Thursday, December 21, 2006

Once a Week. Whether You Like It or Not

I’m not bragging or anything, but Grim Richard gets a fair amount of e-mail and comments. True, most of this correspondence has the subject line “Four Inches in Six Months!”, but that’s indicative of nothing in particular. The readers in Grim Richard’s life haven’t had anything to complain about (wink) if you know what I mean.

Why? Have you heard something?

Actually, some of our readers have commented about the frequency of my posts and apparently my wife agrees because after reading my last entry, she casually dropped this bomb:

“You should write one of these every day.”

She smiled when she said this. I believe she regards these posts as a kind of bilious gas that builds up and must be released - followed almost immediately by an apology. I patiently explained the method to my madness.

“I used to post all the time. As I grow older, though, I’ve realized that quality is more important than quantity. So, instead of doling out a daily dose of dreck that depends mostly on double entendre and fart jokes, I like to give my readers one solid column every week on Thursday. Whether they like it or not. Unless I’m tired.”

“They have no idea how lucky they are,” my wife said dryly.

I am nothing, however, if not attentive. Commencing immediately, Grim Richard readers can subscribe to the Grim Richard notification service. Simply e-mail me at and I’ll make sure that you get an e-mail whenever a new post goes up.

And don’t worry about being spammed. It requires a kind of dedication I’m just not willing to give.

Just ask my wife.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Great Herds of Babysitters

So my wife and I decided to go on a date. This required a baby sitter because it’s against the law to leave young children at home unless they’re shepherded by someone wiser, more stable and more logical than the tots.

Or you can pay a teenager. This is the route we chose and it was not an easy one. Any parent can tell you that babysitters are rare and hard to find – like unicorns or the Fountain of Youth. Actually, babysitters are even harder to find. You will actually stumble upon unicorns peeing in the Fountain of Youth before you find a teenager willing to accept a lot of money for watching television and occasionally yelling at the kids.

Ironically, I do this every day for free.

When I was a kid, great moving herds of babysitters used to cover the landscape. When my parents needed a babysitter, they merely stepped outside, waved our cable bill to prove we had HBO, and – BAM! – they had three or four babysitters willing to take a dollar an hour to watch three kids. The babysitting herds have largely disappeared now. I blame global warming and Chik-Fil-A.

We lucked out eventually and the daughter of a friend agreed to watch our kids. We picked the babysitter up and drove her to our house where she immediately began watching MTV. Our kids began jumping around, giddy as they pictured the amount of damage they were going to cause in the next few hours.

Before we left, my wife and I took a few bittersweet moments to walk around the house and say goodbye to the personal belongings we cherished the most. Bridget and I paused on the threshold to kiss our children and ask one last question of this rare creature called the babysitter. She didn’t answer or even look away from the television.

No doubt, like us, she was dreaming of a different time; a time when there were only twenty channels on television and only parents were allowed to exploit the cheap labor of teenagers.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Killer Pie

I haven’t posted since Thanksgiving two weeks ago, but I have an excuse. I can neither button my pants nor bend in the middle like most human beings. I think this has something to do with the 27 pieces of pumpkin pie, but I’m just guessing.

I wouldn’t have eaten that much pumpkin pie normally. During the holidays, though, I think irrationally. When I see pumpkin pie, for instance, there’s always this little voice that says, “What if it’s another year before you get another chance to eat pumpkin pie?

If I successfully ignore that voice, another ups the ante by saying, “Anything could happen between now and next year. There could be pumpkin plague for all you know. What if you never get another chance to eat pumpkin pie?”

Which brings me to killer whales.

In San Antonio recently, a killer whale at Sea World suddenly turned on his trainer and attacked him. Experts chimed in with various theories concerning hormones and – I’m not kidding about this – killer whale sexuality. Apparently, this particular animal was “approaching his breeding age.”

I’d love to see this trainer’s My Space page. “I spend a large part of my day swimming in a pool with a horny killer whale. Before I get in, though, I like to put on a black wetsuit so that the animal can’t tell whether I’m a human, a harbor seal or another, less dominant killer whale. While I’m in the pool, I force him to perform tricks before I feed him.”

Still, I have my own theory about this attack and it has little to do with sexuality and everything to do with the holidays. I can almost picture the trainer tentatively dipping his toe in the pool. I picture the killer whale across the pool nonchalantly performing flips and spins on cue. All the while, he’s thinking this:

“What if I never get another chance to eat a trainer?”

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Happy Thanks-O-Ween

Thanksgiving at my house typically involves a strict egalitarian division of labor. Basically, my wife cooks all day and I eat all of it.

Many of you might consider this an unfair arrangement, pointing out that cooking food takes way more time than eating it.

And that would true under normal circumstances. But when I say that it’s my job to eat “all of the food”, I’m not exaggerating. I lack the mechanism that stops most people from eating food when their hunger is satiated. I also lack the mechanism that stops people from eating food when their hunger is satiated, their pants no longer fit and people are complaining about the smell.

Thanksgiving usually ends with Bridget washing the dishes. I watch from the floor, where I’m laid out like one of those snakes you see on the Discovery Channel – the ones that have a humongous bulge in the middle because they ate an egg whole without chewing.

Common sense tells me that I need to exercise some self-control, but I find it’s much easier to blame my genetics or the fast food industry. I’d sue someone, but there’s apple pie I haven’t finished.

This year, my wife announced that she’s not cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, we’re going to her aunt’s house to eat. We may also stop at a friend’s house and eat. This dismayed me at first, but then I realized that my wife had craftily combined aspects from two of my favorite holidays – giant dinners from Thanksgiving and the door-to-door freeloading of Halloween.

My wife’s a genius. She’s invented Thanks-O-Ween.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Danger! Death! Food Driving!

Recently, we came across a list of the 10 most dangerous foods to eat while driving. Like most modern television research, it eschewed the stupid parts of science i.e. clear methodologies, control groups, etc. and concentrated on the important stuff - like a title with the word “danger” in it.

According to the study, these were the most dangerous foods to consume while driving, listed from most dangerous to least: coffee, hot soup, tacos, chili, hamburgers, barbecued food, fried chicken, jelly or crème-filled donuts, soft drinks and, finally, chocolate.

