Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I haven’t had a drink since New Year’s Day. But I’ve had a lot of beer.

You see, I made myself a last-minute New Year’s resolution that I wouldn’t drink any alcohol until I finished my next book. This was a self-motivational deal with myself, made under the assumption that it would take about another month to finish up the book. Well, it’s been almost six months and I’m still not done. Whoops.

Alcohol for me means beer. It’s really the only alcoholic beverage I ever drink. I will have a Bloody Mary on special occasions, but mostly because I am asked to make them, since I happen to make the world’s best Bloody Mary. (Not meant to be boastful – simply the truth.) Other than that, it’s beer. I don’t really know if that’s because I don’t really care for wine and spirits, or because I just love beer. Probably a little of both. I have always liked beer - literally from the moment I took my first sip from my dad’s can of Coors when I was a boy. I remember thinking, “Man, that’s good! I can’t wait to grow up so I can have a whole one!”

Well, I grew up, and I have been enjoying beer after tasty beer from the time my incredibly good college fake ID said I was 21. Little did I know as a young lad that there were so many choices! Coors is good and all, but I might have exploded with joy if my dad had been a Guinness drinker.

Anyway, due to my love of beer, I figured a drinking moratorium would be a very motivational way to encourage some extra effort and finish up the book. What I said to myself was; no beer until I’m finished. What I naturally meant by that was no alcohol until I was done, which I foolishly thought would be the motivating factor, since beer and alcohol have always gone hand in hand. I did not count on the unexpected happening.

I didn’t miss it at all. I cruised right through the first month. I was shocked. My wife was shocked. My friends were shocked. People who didn’t even know me very well were shocked. If we had a dog, it would have been shocked.

Then, the totally unexpected happened. We had a party at our house, and one of the guests brought over two six-packs of Clausthaler, a German non-alcoholic beer. I looked at it and snickered, like any true beer-lover would do. It never even occurred to me to try one, until my wife said, “Well, you could have one of those, couldn’t you?”

I thought about it for a second, and decided that I could, since my “no drinking until I’m finished” rule really applied to alcohol, and not necessarily a brewed malt beverage that didn’t have any measurable alcohol content to speak of. So, on a whim, just to see how bad it was, I held my nose and took a swig.

Then, the truly, totally, wildly unexpected happened. I liked it. It tasted just like beer. After the first delicious German-brewed sip I realized all at once that I really missed beer. I really, really missed beer. I just didn’t miss the alcohol. Go figure!

I have probably drunk more beer in the last three months than I did in the entire previous year. I used to think of myself as a true beer lover. In my old world, non-alcoholic beer was something to be scoffed at. I am now enlightened. For a true, true beer lover, non-alcoholic beer is awesome. It opens up a whole world of new beer possibilities. Want a beer at lunch on a work day? No problem. Thirsty and want to crack one open while driving home from the store? Sure. Want beer on your Cheerios for breakfast? That’s gross. But you could totally do it! Plus, it’s about half the calories of regular beer, so your beer gut grows half as fast!

In fact, there are only two problems I can find with it. It costs as much or more than beer with alcohol in it. That seems wrong at first, but it’s probably because they have to take the alcohol out after they brew it, so it’s really more work to make it. Nothing we can do about that, I guess. Secondly, due to having no alcohol, there is no clearly defined stopping point. I found this problem at my good friend’s 40th birthday party. His wife rented out a bar, and we were there for over five hours. As the party was winding down I was feeling unusually bloated. When I paid my tab I realized I had downed ten O’Doul’s over the course of the evening. Maybe paying cash as I go would be a good solution to that one.

Last month, in the midst of all my non-alcoholic beer enlightenment, I, too, turned 40 years old. I had always planned on “cleaning things up a little,” health-wise, when I hit 40, and one of the items on the checklist was soda. I drink waaaay too much Coke. Over the course of many years, I have apparently stopped getting my nutrients and energy from food sources the way God intended, and have instead become the human equivalent of a fat, slow hummingbird. I exist almost entirely on sugar-water. I’m no physician, but I know that can’t be good.

