Too Lazy To Write A Book

Short and not-so-short essays and thoughts, because writing a book is too damn hard

Author: michael@toolazytowriteabook.com (page 1 of 3)

The Agony Of Defeet

e48883158e9c653eb3962600e1eaff62_this-little-piggy-this-little-piggy-clipart_2400-1696This past weekend, my wife rattled me a bit by pointing out that I had been to the emergency room a fair number of times over the last several years.  I objected, based on my relative good health and aversion to seeking medical help in general.  But I was wrong.  I’ve had several visits, some more memorable than others.  Our little trip down medical memory lane reminded me of something I wrote years ago about one such visit.  Since I hadn’t posted in a while, I thought I’d share it again.  Sadly, nothing much has changed.

I’d like to use this column to personally thank the emergency room personnel at Norwalk Hospital. As we debate the merits of universal health care, socialized medicine, insurance premiums and the magical healing powers of Shake Shack (I’m going to keep writing about them until they send me a gift certificate), it is reassuring to know that the doctors and nurses on call are well equipped to handle our urgent medical needs.

On a recent Sunday morning, I heard the screams of my kids outside and was startled to find a rabid stray dog growling at them from my front yard. Parental instincts immediately took over as I raced out barefoot to tackle the beast, pouncing on his ragged torso while giving my kids time to run inside to safety. The startled dog (who didn’t see me coming from his blind side) managed to snap his jaws at my feet, clipping my toe before running into the woods and disappearing.

I hobbled into the house to check on the kids, the adrenaline rush masking the pain from my bloody foot. My wife screamed at the sight of my mangled toe, but I ignored her until I could confirm that my kids were fine (if more than a little shaken). I tried to brush off her concerns but finally relented, racing to the hospital to get the care I so urgently needed. The nurses on call immediately mobilized, bringing a team of surgical experts who swiftly and ably went to work on saving the toe on my left foot. The doctor on call ably repaired my broken body, weeping as I told the story of my efforts. “Michael,” he told me, fighting through his tears, “we’re both heroes today.”

So then … uh … actually … that’s not quite what happened. Yes, I did go to the emergency room last Sunday. But the true story wasn’t quite that, well, dramatic.

In reality, I stubbed my toe. Continue reading

If My Teenagers Held A Press Conference

press-conference-mics_435_235_70_c1_c_tFULL TRANSCRIPT

SPOKESPERSON:  

I want to welcome all of you to the Family Press Briefing Room.   A few items of note before we begin.  One, please take off your shoes before stepping on the rug, and please use coasters for any warm beverages you may be drinking, these side tables don’t pay for themselves.  And consider this a warning, you may think the dog is cute and fluffy, but if you pet him once, he’ll be stuck to you for the rest of afternoon like white on rice, with a strong likelihood of the occasional hump.  So choose your actions carefully.

Before we start, I want to make it clear that the report published on BuzzFeed last night is completely false.  No member of the family has either been to Chuck E. Cheese’s, communicated with its leaders, or enjoyed “special” time with any of its employees.  We deny any suggestions that Mr. Cheese has manipulated the family into changing any of their weekend plans.  I can also confirm that, despite CNN’s recent assertion to the contrary, at least 1 million people attended the family’s  outdoor barbeque last month.  It was awesome.

Now, it is my honor to introduce (and likely be yelled at in the near future by), the Teenagers.

(APPLAUSE)

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What Not To Order On Saturday Night

he_restaurant-menu-man_s4x3_lgLet me offer a simple tale of caution to those navigating the piranha-infested waters of modern relationships, where seemingly minor decisions made without consideration may abruptly alter the ultimate outcome of your life.  This one’s impressive, and a little close-to-home:

After a date, my wife once broke up with a boyfriend for ordering the chicken.

Yes, it was that simple.  Choosing the poultry option on a Saturday evening dinner date brought a budding romance to a screeching halt, and there was nothing he could do to recover.

Tough crowd, right?

Before you demonize my wife (I can already hear her howling in protest), this likely requires a bit more explanation.  She claims that her decision to end the relationship the next day was not based on a general prejudice against our fine feathered friends (or whatever limp vegetable that probably accompanied it).  The chicken itself was not to blame.  It’s what his decision to order the chicken represented about him, confirming her previous suspicions that he was not right for her in the end.  Ordering the chicken was pedestrian.  It was safe.  It was ordinary.  And, above all else, it, was BORING.

