I have never seen ‘E.T.’

OK, the headline isn’t exactly accurate. I have seen approximately four seconds of “E.T.,” or however long it takes in the movie for E.T. to make his first appearance and scare the complete shit out of me.

That was when I was, oh, 4 or 5 years old, probably, and I plan to die without ever going through that horror again. I know he’s America’s Most Beloved Alien, but his creepy neck and freaky fingers are just too much for my psyche.

On the last day of sixth grade, my teacher announced that we would be watching “E.T.,” and everyone cheered in excitement, while I started to have what I now recognize as a panic attack. Rather than suck it up and face my fear, I offered to help the teacher with packing up books and other end-of-the-school-year chores. I regret nothing.

So, when people make reference to E.T. phoning home, etc., I really have no context as to what it means, just that it’s pretty much the worst thing that’s ever happened. If he ever shows up at my house, I will probably kick the crap out of him and run away, screaming in fear. Sorry, little buddy.

OH, THE HUMANITY!
(Image source)

 

I want to get into the World Cup so I can feel worldly and sophisticated, but it’s hard because I kind of hate soccer

I want to like soccer, I really do. It’s the most popular sport in the rest of the world (where it’s also called football, appropriately), so there must be something to it. And with the World Cup underway, it’s the perfect opportunity to try to figure out what that “something” is.

 

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But man, I just really have a hard time getting into it. So I joined a “World Cup Fantasy League” at work, in which I drafted four teams in hopes of piquing my interest in the game in general. (Go France, Chile, Mexico and Nigeria!)

But there are still several factors standing in the way of that happening:

The lack of timeouts/commercials. I am pretty sure someone once told me this is because soccer teams basically have corporate sponsors, so they don’t need commercials to fund televising games. Or something. But as someone who likes to stay well-hydrated and non-hungry, there’s a good chance I will need to use the bathroom and/or grab a scrumptious plate of cheese fries during any 90-minute duration. But when are you supposed to take a break when there are no commercials?!? WHEN?

The minimal scoring. It’s not the low numbers at the end per say; it’s more the frustration of having the excitement build up whenever a team has a shot at the goal, only to have the opportunity thwarted 99 percent of the time. Then, when they do manage to score, it’s usually when you’re in the bathroom.

The ties. Seriously, why does it seem that 95 percent of soccer games end in a tie? What, pray tell, is the point of playing a game if a likely outcome is the same as if the it had never been played at all? This is America, damn it. We play sports to see which team’s display of skill and brute force can rake in the most money.  Obviously, this can only be done by declaring a clear winner and loser of each game.

The “injuries.” Are professional soccer players also required to attend the Royal Tampa Academy of Dramatic Tricks? Because I have never seen grown men overreact the way soccer players do when they get “injured.” Seems like whenever a player gets tapped on the shin the wrong way, he falls over, grimacing in pain, convincing me that his entire leg has fallen off. Then the training crew comes over with the “magic spray,” and, with just a quick misting of that, ta da! Leg is magically reattached and good as new! It’s maaaaaaaagic. 

I would just like to say that if soccer teams do indeed have a “magic spray” that cures even the worst of ills, it’s kind of a dick move for them to not share it with the rest of the injured world.

Stoppage time. The clock is only a few seconds away from hitting 90 minutes, and, after what’s seemed like a g.d. eternity, you’re finally going to get to use the restroom and/or put delicious food in your tummy.

But wait.

It’s. Not. Over.

Why? Stoppage time.

Why, whyyyyyy can’t soccer just be like other sports and stop the damn clock when there’s a timeout/”injury”/other nonsense on the field? Isn’t it harder to have to keep track of all the time that ticks of the clock than to just stop it? Seriously, can someone explain it to me? I really just don’t get it, and I’m feeling kind of lazy right now and don’t want to Google it.

The time I had to play it at recess in elementary school (aka, “probably the real reason”). One time, in fifth grade, I got talked into playing soccer at recess instead of enjoying my usual entertainment of the tire swing. They made me be the goalie, probably because I was short and scrawny and they figured they could get anything past me.

And … they were right. Oh, I tried. I jumped and I dived and I slid to try to stop the ball, but they all just flew right past me. I’m pretty sure I still have scars on my knees from the grass burns. I don’t remember the exact score at the end, but it was something like 400 to zero. From that day forward, I vowed I would never play soccer again.

