Monday, April 24, 2006

Breath of fresh err

When I rolled over to say good morning to wife Kara just after the alarm woke us up today, she greeted me with a laugh before I even opened my mouth.

“What’s funny?” I asked.

“Your breath,” she replied. “It smells like a Red Lobster’s dumpster.”

And with that, she shattered my long-held belief that bad breath can’t come out of one’s nose. I always thought that breathing through my nose protected any loved ones I happened to see before I made it to my toothbrush in the morning, but this is apparently not the case; your nose does not serve as a Brita for your breath.

Now I’m also worried that the mouthwash that I use every morning is creating a race of super bacteria in my mouth. The label on the bottle claims to kill 99.9% of the bacteria that cause bad breath. But what about the other .1%? Those are the ones that can benchpress ants. They probably look forward to their mouthwash bath every morning. It gets them all invigorated, firing up their little flagella and putting them in the mood to reproduce. Trying to kill those suckers by bathing them in mouthwash is probably like trying to kill Popeye by bathing him in spinach.

But luckily this morning we had a good cross-breeze going through the room, as the weather has finally warmed up enough to leave the windows open. There hasn’t been any fresh air in the house in so long, I feel like we’re camping out when we leave the bedroom window open at night.
“Tell me a campfire story,” I say to Kara.

“We have to get up early for work tomorrow. Go to sleep,” she says.

“Well, now I’m not sharing any of my s’mores with you,” I say, smacking my blazing marshmallow against the wall to put it out.

While it’s nice to finally get that winter staleness out of the house, I always feel bad opening the windows for the first time in the spring, destroying all the tiny cobwebs on the window sills that the little spiders have spent all winter perfecting. They had some impressive webs going this year, too. When I reached over our nest of dirty dishes in the kitchen to slide the window open for the first time this season, I noticed that one of the webs had the words “Some Pig” written into it. The web above that said, “You Are”. I guess Kara’s not the only one who notices that we live in a sty.

This is also the time of year that Kara gets it in her head that we must buy lots of flowering plants, carefully placing them about the house, arranging them so that they get the proper amount of sunlight, and neglecting them until they die a slow, brown, and very dry death.
Kara’s like the little girl from Finding Nemo who kills all of her pet fish but still wants more. She just can’t resist the call of the wildflower. When we walk into the gardening section of a store, the plants can sense that she has a gangrene thumb. They all sit perfectly still, none of them making eye contact.

“Oooh, this one’s pretty! Let’s take a couple of these home,” she’ll say to me.

“What did those poor plants ever do to you?” I’ll reply.

“But they’re so pretty and so soft! I want to love them and squeeze them and pet them and call them George,” she says.

A few weeks after she buys new plants, I’ll be strolling up the front walk when I’ll feel a tendril wrap around my ankle.

“Water! Waaa-ter!” the mums plead with me. Kara would water them, but she’s at the store, getting more plants.

If you’re strong to the finich ‘cause you eats your spinach, you can reach Mike Todd online at

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Droppin' a deuce

Two weeks of Good Frickin' Picture Wednesday in a row! Compliments to Hofer for another Guatemala shot:

This still doesn't settle the big question: Which is the coolest nickname -- Ace, Deuce, Gimp, Iball or T-bone?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Celling out

Sometimes, my job requires me to be semi-competent somewhere other than my regular office. This was the case last week, when I took my show about two hours down the road for a conference, leaving my wife Kara to be the primary giver-of-raisins to the ferret for a few days.
Just before I left, Kara yanked me out of the Stone Age, putting us on a family cell phone plan so that, for the first time, we’d be able to keep in touch without the use of conch shells. I’d been mooching off of her phone for so many years, I’d gotten used to being the only person in the world without a cell phone in my pocket, besides maybe the Unabomber or the Quaker Oats guy.

I suppose it’s in my genes to be the last person on Earth to adopt new technology; my parents didn’t get cable TV until I was twenty-three, way too late to blame it for the erosion of my moral fiber. My buddies became part of the first generation to grow up watching videos on MTV; I spent most of my formative years wondering why Bob Barker was so intent on neutering my dog.

Kara spent a solid week wrangling with the cell phone company, in disbelief that starting a new plan required her to throw away her old phone, which still worked perfectly well, even though the camera function, which seemed so cool at the time, has seen less use than the bread maker in our basement.

“I spent over a hundred bucks on that phone less than a year ago. It still works just fine. Why can’t I keep using it with the new plan?” she asked.

“Because,” said the customer service person.

