Feb 262012

When it comes to my marriage, my wife has heard me often repeat the words of the immortal Al Bundy: “Till death do us part … and then we’re free to date again.”

Sue has also repeatedly endured my other thought on this particular subject—that if anything should happen to her, once the kids are big enough to fend on their own, I’m off to a Unabomber shack in the woods.

(One a side note: As some of you know, when we were visiting Washington, D.C., last year, I was almost apoplectic when I discovered that being displayed in the Newseum—a museum I cannot recommend highly enough—was the actual Unabomber’s shack!

Needs a little work—and indoor plumbing—but hey, it’ll do …)

Anyway, as you all know, I tend to think about my death (a bit), and in those imaginings, I’ve always figured/hoped that once my ashes have been shot out of the cannon, Sue, being an attractive, intelligent, successful and amazing woman, would move on, and probably somewhat quickly. Not Bobby Brown quickly, but you know, maybe in a month or two. I know I’ve teased her that she’ll have a young pool boy (or maybe Mark Sanchez) ready to go, yet I’ve never really thought about exactly who might replace me in her life …

Until now.

Now, I know that from beyond the grave, my control over the situation will be, uh, limited. And trust me, the last thing I’d want to do is put any restrictions on her. I also would never tell her exactly who should she go after because she would never do anything I told her to do when I was alive, so why would I expect anything different afterward?

Plus, let’s be honest: Who really wants to be the act that follows me? I suppose Justin Timberlake could pull it off, but what can’t J.T. do?

Again, I know I have absolutely no say in the matter, but Sue will admit (without even needing to finish an entire glass of wine) that we’ve had a great life together, and out of respect for that, she would most likely consider some suggestions as to my replacement. I don’t have anyone specific in mind, but I do have some ideas to the contrary. As a matter of fact, here are—

The Top 14 People Whom I Prefer My Wife *NOT* Marry After I’m Dead

14. Carrot Top – We’re all agreed, this doesn’t really need an explanation, right?

… Except my wife has an inexplicable crush on Conan O’Brien, so the ginger thing can’t be totally dismissed (speaking of which, Senior Smoke better keep back, too). And even though ‘Top’s nearly as ripped as I am, it appears he does wax a bit more.

13. Al Gore – Okay, I know he’s a former Vice President of the United States, an ardent environmentalist, a best-selling author, inventor the interwebz, a terrific dancer and possibly the only person more liberal than Sue herself…

… Except he’s also willingly slept with Tipper Gore. A lot. And doesn’t seem to be at all uncomfortable with the whole world knowing.

12. Rex Ryan – Look, Rex is pretty much my all-time favorite head coach of the New York Jets, and someone I think I’d have at my table for the “Four People You’d Love to Have Dinner With” (as long as someone else was picking up the tab). From all accounts, he seems like a really good guy, entertaining, loyal, outgoing, has an open mind when it comes to love

… The mental image is just … crushing. I’ll leave it like that.

11. George Clooney – Sure, he seems like the perfect guy—handsome, intelligent, charming, great sense of humor …

… From all accounts he is perfect, and then some. Which is exactly why I don’t want her marrying him. (Yes, I’m that jealous and petty.)

Continue reading »

Feb 232012

So the other morning my wife Sue looked up from her iPhone for a moment to remark, “Hey, someone in France is going to build a Napoleonland!”

(Sometimes, the universe just makes it too easy ….)

Of course, the first thing that you think of is this—


Sorry the clip is so blurry, but I picked it because it had the song—good luck getting that out of your head. (You’re welcome.)

Anyway, according to the above story—

The Battle of Waterloo, which put an end to Napoleon’s rule in France, is expected to be recreated on a daily basis and visitors may even be able to take part in the reenactments.

They will also be able to take in a water show recreating the Battle of Trafalgar.

A museum, a hotel, shops, restaurants and a congress are all expected to be built at the park.

Planners are also hoping to recreate the killing of Louis XVI, France’s last King, who died after being guillotined during the Revolution…

An NPR story about the attraction (brilliantly entitled “Let Them Eat Funnel Cake“) mentions other attractions the park could have, including “a ski slope where skiers are transported through a simulated scene of Napoleon’s disastrous campaign through Russia while skiing through ‘frozen corpses of soldiers and horses.'” They also suggest that visitors could partake in a re-creation of the storming of The Bastille—“Hey kids, don’t forget your own kettle of boiling lead to shower your friends!”—as well as witness the beheading of Louis XVI, which would be great if they let GWAR stage it. [Caution: NSFW or anyone who may not fully appreciate thrash metal bands in outlandish costumes with completely over-the-top stage shows that involve copious amounts of violence, pseudo-gore and fluids being showered on audiences.]

