The Paper Route

The summer after sophomore year my friend Scott got us all jobs at the advertising company responsible for the weekly ads supplement in the Omaha World Herald.  Our tasking was simple: Once a week, deliver the ad to everyone that doesn’t have a newspaper subscription.  In other words, deliver a publication that 98% of the receivers couldn’t give less of a shit about.  It was the ultimate dream job for young high schoolers.  We worked for 2 days out of the week and played the rest.

I formed a partnership with my friend Jeremy and we tackled the routes as a team.  This made the work go faster and significantly more fun.  My ’89 Plymouth Voyager minivan was our mobile office.  We’d pick up the papers and go to a nearby park to roll and bag them.  If it rained, we moved operations indoors–to the back of the van.

Then we’d hit the route with Jeremy in the back with the sliding door open handling the right side of the street and ensuring I had a supply of papers up front as I drove and handled the left side.  Using this method, it only took a few hours to deliver a few hundred papers and earn $150 to split between us.  It seems like chump change now, but it was more than enough for a couple 16 year olds.  Once we were done, we’d go ride dirt jumps for the rest of the day.

The technique was easy enough to master:

  1. Grip rolled paper at one end and fling kind of like a Frisbee.
  2. Ensure you grip the end with the bag opening when you throw lest the paper fly out and blow down the street in 50 pieces while you chase it down.
  3. Ensure the standard transmission minivan has the parking break applied when you run for loose papers. (Just kidding, that step was never neglected)
  4. Ensure the window is rolled down prior to throwing the paper.
  5. Extra points if you nail the mailbox.

Jeremy tired of the paper route after that summer, but I kept with it doing a couple of the routes solo.  At some point Mike and Kyle also got routes and the following summer we’d all meet at Seymour Smith Park, aptly nicknamed the “Hairy Cock” due to the Harry A. Koch shooting range in the park.

For many, the goal in life is to find a job that doesn’t feel like work.  When I reminisce about that paper route, that wasn’t work.  Over time, I’m sure my memory has glossed over the extreme heat, the extreme cold, people constantly honking at you for going too slow, people complaining for not getting their ads, people complaining for getting their ads.  What I remember most fondly is friends, teamwork, and discipline.  More importantly, when the work was done, we left it until the next week and played hard in between.

Alas, a paper route doesn’t quite fund a mortgage.  Or perhaps when a job becomes a means of a particular lifestyle rather than just fun money, it becomes a more serious matter.  Rather than the job itself, I think it is the carefree summer that I miss.  The year is no longer comprised of 2 semesters and a summer and winter break.  It is strange to not get a “clean slate” every 13 weeks.  Further, the path through life is no longer clearly defined.  What is the ultimate goal?  How do I graduate life?  Forget graduation for now–I need to get back on this 2 days/week work schedule again…

12 Years Ago Today

The 12 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America seems like a random time to post a memoir of that day, but it occurred to me that I’ve never written it down.  And, although the years have skewed the memory, there are parts of it that are still crystal clear.  

I was a sophomore in high school.  I was at marching band practice.  it was a beautiful morning as many September mornings are in Nebraska.  We were just coming off the field when a girl (One of the section leaders, I think) came running outside and told us a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center buildings.  Practice abruptly adjourned and we filed back inside unsure what to think.

I was only 80% sure I knew what the World Trade Center was.  It took me a while to comprehend the gravity of the situation.  We made jokes about the situation that were probably quite inappropriate, but was the only way we knew how to react.  We watched the amateur footage of the crashes again and again throughout the day.  Every class had the news on.  They started saying it was Osama bin Laden.  I had no idea who that was.

When I left the building after school the sky was eerily quiet.  Then we heard it.  An approaching airplane.  Our hearts raced for a second before we realized it was Air Force One, on its way to Offutt Air Force Base.

My account is no more noteworthy than most of the nation and it almost seems insensitive to even share on a day dominated by stories of those actually involved in the events.  But we all remember.

