Saturday, February 26, 2005

Regis Philbinning in Phlagstaff

For the fourth consecutive year, I got roped into – er, volunteered to serve as one of the masters of ceremonies for a bowling fundraiser the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff puts on.

I’ve done various M.C. gigs in various places. The flat-out weirdest one was when I hosted the Winneshiek County, Iowa, Fair Queen Pageant. The actual competition took place in a high school auditorium in front of a handful of parents and high school friends of the competitors. That was pretty routine, as far as MCing goes. But the winner was to be announced at the fair’s main grandstand on the biggest night – right before the stock car races.

So what you had was six or eight small-town Iowa beauty contestants in their evening gowns, one short east coast Jewish local radio announcer looking bewildered in a rental tuxedo (me, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet), a couple fair officials wearing – more sensibly – flannel shirts, and five thousand spectators already buzzing on Hamm’s and getting impatient for the races to start. As I recall, we got through Miss Congeniality and the four other runners-up in about 35 seconds. Fortunately, I was not required to sing “There She Is… Miss Winneshiek County Fair” when we got to first place. (Of course, it would have been drowned out by the sound of engines revving, anyway.)

To top it off, all the Fair Queen contestants had the foresight to have brought a change of clothes along with them. I, on the other hand, ate my complementary corn dogs and Dr Pepper in my rental tux as the stock cars roared.

I got away without having to wear a tuxedo for any of my key M.C. jobs when I lived in Rochester, Minnesota. The aptly named Rochesterfest included a parade every year, and for reasons unbeknownst to everyone but the parade organizers, they always had a couple of Minnesota Public Radio people announce the floats to the people gathered in part of the parade route. My most vivid memory of this was the year my friend and fellow reporter Matt Algeo and I were stationed along the route for a parade for which roughly half the entries seemed to be Shriners:

Me: “Look, Matt. More Shriners.”

Matt: “That’s right, Mitch. And these Shriners are driving miniature motorcycles.”

Me: “Let’s give them all a big hand.”

Not surprisingly, when they called on the two of us to M.C. part of something called the Eagles Telethon on a local TV station, they assigned us the heavily-watched 3-to-5 a.m. timeslot.

So the Big Brother Big Sisters “Bowl for Kids’ Sake” in Flagstaff (remember the first paragraph?) is a pretty easy gig. Basically, it involves standing on a staircase (the one that, unfortunately, leads to the bar) with a vaguely-functioning p.a. system microphone, razzing teams for missing easy spares, and urging them to roll a strike when there’s a red head-pin (“…and that’s another free 2-liter bottle of Wild Cherry Pepsi for the team of nurses from Flagstaff Medical Center!”). It’s a free t-shirt, a sense of helping people, and a chance to come home smelling like a bowling alley. And they seem to actually appreciate some sarcasm. (“Sorry, Flagstaff insurance team, you had to knock down all the pins for the free Bloomin’ Onion. That was none of the pins.”)

And yet, still no call from the Motion Picture Association of America. You’d think they’d at least need a back-up for Chris Rock.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 4

Well, the folks who sent this to me would submit that it's not a news release, per se. They claim that it's a news feature. I think it sounds more like a news commercial. But you be the judge:




Cox: For years I've been trying to find a way to keep my skin moist and protect it from the cold, including the drying effects of winter that we all have to deal with.


Cox: Believe or not, I recently tried this Advanced Therapy Lotion from Suave and it has been very effective; it really keeps my skin moist. [Mitch's comment: Oh my god! I can't believe that at all! ] It has multi-vitamins and glycerin and it's not at all greasy.



A hard-hitting news feature, from certain Pulitzer-winner and deep thinker Risë Jill Miller. What it doesn't mention is whether you should exfoliate before or after you swim in the Antarctic, or whether the ten Americans they surveyed also believed the English Channel was also known as "PBS". So we'll want to stay tuned.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Mitch checks his own links, Vol. 1

For those of you who missed my not-all-that-engaging post about "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", it featured a ha-ha witty link from the words "Prisoner of Azkaban" to yes, the President of Azerbaijan. I file from home using a Mozilla Firefox browser, which couldn't actually read what was at, and which meant that I was taking it on faith that the President of Azerbaijan's website was a) really the President of Azerbaijan's website, and b) mildly entertaining.

