Hey, what about those Seahawks?

As the regular football season draws to a close and the playoffs begin, diehard Seattle Seahawks fans have a distinct advantage over followers of more commonplace NFL teams.

While fans of the ho-hum Raiders, ‘Niners and Packers are hoping soon to celebrate playoff victories or – dare they hope? – a shot at the Super Bowl, canny Seahawks fans have already observed their big event of the season.

You may have heard us proudly shouting out our celebratory mantra just last month when the Seahawks entered what fans reverently refer to as the “Gold Zone.”

In sheep camps, county jails, auto-wrecking yards and better soup kitchens from coast to coast, Seahawks fans were enthusiastically chanting “Second to last! Second to last! We’re second to last in the NFC West!”

Forget the playoffs, forget the Super Bowl, because the Seahawks somehow managed to dig their way out of the divisional basement for one more season and that makes Seahawks fans – all 382 of us – happier than pop-eyed pelicans in a mackerel barrel.

Yes, for a few brief moments this season, Seahawks fans from Tukwila to Tullahoma could once again bask in the glow of a well-deserved and long sought after second-to-last position.

(When this happens, in fact, many fans painstakingly clip the team standings out of the newspaper, laminate them and carry them around in their wallets for the rest of the year as good luck talismans or to win stupid bets in seedy waterfront taverns.)

“We are, like, sooooo much cooler than Detroit or Cincinnati,” a fellow Seahawks fan proudly informed me shortly before accidentally setting fire to his T-shirt while trying to ignite a celebratory Seahawks’ bonfire in his hibachi.

“Gah!” he added, no less proudly.

And can you blame him?

All season, hardy Seahawks fans – at least those who are out on bail – sit patiently through game after game as passes are fumbled, penalties are assessed and interceptions are thrown. It ain’t easy – even when the quarterback does something really cool, like throwing a bullet pass into the center’s helmet.

Admittedly, the quarterback’s not supposed to do that under normal circumstances, but it looks and sounds truly awesome when it happens.

“Whumpf!”

It’s what we fans like to think of as a genuine Seahawks’ moment, a split-second frozen forever in time that we can claim as ours and ours alone.

For each and every battered Seahawks devotee out there who’s ever endured the slings and arrows of outrageous Steelers and Cowboys fans, this is the vindicating moment when we can show – however briefly – that the Seahawks weren’t always in last place.

The season may be drawing to a close, but I can still hear those cries of Seahawk support echoing across America.

“Second to last! Second to last! Second to last in the NFC West!”

Say it loud and say it proud, amigos…

Originally published January 5, 2003

Fragmentary chefs: Threat or menace?

Electronic journalism – don’t ya just love it?

The computer age has given newspapers greater speed, depth and access to information than ever before. It has also provided them with an endless supply of fragmentary information that defies any logical explanation.

Pieces of old newspaper stories, office memos and Internet data float through our computer system here like misty ghost ships from the past, tiny Flying Dutchmen seeking a safe harbor in which to create fear, befuddlement and consternation.

Not long ago, an old newspaper brief about a local theater company found its way into our pages and urged interested parties to contact the director-producer if they’d like to help with a show. This was a fine example of how the newspaper supports local performing arts organizations by publishing news of auditions and organizational meetings. Unfortunately, the person listed as producer-director and public contact person had died roughly two years before the recycled news release found its way back into our pages.

The latest fragmentary surprise turned up in my computer queue a few weeks ago. It also appeared without warning in one of the newspaper’s food page queues. Nobody knows why.

The puzzling fragment is clearly part of something else that may or may not have been important to someone at one time, but we aren’t sure if it’s part of a recipe, restaurant review or a terrorist plot to subjugate large numbers of chefs.

Confused? So were we. In fact some of us are still confused (others of us are always confused. That’s just the nature of a 24-hour newspaper operation…).

Perhaps it’s best to simply share the mystery fragment with you and let you draw your own conclusions. Who knows, this may be a vital piece of information for which you’ve been waiting ever since “The Galloping Gourmet” went off the air.

Titled “CHEFS WHA,” it reads:

“…you have to silence two chefs. You can’t shoot them because they’re civilians, so you sneak up on them and knock them out. The first time, if you take out the closest chef, the other one will run to sound the alarm. The next time you have to deal with him, he may fall on the floor in terror. The third time, he may try to escape. Guards have similar variations in how they respond…”

Uh-huh. You have to silence two chefs. And you can’t shoot them because they’re civilians.

This is important to remember. After all, most of us are called upon to silence noisy chefs two or three times a day. You’re sitting in your office and suddenly a couple of loudmouth chefs come barging and start bickering over vichyssoise, or they roll up and start bellowing at each other while you’re trying to sip a beer and watch the Seahawks’ game down at the old Leaky Tiki Tavern.

