Friday, December 17, 2010

The Year of Roddick

Somewhere around mid-November every year, I have the same perennial reflection: Holy freakin Lord, where did the time go? Is it really almost 20XX? Have I even done anything of note this year? What the hell am I doing with my life? Oh god, someone please make the Medicare PSAs STOP. As a side note, have you actually heard the vacuum pump ads? It’s sad, but true. Turns out that the Shop-Vacs for your sack really are a Medicare-covered expense for the treatment of ED. And why is it that we have such a monumental healthcare funding crisis in this country? Hmmm… should we federally subsidize clinical trials that could lead to advances in cancer, ALS, or HIV/AIDS treatment? Or pumps to give perky peckers to the aging, non-procreating populace? Pumps it is. Grandpa needs boners.

As the year draws to a close, I’m reminded of the multiple, missed blog opportunities that have occurred over the past 12 months. So I thought it would be fitting to cram them all in for a few final posts this year, and thus send 2010 off with its tail tucked between its legs. Fittingly, I thought for the first installment I'd venture into the much maligned world of dog-blogging. I would normally rather swim in a sea of excrement than read about someone whose life awkwardly and singularly revolves around animals, but I've read a few shining stars lately that made me reconsider, so here goes...

Russell & Rufus… meet Roddick

What does every new house need? A third dog. (note the sarcasm) March 2010: enter Roddick, the destroyer of all things domestic. You wouldn’t think that anything this suave and adorable could grow up to be so tirelessly mischievous.

But he did. From tearing up carpet, couches, and houseplants, he graduated to chewing plank-like portions off of a bed frame. And he was already past his teething stage at that point. The insane thing is that you could never stay angry at this dog. He is a con artist in every sense of the word. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as Canine Stockholm Syndrome, but he's taken us hostage at home, and we’ve fallen in love with him for it. For all the artistic notoriety, Heath Ledger’s Joker doesn’t hold a flame to the psychological warfare that Roddick can wield. When you find yourself asking, Why do I feel horrible for scolding this dog for shitting repeatedly in the house?, you’ve already lost. He’s got to be the schnauzer version of Keyser Söze or Vito Corleone. My only hope at this point is to avoid crossing a line and wake up one morning next to a severed horse’s head. Also, he's a BEAST. We lucked out that the breeder and his family are amazing people from Houston, TX who love animals. I knew that his parents were both 10 lbs., so naturally we expected him to be 10-12 lbs. At 11 months now, he's 16.2 lbs. (I later asked the breeder how much the milkman weighed.) And not an ounce of it is fat, he's just a stocky little stud.

His antics are a daily occurrence, it seems, and several friends have been privy to them. A couple months ago, Fortunator came home to L-town and decided to stay for the weekend. All of us were unwinding on the couch the morning after a night of drunken karaoke, and in strolls Roddick with a curious object in his mouth.

B: He’s got your bra.

You see, Roddick keeps it classy. I had learned this lesson many times over in prior months, when he began dragging my undergarments from the bathroom to god-knows-where while I was showering. This was the first time though that a guest was the target. Embarrassing as it was to realize that he had clawed his way into the guest room and pilfered through Fortunator’s bag like a nosy maid, his complete nonchalance over the matter was mortifying further. He just sat there with a dopy expression, brazier in mouth, looking at Fortunator as if he was saying, This is yours. Did you lose it? I found it. I brought it to you. Did you need it? Cause I have it now. Do you want it? Here it is. Yes, I was the mother in Wal-Mart with the child who is completely deficient in tact and volume control, blessing others with his observations, LOOK MOM!!!!... SHE HAS SUPER-ABSORBENCY TAMPONS IN HER CART TOO!!!! (I wasn't sure about the feminine hygiene lingo, but that last sentence sounded right. No need to correct me, ladies... I just couldn't bring myself to Google a product for accuracy. I just can't. I am perfectly happy being oblivious.)

Even though I'm not a father, one of the facets of parenthood that I've always heard about or assumed was the joys of watching your child's personality emerge. And before you gag on that Lifetime-worthy sentiment, just know that there seemed like no other appropriate analogy for raising a dog from an early age. Yes, I just compared raising puppies to raising children. Before you grab your torches and pitchforks, I have ROUTINELY observed that this is a habit for young couples wanting to segue into parenthood. Say what you want about the method; maybe there is a huge leap between teaching your dog to shit outside and teaching your child to shit in a toilet (and conversely, teaching your dog to not shit inside and your child to not shit outside). But we have all beheld the teenage, cautionary tales in the checkout aisles of supermarkets. Their despondent countenances scream regret over spitting in the face of human fecundity at such a young age, while their brood socially terrorizes other consumers in sonorous and feral fashion. My point being that nature has given us training wheels for such a huge responsibility, and it's called taking care of domestic animals. Neglect such an opportunity, and you could ironically end up chasing around Mowgli the Wolf-Boy at every social outing.

