Friday, March 25, 2011

Keep on Monster Truckin’

14 clever quips

With gasoline prices nearing record highs and Friday night rush-hour traffic clogging all major arteries north, Thing 2 and I did what any other red-blooded, freedom-loving American father and son would do.

We hopped in the Minivan of Manliness and headed to our first-ever monster truck rally.

Thirty miles and 57 minutes later we reached (Insert Name for this Month) Bank Arena for the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, "the world's premier monster truck series." This last part is important, I suppose, because you only want top of the line when it comes to overgrown pickups with wheels as big as restaurant Dumpsters crushing junker cars and spinning doughnuts that spray yards of dirt into the hooting and howling masses.

Those masses, as it turned out, were not dressed in the flannel or camouflage that several of my Tweeple had told me I would be required to don to gain entrance. (Didn’t even need to show proof of Skoal.) Instead, the crowd looked much like 9-year-old Thing 2 and myself -- families from the Gold Coast suburbs looking for a few hours of escape. (By the way, the fashion de rigueur proved to be earplugs or industrial-sized ear muffs to counter the roars of multiple 1,500-horsepower engines. Having already lost sufficient hearing from my teenage years of mowing neighborhood lawns with a Walkman on high, I went au natural.)

We settled into our $20 seats and steeped in an atmosphere of equal parts anticipation and methanol exhaust. Only a few weeks before we sat here for a Sound Tigers minor league hockey game but now, instead of ice, a pudding-thick dirt covered the arena floor. A 15-foot-high mound of it fashioned into a ramp formed the centerpiece and, given the 5-0 shellacking the Sound Tigers took that night we saw them, we could only hope the team's skates and sticks lay buried under it.

bridgeport sound tigers hockeyIt’s a hockey arena!

The evening started with a wheelie competition. Doesn't sound exciting, but your perspective changes when the second competitor - a truck fashioned to look like a crook horned bull called "El Toro Loco" (but pronounced in an Oprah-giving-away-cars voice as "El TOR-rooo LoooC-COOOOOO") - gets stuck sitting on its hind wheels atop two half-buried banana yellow Cadillacs.

monster jam el toro loco monster truckNo! It’s a dirt track! It’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping!

Thing 2 burst into a belly laugh so big and full that I thought his recently consumed nacho cheese sauce would spurt from his nostrils. The sound reminded me of Snoopy's gut busting guffaws in the old "Peanuts" television specials. Kids don't make that sound while playing Wii or DS. Thank God! That would really disturb my beer enjoyment.

I came pretty close to echoing that laugh myself when the cherry picker trying to push El TOR-rooo LoooC-COOOOOO back onto its tires caused the truck to tip backward and land upside down. No one was hurt, though the truck ended up having to perform one horn down the rest of the night.

There were drag races among the trucks (my fave being a lobster-shaped one called "Crushstation"), races between teams of ATV's, and some pretty amazing motorcycle stunt jumps with back flips and trick stances. However, the main reason we came was to finally see in action our old friend Grave Digger, the red-headlighted black, purple and neon green mack daddy of monster trucks.

crushstation monster truck monster jam

While this was our first rally, I had seen Grave Digger for years while driving past its home base on the Caratoke Highway in North Carolina en route to an annual trip to the Outer Banks. The past few years, our son had convinced us to stop there so he could tour "Digger's Dungeon," climb through the massive rigs and even take a $5 ride on a more humble, but still humungous vehicle.

(NOTE: I’ve never been allowed to ride the semi-monster truck. My Love always goes with the Things, I think, to prevent me from being tempted into a lifestyle she detests.)

Digger didn't disappoint. The last truck to perform in the night's freestyle competition, it snorted and jumped and spun around the arena, even seemingly defying physics and logic by leaping its 5-ton body off the massive center ramp, then landing with a rubbery bounce and dirt-spewing pirouette on its highly suspended frame to a standing ovation.

Well, at least one from this father and his son.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I’m Your Daddy Blog: Some Shameless Self Promotion

17 clever quips

circle of moms top 25 daddy blogs circle of moms top 25 daddy blogs circle of moms top 25 daddy blogs circle of moms top 25 daddy blogs circle of moms top 25 daddy blogs circle of moms top 25 daddy blogs I’ve been nominated to be in the Circle of Moms website’s list of Top 25 Daddy Blogs. All I need is for you to vote for this li’l ol’ blog once day from now until April 5.

