March 15, 2005

Giving It Up (Mediocre Fred's Farewell)

Today's Musical Selection: "Backs Turned Looking Down the Path" by Warren Zevon

Hello, everyone! Well, my still-erratic posting schedule has really been making the natives restless. Loyal reader Brett, for instance:

"At any rate, that about kicks it in the head for today. Something else tomorrow!"

Something I've been seeing alot of recently.

(As I read the same posts over and over, anxiously awaiting the new post)

But at the same time it's nice that you're keeping yourself busy. Hope things are going good for you.

Things are going well for me, Brett. For instance, this. And this. But that's not getting any more blog entries written, is it?

I don't know what to do about this, either. It's not that I lack material. I want to write about Russ Potts and the coming split in the GOP. I want to write about the latest shenanigans of the ABA. I want to write about my dad's stories of growing up. I want to right about some of the curious commercials I've seen. I want to write about what a fraud the Pepperoni Trio pizza is. I want to write another big NCAA Tournament preview, like last year. I have plenty of things that I'd like to write about.

I just have trouble finding the time. If I was a true blogger, the type to jot down quick bursts of thought several times a day, that would be one thing. But it takes me three paragraphs to clear my throat (as you've noticed, I'm sure). It usually takes me at least an hour, usually more, to write a regular-length post. And I just don't have that kind of time any more, at least not on any consistent basis.

As a result of that, I've made the difficult decision to hang up my keyboard and quit writing this blog. I'll pause to give you a moment to recover.

(Hey, stop celebrating! And what do you mean, "How will anyone know the difference?")

Truth be told, I suppose I've seen this coming for a while. Ever since I agreed to become President of the Nats Fan Club, I wondered how I'd find time to get everything done. Then once the Fan Club really began taking off, whcih was wonderful but also extremely time-consuming, I knew that something was going to have to give. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

I always knew that it would be time to go when posting stopped being fun and started being a chore. And unfortunately, that day has come. I never stopped enjoying the conversations with you, The Reader, reading and responding to your comments. But producing original material, even as sporadically as I've been doing lately, has become tedious. I think of the other thousand things I have to do each evening, and suddenly I've started to dread blogging where once I enjoyed it. And I know from experience that writing with your teeth clenched rarely produces anything memorable or worthwhile.

When I started the blog a little more than a year and a half ago, it was largely as a joke. The Smart Lady had sort of introduced me to the blogging phenomenon, and my quick take on it was pretty negative: mostly loudmouths spouting uninformed opinions with little or no factual backup. So I came up with an idea for an opinion-free blog. Why not blog about why you don't have a position on something? It seemed funny enough as a concept, which was frankly all I intended it to be. But The Smart Lady encouraged me to give it a whirl (one of the great things about The Smart Lady is that she always encouraged me to try new things), and one July evening in her apartment, I sat down and started typing. I didn't have any particular idea what would become of it, so I thought I'd see what happened.

Well, it didn't take long for me to become hooked. And it didn't take long for me to start expressing a few opinions of my own. The idea of having a public forum to express one's own views is pretty intoxicating, and gradually I shifted from humorous pieces to more serious-minded fare. And so began the conversation with the readers, which I found and still find to be the most enriching part of the whole thing. Were it not for the quality of the comments I've received, I'd probably have given this up long ago.

Did I change the world with this blog? No. Did I make much of an impact? Doubtful. But I like to think that I've helped to further the worldwide dialogue on a lot of issues, hopefully in an enlightening way.

I want to hand out a few thank yous to the people who helped this blog along the way:

- To all the folks in my life who provided material for my writing: my parents, The Smart Lady, Papa Shaft, the Mad Prophet, the Gentleman's Gentleman, the Gamer Girl, the estimable Ms. Wizard, and all the other bit players who popped up here and there.

- To the Cast of Thousands who made their way through the blog at one time or another: "Deadline Danny" Goodwin, Coach Bum Bolbridge, Senator Blutarsky, Mayor McCheese, Hammerin' Hank, and of course Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice. (America's Sweethearts are now without a home for their romantic advice, so if someone wants to offer them a good blog home, I'll be happy to make arrangements.)

