Thursday, December 29, 2005
Donatello, if Ninja Turtle:
Muy frickin' colorful:
Girl with one much longer leg:
Little girl who can rip apart a chain link fence with her bare hands:
Like Egypt, but Guatemalier:
Koosh ball tree:
Guy with ferret in jacket:
Monday, December 26, 2005
But what struck me as even more interesting than the facial hair of its correspondent was the show’s revelation about a movement known as freeganism. For those who haven’t already heard about freegans, they are otherwise regular people who have chosen to boycott the conventional economy, subsisting largely through a practice known as “urban foraging.” To the untrained eye, “urban foraging” looks a whole lot like “digging through the trash and eating food that other people threw out,” because that’s exactly what it is.
Freegans try to remove themselves as much as possible from the wastefulness of society, so they rummage around in other people’s garbage to find food that is still edible. They do this because garbage is free, unless you buy it at Brookstone’s, in which case it is expensive and probably vibrating. I don’t know if freegans have adopted an official mascot yet, but if they haven’t I think they should give serious consideration to the raccoon.
I hope that no freegans have ever starved because they were depending on finding leftover food in my trash. I can just picture a freegan at the end of my driveway in the middle of the night, pulling out unopened Capital One applications and empty cereal boxes.
“Don’t they ever cook?” the freegan would say weakly, crawling to the next driveway.
“Let me know if you find anything good. We're starving in here!” I’d call from the window.
It would be easy to make fun of people for eating trash, but I actually have a lot of respect for the sentiment behind freeganism. When I was a busboy back in high school, I found that one of the major perks of the job, besides the groupies, was the second dibs I got on some very choice pieces of post-consumer lemon-herb chicken. I’d only eat from the clean side, of course, not where the bites marks were. I have my standards.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was at the vanguard of an entire philosophical movement. Readers of this column (me and my mom) will remember that I once ate Neil Armstrong’s leftover salmon, which might very well make me the first Space Freegan.
Right after the show ended, I turned to Kara and asked, “So if we ever get a cat, can we name it Sniffy Kerplonkus?”
Sniffy Kerplonkus is a great name for a hypothetical cat because, not only is it a very difficult name to say with any gravitas, but it is also the only remaining combination of letters in the universe that yields zero search results on Google.
To my disbelief, Kara actually agreed that Sniffy Kerplonkus is a fine name for a cat. The only reason I’m telling you this now is that I need to have it in writing, so that on the off chance that we ever really do get a cat, Kara can’t back out later. The ink cartridge for our printer ran out about three years ago, so it’s really much easier if it just shows up in the newspaper instead.
If you’re not going to eat the rest of that chicken leg, you can give it to Mike Todd online at email@example.com.
Monday, December 19, 2005
I sat up to look out the window; the umbrella indeed had so much snow on it that it looked like a giant white mushroom sprouting up in the backyard. Why was the umbrella still open and out on the patio in the middle of December? Your guess is as good as mine, especially if your guess is that I’m lazy.
“We don’t feel like going outside right now,” I said, pulling the covers up over my head. “It’ll be fine. We’ll put it down when I go out to shovel a little later.”
About five minutes after that pronouncement, I heard the crack from the backyard as our patio umbrella gave up the ghost. If an umbrella falls in the backyard and its owner hears it, it makes the sound of about a hundred dollars being yanked out of his pocket. Being lazy is awfully expensive sometimes.
So I stumbled out of bed, put on my jacket and went out to survey the damage. Noticing the whip of the wind across my legs, I came back inside, put some pants on, then went back out.
This winter sure didn’t give us much of a warm-up. We went straight from shorts weather in November to shin-deep snow a few weeks later. It’s already game time and we haven’t even had practice yet.
I trudged around, collecting the pieces of the umbrella, which had snapped right at the crank casing, flinging plastic pieces into and under the snow, where most will be found again when I mow over them in five months. After running out of swear words, I gave up on the umbrella and made my way over to the garage to dust off my snow shovel.
Our driveway is barely long enough to park three cars end-to-end, but when ten inches of snow are on the ground and I’m standing in the garage armed with a giant spoon, it looks big enough to host the Iditarod.
Using a shovel to move snow around seems so primitive, like just one step above a monkey using a rock to crack open a coconut. I’d much prefer to figure out a way for an internal combustion engine to do the work for me, but none have offered to do it for free so far. I guess that’s why people have kids.
Two years ago, when we were getting ready for our first winter as homeowners, Kara and I went to the hardware store to pick up some snow shovels. The store had about a dozen different models to choose from, with awesome names like “The Bulldozer” and “Avalanche.” I settled on a little blue number with a bent handle. Apparently, bending the handle of a snow shovel makes it ergonomic, which doubles the price. But still, the bent handle is a wonderful advancement in shoveling technology, because it truly does make it easier on your back not to have all that cash in your back pocket.
When Kara saw that I’d found a shovel I liked, she smiled and headed towards the register.
“Whoa, hold on.” I said. “Don’t we need a second one?”
“What?” she said, still walking away from the shovels.
“Don’t we need two shovels?” I asked. “I thought I might come out there and help you occasionally.”
So Kara begrudgingly came back and picked out a shovel that she liked. In retrospect, we could have saved ourselves twenty bucks.
If Mike Todd is still alive after Kara reads that last sentence, you can reach him online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Sunday, December 11, 2005
At the end of every season, the league I reffed for scheduled a coaches vs. refs game, a tradition that extended all the way back, I believe, to the year that cockfighting became illegal. Something had to fill the bloodlust void.
The game pitted the seventeen year-old refs against the slightly more geriatric coaches, who would toss and turn all night before the day of the game, muttering, “Reaching in? You gotta be kidding me,” while dreaming about hunting zebras that have whistles around their necks.
The coaches were a little less spry than the refs, but what they lacked in elastic ligaments, they made up for with liberally applied elbows and 401(k) plans. While the vast majority of the coaches were good sports, there were always a couple who seemed like they were just a sideways glance away from ripping off their knee braces and beating somebody with them.
During one of those games, I was playing defense on a coach who had beaten me, not with his knee brace, but to the basket, and as he went for a layup, I gave him a friendly little nudge in the back, a little tap just to say, “I care,” which sent him sprawling onto the gym floor. In my defense, the floor was a very soft pine.
When the coach got back on his feet, as he made his way to the foul line, he veered off course to head over my way. “He must be coming over to congratulate me on a well-executed defensive maneuver,” I thought. Instead, he leaned in so that just I could hear him, and in a very matter-of-fact tone, he muttered, “If you ever do that again, I’ll rip your [pretty little] head off.”
Looking back on it now, I don’t even remember who won the game. It’s funny how in life you tend to forget about the final scores, but you always remember the death threats.
I recently told my wife Kara that story, and when I finished, she looked at me with genuine amazement. “You’ve never told me that story before,” she said. “That’s hard to believe.”
“I haven’t thought of it in a while. And why’s it so hard to believe? I really didn’t push him that hard. He must have been the sensitive type,” I said.
“No, no, I mean it’s hard to believe that you still have new stories. That’s seriously the first time I’ve ever heard that one.”
And she’s right. After five-plus years of being together, we’ve both completely run out of new material. I already know about everything that’s happened to her since 1999 (because I was there for most of it), and she can say the same about me. And we’ve both had plenty of time to catch each other up on everything that happened before we met. That story about the coach threatening to rip my head off was the last fresh story she’s ever going to hear out of me. It’s all reruns from here on out. Hey, Seinfeld’s nothing but reruns, too, but it’s still worth watching.
Work stories don’t count as new material, either, because who wants to hear about work? We’re each allotted ten minutes per weekday to talk about work, but after that, you have to talk to the glazed-over eyeballs, ‘cause the ears ain’t listenin’.
Before you get called for three seconds in the paint, you can reach Mike Todd online at email@example.com.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Monday, December 05, 2005
The seal in “March of the Penguins” was the scariest movie character since Samarra in “The Ring.” I think I’m going to have Kara check for seals under the bed before we go to sleep tonight. Or maybe I’ll just rub some tuna on her slippers.
Morgan Freeman, who did a fine job narrating the film, kept saying that “March of the Penguins” was all about love. I found it to be more about penguins. Perhaps there’s more love in the unrated DVD version.
