When I am King: Forget Family Values

When I am King...

Remember to forget. Always.

I am the perfect spouse. My wife may not actually come out and say it, but I know it's true.

Let's face it: when you get to be my age, and when you've been married as long as I have (it feels like a couple of decades - holy crap, it is!) the novelty of a relationship is pretty much gone. I'm not saying that you get bored, but you're not exactly waking up in the morning wondering what your partner is going to look like today, or what they're going to have for breakfast, or whether they're going to lay into you for not picking up the clothes you dumped on the floor last night.

But I would like to share the perfect key to long-term relationships; I can't remember a damn thing. My memory's so short I can't even remember to.

When it comes to marriage, this nuance is exactly the kind of spark you need to keep the excitement alive. On my end, everything my wife does is a constant novelty. It may not be all that cute when she flosses her teeth, but at least it's new to me.

And on her side, it's even better. Women love telling stories, getting into the nitty-gritty details of who did what and what she said when that other one did this other thing and how that makes her feel and how does it make me feel and ARE YOU LISTENING?! and what are we going to do for dinner tonight and when are the kids going to bed and how is our daughter's school project going and...

There are few things more anti-climactic than having someone tell you "I've heard this one before". Well, my wife never hears that from me. It's all new, every time. So when she's got this great story that she enjoys telling, she can tell it over and over again, always to a brand new audience. Me.

Sure, I'm probably not the most exciting guy to hang around with for a lifetime. But at least our relationship always feels fresh and new. And I am fairly confident that she's not going out having affairs just for something new. Or at least if she is having an affair, I certainly don't remember knowing about it.

I would like to share this gift of forgetfulness with my citizens. Why just talk about Family Values when we can medically enforce them? Everyone will be given an exam to test their memory; those passing it will require surgery. Pills may seem like a more convenient mechanism, but remembering to take them can be tricky.


When I am King: Resolution Solution

When I am King...

I resolve to end New Years resolutions.

Every year, we're supposed to make resolutions for New Years. Things we want to accomplish. Personal Goals. New healthy habits. Things to strive for.


You know what resolutions are? They're a setup for defeat.

If you bother to make any resolution at all, you try for something lofty; you set some goals that sound nice:

  • “I'm going to go to the gym 5 days a week”
  • "I'm going to lose 50 pounds”
  • “I'm going to get up out of this gutter and take a shower before I take another drink”

Of course, the result is that you fail to achieve the goals. Why change things now? You've lived this long, why put yourself out on the whim of the calendar turning over to the new year?

So another resolution dies an early and hushed-up death. The year crawls by and another New Years comes up and you make another attempt:

  • “I'm going to hit the gym 4 days a week”
  • “I'm going to lose 49 pounds”
  • “I'm going to get up out of this gutter and take a shower while I have this drink”

On it goes, year in and year out: we set goals, we blow them, we feel awful about ourselves.

Why do we need this stress? What's the point in creating a game that we're bound to lose?

My administration will impose something new and exciting called:


With this new twist on the old tradition, people will look back on the previous year, pick something they are proud of, or just something that happened to them, and set a goal that they will have achieved already:

  • “I will have avoided setting one foot in the gym all year.”
  • “I will have gained 50 pounds”
  • “I will have gotten so drunk that I fell down asleep in a gutter”

No longer will we fail to attain goals; we will succeed every single year, by definition.

Why be Future Failures? Let us be Past Achievers instead.

Presolution: the Resolution Solution.


When I am King: Ball and Chain

When I am King...

No more mediocre restaurant chains.

There's a funny phrase in the U.S.: “big box stores”. I have no idea what it's origin is; I think it's either because you walk out of the store carrying lots of big boxes or because these stores actually look like oversized boxes themselves. I'm talking about the humongous places like Home Depot, Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Thumbtack Emporium. These stores are larger than the towns they serve. You walk inside one of them and you could be anywhere in the world, because the store looks exactly the same as it does everywhere else; same smock colors, same merchandise locations, same lines. And the same inability to find anyone around to answer a simple question; maybe they're all hiding in a big box.

Now I'm noticing an onslaught of what I'll call “big box restaurants,” which typically reside in huge buildings near the mall. Each one looks exactly the same here as it does in Boston or Atlanta or Duluth. You know the ones I mean: Macaroni Grill, Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang's, The Outback, .... There are a lot of them around, and more every day. They're spreading faster than an STD in a coed dorm.

