#169 Tennis grunts

Tennis is classy.

Fans don’t paint their faces silver, put on a pair of horns, and stand waving giant cardboard signs while sipping from Beer Hats. No, they sit in hushed crowds, whisper politely, and eat berries and cream on Saturday mornings.

Players are classy too with their supermodel good looks, designer clothes, and sports skirts. With the hushed announcers, soldier-straight ball boys, and huddled couches in polo shirts and fancy sunglasses, tennis sometimes seems less like a sport and more like a dinner party.

That is, until the grunting kicks in.

Tennis grunts fill the stuffy air with hilarious animal noises. They’re all you hear above squeaky shoes, clinking jewelry, and vacuum-sucking gasps. But tennis grunts remind us we’re all human. They remind us we’re watching a sport. And they give us a smile when we all need more smiles and we think that’s enough to be

AWESOME!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFSOk_THvDQ]

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#170 Inventing new foods at the buffet

Buffets are chemistry labs.

You’ve got every element on the Foodiodic Table sitting in front of you in tiny black plastic containers. There’s smeared clumps of feta and pickled beets in the salad bar, greasy cheese pizza congealing under table lamps, and mini chocolate eclairs sitting pretty in paper wraps.

My favorite buffet was back at my old college dining hall. It was fun eating in a roomful of scraggly-beard-and-pajama-pant teens buzzing over late Saturday breakfast, getting ready for Friday night, or just hogging out over the lunchtime trough.

And whether your buffet is the cruise ship, clinking casino, or Chinese restaurant, I’m hoping you always find tipsy piles of heavy ceramic plates, chocolate milk on tap, and screaming kids scrambling to invent beautiful buffet hybrids amidst all the mayhem.

Let’s count down five of the best:

5. Curry French Fries. Since big plates of fries are pretty standard at most cafeteria buffets, it’s all about figuring out new ways to color them up. Farty squirts of ketchup, cheese and gravy, or if you’re really adventurous, grabbing a ladle of curry sauce from the spicy chicken soaking in the metal tin next door.

4. Apple pie in a waffle cone. Hey, who says only ice cream gets to enjoy the sugary home of the waffle cone? Not us! Nope, throw some apple pie in there for good measure or a couple brownies and some whipped cream if you’re feeling crazy. Feel free to try the “food in another food’s home” technique elsewhere, too. Spaghetti on a hot-dog bun, pita pockets filled with meatballs, chicken nuggets on an English muffin, yes, yes, yes.

3. Chicken finger fried rice. Most cafeterias are home to boring bland trays of rice or noodles. And even when you’re given some yellow rice with peas or fried rice with tiny cubes of pork, it’s still time to upgrade. Chopping chicken fingers in fried rice is a good start. For those with arteries to spare, you can also try the classic Fried Chicken Fried Rice, which is fun to whip out in a food court.

2. All  Won Ton, No Broth Soup. Back when our ancestors were tearing apart buffalo on open plains, I bet there was this one jerk in the tribe who would swing by just after the slaughter to swipe a big juicy leg. He’d let everyone else peel meat off feet and ears and suck marrow from bones while he sat by the fire and chomped away at the juiciest piece on the beast. Well, that’s kind of what the All Won Ton, No Broth Guy is doing to the soup. We don’t like them unless they’re us. Same goes for Taking-All-The-Shrimp-In-This-Shrimp-Pasta Guy and Stealing-That-Extra-Pepperoni-That’s-Technically-On-The-Other-Slice Guy.

1. Creating a fake version of something you can’t find. No pizza? No problem! Just smear spaghetti sauce on a piece of bread and sprinkle it with cheese from the salad bar before tossing it in the toaster oven. No tacos? No worries! Fold a pita around some roast beef cold cuts and cover it with sliced cheese, shredded lettuce, and barbecue sauce. It’s not always pretty but creating fake versions of something you can’t find can help satisfy strong urges.

People, inventing foods at buffet is just part of who we are. It makes meals sparkle with new taste sensations and breathes life into old flavors. Just think about the first time the Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich. Dude was merging meat, cheese, and bread into a gem and he didn’t even know it. Flash forward a few hundred years and inventing new foods is now part of our DNA.

It’s in our blood.

It’s in our genes.

It’s in our cheap plastic bowls still wet from the dishwasher.

AWESOME!

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#172 Laugh lines

Bathtubs are crystal balls.

Soak in them long enough and you’ll get a wrinkly idea of what you’ll look like in years.

Brothers and sisters, since skin creases will wedge into the cracks and corners of all of our bodies over all of our lives we’ve got two big choices on living with them: love ’em or let ’em bother you. And if you choose option two, it’s a world of fancy creams and face-stretching for you.

Nope, I say just get used to them. Love your wrinkles! Squishy baby elbows, silky smooth legs, and pimple-smeared prom faces will all slowly morph into Wrinkle Homes. Forehead wrinkles, cheek wrinkles, saggy arm wrinkles, you’ll have them all. Life will still be a ball but you’ll just be telling the world you lived it.

Now there’s something especially sweet about laugh line wrinkles. You know, I’m talking about the ones creased into your dimples when you smile, the crow’s feet in the corners of your eyes when you laugh, and all the little lines that pop out of your chucking face whenever you hear a good joke.

Laugh lines are a sign that you lived and lived well.

Congratulations on laughing your whole life.

AWESOME!

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#173 When you walk straight through one of those empty winding lineup things

Don’t get me started on airports.

