Saturday, September 23CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #6.
"The Homecoming Quadrilogy."
(Originally published 04-24, 04-25, 04-26 & 05-01-06.)
Here is a four-part story about one of the most stereotypically teenage nights of my life. Someday, I will turn this into a screenplay and make millions with the CW network. If this countdown were up to me, this story would have been closer to #1, but I was shot down by the Voting Academy. Links have been used as to not clutter the main page.
Please read and enjoy.
PART I - "Love Tha' Player, Hate Tha' Game."
PART II - "J. Crew & The Mystery Girl."
PART III - "Brace For Impact."
PART IV - "Three Strikes, You're In."
Friday, September 22CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #7.
"You're A Woman, I'm A Machine."
(Originally published 04-14-05.)
"Time Sharing Is Sharing Time" - By: The CDP.
I couldn’t believe my ears.
The loud man on the other end of my phone was trying to explain it all to me nice and slowly. Apparently, while waiting for a veggie sub at Cousin’s last week, my wife had dropped her name into a drawing to win four round-trip tickets to almost anywhere on the continent. Today was our lucky day, and I was skeptical.
You see, today is never my lucky day. It just doesn’t work that way. My name (or my wife’s name for that matter), doesn’t get chosen from a rotating plexi-glass drum for any reason whatsoever. Not for money, not for a vehicle, not even for a car wash. My streak of mediocrity and sheer immunity to good luck was something that my wife knew about long before she married me, and it was beyond me why she even exerted the energy to fill out the contest card.
Nonetheless, the loud man assured me that her name had been drawn and the tickets were ours to pick up.
“Oh, just one more thing,” the loud man said, as I braced myself for the impact. “All you have to do to claim your tickets is sit through a 90-minute presentation on the benefits of timeshare ownership. Sound good to you?”
It most certainly did not sound good to me, but it wasn’t my decision to make. I put my wife on the phone, and six days later we were on our way to the Fairfield Resort in the Wisconsin Dells.
The game plan was simple, and we rehearsed it for the entire drive there. We were going to smile and nod, politely refuse, collect our tickets and get the hell out of there. The official letter clearly stated that there was no obligation to buy, and if we just stood our ground, we’d be the proud new owners of nothing but four free tickets to Honolulu.
The trick to “winning” these contests has nothing to do with folding your entry card a certain way or stuffing the ballot box. The big thing is that insignificant line that impolitely asks you what your annual income is. The higher the digits, the more phone calls you’ll receive. They don’t want to pitch timeshares to people who can’t afford them, so make sure you check the highest box every time. Sure, they’ll run a credit check just to keep you honest (and ask you about fifteen times), but sometimes it’s just funny to screw with them a little bit.
We arrived there a little early, made a solemn vow not to sign anything, and entered the building with our checkbooks and credit cards safely back in the glove compartment.
The second we opened the doors, we were hit with an atmosphere of psychological warfare the likes of which I had never seen. The XM Satellite radio station was cranked to a specific station that played nothing but “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang, and the room was so cold I couldn’t help but dance. I glanced at my watch to see if the 90 minutes were over yet, as young businessmen laughed loudly and high-fived in front of a huge dry-erase board full of sales figures. I was already more than happy to give up the free tickets just to go home.
“Bill” was the salesman handpicked just for us (the single black woman in front of us got the only black salesman in the building, the elderly couple got the elderly one, and we got the youngest). Bill had massive, Kip Winger-esque teeth that probably made the “ting” sound when he smiled, had it not been for the loud disco music drowning it out. His breath was minty-fresh, his handshake was firm and he knew exactly where we were coming from.
“I know exactly where you’re coming from!” Bill yelled from across the table. Why wouldn’t he? We had been friends for 15 seconds now, and he made me feel right at home.
“Coffee?!” he screamed, as I kindly declined.
For the next 45 minutes, we talked about absolutely nothing. Bill used this time to establish some sort of bond by asking us questions that were none of his business. He would later use the answers to these questions to try to snare us into writing him a $30,000 check.
To his credit, Bill certainly knew what he was doing. When he realized that I wasn’t budging, he began to ignore me and talk solely to my wife. I would chime in with a good reason as to why a timeshare wasn’t for us, and he would cut me off in mid-sentence and ask her how she felt about it. When she became aloof and indecisive, he pounced on her, pummeling her with loaded questions and double talk. He would berate her until I was inches from taking a swing at him, then he would turn his focus back to me, allowing her to catch her breath and leaving me disoriented for the next round of interrogation. He was putting up a good fight, and I respected him for not going easy on us young newlyweds.
After the first question-and-answer round, we were whisked away to a screening room to view a short movie about the timeshares in question. The movie was nothing more than paid testimonies from people who could obviously afford something as useless as a timeshare. They hit you with every demographic, ethnicity and excuse in the book.
In one testimony, a single mother sat on a couch with her 3 young children. “The world isn’t secure anymore,” she said as she held her kids tightly to her. “I just like to have something in my life that’s secure.” If that wasn’t jaw-droppingly awful enough, the last one did me in for sure.
An elderly couple was talking about how they were going to include the timeshare in their will, as to “pass on a legacy to their children”. Sandwiched in between these bleary-eyed confessionals was stock footage of couples enjoying the good life together (walking on the beach, snowmobiling, siding a house), most of which I had remembered seeing used in a commercial for personal lubricant some years ago. The video concluded and I wanted to vomit, but there was plenty more to see on the tour.
It should be noted that at no time during this sales pitch did we ever give Bill the slightest inclination that we were going to buy anything from him. There was many times where I thought he was going to throw in the towel, especially all those instances when I said “We have no intention to purchase anything here today.” Bill just smiled, swayed to KC & the Sunshine Band, and took us to the next leg of the tour.
Finally, 155 minutes after we arrived, we got down to business. He laid everything out on the table for us, and played his Trump Card. He showed us a cartoon image of a small, crowded hotel room, complete with unhappy, crowded people. Next to that, there was a cartoon image of a large, sprawling timeshare, complete with happy, sprawling people. He showed us the prices in comparison, and tapped his pen impatiently onto the cartoons, making it clear how insane he thought we were for turning down such an amazing money-saving opportunity.
As we had discussed in the car, we politely told him that we liked the crowded hotel room better. We also tried very hard not to laugh when the blood vessel burst in his forehead.
