Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Torturous Bounces

The trotting horse showed no signs of tiring as it circled the barn. Clinging to the reins, I attempted to hook my feet back into the stirrups.

Goz stood in the center of the imaginary oval that the horse kept tracing. “Just pull back,” she said.

“Um… I can’t,” I replied, voice rattling as I bounced on the saddle. Without stirrups to brace against, I didn’t feel safe leaning back and yanking the reins.

“Just sit up and pull,” she said with a hint of panic in her voice.

Goz didn’t know the half of it. The male body wasn’t built to bounce on a saddle. In addition to being in danger of falling off, our hero was risking permanent sterilization!

I tried to hide my agony, but my tear ducts betrayed me. Hopefully Goz was too concerned for my safety to notice. Our hero inched forward with each torturous bounce – eventually I’d scoot onto its neck and get thrown to the ground. Given that I started college in less than two weeks, this would be a terrible time for a serious injury.

A horrible repetitive gurgling sound emerged from the horse’s stomach. I gripped the mane for a little more support. “I don’t think I can.”

“Wooooooah,” said Goz. “Woooooooah. Woooooooah.” The bouncing subsided and the horse came to a halt.

Taking the collar of my University of Great Lakes t-shirt to my eyes, I did my best to make it look like I was wiping sweat from my brow.

Goz extended her hand. “Maybe we should call it a day.”

“Sure, just… (gasp)… just give me a minute,” I said, pretending to be winded. As much as I hated lying to her, I had little choice. There was no appropriate way to explain that my balls needed a minute to recover.

“How are you out of breath?” asked Goz. “I thought you ran track?”

“The season… (gasp)… ended a while ago. I must be… (gasp)… out of shape.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Kosher Pizza?

Did it make sense to date non-Tribal girls?  Sometimes I wondered if that question made me sound like a brainwashed zealot.  While my parents made it no secret that they’d prefer me to stay within the Tribe, I wasn’t going to pick a girl just to win their approval.  Still, I had a lot of holidays to celebrate as it was and I’m not sure I wanted to be dragged along to any more.  Besides, it’d be nice to be with someone who also grew up lighting a menorah, eating matzah and had traditions I could incorporate into my own.  Was I limiting myself with that mentality?  Who’s to say I wouldn’t be happy with someone who wasn’t Tribal?  What if I ended up falling madly in love and having a bunch of kids with a non-Tribal girl and then we got divorced because she wanted to raise our children Zoroastrian?  At only 17 years old, was it ridiculous to waste all this mental energy worrying about religious differences?

If Goz was a member of the Tribe, my anxieties would be academic. While the long bleach blonde hair, fair skin and bright blue eyes didn’t give her a Tribal look, you could never tell for sure – our hero had similar recessive traits.

“What do you like on your pizza?” asked Goz.

Here goes. “I’m good with most veggies, but I can’t have any meat because I keep kosher.”

She furrowed her brow. “Keep what?”

So she wasn’t a member. “Kosher. I’m Tribal.”

“What’s Kosher?”

“Eating guidelines. One of them is you can’t mix milk and meat.

“You didn’t order milk.”

“Any dairy product. Plus the meat isn’t kosher – has to do with how the animal is killed and the meat is prepared.”

“Uh, okay,” said Goz, raising her eyebrow at me as though I’d just told her that I’d been born and raised on Neptune.

Once the vegetarian special arrived, I did my best to nibble away at my pizza, but it was slow going. Goz kept her eyes on my plate, never letting her piece get smaller than mine. After I maxed out at two slices, Goz shifted her gaze to the half-full pizza tray between us, but she didn’t eat another bite.

Throughout the evening, I broke uncomfortable silences by asking Goz about her favorite music, foods, books and movies. By the end of the night, I was running out of “favorites” to ask her about. While I’d hoped that my first date would give me an opportunity to get that elusive first kiss out of the way, the thought of it seemed so forced and unnatural that I didn’t give it any serious consideration when I dropped Goz off.

I'd figured that Goz had probably found me so boring and awkward during our uneventful night of small talk that I didn’t expect to hear from her again. Maybe I would’ve been disappointed if it was earlier in the summer, but with both of us about to kick off college, we weren’t about to start up a serious relationship anyway. I’d successfully gone out with a girl – a serious accomplishment that I could build upon with a new girl at The University of Great Lakes.

