In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.”  ~Robert Pirsig, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

I sold my bicycle a few months ago with the express intent to flip the profit into a new and better bike. Then the holidays hit.

Thing 1 wanted Nicki Minaj perfume and cash. Thing 2 an American Girl doll. So Dad waited, suffering through a case of bike-seller blues.

But to start the New Year I gave myself the gift of a new road bike, and last weekend took it for my first ride in more than three months.

I’m still sore.

It was one of those deceivingly rare, crystalline SoCal days: no clouds, plenty of sun, but warmth was illusive. And not long into my pedal-powered excursion through our Elysian Fields -- getting familiar with new gears, brakes and handlebars, exposed and awkward before the world, its traffic, potholes and low-hanging limbs -- I was reminded of the realness of life when one isn’t sheltered in a house, office, gym or car.  

I set out through the Rancho, the aroma of hay, dust and dung thickening the air. An ominous sign.

Past movie studios and entertainment companies, reminders of our humble suburbs’ place in the economy and culture. Past parks where children play and adults practice martial arts with samurai swords and plastic bats.

Roads narrow through neighborhoods where no two homes look alike; the specters of childhood friends come running out to greet me; places I’ve passed a thousand times, yet see the memories now for the first time.

The faster you ride, the colder the wind. Avoid shadows.

Farther on and up that hill, the scent of pine hits you hard, like the sweet smells and sounds from a Sunday farmer’s market; like the memories of my babies and so many nieces, nephews and godchildren being born at nearby hospital.

Under oaken archways past Descanso’s glorious gardens and palatial homes; how I covet the circular driveway not for its measure of wealth so much as its convenience. On these winding, hilly backroads a cyclist must be wary the unexpected round each bend.

Limbs ache and breath grows short in a last push up and over the crest, reminding me my limitations, my age and our struggle in a world that resists yet rewards your efforts. Several miles of easy, down-sloping canyon follow, a fixture in the background of my youth. Fear the speed, the painful and pleasant memories, and over-wearing of brakes.

My high school was large back then. Now it seems the size of a rural Midwest private college. Did I shrink? Down one lane and another I pass my grandparents home on Maple Drive. Happiness. We should all have a Maple Drive to return to.

Past the graveyards where they now rest.

To the river that will lead me back. So much change here too. Blighted parcels have been cleared to make way for a sunny nook of a park. It’s not yet open, but looks inviting. The homeless man that slept in the shrubs before the bulldozers came is still there, reading his books, enjoying his own extreme home makeover.

Aided by the draft from northbound highway traffic, I pass one rider and feel pretty good about myself. Leaving others behind always puffs one up with vainglory. But when I can’t catch up to the next cyclist I feel like a failure once again. There’s always someone with better gear, stronger muscles.

My legs, butt and ego ache as I head for home. Tired, world-worn, enriched.

Can you see all that from a car? Sure. But can you experience it?

It’s scary to expose oneself to the world, its unpleasantries, sights, smells and sounds; the cold and wind, pains, efforts, memories, regrets and trials we do everything we can to protect ourselves against.

And yet… and yet.

That sacrifice -- giving up the known, the thing you may love -- is often the only path to growth and other, hopefully better places.

Do you ever feel like you’re in that flat stretch between two hills? Riding the draft, yet knowing it’s time to break away? Me too. Time to ride, to risk loss and pain in order to get over the next hill.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming…”  ~Robert Pirsig

PATRICK CANEDAY may be reached at


I hate people sometimes. 

This year it was the Berrys from Seattle. A dear, lifelong friend, her husband and their two sickeningly adorable, wide-eyed, precocious sons. Theirs was the first Christmas card we received this year: snapshots of a day at the lake, brief notes about the boys (ages 4.5 and 7.75 to the decimal point), wishes of joy and prosperity.

And it came in November.
Man, I hate them.

It's a hatred borne of unshakable love, deep respect and a pinch of jealousy.

How can anyone, let alone parents with multiple jobs, countless responsibilities and school-age sucklings, get Christmas cards out before December? It's a 50-50 shot we'll get our annual salutations out at all each year.

So this blend of guilt and peer pressure sends me to my keyboard to bid you good tidings this Christmas Season; to enlighten you on the personal trivialities of my life you never asked to hear.

