Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Random stuff, all of it bouncing 'round my dome:

  • I'm not Catholic, but having lived with a Catholic woman for a couple of decades, I've sort of adopted a few traditions. Easily, the most-repeated tradition would be the calling on the Patron Saint of Lost Things. Okay kids, say it with me: Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please look around, something's lost that needs to be found!* Today, while searching for info on Fat Tuesday, I found myself at the American Catholic website, where they have their own search engine--powered by Guess Who. Cute.
  • My differences with Catholicism*** are legion, but at least they aren't trying to foist their religion into science classes. If the leader of the largest sect of the largest religion in the world doesn't see the study of evolution as a conflict with the worship of God, why are a bunch of cementheads in Utah still trying to get the ironically named Intelligent Design pseudoscience into the scientific curriculum? My favorite quote in the story is from the state senator who got the bill passed in the senate, only to see the House niggle it to death: "I don't believe that anybody in there really wants their kids to be taught that their great-grandfather was an ape."**** Of course, in his case, it's because the ape disowned him.
  • The other day I went from reading one blogger--a Californian just back from vacationing in New Hampshire-- to another blogger, a New Hampshirian***** just back from vacationing in Florida. And as is the case in this world where a body can travel from subtropical to subpolar regions in less than a day, both commented on the aforementioned phenomenon, with the Yankee loving the snow, and the Californian grateful for the lack. I've lived on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, and I gotta side with the New Englander in this instance. I'd rather have a moderate summer and a cold and snowy winter than a moderate winter and a hundred-and-something summer. Here's why
  1. Christmas decorations look better with snow on them
  2. When you come inside out of the snow, you make hot cocoa and snuggle up with a blanket and/or a loved one, and feel cozy. When you come inside out of a heat wave, you collapse and feel sticky.******
  3. The thicker the clothing, the better I look.
  4. Watching the world thaw and bloom into spring is worth the snow.
  5. If I'm still cold, I can put on another sweater. If I'm still hot, I have to start taking off clothes. What happens when I'm down to my boxers and still sweating? Yeah. Not pretty.
  • Wayne's World was made in 1992. This means that there's a good chance that next year, a digitally-remastered director's cut with never-berfore-seen footage and will be released to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary. Of Wayne's World.
Party on.


*Over the years, I shortened that phrase to Yo! Tony! A little help?**
**Since I call on him so much, I've given a bit of thought to what St. A is like. In my heaven, he's in the celestial version of the downstairs den, trying to read his newspaper, eternally calling out, in a mildly exasperated tone: 'It's right where you dropped it--next to the couch!' 'You left it in the car!' 'It got dropped in the toilet, and I ain't getting it!' et c.
***As well as just about every other organized religion.
****Since that's an unbelievably ancient and incredibly stupid mischaractarization of what evolution really teaches, I find myself forced to agree with ol' butterball. Like they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
*****Is that correct? I know it's New Yorker, Pennsylvanian, Mainer...and what are you called when you're from Connecticut?
******And that's assuming you have A/C. If you're without it, it really doesn't matter where you are--you're gonna be miserable for the duration.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Never been a fan.

My tastes in alcoholic beverages did not include any clear liquor. Beer (especially Canadian) was my first choice. Red wine was my second--usually an Australian shiraz, although a beefy barolo was sometimes a good choice. And every once in a while, I would crack open a single malt Scotch--my preferance being either the very peaty Laphroaig, or Ardberg, especially on a windy wintry Sunday night like tonight.

I haven't had a drink of anything in more than a year, though. Watching someone you love disappear into a bottle (as well as two different kinds of pipes) will do that to you. Especially since all the booze in the bottles disappeared over the course of several months, but was never drank by STBEW*, according to STBEW. I've never bothered to replace the stuff that turned up missing.

I'm not an alcoholic, nor am I a teetotaler (if anyone still uses that phrase). It's just something I haven't done. Should the situation arise, I might possibly have a drink. But right now, the situation hasn't presented itself, and I'm not forcing the issue.

