Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Legend of the Noggin-Numbing Eggnog

19 clever quips
Early one winter's eve that first holiday season after we moved into our current home, a neighbor appeared at our front door.

One hand of his held fast to the leash of his basset hound; the other bore what is now my legacy to carry on.

"I bring you some holiday cheer!" announced George, a scholarly gentleman in his late 60s with a snowy Abe Lincoln beard who had lived in the neighborhood for more than three decades. He presented me with his gift, wished me a happy then moved on with his self-appointed rounds.

I closed the door perplexed, partially by having an unexpected visitor on Christmas Eve but mostly by what I now held in my hand.

It appeared to be a repurposed brandy bottle. Inside appeared a liquid whose look and viscosity resembled pancake batter, assuming that, as I learned upon unscrewing the cap and taking a whiff, said batter had been mixed by W.C. Fields and Dean Martin.

While my previous neighbor in Texas and I had on occasion bonded over beers in the rear alley (never fault TV's "King of the Hill" for a lack of suburban Dallas accuracy), this was different. This turned out to be my official rite of passage into our new community: the Yuletide ritual of "The Passing Out Of The Eggnog" which, if not acted upon judiciously by recipients I learned, can quickly devolve into -- yes, Virginia -- "The Passing Out From The Eggnog."

George had been making and sharing his concoction annually since the late 1950s. That’s when he and his roommates at the time became intrigued by a cookbook recipe. When George and his wife moved to Vermont a couple of years ago, they passed down their version of the recipe to some of us at their farewell party; however, succession plans for neighborhood distribution were never discussed.
Encouraged by my wife, who knows of my conflicting desires to want to be the center of attention and to avoid prolonged interaction with people, I have since become The Merry Mixer of Uncool Acres.

My first pass at this new role came last winter. Quarts of milk and cream were emptied, dozens of eggs beaten, and pounds of sugar added even before I had poured the first drops of the rum and brandy.

Ah -- the rum and brandy.

As its imbibers will attest, the effects of this particular eggnog are decidedly warm and, shortly thereafter, inevitably fuzzy.

This, I now know, comes from a nog to non-nog ratio that slightly exceeds 1-to-1. This proportioning explains why one neighbor claimed he kept one of George's bottles in his refrigerator for a year before opening it only to find it unspoiled and even more potent than ever.

Having earlier sampled a quart of my brewing from last December, I confirm the myth. And a slight headache.

Once mixed and bottled, I loaded my sack, harnessed my Labrador retriever and set about the streets to keep the tradition alive. Several people were not home at the time, but when a door opened, I was greeted warmly, and sometimes even with the same perplexed look I gave George several years ago.
As I readied to whip up this season's elixir last week, I became curious about the true origins of this parochial legend and hit the Internet.

Via Google Books, I learned its origins lie in a submission by a Col. C. H. Welch of Tucson, Ariz., for “Wild Moose Milk – A Different Eggnog” that appeared in a mid-century edition of "Adventures in Good Cooking and the Art of Carving" by Duncan Hines, the man who sacrificed his good name to supermarket cake mix everywhere. The ingredients and ratios match George's, though he skipped the "three or four hours" of heating during which one must add the eggs "drop by drop."
"Col. Welch in Tucson must have had servants," George suggested in a recent e-mail to me.
Some other research I did suggests that this may be the same Col. Welch of the U.S. Air Force who was once mixed up in a UFO sighting in the 1950s. Draw your own conclusions.

But even when mixed at room temperature at George instructed, his modified version remains true down to the original's mention that it "keeps indefinitely."

Curiously, though, the instructions for the original concluded, "When serving, the eggnog can be thinned with milk, cream or water."


Some faint of heart folks would suggest that "can" be replaced with "should under all conceivable circumstances." But not me.

Some legendary holiday beasts should never be slain.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Best 'Movie' of 2009

11 clever quips
Today's the annual “Secret Santa Can Suck It” gift swap hosted by the ever-charming Bee of Bee's Musings. This post is about the gift I would have bought the blogger whose name I drew if we were to actually exchange gifts.

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The clerk in the burrito-stained golf shirt smiled as I approached.

“Welcome to MockFluster," he said, "home of fake movies on imaginary DVDs. How can I pretend to help you?”

“I’m looking for a gift.”

“All righty,” he said. “You are one good looking son-of-a-gun. I’d really love to see you in a paper thong.”

“Um, thanks. But the gift’s not for me. It’s for another guy.”

He looked me up and down, licked his lips and gave me a wink.

“Hey!" I yelled. "I don’t ... I never ...  It was one night in a bar and all the guy did was buy me a drink.”

“No need to apologize to me, big fella. Get your kicks any way you like. Now, why don’t to tell me a little bit about this ‘guy’ you are not thinking about naked right now then I'll see what I can do for you.”

After a few minutes of laying out the details, the clerk nodded then walked over to a shelf a few yards from the counter. He pulled down a DVD case and returned.

“I've what you need right here,” he said, slapping the plastic case like a newborn's behind. “It’s a classic tale of a man born in Cyprus to classical concert banjoists only to be whisked away in the middle of the night by a couple of gypsy IT workers. Just like in Raising Arizona.”

“Outside of the kidnapping, that’s nothing like Raising Arizona.”

"It's also nothing like what you'd expect to see in a trailer before Kit Kitteridge: An American Girl, but crazy thing's happen in life, my friend," the clerk said. "Anyway, the gypsies take the boy to Britain. Here, they raise him like their own flesh and blood, teach him their cultural quirks and their rogue trade -- secretly installing Linux systems on personal computers. For revenge!”

“Revenge against what?” I asked.

“Microsoft. The mother gypsy once saw a photo of Bill Gates in a Speedo and it made her sterile.”

“That actually makes some sense," I said. "Go on. I'm intrigued.”