Writing it here also saves me on postage and a trip to Costco to have cards printed. If you must see pictures, friend me on

2012 started like every other year: Ten pounds heavier and deeply in debt after holiday spending on things forgotten by President's Day.

Whenever we thought we were getting ahead, something came up to remind us we're no different than anyone else. We've just finished paying off the Sears bill for myriad appliances purchased to replace those that decided to leave this Earth during a particularly nasty Mercury Retrograde (a diagnosis from one of my more psychically attuned friends).

I joined a gym. Now, instead of sweatin' to the oldies, I sweat to the beat of Techno music in a steamy spin class, pull muscles picking up free weights rather than socks, and discover rare, endorphin-induced trances in which it feels like everything is going to be OK. Go, me!

Thing 1 and Thing 2, our daughters, continue to grow... and grow tired of being called Things 1 and 2. At 11 and 9 respectively you would too, I guess, if year after year smiling, well-intentioned strangers walked up to you in public asking which Dr. Seuss character you were named after.

Their days are filled with school, friends, gymnastics, Girl Scouts, iPods, ignoring their parents and leaving wet towels on the floor. We’re both relieved and angered when they climb atop the refrigerator to fetch themselves something to eat. We continue to fend off pleas for cell phones (pray for us), and are still grateful they're sleeping through the night. 

Our quest for a house continues; a place where each lady can have their own room, and a small corner for dad. Alas, someone forgot to tell Burbank that the rest of the nation lowered home prices in the greatest recession since live radio was the dominant form of entertainment.

We travelled this year, I'm glad to say. Spring Break in Las Vegas, avoiding the casinos and wet t-shirt contests; a weekend on that isle of romance, Catalina, with extended family; and a fortnight on Maui in August with the rest of the first and second world.

I continue to work full time in the fluorescently lit cubicle mazes of a locally-based entertainment monolith and write this column, now every other week. As you probably gathered, once again I did not make the NY Times Bestseller List this year (but once that happens, so long, suckers!).  And The Wife continues to do God's own work helping those having trouble helping themselves. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of prone in a hospital bed, be nice to your nurse.
They're being nice to you. 

In an effort to squeeze that last dram of youth from the toothpaste tube of life, we ran in our first mud run this year. A 5K obstacle course of mud pits, cargo nets, barbed wire and fire. We survived. Our shoes did not.

And lastly, at a dinner party hosted by another dear, lifelong friend, her husband and their three beautiful children, I learned that society is peopled with two kinds of human-like creatures: Order Muppets and Chaos Muppets. In a world where we're all controlled by an Unseen Puppeteer, we're either one or the other. And we always need each other.

As life crawls ever onward, new friendships have blessed me by merging into my path. And others have gone fallow -- taken a season to quietly rejuvenate --but never forgotten. 

If we haven't spoken in a while, I'm sorry. 
If we have, it's not enough. 

And if you are reading these words, thank you. You've given me gifts you will never know. 

PATRICK CANEDAY can be reached at Read more at His book makes a great stocking stuffer.
Like a lot of people, I met the news of Hostess Brands closing with something between melancholic shock and shoulder-shrugging resignation.

Never a huge fan of the Twinkie, I was relieved that I finally got to eat a deep fried one at the L.A. County Fair recently. Take that, Bucket List.

But then the reality began to set in that I may never get to taste a Ding Dong again. Ding Dongs were the favored dessert of my grandmother when she babysat me and my brother. If we were playing with our friends Tina and Liz, she’d hand us each one at the end of the night and tell us to be good gentlemen by walking the ladies home. We got across the street and out of view, then sat down to devour our Ding Dongs while watching the girls walk the rest of the way.

So I set out last weekend to get what might be the last Ding Dong of my life. Little did I know or expect, there had already been a run on that food bank. These things are supposed to have a post-apocalyptic shelf life. Doesn’t anyone carry a back stock anymore?

My first stop was Pavilions, where there was nary a Zinger, Ho-Ho or Fruit Pie. Down Alameda to Von’s. Not even a Honey Bun, but they did have a few low-cal variety Hostess snacks that wouldn't interest even the most nostalgic. A sign recommending the generic Safeway brand goodies really got me scared.

