Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Thoughts and reflections on my visit to the inscrutable East, including how I prove that I am the stupidest person on the planet ... TWICE!

I'm back, people - did you miss me?

I'll take the deafening silence that met my return last night (where, oh where was the fanfare?) to mean that nobody missed me. Oh well, I'll deal. Thanks for everyone who took my amazing blog challenge - you people really should be watching Lost. I mean, come on, do you have lives or something? But I would like to thank you for saying what I should have more of on this blog - I'll try to get more Lynda Carter, mud wrestling, flaming drinks in boot-shaped glasses, and Merovingians on here. I will also think about how I will dress when I'm dictator. Clothes make the man, after all!

Anyway, this will be a big ol' post, as I ruminate on things that struck me as unusual, odd, bizarre, sad, funny, or just plain interesting about my trip back to the old homestead area. If you read on, gentle readers, I will reveal to you why I am the stupidest person on the planet. You scoff. You pooh-pooh. "Oh, come now, Greg - we have all done stupid things," you say. "What makes you think the two things you did are the stupidest things ever? What makes you so special?" Well, I don't mean to brag, but seriously - I proved not once, but twice, that I am the dumbest person in the world. If you fear stupidity, read no further!

On Thursday, it was drizzling in Philadelphia and pouring in Newark, New Jersey. It was, of course, clear and sunny in Arizona. For some poorly explained reason, all the flights into Philadelphia were delayed, but those into Newark were not. So my flight was delayed two hours. I sat by the gate and grew bored. Why on earth was the flight delayed? WHY????

I'm sure my mother would know this, but when did some airlines (like, say, US Airways) stop giving away food and start selling it? I'm certainly not shelling out seven bucks for a sandwich.

I got free headphones because they double-booked my seat and moved me back six rows. That was nice. The in-flight movie was March of the Penguins. I'm certainly not in agreement with all the conservatives who think it "proves" intelligent design (I mentioned this before - they're birds that can't fly!), nor that it shows how the family unit is God's way (Morgan Freeman very explicitly says that the male finds a new female every year), but I'm not in the camp of the people who think it's the greatest movie-going experience ever, either. I mean, it was fine, but they're penguins. They do their thing. It's not like they're doing un-penguin-like things. This is like making a movie of me getting up in the morning and eating breakfast. I do it to survive. It's impressive that the penguins do this, but what the hell else are they going to do?

I bought magazines to read on the plane. Because I don't want to piss my beautiful wife off, the only time I buy "men's magazines" is when I fly alone. So I read Maxim and, I think, Stuff magazine. Boy, I should just stick to the book I'm reading. Those "men's magazines" are really, really stupid. Just dumb. Not even the scantily-clad women make up for the idiocy of the articles. Avoid them, fellow readers!

Flying is awesome. Okay, flying coach sucks, and usually you're crammed into places that no sane person should be crammed into (like the window seat next to two, shall we say, husky folks). But the crappiness of a window seat (bathroom access) is offset by the view. It was neat seeing Phoenix disappear beneath and behind me, and flying over Pennsylvania with miles and miles of cloud cover. Coming down through the clouds at night, with an almost full moon overheard, was spectacular. The moon looks so much brighter from a plane, probably because you don't have all the pollution and clouds in the way. Screw invisibility - if I had a superpower, I would want to fly.

One thing Phoenix has better than some other places: its airport is nice. It's open and windowed and easy to navigate. Philadelphia's airport is claustrophobic and shabby. It looks like it was delved deep into caves on some moon of Saturn in a futuristic sci-fi movie. Tight corridors, no windows, and more than one wall is peeling whatever it is that covers it. Cruddy.

My father failed in his public restroom etiquette. We both went into the restroom. There were six urinals in the room. A man was using #2. A pop quiz that most guys should know is: Where should my father go, knowing that I am also going to use one? The answer, of course, is #6 - that is the only place he can go that would allow me a suitable buffer zone, because then I can go to #4. He went to #5, meaning I could not use a urinal without being directly next to someone. I'm sorry, Dad, but that's a big faux pas. I ended up at #3. Guys know this bathroom etiquette instinctively, right? And for the women reading - yes, we can be as weird as you about little shit like this.*

* I'm not even sure if this is a homophobic thing. I'm probably one of the least homophobic straight people around, and there are those pseudo-stalls separating the urinals anyway in most public restrooms. It's just a guy thing. Don't ask for a better explanation.

