. I do think it is my “calling” (at least it got me out of the family profession of Presbyterian minister), and good teachers know the job is not a paycheck. We know that there is no more precious resource than children. We know our jobs hold a special responsibility and we must be good close to 100% of the time. I also know that teaching high school English isn’t about getting all the commas in the right spot (shout out to Holden Caulfield); teaching is about relationships. Students learn best when they feel safe, loved, and valued.

Packing a classroom with 35 kids and one bearded crazy man may not be ideal, but if the crazy man thinks growing a beard can make legislators follow the law, imagine what he can get those 35 kids to believe about themselves.

Keep Hope Alive!

Becoming a Man

Yesterday, I replaced the fuel pump in my new $500, 1990 Subaru Legacy. This is what men do, well, most men. There are men who don’t do these things, they have someone else replace the fuel pump in a $30,000 car, or they just buy a new car, but when buying a $500 car one knows there are going to be some problems. What type of problems? Well, the type of problems that a college degree can’t solve. The type of problem that even a full beard can’t fix. The type where one puts a key in the ignition and the car doesn’t start.

You too could own a sweet ride like this one for just $500. By the way, if you want to make an offer bidding starts at $2000.

You too could own a sweet ride like this one for just $500. By the way, if you want to make an offer bidding starts at $2000.

I have never been a car guy. When other guys start to talk about drive shafts, box and rotors, horsepower, and horizontally opposed engines, I change the subject to the new exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum (Pop Art for those of you who are curious). This doesn’t bring me a great deal of cachet in the world of grunting and scratching, but I had my chance to join the tribe of gear heads back in high school. I had a little hole in my schedule my senior year and so I signed up for Auto Shop. I figured this would be a good way for me to become the Renaissance man I had always wanted to become and, as an added benefit, the Auto Shop was close to the cafeteria so I could get in line before all my friends who were slaving away in a stupid class called Advanced Math.

This Auto Shop class lasted three days for me. I was bored out of my mind. Everyone in the class had to pass the basic (and I mean super basic) safety test before he would let us turn any nuts. For three days my fellow classmates flunked the test and I sat there looking through the dirty glass of the classroom into the dark shop area where the static cars sat waiting for my nimble fingers to soothe their broken parts. On the third day (a Biblical transformation is about to occur), I went to my counselor and asked to be moved into Advanced Math. The Auto Shop teacher said, “I don’t see many of these,” when I handed him my schedule change. I felt pretty smug leaving these guys behind. I was off to Advanced Math where I would earn a D in the first semester and then get an F in the second semester. (It is still the only F I have ever gotten in a class, but I earned it. Boy, did I earn it.)

I also had plenty of opportunities to learn about cars from my dad. He knew how a car worked and did his best to try to interest me by having me hand him tools while he stood looking into the car’s engine. He did his best to try to explain car stuff to me: gas, spark, electricity, gears, oil…but I could not sit still long enough to watch anyone do anything. I wasn’t hyperactive, I had a vitality that required movement. This vitality shortened my attention span and had me burning about five billion calories a day. If I wasn’t shooting baskets, riding a bike, throwing dirt clods at people, climbing fences, jumping off the roof, or breaking something, I wasn’t happy. (This vitality never translated well into household chores for some odd reason.) So standing there watching my dad turn a nut twenty times just didn’t do it for me. One minute I would be there handing him a crescent wrench and then I would be gone: probably off doing something that would end up getting me grounded from television.

This is what an engine looks like. There's the place you put oil, the place you put coolant, and the place you hit with a hammer when it doesn't start.

This is what an engine looks like. There’s the place you put oil, the place you put coolant, and the place you hit with a hammer when it doesn’t start.

My next opportunity to learn manly car stuff was from my friends who took Auto Shop. I went over to my friend’s house a couple of times to help him work on his car, what I discovered wasn’t that working on cars was fun, but this would give me a great opportunity to meet girls without telling my parents. In other words, I would lie to my parents about going over to my friend’s house to work on his car and then I would meet a young lady for some car related activities that never put dirt under my fingernails. My parents were probably just happy to have me out of the house, but I never learned anything about cars other than where to park them. (Corn fields are great. Dead end roads always draw attention.)

