I HATE SNAKES!

I HATE SNAKES!

Like Indiana Jones, I HATE snakes. Notice how the king cobra has lifted up its head, flattening it into a hood? This means they’re pissed and about to strike. I know. A king cobra did this to me.

Like Indiana Jones, I HATE snakes. Notice how the king cobra has lifted up its head, flattening it into a hood? This means they’re pissed and about to strike. I know. A king cobra did this to me.

My namesake (and second cousin on my dad’s side) Indiana Jones and I share several attributes in common: We both have a fascination with ancient mythology; in the end we both ended up with a gorgeous babe (just trying to score points with my wife here – How am I doing, sweetie?); And, most importantly, WE BOTH HATE SNAKES!

I cannot overstate just how much I despise those disgusting creatures. Everything about them gives me the creeps. There is no such thing as a cute snake. They have no fur, no legs, not even eyelids. How bizarre is that? Worst of all, they can paralyze or kill you with a single venomous bite – unless they’re the kind that suffocates you to death with their viselike grip.

I cannot think of a single redeeming thing about this evil being. Okay, well, maybe one thing. Apparently, some snakes actually like to eat other snakes. In fact, the favorite food of king cobras is, you guessed it, other snakes. How sick and twisted is that?

Snakes will never win any medals for intelligence either. Did you know that some snakes actually eat themselves? True. I’ll admit, when I was a one-year-old, I sometimes obsessively sucked my thumb. But I never gave serious thought to devouring my hand. Some snakes are idiots.

But back to my main point: I loathe those slimy, slithering serpents. (I wrote the previous sentence primarily to show my 9th grade English teacher, Mr. Santee, that I still remember what he taught me about the importance of using alliteration in storytelling.  How’d I do, teach?)

Fun fact: The snake on the left will kill you instantly. The snake on the right is totally harmless. Good luck figuring which is which the next time you stumble onto one of these.

Fun fact: The snake on the left will kill you instantly. The snake on the right is totally harmless. Good luck figuring which is which the next time you stumble onto one of these.

When I was young, even the sight of a common garter snake would make me anxious, in part because there was no way for me to tell a harmless snake from a deadly one. (See image at right.) It would be extremely helpful if deadly snakes came with a warning label. Are you listening, God?

I once went tubing in the wilderness with a buddy of mine. He shared my snake phobia. As we drifted lazily down the slow-moving river, other more experienced tubers warned us to keep an eye out for water moccasins. Turns out this is a highly venomous snake that loves to hang out on rocks by the edge of the river, primarily to terrorize novice tubers like me. Its bite can be deadly.

Here’s a question: What’s more alarming than seeing a water moccasin basking on a rock by the edge of the river? Answer: Two seconds later when you turn to your buddy to point out that there’s a water moccasin on a rock by the edge of the river, only to notice it’s no longer there – because it’s decided to make like a torpedo and head straight for your inner tube. Luckily, he changed course and decided to pursue some other tubers, and we finished our journey without incident.

I once heard that snakes can actually swim through the sewer system and up into your toilets. I don’t know if that’s true, but ever since then, I’ve always closed the toilet lid after use. You may say I’m being paranoid, but I have yet to have a single snake attempt to bite my bum while on the toilet ever since I implemented this policy.

Perhaps the event that forever cemented my fear of snakes was the time my wife Michele and I attended a talk at the Miami Zoo by the zoo’s Director of Herpetology (think reptiles and snakes). During his presentation, he brought out several lizards and snakes of various levels of weirdness, including (I’m not making this up) a two-headed ball python.

In the background, I noticed a king cobra which the presenter had kept safely confined inside a glass aquarium. Then he removed the deadly snake from its glass enclosure with a long metal rod with a hook on the end. He delicately placed it on the floor. It immediately started winding its way towards the metal chairs each of us in this 30-person audience were defenselessly sitting on – make that standing on, as we each immediately jumped up in an anxious attempt to avoid the snake that was suddenly checking all of us out. Did I mention I was in the front row?

As the cobra sauntered in my general direction, the presenter grabbed it with his pole hook to pull it back. But then the snake just jumped off the hook again – and was now slithering towards me.

Fun fact: When a king cobra is angry or feeling threatened, it will rise up and flatten its head into a hood. Not so fun fact: The king cobra in our room was pulling that exact same move and was now less than four feet from me.

I saw a trailer for this terrifying documentary called Snakes on a Plane. All I know is that I will NEVER EVER fly that airline – not even if they offered me a seat in First Class and all the peanuts I could eat. No way.

I saw a trailer for this terrifying documentary called Snakes on a Plane. All I know is that I will NEVER EVER fly that airline – not even if they offered me a seat in First Class and all the peanuts I could eat. No way.

