Sunday, September 30, 2007

Idiocy. It's Not Just For Blogs Anymore.

An actual email exchange follows. It's a miracle I have friends, much less a family.

E: The father of the birthday party guest of honor. Also my son's basketball coach.

V.: The mother of the birthday party guest of honor.

H.: The mother of one of the attendees. Her son has gotten violently ill the last two years. After last year, we concluded was due to an allergy to the hair paint.

O: The mother of another attendee.

Snag: Yours truly.

Setting: E. and V. youngest son's birthday party traditionally includes attending the homecoming game on Friday night.
From: H.


My son was sent home from school today with a bad chest cold. (I thought it was just a cough and sent him to school with cough medicine, my husband thought he had bronchitis, go figure-he was somewhere in the middle) As much fun as it would be to see if would be the third year that he tried to get sick on E.'s shoes, the doc said he needs to stay home tomorrow and will unfortunately miss the party. We will drop off his card and gift at a later time. Thanks for inviting him!!!! He does enjoy the parties (up until the headache and puking)

From: E.

I'll be over later tonight to spray his hair with paint just in case he doesn't throw up enough.

From: Snag

Or I can throw up on you.

From: V.

I will take your son and you can spend the evening with the Wacko team of E. and Snag... It will be as much fun as cleaning up after a sick kid. Tell your son we hope he gets better soon and we will do something fun together when he gets better.

E. and Snag:

What the hell is wrong with the 2 of you?

From: Snag

We should get the kids' teachers copied on these emails. They think E. and I are hilarious.

From: E.

We even have our pictures at the post office and have been to the principal's office many times.

From: Snag

I wonder what O.'s up to today?

From: E.

Let's invite her into our little group.

From: V.


Don’t you have things to take care of that I ask you to do every day and you tell me you were to busy at work to get to them?

From: Snag

I had a busy day too until I ran out of Cheetos.

From: E.

Do you happen to be wearing "swim fins"? That's just hot.

From: Snag

I am. And I'm dancing the tarantella.

From: E.

Pork snorkels, swim fins, and thong underwear...

O., care to comment today?

From: Snag

Or I can comment for her. I'm an email ventriloquist.

From: E.

I saw the way you were controlling your youngest son’s flapping jaws last night. Your lips didn't even move. Impressive.

From: Snag

I wish I could keep his jaws from flapping. Or I could program him to make relaxing seashore noises or something.

From: E.

I'll teach him how to make whale mating noises during basketball practice.

From: Snag

You could design a play around it. He makes a series of high-pitched squeaks, prompting the others to spread out like a school of dolphins around the basket.

From: E.

Maybe have a couple of parents throw a gill net over some of the bigger kids from the other team.

From: Snag

Meanwhile, you and I can honk like seagulls, as we did in St. Louis.

From: E.

Where the hell are the women? I was they could multi-task as much as you and I do.

From: V.

Will you leave me alone, I am busy reading knitting blogs.

From: E.

I thought you were picking out your cheerleading outfits for tomorrow's game. I know Snag is.

From: Snag

It's going to be a Very Special Homecoming. Soon to be a Lifetime Channel special event.

From: H.

Do you two get some sort of e-mail commission written into your compensation plan? I turn the computer back on and I have 30+ e-mails for you two clowns . . and to make matters worse I have a visual of both of you in cheerleading outfits honking like geese-- like I need scary images.

From: V.

Oh no H. you have just made a fatal mistake, it called responding to the 2 idiots.

Repeat indefinitely.

Update: Edited for pedantry.

Friday, September 28, 2007


I did not expect my life to be like this. I did not think my Friday nights would be spent at homecoming parades, football games, pizza parties with a dozen kids and a handful of frazzled parents. Every year, though, here I am.

My youngest son's friend's birthday is this weekend and this weekend is homecoming. It's somehow become a tradition that his dad E. and I take the boys to the parade and the game.

The parade starts at the high school immediately after the elementary school lets out, so E. and I have to pick up the kids as soon as class ends. It's a neighborhood school and we know many of the people waiting there with us for the bell. When our group lines up, they laugh at us, shake their heads, wish us luck. I offer my keys to a first grade teacher, tell her she can keep the van if she'll take the kids while I go to the bar.

"Not a chance," she says. "I know these boys."

God forbid one of my children does something the others don't, so I end up with all three of mine, plus another three or four boys seemingly picked at random. We park and walk the last block to the high school.

The parade's not too bad. My oldest immediately ditches us to go find his friends. The other boys line up to watch the band and the fire trucks, and to try to snatch candy thrown by the marchers.

Then it's back to E.'s house for dinner, pizza and pop. Another mom calls asking if she should bring over some Hawaiian for the sugar bong. Hilarious, except the kids are starting to twitch and it's not even game time.

