Cliff Gardner

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go….

I leave on Wednesday morning and it occurred to me that I still haven't told anyone how to get in touch with me while I'm over there. First, I should say that I will try very hard to update CG as much as possible but it might not be very feasible for a while and when I do update it might not be very funny—I'll do my best. Internet access varies greatly in Ukraine so there's really no way for me to know how frequently I'll have access to e-mail either, but feel free to drop me a line at my new address,

OK, here's the deal with regular mail—don't send anything valuable because it might not get to me. However, if you insist, I suggest Meest because apparently they're very good about that sort of thing. Really, I don't need anything. Letters are good, though—I like letters and they will probably get to me safely. For the first twelve weeks I will be a trainee living with a host family, and during that time mail can be sent to the address below. In late December I'll move to my permanent site and while mail will still get to me through the PC headquarters, it will reach me must faster if sent to my site directly, so I'll update when I know more about where I'll be.

Thomas McCloskey-PCT
C/O Peace Corps/Ukraine
PO Box 298
Kyiv, Ukraine

I'll leave you with two quotations about the Peace Corps. The first is from The Great Adventure: "David Crozier lost his life in an air accident while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Columbia. In a sadly prophetic letter to his parents, he said, 'should it come to it, I would rather give my life trying to help someone than to give my life looking down a gun barrel at him.'" My sentiments exactly. The second is from a current Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Ukraine: "The Peace Corps isn't for everyone…just the sexy people."

I love you all! HUGS! :-)


Sunday, September 24, 2006

One part serious, one part funny

Liz and I went to the beach yesterday afternoon and we got back today. It was the last time we will see each other before I leave. We had a great time and pictures will be up on facebook tomorrow afternoon, right after I pack and meet with the Pacific debaters one last time before I abandon them completely. I don’t want to complain about this any more than I already have, so all I’ll say beyond that is this whole “leaving everyone you love” thing is pretty hard. I know these sacrifices are worth it and that joining the Peace Corps is absolutely what I should do. I’m also fairly confident that I’ll look back on my time in the PC as one of the best experiences of my life and as something that changed and defined who I am. However, at the moment, I’m just kinda sad that I’m leaving everyone on Wednesday morning and that I’ll be 5,000 miles away in a week.

OK, here’s the funny part of this entry. Anyone who has driven through rural Oregon knows what I mean when I say that the road signs alone are worth the trip. Lots of yokels live out on the stretches of highways between places people go to on purpose, and many of them have backyards the size of Cleveland and in those backyards, many post signs trumpeting their views on the United Nations, gay marriage, and the Oregon Department of Transportation, among other things folks get worked up about outside of NASCAR season. However, my favorite sign on this particular trip wasn’t in a backyard at all—it was on one of those “adopt a road” signs. Apparently, a particular stretch of Highway 6 on the way to the coast has been adopted by the “Rent a Wife Cleaning Service.” I’m pretty sure that if that company could put on some shoes and waddle out of the kitchen long enough to pop out a few kids and print some business cards, they would read “Rent a Wife Cleaning Service: Knee-Capping Gender Roles Since the Mesozoic Era.”

Friday, September 22, 2006

I'm rooting for Finn, too!

The season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy was last night and it was really good. It had the guy who played Eugene on The Practice, some emotional and witty commentary about death and the Jewish Faith, and even the plague. Once again, GA proved why it is one of the best shows on television.

In spite of that, I can’t help but feel annoyed after watching it. George has officially replaced McJackass as the most frustrating character on the show. He has Callie, a kind, generous, talented, SMOKING HOT woman who manages to care deeply for him despite his repeated efforts to keep her at arms length.

That alone isn’t anything really new to the show. Burke and the bartender aside, every male character on GA is to some degree emotionally abusive to their significant other. However, George adds another dynamic that really bothers me. In last night’s episode, he mentioned how, given time, he might one day fall in love with Callie, as if there’s some magical line that he could eventually cross that will cure his hang-ups.

George is acting like he has no control over who he loves and that idea just bothers me because I honestly believe love is a choice. You can choose to love someone. People can decide to dedicate themselves to someone whom they’ve determined is a good person who is right for them and who has made the same assessment about them. Saying “I might one day love her” is a cop-out. It’s a way for George to not make tough choices and confront his own issues. Some people just won’t let themselves be happy and George is a model for that.

