Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dreams of Dreams

Consider this a business proposal.  Or, if you prefer, a pipe dream.  But everyone has a dream, and all of my dreams play like Travel Channel shows.  Honestly, I could have gotten a law degree online by now if travel channel didn’t exist.  I am consumed by everywhere that I am not.  I imagine it’s how Hemingway used to feel.  It’s a combination of restlessness and discontent, and no, I didn’t just compare myself to Hemingway.  That guy was a hack.  Today I spent nearly two hours navigating through a Nat Geo app on my iPad, oogling over photos from other people’s adventures, and wishing the photos were mine.  And that’s when it hit me, what I’ve always wanted to do with my life is see the world, take pictures, and write about it, all on someone else’s dime.

And there’s the rub.  Aside from being lucky enough to work for travel channel or national geographic, there’s not a lot of people who get paid to go on vacation.  So I got to thinking, how do I get other people to pay for this nonsense?  And then I came up with this: 

Test Case

One Week Visit of New Zealand

Airfare    --    $1,648

Lodging -- $180

Food    --    $300

Transport    --    $300

Misc    --    $500

Total    --    $2,928

Now, I have many awesome friends, and if 300 of them were to each give me ten dollars, this trip is bought and paid for.  Now, why would anyone freely give me money you ask?  Excellent question, hermano.  The end result of this whole experiment is a funny, beautiful, and insightful travel memoir, released as an ebook, and automatically free to those who financed it.  What do you think?  Would you pay ten dollars for that?  And just for comparison, it’s two lattes, or 77 Botswanan Pula.  Tell me you don’t have that laying around.  So give me your thoughts.  I’d love to do this, but it takes a rossnation... out.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I'm about to make a crazy analogy; no need to call me on it, I already know.  I hope you're not offended, but there's a great line in The Princess Bride, just as Buttercup is about to off herself in perhaps the most painful and savage suicide in history (seriously, trying to stab yourself in the heart?!), Westley pipes in with this gem: "There's a shortage of perfect breasts in this world.  T'would be a pity to damage yours."  Well spoken, sir.  It may seem odd, but that's how I felt about this last weekend.  Let's just say there's a shortage of perfect weekends, but this one was a Buttercup.

Let's start with this: I am easily satisfied when it comes to time off.  51 weekends a year I do my laundry and sleep until 9 am, and that's enough for me.  Anything beyond that is pure gravy (if gravy is your measuring liquid of choice.)  So the chance to see my beloved Texas Rangers in action, live and and in person, is an entire boat of Mom's world-famous gravy.  Back to back games?  That's an open-faced roast beef.  Me and my brother openly rooting for the Rangers at Safeco Field?  Insert your favorite food.

The brother, his wife, and rossnation... rolled into Safeco Field like a freight train on Saturday.  That is, if a freight train could pull off a Josh Hamilton jersey like the 'nation.  But as we all know, trains don't wear clothes.  And let me be clear, the best place in the world to watch a baseball game is Safeco Field.  End of story.  I understand that Fenway has more history, and Wrigley is the friendly confines, and on and on.  You can make a case for every ballpark (except Tropicana.)  But if you want comfortable weather, a pristine field, a good seat, and a nice selection of ballpark (read unhealthy) food, there is no contest.  Safeco doesn't even smell like forty thousand people.  They retracted the roof just before game time, it was 67 degrees, we had seats halfway up the third base line, and the smell of garlic was hanging in the air like delicious tear gas.  It is, quite simply, perfect.

I don't remember my first baseball game, but I'd like to think it was a lot like this.  I am still in awe of how green the grass is, the sharp contrast it makes with the cleanest dirt on earth, the chalk on the world's largest chalkboard.  Baseball didn't grow up, and neither did I, I just got bigger.  Which is why my heart still paused briefly when Ian Kinsler lifted his bat and took a mighty cut at the third pitch of the game.  The 'nation and the brother stood, almost in slow motion, the only ones in a sea of Mariners fans, and watched as the ball rocketed into the seats in left field, and I raised my glove in joy.  There is triumph, and then there is being alone in that triumph, as Grant and I were in that moment.  It's your first kiss, the birth of a child, the winning lotto number.  It's an elation so pure you could sterilize with it.  And then you get booed, and you do not care.