So using IE 6.0.2 at work, I've done the investigating for you and found this illuminating interview transcript on President Ilham Aliyev's website:


The year 2005 is declared a "Year of Azerbaijan in Russia". Since January 5, the "Rossiya" TV channel's "Good Morning, Russia" program has presented to TV-viewers New Year congratulations from the leaders of CIS and Baltic states. The program's January 8 edition began with an interview with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.

REPORTER: Good morning, Ilham Heydarovich. Do you believe that all the wishes made during the magic New Year days would certainly come true?

ILHAM ALIYEV: No, to be honest, I don't believe in that.

REPORTER: Why not?

ILHAM ALIYEV: For a wish to come true, several factors are should be taken into account. First, the wish must be realistic. The second, you have to do your best for it to come true. No matter, whether you make your wish at night, on the eve of the New Year or early in the morning, if you really wish to reach your goal, and provided that the goal is not a fancy but something real, then any wish can be realized.

REPORTER: If no a secret, what does the President of Azerbaijan dream of?

ILHAM ALIYEV: Unfortunately, the post of president leaves too little time for dreaming. I have wishes, aspirations, the goal to do my best for Azerbaijan, as an independent state, to be further developed and strengthened, for the people live better, for the country to turn into a modern, economically and politically powerful state, and occupy a stronger position in the world. This is my goal as a President, and my responsibility the people. And I am happy that there is a consensus on this question within our society. And Azerbaijan is moving forward with confidence in this direction.

REPORTER: Mr. President, how do you value the last year form the stand[point of Azerbaijan -Russia relationship?

ILHAM ALIYEV: I can even mention the fact, which I think is very indicative. In 2004, we outstripped the number of air flights from Baku to Moscow and back recorded in the soviet period. I remember, there was only one flight per week 3 - 4 years ago. Today, however, there are, I guess, 8 or 9 flight to Moscow alone, not counting those to other Russian cities. That ordinary people, businessmen and politician visit each other is one of the major indicators of our successful cooperation. We are satisfied with development of the bilateral relations between Russia and Azerbaijan, and attach a really great importance to them.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. We are grateful for giving us your time and responding to our questions.

So what I'm trying to figure out is why President Ilham Aliyev doesn't believe all his wishes are going to come true? Is it because they're not realistic, or is it because whether he made his wish at night, on the eve of the New Year or early in the morning, if he really wished to reach his goal, and provided that the goal was not a fancy but something real, his wish might still not be realized?

I don't know -- it's something I can think about on my flight from Baku to Moscow next week.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Cap'n of the household

You tell yourself when you become a new dad that it'll be the biggest thrill of your life. That you'll be Superdad when at all possible, that you'll find ways of parenting never before imagined, and you won't spend your downtime in the kind of annoying introspection that the Baby Boomers perfected, and which resulted in such ipecacs as "thirtysomething". I mean, except for the 'never-imagined-before parenting business', you're hardly the first dad to put his kids pants on backwards.

The outstanding feature writer and columnist for the Washington Post, Joel Achenbach, has been chronicling his attempt to hold down the fort with his wife away for a week and his three kids (including two teenagers) at home. My fort-holding attempts are more modest: My wife’s away at an orchestra rehearsal for around five hours, and I have one – very small child – at home. But hey, you do-- er, chronicle -- what you have to.

It actually has been relatively painless. No one’s taken any headers off the changing table. Sylvi was asleep when my wife left. That lasted a good ten minutes or so – just long enough to think about getting off the couch to fix a bowl of cereal without actually following through. This is actually an improvement over the last babysitting adventure, during which I got through exactly two spoonfuls of Cap’n Crunch before she woke up. It turns out the Cap’n doesn’t like staying wet for very long.

We hung out on the floor – Sylvi standing at her "Busy Park" and attempting to play with all 83 of her toys simultaneously, dad poised to catch her before she falls face first onto the edge of her toy basket – for a good 45 minutes. It was during this time that we also took in the second half of the Ohio State-Michigan State women’s basketball game, and Sylvi learned that if she eats all her vegetables, grows big and strong, practices a lot, and gets much more coordinated with a basketball than her parents, she, too, can have her name mispronounced on national TV.

Lunch. A handful of potato chips for dad (one of many reasons I’m not a college basketball player) and carrots, butternut squash, and barley cereal for Sylvi. At least barley cereal was the plan. After running back into the living room to snare Sylvi before she ate the bag (literally) of chips, I was confronted with the fact that I wasn’t sure I could identify the barley cereal outside of its original box. The unmarked tin contained some form of cereal. The only thing of which I was certain was that it wasn’t Cap’n Crunch. So lunch became carrots, butternut squash and the mystery cereal.