I also started thinking about the appeal of an attraction that celebrated France’s historic battles. Obviously, if you’re any sort of French war reenactor, I guess you have to go back a few centuries for a good show since most of your “work” in the 20th century would involve throwing up your hands every time the Germans came a-knockin’—hard to sell a Super Hopper pass to that “action,” right? (And yes, I know about the French Resistance and French Foreign Legion—just reaching for the low-hanging fromage!)

Of course, from there, it’s just a short jump to—

rayality: the theme park

Of course, it would be sponsored by Coke and sell turkey drumsticks, and there would be all sorts of attractions. Like what, you ask? Well, here’s a few ideas …

(the high) road rayge – Think Fast and the Furious meets The Road Warrior meets the Way-Out Wacky Races, but for the whole family! It’s a wild rayce across the wasteland featuring rocket-powered jet cars outfitted with cannons, flamethrowers and other weapons of automotive destruction, with drivers who choose to use cell phones to text while driving, and thus, abandoning the high road—which I so often adhere to—being mercilessly punished with violence, fire and general carnage. (Okay, maybe not for the “whole family” …)

piraytes of the caribbean – Yarrrrrgh, me buckos! Sail the seven seas of rayality on this thrilling boat ride, where ye and ye scurvy crew will navigate the Isles of Ignorance and cross cutlasses with me enemies, including the Commodopes, the Bully Buccaneers and the scurvy whores, who ye’ll get to keel-haul and make walk the plank!

the carraysel of progress – This would feature some of my future inventions, including:

  • Chlorofriends – Stuffed animals with names like Sleepy Sting Ray to help young children fall asleep. When each Chlorofriend is given a loving squeeze, it emits a playful cloud of chloroform, sure to send even the most stubborn rug rat to dreamland. (Also available in pillowcases)
  • Hood rockets – Can be fitted for any vehicle to “gently remind” cell phone users to not text and drive by obliterating them in a fiery blast. (And talk about cross-marketing opportunities—a natural product tie in to road rayge!)
  • Thought-control blinkers – You know what makes the Amazing Kreskin so amazing? He’s the only one who can read minds! Since the rest of us can’t, and thus, don’t know which way a careless driver might be turning at any given moment, this takes the “silly” free will task of warning others and puts it in the hands of computers, where it belongs!

shoot the clown into the brick wall – Just like it sounds. (Everything doesn’t have to have “ray” in it to be a grayt idea.)

the hall of skeezers – Featuring animatronic versions (wax figures creep me out) of the some of my favorite all-time entertainers, including Tawyny Kitaen (back before she went crazy), Jeana Thomasina (back before she was a Real Houseife), Wendy O. Williams (back before she was dead), Elvira, Linnea Quigley and Andrea Evans, with a special shrine dedicated to my one-time future wife (and current Facebook friend) Debbie Gibson.

flash mountain – Oh wait, it already exists

welcome to the jungle cruise – It’d be a flume ride through scenes from my brain, which considering the things I fill my days thinking about (curiosities, jerks, my colon, ghosts, UFOs and Bigfoot, death …), *might* be a bit disturbing for some. On the plus side, it’d have a kick-ass soundtrack!

I’m also thinking there should be a nice patch of weed-filled lawn near the egress, where every visitor could stand for a few minutes, shake their fist and yell at the clouds. The complete rayality experience.

Feb 192012

I hate politics, and I hate politicians more than politics. But really, the thing I hate the most is Hate.

Allow me a moment to clarify.

The other day, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a same-sex marriage bill that had been passed by the New Jersey state legislature. You may have missed it in the news cycle because a.) he had promised to do it from the outset, so it wasn’t a real surprise; and b.) he did it on a Friday night, an old public relations trick to help slip it under the radar so that it will be forgotten quickly.

I can go on a rant here as to why I am in favor of same-sex marriage, but I think I’ll leave it Washington State representative Maureen Walsh, who recently spoke in her legislature during a debate on the subject.



As Rep. Walsh says in the clip about gay marriage, “It isn’t the popular thing to do, it is the right thing to do.” I also like the bit about the majority protecting the rights of the minority. Nice.

If you haven’t been following along, the Washington State legislature has passed the bill and the governor signed it last week. Of course, the haters—led by presidential candidate Rick Santorum—are vowing to do everything they can to prevent it from taking effect.

For the record, Walsh is a Republican, like Santorum and Christie.

Christie, in helping to perpetuate the hate in his veto, not surprisingly, took the cowardly way out, stating, “I am adhering to what I’ve said since this bill was first introduced—an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide.”

In other words: “I want all the power and acclaim that goes with being a leader, but I really don’t want to lead if it involves taking a stand on a potentially divisive issue that could be thrown back in my face later, so I’ll pass the buck and let someone else take the blame and do my dirty work. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I hate *those* people, but I’m governor of New Jersey, so I can’t say that out loud.”