When I finally turned the corner into adulthood (defined as, having to do things you don’t want to do) I bought reliable cars that required little or no maintenance. I had a few brushes with auto repair that I worked out with a hammer or other blunt instrument, but I had given up on learning about how a car worked. Gas here, oil there, key goes there, was enough for me. Then something funny happened, the old vitality slowed down. I could sit still for hours at a time and I could do really boring things for long periods.

So when my new $500 car didn’t start a few weeks back, I decided to work on it, but like all problems in my life, I let my subconscious work on it first. (This is a lazy person’s excuse to leave things alone for a time.) One day I checked the battery. It worked. Then I changed the spark plugs; in a 1990 Subaru Legacy this is not an easy task. I then looked at the fuel filter, it was new. It had to be the fuel pump.

While eating Christmas dinner, I talked to my dad about what he thought. He offered to help and I took him up on the offer because, well, because I knew he would be able to help and it would give him a chance to hand me some tools. He had a pretty significant health scare recently and isn’t supposed to do too much physical activity. We set up a work date for 10 AM, Monday. At 9:30, I got a call from my mom. My dad had left to drive over, they live about 40 minutes away, and I was to make sure he didn’t do too much. She started to cry about dad not being okay and she was worried about him. I promised to behave and did not make morbid jokes about the will and wanting the new couches. (This focus on death is part of my family tradition. I make light of it because that is my job as idiot son.) I don’t think my mom believes me sometimes, but what can you do when you spend most of your teen years telling your parents you are going to work on cars and you never smell like gasoline once.

I put on my Carhartts, my dad arrived, and we got to work. He handed me tools, tested a few things, and the next thing I knew I was at an auto-parts store ordering a fuel pump. I hate going to auto-parts stores. I feel like the skinny guy in weight room, the illiterate guy in a library, the guy in a Sephora, or me in an auto-parts store. The 12 year-old kid who worked at the store did his best to make me feel stupid (I don’t know if this is on purpose or just my self-conscious feelings of incompetence, but he accomplished his task). My dad made sure we ended up with the right pump (it had to be delivered from a different store) and I paid for it. My dad headed home in good condition and I waited for the call that my fuel pump had arrived.

By 4:30 I was back in the garage, this time with my son, putting in my new fuel pump. We worked slowly not because I didn’t know what I was doing, but because I didn’t want to break anything, and around 6 the car was running.  My son asked a few questions, and here is the funny thing, I knew the answers. Cars aren’t that complicated. I don’t plan on opening an auto-repair shop, but if you can replace a fuel pump in a Subaru, you can do most of the other stuff too. I’d still rather go to the Pop Art exhibit at SAM.

OOCN: Protecting Costco

IMG_2803

Using my First Amendment to look like an idiot in public.

“And so it begins.” Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings. 

Today I launched my movement of one: Operation Open Carry Nerf. What is OOCN? It is me, a bright orange T-shirt, and my loyal Nerf gun protecting the community from evil doers. You can see my Not so FAQs if you are interested in the philosophy behind this movement of one, but since you probably ended up here by accident, I will get to today’s action.

My first visit was to Costco. Why Costco? Because I have seen other gentlemen Open Carrying there and since those guys thought it must be a dangerous location, I decided to do my part to regulate.

I prepared for today’s visit by getting into my superhero costume and grabbing my Nerf gun. If I was going to pick up those needed cherry tomatoes then I wanted to be safe in the process.

I parked far enough away so that people would not become alarmed when they saw a tall dork in a bright orange shirt approaching with a Nerf gun and a bandolier holding extra Nerf arrows.

I come in peace. I not only come in peace, I am bringing the peace with me by bringing a weapon.

I come in peace. I not only come in peace, I am bringing the peace with me by carrying a weapon.

