(Written for The Atlanta Journal/Constitution & Fayette County News)

Beanie Baby Addiction

It had come to this. It was 2:00 am and I am parked in the seediest of places; resting my hand on the briefcase on the passenger seat. I never thought my perpetual "habit" would lead me here. First it was one $5 hit, then another, then another. Soon my thirst could not be quenched and $5 turned to $500. The dark blue cadillac pulled into the paper-strewn parking lot. I could hear a police siren in the distance (I thought to myself, "speeders in Tyrone"). Three big-arm men got out the car and followed a smaller, nervous man up to me.

"You got the money," he asked, looking suspicously back and forth, to and fro, like a metronome at a 3rd grader's piano recital.

"You got the stuff?" I tried to sound like I had done this many times, but in truth, I am just a normal middle class parent. "We" don't do these things. Yet, here I was.

"Give me the briefcase, Bones" the little man growled. One of his henchman, the one with the 12 gauge shotgun and a telephone pole for a neck, handed him the "goods."

We call 'em goods in this game.

beanie.jpgThe springloaded locks echoed in the night as Bones held the briefcase out and opened it to me. "Freckles!" one of the other henchmen squealed when he saw the speckly "Beanie Baby" at the top of the toy-filled case "Shut your trap!" yelled the boss. "We are doing business here." The henchman dipped his head in shame, barely able to keep his .45 horizontal.

I wet my little finger and lifted some dust from "Bongo." I put it to my mouth. "High grade stuff," I muttered solemnly. "I want the whole batch." We then traded "packages" as well as "Rice Krispy Treat" recipes and we went our separate ways.

This may seem like a scene from a movie, yet It has almost come to this. People have jumped into the beanie baby craze, full force. Lines are forming everyday at stores who get shipments of 500 to 1000 beanie babies, and sell out in an hour. What causes madness such as this? Could it be the the air rushing into the vacuum created by "Tickle Me Elmo?" Could it be psychological fulfillment in response to the void created by a "Power Ranger" struggle? No one really knows, yet there is for sure an intense desire to own, Inky, Blacky, Flip, Zip or Nip or any other of the scores of legume-filled animals.

This is just good, clean, American fun This is capitalism as it was intended to be; mothers passing to their daughters the legacy of competitive shopping. Daughters, like baby lions, learning their skills for later in life when they have to hunt a barbie or stalk a "One-Day Macy's Sale." Some have obviously taken it too far, pushing the limits of good taste in the attainment of more and more beanie babies. For the most part though, standing in line for a beanie baby is still better than standing in line for a Marilyn Manson concert or a chance to win the lottery. So, have some fun, just don't let the "habit" get you. As for me, I am going to surf to http://www.ty.com and get my first taste of beanie babies in cyber space.

New Years Quiz

Take this quick quiz to see if you have already failed in your New Year's Resolutions, or are just, generally, a failure.

1. Since January 1st you have lost:
A. Eleven pounds.
B. The cocktail napkin you wrote your resolutions on.
C. So much self-control, you qualify for the "Ozzy Osbourne Lifestyle of Excess" Award.

2. In the 20 days, or so since the New Year, you have:
A. Run every day.
B. Run out and bought an exercise machine.
C. Run out of checks to pay for all the Christmas credit card bills.

3. Your life goal for the coming year is:
A. To live well and prosper.
B. To live more healthily.
C. To live through one more Atlanta Braves washout season.

4. Your work goals for the coming year are:
A. Make your work environment a better place.
B. Leave your mark on every project you handle.
C. Find where they moved your offices without telling you.

5. You have lost 20 lbs since Jan. 1st; you owe your success to:
A. The Atkins Diet.
B. Rigorous Exercise.
C. Staying up nights worrying over Camilla and Tony Soprano.

6. This year you plan to hit it big because:
A. You believe in hard work and dedication.
B. You (and your cats) came up with a sure-fire way to pick lottery numbers.
C. By-golly, you're going to marry that guy from the 'Joe Millionaire' show.

7. The greatest hope for the coming year for you is:
A. To breakdown walls with an estranged neighbor.
B. To rekindle a better relationship with that old best friend.
C. To get your daughter to give you her cell phone number.

