Yep. I’m on the Road Again, without Willie Nelson, of course . . . .


Jeepers. I love living in California.

Well, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m on yet another stinking crappy waste of time business trip.  These evolutions make the Father/Daughter (or is it Daughter/Father?) road trip from just two weeks ago seem like skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.  Except that Daughter in no way resembles Judy Garland, and I feel like the (rusty) Tin Man, look like the Scarecrow, and kind of talk like the Cowardly Lion (only when conversing with my wife, that is).

Right now, I could really, really use a FaceTent ™.  It would not only insulate me from the daily challenges I’m facing, it might also bring about World Peace — if everyone wore one, then we couldn’t see each other and hurt anyone.  Of course, I realize a number of other issues are involved, but still.

Having said that, I have been reading Daughter’s recent posts with mild amusement, some bemusement, and a growing sense that I have somehow contributed to the creation of a New Millennial Ne’er-Do-Well who is destined to thumb her nose at the world in perpetuity until she:  finds a no-kidding real paying job, finishes college, and figures out that, although the world can be viewed through the prism of Comedy Central, it is far better to do so through old episodes of The Office.

Maybe I’m the one with the problem.

I guess my greatest fear is three months from now the Epic Father/Daughter journey will be re-traced in reverse, because if any other family member drives home with her, it will cost me three times as much in gas money (I know first hand how my family drives), five times the amount in hotel bills (“This looks like a really great place to stop, even though we’ve only been driving for two hours.”), and an untold amount in roadside trinkets and foo-foo coffee drinks that I shudder to even begin to tally.

Yeah.  I think I’m headed back to the East Coast in May.

But before I go, I have to remind myself from whence I came:  California.

We love it in California, even though we aren’t natives.  If nothing else, living on the West Coast is a constant source of amusement; almost like Daughter.

Take, for instance, the photo above of a sign posted prominently in the baggage area of one of our major airports.  You would think the bald heads, incense, and tambourines would tip people off that the “information booth” is not municipally sanctioned.

Nope.  We all need a sign.

I have a wonderful photo of Baby Daughter in her Mother’s arms at a desert rest stop somewhere in California from about twenty years ago.  That would make it “pre-bad haircut Daughter” if you’re maintaining a scorecard.  I can remember a very similar sign posted at that stop and, at the time, just thought it was funny.

Big mistake.

I laughingly mentioned it to a friend of mine a few weeks later — he was a SoCal native — and he took great offense that I pointed it out as something funny.  “Only in California,” I said.

I was a lot more insensitive in those days.  Just ask Daughter.  No.  Even better.  Just ask my wife.  To be frank, I used to be so bad I’m not quite sure how I managed any sort of human interaction, much less getting married and helping to create what we call “a family,” but that’s a story for another day.

I guess the only problem I have with the airport sign, and it’s not a big deal, is that, from my own experience, I would never classify anything that’s been thrust in my face/hand provided as “literature.” Poorly written — yes.  Badly worded — yes.  Irrational — usually.  Drafted in a dope smoking, alcohol-induced haze — maybe not.  But never literature.

I am firmly in favor of our ability to exercise our Constitutionally protected rights; especially free speech.  It can be rather humorous, after all.

But if we’re going to pass out literature, let’s really pass out literature.  Rather than avoiding these tables (doesn’t everyone, or is it just me?), airport passers-by would be ten deep if those First Amendment handouts included Jane Eyre, or Moby Dick (well, maybe not that one), Heart of Darkness, Atlas Shrugged, Fahrenheit 451, and The Sun Also Rises.

Wouldn’t that be great?  I think so, but I’m an English Major, so it really doesn’t count for much.

Alternatively, if the point was to increase the general angst that permeates most airports these days, the Table Folks could hand out Sudoku puzzles, or copies of The TSA Miracle Weight Loss Diet.  Dealing with either would probably not be ideal, but would pass the time, up until the point I got a massive Frustration Headache — from giving up on Sudoku or trying to figure out how a 4,000 calorie/day food intake qualified as a diet (joking here, people — I love Sudoku and the TSA).

So, in one version of a better world, I can envision a table handing out classics, and close by another is selling FaceTents ™ — thereby making Daughter a millionaire, and a third, somewhat more distant table devoid of anything specific.  It’s just a table, and stenciled in spray paint is the phrase “Serenity Now.”

Or, maybe it’s got a sign on it that says, “FaceTents ™ are for sale on that other table over there.”

Either way, it seems to me a better world.

- Dad

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Making Friends! Sort of.

It was really easy making friends in grade school because all you have to do is run up to a kid and say, “Hey, wanna be friends?” And then, he or she says, “Yes!” And then you go off and read Twilight and listen to One Direction or whatever the children are into these days.


In college, things get more complicated. There is a ten minute period when students are filing into class and waiting for the professor to come that could hypothetically be used to make friends. It is a special time – a magical time – when you can interact with people on a level that isn’t academic. Instead of shutting down the person next to you by pointing out the logical fallacy of his latest ridiculous theory or vehemently disagreeing over Oxford commas or making a blood sacrifice of a freshman to appease an angry professor, you have the chance to ask him how his day is going or some such question.

Unless, of course, you have an eccentric professor who is dedicated to “icebreakers” and forcing his students to socialize for the duration of class time.

"Are we friends yet?

“Are we friends yet?”

I’m not even going to pretend I didn’t have the best time ever during these icebreakers because I love to embarrass myself hearing other people’s life stories. So, the class was divided into small groups and then we went around answering questions out of a hat and subtly trying to one-up each other with the coolest autobiographical details we could muster (obviously, I fared poorly).

One of the questions we each had to answer was, “Are you a morning or night person?” And then we each took a turn explaining our propensities for mornings or evenings. Except I was not satisfied with answering in a sane manner. My turn came and this is what I said, “I’m basically nocturnal. I like to go to bed in the wee hours of the morning. I’m half-vampire.” The other people in my group were amused but also exchanged looks of uncertainty.

Then, another question was asked, “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?” The guy next to me said some boring answer because he’s vegetarian. And so, in order to prompt him to say something more interesting  I said, “Well, have you eaten leaves from the rainforest or something? Anything exotic like that?” Everybody was weirded out. But I felt, in my heart of hearts, that this weirdness could be the seeds of friendship.

- Daughter

The First Day of Exercise After a Period of Slobbery

I used to be a college athlete. How far from the throne I have fallen. Just walking up the two flights of stairs to my apartment is how I imagine a husky feels during the Iditarod. Standing for longer than ten minutes is just asking to pull a hammie.  If that doesn’t give you a comprehensive picture of the role of exercise in my life, you should really step back from this blog and take some time to think about your life. Because you haz the dumb.

Exercise is a rare activity that happens in my life because I’m more worried about graduating college than ellipticaling my way into the 6-pack club. Furthermore, my one-pack is perfectly suited to my needs at the moment and – bonus – it’s aesthetically pleasing according to the Renaissance standards of beauty (which I adhere to). My one-pack also happens to be academically necessary; I saw it on the syllabus for my Buddhism class between “post discussion questions to the course website on Wednesdays” and “achieve enlightenment”. Obviously, the professor understands that the best way to learn is through a hands-on approach requiring students to grow a Buddha Belly. The first step in this long journey toward the Middle Way one-pack/BellyofBuddha is to not have a six-pack. I’m already there!! *high-fives Buddha* To comprehend this religion, I must first be the Buddha. *Eats donut… mindfully*

I haz nirvana. I no haz samsara.

I haz nirvana. I no haz samsara.

Despite my steadfast dedication to Buddhahood, there are obstacles in my way. Like friends. Specifically, friends who encourage me to exercise. I was cajoled into a spinning class by such a creature. But this wasn’t any normal spinning class, this was a CLUB/SPIN CLASS. The instructor turned off the lights and put on some black lights. I guess so you can’t stare at the other spinners but that defeats the point, how do you know who’s winning?? Sure, I want to have a good time, but I also want to make sure I am better than most people there. How else will I feel good about myself?

Because I haven’t exercised for a while, I was on the verge of nausea most of the time and part of me thought this must be what dying feels like. About halfway through, when the instructor said to turn the resistance on the bike up, I turned it down. And kept doing so until I got the point where air was essentially pushing the pedals. The lights were off but I still tried to look like I was really struggling. I’m a very dedicated method actor.

Finally, the spinning part of the class was over, but the hell wasn’t. Core training was next. I am usually impressed by myself during core exercises because I don’t totally suck at them. Maybe it’s leftover strength from my old glory days as an athlete with a fully-functioning body. Anyway, I wasn’t particularly concerned about this part of the class.

My hubris would be punished.

I tried, I really did. But sooner or later, my mind would yell, “KEEP GOING! KEEP GOING!” and my abs would whisper solemnly, “No,” whereupon I would flop LOUDLY onto my mat. This happened an immeasurable number of times. The teacher, whose muscles appeared as if they were struggling to free themselves from the confines of her body, always looked in my direction at the unexpected thump. And seeing my crumpled pile of limbs, I think she felt pity and chose not to laugh.

I struggled and struggled and variously flopped onto my stomach and back like a dead/dying fish. I was an unsightly walrus in a sea of lithe, graceful dolphins. But also a dead/dying fish, don’t forget that either.





My abs still hurt and my dignity… well, there’s none of that left anyway so, no matter.

- Daughter

Good God, Man, Don’t Sit There!


Not me, but a very good representation of me. And, yes, that seat is occupied. Go away.

While it seems as if Daughter’s back-to-school life rivals that of Rodney Dangerfield (when he was still alive and acting, of course), I feel somewhat disadvantaged if I don’t write a post about bars, drinking, insulting random strangers, or figuring out how I can slip into my post an obscure “hip” reference to something no one knows anything about. 

Then I realized that Daughter’s posts essentially fill me in (and you, too) about all the gory details associated with clubbing in the New Millenium. 

I’m sorry.  I’m perfectly happy with my cup of tea watching Downton Freaking Abbey on Sunday nights. 

The allure of the conditions Daughter describes escapes me but, then again, many things my kids do escape me.  I seem to remember an awkward conversation with my own mother decades ago now, trying to explain why there was a (frozen) can of Generic Beer (does anyone remember that?) in the freezer.  The funny thing was, it was my Mom’s beer (although she never touched the stuff), which she used for a secret recipe beer bread.  God knows how old it was, but on a thirsty, late Saturday night watching Saturday Night Live by myself (you know, with John Belushi — that crowd), a cold Generic Beer synchronized almost too perfectly with what was on the television. 

So I’m hoping that I remain amused (as opposed to judgmental) regarding the club scene in whatever college town Daughter frequents on weekends. 

Been there.  Done that.  Got the t-shirt (somewhere). 

Alas, I have no witty account of my latest social encounter.  Rather, I find myself tonight on yet another business trip, to a destination I would rather not visit, in the company of individuals to whom I would prefer not talk.  And as seems to happen more often than not, I experienced weather delays en route yesterday, and what should have been a five-hour ordeal was more than double that.   

