Thursday, March 31, 2005

Dolphins vs. Broncos

My hubby is a sports fan. Well, maybe that’s the wrong word . . . he’s more of a sports fanatic! He’s the kind of guy who can simultaneously listen to a basketball game on the radio, watch a football game on TV, clean his hunting rifle, polish his bowling ball and organize his fishing tackle. A real multi-tasker.

I had no idea what I was getting into when we got married. The men in my family shunned sports. The closest thing to a sport my father ever played was pinochle. And in high school, my brother was the band nerd, not the jock. Our family followed sports events only during the Olympics when we gathered in front of the TV to watch women’s gymnastics.

As a new bride, I learned that hubby’s number one passion was football. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day were spent eating, talking and playing charades. But when I got married, football took center stage. Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Super Bowl – we had more bowls than a Tupperware party.

I spent my weekends reading, doing household chores and running after the kids, so I got used to the constant background noise of football – the banter of sports announcers, the whistles of referees, the booming blare of the Chevy truck and Budweiser commercials, and the groans of hubby when the opposing team scored.

I figured early on in our marriage that if I wanted to spend time with my hubby, I’d better learn to like football . . . or at least not to loathe it. The first game we watched together was between the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos (hubby’s favorite team). I wanted to learn about the fascinating sport of football and I was an apt pupil. We were snuggling on the couch munching popcorn. Hubby was intent on downing a six-pack of Coors and I was sipping a coke.

“So what are they doing now, honey?” I said.

“They’re in the huddle, sweetcakes.”

“Why, sugar baby?”

“Planning the next play, bunny boo.”

“They should have thought of that before the game started, lemon drop.”

Hubby rolled his eyes and finished off beer number one, crushing the empty can with his bare hand. We continued watching as one Bronco threw the ball to another Bronco, but a Dolphin jumped right in and snatched it in mid-air. Hubby grunted and reached for another beer, but I was outraged.

“Hey, did you see that” I yelled. “He just grabbed the ball when that other guy was trying to catch it!”

“It’s called an interception.”

“I don’t care what it’s called. It’s not fair!” The next thing I knew, the Dolphin that “intercepted” the ball was crushed by a pile of Broncos.

“Good,” I said smugly. “He got what he deserved.” Just then the sports announcer said something about “first and ten.”

“What does that mean, cupcake?” I asked.

“It’s first down for the Dolphins. They have the ball now . . . muffin.”

“No they don’t. The umpire took it.”

“That’s the referee.”

“Yeah, right. You don’t fool me. I happen to know that referees do basketball.”

Hubby glared at me for no apparent reason and popped the top off his third Coors as we watched the Dolphins score a touchdown. I have to admit at this point I was getting a little bored. The announcers were tossing off words like “offensive line,” “punt,” “field goal,” “scrimmage,” “blitz,” “wingback” and “fumble.” Complete gibberish. I had no idea what was going on, but I was here to learn.

“Why do they wear black paint under their eyes, sweet pea?” I asked. But I don’t think he heard me. Just then a Bronco scored a touchdown and hubby was staring at the TV to watch the instant replay.

“How many points in a touch down?” I asked.

“Six for the touchdown and one for the extra point.”

“Why can’t the touchdown just be worth seven points and be done with it?”

“That’s the rules.”

“Stupid rules, if you ask me. What a waste of time.”

“Look if you don’t want to watch the game, why don’t you find something else to do . . . lamb chop?”

Here was my chance to make a break for it. Suddenly washing the dishes seemed like a vacation paradise. And even the thought of cleaning the toilets held some appeal. But I was determined to stick it out no matter what.

“No, that’s okay. I like watching the game . . . pudding lump.”

“Whatever you say . . . ginger snap.”

I was watching the little clock on the TV screen, counting the minutes until the first quarter was over. Hubby said the game comprised four quarters of fifteen minutes each. But the clock kept stopping. I was getting frustrated. The game would go on forever at this rate.

“Why does the clock keep stopping?” I demanded.

“Time outs.”

“That means a quarter doesn’t really last fifteen minutes . . . it’s more like half an hour. No wonder these football games are three hours long.” Silence from hubby. This encouraged me to continue:

“You know, those uniforms are pretty dirty; I wonder how they get those pants so white after a game. They must use special bleach. And speaking of uniforms, don’t you just love the Dolphins’ uniforms? They have that cute little dolphin on the sides of their helmets.”