Apparently, I’d underestimated my standing with Goz. Perhaps first dates are expected to be uneventful nights of small talk and I’d held my own. Goz called me the next day and suggested we go riding at a horse farm near her house.
Riding a horse fit MegaHot’s uniqueness criteria. Perhaps it would’ve matched her “special” requirement if I hadn’t almost neutered myself during a simple trot around the barn.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


While the quest to find the girl of my dreams had extended into sophomore year of high school, Catwoman had been worth the wait.  There was much work ahead – as my crush was only a few minutes old.  Still, I was closer to walking off into the sunset with the love of my life than I’d ever been before.  Hopefully it wouldn’t be too long before I’d be spending these bus rides with an arm wrapped around her tiny shoulders, admiring my reflection in those chocolate eyes.  In the meantime, my boundaries were marked by a chunk of foam leaking out of a tear in the seat.

Early on into my sophomore campaign, I finally had an opportunity to unleash my enhanced suaveness. Based on how well Catwoman had responded to my anecdote about Coach Wolverine, it appeared that my plan to win over the girl of my dreams with funny stories was no Bogartian fantasy. Our hero couldn’t wait see her reaction to Chun Li’s tantrum about not being able to resurrect Tinkerbelle or Bruce Banner’s orchestra meltdown over a mom joke. Since the ride to practice guaranteed us 10 minutes of alone time everyday, I’d be able to share those tales soon enough. Once a barber tamed the overgrown Luke Skywalker-style mop on my head, I’d be unstoppable.

Game on!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

physics exam

The night of the exam, I arrived half an hour early.  While I’d planned on poring through the book, trying to absorb one or two more nuggets before go time, my heart was beating so fast that the words were impossible to read.  I was as ready as I was going to get.

Just before the exams were handed out, I put away my book and notes and took out several mechanical pencils, a graphing calculator and my 3 by 5 inch note card containing every possible useful formula in the tiniest print I could legibly produce.

As soon as we were allowed to start, I flipped through the test packet, looking for an easy question to give me a confidence boost. Our hero went through all 20 problems without finding a single gimme. Four of the questions were so foreign that they might as well have been asking me about Sumerian philosophers.

As I struggled to figure out which formulas applied, I couldn’t help but curse myself for wasting a week on this crap. Frequently the result displayed on my graphing calculator wasn’t anywhere close to any of the potential choices – sometimes by a factor of a hundred. My only solace was that since the exam was multiple choice, none of my incorrect answers would be so outlandish that Dr. Wiley would feel the need to pin them to his fridge and laugh at my stupidity each day as he made breakfast.

Walking home from the exam, I faced a harsh reality. Our hero wasn’t cut out to be an engineer – at least not at The University of Great Lakes. At best, maybe I’d gotten lucky on a few questions and wound up in the D range, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up getting more than half of the problems wrong. My only hope for a decent grade was if there was any truth to the old adage about ‘c’ being the most likely answer on a multiple-choice test. On the four “Sumerian philosopher” questions, I’d circled ‘c’ and hoped for the best.

A week later, I received the bad news at the beginning of physics lecture: 65%. The most disturbing part of my score was that it could’ve been a lot worse. I’d been correct three of the four times I’d blindly picked ‘c’.

A lump formed in my throat. While I’d expected that college would be tough, I never imagined that it’d be so relentless that I’d work my butt off and fail. Our hero considered leaving the lecture, throwing my test in the trash and dropping physics. Would I retake it again the following year? Maybe I should drop out altogether and join the Peace Corps or live on a farm until I found something I was good at.

Before I had a chance to get up, Dr. Wiley turned on the slide projector. On the screen was a picture of a bell-curve showing an average of 41.2%. According to Dr. Wiley’s scale, my dismal 65% was an A. He said that a number of people had sent him emails complaining about the difficulty of the exam. It may have been tough, but it was clearly a fair test because the scores lined up with a normalized distribution.

How did a bell-curve make it okay to fail an exam? What about learning the material? I still sucked at it. Did it not matter how well I understood the concepts, but rather how well I matched up against my peers? All that separated me from the center of that curve was my faith in the letter ‘c’ – without its help, I would’ve gotten a 50%.

Once you accounted for the mean, I’d aced the exam. Still, was I actually supposed to feel good about my score? College was shaping up to be an awfully strange time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mom Jokes

Thanks to the sketch comedy show In Living Color, the early nineties was a golden age of mom jokes. While I was not permitted to watch because my parents thought the humor was too crude and they didn’t like how women were depicted, it was impossible not to roam the hallways without picking up the punch line to just about every popular mom joke – even the ones I didn’t understand.

They were perfect for ragging on each other in a group setting. Their one-liner structure allowed everyone to get their favorites in quickly and their absurdity made them harmless fun amongst friends. Some of the more common zingers were: “Your Mom is so dumb she got locked in a grocery store and starved to death.” “I would’ve been your Daddy, but the dog beat me over the fence.” and “Your mom is so fat her blood type is Ragu.”

