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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Story That Couldn't Be

This post had a chance to be many things—but it isn’t and it can’t be.
What could have been an epic story—was cut short. My reading audience will never know what could have been. My seventeen year relationship with the same woman has altered the path of this written work forever.
I’m not sure who my wife has cut off the most; morning commuters during one of her wheel-jerking Alanis Morissette performances, or her wonderful husband—who’s legendary stories she has learned to skillfully dismantle?
“That’s bullshit!” she assures my audience, “Don’t listen to him!”
At least when she cuts off the motorists, her eyes are shut tight and her head rages from side to side as she bellows out the lyrics to “You Oughta Know.” She’s pretty much temporarily insane.
But—cutting off my stories? She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s like the red-headed toddler in pre-school who waddles by and knocks over the other kid’s block-tower.
“Yeah…so, anyway,” is a typical interruption, “One Tree Hill could have totally had a tenth season.”
“Totally!” replies another woman.
I can’t be the only one—I tend to think this is a world-wide, female-led phenomenon. I often see the emptiness in other men’s eyes—as if they’ve also had their amazing thoughts trampled over. There seems to be a certain level of rebellion brewing among the ladies.
It probably goes back to when cavemen used to signal for sexy-time with a series of grunts and pounding fists. I suppose men could have been more romantic in the early years, but it’s not like ProFlowers existed back then.
But I still get the sense that women are becoming increasingly displeased with their male counterparts.
I’ve seen enough of this girl-on-boy crime recently to worry about the future of my brethren. I fear what awaits us when Hilary is elected to the Oval Office. I foresee a future where American men are forced to register their penises with the government. Eventually, this critical data will be used to round us up into prison camps, where we’ll be organized by our length and girth.
The less fortunate among us will be shipped away for laboratory study, where female scientists will ensure these invalids can no longer perpetuate their tiny flaws upon future generations. The more gifted prisoners will be made to work twelve hour shifts in government casting factories. The mediocre majority will be forced into such mundane tasks as taking out the garbage, changing light bulbs, and coaching the local tee-ball teams.
Worst of all, when the men are free from the shackles of forced labor, we will be re-educated and directed to watch “90210” reruns on the jumbo screen. Failure to comply will be punished by a week in the hole with a copy of “The Notebook”.
“Donna Martin Graduates!” will be the robotic chants as female guards march the brainwashed buffoons toward their couches for the night.
I suspect this is what the guards will look like.
This is the dark future I predict for men, and I believe it all starts with these simple interruptions of man-speech. A despicable attack on our First Amendment rights.
This weekend was the latest example of this “War on Men”.
My wife and I were invited to hang out with a good friend and her boyfriend. They were having a bonfire—I’m talking about some serious redneck activity. There was no cute fire bowl on the patio—instead we traveled down a dirt road, marched through knee high grass, and burned a stack of pallets in a hayfield.
The scene had all the hillbilly essentials; an ATV, a beer cooler, toilet paper, a herd of goats bellowing in the distance, and most importantly—two highly explosive nitrogen fertilizer tanks within twenty feet of our gigantic blaze.
It had all the makings of a material-rich night for my latest humor column. I began to salivate when our hosts started arguing over whether piss-soaked toilet paper should have been brought back and thrown into the fire, or just simply abandoned at the dump site.
To fully grasp the dynamic of the night, you must understand the complex nature of the “triangular” relationship between me, my wife, and her dear friend of many years. Sadly, it's not a love triangle, but rather a scalene triangle, which means my role is to be the “point” way off yonder—preferably not saying much. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’ve never once completed a single rational thought in the presence of these two women.
“How’s work been Steve?” asked the friend.
“Works been going great, I’m very pleased with the…”
“Did you hear Pearl Jam is coming to Buffalo this fall!” interrupted the friend, this time addressing my wife as if she didn’t just ask me a question moments before.
“So, uh…like I said, it was the best first quarter I’ve…”
“So awesome! We’re totally going!” interrupts the wife, “Oh, not you Honey. I meant we…as in the girls.”
