Thursday, March 29, 2007

We Vanderbilt this mansion on rock and roll

Here's a shot of my summer home in the Hamptons:

I let tourists come hang out in the backyard sometimes, if they promise to wear geeky hiking clothes and only micturate in the porto-potties I've provided by the parking lot.

Okay, okay, it's a picture of the Vanderbilt Mansion last summer. I don't even know what a Hampton is. But my middle name is Vanderbilt. Okay, it's Cox. Yes, with an x.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

And baby makes glee

If you ever find yourself concerned that America’s population isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with countries whose kids are learning how to calculate double integrals while our kids are trying to figure out how to disable the parental controls on the DVD player, I’d just like to assure you that my friends are doing everything they can to pitch in, procreationally speaking. They are like modern-day Rosie the Riveters – if you made of poster of them, they’d be flexing their muscles proudly and saying, “We Can Do It!” in an old-timey font, and by “Do It” they’d mean “Reproduce Faster than You Thought Our Species Able.” Then that poster would be hanging on the wall at Bennigan’s next to an old snowshoe and a rusty tricycle.

My wife Kara and I just returned from visiting the most recent one of our friends to take the parental plunge. The sensation of watching one’s friends become parents is a lot like standing behind the safety fence at an amusement park, watching the roller coasters go by as people scream their heads off high above, turning in gigantic loops and having the money shaken out of their pockets. Some of those people didn’t even mean to get in line for the ride, but they actually all seem to be having a pretty good time now. For the time being, Kara and I are content to stand by the fence and watch, letting our friends and the guy with the Megadeth tattoo on his neck get in line ahead of us.

Last weekend, I watched in amazement as my friend (whose name also happens to be Kara, so for the purposes of keeping this narrative semi-comprehensible, I’ll call her Cheetara) seemed so natural at being a mom after only having five weeks’ practice.

“Here,” Cheetara said, “You can hold him,” bringing her tiny little baby boy over to me. Baby and I eyed each other, both a little unsure of the impending transaction. Some people are natural born baby-holders. Kara, for instance, can hold a baby like nobody’s business. She could hold a baby through a carwash without waking it up. I get nervous just holding somebody else’s wine glasses for fear of breaking them. And wine glasses don’t wriggle around. Also, wine glasses don’t cry if they suspect that you are a bad person, leading everyone else in the room to think that maybe the wine glass has picked up on something they’ve been overlooking all these years.

Cheetara gently handed Baby over, and I did my best not to let him smell my fear. Luckily, his senses aren’t too keen yet. He went to sleep in my arms with his binkie perched in his mouth and his legs dangling in the air. He was just so peaceful and perfect, all I could think about as I looked down at him was, “Little Dude, I think there’s something terrible in your diapers.”

I quickly passed him back to his rightful owner. When I asked Cheetara about the tribulations of diaper-changing, she perpetuated one of the great lies of parenthood. “Oh, they’re not bad at all. He only goes number two about once a day, and it’s hardly even noticeable. It doesn’t look like you’d expect at all.”

I was soon to see the horrible truth. A dirty diaper looks exactly like what I expected. Worse, actually.

“Oh, naaaasty,” Kara said.

Cheetara deftly wiped him down as he just chilled out on a blanket on the floor wearing only a binkie and a smile. It works out pretty well that babies are totally cool just hanging out naked, because they sure do have to spend a lot of time like that. They’re like, “Yeah, that’s right. Check me out. I’m anatomically correct.”

You can purée Mike Todd’s carrots online at

Monday, March 19, 2007

Getting creamered

Sometimes, I accidentally hear what the morning DJ on the country music station says. I really don’t mean to. His voice is only allowed on the radio during times of desperation, when all of the other stations have banded together in an attempt to make me listen to McDonald’s commercials.

By the way, did you know that McDonald’s will put the sugar and cream right into the coffee for you now? This is what business students call innovation. Pretty soon, you’ll never have to touch a creamer again. It’s kind of a shame, though, because my friend Josh does this really funny trick where he pretends that he has something is his eye, and he rubs his eyeball with his closed fist going, “Aw, man, my eye is killing me!” Then he takes a fork in his other hand and sticks it into his fist, like he’s going to scratch his eye with the fork.

