The ones that got away — September 15, 2021

The ones that got away

So, apparently there’s going to a fourth movie in the Matrix franchise. This one is scheduled to be released in December. The first movie was released in 1999 to worldwide acclaim and a bountiful box office.

I’ve never gotten around to seeing it.

Oodles of Matrix fans throughout the years have insisted that I just had to watch it and the subsequent sequels. They obviously haven’t been convincing.  

Part of the reason why I’ve avoided all things Matrix is its star – Keanu Reeves. I’m sure everyone is right and he’s the nicest guy in Hollywood, but I don’t watch his movies. I haven’t seen once since circa 1993, and I stand by that decision.

Also, the gist of the film doesn’t draw me in. Here’s how the Wikipedia frames it: “The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of mankind, in which the creation of artificial intelligence led the way to a race of self-aware machines that imprisoned mankind in a virtual reality system — the Matrix — to be farmed as a power source. Occasionally, some of the prisoners manage to break free from the system and, considered a threat, become pursued by the artificial intelligence both inside and outside of it.”

If you knew how much trouble I had following the first two Terminator movies, what with their self-aware machines, you’d understand why I believe I’ll have even more trouble following The Matrix.

Although I’m known for being something of a movie fan, The Matrix isn’t the only movie from way back that I’ve never seen. I haven’t watched a second of Gremlins or The Goonies.

People from my generation freak the expletive out when they hear this.

But you can’t watch every movie. What’s more, you can’t care about every movie, either.

As they wipe away tears, folks my age encourage me to watch The Goonies, a flick about a group of kids who follow a treasure map to save their homes from foreclosure. These teary-eyed folks are coming from a place of nostalgia. Maybe if I had seen the movie during its original mid-‘80s run, I would feel the same. But I’m a woman of advanced age who has no connection to that movie or those characters. I’m not going to feel the way an ‘80s era tween or teen would feel.

When I was a wee lass on the Goff Estate, we subscribed to a premium network channel that seemingly played Gremlins around the clock. I never once had the inclination to spend time with those ugly bug-eyed creatures. What’s more, I heard so much about those dern critters – don’t feed them after midnight, don’t expose them to sunlight, don’t let them come into contact with water – that I felt like I had actually seen the movie.

Basically, I missed my chance.

Just like I missed my chance with The Karate Kid and Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours and…

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Half and half — September 9, 2021

Half and half

You’ve probably heard that half the fun is getting there.

When it comes to vacations and road trips, I believe this to be true. Indeed, there have been plenty of times when I’ve laughed ‘til it hurt whilst en route to my destination with trusted traveling companions.

When it comes to sports, I’ve struggled with the half the fun is getting there concept. Sure, I applaud my teams at the end of their respective seasons. But depending on which team wins the championship, I might also yell obscenities until my throat hurts whilst flinging sharp objects at the TV.

This is especially true when it comes to the NFL because He Who Shall Not Be Named and/or The Team That Shall Not Be Named frequently win.

My hatred – yes, hatred – for them cannot be healthy or normal. Yet, there we are. And every season that ends with He Who Shall Not Be Named and/or The Team That Shall Not Be Named hoisting the Lombardi Trophy also ends with me swearing off the league because I can no longer handle such pain in my life.

I cut the cord soon after the NFL season ended – my decision was unrelated to football — which meant I no longer had access to the NFL Network. That helped steel my resolve.

Then, as it has every year in my life, August happened. And as I have done every other year, I started searching the NFL Network for preseason football once I bid farewell to July. Oh, yeah, about that. The streaming service I selected added the network on Aug. 1, and I’m one of those people who watch preseason football. I do not restrict my viewings to my favorite teams. I watched an Eagles-Jets preseason game and then told my fellow football fans about the exciting last-second Hail Mary pass the Jets nth-string quarterback threw.

Their responses went something like this: “Is this a plea for help?” “Have you had a stroke?” “Exciting and Jets do not belong in the same sentence. Who are you?”

I’m a woman of an advanced age who enjoys the NFL. That’s who I am. And this year, I’m going to take it game-by-game and week-by-week. I’m not going to start thinking about the playoffs – the playoffs! – in September. I’m going to enjoy the ride. I’ll have half the fun during the seasons and then we’ll see what happens afterward.

Perhaps I’ll have the other half of my promised fun or perhaps I’ll yell obscenities until my throat hurts whilst flinging sharp objects at the TV.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Prime time — September 1, 2021

Prime time

I don’t have an Amazon Prime subscription.

