Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Photo courtesy of 123RF

Photo courtesy of 123RF

I have never kept a normal bedtime schedule for my entire adult life. To me, the grandest ideal of being an adult is the freedom to choose my own bedtime. That, and maybe eating Oreo cookies and pizza rolls in mass quantities with nobody’s permission but my own.

My bad bedtime habits began in my more formative years in college and carried on with me well into the prime of my life. This was enabled tenfold after I met my Christine, especially since she works nights. Since neither one of us relished the grim prospect of going to bed as soon as she got home, our bedtime was usually somewhere between the time they stop airing syndicated episodes of “CSI” and start running infomercials about Arkansas timeshares.

However, the moon has shifted and the planets have aligned in such a way that Christine no longer has to work nights.

Instead, she now works early in the morning, which means she has to readjust her bedtime to better accommodate her sleep cycle. This basically means I need to do the same thing as well.

I’m not complaining (that much), but I am a man of routine. It’s difficult for me to change — literally — overnight. Our new bedtime is midnight, and that makes me feel 80 years old just typing it.

I have had a few midnight trial runs so far. Some involved sleeping pills, others involved booze and in other cases a combination of the two. All resulted in the same conclusion: lying in bed with my eyes plastered open, staring at the red digitized numbers on my alarm clock and thinking — down to the minute — how many hours of sleep I would get if I fell asleep this moment.

And wondering in my state of chronic insomnia just how many pizza rolls I would normally be eating at 1:30 a.m. and speculating as to what crimes David Caruso is solving in Miami on my television.

Midnight to me is my kind of hour. The way I feel at midnight is the way most of society feels at noon. At midnight the Sandman needs a lot of sand to put this Sanders to sleep.

The new midnight referendum has changed my normal nightly routine that I grew accustomed to in the last 16 years of exercising poor sleeping habits.

Now I am in bed at midnight, which means no more late-night snacks and no more late-night showers.

It’s like my wife is treating me like a gremlin all of the sudden.

We have managed to reach a few compromises along the way.

Since I don’t recognize breakfast as a meal, the three meals I have each day consist of lunch, dinner and a small battery of snacks, many of which are pizza-based or the byproduct of pizza. It’s not that I can’t eat pizza rolls in bed. I can, but doing so is very messy, difficult to do in the dark and hard not to choke on when lying down. Frantically shaking Christine awake and having her give me the Heimlich maneuver is not my definition of getting a good night’s rest.

For me, going to sleep is the hardest thing I do on any given day. My body only wants to sleep when it needs to meet a work obligation (and this explains why I am starting to doze off right now). Considering my surly and demeaning predisposition toward labor, this should come as no surprise.

So far the midnight bedtime has been an aggravating ordeal to overcome.

It’s a sad state of affairs to admit that my insomnia is something that I truly lose sleep over.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Zeroing in on Armagedd00000000n

Photo courtesy of Barry Stock / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Barry Stock / Flickr

Considering the drastic proliferation of nuclear arms during the Cold War it is an absolute wonder how we didn’t manage to blow up one another. Thankfully so-called military strategists had us and the rest of humanity in their carefully considered thoughts and actions. After all, an errant nuclear missile mistakenly sent rocketing toward Moscow would have been the beginning of the end, World War III — the war that will actually end all wars (and mankind along with it).

To prevent wayward nuclear warheads the best and brightest from our military devised a secret code, which would need to be entered into an antique computer before a nuke could be launched. In modern day terms, the missile silos were all password protected. This reduced the embarrassing likelihood of accidentally blowing up another country.

For a 15-year period during the height of the Cold War, however, this eight-digit nuke password was frighteningly simple. As reported by an esteemed British newspaper earlier this month, all that was needed to fire nuclear arms from every American missile silo was the entry of the ridiculously easy secret code: 00000000.

When I first read it I heard the Count from “Sesame Street” in my head. “Eight zeros, boys and girls, count them all with me, ah-haha! Nuclear winter is so much fun, isn’t it children? Ah-haha.”

