Eating Paste

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Another poem from the archives. This has always been one of my favorites.

Lying low, amidst the grass, beneath the apple tree,
A great green beast with yellow eyes, is waiting there for me.
I grab its tail and give a yank—oh, what a big mistake!

A snake! A snake! —Oh what am I to do?

He’ll bind me up and strangle me, and then he’ll come for you.
You’ll grab a rake and beat that snake, and only then you’ll see,
That garden hose just lying there as green as it can be.

(Copyright, 1986)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I Dreamed a Dream

As a child I had recurring nightmares about my brother getting squished by dinosaurs when we got stuck in the Land of the Lost. (For those of you who weren't even conceived then, this was a TV show in the mid 70's). Though I haven't had any really scary dreams for some time now, I do have my share.

Several months ago I had a dream in which I was trying to escape from a bunch of alligators in my parents' basement. In a futile attempt to escape, I jumped from the counter to the top bunkbed. While in the air, I looked down to see the biggest of the alligators snap at me. At that exact moment, my wife rolled over in bed and kicked me. Then she screamed and went back to sleep. I almost needed new sheets.

What's the weirdest dream you've had?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Metal Chairs and Kettle Drums

When you're a kid, sitting quietly is akin to being repeatedly whacked with a stick. It's awful. You squirm and squirm, but if you make a sound it's all over.

When I was a kid in primary (I say a kid in primary because I've also served as a primary teacher), they used to hold a sacrament service for the adults and one for the primary. I'm not entirely sure of exactly why this is, but that's what I remember. Every week, the Aaronic priesthood would come administer the sacrament to us and once a month we would hold our own testimony meeting. It was really cool.

One Sunday, during the sacrament service, I was feeling particularly...well, um...gassy. I tried to hold "it" in as best I could, but it was simply inevitable. It was going to come out. I remember distinctly that I was seated at the back of the room on a metal chair (which will come into play momentarily), cheeks clenched in anticipation. I tried to hold perfectly still, but as the air moved around in my stomach I found myself leaning forward to hide the awful growling noises coming from within.

Well, as luck would have it, my "clench threshold" reached its end at the same point we came the most quiet part of the sacrament service. With the entire primary in attendance and in a room where you could hear a pin drop, I dropped the bomb. I tried to be as gentle as possible in letting it out, hoping for a nice little pssshhh..... This, however, was not the case--I remind you that I was seated on a metal chair.

With a giant, thunderous roar, my still small "voice within" rattled off the chair like a kettle drum and resonated throughout the entire room. Fits of laughter ensued and heads began to turn. Being almost on the back row, it was hard to blame it on someone else. I tried anyway by turning around to look at who that "disgusting person was behind me" when I realized the only kids behind me were quickly moving to the ends of their row, pointing and laughing at the tops of their lungs. I was completely embarrassed.

Have you ever been in a situation like that where you did something totally embarrassing and couldn't pawn it off on someone else? What happened and where were you?

Go Ask Your Mother?

Did you ever ask your parents a question that made them really embarrassed or uncomfortable? I got this blog idea from a comment someone left on my sister's blog.

When I was about 8 or 9, I remember watching TV one Sunday night with my family. For whatever reason, a commercial came over the air advertising, you guessed, tampons. Not knowing anything at all about that sort of thing, I posed the question to my father who was seated in a recliner behind me (on the floor).

"Dad? What's a tampon?"

I'd never heard my father fake snore so loudly in my life.

What bizarre questions did you ask your parents when you were a kid? Any takers?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cat In a Hot Tar Roof?

Weekend and surprise projects always seem to find me. As such, I've included a story from my most recent family newsletter.

Cats being the way they are, it’s no wonder why curiosity has killed so many of them. Charlotte, my mother-in-law's cat, is no different. A few days ago, Monday to be precise, my wife and I stopped in at my inlaw's house to take pictures of a remodel we just finished (as though it were actually possible to finish a house). We noticed that the attic access was open, but thought nothing of it since it is routinely opened so my father-in-law can play in the balmy 140 degree space above the carport. However, there was something rather odd this time.