All it takes is a click. No registering, no giving your bank account number to a Nigerian prince’s exiled daughter, nothing. Just go to my Circle of Moms Top 25 Daddy Blogs page and click the “Votes” logo once a day.

Oh, sure, I could throw a fit about being called a “daddy blog” (How pejorative! How condescending to my gender! How I need a life!), but what the hey – no other big-time “parenting” websites ever look to promote me and my fellow weenie wielders (I’m eye-balling you, despite our devotion to our kids, such as teaching the next generation the Zen of armpit flatulence sounds.

So it’s an honor just to be nominated. However, I’d much rather win.

Therefore, vote for me!

Read my lips! No new taxes! Except on telemarketers and bad PR pitches to bloggers!

Pot in every chicken; a band in every garage!

Tippecanoe was Uncool, too!

Etc. Etc. So on and so forth.

You’ve come a long way, blogosphere. Now give us daddies some love … and votes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Red Blotch of Krill, Ick!

19 clever quips

"Let's try an experiment."

If My Love had said those words to me, I would have been intrigued.

If she said them shortly after Anne Hathaway or that Goth chick from "NSCI" had wandered into our bedroom, I'd be wildly intrigued.

I’d also probably be deep in the throes of R.E.M. sleep.

krill oil pills Instead, I heard this while stone cold awake on a Saturday afternoon from a strange doctor whom I found myself in front of, stripped naked to the waist.

To make matters worse, the doc held up an index finger and walked around behind me. This is a universal cause for alarm in any guy over age 40 in a doctor's office. However, I relaxed when that finger started running up, down and across my back rather than down near my Lesser Antilles region.

"Interesting," he said.


"I just wrote your name on your back with my finger, and it's showing up in a nice red rash," he said

The rash was why I was there in the first place.

A few days earlier, I had noticed long, diagonal red streaks in parallel lines from my lower rib cage up my sides. I had just come out of a hot shower and my skin was already suffering from the normal dryness that comes from having electric baseboard heat in an exceptionally frigid New England winter, so I figured I must have scrubbed myself a little too hard while soaping up and left finger marks.

The lines never went away, though. Then more of them, plus some brilliant blotches resembling spaghetti-splatter, started to appear on my arms, back and sides.

Naturally, I made the mistake of first turning to the Internet.

The digital information age has given us many great things, some of them not even porn-related, but WebMD's Symptom Checker is obviously a tool of white-coated terrorists. Within a few minutes of pointing and clicking, I found might have leprosy, consumption and a few miscellaneous strains of VD. This, of course, gave me another symptom: panic attack.

Calmed down, I sought My Love and said to her the words nobody ever wants to hear from their spouse:

"Hey, hun – what do you make of this rash?"

She gave it a good look, asked a few questions and concluded definitively that it "may or may not be shingles." With two kids in the house, including one with a rare autoimmune disease, this was the one diagnosis I really didn't want.

OK, I really didn’t want leprosy, consumption and VD, either, but you know what I mean.

My Love, who had shingles as a child, advised me to wait until Monday before going to the doctor to see if got any better since I didn't have any of the really bad symptoms like pain, burning, chills and – no joke –genital lesions.

Immediately, I found an on-call doctor. As much as I love my wife and value her insight, she has a pretty bad track record on dispensing medical advice, like the time she suggested I pop a blood blister until my fingernail then I ended up in the ER in need of a tetanus shot.

Anyway, the doc with the creative finger quickly ruled out shingles and said I definitely had the telltale signs of a simple allergic reaction.

"Are you allergic to anything already?" he said.

"Penicillin," I said.

"How do you know that?" he asked, as every doctor I've ever told this does, in a suspicious tone that implies I enjoy lying about the fact that the most basic of the world's antibiotics could kill me.

"That is what I've been told since I was a kid, and I've never wanted to try to prove that wrong," I said. "What else?"

Then we ran through a laundry list of suspects.