I want to grab George by the shoulders and shake the hell out of him, shouting "LOOK--Meredith is gone. You're not even in the running anymore and truthfully you never were. Callie loves you and she's awesome. The woman is your high water relationship, man. Just be happy!"


I tell my students that nervousness and excitement are the same emotion, just with different attitudes. If that’s true, then I am more exited or nervous than I’ve ever been, depending on what minute it is. For the first time I’m doing something that really matters. When I went away to college I was still only an hour from home. Everything in my life has been safe—fun, amazing and filled with awesome people, but ultimately SAFE. In three months I will be living five thousand miles from home with people I don’t know, teaching something new in a language I don’t currently speak. And it’s going to be really, really cold. In short, it will be radically different than everything I’ve ever done and decidedly un-safe. That’s pretty heavy, and it makes me feel a lot of emotions. At the moment, though—I’m going with excited. :-)

I know CG has been the “listen to Thomas ramble about the Peace Corps” blog for the past week or so and I’m sorry. Here’s something kinda funny. Honestly, my heart just isn’t in it but hopefully it’ll make at least some of you laugh.

Rejected Magic Eight Ball Answers:

--Haha! Wait, you’re serious?

--Don’t touch me there!

--Well that’s a little personal, don’t you think?

--Honestly, I’m not magic at all and I don’t know how that rumor got started so just put me down already!

--I’m sorry, I was watching the really awesome Grey’s Anatomy season premiere and wasn’t listening…would you mind asking that again?

--It’s a party in here! No, you're not invited. Well why do you think?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reality check

Remember your first day of college? You know how you had thought about it, looked forward to it and prepared for it mentally for a long time before hand? Do you remember how real it felt to finally start something that up until that point had just been a good idea? I’ve had a few moments like that in my life where the weight of what I had to do—what I knew I would do—started to dawn on me. My first day of college was one (“wow, I’m in college now”) running the Portland Marathon (“so, I’ve actually got to run for four hours now”) was another. My thesis ("in four months I will have written a really long and hopefully good paper") is another example. I know when I step off the plane in Kyiv, I’ll have a similar moment where the gravity of the situation hits me and I think, “ok, this is real now—I actually need to do this.” I’m excited and scared for that moment. Mostly excited! :-)

I was going to blog a running diary of my going away party last night but the truth is I don’t remember much of it, which I’m assuming means it was awesome! One thing I do remember, though, is that my personal breathalyzer came in very handy, both as a party favor and in convincing me that I should go back to bed instead of trying to drive home. It was surreal to say goodbye to everyone, so I decided to head down to Salem and rip this emotional Band-Aid RIGHT OFF by visiting more friends for the last time. I had lunch with Logan and talked with Brian and tried really hard to get a hold of the allusive Rob but was ultimately unsuccessful, sadly. Tonight, I had dinner with Christine and it was wonderful. Pictures of all of this will follow on facebook sometime tomorrow. I leave for D.C. next Wednesday and for Ukraine on the 1st. Wow.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Three good things

1. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip will go down as one of the top five shows of all time. After watching the series premiere tonight, I honestly think it’s that good. Aaron Sorkin is at his best with this one and the cast is amazing. Get in on the ground floor with me on this one, folks—we’ll be telling our kids about this show one day.

2. My parents got me a sweet ass digital camera as a going away present. I’ll admit it—until now I never really understood why people take pictures. However, this thing is so awesome that it could make a picture of me shoving an entire bag of Sour Patch Kids in my mouth while holding two sparklers look classy. In fact, I think I’ll go test that theory. I’m excited!

3. Today I wanted to eat at Bosco Burgers, my favorite fast food place in the area. However, since I didn’t have any cash on me (as usual) and because I vaguely remembered something about them not taking credit cards, I figured I should called them up first and ask about it before driving all the way over there. Because I was out and about, I used 4-1-1 on my cell and the operator must have dialed the number wrong because I had the following conversation after she connected us:

Confused lady: Architectural Heritage Foundation, how may I help you?

Me: Ummm….do you sell delicious cheese burgers there?

CL: Excuse me?


CL: I think you have the wrong number. Good day, sir—

Me: No, WAIT. I didn’t know that architecture could have heritage, much less so much of it that it warrants a foundation. Since I’ve got you on the phone, why don’t you tell me something about buildings?

