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A Traditional St. Louis Halloween

There is a Halloween tradition in the St. Louis area that requires trick or treaters to be prepared with a joke. I stress the St. Louis part because when mentioned to friends who aren’t from around here, they claim to have never heard of such a thing. Usually they say something like, “What? Really? Huh. Never heard of that. Why?” Well, I don’t actually know why, and I don’t think anyone else does either. It’s just a thing we do.

Here is a recreation of the usual scenario (with a little artistic license):

Kids: Trick Or Treat!

Homeowner: Hi kids, happy Halloween! What are you supposed to be?

Kid 1: I’m the latest Disney princess, like every other little girl you’ve seen tonight!

Kid 2: I’m some stupid cartoon character you’ve never heard of!

Kid 3: I’m dressed as a villain from a horror movie that I am way too young to have actually seen!

Kid 4: I dunno, a pirate clown alien or something. I’m too old for this, just make with the candy, dude.

Homeowner: Cool I guess. Got any jokes for me? That’s the game-you tell a joke, I pretend it’s funny and you get the sugar stick. Aaaaaannnnd go.

Kid 1: Why was the skeleton scared? ‘Cause he had no guts!

Homeowner: Ha! That’s cute, here you go sweetie.

Kid 2: Why do ghosts pick their nose? To get the boo-gers!

Homeowner: Gross. Here’s some candy for you, too.

Kid 3: How do you find Will Smith in the snow? You look for Fresh Prints.

Homeowner: Nice. Topical. Did your Dad give you that one? Alright here’s some for you. Next.

Kid 4: A guy walks into a bar and sees a small man playing a tiny piano…

Homeowner: Woah, hey, okay! Here’s yer candy, get outta here with that.

And scene.

That’s basically how it goes. Happy Halloween everyone. See you next week!

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These Sodas Are Rank(ed)!

Anyone who has ben paying attention over the past few years will have realized that Zero Sugar sodas have become all the rage. The so called “diet colas” have more or less been replaced by these new soft drinks on grocery and convenience store shelves all across America. Upon first glance, this would seem to be a healthier, or, at least a less-bad-for-you alternative to the regular drinks we all know and love. But is it a scam?

Very probably. Diet soda was a scam, so why shouldn’t this be one too? However, this is not the focus of the blog post today. Let’s face it, Americans love our sodas, and if this is a way we can fool ourselves into thinking we are making a better decision for bodies, then this is a scam we’re going to fall for willingly. I know I’m on board.

The real question is, “Are these sodas any good?”, and that is what I am going to attempt to answer here today. Taste is subjective of course, but for the sake of argument, let’s just assume that my opinions are unequivocally correct.

For this experiment, we are sticking only to the major national brands and to the original flavors only. So no cherry, cream, or berry flavors will be included. I am also not going to get into specialty sodas, small batch, or anything like that. I am purposefully keeping it simple.

Okay, so here’s the rundown on the sodas I have personally tasted. It should be noted that all zero sugar sodas have a bit of an aftertaste, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Therefore, aftertaste is not part of the equation.

DAVE RANKS ZERO SUGAR SODAS

8. Mountain Dew Zero:
Actually, I haven’t tried this one. Sorry. I am just offended by its existence. Nobody has ever drank a Mountain Dew in any situation in which they have even remotely been thinking about their health. This is a stupid product that deserves to be dead last.

7. Gold Peak Zero Sugar Sweet Tea:
Come on, Gold Peak, you’re cheating here. This is pretty much the same thing you make at home with Sweet & Low or Splenda or whatever. Look, it actually tastes really good, and I like it, but I can make it myself so it’s back towards the bottom of the list for you.

6. Sprite/7 Up/Sierra Mist Zero:
So, these sodas are all more or less the same anyway (I know, I know, let it go) and they already don’t have caffeine so I just kind of find this to be a fairly useless idea. They’re okay, I suppose, but it just tastes like watered down versions of clear soda. You may as well drink water. Or sparkling water, which is gross, so…meh.

5. Orange Fanta/Sunkist Zero:
Why? Why with this? Both sodas have no caffeine and no sugar. I suppose it’s all right if you have a kid who loves orange sodas but gets a little too hopped up on it and just goes nuts, then yeah, maybe. Otherwise? No. Still, I suppose it’s nice to have a change up in the sugar free soda department now and again so these guys just barely beat out the clear sodas in my ranking. Barely.

