December 25, 2005

"Crappy" Morning - At Least It’s Friday

OK. So it's Christmas (almost). Sugarplums, stockings, frankincense, yada yada. My new home in the Salt Lake Valley is unseasonably tepid, which is really of no concern since there's 100 inches of powder snow 20-30 minutes away in all directions. A common maxim out here is that "It snows in the mountains, not in your driveway." You get the idea. The only drawback is that the grounds of my apartment complex are sopping with mud. And while there is a paved walkway to our car-park, they did not pave the path behind the building that leads to the "dog exercise area" where they keep the poop bags. Nevertheless, I complete that faithful circuit several times daily out of appreciation to my dog-friendly housing authority and respect to my friendly neighbors.

This fine morning, however, as I slopped through the squishy clayish top layer around 5:30am I was unaware that some other resident had not extended me the same courtesy. While most of the topical earth had lost it's grip upon climbing the two flights to our appartment, a much more resilient matter was clinging vehemently to the Vibram treads of my Keen clogs (Don't laugh. They're sporty.) But it wasn't until I entered our off-white-carpeted appartment, proceded down the hallway, and flicked on the harsh bathroom light that I saw IT. A faint trail of smudges lined the hallway carpet like a landing strip and led right to the culprit. The forensic evidence was undeniable. I picked up my shoe (clog) and there, anxiously cloaked in a clump of leave, hugging the compensatory treads was the wet, doughy pad of wayward dog waste. It stared at me so smugly, taunting..."Your move, sucker."

I tried to remain calm. My wife, Sarah had not woken and I didn't want my frustration to bring her to an abrupt rise, or at the very least I needed no advice or suggestions yet. First things first. I cleaned the carpet. Spray. Dab-dab-dab. Spray. Dab-dab-dab. Etc. I then had to attack the shoe. I sorted through a series of crude disposable tools. I settled on an old allen wrench from the bike kit. It was a simple solitary L-shaped hex-wrench from my days at the inline skate shop in Boston. It would have to be sacrificed. Over the railing of our third-floor deck, I started scooping chunks of offending gunk from the surprisingly deep treads. Ironic after all that the very treds that justified the borderline effeminant, yet super convenient casual footwear were the very treads confounding my dilemma at this moment. My progress was somehow gratifying as the major globs extruded into interesting shapes and fell to the ground by the decks below — neighbors be damned. Having removed as much of the oodles of doodles as possible, I went to the kitchen, where I sprayed and wiped the surface as much as possible. Then I used hot water and the sprayer to clean out the rest. Finally, I sterilized the sink with hot water, paper towels and some kind of spray. Most of the apartment was still dark mind you as I had not yet awoken my bride.

I brought the shoe out to the deck to dry and air out, or perhaps to think about what it had done wrong. I walked back into the unlit living room to start my day. I must have taken a slightly different course than on the previous two trips as my left foot, still bare, landed squarely in a NEW pile of dog waste. Apparently after eating several magazines yesterday, Blü decided that the 3 or 4 deposits she had made last night were not enough to last till morning and the middle of the living room floor was the perfect place for an encore. No such level-headed calm was forthcoming at this point. —"F***!!!"— That woke Sarah up. I explained what happened and she seemed unmoved. I hopped to the bathroom in a rage. I ran the water over my slimy soul, trying to collect myself. Eventually my repulsion turned to an eye-rolling sense of irony in the moment. After all the lumps were NOT the of most muculent variety, as the dogs miraculous digestive system was mostly just passing dry nuggets of satisfactorily digested paper products, rather than the usual heaps of moist steamed mush. Once my foot was steamed and pristine, I returned to the living room to clean the mess. Sure enough, this new pile was not all that glutinous so the damage was in fact, minimal. I cleaned the area anyway.

My morning proceeded without incident for a few minutes. But as I began clipping my toenails, I actually dropped the nail clippers into the toilet bowl. UGH! WHY?! Keep in mind the toilet had been recently flushed. But the last flusher was ME! And I've been known to be quite abusive to a toilet first thing in the morning. Especially, after the tumultuous morning I had already endured, I may have unleashed a little fury of my own, before showering. Regardless, no time for that kind of thinking. I invoked the same logic that created the "5-second rule" and the "morning after pill". I punched into the suspicious toilet water to rescue the drowning instrument. I shook off as much water as I could and turned to rinse the clippers and my vulgar hand. I scrubbed like a surgeon, but I have this haunting agitation, a feeling of contamination that lurks in my vertebrae and leaves me with chilled bones in the temperate dawn.

I recounted the mornings events to my wife, now rising from blissful sleep. Squinting and yawning, her response was simple. "At least it's Friday."

'At Least' indeed. Humbug.

December 19, 2005


The longer you stay in Utah, the more you pick up on cultural nuance. We all know the funny New England expressions and accents. Here it's more subtle, but there definitely is something unique about it. It's not southern, it's not midwestern. It's just Utah. Here are some examples we've noticed.

First there is an indistinct accent buried in certain words or sounds. For Instance, Utahns really like to hit their "L's". Massachusetts folks might drop their "R's" at the ends of words, but here any word beginning with the letter "L" might sound like it's spelled with a series of "L's". Take the word "Layout". Now drag the "L" and say "LLlllaayout". Another odd sound is the omission of double "T's" in the middle of a given word. The "T's" in the word "rotten" might be replaced with glottal stop, sounding more like "raw-en".