While we're waiting for the delivery guy, the kids go outside to play. All is well until one of them comes in crying. My middle son's hit him in the eye with a football.

I open the door. "Get inside." He stalks by me, sullen and defensive.

"It was an accident," he says.

"It's always an accident. I don't care. Accidents happen when people are careless. Sit down on the couch and wait for dinner." We glare at each other for a few seconds, then I go over and tend to the injured kid. Actually, E.'s wife tends to him while I act like a buffoon as a way to make him forget about it. It doesn't seem to work. In fact, it appears to creep him out.

I finally forgive my kid. Everyone finishes eating and we head back to the high school. Again, my oldest abandons us as quickly as possible. He's going to the homecoming dance tomorrow night with a group of friends and is terrified I'll do something to embarrass him. Go figure.

The rest of us find our seats. At least E. and I do. It's a perfect evening for football, clear and crisp. By game time, the sun is setting and the lights are coming on. The team comes out, the band plays the national anthem, and the crowd settles in.

We see people we know, friends, city council members, school board members, the superintendent. We talk, catch up, ask how the school year's going, about families, about the team's chances tonight. The stands are full of people who are hoping for a win, but for most of us, this is really a chance to show our students and each other that community matters.

It's not utopia, of course. There are drugs and crime and problems here, like everywhere. The mayor and I spend half an hour discussing the importance of community policing, getting the officers out of their cars and into the schools and businesses. I talk to people who have divorced, been arrested, had deaths in the family since last year's game. Still, it's a nice night and those things don't seem as pressing for a few hours.

While we're talking, the children cluster along the fence lining the field shouting at the best friend of E.'s oldest son. He's on the team this year and he hears his name, turns, and nods.

Tonight turned out to be his. Eighty or ninety yards rushing, a touchdown, and a heads-up play, grabbing a pass that deflected off one of his teammates. Our school wins, the first victory of the season and he's the hero. He's a good kid, funny and modest, and it's nice to see him do well.

After the game, it's back to E.'s house for cake and presents. The adults have a glass of wine, it gets late, and people start to leave. My son's sleeping over so I stay a little later, watch some television, finally get up and get home.

I did not expect my life to be like this. I did not think my Friday nights would be spent at homecoming parades, football games, pizza parties with a dozen kids and a handful of frazzled parents. Every year, though, here I am.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Snag's List

I don't have any practical use for a personals ad, having already inflicted my Lovely Bride with a vow of lifetime misery. AG's obsession with Craig's List, however, got me thinking about what kind of ad I'd post if I was back on the market. In other words: What type ad would a Snag boy post if a Snag boy would post ads?

Hey, Hey Mama, Like the Way You Move

Reply to:
Stardate: -315260.42941400304

If I had a nickel for every time I've been slapped, I'd buy a chunk of malachite big enough to choke a hamster. Because that's who I am. Thoughtful, yet profligate. Meaty, yet angular. An American with a Third World smile.

So who are you, m'lady? Do you love Wikipedia's chocolate mousse? Have you ever played Twister in a smock? Can you go from Superhero to Superfox in the time it takes to disrobe in a phone booth? If so, let's groove.

And groove we will. When you hang with me, you hang in style. My tikis are going 24/7. There's a hot tub full of flavored gelatin shots out back and Sade playing in quadraphonic sound. Later, we can go for a ride in my sound-proofed panel van, shoot at some road signs with my homemade paintball gun.

Picture yourself massaging my goiter. Then picture me rubbing yours. Pure pleasure, the Snag way.

I'm short, squat, and clinically depressed. You're a Brazilian wax model, Ph.D. preferred, trilingual skills essential (German, Tagalog, and Sioux). Please, no fatties, phonies, philatelists, or focus groups.

DNA samples gladly exchanged.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


While Blue Girl and Billy Pilgrim may be gaga over the Genesis tour (far be it from me to say anything about the extremely noticeable absence of Peter Gabriel), I did my own shopping today, tickets to this fall's Neil Young show. I've seen him before as part of CSN&Y, a good enough concert in its own right, but it's Neil as a soloist I've been wanting to see, and now's my chance.

I don't get to concerts very often now. The Lovely Bride's back in school, the kids are busy with their own things, and holy God, they're expensive. Buying the tickets, though, got me thinking about bands I've seen.

1. Talking Heads. Part of radio station KGON FM 92's "Catch A Rising Star" promotion, they played the Paramount, a 3,000 seat theater. Admission was 92 cents. Seeing David Byrne sing "Psycho Killer" would have been a bargain at twice the price.

