Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to Break Someone's Heart

"You can't make me go," my 12 year-old daughter said as I dragged her out of our car that beautiful sunny afternoon.

"Oh, yes I can," I foolishly responded.

"Oh, no you can't. I'll start screaming," she said. I tugged on her some more and she started screaming.

I pushed her back in the car. "Are you crazy? There are people everywhere," I said.

"I don't care. If you don't care about my feelings. I don't care about yours," she responded.

My daughter was participating in the town's recreation track program. There was a track meet scheduled that afternoon and everything seemed to be going fine until we arrived in the parking lot.

Perhaps, it was the fact she couldn't find her track-issued t-shirt that day, or maybe it was because I wouldn't let her eat before her race and she was getting cranky. Either way, she was a bitch and I was getting irate.

Since there were no physical ailments stopping her like a broken leg, sprained neck or twisted vertebrae, I didn't want to let her off the hook. My policy was if you started something you had to finish it. And all she needed to do that day was run a lousy 100 meters down the back stretch of the track. She could leave after that if she wanted. But she didn't budge.

I couldn't understand it. She's actually a good sprinter and usually wins her races. I enjoy watching her and I think she enjoys being watched. I had re-arranged my afternoon to take her to the meet and I had even charged up the video camera so I could film her racing down the track. We had arrived on time and all she had to do was step out of the car and walk a few yards to where her team was assembled. These were just a few simple things she had to do and then I would feel better.

She wasn't moving. She wasn't getting out.

I knew I would have to take it in stages - exiting the car, walking to the track, getting her to the starting line. Coaxing a kid is like diffusing a bomb. One false move and the whole mission is compromised.

More families were pulling into the parking lot. They parked, walked by our car, and looked over and saw us sitting there. They would wave and then motion to the track. I nodded my head and gave them the one minute sign. Then I turned to my daughter with all the compassion I could muster: "You'll be the only one not there. You're gonna let your team down."

"I don't care. They're all dorks," she deftly answered.

"Listen, you're getting out of the car and you're going to the track," I said. She shook her head as I spoke. "If you're not going to run then you need to tell the coach that yourself."

I opened the car door and walked towards the track entrance. I had to stay strong and not look back. I didn't hear any car doors opening so I kept walking until I was out of her line of sight. Then I quickly snuck behind a bleacher to spy on the car.

The parents in the stands looked at me oddly. I couldn't let them know I had no control over my child so I tried to pretend I was looking for something on the ground.

"Hey, is your daughter going to run today?" a parent asked.

"Uh, yeah. She's just getting her sneakers on," I replied.

Come on get out. Don't leave me hanging here, I said to myself. Don't make me talk to these people.

Eventually, I saw the car door open and my daughter step out. I let out a sigh of relief and sat myself down on a bleacher. It was a small victory that would be short-lived.

My daughter moped her way into the stands and sat down next to me.

"You can't be here," I said. "The stands are for parents. Down there is where you belong."

"I'm not going," she said.

I looked around and saw the other parents watching us. I'm a self-conscious wimp. I don't like making scenes in public. My daughter was feeding off of this.

"I hate track," she continued, her voice rising. "Running is stupid."

I wanted to reach out and throttle her right then and there. But instead, I stood and calmly walked out of the stands and onto the field, pretending I wanted to get a little closer to the athletic action at hand.

I figured I was able to lure her once before, maybe I could do it again. Besides, I knew she would not want to sit in the bleachers with all the other parents, even she would start to feel uncomfortable.

It seemed to work. She got up and followed me to the center of the field. My goal was to get her to a parental safe zone - a place where I could speak and no one else could hear. At that place, I could give her a verbal berating that would help me release some steam and give her tons of things to talk to her therapist about in the coming years.

I stood my ground pretending to watch the other teammates getting ready for their races. She nudged herself against me and asked when we would be going home.

"After you run your race, you can go home!" I snapped.

"Not running. Hate it."

"I came all the way down here to watch you run. I think you should run," I said.

"I don't care, that's your problem. I don't need to watch myself run."

"Look, it's just a 100 meters. It'll take you a couple of seconds. You'll be done and we can leave."

She just shook her head and folded her arms across her chest.

I placed my hands firmly on her shoulders, bent over and looked her in the eye. "If you don't run, you lose your phone."