But back to my original point... This dog has personality in spades. What follows are just a handful of the random eccentricities and quirks that have developed over the last 11 months.

1. Roddick loves Burt's Bees even more than I love Burt's Bees, which I didn't think possible. I do not appreciate the days when he snakes my stash off the nightstand. I have a hard enough time not losing my chapstick or preventing it from going through the wash to have to worry about his thieving ways. Also, $3-4 dollars a pop and the consequent diarrhea seem like a steep price for a "snack." Similarly, he has managed to unzip the work bag to retrieve packs of Orbit gum inside. SEVERAL. TIMES. I guess the upside is that he has abnormally fresh breath.

2. This dog loves being outside like it's a non-renewable resource. Back when he was having multiple accidents in the house, I remembered what a fellow pet-lover told me about attaching bells to the back door. You say your vocal command, grab his paw to touch the bells, open the door to let him outside, and voilà... before you know it, he's letting you know when he needs to go. What I didn't count on was just how effective this would be. To this day, Roddick still rings the bells EVERY 10 GODDAMN MINUTES, not because he has to relieve himself, but because he has thought of yet something else that he wants to do outside. So in my household, the trainer has become the trained. Like an obedient pet, I open the door every time those damn bells ring. It's some sort of twisted, reverse-Pavlovian charade.

3. He crows. Like a rooster. Not really sure why or how, but it's like a sustained bark. And it's usually when he's feeling particularly sassy and mouthy. Thankfully, I don't have to hear it at 5:00 AM.

4. He had a coprophagia phase. I don't know if he was eating only his own or if he was sampling the countless land mines in the backyard. Despite the vet's reassurance that this is relatively common behavior, I just wanted it to stop. Sent home with the aptly titled medication, Copro-Ban, we began spiking his food with it. The logic is a bit fuzzy, but apparently there is something in the roast-beef flavored chews that makes his turds taste bad. And thank god it worked. Otherwise, I would be making the viral video 2 Schnauzers 1 Cup.

5. He appears to be jealous or contemptuous of all things Information Technology. This gels perfectly with my profession, might I add. It seems like every time I sit down with the Mac, he wants to be in my lap. If I don't show him enough attention, paws will be on the screen and keys and he will stretch himself over the MBP in needy toddler manner. The other day, I had my laptop out and my phone blipped when it got a text. As I reached for the EVO, he consummately swatted it out of my hand. Maybe I'm inadvertently giving him daddy issues by not balancing the work/home dichotomy gracefully.

6. Roddick is a grasshopper and cricket afficionado. The house sits north of a huge field, so it's no surprise that the insect kingdom is literally at our doorstep. But this summer, a veritable plague of locust-kin swarmed the yard and porch like the banks of the Nile, so this dovetailed nicely with Roddick's fetish for the great outdoors. What started as a mildly annoying increase in bell ringings quickly transformed me into a powerless border patrol agent, as he began to smuggle his playthings inside like immigrants in a shipping container. Completely unaware, I would walk in on him in the bedroom as he was playfully pinning down his very much alive hostages like Lennie Small's rabbits. It was less Hannibal Lecter and more Steinbeck tragedy.

Even as I'm typing this, Roddick has danced across an end table, sending a DVD case, an iPod, and an OU decoration in flight, while somehow landing on his feet like a cat. Enjoy this highlight reel, as I go clean up another mess...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Art Of Destroying a Craigslist Heckler

Faith in humanity? Gone. Basis? Craigslist. Before I divulge the details of my first Craigslist outing, let me first say that I approached it with utter, unmitigated contempt. Since childhood, I have despised garage sales with a revulsion I normally reserve for canned meat. Maybe it's some anti-frugality character flaw of mine, but by default I want to buy someone else's old, used stuff like I want to bathe in someone else's old bathwater. By contrast, my mother has a secret love affair with estate sales, which are somewhere between the 7th and 8th circles of garage sale hell. Her kitchen is regularly supplemented by the former belongings of the dearly departed. When I recently heard that she had acquired a 70s-era pineapple corer, I accused her of being a culinary tomb raider. In my case, the apple fell far from the tree. No appeal. Whatsoever.

