Monthly Archives: September 2015

Traveling Braggarts

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“Hi Joe,” I said to my neighbor as I opened the mailbox by my driveway.

“Hi Blair,” Joe said as he fertilized his begonia. “Hey, by the way, I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”

“Yeah?” I said.

“Yeah,” he continued. “Madge and I are going out of town Tuesday, and we wondered if you could feed Ralph again.”

“Oh,” I said. I was silent.

“Yeah,” said Joe. “You already know the habitual and mechanical performance of the established procedure.”

“Yes,” I told Joe. “You give me the house key, I disarm your burglar system three times daily, fill Ralph’s ferret dish, and walk him mornings and evenings.”

“Right,” Joe said. “Ferrets need exercise. Ralph needs fresh air. And of course he needs food, ha ha! We’ll be home in 12 days.”

“Oh,” I said. There was a pause.

Joe continued. “We decided to go to Stockholm this month. We haven’t been there yet. We had such a great time in Kinshasa on that safari, and now we wanted to see the land of the midnight luminous celestial body around which the earth and other planets revolve. And when we return, we’re going to Cocoa Beach. I mean we’ll need another vacation after all this traveling, ha ha ha!”

Ha ha ha, I thought, remaining silent.

“Where are you and your wife going for vacation this year?” Joe asked conversationally.

“Well, Joe, my wife and I aren’t going anywhere this year. We have no money. The last time we went anywhere was a 2010 day trip to the Wigglerville Pants Festival.”

“Oh. And how did you like it?” Joe asked politely.

“It rained. Listen, Joe, have you thought of taking Ralph with you on one of your extravagant escapades?”

“Oh, no,” said Joe. “Ralph suffers with allergies. When we took him to Beijing he experienced terrible mucus.”

“Joe, I regret to tell you that the feral odor of your rodent aggravates my irritable bowel syndrome. Plus I don’t need any additional appreciative refrigerator magnets reminding me of your odysseys.”

“OK, Blair. That’s fine. I get it. No more magnets.” Joe was quiet. His foot nudged a couple decorative lawn stones back into his mosaically landscaped flowerbed. “Well, maybe your wife can feed Ralph for us?”

I sighed. “I’ll ask her…” I said.

For the next 12 days, my wife and I took turns crossing the street to cater to Ralph’s mammalian needs. We received a postcard from Joe and Madge saying they extended their trip so they could visit Reykjavík.

Each evening, while the neighbors were gone, my wife and I cuddled in front of the TV to watch The Walking Channel.


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Security Pants

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“Well that was embarrassing,” I said to my wife as I slipped my shoes back on and began to tie them.

“What?” she said.

“You didn’t see?”

“No,” she said. “What are you talking about?”

“Well,” I said, “after you went through the x-ray body scanner and were picking up your cell phone and lipstick from those gray plastic bins, I was going through the electronic frisker myself.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said. “You were behind me. I wasn’t watching you though. Was there a problem?”

“Not until I was retrieving my wallet, my keys, and my Kleenex tissues from the conveyor. Since we were in a bit of a rush, I tried to grab everything with both hands at once, and my pants fell down.”

“Well, that’s awkward,” she said, looking distractedly for her water bottle.

“I thought so, too,” I said.

“Why’d that happen?” she asked as we stood up from the bench where we were sitting.

“Because I didn’t have my belt on,” I replied as we picked up our carry-on bags and started walking toward our gate. “The TSA guy told me to take my belt off, of course, and then I had to let go of my pants to pick up all my stuff before the next guy’s stuff pushed all my stuff off the end of the conveyor and onto the floor.”

“So your pants fell down. You’re odd, Blair,” said my wife. “Why don’t you wear pants that fit you instead of baggy ones from the 1990s that are way too big that were handed down to you from our son’s fat friend?”

“I dunno,” I said.

“Did they fall all the way down?”

“No,” I continued, “but they were falling down farther and farther as I walked closer to the bench where I could finally sit and start to pull myself back together. Luckily I’m wearing this oversized hand-me-down tucked-out T-shirt from the 1990s, which reaches to the middle of my thighs, so I don’t think it was too obvious to anyone but me that my pants were falling off.”

“You are really weird,” said my wife. “Luckily you didn’t trip and fall on your burrito.”

“Yeah,” I said.

We finally arrived at the departure area and sat down to await our boarding announcement. I watched my wife as she sat next to me reading her book, and I thought about how patient she was with my foibles. I’m sure it isn’t easy being married for so many years to a ludicrous clown.

When we finally arrived at our destination, I bought some bright red suspenders at the Barnum and Bailey store.

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Rear Balcony

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I twisted my pinkie toenail so I took a week off from work, during which time I sat on our balcony overlooking the parking lot that extends between the buildings of our apartment complex.

My foot comfortably cushioned on a chair, and my iced tea at hand, I thought, Ah, finally some time to relax.

I leaned back and looked past the porch railing through half-closed eyes. As I sat, however, I found it increasingly difficult to rest.

I didn’t intend to be a nosy neighbor, but the longer I sat there, the more I wondered about the people coming and going beneath our balcony.

The people seem normal enough, I thought. Or do they? I readjusted my posture and picked up my periscope.

