Aug 132013

Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the glorious hair metal band of the 1980s, although I do tacitly admit that I did pay to see them perform live in concert back in the day …

Oh C.C. … no one loves your guitar playing more than you do yourself!

I should also come clean and say that it took me a few years before I really thought about the song “Unskinny Bop,” and realized what the hell is going on … Clearly, I must’ve not understood as it’s so much more subtle than “Big Bottom” and “Fat Bottom Girls.” Or I’m just a dumb ass, which we know is most likely the case.

Anyway, those embarrassments needlessly shared, this summer has been a toxic one for me, literally. First, I documented my failed effort to inadvertently kill myself in one of the most stupid ways possible by mixing bleach and Raid ant spray in a cabinet and then shoving my head in there. I’m still awaiting my Darwin Award Honorable Mention for that effort.

Now, my season of toxins continues with the very bestest of skin irritations—poison ivy.

Yeah, that caladryl-coated, pustule-ridden body part is my right ankle. And there are *plenty* more bumpy and hot and itchy patches like that on my arms and legs. Yay me!

And although I appreciate the dozens of remedies out there, after a lot of research (mostly at 2 a.m. when it felt like my skin was on fire and I couldn’t sleep), I’ve come to realize that there is no real cure other than time—7 to 10 days in most cases. Sure, there are different things you can put on your skin to ease the discomfort, but it’s not going away once it’s gotten hold. No oatmeal baths or bleachings, thanks!

I’m not quite sure how I contracted it, although it most likely happened last week when I was weed-whacking the yard. I didn’t notice any poison ivy, but evidently there was some, and using a device to whip it up with weeds and throw it against my legs like arsenic-coated shrapnel was a great way to ensure it was able to take root in my skin.

The sad part is that I have Tecnu, which I’ve used successfully other times when I’ve come in contact with poison ivy, but it’s only effective if you use it right away. If you’re an idiot and spend the first few days telling yourself, “Well, it looks like poison ivy and feels like poison ivy and sure as hell itches like poison ivy, but it can’t be poison ivy because I don’t know where I possibly could’ve gotten it from,” rather than just being cautious and using it, then it gets too late very fast.

Have I mentioned that I’m a dumb ass?

For the record:

"Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of four, eat some more!"

Poison ivy makes for a strong argument *against* “Intelligent Design.” Seriously, like swans, cancer and clowns, what Supreme Being in its right mind would come up with such an evil creation? I don’t see how it contributes to the Circle of Life, although I do see how it’s made for circles of medication around both my ankles.

Only one good thing has ever come of poison ivy in the existence of human kind. And this is that story.

Waaay back in the day, when I was in college, I got a bad case of poison ivy after doing some ill-advised springtime landscaping for the office my mother worked for—I encountered a wall covered with it, but as I had never gotten it to that point despite traipsing around in it a bit as a kid, I figured I was not allergic. So I pulled it out by hand—bare hands.

Turns out, I was NOT “not allergic.” So *very* not. Still not sure why I thought I could be, but whatever—we all know that I’m a dumb ass, right?

So anyway, I had it up and down my arms and legs, and was quite miserable. Like I am now, I was constantly caked with Caladryl. The only saving grace was that I was working as a clerk at ShopRite in Milford, and for those two weeks, I was helping out in the frozen food department while someone was on vacation—being able to stick my arms in freezers for six hours a day was bliss! So, so cold …

One Saturday night during this period, my friends decided to have a party to celebrate my birthday! Okay, actually, we had parties pretty much every Friday and Saturday night because we were college students and that’s what we did, but on this particular weekend, we decided to celebrate my birthday while we were at it … and by “we” I mean everyone else but me as you should know by now that I really have no interest in celebrating my birthday.

The only hang up was that I had to work the noon-9 shift on this Saturday, but this was back in the day when we didn’t go out to bars until 10 p.m. at the earliest, so this was not a big deal. The party was starting around 8 p.m., so I just figured I’d work my shift then go over a little late. No biggie, right?

So I worked my hours, and even though I had spent extra time in the freezer, I was still a blotchy pink mess when it was over. Not wanting to show up for my own “party” in such a state, I decided to go home first to take a shower and get cleaned up a bit. I hosed off the day’s grime, and re-applied the least obvious coat of Caladryl I could manage—had to look good in case there were any single ladies there, right? Sure.

Anyway, after my shower and re-application routine, it was about 10:00 or so by the time I arrived on the scene. I could see that the party was in full swing. I parked my car, went into the house and was greeted in decidedly non-birthday fashion by pretty much everyone I passed, be it friend or vague acquaintance.




Needless to say (although I’ll say it anyway), I was a bit perplexed by the lack of well wishes. It was only when I found my closest friends that I was told why everyone was mad at me …

Apparently, to “celebrate” my birthday, someone had the bright idea to order me A FREAKIN’ CLOWN!!

