Friday, December 28, 2012

Trying two-gut feline again

Thirty-seven years ago today, my wife and I were driving through northern Illinois in my orange Pinto.

We’d been married the day before in her hometown of Hannibal, Mo. After the reception, we had crossed the Mississippi bridge into Illinois and headed northeast toward Lake Geneva, Wisc., where I had reserved a room at a resort for three nights. The room cost $55 a night, a fortune on my $8,100 annual salary. A three-day honeymoon was all we could afford.

A few miles into Illinois, it had begun to snow. By the time we got to Peoria, we were worn out and pulled into a Holiday Inn.

The next morning was bright and sunny. As we drove toward Wisconsin, the sun reflected off the snow-covered prairie. We were listening to the radio. The disc jockey was telling a story that went something like this: "I went to a Chinese restaurant the other night where they served cat. Not just any cat, a cat with two stomachs, which is considered a delicacy in China. I’d tried it before and didn’t like it. But my friends convinced me to try it one more time. So I found myself ... trying two-gut feline again."

With that, he segued into one of the top songs of the day, Barry’s Manilow’s “Trying to Get the Feeling Again.”

It's funny the things you remember. I don’t recall much about the wedding. Or the reception. I do remember the St. Louis Cardinals Football team was in the playoffs and most of the male guests hung out at the bar watching the game.

But I will never forget looking over at my bride at the precise moment the disk jockey started playing that stupid song and seeing her nose crinkle as she laughed.

It still does.

Thirty-seven years ago today, I had no idea just how lucky I was.

But I do now.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A memo from the superintendent


To:  Faculty Members
From: John Doe, Superintendent of Schools

The school board has implemented the National Rifle Association's recommendation to station one armed police officer in each of our district's schools. Here is a new lesson plan to introduce your pupils to the concept. Feel free to make up additional examples at the appropriate grade level.

Elementary Reading

"Look," said Dick. "Look, look, look."
"Look at what?" asked Jane. "What, what, what?"
"The hallway where Officer Friendly is crying," said Dick. "It is red, red, red."
"Why", asked Jane. "Why, why why?"
"Because Officer Friendly shot Mrs. Jones who was bringing cupcakes to her son Johnny's class. He says the front office forget to tell him she was coming."
"Sad," said Jane. "Sad, sad, sad. I was hungry for cupcakes."

Junior High Social Studies

Which of these provisions of the original constitution has not been amended?

( ) It is OK to own slaves
( ) Women cannot vote
( ) It is the right of every American to own an AK-47

High School Math

Officer Friendly is at the end of a 300-foot hallway walking north at 4 mph. He is carrying a Bushmaster that fires 45 shots per minute with a muzzle velocity of 3200 feet per second. A bad guy is at the end of a 225-foot hallway that intersects Officer Friendly's hallway, walking west at 3.8 mph. He is carrying an assault rifle that fires 42 shots per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2900 feet per second. Who will die first?

( ) The bad guy
( ) Officer Friendly
( ) Unable to determine since either could be distracted by a student exiting a classroom to go to the restroom

In addition, since safety officers cannot be two places at once, all faculty members will be required to carry their own weapons to provide protection for their classes during:

- Recess on the playground
- Football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse or track and field practice
- Marching band practice
- Class excursions
- Fire drills

If you do not own a weapon, you can procure one at any Walmart.

Thank you for your understanding and have a good day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Amazing Grace in an airport bar

I was in a restaurant at the Atlanta airport last night waiting for a delayed flight to LaGuardia. On the TV, CNN was showing photos of the children killed in Newtown as Judy Collins' Amazing Grace played. There were so many of them the network had to play all the verses.

People in the restaurant were transfixed. You could hear a pin drop.

When it was over, a waitress asked if I wanted a drink. I said yes. She asked for my ID. 

“You’re kidding, aren’t you?" I asked. 

“No,” she replied with a shrug, as she has undoubtedly done a thousand times in response to the same question. “It’s the law.”

Astonishing to think that some legislature passed an inane law that requires bars to card people who are obviously decades past the minimum legal drinking age, yet Congress can’t pass effective legislation that makes it harder for crazies to get their hands on assault weapons.

As an American, I refuse to believe Congress can’t enact such a law and that, once passed, it can’t be enforced. And I will not listen to anyone who says otherwise or who claims a law like that would abridge our rights. 

The president said it well Sunday night in Newtown. “We can’t tolerate this any more. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law  -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.”

We do. We must. And this time, if the tears coursing down the faces of a dozen strangers in that airport bar are any indication, we will.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"There are no more children"

Justin Lane/EPA

If you are a frequent flyer, it has probably happened to you at least once.

The plane lands, you disembark and head to the baggage claim area.

After a while, suitcases begin emerging from the chute and onto the circular conveyor belt. Your fellow travelers pull their suitcases off the belt, and head for the exits. But your bag doesn’t come.