Regardless, anyone who’s seen the movie, which features numerous scenes of penguins using their stubby little legs to trek seventy-five miles back and forth from the sea to their Antarctic breeding grounds, most likely stopped complaining about their commute for a couple of days.
We saw the movie on a whim at one of my favorite places in the world – the second-run, cheap seats theater. For two bucks, you can see all those movies that don’t quite seem worth ten bucks to see at the real theater, but still seem worth wasting two hours of your life on, like every movie with Will Ferrell in it.
The thing I love best about the cheap seats theater is that when a seat breaks or has something nasty spilled on it, they just throw a trash bag over the seat and move on with life. Also, they don’t waste money on things like heat, which helped to bring the Antarctic experience that much closer to home. It’s like the cheap version of IMAX – when you see your breath and you can’t feel your fingers, you really feel like you’re right there beside the penguins.
Our most memorable cheap seats experience came the day that Kara and I made the severe miscalculation of going to see a Harry Potter movie during a Sunday matinee. The theater was overflowing with little wizard wannabes, who would have done well to have studied up on the spell for, “Open a bag of Skittles without sending the entire contents bouncing across the theater floor.”
About halfway through the movie, a baby started crying. A normal muggle father would have simply taken the baby outside, but this one was not normal. For a good fifteen minutes, the baby tested out its new lungs in creative and ear-shattering ways. I have no idea what happened in the movie, but it was well worth my two bucks to watch the theater patrons slowly turn into an angry mob. One mother started taking up a collection, offering to head over to Kmart and buy them out of pitchforks and torches.
Finally, someone from across the theater politely asked, “Sir, could you please take your baby outside?”
The man stood up with his baby in his arms, proceeding to unleash a string of obscenities that would have made a pirate blush, making clear his intention to stay, while giving a free vocabulary lesson to dozens of children. Those words should only be taught to children by a parent who is trying to fix something.
The movie kept playing as an army of theater employees came to evict the man from his seat. We missed the whole movie and were out two bucks each, but sometimes you get more entertainment than you pay for.
You can throw popcorn at Mike Todd’s head online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
Thanksgiving is a great holiday, without a doubt, but I tend to think of it as more of a ramp-up holiday for the bigger ones just around the corner. In my family, Thanksgiving always seemed like an hors d’oeuvre kind of a holiday, a mozzarella stick to whet one’s appetite before the porterhouse steak of Christmas was served.
This year’s Thanksgiving, though, promises to be an excellent one for my family, which has recently expanded by way of betrothal. My wife Kara and I rarely have an opportunity to bring both of our families together, and we couldn’t have had everyone over to our house for our second Thanksgiving as a married couple, mainly because they’d probably expect us to cook for them, but also because somebody would probably have to sleep in the ferret’s cage. I’d feel bad if Dad had to fight with Chopper over who got the hammock and who got the fuzzy little fleece pocket.
This year, Kara’s family has graciously agreed to host both of our families for Thanksgiving dinner. This works out perfectly for me and Kara, as we get to hang out with everyone, and we don’t have to clean the bathroom to do it; we get to have our turkey and eat it, too.
Speaking of cleaning the bathroom, did you know that you can get toilet cleanser with Teflon in it now? I know! I don’t blame you for being flush with excitement. It’s only a few cents more than the regular stuff, so it’s definitely worth it, especially if you cook a lot of eggs in your john. Sure, this may be only tangentially related to the topic of Thanksgiving, but it’s important for the public to know about big-league scientific advancements like this. Also, if you happen to work in a Teflon marketing department, allow me to give you your new slogan: “Teflon: Out of the frying pan and into the toilet.” You don’t have to pay me any royalties if you use that; just cleaning my bathroom before company comes will be thanks enough.
So this year we don’t have to decide which family to spend Thanksgiving with, or figure out a way to do a whirlwind tour so that we can see everybody. Usually, mapping out the holidays with our two families involves months of discussion, scribbling with red pens on calendars and a musical montage where the hands of a clock spin around in the background. This year we’ll have everyone under one roof, and that’s something to be thankful for, even if we don’t have to go around the table and say it out loud, which, incidentally, I really hope we don’t have to do.
I’m also very thankful that I’m actually going to eat a meal that doesn’t involve cereal in any way. This is a very rare and special occasion for me. Maybe I’ll eat the turkey with a spoon so it won’t be too much of a shock to the system.
How a person could possibly cook a huge meal for eight other people, I have no idea, but I’m psyched that Kara’s mom is gracious enough to do it. If Kara and I were left to our own devices for Thanksgiving, we’d probably just pour gravy over our Corn Pops.
If you’re careful not to get any mashed potatoes stuck in your keyboard, you can reach Mike Todd online at email@example.com.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Kara and I are used to running a gauntlet of weddings every year, as we have reached ages that (frighteningly) round up to thirty. Though I haven’t kept a running tally, I think that the number of weddings may have been eclipsed by the number of baby showers – you can work out the math on that one.
The fact that my friends are having children now is rather disconcerting. These are the same people who, in college, spent weeks walking a lobster along the countertop for longer and longer periods of time because “we’re teaching it to breathe air.”
What baffles me most is that people keep having kids when they know full well what irrational creatures they are. A guy Kara works with was telling her this week about his two-year old son, who has recently added the word “afraid” to his vocabulary. After his parents dressed him one morning, the kid started shrieking that he was afraid of his pants.
The pants did not have tarantulas crawling around in them. These were not asbestos pants. My property taxes were not hiding in his pockets. The kid made such a fuss that his parents were compelled to remove his pants, at which point the child started crying because his legs were cold. But he wouldn’t hear of putting his pants back on. “I’m afwaid of my pants!” he wailed. After hearing this story, I ran to the computer and bought stock in a prophylactic company.
Hasn’t anybody ever tried talking reason to children? Seriously, somebody ought to do something about this. Sane people do not act this way. And still, my friends keep insisting on bringing new little crazy people into the world.
When Kara and I were having our driveway re-done last year, Anthony, the little boy next door, was fascinated by the small bulldozer that the workmen were using. His mom brought him outside, armed with her camera.
“He’s had his nose pressed against the window all morning. Anthony loves construction stuff,” she told us.
The little boy was absolutely beaming that he was going to get his picture taken with a bulldozer. He was all decked out in his Bob the Builder overalls. His mom asked permission of the workmen, who graciously smiled and told her to feel free to let the little guy have a ball with the construction equipment.
Anthony ran over to bulldozer, and his mom picked him up to put him in the driver’s seat.
“Awww, that’s so cute,” Kara said. And it was. Briefly.
The shrieking began as soon as Anthony’s mom tried to back up far enough to take a picture. So she came back to pick him out of the seat, and then he started shrieking, “Nooo! Picture!”
When she backed up again to take the picture, he shrieked even louder, holding out his arms for her to come back. But when she came back, he picked it up a few dozen decibels more, intent on having his picture taken in the driver’s seat, but too scared to sit there for his mom to get far enough away to take the picture. She only ever got far enough away to take a picture of his face, which was red and flowing with various fluids. I doubt that one ever made it to the mantle.
I watched in horrified amazement. A chess-playing Sasquatch is easier to find than a rational child. Still, I’m looking forward to this weekend. Bringing new insanity into the world is best celebrated with friends.
If you’re not too afraid of the keyboard, you can reach Mike Todd online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Winter is on its way here, which is a good thing, because cereal takes a lot longer to go stale in winter. If you ate Corn Pops for dinner three nights a week like I do, you’d be excited about it, too. And even if you’re not a big fan of winter, at the very least, you can take solace in the fact that you won’t have to hear anybody say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” for the next several months.
One of my favorite things about this time of year is the arrival of the constellation Orion, which I will refer to from here on out as if he were a person, because I think he’d probably want it that way. I saw him for the first time a couple of nights ago as I strolled around the neighborhood, enjoying the quiet of late evening, when I have time to think about important things like, “If I ever get struck by lightning, I’m definitely getting a lightning bolt tattoo, assuming I’m still alive,” and “If the world was a fair place, leftover pizza would be healthier for you because it doesn’t taste as good.” As I turned the corner to head back to the house, I happened to glance up over the horizon, and there he was, Orion the Hunter, clubbing all the other stars over the head and making jerky out of them in his garage.