The presenter desperately snatched the snake again with his pole and thrust the misbehaving cobra into the aquarium, slamming the lid. When the director resumed his presentation, the angry snake kept smashing its head against the side of the aquarium. But his many escape attempts were completely in vain – that is, until he tried smashing the lid of his jail cell instead. Yeah, that worked like a charm. The lid instantly popped off.

In a heartbeat – and mine was beating extremely fast now – the villainous venomous viper (how’s that for alliteration, Mr. Santee?) had leapt out of the aquarium and was back on the floor. He made the same threatening move as before, elevating his head and flattening it into a hood. Once again he was coming right at me. Fortunately, my wife was closer to him than I was, so her body partially blocked him from getting a clear shot at me. Thanks, sweetie.

The presenter, now obviously a bit shaken himself, was able to snare the snake and wrestle it into a burlap bag. He then shoved the bagged beast into a box. I later thought about how close my wife and I came to becoming the lead story on the evening news:

“KING COBRA KILLS COUPLE.” (Kudos to the headline writer who came up with that. He knew a thing or two about good alliteration.) 

I will thank you not to post comments reassuring me that most snakes are harmless or how they help farmers by eating mice and other varmints. I don’t care if a goddamned snake knocked on my door and offered to paint my house for free. Get him away from me! Besides, I’m pretty sure he’d probably do a piss poor paint job.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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What You Should Know About Pickleball, America’s Favorite Sport

What You Should Know About Pickleball, America’s Favorite Sport

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country. Why? Personally, my theory is because it’s easy to learn and requires minimal skill or physical exertion – and if you fall, there are three people who can drive you to the hospital.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country. Why? Personally, my theory is because it’s easy to learn and requires minimal skill or physical exertion – and if you fall, there are three people who can drive you to the hospital.

By now, unless you’re living in a cave somewhere in the steppes of Mongolia, you’ve no doubt heard about the fastest growing sport in North America: Pickleball. And if by some odd circumstance you ARE living in a cave in the steppes of Mongolia, how in the heck did this article reach you? Just curious.

As for the rest of us non-Mongolian-steppes-cave dwellers, it seems that everybody is taking up the sport of pickleball – including me. So, here is a quick primer on what you’re missing and what you need to know in case you were curious what all the buzz was about.

Even though few people had ever heard of this sport until three years ago, it’s actually been around a fairly long time: Invented in 1965 by three people from Bainbridge Island, WA, it was named after the dog of one of the three inventors. The dog’s name was “Ball.” I meant to say “Pickles.” I’m just glad his owner gave his dog a normal name like Pickles instead of their original naming idea: Lord Chesterton of Belvedere. Otherwise we’d all be talking about LordChestertonofBelvedereBall.

The first thing you should know about LordChestertonofBelvedereBall, l mean Pickleball, is that you MUST BE OLD in order to play. In most states, the legal minimum is 60 years old. But check the applicable age restrictions in your region. (In North Dakota, you must be 85 – I have no idea why.) The penalty for underage pickleballing is being forced to watch old people play pickleball. Personally, that strikes me as cruel and unusual punishment.

This sport has become wildly popular all throughout America. According to one study, pickleball surged by nearly 40% between 2019 and 2021 to 4.8 million active players. Compare that to the Mayan sport of Pitz, a team sport popular in ancient Mesoamerica which involves a heavy rubber ball that teams try to get through a hoop on the wall. That sport’s popularity has declined markedly to the point that you almost never hear the results of a Pitz match on ESPN anymore. Experts theorize that its dramatic decline in popularity was because it’s a very difficult game to play – and because the losing team’s players had to be sacrificed to the gods.

In stark contrast, in pickleball, losing players are almost never sacrificed to the gods. At worst, they may have to buy a round of beer for their winning opponents at the neighborhood pub. Why is this sport so popular? The answer is that it’s easy to learn, takes only nominal skill to enjoy (a definite plus for me), and does not require much moving around. Perfect for seniors or anyone who is chronically lazy.

The box closest to the net is the KITCHEN. Don’t even think of standing here. If If you’re caught volleying while in the kitchen, you’ll be shunned from all future pickleball matches and pelted with wiffle balls. Pickleballers are a tough crowd.

The box closest to the net is the KITCHEN. Don’t even think of standing here. If If you’re caught volleying while in the kitchen, you’ll be shunned from all future pickleball matches and pelted with wiffle balls. Pickleballers are a tough crowd.

And thanks to COVID, the sport took off in the past two years, as people looked for a safe way to interact with others that did not require them to be indoors or talk about whether they’ve been vaccinated.

