Monthly Archives: February 2015

Needles In My Arm

I distinctly remember the first time the needle went into my arm. I am not talking about those pesky mandated vaccinations I was required to endure as a child. No, this time I was a consenting adult, and the needle was not going to be administered by any kind of doctor whatsoever. I never would’ve imagined, at least not a few years beforehand, that I would one day aspire to voluntarily have a needle inserted into my arm, but that is precisely what happened. I never thought I’d take such drastic measures either, like driving for an hour and a half, just to satisfy an urge, but I absolutely did. I was forced to make the trip to the big city because my modest hometown did not offer what I had been desiring.

I can recall a slight hesitation in my steps as I climbed up the stairs to the second floor of the rundown building. I was not reluctant because of what I was about to partake of, but I was somewhat worried about being in an undesirable part of town. I know it’s a pretty lame excuse, but I really hadn’t given the situation I was about to experience as much thought as I should have. I definitely had not taken into account any future consequence I might be confronted with, possibly for the rest of my life, after the often times scorned procedure was completed. I was solely fixated on the yearning I had acquired…and nothing else. As the needle pierced my flesh, for what turned out to be the first of many more times to come, it just felt right. Of course, I have been referring to my initial tattooing experience.

Soon after turning 18, I decided to have my firm body (obviously, things have changed since then) inked with the manliest of manly tattoos: a small rose. Paul Stanley, vocalist and guitarist of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll band, KISS, sported one on his arm, so clearly it was a cool thing for me to emulate. I suppose many people take to the needle after being inspired by another person, place, or thing. The rest probably get tattooed after encountering some life altering event they then deem necessary to pay homage to somewhere on their body. For me, a rose tattoo seemed like the best option when considering what the other most popular designs were “back in the day.” The other choices were a ship’s anchor, usually inked on the forearm (like Popeye), and the word, MOM, commonly inscribed on one’s bicep. I was neither a sailor man nor a mama’s boy, so I believe I made the only logical decision I could’ve at that time.

Receiving my first tattoo was initially a bit daunting; however, having my girlfriend (aka lovely wife) there by my side put my mind at least somewhat at ease. Although the tattoo artist’s appearance was unrefined, probably due to the fact he was blanketed in tattoos, he was very personable. Who was I to judge anyway especially since I was just about to get some artwork on my skin as well. There does seem to be a fine line though between artistic expression and the “freak zone.” The tattoo artist did an excellent job of explaining to me in detail what to expect during the tattooing process. More importantly the guy did not bat an eye when revealing to him that I wanted a rose tattoo on my bicep. Maybe my tattooist had mastered the art of “holding his tongue,” or possibly he just “bit his lip” to keep from laughing. Maybe he too was familiar with Paul Stanley’s ink and thought I would look cool, or perhaps he simply was a true professional in his chosen line of work.

I selected a specific style of rose from a couple of stencils the tattoo artist had on hand. He shaved off what little hair I had on my young bicep, applied some rubbing alcohol to the smooth surface, and then placed the chosen pattern onto my arm. Before I could say, “ouch!,” the gentle humming sound of the artist’s tattoo machine had encompassed the small but sanitary room. The tattooer’s tattoo machine used to be called a tattoo gun “back in the day.” That terminology is now frowned upon by not only those who enjoy surrendering to political correctness but by those working in the industry as well. Regardless, I intently watched as the tiny needles rapidly punctured my skin in one small area at a time. Every few seconds the tattooist would wipe away the seeping blood, pooling on my skin’s surface, so he could continue tracing the rose stencil on my bicep.

I’m quite certain the entire tattooing process lasted for only about 30 minutes. Being continuously pricked with needles, for about half that time, wasn’t nearly as painful as some would have you believe. The best way I know how to describe the feeling of being tattooed is also an explicitly gross way. I compare the sensation to someone picking your zits, one after another, for the duration of the procedure. I warned you my description wasn’t going to be pretty. At least I didn’t mention oozing pus. I left the big city completely gratified with the $35 addition to my body. My urge had been fulfilled, and I no longer desired the needle…until the next time.


My Valentine

I first laid eyes on my valentine (aka lovely wife) when she was a sophomore and I was a junior in high school. I saw her across a crowded room (actually, a gymnasium) while attending a girls’ Varsity basketball game. I just happened to notice her sitting in the upper balcony, amongst a few familiar faces also of the female persuasion, and I was instantly smitten with her. I could not take my eyes off of the “new girl,” and at that moment I became oblivious to anything that may or may not have been happening on the basketball court right in front of me. My future valentine was absolutely stunning from what I could surmise from that distance.

I could tell she possessed a nice figure, an alluring smile, and long, feathered auburn hair. When she initially stood up she appeared to be somewhat statuesque although upon further investigation I concluded her tall stature was at least partly due to the fashionable hiking boots she was wearing. She definitely seemed hip to the times: sporting a pink Izod shirt with a white sweatshirt draped over her shoulders and tied loosely around her tan neck. I wanted to meet her, but before I knew it the game was over, and the intoxicating young woman was gone. However, that did not stop me from thinking about her every now and then.

