Monday, December 21, 2009

This Isn't Likely To Turn Out Well

1. I am bothered by people outside, on streetcars, in stores, etc., watching me.

Isn't everyone?

2. There's no point in doing things for people; you only find you get it in the neck in the long run.

Fucking A.

3. Maybe some minority groups do get rough treatment, but it's no business of mine.

Get away from me.

4. Sometimes I think of things too bad to talk about.

Sometimes?

5. I would have been more successful if people had given me a fair chance.

Bastards.

Songs I Never Hated - Part 17

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mirror, Mirror

"Have you done your homework?" I asked my middle son.

"Yes. Stop bothering me," he said. "I'm watching a show."

"Turn off the damn television. You've got basketball tomorrow and I want to make sure you've got everything."

"Aaargh," he snarled. "Leave me alone."

"Don't talk to me like that."

"Then don't talk to me like that."

My oldest scowled at us. "They should lock the two of you in a house for a month and make a reality show out of it."

"It would suck spending a month with him," said the middle boy.

"When I get a raise I can afford to have you killed," I told him.

"Nice parenting, dad," he replied.

"Why would you say something like that?" the Lovely Bride asked me.

"He's irritating," I said.

"You better be glad that's not a capital crime," she said.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Well Done, Indeed

The Lovely Bride graduated last Friday.

She was in another career for a while. A good long while, in fact, far longer than either of us expected when she first took a job in that field. It paid her well and taught her much and eventually she hated it.

"What would you do if you were getting chased by an alligator and the only way to escape was to climb a tree full of snakes?" she asked me one morning when we used to carpool.

"Boy, sweetheart, I don't know," I answered. "Are you feeling trapped?"

"Maybe a little," she said, turning to stare out the passenger window.

One night many years later she came home and said, "I want to do something else."

"Okay," I said.

"I want to go back to school," she said.

"Okay," I said, quietly panicking inside.

So back to school she went. She kept working, going to school at night and on weekends, working during the day, at first in her old career, then something else closer to home, trading money for flexibility.

"Do you know how long I've been taking classes?" she asked as we were dressing for last Friday's graduation ceremony.

"Forever?" I guessed.

"Almost. Seven of the last eight years."

"Like I said. Forever."

"It wasn't that bad, was it?"

"No," I said. "I really enjoyed every minute I spent with our children."

"Was it really that bad?"

"Sometimes it was."

"Yes, sometimes it was," she said.

"Thank God for our friends," I said. "I would have died without them."

"We are lucky to have our friends," she said.

"Are you glad you went back to school?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "I love my new profession."

"I bet you're good at it," I said.

"I hope so. I think I am."

"I know you are," I said. "I'm proud of you."

"I love you," said the Lovely Bride.

"I love you too," I said. "Now let's go get you graduated."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hooked



















"Do you have any pictures of R. fishing?" the email said. R.'s colleagues are putting together a collage for his birthday.

"Yes," I replied. "Fishing. Drinking. Yelling at his kids. Weeping. Let me know what you'd like."

"Fishing will be fine," came the reply.

So I sent her a photo from a while ago. R. is alone in it, but just outside the frame are his three boys and my three boys and me.

On the way out, we were looking for moose, which meant slow and careful driving down gravel roads, which meant long and painful complaining from the back seats, which were filled with six boys between the ages of five and eleven.

"Shut up," R. finally told his oldest.

"This is stupid," his oldest replied.

"No, stupid is sitting on the couch playing video games," said R.

"No, stupid is driving around at ten miles per hour looking for an animal that doesn't live here," said his oldest.

"God damn it," said R., turning in his seat and swiping with futility at the children. "I swear to God I'm going to fucking kill you all."

"Oooh," said R.'s son. "Wait until mom hears about this."

"You'll be dead so it won't matter," said R., scrabbling to unbuckle himself so he could have at it.

"Look, a moose," I said, pointing to the animal loping along in front of our car.

"Cool," said the boys.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Be Still My Heart
















A group of scientists in the Netherlands has successfully grown a product vaguely resembling pork in a petri dish.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Serious Question

My oldest, who is a junior in high school this year, wants to spend a few weeks next summer in Australia and New Zealand, with perhaps a little Fiji or other South Pacific island thrown in. (While Australia is his first choice, he also has some interest in Costa Rica as a back-up plan.) Needless to say, I'm not invited. In fact nobody from our family is invited. He'd be going on his own, or more precisely, in some sort of organized peer group with adults in charge.

We're looking for something with an educational or cultural or service component; something fun, but more than just a few weeks of sitting on a beach. although a little of that would be okay. I've looked at Travel for Teens and West Coast Connection. Do any Friends of Befouled have suggestions for a program or school that does a nice job with this sort of thing?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

MVP

When they talk about class acts? They're talking about Joe. Just ask my kid.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movin' On Up

A slightly better class of duvet the next few days.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Melting Pot

Blue Girl's post about her conversation with a friend reminded me of a discussion I once had with a female co-worker.

"What do you and your friend R. do when you take the kids to the cabin?" she asked me.

"We fish and yell at the kids and build a bonfire and drink beer."

"That's it?"

"What else would we do?"

"When I go out of town with my friends we like to talk about things."

"Like what?" I asked.

"Our hopes and dreams. What worries us and what makes us laugh."

"Huh," I said.

"Don't you do anything like that?" she asked.

"One time we tried to melt a beer can in the fire," I said.

Movies I Never Hated - Part 1

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Sound

"I'm so great, I'm so great, I'm the best father ever."

I was singing to the tune of "Edelweiss" as I filled the dishwasher this evening.

"Shut up," the middle boy yelled from downstairs. "I'm trying to watch TV."

I sang louder. The youngest grimaced and tried to concentrate on his Facebook page.

"Shut up!" the middle boy shrieked.

I sang even louder.

"Are you going to help me with my homework?" asked my oldest.

The last homework I helped him with was the Cretaceous Period clay diorama he made in first grade. It was beautiful. He got an E in that class.

Anyway, that was a long time ago and he's done just fine since then without my help. He's in a literature course now, though, and he recognizes my enthusiasm for the subject even if he doesn't understand it.

"Of course I'll help," I said. "What do you need to do?"

"Annotate this essay."

"Let me see it," I said. "Oh, Annie Dillard. She's great. Are you going to read 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek?'"

"I hope not."

"You should. It's remarkable. And you should read Sigurd Olson and Edward Abbey and Aldo Leopold. I've got their books downstairs somewhere."

"Can you just help me with the homework?"

"Okay. Here's what you want to do." We worked through Dillard's "The Death of a Moth," talking about decay and artistic passion and rebirth.

"Does that make sense?" I asked him after we'd talked for a while.

"Yeah, sure," he said, eager to finish this assignment so he could get back to his chemistry. When he needs help with science the Lovely Bride is able to provide it, and with much less wild-eyed enthusiasm than I bring to literature.

"God, I love this stuff," I said to myself after the oldest went back to the study.

"What?" asked the youngest.

"Edelweiss!" I sang.

"Be quiet!" the middle child yelled.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Bravest Man I Ever Met

Roy P. Benavidez, Recipient Of Medal of Honor, Dies at 63
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Friday, December 4, 1998

Roy P. Benavidez, a former Green Beret sergeant who received the Medal of Honor from President Ronald Reagan for heroism while wounded in the Vietnam War, then fought to keep the Government from cutting off his disability payments, died on Sunday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He was 63.

