Saturday, February 26, 2005

Adventures at Sam's Club

Somehow yesterday I found myself in a Sam’s Club. I hate shopping, but shopping there means it’ll be another year or so before I have to go buy toilet paper, which was the one item I couldn’t do without. A case of toilet paper and a few other items was all I had on my list. But then I got suckered in. The intercom invited everyone over to aisle 23, or something like that, for a free paring knife. Since I could always use another paring knife, I wandered over that way. "What was I thinking?" Of course, they weren’t just handing them out. "I’m in a store," for heaven's sake. They may say their goal is to save me money, but it’s really only to sell me stuff. So before I could get my paring knife, all the other suckers and I had to listen to a sales pitch for a whole bunch of knives. The salesman said to think of it as us getting paid to watch him work.

I started to walk away, but this guy was so bad I had to watch. He told his well-worn jokes without any sign of emotion and didn’t wait at all for a response, as if he was afraid they’d be none. He never even looked up at the gather crowd of paring knife lusters. We watched his super-duper knife cut tomatoes and hammers and assorted other stuff I’m always needing to cut in my kitchen. He asked who had seen such knives advertised on TV, but he never even looked up at the few brave or stupid enough to raise their hands. He just kept running his monologue. He was so bad, that he was funny.

His sales pitch had at least four false endings. He’d promised this would the last thing he’d show us, only to follow it with another demonstration about another knife he’d throw into the offer. The entire set of knives ended up being worth something equivalent to the national debt, but could be ours for only $29.95.

At first, his little demonstration ironically brought gladness to my heart. "Things could always be worst," I thought. "I could be a knife salesman in Sam’s Clubs." About half way though his pitch, I began to ponder if I could do a better job. I thought about wearing a few Band-Aids on my fingers. Nothing like a little visual aid as to the sharpness of the product. Then my thoughts became more sinister and somewhat sexist. I thought about focusing on selling the product to the best-dressed woman in the crowd. (This idea came from the playbook of a former boss who taught me what little I know about sales.) My hunch was that if he made such a sale, others, men and women, would quickly follow suit. But this guy was so clueless, he never connected with anyone in the crowd. I also thought that a useful trick would be to offer a Japanese hara-kiri knife in the set. But then, by the end of the show, there would have been a mass suicide on aisle 23. It would have been a mess, but then, there's always Mr. Clean.

To my surprise, a few sets of knives were sold. However, most of us exchanged our time for a flimsy paring knife. Afterwards, I quickly made my way to the checkout.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Your words have the sound of a loon
seeking its mate in the fog engulfing the bay.
Or a train, running down the hollow,
with each crossing, the wail more somber
until at last, silence. Alone,

I'm accompanied by the crackle from the hearth.

I nod off, your words laid across my heart,
until a gush of wind drives the limb,
the one I’d meant to cut last fall, against the roof
rustling me from a fretful sleep.

Your words float to the floor, as I sit up
and I watch the waning moon rise.

Pale light reflects off the snow,
displaying diamonds on its crusty surface.
I go, bundled against the cold,
seeking the perfect stone
but they’re only illusions and my steps squeak.
Once broken, will a heart ever mend?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Thoughts on the Superbowl

I’m not quite sure why I got up from my nap to watch the Superbowl. It seemed the thing to do, but I was so tired I didn’t want to go out. I’d been more interested if the Steelers where playing, but they lost out to New England. My half-hearted loyalty to Pittsburgh comes from the three years I spent in the halls of academia in the Steel City. Mostly, I don’t care for professional football, but like the hoards of others in America, I tuned in.

Of course, the game is only a small part of the attraction. There are as many minutes of advertisements, or so it seems, as there are of football. These mini-dramas entice us to consume more calories. Why do I need to do that? I have a hard enough time maintaining the balance of trade between my caloric intake and expenditures. And there are all those commercials for water down beer! Life is to precious for cheap beer, I’ll continue to pay more and buy darker beers from local breweries.

I wanted to see Paul McCarthy perform at half-time, but was disappointed when the multi-media light and fireworks overshadowed his musical talent. It’s odd to think of McCarthy was a young musician when Green Bay and whoever played in that first Superbowl. Am I really that old? I remember watching part of that game on a black and white TV. We didn’t watch much of it. If my memory doesn’t fail me, after a few minutes, Dad took my brother and I outside and we spent the afternoon tossing the football. Maybe Dad was turned off by the commercials.

The National Football League produced the most interesting commercial of the evening. Showing star players for teams not in the Superbowl, they sang about how, as this season comes to an end, they’ll all be "undefeated" next week. That in and of itself isn’t a bad message. It gives hope. But the video showed these guys living lives of conspicuous consumption. The American way of hard work and thrift has been dethrone and a new idol, to get what you can and flaunt at any suggestion of prudence.

I still wished Philadelphia had won. But all was not lost, I spent the second half starching and ironing shirts, catching up on two weeks of laundry.

Friday, February 04, 2005

On the ice

What a better way to end a hectic week than to spend several hours ice fishing… A friend invited me to go and I decided to see what this addiction is all about. With the NHL in limbo, the only place there’s action on ice is out on the lake. After hiking out onto the ice, we dug our holes and got out our tackle. I thought about bringing a fly rod just for kicks. I know I’m good enough to cast into a six-inch circle, but didn't think the fish would be looking for a fly on the top of the water when the ice is a foot thick or better. Besides, someone might think I was drunk and not pass the bottle my way. (We didn't have a bottle with us, but some neighbors on the ice were drinking Marker's Mark--known by it's red waxed seal--and passing it around like it was a jug of moonshine.) In no time we're pulling up nice speckled bass (they didn’t look like any bass I’d ever met, but they were fun to catch). We caught 14 and kept a dozen of ‘em. I might of caught a few more if I’d paid attention to my lines and not spent a significant amount of time watching the sun set and taking in the hues of pink cast across the frozen lake. It was dark when we hiked off the lake under the watchful gaze of Orion, aristocratically perched on the southern horizon.