Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Search of Lost Baby Ruths

When I taste the blend of chocolate, caramel, nougat and peanuts, I see myself as an 8-year-old playing with small army men at my Uncle Steve's house. It takes me back to being with my cousins and watching things like the "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling" and performing with a Casio keyboard.

The Baby Ruth is my madeleine, an item that brings back an involuntary memory. Madeleines typically affect either taste or smell. Some memories can be long gone, but if the madeleine is tapped into, they come back.

This idea is key to Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time," which is also titled "Remembrance of Things Past." A madeleine is a French cake that when tasted gives the book's narrator an awakening. Honestly, I don't read Proust because I find it too inaccessible, but I love the idea of the madeleine because I've experienced it many times."Hey, it smells like grandma's house."
"Mmm, that tastes like grandma's soda pop."
"Oh, man, Baby Ruths are the best candy bars!"

I have discovered that nearly everyone has a madeleine. What is yours?

The sensation also is called synesthesia, and I love how it sneaks up on you. To me, some madeleines are connected to the holidays. A pine smell = Christmas. Cheap champagne = New Year's Eve. Semi-drunk at Church = Midnight Mass.

And we can argue about this all day, but the Baby Ruth is by far the best candy bar. Perhaps its taste is debatable, but the meaning it has in my life puts it on a pedestal.

For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Steve has been a proponent of Baby Ruths as are his children and me. His father, my grandpa, eventually had his health fail, but even during that time, he often would ask to eat "A Ballplayer," a reference to the glorious Baby Ruth.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The polar bear is about to die!

My daughters and I are addicted to the classic game "Don't Break the Ice" and vow to "play just once more and then easily stop if we want."

We each have different styles of breaking the ice as we attempt to save the red polar bear from falling to his death. Like a surgeon, I carefully knock out cubes. Sophie and Chloe replicate my style, but when the polar bear comes close to falling, they have different reactions.

Sophie, 5, announces, "I'm scared!"

In contrast, Chloe, 3, pounds all the ice around the polar bear to make sure he does indeed fall. Sophie and I react shocked every time she does this, although it is no longer a surprise for us and we continue to be undefeated against Chloe."Don't Break the Ice" originated in 1968, and I enjoyed it as a lad years later. I must have passed some sort of gene to my daughters to like the game as well.

After a gluttony of Christmas gifts, "Don't Break the Ice" somehow has emerged as our favorite despite having many more expensive and "classy" games. Despite my ability to quickly post blogs, Sophie is demanding that I play another round of "DBIT" with her as I type. No problem. One day, we may branch out to "Cootie" and/or "Ants in the Pants."

It may be one day after Christmas, but I will be saying "Merry Christmas to you AND YOURS" for at least a few more days.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

For relaxing times, make it Suntory time

Although I may have started my job search a little late, I have figured out the perfect position for me over the holidays - celebrity alcohol spokesman.

I was a major fan of Bill Murray's character in the 2003 film "Lost in Translation." He traveled to Japan to be a spokesman for Suntory whiskey and promoted the phrase: "For relaxing times, make it Suntory time."

I also have noticed that Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti on "The Sopranos," is doing quality work for 1800 Tequila. He makes a great point in one commercial when he says: "What happened to tequila? These days, it's all velvet ropes and posturing. I don't know about you, but when I drink it, I really like to kick back and be myself."The occupation of "celebrity alcohol spokesman" is rare, and, obviously, that's a shame. Suntory employed Sammy Davis Jr. in the '70s to showcase its whiskey, and he is arguably the most famous alcohol spokesperson.

When I recently explained my plans to be a celebrity alcohol spokesman to a pal, he replied, "I think you're delusional. You're not a celebrity."

Let's not split hairs here. I truly believe the masses would respond to me pointing out some liquor's sophistication. Absolutely. Absolut.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kindergartener questions Santa's methods

My 5-year-old daughter Sophie already is questioning the logistics of Santa Claus' whereabouts and his gift delivery methods. Her metaphysical points have been so deep, and logical, that I am now questioning my own existence.

Daddy: I think we should go see Santa Claus and tell that fat man what we want for Christmas.
Sophie: But Daddy, Santa lives at the North Pole. It's too far.
Daddy: Wait a second. I heard he was at one of the malls around here.
Sophie: Those are just Santa's helpers. You can't have the same Santa at all the malls.

I'm with you, Soph. To understand if Santa Claus exists, I don't think it's right to be completely illogical. Heck, that tactic didn't really work with the movie "Inception."

Perhaps more than any other year, I have my biggest case of holiday fever. Do you know what it is like to have two gleeful daughters, ages 5 and 3, who embrace the holiday season more firmly than Richard Dawson embraces Family Feud contestants? To kind of quote DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, "take it from me, parents just do understand."My girls have spurred me into becoming "Mr. Holiday" this year. My home and Room 618 at Cerritos High School are decked out in tinsel and trees and ornaments, and I am constantly spreading holiday cheer with two verbal greetings:

1) Happy holidays to you AND YOURS.
2) Get your nog on!

For a second consecutive year, I will not be sending out Christmas cards and instead am sending out this blog post. For these holidays, the girls and I will staying in Long Beach, Calif., although in future years I expect to often make the trek to my favorite holiday city - Cleveland.

The biggest change in my life this year was changing workplaces. I went from Firebaugh High School in Lynwood to Cerritos, and the change has worked out well for me. It's my third year teaching high school, and I'm still enjoying it.

