Monday, April 30, 2012

The Wife: A True Musical Oddity


I heard the lyrics as I prepared steaks on the grill one warm Saturday evening. They were coming from the Adult Alternative music channel that I'm forced to pay for each month as part of my cable package. For the record, I'm also paying for Metal, Contemporary Christian, and Toddler Tunes. All three are excellent choices when I'm tired and want guests to leave.

The band's name was Ween. While the singer sounded British, Ween is actually an experimental American rock band, according to Wikipedia. The song was entitled "Your Party."

We had the best time at your party

The wife and I thank you very much

Had the late Dick Clark ever featured this song on "American Bandstand," I would have panned it for obvious reasons: It didn't have a good beat and I couldn't dance to it. What did intrigue me was the singer mentioning his wife. It's not a word often heard in song lyrics. Kenny Rogers sang about his "Lady," John Lennon crooned over his "Woman" and artists from Michael Jackson to 'N Sync have immortalized their "Girlfriend" in song. But rare is the tune that contains the common word for female partner in a marital relationship. Rarer still is use of the word in a positive or even neutral context.

Want proof? Google "lyrics containing wife." The results are slim. When I searched the phrase, the first hit came from The Who's "My Wife." Here's a sample:

My life's in jeopardy

Murdered in cold blood is what I'm gonna be

I ain't been home since Friday night

And now my wife is coming after me

Not exactly the most glowing tribute to a spouse.

Next on the list was a ditty penned by singer/songwriter Jonathan Richman called "When I Say Wife."

When I say 'wife'

It's cause I can't find another word for the way we be

But 'wife' sounds like you're mortgaged

"Wife" sounds like laundry

I wonder how Richman explained to his wife that he equated her with a pile of dirty underwear.

Rapper Ne-Yo chose to use "wife" as a verb and what I think is an adverb in his song, "Wife Her."

Even when you get locked up, you can call her up

She's there for you. That's the kind of girl you need.

One that you can wifey.

Don't wait too late. You'll miss a good thing.

Go and get the ring. And tell her that you wife her.


From there, the Google hit list deteriorated into song parodies containing "wife." With apologies to my wife, I found musical comedian Tim Hawkins' spoof of Green Day's "Time of Your Life" hilarious.

Hey honey, have you gained some weight in your rear end?

That dress you wear reminds me of my old girlfriend

And where'd you get those shoes? I think they're pretty lame

Would you stop talking 'cause I'm trying to watch the game

If you're a man who wants to live a long and happy life

These are the things you don't say to your wife

I did find a few sappy wife tributes but even those aroused suspicion. Frank Sinatra sang a sweet ode to his marital companion with "I Love My Wife."

If rosy lips invite me

Well, that's life

But just in case, you couldn't guess

I love my wife

I'd get all misty were it not for the fact that Ol' Blue Eyes recorded the song in 1976. By that time, he was on wife No. 4.

Finally, there was the Climax Blues Band's 1980 hit simply called "I Love You."

You came along and stole my heart when you entered my life

Ooh babe, you got what it takes so I made you my wife.

Nice, but the singer also mentioned that he'd been drinking lots of beer and the woman who would become his soul mate picked him up off the floor.

I am not a songwriter or a poet, but I know when a void needs filling. It's time for airwaves and iPods alike to include some positive songs about a man's spouse and label her accordingly. Some guys, myself included, are happily married. Now we need to relay those feelings in song. Here's what I have so far:

I was gazing at my WIFE one night while making dinner

That girl, my WIFE, she's a real winner

Just thinking 'bout my WIFE, I lose focus, get the shakes

That's why it's her fault that I burned the steaks

Nobody ever said good songwriting was easy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Knowledge x Weight = Diploma


I am seriously considering steering my 15-year-old daughter toward a career in orthopedics. How else will she treat the chronic spinal condition that she is developing as a product of our nation's public school system?

There are multiple reasons for her poor posture. She is a teenager so, by law, she is required to slouch at least 90 percent of her waking hours. Her calcium intake is poor, unless one considers Milk Duds a source of that bone-strengthening nutrient. She also would stand much straighter if she weren't constantly stooping down to search for whatever article of clothing is crumpled under her bed.

Her stance, nutrition and slovenly nature are all correctable. But her impending spinal curvature will not cease unless one of two things occurs:

She commits all her school textbooks to memory.

She stops reading altogether.

Unfortunately, neither is going to happen - even though I'm sure she would be thrilled if I suggested the latter. As a result, she continues to trudge her high school corridors each day carrying the weight of a small boulder on her back.

