A hiatus of biblical proportion

Hi. Remember me? Let’s catch up, shall we?

Flood: You know how sometimes during your average, run-of-the-mill rainstorm, there’s a sudden-but-brief burst of torrential, sheet-of-water, holy-mackerel-it’s-really-coming-down-out-there rain that makes you stop and take notice until it passes? Yeah, well, that happened here the week before last … except, instead of passing after only a few seconds or minutes, it came down with that same degree of sustained ferocity for five days.

The psychotic amount of rain that fell resulted in the worst flooding the region has seen in 70 years. One family we know ended up with so much water in their basement that it rose high enough to destroy their furnace and electrical box. Yikes.

And so it is with tremendous relief that I can report that my basement remained dry as the proverbial bone. The symphony of sump pumps and parade of plumbing trucks that became the hallmark of our neighborhood in the days following the flood made me suddenly feel that our modest little Cape, complete with its cramped quarters and Lilliputian second floor, had transformed itself into an awe-inspiring fortress, and I now have a new love for both our home and the little hill upon which it sits.

(Worth viewing: flood photos, and more flood photos.)

Locusts: Well, not really. Moths and inchworms, actually. (I’m trying to stick with the biblical thing, OK? Work with me, people.)

In the late fall/early winter of 2004, during which time we were just settling into our house, I would sometimes look out the window at night and take note of the fact that there were a number of moths flying about. “That’s odd,” I thought to myself. “I don’t recall seeing moths flying about during the late fall/early winter of years past.” I didn’t dwell on it. They were moths, they were little, and they were outside, and so who gives a shit, right?

Almost exactly one year ago, during our first spring in our current home, we began to notice an alarming number of inchworms in our yard. They were multiplying faster than the U.S. national debt, and were rappelling down from the trees onto just about any surface where one might cast one’s gaze, to include all over Zan’s then-new swing set/slide/play-gym thing, which required a daily inchworm extermination detail.

After a little investigating, I discovered that these inchworms are known as winter-moth caterpillars, and that they are the new-millennium equivalent of the ’80s-era pest known as the gypsy-moth caterpillar. Of course, back in the ’80s, I wasn’t a homeowner, and so the gypsy-moth caterpillar infestation was disgusting, sure, but I was busy being an awkward, geeky adolescent, so who gives a shit about gypsy-moth caterpillars, right?

According to an article I came across during my investigation, it is estimated that these winter-moth caterpillars can infest one’s yard to the tune of about a quarter of a million per tree. We have several trees that cover a significant part of our back yard, house and front yard, so it’s probably safe to assume that, for the second consecutive spring, our yard is under siege by over a million winter-moth caterpillars.

So here’s the thing: 1 million-plus winter-moth caterpillars who do nothing but devour all of the leaves in our yard create a positively staggering amount of winter-moth caterpillar shit (which, by the way, I’ve learned is called “frass,” just in case you’re ever on “Jeopardy” and the category “Insect Excrement That Starts with the Letter ‘F'” comes up). For those not familiar, this makes one’s yard, home, cars, trash barrels, outdoor toys, swing set, etc., look as though someone hovered above your property in a large helicopter filled to the brim with 100-pound sacks of poppy seeds, cut said sacks open and heaved their contents into the air. Of course, unlike poppy seeds, caterpillar shit has the added bonus of being just moist enough when it first falls to stick to whatever surface it lands upon. For example, my lovely white car looks something like this right now.

Supposedly, it’s only going to get worse each year between now and 2010. If anyone owns a party-tent business, it’d be swell if you could hook me up with one large enough to completely cover my home and yard, OK? Thanks.

Tequila: I was gonna go with the heading “Blood,” but I already pulled a bait-and-switch with the locust/caterpillar thing, so I’m abandoning the biblical-plague theme.

In the years prior to the arrival of my children, I would occasionally utter the phrase “I need a drink.” Now, roughly three years into the adventure of parenthood, I have a bulletin that I’d like to share with the childless among you who have invoked that same phrase:

Guess what? You don’t know from needing a drink.