“Yep, it’s a good one, huh?” he said. “Anyway, the kid – deep down he knows he’s not one of them. Then one day, he meets a traveling kebab salesman with a lazy eye. Bam! He understands! He’s really Greek! The gypsies aren’t his parents! The Mentalist is a complete ripoff of Psych and not nearly as entertaining despite its huge ratings and Emmy nominations!”

“Damn, I knew it! Why doesn’t anyone else realize this?!”

“Too numbed by overexposure to the 16 variations of CSI and Law and Order on every other channel. But back to the fake movie," said the clerk. "Our hero runs off to Greece to try to find his one true love -- this totally hot Greek news reader chick he’s been obsessively watching online in between illegal uploads and downloads.” 

“That’s perfect! What’s the name of this fake movie?”

big fat greek wedding poster

My Big Brit Greek Geek.”

“Awesome," I said. "But why ‘big’?”

The clerk tilted his head. He looked like I had just brought him a steaming platter of lamb chops.

"No! No! I withdraw the question," I said. "Just wrap it up, I've got to pretend get this over to Brian at his blog, Brian O Vretanos, before it's too late!"

+ + +

Happy holidays, Brian! OPA! Or maybe "Windex!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tips to Avoid Holiday Overindulging and, Basically, Fun

26 clever quips
chow down fat boy
With the holidays upon us, you'll soon be stuffed to the gills with advice about how to avoid being stuffed to the gills during this most bountiful of buffet seasons.

No matter how reasonable this expert guidance on appetite control sounds, it always proves much trickier to pull off in real life, often because your hands are sticky from devouring miniature candy canes.

Let's review some common suggestions that health professionals offer this time of year and the sad reality that often comes with heeding them.

Tip: To prevent overindulging at a party, eat a light, nutritious snack before arriving.
Eating before you go to an event where food will be plentiful and -- most importantly -- free is, to me, a grave faux pas. Your hosts have most likely spent many hours and dollars on those caviar-stuffed pigs in a truffle-encrusted blanket just to please guests like you. And this is how you repay them?

You should feel guilty, but that's good! Guilt burns up to 1.8 calories an hour.
Tip: Arrive at a party with a healthy dish to share, to ensure you have at least one good food option.
As if eating before you arrived wasn't rude enough. "No, no - your food is rich, delicious and evil! Simply evil! I shan't eat anything but these organic baby carrots I picked up at a health-food store on my way over."

Tip: Avoid the temptation to overeat by not hanging out near the food.

Since hanging out in your host's bedroom is creepy (so I hear) and closets are not conducive to most conversations, especially if you talk a lot with your hands, try the garage.

It may get cold and lonely out there, so bring a sweater.

And a six-pack.

Tip: Mind your portions by using the smallest plate available and loading it mostly with fruit and vegetables.
Of course, there's a good chance the fruit and vegetables being offered will be covered in butter, cheese, peppermint bark or, if you live in rural areas, lime Jell-O. Oh, but YOU brought your own baby carrots, didn't you? La-di-DA!

Tip: For dessert, have small portions of only those items you like the most.
By now, you're starving and the lace on the table doilies looks like spun sugar. So, you sample this dessert to see if you like it most.

Then you sample that one.

Now you go back and try that one again to make sure you reeeeally liked it.

No, no - let's try this one again.





And there you are, face down in the cannoli tray, snorting sweetened ricotta.

At this point, you've realized you're better off staying home with your baby carrots. People then will start to think you're anti-social and, eventually, you'll stop being invited to holiday parties.

Then you'll never gain holiday weight. Problem solved!

To celebrate, you should throw a party of your own because it will allow you to employ this last helpful tidbit:

Tip: When hosting a holiday party, give away all your leftovers.
Oh, and you'll have tons of leftovers. That's because by now all your guests will have also read these articles about how not to overeat during the holidays.

A massive fight will follow in which you, the stick-figured host, and your rail-thin guests pummel each other with bags of baby carrots.

This will make the produce distributor for the local health-food store happy, as you and your friends will have made him rich enough so he can finally afford a personal trainer. And some liposuction.

Anyway, try to have yourself a happy and healthy holiday season, whether you are a party thrower or a partygoer.

If you need me, check the garage.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Takes a Village Expert (or, in my case, Idiot)

26 clever quips
While doing some research (it could happen) for my post on Bad Holiday Gift Ideas for Dads for DadCentric today, I came across a bunch of 1-minute YouTube videos by a sweet young lady named Ashley for something called the Expert Village channel. In the videos, she offers her suggestions for presents for friends and family.

For a boyfriend: Buy a CD at Wal-Mart or burn a CD of your favorite songs for him. Maybe concert tickets for the two of you.

For a grandfather: Buy him a flag kit so he can proudly display the Texas colors from his porch.

For a teenage girl: Lips gloss and foundation.

Pretty tame stuff.

Then came the gifts for dad, and a reminder that Sarah Palin was right -- I’m not a real American.

Pocket knives and … did she say … ninja swords?



I am going to be quite PO’d if the Things get me another Greatest Dad hat this year.

Then, in the next video I found, Ashley – my poor sweet Ashley – baring her pure angelic soul and broken heart to me.

Yes, dear innocent Ashley, your mom should have warned you.

Never EVER give a boyfriend your pu- … um, ... cat.

Intrigued and a tad obsessed, I felt the need to seek out Ashley and tell her, yes, yes, yes – some guys are dogs and most are dog people. You are from Texas; you should know this. You can’t hunt with a cat, mi lady. They don’t even fit well in the gun racks.

So I went directly to the Village Expert channel to find her and, friends, rather than my fresh faced Lone Star flower, I kid you not, I was smacked in the face with this on the home page:

That’s some fine cinematography. I can’t stop thinking about huge pine cones.

What was I saying?

