Sometimes in Life, I Play the Villain

And so do you.

I am a mild-mannered, well-behaved, law observing kind of guy.  Yet still, if I was part of your daily life, I would at some point be the person to introduce conflict.  Your arch nemesis, your foil.  Because no matter who you are, you can’t always agree with everyone about everything.  If you could, you would have no opinion or personality.  You would be a life-size cardboard cut-out (like the supposed ghost boy in the movie Three Men and a Baby).

If every new day were an episode in the long-running series known as your life, the villain could easily someone different each time.  Some days it would be a coworker insulting your intelligence, some days it would be the policeman that caught you speeding, sometimes it would be your own spouse who you love more than anything but who somehow found a way to hurt you by something off-hand remark they made, unaware.  At some point though, we all play the villain for someone else.  But what if the same “jerk cop” who gave you a ticket two months ago happened to also catch a drunk driver the next day, preventing a possible tragedy in your own life?  The cop would be both a villain and a redeeming character.

Actual picture of me playing Prince Charming during the Snow White play during the summer of 1991.

During the summer of 1991, I played Prince Charming in a community play version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I remember how after the first performance, when it was time for the girl who played the evil stepmother to walk up to the stage and take a bow, the audience cheered especially loud for her and she was given a bouquet of flowers by her dad.  As a ten-year old boy, evidently still trying to understand the concept of reality, I thought to myself, “Hey!  Why are they cheering for her?  She’s so mean!” I couldn’t separate her the actor from her the person- though in real life, she was very friendly.  But at the time, I couldn’t see past her good acting.

Now as an adult, I think it’s funny when people who hardly know each other but who are in an isolated conflict often immediately assume that the other person’s character is morally flawed.  They make “right or wrong” issues out of political issues, or often just simply a matter of opinion.  Sadly, the lines have become blurred between healthy debate and emotional arguing.  For me, when observing a debate, I often privately award the winner as the person who refrained from speaking sarcastically and in a demeaning manner, yet still remained focused on the actual topic enough to simply counter their opponent’s offenses.  Emotion shouldn’t be the main drive for a debate; principle itself should be.  I fully realized this lesson after while writing “The Blog Sniper”.  (Whenever you see something on here both underlined and in bold font, it’s a link.)

I couldn’t have been on the debate team in high school.  Because at that point in my (lack of) maturity, I would have refused to debate in favor of abortion if I was assigned to do so.   Back then, I wasn’t able to look beyond the emotional and moral side of it, and realize that in a professional debate, like Spy vs. Spy, the goal isn’t to prove the other person to be a classless idiot.  It’s to disprove their theory, opinion, or perspective through logic and consistency.  Today, even though I am an extreme pro-lifer, I would not have trouble debating in favor of abortion, because if nothing else, it would be an exercise in which I could gain a new perspective from looking at things from a different perspective to help my bank of knowledge on how I truly feel on the issue.  In the process, my efforts as the devil’s advocate would cause my opponent to strengthen their thinking tactics as well on the issue.

Being that this post is my 447th post  here on Scenic Route Snapshots, chances are, no matter what your political, religious, and cultural backgrounds are and how similar you are to me in those regards, if you were to read all of my posts, there’s a good chance you would at least disagree with a few.  And that’s okay.  Because despite me being perceivably misguided on a few topics, I’m still the same good guy that wrote the things you did agree with and appreciate.  I am a debater, not an arguer.


dad from day one: License to Procreate

Twenty-eight weeks.  (The beginning of the 7th month.)

I’ve been thinking how it’s kinda weird that in order for two people to reproduce, there’s no paperwork involved before things can get started.  Giving birth to another human being is one of the most life-changing events that can happen to a person.  And not just to the family of that new baby, but also to the world-wide network regarding that human interaction of that person’s present and future life.  For example, in 1981, my parents had me, and now 29 years later there’s a guy at Aflac getting a commission off my paycheck every week because he sold me an insurance policy three years ago.  I am affecting that Afflec guy’s life simply because I am alive.  And that’s the slightest of examples!

In the back of my mind, I question why God is okay with the fact that it’s so easy and natural for human beings to be born.  If I was God, I would be pretty tempted to prevent certain people from being born, like Adolf Hitler (a pretty obvious choice).  And not let future serial killers and rapists be born either.  Instead, God allows all kinds of people are allowed to be born into this world, under the best and worst circumstances.