"You're not taking my phone."

"Oh, yes I am."

"Oh, no you're not," she said with the added side-to-side head shake.

I wanted to pick her up and throw her onto the starting line, but a couple of other parents had meandered onto the field and I could see them watching me out of the corner of my eye.

I knew the next step would be a screaming match and I wasn't going to let that happen. So I ever so gently dug two fingers into her spine, pushed her forward and told her we're going home.

I kept my hand on her back and walked her briskly to the exit. As I passed one of the parents I just pointed to my daughter and told them she wasn't feeling well.

I kept pushing and smiled at the parents who gave me a nod of surprise.

I calmly got her into the car, sat myself down and started the engine. As we drove, I exploded:

"You couldn't run a goddamn, lousy sprint, huh! You had to just stand there! Well, now you're going to pay. No phone, no TV and no computer. I don't care if you sit in your room by yourself the rest of the week. You're not getting anything!"

She was silent the rest of the ride. When we got home, she left the car, went straight to the room and shut her door.

I didn't hear from her for a couple of hours, then my wife told me to go look what she had posted on her door.
(click to view larger)

She sure knew how to break my heart.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Boston Daze

My first apartment after college was in the Brighton section of Boston. It was a two-bedroom apartment on Commonwealth Avenue. The building was a five-story tenement with dark hallways, radiator heat and an elevator that worked sometimes but was more often than not known to deliver you to in-between floors rather than exact floors.

I moved to Boston in the winter and was glad to find a warm place with steam heat. When I moved, all I had was a couple of suitcases, an old bicycle and an alarm clock. No bed and no furniture.

The first thing Curt and I did (Curt moved up from my home town to take the second bedroom) was to go out late at night and drive to the back of the local convenience stores. There we found our furniture - plastic milk crates. This was well before IKEA opened up around the country and made the need for such staples obsolete. The CD also put the final nail in the coffin on those plastic cages that were perfectly sized for holding and lugging LPs.

Later, we would buy plywood and cut pieces for shelving that could be placed over the crates. This was also well before Home Depot, so we would have to beg the local lumber place to cut our wood to specific sizes.

My last piece of furniture was a bed. Until I had a bed, I was sleeping on the floor with a blanket and pillow. Did I mention that I was dirt poor. My goal was to have 5 bucks at the end of each week after all the expenses ate into my meager paycheck. It didn't always work.

But I still needed to move up in the world so I bought cinder blocks, a full piece of plywood and a 6 inch piece of foam rubber. A local place in Boston advertised the foam and would cut it to any size. That's all I needed to know for the sale. The whole investment was under $50 and much cheaper than the luxurious futons which were becoming quite popular. I think Curt had a futon.

I stretched my flannel sheets over the foam which sat on top of my rock-hard plywood, which rested on top of my four 20-pound cinder blocks. I remember feeling so proud that first night when I pulled those covers over me and rested my head on the pillow.

Then June arrived. The temperature in the tenement soared. We didn't open our big wood framed windows because there we no screens, the noise outside was not conducive for sleeping and we were always afraid of some seagull flying into the room.

We did go out and buy hi-speed fans which helped stir the thick hot air in our apartment but there was not much relief until the sun went down. And even then there wasn't much respite, because I, in all my wisdom, was sleeping on a frickin' foam mattress with flannel sheets.

When I would arise from my bed, the bed curled up along my back because the sweat from my body and the chemical reaction of the foam formed a glue-like bond to my body.

One time I was able to stand on my feet with my bed affixed perfectly to me from head to toe. If the doors to the rooms were a bit bigger I may have been able to make it out of the apartment and onto the street in this pose.

I'll remember those days of hell fondly. I must've lost 20-30 pounds back then.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Chaperone

I have new found respect for school teachers. They really don't get paid enough for the time they put in trying to educate our children. And they certainly don't make enough for the time they endure just tolerating our children.

I volunteered to go on my son's 8th grade field trip to Washington, D.C. as a chaperone. I figured it would be a day off from work, a chance to see an important museum that I had never been to (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum), and hang with my son's class and some of the moms that would accompany the trip as well (Mom's I would Like to have Fun with).