My disdain notwithstanding, I'm not above seeking new means to get rid of all my old crap. And as much as I hated entertaining the idea, Craigslist seemed like the perfect way to expedite the much procrastinated task of cleaning out the garage. Slated for eviction were my ridiculously heavy entertainment center, a queen-sized bed frame, and a 24" tube TV. The ease of posting these three prompted me to consider getting rid of some of my lesser watched DVD sets, i.e. The Office and Heroes, Season 1. Within the next 24 hours, I distilled two previously unknown maxims about Craigslist:

1. If you are trying to get rid of things that are remotely likeable, it's best to post one item every 24 hours. Why? You never know what people will go apeshit for. The bed frame I posted was getting hits 5 minutes after it appeared on the site. And the emails would. not. stop. (Thank god I didn't put my phone number in the ad.) Until a business transaction actually takes place, the merchandise leaves your premises, and you delete the post, the potential exists for people to bug the fuck out of you.

2. By contrast, less popular items will garner complete radio silence. Or worse, they'll tell you how much they don't like it or try to bargain with you after insulting your asking price. I should have been more skeptical when Heroes, Season 1 got a hit; my ad was simple and unassuming enough: "Watched once, only selling to upgrade to Blu-Ray. Amazon retails at $40.99." But you could have heard my jaw hit the floor when this arrived in my inbox.

From Fortune Favors the Bald

To be honest, getting heckled took me aback. Could a complete stranger be any ruder? But despite the surprise, I was more than prepared to take this schmuck down a few notches. And it is here, before we go any further, that I must confess that I am secretly in love with writing the occassional nastogram. What is a nastogram, you say? A missive penned with the most scathing verbal vitriol that you can imagine. What warrants the receipt of a nastogram? Only the most flagrant of offenses by family, friend, or foe. There have only been a handful of recipients; I don't want to paint the picture of me writing letters to the editor each week or spewing venomous nonsense toward any moving target like several radio pundits tend to do.

A bigger person would have taken the high road and ignored the taunt. But I wasn't about to be cyber-bullied (and clearly this kid was just trying to elicit a response); I'd like to think that I barked back for all of you who have previously been victim to a random act of stank. So here is the entire email string, in all its unedited, colloquial glory. It's not pretty, and I make no apologies (except, sorry Mom).

Thehardcorethug: bullshit you can get it for 15 new on amazon you ass clown

Marklebald: Maybe if you buy used from amazon. Or from some Indonesian merchant. Or from an Iraqi DVD black market. But from one of Amazon's domestic warehouses? $40-fuckin-dollars and 99 cents. Sorry to deflate your presumptuous and ill-researched call-out session, but you should probably save your emails for craigslist posts you're actually interested in buying. Do the world a favor, "hard core thug" (who somehow still has an AOL address), and "keep it real" so the rest of us don't have to endure your douchebaggery. This has clearly been a productive Sunday evening for you.

Thehardcorethug: hey dont be using big words they hurt my ummm my whatever is in the head brain that's it they hurt my brain oh yea i fucked your mom bye

Marklebald: Considering the anonymity [nobody knows you] of Craigslist, odds are you wouldn't know if my mother was dead or alive. But for someone as urbane [classy like horseshit] as you, that's probably not a deal-breaker either way.

I'm sorry our public education system [school] failed you. Actually, I feel more sorry for the teachers you more than likely tortured [hurt] with your asinine [shit for brains] contributions to human existence. It's never too late to pick up a dictionary [book] and actually make something of yourself. But that would mean you'd have to be productive [get stuff done], which would require you to remove the thumb from your ass.

Thehardcorethug: hey your smart wanna be friends

Marklebald: So you're either 13 years old or an inmate with computer access. Or both. In which case, I don't do the tutoring thing. And this whole dialogue (if you can call it that) has seriously made me question any opinions I had on the social reintegration of prisoners. Best of luck developing a new skill set while you're behind bars. I hear telemarketers are in high demand in this economy. But you clearly have the personality befitting those pain-in-the-ass calls around dinnertime.

Thehardcorethug: give me a bj

Marklebald: I called it. Prisoner.

