Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hairspray, cholesterol and terrorism

Extra underwear because my mother always told me to pack more than I need?


Cholesterol medication in case I accidentally ingest chicken fried steak for breakfast instead of oatmeal every day?


Hairspray and shaving cream?

Check ... but not in my carry on luggage.

I'm a pretty good traveler, so I felt pretty stupid when going on vacation last year that I was "that" guy. You know, the one stopped by border patrol agents between the gift shops and the airline gates. Apparently, the x-rays of my carry on luggage alerted agents to my toiletries, and they were having none of that on this particular flight.

I was given the option of going back to check-in, to send my Edge shaving cream and hairspray through with that luggage, or throwing it away. I threw it away.

While I am sure this is shocking to some of you, it is true I sometimes use hairspray to keep my honey-blond locks in place. But it's also shocking to me that I still can't bring this crap on an airplane. So, for this trip to Detroit later today, I made sure it was in the right bag.

I know we have to be careful of terrorists, even the well-groomed ones. I would not want a scene like this unfolding:

Terrorist: (standing up and shouting): Ladies and gentlemen! I have a can of hairspray and I'm not afraid to use it!!!!!

Flight attendant: Eek! Some hairspray! What do you plan on doing with it?!?!?

Terrorist: Well, first I plan on volumizing my hair, like the label says, all the while releasing chlorofluorocarbons in the air, thereby contributing to global warming and making the temperature rise about three degrees over the next 50 years and maybe changing the geography of California a bit.

Flight attendant: What are your demands?

Terrorist: A bag of peanuts instead of these crappy pretzels!

Flight attendant: But sir ... your cholesterol ...

Terrorist: Screw the cholesterol! I brought my Lipitor!

Flight attendant: You do realize this could be an empty threat if, 20 years from now, scientists determine global warming isn't man-made or we come up with a solution!

Terrorist: Don't make me spray this can! Fox News says global warming studies are inconclusive! You will rue the day I did not get my peanuts!

Go on. Start ruing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Filling my desk with minty fresh goodness

For reasons totally unbeknownst to me, I have two tubes of toothpaste in my top desk drawer.

One I could understand and easily explain.

Two? That seems a bit excessive.

One is your basic Colgate and promises "Cavity protection," and, "Great, Regular Flavor." The other is Colgate Total with mint stripe and promises to PREVENT cavities. That's a pretty bold statement. It's like the Navy SEALS of tooth defense, while the regular stuff is like Mall Cop Protection. Not only that, but the Total stuff also prevents plaque and gingivitis, not to be confused with Newt Gingrich. Though, now that I think about it, I'd pay extra for a toothpaste that prevents Newt Gingrich.

While we're on the topic, plaque prevention shouldn't be confused with, you know, plaque prevention. Back in my Air Force days you could always tell the high-speed, super troops by their collection of "I Love Me" awards on the wall, as opposed to those who were never good enough to get awards. Turns out, maybe the other group without awards just brushed with plaque prevention toothpaste.

Anywho, I guess it should make my dentist, Pete, happy that I care so deeply about my dental hygiene that I keep two tubes of toothpaste in my desk drawer (yes, I even wrote a blog about Pete), but it still makes me wonder what I was thinking. Was I feeling humble and low-key the day I bought the regular stuff, and all uppity and thinking I was special when I bought the Total package toothpaste for the Total Package Gary?

And who dreamed up the name "Regular Flavor" for the plain, old Colgate? There is no such flavor known to man as "Regular." Someone in their marketing department was clearly not paying attention when they were throwing out names for that toothpaste. Makes me think of the people sitting in first class on the airplane, all smug with their free drink and bag of pretzels while the flight attendant says, "No, Mr. Kunich ... you're back here ... in the regular seats ... "

This whole thing probably puts Colgate in a marketing quandary. When you have regular-flavored toothpaste, the only thing you can possibly do is come out with a better tasting paste and a label that says, "New and improved flavor!" But then, does Colgate want to advertise a better flavor? Isn't that just admitting the regular flavor was crap? Nobody wants to think they are brushing their teeth with crap.

As it turns out, maybe crap is better than the other stuff because the regular Colgate actually has 0.76 percent monofluorophosphate with 0.15 percent fluoride ion, while the Total has only .024 percent sodium fluoride and 0.14 percent fluoride ion. However, the Total also has 0.30 percent Triclosan, which might be the scientific word for "mint stripe." It just sounds to me like the regular stuff has more stuff in it, which could probably be double-checked with a Google search, but I don't feel like putting that much effort into this blog post.