The weird thing is that these places pretend to be fancy. The wait staff is dressed nicely, there are wine glasses on the table, fancy sconces up-light the ceilings, and trendy tile and slate decorate the floors and walls. But it's all a cheap facade, like McDonald's wearing a tuxedo.

So why are these places so popular? The food is passable ... and that's all. There are so many good restaurants around for the same price, why are chains with merely 'passable' food thriving like E. coli on a spinach farm?

Dependability, that's why. Dependability. Americans demand consistency and the knowledge that the meal they are about to eat is going to be exactly as bland and uninteresting as the one they had last week. It's too frightening to try out a new place: What to order? What if it's too spicy? What if they serve Pepsi and not Coke? What if the waiter can't do that cool upside-down writing-with-crayons trick?

I suppose it's the same reason that people stay in horrible relationships. Heck, the next one could be worse. “Maybe the next guy will hit me even harder.” “Maybe the next woman will be be an alcoholic and a Meth addict.” And maybe the next restaurant won't have that chicken macaroni dish that I could force down without puking.

So you find a place that serves food that goes down and comes out just fine, and you just keep going back. Who needs all the stress of something new when you can have the same damn thing every day, no matter what mall you happen to be losing another weekend in?

During my reign, restaurants that chainify must fall into two categories: good food and fast food. Anything with more pretense than a hamburger joint that serves mediocre food won't qualify. Let's save America's palates and wallets for real local restaurants that have a reason to exist other than corporate shareholder dividends.

As for fast food, hey, who doesn't like the taste of pure fatty evil in a Big Mac now and then? At least it's clear what level of food and service to expect in a place like that. Of course, that Burger King chain's got to go; there's only room for one King in my kingdom, and it's not them.


When I am King: Getting Warm, Staying Cool

When I am King...

Global warming will be hastened to improve life in cold climates.

I woke up this morning to 24 degree temperatures. (This is in Fahrenheit, of course. We in the U.S. were promised an upgrade to the Celsius system years ago, around the same time we were told that the phone would be replaced by the video phone and that Disco was hip).

I realize that many people in the world might think that this temperature is normal for January. Or even warm.

Not in California. We live in a state where "coat" means a layer of paint, where "scarf" means to eat a croissant quickly, where "parka" is something you can never get your SUV to do without 3 spaces free on either side, and where "hat" means, well, hat. But not a very warm one.

24 degrees here is killing-cold. We have people in apartments here kept alive only by the ambient heat of their latte. Crops worth the GNP of entire planets are dying by the pot-load. The state's reserves of gasoline are running out as people spend 20 minutes every morning just warming up their cars. And many of these people are dying of carbon monoxide poisoning since they are pre-warming their cars inside closed garages (hey, we can't even think straight at this temperature).

What I want to know is: Where's this "Global Warming" I've heard so much about? When is it going to help me? These experts go on and on about how horrible it is for the planet. Their point seems reasonable in the middle of summer when it's too dang hot and the only way you can cool down is to keep gulping a constant stream of Frappes until your head pops off. But right about now, I could use some of that destructive power of warmth.

Apparently, use of appliances like Air Conditioning is supposed to bring on Global Warming even faster. But don't buy it; I've been running my A/C all day and it's colder now in my house than it was when I woke up.

When I take the throne, I will do what I can to speed up global warming, especially for the cold season. This policy will be matched with one to provide Global Cooling in the summertime. It is not clear how to achieve this more ambitious goal, but experts suggest that leaving refrigerator doors open for extended periods could help. And kiddie pools. Lots of kiddie pools.


When I am King: Important Meatings

When I am King...

The whole pastries-at-meetings dynamic needs to be rethought.

Don't get me wrong; I love pastries. I can inhale a box of these lard-bombs faster than a supermodel snorting cocaine. And pastries at meetings are wonderful. I know that it's just a cheap gimmick to get people to show up and guilt them into staying, but I gladly fall for it. If someone buys pastries they can count on me showing up, whether I'm supposed to be there or not.

But it struck me this week when I was in a rather large meeting; there's something wrong about everyone eating these things before and during the actual meeting.

Pastries (by which I mean serious sugar blasts, the ones with enough glaze dripping off of them to seal a cruise ship hull) are inherently sticky. Cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, donuts, carmel rolls; each one of these has enough adhesive power to weld together the seams in a nuclear power plant. And you usually eat these things with your hands, so the goop naturally gets all over your fingers.

You try to wipe if off discretely with a napkin, but it doesn't help; napkins are not cut out for this task. This is industrial-strength goo, stuff that Spiderman could use if his web shooters run out. So eventually you resort to the world's best general solvent; saliva. You casually, quietly eat the mess off of your fingers, at least enough to dissolve it and let the poor napkin handle the remains.