I decided to broaden my search to include the smaller shops. Up Magnolia to Handy Market. Nothing. To San Fernando and 7-11. Zip. Golden Farms Market. Zilch. Up Glenoaks to Ralph’s. Nada. It was like they’d been erased from existence.

The more I searched in vain, the more desperate became my craving. Would I ever again taste the spongy goodness, waxy chocolate-like coating and “crème” substance ever again?

Down Brand I remembered a small neighborhood shop on California. Maybe these tiny markets were missed in the world’s mad dash for the last remaining Hostess treats. Haykashen Market had none. Up to Verdugo, perchance Smart and Final? Not a crumbcake (but there was the ever-present aroma of Original Recipe filling the air from KFC as it has at that intersection since the dawn of time).

I felt like Charlie in search of a Golden Ticket, hunting for any shop that still had Wonka Bars left.

I didn’t realize that seeking this childhood memory would be so difficult. No, they were never high quality snacks. But neither is a Big Mac a good hamburger. That's not the point. They represent a piece of our collective youth; they hold a familiarity and foundation for us. No matter how old you are, enjoying a Ding Dong takes you back to a place and time when the world was safe and no one cared about saturated fats.

This was no longer a junk food craving that needed to be satisfied. This was an outright assault on my childhood that I needed to defend at all costs.

Down Verdugo to the Circle K we frequented late at night as inebriated teenagers in need of a nosh. Not a Donette or Cupcake to be found. I’ve never even tried a Sno-Ball, but I'd kill for one now.

There used to be a Hostess shop on south Verdugo around the corner from my paternal grandparent’s house. I remembered going into this shop – which had the same loud electric doors as Litchfield’s Toys – and smelling the supernaturally doughy goodness of Wonder Bread. Of course it’s no longer there, replaced some time ago by Verdugo Produce market. But surely here, in this last vessel of my youth, would be one two-pack of Ding Dongs that fell behind the rack, waiting only for me to discover…

But no.

I would find nothing to slake this thirst for proof that I, and this world, were once innocent, dreamy and crème-filled.

The Ding Dong, my friends, has gone the way of the Dodo (Sorry, couldn't resist).

The sadness of realizing my youth had long ago slipped through my fingers, never to be grasped again, was overwhelming. Only when it is too late do we truly appreciate what we once had. When it comes to childhood reverie, you can’t go back again.

But in the internet age you can buy it on eBay from a stranger in Springfield, Oregon. For just $7.50 plus shipping and handling, a box of Ding Dongs was delivered to my doorstep. Youth is sweet and savory. And I'm not sharing.

PATRICK CANEDAY is not shopping today. Contact him at Friend him on Facebook. Read more at

                Thanksgiving is just a few days away. And I am already annoyed.
                Though delicious, it will be the same meal, cooked the same way and eaten with the same people. The same tired stories will be shared, the same confounding statements will tick me off, and we’ll end the night painfully full, leftovers in hand, dreading the hairpin turn into the insanity of Christmas shopping and overspending.
                Yeah. I’m a little grumpy. I think I've got bad metadata.
                Though I have a passing knowledge of things technical, just enough to get me into trouble before running to the computer repair shop, I work with geniuses. Seriously. These guys make computers sing and dance, beam digital TV signals thousands of miles into the sky, bounce them off invisible satellites and into homes across the country.
                All so parents can have a few moments of peace to burn dinner, pay the bills or stare at the dusty ceiling fan thinking “I really should clean that. Maybe tomorrow,” while the kids are hypnotized.
                I am a woeful wordsmith among bitrate blacksmiths, and they have taught me more than they will ever know, not just about computer technology, but about the way the world works. And there is one word, one thing, that always seems to be at the center of every technical discussion: metadata.
                Often referred to as “data about data,” says, “Metadata describes how and when and by whom a particular set of data was collected, and how the data is formatted.”
                Metadata is a small file that rides along with a big file; a little information booklet that comes with bigger, more intricate bundles of files. The little file -- the metadata -- is a set of generic details about the big guy, providing much needed instruction and insight.
                For you analog thinkers, consider a book. Metadata is the information before and after the story, the author’s name and biography, summary, table of contents, copyright, publisher's information and page numbers.
                But not only is metadata descriptive, it is structural. Structural metadata tells other systems how to deal with that host file, it's physical makeup, what it likes, what it doesn’t, how to work with that file as it passes through the matrix of this world.
                Since video files are just containers of picture and sound assets travelling together waiting to be played, they need a manual to hand over to the next machine that plays them; something to tell the next receiver the structure of what it is receiving, how to play this complex package of sights, sounds and emotions in synchronization and correlation with each other.
                Kind of like us.
                Our past, our experiences, our genetic stuff; the people, feelings and achievements -- some good, some bad -- we've collected along our way. All metadata.
                Imagine metadata as a chatty little biographer and coach sitting in the sidecar of the motorcycle you’re driving down the highway of life, barking orders and telling everyone you pass all of the filthy details of your existence. Scary.
                It's the gruesome details of every remarkable and regretful thing you've ever done, or had done to you. Specters of every relationship, dream, desire and sin, you've embraced or tried to forget. Everything that makes you the person you see beyond the mirror.
                But it's also what's behind an old lady's smile; that memory, cue or familiarity that makes someone you've never met before and will never see again light up in kindness as you walk past them on your way to work.
                Fathers write it for their sons, mothers for their daughters. And vice versa, which is much more subtle and insidious.
                It is the set of expectations and assumptions that goes before you when you have Thanksgiving dinner with your family and friends; all the preset arguments and pet peeves, joys and unhindered love you know you're going to encounter.

