Monday, June 30, 2008

Vacation now, diet later

I’m heading on vacation next week.

In keeping with my long-time annual vacation custom, I plan to:

a) eat a lot

b) drink a lot; and

c) sleep a lot

It’s a tradition. I’ve done it many times before. It has become expected of me.

What it means, however, is that when I return from vacation, I might as well go ahead and plan to:

d) lose weight.

That’s right! When I return from vacation, I’ll be a Big Fat Giant Hippo Pig Whale… even more than now!!!

Which means…. It’s time to start making plans for my Next-Nearly-Annual-Weight-Loss-Challenge-Competition.

Regular readers of this column know I do this on an all-to-frequent basis: Pull a few of my friends and acquaintances into a friendly wager to help us all shed a few pounds.

Actually, making it into a competition is the ONLY way I’ve ever really been able to really lose weight at all. Willpower for the sake of willpower just isn’t my thing. But turn it into a contest… and ZOOM… I’m on fire!!!

Knowing that I’m going to be a Giant Lard-Bottom by the time I return from a week’s vacation with the in-laws, I’m getting an early start on it. AND… I’m accepting applications!!!

That’s right… If YOU TOO are planning to be a Pork-Belly by mid-July – and you know you are, what with BBQ for Fourth of July and all -- maybe you’d like to join in this “friendly little wager”!

As of yet, there are no ground-rules. We haven’t decided exactly when the competition will start and end, or for how long, or how many contestants. (We’ll agree on the rules after we figure out who’s playing the game!)

In the past, these little competitions have ranged from 3 to 17 contestants, with a competition period from 4 weeks to 13 weeks. The winning weight loss totals have ranged from 20 pounds to 38 pounds. And the wagers – which have typically been $100 American Paper Money – have ranged from $50 to a weekend trip at beautiful, down-town Garden City, South Carolina.

But we haven’t made any of those decisions yet. We’re waiting on YOU and your Big Ol’ Blubber Butt to help make them.

The only tradition of this little contest you can be assured of is this: Yours Truly will continuously heap verbal abuse upon you in this column during the entire contest period, whatever that may be.

So here’s the question, Fatso… are you Man Enough to face the fact that you’re a Humongous Lump of Goo – as I have – and that if you don’t soon do something about it, you will likely turn into the World’s Largest Clump of Mush?

(That, incidentally, is a small sample of the abuse I heap on the contestants of each of these weight-loss competitions. Brutal, but motiviational… like tough-love. You’ll also notice that I’m TAUNTING – practically DARING – you to entice you into this contest!)

So, if you think you’re up to it, let me know, and we’ll include you in the upcoming contest. Just send me an email:

(Or, if you have a loved-one who really ought to be in this contest, but is perhaps in denial, circle this sentence and hand them a copy of this column.)

Anyway, this is your official invitation to the Next Great Almost Annual Weight Loss Challenge Invitational Competition.

Did you notice that we changed the name it since the beginning? That’s sort of how we handle the rules, too.

You’ve been invited, and you have fair warning: This in NOT a weight-loss contest for sissies.

Enjoy your July 4th holiday… along with which-ever re-run of this column we decide to print next week WHILE I’M ON VACATION!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We lost twice on Family Feud!

Did I ever tell you about the time I lost on Family Feud? Actually, it was the “times”, because I lost twice!!!?

I’ve been saving this story for a week when I really didn’t have anything else much to write about in my column. (This happens to be that week. It’s just too hot to be creative, so I’m falling back on a real life true story.)

Twas back in the early 80’s. Reagan was the president, and somehow, the Shealy family found themselves on the way to California to appear on the well-known game show, Family Feud.

My sister, Sherry, had learned of “auditions” being held in the Palmetto State, and had somehow persuaded the rest of us to show up. Actually, it wasn’t an audition at all. It was what Hollywood types call a “talent search”… visiting various areas of the country a few times a year to find families just crazy enough to be entertaining to the American public.

On this particular day, there were reportedly 700 people who showed up. Out of those, 16 families were deemed to be just crazy enough to be entertaining, and were invited to Hollywood, California, all expenses paid via Automatic Flying Airplane.

The Shealy family, of course, took them up on their offer. We were not in the habit of turning down free stuff, particularly free stuff that resembled a vacation.

So off we flew, Dad, two of my sisters, my ex, Becky, and me…. off to seek our fortunate in the bright lights of day-time television. A few other family members came along for the ride, and we did, in fact, make a West Coast vacation out of it.

They put us up for three days and nights, and we really only had to “work” one of those days. “Work” meant being at the studio, recording a TV show, which was not what any of us really considered to be work.

It was great. Bright lights, cameras, TV studios, and a live studio audience that cheered, laughed, or clapped whenever the producer turned on the lighted signs that said “Cheer”, “Laugh” and “Clap”. (Come to think of it, I recall the actual Hollywood TV term is “applause”, not “clap”.)

They wanted entertainment, and the Shealy family gave them entertainment. We were giddy with enthusiasm. When the very personable and talkative host, Richard Dawson, came out to chat with us, he knew he had met his match, talkative-wise. We were everything the Feud could have asked for in a guest.