STBEW has not lived here since August of 2003. That was when she finally decided to do something about her drinking and drug abuse, and checked herself into an inpatient facility. She still has a key, though. She went from inpatient to one halfway house to another, and it never occurred to me to get the key back. Then, when she moved into an apartment, I let her come over, and do her laundry, or watch the kids over here. Even when she told me she wasn't planning on coming back. Ever.

Sometimes, though, I wondered if she was taking advantage of me. I discovered a bag full of another man's clothes in my basement a few weeks ago. I told her that will not happen again. And then on Thursday, I found an empty vodka bottle in the basement.

Vodka was STBEW's drink of choice. It was in a part of the basement that had been rearranged since she had left, so it was not a leftover. Someone, at some point since she left, drank this booze in my basement.

You may think I got angry about this discovery. I did not. I am hurt by it, but not angry. I left the bottle out, and when STBEW stopped by later that day, I asked her about it. No, of course it wasn't her, she said, and how could I even think that, she said, and it must have been from before she entered rehab, she said, or our second son** must have drank it, she said, and I'll just have to trust her.

She said.

I've been running this stuff through my head since then, and I've come to a conclusion: I neither want, nor need, to trust her. Whether or not the bottle is hers doesn't really matter--if she's drinking again, she won't be able to hide it for long. If she's drinking again, things will start to deteriorate for her very quickly. If she's drinking again, it will be a tragedy.

But it won't be mine.

Whether or not she ever takes another drink, or smokes another rock, is none of my business. I can't make it my business. I am taking this incident as a sign that I need to separate myself even more from her. On Monday, I will tell her I need to talk to her. Not 'we need to talk,' I need to talk to her. She needs to hear me tell her to give me my keys back.

My fear is that she will then tell me she cannot watch the kids when after school, or when I work my other jobs.

My response to that will be: OK.

I have no other choice. I can't be part of this anymore. I cannot have an addict in my life.


**Who may or may not be an addict, but certainly behaives like one. Just about one year ago, after he had been out of high school for more than two years, but did nothing but work part-time at a video store, I gave him an ultimatum: Get a full time job by the end of March, or leave. He's gone, and still does not have a full-time job. Until recently, I had let him come over on occasion. That also ended

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I think I got that number right.

That's the total number of people in this world with whom I've had sex.

Not counting me.

Lately, I've been reading lots of blogs (mostly by women) who have explored the role of sex--specifically, casual sex--in their lives. And here I am, mid-forties, with an average of one sexual partner per decade.*

I've never had casual sex. Never.

And it's not because I didn't want to--oh, no. It's because, for most of my life, well, I was an idiot. At least, when it came to women.

Think I exaggerate? Lemme take you back to a night in late October of 1979. I was high above Cayuga's waters

Literally. I was high, and it was above Cayuga's waters.** I was in my friend Bill's room, and there was a very pretty girl sitting next to me. After about the third time the joint was passed, I turned to her and said: "What would you do if I asked you to have sex with me?" She considered the question, and said, "Well, I'd be a bit surprised, so it would probably be a minute before I said OK."

I said, "Oh," and had another beer.

It wasn't until the summer that I realized what she had said.***

See? Idiot.

At one time, I never would have admitted this. But now, it's just not that important. Lemme rephrase that--sex is still important. I truly hope to have some more sometime soon**** But it's no longer important to me that I act as if I've had a world of sexual experience.

Instead of casual sex, I've had relationships. So far, none have lasted, but each has lasted longer than the previous. And each person I've been with has given me something.***** And I guess I'm better off for that.

Hell, I couldn't be much worse.


*Not including the first one, for obvious biological reasons.
**No, I did not go to Cornell. I went to school on the next hill over, at Ithaca, where we made fun of the Ivy's something fierce, including their Alma Mater:
Far above Cayuga's waters
There's an awful smell
Some say it's Cayuga's waters
Some say it's Cornell
***It wasn't until that summer that I sobered up, either.
****With someone other than myself.
*****By 'something,' I mean 'something of value,' not 'something for which I need to take medication to clear up.'

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Good News Bad News...

Good news:

Statins may cut odds of unexpected heart attack

(Actual MSNBC Headline)

Bad news:

If your heart attack is NOT unexpected, you're out of luck.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Peppy Doggerel

I woke up this morning with a quatrain running through my head.