Even more charming are the everyday expressions Utahns use in casual dialog. For example:

"Just barely"
Relating to a lack of excess. Example: "Have you been waiting long?" "No I just barely got here." The phrase "Just Barely" downplays any sense of urgency in the moment, putting both parties at ease. It's pedestrian nature suggests a sense of acknowledged personal fallibility.

"I appreciate you."
This heart-felt phrase is not unique to Utah. However it's casual usage is something that might catch a cynical New Englander off guard. Utahns may use this phrase in thanking you for a good deed, like holding the door open. However where some people might say, "Thank you. I appreciate that." Utahns are likely to say "I appreciate YOU." The difference is awkward at first, but it's just pleasant to hear things like that. However it is more likely to manifest casually in passing as "apprecia-Cha." Slightly less heartfelt but preferable nonetheless.

"You're OK" or "You're fine"
A casual response to an excuse or apologetic sentiment. Utahns are quick to forgive. Sometimes too quick. Rather than dismissing an offense, Utahns are likely to absolve the offending party altogether. For example, you're checking out at the grocery store and when asked if you have your frequent shopper card, you say "sorry, no I left it at home." Rather than saying "It's OK" or "That's OK", Don't be alarmed if the checkout clerk says "You're OK." He or she is pardoning the offense, although it may sound like they're acting gracious in excusing your very existence. You might think "Well of course I'm OK. I just forgot my frequent shoppers card. I wasn't looking for your approval." But try to take this generous expression with the innocent nature in which it was intended.

"Oh my heck!" (NEW!)
Apparently, no matter how humbly you were raised, there's still a need for exclamations. "Oh my heck" is a nice way of expressing shock or befuddlement without offending even the most impressionable of passersby. That's a skill we've yet to master.

ADDENDUM: As a research exercise, I posted the preceding on Craigslist, a popular online classified resource. I asked locals to respond with their favorite "Utahisms" and these were some of their responses.
Here are a few of the best, original Utah-isms I recall as a child.

1. Oh my hell!

2. Gad Sakes

3. Oh my land

4. Bugger to hell (I don't think they knew what the word "bugger meant or they wouldn't have used it...but their ancestors brought it over from Wales and so they thought it was OK)

5. Geeso-pete

6. For the love of hell

7. Damnit to hell

This was pretty much the extent of profanity in the Valley back in the 1960's-70's and 80's. Then the Starland Vocal Band released the song "afternoon delight" and everybody focused their attention on getting it banned from the airwaves and we all contemplated for the first time what a nooner must be like.

How about this:

"We was going to Kmarts and Fred Myers."

"He was literally climbing up the walls."

No, he was not literally climbing up the walls. He not spider man, he's a four year old. Unless you mean to say that he was actually scaling the wall, it is a figurative expression meant to convey the idea that he had excess energy. It's worse than when people incorrectly use ironic to mean coincidental or unfortunate.

"Oh, I seen you in Jeremy's CRX the other night!"

"Was you gonna go with him to wendover?"

"He's doin' pritty good since he got outa jell last month."

"He got new wills on his Honda! I think his mom melled him a check. She lives past the poin of the mou-un..."
"melk" instead of "milk". It seems that as a rule, if there are any vowel "L" combinations, Utahns will screw it up. "Sell" instead of "sale", "pell" instead of "pale", "mell" instead of "mail", "dill" instead of "deal", it goes on. Then there's Lay-un instead of Layton, with a "T". I had to train myself to say it correctly again after living there for a while.
One of the all time best -

I'm suprised to see this one has been missed - words ending with 'ing'.

"I was goun' ta walmart taday and I seen a car go crashun' into that Dodge."

Another Utah oddity, trucks are not trucks. If someone tells you about a Dodge, Ford, or Chevy, you are expected to understand that they mean pickup truck.
'Tuezdee', 'Wenzdee', 'Thurzdee', Frydee - Enough said.

December 12, 2005

Dog Blog — The Demystification of a Dog’s Inner Monologue

Booburt's Log
By BlüDog Myers
Roxie's Log
By Roxie Caret Myers
Today started out slow. I woke up early to warn Mom and Dad that the buzzing machine was about to make its crazy noise. That's my job. I always try to wake them up out before it happens, but they don't appreciate it very much. I jumped on the bed but Daddy kicked me off. Then Roxie joined in and we started rocking the bed back and forth until Daddy got up and put on some warm stuff to go out. Daddy doesn't have any fur so he needs lots of layers to go outside. Mommy stayed in bed.

It was cold and snowy out today. My toes got salt in them too, which hurts. But I like to spend my morning cleaning them out anyway. Everybody needs a hobby. Mine is cleaning each of my parts thoroughly. Sometimes, when I run out of things to clean, I clean Roxie too. She doesn't always mind because she knows I love her.

Then Daddy spent some time in the bathroom. That's where some of the best snacks are. I think he likes to eat them by himself, but when he's done I like to clean up what's left. The silver can is usually a jackpot. But the big white bowl has the best water in town. You really can't beat bathroom water after a good hike. I like to hike. Roxie does too. She likes it so much I used to think she'd never come back. She'd run and run until we couldn't find her. But now she stays pretty close. Sometimes we race up and down the trail. We like to run into Mommy and Daddy. And we can poop ANYWHERE when we hike. Mom and Dad even pick it up for safekeeping. I'm not sure why they're saving it all. Maybe they're building something with it. Or maybe it goes to charity. I think some people can't afford poop. What was I saying?? Oh yeah! Hiking is fun!!

