Category Archives: Love

Something to Amuse and Perplex the Entire Family

Last night I looked up from writing my novel synopsis and eating peanut butter cookies, and I realized that this blog has achieved a phenomenal milestone. It has existed for 660 days. The significance may not punch you in the face right away, so I’ll explain. The numeral 660 is the area code for Sedalia, Missouri. That town is only a two hour drive from Branson, Missouri. I visited Branson once. I think it’s pretty much how Las Vegas would look if it were built by the cast of Hee Haw, and yet the place entertained me in spite of myself. Ergo, milestone. Don’t you feel silly that you didn’t see it for yourself?

In celebration, I devoted a few minutes to thinking about the posts in this blog, and the number of posts (176) made it hard to keep them straight in my brain. If my tentacular mass of prior posts confuses me, then it probably confuses more recent regular readers, not to mention folks who stumble across the blog.

And I don’t know about you, but when I find an interesting blog with a long history, I’m puzzled about how to locate the parts of that history I might be most interested in. I know that’s what categories and tags are for, but what does it really mean when a post is tagged “camel”? How to ride one? How to raise them? How do they taste roasted? Do you prefer regular or menthol? It would be nice if the blogger would do some extra work for me. I have my own work that needs to be done and cookies waiting to be eaten.

A quick survey revealed that while this is my general humor blog, it does often follow certain themes. Creativity, marriage, work, family, fear and confidence are common themes. In addition, 33 posts mention movies, 35 posts mention death, 17 posts include strong profanity, 7 posts mention snot, and immersion blenders figure prominently in 2 posts. Cats appear in a full 100 of my posts.

Okay, this is a perplexing mess, and I’m cutting through it right now. I’ve extracted eight general groups of posts and a few posts from each group. You can find them below, along with a sentence or two describing each group to help you decide whether those posts might be interesting to you in any way at all.

My Wife

In order to understand a lot of my posts, it helps to understand my wife. This group of posts describes about 10 percent of her being, but that’s the portion she employs daily, not the 90% capable of sinking you like the Titanic. We’ve discussed getting t-shirts that say “Bill will make you cry. Kathleen will make you disappear.”

Travel

These posts chat about a couple of our recent vacations, both of which almost killed us. Jamaica was romantic. Disney World was nostalgic. Both were horrifying in their own way.

Family

My mother died last year, so these posts may not make you pee with laughter the whole way through. Some are a bit somber, but I tried to avoid maudlin.

Baron Yörg Goes to the Movies

My acquaintance Baron Yörg, a 500 year-old vampire Lord of All Things Foul and Unholy, provides the occasional movie review. I’ve been begging him to review Bambi, but no luck so far.

Jobs

Employment and unemployment seem to weigh on everyone these days. In these posts I touched on employment challenges, with a subtext of living in a ditch and eating dirt, rejected by everyone with more than four teeth, and forced to count my lice to keep from going insane.

Death

These posts contain a below-average number of chuckles, but they do touch on some real ways that death forces itself upon us.

Weirdly Philosophical

All right, maybe this shouldn’t even be a category, but these posts look at some odd aspects of living in the world, such as fear, failure, and walking around with a metaphorical stick up one’s backside.

Top 3

These were the three most frequently viewed posts that didn’t fall into any of the other categories. Yeah, I didn’t do any work at all to list these, but they seem cute to me.

I hope this presentation was helpful to folks interested in checking out some of the older posts. Putting it together helped me. I had no idea I’d never written a post containing the word “spleen.” Until now.

If we're going back in time, let's go all the way back.
If we’re going back in time, let’s go all the way back.

As Sentimental as an Iron Boot

No one has ever called me sentimental. At least, I don’t remember it ever happening. It’s not that unsentimentality has been one of my goals. I never woke up on New Year’s Day and said, “This year I’ll learn to speak German, lose 20 pounds, and become a son of a bitch.”  And yet, yesterday when I told an old friend that I don’t really have a list of people I dislike, she looked at me as if I’d said I don’t really breathe oxygen and have a peristaltic process.

I will say that I hang on to a lot of stuff that means something to me, or that once meant something to me, or that meant something to someone else. Or that looks cool, or might fit me again one day, or that I put in a drawer and forgot about. I like stuff, just as my mom did.

Whether or not this behavior is sentimental, it drives my wife nuts. I cannot possibly express how much she does not care about stuff, unless the stuff is a coffee mug or a bottle of honey-pineapple revitalizing body splash with conditioner. I know that she loves me, because she’s come to tolerate, if not respect, my obsession with stuff. And I think “obsession” is the right word, not sentimentality.

My father cares no more about stuff than he cares about any given paramecium in his yard, and he holds an absolute lack of sentimentality for holidays, birthdays, greeting cards and so forth. If you consider those things to be the cozy fire of warmth in the human heart, then he is -273.15 degrees Celsius, and you could shatter bananas on him like they were light bulbs. He’s a caring guy in other ways, but that’s not one of them, and from him I inherited my immunity to the charms of greeting cards.

When I get a card I look at it, think how nice the sender was to remember me, and smile for the benefit of my wife. Then, in most cases, I immediately toss all memory of the card into the recycle bin, along with the physical card itself. I do not add it to a stack of memories boxed up somewhere in my existence.