We both survived lunch and settled on the floor for more exciting women’s basketball – the North CarolinaNC State game was on ESPN2’s menu this afternoon. But Sylvi, continuing to pilot her Busy Park, gave the international signal for "I want to watch my Sesame Street video". (That signal, of course, involves an elaborate pantomime simulating a header into the toy basket if something doesn’t change soon.) And frankly, Cookie Monster, Grover, and Frazzle are pretty entertaining in “Monster Hits”.

So that took us to the T-Minus 90 Minutes Until Mom Gets Home point, according to the VCR clock, which I tried to check no more than once every 17 seconds. And an hour and a half, as every new dad learns, is nothing. I’ve done diaper changes that lasted an hour and a half.

But perhaps the clearest indication that the last 90 minutes was going to go well lies in the fact that I’m able to type this. Against overwhelming odds, and after 23,000 verses of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (including some new ones involving the lion and orchestra rehearsal in Sedona), Sylvi gave in and took a nap.

So you’ll have to excuse me now. I have a prior engagement with a Cap’n to get to.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

A movie I'll little note nor long remember

Let me start by saying that I am probably the only person with kids (okay, kid) who neither hangs on every word of Harry Potter books nor objects to them on religious grounds. I tried reading the first Harry Potter book, but I lost interest after the first 8,000 pages, and went back to the Baseball Encyclopedia. On the other hand, I also truly detested "A Fish Called Wanda", and I've never read "Hamlet", so my credentials as a Renaissance Guy were long ago thrown into question.

Nevertheless, I'm watching "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", or at least doing as much watching as I can while working on the computer. We're up to the part (watch out, I might ruin the ending) where Harry Potter and his schoolmates are, um, taking classes, I suppose at Hogwarts.

The movie is fine -- but it once again has me thinking about why moviegoers seem to have a fascination with English prep schools. I mean, even when the movies are taking place in the US, the schools seem to look decidedly like English prep schools. I'll grant you, Hollywood has also perfected the Troubled Urban School genre, but the number of prep school stories still finding their way into the movies is staggering.

Why are moviegoers fascinated with the sight of school kids wearing blue blazers with crests on them? Why wouldn't they prefer to see a good old fashioned American junior high school, replete with kids failing algebra, principals with white belts and shoes, and hall monitors snaring would-be bathroom smokers?

Geez, I don't know. Maybe I should get out more often.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 3 apparently has a little left-over money in their marketing budget, because they bombarded the Arizona Public Radio fax machine with this important news:


Hail to the Chief!

Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy Are Most-Desired Presidential Seatmates for Air Travel

In honor of President's Day, discount travel site asked more than 2,500 adults which of seven current and former U.S. presidents they would prefer to be seated next to on an airplane.

While a seat on Air Force One is only available to a select few, the right to vote is available to every American [Mitch's note: Or at least every one of the 2,500 people they asked], and the votes are in. According to the Hotwire survey, Americans would rather share legroom with former President Bill Clinton (27 percent) than current Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush (18 percent). However, President Bush's "red state" popularity made him the first choice among 23 percent of respondents in the South.

What other presidents would Americans most like to share their peanuts and armrests with? The complete list of desired presidential seatmates among U.S. adults is included below.

1. Bill Clinton (27 percent)
2. John F. Kennedy (19 percent)
3. George W. Bush (18 percent)
4. Ronald Regan (sic) (17 percent)
5. Jimmy Carter (10 percent)
6. Franklin D. Roosevelt (8 percent)
7. Richard Nixon (1 percent)

You can understand the one percent figure for Richard Nixon. There might be some realistic concern among the respondents that he'd steal their honey-roasted peanuts. (Jimmy Carter, presumably, would bring his own.)

What the survey didn't divulge -- aside from the margin of error -- was some of the nuances to the responses. For example, would people prefer that FDR have an aisle or window seat? (Naturally, he'd be allowed to preboard.)