After Mommy and Daddy put on all their layers they made us breakfast and drank some smoky black stuff. Then they started hiding things. They try to hide all my favorite chewing stuff when they're gone. Sometimes I have to jump the fence and break into their room to chew stuff. It's VERY inconvenient. Other times I'll just chew what's closest. One day, Roxie and I chewed the table in front of the couch. I can't remember who's idea it was, but it was so yummy!

Then we heard the jingles. The jingles make the car go. Some times jingling means we're going for a ride in the car (the Super-RuRu). But usually it means Mommy and Daddy are going away. It pretty much depends on what feet they have on. If they're wearing their big rugged feet, we get really excited. We just can't help it because they wear those on fun hikes and stuff. But today they wore their shiny feet. So that means they're just going away for a while. That's a bad jingle. So I got sad. I tried to sit and be good to change their minds, but it didn't work. I cried a little. After they left I forgot why I was crying, so Roxie and I just laid on the couch for a while. Mommy and Daddy leave the radio on for us. Sometimes we dance. Other times we sleep all day until they come home. Did I mention I like to chew? Sometimes I do that ALL day! I like mail, socks, DVDs, remote controls, tupperwear (so yummy), and blankets. There's more, but I forget. Anyway, today was slow. We mostly slept and stuff.

After forever, we heard the GOOD jingling. Mommy and Daddy came home and we were so excited we jumped and howled and ran in circles. Daddy took us out quickly and then they both changed into FUN CLOTHES! They put on boots and dirty pants and started packing stuff. We all jumped in the car. Once we got off the fast road, Roxie and I knew where we were going. MILL CREEK!!! We go to Mill Creek Canyon a lot. Those are the best days. We can run all over and they even have poop bags waiting. When we're there, our parents put our poop in a big can, with other poop. I think it goes to charity or something. We ran up and down the hills. We chased things—I don't know what, but I just follow Roxie. Then we get to drink from the stream and jump and splash people. It's funny. When we finally got home we were tired. We all laid on the couch together. Our couch isn't very big so usually I just lay on top. I get my best sleep when I'm touching Mommy and Daddy. Sometimes I clean them too, to tell them I love them.

Booburt woke me up today. I was sleeping in my corner by Mommy and Daddy's bed. She came tromping in and leapt about in her usual haphazard manner. She then jumped on the bed to the chagrin of our two-legged guardians. I was dreaming like a puppy about running through the woods, chasing rabbits in the snow and rolling in deer excrement. Sometimes I wake up from those dreams and my legs are still in motion. I find it embarrassing because everyone stares at me.

Anyway, Blu-Tard (that's what I call her) got kicked off the bed. So I figured I'd help initiate the day's productive cycle. Sometimes we have to wake Mom and Dad up so I gently serenade them until their eyelids reluctantly peel open. Dad arises slowly, dresses himself and stumbles down the hall. The insult of his inferior night vision is compounded by my step-sister's unpredictable movements. Finally, we make our way down the stairs. I arch my back and drink in the cool winter air like a fine wine. It was serendipitous to find a layer of fresh snow on the ground. And by the smell of things, there was more on the way. Seizing the moment, I tossed myself into the fresh patch, rolling my face on all sides as if to shape cookies of my likeness in the heavenly dough. I must confess, there are moments like this when I forego my usual poise for the basic pleasure of being a creature of instinct. It is in these moments when I find a kinship with my simple sibling, to the delight of my parents. Often in fits of jubilee, I will initiate playful interaction. It even takes some prodding on my part to motivate my parents, but they recognize and appreciate my efforts. Admittedly, I can be aloof, but never am I drab.

Upon completion of their morning rituals, our parents made their usual swift exodus, imploring us to "be good" before closing the door. I have trouble containing my smirk as they say such things. I am after all, "the good one". "Good" is a relative term they apply to simply being independent and self-occupied. The antithesis in their eyes is made commonplace by my adolescent-minded sister, who spends her days chewing things that don't belong to her or having "accidents". In lieu of asserting ill intent upon our actions, humans prefer to pre-excuse behavioral abnormalities, assuming we always try our best to please them, but sometimes come up short. I find it deliciously entertaining. Equally charming are the antics my sister employs throughout the day. When she's not cleaning herself or trying to sterilize my undercarriage, she's often wiggling on her back to the music du jour. She claims she does it to itch her back, but I truly believe that she simply does it to burn off excess energy. For more localized itches she swipes carelessly with her rear feet, which makes me cringe. Her first few swats land abusive blows to the head and neck. She lightens up until she fails to connect at all, swatting with less and less intent as her attention is commandeered by any number of alternate stimuli.

Anyway, today being rather quiet, we spent the majority of it on the couch relaxing. I had some time to organize my thoughts and work on my upcoming novel. After some meditative loafing, our parents returned. I'm constantly surprised by my own enthusiasm toward my human attendants. As a rule, I make few allowances for people. I often keep them at a safe distance until I determine their intentions are respectable. Even then, I keep an eye on them. My parents, however have rescued me from purgatory and a life of servitude, affording me a life of whimsy and security that I cannot refute. Their arrival evokes a primal elation in me that escapes in sporadic song and dance. We both celebrate and parade the affects of our "good" behavior. But rather than a quick walk and comfy clothes, Mom and Dad quickly changed their wardrobe to a more rugged look. They snatched up our leashes and led us to the car (the Super-RuRu!). Blü and I were overcome with excitement and curiosity. We rode along patiently, barely containing our emotion. Once Mom made the turn up Mill Creek Canyon I howled my approval, however helpless and barbaric.

