Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Denouement, Dudes!

    I have noticed that a lot of big time writers will use the end of the year as an excuse to revisit the previous year's columns. Supposedly, they do this to update the readers and add a kind of psychological denouement to the year.
    Personally, I like doing it because it makes for some easy writing. Also, I really like saying the word denouement.
    Let's start with flip flops. Readers may remember that I started wearing flip flops  for the first time this year. I did eventually learn to saunter in those laid back shoes. In fact, I successfully rocked those flip flops until one of the tiny toe thongs gave out at church one Sunday.
    I wish I was kidding about this.
    It seems I am both tacky enough to wear flip flops to church and unlucky enough to have one of the tiny toe things blow out, effectively turning my flip flops into just flops. Very loud flops if you must know.
    2008 was the year that I gave a name to the biggest e-mail scourge of all time, Spom  - or spam sent by your mother. Many of you reached out to me by sending me examples of the complete crap your mother had sent you via e-mail. Ironically, this meant that I was essentially being spommed by your mothers - as well as by my own. 
    So, we're gonna put that in the "backfired" column.
    I bought both an Iphone and an Amazon Kindle this year, successfully spending a thousand dollars to do things I could already do and neatly proving that I am both a consumer tool  and a completely legitimate candidate for some kind of government bailout.
    We also discussed my wife's addiction to celebrations this year. I'd like to think she's making progress, but we had a birthday party for a friend last night on December 30th, and we're having another for New Year's Eve tonight. Draw your own conclusions.
    Finally, I'm gonna do some gloating. In 2007, I pointed out that the conventional wisdom  re: losing more than half of your body heat through your head was, uh, stupid. Turns out I was right, for once.
    Happy new year, people.

Editor's Note: If you're like me, you sometimes forget how cool the 80s were. My gift to you as we head into 2009...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


    Here's the thing about my nine year-old son, Gabriel. He is a humongous nerd, obsessed with building Lego play sets and playing Halo video games. He is racked by social anxiety and has trouble concentrating in school. And despite all of this, he is convinced that he is right about everything.
    He reminds me of someone...
    Oh, wait. I remember now. It's me.
    And here's the other thing about Gabriel. Though he loves me, he clearly thinks I'm a moron.
    The other day, for instance, my younger son Julian asked me about Santa Claus while we played in the front yard. By playing, I mean that the kids were hurling a football and I was drinking a Pete's Cherry Wheat in a pink plastic Adirondack chair.
    "Dad," said Julian, "How old is Santa?"
    This was a relative easy question, as far as Santa questions go, and I jumped on it.
    "Santa is thousands of years old, Julian."
    He seemed placated by my answer and since placation is really all you can hope for when you answer your children's questions, I took a satisfied swig.
    "That's ridiculous!"
    I turned to see Gabriel rolling his eyes.
    "Excuse me?"
    "Santa is not thousands of years old," Gabriel retorted. "The Santa Claus position is thousands of years old. It's actually passed down from person to person, like a king or a queen. Nobody lives for a thousand years."
    I looked squarely at this little blond kid with the serious look on his face.
    "It does sound stupid now that I think about it."
    "Sheesh!" he answered.
    "What if I told you Santa Clause was a vast conspiracy by adults to make kids believe in an imaginary being? What if I told you also that adults formulated this conspiracy without ever actually discussing it? Further, would you believe that most parents have no clear idea why they're part of this vast conspiracy? And what if I told you parents buy all of the toys at Christmas and give the credit to this imaginary Santa because they love their children and don't care about getting the credit for it?"
    Gabriel didn't hesitate. "That's ridiculous!"
    "Yeah," I said. "I suppose it is."


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


    When we moved down to Florida, we left most of our family behind. We also left behind some of my oldest friends in the world - guys I grew up with. They are the best kind of old friends, the kind that knew me when I was a fat and acne-covered high schooler, the kind that hung out every Friday night even if no one had any concrete plans. And when we hung out, we did stupid kid shit, watched movies, played Dungeons and Dragons, read comics and fragged the crap out of each other in Halo 2. 
    I knew I'd miss them even before we left Virginia, but we left just the same.  
    We've gained new friends here in Florida and they are the best kind of new friends. They are intelligent, funny, responsible people with beautiful kids. They understand how hard marriage is. They only like their jobs some of the time, but they soldier on anyway, because that's what you do when you have a family. They have magnificent parties, actual shindigs that last into the early hours of the morning, shindigs with all the elements of a good story - narrative, rising action, spicy dialog and denouement. And like those parties, life is bigger here in Florida.
    Last weekend, for instance, we joined our friends in their front yard to watch the space shuttle Endeavor launch into space. We hadn't actually planned to watch the launch. It was more like an afterthought, a nice bonus that you get for living in Florida. Cape Canaveral is maybe 150 miles away, but we watched the countdown on our friends' living room television and rushed out to join the neighbors as everyone looked north for the fiery trail of the rocket booster. And about a minute later, we saw it. It didn't look like a rocket, really. It looked like a shooting star. And for the first time in a long time, I thought about the seven people on top of that little orange flickering light. I wondered if they were afraid. Or were they just excited?
    I miss my old friends at the weirdest times. I missed them the night the new James Bond movie opened, because I knew that a thousand miles away, my friends would be meeting at the mall to catch the late show. Afterwards, they might play Halo if no one had work in the morning.
    I miss my friends when I wear certain clothes. I have a black t-shirt with a red and white picture of a twenty-sided die, the kind of dice you roll in Dungeons and Dragons to determine a character's probability to hit another character. To the right of the picture of the die are the words "I roll twenties." 
    I wore it to a party the other night. 
    I like to wear the shirt to parties because it's like a secret nerd signal. Usually, one or two guys will quietly acknowledge the shirt by smiling or saying "I used to play that game when I was kid." Occasionally, I'll hear a semi-drunken cry of "Critical Hit!" and I know that some of my kind are at the party, hiding like nerdy Wildebeests in a pride of lions.
    A few people asked about the shirt the other night, but no one knew what the picture and legend meant. 
    I kinda expected that, but I was hoping just the same.
    I'll tell you what else I thought about on the night of the shuttle launch. I thought about the seven people strapped into their seats and hurtling as fast as they could toward their futures. In the midst of all the violent shaking and huge explosions, did they think about the people behind them?
    I think they did.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


    Fatherhood is a breeze, if you don't count all the studying.
    It was last Saturday at the local Supercuts. I've got the whole family there, plunked down in those plastic chairs and reading golf and travel magazines. There are a few other people waiting. Gabriel asks a question - kind of casually.
    "When was World War II, Dad?"
    I had just found an article in my magazine that promised to shave 10 strokes off of my golf game, so I shot him back a casual answer.
    "A long time ago, Gabriel."
    When I didn't look up from the magazine, Bridget punched me in the arm.
    "Answer him," she said.
    "It's a trap," I said without looking up. One of the male patrons laughed.
    "A trap? That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard," said Bridget. "Answer the question."
    I didn't move. She appraised me for a moment.
    "Unless you don't know the answer."
    I looked at my wife for a second and put down my magazine. I looked at Gabriel, who was playing a Nintendo DS game.
    "The United States entered the war in 1941, but it started in Europe earlier, in 1939."
    I picked the magazine back up.
    "When did World War II end?" he asked.
    "I thought that was the Civil War."
    "Nope. The Civil War ended in 1865."
    "When did the Civil War start?"
    "1861, I think."
    Gabriel changed tack.
     "Who were the good guys in World War II?"
    "Lots of countries, but I'll go with the biggies...the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union."
    "Who were the bad guys in World War II?"
    "The Axis - the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese, mainly."
    Gabriel wasn't done, but I could see my wife getting a little antsy.
    "When did it end?
    "1945, roughly."
    "Why did it start?"
    "Lots of reasons, mostly economic. But Hitler lit the fuse by invading Poland."
    He flicked off his DS and sighed.
    "Dad, why was Hitler bad?
    "Gabriel!" Bridget almost shouted. "That's enough. Let your dad read his magazine."
    I scanned the golf tips.
    "I told you it was a trap."


