Bring In The Clones

I don’t have enough time.

Or maybe I have enough time, but too much crap to do.

That must be it. I have enough time for one guy, and enough crap for a bunch of guys.

If my experience of the past forty-some-odd years is any indication, the amount of crap I have to do isn’t waning. I’ve got important crap to do, serious crap, professional crap. Critical crap. So what I need is more time. Two, maybe three times as much. Split up all the crap I have to do between two, three, four guys, and suddenly no one of us has too much to do.

So where do I get a few extra guys to shoulder the load of my all-too-busy and demanding life?

Who among us doesn’t want a personal assistant? Of course, what we want is a personal assistant who works for free, doesn’t want benefits, and doesn’t have aspirations of their own.

I was going to have a bunch more kids, and put them all to work. Then I thought about how they turn into teenagers, and realized I’d rather work too hard. Not that teenagers have aspirations of their own, quite the contrary, but because they’d never actually do any work. What I don’t need is a bunch of kids laying around the house eating Slim Jims, playing Hip Hop Mass Murderer II, The Quickening on the PlayStation, and whining about having to pick up their own socks. Besides, their Mom always gives them a pass, what with the spoiling them and whatnot. Makes it hard to keep them focused on their scrubbing and back-walking.

Slavery is, of course, out of the question, just on principal. Besides which it’s illegal. Although, for the record, I’ve been working 10 and 12 hours a day for weeks, and nobody’s been coming to my rescue on my behalf because I’ve been making myself work too much for too little. Apparently, enslaving myself is not against the law.

Where this all brings me is that I’m thinking this cloning thing is a pretty good idea.

Lots of people seem to have some moral or ethical or legal indignation around it, but I’m thinking that as a practical matter, it’s the answer to all my problems.

If all it takes is for me to hang onto a toenail clipping, which ought to be easy enough once I get around to clipping my toenails, or if I don’t get around to it there are probably thirty or forty in the carpet next to the bed, I’ve got the makings of a whole offensive line full of clones in my house. Stick a few of those clippings in an empty cigarette pack, hop a commuter flight to Canada for a meeting with that scary alien UFO lady with all the makeup and her face falling off the front of her head, and I’m on my way to leisure city.

The beauty of the clones is they make the whole slavery thing a non-issue, because as we have learned, you can work your own ass to the bone for as little as you’re willing to take and nobody gives a crap. In this economy, you’re just lucky to have a boney ass to work.

And there are no child labor issues here; because they aren’t your kids… they’re you. More so you than your own kids will ever be. And since they’re clones, there’s no other parent to get permission from, to file charges, to demand equal custody, to extract child support, or to insist on sending them to school and Boy Scouts and whatnot.

So the plan is to have an Offensive line of me’s up and running inside of a month. Until then, the next step is figuring out what we’re all gonna do with all our time. We’ll all have, maybe, even a little extra time on our hands. A little work, a little Nintendo, a couple of errands, a good nap. Not so bad, when you look at it that way.

One of me is going to watch a lot of television. There’s a lot of really good Wings episodes I haven’t seen for a while. He’ll be the one who does the housework, since he’ll be staying home to watch his stories. The bathroom will always be clean. Of course, they’ll be more of us using it, which is why it’ll take a full-timer to handle it.

One of me will be the eater, and eat everything they say is bad for you. Every time they decide that steak, or eggs, or cigarettes, or chocolate, or wine or any one of the things that are supposed to cause cancer or hemorrhoids or dandruff are actually good for you, you’ve wasted years avoiding them. Now, no problem. I’ll be ahead of the curve.

One of me is going to work out. All the time. He’ll be buff, and toned, and ripped, and indistinguishable from Vin Diesel, except that he won’t have made that stupid-ass Fast and the Furious movie. Or Triple X. He’ll be the one we send out on dates, too, since he’ll stand the best chance of getting a little action. Play to your strengths, I always say.

And one of me is just going to sleep. All day, all night. Much like I do now, but without having to pretend to be typing and thinking real hard.

So I put a few toenails in a petri dish with a little Miracle Gro, toss ‘em in the Microwave on “Defrost”, and I’m off to the races. If things go the way I think they will, I’m gonna have a hard time finding stuff for all these me’s to do. There’s only so much rich food, reality television, sex and sleep to go around. If I’m not careful, I’ll have to put some staff on that great American novel, a couple of those paintings, and a romantic relationship.

But one thing at a time. That little girl at the lunch counter on Wings is pretty cute.

That’s it. That’s all I got.

Everything I need to know I learned too late.

I’ve heard people say that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten.

It’s a lie.

Sure, you learned lessons like “say please and thank you“, “share your toys”, “take a nap when you’re tired”, and “stink bugs don’t taste nearly as good as they smell”. But if only life were that simple. If these were the only lessons we really needed to know, to get by in this big bad complicated world of modern living, what a simple thing life would be.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

I’m an old guy now, you see. I’m going to be… well, I’ve got better than 15,000 days, my friend. With any luck, I got 5 days a year for a vacation on my couch, and if I was luckier, I caught a cold or the flu or dysentery, and scored a few more days horizontal. That still leaves better than 14,000 days of applying those little lessons I learned in kindergarten, those few simple things I really needed to know. Four decades doing all the things I was told you had to do. Saying ‘please’, and ‘thank you’, and avoiding stink bugs.

