Chip Rider

After a draining  eight-hour day followed by parent-teacher conference night, there’s nothing like surrendering your body’s weight to the embrace of the sofa… while reminiscing about commercials long gone with your equally exhausted luchadora.

Yarei sank into the recliner and stretched out her weary legs.  She leaned over the side and snatched up her bag of gluten-free, multigrain tortilla chips with much authority and allowed her mind to wander beyond the cares of the day.  Moments like these are special because they’re like ice skating while blindfolded… you never know what pattern you’ll make on the ice or how it will all end.

“You know what commercial I haven’t seen in a while?” she meandered with a loud crunch.

“Indulge me,” I crunched back.

“Double Mint Gum.” She paused, thought and munched another piece of salty, gluten-free goodness.  “Haven’t heard from them in a while.” She waved a chip in the air for emphasis.

Life sometimes throws us conversational curve balls like these, and when it does you have two choices. 1. Allow reason to take over and extinguish the moment with a look of confusion followed by an unintelligible “huh?” or 2. Volley back and keep the game alive.  I chose the road less traveled…and it made all the difference.

“You know what…” crunch!  “you’re right.”  And then, I volleyed back.  “You know who else I haven’t seen commercials for lately?”

“What’s that?” came her mouthful reply.

“Knight Rider.  Where’s he been? Whatever happened there?”

“Hmmm.” She cocked her head to one side and considered this revelation.  “Bet you don’t know the name of the car,” she jabbed a chip in my direction.

“Please, Yarei… let’s not go there.”

(For those unaware of my lovely wife’s track record with movie, TV and song quotes, I refer you to Analogies and Catch Phrase)

“Oh please… you think you know it and I don’t, blah blah blah,” she shot back in a mocking tone.

“That is absolutely what I think. So, humor me… what is the name of the car in Knight Rider?”

“Psshhh… easy.” She pulled out a perfectly shaped tortilla chipped and looked it over, as if the answer were written on it.        “Chip.”

“What?”

“Chip… that was the name of the car.  Like computer chips.  They were big in the 80s.”  She crunched with a smug look of confidence.

I’m not sure what cast more doubt on her face… my knee-jerk nasal snort or the abdominal-crushing laughter which followed.

After composing myself, I resumed.  “No,” snort  “It’s name was not Chip.

“Ok… then Kip.  Yeah, it was Kip.”

“No, that was Napoleon Dynamite’s brother.  But you’re getting warmer.”  I could see by the look in her eyes that the train was about to leave the tunnel.

She took a slow deliberate crunch which somehow reorganized the memory in her brain, like Tetris blocks lining up for a quadruple stack bonus.

“KITT!!!!” The answer ejected her out of the recliner as tortilla chips were sent flying everywhere.  She raised her hands like an Olympian crossing the finish line.

“Well done, Alex Trebek.  Once again you’ve made a mundane, pop culture trivia fact a comedy event for the world’s enjoyment.”

She motioned with two fingers towards her eyes and then towards me.  “Keep your eyes open, son… you never know when i’m gonna strike.”

       CRUNCH!

knight rider pic

 

 

How I met my Luchadora

On this our anniversary week, I can’t help but recall our first encounter.

 
It was a crisp October eve in 2008, and a young adult ministry gathering was in full swing at the Crossing Church.  I selected the perfect jean jacket for the night, knowing anything could happen. 
I waited patiently, anxiously by the game wall for your arrival, trying to feign coolness as I played the latest incarnation of Mario Brothers on the PS3. After all, nothing says ‘cool and mysterious’ like a man engrossed in a video game.
I was about to acquire the flag in the depths of the warp zone, when a record scratch sound echoed   in the room. A disco ball dropped from out of no where and I glanced at the entrance. A vision of long legs and hip-hugging jeans entered the scene, and time slowed down.  You laughed silently as you made small talk with new acquaintances, but soon your laughter turned to intensity.  
     Our eyes met and my eyes widened like saucers.  You shot a look at me and mouthed the words:
“Don’t you dare look back… keep your eyes on me.”
 
You walked slowly toward me, seemingly gliding upon the star speckled floor. Murmurings about this mysterious woman stirred in the room.
 
In defiance to your womanly powers which were weakening me by the second like Superman wearing a kryptonite leotard, I lifted an eye brow and mouthed:
 
“You’re holding back.”
 
Without missing a beat you pursed her lips and shot out a slender, tanned arm, complete with hot red finger nails. An arrow flung out of your index finger and pierced my soul.
 