2. Bruce Springsteen. Again at the Paramount. "Candy's Room," "Spirit in the Night," "The Promised Land," all great songs, but I've never seen a band play with as much pure glee as the E Street Band displayed on "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

3. Lynyrd Skynyrd. The plane hadn't crashed yet and it was one of my first concerts. I yelled "Free Bird" before it was a cliché. My parents couldn't figure out why I was so excited when I got home and I couldn't explain it.

4. Hüsker Dü. It was just a bar band playing to a small crowd. They hadn't been signed yet and people were there mostly for the cheap beer. After a while we gave up trying to talk, got a drink, and listened.

5. Grateful Dead. I'd seen them before and would see them again, but not like this. Outside in the Texas sun, there was barbecue and a skydiver beforehand and camping and parties after. I remember "Terrapin Station" going on for what seemed like hours or at least I remember my memory of it. The next morning we got up in time to run into town for breakfast at a diner, sitting in all our post-concert glory among the families on their way from church. It was everything a Dead concert should be.

6. Patti Smith. I was still trying to decide about this thing called punk. Patti sang "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine" and I knew.

7. The Kinks. The opening chords to "Lola" started playing on a darkened stage, the crowd started chanting, Ray Davies walked on stage, paused, and said, "No. I don't think you're ready." Then he launched into another song. Every half hour or so the band would offer just the first few notes again, Ray would say, "Not yet," and off they'd go in another direction. Smarmy, maybe, but he pulled it off. When they finally played it as the encore, everyone was ready.

8. Green Day. My oldest son's first concert. He liked it just fine. Great songs, great showmanship, great fun. A perfect introduction to rock and roll.

9. U2. Eight days after taking him to Green Day, I took the boy to U2. Lucky kid. Bono takes himself a little seriously, but what the hell, he's Bono. Besides, hearing "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Pride (In the Name of Love") live is its own form of moral instruction.

10. R.E.M./Bruce Springsteen/John Fogerty. It was exhilarating to sit in an arena with thousands of other people ready to vote for anyone but George W. Bush. It was indescribable to hear Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, R.E.M., John Fogerty, Bright Eyes, and surprise guest Neil Young blast through a version of "Rockin' in the Free World" that the Devil himself would have sold his soul to play, repeating the line over and over, "We've got a kinder, gentler machine gun hand" with rage and fury and despair. The greatest show I've ever seen. The greatest show I ever expect to see.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Death Pool

Last night at dinner with my children, the conversation turned, as it so often does, to my death. I don't think they're actually hoping for my demise. Instead, I'm inclined to believe they know my life is like a slow-motion car wreck, one with little hope for a happy outcome. In any event, as my offspring were guessing at the possible causes of my death ("I bet he has an aneurysm while he's yelling at us!" "I bet he has a heart attack from eating bacon!" "I bet Mom kills him for snoring!"), they were reminded of their path to riches, namely my life insurance.

It's quite unlikely those dreams will come to pass. Oh, I'll die of course, probably after suffering for years from an excruciating and disfiguring illness, one that requires me to wear support hose and a helmet. This should be of only academic interest for the boys, however. It's a virtual certainty that my Lovely Bride will outlive me. She's younger, in better shape, and spends less time with the kids. She'll get the proceeds to do with as she wishes, probably something dull like pay off the mortgage and send the kids to college.

But children need to dream and mine are no different than any others, at least in this regard. Perhaps they'd get a check for their share? You never know - it could happen! With visions of seven-figure payouts dancing in their heads, they started talking about what they could do with the loot.

My oldest, the ant, thought he'd invest some of it in Treasuries and short-term corporate paper. Some would be converted to gold and buried in coffee cans in the back yard, which would give him the ability to turn away his brothers' requests for help in the post-apocalyptic society sure to follow economic collapse. The remainder would be set aside to buy treats for our dog, Katie.

My middle child, the grasshopper, had a slightly different philosophy. He knows, from having been kicked off a casino floor last year, that he's too young to gamble. Instead, he decided to settle for next best, which is to become a freelance soccer player whose entire diet consists of Mountain Dew and Pixie Stix. This prompted jeers from his older brother along the lines of, "See, I said you're all going to be fat and lazy, just like Dad" but not even a detailed and gruesome description of diabetes-related amputations shook his certainty. Like his brother, he also intended a portion to be used for dog treats.

Last, my youngest chimed in. He's neither ant nor grasshopper. Frankly, I don't know what he is. A magpie, perhaps. Anyway, he had evidently given quite a bit of thought to this, as he went on at some length about the luxury boxes he planned to purchase at sporting venues around the country, including estimated costs and specific locations within each stadium. His childish delight would have been a wonder indeed, had it not been predicated on me dying. He too set aside money for Katie's benefit.