+ + +

Note: Ashley appears to be a college student hoping to become a music therapist. To wash away all the sins I’ve committed against her in this post, I’m embedding this video she put up last night (I was her first viewer) of her singing “O Holy Night.”

PS: Ashley -- I’m not stalking you despite what My Love has been saying all night while I played your videos and typed this. I’m promoting your promising career as a singer/spokesmodel. Just list me in the acknowledgments section of your first CD.

Or send me a ninja sword.

UPDATE: What! She already pulled down the video! Ashley – you’re killing me here. Let’s try “Silent Night” (yes, I was the first viewer for this one, too).

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Can I Interest You in Hanukkah?

25 clever quips
This holiday time of year, our house always draws the oohs and ahhs of visitors as well as at least one look of befuddlement.

That's because amid the 15,000 or so miniature lights twinkling, the array of poinsettias big and small, red and yellow, the yards of greenery snaking around banisters and across mantles, the multiple wreaths, stockings and reindeer statues and the two Christmas trees (fancy fake one for show, homey live one for dough), there stands the epicenter of our guests' annual confusion.

A menorah.

Right next to a silver Santa, bearing a platter of scented tea candles.

santa and menorah

"Funny," our guests will say, "'the name 'Uncool' doesn't sound Jewish."

See, when it comes to religion, My Love and I completely agree.

Neither of us has the answer.

Nor the question.

Nor a clue.

Can't even find the cheat codes on the Internet and yes, I have tried.

This explains our rather odd holiday decorating style. It began one day many years ago with the Things coming home from pre-school all aglow with talk about this fascinating thing they learned about that day.


The Festival of Lights!

One day's worth of oil burning for eight!

Cool little jelly doughnuts!

"Why don't we celebrate Hanukkah?" asked Thing 1, all filled with child-like wonder and those funky hash browns smothered in applesauce.

My Love and I, both lapsed Catholics, looked at each other, shrugged and said "why not" to each other with our eyes as only married people can do. We had agreed long before that we'd be open with our children about the many different points of view in the world on God, faith and the like in hope that some day they would find a path that suited them best. We'd be willing for them to give Hanukkah a try just as long as the Things agreed they weren't using this as a way to wrangle more presents out of us.

My Love quickly purchased a menorah. When you flip it over you find a sticker on the bottom noting its authoritative origins in India and distribution by Pier 1 Imports of Fort Worth, Texas.

I don't recall where the candles come from, but a good guess is the baking section of the local supermarket though I might have been temporarily inspired and gone into a Walgreens.

Darkness fell and we gathered around the kitchen counter, the traditional gathering place for our family on sacred occasions because of its simultaneous access to food, drink and the big screen TV. My Love placed one candle in the center of our shiny new menorah and another on the far left. I squeezed the trigger on our Chinese-made lighter and set the wicks ablaze.

We stood, the four of us, and stared at the flames.

"Now what?" piped up one of the Things.

My Love and I looked at each other blankly. This when we realized a little more research might have come in handy.

I, being the one who hates an awkward silence most, cleared my throat.

A prayer, I thought.

That's it! You must say some kind of prayer when you light the candles!

But what prayer could a ex-Catholic offer over an authentic Made-in-India, Distributed-through-Texas menorah?

I dug deep into my memory banks to find a scrap of what some of my childhood friends had taught all us Gentiles back around the art table in elementary school and I let it soar toward the heavens:

"Oooooh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel -- I made you out of clay! And when you're dried and ready, then dreidel I will play! L'chaim!"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
A Colbert Christmas: Jon Stewart

Video: Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert, "Can I interest you in Hanukkah?"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bloody I

32 clever quips
bloodshot eyeMy eye is extremely bloody in this photo because I:

  • Got hit by some glass fragments when Tiger Woods' wife broke me out of the Escalade.
  • Am still half in the bag from drinking with the local bloggers last night.
  • Am testing a new reverse method of preventing holiday photo red eye for Adobe.
  • Was weeping for Alex P. Keaton, knowing he could never handle his mom switching family ties.
  • Popped a vessel stifling the laughs while reviewing the new Ray Romano show "Men of a Certain Age" for DadCentric.
  • Beat Thing 2 in a Pokemon battle and it degraded into a 'poke my eye' battle.
  • Thought I needed to experience bloody murder before writing about it in my final entry for Polite Fictions.

C'mon. Your guess is as good as mine.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Beats Receiving by a Sneeze

12 clever quips
christmas cardIf you are on the Uncool Family Holiday Card list this year, you are in for a treat!

You will receive not only the much beloved annual Uncool Family Newsletter but also an actual, old-fashioned printed copy of the first known photo of all five of us in which:
  • We are all simultaneously looking in the same direction.
  • Everybody's eyes are fully open, smiles straight and no questionable hand gestures appear near or behind anyone else's head.
  • The dog is not prominently displaying an inappropriate level of lower extremity "excitement."
But wait! There's MORE!

My Love and I personally placed the photos and newsletters into the envelopes ourselves! One of us gently handled each and every card, warmly sliding it with utmost care and love into the velvety slit and then caressing the flap with our own hot, moist tongues.

Oh, baby, yeah.

As such, this year each card also comes with an extra exclusive BONUS!

As special gift from us to you, receiving one of our holiday cards means you'll find yourself in possession of your very own set of … Uncool Cold Germs!

If after opening the envelope, your nose explodes and you develop a persistent cough that rattles you down to your kidneys (and possibly causes unexpected fluid leakage) then you have a card handled by My Love. Opening ones from me will only make the inside of your throat feel like it is being bathed in a searing flow of gravel, rust flakes and glass shards.

Lysol, anyone?

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaBloPoMo in Reverse (or, Life Is What Happens When You're Not Blogging)

30 clever quips
My son did not slice me like a honey glazed ham on Halloween night.

