So about that neurosis-inducing crystal-breaking incident…

Hey, remember this?


Well, I know you’ve all been lying awake at night fretting over the outcome of that tragedy, so I decided it was time to put some closure on the broken-crystal story.

When last I updated you, my plan was to return to Crow Haven Corner, the bona fide “witch shop” in Salem, Massachusetts, from which I bought my now-broken crystal more than 20 years ago. The only problem with that plan was the fact that, back then, I was attending college in Salem. Nowadays, I live about 370 miles away. So, you know … slightly less convenient.

A few weeks after I broke the crystal, however, my mother turned 65, and I decided to make a solo run up to Massachusetts in order to surprise her at her birthday dinner. The journey marked my first-ever road trip in my new car (which, yes, was seven months old at the time, but when you own a car for 15 years, its replacement can still reasonably be referred to as “new” at the seven-month mark), and I was pleased to find that I was able to get all the way from Philly to Boston without making a single stop.

Even though the car was not yet out of fuel when it reached Beantown, its driver most definitely was. In fact, I spent the last hour of the drive fantasizing about filling my growling stomach with a pie from the greatest pizza joint in the history of flat, round, cheese-and-sauce-covered dough: Regina Pizza … or just “Regina’s,” if you prefer (and I do). It was like a pizzeria Death Star, locking me in its tractor beam and pulling me towards its brick-oven goodness. There was nothing I could do to escape. Plus, also, I didn’t want to escape; I wanted to eat.

Unfortunately, the North End of Boston at 10 o’clock on a warm Friday night in October is a zoo … which is why it took me more than half an hour to find a parking spot. I didn’t mind, though. Driving around my old stomping ground was part of the fun.

After parallel parking like a goddamn champion on the busiest street in Little Italy — no small feat when you’re doing so in front of an audience that looks like the cast of “Goodfellas,” one of whose members almost surely owns that jet-black Escalade you’re trying very hard not to back into — I donned my Red Sox cap and beat feet towards my favorite neon sign (a much better, highly-doctored version of which I posted years ago).

Just drove 6 hours for a pizza. Totally worth it.

A photo posted by Daddy Scratches (@daddyscratches) on

Word of my imminent arrival had apparently leaked, because there was one stool left at the bar just for me, and seconds after planting my ass on it, the two ladies to my left offered me the rest of their half-full pitcher of Samuel Adams Octoberfest, which I was all too happy to help them finish. Within moments, I was eating the greatest pizza known to humankind, drinking free beer and watching Game 3 of the World Series. This is what you call “a good night.”

The following day, I had some time to kill — my surprise appearance at my Mom’s festivities wasn’t taking place until 4 o’clock — so I hung with my Dad for the first half of the day, all the while toying with the idea of heading up to Salem in search of a new crystal. And because I am a piss-poor judge of time, I waited until almost 2 o’clock to drive into what, on a normal day, is a frustratingly inaccessible city, and on an unseasonably warm and lovely final weekend in October is the single most congested square mile this side of New Delhi.

Why so congested, you ask? Because the “Witch City” is Ground Zero for every Halloween-loving freak from around the globe. (And, lest you think I’m casting aspersions on those freaks, allow me to remind you that I most surely am one of them.)

Traffic was backed up for miles, and I was still about a klick away when it became painfully clear to me that I had two choices if I wanted to make it to my mother’s dinner on time: Bail on this mission, or park the car and set out on foot. Guess which option our obsessive-compulsive ex-soldier chose?

After power-walking into the heart of the city, I reached my destination:


When I arrived, the place was so busy that I had to stand in a line on the sidewalk and wait for the head witch in charge to allow me in. Based on how little time I had left to complete my mission, I thought about cutting the line, but seeing as how I was surrounded by, you know, actual fucking witches, and seeing as how I didn’t know if toads were welcome at the restaurant where my Mom was having dinner, I tried to wait as patiently as I could.


OK, so maybe I wasn’t all that concerned about someone turning me into a toad … but you gotta figure anyone dressed like this in broad daylight who believes she’s an actual witch might be capable of going batshit crazy on your ass if you cut her in a line for a famous witch shop. Just sayin’.

When I finally entered the shop, I made a beeline for the case in which the crystals are kept and asked the goth girl behind the counter if she might have a suitable replacement for the damaged one I was wearing. But, whereas the long-haired warlock dude who stood behind that counter 21 years ago was only too eager to help a long-haired college dude/potential fellow warlock find the perfect crystal, the present-day goth chick seemed less enthusiastic about aiding the short-haired, wrinkle-faced senior citizen standing in front of her.

After perusing what was available, I reinforced my senior-citizen-like image by telling goth girl that they apparently don’t make ’em like they used to … because I saw nothing that was worthy of being tied around my neck for the next several decades. This was a bummer, because I really liked the idea of replacing my old crystal with a new one that came from the same place of origin.

