August 17, 2009


When I swim in the ocean here in Southern California, I have to combat my Midwest tendencies to fear sharks in the water. Lots of people have this fear. It’s all Jaws-related. Even the Pacific’s gentle telepathic reassurances that she will protect me don’t totally erase my fear of sharks. But this swimming season, I have done pretty well, swimming out past where my feet can touch the bottom, trusting the mighty sea, and never being let down. Then I took my 5-year-old niece to the beach recently and while she was running from the tide on shore and screaming with glee, I waded out into the water. A young man with bronzed skin and a boogie board standing with his girlfriend stopped me. “Hey man, I wouldn’t go out there,” he said. “I’ve never said this to anyone before,” he continued, “but there’s a shark out there.”

“C’mon,” I said while my niece screamed and eluded another wave racing toward her.

“I’m from California,” he said, “I’m a beach bum. I’m always here. But I was out there just now and saw this huge shadow swim right next to me. For real..”

His girlfriend was really pretty..

“Will you protect me?” I telepathically asked the ocean.

“You will be protected,” she answered.

I shrugged to the young man, caught a look of shock in his girlfriend’s eyes and had one of my most pleasant swims. From the water I listened to my niece shriek with joy on shore and, after dunking my head underwater to see for massive, fast-moving shadows coming my way, heard the ocean laughing hysterically at me.

August 3, 2009

No Petruchio

I plain-old don’t like plays, and it has nothing to do with the plays themselves.

This odd aversion to live performances began after I purchased eight tickets to see the play Taming of the Shrew.

Mind you, I didn’t attend a single performance with seven other people. No, I bought eight tickets, two at a time, and saw the play only once.

The first gal I got the tickets for was studying paleontology at the time. I dated her for a week. For me, it was one of those sugar-sweet weeks like a tropical island fantasy. For her, it felt more like the Ice Age.

I bought the tickets for a Saturday afternoon show and waited inside the theatre lobby for her. And I waited—and waited..

She was an hour and a half late, and when she pulled up in front, she didn’t even bother getting out of her car to meet me inside.

“Am I late?” she said as I opened the car door and moved her groceries off the passenger’s seat so I could sit down.

“Nooooooo problem,” I said, bright-eyed and happy that she showed up at all. “I bought two tickets for next weekend. We can go then!”

But she didn’t want to go next weekend. She just wanted to be friends. So I was stuck with the next weekend’s tickets. I called a few female friends but none could go. I stopped calling around because, well, I had run out of female friends. So that’s two sets of tickets that I bought and pitched down the drain.

The third set of tickets I picked up with the idea that I’d surprise my next love interest on a first date. Over spaghetti and olive oil, I popped the question: Did she like plays?

“Definitely,” she said. “Just not Taming of the Shrew. I just saw it.”

So I took her to see the only movie that wasn’t sold out that Saturday night or featuring a plot line about college kids having way more sex than I was having. We ended up seeing Aladdin. Behind us sat a family with something like 19 kids. A little boy kept asking if we were “boy-fend en gir-fend.” My date stressed that we were only friends.

I should have simply gone to the play alone, and appreciated the fact that I was becoming fast friends with the ticket agent. But I bought another pair of tickets and invited yet another date. She accepted and we actually saw Taming of the Shrew. We both enjoyed it. But what she didn’t enjoy was when I announced over dinner that my lobster tail was, and I think the exact words were “an obvious scam” because it cost $25 and ya’ couldn’t even eat both sides.

When I dropped her off at her apartment, she was reaching for the passenger door handle before I even stopped my car.

“This isn’t even your block yet,” I said as she waved goodbye to me.

So I don’t like plays. There’s no point in seeing ‘em.