Spanish Memories

As our 10-year reunion fast approaches for the Ellensburg Class of ‘96, I am documenting some long-forgotten high school memories. Last month I covered Biology class, now it’s time to look at Spanish…

Technically, we were learning a second language. However, we were being taught at an infantile level. Even after graduation, it’s not like we could go to Mexico and discuss politics or world affairs in Spanish. Our vocabulary was limited to the alphabet and the primary colors. Unless a Mexican two-year old wanted to strike up a conversation about counting to ten, I wouldn’t have much to contribute.

Aside from that, it was all buen (good)…

The Dry Erase Boards:

Every so often, our Spanish teacher would pass out Sharpies and dry erase boards to the entire class. The learning objective was simple: She would say something in Spanish, and we would transcribe it with the correct spelling and punctuation.

That was the intent, anyway. The instant the teacher turned her back, Solo would raise his dry-erase board overhead for the entire class to see the remarkably detailed depictions of sex acts he had drawn. I would then give Solo a thumbs up for his efforts, as I’ve always believed in supporting the arts.


I tried to interject my own slang into Spanish class, just to provide some levity for myself. For instance, “cool” was “frio.” “Manchild” was “hombre-nino.” “Sweet” was “dulce.” And so forth…

The best way to illustrate this is to read my Spanish project from my Junior year. You can access it here. Trust me, it’s worth a click over.


Oh Raquel, will you ever locate the bastard child of Don Fernando?

In an effort to learn conversational Spanish, we were forced to watch episodes of the Spanish soap opera Destinos. For those unfamiliar with Destinos, allow me to summarize the plot:

Don Fernando is old and very sick. Muy malo. On his deathbed, he summons the Mexican female equivalent of Magnum PI (Raquel Rodriguez) to his hacienda to help him resolve a troubling issue from his past.

In his younger days, Don Fernando was a soldier. After the war, he fled Spain and went underground to Argentina. There wasn’t a reason given, but presumably he was a war criminal. Muy atrocities. In his flight out of the country, he left behind his wife and child, and started a new family. Muy philandering.

Now living in Mexico, he tries to atone for the mistakes of his past. Lying on his deathbed, he clutches a faded picture of his abandoned child. “Mi hijo,” he repeats ad nauseam for dramatic effect. And that is where Raquel comes in…

The dialogue is exclusively in Spanish, so much of the details of the storyline are lost in translation. But why is he so desperate to find this child now? Is he worried about being incriminated? Does he need an heir to run the cartel? And let’s not forget, at this point, his “child” would be about 70 years old.

Gaping plot holes aside, Raquel must now travel to every corner of the third world to find Don Fernando’s lost son. And we, the audience, get to share in the adventure and intrigue on the edge of our seats.

Yo Veo:

Translated, it means “I see.” And I owe my “A” in Spanish to those two words. A big part of our grade was conversing in Spanish, and I found that I could reply to virtually any statement in Spanish with a simple “I see” and it created the illusion that I was able speak fluently. For instance:

The Teacher: “Yo quiero planchar la ropa a las tres y media.” (I like to iron clothes at 3:30.)
Me: “Yo Veo.” (I see.)
Me: “Adios.” (Goodbye.)

Oh, and I always tacked on an “Adios” to signal that the conversation was over. And that my friends, is how you flow fluency like a rio de buen agua (river of good water.)

Un Dia Con Thomas Manchild

I’m pleased to finally release the English version of a modern classic. “Un Dia Con Thomas Manchild” (A Day with Thomas Manchild) has been translated for an English audience, uncut and without subtitles.

Again, these are the actual drawings and storyline I turned in for my junior year Spanish project. Looking back on my work, I’m delighted to see the story is still relevant for today’s audiences. In certain parts of the story, I decided to add my own director’s commentary in italics. Enjoy.


My friend is named Thomas Manchild. Thomas is very strong and rich. Thomas is suave, and has lots of muscles because he drinks milk.