On the other hand, my mom was created out of sentimentality. She was like a Care Bear that played mournful country music while carrying a book of baby pictures and pressed flowers on her back. She died last year, and about a month later, when my birthday was approaching, I caught myself thinking that I’d see a card from her in the mail soon. I of course stopped that train of thought right away and switched it to, “Well, shit.” Then I realized that I had thrown away everything she had ever written to me.

That realization did not support the festive birthday atmosphere that my wife was trying to create. I moped around a little while trying to look like I wasn’t moping and was instead examining the structural integrity of the birthday cake.

Then my gaze drifted over to our filing system. It consists of four piles lying on the kitchen counter. Three piles belong to my wife. I’m not sure what they contain, but things appear on them, get moved from one pile to another, and somehow disappear, at which point our bills are paid and we’re allowed to continue living in our house. My single pile gets taller and taller until it starts toppling over, at which point I throw away 90 percent of it and put the rest in a tiny pile on my desk. I throw the tiny pile away a couple of weeks later when I get tired of looking at it.

I started wondering whether the card my mom had sent on my previous birthday lay in some stratum of my pile. I dug through it in a casual fashion. It was pretty tall. The postmarks regressed through the previous year, but the last item only reached back to mid-summer. With that possibility shredded, I decided to sit in the library, where my birthday cake wouldn’t be spoiled by the stench of my moping.

A bit later my wife came into the library. She had deduced what I’d been doing, since I’d been muttering about it so loudly that our cats had been peering at me and preparing to hide under the bed if things went to hell. My wife brought me a stack of older stuff she’d taken away from my pile some weeks earlier. She had placed it on my desk in a logical and obvious spot, ensuring that I’d ignore it practically forever.

Without much hope I sorted down through this stack of neglected stuff, and I did not find the card I was searching for until the end. I mean, that card was at the bottom of the pile, the last thing of all. Somewhat stunned, I opened it up and took a peek.

I don’t believe in miracles, or spirits, or destiny. I do believe in the space-time continuum, procrastination, and the law of large numbers. I also believe in my wife’s determination to impose order on a disorderly universe. But setting belief aside, I can say for a fact that on my birthday it’s nice to eat structurally sound cake and read some things that my mom wanted to say to me.

My borthday card with some candles, because... well, you gotta have candles.
My birthday card with some candles, because… well, you gotta have candles.

Does “Intentional Grounding” Mean You Get to Pick Where You Bury the Body?

“I don’t know much about football, but I know it has something to do with touchdowns and steroids,” my wife said yesterday as she scraped up a fork-full of cheese enchilada.

I put down my tortilla-wrapped fajita meat and said, “The championship game is on this Sunday. You should watch it with me.”

Actually, I didn’t say “championship game.” I didn’t call it by its official name either, because no one can call it that without an NFL lawyer climbing up his rectum. I didn’t say the “Big Game,” since that makes it sound like an old movie where Ronald Reagan and Mickey Rooney play football to save some tiny, segregated college. I called it the “Stupid Bowl.” I know that sounds demeaning, but since its fans will spend more money on Doritos than was spent on cancer research last year, I’m standing by that name.

My wife shrugged and said, “I don’t know. It looks confusing. How do you play?”

I wiped my hands and considered how to answer that question in one sentence. “You get the ball, and your team carries it or throws it down the field with a lot of rest breaks, until you carry, throw, or kick it across the goal unless the other team stops you first.”

“Sounds pretty easy if you get a lot of rest breaks.”

I saw that I needed to explain a little more. “No, it’s really a tough game. There’s a lot of strategy. For example, there are two different ways to score points. You can run or pass the ball across the goal line. That’s a touchdown worth seven points. Or, you can kick the ball through the goal. That’s a field goal worth three points.”

“Is there anybody guarding the goal?”

“No, it’s too high.”

“Well if nobody’s guarding it, just kick the ball through it all day. Hasn’t anybody figured that out?”

“It’s not that simple. You may have to kick it from far away sometimes, and that can be hard.”

“When you kick it from farther away, do you get more points?”

I shook my head. “No, it’s always three points.”

“Lame.”

“There’s a lot more strategy besides that. You have to know when to throw the ball and when to run with it.”

“You only have two choices?”

“Yeah, but a lot of different players on your side can run with the ball or catch it.”

“How many?” she said before sipping her sweet tea.

“Um… six. And eleven players are trying to stop you.”

“Okay. Have all your guys except one grab all the guys on the other side and hang on.”

I shook my head. “No, that’s against the rules.”

“That’s dumb. Well, how do you get going?”

“You have a lot of rehearsed attack plans called ‘plays.’ They start with the quarterback receiving the ball.” I began rolling another fajita.

“Why’s he called the quarterback? Is he the one who flips the quarter at the start of the game?”

“No, the area behind most of your players is called the ‘backfield,’ and historically the quarterback stood a fourth of the way back in the backfield.”

“How big is this backfield?”

“It’s not a set size.”

“That sounds pretty sloppy. How far back does the quarterback stand, then?”

“Usually he stands right behind the center, or the player in the center of the line of players. The center has the ball and snaps it back between his legs to start the play. The quarterback holds his hands between the center’s legs so he’s ready to get the ball.”