Solstice

When I was young I had a 9:00 P.M. curfew, except for the first day of the summer, for which my mother graciously extended our play time one hour to 10:00 P.M. in honor of the longest day of the year.  For a few years, this was our tradition–exploring the neighborhood by bike or by scooter until the last bits of summer sun had dissipated amidst the corn stalks and fire flies filled the sky.

One year we rode scooters down from the gravel road behind our house through the backyard.  Jeremy, disoriented in the darkness, inadvertently jumped his scooter off the three retaining walls in our side yard.  Our laughter echoed off the neighboring houses and our bellies cramped from the effort as we rolled around in the grass.  

It was only a few years before I was old enough that my curfew was extended, but the magic of that day lived on.  This year, Tara and I decided to take a walk through our neighborhood to Parley’s Park.  We found ourselves in an adventurous mood, taking streets we had never been on and following Parleys Creek far into the park.  When we reached the far end of the park, at a place where young people do something called “Shooting the Tube”, I realized it was 9:30 and we were nearly 2 miles from home.

So we walked back towards the sunset, the Salt Lake City skyline and Antelope Island in the distance pasted against the pink sky.

Cozumel

In March, Tara and I took a second honeymoon.  We didn’t really call it that, but it was a full week vacation to the tropics just the two of us, and we haven’t done anything like that since our honeymoon.  We first visited Cozumel on our honeymoon cruise and had wanted to return ever since.  And so, in the peak of spring break season, we boarded a plane and flew from winter to 80 degree sunny skies.  After a 45 minute ferry ride on rather choppy seas, we landed in Cozumel and took a taxi away from the city to a small all-inclusive on the beach, surrounded by jungle.

We had left all the spring breakers in Cancun.  This resort was secluded and quiet.  The demographic was surprising, but a good mix.  It was mostly older (than us) couples and families with some retirees.  I think we were the youngest people there that hadn’t come with our parents.  At least 50% of the guests were Canadian.

The all inclusive bar scene is fascinating.  Everyone gets up pretty early because it gets dark so early and by 7 AM the sun is out in full force.  After eating breakfast, the guests head down to the beach bar and line up, waiting for it to open at 9.  It is not unlike a herd of cattle eagerly anticipating meal time.  Veteran all-inclusivers have brought big gulps and travel coffee mugs to have their libations made in as the resort cups are so small they make Main Street’s glasses seem king-size.  My UNL Alumni readers will appreciate this comparison, for everyone else, the glasses are really friggin’ small.

The bar tenders are totally chill, but can make frozen cocktails faster then anyone’s business.  90% of the patrons order drinks that require the use of a blender, so there is an “express” cerveza line.

Early in the week, we took a taxi to the only city on the island, San Miguel.  We went to the Cozumel history museum at which I was able to get my Carribean anthropology and geography fix (totally fascinates me for some reason).  We then enjoyed lunch at the small cafe at the museum overlooking the ocean.

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We tried some shopping in the afternoon, but quickly tired of the high pressure marketing made prevalent by cruise shippers’ tendency to spend a lot of money fast just because they think they’re purchasing an authentic souvenir from a land they spent 3 hours in.  At one point, while we looked for a sun hat for Tara, an American woman came over in a sun dress she had tried on and asked “You like?”, evidently forgetting that although she was in a foreign country, most people around her spoke fluent english.

We padded our way out of the cruise ship zone seeking a mini golf course I had read about that supposedly provides walky-talkies so you can call in drink orders while on the course.  Alas, it had gone out of business, but some excitement was had anyway when I nearly leaned on a massive iguana sunning itself on a stone wall.  Out of my peripheral, I had mistook it for a sculpture.  I swear it made a weird croaking noise to alert me of its presence.

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We then came upon an old catholic church with its doors open welcomingly so we stopped in briefly to look around before heading to a seaside bar for Pina Coladas and churros.

