Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rare Disease Day: Alone We Are Rare; Together We Are Strong

11 clever quips

imageThis “Do Me a Solid Sunday” happens to be Rare Disease Day.

A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 people. In the United States, more than 6,000 diseases meet this classification and together, these “rare” conditions affect about 30 million men, women and children.

That’s 1 in 10 Americans.

That’s not so rare after all, is it?

These afflictions are also often called "orphan" diseases because pharmaceutical companies have not "adopted" their cause. Why? Because with so few people having these conditions, there is little financial incentive for Big Medicine to develop treatments or cures.

Companies also aren’t stepping over one another to try to create a color-coded “cause marketing” campaign for a disease only handful of people have. The “corporate giving” many executives love to brag about to the media unfortunately tends to really be more of a strategy to build a brand’s image among a broad demographic of consumers than anything else. As such, rare diseases simply don’t offer much bang for the buck.

But that’s good business, right? Nothing personal.

Unless, of course, you or your child have one of these rare diseases.

Instead, affected families often either start their own mini-movements or, like our family did, throw themselves wholeheartedly into an existing grassroots organization that tries to make up for its size with its passion. (I know you’re expecting me to plug Cure JM Foundation and talk yet again about my daughter’s juvenile dermatomyositis -- DANG IT! I just did, didn’t I? -- but you’ve probably had enough that by now from me.)

pacing_panic_room_banner Instead, I want to draw your attention to Ryan from Pacing the Panic Room and his son, Littlest Buddy.

Several months back, LB was diagnosed with Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS), a chromosomal disorder that can cause a host of physical and development issues. SMS was only first identified in the 1980s so that combined with its rare status means what little information out there on it isn’t very fulfilling or comforting. It’s a frightening and frustrating situation for Ryan and his wife Cole to be in (read his “Running on Empty” piece to better understand) and our family knows those feelings too well.

But Ryan and family aren’t sitting around wallowing and cursing. He has been working with musicians and artists to produce a children’s album to raise awareness of SMS and some cash to pay for research studies into the condition. To help promote his cause, Ryan shamelessly stole my idea of a blogosphere-wide day of recognition (Kidding! Kidding! Don’t hit me with that telephoto lens, dude!) and is asking people  to post info on the album on the day of its release.

Simple, huh? No cost to you other than a little of your time and blog space.

If you want to help Ryan out, read this post from his Web site and follow the instructions. He’ll get in touch with you when the time is right.

I hope each of you can spare a few minutes today at www.rarediseaseday.org to learn more about this day and maybe even offer some support to a needy “orphan.”

As the day's slogan goes, "Alone we are rare. Together we are strong."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Faint Connection

27 clever quips

For more than 24 hours, I kept my morbid curiosity at bay.

Had I seen her on New Year’s Day 2009? Was she one of them?

Doesn’t matter.

Don’t look.

You have projects. Projects need planning. Plans need completing.

Was she among them? Was she among the many, many people who helped give the Things the time of their life that week?

I hit the “On” button anyway.

What is it that compels us to want to confirm these things? Why do we need to feel these faint connections that never really were there at all?

Human nature. Good, bad, ugly. Unexplainable. Sometimes you need to know, even if knowing means nothing.

(Clicking “My Pictures.” Clicking “2009.”)

That was an amazing week. From dawn to dusk to dawn again. Seven times in a row. The Make-a-Wish people had given us, especially Thing 1, an incredibly special treat.

(Clicking “Make a Wish” folder.)

In Orlando.

At Disney World.

magickingdom

At Universal Studios.

jimmynuetron

And at SeaWorld.

believe

And if I’m right …

arms

this woman …

Dawn-Brancheau-seaworld-killer-world-AHUC

is this woman …

killerwhaletrainer(photo: Orlando Sentinel/AP)

is this woman.

newspaper-headline

I don’t know how to feel.

Do you?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

That’s Right, I’m Not From Texas (But Texas Occasionally Lets Me Bring My Nasally Northeastern Self Within Point-Blank Range)

23 clever quips

A dozen things about my trip to Texas last week.

1. The annual Cure JM Foundation National Fundraiser and Educational in Austin was success. We had 200+ JM kids, parents, friends and family and more than 30 medical professionals in attendance – our biggest event ever. We raised $150,000, shy of our goal but not shabby considering the bad economy and Haiti situation probably hurt some of our fundraising efforts.

Note for next time: For event organizer, get George Clooney. Or at least Lionel Richie.

