Saturday, September 27, 2008

Plague of the Tourists

Every fall they came, just to stare at leaves. And shoot deer. When you live alongside nature, it’s hard to understand: one - why people travel so far to see it, and two - why they want to kill it. I’m speaking, specifically, of the he-tourist hunters and she-tourist leafers from New York City.

Maybe we only saw one side of the situation. Perhaps there was someone in New York City who needed a break from these obnoxious people and said, “Here’s a gun. Why don’t you go upstate and wander in the woods awhile? Maybe we’ll both get lucky. Oh, and take the missus. She can stare at trees and annoy the locals.”

We lived near enough to the city that we were inundated with city-idiots - it was hard to fathom why we should let certain urban dwellers live. What made it especially difficult to keep our fingers off the trigger is that tourist season corresponded closely with hunting season. So very, very tempting. And no limit on tourists!

“Officer, I was aiming for a six-point buck, but at the last moment, that old lady with the walker leaped in my way. It was just an unfortunate accident. Coulda happened to anybody.”

“Understood. Just don’t let it happen again.”

First, let me backtrack and explain my distaste. It would seem that if you were going to take up a sport as deadly as hunting, and seeing how death is somewhat final and appears to hurt a lot, it would behoove you to learn a few things about the sport first. There were basic rules concerning firearms and common sense that city folk consistently broke. For example:

  • Never hunt near a road. You could spook a deer into traffic, and if a car hit it, the driver could get badly hurt. This happened to my mom – her car was totaled, and so was the soul of whatever stupid hunter sent that deer into the road, because my mother put an Irish banshee curse on him. If he’s still alive, he’s in pain, and lots of it.

  • Keep your safety on, especially crossing fences. I can’t tell you how many ‘he-tourists’ shot themselves in the foot going over fences. What really surprised me is that they didn’t demand we put in ‘handicap access’ for our fences. “I shot my foot off going over your fence –put in a concrete ramp for my wheelchair, or I’ll sue.” Go ahead and laugh. Just you wait.

  • Identify what it is you’re shooting before you shoot at it. Nothing like hearing a gunshot and seeing a chunk of bark fly off the tree next to you. Yes, that happened to me. Yes, he, too, received a banshee curse. Then there was the city hunter who was found ‘gutting’ a brown cow. Really. No, sir, that’s not a two-point buck – that’s a Jersey cow. Yes, you’re quite the warrior, sir. I'm sure it put up quite the fight. How now, big dummy?

The rules were there for survival’s sake. If you ignored those rules, perhaps you shouldn’t be permitted to survive. Most of the year Darwin seemed to go easy on the city-dwellers, letting them grow fat and lazy until the first frost sent them into the woods. Come hunting season, we’d avoid the forest as much as possible, bringing the horses and cows up in the pasture closest to the house. Then we’d sit back and let the city-idiots shoot at each other. We had ourselves a whole new kind of turkey shoot.

New York City couples carpooled. The he-tourist, aka hunter, would put on his shiny, bright, orange hunting gear, kiss his wife good-bye, and trespass through the nearest field, where he would promptly climb over a fence and, on a good day, shoot himself in the foot. Then he’d limp back to the road to wait for his wife, who was in town drinking lattes and staring at trees. While he was waiting, he contemplated who he could sue for his misfortune, and where he wanted his wheelchair ramp to go.

In the meantime, his wife, the typical she-tourist aka leafer/antiquer, would peruse all the over-priced detritus for sale at the antique boutiques. She’d then drive out to the countryside, park in front of our house, and brazenly steal a pair of cast iron wagon wheels off our front lawn, stuffing them into the trunk of her Cadillac. At least that’s what the she-tourist I bagged did. Poor thing – she was much too old to be hefting something that weighty into her trunk. I could see her suing us if she were injured during her theft, and I was torn between helping the spinster lift her heavy load, or twisting her arms behind her, cop style, and putting my knee into her kidneys, slamming her against the car while I handcuffed her for stealing our property.

I settled for yelling, “HEY!” She dropped her five-finger discount and scuttled back into her Cadillac, spitting gravel down our country road. I hoped she hit a he-tourist hunter on the way back into town. Or that a he-tourist shot at her car. Come on, Darwin – rise and shine, dammit!

