Thursday, July 24, 2008


I work with this really nice fellow that hails from the Midwest. He's sort'a my supervisor, dohn-cha-know...except not. He's a really cool dude; easygoing, affable and extremely funny. He's the type of person that's never short on interesting discussion topics or off-color jokes/remarks. I speak of the sort of guy with which you might have a serious discussion on the ramifications of Iraq troop withdrawal one moment...and what constitutes good bathroom reading material the next. As I stated earlier, he's an interesting cat.

That being said, I wish he didn't have such an affinity for walking around the office barefoot. He's of the ginormous, lumbering, Nordic persuasion; a bigg'un of no less than 6'4", 250 lbs. If you can extrapolate those dimensions into a mental picture of the peds in question, you might come up with something that looks like ten sausages wearing helmets jutting out of a pair of petrified tree stumps. Our office dress policy allows for such freedom in terms of footwear. As a matter of fact, you can pretty much wear (or not wear) whatever you choose so long as it's within reason. I wear funny-looking hats.

So weather permitting - which is the case 11 months of the year here - my colleague takes things back to an ancient time when there were no finer sneakers available than one's own crusty heels. I can't say enough how much I respect this person, but the sight of those swollen, callus-bound groundpounders can be quite disconcerting. I remember an afternoon in which a familiar voice shot out an effusive "Hey, man!" while I was washing my hands in the company restroom. Startled, I quickly looked up from the sink...only to see him, marching onto the filthy, gray tile sans footwear. He nearly met my enchiladas.

While none of my other co-workers have attempted to walk on piss water, many of them love to tromp around on our filthy office carpet as if they're on their way to a Twister tournament. At least they wear socks. Whatever makes you happy, I suppose. I guess empty Equal packets and rug fuzzies sticking to, rocks?

I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of feet. I think this dislike stems from a childhood memory that features a barefoot friend literally stomping in chunky dog shit while running towards an awaiting Slip-and-Slide. I'll never forget the sight of his mother rinsing rectal fudge from between his toes with a green garden hose. I lost my voice laughing that day and went on to read radio traffic. He has since gone on to become the CEO and majority shareholder of Raging Waters theme parks.

I currently have a buddy who doesn't feel "free" unless he's picking up loose gravel with his toes; as if doing so incites some orgy of moonwalking, dusty-footed ecstasy. He, like my favorite co-worker, is Midwestern.

So, I don't understand this need to be barefoot. And no, I don't sleep with socks on, but you can bet your sweet hindquarters I sock up before I hit the stairs. I guess I just think that feet (especially dude feet) aren't very pleasant things. They're wiggly dirt sponges that sop up germs, and grime and gone uncared for, they sometimes smell like stale bar snacks.

I remember a scene in the movie "Die Hard," in which a fellow passenger on an airplane tells Bruce Willis the secret to surviving air travel...

"You want to know the secret to surviving air travel?" asks the passenger. "After you get where you're going, take off your shoes and your socks then walk around on the rug bare foot and make fists with your toes." (see fig. 1.)

fig. 1.

"I've been doing it for nine years. Yessir, better than a shower and a hot cup of coffee. "

Maybe this guy's method of foot clenching differs from mine, but I was almost certain the best way to survive air travel was hire a competent pilot and drink lots of those little bottles of booze. But, I once accidentally mailed a letter to myself (don't drink and mail), so what the hell do I know?

I now move on to the topic of "girl feet." Girl feet, on average, are typically less revolting than "dude feet." Girl feet often are spackled with pretty pigments and designs, and they almost never smell like Funyuns. But that doesn't mean women shouldn't be looking down while running towards the Slip-and-Slide. It's been said countless times in popular culture that women's bodies (particularly their nether parts) are inherently more beautiful than men's and are therefore more artistically worthy. I have to agree. But try as I might, I can't find anything artistic about foot parasites.

When I was still in the Air Force, an acquaintance once told me (while standing barefoot on molten summer asphalt) "barefoot toughness" was "a white person thing." He was white. This didn't explain the whole East Indian walking on red-hot embers trick, but I nodded in agreement anyway. I'm a black guy - living in a presumptuous world - who speaks English in a manner that would've made Winston Churchill quite proud. Unnecessary compliments and funny looks don't even surprise me anymore. So, trust me when I say I'm very aware of the power of stereotyping and generalization.