(Unfortunately, this scan failed to capture the detail of Thomas’s house from the original drawing. It is a hacienda style mansion, with marble pillars. Somehow, it works. And looking back, I can’t believe I failed to include flamingos and other exotic animals frollicking on the grounds. It was a huge oversight.)
Thomas lives on the beach. Thomas’s house is very big and his house has a swimming pool. Thomas is 25 years old.

(Please note that this drawing was created prior to my ownership of the MR2. Eerie. Also, note the logo of “Manchild Enterprises” on the side of the car. To this day, I still use “Manchild Enterprises” as my imaginary corporation whenever I register software or enter a drawing to win free sub sandwiches.)
Thomas’s car is very big and expensive. Thomas has lots of money, but he never works. Thomas is never afraid, because he is always successful. He is very lucky.

In the winter, Thomas goes to Las Vegas. He stays in a hotel called Caesar’s Palace. In the hotel, Thomas plays a game of cards.

Thomas is lucky in the game, and he wins a lot of money. After the game, Thomas goes to a restaurant because he is hungry. The restaurant is named Planet Hollywood.

In the restaurant, Thomas sees a woman. The woman is very beautiful.

“Hello,” Thomas said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” she said, “would you like to drink a beer with me?”
“No, I don’t like beer,” Thomas said. “I drink milk, because I need to grow big and formidable.”
“I see,” she said, “I need to go to my husband now.”
“Very good,” Thomas said, “I’ll see you later.”

Afterwards, Thomas was tired. He went back to his hotel because he needed rest. That night, Thomas was lucky with the cards, but he was unlucky with the ladies.

(Riveting story line. Beautiful women. The backdrop of Vegas. This short story should have been made into a movie. Couldn’t you see Vince Vaughn in the role of me, er, Thomas Manchild? My teacher thought otherwise… I think I got a B+ on this. Clearly, I’m still outraged about it.)

And if you stumbled onto this post, and it makes no sense whatsoever, start here:

Special Delivery

Back, by unpopular demand, I am pleased to present another post on babies! I will now pause here for a few minutes to allow those that wish to leave to make for the exits. Please file out in an orderly manner.

~Five minutes later~

Ok, for the rest of you, I will now share the story of Charlie’s birth. And please, don’t call me a hero. In light of the circumstances, I just did what any man would do. Here is the true story…

Thursday, April 6th, 4:01 AM:
My wife, seven and a half months pregnant, wakes me up in the middle of the night:

Mrs. Centaur: “I need you to take me to the hospital.”
Me (groggily, but without hesitation): “No.”
Mrs. Centaur: “I’m serious… we need to get to the hospital now. I think I’m going into labor.”
Me (glancing at alarm clock): “I’m really busy right now. Let’s revisit this discussion in about three hours…”

I instructed her to bring me some rags and to sterilize my Rambo knife. She didn’t crack a smile. I desperately wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but I reluctantly got out of bed. I’m not sure exactly what it was, perhaps my wife being hobbled over in excruciating pain, but I felt a heightened degree of urgency that morning.

Of course, that didn’t mean I couldn’t be judicious in picking my attire for the day. I put on a pair of jeans, only to discover that the pair I selected were a little too baggy, and didn’t showcase my beefcake satisfactorily. I went back to the closet and selected a more flattering pair. I began to rummage through the closet for an acceptable shirt, as I had a feeling this would prove equally difficult.

I’m not sure which was more painful for my wife, the contractions or my wardrobe indecisiveness. She couldn’t bear either, and went into the living room, ostensibly to start boiling water for a home delivery.

When I emerged a few minutes later, she was initially happy, as she thought we were on our way to the hospital. Not so. I was still shirtless at this point, and I merely wanted to check the shirt selection in the dryer before making a final decision.

Now dressed, I began to focus on my personal hygiene. Since my wife wouldn’t allow me to take a shower, I opted for a relayering of deodorant instead. I then did my best to contain my bedhead into a hat. Finally, I fired up the ‘ol Sonicare to brush my teeth. It was at this point that I noticed my wife in the doorway.

Two minutes is a long time, when you are watching someone else brush his teeth. I’m told that it’s even longer when you’re also going into labor.