“Shut up and Dance with me!” you shouted with no mercy.
 
Suddenly, the crowd that had formed around us synchronized into a flash mob and sang in an angelic chorus,
 
“This woman is my destiny!”
 
I nodded to them as I was twirled about by this mysterious “t shirt and jeans” flamenco dancer and started to ask you your name.
 
“Who are y—“
 
“SHUT UP AND DANCE WITH ME!” you belted out, as my neck was nearly snapped by a sudden shift in dance direction. I was a leaf in a hurricane… a hurricane of love.
 
All i could do was look in your eyes as the background of the room spun around like the gravitron ride at the state fair. I was about to black out from the lack of blood to my brain, so I comforted myself with the thought,
 
“Deep in her eyes, I think I see a future…” and then the thud of a head smacking against a concrete floor.
And as I dreamed, or whatever one does during a mild concussion, I saw the following vision  flash across my mental screen.
 

I  love you, mi bella.  I’ll shut up and dance with you for life.

 

Yarei: The Wife, The Mother, The Stealth Warrior.

There are many things  I appreciate about my wife: the way she pours love into our home and children,  the way she scours the internet for free Redbox codes, the way she gently smiles at my elderly grandmother when she says, ‘you’ve gained weight!”…  the list goes on and on.  But there is one recent act of love and sacrifice that tops them all: for one night she transformed from my forever girlfriend to my Splinter Cell video game  battle buddy.

Now, to  paint an  accurate picture of the gravity of this situation, Yarei considers  the best video game to be Battle Toads, a cheap 90’s knockoff of  Teenage Ninja Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Same concept, but with  toads… it’s no wonder they never made it past a Sega Genesis  one-hit-wonder appearance.  Fast forward 20 years and Yarei  is still in the  “left, right,  jump , run” world of 2D video games, and proud of it.  So when I asked her to join me in a mission of Splinter Cell: Black List, a third person stealth game  which incorporates real world movement and action, she was noticeably hesitant.

After explaining the Xbox 360 controls to her, I placed  the controller  in her  hands as she muttered… “I don’t know about this.  Can’t we just play Mario Brothers… or Battle Toads, Louie?” (apparently my Gamer name).

“You’ll do fine.  Just remember… this is a stealth game.  The goal is to sneak around and only strike when necessary… otherwise, the baddies will alert the others and all Hades breaks loose.  Got it?”

She was fumbling with the combination of triggers, buttons, and knobs like a  toddler with a remote control.

“Yarei! I need to know you have my back! If i’m being held hostage, you have to be able to find me without being killed!” I could only hope she understood the seriousness of the mission.

“Yes, yes” she finally said out of frustration.

The level we selected was a weapon smugglers compound in Pakistan.  Our mission was to neutralize all hostiles and destroy the weapons.  I instructed Yarei to use the electric shock gun to stun enemies because that required less aim. I also didn’t want to incite unnecessary killing in her tender heart.

“Ok… but what’s this other gun for?”

“That’s the shot gun… that one’s really loud and will  kill anything within a close radius of your position.”  I paused to make sure she understood this, only to notice her eyes widened a bit.  “Let’s not use that one.”

The mission began.  Yarei took  a couple practice shots with the stun gun and was ready for action.

“See that guard over there?  Crouch behind the rock and take him out! I’ll sneak toward the left.”

I was surprised at her agility and somewhat shocked at the precision of her first shot.  Down went the guard, leaving an open path for me.

“YEAH!!!”  she shouted, as if she had just wiped out an entire army.

“Shh… the kids!!” but it was too late.  Something had awoken inside  her that I could not contain.

In her excitement, she moved from behind the rock and started charging   toward a group of mercenaries huddled behind a car.  She was quickly terminated.

“OK… remember, the goal is stealth and stun. No unnecessary killing.”

“Yeah, yeah” she responded, eyes glued to the TV ; a slight twitch on her trigger finger.

The next round began and I instructed her to follow the same plan.  In one sweeping motion she crouched, aimed and downed the guard.  I started moving to the left when suddenly I heard a loud explosion coming from Yarei’s position.  She had switched to the shotgun and was charging toward the   group of mercenaries.

“BLAM BLAM!!! TAKE THAT YOU SUNAVA–”

“Yarei!! You’re going to wake the children!!”