Each day at Casa de Scratches, from about 5 p.m. until about 8 p.m., Wonder Woman and I live through a three-pronged hazing ritual known as “Family Dinner, Bathtime, Bedtime.” I have discovered in recent months that, on those days when I have run out of nerves for my children to get on, few things make this period of time more tolerable than the magical elixir known as alcohol—the preferred form of which is a Cabo Wabo tequila-filled margarita … and, thanks to my recent discovery of the most delicious ready-made margarita mix I’ve ever tasted, why, “Family Dinner, Bathtime, Bedtime” has never been more enjoyable.

———

Alrighty, then. This long-winded, stream-of-consciousness ode to Moses is my way of saying: I’ve been gone. I’m back. Sorry for the eternity between posts.

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How I love thee, frozen peas

Frozen peas

Dear Frozen Peas,

Thank you. Thank you for giving me a haven in which to nestle my traumatized scrotum. Your soothing, pain-relieving, inflammation-reducing frigidity is a gift indeed.

Even as I write this, you are bravely toughing it out in the pouch of my jock strap, which is holding you firmly against my aforementioned traumatized scrotum. To find yourself in such a dark and alien environment must come as quite a surprise, as you no doubt had assumed since the moment the farmer plucked your pod from the vine that you would ultimately be served up hot and steaming — perhaps with a pat of butter, even.

But, no, yours turned out to be a higher calling.

It was the promise of your frozen goodness, in part, that helped me endure yesterday’s puncturing of the scrotum, and subsequent snipping, suturing and cauterizing of both the left and right vas deferens, through which no sperm shall ever again pass.

Yes, the Novocain played a more immediate role in those moments during which I lay prone on the table beneath the harsh fluorescent lighting while the doctor handled my goods in a most invasive and unwelcome fashion — but Novocain wears off in short order … while you, my frozen friends, you never falter. Though the warmth of my genitals may sap you of your power, a short stay in the freezer restores you to your original glory, and a bag of your frozen brethren is always at the ready when you need to tag out for a break.

I suppose you are owed an explanation for the circumstance in which you now find yourselves.

The explanation is twofold, with the first reason — the most important and significant reason — being that it would be good neither for myself, nor my family, nor The Universe in general for me to father another child. I have been graced with two extraordinary children — one son and one daughter, no less — whom I love and cherish more than I ever thought it possible to love and cherish something. The loving-and-cherishing is the easy part, however; it is the caring-for that is the real kicker, and I am quite certain that my ability to care for a third child is, well, nonexistent. I’m tapped out.

Occasionally, during those (frequent) moments when my son and daughter have my wife and I stretched to the breaking point, I envision an additional child thrown into the mix, and that vision is one that can best be described as “horrifically untenable.” Against the backdrop of raising a third child for the next couple of decades, the alternative of subjecting myself to a 30-minute session of genital mutilation actually seemed quite desirable.

Of course, a by-product of this precautionary sterilization logically leads to the second reason — or incentive, if you will — for getting a vasectomy: unprotected sex.

I believe in condoms, strongly support their use, think that they should be distributed far and wide, and know that they are critical in helping to curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. (Thanks to my late grandfather, I also am aware that they can serve many other useful purposes, to include keeping rain out of the barrel of one’s machine gun when one finds oneself fighting on the South Pacific island of Iwo Jima during World War II, and for keeping one’s wallet dry when, while on shore leave, one thinks that it would be best to hide one’s wallet for safekeeping in the tank of the commode in one’s hotel room.)

Having said all of that, I will share with you a secret, frozen peas: I hate rubbers.

This is not to say that, were I single, I would have unprotected sex; I wouldn’t (though, if my bachelor years are any indication, that would have more to do with the lack of a partner than with choosing to use a condom). It is to say, however, that I think that one benefit of being in a monogamous relationship that I fully expect will endure from now until the end of my life is the luxury of having fearlessly unprotected sex. The only thing stopping me to date has been reason No. 1 described above.