I witnessed many people of color people going about their business while wearing nature's Nikes when I last visited my relatives in South Carolina. I can't say there was a great deal of age diversity within that group though. Not one of those footloose individuals was over the age of 12. Maybe that guy I talked to back in the military was onto something. Or perhaps because of his mumbling due to his bottom lip being chock full of chewing tobacco, I didn't hear him correctly.

So I ask those of you who are footloose and fancy free...

As well as those of you as rigid in your shoe-wearing ways as a boot camp recruit standing at attention...

If the shoe fits...

Why not wear it?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where the Boys Aren't

I have been led to believe by many friends that I, yours truly, am one the finest examples of contradictory behavior around. Of course many of these "contradictions" are based on dated stereotypes that have no place in a world where immeasurable knowledge is only a keystroke away. No neurosis, no questionable behavior could ever draw more attention to a man than actions deemed inconsistent with traditional manhood.

For example: I'm a pretty stout fellow; particularly for my height (I'm 5' 10"), and as a guy, that works for me. A fair portion of men enjoy few things more than hoisting heavy, inanimate, metal objects over their heads repeatedly while grunting. I'm especially talented in this respect. Here I am about to perform an incline dumbbell press.

Just kidding. That's former Mr. Olympia finalist Flex Wheeler about to throw up around 200 lbs...per arm. But, I do enjoy doing this type of thing; albeit with slightly less weight. I also enjoy participating in pick-up games of tackle football and scarfing mustard-drenched Polish dogs at AT&T Park. I was a better-than-average student of boxing in college, and I can consistently throw the 15-yard-out pattern with some degree of success. So when the game is won and the Heinekens have been chugged, I go home, take a shower, and if I'm in the mood... BAM! I'm slicing onions and concocting sauces and basically pretending that it's my face on the package of Uncle Ben's instant rice (I'm certain that line would go over wonderfully with the NAACP). These fits of culinary inspiration come-and-go, but I've grown progressively more focused and Zen-like in the kitchen, which has become the source of much comedy among my buddies. Meet Chef Boy-Au-brey. Charmed, I presume?

In the past I was a slave to animal impulses, and although I knew it wasn't always fair, I demanded girlfriends to paint their toes strange, bright colors and join me at the gym lest they become casualties of dreaded "girlfriend gain." I also unabashedly requested they wear shoes that probably weren't safe (let alone comfortable) from time-to-time. In short, I suffered severe bouts of douche-itis in my 20's. I've shared many a chuckle with the guys over similar Cro-Magnon antics they perpetrated on gals. But those laughs are turned squarely on me if I show up for the holiday pot-luck wearing...

That's right...a tweed charcoal blazer and button-down combination (with matching scarf, of course). Again, this is the source of a whole 'lotta snickering. Perhaps describing it as "charcoal" doesn't help. Look fellas, I understand that I don't live in Paris or London, but how does blazer + matching clothes + scarf = this guy?I mean, gimme a fuckin' break, lol. Is it the social climate in America (or more specifically Sacramento) demanding I embrace my fashion douchebag? Or could some preconceived notion; some archetypal influence be at work? I may never know for sure. One thing I do know is that if you draped a FUBU shirt over my dead body, I'd instantly resurrect and put my thumbs in your eyes. Hey, I'm just saying.

It appears I'm too mixed up and European (my boss called me that today) to know when I'm treading in "fairy-boy" territory. Now I'm even starting to question whether or not blogging is unmanly. I mean, I've searched and searched and besides Badass Geek, I've yet to find a coherent blog written by anyone with a Y-chromosome. There's literally about a 10-t0-1 female-to-male ratio of bloggers as far as I've seen. And that doesn't make me feel any more capable of ripping a phone book in half with my bare hands.

So, should I tweak things to make sure Catnip is TE (Testosterone/Estrogen) balanced? Should the title be changed to "Dogbones for Dipshits"? Maybe throw in some posts about the upcoming NFL season? I could do a comparison piece titled... New York Strip vs. Sirloin: Rage on the Grill. How about the pros and cons of Ultimate Fighting as a high school sports activity? I'm not sure, but perhaps sharing what happened during my day might be too similar to sharing my feelings...or writing poetry. And that's just gross, isn't it?