The reasoning provided by the Strategic Air Command was also surprisingly simple. In the event of nuclear war they wanted the ability to launch missiles to be as quick and effortless as possible. That’s what I like to hear. Think of anything in the world that needs to be quick and effortless. Logging into Internet sites, shaving and signing up for Obamacare all come to mind — so does conveniently starting Armageddon.

I don’t think there is a website on the information superhighway that will even let a person choose “00000000” as a password these days. Think about that for a moment. Between 1962 and 1977 in this country our nuclear launch codes were less secure than a Hotmail account. These days the secret code would need to be at least 13 characters long, contain an uppercase letter, at least one number and a special character.

What if other countries had similar secret codes. I wonder what the password was in Russia. Password? What about ABCDEFGH? Wait, wait, I bet it was 12345678.

The next time you’re in front of a computer punch the zero button eight times. That’s how easy it would have been.

Think Iran or North Korea is causing too much trouble? A few keystrokes on a social networking website will let everyone in the world know about it. Or, you could just punch the zero key a few times and make either country (along with the entire hemisphere) a non-issue.

A missile silo would be no place for me. I am the last guy civilization would want because I have a button addiction. I am not sure I could resist the temptation. To me, seeing a button is synonymous with pushing a button. This is why I strongly advise you to never ride an elevator with me in public.

How would you like to be the dimwit who accidentally launched a nuke? I mean those military members that man those silos live in underground bunkers. The mind naturally tends to wander. After awhile the fatal combination of boredom and cabin fever would persevere. Before you know it it’s snowing in July, your flesh is falling off of your body and the sun is blotted out. Suddenly the paranoid morons on the show “Doomsday Preppers” don’t look so foolish anymore.

Who knew that causing W00000000rld War III was just that simple?

Talk about dropping a bombshell!

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Dolphins Aren’t Mammal Enough For Me

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Cuppini / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Cuppini / Flickr

I’d like to share a sentiment with you that recently led to an argument between my wife and I. The argument occurred during a cinematic documentary depicting ocean life, as all petty spousal spats usually do.

I know a lot of people love them, but I don’t like dolphins. That’s a pretty heavy cross to bear. It’s more than I just don’t like dolphins — I don’t trust dolphins. Don’t be fooled by a dolphin’s quirky, devil-may-care attitude. I assure you beyond all biological doubt that dolphins only act nice when cameras or people are around.

Now most of humanity agrees that dolphins are smart, but I beg to differ. If dolphins are so smart why haven’t they grown legs, crawled out of the ocean and walked upright? Living in the ocean isn’t smart. Who wants to live in the ocean? What a terrible place to live. If you believe in evolution, then dolphins are quite literally the stupidest, so-called “mammal” there is. It’s a great thing that dolphins haven’t sprouted legs, you know. The dolphins would have enslaved us by now.

My major gripe about dolphins is their classification that they are mammals. I’m not here to say what is or is not a mammal. I’m not a maniac. But when I think of mammals I tend to think of certain qualifications. When I look around the world’s wildlife, various characteristics of mammals come to mind.

Dolphins and humans have a good number of similarities, I’ll give you that. We give birth the same way, and dolphins and humans are the only pimps in all of the animal kingdom that have sex for pleasure.

Humans and dolphins even share comparable social structures. Humans stupid enough to get caught are sent to prison. Dolphins stupid enough to get caught go to SeaWorld.

But when I think of mammals — and I’ll tell you what I vehemently argued with my wife — dolphins don’t even come to mind, ditto whales. I think of dolphins as fish. Dolphins have less in common with mammals and more in common with fish.

Don’t believe me? Water. Do you know of any fish that don’t live in water? Living in the ocean is unbecoming of mammals in my staunch opinion. All right now riddle me this: How many humans do you know that have fins? That’s essentially the only pre-requisites of a fish. Does it live in the water and does it have fins.