The Rangers won their tenth game in a row on Saturday, and it was never really in doubt.  Ian hit another home run in the eighth inning, and 30 thousand other souls went home with a brick on their hearts, but not us.  On Sunday Grant and I watched the Rangers win again from the comfort and anonymity of the box seats, easily the best view I've ever had of a baseball game, as long as you don't count my couch, which I don't.  We gorged on garlic fries (if crack was a starch), fish and chips, a 12 dollar hefeweizen, and the knowledge that the Rangers hadn't let us down.  It was a Buttercup of a weekend, and even the 5 hour drive back to Moscow couldn't have made it any less perky.

rossnation... out.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Super Ocho (as the Spaniards would say)

This is perhaps the most misleading business name ever; there is nothing super about this place.  On the one hand, I've stayed in some fairly janky motels in my day.  Like the one in Gardena, California, where I woke up one morning to find the hallway cordoned off because someone had been stabbed the night before.  Or the hotel in Bowling Green, Ohio with the carpet that smelled like... stuff.  And to be fair, my apartment isn't exactly the Four Seasons.  So I've got no beef with the Super 8 in Moscow: it's clean, it's got internet, and, most importantly, a flat surface to sleep on.  But it is not super.  In fact, I'm not even sure it's 8!

So why am I in a motel in the town I live in?  Natural disaster, act of God, the dangers of old buildings?  All of the above.  In a cruel twist of fate, my bedroom ceiling leaks when the upstairs neighbor uses her kitchen sink.  If I was in a romantic comedy, this would be how I met my soulmate.  I'd go upstairs to ask if she was setting up a swimming pool in the kitchen, and you can imagine there would be a lot of slow motion shots of her tossing her hair, and probably some uncomfortable stammering on my part.  Actually, that's kind of what happened, minus anything clever coming out of my mouth.  But honestly, Ryan Reynolds I am not.  (Tweet @rossconation to tell me who you think I am.)  

So the downside of this whole ordeal is I'm staying in a motel for a few days while they rip apart my bedroom to look for the pipe that's leaking, and then a few more days while they put my bedroom back together.  In fairness to my very sweet landlord, the real downside is that it will probably cost a pretty penny.  But, as we all know, landlords are flush with cash.

So what, you're asking, is the upside?  Well, permit me a wry smile as I tell you.  The upside to situation is this:  you cannot imagine the relief I felt when I realized that the ceiling was leaking onto my bed...  and that I had not, as I first thought, wet it.

rossnation... revlieved.  and out.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Defending the Deep

Spring brought something new to rossnation... this year: expectation. And I don't know if I'm comfortable with it. The month of April is the second best month of the year (Febtober being number one, obviously). April brings with it two great things - rossnation...'s birthday (or what I like to call The Birth of a rossNation), and baseball. Now, if baseball was a church, it would be called Our Lady of Perpetual Sadness. If you're a Rangers fan that is. But since my boys in blue and red made their magical run to the World Series last year, they had to change the name to Our Lady of Perpetual Unease. In previous years, I could watch from afar as the Texas Rangers slowly imploded over the next five months. Needless to say, making the playoffs was merely wishful thinking; it was never seriously on the table. But now, the Rangers aren't a sleeper pick, or perennial basement dwellers; they're the favorites to win the division. So I found out some things about rossnation... that I didn't know. The biggest thing is that I care about baseball in general, and the Rangers in particular, to an unhealthy degree. I purchased a subscription to so that I could watch every Rangers game. All one hundred and sixty two glorious afternoon's hen the Rangers take to the diamond, I'll be watching, either at home, at work (but not at the expense of my work) I'll be watching on my iPhone, and everywhere else I'll be watching on my iPad. You don't need to tell me how sad this is, because I know, but also this is who I am now. I HAVE to watch. rossnation... is no longer a Rangers fan; we are Rangers Superfans.

There's good and bad in this new world order; it's like Darth Vader. The bad is the obsession. Obsession is dangerous, and I don't want to become one of those people whose life revolves around a sports team (those guys have difficulty talking to women). The good side is that I have hope. The Rangers are good, and good enough to be considered World Series contenders.

But as I mentioned before, hope is an emotion with which I'm not real familiar. But it's why I have to watch, so that I can find out, every game, whether hope will continue, or be dashed upon the rocks at the bottom of the AL West. I don't want to be down there again; that's where the sadness is, and former steroid users. It is only for the faint of heart.

But rossnation... will not be denied this season. We'll be buying Mitch Moreland jerseys and "Fear the Claw" bumper stickers and box seats for when the Rangers play in Seattle. rossnation... will throw all of our childish and misplaced enthusiasm at the Rangers, and throw all of our hatred and vitriol (and perhaps poop) at the evil Yankee empire.