                But, unlike files, you get to add to your own metadata. You can change it, update it. Keep what works, overwrite the data that doesn't and add new information and experiences to make sure you play out optimally.

                That's what I need to work on.

                The geniuses I interact with each day confound, frustrate and amaze me. They're like family. But they know metadata. And surrounding yourself with good programmers and engineers, bosses and coworkers, dreamers and doers, pastors and princesses, friends and loved ones, who all want the best for you, is how we write good metadata for ourselves. And for them.

                Even if we don't understand what the hell they're talking about.

PATRICK CANEDAY makes the best pumpkin pie. Ever. Contact him at Friend him on Facebook. Read more at

The election is over.

We the people had our say.

And Chuck Norris’ prognosticated “1000 Years of Darkness” has begun.

Or it’s simply the end of Daylight Saving Time.

So now that that’s over with, let’s get to a debate that truly matters; one I know you’ve been eagerly awaiting; a vote that will impact your life more than which president’s picture you’ll be throwing darts at for the next four years:

Who makes a better sub sandwich: Mario’s Deli in Glendale or the Handy Market in Burbank.

As a Glendale son and Burbank resident, my heart lays in both cities. And this column appears in both newspapers. In my efforts to rile up residents of both bergs into emailing me over something other than my political, religious and social views, I threw down that truly savory challenge to readers a few weeks ago.

It’s not exactly Hatfields and McCoys, or even high school football. But no lives were lost.

The results are in. And the response was abundant, much like the contesting sandwiches. Overall, both earned rave reviews; each on their own was a favorite.

Aisle 3 at Handy Market is one of the few lines I don’t mind standing in, given its view of the choice meats at the butcher counter, friendly and courteous people. Their Italian Sub is a meal in itself: a foot-long concoction thick as Payton Manning’s forearm; a masterful mélange of hand-sliced mortadella, hard salami, pastrami, mayo, mustard, red onion, pickle, shredded lettuce, tomato and provolone.

At Mario’s there is no line. You take a ticket and wait. Which is a glorious thing. Because if you didn’t have to mill around waiting for your number to be called you’d miss seeing the selection of premium meats, cheese, wine and imported goods; the refrigerators and freezers filled with Italian delicacies, pastas and sauces.

Oh, the clam sauce! Heaven.

The Mario’s House Combo Sub is a double-layered symphony of Salami, mortadella, capicolo, ham and whatever other meats they have available that day, plus lettuce, onion, tomato and mozzarella cheese. Coating the bread is a sauce that combines mayo and mustard.

“Two votes for the Handy Market in Burbank,” Rachel emailed me. “Fresh and tasty.  Not as expensive. While Mario's Deli had a great special sauce and delicious meat, we didn't like the three layers of bread.”

For others it was that special sauce that set Mario’s apart. Pat offered this assessment: “Meat: good quality. Dressing: delicious. Bread: not too dry or too mushy. Sandwich almost, but not quite, too messy.”