I'm always surprised by how dark it is at night in most of the places I go in Pennsylvania. Here, of course, I'm in an urban area, so it's always well lit, but the relatively rural area in which my parents live (pretty much just outside the edge of the suburbs of Philly) is really dark for other reasons, too. First, it rains a lot in the autumn, which I think makes it darker. Second, when it rains, you get clouds. I went out with friends on Thursday night after I arrived, and it was freaky driving down roads with absolutely no illumination but my headlights.

Manual transmissions are excellent. Everyone should drive them. Whenever I go home I'm reminded how cool they are. Krys does not know how to drive one, so we're not allowed to buy them when we get new cars. I miss stick shifts. Real men drive stick shifts.

I went to a bar so see some of my friends. I got carded. I'm THIRTY-FOUR years old. Women, I suppose, would be flattered. I just thought the bouncer was an idiot.

I asked my friend Dave (the one whose wedding spawned this whole trip) where his lovely bride was. She had things to do, so she declined. He told us that he said to her, "Well, I'm going out." Everyone at the table but him was married. We laughed and told him that he had only two more days to have that attitude.

One of the things that I don't like about going back to where I grew up is the running into people who I don't really want to see. We were out at this bar and someone I went to high school with happened to be at the same bar. Now, I never really had an opinion of this person one way or another. Sometimes I thought he was a jerk, sometimes he was okay. It's not like we were friends or anything. His brother works with my friends, though, so they chatted for a few minutes. Nothing strange happened, but I felt weird. It was one of those "we sort of have some sort of connection, so maybe we should pretend we were closer than we once were" moment. It didn't last long, and didn't bother me that much, but I have a feeling if I lived near where I grew up I'd have those kinds of experiences a lot more often.

One reason why I love my friends: The groom, Dave, said that October 14 (last Friday) was a special day. I asked him why and he said it was the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. I commended him on his excellent memory. Then my friend Jen said, "In 1066." These people, mind you, are not history majors - Dave was in engineering and Jen was a film student. The fact that they know about Hastings and can speak somewhat eloquently on the subject (as they proceeded to do) warms the cockles of my heart. They always keep things lively.

There's really few things nerdier than guys playing air instruments. I mean, I buy comic books and people think I'm a nerd. Dave's twin, Frank, played a bunch of music on the "jukebox" (a computer), and when "Roundabout" by Yes came on, Dave and Jen's husband, Jeff, started playing air bass and discussing how fierce the bass line is. For a brief instant, I was the coolest guy at the table. Then I opened my mouth again and all was lost.

Friday was the 9th consecutive day of rain in southeastern Pennsylvania. I love when it rains here, but 9 straight days does get a little annoying.

On Friday I took a road trip. I had nothing to do, all my friends were working, and I knew I would be bored. So I decided to go to Comic RIOT! Jason Richards just opened his store in Camp Hill, PA, which is near Harrisburg, about 100 miles to the west of where I was. People looked at me funny when I told them I was going 100 miles to visit a comic book store, but they usually look at me funny anyway, so I ignored them. I wanted to go because on his blog Jason has often mentioned how he is trying to stock more independent comics, and I wanted to see how he was doing, as I have become a minor champion of independent comics (even though I still dig my superheroes). So I went. I will talk about Jason's store more on Comics Should Be Good in a day or two, but I will say it's a good store. However, while on my trip, I did the first of two things that will prove I am the stupidest person on the planet. Read on in wonder!

I hopped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (more on that below) and headed west. I'm tooling along in my mother's Miata, which is kind of a hoot to drive. I'm about 5 miles from my exit when the car starts jerking a bit. I downshift and then speed up again, but the car does it again. I have no idea what's going on. It keeps jerking. I'm starting to freak out. Anyone care to guess what was wrong with the car?

That's right - I was out of gas. I ran out of the gas on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I had not even looked at the gauge while I was driving. I was, in fact, looking at the oil gauge, and was quite impressed that I was getting such good mileage. I actually stopped in the middle of the Susquehanna River Bridge, which is not a good place to stop your car (of course, nowhere on the Turnpike is a particularly good place to stop). The Turnpike Police showed up quickly and pushed the car off the bridge and into a construction turnoff, and then a tow truck showed up and gave me enough gas to get to the exit. The whole thing cost me 57 dollars. In case you don't appreciate my stupidity, I'll write it again:

I ran out of gas on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The whole episode set me back a good 30 minutes, so I was late getting out of Harrisburg. I had to be at the rehearsal at 5.30, so I was trying to get home, get shaved, get dressed, and out by 5.10 or so. I was making good time until I hit Valley Forge, when the traffic came to a dead stop. Stupid rush hour Friday traffic! Valley Forge is about 17 miles from the exit I needed, and my parents' house is about 13 miles from the Turnpike. It took me one hour and fifteen minutes to get home. I did not shave. Oh well.