My social interaction during the Denver airport delay included sharing newspapers with strangers, pretending that my bottled water wasn’t filled up at the drinking fountain, and deciding whether I could risk drinking a different brand of foo-foo coffee rather than the standard one the women in my family have used to water board me (I didn’t). 

I did chat with a security guard briefly, since she had to explain to me why she was guarding the vending machine area (she wasn’t) and why I couldn’t use it (I couldn’t).  In a clever bit of post-modern capitalism, it seems the electricity for these machines only clicks on after all the restaurants close.  So I guess the “true eateries” feel threatened by the machines. 

Can you say “Terminator Three“?

But that wasn’t the real highlight of the journey.  That came later, and it truly caught me by surprise because it was so counterintuitive. 

The story goes like this.  I usually try to fly the same airline on most of my trips (issues with delays, notwithstanding).  Though I don’t think I need to mention the name, this particular airline has open seating.  I believe the strategy for most Muggles is to grab either a window or aisle seat, thereby leaving the less fortunate masses to deal with squeezing in the middle. 

If you have flown lately, no doubt you’ve noticed that the cabins are darn full these days, and open seats have become quite a commodity.  As fate would have it, our delayed flight last night was not full.  Not full.  Therefore, the possibility was very real that a middle seat might remain unoccupied for the entire three-hour leg. 

Though I fought temptation, I allowed my over-fatigued mind the faintest hope that I might be afforded the luxury of stretching out just for a bit, not clanging elbows with anyone, and generally lording my spatial superiority over the lesser mortals crammed into the rest of the plane.

Well, that last thought was my undoing, probably.  Simply stated, I did not possess the Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch.  Consequently, the Great Pumpkin passed me over.

In a big way.

Picture this.  I giddily (really, that’s how I felt) grabbed a window seat near the front of the aircraft.  Both the middle (of course) and aisle seats were still open as the Muggle refugee line morosely filed in.  So, my expectation would be that a Soccer Mom would perch on the aisle seat, and if she piled enough crap in between us (something I would never do), I would be home free.


Not only does a Soccer Mom not join my row (that never happens anyway), a guy with a laptop plops down — AND TAKES THE MIDDLE SEAT NEXT TO ME.  Mind you, the aisle seat was still open.

I’ve never, ever had this happen to me, and if I hadn’t been so tired already, my mind would have begun racing.  As it was, it merely jogged, or maybe walked at a fast clip. 

My fellow traveler was a younger guy, seemed pretty normal (whatever that means), and settled in to read a book (perfect).  Eventually, someone took the aisle seat (that makes perfect sense), so we were left in full sardine can mode. 

But think if that hadn’t happened.  Other than those crazy couples that still have the kinds of feelings for each other that necessitate sitting next to each other on airplanes, there we would have been, this book-reading guy and me.  Loving life and our plane ride together. 

Just a little strange, but not a big deal.  While I was still conscious, I snuck a peek at what he was reading.  It was a story of some dude going through SEAL training.  Maybe he thought I could give him pointers.  Maybe he thought I was a former SEAL.  Maybe he thought I was just a seal.  Who knows?  He seemed nice enough, never said a word, but still. . . .  Sitting in that middle seat.  I don’t know.

Let’s just leave it at that.  Zen-me lives on. 

Daughter, let’s go grab a beer-o!

- Dad

Unintentional Bar Fight(s)

To celebrate my first weekend back at school, I did that thing people do where they go out to socialize (?). The first bar we went to was where I imagine the guys from Duck Dynasty patronize after a long day of making duck calls and using a grammatically-incorrect bastardization of the English language. Plastic cups, darts, questionable detritus on the floor – it had everything a suburban hillbilly could ever dream of… and more. Oh, so much more.

Antlers seemed to be the main decorative element in the bar with beautiful taxidermied animals serving as accents to liven up the space. (GET IT?!!!!!!) There’s nothing I’d rather stare at than the eyes of a cute boy dead raccoon that appeared to be in the throes of a rabies-induced manic episode when it died. It was truly the stuff of nightmares. (GET IT?!!!!!!) Or maybe the taxidermist artist just took certain creative liberties with this particular dead animal – maybe he imagined himself as some sort of Picasso of the taxidermy world.

Besides looking into the glass-filled eye sockets of forest creatures scattered here and there (think the lobby at the Bates Motel in Pyscho), there was an – err – “older” crowd. Regardless, we had fun but soon left for less grey pastures (no offense, y’all).

The second bar we went to was unbelievably crowded. We got in and immediately multiple bodies of varying intoxicated states were slammed up against us. That’s how EVERY bar is, you say. NO. It was worse. It was like Southerners at a butter festival. So. Many. People. I felt like I should have donned a swimsuit and goggles and done a nice, relaxed breaststroke through the crowd. I tried to be polite and say “excuse me” while I made my way through the crowd but I was largely ignored and steamrolled by plaid-wearing LAX bros. (Translation for Dad: jockish, not-so-smart, “manly” guys who play lacrosse or wish they did.)

When we had shoved and pushed our way to the bar, a guy happened to be there (WHA?!) so I briefly exchanged witticisms with him and made fun of his sweater. He was wearing a Mr. Roger’s sweater. I can’t listen to someone’s intelligent conversation when the theme song of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood is playing in my head the entire time: would you be my neighbor? It sounds funny but it’s not. It’s very distracting.

At one point, my friends and I had acquired our own bubble of personal space – a rare treat – and we were enjoying ourselves when suddenly, a disembodied hand entered the circle and broke the revery. It started swooping into a hug-like gesture but I was not the target, it was the girl behind me. I literally limboed underneath the hand/forearm and escaped an awkward hug-bombing moment. To add insult to injury, the body attached to the intrusive hand was falling on top of me after this incident so I gave this poor-excuse-for-a-bipedal a few reassuring pats on the back and said, “JUST SO YOU KNOW, THERE IS A PERSON RIGHT BEHIND YOU. JUST FYI. DON’T WORRY IF YOU FALL ON ME AND SLOWLY BREAK ALL OF MY RIBS. NO BIG DEAL.”

Because I got an elbow to the head, body-slammed, and otherwise completely thrown around like a rag doll, I like to believe my experience at this bar counts as a bar fight. Unfortunately, I lost. I lost a lot. Except when I got a surprise a hug from a stranger because… *SPIN MOVE* I got out of there before he even noticed. I may not have bulk, but I have speed and the agility of a rabid raccoon.

And that’s about it. I’m glad insulting bar patrons is now officially a coast-to-coast tradition. Nobody will escape. Nobody.

- Daughter

O Tannenbaum, Be Gone!


I feel so naked. Is it February yet? Nope.

Well, it’s January 26th, and we’ve just about wrapped up the Christmas Season in our house.  It truly won’t be complete until the last poinsettia dies, but that could take months.  Although by the looks of some of the sad flora remnants scattered about, it may be just a matter of days.  I don’t think they have been watered properly, but I could be mistaken. 


Geez, seeing that I’m perched above the kitchen sink, you’d think these Muggles would think to water me occasionally. Will I see March or April? Who am I fooling? I’m headed for recycling. . . .

One year, despite our best efforts, we were blessed with a particularly hardy poinsettia that absolutely, positively refused to wither and expire.  So after our traditional post-holiday period of benign plant neglect, I slowly began to take an active interest in this survivor.  It became something of a reclamation project, to the extent it was replanted and nurtured, lovingly pruned and fertilized.  It then made something of a remarkable recovery, so much so, in fact, that we transplanted it outside since it grew so big.

Of course, that killed it. 

It is probably a remarkable artifact of family history that we are all still alive, given our propensity to delay the actual “striking of Christmas paraphernalia.” By that I mean we have harbored some really desiccated Christmas trees over the years, well past their prime.  Well past.  I mean, some of these things were so dry we had to stop plugging in the string lights for fear of spontaneous combustion. 

And then we reach the decision point of, well, if we drag the thing out into the backyard now, it’s going to dispense about 60 million needles all over the house on the way there.  Of course that logic is counterbalanced by the “leave it in place” mentality, whereby we can simply sweep up the offending offal as it rains down in ever greater quantities. 

So we frequently do nothing, until common decency dictates we must act.  I am then compelled to wrestle the remnants of our once green tree out the back door into the yard where, you guessed it, it languishes for several more weeks/months until I have to start mowing the grass again in the late spring. 

But our Christmas tree keeps on giving all year round, because I usually try to re-purpose whatever is left to use in our fire pit in the summer.  That may sound like a good idea, but a seven-month-old tree is akin to a large match, and when it goes off in the fire, it’s like a grenade. 

“Yep.  That was a good tree,” I think to myself as I look for what’s left of my singed eyebrows. 

That was before we went Pure Platinum with our Christmas trees.  Now, the biggest challenge with our very realistic artificial tree is trying to remember where we stored it last year (“Didn’t we give that one away to Goodwill — I can’t find it.”) and figuring out if it still looks reasonable unrealistic to be able to pass for a decent fake tree. 

I find nothing joyous about assembling a Christmas tree.  The very phrase “assembling a Christmas tree” is annoying and somehow not sympathetic with the Spirit of the Season we all associate with the TV and print ads we see for Black Friday. 

No doubt about it, putting the thing together is a bit of a chore.  Sure, sometimes I throw on an appropriate CD to provide seasonal background music, but there are only so many times you can listen to Pink Martini in one afternoon, after all, before throwing up. 

Thankfully, my duties have been reduced over the years to erecting, assembling, and hooking up the lights.  Others in the family now step in to decorate, Praise the Lord.  If they didn’t, no telling how long that would take or what the end result might be — it wouldn’t be pretty. 

And I could write an entire blog about finding three strings of lights that:  a)  were manufactured in the same decade; b)  look reasonably similar to one another, and c)  work. 

Today I am at the other end of the process:  disassembly.  Based on last year’s results, the challenge is to pack the tree in the Christmas Tree Box so it doesn’t look like I’ve stuffed a family member’s body in there.  The process should be deliberate and orderly, with the lettered limbs stacked neatly together to facilitate their removal and assembly next year. 

It just never works out that way, except today. 

Whether by accident or design, I managed not only to re-pack the tree neatly, there was also room to stow three strings of lights inside, as well.  Of course next year I will not remember where I put the lights, but I’ll deal with that later. 

And lest anyone think Christmas is truly over in our house, a tangled pile of solar holiday lights has languished on the hose storage container out front for several weeks now. 

No telling how long they’ll be there.

Merry Christmas, Daughter!  We miss you. 

- Dad 




Bullwinkle and Robert E. Lee


But I don’t want to be a Pirate! Okay, then, you’re scheduled for a biopsy.

A number of years ago, say 15, I was visiting an unnamed US military installation in the Southwest United States.  It was an overnight trip, and necessitated me bunking in a newly refurbished Bachelor Officers’ Quarters — think of it as a kind of Department of Defense Days Inn.  Definitely not Hampton Inn, however. 

I lucked out and scored a suite, and as I was preparing to turn in for the night, the decor in the bedroom caught my eye.  Above one bed hung a large photo of Ulysses S. Grant.  Above the other was a similarly sized photo of Robert E. Lee.  Both in uniform, North and South, respectively. 