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Grim Richard Rocks the Vote

    The other day, while dropping off a library book, I noticed the early voting line winding around the library. Naturally, I was intrigued. Longtime readers of this column know that there's nothing I like more than a good, long line. And since there's no Iphone or Harry Potter book coming out in the next couple of months, the early voting line might be my last chance to faire en queue until, say, Black Friday.
    So I decided to get in line, but first I picked up the kids from school. Sure, part of me hopes that they'll learn to enjoy long lines with the same reverence I do, but also I figured it would be nice if my kids had at least one memory of me doing something responsible.
    But as much as I like standing in line to buy stuff, the early voting line almost broke me. When I arrived, the line only ran down one side of our tropical library and was fairly short, maybe 300 feet long. Soon after, though, the computers that checked for voter eligibility went down and turned a 30 minute civics lesson for my kids into something a little more difficult.
    You see, my kids have to the ability to behave for roughly 29 minutes. And sure enough, for exactly that short period of time, my kids amused themselves by collecting rocks at the edge of the parking lot and asking precocious questions about the election process. At about 30 minutes, though, you could see their kidness cracking through the good behavior, like monsters awaking inside ancient terra cotta statues.
    Some of the crowd was getting surly, too.
    "I thought the whole point of early voting," said one middle-aged guy in dress slacks, "is to avoid the long lines on election day. This stinks."
    A lot of people in line agreed. Since early voting started, we've been seeing reporter after reporter detailing the difficulties and long lines for voting in this neck of the woods. Standing in the same place without moving only confirmed the news reports that was something potentially wrong here - that South Florida was screwing up again.
    And as my kids flitted in and out of the line, throwing leaves and arguing over rocks, I started to feel the same way. I started to feel like voting was harder than it was supposed to be. 
    And then I remembered something.
    I stood in two separate lines to buy the last Harry Potter book. I once stood in a mile-long line to get into an event at the San Diego comic convention. I once waited five hours to buy a video game console. In other words, I will stand in line for hours just to get some amazingly stupid shit.
    And I remembered, too, that this is South Florida. There are a hundred Guatemalans within a half mile who traveled a thousand miles to get to the city I live in. That's a pretty long line, too. I bet any one of those people would trade places with me, even if it meant spending two hours in line once every four years.
    Don't believe the media and don't believe the grumpy people in line. Our system is working, even when the voting machines aren't. Our system is working because I can stand in line with kids without worrying about their safety.
    I finally got to vote. And I'm glad my kids did see it. If you're reading this, I hope you vote - no matter who your candidate is, no matter how busy you are. Our kids are watching. And some of them are going to remember that their mom and dad once stood in line for eight hours to buy a Wii, but they couldn't find one extra hour to vote.


Monday, October 13, 2008

The Five

    I was driving my son Gabriel to school today and listening to Wilco's song "Hummingbird" when I realized what an amazing song it is. To begin with, it has possibly the best lyrical opening line ever created for a pop song:
    "His goal in life was to be an echo."
    This line is, of course, pure genius - rich, creamy imagery surrounding a satisfying nougat with just the right amount of artsy fartsy. It reminds me of moi, frankly. Especially the nougat.
    The rest of the song is just as good. In fact, when the song got to these words...
    "Remember to remember me
    Standing still in your past
    Floating fast like a hummingbird"
    ...I realized that "Hummingbird" is one of The Five - my personal list of the five best songs ever written. As you might expect, this is not a permanent list. The collection varies, sometimes on whim. There was a dark day this summer, for instance, when "I Kissed a Girl" occupied all five spots. I don't like to talk about that day or my brief struggle with lesbianism.
    As of today, though, The Five are as follows:
    "Hummingbird" by Wilco
    "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" as covered by Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole A.K.A Bruddah Iz
    "My Babe" by Little Walter
    "Love Stinks" by the J. Geils Band
    "Little Tornado" by Aimee Mann
    As you can see, I'm feeling a little "sensitive" right now. BTW, If you've got a list of The Five, let me see 'em. 

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bounce House

    In principle, I like birthday parties. But my wife, honestly, has a celebration problem and she's making it hard for me to enjoy any of party or holiday celebration. Take my son Julian's recent sixth birthday party. 
    Julian duck-duck-goosed his way into pre-pre-pre teendom with 60 guests from his class and neighborhood, two separate SpongeBob birthday cakes and a full range of alcoholic drinks for the parents.
    Also, Julian and his guests enjoyed a full-sized bounce house, one of those inflatable rooms that kids jump around in at carnivals and school fairs. I planned to include it in the list of birthday excesses detailed earlier, until Bridget pointed out that I spent more time bouncing than any of the kids.
    I couldn't help it. It made my stomach feel funny.
    Friends and family know that Bridget's preoccupation with celebrations doesn't stop at birthday parties either. We put up two Christmas trees every year. Bridget picks a theme for one and I pick a theme for the other. This year, for instance, one of the trees (Bridget's) will use Herbie the Dentist and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as metaphors for man's alienation from society. My tree's theme will be, uh, candy canes.
    Bridget's obsession is not just wearing me down. Gabriel's ninth birthday is coming up and Bridget talked with him about the party as we set the table for dinner.
    "So, Gabriel, how many kids are you inviting to your birthday party?"
    Gabriel shrugged. "I don't know, maybe five. I don't have a lot of friends."
    Bridget smiled.
    "Well, honey, you've got a month to make some more friends. Get on it."
    Gabriel looked to me for sympathy, but I couldn't help him. I've seen the party budget that Bridget prepared and there's no way we're gonna be able to justify the bounce house for just five kids.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Pianus

