Category Archives: Marriage

Dragons All Slain? How About a Home Appliance Instead?

My wife despises things that beep. Whenever a blackout ends, her first recovery checklist item is reprogramming every beeping thing in our house so that it becomes a non-beeping thing. So, when our security system randomly began beeping at me Wednesday night I knew right away that it would bug her when she got home. That was literally my first thought. I had walked halfway through the house before wondering whether somebody had broken in to steal our collection of four dozen unmatched coffee mugs.

Well, the system wasn’t sounding an actual alarm. It was just beeping the way it does when a door opens, telling you to watch the cat sprint outside and fall over in the dirt. I felt confident about diagnosing keypad error messages, and this one was easy since it just said to call the alarm company. I examined all the control keys, but none looked like it would connect me straight to the alarm company, as if the keypad were also the bat-phone.

Out of the universe of things that can be known, I have not learned many. But I have learned not to manipulate an electronic security system by randomly pushing buttons and hoping that something good happens. I’ve never seen it done successfully, even in spy movies where people fly airplanes sideways all the way through empty buildings and live. I called the alarm company.

The nice alarm lady told me to push Cancel twice to make the beeping stop. Then she had me push a different button, which gave me a “Low Batt” message. Beautiful. I just needed to change the backup battery. I knew we had the manual, because my wife keeps a kitchen drawer full of manuals for every household system, appliance, tool, and piece of electronics we own. It sounds terrifying, but because of her organizational skills, I had the manual in my hands within seconds.

The battery was the size and weight of a big, shiny, black brick, like something you’d throw through a window at a black-tie riot. I slid it out, ordered a replacement, and was watching TV all relaxed and smug when my wife got home.

At midnight the security system started beeping again and woke us up. I figured maybe I should have hit Cancel twice again after I took out the battery, so I did that.

At four a.m. it beeped again until I hit Cancel twice. Perhaps I needed to reinstall the dead battery, so it could keep the seat warm for its replacement. I did that. The beeping had pulled my wife out of some horrific nightmare, the nicest part of which was being trapped in a car that was washed away by a river of blood. I am not exaggerating. She lay awake while I slept until eight. That’s when the system beeped again. I hit Cancel twice.

My wife in her days as a James Bond villain

We studied the manual the next day because there’s got to be a setting for this, and I hate to call companies for help before I read the damn manual (unless their keypad message says to). We found a possible solution (that didn’t work), and then another (that didn’t work). We were handicapped by the fact that we had to wait for four hours to find out whether a solution worked. And as crazy as it sounds, we had other things to do during the day, so that limited our trials.

At bed-time we decided to just turn off the beeping functionality. Brute force.

At three a.m. it beeped. I pressed the Cancel button an improbable number of times. “Press” may not be the right word. Ten minutes later the system began beeping again.

I called a different nice alarm lady and explained our situation. She said that the system should only beep every twelve hours, not four. I invited her to wait on hold for four hours to experience the joy of the next beeping with me. She declined and said the only ways to stop the beeping were to install a fresh battery (which wouldn’t arrive until Saturday), or power down the system by unplugging it inside the house.

“Yes, power us down! We don’t care about death as long as we can sleep. Where do we unplug it?”

“It could be somewhere in your garage, or basement, or laundry room, or attic. Or in any closet in your house.”

“Really?”

“Uh-huh.”

For the next half-hour my wife and I re-enacted the scene from “Practical Magic” in which Sandra Bullock rips up the entire floor of her Victorian house looking for a deadly, chirping beetle. Our scene was less picturesque in that we were throwing around clothes, and boxes, and vacuum cleaners, looking for a fist-sized, gray transformer plugged into a random outlet.

At last my wife spotted three feet of near-invisible wire running down her closet wall, going from nothing to nothing. Her cedar chest squatted on the other side of the wall. It was a brutal, coffin-sized thing holding her entire past, which weighed more than her current husband. We threw everything out, moved it, and tore the dread transformer from the outlet behind it.

The creature was dead. I wanted to snip it off at the wall and dangle it from the mantle by its wires. We went back to bed just before dawn. My wife patted my shoulder and muttered, “My hero.”

