June 29, 2009
Wish You Were Here
Wish you were here. No, really. It would be fun. I mean, the restaurants would all be really crowded and it would be a bitch to get a good spot at the beach. But it would still be fun. Anyhoo, you're not. So I'm just dropping you a line to let you know that the Cactus-Fish clan is here, at the beach, living it up. We're making sandcastles, walking the boardwalk, eating way too many French fries and snowcones and riding all kinds of rides.
Be jealous, Internet. It's pretty awesome.
June 26, 2009
The Weeklies #91
The Weekly Rallying Cry. Neda.
The Weekly Stupid Product, Or At Least I Think It Is But I Don't Have Boobs So Who Knows. KUSH Support. Yes, finally - an in-cleavage breast support system.
The Weekly Time Waster. Little Wheel.
The Weekly Read. Lisa Lutz strikes again with Curse of the Spellmans, her second novel overall and the second in the Spellman series. Lutz is just plain awesome. And so are the Spellmans, the family of private investigators who populate her novels. They're fun, quirky, zany, silly, and incredibly well-written. What's odd is that they're funny but they also have a great deal of heat and at their core there's a really good, serious mystery. While their styles are different, the most logical person to compare Lutz to is Marshall Karp.
The Weekly Celebrity Death Trifecta. Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. It's honestly a toss-up between Jon and Kate and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Dumbasses, all three of them.
The Weekly Terrible Customer Service. A homeowner in the DC area was more than a little frustrated with Verizon. He followed the Verizon tech to his van, blocked his attempt to leave then finally relented. Until the Verizon guy put his van in gear. The homeowner reached into the van's open window, grabbed the steering wheel, then fell. He later died. Can you haunt me now?
The Weekly Hypothetical. If you had to come up with a last-minute hypothetical question on your day off when you slept late and can't think of anything, what would it be?
June 25, 2009
Thumbs of Green
When I was a kid, I found this preoccupation with digging, planting and pruning tremendously boring. It involved neither music nor getting in trouble with my friends so I pretty much had zero patience for it. But for some reason, I never minded helping out with the hard labor. Every year, my dad would have a truckload of topsoil and a truckload of mulch delivered, two mountains on our otherwise flat driveway. For a weekend, armed with wheelbarrows, rakes and shovels, we'd chip away at those mountains, moving, dumping and raking everything into the appropriate places. Like I said, I never minded. Maybe it was because it gave me a chance to work on my tan. For the ladies. But I never saw the appeal of the actual gardening part.
Beth and I bought our house from its original owners. Owners who happened to found and chair the neighborhood gardening club. That sounds about as exciting to me as a club devoted to knitting tea cozies or memorializing the middle names of former U.S. presidents in needlepoint. But we came out ahead in that deal because we inherited a beautifully landscaped yard. Though it came with some pressure. I'm pretty sure the neighbors, for the last two years, have been waiting for us to drop the ball, eying our yard, waiting for us to fuck up, bungle everything and allow it to grow wild and be inhabited by wild monkeys or just up and die.
I'm proud of us. We've done neither.
Springtime last year - the weed season - Owen was pretty brand-spankin' new. Our yard suffered. This year, however, we've made a full-court press in order to bring it back to its former glory. It's sexy work. At the end of every weekend, we find ourselves in the heat, wearing gloves and long sleeves, sweating up a storm, dripping sweat and blood, comparing the rashes and bites we've managed to get as if we dry-humped weeds and vines to which we're highly allergic. But it's worth it.
Know what's strange about all this? I finally get what my dad and grandparents appreciated about this. I can pop in some head phones, turn on my iPod and dig around in the yard and make stuff grow. Maybe I'm just getting old but there's something nice about gardening.
(Shit. Typing that last sentence made me feel about 80 years old. After I get done here, I'm going to go surf the internet to find the best price on a Rascal scooter than I think I'll head to the local buffet and have dinner around 4:00 this afternoon. If any of you want to join me, please feel free. But fair warning. I can't miss my Lawrence Welk rerun a 7:00 and I've got to hit the sack at 8:00, especially because I'll be up every half hour peeing.)
What things did you not appreciate when you were younger that you totally get now?
June 24, 2009
Despite my rallying cries against them, despite my absolute abhorrence of the way they've let their lives play out catering to the cameras and exploiting their children, I watched the very special episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8 on Monday night. Because I am a lemming and, like millions of other people, apparently, I can't avoid watching a good trainwreck. But instead of the usual schadenfreude-laden guilt I normally experience when watching a good reality TV flameout, I felt pure, unadulterated guilt. Watching the episode made me very angry and very sad.
No surprise to anyone, they're getting divorced.
I was infuriated - in the almost-throwing-stuff-at-the-TV infuriated - by their obliviousness to the fact that they got themselves into this situation. That coupled with their need for us to feel sorry for them pushed me over the edge. When you let the network that broadcasts your show buy you a house so there's enough room for the crew, you turn the TV show into your primary source of income, you've turned reality on it's ear. You're no longer a credible subject because of your ability to bend the reality you're attempting to portray. Jon and Kate filed for legal separation hours before the pre-recorded show aired. The show itself made mention of the separation that had occurred only hours earlier. Orchestration is the word that comes to mind. This is orchestrated. We are being manipulated. And the bottom line, the essential truth out of all of this, is that it was their decision. It was their decision to subject themselves and their kids to this situation that at the very least played some sort of role in their breakup. And now the kids have to pay.