As we approached the kitchen door, we could hear meowing coming from over our heads—not from the attic door, mind you, but from inside the soffit. Upon further investigation, we realized that the cat, Charlotte, had managed to find her way into the attic, and through the old roof (the flat, pebble covered, sticky tar roof). If you’ve been to my in-law's house, you’ll know that they had a new, pitched roof installed several years ago. If you’ve ever seen this done, you’ll also know that most framers will tie into the old roof system by cutting some access holes. It was through one of these holes that the cat managed to enter the space between the roof and the ceiling below. It was at this point that our adventure began.

After an hour or so of coaxing, prodding, and hopeful meowing (ours and hers), Charlotte simply would not move or make any attempt to leave. Quite simply, she was tired and too frightened to move. What we did next will go down in the annals of history as “The Great Cat Rescue of ‘06.” Frustrated at the cat’s unwillingness to resign her post in the ceiling, I began to assess the situation and started taking measurements. Figuring that the cat would never come out on her own, I decided to go in after her. Yes, it was time perform a little FEMA search and rescue for the kitty.

After clearing a space to start working, I (with the help of my sister-in-law and lucky volunteer) set about scraping through the layers of gravel, tar, and tar paper. After removing as much of the material as possible, out came the circular saw. Yes, as if the cat weren’t scared enough as it was, I was going to get it out with a big scary saw!

I cut and had help removing an almost three-foot square section of the old roof in the hope that they would be able to find the cat in one of the two chambers they’d exposed—hoping, of course, that the cat hadn’t been too scared of all the noise.

After prying up the section of the old roof, we looked inside to see what we could find. To our relief, there sat the cat, curled up and completely freaked out. The next trick was to get the cat to crawl back 18 feet to the opening. My sister-in-law coaxed the cat as best she could, but it would only come about half way. Then she put out some food in the hope that the cat would be hungry. It worked! The cat came out, but quickly ran off to some other part of the attic—aarrrgghhh!!

After boarding up the hole, my sister-in-law suggested that we open a can of tuna to lure the cat back down the ladder and out of the attic. Charlotte couldn’t resist. About an hour later, she came down the ladder and was finally free.

Anybody want a cat? Likes attics, cramped spaces, and circular saws....

Friday, January 06, 2006


Okay, so my sister tagged me to tell you five things about me that no one knows (or at least, not many of you).

1. Some of my friends call me "Mr. June" because I once appeared in Mormonad.
2. I fell through the top of a light table in a photography class in High School. My teacher asked me in front of a room full of students if I needed to go to the bathroom to check for "glass in my butt."
3. I took clogging lessons as a kid--some scarring lasts forever.
4. When I was little, I followed the icecream truck with some friends and ended up miles from home. I had to call for someone to come get me because I was too scared to try to make it across State Street on my own.
5. I was hit by a car once while riding the neighbor's Tote-Goat. I was really banged up and could hardly walk for 2-3 days--I wore long pants for two weeks (in the summer) to hide the huge scrapes and bruises from my parents. I've had problems with my knee ever since.
6. (Bonus) I also had to wear that nasty headgear that straps on over your head like butt-hugger underwear. I was nicknamed "Deer Butt" by a bully in my class and had to carry the shame for an entire year.
7. (Bonus) I was in a fight with the state Lightweight Boxing Champ who attended my high school--he thought I keyed his white-trash Camaro. I never took a swing, but he left me with some permanent hearing damage in my right ear.

Go ahead, let the taunting begin.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Trick-or-treating helps us teach our children good values—like the fundamentals of begging for food. But let’s face it, with the meager portions that come from going door to door, it’s important to identify strategies that will help you get the most out of your experience.

For the Kids

  1. Wear a mask with two faces or carry a second mask so you can ring each door twice.
  2. Hide a pillowcase under your costume to hold your candy, but carry a plastic pumpkin or bucket. When people see your empty bucket, they take pity on you and give you more candy.
  3. If you find a bowl of candy on a porch with a sign that says take one, take it at its word—enjoy your new bowl and all the candy that comes with it.
  4. Skip houses that are far away from the street—creepy shut-ins live there and all they give out are last year’s sourballs. It isn’t worth the time it takes to go the extra 100 steps.
  5. Take a second candy container and tell people your sister is down sick with chicken pox—if she is, take most of the candy and tell her that, with the current cost of oil, treats were pretty slim this year.
  6. Dress as a U of U fan—people take pity on you and give you extra candy.
  7. Dress as a BYU fan—that just takes guts.
  8. Take the asthma inhalers away from the Star Trek geeks, then run away with their candy—they’ll never catch you.
  9. Start knocking doors at 9:30, asking for all the candy that’s left over. By then, people are so sick of trick-or-treaters that they’ll just give it to you.
  10. Trick-or-treat year round—Thanksgiving is great for yams.