I’ll understand if that admission causes you to quit reading and/or to report me to the authorities.

This subject came up last week when a friend suggested I watch a movie via Prime. I haven’t told her about my lack of a relationship with Prime. I suppose she’ll find out when she reads this. I’ll understand if she unfriends me in real life and/or on social media. In fact, when I revealed this shocking truth to another friend, she literally gasped.

Anyway, a few years ago I did share a discounted Prime subscription with the sisters and nieces. I wasn’t impressed. Call me unreasonable, but when you promise me next day shipping, then I expect my orders to arrive the next day.

When I consulted with longtime Prime subscribers about this discrepancy, they explained that not every item is eligible for next day shipping. Or even two-day shipping.

Oh, and so it was a coincidence that every item I ordered happened to be ineligible for one- or two-day shipping?

Right.

A Prime subscription also offers you access to oodles of TV shows and movies. There’s also a catch to that. You have to pay extra to gain access to many of those oodles. When I consulted with longtime Prime subscribers about this discrepancy, they literally asked me, “You didn’t know that?”

Apparently not.

Is this something everyone in the galaxy is supposed to have knowledge of when they are born? On what page is Amazon Prime listed in the instruction book on life? Is it before or after the listing for how you can’t put aluminum foil and other metals in the microwave?

Why should I think I would need to pay extra to watch shows and movies? Call me unreasonable, but when you promise me access, then I expect access with my paid subscription.

Regardless, when our discounted subscription expired, we did not renew. I haven’t missed it. In the ensuing time, I have never felt the urge to click on a trial membership when given the offer.

This seems to confuse people. They react much like my friend who gasped. When I explain that I don’t need Prime because I don’t place many orders – I have ordered from Amazon only four times this year – they counter that I could order so much more if I had Prime.

That seems unreasonable.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Mail call — August 25, 2021

Mail call

This weekend I became consumed with figuring out how my family received the packages my mom ordered from Sears when I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, is that all she has to think and/or worry about?”

No, but it was better than thinking and/or worrying about the health and well-being of people I love, so that’s what my mind chose to do.

This, some might say, obsession arose from a conversation one of my besties and I had about, you guessed it, the Kmarts. During our discussion, I told her I was fairly sure our Christmas presents came from the Sears catalog.

Indeed, I can remember hearing my mom order all sorts of merchandise. She’d sit at the kitchen table, with the receiver from the yellow rotary phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other, saying, “Page 40, item number 720XTC, color red, quantity one.”

So, that got me thinking…how did the merchandise get to the Estate? What’s more, there was no Internet back then. How did she track those packages?

There also weren’t delivery vans zipping up and down the holler with frequency back in the day, so I ruled out front-door deliveries.

While I didn’t rule out mailbox delivery, I felt sure that’s not how the packages arrived at the Estate because in the summers, I made the long walk to get the mail.

What’s that? Oh, our mailbox did not sit outside the estate. It was a half-mile or so (I have never gotten out a tape measure and marked off the distance) down the holler. We shared the mailbox with two or three – or more — other houses/relatives. It occurred to me as a teen that people who only knew our address would think all of us lived in the same estate instead of on estates of our own.

During the summers, my cousin and I usually volunteered to walk to the mailbox. We would leave our houses as our moms yelled out warnings to watch for snakes. Unless an unfamiliar vehicle wandered up the holler, retrieving the mail was the highlight of our day.

Anyway, I don’t remember many or any large packages arriving in the mailbox.

So, how did we get our hands on that merchandise? I decided to ask my mom.

She and my sister didn’t say so, but I got the impression they suspected I had suffered a stroke. After they exchanged knowing glances, one of them simply said, “We picked them up at the Sears store.”

Oh, yeah, that makes sense. After they said so, I can remember frequent trips to the store. Nobody needs that many appliances.

Dern. I just remembered I forgot to ask Mom how she tracked her orders.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Commercial appeal — August 11, 2021

Commercial appeal

If you watched the Olympics, then you probably saw the commercial featuring Walter the cat.

The commercial advertises a truck of some sort, but that is not the point. The point is that Walter is wonderful. He fishes. He herds cattle. He fetches a ball. He chases a stick. He trees other cats. He gathers firewood. He relaxes in the bed of the truck with his human.