Upon agreeing to be "good" we were released along the trail, like a gun releases a bullet. Charging down the wooded path, we planted fresh tracks in the foot of new snow. Sprinting and cutting back, rolling and jumping, we ran and played with such unabashed delight that I welled up in the moment. I headed back to thank Mom and Dad for the fun time and we wrestled a bit. They whitewashed me and I splashed them with snow. It's a little ritual we developed in the woods behind the big house in Maine. I miss that place, and I miss Umie and Opa, but I hear they're coming out for a visit soon which makes me happy.

When we got home, I curled up on the couch. Mom and Dad sat with me, warming my spirit. Then Booburt climbed on top. She affectionately licked all of us before falling asleep. Sometimes she's not so bad. But you didn’t hear that from me.

November 28, 2005

The Bitchin'ist Snow on Earth

Just about 6 months in Utah now. And finally, the snow is falling. We were starting to think we were snow repellants. We left New England just in time for record snowfall, and it seemed every other resort in the country was getting hit. This time last year, Utah had a 5-foot storm. Regardless, Alta opened on Friday with mostly manmade snow. We diligently attended the first day, making our turns on groomed runs, to get ready for an inevitable pounding of snow. The reports were scattered. We were to receive anywhere from 1-30 inches in the next few days. But we were optimistic.

I awoke at 3 o'clock Saturday morning to the sound of raindrops. Raindrops in the Salt Lake Valley very often mean snow in the canyons. I laid awake until 5:30 when my curiosity brought me to my feet. I checked the snow report online. Only 4 inches. But that was enough to peak my excitement. They warned that "the lake effect" might kick in. The Great Salt Lake has a way of sucking the moisture out of the weather front, creating dryer, lighter, fluffier snow than anywhere on earth. Hence Utah's trademarked slogan, "The Greatest Snow on Earth". By 8am, Alta's site was updated with a magic number: 12 inches! I got dressed. Sarah was not feeling well and opted to sit this one out. Sympathetic and conflicted as I was, she encouraged me to head up the canyon alone.

As I drove up the East Bench of the valley, the rain turned to snow and I watched as each driveway had more snow than the one before. The drive up the canyon got progressively worse, but I arrived at Alta unscathed. There was a small crowd of Pagan snow worshipers. Each car in the Goldminer's Daughter parking lot slept under a white blanket with its windshield wipers extended to welcome the accumulation. People ran or skiied from their cars to the Wildcat Lift, a rickety two-seater with no restraining bar. I threw my skis down by the empty lift line and clicked in. A group of locals collected after a run. These kids live in Little Cottonwood Canyon and ski with baggy, technical gear, HUGE powder skis and full facemasks. One of them told another about an encounter he had just had with another skier, somewhere in his vapor trail halfway up the hill: "He was like, 'HEY! Are you the kid that almost hit me?' I said, 'No. I'm the kid that just ripped a BADASS TURN around you!!'" Overhearing this, I laughed out loud, and they looked at me with smiles.

I rode the lift alone and watched the skiers below, putting on a powder skiing clinic. When my feet finally hit the ground I scooted right, remembering the steep glades on the western side of the resort. I traversed hard across the open snowfields and stared down the steep pitch. I arrived at a chute between clumps of trees and figured "what the hell?" I dropped in aggressively and struggled through the first few turns. It probably resembled Batman's futile struggles when caught in a fishing net. But it felt amazing. I was floating. After a few runs, I relaxed a bit and found myself making turn after turn with snow pouring into my chest. Occasionally, I'd plow through a fresh pillow-top and take in a breath of snow. Choking on snow is better than death by chocolate. It's a sense of guiltless gluttony, unrivaled in the human experience. At times you find yourself buried in impossible places, with a mentally ill grin on your face. At one point, my ski came off under the snow. It took me about 25 minutes to find it. On another occasion, I was seduced into a hole 12 feet deep. Climbing out was tough, but I was so hysterical, I didn't mind. Then I watched another skier follow my track right into it, despite my two-handed Carlton Fisk Impression. We shared a laugh.

Alone, on the chair, I wondered when this had happened to me. I learned to ski as part of a compromise with my girlfriend. I learned to ski to BE WITH her. I used to go skiing because it was what SHE did, not what I did. I used to stick it out and pretend to like it. When did I BECOME a skier??? When did I start losing sleep over it? When did ski films become my pornography? When did ski gear become my fashion statement? When did I start leaving my wife at home to go skiing?? Was it when I traded in my Audi for a Subaru? Was it that weekend at Jay Peak? Or the years of smiling through frigid Maine weather like a badge of honor? Was it when I started growing a beard in the winter and peeing my name in the snow? Was it when I moved to Utah? Or was it long ago, when I made my first snowman? When I prayed for a white Christmas? When we spent hours perfecting a groove on the sledding hill? I guess I always was this person. I just never knew it, and I'm just now getting familiar with myself. I guess I'm learning to walk again.