Most news outlets were impressed by this study. Here at the Grim Richard Institute of Science, however, we use scientifically accepted methodologies to pull things out of our butt. This means that a few minutes of actual guess work can be almost alchemically transformed into hard science. Our list not only has 50% more scary words in the title, it actually includes foods that are more dangerous. Thus, we give you our own list:

The 10 Foods That Will KILL You Dead While You’re Driving

1. Lobster – C’mon. Coffee? A person drawing butter, cracking shells and tying on a bib while driving is way more likely to die than someone just drinking coffee.

2. Corn on the Cob – probably one of the most under-reported food accidents because “the cob” is usually thrown clear of the accident scene. The only sign that something food-related has occurred? Innocent bystanders are found dead with little corn-shaped cob holders stuck in their heads.

3. Fugu – Nearly 100% of people who prepare Japanese blowfish and then eat it while driving die. It’s a fact.

4. Beets – I’ve been telling my mother for years how dangerous beets are. Now, I’ve got official scientific proof.

5. Caffeinated Soda (with Pop Rocks and, uh, cyanide)

Okay, so we were reaching with that last one. Please remember, though, that actually listing 10 dangerous foods is less important than making the list short enough to be read quickly by Matt Lauer before the Today Show goes to commercial. Besides, this research isn’t about “facts”. This research is about “danger” and “death” and “food driving.”

Happy Motoring!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cruel Mothers of the 70s

When I was young, the mothers of America regularly banded together and told children some amazingly stupid stuff. It's true. Some of it was so stupid that I like to use it on my own kids just to see their reactions.

This summer, for instance, I finally got to use this one at the water park:

"Gabriel," I yelled, "You just ate lunch. That means you have to wait 30 minutes before you go back in the water."

"Why?" he yelled back.

"Because your body can't swim and digest at the same time. if you try it, all of your swimming muscles will cramp up and you'll drown."

I still remember the incredulous look on his six year-old face. I'll treasure it forever.

This winter, I'm hoping to try out the "If you go out in the cold with your hair wet, you'll get pneumonia and die" thing.

Did my mother - and all of the other moms in America - really believe that red M&Ms caused cancer or that sitting too close to the television caused blindness?

No, I say. When I look at ancient school photos of me and my brother dressed in identical sweater vests, I have to believe that the mothers of America were just cruelly toying with us. And they will not away with it.

The other day my mom was visiting and Gabriel said this to me:

"Nanny says that the waters around Bermuda have a giant electric triangle that sinks ships and planes. Is that true?"

"No, it's not true," I said, warily watching my mother in the next room.

"Why would she lie, Dad?"

I looked at his inquisitive face. He clearly hungered for the truth.

"Every person in the world," I said, "is comprised of four special fluids called humors. Nanny's humors are out of whack."

I look both ways before drawing him closer.

"It's because she watches too much "Matlock" on television."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ben Affleck in the Bucket

A few days ago, I was fixing cable lines in a bucket truck. For those who don’t know, a bucket truck is one of those trucks with a big, hydraulic arm that lifts workers up to the top of utility poles. Cable repair people use bucket trucks to work on anything that’s higher than about 25 feet.

When I was a five year-old kid, I used to see these trucks and think, “That is cool.” And you know what?

I was absolutely right. It is way cool. Sometimes I feel so cool in my hardhat and tool belt that I walk around the bucket truck really slow – like Ben Affleck’s character in the movie “Armageddon”. I try not to do too much of this because, frankly, slow motion walking looks stupid in real life.

The only time the bucket truck is not amazingly cool is when it’s raining and windy – like it was a few days ago when my cell phone rang. I answered it and had this conversation with my wife:

Me: What’s up?

Her: Hey, Sweetie. What are you doing?

Me: I’m in the bucket truck, 40 feet up in the air. It’s raining and windy. What do you need?

Her: Nothing. Just wanted to tell you I love you.

Me: Thank you. I love you, too. Can we talk later?

Her: Don’t you want to talk with me?

She sounds hurt and for a moment, there is total silence on the phone. I’m irritated because there is absolutely nothing I want to talk about. I want to hang up. If this was “Armageddon” and I was Ben Affleck’s character, I’d walk away in slow motion and just let stuff explode behind me.

But then it occurs to me that Ben Affleck’s character in “Armageddon” isn’t real. Maybe I should make decisions about my wife based on something other than movie characters. Walking away from explosions is stupid in real life.

“Of course, I want to talk to you,” I say into the phone. “So, what did you have for lunch?”

Real heroes, I think, run toward explosions. You know, like Keanu Reeves in “Speed”.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Grim Richard Gazette

I'm giving up on the news. I'm officially tired of it. What's the point of reading about events that you can't possibly effect or change? Consider the the last presidential race, for instance. I've spent hours telling people how they should vote with little or no results to show for it. Some people - I'm not lying - even refused to tell me how they voted.

I've even tried to affect important new events directly but, to be honest, if Britney Spears takes out one more restraining order on me - she's gonna lose her biggest fan.

Po po zao, baby.

Then it hit me. If I want to affect world events, I need more of the world's events to be about me. I decided to start the world's first newspaper dedicated solely to the coverage about me, Grim Richard.

Halfway through writing my inaugural article, though, I realized that an entire newspaper would take forever to write each day - and to read. In the interest of my time-starved reader (me) and my time-starved writer (me, again) I've decided to throw out the stories entirely and just publish the headlines - which, coincidentally, makes my newspaper exactly like CNN.

Here's the first issue of the Grim Richard Gazette, the newspaper I've dedicated to covering me, meant to be read by one person, me:

Movie Usher with Zits Calls Family Man "Sir"
Man Suddenly Realizes He Is "Freakin' Old"

Studies Show Hamburger Helper Edible Without Hamburger
Tuna Helper - Not So Much

Explorer Accidentally Discovers Unexplainable Patch of Hair
Dubs It "Tufts of McCready" After Fifth Grade Science Teacher

Man Refuses to Give 110% at Work
"That's Not Even Possible," Grim Richard Testifies to Boss

Boss Predicts Possible Economic Strife
Reports 110% Chance of Grim Richard Layoffs

Man Starts Newspaper About Self
"All News is Local," He Says. "Sometimes, Really, Really, Local"

Okay, so that last one was me being kind of lazy. But with a readership of one, I think I can forgive me.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


They told me in school that math would be important in my daily life. So I studied geometry and algebra, but never once did teachers school me in the really important math - Kidonometry.

