The Gift of Sound

My parents had gotten a new TV before Thanksgiving. Paired with their DIRECTV and Bose sound system this should have been an exciting time in their lives. However at some point the sound quality deteriorated severely. My parents found themselves cranking the volume up all the way just to be able to barely hear it.

Though it was extremely frustrating it was a reality they had come to accept. And that was sad because my parents don’t hear as well as they used to. After working all of their lives they finally retired and have a beautiful huge television with great sound but now… no sound.

However when my sister visited for Thanksgiving we were not satisfied. We saw not only the opportunity to correct the issue, but also an idea for a great holiday gift.

Now I know as much as about electronics as I do about cars. Which is to say I know nothing about electronics. So I went online and started doing research. The research I did pointed to some inexpensive speakers that would work with what my parents had.

Jump to Christmas Eve when my electronically clueless sister and electronically clueless self walked into a big box electronic store to find what we were looking for. After two minutes of talking to the guy there I learned two things.

  1. 1. I was an idiot.
  2. 2. We needed to by them a stereo tuner and not just speakers.

As these things go the guy said he had ONE stereo tuner in the back that happened to be on sale.

Isn’t that always the case? There’s always just one, and it’s in the back. Like the sales person has to get on a camel and trek 5 miles through the Mohave to get to the back of the store.

It’s never: Yes I have one left and… it’s right here!

But my sister and I are know nothing and it is a really good deal, so we purchased it. The nice guy at the store gives us his card and tells us that when my parents need to come back and purchase the speakers later on, to come back and see him.

We readily comply.

Christmas morning comes and we give the stereo tuner to my parents and they open it up excitedly.

This will make things better!

We say.

You will be able to hear the TV now!

We honestly believe.

Christmas passes, as does the following day. And sure enough it is soon time to install the stereo tuner. So I sit down one morning and begin the process. It starts off easy enough.

I open the box. I take out all of the items. I move the box to the side.

And that’s when things started to go downhill.

The first problem I encountered was the fact that the cords that connect the TV, to the DIRECTV box to the DVD player to the BOSE speakers are all only long enough to just barely make the connections without any slack.

So in order to actually move or unplug anything, I have to get a flashlight and contort my gangly body into the entertainment center. One might think 6 months of yoga would have helped with this, but no, not at all.

Within no time, the normally organized living room looked like this.


Also keep in mind while everything is connected at this point, nothing is actually working. The TV is on but there is no sound, the tuner turns on but it’s not doing anything, and the red light on the Bose speakers just glares at me like the Eye of Sauron.


So that’s when I give up on the instruction booklet, which has a lot of pictures like this:


A picture like that means nothing to me. It could have been the back of a toaster over and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

And I want to be clear I tried to follow the instructions, I really did. But after I followed the instructions and didn’t get it to work the first time, I knew I was screwed. So I just started plugging every cord into every hole in every machine in the living room. If you had told me to run the microwave while putting my tongue in the DVD player I would have tried it.

Nothing worked.

So I took to the Internet.

Bad idea.

I don’t know how to fix what isn’t working because I don’t even know what’s wrong. So I’m googling things like…

How come this isn’t working when I plug the red thing into the red hole?

Or I’ll just write the name of every product I am trying to connect and put a question mark at the end. And believe it or not that’s when I started to find answers.

Meanwhile, at this point it has now been two days since I took apart the living room. The discussions between my parents and I have elevated in intensity as none of us knows what’s wrong.

My dad wants it to work. My mom wants us to just return the thing. And I can't bare to face the guy at the store business card I got, too embarrassed to admit that I’m a technical moron and maybe I should have just bought my dad a book.

After reading multiple sites and comment boards I finally come across a picture of the Bose system my parents have with a remote control. I ask my parents if they have a remote control.

No.

I don’t think so.

Let me check.

At this point I’m spiraling down a hole of self-doubt and regret as I anticipate the conversations I will have with my friends after I return home. 

Hey rich what did you get your parents for Christmas? 
Oh three small fights, an old remote control scavenger hunt and hypertension.

Twenty minutes later we have found a lost remote control with dead batteries. After we change the batteries I press the power button the little red light suddenly turns green. Their original speakers work! The sound is perfect!

They didn’t need a stereo tuner, or new speakers, or a trip to best buy… all they needed was to turn their speakers on.

It wasn't their fault, heck, none of us knew what was going on. But maybe buying them new things isn't the way to go. Maybe next year I will just find something around that house that doesn’t work and fix it.