Increasingly, longtime tennis and racquetball players have started transitioning to pickleball. This is because they’re getting older and slower, and their younger, faster former tennis / racquetball partners have hinted to them, “Have you ever considered switching to pickleball, buddy?”

Pickleball blends aspects of ping pong, tennis, racquetball, and Pitz – but mostly just the first three aforementioned sports – to create a game that moves quickly and gives players a false sense that they are actually getting a lot of vigorous exercise. They are not.

The game can be played as a singles game between two players or doubles with four. In rare instances, there have been groups of up to 20 players on the court at once, but that’s mostly just when Ms. Warner’s kindergarten class at Beaverton Elementary School storms the pickleball court in in an attempt to create chaos. Kindergarteners are notoriously bad at following the rules of pickleball – or for that matter any other rule Ms. Warner asks them to obey.

To play the game, all you need are a net (slightly lower in height than a tennis court net), a paddle, a wiffle ball, and the ability to count to 11. Skill is not a pre-requisite to play this sport, as evidenced by the fact that several people familiar with my lack of athletic ability have invited me to play.

The rules of pickleball are simple:

  • The ball must land inbounds.
  • Serving must be done at the baseline.
  • The ball must bounce once per side the first two times over the net.
  • The serve must land beyond the back line of the kitchen.
  • Games are played to 11 (win by 2).
If you’re a senior looking for a new sport, and pickleball is not your thing, there are many other sports you can consider. This amazing 78-year-old woman even tried her luck at javelin. Unfortunately, she was facing the wrong direction and almost impaled her Yorkie, Daisy. I’m happy to report Daisy was shaken but otherwise unharmed.

If you’re a senior looking for a new sport, and pickleball is not your thing, there are many other sports you can consider. This amazing 78-year-old woman even tried her luck at javelin. Unfortunately, she was facing the wrong direction and almost impaled her Yorkie, Daisy. I’m happy to report Daisy was shaken but otherwise unharmed.

At this point, you may be asking, “Tim, what is the kitchen?” Glad to see you’re paying attention and didn’t bail after you read the part about Mongolian steppes cave dwellers. Well, the kitchen is an area next to the net where players are not allowed to volley.

“Why is it called the kitchen, Tim?” Because calling it the “laundry room” just sounded silly.

“But Tim, why can’t you volley in the kitchen?” I have no idea why, okay? I didn’t make up this sport. No more questions, please! You’re starting to get annoying.

Pickleball is often played on tennis courts. They paint the pickleball court lines in a different color to help avoid confusion with the tennis boundaries. This is irritating to tennis players. But this is just a short-term problem because within five years, there will be nobody left who still plays tennis. Such a pity.

So, if you’re over 60 and you’re looking for a way to become more active and meet lots of interesting people, my advice is this: Try golf or basketball or kayaking or aerobic water jazzercise. But if none of those sounds like your cup of tea, then definitely give pickleball a try. But if that still sounds like too much effort, then maybe shuffleboard is more your style. I hear it’s making a comeback.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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THE GREAT PHONINI – The World’s Greatest Telephone Magician

THE GREAT PHONINI – The World’s Greatest Telephone Magician

Prepare to be amazed. Introducing the one, the only GREAT PHONINI, the world’s greatest telephone magician – and as far as we can tell, the ONLY one.

Prepare to be amazed. Introducing the one, the only GREAT PHONINI, the world’s greatest telephone magician – and as far as we can tell, the ONLY one.

[The telephone rings] RRRRRINNGGG! RRRRRINNGGG!   

Guy answering his phone: “Hello?”

Telephone Announcer: “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, INTRODUCING THE WORLD’S GREATEST TELEPHONE MAGICIAN. And now, for your listening amusement and AMAZEMENT, it’s the one, the only, THE GREAT PHONINI!”

Guy: “Excuse me? Who’s calling?”

The GREAT PHONINI: Thank you very much for coming. And now –

Guy: “What? I didn’t come anywhere. I’m in my living room. Is this Barney? What’s up, buddy?

PHONINI: “It’s not Barney. It is I, the GREAT PHO-NI-NI!! And you are about to hear some magical miracles like you’ve never heard before. Now, close your eyes and – “

Guy: “Um, hold on a minute. Did you just say, ‘you’re about to HEAR some magic?’ Is this Barney? You really had me going there for a minute.”

PHONINI: “Like I said, it is not Barney. It is I, the GREAT PHO-NI-NI. Imagine for a minute that you can see this gorgeous buxom blond woman standing beside me. This is my incredibly talented – and sexy – assistant, Gretchen.”

Guy: “Um, sure, Barney, I mean, All Great and Powerful Oz.”