Jim felt that the Handy Market offering was a “Fairly straightforward sandwich. Good. But it doesn’t stand out like the Mario’s sandwich does.”

While Jake disagreed. “I liked the quantity of meat and pickles on the Handy Market sub. Lots of flavors and it was easier to handle than the Mario’s one. Plus I don’t like mustard and with the Mario’s sub it’s in the sauce.”

Of the Mario’s sub, Jason said, “A little too much bread. Otherwise a terrific sandwich. I really enjoyed it. I give it an 8/10.” 

And James liked the Handy Market sandwich because he thought, “It had fresh bread, meat, veggies and was nice and cool.  I would put this sub in my good sub category, and at $5.99 it jumps into my very good sub category. “

But in a head-to-head competition, only one sub can reign supreme. And based upon the highly suspect swing-state polling methods used on my family, co-workers and readers, the winner is:

Mario’s House Combo Sub.

Though most felt the triple layers of bread made the sandwich cumbersome, it’s balanced flavors, authentic deli meat quality and special sauce set it apart from the more traditionalist Handy Market sub. But that shouldn’t take away from the value and overall great taste delivered by Handy Market. If this were a barbecued tri-tip sandwich competition, there would be only one choice.

In our frenzied times it can be all too easy to hit the fast food drive-thru or buy Meals-Ready-to-Eat from the supermarket. There are abundant choices for great, affordable food from independently owned shops in our communities. Do yourself and your neighbors a favor by visiting them a little more often.

Which leads me to my next challenge: Where is your favorite (non-chain) burger joint in Glendale and Burbank? Drop me a line, let me know and look for another Food Fight in the coming weeks.

PATRICK CANEDAY likes to eat. Contact him at Friend him on Facebook. Read more at

                 It all comes down to Tuesday.
                The year-long tour de force of stump speeches, primaries, promises, debates and conventions.
                All the mudslinging, invectives, media circuses, accusations, half-truths, almost-facts and outright lies.
                All the straight questions, crooked answers, distortions and illusive five-point plans with only a veneer of substance and little else.
                Every election cycle it happens.
                And we the People fall for it hook, line and stinker. We get swept up in swift-boating, voter fraud, fact-checking and factual amnesia; statistical manipulation and misrepresentation, emotional appeals and exploitation.
                We cling to our favorite media outlet, the one that tells us what we want to hear -- not necessarily good things about our candidate but horrible things about his foe.
                We allow journalists to become entertainers, and entertainers to become journalists, paying them in ratings, blog hits and book sales.
                We watch as ethics-minded news organizations fighting for our right to know the unbiased truth become reality TV competitions where contestants in the guise of experts chant the same mantra: I didn’t come here to make friends but to get my quarter hour of fame to convert into book deals, appearance fees and viral videos.
                We gleefully latch on to each carefully crafted catchphrase and buzz word: big bird, 47%, bayonets, fair share, who built what, the joys of firing people and people as corporations. It’s all binders full of malarkey.
                There they go again.
                We cling to the estimates, studies, research and polls that back what we want to believe, then spit that in the face of any who would oppose such obvious “Truth,” all the while ignoring the facts and figures spit back in our face to support the other “Truth.”
                We argue over wedge issues that are rarely relevant outside of an election year (and never solved), quickly putting them on the backburner come Wednesday.
                Our virtual water cooler, Facebook, becomes venom central; a place to voice your opinions and have them slapped down, trampled underfoot; It's target practice for senseless, mean-spirited and unsolvable arguments. Espouse an opinion on one subject and you’re categorized, locked in a box and labeled for shipment to an island with the rest of the loonies who believe that.
                It’s ironic. On Facebook no one sees the faces behind their self-righteous attacks.
                Incomprehensible financial figures supporting or debunking one position are thrown around like beach balls at Dodger Stadium – a distraction never landing long enough to matter. All the while ungodly amounts of money -- an estimated $2 billion this year -- will be spent on campaigning with little regulation. That's the kind of money that solves a lot of the things we're arguing over, and it is being used to insult, degrade and dehumanize the other guy.
                Friends stop calling each other, turn to enemies, forgetting what bound them together in favor of inflicting wounds that may never heal.
                We’ve been kind of horrible to each other lately.
                We fall for it every four years. We let the pundits, politicians, spokespeople, tycoons and union bosses, spin us up like tops; we're minions doing their bidding by championing their guy over the other one.
                Superstorm Sandy offered only momentary reprieve from the animosity; giving us pause and perspective on what's really important -- each other -- before becoming another weapon to politicize and lay blame.
                And on Tuesday we finally get our say. That is, of course, unless an antiquated Electoral College system thinks the majority made the wrong choice. Again.
                A "Leader" is supposed to rise from these ashes and guide us, united, on his white horse into a bright new future of prosperity, reduced debt, self-sufficiency and human dignity.
                Remember dignity?
                All so one man can get his page in our history books, his label as the “Most Powerful Man in the World” and pretend to attempt to keep all the promises he made; so he can be the next to inherit a national mess and partake in the endless gridlock of American politics.
                This is our country, our right, our system. And our fault.
                How can an entire population see the same two people in such diametrically opposing ways? Why does this country hate itself so much?
                We let it happen. Win or lose, maybe we all get what we deserve.