When I arrived at the entrance it was already clear that people felt safe around me. Most people looked at me and then made an effort to make sure that I was unable to make eye contact with them. I will admit, I felt powerful and intimidating as people scurried away from me. I guess they didn’t know that I was there to protect them. I can understand their reaction, when I see a strange person with a gun my initial reaction is to flee, but once they saw that I was there to protect them (and they were out of range of my Nerf gun) they went about their business.

I showed my membership card to the employee standing by the entryway and was asked, “What is that?”

I told the truth, I’m not here to hide anything, “It is my Nerf gun,” I said as I strolled into the vast warehouse pushing my shopping cart. One of the first rules of OOCN is that you must act like what you are doing is perfectly normal. Am I carrying a child’s toy while wearing an orange T-shirt that reads Open Carry Nerf? Yes, and what is wrong with that? It’s not like I am doing something really crazy like carrying a loaded weapon in a store to buy bulk Cheerios.

Rule #2: Act like you own the place.

Rule #2: Act like you own the place.

I helped my assistant/photographer pick out a nice pair of black pants from the piles and noticed that this trip to Costco was different than most of my visits. I was able to navigate the aisles without anyone getting in my way. Usually I have to wait for other shoppers to get out of the way. This time no one blocked the aisles with their cart while stuffing samples of Kirkland Honey Mustard dressing and deep fried dinosaur shaped chicken chunks in their mouths. I was beginning to understand why someone would want to carry a gun with them wherever they go; it saves time.

I picked up the remaining items and started to feel a little paranoid. Everyone avoided me. I was alone in an indifferent universe.* Employees would see me and then scoot away. Was this their normal behavior, or was it because they saw my Nerf gun? Did having a powerful weapon make me see the world differently? Was I drunk with power? Would someone try to stop me?  I began wondering if the management was going to be waiting for me by the cash registers so they could revoke my membership on some shaky grounds like insanity. Did Costco have a mirrored room where they took shop-lifters and crazy people? (I doubt it because there is no way you can fit anything Costco-sized in your pants to shop-lift, and the one time I saw someone arrested in Costco it was done under the fluorescent glow of the overhead lamps.)

Doing the two things that keep America running: Buying stuff and carrying a gun.

Doing the two things that keep America running: Buying stuff and carrying a gun.

I approached the check-out station and unloaded my cart. The workers were friendly, but they did not give me eye-contact or ask if I found everything I was looking for. In other words, I think they just wanted me to go away fast. I paid and made my way out of the store. At Costco you must hand your receipt to someone as you exit so they can see if you have all of your stuff and to see if you are try to steal something. The employee at the door took my receipt and then asked, “What is that?”

“It is my Nerf gun. I carry it for protection.”

“You big baby,” the employee said after handing me my receipt.

I wasn’t sure how to take the “big baby” comment. Was it a comment indicating that I needed a real gun to get any respect in Costco? Or, was it a comment about people carrying guns in general? I guess it doesn’t matter because Costco was safe for the time being and I had done my part.

I left Costco feeling like I had done something…something absurd, something moronic, something that made me the center of attention, something slightly insane, something like carrying a real gun in public.

 

 

 

*Sentence paraphrased from The Stranger, by Albert Camus.

 

 

Not So FAQ For OOCN

1. What’s your problem?

I knew you would ask that. My problem (it is probably more like problems) is that people in my community are carrying guns openly like they live in the Wild West.

2. Haven’t you heard of the Second Amendment?

I have.

3. You know you look stupid?

That’s the point.

4. Are you trying to help Obama get my guns?

No. I don’t want your guns, but I do want people to think about why they feel the need to carry a gun openly in public. There was a time in my life when I would have taken your guns and put them in a big sinkhole in Florida and covered them with concrete, but my thinking has evolved on this matter and now I just want people to keep their guns at home.

5. Is there a reason your thinking has evolved?

Yes, people are more paranoid than ever and you can’t reason with a paranoid person. I still want to take everyone’s guns and drop them in a big hole in Florida, but I realize I am wasting my time talking to gun nuts about their need for guns.