PHONINI: “This isn’t the Wizard of Oz. I’m the GREAT PHONINI, the world’s greatest telephone magician. If you could see her, I am sure you’d agree that Gretchen is quite stunning. Gretchen, will you please enter this giant box before you?” [He pauses explaining that Gretchen needs time to get situated in the box.] “Very good. Caller, notice how I open the box and there are no hidden compartments of any kind. Now, if you will count to three… “

Guy: “Seriously? Okay. This better not be a weird sales pitch from T-Mobile. I told them four times now I am not interested in their upgrade package. Okay, ‘1, 2, 3.’ “

PHONINI: “Abracadabra! As you can hear, Gretchen is gone. Hard to believe, right?”

Guy: “You got that right. Dude, you realize we’re on the fricking phone, right? I can’t see a thing. You expect me just to believe you that she’s magically vanished? How about we switch to FACETIME so I can see?”

PHONINI: “I don’t have Facetime. My flip phone can only make audio calls. But trust me. If you could have seen what just happened, you’d be blown away. My lovely assistant is gone. But would you like me to bring her back?”

Guy: “Back? Back from where? Next to you on your couch? But what the heck. I’ll play along. Sure. Amaze me. Please, Lord, bring her back. Whatever.”

PHONINI: “I will now say the magic words: Hocus Pocus. And voila, Gretchen’s back. ‘Gretchen, did you miss me?’ She’s nodding yes.”

Guy: “Okay, who is this really? And if you really are the GREAT PHONINI, how do you expect me to believe you made Gretchen disappear. Let me guess. Gretchen is your basset hound, and you just threw her a ball to make her momentarily disappear, until she came back with the ball, Am I right?”

PHONINI: “You’ll just have to trust me. Now for my next incredible feat, listen as Gretchen ties me up in unbreakable chains and a straitjacket. ‘Now, Gretchen, make it as tight as possible, dear.’  [There is a pause and there are sounds of grunting and clanking chains in the background.] There, I’m completely tied up. And now Gretchen has attached my chains to a fifteen-foot high crane. [Grunting and breathing heavily] Now I’m upside down, [more grunts] hovering precariously over a steaming cauldron of boiling oil that is over 1,000 degrees.”

Guy: “Hmm. Let me guess. In a minute you’re going to tell me that you somehow escaped from your terrifying predicament miraculously within seconds of the crane lowering you into the boiling oil.”

[Over the phone] “And now, The GREAT PHONINI will magically turn this rabbit into a bouquet of roses. Abracadabra, Presto Chango. Would you like a rose, sir?” “Um, who are you, dude, and how did you get my number?”

[Over the phone] “And now, The GREAT PHONINI will magically turn this rabbit into a bouquet of roses. Abracadabra, Presto Chango. Would you like a rose, sir?”
“Um, who are you, dude, and how did you get my number?”

PHONINI: “How did you know? Have I called you before? Anyway, just watch, I mean listen. [Over the phone, we hear more loud grunting and clanking until finally, PHONINI coughs and then whispers in an exhausted voice.]  “Wow, that was close. For a moment there, I thought I was going to meet my maker.”

Guy: “And who is your maker? T-Mobile? How’d you get my phone number anyway? Was that magic, too?”

PHONINI: “And now for a mystifying card trick. Caller, pick a card, any card.”

Guy: “Why are you saying, ‘caller?’ You called ME, remember?”

PHONINI: “Have you chosen your card? Write it down on a piece of paper.”

Guy: “This is ridiculous.”

PHONINI: “Have you written it down, sir?”

Guy [grabs a piece of paper and writes down the four of clubs]: “Okay, okay. I’ve written it down.”

PHONINI: “Very good, my fine chap. Is this your card?

Guy: Is WHAT my card? I can’t see what you’re holding.

PHONINI: Oh, right. My bad. Well, then. Would your card by any chance be the seven of hearts?”

Guy: “Nope. Very impressive.”

PHONINI: “Oh dear. Well then, surely it must have been the Jack of Spades.”

Guy: Strike two, El PHONINI.”

PHONINI: “My, this is quite embarrassing. My good fellow, would you mind going to your refrigerator and opening the door?”

Guy: “Dude, you’re starting to creep me out. If this is Barney, you really need to stop your day drinking, buddy. Okay, I’m at my fridge and I’ve opened the door.”

PHONINI: Excellent. Now, open the crisper drawer and grab that orange sitting there.”

Guy: “Wait, what? How did you know I have an orange in my fridge?”

PHONINI: “Lucky guess.“

Guy: “Yeah, yeah. Seriously, how did you know I had an orange there? Is T-Mobile bugging my house with hidden web cams?”

PHONINI: “Now, take a sharp-edged knife and slice your orange in half.”

