.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Effortlessly Average

Sort of half-heartedly leading the charge into mediocrity since, oh, let's say around 1987 or so.

My Photo
Location: Roaming (additional charges may apply), Argentina

Proof that with internet access and a powerful laxative, even insipid people will blog; the place where your excellence and my mediocrity collide; where my Karma whips ass on your dogma.

Monday, March 27, 2006


The first stop on our journey from New Jersey to Texas was Maryland and my brother's house outside D.C. We didn't grow up together (that's a whole new Oprah), but over they years since BuddhaWife and I have lived on the east coast, we've developed a great relationship with Donovan and his family. Now that we're relocating to Texas, it will be difficult not having him around.

Still, despite the melancholy circumstances, they tried to help us prepare for a life in the deep south. For Donovan's part, this meant firearms. The day before we left Maryland the men visited the firing range for a couple rounds of skeet, followed by a quick McFlurry. By the way, I found that my youngest brother can put a shell through a flea's ass at 500 yards without the benefit of a scope. Wow.

As we pulled into the McDonald's parking lot, smelling of gun powder and feeling just a bit better prepared to live in Texas, my nephew entertained us with one of those rhetorical questions that's meant to be somewhat of a riddle:

"What's a question to which you can never answer 'yes'?"

The answer he was looking for, we would discover eventually, was "Are you asleep?" But FlyBoy, being the boy he is, had a different idea.

What's a question to which you can't ever answer 'yes'?"

We sat there in silence, mulling over every question we could conjure, but with no luck. Then we heard from FlyBoy in the back seat, almost to himself, offer the answer, "I like the taste of poo?"
Ah, that's my boy: always thinking outside the box.


We're now in Houston and settling in nicely. My father's house is the size of Rhode Island, so there's plenty of space to get away from the crowd that lives here. I'm enjoying not working for the time being. I've taken over the kitchen and now do nearly all the cooking.

We had a few bumps at first, but thankfully they waited until we were here before presenting themselves. First, the Honda decided to die just as we tried to remove it from the car carrier. Nevermind that in Georgia - the last place I tried it - it started just fine. This was Texas; new state, new situation. Trying to start it merely produced some high pitched whine from the engine. Good thing we'd not even removed it from the carrier. Turns out the engine is shot and will be $1,800 to repair; something to do with blowing a head gasket.

Ok, I'm fine. I'm cool. I'm good.

Then when we unhooked the Jeep from the MoHo I noticed the ball on the hitch was aaallllmooost about to fall off. My bet is that within ten or fifteen more miles the Jeep would have released from the hitch, and then only held in place by the safety chains. Good thing we opted for the heavier duty chains, too. The ones that came with the towbar would never have held that Jeep if it suddenly released from the motorhome at high speed. The bitch of it would have been that while the chains would have acted as a failsafe to keep the Jeep from being an out of control projectile on the freeway, the towbar would have impacted the pavement when it cut free of the hitch. If it caught a groove or crack or seam in the roadway, the shock would likely have torn it from the bumper of the Jeep and rammed the rods through the radiator. And since the Jeep is towed without a synchronized braking system - due to it's light weight - when BW hit the brakes in response to the sudden noise and handling change in the RV, the Jeep, et al, would have slammed into the MoHo's rear end. I have to inspect the whole setup, but I think there will be some correction that involves welding and or buying new equipment.


A bit of advice:
When exiting the shower, never walk through the house naked.
If you should decide to do so anyway, don't bend over to pet the cat playing in the middle of the living room floor.
If you should decide to do so anyway, never forget the following question:

What do cat's like to do with things that dangle?

Should you ignore all the previous advice, for God's sake, don't fling your body around trying to dislodge the said playful cat from said dangly things, because that just FREAKS. THE. CAT. OUT. and makes it dig in for a better grip.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

And The Lord Jesus Said, "Any XXX Video, $12.95"

Those of you who know me know that I'm not a religious man. Personally I think all organized religion today - and for at least the last 1,000 years, actually - is based more on influence and power than actually doing good. Now before anyone of the Bible-Thumping-Jesus-Freak crowd clicks "post a comment" to set me straight, let me explain. My belief that organized religion isn't right is not to say I don't believe in God or Jesus or Abraham or Buddha or Allah or whatever particular deity humans worship nowadays. I have supreme confidence and faith in an almighty, albeit not the grandfatherly old man portrayed by Christians any more than the vengeful, kill-in-my-name version too many radical Muslims worship.