Mr. Benavidez, who lived in El Campo, Tex., suffered respiratory failure, the hospital said. His right leg was amputated in October because of complications of diabetes.

On the morning of May 2, 1968, Mr. Benavidez, a staff sergeant with the Army's Special Forces, the Green Berets, heard the cry ''get us out of here'' over his unit's radio while at his base in Loc Ninh, South Vietnam. He also heard ''so much shooting, it sounded like a popcorn machine.''

The call for aid came from a 12-man Special Forces team -- 3 Green Berets and 9 Montagnard tribesmen -- that had been ambushed by North Vietnamese troops at a jungle site a few miles inside Cambodia.

Sergeant Benavidez jumped aboard an evacuation helicopter that flew to the scene. ''When I got on that copter, little did I know we were going to spend six hours in hell,'' he later recalled.

After leaping off the helicopter, Sergeant Benavidez was shot in the face, head and right leg, but he ran toward his fellow troops, finding four dead and the others wounded.

He dragged survivors aboard the helicopter, but its pilot was killed by enemy fire as he tried to take off, and the helicopter crashed and burned. Sergeant Benavidez got the troops off the helicopter, and over the next six hours, he organized return fire, called in air strikes, administered morphine and recovered classified documents, although he got shot in the stomach and thigh and hit in the back by grenade fragments.

He was bayoneted by a North Vietnamese soldier, whom he killed with a knife. Finally, he shot two enemy soldiers as he dragged the survivors aboard another evacuation helicopter.

When he arrived at Loc Ninh, Sergeant Benavidez was unable to move or speak. Just as he was about to be placed into a body bag, he spit into a doctor's face to signal that he was still alive and was evacuated for surgery in Saigon.

Sergeant Benavidez was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1968, but a subsequent recommendation from his commanding officer that he receive the Medal of Honor, the military's highest award for valor, could not be approved until a witness confirmed his deeds.

That happened in 1980, when Brian O'Connor, the Green Beret who had radioed the frantic message seeking evacuation, was found in the Fiji Islands. Mr. O'Connor told how Mr. Benavidez had rescued eight members of his patrol despite being wounded repeatedly.

President Reagan presented the Medal of Honor to Mr. Benavidez at the Pentagon on Feb. 24, 1981.

Shortly before Memorial Day 1983, Mr. Benavidez came forward to say that the Social Security Administration planned to cut off disability payments he had been receiving since he retired from the Army as a master sergeant in 1976. He still had two pieces of shrapnel in his heart and a punctured lung and was in constant pain from his wounds.

The Government, as part of a cost-cutting review that had led to the termination of disability assistance to 350,000 people over the preceding two years, had decided that Mr. Benavidez could find employment.

''It seems like they want to open up your wounds and pour a little salt in,'' Mr. Benavidez said. ''I don't like to use my Medal of Honor for political purposes or personal gain, but if they can do this to me, what will they do to all the others?''

A White House spokesman said President Reagan was ''personally concerned'' about Mr. Benavidez's situation, and 10 days later the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Margaret M. Heckler, said the disability reviews would become more ''humane and compassionate.''

Soon afterward, wearing his Medal of Honor, Mr. Benavidez told the House Select Committee on Aging that ''the Administration that put this medal around my neck is curtailing my benefits.''

Mr. Benavidez appealed the termination of assistance to an administrative law judge, who ruled in July 1983 that he should continue receiving payments.

When President Reagan presented Mr. Benavidez with the Medal of Honor, he asked the former sergeant to speak to young people. Mr. Benavidez did, visiting schools to stress the need for the education he never had.

Born in South Texas, the son of a sharecopper, Mr. Benavidez was orphaned as a youngster. He went to live with an uncle, but dropped out of middle school because he was needed to pick sugar beets and cotton. He joined the Army at 19, went to airborne school, then was injured by a land mine in South Vietnam in 1964. Doctors feared he would never walk again, but he recovered and became a Green Beret. He was on his second Vietnam tour when he carried out his rescue mission.

Mr. Benavidez is survived by his wife, Hilaria; a son, Noel; two daughters, Yvette Garcia and Denise Prochazka; a brother, Roger; five stepbrothers, Mike, Eugene, Frank, Nick and Juquin Benavidez; four sisters, Mary Martinez, Lupe Chavez, Helene Vallejo and Eva Campos, and three grandchildren.

Over the years, fellow Texans paid tribute to Mr. Benavidez. Several schools, a National Guard armory and an Army Reserve center were named for him.

But he did not regard himself as someone special.

''The real heroes are the ones who gave their lives for their country,'' Mr. Benavidez once said. ''I don't like to be called a hero. I just did what I was trained to do.''

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Electrolyte In Blue

My youngest's basketball team played its first tournament of the year last weekend. It was ugly, even leaving aside the ambulance ride one of his teammates got, courtesy of a collision between head and floor that fortunately turned out to have caused no lasting harm.

After the game, I was standing in the hall near the coach.

"You're not going to be my first parent complaint, are you?" he asked.

"The only complaint I have is that my kid isn't crying after a game like that" I said. "Hell, I'm crying. Other than that, I've got nothing."

"Good."

"Why do you think there's going to be a complaint?"

"I told one of the kids to get his head out his ass."

"Mine?"

"No. Another one."

"You should have told mine that. I'll tell him on the way home."

"I'm more worried about your kid's eyesight," said the coach. "He seems to have trouble distinguishing between our red uniforms and the other team's blue uniforms when he's passing the ball."

"I'll buy him a color wheel," I said.

"Shut up," muttered my son, who'd been listening to the conversation.

"Do you want to go visit your friend at the hospital?" I asked.

"No," said my kid.

"Then don't tell me to shut up again."

"Can we go home now?" asked my kid.

"Yes. Daddy needs to medicate his pain."

"Does that mean we have to stop at the liquor store on the way?"

"Yes," I answered.

"Will you buy me a Powerade before we leave?"

"Sure. What color do you like, red or blue?"

"Blue."

"See," I told the coach. "There's your problem."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Virtual Vacation

I was on vacation last week. It was like being at work, with less commuting and more housework. I dream, though, and here are ten of my favorite songs about places. Old school. Mostly.

1. San Franciscan Nights - Eric Burdon and the Animals

2. New York, New York - Frank Sinatra

3. London's Calling - The Clash

4. L.A. Woman - The Doors

5. 8 Mile - Eminem

6. China Grove - Doobie Brothers

7. California Stars - Wilco

8. Midnight Train to Georgia - Gladys Knight & the Pips

9. Luckenbach, Texas - Waylon Jennings

And for a staycation:

10. SHHH - Atmosphere

Homeward Bound

A couple of weekends ago, my friend G. and I went out of town for a few days. We did it last year and it was such a success, at least in terms of liquor consumption, that we decided to do it again.

"What time are you getting back tomorrow?" the Lovely Bride asked me the Friday we were leaving.

"I'm not. We're coming back Sunday."

"What?"

"Sunday. I told you that."

"You're going to G.'s house for three days?"

"No. We're going to Madison."

"Where?"

"Madison. I told you that too."

The Lovely Bride gave me a flat stare. "When did you tell me this?"

"I don't know. A few weeks ago."