***

As you can probably tell, I’m actually quite clueless about soccer. The last time I watched it was the 2010 World Cup, upon which most of my “knowledge” is based. And, it’s entirely possible most of the games featured Team USA, which, let’s face it, doesn’t represent the pinnacle of the game.

(Also, I have a small bladder and, possibly, uromysitisis.)

But, I’m going into this World Cup with an open mind. I just hope my bladder and tummy can hang on for the ride.

The stigma of buying toilet paper

Why is it that when you run into someone you know at a store, and they happen to be lugging around a big package of toilet paper, they get all embarrassed about it?

Isn’t it a good thing for people to know that you do, in fact, use toilet paper? Shouldn’t we be suspicious of people we never see buying toilet paper?

I’ve put a medium amount of thought into this, and, yes. We should definitely be suspicious of people we never see buying toilet paper.

Toilet paper

I must leave this place immediately

Someone posted this photo to the Facebook page of a local TV station recently:

Snake

That is a snake. What kind of snake? A huge-ass one. Just chillin’ out on a sidewalk, right in the middle of the town in which I live.

This is the worst thing that’s ever happened.

The worst part about the worst thing that’s ever happened? The corner listed with the photo is wrong, because it does not exist. (Avenues intersect with streets, not other avenues.) So I don’t even know where it actually was.

IT COULD BE ANYWHERE.

It could be somewhere I run a lot.

It could be right outside our apartment building.

It could be under our bed, waiting for me to go to sleep so it can slither around my arm and hiss in my face, causing me to scream myself to death.

THIS PLACE IS NO LONGER SAFE. I MUST LEAVE IT IMMEDIATELY.

George Michael has really been invading my personal space lately

I’ve had this song stuck in my head ever since that one baseball player on some team made it his “walk-up song,” so now it can be stuck in your heads, too. Consider it an opportunity to practice your air sax skills.

 

Squirrel Tips 4 Life: The only cure for hiccups you’ll ever need

I have decided to embark on a new series here on Squirrel Thoughts in which I share some quirky tips that will undoubtedly improve all your lives by at least three-fold.

(I’m going with that measurement because I’m not entirely sure what “three-fold” means, and I figure it’s probably pretty hard to measure life improvement by it, so no one can blame me later if my tips don’t work for them. This should head off any angry commenters saying their lives only improved by one- or two-fold, at most.)

(Also, I’ve only come up with two tips so far, so this series might only run once a decade.)

So here it is, my first Squirrel Tip 4 Life … The Cure for Hiccups that Never Fails: peanut butter.

Peanut butter

Yep. Next time you have the hiccups and are within arm’s reach of a jar of peanut butter, just scoop out a big ol’ spoonful and eat it. Simple as that. Your hiccups will be gone momentarily.

Crazy, right? All this time, you’ve been holding your breath until you passed out or balancing upside-down on a chair while sipping water through a corrugated straw to try to rid yourself of those pesky hiccups. Well, your days of looking absolutely ridiculous are over!*

*In this scenario. I can’t help you with the rest of your life. I’m not a miracle-worker, folks.

 

My mom used this remedy on my brother and me when we were kids. Lucky us, huh? Can you think of a more delicious medicine than peanut butter? Sure beats Children’s Tylenol, aka that Nasty Grape-Flavored Chalk Crap. Anytime I got the hiccups, I’d get all giddy and run toward the kitchen, grab a spoon and a chair because I am was still too short to reach anything in the cupboard otherwise, and get me a big ol’ spoonful of the good stuff. I fantasized about discovering a way to purposely cause the hiccups, because being a grubby little ragamuffin eating spoonfuls of peanut butter is pretty much as good as it gets. That’s living the dream right there, kids.

Anyway, because of this, I grew up assuming this cure was common knowledge. But whenever I mention it to someone currently afflicted by the little annoyance, they look at me like I’ve grown a second nose. And if you Google “cure for hiccups,” you’ll get all sorts of nonsensical remedies in the results, but peanut butter rarely pops up.

Well, search no more, loyal Squirrel Thoughts readers! Now all you have to do is keep a jar of peanut butter in your purse or wallet at all times, and the The Cure for Hiccups that Never Fails will always be within reach. Hic-hic-hooray!

This badger clearly has the hiccups. Why else would he be eating peanut butter?

This badger clearly has the hiccups. Why else would he be eating peanut butter?