Bill had finally run out of replies. There was no way he could argue against something so completely ludicrous. He looked up at us like we had sprouted extra arms and legs, and watched his commission evaporate. Ever the professional, he told us that we had “decided to file our future under the word ‘someday’”. He composed himself and shook our hands, crumpling the paper and throwing it over his shoulder in a trademark huff he had used on hundreds of others.
Five minutes later we were clutching our free plane tickets.
On the way back home, we couldn’t help but feel a little bad for people like Bill. Even though he would just move on to the next group of suckers and forget our names, we felt a bit guilty for making him work for two hours to no avail. Come to think of it, timeshare ownership certainly is a money-saving opportunity. Maybe we were too closed-minded to see the true value in what he was selling. Maybe we’ll go back there someday and listen with a more open ear.
Screw it, I’m going to Hawaii.
Thursday, September 21CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #8.
"No Scents Whatsoever."
(Originally published 03-15-06.)
As you can probably imagine by looking at photos or recklessly fantasizing, I smell great.
I mean, I always smell great, regardless of whether I just stepped out of the shower or a condemned bait shop that's on fire. It's one of my few gifts (along with my ability to eat a 16-inch sub in 39 seconds), one which I truly respect and treasure. Sure, I sweat and get filthy like everyone else, but it takes my body mere seconds to attack and destroy the foul perversions of cleanliness, leaving nothing behind but the fresh scent of pine and cinnamon. If you ever were to meet me, you'd be enthralled and encapsulated by my pheromones, unable to stand more than 4 inches away from me at all times.
My current cologne of choice is Swiss Army. While this particular scent isn't the most popular in the world, you can find at almost any department store. It's about $60 for a thimble-sized amount, but it's totally worth it to smell original. I haven't met a lady yet who wasn't completely smitten with it. It's a secret weapon that I trust you not to share with too many guys. My reputation is at stake. Some of my other favorites include Cool Water, Preferred Stock and Polo, although most of these have been collecting dust under my bathroom sink for some time now, shuddering with awe in the presense of the Army. I have a Cool Water air freshener in my car, too, in case you wanted to know that the Wild Stallion smelled like. I know you did.
Scents are important, and are the closest thing to a time machine us (we) humans have. Scents instantly transport us back to the most memorable time we last took it into our lungs. It's crazy the things you can remember when floored with the right smell; or sometimes, the things you would rather forget.
(According to legend, my Grandpa designed the wolf still used as the team logo. No foolin'.)
When I was a freshman in High School, I wore traditional Old Spice aftershave and cologne, mainly because it was already in the house and I didn't want to go buying anything else. Besides, there was something about the red sailboat on the bottle that screamed 'manly!' to me, even at such an oily and adolescent age.
One night, before a big football game, I slathered it onto my tiny 14 year old body with the ferocity of a man on a mission. Well, a little boy on a mission, at least. It was going to be a big night for me, as I was all set to make my move on a friend I had been sidling up to for a while. While I don't recommend attempting to turn good female friends into possible mating partners, sometimes you just gotta go for it, and let the Old Spice do all the heavy lifting.
So, there I was, sitting in the bleachers next to her. We'll call her 'Margaret.' I was insanely overdressed for a football game, sporting the single best outfit I had in my arsenal. Unfortunately for me, my best outfit in 1996 was an extra-large plaid collar shirt and super-tight pants. I hadn't yet learned that when I picked out things to wear, other people would actually, you know, see them.
Besides, that's what was popular in 1993, and I hadn't gotten around to buying any new clothes since then. My mom figured that I'd be an extra-large someday, it was only a matter of time before the plaid fit me perfectly. My pants, however, shrunk every day with my ever-growing puberty frame. I felt like the Incredible Hulk, pants tearing up the seams, rivets popping out like old Chevy pistons.
Denim squeaking and tugging with every shift of my buttocks on the freezing cold bench, I got closer to Margaret as we talked. In the distance, a friend got my attention and remarked that my outfit was "Lookin' good!" Of course, he was almost certainly making fun of me, or too far away to even make out who I was. Come to think of it, that guy wasn't even talking to me.
Me and Margaret talked about school and whatnot, getting closer with each break in the conversation. My braces and oily T-zone glistened off of the floodlights as I pulled out every joke and 1970's celebrity impression I could think of (I do a mean Richard Nixon).
She took it in like I was the Toronto skyline.
At the exact same time I made my move to hold her hand, the almost toxic scent of Old Spice wafted into her nostrils like an unleashed chemical weapon. I could tell she was investigating what the odor was, and it was only a matter of time before she became drunk off the fumes and passed out into my lap, begging me to take her to the backseat of her mom's Chrysler LeBaron.
"Oh, you're wearing Old Spice," Margaret said, looking directly into my eyes with a kind of calm urgency.
"Yup, that's right," I fired back, smooth as a silk pillow.
"Well, my dad wears Old Spice," she said, slowly looking down and letting go of my hand.
I was ruined. It was all over. Nobody wants to think of their own father when they're in a situation like this. Out of all the colognes and aftershaves in the world, I had to choose the same one that her stupid dad liked to wear. In the distance, I could hear him laughing and slapping gallons of Old Spice onto his neck and cheeks, content that he successfully chastised me from over 35 miles away.
In less than five minutes, Margaret was gone, talking to that guy who made fun of my outfit. The football game hadn't even started yet.
Cradling my head in my hands and trembling with defeat, I looked around for a friendly face. I found some friends that were sitting in the top row of bleachers, and took a seat. I told the guys what had happened, and they did their best to cheer me up and take my mind off of the situation.
Now, when most guys are faced with this sort of monumental rejection and humiliation, they normally do something monumentally stupid to compensate for it, and that's exactly what I did. My friends had this horrid idea to take off a piece of clothing every time our team scored a touchdown. Thinking that the game would be a blowout in the opposite direction, we all talked big and swore that we were game for the stunt. Bear in mind that it was probably 35 degrees out that night, so if we didn't get kicked out, creeping death would come knocking eventually. If this wasn't bad enough, someone had plastered me with maroon lipstick at some point, which were our team colors.
As you would assume, this happened to be the night our team scored 63 points.
