Blog: Skewed Views & News


Auld Lang (Sigh)

Remember when New Year’s Eve was the Night of the Year? You spent months planning where you’d be at midnight, who you’d be with, what you’d wear and what you’d be drinking. You wouldn’t be caught dead staying home during this social event of the season.

Now, as adulthood sets in, you can’t be caught awake past 11 p.m. One of the last times I was upright to ring in the new year, I entertained myself by standing in the doorway in my pajamas and shouting at teenagers who were shooting off fireworks, telling them, “Yeah baby! Light up the sky! Thanks for the show!” Wild stuff, I know.

This year, it looks like I’m staying in, staying warm and monitoring the activities of a houseful of children, some of whom are mine. Again, wild stuff. But if you are headed into a party largely comprised of professional adults, with only a few accidental adults to keep you company, well . . . relax. I’ve been there before, and I’ll bet this looks familiar to you too . . .

Assimilated Adult: Knows the words to several verses of “Auld Lang Syne.”

Accidental Adult: Wonders how anyone could remember words to a song he hears only once a year and sings only while he’s drunk.

Advice: This night is your annual chance for harmless fun. I’m talking about abruptly kissing someone who isn’t your spouse. Maybe even a few people. So spend time remembering the names of the people you want to peck rather than memorizing ancient Scottish song lyrics. At midnight it won’t feel like you’re kissing strangers, which would be impolite, not to mention disrespectful to your spouse.

***

Assimilated Adult: Confides that after years of breaking New Year’s resolutions, this year her resolution is to not make any more resolutions!

Accidental Adult: Instantly resolves to leave the party if he hears this unoriginal declaration again.

Advice: Announcing your New Year’s resolution is a great way to fool people into thinking you’re a profoundly reflective and motivated adult—unless you’re just resolving to take fewer naps like I did one year. Consider making a bolder commitment, and one that requires no evidence or corroboration. Like offering up a daily prayer for your enemies. Or visualizing world peace. Who’s to say?

***

Assimilated Adult:  Corrects you when you refer to your glass of sparkling wine as champagne, saying, “It’s not champagne unless it comes from the region of France called Champagne.”

Accidental Adult: Wishes his glass were full of beer from the region of Milwaukee instead, and his drinking partner didn’t have a stick up his ass.

Advice: Swallow your sparkling wine along with your pride and move to the buffet table. Feigning interest in French carbonated alcohol only fuels the ego of a self-important wine connoisseur, and it requires way more energy than you have at midnight.

***

On the ride home, congratulate yourself for surviving the most overrated evening of the year. Who stays up this late anymore, anyway?

Holiday help: Part 2

Ho, Ho, No! Even my hero Phil can’t pull this one off.

So where were we? Oh yes. The overcelebration of Christmas. Not to worry. Here are my final six ways to make the 12 days of Christmas bearable for accidental adults everywhere.

7. The Decorative Christmas Tree Sweater
See that middle-aged woman wearing the blinking, illuminated sweater with the matching candy cane socks? Want to annoy her as much as her outfit has annoyed you? Don’t say a word to her about the attire. Don’t even fake a compliment. To this grandma wannabe, acknowledgment equals encouragement.

8. Real Trees Versus Fake
Let’s see . . . One requires hard labor in the bitter cold, and it ultimately poses a very real fire hazard. Your other choice requires about ten minutes to set up, and it fits nicely under the basement stairs for the other eleven months of the year. ’Nuff said.

9. Tipping
I’m sure some etiquette guides suggest that during the holidays it’s considered good form to tip service providers like hairdressers, postal carriers, dog groomers, day care providers, newspaper carriers, parking attendants, and so on. Since none of these are my own profession, I don’t really care what you do. But here’s a tip: Give Christmas presents to your children’s teachers shortly before grades are given out. This way you can tell friends at holiday parties that your children are at the top of their classes and have the recent evidence to prove it.

10. The Santa Cap
It’s just not funny. Never was, never will be. And it certainly doesn’t give you a proper excuse to offer your lap as a seat to guests.

