Friday, October 30, 2009

Five Things That Piss Me Off

Mitch Albom may have his five people he’ll meet in Heaven, but I’ve got five things that are pissing me off in the here and now. I realize from a macro point of view that none of this means anything. All these complaints are confined right here to my little house, but I believe they are rather universal concerns so here it goes:

Volume: This term may take on an alternate meaning when I have teenagers, but for the moment, I’m talking about how much trash one garbage container can hold. Nobody in my house, including me, is a physicist, but even I know that when the trash can is spewing trash, it won’t hold any more. Several times I’ve had to dig my hands through thrown away food because everybody pushes so much garbage in the thing that the liner gets crammed two-thirds the way down the can. No more. We’ll all die from mold spores before I do that again.

Spills: To my son—when you splash spaghetti sauce on the trashcan lid, it’s easier to wipe it away while it’s still moist. Daddy’s tired of chiseling dried tomato sauce.

Lights: The light at the top of the stairs doesn’t go off by magic and even if it did, the Light Fairy don’t live here. Need I say more?

Laundry: When there’s no laundry basket in the bathroom…GO GET ONE! I mean unless you’re going to grow up to be a serial killing dry cleaner and plan to hide bodies under stacks of shirts and towels, four-foot tall piles of clothes aren’t really that useful.

Laundry (Part II): I don’t mind washing, drying, folding, or even putting away, but the least you can do is BRING ME YOUR DIRTY CLOTHES! Put ‘em right here in my grubby little hands and I’ll do the rest. Want to go to school stinky or even naked? Test me on this.

Have a nice day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Of Steampunks and Hanukkah

When famed archeologist Howard Carter first peered through a small hole into King Tut’s tomb, Lord Carnarvon asked him if he saw anything. He replied, “Yes, wonderful things!” This is how I felt this past weekend when Nick Valentino introduced me to his brand new novel, Thomas Riley, and a genre of fiction called “Steampunk."

Nick and I were staffing the Echelon Press booth at the South Carolina Writers Conference. He’s an extremely nice guy, very approachable, and passionate about his book. He should be. I began reading it and didn’t want to stop. Now bear in mind, one’s job at a book festival or writers conference is to greet your patrons warmly, answer questions, and try to sell them books from the table. If I seemed a bit grumpy to any of the folks who stopped by the booth, my apologies. I was simply irritated because I had to put Thomas Riley aside in order to serve you. That’s how good this book is.

For those of you who, like me, haven’t a clue about what steampunk fiction is, Nick describes it as alternative history, Victorian era characters who invent and use some very forward technologies—think James West and Artemus Gordon in the old Wild West television series. It is appprently the new rage among teen readers. Nick’s book has air pirates, dirigibles, fancy inventions that his characters use deftly, action, and lots of adventure. As I read it, I kept hearing the Indiana Jones music playing in my head!

Though he didn’t write it specifically for teens, Nick is marketing the book as a young adult title. It would make a nice stocking stuffer for Christmas for anyone in your family who loves high adventure. You can buy it at or directly from the publisher at

After getting home from the conference, I took my kids to Halloween Express to buy some accessories for their costumes. On the way, Alexey said Halloween was his second favorite holiday, coming in behind Christmas.. Nikki said she really didn’t like Halloween and it didn’t even make her top three. I asked her what her favorite holidays were.

She considered it a moment, index finger over her lips, before she said, “I celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Hanukkah.”

Shalom, y’all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stimulus Cash and Research

Myra’s injured foot and the care she requires have renewed my interest in a subject matter that first appeared when our children were toddlers. I want to research a scientific phenomenon. I’m not certain what branch of science my investigation would fall under, but I’m leaning toward theoretical physics.

What I have observed, both today with Myra’s injury and years ago as a parent of pre-school children is this: there is a wedge of space ranging from three inches to six inches at its highest. It is the space created just before your butt hits the seat of the chair you’re about to sit down onto. At that very moment the person dependant on your care determines that they have to have something “before you sit down.”