Here's a Kidonometry problem I solved the other day:

"A four year-old and six year-old accelerate suddenly from the kitchen. You notice that the four year-old's mouth is colored a brilliant blue. If you ask why the kid's mouth is blue, the six year-old will double his rate of speed until he reaches his room. The four year-old will stop immediately and offer no help. If all behavior remains consistent, how long will it take you to find out what the four year-old has imbibed and, more importantly, how long should the recalcitrant kids spend without television?"

The answer is fairly easy. It will take you (the parent) two minutes of panicked yelling to discover that your kid has tried to drink one of those fake ice packs that you freeze and put in a cooler. It will take another minute to read the package to discover that the Ty-D-Bowl colored stuff is non-toxic. It will take another 20 minutes to discover that the four year-old did this asinine thing because his six year-old brother dared him to do it.

Nevertheless, the correct answer to first part of the question is two minutes. As for how long the kids go without television, that's a trick question. The time spent without television is directly proportional to how long it takes me (the parent) to catch them (the sneaky bastards).

There was a pop quiz this morning.

"An hour and a half before work, you discover that a golf ball has been lodged in the drain of bathtub/shower. If x=golf ball, solve for "Who the hell did this?", "How the hell did they do it?" and "How the hell can I get the ball out of the drain?" For extra credit, calculate whether you'll be late to work.

This a tough one, because you have to work it in reverse. Yes, you'll be late for work. A plunger is the correct tool for removing golf balls from tub drains and finally, it doesn't matter who did it or how they did it because you're late for work.

I'm much better at Kidonometry than I ever was at Algebra.

Emma, Feed Mr. Wickham to the Pigs

Lately, my wife and I have watched a few movie adaptations of Jane Austen books – “Emma” and “Pride and Prejudice” in particular. I feel comfortable with all four of my readers so I feel I can share something with you:

I love Jane Austen stories. I giggle like a schoolgirl when I know one of the movies is coming on. Something about watching rich, unmarried, uptight people really resonates with me. Naturally, I don’t mention this love in public. Other guys just wouldn’t understand.

But here’s the secret. All guys love Jane Austen. Guys love Jane Austen stories so much that HBO came up with “Deadwood” – which is exactly like a Jane Austen story but a little better because there are guns and Mr. Knightly is always calling Mr. Wickham a “c*&ks$ck#r.”

And he’s right. Wickham is a “c*&ks$ck#r.” He married Elizabeth’s younger sister, Lydia, only because Mr. Darcy bribed him in order to prevent shame and humiliation from descending on the Bennett family. Secretly, Mr. Darcy loves Elizabeth.


I find, too, that adding some Jane Austen-like language to our daily life provides a little flavor to otherwise mundane conversations. The other day, for instance, I ran across my wife just as I left the bathroom.

“It is my earnest endeavor,” I said, “to demean myself with grateful respect towards her ladyship. And in performing those rites and ceremonies of marriage caution the lady against premature passage through pernicious doors.”

She looked at me for a moment. “Does that mean you stunk up the bathroom and I shouldn’t go in there?”

“Indeed,” I said.

Jane Austen, rest easy. Grim Richard has your back.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's Pronounced Nah-No-Bite

This is the deal that I have with my cell phone company. I give them money every month. In return, the company gives me spotty service and occasionally turns off my number for no reason whatsoever. Also, when I visit the company in person, the customer service people make me wait in an hour-long line.

I apparently like this deal because I keep signing two year contracts.

This arrangement was frustrating until I learned that there is a proper way to visit your cell phone store. There is a way to shorten the amount of time you wait in line and achieve some actual customer satisfaction. Simply put, you take a few ill-behaved kids with you. Me? I just happen to have a couple of those laying around my house.

Let's say my cell phone has mysteriously stopped displaying numbers on the screen. The first thing I do is to feed my four year-old son and two year-old daughter cookies for breakfast. Then, when my wife is not watching, we play a quick game I like to call "Who Can Drink Daddy's Coffee?" . Shortly after that, I let the kids watch "Ed, Edd and Eddy" because it puts them in the right frame of mind.

Then we go to my cell phone store. We arrive early, but there's still a line. That's not a problem because my kids need time to...percolate. I take a number and sit down. I am 19th in line.

"Hey, kids," I say. "Who wants to go to the toy store after we're through here?"

I look around and see all the women in the room smiling at me. They see a father lovingly guiding his two rambunctious young children. But they're wrong. I have no real control over my children now. As far as my kids are concerned, I'm just a giant talking wallet with set of car keys. Ironically, this is the exactly how my cell phone company views me.

I once read an article about nano-technology. Scientists are working on building tiny, never-sleeping robots that can disassemble and reassemble things on a molecular level. My kids, when they're bored, are exactly like that - only without the reassemble part. My kids start with signs at the front of the store and quickly move to cell phone models that line the cheery, modern kiosks.

Every now and then, I say, "No. Stop. Don't." But I don't mean it - not really.

Within minutes, I move from 19th to number one. No one complains.

The customer service agent eyes me warily and says, "I think your son is peeing in our fake plants."

I shrug. "Unfortunately, my wife and I cannot guarantee parental coverage in all areas. Please try again later."

A few minutes later, I'm walking out with a kid under each arm and new cell phone. From behind me, I can hear the manager.

"Your daughter broke one of our flip phones. It will need to be replaced."

"Yeah, she broke mine, too," I say without turning around. "You should really look into cell phone insurance. It comes in handy."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Apply This Blog Directly to Forehead

Every now and then you see something that screams "innovation". Every now and then you see something that smacks you in the head and demands that you bow to one knee because you are in the presence of genius.