“Ok, whatever,” I complied, “As far as work goes, I mean things are good, it’s going…”
“Did you ever read the Hunger Games trilogy?” inquires my wife, leaning forward to look past me and toward her friend.
As you can see, when these ladies get together, things don’t go well for me.
There was a brief moment that night, however, when I thought I might shine. As we relaxed by the fire and the spooky sounds of nature began to fill the night air, I felt it was the perfect opportunity for some shenanigans.
“What was that sound?” asked the concerned friend.
“Sounded like a lynx,” I suggested, “they are in season right now.”
“Get out! I think I saw one the other night. How big are they?” she asked.
“It depends. They are large cats,” I replied, “Some records indicate horse-sized creatures that roam the night in search of prey.”
“I believe it! What I saw the other night…it was a beastly animal,” she said, growing more concerned with each word.
“They mostly feed on rabbits and squirrels, but sometimes the alpha-males will pull in small children…even adult females at times,” I continued as the friend’s eyes widened with fear, “In fact, Memorial Day weekend is known as their peak…”
“Shut up!” shouts the wife, “Don’t listen to him. He’s so full of it.”
The wife had tripped me up before the finish line, but I refused to give up. If I couldn’t participate in conversation, then I would use my physicality to bring fear upon our fire-mates.
Fortunately, my son had asked if he could go to sleep in the van. This gave me the opportunity to briefly escape the group. A normal man might simply just walk back to the fire, but I decided to do an army crawl through the field for cover. I was so dedicated to scare these people that I battled through a burdock tree and hugged along the side of the toxic nitrogen tanks. Just as I was about to lunge from the shadows and deliver wrist-flailing terror upon the group, a twig snapped under my feet.
“What was that?” whispered the concerned friend.
Without looking back or giving it a second thought, my wife replied, “That’s Steve. He’s an idiot.”
And there you have it…another masterpiece up in smoke.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Puke's Day

This is the shirt I had picked out for St. Patrick’s Day 2014.
I had no idea how prophetic this shirt would turn out to be.
It was 3 am on Saturday morning when I woke from a deep slumber—my stomach was grumbling in protest. I lay wondering if a stomach bug was taking hold—or worse yet—could “The Best Chicken Tenders on Earth” be to blame?Perhaps the chicken was undercooked, I thought?
Perhaps the mashed potatoes were littered with bacteria?
As the clock struck 4 and my stomach settled back down, I realized it was nothing more than my body trying to recuperate from my gorging. I had eaten enough Tully’s takeout to make William “Refrigerator” Perry blush, and my stomach was not pleased.
I was grateful for not throwing up, as my wife and I were planning to enjoy the St. Patrick’s day parade. Wyatt was scheduled to spend the day with his aunt and a friend.
The relief didn’t last long as I was quickly woken at 5 am.
“What’s going on?” I mumbled as my wife sprung from the bed and ran into our son’s room.
“Wyatt!” she blurted, “are you OK?”
There was Wyatt—keeled over with his hands on his knees—his head rotating on a swivel like a possessed demon. The kid was blowing half-digested artichoke dip from his mouth like Davey “Lardass” Hogan from Stand By Me.
Genevieve sought shelter behind the toy chest as chewed-up cheese sticks were recalled from his belly and launched out of his mouth like bullets from an AK-47.
The aftermath was a horrific scene. Blankets and pillows were covered in Wyatt’s grayish and lumpy vomit. The once pearly-white carpet had been permanently marked, and the resale value of my home plummeted with his every gag.
It was like a war zone. The stench of death was in the air and I could hear the cries of orphaned babies in the distance.
At first, my wife was incredibly noble. She lunged toward the mounds of barf like a young war hero covering up a grenade for her comrades. She seemed willing to absorb the burden so that at least one of us could continue on with a normal life.
“Mmmmm…,” she moaned, “mmmm…nnnnn…eeewwww!” she screamed as the acidic fumes burned her eyes.