Most of all, though, I was sad. For the kids. The kids didn't have a dog in this fight. They never signed up to be on TV. Their parents did. They never asked for paparazzi to hound them, to snap shot after shot of them at school or on the playground. Their parents did. They never asked for the vast amount attention and pressure that has been heaped upon them. They just want to be kids. And in many cases this is worse for these kids than most. Kids their age get to deal with the sugar-coated tales of divorce their parents pass off as reality, insulating them from just how vicious things might have gotten. Instead, these kids, in the years to come, get to go back, pop in the DVDs and see just how their family fell apart.
I know I'm giving these poor excuses for humanity more attention than they deserve, that I'm giving them just what they're looking for. But honestly, maybe we need to pay more attention to them and call the show out for what it is - the perfect example of the worst our society has to offer. It's got all the ingredients - child exploitation, greedy fame-seeking whores, infidelity, manipulation of reality, and now complete and utter dysfunction culminating in the division of a family. I can't help but think that eventually this will all fade away some day - the show will be canceled, the kids will be off in school, the limelight will be gone - and the parents will both sit back and finally, in some shining moment of clarity, ask what the fuck did we let happen to our lives? By then, they'll be best known as Jon and Kate Who? and the flavor of the month will be the family of dysfunctional midget multiples and their obese lesbian adoptive mothers one of whom will be undergoing gender reassignment. It'll be a hit, I'm sure.
June 23, 2009
Second Life (Or, Streaking Through Cyberspace)
I'm 36 and I know, objectively, that isn't really old but tell my body that when I get up in the morning and I realize I'm sore from, of all things, sleeping. And I don't want to be one of those pathetic 36 year old guys who tries to be 21-year-old-hip, if you know what I mean. Like, I'm not going to suddenly trade my VW wagon for a tricked out Civic, start listening to Lil Wayne and watching Gossip Girl. That's kinda pathetic. But I'm an IT guy and so much of our culture is now somehow grounded in technology that I feel the need to do my very best to try and keep up. I've got Facebook and Twitter accounts, I keep track of what I read online, I have a smartphone, I txt msg (OMFG!!), I maintain (though somewhat less regularly than I used to) an online photo gallery, I've embraced email as my primary form of communication, I have an entire library of music stored electronically with redundant, nightly incremental backups, and, well, I have this site. How cutting edge of me. So, in my personal and my professional lives, I try to keep up with the times, at least where technology is involved.
A couple months ago, I decided to give something else a shot - Second Life. If you don't know anything about Second Life, it's pretty much what it sounds like - a virtual reality in which you reinvent yourself and your life. I know what you're asking - why would you want to build a second life from scratch when you already have a good one going? Answer: I have no fucking idea. But I was curious and, in my line of work, I'd heard a lot about it.
After I decided to check Second Life out, after I'd downloaded and installed the ginormous application necessary (big because, I guess, it was a whole world after all), I was forced to name myself. I have no memory of the name at which I arrived because it assigned some bizarre names based on social status or trade or some shit like that. I felt like I was in some dork's basement playing D&D. Not that I ever did that. Okay, well, there was just that one time but everyone was doing it (um, okay, four guys who couldn't get invited to a sixth grade party) and it's not like I didn't use protection (I had, after all, the Magic-Repellent Cloak of Mordor). Anyway, it felt kinda like that except, after I'd chosen a name and some other random stuff, there I was, on the screen wandering around on some Island of Newbies, trying to get accustomed to my virtual self. Two things became abundantly clear - I needed money and it was going to take me a month to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do.
For the uninitiated, Second Life functions just like reality in that you trade money for services and things. The only thing is? It's real money for fake stuff. Need a new virtual jacket? A toaster to burn fake toast in your fake apartment? A virtual blowjob from a fake hooker? You'll need some cold, hard, real world currency to make those dreams come true. I didn't have any money nor was I sure how I could go about getting money nor was I convinced that this was some lark I wanted to fund with actual cash. So I decided to focus on me for a while and do a little exploring. And what better way to explore than naked?
I'm not sure precisely how I did it but somehow whilst trying to navigate the immense menu of controls and options available to me - an idiot with no idea what I was doing - I managed to free myself from all my clothing. I was naked (virtually, of course) and alone, as if I imagined Second Life Newbie Island to be some sort of virtual nudist colony instead. I became rather less alone when some Second Life Perv Chick named Darla walked up to me and started chatting, apparently oblivious to the fact that I wasn't wearing any clothes. I felt surprisingly vulnerable and embarrassed. I frantically leafed through the multiple menus of clothing options available to me only to realize that Second Life requires one to be very precise about the order and location of the clothing you put on. Darla eventually gave up on me and wandered off to find a less wardrobe-challenged person to chat with. And I couldn't blame her because after she left I noticed that I was wearing underwear on my head and I had no penis. Apparently, Second Life draws the line at realism and that line is around the crotchal region.
It was then, wandering around naked and genderless, that it became clear that keeping up with every trend isn't worth it. Especially one in which you have to build a life from scratch. See, I've done that. It's what I spent the last 36 years doing. I've been successful. I don't need a expensive fake wardrobe with a virtual Beth, Mia and Owen to prove that. I've got the real thing.
Technologically, how do you keep up? And how have you given up?
June 22, 2009
This weekend sported the extra-added bonus of Father's Day. It was, I guess, a Father's Weekend. And normally I'd be totally cool with anything honoring, you know, me. But I don't think I could handle it every weekend. I'm exhausted.
We did quite a few things. We ate donuts, spent quality time at the pool, ordered Burmese takeout, read books, and celebrated. We had the entire family over for a Saturday brunch for which I whipped up about three tons of hash browns and Beth came up with the glorious egg dish which I never got to try because they were gone by the time I got to them. But I hear they were great.