11. Music
Best Christmas song ever? Band Aid’s 1984 hit “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Worst Christmas song ever? A tie between “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” (not to be confused with Nachos Navidad, a much more satisfying staple of the season). Take note, and fill your iPod party mix accordingly, please.

12. Drinking Before Midnight Mass
Look at it this way, and then never do it again. The savior of the world was born, and you’re going to show up trashed at His birthday party? Happy Birthday, Jesus! Forgive this guy. But please note, he’s not with me. I’m the one sitting two pews behind him fluctuating between disgust and repressed fascination watching him grope his fiancée during the moment of shared peace.

So what’s your reward for surviving a blitz of Christmas parties? Enduring the most boring day of the year: December 25. Nothing’s on television, stores are closed, and you’ve become a virtual prisoner trapped inside your own home.

Merry freakin’ Christmas.

Holiday help: Part 1

Shoeless parties suck.

These days everyone rants about the overcommercialization of Christmas. Of course their complaints are justifiable, but I’m much more annoyed by the overcelebration of Christmas. Specifically, I mean the work party, the spouse’s work party, the neighborhood party, the college friend’s party, the family party, the church volunteer party . . . I know you get the point. It’s the real adults who don’t have a clue.

Most accidental adults aren’t opposed to partying. It’s just that when the celebrations become never-ending, the chances you’ll be exposed as a grown-up fraud become seemingly infinite as well. So if endless partying is not the reason for your season, you’ll tire of the Yuletide in a hurry. No worries, though. Here is my first installment of 12 ways to make the 12 days of Christmas a much more entertaining time of year for your most important loved one: you!

1. Secret Santas
For most accidental adults, there’s a limit to the energy and creativity it takes to think of original gift ideas. Ideally these efforts should be channeled toward the people with whom you share a home, not a break room. In a perfect world, the stale office tradition of Secret Santa gift-giving would be optional. But if you can’t avoid this ritual, keep your gifts appropriately clean and inoffensive. There’s nothing funny about a harassment complaint filed in your name with Human Resources, especially during the holidays.

2. Egg Nog
Always say no to the nog, unless you want a 3 a.m. reminder of everything you ate at the party. What genius thought mixing milk with raw eggs and liquor was a good idea?

3. Kissing under the Mistletoe
Don’t try it, unless tricking others into awkward and uncomfortable sexual advances is your thing. Then who am I to judge?

4. Removing Your Shoes
Here’s the holiday party where half the guests hobble around cold kitchen floors in their socks all night, glaring at the other guests who didn’t offer to take off their shoes at the door. In my experience, the majority of the shoeless guests would gladly pass the hat and contribute to a carpet-cleaning fund in exchange for the privilege to wear their shoes (especially women who largely seem to think shoes are the most important accessory to their outfit). To avoid going shoeless, do your best to create a distraction when entering the home so your hostess won’t have an opportunity to explain her rules for keeping her carpets clean. A quick dash to the bathroom with an “I’m breaking the seal!” explanation usually suffices.

5. P.C. or Not P.C.?
For Christ’s sake, it’s Christmas! So why not say so? Can’t you just smell the fear every time you hear people wishing each other a politically correct “Happy Holidays” instead of a “Merry Christmas”? I figure if a Jewish Neil Diamond can record one of the coolest Christmas albums ever produced, this gives us all the right to say “Merry Christmas” regardless of religion.

6. Decorations
This one’s really, really simple yet so often ignored. Your house’s outdoor Christmas decorations go up no sooner than Thanksgiving Day, and they come down no later than New Year’s Day. Anything earlier or later is simply overkill and should be punishable by enduring an obscene snow sculpture in the front yard or a yellow snow bank near the driveway.

If you’re like me (and I know I am), then your attention span is as limited as Jessica Alba’s acting range. So let’s stop here for now and look for six more sanity-saving Holiday helpers later next week. Meantime, I’ve got pumpkin breads to bake. (Don’t ask.)

10 reasons to give thanks

Thank YOU, Princess Hottie (not haughty)

‘Tis the season to show a little love for all the cool things in your life. Reluctant grownups like us may view the world tilted towards those who’ve assimilated, but that’s no reason not to count our blessings. And we really are blessed. So what’s this accidental adult thankful for this year?