I think I made it up myself, but I've been wrong about that before.

I opened my eyes after a dream that was as vivid as it was quickly forgotten. But there I was, left with a four-line bit of doggerel:

I'm so very tired of 'tit for tat'
I no longer have time or wit for that
It always ends up as shit for shat
So here's to the end of 'tit for tat.'

OK, so Ogden Nash it ain't.

Or maybe it is. I don't know. I don't recall ever hearing it before. But like I've said, I've been wrong before. But then I was in the hospital, wacked out on demerol, back in 1979. I thought I had written a song that went like this:

I go to parties, sometime intil four.
It's hard to leave when you can't find the door.
It's hard to handle this fortune and fame--
Everybody's so different, I haven't changed.

The wonderful thing about demerol is that it doesn't matter that I was 18 years old, usually in bed by midnight, with neither fortune, nor fame--I still wrote the song, dammit!

When I came to, my roommate explained that I was not Joe Walsh, and I didn't have a Maserati that did one-eighty-five.

Behold the power of demerol!

A few days later, when Steve Allen came by to visit with his wife Jayne Meadows, I chalked it up to another drug-induced hallucination.

Guess what. It wasn't. They were in town doing a Neil Simon play, and had stopped by to visit to cheer my spirits. I hope I didn't embarass myself.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006


There's a real newsathon over Cheney's Quailgate. Blogaholics like me are starting a commentathon over it. Could this be the Monicagate of the current Neoconathon? Newsaholics want to know!

I'm so freakin' tired of people throwing the suffixes -gate, -aholic, and -athon onto the end of words to describe something. It was bad enough when advertisers used it (Toyotathon!), but when the practice started getting into news reports, I really began to seethe.

So let's be clear:

Marathon is a town in Greece, 26.2 miles from Athens. There's a distance race named after it, to honor Phidippides, who ran the distance, proclaimed victory in battle, and croaked.*

Watergate is a hotel in DC. There was a politically-motivated crime committed there that ended the presidency of Richard Nixon.** There's also an eponymous 'salad' made with pistachio pudding, pineapple, and walnuts, that my mother has made for thirty years, and that I have refused to eat for exactly the same time frame.

An alcoholic is a person who suffers from the inability to stop drinking despite harm. ***

These are all acceptible words, and are used for specific reasons.

There are no salesathons. Nor are there phoneathons. Folks who use nipplegate and monicagate should have their nipples stapled to their monicas. People who think they're shopaholics and chocoholics should check themselves around me, because I might be a slapupsidetheheadaholic.

I know we're using a living language, and that change is inevitable. I'm a firm believer that a big reason that English is one of the most-used international languages is because of its willingness to adopt words from other languages and usages when needed.

But this is pure laziness.

As are all these neologisms like 'infotainment' and 'docudrama.' They can go away too.****

Oh, and 'allot' means to distribute. If, in your writing, you mean to say 'a large amount,' or 'quite a bit,' you could write 'a[space]lot,' as in the sentence: "People who think that there's a word spelled 'alot' piss me off a lot."*****

There. I'm glad I got that off my chest.


*To all advertisers who co-opt the name, I say go thou and do likewise.
**Who has dropped in the 'worst president ever' poll down to no higher than third. That's saying something, isn't it?
***Notice I did not use the word 'disease.' I just didn't want to get into it again with Polanco.
****Especially since it's the 'infotainers' like Geraldo who are perpetuating the gataholicathon.
*****Unless they're astronomers discussing Adaptive Large Optics Technologies. Those dudes get a free pass.

Words to Live By

Never sneeze with a mouth full of Grape Nuts.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I am Curious (George)*

This is George.

George is a good little monkey, and always very curious.

George's curious adventures have been chronicled in many books. In my house, those books are the most beat-up, broken spined, page-ripped of all the children's books. Because they have been taken to bed, on airplanes, on road trips, hidden under pillows, and just about anything else that kids could do to them.

Pretty much loved to death.