The more I tried to get my head around the concept, the fuzzier it became.  Here I was, one hundred and fifty some odd years after the Civil War, spending the night in a US military facility in a room that featured the portrait of the general who led the army that attempted to break apart the Union. 

Politics aside, the whole deal seemed strange to me.  Incongruous.  And I’m a Southerner.

And today, literally this morning?  Back in a military hospital facility for a relatively routine appointment. 

The waiting area resembled, your choice, the bar scene from Star Wars, the social reception deck from any episode of Star Trek Next Generation, or, more closely, any part of Blade Runner.  It was an assortment of generally unhappy, very poorly dressed and disheveled, mostly weird individuals.  I tried to dismiss the thought that I, somehow, was part of this diaspora, but the fact remained that my lot was theirs. 

Except I was just slightly better dressed and marginally less disgruntled.  In these situations, I actively try to work on my gruntlement.  That’s Zen-me for you. 

I grabbed a book from the “take one” carousel, and after reading the first three chapters of The Swallows of Kabul, I found myself somewhat depressed and determined not to participate in any stonings of prostitutes after my appointment.  (Note to Self:  Don’t read The Swallows of Kabul while waiting to see any medical professional.) 

Forty-five minutes after my scheduled appointment time, I was Baby Jesus-blessed, and my name was called to enter the inner sanctum behind the double-doors. 

Despite my initial relief at finally being able to see a doctor, I found myself in an examination room that took its inspiration from The Swallows of Kabul — shop-worn, distressed, and wholly absent any sign of human kindness and warmth. 

I did, however, manage to educate myself regarding the dangers of skin cancer because of the handy poster (with photos!) taped to the wall opposite me. 

Yep.  I was in a great state of mind.  But the best was yet to come. 

The specialist attending to me today ambled in, and he resembled a character straight out of Dr. Zhivago.  Not a young Omar Shariff, mind you.  More like an old Leonid Brezhnev — I do realize he wasn’t in the movie, but you get the picture. 

The best part of all was that he spoke like Boris Badenov of Bullwinkle fame.  Seriously.

(As an aside here, I realize I have probably incurred Daughter’s wrath, if not her actual incredulity, since all of the popular culture references I’ve used so far are quite dated, at least for her [and her ilk], but I think she owes me after last week’s trip, so Bam!)

What followed was an increasingly unintelligible exchange between the good doctor and me, compounded in its ridiculousness by my own hearing deficiencies. 

“What’s the downside?” I asked him.

“jkl; jkl;jkl; f=jio[wmnnaoi’djn’j’i89-,” he answered.

“Where are you from?” I asked him.

“;j0-u9[sdfdvcczx-stan,” he answered.

“You have Persian blood,” he stated.

That one, I understood, but what was the point? 

Where was he going with this?  What did the blood results mean? 

It became increasingly clear I would not find out during this session. 

Now honestly, I really couldn’t understand most of what he said, or what he indicated might be his nationality.  However, I made up my own mind anyway and determined that he was Russian, from the Soviet era, and that he was of an age that meant he was probably a part of the Reaganesque Evil Empire during the time I actively served on the Other Side (Ours).   

And that’s what got me thinking about the whole Grant/Lee hotel thing in the first place.  Except now I was experiencing it first hand, in real time. 

As he continued to review my case history and recent blood results, I simply gave up trying to understand anything at all and resigned myself to hoping the nurse could explain to me what just happened after the appointment was over. 

But all historical irony aside, he was a nice enough guy and, after all, he’d better be.  As I found out afterward, evidently I have a biopsy scheduled a few weeks from now. 

Well, I completely missed that one, since all along I thought there was something wrong with a ligament in my knee. 

There is a bright side, of course.  I didn’t promise to wear a Puffy Shirt (Sorry, Daughter. That’s why they invented Wiki).

- Dad

A Professor Used a Cat Book to Illustrate a Point and I Died, PLUS: Must-Read Cat Books

I’m taking a class about technical theater lighting because I want to learn how to do things that I will literally never use outside of the school; I guess you could say that I like to educate myself to new, useless heights. Today, my professor/indie-electrician was talking about different sorts of lighting terminology and held up the book, Looking at Paintings: Cats, by Peggy Roalf to illustrate different types of light. My eyes teared up from the sheer joy of this moment. Up until this point, I had been unsure of this professor with his cowl-neck/hoodie sweatshirt (???) and puce watch and Robert Pattinson hair. But when that cat book entered my visual sphere, I knew I was in the right place. How could I not take this class when the professor so clearly shared the same worldview as me, one defined and enhanced by cats? He just gets me. 

Almost immediately after I got home, I went on Amazon to buy this wonderful piece of literature for myself. As an art history  major, it’s very important to have a wide breadth of understanding of the canon. (Buy it here if you also want this edifying piece of KitLit ™!) Of course, I got sucked into the world of cat literature/art, aka KitLit ™. It’s a wonderful world and very rewarding if you don’t mind that recycled kitty litter was used to manufacture each book*. I included links to the actual books just in case you don’t believe me. THIS IS REAL LIFE.

KitLit ™ Must-Reads!

Dancing with Cats by Burton Silver and Heather Busch.

Yes, Amazon, I will look inside. Look at the gentle grace and beauty of both human and cat, dancing as one great monolithic being. An intertwined dance expressing raw, animal energy. In Russian (?), this is called kavorka. And if I ever when I have a cat, I’m going to name it that. Buy it here! Valentine’s Day is coming!!

Glamourpuss: The Enchanting World of Kitty Wigs by Julie Jackson

If your cat aspires to be a drag queen. Buy it here!

Crafting with Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya and Amy Hirschman

You and your cat will bond over this symbiotic relationship: you get to make interesting crafts and your cat will throw up fewer hair balls (maybe, I’m not a medical expert). Buy it here!

I Could Pee on This And Other Poems by Cat by Francesco Marciuliano

Alternative title: I Could Poop on This. Buy it here!

In a high-pitched baby voice, but with more subtle tones. Learn this and more! Buy it here!

What is My Cat Thinking? by Gwen Bailey

The cat is thinking: “….soon…” Buy it here!

Why Cats Do That: A Collection of Curious Kitty Quirks by Karen Anderson and Wendy Christensen

The cats do that because they’re fu cats. Buy it here!

Careers for Your Cat by Ann Dziemianowicz

Don’t let your cat settle for being a homeless liberal-arts major, get her to dream big.  Buy it here!

100 Cats Who Changed Civilization by Sam Stall

Let’s be honest, every cat that has ever existed has changed civilization. Buy it here!

*Except not.

- Daughter

I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Grooming Ritual, or My Namaste-less Day

I forget that besides awesome people at college, there’s also really ridiculously strange people – other than myself – at these type of institutions.  Today, I was happily absorbed in a conversation in my religion class, discussing the ways in which Buddha should try to diet and lose that little belly of his when suddenly, a girl to my left picked a stray feather off of my fleece.

No warning. No “Hey, I’m going to go ahead and enter your personal bubble and pop it with my prying, plier-like fingers.”

I was shocked: 1) I did not know this person, 2) I did not ask to be part of this monkey-grooming ritual she just initiated, and 3) maybe I was saving that feather for later to build a cultural appropriation-themed headdress to offend all races/colors/ethnicities/breeds/species? WHAT THEN?

You are not my mother.

You are not my mother.

My down jacket likes to shed itself on my inner layers of clothing and I’m at peace with that fact. I’ve obviously absorbed the Buddhist teachings we were learning about today and applied it to my own life: life is suffering and suffering is knowing that pieces of feathers and fluff and bellybutton lint will end up on my pristine Northface fleece; such is life. But this girl – this..this.. creature – thought she could just friend-level jump all the way to Best-Friend/Groomer/Mother-Figure. And she totally broke my meditation I was having with that feather – NAY – that remnant of a flight-driven beast whose spirit I was intimately connected to and – dare I say it – loved. I was at peace with that feather. The act of taking off that feather from my fleece was her saying, “NO NAMASTE FOR YOU.”

"Oh, I do love being a monkey ever so much!"

“Oh, I do love being a monkey ever so much!”

It seems innocent enough, she was just getting a bit of fuzz off of my jacket. But it’s actually not. I never gave her permission to steal my possessions away from me. What next, the shirt off my back? No thanks, random class stranger. No thanks. And I’m not into monkeys like that.

- Daughter

I Wear Water Wings to Class

This is the best analogy I can think of that describes how I feel as a student: I’m in a swimming pool and doing laps diligently, pounding out cold, hard logic with each stroke. The other students in class? They like to wear water wings and flap around in the kiddie pool of hypotheticals.



Just kidding, I’m the one with the water wings. I’m always rambling on and on in class because I love to hear the sound of my own voice which is best described as the rustling of angel wings. When I speak in class, I like to change my mind mid-way through my comment about some obscure idea I have and just utterly confuse everyone. I think it was George Washington who said, “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” So, I’m a great student according to GWash. And everybody knows GWash was the man. He cut down that cherry tree, angered the British, and started the Bolshevik Revolution. He’s a forefather of this great nation and also a forefather of my academic strategy to confuse professors into giving me an A on everything I touch. I’m like King Midas. Except better.

This semester, because I’m a senior, I get to write a thesis. *Puts on water-wings.* It’s very difficult, important, and world-changing work. I consider this art history thesis my gift to the academic world, much like my physical existence is a gift to the world in general. But back to my thesis. I had to go this thing called a “library” today where I collected books with the most ridiculous, highfalutin, and esoteric titles (ironically, I just had to look up how to spell ‘highfalutin’). And I loved every second of it. WHO’S READY TO READ, FEMALE CHAUVINIST PIGS: WOMEN AND THE RISE OF RAUNCH CULTURE? ME. And as a bedtime story, I plan to read theoretical literature about pop culture and mass media, like Down from the Pedestal. No, but seriously, get down from that pedestal. You’re drunk and you will hurt yourself. You might cut yourself on a sharp hypothetical or something.

- Daughter

Camouflage, Lesbians, and My Truck

I happen to drive a pick-up truck at school. The same one we took on the road trip, actually. And it happens to have camouflage seat covers. But not just any kind: legitimate hunting-camouflage seat covers. I don’t hunt nor does anyone else in my family. And I’ve never felt the need to kill animals for sport – until I saw these seat covers. If I’m going to go with this Lesbian-Hick-Lumberjack-Hunter look, I’m going to need to strap a deer carcass on the top of the truck to make it more believable. I need to sell it. I can’t just ignore the fact that my car screams, “I KISS COUSINS SOMETIMES.”  

Lesbians in the Mist.

Lesbians in the Mist.

People have already been making assumptions about my truck the moment they step inside. The California plates may briefly distract them before they are overwhelmed by scenery mimicking a deeply wooded area. The smell of musk floats through the cab. A bearded man may or may not be in the backseat with a taxidermied squirrel. They turn to me and see I’m wearing plaid flannel: PLOT TWIST. “Not only is she a lesbian,” they say to themselves, “but she is a hunter-lesbian with forest animal friends like Snow White… if Snow White had murdered her animals friends instead of singing with them… Murderer.”