Sunday was even more spectacular. The snow had carried through the night and was still going strong. Sarah and our friend Tracy joined me. We had a blast in the powder playground. We stayed around the Wildcat lift, knowing that the other side of the mountain had not enjoyed the same coverage. All told, we received over 2 feet of snow as light as Splenda sugar substitute. Whoever came up with the slogan, "The Greatest Snow on Earth", was NOT a skier. They may have been a world traveller, versed in all kinds of precipitation. Or perhaps they were simply arrogant enough to assume the Earth would be compelled to agree. But while I'm not disputing the claim, If that person WERE a skier, the slogan would be "The BITCHIN'IST Snow on Earth!" For once, we were in the right place at the right time. And that was just the opening weekend.

November 4, 2005

The Littlest Hustler

It was just after nine on a friday night. My lovely wife and I were relaxing at home (yes, I know it's friday night) enjoying "That 70's Show". I had had one Jack and Coke and I had my eye on another, when we heard a knock at the door. That's odd. Who could it be? A psychotic Killer stalking through the neighborhood? An angry neighbor? Was our TV too loud? Had the dogs been barking while we were at work? Well the knock didn't sound angry. But that's the fun of unexpected company, isn't it? Better calm the dogs and see who it is.

With my right hand, I slowly opened the door so as to not horrify our guest with the 65 pounds of frenzied Weimaraner I was stiff-arming with my left. As if in a movie, I glanced forward seeing no one at eye level. As I panned down I realized our Psycho Killer is actually a sweet, smiling 8-year-old boy. A trick-or-treater who missed our house perhaps? (We had rushed home on Halloween to dispense our 6 bags of candy to a feverish mob, only to be disappointed when we had just ONE half-assed "Corpse Bride" at our door. She was old enough to be somebody's chaperone, but we let it slide.) No. Anyway, he wore a red ski beanie with a big Oakley logo, a sure sign that he was worldly and in-touch with modern skiing subculture...I have a similar hat myself. He was holding a clipboard with a half-page yellow carbon-copy form. He spoke vigerously, as if trying to hit all of his major selling points before the door slammed in his face.

"Good Evening. How would you like to recieve 3 FREE MONTHS of an award-winning newspaper, delivered to your door daily with NO CHARGE and NO OBLIGATION. You can choose between the 'Salt Lake Tribune'" (our local news goliath) "and 'The Deseret News'" (a Mormon publication, sure to have a unique perspective on otherwise factual events). "Either choice is chock-full" (yeah he really said that) "of intriguing and useful information."

Now ordinarily, I'd say anything in this kind of moment to be rid of an unwanted solicitor at my door, especially while I'm missing the whitty dialogue of 26-year-old actors playing slacker high school students, or while the ice is melting in my empty glass and condesation gathers in a ring around its base, taunting me. Something like, "I already get the paper, but thanks anyway", or "I'm illiterate, but thanks for rubbing it in", or "I have a gun". But I was stunned. I was physically reeling by the verbal gymnastics this cherub had just spewed at me. His confidence, his precocious ease caused me to stumble backward, fumbling for anything resembling a cohesive retort. "Uh, wow. Well First" (I was stalling) "let me say that I'm very impressed. You're doing a great job at this."

"Aw, thanks. But I haven't sold ANY yet." he said with heartbreaking sincerity.

"Honey," I turned to my faithful wife with terror in my eyes hoping for her to play the bad-cop and turn him away for me. "Do you want to paper delivered here? It's free."

She was enjoying the bowl of egg nog ice cream I had just scooped for her so she wanted no part of my dilemma. "I already get the paper at work, but you can get it if you want."

DAMMIT! Now I was screwed. I turned back to the sheepish figure standing backlit in my doorway, his eyes hopeful, his hands fidgeting. "It's free right?"

He knew he had me. "Yep!"

I said, "Why don't you come on in. Are your parents waiting downstairs? Do you want to tell them you're OK?"

"Nope." he said with a puffy chest. As he shuffled past the door and into our entry way I introduced the dogs and he pet them. He said, "I just need you to fill out this form. The paper IS free, but we just ask that you tip your paper boy —ME— $1.50 every Sunday. But since we don't deliver on Sunday..." Now it's getting fishy because I could have sworn he said they delivered 7 days a week "...we ask that you pre-pay by cash, check or credit card."

I started to balk, but anticipating my hesitation, he reached deep into his bag of tricks and pulled the straight flush of salesmanship: "PLEEEEEEEEASE..." Now, I don't have children. I have never been on this side of that sentiment and have not yet built up an immunity to its power. I recalled the humility and desperation of childhood fundraisers where I had sold candy bars door-to-door. But at least I was asking for only a dollar. And I was selling instant gratification. Not some drawn-out scam, preying on unsuspecting adults. Yet, I was helpless.

Again, I was stumbling. I didn't want to point out the bate-and-switch he had just pulled on me, but I also felt it was my own fault for being naive enough to think that ANYTHING in this world was actually FREE. After some quick and clumsy math I concluded that 3 months at $1.50/week comes out to $18. Not Free. Again, I looked to my wife. She shot me a look that said "Hey, YOU let him in." So again, I was stalling, "So you want $18 right now?"

"Well, Yeah." he said in shock that I would question him after knowing him so long. "But you can use a credit card." As if that's not real money.

I had been beaten. With no energy left to outwit the young Trump, I asked my wife for the check book. I wrote out a check for $18 dollars. As I handed it to him he said "Wait. did you write it for $18? The form says $25."