- To Frinklin and Ensie, who helped rescue me from Blogspot and get me over into the MuNuniverse. Thanks for believing.

- To Open Source Politics, who gave me a shot at political commentary on a wider stage. I never was able to devote as much as I'd hoped to it, but I hope they'll keep on trucking.

- To my loyal commenters, the ones who helped maintain the high standard of commentary around here: Frinklin, Ensie, Tripp, Carl, PG, arrScott, Papa, Brett, and others.

- To everyone who stopped by to read my rantings, even the crazy rippers who misunderstood everything.

- And one last thank you to The Smart Lady, who was my guiding light on this blog and off. You inspired me to reach farther, dream bigger, do more. And you made my days brighter whenever you were around. I hope New York's treating you fair.

I'd like to stay in touch with all of you. Those of you who have blogs, I'll probably be stopping by from time to time. If you'd like to keep the conversation going, you can always reach me at mediocrefred1979 -at- yahoo -dot- com. And if you get lonely for my commentary, feeling free to check the archives here or at Blogspot.

I think I'll wrap up with a snippet of today's musical selection. I chose it because I've always thought of us, you and I, walking along and having this ongoing conversation. Thanks for sharing a few miles with me.

Some may have, and some may not
God, I'm thankful for what I got
With my back turned, looking down the path
We'll go walkin' hand in hand
Laughin' fit to beat the band
With our backs turned, looking down the path

Goodbye, my friends. See you sometime, I hope.

Posted by Fred at 11:14 AM | Comments (4)

March 10, 2005

Your Turn (to Think of a Better Title)

Today's Musical Selection: "Midnight Star" by Weird Al Yankovic

Hello, everyone! Well, as promised (if a little late), today I address your latest round of comments. (At my recent rate of output, I wouldn't be surprised if you, The Reader, have written more of this blog than I have. C'est la vie.)

Loyal reader Frinklin is getting a tad impatient with my erratic schedule:

Dude... just because your childhood dream came true, and DC has a baseball team and you get to start up this hoity-toity fan club does not mean that you get to ignore your blog to this extent.

And really, how many "fans" can these mysterious "Nationals" even have?

Ehhh... I'm kidding, and more that a touch jealous. The only time my name is in the paper is when I'm falsely accused of some terrible crime.

It's completely ridiculous... for the first 26 years of my life, I lived in near-perfect obscurity, the quintessential face in the crowd. And now, all of a sudden, I'm everywhere. In the past month and a half, I've been on TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet, all more than once. Old friends call up and ask how I've been, and I say, "Well, I just interviewed with TV Tokyo and I've got a Post reporter coming tomorrow," and I can't help giggling. And if anybody tries to tell you that being in the media is a pain, they're lying. I personally am enjoying every minute of it. (Granted, I don't have photographers popping out of the bushes to take my picture at 6 in the morning.)

As for the blog.... I'd like to write more, but with what time? I've essentially got two full-time jobs now. Presumably the crush will ease up later on, but who knows for sure? If I have to give it up, though, I'll be sure to at least say goodbye.

Loyal reader Tripp also expounds on his theories of love and courtship:

I came across the following article from 1993 in Psychology Today. Maybe I read it when it came out - I don't know, but it certainly sums up my perceptions on courtship:

I won't hector you on this much more. Well, not for awhile - a day or two.

The article describes the behavior of courting animals and comments on the similarity between these moves in humans and those in other animals. The implication is that much of our courting and relationship behavior is hard-wired into us biologically.

I think there's a lot of truth to this, and I think a lot of the confusion and awkwardness surrounding love and sex in our culture has to do with the friction between our biological drives and our societally-mandated behaviors. Is it possible that much of our thinking on the subject constitutes parlysis by analysis? Perhaps.