This is probably not one of those things. This will probably be merely interesting. Sort of.

I refer, of course, to my new favorite commercial for my new favorite product - Head On. For those you haven't seen the commercial, I'll sum it up. The commercial shows only one thing, a woman applying what looks like a huge tube of lip balm to her forehead. While she does this, a spokeswoman says "Head On - apply directly to the forehead." And, in case you miss the meaning, the makers of the commercial have helpfully added a big yellow arrow pointing roughly to the area of the woman's forehead and the tube of stuff she's applying there. And then, they repeat the clip.

Here's the mildly interesting part - never once does anyone make an actual claim about what Head On actually does. Is it for headaches? I don't know. Is it sunscreen? I don't know. In effect, this commercial is the purest commercial ever made. It says, "Hey, we've got a product. Just buy it."

Grim Richard's Irregulars has always strived for the same heights in mediocrity. The very title admits that sometimes I get around to posting, and sometimes I don't. In fact, Grim Richard's may be the only blog ever that has held a contest, reviewed entries and awarded a prize without ever getting around to publishing the results of that contest. In fact, I'm not even sure if the winner knew why I sent him a package in the mail.

Que Sera, Homeys.

So apply this directly to your foreheads. I have been inspired to place an ad banner campaign for Grim Richard's Irregulars (maybe inspired is too strong a word. Maybe induced is better). But I don't want the ads to send people running to our beloved site. I want our perspective readers to barely feel the urge to click on the ad banners and come to our site - a feeling that's probably familiar to many of our readers.

That's right. It's another contest. Write a blurb for a Grim Richard's Irregulars ad banner in the style of the Head On commercial. The winner will have their copy used (eventually, without any sort of compensation, naturally) on an ad banner on another site. Here's a few pieces of copy I thought of:

  • Grim Richard's Irregulars. It's a blog. You read it.
  • Grim Richard's Irregulars. You might like it. You might not.

And finally, my favorite is a white ad banner that says, "Huh? What?"

Send those ideas to Or don't. Whatever.

Friday, September 01, 2006

My Oil Rigs Bring All the Boys to the Loft

My 40th birthday is on the horizon. In honor of that auspicious occasion, my in-laws had a high definition television delivered to our house and set up in our loft room by professionals. I mention this for a couple of reasons.

First, if you've naively entered your in-laws in this year's National Cool In-Laws Competition, I urge you to un-register them now. That contest has been won handily by my in-laws. Better luck next year.

Second, I want to acknowledge that, since I work for a cable company, I probably should have gotten one of these new-fangled high def sets much earlier than this. Perhaps I didn't because I'm old and easily confused by the rapidly moving images, confound it. Let's take MTV, for instance. Who is Kelis? Why does she make such a good milkshake that all the boys come to her yard? Just what is in those damn milkshakes?

I have no idea.

All I know is that high definition television is hypnotic. My family and I spent an hour last night watching a PBS documentary on oil rigs. At least I think they were oil rigs. I didn't really pay attention to what the narrators were saying, but I did see lots of beautiful red pipes and shiny oil.

Oh, I noticed one other thing about the new high definition television. My two year-old daughter Riley wants to bust it.

I see her edging closer to it every time I'm out of the room. I see her flexing her tiny hands in anticipation of touching the fragile screen. I can see her mind wrestling with important questions. Will she, for instance, begin by smearing on a tomato-based sauce of some kind or perhaps lay out a base underpainting of natural skin oil?

I realize now why I didn't get a high def television sooner.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Broccoli Afro, Vegetable Nemesis

I watched my son Gabriel hack and struggle through the greeny goodness of his broccoli the other day. He took a few moments to explain his ground rules for the vegetable.

"Mom says I have to eat the leaves, but I don't have eat the whole tree."

And true to his word, he was busily deforesting his forest of broccoli, chewing off the soft little leaves which comprised maybe a quarter of each broccoli stalk and leaving the huge fallen trunks to be thrown away.

In other words, my son only eats the part of the broccoli that I used to refer to as the "broccoli Afro". I do not use this designation any more because it is potentially offensive and because I'm terrified that one of my children will go to school and announce, "My dad says that I have to eat Afros because they're good for me."

Parents have interesting phobias.

I can't blame Gabriel for being cautious about vegetables. It turns out that everyone in the world has vegetable nemesis. Mine is beets. Put a plate of those purple bastards in front of me and I'll writhe and cry and possibly even throw up. And that's just from seeing them. I am constantly amazed that the only food really, really healthful for us is the food that no one really, deep down, likes eating.

While I considered this, I took Gabriel's forest of half-eaten broccoli trees down off the table and put them in the dog's dish. The dog came over for a second, sniffed the broccoli and gave me a look that said, "Sorry, dude, but I only eat the leaves."

It occurs to me that my dog will eat her own vomit, but she will not eat broccoli.

When I was young and wouldn't eat my beets, my grandmother used to talk about how much she liked vegetables, beets in particular.

She was lying.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Baz Truman is Back!

Editor’s Note:

For years, workers have suffered through the advice of pundits, over-achievers and corporate lackeys, some of whom have had only three or four jobs in their entire lives.

Wouldn’t it be better to get career advice from someone with experience at literally thousands of jobs?

Baz Truman thinks so. Since the early 1980s, Baz Truman has been working at and getting fired from more jobs in a week than most people get fired from in a lifetime. Baz’ single-minded determination to excel at his career - no matter the cost – has gotten him fired from some of the world’s biggest and brightest companies.

Look here for Baz Truman’s weekly career advice on matters ranging from sexual discrimination to Christmas parties. We hope you enjoy it.

The Most Fired Man in America
By Baz Truman

Dear Baz:

I’m the female telemarketer and I’ve become obsessed with one of co-workers. I think about him all the time and it’s begun to affect both my work and my happy marriage. Nothing has happened so far but that can’t last for long. What should I do?

Obsessed and Unhappy in Phoenix

Dear Obsessed and Unhappy in Phoenix:

You’re on the verge committing a colossal mistake that could potentially ruin your marriage and destroy your career, all for a few moments of pleasure with someone you probably have little in common with. You need to ask yourself a few important questions like, “Is it worth it?” and, more importantly, “How can I get away with this?”

