Friday, August 29, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008


"The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America."

- Barack Obama, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Doctor Will See You Now

As has been made abundantly clear to my Lovely Bride, I have been suffering from a backache that is roughly as painful as having one's leg fed into a garbage disposal made of hot acid. Because of a contract dispute between Blue Cross Blue Shield and my medical clinic, however, I have had to suffer in stoic silence. That dispute has now been settled and I am once again able to enjoy the fruits of a health insurance system that is the envy of Liberia.

After getting weighed ("I'm sorry Mr. Snag, I don't think you're wearing thirty pounds of clothing"), I settled in to wait for the doctor. I'd foolishly neglected to bring anything to read and was forced to browse through the few materials in the examination room. Family Circle. Country Living. Coping with Osteoporosis. Slim pickings.

Soon enough there was a knock on the door and the doctor let himself in. "Good morning," he said, eyeing me curiously as I tried to hide the breastfeeding pamphlet I'd been studying.

"Hey, how's it going?" I asked.

"Fine, fine," he said. "What seems to be the problem?"

"I've got a heck of a backache," I told him.

"Where exactly does it hurt?"

"If I was a cow, it would be from the chuck roast area down through my right foreshank."

He stared at me.

"My shoulder blade through my right arm," I explained. Doctors don't always get my sophisticated wit.

"Let's take a look," he said. He ran me through a series of simple tests, poked and prodded a little bit, and stepped back.

"I'm guessing rickets or scurvy," I said.

"I'm pretty sure we can rule those out," he replied. "Looks like you've got a strained muscle. Do you remember doing anything to it?"

"I pushed some particularly heavy paper a few weeks ago," I told him.

"I suppose that could do it," he said, doing his best to humor me.

"Can I tell my wife you advised me to start smoking again?" I asked hopefully.


"Please? I'll give you another co-pay."

"No. You cannot start smoking again. That won't help at all."

"It would make me feel better."

"That doesn't matter. I am not going to tell you to smoke."

"Okay, so what should I do?"

"Move around when it starts to hurt. Get some exercise. Don't sit in front of a computer for too long."

"Are you sure I can't just smoke instead?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

"Alright. Anything else?"

"If it's really bothering you I can write a prescription for a muscle relaxant. That might help you get a good night's rest."

"No thanks. I need to sleep with one eye open. I've got a lot of life insurance."

"Hmm," he said, making a note in my file.

"That was a joke," I told him nervously.

"Of course it was," he said.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Along the highway between the airport and the site of next week's Republican convention.

Perfect Covers - Part 1

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Basketball Jones

"Eight hundred and seventy dollars for two kids to play basketball?"* I squeaked.

My friend E. laughed as he wrote out a check for his youngest son. "My oldest is done with basketball. You shouldn't have had so many children," he said. "

"No shit," I said. "Thanks for rubbing salt in the wound."

"Children are like wounds," he said contemplatively. "Great, gaping wounds with legs."

"Yeah, and they bleed money," I said.

"Remember when we were going to let my youngest kill himself for the insurance?" he asked.

"Good times," I said. "What do you suppose our boys will say about us when they grow up?"

"It won't be like the Chief's kid," said E.

"No kidding," I said.

E. and I were at a retirement party today for the chief of our local volunteer fire department. After the mayors and commissioners and legislators and other officials had their say, the chief's grown son took the lectern.

"Dad," he said, "When I was little it sometimes bothered me when you'd have to run out to fires and accidents all the time. Look at this room full of people, though." He gestured to the fire station bay, full of people as it had been all day, people from all over coming to say goodbye.

He continued, choking up a little. "I read somewhere that a man's only real legacy is the life he leads. You've made this a better place. That's the best legacy you could leave for me. I'm so proud to be your son."

The chief and his boy hugged while all of us, cops, firefighters and EMTs included, stared at our shoes and snuffled a little.

Now, at basketball sign up, I asked E., "Can you imagine what our kids will say at our retirement?"

"Christ," he said. "How about, 'I hate you, dad. You never did anything for anyone.'" He signed the check for his son's registration, handed it over, and stood up.

"I can hear it now. 'You're the worst dad ever. All the other dads are way better.'" I handed over a check for my own kids.

"Thank God I'll die before I retire," he said.

"You and me both," I said.

* I know. There is no need to remind me I'm fortunate to be able to afford it. Please respect my self-pity, as unattractive as it may be.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me The News

Funny story.

I go to school. I go to school some more. I get a job. I get a good job. I get a better job. I get a great job.

My great job has great benefits. One of the benefits is health insurance. Top of the line health insurance, for the family and me.

I find a doctor. Good guy, he doesn't nag me, offers to help me when he can. He helps me quit smoking. I smoked for twenty-five years. I haven't smoked for five. I still don't know whether to thank him for that.

Sometimes I go see him just to be safe. Mostly I go when my kids are sick or need a check up. The doctor and I talk then and he tells me when I should come back for myself.

A few weeks ago I start to hurt. My back hurts, my arm hurts, my hand hurts. Probably a pinched nerve, something like that. I think it's going to get better. It doesn't.

I want to see my doctor. Probably a simple fix. Some physical therapy or something.

Too bad. My health insurer and my doctor's employer are fighting over rates. The largest insurer in the state and the third largest provider can't work out reimbursements. As of Saturday, I'll join 50,000 other people who can no longer see their doctor without paying an out of network premium. A premium that for all practical purposes most of us can't afford.

So. I'm sick and I can't see the doctor I know and trust.

This is working out well.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How To Get Your Wife's Attention

"Do you think it's a bad sign if there's a sharp pain in my arm and my hand goes numb every time I sneeze?"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

School Days

People we know recently decided to home school their kids.

"Did you ever think we should try it?" the Lovely Bride asked me.