There’s a song I keep hearing on the radio that goes: “Look at this photograph. Every time I do it makes me laugh.” Whenever I hear those lyrics, I think, “It makes you laugh every time you look at it? I even stopped laughing at the postcard I used to have of a horse getting frisky with a cow. I must see the picture that makes you laugh every single time.” I suppose I can understand the sentiment, though; every time I see Orion for the first time, I just have to smile and say, “Hello, winter,” and then try to remember where the heck I left my gloves last March.
I feel a special connection to Orion, because he’s the only constellation I can identify besides the Big Dipper, although I can usually find three or four Little Dippers. I’m also really good at finding triangles in the sky. Those things are all over the place, if you know where to look. Hint: up. It’s a good thing other people came along and gave the constellations cool names like Cassiopeia, the Seven Sisters and Hydra. If it had been left up to me, the sky would be filled with constellations like Square, Messed-Up Trapezoid and Almost Ice Cream Cone.
If you’ve never seen him before, it’s worth taking the time to introduce yourself to Orion. He doesn’t usually let city lights drown him out; if you can see any stars at all, you can probably see Orion. Like Baby from Dirty Dancing, nobody puts Orion in the corner.
He’s shaped like, well, actually like a big rectangle, but if you use your creativity, you can fill in a big dude wearing a belt and wielding a club. If you flip him upside-down, and imagine his head where his feet are supposed to be, he looks like a really cool archer, bent slightly backwards and launching an arrow into the sky.
If you don’t know where to look for him, the best way to find him is to have someone who recognizes him go outside with you, point upwards and say, “Next to that one star. See it? No, the other star.”
When you do finally see him for the first time, if the first thing you think is, “Good lord, Orion, put some pants on!” then you just failed an astronomical Rorschach test.
You can give Mike Todd some jerky online at email@example.com.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Sunday, November 06, 2005
The best present I ever bought for my wife Kara was the PlayStation2 I got for her college graduation. She hasn’t touched the thing in four years, but I just finished playing “Star Wars: Battlefront” for three hours. I wish every gift worked out so perfectly.
Back when I bought the PlayStation for her, I told my buddy about it, expecting him to tell me what a thoughtful present it was. “That’s great,” he said. “Why don’t you just get her a bowling ball with your name engraved on it?”
“But I don’t bowl,” I said.
It honestly seemed like a better present for her at the time. She didn’t have a DVD player, so I figured that a PlayStation2 was the same thing, but with the added life-sucking feature of being a video game console as well. Plus, she was always bragging that when she was twelve, she beat the original Super Mario Brothers Nintendo game without dying even once. Her sister corroborates this story, but I still have my suspicions. I just can’t believe that anybody with skills like that would rather read books with titles like, “The Lustful Rogue of Vagabondville” than blow up storm troopers with grenade launchers.
Kara and I moved in together shortly after her graduation, partly because we were in love and getting married, and partly because I didn’t have any video games at my place.
I may be a nerd for still playing video games, but I recently read a news story that made me feel like maybe I’m actually not so bad. A Korean guy recently played video games for so long that he died. In real life. The police said that he had played for almost 50 hours straight, barely taking breaks to eat or go to the bathroom. He died from shear exhaustion.
The way to tell if you’re a nerd or not is simple: if right now, you’re thinking, “Well, what game was he playing?” then you are a nerd. Oh, and it was StarCraft.
So as long as you are still alive, your video game habits are not as bad as some people’s. I’ve never had a fatal bout of video game playing, but my ferret Chopper just helped me realize how messed up my priorities actually are.
While I was trying to get some work done at home one evening, I got distracted by a ridiculously stupid game on the internet, in which the only objective was to keep heading soccer balls into the air by moving a little guy underneath them with the arrow keys.
After a couple of hours of not getting work done, I was like Rain Man at this game. My little soccer guy was a blur of motion, juggling eight balls into the air at once. Try as I might, though, I always died before I could get to 500 points.
Then I started a magnificent round – truly one for the ages. I was up to 400 points with my last life. I couldn’t miss. The heavens began to shake, sweat was pouring off of my forehead and with each second, I grew closer to my goal, whizzing back and forth, heading the soccer balls into the air.
At this moment, our ferret Chopper strolled across the room, walking towards his litter box, which was right next to my chair. 470 points. But he did not get into the box. 475 points. He backed up right next to the box, onto our good (480 points) white carpet.
“No, animal. Nooooo!” I said, trying to push him into the litter box with my foot while still (485 points) tapping the arrow keys furiously. But he was determined to go right there, unphased as my foot (490 points) waved ineffectually in his face.
I came to my senses and made a dive for the ferret (too late), as the dreaded whistle signaled that I’d dropped the ball at 495 points. At least I still have my health.
You can kick Mike Todd into the litter box online at firstname.lastname@example.org.************************************
On-line exclusive! Check out the dumbest game ever here: http://www.gamegarage.co.uk/play/super-headers/. If you score over 600 (my new high score), you will be my hero, along with MacGyver.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Monday, October 31, 2005
Recently, as I walked to my car in a shopping center parking lot, I watched as a guy opened his car door, dumped a shopping bag full of trash onto the ground and drove away, leaving a pile of napkins, ketchup packets and wadded-up sandwich wrappers in his wake. That guy clearly was of the attitude that he’s Moe, everyone else is Curly, and doink! That was the sound of an eyeball gouge.
Sometimes, a muse can be found in the schmuckiest of people. For instance, as that guy drove away, I found myself musing, “Wouldn’t it be great if that guy had to eat all of the trash he just dumped?”
And that’s when it hit me. People should have to eat what they litter. The punishment perfectly matches the crime.
The only thing I’ll ever toss from a moving vehicle is an apple core, which I know is not cool, but I’m being honest. Okay, jeez, sometimes gum, too. Oh, and beer cans. And old tractor tires. But the point is that if you had to eat an apple core, it really wouldn’t be that big of deal. But the jerk who throws a bottle full of tobacco spit out the window, well, he gets to find out if chewing tobacco is any good as drinking tobacco.
Some people will probably say that this punishment is unworkable. “What if someone gets caught tossing a mattress?” you might ask. The fact of the matter is that people can eat anything. There’s a French guy who ate an entire airplane. Seriously – he ate a Cessna 150. It took him two years, but he did it. Google “Michel Lotito” if you think I’m blowing exhaust up your tailpipe.
The punishment would only last as long as it takes the offender to eat the litter -- you’d just have to sit there until you finished your plate, like I’ve been doing since 1986 with this plate of Brussels sprouts. I’ve been at the dinner table this whole time.
There is a precedent for this kind of idea. A while back, Jonathan Swift wrote the essay “A
Modest Proposal,” in which he proposed that poor people’s children should be fattened up and fed to the rich, in order to solve the most difficult and persistent problem of his time, which was a tremendous barbeque sauce surplus. They just didn’t have enough cows to put all of it on, so Swift said, “Hey, why not babies?” Many people thought Swift had written a brilliant satire, but that was only because they didn’t notice the tiny pieces of diaper stuck in his beard.
When Swift realized how much money he could rake in from the satire business, he decided to play along and pretend that he didn’t mean it literally. I also mean to be taken literally. I would spare you any attempts to score a really lame joke off of the fact that I mean to be taken litter-ally, but now it’s too late.
Haven’t we given “No Littering” signs enough of a chance? The $200 fine is obviously not scaring too many people. “No Littering” signs are as useless as whitening toothpaste, the numbers on baseball jerseys and humor columnists. What if the signs said something catchy like this instead: “LITTER: IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER.” It doesn’t quite rhyme, but I think it might in Latvian.
You can toss an email to Mike Todd at email@example.com.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Kara’s very gracious about it, though. Here’s the birthday song she sang to me just minutes ago:
“You are so old, and I am so young!
Old, old, old, old, ohhhhhhh-ld.
Your hair is going gray, and you, um, cook like Bobby Flay.
Old, old, old, old, ohhhhhhh-ld.
And I’m so young.”
I expect the royalty checks from Kara’s birthday song to start rolling in any minute now. Listen for it the next time you’re in a restaurant that still makes its wait staff suffer through birthday serenades.
Her song does beg the question, though: “Who the heck is Bobby Flay?”
Answer: “He’s the guy on the cooking channel.” If I really do cook like Bobby Flay, then that guy must whip up a mean bowl of Corn Pops for dinner. I can’t imagine filling my own show with an entire half hour of just pouring milk.