So when the opportunity to go to a sneak preview of the "Curious George" movie came around, my kids would have killed me had I not taken them. Interestingly enough, their 13-year-old nephew also wanted to tag along. Some of the George books were once his.** Luckily for him, he could tag along with my kids (ostensibly to keep them company) to see the movie.

It was an opportunity well-taken.

George, in this version, is the cutest, funniest, scootchie-wootchiest li'l ape ever. Director Matthew O'Callahan obviously went to great pains to make him so. This chimp makes the Snuggle Bear look like a Hell's Angel at Altamont. Seriously, there's barely a moment when he's on camera that you don't just want to reach out and snog him. If I had any spare cash, I'd sink it into the stock of whatever company's going to be peddling the licensed George plushes.

Anyhow, the movie opens with a perfectly choreographed ode to ADD by George in the jungle, as he bops around to a sparkly Jack Johnson soundtrack, entertaining the young animals and vexing the parents, until all the kids go home, and George is left with nothing to do.

Meanwhile, there's this guy in NYC named Ted, who is a curator in this musty mid-level museum that is frequented only by the class of doe-eyed schoolmarm Maggie, who wants to snog a bit with Ted but the kids are as subpremely bored with Ted as you are with me right now.

Seriously, the non-George stuff is just traditional boilerplate, and only exists because Hollywood thinks we all need a traditional narrative and backstory to understand anything, even a tale as well-known as this. Dick Van Dyke, David Cross, and Drew Barrymore are employed in these roles because they have 'household' names. None of them are given much to do.

Neither, for that matter is Will Ferrell used all that effectively.*** Maybe the producers figured using actors well-known for their prowess in physical comedy would somehow make the non-George physical comedy scenes more palatable.

Ummm...no they don't.

Luckily, these scenes are kept to a minimum. Suffice to say, the nebbish Ted gets 'volunteered' to go to Africa on a mission to save the museum, and just as inadvertently, becomes The Man in the Yellow Hat (one phrase: "Yellow is the new khaki!"), and off to the Dark Continent we go, where he looks for a statue, but instead finds George.

For those who aren't familiar with the H.A. Rey story, The Man in the Yellow Hat meets George, and lets him play with his yellow hat, with which he uses to trap (and some say kidnap) George. In this version, George takes the hat to play peek-a-boo with, and won't give the hat back. When the Man heads back to the States, George stows away on the ship (the H.A. Rey, nice touch), and follows The Man back to his apartment.

Does any of this matter? Probably not. Suffice to say there's plenty of gentle, fun adventures, gorgeously drawn, with rich, glowing colors, and spendid animation. This may be a 2-D, hand-drawn framework, but it's obvious that there was some 3-D modeling done as reference.

And a world about that Jack Johnson soundtrack: meh. To me it all sounds exactly like every other song ol' Bubble Toes has written.

In the end, the best thing I can say about Curious George is that whenever I wondered if it was a good movie, I just had to look down the aisle, and see a seven, nine, and 13-year-old, each of them looking wide-eyed, and smiling.

And just as snogable as George.


*with apologies to Vilgot Sjöman
**Or at least spent some time at his house. The actual property rights of kids stuff is in relatively perpetual dispute in the clan. Usually, by the time ownership is established, the item in question is the wrong size and/or age inappropriate, and has moved on to yet another household.
***I'm betting that at least once, the director said to him: "You know what you did with Ron Burgundy? I want the exact opposite."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Steelers 21, Seahawks 10

Somewhere in the world, Dick Shiner is smiling.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

On Loin Girding

An offhand comment I made a few days ago on Guy Wonders' blog turned me all tangental again.

While commenting on the confluence of events that threatens to disturb the peace of his Canuck Cul-de-Sac, I wrote to him: 'gird your loins.'

I like words. I like to play with them. I like to know their meanings. And I realized that Iwasn't 100% certain what the phrase 'gird your loins' meant.

I knew it was a biblical reference, and its common usage (as if a phrase like 'gird your loins' could have a usage that could be considered common) meant 'be prepared.' But what did it really mean?

Man, I love the internet.

Typing the phrase in my google search box on my browser brought up 'about 22,800' references.

The very first listing in the results gave me a plethora* of information.

