Friday, September 28, 2007


Here at Grim Richard Laboratories, we've been working on a Grim Richard trivia game. Our goal? To capture the essence of Grim Richard in a game. That means that our game needs to be witty, quick and a major pain in the ass.

I think we've done it.

I owe the seeds of the idea to my good friend Kevin, who I've known since I was a kid. People who went over to Kevin's house invariably discovered a plate of brownies or Rice Krispies treats that his mother had baked. Kevin would let his guests dig into the sweet treats and after a few moments passed, he'd say one thing.

"You notice I'm not eating any of those."

And then he wouldn't say anything else about the treats, nor would he answer questions about his statement. It was pure genius. We never stopped eating the treats, but it was harder to enjoy them because you were never sure what he meant when he said that.

We call our new game, Grivia - Grim Richard's Gross Trivia Game - and it's based on the same premise. Wait for the right moment and then announce something that is vague, factually true and possibly disturbing. For instance:

Three friends and I were hanging out one day when one of us farted. Farting, as many people know, is the primary bonding currency among guys and supplants football, NASCAR and scrapbooking. We naturally returned the salute in the customary way, mock indignation and an hour-long discussion about the pungency and loudness of the flatulence. I saw my chance to take it to the next level.

"Scientists have discovered that if you can smell a fart, that means that you have particles of fart in your nose."

This stopped the conversation cold. According to Grivia rules, I scored ten points for each disturbed listener for a total of 30 points. Actually, I scored 40 points because it even disgusted me a little.

Grivia is not a game for wimps. Or polite people.

You also score an additional 100 points if someone is still thinking about the statement days or years later. And I'm really good at picking up these bonus points.

The other night, I walked in the kitchen as my wife poured a tall, cold glass of milk. As she lifted it to her lips, I saw my opportunity.

"You know, technically, you're drinking cow breast milk," I said.

My wife kept drinking because she's played Grivia before. She set the glass down and turned to me. She had a milk mustache.

"You know, technically, you're an ass."

I would have been offended, but she said it with love.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Giant Angry Girl

My 3 year-old daughter is an angry girl.

Today, for instance, I visited a driving range with Riley in tow. She hates golf of any kind unless it involves her riding fast in a golf cart, so in preparation for our trip, I attempted to placate her with a Slurpee.

This worked for me, but not for the unfortunate driving range attendant who attempted conversation with my little blond daughter.

"Some lucky girl got a Slurpee today!" he said.

Full of sugar and spice, she responded the way any sweet girl would.

"I'm gonna eat your brain!" she yelled. And then launched her amazing scowl at him, keeping one eye wide open, the other eye tightly closed into a squint and her mouth curled into a fierce grimace.

The attendant actually turned pale. I went with a different shade - red.
"Whoah," he said. "I hope that Slurpee isn't your breakfast."

This is what people say when they think one of my kids is getting too much sugar.

"It's not the sugar," I want to explain. "It's high fructose angst."

I shall present further evidence. A few months ago, my two sons were drawing and coloring quietly at the kitchen table. This was a remarkable coloring session in two ways. First, the boys were not fighting and, second, they were actually drawing AT the kitchen table and not ON the kitchen table.

Riley came downstairs and into the kitchen with her baby doll hanging from one hand and her thumb in her mouth. She took the thumb from her mouth, which made a popping noise. Then she looked at the boys.

"Woozers," she said.

This is Riley's pronunciation of the word "losers". Then she unleashed her angry girl scowl and went back upstairs.

Riley also wants to be a giant. Because she's maybe three feet tall, this might seem like a conundrum for other, less angry little girls.

Not for Riley.

Whenever the mood hits - and no matter where it hits - she seeks me out. Then she holds out her arms as if to hug me and announces, "I wanna be a giant." My job is not to hug her, but to hoist her on my shoulders and walk around to other, shorter people.

"I'm a giant," she declares defiantly.

Usually, people take this is good stride - which usually indicates they didn't get her meaning.

Riley has sweet moments, but these usually occur while she's asleep. When she's sleeping, she's a little, blond cherub sucking on her thumb and hugging her baby doll.

On the inside, though, she dreams of being a scowling giant striding across the landscape, harassing losers and well-meaning driving range attendants.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

They Line Up

I unleashed my kids on the public school system last week; Gabriel assaulted the second grade and Julian dipped his toe into the educational pool by going to kindergarten for the first time. As it happens every year, the school held a "meet and greet" so that parents could introduce themselves to their children's teachers and faculty could outline their plans for the kids.

My wife went to the events this year. I don't go anymore because it bothers me to hear kindergarten teachers discuss the merits of homework. And it makes me sad to know that I could hurl one of those big, fat kiddie crayons in any direction and hit a kid on Ritalin.

Gabriel was in Kindergarten when his teacher first suggested that we put him on Ritalin. She said it nicely and even pointed out that several of the kids in her class were already taking the drug. The suggestion was a green smiley-face stamp, not a red stop sign.


Last spring at the end of the school year, Gabriel's first grade class held a party chock full of presents, songs and hot dogs. The fiesta culminated with a giant water balloon fight. It was a poorly-planned affair that nonetheless turned out to be, well, way cool.

Originally, I think the plan was to let the kids throw the hundreds of balloons at each other. That plan quickly went south. First, we led the kids to playground and, because no one could think of anything else to do, we had the kids line up. If there's one thing elementary school kids know how to do - it's line up.

But as we parents stood in a loose group with the buckets of water balloons that we had spent hours patiently filling, we began looking at each other. With a quick shrug, we grabbed water balloons and launched them at the kids.

It took fully 20 seconds for the children to realize what had happened. It took about ten more seconds before the bravest of the kids ran forward to grab balloons of their own and fight back. And then it was on, baby.

I remember being out of breath when we ran out of balloons and I remember every single person, young and old, was smiling and wet. I remember how happy my son looked. It might have been the best moment school moment we shared that whole year. The rest was red stop signs, grueling home work sessions and, sometimes, yelling.


Earlier at that same end-of-school party, I watched Gabriel sitting at his desk while his teacher thanked the class for the gifts she had received. At one point, she spoke to Gabriel but he didn't notice. He had formed a piece of lined notebook paper into a tall, cylindrical castle and pretended to assault it with erasers.

And right then, I recognized me. My son was exactly like me. School would always be a struggle because he would always be imagining wild battles and amazing heroes. Homework would go undone, tests would be failed. And the very thing that I most liked about myself - my imagination - suddenly seemed like a handicap, a chronic medical condition that needed to be fixed - like asthma or a cleft palate. And I had given it to him.


My second son has entered school now. I'm worried for him, but I deal with it by avoiding parent/teacher conferences. I concentrate on the water balloon moments. But even that crazy, great moment bothers me. I picture our little group of parents huddled around buckets. But instead of water balloons, the buckets are filled to the brim with Ritalin. The kids laugh and giggle with excitement because they don't know what's coming. But they line up. Because if there's one thing that elementary kids know how to do - it's line up.

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