Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Sound of Music

Contrary to what the title may imply, this post is not going to actually be about the movie The Sound of Music. Not that I couldn't write a post about it, because I could. It's just that I'm going to see it in Grant Park tonight and I'm a little preoccupied.

Anyway, real topic of this post: Why am I so affected by music? It's really becoming a nuisance. Sometimes when I'm at work listening to my beloved iTunes, a particular song comes on that's so amazing, I have to stop working and just listen. (I would like to take this time to say that before some of you go making bratty comments about me not working, I do get my work done regardless. I'm just that good.) This, however, is not the biggest problem I have. (Again, keep your bratty comments to yourself.)

When I was very young I received, as a gift, a little music box that played "My Favorite Things." I was too young to know what song it was; to my ears it was brand new. What I did know was that every time I wound up my music box and it started playing, I cried uncontrollably. The tragedy was that I really loved this song very much and I didn't understand why it made me cry. I remember staring at the music box with disdain wondering why I couldn't just enjoy it like a normal child. I proceeded to shove it away in a drawer, refusing to ever listen to it again. Thus began my strange, sad life of crying for no apparent reason at completely random songs.

Luckily as I've gotten older I've learned to control this impulse, though there are still times where a certain song will get me. What is that about?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Door County Tales

Seeing as I enjoyed a wonderful vacation in Door County last week, I thought I should share some Door County stories from this year and years past. We stay in a resort (The Rushes) where my grandma owns a timeshare; one week a year. We share the week with my mom's three sisters, so technically we only go every 4 years. We stay in a nice condo that is very near the beach and boat area. It looks like this:

I've been vacationing in this same place for basically my whole life and, as you can imagine, some crazy things have happened up there. I thought I should get some of these stories down on paper (internet paper).

Story #1: One of the many activities at The Rushes that we enjoy is ping pong. They have an outdoor and indoor ping pong table. Pretty fancy, I know. Anyway, we were enjoying a friendly doubles game with my cousin and I playing against our moms. After a missed ball on our moms' side, I stopped paying attention for a moment while they retrieved it. All of a sudden, I hear some high pitched squealing and I see my mother flailing about out of the corner of my eye. Having no idea as to what could have caused such an insane reaction, I asked what happened. All she could manage to say was, "He was looking right at me!" with wide eyes and a terrified tone of voice. I immediately thought there was some crazed lunatic killer stalking us during our ping pong game, but I quickly found out she was referring to a freakin' little ground squirrel that had climbed up the tree beside her and stared down at her. This immediately brought me back to one fateful night when my mother fled into our house, abandoning me on the patio when she thought a squirrel was going to attack us.

Story #2: This happened sometime when I was in high school, and it involves again, my mother, my aunt and 4 of my cousins. We went to this state park kind of thing on Lake Michigan that also had some woodsy spots you could hike through. We set out on our hike; myself and two of my cousins making our way through the woods getting quite a bit farther ahead than the others. Suddenly we hear my mother (why is it always my mother?) yelling to us from rather far back that we need to leave. They all made their way quickly out of the woods while my two cousins and I rolled our eyes and strolled leisurely behind them. When we were out of the woods and gathered together, they explained that they had heard a growl possibly from up in a tree. Thus began in intense investigation by my mother and aunt to find out what kind of animal this could have been. Their first instinct was a bear, but after a few employees at this park told them there had been cougar sightings, they settled on the cougar theory. We still argue to this day about whether or not a growl was actually heard, but one thing I do know is my mother made a b-line out of those woods leaving me, once again, to get attacked by a wild animal.

Story #3: The Rushes also has a number of organized activities throughout the week. We never bothered involving ourselves in such things until a few years back. The first one we tried was the Wine and Cheese Party. It's one of the first activities they have; it's supposed to be a way to get to know some of your neighbors. Now, I don't like getting to know people, but I heard there was going to be food. So we ventured over and sure enough, there was wine and cheese along with a number of other drinks and goodies. It was great. We got a little carried away and may have eaten through their entire supply of meatballs. Luckily, this year when we went they had more than enough meatballs on hand. The only other activity we participated in a few years go was Bingo. It was a huge disaster. My mother kept calling Bingo when she didn't have it because the lady running it kept making shapes other than lines (boxes, "C"s, etc...). The prizes for getting Bingo were completely lame, and someone even stole my aunt's stupid trail mix that she won. Meanwhile, I did not win one single game the whole time and I was getting rather disgruntled. But then finally God smiled on me and I won the final "grand prize" game and I got a bottle of wine. It was the least lame prize all night. I was mildly pleased, but it didn't really make up for the complete boringness of it all.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mars Cheese Castle

If you've ever driven north on I-94 towards Milwaukee, you've no doubt been at least a little intrigued by the enormous, ghetto sign for the Mars Cheese Castle that appears to have been standing there, untouched, since 1953. It's impossible to miss; soaring high into the sky right next to the expressway.