6. Did you just call me a gun nut?

Maybe, I believe there are two types of gun owners: Gun nuts, and people who own guns. The difference between a gun nut and a gun owner is that a gun nut wants an arsenal of AK-47s and long-range sniper rifles. Gun nuts also do the Open Carry thing. Gun owners might own guns for hunting and a hand gun because they think zombies are going to attack.

7. What if a bad man with a gun tried to shoot you, then wouldn’t you want a gun or somebody with a gun to protect you?

No, in the highly unlikely event that someone starts shooting at me I will run like the big Pinko-Liberal-Pansy-ChickenLivered-GirlyBoy that I am. If I get shot then I guess I get shot. I would prefer to live in a world where nobody has a gun. Guns do not make people safer.

8. If you don’t like it here then you can leave.

That’s not a question. I do like a lot of things about the United States, but I also feel like I am trapped in an abusive relationship.

9. When did you come up with the idea of  carrying a big Nerf gun around?

I don’t know the exact moment when my idea turned from idea to action, but I think it was when my daughter came home from her summer job and said that a guy was doing his Open Carry thing in her workplace. It scared her to have someone she did not know pretending to be Barney Fife with his gun on his hip. It also made me think about who we would allow to carry a gun openly in our society. To me the Open Carry movement is just another example of how militarized our culture is and how there is an underlying racism that we continually fail to acknowledge.

10. Hold on a moment, how is this a racist movement?

How long would this movement last if groups of young black men started walking through malls with big guns? What if a group of men from Saudi Arabia started walking around Walmart with AK-47s? How long do you think it would take before people called the SWAT team to surround and disarm those groups? That is how the movement is racist.

11. You didn’t explain the militarized culture thing, are you planning on defending that statement?

Fear is the world’s great motivator. Fear is what is driving this Open Carry movement and fear is what causes the United States to spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined. Fear doesn’t solve problems, it creates problems. Fear causes us to spend money on weapons that will only cause us to need more weapons. Here is a math problem for you: If a bomb costs 1 million dollars and the United States drops 50 bombs a day on a smaller country, how long will it take for the United States to spend a billion dollars on bombs? Put away your calculator. It is a trick question. It doesn’t matter how long because in the United States the only thing we have an endless supply of money for is bombs.

12. How long do you plan on doing this stupid thing?

I don’t know.

13. Aren’t you worried that someone will want to hurt you?

There is that possibility, but sometimes people need to stand up for what they believe in, and I believe in exercising my First Amendment to make a point.

14. And…that point is?

I can look like an idiot in public just like the real Open Carry guys.

REI Anniversary Sale!

Dear REI,

Thank you so much for sending me your anniversary sale catalog. I usually don’t get too excited about catalogs, but you know how I am, I like buying outdoor equipment and putting it in my garage. I have waited for the right moment to buy a bicycle repair stand and it looks like we have a convergence of me wanting something and you advertising that very item. As I am sure you are aware REI, I am going to be getting back into shape soon. The sun has come out in the Mighty PNW and couch potatoes like me are beginning to think that six-pack abs are a bike ride away.

So sexy.

So sexy. This could be gathering dust in my garage soon.

Coach Ed gave the stand five stars and said, “Solid piece of equipment. Holds my bike in any position I want and is very stable. I didn’t need a stand with all the bells and whistles. It’s basic but does the job excellently. Best value of all stands I looked at.” Coach Ed’s vivid description, overuse of the adverb excellently (a sentence extolling the virtues of basic should not use an adverb in my opinion, but I’m the guy who just added this long fragmented parenthetical thought here, so maybe I shouldn’t be tossing adverbial stones at glass sentences), and five stars had just about convinced me, but then I read Scott Biker’s one star review, “The swivel does not secure properly no matter how tight you get the plastic knob. I have a 24.9 lb. XC dual suspension mountain bike that swings and drops straight to the ground when mounted to the stand with the knob tightened as much as possible without breaking it, and will not stay in a desired position at all.”  This review was written by someone who owns a 25 pound bike, they must know what they are talking about and Scott Biker’s last name is Biker and therefore he must be an expert. He also knew better than to end a sentence in a preposition like Coach Ed, a stupid rule I agree, but aren’t most rules in English stupid?

