See? I’m just as in the dark as everyone about Taco Bell’s new menu item

imageThere are certain perks that come with being a syndicated columnist. For example, just last month at the Oregon Plumbling Convention, I was honored with delivering the opening plunge in the Northwest Clogged Commode competition. In terms of prestige, this is like ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. At least in the competitive plumbing circuit. I have also been a guest judge at the Portland Freestyle Burping Contest and keynote speaker at the Nouns of Baskervilles writers conference. Yet in spite of my notariety, I was admittedly a little surprised when Taco Bell included me among its new “Mystery Box Menu Item” promotional ads for the Super Bowl.

If you haven’t see these commercials, sports stars like James Harden and other high-profile celebrities are given a plain green box representing Taco Bell’s new menu item, but aren’t told what the item is. That’s because thanks to marketing wizardry — and an unfortunate incident that resulted in 500,000 burned taco shells — the new item won’t be available to the general public until Feb. 8. But considering the release of the Waffle Taco last year, we can all agree anything is possible. Which could explain how I ended up with a “Mystery Box” in the first place.   Continue reading

How did I end up in a Taco Bell commercial?

imageBy now, I’m sure most of you have seen the new Taco Bell commercials promoting its new “Mystery Menu Item,” which will be reviled revealed during the Super Bowl. In these commercials, sports stars like James Harden and other celebrities are given a plain green box representing the new item, but aren’t told what the item is.

Or whether the green box is actually edible.

But if you’re a gambler by nature, you can pre-order the mystery item and get one Super Bowl Sunday, a day before it’s available to the general public on Feb. 8. Yes, that’s a full 24 hours before others in your area will get their first taste of the Meaty Cinnabon Wrap!

Or Double-Decker Mexi-Fries-a-rrito.

Or Chicken Twisty Supreme.

Continue reading

Get a jump start on your taxes! (And depression!)

imageFor the last several years I’ve promised myself I would do my taxes early. And for the last several years I have found myself Tokyo-drifting my way to the post office at 11:59 p.m. April 14. This year, I was determined to get an early start. After clearing off the kitchen table and finding an outlet for the calculator, I sat down to do my taxes. As always, I made sure to have all the necessary documentation and forms, like W4s, tax forms, bank statements, insurance reports, tax schedules and, most importantly, a box of Kleenex.

As I sat staring at this year’s tax booklet, I noticed a special section of “Tax Terms,” which is an alphabetical listing of terms one may encounter during the tax preparation process. Each term is followed by a brief description meant to enlighten the truth-seeking taxpayer through “real-life” examples. For instance, the IRS uses “Jane” and “John” to illustrate the term “Ability to Pay.” In this scenario, Jane is filthy rich, with homes on both coasts that she visits by way of her own Lear jet.

By comparison, John earns what the IRS calls a “more modest salary,” which affords him a flashlight and a camper shell to live in.  Continue reading

Chewing the fat with the Surgeon General about obesity

(This morning I’m over at Long Awkward Pause, where I just finished interviewing the U.S. Surgeon General about America’s obesity problem — which, like many Americans, continues to get bigger…)

image Like many of you, I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the shocking news that obesity had officially become the No. 1 preventable health crisis in the nation. In fact, I can even tell you which super-sized meal I was eating.

With millions of Americans resolved to lose weight for the New Year, now is the perfect time for us to make changes in our eating habits before the unthinkable happens, and we’re forced to apologize to the French for throwing the Earth off its axis.

With that in mind, we at Long Awkward Pause scheduled a special Q&A session with the U.S. Surgeon General to explain America’s obesity problem, and how we can get back to living healthy lives cut short by smoking and drinking… (More at LAP)

 

Open contempt for those in better shape is first step to a healthier you

imageLike millions of Americans, I recently stripped down, prepared myself for the worst, and stepped onto the scale. Soon after, I retrieved the scale from the front yard and accepted the fact that, yes — it probably was defective. At my wife’s suggestion, I tried our neighbor’s scale. This led to the discovery that, of the 23 scales I tested within a five-mile radius of our home, every single one was off by exactly 11 pounds. Being a journalist, I had to wonder: Was this a widespread problem? Were we being duped into needless exercise by faulty scales?

I immediately brought this to the attention of my editor, who, realizing the implications, told me to stay out of her candy drawer.