1. I am thankful that . . . my children still seem to think I know what I’m doing most days. Let the charade continue.

2. I am thankful for . . . the David Lee Roth soundboard app on my mobile phone. Taken from his recording session of “Runnin’ with the Devil,” it features a variety of classic Roth screeches and howls  including “Ah-yaay-awhoo!” “I’lltellyouallaboutit!” and of course, “Oh God! Oh God, I’m running, ahhhhh-yeah!” Fun and funny.

3. I am thankful that . . . a recent snowfall blanketed a two-foot high pile of leaves I fully intended to bag up before winter, essentially making that task unnecessary and impossible. (It’s the thought that counts, right?)

4. I am thankful for . . . the royal engagement of Prince William to the “commoner,” but uncommonly gorgeous, Kate Middleton. Considering the future Queen of England will now become a media fixture likely for the rest of my life, I’m so glad the images we’ll be bombarded with will be of a hottie (not haughty) Queen.

5. I am thankful that . . . my eight-year-old son still shows no interest in joining the Boy Scouts.

6. I am thankful for . . . the continued good health of my family and my loved ones, especially Bono — whose back injury has improved enough that last summer’s cancelled U2 concert is now rescheduled for summer 2011. I haven’t joy-cried at a concert since The Police reunion tour. I’m ready, boys.

7. I am thankful that  . . . I live among adult neighbors who possess the tools and skills I often need to perform a variety of home improvement projects.

8. I am thankful for . . . the satirical newspaper, The Onion. So. Damn. Funny.

9. I am thankful that . . . my friends and family do not expect any more maturity, adult ability or real-world assimilation from me than I am capable of demonstrating.  

10. I am thankful that . . . a reputable medium-sized publishing house in Avon, Massachusetts, said “Yes” to my manuscript, when dozens of other publishers and literary agents said “Nah.” Sometimes the toughest obstacles in life only require a single “Yes” to overcome.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also express my gratitude to readers like you who are following me on my reluctant journey through adulthood. To think that my book and blog might help some people navigate the road to reluctant adulthood and take comfort in knowing there are other accidental adults out there? Ironically, that makes me feel downright “adult.”

Thank you. God bless you. And especially, God save the Queen-to-be.

Dog fight

We're not keeping him.

My eight-year-old son surprised me last weekend, when he poured himself a bowl of Cookie Crisp cereal for breakfast. Ever since Finn and his six-year-old sister Maeve could speak, they’ve been asking for that treat whenever we stroll the grocery store’s cereal aisle – and I’ve always refused, somehow exercising that often elusive “good parenting” gene.

So how did that box of chocolate crap get into the house?

“Mommy bought it for me . . . because you won’t buy us a puppy,” Finn explained.

And with that, I knew it was back. The decade-old dog debate that Kelly and I engage in about twice a year. Kelly (being of irrational and totally emotional state-of-mind) wants a dog to permanently join our already loving and lively household. I (being of logical and reasonable state-of-mind) do not.

It’s not that I’m averse to the excitement and joy a dog could provide our family. It’s just that I know my limitations. After consecutive mornings of kids coughing across my breakfast and brokering peace accords because someone sneaked an extra Flintstones vitamin, the last thing I need to worry about is a dog creating more chaos. Dogs are work. And for most accidental adults, getting through the day being the best possible father, husband, son, brother, neighbor and sometimes drinking buddy is simply exhausting. Why throw more responsibilities into the mix?

Well according to Kelly, here’s why . . . along with my own wise, compelling and thoroughly reasoned responses.

      Kelly: Dogs just want to give you love.
      Colin: I don’t want an animal watching me eat my lunch.

      Kelly: You won’t have to do a thing. The kids are I will take care of it.
      Colin: Right. So I’ll be the jerk sitting on the couch watching it pee in the corner because I’m not taking the dog outside unless it’s 70 degrees or warmer. That will be fine with you?

      Kelly: Just live a little! Life is short!
      Colin: How long do dogs live?

       Kelly: Don’t you want something soft, warm and fuzzy running around the house?
       Colin: We have Maeve.