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Things I will and will not miss about Great Falls

It is officially official: Zach landed a job at the firm he interned at in law school, so we will be moving back to our beloved Missoula in just a few months! (And possibly sooner for me, depending on my job prospects.)

I have been in love with Missoula since I started college there at the University of Montana more than 10 years ago. To me, it’s easily Montana’s best city. It embodies a perfect balance of progressive idealism and rugged individualism, and it’s never too far from your front door to the great outdoors, with a perfect view, to boot.

For most people who live here, this view is only a short drive and moderate hike away.

For most people who live here, this view is only a short drive and moderate hike away.

Though I’m excited that we are lucky enough to settle down in a place we genuinely love, I will also be sad to leave behind the life we’ve built in Great Falls. This town gets a bad rap; it’s definitely not the destination of choice for the younger set. It has a lot of potential, but many folks here may need an attitude adjustment before it can turn that corner.

There are a several aspects of Great Falls I will miss, and many I definitely won’t.

Things I will not miss about Great Falls

The obsession with chain restaurants. I have never seen an entire community get as excited as people here do when news breaks about a new chain restaurant coming to town. Seriously. When Buffalo Wild Wings announced its plan to open a restaurant in Great Falls, people lost it. Lost. It. It was by far  by FAR  the most-read story on our website for several days, and approximately 8 million people liked and shared the news on social media. Four gazillion people will probably go on its opening day, defying all mathematical probabilities in a town of 60,000 people.

However, this is not the best chain restaurant-related news Great Fallsians could receive. Nope. That would only happen if the Holy Grail of chain restaurants announced its impending arrival to town. That’s right: Olive Garden.

OK, Great Fallsians. Have you ever actually been to an Olive Garden? I know those people in their commercials look like they’re having a ton of fun while enjoying an authentic Italian meal  like they truly enjoy spending time with their families and don’t all secretly want to punch each other in the throats  but they are actors. Paid actors.

When real people like you and me go to Olive Garden, this is what happens: We get a shit ton of buttered and salted styrofoam disguised as breadsticks and a lump of chicken covered with Cheese Product that was still frozen until 5 minutes before it hit your plate. Meanwhile, your parents ask you for the millionth time when you’re going to get a boyfriend/girlfriend, when you’re going to get married to said boyfriend/girlfriend, when you’re going to reproduce a human child with said husband/wife instead of just schlepping around that damn dog/cat/gerbil with you everywhere you go, and then you snap back  “STOP ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS!” Then everyone eats in silence for the rest of the meal, interrupted only with the occasional “Can you please pass me some more styrofoam breadsticks?”

Is that the kind of dining experience you’re hoping for at Olive Garden? I wouldn’t wish that scenario on my worst enemy (OK, I probably would. I’m vindictive sometimes.) Great Fallsians, please know that I mean this from the bottom of my squirrelly heart: You deserve better.

Also: You are never getting an Olive Garden. This is not a bad thing.

Missoula has its fair share of chain restaurants and big box stores, but it’s also a community that oozes support for local eateries and shops. When we want to go out to eat in Great Falls, it’s often a struggle to think of the limited options (my pescetarianism doesn’t help with that). In Missoula, we have the opposite problem: It can be hard to narrow down the choices, and when you choose one, you can’t help but wonder what you’re missing out on at another.

The drivers. As I’ve mentioned before, the drivers in Great Falls are not the most courteous. In addition to the fact that many couldn’t care less about whether they run down a little old lady walking across the street, there seems to be some sort of game going on in which drivers score points for how many red lights they can run, how many miles per hour over the speed limit they can go, and how many times they can turn or change lanes without signaling. Maybe I’m just jealous because no one ever invited me to play.

Obviously, this is a problem in just about any place. No one ever goes to a city and says “Wow, there are some really good drivers here!” In fact, I’ve previously written about how awful I think Missoula drivers are, so I’m not going to see much improvement on that front. But even if they are apparently physically prohibited from using a blinker, they will at least stop to let me run across the street.

The weather. Good God, the weather here is heinous. I know  it’s heinous in a lot of places, particularly in Montana. But Great Falls weather is the worst. Especially the wind. Always with that damn wind in Great Falls. You kind of stop noticing it after a while, but it’s always there, slowly wearing on you.

Of course, it’s especially terrible in the winter, when the chill of said wind makes the temperatures feel 15 to 25 degrees colder than they already are, resulting in conditions as low as 40 degrees BELOW zero. Do you know what it’s like to not be able to feel your face? Like, it’s so cold that you straight-up cannot confirm whether your face is still attached to your head? I do, because that’s what the wind does to you during the winter in Great Falls.

