May 312012

Remember that fracking bird that was waking me up every morning? Yeah, Satan’s winged minion is still at it, and the whole situation has lost its charm, much like how I’ve lost seeming days of precious sleep. Or how I’m losing my already tenuous grip on sanity.

Every morning, from about 4:30 to 5:30, this shrill feathered beastie is outside my window, singing/shrieking its idiotic lungs out. Despite living in the house with a parakeet, I’m no ornithological expert, but after employing some Google-fu, I think it may be some sort of wood thrush.

I would hope so—it would give me an excuse to get that pet owl I’ve always wanted as they are wood thrush predators. A hawk would do, too, although I now have a third option: My neighbor Sully, who has also been awakened by this winged nightmare and as an active police officer, is not only licensed to carry a firearm, but I’m pretty sure also allowed to discharge it as he sees fit to rid law-abiding mammals like myself of such environmental nuisances. I think he’s also got access to a shotgun and a bazooka, either of which he would be welcome to use in my yard to kill the fracking …. thing

I have this vision of me torching the entire neighborhood with a flame-thrower—burning every house, tree, bush, phone pole, church, nursery school and Wiffle Ball factory to the ground—only to have that damned critter flutter gently down just out of my reach to serenade me with its hell song.

Seriously, its shrilling at 4:30 a.m. would make any red-blooded PETA member want to kill it dead, deep fry and then take sweet joy tearing it limb from limb and gnashing its flesh between their teeth—

Okay, I know I may be overreacting just *a tad* but I’m getting punchy from a lack of proper rest here, people. In terms of sleep debt, I’m underwater and drowning.

I guess the problem is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had more and more problems staying in the embrace of the sandman. Actually, I used to struggle big time with falling asleep, but as I’ve cut down on the caffeine I consume during the day (sorry beloved Coca-Cola Company—I still have stock in you, though) and learned to cut back on the sugar before bedtime, it’s helped tremendously.

Funny thing about sugar—for years, it used to take hours for me to nod off, and I never really thought about why that was. When I was 25 and had moved out on my own (and away from my parents’ well-stocked kitchen), I started sleeping better, but I never made the connection until one day after a bad night. I started replaying what I had done the evening before that I hadn’t been doing other evenings the week prior (during which I had slept well). I had come home from work, ate dinner, watched TV, done some writing and made sugar cookies for Sue (it was near Valentine’s Day, and yes, I was corny like that back in the day). I had also sampled about a half dozen of cookies, but what did an enormous amount of sugar have to do with trying to fall asleep—

Yeahhhh. As I like to tell my kids, I am “s-m-r-t smrt.”

As I said, once I figured that out, falling asleep became much easier. But staying asleep continues to be a challenge. As my #1 fan Senior Smoke likes to remind me, I have “issues.”

1. I’m a bit of a “slumberjack”—I’ve been told that I saw them logs. As such, my wife will wake me up to roll over, and where she falls back asleep in about 7 seconds, I’m not so lucky.

Side note: Sue has zero problem falling asleep—she can down 5 cups of coffee after dinner and doze off by 9:13 p.m. When we get in the car to go somewhere, she can be unconscious by the time we get to the end of the street. As “they” (the chicken people?) say: She can fall asleep on a picket fence during a hurricane, which I don’t think the Surgeon General recommends. (But I may be wrong on that.) I am totally jealous of this ability, if you can’t tell. Selfish, well-rested bitch!

Speaking of my wife—

2. I sleep next to someone who has a little bit of the jimmy legs. Not that there’s anything wrong with it … you know, unless you’re a light sleeper who can’t fall back asleep easily.

3. I’m more finicky than Morris when it comes to sleeping. Need my pillow (not too soft, too tall or too mush), the right sheets (not too crunchy) and general quiet—see the whole bird story that started this post. No peas under the mattress. I prefer to sleep on my back, but that causes snoring, so I start off on my left side, and my legs need to be on top of each other so I don’t accidentally cut off the circulation in one of them and get leg cramps, which make me jump out of bed in the middle of the night so I can stretch out my knotted calf. Oh, and I have to drink a lot of water to prevent cramps (and diverticulitis), which means getting up regularly “to empty the tank.” I also like a pillow to drape my right arm over; if I switch to my right side, then I put my left arm over my wife’s hip. But generally I avoid sleeping on my right side because that’s the “nightmare” side.

4. Yes, nightmares. You would think that since it’s my brain, it’d be on my side and I’d dream about good stuff all the time, but that’s not the case. I’ve never actually had a “fun” unconscious dream about Salma Hayek, Elizabeth Banks or Debbie Gibson, and now that I think about it, I probably only have a “fun” dream about once a year, if I’m lucky. Bad dreams and nightmares that I wake up screaming from, however, come along a lot more often—like once a week. And for some reason that should be the basis of a paying sleep study, I seem to have many more nightmares when sleeping on my right side than on my left.

(Wow, I guess I do have *a lot* of issues. Senior Smoke is actually right about this, damn him. He probably also would like me to mention how I usually sleep in black socks, black sweatpants and a black t-shirt—when we went to Atlantic City a few years back and we shared a room, he just kept calling me “a f’n ninja.”)

