Jackson Goes for a Run, Realizes Why He Hates Birds

The Birds 

It was the first legitimate spring day of the season. The air finally warmed, the sun was out and there was not a cloud in the sky. I decided that rather than go to the gym and pretend to be a hamster on the tedious treadmill; I would call my friend James and see if he wanted to go for a run. He did, so we hit our local trail. It was a gorgeous day and about halfway through the run we decided to stop so I could catch my breath and James, who is much more fit than I, could do some ridiculous looking exercise that appeared to be more trouble than it was worth.  I leaned up against a tree and felt something tap my head. I reached up and felt a cool, moist substance oozing into my hair. A bird shit on me. I knew exactly why.

I have long had a hate-hate relationship with birds. I do not consider birds my friends, because they are trying to take revenge on me for one of their fallen brethren. Birds hold grudges, if you did not know that already. Does a bird shit on your car after you just finish washing it? Do they fly into your house windows in an attempt to scare you to death? If you answered yes, then you have managed to piss off at least one bird in your lifetime.

It started for me when I was seven, and I was running down the sidewalk back to my home where my mother was expecting me for dinner. Almost to the front door, a mockingbird dived bombed my head (I do not know why to this day), narrowly missing my scalp. It circled back and hovered inches from my cowering frame, beating its wings in anger and making obnoxious and threatening noises. In terror, I prayed that it would leave me alone but it seemed clear it was going to go nowhere fast. So, I grabbed a rock and set out to kill the mockingbird. I did not know this at the time, but one is not suppose to kill a mockingbird. Apparently, there is a famous book or something about it. I am convinced that this is what started my curse with birds.

Shortly after I killed the mockingbird, I was at the beach with my mother. Even back then, the beach was always a special place for me. I am never more happy or relaxed than when the sun is warming my shoulders and sand is beneath and between my toes. This day at the beach was extra special, because my mother played hooky from work and pulled me out of school for the day to go play in the sand and surf.  Five minutes into the day, my mother yelled at me: “Stop throwing wet sand on me or we’re going home!” I was perplexed because I had not thrown anything at my mother. She looked down at her leg and realized with horror that a seagull had relieved itself on her. I started to laugh, and as I did I felt a thud on my head as I noticed a pelican fly by. The pelican had relieved itself on me. My mother took us home and my day at the beach was short lived.

As my life went on, so did the vengeance of the birds.  I assumed that the whole thing would blow over, or that it would be confined to a specific species or geographical area. I was wrong; apparently birds have a telegraphic network over the entire planet and put the word out quickly. As a teenager, my first wreck was because of a cardinal. It was a hot and beautiful summer day and I was out for a drive with the windows down. As I was driving down the road, a cardinal flew directly into my driver’s side window and began flying about the cabin making noises and relieving itself on the center console and dashboard. I panicked and ran off the road, taking out three mailboxes in the process. The cardinal flew out the passenger side window, chirping as it went. I am convinced chirping is a bird’s version of maniacal laughter.

I took my dog for a hike once and was assaulted by a group of birds. We were walking on the trail and I began to be pelted from above by pinecones, gumballs and twigs. “What the hell?” I thought.  I looked up and there were five vultures high in the branches hissing and pelting me with their ammunition. I can only surmise that they were trying to injure me so they could turn me into their dinner. A friend of mine later informed me they were likely just trying to scare me away from their actual dinner, a deer carcass in the nearby creek. I was dubious, however, because to my knowledge my friend had never killed a bird and did not have a death warrant hanging over his head by the Avian Brotherhood.

A suicide dive-bomber has also attacked me. I was driving a truck for the home repair company I was working for when out of nowhere a large black crow swooped down and flew directly into the center of the windshield, causing it to spider web.  I was startled and ran off the road and into a tree. When I explained what happened and why, no one believed that the crow had chosen to end its life as part of the conspiracy against me, and instead assumed that I was on drugs. I was promptly fired.

The birds have not always resorted to direct, physical attacks. They often have resorted to psychological warfare as well. Most mornings I awake to the sense of someone staring at me, only to look out my window and see a gigantic owl peering at me with squinty eyes. “I will kill you one day,” the empty eyes seem to say. There is also a woodpecker that insists on tormenting me throughout the workday just outside my office window. My typical workday has the following soundtrack:

 

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

 

Ten minutes of silence pass.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.  

Five more minutes of silence pass.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

Knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock.

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My most recent encounter with the avian kind was a stealth assassination attempt at the beach. I had discovered a weekend in my busy schedule that I could sneak away by myself for some rest and relaxation and booked a hotel room overlooking the ocean. It was a fairly warm day in March, so I decided to take a nap with the balcony door open so I could hear the waves crash on the shore. I have always found taking a nap with the balcony door open while listening to the ocean to be relaxing. Until, that is, you wake up to a seagull perched just inches from your face on the bed. At that point, taking a nap with the balcony door open at the beach is terrifying.

When I opened my eyes and foiled the avian assassin’s plan, I flew off the bed and ran around the room in circles screaming, “He’s trying to kill me!” over and over.  The assassin flew out the window. For whatever reason, when the police arrived (summoned by housekeeping, I presume), they assumed I was drunk thanks to the empty wine bottle in the room’s trash can and told me if they had to come back out they would arrest me for disturbing the peace and public intoxication. I decided to exercise my right to remain silent, rather than explain what was really afoot.  After they left, I slammed the balcony door shut, locked it and drew the blinds closed. I didn’t leave the hotel for the rest of the weekend for fear of further attempts on my life.

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Once James stopped his acrobatic maneuvers long enough to realize why I was looking up to the sky annoyed and fearful, he did the one thing that James does best. James turned the attention to himself and began his own story: “The last time I got shitted on…” I didn’t catch the rest of it because it wasn’t important, but this first phrase indicated to me that being literally shit on was a regular occurrence for James. I knew what was going on immediately. It wasn’t just me the birds were targeting any longer. The conspiracy had extended to my friends as well.

Categories: General Life, Travel & Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to the Jungle

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I had assumed that I was the only person in the office at that early hour, but clearly someone was nearby as I bent over to retrieve the files I had just managed to spill all over the floor.  Perhaps it was burglar, or a homeless squatter. Whoever it was, they were clearly and curiously tearing bed sheets apart. I stood to begin an investigation into the loud noise, and suddenly felt a breeze caressing my ass. No, it was not a deranged homeless man tearing sheets in our break room. It was something much, much worse: I had split my pants down the middle.

I looked at the clock and realized with horror that there was only fifteen minutes left before our office building opened and dozens of people would be arriving to begin their workweek. What the hell was I suppose to do now? I could just keep calm and pretend this was a new fashion trend, but that did not seem like the best plan. Sure, I would bring some enjoyment to a typically mundane and joy-sucking Monday morning, but everyone in the building would also realize that I had not done laundry over the weekend and was going “commando.”

 

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Moving on to the next option, I called The Wife to have an emergency pair of pants delivered. No answer. I redialed immediately. No answer. Again. No answer. “Why the fuck do I pay for her to have a cell phone if she never answers it!” I thought.  Seeing delivery was not going to be an option, I did the only next sensible thing. I left the document confetti on the floor and ran out of the building with a speed that suggested my fat ass had been magically turned into an Olympic gold medalist.

It was time to join a gym. The word gym has connotations of fun and joy to a child. We all played on the jungle gym; it’s monkey bars and slides accented with the smell of cedar mulch to break our falls. We would meet friends and play basketball and dodge ball in the school gym. At some point in our lives, however, the word gym takes on a negative connotation. Gym has become synonymous with the words shame, gluttony and self-loathing.

I refuse to believe that Americans are fat because we are lazy, regardless of what Europe thinks. We are a country that was founded by slapping a king in the face and defeating an empire with an army of farmers after the asshole taxed our beverage of choice. Millions of us spend hour upon hour moving just our thumbs and without blinking our eyes to conquer the newest Call of Duty the day it hits store shelves. This takes extreme dedication. We are the country that improved the sandwich, the Zeus of food, by replacing bland bread with two pieces of fried chicken. Yes, sir, Colonel! Finger licking good! No, I do not believe we are fat due to a lack of the gym, I believe we are fat because of the gym.

Joining a gym is a hassle. When touring, you are never greeted with a normal person who looks like the gym helped them transform their lives. Rather, you are met with either a man who was a varsity quarterback and just retired from his career as an Abercrombie model, or a female that used to be the head cheerleader and just retired from being a swimsuit model. In any event, they clearly have always considered the gym a way of life, and may even live there in that room with the sign reading, “Employees Only.”

A gym tour is dizzying and quick, and always includes a showcase of varying features. You do not know what these features are, but you nod as if they are as ubiquitous in your life as the DVR and couch. There is, however, one constant feature that is always on every tour and which you are intimately familiar with: the locker room.

I do not know why the locker room is always on the tour. All we really need to know is that it is clean, instead of home to mildew and likely to give us a fungus. Yet, the girl giving me the tour of the gym I eventually ended up joining was hell bent on showing off their locker rooms. “You can go in and check it out if you want,” she said.

