About The Wishbone . . . .

At countless Thanksgiving dinner tables today two people will be designated to grasp the two ends of the wishbone, think of a wish, and pull — and whoever ends up with the bigger part of the bone is supposed to get their wish.

Why do we do this?

It’s an ancient practice, one that dates back to long before the first Thanksgiving near Plymouth Rock.  It goes all the way back to the pre-Roman Etruscan civilization, which used chickens to tell the future — and started the practice of focusing on the furcula, which is the proper name for the wishbone.  The Etruscans, gentle souls that they were, stroked the dried wishbone as they made their wishes for the future.

Leave it to the Romans, and their competitive ways, to decide that the Etruscans were right to focus on the furcula, but were wrong in how they treated it — and that the best way to get a wish granted was to break the wishbone in a contest that ensured there was a winner and a loser.  And as the Romans conquered the world, their bone-breaking tradition was borrowed by other cultures, including the inhabitants of the remote island outpost of the empire, who — centuries later — shipped it across the Atlantic to the New World.

Much as we might admire the Etruscans and their views on avian divination, if you’re offered the wishbone today, I suggest taking a firm grip and yanking for all you’re worth.

Hotel Room Horrors

Last night Kish and I went out for a nice dinner with the Cleanliness Queen and her husband, the Dessert Dude — so-called because he somehow is able to eat two large desserts at every dinner we have without putting on a frigging pound.  At the midpoint of the meal the CQ mentioned, with a grim shudder, that she had watched a disturbing hidden camera show about hotel rooms.

IMG_3452If cleanliness is next to godliness, then one day the CQ inevitably will replace St. Peter.  She’s the kind of person who takes Lysol and other cleaning supplies when she travels to wipe down her hotel room, just to be on the safe side.  I suspect she’s got a secret compartment in her luggage for a toilet brush, and it would not surprise me if she carries an ultraviolet scanner to identify any stray unclean areas.  She’s probably sufficiently fluent in other languages to grill hotel maids in every country in the world about precisely what they did in cleaning her designated room.

The CQ explained that the hidden camera show revealed that some maids were using the same dirty towel to wipe down — in this precise order — the toilet bowl, the toilet lid, the sink top, and the shower stall.  Ugh!  And, rather than running them through a scalding water device, used glasses were just put in the sink run under warm water, dried with a towel, and then the little white cap signifying germ-free status was misleadingly put back on top.  No!  This then led to a discussion about bad hotel hygiene incidents, including people on a beachfront vacation who found sand from a prior occupant in bedding that supposedly had been changed.  Arrgh!  By the end of the discussion, the CQ was profoundly troubled.

Let’s face it — if you use hotels regularly, you just have to acquire a willing suspension of concern about the fact that your room has been used only hours earlier by complete strangers, much less what they did when they were in it.  I’d like to think that the room has been completely sanitized with some powerful cleaning agents, whether that’s actually been done or not.  I’ll cling to that illusion because it helps — which means I just need the room to be clean enough that there is no visible evidence of predecessor guests, and I’ll gladly avoid any TV shows that expose an inconvenient truth to the contrary.

Seven Feet Of Snow

The weather has been cold and blustery here in Columbus, but we can at least be glad we don’t live in Buffalo, New York.

Poor Buffalo!  It received 7 feet of snow in two days, with most falling in a 24-hour period.  Seven feet of snow!  It probably set a record for the most snow falling in a 24-hour period.  I guess a “lake effect” that produces seven feet of snow just confirms why Lake Erie is a Great Lake.

To put this in context, consider that seven feet of snow would bury my car completely.  Seven feet of snow would reach the bottom of a basketball backboard and would completely cover a standing LeBron James.  Seven feet of snow would reach the top of most doors and would put enormous weight on the roofs of homes.  You could look out over your yard and see nothing but a vast expanse of whiteness — no shrubs, no streets, no mailboxes, no fire hydrants, all slumbering peacefully beneath the unbroken blanket of white.

Seven feet of snow!  It boggles the mind.  And every guy who lives in the snow belt is thinking:  how in the heck do you shovel out of that much snow?  And even more bizarrely, how many of us are physically capable of throwing a shovelful of snow more than seven feet into the air to clear our buried driveways?

Beard Behavior

There’s been a lot of chatter about beards lately.  A few days ago Buzzfeed ran a piece about the rise of “lumbersexuals,” men who like wearing flannel, communing with nature, and cultivating long flowing facial locks.  Many modern baseball players, too, look like they could easily pass for one of the Smith Brothers on the cough drops box.