* * *

“Debacle,” said Bruce with his usual sneer. “Your mom is so dumb it took her two hours to watch 60 Minutes.”

It was an old one, but at least he was playing along. I retaliated with, “Your mom is so fat that when she wears a yellow raincoat people shout, Taxi.”

He drilled me with an open-handed smack to the back of the head.

“What the hell?” I exclaimed.

“What the hell?” mocked Bruce in a whiny falsetto.

Only Bruce Banner could take a mom joke seriously. I wanted to ignore him, but the bastard moved in front of me and was trying to stare me down. Who tries to pick a fight in algebra over a mom joke? I looked around – the teacher was talking to some group on Kiddo’s side of the room. Unfortunately, due to the middle school anti-tattling code, Banner was going to get away with this one.

It was time to unleash the mom joke I’d been saving up. “Hey Brucie!” I exclaimed. “What’s the difference between your Mom and a bus? … Not everyone rides the bus!”

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

There’s a Reason Kids are Scared of Escalators

(If you’re reading this on facebook, the pictures won’t show. Go to

I can’t stand it when people stand and wait on an escalator, especially if it isn’t wide enough for someone to walk by. This morning, I was especially annoyed when two severely obese dudes got on the escalator in front of me and blocked my path. From my short experience in London, if they’d pulled a stunt like that, they’d have been bowled over. Sadly, people in the City of Wind aren’t that civilized. Rather than burning a few needed calories, these pork chops stood silently and slowly rode the escalator up.

Maybe I was being a little harsh. I normally don’t make shallow fat jokes to myself. But, it was early in the morning, and I was tired and entitled to a grumpy judgmental personal monologue. I’d walked up the escalator to them hoping they’d take the hint, but the just stood there taking up space, unaware that I had a reason for haste.

I’d just left the gym and this co-worker I’d never seen there before, had worked out and just left before me. I was hoping to catch him going up the escalator. I’m still somewhat the new guy in the office; I’m up for any opportunity to be social and get to know people. Yet, my co-worker got on the escalator and walked up just ahead of me, and I’ll have to catch him on the street, because I’m stuck behind two super sizes.

I got to the top of the escalator just after the larger gentlemen, and felt a sudden pulling sensation. My right foot was stuck. I tried to pull back on it, but it wasn’t budging. My tennis shoe had gone under the teeth at the top of the escalator. One of the boards of teeth must’ve been loose, because it was slanted up, and my shoe was stuck under it. The escalator kept going, pushing up against my foot while the steps flattened out at the top.

I braced the hand rails, planted my left foot and tried to pull my foot back. Nothing. Thankfully, no one was coming up the escalator. The force of the escalator pulled my foot farther under. I had to make fists with my toes, because the escalators teeth had eaten the front of my shoe, and it was still hungry. Holy shit! I could lose my foot.

Some guy in a business suit on his way to work looked down at my peril, laughed and walked by. I was about to shout at him for help. Couldn’t he see that I was in danger? This was real life, not a youtube video.

Escalator’s all have emergency stop buttons. I looked for one on the top rail. Nothing. There was no stop button. The escalator Guantanamo style torture device gobbled another half inch of my shoe. Ow! This was really starting to hurt. Wait, why was I trying to save the shoe? I leaned down and wedged the shoe off with my right hand, and it slid halfway under the board.

I planted my foot covered with only a sock on the ground, thankfully it felt fine. Another few moments and I likely would’ve been in trouble. I walked over to the security guard at the front desk and explained to him that I lost my shoe in the escalator. He did a double take, walked over to the escalator, where a crowd had gathered.

“Oh my god, are they alright?” asked a woman pointing at the lone shoe at the top of the escalator.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, putting my sock foot forward.

“Are you sure you’re okay,” asked another woman.

“Yeah, thanks I’m fine,” I replied. Damn, where were these people a minute earlier when I needed them. Instead, I got some joker who laughed at me and walked away while in peril. I’ve always thought that sterilization was immoral until that moment. One point and laugh guy is enough.

The security guard pressed this tiny button on the bottom of the escalator railing and stopped it. There’s no way I could’ve seen it from the angle I was at, while I was trying to not get eaten by the machine. I hadn’t really looked at the security guard. He had a grizzled veteran look about him. Especially, in how he wasn’t showing any emotion to the situation. “Has this happened before?” I asked.

“25 years on the job,” he said. “Never seen anything like this.”