Off came the giant plaid shirt, down came the painted-on pants. A small mound of shoes, socks and baseball caps started to form under our bench. There I stood, in front of Margaret and about 500 of my new best friends, making sure everyone knew that I could handle rejection and teenage defeat with amazing bravado and charm. Bare feet freezing to the bleachers, my nipples rock-hard and blue with frost, I made a stand. If anyone was going to make me look like an ass, it was going to be me, or at the very least, my friends.
We were asked to leave before it all went terribly wrong, but know that I would have finished what I started.
Shivering and clutching my clothes, still radiating Old Spice in all directions, I walked into the parking lot and waited for my Mom to pick me up. Adding insult to injury, the lipstick that I was wearing caused an allergic reaction, swelling and cracking my lips to Jolie-like proportions. I looked like I had been robbed of my clothes, repeatedly punched in the face and left for dead in a freezer. On the inside, however, I felt toasty warm with pride.
And that's what I think of when I smell Old Spice.
Wednesday, September 20CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #9.
"The CDP's Guide To Vegetarianism."
(Originally published 06-12-06.)
Hello. My name is the CDP, and I'm a vegetarian.
Hold on, don't leave! We've got to talk; me and you. It's important. It's about the age-old debate between carnivores and herbivores. You know, if the dinosaurs would have just sat down and talked about their differences like rational beasts, they might still be around today. Hell, we might have even had a Brontosaurus as President. Sweet.
I offer today's post as a public service to carnivores, vegans and everyone in between. By shedding some insight into what shapes people's beliefs, you have a better understanding of what shapes the world around you, and what causes people to make certain life choices. Also, I fancy talking about myself, and I'm quite skilled at it.
First off, there are some things you need to know about me:
1. I've been a vegetarian for 5 years now. After trying and failing a few times, I finally gave up meat for good when I found myself sitting alone in a Culvers booth, sneaking in a bacon cheeseburger while my wife was at school. This troubled me, as I was now faced with the truth that I felt guilty about eating meat, so much to the point of actually hiding it from the Missus. I didn't give up meat because of the Missus, mind you. I gave it up for many reasons I'll explain later, culminating with the depressing Culvers epiphany.
2. I'm not trying to convert anyone to vegetarianism. In fact, I'd rather you didn't convert, because it would make us herbivores much less of a novelty; therefore, much less cool.
3. I loathe hippies; cannot stand them one damn bit. I don't do drugs, I don't own tie-dye and I don't participate in any marches, regardless of the cause. If you are standing in between me and what I want, chances are that I don't like you.
4. I hate PETA with a blistering passion. Their marketing campaigns and tactics have done nothing but turn people off of a vegetarian lifestyle, and caused a lot of meat-eaters to get a very negative view of vegetarians. They should be using their donated money towards better things than naked protests at circuses and throwing paint on supermodels. Screw you, PETA; you're ruining it for everybody.
5. I grew up in a meat-eating household. My dad was (and still is) an avid hunter, trapper and fisherman. I've been hunting on many occasions, and participated in the murdering, cleaning and gutting of many deer and small mammals. In my youth, I killed many pigeons and vermin for the fun of it. I also spent most of my childhood on a dairy farm, which cares about cows only as a source of revenue and profit. I've seen some nasty things concerning these animals, but I don't look at any of those things as ethically wrong. Business is business, and dairy farmers are only doing the job they were raised to do. I'm just trying to hammer the point home that the meat-eating and country lifestyle are not lost on me; that was my life for 19 years.
6. I'm not anti-meat, nor am I anti-hunting. I'm not an idiot; I know that steak tastes good, and many people refuse to deprive themselves of such a luxury. Fair enough. I also refuse to deprive myself of a lot of things that I enjoy, but some people find evil and wrong (such as television, gambling, alcohol consumption, death metal and snuff films).
Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I also know that deer hunting is an almost vital and necessary tool in controlling and re-populating forest areas. However, when deer hunting, I believe that your kill should be used for something other than sport; I.E., you should eat the meat or donate it to food pantries. If you have the balls to kill, clean and serve an animal to your family, you deserve to eat it, and we all wouldn't be here today if that wasn't the case.
7. When I was a teenager, I experimented with different diets to see how they would affect my health. One week, I ate nothing but chocolate-themed items. Another week, I only took in things that were the color green. Yet another week, I ate nothing but foods containing meat (it damn near killed me). In my blue-haired punk days, I spoke against vegetarianism, boasting my position at the top of the food chain.
Clearly, I'm not your stereotypical vegetarian. So, why don't I eat meat?
Well, for vegetarians, there are three main reasons why you avoid meat. They are:
I consider myself a little of all three.
Morally, I no longer place humans above animals in the dominant chain. This is either because I've grown to love and appreciate animals more, or my disdain for human life is growing stronger. Show me a cow that's minding his or her own business, and I'll show you something that's not bothering me. I now know that you don't need to eat meat to live a healthy life, and I'm not down with the concept of mass murder, human, chicken or otherwise. The treatments, business and sanitation procedures involved in the process of getting a hamburger to my plate is about as corrupted as a stream of Barry Bonds' urine, and I refuse to be a part of it.
I care for and respect animals, and I've done enough bad things in my life without having more guilt on my conscience. More important than my love for animals, however, is my disdain for greedy people. For me, avoiding corporations like ConAgra foods is the same as me avoiding a Wal-Mart. If you're against what someone does, you disassociate with them, and that's what I do to protest.
As a side note, I always find it funny when I see some punk or anti-establishment person smoking a cigarette. Here's this person who refuses to be a cog in the corporate machine, yet he's puffing on a product manufactured by one of the largest and most vile conglomerates on the planet. In my opinion, you might as well be wearing Nike shoes and spooning with Sam Walton's corpse, because you're an idiot.
Health-wise, eating meat isn't all that great for your body. We all know that, but we don't really like to bring it up. True, things like fish and poultry are far healthier and beneficial than red meat, but it's not like we're comparing apples to lard, here; it's all filler. Eating red meat causes heart disease, slows your body down and clogs damn near everything in your chest. Vegetarians are far less-likely to get heart disease, certain cancers and many other serious illnesses. Now, I don't have the exact numbers and percentages on hand, but please look them up if you think I'm way off. I'm not.
Religion-wise, I'm not down with murder; plain and simple. When I look at my cats, I see animals that are pretty much without sin. I don't see cats cutting me off in traffic. I don't see puppies taking forever in line at the bank. I also believe that Heaven isn't just for humans, and you're going to have some pretty awkward afterlife moments when you run into all those animals you killed.