My dad specifically asked me to not remove the seat covers – and I’m doing just that, not removing them. But at what cost, Father? Surely I will be targeted by PETA for driving this heinous machine. And I’m going to be pigeon-holed into the plaid-wearing-lesbian-hunters group at school. Do you know why that’s horrible, Dad? BECAUSE I’M THE ONLY ONE. THERE IS ONLY ONE PERSON IN THE GROUP AND IT IS ME BECAUSE YOU HAVE PUT ME THERE.

- Daughter






Smoked Bacon: Not the Good Kind

Looks like another freshman tried to make popcorn.

Looks like another freshman tried to make popcorn.

This semester, I am living in a big-girl apartment instead of slumming it in the dorms at college. I am too good for dorms and can’t ruin my reputation running around with the wrong sort of people who choose to call these heathen-holes “home”. To be fair, the dorms are actually quite nice. They were built in the something-or-other century and have lovely architectural design (read: fancy pants) that will make you unconsciously raise your pinkie finger and start wearing a monocle.  But they’re still dorms. And as such, they have major drawbacks. For example, you have to be ready at all times for errant freshmen who wander across your path and have yet to develop social skills resulting in awkward small-talk while you microwave your oatmeal when really, that situation calls for an in-depth analysis of the sociology of breakfast foods in America. Obviously.

Sometimes, a cat – illegally kept in the dorm by an aspiring-future-cat-lady student – will escape from its enclave and make a beeline for your open door and straight to the bathroom where it will hop in the bathtub and look up at you expectantly (this happened).

You also are constantly subjected to idiocy: that of yours and that of others. Figure 1: fire alarms. Every year I have lived in the dorms, some person has set a bag of popcorn on fire. IT’S A BAG OF KERNELS THAT YOU PUT IN THE MICROWAVE FOR THREE MINUTES, HOW DO YOU MESS THAT UP?? Best get a refund from the college because you have learned NOTHING important. And, to compound matters, this person (let’s be real, it’s always a freshman) has to be a popcorn pyromaniac during the wee hours of the morning. So, the entire dorm has to evacuate with their fuzzy slippers on and unironically clutching stuffed animals, looking like disheveled hobbits after a trip to Mordor (and back).

Embarrassingly, I have also set off the dorm fire alarm. I was cooking bacon in my room despite the rule against cooking and electric burners in the dorm. (NOBODY SEPARATES ME FROM MY BACON.) After successfully sizzling up some pig bits, I noticed that there were a few stray pieces of bacon burnt on the bottom of the pan. No problem, I will simply pour ice-cold water into this saucepan which has hot oil and burning pork morsels in it, thus, no cooked-on bacon… GENIUS!! 

Well, I idiotically poured the water into the saucepan filled with flaming pig remains (sidenote: way less appetizing describing it that way rather than just calling it, ‘bacon’), and a huge plume of smoke immediately filled the room. I felt like I was standing in the shadow of the volcanic cloud of ash and debris from Mt. Vesuvius, it was that serious. The fire alarm went off and panic seized me. My first instinct was to hide the evidence from my illegal cooking activities (I stashed the still-burning-hot saucepan in the bathroom with the perfume of acrid smoke wafting out. They’ll never check here! And then I opened my window and did what can only be described as a panicked frolicking as I tried to herd, coax, and force the smoke to make its way out through the window instead of loitering around like teenagers outside of a pharmacy (that’s still a thing, right?). By some miracle, the fire alarm turned off and I breathed a sigh of relief – probably inhaling some smoke while doing so. But yes, I was an idiot.  I haven’t eaten bacon to this day…

Just kidding. Give me bacon, or give m- no, just give me the bacon.

- Daughter

It’s Not Over ‘til It’s Over

Though I may have prematurely (last night) declared a “Pajama Day” today, both Daughter and I slept in a little bit longer since we weren’t staring another Road Warrior-inspired drive in the face.  Instead, it was a day to unload, unpack, and attempt to organize, and not necessarily in that order.

For my part, I cleared out of the truck the remaining detritus from the trip as best I could.  How many Starbucks Splash Sticks can one console hold?  Daughter doesn’t realize it yet, but these things are going to keep reappearing for months.  The sticks are everywhere, but I trust when my truck returns home sometime in May, Daughter promised me it will be immaculate – maybe I imagined that last part.

I also had a growing sense this morning that my buddy, Zak, and his Ghost Adventures crew would not be interested in their first-ever lockdown inside a pickup truck cab, since all the mysteriously missing items from the past few days have very magically reappeared.

To wit, I now have a very complete and functional Bluetooth earpiece and, by my count, the fifth Festivus Miracle of the year occurred when I also discovered the microscopic pin that holds my watchband together.  It just goes to show that you should never, ever skip the traditional Airing of Grievances during December.  Makes all the difference in the world.

And since part of my goal was to remove the essential “me” elements from the vehicle, I grabbed two sleeves of golf balls (what are these doing here, and when was the last time I actually played?), a nice ink pen, and two sunvisor CD holders.  Yes, the CDs were hidden under the passenger seat, but why risk Daughter’s reputation if one of her friends discovers that “ABBA Gold” disk or the “Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits” (who’s Steve Miller?).  There are also some “weird” mix compilations my Son made several years ago when he figured out how to use a CD burner.  I don’t even know what those contain.

Clearly all of this is not a problem for me, but I could see Daughter becoming socially scarred very easily should any of these be discovered by the wrong people.

Let’s not even begin to compare iPod playlists.   Even more embarrassment.  Trust me.

So Daughter gave me a big thank you hug this morning for sharing the trip with her, but I told her I was a bit surprised that she indicated on the blog it was over yesterday.  Well, for her, maybe it was, but for me, I’m flying home in the morning, so the saga continues – at least in my mind.

I thought it might be useful to wind up the road portion of the diary with my Top Ten Road Trip with Daughter Lessons Learned:

10)  There is no such thing as an early start – unless “early” means sometime after 10:00 a.m.

9)  Piling up crap in the back seat, which completely blocks rear view mirror visibility, is permissible if you have side mirrors and a semi-conscious passenger.

8)  A FaceTent ™ is a handy travel accessory, but its use should be avoided by the driver while driving, if at all possible.

7)  It is possible to become lost, even though you are simultaneously referencing an iPhone, Tom-Tom, and AAA TripTik.  In these cases, it is helpful to say in a loud voice to your Navigator (Daughter), “I know you don’t know what to do.  That’s not helpful and, no, I can’t look at your iPhone right now.”

6)  No matter how bad or long the previous day was, a foo-foo cup of coffee first thing recalibrates everyone into imagining the day ahead will be better than before, even though you know it won’t.

5)  Always, always believe the AAA Travel Planning Lady when she says, “I’ve looked at the ten-day forecast, and you won’t have any problems at all with weather along the way.”

4)  Hearing impairment radically cuts down on road noise, meaningful conversational interaction, and the ability to hear anything at all emanating from an iPhone.  It also dramatically increases Daughter annoyance.

3)  Though considered an ancient communication device by some, a BlackBerry can be used in emergencies to signal search aircraft by reflecting the sun.  Along the same lines, it is also useful for randomly blinding the driver (“No, I’m not high-fiving you.  You’re doing it again, Dad.”).

2)  The Human Bladder is the most important yet least understood tool in the Driver’s Arsenal.

1)  Remember to bring a Truck Driver Voodoo Doll (trademark).  Though not recommended, it is possible to stick pins, text, email, talk on the phone, and drink coffee simultaneously while driving.  But do not try this at home – only in moving vehicles.

- Dad

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part VI – Conclusion

I didn’t know that your collar bones could hurt, but apparently, they can when you’re really tired. I feel like a sumo wrestler is sitting on my collar bones and slowly crushing them into a fine powder which will then be sold on the black market to a traditional Chinese medicine man. (Is that racist? Sorry.) It may have been a short driving day but it was a long day nonetheless.

We woke up in a wintry ice palace and I was the grumpy ice princess (HEAVY IS THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN). Even though I was in bad mood because I was tired, it was hard to be disgruntled when the outside world looked like a pre-teen has just bedazzled the crap out of everything. It was so beautiful; I just wanted to run around in the snow, being one with nature. But nature was too cold for that type of hippie nonsense.

It's cold outside.


Dad took the first shift of driving and I stared outside the window, absorbed by the cows dotting the countryside. I decided that one day, I  would like to have a pet cow. And I’d like to name it Big Mac. Not because I’d eat it, but because I think it would be hilarious. But maybe that’s just because I’m tired. Time to eat, Big Mac! Big Mac, come here, you silly old cow. Big Mac, you’re going to be a mother!!!! We shall name him: Happy Meal. 

Anyway, once again, we got lost on our trek to find coffee which resulted in tense tones and loud sighs of annoyance. Coffee seems to be driving a wedge between us. Once coffee was acquired, we sipped in silence. My father occasionally quizzed me on US history and then shook his head in utter dismay at my many wrong answers. When I asked him to quiz me more, he said, “No, it’s depressing.” Or something along those lines. Whatever, Dad. I know that there were 31 colonies, a Silverware War, and this guy, Jefferson Airplane, who sewed the first American flag together with shoelaces. Those are the only important facts you need to know.

Hi, trees.

Hi, trees.

We got to my apartment up at school in the early afternoon and then I spent a long time unpacking which was horrifically stressful. Unpacking/packing is playing Tetris with your belongings but it lacks any incentive. I spent a long time flopping around like a dying fish before I gave up and pulled a Scarlett O’Hara: “There’s always… tomorrow.”

A trip to Trader Joe’s to stock up on groceries almost resulted in a panic attack. It was some combination of the lack of sleep, grumpiness, and anxiety for school to start that resulted in me hyper-shopping to get it over with. It was so crowded that people were essentially tackling me to get to the kumquats first. Very overwhelming. So much so, my Fight-or-Flight response kicked in under this duress and I had to physically restrain myself from assaulting people by hugging my Organic Fair-Trade Ethiopian Medium Roast Trader Joe’s Brand Coffee to my chest (obviously, the ‘Fight’ response won out). I made my dad stand with the cart so I wouldn’t have to maneuver around the crowds and embraced my hunter-gatherer roots. I probably resembled a meerkat in the way I burrowed through the crowds unnoticed and then popped up briefly for air to observe my surroundings, scanning the landscape for danger.

I iz a mountain.

I iz a mountain.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I actually preferred driving over flying. And even though I was grumpy and my dad never did learn the appropriate angle at which to text so as not to blind me, I had the best time with Pops. Sorry, I was grumpy today, Dad! You’re the best. Even though you want me to be blind. Maybe because you’re losing your hearing you want me to lose my sight so that, together, we can be a mutant Helen Keller. Good job if that’s the case, you win.

- Daughter




Well, all’s well that ends well.

But I failed to mention that in yesterday’s severely snow-shortened drive, strange things started happening inside our truck on the penultimate day of our monster journey.

As may not be too obvious, I do occasionally try to be a law-abiding citizen while behind the wheel.  And that includes using a Bluetooth earpiece for my cell phone.  At some point, however, the hook device that holds the stupid thing to my ear became detached and walked away.