Throughout, I remained mostly silent. Occasionally I'd look down at Katie, in her customary place under the table, and ask her if she knew what the hell is wrong with my family. She ignored me. She's no Einstein but she knows which side of her bread is buttered. Three kids promising to buy her treats? It'll be a miracle if she doesn't kill me herself.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


The results of this week's basketball tryouts got posted tonight. The middle boy ended up on a team with some kids he knows, so he's happy. I know and like some of the parents, so I'm happy too.

The youngest is making the transition from in-house to a traveling team this year, also playing with some friends. His fancy new shoes presumably made the difference. In any event, traveling basketball it will be for him as well.

What this means for me (the Lovely Bride is in class on weekends, so I use "me" advisedly), is approximately 60 basketball games between the middle of November and the end of March, with another, I don't know, let's call it 70 practices. Throw in driving time and it's better than 200 hours of basketball-related activities over these five months. I like basketball well enough, but still.

Of course, this is self-inflicted. I could refuse to let them play, or at least make them play at less competitive and less time-consuming levels. I don't, though, something that's prompted me to consider my motivations.

If my boys stay with their favorite sports and don't get hurt, they can all probably play competitively through high school. It helps that many of our school district's teams have inclusive rostering policies and try to find a way to let as many kids participate as possible. That's a good thing. If sports really are the character building, we should build as many characters as we can.

At the same time, I don't expect any of them to get athletic scholarships to college, much less play professionally, notwithstanding any idle fantasies I may have in my more desperate moments. I know some parents of an elementary school child who fully anticipate a free ride at a Division I school followed by a lucrative professional career. Why? Because they're crazy. So that's not my reason for letting my kids play.

I do believe sports can build character, whatever that means. That's not a necessary outcome of playing, of course, as evidenced by the behavior of far too many pro athletes. With good coaches and good teammates, on the other hand, sports can provide opportunities to learn how to win gracefully, and how to lose gracefully. They can teach the importance of practice and hard work and perseverance. They can do all that, however, with far less playing time than my kids are getting. So that's not my reason either.

I guess the reason I let them play so much is because they want to. When my kids were little, I would come home from work and horse around with them, peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek and everything else I could think of or invent, not because I liked the games but because I loved watching them play. Now, instead of those games, they make lay-ups and serve aces and score goals and get hits. Before I know it they'll be grown and gone, and then these hours and hours of basketball, of sports, will be hours I will have spent doing what I love most, watching my children play.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I've Got Your Maple Leaf Right Here

Hey everybody, I'm back! Things seem to have been quiet, no broken furniture, no missing jewelry. . . . . Hey, wait a second! Who broke my Romantics CD? And where'd these entrails come from? Billy! Billy Pilgrim, get down here right now! Damn kids. You'd think at least Jennifer and Kathleen would know better.

It seems I won't be playing with SpiralFrog after I'm done cleaning up this mess, since, as Fish points out, I would be required to buy a new MP3 player, which would be stupid, even for me. So be it. Art is a waste of time, a conclusion I reached during the 72 hours I recently spent in monk-like isolation. Except for the other people. And the liquor. And the møøse.

Having traveled hundreds of miles by autocar and flotilla, only to pass through the walleye curtain that is the Canuckistan border, I found myself marooned on an island, with not even a Mrs. Howell to break the monotony. I had no survival gear besides my wits, several changes of clothes, a comfortable queen-size bed, a decent if not great novel, and a lodge with a well-stocked bar.

At times, it was touch-and-go. Should we have another beer or switch to bourbon? Fish for breakfast; what sort of madness lives here? But survive we did, somehow, miraculously. It wasn't pretty, and there are many men who would have run screaming for home long before I did, but they have neither my fortitude nor my children. We managed. Nay, we thrived!

Or so I thought. This morning, returning home through the vast tundra that makes up the "country" (i.e. suburb) to our north, I saw two men walking (or were they lurking?) in a field. Were they farmers? Møøse hunters? Terrorists? We will never know, for when this darkening cloudy threat to national security was brought to the attention of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the only response was a puzzled expression and a rude inquisition regarding our treatment history. Is it any surprise we celebrated with a resounding chorus of, "Suck it, Canada!" when we finally escaped?

God bless the U S of A!!!

UPDATE: Hell hath no fury.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Tomorrow I leave for three days at one of the most beautiful spots on Earth, a place that can only be reached by plane or boat, a place without internet or cell phones. I'll miss my Lovely Bride, all my bloggy friends, and of course my precious children most of all.

It will be sad and lonely, sequestered there in a quiet spot, away from the screaming and complaining that mark my home life, but I shall persevere, if for no other reason than to return and spend the weekend determining whether the new SpiralFrog free music downloading service is any good. In the meantime, I shall enjoy my journey, bolstered by the following tuneful delights.