My wife stared for a moment. “The quarterback stands there with his hands on that other guy’s junk?”

“There’s nothing weird about it.”

“Whatever you say. So the quarterback has the ball. Does he run with it or throw it? Those are the choices, right?”

“Right. Mostly he doesn’t run with it. He either throws it, or he hands it off to someone else to run with it,” I said, assessing how much cheese was still on my plate.

“Wait! You said there were two choices, run or throw. What’s this handing off business?”

“It’s just another way of running. The quarterback hands the ball to somebody else and lets him run.”

“Now you’re just making shit up.”

“No, it’s true, I swear. Now, the quarterback has to be careful not to get tackled, or knocked to the ground in the backfield, because he only has four chances to go ten yards. And if he gets tackled behind his own goal line then the other team scores two points.”

“You said there were only two ways to score! What’s this two points all about?” she said, setting down her glass a little harder than strictly necessary.

“Oh, I forgot, that’s called a safety. And a touchdown is really only worth six points. After you score a touchdown you get a chance to score one extra point by kicking the ball through the goal.”

“That’s not worth three points? You’re kicking it through the goal.”

I smiled and wondered how the hell I’d gotten into this. “Not when it’s an extra point.”

“Are there any other ways to score? Like, do you get four points if something falls out of the blimp and hits a player on the other side?”

“They don’t usually have a blimp.”

“Too bad. I like blimps.” She looked at the last bite of enchilada and pushed it away. “What happens next?”

“Whoever has the ball runs down the field towards the other team’s goal until he gets hit and knocked to the ground.”

“Okay, what happens then?”

“Nothing,” I said, eyeing her enchilada and deciding against it. “The play’s over. Everybody gets up and goes back to the huddle for the next play.”

“You just let him get up? You can’t kick him in the knee or something? He’s just going to run with the ball again if you don’t.”

“No!” The waiter looked over at us, and I lowered my voice. “It’s against the rules.”

“What rules?”

“The unsportsmanlike conduct rule.”

“How do they define unsportsmanlike?”

“It’s—” I stopped. I realized I’d never read a definition of it. “It’s whatever the referee says it is.”

My wife nodded. “Bribe the referee.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Blackmail him then.”

“You can’t do that either!”

My wife leaned back in the booth and crossed her arms. “You said football’s a tough game. I think my definition of a tough game and your definition of a tough game are different.”

I played with the straw in my Diet Coke for a moment and thought about all the years she’s lived with me without once stabbing me in the eye with an immersion blender, even though I’m sure I deserved it every day. She’s played a tough game.

“I may not watch the Stupid Bowl after all,” I said. “The games are usually lousy anyway. What do you want to do instead?”

“Let’s watch Downton Abbey.”

“Um, how about The Godfather?”

Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” she said, taking the last tortilla chip.

Predator?”

Predator—it’s a plan,” she said, smiling at the waiter as he set down the check.

Yeah, that’s probably closer to her definition of a tough game.

Hey, hands off the junk, dude.
Hey, hands off the junk, dude.

Photo by Damon J. Moritz

Photo from the 2005 Navy – Stanford college game and is in the Public Domain

Source: http://www.navy.mil/view_single.asp?id=28028

Give Me an Oil Change and a Color Printer Cartridge Every 5,000 Miles

I drive the cockroach of cars. I don’t mean that it’s nasty, or ugly, or crawls up your nose while you sleep. In fact, it’s rather tidy and smells no worse than transmission fluid and a few escaped french fries. I mean that it will still be zipping down to the drugstore and the dry cleaner many years after I and everyone I know are dead.

I’d like to pause here and mention that my dry cleaner is next door to a fine retail establishment named “Condoms to Go.” I’ve never gone inside to ask about their business model, or why they need to specify that when you buy a condom you must take it out of the store with you. There’s probably a horrible story behind that, and I’m not brave enough to listen to it.

Now, back to my immortal cockroach-car. When cars want to live practically forever, they come to my house. The same is true of cats, by the way. Until last year, I had owned just two passenger cars over the past 30 years. My wife had owned just two cars over the past 20 years, which makes her a money-wasting party girl and the reason we can’t have nice things.

We drive our cars a long time. We drive them until we could hand the keys to a starving crack addict in Guadalajara, and he’d walk away shaking his head. So when we bought a car last year it was an event we’ve experienced only three times since we met. My happy little Toyota sprang one too many oil leaks, and the repair bill would have been scathing. Since the Blue Book value of my ancient vehicle wouldn’t have bought an iPad (even without 3G), I gave it to charity and moved on.

We hunted for cars. We found a car. We negotiated for the car, which is another story, but I did get to fling metaphorical poo at the salesman, which was fun. We brought the nice car home and parked it in my wife’s spot in the garage—because now I would be driving her old car. The cockroach-car. The Honda that had traveled 265,000 miles and was going strong. It could have driven around the world ten times. It could have driven across the USA 88 times. It could have driven to Condoms to Go over a million times.

