- Elena Basescu, daughter of Romanian president Traian Basescu, looks like an Eastern-bloc Wynne Cooper, is running for European Parliament and likes to mount fallen horses to pose for pictures.
- The saddest and happiest headstone I have ever seen.
- The Sears Tower is getting renamed the Willis Tower. Nice work, Sears. I can just hear my dead grandfather Broz renouncing his brand loyalty to all Craftsmen products on the other side.
The majority of my ancestors settled in Denver in the early 20th Century. My mother’s Italian relatives took refuge in the various brownstones of North Denver and my great-grandfather, an illiterate fruit peddler, was one of the founding members of Potenza Hall (an Italian lodge that is still standing today amidst a landscape of Rite Aids and Taco Bells). My father’s Slavic ancestors settled in the Globeville area; a hard neighborhood know for its rail yards, smelting and meat packing industries. My dad grew up in this community in a small house amongst Slavic kin who liked to drink, cuss, smoke and hate anyone who was not Slavic (my great uncle is still getting his “Gran Torino” on in a Globeville neighborhood that is now predominately Hispanic). The Western Slavonic Lodge was founded around the same time my great-grandmother arrived in Denver from what is now modern-day Russia. I think these lodges are indicative of the mindset of immigrants at the time. It was a place to gather with fellow countrymen, drink, offer support and learn about the idea known as “America.” Being “American” was important to all of my ancestors that settled in Denver. My great-grandfather, for example, when asked by his children to teach them Italian would reply, “We are in America, and in America you speak English.” I often ponder what happened to this mindset; where people identified themselves as American first and their ethnic background second. Perhaps it withered away as class systems divided. Or maybe it disappeared with our manufacturing base when we decided culturally that it was better to consume goods rather than produce them. Perhaps it vanished when people accepted that being friendly was merely waving hello to your nameless neighbor at Starbucks. It could be all these things, or it could just be that a fucking McDonalds became more important to us than a community center.
This past weekend the wife and I celebrated our final Valentine’s Day sans children. Next year, we will be up to our elbows in shitty diapers, crying babies and “dress-up” clothes covered in baby vomit (or so I am told). We were told by many to savor our final Valentine’s Day out which we semi-scoffed at because we have never really been “Valentine’s Day people.” I am of the opinion that greeting card companies have inflated Valentine’s Day’s importance and think overpriced flowers, chocolates and/or stuffed trinkets sent to a lover are fleeting (if not ridiculous). I tend to buy the wife flowers on a semi-frequent basis and remind her I love her everyday and she, in turn, keeps me happy by accepting whatever career path I may be on that particular week and consistently makes me cookies, banana bread and blueberry muffins. So when Valentine’s Day rolls around, we tend to do what we did this past Saturday; grab a steak early in the afternoon with the blue-hairs and catch a matinee at the local movie theater. Nothing says “I love you” like Clint Eastwood slinging some racism ala the late Grandpa Broz.
Americans all have their own traditions for the Thanksgiving holiday. The wife and I are usually run in the Turkey Trot pre-gluttony, but in lieu of her being with child, we are skipping this year and instead I am skating in an early morning ice hockey game at Denver University. We will then partake in two Thanksgiving meals; one at my parent’s house in the afternoon and one at the wife’s parents house in the evening. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, will have a quiet holiday at home, cooking a turkey for her husband and her children named after English towns. This will occur, of course, after some guy slaughters a turkey during her interview with a local television network. We are all different, yet we are all the same.
My sister has been working as a county social worker for the past decade. Yesterday she was at the jail administering a training class for fellow county employees. While walking through the intake area, a young woman called out to her from the holding cell. The young woman asked my sister her name, where she went to high school and if I was her brother. After answering yes to all the young woman’s queries, she blurts out, “Oh my god! I used to date your brother! Tell him I said hello!” Hello back at you, crazy drugged-up bitch I used to date in high school. Be sure to tell your Mom that she still owes me gas money for driving you to softball practice during the summer of 1994.
As a youngster I would go for dinner at my grandparents house at least once a week. My Italian grandmother was an amazing cook and made some of the most glorious feasts (her lentil soup and pot roast can never be duplicated). After dinner we would retire to the family room to watch some Golden Girls. I recall my grandmother laughing hysterically at Sophia on a regular basis. Maybe it was because they had similar personalities. Or that they were both Italian. Or they were both five feet tall, one hundred pounds and intimidating as hell. Whatever it was, Estelle Getty will always hold a special place in my heart for being able to continually crack my grandmother’s iron resolve.
Friday. The wife and I attend a homemade rib bonanza at Team Muff’s house where we drain shitty Mexican beer and play a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit 90s Edition. Proof that we have all turned into our parents: we began questioning the “correctness” of card answers and commenting on how staying up until 11:30 seemed “late.”