1. It's All In My Mind - Teenage Fanclub

2. Saturday In the Park - Chicago (bite me, I like it)

3. That's Just What You Are - Aimee Mann

4. Take Your Mama - Scissor Sisters (go figure)

5. The Bleeding Heart Show - The New Pornographers

6. Bang a Gong (Get It On) - T. Rex (the radio of my youth, now playing on my iPod walker)

7. Suzanne - Leonard Cohen (I don't even like this song but I can't bring myself to delete it)

8. South Side - Moby (yeah, yeah, I know)

9. What I Like About You - The Romantics

10. Jack Straw - Grateful Dead (someday I'll write about my favorite Dead concerts now that the statute of limitations has expired)

I'm a dork. See you all Friday.

Parents Say The Darndest Things

An excerpt from the Snag family photo album.

Monday, September 17, 2007

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

I spent tonight awaiting completion of my youngest's basketball tryouts (picture a bunch of hypercompetitive grade schoolers playing 3-on-3), my middle son's soccer practice (picture a bunch of hypercompetitive middle schoolers playing 6-on-6), and the end of the Eagles-Redskins game (picture a bunch of overpaid slackers playing grab ass). In other words, I had plenty of free time.

Time spent wisely, I might add, inspired as I was by Pinko Punko and Jennifer, and their reference to that greatest of writers, Mitch Albom. Sure, "Tuesdays With Morrie" and "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" are classics in their own right. But surely the genre has more to offer us. Here are some other favorites.

1. "Wednesdays With Trixie"
A moving encounter of a middle-aged businessman's weekly session with a Filipino masseuse. This book club favorite uses the metaphor of lying naked beneath a towel in a hot sheet motel room as a way to explore the vulnerabilities we all feel in our daily lives. There is a little Trixie in all of us.

2. "Jonathan Livingston Porkchop"
Most porkchops are content with their fate, happy to be grilled, eaten, and forgotten. Unlike the rest of his Family Pork Value Pack, however, Jonathan dreams of a larger world, one in which he can find the freedom he so desires. Whether he succeeds is beside the point; it is his attempt that matters, a lesson for every reader.

3. "The Cellophane Prophecy"
When a troubled roll of Saran Wrap finds herself hopeless stuck, she is confronted by an ancient roll of papyrus. Tracing the metaphysical origins of wrapping materials, this strikingly original work explores the angst and the questing that is part of every life, be it organic or manufactured. A story to unite the world.

4. "The Porpoise-Driven Life"
Drawing from the notion that porpoises were put on earth as messengers from God, this bestseller exhorts us to follow the example these gentle "dolphins of the family Phocoenidae" as we continue our spiritual journey. The wildly popular monthly cleansing ritual of sardine oil may have resulted in overfishing in certain areas of the Atlantic, but for the best cause of all - spiritual holisticnessicyishness.

5. "Chicken Soup for the Zombie Soul"
Far too often, our undead brothers and sisters are neglected by the self-help publishers. This delightful exception gives practical suggestions on how to bring back that pre-grave spark. Pamper yourself! Treat yourself to a four-brain dinner! Devour a neighbor! Just because you're dead doesn't mean you can't live it up.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

There Are 172,800 Seconds In A Weekend

Friday night, my youngest's friend told me that my kid's been moved from the seat he was given at the beginning of this school year. Apparently he was talking a lot. Big surprise. I asked whether the teacher had moved him into an empty closet down the hall. Not yet, I gather.

This discussion took place at the ballgame. The team had a contest last spring, "Write An Essay On What Your Father Means To You." First place was a chance to stand on the field during the National Anthem. We didn't win that. We were with all the rest of the entrants, all of us getting a coupon for a discount on the cheap seats, a misnomer given that my first trip to the concession stand cost $29, and that didn't include any beer.

There wasn't much chance of my boy ending up on the field. His entry was a meandering commentary on the teams I've coached, a passing reference to my fondness for practical jokes, a paragraph on my alleged hatred for dogs, topped off with a discussion of the ways in which I annoy him. At least he spelled "annoy" correctly.

By the time we got home from the game, it was pretty late. Saturday we had soccer, then he went to a friend's to play, then we had company for dinner, then we went to a neighbor's to listen to a friend play guitar, then we watched a movie, and by Sunday morning everyone was more tired and cranky than usual.

I like to sleep in on Sundays and I wandered downstairs around 9 a.m. The kids were all in the family room, the oldest playing Xbox, the others doing color commentary, none of it supportive and all of it resulting in an increasingly volatile situation. I did my best to calm it by shouting, "Shut the hell up or I swear I'll kill you all," but things continued to deteriorate until the youngest came upstairs crying because his brother had called him dumb.