My declination was not a satisfactory response, like with most women when they want me to do something and I decline. “No, really. They’re really nice. Mahogany lockers,” she insisted.

Men today are not as comfortable in these types of situations as women. For example, a man is a lone wolf when using the restroom as opposed to a woman who seems to have a pack mentality. In a dressing room, you will never hear a man say, “Hey dude! Can you help me zip up these pants?” However, men also are not good at winning arguments with women; at least not those of us who are married.

I reluctantly entered the locker room. Let’s face it: I was looking to join a gym, and this lady was working at a gym. I could either do the tour the easy way, or the hard way. I imagined the hard way involved serious bodily harm if I continued to decline her “hospitality.” My heart rate jumped as I started walking through the door. This, of course, was not due to the physical activity itself. It was due instead to the unwanted anticipation of the awkwardness that could be just seconds away. What does one say to a naked, nearly naked or half-naked man when you walk into their locker room just to sightsee? Perhaps:

“Oh, hey guys. Don’t mind me. I’m just looking at the features.” Or,

“Hey. How’re doin’? Just checking it out.” Or,

“’Sup, dude. You’ve got some nice showers over there.” Or,

“Hey, guys. Random question: Which package should I choose?”

I don’t think any of these wordings really work. Lest I should make eye contact, I spoke not a word and marveled at how nice the floor directly beneath my feet looked for the brief minute I was in there. I figured it was far better to look mentally challenged then to look like I was cruising male members of the gym I could be frequenting.

One of the driving forces behind my decision to join this particular gym was the “cardio getaway” room. This is a separate room from the main workout area that was briefly glanced over on the tour. It was touted as a cooler, less crowded, and more peaceful arena to workout than the remainder of the facility.

The cardio getaway room in reality is the fat person ghetto. The folks utilizing this area are the same folks who wish not the jiggle like Jello in front of the Hollister models and professional athletes. It is also there to benefit of the beautiful people, so that they may focus on their workout without resisting their gag reflexes activated by the wiggle and jiggle. I relegated myself to this room.

The problem with the cardio getaway room is also its main feature: very dim lighting. Unfortunately, while the gym provides towel service, it does not provide night vision goggles. My first attempt at navigating the equipment to find the perfect treadmill far in the back resulted in me tripping on an elliptical machine and face-planting into the ground. I quickly rose to my hands and feet and did as many push-ups as I could manage to make it look like I was merely “warming-up.” After my three push-ups were done, I started to run on the treadmill. I assume everyone was fooled.

As time went on, I ventured outside of the cardio getaway room to “vary my routine,” as the professional on the Internet said to do. I tried free weights first. The advantage of free weights is that it allows for better range of motion. The disadvantage of free weights is they allow for less form. Others can also readily observe the amount of weight that you are using. These “others” are the meaty, sweaty gym rats with barbells the size of monster truck tires in their hands. I like to think someone told a funny joke on their end of the weight racks because, surely, there were not laughing at me struggling to lift weights the size of a Hot Wheels tire.

I next ventured out to the weight machines. The advantage of the weight machines is that they provide better form, and people cannot readily see how much weight you are using. The disadvantage of the weight machines is this section of the gym tends to resemble a feminist rally held within a geriatric facility. The other major con is the weight plates stacked upon one another. When one’s extremities grow too weak from the exertion and give out, the falling weights cause this area of the gym to begin to resemble the soundtrack to a prison chain gang. Clink. CLANK! Clink. CLANK! CLANK! The conductor of the cacophonous symphony is always readily apparent.

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I also ventured out into the pretty people cardio area. This area tends to look like the set of a P90X workout. Every piece of cardio equipment in this area has its own individualized television. It’s a touch screen. The problem with touch screens is that if you have a lot of sweaty people dripping all over them and touching them with their sweaty fingers, they tend not to work as well. This is a problem when one is running on the treadmill and needs to stop. Faced with the possibility of being tossed off the back and into the wall, it becomes necessary to beat the touch screen while your legs go at high speeds, seconds away from giving out, until it finally stops. The problem with this is that you play an obvious African drum number for the rest of the staring gym: Boom. Boom. Bonk. “STOP!” Boom. BOOM. BOOM. BONK. “PLEASE FUCKING STOP!” BOOM! Bonk. “Fuck!” Bam!

           

All things considered, however, the main problem with the gym is the fellow members who you encounter on your journey to physical fitness (or physical disability, depending on how you wish to view it). In this respect, the gym is like the jungle gyms of our youth. You have the baboons who wander just as lost through the maze of equipment as you do, staring blankly at the machines with quiet panic as if they had just been asked to defuse a nuclear bomb with nothing more than a piece of chewing gym and paperclip. You have the gorillas that look majestic and intimidating in the weight area. Get too close and they are likely to snap you in two as if you were nothing more than a twig.  The chimpanzees that do acrobatic stunts with muscles bulging on equipment you do not know the name of and dare not get within ten feet of. And then you have the pack animals, the various people who work out with professional trainers, and who always manage to do their lunges, squats, frog jumps, and other compromising exercises in the middle of the walkways to show off their physical prowess.

In this jungle you are supposedly alone.  The expert motivators on the Internet tell one to not be ashamed, embarrassed or assume that people are looking at you while you try to shed your “love handles.” These primatologists claim that the other patrons are too focused on their own workout.  That is bullshit. Spend any amount of time in a gym and it’s clear everyone is looking at everyone else. The douche bag on the treadmill talking on the cell phone is praying you are looking at him. “Look at me! I’m important and multitasking!” he implores. The annoyingly fit soccer moms dressed in clothes that actually match hope you find them sexy and relevant. The cheerleaders doing their yoga routine in front of the free weight area say, “Come hither boys!” while in downward dog.  The rest of us fatties glance around nervously to see who is looking and slink off into the fat ghetto the moment a judgmental stare comes our way. This is why we as a people grow fat. Exercise is hard enough without having to deal with judgmental high school-like cliques.

Besides being “heavy,” I am also incredibly cheap. I resigned myself to the fact that I had to choose between spending money each month on a gym and keep going, or buy an entire new wardrobe. I hate shopping, so gym it was.

Over the months that followed I learned that a burpee was something more than noisy gas after a satisfying pepperoni pizza and beer.  I learned that “push up” isn’t always just an adjective preceding the noun “pop.”  A jumping Jack was not a depressed stockbroker trying to commit suicide from his Wall Street high-rise.

Exercise is not enough by itself, however. Workout as much as you like, if you still eat a high amount of calories each day you will not lose any weight and might as well just flush your gym membership money down the toilet.  Eating healthy is also essential, as are smaller portions. I naturally enlisted my wife to help me in this regard. If you have ever met my wife at a dinner party, where she cooked the dinner, you know that prisons serve better food.  I logically assumed that if I had her take over all of the cooking, eating smaller portion sizes at each meal would not be an issue. I was correct.

It takes longer to lose weight than it does to gain it, but after months and months of cruel and unusual punishment I finally reached my weight loss goal and shed over fifty pounds.  At long last, I weighed as much as I did at my physical peak when I entered law school. Essentially, I weighed what I weighed before my life went to shit and I started eating my feelings.

Losing weight offers many health benefits, such not having to hear the sound of fabric tearing when you bend over in your office hallway. Other folks also compliment you on how good you look. However, they also commented on how loose my clothes were becoming because I was cheap and refused by buy a new wardrobe. I preferred the loose clothing anyhow—it made me feel good to see how much weight I had actually lost.

Losing weight has its downsides, however. This is especially so when one is cheap, as loose fitting clothes may make you feel good, but they also do not fit. For example: one day, at the office, I stood to make a presentation to our staff. As I walked toward the front of the conference room, my loose fitting pants fell to my ankles. Normally, I think they all would have laughed at my misfortune, but today was another one of those days where I had neglected to do laundry. They all just sat there in stunned silence, staring at my smaller portion size. It was time to go shopping.

Categories: "Grown Up" Problems, General Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cat’s Got A Tongue

Funny Cat Proceed

 

Before the church would marry us, it required that we attend a “marriage compatibility” class. I began my unsuccessful attempt to promote elopement as the best way to achieve our mutual goal upon learning this. My soon-to-be wife was quite insistent, however, that she be married in the church she grew up in, and so I agreed to take the class in order to make her happy. And, if she’s happy, I’m happy (theoretically). Now, to be frank, I must admit that the icy stare and threats of physical harm might have played a role in my capitulation of the elopement issue.

So, off to marriage compatibility classes we went. It was tortuous. I have never been one for church and religion, so having to talk about the religious symbolism of marriage and God’s role in our life together and blah, blah, blah was like listening to nails scratching a chalk board. But, I went through with it for love. Love of my physical well-being and testicles; as I was told by She Who Must Be Obeyed that I would no longer have the manly appendages should I do something that hindered our getting married in the church.