I've been driving to Wisconsin on a regular basis for basically my entire life and never have I stopped at the Mars Cheese Castle. That's not to say that I didn't desperately want to. How can you not at least want to see what it's all about? But alas, I've always managed to keep on driving by. Until this weekend.

After a failed attempt to find the perfect cheese on our vacation in Door County, my cousin, a great cheese lover, decided we were desperately in need of a stop at the Mars Cheese Castle on our way home. We made our way through Milwaukee, anxiously looking for any sign of the Cheese Castle. Finally we found it, Highway 142. We got off on the small exit, passed Mike's Ghetto Cheese Stand (not the real name) and pulled up to our destination. It was everything I hoped it would be.

Inside it was significantly more crowded than I anticipated, filled with tourists scurrying about looking for their favorite cheese. And they did have every kind of cheese you could ever hope for; string cheese, cheese curds, cheddar, swiss, muenster, along with cheese in the shape of a cow, a beer bottle, or the state of Wisconsin. But that's not all! In addition to their gigantic selection of cheeses, they also offer every kind of wine you could want to go with your cheese, a deli, a bakery, and a little gift shop with some typical cow/cheese/Wisconsin themed gifts. My favorite was the large cheese shaped fart noise maker that said "Cut the Cheese" on the side. I almost bought it, but it was $12. The most disappointing thing was the sign forbidding you to actually blow into one for sanitary reasons. How can they expect anyone to spend $12 on it when you can't even preview the farting noises? I'm pretty sure I can find a cheaper source of fart noises if the need should ever arise.

By far the best part of the Mars Cheese Castle was the plethora of free samples. They offered samples of a good number of cheeses and being the cheap (frugal) person that I am, I took advantage. Then I got a little nauseous so I stopped.

Later that evening after I got home, I was watching the Food Network and much to my pleasure, they just happened to be visiting the Mars Cheese Castle! It was thrilling. It became significantly more thrilling when they showed an old lady actually blowing into one of the fart noise makers. It made my day truly complete. But I still wouldn't buy one.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pink Shirt Guy

This is Pink Shirt Guy

Pink Shirt Guy currently lives on my bulletin board in my cube at work. He originally came out of a "clergywear" brochure that we received at work. I had no idea there were so many wardrobe options for clergy people these days. It's rather impressive.

The models in the brochure were fascinating. There was one fellow that was clearly the professional model. He appeared several times, young and handsome, and posing like it was going out of style. Then there were a number of other men who I can only imagine were either actual clergy, or just guys off the street.

I would guess that Pink Shirt Guy was one of the latter, but I was so impressed with this gentleman for having the guts to wear the hot pink clergy shirt. I imagine there aren't many men who are confident enough to appear in such things. While all the other men in the brochure were wearing the blue and black shirt varieties, this man wore his hot pink shirt with pride. Well done, Pink Shirt Guy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Me + Kids

I think it's safe to say that I don't really like kids all that much. They're generally annoying and are usually emitting an offensive noise/smell. Kids seem to like me though, I don't know why. It's like when a cat demands attention from the one person in the room who's allergic to them. I don't mind holding a baby or having a short discussion with a preschooler, but after a few minutes, they need to leave.

This doesn't mean that I haven't spent much of my life voluntarily spending time with kids. I worked at a toy store for 5 years! A toy store that had demo toys out on the floor, encouraging hyper active children to run around and make a mess. It also (not on purpose) encouraged parents to leave their children playing at the store while they went shopping at Kohl's.

While I got paid for dealing with children at the Zany Brainy, I did not get paid for the countless hours I spent helping in the church nursery and Awana. Kids are everywhere at church. You can't get away from them. I also helped my friend Joyce in her Sunday School class full of 1st graders (I think). This was the most fun church/kids experience because I got to hang out with Joyce and I convinced all the kids that Jesus' favorite color is blue. Suckers! In all the cheezy Sunday School curriculum, Jesus is always wearing blue. One day, the kids were painting pictures of Jesus and I told them that it was clear that Jesus' favorite color is blue, so they better paint him blue. They all believed me, which I wasn't really expecting. (Kids are so gullible!) However, there was one little boy that as annoyingly defiant, and he challenged my theory. He boldly stated that he was not going to paint Jesus blue, but he was going to go with purple. I told him that purple is just blue and red mixed so, technically, he's still kind of painting Jesus blue. Yeah, I won that argument.

There are some children that I do like a lot. They are: kids in my family and my friend Joyce's kids. Joyce's kids were the only kids I consented to babysit in high school, and it was fun. They were well behaved and I taught them all kinds of wonderful things.

My cousins' kids are starting to get a little older and it's highly entertaining. My oldest cousin has twins, a boy and a girl, and they're hilarious. I spent some time the other day playing the piano with them. We took turns playing songs and I was impressed with the fact that they did not merely slam on the keys when it was their turn to play. They actually played individual notes. Then I played the easy piano version of the Entertainer and they were thrilled. At least someone is impressed with my piano playing abilities.