5. Pain. Some of you are probably saying, “Well, what’s the big whoop about the bird? If you’re up in the middle of the night, just sleep in.” For the record, I have no qualms with that sentiment, but my body does—my back, in particular. For reasons I have yet to figure out (despite actual serious research), after about 7 or 8 hours of laying prone in bed, by lower back begins to ache. It’s been happening for years no matter if i sleep on my side or back, so it’s not necessarily my old age getting older; it also occurs pretty much everywhere I lay my head, so it’s not a mattress issue, either. All I know is that after a third of a day in bed, I’m in pain and very uncomfortable. Ugh.

So what to do, you ask? A few possibilities:

1. Separate beds. Although I love Sue dearly, it might make sense for each of us to have or own beds—or heck, even our own rooms—for actual sleeping. We can determine a place for conjugal visits, but for normal night-to-night sleeping, this isn’t a crazy idea. This also eliminates someone putting her ice cold feet on me during the middle of the night. The only problem is … well, I love Sue dearly, and like having her there each night, jimmy legs and all. Stupid love, messing me up again!

2. Sensory deprivation tank. I’m not saying no, I’m just saying the designated piggy bank isn’t full enough yet. Eye blinders and earplugs are more in my budget range right now.

3. Drugs. Hell, no. My momma didn’t raise no pill-poppin’ Elvis wannabe!

4. Kill that fracking bird. Ding ding ding—winner, winner thrushpie dinner! Sully, get your gun. Sue’s a-makin’ lasagne …


May 282012

Okay, this one is mostly my wife’s fault.

Back in the spring of 2010 as she was just getting into running as an activity, Sue got it in her mind that she wanted to participate in an event entitled The Warrior Dash.

For those who are not familiar—

Yeah, great idea, right? A 5K run for “warriors” that includes obstacles such as climbing walls, crawling through mud under barbed wire and jumping over fire, all for the glory of saying you. are. a. warrior! Oh, and you get a fuzzy viking hat, a beer and a barbecued turkey drumstick, too.

Personally, this was enough “warrior” for my life, but any of you who know Sue also know that wouldn’t be enough for her. So she decided to sign up for the race, and quickly convinced a few of our other younger friends to join her. My initial reaction was that at that point of my life—just about to turn 45 and more than happy to call myself “retired” from true athletic endeavors (golf doesn’t count)—the last thing I needed was to take up running so I could claw my way through mud for a lousy T-shirt and overrated “glory.”

But as I contemplated the situation, I quickly realized that the thought of my wife doing this and me sitting on the sidelines cheering her on did not quite jibe with my faulty self-image of being a “man.” Besides, the event was on the weekend of our wedding anniversary in September, plus there would be turkey drumsticks and fire, sweet fire, involved. I might even get into “shape” in the training process. What the hell—I was in!

When I told a few friends that I was going to just do it, it was met with a universal response: “You’re going to die, old man!” And that’s actually not a paraphrase, as one friend literally said that [*cough cough* Joopiter *cough*]; others snickered in agreement. As a result, there was much laughter and jocularity over the idea of me competing in this event.

Clearly, it was hard then (as I guess it is now) to believe that I used to be quasi-athletic. In addition to being the John F. Kennedy Class of 1979 long jump champ (you may have heard about this somewhere), I played baseball and football (unorganized) for years, and ran track in high school. I was never the best athlete, but I certainly wasn’t a salt-sucking slug by any means.

Still, the jokes and taunts struck that competitive nerve. Because I’m generally a petty, vain and self-absorbed jerk, I vowed that not only was I going to run that event, I was going to shock the world—and my naysaying friends! I swore my wife to silence and immediately began to train in secret for the big day.

Of course, I hadn’t run more than 10 to 15 yards since 1980-something, so it took me a while to get my old running legs back under me. I started jogging in late April and by June, was running in 5Ks around the area. I wasn’t exactly knocking out 5-minute miles, but by August, I was completing the 3.2-mile races in under 25 minutes, a respectable time I thought.

I was running a few days a week, the mental image of my friends’ laughing faces fueling my efforts: “Gonna die, eh? You’re all gonna die of embarrassment when I blow past you punks!” The subject of the dash would come up from time to time, and like the decent poker player that I am, I just sort of laughed it off. I never said that I wasn’t training, I just never confirmed that I was doing it, either. No one ever really pressed, being more content to chuckle about the prospect of my impending demise.

In August while on my way to New York Jets training camp in Cortland, New York, I stopped by Windham Mountain Ski Resort in upstate New York, which was to be the site of the Warrior Dash. I started talking to some of the guys working there and they showed me the course they had laid out, which was straight up the fracking mountain!

I warned my wife and trained even harder, repeatedly trudging up the large half-mile hill that leads to our house. I ran countless laps at the old gravel track near our house, and by the time race day rolled around, I was probably in the better shape at 45 than I had been at 25. I was ready.

We got to the Warrior Dash well ahead of our wave (the event is constantly running groups throughout the day) and went to the viewing area near the finish line. From there we could see a steady stream of racers—some stumbling and bumbling, others bloodied and bruised—coming down through the final stages of the race, which included sliding down a water flume of sorts, hurtling over fire, diving into mud and crawling under barbed wire to the finish line. We all sort of looked around at each other like, “Okay, why did we think this was a good idea again?” But it was too late. It was go time!