What do you guys/gals think? Are my testosterone-fueled insecurities founded?

Please share your feeli...err, thoughts on this with me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Finally Saw It

OK, because it's Monday, you've probably already guessed that the weekend stuffed me in a tiny hurt locker and slammed the door shut. Five coffees and four mush-mouthed news reports into my day, I still feel a bit fried. But...

It's a satisfied and happy fried, for the culmination of weeks of nerdy anticipation and speculation was a truly awesome movie experience. Yup, I finally got to see "The Dark Knight," in IMAX, no less. Nerds and geeks were plentiful, and I saw several moviegoers arguing over whether Spiderman could beat up full make-up and costume. One winner, who sprinted into the theater and claimed about 20 seats, almost got into a fistfight with another gent. Then, a happy-looking fellow with a bowl cut walked by me munching on a Butterfinger, sporting a cape that draped over his polo shirt and khakis. You had to be there.

Now, I know many of us don't like to subscribe to unsubstantiated hyperbole. Especially nerd hyperbole. Intelligent people--more specifically, your garden variety blogger--inherently value their own opinion. Most of us blog because we feel we have something interesting to say; something worth sharing. We're unique individuals. So, latching onto the pop-culture sensibilities of the masses sans supportive evidence is a no-no for most of us. I'm an especially cynical person, and have never watched an episode of Survivor or American Idol without serious reservations, and never, under any circumstances, by personal choice.

But I'm forced to venture into dangerous overly-enthusiastic territory here. And I do so while first prefacing that It's just my opinion, not written-in-stone fact. If you see the film and you think it's utter goatshit, you're probably just an awful person to begin wi...I mean, it's simply a difference of opinion.

That said, I'm here to tell you, in that theater, for the first time in quite a few years I was seriously a giddy kid again. It happened during "Pulp Fiction" and "The Matrix." A similar feeling took hold after subjecting my then-girlfriend to rebel yell-induced embarrassment during "Gladiator." And for this "comic book movie" I felt it again.

My adulation isn't the result of whiz-bang effects and pyrotechnics. It wasn't the amazing cinematography (I can't begin to describe how awesome the swooping nighttime shots of Chicago's skyline look in IMAX). It wasn't even a genuinely scary-as-hell virtuoso performance by the sadly- departed Heath Ledger (my God, what a swan song). It was the fact that the movie took something, that for most adults, represents mere pop-culture child's play, and turned it into something far more relevant and palpable.

Yessiree, I'm talkin' seriously heady, post-9/11, fear and moral duality type themes. But amazingly, it still has plenty of the less brain-taxing "THWACK!" AND "POW!" stuff that people tend to go to summer movies for. I know I'm talking about a film featuring a guy running around in cape and costume; one that has ears for that matter--but the fact it could inspire such nerve-racking tension and dread was very impressive indeed.

Attendance at the show I went to was pretty evenly split between men and women and everyone, for the most part, appeared genuinely impressed afterwards. I feel comfortable recommending this movie to most anyone. But, they should probably first watch its predecessor, "Batman Begins" which re-booted the franchise after it was nearly destroyed by George Clooney and friends. in '97.

So, at least for me, Bats rocked my world, left a mint on the pillow and hasn't called back since. And I don't mind one bit.

On a less geeky note, I ran into, and had lunch with Miss Grace in San Francisco after the movie. (Oh yeah, I traveled some 70-something miles with friends to see TDK because Sacra-"Them sure is lovely chickens you got there"-mento didn't offer it at its IMAX theater) Grace was out there for Blogher '08, which by her account, was fantastic. Stop by her blog to find out why.

Of course the weekend included obligatory 100 meter butterfly race in beer moments (hence the Monday fuzzies). And I nearly killed a guy with a well-timed comet of a throw during my social league kickball game Sunday. All-in-all it was a truly satisfying couple of days. I'll get back to more inclusive subject matter next time, but since I'd been detailing my need to see TDK for weeks, I felt it was only appropriate to fill you in on my reaction.