Unless he did and my disembodied hands typed this up. Awesome.

That would, however, prove that you don't need brains to blog.

Insert your own joke at my expense.


(Must. Stop. Thinking. About. Ham.)

I haven't posted anything in the last three weeks because I'm protesting NaBloPoMo.

For those not in the know (and a belated happy hook-up anniversary to you, My Love), NaBloPoMo -- short for National Blog Posting Month -- is an annual event in which bloggers attempt to post every day in the month of November.

Makes no since to me either.

Didn't we all get into this blogging thing to avoid drudgery, responsibility and hard work?

We were going to write a few good posts early on, be discovered and get a book deal or a movie commitment, then live the rest of our days off residuals and the revenue from our Google Ads (in the last month, I've nearly cleared $4.50 -- thanks for clicking, Mortician Babe!).

We were all going make something out of ourselves without making much at all. It's what real Americans do, right? I mean, when they are not telling their story to Oprah. Or Sean Hannity. Yep, real Americans -- just like you.

So someone please get the memo to those NaBloPoMorons -- stat! You're making the rest of us look like sloths!

Or are you?

Since my last post, I've been doing things that require me to actually get away from my computer. And I don't mean watch TiVo. Well, not all the time.

It all started on Nov. 1, known to me as the holiday El Día Del Lastre, or The Day of the Dead Weight.

That's when, after an All Hallow's Eve traditional indulgence of Mexican food, margaritas and the Butterfingers that never made it into the trick-or-treat bowl, I step on the scale to assess the past year's damage.

It's never a pretty figure -- the one I cut physically or the one my scale gives me numerically. That's the price to be paid for a summer of grilled meats, sweet straw-colored ales and dipped cones from the outdoor Dairy Queen in our town. Frickin' butterscotch Magic Shell.
fat homer in moo moo
This year, the numbers were pretty awful and I faced the choice of getting off my ass (actually, mah belly -- she is the problem) or going the Homer Simpson "moo moo and fat man cap" route. I think what drove it home was us buying Wii Fit Plus and, after my first weigh-in, my Mii suddenly looking like he engulfed a mini-Cooper.

And a VW Bug.

And the state of Delaware.

As luck would have it, the weather this month has been amazing nice for November in New England. I've been taking Murphy on some extra long walks, cleaning the garage, fertilizing the shrubs, chopping up or disposing of the last wood pile in the yard (I even bought a chainsaw ... after Halloween, of course), stringing Christmas lights around the yard (nyah -- hate me), getting the Minivan of Manliess winterized, taking the Things to an indoor waterpark, volunteering at their school, etc.

You know -- real life.

Oh, I'm still bulging in the belly department (down three pounds, though). But, for the first time in a while, I'm feeling a physical sense of accomplishment.

Why, then, am I posting today just 7 days shy of my goal of sitting out the month?

Am I lonely?

Of course, but that's a peril of at-home dadness in the 'burbs. Word.

Is My Love suspicious of my non-blogging goings-on?

A bit. That new Webcam I bought probably didn't help matters. Honestly, it's only so I can now video chat with my favorite blogger in Utah.

Maybe I'm just afraid that I couldn't handle the success.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Why I Won't Sleep Much Halloween Night

39 clever quips
"Hey, Dad! Wanna see my pictures from art class?"

bloody pumpkin

"That's an scary looking jack-o-lantern, Thing 2. But, uh, what's with the red under the eyes and mouth?"

"That's blood! Oozing out!"

"Uh, awesome, buddy. What else ya got there? That's a big one."

"Yeah. I was the only one to do two pictures. Everyone else only did one. But I did TWO."

 witch flies by moon

"Cool looking witch silhouette in front of the moon, dude."

"Yeah. Look down there ...


"... That's a tombstone by the house!"

"Nice touch, son... but, um, what's that over there? ...

 scarecrow with chainsaw

"... Is that a scarecrow? With a chainsaw?"

"Yeah! He came to the life! He cut up the man in the house. That's who's under the tombstone!"



"So, uh ... wanna tear into the bag of AirHeads I bought for the trick-or-treaters?"



Happy Halloween. Be good to your trick-or-treaters. And your kids. Please.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Conditions May Be Slippery

28 clever quips
driveway leavesThe autumn sky refused to wake this morning. Rain dripped then coldly plummeted and the wind scissored through the Northeastern trees, cutting leaves down in carnival-colored tears.

I told the Things to pile in the minivan. No walking to school this A.M.

The tires tried to accelerate up the driveway, but slipped and skidded on the motley blanket of New England fall. I warned the Things, as they sat seat-belted in the middle row. I warned them that no matter how quickly you need to get somewhere, sometimes you must be slow and cautious because even the most passive beauty can hide the potential for mayhem.


The phone rang a few hours later.

The voice from the children's hospital said we needed to increase one of the medications for Thing 1. Nothing to fret over. Thing 1 was growing and the dosage needed to go up slightly to match her weight.

I understand, I said.

I asked about the X-rays and bone density scans.

Good, she said, good. No signs of arthritis; no signs of thinning.

I understand, I said.

The doctor said we could start to taper off one of the remaining meds if everything looked well, I told the voice on the phone, so does this mean we can move forward?

She started her next sentence with "unfortunately."

She looked beautiful, I remember the doctor telling me and My Love, as we stood with them in the examination room. She looks beautiful.

"So we're going to leave the medications where they are for now, except for that one tiny  increase," the voice said in my ear. "We'll see where we are in a few months."

I understand, I said.

Unfortunately, I understand.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lost in Translation

25 clever quips
When the Things were younger, we set the TVs in our house to display the closed captioning under the belief that this might help the runts learn to recognize words and spell while somewhat countering Zack and Cody's best efforts to turn their brains to mush.

closed captioning failI cannot verify this method actually works, given Thing 1's struggles with reading and what happened this past weekend with Thing 2.