Look, I love flying as much as the next guy but sometimes it feels like we’re grunting cows being poked from pen to pen. Check-in, customs, and security mean lines up the yin yang and through it all we’re papery flurries of passports, boarding passes, and carry-on bags.

That’s why it’s heaven when you’re scrambling through a Known Lineup Zone (or “KLZ” for short) and you come across an empty line in its place:

1. The roller coaster after the rain. Thunderstorms scared your fellow families away from the Looping Vortex of Doom. But when the skies clear it’s time to make your move for first sit on slippery slick seats. If you’re super lucky, you may even get that once-in-a-lifetime solo ride, where it feels like you own the amusement park. Funnel cakes for everyone!

2. Using a pay phone anytime. Anybody else remember pay phone lineups? Anybody else have to get their mom to minivan over to the mall after seeing Ace Ventura for the third time? Anybody?

3. The really popular restaurant at the really unpopular time. Good luck getting into The Cheesecake Factory on Friday night. But Tuesday at 11am? Booth time, baby! Same goes for your office cafeteria before the stir-fry rush or McDonald’s for a sneaky midnight shake.

4. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the movie. Sure, its terrible missing a dream sequence or chase scene, but at least you avoid the sardine tin of heavy bladders after the show.

5. Anything at the airport. Like we said this is the holy grail of KLZ victory. Nothing compares to the thrill of seeing a barren security or customs line, with just a tired old man waiting for you there on a stool, like he suddenly got lost in a world of neon pizza signs and magazine racks and just sat down.

Yes, it’s a beautiful moment skimming through Known Lineup Zones with no lineups around. You can almost pretend the pillars and red velvet ropes were set up just for you so you can smile and wave to your adoring fans as you pull off a dream move like a VIP.

“Can I have your autograph?” they’ll scream, pushing markers and notepads at you with their tiny hands. “Of course,” you laugh back, personalizing every one and taking care to give high fives to all the babies. They’ll scream and applaud and yell questions as you parade through the lineup with ease.

“So what does it feel like?”

“And how would you describe it?”

“Tell us in just one word!”

AWESOME!

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#174 Old people pants

It’s about authenticity.

It’s about being you and being cool with it.

It’s about baggy turquoise capris, striped maroon jumpsuits, and neon track pants.

Yes, when you walk by an old person sporting some colorful and comfortable pants with flair, do us all a favor and give them a head nod of respect, a cracking high ten, or a military salute. Respect their hand-waving dismissal of your skin-tight denim jeans, swishy business suits, and identical black dress for the club. Smile when they yank them over their belly button, grin when they snap the elastic band, and get up and applaud when they strut down the street in comfort and style.

Folks, it’s like I always say.

We can learn so much from The Grandma.

AWESOME!

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#175 When your footsteps line up perfectly with the black and white floor tiles

Brain, you´re funny.

Who knows what caveman electrons are firing you up on a daily basis? Something must have been programmed in a while back to make it so enjoyable to pop bubble wrap, hear frozen puddles crack, or stab those little buttons on top of the soft drink cup lid. Click clack, neutrons snap, brain cells buzz and smiles attack whenever those feel-good jabs start feel-good jabbing.

When your footsteps line up perfectly with the black and white floor tiles it’s like the stars are aligning for a quick little minute of fun. Perfectly avoiding all sidewalk cracks, squeezing through a door as it’s shutting without touching it, and walking onto escalators without breaking your stride all come close, but not much feels as good as Checkerboard Stepping all the way through that snobby lobby.

Let the front desk staff all stare in awe, drop their jaws, and burst into applause.

You just nailed it, my friend.

Right when it counted most.

AWESOME!

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#176 Getting tiny chores done before the microwave dings

Beat the beep.

Toss that bowl of instant oatmeal, can of Chef Boyardee, or salty plate of last night´s stir-fry into the microwave and get ready for sixty seconds of tornado-twisting action in the kitchen. When the door slams and the plate starts turning, it´s time to start scrubbing the last few dirty dishes, tying up the garbage while running to the garage, or speed-folding the bathroom towels in your time-ticking Hyper Maid State.

Now when that apple cinnamon breakfast bings, bubbling bowl of ketchup ravioli dings, or soya-sauce smeared broccoli spears ring, well you can enjoy it a little more knowing you just maximized your time. Yes, the microwave timer gave you a jolt of energy and as you settle into your couch dent while wiping sweaty bangs off your face you can rest feeling a little more productive and a lot more

AWESOME!

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#178 When you hear someone’s smile over the phone

Living in a big city can be lonely.

Friends scatter and splatter in all directions and people dear to your heart fling themselves across state lines, borders, and deep dark oceans.

And while calling your friends has gotten a lot cheaper, let’s be honest: It’s still hard to line everything up perfectly for a long phone call. There are time zones, there are answering machines, and there’s the general difficulty of jumping into someone’s life for an hour when they’re in the middle of living it.

Despite these issues, once in a while you land one of those special one or two hour phone calls with a close friend far, far away. If you’re lucky, after the first twenty minutes of what’s new at work, with the kids, with the folks, and with people both of us know but one of us knows better, it might fall into that healthy back and forth banter where it seems like no time has passed.

That’s the best part of the phone call.

Joking like you’re back in the dining hall at college before a long Friday night, chatting like you’re sharing a bunk-bed and whispering on Christmas Eve, and laughing like you’re still young and still married.

Sometimes if you listen close enough you can hear those smiles shining through the phone like laser beams. And they tug on your heart as your brain lapses and enjoys some great times with a loving friend.

AWESOME!

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