"Was I asleep?"

"No. I don't know. Maybe."

There was a pause while she mentally ran through her options. "Do the boys need to be anywhere this weekend?" she finally asked.

"No, and G.'s driving so our oldest can use my car in a pinch."

"I guess we won't miss you, then," she said.

"I'll miss you, snookums," I said, trying to smooch the side of her face.

"Isn't it time for you to leave?" she asked, pushing me away.

G. soon arrived and I threw my stuff in his car. It took us less than ten minutes to start bickering over music.

"We're not going to listen to that singer-songwriter crap the whole way there, are we?" I asked.

"What's wrong with it?"

"I didn't have my estrogen shot this week," I said.

"It's better than your stuff," said G. "Just because music's free doesn't mean it's good."

"That's an anti-Semitic remark," I told him.

"Your heritage is fine. It's your taste in music that's questionable."

After a bit more squabbling we compromised on Frightened Rabbit.

"This is really a boring drive," I said.

"True, but there's whiskey at the end of it," G. reminded me.

"Hey look, a game farm!" I said, pointing at a billboard.

"We don't hunt," G. reminded me.

"I do, sometimes."

"When?"

"Okay, it's been a few years."

"We don't have any guns with us anyway," G. said.

"Maybe they'd let us kick a bird instead," I said.

We stopped twice, once for lunch in Eau Claire. There's nothing like a beer before noon to confirm I'm on vacation. The second time we stopped was at a gas station near Tomah.

"I'm hungry," I whined, poking through the snacks near the cash register.

"Jesus, you just had chili and a sandwich an hour ago," G. said.

"I have a high metabolism."

"Yeah, and you're big boned," said G.

"Screw you," I suggested.

"Anyway, you're not eating landjäger in my car."

"It's Wisconsin," I reminded him. "We're required to have sausage on us at all times."

Soon enough we arrived in Madison. We parked, checked in at our hotel near the statehouse, and went exploring. That is, drinking.

After a while the landjäger wore off and I insisted on dinner. With my superior sense of direction it only took forty-five minutes of aimless wandering through residential neighborhoods to find a restaurant located three blocks from our hotel.

There are a lot of bars in Madison, many of them within walking distance of the place we stayed. At one point we ended up back at our hotel on the way to somewhere else.

"Can you call us a cab?" G. asked the concierge.

"Where do you want to go?" he asked.

"I don't know," said G.

"A cab can't take you there," the concierge said.

"What the hell," said G., throwing up his hands and stalking away.

"Sorry, he's been drinking," I apologized.

I wouldn't have guessed," said the concierge.

Saturday was perhaps understandably slow to get going. Eventually we made our way toward the campus, walking through blocks of interesting old houses.

"What kind of stupid city gets built on hills?" I panted at one point.

"Rome," said G. "Seattle."

"I hate them both," I said.

"Stop complaining."

"Screw you," I reminded him.

The campus was as nice as I remembered. Pretty much what you'd want a Midwestern land grant university to be.

"I wish I could go back to college," I told G.

"I wish I could go back to elementary school," he replied.

After some more walking it was time for lunch. We settled on a Laotian place. One in a long line of decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time.

"You're awfully pale. Are you going to make it?" G. asked.

"I hope not," I said, guzzling a glass of water and poking dispiritedly at the gray chicken on my plate.

Fortunately, we were right around the corner from the Plaza Tavern, with its charming ambiance and medicinal ales. After a few minutes of watching a college football game on TV, G. challenged me to a game of Big Buck Safari.

"You shot a cow!" the machine announced when I pulled the trigger a little quickly, canceling the rest of my round.

"Screw you too," I told it.

By midafternoon we had seen all the bookstores we wanted and arrived at the convention center. My mother and a friend who'd served on the Dane County planning staff had both recommended we visit. After confirming it was indeed a Frank Lloyd Wright slab of concrete, we started looking around for a place to have dinner.

"How about here?" I suggested as we passed a steakhouse.

"Alright," said G. He made reservations for later that night and we continued down the block.

"Hey, a New Orleans bar!" he said. "I'm thirsty!"

We went in and sat down, the only ones there. The waitress came over.

"What can I get you?" she asked.

"I'll have an Abita," I said.

"Do you have anything brown and kind of textured?" asked G.

She looked at him blankly and shook her head.

"What the hell's wrong with you?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said defensively. "Fine, I'll just have an Abita too."

Before long we'd talked ourselves into Hurricanes, the perfect drink for a nice cold day. Before too much longer, G. had talked himself into bourbon.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" asked the waitress, who had gotten past her initial suspicion we were creepy old men and had come to view us as vaguely entertaining, in a sad way.

"Bourbon's always a good idea," said G.

"He's very conscientious about his health," I said. "He used to be a firefighter. Bring us some shrimp and jambalaya too, please. And I'll have another Abita."

The waitress left to place our order.

"We're not going to the steakhouse, are we?" asked G.

"It seems like a lot of work," I said. "Let's just stay here."

Which we did. The shrimp was good and the jambalaya even better. Night came and the bar filled up. We ended up talking to the bartender, who'd just been dumped by her boyfriend. She made a couple of batches of some sour apple drink, drank some of it herself and snuck the rest to us, and from there on out things are a little hazy.

The drive home on Sunday seemed to take a lot longer than the drive there. Even so, I was home well before dinner. The Lovely Bride was working at the kitchen table.

"I missed you," I said, giving her a smooch on the top of her head.

"We missed you too," she said.

"No we didn't," said my oldest.

"I did," said the Lovely Bride.

"That's all that matters," I said.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Star Is Born

"Do you want to be in a commercial?" my friend R. asked me.

"For what?"

"Beer."

"Of course," I said. "What do I have to do?"

"Drink beer and act like you enjoy it."

"That'll be a stretch," I said. "What should I wear?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Do I have to wear pants?"

"I don't care," said R. "We're filming it at the art director's house, though, and he's kind of fussy about his furniture."

"Pants it is," I said. "What are my lines?"

"It's a man in the street sort of thing. Just talk about why you like beer."

"Because it helps me forget my kids?" I suggested.

"You and me both," said R. "Unfortunately, that sort of honesty doesn't play well with focus groups."

"I bet it does with our demographic," I said.

"Probably. But we already buy beer."

"And bourbon," I noted.

"Your point?" asked R.

"I have options besides beer."

"This is local beer. It's not only tasty, it supports the economy."

"Why do I care about the economy?"

"So our kids have somewhere to work when they drop out of school," said R.

"I'll be dead by then," I said.

"You wish."

"My family will kill me before my liver does," I said.

"I can get a tagline out of that," said R.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This Should Be A Fun Season

"Hey coach," said A., one of my youngest son's teammates, "I won't be at basketball practice tomorrow."

"Why not?"

"I'm in a Knowledge Bowl after school."

"Me too," said K., another teammate.

"Wow, they must have been really desperate," the coach told K., who threw an empty water bottle at him.

My youngest started laughing.

"What's so funny?" the coach asked him. "They didn't even invite you."

"Now that's funny," I said.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Please

I've been friends with R. forever. Close enough, anyway. We learned to smoke and read Kafka and Camus and skipped school together. We set one car on fire and came pretty close to doing it to another. We double dated. I was his best man and he was mine. He held my oldest an hour after he was born and I did the same with his.