As someone who is sensitive to the anti-feline propaganda that we cat people are subjected to on a near-daily basis, I am thrilled that cats are finally receiving some good press. Usually, if cats are in the news, it’s because a study has determined they’re plotting to kill humans or are actively killing birds.

Whatever.

Walter performs the aforementioned tasks as Harry McClintock’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain” plays. Yes, I had to look that up. The actor who plays Walter’s human seemed familiar to me, so I looked him up, too. He also played the Dilly Dilly King in the beer commercials that aired a couple years ago.

I did not enjoy those commercials.

Indeed, as I am a sensible person, I do not enjoy most commercials. So, it’s a good thing my streaming service comes with record and fast-forward options. I watched the Olympics semi-live, though. Hence, that’s how I came to meet Walter.

But watching the Olympics semi-live meant I was also subjected to some duds, most of which were meant to tug at my heart. Instead, they made me reach for the remote.

Other than Walter, the only commercials I enjoy feature the patient man who’s trying to prevent homeowners from becoming their parents and the ones that showcase Flo the wacky yet proficient apron-wearing insurance salesperson and her crew.

In fact, I think the patient man who’s trying to prevent homeowners from becoming their parents hawks the same insurance as Flo and her crew. Let me give you a pro tip: If you can’t remember what product a commercial is trying to convince you to buy, assume it’s insurance.

The emu and the half-man/half-motorcycle peddle insurance – possibly the same brand, I can’t remember – in two separate, but equally ridiculous advertising campaigns. Trust me, if you haven’t been subjected to these duds, they’re as bad as they sound.

Commercials are so stupid that a jewel like Walter should be celebrated. No, it doesn’t make me want to purchase a truck. But it does make me want to teach the cat army to herd cattle.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Be a good sport — August 4, 2021

Be a good sport

I know people have different interests, but if I live to be Master Yoda’s age, I’ll never understand why everyone in the galaxy doesn’t watch the Olympics.

Sure, one could argue that the entire Olympics enterprise is corrupt. But when I ask folks about their anti-Olympics feelings, some say they don’t like sports whilst others say they don’t like Olympics-style sports.

If you don’t enjoy sports, then the Olympics is marketed for you. The coverage is full of stories of orphaned athletes who considered limping away from their respective sport, but decided to risk their bodies for one more shot at an elusive medal. And all for love of country or athletics or to honor an ailing coach or a sick goat. These stories are designed to tug at your heart and make you care who wins the BMX freestyle race even if you’re not quite sure what BMX freestyle is.

If you only enjoy the big-name sports, then you’ll be happy to know the Games have been featuring basketball, baseball, and soccer for decades. In fact, I recorded the Slovenia-Spain basketball game and watched it at my leisure.

No, that is not a misprint. No, the game was not played in the medal round. Yes, such is my madness for the Games.

Golf was added a few years ago, too, but as much as I heart the Olympics, I draw the line at golf. When NBC switched to it the other night, my hand reached for the remote.

I’m also not a fan of soccer – except during the Olympics and World Cup – but I kept up with a men’s match between Egypt and Mexico. At one point during the match, my great-niece walked in front of the TV and I almost asked her to move. Longtime readers of this-here space will realize how out-of-character such behavior would have been for me.

As with Olympics in the past, I checked out handball – it’s a combination of basketball and soccer – as well as table tennis and badminton. One of the announcers pronounced both ns in badminton and I cannot stress how much that triggered me.

I watched men’s synchronized diving finals like I had money on the results. By the way, male divers and female beach volleyball players compete practically in the nude. Perhaps that will persuade you to tune into the Games.

Of course, there are only a few days left for you to do so. Swimming, my favorite part of the Summer Olympics, ended Saturday. I had several breakdowns during close races. I might have lost consciousness once. Or twice. Perhaps a few times.

As I say as the Games come to a close every time, I don’t know what I will do when they’re over. Wait. What’s that? The Winter Games start in six months?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

No good reason — July 28, 2021

No good reason

I promise you that I am not a hoarder

Indeed, I abhor clutter.

However, I have a couple areas of concern. That is why a box of allegedly important papers awaits my attention. I hang onto these important papers for weeks. Okay, months. Okay! Years! As I told the lady at Big Lots the other day, one never knows when one will need that receipt for Starbursts.

My biggest area of concern – vis-à-vis this topic – is that I have trouble replacing and/or discarding certain items. For example, I wear socks until they sport holes and thin spots that you can read through. Then, when I finally buy new socks, I keep the holey thin socks. Why? No good reason.