I know what you're thinking. "But we don't eat cats and dogs! Everyone knows that's wrong!" Obviously, that's not true for the rest of the planet. The animals we choose to civilize are the same animals that other ethnicities dine on, and vice versa. Who are we to pick and choose what animals deserve to be spared and which ones require worship? Sure, you may think that eating a cow is more ethically sound than eating a cat, but the billion-plus population of India would tell you otherwise.
We see this all the time in the media, as well. Whenever there's a story where a domesticated animal dies, people put more emotional stock into it than if it were a human life. Meanwhile, millions of other animals are being fed to the woodchipper without so much as a whimper from the dog and cat loving Americans.
Finally, I'd be lying to you if I didn't say that my wife was a factor in the equation. She wasn't a big factor, but certainly someone who made me realize how big of a hypocrite I was being to myself. She's got this knack for making me feel crappy about myself, which in tune instigates a huge change inside of me for the better. I'd have divorced her a long time ago if she wasn't totally right most of the time. She's been a vegetarian for longer than me, and she was responsible in opening my eyes to all of the things you don't see when it comes to getting a hamburger. I'm not one to be easily manipulated, but when someone dangles the honest and raw truth in your face, it's hard to contest it.
I mean, I knew that it was wrong; I could feel it deep down inside, but I kept shutting it up for fear I would have to...you know... do something about it (much like a lot of meat-eaters on the verge of changing). It was that lonely night at Culvers that changed me for good. I came to the obvious realization that I wasn't being honest with myself, and needed to mature to the point of making difficult decisions for the greater good of living with some honor.
So I went home and committed ritual seppuku. Gutted myself like a fish and died, right then and there.
Now, I know that a lot of my readers are meat-eaters, and perhaps some of you are considering making the Big Switch. Here then, a starters guide to vegetarianism: How to start, why to start, what to eat and how to deal with your relatives.
1. You don't need meat to live. This is the big thing people need to know. It seems foolish that anyone would actually think this, but sometimes it needs to be spelled out to remind you. Meat is a food group, yes, but it's not vital. There is nothing in meat that you can't get in other foods (or, at the very least, supplements). That being said, don't obey the food groups. Anything institutionalized by the government in the 50's and never updated cannot be what's best for you.
Case in point; I'm doing just fine. I've been off of meat for almost 5 years, and I'm in the best shape of my life. I look and feel better, I've participated in distance running and greatly expanded the amount of healthy things I put into my body. When I ate meat, I was sluggish and needed caffeine to function (I've actually been away from caffeine longer than I've been away from meat). I got sick more and needed more sleep to feel rested. I had slight asthma problems and couldn't breathe deeply. That's all changed now, and it's not because I'm a tremendously healthy eater.
Remember, this is just my own personal story and results, but it's all true. Except for that ritual suicide thing.
2. Stop looking away.
Most meat-eaters don't want to know how their food is prepared. They don't want to know how it gets to their plate, pressed into a nice circle with fake grill-marks on the patty. They don't want to know because they do know it's a nasty process, and if they did know they'd have to do something about it. People are ignorant and lazy in general (we all are), and feel that if something is out of sight, it's out of mind. Never mind the slaughterhouse kill-floors, never mind the holocaust-style feed lots, never mind the legal allowable amount of feces contained in the burger you're eating. Hell, if you knew all that, you'd probably spoil your appetite.
Quick Tidbit: If you took all the farmland that was being used to simply house the cows we eat, we could grow enough vegetables and crops there to feed almost everyone on the damn planet. Imagine that. If you truly want Bono to shut up once and for all, stop eating beef.
Did you know that the burger you ate last night wasn't just one cow? Nope, it was essentially scooped from a conglomerate vat of usable cow meat, and when you eat a burger at McDonalds, you could in theory be taking in the meat of over 50 cows. Trust me, not all of them were healthy and clean when they got killed in the rendering plant. In fact, I bet that a few of them were rather unpleasant looking.
Also, there are legal standards as to how much animal feces and rat hair can be contained in your food, and trust me, it's not zero percent. I'm not trying to freak you out with scare tactics or anything, it's just the truth. Believe me when I tell you that when you eat a hamburger from a fast-food chain, you're taking in feces, among other things you wouldn't even see on Fear Factor.
People tend to ignore things when they bother them or make them feel bad. It's the same reason we turn the channel when a commercial comes on for the Christian Children's Fund. It's the same reason nobody watches the Jerry Lewis Telethon. As long as you stay uninformed about what you eat, you don't have to question what your morals and ethics are, and everything stays normal for another day. Why change? It's much easier to stay in the dark about it.
You're probably getting agitated and annoyed with me right about now. Antsy. Squirmy. You probably want to stop reading. That's exactly what I'm talking about. It's how I felt at Culvers. It sucks.
3. There's plenty of food out there.
Oh, man. "What do you eat?" I get this all the time. My answer? "What don't I eat?" Listen, meat is just a small percentage of what you should be putting into your body, so if you eat meat exclusively, you've got bigger problems than what I can help you with. Remember, I tried that diet and almost went belly-up at age 17.
For just about any meat product you can think of, there is a soy and veggie alternative that tastes really good. Trust me, I'm a notoriously picky eater, and I'd tell you if something tasted like crap. Companies like Boca, Gardenburger and Morningstar Farms make meatless equivalents of practically everything that's in your freezer right now (depending on if you have human body parts in your freezer, which is entirely possible, I suppose). Here's what's been in mine over the years:
Gardenburger Chicken Patties
Morningstar Farms Breaded Chicken Breast
Morningstar Farms Sausage Patties
Boca Sausage Links
Boca Chicken Nuggets
Morningstar Farms Meatballs
Morningstar Farms Hot Dogs
Morningstar Farms Corn Dogs
Morningstar Farms Sloppy Joe Mix
Morningstar Farms Veggie Burgers
Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burger
Morningstar Farms Tomato and Basil Pizza Veggie Burger
Morningstar Farms Fajita Burgers
Morningstar Farms Philly Cheese Steak Veggie Burger
Morningstar Farms Cheddar Burger
Morningstar Farms Mushroom Lovers Burger
Morningstar Farms Bacon
These are just 20 of the many meatless products you can use to transition into vegetarianism. I can assure you that all of these products taste quite good, look and smell just like the real deal. Only these are full of soy and proteins, they don't harm animals and they contain all the healthy parts of real meat, without the bad stuff. They can be microwaved, grilled or put in the oven, used as a side or a main course. My freezer is chock-full of these things on any given day.