I can’t underscore how loathsome Gov. Christie’s words and actions are to me. The reason we elect leaders and legislatures is to represent us, guide us and make rules for us to follow. If we wanted to have everyone vote on everything, why do we need any legislatures—or governors—in the first place?

Of course, Gov. Christie knows this. He’s just stepping back so that the pro-hate anti-gay forces can rally and do his bidding. “Let the people decide.” Please. As I’ve stated previously, the people can’t even pick a proper American Idol (sorry Taylor!), let alone be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to human rights. He knows that with the Catholic church’s support, the seemingly non-Christian haters are better organized than the pro-same-sex forces, and thus, more likely to be able to defeat the law. Makes me so freakin’ aggy*!

[*My 12-year-old son says this is the new slang for “aggravated.” Just trying to keep it phresh, yo!]

To put a little (overly) dramatic emphasis on something Rep. Walsh also said in the clip above: If over the past two hundred years, the majority of “The People”—i.e. white guys—were left to make the rules, women would still be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and African-Americans would still be in chains.

In conjunction with that thought, this week we’ll celebrating President’s Day, a day to honor a man who didn’t let his personal feelings get in the way of what he knew was the right thing.

I’ve been (slowly) reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Abraham Lincoln biography Team of Rivals, which, although not nearly as entertaining as Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Killer, has nonetheless been very enlightening.

In Team of Rivals, Kearns chronicles the renowned debates during the 1858 campaign for Senate between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, throughout which Douglas constantly promoted the notion that Lincoln was “a Negro-loving agitator bent on debasing white society.” (Sound vaguely familiar?)

From the book:

In response, Lincoln avowed that he had “no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races.” He had never been in favor “of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry.” He acknowledged “a physical difference between the two” that would “probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality.” But “notwithstanding all this,” he said, taking direct aim at the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case, “there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence …. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects—certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral and intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man.”

This is why there’s a monument to Lincoln in our nation’s capitol, something I feel comfortable in saying will never be the case with Santorum or Christie.

Oh, by the way, Lincoln was also an original Republican, and is surely not spinning in his grave over what his party has become … you know, what with having to be entombed in cement to thwart grave robbers.

Then again, just maybe Santorum, Christie and the rest are right. I mean, Connecticut legalized same sex marriage in November 2008 and since then, it’s been one harrowing disaster after another—all the children have turned gay, there’s been social anarchy, every marriage and family in the state has dissolved, not to mention the constant tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, plagues of fire and frogs (and fire-breathing frogs), cats and dogs living in sin, all of which has made for a never-ending nightmare that we’ll never wake from ….

Or it absolutely made no difference in anyone’s daily lives, except a few people who now are treated just like everyone else and get to be as incredibly happy (or as miserable) as the rest of us married folk.

As we enjoy a long weekend in honor of Mr. Lincoln, it makes me sad to think that Rick Santorum and Chris Christie—men who hide behind facades of being “Good Christians” but are more interested in doing the “right thing” for their careers versus the right thing for their fellow brothers and sisters—may some day share the same title as him, a truly great human who was murdered for putting his personal prejudices aside to do the right thing.

Feb 162012

So maybe you hadn’t heard, but Whitney Houston died the other day …

Oh wait, unless you lived in a van down by the river or on a South Pacific island with no phone, no lights, no motor car and not a single luxury, you already knew that. It was broadcast on every TV and radio station, mentioned on nearly every website and Facebook page, and was a trending topic on Twitter that even managed to eclipse #LinSanity. In short, it was the biggest thing since … well … the last big thing.

Remember it was just two months ago when we were being barraged with Lindsay Lohan’s Playboy pics?
Sure. Been there, saw that, now pass the eye bleach.

Remember five months ago when the big TV story was that “Two and a Half Men” was premiering without Charlie Sheen, who was off #winning in his roast on Comedy Central?
Well, now that you mention it, yes—how’s that tiger blood thing working out for him?

Remember ten months when the world was buzzing about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding?
Wait, that was less than a year ago—has Pippa posed nekkid anywhere yet?

Remember a year ago when we were all agog over Lady Gaga’s bizarre Grammy entrance?
Uh, only vaguely. Didn’t she rip that off from the San Diego Chicken?

Remember two years ago when Jesse James’ affair with the tattooed Michelle “Bombshell” McGee blindsided Sandra Bullock and the whole world?
Wait, are you sure Sandy was involved with those trailer park refugees? Pretty sure that it was Courtney Love.

Finally, remember three years ago when Chris Brown beat the ever-loving snot out of Rihanna, and sent her to the hospital?
Not even remotely. But neither did the Grammy committee or the American public. Whatev.

