Example of why I have learned to mostly quit while I’m ahead

Me to Wonder Woman after running outside and catching her before she backs out of the driveway so that I can hand to her the cellphone she left on the kitchen counter—the one that I can never reach her on:

“Please keep this on you.”

“I do.”

“Apparently not.”

“Yes, I do. That’s why it was inside.”


“I said I do keep it on me; that’s why it was inside.”

“Wait: ‘Please keep your cellphone on you,’ ‘I do; that’s why it
wasn’t on me’ …?”

“Yep.” [pleasant smile]

“… wha …?”

“I kept it on me when I came inside earlier instead of leaving it in the car. That’s why it was in the kitchen.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you: how can you argue with that logic? And, speaking as someone who has been married to her for 10 wonderful years, allow me to answer for you: you can’t.

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Episode VII: Battle for the Bed

It seemed like a simple enough thing: because he’s growing so fast, Zan’s fire-engine bed was well on its way to becoming Zan’s mini-barstool, so we needed to get him an actual twin bed. There were some constraints, however—the first of which was that it needed to be physically low enough to fit into the corner of his room, and the second of which was that it needed to be financially low enough to fit into our meager budget.

Enter Ikea. Wonder Woman scoured their site and found a bed that satisfied both requirements. However, when we got to the online checkout, we discovered that the cost of having the bed shipped to our home was roughly equal to the actual cost of the bed itself (seriously)—which, at the time, seemed like an expense we couldn’t really justify, because there is an Ikea store in our state, but it happens to be about 40 miles away, and I don’t like buying anything that requires me to actually leave the house. Hmmm. What to do, what to do … ?

Ah-ha! The Ikea store is located along a highway that my pickup-truck-driving father takes when he travels to and from his place on Cape Cod! I could ask him to pop in there and pick it up for us on his way by!

He agreed to this, and we arranged a date on which he was able to grab the bed for us. However, on that date, I checked the availability of the bed we wanted, and discovered that it was sold out.

OK, no problem, he could get it on his next trip back from the Cape the following week. In the days leading up to this second attempt, I checked the stock repeatedly, and saw that, yes, the bed was in stock … until the actual day arrived, at which point it again was sold out.

So this goes on for three or four weeks, until, finally, last Friday, my dad called and said he could get the bed, and I saw that, miracle of miracles, it was in stock. I text messaged him the exact item number, product name and color. He phoned me after leaving the store to say he had it, but it sounded to me like he was also implying that some confusion took place.

And in that moment, I already knew where this was going to end up, because he’s my dad, and I have known him for, like, my whole life. And because I love him, and because there is a very remote chance that he might actually read this (his interest in my blogging is less than fervent), let’s just leave it at that.

He arrived at the house, and the little flicker of hope inside of me, the one that long ago should have extinguished itself, momentarily managed to burn brightly enough that it blinded the knowing, pragmatic part of my mind and forced it to become preoccupied with shielding its eyes instead of saying what it wanted to say, which was: “Just leave the boxes in the truck so that we don’t have to go through the charade of lugging them into the house and up the stairs for no reason, please and thank you.” Thus, several minutes later, my dad and I were standing sweat-drenched amidst the boxes in Zan’s bedroom.

Zan was with us, and was demonstrably excited about the arrival of his new bed. No longer blinded by the aforementioned flashpoint of hope, the pragmatic part of my brain, upon realizing that there was no way Zan was going to agree to go down for the night unless his new bed was assembled first, decided to end this little farce.

Because the problem was, the birch-veneer bed that we wanted? The one that matches the birch-veneer dresser in Zan’s room? I knew that bed was still sitting on the shelf at the Ikea store. And the boxes in Zan’s room? I was quite certain they did not contain a birch-veneer bed. And I was right: they contained an ink-black bed.

So, instead of eating my dinner, taking a shower and settling down on the couch for the night, relieved and thankful that the weekend was upon us, and that the bed had finally arrived, I had to load the boxes back into the pickup truck, which I then borrowed from my father for the journey back to the Ikea store.

The store closes at 9 p.m., so, at around 8:35 p.m., after driving for what seemed like way too long, I phoned my father and asked, “You said the road that the Ikea store is on is right off of Interstate 95, right?”

“Yeah, you go down 95, and then you go past where 95 veers off to the right—”

“Wait wait wait: I go past where 95 veers off to the right? I thought you said the road I want is right off of 95, so I stayed on 95.”