Quick Tidbit: Critics will tell you that veggie and soy substitutes are higher-priced than raw meats. In my shopping, I've noticed little to no change, seriously. Furthermore, if you could instantly improve your health and ethical mindset for pennies a day, wouldn't you do it?
Also, Tofu sucks. Whoever started the smear campaign that said vegetarians only eat tofu and rice was an ass. I've had it on about a dozen occasions, and I've probably been impressed once. It's all in the preparation and can pretty much taste like whatever you're making it with, but don't think you have to eat it to survive. Nope. Not even a little bit.
You don't need to eat salads and green vegetables every day, either. Personally, I still don't like green vegetables all that much. Obviously, with all these vegetarian substitutes, your diet doesn't need to change very much at all. If you want a burger, you can eat a veggie burger. If you want tacos, you can use the shredded veggie hamburger as a base, and it tastes exactly the same. Same goes for ribs, chicken, sausage and bacon. Don't be afraid to make the switch because you're afraid you won't have anything to eat; you can eat everything you're eating now. In fact, your diet will expand to include things you never realized you enjoyed. Like beer.
4. What's the best way to do it? What do I tell Mom?
If you finally want to get off the meat wagon and make the Big Switch, I would recommend doing it in stages, taking baby steps. For starters, rid yourself of the meats that you eat the least. For example, if you only eat fish once a month, drop that first. You won't miss it too much, and you'll still have other meat items to chow down on. After a couple weeks of that, drop another type of meat. Then another, until you're done. While you're doing this, continue to substitute what you're getting rid of with their vegetarian equivalents. After a month or two of this, you'll realize how easy it was, how smooth the transition was, how much you don't miss real meat, and kick yourself for not doing it sooner.
That's another thing. You won't miss it. Really, you won't. You think you will, but you won't.
In recent years, I've seen celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Julia Stiles talk about falling off the vegetarian wagon and going back to meat, describing the transition as 'orgasmic.' Not only does this set a horrible example for those trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle, it also paints these people as weak, moral-less losers who only gave up meat because it was trendy in the 90's. It's not like you're giving up meth or anything. You won't be convulsing on the floor or begging people on the street for bacon, I swear it.
Honestly, the most annoying part about being a vegetarian is the conversations you have with ignorant people who should know better (which is sort of why I'm doing this post). Normally, I don't bring this up unless I absolutely have to, and 8 times out of 10 I get some sort of crap for it. These people think they are clever to wave a steak in front of your face and ask you if you're jealous, not knowing that they're about the brazillionth damn person to do that to you. The trick is to keep your cool, answer their questions without exposing them for the shallow turd they are, and make them realize that not all vegetarians are pansy, bleeding-heart fools. Pity them, for meat has driven them mad and rendered them sterile.
(It should be noted that I'm in no way calling meat-eaters idiots. It's when you start mocking non-meat-eaters when you start looking foolish. In fact, whenever you start mocking anything you don't understand, you run the risk of exposing yourself as a fraud.)
5. Don't preach.
Okay, so this entire post has been preaching. However, like I stated before, I don't care if you switch or not, I'm just helping out those who want to switch.
If and when you decide to go vegetarian, don't go around flaunting it over anyone's head. They will resent you and take you off the Christmas card list, and you'll deserve it. You don't want to come off like an angry young man or woman at a pride parade, sporting a sign that says "We're here, we're meatless, get used to it!" because that will only turn people off to the cause and make them squirmy. Be classy about it, try to only bring it up when asked or when discussed in conversation. It's not like you have to keep a secret or anything, just don't be annoying.
Quick Tidbit: In my five years as a vegetarian, I've been able to find a decent meal at every restaurant I've eaten at, with the exception of one. This includes literally hundreds of eateries, including steakhouses. Darn near every burger joint on the planet offers a veggie burger substitute, and you can order just about everything to be cooked to your specifications (potato skins without bacon, pasta dishes minus chicken, etc.). When those around me choose where to eat, I never fret and neither should you; you'll find something good.
In conclusion, I think this post has been a long time coming. If you're already a vegetarian, I hope that this reaffirmed your cause. For those on the fence, I hope that this convinced you to make the dive. For those of you who continue to support the meat-eating lifestyle, good for you. Seriously. Don't let anyone tell you what's good for you, but make sure to always listen to your brain and heart before you listen to your stomach.
Questions? Concerns? Arguments? Anything I left out? Sound off in the comments section, or e-mail me at email@example.com. If you have something to say, say it; either in the comments section or via e-mail. Peace.
Tuesday, September 19CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #10.
"Tackling Reggie White."
(Originally published 08-09-06.)
With the 2006 NFL season on the horizon, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite personal experiences with football royalty. Even if you're not into sports, I think you'll still enjoy this.
Is this story better than the time I got Brett Favre's autograph, only to have my then 6-year-old sister destroy it with a Sharpie? I believe so.
If I may digress for a minute, I don't hold ill will towards my sister or anything. I'm sure there will come another time when I'll be able to sit down and talk with the single greatest quarterback ever to play the game; a man that won a Super Bowl, three MVP awards and my unwavering worship for the last 14 years. I mean, I'm certain that you get more than just one chance to meet your idols over the course of a lifetime. I'm not too worried about it; never mind all the crippling nightmares I've had about the situation since I was 10.
No, this story is about the greatest defensive player in NFL history, who just so happened to play with the Green Bay Packers for six seasons.
Reggie White. #92. The Minister Of Defense.
For those unfamiliar, here's a quick history lesson. It's only a paragraph long, so read it:
(Some quick football terminology for you. When a quarterback is tackled before he can throw a pass, it's called a 'sack.' You're going to need to know that, otherwise the following paragraph would sound horribly obscene.)