We grew up with each other. We're growing older together too, taking vacations and making college visits and talking school and jobs and families with each other the whole time.

When you're friends like that, you're also friends of the family. He watched my mother light Hanukkah candles and I hung out at his house on Christmas. His family didn't care, families didn't care too much about that kind of thing when I was growing up. What was another kid around the house?

When people talk about Italian moms being a saint, they're thinking of R.'s. We burned magnesium in her sink and killed a chipmunk in her kitchen and made all kinds of other bad choices in her neighborhood and her house and she let it slide, because what are you going to do, it's your kid and his best friend.

R.'s parents came to my wedding. They twirled around the floor and I came close but I didn't cry, I've only cried twice in front of R., my best friend.

When R.'s mom got cancer, she got sick, then better, then sick again. I stopped by her house near the end and kissed her on the forehead and went out to the car and cried in front of R. She wasn't my mom and I won't pretend she was, but I miss her all the time. She would have liked my kids, loved them probably. They sure would have loved her, pasta and heart and everything else.

Dads weren't so simple back then. They worked a lot in my neighborhood, not so far removed from the Great Depression. R.'s worked like hell and so did mine. Got up, earned a paycheck, came home. We were lucky, our dads, sons of immigrants, had good educations and good jobs.

And they were, they are, good guys. R.'s dad took us snowmobiling until we crashed into a ditch and fishing until he couldn't stand listening to us complain about the cold and now he asks about my kids. When we see each other, not often enough, we talk politics and art and theater and a little bit of sports. Christ, we've had some fights. He's a good man, though, and when I was growing up at R.'s house and his mother's, I was growing up at his dad's house too.

R.'s dad is having his kidney removed on Friday. Cancer. His wife will be there; she's great, I love her dearly, and she and the rest of us will all be pulling for him.

I'd like to see R.'s father dance at a few more weddings.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good For Her

fish had a recent post about "The Man Who Could Save Wall Street," the CEO of J.P. Morgan, who earned $19,000,000 in 2008, down from $34,000,000 in 2007 and $41,000,000 in 2006. It was a nice story.

I was reading the paper online tonight.

"What the hell?" I shouted.

"Be quiet," my kids yelled from downstairs.

"Woman, come here," I demanded.

"I beg your pardon," said the Lovely Bride from upstairs.

"Come here, my precious," I said.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"Just come here."

She did. I pointed at the computer screen.

"Is that Martha?" she asked.

"Yes it is," I said.

"Good for her," she said. "Boys, come here!"

"What?" my kids shrieked.

"Just come here!"

They did.

"Look," I said, pointing at the screen again.

"Who's that?" they asked.

"Martha," I said. "She was over for dinner a couple months ago."

"She was cool," one of them said.

"She's more than cool," I said. "She's a rock star."

I talked with my mother later tonight.

"Hey, did you see that story about the teacher?" I asked.

"The one who got the Milken award?," said my mother. "What a wonderful story. What a wonderful woman."

"She's a friend of mine."

"Really?"

"Yeah. One of the nicest people in the world."

"How do you know her?"

"We used to work together."

"Why did she become a teacher?"

"It was in the paper."

"I feel like it's really hard to reach kids sometimes, but when you do, there's no feeling in the world like that,"she said. "I feel a little guilty sometimes because I get so much out of it. Hopefully the kids do, too."
"There is a prize that comes with that, isn't there?" asked my mother.

"Yes. $25,000."

"Good for her," said my mother.

"Good for her," I agreed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trust Issues

"Your mother said she's not coming to our youngest boy's baseball game tomorrow," said the Lovely Bride on Saturday morning.

"Grandma doesn't love you," I told the youngest.

"Ignore your father," said the Lovely Bride. "Grandma loves you very much. The weather's going to be bad, though, and she doesn't want to sit outside for two hours."

"I sat outside in a snowstorm for three hours this morning to watch the middle boy play soccer," I pointed out.

"That's a start," said the Lovely Bride.

"To what?" I asked.

"To making up for your behavior."

"What behavior?"

"Giving your children the finger is not acceptable."

"They think it's funny," I said.

"It is, sort of," the middle boy chimed in.

"It was funnier when you saw that sign," said the youngest.

"What sign?" asked the Lovely Bride suspiciously.

"Dad was taking my friends and me to a game and we saw a sign for a pumpkin patch and he said, 'Pumpkins galore, you freaking whore,' and we all laughed and decided he was the most messed up dad of all."

"Don't lie to your mother," I said nervously.

"You're a horrible person," she told me.

"At least I'm going to my son's baseball game," I said. "Unlike my mother."

"Do not start with her tonight," she warned me.

"I'll avoid temptation and wait in the car," I said.

"No you won't. It's your sister's anniversary and we're going to have a nice dinner."

We arrived at the restaurant right on time, which is to say ten minutes after my mother got there. My sister and her husband were also there.

"Would you like anything from the bar?" the waitress asked.

"God yes," I implored, ignoring my mother's glare. "Something red and Spanish."

The wine came and I settled down a little, at least until my mother and my brother-in-law began discussing left turns on red.

"A significant number of accidents happen during left turns at stoplights," she said. "Cars try to rush through before the light turns red."

"Really?" I asked. "What data set are you using as the basis for that assertion?"

The Lovely Bride kicked me under the table. "Eat your dinner and be quiet," she hissed.

"How was the food in Hungary?" I asked, rubbing my ankle.

"It was fine," said my mother. "Their goulash is very different than we see here."

"They used to serve us goulash in elementary school," I said. "It looked like a cat with a bleeding ulcer coughed up a hairball on the plate."

The Lovely Bride kicked me again. "Stop," she whispered.

"Prices were quite reasonable in Hungary and Vienna," said my mother. "I was able to check the exchange rate regularly at the ATM."

"You brought your debit card?" I asked.

"Of course," she said.

"Do you have it with you tonight?"

"Yes. Why?"

"What's your PIN?" I asked, grabbing for her purse.

"I'm not going to tell you that," she said, moving the purse out of my reach.

"Why not?"

"Why would I?"

"To show your confidence in me."

"Don't give it to him," said my sister.

"No, don't," said the Lovely Bride.

"I'm not stupid," said my mother as the waitress reappeared.

"Would you like another glass of wine?" the waitress asked.

"God, yes. Put it on her tab," I said, nodding towards my mother.

The Lovely Bride kicked me one more time. "I'm sorry," she said to the others at the table. "He wanted to wait in the car. Next time I'll let him."

"Do what you need to do," my mother told her.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Small World

I was a member of a panel discussion tonight.

"You look really familiar," said a guy in the front row.

"You threw me off a building yesterday," I replied.

"That's it!" he said.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My First Time

















I rappelled off a building at work today.

I haven't rappelled off anything in years. There hasn't been much need for it in my daily job. Today was definitely an outlier.

That wasn't always the case. The Army was big on rappelling. I'm not sure why, but there was a lot I wasn't sure about during my time as a soldier.

Rappelling never bothered me. I'm not particularly afraid of heights and I figure there are enough redundant safety systems in a controlled environment that I don't have to worry.

Not everyone feels that way, of course. In basic training, one of my fellow trainees was an Iowa farm boy, 6'4", 250 pounds. He was good with a rifle, good at making his bed, good at dealing with pretty much everything you need to be good at in basic training.