On Sunday morning, after letting me sleep late, Mia, Owen and Beth came into the bedroom and woke me up with snuggling and kisses. "Pancake Boy! Happy Father's Day!" Mia cried. Then she cooked me breakfast. With help of course. She made two varieties of pancakes - chocolate chip and blueberry. As they contained fruit, Mia was decidedly less interested in the blueberry pancakes but those turned out to be my favorite. We had, the previous evening, opened all my gifts because Mia couldn't wait. She got me books. For her. Or, precisely, for me to read to her. She's very considerate.
After breakfast, my parents brought over a screen we somehow managed to inherit. I say somehow though I know the exact way but to mention it here would bore you to tears and probably prove more confusing than its worth. Anyway, I'm pretty sure my parents never opened it up because, if they had, they'd never have given it up.
This weekend was absolutely perfect, not because of the party or the gifts or the pancakes. It was perfect because my family was with me. Whether we were at the mall or curled up in bed cuddling or giving into one of Mia's many requests for a group hug, we were together. Mia is growing up a little more everyday. Her legs are long and tan, she swims everyday, and uses a vast vocabulary I have no idea how she got. Owen is suddenly running and talking. I guess what I'm trying to say is that time flies and the older you get, the quicker it goes. So those moments in which you have everyone you love handy are the best moments you can have.
Mia: Let's snuggle. And talk.
Me: What do you want to talk about.
Mia: About how dark blue can possibly be.
And then we talked about how dark blue could possibly be. And cuddled. Not surprisingly, there's not a lot you can say about the relative darkness of blue. But that's okay.
Haiku For Monday #273
I 'ku a lot, yo.
Two hundred seventy three
Is a big number.
June 19, 2009
The Weeklies #90
The Weekly Way You Can Let The Internet Make All Your Decisions For You. Hunch.com is a pretty cool little site. Tell it a little about yourself - your likes, dislikes and habits - and it'll help you answer some questions you might be on the fence about. For instance, the other day it told me that I should definitely not get a tattoo and that, I was probably in the mood for pale ale. Which is why...
The Weekly Beer. Widmer's Drifter. This stuff is good. And odd. But good. It pretty much tastes like you've squeezed a grapefruit into your beer. That, surprisingly, doesn't suck. In fact, it kinda kicks ass.
The Weekly Worst Product Ever. Can't (or won't) wipe your own ass anymore? Never fear, Comfort Wipe is here!
The Weekly Time-Waster. Redstar Fall.
The Weekly Gadget. The new iPhone. Yeah, I'm green with envy.
The Weekly Read. Though we're only halfway through the year, I suspect that Greg Ames' Buffalo Lockjaw will easily make my list of top ten books of 2009. It is wonderfully fresh, simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. And to be hilarious while writing about Alzheimer's and assisted-suicide is something of a feat.
The Weekly Music. You've probably never heard of Elizabeth & The Catapult. But you should. Taller Children, the band's debut, is a confused mess of styles and influences, wrapped up in a beautiful package and somehow made to work. Elizabeth's voice is spectacular. Think Amiee Mann without the mumbling and with greater range and clarity. The musicianship is wonderful. This is clearly a band of insanely talented musicians. And those musicians weave a variety of influences - straight-forward rock, folk, jazz - into a really impressive stew of poppy goodness that is clever, catchy and meaningful. I honestly can't recommend this enough.
The Weekly Dose of Political Chaos. Iran. We're witnessing something incredible here, a people often repressed by its leaders rising up to challenge authority. Not something that happens in that part of the world all that often. But we're also witnessing the battle between technology - namely social media and the internet - and political rule and suppression. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. Eighteen year old Kimberley Vlaeminck asked for three stars to be tattooed on her face. Then fell asleep during the procedure. Now, I don't have any tats but I hear they're a tiny bit painful. One wonders how she fell asleep. That's not the punchline though. No, when she woke up, she had 56 stars tattooed on her face. Apparently there was a little misunderstanding.
The Weekly Hypothetical. The world is going to end in five years. You have the opportunity to travel to a colony on the moon and spend the rest of your life there. Or, you can spend the next five years on the earth. Your immediate family goes or stays with you. What do you do?
June 18, 2009
Trying to Empty The Dishwasher*
I present to you any number of signs that I have, perhaps, chosen the wrong doctor.
Me: Hi, I was referred to you by my primary care physician and I'd like to schedule an appointment to come in and see Dr. Smith.
Receptionist: Okay, sir. What would this appointment be about?
Me: A vasectomy.
Receptionist: And when would you like to have your vasectomy? We have openings next Tuesday and Thursday.
Me: I was kinda hoping to come in and meet the doctor and talk about the procedure. Before having it done.
Receptionist: Snip snip. There. That's the procedure. When do you want to come in for the vasectomy?
Me: Still hoping to see a doctor.
Receptionist: I just told you when he'll do.
Me: Yeah, but are you a board-certified medical practitioner?
Me: Then I'm thinking - and no offense intended - I'd like to talk to an actual doctor who's, you know, trained in the snip-snipping.
Me: At the very lest, I'd like to talk to him and make sure I'm comfortable with him.
Receptionist: He snips your balls. Takes five minutes. What's there to be comfortable with?
Me: If he was, you know, a meth addict who wore a clown suit to work everyday, I might think twice.
Receptionist: He's never worn a clown suit to work.
Me: How about the meth?
Receptionist: I don't think so. He's Jewish.
Me: What does being Jewish have to do with meth?
Receptionist: It's against the teachings of the Koran.