Reggie White averaged 1.75 sacks a game, and has a lifetime total of 198. He has had more sacks than the number of games he has played. This amazing record still stands today, along with his franchise sack records for both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers. He's been to the Pro Bowl an astounding 13 times, and won 6 different NFL Player Of The Year honors. He won the Super Bowl with Green Bay in 1997, has had his number retired with three different organizations, and was selected for the NFL's All-Time Team in 1994. Off the field, he was a husband, father, minister and Evangelical Christian that devoted his life to what he believed in.
In short, Reggie was the baddest-ass mo-fo I've ever seen on a football field. If you know even the slightest bit about the game, then chances are you share my sentiments. Off the field, he was a mild-mannered, soft-spoken giant. On the field, he was a monster. He could knock 400-pound linemen off of their feet with one arm. Watching him run around with the Lombardi Trophy after Green Bay won the Super Bowl is etched into my memory forever.
Reggie died at the age of 43, on December 26, 2004. He had suffered from sarcoidosis for many years, and it had caused a cardiac arrhythmia that stopped his breathing in his sleep. I remember waking up the day after Christmas, turning to ESPN and watching grown men cry as they related the news to the public. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see someone like him go at such a young age.
Now that you're all caught up, let's get to my story.
In 1993, my family went to Green Bay to watch the Packers practice at Training Camp. They have an area set up for the public to watch the team run drills and prepare for the upcoming game. This was a chance for people to see their* team up close and personal, and considering that Packer season tickets are nothing short of impossible to come by, this was the best chance most Wisconsinites got.
(*The Green Bay Packers are the only professional sports franchise in the nation that does not have an owner. They are a community-owned team with 112,000 stockholders in tow. They are owned by the fans; my family being one of them. If I have to explain to you why that rules, we're no longer friends.)
The big news this season was the acquisition of Reggie White from the Philadelphia Eagles. Already the most prolific lineman in the game, we were all very excited to see what he would do to revolutionize our lacking defensive line. There we stood, faces pressed against the chain-link fence, watching our beloved Packers do wind sprints and pass patterns.
As an 11-year old, this was amazing to me. I had never been to an actual game before, and seeing these people up-close was a dream come true. Everyone was huge; even the Kicker was larger than anyone I had seen in real life. Frankly, they could have all been doing crossword puzzles behind that fence and I still would have cheered them on.
Reggie White was a beast. Despite proving himself every single week, he worked as hard in practice as he did on the field. Every play, he would explode across the line, leaving a scattered pile of rookie linemen in his wake. As far as I was concerned, he should have been wearing a cape. I was in awe.
Now, the Packer practice facility was on the other side of the street from the stadium, where their lockers and showers were. That meant that when practice was over, the entire team would walk across the parking lot together, wade into the crowd and chat with the fans. Some of the kids would often lend their bikes to the athletes, so they could bypass the crowd and get to the stadium quickly. In exchange, the players would give the kids photos and autographs, as well as the dream of riding along with their favorite Packer player.
When practice was over and the team migrated off of the field, they were instantly swarmed by the hundreds of people in attendance. I felt like I was on the steps of a high-profile court case; it was absolute chaos. I was there with my cousin at the time, and we were just looking around for any Packers that were kind enough to sign autographs. Some were more than willing to give you a few seconds of their time; most of them just wanted to take a shower and go home.
Children, adults and giant athletes were everywhere, waving pens, helmets and anything else they could to get one another's attention. In the midst of the insanity, I lost track of where my cousin was. I became disoriented and started looking everywhere, anywhere for a familiar face. People started pushing and shoving, so I attempted to make a beeline out of the crowd.
As I made my way out of the unruly mob, I made the mistake of taking my eyes off of the oncoming human traffic for a fraction of a second. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a herd of fans, snapping flashbulbs, and what looked like police officers. One of the cops was shouting, "Give him room! Give him room!" Everything started going in slow-motion.I turned around just in time to see a giant, green mass with the number '92' imprinted on it.
I hit the ground and everything went dark.
Seconds later, I looked up to see Reggie White, The Minister of Defense, and about fifty people looking down at me. While every other Packer did what they could to avoid the crowd, Reggie was doing his best to sign every piece of paper that was thrust in his direction.
He also ran right into me in the process, knocking me straight off of my feet. I didn't have a prayer; I could have used one of his pant legs as a sleeping bag.
"You alright?" Reggie asked me.
I looked up at him, in a balled-up heap on the pavement of the Lambeau Field parking lot. He was already a massive guy; from this view, he was positively God-like.
"Uh...yeah...I think." I stammered back. I quickly got back to my feet and ran out of the mob.
I met back up with my family, where they griped a bit about not getting any autographs. They asked me if I got anything signed. I told them no, but that it really didn't matter to me. I didn't need a piece of paper to remember what happened to me that afternoon.
It was the day I was sacked by the greatest defensive football player of all time.
Last Saturday, Reggie White was officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, which is what reminded me to share this story. The plaque under his name will say that he sacked 198 people, but I'd like to think of myself as #199.
Monday, September 18CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #11.
"Insect Karma Revolt."
(Originally published 09-21-05.)
I was leaning against the door frame of a co-worker’s office, chatting about Lost, when I heard someone yelling my name from across the room. A quick scan of the cube farm brought my gaze to a young intern named Anna. She was staring a hole in my head.
"Come here, quick!" she said, muffling the receiver of her telephone, which she was simultaneously using while summoning me.
I quickly skipped across the perimeter, approaching her cube and wondering why on earth she would need me so urgently. Anna and I don’t really talk to each other, as she resides on the second floor; I only go up there to talk with people about things like television and beer. As I peeked into her cube, I saw that her face was a light shade of red, and she was slowly tucking her knees under her chin, folding herself up in a fetal position on her chair.
“What’s going on?” I asked, sincere and mystified.
“There’s a…aaaugh!” she shot back, sticking her right leg straight out and kicking her desk drawer shut to reveal a millipede inching along the wall of the cubicle.
I should have expected nothing less. I’ve been the designated killer of insects and vermin since I started working here over a year and a half ago. It wasn’t that I necessarily minded the side job; it was just disconcerting to know that Anna was aware of this role that I played. It’s not something I’ll be using on a resume anytime soon. Nonetheless, I grabbed a few pieces of Kleenex from her embroidered tissue cozy and did what needed to be done. After a deep sigh, she thanked me.
“You know,” I said to her, “when the step ladder was invented, I was convinced that women no longer had any use for men, seeing as they could now reach high things on their own. But as long as there are spiders around, I’ll always mean something to someone. It’s why I’m married.”