CL: I’m hanging up now.

Monday, September 18, 2006


When I applied to the Peace Corps, I was single and didn't really have a plan for the next ten minutes much less for what I wanted to do with my life. I just got out of a long relationship and was working in a job that, while amazing, wasn't something I could do for a long period of time. There was nothing in my life that could keep me from doing the Core.

Since then, I've met a great woman who I care a lot about. I have also taught a public speaking class and enjoyed it so much that I'm pretty sure I'll end up a college professor and speech/debate coach one day. If I weren't joining the Core, I know exactly what I would do and there are numerous things in my life now that are reasons to stay here.

A lot of people have told me lately how great they think it is that I'm putting my plans on hold to help folks for two years. For a while that was funny to me because when I applied, there really weren't plans--or anything in my life, really--to sacrifice. Now there is, and leaving it all is harder than I realized it would be. I have this feeling that the Peace Corps is going to be one of the best things I do in my life, but also that it's going to come at the expense of some pretty good stuff too. The closer I get to leaving, the clearer those trade-offs become.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A ringing endorsement

My sister Katie will be a senior photography major at Oregon State in a few weeks. She makes me laugh more than anyone in the world and is really, really awesome. Since she found out I’m leaving for two years, she’s called me every day and I know we’re really going to miss each other. Yesterday we had the following conversation which demonstrates how funny she is and is a pretty good indicator of how we usually talk:

Katie: So, the day after you leave for Oookraine, I’m going to fly to Alaska and drive down…I’m going to take pictures the whole time, it’s really going to be fun.

Me: That’s awesome, but won’t it take you about a week to get down here?

Katie: Probably. What’s your point, assface?

Me: Nothing shit stain; I just thought you started school that week.

Katie: Yea. Actually, school starts the week before for me.

Me: And you’re going to miss a week of school?

Katie: Meh…it’s OSU. I’ll be fine.

Things I’m going to miss

It’s just starting to dawn on me that I’m leaving the country for a long freaking time in two weeks. Aside from the obvious family and friends (which is so emotionally big that I’ll be dealing with it for a while), here are some things that I’m going to miss about the good old US of A:

--running whenever I feel like it. This is one of the perks of living in rural Oregon I suppose—if I want to go for a run at two in the morning because the moon is full and it’s beautiful, I can. Something tells me that harsh winters, unfamiliar surroundings and my horrifically bad sense of direction will keep me limited to lots of sit-ups.

--forensics. I love speech and debate to the point where I’m pretty sure that I’ll end up coaching somewhere someday. Ever since I stopped growing at 14 and basketball was no longer an option, forensics has been my life and it will be hard for me to walk away, even for two years. I’ll probably try to start up a debate team wherever I land—how do you say “turn” in Ukrainian?

--eating crappy food. I’m a notoriously picky eater so I’ll miss the ability to not wonder what’s in my double-decker taco or double-whopper instead of staring at borsht for half an hour and deciding if it’s edible.

--great movies and television in English. I probably see half a dozen movies a month, so this will be a big step for me. Time to dust off the “save until I delete” feature on that TiVo for Grey's Anatomy!

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Will

Continuing with the morbid idea that I’ll die while serving in the Peace Corps, my dad suggested that I write a will before I leave. Since I have negative net-worth, by a lot, I asked him if he wanted the smaller or larger portion of my debt. In all seriousness, though, below is my actual will that I came up with. It’s a revision of my previous Living Will which, while funny, isn’t really complete:

To my sister Katie, I will my car, the 1989 Chrysler New Yorker I affectionately call Yucca. She’s awesome—I had a lot of fun in her, placing McDonald’s fry containers on top of older McDonald’s fry containers. The headlights don’t always turn on the dashboard lights, but she’s been good to me so I expect you to be good to her.

To my dad, I will what little money I have. There might even be enough to buy that collector’s edition of Lonesome Dove on DVD that’s you’ve been aching for.

To my mom, I will my clothes, except for the funny t-shirts, which I will to Elizabeth Keniston for always making me smile, and my ties, which I will to Andrew Swan for being such a snappy dresser. Mom--feel free to cut them up and do crafty things with them. Maybe a collage?