I thought about saying, You know, I have a website and I'm writing a book called "A Million Little Debacles." I guess it goes without saying that this sort of stuff only happens to me.

I gave him the necessary information to file a report and assured him that I didn’t need any medical attention. A maintenance team came and fished what was left of my shoe out.

I spoke to the building manager later that day on the phone. She was cool about it. They’re going to pay for the new pair of shoes I had to buy and the orthotics that got ruined. She was probably relived that I wasn’t threatening a lawsuit. She said she was watching the security video, and it looked like I was riding the escalator as anyone else would and then got stuck.

Generally, after something ridiculous happens, it’s easy to blame yourself. For example, when I drove into Marty’s garage door, or got my shoelace caught on top of the fence in Columbus and nearly fell to my doom. But, thinking about it, this wasn’t my fault at all. Not one bit. I was just riding the escalator. It’s almost a good thing that this happened to me and not a woman with an opened toed shoe.

As for the security video, I’m going to request it. And believe me, if I procure it, it’s going on the blog, youtube,, you name it. But, I'm willing to bet they won't give me a copy.

I left the shoe on my desk during the day at work today, as a shallow attempt to create a conversation starter. It worked. It’s not everyday that you see a fangoriously devoured shoe.
As for what to do about the shoe, one co-worker recommended that I keep it and tell my kids someday before going to a shopping mall, “This is why you don’t horse around on an escalator.”

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Here’s looking at you, Kiddo.

In addition, I’d get to hang out with the half-dozen or so members of my clique on a daily basis. After befriending Mega Man in sixth grade, he’d introduced me to some friends of his whose lives revolved around sports and video games. Going into my third year with them, I could finally take it for granted that I had a group of friends!

I carried my excitement about eighth grade right up until third period of that first day – then I entered the orchestra classroom. As soon as I sat down, my eyes went for the all too familiar wall clock. It was time for another one of the longest 45 minute sessions in the history of the universe…

As it turned out, Mrs. Krabappel was overwhelmed with administrative tasks and she actually told us that we could talk quietly while she sorted everything out. I wandered over to Koopa Troopa. “Hey Koopa,” I said.

Koopa was too busy talking to some girl to acknowledge me.

“Hey, aren’t you Debacle?” asked the girl.

“Yeah,” I said to this unfamiliar petite girl with bleach blonde hair.

“I’m Kiddo,” she said. “We were in the same summer orchestra a few years ago.”

“Oh yeah! I remember you,” I lied.

“That’s two people I know now,” she said, high fiving Koopa.

Kiddo was new to school and seemed very friendly – This had a lot of potential! Still, I knew better than to get too excited. She could be a red-herring. “Why did you switch schools?” I asked.

“I live on the boundary and I needed a change.”

“What grade are you in?”


“Ease up on the third degree there, Holmes,” said Koopa.

What? Had I overdone it with the questions? Regardless, I’d found out what I needed – Kiddo was the girl I’d waited almost 13 years for!

While Kiddo stood an inch or two south of five feet with a few large moles on her cheeks, I wasn’t looking for a future wife who looked like she belonged next to Kathy Ireland in the K-mart ads. Excitement danced through her bright blue eyes and warmth exuded from her deep laughter. Our hero couldn’t wait to caress her soft cheeks and say, Here’s looking at you, Kiddo. I had a feeling I’d be repeating that phrase a lot this year. Brushing the rim of my imaginary fedora, I joined her conversation with Koopa.

Kiddo was complaining about the orchestra teacher at her old middle school. Apparently he made you stay after school if you were late to class – even by a minute. If you weren’t one of his favorite students, he’d give you a C if you failed to practice at least a half hour each day.

“What a jerk,” I contributed.

“Actually, you know him,” said Kiddo. “He taught summer orchestra.”

Really? I’d always thought he was a kindly older man with a good sense of humor. However, if

Kiddo wasn’t a fan, I would not disappoint. It was time for my first stoic Bogart-like lie: “He’s so old and boring. I was scared I’d fall asleep during class and wake up to find him shriveled up into a raisin.”

She burst into laughter. I could feel a tiny smirk of success cross my lips, but I did my best to suppress it. Humphrey Bogart would never laugh at his own jokes.

Once Mrs. Krabappel took care of the paperwork she’d been futzing with, the last twenty minutes of class flew by. Whenever I got bored, I glanced over at Kiddo and imagined her long hair flowing in slow motion while she played her violin. Never before had I met anyone capable of combating the oppressive doldrums that made up each orchestra class. Even though I’d known the girl of my dreams for less than hour, her existence had already exceeded my expectations.