A couple of months later a good friend of mine, I had not been hanging out with for a while, invited me and a few others to play a game of basketball outdoors at the junior high school. When I arrived the “girl of my dreams” was leisurely playing a game of one on one, in a flirtatious manner, against my friend. I found out that day how she looked in a pair of shorts, and I certainly was impressed. It quickly occurred to me why I hadn’t seen my long lost friend for quite some time. I too had been guilty of dropping my buddies, like lead balloons, in pursuit of female companionship although I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth I missed that one. In any event, now being so close to this brown-eyed girl my suspicions were confirmed: She truly was ravishing. I did not see my future valentine very often, while she was dating my friend, except when occasionally bumping into her in the hallways of the high school.

I vividly remember her coming up to me at some point and running her fingers through my hair. I had just gotten a perm from my mother’s hairdresser, and I guess she wanted to acknowledge the fact that my hair was different. I was not an expert at being able to decipher a woman’s signals, at the tender age of seventeen (or any time since then for that matter), but I thought surely some physical contact from the opposite sex, regardless of how minor, was an encouraging sign. Therefore, when her boyfriend foolishly broke up with her, during the summer of 1983, I did not hesitate to move in for the kill. I did have other options, not to toot my own horn, because at least two other girls were chasing me at the time, but I was not about to let the opportunity for pursuing the “girl of my dreams” pass me by. Alright, I suppose I was tooting my own horn a bit.

In no time I was dating the brown-eyed beauty although it did not come without a few challenges. Two weeks into our relationship my valentine’s ex-boyfriend came to his senses and tried wooing her back. He sent her a fancy, heart-shaped record, of some mushy love song, which he had addressed to her from him on the record’s sleeve. My valentine must’ve already fallen hard and fast for me by that time (and why wouldn’t she have) because she voluntarily showed me the unique present she had received from her ex. She assured me she no longer had any interest in him, so I promptly returned the sweet gift, now broken into many tiny pieces, and I re-labeled the sleeve to him from me. I assume the message was received loud and clear since my valentine did not hear from him again. My girlfriend’s loyalty to me, after only a short amount of time, was extremely refreshing.

If truth be told, I probably fell much harder and faster for my valentine than she fell for me. Cupid’s aim was undeniably perfect. His arrow successfully pierced the bulls-eye on my chest, and I knew in my heart shortly after we met that there would be no turning back. I remember our first summer together when she had to go on a family vacation to Tennessee. I cannot recall if she left for a week, ten days, or two weeks, but it might as well have been a million years because it seemed like an eternity to me. In hindsight, it was either very romantic or quite sickening how miserable I was while she was away. My heart ached the entire time she was gone. I wrote my newfound love numerous letters to keep myself somewhat occupied during her absence, and I’m embarrassed to admit I got teary-eyed every time I heard a love song being played on the radio. To this day, I immediately think of my lovely wife, and the loneliness I felt being apart from her, whenever I hear the love ballads “Faithfully” by Journey and “Don’t Let It End” by Styx.

Our courtship was probably not what most people would refer to as exciting, but it did seem to fit our simple nature to a tee. When my valentine and I first began dating I was working very part time (5 hours a week) as a janitor at a small office building. Thank goodness she wasn’t the diva princess type or we would’ve been doomed from the start. My wages were just enough to cover the cost of our weekly date night out consisting of dinner at Giovanni’s Family Restaurant before catching a movie at the Capitol Theatre. Our regular waiter at Giovanni’s, J.R., knew our order by heart: a small taco pizza with a dish of sour cream, an order of french-fries with parmesan cheese sprinkled over the ketchup, and a pitcher of pop. Of course, we eventually replaced the pitcher of pop with a pitcher of Michelob Light once we both reached Iowa’s legal drinking age. It was nineteen back then.

After I hit the big-time, landing a job at McDonald’s, I was then able to treat my lady to a night on the town more often and provide her with the more finer things in life. That’s right. I could now afford concert tickets to the likes of Bon Jovi, Poison, and Motley Crue, and I could also buy my valentine better gifts throughout the year. We spent the remainder of our dating years renting VHS movies (Beta was for losers), picnicking at Mariposa Park (sunbathing included), and hanging out with the McDonald’s gang. However, most of our evenings were spent on my bed engaging in countless exhilarating games of rummy. No, rummy is not a euphemism for something else. In fact, the door to my bedroom was always to remain open, for my parents’ peace of mind, whenever my girlfriend came over.

My valentine and I were practically inseparable, spending every waking hour together, with only school and the occasional after school activities (E.g. baseball and pacesetters) keeping us apart from one another. We even worked side by side at McDonald’s for a time. Surely, we didn’t spend too much time in each others company. I would be amiss not mentioning that we did have numerous breakups along the way, but the majority of them only lasted a day or two. Ahh…young love. Jealousy, immaturity, and the lack of communication. I’m not positive where, or even how, a marriage proposal transpired, but it must have nonetheless. The peculiar thing about having the same valentine for so long is that the years and the memories tend to bleed together, and some of the details of momentous events seem to get lost along the way.