To gird your loins during the Roman Era meant to draw-up and tie your lower garment between your legs as to increase your mobility and agility. This prevented the loose ends of the tunic from becoming snagged on something or entangled with your feet which would cause you to stumble or fall down when moving about quickly.
It even gave me instruction on how one would go about the business of loin-girding:

This was accomplished by pulling up the fabric of the knee-length tunic so the length in front stopped at your upper thigh, and collecting the excess material in your front. (You pull the material forward so the back of your tunic is snug against your backside.) Next, you tuck the extra front material down between your legs and gather it behind you. At this point, you collect half of the material behind you evenly on each side of your back (left and right). The final step involves wrapping each side of the material around your waist and tying it together in front.
Wow. Sounds like a cross between a toga wedgie and a big diaper.

But the second listing seemed to offer a slightly different interpretation:

Although "to gird your loins" sounds racy to the modern reader, all Elijah is doing is pulling in his pants. "Gird"-- actually "gird up" in the original -- means "tighten with a belt" or "put on a girdle." Elijah does not, as modern usage might suggest, fortify his thighs -- "loin" may rhyme with "groin," but this sense is relatively new.

Hmm...close, but not quite the same. And no 'how-to' section either. But it does offer a bit of triviata:
Equally disappointing is that Elijah does not "gird up his loins" to rush into battle. Rather, after slaughtering the false prophets of King Ahab's adopted god Baal, he simply wants to be the first to tell the town of Jezreel the news. So he pulls in his petticoats the better to outpace Ahab, which is no small feat since the king's got a chariot.
I like the part about pulling in petticoats. Makes a rather dainty counterpart to the whole false-prophet slaughter business. And if I just killed a whole bunch of folk because they had a different belief system, I know I'd want to high-tail it to another city. Another difference is that the first reference takes its verse from the New Testament (Ephesians 6:14), and the second is Old Testament (I Kings 18:46).

Maybe loin-girding techniques changed over the centuries, because my introduction to the phrase took place in the field of athletics, and it meant, roughly, 'hold onto your balls, or else they'll get knocked off.'

It was uttered by a coach I had in high school, and he used it in practice whenever we were about to face a particularly touch opponent. "It's gonna be a slobberknocker," he'd shout with barely-concealed glee. "Gird you loins, boys! Gird your loins!"

Perhaps I should point out that I went back to my hometown for my 10th year high school reunion, I met up with many of my former teammates, and this particular coach was a topic of conversation, and the topic was, in fact, loin-related.

It seems that this particular coach had made sexual advances to every single player on the team.

Except me.

And while my overriding reaction to this revelation was 'thank God,' there was another small part of my mind that immediately asked: 'So what was wrong with my ass?'

Perhaps my loins were too well-girded.


* 1. A superabundance; an excess.
2. An excess of blood in the circulatory system or in one organ or area.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Wednesday, February 2, 1977

The blizzard was over, save for the digging.

And I had had enough of that.

School had indeed been cancelled for the week. No one was going anywhere.

Except Mom & Dad--who trekked their way back north to get my brother back to college on Sunday.

Once again, I stayed home. It was a boring, four-hour round trip in the best of weather. I was supposed to do it in bad weather? When I would get an additional hour or so each way of staring out the window at boring stuff, only now it was boring stuff covered in several feet of snow?

I had had enough of that, too.

Can you tell that I was a teenager?

Mom wasn't making things any easier--harping about me not wanting to be together with my family yada yackity schmackity.

Well, she was right. I didn't.

Lemme tell you 'bout my brother.

He's one year, five months and one day older than me. His greatest joy in life--as far as I could tell--was tormenting me. He was good at it. He had a knack. If we were both doing something loud and possibly against Mom's wishes, he knew how to stop it just before Mom came into the room.

I didn't have that gift.

Like younger siblings everywhere, I was sure that he was the favorite.

What he was, was older, and had the engineering skill-sets necessary to get to do stuff with Dad, while I lifted and carried.

I didn't get to hang with them. But I got strong. I did get strong.

I got bigger and stronger than my brother in about the ninth grade. And boy, was I going to give it to him. I was gonna do all the crap to him that he had done for me for the previous thirteen years.