Or at least... turn it on. 

Last Christmas I Gave You My Patriotism

Music has a tremendous power over us as human beings. Certain songs can make us happy or sad or a host of other emotions. But for me, no music is more stirring than Christmas music. It puts me in a warm and fuzzy mood. And it distinctly reminds me of December afternoons of my childhood. My sister and I would come home from school and dance around the living room "choreographing" moves to go along with the Nutcracker Suite.

Aside from Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" (which I could listen to every single day on repeat without getting sick of... seriously, I love that song) my favorite songs are the ones I find on my parents old records. I even bought a record player just so I could fill my apartment with the crackle and pop of Mr. Johnny Mathis on the turntable.

Granted I only have about 6 Christmas records (I don't count "The Care Bears Christmas" or "Christmas With The Chipmunks Volume 2" as part of my collection) so I listen to the same songs pretty frequently. And I've noticed something strange about what people considered holiday music 30+ years ago.

For instance, I have two different albums entitled "Christmas America" (I have no idea why they made 2) from 1974. And on these albums there are compilations that include:

God Bless Our Native Land
My Country, Tis of Thee
Star Spangled Banner
Battle Hymn of the Republic
America the Beautiful
America (My Country Tis of Thee)

Now I have nothing against America (I live here) but there is nothing about decorating a tree with ribbon and ornaments that makes me want to burst into the National Anthem.

Maybe I'm kind of misguided, but patriotism and Christmas have just never gone hand in hand for me. When my friends and I regularly get together to discuss the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph we rarely bring up the birth of our nation.

"You know what Frankincense and Myrrh remind me of? The rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air!"

But those patriotic songs don't really bother me. Christmas music is Christmas music wherever and whenever you are. But there is a more modern song that doesn't appear on my records that really gets to me. Like I said, I like most songs, but this particular song makes me so angry that when it comes on I want to shove a Christmas tree in each of my ears.

It is a song that, for some ungodly reason, gets a ton of radio play and has been covered by other bands as well.

That song is none other than "Last Christmas" by Wham! For me, this song is quite possibly the most depressing, annoying Christmas song that exists. I don't expect you to feel the same way I do. But I will now point out some of my issues with the lyrics of this song. We will start at the beginning.

Last Christmas
I gave you my heart

You gave her your heart? What are you 12? Did you also tie it up with string and attach a note to it before you put it in her locker? Who even says that? I gave you my heart. Did you also plan to give her your flower?

But the very next day you gave it away.

Well, did you ever stop to think maybe your heart was defective, or maybe it was a crappy heart? That's why I give shit away. Maybe this girl felt the same way. People regift things sometimes. Get over it.

This year
To save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special

Seriously? Are you still giving your heart to people? But aside from that you are really getting profound on me. So you didn't think this girl was special when you gave her your heart? Why on earth did you give it to her for, moron? You're so dumb it's no wonder you gave away such a crappy heart.

Once bitten and twice shy.

Once bitten and twice shy? What is this, A True Blood Christmas? Here's a hot tip for you songwriter of the year, if you are looking for a romantic verse to slip into a song, girls rarely fall for lines about biting. That just doesn't put them in a great holiday mood.

I keep my distance.

Good. Creep.

But you still catch my eye
Tell me baby
Do you recognize me?

Why do you care? You already said this person is not special. Why do you care if a not-special person doesn't recognize you? Why? Do you have some other crappy thing you want to give them?

Well
It's been a year
It doesn't surprise me
I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying "I love you"
I meant it

So basically it's been a year since you decided to give your heart to a not special person and since nothing happened you thought it was a good idea to contact them again and your opening line was "I love you?" Really?

Perhaps you are thinking at this point that I am being a bit of a scrooge about this song. And maybe I am. But I am not an overall scrooge. For some reason this song just irks me. I know Christmas isn't the most favorite time of year for everybody. But listening to Wham bemoan their Christmas woes does not put me in any kind of mood other than "stabby."

I guess I am just more of a traditional guy when it comes to Christmas. I like songs about the magic of winter, the joy and rapture that comes from singing carols around the fire, and of course, bombs bursting in air.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Cookie Cookie Cookie Starts with Me

I am going to miss my metabolism.

Now granted I am 25 years old, in great health, good medical test scores, low cholesterol, healthy waist line, and no reason to worry. But I am well aware that my days of eating anything I want, whenever I want, as often as I want are numbered. And when my day of reckoning comes, my waistline is going to blow up like a peep in a microwave.