The truth is, now that our children are gradually becoming more self-sufficient, I’d like to keep that momentum going. That means not waking before 8 a.m. on weekends. Not attending to anyone else’s bowel movements. Not securing and monitoring a series of gates around rooms that are off-limits. Our children have taken us beyond those stages. But like most kids, they’ve become great at promises of responsibility, but not always so consistent on the follow-through. So if I did give in and agree to getting a dog, guess who’d be left holding the leash?

Sure, Kelly will continue to text me photos of our kids holding puppies at pet stores in a ploy to manipulate my emotions and position me as the bad guy denying his children their hearts’ desire. But like most of these dog-driven debates, this latest flare up will likely pass with the same result. No dog for us – for now at least. So while I’ve got a good thing going, I’m enjoying the reprieve.

Later that morning, when my kids were distracted by Sunday morning television, I poured myself a bowl of Cookie Crisp. As I enjoyed that sugary sweet cereal free of a dog’s unnerving stare, I thought to myself, maybe I had made too big of a deal over chocolate breakfast cereal. If this is the way we compensate for not giving our children a dog, I suppose I can live with that.

It was a sweet breakfast indeed.

This guy's disguise

Yo! No.

As I kid, I loved dressing up as a pirate for Halloween, long before Johnny Depp made it cool. Today, I leave the disguises to the kids. Consider me among an apparent minority of people who think costumes are for kids only. To be honest, adults who wear costumes kind of freak me out. Maybe that’s why every year at about this time I dread the increasingly uncomfortable adult Halloween costume party. Chances are, you’re headed to one of these bashes in the coming weeks. Sadly, my firsthand experience with these events qualifies me to offer you a few coping mechanisms for your close encounters of the creepy kind.

The Sports Jersey Guy
Now here’s a guy who deserves your respect, so give it up for him. His lack of creativity clearly demonstrates he’s been goaded into throwing together a last-minute costume for a party he probably didn’t want to attend in the first place. Nicely done number 12! And thanks for leaving the number 69 jersey at home. Same with your “UMass Debate” college T-shirt. Would love to see your closet someday.

The French Maid/Sexy Black Cat/Scantily Clad Cavewoman
Take your pick, but all of these costumes scream, “It’s okay to ogle me. Really, I want you to.” But do not fall for this trap. Instead, consider a pre-emptive strike. Before your wife mentions anything on the car ride home, ask her, “Did you see that slut in the Playboy Bunny outfit?” You’ll get honesty points for acknowledging the obvious, plus extra credit for calling that suggestive attention-seeker a skank.

The Mobster
That violin case? His daughter’s. The white fedora? His grandfather’s. The double-breasted pinstripe suit? His. And there’s the true crime. Politely invite him to join you at the next Men’s Wearhouse two-for-one suit sale. If he’s smart, that’s an offer he won’t refuse.

The ’60s Girl
Considering she wasn’t alive during this decade, you can understand her fascination with the 1960s—and her confusion in putting together the right costume. Some choose the flower power hippie look, with the smoked sunglasses, flaired long sleeves, and matching bell-bottom jeans. Then there’s the go-go dancer guise with the miniskirt and the knee-high white leather boots. Flash this one the peace sign for deciding to go-go shag-a-delic, baby.

The Pimp
This is the guy who takes his velvet purple suit and big daddy cane a tad too seriously and decides tonight’s the night to show off his acting chops. So Mr. Method Actor usually can be found throwing out awkward and uncomfortable insults or pickup lines to the Naughty Nurse “because it’s all part of the act, beeatch.” I know it’s tempting to come to her rescue, but let it go. Only an assimilated adult would think now’s the time to give this D-bag a lecture on the traumatic psychological effects of sexual enslavement. It’s the true accidental adult who realizes that anyone who wears a candy striper dress with white fishnet stockings to a Halloween party probably knows how to put a pimp in his place anyway.

Had enough of your ghoulish get-together? Clear the party early by quietly making friends with the fog machine. When no one’s looking, set it to “high” mode or simply slip some chunks of dry ice into the punch bowl. Either move will bring the guests to the brink of asphyxiation. With a little luck, carbon dioxide can really change the chemistry of your next costume party, and shorten its duration considerably.