When I think of mammals, I think of hair. A dolphin doesn’t have hair. A dolphin doesn’t need hair. What does a dolphin need with hair?

Still don’t see it my way? Most mammals I know have nipples. Dolphins don’t have nipples, per se. The nipple of a dolphin is hidden underneath slits in the underbelly. This very moment dolphins are down in the briny deep swimming around with hidden nipples and people keep insisting they are mammals.

Perhaps the most drastic difference is a dolphin has a blowhole it uses to breathe through. A blowhole, people! If I came across a human being with a gross, shotgun-slug-sized hole in their back I would burn it with fire for the sake of humanity and suffer the consequences.

Pretend you had no idea what a dolphin was, and I explained one to you. You wouldn’t be led to believe the thing was a mammal. In fact, you would be liable to think I was describing an alien from outer space.

“Well, a dolphin is devoid of all body hair, armed with inconspicuous nipples and has a large hole in the middle of its back to breathe out of,” I would say. “Oh, and they use this weird sonar ability they inherently possess to find and kill their prey.”

Sorry, that’s not mammal material in my mind. This is why I plan on starting a petition to get dolphins declassified as a member of the mammal species.

At the end of the day, you really only have to ask yourself one question: If it looks like a fish, smells like a fish and swims like a fish, then isn’t it a fish?

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Researching the Anatomy of a Chicken Nugget

chicken nuggets

Photo courtesy of Robyn Lee / Flickr

If I had to put my money where my mouth is I would have to say the best food of all time is the chicken nugget. If I was stranded on a deserted desert island and I could only bring one thing with me it would be chicken nuggets.

This year the ultimate personification of the nugget — the McNugget — quietly celebrated its 30th anniversary amid little if any fanfare and mass media coverage. Normally this would be a wonderful birthday celebration to behold, but a bunch of pencil neck geeks from the University of Mississippi recently conducted research into the anatomy of the average drive-thru nugget.

Normally I would have questions regarding why a nugget autopsy was conducted. Except I can’t wrap my head around why there were questions about a nugget’s anatomy to start with. What were they hoping to discover? It’s a nugget. There is no other part of it. That’s what a nugget is. What more do you need to know?

The findings were published in the American Journal of Medicine and mostly consisted of unappetizing propaganda by an anti-nugget majority. The study found fast food chicken nuggets are less than 50 percent chicken. Most nuggets are predominantly made from fat, blood vessels, nerves, skin that lines internal organs, cartilage and pieces of bone (presumably chicken).

Obviously it seems like a public relations nightmare. But honestly, is anyone actually surprised? Nuggets are like hot dogs. I don’t know what is actually in a hot dog, and I don’t want to know. I don’t need to know. They taste delicious. That’s all I need to know.

Plus, the chicken nugget is like the innocent little brother of the hot dog, if for no other reason than the nugget isn’t shaped like a large phallic symbol. Nuggets come in unassuming, non-threatening shapes that are not found anywhere else on the planet. One time I found a nugget that was shaped like Texas. I didn’t know whether to eat it or shove it in a formaldehyde jar.

Maybe it’s because I am a spiteful individual, but I want to eat more chicken nuggets now than I ever have before. Boy howdy, I can wolf down some nuggets, let me tell you. I’m like a starved dog around chicken nuggets. I am the kind of guy you need to keep a close eye on if you are eating chicken nuggets around me.

Animal activists were pleased with the study’s findings because they live in a world where they actually believe humans will stop eating chickens. How cute, huh? I don’t get why some people care so much about chickens. Chickens have the personality of an artichoke and are as dumb as a box of rocks. In fact, my scientific studies have concluded that most stalks of broccoli exhibit a vastly higher intellect than those bird brains. Chickens aren’t good at anything. The only thing a chicken excels at is being delicious in bite-size nugget form.