With reason No. 1 now surgically removed from the equation … well, if and when my wife and I ever find the time and energy to have a romantic interlude, it shall be latex-free.

And it is you, frozen peas, that have been significant contributors to this cause. Without you, my scrotum would be swollen and sore. Without you, the razor burn created on my scrotum when the doctor shaved it would be far more uncomfortable than it already is. Without you … well, I don’t even want to think what my world would be like right now without you.

Thank you, frozen peas.

Love,
Jon

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Safety 1st my ass

Safety 1st Tubside Bath Seat

I am Daddy. Not only am I Daddy, but I am also Daddy the Ex-Military Police K-9 Handler, as well as The Person Who Is Smarter Than Everyone Else In the Room—two traits that inherently mean I can take care of “It,” whatever “It” might be.

I have been able to cloak myself in this delusion for years, and it has allowed me to chuckle and look with pity and scorn upon those among you who occasionally have found yourselves in laughably ridiculous situations from which you have had to be delivered by others who are apparently smarter and more levelheaded than you.

Well, even Superman has an Achilles Heel.… [read the rest]

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Van Halen (or, The Band That Ate My Life)

Me & Ed, '93

OK, so I’ve been off the radar for a while because I was building a website dedicated to the goings on in the dysfunctional world of Van Halen.

The sane among you are most likely wondering, “Why the hell would someone spend so much time and energy building a website about Van Halen?” Fair enough. Allow me to explain.… [read the rest]

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Subject: Sarah’s gone

Last fall, my friend Dave called me from his car and asked if I could give him directions to the hospital. He was headed there to meet his wife, Sarah, who had gone there to find out why her stomach hurt. We joked a bit, and then hung up. I assumed it wouldn’t be anything serious.

I was wrong.

The diagnosis was cancer. Doctors removed the tumor, but it had spread, so chemotherapy treatment was necessary.

In the weeks and months that followed, Dave sent to a group of his friends and family regular email updates about Sarah’s condition. She was in and out of the hospital a number of times. Through it all, Dave managed her care while working full-time and looking after their 2-year-old son.

Often, the tone of Dave’s emails was positive … and, when it wasn’t, my mind would reflexively put things in the context of “This is an unfortunate challenge that they’ll overcome.”

Dave sent us more than 70 email updates during the past five months, most of them characterized by his uncanny wit and wry sense of humor, which remained intact despite the enormity of what he, Sarah and their son were going through.

Last Thursday, another email update arrived. The subject line appears in the title of this post. It is the worst email I have ever received.

The wake was last night. Pictures of Sarah were on display throughout the funeral home, a number of which were from her and Dave’s wedding, an event that took place just four years ago last November. The receiving line at the wedding was the first time I met Sarah’s parents. The receiving line at the funeral home was the second. That should never happen.

Until now, almost all of the deaths I’ve had to deal with personally have been those of grandparents, both mine and my wife’s. Until now, they had been the saddest occasions of my life. Next to this, they seem happy. They were celebrations of lives well lived.

Dave and Sarah loved each other completely. They were at the beginning of their life together, and had only just recently brought another new life into the world. Since their wedding, they weren’t just “Dave” or “Sarah” to me; they were “Dave and Sarah.”

Seeing Dave standing alone at the wake last night and the funeral today, with that whole other half of himself missing, was gut-wrenching.

I have never hurt for someone the way I hurt for Dave right now. My heart is broken for him, and for his son.

Many people find comfort in their religion at times like this, and accept that this is part of “God’s master plan.” I am not one of those people.

I believe there are forces larger than us, that there are mysteries we don’t yet understand, but I do not believe in one omniscient, omnipotent being in the sky whose hand guides everything in our world. If such a being does exist—well, right now, I’m only interested in kicking its ass.

You cannot convince me that a wonderful, vivacious, loving, 37-year-old wife and mother got sick and died because it was “God’s will.”

My friend had to bury his wife today. His son doesn’t have a mother. That is just fucked up, cruel and wrong.

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