On the other hand, a civilized society can't just shrug its shoulders and allow the ways of the animals to reign. Our evolving societal standards force re-evaluations of the ways we interact, flirt, date, marry and reproduce. I think that's at the heart of the forthcoming public debate over the proper form and role of marriage in society (and not just gay marriage, but marriage generally). Our current model of marriage doesn't seem particularly well-suited to the way our society is arranged, at least not if you judge by the number of people who fail at it. So it's time to ask what role marriage should serve in our society. Is it a sacred recognition of the union of man and woman? Is it primarily a legal contract between two people? Is it primarily to provide stable homes for children? Should it be considered a lifetime deal, or only a temporary arrangement until one or both parties get sick of it or find something better? Once we've decided what marriage should be, we can begin discussing ways to strengthen it. This deserves a post of its own, and if I ever find time to write it, I will.

(And to the charge that discussing love and sex in a detached academic way is the surest sign that you're not getting any, all I can say is: Sigh.)

My thoughts on the commercial exploitation of Black History Month and President's Day drew a number of comments. First, from loyal reader PG:

Somehow the President's Day ad doesn't bother me as much as the Black History-related ones. It might be knee-jerk PCness, or a more complicated form thereof.

I sort of feel like Washington and Jefferson are a very shared history of all Americans, and so it's less objectionable for anyone to use them than it is for a (presumably) non-African American-owned corporation to exploit Black History Month. After all, we get spoonfed Washington and Jefferson from nursery school, but how much do the people making these "Black History" ads actually know about black history, or contemporary black issues? Somehow with Black History Month, it feels more like theft and tokenism than a cheap invocation of our common history.

Then I thought about how I'd feel if someone used JFK's "Ask not what your country can do for you" to sell something (other than public service such as joining the military/ Peace Corps/ etc.), and decided that there's more than the racial component to it, because that idea still bothered me more than the President's Day advert. Maybe I feel like Washington's "I cannot tell a lie" is such a trite (and inaccurate) bit of history that it's not really degrading it to use it for an advertisement, whereas something that I feel to be inspirational like Kennedy's speech is more sacred.

I was tempted to protest at the beginning, when PG asserted that Washington and Jefferson are fair game for exploitation because they're part of our shared history (and Martin Luther King, Jr. isn't?), but I like the conclusion she drew. To me, the Founding Fathers are, if not sacred, at least something deeply cherished for me, so it irks the hell out of me when Washington and Jefferson are hawking cars and mattresses. Similarly, I'd think the Hebrew National hot-dog commercials that feature God operating a diving hot-dog stand would be deeply offensive to people of religious faith (at least of a faith in which their God is the pitchman).

I think we all have things or people we hold sacred, and would resent commercial exploitation of them. But since we have no cultural consensus on what's off-limits, everything is subservient to the Marketing God.

Tripp expounds on this idea:

One outcome from my six month stay in England was that, in America, money is KING. Money rules everything. It is always about the money. Money decides everything.

"Back to School Liquor sale" is kind of funny. I like Thanksgiving because it hasn't really been commercialized. Besides the food there isn't much more we are expected to buy buy buy.

One of my favorite quotes is:

"By Grapthar's hammer . . . what a savings."

Good point about Thanksgiving... there's nothing especially sacred about it that can be trivialized, and the fact that it sneaks in between Halloween and Christmas also keeps the exploitation factor down, I think. The basic message of Thanksgiving is to spend time with family and eat a lot of food, things at which I'm rather proficient, so it works for me. Love the Grapthar quote (though I thought it was Grabthar).

PG then popped back in to provide me with some inspirational material:

Along with the general thread of bottom-line ideology, I think you'd concur with much of the sentiment in this.

I most certainly do agree with it, not least because it sounds a lot like some of the discussion on Wal-Mart and its ilk that I hosted on this very blog last year. The column is written by former labor secretary Robert Reich, and it hold that if we don't like what Wal-Mart is doing to the retail industry, we have only ourselves to blame:

To claim that people shouldn't have access to Wal-Mart or to cut-rate airfares or services from India or to Internet shopping, because these somehow reduce their quality of life, is paternalistic tripe. No one is a better judge of what people want than they themselves.