Still, this is par for the current American course. Our attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter and shorter. Life is very busy in the 21st century, and with all the media and electronic devices screaming for our attention, we just seem incapable of paying attention for more than a few minutes at a clip. We fastforward through TV shows, we read just the home page of most websites, check only the most recent statuses of our Facebook friends. If it’s not at the top of our feed, we won’t see it, and once it’s on the second page, it’s pretty much gone forever, lost in the seemingly infinite cyber cacophony.

In short, we only seem to be able to absorb what’s here, right now, and as long as it’s in small easily digestible portions.

Let’s be totally honest—there’s a very good chance (especially if you’re CC) that you’re even skipping through this fairly short post, just scanning or stopping to read the stand-alone sentences or the shorter paragraphs. It’s how we’re evolving.

The phenomena is amazing to me. I was recently talking to my friend Ro, who is a brilliant professor of media studies at SCSU, and she brought up an article that I had written last year for Connecticut Magazine in which I had interviewed her. She told me that she uses it for her class in critical thinking (scary, right?), but the thing that I took away from it was that even though the piece was only 600 words long—or about 5 or 6 moderate paragraphs—she said that it was a challenge for her students to digest it all in one class sitting. 600 words! This whole paragraph, including this very sentence, is a total of 149 words, so imagine three more paragraphs about this length after it, and not being able to pay attention long enough to read and comprehend it all in under an hour.

Scary, right?

I blame myself, I guess. I’m part of the problem. I was recently looking through some back issues of Connecticut Magazine—like from the 1970s and 1980s—and comparing it to our current ones, and one of the things that jumps out is not only how short the stories are, but even how short the paragraphs are now. I’m guilty of it even right now, trying to keep this post short and sweet and “readable” even though the intrawebz provide almost unlimited space to write.

Maybe this is helps explain the appeal of Twitter—trying to boil our thoughts into 140 character-sized electronic bites. Or is that bytes? (Speaking of—shameless pimping: You can follow me on Twitter @RayBendici, by the way … Or if you can’t be bothered to read all that: U can follow me @RayBendici, BTW.)

At one point, Ernest Hemingway supposedly wrote that the most perfect story might be one only six words long: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” There has been debate whether Papa Hemingway ever actually did this, but the idea seems to fit where we’re headed.

Writing concisely is tough—there’s an old adage: “I would’ve written less, but I didn’t have the time,” the idea being that it takes a lot of work to craft sentences to convey the most critical ideas and thoughts in the fewest amount of words possible.

Still, there’s another old saying: “Less is more,” and it certainly looks as though that’s where we’re headed. Because as short as the individual messages are getting—in length, in content, in public consciousness, in ability to engage our ever-shortening attention spans—the overall amount of content being hurled at us screaming to be acknowledged is increasing exponentially.

So yeah, you may not remember reading this post in 10 minutes, but it won’t be because it wasn’t well written or thought out (although that may be the case). You will forget reading this because you’ve already been trained by our ever-evolving world to forget it.

Now when do those nekkid pictures of Pippa come out?

Feb 122012

So the other day I picked up my 12-year-old son from school. He gets in the car, and before I can start the engine, he turns to me and says, “Hey, I have some news.”

“Okay,” I say, thinking he’s going to tell me something about making the honor roll with his sterling report card or something about an art project of his.

“I have a girlfriend.”

To say that I was flabbergasted wouldn’t do justice to the proud history of the word “flabbergasted.” Shocked. Stunned. Gobsmacked. Insert your favorite synonym for “more surprised than Maria Shriver after intercepting a Father’s Day card from the maid’s son.” Luckily, the car wasn’t in motion, or I would have inadvertently driven across traffic and through the front of the local grocery store.

Not that there’s anything wrong with his announcement. It all seems fairly innocent, it’s just that I wasn’t prepared to hear it. He’s never really talked about the fairer sex, so I just always assumed he wasn’t quite there yet. For what it’s worth, he says he’s still more excited about fixing his old Dreamcast video game console by himself than this event, so there’s that. (For now.)

Of course, I immediately called his mother. “Are you sitting down?” I asked. She said she was in an elevator, which was close enough. When I told her, she didn’t scream “MY BABY!” and freak out, but by the time my son and I had gotten home, she had already scoured his Facebook page in search of “the brazen hussy who is coming between a boy and his mama.” Or something like that. I may be paraphrasing.

So wanting to be a good father, I thought that I should be supportive of the newest phase of my son’s life. Despite being married for 17 years—and having dated a bit before that—I don’t feel that I’m exactly qualified to give advice about love and relationships to anyone.

After a lifetime of being around women (grew up in a house with a mother and two sisters, worked in multiple women-heavy environments), however, I *do* feel that I can offer a few personal, general “observations” about the females of our species that may be of some practical use for navigating the deep waters of heterosexual relationships.