The cockroach-car has endured because my wife has nurtured it in a way that I don’t get unless my fever is over 103 degrees. For example, cheap gasoline may be okay for the peasants, but not for the cockroach-car. My wife adhered to a complex maintenance schedule. Every 5,000 miles she visited one of three auto shops, each with different capabilities. That’s the kind of attention and determination that produces a cockroach-car that will last forever.

When I inherited the cockroach-car, I also inherited its maintenance log. I was impressed. I’ve even entered a couple of oil changes into the log since then, and I’m following her maintenance schedule to the extent to which I’m capable of understanding its nuances. But I had no idea how rudimentary it was until yesterday, when my wife showed me the new log she’s created for her new car. See for yourself:

Auto Log

I was even more impressed with the new log, especially with the color coding. I counted nine colors, if you include black. That’s a different color for each 12 words in the log. The only flaw is the most recent maintenance on January 19, for which the exact mileage was left unrecorded—it’s written as “51,??? Miles.” This defect exists only because I was the one who took the car in for that maintenance, and like an inattentive child I forgot to write down the mileage. Apart from that omission, the log is perfect.

My wife is known to be an organized person. I am not. As an example, her closet has special hangers, and dividers on the shelves, and bins on the floor for things like her jammies. She won’t add a thing to her closet unless she gets rid of a thing, otherwise the clockwork perfection of the environment might be flung out of balance. My closet looks like I threw clothes in a cement mixer and ran it for five minutes. Therefore, I indulged in some gentle teasing about her rather compulsive, though effective, organizational paradigm for her maintenance log.

When my teasing was done, my wife looked at me from across the couch for a moment without saying anything. Then she stood and left the room. A minute later she returned with a piece of paper from my office. She handed it to me and sat down to continue watching Downton Abbey, still without speaking. I saw that she’d given me a page from a lesson plan I’ve been working on for an acting class. It looks like this:

GT Page 2

Okay, I guess I have some organizational obsession in certain areas too. I don’t have enough to avoid general slovenliness, but I have too much to poke fun at people who really are organized. Fine, then. I’m just going to shut up, shuffle clothes around in my closet to no purpose, and have fun driving my cockroach-car.

A photo of the Literal Cockroach-Car…

A literal cockroach car exists, and I really wanted to show you a picture of it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one that could be freely used, and I’m against ripping off an artist’s work without his or her permission. However, Carl Carruthers has a fantastic photo of the Real Live Cockroach Car that you can enjoy by visiting his site at http://flic.kr/p/7zr8H5.

Sparkle, or I’ll Cut You

At Disney World, if you don’t glitter then you’re a drone. You can push strollers, pay for ice cream, block the paths with your chubby waddle, and fill up queues to make it hard for the real merry makers to get to the Haunted Mansion. But you don’t add to the corona of happiness enfolding the place, and you’re just no fun. Today I saw a man who would kill you just for blinking, but in Fantasyland he strutted around wearing a red sequined Dumbo hat, complete with tail and ears that light up. That guy was fun.

I’ve seen more little girls dressed as princesses than I’ve seen Jack Sparrow t-shirts and coffee mugs. They were cuter than these kittens:

The little Scottish princess from Brave was popular, as you can see:

My favorite tiny princess wore a shiny lavender fairy tale dress and sparkly shoes, and her hair was done up with glitter and other girly doo dads. She was in the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop with a hook on her hand, wrecking everything on the shelves and threatening anyone less scurvy than herself. That princess was pretty, but she didn’t take any shit. My kind of girl.

What did I wear on my journey through the Magic Kingdom? A plain gray t-shirt, gray trousers, and sneakers that I think were black five years ago. I looked like a piece of lint. I was useful for buying hot dogs and saying, “Excuse me,” to people blocking our path to the Hall of Presidents. Apart from that, I was the black hole where merriment goes to die.

I did make a tiny effort to increase the overall tonnage of fun in the park. As we hustled through Frontierland, we heard joyful, terrified shrieks distorted by distance and the Doppler effect. My wife, who’s more afraid of roller coasters than a bottle of gin is afraid of Keith Richards, said, “You can go ride that if you want to. I’ll hold your glasses.”

“Come on. Am I not man enough to make you feel safe?” I said.

“I don’t think so, unless you can reach in and make my gut feel safe.”

“I can do it,” I said. “Maybe I can be the gut whisperer.”

That was not a popular response. Twenty minutes later I was watching robot Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address. There was very little screaming involved.

Oh, and by the way, I don’t think Disney knows that Christmas even exists. You can tell from this picture.

 

 

 

 

 

Four Grams of Chewy Goodness

I realized that my wife truly loved me when she threatened to kill me. We were still living in sin at the time, we were poor, and I had a pretty sharp eye for a bargain. As we sailed down the grocery aisle one day, my wife said, “Look, root beer.” She said it like she might have said, “Look, white whale,” if she’d had one leg and looked like Gregory Peck. She hove to and cut a small bottle out of the pod.

I objected right away. It’s not that I didn’t want her to have root beer, but I didn’t understand why she was buying a small bottle. Root beer in the small bottle cost 4 cents per ounce. Root beer in the giant bottle cost 3.8 cents per ounce. No economic logic could justify it. She might overpay by as much as twelve or even thirteen cents. I presented my position in detail and with determination. At last she grabbed the giant bottle and said, “Fine. But when this root beer goes flat I’m going to pour the whole bottle down your throat,” which would have soon resulted in my death from acute root beer poisoning. At that moment I knew it was real love and that she was the girl for me.