The problem is, the choices we make in the market don't fully reflect our values as workers or as citizens. I didn't want our community bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., to close (as it did last fall) yet I still bought lots of books from In addition, we may not see the larger bargain when our own job or community isn't directly at stake. I don't like what's happening to airline workers, but I still try for the cheapest fare I can get.

Reich suggests laws and regulations to make the "social cost" of goods paramount over the personal cost to the consumer. He suggests a minimum-wage increase and stronger labor standards, among other ideas. Even if you don't agree with his ideas, he's at least accurately identified the problem: The rational choices we make as consumers is detrimental to our long-term future as workers and citizens. As it stands, it's too easy for people not to make the connection between the cheap paper towels they get at Wal-Mart and the declining living standards of the lower middle class. Reich is right to call for a national dialogue on this.

My ode to NyQuil produced this reminder from loyal reader Ensie:

Only take NyQuil at night. That's why they call it NyQuil. It is not meant to be used in the upright position.

Ok, technically it should probably then be called NiQuil or even NighQuil if you preferred, but it still mean take it once your head is firmly attached to a pillow. That's my experience. Hope you are feeling 100% soon.! :)

I'm plesed to report that I feel fine now, more or less, and that I've stayed away from NyQuil since. I'm aware of the connection between NyQuil and night use, and had I simply lost my evening to the wonder drug, I'd have been fine. My problem is that I was woozy and loopy for all of the next day, and for that matter was still a little foggy on Monday. There's a difference in my mind between a "nighttime drug" and a "hibernation aid." Call me picky.

Loyal reader Brett seems like he's not quite sure what to make of the piece:

One of the most interesting (for lack of better terms) things I've read in quite awhile.

Always nice to be warned of such things though.

Feel better soon.

Forgive me for not making sense while I was still in my narcoleptic fog. Mind-altered writing is not my forte. Perhaps with more experience at brain abuse, I can get better at it. Not that I have any immediate plans for additional stabs at brain abuse.

Tripp seems to have been a little more atuned to my wavelength:

I'm pretty sure I also had the "real" flu, or at least the cold from Hell. It lasted a good ten days.

I usually steer away from Nyquil and the other conglomerations of "everything but the kitchen sink." Isn't the secret ingredient in Nyquil OH - alcohol? That could explain the drowsiness.

Hmmm... I just pulled out the box to check this, and the label makes no mention of alcohol. Perhaps they just didn't mention it, but you'd think they would have to, wouldn't you? Either way, makes me wonder what the upper in DayQuil is. Cocaine, perhaps?

My most recent post, about this and that, drew a couple contrasting reviews of the ESPN Zone. First, from Ensie:

I'm glad you had such a great time at the ESPN Zone. Myself, not being a very big traditional sports fan, HATED the ESPN Zone. We went to dinner there (fulfilling a fantasy of Frinklin's) while in Aneheim last September. The food was nasty, the service bit, and the noise was unbelieveable. I suppose I shouldn't complain, as it is a sports bar.

Next, from Tripp:

I think I went to an ESPN Zone in Baltimore once. It was during the afternoon and I played video games . I liked it. I spent a lot of money.

The thing is, I think they're both right. The degree to which you will enjoy ESPN is direcetly related to the degree to which you think the Ultimate Sports Bar is a great idea. If you like sports bars, ESPN Zone has all the good qualities magnified a hundred-fold: the TVs, the video games, the seating, the atmosphere. On the other hand, if you hate sports bars, ESPN also has all their worst qualities magnified a hundred-fold: the dodgy food, the bad service, the noise, the high prices. So take note if you're thinking about visiting one.

Tripp also offered a pat on the back for my chatting up Nick Johnson's girlfriend:

But, dude, good job with the woman! You are going places, man. It was good practice. You know that simply chatting with her made you more attractive to any other women in the place, right?

Keep on getting out there and good things are coming your way!

Thank you, Tripp! I did feel good about it afterward, and I think I've generally been better around women since. As you say, I just need to keep practicing and getting out there, which I'm working on.

And my random encounter with neighbor Ben also received a couple comments. From Ensie:

That's cool that you ran into your random neighbor again. The story comes full circle...or something...