Sneakers tied and game faces on, we wandered over to the starting corral. A few of us were in one wave while a few others would be running the next day. We all made a few jokes while warming up, and of course, there were a few more laughs at my chances of survival. They all figured we’d finish more or less according to age, with the old man—me—bringing up the rear.

Unable to contain myself any longer, I finally turned to everyone and blurted out, “Hey, listen. I’ve actually been training secretly for months, running 5Ks all summer long!”

They all paused for a long second before my buddy Ian smiled and nodded. “Sure you have, Ray. Sure you have.” Everyone burst out laughing, and then the non-runners went over to the finish line to identify my corpse when it came rolling down the hill.

I was about to laugh best, I told myself. I nodded to Sue, who shot me a knowing smile. “See you at the finish, good luck!” she whispered. The starting gun sounded and the race was on!

I won’t bore you with all the details of the run, but it was as I expected, with literally the first 1.5 miles going straight up the fracking mountain! I got out ahead of my friends and kept going as hard for as long as I could, sure they were on my heels and ready to pass me any second. I slogged through the chest-deep water, clambered over obstacles and ran through the woods like Rudy the Rabbit (with longer shorts). I was almost completely out of gas at the summit, but after all the training, I was not going to let anyone catch me. I pushed myself as hard as I could on the way back down, and as I got closer to the bottom, I started hearing the crowd below—an extra adrenaline boost. I was going to do it!

My brother-in-law Greg, who is 15 years younger than me and in terrific shape (and who had never made any sort of age-related joke at my expense), suddenly appeared at my side, not nearly as winded as I was. “Hey! Mind if I run with you a bit?” he said. I nodded and managed to stay with him until I stepped in mud and one of my sneakers go sucked completely off my foot.

Damn! Not now, not so close to the finish!

I scrambled to get it back on quickly and tie it, but Greg had managed to get 20 yards ahead of me. I chased him as best I could, but we were suddenly at the water flume. There was a line of people waiting to go and he was about seven in front of me. I could see by the intervals they were letting people go down the flume that unless he caught fire jumping over the flaming logs, there was no way I was going to be able to pass him before the finish line. I was a little disappointed, but quickly realizing coming in a few seconds behind a good guy in great shape who was two-thirds my age wasn’t too shabby.

Besides, what was to happen next made it worth while.

I slid down the flume, got to my soggy feet and squished down the hill to the flaming logs. As I was approaching the obstacle, I saw my friend Greg (who was going to run the next day) in the crowd. We momentarily locked eyes and he suddenly realized it was me coming down the hill—very much alive and well ahead of everyone else but my brother-in-law.

“RAY??!!!!” he exclaimed.

That’s right motherfrackers!!!!

Adrenaline shot through me as I leapt over the flaming logs and I floated in the air for what felt like 5 seconds—enough time to point to the official photographer and give him the double finger guns and wink. (Sadly, I didn’t realize my race bib had been torn, so they couldn’t scan my number properly in the photo and assign it to my account. Dang!) I sprinted down the hill, tried a swan dive into the mud bog and trundled through to the far side, emerging triumphantly. I trotted across the finish line in a sweet victory, as my friends were all stunned that I had finished the race so fast—at least 10 minutes in front of my wife and disbelieving friend Ian.

I had truly shocked them all—vengeance is obviously a dish best served muddy.

Chalk one up for the old man!

Anyway, despite having proven my mettle, I am once again training for The Warrior Dash—this time at a different (hopefully mountainless) course in Connecticut. I’m not going to shock anyone in a few weeks when I run, but that glorious moment from the first one will certainly be fueling my finish again.


May 252012

Okay, here’s a Friday Five we can all play. I’ll go first …

Quick disclaimer: Not that this will blunt of the any criticism that will (and should) follow, but the artists with the most songs on my iTunes are Johnny Cash, Green Day, Joan Jett, U2, Melissa Etheridge, KISS, Pink, The Police and Lucinda Williams. (Gosh, that’s an eclectic bunch.)

That being said, here are

Five Songs That I Probably Shouldn’t Admit I Have on My iTunes

1. “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club – It was part of a free download I got, but yeah, I come and go, I come and go. Who doesn’t?

2. “Xanadu” by Olivia Newton-John – Uh, this is actually one of five from the Xanadu soundtrack I possess, which is more than half of all the Olivia Newton-John songs I own, but not all … hey, I was an impressionable kid in the 70s! Bad Sandy in the Shake Shack! Bad Sandy in the Shake Shack! Bad Sandy in the Shake Shack!

3. “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri – I swear to my wife’s god, Joe Willie Namath and Team Edward that I had absolutely no clue that this was the Twilight theme!!! I just liked “Jar of Hearts” and “Arms” and  … I … uh … wow, that isn’t necessarily making it better, is it?

4. “Gitchee Gitchee Goo” by Phineas and the Ferbtones – Yes, my kids added it … but I didn’t delete it. Bow chicka bow wow …

5. “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus – This sort of started out as a joke … but uh, I’m nodding my head like yeah, moving my hips like yeah. For the record: If for some reason I don’t outlive you all, I want this to be the last song played at my memorial service (or while the final embers of the stake burn to ashes). That or “Mmm … Bop” by Hanson, which may or may not also be on my iTunes …


May 242012

In my last post, I mentioned that in that old “What four people would you like to have dinner with” that two of my four would be The Bloggess and Abe Lincoln.