The Turnpike is a ridiculously anachronistic roadway. Supposedly the tolls pay for all the improvements, but it is one of the worst highways in the state. Potholes, seams in the road, and really narrow lanes. Horrible. Unfortunately, it's very convenient, so it's used a lot. Every five miles or so there is new construction, but here's the interesting thing: no one was working on Friday. Nobody whatsoever. My dad said it was because it was raining. If they're waiting for nice days in Pennsylvania in autumn, no wonder no work gets done. Stupid government bureaucracies.

My mother has drilled into my head about propriety and style. I am generally a slob, but I know when I should dress up. A rehearsal for a wedding is one of those events. I put on a nice shirt and a tie. I was the only one at the rehearsal wearing a tie. A lot of the participants were wearing jeans and sneakers. They looked fine, and I certainly don't want to insult any of them, but sometimes, I wish people still dressed up occasionally. I love wearing jeans and sneakers and comfortable clothes, but it was weird that no one at the rehearsal was dressed nicely. Except for the bride. She was dressed up. It made me feel better.

The rehearsal dinner was at the groom's parents' house. Dave and Frank lived behind me when I was growing up, so I got to drive through the old neighborhood. My old neighborhood looks small. The streets seem narrow and shorter than I remember, and all the trees have grown, so it looks more claustrophobic. This is not just me being bigger. The streets are more narrow than the neighborhood I live in today. But it's still weird. It's a nice, quaint development. It just feels small.

The big day (Saturday) arrived, and I had a busy day. At 9.30 in the morning I jokingly asked my father why the college football games weren't on yet. One cool thing about living in the West is that sports comes on earlier. I love watching football at 10 o'clock in the morning.

I had made arrangements to visit some friends of mine whom I hadn't seen in years. My first stop was at the home of Randy and Kelli Solly, whom I hadn't seen since sometime in college - it's probably been 15 years. I always liked both of them, but in the early '90s we fell out of touch. I'm not sure how we got each other's e-mail addresses, but I'm glad we did, because e-mail is a quick and easy way to stay in touch. My sister has not grasped this yet. I drove down into Warminster, the town in which I grew up, and hung out with the Sollys for a few hours. Here are some pictures of them:

Posted by Picasa
This is the happy couple with their second son, Brian. Their first son was nowhere to be found!

Posted by Picasa
This is me and Kelli. I like putting the moves on the ladies!

Kelli had been digging through her old photographs and found some of me. She graciously allowed me to take them, and now I share them with you. These are from Spring 1989, when our history class went to Washington, D.C. for a field trip. It was very fun.

Posted by Picasa
This is me acting like a geek with my history teacher, Mr. Austin. Mr. Austin was a great teacher, and he had a very dry sense of humor. He acted all stuffy, but he was usually just messing with you. Earlier this year a friend of mine saw him around town and told him I was a teacher. He mentioned that it was fitting punishment for me. Jerk. What a cool guy Mr. Austin is.

Posted by Picasa
This is me with some of my friends. Could we be more 1980s? I don't think so.

After I left the Sollys' house, I called me friend Dave Boger, whom I hadn't seen in, I think, six years. We had lunch and caught up. I didn't take a picture of him because I forgot to. I suck.

I drove by the house I grew up in, because I was feeling nostalgic. I took a picture. Here it is, the old Burgas homestead:

Posted by Picasa
My mother hated that house. She hates split-level houses. She was stuck there for 20 years before my parents could move out. So sad.

I left Dave at about 2.30 to head home and get ready for the wedding at five. I needed to get the present wrapped because my mom didn't have any appropriate wrapping paper. I also wanted to watch a few minutes of the Penn State game. So I got home about 3, shaved, showered quickly, and got my suit on. I watched the first ten minutes or so of the football game, and about four, I was ready to leave. Then the phone rang.