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Another day, we rented a car and drove down to Punta Sur Eco Park for exploring and snorkeling.  The recommended snorkeling route was to paddle 300 meters off-shore to a buoy, then turn right and follow the reef which parallels the shore for about half a kilometer until “you see a black coral”, then head back to shore and walk back up the beach.

This turned out to be a marathon of a snorkeling trek, but was absolutely amazing.  There was so much sea life and the water was perfectly clear.  We were exhausted by the end and it felt like we were having to fight the current to get back to shore.  When we finally did reach the beach, we collapsed on the sand to rest and found ourselves completely alone with nothing but palm trees and jungle to the inland and pristine blue ocean off-shore.

We walked back up the beach back to the little outfitter to return the gear.  We checked out the light house, and some of the other sites at Punta Sur before driving on to the far west side of the island to the same seaside cantina we ate at on our honeymoon, and once again had barely enough cash…

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The rest of the time we spend relaxing on the beach and snorkeling.  We did aqua aerobics one morning, or as the Mexicans call it: “Exercise in the Pool”.  This turned out to be a gaggle of drunk, middle-aged women and Tara and me.  The young male instructors knew exactly how to appeal to this crowd and the workout involved lots of pelvic thrusting and cat calling.  I felt totally out of place and was wishing I’d hit the pre-workout Pina Coladas a little harder.  At the end we all lined up and gave each other massages.  Yep, that happened.

Oh yeah, I should mention the limbo contest that I took 3rd place in, beaten only by a couple Brazilians.

 

 

 

The week went way too fast.  I’d highly recommend this destination to anyone considering the Cancun area.  Here are some details if you decide to go:

The Occidental Allegro, Cozumel MX

Flying into Cancun is the cheapest, but requires a 45 minute taxi to Playa del Carmen followed by a 45 minute ferry to Cozumel.  Next time I think we’ll fly right into Cozumel.  Even just avoiding the Cancun airport would make it worthwhile.

We were infinitely glad we went with the all-inclusive.  It was so nice not to have to worry about meal expenses all week.  Unlimited alcohol is a nice perk as well.

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Farewell Grandpa Ploetz

This past Tuesday I received a call I’ve been expecting for a while.  In the same strong, calm voice she used throughout my childhood to reassure me there was nothing to fear, my mother told me my grandfather had passed away as he slept, never betraying, with even the slightest crack or break, that she had been with him the previous afternoon, said goodbye, and then waited by his side until the wee hours of the morning, and probably hadn’t slept since.

Grandpa did not speak a lot.  In fact, his voice was so gruff it almost sounded like it pained him to talk.  But when he did, it was often to tell a server if wasn’t finished yet as he white-knuckled his plate (Great Depression kid with a huge stomach), or to tell a joke.  He and my brothers and I shared an appreciation for big-breasted women and we loved sharing racy jokes.  This put my poor mother in the awkward situation of wanting her boys to bond with their grandfather yet disapproving of the topic.

When Grandpa laughed, his face would contort and his eyes would squint into a look of pure glee–an expression that beautifully contrasted his otherwise gruff, German demeanor.  When Ben laughs, he makes this exact same expression.

Once on a family trip to Buca di Beppo (our favorite restaurant while it was open in Omaha), my brothers and i discovered pictures of pin-ups adorned the walls of the men’s room.  We told Grandpa this and he immediately excused himself to go to the restroom.

Grandpa had a wide repertoire of jokes and euphemisms he had picked up during his time in the Army in WWII.  One of my favorites was “Used Beer Department”, which I referred to as “Used Mountain Dew Department” until I went to college.

He was impressively up-to-date on technology his whole life.  He was an early adopter of email and even had a Facebook account.  For a while, he was buying nearly every new Apple computer to come out.  He skipped over the first iMac (I imagine neon colors weren’t really his thing), but when he got the Sunflower iMac, I would make excuses to come up and play with it.