I don’t know how it happened, but the game had only been on less than an hour and hubby had already finished off the six-pack. I had barely made a dent in my coke. He seemed kind of miffed, too, but I don’t know why. The Broncos were winning.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Hot Night in Bedrock

It was a hot night in Bedrock. Sweat was pouring down my back and the monkey that pedaled the fan motor decided to take a banana break. When you’re a private investigator, you sometimes have to burn the midnight oil, and this was one of those nights.

It had been a long day and I was just about to mosey down to the local watering hole for a tall glass of pterodactyl juice on the rocks before heading home to watch the match between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. Bugs, my bookie, had given me a tip that tonight the bird was gonna lose . . . and lose big. I’d bet 100 clams on the coyote. The odds were high, but if Bugs knew what he was talking about, I’d be swimming in oysters for a month.

I grabbed my hat and walked toward the door when a dame walked in. Dames are a dime a dozen in Bedrock, but this one stood out like a cherry on a vanilla cone. She was tall, slender, and her red hair was pinned on top of her head with a little dinosaur bone. Her sexy white dress looped over a shapely shoulder and a single strand of pearls enhanced the curve of her neck. I could tell she was nervous and a little flustered.

“Are you Rocky Feldspar? Private Eye?”

“That depends on who wants to know.”

“My name is Flintstone. Wilma Flintstone.”

Flintstone . . . Flintstone . . . the name was familiar. I knew a Reuben Flintstone who worked out of Jellystone Park undercover as a bear, staking out picnic basket thieves. I’d also heard of a Seymore Flintstone, an informer that had testified in the Bullwinkle Moose trial and was now in the witness protection program. But one look at Wilma’s baby browns told me I was sniffing around the wrong fire hydrant.

“Have a seat,” I said, and offered her a chair next to my desk. She crossed her legs and her skirt slid up a few inches, but she quickly pulled it down over her dimpled knees.

“So, what’s your story,” I asked.

“I think my husband is trying to kill me.”

“What do you mean?”

She started to tear up and unsnapped her turtle purse, pulling out a handkerchief to wipe her eyes.

“Fred’s a foreman at the Rockhead Quarry. He’s not much in the brains department … or looks either, for that matter . . . but he’s a good provider.”

“Go on.”

“He’s a simple man. A member of the Royal Order of Water Buffalos. He goes bowling on Friday nights. And all he wants from me is a rack of barbequed spare ribs ready for him when he comes home.”

“Sounds like a great guy.”

She picked up on my sarcasm right away and a smile played at the corner of her mouth. “Yeah,” she said. “Fred’s one in a million.”

“Then why do you think he wants you dead?”

She unsnapped her purse again and pulled out an envelope, which she passed on to me. “I found this in his bowling bag. An insurance policy worth 500,000 big ones.”

I opened the envelope. The policy was legit, all right. Looked like Flintstone was in like flint . . . if he could pull it off. But something in my gut told me there was more to the story. I looked up and Wilma was standing next to me. She took the bone out of her hair and auburn tresses cascaded down her back.

“I’m pretty sure Fred is having an affair,” she said in a sultry voice.

I’d been down this road before. A dame finds out her husband has a lover, so she goes after the first guy she finds to prove she’s still desirable. I’d learned that lesson the hard way with Jane Jetson. Her husband George came after me one night with a loaded forty-five. Lucky for me his aim was lousy and he just riddled the wall behind me full of holes. What do you expect from a guy who walks his dog on a treadmill.

“Look, sweetheart,” I growled, grabbing her by the shoulders and pushing her back into the chair. “I’m not gonna play your reindeer games.” She looked hurt, but got over it faster than you could say “yabba dabba doo.” She pinned her hair back up with the dinosaur bone and smiled.

“No games, Feldspar. I just thought it would help the case if you knew what Fred was up to in his spare time. Not that I care. Our marriage has been dead for years. We’re only staying together for the sake of Pebbles.”

“Fruity Pebbles? The cereal?”

“No. Our baby daughter.”

“So who’s the dame?”

“Betty Rubble.”

I wrote the name down, but it was just for show. I knew Betty. A slinky brunette with big brown eyes and legs that wouldn’t quit. Fred didn’t know what he was getting in to, the poor sap.

“How do you know he’s having an affair?”

“He comes home late from work with lipstick on his collar. And I found some pink panties in his pocket. Not mine.”

“Maybe they’re his.”

“Not a chance. They were monogrammed ‘B.R.’ I know they belonged to Betty.” She showed about as much emotion as an accountant reciting the tax code at an IRS conference.

Like I said, I knew Betty very well. But I also knew about her dopey husband Barney and the double life he led. Those panties were his or my name wasn’t Rocky Feldspar.