Except heights. He hated them. Which we all found out the first time we had to rappel.

"Let's go soldier, rappel," our captain hollered.

The rest of us had finished our rappel and were standing at the base of the tower looking up at the farm boy. Our captain was a Ranger, stuck on a stateside base while his buddies were in combat. He was none too happy about it.

"I will, sir," said the farm boy.

The farm boy was securely anchored to the rappel line. There was a drill sergeant at the bottom to pull the safety rope tight and stop any fall. If you're scared of heights, though, you're scared of heights.

"Soldier, you had best rappel down this tower right now," hollered the captain.

We could just see the back of the farm boy, standing sixty feet above us on the edge of the tower platform.

"I'm trying sir."

Bad answer.

"Rappel, you son of a bitch," the captain screamed.

Those of us on the ground saw the captain push the farm boy. He sailed off the tower and seemed to float for a moment, kicking and waving. Then gravity took over and then the drill sergeant, pulling the safety rope tight. The farm boy twirled aimlessly above us for a bit until the sergeant slowly lowered him to the ground.

"Jesus," the sergeant said with a certain amount of pity, looking down at the panting, pale farm boy laying spread eagled on the ground.

"Goddamnit, soldier," the captain shrieked from the top of the tower.

"I rappelled," whispered the farm boy to himself.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Balance

"Hi Snag."

"Hello," I replied cautiously. I don't often answer the phone when it rings, especially when it's a number I don't recognize.

"It's me, S."

"S. Wow. Long time."

S. and I met in elementary school. We were acquaintances until we graduated from high school, then became roommates, then became friends. He was one of my groomsmen.

"We haven't talked for a while," said S.

Many years ago we were at a New Year's Eve party at our friend's R.'s house. Just before midnight, S. started telling us we were wrong. Sinful. R. finally asked him to leave.

"How are you?" I asked S.

"Alright," he said hesitantly.

Several years ago I got an email from him. It was a long history of Jewish influence over the Federal Reserve. I forwarded it to his older sister, asking her to call me.

"What have you been up to?" I asked, also hesitantly.

"Looking for a job. I'm only working part time."

S. was an above average student in high school, a good looking guy and a talented athlete. Grew up in a nice suburb, with a successful father and a mother at home.

"What kind of work are you doing?" I asked

"Part time," he repeated. "With a catering company. Helping at events."

He'd gone to a selective college. Graduated into a position in finance with a big local company. On Friday nights, before we got married, R. and I would go out for drinks with S. and listen to music and talk about how we'd grab the brass ring the next time it came around.

"Where are you living?" I asked.

"Downtown," he said. "Just south of it, actually."

A couple years ago he talked with the Lovely Bride. When I got home, she told me, "S. called. He asked me to tell you that 47% of his problems are your fault."

"Renting an apartment?" I asked S.

"Sort of," he said. "A room. In a group home."

"How is it?" I asked.

"Fine," said S. "It's sometimes hard to keep my medications balanced. The side effects."

"That's got to be tough," I said. The phone clicked.

"Is that call waiting?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "I have to pick up the middle boy. He's refereeing soccer today. Sorry."

"That's okay," said S. "Say hello to your kids."

He's never met my youngest son.

"I will," I said.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In My Car

I live in a place with lots of miles, and I have to drive most of them some of the time. Yesterday I ran 200 miles north. Today, 200 miles back again.

I set the cruise control and turn on my music. The distance clicks away.

"Don't you hate it?" asked a friend not long ago.

"No," I said.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What To Wear?

This should be an interesting show.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Zeeba

"Wow ur parenting skills r well below average."

My middle son was texting me.

"Look at this," I told the Lovely Bride.

"So?"

"It's disrespectful."

"Is it inaccurate?" she asked.

"That's not the point," I said. I began singing Aretha Franklin's "Respect."

"Are you telling me you've never seriously considered divorce?" my oldest son asked the Lovely Bride.

"Of course not," I answered for her.

"Mom?" he said.

Her faraway look spoke volumes.

"Fine," I muttered. Turning to my phone, I texted the middle son, "I keel u zeeba."

"What did you send him?" asked the Lovely Bride, awaking from her reverie.

I showed her.

"That's good parenting?"

"It's funny."

"Threatening to kill your son is funny?"

"It sounds worse when you say it like that."

"I'm just repeating what you told him."

"It's all about context."

"In what context is it acceptable to threaten your children?"

"Have you spent time with them recently?" I asked.

"You'd both be happier if my brothers were dead," the oldest helpfully offered. "You could afford a nicer house."

"There you go," I said.

The Lovely Bride got that faraway look again.

"I love them so much," I said halfheartedly. My phone buzzed, a new text message.

"I keel u too," it said.

"Ditto, buddy," I typed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Songs To Stop The Madness - Part 1

Fish, Jennifer, and Zombie are on musical crack. Here to cleanse the palate, is Rick, before and after:



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Black Is Black

Certain things I can buy without hesitation. Cereal. Books. Cars.

Other things, I can't pull the trigger. Entrées. Towels. And, as I discovered tonight, dishwashers.

"How many places are we going?" asked my oldest son.

"I don't know," I said grimly. We'd already been to Sears, Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy, and Home Depot. "I think there was a floor model at Lowe's we should look at again."

"What's wrong with you?" he asked.

"I hate spending money on stuff like this."

"Do you think anyone likes buying a dishwasher?" he asked, reasonably enough.

"I hate it more than most people."

"You hate most things more than most people."

Again, a reasonable point.

"What did you think of that Bosch?" I asked him.

"If you buy it, I'll never talk to you again."

"Why not?"

"You could buy me a car instead."

"Yes, but I won't buy you a car anyway."

"It's stupid to spend that much on a dishwasher. Our family is just going to break it anyway," he pointed out. "We break everything."

"We're horrible," I mused out loud.

"Yeah. That's why I'm moving to Australia as soon as I can," he said.

"Can I come?"

"No. Just buy a dishwasher and let's go home."

We made another stop at Lowe's and then Home Depot again, where I swallowed hard and picked out the model I'd first looked at five hours earlier.

"What color would you like?" asked the saleswoman.

I called the Lovely Bride. "Do you want to spend an extra $100 for stainless steel or should we go with black?"

"I don't want any more white appliances," she said.

"Neither do I," I replied. "That's why I said stainless steel or black."

"I don't know," she said. "I thought it was either stainless steel or white. I haven't factored in these other variables."

I scanned the store for ways to kill myself. There were a lot.

"You decide," she said, hanging up.

"You decide," I told the oldest.

"You're going to let your son decide?" asked the saleswoman.

"He's the only one in the family with any common sense," I said. He shrugged in resignation.

"Black," he said.

"Black it is," I told her.

Black it shall be.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Baited

"Will you take your niece fishing?" asked my mother.

"What?" I mumbled distractedly. We were at my kitchen table where I was trying to update and clean her computer.

"Your niece would like to go fishing. Will you take her?"

"I guess. Yeah. Sure."

"She'd enjoy that. She loves to watch the fishermen when we walk around the lake near your sister's house. She especially likes the baby catfish."

I looked up from the computer. "Those are bullheads, for God's sake."

"Really? Well, whatever they are, she thinks they're adorable."

"I've never heard a bullhead called adorable before," I said. "I'll get her one as a birthday present. Her parents can keep it in the tub."

