Sunday, March 31, 2013

NYC me no more

“I never had a bachelor party, and perhaps never will, so let’s get together in New York City for the last chance to have fun in any of our lives,” my friend Johnny wrote a few weeks ago, drumming up our old group of buddies to celebrate his 35th birthday.

“Why not just skip straight to the funeral, since our lives are over?” I suggested.

We’ve all been friends since the first grade, so even though the premise for the festivities was debatable, I wanted to go.  When you have two small kids, though, you can’t just leave for the night without some serious spousal negotiating.  In the end, you can make it happen, but not before agreeing that, for the foreseeable future, the ripest diapers will have your name on them.

Of the six guys who descended on New York City that evening, three of us were married, and I was the only one with kids.

“We’ll have some laughs, they’ll make fun of my bald spot(s), and I’ll be in bed by midnight,” I thought.    
The evening started out as expected.  A few six-packs in a hotel room, back-slapping reunions as people arrived, pre-emptive arguing over the hotel bill.

“Gimp!” we all yelled when our buddy Gimp finally arrived, always the last one there.  We all know that we’re too old to call someone by a nickname like “Gimp”, but we forgot his real name long ago, and at this point, we’re too embarrassed to ask.

From there, the evening slowly progressed.  And regressed.

“To the bars!” someone said.  If you’ve never been, a New York City bar on Saturday night is the place you go when you no longer want to be able to hear the people you’re talking to, and you want to pay $16 a drink for the privilege.  

“Don’t you want to stay here for a little longer?” I asked.

“Dude, let’s go meet people,” Johnny said.

“I’m too old to meet people.  I like the people I already know just fine,” I replied.

9pm became midnight.  Midnight became 2am.

“Please, can we leave?” I begged, but I don’t think anyone could hear me.  The next day, my kids wouldn’t care how little sleep I’d gotten.  My friends, who could nap all day if they wanted, had no sympathy.  Such is the luxury of those who are only responsible for wiping their own behinds.

Finally, at 3:30am, I convinced Gimp to go back to the hotel with me, a suite we were sharing with Johnny and his brother, Ryan.  Since this was Johnny’s party, Gimp and I volunteered to take the pull-out couch.  Just as I closed my eyes, snug in my flannel pants and undershirt, Ryan returned.

“Johnny will be up in a minute,” Ryan said.  Then, as an aside, he added, “with a bunch of people.”

Those words floated in the air as I considered their ramifications.  Then the door flew open and Johnny entered carrying more six-packs, flanked by what seemed to be the entire patronage of the bar I’d recently escaped.

They plugged an iPhone into the hotel’s alarm clock and blasted party music, passing beers over my prone body.  I turned to Gimp, wondering if this was actually happening, and he just shook his head, closed his eyes and went to sleep.

I would have been happy to have been having that nightmare where I was the only one at the party wearing jammies, but wasn’t as keen on it happening in real life.

Strange new people pulled up chairs next to the pull-out bed, laughing and acting as if I was a willing party participant.  It was exactly like that movie “Weekend at Bernie’s”, where people party with the dead guy.  I was Bernie.

At 6:30am, long after I’d stolen the good bed, the party broke up.  Next time I hang out with those guys, it’ll probably need to be somebody’s funeral.

You can crash Mike Todd’s party at

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Drugs: Just say please

“Can’t you just wait two days?” the pharmacist asked.

“So my baby should go off his medicine for two days because our insurance won’t cover us until Saturday?” I asked, feeling myself turning into Mr. Angry Customer Man.

He paused for a moment to consider an answer.  To help him arrive at the right one, I tried to flex hard enough to shred my pants and shirt into tatters, but my face just turned red instead of Incredible-Hulk green.

“Hmmm, yeah, that doesn’t sound right,” he replied.  “Let me call your insurance company.”

I took a deep breath, thanked him and stepped away from the counter, wondering how my wife Kara was faring out in the car with our two sons, who were surely threatening mutiny by now.  If they ever figure out how to unbuckle their car seat harnesses, our reign will be over.

“This’ll just take a sec,” I’d said when I hopped out of the car, thinking that I was just picking up a prescription, not arm-wrestling the medical-industrial complex.

Leaving the pharmacy without the medicine was not an option.  Kara and I are very close to celebrating our 365th-consecutive terrible night’s sleep, an anniversary that is easy to remember because, through no small coincidence, it falls on our son Zack’s first birthday.

On the recommendation of his specialist, we’d recently doubled Zack’s dosage in hopes of finally taming the reflux that has caused more lost sleep than the world’s collective car alarms and beagles combined.