2. When I introduced myself at the conference to one of the speakers, a fairly prominent doctor with the Mayo Clinic, she said, “Oh. You must be the comedian who’s moderating our panel.” The Mother of All Uncoolness would not be happy about that remark. I, on the hand, moved on.

Right after I squirted her with a bottle of seltzer.

3. My Love finished the half marathon in under 3 hours. I offer proof:

race-end-austin-marathon

Oops. Her head is blocking the clock. It read 2:56-something-something. You must admit, though, not a bad shot for me, the Master of the ‘Hold Out Your Arm and Take a Picture of Yourself’ Shot.

If you look a bit to the left of her head, right above the ear, you’ll see a little green blob in a vest. That’s Ron from Clark Kent’s Lunchbox. He was supposed to pass out water with our Cure JM team but arrived early and got roped into crowd/media control at the finish line. The race officials must have been aware of his secret identity -- mommyblog rabble-rouser.

4. Speaking of passing out water, Thing 1 did this for three straight hours without complaint. She stood smack at the front of the crowd so she was the first one the finishers got to see. How do I get her to replicate this exuberance when I ask her to do her homework? Or clear the table after dinner? Or protect her virginity until her inevitable marriage to Nick Jonas?

5. The finishers didn’t see me as I spent my three hours slicing the shrink wrap off cases of water and then peeling the wrap off the cases so it could be handed out. Ten days later, my right hand is still a bit cramped. At least I got to dust off the box-cutter skills I learned during my six-month hitch in the supermarket union back in the 1980s. Solidarity!

6. I ate more jalapenos in one week in Austin than I did all last year in the New England ‘burbs. Not that we don’t have jalapenos up here. It’s just that the key parties and youth soccer leagues generally keep life spicy enough.

7. Dined with three of my former college newspaper colleagues one night. One of them is now a rabbi. I swear on a stack of matzos, her actual name is Rabbi Cookie.

8. Did one of those Duck Boat tours of the city with The Sister of Uncool (Auntie Uncool to the Things) and the in-laws:

duck-boatThe driver kept making jokes about certain buildings in town being air conditioned. Might work 11 months out of the year in the Lone Star capital, but the day we took the tour it was 42 degrees outside.

Anyway, Thing 2 got to drive the Duck Boat.

austion 10 015

We all lived to tell about it. All except that one seagull.

9. Met two of my DadCentric brethren. The Holmes introduced me to the joys of eating Mag Mud and my arteries refuse to forgive him for that. NYC transplant CroutonBoy confided to me that the best way to get Mom-101 to pimp a daddyblog (excuse me, Liz – blog written by a parent who happens not to be playing with a full set of XX chromosomes) is to a) live in the building next to hers or b) pump some drinks into her while surrounded by a table full of other bloggers who can hold her accountable. I can’t afford Five Boroughs rent, so: August ... BlogHer ... Tequila Shooters ... You ... Me. I’ll bring the Pepto-Bismol.

(Note: In the spirit of Liz’s Blog with Integrity movement, Pepto-Bismol did not pay for that reference. It didn’t even roll me over to kiss me goodbye, the cold-hearted bastard.)

10. Determined it is impossible to see a local band on 6th Street without meeting a music star. The first time I did this, back in 1996, I meet Travis Tritt. This time, I upgraded and hung with 96-year-old piano legend Pinetop Perkins:

pinetop-perkins

See that glass on the table? Contains pure grain alcohol. And his bottom row of teeth.

11. Drove to San Antonio one day. Took the kids to The Alamo because that’s what you do in San Antonio when you’re not sipping margaritas by the River Walk, where I’m pretty certain they would have gotten carded (if nothing else, their lack of firearms would have raised suspicions). Regardless, The Things preferred the Guinness Book of World Records Museum across the street from The Alamo more. That’s right next to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum and the wax museum. Texas pride, baby.

12. The Texas Capitol dome is 200-or-so-feet high inside.

texas-capital-star-flash

That star -- it’s 8-feet wide. That coincides with the average size of a Texas politician’s ego.

This class on a field trip seemed pretty impressed by it, too. They didn’t utter a single sound while laying there staring up it.

capital-floor

Then I learned they were from the Texas School for the Deaf down the street. I would have signed “d’oh” but all I know how to do is the first few lines of “Sunshine on My Shoulders.” If you ever meet me, I will prove it to you.

cannon

Yeah, yeah. Shoot me now. Shoot me now. Go ahead.