4. A&W Zero Root Beer:
I love a good root beer, and when I heard about the A&W I approached it with cautious optimism. It’s okay. Kinda feels like somebody didn’t close the cap properly on a two liter. So it tastes a little flat, even though it’s not. If you’re jonesing for some root beer and need the zero sugar option, it’ll do.

3. Coca Cola Zero:
This kind of surprised me, that of the big three Coke would take third place. I have been a regular Coke drinker for ages, so I expected it to be really good. Turns out it’s just pretty good. They did change the formula a while back to make it taste more like Coke Classic (with nary a Max Headroom sighting to be found!), and that did help quite a bit. It’s good, I like it, and I reach for it often, but it just falls a little short.

2. Pepsi Zero:
Again, a surprise for me, because I have always preferred Coke over Pepsi, but Pepsi just got it right here, man. Their zero version tastes a lot more like Pepsi than Coke’s tastes like Coke. My objection to Pepsi was always that it tasted a little too sweet. Yet they have pretty much managed to mimic that sweetness in the sugar free version. I still don’t buy Pepsi very often, but I have voluntarily had more Pepsi Zero sodas over the past couple of years than I ever drank of the original, so that says something.

  1. Dr. Pepper Zero:
    Admittedly, I am a bit biased here. Dr. Pepper is my favorite soda, but I know a lot of people don’t like it. I get that, it’s not for everyone. However, I truly believe that Dr. Pepper has come closest to making their Zero version taste more like their original flavor than any of their competitors. I’d take them to task if not, trust me. If you used to be a Pepper, but you haven’t been for a while due to giving up sugar, don’t be afraid to try this out. It’s good.

Well, that just about wraps it up for this week. Do you agree with my findings or am I way off? Is there a different flavor I should explore, or a major player in the game that I missed? Let me know in the comments. Just keep it cool and play nice while you’re posting.

See you next week for more MonDAVEs, friends, when I’ll start the October spooky stuff. Bye for now!

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Thoughts On HRH

Like many around the world, I have been thinking quite a bit about the passing of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II over the past few days. Being an American, the actions of the Royal Family have minimal effect on my day to day life, but I must confess that I have a bit more than a passing interest in what goes on in the United Kingdom.

Firstly, I do try to keep up with major world events, even if it’s just to go online and skim the headlines. When I do watch reported news I usually find myself watching PBS shows, and the BBC World Service that follows. I even have BBC News programmed into my Sirius XM satellite radio presets. As you can imagine, the news of Queen Elizabeth’s passing has taken up the majority of air time this week.

Secondly, I am a bit of an Anglophile. Which means that I’m one of those annoying Americans who likes to watch British movies and television shows, listen to British rock bands, read Nick Hornby books, subscribe to the “Lost In The Pond” YouTube channel, and feel like I know a little bit about how things work over in England specifically, and the U.K. at large. It is admittedly a narrow and possibly skewed view, but one I am always eager to expand nonetheless.

This is also how I have formed my image of the Queen. I have seen her lampooned on a few comedy shows, and critiqued, vilified, and ridiculed in punk rock music. I have also seen her staunchly defended, idolized, and loved by her subjects. Sometimes, the very same people who are the loudest naysayers are also quick to claim that they like the Royal Family just fine, really.

So how to process all this? Well, it seems to me that one has to look at the person more than the title. Having never had a sovereign in my lifetime I can’t pretend to know what that experience is like or how it affects one’s life. We do have career politicians over here though, but that’s not exactly the same thing. All I can do then, is try to be as objective as possible when considering the death of the Queen and what it means.

Look, all governments do bad things. All of them. Sometimes they are done in what they truly believe is for the good of the country, sometimes not. It seems to me that in modern times, the Queen’s role was more of a mediator, or an influencer than one of any real practical power. As I understand it, most of the political power lies in Parliament and not with the Queen.

Can blame be put at her feet for some of the atrocities committed during the early years of her reign, particularly since most of these offences were begun before she officially took power? Yes, to a degree, but how many world leaders have hands that are not stained red in some way?

As far as the Royal Family itself goes, yeah, there have been some problems. The Queen did not get along with her daughter in law Lady Diana, or her granddaughter in law, Duchess Meghan. That is unfortunate, and it happens. It’s just that in this case, it happened while the world’s eyes were watching. Besides, us normal folk love to watch the drama unfold and we love to sit in judgement of those who are considered “better” or “more special” than we are. We shouldn’t be that way, but we are.