Me: Um... Never mind. I'd still like to see the doctor.
Receptionist: He has some available appointments in late July.
Me: You just told me he could do the procedure next Tuesday.
Receptionist: He doesn't really consult with people much. Just does the operating.
Me: You know what?
Me: I've got the name of another doctor I might try.
Receptionist: Suit yourself. Just give us a call.
Me: When hell freezes over. When hell freezes over I'll come in, get snipped and ice my balls with a small slice of hell.
Luckily, I have a few more names on my list. Moving right along...
* more about "the dishwasher".
June 17, 2009
21 Reasons The Internet Scares The Crap Out Of Me
It's been a while since I delved into the sometimes hilarious, more often bat-shit crazy search strings that dead-end into my site. So I opened up all my site logs and ended up finding some real gems. Take a look for yourselves.
- My parents heard me say fuck. Oh, uh, fuck! Say it ain't so.
- Hundreds of tiny spiders come on our ceilings. Maybe they're shooting some arachnid gang-bang porn? A little spider bukkake?
- The word fuck excites me. Are you, perhaps, related to that first guy?
- I'm so glad I don't have balls kick. Fine, rub it in. But I can pee standing up.
- Grapenuts ice cream Columbus, OH. Half my family is from Ohio so I think it gives me some right to say this. People in Ohio are fucking nuts. Grapenut ice cream?
- Waffles quotes. Madam, we must have waffles! We must all have waffles forthwith! We must all think, and we must all have waffles, and think each and every one of us to the very best of his ability. Tom Hanks in The Ladykillers.
- Do not scare my kids talking about apocalypse. Someone could have shared the same sentiment when we were all hiding under our desks in elementary school in atomic-bomb-unleash-the-fires-of-hell drills. Like a desk was going to do any damn good.
- Three programmers walk into a bar. Okay, I'll play. The first turned to the other two and said "want a byte?"
- 81 year old father can't stop burping and farting. Two words - mercy killing.
- Hilarious vibrators. Once met a vibrator with his own stand up act in Vegas. Quite a buzz about him. For reals.
- Stripper Shortcake. When Strawberry Shortcake wasn't cute and cuddly anymore, she still needed to feed herself.
- Why do people make mistakes and then feel sorry for them when they know that they can t change anything?sometimes you just need to walk away and pretend that everything is ok don t try to fix it cuz maybe you ll make it worse. That is so emo.
- Jeff Probst penis. Probst's Probe.
- Speedo sausage mullet. Never before have three seemingly randomly strung-together words terrified me so.
- Does it rain more on weekends because most big factorys are shut down? No. It actually rains more on weekends just to piss you off. And learn how to spell factories.
- Can I put a tampon in my butt. Yes. Please note - the words can and should have to very different meanings and implications.
- Did They Might Be Giants write The Backyardigans theme song? No. They didn't. The song - and all the music - is brilliantly written by Evan Lurie and Douglas Wieselman.
- How to kill and keep cactuses out of your yard. You can just tell me to leave. Don't get all drastic and homicidal.
- Nachos & midgets & sombreros. One word - Partay!
- Wilma and Betty hardcore whores. Finally someone else who understands the true nature of The Flintstones.
- What would happen if a horse and a woman had sex? Obviously you haven't explored the darkest corners of the internet.
What's the weirdest thing you've searched for?
June 16, 2009
The Whistle Monologues
Over the weekend, Mia told me that she needed to show me something. She was desperate to share whatever it was as the request was infused with drama. And then she reached into her pants.
This scared me a little not because I blush or stammer or become the least bit uncomfortable with anatomically-focused discussions of which there seem to be many in my household. Quite the contrary. I don't mind at all. As a matter of fact, this very weekend Owen and I shared an anatomical eureka moment ourselves when he discovered that I, too, had a penis. I'd just gotten out of the shower. He saw it and rushed me, pointing and shouting. Then he grabbed it and pulled and that was the end of that. Anyway, this scared me only because we've been having the whole vagina-private-parts discussion with her so I was curious to see how much or how little headway we'd made.
Me: Um, Mia? What, exactly, do you want to show me?
Mia: It's not my bottom.
Me: I figured.
Mia: It's my whistle.
Me: Mia, you have to call it what it is. It's your vagina, not your whistle.
Mia: No. I call it my whistle.
Me: And last week you called it your rhinoceros.*
Mia: I mean my whistle, daddy.
At this point I need to tell you that both of us were getting a little frustrated. Mia had clearly not processed our earlier conversations and daddy was just being
a dick obstinate.
Me: Okay, your whistle. But we're coming back to this topic at some point.
Me: And really, Mia, that's a private part of your body. So it's something you need to keep to yourself unless there's something wrong and then you can show mommy and daddy, okay?
Mia: But I want to show everyone my whistle.
Me: Mia, that really wouldn't be polite.
And then, magically and as if from thin air, she produced an actual, real-life whistle from the depths of her underwear. And blew it.
The lesson? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And a whistle is not a vagina.
* True story. That one took me a few minutes to noodle through.
June 15, 2009
The Weekend, And Pod-Children
I caught a break - a quiet day - and worked from home on Friday. While I worked, while I sat on seemingly endless conference calls, and while Mia attended her last day of summer camp at her preschool, Owen got his hair cut. You might remember that the first time was traumatic for all of us, especially Owen. He reportedly took it a little better this time. But I didn't. Look at my insanely cute boy. And notice I said boy, not baby. Where did the time go?
We spent pretty much the rest of the weekend working in the yard or hanging out at the pool. We took some breaks to eat, to pee, to nap and sleep. As a matter of fact, we spent a wonderful evening with Clementine, Oscar and their parents.