Then I read Tom the Mountain Bicycle’s five-star review stating clearly that the stand was the, “Perfect item to hold the bicycle upper side, clean the wheels,frame, handlebars, ect.. Great to use this!!” A review by a bicycle is surprising, but if my bikes could speak I’m certain they would want this stand also. This was the repair stand I needed. I had done my five minutes of research and now I was ready to use my 30% off discount.

So, I know what you are thinking, REI. You have searched your database, you have looked at recent online orders, and you don’t see an order from 6-Pack Abs. Are you wondering why? Well, let me tell you why. BECAUSE YOU SENT ME AN ANNIVERSARY CATALOG THAT WAS VALID FOR THE DATES MAY 16-26! (You know how I feel about exclamation points. I don’t just throw those puppies around. I use them sparingly, and only when necessary. I am not Tom the Mountain Bicycle who is either German, or does not understand why exclamation points should be used.) When did I receive this catalog? June 5th. June 5th! June 5th!!

I am not sure if you are aware how the Gregorian Calendar works, but let me give you a little insight, June 5th is after May 16-26th. Actually, it is a few weeks outside of May 16-26th, so I don’t know if your calendars at REI headquarters are stuck like the clock on my wall at work, but sending me a calendar that has already expired is like sending me tickets to see Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer perform at the One Love concert in 1978.(Okay, reggae experts, I am aware that the original Wailers had already broken up, but this is my blog and I can rewrite history however I like.)  Why don’t you just send me a catalog from 1980? I might be able to afford some of the items from the Reagan era and wouldn’t need to use my secret code: ANNV2014 when purchasing my bike repair stand.

I hope you are happy, REI. I am now destined to get fatter, lose interest in anything except reality television, and die 20 years early.

Thanks For Nothing,

Jon “12 pack abs”

An Inaccurate Guide to European Manhole Cover Art: Vienna

Today we will be examining a manhole cover from the city of Vienna, Austria. In the United States, Vienna is primarily known as the place that produces those little sausages that come in cans. (I did not see any of these sausages while in Vienna, but there was an attempt to get me to eat liver paste for breakfast.)  Vienna should be known for more than sausages but it is easier for Americans to remember facts related to food than anything else.

As you can see this manhole cover is going to be a challenge, but that is why God placed me on this spinning globe.

Vienna

Vienna has a pretty boring manhole cover that is until I say the magic word: Illuminati!

At first glance this manhole cover appears to be pretty simple and utilitarian. That is exactly what the Illuminati want you to believe. Who are the illuminati and what do they have to do with Vienna’s manhole covers? I don’t really know, but ask anyone between the ages of 13 and 20 about the Illuminati and you will learn a great deal about the secret society that controls the world. How are the Illuminati connected to Vienna? Well, and I suppose I am taking quite a risk in writing this, the Hapsburg Dynasty and the Illuminati must be connected. One of the rules of secret societies and global control is that you don’t just go around blabbing about how you control everything, you make secret signals instead, because what is the fun of controlling the world if you do it publicly, anyone can do that.

So what secret messages are hidden on this manhole cover? First, let me draw your attention to the wavy lines in the center of the cover. Notice that there are three wavy lines, notice that the lines break the circle, notice that the wavy lines cover the little squares inside the circle. Now a careful observer would wonder about how many squares are being covered up by the wavy lines: Four full squares and two partial squares by my estimates. Hmm…what does it all mean? This is where the Illuminati are so tricky; they have you wondering if there is some secret message in the numbers and what the symbols might represent. The real hidden message is just a few centimeters away near the outer ring of the manhole cover.