Over the course of the next six weeks, I “listened” to the counseling of the pastor and learned the lessons of achieving marital harmony. By “listened,” I mean I stared off into space and thought about sports. There was much talk about what marriage is really about, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. But, let’s face it; we all know what a marriage is really about: expensive gifts and sex. Perhaps sensing my ambivalence and cynicism to the whole process, the pastor then tried to relate what he was talking about to my own profession. The pastor attempted to explain that marriage was like the corporate mergers and acquisitions I learned about in law school. There may be downsizing of each others’ possessions (I later learned this translates in God talk to, “thou shalt throw all your shit away”). There will be human resource issues (“thou shalt obey her”). There will be policy changes (“thou shalt not leave your underwear on her floor”). There may be arguments over how to best maintain the office (“thou shalt leave the toilet seat down at all times”). He went on and on with his analogy. I went on and on with ignoring him. Much as I can still figure, all six weeks of lessons can be Cliff Noted into just one lesson: Do what she says.

funny_wedding cake thingies

Much to my (testicles’) relief, we passed the class and finally tied the proverbial knot. Shortly thereafter, I moved into my wife’s townhouse and the merger and acquisition began. I acquired all of my wife’s furniture and possessions, and she merged all of my furniture and possessions with the bags of trash in the dumpster. I also got a new boss, and it was not my wife. My wife was only Vice-President of our new company. The title of President and Chief Executive Officer belonged to my wife’s boss: her pudgy and quite bitchy calico cat. The good thing was that our roles in the new company were clearly defined. The CEO was the Supreme Queen of the Universe. My wife was Food Wench. I was given the euphemistic title of Litter Box Technician (that’s the politically correct term for Shit Scooper).

The first week or so of the merger was rough in large part because the expensive gifts had been opened already and I found the Queen to be hard to live with. As my wife had been a long-time employee of the Queen, she naturally took to the Queen’s side rather than mine. The tensions continued to rise as the Queen displayed her bitchiness to her new lowly employee in the Shit Scooping department. Finally, I decided that the only way to handle the situation was to “compromise and communicate” as the pastor had suggested in our class. Best I could gather from what I paid attention to in the class, this really meant “put your foot down.” So, one morning I decided to communicate my feelings on the issue to my new wife:

“That’s it! I can’t take any more of this shit,” I exclaimed as I threw off the sheets to the bed.

“Huh?” my lovely wife groggily inquired.

“You didn’t hear that?” I asked.

Meeeeooooowwwww went Her Highness quite loudly from the adjacent room. I should mention at this point that the alarm clock currently read 3:16 a.m.

“Your damn cat has been waking me up every night for the past week! Last night I woke up to find her licking my head, and the night before that she decided to use my back as a scratching post. Tonight she’s acting like an opera singer on crack! It’s three in the morning for Christ’s sake!”

My wife considered this for a moment. Perhaps she was just resisting the urge to snatch off my balls. I can never tell. In any event, she calmly replied: “No, you’ve been waking up every night for the past week because of your cough. I told you to go see the doctor.”

“Don’t try to change the subject,” I protested, “knowing your damn cat she probably threw up a hairball into my mouth while I was sleeping and that’s why I’m coughing at night. She’s smarter than you give her credit for and she’s out to get me. But I’m not going to let her! I’m going to get her first!”

“You’re acting like a crazy person,” replied my beautiful wife, “Evie is cute and adorable and the only reason she’s annoying this week is because she’s in heat. And, to be perfectly honest, you’re pretty annoying when you’re horny as well.”

“Oh come on! That cat is not cute and adorable! She’s annoying whether she’s in heat or not. Just this week alone she peed on your couch, she shit on your keyboard, she licks her butt constantly, and she smells like ass!” This is the point where I deemed it prudent per the pastor’s advice to put my foot down. I continued, “I’m telling you, I’ve had it with Kung Pao Chicken in there. She’s got to go!”

“I don’t think so,” commanded my wife. “If you do one thing to that cat, she won’t be the only pussy you’ll be without for a long, long time.”

Seeing that my wife was quite serious in her statements, I decided shutting the hell up and going back to sleep was the best course of action at that time. Of course, it was only about an hour before I woke to find the damn cat sleeping on top of my head purring and glaring at me smugly, quite satisfied with herself and the victory she had achieved. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t say anything more about it for fear of chastity. It appeared at least for the time being that the damn cat had my tongue, and that the pastor was wrong. The key to marital harmony is not to “compromise and communicate,” but rather to shut the hell up and deal with it.

 

angry-cat

Categories: "Grown Up" Problems, Married Life, Pets | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

(Mis)Adventures in Plumbing

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The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I walked down the stairs into the living room where my lovely wife had assumed her normal position. “On Monday, remind me to call the home warranty people. My bathroom sink’s cold water lever doesn’t work any longer,” I requested.

She diverted her attention from HGTV long enough to inform me that my request would be fulfilled. She added, “We also need to get them to look at the kitchen sink.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“I noticed a little bit of water under the sink the other day,” she informed me.

“No problem, let me go check it.”

Upon entering the kitchen and opening the cabinet under the sink, I found the drywall completely soaked through and the cleaning products we store there surrounded by a half-inch of water. It is now apparent that to women “a little bit” means complete and utter saturation.

Unpleasantly surprised, I exclaimed, “When did you notice this!?”

“About a week ago,” she informed me calmly.

“Why didn’t you mention it before now?!” This question I believe was a reflex, as I have discovered I almost never want to know the answer to questions such as these in situations such as this.

“I didn’t know,” she replied. I was befuddled. Didn’t know what? That water belongs inside a sink and notunderneath a sink? Newer husbands may have mistakenly asked such questions and created a problem for their marital harmony. I, however, have the benefit of experience in marriage.

“That’s okay,” I managed to say in a surprisingly non-condescending and calm manner. “You go get the hairdryer from upstairs while I get everything out from underneath the sink and the towels.” I rolled my eyes profusely when she left the kitchen.

Minutes later I made the first of what would prove to be dozens of cramped, dimly lighted, and treacherous trips underneath the kitchen sink. It took at least six bath towels to clean up the “little bit” of water and much time and patience to blow dry the wall. A “little bit” of bleach was deemed prudent to add to the wall, followed by several more minutes of blow drying. Die, mold! Die!

Once the crisis was abated, it was time to get to the bottom of the problem. A cursory inspection immediately yielded the answer: a large hole had developed in the hose that runs to the sink’s spray nozzle. I immediately turned off the water supply and crawled out from under the sink, hitting my head on some pipes along the way. The kitchen sink was officially out of order until further notice.

“I found the problem,” I reported to my wife. “The spray nozzle hose is busted. I’ll fix it tomorrow.”

“Do you know how?” she insultingly inquired.

“Yes,” I confidently informed her. As a trial lawyer, I find it useful to be good at bluffing. “Now, I have some more work to do upstairs.”

Sitting at the computer in our home office, I promptly opened the internet browser and directed it to Google. “Leaky hose” “nozzle” “kitchen.” Search. Bingo. Easy do it yourself project? Cheaper than a plumber? Less than forty-five minutes to complete? This sounded like the kind of problem I could actually fix on my own; and, I decided I would since it allegedly cost less than the home warranty deductible.

Sunday morning arrived and it was time to take a closer look at the problem, analyze it, and develop a well-reasoned, educated and logical solution to it. That’s what we lawyers do. Inspection revealed that the hose was capped at the end by a silver thingy, which in turn appeared to screw into the copper piping of the faucet. Easy enough, I concluded. Off to Lowe’s we went.

Delta manufactures a universal spray nozzle similar to what was in our kitchen. Unfortunately, the universal spray nozzle’s silver thingy was attached to a copper do-hickey. We don’t have a do-hickey on our hose. All the other universal hoses had the same copper do-hickey attached to their silver thingy as well.

I stared at the wall of mysterious hardware for what seemed like an eternity. In reality, it was likely only a few minutes. I was deep in panic and confusion…no, strike that…I was deep in thought and consideration. That’s what us lawyers do. Think and consider. To my wife, it must have appeared more like confusion than consideration because she asked, “Why don’t you just ask somebody for help?”

“Because, I don’t need it.” A little white lie never hurt anyone.

I chose to ignore the deep, exacerbated sigh my wife let out. “I’ll be right back,” she said.

I continued to stand there pondering the thingy, do-hickey dilemma a few minutes longer. Being the weekend, and the one after Thanksgiving at that, there were many other people milling about intent on distracting me and derailing my thinking train. Why were so many people in the plumbing aisle at Lowe’s on a Sunday morning? Shouldn’t they be in church or something? Why are so many of them women and why do they seem to know what they’re doing? Surely that old lady’s retirement home has maintenance people that can fix her problem?

Suddenly, a new distraction surfaced over the loud speaker as a mechanical female voice proudly exclaimed: “Customer assistance needed in the plumbing aisle. Customer assistance needed in the plumbing aisle. Customer assistance needed in the plumbing aisle.” The annoying and oddly emasculating retort continued for several more excruciating minutes.