We're about 4 hours north of D.C., so when I was reminded that the buses would leave by 6:30am the notion of fun started to drift out the door. I'm not a morning person and I knew I would spend the night before trying to coax myself to sleep so I could get up at 5:30am and get showered, dressed and fed in time to leave.

At about 1:30am I was pounding my pillow. "Fuck, I have to fall asleep."

Too late to take a sleeping pill (because you need 7-8 hours sleep time) and too late to get any reasonable rest. As I kept stressing and trying figure out if any of my body parts were getting tired, the alarm rang. It was 5:30am!

I got up, assessed the situation, felt the heaviness in my head and knew it was going to be a crappy day.

I forced myself to shower, shave and dress. I prepared some breakfast, cleaned up the dishes and ran upstairs to the bathroom. I had one more important thing to do.

If I couldn't take a dump right away, my next chance would be at a rest stop along Route 95. And I knew my sphincter would not cooperate then. I had ten minutes to try at home and as soon as I sat down, I knew it was going to be fruitless.

I thought briefly about busting open the enemas I had bought for Mother's Day, but I knew there would be multiple minor temblors after the initial eruption. I just didn't have the time or place for that risk.

So, I hopped in the car with my son and raced down to the school to meet at the appointed time.

We would be a three-bus convoy and I was on bus #2. It was a cool bus. Some nice moms and kids seemed okay. But as soon as I sat down I heard a sneeze. The chubby, Asian girl with glasses, who was sitting one row behind me on the other aisle leans over to her neighbor and says, "I have a cold." She proceeds to blow snot out of her nose for a good 20 seconds, then finishes up with a few coughs.

What dumb-ass parent thinks it's okay to send their germ-infested child on a hermetically-sealed bus for 4 hours each way? I'll tell you who, a parent who doesn't want that kid in their own house for the day.

Well, I'm a bordering hypochondriac. I can't stand enclosed space and the germs that go with it. And when I hear coughs or sniffles, I freak out. I start holding my breath and try to clear out of the perimeter. I'd rather inhale someone else's fart than risk the possibility of some rhino virus getting into my body.

Every time she expelled mucus serum from her head, I would give her the evil eye. Of course, she never saw me do this but it was a way to channel my anger at her selfishness. Did she really need to go to Washington and visit the Holocaust Museum? She's Asian, what affinity did she have to that history? None. Get off the bus.

For the next 4 hours, I would not only think about the germs floating through my air space but I would also listen to 39 other school children screech, shriek, shrill and squeal. Again, my heart goes out to these teachers. They must have olfactory fatigue because they didn't seem bothered by this cacophony. I couldn't believe the calmness these teachers exhibited. But, if the teachers weren't reacting, then I knew I couldn't either.

Finally, the noise on top of the impaction I was beginning to feel in my bowels caused my body to just give way and pass out. It was an overpowering heaviness that beset me and it was welcomed.

I don't know what awoke me. It could've been the awkward slant of my head that now caused a muscle spasm in my neck, or it could've been the asshole that was beginning to paint the other half of the handlebar mustache on my face. Thank goodness it was just a mascara pen instead of the typical black Sharpie used at many colleges these days.

I was able to smear it off my face, so I didn't get too mad. Besides, there were too many witnesses around and I knew jabbing the mascara holder into the kid's eye would not go over well with the other mom's or PTO.

We arrived in D.C. and entered the museum. All I could think about was my consitpation. I knew nothing would budge until I got some more food on top. I was hoping further digestion would cause some act of peristalsis.

I tried to empathize with the victims and their stories, but I was beginning to feel like one myself. I always wondered if I would have survived back then, crammed into cattle cars, living on wooden bunks in freezing cold barracks, having little sustenance and constant humiliation with death all around.

No. I wouldn't make it. As soon as my sphincter saw the horrid conditions of the transports to the camp, it would seize up and never let go. A slow death of poop buildup would occur. I would beg for a bullet right then and there.

I told the group I was chaperoning that I was going to be a little slower because I wanted to read all the exhibit signage. I told them to feel free to walk ahead and just meet up at the gift shop at the end (btw, what kind of gifts do they have in Holocaust museum?).

Their faces lit up and we both dispersed in opposite directions. They ran past the Dr. Mengele experiment exhibit and I ran to the Men's Room to unleash my own version of Allied bombing.