PATRICK CANEDAY hopes against hope. Contact him at Friend him on Facebook. Read more at

I’m no parenting guru. Ask my daughters. Or my wife. Or the bartenders at Don Cuco.

But, as the only man in a house full of women, I’ve learned a few things that, while not necessarily life-changing, may provide scant relief to new fathers, nods of agreement from experienced dads and a much needed chuckle to older ones.

#1: Know the Fine Line. You found it the first time playful wrestling with your wife or girlfriend turned to can't-resist tickling. Her sweet, pre-coital laughter became demon-possessed threats to rip your arms from their sockets and beat you to death with them.

Like sobriety, knowledge of the Fine Line is a hard-won battle fought anew each day. Finding it today doesn't guarantee knowing its location tomorrow. It is a Lego left on the floor of your child’s dark room: you know it's there but find it only by stepping on it.

And daughters -- like wives -- have a Fine Line.

Men are prone to goofy hijinks: tickle monsters, over-squeezing, machinegun kisses on their sweet cheeks and embarrassing waves at the school gate. But as their giggles rise, whiskers become needles, playful wrestling becomes professional, tickling becomes water-boarding and sarcasm becomes wildly insensitive emotional abuse.

The Fine Line separates perfectly joyful from abject hatred and is, by definition, not a wide, slow chasm to cross. It is sudden and severe. And when you’ve crossed that line, it takes time -- perhaps bribing -- to get back the molecule of trust they had in you before you violated the unwritten rules.

When you find the Fine Line, stay one tickle, joke or gesture on the conservative side of it. If you can.

#2: Fix Drippy Faucets, Not Women. Unless it’s a spider in the bathtub, a headless Barbie or an overflowing toilet, daughters and wives don’t want their men-folk to solve their problems for them. Even if they ask us to.

This one takes time to comprehend. But telling them how to fix something means you think they don’t know how to fix it themselves. Despite the fact that by all appearances they really do want your help, they don’t. They just want you to listen and be sympathetic.

Tell your 10-year-old daughter how to solve that algebraic formula, and before, "…so ‘x’ equals…" leaves your lips, she’s torn the paper from your hands and scolded you. "I know! I know! Gosh, Dad! I’m not stupid!"

When she complains that her BFF-of-the-week sat with someone else at lunch, you could tell her that friendships at this age are fickle, and she should find in herself what makes her so special and deserving of respect. But she'll have her iPod headphones on before you can bust out that deeply painful 5th grade personal analogy you've been saving all these years for this moment.

You’re not doing them any favors by fixing it for them. If this isn’t making sense, don’t worry, you’re not crazy. You’re a guy.

Which leads me to #3: Find Your Thing. Maybe it’s working in the garage, playing guitar on the front porch, online virtual combat missions or whatever else it is you do to escape. Find that thing you enjoy doing in the isolated bubble of yourself to depart briefly from reality.

Especially as your perfect, beautiful, inspiring young ladies get older, you're going to need that place -- physically and metaphysically -- when so much estrogen fills the air like fireflies in spring.

