Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Turkey Trot

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but (honk! honk!) I participated in my first 5K race today.

It was also the Angry White Parents' and the Angry White Sister's first 5K. We did it together, and it turned out to be more fun and more worthwhile than I had imagined it would be. Kudos to my sister for convincing me to do it, 'cause I can be a tough nut to crack sometimes.

Our 3.1-mile race, the Family 5K (there was also a 1K race for kids and a 10K race for masochists/actual athletes), was really a race only in name, as together we walked the entire length. It was never about competition, just finishing. Soon after crossing the starting line, AWS and I realized that we were prepared to walk much faster than the parental units, so instead we slowed down to walk alongside them.

In the end, the Family 5K was more about the "family" part than about the "5K." After 66 minutes on the road, which included the Angry White Loner getting in "Biggest Loser" trainer mode on his mom and encouraging her to press forward during what was for her a grueling final mile, the four of us crossed the finish line together. For their age bracket, the parents did a great job.

Something else I really appreciated about this race was the sense of community involved in the whole process. Not only did we get to walk through the streets of our beloved hometown Bountiful, but all other race participants were nothing but polite and friendly to us, as many of them ended up passing us. In addition, complete strangers standing at mile markers or handing out water or just standing on street corners to watch cheered us on and offered encouragement along the way.

It was really a great way to spend a Thanksgiving morning, and I look forward to taking part again the future. The turkey, yams, pumpkin pie, etc. that followed were not too shabby, either.

Monday, November 25, 2013

YOLO Guy Takes a Chance

Over the weekend, I went to a singles dance. Because, like the disco song says, there are times when you've just gotta boogie-oogie-oogie till you just can't boogie no more.

It had been far too long since the Angry White Loner had last attended a dance. As a result, admittedly, he found himself being a wallflower for the first hour or so he was there, talking to friends and acquaintances on the sidelines and doing a whole lot of people watching in the meantime.

I love to people watch. You can sure learn a lot about others by doing itespecially at a dance. During my period of wallflowering, one of the individuals I observed was what I can only assume was a rather shy guy sitting in the corner, wearing a YOLO ("you only live once") t-shirt.

Eventually, yours truly made it out onto the dance floor and wowed the ladies with his mad skillz. No surprise there.

YOLO Guy, however, remained seated for most of the rest of the evening. That is, he remained seated until the moment the DJ announced the final song of the night.

At this moment, YOLO Guy decided that enough was enough and it was finally time to take advice from his own t-shirt, because, after all, you only live once. (Unless you're a Buddhist. Or Shirley Maclaine.) He asked a girl to dance, and he finally made it out there, in spite of his shyness.

The moral of the story is: It's never too late. Also, the people who overcome their fears are the ones who do something about it and don't let themselves be held hostage by them.

Kudos to you, YOLO Guy. It took you a while, but, as they say, it's better late than never. For some people, it's enough of a victory to overcome shyness just by showing up to a dance, let alone getting out there and dancing.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Daily Gratitude: Two-ply Toilet Paper

'Tis the season for being grateful and for the giving of thanks. In fact, I am pretty sure there is a holiday right around the corner, one for which we are supposed to be grateful and to give thanks for all the things for which we are grateful and thankful. If memory serves right.

It's not uncommon to scroll through my news feed on Facebook these days and to read what others call their daily gratitude poststhe simple and the most important things in life for which they are appreciative.

As for the Angry White Loner, when it comes to gratitude, he thinks of two-ply toilet paper. Yes, really.

That's a pretty lame thing to be thankful for, some of you may think. And you would be right, assuming all of the world out there had things as good as we do here in the United States of America.

In case you haven't been to the Third World, I will let you in on a little secret: They don't have things as good as we do. Not even close.

Sure, France has its Eiffel Towerin fact, two of the AWL's brothers and their spouses were there just a few days ago (not that I am bitter!)Australia has its kangaroos and dingoes, and Japan has karaoke bars on pretty much every block. Beautiful things, all of them. But we truly live in a unique and a blessed land. There is no other place like it on Earth.

Why? Because of two-ply toilet paper.

Years ago, when I opened my mission call and read that I had been called to serve in the Peru Lima Central Mission, I knew exactly three things about Peru: The ruins of Machu Picchu were there, and it also had South America's highest concentration of Native Americans (Lamanites) and llamas. If you had asked me back then, I would have ventured a guess that they all rode llamas everywhere and had llamas for pets instead of dogs and cats and they all ate frequently at llama burger joints instead of McDonald's or Wendy's.

Granted, many of those preconceived notions turned out to be true. Llama tastes like chicken. And I did, in fact, make it to Machu Picchutwice.