Do you see it? The two letters: M N? Aha! What does that stand for? Well, I don’t really know because I believe those letters are actually W N. I know what you are thinking, in English a W makes a woo sound, but in Austrian a W makes a vee sound. What does it all mean? Is it possible that these letters represent directions? Yes, then is it possible that it is a map? Sure, why not. If it is a map, could guide you to a hidden doorway that leads to the Illuminati headquarters, there is only one way to know, someone in Vienna must find this manhole cover and follow the directions on the map. What directions? Well there is the big problem, I don’t really know. I suppose if I were Nicholas Cage and had a movie script it would be easier to figure out, but I will leave the searching up to my readers in Austria.  Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Well, this  brings me to the end of my wildly popular guide to European manhole covers series. Keep an eye out for those interesting manhole covers and if you see one you need analyzed don’t hesitate to let me know.

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An Inaccurate Guide to European Manhole Cover Art: Munich

Today our manhole cover comes from Munich, Germany. If you plug the word Munich into a translator you will find out that the city was named after Thelonious Monk. It is possible that this information is incorrect, speaking of incorrect, let’s look at our manhole cover today.

Munich. Yes, those are the same pair of shorts you have seen in the last three pictures. I travel light and gritty.

Ask your average American man what he knows about Munich and he will say, “Is that where they have Oktoberfest?”  Yes, it is. (The biggest problem I have with Oktoberfest is that it is at the end of October and the beginning of September. So it should be called something else. Oktotemberfest is my suggestion.) If the man is particularly astute he might say that Munich is where they held the 1972 Munich Olympics which is also correct. So now that we are all up on the entire history of Munich let’s see what the cover has to offer.

Munich has a pretty plain cover as you can see, but like all of the greatest works of art, the questions left in the viewer’s mind are of the utmost importance. The man on the cover is actually a monk, not a Dungeons and Dragons monk with spell capability and fighting skills, but the kind of monk who makes beer. This particular monk became a monk because he was horribly disfigured, look at his head. Man, I have seen some big old hooks on the back of people’s heads before, but this guy really has a problem. Imagine trying to buy a hat if your head was shaped like a hammer. So, no doubt, this caused him to drop out of society and start making beer.

The next detail is what might be mistaken as a cross on his tunic. Is this really a cross? Or is it possible that it is his muscled abdomen bulging through his clothing? Okay, it is probably a cross. This is a dumb paragraph to have written because it goes nowhere, but it is staying here because my internal editor is taking a nap.

The gang sign that the monk is flashing with his right hand is for his homies in the Bavarian gang. There really is quite a rivalry between cities like Munich and Berlin. It is kind of like the East Coast, West Coast thing that took place between Death Row Records and Big Boy Records in the 1990’s except there aren’t any rap songs being written about it and so far no one has been mysteriously murdered by Suge Knight. (I am not indicating that Suge Knight had anything to do with Biggie Smalls‘ death, or that he has ever done anything bad, I am simply drawing a comparison between the conflict between the East and West Coast rappers and Berlin and Munich which now seems a bit ridiculous, but if you have read this blog before you know that ridiculous is kind of my thing.)

Back to the monk on the cover, in his left hand he is holding an early version of an iPhone. I believe it is an iPhone IV (they used to go by Roman Numerals back then.) This iPhone was known for its poor reception so the monks would have to hold it far away from their bodies to get good reception when the Pope called. The Pope stilled used a landline back then. The Vatican is always slow to make changes and even today they use MySpace instead of Facebook. Pope John Paul tried Google+ but thought it was lame just like everyone else.

I now want to draw your attention to the sleeves on the monk’s tunic. These sleeves look pretty cool when you are holding your arms out, but as soon as you put your arms down the sleeves are going to be dragging in the mud. Obviously the monks were not familiar with the idea of form and function, but like most men, these guys were probably clueless about clothing. (I would probably still be wearing my green Kawasaki mesh shirt today if it was socially acceptable. It would be a tight fit since I was about half the size I am now, but cool doesn’t have a size.)