Living with Zack is like living with a werewolf, and every night's a full moon.  In the morning, he is all smiles and coos, a sweet child with a wonderful temperament.  He has no recollection of the wailing beast he'd become during the night.

“Not again,” we’ll say when the howling begins.

The next day, he’ll crawl up to you, eyes twinkling, looking up as if to say, “Good morning!  Hey, what's with the bags under your eyes, and the claw marks across your face?"

After resigning ourselves to never sleeping again, Zack’s specialist had given us hope that doubling the dosage could do the trick.  Zack needed more of his medicine, not less, and we’d given him the last dose at our house that morning.

“Yes, but they had to double the dose.  That’s why they ran out a few days early,” the pharmacist said over the phone, and I appreciated him arguing on our behalf.

Usually, Kara dukes it out with the insurance company, which can be a full-time job.  We chose her insurance plan, and covered our kids with it, because, while being ridiculously expensive, it was one of the few plans that promised to reimburse the cost of Zack’s wickedly overpriced reflux formula.

“There’s been a mistake,” the cashier will say after ringing up his formula.

“No, I’m afraid that’s right,” I’ll say.  It is the Dom Perignon of formulas.  Once Zack’s off it, we’ll have to feed him pureed lobster tails just to keep up the standard of living he’s grown accustomed to.

I’ll save the receipt and give it to Kara, who will submit it to the insurance company to be rejected.  Kara will call and complain, they’ll approve it and promise never to reject it again.  And they won’t, until next time.
The first time might have been a mistake.  The second time, an oversight.  By the sixth time, it sure seems like a policy.

“Okay, they won’t cover you until Saturday, but you can pay a full month’s market price now and submit to be reimbursed,” the pharmacist said, while shaking his head as if to say, “Don’t do it.”

“Don’t do it,” he then said out loud, in case I’d missed his drift.  I bought two pills at market price to get us to Saturday, at which time I’d come back to bargain again.

When dealing with medical insurance, it helps if you have good drugs.

You can reject Mike Todd’s claims at

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Back next week

Instead of writing a column last week, I thought it'd be more fun to tend to Zack's recurring ear infection (he's feeling better now).  I turned in this old column instead.  Back to regular programming next week.

In other news, the Poughkeepsie Journal might be running a story that includes some details on the hiking site I've been working on for the past couple of years, which would be pretty righteous.  They asked me to submit some pictures of our family out hiking in the area -- I've already posted most of these here, but it still makes me smile to go back and look at 'em.  

'Til next week!  Assuming everyone's ear canals cooperate.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Civic disobedience

“Good luck today,” my wife Kara whispered into the darkness.

“You’re going to need the luck,” I said, leaning to kiss her goodbye, then tiptoeing out the bedroom door, abandoning her to a few more moments of sleep before the morning routine with our two kids would begin, a ritual that requires the assistance of a small team of live-in nannies, but which we somehow juggle between just the two of us anyway.

I checked my tie in the mirror one last time, grabbed a granola bar off the kitchen counter, patted our dog on the head and dashed down the stairs, determined to catch a train for once in my life without the usual headfirst slide through closing doors.

After four months of planning and countless calls and emails with my fellow organizers, our big work conference was finally happening.

I hopped into Kara’s Civic in the pre-dawn gloom of the garage, proud of myself for departing in time to stop for gas on the way to the train station.

“Let’s do this,” I said, turning the key.

“Let’s not,” the Civic replied, adding, “Click-click-click, CLIIIIIIICK, click.”

The dashboard lights flickered then went dark.

Since Kara and I carpool to work in the big car, dropping the kids off at daycare on the way, the Civic usually sits in the garage, waiting for one of us to go on an errand without the kids.  In this way, it functions less as a car and more as an escape pod.

But on that morning last week, the Civic decided that the garage was a splendid place to spend the day.  It was cold outside, after all.

“No, no, no.  Not today,” I said, turning the key again, panic slithering up the back of my neck.

“Yeah, today,” the Civic responded, speaking in clicks.

I had two options.

Option 1: Get that car working.

Option 2: Flee into the woods, leave civilization behind and subsist for the rest of my life on my neighbors’ rhododendron.

Giving Option 1 a whirl first seemed like a good plan, so I put the Civic into neutral, leaned on the hood with both hands and pushed with all my insufficient might.  

“Come on, you weigh like three pounds.  Why is this so hard?” I said.

Finally, the wheels began to budge, and after much grunting, swearing and scuffing of wingtips, the Civic rolled to a stop in the driveway.