And so he was gone, perhaps confused as to why she no longer returned his phone calls but hopefully at least somewhat satisfied by his Chicken Piccata.

As for me…on our first date, I had the pasta.  Or maybe it was a steak, I’m not entirely sure.  Whatever it was, I can pretty much guarantee it wasn’t chicken.  And thank god for that, as I had no idea that what I chose to eat that night was fraught with such importance.

But here’s the thing:  I actually like chicken.  

In fact, I think I like it a lot.  I’m a fairly adventurous eater, and have become more so with a greater willingness to experiment and try new things.  But chicken remains an excellent fall-back, a fail safe that can be counted on to deliver in almost any circumstance.  And a great Chicken Parmigiana remains one of my comfort food staples, tough to beat on a cold winter’s night…or really any night when I just want something good to eat.

 

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The Turkey Thief

turkeyHow was your turkey on Thanksgiving?  Was it moist and delicious?  Was the skin nice and crispy?  Did the leftovers last throughout the weekend?

Well good for you, I’m glad someone enjoyed their feast.  As for me, I didn’t get any turkey this year.  While you had thick brown gravy dripping out of the side of your mouth (and let’s face it, turkey is really just a delivery system for the gravy to begin with), I stared at my turkey-less plate and wondered how Thanksgiving had gone so wrong.

But I knew what had happened.  A turkey thief had emerged in our home for the holiday…and I had been the one to open the door for him.  Literally.

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The Morning Routine (Again)

bad breakfastOK, I’m cheating here a little (or a lot).  I wrote much of this story years ago, and it actually ran in the Westport News at the time.  But my mornings lately have looked a little similar, what with surly teenagers having taken over my house.  So it seemed to be worth updating this story and including here on my own page.  Might look a little familiar to a select few of you, but it’s been a while, so hopefully you don’t mind.  Read on.

This year’s (and every year’s) edition of The Unofficial Marital Handbook clearly demands that couples need to “keep communication channels open and flowing between each other at all times”.  According to the experts (thanks, Dr. Phil), a marriage only works by making sure there’s a consistently open and honest dialogue between partners, whereby each party feels comfortable sharing their insights and feelings at all times.  Healthy communication equals a healthy marriage.

But does it always?  Allow me to take the slightly contrarian point of view on this one.  I’ve learned over the course of my marriage that a healthy relationship comes from knowing when to talk, but (perhaps more importantly) knowing when to seal your ignorant and deluded lips shut with carpenter’s glue. Continue reading

What To Expect When I’m Expectorating

NyQuilColdFluNighttimeReliefLiquidListingI knew something was wrong the moment she entered the room, a sullen and withdrawn look on her face.  “I don’t feel very well,” my wife declared.

The kids and I stared at her, then at each other, in silent shock.  She walked gingerly up the stairs to our bedroom, took some Nyquil, and was out of action for the next 24 hours.

And just like that, the delicate equilibrium that keeps our household in balance began to shift, and we felt the earth slowly tilt on its axis with every passing minute.  You can imagine our terror.

Before you judge, please understand how unusual this was for my family.  I’ve known my wife for more than 25 years, and I truly can’t recall the last time she was sick before this recent debacle.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her sneeze, bruise or bleed before, leaving open the distinct possibility that she’s not human but actually a cyborg sent from the future to yell at me for forgetting to empty the dishwasher.

But with this illness disproving the “Wifenator” theory, I searched for other ideas that could explain her incredible run of health.

And then, the truth hit me, like a value pack of Robitussin.

She has been sick before, and she will be again, many times.  But as a strong and productive woman, she declines to show it.  Whatever tends to ail her, my wife just shrugs it off, powers down a little extra Vitamin C, and goes about her business.  Without a complaint aired or a slowdown in her productivity, you’d never know that she wasn’t feeling well.

Unlike me.

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Time Travels: A Maine Event

I haven’t posted anything lately (those Bar Mitzvah essays took a lot out of me), but I haven’t been completely away from my keyboard.

The mind-readers at Maine Camp Experience (who took one look at my writing and somehow knew that I had attended a Maine summer camp in my youth) asked if I would share some thoughts on my, uh,  Maine camp experience.  But instead of talking about my days as a skinny, freckled miscreant wearing shorts at least three sizes too small, I was inspired to share the tale of my daughter’s summers up north, and how they connected her to more than just new friends.

You can read the post by clicking here.  Hope you enjoy it!