Ah, there she is. Standing right next to the “Push for assistance” button, looking quite smug, was my beautiful wife. I love her (this is more of a reminder to myself than information for the reader). Did that old lady just smirk at me? Bitch.

I finally noticed Whoopi Goldberg’s twin sister meandering slowly down the concrete floored aisle decked festively in her red smock. Mercifully, she shut up the loudspeaker when she reached us. I like to think that she asked us something to the effect of how she could help us, or what she could do for us. I believe, however, that her greeting was more of a “uh-huh.” Perhaps it was just an inarticulate grunt. I’m not sure. Regardless, it was clear by her scowl that she was there excited and eager to help my wife solve my dilemma.

I looked at my wife doubtfully. She in turned scowled at me menacingly. It was clear I was going to ask Whoopi for assistance whether I liked it or not, so I began to explain our situation.
After informing Whoopi of the main problem, I continued: “our sink only has the silver thingy. There is no copper do-hickey. Will the universal hose still work on our sink despite our hose not having a do-hickey connection?” She looked at me quizzically, yet assured me that it would.

You see, explained Whoopi, the do-hickey can easily be disconnected from the thingy. Just pull the original thingy off the faucet and the then pull the do-hickey out from the new thingy. Then, just slide the new thingy onto the faucet until it snaps into place. It was easy, she told me. The lawyer in me smelled bullshit, but wanted to believe her because I like the movie Sister Act. We purchased the do-hickey clad universal hose and headed home.

It was time to disconnect the original thingy from the faucet. Tug. Tug. Tug . Stuck. Tug. Tug. Stuck. “Honey,” I inquired, “that nice lady did say the thingy is supposed to pull right off, correct?”

“Yes.”

Tug.
 Yank. Yank . Stuck. Yank. Yank. Yank. Stuck. Violently Yank. Cuss. Still stuck. A wrench should get it off, I deduced. I was wrong. Pliers? Still wrong. The only logical conclusion that could be reached at this point was that the silver thingy had corroded onto the copper piping. Damn.

“Honey, the thingy corroded onto the faucet pipe and is stuck. Can you get me the needle-nosed pliers and my pocket knife,” I politely requested.

“Why don’t you just call a plumber?” Oh Honey, ye of little faith. Because me man. Me fix. You be impressed. Me manly man. Thump, Thump on my chest. Fortunately for me, evolution and my mental filter purified this primal response and I responded to my wife: “Because a plumber charges more per hour than I do and it’s an easy repair.” Although no verbal response was given, I could sense the eye roll from under the sink.

Image: China affected by Typhoon Morakot

The next three hours were spent cutting the hose, jamming the pliers between the thingy and the faucet connection, plying the thingy apart, cussing, more cutting, more plying, a lot more cussing, a little rinsing of debris out of my eye, looking for safety goggles, giving up on finding safety goggles, more plying, and a hell of lot more cussing. Loud, angry cussing. Finally, I defeated the thingy and was now only two hours behind schedule in repairing the sink. After hours of literal blood, sweat, and tears the thingy had fallen off and exposed the connection on the faucet. It looked like a copper screw that had been hollowed out, and I later learned that it is called, oddly, a nipple. I’m fairly certain a redneck man must have named it sometime in the distant past.

The new hose was packaged in plastic. It was the industrial strength plastic that prevents opening by anybody who is not a skilled shoplifter. I could not for the life of me get that damn packaging open. Hours of pent up frustration finally got the best of me at this point, and the package was promptly opened by the kitchen meat cleaver.

It should be noted by the reader that a meat cleaver will instantly open this annoying packaging. Equally, if not more importantly, it should also be noted by the reader that said meat cleaver will also chop a cutting board in half if utilized in a rage involving all of one’s strength. Therapeutic, yes. Smart, no. Luckily, the wife was outside raking leaves with the dog while all this was going on.

Once free from the Fort Knox packaging, it was clear almost at once that the do-hickey attached to the silver thingy on the new hose does not come apart from the thingy. Luckily, I decide, the do-hickey appears to have a sufficient hole to attach to the nipple. Whoopi must have been wrong, you only need to attach the do-hickey to the faucet until it snaps into place, I thought. I was wrong, however, and the do-hickey didn’t even come close to fitting on the nipple.

The legal profession is one based on reason and logic. These traits told me that since our sink was Kohler, and the hose was manufactured by Delta, that the “universal” part of the packaging must refer only to Delta products. This made sense at the time, and I promptly returned the new hose to Lowe’s. Since Lowe’s only had Delta products in stock, I went to The Home Depot.

I believe that The Home Depot is a better store than Lowe’s. This can probably be attributed to the orange smocks that seem to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. One might also attribute this to the fact that my wife did not accompany me on my trip to The Home Depot and, therefore, there was no annoyance or emasculating embarrassment to be had in the store. There was just hardware. Manly tools and hardware. Me man. Me fix.

After several minutes looking at their selection of spray nozzles and hoses, a smock clad gentleman named Bob asked if I needed assistance. “No, thank you Bob,” I politely informed him. Fifteen additional minutes pass and Bob is back. “No, really, I’m fine. Thank you, Bob.” Bob looks skeptical.

At home, I unwrap the packaging on the new, new hose. The packaging tells me that the hose is “universal” and will work on Kohler products. Its actions speak louder than its words, however. The same problem that arose with the Delta hose arises with this one. The do-hickey doesn’t come off the silver thingy and the do-hickey doesn’t fit on the nipple.

Using my superior logic and analytical skills earned through a 100,000 law school education, I determine that the bold look of Kohler demands only a Kohler product. I rush back upstairs and scour our files and finally find the instruction manual for the faucet that was installed ten years prior. The next stop is The Home Depot to return the deceptively labeled “universal” hose and to look for a Kohler nozzle. My search yielded nothing. The only things Kohler in stock were brand new faucets, and I was slightly sure that I should not have to replace the whole faucet. Oh, hi Bob. No, I still don’t need any help. Bob’s skeptical look is growing more extreme by the hour.

Upon returning home, a quick search of the Kohler website reveals that the particular faucet installed in our kitchen has been discontinued. How nice. Will I have to actually replace the entire faucet? Is there a replacement part I can get from Kohler? I have no idea, but I reassure the wife that I know exactly what I’m doing and everything will most definately be okay. Bluffing is an important skill for a trial lawyer to possess. Lowe’s, The Home Depot, and Kohler’s Customer Service hotline are now closed on this Sunday night so it’s time for beer, bandages, and bed.

Monday morning and twenty-five minutes on hold with Kohler’s customer “service” hotline reveals that they do manufacture a replacement part. They assure me it will work even though my sink has been discontinued. I do not waste time covering the silver thingy – copper do-hickey problem with them as Whoopi already told me how to solve that dilemma. Overnight shipping is required to satisfy the wife’s need for a kitchen sink and the damn hose now costs me double what Lowe’s charged me for their fancy Delta “universal” hose.

Tuesday brings the FedEx man who brings me my hose. This hose also has a copper do-hickey attached to the silver thingy. That’s odd. The do-hickey does not come off of the silver thingy. That’s odd also. The do-hickey does not fit on the nipple, just like the other two hoses. That’s even odder. Nothing seems to work despite Whoopi, Bob, and Kohler telling me it should. A total breakdown is imminent. Will I need to finally call a damn plumber? Can I do it while the wife is still at work and keep that from her? I must not admit defeat.

As the internal meltdown rages on, I hold the new Kohler hose in my hands and am fondling the copper do-hickey. The copper do-hickey, I notice, looks a lot like the top of the nipple. The copper do-hickey…wait a minute…Mother [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored]! Damn you, Whoopi!

In less than five minutes the nipple (now know as the old copper do-hickey) easily twists off the real nipple using a wrench. Amazingly, the copper do-hickey on the Kohler hose now fits on the nipple (as would the other, much cheaper, two have) and is installed. Success! The water supply is turned on and…drum roll, please…shit! The damn thing leaks!

An angry call to Kohler results in a new over-nighted hose and a credit for the purchase of the original new Kohler hose. The result is paying 6.00 for something that originally cost me 50.00. I like Kohler.

As I sat there at the kitchen table after hanging up the phone with my friends at Kohler, I became depressed. As if defeat were not bad enough, I knew that I would hear “I told you to call a plumber” for a long time to come from my wife. Suddenly, my superior intelligence earned after so much higher education results in a stroke of genius and I rush off to The Home Depot once more.

Bob did not offer to help me this time. Instead, he just passed me by and gave me a highly quizzical and doubtful stare. Kiss my ass, Bob. Your orange smock makes you look stupid, by the way.

I returned home with the newly purchased basin wrench a short while later and again crawled underneath the sink. When I die and go to hell, I believe that Lucifer will make me hell’s plumber specializing in sinks. Apparently, the do-hickey was not as tightly screwed to the nipple as originally thought. After a few more quick turns with the specialized plumbing wrench, the do-hickey is absolutely secure and all leaks are gone. Success! Finally! Me man. Me fix.