New laundry detergent? Nope.

Change in brand of soap? Nope.

Eating any odd or usual foods for late? Nope.

krill "In fact, if been eating less of everything to try to lose some weight," I said. "The only other really different thing that's been going on in my life is I switched from regular fish oil pills to those red krill oil ones because I heard they may better for my borderline cholesterol."

He looked at me seriously … as in, "Seriously, you haven't figured this out on your own? Don't you think the word 'red' might have tipped you off?"

A two-week course of prednisone and a change back to boring ol' fish oil pills later, and I'm a changed man -- changed from red back to my normal pasty shade of skin health.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

International Man of Mystery, That’s Me

15 clever quips

For St. Patrick’s Day, I will attempt some lovin’ in the oven in the form of a loaf of homemade Irish soda bread today.

If I’m lucky, the bread will be filled with plump, juicy raisins and doughy goodness. If I’m not, the house will be filled with smoke, firefighters and claims adjusters.

kiss me i'm irish Hmm. I should bake extra for my guests.

Come tomorrow, if the kitchen is still intact and so are all my limbs, I’ll be celebrating the big day by breaking in a new roasting pan with a slow-cooked, Guinness-and-Jameson’s braised corned beef. I figure if the meat turns out bad, at least I’ll be able to pour the drippings in a pint glass and have a nice toasty buzz.

I don’t why I’ve been into the whole St. Pat’s thing the last few years. Maybe it’s a deep longing to better understand my roots and find some grounding in this wacky world. Maybe I just have time on my hands.

Despite our Irish surname (What? You thought “Uncool” was Jewish? Oy gevalt!), we are the muttiest of mutts. Mostly Italian, some Polish, dash of German, a hodgepodge of odd middle European countries (My Love’s side, though they claim only to be Nebraskan, through and through) and, apparently, a touch of the Emerald Isles. At least in name, as no one on my side has any knowledge of an Uncool coming over from there.

My guess – a distant relative wanted by the law in his real home country gets off a ship at Ellis Island and steals the identity of an Irish hobo he found stowing away in the hold and later killed for cheating during a game of Crazy Eights.

Hey, why bother digging around your family tree when you can just pick up any of the unclaimed nuts on the ground around it?

Speaking of nuts, swing over to DadCentric for a debriefing on my vasectomy of many years ago, among other things, in “Birth Control: Your Balls are in Whose Court?”

Until next time, L'Chaim!

Dang it! I mean, Sláinte!

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Break Out the Leather …

15 clever quips

Because leather is what you give for a third anniversary gift and it’s my third blogiversary!

“Was,” actually. Back on the 11th.

Don't worry, I forgot it, too. In fact, some of you have thought I've forgotten this blog altogether but no, I think of it every day and I've many a-post simmerin' on the stove for you.

While those finish cooking, I thought I'd bring you something most of you have never read before -- my very first, full blog post here in which I admit straight away to my youthful (and ongoing) nerdiness.

Enjoy and see again you shortly.


Had a flashback to middle-school awkwardness this morning reading Joel Stein's syndicated column about the passing of Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

My D&D days were relatively short, but vivid. My friend, Seth, started me on the game in 7th grade. He set up my first character (an elf that Seth - son of a graphic artist - penciled on my profile sheet with a crooked smile, craggy face, flat-top comb over and a pointy set of ears only Spock could love) and took me through my first campaign. With his artistic genes and anarchist pre-teen spirit leading me through the foggy moors and dank underground passages of strange medieval worlds, I was hooked.

The ever-present smoke and stray CO2 fumes from the wood-burning stove his family used to heat his house may have also enhanced the experience.

I geeked it out with my friends throughout middle school. I spent months creating my own elaborate campaign, based on the Moody Blues "Knights in White Satin" for wussiness' sake. Two of my friends even typed/programmed an adventure they created into a "state of the art" Commodore 64 gaming console computers with the cassette recorder hard drive.

OK, we had a lot of time on our hands in those days, but not enough to wait for the frickin' thing to reboot so they could scroll through endless lines of text and code on a tiny monochrome screen, trying to find if a +2 mace of confusion could be skillfully wielded by an uncharismatic half-human thief against an ogre huffing acidic stink breath while encumbered by 34 gold coins, a flagon of rancid mead and pouch full of -2 everlasting Gobstopper grenades.