Now, this is the part where I can hear many of you yelling at your screens about classism or racism being the culprit in these particular family feuds. Maybe you’re right, I don’t know. None of us do. Perhaps it was all just multiple generations clashing. Any article you read on these subjects is likely to be highly biased in either direction and as the band Extreme said in the early 90’s, “there are three sided to every story: Yours, Mine, and Monday Morning’s.” All families bicker and fight. All families have at least one or two people that everyone else gossips about and are looked down upon in private. trouble is, when you are a Royal there is no privacy.

Which brings us to the ugly story of Prince Andrew. He’s been a very naughty man. He got caught. Look, I’m not going to go into details here, I try to keep things clean around here. Google it if you don’t know, but be warned, it’s not pretty.

Of course you can’t hold one man’s actions against the rest of the family, but you can blame the privilege his position allows. He was stripped of his rank within the Royal Family, but it took a little too long to do so. Theory states that Elizabeth was the one allowing him to stay. Perhaps. If so, then yes, she was wrong, but she did do the right thing eventually. Let’s face it though, folks, it’s hard to find out someone you love is up to some shady stuff-and I can understand why they didn’t want that info getting out. It’s a difficult situation, and one I hope to never find anyone from my family in-and I hope the same for yours too.

I do wonder about the future of the Royals. Things seem to be splintering apart. The case can certainly be made that the monarchy is an antiquated idea that has no room in the modern world, and that the money spent on Royal things could do greater good for the working classes and the poor than to be spent on pageantry. These are worthwhile points of discussion, but they are ones best left for Britain to decide for itself. A lot of Americans have an opinion, though, and there is probably just as much Anti-Royal sentiment as there is Pro.

Which I really don’t understand. As Americans we really don’t really have a say. Well, not for a few hundred years, we haven’t. Besides, we’re all still trying to figure out what’s going on with our own rich family with political power to worry about anyone else right now.

So with all that said, I can say that I am sorry to see her go. Queen Elizabeth was thrown into power at an early age, before she should have been, really. She has seen the world change immensely during her reign. As a figurehead she has needed to steer England from the “stiff upper lip” attitude of old to a more modernized, humanitarian era. She wasn’t perfect, but I think she did extraordinarily well all things considered. She presented herself with a certain stoic grace, but always seemed to let her humanity show through. Her life and her lot were certainly not easy. Through all the negatives however, I have heard countless stories of people who encountered the Queen and were treated not like inferior subjects, but like people. Queen Elizabeth made the people she encountered feel like she cared. That quality alone makes for a great leader, figurehead or otherwise.

May she rest in peace.

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A Few Things From This Past Weekend.

Thing 1:

Saturday afternoon as I was surfing through radio stations while driving in my car, the song “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young came on. I don’t really know the words, but I started kind of half heartedly singing along anyway since I’ve always enjoyed the tune. The word that came out of my mouth however was not “cinnamon”, but “synonym.” This struck me as uproariously funny at the time.

I must have been tired.

Anyway, I’ve been walking around the house singing that for days now. It’s beginning to drive my family batty. “I wanna live with a Synonym Girl/I could be happy the rest of my life with a Synonym Girl.” The chorus writes itself, as it’s just replacing the one word. But I also wrote a verse or two:

“She’s got multiple words/for ev-er-ything/but I always know/just what she means/She’s a Synonym Girl
She doesn’t get sad/she feels heartbroken/She’s not obnoxious/She’s just outspoken/my Synonym Girl”

Well, maybe it doesn’t read funny, but if you sing the tune it’s better. Sort of.

I tried to write a few more grammar based classic rock parodies, but all I could come up with was “Verbin’ U.S.A. and “(I Can’t Use No) Interjections” which honestly I didn’t get very far with. So I guess Weird Al Yankovic’s job is still safe. For now.

Thing 2:

We are doing a project in our basement that requires drywall. Sunday was load in day, and somehow or other I was actually here for it and got to help. YAY! Twenty-two pieces of drywall, two to a pack, measuring eight foot long by four foot wide, and weighing 68 pounds per pack is what we hauled off the van, into the garage, down the basement stairs and into the storage room. As you can imagine, there were a few corners to work out as well. Even with three, sometimes four of us doing the labor it was a pretty big job. Somewhere in all the lifting and bending and odd angles and whatnot I tweaked my back. It didn’t hurt too badly yesterday, but it got worse today when we decided to do…

-Thing 3:

Family Fun Monday at the bowling alley!