I believe God gave us the ability to take care of ourselves and He expects us to do so. And by "ourselves" I don't think He specifies Christians, Muslims, Jews, rich, poor, black, white, male, or female or whatever; He means humans. Everyone, everywhere. One is no better than the other. The rich tend to think they're superior because they have money. Men seem to think they're superior to women because they can kill with more resolve. A person of one religious belief feels justified in persecuting those with differing beliefs because he/she goes to church or prays regularly. Pick your metaphor. I think God, however you define Him, would be freakin' pissed to see how we've acted in His name toward each other.

The fact is that while I hold a belief in God as some manner of existential being, I have far less faith in humanity. Yes, we all know people who are good and people who are bad and we believe that since we know fewer of the latter there must be more of the former. I don't believe this to be true. I find a chasm exists between the borders of good and evil and I don't particularly find them to be mutually exclusive, either. We humans find it convenient to think that if we're not killing, robbing, raping, or pillaging we're automatically "good." Not so. There is more to being good than simply not being bad. Good and evil are not black and white. Avoiding one doesn't automatically, by default, make you the other. The vast whole of humanity exists in this chasm between the two, where doing good deeds and helping those less fortunate or even merely ensuring everyone has a level playing field is little more than academic. In the middle is where humanity strives to better him/herself as an individual, even if it negatively affects someone else. This is where we engage in a pugilistic free-for-all to buy the bigger house and better car, to get into the right college and company, to acquire more for ourselves and only truly consider those less fortunate when something drastic happens (read, Katrina or "The Tsunami") or during that two month period ending with Christmas Eve. The middle is where the vast majority of humans live in general apathy about the ills we exact upon each other. That is, until another's discomfort or our own circumstance becomes unavoidable, causing us to swing toward one end or the other by committing an act of good or evil.

I also don't believe doing one or two good deeds every now and then makes you a good person; any more than I think one or two bad deeds makes you a bad person. If you stretch mankind into a linear expression of good and evil, you'd have a small percentage of people on one end that we could mostly agree to be "evil." Your Hitlers, Stalins, Vlad Draculs, serial killers, and extreme conservatives live here.

On the other end of the scale are those we can call truly "good;" those who truly care for their fellow (wo)man and devote actual time and effort into bettering humanity as a whole, even in small ways and even if it means detriment to him-/her- self. This is the realm of Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, and anyone who routinely goes out of their way in an effort to make someone else's life better. In between these extremes are the rest of us.

Cynical? Perhaps. Realistic? I think so. Definitely. Yes, there is good, but it is good borne of the single person. Evil, if you want to call it so, is universal. Think about it. "Good" is usually something one person - or maybe a few people - do from time to time. "Evil" seems to be ingrained into the very core of humanity. When was the last time you heard of hundreds or thousands of people taking to the streets to perform random acts of goodwill? Now, when was the last time you read of a riot? Yeah, what day is it, right?

Drive along a freeway. Turn your blinker on. What happens nine times out of ten? Does the diver in your desired lane slow down to let you merge? Hell no. He speeds up because there's no damned way you're going to cost him 25 feet of roadway.

Ask someone what they'd do with the money if they won the lottery. Most will claim they'd do all manner of philanthropy, from setting up scholarships to paying for immunizations for un-insured children. Then ask them why they don't do it now. Most will say "I don't know." Well I know. It's because if they won the lottery they would only then feel they'd have enough for themselves. They don't do it now because they don't believe they have enough for themselves. But win the lottery and suddenly the money given to charity won't be missed.

The problem is that we assign a different scale for ourselves than we do those around us. And the scale changes given the individual, so one may have a narrow definition of "evil" whereas another may find evil everywhere he/she looks. In general, we consider ourselves to be good simply because we can always find someone worse; someone who's deeds we believe are something we'd never stoop to performing ourselves.

All this being said, I was thinking about the dichotomy of good and evil as I was driving from New Jersey to Texas recently (hey, the radio was broken in the moving van, so give me a break already). I'd never really been through the "Bible Belt" so I was intrigued by what I'd thought would be a church on every corner and "Read Your Bible" signs on every other billboard. After all, this is the region that picked Dubya as their president, despite his faulty resume, simply because he now claims to be righteous and fancies himself some kind of modern day crusader for God. I swear I'd not be surprised if he went on air to proclaim that God himself told him to wage war in Iraq. Wait. He has said that, hasn't he?