To Amy Sample, I will all of my movies. You really need to watch more movies, Amy, and I’ve got some good ones! In particular, I think you’ll find Real Cancun to be a good one after a long evening of heavy drinking.

To David, Kristen and Indy Metzger, I will my box sets of The Office, season one of Nip/Tuck, all six seasons of The West Wing, season one of The Family Guy, seasons one and two of Seinfeld and the entire Sports Night series. May they bring as much joy to you as you did to me.

To Sam Mathies, I will my computer and all of my debate research. Thanks for always being there—you’re a great boss and a better friend!

To Christine Newkirk, I will my books. You’re the older sister I never had. Happy reading!

Again, I'm really not planning on dying for a long, long time, so if you all want this crap any time soon I'm afraid you're in for a big disappointment. :-)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I need a good person meter maid

My biggest goal in life is to be a good person. It sound simple, but it’s sort of a struggle. I start off each day at zero on the good-person-meter and it’s usually a rollercoaster ride from there. Take today for example. My Good Person Points (GPP’s) have already gone up and down.

10:05: Go to a local middle school. Visit with my old teachers and set up a pen-pall program with students in a geography class for when I’m in The Core (they’re going to write me letters asking about life in Ukraine and I’ll write back with letters and pictures when I can for two years). +10 GPP’s

10:40: Swing by a bathroom at the school. As I’m washing my hands in the ridiculously low sink, a young man runs into the bathroom and sweats his way over to the mirror. I ask him if he’s ok and he yelps in pain, saying that there are weird bumps all over his tongue. I reply “no glove no love little man” before walking out. -10 GPP’s

11:15: I buy and bring my dad lunch for no real reason. He seems happy. +5 GPP’s

11:25: Seriously consider suggesting that the Peace Corps change the motto from “The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love” to “I got soul but I’m not a soldier.” +2 GPP’s

11:27: Yell at my dog for eating all of my fries and then throwing them up on the couch. -2 GPP’s

1:35: Mail off my absentee ballot request. Nice people vote and good people make efforts to do so, I think. +3 GPP’s

1:37—4:10: Make a very long string of paper clips while watching ESPN. Do not teach anyone to read, study Ukrainian, cure disease or learn to juggle. Bad people are unproductive and lazy. -8 GPP’s

So, as you can see, I’m about even so far. Hopefully I can stay in the black and keep my head above water for the rest of the day. I should send some people some e-greeting cards, those are always nice.

Let's compare things: volume three!

Continued from here and here…this series hasn’t gotten a lot of love in the past from the CG readership, but I’m sticking with this one like a t-shirt on a fat kid in a swimming pool.

This edition is: Jessica Rabbit vs. Paul Hamm

Round One: How red hair makes him/her look

Jessica: Like Lindsay Lohan except with talent

Paul: With the freckles, like an ambitious, limber Chuckey

Winner: Jessica. I actually liked her in Mean Girls

Round Two: Physical exertion in form fitting clothes (See, this is why I should be running the Oscars)

Jessica: Grinding on that guy who played Smee in Hook


Winner: Paul…Bob Hoskins is gross

Round Three: Popular opinion in Asia

Jessica: Banned in China

Paul: North Korea is trying really hard to develop nuclear weapons just to kill Paul after the Olympic gold medal controversy

Winner: Draw

Round Four: Individuality

Jessica: One of a kind!

Paul: One of a kind! Except for his twin brother.

Winner: Jessica

Your winner, on a 2-1 decision, JESSICA RABBIT!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I was just thinking about how I want to travel around New England!

I just finished Anonymous Lawyer and it was really funny. I called this reading experience “the road not taken” because until relatively recently I thought I was going to be a lawyer. This book sort of justifies my choice to run screaming away from the law as a profession, although I admit that the author’s (fictional) experience is not at all typical for lawyers or law school grads.

Speaking of law school, one of the schools I was accepted by was The University of Vermont, who got me a subscription to Vermont Magazine as part of their pitch to get me to go there. Apparently that got me on the mailing list for all things New England because today I got a letter asking if I would like to subscribe to Yankee Magazine. Apparently, for only $29.90 a year, I can get “the very best of New England living, expert gardening tips for every season, award-winning recipes, ‘must-see’ travel destinations, and much, much more.” Well how am I supposed to turn that down? I mean, there are recipes! I’m still not sure, though. I can only afford to subscribe to one more periodical and I REALLY like Trains Magazine. I’ll keep you posted on my decision.