Chickens are worthless because nearly every animal on Earth has evaded humans from rounding them up and transmuting them into nugget form. That’s why you have never had a gorilla nugget before. Do you think things like sharks and scorpions would tolerate such nugget buffoonery? Of course not!

Other animals have to look at the way we treat and eat chickens as a blessing. As long as we are gleefully consuming chicken — and more specifically, the nuggets they spawn — the less time we spend eating other wildlife. Because in a world with mass produced and easily accessible mystery meat, things like ground hogs, river otters and run-of-the-mill house cats sleep easier at night.

So my taste buds will remain indiscriminate toward the contents of the average chicken nugget because I know there are many other fast food mainstays that are much, much worse.

If you ask me, someone needs to dissect a chicken strip sometime. It’s hard telling what gross things are in those.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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12 Items or Less – Read Between the Lines

Photo courtesy of Walmart

Photo courtesy of Walmart

It is very hard for me to resist the urge to body slam complete strangers from time to time. The temptation is at a fevered pitch whenever I am standing in the checkout line at the grocery or department store. I am not talking about any old line at the store. I am referencing the 12 items or less line.

It is not that hard of a concept to grasp. Count your items. Does that number equal 12 or a lower number? If yes, this is the line for you. This would be the line for you because there is an actual sign hanging up above that reads — in English and Spanish — that this is the line for people with 12 items or less.

Most people who can count to 12 without using their fingers and have some form of semblance toward mankind already understand the vast complexities of the 12 items or less line.

Pop quiz, hotshot: You have 13 or more items in your cart, what do you do? What do you do! Answer: Get out of my line.

There is a reason why it is called the 12 items or less line and not the two-dozen items or less line or the 33 items or less line. It’s not guesswork. A person should know going in to that line the exact number of items he or she has. Otherwise the whole sense of efficiency the line represents is tarnished.

I think some people in a 12 items or less line live in a fantasy world. A fantasy world where the rule breakers think every customer behind them in line can’t clearly count the number of items in their shopping cart. Wake up! You’re not fooling anyone.

The other day there was this rather portly woman in front of me who had a shopping cart filled with items that led me to believe she was a doomsday preparation enthusiast. She clearly had more than 12 items. I just wanted to perform the Walmart equivalent of a citizen’s arrest on the lady. I wanted to place every item from her cart on the rubber conveyor belt one by one and then hand her over to store authorities for what I imagine to be a severe flogging.

But that’s the other problem I have with the 12 items or less line. There is no authority. Just once — and I mean just once — I would like to see some guys dressed like secret operatives swoop in on some unsuspecting customer with way more than 12 items and say, “Ma’am, you’re going to need to come with us.” And then they lead her away, never to be seen or heard from again.

Coupons should be forbidden in the 12 items or less line. The line lives and dies on its effectiveness. Coupons grind store lines to a halt. All it takes is someone wanting to save 15 cents on a can of baked beans and before you know it the wait in line becomes an agonizing ordeal.

The 12 items or less line can be deceiving. That’s my theory as to why so many people wind up there with more than 12 items. It’s always located at the very end of the store and appears like a mirage on the horizon. It’s usually a short line that moves quickly. I think that’s where all the envelope pushers come from. They think, “I have about 15 or so items, I should be all right.”

Bam! Next thing they know I get behind them in line and intently begin thinking about body slamming them on the linoleum tile. Silly fools, it is not called the 15 items or less line.

People who have more than 12 items are overdue for a good body slamming. I have found most people who can’t follow or fathom the rules of the 12 items or less line — and I should know because I stalk them out to the parking lot — are the same ones who refuse to place their carts in the cart corral.

Most of them act like they have 12 brain cells or less.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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My Own Personal Shutdown

congressUsually Washington’s ineptitude enthusiastically inspires me to post glib and uninformed political opinions on social networking sites to better alienate myself from family and perceived friends. But for once our government’s incompetence has actually served to inspire me to evoke hope and change within myself to better this country.