Except I never did. Not in ninth grade, tenth, eleventh...and now here he was, Mister College, and I still held a grudge.

Years later, we ended up talking about it...how I never seemed to be able to get back at him. He told me, "I knew that if you ever got your hands on me, you'd kill me. But I also knew that the angrier you got, the less control you had. So when you started to get mad at me, I would just keep pushing your buttons until you were so furious that you couldn't do anything. Then I'd just put a chair between you and me, and rather than go around it, you'd try to go through it."

Fucking engineers and their fucking logic.

That's why I wasn't all jazzed about going with them to take him back to school.

Mom and I weren't getting along all that well either, as you could guess.

I even thought about hitting her. Once. It happened that week.

But first, a bit about our house...

Our house was a colonial, with a front door leading to a foyer, and straight back to a breakfast nook. That nook was a dividing line in the house: to the east, the kitchen, dining room and living room, to the west, the family room and garage. East of the breakfast nook was Mom's territory. West was ours. The nook was no man's land.

The nook actually opened up to the family room and the kitchen, so that if you were standing in the kitchen (as Mom usually would) , you could see clear through to the family room. There was, also, for some reason, a step down from the breakfast nook into the family room.

The layout's important, because much of the family dynamic was centered around that step.

You see, Mom's not too tall. 5' 2", nine inches shorter than my brother, ten inches shorter than my dad, and eleven inches shorter than me.

But she made up for that lack of height with that step. She directed much of life in the living room from that 10 inch vantage point.

I'm pretty sure it was on the Monday or Tuesday of that week that I had The Thought. I forget what prompted it. Probably me not doing what she wanted. As usual. Most likely something to do with snow, and my lack of enthusiasm in its removal from the driving and walking areas around the house.

Mostly what I did that week was eat, sleep, and read.

So there was some friction, what with me being underfoot all week, and not being productive. Mom was on my case, and I was giving it back as good as I could, which wasn't all that good. Tempers flared (remember what my brother said), and I remember standing in the living room, thinking I could take her. She's nothing. She's tiny. I could just...


She was standing right there, on the step of the breakfast nook. She covered the ground from the kitchen to the step in zero time, eyes flaming, hands on her hips, reading my mind like the poorly written book it was, drawing herself up to her full height, and looking me straight in the eyes.

"I am your mother!" she said. "You will not hit me! You will not even think about it! Do you understand me?"


Yeah. OK.

At first I wondered if I had actually said the words. I hadn't. I was just that stupid and that transparent.

The step was also a place of hugs and kisses, too. The door to the garage was right there, and so our comings and our goings were there too. There were lots of hugs and kisses in the family too.


Dad would always arrive home at 5:15. We would hear the car pull into the garage, and Mom would come and stand at the step, and greet Dad with a hug and a kiss. Every night. Mom and Dad hugged and kissed a lot. Mom's best friend Grace used to say "That's the huggiest, kissiest couple I've ever met!"

On Wednesday, February 2, 1977, the car was pulled into the garage, as always. Mom stood on the step, as always, and met Dad with a hug and a kiss, horizontally equivilent thanks to that step. For some reason I know not why, I got up off the couch, and joined in on the hug. I stood behind my father, and wrapped my arms around him. Dad's camelhair coat smelled cold. There were a few flakes melting on it. Dad was surprised, but pleased. We stood that way for a while, a peaceful hugging family.

We didn't hug long enough.

During dinner, Dad asked me if I wanted to go to choir rehearsal with him. He had it every Wednesday night, at the church, at 8. As I had mentioned earlier, sometimes I would go and sing with him.

Dad was 54, but he was trim, in shape, with long dark hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. Our family took a six-week camping trip out west in 1971, and we had convinced Dad to not shave during the trip. He left looking like a Company Man, and came back looking like a Hippie.

His beard was the talk of the small town we lived in, and brought him quite some notoriety at his company. Pretty soon, lots of men started growing beards.

But none looked as good as Dad. He still had it, six years later.