Welcome to Atlanta where the players play

I was going to post something entertaining, but after learning that the Atlanta Braves' run of 14 straight division titles, the most of any team in professional sports history, came to an end tonight, I'm too proud to be funny. The Atlanta Braves are a great team that's had an unprecedented and historic run and I couldn't be prouder of them. Whether you like them or not, what the Braves have done for the last decade and a half deserves nothing less than the respect of every single American sports fan.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


The good news is that I’ve got pretty much everything I need for Ukraine. The bad news is that I’m not sure how I’m going to fit two years worth of heroin in my suitcase.

I should probably tell the people who google PEACE CORPS and UKRAINE that I was kidding just then, at least about the sweet lady H. In the past few days I’ve purchased a lot of helpful crap. My favorite items include:

--Yaktrax! Now, when I’m running around in the inevitable blizzard, at least I won’t fall on my boney yet still somehow cute butt! Cobblestones hurt, so I’d say this is a good thing!

--Super hangers! Take THAT, slacks! I am your boss and you work for me. Don’t ever forget it.

--A personal breathalyzer! See, from everything I’ve read, alcohol use is much more widespread and socially acceptable in Ukraine than in America...try to get your mind around that one for a second...and since I don’t want to be rude to my hosts by turning down shot after shot of vodka, I thought I should at least give myself the capacity to know how drunk I’m getting with a cool little gadget from Sharper Image. Tucker Max-like exploits might very well ensue.

While buying all this stuff is fun, I’ve started the very real and often painful process of saying goodbye to the people I love. I blogged about my family’s going away party for me on Ongoing Onslaught. Basically, I’m surrounded by awesome people who love me and it’s just starting to hit me how hard it’s going to be to leave everyone, even though I know this is what I’m supposed to do.

Monday, September 11, 2006

King Triton: father of the year

I think Ariel’s dad in The Little Mermaid was a pretty damn good father. As a child, I remember being horrified when Triton used his magical golden pitchfork to destroy all of Ariel’s stuff, but looking back on it, I’m pretty sure that she got off easy.

Pretend for a second that you were in Triton’s shoes/fins. Also, imagine that this whole situation had taken place on land. Your only daughter is seriously obsessed with fish. She spends pretty much all of her time imaging what it would be like to swim around, talking with her weird friends about how amazing fish are and singing songs about how badly she wants to dive in and be with them, if only for a day. You put up with this bizarre behavior for a while only to find her secret stash of fishbone necklaces, fish drawings, fish perfume and a giant stuffed dolphin. Most parents would want to smash her stuff and I don’t think Triton was out of line in trying to convince her to straighten up and fly right.

Of course, that emotionally abusive outburst likely only added to the eventual therapy Ariel needed, but still, I sympathize with where Triton was coming from.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I was wrong!

Remember that time I said Predator was the best movie ever made? Well, I was wrong. Unflinching Triumph is by far the best movie ever. EVER. Go ahead and take the time to watch this. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Apparently I’ll be dead soon

A few days ago I needed to be let into a building at Pacific so I called a campus safety officer to come let me in. We got to chatting and it came up that I’m leaving for the Peace Corps at the end of the month. Now, most people usually react with excitement and enthusiasm upon learning about my plans. A few folks are under the misconception that it involves military service, an idea that I am quick to dispel. However, when the officer learned that I would be living in Ukraine for over two years, his reaction was by far the most intense and odd that I’ve encountered. We had the following conversation:

Officer: So, where will you be living?

Me: Somewhere in Ukraine; I don’t know specifically where yet.

Officer: They’re going to kill you. Chechnya is crazy these days.

Me: Oh, well…I don’t think you understand. See, I'm not--

Officer: --NO, I don’t think YOU understand. Those Chechen rebels are going to murder you because you’re an American.

Me: OK, first off, I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of the Chechen people. Second, I’m not going to Chechnya, I’m going to Ukraine. Third, WHAT?!

Officer: Look, I just think they’re going to kill you and I thought you would like to know.

Me: Uh, thanks?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Good advice!

Predator? More like PredAMAZING!

