Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Hyundai of the Apocalypse

“Dude!” my buddy Rob yelled, but nothing could be done.  The white Hyundai continued hurtling towards us, on a collision course with destiny.  Destiny being, in this case, the rear bumper of my wife’s Honda Civic.

When I’d picked Rob up at the train station moments earlier, the day seemed full of promise.  “You’re going to get into a wreck very soon,” was not the promise we were shooting for. 

Prior to last week, I was building on a seventeen-year streak without a car accident.  Cal Ripken, Jr.’s streak was a measly sixteen years.  But you know what they say about streaks: If you have a good one going, some moron will probably mistake their gas for their brakes and that’ll be that.

As we drove about 25 down a crowded street, the white bullet shooting out of the driveway to our right didn’t warrant much attention, until its complete lack of intention to stop became clear.  I swerved left and pressed the gas, and for the moment just before impact, wondered if I’d accidentally driven us into a demolition derby. 

With an expensive-sounding SMACK!, the Hyundai T-boned our rear passenger side, jarring me and Rob to the left. 

 “Boy howdy!” I yelled, because this is a family publication.

Rob whipped around in his seat and reported, “Dude, they’re laughing.”   

I pulled off onto the right shoulder as the Hyundai cruised merrily past, its two occupants chatting and smiling. 

We pulled back onto the road and followed them into the left turn lane. 

“Maybe they’re pulling into this strip mall to talk to us there,” Rob said.

But the car turned left and just kept on going down a side street as if nothing had happened.  If you haven’t laid on the horn and blinked your lights at anyone lately, it’s really much more therapeutic than you might think.  Still, they just drove along as if we weren’t there.

The car turned into a college campus parking lot and took its time going up and down the lanes, looking for a spot. 

When it finally stopped, Rob jumped out and leaned into their window.

“Is something wrong?” one of the girls asked.

“You just smashed into our car back there,” Rob, for some reason, needed to explain.

We should have transcribed the stories that poured forth from their car over the next few minutes, in case we ever wanted to adapt them into a screenplay.  The driver wasn’t paying attention.  She mistook the gas for the brakes.  She’s still learning to drive.  In any event, neither of them noticed the accident, as if the huge dent in the front of their car had appeared there through immaculate collision.

 The fact that Rob saw them laughing immediately after impact did support their contention that they hadn’t noticed anything, which would lead a reasonable person, and perhaps even the reader(s) of this column, to wonder, were these two people on drugs?  All I can tell you is that I spent five years at Penn State, including two years living in a fraternity house, so I have no idea what a person on drugs might look like.

I can tell you who looked sober, though: the owner of the car, a friend of the two menaces, who came out to survey the damage, and who promised that we were in good hands.  He also said that, like a good neighbor, he’d be there.  This was quite reassuring, since he had no insurance.  He did produce what I believe to be the only driver’s license among the three of them, though.

So our Civic’s in the shop right now, getting $700 in repairs that, ideally, somebody else will pay for.  If you think there’s a great chance of that happening, though, you’re probably in no condition to operate a motor vehicle.

You can take Mike Todd’s fender on a bender at

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nooks and craggies

My buddy Rob and I met up last week for a hike in the Mohonk Preserve, up at Bonticou Crag and Table Rocks, just outside of New Paltz, NY.  Here are a few pics:

 Tell me you don't see Abe Lincoln's profile in this rock.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The pied sandpiper

“Party rub!  Party rub!” my son Evan screamed, pointing at the front door of the beach house.

“Party rub?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, glad that I understood.  I had no idea what a party rub was, except that it sounded like something that, if it ever became public, would probably force your congressman to resign. 

“I can’t say with certitude whether that party rub was mine.”

But Evan continued pointing at the corner of the door, distressed, yelling “Party rub” over and over.

We had just returned from an afternoon at the beach just outside of Duck, North Carolina, where Evan had found the sand to be both diverting and delicious.              

“At least he’s getting his roughage,” I’d say as Evan plowed through the sand with his face, burrowing past the beach chairs of his extended family.  He’d then wrinkle his nose and try to wipe the sand off his tongue, but he’d only succeed in licking more sand off of his hands, which at that point could have been used to take the edges off of rough-hewn timber.

“Thand in mouf,” he’d say, gesturing toward the situation that several adults had tried to prevent.  Children at the beach are endlessly creative, especially regarding ways to pack sand into their orifices.

Fortunately, he had plenty of other distractions to keep him from dwelling for too long on his fifty-grit tongue, like terrorizing the native waterfowl.  Seagulls seemed to know better than to hang around a two-year-old, taking off for England any time we wandered close, but sandpipers made tempting targets, always just out of reach.

“Catch birdie.  Catch birdie,” Evan whispered, arms extended, as he walked after the sandpipers, which scurried to stay a few steps ahead of him.  The birds were in little danger of becoming a toddler’s pet.  Since they spend their whole lives skirting the edges of crashing waves, sandpipers have plenty of experience staying safely out of the clutches of destructive forces of nature.

The regular reader(s) of this column might recall that last week, I complained that the most damaging storm to hit the East Coast in recent memory had the audacity to cause me some minor inconvenience, mostly in the form of string cheese that was trapped in my parents’ no-longer-electrified refrigerator.  It’s stressful trying to grab food out of someone else’s fridge when the power’s out.  If you hesitate for one moment too long, you might doom their other perishables to being tossed, including their 96-ounce bottle of ketchup, nine years ahead of its time.  It’s easier to drive past Arby’s every fifteen minutes to see if their lights are on.