Sure, you want to shoot them, but now you know you can’t. It’s neither polite nor legal (except, perhaps, in remote parts of New Jersey).

Worse, according to our fragmentary directions for who-knows-what, these boisterous chefs apparently are accompanied by guards.

I’ll try to let you know if we ever find the rest of this story somewhere in the newspaper’s labyrinthine computer system. Until then, though, I’d recommend staying away from loaded firearms and loud chefs.

Really…

Originally published December 29, 2002

It’s much better to give than to receive

Unless you’ve been snoozing on a mud flat in Potato Slough for the past two months, it should be abundantly clear that the frantic Christmas shopping season is closing in on us faster than Gov. Gray Davis swooping down on a campaign contribution.

Once again, holly jolly retailers are urging us to open our hearts and our checkbooks and rampage through the nearest shopping mall in a relentless search to secure just the perfect gift for what’s-his-name.

And, when January rolls around, we’ll once again find ourselves up to our necks in debt following ill-considered, last-minute purchases of electric nose hair clippers, George Foreman grills and extra large coffee mugs emblazoned with caricatures of intoxicated reindeer.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

There are plenty of strikingly unique gifts out there to be had for a song if you’re willing to take a little extra time to seek them out (or wrest them from the hands of an unwary U.S. Customs agent).

Here are a few suggestions that will keep your name on the lips of thunderstruck gift recipients for years to come:

* Wool. No, not a woolen sweater or scarf, just a generous bag of fresh-off-the-sheep wool. It’s the kind of gift that says you care enough to start with quality basics, giving recipients the opportunity to personally create their own woolen clothing, seat covers or accessories. (Fashion note: Extra-scratchy, naturally dyed wool cummerbunds were hot, hot, hot on the Rancho Mirage party circuit last summer.)

* Seattle Seahawks team jackets. Once you find a stash of these, they usually go for about $8 each and, since no street gang member will be caught dead wearing one, the recipient will never be mistaken for a thug (or a football player). Best of all, since there are only 325 registered Seahawk fans nationwide, this jacket can be worn year ’round – baseball season, basketball season, it doesn’t matter. (“Seahawks’ fan, huh? Yeah, those boys sure know how to play hockey…”).

* Nuts and screws and fasteners. Hey, everybody needs screws, and you can get a whole mess of them for about $5 in a cool little plastic compartment case at most discount hardware stores, discount drug stores and several retail outlets whose names end in “Mart.” If you shop around, you might get lucky and find one of the assortments that has thumbtacks, brads and molly bolts (the latter of which are good for leaving big, honking holes in plaster and sheet rock walls). If you want to dress up this gift, throw in a hammer and a screw-driver. Don’t worry about what kind of screwdriver – none of them ever fits the screws in those little plastic boxes anyway…).

* Colorful fishing lures. Your gift recipient doesn’t have to be an avid angler to enjoy these. They’re eye-catching, look like annoying insects and they come equipped with little barbed hooks which make it easy to hang them from chandeliers or from one of the aforementioned molly bolt holes. An acquaintance of mine uses an assortment of them to secure the headliner in his Jeep.

Now go forth and shop, secure in the knowledge that it is infinitely better to give than to receive…

Originally published December 8, 2002

A little on the heavy side? Learn how to spill and win!

Some of my less-than-tactful acquaintances (you know, the loud and witless kind) have accused me of being somewhat, er, clumsy at mealtime.

To be honest, if I sit down to a three-course meal, at least one of the courses will probably wind up on my shirt.

This doesn’t, however, necessarily mean I’m clumsy. Sometimes things just get carried away. Sometimes I bring a little too much boyish enthusiasm to the dinner table with me – such as when I’m demonstrating a Seattle Seahawks’ long bomb pass with a baked potato.

(Hey, cut me some slack here – I didn’t realize it was going to hit the gravy dish and my butter-fingered daughter should have been able to catch it, anyway …)

What the problem comes down to is the fact that I’m a little more rotund than I want to be and my “clumsiness” is actually the unconscious rejection of foodstuffs that might make me more rotund than I already am.

Really. A psychiatric technician-in-training once explained this to me during a Beer and Pepperoni Festival on the outskirts of Sebastopol after I’d inadvertently dumped a platter of marinated cocktail sausages onto a gap-toothed motorcycle enthusiast named, as I recall, Gnargh.

Boy, I lost a ton of weight that night …

I know it seems improbable, but this technique – conscious or unconscious – really works. I don’t weigh 350 pounds and part of the reason is that about a third of the food I cook winds up somewhere other than my mouth (tablecloths, carpeting, nearby walls or dinner guests are all eligible receivers).