When I saw the previews for Step Up, I was surprised by some of the reviews that called it “the film of our generation.” Frankly, the person who wrote that review obviously never saw Predator which CLEARLY had the “film of our generation” title sewn way the hell up long before the latest dancer-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-makes-it-big-crap-fest was dreamed up by whatever Passions director finally got their big break to make Step Up. By the way, I don’t think I will Step Up. I’ll step down, back, and as far away as possible from any theatre showing that movie.

Seriously though, Predator is the best movie ever made. Just look at the facts; it certainly has all the ingredients for a masterpiece. Future Governor of a Minnesota gets shot in the arm and shouts “I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed” into the camera: check. The guy who played Apollo Creed gets his arm cut off: check. Future Governor of California crushes alien with three ton log: check. The only thing that could have made Predator better would have been an appearance by Elizabeth Berkeley’s character from Showgirls and Gizmo, the cute Gremlin. In a time machine. Filled with pirate treasure.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

So here's the deal...

If Jim and Pam don't get married on the season premiere of The Office, I swear to God I'm leaving the country in protest.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mo Money Mo Problems

Today’s task in Peace Corps preparation was the long avoided and really scary process of getting my loans deferred. Like most college grads, I have lots of debt, and if I can’t stop making payments while serving then I can’t go, so it’s a pretty big deal. I have two big loans—one from Willamette and another from a lender that rhymes with Smells Margo. Here are my highly dramatized accounts of how my conversations with each lender went.

Conversation one:

Me: Hi, I’m serving in the Peace Corps and I need a loan deferment.
Willamette Loan Lady: Oh how wonderful! Where are you going?!
Me: Ukraine! I’m really excited about it!
WLL: Wow, that’s just great. You’re going to have such a great time and it’ll be an amazing experience! You can absolutely have a deferment for the time you’re over there. In fact, we’ll even cancel out a third of your loan balance for the time you’re a volunteer!
Me: I love Willamette so much!

Conversation two:

Me: Hi, I’m serving in the Peace Corps and I need a loan deferment.
Smells Margo Person: I couldn’t hear you; a whiney little girl was talking about how she wanted to go help orphans someplace, would you say that again?
Me: Ummm…I need a loan deferment for Peace Corps service.
SMP: Yea, no. You can go to hell.
Me: But I’m looking at your website right now and I know you give deferments for the Peace Corps; I just need some forms.
SMP: I want you to know that I’m sprinkling a hybrid strain of SARS and Bird Flu with them in the envelop. May your debilitating and hopefully crippling disease keep you warm on your government-subsidized hippie vacation.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


"Why would a reviewer make the point of saying someone's not a genius? Do you especially think I'm NOT a genius? . . . You didn't even have to think about it, did you?"

Eli Cash

A funny thing started happening to me a few years ago. It turned out that most of my friends were geniuses, or at least brilliant in their own ways. I know this because they kept winning big national awards. My old roommate Matt got a William Jefferson Clinton Foundation scholarship to study Arabic and Farsi in Dubai. Jenn, my judicial board co-chair, got a Truman Scholarship. Alletta got a Marshal Scholarship and was a Rhodes finalist. My buddy David got into the best film school in the country. Christine was basically smarter than anyone I've ever met--she's the queen bee of geniuses whose heart matches her brain in amazing awesomeness.

OH, and THEN people started taking the LSAT, and pretty much everyone else I knew became a certifiable smartie. Their brilliance was undeniable—there were numbers to prove it! Now they’re all going to great law schools and I couldn’t be happier for them. However, for someone who’s only great accomplishment was/is being a world-class snuggler and renowned easy-mac enthusiast, this was a slightly deflating. I am not a genius or even really especially amazingly wonderfully brilliant at anything.

However, Kristen and I were talking about this a few weeks ago and here’s what we discovered—it’s ok to be average because it allows for an above-average enjoyment of life. I certainly don’t mean that my genius friends can’t or won’t be happy, just that there’s less pressure on me to be excellent and that might make things easier. Because brilliance isn’t expected of me, I can just relax and teach people to speak English in Ukraine. I don’t have to worry about getting a great job at a law firm or keeping the country safe from Al Qaeda. Being a non-genius keeps things simple—I can just help people as much as possible. At this point, simple is good.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Your Cliff Gardner Horoscope!

Aries: Your paper mache bikini does not make up for in form what it lacks in function.