And as you’re sitting there watching him, the syrup dripping off the pancake on your fork, thinking to yourself, “Is he seriously going to scratch his eye with a fork?”, that’s when he pops the fork into the creamer that was hidden in his fist, making a sound that, on an old-time radio show, would certainly have passed for an eyeball being punctured -- of course, if you had listened to this performance on an old radio show, not only would you have been helpfully reminded to drink more Ovaltine, but your pancakes would not have been ruined from the creamer splatter.

If McDonald’s has its way, Josh won’t be able to do that trick anymore, which I think we can all agree would really be a shame. At least he’ll still be able to do the thing where he grabs his head like he’s going to crack his neck, and then just as he turns his head to the side, he smashes a Tic-Tac container that he’s hidden in his hand, making it sound like he’s broken something very important. Ah, that Josh. He should really get a job.

Anyway, I recently heard the morning DJ working himself into a foamy lather over the fact that some elementary school teachers are using the phrase, “sitting pretzel style,” rather than “sitting Indian style.” He was very angered about this, mostly because very angry people draw a crowd.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to be really angered about it, too. Clearly, our kids should not be taught to emulate snack foods of any kind. Where would it end? Today, pretzels. Tomorrow, HoHos.

In my estimation, though, what’s sadder than the proliferation of snack-related sitting positions amongst our children is the precipitous decline in our national regard for the Seinfeld rerun. You used to be able to depend on Twinkies and Seinfeld reruns to never get old. But I think those reruns have lost a little bit of their luster ever since Kramer had to go and mess them up with his racist tirade, which must have, by now, been shown on the internet more times than that video of the French guy head-butting the other guy in the chest during that big cricket match.

After the event, which couldn’t have been run more smoothly by Tom Cruise’s publicist, Kramer apologized to Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who shot him down like they’d taken lessons from Cindy Beal, who shot me down for the prom like she’d taken lessons from the Red Baron. That is, if the Red Baron had his mom answer the phone to say that the Baron was doing homework and couldn’t talk.

A couple of weeks ago, the morning DJ asked the question, “Who would someone apologize to if they offended white people?”

Of course, the DJ was being disingenuous. The bigger issue is who deserves an apology when you’ve offended humankind in general. Also, the answer is Jeff Foxworthy.

You can head-butt Mike Todd in the chest online at

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Parenting without kids

When my wife Kara and I went out to dinner a couple of nights ago, taking a break from the regimen of Ramen noodles and Cinnamon Life Cereal to which we’ve been rigidly adhering since we put our house on the market, we noticed that a couple of nearby families allowed their small children to have their Game Boys out at the dinner table.

For those unfamiliar with Game Boys, they are handheld devices with tiny little screens that devour childhoods whole, allowing kids to play video games when they should be out catching fireflies and smooshing them on their shoes as a warning to all other low-flying insects. Parents who allow Game Boy-playing in restaurants are clearly putting their kids into a high-risk category; these kids are far more likely than their peers to mature into adults who wear Bluetooth headsets when they’re not even talking on the phone, like they think they’re platoon commanders or Old Navy employees.

I can only imagine how my parents would have reacted if I’d have whipped out my old Game Boy (which was black-and-white and carved from a granite slab) at the dinner table, much less at a restaurant. The only game on that Game Boy would have been “Super Mario Brothers: I’m Looking at My Bare Hands Now Because Mom Just Snatched My Game Boy.”

As you can probably tell, Kara and I like to criticize everyone else’s parenting skills, because when you don’t have any kids, you have lots of time for stuff like that. You can also watch movies that do not feature talking bears, and you can say bad words without having to spell them out.

But we’ve also been thinking about babies a lot lately, mainly because our friends are proving to be slightly more fertile than the Tigris-Euphrates river basin. Sometimes, they even find that out on purpose. Walking through the aisles of Target yesterday to hunt for some presents for a baby shower, we were amazed at the contraptions that are available to new parents.

“Oh man,” Kara said, “Look at this thing.”

She was pointing towards a device that looked like it should have been offered for sale at a farm auction instead of in the baby aisle. It reminded me of the episode of Sesame Street where they visit the dairy farm.