I wouldn't be worried if I didn't eat so damn much. I must eat, all the time. It's not that I am a compulsive eater. But I have a problem not putting food in my mouth. If a Mexican fairy came into my home and put down a bowl of infinite tortilla chips and salsa in front of me, I would eat it until my internal organs leaked tomatoes, and flooded my belly with deliciousness.

I don't have a shut off valve. Take bread for example. If a restaurant provides a basket of bread for a pre-meal snack, I do not think of it as a way to stave off hunger. No, my goal is to eat as much of that bread as I can.

Especially if I am working out at the time (I'm really into fitness) I eat like a maniac. My largest expense every month is food. When I go grocery shopping I have so many bags I feel like the person ringing me up will ask, "Excuse me sir but is anyone else from the orphanage coming to help you carry these bags?"

I eat healthy during the week, but sometimes I slip.

One weekend not too long ago, I woke up, had some Bruff Cakes for breakfast (Bruff Cakes, for those of you who do not know, are brownies made in a muffin pan and then finished off with frosting to take on the best characteristics of brownies, muffins, and cupcakes), which I followed up with 2 bagels with cream cheese. Then for dinner I had a small pizza (thin crust) with a Caesar salad on TOP of it, and then I chased that with an ungodly amount of ice cream from Cold Stone.

Had I been running a marathon the next day, this might have been a wise menu choice. But my athletic activity for that Monday was staring at a computer screen for 8 hours.

I visited my parents' in South Carolina for Thanksgiving. I of course got to stuff my face with all the food I'm too incompetent to cook on my own. And I started shoving my hand in the cookie jar every hour. I ate like I was on the Fatkins Diet. Or maybe the South Beached Whale Diet.

This past Christmas weekend involved another trip to the parents', which meant more eating of sweets. I was in the HOV lane on the obesity highway and I didn't even mind. I walked into my parents' home to see not 1, but 6 plates of Christmas cookies sitting on the dining room table. It looked as though we were getting ready to distribute treats to everyone in town. But no, they were just for our family Christmas.

We have four people in our family.

So I did what any normal 25 year old with a healthy metabolism does. I started eating 13 cookies a day. Not just as dessert. I would have a couple after breakfast. Some after lunch, and then a sensible dinner.

That's actually a lie, I ate a cookie every time I walked by them. My logic goes like this, if 1 of something tastes good, then a 100 of something must taste even better.

The piles of cookies were so high, it seemed I had barely made a dent. So I rationalized I hadn't eaten that many cookies. And the cookies were so frigging tasty.

I was like a crack addict. If I had gone too long without a cookie I started twitching and my skin started to itch. Cookies dipped in chocolate, then rolled in sprinkles and crushed up Andes Mints? I mean come on! After a while I didn't even taste them. I just wanted to inject them into my blood stream so I could pass out on the floor in a cookie coma.

I never have to worry about a problem like this at home, because I will never walk into a store and buy 400 cookies. I will never walk past a truckload of cookies sitting on my dining room table. I don't have a dining room table, or a dining room... I don't even have a table. But if YOU have a table full of cookies, yea I'm going to eat them.

My mother bought me some pants for Christmas, that when I tried them on Christmas morning, fit perfectly. When I tried them on again 3 days (and innumerable cookies) later, I fully expected to need one of those button extenders so that my pants would close. Amazingly they fit.

In order to battle the fear of my impending obesity I went for a jog. It was like trying to drive a car with a gas tank full of Pepsi. My system was so full of cookies I was downright lethargic. I felt like I had a wagon full of fat 12 year-olds strapped to my waist.

The holidays are almost over now, and I refused to take any cookies home with me back to New York. I have no need for them. I am not making any New Year's resolutions about cookies or fitness or anything. But I am making a goal to not do so much binging when it comes to cookies.

That is of course until I go and visit my parents in April, because that's when we make Easter cookies, and then I'll really do some damage. It's round 3 in Cookies versus Metabolism. It's going to be epic.