“Ahh!… No!… No!” she bellowed as her head shook from side to side. She sped from the room with her hands covering her mouth.
“I will do it!” I screamed, “Run! Save yourself!”
The boy’s gut-porridge stunk of hot garbage dipped in diarrhea. It was unimaginable.
With nothing but an old crock pot and paper towels at my disposal, I battled the regurgitated matter for twenty minutes, fighting back my own reflex with clenched teeth and puffy cheeks. Wyatt looked on from his bed, seemingly amazed at his father’s bravery.
"Wolverines!” I shouted as my hands scooped up pile after pile of chunk-riddled puke.
“Wyatt…,” I mumbled under my breath as my body finally gave out and I collapsed to the floor.
“Dad?” whispered the concerned boy.
“Avenge me!” I screamed with my remaining breaths, “Avenge me!”
“Huh?” asked a confused Wyatt, “Can I have some water?”
After pulling myself together, I guided the youngster downstairs to get him cleaned up—only to find his mother curled up in the corner of our dining room, rocking back and forth with her thumb in her mouth.
“Tick tock,” she mumbled incoherently, “Tick tock”.
“What are you saying?” I asked.
“Tick tock,” she replied with wide and disoriented eyes.
“What does that mean?”
“Tick tock…tick tock” she continued.
“I don’t understand…the clock?” I countered.
“His barf…” she whispered, “it was in a clock pattern…every hour he shall barf again…”
Apparently she needs to stop watching The Hunger Games about as much as I need to lay off Red Dawn.
She snapped out of her trauma-induced trance to help get the kid cleaned up and put all his linens in the washing machine.
We knew we were in trouble for the St. Patty’s day parade.
“Maybe it’s just a fluke,” I offered, “maybe in a couple hours he’ll feel perfectly fine.”
Genevieve stayed downstairs with him on the couch, with a newly labeled barf bucket nearby.
It was only 6 am when I was woken by the next round of retching—I clenched my eyes tight in denial as I heard the vomit splash into the desecrated popcorn bowl by his side. I pretended not to hear as my wife tended to the boy downstairs.
At 7 am, it was more of the same. Genevieve’s prophecy had unfolded before us.
Alas, I knew the day was ruined. Just like the last time he got sick, Wyatt would cost me a glorious day of binge drinking.
As the day moved toward lunchtime, and Facebook updates started to funnel in with pictures of our friends having a great time at the parade, I decided to man up.
“Honey, why don’t you go without me?” I offered to my wife.
“I couldn’t do that…I wanted us to go together,” she assured me.
But by 2 o’clock, it turns out she could do that—and she would do that. Now I know how Jack Dawson felt after the Titanic sank, after Rose practically pushed his ass off that piece of wood.
All kidding aside, I wanted to stay behind with the boy and be the care-taker for once in my life.
Honestly, I can’t say that I did too much. I was mostly oblivious to his needs.
I fed him Golden Grahams for dinner and poked him a few times while he slept to make sure he didn't die on my watch. That was about it.
So you can imagine my surprise when on Sunday morning Wyatt said, “Thanks for taking care of me, Dad.”
And with those words, watching eight hours of Investigation Discovery during Parade Day didn’t seem so bad after all.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Something About Ripley (And Chewy)

I wanted to write something on New Year’s Day. I wasn’t sure what…but something.
As I shooed away my dog; I thought about different “somethings” I could write about.
Maybe I could write about resolutions for 2014, I thought, as my little Yorkie-Poo threw his front paws up on my legs, wagging his tail and staring at me like a piece of bacon. Then I realized what a tired subject that is (whacking Ripley off my legs again); I don’t even make resolutions anyway, I remembered, snapping my fingers and pointing Ripley away from me.
It wasn’t long before I finally began that oft-promised piece on stamp collecting. Ripley ignored my clear instructions to exit the room, sitting quietly with his eyes peering into mine and occasionally turning his head a quarter-inch at a time. He looked on with the type of blankness that only a creature of incredibly low IQ can muster.