More importantly, it didn't get into which fictional president people would most like to sit next to. Here's my guess:

1. President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) from "Air Force One", mainly for his ability to break heads in the event of a hijacking
2. President Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) from "The West Wing", because he'd say something pithy when the flight attendant announced that their flight would be landing an hour and 45 minutes late, but she hopes the passengers will choose their airline the next time they need to travel.
3. President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) from "Mars Attacks", for sheer amusement.
4. President William Harrison "Bill" Mitchell (Kevin Kline) from "Dave", so they can find out Ving Rhames is really like.
5. President Grover Cleveland. Or wait -- was he a real president?
6. President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) in "Dr. Strangelove", or at least Chauncey Gardiner.
7. President Tom Whitmore (Bill Pullman) from "Independence Day". See #1.

The most shocking revelation in the news release is the breakdown of male and female responses. Among females, first place resulted in a tie between Presidents Bush and Clinton at 23 percent each. Males, on the other hand, put President Clinton well in front at 31 percent. I wouldn't purport to speak for the women who responded to the survey. As for the males, I can only assume the 31 percent was divided equally among guys looking for dating tips, and men who were worried about what idiot nickname George W. would give them ("Hey there, Laptop Guy...").

The least shocking revelation in the news release is that there's still time to make your President's Day discount travel reservations on It doesn't mention whether there's a special discount for people willing to sit next to Gerald Ford.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Audio alert (a.k.a. gratuitous self-promotion, part 3)

Just in case you weren't streaming Arizona Public Radio last Thursday morning, here is the interview with one of the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo that aired in advance of their Flagstaff concert last Sunday. It's worth mentioning that they won a Grammy that night for Best Traditional World Music Album.

And we're back...

Okay, we'll try not to make this too stream-of-consciousness, but it'll be tough:

First, let's address the city of Atlanta: What's the deal? What happened to sweet tea? Some friends took me out to an otherwise pretty hep little southern restaurant, which resulted in my first-ever exposure to fried green tomatoes. The biscuits were great, the eggs first rate (I'm not sure I'm that excited about "creamy" grits). But sweet tea? Not an option. I would have been completely lost had it not been for the seven sugar packets I dumped into my unsweetened iced tea. Even worse, the "southern" specialties restaurant in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport offered no iced tea of any kind. But I made sure to add a few extra sugars in my Mr Pibb, just to be safe.

Okay, moving along past security at Hartsfield, America West Airlines was charged with flying me back to Flagstaff late Thursday. They flew me to Flagstaff -- what we didn't do was land in Flagstaff. After waiting through the 75-minute delay in Phoenix, we took off, flew the 25 minutes to Flagstaff, tried to land twice in the fog, and then flew back to Phoenix. The highlight of this hour-and-40-minute trip to nowhere was when the flight attendant, as we were preparing for our final descent back into Phoenix, launched into his standard spiel, noting that -- if this was our final destination -- we should have a great evening. Considering the facts that we were all on a flight to Flagstaff, and that the plane was about to land in Phoenix, it seemed unlikely that this was anyone's final destination. But it's good to know that the cockpit is not the only place on an airplane you can find "auto-pilot".

And finally, addressing the eight-minute commute to work this morning, this is a message to the person in the late '80s Honda Accord hatchback with the "If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention" bumper sticker: I have been paying attention -- to your driving. And I am outraged.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Gratuitous self-promotion, a.k.a. Audio Alert, Vol. 2

Fans of the African vocal group "Ladysmith Black Mambazo" (or Paul Simon's "Graceland", on which Mambazo is featured) can check out an interview I did with group member Albert Mazibuko on Arizona Public Radio, or its webstreams at 6:50 and 8:50 MST, Thursday morning. It was an interesting interview, no one got hurt, and a good time was had by all.

Also, as promised the feature on curling in Arizona is slated to run on NPR's Only A Game this weekend. Check your local station for the showtime in your area.

I'll be away for a couple of days, but should return with exciting new insights into the American South and its glorious iced tea on Friday.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The birds and the blow dryer

Our eight-month old has added consonants to her repertoire over the past week. Where once we had an R2D2 imitator gleefully making noises at us (or at a plastic elephant, or the losing contestants on "The Price Is Right") from her quilt, we're now frequently joined in conversation by a little person sporting a lot of syllables. (Hey, something had to replace "Crossfire".)

Sylvi generally doesn't break out the consonants, though, unless she really wants (read: demands) something, or is starting her evening meltdown. So the situation usually unfolds as follows:

1. Sylvi's sitting on her quilt on the living room floor, cheerfully slurping on the tag to her stuffed lamb, or her teething turtle, or the tag on the quilt itself. My wife and I are going about our business, usually consisting of reading snippets from magazines in between keeping Sylvi away from shoes, junk mail, or the mechanism of the gliding ottoman.