I said all that in order to say this: I’m still a pretty sharp shopper, but my wife taught me there’s more to shopping than price. So when I saw the words “50% OFF” this morning, I did not snatch the item like a snot-stained toddler full of Froot Loops and jam. Instead, I eased my 14 liters of Diet Coke out of the aisle and pondered this opportunity. These were candy bars. Fate was offering me half-price candy. Where I come from, turning down half-price candy is like poking your finger in God’s eye. Life will not offer you anything better that day, unless you stumble across Liv Tyler in a chocolate Ferrari full of cocaine.

As I reached for the candy bar, trembling when I realized it was a giant-sized, two-piece bar, I scanned the wrapper for any promises of extra nuts or a prize inside. What I saw astounded me more than if this candy had been Bluetooth enabled. The wrapper said that this candy contained “4 GRAMS of PROTEIN”. “PER PIECE”. That’s 8 GRAMS of PROTEIN. TOTAL.

I am not kidding.

That was a lot to comprehend. I tried to imagine why someone thought a “high protein” label would make people desire this candy even more. It’s already candy. If candy had directions for use, those directions would say, “Remove wrapper. Place candy in rusty spoon and melt over open flame. Inject candy directly into vein. Repeat until dead.” No person on Earth can be convinced that this is healthy candy just because it has 4 grams of protein in it. What brains came up with this sales tactic?

Then I realized that I can answer this one. During my patchwork of vocational adventures, I have sat in meeting rooms where people thought up ways to sell stuff. Based on my experiences, I imagine that the conversation at the candy company went about like this:

BOSS: Only half the people in the country buy our candy. How do we make the other half buy it too? Let’s brainstorm here, people.

LACKEY: We could make it taste better.

BOSS: I said brainstorm, not throw out crazy ideas! Go get me some coffee.

TOADY: Hey, we put ‘em on sale! Instead of ninety cents each, we sell ‘em three for $2.80.

LICKSPITTLE: That’s horrible. People would be paying more for three than for one at a time.

TOADY: That’s the great part. Most of the morons can’t divide by three.

BOSS: It’s not a bad idea, but we need to reach the cheap bastards who don’t already buy our candy.

LACKEY: Here’s your coffee. Maybe we can just toss candy bars over everyone’s back fence and then charge them for the candy on their utility bill. Nobody ever looks at their utility bill. They just pay it.

LICKSPITTLE: That will never work. It’s fraud. We’ll all get put in jail.

BOSS: Maybe… put it on the parking lot and I’ll run it by legal. What else?

TOADY: We slap a “Made in the USA” tag on every wrapper! A red, white and blue one!

LACKEY: Do we make them in the USA?

[EVERYONE LOOKS AT EVERYONE ELSE]

BOSS: Probably.

LICKSPITTLE: The wrapper’s made in China.

BOSS: Shit!

LACKEY: So what do these cheap bastards who don’t buy our candy have in common?

BOSS: They’re not fat.

TOADY: Perfect! We use the time-tested marketing strategy—fear! They’re afraid of getting fat and dying, so they’re always on diets, right?

LICKSPITTLE: Um… I guess. I’m always on a diet.

BOSS: I see where you’re going with this. What’s the popular diet right now?

[EVERYONE LOOKS AT LICKSPITTLE]

LICKSPITTLE: Low carb/high protein. If my wife puts another chicken breast on the table, I’m going to shoot myself.

TOADY: Okay! We just plaster the grams of protein on the wrapper in big-ass text like it’s a huge amount of protein, and people on diets will buy like crazy.

BOSS: I see. Yes, they want candy anyway, so this is just giving them permission.

LICKSPITTLE: Wait. How many grams of protein are in our candy?

TOADY: Who gives a shit? The fewer the grams, the bigger we’ll make the letters!

BOSS: Perfect! That settles it. Great job, everyone. Pass me a donut.

I’m sure that’s how it happened. As a point of interest, if you were on a high protein diet and got all your protein by eating these candy bars, you’d consume 100,000 calories a day. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it would be enough calories to force you into your fat jeans by the end of the week.

That sales technique did not snare me, I’m proud to say. I owe that to my lovely wife, who expanded my consumer consciousness beyond questions of mere price. I can see past claims about protein, new and improved flavors, and contests I couldn’t win if I had the powers of a Greek god. I stand immune.

Of course I bought the candy. It’s half-price candy. I’m not stupid.

Wouldn’t It Be Easier to Buy 20 Hamsters and Take the Rest of the Money to Vegas?

I want a dog.

I can’t have one, because my dog would be neurotic enough to chew the feet off a bronze statue of Mussolini. Dogs need packs, and while I’m as much of a pack as any man, I’m just not home enough to provide Angus a stable, traditional family unit. Yes, my dog will be named Angus.