Oh how he used to pound the mouse and keyboard!  I’m not sure why he thought he had to hit the keys that hard.  Then again, I kind of do the same thing…

With a rich German ancestry and having been stationed in Belgium in WWII, Grandpa spoke fairly fluent German.  He was delighted when my brothers and I elected to take German language classes in high school and used to bark “Bitte leiten Sie die Kartoffeln!” across the table at us in true German style.  Alas, his dialect differed from the pasteurized German we had learned in school so we could never decipher what he was saying.

Grandpa loved his beer and wine.  Once on a family vacation in Arkansas, we visited a winery where my parents bought a few bottles and Grandpa bought an entire case.  A month or so later, he had finished all of his wine and was quite incredulous when he learned my parents had barely made a dent in theirs.

Christmas in Tahoe in 2011 was the last Christmas we’d spend together as an entire extended family.  We had 15 people crammed in Larry & Sonja’s cabin and it worked well enough.  I brought some of the stout I had brewed to share with everyone.  Grandpa took one sip and declared it good.  It is the best and most regarded compliment I’ve ever received.

I don’t think I fully realized how similar I am to Grandpa until after his death.  He was a man that never aged or became complacent mentally.  He was always learning, always asking tough questions his whole life.  I truly respect that.

As I drove home from work after receiving the news, I reminisced on all my memories of Grandpa and said to myself, as tears of joy streamed down my face, “My grandpa was totally bomb”.  I’ve never used those words to describe anyone in my entire life.  Why they first came out to describe a 92 year old man, I will never know.  But it’s totally true.

 

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Christmas 2011 at Tahoe

Yay Homebrew!

I have been homebrewing with a friend for a couple years now, but thanks to lovely brewing equipment gifts from my in-laws for Christmas, I now have my own setup.  So far, I’ve done two batches: a hazelnut brown ale and an oatmeal stout.  Gavin suggested making labels with fun pictures for the beer.  I was a little skeptical at first, but this proved to be one of the most fun parts of the process.

When my family visited last August, my dad stuck his thumb drive in my computer an unloaded some 30 gig’s of family photos.  Gee thanks, Dad.  Anyway, it was in these pictures that I stumbled upon a self portrait of Garin in a suit wearing headphones.  The potential was there.  I threw it in PS, applied a couple filters and BAM!  The Gentleman’s Oatmeal Stout label was born.

Oatmeal Stout in a Row The Rocker Top Label Closeup

Garin with the Virgin

 

Ben and I spent a few hours over the weekend constructing this sweet brew shelf.  We wanted to make it strong enough to support a couple fermenters.  This was probably overkill, but it works.
The Brew Shelf

 

Status Updates Interpreted

We all know about them: the ambiguous, often emo, status updates/tweets.  Most of us have been guilty of them at least one time or another.  Some of us seem to only share tidbits of their lives with the online world in this cryptic fashion.  These types of messages can be vexing for the rest of us: vaguely curious about the details, not sure if we should be concerned.  No longer!  Using unprecedented sample sizes and state-of-the-art algorithms, Absolutely Andrew has cracked the code.  We proudly present to you a list of some of the most common types of cryptic one-liners and their deciphered meanings.

1.  My Husband is Amazing!

You obviously had incredible sex after which he cuddled with you and chatted for more than the typical 10 minutes before falling asleep.  Given the fact that this post is most prevalent around holidays, especially Valentine’s Day, some sort of thoughtful gift/meal likely proceeded the sex, but the heart of the inspiration was the sex/cuddling.  Why else would we be left guessing?

 

2.  My Wife is Amazing!

I’m not thinking we need to explain this one.  Besides, it’s rated NC-17.

 

3.  Please Pray for me today.

Ah yes, the use of social networking as a prayer request tool.  I can respect that.  I would be happy to pray that you get over your constipation smoothly.