Many thanks to the readers who helped me briefly beat the sales ranking of "Identifying Wood" on Amazon. It was, however, just the first salvo in the war. Today, however, we take a break from the publishing battles and return to my roots - embarrassment by family members:
Our story starts when the Brown family invited our family over to their house for a pool party. Bridget and I looked forward to this. When you're new in town, it's difficult to meet people and make friends. And by "people", I mean neighbors with common interests or goals. As I related in a past column, my kids have already introduced us to local law enforcement, so we're covered on that side of things.    
Anyway, we went over to the Brown family house around 2 p.m. on a sunny Saturday. Our kids jumped immediately into their pool with the Brown kids and began swimming. On the tiled deck next to the pool, Bridget and I jumped into the conversational pool and began treading water with Hank and Anya, the Brown parents.     
Hank and Anya, it turns out, are not only attractive people, they're funny and smart as well. About an hour into our conversation, when their Ipod began playing "Why I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats, I had to stifle the urge to grab Bridget and squeal out loud like a teenage girl, "These people are so totally cool. I hope they like us."  It was only later that things went horribly wrong. And by "things", I'm referring to my four year-old daughter Riley.              
It happened as Anya prepared to serve dinner and called everyone out of the pool. Hank stood in his swimsuit to one side of the breakfast counter. Riley charged around from the other side of the counter, pointed to Hank at about crotch level and said:     
"You have a little penis."
For a moment, I thought I might be mistaken about what Riley had said, so I glanced over to Bridget. The horrified look on her face told me that she had heard the same thing. I also saw 8 year-old Gabriel's face, which looked radiant and full of joy, so I knew he had also heard the same thing.
To make matters worse, Riley had mangled the pronunciation of the word "penis" so that it came out sounding like a horrible combination of "penis" and "anus".
She pronounced it "pi-anus".     
And this is how Hank responded:     
"Uh, what?"     
"You have a little pi-anus," Riley restated helpfully.     
"Uh, what?" Hank re-restated.    
Which was exactly what I would have said in the same situation, except I would have added,"I, uh, just got out of the pool."    
Hank looked at me, confused.
I considered telling Hank the truth - that I regularly let Riley hang out with two of the most scatologically-obsessed people on the planet. These two people - Riley's brothers - spent most of every day teaching her inappropriate words. And even worse, God help me, I had laughed at some of the jokes. Rather than teaching my daughter manners, I had probably been subtly telling her it was okay to talk about someone's pi-anus.
But that's not what I said. No, I was trying to look cool in front of the Browns. For all they knew, I was a responsible parent. I decided to act like one.
"Riley," I said. "We don't talk about people's penises in public. That's unacceptable."
"Your father's right," Bridget echoed.
We felt very parental and very mature until Anya spoke.

"Your minds are in the gutter. Riley didn't say that Hank had a little penis. Riley said Hank had a little piano."
"Uh, what?" I said.
"Riley said that Hank had a little piano," Anya restated. She seemed amused.
I didn't know what to say to Anya. I felt relieved that she had misinterpreted Riley's speech, but her interpretation was ridiculous. It was a humongous stretch of the imagination - until Anya pointed to the other side of breakfast bar.
That's where the Brown family keeps a little, tiny wooden piano.     

Monday, September 08, 2008

Identify This!

    It's done. Last week, my first published book, "The Book of Gabriel" hit and set the Web site on fire.
    Okay. That's an overstatement. It's ranked like 362,762 today.
    I really thought this whole bestselling author thing would be easier. I figured readers might need maybe a week to find my book, an hour to read it and possibly a day or two to start tearfully enjoining their friends to jump on the Grim Richard bandwagon. According to my calculations, I should already be sitting by the pool in a smoking jacket and turning down interviews from Oprah.
    No such luck. And to make matters worse, writing this entry just reminded me that I totally forgot to buy a bandwagon. How are people going to jump on the Grim Richard bandwagon, when I don't even have one?
    This bestselling author thing is tougher than I thought.
    I can take it. After all, I'm an unknown author who wrote a book smart-ass book of advice for his son - A smart-ass book that includes stories about growing up in nudist camp and babies with rotisserie heads. There's a reason why I kept getting rejection letters that said, "I love this book, but I have no idea how I'd sell it."
    But here's what hurts. You want to know what book is currently perched at number 71,634 on's book list? It's a hardcover book called "Identifying Wood: Accurate Results with Simple Tools ". As you might expect, it's a book about looking at wood grain and identifying which species of tree it comes from.
    I'm being outsold by a book on wood.  That really puts things into perspective. And I really, really hate perspective.
    I don't care about the smoking jacket and Oprah anymore. I don't care about being a bestselling author. I just want the "The Book of Gabriel" to outsell a book about wood. That's my lofty goal. I'll let you know how it goes.
    I only have one problem so far. I truly, deeply and devoutly want to buy "Identifying Wood" just to say I have a book about wood identification. The only thing stopping me from giving it the quick click purchase on Amazon?
    I'm saving up for a bandwagon. They're outselling my book, too.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Bathroom Tourists

My sons are bathroom tourists.

Anytime we go to a restaurant - and we go to a lot of restaurants - both boys find some excuse to visit the bathroom.
Several times.

This would be less irritating if I had no plan to, say, eat at these restaurants. Unfortunately, I usually wait until I'm hungry to visit a restaurant and eating is pretty much the foremost thing on my mind. I might even go alone, but society pretty much demands that I feed my family, too.
Damn society.

Instead, like most parents of young children, I spend only 25% of my time at restaurants actually eating. Another 50% is spent repeatedly visiting the bathroom. The final 25% is spent yelling.

"No. You cannot go to the bathroom. I don't care if your bladder swells to twice its usual size and then explodes; you are not going to the bathroom again."

And then I usually take them to the bathroom again because I see fellow diners are dialing 911.

I know why my sons like going to the bathroom. It's those frickin' paper towel dispensers with the laser-activated mechanisms. My kids enjoy washing their hands and then waving them like a wand under the dispensers until the box magically rolls out a sheet of gritty paper.

I get that. I really do. I myself frequent exactly one movie theater in Florida and I do it for one reason only - the theater has the new Dyson Air Blade machines that actually squeegee your hands with air. Sometimes, I lose complete interest in the movie and spend most of my time in the bathroom. Sometimes, I'm forced to stand in a line of like-minded guys, each one tearing himself away from the Dyson with an embarrassed laugh.

I swear to you right now that I will have one of those Dyson Air Blades in my home - right next to the immensely practical urinal I'm planning to install.

Occasionally, I don't mind the frequent trips with my kids to the bathroom. My favorite trip so far was to an older diner attached to a drug store. We visited the bathroom, and after the boys finished their business, 5 year-old Julian walked expectantly to the paper towel dispenser and waved his hand under it.

When nothing happened, he waved his hand again. Still nothing. 9 year-old Gabriel took a swipe, apparently under the impression that Julian had waved his hand incorrectly.

I reached over and pulled down on the black old-style lever on the side of the brushed metal dispenser. One sheet advanced and my sons' mouths fell open.

They liked even better than the lasers.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chock Full of Jesus

I've been going to church with my family since we moved to Florida. This was Bridget's idea, mostly, because she's worried about our kids growing up without any kind of reference point for religion.

A few years ago, for instance, we ate a holiday dinner at Bridget's aunt's house. Someone began to say grace and everyone at the table bowed their heads - except for the three Grim Richard children who, with their mouths crammed with food, looked around in amazement as the entire room of people closed their eyes. It was Gabriel, I think, who had the guts to shout out the obvious heathen question:

"Why the heck is everybody sleeping, Dad?"

So, there is some merit to Bridget's concern.

I'm surprised by how much I like going to this church. At first, I only agreed to attend because I think it's a good idea to force a conversation about morality at least once a week. Usually, this blog forces two or three uncomfortable conversations a week with my wife, so I sort of assumed that base was covered.

Apparently not.
v Gradually, though, I've come to enjoy the nice people, the great conversations and the fact that the "H" word is not thrown around like a holy brick. Also - and Bridget will hate me for mentioning this - there are donuts in the lobby after services. I think other churches really underestimate the synergy of donuts and religion.

Alas, the donuts are off limits for me now. A recent physical showed that I had borderline high blood pressure problems, borderline sugar problems and, finally, borderline cholesterol problems. To combat these borderline ills, I've adopted a pretty strict diet that denies me sugar, refined wheat and, most of all, high fructose corn syrup.