"You're not dumb," I muttered, trying to finish the crossword puzzle before my mother arrived for her weekly visit.

"Yes I am," he said.

"You got great scores on your standardized tests, you have good grades, you just aced your spelling test on Friday. You're not dumb."

"My brother says I am."

"He's a pinhead. Ignore him," I said, an inadvertently loud comment that elicited howls of protest from the other room.

About then my mother showed up. When she's not traveling, she comes by every week to give me unsolicited advice.

"When are you going to the doctor for a checkup?" she demanded after she'd greeted the boys, all of whom she loves far more than she ever did me.

"When they perform my autopsy," I said. "It should be pretty soon."

"Don't be stupid," she said, to the great delight of her grandchildren. She turned to my Lovely Bride. "When is he going?"

My Lovely Bride said, "If he hasn't made an appointment by the end of the year, I'm making one for him." She smirked at me. She's convinced a visit to the doctor doesn't count without a prostate exam.

"Leave me alone," I said. "I have insurance."

"Enough to buy a Ferrari?" asked the youngest.

"Yes," I replied.

"Cool," he said.

My mother glowered. "I do not want to help raise these boys," she said.

"Neither do I," I said. "Besides, they're half-feral already. They'll be fine."

As if to prove the point, one kid dropped to his hands and knees and started growling at our dog. His brother took the opportunity to kick him.

That proved enough family time for Grandma, who packed up her things and said goodbye. I know she wonders how she raised a son like me. Luck, I guess.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Happy Birthday To You

I successfully avoided watching the President's speech by coaching soccer, so that was a nice win-win for everyone, with the possible exception of the soccer team. On the way home, my youngest informed me he needed to buy a birthday present for the party he's going to for a friend who's turning ten this weekend. I'm a flexible, generous person and told my son he could pick any of the following to give as a gift.

1. A handgun
2. Three pounds of ground beef, extra lean
3. A monkey
4. Edith Piaf's La Vie en Rose
5. A bag of magnesium hydride
6. Twelve expired lottery tickets
7. A plastic candelabra
8. The New American Poetry Anthology
9. One quart of clotted cream
10. A femur
That should eliminate the need to buy another gift next year.

Close Your Books And Pick Up Your Pencils

In preparation for tonight's Presidential address, here's a little pretest.

1. The President will claim the the War in Iraq is:

a. A success
b. A great success
c. Becoming a success
d. The Democrats' fault
2. The word "honor" will be used:
a. Three times
b. Five times
c. Twelve times
d. Inappropriately
3. The President will say Iraq is:
a. The central front on the war on terror
b. Key to our national security
c. Making great progress
d. The worst in an unending string of mistakes by his administration
4. Opponents of the war will be described as:
a. People who hate freedom
b. People who would like to see Saddam Hussein back in power
c. People who don't support our military
d. People who don't understand the threat
5. The speech will be:
a. Incoherent
b. Enraging
c. Insane
d. All of the above
Extra credit:

Complete the sentence.

By the end of the speech, I will want to ______________.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Coming Soon!

Mendacious D, knowing of my love for all things edible, referred me to this illustration. There's only one word to describe it - mouthwatering!

There's also only one word to describe the demand for the forthcoming NY Times bestseller, Snag's Cooking Now - extremely incredible! Many of you have seen previous selections from this soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture-blockbuster masterpiece. Now, as a special bonus, Friends of Befouled are being offered a sneak peak at the marketing materials for the Book That Will Change Your Life.

Noted chef de cuisine Snag draws from his vast repertoire of Google searches to create a spectacular coffee table book. This lavishly aromatic gift from heaven features recipes ranging from simple weeknight preparations like Buckthorn Surprise and Boiled Mackerel ala Duesenberg to elegant meals such as Glazed Potash and Truffled Platinum. Each recipe is accompanied with step-by-step illustrations demonstrating how to undertake even the most difficult kitchen task, be it filleting a charging rhino or cauterizing a sucking chest wound.

As a further bonus, Snag has included entries from celebrities around the world. Who knew that Kofi Annan is a fan of sauteed cheese or that Ani DiFranco loves baked egret? Apparently Snag did, for their recipes are lovingly reprinted here, complete with warning letters from various attorneys.

This is more than just a cookbook, though. Snag uses the world of food as a jumping off point for the larger issues that concern all of us. Whether discussing the relationship between pasta and Toronto's notorious mandatory abortion laws, the effect of global warming on ham, or the spork's impact on modern art, his insatiable curiosity delights and confounds the reader.

The majesty of this epic work goes beyond its contents. With his customary attention to detail, Snag has designed a book that is as beautiful to hold as it is to read. Printed on silk and bound in washable Gouda, it will occupy a cherished place on your mantel for generations to come. Act now and your three easy installments of $79.99 will also include a genuine pencil.