"I don't think your sister would find that amusing," said my mother.

"Which is why I would," I said.

"How does my computer look?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Great, if this was the Bronze Age. Have you been watching Asian pornography on it?"

My oldest was at the table with us. He snickered.

"What a ridiculous question," she said.

"I don't know how else you got this much junk on it," I told her.

"I'm careful about opening email," she said defensively.

"Really?" I asked. "Then how did you get suckered into that Nigerian banking scam?"

"I did no such thing."

"Only because you couldn't figure out how to reply to the message," I said.

"I know how to use a computer," she said.

"Which is why I'm sitting at my kitchen table fixing it," I pointed out.

"I thought you liked doing that sort of thing," she said.

"I like it better than dealing with people," I acknowledged.

"So why are you complaining?"

"I like most things better than dealing with people."

"What a terrible way to go through life," she said.

"That's hardly the worst of it."

"For someone so fortunate, you certainly spend a lot of time feeling sorry for yourself," she said.

"The Lovely Bride barely tolerates me, I have three kids, and the Worst Dog Ever is right over there," I said, pointing at the kennel in our entryway.

"For reasons not entirely clear to me, the Lovely Bride does indeed tolerate you. And you are the fortunate father of three charming sons," said my mother.

"Don't forget the Worst Dog Ever," I repeated.

My mother shrugged. "The Lovely Bride told you not to go to the pound."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked.

"You were certain you knew what was best," she said.

"Are you saying I'm stubborn?" I asked.

"Let's call it bullheaded," she replied.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Share My Pain

CLAIM AND OCCURRENCE DATES

a. For any suit or claim for damages, the date of the occurrence is deemed to be as follows:

(1) For claims for bodily injury or property damage, the date of the occurrence is the date on which the bodily injury or property damage first took place or is alleged to have taken place.

(2) For any other claim for damages, the date of the occurrence is the date on which the wrongful act giving rise to the claim for damages took place or is alleged to have taken place. If the damages are alleged to have arisen from a series of wrongful acts, the date of the occurrence is deemed to be the date when the first such wrongful act took place or is alleged to have taken place.

If both (1) and (2) apply to claims for damages arising from a single occurrence, the date of the occurrence is the earlier of the dates defined by (1) and (2), respectively.

(3) For any suit alleging a wrongful act and not claiming damages, the date of the occurrence is the date on which the wrongful act took place or is alleged to have taken place. If a series of wrongful acts is alleged, the date of the occurrence is deemed to be the date when the first such wrongful act took place or is alleged to have taken place.

I'll be back eventually. Or I'll die.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What Am I?

I used to teach a little on the side and one of my former students, M., called and asked if I'd have lunch with a student she's now mentoring. Time flies.

"Me?" I asked. "Do you think that's a good idea?"

"Why not?" asked M.

"Remember the time one of your classmates asked about careers and I almost started crying?"

"Everybody remembers that. It was one of the highlights of grad school. You like the job you have now, though."

"The last student I mentored dropped out and moved away," I reminded her.

"It could happen to anyone," she said.

"That's not what the dean said."

"You'll be fine," she told me.

So her mentoree got in touch and I offered to buy lunch.

"How about this deli near your school?" I suggested in my email. "I can stock up on chopped liver for the weekend that way."

After a noticeable delay she replied. "Whether you were joking or not, you are the first person I've ever had tell me they were going to stock up on chopped liver for the weekend."

So tomorrow we'll have lunch and I'll tell her what I know about careers. Which is this.

Work with people you like. Better yet, people you like and respect. Try to have fun. Find a job that doesn't embarrass you. Leave time for friends and family. Don't work too hard to buy expensive things to help you forget you're working too hard.

We'll see what the dean thinks this time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pipe Dreams

I wish I lived in a shire.

I would eat pudding and count lice.

I would use ripe tubers for currency, a bagel as my loincloth.

When I gargled, it would be as a free man.

All would hear my triumphant yowl as I cornered and established dominion over stoats and nails and other prey.

Filth would be my medium, the muses shrieking ideas as I wandered from yurt to yurt, begging here for a battery, there for a small pail of grout.

I would be happy, content to frolic and gibber the day away.

I wish I lived in a shire.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Succubus

"According to the vet, Lucy is special," said the Lovely Bride.

The Worst Dog Ever™ had her checkup today. Two hundred fifty six dollars. So much for retirement.

"She's not special, she's horrible," I said.

Lucy responded by gumming my arm.

"You're horrible," my youngest told me.

"Big talk for someone who's basically a human tick," I replied.

"Why would you say something like that?" asked the Lovely Bride.

"He latched onto us at birth and won't let go until we're dead or out of money," I said. "Maybe I should smear him with Vaseline."

"Can I go golfing?" he asked, changing the subject.

"That would require money and friends. You don't have either."

"I'll call some of the guys from the baseball team."

"They're not going to give you money," I said.

"No, I'm going to ask them if they want to go golfing with me."

"Then you still won't have any money."

"You can give me some," he said in a tone that clearly wondered how I could miss such an obvious solution.

"Why would I pay for you to go golfing?" I asked him.

"Because you bought me new clubs last week," he answered.

Which I had, because he'd outgrown his old set and a nearby golf store was having a going out of business sale. Needless to say, the purchase had sent his two older brothers into a rage.

"So, because I spent money on you, now I have to spend more money on you?"

"Right," he said.

"How does that make sense?"

"It's a waste of money to buy golf clubs and not use them."

"That would be true if they were idle capital equipment and there was a market for what they could produce," I said.

He stared blankly at me for a minute. "Does that mean you'll give me some money?" he finally asked.

"What have you done to earn it?" I asked.

"I went to the vet with mom," he said.

"That must have been a big help," I said. The Lovely Bride rolled her eyes behind his back.

"It was," said the boy.

"I suppose having you there gave the vet something for comparison when she checked for parasites," I smirked.

"Shut up," he said. "Lucy was glad I was there." Lucy wagged her tail and gummed his arm.

"If I let him go golfing, will you stop destroying everything we own?" I asked her. She let go of his arm and grabbed mine.

"So can I?" he asked.

"I can't reach my wallet when she's chewing on me," I said.

"Come here, Lucy," he said. For the first time in her life, she obeyed a command, dropping my arm and going to him.

"What a horrible animal," I said.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Moo Cow

"Are those cows?" asked R.'s son pointing to a group of animals on the far side of the field we were passing.

"Cows say 'moo'," I told him. "Those are horses. Horsies say 'neigh.'"

"I'm not stupid," he said.

"Of course you're not, buddy," said his father in a soothing tone.

"Shut up," he muttered, slinking down next to my oldest in the backseat.

We were on the first leg of college visits for my oldest. R. and I have been best friends since seventh grade. His three boys are about the same ages as mine and we've traveled plenty together. Sometimes our wives come too, on the longer trips, but lots of times it's been the boys and R. and me, to cabins and parks and lodges and resorts.

As the boys have grown, though, it's gotten harder. Sports are more demanding, school friends are more important, and life just got busy. R. lives on the other side of town and there are entire months that go by now that we don't even see each other.

Which is why a month or two ago, when R. found about the college visits, he asked if he and his oldest could join us.

"Our boy's a year younger than Snag's," said R.'s wife. "It's kind of early for him to be thinking about college, isn't it?"