And so far, it's worked. My sugar levels dropped to acceptable levels. My blood pressure also dropped. It turns out that if you concentrate on eating only "food", your body tends to...what's the word I'm looking

A few Sundays ago, our church held Communion. Ushers handed little cubes of bread and tiny glasses of grape juice to everyone who wanted to participate. On cue, everyone popped their cubes of bread into their mouths. Except for me.

Bridget gestured impatiently toward my bread.

"High fructose corn syrup," I whispered.

Bridget shook her head forcefully and I swallowed the bread. I got her point. A little corn syrup is okay as long as the bread is chock full of Jesus.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Miley Vyrus

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted. I have good excuses. My brother and his family came into town, for instance. Also, I just plain suck sometimes.

It's true. You can look it up on Wikipedia.

I planned to make up for my sloth by writing and posting a really good, amazingly funny blog entry. And I did indeed write a really good, amazingly funny entry yesterday which I was five seconds from posting this morning.

Until I saw the Hannah Montana Wake Up call site. Using this snappy purple and pink site, you can actually have a recording of Hannah Montana call your daughter's cell phone and give her a personalized reminder about her cooking class, girl scouts or cheerleader practice.

That's one possibility, anyway.

Or you could use the site to interrupt your friend Ron's important business meeting to remind him about his non-existent Girl Scout meeting. And what about Mike and Hank? Wouldn't they feel left out if Hannah Montana didn't call to give them a chirrupy reminder about gymnastics practice?

But wait a second here. I'm a middle-aged man with middle-aged friends who have serious responsibilities. Is this really the kind of behavior grown adults would appreciate?


So, anyway, my apologies go out in advance to Ron, Mike, Matt, Hank and Roger. I would have hit more friends, but the site only lets you schedule five calls per e-mail address. I would have set another, temporary e-mail address in order to spread the Miley Vyrus but I have a lot of important, responsible work to do.

Like posting the web address for the Hannah Montana Wake Up Call site.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Tiny Toe Thongs

You know how some kids don't live near a pool or the ocean? And those kids, because they don't have access to water, never learn how to swim? And when they grow up, they keep avoiding pool parties and trips to the beach because they don't want anyone to know that they can't swim?
That's how it is with me and flip flops. I don't know how to walk in them.

Yes, by "flip flops", I mean the casual beach footwear championed by surfers and singer James Buffet. It's not something I planned; it was more of a lifestyle choice. I grew up on the mean streets of a coastal Virginia town, a really fat kid with an amazing talent for being a smart ass. This meant I did a lot of running to avoid getting beat up. Flip flops just didn't fit in with my shoot-your-mouth-off-and-run-like-hell-for-home lifestyle.

My feet, too, present compatibility problems with flip flops. They're not normal feet. My size thirteen feet are almost half toes and full of sinewy animal-like veins. People who have seen my feet can actually see evidence that we and apes have descended from a common ancestor.

It's true. I've had actual creationists approach me at the beach, look at my feet and renounce their former beliefs.

"Evolution," they sigh. "I totally get it now. Sorry, God."

Flip flops, unfortunately, are not really built to handle feet with finger-long toes. So,for these reasons and others, I've tried to hide my flip flop problems. I've worn regulars shoes and socks to the beach, embraced the Teva gladiator-like sandals and have generally done everything I can to avoid the tiny toe thongs of flip flops.

But the other day I found them - a tan aerodynamic pair of Dexters with blue accents and a soft rubbery foot bed that cradled my humongous feet. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was ready to try flip flops. I haven't been beat up in years after all and I've grown tired of buying Maximus-style sandals to hide my ape-like feet. I pointed the flip flops out to Bridget and she gently urged me to buy them. She even offered to help me learn to walk in them.

I wore them out to the car and Bridget, though she promised not to, laughed at me.

"You're walking like a girl who just got her first pair of high heels."

She paused. "No, I take that back. You're walking like a geisha who's just learning to walk on those Japanese wooden platform shoes."

Bridget's flip flop lessons were not as constructive as I first hoped.

Still, her taunts may have had an unexpected effect. I'm trying harder to master this footwear because of the harassment. One day I will casually walk in these casual shoes, with not too much flip and just enough flop. I will saunter in these laid back shoes and strike a blow for the flip flop-impaired and the people with huge, grotesque feet.

And the non-swimmers. I won't forget them either.

BTW: Writing this blog reminded me of the great band Guadalcanal Diary and one of their albums, "Flip Flop". So I spent most of my time writing this listening to the song "Always Saturday". The MP3 is not available on Amazon or Itunes, so I ended up watching it on YouTube. It's great song and a great video. Check it out if you can.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Martian Ice

School is out - which means that we've got to enroll our kids in some kind of camp quickly or we'll actually have to spend more time with with them. And none of the kids wants that.

Luckily, there's a different kind of summer camp for almost every kind of kid and we've been able to match our three kids to activities that suit their personalities. Riley, our four year-old girl, plies to dance classes every day in a pink leotard and matching shoes. Julian, who loves and excels at sports of all stripes, is slamming homers at baseball camp. And what about Gabriel - our pale eight year-old who dislikes sports and loves studying Uranus?

He's going to baseball camp with Julian.

Yeah, I know. But in our defense, it's not as easy to find an Uranus summer camp as you might think. It is, however, amazingly fun to call around to recreational centers and ask about one. Ultimately, it was just easier for us to send Gabriel to baseball camp and pretend that we're doing it so that he'll sample new things.

Gabriel is taking it like the champion nerd trooper he is. Every day he marches out to the outfield in his shorts and untied sneakers and stands there while baseballs rain down and other more competitive kids in actual, professional-looking uniforms yell at him to hustle.

But I don't think Gabriel is concentrating on his hustle.

Bridget and I picked the boys up from camp the other day. I tossed out the usual question.

"So, did you like baseball camp?"

"Yeah!" they answered. Gabriel's enthusiasm surprised me. "So, what was your favorite part about baseball camp?" I asked.

Julian chimed in first. "I like hitting the ball!"

"What about you, Gabriel?" I asked. He got a huge smile on his face.

"The dirt on the infield reminds me of the surface of the Mars!"

He's not wrong. Infield dirt totally looks like Martian surface.

I think Bridget is a little disappointed that Gabriel is not into baseball. Me? I like having two kids running around on the baseball diamond. One of them spends his time blasting home runs out the park. The other feigns playing baseball while he surreptitiously searches for Martian ice just below the surface.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I called Bridget the other morning from work.

"Yes?" she said tersely.
"I just wanted to call and, you know, apologize for the way I acted when I got home yesterday."

"You mean when you were acting like a d**k?"

I was picking up on subtle verbal cues that signaled that my wife might still be feeling some animosity. I'm intuitive that way.

The evening before I had pulled into the driveway after work and had been greeted by my smiling wife, kids and dogs. A smart guy would have jumped out of his car, grabbed a beverage and enjoyed the Florida evening with his family. I chose a different route when I noticed that my wife had once again parked her car in the middle of our two car driveway, which prevented me from parking my car. I stormed in the house without talking to anyone and made a sandwich.

Still, I didn't think my behavior merited the "D" word.

"I think the word "d**k" is a little strong."

"Really?" She sounded genuinely surprised.

"In all fairness," I replied, "I hadn't eaten all day and I was tired from ten hours of work in the hot Florida sun."

"And that excuses your temper tantrum?"

Now I was a little irritated.

"That was not a temper tantrum. That was a physiological response to adverse environmental conditions."

She didn't say anything so I continued.