Guy: “You know, I’m this close to calling the cops on you. But okay, here goes.” [Guy grabs a knife and slices the orange down the middle.]

PHONINI: “Please peel the cover off the orange. Tell me, what do you see?”

Guy [peels the cover off, as instructed]: “What the f*ck? There’s a card inside the cover of my orange.”

PHONINI: “Would you mind sharing what card appears?”

Guy: “How in the HELL did you do that!!!”

PHONINI: “What, pray tell, is the card you have found, sir?”

Guy [thunderstruck with confusion]: “It’s the four of clubs. That’s my card! THAT’S MY CARD!! How did you do that???!!!”

PHONINI: “It’s magic. Thank you for being a great audience. And now for my very final act, I will make myself disappear.”

And in a flash, the GREAT PHONINI vanished. The line was dead.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Subscribe to my new View from the Bleachers YouTube Channel and request notifications to see my latest videos. And check out my new book, THE SECRET TO SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS (is Something I Have Never Figured Out. I’ Open to Suggestions).

Apparently My Wife Doesn’t Like It When I Kiss Other Women

Apparently My Wife Doesn’t Like It When I Kiss Other Women

Sometimes I can disappoint my wife and, without intending to, hurt her feelings. For example, recently she was telling me something about something – not really sure what her point was. I was watching a football game at the time. Then she asked me a question about something or other. Apparently, “Sure, honey, that’s great” was not the response she was looking for when she asked me (I later learned) “When do you plan to start making dinner?” So, she got a little peeved, if you can believe this, just because I had not listened to a single word she’d been saying for the past five minutes. In my defense, it was a playoff game.

Don’t get me wrong. My wife is a wonderful person. But she asked that I not mention her by name in this story and therefore will be referred to as “Joanna.” I love Mic – er, Joanna dearly. But sometimes, it seems I can’t quite measure up to her lofty expectations of her husband. Now and then she’ll roll her eyes in annoyance over the most trivial infractions. Like the time I left the toilet seat up after I used it. Or the time I ate the last slice of German Chocolate cake without consulting her first. Or the time I kissed another woman.

Perhaps that last example warrants additional clarification. I couldn’t very well deny that I had kissed another woman because, technically, I did it right in front of Joanna. She saw the whole thing. I must have misread the other woman’s buying signals because when I kissed her, like Joanna, she was none too pleased about it. This woman, who I’ll call “Sarah,” was, to my surprise, so put off by my sudden romantic overture that she slapped me across the face. But I have an explanation for my actions: She was really attractive. (My wife has informed me that does not make what I did okay. I guess I just disappointed her again.)

In retrospect, I can see how my actions might have been slightly hurtful to Joanna. Perhaps I should have asked her for permission before I took Sarah in my arms, caressed her hair, and kissed her. I probably did not make things any better when later that same evening, I approached Sarah again and once again planted a passionate kiss on her lips. My wife caught me in the act this second time as well. (She sure can be a busybody.) My encore kissing performance just made matters worse. I now appreciate how, from Joanna’s perspective, I probably mishandled this affair, because, to be honest, I didn’t give a second’s thought about how my actions would impact my life partner.

I imagine Joanna was asking herself, “Who is this man I thought I knew? Can’t he see I’m right here?!?” I should add that on my second romantic overture, as our mouths came together, Sarah didn’t slap me. She didn’t push me away. Quite the contrary. She acted as if she really liked it – a lot. She put her arms around me and swooned. It was magical – except for the small part about Joanna being a witness to this scene. I was concerned that she might not speak to me for the rest of the evening – or make me dinner.

I am not proud to admit that I pursued this tawdry affair for three weeks. I only saw Sarah on Friday and Saturday evenings, and on a couple Sunday afternoons. Before each visit, I rehearsed what I was going to say to her to win her heart again. And my lines worked perfectly. Each rendezvous was as exciting as the previous one. But after three weeks, Sarah abruptly broke it off, without so much as a goodbye kiss. She decided she had to put our affair behind her. I never saw her again. I would never feel the touch of her ruby red lips or her hands as they forcefully slapped my face, ever again.

I have to say, Joanna was surprisingly forgiving. Because after having witnessed me kiss Sarah not once but twice, on the way home, she barely brought it up. What a great gal! But to be honest, I’m not really sure why any of this should have bothered her in the first place. For starters, Joanna and I weren’t even married at the time. We were just dating. I had never said I wouldn’t see other people.

Spoiler Alert: When Joanna and I were dating, I got cast as Sky Masterson in a community theater production of Guys And Dolls. My character had to kiss his female co-star, Sarah Brown, twice in each of our show’s eight performances. Hey, I was just doing my job!