At 54, he looked and acted twenty years younger. He was the captain and one of the better players of his volleyball team, which played on Tuesday nights. Every other person in the league was at least 10 years younger. When he took me to choir rehearsals, some of the younger women in the choir actually thought I was his younger brother! He ate that up with a spoon.

But this Wednesday night, two things were different: 1) Mom had a meeting at the church as well, and 2)HBO had an R-Rated movie playing.

I've already mentioned how much I enjoyed riding alone with Dad. On that day, I had quite enough of Mom already. If Mom came along, it wasn't the same. So the allure was gone, plus the promise of tits on TV made me decide I needed some alone time.

Mom didn't like it, and didn't like my lack of help, and we got into it again. At the end of dinner, she yelled and screamed and stormed her way out the door to sit in the car and wait for Dad.

Dad usually took her side. But with her out of earshot, Dad talked to me. As I loaded up the dishwasher, he told me that we were just on each other's nerves, and it was natural for teenagers to rebel. He put his hand on my shoulder, and smiled at me gently and kindly, said I was a good kid, and said we'd talk more later. It was the best talk my Dad ever gave me.
The phone rang about 8:15. The woman on the line was asking for my mother. "She's at the church," I told her, "Can I take a message?"

"This is the hospital, and I need to speak to your mother."

Then the front doorbell rang.

No one came to our front door. I asked the woman to hang on a second, and I went to see who it was. It was Mr. Mack, the father of a friend of mine who lived down the hill. He worked at the same company as Dad, but in the personnel department. He had come to our house for parties on occasion, but never stopped by unnanounced.

"Is your Mom home?" he asked.

"No, she's at church." What the hell was going on?

"Your Dad's had a heart attack."

Suddenly the earth had no center.

"But he's at church with Mom," I said...

"Apparently, he stopped by the gym to get his sneakers from yesterday, and had an attack. I'm here to take you and your mother to the hospital..."

I ran back to the phone "Is this about Dad? Is he OK?"

"...I'm sorry, but I need to speak to your Mother..."

"She's at the church. We're going to go get her and we'll be right there." I hung up the phone and grabbed my coat. We left for the church.

For some unknown reason, Mr. Mack thought it was important to obey traffic laws. I pressed him for information.

"All heart attacks are serious when they first happen," he was telling me. "It's a very dangerous time."

I talked about another family friend, who had a triple bypass the previous year. He walked a lot more slowly, but he was ok. Dad would be ok, too, right?

"If you survive the first few minutes, there's been great progress in heart therapies."

I looked up at the traffic light and cursed all red lights to hell.

When we got to the church, I could see inside the annex, where the meetings were held. I saw all the men and women from the meeting mom was to attend, standing in a circle, holding hands. I didn't see Mom. Mr. Mack ran inside, and then came back out.

"She's already at the hospital," he told me.

Forever later, we pull into the emergency room parking lot. I sprint out of the car and into the hospital.

"Dad!" I yelled. "Where's my Dad?"

A nurse asked me my name, and told me where he was. She took me outside the room, and told me I couldn't enter just yet, and went inside.

It was a big brown door. It had a two-way hinge, in order to let gurneys pass in and out. She did her best to slip through the door, but I saw inside.

I saw a doctor, standing in his lab coat, doing nothing but holding a large syringe and talking.

I saw my mother, standing next to the doctor, looking very small, and very old.

I saw my father, lying on the table, looking very grey, and very dead.


He had dropped Mom off for her meeting, which started before his rehearsal, so he had gone to the gym to get the sneakers he left there the day before. There was a pickup volleyball game, and they asked him if he wanted to play.

He always wanted to play.

One of the guys on his side said he just dropped. They tried CPR, the ambulance was there in minutes, but he was dead before his body hit the floor. The autopsy revealed he had suffered a minor heart attack a few days before.

Probably on January 28.

I wandered around, looking for a pay phone. I needed to call my brother. He needed to know. You don't understand. He needed to know. He had got him for all the years before this, and the few fucking months I had him alone and he said we'd talk later He said we'd talk later! and ups and dies on me, and now my world sucks and he's at school and his world doesn't. He needed to know.