Our hay field bordered Route 9G, a major thoroughfare. In other words, it was paved and had two real lanes. Many wayward city dwellers cruised it, pretending to gawk at the leaves changing color, but we knew they were really trolling for old crappy stuff antiques to steal.

At this time of year we’d be in a hurry to get the last hay cutting into the barn, dodging raindrops, stray bullets, and spinsters dragging stolen wagon wheels.

The leafers would park on the side road, blocking our access to the field, jabbering about lattes, and generally making pests of themselves. They were probably waiting for us to turn our backs so they could swipe our hay rake and resell it on Crazy Larry’s Staten Island Farm Equipment Black Market. Or turn it into some sort of country art artifact. Maybe it would resurface as a decorative wrought iron hanging pot holder for some bored, overpriced kitchen on Long Island. These people were downright soul-less.

Sometimes tourists would pull over to the side of the road to take pictures of us. This used to irritate the hell out of me. What were we, a freakin’ Amish zoo exhibit? I wanted to give them something special for their photo album, maybe drop my jeans and show them a real harvest moon.

My youngest brother, Bob, was in that field raking hay. He, too, had had it with the looky-loos, and decided, while still driving the tractor, to drop drawers and give them a Kodak moment. (How he came upon that idea, I'm sure I don't know, or at least I will never admit to suggesting.) Anyway, as he aimed his motoring moonpie at the startled tourists, he failed to notice a fast-approaching gopher hole. As the front left tire fell into the hole, the tractor lurched sideways, and Bob was launched into the air. Luckily, his wayward pants caught on the shift lever of the tractor or he would have rolled, half naked, under the big rear tires. As it was, he accidentally shifted gears with his belt loop, and had to pull himself back up by the steering wheel of the now speeding tractor. Grabbing the wheel like that made the tractor veer sharply, running over and crushing our brand-new handicap access wheelchair ramp for hunters.

Please don’t tell our Dad.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Fall of Man

"Tell us, oh wise one, what it's like to miss your man." They huddled about the dim light of the sanctuary, shadows wavering weakly, flickering in rhythm with the dancing of the candlelight.

"Yes, I missed him. I admit it," I wiped a tear from my cheek. Shelley was blubbering already, raining salty tears on a bunch of us. "But I adjusted the scope on my Glock, so that wouldn't happen again."

A chilling breeze wafted by, frightening the candle, causing it to sputter and hiss hot wax upon the concrete. We pulled our blankets closer around us to shut out the cold.

Some of the new ones were writing furiously. "Glock?" asked one. "Is a Smith & Wesson acceptable?"

"That was a joke," I continued, "Comic relief. Please don't try that at home. Especially if your carpeting isn't Scotchguarded." They scribbled out their notes.

"They're all going away and there's nothing we can do about that. Of course you miss your men, but you'll have them back soon enough. I miss mine, too," I sighed.

"It was as if Fate had brought us together," I replied solemnly, respectful and in proper awe of our surroundings. "A Fate, perhaps, with a bit too much time on her hands."

"Fate, my friends, has an evil sense of humor," I continued. "She had brought us together, yet every Sunday, she kept us apart. Why, I had no idea. But what I did have," I took a sip from the bottle and passed it on, "was a plan. And I'm here, again, to share it with you."

"We must look on the bright side," I exhorted, "We have been given this block of time for a reason. It is a gift, not a curse. And, as is our way, we will make the most of it. Because we are women, and women persevere."

Shelley perked up for a moment. She remembered last year's speech and knew what was coming. "You mean," she whispered, "the Mall?"

A murmur arose from some of the newer members. The reason for their blind exodus of faith, for leaving their safe havens and venturing out onto uncharted suburban cul-de-sacs, was revealing itself to them.

"Yes, ladies, Sundays are once again ours and ours alone. We will not whine about being football widows. Instead, we will act. We will seize the day. We will seize the credit cards. We. Will. SHOP!"

A cheer went up, then quickly died. Too much noise would invite unwanted attention and perhaps wake a child. Kids were notorious for listening in and then blabbing to daddies. We were meeting out on the chilly patio, disguising our meeting as an "Oprah Book Club," hoping to avoid suspicion, and to keep any non-slumbering rugrats from spilling the beans.