Why is that woman wearing a hat? It’s warm today. Does she actually have hair? Is there even a head under her hat? Or is her head plastic? Maybe her whole self is plastic and she’s a machine that can do the work of a person and is controlled by a computer!

The woman found her keys in her pocketbook and went into her apartment.

It was quiet again. I sat and watched. A car passed by. A black one. The mob uses black cars, I thought. Tinted glass on the windows, too. The mobI think the mafia lives here in this complex!

The car disappeared around the corner.

More time passed. A birdie swooped and landed on the roof across from me. In the lot below, a blue jay perched on the “Perambulatorily Challenged” parking sign.

A pizza delivery boy drove up and got out of his car. He carried his insulated vinyl tote to the second door on the left. He rang the bell, and the door opened. I observed the exchange.

Why are those people always ordering pizzas? I thought. And what do they do with the boxes? Are they collecting boxes to create a nuclear arsenal? And what if there are there illegal drugs in the pizza boxes? How much do they tip these guys anyway? Is it too much? What the heck is going on here in our very own apartment complex! It’s not even lunchtime!

As I sat, additional questions flooded my mind.

Why does that tall guy wash his car in the parking lot every day?

Who’s that fat guy walking by with the sawed-off T-shirt?

Who’s that smoking geezer in the dog park?

Does the owner of that car even live here?

Why does that kid’s mother let him sip soda from a cup that’s almost one-fifth his size?

The breeze, the hum of air conditioners, the flutter of dried leaves blowing across the pavement.

At the end of the week I called my boss again. “My toenail’s healed, but I’ll need another week off,” I said. “I don’t have enough time on my hands.”

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Tumbling Cameraman

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“Hey, Ed,” I said to my friend on the phone. “How was your once-in-a-lifetime family vacation to St. Maarten?”

“It was disgusting,” said Ed. “Once is right. Never again. I’m glad to be back.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s too bad. What happened?”

“Well, for one thing I broke my arm and my camera. I’ll have the cast removed in 8 weeks.”

“Spill,” I told Ed.

“Well, in St. Maarten there’s an airport that’s adjacent to the beach.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“And I wanted to take a video of the planes taking off and landing. I thought it would be interesting to be so close to the action.”

“Yeah,” I said.

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“So I walked across the beach and crossed the highway near the runway. I stood there by the fence waiting for a plane.”

“Okay,” I said.

“And then a plane landed and the exhaust blew me across the highway and under a parked bus near a taco stand.”

“Did you get any good video footage?” I asked.

“No. Just the sky, the ground, my foot, someone’s elbow, and a taco.”

“Whose elbow?” I asked.

“Maybe mine, I’m not sure. Listen, I really can’t stay on the phone right now. The rental-car company is supposed to call me because my son accidentally dropped the car keys from his kayak into the ocean. The rental place says I have to pay to replace the door lock, the trunk lock, and the entire ignition lock cylinder assembly. It should cost me several thousand dollars.”

“Gee, that’s too bad,” I told Ed.

“Plus my daughter’s cell phone was sucked up in a street-sweeping machine, my wife lost her credit card down an elevator shaft, and the automatic teller machines on the island broke so I had to fly to Barbados to get cash.”


Ed continued. “And on the way home, the lady next to me on the plane tossed her cookies on my magazine, the car battery died in the airport parking lot, and I wet my pants in the Quickie Mart.”

“That sounds memorable,” I said. “Did anything else happen?”

“Yes, but I don’t have time to tell you about it right now.”

“Okay,” I said. “Maybe later. One more question. Did anything good happen?”

“Yeah,” said Ed. “I’m still alive.”

I’m glad Ed thinks that still being alive is good.

My wife asked me yesterday when we were going on our vacation of a lifetime. I told her to talk to Ed first.

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Never Fear, Daddy’s Here!

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I was in a fast-food restaurant the other day. As I walked to my seat with my tray, I saw a young boy in a high chair who happened at that moment to push against the booth table with his feet. His chair began to fall backward toward the floor.

By chance, the toddler’s father was walking around the back of his chair, and Dad grabbed the chair and righted it before the boy’s head hit the floor. This whole event lasted less than a second. Then the dad sat down to finish his meal.

Only a moment, surely forgotten by son, and likely forgotten by Dad. But that moment struck me, and I thought about it later.

So many moments in life when Dad is there. Protecting, defending, fighting for us, and saving the day for us. So many moments, and virtually all of them forgotten in the vast ocean of impressions in our minds. But some events we recall vividly.

When my son was small, I pushed him so fast on the swings that he fell off. And he cried. When my daughter was little, I challenged her to go down the biggest hill on her sled. And she fell off. And she cried.

And I grabbed my kids and hugged them. I comforted them, and I felt terrible that I was responsible for their pain. I’ll remember those moments forever. My kids remember, too. We laugh about these memories now, and we fondly describe them.

And I think my kids still love me. Quirky, eccentric me.

How would life turn out without dads? Dads are marginalized by society, and even as imperfect as dads are, they serve a purpose. A great purpose. They prevent cracked heads. They give wise counsel. They sometimes push kids beyond their limits.

No one comprehends completely the difference a dad can make. That event in the fast-food restaurant could have ended much worse. But Dad was there.

Of course, some kids don’t have dads. For kids whose dad’s not around, there’s a bigger Dad Who Is.

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