I do remember my mother suggesting I should either propose to the “girl of my dreams” or let her go so she could pursue other options. My mother thought dating someone for over three years was plenty of time to have already figured it out concerning the future. I don’t know whether I seriously pondered my mother’s words at that time or not, but we did get married the very next summer. Regardless of not knowing the specifics, leading up to our engagement, it doesn’t really matter now because as they say, “the rest is history.” Only by the grace of God, and my wife’s willingness to overlook my selfish ways during our courtship and early years of marriage, have we been able to endure for all these years. I’m simply one of those guys who was fortunate enough to “marry up.” I know I have truly been blessed beyond belief. This February 14th, will mark the 32nd consecutive time I’ve had the pleasure of having the same valentine on Valentine’s Day…if she’ll once again say yes.


Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

I did not watch any of this year’s Super Bore (I mean Super Bowl) as promised in my previous blog. However, I have since seen the majority of the commercials initially aired during Super Bowl 49 (I knew I would), and of course I have now seen the play (numerous times) that everyone is still talking about. The Super Bowl appears to be lingering in the minds of many as there has been much criticism over a particular play called by the Seattle Seahawks’ offense during the waning moments of the championship game. The Seahawks elected to pass the ball on 2nd and goal from the 1 yard line instead of handing the ball off to their talented running back, Marshawn Lynch. The quick pass was intercepted by the New England Patriots’ defense which ended Seattle’s final offensive possession along with their hopes of winning the game.

Those questioning the decision of passing the football instead of running it, under those circumstances, includes football analyst, Jesse Palmer. The ex-NFL backup quarterback and former contestant on the reality television show, The Bachelor, seems to think that specific play call was the worst in Super Bowl history. The still single, 36 year-old would be better off expending some more time and energy on finding a mate rather than jumping on the “haters'” bandwagon and fostering such nonsense. Once again, I feel that it’s left up to me to be the voice of reason, amongst a sea of bandwagon jumpers, and explore the other side of the controversial call. I think I am the perfect person to look at this situation objectively since I would have preferred both teams losing Super Bowl 49, if that were at all possible, but I don’t think a game of that magnitude can even end in a tie.

The truth as I know it is the play sent in to the huddle from the Seahawks’ sideline, whether approved by the offensive coordinator or the head coach himself, was not a bad call whatsoever. In fact, if that play would have resulted in a touchdown (as intended) I’m positive most of those “armchair quarterbacks” doing all of the complaining and second guessing would instead be using such adjectives as ingenious and brilliant in describing that particular play. Whether the play was successful or not really isn’t the point. The play called by Seattle on 2nd and goal was a good one. It just wasn’t executed properly, and that’s very unfortunate for the Seattle Seahawks and their fans. The sport of football can literally be a game of inches as was quite evident in this year’s Super Bowl.

In many instances a football game will generate an array of shoulda, coulda, woulda comments by the time the last whistle blows. Maybe Seahawks’ quarterback, Russell Wilson, woulda been better off not trying to force the ball into the hands of the receiver. Perhaps he coulda spyed a more open player on the field if he woulda just held on to the ball a little longer or if he had looked a little harder. Maybe the quarterback shoulda taken advantage of his God-given athleticism and tried to scramble into the end zone himself, or perhaps he simply shoulda thrown the football out of bounds to allow for his team to regroup and set up for another play. The consensus seems to be, amongst the naysayers, that Seattle running back, Marshawn Lynch, shoulda been called upon when the team was so close to the goal line.

I can’t entirely disagree with that assessment because Marshawn Lynch is a beast! That, by the way, is a good thing in football. He undoubtedly runs with authority and surely coulda scored the winning touchdown, in the League’s most coveted game, if only given the opportunity. Maybe. Maybe not. Common sense tells me if the majority of sports analysts, football fans, “Monday morning quarterbacks,” and everybody else and their mothers, thought Marshawn Lynch shoulda been the player getting the football in that situation then most-assuredly the Patriots were also aware of that probability, and in all likelihood their defense would’ve been prepared for precisely that. I would think when a defense is solely focused on stopping a certain player, and indeed that player gets the ball, then the chances of him either fumbling or being tackled for a loss significantly increases.

I have seen many, many, many NFL games in my lifetime and a number of them materialize into pretty much the same scenario as what transpired at the end of this year’s Super Bowl. Numerous times I’ve witnessed an offense, near the goal line, hand the ball off to their running back, sometimes four times in a row, and many times they find their efforts resulting in only a field goal attempt or losing possession on loss of downs. Marshawn Lynch may or may not have scored the winning touchdown, if given the last opportunity, in Super Bowl 49. We will never know. I just hope if New England’s Head Coach, Bill Belichick, or any of the Patriots’ players are found guilty of deflating footballs this past season, after the NFL’s so-called “Deflategate” investigation, that their Super Bowl win will be deemed null and void. If not, I will be disappointed and feel somewhat misled if the adage, “cheaters never win and winners never cheat,” does not ring true.