"It is important that we approach this smoothly. No sudden moves, no quirky comments. Just casual business-as-usual. You're not going to the mall, you're going to the store. To them, the word 'mall' is a red-flag." I glared at Shelley, who whimpered. Last year she had blown her entire fall shopping campaign by declaring to her husband, at halftime no less, that she was going to the mall. "Under no circumstances are you to ever use that term. Am I clear?"

"Secondly, it is imperative that you recognize the status of the game. Men equate winning with good fortune and prosperity. If your man's team is losing miserably, it is not a good time to announce that you're heading off to spend money."

"Third, take the time to buy something with his team's logo on it. A bean dip plate, a cooler, a bikini, whatever. Put it away. If you're ever confronted about your shopping time or your credit card balance, pull the thing out and weep that THIS is what you were buying for him, is he happy now for spoiling the surprise? could he be so mean, yadda yadda.... the main thing is to have a defense in place ahead of time."

"Remember, you must show enough interest in his team to reflect compassion, yet not too much to arouse suspicion. But be careful - show too much interest, and you'll be sucked into watching the games with him."

A few shuddered and pulled their blankets closer. We had seen that happen to some friends last year. They had wanted to spend more time with their guys so they learned about football. Big mistake. Now they were expected to sit on the couch and listen to why the quarterback should have known the blitz was coming, or why the coach was an idiot for not 'going for it' on fourth down. Our friends had been devoured by a huge gaping hole in the couch, never to shop again. It was still difficult to think about.

The box of wine was nearly empty. The candle sputtered.

"If we do this carefully, they won't bat an eye. Keep the chips and beer flowing, and nothing will be apparent until after the Super Bowl."

"And by mid-February, ladies, they will be disarmed," I held for impact, "by Valentine's Day."

"And I ask you, what is waiting for us that day? A dinner? A big chocolate kiss? A rose? After months of un-Sundays, that's what we get? I tell you here and now, if we want a future, if we want anything, we must buy it ourselves. And we must buy it now."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Juicebox Conspiracy

With the distinct exception of this column, the price of darn near everything has been rising lately. This includes, sadly, that staple of the school lunch - the juicebox. Those little rectangles of liquid joy now cost more per ounce than gas and even (gasp!) beer:

  • A four-pack of Hansen's Junior Juice (4.23 ounces each) costs $1.59, or 9.4 cents an ounce.

  • A 24 ounce can of Coors Light costs $1.99. That calculates out to 8.3 cents an ounce, over a penny less per ounce. (Plus you can recycle the can and make something back for all your drinking efforts.)

Blame it on rising fuel prices? Hmmm...seems they can factor in the same transportation costs that beer does. If you must know, a gallon of gas is about $4.29, or about 3.35 cents an ounce (128 ounces in a gallon of gas). But please, enough about gas already.

There was something amiss here. A teensy box holding barely a gulp of apple-vapor should not outprice the nectar of the hop-gods. I sensed a conspiracy. A juicebox cover-up, if you will. Stuck between record prices and thirsty kids, I for one was not going to take it anymore. I would fight back. I would start my own juicebox embargo. First I had to sell my kids on an alternative. And I got started on that by questioning the coolness factor of the juicebox.

"I've been thinking," I told my kids. They've learned that this comment is a red flag, that some ugly new edict is about to hit the fan. "Those juice boxes you take in your other kids still drink them, too?"

"Well, yeah, of course," my boys replied, their eyes narrowing as they anticipated my next brain sprain. "Why do you ask?"

"I was just thinking how, well..."

"Well, what?" They knew something was up.

"For you guys, they just seem a bit....young."

One of the worst things you can tell a child is that an esteemed tradition he counts on daily, that bolsters his new-found confidence as he swaggers across the playground, should go the way of his crib. Never had they considered that those little boxes with the pain-in-the-butt, thread-the-needle-and-squirt-everywhere straws would be 'unhip.'

They looked at each other. "Well, what else are we supposed to drink?"

Soda was out of the question. That stuff rotted teeth, packed on the pounds, and was just as pricey. Wheatgrass, green tea - sorry - I'm not about to flaunt my faux Green World views through my minions. Think about their therapy costs!

A water bottle with a Jolly Rancher candy in it would probably suffice. But with my luck, I'd get busted on the 'choking hazard' issue. Everyone is sooo litigious lately.

Maybe it was time to think about swapping out a Juicy Juice for a Coors Light.