Although it’s much easier to engage in this multidirectional dieting technique at home, it can be practiced at one’s favorite restaurants, too. How well I remember the night I was regaling dinner companions with the details of a zany liquor store holdup in Fairfield when our waiter stepped up behind me and discreetly shouted “I think some of your little friends are getting away …”

Sure enough, my animated narrative had unceremoniously jostled several small potatoes from my plate and onto the floor, where they were joyously rolling to freedom.

Needless to say, those potatoes never had a chance to expand my waistline.

Even though this unconscious dietary program has become a very personal part of my lifestyle, I’m sure that just about anyone can manage the tried-and-true weight loss technique with a little practice and determination.

For example, go to a fast food restaurant. Order a cheeseburger, fries and a milk shake. Drop the shake on the sidewalk. Or, if you’re taking a lunch break at work, toss that shake at the loudmouth bully on the forklift. Either way, you’re not gaining a single calorie or gram of fat from the milk shake (and you’ll get a lot of healthy exercise running away from the guy on the forklift …).

When you’re cooking at home, you might want to consider my late brother’s alternative to feeding your shirt, table or carpet – serve everything en flambe.

Pork roast? Whoooosh!

Fondue? Foooom!

Mince pie? Whoaaaa!

Plum pudding? Aieeeee!

You know the rule: No flame, you gain …

Originally published February 25, 2001

Hey, this is on me; Unless it’s on you…

Just about everybody’s experienced one of those frantic restaurant meals during which stingy companions try to weasel out of their fair share of the tab, grudgingly pushing a stack of quarters back and forth across the tablecloth while a weary server looks on with ill-concealed disdain.

There’s a very good reason for that look. Your server has witnessed this financial fandango countless times before and knows that he or she probably will be receiving a tip of roughly 17 cents on a $35 lunch tab.

Perhaps even more chaotic, though, is the luncheon that ends with everyone feeling more than financially secure and insisting that they pick up the tab, the drinks, the tip and perhaps a new apron for the chef.

“I’ve got this one…”

“Not so fast, Mr. Trump, this one’s on me.”

“Au contraire, Boomer, I’ll take that check.”

“I insist.”

“No, no, no – I insist!”

“Hey, waydaminnit, you got the last one in Singapore with the little pop-eyed crustaceans in the Grand Marnier…”

And so it goes.

I encountered just such a situation last week and, I’m afraid, the unexpected largesse scenario is just as chaotic as the Scrooge stratagem.

Three of us had been waddling through a modest 11-course lunch at a quiet Vietnamese eatery when the waitress made the mistake of placing our bill at a point on the table where any one of us could make a heroic lunge and pick up the meal tab.

Since newspaper folk are notorious for subtly backing away from restaurant bills, the server must have been more than a little startled when three hands shot forward and crashed together over the remnants of the curried prawns.

“Gimme that!” snapped one dainty diner as her fist collided with a bowl of rice and sent it hopping frantically across the table toward the lap of a second luncheon guest who handily averted disaster by blocking with a partially eaten platter of egg rolls as she made her own grab for the tab.

The ensuing melee would have done the Seattle Seahawks proud.

I faked left, executed a half turn and reached between the barbecue pork and the sizzling shrimp pot, deftly snagging the leatherette folder but losing the precious sales slip in the process.

(Fumble! Fumble!)

The diner to my right intercepted, dropped back and went for her wallet while the waitress deftly kept two glasses of iced tea and platter of meatballs from sailing off the table.

Once the bill was secured, we diplomatically agreed to share the cost and the server heaved a sigh of relief. That’s when the large bills came out:

“Can you give me three twenties for a fifty?”

Uh-huh…

Following a half-hour of tense negotiations, we were able to rise from the table and exit the formerly peaceful little restaurant without further tumult.

The story, however, isn’t quite over.

Since my two colleagues are out of town this weekend, it’s probably safe to note that I arrived at the luncheon with $60 and somehow left with $85.

Now that’s what I call picking up the tab…

Originally published on November 26, 2000

The whole truth about Seattle Seahawks fans

It seems like only yesterday when my somewhat bewildered son turned to me after a particularly disastrous Seattle Seahawks’ football game and asked “Uh, Dad, could you tell me again why we’re Seahawks fans?”

Doling out a paternal slap upside the head with a hearty chuckle, I gave the trusting lad all the usual explanations for Seahawks fandom.

“Remember, son, no other team in the National Football League plays quite like the Seahawks. How many other quarterbacks do you know who routinely spike the football into the center’s helmet, or hand off that old pigskin to the opposing team’s head cheerleader? No, son, you’re never going to get bored watching the Seahawks as they, er, dominate the field,” I explained.

Respected football commentator and former coach John Madden, I pointed out, once described the Seahawks as the greatest mystery in American football.