Well obviously, until someone works out the kinks of time travel [*cough cough Kade cough*], this probably isn’t going to happen …. unless … if someone does figure it out, they can COME TO GET ME RIGHT NOW FOR THE MOST SPECIAL DINNER EVER!!!!

[*looks around room hopefully …. waiting …. waiting … waiting … Bueller … *]

Or not.

Anyway, I suppose there’s a very remote chance I could still some day have dinner with The Bloggess, but the ship has sailed on Abe, you know, unless I check my Damned Connecticut connections for a spirit medium—

OR we’re in a place that’s not exactly “reality” … hmmm ….

Okay, I’ve studied Lincoln a bit, and after having actually interviewed personalities from Regis Philbin and Jane Fonda to Lisa Lampanelli and my one-time future wife Debbie Gibson for Connecticut Magazine, I think I have a decent handle on how a brief Q & A with The Great Emancipator would go.

Maybe something like this? (Work with me, people!)

Mr. President, this is an honor. I deeply appreciate you taking the time to chat…

I have nothing but time for an earnest muckraker like yourself, what with being in Heaven’s bosom for all of Eternity. Fire … er, ask away!

I like to keep my interviews light and varied, so in that spirit: Other than the obvious, what did you think of the play?

Uh …  er … [*fidgets with collar*] Mr. President?


Okay … so …. maybe that wasn’t the best way to—

Ah, just having sport with you! I thought you wanted a bit of jest in our conversation. In regard to the theater, I was very much enjoying the performance—Lord Dundreary’s antics and verbal miscues, in particular—until the … unfortunate incident. I never got to enjoy the resolution of the narrative.

Asa marries Mary and gets that scoundrel Coyle to make amends for all his shenanigans.

Splendid! I’m sure it was a wonderful and worthy finale.

So, were you surprised by your death … I mean, the manner of your death?

I did not expect someone to put a broken hat on my mule, as you say nowadays.

Uh … excuse me?

I sincerely beg your pardon if I am butchering your modern vernacular. I think that’s how you say it now. Busted hat …

Wait! Bust a cap in your ass?!

Oh yes! That’s it. I’m not sure I understand your connection between heads and asses—back in my day, your ass was your posterior. We would occasionally infer that confused folks might have their heads entangled in their own posterior. I suppose that’s how it came about.

Uh, close enough. So what do you think of our current president? You had a large hand in it happening.

I am pleasantly shocked. Although I wholeheartedly believe that the Negro is entitled to the same god-given and social freedoms as the White man, I never thought him our equal, let alone superior enough to assume the mantle of commander-in-chief of this great republic. But that was seven-and-a-half score ago, and it is a testament to our great republic that such strides can be made. And to suggest that I played even a small role in this remarkable evolution of our society is humbling.

The current president is a fine orator, and would’ve been a worthy challenger on the campaign trailer, you know, if he wasn’t immediately lynched by those less educated or open-minded, which was much of the United States during my day.

Sadly, that hasn’t changed all that much in some places. Speaking of changes, what else surprises you about the 20th century?

Your mechanical advances are almost beyond comprehension—computing devices, handheld communication units, moving pictures, flying machines, rockets to other worlds, the little light that comes on in the back of the ice box … the strides in the field of medicine are also most remarkable—the maladies that took my beloved sons Eddie and Willie are easily remedied now. Your capacity for war and all its horrors have also far outstripped what I knew in my time. Likewise your … unabashed … expressions and demonstrations of affection.

Wrestling is also a lot different than when I was mixing it up with the Armstrong boys in Illinois. We just fought in the dirt—there weren’t so many exploding rockets and brightly colored underwear involved. We did, however, occasionally resort to the use of folding chairs to even up the odds.

Have you had a chance to see much of the United States as it is today?

What an amazing Arcadia! Granted, there are decaying areas that suffer from neglect and poverty, but the majority of the nation is truly a utopia. The wonderment of the soaring structures, the architectural complexities, the simple beauty of the common households … I am also impressed by the number of buildings dedicated to heroes, although there seems to be less of great leaders and more of fictional characters. I see that there’s a deep and abiding devotion to the work of Herman Melville, in particular.

Riiight. Speaking of great monuments, have you been back to Washington, D.C.?

It was refreshing to see someplace that I did recognize to some extent. The Capitol and White House are much improved, and the great mall is even more impressive than I recollect. The completion of the monument to Washington was well worth the wait. And before you ask, I did see the monument dedicated to me—I was thunderstruck by the majesty and scale of the artwork, and was moved by the thought that the American public considered me a subject for such a tribute.

That being said, I wouldn’t have minded being rendered in a more heroic, youthful pose. Maybe something with me standing over a bear that I had slain with my own hands, one arm curled up and the other pointed to the horizon. I’ve often seen this pose struck by one of your champion wrestlers, although I don’t think it would be dignified if I tore my blouse asunder as he does.

Speaking of heroic poses, you have two movies coming out this year—Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Which are you more excited about?

That is quite the conundrum. Although I am still not comfortable returning to the theater, I appreciate the work of Mr. Day-Lewis, and am curious to see how such a fine thespian might portray me. On the other hand, who wouldn’t want to see themselves dramatically vanquish an army of Satan’s minions on the giant magic lantern screen? Looks like I’ll be busting a few hats in a few asses in that one!