Except talent.

Turns out, we were not very good at actually playing the game. Never even scored a point. Lost. Bad. To a Navy fighter pilot from San Deigo and his adorable family, who seemed to each have inherited his cat-like, Navy pilot reflexes when it came to punch-the-game-buzzer!

How bad were we? So bad that, in his conclusion, host Dawson suggested that perhaps, since we were a good Republican family, President Reagan might give a speech which would preempt the show, thereby sparing us the embarrassment of it ever being aired in South Carolina.

But time heals all wounds.

Five years later, we received ANOTHER call from the folks out in Family Feud-land, asking us if we’d like to appear on the show yet again. Same gig. Another free vacation. (Turns out, the show’s producer was a political junkie who had once run for congress and was intrigued by our family’s political background.)

Foolishly, we said yes.

This time we were ready for them. We practiced. We actually watched the show to see how it was played.

But alas, same result. We lost a second time.

This time we were up against a family of Mormon sisters, bright-eyed young girls who reminded us for all the world of the Osmonds.

And at least this time we scored some points. Actually, we even came close to winning. Foiled by the fourth answer to the question, “Name a sound a horn makes.” We easily got “honk”, “beep” and “toot”… but much to our chagrin the Mormon girls came up with the “aaa-ooough-aaa,” and we simply couldn’t compete.

Anyway, true story I thought I’d share with you since it’s really too hot to come up with anything original.

Here’s hoping for better luck next week.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Myrtle Beach Days

Myrtle Beach Days

When last we chatted here on these pages, I was nostalging about the simpler summertimes of my youth.

Ahhhhh, the Good Ol’ Days!

The last note in that column mentioned a common-denominator of all baby boomers from the Sandlapper State: Myrtle Beach.

Since we’re now in the heat of June, it’s inevitable that we’ll each do at least a little daydreaming about Myrtle Beach. Once upon a time, in our “Leave It To Beaver” baby boomer worlds, we all vacationed there. If you grew up in South Carolina, you went to Myrtle Beach.

And we all have our own Myrtle Beach memories!

Here are a few of mine…

Driving from Columbia to the beach, there was no interstate highway, meaning we all drove via Highway 378 – which to an eight year old kid was very cool because we went by Shaw Air Force Base and got to see jets taking off and landing.

The Shealy family – five of us at that time – would be piled into the family station wagon, with enough luggage to keep us clothed for a week -- or to provision many small armies for a year. We had a luggage rack on top of the wagon… not the sleek chrome ones that come standard nowadays, but the industrial strength steel ones that clamped on to the side of car, with a sheet of plywood firmly attached. We supplemented the luggage rack with the tailgate, which folded down, allowing us to strap another eight or ten pieces of luggage to it. The scene was not unlike our family’s favorite TV show of the era: The Beverly Hillbillies!

When we made it to Turbeville, we were at the halfway mark of the journey, so we always stopped for a snack at the “Chat and Rest”… or was it the “Eat and Run”.

Reaching Conway meant we were in sight: only a few more mile to go. From there on, we were at a fever pitch, hyped up in anticipation of that first glimpse. For the last 10 miles, there were bright shiny billboards every few hundred yards, tempting us with new and exciting things to do during our week at the beach. If the billboards had been advertising the Seven Wonders of the World, they couldn’t have been any more wondrous and amazing to us!

And then…. there it was!!! The Pavilion!!!! The center of the Myrtle Beach Universe, which was also exactly where the road from Columbia merged into the beach.

The Pavilion was like the State Fair, the Circus, and a High School Football Halftime Show rolled into one. You just couldn’t ask for any more excitement. It rivaled Christmas.

I don’t know if motel “reservations” actually existed back then. (Maybe not, since there was no internet, and a reservation would have required a long-distance telephone call, which was used very sparingly to avoid the gigantic fees.) But I do know the Shealy family never had reservations. We spent the first couple of hours of our vacation at the beach shopping for our motel.

We’d pull in to a great little 22-unit motel with a name like “The Summer Breeze” or “Miss Betty’s Place” or “The Sand Shovel”, and spend a few minutes checking it out to see if we liked it, complete with room inspections for cleanliness. (There had to be a paper-strap around the toilet seat with the words “Sanitized for your Protection”.)

It was not unusual at all to visit and inspect six or eight places before deciding on the right one.
After the choice was made, Mom would go to work negotiating the rate. Being a super-salesman, she was clever at it, always starting with, “Well, I don’t know… the room looks a little small”, so as not to appear too eager. Back then, the posted rate was maybe $5 per night… which meant Mom usually negotiated down to about $3.50.

The room rate was only the first way to keep the Shealy family vacation affordable. Next came the food: we brought it with us from home… unless, of course, that box happened to be one of the ones that blew off of the “luggage rack”.

Breakfast was Sugar Frosted Flakes, just like at home. (Who can argue with Tony, the Tiger?)

And lunch was perhaps the greatest money-saving invention of the 20th century… Vienna sausages!!! Open a can, squirt some mustard on a slice of bread, and you’re feeding a family of five for mere pennies!

And then there was the beach, which was the main event (except for the Pavilion.)