Life is funny sometimes. I quit drinking alcohol almost by accident, and that went really well. I am currently trying to quit drinking caffeinated soda, and it couldn’t be more difficult. I feel like I’m detoxing from morphine. My temples are pounding, my vision is blurry, my palms are sweaty, and I’m walking around with my head in a cloud where I constantly feel like I’m forgetting something. I’m thinking about starting to use heroin just so I’ll have something easier to quit.

I know I need to be done once and for all with my daily soda intake, but this is ridiculous. I don’t think the motivational “take something away” plan will work this time. I already quit drinking, so I really don’t have anything left to take away, anyway. I refuse to give up my non-alcoholic beer, so I’m kind of stuck.

Maybe, instead, I’ll do some kind of motivational rewards program. I could always substitute in real beers for the Cokes as an incentive. That might have some merit... It will either work on its own, or I’ll end up drunk in the middle of the day, get fired from my job and have no money to buy any beverages.

Either way, I’ll get off the Coke.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The People of Safeway

As I was walking out of Safeway the other day, I passed a woman who was walking in wearing one of those front-mounted baby carriers on her chest. Nothing odd about that, except the forward-facing passenger was not the usual requisite five-month-old baby. This lady was papoose-ing a tiny little dog. (Either that, or it was the ugliest five-month-old baby ever, but I was pretty sure it was one of those little yappy dogs.)

Now, I was raised right, and as a result, I have never been one to make fun of people. I grew up with the Golden Rule, and I am trying to pass that on to my own children to make sure that they always treat other people the same way they would want to be treated themselves.

But the shock of seeing a lady who had mistaken her pet for a human, and as such, was bringing her cutsy-wootsie, cuddily-wuddily little dog inside the grocery store, got the better of my better judgment. My hand instantly went for my cell phone in an attempt to get a picture of her.

The cell phone was half-way up to ready position when my good raising kicked back in and I stopped myself.

A moment of awkward subterfuge ensued as I reversed the course of the rising phone back down to “just checking my messages” elevation, and pretended to be interested in the screen in case she had seen me.

As I passed by her, staring at my blank screen, I was mildly disgusted with myself. Apparently, due to owning a smartphone, I am dangerously close to crossing the line from civilized adult to thoughtless, totally cyber-connected web monkey. My first reaction upon seeing this woman was, “Man, I’ve got to get a picture of her and post it on Facebook!”

I’m quite sure that when that lady woke up in the morning -- presumably with her yappy dog snuggled up next to her head on her pillow, licking her face in that super-adorable way that he does -- she never could have known that she would cause me, a complete stranger, to have a pretty serious moment of introspection. I walked past her thinking to myself that I am more than mildly hypocritical in this area of my life. The “People of Walmart” area of life, that is.

If you do not know about “People of Walmart,” it is a website dedicated to posting pictures coupled with hilariously sarcastic comments of various Walmart shoppers. With the possible exception of the “everything is a dollar” stores, Walmart seems to attract more human train wrecks per capita than most other stores. A long time ago, people began snapping secret photos of them with their cell phones and posting them online. The site is chock full of people shopping with their underwear on the outside of their clothes, people shopping in only their underwear, and people shopping in the opposite gender’s underwear. Generally, it’s people who have serious underwear issues, or don’t own mirrors, or both.

Here’s my problem. I think the “People of Walmart” site is hilarious. The things some people wear in public cracks me up. (Emphasis on the word “crack.”) So, if I enjoy the website, I should be willing to be a contributor, right? There’s where I got into a serious moral dilemma. When it came time for me to provide content for my own “People of Safeway” Facebook post, I couldn’t do it.

My first thought was not necessarily, “That isn’t a very nice thing to do.” The way I figure it, if you leave the house with a pet strapped onto your chest, you get what you get.