And this is a book with heart. One hundred sixteen percent of after-Snag proceeds will be donated to the Save Atlantis Foundation, a charity Snag created and runs for the purpose of preserving this fabled underwater kingdom for future generations. As Pope Benedict XVI would have said if asked, "Buy two copies unless you hate your children."

So call now! Desperate operators are standing by!!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Snaghouse Blues

Having been away for the entire first week of school, my Lovely Bride was understandably a bit overwhelmed with getting everyone back in their routines. This is only amplified by her own return to school, having found herself in the midst of a career change of her own. Understandable, but not without consequences, as evidenced by my return to a house that appeared to have been looted by rabid badgers during my absence. That, in turn, meant today was cleaning day.

Contrary to what my kids would tell you, I'm not obsessed about making sure the house is spotless. A good thing, because it's never even close. I do draw the line when my family starts considering paper plates an acceptable alternative to washing dishes, and that's pretty much where we were by Friday night.

This morning was out for cleaning, because the youngest had a soccer game, one I was coaching in my role as kind and beneficent father. Tomorrow is out, because the middle one has soccer tryouts and two games, to which I will be shuttling him in a reprise of that role. That left this afternoon.

Some children are born with a good-natured willingness to pitch in. Mine are not, something no doubt attributable to my parenting style, a combination of empty threats and bribery. Nevertheless, as I've explained to them repeatedly in the last month, we simply cannot keep the family afloat during the upcoming basketball season without their help.

My oldest, bless his crabby little heart, has already taken on a lot of the chores around the house. Not because he likes them, or even because he's necessarily supportive in the traditional sense, but more because he realizes his parents are such abject failures he's liable to catch a disease if he doesn't take matters into his own hands. Hence, he does his own laundry, vacuums, and even cleans the bathrooms with some regularity. But, again, with school and cross-country starting, he's stretched thin too.

Which brings us to the others. The middle child, while he takes some prodding, eventually gets into the groove. Today, for example, he folded and put away four baskets of laundry, exhibiting a marginally tolerable attitude most of the time.

The youngest, on the other hand, doesn't have a groove. Told first to help fold clothes, he complained so much his brother told him to go away. From there, he was assigned to picking up the dog food spilled in the storage room, a chore that stretched out from its expected five-minute completion to an hour-long nightmare replete with shrieking and gagging noises. Which promptly antagonized his brothers, which promptly led to a shouting match involving all of us, and the dog.

Which is why I've decided to put together a special playlist, something to put them in the right frame of mind. The soundtrack to the lives of my children.

1. Under My Thumb - Rolling Stones

2. That's When I Reach For My Revolver - Mission of Burma

3. Psycho Killer - Talking Heads

4. Stranglehold - Ted Nugent

5. Stuck in America - Sugarcult

6. Chain Gang - Sam Cooke

7. Take Your Medicine - Cloud Cult

8. Cruel to Be Kind - Nick Lowe

9. Nowhere to Run - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

10. Whipping Post - Allman Brothers

Bonus track - Garland Jeffreys - Spanish Town
I'm gonna eat my rice and beans,
I'm gonna suck on a chili dog

Friday, September 7, 2007

Friendly Skys, My Ass

You know what my favorite airline food is?

I don't know, because there isn't any.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Good Time Was Had By All

What a nice day in Washington. Breakfast with politicians, enough said there, and then, on Fish's recommendation, the afternoon at the Phillips Collection. Which was everything he said and more, with Hoppers, Picassos, Braques, and the crown jewel, Luncheon of the Boating Party, which is magnificent on the wall and will also be magnificent in magnet form on my refrigerator, joining such other luminary magnets as those from Yosemite, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis.

But who cares about all that? What people really want to know is what is a night like with Chuckles and Clif? Let me tell you, something else.

To begin with, I was initially taken aback by their resemblance to the Newman and Redford of the "Butch Cassidy" years. Even after chatting with them for a while, I found it hard to avoid thinking of Bolivia.

That eventually passed and so on AG's advice, we decided to have a nice meal on the FDA's tab. We started with an appetizer of emulsified pearls, followed by blackened coelacanth, unicorn flank sliced thinly against the grain, and a mousse prepared from Hemingway first editions. All washed down with Champagne made from grapes pressed by teen-aged Romanian figure skaters.

And a chili dog.

It was good.

We did more than eat, of course. Many people don't realize that Chuckles is actually noted German director Werner Herzog and we spent a great deal of time discussing President Bush's well-known fondness for "Fitzcarraldo"and the impact this has on our country's relationship with a more democratic South America. Clif, however, ultimately took the position that Fassbinder's "
Berlin Alexanderplatz" was the greater film and the argument soon spilled into the streets where hilarity ensued.