Your next step is to signal your feelings to your co-worker. I would shy away from e-mail. From my experience, people tend to over-react when they get a few thousand e-mails. Try to be creative. Nothing, for instance, says “I like you” like mysterious panties sent via interoffice mail. I’ve also learned the hard way that mysterious new panties work better than mysterious old panties.

And finally, be strong. Once you’ve been fired and thrown out of your house, it’s easy to get pessimistic. Look on the bright side – you may be an adulterer but at least you’re not a telemarketer any more.

No need to thank me,


Friday, August 04, 2006

Big Breasted Baywatch Nights

My wife and I jog together now. We jog at night, partially because it’s cooler but also because the neighbors had a talk with my wife. I’m not sure what my jogging Speedo has to do with neighborhood property values, but my wife assures me that there’s a link.

We’re close enough to the beach to spend part of each run jogging there. As we pound down the sandy water line, I’m surprised by a few things.

I sweat a lot, for instance. And I mean A LOT. I sweat so much UNICEF should hire me to accompany Angelina Jolie to arid third world countries where I could just jog in a circle and sweat. Thirsty villagers could run behind me with earthen containers and catch the sweat and take it back to their families.

I’ve also noticed that despite giving birth to three babies, my wife is still hot – even while running. It reminds me of “Baywatch” – not seasons 10 and 11 where they decided to call it “Baywatch Hawaii” but more like the classic seasons 4 through 7 where you had Pamela Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth, both of whom were really good at, uh, running and being hot at the same time.

I feel just like David Hasselhoff in “Baywatch” when my wife and I run; I am entranced by the sight of beautiful, magnificent breasts bouncing in time to our cadence – until I realize that they are my big, beautiful breasts bouncing in time to my big, beautiful belly.

And then I really feel like David Hasselhoff.

It makes me hum the theme from “Baywatch” – not the official theme by Jimi Jamison, formerly of Survivor, but the original theme by Peter Cetera, formerly of the band Chicago.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Days of Poop and Noses

My family and I just got back from a vacation in Florida. Our five member family drove 14 hours in a Toyota Highlander each way. That’s right. Two adults spent 28 hours cramped into a small and eventually stinky place with three children under the age of seven – and actually preferred it to flying.

I learned a few things.

For instance, did you know it takes three kids only three hours to completely cover the tan fabric of a back seat with stains? As a manager in the corporate world, I know that I could have given three adults three days to complete the same job and they would have finished maybe half of the seat. And would it ever occur to adults to smear orange Cheetos’ crap onto the seat belts? I think not.

Another interesting fact is that your wife can flip through radio stations and listen to Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” song once every 26 miles (on average) during your 1,000 mile trip. That’s almost 38.5 Shakira experiences – well above the level recommended by the FDA.

Finally, I learned that much entertainment can be gained by depriving your kids of anything to do on a long trip and then just listening to them amuse themselves. Six year-old Gabriel fills his time by playing a ruthless but strategic version of “I’ve Got Your Nose” with his three year-old brother Julian. First, he pinches Julian’s nose between his thumb and forefinger, quickly mimes eating the nose and then announces:

Gabriel: I’ve got your nose, Julian.

Julian: Give me back my nose!

And then comes the genius part:

Gabriel: I can’t give your nose back. I’ve eaten it, I’ve digested it and now it’s poop. Do you want me to poop it and give it back to you?


Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Collector

I realized something today while I was at 7-11. I collect receipts.

I buy something and, no matter how small the cost, if the harried cashier offers me a receipt, I take it. If the harried cashier doesn’t offer me a receipt, I stand there (adding to her, er, harriness) until she does offer me a crisp white receipt.

I’m not sure why I do this. At the store, it makes complete sense to me. I’m going to take this receipt home and put it in some sort of filing system so that I can access it at the end of year and use it for tax purposes.

I feel really grown up when I think thoughts like this.

And then I take that slip home, put it on top of this black armoire that we have and never, ever look at it or touch it again. At some point in time, someone (possibly my wife) does something (possibly involving the garbage can) and the area on the armoire is magically ready to accept new receipts.

I make it a point to never ask myself questions about the filing system that doesn’t exist and the tax purposes that I don’t personally understand. Most importantly, I never ask where those receipts go. That would be like asking why Harry Potter uses owls instead of e-mail. It lacks imagination.

Gas receipts, food receipts, magazine receipts. I’m gonna keep on collecting them – and not just for myself. I keep putting them on the black armoire and someone keeps picking them up. What if that person looks forward to them? What if that person has an actual filing system and actual tax purposes? Who am I to deprive them of the receipts?

I feel really grown up when I think thoughts like this.

Friday, June 16, 2006

They Called Him Whitebeard

Every Thursday, I pick up a box of donuts for my kids’ breakfast. As a family, we prefer the box o’ donuts to the bag o’ donuts.

This is not because the box of donuts tastes better than the bag of donuts. In fact, I’m not sure if the donuts taste good at all. I’ve noticed, for instance, as we chomp down on the white powdered donuts, that the box (and the bag, for that matter) refer to the donuts as “powdered donuts” – and not “powdered sugar donuts.”

I find it curious that the manufacturers don’t mention sugar, but my curiosity stops there. If that’s not sugar, I’m not sure I want to know what it is. I also eat Cheez Whiz although I don’t know what “cheez” is and am reasonably sure that I won’t like hearing what “whiz” contains.

We buy the box of donuts (as opposed to the bag of donuts) for one reason only: my kids think the box looks like a pirate treasure chest.

As an American parent, I’m naturally proud that my kids have already learned to consume products on the basis of packaging rather than actual quality. It’s nice to see that the Hummer truck commercials are having an effect.

But I think there’s more to this. When I bring in the box of donuts on Thursday morning, my kids’ faces spark up and glow. The kids sometimes actually clap. It’s like the Publisher’s Clearinghouse van has pulled up to their house and instead of bringing a lame million dollar check, the announcer has brought something really cool – a chest full of doubloon-shaped donuts.