Nevertheless, the luster and the wonder soon vanished when I had my first glimpse of one of Lima's many shantytownsThird World-like dumps where squatters live in homes literally made out of tin roofs and adobe bricks and plastic sheets and not much else, with dirt floors and no electricity in many places and unpaved roads with so much dust to kick up that I contracted conjunctivitis my first week there, along with several other bugs, and my ankles and feet became infested with fleas not once but twice. There are also frequent earthquakes and a destructive weather phenomenon, coined by Peruvian fisherman, called "El Niño."

Don't even get me started on Atahualpa's Revenge. You either know about it, or you don't.

This is where the issue of toilet paper comes in. Peruvians use toilet paper for every possible, conceivable reason. It's as valuable a commodity as towels are in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series of books. Not only do they use it for its already well-known properties, but they also use it as napkins and for taking notes and about 1,000 other things. One of the first things I learned in my first few days in the country is that you carry several sheets of toilet paper in your pockets at all times, because you never know when you will need some. If you run out, you restock. This is, in addition, because many toilets in Peru (1) don't have actual toilet seats to sit on and (2) are not stocked with any toilet paper at all.

The problem with Peruvian toilet paper? In two years, I never saw a single sheet of two-ply paper. One-hundred percent of it is single ply. I missed two-ply toilet paper. A lot. I also missed peanut butter, root beer, Dr Pepper, and hot showers.

And so, this Thanksgiving, that's what I'm feeling grateful for. Among many other things.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fear and Loathing at the Grocery Store

Today, let's talk pet peeves.

Scenario #1: You're in your car, roaming the lanes in the parking lot at the grocery store, trying to find an empty spot to pull into. Invariably, shoppers with carts full of groceries also wander into the same lane, heading back to their cars.

The Angry White Loner is all for car/pedestrian sharing of these parking lot lanes. The problem is that, more often than not, these shoppers tend to walk right in the middle of the lane rather than moving over to one side or the other so that you and your car can pass them, taking their own sweet time doing so and either (1) are lost in their own little worlds, talking on their cell phones or corralling their bratty children or whatever it may be, or (2) they know very well that they're blocking your path, and they are openly taunting you as you follow, with mere inches separating your front bumper and their calves.


This is one of those rare times when the AWL feels compelled to not break, but sort of bend, the traditional Christian/Judeo ethic of "Thou shalt not kill." He feels like he is just one "accidental" pedal press on the accelerator, instead of the brake, from gunning it and pulling an Amanda Bynes on one of these pedestrians. Odds are that the oblivious pedestrian would hardly feel it and would, after being run over, continue talking on his or her cell phone as if nothing had happened.

Scenario #2: You're finally inside the grocery store, waiting in a long line to pay for your purchases and then make your way back into the parking lot to take your own turn slowly walking in front of someone else's car. Because turnabout is fair play.

Suddenly, a new cashier appears at the previously closed register in the next lane and announces that it is now "open." And, like clockwork, most of the people behind you, without saying a word or apologizing for butting ahead, scramble over to this now-open lane and check out ahead of you in a "me-first" gesture of utter obliviousness.


Thankfully, common courtesy is not lost on most people. The people in these two scenarios are the exceptions and not the rule.

At least, once I finish cleaning up the parking lot in my car, they will be in the minority.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Skanky Lyrics

I was at the Karaoke Café not long ago, enjoying a fun evening of karaoke---you know, like all of the cool kids do---when a father and his young daughter stepped up to sing a duet. Their song choice was, in my mind, somewhat unusual.

It was Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now." This was a disturbing choice for a father/daughter duet because (1) it's a country song, obviously, and (2) it's basically what I call "The Drunk Dialing/Booty Call Song" about two lonely people, plastered with whiskey, talking on the phone at 1:15 a.m. because they "need (each other) now."

Being completely snockered is a perfect frame of mind in which to express your deeply felt romantic feelings for someone else, isn't it?

Unless I failed to capture the deeper meaning of this masterpiece of modern music, that's what the song is about. In the Angry White Loner's view, it's not exactly this millennium's version of "Butterfly Kisses" for a daddy/daughter duet.

This incident aside, there was also the wedding reception I attended recently. The happy couple had a video playing in the chapel foyer that showed many photographs from their growing up years, all set to catchy romantic tunes---a rather common sight at wedding receptions here in Utah.

The only problem? One of these tunes, Plain White T's "Rhythm of Love," wasn't so much romantic as it was a song about a couple having a one-night stand.

Heavenly stuff!