Of late, it became apparent that I needed to discard my frying pan. Actually, it wasn’t apparent to me. I blamed user error for the reason all the food I made in that frying pan burned. No. The coating had worn off, so I tossed the frying pan into the trash.

I shopped around for a frying pan and considered splurging on one that costs seven bucks. But my niece recommended another one that costs much more. That made me think that perhaps seven bucks didn’t represent the best use of my funds.

I continued shopping around and found a cookware set that contained three frying pans as well as two saucepans and a casserole pan. (Or as we call them at the Goff Estate – kettles.) Hmm. My kettles have seen better days. The inside of one looks jaundiced. And it would be kind of exciting to have more than one frying pan.

This set was kind of fancy, though, but it was on sale, and I had a coupon. My final cost would be less than half the original price, which I will not share unless you and Stefano Dimera administer a truth serum to me. I consulted the abacus and if I multiplied the cost of the frying pan my niece recommended by three and added in the price of three kettles, well, it would be more than this fancy cookware set. I know a deal when I see one.

So, I placed the order.

The cookware set arrived and, let me tell you, it is splendid. Per the directions, I washed the set in warm soapy water. Then, I cleared out a space in the cabinet for it.

Yeah, I had to clear out a space because I’m keeping the other kettles, including the one with chronic jaundice.

This reminds me of other kettles I held onto. I’m not sure how I came in possession of them. It could have been that someone in my circle was fixing to discard them, and I was like, “Hey, if you don’t want those, may I have them?”

Anyway, my parents subsequently gave me a cookware set for Christmas and the kettles I bummed subsequently rusted. One day, my dad, the late great Burton Goff, spotted a rusty kettle at my house and asked why I was using a kettle is such disrepair.

After I explained to him that I didn’t use it, he asked why I had a kettle in such disrepair.

No good reason.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Hot tip — July 21, 2021

Hot tip

From time to time, people in my orbit encourage me to share my housekeeping and life tips with you, my dear readers. (By the way, I believe some of these tips could be considered hacks. However, I use the term hack only when referring to the unauthorized access of technology or when trying to rid my throat of phlegm

Anyway, I’ve shared tips in this-here column in the past. For example, I consider best buy dates to be recommendations. While that’s actually more of a philosophy, it becomes a tip when I remind you to watch out for mold on bread and cheese.

I might have also shared my favorite housekeeping tip. If you see unexpected company pulling into the driveway – or if you have expected company headed your way – and you spot a tower of clutter in a room that will be viewed, simply scoop up that clutter and deposit it in a closet. Problem solved.

Here are a few more:

  • If you wash your clothes in cold water, you can wash all colors together, saving on detergent and water and electricity. I’m not sure who shared this life-changing nugget with me, but I hope I bought him or her a box of chocolates. As my family members frequently complain about sorting clothes and separating them by color, I doubt if the advice came from any of them. A note of caution: On occasion, a brightly colored article will bleed onto other articles, so be safe.
  • Speaking of washing…I have recently started tossing scrub sponges and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers into the wash. Although I haven’t conducted a scientific experiment, it appears that the cleaning supplies can only be washed once. Indeed, they fall apart after the second washing. But tossing them into the washer after one use instead of tossing them into the trash doubles their life expectancies.
  • Speaking of Magic Erasers…due to the COVID, I started dying my own hair. Although my technique has improved, I still get hair dye on my skin. Sometimes, I just let it go because it will eventually fade. But if I’m going to be around humans, I don’t want to be seen with dyed skin. After one dye job, I said to myself, “Self, I wonder if that Magic Eraser will bring this glob of hair dye off your forehead?” The good news is that it did. The bad news is that it also brought the skin off my head. So, this tip is don’t apply a Magic Eraser to your skin.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Straight to video — July 14, 2021

Straight to video

Recently, I had the occasion to share music from my youth with a 20-something in my life I will call Pete. (Writer’s note: Pete is not this person’s name, but we have chosen this moniker because, apparently, Pete is ashamed by our association.)

I knew that despite Pete’s age, my young friend is a fan of music from the 1980s, especially Toto’s “Africa,” aka one of the greatest songs ever recorded, and Def Leppard’s “Hysteria.”

Herein contains part of my and Pete’s musical musings.

Me: “Back in the day there was a channel called MTV…”

Pete: “I know what MTV is. It’s still around.”