“Can you help me, Feldspar? I heard you were the best P.I. in Bedrock.”

I couldn’t argue with her there. I was proud of my record. If it wasn’t for me, Mr. Magoo would still be jaywalking. And thanks to my efforts, Speedy Gonzales was locked up in the slammer without parole for running guns in Mexico. In fact, because of my deft detective skills, Boris and Natasha were nabbed for trying to skip the country with that nuclear warhead. Now they were waiting their turn at the gas chamber instead of knocking back vodka shots in Minsk.

I walked over to Wilma and put my arms around her. She didn’t resist. Despite her cavalier air, I knew she was in pain. I don’t usually get personally involved with my clients, but there was something about her that aroused my inner caveman.

“Sure angel, I’ll take the case.”

“Can I call you Rocky?”

“Call me whatever you like.” I turned off the desk lamp and we embraced in the moonlight. Tomorrow I would get to work, but first I had a bone to pick with Wilma Flintstone.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Ruby Slipper Odyssey

I love Hollywood musicals.

I was eight years old when I saw my first – “The Wizard of Oz.” It came to our local movie theatre that summer and then I watched it on television every year around Easter time. I nibbled on chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks, eyes wide with horror as the Wicked Witch of the West sent her flying monkeys to the Haunted Forest.

I learned all the songs from the movie and I’d sing anytime, anyplace . . . at the school playground (“Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”) . . . in the car on family trips (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) . . . making mud pies in my Easy Bake Oven (“If I Only Had a Brain”).

As I matured, I got into the harder stuff – “Singing in the Rain,” “Summer Stock,” “South Pacific.” I watched these “oldies” on the Late Late Late Show, munching popcorn and sipping Nestles Quick.

It was 1969 . . . Vietnam . . . protest marches . . . Woodstock . . . and I was a clueless 12-year-old. My friends in junior high were into Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Doors. Not me. I daydreamed about tap dancing with Gene Kelly on a shiny mahogany desk to the tune of “Moses Supposes His Toeses are Roses.”

Later on I discovered “West Side Story,” “Anything Goes” and “Cabaret.” I saved up my allowance and bought the record albums of my favorite shows, elbowing my way passed the blue-haired ladies and the men in plaid suits with Clark Gable mustaches in the “Showtunes” section. I karaoke-ed to “My Fair Lady” before there was such a thing as karaoke. It was my secret vice. While other teens were smoking pot, I was getting high on “The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly on the Plain.”

“Jesus Christ Superstar” made its debut in the early 1970s and every girl in my high school was swooning over Ted Neely. The fact that he was Jesus didn’t seem to matter. For the first time in my life, I was on the same “musical” page as my peers. Everybody loved the “Jesus” movie. For the next three years without fail, our high school talent show featured a girl singing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” The song was so popular the marching band played it during halftime at football games.

In the 1980s, I was a young mother with two impressionable children who were exposed to the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and MC Hammer. As a responsible parent, it was my duty to provide an antidote to this poison. So I began an intensive, systematic method of de-programming. My offspring would listen to the best in musical entertainment. They would learn the most sophisticated, high-brow songs of the musical theatre. My efforts paid off. I’ll never forget the day I found them prancing around the house singing “There’s Nothin’ Like a Dame.” I was a proud Mama.

The brainwashing . . . I mean the “lessons”. . . continued throughout their childhood. We sang in the car on our way to Little League practice. We sang in the kitchen as we baked chocolate chip cookies. We sang in the back yard as we played fetch with the dog. When the kids got familiar with the movies, I’d quiz them:

Me: In what movie did Gene Kelly play a sailor on shore leave?

Luke: “On the Town”!

Me: Right! Who played Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls”?

Jennifer: Frank Sinatra!

Me: Right! You kids are on a roll! What song did Fred Astaire sing when he wore the red socks?

Luke: “Steppin’ Out With My Baby!”

Me: From what movie?

Jennifer: “Easter Parade”!

Me: Excellent! Come on, let’s go to Blockbuster and get “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I want to teach you the “What’s the Buzz?” number!

Fast-forward to 2005. My 24-year-old son called me on his cell the other day. We were discussing books, blogs and the situation in Iraq. I was quite pleased the way he worked the phrase “I’m Just a Fella With an Umbrella” into our conversation.

I choose to believe this unexpected utterance was inspired by his adoration of that romantic duet with Judy Garland and Peter Lawford in “Easter Parade” . . . and not the fact that he lives in Seattle.