When a buddy at work found out that today is my birthday, he asked me how long it’ll be before Kara and I get a minivan. What’s so wrong with minivans? I don’t think they deserve to be the butt of “old person” jokes. At least minivans are honest about what they are.
A minivan says, “Hi. I’ll carry groceries and kids for you.” An SUV says, “Hi. I’ll carry groceries and kids for you, but I’ll make it look like we’re driving through canyons and going on safaris, even though the only time you’ll actually take me off-road is when you cut a U-turn too wide, and one wheel goes on the grass for just a second, and you’ll smile to yourself and think, ‘That’s why I have an SUV – for moments just like these,’ even though a ‘72 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser station wagon with a shot suspension and bald tires could have done the same thing, and gotten 40% better gas mileage while doing it.”
So no, we don’t have immediate plans to buy a minivan, but we definitely won’t be sporting an SUV anytime soon, either. Besides, why would we get a minivan when we don’t even have kids yet? Those things are total dorkmobiles.
Anyway, I may be three years older than Kara now, but if we were on Saturn, we’d be almost the same age. Also, I’m only one-and-a-half elephant gestation periods older than her, which sounds like much less than three years, doesn’t it? While researching to find out how long an elephant’s gestation period is, I just found out that an opossum’s gestation period is only 12 days long. So I’m 90 opossum gestation periods older than Kara now. Man, I’m ancient.
Regardless, this has been quite a fine birthday, but I’ve found that turning twenty-eight is somewhat anti-climactic. It’s not really cool like turning 16 or 21. Sure, I can run for president in seven years (which I fully intend to do), but there’s nothing extra that I’m allowed to do just because I’m older. I think the government should pick random things and not let you have them until you turn a certain age. That would make every birthday special. “Hey, I’m forty-two, that means I can finally have teriyaki-flavored beef jerky!”
Haven’t gotten naturally selected yet, either? You can reach Mike Todd online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Sunday, October 16, 2005
I think the reason my Dad never lost his cool with me was because I wasn’t a car engine. If I had been a car engine, I would have spent the better part of my formative years with Dad shining a light in my face and hollering. Dad is very handy at fixing cars, and he’s probably better at it than many professional mechanics, but I think the secret of his success is that he lubricates the inner-workings of his automobiles with expletives.
To illustrate, here’s one of those stories that’s been told in my family three-thousand times, changing slightly with each telling, but generally keeping the same punch line. In a couple years, this story will probably involve a blue ox and/or somebody riding a catfish down the Rio Grande.
When my sister Amy was a little girl, she wandered out into the garage, where my Dad was clanging around with his head inside the hood of our old blue station wagon. She had a little red toy hammer in her hand.
“Hi, Daddy!” Amy said. Dad put down his wrench and wiped his greasy hands on a rag.
“What brings you out here, little girl?” he asked her.
“I help Daddy!” she said, and she would have needed to have wrinkly puppies sleeping on her head to have been any cuter.
“Thanks, kiddo,” Dad said. “I could use some help.” A faint sound of wood creaking could be heard in the far corner of the garage; it was Norman Rockwell setting up his easel.
Then Amy started wildly swinging the hammer, yelling with each down stroke, “Dang! Dang! Dang! Dang!”
But she did not say dang. She said the first bad word you’re ever allowed to say in front of your parents, except she was at least ten years too young to be saying it, displaying at once her surprising knack for both mimicry and auto repair. Mr. Rockwell picked up his things and quickly exited the building. This is normally where the story ends, everyone has a good laugh and then Amy brings up the time I peed in the bathtub.
I mention all of the above only because, since becoming a homeowner, I have discovered that trying to fix things turns me from a mellow guy into a raving lunatic, and I’d like to blame it on genetics, rather than on me, of course. Perhaps I am turning into my dad. If you knew the man, you’d agree that that’s the best-case scenario. Regardless, Dad and I both have a special talent for swearing at inanimate objects, but when he swears at them, they listen.
I tried to replace the belt on our dryer last week, and at the low point of the evening, I found myself covered in sweat, froth and grime, waist-deep in large pieces of metal, hoarse from hollering at each of them, wondering how I was possibly going to retrieve each of the three screws I had dropped into an inaccessible chasm behind the tumbler. I put the dryer back together as best I could, but we can no longer run the thing safely. It makes such a screeching noise that it messes up whale migrations.
The good news is that Mom and Dad are coming to visit next weekend, and they promised me that they’d help me fix the old dryer or help me carry in a new one. I have a feeling that with the combined power of Dad’s vocabulary and mine, we’ll have the old one fixed up in no time.
Calm down! You can reach Mike Todd online at email@example.com.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Sunday, October 09, 2005
The team had its second game last weekend, and I went to check it out because Kara wanted a driver and our chauffeur had the day off. I brought a book with me just to play it safe, but the game was so entertaining that I never cracked it open. I hadn’t been to a kids’ soccer game in almost twenty years, when I was playing (poorly) in them myself. When I was a soccer player, the two positions I knew about were “offense” and “bad at soccer.” I never played offense.
I don’t mean to talk down defense; it’s vitally important to the success of a soccer team. I played defense at least as well as, if not slightly better than, a small to medium-sized orange cone. My signature move was “pretend like you wanted to head the ball and just missed it.” I always had a hard time turning off my survival instincts. If your instincts don’t tell you to move out of the way when something is whizzing towards your head, you might want to reevaluate how much weight you lend to your instinct’s opinions.
Anyway, back to the game. This is the first season that the girls, who are ten and eleven years old, are playing on a regulation field, which is the size of, and I’m being conservative here, Rhode Island. At the very least, it looked like it should have had its own congressman. The girls were so little on that huge field, I felt like I was watching the game from a hot air balloon.
Once the game started, Kara was shooting up and down the sidelines, encouraging the kids and losing her voice. Parents shouted helpful advice, like, “Run!” and “Kick it!” There might be more strategies in soccer, but I think those two pretty much sum it up. The kids did their best to follow the advice, though any given kick had about a 10% chance of hitting the ball, a 10% chance of hitting pure air and an 80% chance of hitting shin.
My favorite moment from the game was this:
Father on the sidelines: “Rebecca! Are you supposed to be a midfielder or a striker?”
Rebecca (shrugging): “I forget.”
And I know kids are busy these days, but I was a little unsettled by a conversation I heard going on behind me. A mother was describing her week to another mother: “We’ve got soccer practice on Tuesdays, games on Saturdays, ballet on Mondays and Thursdays, piano and clarinet on Fridays, tennis practice Saturday afternoon, and in between bites of Lean Cuisine, we’re teaching her Portuguese.”
I decided right then that when I have a kid, I’m going to encourage him/her to become a world-class solitaire champion. Unless the legal driving age is lowered to nine so that children can drive themselves to practice, I don’t see any other way out.
When the ref blew the whistle to end the game, the final score was, of course, 0-0. This was partially due to the stellar defense exhibited by both teams, and partially due to the fact that 97% of all soccer games end in a 0-0 tie. In professional soccer, the tie is broken by which side had the least number of fans killed in the stands.
You can kick Mike Todd in the shins online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Sunday, October 02, 2005
I used to think that “running out of gas” was just a myth propagated by the oil companies. When I was in college, I could drive around for weeks with the “Please feed me” warning light on. Sometimes, even when I’m not in the car, I still see a tiny orange gas pump out of the corner of my eye. I think the warning light seared itself into my retina, like the time when I was little and I didn’t knock on the bathroom door before I barged…wait a minute. How’d we get talking about that?
Anyway, I eventually became convinced that cars didn’t even run on gas. I mean, the only time I’d actually seen the gas coming out of the nozzle was, if I’m recalling correctly, in the movie Terminator, when the governor of California sprays gas all over the place and then lights it with a cigarette, which, as anyone who has ever smoked a cigarette while drenched in gasoline will tell you, is terrible for your health, unless you’re a cyborg.
I began to think that having a full tank of gas was really just a state of mind, like being cool (as cool people used to tell me, when they weren’t giving me wedgies). Or perhaps cars just ran off of their batteries, like the remote-control dune buggy I had when I was twelve, which took three days to charge so that I could play with it for ten minutes.
I found out the hard way, though, that automobiles do indeed require gasoline to operate. My ferret Chopper had accompanied me on a weekend trip to visit my then-girlfriend (now wife) Kara at college. Before the car sputtered and spat to a stop, he had been quietly sitting in his cage in the passenger’s seat, flipping through the radio stations. I’m no ferret whisperer, but I’m pretty sure he was trying to find an Alvin and the Chipmunks song.