Well, I’m looking forward to seeing both of them. Mr. President, thanks again for taking the time to chat. If I have any additional questions, can I shoot you an email?

For obvious reasons, I’d prefer not to be *shot* anything.

Oh crap, sorry!

No problem. Just hit me up on Twitter, dawg—peace out!


Okay, that’s probably not exactly how it would end. But you get the idea.


May 202012

Okay hot shots, time for another quiz to see how well you know me after about 5 months of blogging.

1. If I could stop time and space for an hour each day, I would:
a. write the screenplay for F-Troop: The Movie that Senior Smoke keeps asking me to do.
b. finish all those pesky projects I’ve been meaning to get to, you know, like cleaning out the basement, fixing the leak under the kitchen sink without duct tape or building a robot that would either do the laundry or take over the world (or ideally, both).
c. do something truly productive, like learn to speak Star Fleet-quality Klingon.
d. hunt down and exterminate pedophile priests and clowns.
e. run around setting up annoying pranks for when time re-starts.

2. I think the greatest invention in human history is:
a. the intranets.
b. the twist tie.
c. EZ Pass.
d. indoor plumbing.
e. the toothpaste tube.

3. My hero(es) is (are/am/could be/possibly):
a. Abraham Lincoln.
b. The Bloggess.
c. Justin Timberlake.
d. Joe Willie Namath.
e. Colin Mochrie.
f. Senior Smoke.
g. my sons.

4. My favorite current activity is:
a. surfing the intranets.
b. writing.
c. running.
d. worrying about things I can’t control and/or my death.
e. spending time with my family.
f. not appropriate to list in a public space.

5. While attending Southern Connecticut State University, I was voted:
a. Most Likely to Succeed.
b. Most Likely to Suck Seed.
c. Most Likely to Be Stuck with Abbie Hoffman’s Bar Tab.
d. Least Likely to Have His Shorts Shredded While Inadvertently Trying to Impress An 8-year-old Girl
e. Homecoming King.
f. Programs Council Treasurer.

If you *really* want the answers, click “continue reading” over there to the right! Just don’t say you weren’t warned …

Continue reading »

May 182012

Okay, quick and morbid this week.

As you all know, I tend to obsess about my death a bit—when I’m going to die, how I’m going to die, where I’m going to die, will I win a Darwin Award in the process …

I think sometimes I’m so fascinated by it because I know that as sure as I’m typing these words, I am going to die, yet I have absolutely no clue about any of the details. Again, since I can’t control what will happen, I’d like to have some say over what will *not* happen.

So foresight being 0/20, here are:

Five Statements That I Hope Aren’t My Last Words

1. “Hey kids, watch this!”

2. “I don’t think it bites.”

3. “Wait, those aren’t mimes coming out of that tiny car!”

4. “Now did Regis say to cut the red wire or the green wire? I think it was the green.”

5. “Hang on Salma, it’s almost unzipped.”


May 172012

So between periods of the Rangers-Devils playoff game and innings of the Mets-Brewers game, I found myself surfing past “America’s Got Talent” a few times. (Yes, my attention span is that fleeting.) Credit the Howard Stern factor—I think he’s a lot smarter than a simple “shock jock,” and knows how to entertain, or at least how to generate a train wreck that I’ll slow down to watch.

Anyway, as we know, I’m hardly one to judge singers, or dancers for that matter. However, I did find myself questioning the “talent” of a few other “performers,” such as the tattooed stay-at-home dad who was piercing his face with needles or the Robin Hood wannabe wielding a crossbow like he was auditioning for an Ed Hardy ad. Not that running sharp things through your jaw or popping balloons with arrows aren’t cool skills, I just don’t think of them as a “talent” that one is born with, such as being able to sing, play an instrument or hit a baseball 400 feet (without being jacked full o’ steroids).

“Skill” vs. “talent”—a semantic argument, perhaps? Maybe I’m just a word curmudgeon being too restrictive with a definition. Who cares what you call it as long as we’re entertained, right?

Howard Stern talked about how he appreciated that we lived in a country without restrictions that could foster so much creativity. I agree.

Now that I think of it, the producers of “America’s Got Talent” should loosen up the rules (you know, if there are any) because I think we live in the most talented nation in the world. As I continued flipping the channels, I realized that here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. have skills *and* talents that are unique and go beyond anything the rest of the world could hope to offer, even other than our greatness at bringing attention to ourselves—as those fun-loving young professionals from the coast of New Jersey amply demonstrate.

In fact, here are—

The Top 14 Talents of Which All Americans Can Be Proud

1. Modifying our bodies

What, are you saying that someone without talent can get their own TV show? Pffft. Come on. You’re just hating because someone has clearly made themselves better than you.

2. Dragging up logs from the bottom of swamps

Okay, for reasons I don’t quite understand, I find myself watching “Ax Men” on History Channel to see Swampman Shelby Stanga, who may or may not speak English but makes his living in crocodile-infested bayous, enjoys randomly shooting stuff and appears to be just a little crazier than a June bug juiced full of Louisiana hot sauce. But seriously, who else on Earth would even do this?