FFTB Gets a Facelift

Thanks to a super sibling with mad multimedia skills, Fortune Favors the Bald has gotten a much needed overhaul. Aside from my need for external motivation to blog more, I don't know why it felt necessary, but it was. In fact, more dire than Chad Kroeger's need for a throat lozenge. I hope you, like me, appreciate the weird-ass Tyra Banks featured in the new banner. Who knew that baldness could evoke a sense of egomaniacal high art? Tyra did. That's who.

You'll notice, also, the not-too-subtle change in FFTB's URL. It's not that I have an issue with anonymity. Let's be honest... I don't check the hit counter on this blog for a reason. I also haven't pissed off a coworker or a local barista. Clearly, there is no shortage of cautionary tales about unemployed bloggers who, at one time, felt the need to vent about a boss. Also, if my boss is reading... I love my job and the opportunity to work under your attentive tutelage. Nor am I venturing into WikiLeaks territory. For one, it sounds like a VD. (I pray, too, that the mere mention of WikiLeaks in this blog doesn't bring the DOD to my doorstep.)

Maybe it's the hermit in me rising to the surface. I am both amused and repulsed by people who lose themselves in the net (Sandra Bullock, anyone?). For every self-absorbed autobiographical blogger, I'll show you a World of Warcraft devotee. You're a level 14 Mage, leader of your guild; you raided all the dungeons of the Eastern and Western kingdoms, and you're still a virgin?? For too many people, the actual living of life takes a backseat to their mission to develop an online persona. Everybody wants to be the next Dooce or Danny Evans, which in my humble opinion are blogging at its best. But not everyone needs to know what I had for dinner, what I thought about Inception, or how bad it sucked to have to go to the laundromat the other day.

In trying to avoid the boilerplate meanderings of much of America, I still recognize the continual need to divulge. To share. To congress with other players in life (not Life™, which is actually as boring as boardgames go). To disclose the minutia of our day-to-day, while avoiding the pitfalls of the oversharer. I swear, you will never hear about any routine, colorectal procedures of mine in the future. But my story to tell is that fortune does favor the bald. Good fortune. Misfortune. Not to mention Ms. Gina Fortune, a best friend of 5+ years now. Brandi Carlile sang it best:

All of these lines across my face / Tell you the story of who I am / So many stories of where I've been / And how I got to where I am / But these stories don't mean anything / When you've got no one to tell them to

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Spider Sanctuary

Let me begin this return to blogging from inexplicable absence (it's been well over a year) by conceding that I never intended to fall off the planet. God knows I've had loads to talk about. New job. New dog. New house. The combined stress from these three alone have been enough to scramble my cerebral cortex like the haphazard culinary efforts of a local IHOP cook (another missed blog opportunity). Maybe it's an admitted loss of objectivity or humor than I know tends to accompany me when enduring these life stage changes. Silence and the solitude of my own thoughts have always had a strangely therapeutic hold over me. This is probably why all the contrivances of Twitter have appealed to me; there's nothing easier than limiting the scope of your thoughts to 140 characters (@Marklebald, for those of you so inclined). All that to say, I know what it's like to lose your voice, especially when life is the pressure cooker that somehow still hasn't turned your coal into diamonds.

But I had to return, for one, to try something new. With my new HTC EVO (shameless Android plug), I had to try my hand at mobile blogging. FYI, for all its power, this OS' auto-correct feature is making typing take twice as long as normal. Secondly, I had to petition the online masses to see if anyone knows if some obscure arachnid deity exists, because it appears I have angered he/she/it. His royal legginess has apparently unleashed his hoards on my casa of ten months. In just the past few summer months, I've seen wolf spiders big enough to tackle my schnauzers, a tarantula taking residence in the garage, and a black widow chillaxing on the back patio like she's waiting for me to bring her a cosmo. I can only surmise that new construction is the Sandals resorts equivalent for spider-kind. They've even seen fit to invite their cousin scorpions to squat on the premises (read: NOT OK).

Accordingly, I've stocked up on Home Defense and all other anti-critter Ortho products, as well as recruited the professional arachnid assassins. Overkill? Not hardly. There's only so many times that I can explain away my very emasculating discoveries of those "fuzzy bugs". (Brian Fellows, anyone?... No?) My reactions look something akin to an effeminate and epileptic Lindy Hop. And before you judge too harshly, ask yourselves how you would react to seeing these monstrocities. No, I did not lift them from the Clash of the Titans official movie website.