A few hours later the wife came home from work and I proudly told her that our kitchen sink was now in working order. “How’d you end up fixing it?” she asked.

“It was easy. I just needed the part from Kohler, which was only 6.00. If we had that to begin with, it would have taken just a little while. It was Whoopi’s fault because she lied to us to get us to by the 20.00 Delta hose,” I said. I firmly believe that what my wife doesn’t know about the true cause of the repair calamity won’t hurt me.

“Well, we won’t be shopping at Lowe’s any longer,” she stated.

“Agreed.”

“Did you fix your bathroom sink also?” she asked.

“What do you want for dinner?” I asked her.

Categories: "Grown Up" Problems, General Life, Home Ownership, Married Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Penny

baby11

 

No babies. Ever. It is a strictly enforced, no exception policy I have put into place. Everyone I know told me that it was a foolish policy to implement. One day, they insisted, I would change my mind and have at least one child. Parents, grandparents, friends, and ex-girlfriends all were intent on derailing my drive and motivation to keep this resolution alive. This policy was put into place when I had the sage wisdom and benefit of thirteen years of living. Now, at the much wiser age of twenty-seven, I find myself considering a repeal of the No Babies law. To help you understand why this is such a monumental decision, I think it’s important to take you through my history with the law.

The only exposure I tend to have to small children, be they toddlers or infants, occurs in restaurants. I often become confused in restaurants. I feel a persistent thud, thud, thud from the back of the booth in the Mexican restaurant, and begin to think that the jumping bean thing is real. I later discover a precocious five-year-old boy pretending his side of the booth is a trampoline. Or, I’ll be in a Memphis barbeque place and worry that the high-pitched squeal is the sound of my dinner meeting its demise. Turns out, it’s just a baby with parents too poor to afford a sitter. They have also apparently gone deaf, since they fail to notice their child screaming louder than the collective sold out audience of a horror movie. Then there is what I call the ape children. The ones who run about the restaurant throwing fits and food, bouncing from location to location like some exotic Amazonian monkey. These experiences only serve to reinforce the need for the No Babies rule. Although the parents of these children have apparently lost their dignity and care, I know that I would be mortified and thus can not let bad children happen to me.

 

bad kid

 

The only previous time in my life I have considered a repeal of the No Babies rule occurred in college. I was in my local supermarket buying beer underage and a woman was there with her child, who predictably was throwing a fit. I kept looking at her and the child, then tried to ignore them, only to look at them again as a tantrum continued and the child grew louder and louder. The more I looked at the woman, the more I saw how a child can affect you. She was clearly a soccer mom in her mid-thirties, but the bags under her eyes and stress lines on her face made her appear much older. The somewhat disheveled blonde hair was pulled back in a sad pony tail. You could tell there was a point in her life where she took pride in her looks, but these days were now gone; her care evaporating when her husband put the child who enslaves her coming out of her vagina on YouTube for every family member and close friend and worldwide stranger to see. Her clothes, her ragged features, the look in her eyes all seemed to plead silently to God to end her life. She was waiting for the lightning to mercifully strike her down at any moment, hopefully before she had to crawl into the unstylish minivan one more fucking time.

I scolded the woman: “Do you mind controlling your damn kid? He’s extremely annoying and you ought to do something about it.”

For a brief second, the soccer mom glared at me and I braced myself for a fight. Only, she didn’t fight me. She relaxed her stare and calmly told me, “One day, you’re going to have a child of your own and you’ll understand. You will know how hurtful what you just said was.”

I was taken aback. Normally, my bravado would have me inform the woman of my etched-in-stone No Babies law, but something about the desperateness in her voice and the earnest look on her face made me feel as if this defeated-looking woman may be some kind of prophet. From that point forward, I resolved that should this prophet be correct, then I would make a kid with the same kind of determination and effort that I tended to put into everything, the proverbial 110 percent. So, for the next four years I practiced making a child with a woman as many times as possible.

Shortly after graduating college, I attended a friend’s wedding. Also in attendance was another friend who had been unfortunate enough to meet a loser, have too much to drink, and nine months later ended up with a permanent souvenir from a night that she’ll never remember. This “friend” insisted that I hold her child for a moment while she took a call on her cell phone. I took Accident (name changed to protect his privacy) and held him at arms-length with a hand on each side of his pudgy torso.

I was more scared than I had ever been as I held Accident; he staring blankly at me and I doing the same back at him. I had heard that all kids have bodily fluids that can spew forth from their mouths at any second. I was fearful that Accident could at any moment turn into a human volcano, erupting bile and other substances all over my suit. The staring contest continued for a few more minutes and then the blank stare on Accident’s face turned into more of a grimace, followed quickly by a quizzical look that seemed to indicate he was trying to figure out what just happened.

I knew immediately what had happened from the smell and the sudden sag in Accident’s pants. The little shit had just shit himself while I was holding him. “Take him back! Take him back now,” I screamed.

“What the hell is the matter with you,” asked my “friend.”

“He just shit himself! While I was holding him! He effectively shit in my hands!”

“Oh my God! You’re a bigger baby than he is. It’s just poop. Everybody does it. Besides, it didn’t get on you!”

My “friend” was correct, everyone does go poop. However, most people have the common decency not to do it while in the embrace of another. Most people have manners and do that on a toilet, behind closed doors. My “friend” acted as if it was no big deal and hence that ended our friendship. Clearly, you will agree that I was in the right to be alarmed and disgusted. Poop is nasty. It is sticky, squishy, and smelly. It is covered in germs and it is simply not acceptable to occur outside of a bathroom. That is why you have to move to another state and change your name when you do it in your pants in front of others. This incident did nothing but solidify my resolve regarding the No Babies rule.

Several years went by after the poop incident, and I found myself attending my own wedding. My wife is very kind, patient, loving and beautiful. She is also never late. She is especially never late for events that happen quite regularly and consistently, such as family reunions, meetings, church and a certain appointment each month set in stone by Mother Nature herself.

Apparently, my wife is not infallible and shortly after we got married she wound up being late for that most important of monthly appointments. I was beside myself as I sat on the bed pleading with God while she peed on a stick. I was annoyed for several reasons, perhaps the least of which was her currently urinating on something that cost as much as a new Lexus. After she was done, and after she washed her hands thoroughly, we sat on the bed hugging each other as we waited several minutes for the results.

The instructions told us a “-” meant that she was not pregnant, a “+” meant that she was pregnant. We sat there chanting neg-a-tive!, neg-a-tive!, neg-a-tive! until finally the egg timer chimed and we knew the results were ready. We approached the stick as if it were a sleeping grizzly we were about to poke. We saw: ÷

“What the fuck does that mean?!” I exclaimed.

“I don’t know. The instructions say it should be a – or a ”

“What the fuck does a division sign mean?! We’re not having half of a kid are we?! Why isn’t it a – or ? It’s a fucking EPT. That stands for ERROR PROOF TEST!”

“Stop being an idiot. It means we need to go get another test and try again.”

“What the fuck?! Can’t we just have half a kid? It will be cheaper!”

As we waited on the new test, I was scared for my wife. I knew nothing about child birth. Every time I thought about it, my mind drifted instantly to the movie Alien. I couldn’t help but picture my wife lying there dead in the hospital, the creature having just torn through her abdomen spewing acid and about to kill the rest of us. Looking back on that tense day, I am glad that the – finally appeared on the damn stick. However, I don’t think it would have necessarily been a complete disaster if it had been positive. I have been thinking about this mostly while working recently.

aliens-ellen-ripley-exploding

 

I am surrounded by idiots at work. The productivity train is constantly derailed by staff that can’t think and follow directions, obstreperous opposing counsel on small cases, and clients who are often ungrateful and insist on arguing my legal education against their Judge Judy law. Engrish is the national language of the law firm, and Google and Wikipedia are the worst things to ever happen to an attorney-client relationship.

I feel trapped at work. Several of my co-workers do not. They get to miss work or leave early for their child to attend some event like a school play or football practice. I envy them for this, and have repeatedly begged them to let me substitute parent one night. They always decline, citing the belief that their child would be disappointed if I went in their place. I find this to be a bullshit excuse for several reasons. First, their kids must learn about disappointment because life is full of it. The forty pounds I’ve gained since college and getting married are proof of this. Second, I know this is bullshit because I know they want to leave work early just as badly as I want to. Their kids, as wretched as they are, are better than the mountain of paperwork on their desks. Third, their kids will not be disappointed because of my substitution, they will rather be disappointed because nobody showed up at all considering my first and only stop after leaving the office will be a bar.

I didn’t want to have my own kid, but nobody else would let me use theirs. It was a dilemma I could not solve. Luckily, some washed up actor helped me solve it one night while watching television. As it turns out, I can have my own third world child anytime I want for just pennies a day. The child would send me monthly updates, but I would never have to actually meet him or her. In exchange for the pocket change I dig out of the cushions, the child will get rice and clothes. It was a perfect arrangement, and I immediately told my wife of my plan.