The weekend ended when aliens invaded the planet - or at least my little corner of Virginia - and replaced my daughter with, well, someone else. The girl with a diet limited to peanut butter, crackers, the occasional apple and a rare splash of cheese decided that she would tackle tofu. And she did. With an abandon formerly reserved for ice cream and frosting on cupcakes. And then she shared her ice cream - her reward for the unexpected tofu consumption - with her brother.
So, uh, how were your weekends? And what, precisely, do you think came over my daughter? Have you seen her?
Haiku For Monday #272
Two more weeks until
a well deserved vacation.
Need a time machine.
June 12, 2009
The Weeklies #89
The Weekly Beer. Dominion Pale Ale
The Weekly Time Waster #1. Check out Empire's Cryptic Canvas.
The Weekly Time Waster #2. CiviBalls!
The Weekly Read. Michael Marshall's Bad Things is an intensely creepy, extremely well-written novel. I almost couldn't put it down and became fairly emotionally entangled in the story and the people in it. That said, I was expecting an end, an explanation that would justify the creepy mystery. And it just wasn't there. The means justified the end. It's most definitely worth picking up.
The Weekly Music. Todd Snider is like a hip, countrified Randy Newman. His songwriting is wonderfully smart and his sense of humor is fantastic. Despite the fact that I don't own all his stuff, I was pretty excited when I heard that his latest - The Excitement Plan - had hit the street. Lyrically, it's smart and clever as all things Snider are. The thing is, despite having a world class producer and some great sidemen along for the ride, the production and the mix just don't sound all that great. Okay, not great. That shouldn't deter you though. Snider's wit is fully intact and more than overcomes any issues with production.
The Weekly Schadenfreude #1. What do you do when you realize you're stupid? You file a lawsuit because being dumb can't be your fault, right? That's what a certain ignorant idiot did when she realized that not all was what it seemed. Especially Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries cereal. "The plaintiff, Janine Sugawara, alleged that she had only recently learned to her dismay that said 'berries' were in fact simply brightly-colored cereal balls."
The Weekly Schadenfreude #2. The world's financial situation is pretty dire but you shouldn't start hording money in your mattress. That's what one Tel Aviv resident learned. See, her daughter gave her a new mattress and pitched the old one. But that old mattress? Contained about $1 million that she'd stashed away.
The Weekly Hypothetical. You can eliminate one law. Which one would you do away with and why?
June 11, 2009
Hold Me (The Horror!)
I walked into the bathroom (because you knew we were all due for a good bathroom story, right? After all, it's been a freakishly long time before I've had any bizarre encounters of the restroom kind.) and, because of the nature of my mission, I entered a stall. Before sitting down, I performed the usual inspection. After all, you have to ask the standard questions when you're in a public restroom. Is the seat down? Has anyone peed on it? Is there an alligator in the bowl? After making my list and checking it twice, I was able to assure myself that I would not come to any bodily harm or be in any way violated.
But wait...what's that I spied out of the corner of my eye? Several options sprang to mind and entered my stream of consciousness.
Oh shit, it's some kind of weird and most likely highly poisonous white aquatic snake that has somehow eeked out of the hole that the water goes down and gotten stuck in the bottom of the bowl. I almost sat on that fucker and I'm pretty sure it would have unhinged it's jaw and eaten my balls. And I like my balls, you know as much as anyone can like balls, and I would have really missed them despite the fact that, if I have it my way, they will soon have absolutely no function whatsoever. But still, I wouldn't have wanted them to be consumed by some bizarre toilet-dwelling snake.
Wait...it's not moving or anything so it must be...
An giant albino turd. And whoever did this - committed this atrocious sin against good bathroom etiquette and, frankly, nature - should be really and truly ashamed of themselves and slightly afraid for their own health because honestly, no matter how you slice it (not literally), there's no way this is good. I mean, how is such a thing possible?
It's not. Because that's no gargantuan albino turd. It's...
Oh sweet baby jesus, that's a dildo. There's a dildo. In the toilet. A slightly off-white marginally flesh-colored dildo is resting its weary head in the toilet. I have seen midgets, pimps, elves and individuals with extremely terrible bathroom behavior in the finest restrooms in the land but I have never - ever - seen a dildo. This? Is a first. And not a good first in the first kid, first sex or first job after college kind of way. Not a first you celebrate and receive gifts for. Rather it's a first that makes you cringe and doubt the faith you've placed in humanity during your first 36 years of life. And then comes the question that makes you want to claw your eyes out and scour your brain with a q-tip pushed way too far - how, precisely, did it get here?
Care to venture a guess? Surely, like me, you have to be curious. Or just horrified. Oh, and I'm totally convinced that one of you is stalking me, totally committed to upping the ante on my horrific bathroom visits. I'm right aren't I? Which one of you is it?
Disclaimer: I refuse to disclose the exact location and time at which the following events took place. For anyone who may at some point discover my site at my place of business, I assure you the events that transpired did not take place during regular business hours at my place of employment. Family members who have discovered my vast acreage of the Internetwebosphere will be pleased to learn that this scenario did not play out in the presence or home of anyone they know.
June 10, 2009
My son fell into the pool and I was there.
He was walking along the edge of the baby pool. I was beside him, in the pool itself. He hobbled along with his toddler pimp-walk, the walk that looks vaguely out of control and makes my knees hurt with the possibility of him skinning his, the memory of so many of my own skinned knees. Then he lost his balance. He rolled in the air and entered the water back first, arms extended out in front of him. There was barely a splash, more like the floop and gentle ripple of water you see when an Olympic diver enters the water perfectly. And I was there.