Fortunately — or at least seemingly so at the time — a number of other witch shops had sprung up in the vicinity during the years since last I was there, so I set out on a frantic, door-to-door search … a process made significantly less fun and substantially more time-consuming thanks to the capacity crowds crammed into every store.

A half hour later, I was still empty-handed, so I asked a store clerk with a face full of metal if she could suggest a place where I might find something comparable to my old crystal.

“Try Hex,” she said.

“Hex?” I said.

“Yes, Hex,” she said. “It’s about a half-mile that way.”

Oh good! More speed-walking! This fits perfectly into my plan to arrive late to dinner, drenched in sweat!

A half mile later …


Based on the sign alone, I felt like I had as good a chance of finding a crystal here as I did of becoming the main attraction in a blood sacrifice … and I was right (about the not-finding-a-crystal thing, that is; thankfully, I managed to avoid the blood-sacrifice part).

It was with no small amount of difficulty that I overcame the obsessive-compulsive, hyper-focused, never-say-die forces that rage within me, aborted the mission, and fled on foot back to my car … but seeing as how I had driven 400 miles to attend my mother’s birthday dinner, I felt like I should probably be there on time, so I folded.

And thus, the really cool story I’d envisioned about going back to Salem and replacing my crystal instead became a really lame story about how I wasted an afternoon conducting a fruitless, one-man forced road march through a sea of tourists and witches for no apparent reason.

I consoled myself with a back-up plan that involved finding a worthy replacement online — you know, the way I’ve bought every other item in my life for the past decade or so … specifically because doing so allows me to entirely avoid frustrating bullshit like the afternoon I’ve just described. (I’m tellin’ you guys, this Internet thing is gonna be big!)

Four months later, however, I’ve realized that the Krazy-Glue with which I “temporarily” repaired my broken crystal seems to be doing a more-than-respectable job of serving as a “permanent” solution … and tragedy has not yet befallen me, so one can assume that the crystal’s magical protective properties are still in full force (if one is a little touched in one’s head, that is) … so I now have no desire to replace it.

Which means it just took me more 1,000 words to tell you that I’m just gonna keep wearing my old crystal. You’re welcome.

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UPDATED: Well, this oughta do wonders for my OCD

Well, this oughta do wonders for my OCD
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In the spring of 1994, I was approaching the end of my sophomore year at Salem State College in Salem, Massachusetts, where I was… [read the rest]

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If you’re a ginormous asshole who regularly demonstrates a total disregard for your co-workers, this post is for you

So that I.T. job I’ve been wasting away at for almost four years now? Well, I still haven’t figured out how to leverage my writing skills in a way that’ll get me the fuck outta there … but I have figured out how to have a little fun with those skills in the meantime. And so, instead of limiting the recipients of my latest masterpieces to the adult-sized toddlers with whom I work, I figured I’d share these two missives with all of you as well. You’re welcome! (Of course, it’s beyond depressing that I work in a place where the following emails are even necessary — particularly the second one —but sending them to every single person in the corporate office felt good.)

To: Home Office
From: Jon
Subject: Office Etiquette 101

Dear Everyone:

If, after obtaining a paper towel from the rack over the kitchen sink, the dispenser looks like this:
… you have officially used the last paper towel. The one glued to the roll doesn’t count. There’s a new roll under the sink. (I know this because I’ve replaced it for the offending party/parties twice in as many weeks.)
Stay tuned for next week’s lesson, in which we tell the fellas about the latest development in toilet-seat technology: Hinges! (Sneak preview: They allow you to tilt the seat up before peeing all over the place!)

Thank you,

Home Office Etiquette Officer

I had hoped that my little passive-aggressive zinger at the end there would allow me to kill two birds with one stone … but I soon realized that the kind of douchebag who regularly pisses all over the workplace toilet seats isn’t the type of person who knows how to take a passive-aggressive hint … which is why, a couple of weeks later, I felt compelled to address the issue head-on.

To: Home Office
From: Jon
Subject: Office Etiquette 102 – Men’s-Only Edition


I apologize for the intrusion, but this is a daily, maddeningly obnoxious, easily avoidable occurrence that I no longer can tolerate: Please stop urinating on the toilet seats. Really. The bathroom is equipped with two perfectly good urinals … but if you’re the shy type and you just can’t bring yourself to use them like a big boy, then you simply must stop splashing your urine all over the toilet seats every single time you use the bathroom. Here’s how:

How To Not Splash Your Urine All Over The Toilet Seat: A Tutorial

Step 1a:


Step 1b:


TA-DAH!! That’s all there is to it! You can even leave the seat up when you’re done! Believe me, those of us who regularly and repeatedly are forced to clean up your liquid human waste every time we have need of a bathroom stall would much rather deal with the inconvenience of lowering the seat.

Thank you in advance for your immediate and total compliance with this outrageously reasonable request.

Home Office Etiquette Officer

If I ever figure out how to make a living writing wise-ass emails and blog posts, I can assure you that I won’t miss my current gig.