We left in a hurry after that, meaning I was unable to pack some necessities and luxuries that I originally planned to bring along. Sadly, the following items were all left behind:

1. The digital camera and camcorder.
2. The Xbox 360
3. My laptop
4. A bottle of whiskey (or at least a full flask.) Think about it. Hospitals have vending machines and ice on hand, I could have crafted an unbelievably sweet mini-bar in the hospital room.
5. A change of clothes.
6. Newspaper (this one would haunt me later… read on.)

Ever since my wife became pregnant, I had a secret desire to attempt to induce labor through humor. Allow me to explain. If a joke is funny enough, it can elicit involuntary, physical reactions in people from laughing too hard. Early in life, a burgeoning comedian will earn his wings by getting a classmate to laugh so hard that milk comes out his nose. Later in life, you know that a date is progressing nicely when the girl warns you that she’s about to pee her pants from the hysterics you’ve provided.

And as far as these things go, I would think the ultimate badge of honor would be earned by causing a pregnant woman to give birth solely from laughing too hard. But could this actually be done? That was what I aimed to find out on our drive to the hospital.

As an added degree of difficulty, I would have to incorporate humor into my role as her birthing coach. Luckily, I didn’t spend the entire time in birthing class text messaging scores from the NCAA tournament. As she began her breathing, I held up my index finger about ten inches in front of her face as an object for her to focus on.

Me: “Ok, Jeannette… pretend my finger is a candle. Now, blow it out!”

As she focused her rapid breathing on the object in front of her, I began to rapidly twitch my finger.

Me: “Look! It’s flickering! The candle is almost out! Keep breathing…”

Once her breathing intensified, I folded my finger into my fist.

Me (re-extending my finger): “You got it, it’s out! …Uh oh, look, it’s one of those trick birthday cake candles! It’s re-lit itself! What a hilarious prank I pulled! Keep trying to blow it out!”

This game went on for a few minutes, culminating with me bringing out the candelabra (my right hand, with all five fingers extended) for her to blow out. And yes, as you might have guessed, all five “candles” were trick candles.

Her contractions were getting more intense, and I droving increasingly recklessly to compensate for it. Since transporting a woman in labor gives you traffic law impunity, I took full advantage of the situation. In the twenty-minute drive to the hospital, I drove excessively fast, ran a stoplight, and went the wrong direction down a one-way street. I’m pretty sure I also managed to execute the 80’s movie trick of driving a car on two wheels down a narrow alley. Of course, this isn’t really all that noteworthy, considering I commit these infractions on an almost daily basis anyway.

We arrived at the hospital, and the doctors decided rather quickly that my wife was going into labor, seven weeks early. The doctors tried to ascertain a reason for her premature delivery, ultimately deciding it was simply a medical mystery. Of course, I knew the real reason we were here. And to this day, it is my crowning achievement in the realm of humor.

Finally, here are a few more Charlie-related sidenotes:

Unbelievable Coincidences:
On several occasions on this site, I jokingly said I wanted to name our son after the Star Wars character Lando Calrissian. However, as the months went on, I honestly began to consider “Lando” as a middle name. Of course, my wife hates things that are cool and original, so the name never had a chance. And wouldn’t you know it, look at who was born on April 6th.

Perhaps if I had a copy of the morning paper, complete with celebrity birthdays, I might have had some more leverage as we filled out his birth certificate.

Want another unbelievable coincidence? Check out who else shares Charlie’s birthday. It’s simply uncanny. Sometimes I torture myself into thinking about what could have been… Charles Lando Clavin Ring.

Everyone loves to play this game with a new baby. It’s somewhat imprecise, but here are my observations: Clearly, my son gets his brown hair and blue eyes from me. The same goes for his innocence and preciousness. As for his flatulence and occasional crankiness, I’m pretty sure that was inherited from his mother.

The Latest Milestone:
Charlie has learned to smile. Needless to say, this has been a tremendous morale booster for his caregivers. For me, it is a lot more tolerable to clean feces off another’s bare bottom when they are happily smiling at me while I do it.

Extended Coverage:
If you’d like to have up-to-the-minute information about Charlie’s weight, the messiness of his bowel movements and shots of him dressed as 80’s movies icons, go here. My wife started this site to placate the grandparents’ demand for such coverage… I think the general public will enjoy it too.