But God doesn’t prevent “ignorant people” from having babies, nor does He keep “bad people” from being born into the world, nor does He prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Ultimately, every time a person is born, it’s another opportunity for someone to bring glory to Him, whether they ever do or do not.  Not every child who was abused in their youth grows up to repeat the vicious cycle and by becoming an abuser themselves, even if most do.  And what about all the babies who were born into this world as a result of rape?  What about all the orphans throughout the history of the world who were born destined to die young of starvation or disease?

It’s pretty easy for babies to be born, given that that the father and mother physically can conceive.  No paperwork and background check required.  So as I tame my wildest fears regarding all the ways I can mess up this kid who is planning to arrive in two months, I have to remind myself, millions of babies have been born into this world under the worst of circumstances and actually turned out okay.  My future is as unpredictable and uncertain as anyone’s.  Yet I must daily resist thoughts of financial concerns and pointless worries regarding my own conceived incompetence.  But all I really can do is enjoy this new life and remind myself of all the countless times God has provided for me before.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Conversation Topics 101: Crime, Politics, Weather, Sports, Entertainment

What do we talk about by default when we don’t have anything important to say?


Out of a person’s mouth comes what is in their heart. But when a person is not engaging in serious conversation, only making “water cooler conversation”, what comes out of a person’s mouth is what is in their head. And what is in their head tends to come from watching the news. If the local news is any indication of what Americans value, then here are the basic categories of conversations that we evidently can’t go wrong with: crime, politics, weather, sports, and entertainment.

Crime: Growing up, my Mexican grandma would call my mom sporadically to warn her of the newest criminal that escaped the local jail. (Weird that it happened as much as it did.) I don’t know how it really helped, knowing. Criminals will always be among us, whether they’ve committed the crime yet or not. But still, people like to be informed about crime.

Politics: Yes, the wise warn to shy away from politics and religion. But when I already have a good idea of a person’s political stance, and I ask (not try to convert) their take on the most recent political event, which keeps the door open for a healthy and interesting conversation. The word “politics” basically has a negative connotation to it, but it’s still worth knowing what our leaders are doing and deciding for us. Just like the weather, can’t really control it, but we definitely can talk about it.

Weather: Speaking of the weather, this is the classic go-to in a time of conversation crisis. As a kid accompanying my mom every week as she bought groceries (I was very picky about what cereal was purchased in order to get the toy I wanted inside the cereal box), it was always funny to see the teenage “bag boy” struggle for conversation as he pushed the cart out to the 1987 Bronco II. It was inevitable: “Nice weather we’ve been having, huh?”

Entertainment: Loverboy was right in 1981- Everybody’s working for the weekend. And entertainment goes hand in hand with the weekend and free time. From the local July 4th parade to the this weekend’s upcoming music festival, entertainment is an all-inclusive subject.

Sports: My favorite scene of one of my all time favorite movies (Trains, Planes, and Automobiles) is when Steve Martin and John Candy have to sleep in the same small bed in a hotel. They wake up the next morning, all cuddled up. John Candy says, “My hand is between two pillows.” Steve Martin responds, “Those aren’t pillows!…” Immediately the two men jump out of bed, disgusted and embarrassed by their too-close proximity. They start talking about sports to feel manly again. At least in America, sports are important.

Need more to talk about?  Try reading some of my older posts from my monthly archives, found on the right side of the screen.  Or wait long enough, and I may write Conversation Topics 102.

Misadventures in Daycare: Summer of 1987

Three months in the Alabama Slammer.

The smell of burnt scrambled eggs is so distinct. Somehow the cooks at my summer daycare in 1987 managed to consistently make sure breakfast was less than gourmet quality. For me at age six, I treated daycare like prison. I was forced to be there. I was made to sleep on a cot for an hour even though I wasn’t tired. I had to watch TV shows I didn’t want to see, like Reading Rainbow marathons. For the most part, I kept my head down and stayed out of everybody’s business. I wasn’t there to make friends. I was there to serve my time and move on.

At least my partner in crime was there with me. My sister Dana, being 3 years younger than me, was with a different age group for most of the day. But from 2 to 3 o’clock all the kids were in the same room for nap time. The entire floor was covered with grungy green army cots we had to balance on and pretend like we were all sleeping. Baffled by all these strange kids around me who for some reason actually seemed to enjoy being there, the only person I would talk to was my sister. Not only was she easy to talk to (she was 3 at the time) but she thought I was funny.

One day during nap time on the cot next to hers, I held up my hand near her face, waving hello. Then I pulled in three of my fingers to my palm to make a gun. Next I pulled in my thumb and pointer finger to make a fist. She was impressed with my ability to wave, make a gun, then a fist with the same hand in a matter of seconds. A woman in charge saw me do it and said in front of everyone, “Nick, put your hand down and stop bothering your sister.” I didn’t care enough to explain that she liked it and so stood convicted of my new crime.

