Too Lazy To Write A Book

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

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Legend Of The Bowl (Rest In Peas)

goldfish-cracker-clipart-616730_goldfish_cracker1The phone rang abruptly as I was driving home from work.  Even over my car’s crappy bluetooth connection that makes most voices sound like they emanate deep from the ocean’s floor, I could tell my wife sounded anxious.

“I can’t just sit here and watch him suffer,” she said.  “It’s just not right.  We need to do something, now.  Any ideas?”

I paused, carefully considering the difficult decision placed before me.  It was surely the first time I had ever thought about the possibilities for such a drastic but merciful act.  What did I know of such things?  I struggled to answer, so I decided to consult the experts.

“Why don’t you google “fish euthanasia”?”

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The Right To Bare Arms

vVPNThe first time my wife asked me to get a tattoo, I nearly crashed our Toyota Highlander Hybrid into the lane median.

There’s been no second time, mostly because I’ve avoided conversing with her altogether.

Allow me to add some brief context.  I am a 47 year-old father of two, with a size-able home mortgage and a growing gut that is having some trouble staying above the underwear line.  Beyond listening to the occasional AC/DC track, my tastes tend to run toward the mundane and ordinary.  I am, by all reasonable definition, no bad-ass.  I wear slippers with little tassels on them when the house gets chilly, and I sometimes add jicama in my salad to give it a little jolt.  Trust me, I’m about the last person you’d expect to sport a tattoo.

And yet there it was, a call to arms.  The woman I married 20+ years ago, who has as clear an understanding of who I am as anyone on this or any planet, wants me to put permanent paint into my skin for show.

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Et Tu, Ballet? A Father’s Attempt To “Participate”

Nutcracker funnyThe email came forwarded with a short note from my wife, direct in its simplicity:

“You’re doing this.”

The email was a plea from Westport’s Academy of Dance, my daughter’s ballet school.  Their upcoming performance of “The Nutcracker”, the annual holiday blockbuster that had entertained and tortured parents for the last century or so, had had an unfortunate setback:  the gentleman who had volunteered for years to play the role of Clara’s father had a conflict and would be unable to perform.  Would anyone be willing to take his place?

I stared at the email for a few minutes, thinking about the implications, and a classic quandary emerged:  does the chance to engage with my daughter’s passion outweigh the outright possibility (or probability) of making a fool of myself?

On the one hand, I am not shy about public performance.  The stage doesn’t bother me, and I have absolutely no pride once the lights are shining down on me.  Anyone who’s been unlucky enough to have seen me scream David Lee Roth songs on karaoke night can attest to this unfortunate side of my personality.  I have a philosophy about performing, most likely born of necessity:  enthusiasm helps cover for an utter lack of measurable talent.  Scream into the microphone and act like you’re a rock star, and you are one (provided said rock star is surrounded only by inebriated friends as witnesses before the alcohol-fueled memory loss sets in).

But this was something altogether different.  I’d seen the Nutcracker dozens of times since my daughter’s first appearance 8 years before.  And I’d seen what the part of the father entails.  He’s only on-stage for a short time, and the demands are mostly cosmetic, but about halfway through his scene, as the music shifts to a slow waltz, it happens:  the dad dances.

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From The Archives: “Dances With Wolfes”

nutcrackerOh man, it’s been ages since I’ve posted.  No excuses, just life getting in the way and lacking the discipline to sit down and get it done.  Remember the title of this blog, and pay heed.  But I’ve been working on a new piece that is kind of a sequel to one I wrote years ago for the Westport News, so as a tease (and a public prod to get me going on the new one), I thought I’d re-post the original.  Anyone with young ones at dance school should find some familiarity here.  More to come (maybe).

For those of you who have been kind enough to read my column each month, you are familiar with my tone. I’m trying to give humorous voice to many of the foibles of our lives as modern men, as professionals, as commuters, as husbands, and as fathers. Some of the issues may seem serious (and some of you may have worried about the sanctity of my marriage’s privacy), but I’d rather look at our lives with a lighter focus.

But now I’m going to play with fire. I’m taking on an institution so revered, so beloved, so entrenched in so many lives that the sheer thought of writing this column has me fearing for my safety. I will be accused of blasphemy. I will be ostracized. Mothers will scream “How dare you!” as they shield their kids’ eyes and pass quickly by me in the aisles of Whole Foods. Alas, the hordes may never forgive me, but I must forge on in the name of my, uh, art.

This month, I’m writing about The Nutcracker.