Kiddo’s laughter at my brilliant raisin comment had me smiling the rest of the day. It turned out that we had three classes together: algebra, orchestra and gym. To think, I’d spent first period in algebra and completely missed Kiddo. The girl of my dreams had been well camouflaged.

After that first orchestra class, we were already on a hello-in-the hallway basis – by far my greatest accomplishment ever with the ladies! In another week or so, we’d be ready for our song and a piano player named Sam.

What a start!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My life in front of a firing squad

During gym, I took my usual seat on the bleachers next to Kiddo, Koopa and Mega Man. On any other day, I would’ve attempted to think up a funny anecdote to add to their conversation. However, I wasn’t sure how to act around Kiddo. Had Greedo spoken with her yet? Did she confess her feelings for our hero? What if Greedo forgot or if Kiddo refused to tell Greedo who she liked? I needed to relax. Everything was guaranteed to work out – this was the day that the basketball had chosen.

During our lunch touch football game, I was so distracted that I dropped two perfect passes thrown by Mega Man. After the second one, he tried to trade me to the other team. Ugh, there was still no sign of Greedo.

After lunch, I opened my locker to put away my mud-stained jacket and grabbed my black L.L. Bean backpack overstuffed with books and loose papers. Before I could get my hand into the strap, Greedo tapped me on the shoulder.

“I spoke to Kiddo,” he said.

“Oh!?!” I exclaimed, dropping my backpack to the floor. His face conveyed neither excitement nor disappointment. Why would it? He was only a mercenary.

“She wouldn’t tell me who she liked, but it isn’t you.”

A dizzy spell came over me and I braced myself against my neighbor’s locker. Wait a second, this didn’t make sense. “How do you know it isn’t me? You weren’t supposed to tell her that I sent you.”

“Because she asked if you put me up to this. She just wants to be friends.”

How was this possible!?! I hadn’t mentioned my feelings for Kiddo to anyone else. “But—”

“She said that your face turns red whenever you talk to her.”

“Oh.” I clenched my jaw.

This wasn’t fair. My pasty complexion had undermined my Bogart-like stoicism. If I had been running Rick’s bar in wartime Casablanca, I would’ve blushed and ruined everything. Instead of walking off into the sunset with Louis to begin a beautiful friendship, the movie would’ve ended with The Nazis in possession of the transit papers while I begged for my life in front of a firing squad.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rejected Save the Date Card

This was my suggestion for the save the date card for my upcoming wedding with General Tolerance. Sadly, she rejected it, even though I think it's a great card. Well, the card speaks for itself:

Okay, loyal readers. Since my card got rejected, mydebacles is sponsoring another contest! Submit all of your suggestions for save the date cards. Winners get displayed on the blog!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

How the book got started

My mom had signed me up for a summer orchestra program to get me out of her hair for a couple hours each morning. During one of the first classes, my epic lightsaber battle with Darth Vader was interrupted when a delicate voice whispered, “Hey… uh… excuse me.”

As I looked up, I couldn’t help but notice the fairy tale-like curls at the ends of her carefully brushed hair and the way her plain white t-shirt hugged her chest. I finally understood what it meant when someone called a girl cute.

“Umm…” she muttered, displaying an uncomfortable smile.

Oops, I’d been too busy taking in the moment I discovered girls. “Oh, sorry,” I said getting up. As she scooted past, I caught her hair’s sweet berry scent. Did she think I was acting weird? Had I been staring at her? If only I could rewind and start over…

When the girl returned to her seat, I noticed that Allison Arrington was written in black marker in the upper right-hand corner or her music folder. As names go, Allison’s fine for a girl, but kind of boring for a fantasy. I mean, when I take on Jabba the Hutt, I have Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca at my side. The adventure would seem kind of lame if we saved the day rescuing “Allison.” It made a lot more sense if I thought of her as... Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman gave me a reason to look forward to orchestra. I did my best to make a good impression, going the rest of the summer without being scolded for talking in class. However, I never said another word to Wonder Woman. What was I supposed to talk her about?

When summer orchestra ended, I knew that there was a good chance I’d never see Wonder Woman again. We didn’t go to the same middle school; otherwise I would’ve recognized her from sixth grade orchestra. All was lost – unless she transferred schools. If that happened, Wonder Woman would have to talk to me on the first day of class because I’d be the only other violin she recognized! I spent the waning days of summer preparing myself for that possibility. However, when September rolled around, Wonder Woman was nowhere to be seen.

I pledged to never again let a girl slip away.

Life would be a lot easier if I met my soul mate while I was still 12 years old.