And Brett:

[I]nteresting to run into your old friend. Maybe meeting him in that situation was less intimidating than him showing up at your house at the middle of the night.

It did sort of feel like coming full circle, having seen him in the summer and again in the winter. And being able to see that he is indeed a good guy was also gratifying.

As for the middle-of-the-night factor... I think that defnitely played a role; I don't really relish the idea of anyone showing up at my house in the middle of the night, much less a stranger. But it should also be noted that the attire matters. When he showed up at night back in the summer, he was sporting the wife-beater and gold neck chains, and in my experience growing up, guys who dressed that way were usually bad news. But fleece jacket and jeans? He just looked like an average guy.

At any rate, that about kicks it in the head for today. Something else tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at 05:10 PM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2005

Bits and Pieces

Today's Musical Selection: "Papercuts" by Organized Rhyme

I'm pretty busy tonight, but a couple thoughts on the past few days.

Yesterday, the Nationals played their spring-training exhibition opener. I took a long lunch and headed down to ESPN Zone to catch a few innings. And as Fan Club president, you can't just sit and watch the game. I gave interviews to the local Fox and NBC stations, which appeared on the air multiple times yesterday evening and this morning. (Common refrain from today: "Hey, you were on TV!" Being in the newspapers and on radio is nice, but apparently being on TV make you a celebrity.)

If you've been to an ESPN zone, you may be familiar with the setup: giant TV, banks of normal-sized auxiliary TVs on either side, tables in tiered levels facing the Wall of Television, and a row of recliners in front. I was seated in Recliner Row next to an attractive young woman. (By the way, ever wonder what they could possibly show on 20 TV sets in a sports bar on a Wednesday afternoon in March? Well, I found out: on one set, they were showing televised curling. Yes, curling. If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'.)

The young woman seemed to have been there for some time, and appeared settled in for the long haul. She was knowledgable about the team (she knew who Jamey Carroll was, for Pete's sake), but not as passionate as some fans I've seen. So in between innings, I asked if she was a baseball fan.

"Yeah," she said, "I'm a fan of the Nationals."

She said she was new in town. I told her how I'd waited for this all my life. She seemed excited to know about this. We chit-chatted a while longer, and then returned our attention to the game.

The TV guys had told me that they were waiting for the Nationals to score before they started interviewing, and it was starting to look like this might take a while. It was 0-0 in the 4th, and the Mets drew first blood with a couple runs off young Mike Hinckley and a shaky defense. I was growing a bit anxious that the length of my lunch mught draw notice at work, but I decided to stick it out a little while longer.

Lo and behold, in the bottom of the fourth we got a man on and Jose Guillen parked one to right to tie the score. As is my wont, I shouted "Get out! Get out!" and thrust my arms in the air and shouted and clapped when it went out. The attractive young woman seemed tickled by my enthusiasm.

So down came the NBC crew. They thrust a mike and a camera at me and asked a few questions. In the course of the interview, I mentioned that I was president of the Fan Club. This sparked the young woman's interest, and after the camera crew moved off she said, "Well, I guess I can tell you that I'm [someone someone's] girlfriend."

Alas. I hadn't heard who [someone someone] was, but I assumed it was a Fan Club member who'd mentioned my name. So I asked her to repeat herself, so I could relay my best wishes to the member.

"I'm Nick Johnson's girlfriend," she said. For those who don't know, Nick Johnson is the Nationals' first baseman.

Talk about a tough act to follow.

I recovered, though, and we had a nice chat. She said Nick and the rest of the team are really excited to have passionate home crowds to play for. "You guys have sold 20,000 season tickets already. That's unreal. In Montreal, we were lucky if we had that many people in 3 games."

She said that Nick's working with a new strength and flexibility coach that GM Jim Bowden brought with him from Cincinnati, and that it's helping him a lot. I told her about the running gag Papa Shaft and I have on MVP 2005, in which Nick keeps finding ways to get hurt, such as hitting a home run and breaking his hand high-fiving the first-base coach. She laughed and said, "That's so true!"