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Facing The Big V, Part 1

ss-cord-cuttingDespite the complicated nature of his everyday life, the decision that lay before him at this very moment was direct and simple:  to snip or not to snip.  The fact that the cut in question related to the ever-important ducts that lay within his genitals is what made this black-and-white decision a bit more, uh, sensitive.

Vasectomy.  The word just hung there limply in their conversations like an ugly jacket, something to be avoided unless the weather turned and all other options in the closet were somehow unavailable.  And yet here it was, this vasectomy, on the table and being considered as a real sartorial possibility.  More than that…it was turning into less of an option and more of a mandate.

Her argument was direct and logical.  They had two healthy kids who provided more than enough sturm and drang to beat the thought of more children out of them.  So for years, she had poisoned her body with all kinds of chemicals in the name of birth control.  She had taken on the responsibility of consuming the small round tablet that allowed her body to become a harmless but welcoming playground, where the risks of their activities were easily ignored (and much more fun than the standard slides and swings).  But the years of scoffing at the laws of Mother Goddess and her retched storks had begun to take their toll.  His wife didn’t like the changes that her body was being forced to endure in the service of their carnal thrills.  Inevitably, there was a price to pay for this kind of avoidance, and she was sick of picking up the bill.  It was time to go dutch on their sexual behavior, and he had built a gigantic debt over the years that only drastic measures could begin to overcome.

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What Would Your Spouse Say?

foot-in-mouthSeveral years ago, I wrote the following column, which appeared in our local newspaper.  Headlined “Beware The Bored Games”, it warned spouses to tread lightly around the interactive games that had become a standard feature of suburban Saturday nights, and seemed to result in spouses wanting to politely kill each other in mixed company.

After it was published, I began to hear from friends who decided to ask their significant others the open question that I answered so poorly (and is still held over me to this day).  But since social media hadn’t taken off, I rarely heard about the results.  And I’ve always been curious how many husbands (and wives) might have fared better than I did.

So, this blog provides me a fresh opportunity.  Read this column, and then ask your significant other the central question that “The Newlywed Game” so kindly introduced into my marriage.  Post their response in the comments section below, as well as your reaction to it.   

Do you remember those first few years of your marriage? It was easy to stay entertained then.

You’d spend hours listening to each other’s stories, learning about your histories and ex-girlfriends and occasional lapses of sanity in college (“Wait, did you just say you once brushed your teeth with grain alcohol?”). You’d take long road trips without the radio on (gasp!), exchanging tales of bad family gatherings and athletic triumphs and how you once played “barber” with your 5-year-old sister and cut her hair down to the scalp with only a few strands left to make it “pretty” (sorry, Sharon, that one was kind of rough on you; but karma has its way of balancing things, as my balding dome makes perfectly clear).

There was so much to learn, so much to keep the conversation flowing and interesting. And yes, it seemed important to know that your Aunt Ethel was a hypochondriac, that you hate zucchini and opera music, and that you once appeared on an MTV game show and accidentally and noticeably spit when saying the word “Twinkies” (I will continue to deny this publicly until it shows up on YouTube).

And then …

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I got Rerun! What character from What’s Happening are you?

rerunIf you linked from Facebook to this post, allow me to apologize.  I’ve teased you into a digital shaming.  There will be no quiz that determines what character you most resemble from What’s Happening.  Rerun has not been chosen as my sitcom twin.  Neither will Raj, Dwyane Wayne, Mama, Dee or Shirley be chosen as my, or your, doppelgänger.  And for that, I’m grateful (and, frankly, a little relieved that I’m not Shirley).

If your feed is anything like mine, it’s amazing how quickly  Facebook  has been taken over by these “personality quizzes”.  It seems like over the last two months, I’ve learned everything from what city a good friend should have moved to after college, what celebrity boyfriend an ex-coworker should have been dating, what U.S. President a college buddy most resembles, and on and on and on.  I’ve clicked through a few of these, which purport to make crucial life definers out of a series of inane questions.  “Which of these cats looks most appealing to you” is somehow supposed to help lead the algorithm towards a declaration of the ’80s pop star I most resemble (Michael Jackson, if you’re curious).  Sure, they’re harmless fun, and a chance for most of the women I connect with to put images of Ryan Gosling on their Facebook timelines without their husband’s objection.  And I’ll cop to chuckling at the “What would John Travolta have called you at the Oscar’s” gag that went viral (for the record, I’m Marcel Whayte, which is actually a huge improvement on my real name. From now on, I’m Marcel Whayte, the one who knocks).