3. Eating crap

We’re still the fattest people on the planet, by far! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

4. Building trailer parks

There are one billion people in China and not a single trailer park. How do you explain that? They just don’t have that U.S. know-how!

Continue reading »

May 132012

So I got a text yesterday from my sister Joni the Whore: “I’m home.”

Now, that may not seem like a big deal to most, but for her, it means that she’s arrived at her new home in Miami … which, if you know anything about geography, is about 1,300 miles away from Connecticut where we grew up together and where she has lived until yesterday. My older sister (at her advanced age, she’s starting to lose it a bit and insists that I’m the older one—just smile and nod when she brings it up) has decided to make this Big Life Change for a number of good and logical reasons, and as her favorite brother, I fully support her decision and want her to be happy. Also as her favorite brother, I can say that I’m going to miss her tremendously.

I’m fortunate in that I’ve always had great relationships with both of my sisters; I’ll write about my sister Christine another time (you escape for now, Little Muskrat!). Joni and I are very close, and share the same dark, twisted sense of humor—for example, “whore” is a term of endearment between the two of us. We also both accept that in The End it’ll be the two of us playing cards in Hell with Satan and Hitler, and we’re good with that.

Of course, like many siblings, we certainly had our share of fights—although not nearly as many as my sisters had with each other simply because I was bigger and stronger and could easily thrash her at any moment (Mom smoked while pregnant with Joni, and that *clearly* did a lot of damage, both physically and mentally). We also shared other experiences, like discovering the folly of hiding the wooden spoon from Mom and then, after successfully antagonizing her, realizing that a metal spatula was a more painful substitute.

Speaking of sharing, she’s terrible at sharing secrets. Early on, when we were in college, she used to work at Planned Parenthood. Occasionally, she’d come home from work and be like, “Hey, guess who came into the clinic today?” And I’d be like, “Who?!” Then she’d be like, “Oh  … um … I can’t tell you. Client-privacy rules.” To this day, she’s never told me anyone she saw.


Two “contests” we engaged in over the years: 1. Trying to make each other laugh during church (which might figure into some of my general disrespect for things religious), and 2. Trying to make each other choke on dinner. I once made her snarf spaghetti through her nose; she returned the favor, making me snarf chocolate ice cream out of my nose. Nasty.

Despite how we’ve tried to injure each other, Joni is still an incredibly intelligent person, you know, aside from the smoking and tanning. Here’s a picture of her from next week:

Yeah, it’s good that she has goals.

I know whatever she does in Miami, she’ll be successful. Like we like to say, she’s a good egg—a little scrambled, but good nonetheless.

I would also like to tell her that if she thinks that simply moving across the country will somehow better endear herself to me (absence making the heart grow fonder), or if she’s under the illusion that the distance will create some sort of safety zone that protects her from being tortured by her loving brother, she’s utterly mistaken.

To wit: Time to share this family classic that she has *demanded* that I tell at her funeral, which hopefully won’t be for another 160 years or so. For those of you who have heard it, sit back and enjoy it again.

It started like any other summer morning around the house, no particular rush to get ready or go anywhere. At that point in our childhood—before happy pills—Joni was renowned for her ill-tempered morning routine. In fact, I can’t recall a day between first grade and when I moved out at 25 that she didn’t have some sort of curse-filled, obscenity-laced meltdown. Really. People never believed us that Joni went absolutely bonkers every single day because she was generally a quiet person otherwise. Senior Smoke insisted that I was nuts for a decade until he finally witnessed a midday meltdown/tirade, after which he told me that I was underexaggerating the severity of her tantrums and apologized.

On this particular morning Joni and I were tweens and Christine was about 8 or 9. Joni was downstairs, so I turned to Christine and said, “Hey, let’s hide all of her underwear!” Even now, it seemed like an innocent, goofy joke, and I swear, that’s all it was supposed to be. We both figured she’d turn to us, say something like, “Real funny guys,” and we’d give it back. So I cleaned out the drawer and hid it all under a pillow on her bed.

Well, when she went to get ready for a shower, Joni came into the room, opened her drawer, noticed the underwear was missing and . . . . went absolutely ballistic, a top-level banshee breakdown, screaming and spewing cusses that’d make a merchant marine blush! Christine and I were stunned—I mean it was so obvious that we took everything out of the drawer—but before we could step in, the future whore bolted out of the room screaming, “MOOOOOM!”

I quickly turned to Christine and said, “Hey, let’s put it all back.” It’d be funny, right? She agreed, so I went and got all the underwear, stuffed them back in the drawer and scurried down the hall. Just as I was ducking into my room, Joni stormed past with my mother—looking very annoyed (uh oh?)—in tow.

Okay, since I was out of the room now, all I got was the audio portion of events; Christine filled in the visuals later.

Joni [standing in front of her dresser, very angry]: “I’m telling you, I don’t have any underwear in here, not one!”

Mom [even angrier]: “And I’m telling you if there’s even *one* pair in there, you’re in trouble!”

Joni [jerks open drawer]: “See, not a . .. . .” [looks down, mouth drops open] “How did—”



—and so on as Joni literally got the beating of a lifetime!

Oh, it was glorious to have set up a sibling to get whipped so! Especially a sibling that you think had it coming for years of tirades and meltdowns—apparently a feeling shared by my mother as she completely uncorked like I’d never seen. I’ll always remember that I was literally on the floor of my room (I can still see the red-white-and-blue looped carpet—hey, it was the late 70s), writhing in hysterics, crying from laughing so hard that my sister was getting all but murdered (from the sounds of it), and it was ALL MY FAULT! A perfect sibling moment.