For the Adults

  1. When you put candy into plastic pumpkins and buckets, swap your nasty candy with the good stuff the kids got from the neighbors. By the end of the evening, you’ll have more candy than when you started.
  2. Put out an empty bowl with a sign that says “Take One.” If anyone complains, tell them they should have come earlier—it was full of candy when you started.
  3. Drop a piece of candy into a bucket, then steal a piece to give to the next kid. Repeat until you have swapped candy with all the kids, putting the last piece in your own bowl.
  4. Hide in the leaves and scare the crap out of any kids that cut across the grass.
  5. Turn on your sprinklers.
  6. Give out chicken bullion cubes—mmm.
  7. Dress in costume, then sit on your porch with a bowl of candy in your lap and a sign that reads “Take One.” When the kids approach, don’t move—wait until one of them takes too much candy, then jump up shouting “I said take only one!” and chase them across the yard.
  8. When you open the door, hold up a single candy bar. Throw it out on the lawn and let them fight for it.
  9. When you answer the door, look at the trick-or-treaters, act shocked and scared, then start screaming your head off and slam the door. Repeat until they go away.
  10. Instead of candy, give out cans of tuna, flour, or handfuls of wheat—kids need to learn the value of food storage.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Working with Engineers

During a job interview a few years ago, my interviewers asked me why I abandoned engineering and opted to seek a degree in English. My reply? "I was unwilling to abandon my social skills and personal hygiene." There it was. It had slipped out even before I could do anything about it. As I sat in my seat, reeling from shock, the interviewers stared at one another momentarily, then burst out laughing.

Engineers are a "special breed." They take things apart not because they're broken, but because they want to see how they work. In my industry, we employ the cream of the crop--the weirdest of the weird. We step well beyond the Trekkies or the guys that wear Cheetos-stained Star Wars shirts that are two sizes too small, these guys have gone so far over the edge that some of them can barely converse with outsiders--normal people who have actually seen the sun.

That in mind, we have to deal with some peculiar situations in our office. A few months ago, I published an article in our company newsletter that received cheers from many, and grunts from some of our engineering staff. It was rumored that one of our senior engineers was even going to write a rebuttal that explained why this practice was simply unnecessary.

The article was as follows:

Wash Your Hands
The next time you stand in line at the company barbeque waiting for your turn at the trough, ask yourself —“Did the guy in front of me wash his hands when I saw him in the bathroom before lunch?” If the answer is “No,” maybe you should have tried to get in line earlier. At any rate, consider skipping the finger food.

As tantalizing a thought as it is, there are several “gentlemen” in this company that refuse to wash their hands after using the bathroom. These are the same guys that stand in front of us at company lunches with their hands in the bag of chips or that we see trying to snag a pickle out of the jar.

Consider the following story:

Three men stood side-by-side at the urinals. The first man finished, zipped up and started washing—literally scrubbing from his hands clear up to his elbows. He then used about twenty paper towels before he finished. Turning to the other two men he commented, "I graduated from Harvard and they taught us to be clean."

The second man finished, zipped up and quickly wet the tips of his fingers—as he grabbed a paper towel he commented, "I graduated from the University of California and they taught us to be environmentally conscious."

The third man zipped up and started walking straight for the door. With a smirk on his face he turned and said, "I don't know about you guys, but where I went to college they taught us not to pee on our hands."

While I am aware that everyone of us subscribes to his own measure of personal hygiene, clean is clean. Even if you don’t “pee on your hands,” it’s still absurd to think that you don’t need to wash them. You don’t have to scrub for surgery after using the bathroom, but at least wash with soap and water for a minimum of 10-15 seconds (per the CDC). No matter how hard you try, flicking your hands won’t get the germs off.

If you are one of the chronic offenders that thinks it’s no big deal, look at the mound of used paper towels by the bathroom door—the rest of us use these when touching the door handle so we won’t catch your diseases. There are often so many paper towels that they fall out of the trash and onto the floor—think of it as a silent protest from the rest of the company.

Aren’t you glad you washed? Don’t you wish everyone did?