Anna laughed, I didn’t look like too much of an ass, and I gracefully left the second floor like a war hero. I was feeling pretty good about myself, and thought that it would be a good time to eat lunch. After all, nothing celebrates the murdering of an innocent millipede than by enjoying a butterscotch Snak-Pak.
I shut the door to my office and settled in for 45 minutes of silence and eating. On the menu today was a plate of instant macaroni and cheese, two butterscotch Snak-Paks, a single serving of cinnamon applesauce and a bottle of Aquafina. It’s surely no surprise to you that I am the picture of health for a 23 year old. I put on a Talking Heads album, and started reading the newest issue of the Onion, which features a fantastic interview with documentary filmmaker Errol Morris.
It should be noted that, since my promotion, I’ve been residing in my own personal office. I’ve temporarily graduated from cubicle half-walls to wood paneling and an honest-to-God door. I’m not bragging by any means (I said it’s temporary), it’s just pivotal to the story.
I had just gotten to the part of the interview where Mr. Morris was discussing his oscar-winning The Fog Of War, when I heard the buzzing. It sounded like one of the fluorescent lights had suddenly gone wonky, so I looked up for an inspection.
It was then that I saw the largest horsefly I had ever seen. He was clinging to the low ceiling, focusing on me with his 90-some odd eyes, and humming like a massage chair.
Allow me to interject for a brief moment.
Is it at this point where most rational people would open his or her office door, allowing the lumbering beast to exit the room with a minimal level of welts and bloodshed. I, however, am not a rational person. I was smart enough to know that once I opened my door, I had immediately absolved any and all existing lunch rights, and people would start bothering me with work again. To open the door would mean to lose my temporary sanctuary, and I was not willing to give this up. Not today.
The horsefly was in for a fight. I nick-named it “Buzzy”.
I slowly got up from my once-peaceful lunch, rolling up the newspaper behind my back, so Buzzy couldn’t see what I was doing. He was looking at me, trying to figure out what he could do to finish my macaroni and cheese. I was hungry though, and with the killing of a millipede still fresh in my mind, I wasn’t in the mood to share.
I took a half-jump into the air, skimming the ceiling with the newspaper. I missed Buzzy by at least a yard. He took off, but in a 7 by 8 office, he didn’t have too far to go. He flew over to a side wall, trying to blend into a map of Wisconsin that the previous employee had taped to the wall. He was perfectly still, residing near Janesville on the map when I spotted him.
I wound up and took a mighty swing at Buzzy, whiffing entirely and colliding with my applesauce on the backswing. Buzzy once again fled the scene, but my Mott’s single serving wasn’t so lucky.
I made the unfortunate mistake of taking my eyes off of Buzzy for a fraction of a second, making sure that the applesauce wouldn’t spill on the floor (it most certainly did). I no more than turned around when I again made eye contact with this massive sting monkey, making a complete beeline straight for my left eye.
It’s not often that a gnat decides to attack you, but I believe that he saw the urgency of the situation. Buzzy knew that one of us was going to die, and he rightfully didn’t want it to be him.
Seeing this bottle-cap sized, winged disease machine attempt to kamikaze itself into my ocular jelly sent me into a panic. I yelled out loud and dropped to my knees in an attempt to dodge the beast. I blindly and frantically tomahawked into the air with my newspaper, Talking Heads calmly muffling the sounds of the horrid struggle now taking place in my office. I raked my fingers feverishly through my hair to see if Buzzy had decided to burrow himself into my scalp. By doing this, he could camp out for the day, and kill me as I slept this evening. Smart horsefly.
As I stumbled back to my feet, I tried to collect myself. I used the spilled applesauce as a crude war paint for my face (okay, I didn’t), and stood perfectly still. I quietly reached over to the stereo and paused the disk, listening intently for the trademark hum.
“Come on, Buzzy,” I whispered. “Show yourself.”
Once again, I caught him in the corner of my eye, making another mad dash for my face. I took a baseball swing at him and connected, sling-shotting him across the room and onto my computer desk. He lay there, twitching and missing a leg, but very much alive and dangerous. I gave him another shot for good measure, and he stopped moving. I didn’t want to touch him, so I used the sticky end of a Post-It note to transport Buzzy into my trash receptacle.
Exhaling deeply, I cleaned up my mess and tried to put the trauma behind me. I didn’t have anything to read now, but I could still finish my lunch because….
What the hell was that noise?
Looking over to the trashcan, I saw Buzzy crawling up the side of the discarded newspaper. He was flipping me the bird. Horrified, I threw my spilled container of applesauce at him, and he disappeared. He’s was no longer in the trashcan, and he wasn’t anywhere else in the office either. He simply disappeared.
That meant that he was on me. He had returned from the grave to finish the job.
Whipping myself into a frenzy, I did a rain dance in the office, pulling all of my clothing in every direction while messing up my already psychotic-looking hair. No sign of Buzzy whatsoever.
He made it out. He beat me.
Flabbergasted, I threw myself onto my chair and blinked hard. This was karma for killing that millipede earlier. I tampered in God’s domain, and I got what I deserved. In this case, what I deserved was to be mercilessly tormented by a horsefly the size of an apple fritter.
Well, back to work.
Sunday, September 17CDP Top 30 Posts Of All Time - #12.
"Subbin' It Up."
(Originally published 02-21-06.)
I love subs about as much as legally possible. Believe me, the law is not flexible on these things.
I'd eat them 3 meals a day if I could survive the lethal strain it would put on my heart. For my money, they are as close to perfect as food can be. You have great tasting, soft bread (Garlic Herb is my favorite), a thick, artery-sludging inch of heavy mayo, expertly sliced cheeses of your choice, fresh shredded lettuce and crisp, red onions to top off this most wondrous creation.
As I don't eat meat, that's all I take in my sub, and it's all I will ever need to be truly happy.
I could go for one right now. In fact, I'll be right back. Hang on a minute.
Okay. As I was saying, sub sandwiches make me happy. However, because they cost money and aren't good for me at all the way I like them, I've been restraining myself to only one per work week for lunch. The remaining four days, I'm stuck with frozen pasta or macaroni and cheese. Believe you me, I look forward to 'sub day' like I look forward to pay day.