On a recent morning, I sipped coffee and watched her amble down the driveway to catch her ride. Her backpack was slung over her right shoulder, causing her to tilt precariously in that direction. Her best friend, Haley, waited at the end of the drive, tipping violently to the left since she chose that shoulder for her backpack. Standing together, they looked like teenage Siamese twins who had just been separated.

That afternoon she came home and dropped her backpack on the floor, causing small dishes to shudder in our pantry. I picked up the backpack and was convinced I heard my hernia popping. Once the pain subsided, I retrieved our scale from the bathroom, simply because I wanted to answer the following question: What is the weight of a good public education?

As I reached into the bag and pulled out each book, I channeled my best ringside announcer voice. "In this corner, weighing in at 4.4 pounds, the master of mathematical mayhem, ALGEBRA AND TRIG! And in this corner, tipping the scales at 5.2 pounds, the phenom of earthly phenomenon, WORLD GEOGRAPHY AND CULTURE."

"Dad, you are totally weird."

"And in this corner . . ."

"Dad, there are only two people in a boxing match."

"Quiet, I'm on a roll. Weighing in at a paltry 3.65 pounds, the syllabus of all things Spanish, EN ESPANOL!"

"I'm going to Haley's to study."

"Great. Ask her how her sciatica feels today. And in this corner . . ."

The biology and literature books weighed five pounds apiece. All told, my daughter's textbooks added an extra 25 pounds to her 115-pound frame. No wonder she chooses to buy lunch in the cafeteria rather than bring a brown bag from home. Why make things worse by lugging an apple around?

That night I lay in bed reading my Kindle, which holds 3,500 books and weighs 8.3 ounces. Not pounds, ounces.

"She's going to have shrunk 6 inches by the time she's a senior," I said to my wife, "Her prom dress is only going to need one shoulder strap because the other shoulder won't exist."

"What's your point?"

"My point is, hasn't the public school system ever heard of electronic books? If every kid owned a Kindle, a Nook or something similar, they might stand a chance to reach their full height. At the very least, the basketball team would improve."

"So what are you going to do about it?"

"I dunno. Call the principal?"

"You do that, honey."

The next day I did in fact call the principal, who wholeheartedly agreed with my concerns.

"I picked up a book the other day and wasn't sure if I should defend myself or read it," said Dr. Thomas Trengove, principal of her school since 1993.

Trengove said the "weighty" book issue is on administrators' minds. But, like all book publishers, textbook purveyors equate electronic books with shrinking profit margins and are therefore resistant to cramming an entire physics book onto an iPad. Trengrove predicts the conversion will eventually happen but, until it does, his school orders duplicate books for kids with back problems. One set stays at school while the other remains at home.

I can only hope textbook companies come to their senses. For I have another daughter who will enter high school in five years. Based on her current growth rate, her pediatrician said she could be 6 feet tall.

Or 5-foot-7 if she studies really hard.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Keeping golf legal: notes from a recliner referee


I sat in my recliner watching millionaires swing golf clubs. I swore I could hear my wife rolling her eyes.

"I can't believe you are watching golf," she said, echoing a statement made by millions of wives every weekend.

"This isn't golf, honey. It's the Masters, the granddaddy of golf tournaments," I replied. "And I'm not watching. I'm officiating."

"You look like you're sleeping. What do you mean, you're 'officiating?'"

"I'm looking for rules violations. If one occurs, I will report it."

"Well I'm going shopping. Have fun napping, I mean refereeing, or whatever it is you say you are doing."

Doesn't my better half realize that televised golf has become interactive? That it's up to middle-age husbands like myself to keep the game's integrity intact by exposing possible criminal activity among the links' elite? It's a responsibility we take seriously. If not for us, Irishman Padraig Harrington would not have been disqualified from a 2011 tournament for moving his ball a fraction of an inch when marking it, a clear violation of United States Golf Association Rule 20-3a. Dustin Johnson might own the 2010 PGA Championship were it not for a La-Z-Boy marshal who, in between siestas, saw that DJ had done the UNTHINKABLE by grounding his club in sand (USGA Rule 13-4). In each instance, there was no grand jury, depositions or bench trial. Both players were found guilty in the time in takes to make a phone call and rewind tape. Judge Judy moves slower.

Don't get me wrong, I don't carry a rule book when I play. Quite the opposite. I still adhere to the "if it's less than 2 feet away, it's good" rule. But I also don't play for a million dollars each time I tee it up. I once won $25 - but only because, on the final hole, my eight beat my neighbor's nine.

Now, as I sat in my chair watching Masters third-round coverage, I wondered who I would call if I saw an infraction? I dialed directory assistance.

"Business or residence?"

"Uh, business?"


"Augusta National, 18th hole, TV tower, Jim Nantz, "I said, hoping to speak to CBS' lead golf announcer.

