Monday, October 29, 2012

Really, Really Ridiculously Good Looking

My planeteer costume from last year and Lindsay

As an adult, Halloween has never really been my thing.  I don’t mind dressing up, but I’m not a big fan of the effort and/or money involved in creating a costume.  Last year I was a planeteer because the costume was super-simple and referenced my childhood.  I thought about being a planeteer again this year, but then I had a better idea.

I’ve been told for years that I look like Peewee Herman, and I concur (I’ve also been told that I sound like Ben Stein and have eyes like Kermit’s).  At one of my middle school’s last year we had an era dress up day – the 8th graders dressed up like the 80’s, the 7th graders like the 70’s, the 6th graders like the 60’s, and the teachers like the 50’s.  I didn’t have anything that looked very 50’s so I decided to wear a red bowtie with a dress shirt, my suit jacket and I parted my hair.  I could have passed for a mid-century professor, but I also could have passed for Peewee Herman.  I decided then and there that I would be Peewee Herman for Halloween.

Fast forward about six months and I’m living in Tucson.  Kevin, my roommate, told me that the next day was 80’s day at his work and he didn’t know how to dress up for that.  After recommending neon clothes and sweat bands I said, “Just dress up like a nerd.  Tuck your shirt into your jeans and wear a bowtie.”  He liked the idea, but didn’t have a bowtie so I lent him mine.  He got home from work and excitedly told me that people had said that he looked like Peewee Herman and that he was going to be Peewee for Halloween.  He asked me if he could borrow my red bowtie for his costume.  At first I wasn’t sure what to say because he had just accidently stolen my idea, but he seemed really excited about the idea so I agreed.

Kevin doesn’t read my blog (or so he says) and he doesn’t know this story.  So if any of you know Kevin for reals, let's keep this story between you and me.  I don’t want him to feel bad for unknowingly stealing my costume.

I now had a costume dilemma.  We had a Halloween dance at church on Friday night and I didn’t know who to be.  I didn’t bring my planeteer vest to Arizona so I would have to buy another one and didn’t feel like spending $5.  I briefly considered skipping the dance, but that seemed lame.  I also considered going to the dance and not dressing up, but that seemed even lamer.  I did what I usually do when I don’t quite know what to do – I checked Facebook.  One of my friends had posted: “I've narrowed down my Halloween costume ideas to two: Marty McFly, or ridiculously photogenic guy.”  I had completely forgotten about the ridiculously photogenic guy of Facebook fame and immediately decided that I would be him for Halloween.  And I didn’t feel bad stealing my friend’s idea since he lives in Washington.

Here's the guy in case you've never heard of him
I told Kevin, and Manny, and Maurie, and Christina that I was going to be the ridiculously photogenic guy, but none of them had heard of him.  This made me think I’d made a bad costume decision.  I explained to them that some photographer had taken a picture of some random people running in a marathon and the guy in the picture was unusually photogenic for someone running in a race.  The photographer posted the picture of Flickr with a caption that said, “Mr. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy,” and for some reason the image went viral and was the source of numerous memes.

I decided to be the ridiculously photogenic guy anyway mostly because it was super-easy (I wore my running clothes and taped a homemade marathon bib to my shirt).  A lot of people at the dance didn’t know who I was and I explained it a few times, but I formed a special bond with the people who did recognize me.  A few strangers said, “Hey, you’re that meme!” and “You’re that guy from Facebook” and my heart warmed when someone said, “You’re the ridiculously photogenic guy!”  So instead of portraying a man that was arrested for indecent exposure, I portrayed a man a girl once described as “handsome.”  I think I made the right choice.
Okay, so maybe I'm not ridiculously photogenic,
but at least I'm somewhat photogenic
Kevin doing the Peewee dance

Monday, October 8, 2012

Drunk Running

Running in Tucson has proven to be rather difficult for me.  It’s been so freakin’ hot here that running in the middle of the day is out of the question.  I could run in the early morning, but anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a morning person (I had one roommate who would always enthusiastically say, “Good morning!” and I’d always groggily reply, “What’s good about it?”).  I’ve tried to get up early a few times to run, but it just doesn’t work.  I usually run at night when it’s hot in the summers, but Tucson is super-scary.  My friends from the Phoenix area have described Tucson as “sketchy,” “ghetto,” and “usually five degrees cooler than Phoenix” (the last one is a good thing).  I’ve been told that since there are observatories in the area there is a light ordinance in Tucson to prevent light pollution.  My neighborhood has some unsavory people living in it and I would not feel comfortable running through my poorly lit barrio at night.  So instead, I go running at Reid Park which is well-lit and has a bike/jogging trial.