Part 3 Of Your Indispensably Honest Guide To Attending A Bar / Bat Mitzvah

Mazel Tov Part 3Welcome back!!  The celebration is well under way, but if you’ve missed the service and the beginning of the party, read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Caught up?  Good.  Let’s keep eating.

THE PARTY, HOUR 3

  1. The meal will begin.  A plate of salad will have already been placed on the table in front of you, and it will look…like salad.  You will eat it anyway, because it’s salad, even though you’ve just consumed four pounds of widely available chicken satay at the cocktail reception.
  2. For some reason, despite the plethora of expensive food being thrown your way this evening, you will only be given one bread roll.  Leave your roll exposed for too long and it will be picked off by a carb-depleted member of your table.  Eat it quickly, or guard your bread like the Hope Diamond.
  3. During the salad course, the father of the honored child will take to the stage to give a toast.  He will thank everyone for coming, “from near and far”, mentioning each individual state like a Congressional roll call.
  4. He will also thank his lovely and beautiful wife for putting so much time and effort into such an incredible event.  Try to catch a glimpse in the background of the exhausted professional party planner getting intravenous fluids and shedding a quiet tear (or possibly seething).
  5. The husband will also salute the amazing job his child did at that day’s ceremony.  Note that this speech was written at least 72 hours before the event, having no idea whether his child excelled or butchered the Torah portion.  Shake off the hypocrisy and clap politely at the stump speech.  He’s paying for your drinks.
  6. He will then introduce a video montage, featuring 735 still images of his child with various friends, family members, and Disney World cast members.  The main goal of the video is to provide visual evidence that the family’s life together is much more enjoyable than yours.
  7. This will be the most difficult and trying portion of your evening, as watching the average Mitzvah Montage is akin to watching paint dry, if the paint took family trips to Boca, Costa Rica, and Bubbie’s 95th birthday party at The Red Barn.
  8. The length can also be trying.  This video will last approximately 12-25 minutes, but will end up taking at least an hour off of your projected lifespan.
  9. Jewish law requires that “Time Of Your Life” by Green Day be featured somewhere within the montage.  And no, most parents are unaware that the real name of the song is “Good Riddance”, which is both hysterical and, since we’re being honest, possibly more appropriate.
  10. Now that your legs have atrophied from lack of use during the endless montage, dancing will officially commence.  For the next 40 minutes, as the DJ begins to blast his set of electronic  music you’ve never heard of through speakers the size of SUVs, you will no longer be able to communicate with the person directly in front of you without screaming in their ear.
  11. Somehow, the inability to communicate verbally will inspire all kids under 18 to put down their phones and acknowledge each other’s presence on the dance floor. The boys will dance with the motivators, while the girls will dance with each other.  One crazy aunt will dance wildly by herself, and later dominate the Bar Mitzvah video footage.
  12. Hard core rap songs will play a prominent role, spun at slightly higher speeds and distortion to disguise the lyrics about drug consumption and sexual misconduct.  Surprisingly, the grandparents will try to join in the fun by singing along to the chorus of the one song they recognize, blissfully unaware of why the lead singer “can’t feel his face”.
  13. Once your ears have melted and your larynx burns like wildfire from trying to hold down a conversation with a similarly deaf adult, the music will quiet down and the kids will retreat to their white couches for a fresh smoothie.  The main course will then be served to the adults, likely including a carefully-planned and orchestrated menu of classic dishes served elegantly on formal plates.
  14. At least one person at your table will sneak into the kids section and make himself (or herself) a plate of chicken fingers and sliders.  These will become tradable commodities at your table, ultimately developing into a black market of finger foods as one curly fry sells for $45 to a hedge fund manager.

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The Party Begins – Part 2 Of Your Indispensably Honest Guide To Attending A Bar / Bat Mitzvah

Mazel Tov Part 2-1(If you’re confused as to why this guide begins at #27, click here for Part 1)

You’ve survived the service.  You’ve properly enclosed your cash or check into an appropriately themed card and sealed the envelope (remembering at the last minute to add your name to the card). But you’ve only just begun your journey.  Consult your original invitation, curse yourself for accidentally throwing out that helpful directions card, drive successfully to the proper location, reluctantly hand your keys to the valet knowing how long it will take to get your car back at night’s end, and make your way into the main event.

