My first and last pair of Velcro shoes

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I was an avid watcher of Saturday morning cartoons. As a kid, I threw a party every Saturday and all of my stuffed animals attended. Being an only child, I had did a fine job keeping myself occupied. I would place them neatly on the couch, which always ended up an unruly pile, and we hunkered down for the morning.

I pretended to feed my guests dry cereal while I ate it like popcorn. Sometimes, I would drink what remained in a can of flat diet Pepsi from the previous evening.

The agenda evolved over the years, but included shows like Super Friends, Scooby Doo, Looney Toons, Smurfs and, toward the end of the era, Gummi Bears. All I ever wanted was a potion bottle full of Gummi Berry juice.

The cartoons lasted for years after the stuff animal parties, but a few of the party-goers still reside with me today, such as the mongoose puppet, a Smurf puppet, Dopey (the dwarf), and the remains of a cloth face from a Raggedy Andy I received when I was born. Add that to the list of things my dogs tore to shreds. I kept the face for some reason, the most in-tact part from the atrocity.

In addition to dry cereal and flat pop, I consumed advertising like air. I still do. I love it. To this day, I can recite more product jingles, PSA’s, and School House Rock anthems than I can count. Thanks to YouTube I can summon, within seconds, my favorite ones and geek out in a completely nostalgic way. Monchichi, anyone?

Over time, advertisements included Velcro shoes convincing me, naturally, that I desperately needed Velcro shoes! Brands such as Zips and KangaROOS, which had a zipper pocket along the side, became so important to have. I wanted them and, eventually, my dad bought me a pair.

Mind you, my parents weren’t as swayed by what was popular. They were practical. The brand I received was Brooks. Still, I was excited. They were Velcro and I proudly wore them to school the next day.

The bell rang for recess and I was on the playground showing off my new shoes. It didn’t take long for a couple kids to take all of the wind out of my sail.

First, I was informed that my shoes weren’t as cool as Zips. I fell down a peg but, in all honesty, I agreed.

Then, they pointed out that they didn’t have a pocket. Ok fine, they didn’t have a zipper pouch which, quite frankly, was a useless gimmick anyway. I wasn’t even carrying around a house key at the time.

NotabullyBefore I could even muster an attempt and pointing out the coolest feature, the teasing about the Velcro started.

“Travis, don’t you know how to tie shoes? You need Velcro because you can’t tie shoes!”

It was official; I was at the bottom of the peg board that I was never able to climb anyway.

In that exact moment, all I knew was that my shoes weren’t on TV and they said I couldn’t tie shoes. The damage was done.

I was defeated and angry. Why couldn’t I have the shoes on TV? I felt stupid and uncool. My dad screwed up! How could he do this to me?

While waiting for my dad to pick me up after school, I noticed an ankle-deep mixture of mud and muddy water. It was the kind of marshy, squishy, stinky stuff that breeds bad ideas and billions of mosquito larvae in Alaska. I jumped in.

When my dad arrived, it wasn’t clear what color or kind of shoes were on my feet. Make fun of me now, assholes!

I hopped in the truck. “What’s going on with your shoes?” he asked.

“I hate them! You bought the wrong kind!” I said.

I was so mad at my dad for what those kids said to me. I could see his disappointment in me and my reaction to the entire situation. I was being a mean twerp, just as those kids were to me, instead of being grateful for my dad working hard to provide for me. Thankfully, he didn’t cease, but I can say he never provided me with another pair of Velcro shoes.

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My early theory on aerodynamics

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I wasn’t much different than most kids in the fact that I thought I knew everything. 

GradesfortokensIt didn’t matter what grades were reflected on my report cards. After sixth grade, I stopped redeeming good grades for game tokens at Chuck E. Cheese so what was the point?

Despite whatever cerebral short coming I was experiencing, I would fight tooth and nail to defend anything that sounded right because, you know, common sense. That, or I just couldn’t handle the fact that I felt that my stepmom felt that she knew everything.

Naturally, when I professed my theory about aerodynamics and speed limits from the backseat of the truck, my stepmom tried to correct me.

That day, I was playing in a hockey tournament. Between games, we shot over to McDonald’s. We hopped in my dad’s truck – a Ford F150 super cab, something big and bulky. My coach, who happened to be my uncle, also went to McDonald’s in his car – a Mazda RX-7.

I was fascinated by my uncle’s car. It was so cool, so sleek, and so modern. That thing cut through the air like a knife.