The girls keep growing. Sophie is in kindergarten, trying to read and is the ringleader of my home. Chloe, AKA Gumball, shows a perfect blend of creativity and clear thinking to be likable to all. No major point about these random updates except:

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Kwanzaa. Feliz Navidad.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fantasy world is a nightmare

Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens insists on doing a blog about the woes of his fantasy football team, despite the urging of his entire staff that repeatedly told him "nobody gives a rat's ass."

"Will you just listen to me!?" a wild-eyed Stevens demanded of his staff. "You do not know the depths of pain I experienced this season. I swear I had the best team in the league, and I didn't even make the playoffs. Do you know how crazy that is?!?"

The staff repeatedly pointed out that Stevens' fantasy football team was not the best because it finished 11th of 12 teams with a 5-9 record.

"You're not listening to me!" Stevens barked. "Only one team had more points than me. I at least was second best. Man, this was demoralizing."Upon further review, the staff does see that Stevens lost five games by less than five fantasy points - 89.7-85.2, 97.7-94.5, 107.5-103.9, 101.4-100.9 and 104.1-103.1. Ha. Ha! Those last two games, losing by one point or less, might be what wild-eyed Stevens is talking about.

"Exactly!" he said. "When you score 100 points in fantasy football, you're almost assured a victory. The record of the rest of the league when scoring 100 this year was 23-1. My record was 2-3. This is some sort of twisted lesson."

When asked why he took the time to add up the 100-point games in his fantasy football league, Stevens responded, "I was just curious."

When asked why he has put so much thought into this, he said, "It's got to mean something. I guess you realize your true character when bad things happen. Now, it is time for me to see if I can recover from this fantasy football nightmare."

Because he did not sign out of his yahoo login on one of the SBG's computers, the staff looked at his team and realized that Stevens frequently made bad picks with his lineups this year. Stevens also would have been in the playoffs had he won his last game, but he was demolished 122-78.

Not even Jay Feely, the Arizona kicker who scored a mind-blowing 24 fantasy football points on Sunday, would have helped him.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tic-tac-toe chicken will be defeated!

One of my favorite pastimes when I lived in New York City was playing a chicken in tic-tac-toe.

The pastime was so fun that I sometimes took visitors to the seedy - yet glorious - arcade at 8 Mott Street in Chinatown to see the chicken's brilliance.

I've had many conversations like this:

Friend: I've never been to New York City. Where should I go?
Me: The Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty are a bit too touristy. You should see the tic-tac-toe chicken.
Friend: What?
Me: There's a chicken in Chinatown that plays tic-tac-toe.
Friend: Huh? ... Yeah. You're right. That's a must-see.

I have been recommending the chicken to friends for years but recently read that animal rights activists had the chicken removed from its post in 1998, the same year I moved out of the city. Apparently, some animal rights activists consider playing a chicken in tic-tac-toe cruel. I find it cruel to stifle a chicken's gaming abilities.

The chicken has been on my mind again because the other day at Ports O' Call in San Pedro, Calif., I stumbled across a game called "The Love Maine Lobster Claw" that has live lobster as the prize.Catching a live lobster out of a machine is not nearly as exciting as playing a chicken in tic-tac-toe. My record against the chicken was 0-1-8. I never beat him, almost always tied him and goofing around once, learned that the chicken could win if I made a bad play. But, damn it, the chicken always got to go first.

A cynic might say the chicken's game was programmed to always give him the best move. But I don't think so. I think I was playing against a genius. I vow to find that chicken wherever he is, play one last game and even our win total at one apiece.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Drakkar Noir: Superior to common scents

Many lads look to me for advice on how to talk to girls, be a man and be smooth. I tend to give terse, two-word phrases of advice, such as "be yourself," "calm down" or "just listen."

After years of giving advice, though, I have finally discovered the best two words to tell any young, potential loverboy - Drakkar Noir.

As any gentleman knows, a man's scent is what attracts ladies. Drakkar Noir is the perfect combination of wolf pheromones and tangerine undertones with a hint of rear-view mirror air freshener. I'm pretty sure it's an afro disiac for all mammals, including hippopotamuses, hyenas and classy ladies.

I speak from experience. Back when I was 14, I got my hands on some wonderful Drakkar Noir and immediately added maturity to my life and attracted women. Soon, I was sipping martinis on yachts, modeling Top Siders and playing baccarat in destinations including Monaco, the French Riviera and Garfield Heights, Ohio.Nowadays, lads are doing something similar with a product called "Axe," although it obviously is not as refined as Drakkar Noir. There will never be a more powerful scent, and even though I have no specific proof and it is impossible to research this fact, I am pretty sure Drakkar Noir is French for "Black Dragon."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Coupon collection beyond expectations

My Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon collection has ballooned to 28 coupons and because of urging from my daughters, hope to have the collection reach 100.

A little more than a year ago, the collection stood at eight, and my daughter Sophie wondered why we had so many Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons.

Since then, I have gone to Bed, Bath & Beyond twice, but I have only successfully used one coupon. That happened last week, when I picked up seemingly random items for Thanksgiving.

In the summer, though, pain enveloped me and The World's Most Sophisticated Man when we got items for a classy party and forgot to bring a coupon. Although 20 percent off any item is quite attractive, we did not think it was worth it to drive back home for a coupon.As Kevin Arnold from "The Wonder Years" might say, life takes us in many different directions, and sometimes Winnie Cooper isn't there. For me, I am philosophically against collecting anything but find myself with two collections - the Chewbaccas and now the Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons.

Although I hope to live for at least four more decades, I will not be able to take my collections to the after-life. But I am pretty sure that when I die, Saint Peter will greet me at the pearly gates, commend me on my Chewbacca and coupon collections and give me 20 percent off if I buy a cutting board from him.