All in all, it was a glorious day for a lot of reasons. Being able to look at the screen and see "WSH" in the line score, and see our boys resplendent in their home whites... well, it was a day to remember. Finally, after all our wishing and hoping and struggling, baseball really is back. I said to myself, "Pinocchio, you're a real boy now."

Yesterday was quite a chnage from Tuesday. On Tuesday, we were still recovering from the snowstorm that, even though it was more hype than action, still dumped a good 5 inches on my neck of the woods. The parking lot was a slushy mess in the morning. It was passable for cars, but not for pickup trucks. At least not pickup trucks without a load in the back. I know this because I saw a truck get stuck at the bottom of the slope in our lot. The driver was apparently a memver of the gun-it-till-your-transmission's-fried school, which meant he kicked up plenty of noise and smoke, but not much movement. I decided to get behind and help push him out, as did another fellow in the lot. We made excruciatingly slow and slippery progress, but we did make progress, and eventually we got the truck on its way.

The other fellow turned to shake my hand. "Nice work," he said. "I'm Ben."

Ben! He seemed familiar... and then I placed him. He was the guy who showed up at my door looking for a lift in the middle of the night last summer, the one who inspired my post on the death of neighborliness. He looked a lot less threatening in a fleece jacket instead of a wife-beater. I was glad to learn that Ben really does live in my neighborhood, and that he's a good Samaritan as well. Score one for my faith in humanity.

That's all for today. Your thoughts tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at 10:55 PM | Comments (3)

March 01, 2005

More Fresh Hot Love Advice!

Today's Musical Selection: "Love's Theme" by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra

Hello, everyone! Once again, it's time for Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice and their patented brand of love advice. (Well, it's not really patented, but honestly, who would steal it?) Today, America's sweethearts come to us from... my living room. That's right, Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice were passing through town, and they've chosen to de-camp in my guest room. This despite the fact that, considering what I'm paying them to do this column, they could easily afford a hotel. In fact, they could afford to rent a house while they're here. (Uncle Millie, who is reading this over my shoulder, says, "'Tisn't so, lad. You neglected to include a whiskey allowance." Aunt Beatrice, who is reading over the other shoulder, says, "You can't forget to make an allowance for Uncle Millie. In fact, living with Uncle Millie is all about allowances.")

But, nonetheless, I am happy to see them, despite the fact that I now have two roommates, and the fact that I was not informed of their impending arrival in advance. (Uncle Millie: "Lad, we're never sure where we'll be from one day to the next. We're a force of nature." Aunt Beatrice: "Like a hurricane.")

You know what? I think I'm going to go ahead and turn the keyboard over to them right now. "Gilmore Girls" is on, and if I give them column-writing duties right now, perhaps I can have my television to myself, for the first time in four days. (Uncle Millie: "Gilmore Girls? Lad, what kind of a man watches that program? Are you sure you like women?" Aunt Beatrice: "Millie! He's our host. You shouldn't say things like that." Uncle Millie: "I didn't say there's anything wrong with not liking women. I just-")

Ladies and gentlemen, here you go. Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice. I'll be back after the show.

- - - - -

I Never Knew Love Before, Then Came You, and a Bottle of Whiskey, and a Magic Fingers Bed, by Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice

UM: Hello, lads! Greetings from Mediocre Fred's charming apartment. The lord of the manor is off watching his beloved Gilmore Girls, which just between us lads, seems a little queer to me.

AB: Millie! He's sitting right across the room. And besides, just because he likes a show that happens to be primarily watched by women, that does not imply anything about his sexuality.

UM: Not that there aren't some lovely ladies on that show. Uncle Millie has seen the commercials. But all they ever seem to do is talk. What's the point in that? If I want to hear women talk, I pick up the extension when my beloved is talking to her sister.

AB: Please tell me you do not do that.

UM: Perhaps I have said too much.

AB: At any rate, I want to thank Fred for putting us up on such short notice. And I must say, it's a nice little apartment he has here.

UM: Hmpf. As nice as an apartment without whiskey can be.