Not to worry, I thought.  I just crammed the thing in my ear canal, and that worked just fine – until it popped out after about six minutes and disappeared somewhere in the crevices between the front seat and our Hoarders pile in the back.  And to compound matters, while I was desperately scrounging under my seat for the bud, my new watch became entangled in part of the metal framework there and the band broke apart.

Okay.  Blinding snowstorm.  Manic semi truck drivers.  A growing list of missing personal items.  Unconscious Daughter.

Yep.  Let’s pull off and re-group.

What I couldn’t figure out was why, apparently, hundreds of other motorists did not follow us off the Interstate.  Things were that bad.

But we made the right call.  After taking an early exit, we unloaded and watched the snow pile up all around us in the hotel parking lot.  The only issue was my high-tech weather insulation device (black garbage bag from the Hampton Inn hotel) did not remain intact and my rolling suitcase became a little damp.  Did I fail to mention that we had so much crap junk personal belongings in the cab that we had to throw some stuff in the pickup bed?  That’s what poor planning will do for you.  Fortunately, every article of clothing I own is fully weather-proofed (in other words, my wife is constantly trying to get rid of most of the stuff I wear), so a little moisture doesn’t really matter.

So, after a nice dinner, and six hours of the Weather Channel, we went to bed early dreaming of Sugar Plums (Daughter) and not another episode of Ice Road Truckers (me).

It became very clear to me this morning that Daughter’s selfless cuticle sacrifice along the way appeased the Highway Gods, and we were blessed with sunny (cold) skies and clear roads when we arose.

Hallelujah.  I didn’t really say or even think that, but it seemed appropriate.

We proceeded to celebrate our good fortune with not just one, but two foo-foo coffee stops.  And I even let Daughter drive.

“Dad.  I can drive now.  Okay?  Okay?  You need to wear the hearing aid in the ear closest to me.”

“But then I can’t wear my Bluetooth,” I replied.  Very cunning.

As luck or good fortune or Weather Channel channeling would have it, the day was anticlimactic.  It was an easy, short day (just a few hours), and we arrived at our destination 2981 miles and six days after we started.

The good news is that Daughter and I are still talking to each other.  She is still napping religiously.  And we carried about 500 extra pounds of unmelted snow in the bed of the truck for extra traction on perfectly clear roads.

Truth is, I began to realize a couple of days ago that this trip with Daughter was unique, and I tried to do a better job of focusing on the moment(s), just so I could remember for when I get old (say, toward the end of next week).  For reference, Zen-me has just about finished reading the Dalai Lama’s Cat, and I have taken to heart that I cannot change those external forces beyond my control, but I can change that which I do control – how I think and react.

So, where does that leave me at journey’s end?

I’ve got a few more chapters to get through before I come to peace with the sh da assh semi-professional Truck Drivers of this world.  That much is clear.


And finally, though I am concerned about Daughter (her errant driving patterns, some of her music, her fingernails), I think she’s going to be okay and I’m proud of her.

The question is, will she be able to get up early enough on Sunday to take me to the airport?

As if I didn’t already know, I think tomorrow will be a Pajama Day.


- Dad


Road Trip Diaries: A Daughter-Father Epic, Part V

Welllll. We were going to try for Pennsylvania today but the weather replied, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS,” and snowed us right off the road. Not literally, luckily. My dad tapped out when the snow started to get serious – no more Mr. Nice Snow, as they say (?). My dad had been driving the whole day anyway, it was “too dangerous” for me to drive apparently, so he was glad to get off the road. I was glad to get off the road because I was sitting in abject terror for 3/4 of the drive today; semis were flying around the roads like they were in the Ice Capades. The remaining quarter of the time, I was asleep. Not driving is exhausting! I can only be in a state of pure, unadulterated fear for so long before my body poops out and resorts to its only defense: sleep.



We stopped driving early in the day and spent most of the afternoon lounging around the hotel room like we owned the place (we sorta do, right? Maybe it’s considered more of a timeshare). I was supposed to be picking my classes for next semester during the extra time I had today but sitting and looking at funny pictures on the internet won out instead. Clearly, I have my priorities straight. I’m definitely ready to be a Serious Academic again.

Trying to get an artsy angle… aaaand failing.

The Weather Channel was on for a good five hours straight because it turns out weather is an important factor for travel. (WHAT?!) Unfortunately, the main weather lady was making really inane comments and saying things like, “We’ll have Bob Whatshisface, the resident meteorologist, make sense of all of these pretty colors on the Doppler radar in a second!” First of all, I understand there is a limited amount of information and fluff you can work into Weather Channel programming, but those ‘pretty colors’? Yeah, no. That’s like looking at a tornado and saying that you like that little turny-twisty dance it does. Iago is no joke. Except for that name. That’s a joke. It reminds me of an iguana. And iguanas are not that scary. They need to start giving these storms more threatening names. THOR IS COMING, EXPECT ROAD DELAYS. ZEUS IS COMING, 400 FEET OF SNOW EXPECTED. ACHILLES IS COMING, STOCK UP ON EMERGENCY SUPPLIES. Nope. “Iago is coming, expect a shortage of flies and other insects.”

I want to go swimming.

I want to go swimming.

Dad and I spend a good amount of time prancing around taking photos of the snow. In the midst of prancing, however, I discovered one of my boots had a hole in it because water began to seep into my boots and was immediately absorbed by my fuzzy socks – it was straight of a scene from a paper towel commercial, you guys. I might as well have been wearing sponges in my boots. My actual snow boots are buried in the Hoarders-style mountain of things stuffed into the cab of the truck, unreachable by any mortal. This means I’ll be in my holey boots until I get to PA. Such is life.



But to end things on a positive note, we did eat a delicious meal at a “fancy” restaurant. I say “fancy” with quotation marks because my dad had to put real pants on instead of wearing his shorts. They also had those baby forks and little plates – obviously upscale for us plebes. In my fog of exhaustion, I forgot to put my napkin on my lap and Dad decided to point this out to the waitress in order to embarrass/shame me. Cute, Dad.

- Daughter


Not only did we drive thirteen hours and lose yet another hour to time zone changes yesterday (what’s the deal with time zones?), I evidently failed to reserve a hotel room correctly while simultaneously texting, driving, and emailing.  How could I screw up something so simple?

So, there I was at the front desk last night, without a confirmation number, but with lots of credit cards.  Thinking fast (or as fast as my mileage-addled brain would allow), I winked at the front desk clerk, and she he magically discovered an available room.

Old School Tactic, Daughter.

But it was almost 11:00 p.m. by then, anyway.

And I already knew we could kiss today’s Early Start goodbye.  And to add further insult, I was asleep before Daughter.

Yep.  It was a long day.

As I anticipated, the Highway Gods exacted their revenge today, even while Daughter “mailed it in” from the passenger seat, the beneficiary of a modified (multi-layer) FaceTent (trademarked).  That’s right, when the first driving shift (mine) was over, the second (mine) then started.  And Daughter started her second nap stint.

To be absolutely fair, I felt the most prudent course of action was for me to handle the load.  The weather absolutely sucked, and got worse from there.  No more desolate landscapes with 80 mph-posted speed limits.  We’re talking 60 mph max, heavy rain turning to snow, and semi tractor-trailer rigs as far as the eye could see (which wasn’t far).

Quite frankly, I don’t like experiencing life in the slow lane, off cruise control, staring at the butt-end of yet another freaking hideously large truck.

And to continue my rant from my last entry, many of these semi guys simply have no shame.  At least that’s the way it appears to me.

Cut in front of a fast-closing vehicle (me) – no problem.  Stay in the left lane forever – no problem.  Unconsciously annoy Daughter – no problem.

You see, they’ve got it all covered.

But I was more worried about the deteriorating weather and becoming stranded, without access to foo-foo coffee and a semi-warm bed.  The sum total of the food stuffs on board was two bananas, an apple, some hotel mints, and half a loaf of gluten-free bread (essentially a bag of cardboard scraps).

After assessing the situation and the possibility would could potentially be somewhat hungry by nightfall (not thirsty – I figured we could melt snow to drink), we pulled off the interstate early (only six hours today) and watched Winter Storm Iago on the Weather Channel, instead of through the front windshield.

Was it the right decision?  I’ll know tomorrow if —  we finally reach our destination (at least a day late) in one piece, before darkness falls, and Daughter spends more time driving than sleeping.

Hope springs eternal.

-  Dad

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part IV

Before I start this blog post, I want to have a moment of silence to show respect for those we lost during this road trip. They have been with me for many years, close friends I’d even call them. But they have been wounded and killed in this great battle fought on the interstates of America. Rest in peace, we will always remember you, dear cuticles. Seriously, though. My cuticles are dead and dying. This is the winter of their discontent… literally. They are terrible and bleedy. Lotion does not assuage them nor kind words. I have given up trying to heal them and instead, I try not to look at them. Or I sit on my hands.

Mmm, I love the smell of industry in the morning!

Mmm, I love the smell of industry in the morning!

We actually got back on the road today  and palled around with some semi truck drivers! If “palled around” means playing a game of tag with huge tons of metal and the semi is always “it”. STOP TRYING TO TAG US, TRUCK DRIVERS.  There was one semi in particular that really, really irritated me. So much so that I changed nationalities and transformed into an Italian. I did a lot of exasperated hand gesturing. I could be wrong, but I think this means I’m fluent in Italian.

I laugh at you, truckers in traffic. You deserve that misery.

I laugh at you, truckers in traffic. You deserve that misery.

After a successfully-completed quest to get coffee (bad things always happen when we try and find coffee, maybe we should consider switching to tea?), I hit a curb while turning because I can’t see out the right side of the truck and some coffee splashed out of my dad’s cup. No Big Deal, right? WRONG. Obviously, my dad has NEVER EVER so much as run over an errant piece of rubber on the road because he was so disgusted with me. How dare I accidentally run over a curb? HOW DARE I WASTE HIS TIME OFF-ROADING FOR MY OWN AMUSEMENT. He actually asked me: “Have you ever driven a car before?”  And then, later, a semi was drifting into my lane so I moved over and went on the rumble strip for three seconds. Not long, but long enough for my dad to yell at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” And I said, “THIS SEMI IS ON TOP OF ME, BRO.” Except I didn’t call him ‘bro’ because that’s weird. Good times. This is what father-daughter bonding is all about.



The most exciting thing that happened today is when we got lost in Tennessee. Despite having a GPS, an iPhone, Google Maps, and old-fashioned paper maps, we got lost because there was an unexpected detour. We apparently drove on a road that didn’t exist in our world, it existed in some other dimension. The same dimension where all your missing socks go  and where I have friends. It was like the Bermuda Triangle of roads. I’m pretty sure I saw a chupacabra out there. My poor iPhone was heating up from its attempt to locate us, but its efforts were in vain. We weren’t in this world, or if we were, we had ripped a hole in the fabric of spacetime because… physics.

We made it back to our dimension, all parts intact but I have a feeling of deju vu… nope, wait, it was just a burp.

- Daughter


And on the fourth day, God created semi-tractor truck drivers.  But I digress.