My automotive knowledge starts at changing a tire and ends at jumping a dead battery, with nothing in-between.  Hands shaking, I popped the hood, clipped the jumper cables to the battery and ran to retrieve the one functioning automobile from our garage, the one I needed to leave for Kara and the kids.

“Who cares?” I thought as our cars nearly collided in the driveway.  And I really didn’t care.  Getting the Civic running was the only thing in the universe that mattered.

I popped the hood on the big car and peered inside, using the flashlight app on my iPhone.  And what I saw was nothing.

“Dude, where’s the battery?” I said.

A few years ago, when we upsized our family car, we bought a hybrid, mainly due to its best-in-class smugness-per-gallon ratings.

“Stupid Earth!  I don’t even like you anymore!” I said, frantically Googling “jump a regular car with a hybrid car” on my phone.  I landed in a Car Talk forum that mentioned something about an auxiliary battery in the trunk of some hybrids, but we didn’t have one of those.  With a sinking feeling, I realized that I was going to have to do the unthinkable: read the owner’s manual.

In my mind, I could hear that train a comin’, and I wasn’t going to be on it.

In desperation, I jumped back into the Civic and turned the ignition again.  Click, click, click, VROOOOOM!  And then, with knuckles still white, a headfirst slide through closing doors.

You can defibrillate Mike Todd at

Monday, March 04, 2013

The destructive potential of a sippy cup

“Stop eating drywall!” I yelled, then paused, wondering if anyone else had ever uttered those words.  Probably so, but it’s tough to imagine the circumstances.

Our dog Memphis looked up, then slowly opened her mouth, letting a chunk of drywall drop to the floor.

“Good girl,” I said.  Then I returned to stabbing the ceiling with my knife, spraying more delicious morsels about our dining room.  Memphis stared longingly at the biggest chunks, sniffing in their direction.  I had no idea that she would eat drywall if given the chance, but I suppose that’s a culinary step up from what I’ve seen her eating in the yard.

It’s probably for the best if Memphis never realizes that the whole house is made of her favorite new taste sensation.  That would be like keeping a kid in a gingerbread house and yelling at him every time he tried to taste it.

I kept chipping away at the ceiling, scared at what I might find up there.

A few months ago, we noticed a small spot of water damage above our heads in the dining room.  A few days before that, our son Evan had dumped an entire sippy cup of water on the floor upstairs overnight, letting it sop into the carpet for hours before anyone noticed.  Rather than blame the shower that sits on the other side of the wall from Evan’s bedroom, just a couple of feet away, we decided to blame the sippy cup for the water damage, mostly because you don’t have to pay a plumber to fix a sippy cup.  Also, the sippy cup, unlike me, didn’t recently install a new shower head with a connection behind the wall, so it made a convenient scapegoat.

The spot kept getting worse and worse, not really getting bigger, but definitely developing more personality.  

“That sippy cup really did a number on the ceiling,” I’d say, enjoying my last few days of denial.

Next came the puddle on the dining room floor, the rare catastrophe that didn’t originate from one of our offspring.  Turns out, we overestimated the destructive potential of a sippy cup, and the leak was coming from our shower.

“What kind of plumber’s putty did you use when you put on the shower head?” our friend Allen asked me.

“There are kinds?” I asked.  I defer to Allen on these types of questions because he has both a beard AND a motorcycle, so his man credentials are unimpeachable.  (Even without the beard and motorcycle, it takes a two-thirds vote of the Man Congress to impeach anyone’s man credentials, and we can’t get everyone to stop playing Call of Duty long enough to reach quorum.)

My wife Kara, listening to our conversation, eyed me suspiciously.  My last foray into do-it-yourself plumbing had resulted in the flooding of our basement three weeks after we’d finished it, so it’s not like I don’t understand her skepticism.

The next night, after I’d cut a fist-sized hole in the ceiling and tried to peer through it, I couldn’t see a thing.  I looked down, realizing that I had become completely blind.  Incidentally, our son Evan was assisting me by taking the strongest flashlight in our house and beaming it straight at my face.

“Evan, dude, not in my eyes, please,” I said.

“Okay, daddy,” he said, turning the beam to Kara’s face instead.

Once the beam of light, through sheer random motion, rested upon the hole for a moment, we saw the shower’s drainpipe in the ceiling.  I ran upstairs and turned the shower on, catching the water in a bucket.  No leak.  Then I turned the shower off and dumped the bucket down the drain, which sent a cascade onto the dining room floor.

“It’s the DRAIN, not the shower head!  Vindication!” I yelled.

Our house may be falling apart, but it’s not my fault.  That’s the important thing.

You can pair Mike Todd’s drywall with a nice Riesling at