Any of these tips help? If so, you can thank me when you see me in the driveway making my own hasty exit from the party. I’m the one trying not to gawk at the mermaid hopping up the sidewalk. Seriously, Kelly.

My work wife

Yo Holly. Time to get my snack on.

To most people who know me, I think it’s fairly evident. I love my wife Kelly. A lot. She’s beautiful, funny, smart, talented and she has impeccable taste in life partners. Like all marriages, mistakes are made from time to time. But I always forgive her and move on.

Now that my re-declarations of devotion are out of the way, I also need to confess something else. And it’s precisely because of the security and trust I feel in my marriage that I can say this.

Turns out, I have a work wife.

Her name is Bridget. But to protect her anonymity, let’s call her Holly. Even though Holly is about a decade younger than me, our demographics have a lot in common – we’re both happily married to supportive spouses, we have young kids and we’re living in St. Paul suburbs.

So what makes her my work wife? First, let’s define our terms. A work wife, or work husband for that matter, is someone who provides a completely harmless, entirely platonic relationship that helps keep you sane 40+ hours a week, while also providing for your many workplace needs. In my case, these needs typically include:

  • CHEEZ-ITs at 10 a.m., breakfast of champions
  • Gum at 10:30 a.m.
  • Help manipulating Excel spreadsheets. (Math sucks.)
  • Wardrobe advice (Are my white ankle-high socks geeky, or should I just go sockless for the rest of the day?)
  • Commiseration and cheap therapy when work gets ugly.
  • Postage stamps.
  • Change for the Coke machine.

Yes, Holly fulfills all of these needs for me. And she does it without attaching those messy, ridiculous demands often placed on traditional marriages. Pressures like remembering to leave your spouse with a full tank of gas or properly soaking and scraping your chili-caked bowl in the sink before throwing it into the dishwasher.

Instead of writing me unnecessary little notes like, “Don’t forget it’s your turn to drive to dance tonight,” Holly writes me helpful notes like, “Here’s how much of your budget you’ve already spent. You owe me one billable hour for figuring this out.”

Like most of my previous relationships with women, I was very slow in realizing I had this formal connection with Holly. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when I finally realized she had become my work wife. We were standing in our office parking lot, and she was helping me identify which one of my brake lights had burned out. In full accidental adult mode, I stepped to the back of the car to see where she was pointing, and the open (but locked) driver’s door swung shut, leaving me locked out of my running car, with no spare key. Of course, Holly knew what to do. She called AAA and assured me her membership services could apply to my car as long as she stayed with me and signed for it. Acting remarkably similar to my real wife, she even told the tow truck guy not to scratch my car when he was snaking his unlocking device through the window. I drive a 1998 sedan with 145,000 miles and 155,000 scratches on it. That’s funny stuff Holly.

Clearly, I value my work wife. So what does Holly get out of the relationship? I think one time I proofread something for her. Another time, after she complained that her office windows were too streaky, I wrote a “Wash Me” message in soap from the outside. (She was three months pregnant with twins and totally missed the humor of my hijinks.) And once I thought about brushing the snow off her car after work, but then I got distracted. Really, I think it’s the thought that counts.

But whatever I bring to the relationship is not what’s important here. What matters the most is that my work wife will continue to be there for me 9 -5, Monday through Friday. At least I hope she stays put. I’m bound to lock myself out of my car again, and like most accidental adults, I still don’t have AAA.

School Year's Resolution

Step #1

School opened this week, and for many accidental adults like me, it was a bittersweet reminder of just how out of touch with children we’ve become.

“I’ll get you up an hour before the bus arrives,” I told my nervous 11-year-old daughter the night before the first day. Her incredulous response? “Dad! I’ve got like, a zillion things to do in the morning! You just don’t get it!”

In her defense, it appeared she did have about a zillion things to do, as evidenced by the morning beauty rituals she scribbled on the Post-It note she stuck to the bathroom mirror, which read: 

  1. Apply glow moisturizer
  2. Bronzer
  3. Blush
  4. Concealer
  5. Tame eyebrows

So my daughter was right. I just don’t get it. Because to my way of thinking, isn’t 60 minutes ample time to prepare for school?  Just what is she “concealing” on her face anyway? And what pre-teenage girl really needs to tame her eyebrows unless she’s Brooke Shields’ daughter?