"This was more like a seizure. Like, you know, epilepsy - but different."

"In other words, you have dickilepsy."

There was that word again. I formulated a measured, even retort that not only explained my position but let my wife know just how offended her repeated use of that word made me. And then I discarded it.

"Exactly. I have dickilepsy."

"Is there some kind of telethon for that?"

"Nope. Not that I'm aware of. But there should be."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Obsessed with Uranus

I have two bits of news:

To begin with, the first ever Grim Richard book is headed for publication in the next couple of months. It's called "The Book of Gabriel" and it's being published by a small outfit called San Francisco Bay Press. The book, as regular readers might imagine, concerns my oldest son, Gabriel, around whom my second bit of news revolves.

Gabriel, it seems, has become obsessed with our solar system. That's not particularly unusual, given that Gabriel studied our solar neighborhood during the second grade school year that he just completed. His area of scientific focus, however, is peculiar.

Gabriel is enthralled with Uranus.

I'm not saying that to be funny or childish. Okay, actually I am. But I'm also being accurate. Gabriel has studied all of the planets in our solar system and, unlike other kids who are drawn to the rings of Saturn or the sheer mass of Jupiter, he is drawn to the seventh planet from the sun.

Uranus is all that Gabriel wants to talk about and this has given me and his mother humongous amounts of enjoyment.

Perhaps more mature parents might not giggle when their son announces in a bookstore that he "loves Uranus." We, unfortunately, are not those parents. My personal favorite so far? While working on an art project, he announced, "I need more glitter for Uranus."

Indeed. Who doesn't?

In any case, other Grim Richard publishing projects may require us to establish a corporate umbrella of some kind. Gabriel overheard his mother and I discussing this and almost instantly suggested a name.

Uranus Books.

I love that kid.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ultra Dog

As I predicted mere weeks ago, an attempt was made to insert a new dog into the Grim Richard family - a new dog we didn't need. Luckily, I sensed the attempt, put my foot down and let everyone in the family know that I'm against getting a puppy.

So, anyway, it's a Boston Terrier.

The black and white three pounder has already completed two-thirds of the demonic puppy trifecta. She vomited on my son Gabriel about 30 minutes after meeting him and peed on our kitchen ceramic tile later that night. She hasn't done the dirtiest dog deed in the house yet, but I imagine it's only a matter of time. I'm am not fooled by her exaggerated comic galumphing around the house. I know she is plotting to poop in the house as soon as I let my guard down.

I saw this dog thing coming a mile away. So I prepared myself for the intrusion. I prepared myself for the mess. But there is one thing I was less than prepared for.

I love this freakin' dog.

It actually delights me to see her sliding around on our ceramic tile. It makes me happy deep in my heart to see her prancing and gamboling with my children. I'm not saying this ironically, either. I love this freakin' dog.

Let me demonstrate how weird I'm feeling about this dog. Remember when I said that the puppy peed on our ceramic tile? I actually thought it was cute because she didn't squat. She bowed down into a kind of dainty plie - like a ballet dancer - and did her business.

I think that's interesting. If an actual ballet dancer did a plie and then peed on my floor, I'd be horrified. But if this dog does it, I think it's adorable. This might be a sign of the apocalypse. Also, I just used the word "adorable" and I'm uncomfortable with that.

I'm not completely turning into a pushover because of this dog. One of the preconditions for getting the dog was that I'd be allowed to name it, no strings attached. I wanted something original and fun, so I winnowed my choices down to "Ultra Dog" (I have no idea why) and "Watts" (a clear nod to Mary Stuart Masterson's epic drummer girl from the 80s flick "Some Kind of Wonderful").

So, anyway, we're naming it "Marnie".

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mother's Day Mystery

So, my family gave me a really sweet golf driver for Mother's Day.
Why would my family give me, the father, a gift for Mother's Day? Well, that part is simple. They gave me a new driver because they didn't break the old one. And why would my family replace a club that didn't need replacing?

It's a Mother's Day Mystery that started like this...

Time: 2:15 p.m. Mother's Day, Location: Sports Authority

My in-laws have just taken us to lunch to celebrate the holiday, but now we're at a sports store -ostensibly to pick up a golf glove for my five year-old son. My father-in-law walks up to me and puts his hand on my shoulder.

"Look, Bridget has some bad news to tell you, but she's afraid to do it. I'm just gonna lay it out for you."

For a second, I'm taken aback - not because my father-in-law has mysterious news to give me, but because he's a dude and his hand is on my shoulder. He notices my discomfort, removes his hand and continues.

"The kids broke your golf driver the other day. You need to buy a driver while you're here."

"My driver?" I gasped. I've never actually gasped before. My gasp is way more feminine than I expected.

"Your driver," he repeated and put his hand back on my shoulder. This time I didn't mind.

"How did it happen?" I asked. "When did it happen?"

Time: 9:30 a.m. 2 Weeks Ago - Location: Our Garage

The kids are playing in the garage. By playing in the garage, I mean that the kids are raising and lowering the electric garage door repeatedly. Suddenly, there is silence. Bridget goes out to investigate. There she finds my precious driver in three pieces and Julian in tears because he thinks he's in trouble. A decision is made there, a pact is sealed and a conspiracy is born. Nothing will be said to Dad about his obviously expensive club until a replacement can be purchased. There is, however, some things that my wife doesn't know.

Time: 2:17 p.m. Mother's Day - Location: Sports Authority

The news has sunk in and the entire family is waiting to see my response. Inside, I'm elated. I get to buy a new golf driver. And I get to do it guilt-free. Husbands never get to buy golf stuff without feeling guilty.

Except I know something that my wife doesn't know.

My driver is in my golf bag in the car - not in the garage. Julian probably broke a fairway wood that I never use. Even if he had broken my driver, it wouldn't matter. I bought my entire bag of clubs for a hundred dollars new. My driver is worth maybe eight dollars.

I'm standing in the Sports Authority, surrounded by my family and thousands of golf clubs. I'm tempted to pick up an expensive new club just to teach my wife a lesson. I'm tempted to buy a new driver and then tell her the story so that she understands how hurt I am by her lack of trust. But then I realize that I would never be able to use that club without feeling guilty. Buying a new club would mean that I sank to their level. Did I really want to do that?

Time: 3:18 p.m., Day After Mother's Day - Location: Golf Course

So, I got one of those new square, MOI drivers with a 10.5 degree loft. And you wanna know something? I can't swear to it, but I think guilt actually makes your ball go further.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Low Hanging Fruit

Sometimes, especially during prolonged presidential campaigns, it's easy to become jaded and assume that politicians spend too much time collecting money and not enough time solving the basic problems facing Americans.

Not here in Florida. In Florida, our legislature has kept their collective eye on the ball and have just finished months of debate about one of the hairiest moral dilemmas of our times:
Is it okay to hang simulated bull testicles from the bumper of your pickup truck?

For those of you not up to date on the latest truck technology, I'll explain. (Editor's Note: If you're one of those readers more interested in the latest bull testicle technology - you're on your own). It seems that while the Japanese car industry wasted time developing its almost-certain-to-fail hybrid motor technology, truly innovative American inventors pioneered a way to make giant, life-like bull testicles from plastic products and affix them to the bumpers of kick-ass American pickups.

You know, like a decoration - but a really kick-ass, inappropriately swinging, American decoration.