Spoiler Alert: When Joanna and I were dating, I got cast as Sky Masterson in a community theater production of Guys And Dolls. My character had to kiss his female co-star, Sarah Brown, twice in each of our show’s eight performances. Hey, I was just doing my job!

Oh, and I’m not sure if this next part is important, but the woman I kissed was a fellow actor in a community theater production of Guys And Dolls we were in, in Miami, FL, the city where Joanna and I first met. We were on stage in front of 400 people just performing our lines, which included two kissing scenes.

So, if you ask me, I really think my wife should have taken up her concerns with the director, not me. I was just following the script.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

[Author’s Postscript: The story above is 100% true. In the play, my character, a rogue, suave gambler named Sky Masterson, falls in love with a character exactly his opposite: an upright, devoutly religious Salvation Army worker named, you guessed it, SARAH Brown.

Our characters kissed twice in each of our eight performances, which were performed on Friday and Saturday nights and matinees on Sunday. In the first instance, the virtuous, innocent Sarah is mortified by Sky’s slick, overly bold unexpected kiss, so much so that she slaps him in the face afterward. And my co-star did not hold back! But later in the play, the two characters fall deeply in love and Sky kisses her again, this time, with her swooning in his arms – just the way my wife swoons every time I kiss her. Um, sort of . – TEJ]

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2022

“Buenos Nachos” – Beginning Spanish for American Tourists

“Buenos Nachos” – Beginning Spanish for American Tourists

So you’re on vacation in Mexico, but you don’t know a word of Spanish. Let me help you out. For starters, if you’re thirsty for a local beer, you might not want to ask the bartender, “Do you have Corona?” Be safe and ask for Dos Equis instead.

So you’re on vacation in Mexico, but you don’t know a word of Spanish. Let me help you out. For starters, if you’re thirsty for a local beer, you might not want to ask the bartender, “Do you have Corona?” Be safe and ask for Dos Equis instead.

It was 10pm at night. We had just arrived, exhausted, in La Paz, Mexico. We were about to spend ten relaxing days on vacation at a charming seaside resort on the Sea of Cortez. Ah, paradise awaits us. A gracious young Mexican hotel staffer assisted us with our luggage and showed us to our room before he bid us a pleasant goodnight.

As I attempted to tell him “goodnight” in Spanish, I suddenly had a deer-in-the-headlights moment. I haltingly fumbled my response, awkwardly uttering “um, Buenos Nachos, señora.” My wife quickly pointed out that I had just told the young man “Good Nachos, ma’am.” That might explain the confused expression on his face as he walked out the door. I meant to say “Buenas noches, señor.” In my defense, it turns out that the resort’s restaurant, I would later discover, did in fact serve very tasty nachos. So in a way, I was eerily correct in saying Buenos Nachos.

Truth is I hadn’t studied up nearly enough on my basic Spanish before our trip. To help you avoid an embarrassing faux pas like mine, let’s review some basic lessons in Beginning Spanish. This should assist you greatly the next time you’re planning on traveling to Mexico – or hiring a roofer to replace your roof.

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed to discover that most Mexicans primarily speak Spanish… all the time. Many of them are shockingly limited in their English vocabulary. So, if you find yourself drawing a total blank on how to converse in Spanish, don’t worry. Do what I usually do. Just speak confidently and loudly in plain English while laying on your thickest Ricky Ricardo Spanish accent. Eventually, in many cases, the local will get so annoyed that they’ll start responding in English. Problem solved.

One of the nice things about the Spanish language is that many of its words are similar to the English word for the same thing. For example: We say “romantic.” In Spanish, they say “romantico.” We say “fantastic.” They say “fantástico.” I say, “Do you have any weed?” They say, “Estas bajo arresto,” which loosely translates to “you’re under arrest.” Turns out undercover police in Mexico don’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to drugs.

At some point, your attempts to explain your request for assistance in loud English with a bad Spanish accent may not be enough to engage in a successful exchange. As unfair as it sounds, you’ll probably need to learn a few useful expressions to get around. Here are a few beginning phrases that may come in handy on your next adventure to Mexico:

“¿Dónde está el baño?” >> which means “Where is the bathroom?”

“¿Conoces algún buen restaurante cerca?” >> “Do you know of a good restaurant nearby?”

“¿Dónde está el hospital más cercano? Creo que me rompí el brazo golpeando una piñata.” >> “Where is the nearest hospital? I think I broke my arm swatting at a pinata.”

“Por favor perdoname. Cuando le pedí sexo a esa mujer, no me di cuenta de que era tu esposa” >> “Please forgive me. When I propositioned that woman for sex, I did not realize she was your wife.”