The universe stopped. The sounds of kids playing in the big pool were gone. The voice of the four year old kid who seems to be perpetually at the pool, asking me questions, demanding that I watch him do some lame trick because his parents are too busy doing whatever is they're doing, wrapped too tightly in their own grown-up worlds to pay attention, ceased. Everything stopped.
A split second before I retrieved him, when I saw his white shirt fluttering in the water caught by the momentum of me moving towards him, he looked up at me. I mean, straight at me, under water, his eyes seemingly unaffected by the chlorine. What I saw in his eyes, his expression was simple - I need you, dad.
I scooped him up and the sounds of the world came flooding back. Including a strong, slightly-waterlogged cry from the cute Monkey Boy in my arms.
I was reminded of a few things. First, Owen doesn't float. Second, what being a dad is all about. See, the fact that I can procreate is all well and good and I guess successfully doing so defines fathering but it doesn't really make me a dad in my book. It's being there that counts, it's patching up skinned knees, its super-gluing favorite toys back together, it's coming to the rescue that really defines being a dad. For me, at least. You can have kids but what's more important is that they have you.
On a similar fatherly note, I'm guest-blogging over at Work It, Mom! today. Which is an honor since I'm not, obviously as we've already established, a mom. I hope after you're done dropping me a line here, you'll head over there and check it out.
June 9, 2009
You Don't Have to Go Home Again
I grew up in Houston. I moved to Virginia in '89 and only returned to Houston once in '90. I'm not sure why I've never really felt the need to go back. Maybe I consider that chapter closed. Maybe I'm afraid of tarnishing the memory of home. Regardless, I haven't gone back. Until last week. Kinda.
This might look like your average, everyday single-family colonial home but its more special to me than that. It's the house I grew up in. My room sat behind those two windows in the upper left. The driveway is on the left as well; before we moved I scratched my name into the brick wall beside it. There was a basketball hoop in the driveway and a pool out back. It was brown but, before that, its shade changed either slightly or drastically every few years as my dad put new coat of paint over the wood siding. The pea green was the worst. It didn't last long. I'm pretty sure the neighbors threatened to sue. There used to be two trees out front. We lost the one on the left. It was the better of the two trees for climbing with branches closer to the ground. It collapsed under its own weight after a hurricane.
Before you ask the inevitable question - how the hell did you manage to squeeze in a whirlwind trip to Houston and take a crappy picture of your old house without us knowing about it - I didn't go anywhere. I just Googled it. Because Google Maps is insanely cool. Here's the aerial money shot:
My pal Google and I walked the length of my street and strolled around the neighborhood. I saw Harold's house on the corner. I used to take care of his roses when he and his wife were away. He drove a 1968 VW Bug which he kept in mint condition. We traded comic books. And the house where Russel lived. Russel was the neighborhood asshole kid who thought he owned the joint. I'm sure he grew up to be either the nicest guy you ever met or a guy about which you say that the wrong people are given too much power. It's irrational but I've never trusted anyone named Russel since. I saw the garage in which one of our neighbors built a small single engine plane that he eventually flew. And Scott's house. Scott was convicted of involuntary manslaughter when he accidentally drove into a motorcycle. I'm not sure Scott ever recovered. And then I came to The Circle.
The Circle used to be wilder, the shrubs higher and around the perimeter of the circle, not planted so close to the tree. And it was haunted. None of us kids liked to hang around The Circle, convinced that some troll or ghost or maybe just Russel would snatch us from the street, never to return. We'd ride around it on our bikes and, at the furthest point, we'd feel that scared-yet-thrilled feeling in the pits of our stomachs. The Circle looks a lot less menacing now.
My elementary school is on the left. It's now two stories tall. And massive. When I attended the school, it was a string of classrooms joined by an outside hallway. Across the hall were offices and, further down, a cafeteria that doubled as an auditorium. My middle school is on the right. It looked like a prison then and still looks that way now. I spent countless hours on that track, running on the track team and, occasionally, ditching the whole thing and escaping into the neighborhood immediately adjacent.
Technology's a mixed bag. Sure, it's increased productivity and come up with a lot of neat stuff none of us can seem to live without. But how connected do we really need to be? Porn notwithstanding, how much information do we need? How many gadgets do we have to own? Do we really need more things to be addicted to? At the same time, technology can be cool. It can let you walk through the streets of your childhood in the comfort of your current home, the one you've made with your own children who will one day look back on the streets of their own childhood, complete with their own crazy neighbors, their own Circles, their own Russels.
June 8, 2009
Bliss, Or The Weekend
Summer (or near Summer) is apparently the season of weekend that leave you exhausted. Or at least leave me exhausted.
I'm a father but I'm also an uncle. And on Saturday, we went to my niece's birthday party. Mia was the oldest kid, a fact that pretty much thrilled her to no end. Owen was the youngest. He didn't care so long as there were chips he could eat. He also randomly stole cupcakes and shoved them into his mouth. To wash them down, he also pilfered cans of beer. He didn't actually consume any beer, from what I could tell. I don't think it was a lack of opportunity. He's just a beer snob who couldn't be bothered to steal Bud Light.
Mia has long wanted to go camping. We thought it best to start with a tent in the backyard. On Saturday night, we camped. Or gave it our best shot. Things were going swimmingly until, around 8:00, Mia realized that I was reasonably serious about actually sleeping. Some of the luster wore off our outdoor adventure. "Daddy, I want to go inside and sleep in my own bed," she said. Thank you sweet baby jesus, I thought to myself. I don't think I said that out loud.