“It’ll be perfect honey, I can get out of work but we won’t actually have to have a child living with us.”

“You’re an idiot. That will never work.”

“Yes, it will. If just pennies a day can give the kid food, shelter and clothing, a couple extra bucks a month can surely get it a computer that can be hooked up to Skype. We can even be fashionable like Brad and Angelina, and the rest of Hollywood and get us a little Asian baby.”

“No! What is wrong with you?”

“Please! Think of the pride we would feel watching little Xing Zao stitch together her first pair of Nikes in the factory!”

“No! You’re horrible! Besides, I would never name my kid something like Xing Zao anyway.”

“Oh, come on! I’m sure for a few extra pennies a day they will let us name her whatever we want. We can call her Penny!”

 

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Categories: "Grown Up" Problems, General Life, Married Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Ask most people what I do for a living and they’ll say I chase ambulances. That is simply false. I married a nurse precisely because I am not a good runner and did not want to have to chase them. In truth, my actual job title is “Attorney and Counselor at Law.” It sounds fancier than it really is. I do, however, take the counselor part very seriously. When my good friend Josh informed me that his mother-in-law had recently moved to the small Georgia town where he lives, I felt immediately compelled to give him some unsolicited advice on the subject. I was compelled to counsel him on the dangers that awaited. That’s what we lawyers do after all, supply advice and counsel.

Josh has been married longer than I, but it was apparent that he had gained absolutely no wisdom during the course of his marriage. Surely, had he been paying attention to life at all during his three years of marriage, he would have never allowed his mother-in-law to move so close to his home. Drawing from my own experiences, I explained to Josh that nothing good can come in having your mother-in-law live so close. Boundaries must be set. The Berlin Wall or The Great Wall of China would make good prototypes, I explained. However, anything that would keep the creature that spawned his wife off his property would do.

Josh at this point suggested that I was joshing him. Thus, as is my job, I undertook to make my case and set out to prove to him that without a boundary between himself and the Evil One, he and his wife would experience an erosion of their marital harmony and a complete obliteration of their privacy. I began to tell him but just a few of my horror stories to impress upon him the seriousness of his seemingly benign predicament.

Long ago, in a city far, far away, I used to live within very close proximity to my wife’s mother. To protect her privacy and to avoid a defamation lawsuit, I shall simply refer to her by her given name: Beelzebub. At first, I did not think that having her so close would necessarily be a bad thing. I, however, am now quite sure that is also what people who dabble in the occult must think right before the demon makes them slit their own throat. I quickly learned that boundaries would need to be set to avoid one of us from killing the other and to keep my wife happy.

Boundaries were first set after Beelzebub ambushed me home alone shortly before my nuptials one evening. I was sitting on my couch minding my own business when suddenly the dog started going crazy and the pungent smell of sulfur filled the house. That’s odd, I thought. But, yes, sure enough my mother-in-law had just let herself in the front door.

“Please, come in,” I told her as she walked into my living room. I hoped secretly to God that she didn’t leave singed hoof prints on the carpet in the entryway hall.

“How,” she immediately began to inquire, “do you intend to make my daughter happy in life?”

Well, shit. I’m well, thank you very much. How are you? Yes, it is a quite lovely night.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Is she not happy already? I thought she was. Do you have a specific example of something I may have done to make her unhappy?”

“No,” replied Beelzebub. “I’m just curious.”

Wait…am I on candid camera? Is that douche bag Ashton Kutcher going to jump out of my hall closet or something?

“Well, Bee, as you know, or should know anyway, your daughter is happy. At least I think so as there has been very little fighting and much smiling, and so I plan to continue to do some more of the same as it appears to be working.”

“Well, that’s fine,” she tersely replied.

Thank goodness.

“But,” she continued, “how do you expect to provide for her?”

Madam, have you been drinking? Are you on some type of new medication? An acid flashback, perhaps? I somehow managed to hold my tongue.

“Well,” I began to calmly and politely explain, “I can see where you might be confused, because it is a well-known fact that we trial attorneys etch out a meager existence in society. Don’t worry, however, I will provide your daughter with the best dilapidated trailer my poverty-line salary can provide.”

Beelzebub seemed satisfied with this answer. Or, at least I think she was as she marched out of my house without another word. I watched smugly as she hopped on her broomstick and flew away into the night.

I told my wife about my close encounter with the bitchy kind and we established boundaries by requesting that Beelzebub call before she came over to make sure it was a good time. We also requested that she knock and resist the urge to see herself in. A deal was struck and all was fine.

Boundary setting works. The next time Beelzebub just popped in she did knock first. The problem was that she “forgot” to call. Knock . KnockKnock. Maybe if we ignore it, it will go away. KnockKnockKnock. Just a little while longer perhaps. BangBangBang. Damn.

It is important to note here that this occurred on a Saturday morning. My sexy wife was up early that day and was already dressed and downstairs being productive. I, however, was lazy as usual and got up late. I was also feeling a quite bit frisky on this particular Saturday morning, so I went downstairs so my wife and I could do what newly weds tend to do.

It was in the middle of this morning exercise that Beelzebub darkened my door with her broomstick. This was a huge problem. My wife had the benefit of being able to put her clothes on because she was dressed already before I came downstairs. I, however, am lazy and sleep naked so one can probably deduce by now that while my naked ass was downstairs on this beautiful Saturday, all my clothing was upstairs on the bedroom floor. Oops.

At the precise moment I realized my mother-in-law was darkening my door yet again, I came to the conclusion that putting sheer drapes on the front door windows was a poor design choice. Especially since the stair case was directly next to the door and its large windows. My wife, with a smirk, quickly got dressed and went to open the front door. My mother-in-law beat her to it and opened it herself and started walking in. I remained on the couch in a panic. What to do? Maybe I can just put a lamp shade on my head and blend in with the furnishings.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I prefer that my mother-in-law not see my genitals, even for a moment. I’m afraid another “How do you plan on making my daughter happy?” conversation may be provoked. Thus, the next several excruciatingly tense minutes were spent trying to guess which way Beelzebub was navigating through my house all the while ducking behind doors and walls. There were a few close calls where she almost mistook a door knob for my knob. Fortunately, after what seemed like an eternity, I had a clear shot and was able to run up the stairs unseen to grab a pair of boxers.

My lovely wife and I set boundaries after that by changing the locks on the door and by pretending we weren’t home when we heard a knock. The horned silhouette in the windows made my mother-in-law easily distinguishable from other, wanted visitors.

Boundary setting works. While my beautiful wife and I were on our first real vacation as a married couple, Beelzebub had a key made to fit the new locks on our door. Upon returning and discovering this, I quickly took action. I had the last straw and I was determined to win my battle against evil. Good must prevail. Now, as a lawyer I knew that driving a stake through the heart of the beast would be frowned upon by the police and Van Helsing is no longer available as an expert witness. I was also quite sure the Pope was busy and might not be able to perform an exorcism in time. So, I did the only thing I could do. I set more boundaries.

One hundred miles of interstate makes for a good boundary. In the fourteen months since my wife and I moved to Raleigh, Beelzebub has only been to my house once. And it was an expected and planned visit. I do firmly believe that at least one hundred miles is needed to set an appropriate boundary between one’s self and one’s mother-in-law.

As a trial lawyer, part of my training gives me the ability to read peoples expressions and anticipate what they are thinking. I could see what Josh wanted to say, so I beat him to the point. Yes, Josh, it is true that my old house is still on the market. But, that is the best fourteen months of mortgage money I have ever flushed down the toilet.

“Really?” asked Josh.

“Hell yes! How much would you spend to get rid of your mother-in-law now that she lives five minutes away?” I inquired.

Josh conceded my point. “Still,” he began to say, “I just don’t know about this moving thing…”

I cut Josh off immediately as I didn’t want to hear his excuses. Excuses are for pussies and desperate times call for desperate measures. “Look Josh,” I began, “it is ultimately up to you whether to heed my sage advice or not. I suggest you move immediately, but I will concede moving is a big, expensive pain in the ass. It’s worth it, but I understand if you don’t want to and am not going to push the subject any further. I will, however, leave you with one last thought on the topic: You live in a small ass Georgia town right next to a big ass swamp. A big ass swamp filled with big ass alligators. A big ass swamp that’s secluded. Stakes are cheap and you have a lot of firearms in your house you right wing NRA nut.”

A contemplative look fell across Josh’s face, which was soon replaced by a shameful look. He looked at me doubtfully.

“Hey, I’m just saying…”

Categories: General Life, Married Life, The In-Laws | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jackson Goes to Starbucks, Realizes Why People Hate Lawyers

Coma patients should receive transfusions of my blood. Enough caffeine is coursing through my veins at any given moment that my blood could probably literally wake the dead. My addiction to coffee is so bad that I wake up in the mornings feeling hung over and more angry than a grizzly being poked by a stick. When I go to my office, the assistants scatter like cockroaches if they know I have yet to get my fix. Methamphetamine users have an easier time quitting than I would giving up coffee.

