All Over The Map
By Rob Grace
February 23, 2005
Oh, what a dramatic past week.
First, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital because he had the flu! Oh, the drama! News bulletins interrupted programming on Fox News and CNN! Tito and Randy sped to his brother's side! Geraldo collapsed into a fit of weeping for his maligned friend! The horror! The horror!
Then, J. Lo cancels a European tour because of illness as well! Husband Marc Anthony rushed to J. Lo's side! The world's finest doctors met in Beverly Hills to determine the best path for J. Lo's recovery! Tito and Randy sped to J. Lo's side, figuring that when Michael heads for Folsom Prison, maybe they can ride the J. Lo gravy train for a while! And at some poker table in Reno, Ben Affleck drowned his broken heart in a forty ounce bottle of Colt 45!
Finally, the week ended on the unspeakably tragic news that pop star extraordinaire George Michael was quitting the music business, never to be heard from again! OH MY HEAVENS!! WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?!? Think about the musical magic, Mr. Michael has offered this world! "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go!" "Careless Whisper!" "I'm Your Man!"
When Michael made his announcement, flags across the world flew at half-staff! Mass hysteria was reported in major metropolitan areas! Tito and Randy were talked down from the Golden Gate Bridge! And in some alley near Big Ben, former partner Andrew Ridgeley drowned his sorrows with a gallon of rubbing alcohol!
How, dear readers, will we make it through a world without the great singer/songwriter, George Michael? How will we survive without the man who wrote some of the most famous lines in pop music history? Lyrical nuggets like: "No, I'm never gonna dance again. Guilty feet have got no rhythm." Or: "Wake me up before you go-go! Don't leave me hanging on like a yo-yo!"
I don't know, but I do know this:
I'm never gonna dance again. Heartbroken feet have got no rhythm.
George…we never knew thee.
* * *
I've suddenly recognized a very rude habit of mine 38 years too late.
In conversations, I always manage to bring the topic back around to myself. It's a very selfish and egocentric thing to do, don't you think?
You could be talking to me about the most mundane thing – let's say, a new electric blanket you recently purchased – and in a flash, I'd be telling you about my history with electric blankets.
"Hey, Rob, I just bought a really cool electric blanket."
"Wow," I'd say. "Did you know I almost burned to death because of an electric blanket?"
"It has a digital thermostat…wait, what did you say? Burned to death?"
"Yeah. I was about five or six. My brother and I shared a bed, and one night this cheap electric blanket shorted out. The thing started to burn, but luckily my mom and dad smelled the smoke and successfully put it out."
See? It always comes back to me.
I don't remember how I came to realize I had this annoying habit. Perhaps during the middle of a conversation that I managed to steer back to me, I realized: "Hey, schmuck. Your buddy was just getting ready to tell you all about how he met his wife, and now you're telling him how you fell in love with your wife."
When I realized this, I started to remember other conversations over the years where I managed to bring it all back to me.
"Hey Rob, my mom and dad bought me a Dallas Cowboys football helmet for my birthday."
"That's neat, Jimmy. I remember one time my mom and dad went to see the Cowboys in Dallas, and they said they saw Roger Staubach in a restaurant. You know, I have a new Nerf football and when I wear my Cowboys jersey, I sort of look like Roger Staubach when I pass it…" Etc. Etc.
"Hey Rob, Loverboy's gonna be at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, and –"
"You know, my first rock and roll concert was Ted Nugent. He came out wearing a loin cloth, and he…" Etc. Etc.
My junior year at college:
"Hey Rob, Professor Gover says I need to re-take the mid-term, but I told him –"
"Did I ever tell you about the first time I met Gover? My advisor had moved to another college, and Gover happens to be his replacement. So, I go to see him in Kimpel…" Etc. Etc.
My wedding day:
"Rob, do you take Julie to be your…"
"Hey, Rev. Parris, last night at Hooters for my bachelor party, when our waitress brought our table some buffalo wings…" Etc. Etc.
Jeepers. I'm sorry, everyone. I literally had no idea that I was so self-centered. Sure, at least now I realize I have this ego problem, but I wish I would have been aware of it before.
I mean, heck, if I wanted to talk about myself so much, I should have just started a newspaper column.
Wait a minute.
All Over the Map
February 16 , 2005
by Rob Grace
On school nights at the Grace HQ, the projected "lights out" time is always 8:30.
But since this is the Grace HQ we're talking about, and two members of the Grace HQ are under the age of 10, the average "lights out" is actually 10:00.