This urgent matter of life and death did not occur to them 20 seconds ago when you were in the kitchen, nor can it wait until the next time you’re up. Oh, no, no , no…if you don’t get up right then to retrieve the Diet Coke, Kleenex, cell phone, computer power cord, whatever, then the world will simply stop on its axis and mountains will crash into the sea. Sure the person might back pedal a bit and say, “Well, next time you’re up would you get…” But you can hear the cosmic implications in the passive/aggressive tone of voice. “Well, next time you’re up…” readily translates into “I guess I could strain and struggle and hobble my crippled self over to get it.” The guilt becomes overwhelming and you pop up off the chair like it is a trampoline.

The wedge of space must have a name, and I want to know what it is. President Obama, may I have some money please?

Monday, October 12, 2009


I’m waging an economic war against McDonalds, and not for the reasons you might think. Sure they serve unhealthy food, deep fried and slathered in sauces that flow with death rivers of trans fats. But I declare my war for another reason—the company’s insidious plot to bring America to its knees.

The McDonalds (or MACK-Donalds, as my father and grandmother used to call it) near my home used to be my barometer for the national economy. When times were bad, smart people got laid off from real jobs and in desperation sought employment with Mickey D’s. As a happy result, though, other patrons and I got superior customer service.

When economic times were brighter, the company hired whatever riff-raff that dragged through the door and could make a pencil mark or two on an application.

Obviously, I am neither an expert in economic liberalism nor the works of Adam Smith. My economic theory has failed, and in its desperate crumbling, I have undergone an epiphany of sorts: McDonalds is not out to serve us, but to destroy us.

How are they doing this you might ask? By giving stupid people—truly stupid people—a way to make money without requiring even a smidgeon of intelligence. McDonalds is the bastion of ignorance.

What other conclusion is there when you order two snack wraps, a double cheese burger and a tea—repeating the order not once, but twice, and then repeating it a third time while arguing over the check—and wind up driving away with three snack wraps and four chicken McNuggets? It borders on the surreal.

They don’t even require their employees to read. They put PICTURES of the different menu items on the register keys, for God’s sake.

McDonalds not only contributes to the overall educational malaise of our already intellectually deficient state, it contributes to the rise in drug distribution—anecdotally speaking, of course. The question often cited by the do-gooders of our fair country when trying to curb drug use is this: “Kids say all the time, ‘Why should I work at McDonalds for minimum wage when I can sell drugs and make more money?’”

Why indeed? Why would a kid with even a modicum of reasoning ability even walk into a McDonalds? Faced with such a quandary, who wouldn’t choose to sell a “McDarvocet” versus a McDouble?

I have eaten at the McDonalds in the Atlanta airport where every employee is Jamaican. I’ve eaten at a McD’s in London. I’ve even eaten at one in Moscow where nobody spoke English, and in all received great service. But walk into a McDonalds in America (or perhaps just any one in South Carolina) and you can feel the IQ level in the room drop by 30 points, and your order will be wrong 70 percent of the time—guaranteed.

Encourage your children to study and study hard. Education is the key to restoring America to its prominence. Unfortunately, education and intelligence are the two things you will find lacking at the nation’s favorite fast food restaurant.

Join me in my rant and boycott of the Golden Arches. We walk through them at our own peril and toward our own doom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Toes Can Be Tasty

So Myra’s foot surgery was a success, though to look at her appendage in all its purple, swollen glory, only the surgeon himself would dare say, “It looks good!”

Alas, it appears I am the one who now needs foot surgery of my own—to remove mine from my mouth.

Myra’s taken care of me numerous times over the course of my many ailments, so I am gratified to be able to help. I can’t seem to relieve her pain, but at least I can get her water and her medication, get her food, and help her move tenuously from the couch to the lavatory and back.

So I was truly only joking yesterday when I ran to the bank to make a deposit. A teller in the bank knows Myra and asked about her. I gave my report. Then the coup de grĂ¢ce came when she asked, “And how are you doing as the caretaker?”

I said, rather jokingly I thought, “I’m just glad to have a few moments to spend around people who can walk!”

Just then, as the last four words of that sentence came out of my mouth, emerged from around a corner the only permanently disabled employee the bank has—a woman who uses a walker. And I wonder sometimes why Nikki has no brain-to-mouth filter. Go figure.