See these American tourists? They just arrived in Mexico, but none of them speaks the language. That became a problem when Charlie (in the red Hawaiian shirt) tried to explain to the waitress that he is 32 years old. He meant to say, “Tengo 32 años.” But what he actually said was, “Tengo 32 anos:”: “I have 32 anuses.” It went downhill from there.

See these American tourists? They just arrived in Mexico, but none of them speaks the language. That became a problem when Charlie (in the red Hawaiian shirt) tried to explain to the waitress that he is 32 years old. He meant to say, “Tengo 32 años.” But what he actually said was, “Tengo 32 anos:”: “I have 32 anuses.” It went downhill from there.

Sometimes, if you can’t think of the appropriate Spanish word in the moment, you might try inserting a French or Italian expression instead. As they are all Romance languages, oftentimes, the word you’re looking for is similar.

Let’s say you’re in Puerto Vallarta, and you’re in the mood for Chinese food. You want to ask the local for the name of a “good Chinese restaurant.”

In Spanish, it’s “un buen restaurante chino.” In Italian it’s “un bel ristorante cinese.” And in French, it’s “un bon restaurant chinois”

Notice how the words for “a good Chinese restaurant” are all quite similar. On second thought, forget about it. I just remembered. There are no good Chinese restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.

If you’re in a jam, there’s always Google Translate to the rescue. You simply type what you want to say in English, and voilà (that’s French). Your phone’s Google Translate app can instantly transcribe your English message into any one of over 100 languages. Truly incredible.

The next time you’re in, say, Peru, and you want to buy an authentic handmade Peruvian hat from one of the local street vendors, don’t worry if you can’t think of the right words. Just type into Google Translate, “I love this hat. How much does it cost?”

Then show your phone to the merchant and watch as they read the following phrase, complete with accent marks: “Unë e dua këtë kapelë. Sa kushton?”

Notice how they suddenly appear to be confused, raise their voice, gesticulate wildly, and shout in your face, “no tengo idea de lo que acabas de decir”. Your wife quickly pulls you aside and informs you that they said, “I have no idea what you just said.” But don’t panic. Just look at your phone. Notice how you accidentally had the translation set to Albanian. No problema, amigo.

If all else fails, you will want to memorize these two words: “¿habla Inglés?”

You’ll get the hang of it eventually. Maybe not this minute. Maybe not today, but no doubt by bañana – which my wife just pointed out does not mean tomorrow in Spanish. She gently added, “The word you’re looking for is mañana – you idiot!”

If it all feels just a little too overwhelming trying to learn Spanish before your next vacation, then the first time you come across a local and you have no idea what they just said, just smile. Point to your wife. Let her do the talking. Clearly she’s way better at this than you are.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base. Or as they say in Mexico, “Esa es la vista desde las gradas. Quizás me equivoque.”

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2022

The Forgotten Minority Group – Picky Eaters

The Forgotten Minority Group – Picky Eaters

Ah, the frustrations and anguish of being a picky eater. This might as well have been me when I was a young child, being asked to eat my broccoli. Wouldn’t eat it then. Won’t eat it now. It’s not easy being someone like me when you’re at a Lebanese bistro that only serves hummus and lamb.

Ah, the frustrations and anguish of being a picky eater. This might as well have been me when I was a young child, being asked to eat my broccoli. Wouldn’t eat it then. Won’t eat it now. It’s not easy being someone like
me when you’re at a Lebanese bistro that only serves hummus and lamb.

Throughout our nation’s fractious history, there has always been discrimination, hatred and intolerance directed at people who were different. You might think, as someone who is a well-educated middle-class, white male who went to an all-boys private college preparatory school, that I’m a member of the white male, oppressor class. And my wife would agree with you 100%.

But the truth, however, is more complicated. I’m also a member of TWO rarely mentioned, unfairly treated minority groups. For one thing, like millions of other white males in their sixties, I suffer in silence from the cruel  plight of male pattern baldness. Tragically, there is NO CURE. (Okay, I’ve just been informed by my wife that there are about five dozen known cures, ranging from Rogaine to hair replacement, so, um, let’s skip over to my second minority group).

More importantly, I’m also a member of one of the last remaining discriminated minorities that you will never read about in the mainstream media or on Twitter. I’m talking about people like me who are picky eaters.

As “highly selective epicures”, we’ve been ridiculed, mocked, humiliated, and misunderstood all our lives. It’s time someone shined a spotlight on the longstanding pattern of mistreatment people like me have endured from all those foofoo foodies in our lives who think they’re superior to us just because they like Escargots à la Bourguignonne and people like me have no idea what those words mean.