“Yeah, well, it’s off of 128. 128, 95, same thing.”

Yes, they’re the same thing—until they’re not, and they split, and the point at which they diverge is several miles prior to the road off of which the Ikea store is located.

So now I had to turn around and buzz back up the interstate, and the clock was ticking, and it was quarter of nine, and if I got to this fucking place and they told me it was too late, they were closed, I couldn’t come in, well, Sept. 5, 2008 was going to be remembered as the day of the Great Ikea Massacre.

Finally, I got to 1 Ikea Way and quickly saw why the place has its own special address, because it’s not a furniture store; it’s the Death Star … and not the first Death Star, no no no, this is the second Death Star, the one from “Return of the Jedi,” the huge one that they never finished building because Lando Calrissean blew it up (I’m letting my geek flag fly, people). But he didn’t blow this one up, and they finished building it, and it’s even bigger and more intimidating when, instead of watching it on a movie screen, you’re inside of it looking for furniture.

Eventually, after an extensive search, I found the birch-veneer bed, disabled the tractor beam, fought my way past a throng of stormtroopers, escaped into the night, and made the pilgrimage back to my house with the correct bed in tow.

And next time, I’ll fork over the shipping cost with a smile on my face.

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Have a drink on me

Since life hasn’t been all that exciting in recent days, I shall dip back into my Personal Well of Embarrassment for yet another douche-chill-inducing tale from my past. I hesitate to do so, because I’m afraid I’ll fly too quickly through my reserve of embarrassing tales as I make use of the newly minted “Embarrassing” category, but—wait, who the hell am I kidding? A drought of me-embarrassing-the-hell-out-of-myself moments probably isn’t in the forecast anytime soon.

So, with that said, let us travel back in time to the year 1989. I am 19 years old and serving as a U.S. army military policekid (“policeman” would be a stretch; I don’t think I needed to shave more than once a year at 19) stationed at Ft. Irwin, located in the middle of the Mojave desert. I have not yet been out of high school for a full year, and my high-school sweetheart is a senior back home. She somehow cajoles her parents into letting her fly out to visit me, but not without her parents sending along with her an ingenious birth-control device: her grandmother. I shit you not.

So, high-school sweetheart, her very old, slightly heavyset, slow-moving, muumuu-wearing grandmother—whom I am meeting for the first time—and I are seated in a booth at a Pizza Hut in Las Vegas. (Yes, despite growing up in the Boston area, home of the greatest pizza establishment on the face of the entire planet, I was at Pizza Hut. Sometimes you have to settle.)

We order. The server brings us our drinks while we wait for the cheese-and-sauce-covered Belgian waffle—I mean “pizza”—to cook. The drinks are served in large, red, hard-plastic cups that hold about five gallons of crushed ice and soda.

As often happens with cold beverages in hot weather, condensation quickly forms on the outside of these large, red, hard-plastic cups. Also, the laminated, faux-checkered-tablecloth surface of the table is slightly wet, having just been wiped clean. I reach for my beverage, the circumference of which is roughly three feet. As I begin to grasp it, I feel it shoot away from me, propelled by the tension of the fingers and opposing thumb that had begun squeezing it, but that weren’t able to maintain their grip on its slippery surface.

The cup gracefully—and rapidly—glides across the tabletop on its frictionless cushion of moisture, launches itself off the opposite side, and lands directly in the lap of high-school sweetheart’s grandmother, whose muumuu-wearing self gets deluged by a tidal-wave of frosty, thirst-quenching, ice-cold Coke.

The rest is a chaotic blur of the server, high-school sweetheart and I scrambling for napkins, and of her almost-hypothermic grandma trying to mop herself up. I hardly remember anything else that followed, but I do recall that, despite the incident, we actually stayed and ate the “pizza.” That was comfortable.

Needless to say, I’m quite certain that the accidental soda tsunami I unleashed on grandma only steeled her resolve to keep me out of her granddaughter’s pants for the duration of their visit. Sadly, she (mostly) succeeded.

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Loony ’toons

Scratches Family Cartoon

Last week, while reading dooce, I happened upon a cartoon Heather made of herself at FaceYourManga.com. I gave it a hurried whirl, but wasn’t too thrilled with the results.

Zan wanted to do up the whole family today, so he and I put these together. Gave me a chance to refine my cartoon self, the previous version of which looked more like a 16-year-old Japanimation hero than an almost-40 dad.