My head was spinning trying to recount what we had been talking about for the past 5 minutes. There were sevral check boxes on the form. Before I knew what was happening he had scribbled out my check mark and written his own next to the $25 check box. He sensed my confusion and said "Well they don't let us deliver on Sundays anymore so you only have the weekday option." I should have thrown him out the window, but he had just pulled the "Jedi Mind Trick" and I found myself nodding in agreement, saying "well DUHH, I must be stupid!" So...Just to recap here, I'm writing a new check for $25 dollars to a boy I never met, for a paper I didn't want, delivered on days I would never have time to read it. Before I knew it he was tearing off my copy of the receipt. I stood there in a daze, my flimsy yellow order-form in hand, watching the theif walk out with my hard-earned money and my false sense of dignity dragging from the souls of his shoe like toilet paper. He probably even slid down the handrail on his way down the stairs.

September 21, 2005

How To Drive in Utah

A wise traveller is open-minded and alert for local laws and cultural nuance. First-time visitors to Utah will be immediately struck by the scenic vistas. Sadly however, while soaking in the unique landscape, those same visitors are at risk of also being struck by a Utahn making his or her way to work or Temple. Here are a few tips to make your visit to Utah as safe as possible.

Lane Usage
While most places in the Western Hemisphere reserve the left-hand lane for faster-moving traffic, Utah operates under a first-come, first-serve policy. Occupants of any lane may travel at any speed. The strategy behind switching lanes may vary from one driver to the next. While some drivers may chose to vary speeds within the same lane at their own discretion, others may prefer to make abrupt moves to the left to slow down or block faster-moving traffic.

Faster drivers should also take note that passing on the left is considered insulting and will be met with by an immediate increase in speed by the driver being passed. This is especially common as two lanes merge. For best results drivers are expected to pass on the right, then move left and slow down again.

Utah drivers are sophisticated, free-thinking individuals. Visitors will be impressed with Utahns' ability to adroitly manage several tasks and thought-processes at once. While operating a moving vehicle in Utah, you may be expected to talk on the phone, drink coffee, read a book, write a term paper, conceive a child, practice origami, perform a circumcision, and scan Utah radio for your favorite top40, country or religious rock station all at once. However, for safety's sake, while using the phone, be sure to use a hands-free device to allow maximum freedom of gesticulation.

As your dexterity increases, you may be able to increase your efficiency while driving. Seasoned veterans of Utah's driving customs are clearly visible as their speed will vary wildly above and below the designated speed limit. They might also make seemingly awkward lateral movements, utilizing every possible inch of their lane while borrowing several from the adjacent ones. Although these skills are not easily acquired, beginners may find it useful to buy a vehicle that far exceeds their particular size requirements, and decreases their line of site. That way, other drivers are sure to recognize your commitment to the Utah way.

Traffic lights govern the right of way at an intersection. Red means stop. Green means proceed. Yellow indicates the the light will soon be red. Therefore, when a light turns yellow, it is your obligation to accelerate sharply so that you and the line of traffic behind you may continue without the inconvenience of stopping. Remember, True Utahns drive excessively large vehicles which require more time to stop and more fuel to get back up to speed. Slowing down at a yellow or even some red lights will immediately expose you as a foreigner who must be passed immediately.

The unique width of Utah roads are a historical phenomenon. Utah roads were designed by migrating Mormons who required roads wide enough to turn an entire heard of cattle around at any juncture. Indecisive Utahns still make common practice of this technique. The "Utah Turn" (or "U-turn" for short) is perfectly acceptable on any road at any time. Utahns have petitioned short-sighted car manufacturers in vein to add a second turn signal specifically for U-turns. So be aware that by entering the state's borders, you have been given a gift from its very founders.

Busy Utah highways experience added congestion due to a lack of night life. Most Utahns access the same commute at precisely the same time. Therefore, it is often necessary to provide relief to gentle and predictable ebb and flow of steady moving traffic by violently applying your brakes for no apparent reason. Commuters behind you will appreciate this form of stimulation, especially if it serves as a warning that there is construction, or a police officer ahead.

It may also be useful to ride within several inches of the car in front of you. Not only will this solidfy your reputation as a masterful Utah driver, but you will be able to avoid the annoyance of allowing other commuters to change lanes on your watch. Should the car in front of you decide to slow down, wait until the last possible moment before forcefully applying your brakes. This will create a desirable tsunami effect of panick-branking behind you, making you the life of the commuter party.

The Middle Lane
Many busy Utah roads are quipped with a middle lane for turning across traffic. At any time this lane service traffic from 4 different directions. When turning off a busy street, be sure to cut across the 2-4 lanes of oncoming traffic at the least opportune time. Other drivers will appreciate being kept alert. Pulling ONTO a busy street requires traffic to be momentarily clear from only one side. Do no expect the far side to be clear when pulling out. To expedite the process, pull out while the far side is at capacity and merge blindly into fast-moving traffic. The faster the better. You will not be met with assertive opposition. Utahns elect to have their factory-installed horns removed to acheive a seemingly more polite and society. Instead, you will most-likely encounter a more passive-agressive form of disapproval: being passed on the right.

For more tips on driving in Utah, see local accident reports or call an LDS representative for hands-on advice. Good luck and happy U-turning.

August 27, 2005


Well, the day finally came. And in an instant, it passed. The weather was gorgeous, the ceremony was flawless, and the reception was shameless. A good time was had by all...We hope. Our sincere thanks to everyone who came and/or contributed to our wonderful time. We love you all.