Did I miss anything while I was gone?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Doin’ It Doggy Style

17 clever quips

imageOur final guest in this week’s series, “When ‘Always Home’ Leaves His Home,” is the dynamic darling of the Great Plains, the acronymish FADKOG of For a Different Kind of Girl.

FADKOG and I share many things that even the best antibiotics won’t cure. A love of ‘80s music. A lust for Dairy Queen sundaes. Past lives as small-town journalists. And part-time jobs in the book-selling industry, though my sentence was commuted many, many years ago.

I paid her a surprise visit at her workplace just the other week …

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Being a bookseller is as glamorous as you imagine it to be. The constant stream of party invitations, photo shoots, and charity events on the calendar? Exhausting!

Then there's all the club openings and dodging the paparazzi as they jump out from between the shelves. It's a wonder I get anything done.

Oh sure, it sounds like fun, but it's also a lot of hard work. You don't just wake up one day and become someone like me. Oh no. You have to log a lot of hours behind a cash register before graduating to the sales floor and shifts filled with bright smiles plastered on your face even though every conversation you have in a six to eight-hour shift begins with the phrase, "I'm looking for a book."

However, you don't officially make it to celebrity bookseller status until you can cast aside your humility and don a giant animal costume for story time like I got to do last week when I was made to wear a Clifford the Big Red Dog costume. Only then will it feel like you've reached the summit and gotten that belly scratch from management that will make your back paws whip like a propeller, and all for less than $10 an hour!

And even though you're a glamorous bookseller, you won't pitch a diva fit when you pull that giant red fur rag out of its travel casket and suddenly imagine the many times it's been worn by other people. Other people who have christened it with their sweat and added to the fur-trapped funk cocktail so heady it can't even be described despite the fact I've been told many times I should write books rather than sell them, so I should have the proper adjectives, but no, I don't, because I still have a headache from the weight of Clifford's giant head pressing on my cranium. Thank heaven for that, really, because it forces me not to dwell on the idea that, while I hope it's not true, you know you'd fart in one of these big furry costumes, so I have to assume someone at some time has tested the acoustics by beeping their ass horn while in it. Sadly, I'm going on the assumption it's been everyone up to, but excluding, me.

Of course, you'll also have to endure the snickering of your fellow booksellers (who actually are laughing with you because you're such a hilarious star) and compel toddlers and preschoolers to pee their pants in either fear or mad lust as you lumber toward them with your giant red paw stretched out as though you wish to crush their tiny toddler heads. Better yet if you can get them to soil themselves in some combination of the two emotions. While crying. Or screaming. Or humping your fake fur covered leg, because I promise you, that's going to end up happening.

After wooing the young crowd with my animal magnetism, my team of assistants (remember ... we're glamorous!) packed the costume back up. Inside the shipping container, we found a little photo album in which previous Cliffords had documented their visits to other bookstores in the chain via Polaroid photos and notes. Many included lovely photos of them hugging young fans. Yawn. I suggested we include a vicious homage depicting Clifford, paws up, with a fake tire mark across his gut. Or a hand holding up Clifford's head only, two black X's over the dog's eyes. Or perhaps Clifford lounging in one of the comfy chairs set up around the store, one paw holding a tattered copy of Dog Fancy, the other holding...well, yeah. Where my dogs at, y'all! You can clearly see why management doesn't want to lose an employee like me!

Luckily for my booming career, someone special happened to walk into my store at just the right moment:

fadkog-and-me

So yes, being a bookseller can be rough, but it does have its perks. If you keep your snout clean and have an overwhelming desire to help people who are looking for a book, you, too, could be one of the lucky ones, like me. A celebrity bookseller. Steeped in couture Clifford costumes. Rollin' in the slightly higher than minimum wage kibble. After hours howlin' with the Duke and Snoop (that's Marmaduke and Snoopy to those non-celebs). Yep. Good times.

Woof!


robot chicken - clifford the big red dog - Watch more Funny Videos

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My greatest thanks to my great guests and digital friends FADKOG, Homemaker Man and Anna Lefler for filling in for me this week, and thanks to all of you for not mooning them.

I’ll be back next week. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Grand Theft Zamboni

15 clever quips

image

Today’s guest in this week’s “When ‘Always Home’ Leaves His Home” series is the mysterious man from the north, Homemaker Man. He writes the fresh guffaw-fest Musings From The Big Pink, which I highly recommend to everyone in this fair land and points elsewhere.

Like me, Homemaker is an at-home dad with two kids and blog. However, he is cooler than me by miles – literally and figuratively -- as he drives a Zamboni.

