Monday, May 11, 2009

Wrong Banana Leaf

Life in the jungles of South America can be brutal, brief and deadly. Survival means always being aware of your surroundings. You never know which banana leaf might be hiding a deadly Bushmaster or, God forbid, a Brazilian Wandering Spider.
    Marriage is a lot like that, too.
    A few weekends ago, for instance, I let my wife sit in the car while I ran into the house for something. This was a stupid move because my wife was already displaying the classic spousal signs of unrest. Bridget had,for instance, already referred to me as an "ass" twice that morning when, honestly, I had only deserved being called an "ass" once. Also, she had started to blame me for problems that were probably outside the traditional scope of my husbandly duties - like the swine flu pandemic and the resurgence of bedbugs in the hotels of America.
    So, I was clearly out of my freakin' mind when I ran back inside the house to get my sunglasses and left my wife and family in my car with nothing constructive to do. In the space of few minutes, my wife had rifled the contents of my car and had discovered in the glove box a - wait for it - deadly Brazilian Wandering Spider.
    Actually, it was a Taylor Swift CD.
    And when I came out, there was cold silence in the car until I buckled in. And my wife said the following nonchalantly:
    "So, whose Taylor Swift CD is in your glove compartment?"
    She pointed to a CD half hidden under auto handbooks and garage receipts.
    "Uh, who is Taylor Swift?" I responded.
    Wrong banana leaf.
    "Why would you have a Taylor Swift CD in your glove compartment if you don't even know that she's a multi-platinum recording artist who's currently enjoying great success with her song "Love Story" - which is very likely on that CD sitting in your glove box."
    This was actually a good question - and one for which I did not have an answer. I improvised.
    "Isn't it yours?"
    "I don't like Taylor Swift. Apparently you know someone who does.
    Improvisation clearly wasn't working, so I decided to try it again.
    "Where are you going with this?" I asked.
    "Nowhere. I just want to know whose CD that is."
    I had no idea whose Taylor Swift CD it was. I needed more time to think.
    "I forgot to go to the bathroom," I said and jumped out of the car. I ran inside and feigned going to the bathroom for twenty minutes. This gave me plenty of time to think but I was unfortunately distracted by a copy of "People Magazine" that had, from the look of it, been in the bathroom since before our house was built.
    I returned to the car, prepared for the worse but very, very up-to-date on what Suri Cruise was wearing.
    Bridget smiled at me and kissed me.
    "I have to apologize," she said. "It's not a Taylor Swift CD; it's a Shakira CD. I didn't pull it all the way out and look at it before."
    "Why is there a Shakira CD in my car?" I asked.
    "Oh," she giggled. "It's mine. I left it in here."
    Life in the South American rainforest. It's deadly. It's dangerous. It's very mercurial.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


    In theory, my kids are old enough to dress themselves. I should be able to wake them up at six every morning, give them a good morning hug and then stand back as they shower, dress and then fix themselves a nutritious breakfast. 
    But that's not the way it works with my kids. My kids get stuck.
    On some mornings I come out of my room and find all three kids standing buck naked in the living room and staring at a rerun of Jim Cramer's "Mad Money" on CNBC.
    "Why aren't you getting ready for school"? I ask my kids.
    They just shrug without answering, which bothers me for a few reasons. First, it's important that my kids leave for school on time because it shows respect for the institution. 
    Also, only daddies are allowed to get naked with Jim Cramer.
    Even without Jim Cramer to distract them, my kids still get stuck.
    Take the other morning. As is my habit, I was wandering confused around the house in my underwear. I passed through the kitchen. Gabriel and Julian were eating cereal out of red bowls. Both were in their boxers. What follows is their actual conversation.
    "Three million," said six year-old Julian.
    "Nope," said his older brother Gabriel.
    I took my shower, put on my clothes and resumed strolling around the house. I contemplated getting my wallet and keys together, but I consider procrastination a kind of art - and you can't rush art. I passed the boys again. They were still at the table.
    "Twenty-one million," said Julian.
    "Nope," said Gabriel.
    Now, I was interested.
    "What are you doing?" I ask.
    "We're playing a game," Gabriel volunteered. "I pick a number between one and infinity and Julian has to guess it."
    "One bazillion!" Julian shouted out as if he's picked up a clue from our conversation.
    Gabriel looked at him with a mixture of disdain and boredom.
    "Nope," he said again.
    They were stuck. Neither of these two would give up this game - no matter how inane it is. We would be late for school and I hate being late for school. Partially, this is because I respect the institution. It's also because Gabriel's principal gives me the hinky evil eye every time I drop him off late. I decided to help the boys get unstuck.
    "Julian, I'm thinking of a number between one and three. Guess it."
    "Two!" shouted Julian.
    I high-fived him. "Good work, little man. Now, put your bowls in the sink. It's time to get dressed.We have ten minutes before we leave for school."
    Gabriel got up. He seemed irritated and relieved at the same time. He picked up his bowl and turned toward the sink. At least we're making headway, I thought. We've got a chance to make it on time.
    "Where's your sister?" I ask the boys.
    "She's still asleep," Julian answers, unworried.