Again, if you’re any sort of regular visitor to this site (or anyone with any common sense, really), you know that I absolutely, positively despise—and yes, fear—clowns.

But as it turns out, my late arrival caused me to miss the entire visit of the grease-painted purveyor of evil—it (and I use that pronoun not by accident) couldn’t wait around because it had another soul to claim. Or “party to go to,” whatever you want to believe.

So yeah, if it wasn’t for poison ivy, I probably would’ve been eaten and raped by a clown (maybe even in that order). Other than that one shining moment, however, poison ivy has brought me nothing but misery. (Two more vague Stephen King references?)

Whatever. I can’t wait to stop itching …



Aug 082013

10 Annoying Immutable Laws of the Universe I Try To Make Mutable

1. Whatever line I’m in is the slow line. As someone who appreciates how truly brief life is, I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste my precious time waiting around, be it on the highway, at the grocery store or for admission to hell.

I have an E-Z Pass (still arguably the greatest invention in human kind), I always use the Deli Express at ShopRite (where you punch in your order and go shopping while the meat-slicing minions tend to your order) and I speak ill of the dead, not only in print but also when composing my annual Dead Pool team—this year I’m out in front of my league with the timely demises of Van Cliburn, Hugo Chavez, Bonnie Franklin, Roger Ebert and Annette Funiccello. I thought I was going to score the coup de grace when Randy Travis was recently in the hospital but he went and got better. Bastard.

2. The grass is always greener …. This is true for a good part of the year as my next-door neighbor Ed is a former landscaper and puts a lot of time, effort and fertilizer into his gorgeous lawn. His yard would be perfect except for a few dandelions he gets every spring on the areas of grass closest to our house, which I’m sure is a *complete* coincidence. I mean, it’s not like the dozens of dandelions and patches of crabgrass that grow unchecked in my yard could somehow just spread into his yard, right?

However, when it gets to the hottest and driest parts of summer—sort of like now—his carefully nurtured grass is mostly burned out while the weeds that I attempt to pass off as a lawn are still thriving and green. Oh sure, it’ll only last a few weeks, but for that small window of time … cliché busted!

3. You’ll hit the green lights when you’re not in a rush, and get all the reds when you’re in a hurry. I’m always in a hurry, especially when I drive—again, I’ll be damned if I waste any portion of whatever allotment of animation I get on this giant spinning rock—so the law of averages washes this one out.

If I do hit a string of green lights, it just gets me to my destination just all that much quicker. And if I hit red lights, it’s just speeding up that aneurysm that I’ll eventually have behind the steering wheel of my car. Winner all around!

4. A body at rest stays at rest. With the number of nightmares and twisted dreams that I have, as well as multiple trips to the bathroom (with my well-documented gastrointestinal issues, I drink *a lot* of water on any given day) it’s very rare that I get a full eight—or even seven or six—hours of straight sleep.

5. What goes up must come down. Since the moment I was conceived, all I have ever done is gain weight. Yes, it might waver from time to time, but overall, the line of that graph continues on an upward trajectory. If I didn’t run 3.5 miles every other day, there’s no doubt I’d already look like this …

… and be washing myself with a rag on a stick.

But let’s be honest: That is my eventual future.

6. Actions speak louder than words. My action track record is pretty lame—let’s say that in general I provide all the dynamic action of a poster print of Monet’s “Water Lillies.”

Ahhh, fine ar ......zzzzzzzzzz......


However, my words have actually carried me pretty far, including getting me a paying gig. I don’t think I would actually say my words have brought me “fame” or “fortune,” but hey, they help to pay the bills.

7. An idle mind is the devil’s playground. I know it sounds weird, but I can’t tell you how much I wish I could make my mind idle. I really do. It’s never, ever quiet in my skull, especially in the middle of the night when it’s supposed to be quiet. I think what disturbs me most is that people talk about “hearing voices” telling them to do things like commit suicide; in my head, whenever I’ve heard a voice making a suggestion like that, it’s always my own, loud and perfectly clear. That’s chilling.

Thus, I would say that my mind is pretty darn active, and it has *never* even remotely been mistaken for the lord’s sewing circle.

8. Can’t have your cake and eat it, too. I’m pretty sure that in all of the 170 years or so that I can recall, there has never been a piece a cake that’s been placed in front of me that I haven’t eaten … you know, with the possible exception of a slice of carrot cake that was once proffered at work party by a co-worker who was notorious for not washing her hands in the ladies’ room and had been eagerly licking crumbs off her own fingers in between cutting pieces.

9. A coward dies a thousand deaths. I think it’s safe to say that I am not anyone that you would ever confuse with any sort of hero, and I haven’t even died once yet—despite thinking about my eventual death pretty much every single day, as we all know I’m wont to do.

10. Can’t judge a book by its cover. I look in the mirror every day and I see a cranky old man looking back at me. Seems to pretty much dead on.