“BAHAHAHAHA!!”She let out a blood-curdling laugh as  she broke through enemy lines, taking heavy fire herself from soldiers   that had been alerted by her shot gun frenzy.    My sweet wife had snapped and transformed into a one-woman army with a Die-Hard death wish.   I moved to her position and quickly took out her assailants with multiple rapid fire shocks.     Once secure, I tried to regain control of the situation as we crouched behind the bullet riddled   vehicle.     The smell of gunpowder filled the virtual air.

Yarei breathed  heavily.  A wild-eyed look on her face.

“Me LIKE the shot gun!!” she exclaimed, eyes fixed on the TV in a trance-like state.  “I can’t believe you wanted me to use that hair-dryer gun.  This is war, not a hair salon.”

I took the control from her hands and switched her back to the shock gun.  “Yarei… this isn’t the type of game you just run-and-gun. It takes strategy and skill to plan and exe–”

*CLICK CLICK*– it was too late.  She had already switched back to the shot gun and charged brazenly  toward   two heavily armed guards posted by a weapons cache.  She release another battle cry as she plowed into the spray of bullets, letting off two rounds before  she succumbed to her wounds.

“WHERE THE HELL WAS MY BACKUP?!!” She yelled, shocking me with her un-mommylike language and jabbing her controller at the TV.  I gazed at her, dumbfounded.  Her eyes were wide as saucers and her hands had a death grip on the controller.  Heavy breathing echoed off the walls as her chest heaved up and down.

After her adrenaline had settled she sat back in the couch.  “Whoa…that was like drinking a cup of straight black coffee with a triple shot  of espresso” she said with a slight stutter.

“Maybe we should stop” I cautioned, putting a calming hand on her  jittery controller.

A maddened look crossed her face. “NO!  You saw what they did to me… those–”

“Shhhhh… it’s ok… just… let… go.”

I pried the controller out of her hands and slowly put it down.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.  I don’t think I can handle that, Louie.  I don’t know what came over me when I got the shot gun,” she said as she stared off into the distance.

I snapped my fingers to get her to make eye contact and cupped her face in my hands.

“Let’s find you a nice game of Battle Toads, k?”

yarei gamer meme

 

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analogies

Analogies have never been my wife’s strength.  Now, before I go on I must clarify that my wife is an extremely competent woman with a masters in social work who manages our home with the wit and cunning of a wall street executive and the heart and compassion of Mother Theresa.  Which is why all the neighborhood children call her “Mother Wall Street.”    However, even high power, saintly executives  have their blind spots… and Yarei’s are analogies and 80s-90s name-that-tune challenges.

Recently we were discussing a  heavy meal we had eaten and how stuffed we felt.

“I feel like that one girl in Willy Wonka who turned into a blueberry and got rolled away,” I moaned, sinking into our coach while rubbing my stomach.

“I know!” agreed Yarei…. and if I could peer into the inner workings  of her brain, I would have seen a Chocolate Factory full of minions running back and forth carrying little manila envelopes of information from one lobe to the next.  But there was a problem with the lobe that creates analogies… a short circuit, if you will.  Those minions were bumping into each other frantically and yelling as the mouth was about to speak out its own “i’m so full” analogy.

“I feel like the Heineken blow up doll!” she blurted out.  In the background, the   sound of a vinyl record scratch could be heard. Yarei looked at the ceiling and leaned into the reclining chair while letting out a long breath.

Chaos had erupted in the analogy lobe as one minion slapped the other for obviously sending the wrong manila envelope down the “speech” tube.  No one dared send the “illogical response” message to the frontal lobe, leaving Yarei to believe that what she had just said made complete sense.

“Like the what!?” I sat up, furrowed my brow and tried desperately to understand what she had just said.  My own minions were flipping through every analogy archive available in my brain, but all were left with blank stares and shrugging shoulders.

“Bah…” she responded, annoyed at my ignorance   as she continued rubbing her bloated mid-section.  “You know… the Heineken blow up doll!”she motioned her hands in the outline of a round shape.

Panic engulfed the minion workshop as message tubes from one lobe to the other got entangled leading to wrong  perceptions of reality.  Some started abandoning ship and swimming south for other organs.

My blank stare must have sparked some type of order in her brain as she started to piece what she just said together.

“The big white character…”  she started, slowly.

One minion from a dark corner of the analogy lobe squealed and jumped up while shaking a manila envelope in his right hand.  He started pushing his way to Communication Central with a big grin on his face.

“..that has all those rolls on his body…” each word falling in place like orderly Tetris blocks.

The minion made his way to Communication Central and shoved the envelope into the “speech” tube with a look of triumph followed by spontaneous high fives.