You’d think that having a ferret with you would come in really handy when you’re stranded on the side of the road late at night. Oddly enough, he was not the least bit helpful. I just stood there beside the car, staring at the ferret, thinking that if I was MacGyver or the professor from Gilligan’s Island, I’d figure out how to make a cell phone out of him. It’s just as well that I never figured it out, though. I bet his peak-minute charges would have been ridiculous.
We had just passed a sign that indicated a gas station wasn’t too far down the road. I hated to leave the ferret behind; I considered stuffing the varmint into my shirt and jogging up to the gas station, but then I pictured the conversation I’d have with the clerk as Chopper ran laps around my torso.
“I ran out of gas a mile down the road. Do you have a gas can I can borrow?” I’d ask the clerk.
“Is there something crawling out of your stomach?” he’d reply, reaching for the big red button under the counter.
“Oh, that? No, no. I just have really bad indigestion.”
So I tucked Chopper into his little fleece sleeping bag inside his cage, and was back with a gas-can-toting tow truck driver in half an hour. He charged up my car’s battery for three days, and we were on our way.
After you recharge your batteries, you can reach Mike Todd online at email@example.com.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
For now, though, we’ll just keep practicing our debating skills and waiting for something serious to argue about. Here are the things we choose to argue about in the meantime:
1. Temperature regulation
“I’m hot. Do you think we should turn on the A/C?” Kara asked me a few nights ago.
“No, I’m good,” I replied. She didn’t respond, so I figured, like the ignoramus that I am, that the conversation was over.
Ten minutes later, I realized that not only had she not moved a muscle, but she hadn’t even glanced in my general direction. It was like she was watching Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, but the TV wasn’t on. Being the perceptive husband that I am, I have the ability to sense when something is awry just by being clubbed over the head.
“What’s up?” I asked her.
“I asked you to turn on the air conditioner and you ignored me.”
“You didn’t ask me to do anything! You asked my opinion. If you want me to do something, just ask, and I’ll gladly do it.”
“Will you get up and turn the A/C on?”
We both had a good laugh at my insubordination, and then I did as I was told.
2. Pet accidents
Kara recently looked back at the corner of the living room as we were headed out the door in the morning, and she observed, “Oh, Choppy’s accident is still on the floor.”
She said this with genuine surprise, as though she couldn’t figure out how it was still there. I should point out that we do not, as you might think, have Rosey the Robot like the Jetsons did. Kara’s implication was, of course, that only one of us had the necessary credentials to qualify him/her (him) for the finer intricacies of ferret-accident removal.
“Well, I put a drinking straw beside it last night, hoping that it would sprout arms and legs and pole vault itself into the trash can, but I guess our ferret’s accidents just aren’t into track and field,” I replied (in my mind).
With my mouth, I replied: “Uh huh.”
3. Toaster oven vs. slot toaster
I can’t talk about this one. It’s still too raw.
4. Ring toss
If I absolutely want to drive her off her rocker, which of course I do, nothing does the trick like flipping my wedding ring into the air like a coin, or spinning it like a top on the table when we’re out to eat. If I keep it up long enough, I can almost get her to make a scene.
When Kara makes a grab for the ring as it’s spinning on the table, I quickly snag it, hold it in the palm of my hand and stroke it while whispering, “They tried to steals it from us, my preciousss. Filthy hobbitses.”
Sometimes she’s too quick for me, though, and she manages to snatch it. “Ha!” she says, “Whatcha gonna do now?”
That’s when I do what any wedding-ringless man in a restaurant full of eligible women would do: I go home and play video games in my underwear.
Want to pick a fight? You can reach Mike Todd online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Not to get off topic here, but DEET really is a wonderful chemical. Beyond its usefulness as a mosquito repellant, it also works quite passably as a raincoat-melter, should you need one. If you’ve ever gotten DEET on a raincoat, you’ve probably watched in fascination as the plastic material turns white and starts to melt. That really gives you an extra feeling of security when you put the stuff directly on your skin, because you know that any bug that lands on a well-slathered arm will, most likely, dissolve. Also, those of you who have applied DEET with your bare hands, forgotten about it and then wiped your mouth ten minutes later should be familiar with its usefulness as poor man’s Novocain. What great stuff.
Anyway, we took our annual Maine vacation again a couple of weeks ago. No matter how many times we go to the same place and do the same things, it never gets old, even when it rains for the first four days, trapping us all in a small cabin with nothing to do. Absolutely nothing. Here’s an actual conversation from one of those days:
Uncle Ed: I’m gonna go take a nap.
Mom: You just woke up!
Uncle Ed: I did not. I’ve been up for two hours.
But we made the most of the good weather that we did have. One night, while we were all sitting out on a dock, listening to a concert of loons calling to each other from across the lake, Mom said, “Let’s play a game. Everyone describe a loon’s call using just one word.”
I sat there, deep in thought, trying my best to come up with a good reason why this game won out over my suggestion of beer pong. We do love the loons, though, so with varying levels of enthusiasm, everyone played along. Here’s what my family came up with: “enchanting,” “mystical,” “haunting,” “mournful” and “mah mouf is numm.” (I had DEET on my lips.) Also, if anyone from Milton Bradley is reading this, Mom’s game is definitely still for sale.
I realized on this most recent trip that our Maine vacations are about more than just relaxing – they’re about connecting with oneself, rejuvenating family bonds and scaring the dickens out of large mammals.
Ordinarily, a moose will hang out by the side of the road and pose if you stop to look at it. It will just stand there, chewing, mosquitoes bouncing off its head, staring at you as if to say, “Got any DEET?”
This year, though, we came up later in the season than usual, and the couple of moose we saw took off quickly into the underbrush – we could just roll down the windows to hear branches snapping as the huge animals lumbered away.
The hypothesis my family came up with for this behavior is that this year we were visiting during rutting season. If this was the case, I certainly can’t blame the moose for being scared when we drove up – if I had the slightest inkling that a Ford Explorer wanted to mate with me, I’d take off into the forest, too.
Before he scuttles into the underbrush, you can reach Mike Todd online at email@example.com.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Also, my little stalker-tracker tells me what search terms people have used to accidentally land on good ol' Just Humor Me (I'm guessing most of these people are sorely disappointed by what they find here). Here are some of my faves:
pictures of my neighbor
friends with benefits humor
how to keep a red-eared slidder turtle
bad things at mervyns stores
fruit loops different flavors
ride a moose photo
septic tank bugs larva
amoebas + pink eye
rio de janero plastic surgery
women topless in a jeep
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Some people will tell you that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause just enough change in the atmosphere to make a hurricane happen, especially if the butterfly is a metaphor for the oceanic currents and air masses that actually cause hurricanes. I don’t know whether there’s anything to the butterfly theory or not, but I became a little more convinced about it when the wind current that resulted from swiping my credit card at the cash register caused the temperature outside to immediately drop twenty degrees.
Kara and I had sweated through the entire summer without an air conditioner, but finally decided that we couldn’t stand the heat; it was time to get some artificially cooled air in the kitchen. We realized that because it was so late in the summer, what we were doing was the equivalent of hopping a ride in a golf cart for the last mile of a marathon, but the weld-the-quarters-together-in-your-pocket temperatures of this summer finally got the best of us.
I remember waking up on that fateful morning, wiping the sweat out of my eyes, peeling myself off the sheets and looking down at the floor, where our ferret was looking up at me as if to say, “Dude, get an air conditioner, you big jerk.” The crew cut I had given him a few days earlier with my electric shaver hadn’t cooled him off as much as I’d hoped. I only mention that here because I wanted you to know that I cut our ferret’s hair with my shaver, in case you ever overhear me talking about “shaving the ferret.” It’s not some kind of weird euphemism. I mean it literally.
Anyway, Kara and I spent the better part of that Saturday orbiting around Walmart, trying desperately to break free from its gravitational pull. We circled around and around, landing briefly in Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target and, for some reason, Victoria’s Secret. Kara tricked me into going in there, saying she’d only be a minute. Then she gave me her purse and locked herself in the changing room, leaving me to awkwardly search for a socially acceptable pastime for a purse-toting male in a lingerie store; I settled on studying a particularly fascinating empty clothes hanger. I don’t know what Kara does in the changing room, but from the length of her visits, I’m going to guess the Sunday crossword puzzle.