“Hey, everybody loves a good mystery…” I enthused.

My son, however, is considerably older now (if anybody who’s 25 years of age can be ‘considerably older’ than anything), and I fear that sooner or later I’m going to have to tell him the truth about being a Seattle Seahawks fan. After all, I was the one who convinced him that the soaring Seahawks were going to win the 1988 Super Bowl.

Sad as it seems, I’m going to have to tell him that he’ll never have an opportunity to be anything but a Seahawks fan.

You see, those of us who follow the Seahawks aren’t exactly like other football fans. We’re universally perceived as somewhat deranged harbingers of bad luck. The term “nut squad” is bandied about when more than two of us show up anywhere at the same time. So is “Call 911…”

Our reputation has become so grotesque that no other team in the NFL will accept us as fans. Each of us is like a landlocked Flying Dutchman, blown from stadium to stadium with no hope of ever finding a safe harbor.

(See what I mean? This is not going to be easy to explain.)

According to secret documents I’ve obtained from a mole deep within the NFL, there are exactly six Seattle Seahawks fans residing within the state of California. That includes me, my son, three guys here at the newspaper and a chemically-challenged bicycle thief in Barstow.

Our identities have been noted throughout the league and any attempted defection to another team is invariably met with strong opposition.

For example, if I decided to become a Baltimore Ravens fan, I would probably receive a stiff form letter from a Maryland law firm explaining in no uncertain terms that there are no current fan vacancies within the Ravens’ organization.

On the other hand, trying to become an Oakland Raiders fan could easily land me in San Pablo Bay with an engine block tied around my neck.

I suppose I could advise my son to change his name, dye his hair, obtain a Belgian passport and follow the Canadian Football league for a few years before trying to insinuate himself into the ranks of Detroit Lions or Cleveland Browns fans.

Failing that, I suppose there’s always…

“Hey, Son, c’mon – they got a monster truck rally down to the fairgrounds!”

Originally published September 17, 2000

 

Toss a salad, learn to talk

The average American’s communication skills appear to be in much worse shape than I ever imagined.

Things have gotten so bad, in fact, that some folks may be turning to everyday items like bottled salad dressing for guidance.

Really.

A recent trip to the supermarket, necessitated by a distinct lack of food-like objects in my refrigerator, eventually brought me to the prepared salad dressing aisle. There I encountered a large bottle of Thousand Island dressing which was topped by a cheery label that read “Talkin’ Together.”

Uh-huh.

Just how much can be said to your average container of glowing pink salad dressing? I mean, it’s not like they talk back or anything…

“Talkin’ Together,” however, was just the opening gambit.

The saladmeisters have apparently decided to help jump-start mealtime communications throughout the nation (and possibly Canada) by gently suggesting that families try communicating with something other than unintelligible grunts and the occasional “Hey, whaddabout those Seahawks?”

The salad dressing bottle I was examining helpfully listed a couple of sure-fire “Dinnertime Conversation Starters,” including:

* What was the best moment of your day? Why?

* What is your most cherished possession? Why?

Please note that this salad dressing doesn’t let you off the hook all that easily. You can’t just say “Uuuhhh, the best moment of my day was when I found my pulse…” and go back to shoveling in the mashed potatoes again. There’s still that “why?” to be dealt with.

I suppose you might be able to get by with “Hey, whaddabout those Seahawks?” but then you’d have to ask “why?” Unfortunately for Seattle Seahawk fans, there is no “why.”

What, exactly, is going on here? Have we reached the point as a nation where we no longer know how to speak to each other between the salad and the salmon loaf?

Families never had these problems when I was growing up. No, siree – insightful intellectual interaction was just another course at my family’s dinner table.

Ah, how well I remember the stimulating dinnertime conversations of my youth…

“Hey, whaddya doing with that ketchup? Ya gonna use alllll the ketchup? Ya know there’s little kids in China that don’t have any ketchup. There’s more ketchup on yer meatloaf than they’ll see in their entire lives. If you were eatin’ escargot in Paris an’ you poured all that katchup on ’em the cook would come after ya with a meat cleaver…”

Or:

“When are ya gonna get a haircut? Ya look like a damned hippie.”

“I am a damned hippie.”

“Watch yer language, ya little socialist – you’ll never see Ronald Reagan with a haircut like that.”

Perhaps my family’s most illuminating dinnertime talks, however, went something like:

“Hey, why don’tcha just shaddup?”

“Me? Why don’t you shaddup?!”

“Aw, shaddup…”

“Didn’t I tell ya to shaddup?”

“You better shaddup.”

“Shaddup!”

No, you won’t find great conversations like that on any silly old salad dressing bottles…

Originally published June 25, 2000