My Love sat in the living room watching a movie and Thing 2, taking a break from his ambitious early compiling of his Christmas list (top item: "Everything Pokemon"), joined her. In one scene in the movie, the brother tries to teach his sister's boyfriend to how to say "thank you" in a foreign language.

"Oréa viziá," says the boyfriend to the brother's mom.

In a subtitle, up pops the English translation: "Nice boobs."

Thing 2 giggles.

Curious, My Love asked him what the words onscreen said.

"It said, 'Nice bobs."

Since the movie was My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I can only assume Thing 2 took this to be a joke about shish kabobs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Sex Vacuum

23 clever quips
I'm firing the people who clean our house. Apparently, they're killing my sex life.

The Wall Street Journal, known internationally as the Masters and Johnson of financial reporting and research, wrote this week about a study that finds the more housework husbands and wives do, the more likely they are to have sex.
sex vacuum

Sex with each other, I should note. Cybersex, actual physical affairs and going solo were not mentioned, so I can only assume that when one spouse scrubs the shower grout, even if it is with some Bon Ami, that the other spouse is the sole beneficiary of said scrubbing.

After reading this, I thought back to the time when My Love and I did all the housework. It was when we first moved in together, living in sin and overly indulging in it as young people in the throes of new love tend to do. We spent every weekend at our townhouse dusting away the cobwebs, waxing the linoleum and polishing the knobs …

Then we did the housework.

Sometime after the first month of this cleansing yet apparently dirty bliss, I recall My Love -- the Febreeze blowing through her hair -- moaning longingly into a starlit summer evening, "Oh, baby ... screw this. I'm hiring a service."

Had I known then what I know now!

Was it me that drove her away?

She had always criticized my haphazard folding of the laundry back then, but I laughed at it.

"If you don’t like how I do it, then you can do it yourself," I scoffed.

So she did. For a while.

But we know the pleasure of folding by one's self is fleeting. That's when My Love went outside our relationship.

She hired a 300-pound, cigarette-smoking, former addict and single mom whose beefy biceps could have crushed my windpipe before you said "lemony-fresh Pledge." Every Thursday morning, she came to our condo and every Thursday afternoon, she left the place gleaming and spotless.

And, in retrospect, nookie-free.

Our love life has clearly waned in the quantity department since those lust-filled days of Pine-Sol and Easy Off. My mission, therefore, is clear: 

Every weekend, participate in the dirtiest, wettest ménage à trois ever -- just me, My Love and Mr. Clean.

(Note: Illustration by Michael Witte for the Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday To Do List

18 clever quips
1. Eat vegetables even though you'd prefer a double chocolate doughnut.

2. Share a giggle with me as I tell the real story behind Gwen Thompson, the formerly homeless American Girl character that parent company Mattel is trying to pawn off on you at $95 a pop. It's over on DadCentric. You know, the place where the Wild Things are.

3. Go see Where the Wild Things Are. By yourself. It's a very good movie about both the reckless abandon, infinite imagination and awkwardness of childhood. Exuberant, dark, brilliant, sad, funny and quiet. We parents all need a refresher in that now and again.

4. Root for the underdog.

5. Read my brief attempt to be deep about death at Polite Fictions, a nifty little site at which a host of far more talented and twisted bloggers attempt to string together a tale of intrigue and deception. For my entry, all you need to know is that Aloysius is a Russian goon whose throat was slit when he went to light his prisoner's cigarette.

6. Don't smoke or enable others to smoke. It'll kill you one way or the other.

7. Hug your kids when they least expect it. It's good to keep them guessing.

8. Run around barefoot in the grass one last time before the cold really hits.

9. Vote for me as Hottest Daddy Blogger. Being uncool means I'm hot, right?

10. Get a better dictionary.

11. Don't just read the RSS feed -- visit my blog and check out my new tag line.

12. Eat the doughnut any way. Life is too short.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Low in Pediatric Dental Care

28 clever quips
My kids are generally quite open and honest. This is good because they are incredibly inept at lying.

A prime example comes in the form of my son, the emotional pendulum known as Thing 2, when it comes to brushing his teeth.

If he has cleaned his crooked off-whites, it's all sweetness and chubby angelic cheeks and here, Daddio -- have a whiff of my minty Colgate breath. If he hasn't, he'll lie right to your face, providing your disembodied head is floating somewhere up near the ceiling because that is where is eyes roll up toward when he lets the bull fly.

"Let me smell your breath."

"Maahh! You don't believe me! Waaaaaaah!"

"If you brushed, then let me get a snootful of that fluoridey freshness."


"Dude, I felt the toothbrush and it's not wet. It's been three days since the bathroom was cleaned, yet the sink contains no globs of blue goo. And I marked the level of the anti-cavity rinse with a line on the bottle this morning and -- boo-yah -- it's unchanged."

"You HATE me!"

For a kid who has had four cavities fixed already at age 7, he's unusually stubborn about this.

He's also unusually oblivious. This is not the first time I've laid out how I compile all the evidence against him when he tries to fib his way out of brushing. Why doesn't he just run the brush under the water, put a dab of toothpaste on his tongue and a mess in the sink, and dump a little rinse out? I think it's because deep down, he's morally good and grounded.

And somewhat lazy.

What's a dad to do with a young 'un who refuses to practice good oral hygiene even though said young 'un maintains a diet based on all the major members of the -ose family: glucose, fructose, dextrose, etc?

I've tried reward charts, punishments, electric toothbrushes, musical toothbrushes, toothbrushes shaped like fire trucks, toothpastes featuring cartoon characters, toothpastes endorsed by TV stars -- you know, everything a good American would try except standing there and actually  watching him brush because that would make me a helicopter parent and he needs to learn responsibility.

And, I'm somewhat lazy.