As I drove up to Reid Park on Saturday night I saw a sign that said: “BEER FESTIVAL OCT 6.”  I got to the park at 10:00 pm just as the beer festival was ending.  Usually at that hour the park is mostly deserted with only a handful of people running and few shady characters talking in the dark areas of the parking lot, mostly likely dealing drugs.  But on Saturday night there were a TON of people there, many of them drunk.  It made for an interesting run.

When I run I occasionally get catcalls from random people.  It’s rare, but it happens.  On Saturday at least two dozen people yelled at me.  Most of the catcalls were nonsensical things like “AHHHH!” or “EHHHH!” but I did get a few sentences like “YOU’RE RUNNING!”  and “IT’S LATE!”  and other things that a good Mormon boy wouldn't repeat.  Whenever someone would yell something encouraging I would do a raise-the-roof motion with my hands as I continued my run which usually resulted in laughter and more yelling.  There’s one section of the trail where I have to double back and I ran by the same drunk people twice.  They yelled more the second time.  I could smell alcohol in the air.

Drunk people don’t tend to think super-clearly and I saw one guy whizzing behind a palm tree.  The restrooms were less than 50 yards away.

As I was running by a different guy he suddenly lurched toward me and I was momentarily worried that he was going to shank me.  Then I realized that I don’t ever use the word shank and getting shanked isn’t a regular fear of mine.  He was simply stumbling and I just happened to be in the direction of his stumble.  Luckily I escaped unstabbed.  Another guy almost ran into me while walking his bike.

All in all, it was a much more exciting run than normal.  And on a running note, I have greatly improved since I got to Tucson.  Before I could barely run two miles in my minimalist shoes, but now I can run four.  I'm hoping that using minimalist shoes will move my legs from the "skinny" category into the "sexy" category.  But it may just be a pipe dream.

Note: at no point during my run on Saturday night was I drunk, nor have I ever been drunk.

Photos courtesy of:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sometimes I'm an Idiot

My friend Melissa got home from her mission in July 2011.  A month later I made the two hour drive from my parents’ house to her house.  It was the first time I had seen her in 18 months and I was excited to hang out.  When I got to her house she said, “I’ve got something really fun planned for us to do.  We’re going to bake cookies and take them to lonely people.”  I thought that was an awful idea and my words and mood made that evident.  I had just driven for two hours and now I was supposed to go visit lonely people that I didn’t know.  I was not a happy camper.  Melissa, however, would not be swayed and we baked a nice batch of chocolate chip cookies and visited some lonely people.

Melissa said that we were going to visit her new friend Karen.  On the drive over to Karen's house Melissa explained to me that she talks a lot.  I said, “So she’s weird?” and Melissa responded, “She just needs the gospel in her life.”  I was now even less interested in visiting this lonely stranger.  Karen was a member of the church, but hadn’t been active for quite some time.  I had a really bad attitude about the whole experience until we entered Karen’s home.  Melissa was right, not only did Karen talk a ton, but so did her boyfriend.  Her boyfriend was not a member of the church ans was not interested in it at all.  To make a complicated story very simple, by the time we left, Karen was making plans to return to church and her boyfriend had excitedly agreed to meet with the missionaries.  I was flabbergasted.

When Melissa and I left the house I said, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!”  Melissa said, “Can we say a prayer?  I want to thank Heavenly Father for what just happened.”  I was a little surprised because my friends don’t usually ask me to say prayers of gratitude with them, but we did.  I was so amazed by the experience because our mere presence in their house had blessed their lives and I felt immensely stupid for not wanting to go earlier.  As we were talking about the experience on the drive home Melissa said, “For the rest of my life all I want to do is be an instrument in God’s hands.”  What she said is so simple and it gave me a new goal.

At that time I had just recently graduated from BYU and had not yet found a job.  For weeks I’d been telling people that all I wanted was to get a job.  I’d said, “All I want is to get a job,” so frequently and to so many people that when Melissa said, “All I want…” my mind immediately went to what I had been saying for weeks.  And then when she finished her sentence with, “… is be an instrument in God’s hands,” I felt a need to change.  My statement, contrasted with Melissa’s statement helped me to see how selfish I can be.  I’d been focusing on me and on what I need when I should have been focusing on others.

This is the story that ran through my mind as I watched the first session of General Conference this morning alone in my living room.  If you don’t know what General Conference is click here.  In the very first talk President Monson announced that a temple would be built in my new home of Tucson (you can watch that clip here).  It was a happy moment.  And then he announced a change in missionary policy.  Before, men could serve missions at the age of 19 and women at the age of 21.  Effective today, men can leave at age 18 and women at age 19.  I don’t cry much, but when President Monson announced this I started to cry.  They were tears of joy, of course.