My D&D days ended when I graduated into the local Catholic high school and my friends stayed in public education. I occasionally find stray sheets of the reams and reams of graph paper we used for mapping tucked into old books and files.

But I wonder: Whatever became of my tan suede pouch of 20-sided dice?

Thursday, March 3, 2011


22 clever quips

The muscles around the inside of my left elbow ached.

They ached with a steady pain that felt like a prizefighter had laid into me until his glove wielded to the fiber and tissue under my skin. It was a constant, weighty pressure, but I could move my arm without issue. Up, down, around, grab, push, pull, stretch.

I shook it off. Must have slept on it the wrong way, I thought.

That was in June.

In the weeks that followed, some days brought an ache mild and barely noticeable. Other days, my arm felt like a knotted beach towel being used in a tug of war.

After a few weeks, my index finger periodically started to tingle on the verge of sleep. Some days, there seemed to be some unseen swelling that put pressure behind the nail. Other times, it felt fine.

Doc Bollywood II (yes, a sequel -- the first Doc Bollywood moved elsewhere without even a word to her favorite part-time panic attack victim) initially diagnosed carpel tunnel related strain causing a pinched nerve. I assumed as much, having had a similar issue with my right arm a few years ago. That one lacked the pain but heaped on the numbness and tingling in my index finger. It took a few months to resolve itself, mostly with rest.

So I rested.

I popped Motrin and all its generic variations like vintage House on a Vicodin binge. On occasion, I’d dip into the special stash of codeine-enhanced ibuprofen My Love had brought home from a London pharmacy. Bless those wacky Brits and their socialized medicine! But even those happy pills didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

The pain remained, and started migrating like a drunken Canada goose. One day, my shoulder. The next, my neck. Then my forearm. The intensity and location changed daily.

I iced, I heated, I immobilized, I bandaged, I supported. I used enough self-adhesive heat patches that I would sometimes find rectangle patches of shirt lint on various places that I had failed to scrub hard enough in the showers.

I got massaged and chiropractored by professionals. I received electric muscle and nerve stimulation from amateurs (they are morticians by trade, so I hoped they may know something about treating the dead). This helped for days here and there, but the ache and tingling and numbness never completely left.

It felt worse when I sat. At the kitchen table, in the car and especially at my computer – something not being helped by habits of Web surfing, writing and rewriting, and, finally, tackling a feisty online program meant to help me do the entire layout of the Things school yearbook.

Still most days, I could ignore it enough that I could go about my business. Until I couldn’t any longer.

That’s when I started spending 30 minutes a night trying to adjust my pillows to minimize the pain and tingling, which had started periodically spasming from the back of my lower left shoulder blade down to my fingertips. Then I’d wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and spend another 30 minutes trying to remember how I got into that first relatively pain-free position.

So last month, I shut down as much as possible. Limited extracurricular activities online – Facebooking, tweeting and, as you’ve noticed, blogging.


I finally realized I was past the point of helping myself when every time I Googled “arm pain,” the only thing that kept coming up was “you’re having a heart attack – seek medical advice, IDIOT!” and even I knew that wasn’t right.

So, I went back to Doc Bollywood II. I asked her to stick me in a MRI chamber so we could find the problem and get it the hell out of my body.

But insurance companies won’t let you do that without first seeing a physical therapist, she said.

Obamacare, I’m so disappointed.

Sixty-five tortuous minutes, my therapist P.T. Babem figured out every possible subtle and not-so-subtle way to aggravate my arm. Then she pulled out the rubbery yellow and red model of a spine.

“I think you have a slighted herniated disk near the top, right about here,” she said. “I think you’re not too bad off.”

So now for an hour twice a week and 20 minutes the other days, I’m stretching rubber bands, leaning through door frames, laying on rolled up dish towels and generally yanking my arms and necks in opposing directions.

And things seem to be finally getting better. P.T. Babem has put an end-of-March deadline on me being pain free. (“You have to be, because I’m leaving for a new job them,” she said.)

There you have it. I’m back.


My Uncool Past