THE PARTY, HOUR 1 – THE “COCKTAIL” HOUR

  1. When you arrive at that evening’s party for the “cocktail hour”, you will immediately notice the attire worn by guests.  Adult women will be wearing stunning dresses from Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, while the teenage girls will be dressed like hookers.
  2. Concurrently, the suits worn by both boys and men will be at least two sizes too big.  This will not matter, for within the first 10 minutes all boys will deposit their suit jackets on the floor of the reception hall, and will later return home with the wrong  coat belonging to a camp friend from Massachusetts.
  3. As you enter, adults and children will split into two rooms.  The kids will move to a room filled with games, candy, unlimited pizza and organized activities, while the adults will file into a room with elegant music and fine passed hors d’oeuvres.
  4. Most adults secretly wish they were in the kid’s room.
  5. The name “cocktail hour” is misleading.  Despite the moniker, this is not really about cocktails.  It’s about FOOD.  As Jews, we are trained at birth to crave appetizers, and consumer research shows that when given the choice between a libation or a toast point with filet, Jews will choose the beef 89.7% of the time.
  6. The sheer volume of food offered during the cocktail hour will be staggering.  You will be offered a stuffed mushroom or a piece of meat on a stick at least once every 14.3 seconds.
  7. Despite this, you will still complain about the length of the line at the moo shu chicken buffet table.
  8. No matter how elegant the appetizers, nothing will be more treasured or fought over than a passed tray of mini hot dogs wrapped in puffed pastry.
  9. And they won’t come easy.  A Bar Mitzvah professional knows to scope out all entrances and exits to the room like a secret service agent, eventually positioning themselves as near as possible to the entrance used by servers and aggressively attacking the mini hot dog server until there is nothing left on their tray besides parsley and a lonely dish of brown mustard.  If you desire the mini hot dogs, don’t make the rookie mistake of getting stuck in the middle of the room with the dieters.  Be a pro.
  10. This strategy should also be employed for potato pancakes.
  11. Conversely, take your time with the chicken satay.  There will be plenty of those left.
  12. If you are male, within 10 minutes of entering the event you will spill some kind of red sauce on your white dress shirt.  You will attempt to cover this up with an awkward combination of club soda and potato pancake grease (assuming you positioned yourself properly, see previous note) and hope your wife is too distracted by the action at the sushi table to notice.
  13. You will quickly surmise that a Jewish man must have three hands.  There is no other explanation as to how he manages to hold his wife’s plate of salmon, her Cosmopolitan, and either her purse or his own fought-for mini hot dog without the pile tumbling onto his already-stained dress shirt.  This may also explain why most Jewish men are thin, as they lack the necessary number of available appendages to hold or utilize a fork.

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Your Indispensably Honest Guide To Attending A Bar / Bat Mitzvah

mazel-tov-and-party-on-7Over the last few years, my wife and I have been to a total of 15,462 Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, which seems about average for our peer group.  According to Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” on how long it takes to achieve world class expertise, I believe I passed the minimum requirements for a PhD in the Bar Mitzvah Arts about 23,000 hours ago.

An exaggeration?  Perhaps a bit.  But as the male head of household of a Jewish family in the Northeast United States, it’s fair to say that I’ve been to my share of Bar Mitzvahs.     Perhaps you have too.  But if not, I believe you could benefit from my store of knowledge, especially if you have a 13 year-old child.  Be forewarned:  all 13 year-olds and their families in certain geographic regions enter a Twilight Zone-esque parallel and confusing universe known as “The Bar Mitzvah Circuit”.  This will require not only a complete commitment of your free time, energy and financial resources, but also a twisted understanding of human nature that you’ve never seen before, and likely never will again.  Before you or your children step one foot out of that Volvo and towards the synagogue doors, learn from me.  I’ve assembled the definitive rookie’s guide, which I’m calling YOUR FIRST HORA:  THE 90 (GIVE OR TAKE) THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ATTENDING YOUR FIRST BAR MITZVAH.

I’ll work roughly chronologically through an average experience.  Feel free to jump ahead if you’re stuck in any one category.

THE INVITATION

  1. Several weeks before the event, a printed invitation on paper stock roughly as thick as a strip steak and with enough stamps on the envelope to kill George Constanza’s wife 20 times over will arrive at your home.
  2. Pay careful attention to the opening of the invitation:  the amount of enjoyment you will ultimately experience at the event is inversely proportional to the amount of glitter that falls out of the envelope when you open it.
  3. There will likely be a reply card included in the invitation.  Pay no mind to the fact that the RSVP date is only two days away and is a clear indication that you are on the party’s B List and are only invited because Aunt Martha can’t make it in from Chicago because her rheumatoid arthritis is acting up.  Make a note to order premium spirits at the open bar later.

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