And, as seems to be inevitable in our modern culture, some people are reacting strongly against the nascent “beard culture.”  There have been postings in the Twitterverse that equate beards with testosterone-drenched, toxic masculinity.  To these folks, the hairy chins of modern men uncomfortably appeal to traditional notions of strutting male behavior and the 16th-century hegemony of elaborately bearded, male-dominated European nations that trampled countless peaceful native civilizations.

Speaking as a guy who has had a beard for most of his adult life, I can only suggest that everybody chill out, already.  There isn’t any deep secret to beards, or burning desire on the part of men to channel our inner Yukon Cornelius.  In reality, the impulses that cause men to grow beards are, like men themselves, much less complicated.

Many men grow beards in college because it is the first time we plausibly could.  We wondered how we would look in a beard, and then if it came in without looking like a laughable embarrassment we realized that ratty beards have another advantage:  they allow you to avoid the hassle of shaving every day.  Anyone who knows a college-age male knows they typically aren’t attentive to the imperatives of personal hygiene, and avoiding another step in the morning ablution rituals is a powerful incentive to guys who would rather sleep in a little longer.

Men often leave beards behind when they leave their college years.  But, as middle age approaches, beards can once again become tantalizingly attractive for two reasons:  you’re going bald, or you notice that you’re developing an appallingly saggy neck, or both.  If you’re losing the hair on the top half of your head, why not try to compensate by growing hair on the bottom half of your head?  And if the area directly underneath your chin bears an unfortunate resemblance to the wattles on a Thanksgiving turkey, why not try to mask it with facial hair and hope nobody notices?

So don’t fret about those hirsute men, whether they’re wearing flannel or not.  They’re not trying to return to the glory days of northern European world dominance.  As like as not, they just want to avoid dragging a sharp razor across their faces or to compensate for the unfortunate physical impact of the vicissitudes of age on their self image.

Bad Bodice-Rippers

Would you believe there’s a Bad Sex In Fiction award, given out by the Literary Review?

You will believe it after you read the passages from some of these finalists.  It’s embarrassing to even scan them, but they are pretty funny stuff.  One of them — in which a scene of deep passion is interrupted by the approach of a slobbering dog chewing on a penguin — made me laugh out loud.

I suppose it’s easy to make fun of bodice-ripper prose, with heaving bosoms and bare-chested men and moans and groans and lingering kisses and waves crashing into the shore.  After all, how many ways can you describe a physical act?  If you decide to actually try to attempt to capture the act itself, you’re inevitably going to sound trite . . . or hilarious.

Still . . . a slobbering dog and a penguin?

Bottled Water Tale

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A large bottle of Icelandic Glacial water is prominently displayed atop the minibar complex in our hotel room. With a bottle designed to look like jagged chunks of ice, it sits next to the coffee maker and high-end iced tea options.

The story on the bottle explains why Icelandic Glacial should be your preferred hydration choice: “Over 5,000 years ago, long before the first humans reached remote Iceland, a massive volcanic eruption created a unique underground spring, complete with its own natural filtration system–pristine lava rock. Now known as the Olfus Spring, this is the origin of Icelandic Glacial Natural Spring Water–the source of an epic life.”

Wow . . . an epic life? No wonder the price for the bottle is a hefty $6!

I know we’re in the desert, but $6 for water seems even steeper than a craggy Icelandic glacier to me. I think I’ll settle for something less than epic, save the $6, and just walk ten feet around the corner and get the free stuff from the bathroom tap instead.

Drinking Games

Last night at a rehearsal dinner after-party members of the bridal party were playing a drinking game called “Landmine” that I hadn’t seen before.

IMG_3641The premise of the game was simple — but then, the premise of drinking games always is.  You spin a quarter, drink from your beer, then have to flawlessly pick up the quarter, before it stops spinning, with the same hand that hoisted the beer.  If you don’t do it right, you need to repeat the drink-and-spin process.

As players finish their beers, they can use the empty cans to flatten the quarter before another player picks it up, forcing him to do it over.  The empty cans are left in position on the table, ready to serve as “landmines” that can thwart the successful quarter spin and pick-up.

The inevitable result of Landmine — or the “Crib for shots” that my college roommate and I played back at OSU — is happy, tipsy, roaring young people who quickly lose command of their inhibitions and fine motor skills.  It’s a good game for 20-somethings at a wedding, who can bounce back effortlessly from a long liquid evening.  Not so much for a 50-something who would rather not wake up in the morning with cotton mouth and a pounding headache.

It was a fun game to watch from a distance, though.