After one recent argument with him over his failure to brush and greater failure to lie convincingly about his previous failure, I rhetorically asked:

"What do I have to do to get you to brush your teeth?"

Since rhetoric, like penmanship, is not part of the second grade curriculum in our town, Thing 2 answered plainly:

"Drop your pants."

So I did.

As graceful a 'half monty' as a desperate dad could muster. (Boxer-briefs, don't fail me now!)

And no sooner did the pants hit the floor then up the stairs he scurried, twisted the tap and began to brush.


Maybe I'm on to something here?

Next, I will attempt to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

For that, though, I may need an assistant.

And a wax job.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Do Me a Solid Sunday - Stamp Out Cancer, Swirl Girl Style

7 clever quips
You folks made My Love's birthday extra special this year with your support of my self-proclaimed Cure JM Awareness Day across the blogosphere. I owe you all. Really.

That's why I'm starting an irregular feature called "Do Me a Solid Sunday." It's simple. Now and then, I will recognize one of my regular readers who has a worthy cause to pimp, a good story to tell or access to their parents' liquor cabinet.

swirl girl logoMy first honoree is Wendy of Swirl Girl's Pearls. I don't know exactly when Wendy and I first ran into each other online, but it seems like forever -- give or take 18 months -- that we started leaving comments on each others' blogs, replying to those e-mails, replying to the those replies, ad infinitium (that's Latin for "neither of us knows when to shut up.")

A few months back, Wendy took part in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. I'll let her explain why:

"Last year, cancer affected my life quite personally and painfully. My wonderful dad, Irwin Keller, passed away on January 10th, 2008 from Merkel Cell Carcinoma - are very rare and painful form of skin cancer.  He also sought treatment of Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia for over 20 years.  Not to mention my own diagnosis and recovery with Thyroid cancer. I can't think of anyone whose lives have not been touched in some way by cancer."

I knew Swirl was a kick-ass person, but she actually kicked cancer's ass! Mother Shucker -- how awesome is that? Now I hold her in even higher esteem ... and fear that if I invoke her anger, she will also snuff me out.

Swirl is still a few hundred dollars short of her goal, so if you can afford a few sheckles I'm sure she'd appreciate it by donating at this site. You might even help save a life.

If you can't do that, that's cool. But you should at least stop by this beautiful post of hers about how she meet her true love.

Though if you leave a comment, be prepared for a lengthy e-mail chain to follow.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What Me, Blacklisted?

32 clever quips
If you read my post at DadCentric Tuesday, you know that I overexerted myself a bit the other week at my kids' soccer practices. (If you didn't read it, click over to "Kids are a Pain" now. I'll wait.)

The irony of this is that I'm not supposed to be coaching soccer at all this season. I was blacklisted by the league.

My crime? Verbal abuse of the referees? Climbing into the stands to hit a parent? Putting steroids in the halftime juice boxes?

Nope. I had a few choice exchanges with the league's directors last year and I used some inappropriate words.

They were "50 percent refund."

Three of the seven games my daughter's team played one season were won by forfeit because the other team didn't have enough players show. The eighth game, for the championship, was canceled because the league assigned someone else to our field. So, being the accountant's son that I am, I asked the league to give my team's parents half their money back.

I e-mailed them three times with my request before someone finally responded. That was only after I might have casually mentioned calling the city parks department and team sponsors about reconsidering their support for the league.

Anyway, six minutes after I hit the "send" button on the third missive, my phone rang.

It was an enlightening discussion that went something like this:

LEAGUE BIGWIG: We don't refund money to players. They're children.

ME: Good thing. They'd probably spend it on cheap whiskey, angel dust and chicken nuggets. That's why I requested you refund my players' parents. It's in the e-mail. All three of them.

LEAGUE BIGWIG: You said your last game was a playoff. That age bracket isn't supposed to have playoffs.

ME: I don't care what you call it. It was a game on the schedule you gave us that wasn't played because of your scheduling mistake.

LEAGUE BIGWIG: But it wasn't a playoff. That league is not supposed to have playoffs.

ME: Whatever. I had one parent cut a weekend trip short to bring their kid to a game that didn't occur because a schedule you issued us three months ago was wrong.

LEAGUE BIGWIG: But it wasn't a playoff.

My favorite part of this whole conversation (apart from some inevitable cussing on my part because, alas, I can only stand so much stupid) was being lectured about this being a not-for-profit league run by volunteers and the importance of being involved, not just as a mere coach of two teams (as I was) but as a league commissioner, an executive director or eventually the head of ACORN.

This came right before Bigwig told me I was NOT invited to attend the board meeting at which my request was being discussed.

I volunteered to show up anyway. He couldn't see the irony past his iron fist.

As expected, my request was denied. So, I let it drop and moved on, coaching two teams for another season without incident.

Then, when the league issued its autumn rosters, the Things received their team assignments but I was not a coach for either team even though I volunteered (remember that word) to run one team and assist with the other.

I figured maybe they actually had enough coaches, though that would have been a first in my two years in the league. Call me skeptical. I made a few calls just to be sure.

"Man, I didn't want to tell you this," said my assistant from a previous season. "They called me and drafted me to run a team. I told them I was only planning on being your assistant again this year. Then they said you weren't being allowed to coach a team this year because of some incident you had over the winter."

My response to this. I volunteered. Directly -- to both my kids' coaches. They both welcomed the added help. In fact, I "officially" was promoted to co-coach of one team because the other coach travels for business frequently.

Part of my new coaching duties is to introduce myself to the refs before every game, make small talk with them and compliment their outstanding officiating skills. By doing this, they always come to me when the game ends and hand me a special slip of paper.

It's their pay sheet for the league.

I make certain I print and sign my name in very large, legible bold letters.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Presents from Strangers

23 clever quips
In the wee hours of Friday morning, My Love's Blackberry started buzzing and beeping.