Relinquish the house. Give up all those things you've worked so hard for, save one. Maybe it's the garage, game room, garden or tool shed. Claim it. You are going to need a place to go to remind yourself that it is OK to be different from everyone else in your house.

And if you can't find that place on your own property, allow me to introduce you to "The Hardware Store.” If you have a local butcher, become his BFF too.

For the same reason your wife is an intoxicating, frustrating siren whose allure is enticingly compounded by her mystery, your daughters hold their own mystery.

There are other insights I could add to a list: that girls' feet smell as bad as boys', they think farts are hilarious too and they are Minnie-Me's of both parents. But knowing these things doesn’t necessarily help.

Maybe the one thing fathers of daughters really need to know is this: You are the one man that all others will be measured against for the rest of their lives. So act accordingly.

Basically, you're effed.

And you're the luckiest man in the world.

PATRICK CANEDAY has already made himself sick on candy corn. Contact him at Read more at

All boys does it.

If they tell you they don’t, they’re lying.

You know they’re doing it when they sneak into the garage and hunt around in the dark corners for things they know they’re not supposed to play with.

Yep. They’re doing it alright.

Building obstacle courses.

Kids will spend timeless hours constructing elaborate, imaginative courses to test themselves on; a plank of wood and two buckets become a rope bridge over a pit of hot lava; a swing set becomes jungle vines high above angry headhunters; an overturned folding table is the impenetrable wall of Attila the Hun’s fortress.

When I see my kids building obstacle courses through the living room or across the front yard, I secretly yearn to join in. But it’s just not the same. Through adult eyes the magic has faded. The ability to willfully suspend disbelief and actually see the lava beneath you is all but gone.

So what are grownups with delusions of immaturity to do when they can’t shake the craving to conquer the gauntlet?

Mud run.

Mud runs are what happens when those kids become adults looking for ways to realize and legitimize their childhood fantasies. And turn a profit while doing so.

If you’re unfamiliar with mud runs, picture a military boot camp training course: pits of muddy water, barely scalable walls, cargo netting, high-stepping tire courses. Then imagine an entrepreneur setting up this torturous trek over a 5K course and charging civilians for the privilege of getting soaked, muddy and sweaty to run it.

People turn out in droves. And last week, my wife and I joined them.

It was awesome.

For those who like a little exercise, maybe even compete in local 5k/10k races, mud runs offer a fresh, entertaining and challenging way to compete. There’s plenty of running, but throughout you’re forced to overcome difficult obstacles.

The SoCal Rugged Maniac mud run ( in Temecula last week started with a short trot through a lake smelling of rotten eggs, just to make sure you knew your shoes were going to be wet the entire race. Then leap over a few walls before climbing up a mud hill and sliding down into a mud bog. Then another mud hill, and another mud bog. And another mud hill, and another mud bog.

Don’t mind that guy in the water tanker. He’s just trying to knock you off your feet with a water cannon. Then weave through a tire jungle before crawling through a 50 yard pit of muddy water. And you have to crawl if you don’t want to be ripped to shreds by the barbed wire over your head. Climb another wall then run uphill until your nose bleeds.

Mile one complete.

Are you getting the picture?

Climb a cargo net wall, then run downhill until your legs scream. Leap over three more walls then crawl on hands and aching knees through a 75-yard underground tunnel. You’re getting pretty hot now and those knees are really starting to burn, so it’s time for a dunk. Slide down a 4-story water “suicide” slide into (you guessed it) a pool of muddy water while trying to avoid the bodies piled up before and after you.

Climb another mud hill, then run a few hundred yards to warm back up. You’re getting dry now, so it’s time to crawl through a narrow tube into another muddy pool (covered with barbed wire, of course) then pull yourself out through another tube.

Run back through rotten egg lake then over three more walls just because. To help you dry off, leap over two mid-sized brush fires before climbing atop two stacked cargo containers, fumbling across another cargo net two-stories above the ground then down your last wall.

Finish line!!

Eat complimentary orange wedge.

Claim t-shirt.

And yes, we did this for fun.

Afterward there’s beer, barbecue, music and thousands of filthy, sweaty, brain damaged people just like you sharing their stories. For one day you’re a part of something bigger; for a brief moment no one cares who you vote for or worship, where you live, how much you pay in taxes or what you eat.