Midnight Madness

Black Friday has always been, in my family, a chance to make fun of people who are so obsessed with finding a deal, that the laws of rational behavior no longer apply to them. After eating enough turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cornbread, apple pie, ice cream, and cookies, to fill up a small barn, I usually like to lie down on the couch and sleep until Christmas when I will wake up and promptly do it again.
But some people in America, lets say a couple million, find it necessary to wake up at the very butt crack of dawn, stand on line in freezing cold weather, so they can get 92% off a cashmere hat and scarf set. I even made fun of my dad when he went to Sports Authority 2 thanksgivings ago to purchase a $99 set of golf clubs of which the 6 iron snapped in half like a pretzel rod the second time I used it.
Sure I love a bargain; I would sleep in the changing room of the Banana Republic outlet if I could. But I have my limits. I won’t battle screaming hordes, I will not rise before the sun, and I will not wait on outrageous lines.

So I was more than a little confused when I found myself standing next to my sister at 11:57 pm Thanksgiving night waiting for the J.Crew outlet to open. How had I gone from distributor of sarcastic remarks and condescension, to active nutcase and midnight shopper? What the hell happened?
I lost my damn mind is what happened.
The clever email advertising got me hook line and sinker. The idea of an extra 50 percent off made me giddy. I literally had to have my sister tell me what I didn’t need from the items I was holding when we got to checkout. I get so greedy at these sales.

J. Crew also had a woman whose sole job was to be the greeter. I can’t think of a single human being (aside from maybe a hooker or a crack dealer) who would be happy to see a line of people trying to get into their store at 1 a.m. It takes a special kind of person to be the greeter. If they had made me the greeter, every person that walked in the door would have received this tasty zinger;
“Go home moron face!”
Perhaps greeting is not for me.
While waiting on the epic line I started doing a little dance to the music to keep myself from falling asleep standing up. My sister looked at me and said, “Don’t dance you look silly.”
Really? I am standing in J.Crew on a 60 person line at one o’clock in the morning holding a hundred dollars of merchandise for myself… what dignity am I clinging to at this point?
The woman behind me started laughing. She too saw the ridiculousness of the situation.
She mentions she is having so much trouble finding something for her husband. I looked down at my arms, loaded up with over 100 dollars of merchandise… for myself, and realized just how selfish I was. Not only was I ridiculous, now I had guilt to deal with as well.
I was bargain hunting for myself, in the middle of nowhere South Carolina, with a bunch of school children from Savannah who had showed up 6 hours early to wait for the Abercrombie Store and Hollister stores to open.
I was standing behind someone who said that it wasn’t that bad that they had to wait 3 hours for stores to open… so they could buy underwear and t-shirts. I know those stores are absurdly overpriced but are their underwear and t-shirts really that worth it?
I felt far superior to this simpleton. But, and this might be revealing a bit too much about myself, I have absolutely no will power and I am easily swayed by clever advertising.
Percentage off signs are really what do it for me.
Anything less than 20 percent doesn’t even warrant an eyebrow raise. If it’s 30 percent off, hey I might swing by at lunch time. If I see 40 percent off, I will definitely make some extra efforts to get there. And what I found out this weekend was, 50 percent off, I will leave the comfort of my couch, to drive 15 minutes, to stand with a bunch of nutcases up from Savannah so that I can buy a striped vest and some argyle socks.
Really Rich Boehmcke? This is the kind of man you’ve become?
I think what I found most interesting were the people waiting on a 40 person line, holding 1 item. And not even a big item like a cashmere coat or a new suit. No, they were holding like… a glove… or a sock. Granted there were some people on line who looked like they were trying to clothe their city, but most people only had several items.
In Banana Republic as soon as we walked in I just got on line. I didn’t have anything in my hands so I picked up a tiny purple woman’s sweater. I didn’t want somebody to ambush me and say something like, “HEY ARE YOU JUST A PLACE HOLDER?” I don’t really know if that is illegal, but when it comes to the type of people that wake up at midnight to buy socks, I really wasn’t willing to take any chances.
By the time we left at 2:30 a.m. the parking lot had emptied slightly… but not much, there was still a line to get into Coach, and now there were flashing lights from police cars outside Nike, as something had apparently gone horribly wrong at their sale.
Was the entire scenario ridiculous? Yes. Do I regret going? Absolutely not. Do I now realize that I have no right to make fun of anybody ever again? Well…
You betcha!