The Laws of Working in an Office

Like many of you working in an office somewhere, I am given an endless amount of busy work and meaningless projects so that my boss can justify being a boss. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not his fault. It’s just the way the system works.

In turn, I avoid doing most of this work through a process of procrastination, mild insubordination, and apathy. This is also how the system works. And most of the time, the office hierarchy is in harmony.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. I used to actually do my job. Then one day I noticed that the project my boss needed done immediately sat on his desk for a month before he even looked at it. And at that moment, was borne the Laws of Working in an Office…

The First Law of Working in an Office:
By definition, any work your boss assigns to you is of little or no importance whatsoever. Logically, this makes sense. By giving a project to you, the boss has deemed it too tedious, too trivial or too low a priority to deal with himself.

While it may seem disheartening to learn that most of your assigned work is absolutely inconsequential, there is a tremendous upside to this…

The Second Law of Working in an Office:
There is an old saying in business, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Therefore, by delegating assignments, your boss is indirectly implying that he doesn’t care if the work is done right. Otherwise, he’d do it himself. Taking it a step further, your boss probably doesn’t care if is or done on time, either. And frankly, I doubt he really cares if it is even done at all.

Indeed, these laws can be very liberating. However, I can’t instantly dismiss everything that is assigned to me as a complete waste of time and energy. Occasionally, there is actually something worthwhile that needs doing. Being able to tell the difference is the key to being a selectively productive employee.

When assigned a new project, always feign a positive outlook. Give every indication that you share your boss’s enthusiasm for this BS. But don’t actually do anything yet. Even though your boss has given you a massive amount of work to do, pretend that the ball is still in his court.

Now begins the waiting game. At this point, your job is to merely wait for him to follow up with a question on the project’s status. If you’re lucky, he’ll never mention it again, meaning it obviously wasn’t worth doing in the first place. Pat yourself on the back; your investment in procrastination has reaped massive dividends.

Unfortunately, it won’t always be that easy. Even if he does bring up the project a second time it still doesn’t necessarily mean that any actual work will take place. You’ve just got to handle the situation tactfully. Thankfully, I have a proven system for just such an occasion.

I call it the “Just Say No” method. I borrowed the name from the anti-drug abuse ads from the ‘80’s, since it works in the same manner. Essentially, if someone tries to get you to do work, Just Say NO.

Imagine your boss wandering over. Initially, the conversation centers on sports or some other pedestrian topic. Pleasantries aside, he soon reveals the real motivation for his visit:

My Boss: “Centaur, are you working on the cash flow project we talked about last week?”

Me: “No.”

If done correctly, your boss should be taken aback. Now, the trick here is to not say anything else. Don’t offer an excuse or explanation for your insolence. Be forewarned, there will be an awkward moment of silence and your boss will look at you to break it. Don’t. Just say the word “No” matter-of-factly and consider the issue resolved. Also, consider sipping your coffee or leaning back in your chair, as this is a subtle sign that your focus is elsewhere. Body language is everything!

You’re not out of the woods yet, as most bosses are very persistent. Remember, that’s how they made it to the top of the office food chain. And more often than not, they won’t settle for such a glib answer.

My Boss:
“Did you read the emails I sent you regarding the priority of this project?”

Me: “Sort of.”

If possible, try and say this with a twinkle in your eye. It takes practice, but if you can develop a good twinkle, your insubordination will be construed as playful.

My Boss: “Well, the project is due at the end of the week… And I need to review your work and then the results need to be sent over to accounting for them to-”

Me: “Oh yeah, I’m aware of all of that.”

This is an important step. It’s critical to interrupt your boss in the middle of his sermon about how important this project is. Try and act like you know more than he does. But, you can’t just settle for a simple interruption. You must be dismissive as well.

And now, we’re at a fork in the road. If this was a truly meaningless assignment, you’ve officially called his bluff. Knowing he’s defeated, the only thing your boss can do at this point is to try and save face by leaving with a “Ok, we probably have more important things to do right now anyway… but try and work on this in your free time.”