"I only have a listing for Augusta National."


A sweet, very Southern female answered on the second ring.

"If I saw a rules violation, who would I talk to?" I asked.

"I'll transfer you to our communications office," she replied.

A communications representative took it from there. "You'll need to talk to the rules committee," she said. "Please hold."

Less than two minutes on the phone and already I was about to talk to the rules committee? DURING the Masters? This was easier than I thought. As I waited, I assumed a phone menu would kick in. "For putting infractions, press one. For hazard infractions, press two. For anything John Daly related, dial 911."

Instead, I spoke to another communications official who told me, in no uncertain terms, not to use his name in print.

"The chairman is the only person who speaks for the club," he said.

"I just want to know what happens if somebody calls in with a rules violation? How do you separate the serious calls from the crackpots?" I asked.

"When these calls are received, all are taken seriously," he replied.

Suddenly I felt like I was talking to an airport bomb squad member.

"All are forwarded to the tournament office and looked at closely by our tournament committee," he continued. "If necessary, a conversation would take place with the rules committee."

"Has anybody called in yet?" I asked.

"Not that I'm aware of."

Impossible, I thought. With a green jacket and so much prestige on the line, somebody must be cheating a little bit. I moved my chair closer to the television. Wait a minute, did I just see Bubba Watson clean his ball illegally? I often clean bits of sand, tree branches, cart-path gravel and condominium brick off my ball, most likely violating USGA Rule 21 in the process. I reached for my cell.

No, Watson appears legal. Good thing, since he ended up winning the tournament. Now the camera was showing Tiger Woods. He was in the rough. Wait a minute, did he just improve his stance? I reached for the phone again.

Then I put it down. All this officiating was making me tired. I dialed the USGA office in Far Hills, N.J., and left a message.

"Please consider adding the following rule: 'Play is temporarily suspended if rules officials feel the need to nap.'"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Don't Drink The Water - Become the Water


Over the years, I have had several bit parts in commercials. In actor's terms that means, "blink and you will miss me."

I was the guy in the local Chevrolet spot who said, "New or used. We're ALWAYS making deals." I was the dad in the John Deere Insurance ad who taught his toddler son how to play the piano while mom looked on and smiled approvingly. (Years later, I still can't figure out the correlation between piano lessons and life insurance). Finally, I was the infomercial spokesman who said, "If the only thing standing between you and a new vehicle is a lower monthly payment, then call Drop the Payment RIGHT NOW!"

As video technology accelerates and flat screen monitors appear seemingly everywhere, the casting calls have been getting weirder. Recently, I auditioned to be the guy who appears on the gas pump screen when you begin filling your tank. I have to admit, every time I see that guy, I have an overwhelming desire to toss a lighted match directly at the pump. I prefer to purchase gas in silence; I don't need some perky Gen Y dude saying, "Hi, welcome to Shell. It's good to see you."

Incidentally, I didn't get the part, probably because I improvised dialogue during the audition. I doubt the producers were impressed when I said, "Hi! It's $4.50 a gallon today. Sucks, doesn't it?"

Talking gas pump guy paled compared to the next audition I received in my inbox a few weeks ago. The spot was for the Oklahoma City Water Department. The role called for someone "lovable, funny and spontaneous. An actor with good comic or improv skills is mandatory. He needs comedic chops, but also depth."

So far, so good. After all, I'm an actor. I can certainly fake the lovable and funny part.

Then I saw what role I would be auditioning for.


That's right, I would be using my comic and improv skills to portray H2O. At least I was auditioning for the lead role.

Like any actor, I tried to "immerse" myself in the character. What does water sound like? Should I gargle during the audition? Open my throat and slam a bottle of Evian? Should I arrive with wet hair, thereby showing the producers that water is with me at all times?

I sought advice from my Facebook friends, who were only too happy to help.

"Be positive. Think 'glass half full.'"

"Do they know your sense of humor is 'dry'?"

"Make it shoot out your nose. That's always funny."

It didn't help that this audition had no script. Like many potential roles that come my way, I am expected to "create" the part rather than read the part. As a result, I get some strange suggestions from casting directors.

"We're looking for a Will Ferrell/Jim Carrey/Ben Stiller type," one director recently said.

"So you want me to impersonate Will Ferrell or Jim Carrey or Ben Stiller?" I asked.

"No. We want you to be Greg Schwem . . . with a little bit of those guys thrown in."


So now I was faced with creating dialogue for water. I stood in front of the mirror and summoned my inner liquid.

"Without me, you will die." No, too depressing.

"Hey kids! Put me inside a balloon. Fun fun fun!" Not believable enough. Maybe water feels trapped inside a balloon.