Well, he used to drive a Zamboni. I’ll let him explain.

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There is no easy way to put this. The day I met Always Home and Uncool was the day I lost something special.

“Homemaker, I’m gone, it’s all you. Should be a slow night,” my boss yelled as he departed through the throng of arriving hockey parents. Dick.

zamboniI drive a Zamboni, you see. Or, I did.

Zamboni Driver is one part driver, one part night supervisor, one part mechanic and five parts Ice Cowboy. That’s eight parts -- over a whole of seven.

Zamboni driving is hairy. Improper fraction hairy. When I wasn’t whizzing around the ice at top speed, making it possible for youth league skaters to get berated by their lunatic parents, I was cleaning and maintaining the ol’ beauty.

Otherwise, I was (and still am) a stay-at-home-dad. This, of course, is a gateway drug to blogging.

So, I blogged it up a little. No big whoop. Along the way, I met the above mentioned character, A.H.A.U., online.

He’s another stay-at-home-dad. Real amicable, clever sort. Nice wife. Nice kids. Nice guy? Nice try.

He Google Buzzes me late one night, “I’ve always wanted to ride on a Zamboni.”

“Oh yeah?” I type.

“Yeah. I think it’d be awesome!”

“Well, Zambonis are tools, not toys. The things are two tons of moving belts and giant augers. They reach speeds upwards of 10 miles an hour.”

“Yeah, YEAH!” he buzzes back.

“Besides,” I type back, “you’re name is Always Home and blah blah blah. You’ll never come up here.”

“I’ll be there in two hours. Don’t make freakin’ ice with out me.”

“Whoa, watch the language,” I tap in but he never answers back. He’s in the minivan and on the way.

I figured what the hell. I’d take him out to make one ice, he’d be happy, the end. He was pretty amped up. I should’ve known what was coming.

He showed up about 2 hours later. He was wearing baggy cargo shorts, an oversized American Girl T-shirt and a white ball cap. In February. He was shivering, but I don’t think it was the cold. He reeked of hops and barley.

“You ready? “ I said.

Frickin’ A!” he howled.

“All right, settle down George Carlin.”

We headed out to the Zamboni room. There she stood, silent -- but alert -- like a great cat. A great, rectangular, yellow cat that needs to be charged 3 times a day and runs on hydraulics.

“OmygodOMYGOD,” he said. He immediately stuck his arm in the giant ice-grinding auger and yelled, “Hit it!” I ignored him. I got him safely stowed on board and off we went.

It was on our third loop around the ice. The rink was quiet. All we could hear was the quiet spray of the water, the scraping of the blade against ice, and the 100-decibel growl and whine of two tons of 30-year-old electric ice-making equipment.

“Let’s steal it,” he staged whispered.

“What?” I pretended.

“Let’s steal it!”

Crazy bastard. It can’t be done

“OK!” I agreed.

We careened off the ice and made for the doors, digging up an eight-foot-wide swath of rubber skating rink floor as we went and replacing it with a sweet, sweeeeeet quarter-inch layer of ice.

We hit the doors at a full 10 mph. We stopped dead. Her bulk strained; willing, but not quite able.

He jumped off, got the doors open, and off we went.

It was amazing. The breeze tousled our hair as we opened her up full throttle. The blade ripped sparks from the asphalt and we set off to cover my entire city in a thin, glassy-smooth sheet of ice.

We got further than you might think. The cops came after us, but they couldn’t handle the ice. Even at full throttle that machine laid ice so pure and righteous that cop tires couldn’t stick to it.

They finally caught us. Four blocks later. The Zamboni’s charge had run out.

He was still laughing as the cops dragged him away. “It was frickin’ worth it!” He screamed.

Me. I never made ice again. Crazy son-of-a-bitch cost me that.

God, I miss him.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Privates of the Caribbean

19 clever quips

image The first guest in this week’s “When ‘Always Home’ Leaves His Home” series is the woman who will tickle you with more than just her mustache. She is writer/comedian/California-girl-and-three-quarters Anna Lefler (or Anna LeStache as she’s know on Urban Dictionary) from Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder.

I first met Anna and her hubby, Jon Bon Jovi (not his real name), a while back on what My Love and I thought was a Carnival Cruise to Cozumel and other tropical destinations where the main breakfast food is a delicacy known as “tequila.”

Little did we know.