Now it’s Tuesday, and our home is once again as secure as the belly of a constipated whale. I’m sitting around with no tangible threats for us to slay, after which I can take all the credit. It’s one of the curses of modern man. Tonight, I will secretly break the clothes dryer so I can look good fixing it tomorrow.

Do You Want Fries and Souvlaki With That?

When I walked into the restaurant last night my feet stuck to the floor. The smell of grease choked me up a little, and I couldn’t hear my wife over the pressure cookers and fans. I assumed the fans were there to keep the sole employee from exploding like a CO2 cartridge in a bonfire.

I decided that I had done something bad without knowing it, and my wife was bringing me to Uncle Nick’s Greek Fried Chicken to punish me.

One of the fun things about visiting other cities is eating at restaurants we’ve never heard of. McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Waffle Houses are everyplace, so why eat at one of them in when you’re in Nashville or Columbus? We don’t like those damn places much even when we’re at home.

In Nashville I picked out a place called the Whiskey Diner—lots of dead cow and single malt scotch. However, my wife leaned heavily towards the Frothy Monkey, a hip coffee house with comfort food. I was skeptical, since we’re not hip, we’re suspicious of comfort, and neither of us drinks coffee. But I agreed to go with her to the Frothy Monkey for one excellent reason: when it turned out to be horrible I could hold it over her for the rest of the trip and achieve the moral high ground, from which I would dictate all future food decisions.

Sadly, the Frothy Monkey served up some pretty fine food. The grilled salmon sandwich did not suck. So, I arrived in Columbus with no record of being correct when she had blown it. When she suggested Uncle Nick’s I said, “Uncle Nick’s Greek Fried Chicken? Sure, sweetie, it sounds great. I’ll pull up the directions on my iPad, without which previous generations must have circled the same four blocks in bewilderment, until they gave up and built a new home on whatever sidewalk they had run out of gas beside.”

Uncle Nick’s had four parking spaces. That was fine, since it had three tables, also sticky. The only thing Greek about the chicken was that it shared a menu with gyros and baklava. The menu also offered family packs ranging up to 200 pieces of chicken with 300 orders of potatoes, which could be the right size for some Greek families I guess.

We ordered chicken from the skeezy guy leaning against the register. Then we waited. We waited some more. A fellow wearing flip-flops came in and picked up bags and bags of food. He might have been the 200-piece chicken guy. My wife was very quiet. Or, maybe she was talking a streak and I couldn’t hear her over all the pressure cookers. At last, Skeezy Guy brought us chicken. This is what it looked like.

Without exaggeration, it was the best fried chicken I’ve eaten in 20 years, damn it. I may not get to make another food-related decision for the rest of the trip.

https://www.unclenicksgfc.com/

https://frothymonkey.com

Cornuminima – The Horn of Not So Much

My wife and I have been scrimping for a while. We’ve always measured abundance in terms of shopping. In a stable financial situation, my wife can, on a whim, buy a shirt at Target. When things are going well, she can buy two shirts at Target. Right now the unrestricted purchase of Target shirts is prohibited.

Our penny-pinching leads to odd conversations, like the one we had recently when I decided to make a sandwich. I don’t make many sandwiches now because sliced turkey is $8.00 a pound. When I want a sandwich, I have to cook a cheap chicken and slice it into sandwich-sized slabs. I find it a lot easier to just eat a banana, which is cheaper than gravel.

Anticipating my sandwich, I opened an elderly loaf of cut-rate bread, looked at it, and called out to my wife, “Sweetie, I think we’ve had this bread for six or seven weeks.”

My wife was moving threadbare shirts from the washer to the dryer, and she answered from the utility room, “Why? Is it scary?”

“No, not at all. It looks fine. That’s kind of scary by itself.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think it may not be real food. I mean, we only paid eighty cents for the loaf. Maybe it’s like one of those Big Macs that they left on a seat in the bus station, and when they came back a year later it looked exactly the same.”

“You’re just making that up.”

“How do you know?” I walked into the utility room carrying two terrifying slices of bread.

“Somebody would have eaten it.”