“I can’t believe you actually have to hook yourself up to this thing. I wonder if it hurts,” Kara said.

“Moo,” I replied, feeling very gender fortunate, but also thinking about how much easier life would be if, like cows, people could just eat hay. You could keep a bale in the kitchen and just go to town on it whenever you wanted. No preparation, no dishes. I’m not sure if you’d want to figure out how to chew on your cud, though, because that seems pretty gross.

We ended up purchasing a baby wipe warmer. I had no idea that baby wipe warmers even existed, but apparently baby-wiping technology has come a long way. We thought that this gift was also culturally relevant at the moment, because if you’ve seen the movie “Hannibal Rising,” which of course you haven’t because it’s terrible, you find out that Hannibal Lecter would have grown up to be a park ranger if his mother hadn’t used cold baby wipes on him.

Judging from what we saw in the mall, our baby-having friends sure seem to be in for it. Parenting these days offers challenges that weren’t around even a few years ago. For one thing, kids have wheels in their sneakers now, which makes them nearly impossible to catch, especially on inclined planes. They just glide on along like they’ve evolved without us. At least they refuse to wear helmets, just like when I was a kid. Fads may come and go, but cranial contusions never go out of style.

You can give Mike Todd a timeout online at

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cold showers bring no flowers

Every morning, our ferret Chopper runs into the bathroom and paws at the side of the bathtub, standing up on his hind legs like a prairie dog, waiting impatiently for his morning coffee. He doesn’t actually drink the same coffee that you and I do, but if he did, he’s such a good little guy that he’d probably drink only fair trade coffee, even though he wouldn’t understand exactly what that means, either.

Chopper’s coffee is the warm water that comes out of the faucet before it gets hot enough for a shower. Either my wife Kara or I will spoon him some warm water with our hands, and he’ll take a few enthusiastic licks before he runs off to find some remote corner of the house to convert into his very own half bath. He’s quite the little architect.

Last Saturday morning was different, though. Chopper and I both stood there beside the tub, waiting for the warm water to start like we were waiting for Godot. I only reference “Waiting for Godot” now because I had to read it in high school even though not a single blessed thing happened during the whole play except for two guys standing around like idiots talking about nothing like it was a presidential debate. Since reading that play hasn’t done me a lick of good except that I kind of felt in on the joke while watching the movie “Waiting for Guffman,” which everyone in the world except me thought was hilarious, at least I can make myself feel marginally smarter by mentioning the play here, because smart people prove their smartness either by mentioning obscure literary works in regular conversation or by questioning other people’s patriotism. Both ways work.

Even though only the hot tap was turned on, the water felt like glacial runoff. I yelled up the stairs, “Did you use all the hot water for your shower?”

After a brief pause, Kara said, “Oh, I think I might have fallen asleep in the shower this morning. Sorry.”

The fact that she had fallen asleep while standing up would have been perfectly understandable if she had, at any time during her shower, been a giraffe, or if our brand of soap had been Irish Narcoleptic.

Chopper gave up and wandered off. I crawled back into bed.

“Hey, what are you doing? Take a shower and let’s go get something to eat. I’m a little bit hungry,” she said.

“I’m a little bit rock and roll,” I replied, high-fiving myself.

“Seriously. Get ready and let’s go,” she said.

This was the low point in my morning, compounded by the fact that the news was reporting that chimps are making weapons now. It’s only a matter of time before they start selling them to rogue states and dolphins.

So I took a lightning-fast shower, keeping warm by bathing in a steady stream of expletives. A certain warmth also emanated from the knowledge that I had just earned Good Husband tokens, which could be spent in any number of ways, including, but not limited to, practicing poor toilet etiquette and not looking up from the computer screen while she was talking to me.

When fate smiles on you and lets your significant other wrong you in some small way, it’s very important not to get too excited, lest you turn into the bad guy, which can happen quicker than you might think. Wringing everything you can out of your partner’s mistake is a delicate art form. You have just been given a precious little egg, an egg that you must nurture until it hatches into a beautiful little swan of revenge. At least that’s what I hear from other married people. I would never do such a thing. I’m too busy heating up shower water on the stove.

You can offer to be a ferret’s barista online at