Thursday, May 31, 2007

Worst Drive Home Ever

NOTE: this particular anecdote generally concerns humorous subject matter of the "low" variety. if you're not up for that, no problem, just check back next week or so; i'll probably have posted something by then with wider audience appeal.

Thursday night May 17th didn't start off poorly; however, it was to end with the Worst. Drive. Home. Ever.

Grace's parents had just flown in from L.A. for the following day's travel to Austin and my brother-in-law's graduation from UT graduate business school; Grace's mom had one of our favorite Houston pizza places (Barry's) on her mind so off we went to eat dinner.

After a delicious meal of one Barry's Special and one pepperoni-and-pineapple pizza we headed home so that i could pack up my gear for the week's hockey game.

it was a late one, starting at 10:20 pm; the game was a toss-up through two periods but the third was evidently not ours to have so i walked out of the rink non-victorious. would that my troubles ended there.

the drive home from my rink is about a 30-minute affair due in part to Houston being a generally monstrous and sprawling metropolis; about fifteen minutes north on I-45 and another fifteen west on the 610 loop is the usual routine. normally i use this time to wind down from the game and review plays in my head, reinforcing what i did well and analyzing the areas of play where my athletic candle may not have shone so bright. on this night, though, my mind was not afforded such a state of ease and contemplation.

about ten minutes into my journey north on I-45 i started to sense a little rumble in my stomach. normally this is neither irregular nor bothersome; since about junior-high age my stomach has been an especially sensitive thing. while in early years it produced some anxiety over long bathroom-less schoolbus rides on field trips or other occasions in which a site of relief was not readily available, over time i learned to manage and mostly control my stomach's temper.

in the sense of that history, these first few rumblings were unremarkable, hardly worrisome; i'd subdued greater disturbances before with little to no trouble.

as a few more minutes passed, though, and the hockey rink's restroom facilities receded further into the black stretch of midnight behind me, i became aware of a growing, piercing painful pressure in my guttiworks that increased with steady precision. at this, the standard first sign of stomach discomfort entering into its more advanced and complicating stages, the first wave of panic set in.

i tried to calm myself and not be mindful of my surroundings, trapped in my car along the ghetto stretch of I-45 during the witching hour. a few moments passing with no relief of discomfort found, the calm began to wear off. i wasn't familiar with the exits here; if i needed to stop, where would i go and would i find anything open at this hour?

too late to turn back to the rink now; i was almost at the halfway mark between there and home, the point of no return. took some deep breaths to center myself and an attempt to bolster my mental reserve: "you can make it through this, everything will be okay". pressed a little harder on the accelerator and picked up the pace homeward ever so slightly. at this point it was clear that i had to push the limits of acceptable speeding to keep the odds in my favor but i could not afford to be pulled over by law enforcement; any such event and the game would truly be lost so i chose my level of law-breaking speed carefully.

onward i sped, simultaneously looking out for patrol cars and any open businesses. a moment of hope: there, on the southbound side, a Taco Cabana! it looked lit up, might be open....but i just passed the exit to it, would have had to take the next one and U-turn, the feeder roads are cruelly long on this stretch of highway, quite a sizable detour. i'm not familiar with Taco Cabana's store hour policies, what if only the drive-through was open? i weighed the options and ruled it out; too much of a gamble. i shifted uncomfortably in my seat and pressed on, still in control at that point but the momentum of the contest rapidly turning against me.

as i careened around the I-45 exit to 610 West the situation quickly deteriorated into a crisis; my stomach, indignant that i had chosen to throw my support behind my bowels in their struggle against its wishes, made known its anger and fury at having been made to process greasy bread/cheese/sauce/meat food products and then be jostled and churned just hours later during my goaltending efforts. panic level entered stage two and the law became broken by an additional five to seven miles per hour. flying down the freeway, mostly alone in the multi-lane thoroughfare. home was creeping slowly closer but i feared not fast enough for my needs. still no available havens of refuge along the highway, my apartment was my only option. the terror increases.

about a half-mile from my exit, as i did the wiggle-dance in my seat, the thought first crossed my mind, resounding with great weight:

i, a grown man, despite every ounce of my will opposed to it, just might actually mess myself right here in this car.

my worldview collapsed inward like a dying star to a fine point; there was only me, my car, the road and its laws and regulations, and the Growing All-Consuming Fear increasingly difficult to deny. despair began to grab hold but i fought it back, summing up my deepest reserves of inner strength. i crested the hill before my freeway exit; this was to be my final test, my greatest challenge, the last street gauntlet before home.

