Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I wrote 25% of a book

A few months ago, Jim Harris, one of the esteemed humor columnists from the Chestnut Hill Local, devised a plan for some of that paper's columnists to band together to publish a book of their best humor columns. Through a clerical error, I was invited to join them.

Earlier today, the fruit of our labor, Local Humor, was born. Or printed, if you don't want to get all anthropomorphic about it.

Here's the description from Amazon.com:

Chestnut Hill Local columnists Mike Todd, Janet Gilmore, Hugh Gilmore, and Jim Harris have not only survived in the troubled and struggling newspaper business, they have amassed a devoted following of fans who shower them with lavish presents like scrapple, bowling balls, and money from Nigerian bank accounts. Until recently, their columns were available only to the readers of the Local, but now you, too, can "LOL" as:

  • Hugh warns of the "Enemies of Reading"
  • Janet remembers old friends, old flames and ex-coworkers
  • Mike deals with wrens, ferrets, and a pregnant wife in his house
  • Jim dispenses dubious advice and rails against the system

They each have their own style and shtick, but they share a love of language and an innate ability to find the humor in everyday life. Not since Ben Franklin dined alone at the Mermaid Inn has Chestnut Hill seen such a concentration of comedic talent. Here, from among their hundreds of articles, hand-picked by a rigorous process of "One potato, two potato," is a rollicking roundup of mirthful monologues for your gracious consideration.

So even though I give the milk away for free here on this blog, please don't let that stop you if you feel like maybe it would be AWESOME to buy the cow. By which I mean the cow that is for sale at Amazon.com. With the title Local Humor.

It looks like Amazon has four copies available right now -- that should cover me, my mom, my sister and me again. I can't wait to take advantage of the free Super Saver shipping for which the book Local Humor is eligible!

And yes, the recent birth of our son was just a publicity stunt to drive book sales.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Little tiny baby, big grand entrance

“These cramps feel different,” my pregnant wife Kara said last Monday morning, nudging me awake at 3:30am. I’d been sleeping fitfully; the lightning cracking outside the window was the kind you could see with your eyes closed.

Her due date wasn’t for another two months, so we decided that we’d go see the doctor in the morning. Half an hour later, as Kara walked into the bathroom rubbing her belly, I heard the sound that would forever divide our lives into two parts, the part before and the part after: SPLASH.

I jumped out of bed and saw Kara staring at the tile floor, straddling a small puddle of clear liquid.

“Was that my water breaking?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t know!” I said.

“Press ‘0’ if this is an emergency,” said the voicemail message at the doctor’s office, and I nearly punched the zero button through the back of the phone.

“You can come to the hospital now, or come to my office at 9:00am. But maybe now would be better,” the doctor said.

Five minutes later, with the backdoor left unlocked in case we needed to call a neighbor to have our dog looked after, we were driving through the pouring rain, waiting for the GPS to pick up a signal. I could get us close to the hospital, but I didn’t know exactly where it was. Our birthing class was to take place there in two weeks.

“Ow, ow. Watch the potholes!” Kara yelled. “I pay my taxes, why can’t they fix the potholes?”

“We’ll just get to the hospital, and if this is labor, maybe they can stop it,” I said.

“They can stop it?” she asked between moans.

“Yeah, stop it. Suppress it. Something like that,” I said as I looked both ways before running another red light.

At the ER, the nurse stepped outside of our little room with curtain walls and said into her walkie talkie: “We have an admittance to labor and delivery. We have a patient who is 32 weeks pregnant and three centimeters dilated.”

The response came back: “Wow.”

Kara and I looked at each other. “Wow? What does ‘wow’ mean?”

Since our birthing class hadn’t happened yet, pretty much everything we knew about childbirth at that point had come from the movie “Knocked Up,” though our crash course was well underway.

Ten minutes later, we were in a delivery room. An hour after that, a doctor was pulling a satellite-dish-sized light out of the ceiling as the room buzzed with perhaps a dozen nurses.

“Doctor, what are the chances that this isn’t happening today?” I asked when he stopped moving for a moment.

“No chance. The baby will be here before noon,” he replied.

“Oh my God. I have to call our parents,” I said. Paul Revere had less urgent messages to deliver.

Tears welled up in Kara’s eyes. “It’s too early. We can’t have him yet,” she said. I looked at the doctor, knowing that his response could change the trajectory of our lives forever.

“Thirty-two weeks is plenty. He’ll go to Harvard if he wants to,” he replied, and for the first time, we began to breathe a little easier. At least I did. Kara still needed more drugs.

An hour later, the epidural in place, we had a few moments of calm.

“We still don’t have a name picked out yet,” I said. Broaching that topic before the epidural had yielded results not printable in a family publication.