These plastic, simulated bull testicles have become so popular that horrified mothers around the state of Florida have complained to their representatives about the rapidly growing (and rapidly swinging) phenomena. I admire their courage of these women because most mothers I've met are reluctant to discuss simulated bull testicles - no matter how often I mention them in everyday conversation.

Go figure.

Luckily, politicians love to talk about simulated bull testicles as much as I do. They're constantly on the prowl for easy, no-brainer laws to pass - low hanging fruit, so to speak. And this was the lowest of the low hangers. So, for the past few months Floridians have been treated to lots of clever headlines, much posturing and more than a few pictures of plastic bull testicles. I've thought about tossing out a few double entendres of my own - you know, before the case peters out - but ultimately decided against it.

My decision to take the high road turned out to be a good one. The Florida legislature decided today to set aside any consideration of an anti-testicle legislation. American innovation has once again triumphed over the Japanese and, uh, mothers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Doggie Bags

I was standing in the Golfsmith store today, browsing through stuff I want but will never buy, when a long-haired blonde guy stuck his head in the door.

"Can I bring my puppy in here?" he asked.

"What the hell?" I thought to myself. Why would someone bring their puppy to a golf store? Why would he even take his dog in the car if he knew he had shopping to do? What would make him think that a store would allow a dog inside?

Maybe the dog is a golfer, I snorted. This joke kinda backfired because I spent the next 20 seconds actually picturing a dog playing golf, which would explain why people in the Golfsmith store saw a sunburnt guy stopped dead in his tracks with a huge doofey smile on his face.

But I wiped that smile off of my face in a hurry because there's nothing funny about Florida's dog problem. Not even golfing dogs. Although they do come very close.

Anyway, people in Florida collect dogs. And when I say that Floridians "collect" dogs, I mean they collect dogs like people used to collect Beanie Babies, except that these particular Beanie Babies will often pee on the furniture, vomit on the floor or both.

The Florida obsession with dogs would not bother me at all, except that my mother-in-law, the owner of three (sometimes four dogs) has decided that my family needs another dog. She and many other Florida dog owners agree that we need a second dog because:

1. My Current Dog is Apparently Lonely and Needs a Friend. I'm not sure how anyone can calculate my twelve year-old dog's need for companionship, but apparently it's obvious. Perhaps my dog has been clumsily placing ads on Craig's List.

2. My Kids Need a Younger Dog. This one is an insidious reversal of the first reason because it posits that my current dog has too much companionship. It seems that my rambunctious kids may accidentally break my elderly dog in the course of normal activity. We need another, healthier dog to draw away our kids' attention. There may be some truth to this, though. My mother swears that my kids broke her once when she was babysitting.

3. Florida Needs More Poop. Okay, I made that last reason up. But if you ever come across a room full of people and you want to pick out the Floridian - just look for the guy with the plastic bag on his hand.

I left the Golfsmith before I found out whether they let the dog in. Probably, they did. This is Florida. I don't know yet whether we'll get another dog, but we probably will. This is Florida, after all, and my mother-in-law is very convincing.

I don't want another dog, but I'll take it in stride. I'll feed it, walk it and love it. And when I'm picking up poop, I'll picture that dog playing golf.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Every married person creates their own vision of what marriage should be like. My wife, for instance, built her marriage beliefs around her spirituality and a strong sense of right and wrong. Because I have neither of those things, I based my vision of marriage on reruns of the "The Dick Van Dyke Show" on late night cable television.

This has worked well for me so far. Sure, I have that problem with Capri pants but, honestly, I think that's society's problem and not mine.

In fact, my only marriage issues occur when I violate the sacred guidance that Rob and Laura Petrie have set out for me. I, for instance, never understood why the television couple slept in separate twin beds. This seemed a waste of both space and Mary Tyler Moore's supreme hotness.

But I've shared a bed with my own wife since then. And now I know the truth about the separate beds. Laura, like many otherwise great wives, was probably a clinger. She probably slept wrapped around Rob Petrie like an anaconda, restricting his movement, inhibiting his R.E.M and generally making a good night's sleep impossible. Laura Petrie drove Rob Petrie into that separate, tiny twin bed.

My wife is a clinger, too. Don't get me wrong. I like the clinging. I like the fact that as soon as I hit the bed, my wife will casually throw a leg over my leg. It feels good to have a human, physical connection to the woman I love.

But leg connection is never enough for my wife. It's merely the opening move in a physical contest with a feature unique from all other physical contests - one of the participants is sound asleep (my wife) and the other participant (me) is wide awake.

Within seconds of the leg sweep, my sleeping wife will perform a "reverse" that closes the distance between us and throws the entire left half of her body over mine. When done for maximum effect, my wife rests her neck directly on my left arm which, as all martial arts masters know, compresses the brachial nerve and renders that arm useless.

Often, I still mistakenly believe I have a chance at this point. I did some wrestling in high school. I know a few moves of my own. So I turn over on to my stomach.

Halfway through this maneuver, I remember that I did not wrestle in high school. That was actually my brother. I was on the yearbook staff. I quickly run through my yearbook staff skills and decide that kerning and pagination are probably useless here.

It's too late. Instead of escaping my wife's grapple like the Rock in a WWE match, I've instead put myself in the hucklebuck like Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption. Sometimes, too, my three year-old daughter will wake in the middle of the night and jump into bed with us. And true to form, she will wrap herself around her mother's back who, in turn, is mounted on my back.

Eventually, I lapse into something less like sleep and more like a coma. When I wake in the morning, I check on my sons before I do anything else. I watch them sleeping peacefully and, God help me, I resent them for their bunk beds.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Daddy's Little Helper

Most of our friends think that Bridget and I relocated our family to Florida because we had found better jobs and a bigger house in the sunshine state. Not so. We moved because we thought we could trick Bridget's Florida-based mother into babysitting. Frankly, we had depleted Virginia of willing babysitters.

Any parent will tell you how difficult and expensive it is to get a babysitter. And that's just for one kid. If you have two kids, the difficulty is doubled. If you have three kids, the difficulty is tripled. And if any one of those hypothetical kids is my five year-old son Julian...well, you should order HBO and upgrade your home theater system, because you're probably spending Friday nights at home.

That's not to say that the other two Grim Richard kids aren't a challenge. Tow-headed Gabriel, for instance, spent an entire evening convincing one babysitter that she had been calling his little sister Riley by the wrong name for two years. The babysitter apologized so sincerely to us that it seemed almost a shame to tell her that Gabriel was lying.


Julian, though, is the toughest babysitee of our bunch. Julian is, as I've detailed, the living personification of Loki, the Norse god of mischief and lies. He boasts a double-sided personality, a frosted shredded wheat soul that gives forth sweet, unconditional love on one side and brusk, fibrous tricks on the other side.

Maybe two weeks after moving to Florida, Bridget and I decided to go out on a date and leave the kids with their grandparents. We hoped that Julian would give them some kind of break on their very first night of babysitting. This was not to be.

While Bridget and I bought tickets to "Juno", our kids slipped into the brand new pajamas that their grandparents had bought them. Even later, while Bridget and I sat in the dark eating popcorn smothered with butter, one of my kids slipped out of bed, grabbed one of his/her grandmother's phones and reported a murder.

You probably think I'm exaggerating. You probably think I've run out of stuff to write and decided to crib a stale plot from some old television show. Nope. One of my kids dialed 911 and reported that someone was being killed. The police even dispatched a black and white to investigate. If you doubt me, you can ask Bridget's mother. But ask her later - she's still pretty busy explaining to her neighbors that no one has been killed in her house.