I wanted to say that nobody would eat an abandoned Big Mac off a seat in the bus station, but I realized she was right. Maybe I think we’re scrimping, but plenty of people’s yardstick for impoverishment includes “eating stray food from places where strangers’ asses have been.” Buying shirts isn’t even carved on their stick.

So I said, “You’re right.”

My wife smiled, victorious.

“Can I make you an object that looks like a chicken sandwich?”

She made a face. “Nobody even likes you.”

Someday soon my wife will again be able to come home with shirts like this.
Someday soon my wife will again be able to come home with shirts like this.

Thou Art as Gentle as a Touch-less Car Wash

Sometimes I need to say nice things to my wife. I won’t elaborate on the circumstances, other than to say that some involve electrical explosions, and some involve stains that will remain on the kitchen counter until the end of time. That’s not really the point.

The point is that I’ve learned a lot about saying nice things to my wife. Some of my attempts have failed, creating the need to say more nice things in a cascade effect much like a collapsing suspension bridge. But I know how to embrace failure. It’s one of my best qualities, so I have learned and can draw upon my failures in order to share with others.

I don’t get fancy. I limit myself to the classic compliment, which is comparing my wife favorably to something. Shakespeare did it a lot, so I’d say that makes it pretty good. To help you understand what I’ve learned, I have scraped up various things I’ve compared my wife to, categorized them, and indicated which choices are better than others.

Category: NATURE

Pretty Good Choice: Waterfall – It’s pretty, musical and whimsical, unless it’s one of the imponderable man-killing types like Niagra.
Deceptively Bad Choice: Glacier – At first it seems classy and mysterious, but it’s really just a giant, frigid mass that sits there.
Horrific Choice: Mud Flats – Nasty, featureless and barren. Almost any invasive medical procedure compares favorably.

Category: TIME

Pretty Good Choice: Any Season – Especially Spring, because who doesn’t like to be told she’s better than budding flowers and baby squirrels?
Deceptively Bad Choice: Thanksgiving – I start off grateful for all the good things about her, but soon it’s all relatives who owe me money, plus sitting around watching football and farting.
Horrific Choice: Eternity – What am I going to say? She’s better than eternity because she won’t last forever?

Category: ART

Pretty Good Choice: Symphony – Complex, emotional and sensuous. Stay away from the Germans.
Deceptively Bad Choice: Mona Lisa – It’s a famous, beautiful woman, right? However, sixty seconds into this I’m struggling to say why my wife’s smile is better. Then I realize that to our modern tastes, Mona is kind of a troglodyte.
Horrific Choice: Die Hard (the original film) – This was a good idea, I promise. This movie is exciting, funny, touching, and you can’t stop looking at it. Yet I now know unequivocally that I shouldn’t compare my wife to something in which people get blown to pieces.

Category: PERSON

Pretty Good Choice: Her on the Day You Met Her – She is better today than she was the day I met her in every possible respect, without exception or hesitation of any kind.
Deceptively Bad Choice: Helen of Troy – This is a trap. If I’m comparing my wife to a mythical woman who’s the very definition of the most beautiful woman in history, she knows I’m just spewing easy bullshit. She begins wondering what I’ve broken, or what I bought without mentioning it to her.
Horrific Choice: My Mother – Even if I say my wife’s better than my mother in all ways, the only thing my wife can think about is how weird I am for even bringing my mother into the conversation.

Category: ANIMAL

Pretty Good Choice: Tigress – A beautiful, powerful and mysterious feline, which is good because I think my wife likes cats more than she likes me.
Deceptively Bad Choice: Unicorn – All mystical, graceful and elusive until I find myself trapped into talking about horns, virgins, and how many women I slept with before I met her.
Horrific Choice: Hobbit – I swear, it seemed so clever and playful in my head. Out loud I found myself comparing her to a chubby, pipe-smoking, hairy alcoholic who tells lies at the bar every night.

I hope that by sharing this I’ve helped someone avoid an embarrassingly inept attempt to be nice. I have no doubt I’ll continue to push the boundaries of my knowledge, because sometimes I’m a dumbass. In fact, I will now attempt to fix the coffee maker I busted last night, while at the same time considering new stuff to compare my wife to. I wonder how she’d like being told she’s better than Catwoman?