It’s not that I actually collect stamps, but I was going to make stuff up. Readers wouldn’t know the difference. Hilarious stamp-collecting references were flowing from my mind to the computer screen like magic, but there again was Ripley…having slowly wandered back over to my side and throwing his paws up onto my legs while I typed away.
“What, Ripley!” I yelled, wondering why he wasn’t snuggling with my wife like he normally does.
He didn’t answer of course, just twitched his head wildly. He dropped from my leg and executed a perfect 360 spin.
“What do you want?” I asked.
Anxious to unload the seven-pound burden on my wife, I followed as he lured me into the living room. There I saw his problem. All the fur-ball wanted was what he always wants; to hang out with his mom. He was blocked off from her by the New Year’s Eve fortress we constructed from a tipped-over couch, some cushions, and a roof of blankets.
I picked him up and tossed him over “The Great Wall of Couch Turned Sideways”. He bounced around excitedly, finally reunited with his master.
As I headed back to my computer I thought to myself, “Ripley! I should write about The Ripster!”
I’ve intended to write about him before, but just never got around to it. I put the legendary stamp-collecting post on hold. I decided Ripley would be the star of my New Year’s Day post.
It all started a few years ago when my wife and son stumbled across this hilarious picture on the internet.
“Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?”

My wife fell in love instantly. It was a surprise to me, because she’s never been much of an animal person before. The only other pet we had was Chewy…this little ball of hair.

Trust me, he didn’t stay this cute very long
It didn’t go well with Chewy. We spent 18 months over-feeding the little guy before his heart seized up during a midnight wheel-run. He’s the first known rodent to have a Richard Simmons intervention, but it came too late. Chewy was too far gone.
My wife started predicting Chewy’s demise after about three months in…
“Honey, I think it's time…” she would say.
“I think he’s just taking a nap,” I’d reply.
“No, something’s not right…he doesn’t have much time,” she’d assure me.
She treated every day like it was Chewy’s last; feeding him hamster Grainola bars like he was on death row. He went from looking like Simon to Theodore in a matter of weeks.
“He’s so fat, we’re gonna have to re-name him Precious,” I quipped.
“Shut up, jerk! Food is all he has!” she claimed.
The whole Chewy ordeal was a bust from the beginning. The harsh truth is that I dropped him on his head at PetCo while evaluating him. I wanted to toss him back into the tank after that.
“Umm…you’re gonna keep him now, right?” asked the associate.
“Do I have to?”
“Well, that was like…a pretty far fall,” he said, “I’m sure he’s fine…but…maybe you can get a backup too?”
I had heard enough. It’s no different if you knock an angel figurine off the shelf at Hallmark; you break it, you own it. I got the drift.
Chewy spent his first weeks gnawing at his cage relentlessly, desperate for an escape. He was no Andy Dufresne from Shawshank, his attempts were futile. (I know you pronounced that Doo-Fres-Knee at first).

“Get me outta here!!”
Chewy spent his remaining days accepting his fate, eventually becoming blissfully institutionalized and getting fatter by the day. He would get the last laugh every day of his life; sticking his ass through the bars and taking relentless dumps outside the cage, kicking piss-soaked wood chips onto our floor, and just otherwise stinking and creating a hygienic hazard in our home.
It didn’t end until about 15 months after my wife started the death-watch…not until I pulled his stiff corpse from the hamster wheel and buried him in a Topps bag under our peach tree.
We did hold a service for him…but I can’t lie, it was brief.
With this in mind, you can imagine my concern for bringing a dog into our home. You screw up with a dog like we did with Chewy…that shit will be featured on the news. PETA will come for you.
But my wife fell in love quickly and there was no slowing her down. Within days we were up at Paws Across Oswego meeting the little guy. My wife crafted a tear-jerking thesis paper on why our family should be selected as Ripley’s new home. We don’t have his whole back-story, but Ripley was not your typical rescue-dog. Dozens of families were lined up for him. He is a lap dog fit for a queen.