Now, in hindsight, the idea of bowling the day after tweaking out my back is not the best one. I have had multiple Advils and dug the heating pad out of storage to make this evening a little more tolerable.

Still, we did have a nice day. We bookended the bowling alley with lunch at the hometown pizza buffet at Pantera’s Pizza ( a St. Louis County tradition) and dessert at Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt. Funnily enough, according to Facebook, today was “National Frozen Custard Day”. Look at us being all rebellious!

We don’t really go bowling all that much, although any time we do we always talk about how we should go more often since it’s an inexpensive family activity and we all enjoy it to one degree or another. For the record I bowled a 180 my first game, which isn’t too bad since I haven’t been bowling for at least three years now! Although I only got a 60 on game number two, so whatever lost mojo I had revived for game number one got lost again pretty quick. Something tells me I won’t be joining anybody’s bowling team any time soon.

Bonus Things:

-My In-Laws took the family out to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner on Saturday as a belated birthday celebration for yours truly. It was a good dinner and a nice gesture. They also got a new cat but that’s unrelated.

-I still have a music project forming in the back of my head. I’m not sure how it’s going to materialize yet, but the wheels are turning. I just wanted you all to know I haven’t given up on it since I mentioned it earlier this year, but it’s going to take some time. Patience will be rewarded. Also I promise not to record “Synonym Girl.”

Okay, that’s all I’ve got this week. Until next time, be cool to each other. Don’t be sexist. Don’t be racist. Follow the ol’ Golden Rule as best you can, and I’ll see you all soon.

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50 For 50

Today is my birthday. I will admit that I am a birthday guy, I love celebrating not only my own but other people’s as well. I am not normally one of those people who downplay birthdays and think that they are only to be celebrated by kids, or even only on the day itself. You want to have a birthday weekend? Go nuts. Birthday week? Sure, go for it. Month? Umm, okay I guess, but maybe reign it in a little.

This year has been a little bit different though. It’s my fiftieth birthday and honestly, it’s not sitting well. I could go on about the insecurities and anxieties attached to all of this, but since this is a blog set up to entertain, I will spare you my existential crisis and focus on something else entirely: gratitude.

I am grateful for my existential crisis.

No! Only kidding.

Since I have been all melancholy about today, my wife suggested that I should make a list of fifty things I am grateful for and that may help me feel a little better. Since she is usually right, I figured I’d give it a shot. So here we go, a stream of consciousness list made in real time. Thanks for sitting in on my therapy session. Let’s get started.