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Dear Kevin,

Hi, there! Long time no talk, huh? Ha!

heart anchor Listen, just wanted to drop you a line to say we hope you and Maude had a smooth trip home from Miami. It was such a scene there in the cruise ship terminal when everyone disembarked; we wanted to give you guys one last grizzly-bear hug, but I swear it was like you disappeared or something!

We didn't even get to give you the conch-shell cell phone holders we bought for you in the last port, but no worries. We'll just mail them. I know Maude will be excited when they arrive - you should have seen her face when I told her about them!

Anyway, we had a blast with you both these past two weeks. Who would have thought we'd end up crossing paths on a marriage workshop cruise, of all places? I must have said it to Jon Bon Jovi (there I go with my nicknames again) a dozen times, just like that. "JB," I'd say, "Who would have thought?"

And then to be assigned to the same breakout group every single day – wow! Talk about meant to be!

So, tell us, what did you guys think of the workshop? We thought it was fan-fargin'-tastic! We've been on these relationship workshop cruises before (Floating Encounters '04, Smooth Sailing 2006 and - after a brief separation in 2008 – last year's Hurricane of Harmony), but we both agree that this one was by far the best. You saw for yourself the breakthroughs we had in session, right?

I've got a feeling the results are going to stick this time, too. I'm happy to report that Jon Bon Jovi and I are continuing to honor our on-board "contract of courtesy." I know you know our issues, so I'll just tell you flat out: in the four days since we've been back, I have not used my Neti Pot during "SportsCenter" and he has not referred to my ceramics class as the "crockery coven." Talk about progress!

The thing is, Kevin, Jon Bon Jovi and I are kind of concerned about you and Maude. We couldn't help but notice that Maude started developing "headaches" that would cause her to miss our communal meals, even though she knew we saved her a seat right next to us. We also picked up on the fact that, during your hushed talks at the ship's rail, Maude would often gesture toward us when she wasn't wiping her nose with a soggy tissue.

We just want you to know that we get it. It's hard to be the rookies on the cruise and get paired up with a couple already so far down the road toward their Ultimate Togetherness Destination. In looking back now, we see that what Maude was saying when she was pointing at us was, "Why can't we be like them? How long must we wait before our Marital Feeling Flowers are as perky as theirs?"

Not to worry! Sometimes it takes more than one cruise to shake out all the kinks. Just look at us – four tours under our belts and I still sometimes wonder how it all would have turned out if I'd just slipped out of the Radisson that night and gone on to actuarial school like I'd planned.

So here's what we're thinking: there's another relationship cruise coming up next month out of San Pedro. It's called "Us-ward Bound" and it looks great! A week of counseling during the day, unlimited karaoke at night (see our song below!) and, while we're in Mexico, we can stock up on cheap prescriptions. They even have a rock-climbing wall right on the ship. Talk about trust-building! I've enclosed the brochure, but you should get in there right away while they're still giving the early-bird discount.

This is going to be great! We can't wait to hit the high seas with you two again. Oh, and Jon Bon Jovi wanted me to tell you he hasn't forgotten it's his turn to whale on you in the dead-arm contest.

Sugar all around,

Anna

P.S. Now I'm thinking that your wife's name isn't Maude after all. It starts with an "M" though, right? Sorry about that.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Me and Jerry Springer – Too Hot for Newspapers, but Not This Blog!

15 clever quips

This is an expanded, unexpurgated version of my biweekly column for the local newspaper. As a loyal AHAU reader you get bonus links, video, photos and other bits from the cutting room floor. Enjoy!

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Since NBC Universal moved the folks who put the sin in syndicated talk show (that would be Jerry! Maury! and That Bald Guy Who Used to Work for Jerry!) to my hometown, many here have predicted the Cultural Apocalypse.

Of course, it hasn’t happened.

jerry springer always home and uncoolA quick check of the lineups currently being offered by our local Center for the Old Farts shows we are still getting a steady diet of rock and jazz musicians decades past their relevancy along with the usual bevy of violin virtuosos clad in gowns so tight it's a wonder they can reach their G strings and that their audiences can't see them.

But when in Rome, never pass up a trip through a vomitorium. That's why last week I attended a taping of The Jerry Springer Show.

If nothing else, Jerry-atrics are putting dollars into the city's parking fund. A dozen cars were queued up trying to enter the theater lot when I arrived. Signs by the meters advise those attending the freak show to pay the all-day $5 fee rather than try to save a buck using the hourly rate. Apparently, the show's taping time is never as well choreographed as its fights.

This was the first of many courtesies I encountered that morning. The staff and security people couldn't have been nicer, happier or more helpful throughout the morning even when they made me go through the metal detector. Twice.