If this happens, be gracious in victory.

Me: “Oh yeah. I’ll definitely take a look at this sometime next month.”

Both parties can leave with their heads held high, knowing this will never happen. In an understated way, your boss will actually respect you for more for not being intimidated into doing your job. Trust me.

Unfortunately, there is another way this could play out. It might not be a bluff. At this point, your boss could decide to reiterate the details and deadlines of this project. If that’s the case, it looks like you’ve got some legitimate work on your desk. The good news is that if this is a real assignment, at least you know for sure.

The Third Law of Working in an Office:

If you have positive confirmation that you’ve been given real work, sharpen your pencil, crack your knuckles and dominate the project. Seriously, the secret to office success is doing an outstanding job on the small fraction of projects actually worth doing, and totally neglecting the rest. If practiced over several years, this pattern of behavior will ultimately lead to a position in upper management.

So what happens to the rest of those tedious projects? Some will simply blow away, like dandelion spores. Others will get outsourced to India or something. As for the remainder…

The Fourth Law of Working in an Office:

If you develop a consistent reputation for refusing menial projects, they will gradually be assigned to others, namely the less-assertive people in the office. Go ahead and put your feet up, as there is no greater satisfaction than a job well done by someone else.

Bill Murray is No Ted Danson

Well, I had one of those days recently. You know the days where you are walking down the street, trying to impress your friend with your ability to assign a celebrity likeness to a complete stranger. Like you spot some random person and then whisper to your friend, “Solo, don’t look behind you… unless you want to get Val Kilmer’s autograph.” Then your friend looks and they either see some resemblance or they don’t. But what makes this game fun is that either way, lookalike or not, there are only positive outcomes of this game in my experience such as:

  1. Friend notices some resemblance and gets a slight chuckle.
  2. Friend notices some resemblance and verifies that it is, in fact, Val Kilmer. We both chuckle.
  3. Friend disagrees with my choice for assigned celebrity lookalike and comes up with a better one. I chuckle.
  4. Friend looks and sees that I had nothing. There was no resemblance whatsoever. So why did I make them turn around and look? So I could turn it into a “got you to look behind you for no reason” type of gag? Really, that low? You are correct. I know it’s not rocket science humor but 1 out of 5 times it does deliver minor chuckles.
  5. Friend vehemently disagrees with my choice and friendship is ruined. No one chuckling this time. Rarely happens.

But just the other day, I finally found a new outcome to this comedic routine that isn’t positive.

Solo and I were walking down the street and I saw this guy from like 200 yards away and he is so far in the distance that he is really small and I can’t really tell much about him but his shape. But I, being an old pro at this game, make a gamble. It’s technically too far. The game should only be played within a reasonable distance. But I’m ballsy. I call it out. Bill Murray. Step by step as we get closer I can only think to myself what a fool I was. This was not a Bill Murray. This was anything but a Bill Murray. This Bill Murray was more like a Ted Danson. And we all know that a Ted Danson is nothing remotely like a Bill Murray. So I questioned myself. What had gone wrong? Where did I screw up? I know it was a long distance call, but I’ve made hundreds of those. It had to be something else. Soon Solo got a look at the guy and adamantly clarified for me what I already knew. This was no Bill Murray. I was “way off.” It was a harsh criticism that I took to heart.

So I knew I had to be honest with him. I confessed that my internal Bill Murray radar has been on the fritz lately. It’s acting all haywire. This was the last straw I told him. I would take in my malfunctioning Bill Murray radar and get it fixed ASAP. It might be difficult to find a shop that can specifically target my Bill Murray radar, as all my other celebrity radars are still working correctly, but there has got to be someone here in NYC that specializes in Mr. Murray. Maybe I need a lock of his hair to recalibrate my radar. Maybe it’s diet related. It’s true I haven’t been getting my recommended daily dose of Caddy Shack quotes or Groundhog day montages. Or just maybe his career has shifted gears so many times, everyone’s radar is off. I could just be the canary in the mineshaft on this one.

I’m just thankful I have friends that are willing to point out my horrible mistakes. They make me a better person.