"Ever wonder where I go when you flush me? Right back into the Oklahoma City drinking supply!" True, but kind of gross. I can't imagine Will Ferrell saying that.

Then I switched to method acting, opting to become water instead of speaking like water. I crouched down and began shaking violently. My wife passed by my home office, screamed and reached for her cell.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Dialing 911. What is the matter with you?"

"I'm water boiling."

"What do you mean you're boiling water?"

"I'm not boiling water. I'm pretending to be water boiling. It's for an audition."

"Why can't I have a normal husband?"

Finally, after an hour of imagining myself as water in every conceivable form, including being shot from a fire hose, I was ready to accept the audition. Then I read the last sentence of the email:

"Do not submit if you cannot attend auditions in Norman, Okla. No exceptions!"

And, just like that, my dreams were crushed. Again. But if anybody from the Chicago Water Department is reading this, give me a call.

I'm much cheaper than Ben Stiller.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Time to fill out your presidential bracket!


My favorites choked, my dark horses stumbled and I watched helplessly as my NCAA bracket literally folded itself into a paper airplane and flew into my office garbage can before the Sweet 16 was even solidified.

Still, like millions of Americans, I remain excited as March Madness reaches its crescendo. I enjoy beginning conversations with "Who do you have left?" I revel in sitting in my favorite chair watching nail biters among teams from schools I could never find on a map (quick, somebody type "Xavier" into my GPS). The NCAA tournament is a yearly passion I share with, by some estimates, 30 million Americans who faithfully fill out brackets.

Yes, we Americans do love our sports, as evidenced by this year's staggering Super Bowl ratings and college basketball's increasing popularity. We also love our reality shows. More than a decade after launching, American Idol and Survivor consistently garner top 10 ratings and Dancing With the Stars, Fear Factor and The Voice show little signs of losing steam.

What we don't love is voting for future leaders. Just look at the paltry 20 percent turnout for the Illinois primary election. Other states reported similar dismal figures.

Somebody needs to figure out how to put a little excitement back into our electoral process. Seriously, why can't we just skip the glut of campaign ads? Do away with the town hall meetings and the pancake breakfasts. Instead, let's choose a president using activities that intrigue us: sports and reality television. Sure, some rules would have to be tweaked, but it could work. Picture this:

Exactly one year before the November general election, a seeding committee that comprises two ex-presidents, one unemployed autoworker, a soccer mom, Sharon Osbourne and the winner of a new show called So, You Want To Pick The President, convenes and establishes the Presidential Bracket. Preferential seeds are given to anyone crazy enough to be making a second run for office. So put Mitt Romney at the top and seed Ron Paul second. Rick Perry gets the third seed because he looks dangerous. Newt Gingrich goes fourth; anything lower and he would complain that his paltry seed was the result of a vast media conspiracy.

Now fill in the remaining slots with Bachmann, Santorum, Cain, Pawlenty, and Huntsman. In the first round, candidates don't battle the entire field but their sole bracket opponent via a series of nationally televised challenges that combine the best of politics, athletic contests and crazy reality stunts. Let the water cooler conversation begin!

"Romney versus Perry. Who do you like?"

"I was going to go with Romney after the foreign policy debate, but Perry kicked his butt in cockroach eating. Now I'm having second thoughts."

"Me, too. Better wait until tonight when they dance the rumba with celebrity partners."

"By the way, did you see Ron Paul singing Stevie Wonder on Fox last night? I was impressed."

Once all contests have been completed, everybody makes their first round picks via their home PCs, thereby eliminating that annoying problem of trudging to their local grade school or church to cast votes. CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Jon King breathlessly tally the results.

"Jon, we are seeing some real surprises tonight. Who would have thought Bachmann, a political unknown just six months ago, would be crushing Pawlenty?"

"I agree, Wolf. I'm guessing it was either her views on gay marriage or her victory in the weight-loss challenge that turned the tide."

With the field whittled in half, America takes a breather and surveys the remaining options. Huntsman is out, so do you support Santorum? He aced the Minute to Win It challenges but looked shaky when playing Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grade Liberal? Romney shined on Real Businessmen of Massachusetts but his health-care plan and his free-throw technique are suspect. Then there's this election's Cinderella story, Herman Cain. Still in the hunt and surging in popularity after touting his economic policies while winning a cross country race with his partner, Snooki from Jersey Shore. Everybody pick again!

Eventually only one candidate will be left standing. Maybe it's Romney. But he won't learn of his victory by watching election returns. Instead, he'll be standing alone on a mountain top when Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus approaches him and utters a single line:

"Mitt, will you accept this rose?"