Topping my list was the woman checking in ticketholders. She chatted spiritedly with me about skiing after she noticed an old lift ticket on my jacket. Of course, this may have been planned to distract me from reading the liability waiver I had to sign. Sarah, my partner-in-crime for the morning who actually read the waiver, said my signing had forfeited my right to, among other things, sue in the event my face impeded the trajectory of an amputee Nazi dwarf tossed by the transgendered alien he cheated on.

"Oh, no," insisted peppy ticket lady when I checked with her later. "It was just your standard generic waiver. Trust me."

me-at-springer-caption Why shouldn’t I? I had already been surprised that Springer, with its reputation for poor taste, makes its audience members adhere to a pretty strict dress code.

“Dress your best. You’re going to be on TV!” exclaims the show’s Web site. So I wore a sweater in the recommended “solid, jewel toned” shade of Buckets o’ Blood red.

While the crew set things up for the taping, we had our appetites whetted with videos of classics from the show's two decades on the air. These included legendary episodes such as "Kung-Fu Hillbilly," "Stripper Wars" and "Pimps, Hos and That's Just Our Studio Audience." The audiovisual high it offered made me crave live catfights and non-pixelated nudity even more than usual.

First, Jerry came out and did a few minutes of self-depreciating standup. Our ringmaster was in on the joke and he wanted us to know we should be, too. For example, in commenting on the thousands and thousands of people who had appeared on his stage over the years, he deadpanned: "That's an awful lot of perverts."

After Todd, the stage manager, instructed us in the art of hooting, booing and performing fist-pumping choruses of "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" on cue, the action began. Within a few minutes the day's first guests, who audience members affectionately referred to in a later segment as "crack whore" and "bitch," were going at it.

However, before their dresses rode up or slid down (all depends on fashion style and body type) and their wigs flew like wounded synthetic birds, they each kicked off their shoe. This appears to be a mandatory requirement for female pugilists on Springer or else all the women at our taping had prepped by watching hockey fight highlights and noting the players always drop their gloves before trying to pummel an opponent. If I didn’t think Todd would toss me out for breaking ranks, I would have started chanting, "Potvin sucks!"

As the taping wore on, it was apparent each new segment's triangle of spurned lovers was comprised of people with progressively less talent for acting or even keeping a straight face. However, that didn't matter to those of us in the audience who ate up the ham Uncle Jerry had set before us. The fact Springer tickets are free is just the honey glaze that makes it all slide down a bit easier.

When all was done, we headed out but not before I convinced Sarah to pose with one of the very smiley, very beefy security guys. Note in the photo that his bicep is roughly the same size as her noggin.

sarah-and-security

As I made my way out to the parking lot, I passed a few other audience members debating whether what they witnessed was real or not. Word from some veteran audience members is that each story has some truth to it, but things are greatly exaggerated and relentlessly rehearsed. Does it really matter?

Then I passed and high-fived the guy who proudly won some coveted “Jerry beads” during the audience participation segment by dropping his pants. Todd had encouraged us to be as funny as we could (“Jokes! I want some good yucks!” he said) and this guy obviously could not survive by wits alone.

When I reached the Minivan of Manliness, I turned and I looked at the back of St. John’s, one of the oldest Catholic churches in the region and also the immediate neighbor to the Springer theater.

And I laughed.

If the pastor played his cards right, his business could be just as big as Jerry’s. They share the same demographics, don’t they? Sinners and those who enable them. Hey, that’d be a good episode title!

Final thought: Is this art? No. But it doesn’t claim to be either. Yet Springer, the TV show, did beget the British stage success Jerry Springer: The Opera. Now if the local arts council booked that into our town, they would really put the sin in synergy.

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Just prior to the show’s taping, we got to be part of an extra segment they will use on a future DVD or specials. A band called Wavy Space that Springer people had spotted on YouTube performed this song called, duh, “Springer.”

The key difference between what we saw live and this YouTube performance? At our taping, the bass player wore a Catholic schoolgirl outfit. Well, that’s not explicitly banned by the show’s dress code.

Also during our performance the guitarist’s instrument got unplugged at one point. Didn’t matter. Everything on Springer is done in a single take – except audience questions which sometimes were done two or three times to capture the best delivery -- then patched, overdubbed and pasted by little men with horns and pitchforks.