You know what? It turns out there was other crap I needed to know. There’s other rules to this game that no one told us about. Those of you out there who think when you grow up, you’ll know all the answers? It’s like freakin’ hockey, man. They’re makin’ up rules as they go along! There’s all kinds of stuff I don’t know, that I never learned in kindergarten.

Like how do you tell if somebody is laughing at you or laughing with you?

And don’t ask them. They’ll tell you they’re laughing with you. Every time. You’ll never know.

You can’t tell ‘em. “You can’t be laughing with me. I’m not laughing.” You know what they say?

“You’re laughing on the inside.”

I’m not. I’m not laughing on the inside. On the inside, I’m a black sticky pit of despair. All the good stuff’s on the outside! If I’m not laughing on the outside, I’m not laughing!

I waited way too long to discover that drama is over-rated. It took me far too long to realize that being right is not as important as being patient, and that you can’t make a Federal case out of everything.

I still don’t really know when it’s appropriate to settle. Or the difference between settling, and knowing your limitations. Or how playing to your strengths is different from taking the easy way out. So I have no clue when I’m maturely choosing my battles, or simply being a girly-man.

I don’t get which side of a sheet is supposed to go up. You’d think that would be simple.

And nobody told me I was going to start channeling my father.

Except my father.

And half the crap he told me is still wrong, but I can’t stop saying it. I don’t even believe half of what I tell my kids, but suddenly I go stiff, and my jaw hangs open, and my father’s disembodied voice comes out and says “You’ve got to study your algebra, it’s an important skill for your future.” But inside I’m thinking “screw that, as soon as they invented the calculator I quit counting on my toes, and I’ve never had to figure out which train gets to Chicago first ‘cuz I’ve never gone to Chicago, ‘cuz I was too busy punching a time clock and telling my kids they need to wear clean underwear!”

I wish I’d learned how to plan for the future without waiting for the future.

You know what they don’t tell you? They don’t tell you growing up sucks, and that you could choose not to do it. Look around! I see people all the time acting like children, and I open my mouth, and my father’s disembodied voice says “Oh grow up!”

But he’s wrong.

You know that thing you wanted to do when you were a kid? You should have done it. You should still be doing it. Go do it now.

Some people say it’s great to know what you want to be when you grow up.

They’re wrong.

If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, you’re not disappointed when you end up being that guy who scrapes the crap off that thing in that place. You start out with no plan, now you know what you’re doing every day. That’s better than a lateral move.

But if you know what you want to be when you grow up, really know with all your soul, then you know the disappointment of being the guy who scrapes the crap off that thing in that place. It’s like always buying the same six numbers on the lottery ticket every week. Stupid move. Plain stupid. You pick a random quick pick, you skip a week, you’ve got no idea if you would’ve won or not. No problem.

But you pick the same numbers every week, then miss a week? You know about the loss. You know the pain of having the numbers, and being too stupid and lazy to stop an extra five lousy minutes at the liquor store ‘cuz you wanted to get home in time to see the latest episode of “Jackass”.

It would have been very good to know how much you can tell your landlord is “normal wear and tear”. Nobody told me that having friends over to get stoned and draw sex murals on the wall with a magic marker isn’t “normal wear and tear”.

I don’t understand airports. I still don’t know which line to get in, and I always end up waiting for twenty minutes to find out my boarding pass is at the freakin’ gate.

I would love to know the difference between having a dream and being a dreamer.

Most people don’t know how to have a conversation. Having a conversation requires two very simple steps.

“Listen carefully. Respond appropriately.” You just trade off. When one guy is responding appropriately, you should be listening carefully. When you’re through listening carefully, you should respond appropriately. What’s the other guy doing? Listening carefully.

But most people “wait impatiently, and spew cathartically”. This is no way to have a conversation. This is one of the rules everyone needs to know. “Listen carefully, respond appropriately.” How hard is that? It’s not complicated. It’s not rocket surgery, it’s not brain science.

Women freak me out. There is no manual for women.

I don’t know if women really mean it when they say it happens to all guys once in a while.

I don’t have a clue how to tell if a woman is interested in me, I don’t know the difference between love and a crush, and I don’t know the difference between making the first move and entertaining a sexual harassment suit.

And I still haven’t learned how not to fall in love with the wrong woman.

Or how not to fall in love with the right woman, but at the wrong time.

So here’s the deal.

Just saying “please” doesn’t mean you get what you want. It won’t get your ass out of work early, it won’t get you to the head of the line at the Blockbuster, and it won’t get you the girl of your dreams. Sharing your toys only means that after the play date, half your toys go home with your play buddy, and you get to visit them on alternate weekends and half of Christmas vacation. And taking a nap when you’re tired just means you wake up with post-it notes and paper clips stuck to the side of your face, your password to the intranet changed, and an escort out to the parking lot with all your worldly possessions stuffed in a copy paper box.

Rules? Always changing.

Lessons? Always too late.

Love? Sucks.