Someday, when I’m home to throw balls and pick up dog poop, things will be different. But it still won’t be happy puppy time right away. I’ll have the problem of deciding what kind of dog Angus will be. Well, that’s a lie. I’ll have the problem of negotiating with my wife on what kind of dog Angus will be. She grew up with a giant dog, the kind that eats trees. When her Great Pyrenees was a puppy, it ate a couch. Seriously. It dragged the cushions outside and scattered bits of them across the backyard. When my wife’s mom got home, the puppy had dragged the couch to the laundry room and was trying to shove it through the dog door.

This is the kind of dog my wife wants. She doesn’t know why small dogs exist. If she wants a pet that weighs 15 pounds, that’s what cats are for.

The dog I grew up with weighed less than the daily drool production of my wife’s dog. This dog didn’t belong to me. My mom spotted the Toy Poodle in the pet store one day and fell in love when it nestled into her hands. From then on it was my mom’s dog. It then proceeded to destroy dog myths. All dogs can swim? Untrue, as it proved by falling into the pool, sinking, and sitting on the bottom like it was sitting on the kitchen floor, waiting to be picked up. Dogs are cute, or maybe smart, or at least loyal, right? No, this one was dim, vengeful, and lazy. The zenith of its wit was gathering its turds from the yard and lining them up at the back door when it was angry with us. And cute? Once grown, its closest approach to cute was sprawling on the front seat between my mom and dad for thousands of miles of road trips, snoring and farting all the way.

Okay, I’m pretty certain this is not the kind of dog you can name Angus.

It’ll have to be a compromise. We can each list the qualities most important to us in a dog, and then we’ll find the dog that does the best job of making us both happy. I want a dog that’s good natured, not stupid, can swim, and doesn’t have its own gravity well. My wife wants a dog that’s big enough to hug and can bite a moose in half.

I guess we need to discuss it a little more, perhaps over drinks. A martini or two, maybe a White Russian, a daiquiri, some Wild Turkey shots, and a round of Jägermeister. We can finish off with some punch I used to make by mixing Everclear and cherry Kool-Aid in a dirty ice chest. If my wife wants a huge, grunting, drooling creature that flops all over the bed and whines all night, then booze and I can oblige her.

What kind of dog do you think Angus should be? And what’s your perfect dog?

Hugging today. Biting moose in half tomorrow.

Photo of a person who is *not* my wife courtesy of Hoobly.com.

Why My Wife Would Always Be Able to Kill Me in a Knife Fight

Last weekend I yelled at a foreign man for wasting my life. I might have been overreacting, but it didn’t seem that way at the time. Abe Lincoln said that nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. I suspect I didn’t even make it past the adversity test.

My wife bought a new laptop computer on Sunday to replace her seven year-old Dell laptop that weighs 13 pounds and gets as hot as fresh microwave popcorn. She can’t work without her laptop because she’s a court reporter, a job that I couldn’t do if I had a thousand years to prepare. So, she needed a new machine, and I agreed to help.

My sweetie and I are not as different as night and day. We’re as different as night and a total eclipse that can blind you, even if you’re an orphan, because it just doesn’t give a shit. I’m not saying which one of us is which, but she wasn’t the one yelling at the nice foreign man.

In spite of those differences, when hunting for a major purchase we cooperate like lions on the veldt. We made checklists. We researched. We visited electronics stores so she could handle different models while I glanced from the corner of my eye at cameras and giant TVs. We Googled customer reviews for the models she liked, and she selected her target.

Then we didn’t do anything. We waited a week to be sure the smell of blood hadn’t driven us crazy and made us choose the wrong prey. We were both fine with that. That’s how well we work together when on the hunt. It’s what happens after the kill that leads to yelling and snippy comments and walking out of the room with loud steps.

A week later we went to buy her laptop. Once in the store we got distracted. My wife wanted to transfer everything from her old laptop to her new one, including the software, in one simple step. If possible, she wanted to wave her hand like the fairy godmother turning mice into horses, and it would just happen. If it was more complicated and required her to wave both hands, well that would be okay too. We found software that promised amazingly easy transfers, and it had good reviews, so we grabbed it.

When the laptop salesman walked up, my wife pointed at the model she wanted and directed him to bring her one. He had none. He checked with his company’s other stores, and they had none. He could order one, but he had no idea when it would arrive. Apparently the demo model was just there to amuse people, like a little mechanical horse in front of a grocery store.

I didn’t feel too concerned. Other stores might carry it. My wife was nice to the salesman, but as we bought the magic software and walked to the car she muttered and fumed and said some alarming things. This is one of the differences between us.

The next store didn’t have her laptop either, which sucked. But it had the newer model, which also had great reviews, and it cost less. We bought it and carried it home, giggling all the way.

Here’s how the day disintegrated from there.

My wife unpacked her beautiful, lighter, cooler laptop. She read the magic software’s manual, which might have been written by someone who studied English in another country where people who speak English are punished. She called the manual and its writers and their relatives some bad names. Nearby, I assured her that manuals are overrated anyway.

She put the magic software’s disc in her laptop, and it did nothing but make the sound a grasshopper makes when trapped in a cardboard box. But it worked fine with other discs, so maybe the disc was bad. She growled and accused the magic software and her laptop of doing this on purpose. I nodded in sympathy as I got my car keys.