It’s a decent song they did, but it’s no Weird Al:

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Final final thought:

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode as much as I did. I’ll be taking next week off for a cause near and dear to me, the annual Cure JM Foundation National Fundraiser and Education Forum. We have a record 200+ people attending this year, so My Love – the foundation’s chairman -- will have me working double OT for her all week. I hope you will consider supporting my family’s efforts by donating through out FirstGiving page even if its with only smallest amount of spare change.

In my absence, I’ll be running a special series titled “When ‘Always Home’ Leaves Home” that features three awesome bloggers discussing there their, uh … memorable? … meetings with me on those rare occasions in which I ventured beyond my Colonial-home comfort zone.

Please be as generous to them, through your attention and comments, as they have been to me with their time and talent.

As Jerry Springer would say: Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Today is a Snow Day

21 clever quips

The automated messaging system called to let us know that schools would be closed today because of the impending blizzard.

That call came at 7 o’clock.

Last night.

The Things, however, decided not to take chances.

Right before bed they continued their long-standing “vague hint of a snowstorm” ritual involving poor fashion and kitchen utensils.

Thing 2’s teacher also didn’t want to take chances. Before she dismissed class yesterday afternoon, she gave them the following action list that if -- and only if  -- completed would ensure a thick, hearty snowfall overnight:

  • Flush an ice cube down the toilet. Not a problem as long as my Tanqueray and tonic doesn’t accompany it on the journey.
  • Wear your pajamas inside out and backwards to bed. Check. I’m generally good with anything that makes the little heathens actually wear PJs.
  • Put a spoon under your pillow before going to sleep. Check. Uh, double check to make sure peanut butter is first wiped off the spoon.
  • Sleep with your feet where your head should be and vice versa. Thankfully, My Love is in town so the kids won’t try to sleep in my bed with me. Thing 1’s feet can make an onion cry.

So if you are buried in the white stuff today, please blame my children. And our nation’s system of public education.

Then, use your non-shoveling time to read another snow-related essay of mine over on DadCentric called “Snow Brick Castles in the Air.”

First one there gets to use the neon green brick maker:

voila

Monday, February 8, 2010

Doctor, My Eyes

14 clever quips

Even with my fuzzy vision, I could see that my optometrist had made a mistake last week.

The prescription for the contact lenses he gave me was actually weaker instead of stronger.

He double-checked his computer and shook his head.

"No, that's the right strength. You're sight has improved a little bit in your left eye," he said. "Put in the lenses and I'll show you."

I sensed I was being Punk'd.

detached retina2 I have worn glasses since the 4th grade and contacts since 7th and not once has my vision ever improved between examinations. I have cursed my corrective lenses, lost them, broke them, had them give me nasty corneal abrasions, and did I mention cursing them? A lot?

Even though I have been told I’m a good candidate for laser surgery, I have never seriously considered it for two reasons:

  • My lifelong goal of avoiding operations. Mostly successful at that one. Dang you, fertile loins! You cost me a perfect record!
  • I witnessed My Love’s laser surgery via closed circuit video while simultaneously changing Thing 1’s diaper in the doctor’s waiting room. On both counts – eeeeeewww!

Therefore, if not for the miracle of polycarbonate plastics and hydrogels, I'd be walking around with two corrective Art Deco glass bricks strapped over my peepers.

About 15 year ago, when my then-regular optometrist was on vacation or sick or possibly just putting his newly Lasiked retinas to the test in a poorly lit strip club, his temporary replacement decided my eyesight was not just poor but lopsided. Possibly fearing that I'd permanently pull to the right, maybe to the point of spinning in clockwise circles until I turned to butter, he jiggered with my new prescription to slightly weaken my stronger eye and slightly strengthen my weaker eye.

The result: I was slightly off kilter for the next six months. It was kind of like how I image Keith Richards feels all the time.

I got my prescription fixed before the feeling got too nice.

I'm not sure whatever happened to that fill-in eye doc but I sense he headed up to Alaska and set up shop in Wasilla, you becha!

When I moved a few years later, the new optometrist I had told me I had floaters.

Floaters are like optical space junk -- bits of useless material just kind of hanging around the ether. Most people have some (they look like little twisted and transparent versions of Plankton from "SpongeBob Squarepants") but they are normally cruising your eye's periphery and out of sight. When you have too many of them and they start interfering with your viewing of Gabrielle Anwar's short-short jumpers on Burn Notice, well then, you’re in trouble.

"Do I have them that bad?" I asked him.

"Oh, definitely not. But if they get that bad, let me know," he said. "You're eye might fall out."

Actually he said "your retina may detach" but that's not how my mind processed it at the time.