Officially, three year-old Riley took the blame for the whole mess. The dispatchers identified the caller as a small girl, so after making sure that no one was actually in jeopardy, the police officer lectured my daughter and then left. Mystery solved.

But this is what the grandparents and police officer didn't know. Riley doesn't know how to dial 911.

Nope. The actual culprit confessed later that night once I promised never to tell his grandmother. Maybe "confession" is too strong a word. Though Julian that he picked up the phone, handed it to his three year-old sister, dialed 911 and told Riley what to say, he still firmly believes that Riley "did it" and he "helped".

And, God help me, he's convincing. I couldn't figure out who to punish, so I just talked a lot and wagged my finger in authoritative manner. Besides, I don't think something like this will happen again.

Just in case, though, I'm making a list of family members who live in other states.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Okay, I admit it. I bought an iPhone.

Yes, I realize that I specifically counseled the readers of this blog not to buy iPhones. I believe I also referred to the iPhone as the "High School Cheerleader of Cell Phones" in an attempt to underscore the superficiality of spending $400 on a phone just because it looked cooler than other phones.

In jumping to that rash conclusion, I didn't give take into account two factors:

It is damn shiny and, God help me, so very pretty.

I'm glad that I spent the $400, actually, because not only did I pick up a sexy new phone, I also learned something important about myself. I'm not referring to the fact that I'm a shallow consumer tool with too much money and not enough common sense. I already knew that. I'm referring to a revelation that occurred as I transferred all of my contacts to my new phone.

As you may know, the iPhone is not just a phone. It's an e-mail client. It's a Web browser. It plays music. It takes pictures. It stops nipple chafing when applied directly to the male breast.

Okay. I made that last part up.

The point is this: getting an iPhone required me to punch in not only the name and phone numbers of all the significant people in my life, but their physical addresses and e-mail addresses as well. I also needed to put in the Web addresses of my favorite sites. I started to set everything up immediately after buying the iPhone, once I reached my car in the parking lot. I stopped about two minutes later.

Other than my wife's cell phone number - which used to be my number - I remembered exactly none of that pertinent information.

I depend on computers and cell phones so much that I have not bothered to remember any of the information of any of my friends. I don't know their phone numbers. I don't know their e-mail addresses either.

A couple of days later, the rest of the epiphany came into focus. My eight year-old son, Gabriel, was wrestling with subtraction problems. I easily walked him through the first twenty or so problems. Then we came to a thorny nest of problems where you had to "borrow" from the next column of numbers. Suddenly, I mentally stumbled in explaining the process to my son. I realized that I hadn't done even simple math in years without using a calculator. And right then, I realized that I'm actually getting stupider because of my electronic devices.

I have become e-tarded.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wonder Woman Belt Buckle

There are few opportunities for a husband to actually make his wife hotter. Usually wives are in control of their own hotness - and this is a good thing. If guys did control hotness, the malls would overflow with blond, rail-thin women with unnaturally large breasts...

Never mind.

As I was saying, the average husband cannot change his wife's hotness. I, however, stumbled upon a way to make my wife so hot that even the blond, rail-thin women at the mall must rest their huge breasts on a food court table for a moment and recognize just how hot my wife is.

How did I do it? I bought my wife a Wonder Woman belt buckle.

I have no doubt that the geeks among my readers have already begun to nod their heads affirmatively. Many of these geeks, in fact, have begun to look for their near mint copies of Wonder Woman #1 and might already be fondling their Wonder Woman action figures.

My wife, though, didn't comprehend the power of the Wonder Woman belt buckle when I first brought it home last summer from the San Diego Comic-Con. She wouldn't even wear the red,white, blue and yellow buckle for months.

I don't blame her. My wife is fighting a fashion war. Just taking my kids to school forces her to run a gauntlet of Lexus cars, Louis Vuitton handbags and Jimmy Choo pumps. She fights her own specialized super villains at that elementary school every day.

For instance, there's I Wear Nothing But Coach Woman, who sports a Coach handbag, Coach shoes, Coach sunglasses and, one suspects, Coach panties. I've never seen Coach panties but I assume they're brown and have Cs all over them.

There's also Always on the Cell Phone Lass and her matching Dooney and Burke cell phone case. I can't decide what her mutant power is, but I know it involves unlimited minutes. And there's the villainous Two Face of elementary mothers - Daytime Clothes But Nighttime Makeup Woman. She has great taste in clothes but slathers on the makeup like bridesmaid who has a prom after the wedding.

It took some convincing but my wife finally strapped on the Double W logo of the Amazonian Princess. Her first stop? The elementary school.

"How did it go?" I asked her a couple days later.

"Everyone loved my belt buckle," she answered with a smile.

"How could you tell?" I asked. "Did any of the women say anything?"

"Not really," Bridget replied. "But do you remember Different Designer Dress Every Day Chick?"

"Definitely," I answered.

"The next day she wore a Supergirl shirt."

No matter. If Different Designer Dress Every Day Chick had any fashion sense whatsoever, she would have gone with Power Girl and not Super Girl. And if she does wise up, it still won't matter. I'm buying more stuff for my wife - and not even Versace can beat a Spider-Woman t-shirt.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


I say this with love in my heart, but no matter how painful, I must say it:

If we are to stop e-mail spam in our lifetime, our mothers must be prevented from using e-mail.

Admit it. You have dozens of cute bunny pictures on your computer. Your mother sent every one of them. And the pictures of kittens saying stuff like "I can haz cheezburger?" It's not your fault. You haz a mudder. And she sends you spam.

This mom spam...this's worse than regular spam. Gmail and Outlook can stop regular e-mail spam by blocking future e-mails sent from a spamming account. But spom circumvents normal spam defenses because it's sent by someone you trust. It's sent by your mom. And for some reason, she hates you. Why else would she send this:

"Please forward this e-mail. Every time someone forwards this e-mail, Microsoft will donate $1.00 toward little Maria's urgently needed heart transplant."

Every single person on the Internet knows that e-mails like the one above are fake. Except your mom.

And my mom. My mother is literally half blind and needs help doing anything except the most rudimentary things on her computer. But if she gets a fake spam e-mail about a missing 13 year-old girl who can only be found if everyone circulates her picture on the Internet, my mother suddenly becomes Sandra Bullock in "The Net". Suddenly, she can e-mail every single person on her contact list without any help and, if she wants to, take down the "grid" - whatever that is.

"People who did not forward this picture to at least five people died mysteriously...."

How do we stop spom? As I mentioned, we can't block our mothers' e-mail addresses. We'd have to start phoning them again. And no one wants that, not even our mothers.

So, what can we do to make our grown mothers think twice before sending us e-mail? What can we do to make their fingers hesitate before clicking "send" on anything but the most urgent e-mails?

Spam our mothers back. We'll send them ten e-mails every day. And we'll begin every e-mail like this:

"Dear Mom, we need a babysitter this weekend..."

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Chip Licker

Here comes the Super Bowl. I can see the preparations. Millions of eager families are buying new televisions and stockpiling salty snacks. Millions of husbands roll down the supermarket aisles and stop to buy the "good" beer. Millions of wives plan to make teeming plates of nachos.

None of these people will invite my family to their Super Bowl party. None. And it's all my son Gabriel's fault.

He's a chip licker.