All just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Women, on the whole, are smarter than men. Sure, all the IQ tests demonstrate that when it comes down to intelligence, the sexes are evenly matched, but having watched them in action for decades, I can attest to the fact that although men may be adept at certain mechanical-type reasoning, women are often light years ahead of men in terms of navigating life, including social interaction, which is what it’s all really about when you get down to it.

Women enjoy having nice things said about them. See above.

Women remember everything. Not like all-the-lines-to-Monty-Python-and-the-Holy-Grail everything, but everything like the date you first met, where she first saw you, what you were wearing, what shoes she was wearing and if she was having a good hair day or not—and if she asks you if you remember, you dang well better have a pretty good handle on the details. As you move on deeper into your relationship, she will also recall (often years later) seeming innocuous things like, “Well, you liked this perfume when that little blonde waitress at the waffle house we stopped at on our honeymoon wore it.”

*Girls* like dangerous guys, jocks and jerks. Take a look at any high school—who gets the majority feminine attention? The captain of the football team, the “bad boy,” the spoiled rich jerk. These are the personalities and traits are ones that appeal to young females, maybe it’s that overdeveloped sense of confidence. Don’t ask me why—I’m not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV.

*Women* like funny, nice guys. The good news is that girls grow up, and when they do, their tastes change. Call it “revenge of the nerds,” but the majority of women also realize the shallow qualities they found appealing when they were young suddenly aren’t all that attractive when later in life. Sure, they may watch movies and still fantasize about the bad boys, but they all almost prefer to hook up long-term with a regular guy with a great sense of humor. Speaking of—

Women have a different sense of humor. Exhibit A—

Guaranteed, the women reading this post skipped over this while the guys hit “play.” Seriously, I don’t understand why women don’t think the Stooges are funny, I just accept that they don’t.

To wit: Women will not always laugh at things that you think are funny—for example, while in college, my then-future wife was participating in a charity auction where they were “raffling off” RAs to be personal assistants for a day, and suggested that I should bid for her, to which I (somewhat jokingly) responded, “Why should I buy the cow when I can get the milk for free?” It took me a few chilly hours to explain the alleged humor in that one.

Don’t get between sisters. Fortunately, I learned this one watching others. Growing up, my sisters fought more viciously than anyone I have ever witnessed; in fact, I was in college before I realized that knock-down, drag-out fist fights between female siblings were not normal occurrences. Still, they might have beaten the brains out of each other on a regular basis, but that paled in comparison to what would happen to a hapless soul who crossed one of them and incurred their combined wrath. That pretty much extends to all sisters.

When it comes to gift-giving occasions, be prepared to be outdone. When celebrating his first Christmas with his new girlfriend, my friend John gave her a sweater; she gave him a VCR. This inequality stems from the reality that they are always a few step ahead of us, both in terms of where they think a relationship is and life in general (see “Women are smarter than men,” above).

The answer to any “Does this make me look fat?” type question is … There is no right answer, so don’t try to provide one under any circumstance. Just like Star Trek’s Kobayashi Maru, this is a no-win scenario designed to test a mate’s reactions and decision-making skills under extreme duress. The best one can hope to do is to determine what the deeper issue of the moment is and respond to that. To put it in practical terms, answering any question like this is akin to the moments immediately after Indiana Jones swapped in the bag of sand for the golden idol: fraught with life-threatening peril, chaos and the potential of being crushed—metaphorically and literally—by a giant boulder.

Women talk … a lot. Hey, as we all know, I was voted “Most Talkative” my senior year of high school, and even I can’t get in a word edgewise when my wife and her sister are engaged in conversation. The offshoot of this is that while filling up all that chatting time, women will talk about everything, including men. And believe it or not, it’s not always about how great we are. (No, really.) The daunting trick is being able to filter out the fluff parts of the conversation from the parts you may be required to know later. (See “Women remember everything,” above.)

Women really like cute things. Again, I don’t profess to get it, I just know that they’ll truly be more taken with a cat hugging its kitten than a last-second game-winning touchdown pass. Go figure.

Women are more competitive than men. Don’t mistake a general lack of interest in professional sports as not having strong competitive nature—most of them will tell you that they don’t dress up to impress men, but to impress other women. Some studies suggest that this is more than anecdotal evidence, and that women are more concerned with besting other women. In short, that short black dress isn’t to turn your head, but to turn her friends’ heads, so don’t flatter yourself.

Know how to … ring the bell. Let’s just say that women like to be made … really happy. Pay attention, learn what it takes, and when it comes time, ring her bell, ring it well and ring it often, if possible. You’ll be surprised at how many of your flaws may be overlooked.

Good luck!


Feb 102012

As I sit there, I text my wife:

“Listening to the girls yuck it up at the salon. What have I become?”