As such, this can account for the various schoolhouse tardy marks and/or crabby moods of these two mini-insomniacs on various weekday mornings.
(Mini-insomniacs really isn't a good description. It's not that these two runts can't fall asleep; it's the fact they don't want to fall asleep. They want to stay up and party – whether it be reading books, watching Cartoon Network, or playing some PlayStation 2 game for the 456th time that particular evening. Sleep gets in the way of all that fun stuff.)
Now, it must be said that the commanders of Grace HQ, the mother and father of these little tykes, really – really – try to get the mongrels to calm down and get under the covers at a reasonable hour. But usually, there is much moaning and gnashing of teeth when 8:30 rolls around. And by throwing a wild mutt in desperate need of the canine equivalent of Ritalin into the mix, one will understand the futility of meeting the 8:30 deadline.
An example. This wild mutt, a.k.a. Sparky, will sometimes zip around the house, over sofas, on tables, or in showers at the speed of sound. Picture, if you will, the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes – only smaller and pitch black: that's the Grace HQ mascot, Sparky. Now picture a 7-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl gleefully chasing after Sparky at almost the same rate of speed. Finally, picture all of this happening while the two frazzled Grace HQ commanders are chasing these three ingrates throughout the house, trying to calm them all. A clearer picture of bedtime at Grace HQ quickly crystallizes into focus, doesn't it?
Once the fuzzy licorice mascot is caged and the two kids are trapped in their respective rooms, one would assume the mission is accomplished.
This assumption, of course, is insane. The hard part is only beginning.
After the children are in their beds, you see, the bargaining begins.
"Dad," one will say. "It's mom's turn to lay down with me."
"No," the father will say, "Mom went to sleep with you last night. It's my turn tonight."
"Nuh-uhh," will be the reply. "You laid down with me last night."
Then, from the other room: "Nuh-uhh! Daddy laid down with me last night! Mommy's laying down with me tonight!"
This, and about 143 more "nuh-uhh"s, will volley back and forth until the mother finally lays down the law. Then it's lights out, and she will lay down with her assigned child and the father with his.
Again, assuming this is the end of the evening would be a very stupid thing to do.
Take, for instance, the father's experience last night as he tried to fall asleep with his son.
The son tosses and turns. The son wants the father to tell stories. The son wants the father to tell him why, exactly, do people have to feel physical pain. (A tip: trying to explain the intricacies of the central nervous system to a 7-year-old whose only concept of science comes from an animated series on the Cartoon Network is also a futile exercise. It also does not help matters that the father's concept of science is rooted in old episodes of The Jetsons and Marcus Welby, M.D.)
Minutes pass. More stories are told. More questions are attempted to be answered by the father.
Until finally, this zinger:
"Mommy said that the next time I'm sick, that she would, um, set the PlayStation up in my bedroom, and um, I could stay in bed all day long, and um, play PlayStation. He-he-he-he. Cool, huh?"
"Yes, son," the tired father replies. "That's cool. Now, go to bed."
"O.K.," the son replies. "Good night."
Exactly 15 seconds later:
"Ohhhh…Dad," a very weak sounding voice moans from the other side of the bed. "I'm feeling sort of nauseous."
"You're fine," the dad replies. "Go to sleep."
Forty five seconds later:
"Ohhhh…Dad. My head's killing me."
The father, who was not born yesterday and did the same kind of thing when he was seven, sighs.
"You're fine. The best thing to do is to be quiet, stay still and fall asleep. You'll be fine."
Fifty seconds later:
"Ohhhh…Dad. My throat's really scratchy."
"Look," the father replies. "You're hoping you're sick so you can stay home and play video games all day. But, you're fine. So, go to sleep. Have a good rest, and tomorrow, you'll have a great day at school."
Finally, resignation envelops the little boy next to the father. And soon, spells of quiet last longer, until, at last, the steady rhythm of a sleeping child breaks the silence of the room.
The father creeps out of bed and makes his way through the dark to the Grace HQ Command Center. He crawls into bed with a sigh, thinking about the many things he must do the next day at work.
The mother, almost asleep beside him, asks: "Did he finally conk out?"
"Are you OK?"
"Well," the father replies, "I'm feeling a little nauseous. I might need to sleep in tomorrow because…"
"Oh, be quiet and go to bed."
Rob can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, you can write him in care of the paper: 920 Harrison St.; Suite C; Batesville,AR 72501.