Nobody is right all the time, you will never satisfy everyone, and being finished is never gonna happen. Life is a process, my friend, not an event. We are like sharks. If we stop moving, we die.

Choose your battles. Play to your strengths. Cut your losses.

That’s it. That’s all I got.

Farmer Tan

Why doesn’t my culture speak to me anymore? Why isn’t Madison Avenue interested in my dollars? They wanted my dollars once. Once I was young and beautiful, and advertisers fought to get my attention, because I fell in that magical range of people with money and time and a pliable brain.

I used to be hip, you know. Don’t let this Costco polo shirt and the full-cut Wrangler’s fool you. But now? Not so much.

I cleaned up my back yard last weekend. I cleaned up my back yard, not so I could garden, not so I could have a place for the kids to play, not so I could throw kickin’ partays, but simply so I could have a place to lay out and get a tan without having to show the neighbors my white, un-toned middle aged mid-section.

Now I don’t know which issue is more pressing… the fact that I’m white as a sheet of quality copy paper, or as un-toned as a guy who hasn’t had to do a sit up since he figured out that with enough force applied to the foot rest, you can get a recliner to launch you to a vertical position without burning a calorie.

And it wouldn’t be so bad if I was shaped like Fred Flintstone or Homer Simpson, but I’m shaped more like Hank Hill, with enough extra mass above the belt-line to build another little guy, while keeping my legs and chest at a near zero body fat ratio. What the hell kind of cruel joke is this? What kind of a distribution plan is this? This makes no sense. It just throws off my whole center of gravity. This is a very bad plan.

And this uneven distribution of personal attributes just continues from body mass to melanin disbursal, insofar as my arms, head and neck look like Che Gueverra at the same time that my torso looks like a gallon of whole milk.

So I have this horrible spiraling self-fulfilling curse going on, a riddle for the ages that keeps me from starting that exercise regimen I promised myself back at the turn of the Y2K when it seemed like a good idea to be able to move quickly and open a can of beans with your teeth. That regimen was going to make me a lean, mean, surviving machine, baby. I was gonna be lethal, man. I was gonna be ripped.

The problem is this: I quit exercising. I got soft, so I didn’t want to remove my shirt at the beach, so I developed this raging farmer’s tan; once you’ve got the farmer’s tan, you look like you’re always wearing a t-shirt, which is about as attractive as those guys who look like they’re always wearing a sweater, so you never remove your shirt again, until your arms are dark enough to pass for evening gloves.

Once you’ve hit the point where you’re never removing your shirt, the impetus for getting ripped is gone, ‘cuz who’s gonna see it? I don’t care how ripped you get, you’re not strutting your stuff at the beach without a sweatshirt on. You ever see a ripped guy at the beach with evening glove arms? I’m not saying there aren’t ripped guys with farmer’s tans, though I kinda doubt any of them are farmers. I’ve never seen a ripped farmer. But I’ve never seen a ripped guy with a farmer’s tan either, so I’m guessing the ripped guys with farmer’s tans never take their shirts off.

It’s very hard to feel hip with the body of Poppin’ Fresh. So now I’m feeling very un-hip, very old. And I’m realizing that I’ve passed into this weird space where I’m of no interest to advertisers looking to connect with sexy contemporary America.

I’m watching TV the other night, and there’s this Hip Hop 7-Eleven commercial. Apparently, Seven Eleven’s “got da goods, yo.” It seems that they have sick monster sodas, and a foot long hot dog that is going to make my momma sit up an’ take notice.

Okay, kids, I have news for you, but 7-11 has been around since I was a lad, okay? I got kicked out of my first 7-11 for sucking on a Slurpee machine in 1969. 7-11 is a clearinghouse for day-old cafeteria food, warmed under a lamp from an Easy Bake Oven, served to you by a scared dude behind bullet-proof glass with an apron and a pistol and a baseball bat under the counter.

Is it necessary to make 7-11 hip? Are we really to the point where you can’t even get a kid to lay down 49 cents for a day-old five pound sausage and a gallon of Mountain Dew without selling it to them in a rap song? More importantly, are we really to the point where a crappy hip-hop rhyme can make a five pound sausage and a gallon of Mountain Dew cool?

And yet, there you are, 7-Eleven wrapped in a hip-hop song, and all of a sudden 7-11 is sick, yo. 7-Eleven is hip hop, yo.

Does anybody understand how ridiculous that sounds?

Where’s the hip-hop theme song that’ll make Denny’s, and by extension all of us who eat at Denny’s, hip as we wanna be?

How the hell did I end up too old to be of interest to a freakin’ 7-11?

How the hell did I end up in a demographic to which no advertiser is interested in speaking?

But of course, I’m not that 7-11 demographic. And I don’t want to be hip-hop cool. I’m not asking to be as hip as, say, Arsenio Hall.

I just want to be hip enough to walk into a Sam Goody and not get looked at like some kind of child molester. “Dude, we don’t have any Duran Duran, okay? Just take off, before I have to call security.”

I just want to be hip enough to use a convenience store or a fast food restaurant without having to bust a rhyme. Is that asking so much?

That’s it. That’s all I got.