For the record, I haven’t been to a barbershop or had my hair cut professionally since Jimmy Carter was president. My mother—whose grandfather was a barber—did it for decades (and did a great job), and then after I started having her buzz it short with clippers, I eventually took over and now do it myself. I have also cutting my sons’ hair since they were born, although the older one has finally reached the age where he wants a pro to do it.


So for the most part, I’ve missed out on the barbershop/salon experience. Sure, I’ve seen the commercials for the movies, but it’s not the same as the real thing. I don’t quite get exactly what the “girls” at Sona Bella are laughing and giddy about—something to do with the arrival of new hair extensions making it “like Christmas”—but I can appreciate the sense of camaraderie.

“Rosa is running a little late,” apologizes Christina at the desk. “I’m actually a few minutes early,” I say, happy to sit there and be entertained by the banter going on in the main salon. Sure, I’m a bit self-conscious about being a guy in the doll house, but it’s not like I’m there for a mani/pedi. Actually, Sona Bella is a full-service salon, offering a variety of spa treatments, from hair cuts to pedicures to massage to—

“Hey Ray,” Rosa calls to me, then apologizes for being on time. She leads me upstairs to a small windowless room with a massage table in the middle of it, and instructs me to remove my shirt. Being super self-conscious, I do it quickly without making eye contact and lay face down on the table.

“Ready?” she asks, the soothing strains of New Agey-type music wafting in the background.

“Yeah, let’s do it,” I say, trying to relax

I hear her preparing and soon feel a warm substance on my back, which she tenderly spreads. She  then gently presses a small cloth into the warmth and then, without a word—


That’s right, I’m here for a back waxing.

And courtesy of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, you know how a bit of manscaping can go.

[Warning: NSFW language, otherwise hysterical]



Yes World, I am a man with a hairy back.

The good news is that Rosa doesn’t yell, “We’re going to need more wax!” because she’s a pro, but I know that’s got to be going through her mind. Granted, my back is nowhere near as hirsute as Steve Carell’s chest, but the hair that is—or was—there has always bothered me.

I’ll never forget back in high school, sunning myself on the sands of Walnut Beach in Milford with my buddy Milo, how we used to point and laugh at guys with hairy backs. “Hey Sasquatch, put a shirt on!” we’d half-whisper. It wasn’t so funny a few years later when I noticed the darker hairs sprouting on my shoulders, and it was even less amusing when they spread across my back like invasive weeds. Suddenly, I was that Bigfoot on the beach. Like a mistitled Alanis Morrisette song, I was now the shaggy oddball who needed to keep his shirt on at the water park.

It made no sense to me—my father has about as much hair on his entire body as I do on one forearm. Ditto his father. My mother’s father, did have a lot of hair on his chest, but I don’t remember a single follicle on his back. I was a furry freak!

For the first few years, I thought about shaving it off, but it’s not something you can really do yourself and I didn’t really have anyone to do it for me. To her credit, my wife has said it’s never bothered her (and I believe her), but I never felt right about asking her to take a razor to me. I looked at other things such as Nair or laser hair removal, but they either seemed too nasty or expensive. I wanted to believe in various miracle hair-removal products I saw TV ads for, but almost all of them turned out to just be shams. Just keeping a shirt on seemed like the most practical solution.

But it wasn’t really fixing the problem (or my embarrassment), just hiding it. I couldn’t not be there with myself every day while I showered, so it wasn’t something I could just ignore or forgot about. I guess I’m  shallow or a Narcissist or whatever, but knowing it was there just always bothered me. [*insert gag-me-with-a-hairy-spoon emoticon*].

So, there wasn’t any one particular incident that pushed me over the edge—although I do remember my son pointing at my uncovered back, screaming “The horror, the horror!” and running off—but about a year ago, I finally decided I couldn’t stand it any more. I had a few friends who had been waxed and said it was all good. I had nothing to lose, you know, other than acres of unwanted hair. I did a bit of research (as I do for everything, right down to finding the best place to park at the mall), and after discovering Sona Bella, I went Bo Jackson and just did it. (Look it up, kiddies.)

Although I’m sure it’d be much more fun to picture for you, I don’t scream or yell or whimper like Steve Carell as Rosa just tears swatch after swatch of my hair from my body. Despite being a less-than-macho desk jockey, I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. (True story: In 9th grade, I rode my bike home with a broken ankle.) Although ripping hundreds of my hairs out by their roots stings a bit—and it really does hurt—it’s not enough to make me cry out. It’s sorta like being slapped: pain for a second or so, and then it’s over. You also get used to it quick. Plus, it’s on my back, which isn’t a particularly sensitive region. I’m not sure I’d be so cavalier if I was having the short and curlies ripped from my bikini zone.

Rosa has told me she’s seen all sorts of reactions, from almost none (like me) to the overly dramatic (screamers and cursers that would make any Turret’s patient proud) to the unique (one anonymous soul who she said just used to bite down on a towel to deal with the pain).