Not just better than Catwoman--better than the best Catwoman!
Not just better than Catwoman–better than the best Catwoman!

Publicity photo of Julie Newmar

Tell Grandpa About The Time You Got Thrown In The Drunk Tank

I am more ancient than most of my friends. In fact, I could be grandpa to a few of them. For others I’m old enough to be their dad. To the rest I could be the big brother who left home before they hit puberty. That’s all okay, because none of them asks me for candy or presents, and that’s what I really care about.

We’ve become friends because we like some of the same things, such as acting and computers and not worrying about the stock market. We’ve had some of the same fun. We’ve made the same stupid decisions. Then we looked around at each other through the suffering we had brought upon ourselves and said, “What the hell. Let’s bond.”

My young friends embrace new things more readily than my own age group, or at least they don’t have a seizure and swallow their tongue when a new operating system is released. That dang Windows 8 is an exception, of course. My young friends get out and do things. They’re a little less judgmental than people my age. They’re sure a lot less grumpy.

My wife, who’s also younger than me, finds it hilarious that I value having friends who go out and do fun things. That’s just because I don’t go out and do things with them. In fact, she met some of them before I did, and for a year they thought she was lying about being married. They never saw me, so they figured I was no more real than a dragon or a leprechaun.

However, my wife’s amusement is unjust. Even if I stay home, I can enjoy hearing about adventures later on, after the hangovers of youth have subsided. Whenever I do emerge from my lair, some of my young friends are often busy doing fun things, giving me the opportunity to tromp along and do fun things too. Just having that opportunity is worth a lot. Otherwise my only options would be cable news, Red Lobster, and fantasy football.

A gang of my friends is going out to drink and tell lies tonight. Although I’ll be sitting here fumbling around with plot points and internally inconsistent characters, if I wanted to I could be out having fun with them, and I’d be welcome. Like I said, that’s worth a lot.

 

One of my younger friends who invited me to a concert by somebody called “Cephalic Carnage.” I think I’ll be busy changing the air filter and testing our fire alarms that evening.
My younger friends sometimes look like this to me, especially when I’ve just turned down their invitation to a concert by somebody called “Cephalic Carnage.”

 Photo by Jon Eben Field
Licensed under the 
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The Oncoming Husband Expiration Date

Whoever said, “If you have lemons, make lemonade,” never met my wife. When you make lemonade, you can drink it, sell it, give it to friends who don’t really want it but take it just to be nice, or leave it in the fridge to become a chemical weapon. In any of those scenarios, by next week your lemons will rest in the mists of history.

My wife believes everything has an appropriate shelf-life. She watches expiration dates. If canned soup hits the “best if used by” mark, she tosses it. Aspirin that expires in November is in the trash by Thanksgiving. Consequently, she goes for things that will last a long time. When we buy regular milk it becomes clabber by the next morning. Organic milk stays good for weeks. Guess which one she buys.

My in-laws possess a lemon tree, and this year it bore enough fruit to fulfill any fertility commandment from the Old Testament. We ended up with lots of lemons. My wife didn’t squander them on something as ephemeral as lemonade. She went for shelf-life. We squeezed lemons, poured the juice into an ice cube tray, and made frozen juice cubes. We had one tray. It took about a week. But now we have zip-lock bags packed with lemon goodness that will fulfill our lemon juicing needs for years. Probably until I retire.

Knowing this makes me feel good. My wife has chosen me to fulfill her marriage requirements, despite the fact that we’re different in almost every way partners can be different and neither of them be a chimp. (If it comes to that, I will be nominated for chimp on the basis of my poor impulse control.) This is not a random happenstance. My wife thinks about these things.

Therefore, it’s my job to think of things she wouldn’t think of by herself. That’s a long shelf-life contribution, and it’s how I pull my relationship weight. For example, she’s been sick for a couple of weeks. She’s been coughing like a French Quarter junkie, and she had to work Saturday. Then one of her crowns popped off before she went to work.