I am of course glibly referring to our federal government’s current impotence, dereliction of duty and apathetic attitude toward winning the hearts and minds of millions.

“Er, uh, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country and do for you, er, uh, ask what you can, er, uh, do for your country.”

Sorry, that’s the best John F. Kennedy impersonation I can do. I’m almost positive it doesn’t translate very well through the written word. I guess it’s one of those “you had to be there” sorts of things.

Given light of the recent shenanigans — yes, it technically qualifies as shenanigans, I’ve even consulted a dictionary to make sure — I feel Mr. Kennedy’s historic quote requires a much-needed tweaking. Maybe something along the lines of: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what your country can do for you by refusing to do their job.

Inspired by these recent bureaucratic events I have made a decision. Effective immediately, I am shutting down. Shutting down, like, completely.

Exactly like the federal government.

Normally both vilified political parties in Washington endorse the dependent behaviors of the masses, but here they are quite literally leading by example, and what a fine example they are setting. Both parties are guilty of ironically misunderstanding the sole definition of the word democracy in ways much too serious to describe within this newsprint.

The Will E Sanders Shutdown, or WESS for short, went into effect last midnight in an announcement I made to nobody in particular. Goodbye actual job and personal responsibility. Hello canned, faux Italian pastas and healthy doses of drama-filled daytime television.

Until this shut down is lifted I am going to neglect every personal obligation I have in my life. First to be suspended will be the nasty task of, much like Congress, actually paying my own bills, even taxes. So I threw all of my bills in the trash, which I will refuse to take out under the labor provisions outlined in WESS. (See page 583.)

Yes, the actual WESS bill that I passed is quite voluminous and chalk full of weird and unnecessary provisions. Strange things like intentionally taking an hour to cook minute rice, preparing meals for my cats and eating their dry food instead, and handing out last year’s leftover Halloween candy this year for Halloween.

In addition, I will be undergoing more relaxed opinions regarding hygiene, showering, properly dressing myself and sometimes secretly using the sink as a toilet until my own personal shut down is terminated. Household chores are simply out of the question. My grass can grow until next spring for all I care.

Under this personal shut down I will not allow my wife the option of choosing which shows on television to watch. I will choose for her. I am a man and she is a woman. Heredity demands that I tell others what is best for them and knowing what is best for others — just like how it is in Washington.

Plus, I will fall back on a false sense of pride, misguided philosophy and an undeserved arrogance. I will spend the entire day sitting cross-legged in the corner sucking my thumb like a temperamental child throwing a temper tantrum at Toys R Us.

Until the cable company shuts off my Internet for non-payment I will espouse my judgmental and misinformed political opinions on Facebook and Twitter. I will post links to New York Times articles that I’ve only read the first three paragraphs of in a hollow attempt to validate my low self-worth and faltering intelligence.

So if you need me, I’ll be sleeping on the couch until this thing blows over.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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A Hero for Just One Day

heroDo you want to know what I hate the most? What I hate more than deviled egg casserole and Hawaiian pizza put together? American heroes. I can’t stand American heroes. Why do I have such adverse feelings toward men and women who perform heroic actions?

Because most American heroes are jerks.

That’s right, jerks! From the valorous Paul Revere to the wicked piloting wherewithal of Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, and every noble hero in between, they are all jerks, the entire lot of them.

My intense displeasure with so-called heroes, both past and present, is their affluent reluctance to consider themselves anything of the sort. I am talking about men who risk life and women who risk limbs, but who go around denouncing they are true heroes.

Webster’s definition of a hero is an individual admired for his or her achievements, noble qualities and courage. Someone who risks their own life to save the life of another, that’s hero material. Why is it even up for debate? You’re a freaking hero, graciously accept the title and move on. Take a compliment, you dense moron.

This false sense of modesty exhibited by American heroes these days is enough to gag a maggot. Every single day that passes there is a new media account of some selfless person throwing themselves into a dangerous situation and saving the day.