It’s probably the worst in the spring though. The temperature has finally started to creep above freezing, the sun is shining, and you glance out the window, expecting a lovely day. Then you walk outside and nearly get blown back in by a 40 mph gust of wind. And don’t even think of trying to have hair in Great Falls. It will probably just end up looking like this all the time:

Great Falls: Not a great place to have hair.

Great Falls: Not a great place to have hair.

And did you know it’s possible to suffer an injury caused by wind? Folks, it is. One time, I was leaving a store on a particularly windy day, and I opened my car door and was putting my purse down in the passenger seat before getting in. All of a sudden, a ginormous wind gust blew my door shut on me, knocking me over and causing me to hit my shin on the exposed car frame. I probably could have died, but I’m really brave so I made it.

The scar on my skin may fade, but will my soul ever truly heal?

 

Things I will miss about Great Falls

Sunshine in the winter. For all the shit I just talked about Great Falls’ weather, there is one thing I will miss about it: The sun, especially in the winter. Even when it’s the aforementioned 35 below zero, or during less extreme temperature drops, the sun is typically shining. Not so much during a Missoula winter. It may not get as cold, and it’s definitely not as windy, but daaaaamn, Missoula can get a girl down in the winter. It’s cloudy most of the time, and inversions often creep into the valley and stick around for days, sometimes weeks. It’s depressing as hell. It’s what made me believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real and not just a condition invented by pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs. If I ever OD on Vitamin D supplements, Missoula inversions are probably to blame. But the tradeoff — the fact that Missoula tends to see spring green sooner and fall foliage longer  is worth it.

The River’s Edge Trail. Great Falls has this amazing trail that meanders for miles and miles and miles and miles (seriously, it’s like 35 miles total) along the mighty Missouri River:

Photo by Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune

Photo by Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune

It’s absolutely perfect for avid runners like me. You can get in a lot of miles just on that trail, and I’m lucky enough to live just a few blocks away from accessing it (with only one pedestrian danger zone to cross to get there).

Now, the one downside of this trail is that in the summer, there’s a decent chance you could encounter the Prince of Darkness himself on it: Mr. Snake. And I’m not just talking about your garden-variety gardner snake (though those are around and freak me out, too). We’re talking the vilest of the vile here: The Rattlesnake. The ones that will gouge your leg in a venomous rage without a second thought, then call in his evil serpent brethren to drag you into their lair to finish you off.

Luckily, the snakes only slither around the eastern-most portions of the trail, so I can avoid their deathly embrace by turning around before I encroach on their territory. And, of course, I always keep my trusty Snake Rock with me, just in case.

My friends and co-workers. You’ve probably heard a saying along the lines of: “A place is only as good as the people you know in it. It’s the people that make the place.” That never rang true until I lived in Great Falls.

I don’t know that you will ever find a group of colleagues who have a better, and perhaps more twisted, sense of humor than those working together in a newsroom. Especially at a newspaper, which, let’s face it, is part of an industry that’s seen better days. We laugh as we recount the ridiculous comments and phone calls we get from people accusing us of instigating a conspiracy to implement Obamacare for Goats or asking that we run a correction because they believe Montana’s borders are wrong and we’re actually part of Canada (the second one actually happened). We have to laugh, through the good times and the bad, if only to keep ourselves from curling up into little balls and crying.

We also have a great group of friends here outside our work lives, and only partly because all the young people in Great Falls immediately discover they must band together if they want to survive. It’s tough to make friends after you set out into the real world, when you don’t necessarily have the comfort and convenience of instantly bonding with people you share the same class/team/dorm/
sorority/college newspaper office with. But with our friends in Great Falls, we hit the jackpot.

(Shhhh, secret time: I’m subtlety bombarding them all with subliminal messages convincing them to move to Missoula, too.)

That “je ne sais quoi.” For all the things I clearly will not miss, there is something about Great Falls, something I still can’t quite put my finger on after four years of living here, that has made me like it, despite feeling like I shouldn’t. To borrow a term from a fancy French owl, Great Falls just has a certain “je ne sais quoi” for me.

Perhaps it’s the people I’ve known here. Or maybe all that sunshine. I don’t know what it is, exactly  only that I’ll miss it when I’m gone.

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