In this situation, at the end of the day her thought process would go something like this:
Illness + fatigue + pain + emergency weekend dental work = soup, aspirin and early bedtime

My thought process goes more like this:
Illness + fatigue + pain + emergency weekend dental work = homemade brownies, scotch whiskey and dumb TV

This is why I don’t get tossed out like bad soup.

Homemade Lemon/Scotch brownies with a Scotch/Lemon chaser
Homemade Lemon/Scotch brownies with a Scotch/Lemon chaser

I Love That You Don’t Care

Speaking as one of the slothful, unemployed wretches draining our nation of its vitality and self-respect, I enjoyed the movie Frozen. My wife and I saw the early showing, because the early tickets cost less, and what else do I have to do in the daytime, really? I’ve applied for enough jobs to form a new NBA comprised of tubby, nearsighted white guys. But thus far no one has needed my particular set of skills, which do not include stabbing terrorists in the eye with a screwdriver.

Lately I’ve been networking like Truman Capote at one of Andy Warhol’s parties, without the LSD, and it’s brought promising results in the way of people calling me about jobs. My wife listens with great patience when I describe the virtues of networking. I know she really cares because she loves me and she hates choking down store-brand peanut butter.

My sweetie has embraced the idea of networking and has begun networking on my behalf, something I appreciate quite a lot. The other day she mentioned my employment deprivation to a friend, and he asked what kind of jobs I’d had.

Rather than use my actual titles in the rest of this post, I shall henceforth use alternate titles evocative of my level of responsibility. In answer to our friend’s question, my wife said I was some kind of Sea Otter Wrangler.

As my wife and I walked across the theater parking lot, digging dollar bills and quarters out of our pockets, I felt perplexed. I told her that I had once been a Sea Otter Wrangler, but that was years ago. After that I became the Manager of Sea Otter Logistics, and I was subsequently promoted to Director of Whale and Dolphin Operations. Most recently I was Chief of Aquatic Creatures That Suckle Their Young. I paused to let that sink in.

My wife responded, “I know it seems like I don’t care about your titles and what your jobs are, but that’s just because I don’t.”

Now some fellows might have been surprised by that, and some might have gotten their feelings hurt. I laughed and clapped my hands so hard that I almost scattered quarters across the sidewalk.

She added, “It doesn’t affect my life.”

I told her that’s what I should have expected, and that’s one of the things I like about her. Her opinion of me has nothing at all to do with my job. In today’s world, that is a gift beyond price. It’s made this job search easier by an order of magnitude.

A lot of things aren’t too important to my wife. When we got engaged, she didn’t want a diamond ring. You can see that I won the fiancé lottery. She doesn’t care whether I remember her birthday, or if I watch TV shows about vampires with her. I bet she’s not even antsy about being unable to buy a shirt at Target.

She cares how we treat each other as people. How we talk to each other, do things for each other, touch each other. That’s what counts. It took me a while to grasp that, and maybe it doesn’t make sense to other people. It makes sense to us, so there it is.

All right, I’m lying just a little. She does care about whether I scoop the cat litter before she gets home. That’s true love, right there.

This sea otter needs to be wrangled in a professional and authoritative manner. As soon as I get off my break.
This sea otter needs to be wrangled in a professional and authoritative manner. As soon as I get off my break.

 

Save Your Marriage From the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe

My wife and I subscribe to the “Oncoming Train” theory of relationship management. It’s based on the idea that every so often a gargantuan freight train of a problem will come along and try to obliterate your marriage. I mean a problem like losing your job, or a death in the family, or bouncing around the house for a year rearranging all the furniture by weight because you think the foundation’s moving.

We’re too puny to stop an oncoming train. We’re too sedentary to outrun it, and we’re too clumsy to dodge it. Our only hope is to keep our heads down and trust that the track won’t come apart.

Within our theoretical framework, my wife and I are each a separate rail on the track. I like to think I’m the right-hand rail, because that’s the side I sleep on and that’s where I sit in the car when my wife’s driving and I’m praying to Jesus. I’m not even religious, so that says something. Our theory states that rails must stay some distance from each other in order to be structurally sound. Really, if two rails are leaning all over each other, then you have mushy rails. What kind of weenie rails are those? A train will squash the snot out of them.