Somewhat surprisingly, I found the Washington jails much to my liking. My skills in origami impressed the other inmates and the three hours I spend there before being bailed out were some of the happiest of my life. I shall forever cherish these scars as memories of this special time.

But, alas, all good things must come to an end. Tomorrow I board my return flight home on Air Llama, leaving behind the glitz and glamour of the most famous American city built on a swamp. Someday I shall return, hoping only in the meantime for the opportunity to repay the kind hospitality of my new friends, Chuckles and Clif. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Can You Feel The Love?

I survived a blessedly calm plane ride to the seat of our nation's government, enjoyed a nice meal at Central Michel Richard, and drank too much bourbon at a place called, coincidentally, Bourbon. Halfway through dinner, I sent a text message to my oldest son, asking after his first day of high school. Transcript follows.

Me: How was your day?

Him: Good.

Me: What r u doing?

Him: Mom and I r at grocery. Youngest son's at friend's. Middle son's still in room being punished. Mom says she's exhausted.

Me: Bummer.

Him: What r u doing?

Me: I'm eating caramel crème brulée prepared by guy who was named James Beard chef for 2007.

Him: Mom says F U.

Me: Give mom big hug for me.

Him: Bye.

Me: Bye.

Tomorrow: Adventures with Chuckles and Clif.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Back To School

School starts tomorrow and that means it's time to fill out the parent questionnaire for my youngest. The teachers don't bother to ask about the older ones anymore. Either they've given up or my family's reputation precedes them. In any event, my Lovely Bride, in a moment of incredibly poor judgment, asked me to take care of it. So, here we are.

1. What do you feel are your child's academic and social strengths?


2. What special interests or abilities does your child have?

He's a gifted complainer and victim. His interests include being uncooperative and identifying my failings as a parent.

3. How would you describe your child's personality?


4. How does your child respond to directions from you?

With rage and contempt.

5. How does he/she respond when he/she is disappointed or angry?

He is always disappointed and angry.

6. How does your child handle responsibilities and/or chores?

He doesn't.

7. Have there been any major changes during the last year which might affect your child's school performance.

He had a new head plate installed and we've increased the amount of lead and mercury in his diet. In addition, his mother shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

8. What do you feel is the most important thing the school can do for your child?

Water and fertilize him.

9. Are you interested in volunteering in the classroom?

That's not really a question you want to ask our family.

10. Do you have any special interests/hobbies that you would like to share with our class?

I like to collect and paint roadkill when I am not practicing my exotic dancing. His mother is an avid drinker.

11. Is there any other information you wish to share with me to help me understand the best way to meet your child's needs?

A Taurus, he enjoys sunsets, long walks on the beach, and waffles. On weekends he likes to solder. He hopes to have his voting rights restored when he grows up.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Step Right Up!

As one of the few Snag family traditions not firmly entrenched outside the mainstream, we go to the State Fair most Augusts. When I say "we" I'm referring to the boys and me. The Lovely Bride tries to avoid this forced march, leaving to me the joys of three children wired on sugar, grease, and the peculiar attractions of the midway.

Like most Snag family traditions, this one typically involves bickering and demands that I spend money. I had no particular reason to think yesterday would be any exception.

We got to the fairgrounds mid-morning, made our entrance, and started shoving mini-donuts in our pieholes. Coincidentally, the Democratic party's booth was near the donut stand and when we stuck our head in to say what was what, we found to our delight (i.e. to my delight) a Senate candidate was about to speak. And what a populist stemwinder he gave.

"The Democratic party has become the liberal party and the conservative party," he said.

"There's nothing conservative about billions of dollars of deficits!"

The crowd cheered.

"There's nothing conservative about spying on American citizens!"

The crowd cheered louder.

"There's nothing conservative about torture!"

The crowd roared.

My kids, bored at first, started paying attention. They listened to the rest of the speech, applauded with the rest of us, then took an Obama '08 button to bring home as a gift to a neighbor.

From there we wandered off to more traditional activities. Foot-long hot dogs, turkey legs, deep-fried cheese curds, the swine and poultry barns, farm implement displays, games of "skill." Everything you could want.

Only one thing was different this year. The kids didn't complain. At least they didn't complain much by their standards.

Why? I don't know.

Maybe they're just getting older. That didn't make much difference this morning, though, when they were at each other's throats.

Maybe they were well-rested for a change. They were still up when I went to sleep the night before, so that's probably not it.

Or maybe they were just thinking about the speech, and how "some people can't pull themselves up by their bootstraps because they don't have any boots," and maybe for a change they appreciated, just a little, what they have.