"Sure," I said. "The same way I think about setting myself on fire."

"You don't think it's a good idea?"

"It's a great idea for two types of people. One, religious nuts. Two, really smart and dedicated parents. Which one describes us?"

She laughed.

"Besides," I continued, "can you imagine what would happen if our family spent that much time together?"

"We'd get a field trip through the criminal justice system," she said. "Maybe the kids could get credit for that."

"If you ever become a religious nut we can discuss this again," I said.

"Is there any wine left?" she asked.

"A little," I said.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Driving Miss Snag

"Grandma's a criminal," I told the boys.

"Oh be quiet," said my mother. "I am not."

"Scofflaw's a better term," I conceded.

She waved her hand at me. "Stop filling their heads with nonsense."

"Their heads were full when I got them," I said.

"That's more than your parents could say," muttered the Lovely Bride. My mother graced her daughter-in-law with a smile for this show of support.

"You admitted it," I insisted. "Right here, right now."

"I said I drive with the flow of traffic," replied my mother.

"Which you acknowledged is usually ten miles an hour above than the posted limit. In other words, you confessed."

"Don't listen to him," she told my oldest son. He just got his learner's permit, which is why we were talking about driving in the first place. "One of the things they taught us in our defensive driving class was to adjust our speed to the other traffic on the road."

"It's okay to break the law if everyone's doing it?" I asked. "There's a nice lesson for the grandchildren."

"It's better than getting in an accident just to prove a point," she snapped.

"So the ends justify the means? We called that fascism when I was in school."

"You're not even making sense any more," she told me.

"That's because I'm sober," I replied. "Stick around until lunch."

"And you're worried I'm setting a bad example for your children?"

"I didn't say I was setting a good one," I said. I turned to my children. "Grandma's trying to tell you that if all your friends jump off a cliff, you should too."

"Don't worry Grandma," said my oldest. "He's the one who's always threatening to jump off a cliff."

"Can you blame me?" I asked.

"Give him a good push," my mother told him.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I Don't Get Out Much, But When I Do. . . .

UPDATE: May not be safe for work, you uptight suburbanites. I don't think they'll act this out in concert, though.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Yet Again

"You're a good kid, son."

"Thanks. Whatever."

"I'm serious. You're a good kid."

"Can I have another soda?"


"You said I'm a good kid."

"I want you to be a good kid with teeth."


"I love you."


"Really. I do."

"Okay. Thanks."

"Are you happy?"


"Seriously. Are you happy?"

"I guess."

"You have nice friends. You work hard. You get good grades. You deserve to be happy."

"Okay. You're kind of freaking me out."

"Sorry. I just know it's hard being the middle kid. You're doing a great job. I'm proud of you."

"Is this because it's my birthday tomorrow?"

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

"It's because my older brother got his driver's permit today. You're feeling old, aren't you?"

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

"Want to watch a movie, dad?"

"Yeah. That'd be good."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Say hello to Lucy. The newest, littlest Snag.

Bonus points to anyone who can identify the places on at least half of the refrigerator magnets in the background.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Having recovered from whatever this last illness was, one that like the others before it failed to kill me, despite my pleadings, I am able to resume my proper role in the universe. Which is to say I am again shoveling money into the gaping maws of my children.

Saturday wasn't too bad. We tried to buy new shoes for the middle kid only to find the ones in stock weren't expensive enough. Ergo, that purchase has been deferred.

Today, though, today was special. Four tickets to the ballgame. I didn't pay for them out of pocket, I got them from a vendor. Ask anyone who has a job, vendor tickets are not free. My kids don't have jobs, of course, so that lecture went unheeded.

On top of it, tickets are really only a part of a game nowadays. There are hot dogs and peanuts and pretzels, all of it marked up to the prices necessary to pay for a few $5,000,000 annual contracts.

But I knew that going in and I was fine until I got home. That's when the neighbor beckoned me over.

As I recently explained to my oldest and several of his friends, one of our neighbors is a "fucking pain in the ass. There's nothing I can do about so keep away from her and don't give her a reason to complain." They all found this hilariously inappropriate on my part, which I suppose it is, but truth is a defense. She threatens to keep their basketballs when they roll into her yard. She called the cops once because the kids were playing Wiffle ball in the cul-de-sac. The officer got out of his car, saw what they were doing, and pitched for a while. So that didn't work out so well for her.

The neighbor who waved to me, on the other hand, is a nice guy. I walked over and we chatted for a while. Finally, almost apologetically, he pointed to his rear tail light. The broken one.

"Hey, could you check with your boys and see if any of them maybe hit the car with a baseball?" he asked.

"Lord, I'm sorry," I said.

"No, no," he said. "I'm not even sure it was one of them. Besides, I'd rather see them outside playing ball than inside watching TV." Like I said, he's the nice neighbor.

"Let me know how much it costs to replace and I'll write you a check," I said.

"You don't have to do that," he said.

"If it wasn't one of my kids it was probably one of their friends. If they didn't do that, they did something else. Or they will. I'll write you a check."

He thanked me and we talked for a bit more, about his own kids, now mostly grown, his wife's job, the brain tumor he had removed last year.

I got home and asked my kids if it might have been them. They all denied it, swore up and down it wasn't them and it wasn't any of their friends. I believe them, I guess. When one of them broke a light on our garage last week he told me the truth so I'm inclined to trust them on this. Still, I told them, I was going to pay the neighbor for his taillight.

"Why?" one of them asked.

"Because we're always throwing stuff in his yard by mistake and he's never complained. This is the first time he's every said anything. Even if he never said anything, he wouldn't be very happy if we didn't take care of this. And I wouldn't blame him."

"Makes sense, I guess," said one of the boys. "How about the other neighbor?"

"She's still a fucking pain in the ass."

"Works for me," said my son.