But, as was typical, throughout most of the war, there were no direct hits on the camps. I came up empty and now my body was retaliating. My legs felt weak, I imagined toxic fluids ciruclating throughout my body, and I sensed as if something was moving up my chest to the bottom of my throat. I was stuffed to the gills and not in a good way.

I couldn't really focus on the rest of the exhibit so I made my way to our pre-determined meeting spot, and sat there, hunched over trying to control the bloating that was going on in my mid-section.

I don't know how long I was there feeling miserable. My intestines felt like they had concrete packed into them but strangely enough I was a bit hungry. I vacilated between what to do when I noticed the children beginning to assemble around me. It was time to go.

On the bus, everyone took their same seats, even the sniffling Asian girl. I clenched my teeth and focused on the business at hand - trying to encourage some movement. Somewhere around the Maryland/Delaware border, the engine began to leave the station. Now, what was I going to do?

There wasn't a scheduled rest stop for another 45 minutes. I looked up the long aisle to the back of the bus. Against the wall were three seats and a door - a bathroom door - and lots of kids.

I knew there would be some risks going in there but there would be greater consequences if I didn't. Nobody lives down the notoriety of being the one who poops in their pants at school.

Once in the bathroom, I sat down and did the best I could. Even with the encouraging muscle movements I had felt, things were going to take a while, but I was in for the long haul.

About ten minutes later, there was banging on the door. One of the kids said he needed to go to the bathroom urgently. I told him to wait a few more minutes, but I knew it would be longer. I pushed, I sweated, I tried to move the barge against the current but not much happened. Every time I felt something positive, the bus would sway a bit and I would have to switch my muscle concentration to hold onto the seat.

A few more bangs. "I'm going to throw up. Let me in," another kid said. Sorry, I'm not opening up right now I told him. The kid kicked the door.

"Go away, " I screamed and then things went silent.
I guess that scared him. I worked a bit more and completed enough of the mission to feel like I could make it home safely and could spend more time on the mining operation.

I opened the door, and the bus was empty. We were at a rest stop and everyone had cleared off. At least I didn't have to take the walk of shame in front of them. I went to my seat and passed out.

I must've slept the next two hours because when I awoke we were back at the school and kids were disembarking. I felt refreshed and a little bit lighter. I got off the bus and my son was waiting for me.

"What's wrong with you?," he asked.

"Whaddya mean?," I responded.

"You clogged the toilet. The place stunk back there."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I had to go." My son shook his head and walked to the car. I thought it would be best if I slinked away as well. I felt the glare of a couple of moms so I started to walk.

"Excuse me," I heard someone say.

I turned nervously and saw the chubby Asian girl standing there. What the hell did she want?

"Thank you for chaperoning the trip. It was a lot of fun," she said. She blew her nose and then stuck out her hand for me to shake.

Oh, please not that. But I guess I deserved it after the toilet incident. I offered my hand. She reached forward and grabbed it with a moist, clammy grip.

"Thank you, " I said. "Your nose is dripping."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What the Hell is that?

Today, I sat on a 4-hour conference call. No one should have to endure a call that long. After 25 minutes I totally zoned out and went into a state of fidget.

I surfed the web. I checked and re-checked my e-mail accounts. I got on my hands and knees and went under my desk to tinker with the wires down below. Got back to my chair and checked the weather, my stocks and my horoscope. I bounced my rubber stress ball off the wall. I checked the local news and national news and watched a video of a town overrun by chickens.

When our CFO got on the call to go over the financials, I left my office and went to the bathroom. No one missed me. No one knew I was gone. And no one was going to ask me any questions.

When I sat back down, I repeated a few of the previous routines because I had only killed about an hour.

And then I started playing with features on my cell phone. I checked my contact list. I put a couple of scenarios into my tip calculator, like splitting a $32.14 bill six ways. I changed my background wallpaper a few times and then put it back to the original because I liked that one the best. From my window, I videotaped a work crew across from my building paint white stripes on a newly paved blacktop parking lot. I erased it, though, because I was too far away and the image was too shaky.

I switched to the camera feature and took a few snapshots of things outside, like a plane flying by and ferry boat going down the Hudson. I erased those as well because they came out blurry.

I took some close-up shots of things in my office, like my computer screen, my hand on the keyboard, some plaques on the wall. Those were cool.