The funny part is that aside from the unnatural act of yanking my hairs out in bunches, it’s as casual as if we were sitting around having tea (although I’d avoid the fuzzy crumpets).

Rosa is definitely “a pisser,” as they say. She keeps me entertained throughout the ordeal, telling me about her kids, her vacations or how she might get another tattoo. Understanding how the beauty shop thing works, I dish about my life … you know, just with every few sentences punctuated by the sound of my body hair being torn out in clumps.

Before I know it, I’m done (and probably a few pounds lighter). I say thanks and go downstairs to pay. Now that I understand salon etiquette, I’m also sure to tip—the first time I didn’t know any better, so I doubled down when I went back. Although I do admit, it does seem weird to have to add a gratuity after being physically abused for 30 minutes. But hey, great service is great service!

Although I’ve had my pelt removed a number of times now, I still can’t get used to the sensation of putting on a shirt immediately afterward, especially the first time. I never realized that for all those years, the hair had been keeping the fabric away from my body, and suddenly, there was the cotton, flat up against my skin! Weird.

Even weirder was when I got home the first time. Looking unabashedly at my less hairy self in the mirror, I noticed that I had a lot more beauty marks and moles than I thought. It was also odd getting in the shower the first time—the hot water being able to actually hit the skin of my back was a bit uncomfortable to start.

But hey, I feel better about myself now, which is the bottom line. I’m back hairless and proud!

And although someone may make ignorant remarks about me being a metrosexual (not that there’s anything wrong with it) or vain, it’s not like I’ve gone full Salon Boy—no mani, no pedi, no facials, no other parts waxed.

Well, not yet, anyway.

Rosa says she can clean up my eyebrows a bit. Hmm …

Feb 052012

Okay, if you’re like me, you’re probably sick of hearing about the Giants and Patriots, so let’s do some counter programming and talk about something else more interesting: My impending death.

First off, I should say that I’m *not* terminally ill with a few weeks to live (as best as I know), nor am I about to kill myself or bring about some other premature end to my life. I just say “impending death” because when you think about it in the grand scale of time and the universe, all our deaths are “impending.”

Speaking of thinking about things, I think about my own death. A lot. Like every day a lot.

I suppose that means technically I *may* be obsessed with my death, you know, if you call having spent years trying to picture it in every single way imaginable—although I like to think that I just don’t like surprises, and want to know when it’s coming. I guess that’s kind of hardcore. Or disturbing.

I have actually had this pillow talk conversation with my wife:

Me: “Hey, can I ask you a favor?”

Sue: “Sure. What?”

Me: “So we’ve had a pretty good life together, right? Lots of good times.”

Sue [*wincing in dread of where this is going*]: “Uh, yeah….”

Me: “So out of respect for all that good stuff, can I ask that when you kill me—and let me say, when you do, nobody will blame you—that you don’t do it in my sleep. You know, if you want to push me down the stair, poison me, that’s all okay. Just not while I’m sleeping. I just don’t like the idea going to bed one night and never waking up. Okay?”

Sue: “Oh honey, don’t be silly. If *I* kill you myself, then I can’t collect the insurance.”

Me: “Oh yeah, right. So—HEY, what’s that supposed to mean?”

Sue [*smiling and looking off into the distance*]: “Oh nothing. Don’t worry about it at all.”

Another insight into how my mind works—when I’m sitting in the stall of the men’s room at work, my mind always goes to 9/11. What, you naturally ask, does a trip to the can have to do with the most heinous terrorist attack in the history of the United States? Good question. When I’m sitting there, all I can think about is that on that fateful Tuesday morning, some poor bastard was sitting in a stall up on the 90th floor of World Trade Center, reading the New York Daily News, looking over the box scores, when suddenly he hears an enormous crash, looks up and thinks for a split-second, “Hey, is that a PLANE?!” before everything goes black.

So yeah, death. I used to always say that I didn’t want to live forever, that I just planned on not dying. See how that works? Yeah, neither does the universe. Sure as I typing this, I’ll be dead some day. I accept that now, although I’m still hoping that before my time is up, they figure out how to keep my brain in a jar to be transplanted into some uber robot, although that’s fraught with problems, too.

Although I understand I may not be able to dictate the circumstances of my final moments, I do have a few guidelines that I hope I can adhere to. A sampling—

  • I don’t want to be a Darwin Award winner.
  • I don’t want my last words to be “Hey, watch this!”
  • I don’t want to discover Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster or aliens, only to be killed by any of them before I can claim my prize.
  • I don’t want to die on my way *into* the famed grotto of the Playboy mansion for the first time.
  • I don’t want to die in the arms of Richard Simmons. (Too many questions.)
  • I don’t want to drop dead of a massive coronary in front of my kids.