2. Suddenly, after a few seconds of voracious slurping (which is, incidentally, another good name for your garage band) she'll start to make little squeaky noises, catching our attention. This precedes the following announcement:

3. "Yyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee dadadadadadadadaDADADADADADA BAA!!!" For extra effect, she gives us an intense look (or at least as intense as an 8-month old can pull off) to make sure we know SHE MEANS BUSINESS.

We have no idea what she's demanding, but it's awfully cute.

But truth be told, this development has me a little wistful. Not because I hate to see her grow up too fast, or even because I'm worried that I soon won't be able to get a word in edgewise (thank goodness I have a job in radio, though). What I'm worried about is her approaching grasp of the English language means we're that much closer to having to teach Sylvi the real facts of life.

And it's not even talking about human reproduction that gives me pause. Rather it's the key fact of life, as relayed by the label on the cord to my wife's hair dryer, which stares out at me as I brush my teeth: "DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG! WARN CHILDREN OF THE RISK OF DEATH BY ELECTRIC SHOCK!"

I've always wondered how that conversation starts. "Gather 'round, kids! Dad's going to tell you the story of Jack and the 110 Volts..." Or perhaps, "Okay, Lisa, it's time for bed. Here's your blankie. And don't forget -- if you run over a live extension cord with a lawn mower, you could wind up as a smoldering lump of carbon. Well, good night."

I figure we'll need to work our way up to it. Perhaps start with a measured, calm discussion of why we can't remove the labels on mattresses and pillows before we get to such mature subject matter as the risk of death by electric shock. Of course, by then, Sylvi probably will have eaten the tag off her mom's hair dryer.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Scenes from a mall

I don't normally make a habit of spending my Saturday afternoons at the mall. It's not that I necessarily have anything against malls -- I had a definite weakness for the "Chinese" food at the food court in the St. Lawrence Centre mall in Massena, New York. But the crowds at Flagstaff Mall on Saturday afternoon depress me a little bit. It's as though thousands of people woke up on Saturday morning, looked outside at the majestic San Francisco Peaks, saw a beautiful Arizona morning and said, "Great! It's a perfect day to go hiking, or maybe even skiing. I know -- let's go to Spencer Gifts."

I would actually feel guilty about my own excursion to the mall on a Saturday afternoon, except that a) my 8-month old isn't quite up to skiing yet, and b) my wife and I needed to finish our holiday shopping. Not even Christmas shopping, which would have been bad enough; but Chanukah shopping, just in time for the two-month anniversary of the end of Chanukah. (The Christmas-celebrating wing of our family is a little more time-sensitive about gifts than the Jewish wing.)

We wound up at Bath & Body Works, where the choice boiled down to buying a home-oriented fragrance or a body-oriented fragrance. Either way, gifts from Bath & Body Works seem like they send an odd message -- "Merry Christmas! Your living room smells like feet!" or "Happy Valentine's Day -- have a little something to deal with your B.O. issues." Of course, you can always return from Bath & Body Works with something like a loofa, but "Happy birthday... I thought you might enjoy exfoliating" is perhaps a weird message, as well. (Bath & Body Works has also apparently added a line of "apothecary" products, featuring $8 shaving foam and retro-looking cold cream. Naturally, I stood there for about two minutes, trying to figure out how this cream would help treat a cold. But I digress.)

We wound up with body-related, lotiony, spray-like fragance products ("Happy Chanukah -- here's how we think you should smell..."), which, as it turned out, we could have stood to have opened up and sprayed on the mall populace. Now that non-smoking environments are commonplace in public spaces, perhaps we, as a society, should take the next logical step and limit these same places to people who have showered in the past month. First, we'll need the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the risks of second-hand bodily fumes on an unsuspecting population. But in the end, such legislation will make malls a (slightly) more pleasant place, and pre-flight airline announcements more interesting ("...smoking is never permitted on-board our flight, and as a courtesy, flight attendants will shortly pass through the cabin and douse the passengers in our aromatic section with Irish Spring.").

Once we've done something about this, we can get back to work on important issues. Like figuring out who this Spencer person is, and why so many of his gifts seem to involve talking bottle openers.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I get press releases, Vol. 2

From the "We've Come a Long Way Since Those Dancing Raisins" department:


Limited-Edition "Art for the Heart" Note Cards Being Sold Now at

The press release also features this spectacular quote from Jane Seymour herself:

"Since painting is one of my life’s passions, I was honored to be asked by the California Pistachio Commission to create imagery that will be used to help raise money and spread awareness about heart disease and how it can affect so many women."