But I think I’ve reached the limit on my tolerance of these.  We’ve all had those friends who spent their first year on social media over-posting with mundane details about weather patterns and the funny thing their 3 year old said in the car and “wheels down at O’Hare” and how delicious that kale salad at Whole Foods was (and yes, the fact that I’ve been guilty of sharing all of these except anything remotely resembling kale worship does not escape me).  We’re now at the point of over saturation of quiz results, where hundreds of us continue to post test results that always somehow manage to declare that we deserve better than we have.  I should be living in Paris!  I should be working with Steven Spielberg!  I should be dating Kate Upton (pause for brief daydream and moment of silence)!  How about you?  I bet your quiz won’t be nearly as impressive! You should be exactly who you are.  But not me!  I should be a Navy Seal!!!

Well, I’m not a Navy Seal (this should not come as a surprise to any of you).  I don’t live in an exotic city filled with romantic idealists.  I think I passed an SI Swimsuit model on the street once, but it was cold and I didn’t stop to check.  And no, I’m not like Rerun on What’s Happening either.

I’d rather write slightly exaggerated posts about what actually happens in my life, for better or worse.  Sure, I’ll take the quizzes now and again, but I think I’ll spare all of you the details on what snack food I most resemble.  Even if I’m apparently as delicious as a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Maybe I am Shirley after all…

Puberty Postponed

blueberries_earlyblueThe parenting experience is always unique.  There is no one-size-fits-all baby prototype that runs like clockwork and hits its marks like a veteran actor.  There is no roadmap to where your kids are headed, no matter how many “What To Expect When They’re Expectorating” baby books and “He’s Not A Jerk, He’s Spirited” child-rearing manuals you memorize.  You’ve got to be flexible to survive as a parent, because you’re not traveling a shared road with other parents.      Your kid is unique, for better or for worse.

But there’s one universal truth that all parents face, and it’s a rough one.  It can be summarized with one word, three syllables that bring fear into young parent’s hearts and evoke shudders in those who’ve already faced its evils and lived to tell their survival stories.

That word is puberty.

Puberty turns your sweet and innocent child who loves her Mom, Dad and fluffy puppies into a belligerent antagonist who wears short skirts and black t-shirts and rolls their eyes when asked what time it is.  Puberty doesn’t like things that are fluffy.  Puberty replaces Mom and Dad with a cell phone and an Instagram account.

Or so they tell me.  Because despite my wife’s impeccable organization and insistence on timeliness in our lives, my kids are late to puberty.  And that’s fine by me.

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The Greatest Nature Photograph Ever Taken

100_0832Over the years, we’ve been fortunate enough to have the means to take our family on some solid trips and vacations.  But in all honesty, looking back on what we’ve done and where we’ve been, it’s pretty clear that we screwed up.  Instead of teaching our kids about all the world has to offer, and leading them to find lives filled with curiosity and exploration, we took the easy way out.  It pains me a little to look at a list of trips we’ve taken, and even more so to list some of them here.  We’ve been to Disney World five times, Universal Studios twice, and Busch Gardens on a weekend for kicks.  As a result, my kids have grown up thinking of “The Mummy” ride as the height of adventure travel.

So when my wife’s parents surprised my kids on their 13th birthday and announced plans to take them on a 10 day trip to the Galapagos Islands, I had two conflicting emotions.  I was thrilled at the idea of such an incredible experience being given to my young and growing children.  And I was pissed that I didn’t get to go with them.

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Bad Love

240px-07._Camel_Profile,_near_Silverton,_NSW,_07.07.2007The first time we knew for certain that he loved us, we could see it in his eyes.  From that point on, things moved slowly…a warm greeting here, a tender embrace there.  Then, rather abruptly, things turned physical, as passion overtook him.  And love, it turns out, is an enormous pain in the ass.

My dog, you see, is a humper.  A proud and energetic one.  And while we appreciate his dedication, we’d much prefer he take his cues from the romantics and express his love with a bit more subtlety.  And now, with his heart recently broken, we fear the worst is yet to come.

For those who’ve yet to encounter his love and affection, Chauncey is a very large 80 pound Goldendoodle with long skinny legs that cling to objects tighter than Saran Wrap. He is also friendly, energetic, and a little demanding, which means that once you’ve become the apple of Chauncey’s eye, his love is more than expressed.  It is felt, usually on your leg or around your torso. Continue reading

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