The entire trip home was surreal. We dropped the dogs off with a sitter in Salt Lake and flew into Boston on the 20th. On the approach to Logan, reality set in as we reflected on so many fond memories of Boston. We dropped off our luggage at the Myers' condo, downtown and headed out to Newton for a Medina Sod show. We entered a bar full of friendly faces, which was overwhelming. Liz and Dave showed up and even gave us a ride home, but not without a stop at Stevie's for a greasy slice of late-night pizza.

The next morning we met up with Joe's folks at the MFA for the Ansel Adams exhibit. His work captures the romantic side of wilderness, reminding us why we moved out to Utah in the first place. Later we met up with Tim and Erin for an afternoon around town and some trivia in Harvard Square. Shellie even came out for a bit.

The trip to Maine was nostalgic. Joe's parents lent us a car to get around for the week. We arrived in Kennebunk at Sarah's Grandmother's house and were treated to a series of epic family gatherings. Grandma Anastasia and Grandpa Richard played such gracious hosts the entire week. Uncle Rod and Aunt Marcia flew in from Colorado, Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Joe came down and helped every step of the way.

Sarah’s parents, Patty and Gary stayed calm despite the mounting momentum toward a culmination of a year’s planning and 27 years of hopeful good intentions. They might tell you that raising a good girl is a lifetime of love and hard work. Raising a best friend however, is an equal partnership of respect and trust, and a masterful effort at that.

Anyway, despite the best efforts of its occupants, a full house of adults sharing one bathroom is bound to foster a certain level of chaos. In fact, the common morning joke was that you had to wait in line to use the back yard. Sarah’s friend Carrie came down from Bethel to help with preparations and planned a wonderful “girls’ day” at the beach with Alison and Tera.

Meanwhile, Joe stayed occupied during the week making trips to see his brother Jim, Sister-in-law Abby, and 3-year-old nephew Jimmy Junior. For little Jimmy’s birthday, Joe went to his parents’ house in Epping, NH, to fix up his old scooter. No accounting for craftsmanship, little Jimmy lit up with appreciation anyway. Joe also snuck out of the "hen house" for 2 rounds of golf and 2 kayak trips with Gary and Uncle Joe during the hectic week.

On Thursday we attended a dance lesson in Portland with Carrie, Patty, Gary, and our ceremony official and family friend, Annie Gregory. We didn’t learn to "dance" per se, but it was enough to pass the mustard for our “first dance” on Saturday. Friday, we checked into our honeymoon suite at The Beach House before the big Lobster Bake. Grandma gathered friends and family at the house for dinner and drinks. Of course, the crowd being made up of jokers and partiers, the mood was soon raucous. It was well after dark before we could organize a rehearsal down on the beach. Stumbling around the rocky shore with keg cups in hand, we each tried to gather essential information about the following day’s duties. A sequence that would have been perfectly conducted mere hours before, was now the ultimate test of patience and a process of increasingly diminishing returns. But what a howl! As the night wound down, we stumbled back to our hotel room along a sidewalk that somehow wasn’t wide enough.

We woke up early to the sound of crashing waves and sunlight beaming through the oversized windows. We quickly parted to minimize any bad luck induced by seeing each other on the day of the wedding. Joe met up with friends Mike Spalluto and Brian Naughton to clean up the ceremony site. They raked the area clean and smoothed out a path for guests to walk and got cleaned up at the Kingsport. Meanwhile Sarah, Carrie, Meredith and our niece, Nichole Muller attended a hair appointment in Kennebunk. Then they got ready at our honeymoon suite with Patty Caret, Aunt Gretchen and our photographer, Emilie Sommer.

As the hour approached, Joe arrived at the reception site, On The Marsh with family and friends to secure the details. A mini-panick attack set in as time ran thin to manage details. So many things had to be left to fate…a control-freak’s worst nightmare. Surrounded by cooler heads, Joe agreed to just “show up” and let it all go. Arriving at the beach Joe was surprised to see a middle-aged man sun-bathing right in the middle of the path he had raked earlier. He politely asked the man to leave and was shocked at his indifferent response. “I’ll think about it”, he said. Eventually the man graciously moved a few feet. As the crowd gathered on the rocky point we picked out a year before, another crowed of strangers gathered around the perimeter.

When Sarah finally stepped off the trolley, beachgoers encroached in frenzy. As parents, grandparents and bridesmaids rounded the corner, anticipation was palpable. The only sounds were the typically ambient noises of seagulls and children playing in the waves as we had done. On the arm of her loving father, Sarah glided into view. Joe’s eyes welled up with overwhelming joy as the weight of this moment paled next to his sheer delight. Gary graciously handed his daughter to Joe with a hug to begin the ceremony. Knowing it was not permissible to kiss her, Joe could only kiss her hand to contain himself. Annie began the ceremony, atop a flat rock with a painterly ocean backdrop. She gave way to a reading by Sarah’s cousin Anastasia. Then to our attendants who surprised us with speeches of praise they prepared for us. At the height of the tribute we exchanged vows, choking on the words in tearful recognition. With the exchange of rings, it was quickly over.