"I want him to see there's an alternative to prison," said R. "Besides, it'll be fun."

Our first visit was a big land-grant university in a small city a few hundred miles from home. Nice enough campus, nice enough people, nice enough all around.

"What did you think?" I asked as we got back in the car that afternoon.

"I'd rather be dead than live here," he said.

"When you're my age you'd rather be dead, period," I said.

"I'd rather be dead than be you," he replied.

"They grow up so fast," said R., wiping away an imaginary tear.

The next morning we toured a medium sized private school in a big city a few hundred miles further down the road. It was a beautiful campus in a lovely part of town. The admissions presentation included an engaging, witty engineering professor and an articulate, self-deprecating student from Italy.

"I wish I could go to school here," R. whispered ten minutes into it.

"Tell me about it," I whispered back.

"How much is tuition?" he asked.

I told him.

"Jesus Christ!" he blurted, prompting a scathing look from his son.

"Yeah, but with some of this, some of that, we can probably find a way to make it work."

"What's his GPA?" he asked.

I told him.

"Jesus Christ!" he blurted again, prompting another look from his son. "I guess we know one thing he got from the Lovely Bride," he continued.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"Because we spent high school smoking and reading Kafka."

"And playing foosball," I reminded him. "We played a lot of foosball."

"Foosball too," he agreed. "I still can't figure out why that didn't attract more girls."

"They were probably scared away by our coolness."

"Be quiet," his son hissed.

The presentation ended and we wandered over to the bookstore to buy t-shirts and magnets.

"What did you think?" I asked my son.

"I liked it," he said.

We spent another day in the city, eating barbecue and Italian food and sightseeing. On the way home we stopped at Field of Dreams, where we'd been years before.

"Do we have to do this?" my son asked, reluctantly taking his baseball glove out of the trunk.

"Humor me," I said.

R. and I played catch with our sons for a while, until they were bored and our arms hurt. We bought some more t-shirts and magnets and got back in the car.

"Cats in the Cradle," said R., wiping away just a little bit of a real tear this time.

"Cats say 'meow,'" I said.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Say Hello To My Little Friends

Been doing the college visit thing with my oldest this week, but we still had time to stop by and see two of our favorite animals.




Monday, July 20, 2009

Overthrow

"What are you going to bring me as a souvenir?" I demanded.

"What would you like?" asked my mother. She'd just finished describing her upcoming trip, a jaunt through Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Austria.

"A Gypsy," I said. "And some Vienna sausages."

She blinked several times without speaking.

"I could have asked for a bounced Czech," I offered.

My mother turned to the Lovely Bride and said, "He's in fine form."

"It's better than yesterday," said the Lovely Bride.

"Oh Lord, what did he do?" asked my mother.

Saturday wasn't that bad. We were at the baseball game, watching my youngest play shortstop, when he threw a ball over the third baseman's head.

"Aargh!" I choked out, pounding my leg.

"He's doing his best," the Lovely Bride said.

"I'm doing my best not to scream."

"Leave him alone."

"He's on an all star team. He can play better than that."

"Stop it."

I turned to a couple of dads sitting nearby. "If women ruled the world, we'd all feel good about being failures."

Silence, amplified by the look I was getting from the Lovely Bride and several other women.

"I think I'm going to stay out of this one," said one father.

"Me too," said another.

"Thanks," I told them.
My mother took a moment to digest the story. "Did he really say that?" she finally asked.

"Yes he did," the Lovely Bride told her.

"I certainly hope you set him straight."

"Yes I did," said the Lovely Bride.

"Thank you," said my mother. "I obviously failed at raising him and I don't feel good at all about that."

"You did your best," said the Lovely Bride.

"Yes I did," said my mother.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Songs I Never Hated - Part 9

And neither, I suspect, did Zombie.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No Rest

"If you don't behave, we'll kill you," I said.

"If you do behave, you'll get dessert," said my friend R.

We were at a table at the Lake Yellowstone Lodge. My three boys were with us, as were his three. Their ages at the time were 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

Our wives had somehow maneuvered things so they were sitting alone at a table next to ours and enjoying a quiet glass of wine. They glanced up at our comments and frowned.

"Want to trade seats?" R. asked them.

The women went back to pretending they didn't know us.

"Let's play a game," I suggested.

"How about 'How Much Can Snag and I Drink?'" said R.

"That one, of course," I said. "Something the boys might like too, though." I nodded at his two oldest boys, who were giving each other the evil eye.

"You're going to die," he whispered to them.

"So are you," I snapped at my middle kid, who was about to steal his younger brother's crayons.

The waiter arrived. "Would you gentlemen like anything before dinner?" he asked.

"A new life," said R.

"A lot of liquor," I said.

"I'll bring a wine list," he said, backing away nervously.

"A couple of martinis with it," I called after him.

"Shhh," my Lovely Bride hissed from her table.

"I'm sorry if we're bothering you, ma'am," I said. "It's hard being a single father."

She glared at me for a moment, then went back to talking with R.'s wife. I was going to pay for that one later.

"What game are we going to play?" asked R.'s youngest.

"Guess Why God Hates Me," suggested R.

"How about the Quiet Game," I said. "We'll see who can be quiet the longest."

"I lose," said my middle son. The rest of them started yelling at him for cheating. So much for that idea.

"Let's guess how many zeros a number has," I said. "It'll be a team effort. If you're wrong, you all get punched."

"That's too easy," said my oldest.

"Four hundred and two quintillion, thirty one quadrillion, seven hundred seventy trillion, nine hundred forty one billion, six hundred and seven million, three hundred and six," said R.

The boys put their heads down and started calculating. R. and I stuffed some bread in our mouths and chugged greedily at the martinis that finally arrived.

"Five zeros," the kids finally concluded.

"Right," said R., who, like me, had completely forgotten the point of the game.

The waiter had returned again. "May I take your dinner order?" he asked.

"I'll have the bison," I said.

"I'll have the trout," said R.

"They'll all have cheeseburgers," we said, pointing at the boys.

"I want macaroni and cheese," one of them demanded.

"Fine," I said. "Macaroni and cheese. And a big bottle of Pinot Noir."

"Would you like the wine with your dinner?" the waiter asked.

"No, it's a medical emergency," said R. "Right away, along with a couple extra martinis. The pain is starting to return."

R.'s wife glared at him from the other table. He was going to pay later too.

"Let's play another game," the kids demanded.

So we did, alternating games and alcohol for the better part of an hour. Finally, dinner done, promised desserts delivered, we stood to leave.

"Excuse me," said an elderly woman who was sitting with her husband at a table next to ours.

"Yes?" R. asked, flinching in anticipation.

"I just want to tell you we'd been looking forward to this special dinner for quite some time and were very worried when you sat down next to us. You have lovely children, however. They behaved splendidly and you did a marvelous job of keeping them entertained."

"Thank you," I said. "That's very nice to hear."

R. and I turned to our wives, who were listening while they enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee at their own table. We smirked.

"You'd best catch up to your lovely children," said R.'s wife.

"Yes," said mine. "They're in the lobby and it looks as though they've found a new game."

We looked up in time to see a punch about to be thrown.

"I'm going to kill them," said R.

"Lovely funerals for lovely children," I said.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Long Time

"Really? You're related to John?" I asked our fishing guide.