Christine said she had her face in her pillow because she was laughing so hard. It was a truly beautiful moment in life, like having a chocolate sundae while watching the sun set, or when Inigo Montoya catches up with the six-fingered man at the end of The Princess Bride. Ah, you can’t make these moments up, just relish them. I do.

Eventually, my mom wore her hand out on Joni’s skinny butt and left her in a battered, crying, red pile of tears. Christine and I were in tears, too—from laughter! Being the caring siblings we were, we waited a week to confess.

Joni was a little upset about it, but curiously, my mom laughed. I guess Joni did have it coming after all …

Anyway, love—and already miss—ya’ whore! Here’s hoping you’ve got lots of underwear in your new home!


May 112012

After I wrote about my camping experiences the other day, my friend Milo commented: “I am waiting for the follow-up piece on Things You Can Destroy with a BB Gun…Including Front Teeth”

Ask and ye shall receive!

Five Things I’ve Helped Destroy with a BB Gun . . . Including Front Teeth

And for the record, I did actually have a genuine Red Ryder BB Gun (although there was no compass in the stock).

1. A front tooth – For the record, I didn’t pull the trigger that fateful day, but it was my other BB gun (a Crosman “ten pump” air rifle—what can I say, my dad liked for me to have guns) that was involved in the notorious incident. We were going to play “army” and with more soldiers than toy weapons, like any eager tween back in the 1970s, I was able to convince my mother to let me bring my BB gun to “play.” (Try that nowadays, kids!) To this day, I swore all the BBs were out of it, but as you’ve already figured out, that wasn’t the case. My friend Kurt asked to use the gun, and while we were milling around waiting to play, another kid, Craig, jokingly said to Kurt, “Go ahead, shoot me!” Kurt pumped it up a few times, and thinking he was only going to shoot air, innocently pointed it at Craig’s face and pulled the trigger. The moment is burned into my memory—I was only 4 feet away when the shot went off. Craig immediately recoiled, spit out chunks of white, grabbed his mouth and ran home screaming. Kurt and I did the responsible thing—turned and ran away as fast as we possibly could! I went home, put the gun back in the gun rack in the basement and then went out and hid behind the shed until my mother found me later … you know, after Craig’s father had called. Craig got a false tooth for the rest of his life and I still feel awful to this day. Lesson learned: Make love, not war!

2. Lots of model boats – The backyard of our house on Linwood Street would flood regularly, which provided a great place to sail stuff. Like any normal child, I also enjoyed blowing things up, but when fireworks weren’t available—which was the 51 other weeks of the year outside of the first week of July—I turned to other methods of destruction. At some point, I remember thinking “Hey, why just *look* all these battleship models I’ve built when I can *destroy* them?” So I did. It was actually a challenge to shoot a plastic replica of the USS Missouri enough times to make enough holes to sink it, but we didn’t have Super Mario or YouTube to stunt our attention spans.

3. Tarzan, the Ape Man – After I deep-sixed every warship I had, I turned to other models I had painstakingly assembled and painted. One that brought a lot of pleasure to Milo and me to destroy was this one of Tarzan—

(Wow, you can find anything on the internet!)

For some reason, we insisted on calling him “Starpan,” and laughed ourselves silly as we shot off his head, arms and other appendages. Nothing more hi-larious than maiming the Lord of the Jungle, right?

4. A rat – One day a bunch of us were swimming in my next door neighbor Rick’s in-ground pool, when we surprised by the sudden appearance of a live rat taking a dip with us! Of course, some mild hysteria ensued, during which I decided to run home to get my BB gun. By the time I got back, the rat was out of the pool and on the stone patio. Standing at the far end of the patio—and with visions of being the hero dancing in my head—I pumped up my gun, took aim at the cornered rat and fired. I missed the first shot, so I pumped and fired again—and this time, my BB found its mark. Unlike on the countless TV shows and movies I’d seen, the rat didn’t simply just fall over dead. Instead, it flopped and thrashed and squealed and died one of the most horrible deaths I’ve ever seen any living thing die. I swear it seemed to take hours to expire, but I’m pretty sure it was only a few seconds. No one ever said being a hero was easy, right? Ugh.

5. My mother – Let me be perfectly clear: AT NO POINT HAVE I EVER SHOT MY MOTHER! My father, however, can’t make that claim. When he was first teaching me to how to shoot (and the general rules of “gun safety”) in the basement of our home on East 2nd Street in Brooklyn, New York, we would set up a target at one end of the space, which was only a few feet from the washing machine. One night, while we were shooting, my mother was doing the laundry. At some point when my father was lining up a shot, he glanced over a few feet to where she was reaching deep into the washing machine, leaving her … “flank” vulnerable. Temptation was too much. He aimed and … well, let’s just say that nearly 40 years later my mother still seems pretty angry about the bruise it all left on her posterior.

I’m just glad it was only her butt I helped ruin and not their marriage. Guns are dangerous, kids!


May 102012

So this morning I was awakened at 5:30 a.m.—like I have been for the last 6 or 7 days in a row—by the shrill chirping of a bird outside my window.