That's not all that unusual. She works for an international "healthy snack food" company where a thousandth of a penny rise in the cost of high fructose corn syrup purchased from Ickypatangoglockenstan can domino within a few minutes into the need to shrink package sizes in southeastern New Zealand and switch to single-ply TP at corporate so as to avoid 1.3 job eliminations in the Albuquerque distribution center three fiscal years from now.

However, this was different. She couldn't understand why this sudden burst of e-mails she received were receipts for donations made to our Cure JM fundraising account.

Surprise, sweetie!

Needless to say, she was very moved and touched by all the birthday wishes and support you invisible folks out there in the ether offered her.

About 120 sites participated in Cure JM Awareness Day in the Blogosphere on Oct. 2. My guess is that several thousand, if not maybe ten thousand or more (don't be modest -- a few of you have pretty popular destinations along the highway of ones and zeros) learned something about juvenile myositis for the first time.

More than $1,200 was raised and I'm sure more will trickle in over the next few days by mail or online. That's a lot of money for a one-day, word-of-mouth campaign for an orphan disease.

And, since a few of you asked, for my part in these shenanigans, yes -- I did get some.

Birthday cake, that is. Corner piece. Big pink rose. Sweeeeeet.

So to you, good people, many thanks from all of us -- me, My Love, the Things and Murphy, too --  here at the Uncool Estate. Special gratitude is due to:
  • Brian of The Cheek of God, for whipping up (and hosting) the special Cure JM badge.
  • One Zen Mom, who seemed to have stopped by and left a comment at most every blog that participated Friday.
  • Julia of Midwest Moms for mobilizing the masses. If I ever need a pimp, especially one with a Twitter account, you are first one I'll call.
Some of you are much smarter than me.

Some are much wittier.

Others are just better writers and storytellers.

But not one of you is luckier than I am today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

To Cure Juvenile Myositis, You Must First Know It Exists

3 clever quips
blogs for cure jm

Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter's cheeks, joints and legs was something he'd never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn't admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions -- none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner -- then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn't know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter's knee showed signs of an "allergic reaction" even though we had ruled out every allergy source -- obvious and otherwise -- that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift -- a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago -- Oct. 2, 2002 -- the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter's first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn't tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1 -- Megan, now age 9 -- remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are the scars from the operations and the vasculitic ulcers, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don't know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter's condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

+ + +

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to or

Happy Birthday / Cure JM Awareness Day

73 clever quips
blogs for cure jm
My Love:

Most years you ask me not to buy you anything for your birthday. This year, I listened.

However, I couldn't let this one pass quietly.

Seven years ago today, we got the news that our sweet little girl had juvenile dermatomyositis, a strange disease neither of us had ever heard of then and most people still haven't heard of today. It was an odd birthday gift for you, but a gift nonetheless. Although we quickly learned that it had no cure, we welcomed the fact we finally knew what was making her so ill and that there were ways it could be treated.

Since then, you have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of all the juvenile myositis diseases and raise funds to find a cure for them. I marvel at (and am jealous of) how dedicated you are and how good you are it.

However, this is your birthday. You deserve a day off.

So, for your gift, a bunch of my blogmates volunteered to spread the word for you on this day. Each has posted a piece about our struggle with getting Thing 1 diagnosed in hope of raising awareness of this rare autoimmune disease and the need to find a cure for it.

If we're lucky, we'll even raise a few dollars for the cause.

Happy birthday, My Love, and Happy Cure JM Awareness Day. I love you.


To learn more about JM, visit Cure JM  Foundation.
To make a tax-free donation to fund research into a cure, visit our personal FirstGiving page.

Thanks to all those participating in Cure JM Awareness Day today:
A Family Runs Through It
A Man Among Mommies
Ann's Rants
A Vapid Blonde
A Work in Progress
All Blogged Up
All That Comes With It
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Are You Sassified?
A Whole Lot of Nothing
Backpacking Dad
Bee's Musings
Bern This
Better in Bulk
Bitchin' Wives Club
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BOw1e Art
The Bloggess
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The BS Blog
Busy Dad
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Candid Carrie
Carolyn ... Online
The Cheek of God (special thanks for creating the badge)
Cheeky's Hideaway
CheerUp Nation
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A Couple Smokey Acres
CT Mom
Citizen of the Month
Clark Kent's Lunchbox
The Chronicle of Linnnn
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Do as I Say, Not as I Do
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Erasing the Bored
Fairfield County Child
Fairly Odd Mother
For a Different Kind of Girl
Daddy Geek Boy
From Stage Dives to Station Wagons
The Goat and Tater
Good Mom/Bad Mom
Gray Matter Matters
The Holmes
Honea Express
Hot Dads
How to Become a Cat Lady ...
How to Party with an Infant
Hubman's Hangout
I Am The Diva
Idiot's Stew
I Pee in the Wind
Irish Gumbo
Is It Five O'Clock Yet?
It's My Life and I'll Blog if I Want To!
Janana Bee
Jeannie's Happy World
Jen's Voice
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Miss Britt
Mom 101
Momma Kiss
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Momo Fali
Motherhood in NYC
Mr. Big Dubya
Notes from the Sleep Deprived
My Name is Cat
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Okay. Fine. Dammit.
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Zen Mom

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bear with Me

12 clever quips
Two weeks back, some friends and I took a golf weekend in the hills of northern New Jersey.

I played my three best rounds of the entire year and was the big winner, collecting $2.25 from my friends in our friendly waging.

I lost only 10 golf balls and never my temper.

The beverage cart managed to find me every four or five holes. Mmm, frosty Yuengling on the links.