On Sunday morning, Mia, Owen and I headed to a local farm to check out some animals and generally get out of Beth's hair for a little while. We had an awesome time. The weather was gorgeous and the place was chock-full of baby animals - baby pigs, baby cows, baby ducks, baby goat. You get the point. Owen was thrilled, pointing at all the animals and yelling his approximation of their names at them. Mia laughed at her brother and was pretty happy about the animals too.
We were tired, thirsty and hot so we headed home, saw the grandparents for a little while, then I mowed the yard. Then we all went swimming for, like, a billion hours. And it was good.
We were all a little beat by Sunday night. A little burned, a little beat, and a little better off for the weekend. Ten years ago, had you told me I'd spend a weekend this way, I wouldn't have stared at you in disbelief. I might not have thought it sounded ideal. Times change, you roll with them, and life is good.
Haiku For Monday #271
Somebody kick me
if I start snoring, okay?
You can't snore at work.
June 5, 2009
The Weeklies #88
The Weekly Beer. Peroni.
The Weekly Time-Waster. Give Colourshift a try.
The Weekly Read. I love John Sandford. As I flew through his Prey series, I actually started to get concerned that I'd run out. I started pacing myself. I actually hadn't read any of the Prey novels for the last year. Until this week. I picked up Broken Prey and it really and truly rocked. Sandford is just damn good. His novels are gritty, filled with interesting and well-developed people and the twists and turns are always a surprise no matter how jaded a mystery reader you are.
The Weekly Shitty Product With The Weekly Greatest Infomercial. The Wearable Towel
The Weekly Death. I was never a fan of Kung Fu but I loved Kill Bill. RIP, David Carradine.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. It's not exactly schadenfreude, but I find myself oddly curious about North Korea especially now that it's enigmatic (and kinda wacky) leader has started naming successors and launching missiles. Oh, and Susan Boyle? Being treated for exhaustion? You know she got a taste of fame and was totally doing blow in L.A. club bathrooms with Lindsay Lohan when she spiraled out of control.
The Weekly Hypothetical. Let's say a rogue communist regime founded on a familial cult of personality acquired nuclear technology and the means to launch missiles on its neighbors near and close. If you're in a position to do something about it, what precisely do you do? Or do you do anything at all?
June 4, 2009
Life in 140 Characters
I was cruising through my archives the other day and realized that my blog has turned out much different than the way it started. It began as brief snippets of my life, reporting from the front lines, if you will. Then, at some point, there was a subtle shift. I mean, it's still all about me because I'm a narcissistic bastard - don't expect that to change - but the posts became slightly less bite-sized, more feature articly. And they started to show up daily, not just two or three times a week. Sometimes I wonder if I write too much. Not too often but too much. I wonder if you look at the big block of text and say well, hell, I can't get through all that.
So in a fit of spontaneity and desire to express myself in small random nuggets, I jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. You know, Me, Ashton, Oprah, Rush Limbaugh, Jenna Jameson...we're all tight in the Twitterverse. Except Jenna. No one would ever describe her as tight. Anyhoo, some days when I've had quite a lot of coffee, I'm pretty active in Twitterland. Other days - when it becomes apparent that I'm really a truly boring person without much to say - I'm quiet. People who know me know that I might appear quiet but I'm actually quite verbose. The Twitter restriction of 140 characters is, therefore, tough for me. But it's gotten me thinking, if I had to summarize my life, say something really important about myself in 140 characters, what would it be?
Attempt 1 (134 characters): Dad, husband, all around good guy and liberal commie with midget hang-up, coffee, book and music addiction and overactive imagination.
Attempt 2 (137 characters): I think therefore I am. Unfortunately, I have delusions of grandeur. Along with the occasional dream featuring Dana Plato. Who’s dead.
Attempt 3 (135 characters): Like most guys, I think with a combination of brain and penis. It’s sad that my penis seems smarter. Where was my penis for the SATs?
I think out of all this - whether you prefer me in bite sized chunks or long-winded essays - I'm most gratified that so many of you guys stop by and read. And that so many of my readers have been following me for so long. So, thanks.
Now, how would you describe yourself in 140 characters? Give it a shot.
June 3, 2009
Reason #328 My Daughter Is Hysterical
A week ago, my daughter discovered a book of mine she can't live without. She takes it to bed and pores through it, looking at the pictures. It's an old college textbook of mine. A history of France.
The artistic rendering of Joan of Arc was a little tricky to explain. She's not on fire, she's just cooking really close to the campfire.
Life is full of firsts - first steps, first words, first days of school, first sex, first jobs. For everything there is a first time. I had a new employee start recently, and that got me thinking about some of my own fairly uncool firsts.
The First...Day Of School. Whenever a first day of school rolled around I remember all the kids around me acting all excited, thrilled by those first few days. They'd catch up with each other, talk about whey they did over the summer. It helped that there was usually no homework those first few days. Actually, any teacher who gave homework during the first week of school was pretty much instantly identified as a colossal douchebag. I, however, was never a fan of the first day of school. I loathed them, in fact. It's not that I didn't want to catch up with my friends but if they were true friends, well, I'd been hanging out with them, getting into trouble with them all summer already. I wanted to know where my classrooms were. I wanted to figure out the teachers and what they'd let me get away with. I wanted to navigate the fastest route between two classes while stopping at my locker without being late. So, yeah, I was boring and liked routine.