Prior to having kids, my wife and scored many invitations to Super Bowl parties. Neither of us really watches football, but we attended the parties anyway. I enjoyed both the strategic and athletic elements of the game. But mostly, I enjoyed the free food and alcohol.

My wife, on the other hand, enjoyed the fashion and rooted for teams based on their uniform colors. She usually sat to the side saying stuff like,"Ooooh! That team is wearing white uniforms. That's so bold!"

Here's something I learned about my wife. Anytime she uses the word "bold" in a conversation,that means she's enjoying the free alcohol, too.

All of this crushed to a stop the first time we took Gabriel to a Super Bowl party. A close friend of ours hosted this particular party. Our son was maybe two years old. The party went well enough for about an hour, until we noticed people making odd faces as they ate chips.

The host noticed this as well and asked if something was wrong.

"I don't want to be rude," answered someone, "but your chips are wet."

Everyone eyed my two year-old son standing near one of the chip bowls. He fished a hand down into the bowl and snaked one chip from the bottom. He eyed it curiously and then licked it clean of Ranch seasoning, like a cat cleaning its paws.

And then he put the chip back in the bowl and grabbed another.

"Now, that's bold," I wanted to say.

We were not invited back the next year. And word apparently got out about our chip-licking son because we haven't been invited to a Super Bowl party since. No one invites us to Mexican restaurants either.

We hope to attend another Super Bowl party someday, but the odds - and our kids - are stacked against us. Yesterday morning, I opened a box of six glazed donuts on our kitchen counter. There was one small, neat bite taken out of every donut. I looked around to see my five year-old son Julian smiling at me. I think I cursed out loud.

"What's wrong?" my wife yelled from another room.

"It's Julian," I said. "I thinks he's a donut biter."

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Fierce Ants

Editor's Note:

Last week, I posted the now infamous story about how my wife accidentally wiped her butt with a lizard. This week, I decided to post the story that almost ran instead. Each week, I usually take one theme, build a couple of variations and decide at the last minute which mood or narrative I want to take. Last week, I decided to use Florida's wildlife as a metaphor for the alienation my family is feeling. I ultimately chose to go with a humorous (but very true) slant, but I also used the same wildlife to evoke a slightly different flavor. You can decide if I made the correct editorial decision. Or conversely, you could just decide that I'm a pretentious bastard. Do with it what you will.


Two weeks ago, my family and I moved to Florida from Virginia. I lived in Florida when I was a boy and we've visited many times in recent years, but I'd forgotten just how different Florida is. Take the lizards, for instance.

In Virginia, we didn't have lizards. In Florida, multi-colored lizards cling to a trees and windows just about everywhere you look. We didn't have fire ants in Virginia either - just the regular kind that don't bite.

Here in Florida, we see people demonstrating against illegal immigrants. There wasn't much of that in Virginia, really. We had illegal immigrants, for sure, but something is different about the immigration issue in Florida. In our new town, protesters picket the building where illegal immigrants, mostly Guatemalan, gather to get day work. Most of the protesters carry signs and a few carry video cameras so they can film the employers who hire the illegal immigrants.

I saw a video on YouTube where one protester actually filmed the license plate of an employer and told him that he could find the video on an immigration enforcement Web site. Eventually, the person being filmed physically confronted the guy with the camera.

It's not just the ants that bite in Florida.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Inflated Dewlaps

Two weeks ago, my family and I moved to Florida from Virginia. I lived in Florida when I was a boy and we've visited many times in recent years, but I'd forgotten just how different Florida is. In Florida, for instance, you hear people speaking Spanish twenty times a day. You rarely heard Spanish in Virginia. And you know what else I rarely heard?

My wife screaming in terror and disgust.

But here in Florida, we have lizards - which means that I get to hear my wife's terrified screams every couple of days.

At first, I thought Bridget was overreacting. When they're mating or threatened, lizards naturally seek to make themselves seem larger and stronger - which explains why lizards strike aggressive intimidating poses whenever you see one.

I suspect that, in humans, this may also explain the Hair Club for Men.

But lizard poses barely bother my wife. The lizards could inflate and deflate their dewlaps all day long without ever causing my wife to scream. What bothers my wife is the lizards' insistence that they run over her feet in the dark. This has happened to her four times in two weeks. It has not happened to me at all. My wife thinks that the leathery lizards are deliberately targeting her. And she may be right.

This morning, the lizards escalated.

I heard my wife's horrible scream coming from our bathroom at 8 a.m. Her scream sounded so terrible that I didn't suspect a lizard at first. I heard her second scream and her uncontrollable sobbing when I was halfway to the bathroom. I expected to find something horrific - blood or something. There was no blood, but something horrific had happened.

I want to explain this delicately because my wife reads this blog. Unfortunately, "delicate" usually gets in the way of "funny" and I can't have that. So here goes:

A small lizard decided to cling to the toilet paper in our bathroom this morning at roughly the same time my wife decided to urinate.

You can probably figure out the rest. There is, however, no fun in that and I've decided to describe the incident. To be delicate, I'm using nothing but verbs.

Cling. Wipe. Wiggle. Scream. Wiggle. Jump. Scream. Cry. Run. Laugh.

To be fair, that last verb was not the lizard or my wife. That was me.

My wife was still shaking when I took her to work this morning. In the front yard, I saw maybe three lizards on branches smugly inflating and deflating their dewlaps.

What's a dewlap? It's a flap of skin just under the throat that lizards puff up to attract mates. It may also explain some women that I saw at the mall.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Gahusbander

I realized something this last holiday season.

Christmas parties scare me.

To begin with, I'm uncomfortable with Turducken - and Turducken is way popular at holiday parties lately. As an American, I understand its appeal. It's three foods in one - turkey stuffed with chicken that's been stuffed with duck. It's like a Transformer you can eat.

But if I eat it - and my stomach is stuffed with Turducken - am I now potentially part of this greasy, edible Russian nesting doll? Have I essentially become a Grim Turducken?

I think about these things a lot.

Here's the other thing about holiday parties that truly scares me: the dancing.

Every husband knows how the holiday party works. Our job is to dress up in uncomfortable ties and eat mounds of finger food while sprinkling awkward pauses into random conversations. And, at some point during the night, we are contractually bound to dance once with our wives. Although this annual dance is mandatory, we do have the option of waiting for a slow dance. Since we only learned one dance in high school, it's a great option.

Inevitably, though, at least one wife has brought a husband who actually likes to dance.

We hate this guy.

Not only does this guy like to dance, he likes to dress, too. He's the guy wearing cologne and a tie pin. His shoes are polished and he got a hair cut specifically for this party. If one of the women decides to bust out some karaoke, he's down for it. He knows the Hustle, The Electric Slide and the Cha Cha Cha Slide.

He's not really a husband. He's a husband stuffed inside of a dancer stuffed inside of platonic gay friend. He's a gahusbander.

And once the gahusbander starts dancing, things start to go downhill. The wives, who have contented themselves by dancing with other wives, now start to glare at the sullen husbands nervously discussing golf and NASCAR. And the wives begin to resent us.

Panic sets in with most husbands at this point. If you combine women, alcohol, years of pent-up dance moves and a gahusbander, you are maybe five minutes from an explosion of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

And sure enough, that's how most of these parties end - with the wives dancing together, glaring at the husbands and lip-synching meaningfully in their direction:

"But I spent so many nights thinking how you done me wrong and I grew strong; I learned how to get along."

And the gahusbander? His work is done at this point. He's licking his fingers at the food table. And he's probably eating Turducken.