We hit the highway, briefly. My dad, ever the careful driver, maintained the posted speed limit – 55 MPH. The RX-7, on the other hand, zipped past.

MoreridiculousAlways pointing out wrongdoings, my stepmom said, “Art’s going pretty fast.”

“No he’s not,” I said, in a matter-of-fact tone, from the backseat.

“Yes he is, Travis,” she said. “Your father is driving 55 and Art just passed us driving faster.”

She had it all wrong.

“He’s not speeding,” I persisted. “His car is going faster because of aerodynamics. He’s going 55.”

This might have been the moment I shot down any hope my dad had for me to be an engineer. He was a land surveyor with a strong math background. He was pretty quiet during this exchange. He let Alice take the battle.

“No, Travis, the shape of the car doesn’t matter,” she explained. “55 miles per hour is 55 miles per hour. He would be next to us, not in front of us.”

What does she know? She didn’t even go to college.

“You don’t understand,” I told her. “Both engines are going 55, but his car is more aerodynamic and it moves through the air faster.” Makes perfect sense.

Exhausted by me, the front seat nodded, pretending to finally get it.

Calculatorincollege
My first text messages in 1992

I wouldn’t buy it. I was convinced that, because of aerodynamics, my uncle could travel faster than us while driving at the same speed. I had no intentions of letting it go and they knew it. I was right and that’s all that mattered.

Needless to say, I never made it beyond intermediate Algebra in high school. In 1992, at college, I had one of those impressive Texas Instruments TI-85 calculators. My friend and I would type messages and pass the calculator back and forth in class. Texting pioneers.

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A recruiter said the best thing to me earlier this year

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I knew what was coming before she said it. We were talking about social media and job hunts.

She said, “If you have Facebook, make sure it’s locked down with privacy. Maybe even consider getting rid of it while you look for a new position.

DEACTIVATEFACE
To that I said, “Yes, I have Facebook, the privacy is locked down. I’m not concerned.”

She added, “If you have Twitter, I’d consider deactivating it.”

DEACTIVATETWIT

“That’s not a problem,” I said. “I have had an account for two years, but I’ve never sent a single tweet.”

“Good,” she said. “I’ve seen your LinkedIn and it needs some work. You need a better picture, you need to have a better summary, and you need a general overhaul on how you are selling yourself.”

I agreed, of course. This was my first interview since my early twenties so LinkedIn was never a focus.

Then, she conducted a brief mock interview. I had mediocre answers, at best, and I knew it. Clearly, I needed coaching and she was ready to sign me up.

After the meeting, I thought about her comments regarding social media and decided that they didn’t apply to me.

A few weeks later, a friend of mine tagged me in a picture on Facebook. In the picture, we were simply being goofy, making distorted faces, looking immature, and having fun.

I saw the picture and panicked. I was applying for jobs! I removed the tag as quickly as I could. I told her I couldn’t have that out there for people to see even though there was nothing bad about it.

I was uncomfortable with my reaction to a silly picture and that didn’t sit well with me.

SeenBadThings

What was I so afraid of? A potential employer seeing a goofy picture and not hiring me? Does that really happen? I’ve heard that it does. I’ve read that it does. I don’t know anyone, personally, that it’s happened to. I wouldn’t want to work for someone who did that.

Then it hit me. This is my problem. I am overly cautious about social media. That feeling, alone, has prevented me from exploring things that are interesting to me. Things that actually get me thinking and excited. Taking risks, abandoning the familiar and doing things like putting this thought out there for people to relate to or the other things I’ve been writing about.

The recruiter made me start to think about my line between personal and professional social networking. I’m clearing the barriers I put in my own way.

So, what did I do? I went in the opposite direction. I started a blog.

I want to be more active on social media. I want to make new connections and start taking risks. I want to share my thoughts and stories to whoever is interested to read them.

I’m working to discover opportunities that are more creative and aligned with other interests of mine that I’m ready to explore. Maybe I’ll luck out and find a true passion, all while keeping my social media activated.

I’m still not a bonehead. I know which thoughts and stories would get me in trouble. I will say they were very gratifying to write! That’s something I’ve learned through this process. Write for yourself. It is the best therapy.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2019
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What Makes Cats so Great?

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CatsWhataretheyGoodforA while ago, I was talking to a friend who, along with his wife, own four cats and a dog.

Hanging out one night we had the age old debate – owning cats versus dogs.

I asked what the hell cats were even good for?