After a quick photo session we arrived at our beautiful reception site, On The Marsh. We were received with love from friends and family, who needed no encouragement to start partying. We are lucky to be surrounded by so many fun people, ready to dance, anxious to party and eager to laugh. Our rehearsed dance sequence went off well enough, and dinner was spectacular. Our champagne toasts were an emotional rollercoaster. Gary touched the room with his loving dedication to his favorite girls, Sarah and Patty. Mike Spalluto drew some chuckles and touched on some key strengths in our relationship, we thought only we were aware of. Meredith Finn pointed to the duration and power of our love as only she could know, having been so close to us since college. We cut our cake and made our way to the dance floor where the party really got going. Dancing broke out immediately after Sarah’s idyllic dance with her father and Joe’s chaotic dance with his mom. The room gyrated and shook while drinks flowed. Some stayed quiet in the side room, and others sought fresh air outside. But there was room for everyone, and all was well. Before we knew it, the night wound down. The few remaining guests hopped on the trolley for a wild ride through the port. We bid everyone good night and retired under the moonlight. We’re still reflecting on the pure, yet surreal enjoyment of the day. We can’t believe it’s over. But we recognize and appreciate all the efforts of family and friends. We love you all and thank you for all your generous gifts. We sincerely hope you enjoyed yourself. Here’s to more good times to come.

One final thank-you to Patty and Gary Caret. Your love and support is such a blessing. We could not have realized this beatiful day, and in many ways this beautiful life without you. We wish to pay you back in any and every way we can. We can't wait for you to join us in Utah.

August 11, 2005

Booburt Ate My Wallet

Blü (AKA "Booburt" because it further emphasizes her dimwitted nature) is getting older. She's 2-and-a-half. So she's grown out of jumping up on people. She doesn't eat cigarette butts off the sidewalk. And she even has stopped yanking my arm out of the socket when we walk. So why can't she leave our stuff alone when we're not looking? We try to keep the place "Booburt-proof". We've even tried putting mousetraps on the counters. But that only ever worked on us.

Anyway, she ate my wallet. It's not the first time. In fact I think it's the third or fourth time. We came home from grocery shopping (one hour max) and caught her in the act. She ate the leather wallet clean. She was on to the cards. My new Utah license was missing it's lower right corner. I can't fly home for the wedding like that so I had to have that replaced immediately. All my credit cards are surgically defaced and virtually unswipeable. And the $20 bill? GONE. Once upon a time at the beach house in Kennebunk, Blü swiped a $1 bill from the kitchen table. Surely, it smelled interesting given all the previous handlers. But she's so maniacal about her deviant acts that she often swallows these things whole, to dispose of the evidence as quickly as possible. Anyway, it came out on the beach a few hours later. My dog was finally paying off like a slot machine. Now, this was just $1. People hear that and immediately ask how much it would take for me to "rescue" my hard-earned money. My answer USED TO BE $20. But as tight as money is right now (no punn intended) we're not on the beach. And I'm not that desperate.

So after a day of ignoring her, (which works better that scolding her) she finally paid back her loan this morning. Although surprisingly, it didn't come back in the "denomination" we might have expected. Instead, she hacked it up on the carpet, along with the wallet. The wallet was destroyed. But the cash? Mostly in tact. And after a hot rinse and some scotch tape, it's ready to re-enter circulation.

The moral of this story: Don't borrow cash from me. You don't know where it's been.

August 4, 2005

Utah Rocks (continued)

Well, It's finally over. 2 months, 6 dental visits, 3 ER trips, 6 stitches in the lip and a few in the gums, 4 sets of temporary teeth, and about 2-dozen needles later, I am now the proud owner of a new porcelin smile. After I destroyed my front teeth, Dr. Paul Innis of Park City fabricated a beautiful and convincing replacement set. He ground down the adjacent teeth to use as support posts and inserted an all porcelin, custom set of permanent replacements. Now, they're better than they ever were. Can't wait to show them to you.

June 10, 2005

Utah Rocks

Utah rocks hurt. I know, I know it didn't take very long. But I was mountain biking today in park city and I clipped my right pedal on a rock (never saw it), which tossed me face-first into another rock (about 10 inches in diameter). I got up thinking I was fine, until blood started gushing everywhere. I looked down and I saw my front tooth—well part of it anyway— in the kevlar reinforced palm of my glove. I checked my sunglasses. They were in tact. I noticed that the rock with which I had just made out was about 4-5 feet out of place. I could tell because it left a deep trail as my face plowed it from it's previous resting spot.

Then sarah caught up. She started urking a little. I'll spare you her description. So I handed her the tooth. We headed back toward the closest road and despite the dripping blood and the wind strangely whislting through the fresh gap in my grimace, I still managed to catch some air on the way out. The riding out here is that gnarly. We asked around and finally found a hospital that was open. (apparently in Park City you're supposed to schedule your emergencies in advance.) They stitched up my bottom lip, although at first the doctor thought he was about to write me a referral to a plastic surgeon.

6 stitches and a tetnus shot later, it was time to find an all-night dentist. We lucked out in that regard. We were able to find one on call in the area. He took one look at me and laughed. He said "I thought you said on the phone that you 'chipped' it." Apparently "chipping a tooth" is something that occurs when you accidentally catch the edge of a fork while biting down too aggressively. Nevertheless he went on to explain that it was shattered and the best thing to do was drill out the nerve and start over. I said "that's great doc. I was thinking of having them all replaced so this will get the ball rolling." He hovered over me like a mad scientist. No assistant. No secretary. Not sure where all the tools were kept. Not particularly sensitive to the welling of mystery fluids in my mouth. Where's that mini shop-vac anyway? But with the ingenuity of Hawkeye Pierce he was able to construct a convincing chicklet before the clock struck twelve and he turned back into a pumpkin.

Anyway, I should have a pretty sweet new smile for the wedding.