Through all the stores we tried, the only air conditioner we found was a single wall unit in a duct-taped box that had been kicked under a shelf. The box looked like it had been rescued at the last moment from two packs of angry hyenas that had been fighting over it. So we ended up at Walmart, a store that we try our best to avoid, partly because it’s always crowded, and partly because it just seems so evil.
It might be true that the good die young, but it’s also true that the evil have superior inventory management; Walmart had about 30 air conditioners for us to choose from, with a wide range of BTU (Bring Thermal Underwear) output. We brought home a little portable unit that sits in the middle of the room and shoots its exhaust out the window through a duct. I named the unit R2-D2. R2-D2 even has a remote control.
Now I hold up the remote and say, “R2, cool it.”
“Beep, beep,” R2 responds, and kindly obliges. If only I could teach him to rake leaves.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Monday, September 05, 2005
While E-ZPass is great, it is still a relatively new system, and as such has a few kinks that still need to be worked out. Two years ago, my then-girlfriend Kara and I took her car through a toll booth with the E-ZPass transponder not properly mounted to the windshield, partly (and by partly I mean entirely) because I was tossing it up and down to myself in the passenger seat as we drove through the toll booth.
The dreaded CALL EZPASS sign lit up, which is the interstate equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death on your computer. When we got home, I obediently called E-ZPass, and after navigating deep into the bowels of their phone system, I actually found a human being there. That human being was Vinnie Barbarino. If you don’t know who Vinnie Barbarino is, he’s John Travolta’s character from the 70’s version of Saved by the Bell. Back then, Screech was called Horshack. Anyway, here’s how our conversation went:
Me: Hi. The CALL EZPASS sign lit up at the New Paltz exit on the New York Thruway when we went through the toll booth earlier today.
Me: The sign at the toll booth. It said CALL EZPASS. So I’m calling you.
Me: The sign at the toll booth. It said to call.
Me: Earlier today.
Me: Dude, the sign. The CALL EZPASS sign. It said to call.
Vinnie: Up your nose wit’ a rubber hose.
After that conversation, I sent a check to E-ZPass for the toll, hoping to clear my good name. They responded by sending piles of violation notices to Kara’s parents, at the address to which her car was registered. I poured special love and care into my next letter to E-ZPass, enclosed another check, and the violation notices actually stopped.
I am so proud of myself for writing a letter that actually accomplished something, I’ll paste it here exactly as I sent it. Maybe you can get some use out of it, too, if you ever need E-ZPass to stop sending violation notices to you. Feel free to use this letter and modify it for your particular situation. It has a proven track record.
I already sent in a payment for the enclosed violation, but the delinquency notices have not stopped coming. I took my transponder through the New Paltz booth in my girlfriend's car. The
booth didn't read the transponder, and the "CALL EZPASS" sign lit up.
I am trying really hard to comply with E-ZPass in clearing up this violation. PLEASE help me end this! PLEASE! I know you can do it. I have faith in you. My girlfriend's folks are [angry] at me because they keep getting these notices. I am probably going to marry this girl, and her parents will likely be my in-laws someday. This E-ZPass mess is not helping at all. I think they are starting to think that their daughter should have stayed with that motorcycle punk guy. I'm trying to be the nice guy, but does a nice guy screw up his girlfriend's parents’ credit rating and let E-ZPass harass them? No!
You can help! You can make the world a better place. Opportunities like this don't come along every day -- you are empowered to right wrongs and cure injustices! All you have to do is close this violation notice.
Thanks for your attention. You are a good person.
Friday, August 26, 2005
I know that we have this problem because my buddy recently lent me a video game, promising that it would bring me months of entertainment. I beat it in two days, but that’s not the point. The point is that we’re twenty-seven years old, and we’re still lending each other video games. The point is also that I just bragged about how long it took me to beat one of them. Every morning, I have to consciously place my hair over my bald spots, and yet only days ago I exterminated all the Metroid organisms on Planet Zebes. This is not right.
People my age, especially (and by especially I mean entirely) male people, are not giving up the video games. It’s becoming more and more apparent that the controllers will have to be pried from our warm, sweaty hands.
I suppose a benefit of our nerdiness is that we must have the best collective hand-eye coordination of any generation in the history of the planet. Most of us have twenty years of experience ignoring our own lives so that we could keep Space Invaders at bay, rescue princesses from turtle-like creatures and leave the fresh air outside for everyone else to breathe. We are a selfless bunch. If only we could develop a feasible alternative to an oil-based economy with a 17-button combination move, ending with a roundhouse kick that makes our opponent’s head explode, we’d really be getting somewhere.
Unfortunately, our hard-earned skills might soon be wasted. My friends are already starting to have children. Someday in the not-distant-enough future, those children are going to want the controller. The problem is upon us whether we choose to face it or not.
If you stop and listen, you can almost hear the impasse sneaking up on us, like a small Mario, before he bonks his head on a question mark, finds a mushroom and doubles in size. Should we continue to stand idly by, it’s only a matter of time before the problem finds a glowing daisy, at which point it will be too late, as the problem will then be able to shoot fireballs at us. For those readers who are unfamiliar with Super Mario Brothers, let me reframe the analogy: the problem is a cute little puppy right now. If we don’t act soon, the puppy may develop the ability to shoot fireballs at us.
We need to get our best people working on this. People like Buzz Aldrin and Cal Ripken, Jr. I don’t exactly know what they could do to help, but they sure seem like good guys.
The fact remains that fathers aren’t supposed to want to play video games in the first place. They’re supposed to pick up the controller for a moment, get smeared by their offspring and be the object of derision until they go back outside to mulch.
I recently had a vision: it's ten years from now, and I'm sitting on my hover-couch, playing "Grand Theft Auto: Neptune" on my PlayStation17. In wanders a little boy, looking just like a small version of me. I have a sense that I love this child; I want to protect him from the world while making sure he is prepared for everything it has in store for him.
The boy reaches for the controller with his little hands, and says, "Can I have a turn, Daddy?"
He looks at me expectantly with those eyes that are so much like my own, those little eyes that I love so much.
"Shouldn’t you be mowing the lawn?" I reply.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
“Excuse me,” she said to the man who had just gotten into his white pickup truck beside her, “but I think you just put a dent in my door.”
Without leaning over to survey the damage, the man replied, “Oh, I didn’t do that.”
Kara straightened her back. A tumbleweed blew across the parking lot. Somewhere, a harmonica abruptly stopped playing. A wooden clock tower struck high noon. Bystanders hustled indoors.
Kara’s gaze was so intense that I wondered if she was accidentally giving this guy free LASIK surgery. I’d never seen her give that look to anyone else; I thought it was a special look she reserved just for me. For a brief moment, I wondered if I should get jealous.
“There’s a fresh white paint chip on my door. I heard you do it,” she said.
He replied, “Oh, no, I couldn’t have done it. I’m always very careful.”
“Well, you weren’t careful this time,” Kara said.
The man professed his innocence again while putting his truck into reverse. Kara tensed up, and for a second there, I thought she was going to Bo Duke through the guy’s window and beat a confession out of him.
Unfortunately, this happened in real life, which means that, like most real-life stories, the ending is lame. The confrontation ended with Kara doing all she realistically could, which was to put her hands on her hips and pointedly memorize the guy’s license plate (I DING U) as he backed out of his parking spot.
You might be wondering what exactly I was doing during all this commotion. Of course, I had every intention of stepping in to defend the purity of my wife’s car’s passenger side door, but my shoe was untied. By the time I got the double-knot just the way I like it, the guy was already halfway across the parking lot, obviously afraid of what I might do to him after I rectified my footwear issues.
Kara spent the next hour with enough steam coming out of her ears to power a medium-sized municipality through a blistering heat wave. The whole episode, though, was recently put into perspective for us. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that some perspective recently fell out of the sky.
A guy who works with a friend of mine is a Corvette lover. He likes the old-style pointier Corvettes, not the newer ones that are more rounded. After searching around, he found the perfect red ’95 Corvette, a mere three-hour drive from his house. He bought the Corvette and picked it up, driving it back and parking it in his driveway, right next to his blue ’92 Corvette, which he had already sold. The buyer was coming to pick it up on Wednesday. Both of the Corvettes were parked next to his wife’s Cadillac, three in a row.