The worst first day of school in history of first days of school happened when I moved to Virginia from Texas. Our new house didn't have carpeting yet so I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. It wasn't comfortable. At least my neck didn't think so. I woke up on that first day, unable to move my head. It was stuck slightly tilted, looking left. And that wouldn't have been so bad had I not just gotten my hair cut for the first time at what I discovered to be a less than reliable barber. So unreliable that I had a bald spot. When I started my first day of school - head askew with patchy hair and visible scalp - I'm pretty sure everyone was convinced that I was special.
The First Day...On The Job. My first gig right out of college was as a cactus of all trades for a non-profit. I did all kinds of stuff - research, communications, web design technical support. After a couple years I got bored (oh, and the non-profit itself was closing so, well, motivation). I interviewed at a software development firm for a very hand's-on technical position. Which I got. I knew several things before I started - I was going to be involved in all technical aspects of the company, running a help desk, helping end users, setting up data centers, running cables through ceilings, preparing for disaster recovery operations. Everything. While my default wardrobe for the day would have been a suit, I was told to wear something comfortable; a t-shirt and jeans were recommended. There was a data center to build. Regardless, I felt like an ass in the orientation and subsequent meet-and-greet sessions wearing a t-shirt while my five new colleagues wore suits and looked at me funny. On the plus side, that's the only time I ever contemplated a suit while at that job.
The First...Uh...You Know...Time. I was sixteen. We were in the basement of a friend's house while said friend's parents were out doing something. It was a planned-for occasion. The evening was, perhaps, best summarized by the oh-so romantic line I delivered in frustration at some point. I can't get it in! It was a disaster. Yet, so was the relationship despite the fact that it went on a good three years after that one fateful evening. And that's all I have to say about that. Except, if you're on the edge of your seats, I did eventually get it in.
Are you a first-lover or are you more comfortable when things settle down? And what are your notable firsts?
June 2, 2009
Danger Will Robinson
While Beth and I were talking about work last night, she asked a terrible, terrible question to which I desperately struggled to find the appropriate answer.
Who's the hottest woman you work with?
I'm not one for stereotyping, for playing to gender roles and norms but I promise you, guys, there's no appropriate answer to this question. To even attempt an answer is to mambo in a minefield. But, hey, I'm a guy so of course sheer avoidance never occurred to me. Instead, I opened my mouth and started talking. Here are the answers that I thought worked best.
"I just bought a boat."
A boat is probably the single worst investment you can possibly make. Sure, they're fun but you start losing money on them before they're off the boat lot and by the time you get it home, you'll have lost more than you paid. If that's possible. So this is a perfect counterpoint to use with your fiscally-responsible wife, especially since she probably considers such a highly suspicious purchase likely in your case due to your past track record of expensive and questionable purchases.
"Did I ever tell you about the time I fucked three Laotian midgets one of whom was a post-op transsexual?"
How would a question like that not derail the inquisitions of one's spouse, no matter how determined? As it turns out, even the most determined, inquisitive spouse (namely, mine) doesn't flinch at a response such as this. She will, instead, merely laugh, shrug and say something like you and your midgets.
Sure, you can probably anticipate a response like I said woman and your retort will be something witty like well, if I have to explain this, you sure don't know much about Steve yet despite this witticism and forward-thinking, it will not work.
"No hot women work with me."
As you'd expect, this response will not suffice. At all. What you will invariably receive in return is something to the effect of okay, well, if you had to line them all up from hottest to least hot, who would be at the front of the line? This clarification actually makes the question worse because now you are required to mentally order these people into some bizarre, real life bar graph of hotness.
This lack of a response is, in and of itself, a response which till trigger a certain amount of taunting from your lovely spouse. This will, in turn, trigger in you something akin to fear - the fear of never getting laid again.
Instead of trying any of these possible responses, I urge you to do the only sane thing - run screaming from your house into the street. Don't stop until you've thought of an answer that might somehow satisfy both the question and the person asking it. Then duck into a library or internet cafe and drop me a line. Because I'm desperate to know.
June 1, 2009
Ass On Fire
I'm exhausted but it was for a good cause - an insanely awesome weekend. Why so awesome, you ask? Let me tell you.
The Festival. We've got a local festival that happens this time each year. The community thinks it's a pretty big deal but despite living here or around here off an on for twenty years, I'd never gone. Until Saturday. On Saturday morning - a gorgeous, cool, clear morning - we packed up the kids and headed to the festival. And it kinda rocked. There were rides for everyone, food from local restaurants, vendors and local craftsmen, and plenty of live music. With fearless, wild abandon, Mia plunged headlong into the rides flinching only at what seemed to me a pretty lame rollercoaster. We even rode a ginormous slide together. And, due to an insufficient covering of burlap, my ass burst into flames.
On Saturday night, we ditched the kids with my in-laws and had an actual, real-life date. We went to a local Italian place and had a great meal then, because Beth and I are both closet Trekies, we saw the new Star Trek movie. It was nothing short of awesome.
I'm pretty sure something in one of those carnival rides jarred loose some attitude in Mia's brain because it was on full display on Sunday. We'd intended to hit the festival again since it had been such a success the day before. But attitude interfered. We didn't go. Instead, I spent three hours tending to the yard, an alternative that proved much less fun considering that I also cut down two trees in the process (on purpose - it wasn't like my gigantic tree-cutting lawnmower accidentally slipped or something). Beth and the kids hit the pool while I cleaned myself up, finished a book, and tried to soak up the last, serene moments of a wonderful weekend.
And now here I am. At work. In dire need of coffee, a full body massage and, perhaps, a corner office with my own personal assistant. The only one of those that's going to happen is the coffee thing. So I'll go get on that while you tell me about your weekends. Oh, and has your ass ever caught on fire? Just curious.