Yesterday was an unscheduled rest day, which presupposes one actually rests when given the opportunity.  When I awoke and took stock of the thick blanket of snow outside, it wasn’t hard to quickly make the decision to hang tight for a day with our wonderful relatives in their immaculate mansion.  Please note that, in comparison to our house, most other homes seem like castles to us – but theirs really is.  It is wonderful.

One quick check on Daughter simply confirmed my decision – she was dead to the world.  Two days in cramped confinement with a parent sucks the life out of children, evidently.

So, Daughter made an unconscious, slumbering assessment to replicate what is known back in our household as a “Pajama Day.”

It goes like this.  In the spirit of calling “shotgun,” declaring “Pajama Day” is governed by approximately the same rules.  Yep, all you have to do is say, “Pajama Day,” and, thereby, you eliminate the requirement to become fully attired and fully humanly functional for however long you want.  Technically, Pajama Day could become “days” or even a week, in extreme circumstances.

Also, male members are not allowed to play, even though we completely and thoroughly understand the rules.  Though hurtful, I am all right with the exception.

I knew we were in trouble this morning, however, because Daughter did not sleep well and was more tired than she had been before our rest day.  Makes no sense, I know, but it’s nothing a foo-foo coffee usually can’t set right.

Unfortunately, Daughter’s fatigue manifested itself in many uncharacteristic ways.  During her first driving stint, she inexplicably had no idea how she turned on the windshield wipers, but also couldn’t figure how to turn them off, as well.  Not long after she ran over a curb exiting a gas station.

Her defense?

“I can’t see anything out of the right side of the truck, and stop yelling at me.”

Only one of us had her voice raised by the way, and it sure would have been nice to know you’ve been blind on the right side of the vehicle the past two days, Daughter.

And even though she deployed her now trademarked FaceTent early on, she had little to no patience for the truck drivers hogging the interstate highways.

Daughter using FaceTent (tm)

Daughter using FaceTent ™

I have to admit, a little warning sign went off in my own pea brain when the landscape northeast of Dallas became littered with hundreds of the following road signs:  “Left Lane is for Passing Only.

Let’s think about that, shall we?  If you have to post directions to the multitudes about staying out of the left lane, there clearly must be a problem somewhere.

There was.  And is.

We were blocked, hindered, slowed, and just plain annoyed by the numerous Left Lane Truck Bandits today.  I’m sure they are all really nice people, but, geez, folks, let’s get with the program.

As you might have suspected, Zen-me wrestled with the situation for a few miles, but I eventually made my peace and counted my blessings.

For Daughter, however, it was a continuing struggle, no doubt fueled by her lack of rest during our “Rest Day.”

If we consider the eleven stages of Driving Consciousness, she never made it by Number Four:  Annoyance.

Even if she had, we always have tomorrow.  And if we don’t have tomorrow, there’s still me.

- Dad


Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part III

Instagram filters out the ugly.

Instagram filters out the ugly.

My dad and I didn’t get on the road today because of the weather gods’ sadistic ways so just pretend you’re at a fancy orchestra concert and it’s the intermission. This way, you can pretend you’re consuming more edifying material and also, it’s fun to imaaaagine. Reading Rainbow taught me that.

This morning, my alarm went off at some ungodly time and I immediately turned it off because, hey, if my dad wants me awake, he can wake me up himself. The next time I woke up, it was 10 am. I was confused and disoriented because I was expecting to wake up in the passenger seat of the truck and not still in a bed, swaddled like Baby Jesus. My aunt informed me that the weather conditions were too dangerous to drive. I looked outside and saw for myself, and, yes, an ivory blanket of snow had covered the land. White powder was everywhere. Must be what the inside of Charlie Sheen’s house looks like (ugh, that joke is so 2011, sorry). Anywho, snow = rest day. Cue me rolling around on the carpet in utter bliss because I could laze around the whole day like a human-cat hybrid. (And did I ever. At one point, I laid in a dark room because of the novelty of it not being a car.)

We were snowed in but luckily, we’re staying with family so we can abuse their hospitality by rummaging through their pantries and annoying their cat.



The cat, Bobbi, is adorable because he’s got a bit of the chub going on and a salt-and-pepper coat that’s very George Clooney. He also has a permanent head tilt from some health problems (sadface) so he walks around with a chronically quizzical expression. It’s very sad but sickeningly adorable and cute too. I essentially followed him around all day, mirroring his head-tilt and trying to pet him. He tolerated my presence but mostly walked away, playing hard-to-get.

All in all, today was a nice rest but tomorrow, we go on, ready to conquer not only the roads but also our fears and weaknesses. Maybe. As long as we have our Starbucks first.

- Daughter

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part II


I did not want to be awake for this sunrise, but here I am.

Morale was low today.  I woke up to complete darkness and weather in the 20’s. The only positive take-away from the morning was  my hair – which is usually hay-like in texture – suddenly transformed into a blanket of velvet. Thanks, soft water!  This new softness was kind of a big deal and I sat for a while petting my hair (first sign of insanity?).

Knowing that I would have to have something other than the softness of my hair to sustain me, I made my way to the lobby where food was rumored to be kept.  The continental breakfast area was only an island and a counter but it seemed a great labyrinth to me. I finally understand how that one ancient Greek guy felt in the labyrinth with the Minotaur guy… I, too, know that fear of being lost and not knowing whether to expect a pancake or a half-bull, half-man creature around the corner. It might be because I’m an idiot but I’m pretty sure it was because I was still asleep and my eyes just happened to be open. I was conscious enough to know that food was in the vicinity but exact locations and things like “choosing what to eat” eluded me. After stumbling around for a while, we left with coffee from a small, environmentally-friendly, and independent coffee shop Starbucks in hand and got back on the road.

Once in the confines of the car, I wrapped my head in a to-go blanket burrito of sadness. Having no actual blankets in the car, I improvised with jackets and created a small tent-like structure around my head to block out the light so I could sleep. Unfortunately, we were driving toward the sunrise so my blanket burrito acted as a lamp shade instead of a blackout shade. My attempt to be the Benjamin Franklin of sleeping-pod inventions was valiant but futile. I’m sure SkyMall has a  portable, one-person FaceTent ™, and if not, I’m going to work on the patent right when I get to school (and then drop out of school because FaceTent ™ is a million dollar idea). Anyway, sleeping was a no-go beyond ten minutes of drifting off and then waking up when a limb fell asleep faster than my brain could. I settled for staring out the window and naming the cows we passed.

Into the void we go!

Into the void we go!

Yesterday, my dad and I were optimistic and bursting with enthusiasm for the Southwestern American landscape. Today, we are hardened road warriors. The scenery has been abysmal with pockets of that weird, dilapidated beauty, like Steve Buscemi’s face (?). We drove through a lot of oil fields and I really, really wanted to say to my dad, “Wow, this sure is no country for old men…” but 1 ) I don’t know if he’d get the reference, 2) he probably wouldn’t hear it until I repeated it 4 times and then it wouldn’t be funny, and 3) I haven’t even seen that movie so I don’t know if it’s part of the Fair Use Policy for jokes.

Yep, encompasses everything we saw today.

Yep, encompasses everything we saw today.

We did have our first tense driving moment on our quest to find coffee today. My dad is completely useless when it comes to doing anything on my iPhone so he forced me to search for directions on my phone while I was driving on the interstate. He became impatient when I couldn’t find the right address and I said, “It’s a little hard to get directions when I’m also driving, Dad.” And he just nodded in agreement… or he didn’t hear me. Or he was just pretending not to hear me, you never know with this guy.

My dad ignoring me.

My dad ignoring me.

Directions to coffee were successfully procured after several “hold the wheel”s, but I was still confused and attempted to get off on two incorrect exits  and corrected at the last moment. Then, Dad passive-aggressively grabbed the hand-hold insinuating that he needed the extra stability to not go flying around the cab because I’m behind the wheel. It didn’t help matters when I completely missed the right exit. Eventually, we ended the wild goose chase in the middle of Abilene, TX and got the stupid coffee. Twenty minutes of arguing and yelling at, “Make a right, no, A RI- YES, NOW,” I’m sipping a latte and treasuring it for all the trouble it took to get it. Mmmmm, the taste of frustration. My favorite. 


The police, putting on a nice light show!

Also, my dad did not learn how to text without blinding me. STILL. It took at least 50 times of asking him to stop reflecting the sun into my corneal region, AND THIS IS THE SECOND DAY. I wanted to take his phone and throw it out the window but I restrained myself and instead said, “Dad. Dad. Dad. Dad. DAD. DAD. YOU’RE BLINDING ME AGAIN.”

- Daughter




When Daughter isn’t mumbling to me about directions, the southwestern part of the United States speaks to me.  I have always loved driving through this part of the country, because it is so wide open and sparsely populated.  I imagine, even today, I could load up my horse and head ninety degrees off the highway in any direction, and never see another human for weeks.


But then I figure the satellite reception is pretty crappy in the foothills, so I never really act on this notion.  Probably the closest I will come will be a week at a dude ranch a decade from now, where I will pretend to drive cattle and will practice taking down bad guys with my Red Rider bb gun.


Yes.  I’m looking forward to that.


But back to reality and today’s drive segment.


The exoticars of Southern California gave way many miles ago to a multitude of Border Patrol Suburbans and Jeeps.  We were stopped at one checkpoint today and asked if we were American Citizens.


“Yes!” We chimed and drove merrilly away.  It was all the agent could do to stay warm behind his barrier, with a light snow falling and thte wind chill in the teens.  It’s a thankless job, made worse by those green uniforms they wear.  I think a little touch of Downton Abbey might make a difference and raise spirits.


Probably not.


Though Daughter made a game of it yesterday and pulled her share of the driving duties, she bailed a bit today and took the first sleeping shift out of El Paso — which turned into the second sleeping shift a couple hours later.


Then she started complaining about her butt hurting.  And then it went downhill further with the release of effluent gases.


For context, the girls in our family are incapable of doing anything untoward, including admitting to the existence of bodily functions that every other human has to deal with.  To make matters worse, their first course of defense regarding same is to deny they did anything at all.


When that fails, and it always does, they start to laugh and then blame the whole thing on me.


It’s a pattern that’s repeated over and over again, with anything that’s even marginally amiss in our household.


Basically, anything and everything that goes wrong, is slightly suspicious, or doesn’t smell right (literally or figuratively), is all my fault.


Zen-me accepts that.


Moving on, then, I did come up with two really great ideas on the trip today.


The first was borne out of annoying Daughter.  Apparently every time I texted someone, I inadvertantly aimmed the blackberry screen reflection in Daughter’s eyes (while she was driving — I didn’t have the problem while I was texting and driving).  I thought I had the problem licked (I simply tilted it at a different angle – duh!), and sometime in the afternoon I said something that I believed Daughter found witty and wanted to high-five me about.


As I was trying to reverse high-five (or high-five a thousand angels guiding our way), I heard:


“Dad.  You’re shining that thing in my eyes again.”


No wonder I was having a hard time hitting her hand.  She was blocking the sun again.


So, Idea Number One:  Non-reflective blackberry screen filter.  I’m thinking that one has already been done, but I can’t confirm and certainly don’t use it.