Aug 052013

Look, I’m not saying that I’m a great parent—especially after accidentally closing a car window on my son’s arm earlier today—but I do think I’ve learned a few things along the way that might be of help to those just starting down that path. You know, after “Make sure that the kids are 10 feet away from the car before you start to close windows …”

5 Pieces of Reasonable Parental Advice

1. No means no – Whatever the request—be it from “Can I have a juice box?” to “Can I borrow the car?”—if your wife or partner already has said “No,” then you *damn well* better say no, too—even if the reason is nothing more than “Because I said so!” Because once kids realize that they can divide and conquer, and thus, dismantle your parental authority like Spanish conquistadors taking South America, it’s over. Like vastly outgunned Peruvians, the best-case scenario is that you’re enslaved for a few centuries.

If you’re a single parent—or alone with the kids for an extended period, which can feel like it—if you say no and then eventually relent, you’re done. As it turns out, just like all that stuff they learn in school, they will learn at home that their wills are stronger than yours, and that they can impose it on you.

Hey, if you’re not 100 percent sure, there’s always, “We’ll see.” As my son told me, “That’s pretty much means no.” Yes, but there’s a little wiggle room, enough to buy yourself some precious time to make an informed—and hopefully correct—decision.

2. No does NOT mean “I don’t love you” – Too many times we’re more interested in pleasing our kids rather than raising them. Big difference.

Last time I checked, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Look, just because I said ‘No, you can’t set the house on fire today,’ doesn’t mean that I have stopped loving you or am mad at you. It means that it’s not okay to burn down the house, no matter how many times you ask. It has nothing to do with how I feel about you and everything to do with learning to do the right thing. I still love you.”

That “I still love you” is important to mention on occasion. I found it especially useful when I would get upset with the kids. After yelling at them for whatever transgression had angered me, I would often try to have the presence of mind to add something like, “Just because I’m mad at you right now doesn’t mean I don’t love you any more. Just like you, I get upset sometimes. It’s okay—it’s all part of life. I still love you.”

I’m pretty sure this is something that I’ve culled from my formative years watching Mister Rogers, who might’ve been one of the greatest and finest humans in all of the history of ever. Period.

In short, it’s okay to be friends … but be a parent first. They may not like you today but they’ll love you tomorrow.

3. Find their weakness—and exploit it – When it comes to disciplining children, there are numerous paths that can be taken, but I often found that taking away whatever my sons loved the most (at the time) was an effective tool.

For instance, when he was young, Son #1 loved TV more than life itself, so “Behave or no ‘Teen Titans!'” was a pretty effective tool. However, I found that when I tried a similar approach with Son #2, he just shrugged and walked away. It took a while, but I finally discovered that he loved computer time, so taking that away became the weapon of choice with him.

And it worked because …

4. Kids recognize idle threats, so don’t waste everyone’s time with them – I’m always amused around the holidays by parents who (often in public) will shout things like, “If you keep stabbing your sister, Santa isn’t going to bring you any presents!”

In all my years, I’ve only known one parent—my dear friend Fran—who actually dropped the Santa hammer on her kids and made sure that there was nothing under the tree on Christmas morning. Now that’s hard core!

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, Red Forman is one of my parenting role models, and I like to quote him to my children quite a bit …

Actually, I’ve never touched my angry foot to a child’s posterior, despite being severely tempted at times.

In truth, I’ve always tried to keep my punishment threats to things that I—and my kids—knew I could follow through on. Taking away TV, computer or video game time was easy to do and effective enough to get my point across.

I remember once when Son #2 was being particularly difficult and after an extended time out in the corner didn’t work, I sent him to his room, where I told him that he had to sit on his bed and do nothing. When that didn’t seem to faze him, I threatened to take away everything Power Ranger that he owned—FOR EVER!

I saw a flicker of fear in his eyes as he looked around his room, but he continued to challenge me, so I finally said, “That’s it!” I literally pulled the Power Ranger sheets out from under him, and then took all his ‘zords and other Ranger paraphernalia and bundled it all up in the sheets and put it in my bedroom.

He started crying, which absolutely made me feel awful, but from that point we both knew that when I promised a punishment, it’d absolutely happen.

If it makes you feel better, file this under, “Keeping a promise!”

5. Give time off for good behavior – By the same token, even if I went through with a tough punishment, I always gave my kids a chance to redeem themselves. Life is often about second chances, right?

In the Power Ranger example up above, after letting my son be devastated for an hour or three, I eventually said to him, “Okay, here’s the deal: Be good the rest of today and all of tomorrow, and you can get back your stuff.” And he did, and he did.

I often employed that tactic—”took away” all of TV or computer time, let them be really upset for a while, then went back to them with a deal that if they could behave for X amount of time, then they could recover a diminished portion of what they had lost. It worked better than I thought it could.

Anyway, this all sounds like great advice, you know, until one of my sons shoots the president. Then all bets are off …