I am a coffee a snob like many people are with wine. I prefer robust, dark roasts and get pissy when I’m forced to drink watered down light roasts. The perfect cup of coffee can be found at Starbucks, and I am generally annoyed around the holidays when the company does not send me a gift in recognition of spending so much of my income at their establishments. Now, I know there is a debate amongst many as to whether Starbucks has the best cup of coffee or whether Dunkin’ Donuts actually has the best cup of coffee. To those of you who prefer Dunkin’ Donuts, I have only one thing to say to you: You. Are. Wrong.

As much as I love their coffee, Starbucks is by no means perfect. Let me share with you what annoys me about Starbucks: the beverages that are everything but coffee. You know the drinks I am talking about: Venti skinny no whip caramel macchiato. Grande extra whip no syrup cinnamon dolce latte. Orange mango banana Vivanno smoothie with extra whip. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I order coffee, not just because I love coffee, but also because even attempting to order these other concoctions makes my tongue knot, eyes cross, and brain hurt. I presume the language in which I am ordering the drink is English, but I have absolutely no idea what any of it means.

It occurs to me as I sit writing this in my favorite Starbucks that the same things that annoy me about the coffee company annoy many about lawyers. That is, we’re expensive and often don’t make any sense. It’s not our fault for the most part. In law school, we learn a language called “Legalese.” It’s a bastardized and pretentious version of English that the folks at Rosetta Stone haven’t developed a program for yet. The language ruins our ability to communicate with so-called normal people and angers our friends and family when we use it. Have you ever told your wife to “please comply forthwith?” I highly recommend that you don’t.

You see, after three years of the linguistic odyssey known as law school, most lawyers can’t help themselves any longer. Good lawyers know that the key to client service and persuading a jury is to talk with said people as if they are actually people. To use English. But, all joking aside, we lawyers are people; imperfect people with hard to break language habits drilled into us by precedent and a profession steeped in tradition. In my days as a trial lawyer, I saw lawyers in depositions act like American tourists in a non-English speaking country:

Lawyer: Please describe with particularity the events comprising the incident described in your Complaint.

Deponent: I don’t think I understand the question.

Lawyer: PLEASE…DESCRIBE…WITH…PAR-TIC-U-LAR-ITY…THE…EVENTS…COMPRISING…THE…IN-CI-DENT…DESCRIBED…IN…YOUR…COMPLAINT!

Rather than translating the Legalese (e.g., “Tell me what happened”), the lawyer thinks it will be beneficial and an understanding of the “language” will suddenly be achieved if they just talk louder and slower to the person. To treat the person as if they were deaf and dumb.

Despite the linguistic similarities, people for some reason flock to Starbucks despite the bastardized and pretentious version of English they prosthelytize throughout the world. Have you ever tried to order something at a Starbucks in regular English? It’s impossible. One morning in my half-asleep stupor I said “medium” instead of “Grande.” The bitchy, indignant look from the clerk (a.k.a., “barista” in Starbuck’sian) conveyed my transgression without words. It said: “I would have been less offended if you took your morning dump on the counter.”

Since it can take several minutes to complete an order in Starbucksian, a barista must ask people standing ten deep in line “Can I get something started for you?” When I order just plain, hot black coffee I get a quizzical look as the barista struggles to remember that Starbucks actually sells coffee. Unfortunately, most of the time when I finally arrive at the counter to retrieve the coffee that took 0.05 seconds to pour, it is starting to cool because I had to wait behind the twenty people ordering their heragroardings (Okay, I’ll admit that “heragroarding” is not a real word. It’s okay though, because most of the menu is not real coffee.).Therein lies the other problem with Starbucks: like lawyers, they are busy and take forever to do anything, and you rarely get everything exactly how you wanted.

Categories: "Grown Up" Problems, General Life, Let's Learn About Lawyers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Santa, maybe?

Spectacular is the only word that can describe the view from the plane window flying into Jackson, Wyoming. One gets fearful as the Grand Tetons appear as though they will scrape the bottom of the plane at any second. One ponders whether at any moment the airline will play some documentary soundtrack to fit the experience; something with drums and trumpets. This, of course, presupposes that you are one of those fortunate people that have good luck when they travel. I am not one of those people.

It was hard to enjoy the view from the plane when all I wanted to do was pry myself out of the airborne sardine can. My soundtrack did not include trumpets, although I’m sure I could have made that happen if I could contort myself to reach the iPod located in the carry-on beneath the seat in front of me. The airline did, however, provide me with an interesting soundtrack made possible with the seat assignments of the gentleman directly ahead and the infant across the aisle. Said gentleman did not seem to understand that you cannot recline any seat located in a sardine can, and said infant seemed upset by the gentleman’s ignorance and empathized with the pain in my knees. No, my soundtrack was not something from the National Geographic Channel. My soundtrack was something more from the National Child Abuse Hotline: Smack, Waaaaahhhhhh, Smack, Smack, Waaaaahhhhhhh, Smack, WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH, SMACK, SMACK, WAAAAAAAAAHHHH! I’ve never been happier to deplane before, even despite the obligatory head banging on the fuselage door. It is clear to me after many flight experiences that airplanes are designed by midgets, for midgets.

Once I finished letting out a huge sigh of relief that my luggage made it to the same destination I had, I was whisked into a slightly more spacious vehicle and began the short trip from the airport into town. My cab driver was a pleasant woman who took great joy in pointing out everything there was to see along the way. The mountains, the river, the mountains, some more mountains, and…oh, over there…see that? Another mountain. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the trip had the cab driver shown herself the speedometer and the correct side of the double yellow line dividing the highway.

Upon entering the town of Jackson, one immediately sees the town square. It is a pleasant looking park with four entrances, each of which surprises you with the rather large arches made of antlers. I couldn’t help but stare. Noticing my wonderment, the cabbie said, “Don’t worry, no animals were harmed in the making of those arches.”

“I’m glad, because the folks at PETA may take real issue with your town otherwise,” I replied.

“No, seriously. Elk shed their antlers, not one animal was killed to make those arches.” I was suspicious, but took her word for it. I was actually quite pleased to gain this nugget of trivia, as this may explain why I never see horns on top of my mother-in-law’s head. I wondered if the devil’s tail works the same way.

A few minutes later I was deposited at my hotel, The Painted Buffalo. True to its name, the hotel had a large statute of a buffalo out front painted in a myriad of colors. This, as I unfortunately came to find out, seems to be the only thing that has been painted at the hotel in the past half-century. This place was no Hilton despite the price of the room, and I decided that spending the remainder of the day exploring Jackson would be preferable to spending it in the hotel.

Johnny Cash must surely have been referring Jackson, Mississippi in his song, as I can’t see why he and June would mosey on over to this town. Sure, the scenery is gorgeous and they have some great bars, but the rest of the town is nothing but kitschy tourist shops. Want an overpriced fringe leather jacket? Perhaps a cowboy hat and matching boots? A dream catcher? What about a very large belt buckle? If you answered yes to any of those questions, well, sir, you are in luck in the town of Jackson! Just wander into any store along any of the streets and you can find all of the above, right next to the tourist t-shirts that turn you into a walking advertisement for the town. I really don’t see why tourist destinations like Jackson spend so much damn money on advertisements when the tourons (part tourist, part moron) who visit them turn themselves into human billboards wherever they go.

As I wandered around town in and out of all the shops, I truly marveled at the fact that this town is still standing. As happy as the folks at PETA would be with the town’s arches, they would be one mightily pissed off bunch at the rest of the town. Riots would probably ensue if they ever discovered this place. There is dead shit everywhere no matter where your wandering takes you. Deer heads, moose heads, mountain lion rugs, and, yes, you too can have your very own stuffed grizzly bear. If you find that a moose head is just too cliché for your dining room, then worry not, you can have a buffalo head instead. Walking through the town provided more startling experiences than a Halloween fun house. Every time you turn around there is some very large dead animal staring you in the eyes. And oh how those black, empty eyes follow you.

Night finally came and I wandered (actually, I think the appropriate term for this part of the country is moseyed), back to The Painted Buffalo. Even though it was July, the temperature was a cool forty-five degrees. I decided to sit on the bench outside my room and gaze at the stars for a while, as it had been quite some time that I had seen a real star being a city-slicker.

It had been a long day of traveling and wandering, and after a while of sitting on the bench I had begun to settle into a short summer’s nap when next to me there arose such a clatter. Naturally, I opened my eyes to see what was the matter. A rather large gentleman had just sat down. His broad face was hidden somewhat by long white hair and a large beard as white as snow. His eyes twinkled and his smile revealed merry dimples. His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. “How the hell are you,” he asked quite merrily.

“Fine,” I replied hesitantly. “How are you?”

“Can’t complain. Where’re you from?”

“North Carolina,” I replied. “You?”