These and countless other questions lead me to conclude that when it comes to children – my own offspring included – I feel like I haven’t really “gotten it” for quite some time.

There was a time when I knew all the developmental stages of children and could usually guess the age of a stranger’s baby within about three months. Not anymore. Now that my youngest child is inexplicably six years old, I’m a bit out of practice, but not smart enough to stop guessing. This summer on a crowded flight into Chicago, Kelly and I met a cute, well dressed and great smelling twentysomething mother whose daughter shared the same name as our youngest – Maeve. Desperate to keep the conversation going with her, I took a look at the daughter she had hanging from a Baby Bjorn carrier around her shoulders and said, “She’s what . . . about three years old?” Horrified, the mother replied, “Um, she’s 18 months old.” And with that, the babe and her baby abruptly turned a cold shoulder on me because of my spectacularly bad speculation. Should’ve kept my mouth shut.

There also was a time when I could remember the names of all my children’s little playdate friends. Yet as years have passed, and my memory has become foggier, more than once I’ve misdirected a “Happy Birthday” wish to the wrong little girl (usually in front of a stunned crowd of mothers) as I delivered my daughters to a birthday party. Again, should’ve kept my mouth shut.

Certainly, a little more self-imposed silence will keep me from looking as clueless as I often feel around kids. But I’ve been a parent for more than a decade now. I know I can do better.

As I watched Jurassic Park with my grade schoolers before bedtime this week (nice soothing film selection, I know), my mind drifted to a new school year’s resolution. I may be just another frazzled father, but I resolved to sharpen my understanding of kids by doing a better job of thinking like a kid. (That really shouldn’t be too hard for the guy whose list of personal heroes includes Tommy Lee and Chris Farley.) If I can successfully think like a kid, I figure I can ultimately improve my ability to predict their age-appropriate behavior, relate to their warped perspectives and when necessary, thwart their illogical and ill-conceived maneuvers. I smell a “Father of the Year” award coming!

Some will say there’s no way the average dad can ever completely “get it” when it comes to understanding his children. Nevertheless, I’ve made a mental list of all the ways I can relate better to my children this school year. I think it will be worth the effort, but clearly it’s going to take some time. I need to pace myself.

I’ve got like a zillion things to do.

Required reading

Party of Two, please!

This summer kicked off with an unexpected but super cool honor for me. The wildly popular website www.sheknows.com listed The Accidental Adult on its “Guys’ Summer Book Guide” as one of six books for cool guys and hip dads. That got me thinking. If I were to compile a summer reading list for fellow accidental adults – male and female alike – what would I recommend? Since I can’t report on books I haven’t actually read (unlike my freshman year book report on Wuthering Heights), my summer reading list is short, but sweet.

Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond
If you’re willing to admit that you may love music just a little too much, this could be the book for you. Each chapter is an essay that delves into the delusional power of songs with occasional sidebars that deconstruct song lyrics showing the absurdity of many songwriters. I know a lot of guys whose passion for music is only surpassed by their fruitless attempts at making you feel exactly what they feel when they listen to a favorite song. Sure it’s occasionally annoying, but understandable. Little in life comes close to matching the power of music. Especially if it’s 1980s alternative, hard rock or new wave. Which brings me to . . .

Talking to Girls about Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield
Seriously? Someone wrote a book of essays revealing “one young man’s quest for true love and a cooler haircut?” Littered with tales of teen angst and heartbreak, all set to a soundtrack of musical references ranging from Prince to The Smiths to Madonna to Hall & Oates? Let’s get this guy a Pulitzer, stat.

