September 13, 2021

ADVENTURES IN THE BUDGET BIN: Mr. Biscuits' Back-to-School Bonanza


Besides the days they were born, the two best moments I’ve experienced as a parent were when my daughters were finally potty trained. No longer required to keep a steady supply of Huggies & baby wipes in the house, it was like getting a raise.

Of course, that raise would later be spoken-for when the girls began caring about their appearance. Hence, all the money I once planned to save for a mid-life crisis Harley gets eaten-up every August when they shop for school clothes. It’s like buying a year’s worth of diapers all at once.

At least when they needed diapers, all it took was a quick trip to Safeway. Now, August weekends are spent hitting the mall, then Old Navy, then Target, then Hot Topic, then Forever 21, then...well, you get the idea. And this is all before we’ve begun the annual Great Northwestern Shoe Quest, a living hell unto itself.

Sometimes I show my age by having the audacity to suggest taking stock of the clothes they already have, or at the very least, checking-out a price tag or two before throwing that new pair of pre-ripped mom jeans into the cart. Every time, I’m met with blank stares from both girls as though I just spoke in a foreign tongue. And alas, my wife has their back, mainly because I suspect she enjoys dressing them almost as much as they enjoy letting her max-out the credit card.

But she has my back, as well, more-or-less letting me be the taxi service. That suits me fine because my daughters are no longer toddlers content to hit the Disney Store. While I love them dearly, hanging around while they shop for clothes designed to accentuate their femininity is a sobering reminder that they’re now young women, making me an old man.

So this year, while they bopped from place to place in search of clothes that are way too form-fitting or revealing for my liking, I sought solace by sniffing-out video bargains at nearby Dad-friendly establishments...

A few stores down from Rue21 was Book Warehouse, which sells hardcovers and paperbacks that are no longer welcome on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. They also occasionally stock movies, and this time I nabbed
Frost/Nixon. Though marked at $3.00, I was pleasantly surprised when the clerk rang it up for $1.88. That officially makes it the least I’ve ever shelled-out for a new Blu-ray copy of an Oscar nominated movie. I know much of director Ron Howard’s work has been spotty over the last decade or two, but The Da Vinci Code notwithstanding, none have been all-out pooches. With great performances from a stellar cast, Frost/Nixon is one of Howard’s better recent films.

The girls found a shit-ton at the mall - and I have receipts totaling in the triple digits to prove it - but I came up empty-handed. However, the next stop was Walmart, where the opposite happened. Though not-at-all surprised they didn’t find anything at the one store where I wouldn’t shit my pants from sticker shock, I found the Open Water 3-Film Collection ($5.00). The Debbie Downers of shark movies, only the first & third films feature fearsome fish, but ironically, my favorite is Open Water 2: Adrift because the characters are all dumbshits who have no one to blame but themselves for their predicament. 

Of course, a stop at our local strip mall meant quickly ducking into Big Lots. I caught the store on a pretty good day, finding the remake of The Manchurian Candidate ($5.00). The 1962 original is an all-time classic, but the 2004 film is pretty damn good in its own right, partially because it justifies its existence by doing something slightly different with the source material, but mainly because Denzel Washington’s outstanding performance makes it better than it ever had a right to be (much like he did with The Magnificent Seven, another wonderful remake no one was pining for).

Finally, that same stop yielded the 2011 winner of Cannes’ Palme d’Or, Jackass 3.5 ($3.00). Sure, I know these films are lowest-common-denominator entertainment aimed squarely at teenage boys and mouth-breathers (which are sometimes one in the same). But what can I say? They make me laugh, and I’d rather sit through every Jackass film - and every episode of the TV show that inspired them - than endure one of Adam Sandler’s cinema suppositories. Besides, this one wasn’t just for me. My two daughters love Jackass, too. So what better way to cap-off an entire day spent draining Dad’s wallet than the three of us heading down to the Dave Cave to enjoy a bunch o’ bros getting whacked in the nuts?

Content with their bundles of back-to-school attire, we headed home, the wife and girls pleasantly exhausted. In fact, they dropped their bags in unison and headed upstairs for well-deserved naps. As I gazed in wonder at the cache of new clothes, I suddenly realized the day would come when my kids would establish their independence by leaving the nest, no longer relying on Mom & Dad to provide their wardrobes. A bittersweet day, to be sure, but also like getting a second raise!

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