On that Tuesday night, some college kids had a party down the street. One of the kids had too much to drink, and attempted to drive home by himself. While this kid was too impaired to actually steer the vehicle, his acceleration skills remained completely undiminished. He launched off an embankment, hurtled fifteen feet through the air and landed on all three of the cars in the driveway, instantaneously making them all convertibles.
A short while later, the fire department used a thermal camera to find the kid hiding in the woods nearby, unhurt (yet). If the kid had seen the movie Predator, he’d have known that smearing mud all over your body makes it impossible for aliens and/or firemen to find you that way.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I bet these kids were cute -- before Jabba the Hutt had them frozen in carbonite.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
I wouldn’t know if they notice or not; I know very little about my neighbors, other than what they look like when they’re waving. I don’t even know what some of their kids’ names are, but we all know each others’ waves very well. You could bring all of my neighbors outside, put empty potato sacks over their heads, and I’d be able easily identify each of them just by their waves, and also by which house they’re standing in front of.
While my wife Kara and I were away on vacation recently, a couple of our neighbors down the street pulled together to have a yard sale. It worked out fine that we weren’t there to join them for the big sale; we still need a couple decades to amass enough rusted-out snow blowers and folding chairs that don’t fold to properly participate in something like that.
Some people think that you have to get to yard sales early to get the good stuff. I’ve found, and my neighbors just confirmed, that the best deals actually come two days later, when the leftovers are set beside the trash can. As I write this, I’m sitting on a stray chair that Kara and I saved from being euthanized. You really can get some not totally destroyed furniture that way. But still, I’m sorry that we weren’t there when everyone was out in their yards; it would have been nice to have the opportunity to get to know them a little better, even the ones whose bumper stickers I don’t agree with.
I have a long history of not knowing much about my neighbors. About seven years ago, I was moving into my first apartment, looking at the long line of doorknobs poking into the hallway, and thinking, “This will be fun to get to know all of these people.” I don’t know to this day whether anybody actually lived behind any of those doorknobs; the only indication I ever got that other life forms existed in that building was the vague aroma of Ramen noodles that drifted down the hall.
In the several apartments I’ve lived in since then, the only time I ever really heard from any of my neighbors was when they were coming and going from their cars, or when they were on the other side of the wall partaking in adult activities, such as lawn bowling, playing bingo or watching On Golden Pond with the volume cranked up.
Living in a house and having neighbors brings about a whole new set of issues that I’ve never had to deal with before. I worry that when I’m mowing the lawn near our property line, if I accidentally mow a little strip of their property, they’ll think I’m trying to annex their yard to mine. Also, if I don’t mow close enough to the property line, will they think I’m trying to gradually trick them into mowing my lawn? I don’t really know them well enough to judge these things.
It seems like I knew my neighbors so much better when I was a kid. When we were visiting my parents recently, Mom referenced the people a couple of houses down.
“You mean the Fischers?” I asked.
Mom replied, “Son, the Fischers haven’t lived there in twenty years. And stop picking your nose.”
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Whatever you ask this tree, it seems to reply: "Y." So go ahead and ask it if you're a big stud, or if you're prettier than your sister. You'll probably like the answer. It's like a Magic 8 Ball, except its outlook is never hazy.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
I truly intended to write one -- I even stuck my laptop in my book bag and brought it in the car, figuring that I could get a good start on the column on the way to Mackinac Island, which is a good fourteen-hour drive from our house. We decided to drive because, not only did we hear the open road calling our names, promising to whisk us away on grand adventures, but also because all of the flights we could have taken were priced as if the Beatles were playing a reunion concert on board, serving pâté de foie gras with puréed Dead-Sea-Scroll-and-almond truffles after the show.
I know that the airlines are having a tough time right now, but they can’t expect me and Kara to pull them out of bankruptcy all by ourselves. Maybe if they started giving us the whole can of soda, instead of just the plastic cup, we’d consider it. Until then, no deal.
My point is that, because we were driving all that way, I thought I could write the column when Kara’s turn to drive came around. As it turns out, though, the idea of Kara’s turn to drive, like Neverland, exists only because I believe in it. Like world peace and solar-powered cars, Kara’s turn to drive always seems just out of reach; somehow it inevitably manages to slip away, further into the future and the passenger’s seat, eating nacho cheese Combos.
While I didn’t get a chance to write anything on the way up to Mackinac, if James Patterson spent as much time writing last week as I spent driving, he probably wrote three novels.
All that time behind the wheel gave me ample opportunity to think about everything, like the direction I was taking with my life, all the chances I’d missed and the chances I’d taken, but mostly I just thought about how our bike rack looked as though it was going to wrench itself off of the trunk and skitter under an eighteen-wheeler at any moment.
A related discovery I made recently is that there is a direct relationship between how badly you attach a bike rack to your car and how much room the closest tailgater will give you. For the first few hours of the trip, before we pulled over and tightened the straps on the bike rack, we had a full mile of open road behind us. After tightening them, the tailgaters felt safe enough to cruise along behind us at such a distance that it would have taken an electron microscope to tell that our cars were two separate entities. We pulled over and loosened the straps again.
The last time I did the drive up to Mackinac, it was with three of my high school buddies. I noticed some differences between that drive and the one I just did with Kara. For one thing, Kara and I never felt compelled to pull off the road in the middle of the night to rearrange the letters on a sign from “WELCOME TO MCDONALDS” to “COWMEEL MAD COLD SNOT”. I’m sure that if we had, though, we could have come up with something better. Also, with Kara in the car, requests to have my neck rubbed resulted in a rubbed neck instead of a bruised arm.
I hope all this blathering made you forget that there’s not a column here.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
The FIRST frickin' one. But she doesn't paint anymore. To me, that seems as much of a shame as if Lance Armstrong quit biking to take watercolor lessons, and discovered that he had a natural talent at painting, but then quit taking the lessons because it's just a bunch of old ladies in there. I guess it wouldn't be as sad if Kara won the Tour de France just once, but I'm not holding my breath anymore.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
I know this because a friend of a friend went to the Froot Loops factory. A tour guide showed him the spot where a zillion white Froot Loops go by on a conveyor belt, and are then diverted to separate areas, where, as the tour guide informed my friend’s friend, the colors are added to the Froot Loops.
“You mean that’s where the colors and flavors are added,” said my friend’s friend.
“No, just the colors,” said the tour guide. “There aren’t any different flavors.”
So there you have it: indisputable fourth-hand proof that what I’m telling you is true. I hate to use anonymous sources, but I’m afraid that my friend’s friend’s identity must remain a secret, because I forgot his name. Ron or something like that.
The Froot Loop flavor revelation doesn’t blow my mind as much as the first time I Googled the word “Liger,” but it’s up there. It’s also quite possible that my source is unreliable, and everything I’ve just told you is completely untrue. Should that be the case, I can only hope that Toucan Sam doesn’t follow his nose to his lawyer and slap me with a lawsoot.
Perhaps I’ve already put too much thought into this matter, but I am very interested in all things pertaining to cereal, because that’s what I eat for dinner most nights, due primarily to my wife Kara and I being afflicted with severe culinary impairment. We both have two left spatulas. Even if we did know how to cook, we’d have a hard time rousting up enough motivation to do anything about it. By the time we both get home from work, even pouring a bowl of cereal seems like an extraordinary hassle. Around our house, “gourmet” means Honey Nut instead of plain.
Kara’s favorite thing to watch while we eat our cereal is, of all things, cooking shows. To me, that’s like prisoners on death row watching the Travel Channel.
“Don’t be afraid to put too much butter on the lobster tails. You can always drip the extra into your garlic mashed potatoes like so,” chirps the TV, as my Oat-y Wheat Blossom falls off the spoon to meet my drool on the coffee table.
My favorite thing about those shows is the claim that you can prepare the featured meals in thirty minutes. I know from Kara’s personal experience that this is a highly dubious assertion; Kara has actually attempted to follow some of the recipes. She will be sautéing in three pans at once, and the clanking in the kitchen sounds like she’s smelting steel in there.
“Where’s our dill weed?” she’ll call to me.
“He’s in here ordering pizza,” I’ll reply.