“… they were tires… his body had fat rolls made of tires,” she said, almost as if reminiscing about a long lost memory.

A collective light went on in both our brains as the sound of joy and triumph exploded from our mental minions.

“The… Michelin Man??” I responded  incredulously.

“YES!! That one!” she yelled.

“Yarei… how did come up with…” I paused, thought about the question… “never mind.  Just never mind.”

“What?” she gave me an annoyed look.  “They kinda sound alike… I can see the connection.”  She nodded with a hint of arrogance.  Her brain minions were nodding in sync with her, commenting to each other how it wasn’t that far off.

“Never mind… let’s watch something on Netflix.”  I clicked around and paused on a  possible option.  “How about  the new Star Trek movie?”

“Mmhmm,” came her disinterested response as she flipped through a coupon magazine.                                                          “Beam me up, Spotty.”

 

 

Off the Grid

Post baby-bedtime  gives our home a “Cheers-like” atmosphere.  You’re surrounded by good friends, it’s always happy hour, and random, off-beat conversations flow like the salmon of Capistrano.

Last night was no exception as Yarei kicked back on the couch, propped up her tired feet, and cracked open a La Croix raspberry seltzer water.

“Ahhhh” she released a sigh of relief from a warrior mom that just completed another tour of duty.  “Good teamwork today, Louie.   Let’s dream a little…”

“Ok” I said.

“What do you think about getting a big piece of land and starting a farm?” she asked.

“I don’t wear overalls.”

“Just think about it,” her eyes grew big and dreamy.  “We could raise our own animals and grow our own food!”

“Yarei… we can barely keep our spice plants alive in the back yard.  In fact.. out of the three, one died, one is alive and taking over the neighbors yard, and the third one morphed into some type of weed-spice plant hybrid.”

“Hey, two out of three isn’t bad.”

“Ok, so we start a farm, and 33% of it dies the first year.  That’s not farming… that’s planticide.”

“Bahh… you’re thinking too small, Louie.  You gotta dream big! Wouldn’t you like to have a big plot of land away from it all.  No need to depend on others for food… we would be completely off the grid.”

“Do you know what ‘off the grid’ means?”

She rolled her eyes.   “Psshhh… yeah.  It means ‘off the grid’.”

“You didn’t answer me.”

“Louie” she takes a deep breath, trying to be patient with my ignorance.  “Maps have lines.”   She proceeds to make north-south lines in the air with her hands.  “Some lines go north, some go south.”

“Yes… longitude and latitude.”

“Exactly.  When you’re off the grid, you’re not on those lines.”

“Ok, so living on a farm means you’re not on those lines?  I don’t think that’s what ‘off the grid’ means.”

“Well… in our farm, it would.”

 

Parallel Parking

Parallel parking is a unique phenomenon that is not often experienced in Florida. For the uninitiated, it’s usually a good idea to have a lookout with good depth perception to avoid the embarrassing bumper tap.
I recently traveled to New Jersey, where parallel parking is rather common. Being a novice, however, I employed the best lookout available. The following is our dialogue:
“Pull in there, Louie! ” Yelled Yarei, from the back seat using my limo driver name.

“Umm..I think that spot is meant for those small European cars.”

“Nahh” she waved me off. “You just have to cruise it in, Louie.”

“I really don’t think it’s big enough.” I protested.

“Nonsense. you’ve got plenty of room! Besides, this is my hood. I got this. I’ll be your lookout.” She declared, with her usual explosive confidence.

“Ok…but I need you to tell me how close I am to the car behind.” I said, as I inched backwards.

“No problem, Louie. You’ve got like 100 miles.” She replied, giving a quick glance over get shoulder.

“I’m going to need you to be a little more specific.” I said, vehicle in reverse holding pattern.

“Ok…go ahead. Good, good…you’ve got like a thousand feet.”

“Yarei, I’m going to need you to be a little more accurate. Maybe give me a distance countdown so I can get an idea of how close I am.” I clarified.

“Ok…1000 feet..900 feet…800 feet… why are you stopping? You could fit another car back there! ! ”

“yarei, I have no idea how much space I have behind me! ”

“Louie! Just go! you’re going to get a ticket for wasting so much space behind you!”

“nevermind…I’ll just use the mirrors like the locals do.”

“Fine…but you’re on your own.” She said, with furrowed brow.