“Because why?” Kara asked. Surely, there was a good reason to force customers to throw away perfectly good equipment.

And there was a good reason: “Because we said so, that’s why.” So there you have it.

Now it’s clear to us why some of our friends have entire drawers dedicated to discarded cell phones. As soon as you make a change to your calling plan, what looks like a perfectly functional marvel of modern electronics turns into the equivalent, value-wise, of a used Kleenex. Any day now, 7-11 is going to start putting out “give a cell phone, take a cell phone” trays.

After it was all said and done, Kara decided to pay the few extra bucks to upgrade to a better phone. To me, that felt like playing right into The Man’s hands. Nobody’s going to force me, as a consumer, to make wise decisions. “I’ll just take the one that comes free with the plan,” I said. “That’ll be fine.”

When our new phones came in the mail, Kara’s arrived in a tiny little jewelry box, and was thinner than a slice of deli turkey. Mine came in a re-purposed refrigerator box. The phone itself requires its own backpack and a small operations crew to spin the crank while I’m talking. Regardless, it’s my phone, and I’m glad to finally have one.

The first call I made was to my old college buddy Tim, a guy who wears shiny shoes even when he’s not at work.

“Hey man! I finally got a cell piece,” I told him.

“Guys, Mike Todd just called his phone a cell piece!” he said, and roomful of laughter came through the earpiece. “Dude, nobody calls them cell pieces anymore.”

A lot can change in the five years since college. The transition from cool to uncool sneaks up on you, quietly, while you’re watching reruns of “Trading Spaces” with your wife.

“Well, what do people call them now?” I asked.

“Phones. Cell phones. Anything but cell pieces,” he told me.

So now I know. And I have a whole lot of anytime minutes that I intend to spend, loudly, standing behind you in line.

Mike Todd can hear you now online at

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Good Frickin' Picture Wednesday briefly returns

This site is in serious danger of becoming a big fat text-fest, thanks to Jeff Hofer's dilly-dallying about hooking me up with some new pictures. He just sold one of his shots, by the way. Only a matter of time before Hofer is a household name in more than just my household.

To kill some time until he gets around to it, here's a pic I took about a month ago:

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Can’t drive 35

For his birthday present this year, the state of South Carolina gave my dad his very first speeding ticket ever. The trooper was actually a few days early with his present, but he had to catch Dad while he had the chance, as Dad was only in town briefly for a business trip, and was apparently moving quite rapidly.

If you’d ever driven with my dad before, you’d understand how much fun this is for everyone else in the family. It’s not that Dad’s usually the slowest driver on the road, it’s just that he’s the slowest one not driving a tractor. The man has a helium foot. School buses pass Dad on winding country roads. When we used to take family drives through Amish country, we’d have buggy drivers whipping the back of the station wagon and hollering for Dad to get out of the way.

He is not a man who likes to test the limits of his vehicles. That task is left to my mom, who racked up enough speeding tickets on family vacations to win the position of Permanent Navigator, though she also moonlights as the Passenger’s Side Brakeperson, slamming down her foot on the floorboard at the slightest hint of brake lights. In all fairness, the right side of the car always seems to stop when the left side does, and we have Mom to thank for that.

But we were all shocked to learn that not only had the trooper clocked Dad going 55 in a 35, but the ticket weighed in at a whopping $440. I guess the town of Camden, South Carolina expected Dad to finance a new stadium for their minor league baseball team, the Camden Speedtraps.

After amassing my own collection of speeding tickets over the years, I’ve learned to look at it this way: it costs about a nickel each time you speed, and every few years, a cop will come along to collect. For Dad, though, that way of looking at things really doesn’t help much. He got charged 440 bucks for the first time he’d ever sped in his life.

At least Dad handled his ticket better than my friend Johnny, who was recently pulled over for not fully stopping at a stop sign.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the cop asked Johnny.

“No, sir, I don’t,” Johnny replied.

“You rolled right through that stop sign back there. That’s a moving violation,” said the cop.

“Is it possible for you to give me a warning? There wasn’t anybody else in the intersection,” Johnny said.

“Sorry. I can’t do that. And this ticket is going to be about a hundred dollars,” the cop replied.

At this point, Johnny became incensed at being caught for such a minor violation. I can understand his sentiment. Over the past twenty years, I’ve personally witnessed Johnny doing countless things for which he should have been arrested, most all of which were more entertaining than rolling through a stop sign.