(Before I continue, I want to rant about the college football games I didn't watch. Don't worry, I'll be quick. First of all, USC v. Notre Dame. Hey, Notre Dame people who think your team got hosed - shut up. Yes, Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinart into the end zone. Guess what? It happens all the time, and never gets called. Why should it be called for your team? If you had played some defense on 4th-and-9, you wouldn't have to worry about it. How many times has Notre Dame gotten away with something and commentators laughingly called it "the luck of the Irish"? Shut up. Today on the radio, someone said that Notre Dame haters - me included - should get ready to deal with Notre Dame being good for the next 10-15 years. I bet a lot of people said that three years ago, when Ty Willingham started 8-0. Yeah, where is he today? Let's keep the Notre Dame lovefest cool for a while, shall we? Of course, because they're Notre Dame, they're the only 2-loss team in the Top Ten, while other teams (hint: I went to one of them) with better records are further down in the polls. The polls suck.

I wasn't too upset with Penn State's loss, because I expected them to lose, but it was pretty gut-wrenching. They still have the inside track to winning the Big Ten, but that was a frustrating loss. Hey, Notre Dame fans - the refs missed at least two obvious hits on Nittany Lions out of bounds, and in Michigan's final drive, some receiver caught a pass and clearly did not get his feet down. They didn't even review it. So refs blow calls all the time. Shut up, again.

Okay, I'm done ranting. No more sports, I promise!)

So the phone rang. This leads into the second thing I did that proves I am the stupidest person on the planet. Oh, avert your eyes!

On the other end of the line was my friend Ken. Ken came in for the wedding from St. Louis, and I was really looking forward to seeing him, since he is my best friend (after my wife) and I haven't seen him in three years. I would have hung out with him on Friday but he was in the city having some gay birthday lovefest with his significant other. Lousy homos! So I was really keen on Saturday night and hanging out with him (and Jim, his "dude," who is a wonderful person). He says to me, "How are you doing?" I said I was fine. He asked where I was and what happened. I was a bit perplexed by this - I said nothing happened. I said I was at home, about to leave to head down to the church for the wedding. He said, "The wedding's over, man. It just finished." Ken is often a jokester, so I said, "You're joking." He said that he was not joking at all, and that the wedding was at three and they were all starting to head over to the reception. I looked at the invitation. There it was: three o'clock. The reception was at five. So there you have it:

I missed the wedding for which I had flown all the way home and at which I was supposed to read.

Ponder the stupidity! Marvel at it! Question how I even am able to get out of bed and dress myself! I. Missed. The. Goddamned. Wedding.

My heart sank. I had got it in my head that the wedding was at five, and I simply did not look at the invitation again. It was just stuck in my head. No one else (like the smart people here in Arizona, my wife and my mother) looked at the invitation before I left and mentioned that the wedding was at three. I simply missed it. I immediately jumped in my car and made it to the reception at five exactly. I was very pissed off (at myself - calm down, I know who's at fault), but everyone told me not to worry about it. It's not like I was in the wedding party itself, so during the ceremony they just skipped my reading and moved on. It was a nice service, apparently. The bride was very gracious and said it didn't matter. They were actually worried about my health, as I had left the rehearsal dinner a little early because I had a splitting headache and my stomach was upset. So they were just happy I didn't have malaria, I guess.

I read the sonnet I was supposed to read at the wedding at the reception. Before the toasts, the best man made me come up and recite it, which made me happy. I can actually read, even though I obviously have no brain. I decided to blame the groom. On Friday we were discussing where I would sit, because I had to sit up front so I could easily get up to the podium. I asked him when I should get there to make sure I could get a seat, and I said, "I guess I should get there about 4.30." Instead of saying, "Why would you get there at 4.30 for a 3 o'clock wedding, you moron," he said, "Probably about 2.15." I thought he was joking by saying I should get there many hours before the ceremony. He didn't say it was because the wedding was at three.

The reception was typical. Weddings and receptions can be looked at two ways: a depressing ritual stifled by sameness, or a comforting ritual linking us to the past. I like receptions, but marvel at the weird sameness of them all. Can the bride say "I'm not dancing with my father"? Can the bride and groom say, "We're not throwing a bouquet and garter"? Did they even think of objecting? I'm not saying they should have, but if my friend Dave said, "I'm not smushing cake into my bride's face," would they have shouted him down and told him to behave? I don't know. They did not play The Chicken Dance or The Hustle, so that was a good thing. A fun time was had by all.

Some people who I had not seen for many years were at the wedding, and it was nice to chat with them. This is a picture of Rommel Acuna and his wife, Jen (a different Jen than the one I went out with on Thursday). Rommel is a funny guy - he seems to be very stoic and serious, but he has a goofy sense of humor. I haven't seen him or his wife since graduation (16 years ago), so it was fun to hang out with them.