My wife cheered wildly when we were selected as his new owners, and what started out as my son wanting to fill his only-child void with a dog, became about my wife having another “baby”.
It didn’t take long for Ripley to rule the roost.
For me, it was a slow process to accept the fact that most days…Ripley’s bare penis would be resting on my pillow while I was away at work. There are lots of places for him to rest during the day (including his own luxurious bed), but it seems he has settled on curling up on my pillow. Perhaps it’s symbolic.
This is no small matter either, as Ripley is somehow hung like a Great Dane. He’s the Tommy Lee of lap dogs in more ways than one.
For those that know us, Ripley is already a documented rock star. He is so coveted by
those we know, we have a multi-page report of all those who’ve offered to adopt him upon our tragic and simultaneous deaths. It’s to the point I worry about our safety. I worry about contracts on our life.
A simple trip to PetSmart is like getting a glimpse into the life of The Beatles. He is flocked by countless fans and puppy paparazzi seem to emerge from behind bags of dog food.
“Ripley! Ripley!” shout his fans.
Trips to the park, to Wyatt’s school, to the village of Skaneateles; they all end the same way with flocks of on-lookers gathered around this little dog. The funny thing is that he hates them all, he pities his fans like most divas do.
Despite the stress of his fame, he still leads a mostly relaxed and charmed life.
The dog is spoiled rotten by my wife. She holds him like a baby…talks to him like a baby. She gave him a middle name: Edward. Yes, Edward is his middle name. My middle name is Edward. Wyatt’s middle name is Edward. Do you see where I’m going with this?
“Ripley Edward Braun!” she’ll shout if he doesn’t respond to her first call. Like clock-work, he knows that she means business.
I won’t be shocked if one day I come home and she has him fitted in Pampers. He already has a Christmas sweater, Dracula costume, and a jogging shirt.
Ripley doesn’t have a veterinarian…he has a team of medical professionals who consult on his health. Somehow it took us seven years to realize our own son has tree allergies, but Ripley was diagnosed with his allergies within weeks and prescribed a custom diet to better suit his needs.
My biggest complaint about Obamacare is that it didn’t spearhead any initiatives for the inclusion of pets. How am I supposed to afford that inevitable organ transplant Ripley is sure to receive in ten years?
Ripley doesn’t have a groomer either…he has a permanent stylist who understands his particular hair. The stylist is only allowed to work on him under the terms of the “premium express package”. This means no crating or inter-mingling with “less desirable” clients.
For the most part, Ripley is a very well-behaved dog: he’s not noisy, he’s usually calm, he is playful when you want him to be playful. He does, however, have two major flaws.
Like most dogs, he’s a relentless beggar. Even after all the terrible things I’ve said to him (threats of being returned to the cages of Oswego, etc.) and my utter refusal to give him as much as a piece of corn…this dog begs from me with incredible optimism.
The wife caves in of course, just not so much as to jeapordize his skin health as she calls it.
Most annoying, is his genuine passion for licking those dear to him. He licks my monkey arms like a Nutty Buddy. It’s gross, but Ripley’s therapist says it’s his way of showing affection, so of course he’s granted full-blown licking immunity throughout the home.
Even his stylist has become a proud recipient of his licks.
After three-plus years, my wife is still asking me to admit I love the dog. I’m not willing to go that far because I’m just too damn manly. I actually take the time to remove the “I Love my Yorkie-Poo” magnet from my wife’s car when I drive it.
That said, based on the length of this post, it will probably be one of my kidneys he receives ten years from now. Let’s just say, he’s growing on me.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I got a stern “talking-to” after the Pants on Fire column a few weeks back. My wife made me pinky-swear that I’d start eating better while on the road. She mentioned something about being around for the grandkids, but I just think she’s sick of looking at my gut.
Either way, I agreed. Picking up a matchbox car off the floor shouldn’t be so hard. So, it was with great sadness that I passed McDonald’s and pulled into Subway last week. Like usual at lunchtime, I had to piss.
Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of using public restrooms right before I eat. I just feel like somehow, some way, another man’s penis residue is going to end up on my sandwich.