So Johnny, always adept at ignoring the little voice in his head that tells him to keep his mouth shut, proceeded to inquire of the officer, “Well, how much is the ticket for selling crack?”
Johnny learned shortly thereafter that pointing out laws that you happen not to be breaking doesn’t help you to avoid a traffic ticket, but mouthing off to a cop does ensure that you’ll lose in court when you challenge that ticket.

The good news for Dad in all of this is that his trooper made a mistake, and the ticket ended up only costing $75. It was the ribbing from his family that turned out to be expensive. Here’s a sampling of his birthday card this year from his loving children: “It’s funny how fast birthdays come up on you. Kind of like state troopers. We hope you get a chance to slow down on your birthday!”

You can ask Mike Todd for his license and registration online at

Monday, April 03, 2006

Honking my bobo in public

After a year or so of getting shot down or ignored by more newspapers than I care to recount (okay, 82), I actually got some pretty great news yesterday. “Just humor me” was a first-place 2006 Keystone Press Award winner! On the inside, I’m using lots more exclamation points, but I’m playing it cool on the outside.

So if you will please allow me just a moment of self-congratulatory, um, congratulations. Thank you. I’m done now.

Oh, and here’s frickin' proof that I’m not completely full of crap, at least about this particular topic: frickin' proof. Basically, a Keystone Press Award in Division VIII is like one step down from a Pulitzer Prize. Or is it one step up? Anyway, it's somewhere near the Pulitzer. I can't remember if it's better or worse.

I know what you're thinking. You’re thinking: "That guy's a total douche bag." And that is true, but now I'm an award-winning douche bag.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Rock-a-bye ferret

About a month ago, my buddy Josh dropped the little pink and blue bombshell that he and his wife Jaime were going to start trying to have a baby around the end of this year.

“On purpose?” I asked, amazed. Several of my friends have already had babies, but Josh and Jaime would be the first to do it intentionally. Seems like everyone else just catches baby, like the flu.

“Yes, on purpose. We’ve been talking about it a lot lately. We’re not quite ready yet, but we’ll be ready by the end of the year,” he said.

“But I’m not ready yet. Can’t you wait a couple years, like us? Otherwise, your kid’s gonna be all old and beating up on our kid,” I said.

“I don’t know, man. We’re not getting any younger,” Josh replied. “Why don’t you guys just go ahead and have one, too?”

My wife Kara and I have already devoted much time to considering the merits of expanding our little family, but she can’t keep a houseplant alive, and I can’t keep my toenails to a reasonable length. I think we still need a little time.

Josh rebuffed my further attempts at peer-pressuring him into changing his reproductive itinerary to better fit my schedule. He actually sounded pretty serious about the whole thing.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I brought the topic up again, expecting him to talk about baby names and the paint swatches they’d selected for their nursery.

Josh said, “Oh, yeah. Now we’re thinking of getting a pug instead.”

His parents will be so proud. I know my parents never get tired of doting on their grandferret. Between my ferret and my sister’s two cats, my parents get to have all the fun of occasional pet ownership, without all the noise and mess of grandchildren. It works out perfectly for everyone.

Back in the day, my parents used to raise pets of their own, always picking up after them and trying to teach them right from wrong. Our old cat, whose proper name was Taffy, but whom we affectionately referred to as “The Cat,” late in life decided that her delicate sensibilities required a more refined commode than the litter box in the laundry room. Her discriminating tastes, much to my parents’ dismay, were more attuned to the fuzzy white carpet directly behind the living room couch.

After every attempt at non-corporal discipline failed, and with the condition of the carpet deteriorating rapidly, my parents decided to try the same technique that I use to train my slices of pizza to be especially tasty: sprinkling red pepper flakes all over the place. The theory behind the peppering was that any sniffing going on behind the couch would result in sneezing rather than bladder emptying.

Mom bought an economy-sized bucket of pepper flakes and dumped its contents all over the newspaper that was spread out behind the couch. From that day forward, whenever my friends came over, they’d run over to investigate the odd sounds coming from behind the couch, and there would be The Cat, just peeing and sneezing, and probably reading Garfield.

My buddy Josh probably has the right idea, though. Pet ownership has to be pretty decent practice for having children. Having a ferret has taught me so many important lessons about personal responsibility. For instance, if you put a glass of water on the coffee table and the ferret knocks it over, soaking your mail and your eight remote controls, that’s his fault. But if you leave a glass of water on the coffee table a second time and he knocks it over again, whose fault is it then? Wrong! It’s his again, that jerk.

You can swat Mike Todd with a rolled-up newspaper online at

Note: Joe Brown was actually the first friend of mine to have a baby on purpose. And he just had a second one, too. Joe Brown, you are the most hard core person I know.