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.