Posted by Picasa

I caught my friend Jen laughing. I was trying to get pictures of people when they weren't looking. I really like this picture. Jen is one of my best friends. She's a fantastic person, and I was really glad to see her.

Posted by Picasa

Too many of my friends smoke. I hope they don't die young. Oh well - they know the risks. I told Jen and her friend Michelle to pose with their cigarettes. Michelle's husband, Heap (that's his last name, but everyone calls him that) looks on with scorn. Heap is quite the riot. I have known him for years, but I've never been very close to him. He's still very fun to hang out with. He just married Michelle recently. Apparently it was a good thing for him.

Posted by Picasa

Finally, here is the groom, Dave. I ran out of film, so I didn't get pictures of him with his wife or pictures of Ken and Jim, which bummed me out. Oh well. I know what they look like. You, the good readers, are the losers. Sorry.

Posted by Picasa

After the reception, we went out drinking. One of our party sang "Run To The Hills" by Iron Maiden on the karaoke. It was rather good, but quite scary. Karaoke is bizarre. Has anyone ever done karaoke without a liberal dose of alcohol? I wonder.

On Sunday I flew home to Arizona. The flight left on time, and all was well. The movie was Bewitched. It is not a good movie. Romantic comedies are very weird. They are almost completely dependent on chemistry - not writing, not the direction, but how the two leads react to each other. Will Farrell should not be a romantic lead. Nicole Kidman should have been Renee Zellweger.

So that was my weekend. I had a grand time. It's always nice going back to Pennsylvania and seeing my old friends. I wish I could visit a little more often (it had been almost three years), but I don't dwell on it. There is a lot to like about southeastern Pennsylvania, and my friends want us to move back, but we just don't know what we're going to do. We'll see. In the meantime, that's why I have a blog - so my friends can check in on what I'm doing - and that's why we have e-mail. If any of my friends I saw over the weekend is reading this, I just want to say that I love you all, and thanks for putting up with me. I appreciate you all.

Of course, the big debate about the weekend is: Am I getting dumber, or slightly smarter? Do I have hope? Let's review:

On Friday, I ran out of gas on a major highway.
On Saturday, I missed the wedding for which I made the entire trip.

Which is dumber (obviously, missing the wedding is worse)? I think running out of gas is dumber, which means I'm getting smarter. Whoo-hoo! But if Saturday's idiocy was dumber, then that means I'm actually getting stupider, which frightens me. How can I care for the children when I'm so stupid?????

I'll be back. Be good. I know I promised more New Zealand pictures. Perhaps tomorrow.


Blogger Roxy said...

Welcome home, you idiot.

17/10/05 9:48 PM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

I'ma afraid missing the wedding is way more stupid. You're driving an unfamiliar car, you run out of gas, it happens. (But not to my wife, who fills up when it's half full.) But the wedding, complete with written instructions: dumb, dub, dumb.
Oh, BTW, if I were your father, I would havve picked #4, leaving you with #6 (or #2, if he finished.)

18/10/05 8:40 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

You're right, Roger - I should have said my father should have picked either #4 or #6 - #5 was the one urinal he shouldn't have picked.

Good to know I'm getting dumber, though.

18/10/05 10:07 AM  
Blogger Nik said...

Holy mother of god, you tell a long story. Fortunately it's a funny story so I'll forgive you.

19/10/05 11:26 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

We aren't allowed to surf the web for non-work related purposes, so I had to cut and paste your post into an e-mail so I could read it yesterday.

So longgggggggggg....

I have to state for the record that missing a wedding is no big deal. EXCEPT when you are supposed to be there for a READING!

It doesn't mean you are stupid. I work with a bunch of PhD scientists and they can't remember anything unless it's pinned to their shirts and they don't make it to meetings on time unless someone more rational physically escorts them away from their work. Perhaps you are just too brainy to be bothered with social activities?

20/10/05 4:53 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

We'll go with that, Ashley - it doesn't sound as bad. It's actually the same thing my mother said - I'm book smart, but have no common sense.

Sorry for the length of the post, everyone. As you can see, I can get going occasionally, which is why my friends don't like to talk to me.

I would believe that, K, but a friend of mine came into the bar right after I did and didn't get carded. I was the oldest one at the table (of five) and none of them got carded. I'm sticking with "the bouncer was an idiot." Of course, I'm craven, so I would never say it to his face.

20/10/05 9:54 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home