The second (and better) idea originated with the number of miles we’ve been driving.  I’ve always wondered how the travel times would compare in historical context.


Idea Number Two:  iPhone app that converts miles travelled into time necessary to traverse same in a selected epoch of interest.  For example, we drove seven hundred and fifty miles yesterday.  How long would that same trip have taken in 1850, or 1450?


I thought it was pretty cool, and had merit.  Daughter dismissed it out of hand.


Well, I know one thing.  I’ve got an awful lot of texting to do tomorrow, while I’m not driving.


- Dad

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part I

I definitely did not take this while driving, NEVER!!

I definitely did not take this while driving, NEVER!!

I woke up this morning 45 minutes past the set time we were supposed to leave and immediately panicked. DID DAD DIE OR SOMETHING? My dad is a punctual sort of man, while I am chronically late to everything so I assumed the worst. I walked into my parents’ room and lo-and-behold, my father is asleep and wrapped in blankets like a burrito of sadness. He briefly awoke when I came in the room because my dog got excited and snagged his tail on some plastic bags creating loud, cymbal-like noises every time he wagged it. For my dog – and I’m sure other dogs – a human in a standing position in the morning = food and walks. He sees me as a means to an end and feigns interest in my existence until he gets what he wants. Then he goes back to completely ignoring me and busies himself with chewing out the innards of his squeaky toys, probably imagining each one as my face.

I digress. I was so tired when I woke up this morning that it felt wrong and against nature to get up (more so than usual). I felt like a baby bear that had been woken up out of hibernation three months early. Starbucks staved off the caffeine-induced headache but not the familiar delirium that comes with lack of sleep.

I had to force my sister to say goodbye to me and even when she begrudgingly hugged me, she passive-aggressively brought up the time I got sick at college and used air quotes when she said, “sick”. I’ve apparently been rubbing off on her. Anyway, after forcing my sibling to show affection to me and saying goodbye to mom, we headed off.

The road trip has been uneventful for the most part. My dad temporarily blinded me from the glare on his phone but after saying loudly, “THAT IS SHINING RIGHT AT MY CORNEA, DAD” five times in a row, he figured out a good angle that allowed him to text and allowed me to drive without killing everybody.

Currently, my dad is drawing blood to see his blood sugar levels… while also driving. I’m not sure if this is safe, in fact, this seems like a not-great idea. This is worst than TEXTING and driving. This is drawing blood. AKA BIOHAZARDS ARE NOW FLOATING IN AND AROUND THE CAR. I don’t want to get some blood-borne disease from you, Dad. Put it away.

Oh good, he’s done now.

What else, oh well, he told me I was driving too slowly because I was driving the speed limit. He also criticized me for getting upset when a car cut in front of us,  but I think that’s a bit hypocritical.

Other things that happened:

Me: “Dad, are you texting right now?”

Dad: “I could read a novel right now, we’re out in the middle of nowhere. In fact, I have done that. In a car without a radio. And I’m not texting, I’m writing an e-mail.”

…*times passes*….

Dad: “Hold the wheel, I need these eye drops now.”

- Daughter




So I had Daughter believing we were targeting a 0430 departure this morning, using the theory that, in so doing, we might actually leave by 0630.  It was a solid deception plan while it lasted, but I made sure last night she knew we were going to shoot for 0700 instead.

I figured she was sufficiently scared with the earlier time that the later time would be a piece of cake, as it were.

Unfortunately, Dandy Dog had other ideas last night, as did my stomach.

I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but I gave the Dog the remnants of the ham bone from our delayed New Year’s Meal (lest you think we tend to keep food that long).  What can I say, his Mom was gone on extended errands in the afternoon yesterday, and he looked somewhat depressed.  Plus, I wouldn’t see him for a week, and I wanted to plant a “Positive Vibe Dad Seed” with him since he will probably completely forget me after seven days’ absence.

Well, the piper had to be paid, and he came to call on me at about 2:00 a.m., when Dandy Dog woke me up with a reaching thump that translated means, “Dude, you’ve got about 23 seconds to open the back door or, I swear to God, all hell is going to break loose from my tail end.  Understand?  All hell.  Need I say more?”

Dandy actually roused both Mom and me, because I soon as I was awake, whatever was bothering him was affecting me, as well.

Without revealing TMI, while Dandy was doing his thing in the yard, I . . . . (let’s just leave it at that).

The end result of all this middle of the night activity was a Crack O’ the Dawn departure at 0915 this morning.  And this, after some debate about just blowing it off for today and attempting to begin anew tomorrow.

Nah.  Let’s get some coffee and hit the road.

Within fifteen minutes of turning east on the mighty interstate, I had already seen a Ferrari and Pantera, and a couple of other classics motoring along.  Nothing like SoCal roads mid-Sunday mornings.

And as the highway penetrated ever more deeply up into the desolate but beautiful Southwestern vistas, I strongly felt the urge to break out in a chorus of “This Land is Your Land.”

I didn’t, of course.

Rather, I punched up ESPN on the good ole blackberry and followed the NFL playoffs live, while driving, and emailing, and talking on the phone.  The only thing missing was drinking and eating simultaneously.

I exaggerate.  Never, ever text and drive.  But don’t eat and drink if you do.  Now that could be dangerous.

I’m not sure if Daughter expected erudite and witty conversation today, but I was more concerned about managing the possibility of making it to our intended destination (El Paso), while ensuring neither one of us became too irritated or tired.

I probably helped with the irritation part because I’m not wearing my hearing aids, which means I understand about every fourth word spoken, which necessitates frequent repetition.

Maybe that’s why Mom had a smile today when she said good-bye to me?  As my eleven year old would say, “Hmmmm. . . .”

Unfortunately, much like Dandy Dog, I have been intestine-aly negotiating whatever is coursing through my system today, which means we have to stop every two hours (as opposed to stopping on the side of the road in emergencies – been there, done that.  Can you say, “nature pee”?).

“Daughter, aren’t you hungry or tired?”

“No, Dad.  I’m fine.”

“We’re stopping anyway.  We need gas.”


“Yes.  Again.”

Maybe tomorrow will be better.  I’m sure it will be.  After all, I’m foregoing Downton Freaking Abbey tonight to be with Daughter.

Now, that’s love!

- Dad

Last Story from the Retail Vault

Today was my last day in retail… for a while. Many wonderful stories were borne from this place of wonders. As well as tales of horror. What I’ve come to realize is that the only explanation for this institution is the ceaseless machine of capitalist culture driving people to embrace materialism as a way of life  resulting in empty and meaningless days and nights; a life that can measured in transactions and not memories  and – LOLZ JK.  It is only fitting that my (temporary) end to retail should be marked by a last post from the retail vault.

It is best to start with a quote: “50% off you give me!”

No, this is not a quote from Yoda, this is a statement made by a foreign woman who attempted to barter with me over jewelry at the register. There was a huge language barrier but I still did my best to explain that this was not a local village market where you haggle over prices, this is a retail store with set policies and set prices. I used interpretative dance moves to convey this message but to no avail.

I stood there in disbelief as this woman argued with me but did my best to negotiate the ACTUAL PRICE of the product she was trying to buy by saying, “No, this is actually the price,” and,  “No, but really,”  and, “No, I don’t want your goat in exchange for this.”

She was very confused about how sales work as well. You know, that thing where things go on sale temporarily and then resume their regular price at a set time. She was very upset that a sale had ended (one that had ended probably six weeks prior) and she and her accent let me have it.

It is with such sweet sorrow that I leave a place capable of bringing out the worst, best, and bizarre parts of humanity. Alas, I shall return in three and a half months so all is not lost.

Also, for the next five days or so, stay tuned for THE ROAD TRIP DIARIES: A FATHER-DAUGHTER EPIC. Driving from SoCal to Philly with Pops! I’m excited and terrified. Mostly terrified. Here’s to staying sane! *clinks glass with reflection in mirror because I have no friends*

- Daughter

White Line Fever. . . .

White line

“If I do this right, I will scare the bejesus out of that old dude in the Miata up ahead.”

Last year Jere an unnamed family member shared with me a theory of his regarding his take on a particular behavior he observed at stop lights.  When he was buried ten or twelve cars deep in an intersection queue, he reckoned if everyone waiting in line collectively agreed to let off the brake and accelerate at the same time, then he wouldn’t then waste the odd 12.735 seconds sitting there until he could go.

Of course, the idea was that it made a difference anyway and would somehow improve all of our lots in life.

I didn’t want to spoil his originality of thought at the time, but I had been playing around with that same stupid brilliant arcane worthless idea myself for years, and had simply discarded it as unworkable within the current Muggle Conscript.

My God Jeepers, if the Dog Scientists could not figure out the Perplexing Doorknob Principle, then how could we Muggles even hope to begin with this one?

Sorry, unnamed family member.  I got there first, and it’s a freaking dead end!

Anyway, I bring this issue up since Daughter and I will embark upon our much-anticipated (for us), cross-country road trip in a couple of days, and I have noticed a disturbing up-tick in moronic driving activity over the past week or so that gives me pause that, perhaps, we may be destined to suffer together in the miles looming ahead of us as we traverse this great country of ours.

Or maybe not.

For example, please ‘splain to me, Lucy (note obscure, ancient TV reference, Daughter), the point in accelerating madly, in concert with darting in and out of traffic, in the midst of a standard SoCal rush hour commute when we are all advancing at the heady rate of approximately 7 miles per hour?

What’s the deal, man?

Fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective), Zen-me is in control most of the time these days, and I usually just turn up the radio a bit louder trying to figure out the lyrics to whatever song I happens to be playing.

I have found it to be a solid coping mechanism.

Zen-me, however, has a tendency to get pi upset, if startled.  And to make matters worse, Zen-me currently drives one of the lowest visibility, low-profile vehicles currently on the road in Southern California — a very faded silver 92 Miata.

I simply do not possess enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve almost been merged into, run over, or rear-ended by the scores of SUV Uberleuten patrolling our local freeways (using that term extraordinarily loosely, BTW).

It’s an E-Ticket Ride, all right (google it, youngsters), driving my car.

So, to compound the plethora of mindless extra short distance speed-demoning (MESDSD-ing) going on lately, I also have to deal with motorcycle “lane-splitting,” which requires a bravery all on its own (for the motorcyclist) and an acute perceptive awareness (for the automobile driver) in order to safely and sanely drive our roads.

Just google “motorcycle lane splitting” as I’m too lazy to explain it here.

To compound matters, over the years I have lulled myself into the delusion that, should an expected situation arise on the road while driving, I will have both the experience and adequate notice to deal with it.

Of course, that’s a complete crock of sh crapola.

And as if you couldn’t predict it, on the way home tonight some daring cycle rider split lanes in the middle of a steeply banked turn that requires many cars to dramatically slow to navigate.  The guy was crazy.

And I was completely unprepared when this biker made his move, and Zen-me let loose a torrent of language that would make a sailor cringe (and I’m a sailor).

All from a guy who is currently reading The Dalai Lama’s Cat, no less!

Many apologies, Your Holiness.

Soon, however, Zen-me recovered, and continued the long trek home.