While Melissa was on her mission her mom forwarded her weekly emails to me and I read them every week.  She was a marvelous missionary.  I currently have two very good female friends serving missions in Taiwan and Russia.  I read their emails home, too and they are stupendous missionaries.  They had both wanted to serve missions for years and couldn’t wait until they turned 21.  They would have left years earlier had they been able to.  And now, women don’t have to wait until they are 21.  I imagine a lot more women will be going on missions now.

When I was 18 and a freshman at BYU, my friend Aaron and I hiked to the Y on one of our first nights in Provo.  It was our first time living away from home and we talked a lot about the changes in our lives and how much we wanted to go on missions.  We both expressed that we didn’t want to wait until we were 19, we wanted to go right then.  I was really impatient and didn't want to have to wait any longer.  I felt ready for the challenge of a mission and couldn't wait to go.  Had I been allowed to leave when I was 18 I would have, but I had to wait six more months.  And now, those boys who are anxious to go out and serve don’t have to wait.  It’s so awesome.

This policy change is going to be an enormous blessing to the young people who serve missions and to the people of the world who will be taught by them.  I cried because this felt so right.  The army of Helaman (who missionaries are often compared to) has always been young, but it just got a little younger, and I imagine it’s going to grow a lot, too.  Today was a great day for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I’m pumped for the final two sessions of conference tomorrow.

The Morales family.  They are very happy people,
I promise.  Mexicans often don't make cheesy
smiles in pictures like Americans do.
Note: I was going to add a picture from my mission, but I realized that I don't have any digital copies of my mission pictures (that's right, I had an old fashioned camera back then).  So here's a picture from when I went back to visit my mission in 2009.  This is the Morales family, some of my favorite people in the whole world.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Backyard Bleating

My backyard is not landscaped at all.  Kevin, my roommate and landlord, isn’t interested in doing anything with it so it just sits there, growing weeds.  Since we live in the desert it’s mostly just dirt, but a large amount of grass has grown up around the edge of the porch.  Kevin cut it all down with a weed eater once, but then it grew back (as grass is wont to do).  The solution to growing grass?  Get a goat.
The offensively tall grass
Kevin's friend Luis recently bought a goat to eat the weeds in his backyard and keep the grass trimmed.  I’ve been to Luis’s house and the goat does a pretty stellar job.  The grass in our backyard has gotten pretty tall and Kevin didn’t want to cut it again so Luis offered to lend us his goat. 

I thought the whole idea of getting a goat was pretty silly since it would only take a few minutes to weed eat the grass, but I don’t own the house so I went along with it.  Once we got the goat, however, I was completely in favor of it.  Luis’s goat is a pygmy goat so he’s small, about the size of a dog, which makes him look very adorable.  I also enjoy looking out the kitchen window and watching him stare at me while he endlessly chews in a circular motion with grass hanging out of his mouth.  He really, really wants to come in the house and tries to follow us in every time we leave the backyard.  Yesterday after Kevin and I both came in he got up on his hind legs and started scratching at the doorknob.  My greatest fear is being realized, he’s learning how to open doors just like the raptors in Jurassic Park did. 
Here he is, eating the grass like a good little goat

He doesn't have a name, but I call him Plutarco
(it's an old Mexican name and it suits him)
The goat and I have become pretty good friends.  He spends all day alone in the backyard so I go out and pet him at least once a day.  He seems to really like me and follows me everywhere I go.  I exploit this for my own amusement.  Since I know he’s going to follow me I purposely walk over things that I know he’ll have to jump over because I like to see him jump.  A typical afternoon in the backyard includes me jumping over the tall grass, followed by the goat jumping over the grass, followed by me jumping back over the grass, followed by the goat jumping back over the grass, etc.  I wish I could say that we usually play this game until I get bored of it, but we usually play until the goat gets bored of it.
Just a friend coming to say hello

Today as I was trying to feed a handful of grass I had just picked to the goat, the thought came to my mind that my life is starting to resemble a foreign film.  The kind of movie where something quirky and unexpected happens to the protagonist, but there really is no story line or point to the film -- just a dude hanging out with a goat.

On a non-goat related note, we spent a few hours on Saturday "landscaping" the front yard with rocks.  Before the front yard had a wooden fence, a lot of dirt, and a fair number of weeds.  It reminded me of the wild west.  Now our yard is just rocks and while it looks cleaner, I can't help but think that it looks like a parking lot at corn maze.
Here's what the yard looked like before (looking from the porch)
Here's what it looks like now (looking from the street)