While I watch my kids feast, I like to think about the fierce pirates of yore who must have plundered the seven seas and then converted their booty into donuts. I think about the bloodiest buccaneer of them all, who stalked the decks of his ship with the entire front of his body covered with something that looked like powdered sugar but tasted nothing like it.

They called him Whitebeard.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Penultimate Command of English

Longtime readers know that my family famously mangles the English language. That’s not meant to be self-deprecating in any way. We know some stunningly big damn words. We can sling polysyllabics (see?) with the best of them.

We just don’t find it necessary to use them in the correct context.

I, for instance, famously used the word “penultimate” instead “paramount” many, many times until a woman I wanted to date stopped me in the middle of a crowded room and said, “You do realize that the word “penultimate” means “next to last”, don’t you? It doesn’t mean “ultimate” or “paramount”.”

“Wow,” I said. “So, if I described this as my paramount moment of embarrassment…”

“Exactly,” she said.

Ultimately, she and I did not go out.

My aphasia seems to be genetic. My son Gabriel spent a week pointing towards our roof and mentioning the “plants on the alchemy” before I realized that he was talking about the plants on our balcony.

Gabriel is also fond of announcing to everyone that he’s bored. Apparently, my younger son Julian felt that this would be an excellent arrow to add to his relatively new language quiver. Julian came downstairs this morning, put an apathetic look on his face and announced, “Dad, I’m boring.”

“You’re what?” I asked, even though I had heard him clearly.

“I’m boring.”

“You’re what?’

“I’m boring.”

“You’re what?”

There’s nothing boring about that kid. He’s the exact opposite of boring – whatever that word is.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

White Like Movie Star Teeth

We live near the beach, so the end of May is a time to perform sacred rituals. Pools are topped off, beach chairs are dusted off and barbecue grills are scrubbed roughly with stiff wire brushes.

I have my own ritual. I wait for the first Saturday with a temperature that rises above 80 degrees. I peek out the windows until I see the street filled with the right mix of neighbors washing their cars and playing with their children. Then, with a jumble of confidence and trepidation, I march outside, doff my shirt and expose my white winter belly for the first time in the season.

I believe my neighbors look forward to this annual event, the same way that other people anticipate Groundhog Day. I have no evidence of this, but I like to think it anyway.

Later, before I’ve achieved my inevitable Flounder look – fierce, bubbly red on my back and titanium white on my front – I’ll march down the neighborhood streets in shorts and flip flops. Children will gasp in amazement when they see legs so white that they look like movie star teeth.

Summer, my friends, has officially begun.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Coming Clean about Golf and Cockroaches

I’ve been spending a great deal of time hitting golf balls at the driving range lately.

It embarrasses me to even write that sentence, actually, because I’ve never respected golf on any level. I’ve dismissed televised golf as boring. I’ve chided people who referred to golf as a sport. I’ve unfairly adjudged golfers as well-off snobs with too much money.

Then I played a round. I learned two things from that afternoon. First off, I really, truly suck at golf. Second, despite my nearly divine suckiness, I had to play again.

This is difficult for me to admit, even to my friends. Remember that Kafka story where Gregor Samsa wakes up to discover he’s a cockroach? I feel like that, but even worse. I feel like a Republican who wakes up and realizes he’s a Democratic cockroach – a gay, Democratic cockroach that lives in San Francisco.

Actually, given the price of actually playing golf, it’s more like a gay, Democratic, San Franciscan cockroach waking up to discover he’s a Republican.

Yeah. That about sums it up.

While I’m at the driving range, I watch other, more experienced golfers to improve my swing. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Before you swing, spend time selecting the proper club. This will help you forget that there’s only one other demographic that thinks that wearing a single glove is cool – and that’s the Michael Jackson demographic.
  • After completely hosing a shot, look around to see if anyone saw your shot. If someone did, hold up your club vertically and examine it as if to say, “Who put this piece of crap in my hand?’

If you think I’m kidding about this last one, keep your eyes open the next time you’re at a driving range. Also, if you see a guy in a t-shirt and shorts desperately trying to pretend he’s not playing golf, say hello. That’s probably me.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Dinosaur Button

I got a nasty surprise while driving with my three kids this morning. Out of nowhere, Julian, the three-year old, busts out the question:

“Dad, where do babies come from?”

Naturally, I was taken aback. Like most parents I assumed that television was teaching my kids about sex and I could avoid having this uncomfortable conversation. I mean, what’s the point of letting my small, impressionable children watch “The OC”, if it’s not going to be educational?

Once I got over the shock of hearing the question, I think I handled the situation with aplomb. First, I steered off the sidewalk and back onto the road. Not only was this, strictly speaking, the “legal” thing to do, but the screams of the pedestrians were making it hard to formulate a good answer to my son’s question.

Inspiration hit me and without turning around (because, strictly speaking, facing the rear while driving forward is not “legal”), I said this to Julian:

“Julian, what’s your favorite dinosaur?"

In the rear-view mirror, I could see Julian doing something that can only be described as rebooting. I think I actually saw his eyes counting RAM.

“I like raptors!” he blurted out.

“Me, too.” I said. We talked about dinosaurs for an hour, but the subject of babies did not come up again. I had lucked into an amazing, new child rearing method. Potentially, I could avoid the baby discussion indefinitely.

I called Bridget to tell her about my amazing new breakthrough but she was not impressed.

“It’s called the Dinosaur Button,” she said. “All males have it.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said.

“What’s your favorite dinosaur?

“Nice try,” I laughed. “I’m not a three year-old.”

Bridget waited.

“I like raptors!” I blurted out.

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Cosmo Wife Fu Test

Last week, we discussed my wife’s use of something called “Wife Fu”. Essentially, Wife Fu is a series of techniques designed to render men incapable of attracting other women when out of the wife’s visual range. Does your wife or significant other practice Wife Fu? Take this test and find out:

Does your wife encourage you to over-eat before you go out?

Think it’s a coincidence that chili night always falls on night you’re going out with the guys? Before you have that fifth bowl, consider this; studies show that only 20% of unmarried women are attracted to men who look like they’re pregnant. That number drops to nearly zero if the guy with the swollen stomach is actually farting.