The truth is, I have no one but myself to blame for putting on these extra pounds. This is why, every year around this time, people just like me make a commitment to start going to the gym. I know this because I recognize most of these people from last year. We all have the same expression: grim determination mixed with a sense of purpose in knowing that, afterward, there’s a KFC right across the street. We come dressed with headbands and towels over our shoulders even though we spend most of our time wandering around the gym looking for water bottles.  Continue reading

How I got started as a columnist (or, Why the suicide rate among editors has risen)

imageOver the last several weeks I’ve had a lot of bloggers asking how I got started as a columnist. Perhaps it’s because of the new year and resolutions made by writers to persue their goals of publication. Or perhaps they have been drinking and, in a moment of weakness, stumbled onto my blog. Which might explain why most of the messages I received asking for advice went something like this:

“Are you drunk or sober when you write? And how do I get started?”

Because I’m assuming they already know how to get started drinking, I thought I’d share the process I went through in becoming a syndicated columnist. Because this is a PG-rated site, I will leave out the extreme nudity, profanity and gratutitous violence that accompanied my rise to the somewhat moderately wellknown columnist (within a seven-mile radius) that you see today.

Let me begin by saying that when I first started querying newspapers about carrying my column, I was getting one or two rejections in my email box every week. In frustration, I turned to the Internet and discovered, with a little planning and organization, I could be rejected by every newspaper in the state of Louisiana all in one afternoon.  Continue reading

Impress your kids; freak out on a carnival ride

imageI have a basic rule of thumb when it comes to carnival rides: If the person running a ride, such as the Squirrel Cages, keeps a garden hose available for spraying out the seats, I stay away. That’s because this person’s sole ambition is to make me — and others like me — vomit. I realize this person may be a trained professional who, on a daily basis, makes countless split-second decisions on whether to push the red or green button to stop the ride.

And, yes, I realize this individual has nothing but the safety of his passengers in mind when he secures a safety latch by removing his boot and whacking it until his arm gets tired, at which point, being a trained professional, he bolsters the confidence of his nervous riders by hacking up a cheekful of phlegm and shrugging his shoulders before walking off.  Continue reading

Remember to love each other like Rufus Valentine

Rufus Valentine hands As I’ve mentioned before, I lived in the South for 10 years, with six of those years spent in the suburbs of Atlanta. In the early 1990s, I was a restaurant chef operating in one of Georgia’s largest shopping malls — three stories of glass, sale banners and merchants spanning six football fields’ worth of mall space.

As you can imagine, I’ve dealt with as many personalities as there are seats in a 280-capacity dining room. The fact that Rufus Valentine dug such a deep groove in my memory should tell you a little something about the man’s character.

I’d like to tell you more.

The first time I saw Rufus Valentine was during the Braves’ heyday in February of 1992, when all of Atlanta was anticipating the spring — and a run at the World Series. Essentially, you could be completely naked; but as long as you had a Braves cap on you were considered properly attired by most Atlantans.

So, when Rufus appeared in his red tights, heart-shaped wings, and Braves cap at the west entrance of the Lenox Square mall, most assumed he was there to express his love for Atlanta’s baseball team. Continue reading

My biggest childhood fear? Being bitten by a radioactive stink bug

imageFor most of us, there comes a time in our lives when we must face the truth, and accept the fact we will never actually possess any type of super-human powers. This includes the ability to fly, shoot laser beams out of our eyes, or look good in a skin-tight costume.

As a child, I spent countless hours thumbing through comic books and dreaming of the day I would be bitten by a radioactive insect — and knowing full well that, with my luck, it would probably be something stupid like a moth:

Curses! It’s Moth Man, here to foil my evil plans! HOW CAN I STOP HIM! Hey… maybe I’ll try this porch light…”

In fact, I was so sure that I would end up as a lame super hero that, with the help of my friends, we came up with a plan to MAKE me into “Spider-man” before there was any chance of me being bitten by a radioactive moth, ear wig, silverfish or stink bug.

Our plan was simple.

Step one: Find a spider (preferably a small one) and expose it to high levels of radiation.

Step two: Make it bite me.  Continue reading

Twenty one years ago today, something went incredibly right

imageTwenty-one years ago today it was Friday the 13th. The reason I know this isn’t because I’m a savant, but because it was the day my oldest daughter was born — and everything seemed to be going wrong. The monitors were glitching, causing her vitals to disappear and the nurses’ faces to tighten into a fixed expression of forced calm. When I asked if things were ok, I was met with tight-lipped smiles of reassurance that made my stomach queasy. She wasn’t positioned right, with one arm extended above her head, as if caught in the middle of a backstroke swimming out of the womb. Eventually, her clavicle had to be broken in order to deliver her into the world.

When I held her for the first time and watched her tiny fingers wrapped around mine, I looked into her big brown eyes and saw an old soul looking back at me. It was a look that said, “I’ll make this as easy as I can for you, and I’ll forgive you when you screw up. Because we both know you will from time to time.”  Continue reading