  1. My wife. She is intelligent, kind, patient, a good mother, and the best team mate I could have to walk through this world with.
  2. My kids. They make every day both a challenge and a pleasure, and I am proud of the people they are turning into.
  3. My dad. He is responsible for my sense of humor, love of movies and music, and my sense of social justice. He has always shown support and love.
  4. My brother. I always feel bad for adults who don’t get along with their siblings, because my relationship with my brother is special and deep.
  5. Extended family. Cousins, Uncles, Aunts, all manner of relatives. Most people think theirs are the best-mine actually are. We’re far enough apart that we don’t see each other enough but I love them all.
  6. Old friends. I don’t see them enough either, but we can stay connected through social media, and they are never far from mind.
  7. God. Okay, so I’m not really happy with some of his followers right now, or the churches and politicians who use his name for their own gain, but I can’t hold that against Him.
  8. Dogs. Every dog I have ever had, ever will have, and like 90% of the dogs on the planet except the really barkey or bitey ones.
  9. Turtles. I just think they’re neat.
  10. Rock And Roll Music. Rock encompasses more different styles, genres, and points of view than pretty much any other popular music style. And it’s all pretty great.
  11. Air conditioning/heat. Because comfort is paramount and outside can get weird.
  12. Pizza delivery. One of the greatest ideas of our time.
  13. Barbecue. Meat cooked over an open flame is the best.
  14. Mountains. I’m no mountaineer, but hiking to, around, and on various mountains has given me some great memories and is some of the most beautiful scenery there is.
  15. YouTube. Making it easy to find obscure videos of half remembered television and movies at 12am. This is part of why I don’t sleep.
  16. Television. Let’s face it-TV is amazing. You can watch shows from the 50s to now, educational shows or entertainment, live events, news coverage, the choices are seemingly endless. And that’s before streaming! Good television connects the world.
  17. The Who. My favorite rock band. Also my favorite philosophers and accidental comedy act. No one demanded more from the art form-and in their prime no one could match their intensity and passion.
  18. Movies. At the theater or at home, a good movie can sweep you away and bring thrills, laughter, scares, romance, whatever you want. And sometimes even the bad ones are fun to watch.
  19. Automobiles. Because I love a good road trip. Also, sometimes the commute can be the best part of my day.
  20. Denim. The most comfortable fabric ever.
  21. Waterfalls. Beautiful to look at, and an instant mood lifter. Hard to get to sometimes, but always worth it.
  22. The Sun. Provider of heat, light, and amazingly beautiful when rising or setting.
  23. The Beatles. Apart from writing so many classic songs, they set the template for everything that followed over the next 20 years of popular music, and they are still being listened to and rediscovered today. Impossibly good.
  24. Trees. Sustainers of life, and happy little fellas from what I am told.
  25. Dark chocolate. I mean, all chocolate is good. Dark though, once you get the taste for it, all other types fall short. Rich, complex, and divine.
  26. Books. Moreso than any other artform, books take you away to another world, fictional or otherwise. Children’s books, short stories, novels, and biographies all sit on my shelves and are each treasured items.
  27. Glasses. Both the drinking kind and the seeing kind. So I can drink and see. Duh.
  28. Clothing. Because everybody walking around nekkid all the time is a bad call.
  29. Monty Python. Changes the way I looked at humor and, in a sense, the world.
  30. Paintings. From the great masters to Bob Ross to the local art fair, I love to look at paintings and see the world through the artist’s eye, and also see how it may connect or clash with my own views.
  31. Cookies. Especially chocolate chip-and pert near anything home made.
  32. Modern Medicine. Because living is good.
  33. Quiet Walks. Helps to clear my head.
  34. Air Fresheners. Helps cover up the mystery smells that show up now and again.
  35. Soda. Fizzy goodness.
  36. The Marx Brothers. The original comedy anarchists. Chaos, slapstick, and clever wordplay all rolled up into a great big ball of genius. Still funny today.
  37. The Internet. without which this wouldn’t be happening right now.
  38. Tacos. Because tacos!
  39. Rivers. Beautiful and powerful. Still used for commerce and water supplies, but I can sit at a riverbank for hours watching it roll.
  40. Milk. Though I developed some issues with lactose as I aged, and I have to drink specially filtered milk now, I still love a tall glass full. Especially with cookies or…
  41. Cake. Fluffy, soft, spongey, moist, iced wonderfulness. Also way better than pie. For reals.
  42. Houses. Or. any abode one lives in, really, Because as George Carlin once observed, we all need “a place for our stuff.”
  43. Traditional Country and Folk music. Both Country and Folk have gone through a lot of changes, many of them not for the good. However, when you get down to the original, pure, bare bines of these musical forms they can be magically affecting.
  44. Micro Brewed Beer. Okay so these days I drink non alcoholic micro brews, but that just proves how good micro brews can be. Taste, quality, integrity, and passion go into every sip. With alcohol or without.
  45. The Muppets. Sure, they were part of my childhood and nostalgia is a part of my fandom, I’ll give you. But their best stuff is equal parts sweet and subversive, which makes repeated viewings a treat.
  46. Fish. I think fish are pretty cool to look at. They are also delicious to eat. No conflict, no regrets.
  47. Theme Parks. I’m a big kid. I like the rides, games, shows, food, souvenir shops, all of it. Just do the research to know when to show up to beat most of the crowds, and you’re good. I don’t go as much as I’d like, but I don’t turn down the opportunity either.
  48. Live performances. Be it a concert, theatrical performance, dance, stand-up, what have you, there is nothing like a live show. Nothing.
  49. Taking a nap, in the Spring, with the windows open. Early Fall works too. this isn’t always possible due to allergies, but when the conditions are right it’s the best nap a person can have.
  50. Paprika. People don’t use it enough.

Well. I’m not sure I resolved any issues, but I do feel a little better so that’s some success. Maybe this exercise might help you too if you ever need it.

Take care all, see you next week.