Monday, January 05, 2009

Migrating home for the holidays

As the holiday season begins to run out of holidays and my belt discovers notches it never knew it had, exploring circumferences that are usually reserved for hula hoops or tractor tires, my wife Kara and I are preparing once again to head for home after stuffing our car like characters in a Steinbeck novel and our faces like characters in an Eddie Murphy fat-suit movie.

Until our own little family consists of members other than our dog and ourselves, Christmas is a time not only for making memories, but also for making the rounds. Fortunately for us, playing connect-the-families doesn’t require more than a four-hour drive on any of the legs of the trip; flying home is something we’re happy to leave to the geese and to our trans-American friends, Rob and Natalie, who insisted on moving to Los Angeles.

The most indelible image of our whirlwind tour ‘round the horn this year happened when Kara and I were looking across the table at Rob and Natalie’s hands, her hand for the sparkling new engagement ring, his hand for the shiny new pinkie splint, two accessories that we initially assumed were unrelated.

After many years of relatively tumult-free dating and cohabitating, as of a few months ago, Rob still hadn’t proposed, leading many of his friends to conjecture about what possible data he could still be collecting. Eight Seven years should be plenty of time to determine whether your partner is really a secret agent or a werewolf, but Rob has never been in much of a hurry about anything. He was always the friend we lied to about when the party started, bumping it forward a couple hours in hopes that he might get there before everybody left. But our continued predictions of their impending engagement proved to be less accurate than the predictions offered by your average doomsday cult.

Luckily, he popped the question before Natalie left the party.

“I had one foot out the door,” she told us with a wink over lunch a couple of days ago.

Rob’s eyes widened. “Wait. What door?” he asked.

Natalie drew a rectangle in the air with her fingers.

“THE door,” she replied, smiling.

We didn’t ask about the sleeping arrangements when they visited her family in Chicago, but this development couldn’t have hurt Rob’s standing. As I found out with Kara’s family, even after Kara and I had been living together for over a year, until you put a ring on that finger, you can put yourself on that futon in the basement.

Just as we’d started to think that their engagement and his pinkie splint were quite the suspicious coincidence, Rob explained that he’d earned his own jewelry by sticking his fingers where they didn’t belong, namely between a rock and a bigger, falling rock.

In Venice Beach, one of the local full-time beach residents spends his days balancing large rocks into impossible-looking, chest-high spires.

As Rob stopped to take a few pictures of the temporary sculptures, he noticed one spire in particular that he later referred to as the “Mother Ship,” made up of three enormous rocks balanced end-to-end in what probably passes in Southern California for a snowman.

Ignoring the circles in the sand that, in retrospect, must have been meant as a barrier to protect the Darwinly challenged from themselves, Rob decided that the rocks were clearly being held up by some sort of support, a fraud that needed to be exposed. One gentle poke from his soon-to-be mangled finger proved otherwise.

It’s a shame that he was too busy fleeing the scene on his way to the hospital to yell, “Jenga!”

You can forget old acquaintances with Mike Todd at


  1. That'll teach him to put things on the long finger...

  2. For a while there I thought that Rob and Natalie were me and Julie... but I've never stuck my finger into anywhere it would get mangled, so they must be real people...

  3. Isaac Perlson1/05/2009 3:04 PM

    I stuck my finger in my butt once. Came out OK!

  4. Only once Isaac?

    I think Rob was waiting for the interest rates to go to historical lows so he could finance the biggest ring possible.

  5. JL -- Google said this: to "put on the long finger" is an Irish expression meaning "to postpone indefinitely." Thank you for the cultural exchange. Sorry all we have to offer from our end is a global financial collapse.

    The Serge -- Hey everybody, Sergey and Julie are engaged, too, so be happy for them! Dude, sorry you didn't crush your finger on a homeless dude's rock sculpture. That was the tiebreaker for making the column.

    Isaac -- If your daddy's hygiene habits are any indication, I bet he told you that you didn't have to wash your hands afterwards.

    JP -- Dang, that's a good excuse. Better save that one for yourself 'stead of wasting it around here.

  6. Something in the back of my mind told me you folks don't have that phrase over there yonder.

    I keep meaning to listen to that voice, but I keep putting it...yeah, you see where I'm going.

  7. JL -- Well, I'll help start it up over here, then. I was going to write them tonight, but I'm afraid I've put my thank you notes on the long finger. Boom! Irish idioms taste like Guiness.

  8. Seven years! It's only been seven years!

  9. Nat -- You sure you aren't rounding down? Ha. I corrected it in the column. Thank you for promoting accuracy in pretend journalism. And congratulations again!

  10. You are seriously too funny. I was rounding down just a little bit! When he asked me it had been 7 years and 2 months!