Naturally, the California Pistachio Commission points out that "a one-ounce serving of 49 pistachios is naturally cholesterol free and predominantly contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat."

What the Pistachio Commission doesn't document is the incidence of heart attacks among out-of-shape people who are attempting to pry open a stubborn nut.

For what it's worth, tomorrow (Friday) is National Wear Red Day, designated to raise awareness about women and heart disease by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. So if you think of it, wear some red. Or at least buy the red pistachios.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Friendly Gender

QVC, the cable shopping channel, entertains me, if only for the creative new uses of the English language employed by the hosts and guests. Also, it provides a nice, mind-numbing alternative to the endless instant-analysis of the State of the Union address.

A channel surf over to Flagstaff Cablevision Channel 51 this evening yielded a discussion about a set of sheets -- not bad-looking ones, especially when you consider what sometimes passes for fashion on the home shopping channels. But the buzzword the guest who was, I don't know, demonstrating the sheets kept mentioning was that they were "gender-friendly".

Funny, unless we're talking about friction issues, I had always assumed all sheets were basically gender-friendly.

I say we require companies to call a spade "a spade". In this case, the proper terminology would be "Three hundred thread-count sheets that won't emasculate your husband."

In any case, the duvet cover is generally the real cause of marital strife.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

February's Last Laugh

In an ongoing dubious public service to those of you without ready access to Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine, I present my column from the February issue. It's worth noting that it was written before Time did its cover story on the "twixters", the 20-somethings who are living at home, mooching off their parents, and yes, hopping from mate to mate. It's not exactly the topic of my column, but I'll give myself credit for being relatively close. Anyway:

Valentine’s Day is this month, a fact not lost on at least three major industries:

1) The jewelry companies, who produce TV commercials suggesting there’s no better way for men to spend the money they were going to deposit in their IRAs than on multi-carat diamond earrings for their wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, mothers-in-law, or the girl that serves them coffee. “Come on,” these ads imply. “The 15-second, oh-my-God, Trading Spaces-reveal-scene reaction you’ll get on Valentine’s Day will more than make up for the 75 times you’ve left the toilet seat up this year. Besides, you weren’t really going to contribute to your IRA.” Here, they have a point. More than one man has been on his way to the post office with his IRA contribution when he’s been shanghaied by a more tempting offer, such as a sale on Doritos. Also;

2) The greeting card industry, which is there to step in when your diamond earring budget suddenly dwindles from $500 to $2.75. And;

3) News magazines, which trot out long cover stories about the latest trends in love.

Recently, we’ve learned that “dating” is passé among today’s high school and college students, having been replaced by something called “hooking up.” From what I gather, hooking up is a somewhat spontaneous, commitment-free, pulse-racing, bra strap-fumbling dash to intimacy. I have no real idea whether folks in northern Arizona are engaged in this, but judging from our close proximity to California and the WB network dramas set there, I would imagine the phenomenon has made it this far. The articles I’ve read generally take a tone somewhere between alarmist and condescending, in the popular “You Won’t Believe What These Kids Are Doing Today” genre.

I’d be condescending, too, except that when I look back on the history of my love life, what it could have used was some spontaneity. Picking up a phone would have been a good start. When I was a senior in high school, I was head-over-heels in, say, like-like, with a girl who -- it seemed -- had similar feelings for me. Prom was approaching, and it seemed like I should ask her. So what was my strategy? I spent three weeks’ worth of evenings feeling my blood pressure climb, picking up the phone, and dialing the first six digits of her phone number, then chickening out. (Seventeen years later, I still remember her phone number.) It seems my problem was more about ‘hanging up’ than ‘hooking up’.

Of course, by senior year, I had been clueless about love for some time. Looking back, it now strikes me that there was probably an ulterior motive for the girls who wrote phone numbers in my high school yearbooks. At the time, I figured it was for purely informational reasons. My first date – in eighth grade – was with a girl who quit waiting and asked me out. Hooking up, indeed.

But that’s all in the past. My more recent love life has been far more successful, featuring a wife and everything. Which reminds me – I need to do some Valentine’s Day shopping. I’m thinking Doritos. Cool Ranch.