Although hops are considered a vegetable, I knew that if I gave my children real beer, some PTA NARC would come banging down my door, so I researched the non-alcoholic brews. O'Douls came in nicely at 8.3 cents an ounce, a full penny under the evil juiceboxes. I opted for cans, since glass is not allowed on school grounds. I could save even more by serving my kids Old Milwaukee NA (non-alcoholic), at 4.9 cents an ounce, but I love my children and want only the best for them.

To be considerate, I got my youngest a beer-cozy, so he wouldn't flaunt his brew in front of his DARE teacher. Nothing is crankier than a cop who can't drink on duty. It's kinda cute, with an LAPD logo on one side and an ad for "Uncle Louie's Bail Bonds" on the other.

It warms my heart to know I'm helping to keep so many of those horrid, waxed-paper boxes and cellophane-is-forever straw wrappers from littering our beautiful landfills. Even better, I'm now in the process of arranging a 'can-drive' for the school, recycling the beer cans for money. We will quickly raise enough to pay for a 'cease-and-desist' court-ordered injunction against the school magazine and cookie dough fundraisers. Those campaigns are enough to drive you to drink.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Can God Multi-task?

The obvious answer would be "yes," because by definition God can do virtually anything. However, is there a limit to this? Are there times when God's so gol-dang busy that she throws up her holy hands and says, "Screw this - I'm getting a beer and a bubble bath." Purists would say "no," but they enjoy saying "no" so for now let's ignore them. They hate that.

There have been times when I've needed God and didn't seem to get an answer. The need wasn't life or death, really, but pretty important to me. And it's not like I bought the warranty and I'm owed an answer. I just expected some sort of response. No burning bush or water into wine, but at least a 'Yeah, I hear ya. I'm workin' on it.'

Of course there are many more pressing issues around the globe, enough that God has probably set up a few minions to handle them 24/7. In fact, I'll bet all the standard problems are parsed out to specialists. Famine and war crimes are most likely not dealt with by the same entities that handle the aching crush you have on a co-worker or schoolmate.

Maybe it's God by committee. That would be frightening. Do they sit around debating what to do?

Entity #2038: Really, if we must have a hurricane, send it toward Galveston. They are way overdue.

Entity #2455: How can you say that?

Entity #2038: Do you see where they build? Helloooo!

Entity #2455: Let it just fizzle out in the Gulf of Mexico so no one gets hurt.

Entity #2038: See, this is why we don't get respect up here anymore. Every once in a while, you gotta pull out some whup-ass.... 'Wrath of God' and all that jazz. They got plenty of warning. The smart ones will get out of the way. The rest can deal with Darwin.

Entity #2455 (leaving in tears): You're so cruel! Why I have to work with you, I have no idea.

Entity #2038: Have you seen what they've been naming the hurricanes? Ike, for goodness sake. They need to show some respect. What about Igor? Now that's a storm! You're not gonna hang out if an Igor is headed your way.

Entity #3223: Can we break for lunch?

"Go ahead, pull my finger."

It can't all be just chaos, can it? Then again, I'm not sure I can go on, thinking that God may well have left my fate in the hands of a few overtasked, cranky entities.

Maybe I just need a beer and a bubble bath.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Arrrr" is for "Redneck"

The Appalachian appellation redneck has a kick-ass history. Beyond the standard ‘sunburned neck from day labor’ theory, there are several possible roots of the word, including, believe or not, a Celtic one. No, leprechauns did not sneak in and paint some poor sod burner’s neck red. Yes, our skin reflects our moods rather accurately. Light the ire of any Son of Erin and you’ll soon discover what redneck means. We all flare quickly and righteously.

There are many similarities in temperament between the Irish and rednecks. Both appreciate a decent home-brew, are fiercely loyal to their clans, disdain nosy government, and are ever ready to defend their turf with a verbal barb or bullet.

Obviously not all rednecks are Irish, and many of these same traits apply to Scots and others. There's a reason I'm treating 'redneck' more like an attitude and not a nationality - when you're as friendly as rednecks are, your gene pool gets a bit muddy.

Just like rednecks, Irish clans are based not on blood but on friendship. Stop in any Irish pub and you’ll quickly find that out. Everyone’s a friend-in-the-making. And they don’t care if your family is blueblood or redneck. Cross them, however, and you’re done.