I’m not being entirely truthful -- Kara has discovered that it is indeed possible to cook Thirty Minute Meals in thirty minutes, just like the show claims. The trick is to have your production assistants go grocery shopping several hours ahead of time, picking up things like tarragon pellets, papyrus chips and evaporated marjoram. When they get back, have them measure out all the ingredients, lining them up in little glass bowls in the fridge. That way, you’ll be all ready to cook when the hair and makeup people are done with you.
Friday, July 22, 2005
My wife Kara and I just stared at our jeep sitting in the driveway, naked. I mean the jeep was sitting in the driveway naked, not us, though we had been stripped of some of our security.
“You definitely didn’t take the top down last night?” she asked.
“Nope. I sure didn’t,” I said.
It was a Thursday morning about a year ago, and we had just discovered that the soft top had been stolen off our jeep, which was parked right in front of our house, during the night. The year before that, at our old apartment complex, the stereo head unit had been yanked out of the dashboard, leaving a gaping hole, a tangle of hastily cut wires and my desire to reinstate Hammurabi’s Code.
Leaving a jeep with a soft top unattended overnight is like parking a giant Twinkie next to an elementary school playground, expecting it to still be there when you return. (Kids these days still eat Twinkies, don’t they? From the looks of ‘em, I’m going to guess yes.) There’s just no good way to secure a jeep, other than parking it inside a bigger car made of metal and glass, or perhaps inside a garage, but who can actually fit a car in the garage with all those old tennis balls and rusty bikes in the way?
We had been toying with the idea of selling the jeep anyway – jeeps somehow manage to combine the fuel efficiency of an Abrams tank with the carrying capacity of a newborn burro – and having the roof stolen was the last straw. We replaced the soft top and sold the jeep two weeks later.
This whole episode was just a distant, expensive memory until last week, when the detective called. They caught the guy stealing something else, and for some reason (hopefully extreme duress), he admitted to stealing our jeep top, too. The detective asked me if I wanted him to arrest the guy, which should have been the easiest question I’ve ever been asked, but then I started thinking about how maybe the guy needed our jeep top to build a crude shelter for his family, or how maybe he had to cut it into small pieces and sauté it in rainwater just to feed his children one more meal.
Just kidding. “Yes! Please, arrest him,” I said. “If you could taser him, too, that would be cool.”
The detective brought a deposition over to our house, which gave me the rare opportunity to sign an official police document other than a speeding ticket. The detective scored extra points for not reacting even the slightest bit as our ferret crawled over his shoes and into the folds of his overcoat. These guys must go through some intense anti-flinching training.
The next step now is for me and Kara to meet with the assistant district attorney, which I’m really excited about, because if there’s anything I’ve learned from watching Law and Order reruns every night for the past four years, it’s that assistant district attorneys are really, really hot. Also, different hot women rotate into the position every couple of seasons. By the time they get promoted to regular old district attorneys, though, they turn into craggy old men.
The long and short of it is that we’ll probably get the old jeep top back, which works out just perfectly for us, because we sold the jeep last year. Wait, no, that’s not perfect at all. What are we going to do with a beat-up old jeep top? I can already feel the pack rat genes my Dad gave me stirring deep in my soul, saying, “Put it in the garage. You never know when you might need it.”
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
I originally posted something about how this picture reminds me of Waking Ned Devine and Shawshank Redemption, but I was tired and something weird came out about building boats and sewage. Not building sewage, but crawling through it.
Anyway, what I really meant to say is that Kara really needs to paint this scene, because she's a freakin' talented paintress who won't freakin' paint. And that has really not much to do with sewage at all. So paint, Woman!
Sunday, July 17, 2005
As I stood at the fish tank in the store, picking out which puffers I’d like to take home with me, my wife Kara wandered over to the “small animal” section of the store, where people pay good money to bring home the kinds of animals that other people pay good money for the Orkin man to remove.
Four hours later, I pushed an overflowing shopping cart out of the store, and Kara had a baby ferret curled up in the pocket of her sweater. We named him Chopper, after the junkyard dog in the best movie ever made, “Stand by Me,” though we have yet to teach him the signature trick of his namesake (if you are unfamiliar with the film, I can only offer my condolences).
Once we got back to our place, I began piecing the wire siding and plastic brackets of the dumpster-sized cage together. I looked down at my new little friend, who looked back up at me, scared and curious. His furry little weasel life was in our hands, and we were all beginning to understand that. I’d never been responsible for the life of another creature before. At that moment, I was honestly moved, and then so were his bowels.
“Hey, he just went on the carpet!” I said.
“Get his cage together! You need him in the cage to start litter training him,” Kara said, fresh from Googling “litter train ferret.”
Chopper wandered around the room, checked out every corner, then looked back at us, and fertilized the carpet again.
“He did it again!” I said. “How is that possible?”
“Hurry! We need the cage!” Kara said.
Half an hour later, as I was squeezing the last little plastic bracket onto the cage, sweat dripping from my nose, we breathed a sigh of relief. The nightmare was over. And as I went to pick up our little varmint to introduce him to his new home, he did his business on the carpet again.
“What have we done? Oh, what have we done?” I said. “Did we keep the receipt?”
That day was almost four years ago, and Chopper hasn’t been out of his cage since. That’s a joke. Occasionally, we let him have conjugal visits with squirrels in the front yard. Actually, he’s earned free run of the house. He spends most of his time with his head in people’s shoes, or rummaging through my backpack looking for granola bars.
He loves the granola bars. Ferrets are apparently carnivores in the wild, but Chopper won’t even look at meat. He wants raisins, peanut butter, and granola bars. His tastes aren’t actually all that discerning, as he also tries to eat soap, paint and feminine hygiene products, but I still respect his decision to be a vegetarian.
We didn’t realize when we bought Chopper that we were getting a hippie ferret. Once, when he got out of the house by ripping a hole in the screen door, we found him three days later in the parking lot outside of an Allman Brothers concert, selling hummus and brownies out of the back of a Volkswagen van. I’m still trying to brush the flowers out of his hair.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
We weren't exactly partying at this point. More like wandering aimlessly through the French Quarter, looking for a place to eat. Don't worry -- of course we threw this girl some beads.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
The window unit my parents handed-us-down was just a couple of inches too wide for our windows. If the weather keeps up like this, we might just drag it out from under the workbench, run an extension cord to it out in the driveway and hug it until October.
Every time the temperature goes above ninety-five degrees, it gets tougher to steer the conversation away from central air, which I recently researched. I discovered that central air costs about the same as hiring a servant to follow you around, fanning you with ostrich feathers and feeding you filet mignon and gold nuggets for the rest of your life.
So I came up with a cheaper solution. “From now on,” I told Kara, “we’ll be a Celsius house. Look -- it’s only 35 degrees out today. Doesn’t that sound chilly?”
The temperature in the room dropped a few degrees at that suggestion, but we still didn’t really have a workable solution.
Another problem with the heat is that when we have the windows open and the lights on at night, some poor, defenseless bugs inevitably find their way into our house. I should put some moth heads on toothpicks outside of our windows to give them fair warning; Kara the Smoosher will not take such mercy on them once they’re in the house. If you’re a bug, and you see Kara coming towards you with a tissue, she is NOT coming to wipe your nose (if you have one.) If you have wings, use them.
A few nights ago, we had a moth fluttering around our bedroom and bouncing off Kara’s reading lamp. I figured he’d just go his own merry way once we turned the lights out. I’m normally a catch-and-release guy, but that requires much more work than being a smooshing guy, what with having to walk all the way to the front door to relocate bugs to the yard, so my first line of defense is to pretend that there’s nothing there, like I do with the tip cup at Starbucks.
Kara’s repeated appeals for someone to “take care” of the moth fell on ears that pretended to be deaf. So she played the sex card. No, not that sex card. This one: “Can you just be a man and kill the moth?”
I thought men were supposed to give moths suit jackets to eat, not to kill them just for landing on their wives’ foreheads. So I played a sex card of my own: “Can you just be a woman and nag me?” I’m still testing my boundaries.
“I already am! It’s not doing much good though,” she replied, pulling a tissue out of the box.
I held out a finger towards the moth, put on my most gubernatorial voice and said, “Come with me if you want to live.”
The moth didn’t take me up on the offer, and I’m not sure that he really had a chance to appreciate the extra softness that the two-ply tissue afforded him as Kara mushed him against the wall. He probably appreciated the relief from the heat, though.