Man walks into business only to find it being robbed, the cashier bound and gagged. Man charges robber, steals gun, pistol-whips suspects and later fires a shot to subdue the criminal. But this guy, he’s no hero, right? Because the last thing a hero would do would be assaulting an armed drug addict waving a gun in the air when he could just as easily turn around and walk away.

Take a gander at what yours truly would do in that situation. You think I’m going to stick around for long? You think I am (or could) wrestle a gun away from a crack head with quick cash and sexual deviancy on the mind? No, I’m running. That’s what cowards do. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a coward.

I think the most annoying heroes are the ones that say they were “just doing their job.” Look, everybody works with a “just doing their job” guy. “Just doing their job guy” does a couple of “just doing their job guy” kinds of things. None of them, however, involve landing passenger aircraft on bodies of water while single-handedly outsmarting technology, modern-day engineering and gravity. Those, my friends, are the actions of a hero.

Yet these weak-kneed heroes like the aforementioned Capt. Sullenberger go on national television, look me straight in the eyes and lie directly to my coward face. “I’m not hero,” they say.

It bothers me because I’ll never have the chance to be a hero. The other day I was mowing the lawn and I nearly ran over a baby brown toad. Sure I could have pushed the mower three more inches forward and ended the poor thing’s miserable life in a fine mist of blood and guts, but I didn’t. That’s as close as I’ll ever get to being a hero.

I enjoy envisioning a circumstance where I could cast aside my cowardice and panic-stricken tendencies to prove my mettle. It wouldn’t matter the situation, from a burning building to a drowning fisherman. For me that ideal hero situation would involve me miraculously catching babies falling out of an airplane. Unlike my de facto hero counterparts, I would gladly accept the title of hero with all the American bravado the title truly deserves.

I would tour the late night talk shows before writing my self-help books, hopefully self-helping my way to becoming a millionaire. When I would walk down the street people would murmur, “There goes the guy who caught all of those babies. Why were those babies falling out of an airplane anyway? Doesn’t matter I guess, that guy is a hero. I want his autograph!”

And I would smile, nod my head in thanks and inform them that they probably couldn’t afford my autograph.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Come On Get Down With the Sickness

Photo courtesy of Donna Grayson / Flickr

The thing I hate the most about being sick isn’t the symptoms of the flu. Instead it’s the symptoms of the medicine that is aimed at battling the flu. For me it’s like a flu season Catch-22.

There are lots of cold medications on the market. Do what I do. Mix them all into a killer cocktail, put a plastic tree on top with a slurpee straw and pass out for three whole months. Wake up and find out there is a new president.

I tend to stay away from the NyQuil because it knocks me out. It’s great at night, but the flu in the morning and afternoon can be especially difficult. So I always take DayQuil because on the box it says non-drowsy. The box says a lot of things. The reason I don’t trust boxes specifically relates to DayQuil and NyQuil, the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, you-can-sleep-through-a-nuclear-blast medicine.

There is no apparent difference between DayQuil and NyQuil — both cause drowsiness. The word “day” is in DayQuil so you naturally think it’s designed for daytime. The only significant difference between either is the color of the box. DayQuil comes in an orange box, so you think, “Orange, that’s definitely a color that reminds me of being awake. It’s the color of the sun!”

And that’s just what they want you to think.

I don’t prefer drinking DayQuil. I tend to take my DayQuil in the form of pills. When you take DayQuil pills you must not have a finicky gag reflex. For some reason the pills are like trying to swallow a can of Coke (or Pepsi, if that’s what you’re partial to), aluminum and all.

Another thing I despise about cold medicine is the way it tastes. The people at Dimetapp got it right, didn’t they? Let’s make a medicine that doesn’t taste like medicine. They want to make a medicine that tastes good, so what do they do? What flavor do they pick? Grape. One of only a few fruit flavors that never actually tastes like the fruit it represents. All it really means is now you’re just drinking grape medicine, because it still tastes like medicine.