Saturday. The wife and I attend a barbecue at DJs which we learn upon walking into his house is actually his birthday party. The wife gets angry at me for not knowing it was his birthday (even though it was on the Evite) and I explain to her that knowing when your guy friends birthday is is totally gay, and if I bought a gift for him we would have to move in together and begin re-decorating his house in the finest tapestries and velvets. I down a homemade chili beer that I regret four hours later, eat some swine and watch some UFC fighting. The wife and I decided to duck out early to get some sleep. When we arrive back at home, Team Hofkamp stops over with a twelve pack of shitty Mexican beer and cigarettes. We hang out in our backyard for an hour until my neighbor invites us over the fence to share in his raging backyard chimenea fire and more shitty Mexican beers and cigarettes. Four hours and eight beers later, we go to bed.
Sunday. The wife and I walk over to the movie multiplex to catch the new Indiana Jones joint. On the way, we stop to view the recently dedicated (but unfinished) Armed Forces Tribute Garden. We grab a burger and some Lumpy Dogs at the Rock Bottom Brewery before watching yet another abortion written by George Lucas. Why do you hate me George Lucas? Aliens and UFOs? Shia LaBeouf as some sort of 1950s hood with a Pompadour and switchblade swinging on vines with monkeys? Next thing you know, you will be telling me that the force is some kind of blood disorder. Oh. Right.
Monday. The wife, myself and 52,000 other people run the Bolder Boulder under the cover of cool mist and fog. My back (almost fully healed from the bulged disc) feels great and I finish in just over an hour. We retire to the homestead for a much needed shower and nap. Later we attend two more Memorial Day barbecues that feel like autumn barbecues due to the inclement weather. I play ping pong. I play foosball. I play 3-square with a beer in my hand. I go to sleep wishing I celebrated three day weekends more often.
Highlights from the Eugene/Coastal Oregon family vacation:
- Number of relatives houses we crashed at that had wireless internet but not cable television: 1.
- A movie that is not fun for the entire family: I Am Legend.
- A movie that is not good in any way, shape or form: The Man From Earth.
- Times the phrase “I slept like the baby Jesus” was uttered: 4.
- How many trips were made to Autzen Stadium to procure gifts: 4.
- How many trips made to Autzen Stadium were to take back items bought by hasty husbands who purchased items with no thought of sizes/people in mind: 2.
- Times the assumed identity “Grayson Buttdorf” was used to sign into the Oregon Coastal Parks and Recreation gray whale watching sheet: 1.
- How many variations of the assumed identity “Grayson Buttdorf” were mulled over numerous Alaskan Ales and one annoyed 18 year-old misquoted cousin: 5.
- Beer, in ounces, that was consumed on the front deck of a the Heceta Head Lighthouse bed and breakfast in one evening: 184.
- A roaring ocean, a good buzz, a comfortable bed and a warm room gave me the best night of sleep in recent memory.
- A short, slanted ceiling, high-backed bathtub and hand-held shower head gave me the most uncomfortable bathing experience in recent memory.
- How many gravely-voiced suspected serial killers ate with us during our “seven-course breakfast”: 1.
- Lastly, props to my brother-in-law drove who our rented mini-van like Al Cowlings across Northwest Oregon in order to get us to our flight at PDX with minutes to spare.
My Dad is a difficult man to buy presents for. When prodding him for gift ideas he usually mumbles, “I could use some golf balls” and than quickly changes the subject. Last year my Mom suggested we get him some new basketball gear for Christmas as Dad still rocks the Larry Bird Scrotum Fliers on the court. He kept the Dri-Fit shirts we bought and took back the baggy shorts. I am happy to report he is now tucking his Dri-Fit shirts into his High Thighs. I fired off on email to Mom this morning asking her what the old man could use and she replied with this gem:
The Greatest Hits of Air Supply and a small AM/FM radio for his office.
My Dad is a cyborg from the future sent back through time with only one mission: to keep the 1980s alive.
Yesterday the wife and I took in a Father’s Day barbecue and a 100-degree scorcher at my sister’s house out on the plains. I stayed inside with the air conditioning most of the day and had a glorious nap as the final round of the US Open played out before me. The male contingent of the barbecue were emotionally invested in the tournament, getting excited at good shots, sizing up the leader board and making the standard comments that professional golf fans make (“He can hit a (insert club here) that far?” or “They all make it look so effortless.”) Although I play golf a handful of times each year, I have no desire to watch it played professionally nor do I care if a nobody from Argentina wins the thing. I did discover that professional golf woos me to sleep as if I were an infant wrapped tightly to her warm, bare bosom. Sit me in your rocking chair and sing me a lullaby, professional golf. Your sweet baby boy has a stomach full of bratwurst and needs the sleepy.