On the rare occasion anyone crossed him, I remember my Celtic father’s neck turning a deep scarlet, the color soon flowing up to his face. One corner of his mouth would curl, much like pulling the hammer back on a shotgun. It seemed his words alone drew blood.

“I was supposed to go to that meeting,” he once purred to an arrogant coworker, “but they found out my parents were married.”

You may be surprised to discover rednecks living as far north as New York, but the idea that they're limited to the South is untrue. Once they figured out how to put chains on snow tires and chill beer in a snowdrift, they were everywhere. And while the borough of Brooklyn runs deep in our bloodstream, the Appalachian mountain chain runs deep into New York State, so we're closer than two fleas on a coonhound. The accents on these particular fleas, however, are a bit tough to decipher.

An Irish New Yorker moving out to the country is not a huge leap, nor is it a new idea. Early in American history, cities often encouraged their rowdier, warlike inhabitants to ‘Go West,’ where they acted as barricades or buffers between civilization and the Indians. Rednecks neighbored Redskins, bonded, traded baseball cards, and did just fine.

Yo, Vinnie, hold my beer and watch this.

England shipped its rowdies to Australia. New York City used the Taconic State Parkway. Not sure what rowdy, warlike things my parents did to be encouraged to ‘Go West’, but by the time they got there the Indians had been replaced by a much more frightening group – the Yuppies.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy defines redneck as "a glorious lack of sophistication.” Seems to me that after a while, living in the ‘civilized’ city can get tiresome. Everyone needs to let their hair down, scratch,
and dig in the mud once in a while. Whether you ever put your city shoes back on again, well, that’s your call.

For me, through the years, the term has moved from being a derogatory accusation to a badge of pride. It has taken me a long time to represent my roots, but I’m finally there.

Hell, yeaaaaaah! ….You got a problem wit dat?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Anthropromorphism - The Comedy

I have a confession to make - talking animals make me laugh. In everyday life they usually don't say much, and I toss in dialogue for them if the moment seems to warrant it. Some speak for themselves, but that's another story. But in movies, television shows, or commercials, my funny bone wigs out when an animal chatters away. It truly is my comic kryptonite.

It's so bad that others turn and stare. I can't help it. I know it's wrong. I have a film degree, for pete's sake. This should be serious stuff. I shouldn't guffaw uncontrollably at a talking pig.I shouldn't wax eloquent on the best episodes of Mr. Ed. At the very least I should be selective about what gets me going, but I can't. I laugh at each and every one, from the formidable Budweiser lizards right down to the insipid golden retriever on the Bush's baked beans commercial. Really, though, that poor dog was given the worst lines ever, with no support from the other actors, and truly feeble special effects. Never mind that the lighting was all wrong. Poor pup will probably never work again. He knows it, too. Look in his eyes and you can tell he's thinking, when this is over, I am SO gonna pee in my agent's shoe.

The worst are the advertisements, since they catch me by surprise. Suddenly a border collie is schlepping pizza and I'm rolling on the couch. At least with a movie or TV show I can steady myself, grit my teeth, and think sobering thoughts. But put Yogi Berra and a duck together and I need insurance against giggling to death.

I've sat unblinking through some supposedly funny shows. I can keep a straight face when delivering a punch line. I can even stretch the truth with the best of them, look someone straight in the eye and tell them a whopper. Unless a talking animal is in the vicinity. Then I lose it.
I consulted an expert on this phenomenon. He said this trait is far more prevalent that one would think. He also mentioned that worms were tasty-

Me: So, what's up, Duck?

Doc: Quack!

Me: Yes, that was a cheap shot, but do you really think it's helpful to make fun of my condition like that? You're supposed to be helping me.

Doc: Quack!

Me: I know you are but what am I?

Later I realized he was trying to help me confront my funny demons - fighting funny with funny, so to speak. Still, it hurt. If I could associate this pain with talking animals, perhaps I'd gain some control over my giggles.
What would Dr. Doolittle do? Think about it. He was the only one animals could talk to. That meant if they had a problem, they went to him and only him. And talked. And talked. Poor sap.

