Comment Taters

December 11, 2008

Mr. Potato Head may not have been the most “common” potato, but he didn’t need a (computer micro)chip to have a lot for others to comment on. Hopefully something below will be of interest, value, and worthy of comment.

Potatoes come from the Andes Mountains of South America. Over time, a select few of the thousands of different varieties have spread around the world, and even become associated with far off places like Ireland and Idaho. In the United States, McDonald’s (“restaurants”) made billions of “extra” dollars with the upsale/add-on question, “Would you like fries with that?” 

“French” (or if you don’t like the French, “Freedom”) fries are known as “chips” in England (which confuses some Americans, who think potato chips are flat, crispy, and are eaten with a “dip” rather than covered in Ketchup or a generic catsup). But then, in the U.S., bison are, for some reason I never understood, called buffalo – and their dried manure is also called chips and then “pitched” for sport (usually by hand and not with a fork). English chips are usually not served with hamburgers; they are served with fish. Fish and chips. 

Chips are also what seem to be on a lot people’s shoulders – especially female ones. That may surprise a lot of people. It did me. Chips and chicks aren’t what most people think of – unless they go out dancing salsa. Of all the (partner) dances people do, salsa is definitely one of the most popular with the “masses” these days (probably because it’s pretty quick and easy to learn, do, and look fairly good without really needing to be a overall good dancer). Salsa seems like something that would go with chips. Chicks and Salsa. Salsa and chips. The last place I danced salsa (was a bar that) actually did serve chips – but I was a bit surprised by how many chicks brought their own (and dared anyone to knock them off their shoulder). 

You’ll probably never see me on “Dancing With The Stars” or “So You Think You Can Dance”, but I do speak passable Spanish and am a fairly good dancer (who used to dance and mix socially with one of the latter TV dance show’s judges, Mary Murphy – who was also once a massage client of mine – as well as several other dancers and choreographers seen on television), so this dance snobbery was a bit of a surprise. I might expect it if these were (more accomplished) Argentine Tango or International “Smooth” or even “hip hop” dancers, but this was “just” salsa on a SUNDAY night, with only an occasional bachata and merengue thrown in to break up the “monotony” of one long (seemingly never-ending) song blending into the next all night long. I’m not sure how “bad” ever became “good”, but it doesn’t seem to apply to attitude – especially when it affects altitude. 

Standing 6 feet even, I’m quite a bit taller than the average salsa chick (even with a chip on her shoulder). Not exactly like the Andes towering over the plains, and plain is certainly not a word I’d use to describe most of these very attractive female dancers, but no matter how “hot” some of these chicks think they are, on or off the salsa floor, from my vantage point, I can’t help but notice their chips, and ironically, lose my appetite. I miss mambo.

Salsa is usually danced on the first beat of the music. When I first learned to dance to this type of music, we danced on the second beat and called it mambo. Not exactly what Lou Bega sings about in “Mambo No. 5”, but close enough. Mambo music and dancing is what Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey did in the movie Dirty Dancing. I’ve never met Patrick, but I have skydived with his brother (a couple of times, years ago) in Perris, California. We weren’t buddies and it wasn’t just the two of us. It was in a group all jumping out of the same plane and attempting to create various formations and maneuvers during free fall. That was years ago. 

I just drove by Perris today and had to laugh at a billboard advertising skydiving lessons “no parachute required”. This was particularly significant because of a news story I noticed the day before about a skydiver who jumped, fell, hit the ground, and survived – without the benefit of an open parachute slowing his descent. Although this is not the first time this has happened, it is not recommended, so don’t try this on your own. I have known several people badly injured or killed while skydiving – mainly while wing walking, performing elaborate stunts for fairs, filming others, landing in the ocean, exit and landing “accidents” (involving military aircraft at night), or due to the plane crashing. 

At one time, the idea of flying appealed to me (and I even looked into what it would take to be an Army helicopter pilot) before deciding that I’d rather jump out of planes and helicopters than fly them. Besides, if I was going to be a warrant officer, being a pilot wouldn’t be my first pick. Had that been the case, perhaps the helicopter I might have flown would be among the hundred or so helicopters headed to Afghanistan early next year (much to the relief of the many Green Berets there, who have been without air transport for too long. Along with the “choppers” will be lots of “unmanned drones” that are equipped with cameras and bombs to “lighten the load” and increase the safety of soldiers and Marines in the area). 

Sometime after Vietnam, the U.S. Army reorganized itself to depend upon deployment of its Reserve units, as well as elements of the National Guard (from various states), to fully function in times of war. This was partly done with the idea that it would somehow encourage public support and participation. Instead it has only increased the strain and hardship of families and businesses who were only prepared for someone to be away a weekend a month and 2 weeks in the summer away instead of a year or more with a possibility of never coming back (in one piece or being able to “resume” life as before). Unlike active duty families, who while not happy, at least are not usually surprised and tend to have (access to) a mutual support system, those “left behind” when Reservists and Guard members (and most of their assets) are sent far away for far longer than anyone expected often don’t have a “parachute” to “protect” them.

Although I have served on active duty as a Army Reservist, I only ever had one “reserve ride”. It was on my 110th jump – and my own fault (since I’m the one who packed my parachute). My main parachute was “square”; and allowed landing standing up on my feet; my reserve was round – and did not.  Since I did not expect to use it, I did not care. Fortunately for me, my reserve parachute not only worked, but was very similar to the ones I had used jumping with a static line long ago  Even without wearing “wings” on my chest or my “airborne” shoulder tab, my prior training kicked in and I managed a soft landing and quick roll to my feet. By the time I quit skydiving, more and more people were sky “surfing” and sky “dancing” than just free-falling or formation flying. I don’t remember chips ever being served – or even being on the shoulders of any those I’ve met who had performed thousands of jumps. Beer seems to be the beverage of choice (of butterfly tamers). 

Not far from the Perris dropzone is March Air Reserve Base. On the section of Interstate 215 called the Armed Forces Highway, there is a billboard informing drivers that 1 out of 3 homeless men are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Another billboard nearby indicates the proximity of the Riverside National Cemetery (where I might end up buried if no spots open up anywhere closer to wherever I live and die) and 2 museums dedicated to Prisoners or War and recipients of the Medal of Honor. I’d much rather stay close to “home” with a chipless (NOT to be confused with a Chippendale) FEMALE dancer – if I could find one interested in more than just a few dances (at most). Want any clarification or elaboration on any of this, just ask. At the very least, let me know you stopped by.

© 2008 – 2015, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

Oren Pardes

Oren Pardes has written 48 post in this blog.

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