Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dragon Lady

"Please tell me that's not real," I said.

"Of course it is," said my mother. "Feel it."

I shuddered and waved her away. "Maybe you really do have dementia."

My mother glared at me. "Can you please make him shut up?" she asked the Lovely Bride.

"I wish," said the Lovely Bride. "He's just like that. It's genetic."

"Thank God he's adopted," said my mother. "I'd hate to think I'm responsible for him."

"Yes, thank God I'm adopted," I said. "At least there's a chance I won't act like a lunatic when I'm your age."

"Is it always like this on Sunday mornings?" my sister asked my oldest. She'd come along to see this.

"Pretty much," said the oldest.

"I see why you went to Miami," my sister told him.

He shrugged. "You get used to it after a while."

"Stockholm Syndrome," said the Lovely Bride.

"Hey, we're kind of getting off the point here," I said. "Specifically, what the hell is wrong with her?"

"I think it's nice," beamed my mother.

"No, 'nice' would be a new hairdo. This is nuts."

"Stop overreacting," she said. "My friends think it's interesting."

"Then it's time to find new friends."

"You're not really one to be criticizing someone else's choice in friends," said the Lovely Bride.

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

"Let's just say your friends don't always make good choices."

"He was like that growing up," my mother mused. She brightened. "Oh well, at least he never got arrested. That's a small miracle in itself."

My oldest looked up with interest. "Why do you say that?" he asked.

"Can we focus on the issue?" I interjected before things got further out of hand. "What in God's name were you thinking?"

"I'm eighty-one. I can do what I want."

"So you want to be a carny?"

"You're being ridiculous."

"Sorry, my mistake," I said. "I meant a biker chick."

"Well," said my mother, getting up, "I've had enough of you for one day. I am going to drop your sister at home and then I am going to a movie."

"What are you going to see," I asked. "'Caged Heat?'"

"If I had known he'd be this upset, I would have done it years ago," said my mother.

"What did you do, Grandma?" asked the middle kid as he came through the front door.

My mother held out her arm. My son gaped at the green dragon tattoo coiled around her elbow. "Do you like it?" she asked.

"You're the coolest lady ever," he finally said, shaking his head in wonder.

"Thank you," she told him. "I'll see you next Sunday. Have a good week." She turned and smirked at me.  "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Jennifer to the rescue!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


"Why do you suddenly want a passport?" the Lovely Bride asked suspiciously.

"So we can run away somewhere exotic," I said, trying to give her a kiss. She waved me away.

"Are you certain you don't have another family somewhere?" she asked. "You've sure been 'traveling' an awful lot."

"Of course," I said. "This family turned out so well I couldn't wait to start another one."

"I see your point," she said. "But seriously, why the passport?"

"I want to enroll in the TSA Pre program. I'm tired of standing in security lines at the airport. Besides, our kids all have one. Eventually we'll stop spending money on them and we can go somewhere interesting."

"Fine," she said. "Get a passport."

The next day I diligently filled out my paperwork, enclosed an original copy of my birth certificate, and sent the application off to the appropriate authorities.

Several weeks later, I came home to an envelope from the Department of State. It didn't look like it would contain a passport, and sure enough, it didn't. Instead, it held a letter on very official looking stationary from the United States Department of State, Charleston Passport Center. It began:

Dear Snag:

Thank you for your recent passport application. The evidence of U.S. citizenship or nationality you submitted is not acceptable for passport purposes for the following reason(s):

The document you submitted does not sufficiently support your date and place of birth in the United States since you were a non-institutional birth. Therefore, please submit the following:
  • A combination of early public documents created at the time of your birth. Examples of such documents include: notes created by the midwife regarding your mother's pregnancy and delivery, early religious records, your parent's tax, rent, or employment records created at the time of your birth which indicated their U.S. residency, elementary school records showing your name, date and place of birth, and/or any other document established in your infancy or early childhood that indicates your date and place of birth.
My first thought was, I hate it when people use "and/or."

My second thought was, what the hell?

Fortunately, the people at the State Department had included a telephone number for someplace called the National Passport Information Center. I dialed the number and, after the requisite ten minutes of working through a phone tree, connected with a very nice woman at the Center.

"Hello, may I ask who I'm speaking with?" she inquired.

"Snag," I said.

"What can I help you with?"

"I got a letter that says because I'm a non-institutional birth, I have to provide other records. I'm trying to figure out what that means."

"May I please have your date of birth?" she asked.

I gave it to her.

"And the file number at the top of the letter?"

I gave that to her as well.

"Now, please read the letter to me," she said.

"The whole letter?" I asked.

"Yes, please."



So I did. I kept waiting for her to stop me, but she never did, and I read it all, the salutation, the citations to the Code of Federal Regulations, the closing, every last word.

"Thank you," she said. "Now what is your question?"

"I'm not sure why I'm considered a non-institutional birth. Is there something weird in my birth certificate because I'm adopted?"

"I'm sorry," she said. "I can't tell you that."

"Why not?" I asked.

"We're not authorized to provide that kind of information."

"Okay," I said. "So what am I supposed to do?"

"You should do what the letter says you should do."

"Right. But I was adopted so I don't have any of those documents."

"Could you get a copy of your parents' tax returns from the time of your birth?"

"No, you see, I don't know who my biological parents are. And the birth certificate I sent you before already has my adoptive parents' information on it, and that's apparently not sufficient."

"That is a problem," she conceded.

"So what should I do?"

"You should do what the letter says you should do," she cheerily responded.