But then I tried to take some self portraits of me sitting at my desk. All I got was my fat face. I could've been anywhere. I played with a few more angles and then reached way behind my back and got a birdseye view of me sitting at my desk in front of my computer.

I freaked out. What the hell was that bald spot doing on my head???

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

53 degrees

I have become much more attuned to the changes in the season. Like a squirrel who gathers nuts in autumn in preparation for winter, I also ready my body, both physically and mentally, as I sense a change in the weather.

When the leaves start falling off the trees, I begin calculating how long I have until the return of warmer temperatures. I have determined that we have 6 months of good weather and 6 months of bad. So when daylight savings kicks in, I hit the timer, hunker down and do my best to endure the shorter days of sunshine, colder air and general loss of energy.

But as the cycle nears its end, I begin anticipating all the glorious days ahead of me. Light until nearly 9 o'clock, green grass and budding trees, barbecues on the patio, women who wear less clothing, and warmth.

I'm talking about full body warmth. The kind that eradicates my frozen fingers and toes, my constantly dripping noses, and the poor posture I endured from leaning into cold winds with layers of clothing stacked upon my body.

That proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is real. And what propels me forward is the weather report.

While March is typically the month when spring begins, we all know it's a tease. Temperatures stay in 30's and 40's and the furnace remains on in my house.

Then there's April, probably the cruelest month of the year. April is like a stripper who gets down to her bra and panties, dances provocatively in front of you, takes your dollar and then walks off the stage laughing. What was that? I can stroll through the lingerie department at Macy's and get that from a mannequin.

April has days when the temperatures can reach the 70s and days when it's windy and rainy and in the 40s. April encourages your body to open up like that tulip in your garden, and then bam, it hits you with cold-hearted rawness that deflowers you.

As I write this, it is May and one would think we are well into the heart of spring. But as I drove into work today and listened to the weather report I heard numbers as disappointing as my 401K returns.

"Today will be partly cloudy with gusty winds at time and a high of 53 degrees."

I can take some clouds. I can take some wind. But I can't take frickin' 53 degrees. I can't take it in May, or at anytime for that matter. 53 degrees sucks.

It sucks when we go from fall to winter because it does not provide enough cold to produce a snowflake. And it sucks as we go from winter into spring because it does not provide enough warmth. It's a useless temperature completely devoid of any value. It only sits there to offer discomfort.

One still has to wear a coat because it's just not quite warm enough without one. One can't sit outside at their favorite restaurant because it's too cool to enjoy a meal.

53 degrees screws with my home's heating/cooling system. It's not hot enough to run the air conditioner. And since my house retains some heat, it's not cold enough to run the boiler. It stymies the whole power plant and leaves stagnant air in my home because the blower is not forcing air through the ducts.

If there is a higher being, why would such a deity create a climate that could attain 53 degrees? It is not good for growing crops. It is not even good for flying because at around this temperature ice can begin forming on your wings when at altitude.

One should never live in a climate that has 53 degree days. One should always live in areas that are consistently above or below this evil number.

53 degrees is a memorial of what you are losing from the days of summer and what you are not ready to attain from the days of spring.

53 degrees reminds me that I'm already dead and this is hell.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day ... What a Bitch - Part II

As I came down the driveway, I saw one of my son’s playing basketball. As I pulled in further, I saw my wife, the two other children and our dog hanging out on our stone patio. The sun was beaming down, there were smiles on faces and my wife waved to me as I came to a stop. All good signs.

I looked at my watch. It read 11:30am. I figured we had another eight hours to go. It was going to be a long stretch but so far things seemed to be fine. My wife loves it when the kids are outside and away from the electronics. If we just took it slowly, kept my wife in a good mood, and if I dropped a few Mother’s Day guilt seeds on the kids, we could just make it.

At times I feel like one of those sherpas hiking up Everest. Using a long stick I poke into the snow ahead of me just to make sure the ground won’t give way, plummeting the entire expedition to their death. I grabbed my purchase from the car and slowly walked towards the patio to join my perfect family. As I was about to sit, my wife asked me how I enjoyed the gym. I paused, waited for some echoes of sarcasm in the question. None to be had. The ground was solid. I was on my way to the peak, so I wished her a happy Mother’s Day.