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I’ve narrowly cheated death yet again

My tombstone

There are many downsides to being a hypochondriac … but it does have its benefits. Take yesterday, for example.

Yesterday, I headed to my doctor’s office for the third time in about two weeks … which, for me, is unfuckingprecedented, since my immune system is basically on par with Wolverine’s. And yet, despite my mutant healing powers, I’ve had a persistent cough for, like, a month now.

During my first doctor’s visit, he prescribed an albuterol inhaler and a codeine-based cough suppressant. After a week, the inhaler had accomplished roughly jack shit, and I’m pretty sure I was downing the cough medicine only because the idea of legally ingesting an opiate before bed each night seemed appealing.

In addition to my ongoing cough and blossoming drug habit, I then developed a reddish, dime-sized, welt-like thing on my face, just slightly below and to the right of my nose … which, really, is exactly where you want to develop a reddish, dime-sized, welt-like thing, because at least then it’s not very noticeable.

I literally watched this thing spontaneously appear on my face while washing up after doing some work on our porch, and I tried to convince myself that perhaps I’d been bitten by a spider while tending to that chore … but being bitten on the face by a spider seems like the kind of thing a guy would notice while it was happening, so I wasn’t fully buying my own theory.

Last Thursday, still coughing and sporting my attractive face welt, I returned to the doctor, who subsequently prescribed an antibiotic for the cough and a topical ointment for the face welt, about which he said: “I don’t know what the hell that is.”

Four days into my antibiotic-and-topical-ointment regimen, not only was I was still coughing like a barking seal and sporting my ever-snazzy face welt, but also I was experiencing a chronic headache and some general sensitivity and discomfort on most of the right side of my face, head, neck, throat and right ear. Clearly, it was time to do what any respectable, modern-day hypochondriac does to diagnose what ails him: check the Internet.

A brief Google search later, I reached the conclusion I always reach when I use the Internet to diagnose an unexplained ailment: I had cancer. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, to be exact.

Certain that my children soon would be fatherless and my wife a widow, I decided I should at least let the doctor confirm my imminent death before getting my affairs in order. Thus, I called his office Monday evening, scheduled an appointment for yesterday morning, and spent the interim upsetting myself with thoughts of leaving my kids behind at such a young age, and of not seeing them grow into adulthood.

And I wish I was kidding, believe me … because I know that some people — “the sane,” you might call them — can’t imagine being so unbelievably fucked in the head …. but I am absolutely terrified of disease and death and my own mortality in general … to the point that it is a full-blown phobia. (This dovetails nicely with my hypochondria, which causes me to immediately assume anything more serious than a brief head cold is terminal.)

As I got out of my car and headed into the medical building for my appointment yesterday morning, I heard someone yell “Dead man walking!” Probably it was me who yelled it, but still … not a good sign either way.

“You don’t have non-Hodgkins lymphoma,” my doctor lied while examining me. “The discomfort you’re having is only on one side of your head?”


“Is your scalp sensitive right here?” he asked while touching a newly sensitive region of scalp on the top-right side of my head.

“Yes,” I replied, impressed that he had predicted that … so much so that I was willing to entertain the possibility he might not be lying about the you-don’t-have-cancer thing after all.

“I know what you have now,” he said. I assumed his next words would be “Terminal [something].” I was wrong. Go figure.

“You have shingles.”

Shingles? Motherfucking shingles? Who the fuck gets shingles? Isn’t shingles something people got in the 1600s after spending a month in a cargo hold while crossing the Atlantic? Or maybe that was scurvy. Either way, I’m pretty sure you have to be a special kind of basket case to contract shingles in 2014.

But anyway … on the one hand, I was all, “Boo! Shingles!” … but, on the other hand, I was all, “Yay! Totally not cancer!”

And so, “Yay! Shingles!” I said.

“You’re probably the first patient I’ve heard say ‘Yay! Shingles!'” replied my doc, who clearly has no idea just how deep my neuroses run.

“So I don’t need chemotherapy?”

“No. I mean, I could give you chemotherapy, but it won’t do anything beneficial for you.”

I decided to skip the unnecessary chemo and instead received a prescription for Valacyclovir HCL 1, which comes in the form of an enormous, blue pill roughly the size of a whitewater raft. With any luck, it will clear up this shingles thing in the next week or two. I hope. Because my fucking head is killing me … which bums me out until I remind myself that I don’t have terminal cancer.

Which brings us to: You non-hypochondriacs are missing out on the incredible flood of headache-minimizing relief you could be feeling every time you learn that you don’t have terminal cancer. And, yes, you might argue that the burden of needlessly worrying that you’re about to die a horrible and premature death offsets the benefits of subsequently finding out you’re OK … but that’s only because you don’t know how great it feels to experience the illusion of getting a second chance at life!

In related news: It’s exhausting to be me.

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And then I bought a spaceship!

And then I bought a spaceship!
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In the midst of all this madness, I realized I was a 44-year-old man driving an econo-car that I bought when I was 29. … [read the rest]

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