Surely, our 2800-mile journey next week will be one of enlightenment and contentment, with the sharing of ideas, hopes, and dreams.

Nah.  There are morons everywhere.  Let’s Motor!

- Dad

Old(er) People’s Writing Habits: Observations

Since my dad and mom were first introduced to the internet back when there was that terrifying alien mating call that dial-up made, they have been sprinting after technology but never quite getting to the finish line (the finish line being technological literacy). To be fair, Dad is the one who knows his way around a computer. It’s more my Mom who has the problems, which she will vehemently deny while asking me how to turn on the computer. I bought a book for so she would know how to use Facebook for her birthday. (I’m going to have to do a book review on that sometime.) She’s way better now than she used to be, she even has an iPad that she pretends to know how to use! Just kidding, my little sister taught her how to use it.

Anyway, here are a few things I’ve noticed old(er) people use in their writing:

Ellipses ……………
They love them. They eat them for breakfast. They’re married to them. Seriously, for every title my father writes, there is a 75% chance an ellipsis will sneak its way in there.

My dad’s posts featuring ellipsis marks:

When is Enough Enough? Probably Best Not to Answer. . . .

San Diego — We Have a Problem. . . . Probably Not

What I Didn’t Accomplish in 2012 and Other Random Thoughts. . . .

Wow! It’s a Little Nativity Scene. . . .

Has It Really Come To This? Really? Please. . . .

Cars Cannot Fly . . . .

For reference, I have only ONE blog post title with an ellipsis: Pale is the New…Nope. So, I win.. or something.

My mom likes to ellipsis the heck out of everything as well. These are some pearls she’s left on my Facebook wall:

“………….ahhhh michelle,,,,,,,,,,,,,,” <<<< Notice that she used commas on the second half because she thinks of herself as the e.e. cummings of Facebook, or she just wasn’t wearing her reading glasses.

“My shelly………” <<<< Don’t leave me hanging, Mom!

“Miss u………moved all my books and paraphernalia back into your room :)” <<<<  Translation: “I miss you, your room is now the main storage facility for all of my things. <3″

Capital Letters
My dad loves a good CAPS lock button. I’ve noticed that his handwriting often veers into PERMA-YELLING with caps too. I actually had to instruct him not to write the titles of his blog posts in all CAPS because, who writes in all CAPS all the time, Dad? It’s the internet, you don’t have to yell. Use your inside voice.

Weird Emoticons
My mom dreams up these fantasy creatures from the interwebs that no self-respecting tween would ever come up with.





: > )

Despite all of this, I love them. Even when I’m explaining for the millionth time how to upload photos.

- Daughter



Pale is the New… Nope.

California is famous for having a bronzed population and ridiculously sunny weather. I used to conform and was many shades darker than what I am now. I traipsed around pretending I was awesome but I was just a sheep, never the mountain goat I was meant to be (?). Now, my skin is no longer skin but just glowing phosphorescence. Like one of those deep sea creatures. That’s how pale I am, I have my own illumination. I AM THE LIGHT! 

Sometimes I get mistaken for a nebula.

Sometimes I get mistaken for a nebula.

Pale Tips 

1) The Sun is Your Enemy. Never go outside. Ever. If for some reason you have to go out into the world, use SPF 100000 sunscreen. Preferably wear a bio-hazard suit. The sun is a bio-hazard to your pale. Become nocturnal if possible.

Hope that pilot has sunscreen.

Hope that pilot has sunscreen.

2) Be Sick. Get sick as often as you can. Lick the underside of your shoes. Never wash your hands. Get a flu shot – no, not that one. It’s when you drink out of a shot glass that somebody with the flu has just used, THAT flu shot. By getting sick, you ensure a sickly pallor (yay!).

Bacteria is your friend!!

Bacteria is your friend!!

3) Be Sad. Watch extremely sad movies, especially ones with animals because you just know those furry friends are going to meet their demise after you have developed a deep connection with them. Make sure you cry so you can be dehydrated too.

Don't watch it! The dog dies.

Don’t watch it! The dog dies.

4) Never Sleep. If you want that paleness that’s almost translucent, you’re going to have to deprive yourself of sleep. It’s the only way.

Never sleeping also means you won't be sniffed by lions in your sleep.

Never sleeping also means you won’t be sniffed by lions in your sleep.

5) Under-Eye Circles. Should occur naturally if you follow through with #4. They act as a contrast highlighting your paleness with their blackness. If those monsters don’t appear, a practiced hand and a black Magic Marker will work just fine.

#vintage #hipster

#vintage #hipster

- Daughter

When is Enough Enough? Probably Best Not to Answer. . . .

construction barriers

“Okay. There are three construction barriers set up in the driveway. Let’s take a photo. Quick. Before the moment is lost.”

My recent hole-digging post was really supposed to be an introduction to another subject that’s near and dear to me but, alas, I was severely distracted by the cavorting canines at Dog Beach and I lost track of my thesis!  (Note to Daughter as she finishes college this year:  Introduction; Thesis Statement; Main Body; Conclusion — and don’t use semi-colons!  They are Death.)

So, last Saturday at the beach, while I was busy being fascinated by three-legged dogs, their owners, and their associated holes in the sand, Daughter Number Two conducted a bare foot reconnoiter of the shoreline with her Mother. 

Remember back when you were eleven and, quite possibly, still had an open mind that took in all the world in wide-eyed fascination?  That describes Number Two. 

As for Blog Daughter, even at her young-adult-tender-age today, she has almost completely slid down the Cynical Slope, unconsciously aided along the way by Dad and his warped Aristotelian Zeitgeist.  Zen-me is a relatively recent phenomenon in our house, by the way.

As is characteristic of our walks at the beach, Dandy Dog hangs with his Mother, Daughter Number Two attempts to explore the water-borne fauna but usually only succeeds in getting soaked, and I forge ahead of all of them, ensuring the path we take is safe and free of major piles of sh poop. 

On this particular outing, I glanced back at my beautiful family and noticed their attention was focussed on something in the water.  They were completely engrossed. 

Surely, whatever it was, it must be unique and wonderful, so naturally, I wandered over to take a look.  

Jellyfish.  Tiny Little Jellyfish pulsing away as the tide was going out. 

Got it.  Noted.  Made a mental note not to remove my shoes going forward. 

Then the real action started  —  Mother and Daughter started taking photos. 

I honestly didn’t keep track, but I know it was more than one and less than one hundred.  Probably not a whole lot less than one hundred, but you get the picture. 

Allow me to digress for a moment.  When the kiddos were little, we were dutiful parents and videotaped every life moment imaginable.  Our worst excess, however, was the decision to set up a camera on a tripod and record Christmas Morning opening presents.  We did this for several years running.  I have absolutely no idea which epochs are involved or when we stopped.  All I can remember thinking to myself, however, was that I could never imagine one day being so bored at the age of 82 that  would spend hours of every day watching old videos of Christmas Morning 1991. 

Now you can probably imagine where Blog Daughter’s cynicism originates. 

Well, while we probably only have, perhaps, twenty hours or so of collective video footage altogether, it absolutely pales to the boxes upon boxes of photos we have stashed in every spare corner of the house upstairs (and probably downstairs, too — I just don’t know where).

Though not an active participant myself, I am part of a broader family dynamic that feels it is a sacred duty to photographically record every element (both large and small) that populates our lives. 

Next to the obligatory school, birthday, and holiday photos, we have case upon case of photographic specks and dots. 

The discourse around here goes something like this: 

“What’s this black thing?” 

“Dad, that’s duck.” 

“Well, what’s this smaller, blurry, black thing in the next photo?”

“Silly.  It’s the same duck, only farther away.  Don’t you know anything, Dad?”

I’m not exaggerating here.  We have (uncatalogued, mind you) literally hundreds of photos of everything imaginable that caught the fancy of whomever had a camera that day.  And many of them are simply UPOs — Unidentified Photographic Objects. 

I shudder to think how many shekels we’ve thrown at photo processing and printing costs over the years, so I decided long ago simply not to think about it. 

It just is — thank you, Zen-me. 

With the advent of the digital age, the problem has only become worse, but I believe less expensive.  Fortunately, it seems we don’t print nearly as many images as we used to a decade or two ago, but some members of the family could be hiding things from me.  It’s been known to happen. 

So that takes us up to the present, and the addition of numerous shots of what will soon become UPOs in the near or distant future.  I can almost hear the conversation now:

“What’s that thing?  It looks like a plastic bag.”

“Dad.  That’s a jellyfish.”

“Well, what’s this next picture?”

“That one?  It’s a plastic bag next to a jellyfish.  I thought it was cool since they look the same.”

And my future? 

When I’m 82 I will be spending my days diligently organizing the images of my family’s life (during breaks in my Over-80 triathalon training).  Of course my eyesight will be completely shot by then, so the world will appear to me just as blurry as it is in the thousands of photos squirreled away around the house. 

I guess what goes around, comes around.  

And some folks around here might say it’s fitting.  

I’m not sure, but I do know it’s getting hard to focus.

- Dad

See Puppy Run, See Seam Run


Clothes-rippers. Or Jack the Rippers.

My best friends adopted a stray dog because they’re good humans with beating organs that pump blood throughout their respective circulatory systems. Unbeknownst to them, this dog was pregnant and dispensed some puppies like some sort of real-life Pe(t)z dispenser within a few weeks of her adoption. Suddenly, they were the owners of four dogs instead of one.

Words fail me.

Words fail me. *Dies from a-cute heart failure* 

The mother is a mouth-breather who prefers snorting over barking. She bit me on the hand once when I accidentally came too close to her puppies when they had just been born, so I defriended her on Facebook and we’ve been on the outs since. The three puppies, unofficially named PorkButt, Sewer Rat, and Scooter, enjoy luxuries like chewing what they please and peeing where they please. I consider myself the godparent – aka tnerapdog – to these pups and have watched them grow from tiny, furry caterpillars to slightly larger, more dog-like creatures.

When I am around these pups, a part of me knows I should be calm and stoic so as not to upset their delicate dispositions. They are puppies after all: easily excitable. Being me, I do the opposite and flail around like a Jim Henson muppet (?). I make loud noises and wrestle them. The price I pay for this amusement and my lack of self-control around animals is perma-snagged/ripped clothes. There have been times when I have debated cuddling a puppy – knowing that I am wearing a delicate fabric vulnerable to runs or holes – but cuddling always, always wins out. At this point, I consider the runs on my seams and loose strings falling from my clothes like straw from a scarecrow (WHAT SORT OF SIMILE IS THAT?) to be small reminders of the pups’ love for me where I go. They like me better than my dog does.

My dog never puts holes in my clothes or runs in my seams because he can’t even stand to look at me much less get close enough to damage my clothing. Probably because I’m constantly doing things like this to him:

"I'm so disgusted that I can't even look at your face right now."

“I’m so disgusted that I can’t even look at your face right now.”

Whatever, at least I have the puppies. I mean, just look at PorkButt (who is the most corpulent and rotund of the puppies), how can you say no to that face? CONTINUE TO RIP MY CLOTHES, PORKBUTT! I DON’T EVEN CARE.


I can haz run in your seam?

- Daughter

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