We returned the magic software, but the store refused to take it back because it worked fine in every other computer they tried. The problem must be my wife’s laptop. Both grumbling, we went back to the store where we’d bought the machine. They spent an hour showing us that the laptop played a bunch of other discs just fine. The laptop and the magic software disc were clearly the god damned Romeo and Juliet of information technology, just fated to never be together. The technician suggested we download the magic software from its website and install it that way. My wife nodded and hefted her laptop bag like John Henry hefting his hammer. In the parking lot I spit on the ground and swore never to shop at either store again.

Back home my wife downloaded the magic software, as relentless as if she had twenty acres to plow. I stomped around the room and bitched about having technology more complicated than a sharp stick. At 8:00 p.m. we started the transfer, which would take several hours. My wife sat on the couch to watch True Blood. I sat next to her with my own laptop and ignored True Blood.

An hour later my wife checked her laptop and saw that some transfer catastrophe had occurred. She sighed and examined the manual as if it were a cookbook that might say she’d just forgotten the eggs. I disconnected and reconnected the cable, and each time I jammed a cable back into a port I imagined I was jamming a knife through the lead programmer’s mouse hand.

We kicked off the transfer again, and 40 minutes later it crashed again. My wife set her jaw and narrowed her eyes. She looked like the NASA engineers must have looked when one of the early test rockets had blown up. I thought about having a drink, but instead I ripped out a rope of profanity, cursing Alan Turing and Nikola Tesla, and Bill Gates too while I was at it.

The magic software people offered 24 hour support, so my wife called and put them on speaker. When the rep answered, my wife concisely explained the problem, while I added occasional frustrated and near-hysterical details. It didn’t help that she had to ask him to repeat almost everything he said because he had only slightly better diction than my cat.

The rep was polite, and an hour later he’d accomplished four things: (1) he successfully replicated the scans I’d done before we installed the magic software; (2) he verified all of our power settings; (3) he screwed up our network settings; and (4) he started another transfer. Then he said both the old and the new machines had to be in “perfect condition” for the transfer to work, so that might be our problem. I did not yell at him at that point. My wife rolled her eyes but said nothing.

Then he said that if the problem was too hard for him to solve, we’d need to pay for higher level support. That’s when I yelled at him for wasting my life, or at least the last hour of it. I’m not proud of myself. But at least I didn’t reach 12,000 miles through the phone and tear something off his body that he or his wife might want later. My wife looked at me the way she looks at the cats when they puke on the bed, and then she thanked the nice man before ending the call.

The transfer did not go well, choking after 13 minutes. I almost offered to just load everything myself, but I saw that my wife was determined to make this work. Every other person who had ever touched a computer would have to die before she’d give up. While I sat on the couch watching Duel at Ganryu Island, she tried the transfer twice more, and each failed. At midnight she called a temporary cease fire, since the next morning she had be in court to write everything said by some inept lawyers.

As of this writing the transfer’s still incomplete. My wife is considering whether to pay the magic software people to help us, but I’m arguing it would be faster to hire a chimp to load everything.

When this all started and the problems were small, my wife fretted like a girl with a lost toy. But now, when hope is almost lost, she discusses her next steps like a chess master thinking 20 moves ahead. When this all started I addressed our small problems as calmly as an elephant addressing a ripe watermelon. Now when I think about this mess I behave like a tiger with his nuts caught in a gate. This is one of the ways in which my wife and I are different. It’s not even the most significant. You should see us in the car together.

My sweetie’s new laptop computer, containing nothing but this picture of her that I copied onto it. She looks innocent and harmless holding that cat. Keep telling yourself that.

The Apricot-Honeysuckle War

My cat dragged my boxer shorts under the bed this morning. I failed to retrieve them because she defended them like a Kodiak bear protecting her cubs, and because my shorts had already been smothered by the herd of dust rhinos that roams under our bed, migrating as the air conditioner blows them around. We graduated from dust bunnies in 2005, and by now we’re unsure what we stored under the bed all those years ago. When we move I expect it will be like a grisly birthday surprise.

My shorts were vulnerable because they fell off the bathroom vanity. Today I leave on a business trip, and I generally pack enough shorts, socks, shirts, and other clothing so that I can wander around Baltimore or wherever in a non-filthy state. I otherwise might find myself unwelcome to return, and I’d never see Baltimore again. Do not laugh. That would be more distressing than it sounds, because there’s a great bar downtown that serves pomegranate martinis and cheese fries. But I require a spot to lay out all these travelling clothes, so I can make sure I haven’t packed too many handkerchiefs and not enough undershorts, which we all agree would be bad.

I lacked the counter space I required. I lost my skull and crossbones boxer shorts, which I wanted to wear on my trip so I could be extra mean to people. I now have to be mean to people while laboring under a handicap. I am vexed. Our bathroom provides two sinks and a sizable vanity, so why is all that space, apart from an area the size of a skillet, occupied? I don’t know, but I suspect that it has something to do with the blinding array of mysterious bottles and tubes my wife has arranged on all of the flat surfaces in the bathroom.

Seriously, on the vanity alone these bottles require a space the size of a Toyota Corolla’s fender. They’ve even crept up the walls. I can’t complain that they’re untidy. She’s arranged them vertically by size and horizontally by alphabet, a feat worthy of any ancient Greek mathematician. I just don’t know what the damn things are and why we have to have them. I asked her once, but she just gave me a Renaissance smile, lifted a red bottle, and rubbed a dab behind her ear. I forgot about the problem for a few hours, but then it returned like a car warranty telemarketer.