In any event, North Carolina cleans up hurricanes faster than we ever could have hoped for, allowing us to visit for a shortened week.  Just a few days after the storm, Evan was plowing his face across the beach, getting his US RDA of quartz near the very places where Weather Channel reporters had recently stood, ponchos billowing, demonstrating the havoc that nature can wreak on even the sturdiest hair.

Early in the week, we were returning from the beach to hose off Evan’s face and put him down for a nap when he started yelling about the party rubs.

“Is he pointing at a spider web?” my mother-in-law asked, and the case was cracked.  Spider web.  ‘Piderwub.  Party rub. 

“Dude, I had no idea what the kid was saying, either,” Dr. Doolittle would have said.

Apparently, spider webs are scary even if you don’t really know what a spider is, and even if nobody’s ever told you how many spiders, on average, crawl into your mouth and die while you’re sleeping every year.  Which is at least three, according to reliable playground sources when I was in the fourth grade.

 You can pound sand with Mike Todd at

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rain delay

My column didn't run in the Roxborough Review last week, due to a confluence of several events that I should probably list here to throw you off the fact that I really just missed my first deadline since the day Evan was born.  The earthquake, the hurricane, the Labor Day weekend, my vacation, the ensuing flooding.  At least one of those things had something to do with the column not running.

Since this blog is a week behind the paper version of the column, even though we're back on schedule for the print version this week, I need to take this week off from the blog to get the schedule synced up again.  My apologies that my degeneracy has prevented you from reading about 630 words that may or may not have made any sense.

Still, how can you be mad at me when you're looking at this picture?

You can't.  It's not possible.  

'Til next week!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Down the shore

We just got back from a truncated (and awesome!) visit down to the Outer Banks with Kara's side of the family.  North Carolina sure knows how to mop up a hurricane in a hurry.  Thanks for cleaning up the mess so that we could come visit, hurricane moppers!  

Here are some pics from the week (and in case you're my boss, yes, it's awesome to be back in the office):

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The outer banks of sanity

All this giving my dog bottled water would make me feel like a celebrity, if I had showered within the last 48 hours. As it turns out, using bottled water for everything only makes you feel rich and famous if you don’t have to relieve yourself in your parents’ pachysandra several times daily, a fact that becomes clear when a hurricane knocks out their power and water for two days while you’re visiting.

We’d initially intended to visit my parents for just one night, leaving our dog with them before heading down to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for a week’s vacation with my wife Kara’s family. This sounded like a much better plan when the Outer Banks still existed.

Actually, Hurricane Irene didn’t cause the complete devastation we’d all feared, but it did drag the entire Northeast through enough of a car wash to snap off several antennae, leaving us stuck at my parents’ non-electrified, non-plumbed house, which is functioning more like a tent with windows at the moment.

If this column seems more romantic than usual, that’s because it’s written by candlelight, using the last of my laptop’s battery. Now might be an appropriate time to uncork a nice bottle of Riesling and check the front door to see if I sent you any flowers, too.

Fortunately, before the storm hit, we all charged up our electronic devices. You know what they say about hurricane preparedness: Buy plenty of water and make sure your iPad is charged, otherwise you may be forced to go days without hydration or Angry Birds.

A fun way to pass the time when there’s no electricity is to make an announcement to everyone in the room about once per hour: “Okay, everybody, check this out. The power is going to come back on in 3…2…1…Bang!” Then point at the ceiling.

It hasn’t worked for me yet, but if it ever works for you, you will forever be known as the Babe Ruth of Electricity. Don’t say it more than once an hour, though. You have to strike a delicate balance between increasing your chances of being right and decreasing your chances of being slapped.

Otherwise, we don’t have much to do but sit here in the dark, expecting the power to come back on any minute now, for several thousand minutes now. I’m writing a play about this experience, tentatively titled “Waiting for PECO.”

“The hurricane ruined my vacation” is not a headline that’s going to win any Pulitzers or garner a whole lot of sympathy, but that doesn’t make this whole thing any less annoying for us. At least the direst predictions didn’t come to pass. From the initial news reports, it sounded like civilization on the Eastern Seaboard would cease unless we all sprouted gills like tuna or Kevin Costner.

The past few weeks have seen Mother Nature reneging on her deal with the Northeast. We handle all of the country’s stress and banking while everyone else is off munching granola and drinking microbrews. They get the good surfing spots, we get the Jersey Turnpike. They get Jimmy Buffett and Scarlett Johansson, we get The Situation. In return, they get all the earthquakes and hurricanes. That seemed like a pretty fair deal until this August, when we started getting natural disasters, too. Clearly, Scarlett Johansson is going to have to move to Camden to restore the balance.

In any event, our family is waiting in limbo to see if we’re going to have a truncated vacation or none at all. If we don’t end up going to the beach, it’ll be a shame that I’ve spent the past few months cultivating these six-pack abs for nothing. If we do go, though, it’ll be a shame for Kara’s family to see what a lie the previous sentence was.

You can send Mike Todd a Category 4 email at