I Was a Teenage Halloweeny

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. I frigging hate Halloween. I didn’t always hate Halloween. During my formative years as a pumpkin, bunch of grapes, hunch back of Notre Dame, and mummy, I truly enjoyed the day. The getting ready, the traipsing through the leaves in search of treats. And of course getting home to find the elusive Vanilla tootsie roll in the bottom of my candy bag.
But somewhere around high school I started to hate Halloween. It was a gradual process but the culmination might have something to do with the fact that I was egged walking home from school in 8th grade.
I remember the day vividly. I had already hit puberty (hooray) and was starting to feel older. Enjoying school and the teenager I was becoming, I was finally in control of my future. I was walking home wearing my Vancouver Grizzlies jacket and carrying my trumpet… ya know, the apex of cool.
So there I am, jauntily swinging my trumpet with a song in my head when several dooshy kids younger than me run up and throw eggs at me. One, two, three? Who knows how many chicken babies were wasted in such senseless violence?
They didn’t punch me, or steal my trumpet, or do anything else. They just stood there laughing at me. And I wasn’t really a tough kid…I’m still not. To this day the only man I’ve ever punched was a snowman. So when these kids threw eggs at me, I didn’t really have much retaliation. Seeing as I don’t regularly carry grocery items of my own with me, I couldn’t really do much at all.
However I was not alone. No sir. Thank god that old woman was walking behind me. The egging happened and I stood there in disbelief like I had just been slimed on Double Dare… even though I had NOT agreed to take the physical challenge. And the old lady behind me says something to the effect of, “Hey, that wasn’t nice, apologize!” Which I’m sure they probably did. Thank you old lady, we sure showed them.
If my memory serves me correctly, for the next 4 years I came right home from school and went immediately to bed. I didn’t want to have anything to do with Halloween. Just give me some candy corn and get out of my face.
My point is there was a distinct moment in my life when Halloween went from being cute fun to absolute nonsense and insanity. By time I got to college, with my Halloween chip firmly implanted on my shoulder the day had become mostly about getting drunk at a place where you could see girls dressed in slutty costumes. Naughty Cop? Excellent. Naughty Nurse? A classic. Naughty Nun? Quite the juxtaposition!
Other spectators who criticized were mostly women who exclaimed, “It’s just an excuse for girls to be slutty!” Good observation, I am glad we are both fans.
Granted at this point I had become predisposed to hate Halloween but even my attempts to love it had been met with defeat. Around senior year when I was coerced into putting together a last minute costume for a party, it was a let down. My friend and I spent a considerable amount of time setting my clothes on fire in the driveway so that I could be “Struck by Lightening.” And after some clever hairstyling and makeup I was ready to embrace the night again.
But struck by lightening is no bunch of grapes, and nobody understood my costume. They just kept asking why I had soot on my face and smelled like smoke. I would tell them. They would grimace and just walk away.
Idiots.

I should have been Naughty Struck by Lightening.
I am older now. And the pressure to do something on Halloween is not necessarily as great. Sure there are parties and functions of a classier variety. But a large part of the population still spends the night dressing slutty and getting drunk. And my fear of being egged remains.
So I was excited to be part of a group costume. My sister had slotted me for a role in her group of “Three’s Company,” the hit television show that mixed 1 part mischief with 1 part social norms for a result that always equaled hilarity.
I dressed up as the Landlord, or Mr. Furley. A character portrayed to perfection by the comedic genius Mr. Don Knotts.
And on this most ridiculous night it felt kind of normal to walk around Manhattan with white hair, a neckerchief, the ugliest shirt on the planet and pants in colors that can only be described as Enchantment Under the Sea Dance blues and greens.
It really was just an excuse for me to act like an idiot and say inappropriate things.
I mean, that is what I do normally…except on Halloween I got to do it in a neckerchief.
And you know what? If you are with good people, and you all look like idiots, it can be fun. Having drinks with a shorty-shortted John Ritter and a side-pony tailed Susanne Summers is a damn good time. And mugging for the camera in your famous television advertisement group pose is always a hoot.
Plus it was fun to see people out and about making huge fools out of themselves. Like the trio of gentlemen who I first thought were dressed as “morons.” As it turns out, they were just from Staten Island.
But it was entertaining to see a Yankee Baseball Player, a gentleman who was (and I’m not joking here) “Hung Like a Horse” and some other tool in a tank top hit on women.
Maybe there is some fun left in this day after all. Perhaps I will try to enjoy Halloween again next year. Honestly the most fun part of the holiday is the innovation and social commentary in some costumes, and the complete lack of creativity and healthy dose of embarrassment in others.
And as for those who insist on a costume such as our friend of the equine variety, well… maybe some people do deserve to be egged.