 "But I can't," I said. "So what can I do instead?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, we're not allowed to tell you that."

"Let me guess," I said. "You're not authorized to provide that kind of information."

"That's right," she chirped, clearly pleased I was catching on so quickly.

"In that case, who can I talk to?"

"You'll need to talk to the Charleston Passport Office. They're the ones who sent you the letter."

"Fine," I said. "What's their phone number?"

"I'm afraid they don't have phones," she said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"They don't have phones."

"They don't have phones?"

"Right!" she chirped again.

"Look," I said. "I know you just work there, but that's the craziest thing I've ever heard."

"Why do say that?" she asked.

"I'm pretty sure there's phone service in Charleston and I'd be willing to guess the State Department isn't working off the grid."

"Sir, all I know is that we've been told they don't have phones."

"Well, how am I supposed to talk to them if they don't have phones?"

"That is a good question."

"Do they have an email address?"

"Hmm," she said. "I don't think so."

"I suppose if they don't have phones, they probably don't have email either,"  I said.

"I know!" she exclaimed. "You could write them a letter and ask them to call you!"

"That's an interesting idea," I said. "But how can they call me if they don't have phones?"

"They could borrow one!" she said.

"That might just be crazy enough to work!" I said.

"I know!" she agreed.

"Well, thank you very much," I said.

"You're very welcome," she said. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"No, thank you," I said. "You've done plenty already."

"Have a great rest of the day!" she said.

"You too," I replied and hung up the phone.

"Who was that?" the Lovely Bride asked.

"Kafka's granddaughter."

 "What are you talking about?"

"I don't really know anymore," I said.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Last Straw

What I'm supposed to be doing tomorrow night:

What I'll probably be doing tomorrow night:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In Toto

"What is he carrying on about?" my mother asked as she sat down at our kitchen table for her regular Sunday morning visit.

"He's reading the editorial page," said the Lovely Bride. "You know how he gets."

My mother frowned at me "Why do you do that to yourself?"

"Otherwise I'd take it out on my family," I explained.

The Lovely Bride muttered, "It's not working."

"Don't you have wifely chores to do?" I asked her.

"Judging by your wife's expression, this would be a good time for you to shut up," my mother suggested.

"Good luck with that," said my youngest son.

The Lovely Bride gave me one final look and then turned to my mother and asked, "What's new with you?"

"I'm considering a safari," my mother said.

"I thought you were going to Sarasota," I said.

"I am."

"They don't have safaris in Sarasota," I said. "Besides, I thought you were attending Clown College."

My youngest smirked. "You're the one who went to Clown College, Dad."

"The last time I heard that I laughed so hard I fell off my dinosaur," I told him. He sneered at me in return.

"They're certainly noisy, aren't they?" my mother said.

"I've learned to ignore them," said the Lovely Bride.

"Anyway," said my mother, "I am not going to Clown College. I am going to an arts program."

"You're going on an art safari?" I asked. "I don't think you can hunt artists, even in Florida."

"I'm talking about a photographic safari."

"You're going to take photos of artists? That's kind of meta."

"Not in Florida," she said in exasperation. "In Africa."

"Mom, Sarasota isn't in Africa. Are you sure you didn't go to Clown College?"

"I am visiting Sarasota next week. Then, later, on a separate trip, I would go to Africa. Is that clear enough for you?"

"Why didn't you just say so?"

"He is particularly difficult today, isn't he?" my mother said to the Lovely Bride.

"Trust me, it'll get worse," the Lovely Bride said. "Football is on later and he likes to yell, 'Move the chains!' after every play."

My mother shook her had sadly. "I have no idea what you're talking about, but you have my sympathy."

"You did warn me," said the Lovely Bride.

"I tried," said my mother. "In any event, I enjoyed Africa so much the last time I was there, I'd like to go again. I'm afraid my memory is not what it used to be and I need to travel while I can."

"Your brain is fine," I said. "Surprising, given the heroin problem you had during my formative years."

"No, I can tell I'm not as sharp as I used to be," she said.

"For God's sake," I said. "You were just in Switzerland for twelve days by yourself. And it's not like you got on the plane by accident. Stop being such a worrywart."

"I'm just being realistic."

"I thought you made the doctor give you a test and that came back just fine."

"Doctors don't know everything."

"That's what I keep telling her," I said, pointing at the Lovely Bride. "Why doesn't anybody believe me?"

"Evaluating the wisdom of a bourbon and sausage diet doesn't exactly require a sophisticated medical background," said the Lovely Bride.

I shrugged. "My cardiologist is a quack."

"He went to Stanford," said my mother.

"So did Bernie Madoff," I replied.

My mother and the Lovely Bride looked at me for a moment and sighed in unison.

"Give me some," I said, holding my fist out to the youngest for a bump. He ignored me, but Lucy the dog gnawed on my hand a few times.

"Where do you want to go on safari?" the Lovely Bride asked.

"South Africa, I think," said my mother. "I've been to Tanzania, and although it was lovely, I don't feel a need to return there."

"Bring me some rhino horn," I said.

The Lovely Bride gave me a frozen smile. "Don't bother," she said.

"South Africa would be cool," said my youngest. "They have hippopotamuses."

"Yes," said my mother. "That's one of the things I'd like to see."

"What's the point?" I asked. "You couldn't tell anyone about it."

"Why?" asked my mother.

"HIPAA regulations," I said, gleefully.

 "Dear God," said the Lovely Bride.

"Move the chains!" I yelled.