I'm rossnation..., and I approve this message.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Redemption of Aaron Rodgers

You made an enemy out of me long ago, Aaron Rodgers.  I remember the day very clearly, because it was actually two days.  In September of 2003, you quarterbacked the Cal Bears to a triple-overtime victory over my beloved USC Trojans.  That’s more than enough to put you squarely in the Book of Ross (I have no idea why that’s capitalized) as an enemy of the state, along with the likes of Tiger Woods, Jim Gray, and the people who sell those ion bracelets.  Thirteen months later, you almost beat them again, and in dramatic fashion, by completing your first 23 passes -- and it scorched my insides to watch.  You were so efficient, so methodical, so precise, so.... - excellent - that day, and I despised you for it.  You don’t get to do that to my team and not incur the wrath.  The battle was begun....
Consider this my surrender, Mr. Rodgers.*  I’m sure that you crave my respect and adoration, so here it is.
I can’t pinpoint a single instance when I stopped hating you.  It must have happened subtly, like how I’ve aged.  But I think I became a fan for the same reason your name was written in the book: excellence.  You completed 23 consecutive passes against USC in November of 2004.  It was like watching Norm Abram build an armoire from scratch, conjuring beauty and functionality out of pure tree.  The state of fervor that I was in at the time didn’t allow me to see it that way; I saw it as an affront to my team, an attack on my vicarious living through USC, even though we won that game.  
Then you went to draft day 2005, to discover your football destiny. You sat and watched as the San Francisco 49ers lay one of the great NFL draft turds in history by selecting Alex Smith with the first pick.  You took that with grace, and sat and waited some more (probably the better part of two hours) until you were chosen by a team that didn’t need you.  I was positively flummoxed when the Packers picked you with their only first round selection, because no quarterback situation has ever been less in doubt than the Packers and Brett Favre.  So why pick a backup quarterback that early in the draft?  It didn’t make sense, but as my therapist once said, it doesn’t make sense to you, but it makes sense to someone.  (Believe it, or don’t, but that double-talk makes incredible sense.)  
So you went to Green Bay, and for three seasons sat and watched as the Great Brett Favre** sucked the love out of the frozen tundra of Lambeau.  But patiently.  Patiently waited for Brett to start self-imploding.  Retrospect tells us Favre was already on the way to being run out of Wisconsin, looking forward to retiring several times and playing both the best and indescribably worst seasons of his life.  And while he was doing that, you were just getting better.
On Sunday you finished it.  You won the Super Bowl with the world’s most beat up team around you.  You were unflappable in the presence of your brick-handed receivers.  You weren’t dazzled by the bright lights of The JJ-Dome, or the bizarre and horrendous halftime show (seriously, the Black-Eyed Peas need to go away; the SB Halftime show is becoming a swan song.)  You were not in the least frightened by the vaunted Steelers defense; in fact, I think you could tell they were too old to catch you.  Overall, your game wasn’t flawless, but it was without major flaw.  It was the epitome of excellence.  
It occurs to me now that I became a fan not because something about you changed, or that you’re more likeable now, or that you renounced your allegiance to Cal.  I’m a fan now because something in me changed: I appreciate excellence like I never have before.  We live in an age were average is good enough for most, including me.  But I can’t watch excellence in action and still believe in mediocre, not anymore.  
So here’s to you, Aaron Rodgers.  You’re my favorite player...
I just wish you were a Cowboy.
rossnation... salutes you.

*Don’t think for a minute I don’t see the funny.
**Denotes extreme sarcasm and hyperbole.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Life as a Bell Curve: Theories that Kinda Make Sense

I don’t know that there’s any reason to try and put the mysteries of life into words.  Finer writers than I have given that a go (Balzac, Hemingway, Clancy, Grisham, etc.), but we’re never really going to do better than “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”  I’m gonna give it a shot anyway, just because that’s how I do.  And also I noticed an intriguing correlation the other day, which I will share herein.
I bought a new bed on Friday, and this is only remarkable to me, but for several reasons.  To begin with, it was time, and we’ll leave it at that.  Beyond that, I’ve never owned a brand-new bed, at least not since it was my responsibility to provide it.  They’ve all been hand-me-downs to some degree, and nothing to write home about (but a column, clearly.)  My new bed?  It deserves a few words, because it is... bizarre.  
I suppose you don’t really get a good look at the mattresses on the showroom floor; as it turns out, they’re just a tad bigger when you get them home.  School lesson for the day: a “tad” is a technical term, used in engineering and creative writing, whose exact value is 10 times.  So picture in your minds eye a monstrosity of a bed that fills up half of my tiny little bachelor bedroom.  And I don’t mean half of the square footage, I’m talking the whole three-dimensional space, cubic feet.
I should also mention that I’ve never owned an actual bed, with a headboard and a footboard, a truly adult piece of furniture.  So the bed and the mattress form a mass about the size of a double wide trailer.  This bed is pushed up against one wall, leaving about two feet on the other wall, just enough to fit my tiny night table and the set of dog stairs that I’m gonna have to put there.  They’ll be for me, not my nonexistent dog, because the bed is also 4 feet tall.  I climb into this bed, quite literally.  And this is the apex of the bell curve -- the 5 or 10 years when someone can have a bed the size of a Datsun.  You certainly can’t have one when you’re young; that’s the kind of parenting that’ll get you in the papers.  And giving an Old person a bed of this magnitude would be cruel.  And hilarious.
There’s much to be said,
From the size of one’s bed.
Whether tiny or skinny or plush.
The short and squat,
Perfect for the tot,
And also for old and flush.
The monstrous berth,
Right for large girth,
But not the feint of heart.
Only young and spry, 
With a gleam in the eye,
Should fork out six hundred bucks for a bed that’s too tall to fall into when they’re exhausted after work or have had too many adult beverages.  That’s just not good business.
So it’s not exactly Ezra Pound, but the spirit of the poet is in the air, hovering over my gigantic bed.  
And I know what you’re all thinking; yes, I do have a very strange apartment.