Back to my current optometrist. A little while back, he showed me a digital image of my eyes and pointed out some vague abnormality.

"If you ever start seeing flashes of light, call me immediately," he said. "Your eye might fall out."

"You mean my retina may detach?"

"That's what I said. What did you think I said?"

"Never mind."

"But the chances of this are pretty small. Maybe 1 in 10,000."

Odds, schmodds.

Thing 1 has an autoimmune disease that only about 3 in a million children in the United States are diagnosed with annually. Given this information from my optometrist, I now panic any time someone unexpectedly flips on a light.

I'm sitting in the chair last week and the good doctor is now holding one monocle after another in front of my left eye.

He's right.

I can see much better with the weaker prescription that the stronger one.

"Sometimes we doctors want to make our patients too happy. We want them to walk out of here feeling like we've made an immediate difference and we overcorrect,” he said.

I then apologized to him for being such a boring patient.

He looked relieved.

His patient before me, he said, was a young person with brain cancer who he’s been working with for more than a year. As he talked his voice wavered and his focus moved to something off beyond the walls of his office.

“Boring is good,” he said. “Let’s get you that new prescription.”

But clarity had already been achieved without them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Confession of the Uncool

22 clever quips

As you can imagine based on Monday’s post, it’s been a whirlwind week of projects here at Uncool Estates. Most should be done by Thursday but they would have been done by today if not for my blowing most of Tuesday attending a taping of The Jerry Springer Show.

Just as an audience member.

I swear.

STOP JUDGING ME!

There’ll be more on that adventure next week, I promise. But for now, let me summarize it thus:

Brawls and boobs.

God bless America, every demented nook and cranny of it.

Between all that, shoveling snow and selling some ju— … um, gently used estate pieces on Craigslist, it’s been hectic. However, I do have something to share with you today.

Matt of DC Urban Dad was so desperate for copy the other week that he did his Friday feature “Five Questions with” … on me. Go drop in on Matt to learn about my ultimate iPod playlist, my favorite time of the day (if you guessed “happy hour,” you were wrong) and other sordid details.

One question I answer is about what is the most uncool thing I did that day. Today, it might have been cranking up the Minivan of Manliness’s sound system and singing along to Taylor Swift’s “Hey Stephen” while at a stoplight.

The UPS driver on my right and the three high school girls on my left were not impressed. Convulsed in laughter, yes, but not impressed.

With 200 other channels on satellite radio, I really need to switch off Radio Disney once I jettison the Things off at school.

Video: Steve Earle, “Satellite Radio”

What was the most uncool thing you did lately?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Everything Falls Apart

31 clever quips
The following items broke or otherwise shed their inanimate coils in the past seven days:
Makita Cordless Drill. I’m not sure what about this death hurt more: That it thwarted the plans Thing 2 and I to bond over power tools by making bird feeders out of empty seltzer bottles or that My Love had given me the drill as my “bachelor party” gift. Read what you will into that last bit.
Floodlight over garage door. Meh. An $8 bulb. Not a biggie. Especially considering the next thing to go was …
The automatic garage door opener. Not the clicker in the car, mind you. The actual thing that raises and lowers the door. You’d be mistaken if you thought the door being stuck in the closed position would actually prevent money from flying out through it.
golf-cartGolf pull cart. Since Santa and his minions, you know -- the ones who live under my roof, all failed to bring me the one gift I actually had on my list, I purchased my own online. Alloy mag wheels. All-weather scorecard holder. Umbrella holder. Adult beverage holder. Oh. Oh. Oh. That’s what I’m talking about. After assembling it, I tested the foot brake – an important feature lest your cart roll down hill and force you to exert extraordinary effort to retrieve said adult beverage – and there was this horrible crack like biting into a chicken bone and snapping through the marrow. Or like the sound my knees make when I squat down to look under the sink for a nonexistent last roll of toilet paper.
brake-001
brake-002 
I called the toll-free number of the Canadian company that makes the cart (honestly, I didn’t even know Canadians played golf but I guess that explains why we when you put your woods back in the bag you cover them with toques, eh?). It was disconnected.
Remote control. Not any remote control, but the remote control to the TV in the family room. With the 46-inch flat screen. And the satellite TV. And the TiVo. … I need a moment. … And a tissue.
And, the one you’ve all been waiting for <drumroll>
Wood slat on my bed frame.
broken-bed-slat
Too much bouncy bouncy. Or too many Ho Hos. Either way, my fat ass stakes claim.
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