Imagine if you spoke a language that no one else did. One day you found someone who also spoke your language. You'd talk their ear off, right? Poor Doolittle was chattered at 24/7, especially since most animals don't share our social graces of knowing when to shut the heck up. Which reminds me - just forget I mentioned anything about giggling at talking animals.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

When First Lines Become Your Last

In the dating game minefield, few tasks can be as odor-inducing as the opening line. Imagine yourself as a stand-up comedian. Looking out over a sea of stone-cold sober tourists, you know there's an excellent chance a deafening silence may follow your first joke, echoing like a lonely pebble tumbling down a deep chasm. You're in public, and your proverbial pants may at any moment drop to the floor. It's make or break time and we all know it.

How you handle the rocky bumps this moment holds may determine whether your family line lives on or you're doomed to channel-surfing cable re-runs every Saturday night. And while you may think the key is in the delivery, the real deal-breaker is in your response.

The following are actual lines I've witnessed my actual self in the first person. Surprisingly, many of the men actually survived their encounters:

Him(nervous): So.....what are you doing Friday night?

Me: Nothing. Why?
Him: Would you like to go to the prom with me?
Me: Ok. But why don't we go Saturday night like everyone else?

Him(in a club): Pardon me, do you have any contact lens solution?
Me: That is the stupidest opening line I've ever heard.
Him: Thanks! Come here often?

Him (tipsy):Wanna dance?
Me: Sorry, I can't dance. I have two left feet.
Him: I don't know about yer feet but yer legs look darn good.

Me:(at a bar, on a bet, in a sultry voice to a guy standing in a narrow hallway): You know, standing there like that, you're quite the fire hazard.
Him: Hu-uhhh....heh, heh....wh-what?

Him: (upon seeing a rather sparse wall): Wow, I could totally fill up these walls!
Me: With what?
Him: Dead animals.

Him: (to my friend wearing duct tape on her bottom because her jeans tore):What's that on yer butt?
Her: Duct tape.
Him: ....wanna dance?

Because of the terror involving opening lines, men especially feel compelled to bolster their bile with alcohol. As a result, many of their opening lines fail-

Him: Wouagasagboooooty?
Her: What?

Some guys realize that alcohol is not enough. They need something stronger, something to make them absolutely, irrefutably irresistable. So they reach for....lies. Big, fat lies:

Him: I own forty acres of prime Texas land.
Her: Really?
Him: Yes, ma'am. I raise prime Texas Longhorn Angus dairy cows.

In an effort to understand what the guy is saying, women feel compelled to reach for a translating device, often referred to as a margarita -

Him: Wouagasagboooooty?
Her: Whaaaaaat?

For the safety of innocent people and in an attempt to limit such behavior to a controlled environment (as well as make ungodly piles of money), bars were invented. Age limits were established to prevent children from seeing such embarrassing behavior. Lights are dimmed to keep from frightening the patrons. Patrons are dimmed by alcohol.

Fortunately alcohol prevents both parties from remembering anything, so they have no issues attempting the same approach the next weekend, or as soon as they sober up, whichever comes first.

For comedy's sake, let's suppose you've gotten past the opening night jitters and have a date set up, or even gotten past that and have three kids and a joint checking account. This is probably a good time to inform you that there is more than one form of opening line. There are many, many, many first lines. In fact, there are tons of levels of them, more than Warcraft has gnomes, and you will probably not survive all of them. Don't worry, though, it's a merciful killing. Let's look at a few examples. Notice that the male's response, or second attempt at survival, is usually the fatal blow:

Her: Honey, what do you think of my new dress?
Him: You went shopping again?
Her: What?!
Her (slap!)

Her: Honey, did you mow the lawn?
Him: What?
Her: Did you mow the lawn?!

Her (slap!)

Yes, guys learn to buy time by saying 'what?' or swigging a drink. But think about - is that quality time they're buying?

After a while they realize that life is just a series of potential verbal pitfalls, and they devolve into communicating in vocal and intestinal grunts. Women are free to translate as they wish, using the aforementioned margarita-based translation device and an air freshener for survival.

As the stakes rise, quite often women resort to a high-octane squeal known as nagging. While nagging is powerful enough to make neighborhood dogs keel over in their tracks, men eventually build up a resistance to it using a device known as football season.

And so it goes, until the men are deaf and drunk, the women are shopped-out, and we all end up on the couch together, channel-surfing cable re-runs every Saturday night.