And not only did I make this putt ...

bear crossing golf course

... but also the 300-pound black bear crossing the fairway behind me didn't eat my sorry, saddle-shoed ass.

bear crossing golf course close-up

Friday, September 25, 2009

Moxie Mona Does Stamford

23 clever quips
Some blogging buddies of mine recently decided to embark on a new venture -- world domination via social marketing. They're starting small, though. This week they are simply conquering the United States

One of their business colleagues was going to be in my area yesterday, so they asked me if I could show her around and share with her some insights into my home state of Connecticut. Since they were offering me no money, no stock options and not even a fleeting flash of their breasts for this work, I naturally agreed.


I opened the door and there she stood in a red and gold bustier and knee-high stiletto boots.

wonder woman doll

All eleven-and-one-quarter inches of her.

 wonder woman doll2

"Hey there,stud," she purred with a voice I could have felt in my hip pocket had I only been wearing pants. "I'm Mona. Mona from Moxie Media. You should have been expecting me."

"Uh, yes, I was. Forgive me for staring, but did anyone ever tell you that you look a lot like ..."

"A bustier Megan Fox?"

"Ah ..."

"A sexier Angelina Jolie?"

"Well .."

"Yes, baby. I get that all the time."

"Well, um ... be that as it may," I said, "let, uh, let me change my clothes then we can get started. Sound good?"

"Yes, baby" she growled throatily, "all except that part about you and clothes. I've been through all the other 49 states this week and you're the first male escort I've had. Rrowlllllll."

Six minutes later, we were in The Manly Minivan, Barry White playing softly in the background and us cruising through my hometown.

"Since you're with a media company and all, I thought I'd drive you around to some of the many locations in Stamford that have be featured in movies and TV over the years. In between stops, I'll give you some background on the entire state of Connecticut."

"Lay it on me, stud."

"Uh, OK. Here we go. Connecticut was founded in 1627 by renegade Massachusetts pilgrims who challenged Rhode Island to boring contest. Unfortunately, we won. Hence, our state bird is the robin, our state song is "Yankee Doodle" and stores are not allowed to sell alcohol on Sunday."

"Hmm," she mused. "Good thing it's Thursday. How about you and I get butterscotch liqueur, Cool Whip and --"

"Whoa! There's our first stop! Cove Island Park!"

We hopped out of the minivan and walked to the end of the boat launch.

wonder woman cove island

"Cove Island was the scene of two major motion pictures," I told her. "Reservation Road, released right before Joaquin Phoenix went off his nut and became a Hasidic rapper. All the park and water scenes were filmed right around here. The movie, though, was a flop.

"More importantly, Cove Island was the setting for The Horror of Party Beach, the world's 'first horror monster musical' and definitely its worst. It was so bad it was featured on Season 8 of Mystery Science Theater 3000."

After a quick swing by the former arts theater that now serves as the home for Jerry Springer, Maury Povich and Steve Wilkos, (Mona declined having her photo taken there), we hit another part of the waterfront.

"Do you recognize that?" I said as she gracefully straddled a fence post.

"Mmm, well, sweetie, don't flatter yourself too --"

"No, no, no -- I mean the building behind you!"

stamford dunder miflen the office
She looked puzzled.

"That's the Stamford branch of Dunder Mifflin from the TV series The Office."

"Oo-oo! I love Jim! I just want to take some gel to that tousle of hair he has. Then I want to ride h--"

"Sorry, Mona. As you should recall, the Stamford branch was closed. It's a sad day when your hometown gets bitch-slapped. By Scranton, no less. Besides, they didn't film anything here but the exterior of the building. However, I do have a real-life Jim-related spot for you to see. And away we go!"

With that we headed north until we stopped right here:

away we go stamford

"I don't get it," she said looking at the screen on the back of my camera. "And why am I fuzzy in all these shots?"

"Uh, that's soft focus to romanticize your raging femininity. Like they did with Cybil Shepard on Moonlighting. Now, look at this photo. Maybe it will help:"

away we go location

She pondered the photo. "Say, those are the same trees in front of us. And same walkway. And that's JIM HALPERT ON THAT SAME WALKWAY!"

Once I pried Mona off the very flagstone actor John Krasinski stood on, I explained that this house was used last year for a scene in the Sam Mendes movie Away We Go. To date, its the only time in motion picture history that a scene that was supposed to take place in Colorado was actually filmed in Connecticut.

"So, Mona," I said. "Do you like shopping?"

We took a spin by the Stamford Town Center, which is neither in a town nor the center of Stamford. It's a mall. Here I showed her the parking garage and main courtyard where much of the Woody Allen-Bette Milder flop Scenes from a Mall was shot in 1990:

scenes from a wall woody allen bette midler

This shooting was allegedly the first time Woody Allen ever stepped in a mall. After the reviews came out, some say he stepped in something else.  It was also only the second time in motion picture history that a scene that was supposed to take place in California was actually filmed in Connecticut. The first time was The Horror of Party Beach.

"I detect a trend," Mona said with a wink and a nod. And a hand on my thigh.

"O-o-o-o-K, time to wrap this up with the mother of all entertainment centers," I said as I hit the gas peddle.

wwe headquarters stamford

"Here we are," I said. "The creators of Raw. The geniuses behind Smackdown! The people who put the handlebar in Hulk Hogan's mustache. It's the headquarters of World Wresting Entertainment. Pretty awesome, huh? And if that's not cool enough, their CEO Linda McMahon is now running to be the next U.S. senator from Connecticut."

"Wow," she said looking up with those bedroom eyes, "now can I get you in sleeper hold?"

"No, thanks," I said, "I think I already put my readers in one a few paragraphs back."


Thanks for visiting and best of luck to Laura at Better in Bulk, Angie at Seven Clown Circus, Jill at Scary Mommy, Kathy at Mama’s Losin’ It, and Francesca and Kacey at Mayhem and Moxie on their new venture. Cheers!


My Uncool Past