AB: Aren't you America's least gracious guest? You invite yourself over on no notice, and then you complain because he didn't buy you booze?

UM: A good host is never without.

MF: If I knew you were coming, I'd have baked a cake.

UM: What good is a cake? Unless it's a fruitcake soaked in rum. Mmmmm....

AB: Millie, stop it.

UM: However, a thoughtful travels always comes prepared. And I did bring my own supply.

AB: Namely, a bottle of Pinot Noir he pilfered from the last house we stayed in. And Fred's cooking sherry. And... is that vanilla extract?

UM: Sometimes, in dire situations, you must improvise.

AB: You're unbelievable.

UM: I know. I must say, though, that Fred's abode is rather charming. The pull-out couch is perfect for lovemaking. Not to mention the balcony, which was perfectly designed for us to-

AB: Millie!

MF: What's that about the balcony?

AB: Nothing, Fred! Why don't we read our first letter before Uncle Millie has a chance to say something else shameful or embarassing.

UM: The night is young, my dear.

AB: Indeed.

Dear Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice,

I'm a little bumfuzzled when it comes to women. It seems like I'm not able to read their signals too well. A number of times, I've thought a woman was interested in me, only when I tried to act on it, it turned out she wasn't. Which is kinda awkward. Especially in church.

Could you give me a sort of primer on how to tell for sure when a woman's interested? Like a list of things I should look for to tell if a woman wants to be more than friends? It sure would help me, and any other guys in the same boat.

Lee in Frederick

AB: Hi, Lee. Sorry to hear about your situation. Dating can be pretty confusing as it is, and if you're not good at reading those subtle signals from women, it can be really tough. And the signs are pretty subtle.

UM: I think your problem, lad, is that you're too subtle. Let the women know from the get-go where you're coming from, say by flashing a condom at them, and you'll save all those pesky hassles and confusions.

AB: Please ignore him, Lee. Here are a few classic signs you can look for: She keeps playing with her hair. She smiles at you for no apparent reason. She giggles at things that aren't really funny. She looks at you intently for a while, then looks away. She keeps touching you, leaning in close to you. These are some things to keep an eye out for.

UM: Sure, if you're one of those obsessive types who likes staring at those "Find the differences between these pictures" puzzles. But believe me, my way will save you a great deal of time and trouble. If, instead of coming on saying, "What's you name?", you'll say something a little more definite, such as, "How about we do it on this coffee table?", you won't need to waste your time pussyfooting around trying to decide if she's giggling because she likes you, or if she's been inhaling laughing gas.

AB: Well, you could do it Uncle Millie's way. The difference between his approach and my approach is the difference between a fine sander and a chain saw.

UM: The chain saw is much quicker.

AB: Indeed. And about as subtle as, well, you.

UM: I'll admit, my way has its downsides. But slapped faces and thrown drinks just come with the territory, I say.

AB: I assume he wrote in to us because he wanted to avoid those things happening to him. Your approach is about one step above clubbing women over the head and dragging them around by their hair. Any idiot can use the damn-the-torpedoes approach.

UM: I resent that. And it's not true.

AB: All right, I apologize. It takes a special kind of idiot to do it your way.

UM: With style!

Dear Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice,

My girlfriend and I have been together for three years, and I'm not sure if the relationship is worth saving. Nowadays, we fall into petty arguments over nothing of consequence on a daily basis. Where once we rushed to help each other with routine tasks, now the dishes pile up in the sink and the floors are rarely vacuumed.

We still love each other, and we have our good moments, but the thrill is gone, and I don't know if we'll ever get it back. We spend so much time bogged down in trivial fights and grudges that I'm not sure if it's worth the trouble. There's a woman I work with who's bright, vivacious and fun. I've been sorely tempted to see where that leads. But is this just a case of the-grass-is-always-greener, or is my current relationship past its prime? (I'm 28 and my girlfriend is 26, if it matters.)

Good Time Charlie in Muskegon

UM: Dump her, lad! That ship has sailed! Time to go graze on that greener grass! Start fresh! Go for the gusto!