In Madison, we have approximately 68 million different sub franchises. Cousins, Subway, Blimpie, Milio's (formerly Big Mike's), Sub's Ahoy!, Yellow Submarine, Tubby's Subs, Rub-A-Dub-Subs, George Michael's Sub Machine; the list goes on forever (I might have made the last few up, I can't remember). It's one of the reasons I'm never moving, along with the fact that my wife and cats live here. This abundance of sandwich goodness makes them all very hard to resist, but it has given me a great cross-section to sample and rate. I've been to every sub shack in this fine city, and have become a pro when it comes to the beautiful dance that is sandwich creation and consumption.
I'm offering today's post as a public service announcement to other fellow sub lovers. Heed my words, I'm about to make your next sub experience worlds more enjoyable.
Let's get right down to it. When it comes to the bottom-of-the-barrel, lowest common denominator, absolute worst sub franchise in America, Subway wins this contest, hands-down. It may be the biggest and baddest franchise in the nation, but overall, they can't hold a greasy candle to anyone else in the game.
For starters, their portions are out of touch. They're still sticking with the tried-and-true 6 and 12-inch styles. For the same price, you can get a 7 and 14-inch sub at Cousins or an 8 and 16-inch sub at Milio's (a Dane county staple). That's an extra 4 inches for free! That should be enough right there to send you elsewhere. I've been known to cross state lines just to get the sandwich I happen to be craving at the time.
Secondly, they have the worst customer service I have ever seen (not to mention, the ugliest store design on earth). Every single time I walk into a Subway, I'm instantly reminded of why I should never go there again, and feel like I'm about to be shot in the back of the head. For some reason, Subway always seems to hire one of two types of terrible employees.
The first type is the attitude and angst-ridden high schooler. This young boy or girl hates their job so much that they refuse to even look at you during the course of the entire transaction. They talk openly about hating their job, even as they make your sandwich, and will take frequent breaks to do other things during the process. Because of their lack of eye contact, you'll need to tell them what you want on your sandwich a half-dozen times, and they'll still get it wrong. Eventually, they'll spot a friend of theirs, and spend the next five minutes talking to them while your lunch slowly spoils behind the sneeze-guard. For the time it takes them to construct this ragged masterpiece, I could have jumped behind the counter, killed everyone wearing an apron and still made the sandwich faster.
That's another thing I can't stand about Subway. The 'Sandwich Artist' buttons those employees have to wear. It's not an art form to put edible things in between bread for the purpose of consumption. Besides, I have never been handed a sub that made me want to place it behind a velvet rope for viewing. At least, not one from Subway.
The second type of employee is the attitude and angst-ridden middle-ager. Clearly, I'm not being judgemental concerning age here, because the young and old can equally suck at making my sandwiches. This specific type of person makes your sandwich with such staggering contempt and apathy, you think they're going to slit your throat or pass out, whatever's easier for them at the time. They don't even try to hide the fact that they hate you with the flaming intensity of a thousand suns.
It never fails. I'll walk into a Subway, and a 6 foot 4, 600 pound Sandwich Artist will stand there with her hands on her hips, looking at me as if I wasn't wearing pants. Head cocked, eyes wide open, just counting down the seconds in her head until she can take her break and never see me again.
"What you want?"
"Um, a foot-long, please. Just lettuce, cheese and mayo."
(She's not making eye contact with me, therefore she's not hearing a damn word I'm saying.)
"Um...just lettuce, cheese and mayo. Foot-long, please."
(At this point, she starts constructing my 6-inch sandwich. Without even looking up at me...)
"You want cheese?"
"No, a foot-long, please."
(At this point, she looks up at me like I somehow made a mistake that completely and utterly destroyed her day. Now angry at me for supposedly changing my mind about the length of my sandwich, she exhales loudly and starts over.)
"No, thank you. Just lettuce, cheese and mayo."
(Another heavy exhale. The phone rings, and as she walks away to answer it, knocks my entire half-made sub into the vat of sprouts. Later, she pretends it didn't happen, seemingly forgetting that the barrier between the two of us is made of glass. I say nothing, for fear she will yell at me. I'm running late as is.)
"What? Nothing, thank you."
It is at this point where she wraps my sandwich up in paper, but realizes that she put way too much lettuce in it to close properly. Instead of rectifying the situation, she just flattens the sandwich temporarily and wraps it up as quickly as possible, essentially spring-loading the damn thing to surprise me later. When I take it back to the office to enjoy, I notice that the sub package is all but vibrating with pressure, waiting to explode all over me. All it takes is for me to put a slight tear into the side of the paper for the entire sandwich to come sproinging out like a worm-filled can of novelty peanuts. Lettuce and mayo covers my important documents and newspaper. Thanks, Subway.
It should be mentioned that everything I just said has happened to me at one point or another.
Look, it's not all bad, though. Mainly because every other sub joint in the city is amazing. Cousins is my favorite.
Why? Because they hire ex-convicts.
Former inmates make good sandwiches because they don't want to go back to jail. They put far more pride into their work than teenagers, and understand efficiency and assembly-line ethic from their prison and factory experience. They were tailor-made to make sandwiches for a living.
They always call me 'sir,' and talk nice and loud. They're usually missing a tooth or two, so they whistle when they talk.
"Isss that all, sssssir?"
"Yup, that'll do it, thanks."
"Sssssix sssssixteen, sssssir! You wanna reccccceipt?"
They really shine when it comes down to the science of a sandwich. They are quick-draw ninjas with the condiments, and keep the mayo in a holster.
"Ex-ssssstra mayo, sssssir?"
(He then pulls a bottle of mayo from the holster in his side-pocket, twirls it three times and splorts it liberally onto my Garlic Herb bread before twirling it again and placing it back in its chamber. It's usually at this point when I place a dollar or two in the tip jar. It's worth it, because I didn't just get a sub, I got a show!)
Speaking of which, should you tip at fast food places? Some people think not, because they aren't doing the normal tasks of a waiter at a restaurant. Personally, I tip when they do a good job. For example, if I go to a place so many times that they know my order by heart, that just earned them an extra dollar. way to go!
In conclusion, I don't like Subway. Sub sandwiches rule; you might want to consider eating one for lunch or dinner today. Tell 'em the CDP sent you; they probably know who I am. Sound off in the comments section, and tell me what you like on your sub.