strangeapartment... out.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Incredible Importance of Retiring Gracefully

So... I just saw The Social Network.  And... I loved it.  It accomplished the ultimate challenge in storytelling: it created characters so compelling that in the end you’re not sure who’s the good guy.  Actually, I was so turned around at the end that I even felt semi-sympathetic towards the twin douche bags.  But the reason I bring it up has more to do with how it made me think about technology and the direction it’s taking our society.  (Yep, it’s one of those columns, so hang on to your proverbial britches.  And also your actual britches.)
No one is ever going to accuse this guy of being curmudgeonly about technology.  I love gadgets in general, my iPhone in specific, and am thoroughly giddy about some of the things we can do because of technology.  Case in point, my Starbucks card is on my phone now.  They scan my phone at Starbucks; totally bitchin’.  (And let me tell you, wow, do the girls swoon over that.)  But I’m definitely not the guy who’s excited about getting a personal bar-code tattoo, which is where we’re headed if you believe the naysayers, or the neigh-sayers, for that matter.
I’m more in the middle ground, like a Libertarian, or a shortstop.  I’m all for being “old school”, but I am thoroughly convinced there are a few things that we can give up on, and allow them to go quietly into the night/oblivion, hence the Brett Favre reference.  
And the first of these needs to be phone books.  I will say one thing for Hagadon Directories et al: they’re sticking with it.  They are tenacious holding on to this most archaic form of communication, and there is honor in that.  But there can’t possibly be money in it.  I came home to find the 2011 Moscow/Pullman phone book on my doorstep, and a tumble of different emotions overtook me.  The first was annoyance, because I had to bend down and pick it up.  Next came sadness at the thought of how many times this particular phone book would be opened (zero.)  And then finally just a tinge of anger at the thought of what a waste phone books are.  Please raise your figurative interweb hand if you’ve used a phone book in the last month... I’m sure there’s a few of you, but it was probably because you didn’t have internet access at the time, or you were trying to remember your home phone number from, you know, when you had a home phone.  I wonder if the only thing phone books are good for is sitting on if you’re wicked short.  It must be easier to sell skywriting ads than ads in the phone book.  Where is the money in this game?  It’s time to call it quits on the phone book.  The internet has killed this one something fierce, so why not save me the hassle of throwing it away.
There’s too many similarities between the Favre and the Phonebook (great name for an album title).  Imagine how fondly we could remember them if they had just bowed out gracefully.  This is the conversation I picture, using my PLP Matt as the other end of it --
Me:  “Hey, remember phone books?  Those were the bees knees back in the day!”
Matt:  “We used to have a jolly good time flipping through that thing, looking for funny name combinations!”
Me:  “Whatever happened to those?  You used to get a new one every year.”
Matt:  “I don’t know, but we seem to be doing just fine without them.  We don’t need them anymore now that everybody texts.  Although, they did have those ads in them for plumbers and stuff.”
Me:  “That’s right!  I forgot that there were businesses in there.  But if I need a plumber I can just google plumbers.”
Matt:  “I suppose you could, but I judge you for that.”
Me:  “You are very judgemental when it comes to plumbers.:
Matt:  “I feel passionately about the subject!  A man’s got to have a cause to fight for!”
Me:  “I suppose.”
Matt:  “Alright, I’ll call you later.”
Me:  “How will you get my number without a phone book?”
Matt:  “Touche.  But I’m just kidding, I’m not gonna call.”
Me:  “Oh, I’m not gonna miss you.”
See how nostalgic that could be?  And it would be the same with Favre.  The problem with holding on too long, is that inevitably our final memories involve the sad, like Brett Favre throwing sad interceptions and limping off the field like he’s me, or the sad phone book sitting on my doorstep, as if someone said to me, “Here, you throw this away.”  And I did, I put that phone book out of it’s misery, right into the trash can where it belongs.  If I respected it I would perhaps recycle it, but why is it my fault that someone still thinks this is a viable advertising medium?  Don’t judge me; after all, it’s not like I’m googling plumbers...
rossnation... out.