Anyway, I wasn't disappointed. Every few miles or so from South Carolina to Alabama I passed a sign proclaiming my soul could be saved by exiting now and visiting the Holy Crap, You're Screwed Church, where my salvation can be assured for only 15% of my annual income.

Boy they'd love a heathen like me. A guy who actually believes God doesn't need man for anything and therefore it makes no sense, for example, that He'd ask Noah to build the Arc in the first place. After all, didn't He create all the animals and plants in one day? So why couldn't He do so again? And why would He need a flood anyway? Isn't He God? Isn't He omnipotent? Can't He just snap His fingers or wave His hand or do whatever a deity does to exact His will and make everything the way He wants it? And besides, if the only people left on Earth following this flood was Noah, his wife, and their offspring, where did all the people we have today come from? Does this mean we're descendent from incestuous mating of Noah's family? Ditto the animals on the Arc. I guess we just have to suspend the fact that science has long since proven that close-genetic inbreeding causes severe birth defects - and eventual extinction - within only a handful of generations.

But that's the double-edged sword of organized religion, isn't it? On the one hand, you need people to believe that the only way to the Kingdom of Heaven is by following your church's doctrine to the letter and being as righteous as people like Noah. But on the other hand you preach that God is all-powerful, able to exact His will at... Well... Will. This always made me wonder, than why does He need man anyway? He's God. All-Powerful God. He doesn't need man for anything, does he? So either God used people like Noah because He's not all-powerful or He's trying to test humans to gauge their commitment to the faith. But, again, isn't He God? Wouldn't He know the level of Noah's faith automatically? Or yours? Or mine? A third possibility: those who told many of the stories in the Bible embellished or made them up entirely. Unfortunately, the Church's approach to this paradox is to simply forbid the flock from reading anything that questions the church and that to do so yourself is instant damnation. Nice. Answer a question by stating that merely asking the question is a crime against the Church and puts your soul in danger.

As I passed yet another billboard proclaiming that piety and salvation were only 4.6 miles and a left turn away (just past the Wal-Mart on your right), I saw the first of what would be many, many advertisements for something that I'd think such a virtuous place would be void of.

I grew up in the hotbed of debauchery and sin known as Nevada. There it is legal to carry a sidearm. In any town within its boarders you can find a place to gamble; and as long as you are gambling, you drink for free. Prostitution is legal as well and it will be a sad day when the non-natives who care nothing for the culture, but moved to Nevada to escape taxes, organize enough to ban it. It's amazing to me how stupidly people act in the name of so-called "morality."

Throughout my life I've heard my home state referred to as Nevada-and-Gomorrah and/or the last refuge of the Godless. Blah blah blah. At least we don't have Jersey City or Hillary Clinton. While all these things do happen in Nevada, they don't necessarily advertise them. But as I drove through the area of the country that touts itself as the land of morals, I must have passed a hundred huge billboards for adult "cafe's," whatever those are. In huge, bold letters they assured me women and couples are welcome; proclamations that they have the largest selection of adult movies, toys, and "sexual aids" in the state; and that their booths are the most risque I'd find anywhere in the state. Oh, and several also promoted themselves as being "topless." Granted I didn't do a lot of research, but I'm guessing that by "topless" they don't mean the roof was blown off by a hurricane.

Personally I'd love to buy one of these shops just so I could engage in the advertising. I'd buy every billboard along every interstate within fifteen miles. In letters just as bold, just as garish, I'd proclaim both my business and the region's belief in the Almighty.

One might read: "and the Lord Jesus saw our prices. And He said: 'They are good.'"

Another might declare, beside a huge picture of Da Vinci's God portrait from the Sistine Chapel: "After a long day of ruling the cosmos, I like to unwind at .... Home of the low price debauchery guarantee."

Or how about: "This week only: 10% discount for all Evangelists."

I am so totally going to Hell.

If it actually exists, that is.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I Be Trippin' or Wouldn't Mom Be Proud

The four of you who read this blog (I'm not including my wife, since she knows this already) might be wondering why I haven't posted lately.