In 15 minutes or so, the belt is empty. And it stops.

You go to the airline’s Lost Baggage office and are told there are no more bags from that flight. Yours didn’t make it.

The airline representative examines your claim check, and promises to deliver your bag when it arrives. You go on your way, annoyed, but fairly confident you’ll eventually be reunited with your luggage.

Yesterday in Newtown, hundreds of frantic parents waited outside Sandy Hook Elementary School for their children. One by one, mothers, fathers and children were reunited. The parents who remained in the parking lot were finally told, “There are no more children.”


This morning, following the second-worst school massacre in American history, there are lots of editorials calling for stricter gun control laws.

But millions continue to pooh-pooh the thought. They offer up the same reason they gave after Columbine and Jonesboro and Aurora and Tucson and Virginia Tech, claiming gun control isn’t the solution because crazies will always find a way to get their hands on guns. 

Enough already. If there is a chance, however slim, that stricter gun control laws will prevent one more parent from ever having to be told, “There are no more children,” it’s time for Americans to look inside ourselves and do what needs to be done. 

The constitution, as originally written, says we have the right to bear arms. It also says slaves aren't people and women can't vote.  

It's been changed before. It can be changed again. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My least favorite job of the year

The f-----g Christmas tree is up.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Christmas trees. Once they are decorated with tinsel, lights, ornaments and the other shit people hang on them, they are beautiful.

But that’s not my department. It’s my wife’s, who knows where to place each ornament for maximum aesthetic effect.

My job is to go to the nursery on the coldest day of the year; pick out a tree from the hundreds dangling from the rafters like corpses on gallows; say "yes" to the guy with the chain saw when he asks, “Do you want a clean cut?” and then watch dumb-struck as he proceeds to slash the trunk at a 45-degree angle, ensuring it can’t possibly fit flush against the bottom of the stand; tip the kid who straps it to the top of the car; drive home; roll the tree off the car's roof, leaving scratch marks; carry it into the family room; place it in tree stand #1 while my wife tries to hold it straight only to discover the trunk is too fat to fit into it; place it in stand #2 and discover that doesn’t fit either; then screw the trunk into stand #3 which is approximately the size of the one used to hold the tree at Rockefeller Center, that gouges the hardwood floor, causing my wife to call me names and provoking me to call her names back.

We then place a garbage bag under the stand as a moisture barrier to protect the floor for the inevitable moment our dachshund, Billy Ray, hikes his leg on it. (Who can blame him? The rest of the year he earns Cesar Softie treats for peeing on trees. Two weeks a year he gets yelled at. I’d be confused, too.)

This year's tree, according to the tag, was grown in some Quebec town whose name in English means, “We grow trees with hopelessly crooked trunks to sell to stupid Americans." As always, I had to place magazines under one side of the stand to create the illusion the tree is perfectly straight. Truth be told, the tree's wobbly but I take no responsibility for it from this point on. I’ve done my job.

When I was a kid in Missouri, we never had fancy store-bought trees. Everyone cut down cedar trees from the side of the highway. The wonderful aroma of cedar is the smell I associate most with Christmas. Canadian balsams may look more like traditional Christmas trees, but they have no smell at all. Might as well be plastic. 

I’m exhausted and it’s only 4:30 in the afternoon but here in Connecticut it’s already pitch-black outside. I’m going upstairs and take a nap with my Shetland pony-sized grand-dog, Topanga. When I come down in a couple of hours the tree will be decorated impeccably and my wife will be smiling proudly, proclaiming it to be the most beautiful one we’ve ever had.

At which point Topanga will stand up on her hind legs, lean against the tree to inspect the dachshund angel we top it with, and knock it over. Just like she did last year. And the year before.

This year, I swear, I’m going to leave it lying on its side until Christmas Eve when our sons arrive home.

If they want a tree that stands up straight, fine -- they can fix it themselves. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You know you're getting old when ....

yahoo, on its home page, is running a poll that asks, "Who's the most desirable woman?" and gives you a choice of three answers ...

( ) Jennifer Lawrence
( ) Mila Kunis
( ) Rihanna

and you've only heard of one of them. 

Someone shoot me. Please.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings and all that

What’s with all these militant Christians screaming bloody murder about people and stores that use the term “Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas?"

For the record, some folks celebrate Hanukkah, not Christmas. Others aren’t religious but like the idea of peace on earth, good will toward men, exchanging gifts, parties, decorations and all the other accoutrement of the season. New Year’s is a holiday, too, so those who say “Happy Holidays” are acknowledging there’s more than one holiday coming up.

Does anyone think Jesus, who preached loving thy neighbor as thyself, would hold it against anyone who wished a Christian "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas?"  I don't. So I'm going to go out on a limb here: Happy Holidays from my house to yours.

Might burn in hell for eternity but it's a risk I'm willing to take.