“Oh, thank you, honey.”

Feeling like I was about to plant the flag, I sat down and decided to tell her about the news story I watched on my elliptical. I went into detail about the spa-like treatments people were receiving to blast the spackle out of their colon and feel light years younger. How trusted luminaries were lining up to have gleaming, clear plastic hoses lunged into their innards, to be spritzed with warm saline solutions (or other concoctions – Janet Jackson likes coffee grinds), and to end with a final fountain flush of feces that would eradicate terrible toxins and provide a squeaky clean digestive tract – one so clean you could probably eat off of it. And I had heard it all on the CBS Morning News with Charles Osgood.

“That is disgusting,” my daughter said. The boys just shook their heads.

“Is that what people are spending their money on?” my wife said. “Don’t they know how dangerous that is? You could develop a bacterial infection if the tube the use isn’t clean. You could develop a dependency on this. It interrupts the body’s natural ability to cleanse itself, and if the unlicensed operator doesn’t know what they’re doing, they could rupture your intestinal wall. I agree, absolutely disgusting. What’s in the bag?”

How did she know about this stuff? CBS News didn’t mention any of this.

“Plant food.” It was the only response I could think of as I glanced at the pot of flowers that were in desperate need of watering under the harsh sunlight.

At the same time, I imagined that trusty sherpa’s foot taking a deep plunge into the snow. “I’m ok,” he would say to me. “Just slipped, ha, ha.”

I recovered. She didn’t blink an eye. She knew I was the one that took care of most of the foliage around the house. Once a year, she would stop at the nursery and pick up some colorful plantings, dig holes around the front of the house, drop about two cases of these things in the ground and call it a day. The other 364 days were left to me.

“I decided we would go out to dinner tonight,” she then announced.

Houston, we have a problem. The sherpa is up to his neck now.

“Dinner? The kids said they would go to dinner?” I responded. My mind already raced ahead. No one would agree on the type of restaurant to go to. One person would feel slighted, tantrums would start and Mother’s Day would end in mayhem and me eating a peanut butter & jelly sandwich alone.

“They all agreed on the Italian restaurant in town," my wife said smiling. "We’ll go early so no one gets cranky.”

“OK.” I said. Was it the memo I sent around? Did they actually internalize the message I wrote? T minus 6 hours to go.

The weather was glorious. The sun warmed us without burning us. The puffy cumulus clouds in the sky formed playful creations above. And for the most part, the children stayed outside.

For the most part, that is, until about 5:30pm. That’s when we heard the first scream.

“Let me in! I need a towel,” my oldest son yelled.

“I’m taking a crap, wait a second,” my other son replied.

The two of them share the top floor of the house with their own bathroom. Most of the time this works well except when one of them clogs the toilet and they try to use my bathroom, or when one of them wants their privacy while the other one wants to get in. The latter was occurring now.

After some more door pounding, I knew I would have to intervene, and thus the fighting would ensue.

“Open the door!,” I heard my oldest son scream as I made my way upstairs.

“Give me two seconds! I'm naked.”

“C'mon, I know what a penis looks like.”


“No. I’m coming in.” My son had found a screwdriver and was trying to pop the pushbutton lock.

“Just wait. I’ll throw a towel out.”

“Nope. This is my bathroom, too.” He popped the lock and opened the door. “Oh, my god, that’s disgusting.”

“I told you to wait, asshole.”

I got to their floor to see my son holding a piece of “used” toilet paper. As he said, he probably only needed a few more seconds, but my other son was impatient.

“I’m not an asshole," he said. "You’re an asshole. In fact, your asshole is hanging out.”

“OK, that’s enough,” I said authoritatively.

My son flushed the toilet, picked up his pants and bolted for his brother. Fists went flying along with the verbal assaults.

“You couldn’t wait for a fuckin’ towel!?”

“Fuck you.”

“Break it up,” I said. But they continued wrestling with each other, slamming into the wall. They knocked a framed photograph down. It was a picture of the both of them arm-in-arm on their little league baseball team. The glass shattered.

I heard my wife race upstairs. Now, I knew we’d never reach the peak.