He replied, “Good question.” That was his answer, not hers. He has severe cat allergies so that’s how much he loves her.

Despite having four cats, their dog runs the house and reaps many benefits the felines don’t. When they come over, the dog is usually with them. He eats better than most humans, and has traveled more by plane than some people do in a lifetime.

The cats? They just chill. They hide when they want. They are seen when they want. They are absent, yet there. They eat. I’ve seen them all, but I couldn’t tell you what colors they are or which is which.

Maybe that says more about me than the cats, but they are so stand-offish. Plus, they’ve never come over.

Those are neutral things about cats, but I wanted to know what about cats really make them great.

Then, I realized a very important thing about dogs that I never really hear about cats.

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

Dog owners make major concessions for the surprises we walk into due to the naughty behavior of our canine friends.

Mine have peed on strangers laying down in parks. They’ve peed in my bed. They snoop and counter surf when I’m not home. They’ve destroyed more garbage cans than I can count, along with clothes, shoes, bedding, glasses, dishes, pillows, and furniture for example. After all this, you better believe I’ll get another dog in this lifetime. That’s how great they are.

Exhibit B
Exhibit B

Back to the question, “What are cats good for?” It’s simple. Cats are great for what they don’t do. I’m sure there are other redeeming qualities that make up for cats shitting inside, but case and point in Exhibits A and B.

If I weren’t so incredibly allergic to them, I like to think I would love cats. From the outside, they seem pretty easy.

If you told me that, in reality, cats rule the roost when owners go away and stand guard while dogs lay quietly, not destroying anything, I might challenge my allergy next time I get a puppy.

 

 

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What I didn’t consider when naming my dog Marco

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I love dogs. I’m a dog person through and through.  I love them so much that mine did this to me and they still make my life exponentially better.

Along with dogs come certain guarantees. A few that come to mind are unconditional love, memories for life, occasional bad behavior, inevitable heartbreak, and ATTENTION. They want it and they get it. From you, from everybody. While you may not be comfortable walking up and sniffing someone’s crotch before you’ve made eye contact, guess what? Dogs have no qualms about it. You learn how to deal with those interactions, particularly in elevators, where they are a little more awkward. Elevators are like traps and less voluntary.

When walking a dog, expect a lot of attention. And I mean a lot. You’re bound to meet at least one person every time you walk a dog.

MarcoNotAmusedbyPolo_Small
This is Marco

When you do, they are bound to ask your dogs name. And, if you tell them your dog’s name is Marco, there’s a more than high probability that they will, almost instantly, say “POLO!”

I’ll give you an example.

Random stranger, “Is he friendly?”

Me, “Yes, he sure is.”

Random stranger, “Cool, can I pet him? What’s his name?

Me, “Absolutely, this is Marco.”

Random stranger, “POLO!”

The first time I might have laughed. As I it became expected and predictable, it became less and less amusing. Eventually, I would only be able to lift my head enough to smirk and a nod as people added, “You probably hear that all the time.” Continued nod.

It’s similar to when I tell people I am from Alaska. Naturally, they asked if I lived in an igloo or say something about daylight or darkness. After 2008, Palin became the new igloo. No, I don’t live in an igloo and no, I don’t know Sarah.

After over 13 years with Marco, I expect people to say ‘Polo’ after I introduce him. Even Marco understands the joke. Some of them even know they are about to say something completely unoriginal, yet they still say it. We’re all guilty.

It's natural to immediately migrate to the obvious. It's hard not to.
It’s natural to migrate, immediately, to the obvious. It’s hard not to.

If you want to be original, I’ll tell you what I’ve never heard. Nobody has ever referred to the original inspiration of his name. No random stranger has ever blurted out, “ISLAND!”

As in, Marco Island, Florida. Not Marco Polo. Next time you encounter someone with a dog named Marco, throw them off.

If you already have a dog named Marco (like me) and meet someone with a dog named Marco, (I have) hold out until the other brings it up. Yes, they have heard it before. A rhetorical question is a lame conversation starter.

Regardless, dogs are awesome and this isn’t a situation unique to Marco. There are probably millions of predictable interactions occurring every hour of every day.

NorthandSouth_Small

I’m guilty of it too. My friends have a dog named Dakota. Dakota has gotten brave since moving to the desert and discovered he likes surfing on foam pool pads.

Dakota’s family just moved into a new house that has a pool. So, I gave him one. Apparently he loves it! His parents sent me a pic!

I sent them this.

 

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