All of that's fine; it's just a part of eating, which is the single-most popular and highly-developed trait that our species has learned through the millennia. Other animals learned how to climb, developed keen senses of smell, evolved into loyal companions, or honed their eyesight. We learned to eat well. And guess who won that evolutionary battle? After all, the climbing animals aren't looking at us wondering how we'd taste if they fried us in a pan of butter.

But then comes the crux of the problem; you're in a meeting. And chances are, especially at the kind of meeting where they serve these heart-stopping delights, you're there to actually meet with these other people. And meeting people eventually ends up in a ritual of shaking hands... all of which are now covered in trace amounts of spit.

You could do the fair thing at this point and refuse to shake hands with someone. But somehow that never works. If you give some fake excuse, you come off as a whacko who has a thing against shaking hands. And if you don't give any excuse, ... you come off as a whacko who has a thing against shaking hands. You could try honesty, but somehow people don't want to hear that your hands are covered in spit (or that theirs are, too).

So you buckle down and shake. And shake. And shake. And pretty soon (you can do the math, but just trust me on this), everyone in the room has exchanged spit with everyone else. We might as well have just given open-mouthed kisses the whole time, although even that wouldn't cover it because then all the combined spit would at least have remained in our mouths. No, it would be far more efficient to just go around the room licking everyone's hands.

Now I don't know about you, but I'm not into hand-licking, either on the receiving or giving end of the bargain. I let my dog do it on occasion, but only when I know he hasn't been munching on something brown and suspicious in the back yard. And people? No way. Not unless I was paid a lot of money. Or given a big pastry.

One of the first efforts in my kingship (because the pastry meetings will start immediately upon my ascension) will be to solve this problem in an effective and sanitary manner. Various proposals are on the breakfast table currently, but no decisions have been made. At one extreme end is the suggestion that we ban pastries at meetings; this is obviously not a workable solution and would result in the end of meetings as well as the decimation of the entire pastry industry. A simple solution of “use forks” has also been presented, but unless these implements were permanently fastend to peoples' hands, they would go unused and the problems would still exist.

The most promising contender so far is my favorite: pastry troughs. Everyone will be required to eat meeting food by dunking down into the platter, face-first. The problem we are trying to solve is not the mess involved, but rather the spreading of everyone's internal fluids to others in the room. Eating from troughs solves this by ensuring that not only will no phlegm will applied to fingers, but that everyone's face will be so covered in sugary gore that noone will want to go near anyone else, so the chances of passing spit around are even less likely.

Pastry troughs: We've been pigs for our entire evolutionary development; why not start acting like them?


When I am King: Big Toys

When I am King...

Children's toy sizes will be big. Really big.

It's that time of year again; the holidays are finally over. The dead tree sits out at the curb waiting for that magical week when the garbage company decides it's time for pickup. The relatives have all packed up and gone home, leaving behind spoiled children and palettes of empty wine bottles. The gutters are full of leaves and reindeer poop.

And pieces from all of the new kids' toys litter the house, causing puncture wounds with every step.

Toymakers seem to delight in providing toys that consist of an infinite number of tiny pieces. Once the package is opened, entropy ensues, the pieces distribute themselves over an area roughly the size of your house, and the toy becomes unusable. Meanwhile, small pieces with filed-sharp edges embed themselves in carpets, in tile, and flesh.

In my kingdom, children can only be given toys whose pieces are at least as big as the children themselves. This will ensure that:
  • Pieces of toys will not magically appear underfoot
  • Toys will not be moved around the house at will, as the toys will be too large for the children to shift without a forklift
  • The new toy law will obviate the current “when can we get rid of this?” quandary that parents find themselves in. As soon as the child grows larger than a toy, you can safely chuck it; “Sorry, Jimmy; it's the law.”

Children's toys such as Legos, jacks, and razor blades will become things of the past. Kids will naturally migrate to playing with things like pianos, kitchen suites, and Hummers. Sure, an ocean liner will be in the way around the house, but at least you would see it before you stepped on it.

"PUT ... the HAMMER ... DOWN"

In a nearly-bloodless coup, Rep. Nancy Pelosi today wrested control of the House of Representatives, resorting to violence with a blunt instrument in the process:

After the tumult, Pelosi was quoted as saying "Speaker, Hell! I'm a Hitter!"

Rumor has it that she's headed for the Senate next, and from there to the Whack-A-Mole game in the White House play room.