Taurus: Handball tryouts aren’t what you think they are and I’m afraid you’re going to be terribly disappointed.

Gemini: Despite what your lawsuit alleges, March of the Penguins was not based off of your life and you’re not entitled to any royalties. It will be painfully ironic, then, when you’re devoured by a leopard seal just moments after your case is dismissed.

Cancer: While you’re technically right that the saying is home is where you hang your hat, I don’t think that’s what they meant.

Leo: Don’t listen to them! Your Pog collection is great first date material!

Virgo: You’re just wrong—Chlamydia does not count as a wedding gift so just go to Bed Bath and Beyond like everyone else you cheap bastard.

Libra: The good news is that you’re going to win the lottery this week! The bad news is that your prize will be four cartons of cigarettes which, as I’m sure you’re aware, you’re forbidden to smoke in your Syrian prison cell.

Scorpio: It took guts to go out on a limb like that and ask that special crush of yours out! Too bad that limb was rotting on the inside because of a nasty bout of Dutch Elm Disease.

Sagittarius: I don’t think you can be reincarnated if the person is still alive; plus, you’re nothing like Natalie Merchant anyway so just end your 36 hour stand off in Tower Records already.

Capricorn: You’re right to secure your Nalgene to your backpack using that carabineer. The class-four rock face in between your afternoon classes is pretty extreme.

Pisces: In your honor, Ice Cube will release a remixed version of his famous song this week entitled, “You can’t do it so don’t even bother putting your back into it.”

Aquarius: Your quest to travel the world in a hot air balloon will come to an abrupt end this week, although you will develop a new appreciation for the Disney classic “The Jungle Book” in the process.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Life’s Intentions

Stolen from Dre, these are things that I want my life to be about. Some are more funny than others, but I promise that I'm serious about all of them.

--To be so hilarious that people spontaneously wet themselves and shoot whatever they’re drinking out their nose after a few minutes of conversation with me

--To be able to go to sleep every night feeling good about what I’ve done that day

--To be able to bounce a quarter off my hard, tasty abs

--To be a great husband (to my wife, Katherine Heigl) and father (to my children, Horatio, Huck and Katherine Jr.)

--To be a good representation of the Baha’i Faith

--To be able to shout “who’s your daddy now SUCKA?!” in Ukrainian while dunking over someone I taught to speak and write in English in a village in Ukraine

--To be a good person

Two lies and a truth (because it's more fun than two truths and a lie)

--Labor Day was principally created by Pennsylvania Senator Tony Marino in 1971. Marino spearheaded a campaign to raise the Federal minimum wage but was ultimately unsuccessful in passing the Equal Rights Amendment. Working on the Philadelphia beef yards as a child, Marino learned to love the smell of cattle. He later became a leader in the national meat packing union before running for the Senate in 1968 and strongly endorsing the comprehensive test ban treaty.

--Labor Day was created by Jerry Lewis in an effort to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy. Every year, the Labor Day telethon raises tens of millions of dollars to fund medical research. In the late 1970’s, shortly after personally ending the Vietnam War, Lewis pushed for a national holiday to commemorate the struggles of plastic surgeons who have their hands dirty in the struggle to keep him looking young. Since their white gloves and coats were generally covered in surgical excess, it became politically incorrect to wear white after Labor Day.

--Labor Day may have meant something once but now it’s just an excuse to have a barbeque with your family and read a lot.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I've got to learn to not take these things so seriously

Team USA is out at the World Basketball Championships. Cheering for Team USA in World Basketball competitions is like being a Democrat in American politics nowadays. I know we're better, or at least in theory that we should be better, but we keep losing to inferior people (seriously, name ONE player on the Greek team).

Honestly, I take these losses harder than most people. This year in particular, I bought into the hype that we were a better team than the one that blew up in Athens. I even stayed up late over and over again to watch our games as they were played in Japan. Watching us lose at the one sport we're really supposed to be the best in the world at, again, is like convincing yourself that Santa Claus is real only to be reminded on the cold hard truth, over and over again.

The saddest part is that I know I'm going to do the same thing for the Olympics in 2008. I'm already making excuses for why we lost this game. Seriously, though, with Kobe, Redd and a few more years to play together, we'll be fine. SEE! I'm already doing it! Excuse me while I go set out some milk and cookies for Santa--he's flying to Beijing soon!