the Scott street exit leads immediately to a stop-light intersection; after that point you must follow a long and curving feeder that runs along west 610 and north 288. this leads to another stop-light before you turn left to take the street crossing over 288. another stop-light on the far side of the street over 288; after that, about a third-mile of street separates you from my apartment complex.

i rose over the ridge to the Scott street exit, praying for a green light at the intersection below. green! but for how long, who knows.... descending the 35 mph exit at 60 mph, this was the breaking point; the jump off of the building onto the rescue helicopter, clipping the right wire on the time bomb. fail to make this light and i was doomed.

no traffic, i barreled through; the light turned yellow but i remained within lawful limits, current velocity excepted. the 610/288 feeder snaked out ahead, mocking me. the tires of my Accord proved their grippy worth as i shot through the curve and raced up to the first overpass stop-light.

Red... and i knew these to be on a timer; despite the absence of cross-traffic at this hour i would be waiting a pre-set amount of time before granted my turn to move.

but i had no time, i was beyond time, on borrowed time at a high interest rate. i am the type of guy who becomes annoyed when i see other people's selfish moving violations: driving in a non-lane area during congested rush hour to get to the feeder road, cutting in at the last possible second to take a freeway exit, parking in non-parking areas, cutting over three lanes of traffic to make a last-second exit, et cetera. in light of this it was no easy choice but i made it: i looked both ways and then ran that red light. crossing over 288, another red-light! quick look to the right for traffic and then burned rubber like i was fleeing a bank robbery.

around a twist in the road and then turned left onto my street, my midsection in agony, possessed by demonic culinary forces. down and up over two sickening, terrifying dips in the street; at this point, within sight of home, it would be the height of ironic cruelty for me to fall short now.

nearing the entrance i fumbled for my complex entry gate's clicker; curse its weak battery, the gate didn't start opening until i was almost upon it. the moment i had enough clearance to get my car through i was on the move. a rapid approach to my building; spying no spaces available i found the nearest curb, shifted into park, hit the hazard flashers, and turned off the car.

as i opened the door and rose from my seat, an almost fatal slip in the mental poise that had been the only thing keeping me in the fight. as i rose my stomach intensified its assault and my lines of defense nearly gave up. an angry admonishment to myself to keep it together and the last twenty yards: a sprint up the stairs (the gods laughing now at my choice to have lived above the first floor for security of our possessions kept on the outside balcony).

keys already in hand, deliriously searching for the apartment key. key located but so nervous and desperate the hands trying to locate it to the lock. no no no no no, hold on just a few seconds longer. my stomach will not be my master, not today.

the front door finally opened, i advanced inside as quickly and quietly as i could in mind of a sleeping wife and in-laws inside; immediately to my right the guest bathroom beckoned and i rushed inside with no time to spare. the next few moments were a blur but when my head cleared i knew this: i made it. i had proven myself worthy on the field of intestinal battle.

the sense of relief during my time spent in that narrow bathroom was overpowering to an almost hallucinogenic effect; i heard choirs of angels sing, my mind expanded beyond human understanding and all of the secrets of the universe became known to me. i realized that i am one with all things, time and space are imaginary constructs and that there never was any stomach pain, indeed there was no stomach at all, only a troublesome imaginary organ in an imaginary body whose illusion keeps me from full harmony.

such are the rewards for those who survive great peril. and there you have it; the worst drive home ever.

Friday, May 25, 2007

sobblog squatter

so i'm home a little early from work on account of the memorial day weekend and decided to check on the ol' blog and see how it looks after my most recent post earlier today.

guess i must have been zoning out when i typed in the address because instead of going to my blog,, i ended up at the site of the original S.O.B.

curious, i decided to see who this person was that caused my friend Steven to have to insert "the" in front of my address when he brought this website into being for me.

this particular blog seems to have died a quick death; looks like the author only posted for a week at the end of May 2004 before giving up on it or leaving Earth to astrally explore other worlds or whatever caused a cessation of new material. so there's not much of a printed record to give us insight on the mind behind the writings; still, let's try and see what can be gleaned.

the author is/was a female attending some sub-par law school in Ohio and seems to have migrated there from Seattle, which she apparently likes/liked considerably more than whatever Ohio town she is/was in.

oh yeah, and she also has a pretty foul mouth / mind; those sensitive to discussions of "blue" topics and words you can't say on network TV should steer clear of her musings. for those of brave spirit and curious nature, go ahead and read her five posts for a quick peek into a world of self-loathing, sexual frustration, familial resentment, and general irritation/anger toward assorted associates, strangers, and educators.