8. The best advice you could give to the rest of the world for 2003 is:
A. Never under estimate the power of prayer.
B. Give back, more than you take.
C. Dump that stock you have invested into Iraqi Oil.

Duct Tape for Women

Men and duct tape go together like bacon andducttape.jpg bypass surgery. Itís manís all purpose fix it tool. Carl Zwanzig has said, Duct tape is like the force: It has a dark side and a light side and it holds the universe together. But until now Duct tape has just been for men

Well, women rejoice!! Because here are my tips for using duct tape for YOU.. Ďcause you wonít be seeing these anytime soon on Martha Stewart.

Ladies, do you want smooth, silky legs? Throw away your razors, your shavers and those messy creams and waxes. Just place the duct tape over the length of your legs, press down and rip upwards quickly. Youíll scream with joy .. or at the very least, youíll scream.

And Girls are you tired of those expensive biore strips? Need I say more?

For you parents, adhere to the floor with the tape side up and youíll never lose site of your toddler again.

Duct tape is great in the kitchen too. Are you tired of using fragile, wrinkled aluminum foil? Next time just tape your baked potatoes with the gray wonder. It makes for a great diet too, because think of all the calories youíll burn just trying to get the potato out of the tape

And lastly, for the entertainer in you, fashion into a ball with the tape side out, roll in a bowl of grated cheddar and finally you have a cheese ball that will last into the next decade.

A Relationship Runs Out of Gas
Man's love affair with the car is dead. Reaching it's pinnacle in the 1950's & 1960's, American homo sapiens fell in love with the automobile. Curvy and fast, warm and responsive, the automobile became the natural object of man's affection. Men, women, and children alike, couldn't resist sliding a hand along her body or nuzzling close to her accepting seat.

That's the past. Finito. Gone are these romantic days spent twisting and turning in the breeze. Somewhere on the road of life, mankind lost his love for his car.

Maybe we can blame it on society. To the degradation of fidelity, man now brings home a second car, driving her, pampering her, throttling her, right in front of the first. At one time excessive, now this is accepted, even expected. Today, the virtue of dedicating oneself to the just one car is considered, quaint or passe'.

In a time of old, husbands, wives, and cruising teens alike, beamed with pride in traffic, smiling to be seen, hand in wheel, with their one, true love. Today, though, at traffic lights throughout this brazen nation, mankind laments his car, letting his eye stray to the european model with her glossy paint job and convertible top, allowing his mind to wonder what it would be like to be with "her."

Every day, wives flop groceries in their mini vans, teens drop cigarette butts to floorboard, never giving credit for loyalty and dependability, only lusting for the newest and most attractive edition on the market. "To love, cherish and wax, til trade-in do we depart." Are these words just empty?

Familiarity breeds contempt. This could be the problem with man's love affair with the car. Day after day, spending all that time together on the expressway in traffic. On the jaunts to take the kids to practice. Who doesn't get in a rut? Who doesn't get tired of the same old habits all the time?

We can all remember when we first got her. We would drive fast almost every day. Then it became maybe 2 or 3 times a week. Now, we're lucky if we do it once a month. And the sad part is, we don't even miss it that much.

Is there hope? Besides a few features in "Road & Track" magazine on how to "breath life into your dull, driving routine," there is little out there keeping this love affair alive.

Doing time on I-75 seems to be a mantra of many today. Sure, you added a sexy cell phone to the package, but how long did that thrill you? You begged and begged and finally got the CD player installed. But did that make you happy? The indignity of altering her, trying to make her something "better." You should be ashamed. We all should be ashamed.

It's what's inside that counts. So, she has some wear. So, she has a few nicks and dents she didnt' have when you got her. She's still the same car. We need to think back why we bought her in the first place. Maybe she doesn't have the flash or all the fancy plastic the new models are adding on every day. But, she's mine oh, mine and she's yours oh, yours.

It's time to grow up, to quit acting like a monkey drooling over a shiny piece of glass. Let's all breath some life back into our love affair with the car. After all, itís rarely the destination that matters, but the trip on the way there.