“You little fuckers!” I screamed. “You couldn’t hold off. It’s goddamn Mother’s Day.” I tried to separate them and got caught up in the scuffle. A 14 year-old and 16 year-old create a lot of mass and momentum. I remembered when I could hold both of them in each arm. Now, I was wrapped up in the whirlwind. We spun around and around and then slammed into another wall. This time I heard a crack.

“What the hell was that?” my wife said as she climbed the steps.

I turned to look and saw a gaping rip in the sheetrock. “Nice going, you assholes.” I said.

“You’re the asshole,” they both responded.

How could I be the asshole? I didn’t start this fight I thought to myself.

This only served to enrage me further. I used my strength and leverage and dragged them down to the floor. At this point, I could only use my weight to keep them pinned down. I felt like the guy who jumped on the hand grenade in order to save his platoon. I hoped there might be one last ditch effort to silence them before my wife got to us.

None to be had.

“Get off me, I can’t breathe,” my oldest son said.

“Good,” I responded.

“Would you get off of them,” my wife said as she stood over us. “You’re going to hurt them.”

I guess those innate motherly instincts jumped. She needed to protect her young. I don’t know if I was more shocked by her attitude or the white plastic bag she was holding in her hand.

“And what’s this?” she asked. “Why did you buy enemas?”

The boys started cracking up. They saw the Fleet twin-pack their mother pulled out of the bag.

“You actually put that in your butt?,” one son said.

“That is so disgusting,” the other added.

I got off the boys and stood up. I grabbed the package out of my wife’s hand and walked down the stairs.

“Forget it,” I said. “You can celebrate Mother's Day by yourself. I’m not going to dinner. Assholes.”

Mother's Day ... What a Bitch - Part I

Nothing could be tenser than a day where everyone is supposed to please a mother.

It is not in our family nature to pull together as a team, agree on the same thing, and be completely unselfish for more than 3 ½ seconds. In other words, we’re a typical family.

Even with those hurdles, though, I thought the day had all the makings of something good. No one needed to get up early for any appointments or be driven to some away sports game. There were no major homework assignments hanging over anyone’s head. The morning greeted us with bright sunshine, pleasant temperatures. And my wife got up early and left the house.

She went to the gym, a morning ritual she follows 7 days a week. It’s mission critical, like her cup of coffee in the morning – without it we’re all toast.

I used that free time before her return to make sure the kids knew what their suggested behavior should be for the day. I say “suggested” because with kids any direct demands are usually met with a complete opposite result. So instead of talking to them, which they hate, I did the only thing I know they would listen to – I sent a text memo to the group:

“Hey, 2dayz Mother’s Day. U should say or do something nice. She brought u in2 this world. Don’t be a-holes. Thx. Dad.”

The bait was set and now they just had to wake up. I planted myself in the kitchen and waited for them to eventually appear; looking for the free food I have to provide them.

Eventually, they arrrived one by one. I asked each of them as they wandered into my lair if they got the text – again being quite careful not to preach to them in a direct face-to-face manner.

They nodded and I left it at that, not going any further with it. I thought it would give them a chance to show their maturity without having to ask for it. I would just play it cool and let them do their own thing when their mother walked in the door. A woman, who just sought a little adulation from her children. A person who craved the respect and admiration she thought every other family’s child offered. A mother whose female body was hardwired to watch over her brood and would fall apart if absolute perfection was not achieved.

I couldn’t take it any longer.

“You guys have a plan or what? What are you going to tell your mother when she comes home, huh? Don’t bug her, don’t ask her for anything. Just be nice. Can you do that?”

My oldest responded: “Dad, you’re starting a fight. Go away.”

Yeah, he was right. I needed to get out of there before she got home. "I'm going to the gym," I told them and left.

This would be perfect. She would get home, the kids would ignore her, there would be a little fight, she would shower, calm down, and then I would return. I’d miss the whole thing.

[And, in case you’re wondering, I would NOT be in the doghouse because I went to the gym. The gym is the one acceptable place I could go, even on Mother’s Day. The rationale behind this was, we pay a family fee for our membership. My wife is usually the only who goes to the gym on a regular basis and it pisses her off to know that if we signed up for a single membership we would save 50% a month. So anytime any of us show up there it actually makes her feel better. I would just be doing my part.]

At the gym, I see a lot of other women, probably mothers. In fact, I’m one of the few males there. I feel a little uncomfortable.