Look, this is why you can't walk at graduation

intrepid grammar reporter in the field Steven Harms recently served notice of this article to me concerning students at a Fort Worth high school who were protesting being excluded from graduation commencement ceremonies due to their inability to pass the TAKS test.

here is the picture that accompanied the article:

listen, children, this is why you cannot walk at graduation.

i would go further; to me the photo above is evidence of the need to be held back a year. high school graduates should not fail basic proofreading of the signs that they (or their parents, as the case may be here) choose to display in public as their own handiwork.

(on a side note, what is the deal with sloppily-prepared protest signs anyways? you have some point about which you are passionate enough to stand around on a street corner during your own free time yet all you can manage to offer the passerby is lazy black handwriting on white poster-board with the words just strewn about in a seemingly haphazard fashion? you've gotta put some showmanship into your message if you want anyone to acknowledge it for more than a split second)

Thursday, May 17, 2007


hi all, haven't posted in a while so i thought i would drop something in to show that my blog existence continues to persist, though in general hibernation at the moment:

- quick note about what in general has been keeping me off the blogosphere:

Grace and I have been in the hunt the last couple of months for our first long-term debt contract whose principal exceeds our annual salaries.... i mean, in the hunt for our first house! We found a well-designed one-story down just south of Houston, the commute from there to downtown being currently the least of all the Houston freeway evils.

I have tried to go through this the right way; I even, after unsatisfying hodgepodge efforts during free moments at work to look at mortgage lenders, took a full day of vacation to stay home and make numerous emails and phone calls until i found the right lender and best deal. can you not see that i am serious!!? (points to anyone who can identify that reference)

Currently scheduled to close on the sale at the end of this month but won't be moving into it officially until the later half of June. time to go buy a lawnmower. and a bed frame. and the widescreen TV i've been wanting for a while. and some new living room furniture. and a kitchen table.....

- quick FOX News rant:

displayed on-screen in large font during an article about the search for the three missing G.I.'s in Iraq:


(cue me gritting my teeth about the lack of oversight)

- quick note about maturity and clothes:

there is no denying it: i am thirty years old and i have reached that point in my life where i have a fairly strong opinion about the design and construction of dress shirts.

for me, the key distinction of a good shirt is not color or pattern or whether the collar is buttoned-down or not; to each his own in those matters.

no, the cornerstone of a dress shirt (at least for the modern business casual employee) is this: the placement of the second-most top button in the middle of the shirt. you know the one i mean, not the top button that chokes your neck and you have to button up if you're wearing a tie; the one below it is the king of business casual shirt buttons.

properly placed, the king button allows the open-neck portion of the shirt to spread out to a short but relatively narrow V up towards the neck; this exposes a moderate amount of undershirt (or chest hair, if you go European with your dresswear) and keeps the collar of the shirt more neatly held near the sides of your neck.

if the designer places the king button too high, though, the V spread takes on a more extreme obtuse angle and the collar tends to not sit as well, not to mention the fact that a highly-placed king button can obscure the undershirt entirely and make it look like maybe you should be wearing a tie but you're not so what's up with that Mr. GQ?

this is all brought to mind because today i'm wearing the most expensive dress shirt i own; a Kenneth Cole, i believe. despite its premium cost, i've decided that it's the worst dress shirt i own because its king button placement is severely flawed. the king button is nearly up to the bottom of my neck; if, as right now, i leave it unbuttoned and rely on the button below it (the prince button?) which is a good ways down toward the top of my chest, i start getting this 1970s V-neck spread, very long. if i didn't have an undershirt on i think i would be required to be wearing a long gold chain around my neck and probably also be doused in cologne.

another problem with the Kenneth Cole is its regrettable collar size ratio (this is another key element of a good dress shirt, but not quite as crucial as the king button)

there are two main lengths in my mind of a dress shirt collar:
1) the height of the inside collar (where the shirt rises up around the outside of the neck
2) the height of the outside collar (the traditional flap of fabric that folds down and makes the traditional "collar")

i haven't put thought to paper on the actual mathematics of it but in general i'd say that #2 should be probably about 7/5 as big as #1. properly ratioed, #2 will stand up on your shoulders and look fairly crisp. if #1 is much too short or #2 much too long (or both), then the collar tends to spread out wide (again much like 1970s fashion dictated) and the whole collar looks a bit deflated.

i have a closetful of Stafford dress shirts i bought years ago, probably from JC Penney for half the cost of the Kenneth Cole, whose design in king button placement and collar ratio is just about perfect. just goes to show that high-visibility brands don't always have what you need; as for the Kenneth Cole shirt, i've ignored it for a long time but i think today is the day i decide not to wear it anymore (maybe for an event that requires a tie, but then again maybe not as it still suffers from bad collar ratio).

there you go, more than you probably ever cared to consider about men's dress shirts.