My first thought was, “What am I going to say if she catches me taking a picture of her?”

“Ma’am, can you please hold still so I can take a picture of you to post on the internet in hopes that my friends find your brand of ‘crazy dog lady’ as entertaining as I do?”

There was no way that was going to happen.

So, I guess what I learned about myself is this; my brand of Golden Rule has a lot of personal responsibility attached to it. I will enjoy seeing the picture of you on the internet if you decide to leave your house wearing a dog, but I am not willing to be the guy who personally makes you feel insecure about, or ashamed of, your choice to do so.

I’m still not 100% sure how hypocritical that makes me, but I really don’t care. I’m comfortable with it. I mean, if I ever got so far down the “my pet is a person” road that I was carrying Fifi around in a Baby Bjorn, or if I was going out in public wearing shorts that were eleven sizes too small, I couldn’t honestly expect you not to mock me. In some ways, I would hope that you would. Maybe that would be the kick in the vastly overexposed butt I would need to get back to reality.

I think I just need to get stealthier with my camera.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Triple Play

Matt was up to bat with the bases loaded. Luke was on first, Austin was on second, and Colin was on third. I threw the first pitch to Matt and he made solid contact. A screaming line drive flew past me on the right, heading straight at the third baseman. The runners went. Luckily, the third baseman was taking some time off from his busy chore of making dirt circles with his cleats and was actually paying attention as the ball came hurtling toward his head. He reacted by raising his hands up to keep the ball from hitting him square in the face. To his good fortune, the hand that had the baseball glove on it was the first one to get up in front of his face, and to everyone’s amazement, not the least of which his own, he caught the ball.

That was the end of the baseball-looking portion of the play. The rest resembled a circus. This was five and six-year-old baseball, and no one, least of all the players, was expecting any of the batted balls to be caught on the fly.

At six years old, the rules of baseball can be confusing. Actually, at thirty-six years old they are confusing. At six they are a mystery. At the crack of the bat all three runners had gone, and since the ball was caught on the fly, they all needed to get back to their bases to tag up. No one tagged up. None of them even understand what “tag up” means.

I was standing on the mound, facing the infield and shouting, “Go back, go back!”

The third baseman who had caught the ball stood in utter shock, staring into his glove. Once he realized that he had just made a great play, he jumped up and down for joy. After he got finished with that, he realized that he should probably keep doing things, so since he was playing third base, he walked over and tagged third base with his foot. Colin, who had been on third, was totally ignoring my pleas to go back and had long since crossed the plate and was half way to the dugout. When the third baseman stepped on third, Colin was out. That turned his catch into a double play.

Now I was shouting, “Turn around, turn around!”

Shortly after the third baseman tagged third, Austin, my player who had been on second base, jogged right past him on his way to third. He had not tagged up on second, and when his dad, the third base coach, finally got Austin’s attention, he finally reversed his course and started jogging back to second.

Now I was shouting, “Get back to second, get back to second!”

The third baseman, now sensing that there might be another play to be had near second base, began jogging toward second, himself. The third baseman who was holding the ball, and Austin, his opponent who needed to get back to his base, were jogging side-by-side together down the base path toward second. They were literally six inches apart. If the third baseman had just moved his glove six inches to the right he would have had a triple play.

Now, the opposing coach was shouting, “Tag him, tag him!”

I was shouting, “Run, run!”

Austin and the third baseman just trotted along next to each other, wondering why everyone was shouting at them.

When the misfit jogging partners were ten feet from second base, the third baseman stopped and threw the ball…past second base and into the outfield.

Luke, my player that had started on first base, made it to second base, but finally got the memo from the first base coach that he needed to go back when he saw Austin coming back from third.

Due to the overthrow, Austin made it safely back to second base where he needed to be, but then, for reasons totally unknown to the coaching staff, continued his backward path and headed back to first!

I was now shouting, “No, no!”