As an example of this, my wife invited me to see an exhibit of steampunk-inspired art. Since that sounded like as much fun as doing something nasty with a dirigible, I declined. But never in the grimiest depths of our psyches did we think that meant she shouldn’t go without me. She’ll go see the brass gears and crap while I stay home and sharpen knives. We’re both happy in our own little worlds.

(This also lets us believe different things without going to war with each other. Recently we’ve argued about issues like teaching intelligent design, and why we don’t just assassinate people we don’t like. We’re both still ambulatory and sleeping in the same bed.)

You may see the flaw here. Independent of one another, rails can sort of drift apart, and they won’t stand up to a Monster Train Assault when one is heading east and the other is heading to Vegas. So our theory contains railroad ties that keep the rails linked.

As an example, here’s how we behave when the other is sick. When my wife feels bad I bring her tea and snacks and the TV remote. I put her in the recliner, cover her with a blanket, and throw two or three cats on top. She seems to like this. When I feel bad, the first thing she does is ask whether I’ve taken aspirin/benadryl/pepto bismol. This is great, because I can say no and she can feel helpful, then I can go off and wait undisturbed for nature to either heal me or kill me. We each provide the nurturing that the other needs. It’s something we share.

Over the years my wife has created, refined, and frequently explained the “Oncoming Train” theory. I came up with the name, which by the standards of our society means I am the theory’s inventor. She says we’re two parallel, independent rails, but all along the way we’re tied by certain things we share. Whenever Hell’s Own Locomotive arrives, we plan to hang on and ride it out.

Or, my wife can just assassinate the engineer.

Looks like the "Bought a vacuum cleaner and a box of toner cartridges for her birthday" train is coming.
Looks like the “Bought a vacuum cleaner and a box of toner cartridges for her birthday” train is coming.

In Which Cookies Attempt to Emasculate Me

My wife has been invited to tea with a bunch of her friends tomorrow. I understand that this event involves drinking tea, eating snacks, and wearing big hats. If you leave out the tea, it sounds a lot like the rodeo to me.

Anyway, my wife has been planning to bake cookies for the tea party, but life interfered today and gobbled up all her potential cookie-baking time. Being a nice husband with some time on his hands and an interest in having sex again at some point, I undertook the baking of her chosen cookies.

My wife wanted Basil-Lime Shortbread Cookies, which are the girliest of all cookies in existence. Just reading the recipe made me want to put mousse in my hair. To defend my masculinity, I cranked up Netflix in the kitchen and blared an action-heavy TV series while I grated lime zest and whipped stuff until it was light and fluffy.

It must have worked. Three dozen ultra-feminine cookies are cooling on wire racks in my kitchen, and I can still tell the difference between a Remington 870 shotgun and a Winchester M97 shotgun.

Some cookies are made with love. These cookies are made with explosions, fire fights, car chases, torture, and bioterrorism.

I dodged a bullet on this one.
I dodged a bullet on this one.

 

The Morally Questionable Side of Streaming Video

A few weeks ago my wife informed me that a new word has been added to our language, the same language spoken by Winston Churchill and Walter Cronkite. Our society has created the verb “netflix.” One may be said to netflix when one chooses a television program on Netflix and watches it one episode after another without pause.

For example, last night my wife and I netflixed the program 4400. It was enthralling. Seriously, we didn’t want to go to bed.

However, a few days earlier we found ourselves engaging in a related behavior for which no word exists, as far as I know. We decided to find something on Netflix to watch, and then we spent the next hour scanning through the available titles and talking smack about most of them. We never did watch a program. It was like being the two geezers in the balcony on the Muppet Show.

Is there a verb for this behavior? I can’t find one. I thought we might call it “net-trashing,” as in, “We net-trashed a lot of romantic comedies and monster movies last night.” That doesn’t seem quite right though.

Any suggestions?

"Net-napping?" "Net-snoozing?" "Net-coma?"
“Net-napping?” “Net-snoozing?” “Net-coma?”