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Not that there’s anything wrong with that …

So, you know what I thought would be fun as we head into the weekend? (Well, fun for you, anyway; excruciatingly painful for me.) How ’bout if I start a new category dubbed “Embarrassing” (not to be confused with Buffoonery), in which I shall regale you with tales of some of the most embarrassing moments of my entire life? How’s that sound? Good? OK, super!

Why would I do such a thing? Well, most obviously, it gives me something—plenty of things, actually—to write about without having to hope for some kind of daily fiasco to pop up and give me fodder for my next entry; and, secondly, I think it is possible that I may actually find catharsis in airing out these embarrassing moments for all of the Internet. Why should I cringe alone when I can have you all cringing with me?

Now, the only hard part is figuring out just which embarrassing moment I should write about first. Hmmm … well, there’s my entire adolescence … and most of the sexual experiences I had during my late teens and early 20s (meaning, you know, like, those three times) … oh, wait, here’s a good one:

Throughout college, I worked as a bartender at a couple of restaurants on the North Shore. Early on in my bartending years, I learned firsthand that gay men—several of whom I worked with, and some of whom became good friends of mine—are actually just regular human beings whose sexual orientation, it turns out, has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on my life, or the life of the traditional American family. Go figure.

During my subsequent post-homophobic life, I was very comfortable joking with some of my gay co-workers about any number of things, to include their taste in men.

The year is 1996 and I am a senior in college. While having one such light-hearted conversation, Michael, one of my gay co-workers, informs me that I am not his type. He is not the first gay acquaintance to tell me this. (For you fellas who have not had a gay acquaintance tell you that you’re not his type, it makes for a strange internal dialogue … something like, “Well, it’s probably for the best that he’s not attracted to me, since I am not gay, but, still … what’s wrong with me, huh? I’m a good-enough looking guy, aren’t I? And funny? Hell, I’m a laugh riot. What’s not to like? Why doesn’t he want me??”).

Fast forward to later that evening. An off-duty, female co-worker is standing across the bar from me, and we are having a conversation about something or other. During the course of this conversation, it comes up that Michael had told me earlier that I wasn’t his type. It is at this point in the conversation that I turn to Ricky [not his real name], another co-worker whom I had known for quite some time, and say to him, “Ricky, you’re a member of the gay community; I don’t get it. Why do gay men not find me attractive?”

Ricky reacts by looking slightly offended, and says to me …

[Jesus Christ, I want to crawl under my desk right now.]

Ricky says to me … [*gulp*]: “I didn’t know I was a member of the gay community.


I have known Ricky for a few years at this point, and, up until this very moment, I was sure that he was an openly gay man—and, in my defense (if it can even be considered one, which I’m pretty sure it can not), a very effeminate and mildly flamboyant one, at that. However, in the split second that it takes for all of the blood in my face to drain into my feet, I am able to flip through my entire mental notebook, and nowhere in it can I find a single instance during which Ricky has specifically said he is gay.

I experience mental vapor lock. My mind cannot locate even a hint of a handhold onto which I might grab and save myself from plummeting into an abyss of embarrassment so ink-black and horrifically deep that I may never get out.

I say nothing. I turn and look at my female co-worker. Her expression is a combination of profound discomfort at the position in which I’ve placed her, and stunned amazement at the enormity of the gaffe I have just made.

I am certain that I am about to wake up in my bed with my heart pounding, and I will then be able to say to myself, “Holy shit! Thank god that was just a dream! Can you even imagine doing something that embarrassing? Whew.”

Except—fuck—I am awake. Oh no.

Ricky—whose shift is over and who had been just about to leave the building (if only he had left 10 seconds earlier!)—bids us goodnight and departs. I excuse myself from my female co-worker, walk into the kitchen, out the side door, and run into the parking lot, where I catch Ricky just before he backs his car out and leaves. He rolls down his window.

“Ricky, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

“It’s OK,” he says.

“Seriously, I’m really sorry, I just thought—”

“Don’t worry about it,” he says and heads home. Never again do we speak about this incident.

Now, let us return to the present, and allow me to ask you: do I have game, or what? I mean, that, boys and girls, is embarrassing. Frankly, I don’t know if I can top that one, so I hope I haven’t set your expectations too high for future installments.

Incidentally, I’m not sure the whole catharsis thing is gonna work out; I have so viscerally relived that incident by writing about it here that I feel like it just happened. Hopefully, there’ll be some kind of purging effect in a short while … one that doesn’t involve me vomiting from the intensity of the embarrassment brought on by that memory.

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