He got all the way to first and shared the base with Luke for a while until they realized that they both shouldn’t be there at once. He finally looked up and listened to the exasperated first base coach telling him to get back to second base.

I was shouting, “Get back, get back!”

As Austin was running back to second, the ball came in from the outfield… back to the third baseman. By that time, he was almost totally convinced that there was supposed to be something happening at second base that involved the ball, so he ran it back over to second.

He and Austin arrived at second base at the same time. They both stopped short and neither one of them stepped on the base. They just stared at each other.

I was shouting, “Get to the… Step on the… Don’t get… Do… Base!!!” (I was a little excited by this time, and getting pretty hoarse.)

By this time, all six coaches and all forty parents were shouting something toward the vicinity of second base. The two players - the runner and the fielder – were locked in a bewildered staring contest, neither one knowing what to do, and neither one processing any of the fragmented information and suggestions being hurled at them from all sides. They stood and stared at each other for what was probably a sum total of two seconds, but it was an eternity to a coach whose heart had stopped.

Finally breaking the stalemate, Austin took one step forward and placed his foot squarely on second base. The third baseman saw this as a sign that it was now safe to tag him, so he did.

Forty-five people all leaned back and started breathing again with a laugh as I finally called the runner safe at second.

The longest, most confusing and most heart-wrenching play of the inning was finally over. The third baseman had made an unassisted double play at third, and then missed about nineteen opportunities to turn it into a triple play.

I was just as wound up and emotional for the opposing team’s third baseman as I was for my own runner. When I got done laughing with the other coaches and high-fiving the players involved, I attempted to regain my composure and turned to pitch to the next batter. There, standing at the plate was Matt, ready to go. I looked at him for a second, thinking that something was wrong, until it finally dawned on me that he was the batter that just hit the ball that started that whole mess.

He had run to first base when he hit the ball, but was sent away by the first base coach who was, at the time, frantically trying to retrieve Luke from second.

Matt thought he had hit a foul ball, and he was all ready to give it another try.

“Sorry, buddy. You were out a while ago.”

Whadda ya gonna do? That’s 5/6 baseball for ya.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


A few months ago, my wife signed me up to receive emails from Groupon. I had no idea what Groupon was, and no prior interest in it, so I wasn’t exactly sure why she did it. As it later turned out, she was hoping I would buy her things. She’s funny sometimes!

Anyway, one of the first “deals” I was alerted to by the handy Groupon daily email was the unbelievable opportunity to score 47% off a Chocolate and Beer Pairing Class. I’m sorry… a what? Why would I want to pair chocolate with beer? Beer is for pretzels, peanuts and meat, not candy. And even if I wanted to do something as un-American and un-manly as matching up chocolate with beer, why would I want to pay to take a class on how to do it? How hard could it be? There are only two kinds of chocolate; milk and dark. Beer will go equally poorly with either one.

This inane suggestion for something to waste my money on got me curious about Groupon. What other gems did they have to offer me?

How about:

Up to 56% off Self-Service Dog Washes – If you mean the dog is supposed to wash itself, isn’t that called a pool? If you mean you are going to wash your own dog, isn’t that called a hose?

Up to 56% off Champagne Tasting and Chicken Dinner – The picture had elegant, sparkling champagne flutes in the background, and KFC-style fried chicken drumsticks in the foreground. – Yeah, nothing goes better with KFC than fine champagne. Except, of course, Thunderbird.

Up to 54% off a Five-Hour Photography Boot Camp – Excuse me? Photography boot camp? YOU CALL THAT AN F-STOP?!? TAKE THE PICTURE, MAGGOT! DO IT!!!

55% off Discovery Flight Package – Just which one of us is discovering how to fly; me or the “instructor”? There is something about getting bargain basement prices on flight lessons that just doesn’t feel right.

Up to half off a Steve Trevino Comedy Show for Two – You mean, he’s just going to be doing a show for two of us? That seems like it would be awkward.