Does your wife buy your clothes?

My dad once came to a family cookout wearing a tiny Garfield the Cat shirt stretched tight over his stomach. My brother and I knew instinctively that he did not buy that shirt. Poor, ignorant bastard. It made us want to grab him by his rainbow-colored suspenders and yell, “Wake up!”

Does your wife insist that you take the mini-van when you go out?

Forcing you to drive the mini-van is like forcing you to wear a second wedding ring – a 20 foot wedding ring. Look behind you. Is there a child’s car seat? Congratulations, your “mac” game has been completely neutralized.

Does your wife insist that you take your child with you when you go out?

I find this to be one of the toughest Wife Fu techniques to deal with. Some of the finer strip clubs simply won’t let you bring in a toddler. But this Wife Fu can backfire on your significant other if you actually seem to be a good father. This is called the “Baby Daddy” principle. It means that you can actually be in a strip club with your kid and, as long as you seem to like your kid, you will actually be attractive to women – because you’re a good father.

I don’t make this stuff up, I just report it.

Extra Credit

Does your wife insist that you take blood pressure medicine – even though you don’t have a heart problem?

Are you rich? If so, this has nothing to do with Wife Fu and everything to do with Life Insurance Fu.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Marital Arts of Wife Fu

So my friend Matt and I went to a movie the other night. While we waited for the movie to begin, we discussed the kind of things grown men usually discuss – quantum physics and Sharon Stone.

My wife encourages me to hang out with Matt, who I’ve known since I was a kid, for exactly this reason. Left to our own devices, we usually end up loudly discussing something like comic books or video games.

My wife says that this effectively neuters me and diminishes the chances that other women might talk to me while I’m out. This, in turn, prevents these women from seducing me and breaking up my marriage. And this is just one of the many techniques my wife employs in her combination of science and mysticism that I call Wife Fu.

I’d scoff, but I’m just not getting seduced out there. It’s either Wife Fu or that fact that I’m thirty-nine now, sporting some grey hair and regularly need to shave my ears.

It’s gotta be the Wife Fu.

Let’s get back to Sharon Stone and quantum physics. Some quantum theories posit that the universe is filled with infinite alternate realities where all possible outcomes occur. There is, for instance, another reality where I don’t have ear hair. There is yet another reality where I have the ear hair but don’t shave it. I call this the “Reingold Reality” in honor of an art teacher I had in junior high.

It occurred to me the other night that if quantum theory is true, there is some reality where I actually saw “Basic Instinct 2” – and liked it.

Matt visibly shuddered and said something even more chilling.

“If quantum theory is true, then there’s an alternate reality where you spend your entire life doing nothing but watching “Basic Instinct 2”.

While we walked, I swear I saw women actually repelled away from us, like positive particles fleeing the orbits of positive electrons.

Next Week: The Top Signs That Your Wife is a Master of the Marital Arts of Wife Fu

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Dilla

I went for my annual battery of medical physicals recently. It usually takes me about a month to cycle through all the various medical, dental and dermatological appointments. It’s an odd way to spend your time because these appointments usually consist of hours and hours of magazine reading punctuated by brief bursts where you have to get naked in front of strangers.

And that’s just the dentist.

I try to be positive about this process, but it’s not like the news is getting better. This year I learned that I have high cholesterol levels. This means that not only do I have to change my diet, but I have to acclimate to the new kinds of conversations I’ll be having.

For example, there’s the conversation that I had with my mother.

Mom: What are you having for dinner?

Me: Well, Bridget and the kids are having cheese quesadillas.

Mom: Why aren’t you having cheese quesadillas?

Me: I’m trying to watch my cholesterol. Cheese is bad for your cholesterol.

Mom: You could always have a quesadilla without the cheese.

Me: ?

I believe I actually said “?”, which I’ve never done before. Then again, I’ve never considered eating only the outside of a quesadilla – the “dilla” – before.

Still, I have to ask, has my mother stumbled on to something? Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers have been trying in vain to make tasty diet food by substituting new-fangled but bland ingredients for the unhealthy but deliciously dangerous ingredients. What if your line of diet food just left out the bad stuff completely?

I’d write more about it, but I just ordered a Supreme pizza from Pizza hut – hold the meat, hold the cheese and hold the crust. I’m paying $15 bucks for a layer of peppers, onions and olives in box. Yes, I’m on a low cholesterol diet. But on the bright side, I still get to eat pizza.

I think my mom may be a genius.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

King Kong and the Alan Thicke Incident

di•dac•tic adj.

1. Inclined to teach or moralize excessively

I love to know stuff. I love knowing stuff so much that I went to school an extra four years just to know more stuff. I even have a special plaque on my wall just to let other people know I did go to school for those four extra years and because of that I have mad skillz when it comes to knowing stuff.

You better recognize.

My brother Roger has the same skills. Many times at parties, we’ve discussed and debated a subject for hours, each of us elaborately offering up bits of stuff we know, until someone points out that a) we’re both saying exactly the same thing, and b) the party is over and everyone else has gone home. That’s how important knowing stuff is to me.

At the moment, Bridget is recovering from surgery. Since she’s stuck on the couch, we decided it would be nice to make some snacks and watch the new King Kong movie with the kids. At about an hour into the movie, the cast of adventurers had just been captured by skull-wearing islanders when Gabriel asked me an unusual question:

“Dad, why do Canadians hate us?”

Wow, I thought. What an odd question from a six year-old. It certainly deserved a thoughtful answer.

“Gabriel, the Canadians don’t hate us. And we don’t hate them. In fact, Canada is one of our largest trading partners.”

Bridget spoke up. “Gabriel isn’t interested in hearing about Canada, Richard.”

Obviously, the pain medication was affecting her. Gabriel wouldn’t have asked about Canada if he wasn’t curious, so I continued.

“Canadians are just a bitter than we have both the NFL and the NBA, while they only have hockey. Plus, there’s the infamous Alan Thicke incident.”

“He doesn’t mean “Canadians”, Richard,” said Bridget. “He means “Cannibals.””