Annoyingly enough, there was just one girl working. I’m not sure if she was new or just really focused on her craft, but my balls were starting to swell as she placed little banana peppers with painstaking care. My knees started rocking as my patience grew thin.
Given the earthly shape of the family in front of me, I suspected a large volume order was about to be placed, most likely with a complete complement of toppings and condiments. I couldn’t wait through all that. I had to go.
I busted through the bathroom door and was surprised to find another man using the urinal. It was a little bathroom, much too small to share with another dude.
“Sorry…I’ll wait outside,” I offered.
“Nope…nope…I’m just about…ahhh….wraaaapped up here,” he stuttered while shaking his hips.
My stomach churned as he pointed his ass outward and slowly packed his apparently gigantic man-garbage back into his shorts.
“All yours,” he offered.
“Thanks,” I replied as he grabbed for the door without washing his hands.
“Enjoy your lunch now,” he blurted cheerfully while leaving the room.
“Enjoy your pecker...sweat…sandwich” I mumbled.
I was in mid-stream when a man coughed from inside the stall next to me. I had no idea anyone was in there. I couldn’t believe it.
“Mmm…nnnn…nnnnt,” he groaned, “…nnnnnnnnt.”
“Who takes a dump at subway?” I whispered to myself.
I was taken aback by the man’s struggle. The horrible rumblings were broken up by the man’s heavy breathing. It sounded like Darth Vader was being strangled with a whoopee cushion. My cheeks ballooned in disgust as his waste splashed into the waters below.
“Ahh…uhhhhhhh…yesss,” he mumbled under his breath. I clenched my teeth and winced as he continued to fight the good fight. I was waiting for him to ask who Number Two works for.

The stink became increasingly offensive. It smelled like disease and imminent death. The stench cannot be sufficiently described in words, but the man was clearly not in good health.
Sensing he was on the verge of an anal fissure, I forced out the rest of my pee and headed hastily for the sink. I squeezed out the last drop of soap and rushed to wash my hands.
“Ahh!” I blurted as the man quickly rose from the toilet. I was embarrassed by the outburst and feared the awkwardness of looking him in the eyes.
Blood rushed through my veins as the man’s shoes squeaked loudly on the floor. He started to yank feverishly at the toilet paper. I knew it wasn’t long before he would emerge. I pulled equally fast at the paper towels. Just as he was fidgeting with the stall lock I was able to escape. I leaned against the hallway and let out a sigh.
The relief was short-lived. I feared it was only a matter of time before he got in line behind me. Worse yet, I wondered, perhaps he was an employee?
I began to worry as the young girl was still making sandwiches for the same behemoth from before. I watched suspiciously as she walked out of sight for a moment.
“Hey…I need some help out here,” she shouted.
She wasn’t alone! My heart began racing…my head was spinning.
It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be.
The world seemed to slow down around me. I could hear the squeaking of his shoes getting closer and closer.
“Caaaaaannnn…I…Heeeelp yoooouuuuu?” echoed a deep, slow-motion voice from the distance.
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t answer. I was paralyzed by the thought of his crap-riddled hands fondling my meal.
“Sir!” he repeated while snapping on a pair of rubber gloves, “What can I get you?”
“Um, give me a minute,” I stammered. I reached for my phone and nearly dialed 911. Instead, I acted like I just got an important text message. I didn’t care about the rubber gloves as he used his damn hands to pick them up! Not to mention, I used the last of the soap!
“Oh no! I can’t believe this,” I pretended.
“Is everything okay, sir?” he asked.
“I’ll be right back. I have to make a phone call.”
I hustled out of the restaurant and headed toward my car. While I was pleased to not be eating a poop-tainted sub, I felt bad for the young man who passed me on his way inside. The poor bastard will never know what I know. He’ll never know the horrible truth of every scrumptious bite.
I can only wonder what went through the worker’s minds as they watched me peel out from their parking lot. I hope it was a learning opportunity…to…ya know…not take a massive dump at work.