Up to 76% off Smartlipo or Tickle Liposuction – Tickle Liposuction???? I don’t even know what to think about that.

Up to 57% off Colon Hydrotherapy – That’s just a fancy way of saying enema, isn’t it? No, thanks.

Up to 62% off Infared Body Wraps – I have no idea what that could possibly be, but the fact that the seller of this magnificent product misspelled infrared worries me more than just a little.

Up to 63% off a Pair of Weight Loss Hot Pants – I might want to see 63% off hot pants on the right jogger, but then again, since they are weight loss hot pants, maybe not.

63% off a Motion-Activated Candy Dispenser – Hmm… A motion activated candy dispenser. That seems like it would have an exponential speed increase until the blur of my children suddenly stopped due to three sucrose-induced comas.

Up to 53% off 0.5 cc or 1 cc Injection of Restylane or JuvĂ©derm – I have no idea what either of those substances are, but if they need to be measured in cc’s, presumably to avoid some kind of overdose, and it will be injected into me with a needle, do I really want to be doing that at a place that takes coupons?

79% off Cellulite Reduction Treatments – Didn’t that used to be called running?

Up to 57% off Couples Massage – If you are a couple, why do you need to pay for a massage?

52% off Car-Drifting Courses – A class to teach you how to slide your car sideways. That sounds like a smart use of your money. Maybe you’ll be the best one in your class and the instructor will secretly be a Hollywood director and he’ll want you and your lowered Mitsubishi to be in the next “The Fast and the Furious” movie. Or not.

59% off Sinful Dark Chocolate Facials – You heard me. Chocolate facials.

53% off The Original Slanket – “A flowing fleece blanket with loose-fitting sleeves, letting wearers maintain full use of their hands while lounging.” -  I can’t believe there is a Snuggie knockoff!

Up to 84% off Body Slimming Treatments – “Non-invasive Electro-Slim devices” electrically activating your muscles to get a “work-out” while you lay on a bed. Hmmm… Maybe you could just save the money and jog from your house to the place where you were about to pay for this. 

Up to 64% off Botox – Isn’t Botox actually a form of the food poison botulism? And doesn’t it get injected into your face to get rid of wrinkles? Again, poison being injected with needles at a place that takes coupons. No, thanks.

Up to 86% off an MMA Gym Membership – You want me to pay to belong to a gym where I will get kicked in the head? You must have been kicked in the head.

53% off Justin Bieber Singing Toothbrushes – Never. Never in a million years. Never, ever.

Half off Pole Dancing Classes or Private Party – Is Groupon really the place where strippers go to get their training? What on earth could that private party involve? Yikes.

52% off Unlimited Wine Tasting for Two – These people must be itching to lose money, because they just said “unlimited wine tasting.” Have they not met my wife and her friends?

52% off Universal Remote Control with Built-in Bottle Opener – OK, now we’re getting somewhere. A beer-related Groupon that makes sense.

Half off lingerie, bikinis, dresses and costumes – Do they mean the garments are half-sized, or they cost half as much? Either way, this is another Groupon I can get behind!

Half off Scandinavian Cozies – The picture had a sock-looking thing that went up your arm with a foam rubber beverage holder on the end of it, so you can hold your beer without having your hand get cold. OK, now here’s another beer Groupon with some weight behind it. That is one handy looking beer cozy!

Actually, Groupon does seem to have a lot of good beer-related offerings. In fact, the more I think about that chocolate and beer pairing class, the more I think they might be onto something. I mean, I would prefer a beer and bratwurst pairing class, but I do like chocolate as much as the next guy, and if there is beer sampling... Hmmm. I mean, depending on how much the class costs versus how many beers I get to sample, it might just make good financial sense. If there is enough beer involved, I may not be able to afford not to do it!

Excuse me, I need to go look into that. Maybe I’ll bring my new remote control beer opener and my Scandinavian hand warmer beer cozy.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!