“Cannibals?” I looked at the television where skull-wearing natives were industriously killing off the cast members of King Kong.

“Oh,” I said and turned bright red. It seemed that the teacher had been taught a lesson. This was a turning point, a moment when I could re-evaluate my need to overwhelm people with facts.

Or not. Knowing stuff is always better than self-awareness.

“Cannibals don’t really hate us, Gabriel. Their dietary choices are often a result of limited food resources or superstition.”

Gabriel looked at me. “Are they mad about that Alan Thicke thing, too?”

“Who isn’t?”

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lost in Transition

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s. I saw her recently at a get-together celebrating her fiftieth wedding anniversary. She looked exactly the same as I’ve always remembered her, a short woman with the kind of silver, curled hair only weekly visits to the beauty parlor can give you. I think she called me Mike or some other name, but that didn’t bother me; I knew what she meant.

Usually, I avoid thinking about my grandmother’s illness. I have this feeling that I should be doing or saying something more. Until this morning, though, I had no idea what that might be.

As I do almost every Thursday morning, I buckled all of the kids into the car and headed toward Gabriel’s school. We had twenty minutes to kill, so I decided to explore the old Thoroughgood neighborhood around the school.

Our detour bothered Gabriel. The further we drove away from our established route, the more bothered he got.

“Dad, we can’t be late for school,” he said. “Let’s go to the school like we’re supposed to. You’re getting us lost.”

Gabriel was right, actually. We were lost at one point, but I didn’t tell him that.

“We’re not lost,” I replied. “There’s more than one way to get there.”

Sure enough, I eventually guessed at the correct turn and we threaded our way back to more familiar streets. We made it to the school with minutes to spare and Gabriel relaxed instantly when he saw the brick building.

The second Gabriel relaxed, I thought of my grandmother and her fiftieth wedding anniversary. I wished I had taken Gabriel up to my grandmother and said:

“Gabriel, this is my grandmother. Sometimes, she doesn’t remember me, but I remember her. She used to be a school teacher. When I was a kid, she told me that it was okay that I liked books more than I liked sports. She told me that being smart was way better than being popular. She told me one day I would do something important, right and good. She told me who I was, back when I didn’t even know. She doesn’t remember, but I remember enough for both of us.”

And even though I don’t think it would make a difference, I should have said, “Grandma, I know you’re lost. I know you’re confused. I know you can’t remember how you got here. But try not to be scared; I think we’re all going to the same, good place and there’s more than one way to get there.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Desperate Onions

My wife is so serious about marriage and monogamy that we’ve actually come to the following understanding:

If she dies before I do, I am not allowed to re-marry.

And it gets worse. Not only is re-marriage out of the question; so is sex of any kind – for the rest of my life.

“What happens in heaven if you get re-married?” Bridget asks me. “Which wife would you be with?”

Bridget has given much thought to the issue, apparently. And now, so have I.

“If it’s heaven, then I doubt I’m married,” I say.

This is both a really, really funny thing to say – and really, really the wrong thing to say to Bridget.

Bridget woke up one morning recently and announced very seriously that she had dreamed that I had adulterous sex with Teri Hatcher from “Desperate Housewives.” My wife seemed to want an explanation.

Whoah. A husband should not be held accountable for his wife’s dreams. More importantly, my wife is clearly having the dreams I’m supposed to be having. This is amazingly unfair to me – and Teri (We’re having dream sex, what do you want me to call her? Ms. Hatcher?).

A week later, Bridget dreamed that I had sex with three female ghosts which, unfortunately, is only slightly less likely than me sleeping with Teri Hatcher. That same night, I think I dreamed about…onions. Again, this was unfair. But her dream did give me an idea.

“Bridget, if you die before I do, I think I can promise not to re-marry or have sex with anyone else…” I said. “…on one condition.”

“What’s the condition?” she asked.

“You have to have ghost sex with me.”

Laugh all you want. We have a deal.

Somewhere in California, Teri Hatcher is meeting with her therapist and saying, “I keep having these dreams that I’m having sex with a strange man while his wife is watching.”

“Do you recognize the man?” asks the therapist.

“No,” says Teri Hatcher. “But he smells like onions.”

Friday, March 10, 2006

Insane in the Membranes

My wife is near insane with hypochondria – for my children. If six year old Gabriel develops a cough, I usually think, “Hmm. Gabriel’s getting a cold.” If my wife hears the same rough hacking, she automatically escalates the diagnosis to pneumonia or pleurisy. This is important because:

Yesterday, Gabriel kneed his younger brother in the, ahem, testicles.

I apologize for the bluntness. I know the official Southern Family rulebook demands that my family come up with cute euphemisms for body parts i.e. “kiki”, “tatas”, “cha chas” or my personal favorite, “tallywhacker.” I, however, enjoy the horrified look that neighbors get when one of my kids busts out the word “vagina”, so we stick with the classics.

So, anyway…yesterday, accidentally or not, Gabriel hit three year old Julian way, way uncomfortably low in the stomach. Julian told his mother, “Mom, my testicles hurt.”

I’m sure it did. Heck, my testicles hurt just typing the sentence. But it’s one of those things that every boy learns the hard way. Bridget, though, was worried. First, she called me. When she couldn’t reach me, she did what any rational mother would do – she called her stepfather in Florida….to ask about my son’s testicles.

Now, whenever I’m bored, I like to imagine that awkward conversation.

This morning, though, my smugness was tested when Bridget rushed Julian over to me. She was frantic.

“Julian says there’s something wrong with his penis.”

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked. Panic rose in me. What if Julian’s testicles had really been hurt yesterday? What if, God help me, something was broken and I had just smugly blown it off?

“I don’t know what’s wrong with it. I can’t understand him,” she said.

“What’s wrong, Julian?” I asked.

He said something about his penis, but I couldn’t hear it clearly. I leaned in closer.

“Dad, my penis…”

“Yes, Julian?”

And then he said, I swear to God…

“Dad, my penis is big….”

Instantly, Bridget’s face went from anxiety to irritation and she stood up. I looked Julian in the eye with as much commiseration as I could muster.

“So is Dad’s, Julian. So is Dad’s.”