Now I know you might be thinking, “Wow, what a light sleeper!” but this particular feathered “friend” (possibly straight from a perch next in Satan’s aviary) and its “song” are so loud that it also woke up my wife, who can sleep through the godless racket that is my snoring. That should give you an indication of the volume. This thing puts the Harpies to shame.

As I lay there *not* sleeping, I considered what might be the most satisfying way to bring about the demise of this creature—you know, because interrupting my precious beauty slumber is a crime worthy of death.

A few ideas came to mind:

  • Getting a pet owl to hunt it down, catch it and rip it apart with its razor-like talons—they are killing machines, for what it’s worth. Of course, then I might have to deal with the owl hooting all night.
  • Using a flame thrower to incinerate it—it’s got to taste like chicken.
  • Snapping its avian neck with my bare hands, you know, because there’s nothing sweeter than crushing the life out of another creature with your bare hands … er, or so I hear.

Even though we have a pet parakeet of which I’m pretty fond (it was that or a hairless cat—uck!), overall, I’m not a big fan of birds, unless they’ve been deep fried or covered with bacon, stuffed and roasted for hours. When I used to work at Frank’s Nursery & Crafts back in the day, I could never understand why people would regularly spend hundreds of dollars on bird seed. As direct descendants of dinosaurs, these winged pests have been for millions of years—they hardly need our help to survive. Trust me when I tell you that if you were starving to death, they wouldn’t help you. As a matter of fact, buzzards would hover above while you expire, then they and all sorts of other carrion would feast on your corpse.

In short, I agree with Buddha*—birds can go flock themselves.

[*It was in the 3rd chapter of his autobiography, I believe, after the part about “Lead, follow or get the heck out of the way!” Or was that Ted Turner? I get all of Jane Fonda’s exes mixed up.]

Anyhoo, my mother likes to feed the birds, and for years, has tried to lure hummingbirds to her feeder, but without much success. Last summer, when we were in Colorado and staying at the infamous Murder Cabin, there were a few hummingbirds around, which allowed to get me to get this kind of photo.

I’d post more, but I think that’s rubbing it in my mother’s face enough.

Speaking of my family and song birds, that is something we are definitely not: musically gifted. Actually, I’d say we are musically bankrupt, although my older son seems to be able to carry a tune and can play the piano by ear. (Freak!) For a long time, I questioned whether my younger son was of my direct lineage—his hair was on the blonde side, which doesn’t even remotely match me or my wife—until I heard him really “sing.” Although enthusiastic, the experience erased *all* doubt that he was descended from my tone-deaf bloodline.

Obviously, I have no illusions about how bad my singing is—and trust me, it’s truly putrid. When it comes to having to sing “Happy Birthday,” I can guarantee you that I’m pretty much lip-synching and letting others carry the tune. Or maybe I’m whisper-singing, which masks some of the awful. Overall, I’ve been fairly successful in hiding my horrific warbling, except for one fateful night …

[*cue rayality flashback waviness … or just flicker your eyelids a bit, thanks*]

A few of you may have heard this story already—I know my friend Milo is already giggling since he was there when this fateful event unfolded. Some of the basic details are fuzzy, possibly obscured by the mists of time or, more likely, blocked by a brain trying to forget away a traumatic moment.

Anyway, Milo and I were at this live show in a local hall—I want to say his now-wife Ivette was there also, but again, I’ve desperately tried to forget the details. (Sorry Ivette, either way!) It was a variety show of sorts, with  local singers entertaining the crowd.

At some point in the evening, one of the women got up and started channeling her inner Diana Ross, breaking out into “Reach Out and Touch”

For the proper effect, please play this while you continue to read.

If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s popular sing-along, which, if I had known at the time, would’ve sent me scrambling to the men’s room to hide. But I was completely oblivious, so I was caught up in and enjoying the moment as the singer rolled through the chorus:

“Reach out and touch somebody’s hand, and make this world a better place, if you can …”

After singing it a few times, she began to work the crowd like the supreme diva, walking around, throwing in some comments to pump everyone up and extolling others to sing along with her. Before I really could process what was happening, she was standing in front of me.

Smiling at me, she sang the lead up to the chorus and then—

[Oh. my. god. NO!]

—she took the microphone and put it right in my face.

And I mean right in my face, about a millimeter from my lips.

I froze. Nowhere to run, no time to react, no chance of dematerializing into a puddle of carbon atoms and water on the spot. Then she nodded as the musical cue came around.

I didn’t know what else to do … I took a deep breath and—



make this world … a better place …

if you …
… can …”

Mere words on a blog can’t convey how awful the noise that came from my throat was. It was like nails on a chalkboard + a moose being crushed in a trash compactor + Fran Drescher after gargling glass x 1 billion to the billionth power. Or worse.

Needless to say, Milo was hysterical (and even now, decades later, he still laughs—hard—about it, as well he should). The singer was a real pro, almost able to mask the shock on her face with a smile that’d make Chuck Woolery jealous. She nodded encouragement, but her eyes were pleading, “Child, for the love of Jesus H. Christ, please please please never sing another note as long as any of us live.”

The only good part for all of us is that it was only a one-time event. That freakin’ bird will be back there tomorrow … maybe I should try serenading it. Maybe that will change its tune!