We grabbed our inner tubes and hopped barefoot across that hot pavement to reach the dunes. Eleventy-kabillion people were already there, laying out in the sun.

We didn’t have sun-block, we had suntan lotion. I’m not sure if it didn’t work, or if I forgot to put it on… but I got sunburned every single time I went to the beach, from the time I was five years old until I started wearing long sleeves and pants a few years back.

For excitement, we rode our bikes along the edge of the water: Old fashioned bikes with big fat tires that we had strapped onto the front of our Beverly Hillbillies- mobile: three of ‘em, one for each kid!

Frankly, when I daydream about the beach, there are just too many memories to capture:

--Transistor radios on the beach, because there weren’t any CD’s or tape-players;

--Tee shirt and towel shops Рnot the bawdy ones of today Рbut the old fashioned ones where the most risqu̩ image you could find was the Coppertone Girl;

--Foot-long hot dogs! Back then, the beach was the only place you could find foot-long hotdogs.

--Cruising along the boulevard… the whole family, like all the other families did. Traffic was slow, so Mom and Dad let us sit on the front hood as we creeped along. I always got the middle – straddling the hood ornament – because I called it first.

--Some years, we’d rent a beach house with a screened in porch. There was no air-conditioning, so the screen porch was great.

--In the later years, we’d hold out for those rare motels that had SWIMMING POOLS!!! That way, we could SWIM during the week. For some reason, it never quite clicked that, 200 yards away, there was an OCEAN!!!

--The airplanes pulling banners was a novelty. We’d wake people sleeping on the beach so they could read the message.

Of course, we all know the Pavilion is gone now. Last year was its final year, and I fear that perhaps the Myrtle Beach we all knew is a thing of the past.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to daydream.

I’d like to hear some of your Myrtle Beach daydreams. Send them to me by email:

Enjoy your summer!

Old, but immature

Lately, I’ve run into a rash of old friends who all seem to greet me in the exact same way:

“Wow, you’re old!”

I don’t think they mean anything by it. They’re not trying to be insulting. I can tell by the genuine look of shock and disbelief in their eyes. (Except, of course, for those “friends” who I’ve seen maybe two days earlier. They’re just trying to be mean.)

I think I’ve developed quite the retort to all of the people who are suddenly stunned to discover that I am, if fact, apparently on the downhill slide:

“I may be old, but I’m still immature!”

Once upon a time, my “immaturity” would have been a decided downer for me. Like, when I was fifteen years old, and girls my age seemed not to know I existed. (“Downer”, incidentally, is a word from my youth.)

But not any more. Nowadays, I pride myself on my immaturity, because it’s about the only remaining trace of my youth.

Never mind that it’s probably pathetic case of denial. I can’t help it. I’m immature… and my immaturity prevents me from facing up to reality.

Most guys my age are every bit as pathetic as me, but they don’t know how to handle it. They, instead, go through a “mid-life crisis”… you know, with the shiny sports cars and the comb-over.

Not me. I’m old, but I’m immature. Plus, mid-life for me was a probably a lonnnnng time ago.

I’m comforted by my immaturity. It’s like my own personal fountain of youth.

Yes, I’m clinging desperately to the last vestiges of youth, as they surely slip away -- who am I kidding? “slipped away” -- holding on to every shred, every morsel of anything even resembling me from 30 years ago.

The hair is gone from the top. The eyesight is tragic. The weight has shifted.

But I still have my immaturity.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s a “cop out”. (Another word from my youth.)

You’re thinking I’m manufacturing my immaturity as a way of coping. You think I’m making it up.

Am I?

Have you seen the clothes I wear? Do you know it’s been years since I wore a necktie to work? Immature, I’d say.

My beard is a throwback to the sixties. Very immature. (During the sixties, by the way, I was 12 years old, and totally incapable of even a bristle on my chin.)

I don’t like vegetables. And therefore, I don’t eat vegetables. That was a mark of my immaturity in 1961, and it still is today.

At this moment, I’m not wearing any socks. I’m in my office working, but without socks. Typing my weekly column on my laptop… but no socks. Very immature.

And did you know that, once again, I have procrastinated writing my column until the very last moment. Procrastination is a clear sign of immaturity. That’s what my teacher told me in the fourth grade when I didn’t turn in my homework… many times!

And if that’s not proof enough of my immaturity, try this: Lately, I’ve even taken to following people around the office, and repeating everything they say back to them:

“I’m hungry.”

“I’m hungry”

“Where are you going?”

“Where are you going?”

“Stop following me.”

“Stop following me.”

“Quit saying what I’m saying.”

“Quit saying what I’m saying.”

“I’m telling Mom.”

“I’m telling Mom.”

Yes, I take a lot of comfort in my immaturity.

Like the songs say: “Call me irresponsible. Be young, be foolish, but be happy.”

And I’m thinking about writing a new song: “I may not be a child anymore, but I can certainly still be childish!”

There I go again: Daydreaming about writing a song when I should be working. How immature!

I’m 54, going on seven.

Yes, I may be old, but I’m immature.

“Hope you have a good week.”

“Hope you have a good week.”