 

4.  Something doesn’t feel right.

You had Taco Bell again, and yet again, it has turned on you.

 

5.  Last night was amazing!

You went to a party/event, met a really great guy/girl and hit it off really well.  You’re being vague because the two of you are now fb friends and it is waaaay too soon to appear emotionally attached.  Most likely, he/she has seen your post, read between the lines and is either equally flattered or halfway to Santa Fe by now.

 

6.  Well that didn’t work out like I thought it would…

This one depends on when the poster was born:

Baby Boomer: Boomers, to their credit, do not post cryptic one-liners.  Instead, they try to use the status update field as a sort of blog entry.  Can any of you boomers tell me if there’s a max character limit on that?  I’d be happy to show you how to get on Word Press…

70’s: These people don’t have fb.

80’s: You thought you could get out of chores by offering your spouse bedroom favors.  It failed, and now you have more chores and less bedroom time.

90’s: You attempted to impress the girl/guy you are interested in and failed, most likely by farting as you tried to lift her up to demonstrate your strength or while wrestling him to be flirty.

2000’s: Holy shit, these people are old enough to be on fb?!  I quit…

 

7.  Oh, so this is what it’s like when it works :-)

You just fell head over heals for someone for the first time in your life and she feels the same way.  You want to shout it out, but you feel that would be pompous, so instead you settle for an ambiguous statement that everyone sees right through anyway.

The Absolutely Andrew Endorsement List

Here It is.  The much awaited, highly anticipated Absolutely Andrew Endorsement List.  I’ve gotten a lot of comments on here lately from readers wanting to know how Tara and I are so awesome.  Stuff like: “Andrew, I may be the favorite son, but you’re definitely the coolest” from Ben, or, my favorite: “You should have called this blog Awesome Andrew” from anonymous.  Anyway, here is a list of the tools we use that make us so awesome, and some stuff we just plain like!

1.  Mass Transit–Otherwise known as the Absolutely Andrew Mobile Offices, the commuter train makes my commute far more enjoyable and helps the environment too!  Kudos to whoever can tell me where the word “commuter” comes from!

2.  Cast Iron Skillets–A much more rewarding cooking experience than in non-stick.  Tastier too!

3.  Canvas Tents–These roomy, durable tents will last a lifetime.  Tara and I spent more time considering how our future family would fit in our tent than we did when we bought our house.

4.  Subaru Outbacks–The ultimate adventure car

5.  DevonSupertramp–Possibly one of the biggest Youtube sensations in the history of internet video, this Utah native has created his own new genre of adventure film.  Although the style is heavily emulated and a little overused these days, it still never fails to put me in a good mood.

6.  Bon Iver, The Lumineers, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, Of Monsters and Men–Because my musical tastes have evidently mellowed out significantly since college.

7.  Sundance Films–Because you never know what you’re going to get.

8.  Google+–I have to admit, it has some cool features, and less whining.

9.  Homebrew–The ultimate relaxation hobby with ridiculously tasty payoff.

10.  Snow on Pine Boughs–Absolutely beautiful.  An excellent indicator of how good the powder is going to be as well.

11.  Running on snow-covered trails–Totally different running experience.  Equally rewarding.

12.  GoPros–but only if POV is balanced out with other, more unique angles.

13.  Giant Trance Mountain Bikes–Super awesome while remaining super affordable.

14.  Chill weekends at home–Perhaps this is a sign we’re growing older, but do-nothing weekends are totally bomb.

15.  Sunday Brunch–We don’t go enough, but our favorites are Diva’s and Roots.

16.  The Gamma Rays–Best Rock/Punk cover band ever.

17.  Getting up out of the inversion

18.  Stationary Bikes–nothing beats reading and exercising at the same time!

19.  Non-Stationary Bikes–unless it is riding an actual bike!

20.  GPS Watches–Reduce the urge to share the results on facebook.

21.  The unlimited possibilities of a tarp and rope.