Name that Tune

No road trip is complete without a rousing game of “name that radio tune”. It’s the ultimate test of wit, speed, memory, and, in Yarei’s case, imagination. We both hail from different musical universes. While she was housing to Salt n Peppa, TLC, and Marc Anthony, I was making mix tapes of 80’s and 90’s pop and top 40 (RIP Casey Kasem). Because of this musical grand canyon that divides us, the “name that tune” game tends to be “stop asking me about old music i don’t know” game… but I can’t give up on her.
Today’s featured lyric was the following:
“Everybody needs a little time away, I heard her say, from each other…”
Quick! Name that tune!
Yarei, staring stoically out the window at some grazing cows, mumbled half heartedly, “Steve Turmeric.”
“What? That’s not even a real person. You just combined a name with a spice. Try again” I demanded.
She released a sigh of exasperation. “The guy with the long curly hair…. Kenny something.”
“Kenny G?! First of all, he has brown curly hair… secondly, he doesn’t sing. He just plays the sax. You’re not even trying.”
She rolled her eyes as she looked up from her phone, resembling an annoyed 15 year old.She thought…

“The Garbage Men.” she said, flatly but confidently.

“I think you mean ‘Men at Work’… and no.”

“Sting!” she exclaimed with the triumph of a person who flopped over the finish line.

“No… but at least you picked a real artist!” I cheered her on.

At this point, the song was over, and the DJ had announced “Chicago” as the artist.

“I was going to say ‘Stingray’, but that didn’t sound right.”

Way to follow your heart… now don’t go chasing waterfalls.

 

Of Marriage and Ping Pong

Yarei and I have a somewhat competitive spirit.  Actually… on a scale of 1 to Ridiculous, Yarei’s competitiveness would rank on the ridiculous side (although as a wife she ranks in the upper levels of amazing).  I tend to hide my competitive nature with a nonchalant mask of indifference while raging inside like a Pamplona bull at the idea of losing.  Yarei just uses denial: she does not lose…not matter what the score shows.

This past Thanksgiving we enjoyed some healthy marital competition in the ping-pong arena.  This was our second encounter, the first of which I dealt her a severe beating.  However, in her mind, it was as if that had never happened and she actually had the upper hand, simply because she was: Yarei.

When hunting, it’s always more challenging to know the prey is somewhat of a challenge, even if they are a bit disoriented, so I enjoyed this air of confidence she had about her.  And so the game began.

 

The first match was a swift win by me.  Neither of us are masters, so it would have been a rather boring game to watch, with missed hits, bad serves and trash talk that amounted to nothing… but to the gladiators in the arena, much was at stake.

“Best outta 3” Yarei said, bouncing from left to right foot, ignoring the quick ending to our 21 point match.

“ok… but you realize I probably broke the ping-pong record of some small Eastern European country with the speed of that last beating, right?”

Silence… her face like a stone statue.

 

Although she fought valiantly, round 2 went to me again.

“This is garbage.” she said, matter of factly.  She then proceeded to turn her back to me and began some type of breathing exercise.  She waved her hands up and down with each breath like an attack swan.  I could only assume she was centering what ping-pong pride she had left into a new challenge.

After selecting a new paddle, she finally turned around and calmly, through gritted teeth, stated, “best outta five.”

 

“Are you sure about this? Aren’t you just extending the inevitable?”

 

“Silence, croan.  Volley for serve.” she seethed, cracking her neck left then right.  If she could have, she probably would’ve spit on the ground to add to the non-verbal threats.

 

The next battle took a different turn.  Yarei was ahead by 4 points, which she announced with a viking-like yell at the end of each point.  Her short-lived upswing was quickly ended  by swift backhands and blistering corner serves, compliments of me.  Now down by 4 points, Yarei turned to more unscrupulous methods.  Each time she made a lame serve into the net or missed an easy lob shot I sent her way, she would yell, “That’s GARBAGE! DO OVER!” bobbing left and right.  I was unaware “do over!” extended beyond 3rd grade playground games, but I complied with the challenge.

 

This new, arbitrary “DO OVER!” rule gave Yarei some extra time to try to catch up, but in the end, it was all for nothing. I had beaten her 3 games in a row and the battle was over.

 

“So how does it feel to be a loser?” I asked, smugly.

 

“I’m not a loser, Louie” she dismissed me, examining her paddle as sniper examines his gun after a kill shot.

 

“Oh really? What do you call the 3 beatings I just gave you?”

 

“I’m not a loser.  I’m a winner who just happened to lose three times.” she answered with a mocking tone.

 

“No, that’s called losing.  It’s what happened to you.”

 

“You’re just lucky I didn’t have my lucky pink head band.  That would’ve changed everything.”