The last detail of the manhole cover is the word pressed into the bottom of the cover: STADTENTWASSERUNGSWERKE. This is a real German word. The only thing missing is an exclamation point! Germans love their exclamation points! Ask a German student to write an essay and 75% of the punctuation will be exclamation points! I am not kidding! They are probably mad because in Germany when a teacher asks for a 500 word essay they know it will be 10 pages long, and that is 10 point Times New Roman! There are two ways to understand this word: I can put it in my little Google search engine and it will tell me what it means, or I can use my linguistic skillz (pronounced skeeelz) and break the word down. Get ready to be dazzled. WASSER means water as I recall, and WERKE means work. With those two clues let’s break the rest down. I will guess that RUNGS means something like plumbing or pipes, and STADTENT means city or something like that. So according to my skillz the word means: City water plumbing works. I will now drop it into Google to see how close I got. Wow! CITY DRAINAGE WORKS! I am going to write to the College Board and see if I can get a few extra points added to my 1983 SAT score.

Okay, you must be exhausted after all that learning. Learning makes your brain work hard, which makes you thirsty, so get another cup of coffee and take a rest.

 

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An Inaccurate Guide to European Manhole Cover Art: Prague

Today’s manhole cover comes from Prague. Prague (known to the locals as Praha for some unknown reason) is the capital of the Czech Republic and a pretty sweet city if you like your cities with a little second-hand smoke and grit. As you can see, Prague also has a pretty boss manhole cover.

Prague

Prague. The finger in the upper right hand corner is part of a new movement in photography. I call it the finger in your eye movement.

(Note: I am wearing black socks and surf-sandals. This is okay, because I was traveling alone and I am from the Pacific Northwest where socks and sandals is perfectly okay.)

Prague’s history as an open-door can be seen in its manhole cover. Look how inviting it is. Praha means threshold in Czech, so depending on the direction you are traveling Prague is either the gateway to the East or the gateway to the West, either way, lots of people (including people who decided how the people of Prague should behave, who they should get along with, and who should govern them) passed through the city so it is not a bad idea to have a manhole cover that looks tough. If you hadn’t noticed the cover has multiple images of power on it.

Power image number one: It is hard to miss the disembodied arm and sword sticking out of the main entrance. This is an odd threat since the door is wide open. “Welcome to Prague. Come on in. Beware of arms carrying swords.”

Power image number two: The castle wall with the three towers is delivering a message about the wealth and power of Prague. The three towers symbolize the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; they could also symbolize Larry, Moe, and Curly for all I know; there is an outside chance that they don’t really represent anything and the artist was just trying to make everything symmetrical.

Power image number three: The half-open iron gate. I don’t want to come across as a know-it-all but I think if the gate were all the way closed it would be more effective. I realize that would mean restructuring the whole bodiless arm and sword thing, but if you  want to scare people off you might consider putting the arm upstairs kind of hanging over the edge of the wall. That would keep people away from the wall and you might be able to attach the arm to a body. Maybe the artist was not very good at doing people’s chins or something and didn’t want to take on the additional challenge of creating a warrior’s head, well if that is the case, then put a helmet on the dude and call it good.

Power image number four: The wooden hinged doors. These doors look like one of my fix-it-up projects. You cannot tell me that those doors fit snuggly into that portico. A sloppy job of craftsmanship isn’t going to intimidate anyone.

Power image number five: The castle, doors, arm with sword, and wall are all on a shield. This is one of those subconscious images of power. Most observers would not notice this, but that is why I am here, to point out the mildly obvious.

Not really a power image, but an image of how many cigarette butts are on the streets of Prague: There are three cigarette butts in this picture. I will estimate that the picture is a square meter (I am American, I have no idea about the metric system because it is a rational and logical system of measurements and therefore not accepted in the USA). The city of Prague is 496 square kilometers, which means it is 4,960,000 square meters (I might be off by a factor of ten here).  So if there are three cigarette butts for every square meter, then there must be (4,960,000 x 3) 14,880,000 cigarette butts on the streets of Prague. That seems like a lot of cigarette butts, but there is good news. Every couple of years the Vltava River floods and all those cigarette butts get washed away. The Vltava drains into the Elbe and then out to the North Sea where fish eat those pesky cigarette butts. Problem solved!

So there you go, another European manhole cover down. Have a great day and see you real soon.

 

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