“Do you still like Evan?” I asked.

“I do,” she said, tears falling down her cheeks as she nodded her head. And so Evan Edward Todd was born last Monday at 9:13am, four pounds, one ounce, beautiful, healthy. And exhausted and crying, just like his parents.

You can smoke a cigar with Mike Todd at mikectodd@gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ten days old

Evan's come a long way in the past week. He's breathing entirely on his own, gaining weight and starting to regulate his temperature without the incubator, though it'll still be a little while before he's out of his aquarium entirely. No more blue jaundice lights, no more CPAP tubes or cannulas in his nose, just a little feeding tube. He's looking great and we're ecstatic and relieved that his most recent days have been nowhere near as exciting as his first ones.

Behold the cuteness:

That blue knit cap and blanket he's sporting above were both hand-knitted by our friend Anna. How hard core is that? She knitted them. With her HANDS. Does he look like a badass in them or what?

Also, the dog would like me to remind you that she still exists.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

No column this week

Dang if my schedule didn't get a little thrown off last week. For the first time since February 2005, when this column started, I missed one. That's what happens when your preemie comes on a deadline day.

I've already got one in the can for next week, though. It's about cats. No, wait, it might be about babies. One baby in particular, actually.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Thanks to everyone who left comments and/or sent good vibes our way over the past couple of days. I read all of your comments to Kara while she was recovering and she got a kick out of them, especially the ones that made fun of me.

Evan is still rocking his incubator at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, doing great, and his doctor is hopeful that 3-4 more weeks there should probably do the trick. I'll post more later, just wanted to give a quick update and say a sincere thank you for the kind words and support.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Holy cow! We just had a baby.

Yesterday at 9:13am, our little boy made his entrance into the world, about two months ahead of schedule. We're exhausted and elated, and both mother and baby (Evan Edward Todd, the newest studmuffin in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) are recovering very nicely. I hope to post some pictures and updates soon, but for now, holy freakin' cow, what a couple of days. The kid knows how to make an entrance.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The sad ending of Old Yellerpages

As my wife Kara and I pulled into our driveway recently, we noticed the herald of a new era: under our neighbor’s mailbox, you could see the corner of a phonebook sticking out of the mulch like a hand popping out of a grave in a horror movie.

“Wow, Jimmy’s really hanging in there with the phonebook thing,” Kara said.

For the past few months, our neighbor Jimmy has been practicing civil disobedience by refusing to touch the gift that the Phonebook Fairy dropped as it idled past in its ’89 Buick Century station wagon. As days turned into weeks with the phonebook sitting in its plastic-baggie sarcophagus at the end of his driveway, we figured that Jimmy just had priorities other than rescuing the abandoned compendium. After a while, the phonebook became part of the landscape; it seemed as if it had been there since the time when hair bands ruled and Blockbuster Video had a viable business model.

I realized that we were witnessing the beginning of a social movement when Jimmy mulched over the phonebook, leaving just the one corner sticking out. You don’t bury the phonebook halfway in your mulch unless you’re looking to make a point similar to the one made by displaying a human head at the entrance to your village.

When I was a kid, the phonebook was the most looked-at item in the house that wasn’t a swimsuit issue. The pages would be falling out of the binding before a replacement arrived. The majority of my math education came from memorizing phone numbers so that I wouldn’t have to kneel on the kitchen counter to get to the phonebook cabinet. These days, I can’t remember how to do long division, but I can still rattle off the old phone numbers for houses that my friends haven’t lived in for twenty years. If my head were a beer stein, it would hold only the foam.

I’m already looking forward to telling my future son old fogey stories about my childhood, getting all nostalgic about things I never really enjoyed in the first place.

“You used to call a phone number to get a weather report?” he will ask, wide-eyed.

“It was 936-1212, and it took fifteen minutes to dial on a rotary phone,” I will reply. “Wait until I tell you about busy signals. And sorry I can’t help with your math homework. Go talk to Mom.”

I thought about these things as we picked up our own phonebook at the end of the driveway a few months ago. “Oh, good. A phonebook,” Kara said. “That would be really useful if the Internet hadn’t been invented.”

We reluctantly brought it inside like we were adopting a stray kitten. Unsure of what to do with it from there, we stuffed it in a drawer on top of its plastic-wrapped predecessor, where it will sit until we locate a kid who needs a booster seat for a barber chair. Once a staple of our lives, the phonebook has become spam that’s harder to delete.

The next time around, I’m thinking of joining Jimmy’s movement. Surely, a rain-soaked, biodegrading phonebook would help to ward off the delivery of future editions.

Besides, did you know that an area the size of nine-hundred football fields is cut down in the Brazilian rainforest every day to support our phonebook industry? I just made that number up, but maybe it’s true. Anyway, I don’t see why Brazilians need so many football fields.