“Alaska.” My mind tends to wander at times and after I decided that, yes, he probably could see Russia from his house. I then began to wonder whether his house was made of gingerbread and inhabited by tiny little men who make toys for a living, or perhaps airplanes. His general appearance and red t-shirt certainly left open the possibility.

“You lookin’ for some business or just pleasure,” he asked as if he were a foreign customs agent. I realized much later this question was not directed toward the purpose of my trip.

“Pleasure,” I replied. “You?” There was a long pause as he pulled out a cigarette and puffed until the blue smoke circled his head like a wreath. He stared off into space while doing so, and I assumed by his quiet self-reflection that he was in town to mourn the slaughter of his reindeer to make the town arches. After what I had seen all around Jackson in the stores, I was now convinced the cabbie was full of it.

“I’m from here originally,” he finally said, “I came all the way back down from up north to see my mother. She had a stroke and is in the hospital.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, I hope she’ll be okay.”

“That old bitch will be fine! Woman’s too damn stubborn to die,” he replied. The bench then began to vibrate as his laugh shook his bowl full of jelly. I began to feel sorry not so much for him, his reindeer, or his mother, but rather for the poor t-shirt trying as hard as its fibers could to stay together. The poor things were stretched so very far and wide.

Looking to change the conversation back to just pleasantries, I extended my hand and introduced myself. He shook it but didn’t say anything in return. “What’s your name?”

“Does it matter?” he asked. Well, screw you, I thought. Weren’t you were supposed to be jollier?

After an awkward silence, Nick leaned in closer to me, “You can find a lot of fun in this town, you know.” The situation was made even more awkward by the rancid smell of his breath and his rotted brown teeth. I also for the first time noticed that the rosy appearance of his cheeks was due more to dust and grime than anything else. This must be what Santa looks like on meth.

Getting no reply from me, Santa leaned back over to his side of the bench and finished his cigarette. Surely he will leave now, I thought. Alas, no. Santa reached into his jeans pocket and fiddled around for an abnormally long time. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to look over. I really wish I hadn’t.

It seems that Santa had been adjusting a rather large candy cane he stored in his pocket. Or, at least that’s what I told myself later that evening so I could sleep with both eyes closed. He was looking at me, and when he noticed me glance over in his direction he smiled with his droll little mouth, and with a wink of his eye and a twist of his head, motioned to his lap. His hand patted the leg closest to me suggestively.

Surely this wasn’t happening. “I don’t want anything for Christmas this year,” I excitedly replied, “and I’m not going to be your dancer, prancer, or vixen!”

“Huh?!”

I took advantage of his befuddlement and sprang from the bench, giving a whistle. Then away I flew like the down of a thistle. I heard him exclaim as I ran out of sight, “Wait! We could have a real good night!”

Categories: Travel & Adventure | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Ending


I generally do not like massages. There is something about a fully clothed stranger touching me while naked that resonates weird in my mind. It brings to mind the clinical setting of my doctor’s office instead of a relaxing environment. Masseuses also ask awkward questions; “What do you like?” and “What do you want me to work on?” in a coy manner. These inquiries remind me of the strip club venue, being awkward but without the obligatory smell of shame. I’m also ticklish.

Despite my hang-ups with massages, I decided to take my wife for a couple’s massage for our anniversary. She assured me that they are nice and relaxing, as did many friends. Immediately, upon entering the spa, however, my reservations were confirmed. Some female employee was sitting in a plush lobby chair when we entered, smiling through he dim lights in a tight-fitting outfit. The walls sparkled with some sort of gold glitter. Music played in the background, the composition being some sort of instrumental melody rather than Pour Some Sugar on Me. Once our eyes adjusted to the dim lights, we were led into a back room with an understanding nod.

“I want you to strip down and lay on the bed,” the lady said. She left the room as we started stripping.

Mounting the massage table was the first sign that this was not an activity I was going to find relaxing. First, the face “port” looks completely uninviting. I did not think, “Oh, this will be relaxing,” when I saw it. I thought instead, “Oh, this looks like the lid to a child’s potty training toilet.” I can only assume it was the spa’s subtle way of saying I looked like shit and needed to add a facial to my spa package.

My wife mounted the table-toilet contraption without difficulty. I, however, became confused as to why it was leaning on an incline backwards. Trying to get on the damn thing, underneath the “serenity shroud” (okay, maybe they did call it a blanket; but, with gold on the walls you know they would call it that if they thought they could get away with it) and comfortable was near impossible. It felt like I was trying to perform some advanced exercise derived by the folks responsible for P90X.

“Why is your face as red as a beet?” asked my wife. “Are you embarrassed or something?’

“No, I’m not embarrassed. It’s the blood rushing to my head because I’m slanted on this table.”

“Okaaaay… Why is your watch still on?”

“Because I just met this lady. For all I know she’s a convicted felon. My boxers are still on for the same reason.”

“Jesus! Will you just relax and enjoy this,” my wife asked sternly. As if on cue, some horrible Enya-esque music came on and the masseuse re-entered the private room. I shut up and shoved my face through the toilet lid.

The massage started and immediately I knew I was in trouble. I did not want to disrupt the “ambiance” for my wife, but I could not shake the thoughts of similarities to strip clubs I had when we arrived. As my face was suspended through the potty trainer, all I could hear was the moist thwack, thwack sound that reminded me of all those lonely teenage nights as the masseuse oiled her palms. When the massage finally began, so did the awakening of my “ticklish” nerve endings. Not laughing was growing harder by the second.

As the massaging continued, so did the awkwardness. I tried to distract myself from the ticklish spasms I was having in my back by trying to imagine what the masseuse was thinking:

“Does this man have Tourette’s or another medical condition? Why does he keep having spasms and twitching?”

“His back reminds me of a fur rug.”

“Just pretend it’s a furry Zac Effron. You can do this! Put your big girl pants on and earn this money. It’s only an hour. Happy thoughts. I think I can. I think I can.”

Suddenly, the caressing stopped and there was a moment of silence. The masseuse leaned down toward my ear, paused for a quick breath, and whispered, “Okay, I’m going to create a tent with this sheet and I want you to flip over onto your back.”

I thought this request was odd; as, under the circumstances and this being my first massage, I assumed I would be the only one creating a tent with the serenity shroud. But, I did what I was told, rolled over and closed my eyes. The masseuse then threw a tampon on my face. Sure, she said it was an “eye pillow” with a napkin underneath for sanitary purposes, but I know it was really a sanitary napkin as payback for making her massage my gorilla back.

The massaging continued on my shoulders, arms and hands. I finally started to relax and was beginning to enjoy the experience when the masseuse moved south. The blanket lifted slightly to expose my right leg. Suddenly, my tranquility was interrupted when the leg of my boxers was moved about with a fierceness I was not expecting. It was as if a ravenous ferret was searching for the last precious morsel of food on the planet.

The problem with her massaging my right thigh is quite simple. I, apparently, am very ticklish in my right thigh. So, as she went to work kneading my thigh like pizza dough, the smile on my face grew larger by the second. At the same time, I started to squirm ever so slightly and make barely audible unintelligible noises as I stifled laughter. I can only imagine what the masseuse thought was going on in my head.

Then it happened. What I hoped and prayed all along wouldn’t. The thing I most dreaded, as I knew it would cause awkwardness and embarrassment for the both of us: she started massaging my feet.

It is probably safe to say that many of you have never seen my feet. Consider yourself lucky. My feet are the victims of years of insufferable abuse to nature’s elements and general hygienic neglect. They make the moviesSaw and Hostel look like a Justin Bieber music video; one filled with nothing but pictures of The Biebs and puppies.

There was a pause as the masseuse went to work on my lower extremity carnage. It is my firm, yet unproven belief that the pause was due to an epic battle with her gag reflex. Understandably, she made quick work and stopped. I heard a door open and close. “I have made that poor, poor woman run out of the room and quit her job,” I thought.

Precious seconds later, I felt a moist and searing burn surrounding my feet from toes to heels. I was sure she dumped some sort of acid or other chemical compound on them to prevent contagion to the entire spa building. The Wife alleges that she simply put a hot towel on them as part of the spa experience. I am dubious of her truthfulness in this regard.

The masseuse immediately moved to my face after she attempted to incinerate my feet. I felt a sudden surge of panic as I thought of what was being transferred from my feet to my face on her oily hands. This was soon surpassed, however, by the sheer terror I experienced as her middle fingers covered my nostrils. “She’s trying to suffocate me as punishment for my feet!” I thought. Then, as if she could sense I was on to her plan, she removed her fingers and I could breathe again.

She then tilted my head and cradled the back of my skull in her skillful hands. I was sure that she was about to kill me by snapping my neck. Perhaps, I assumed, she had developed plans to donate my feet to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for scientific study. I envisioned scientists in biohazard suits carefully studying them next to the vials containing the Ebola virus and anthrax. Then, just like that, she released me after a tensely long moment of deliberation on her part.

“Okay. We’re done here,” she whispered dispassionately in my ear. I exhaled deeply and relaxed for the first time in over an hour. This was one massage with a happy ending.

Categories: Couple Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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