You are a winner; one of ten thousand winners who understands what it’s like to test yourself and come out the other end dirtied but triumphant.

Life is a long test and it’s hard to see the results when we’re still taking it. But give yourself a challenge, something hard to accomplish in a day, and you’ll find a strength you may not know you had. And that can make you feel pretty damn good about yourself.

PATRICK CANEDAY is a Rugged Maniac. Contact him at Friend him on Facebook. Read more at

People have a lot of reasons for hating me.
                  My political, religious and social views. My false air of superiority masking deep insecurities. My breath. A hairline intent on disobeying the toll of time.
                  But, perhaps utmost is this:
                  I have a one-song commute.
                  From my driveway to a non-compact parking place at my office, I average one song. And if I hit the lights just right, I don’t even finish that.
                  Hate me if you must. My co-workers do. But a one song commute isn't always a good thing.
                  Sure, I save gas and don't spend endless hours in gridlock. But I also can’t call in late because “traffic is horrible today.” And there's little time to decompress after a hard day at the office with such a short drive home. I do get to spend more time with the family, but I do them little good if my mind is still back at the office fretting over cell M-132 of that spreadsheet I was dutifully populating ten minutes ago.
                  So, whenever possible I walk to work. Beyond taking my commute to a manageable 25 minutes, there are other benefits.
                  Besides finally utilizing iPod playlists and podcasts or Pandora stations I’ve created but don't have time to listen to, walking to and from work has shown me many things I either don’t see or take for granted.
                  Now that summer seems to have given up her stranglehold, there are leaves on the ground. The only sign of seasonal change in Southern California.
                  You know what else you see a lot of on the ground? Spent gum. Little black circles eternally sealed to the sidewalk with a molecular bond NASA can't figure out. Everywhere. It's disgusting and amazing at the same time.
                  You have to watch out for sprinklers. For every yard and building watering their lawn there's at least one sprinkler head misdirected across the sidewalk and into the street. As if concrete needed any more help to grow.
                  Have you heard the story of the columns shaped like the Seven Dwarfs at the corporate building on The Walt Disney Studios lot? Easily viewable from Alameda Ave., Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy, hold the roof up. Legend has it Walt spent everything he had on the 1937 release of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," his first feature-length animated movie. If it bombed, so would Disney. Those Dwarfs literally held the roof up.
                  Past St. Joseph's Hospital and nearby medical offices. The infirm and sickly making their way in for treatment. Every day I see the same used heart monitor pad discarded on the sidewalk in front of one building. It's been there for months waiting for a gust of wind or downpour to take it away. A reminder that I can walk to work; a reminder I can walk.
                  The restaurant formerly known as Chadney's -- man, do I miss that place -- seems to be in a forever-stalled state of rebirth. Like so many buildings, businesses and people I know. The marquee proudly announces upcoming interviews for open staff positions. Last August.
                  And now I am thankful I have a job to walk to.
                  That homeless lady, barefoot, carrying a water bottle filled with something other than water. But she smiled at me. Looked me right in the eye and smiled warmly and sincerely, unlike any of the people I passed who were walking from a home to work.
                  Thankful yet again.
                  So many cars rushing past, their bumper stickers telling us what to think, who to vote for and how to be happy. Kind of like Facebook. If the mysteries of the world could be solved in the space of a bumper sticker or Twitter update, I'd be a rich man. I should post that.
                  I am convinced the most dangerous place in a city isn't a dark alley, bad neighborhood or City Hall. It is any lighted intersection. Look both ways when using a crosswalk, folks, because drivers sure don't.
                  Dead snail. Dead bird. Slumbering spirits on their way to and from.
                  So much dust waiting to be washed away by autumn's first tears.
                  So, here’s my challenge to you this week. Since walking to work isn't possible for everyone, drive all but one mile. Park and walk the rest of the way. Do this just once each week not to save gas, reduce greenhouse gases or improve cardiovascular performance. Though those are all worthy reasons.
                  Do it to see the things you miss; all the real world things that flash past your car window unseen, unheard and unsmelled, as you daily seal yourself apart from the world around you.
                  In the immortal words of Vanilla Ice, “Stop. Collaborate and listen.”

PATRICK CANEDAY hates liver. Contact him at