I’ve always been a finicky eater, or as I prefer to be called, a “culinarily-restricted food connoisseur.” In my case, it dates back to my childhood. When I grew up, my mom, who was raised in a small town in Ohio, always served us traditional midwestern meals: Cereal or eggs and toast for breakfast; ham and cheese sandwiches or chicken noodle soup for lunch; and for dinner, some type of beef, along with potatoes, corn, green beans, and such – classic American food from the 1950s. From an early age, my food mantra has been, “If it used to moo, it’s something I’ll chew.”

My mom never served us exotic foreign foods (unless you count pizza, which I’m told came from Italy). So, like my siblings, I grew up with an extremely limited food palate. My wife, on the other hand, will eat ANYTHING. Jellied octopus? No problem. Fried rattlesnake? Sounds fun! Pickled herring? Pass the plate. Cheese-glazed locusts? That’s disgusting. But if you ask my wife, she’ll say, “I’ll give it a try.”

Whenever we dine out with another couple, it’s always the same uncomfortable negotiation about where to go for dinner:

My wife: Where does everybody want to go for dinner?

Me: Have you guys tried Five Guys Burgers?

My wife’s friend Janet: Oh, oh, I know of this great Thai-Vietnamese place. They serve the best tofu-infused frog legs. It’s to die for. But I also read about their scorpion mushroom cold soup that sounds yummy.

This is the kind of meal I was raised on. A nice medium rare steak, baked potato stuffed with butter and bacon bits, and maybe some green beans. But most of our friends are hardcore foodies. And you won’t hear them suggesting we go to my favorite restaurant: Outback Steakhouse. Sigh.

This is the kind of meal I was raised on. A nice medium rare steak, baked potato stuffed with butter and bacon bits, and maybe some green beans. But most of our friends are hardcore foodies. And you won’t hear them
suggesting we go to my favorite restaurant: Outback Steakhouse. Sigh.

My wife: That sounds delicious.

Me: Just spitballing here. But what about Golden Corral?

Janet’s husband, Bruce: Hey, how about that new Afghani-Lebanese place that just opened up in a former homeless shelter? I hear their horse embryo kabob is amazing.

Me: Any takers for Buffalo Wild Wings?

My wife: Or we could try this place I’ve always wanted to check out. It’s an Indian restaurant called the Maharaja Exotic Spice Club. Tres chic. A friend told me that you simply MUST try their spider monkey in barnacle sauce.

Me: Ew. Do they serve anything you might find on Old MacDonald’s farm, like, say, chicken?

All of them: Don’t know. But we’re sure you’ll find something you’d like.

It’s always like this. Last time, we tried an Egyptian joint where one of our friends insisted I try the fried cow brain (and yes, that’s a thing) just to push myself out of my comfort zone. I graciously declined. Then, after dinner, someone suggested we go somewhere else for dessert. Momentarily I got excited thinking we could check out an ice cream parlor or frozen yogurt store. But my hopes were dashed when I was outvoted. We ended up at a small, greasy Chinese food cart standing on the sidewalk, as the group ordered sweet potato ginger dessert soup and bubble tea. I would have had far more fun stopping by the ER instead, to get my stomach pumped from whatever it was I consumed at dinner.

I know my narrow, boring menu of preferred food options is annoying to my friends. I can feel their sneering, haute cuisine condescension when they order their Moroccan Couscous with roasted cabbage, then roll their eyes as I request my chicken and rice. I know they’re judging me.

When the ordeal, I mean meal, is mercifully over, and everybody raves about their fancy four-course tofu repast, I quietly nod that my Caesar salad was “fine.” I try not to draw attention to my embarrassment – because my dining companions are usually plenty adept at doing that for me without my help.

What is this mouth-watering meal you’re looking at? Beats the hell out of me. I’ve no idea. But I am sure my wife will love it. Mine is a much simpler food palate, and sometimes it gets awkward when I don’t even recognize the names of the entrees on the menu. I guess I’ll just have the salad – again.

What is this mouth-watering meal you’re looking at? Beats the hell out of me. I’ve no idea. But I am sure my wife will love it. Mine is a much simpler food palate, and sometimes it gets awkward when I don’t even recognize the names of the entrees on the menu. I guess I’ll just have the salad – again.

I ‘ve been a fussy eater my entire adult life. It’s just a quirk about me that I’ve come to accept is one of my most obvious character flaws. In my defense, over time, I have tried to expand my culinary tolerance. There are several foods I used to avoid which I now willingly consume, such as salmon, crab, scallops, fajitas, cucumbers, and asparagus, to name a few. But no, I’m still not going to try the cow brains, thank you very much.

So, I am making slow (if you ask my wife, excruciatingly slow) progress. But the next time we’re out to dinner, if you offer me some of your Brussels sprouts, please don’t be offended when I politely decline. And don’t bother suggesting I try one of your raw oysters. That’s just disgusting.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2022