I realize there is a fine line here. You gotta make the toothpaste taste OK, especially if you're dealing with kids. In my day, we were happy with the Aim. Nowadays, the kids need all the crazy flavors like orange and cinnamon and bubblegum, which only causes stupid kids to start eating and chewing the toothpaste like it's some kind of goofy snack. Look, dental floss is supposed to taste like cinnamon, and toothpaste is supposed to taste like regular, and that's the way Colgate designed it ... unless of course you want your toothpaste to taste like a McDonald's Shamrock Shake, and then you get the highfalutin stuff with the mint stripe.

I still don't know why the hell I have two tubes of toothpaste in my desk drawer.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The final Kenosha News Sunday column: Yet another last dance


And now it's time to bid you sweet farewell again.

We’ve been to this dance before, you and me. I’m always wistful as we make our way to the floor for the last song of the evening.

“I know it’s late … I know you’re weary … I know your plans don’t include me ...”

As a writer my whole life, I should be used to this by now.

Most of it has been a blast.

I always have and always will hate writing about someone else’s death, misfortune or serious injury. There’s nothing fun about that ever.
But the rest of the stuff?


The spirits first moved me to write when Elvis died in 1977. I became a fan a year before when my dad drunkenly bought the “Elvis in Hollywood” double record set advertised on television. He ordered it Cash On Delivery, and didn’t remember doing it when the record arrived. The Lord moves in mysterious ways.

When news of The King’s use of prescription meds and other behaviors hit the press shortly after his death, I wrote my own tell-all book, as told by me, about Elvis. It filled 36 mini-pages, which went into great detail about Elvis obviously taking aspirin for headaches.

I was only 9 years old.

And thus began a love affair with writing.

“We’ve got tonight … Who needs tomorrow? …"

There are times I wished God blessed me with another talent — usually when it comes time to do something electrical around my house or my car breaks down, but you works with what you gots.

There are a lot of writing styles, but I fell in love with column writing. I tried to emulate my heroes — Mike Royko, Dave Barry and Lewis Grizzard. Man, I could read their stuff over and over, and often do. There are none better.

After toiling away on weekly Air Force base papers, I got a great job writing a television column called “Tube Talk” for The Stars and Stripes. I wrote a goodbye column at the end of that gig, too, but was lucky enough to bamboozle the Kenosha News into giving me the “Finding Fitness” column for about four years.

“I don’t get it,” a friend told me after reading one of the columns. “You have the word ‘Fitness’ in the title, but you only talk about fitness for one or two paragraphs, and the rest of the time it’s just you babbling.”

“What’s your point?” I replied.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure my “Tube Talk” column had a lot to do with television, either.

“Look at the stars … so far away … we’ve got tonight … who needs tomorrow?”

There are probably a lot of good reasons why writers write.

Sometimes writing can be magical. Good writers always search for that next phrase that turns an emotional word in just the right way. My favorites have always been those that make a special connection with the audience.

I still pay way too much for my oil changes, but don’t scrape my knuckles on the keyboard. Guess there is a good trade-off.

The best way to become a better writer is to read other people’s stuff, and probably one of the best columns I’ve ever read in my life was right in this space, when Basil Willis wrote last month about his struggles with cancer.

And that is why people like Basil, and people like me, and so many others do what we do. Some things need to be written down. Some things need to be said.

In the 10 months since my son’s death, I’ve done a lot of writing for a book I’m calling, “Devin’s Way,” and hope you get to read it someday. I’ve started my own blog, “Meanderings and Musings,” on Blogspot. And nothing beats Facebook for putting out useless stuff like the color of my tie or when I’m going to the gym.

My friend, Jolene — also a writer — told me, “Writers write. That’s what we do.”

So I keep on writing.

The next set of writers here will more than fill our shoes. They will be funny, they will be poignant, they will be normal. That is life. And that is what makes life so great.

And if you don’t like them, this being Wisconsin, you can always try to recall them, but you probably won’t have much luck with that.

Now this is the part I hate. The music is ending. You’ll soon slip from my embrace.

I don’t want the music to end.

“Let’s make it last … let’s find a way … turn out the light, come take my hand now … We’ve got tonight, babe … why don’t you stay?”

Thank you for the dance.