The next time I bump into Jimmy, I’ll have to thank him for his inspiration. Through his quiet leadership, he has taught us that you don’t have to just accept everything that’s dumped in or around your mailbox. You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make its fingers do the walking.

You can really get Mike Todd’s number at mikectodd@gmail.com.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dog pictures: F yeah!

My buddy Chunks thought the picture below looked disturbing (he's delicate), so I'm posting the other decent ones from that day to show that the dogs weren't actually killing each other.

Bonus! Here are a couple lightning pics Chunks took in Dallas:

Nice shots, mofo.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Saturday afternoon at Michael Vick's house

Those of you who read this blog (hi Mom, and myself!) know how much my buddy Perlson loves it when I post pictures of my dog. Just to keep him happy, here's one of Memphis with the neighbor's dog Brendan from a few weeks back as they enjoy a leisurely dip in the kiddie pool:

Well, maybe not that leisurely. Anyway, if anyone has a better dog eyeball picture than this one, I want to see it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

My favorite rose? Rose Nylund.

Sometimes, a dude just wants to take pretty pictures of the flowers in his backyard.

This last picture taught me the limits of the kit lens that came with my Nikon D40 (18-55mm, for the photo geeks). I wanted to zoom in on the little drop of water that was about to fall, but I couldn't get any closer without losing focus. To take a picture like that, there are apparently two options:

1) Drop 300 bones on a macro lens
2) Drop $17.50 on a set of magnifying filters that screw onto your existing lens

Hello, filters! Mine should get here in a few days. I can't wait to take a picture up the dog's nose. It'll probably look like Zion National Park up there.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Ham is where the heart is

From what I understand, if your baby is breathing air instead of goo, you’re already behind schedule in setting up the college fund.

This point was driven home recently by some friends whose son was accepted to a very good university, a school so prestigious that it rarely, if ever, advertises during Judge Judy.

“It costs $52,000 a year,” his mom said, and I wished I had been taking a sip of coffee at the time so that I could have spewed it across the room like a beluga whale, which is the only appropriate response to hearing a number so large attached to something that doesn’t have gull-wing doors or an eat-in kitchen.

Later that night, my wife Kara said, “ We’re going to have to start a college fund now. We don’t have much time before the baby will be here.”

The wedding ring hanging from her necklace glinted as if to emphasize the point. Kara is so pregnant that her wedding ring no longer fits on her finger. Some husbands might worry about guys hitting on a wife with a ringless ring finger, but I figure that a protruding, baby-filled belly pretty much renders a wedding band superfluous in the “fending off unwanted advances” department.

Tucking aside money for the next eighteen years sounds like a bit of a drag, but stretching to meet a perhaps impossible goal will at least keep us entertained. My buddy’s aunt recently won the lottery, and the jackpot was so large that her lawyer advised her to shut down her ham store so that her customers didn’t start hunting for excuses to sue her.

To say that my buddy’s aunt won’t have to worry about setting up a 529 College Savings account is to gloss over the fact that ham stores exist at all, which must surely indicate the zenith of a civilization.

“Wow, you own a store? What do you sell?” one would ask the ham store proprietor.

“Ham,” would come the response. “And, you know. Ham accessories.”

While winning the lottery might sound like it would make life exponentially more fun, I suspect that getting all that money at once would be a lot like putting in the cheat codes to get unlimited ammo for your rocket launcher in the video game Resident Evil 5. Once you’ve spent ten minutes indiscriminately launching rockets at your enemies, the fun quickly wears off, and you yearn for the simplicity of blowing off zombies’ heads with your plain old shotgun, the way nature intended.

After we discussed the mechanics of setting up a college fund without an assist from Powerball, Kara said, “Oh, and we’ll need life insurance, too,” which was perfect, because discussing life insurance is my favorite thing to do when I can’t find a cheese grater to lick.

Before we purchased our first house, back when a baby was something only old people and unwed teens worried about, Kara and I met with a financial advisor to make sure buying a house wasn’t a huge mistake. Our time would have been better spent talking to someone who might have noticed that every rainfall in that house created a water feature in the attic to rival the fountains at the Bellagio.

We ran out of things to talk about after the first week, but we’d paid for ten sessions, so the advisor spent the next nine weeks trying to sell us life insurance.

“Have you thought about what you’d do if Mike were to be involved in a horrible motorboating accident?” he’d ask.

“We don’t have a motorboat,” Kara would reply. On the way home, she’d say, “Dude, I never realized personal finance was so depressing.”

But maybe it’s about time for me to dust off his number and give that guy a call. Or dig out that cheese grater.

You can send Mike Todd your favorite ham accessory at mikectodd@gmail.com.