Well, the reason is because I've moved. Actually a more accurate way of puting it is that I AM moving. My wife and I have had a dream for some time about seeing more of the world while our kids are still young enough to want to go with us. Several months ago we began planning our odyssey of discovery and this last weekend was when it started. For the next several years we plan to roam around the country in our MoHo (short for motor-home, not what you were thinking). Last Saturday we put New Jersey to our stern and headed south. Six states, 900 miles, and four days later, we find ourselves in Georgia, visiting BuddhaWife's best friend. As I don't yet have wireless internet - or a laptop computer - boondocking at her friend's would explain how I'm able to post this entry.

We plan to set up shop in Houston, Texas within the next week, part of which will be to get internet access up again so I can continue my average musings and hopefully entertaining the four people who read Effortlessly Average on a somewhat regular basis.

Anyone who knows me will say it's far outside my character to uproot my family, my career, and my home and leave behind the stable, average life of a stable, entirely average person so I could embark on a mindquest that has no direction or flight plan.

Now all I need to do is run into an old girlfriend so I can make her sorry she left me by telling her I'm now unemployed, homeless, and living in an RV.

Ah, wouldn't my mother be proud?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

BBQ, A metaphor For Sex

Janet and I had moved from city to city together when we worked for the same mass merchant Fortune 500 company. In fact, it had been a joke around the office that we had some kind of "thing" going on because so much that happened in the life of one of us would inevitably happen to the other. I'd receive a promotion; she's get one three months later. I'd be moved out of town; she'd be move to the same place shortly thereafter. I'd receive orders to go to some event out of town; she'd get the same within a week. I tore my left knee a new one in December; she blew-out her left knee skiing four months later. That sort of thing.

When we moved to Los Angeles, BuddhaWife and I bought the best house we could afford, which in that city at that time meant trying to find something outside a crack neighborhood for less than the middle six-figures. By the way, this is when we learned a hard lesson about borrowing money to make home improvements. We had borrowed a significant amount of money to improve our home in Reno, but when we went to sell it four years later we were given maybe forty cents on the dollar for what we'd done. Of course the loan wasn't paid off yet and there wasn't enough equity in the house to assume the balance, so our choices of home in Los Angeles was limited not only by their price, but by the fact that we were still going be paying on a home improvement loan for a house in Reno we'd no longer own.

But, we got lucky. Way lucky. We found a beautiful, almost new, home in a quiet, established town about 40 miles or so from downtown L.A. Of course I insist that the only reason our offer was picked by the current owners was because BuddhaWife showed up on her own, sans realtor, and charmed them, but that's another story. Yadda yadda yadda we left our home of five years in Reno and moved into a new one in L.A.

Janet and her husband, however, had more financial luck than we did. When they moved to Reno they - being mountain folk - bought a tiny little A-frame house on the side of a mountain south of town. As luck would have it, real estate values in that area exploded over the next few years so they were able to move to Los Angeles with enough money to buy a beautiful condo not far from the beach at Dana Point. Several years later, when they were relocated again, they sold this same condo for something like a billion-go-zillion dollars, but I'm not bitter.

Of course it's not unique to and city individual in particular, but when you have first-time visitors to your home you strive to present the best image possible. You clean the joint up, including the bathrooms (which if you knew BW and me, you'd know that this is a BIG deal), and generally ensure that the yard is free of trash, clutter, automobile carcasses, and Bush/Cheney campaign signs. For my part, whenever I gave directions to our home to a friend or relative, I'd choose the route through the hills behind our neighborhood. On this route, our visitor would see streets lined with flowering trees, planter boxes full of Daylilies, and big, beautiful, new homes. Granted this direction added a few minutes to their journey, but the more direct route passed by the local Home Depot, Costco, and several strip malls full of fast food joints and Asian nail salons. And of course setting the right impression of my social status is more important that their time, right? Let me get a "hooah to the ego!"

One afternoon about a year after we'd both relocated to L.A. I was sitting at my desk sort of half listening to Janet making plans with someone to get together at her place for a weekend BBQ. To reach her home in Dana Point one could take a more direct, but boring, route along the interstate, or "the back way" via the smaller roads nearer the ocean and pristine coastline. Now, as I've mentioned previously, our office was a big, open layout wherein anyone can listen to everything you're saying. When you couple that environment with Janet's apparently broken self-editing mechanism, you at times pick up just enough of her conversations to make it interesting.

As Janet was about to give this person directions to her home, I heard her say: "You know, I think I'm going to bring you in from behind this time."

Well alrighty then, that sounds like my kinda BBQ!

- The Number of People Stunned by My Mediocrity