AB: Hi, Charlie. As usual, Uncle Millie's response fails to grasp the nuance of the situation. It's natural for any long-term relationship to have its valleys, and the thrill of infatuation certainly wears off over time-

UM: You're 28! In the prime of life! Dump the ball and chain and live it up!

AB: -and once that excitement is gone, the relationship will require some work-

UM: Listen to your body! It's calling for a change!

AB: -and if you're not expecting it to require work, a sense of disappointment is natural. On the other hand-

UM: The Booty Train is leaving the station! Get on board!

AB: -if the relationship really is nothing but drudgery, there's no point in prolonging the agony simply out of a sense of duty-

UM: They're playing your song: The Horizontal Polka!

AB: -believe me, I should know.

UM: Just like tires, you need to rotate partners every 5,000 miles!

AB: Fine sander. Chain saw. You may see a theme developing here.

UM: I'll make you a copy of my Official Bikini Inspector card, lad! It really helps open doors, if you know what I mean.

AB: I wish I didn't.

Dear Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice,

I have a bit of an unusual problem. I've been seeing my girlfriend for nine months, and she's terrific. I don't have a bad thing to say about her. We've had a great time. So great, in fact, that we're planning to move in together.

There's only one small problem. My girlfriend has a cat that she likes very much. She's had it since she was a kid. But I'm allergic to pet hair, and I know I couldn't possibly live with that cat in the house. The cat is getting old and may not have long to live, but I don't want to wait, especially since I'll be miserable if the cat live for several more years. But I don't have the heart to ask my girlfriend to give it up. Every time I even hint at it, she treats me like I'm the Grinch. How should we resolve this?

Davey in Ontario

AB: Hi, Davey. Well, the most obvious thing that occurs to me is that you could wait until the cat passes away. If he or she is getting elderly anyhow, it might only be a matter of a few months or a year, particularly if the cat isn't well. On the other hand, if the cat lives to be Methuselah, you might have a problem. And do you know if your girlfriend would want another cat to replace this one when he or she goes? I think you probably should start by talking to her about this. You'll need to find a middle ground that can make you both happy.

UM: Stuffy nonsense. Why does most of your advice seem to involve talking? It's that way with all you women... you want to talk everything to death. Like those Gilmore Girls over there that Fred's so engrossed with.

What you need, as the King once said, is "a little less conversation, a little more action." The cat's getting up there in years? Perhaps you can nudge the cycle of life along a little. I'm not suggesting you tie the thing up in a sack and throw it in the river -- that's illegal in most states. But maybe if Snowball's got diabeted, you replace the insulin with, say, dishwater.

AB: Millie, that's just awful!

UM: Maybe take the kitty off to see Dr. Purrvorkian. Ha ha! Get it? Purr-vorkian? I slay me.

AB: I wish someone would. Davey, I'm not sure you and your girlfriend really understand the dimensions of the pet problem.

UM: All you need to understand are the dimensions of the shoebox you'll stuff the little furrball in after you-

AB: Enough! I will not stand for you advocating the murder of poor defenseless animals. This may be a new low even for you.

UM: You say that every week.

AB: It sure seems that way, doesn't it?

UM: Well, it sounds like Fred's little chit-chat show is done with, and so is this column.

AB: Once again, I thank Fred for his hospitality, and offer my apologies for having to put up with Uncle Millie up close like this. Do you have anything to add, Millie?

UM: Purr-vorkian... hee hee...

AB: And on that note, we're out of here.

UM: See you in a fortnight! Happy hunting!

- - - - -

Thank you, Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice, for another wild ride. They'll be back in two weeks. I'm not sure where they'll be, but I certainly hope they won't be here. (Uncle Millie: "Are you implying you don't enjoy our company, lad?" Aunt Beatrice: "Can you blame him? I wouldn't be surprised if he threw us out because of you." Uncle Millie: "In that case, we'd better re-visit the balcony while we still have the chance...")

I'm not sure what they like so much about the balcony... No matter. See you next time!

Posted by Fred at 09:20 PM | Comments (0)