On the other side of that spectrum is Robitussin. Robitussin tastes like something a demon would pour you a shot of on your way to Hades. It’s the kind of syrup Satan prefers on his pancakes. They give you a small plastic shot glass with each bottle of Robitussin, which is great because that’s the only way to administer Robitussin. You want to be careful and get that Robitussin down your throat and past your gullet as easily, foolproof and spillproof as humanly possible, which is impossible because Robitussin is as thick as Silly Putty.

I always try to get the aftertaste of Robitussin out of my mouth by eating or drinking something immediately. Nothing gets that aftertaste out of your mouth, but I tell you this: never take a bite out of an egg sandwich afterward. In fact, just stay away from eggs all together while sick.

Robitussin tastes like sickness incarnate. If you were to transmute sickness in general into a physical form and run it through a fruit pulper to make a beverage then Robitussin is how that beverage would taste.

My personal favorite has to be Pepto-Bismol. I have hated Pepto ever since I was four years old. Pepto is like eating chalk. Oh sure, it has a cool name. They even try and fool you. What color do they make it? Pink. Pink is harmless. Nothing pink could taste like eating chalk, right?

Another personal favorite — because it’s never a mess using it — is Vick’s Vapor Rub. I don’t know about you but when I am sick, shivering and trying to sleep there is nothing I love more than covering my entire chest with an odd-smelling, translucent goop. I love greasing myself up like a pig at the county fair and trying to sleep with the bunch of slime caked to my body.

I should just face it. Getting sick is an unfortunate consequence of life. And medicine, well, sometimes it’s just a bitter pill to swallow.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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A Farewell to the Best Dog in the World

Photo courtesy of Michelle Tribe

I was told a story once by a professor in college the specifics of which are neither important nor still known to me. It involved a Roman politician who tasked a lieutenant with assassinating a political rival. Upon the lieutenant’s return the politician asked him of the success of the mission, to which the lieutenant lamented, “He has lived.”

The Roman politician became enraged at the news, mistaking the accurate translation of the announcement. What the Roman politician had failed to realize was the distinct and literal wording his hired henchman conveyed. The rival was indeed deceased, cut down by the assassin’s blade, and the lieutenant could have used any number of words to express his triumph. He could have just as easily said, “He is dead.” But he didn’t.

“He has lived,” the lieutenant reported.

Lived, the past tense of live — to continue to have life.

I feel there is such beauty imparted in that wording, that there is a certain inexplicable significance there, too. It suggests someone or something has lived life — not just a series of inner-connected events — but a full life.

So it is with great sadness I report that my Doberman pinscher has lived.

For the past eight years my loyal, dedicated and alleged top-notch guard dog, Silas the Devil Dog, has rested ever so impolitely at my feet each and every week as I wrote this column.

Every column, that is, except this one.

Silas was not a perfect dog. In fact, he was far from it. He never figured out the nuances of a common game of fetch. Every time he retrieved a thrown tennis ball he refused to give it back, which is why I always needed to bring two outside. Nor did he understand the meaning of a peaceful nightly walk through our village, which was an excuse he savored so he could drag me through town as if he was a plow horse. And for some reason each time he ate spaghetti, which was surprisingly often by canine standards, he would vomit on the living room rug.

On the other hand, Silas’ many imperfections are what seemed to make him uncharacteristically perfect, at least to me.

After all, there is no such thing as a bad dog — just bad people.

It is always difficult to say goodbye to a cherished friend, and the human mind does not differentiate between the death of an actual person or a beloved family pet. Something that thought the world of me yesterday, something that thought the sun rose and set on my behind, is not here with me today. I can think of nothing worse than that. Can you?

And there is nothing on Earth that will love you the way a dog does. Dogs give so much of themselves and ask for little in return except our love. A dog will stand by your side to the gates of hell and back. For those that will let one, a dog has a way of teaching you about being human in ways people can’t. Show me something else in life besides a dog that will love you unconditionally.