Look at My Striped Shirt! by The Phat Phree
For me the highest compliment is hearing that your book made someone laugh out loud.  Not only do I laugh out loud every time I pick up this book and fall onto a new essay, I once actually laughed so hard I cried. Unfortunately, I was alone in a bar waiting to meet a buddy, and I’m sure the server thought I was whacked. Billed as “A look inside the heads of the must infuriating douchebags on Earth,” this collaborative effort delivers wickedly funny essays from a cadre of talented comedy writers posing as the d-bags themselves, with essays like, “High school football is all I have,” “I will get off this plane before you,” “I just made some statements I can’t back up,” and “Does this outfit make me look slutty enough?” Even their web site, www.thephatphree.com is phunny, phunny stuff.

The Onion
I know it’s not a book, but this satirical newspaper (which originated from my home state of Wisconsin) is a must-read for anyone who likes clever, sarcastic and biting commentary. And yes, that last sentence was just a shameless plug that I can use when I pitch them. (Let me write just one story, guys! It will complete my world!) Favorite recent articles include, “Mom Finally Drunk Enough To Put On Bathing Suit,” “Area Man Experimenting With Homosexuality For Past 8 Years” and “North Dakota Still Leads Nation In Parking Availability.” This onion doesn’t make my eyes water like Look at My Striped Shirt!, but it’s the funniest regular read on the racks.

That’s my list in a nutshell. So what have I missed from your required reading list? I only have one more title to cross off my must-read list for summer 2010: The Day I Shot Cupid by Jennifer Love Hewitt. I understand there may be pictures in the middle.

Battle of the bands

My custom bass drum head. Not at all ripped off from The Police.

If you ever want a window into someone’s soul, pinpoint his or her hobby. For me, after the typically lame and knee-jerk response “spending time with my family,” I can list a trifecta of favorite pastimes that includes writing, running and drumming. And during this beautiful summer weekend, I got a rare chance to indulge in all three.

I call this weekend rare because as I get older, my drumming gigs have sadly become few and far between. When I was in college and throughout my early 20s, I played in a mock ‘n roll band called Language: Power and Abuse (L:PA), named after a course none of its members took. The band’s unofficial motto was “we’re friends first, musicians second,” – a philosophy that was clearly evident to anyone who heard us play. We also adopted an official slogan: “We want to work your private functions!” And not surprisingly, nearly all our gigs centered around alcohol: Beer as compensation. Beer as stage decoration. Beer as projectile weapons when crowds got out of control.

Now that I’ve reluctantly entered middle age, L:PA sadly is no more. In its place, however, is a party band of fiftysomethings I play with a few times a year, including this weekend’s gig at a suburban city-pride festival. Comprised of the best musicians I’ve ever played with, this band is called The Backyard Band, named when we auctioned ourselves to the highest bidder at a charity event to play a backyard summer gig years ago.

Comparing these two band experiences is probably unfair. My college band was more interested in making the bar crowd laugh than playing in the same key. My “adult” band is more interested in mastering four-part harmony than making certain that their beer cups are never empty. But if I could change one thing about my current group, it’s the set list. Take a quick look at some of the artists featured in the two bands’ set lists, and the difference is pretty clear:

L:PA
The Cure
The Replacements
Gear Daddies
U2
Prince
Guns n’ Roses
Def Leppard

The Backyard Band
The Beatles
The Turtles
Roy Orbison
Steve Miller
Whoever the hell wrote “Midnight Hour”
Jimmy Buffett
Neil Diamond
Whoever the f*#! wrote “Jump Jivin’”

I suppose what this tells me is that when you hit middle age, you make some compromises if you want to play with really great guys who are excellent musicians in a really tight band.  Even an ’80s music lover and accidental adult like me. I also imagine this tells me I must really love playing my drums, especially if it means playing “Margaritaville” five times a year.

But like all accidental adults who are outnumbered by assimilated adults, I’ve found a way to cope. It works like this. In their earliest years, Van Halen often put their own spin on cover tunes by other artists, and I always imagined them doing a rocking rendition of Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.” So whenever The Backyard Band plays “Croc Rock,” I simply close my eyes and apply the Van Halen filter, imagining David Lee Roth’s howling screech above Eddie’s ripping guitar licks. When I told the bass player of this trick, he laughed and said, “You know Colin, I’ll bet you apply that Van Halen filter to just about every song we play, don’t you?”

That adult knows me pretty well.