By the end of the summer though, a wonderful event occurred. A prospective parent brought their child in to visit the place, all dressed up like they were from Connecticut or something. While giving the tour, one of the ladies in charge of the place showed the parent and child where the restroom was.

She opened the door only to find there was a boy sitting down on the toilet with his shorts around his ankles. He didn’t lock the door and therefore was exposed to the parent, child, and everyone facing that side of the room. It was great. That made my summer at Lad & Lassie Day Care worth the while.

Classic.

Manspeak, Volume 9: Appearance

I thought it was just me. But it’s not. After talking to several of my guy friends (and after seeing He’s Just Not That into You with my wife, which chick flick or not, was a good movie,) I realized it wasn’t just me that had a token pair of Bachelor Pants. Every guy in his singlehood has an awful pair of pants that he’s kept for several years, unaware he is committing a crime. They are typically baggy, have cargo pockets, and are outdated.

The thing with Bachelor Pants is that a man is unaware of how horrible these pants are. In fact, men promote each other’s bad fashion tastes by mimicking what their friends wear. A guy doesn’t want to think about what to wear, so the tendency is to go with what’s comfortable and familiar, by default.

The girlfriend will remain silent about the offensive pants during the dating period, all the while she is plotting a plan to eliminate them from her boyfriend’s wardrobe. Traditionally, she will wait until one month after he proposes until he hears the out-of-nowhere newsflash, “You know you’re not bringing those pants into our house once we’re married…”

My contraband was a pair of brown pants I got in 2006 from a Banana Republic outlet. To fit the stereotype, there were quite baggy and had cargo pockets. Those were my Bachelor Pants. My defense was always, “But I got them from Banana Republic- they can’t be that bad…” They earned the name Potato Sack Pants.

So I made them disappear. By that I mean I hid them in a big bin full of winter coats in the storage closet. After being married now for almost 15 months, I decided to nonchalantly bring my Bachelor Pants out of the archives. To my surprise, I wore them around the house for the last two weekends and my wife didn’t say a word about them. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore: “I’m wearing the Potato Sack Pants. Didn’t you notice how awful they are?”

Regarding Bachelor Pants, the main issue is that a man can no long wear them in public after marriage. It’s a bad representation of his wife’s tastes if she allows him out of the house in them. However, Bachelor Pants are permissible inside the home, as they are the equivalent to the women’s sweatpants. Bachelor Pants = women’s gray sweatpants. Okay, it’s a deal.

Every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man, but left on his own, a man typically makes the wrong decisions when it comes to fashion. And if he actually does know a lot about it, he may find himself in the questionable “is he or isn’t he?” territory like the professional hired dancers on Dancing with the Stars. So what is a guy to do? Listen to a woman.

When I think of a well dressed man, I think of Frank Sinatra and James Dean, with their stylish, never-out-of-style clothing and classic, never-out-of-place hairstyles. I allow myself to believe they took care of themselves. But I’m sure they had women dressing and styling them the whole time.

Believing that haircuts are annoying and expensive, I ended up in an Owen Wilson situation with my hair for the last several months. Then it all just hit me two weeks ago: This is annoying, I need a haircut. My wife’s eyes lit up when I said that out loud, responding, “You should get it buzzed.” I thought about it for two solid minutes in silence, then replied, “Okay, let’s go.”

What’s interesting is that during my recent Italian mobster days with the long hair, several different guy friends literally said this to me out of the blue: “You got cool hair.” But during that time, all females in my life said, “It’s time for a haircut… What does Jill say about it?” Now that my hair is 1/8th of an inch all over my head, universally every female has praised my decision, while most of my guy friends say, “Oh… you got rid of it…” I hear the hint of disappointment in their voices.

Men have a Survival Mode setting. Without the help of a woman, a man’s appearance shows this Survival Mode mindset: “I took a shower, I shaved, I’m dressed, I brushed my teeth, time to go.” He may be wearing pleated black pants with brown shoes and a wrinkled shirt with the right side of the collar folded up funny on one side and his tie may be a little too short… but he is dressed, and that is all that matters to him. He is convinced he looks good.

Bottom line: If it’s mainly fellow dudes that are approving of my sense of style, I am listening to the wrong gender. Because other men enabled and encouraged my ways, it made me confident in my own ability to look presentable and good. But women are the ones born with the sense of good fashion. I have to accept the fact that there is no shame in depending on a woman for this.

I wear the pants in the relationship… but she tells me which ones to wear.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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My appearance with and without the help of a woman.