I will miss the little things about Silas.

Who will lick the butter knife after I make a peanut butter sandwich? Who will obsessively collect fallen tree limbs and sticks and curiously assemble them in piles in the yard? Who will attack cardboard boxes and tear them to shreds for no reason whatsoever? Who will growl at the vacuum cleaner? Who will howl at the fire siren each time it goes off or barrel through the house when the doorbell rings? Who will I play guitar for? Who will want me to secretly feed them spaghetti?

Who will sleep and snore at my feet when I write this column?

I buried Silas in a tranquil horse pasture on a blustery November day. As I stood there and delivered a silent eulogy to my best friend I smiled as tears streaked down my puffy cheeks. I remembered an inspirational quote from (of all people) Dr. Seuss, who once wrote, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Silas had a wonderful and loving life — and he is finally at peace.

He has lived. He has lived.

Silas has lived.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Mr. Mom to the Rescue

Photo courtesy of Vivi Loob / Flickr

My mother’s recent double knee replacement surgery has created a power vacuum at my parents’ house. My mom hasn’t stopped moving for five decades because she was in a constant state of raising three children and meticulously tending to household chores and bill-paying. She has become the patron saint of stay-at-home mothers.

She was once the ruler of the roost for this reason, but her recent sidelining has relegated her to the lowest station of all. She has been couch-ridden for some time now due to her medical malady. Because of this, the space-time continuum has somehow been ripped and the very fabric of society has been torn about.

Emerging from this void is my stoic father. He is holding a vacuum cleaner, cleaning up cat vomit and making supper — all at the same time.

Since my mother’s surgery, my father has been all but forced to fill in for her in every conceivable way. He has become the washer of clothes, the maker of suppers and the cleaner of rooms.

He has become Mr. Mom.

The other day when I stopped to visit them I half expected my father to be wearing an apron with a feather duster in his hands, or maybe working on a quilt while watching his programs. Instead, he was making dinner as my mother barked out ingredients and directions like a short order cook from the davenport.

My mother seems pretty impressed with Mr. Mom’s emergence, but reacts with surprise when my father performs a chore of some kind, like taking out the cat litter or feeding every stray cat within a three-mile radius. She doesn’t understand why my dad has been so accommodating. I think it’s because he loves her, which is why he decided to raise three children with her, but what do I know, right?

My mom had false illusions about her recovery. She thought she would be up and walking around in a matter of no time. We all had to inform her she wasn’t Wiley E. Coyote and most humans can’t withstand having bones cut out of them without a little bed rest.

I can’t blame her. She probably feels like someone has cut the legs out from underneath her.

She even voiced her displeasure with her doctor.

“Why does it hurt so badly?” she moaned.

“I have three words for you,” the doctor replied. “Hammer. Chisel. Saw.”

The doctor gave her a handful of prescription painkillers just to get her to shut up about it. That’s just what the world needs more of — my mother all hopped up on funny pills and plowing through the house in her wheelchair.

My mother had never used a wheelchair before, which was pathetic to watch her do because she kept bumping into everything. That wouldn’t be so bad except she collects antique vases and owns a half-dozen or so cats.

Once she graduated from the wheelchair, she moved on to a walker (complete with complimentary tennis balls) before progressing to a cane. It seemed like she was turning into Wilfred Brimley right in front of my eyes.

Now she is able to get around on her own without a device typically associated with the elderly. However, I am beginning to think my mother is milking her recovery for all that it is worth. I think she has grown accustom to Mr. Mom changing the cat litter, folding the laundry and yelling at my little brother about how dirty his room is. I can tell just from the look in her eyes.

To be honest, I think my dad can tell, too. Mr. Mom doesn’t seem to mind.

This whole ordeal has made me face one wicked realization. My parents are getting old, like, really old. It is hard to watch your mom going around in circles in a wheelchair or your dad trying to make a pot roast and not think that.

Or maybe that’s just my knee-jerk reaction.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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