Don't get the AWL wrong, sports fans; he loves music and singing just as much as the next person. It's just that he sometimes wonders whether people actually listen to the lyrics of the songs that they sing and play over and over again. For him, skanky lyrics tend to ruin what otherwise would be great songs.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Meat Market

Recently, I chatted with an old friend whom I hadn't seen in some time. As part of our conversation, and in the middle of catching up with each other's lives, I mentioned that I have been participating in an over-30 singles' group for the past couple of years as one of the activities that has helped keep me busy since I had last seen her in our singles ward.

"I don't really like going to those things," was her response. "They're such meat markets!"

Statistically, my friend is not alone in her stance against going to these so-called "meat markets." I recently found out from one of the advisors at one of these aforementioned group activities that there are estimated to be more than 30,000 people in our age group in Davis County alone. Though that number includes inactive members, as well as, presumably, single parents with children who prevent them from participating and people who don't even know that our group exists, it nevertheless still amounts to literally thousands of other people out there somewhere.

In my time with this group, I haven't even met 1,000 new people, let alone 30,000. The number is more like a couple of hundred at most. Of that number, there are between 60 and 70 who, on average, attend our weekly institute classes.

I am certainly no math whiz, but I figure that it all amounts to about .2 percent, or one in 500, of the people who could conceivably belong to this group who actually attend on a regular basis.That's some pretty slim pickings. It's a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy in that the majority, like my friend, view it as a meat market, too, and therefore decide it is not worth their time or effort. It may be a meat market, but that's where you have to go if you want meat in your diet.

Not coincidentally, my friend also mentioned that she hadn't been on many dates lately and had found it hard to meet new people with her busy schedule.


1) I am still no math whiz.

2) However you look at things, you have to go where the meat is if meat is what you want. Though the meat market is not as well stocked as it could be, some vegetarians appear to be starving.

With all of this talk of meat, I am suddenly hungry for a McRib.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Correcting God's "Mistakes"

I have been a fan of "The Simpsons" since it first went on the air in December 1989. It's a show that has aired during all of part of four decades, folks. And though the program is not as good as it once was, it can still teach some important life lessons through its unique blend of satire and humor.

Recently, I caught a rerun of an episode from a few years back that I hadn't seen before. In it, Homer visits a plastic surgery clinic that contains the subtitle "Correcting God's Mistakes" on its marquee out front.

That's certainly how the Angry White Loner views plastic surgeryas an attempt to fix God's "mistakes." That's also how he views such things as dying his hair until he no longer remembers what color it should be, getting tattoos, wearing toupees, comb-overs, excessive amounts of makeup, tanning, piercings, etc. Please don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that you are evil or wrong if you have pierced ears or dye your hair on a regular basis or have a comb-over, though the lattest certainly may not improve your chances with the ladies. That's just the Angry White Loner's reasoning behind not doing any of those things to his own body.

I relate this concept to Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin's final general conference message before passing away in 2008, a talk titled "Come What May, and Love It." Aging gracefully, as I see it, is certainly one way to accept whatever happens and to embrace it as life goes on. I certainly didn't expect to start losing my hair in my 20swho ever does?but I accept it and can roll with it.

But Angry White Loner, you say. You wear glasses. And they're sexy as all get-out. Isn't this one way of correcting a "mistake," as by natural processes,you became nearsighted sometime during the fourth or fifth grade and often cheated on eye tests until finally succumbing and getting contact lenses and, later, glasses?

That's a fair point, but this concept doesn't apply to things to make our lives "better" or "normal." No, I am referring to cosmetic choices.

Even with the many things we might change about our bodies if we only couldweight, height, eye color, hair color, complexion, immune system, handicaps, chronic illnesses, and any and all other "thorn(s) in the flesh" that Paul spoke ofwe each have, I hope, at least one or two features of which we are enormously proud. And by this I mean the good kind of proudthe kind of proud that makes us look at a photo of ourselves or in the mirror and then look up to Heavenly Father and say, "Thank you for giving me this feature!"

One such thing I can say that about is being a ginger. Though I no longer have as much hair as I once did, and even though what hair I have left on top is no longer red, I was born with red hair and had red hair for my first few birthdays. Then, by natural processes, my hair turned blond and remained so until I was 11 or 12, and then it changed colors again and became brown and then dark brown. (Odds are, it will change colors once again the older I get, assuming it doesn't all fall out.)

A few years later, when I found that I was able to grow facial hair and no longer worked at a company that required me to be clean shaven, I discovered that I could grow a rather awesome red-haired goatee and/or beard. And it's one of the things I like best about myself, physically speaking.

In summary, I suppose, the point I am trying to make is that God doesn't make junk. Our bodies are by no means perfect, but they are the creations of a perfect being. And that fact, in and of itself, makes us, in a sense, pretty amazing creations.