"Yeah."

"John and I went to high school together. Are you his cousin?"

"He's my uncle. My dad's brother."

"Time flies."

"I guess."

"He still live in Oregon?"

"Yeah."

"I visited him out west. A long time ago."

"Yeah?"

We went Sufi dancing and then to a club, I thought. A long time ago.

"Fish on," he said, nodding at my line.

"Yeah," I said.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mirage

We'd been trying for hours to hitch a ride on a ramp in the Mojave. Hot and dry, as befits a desert. No traffic. Finally a car.

The convertible pulled to a stop in front of us. Five football players, or frat boys, or Marines.

They looked at us, with our long hair, beards, backpacks.

We looked at them.

They looked at us some more and then each other. The driver nodded. A passenger nodded back, bent down in the backseat. He straightened, something in each hand.

Two beers. Sweating from the cold.

"Here," he said. Threw them both, I caught one and so did my friend.

"Thanks," I said.

The driver nodded again and they were gone.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Every Minute

We were at the park waiting for my youngest's baseball game to start.

"I need a Phiten," he said.

"If it's not air, water, food, or shelter, you don't need it," I replied. "And shelter's questionable. So is food. Those sliding shorts make you look fat."

"Shut up," he said. "I need a Phiten, though. It's made with titanium."

Lord, now what? I thought. Is he building weapons?

"Everyone on the team has one," he continued.

Things were getting clearer.

"What kind of piece of crap is it?" I asked.

"It's not crap. It gives you energy."

"Okay, Deepak Chopra. Show me one."

He walked over, talked to a teammate, and came back with a necklace.

"It's made out of cloth," I said. "How much do these things cost?"

"It's not cloth. And they only cost thirty dollars."

"Thirty dollars! Have you been smoking crack?" I must have been loud, because other parents were starting to look.

"I'll use twenty dollars of my birthday money and that way it won't cost you anything."

"You said it costs thirty dollars."

"It does."

"And you're paying twenty."

"I know. So it won't cost you anything."

My head was starting to hurt.

"I'll make you one," I told him.

"How?"

"I'll tie some string together and wrap aluminum foil around it."

"That's dumb."

"Not as dumb as paying thirty dollars for useless junk."

"If it was useless it wouldn't cost thirty dollars!" he replied triumphantly.

"What a marvelous job of parenting I've done," I said to another dad who had been listening with interest.

"You're going to let him get it, aren't you?" he asked.

"It's a waste of money," I said.

"I know," said the other father. "The gray one or the red one?"

"Probably the red one."

"That's the one I got my kid," he said.

"Sucker," I said.

"Join the club," he replied.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

That Was Fun

I've had worse days.

































Thursday, June 18, 2009

Seamless

I cut myself last night. Nothing too unusual about that, except I somehow managed to cut myself with a baseball.

With the middle kid playing on two soccer teams and the oldest with activities of his own, I've skipped coaching this year. The youngest is playing traveling baseball and I didn't see how I could coach him and spend any time with his brothers. I'm not sure his brothers would consider that a loss, but I try to avoid the perception, if not the reality, of playing favorites.

Baseball all star season's starting now, however, and with the youngest playing for my old co-coach P. again, I thought I'd help out at last night's practice. By helping out, I mean standing in the outfield while the kids scrimmaged.

Apparently I looked bored between innings because Coach P. threw me a high fly ball. I misjudged and at the last minute had to make a stab at it. Two handed, just like you're supposed to, except the ball hit bare hand, not glove.

"Damn it," I said, probably louder than I should have, picking up the ball and throwing it in. Then I looked down at my hand. It was bleeding. A lot.

"Ow," I whimpered. "Look at this," I said to one of the other dads.

"Jesus," he said. "That's messed up."

It was. A big chunk of meat gone between the pinkie and the ring finger, gouged out by the seam of the ball. The other dad helped me wrap it up and it stopped bleeding. It still hurt, but not so much I couldn't sit on the bleachers and watch the rest of practice.

Until the Lovely Bride arrived at the park to drop off our oldest for his cross-country practice. "Let me see that," she ordered.

I unwrapped the bandage.

"For God's sake, you need stitches. You need to go to urgent care."

"But I'm the team parent and we're having the first team meeting after practice," I whined.

"Then the clinic will be closed and you can spend the night sitting in the emergency room," she said.

"You're doing errands tonight. How's our kid going to get home? Hitchhike? Maybe he can get a ride from some nice man with a panel van and a Kit Kat in his pocket."

"Why would you say something like that?" she asked.

"Because it's funny?" I suggested.

"It's horrible," she said.

"He doesn't think so," I replied, pointing to our smirking child.

"You'll be doing everyone a favor if you leave now," she told me.

So off to urgent care I went where the nurse practitioner cleaned the wound, stitched me up, and sent me on my way. When I got home the two youngest gagged with delighted horror at my hand.

After that was out of the way, I asked the youngest how the team meeting went.

"Fine," he said.

"Did you meet everyone?" I asked.

"Yeah. Coach P. had all the kids introduce themselves and their parents."

"That's nice."

"You and mom weren't there so I said I was a foster child."

"You told them what?" his mother asked with alarm.

"That I was a foster child."

"What did they say?" I asked.

"They laughed."

"I'm proud of you, buddy," I told him.

"You deserve each other," said the Lovely Bride.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Family Time

"Fight the power!"

"Shut up or I'll kill you too," I told my middle son. He was encouraging his younger brother, who'd just kicked me under the table before running out of the room.

"Stick it to the man," the middle kid reiterated. The youngest giggled.

"They're so dumb," said my oldest.

"I know," I said.

"You're not any better," he told me.

The Lovely Bride closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This is what passes for dinner conversation in our house.

"What does that mean?" I asked the oldest.

"You encourage them," he replied.

"How?"

"With your stupid songs."

"You mean the Lucy Song?"

"Don't start," he snarled.

"She's an evil puppy, an evil hound, she'd be better off dead or at the pound," I sang to the tune of "It's a Small World." Lucy responded by grabbing my arm with her mouth. She doesn't bite, she just sucks on it.

"The worst dog ever," I mused. "She makes Marley look like Lassie."

"You deserved to get kicked," said the oldest.

The youngest whooped his approval from the kitchen. Lucy released my arm and charged after him. One of them barked a few times.

"I wish we could have more family dinners," I said.

The Lovely Bride shuddered and poured herself another glass of wine.

"When I leave for college, I'm never coming back," said the oldest.

"That's what I said when I was your age," I told him.

"No, Grandma said she didn't want you back," he said.

"He's right," the Lovely Bride reminded me.

Lucy charged back into the room and lunged at the food on my plate. When I blocked her, she began circling the table, looking for another angle.

"When you go to college you have to bring this horrible dog with you," I told my oldest.

"I will," he said.

"And your brothers," I added.

"You're being stupid again," he said.

"Will you take your father?" the Lovely Bride asked him.

"No. Sorry, mom," he said.

"We're the best family ever!" I said proudly.

"Except for you," said the middle kid.

"I love you son," I told him.

"I love you too, daddy," he said in his best imitation of a four year old.

"Will you take me with you to college?" the Lovely Bride asked my oldest.

"Sure," he said.

"The best family ever," I repeated.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy Anniversary, O Lovely Bride

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

- Christopher Marlowe