Me: “…and they used to play these things called videos. We should watch some of them.”

Me (as we start watching music videos from the ’80s): “Keep in mind that videos from the ’80s didn’t make sense. That’s what made them so, like, totally awesome.”

Pete (as we watch Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf”): “Why is he in the water?”

Me: “Remember what I said about these videos not making sense?”

Pete (as we finish watching the guys in Duran Duran race through the streets and jungles of Sri Lanka): “I like the song, but I’m not so sure about the video.”

Me (as I choose another classic, Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield”): “So, she was like 30 years old and playing a teenager in this video. And something else I should have mentioned, videos usually had nothing to do with the songs. Oh, yeah, and a big lesson my generation learned from music videos in the ’80s is that dancing solved all problems.”

Pete (as we finish watching Benatar stand up to her gold-toothed pimp): “I like the song, but I’m not so sure about the video.”

Me: “Now let’s watch one of my all-time favorite videos. Forget what I said about videos not making sense. This one is filled with symbolism. And it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Well, maybe not the dancing ninjas. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to symbolize. Anyway, I wrote a paper on this video. It earned a well-deserved A.”

Pete (as we finish watching Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”): “I’m not sure about the song or the video.”

Me (as I remember that Pete likes Wham!, plays “Careless Whisper”): “This video actually matches the song.”

Pete: “This song is good except for that loud thing at the beginning and the middle.”

Me: “I think that thing is called a saxophone, but I’m not an expert on music. It could be a flute or a tambourine.”

I closed out the lesson by playing Def Leppard’s “Hysteria.” Pete expressed indifference to the video.

Me: “Did you know that Def Leppard’s drummer has only one arm?”

Pete, regarding me with raised eyebrows: “Really?”

As I told Pete the story of how the drummer ended up with only one arm, I said to myself, “Self, Pete will Google ‘Does Def Leppard have a one-armed drummer?’ as soon as you turn your head.”

As well as why was that dude from Duran Duran in the water and did dancing really solve problems in the ‘80s.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Blue plate special — July 7, 2021

Blue plate special

For the past several years, I have hosted an annual Fourth of July Jubilee at my hom

I’ll give it to you straight. I think I’m stretching the definition of jubilee. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines jubilee as “a special anniversary of an event, especially one celebrating 25 or 50 years of a reign or activity.”

Well, my annual cookout does celebrate a special anniversary of an event – the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

So, there.

Besides, as a writer, I couldn’t pass up the chance at using the phrase July Jubilee. Indeed, it might be literally illegal to evade alliteration.

Anyway, I have always served my guests on red, white, and blue paper plates and my cupcakes in red, white, and blue liners. In addition, I have purchased red, white, and blue platters on which the grillers have placed the burgers, dogs, and other meats. (Wait. You didn’t really think I performed grilling duties, did you?)

But this year when I stopped by the arts and crafts store, they offered a paltry selection of Fourth of July merchandise with nary a red, white, and blue plate in sight and no platters or cupcake liners. It seems the first of July is the optimal time to start selling fall supplies.

When the arts and crafts store failed me, I tried a couple dollar stores and another discount store, and also came up empty. That’s not entirely true. I did find a penny in a parking lot.

But I found no plates that suited my needs. At that point, with despair creeping in, I momentarily considered kicking my own rear end. After all, I had looked at some red, white, and blue plates in the Supercenter, but had decided against them because they were too small.

After the fourth store broke my heart, I said to myself, “Self, you could run back to the Supercenter. You have a pack of small plates from last year’s event. Your guests could double up on those as well as the ones from the Supercenter.”

Acknowledging that self had a point, I also acknowledged that I would cancel the jubilee before I would run into the Supercenter twice in the same day.

I’ll give it to you straight. I was despondent. My jubilee guests are accustomed to a sophisticated event, one at which they are asked to bring their own condiments, help clean the outdoor furniture, and drink from convenience store cups. I feared they would consider it gauche to eat from plain plates.

Apparently, they did not because my sister, Kathy, who must have received a telepathic message from me, delivered a pack of carryout food boxes to my house.

My refrigerator is full of said boxes, which are now full of leftover jubilee food.

I appreciate the boxes, which came in handy. But at least one person at the jubilee noticed that the cupcakes were served a little less festively this year.

No worries, Aubree. Next year I’ll purchase my Fourth of July supplies at Easter.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.