In the end, the Pastor drove the four hours in the snow up to his dorm room, notified the Head resident, and called my mother when he was on his floor. She called him sometime well after midnight. He was up, studying. How do you break this news? What did she say? I was standing right next to her when she called, but I don't remember her words.

I do remember that the Pastor said he opened the door and collapsed into his arms.

Five days earlier, as Mom and Dad drove that boring two hour trip on a brilliant blue morning to get my brother for the weekend, my mother had turned to my father and said, "My life is perfect. I have everything I have ever wanted."

On Thursday, February 2, 2006, I look back at that remark in wonder.

For a very long time after that day, I made my Dad into a saint. He was perfect. He could do so much.

As I get older, I start to see my father for what he really was. Not a saint. A man with flaws. He was often distant, and he did favor my brother. But that didn't mean he didn't love me. He just hadn't figured me out yet.

Hell, I haven't figured me out yet, either.

Dad never talked to me later, but I still talk to my Dad. I tell him about stuff. I tell him about his grandkids. I tell him that I miss him. I tell him I love him.

I talk to my kids, too. I teach them that bad things don't just happen to other people. I tell them about their grandfather. I tell them I love them. I tell them that now is enough, because it's really all we have.



Is better than none.

Here's my recipe for the guacamole I'll be servin' on super Sunday.

2 ripe avocados
1 small onion, chopped fine
juice of 1 small lemon
1 small garlic clove
chili powder
hot sauce
sour cream

First off, do you know how to pick ripe avocados? They should be a dark green, and feel like a well-packed beanbag. If it's brown, it's probably overripe. To be sure, I use a 'perceived' squeeze test: If I think that, with a little bit of effort, I could pop the avocado open with a firm squeeze, it's ripe. If I think that it wouldn't open, it's underripe. If it feels like it's about to burst open by itself, it's overripe.

First: get out a medium-sized (1 quart) glass or ceramic bowl. Metal could be used, but I reccomend a non-reactive material.
Break open the small garlic clove, and rub the entire interior surface of the bowl with the juice of that clove. I mean paint it. If you're really frugal, you could chop up the clove and use it for another dish, but that's all the garlic we're gonna use for the guac, so save it or toss it, but we're done with garlic.

Using a chef's knife, slice open the avocados, and remove the stones. An easy way to get the stone out is to lightly 'chop' the knife blade into the stone, and remove it by twisting and pulling the knife. It pops right out. Use a tablespoon to scoop the avocado meat into the garlic-coated bowl, add the onion a pinch of salt, and lemon juice* and mix it up with the tablespoon, or with a potato masher if you have one. Mix it for about a minute, making sure you break up all the big pieces of avocado.

Add a sprinkle of chili powder and a few dashes of hot sauce** to taste, throw a dollop or two of sour cream on the top if you want, and it's done. Serve with tortilla chips, or as a condiment on grilled meat.

Avocado oxidizes pretty quickly, and will turn an unappealing shade of brown, so I don't reccomend making it ahead. However, if you must, a good trick is to spread the sour cream completely over the top of the guac, to a uniform thickness of about 1/8". This essentially seals out all the air, so the cool green color will be mainained for a while. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge until ready to serve. Then, unwrap, and if you want. swirl the sour cream into the quacamole for a really cool swirly look.

Yeah, sometimes I do go overboard on this stuff. What's your point?

Share and enjoy.


*Fresh lemon juice vs. reconstitued lemon juice: Yes, in side-by-side tests, it is possible to tell the difference between freshly-squeezed lemon juice and the stuff in the plastic lemons. But are you doing a side-by-side taste test? I doubt that not more than one person in 100, when given a chipful of guacamole, can tell if you squeezed the lemon yourself or not. If you think one of those person's coming to your party, and if you think your use of fresh lemons will make him or her think better of you, and if your own sense of self-worth is so small that their opinion actually matters to you, then by all means squeeze the lemon yourself. Or, if you already bought the lemons, or have a lemon tree right outside your window, or ya just plain old want to, go ahead and use the real stuff.***

**My favorites for this recipe are (of course)Jump up and Kiss Me Smoky Chipotle, or Cholula. Depending on whether I'm feelin' smoky or not.
***If you have the lemon tree, send me your address. I'll be right over.