I start to imagine some dirty looks and thoughts like: “What a selfish guy. His wife is probably stuck at home with the kids while he gets his workout in. Yeah, he probably didn’t even get her anything except an IOU.”

“No, no, ladies. It’s not like that,” I imagine responding to them. “She’s an early riser, she was here this morning. You can check the sign-in sheet. Look for yourself. Please. No, don’t hit me.”

I’m imaging all this as I stand still on the elliptical machine, just staring ahead. “Hey, are you done?” A woman asks. I just shake my head and she walks away in a huff.

Well, the ladies were right on one thing. I didn’t really get my wife anything for Mother’s Day. I mean what can you really get? My wife hates flowers and she hates waiting in lines at restaurants. The two big things you do on Mother’s Day.

But as I was striding away during my cardiovascular workout, or whatever you call what you do on an elliptical, I had an epiphany. Actually, it was just a small idea which I got from watching the CBS Sunday Morning News Show that appeared on my personal TV monitor. The segment was on detoxification and the use of high colonic cleansings. It had become one of the hottest purification techniques today. A bevy of celebrities like Paris Hilton, Robin Quivers, Brad Pitt have been touting its beneficial health results – weight loss, skin rejuvenation, no more joint pains, higher energy levels. A doctor even wrote a book about it – The Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox.

How bad could this be? I mean CBS news was reporting it. So I thought, my wife likes to take care of herself, this would be a thoughtful and unique present. Again, things would be perfect.

So after I left the gym, I stopped by the CVS and bought a twin-pack of Fleet enemas. I mean nothing says ‘I love you’ like a good bowel irrigation.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tough Times

Even though the weather is getting warmer, the stock market has inched up over consecutive weeks, and analysts are saying we may have already hit the bottom, there's still some tough times out there.

Even this week I heard about a family that lives near us where both parents lost their jobs. And for those still looking for positions, there seems to be slim pickings.

I, of course, have been pining to lose my job. Without a pay raise or bonus this year, I calculated I would make more money by getting laid off, taking a nice severance and then working at Home Depot for the rest of the year.

But that is not going to happen. My shaky financial institution is now safely propped up by government money, the division I work in is considered the shining star of the organization so they need to keep all their staff in place, and I got promoted instead. I can't even buy my way out of this place.

All in all, in these extraordinary times I should take solace that I'm still on the inside of the building instead of the outside. I should take solace, but I don't.

I've never been let go from a job but I think if I were it may serve as that swift kick in the ass to go out and be resourceful that much faster. Slowly, I'm realizing resourcefulness may not even be enough in this economy. So I come to the sad resolution that I am probably better off where I am now. At least, that's what I try to rationalize. To be honest, I feel like the guy who keeps getting denied his parole at Shawshank. But in the meantime, I'm still looking for ways to tunnel out.

I'm also using these times to teach the kids some lessons about economics. While daddy's income has stagnated, and the costs of goods has increased some belt tightening has to occur if we want to keep the working capital working.

We cook a lot more meals at home instead of eating out. We're starting a "Recession Garden" where we grow our own vegetables to save on buying them at the local store. So far, we're off to a slow start. The only vegetable that was taking root was Squash, and if I calculated correctly we should have 4-5 pieces to feast on in about 3-4 months. All the other vegetables were eaten by the deer and rabbits, which leads to the consideration of eating the wild game we could trap in our backyard. But after thinking about for a while, the dollar meals at McDonald's are a more economical choice.

I've also asked the kids to dig deep and think about recycling their existing material goods for cash. While eBay is a perfect medium to transact these things on, it could take weeks to conduct a sale and then you have to trust that the winning bidder actually pays. We need to conduct transactions mano-a-mano where greenbacks flow instantly.

Combining history with economics, I pulled out some old textbooks and showed the kids what life was like back in the other recession or as it was referred to then - The Great Depression.

I told them how perfectly respectable parents dressed their kids in ragged clothing to look pathetic and put them out on street corners to sell their wares. Apples were a popular commodity back then, and the streets were filled with little urchins hawking this fruit of the Garden.

I encouraged them to read Oliver Twist for any insights there and then Grapes of Wrath just to learn a bit more on the "American Experience".

I have to say I'm quite proud of my older son.