I possess half a dozen containers to cover my personal grooming needs: soap, shaving cream, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, and an unopened bottle of English Leather my mom gave me for Christmas in 1998. Combined they take up an area the size of a softball. Any second grader can understand what those things are. One day when my wife was off having her eyelashes dyed, I poked through her collection of bottles, tubes, and boxes. I tried to understand them, but their labels said things like “Juniper Mango Hydrated Skin Revitalizer and Elemental Body Essence.” It was like deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls. Was this some kind of soap? Shampoo? The name included the word “body,” but that didn’t help—everything is part of your body. Maybe it was a toenail cleaner. It also said “revitalizer” and “essence,” so perhaps the stuff raises people from the dead, in which case I’m happy to devote vanity space to it. I put the bottle down and wandered back to the den, hoping that some Bruce Willis movie was on TV.

I could purge the bathroom of these space-consuming, odd-smelling vessels of mystery while my wife is away, but I fear that might end badly. She’s built this collection from the time we met, and she might feel sad if it just disappeared. Plus, I doubt I could blame the deed on anyone else. Apart from that fact that I lack the ability to fool her about anything, no one else but the cats lives in our house. They can and do knock over bottles, particularly in the early morning when we’re asleep, but she’d never accept the premise that the cats stole her bottles or perhaps ate them.

When I get home I’ve decided to buy some plywood and build my own vanity in my closet. I feel a bit like Neville Chamberlain giving up the Sudetenland by surrendering this way, but my wife has strategically outmaneuvered me, and I might as well admit it. I may choose to move this struggle to another front, just to save my pride. I mean, when did our kitchen cabinets fill up with so many shelves full of fancy mugs and teacups?

My lovely wife retrieved the skull and crossbones boxer shorts and left them for me here on the vanity. How nice. This means war. Again.

 

 

It’s Like Sleeping in a Clown’s Trousers

My wife and I disagree on the fundamental nature of our bed. I think of it as a comfortable place to sleep, or have sex, or maybe read a book when more than two cats have evicted me from the couch. She thinks of it as a glorious retreat for nourishing the spirit in a harsh and callous world. If we each described our bed as a kitchen appliance, she would say it’s a variable-speed immersion blender trimmed in ermine, while I’d say it’s a spatula. I don’t mean a colorful, heat-resistant plastic spatula. I mean a steel spatula with a black handle that your granny might use to cook potato pancakes that taste like paste.

Our house has a big linen closet. If I lived alone, that closet would contain one set of white sheets and 72 cubic feet of unused computer components dating back to 1996. The other set of white sheets would be on the bed, along with a mattress pad and a green woolen blanket that some Marine slept under during the Korean War.

Instead, I live with my wife, which is a good thing for me. But it means that my linen closet contains 27 fitted sheets and 36 flat sheets in colors ranging from periwinkle to russet. They come in solid, striped, and flower patterns, plus flannel sheets with jumping sheep on them. Not one of those sheets is white. We also have over 40 pillow cases, some of which aren’t the same color as any of the sheets, so we can have contrast. The linen closet population is rounded out by three mattress pads, nine blankets, four spare pillows, and a duvet that makes a wonderful nest for cats.

This staggering mass of linen is arranged so that you can locate any item within five seconds. That’s because the linen closet was organized by my wife.

When we change the sheets, after the mattress-flipping ritual, my wife generally spends a minute or two picking out the two different colored sheets (top and bottom) that will form the foundation of our bed environment for the next week or two. A bright, cheery color combination will make her happy to be in bed, so I’m glad she takes her time. Sometimes she asks me to pick out sheets, which can be a problem. By reflex I look in the linen closet for white sheets. When I don’t find them, I peer into the closet as if considering which video card to buy for my computer, while I wonder whether brown and purple go together. I’ve never admitted it to her, but I often just pick the colors of a professional football team. The Cleveland Browns’ team colors—brown and orange—might not be the most popular combination at my house, but they work.

My wife likes to sleep, and maybe that’s what this boils down to. She wants to adorn the bed so she’ll be happy spending time there. Eight hours of sleep makes her optimistic and productive. Seven hours of sleep makes her stoic and determined. Six hours of sleep makes her grumpy, and five hours of sleep makes her act like me. I hate sleep. I resent having to give up so much of my life to sleep, and if I could get away with 30 seconds of sleep a night I would. Sleeping is like being sent to the corner of your mom’s kitchen and then waiting to be released back to your life. When you’re sitting in the kitchen corner, between the refrigerator and a dusty sack of potatoes, you don’t care if the place is dressed up like Disneyland.

In the end, I understand why our bed is decorated like a sultan’s bathrobe. I don’t grasp it on an emotional level, but I understand that it makes my wife happy. That’s worth a lot, especially when I’m searching for a place to stash two dozen worthless motherboards and audio cards, and the pantry is looking pretty good.

Orange, yellow, blue, white with brown pinstripes, five cats, and a teddy bear. A bed that will make my wife extra happy.