To the last item, specifically, I’ve been trying to stay in shape, and that includes running. For the past few years, I’ve been doing laps at a nearby track, an old crushed gravel oval—it’s like old-school training. Along those lines, I don’t listen to music while I run; it’s just me and my thoughts, which sometimes turns out to be a good thing. I actually came up with this post while I was trotting around in circles earlier today.

Anyway, while running this past summer, I came up with an idea for a short story: “Track Time.” That’s right—a little fiction, thrown in there with all the other stuff I do. If you take the time to read it, I think you’ll be able to figure out how it ties in to this post and my “part” in the story. Hope you enjoy it!

P.S. If you’re interested, there’s more “web-exclusive” posts to read in the “other stuff” page.

Feb 022012

[Keeping this short for you, CC! Sort of.]

If you haven’t heard, apparently there is going to be some sort of “Super” “Bowl” sporting event going on this upcoming weekend. I think it even may be on Sunday …

Okay, that’s just the bitter [read: jealous] Jets fan in me. As you know because it’s impossible to avoid, this weekend, the NFL Championship Game, aka The Super Bowl, features Tom Brady and the New England Patriots against Eli Manning and the New York Football Giants.

Now with sporting events, there are all sorts of predictions, from who will the game to who will score the first points to which commercials will be the best. I hear people even wager on such outcomes, although far be it from to me to partake in such wayward and sinful activities. [*cue lightning bolt*]

Of course, Super Bowl predictions are nothing new. In 1969, Joe Willie Namath became an NFL legend for not only guaranteeing that the Jets were going to win in Super Bowl III over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, but going out and making it happen. Of course, I was only a wee lad when it happened, but it still sweetens my currently bitter heart to think about.

As far as this year’s game, everyone and their video game have predicted the outcome. Even cute puppies have had their say. [*insert sickly sweet “Awww,” followed by projectile vomiting*]

Well, since everyone is so eager to predict what’s going to happen, I thought I’d go against the grain (as usual). Rather than try to prognosticate what will happen on Sunday, here are:

My Top 14 Predictions Of What Will NOT Happen at The Super Bowl

(Anyone can do a top 10, and because the interwebz are so competitive, I’ve got to have something to set me apart. Obviously, a Top 14 should shoot me to the top. Now, let the pigeons loose!!!)

14. Madonna’s lip-synching will NOT be worse than the Black-Eyed Peas lip-synching was last year. You know, unless she starts lip-synching Black-Eyed Peas’ songs.

13. The New England Patriots will NOT be saved by a snow plow, the tuck rule or zero. Nor will they be saved by The Bell, which means Nomi Malone will NOT be going crazy ninja stripper on anyone. [link NSFW—adults only!]

12.  Unless they’re shown being turned into the glue that will better hold William Shatner’s toupee in place during Priceline ads, the Budweiser Clydesdales will NOT be nearly as entertaining as the ads by Jerry Seinfeld and Matthew Broderick.

11. The cast of “Jersey Shore” will NOT be sober for the entirety of the game …. and NOT a single damn will be given.

10. Kelly Clarkson will NOT have a wardrobe malfunction, unless you count her spanx possibly giving way during “… and the land of the free!”

9. Of the billion fans or so watching the game at home, NOT one will intentionally reach for the low-calorie chili dip, rice cakes slathered with celery-infused hummus or a fabulous lite beer brewed from the sparkly vapors of unicorn farts.

8. The Giants’ cheerleaders will NOT keep their outfits on if the team wins. (Actually, this one is  an ironclad guarantee. Take it to the bank!)

7. Jerry Sandusky will NOT be shot out of a cannon and into a spikey pit filled with lions, tigers, angry badgers and a ravenous Roseanne Barr. Although he should be.

6. NY Jets head coach Rex Ryan will NOT be having the wedge salad this weekend.

5. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick will NOT be wearing anything more fashionable than what the team water boy—or anyone living in a van down by the river—will be wearing.

4. Joe Namath will NOT be kissing Suzy Kolber.

Man, that’s still hard to watch.

3. Following the game, I will NOT be on the season premiere of “The Voice.” Neither will be my wife, my sister Joan, Senor Smoke, Iron Mike Tyson or Charro.

2. Morganna the Kissing Bandit will NOT be running out on the field to plant a wet one on Giants quarterback Eli “Aw shucks” Manning, because no one wants to see a 65-year-old lady trip and break a hip after falling over what’s left of her formerly size-60 breasts.

1. The New York Jets will NOT win the game. Actually, considering the participants—AFC East arch nemesis Pats and the “cross-stadium” rival New York Giants—it’s actually safe to say that I can *guarantee* the Jets (and their fans) will be the biggest losers when the game is over.

I hope you at least you enjoy the game.