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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Shoe In

Lately the term, “he threw a shoe” is taking on a whole new meaning. Instead of a sleek Saddlebred leaving a horse shoe by the roadside, we’re seeing Nikes and Birkenstocks parting the ozone like the Gulf Stream. Talk about your Air Jordans.

Ever since that foreign sounding guy (if all their middles names are Al, why do they bother with middle names at all? Just go by initials and save yourself some confusion.) lobbed a loafer at George Bush a while back, shoe wars have become more popular than Star Wars. (Imagine Condoleeza Rice in white robes with a hot cross bun hairdo peering at a black-clad Vladimir Putin. “The tighter your grasp, the more stilletos will slip through your fingers.” Then he launches a Manolo Sputnik and gives her a bad hair day to set an example.)

Just today I read that in India these days there are so many shoe launches, they’re hiring air-traffic controllers by the bootload to keep up. Personally, there are a lot of things I’d be tempted to throw at today’s politicians, but my new black leather pumps that make me tall enough to see eye to eye with the wretch who jammed the office copier are staying right here with me. And I’d sooner launch my Hannah Montana wristwatch with the guitar-shaped second hand before I would toss a pair of Reeboks that I had to pay $75 for even on sale.

While we’re at it, we must also consider whether we have to change missiles with the season. In the future will it be considered unseemly to throw white shoes after Labor Day or patent leathers on Spring Break? If I toss a mid-winter strappy sandal will I be held accountable by the press? I think instead of shoes, I’d rather fling the buttons off my blazer. You get more bullets for the buck and that stupid jacket is two Ding Dongs and a Moon Pie past fastening anyway.

I understand that in Mr. Al’s culture, the sole of the shoe is considered the ultimate in cross-the-line insults. But doesn’t it seem as if it would make more of a stinging jab to insult someone in a way they would recognize as offensive? I’ve had to dodge worse projectiles than a low flying Grasshopper when I broke up random skirmishes between “Did Not” and “Did Too” back at the house, and it didn’t even take my mind off what to do with the chicken for supper. If that journalist really wanted to get George W’s attention he should have hopped right up and announced, “Laura has fat ankles and the twins look like Dan Quayle.” Now that would have caused a Texas-style Hoedown.

But why can’t we express our opinions in a more dignified manner? What happened to the days when you simply left an offender off the guest list for your next party? That’s what Samantha did to Lindsey Lohan, who immediately set-to with wailing and gnashing of teeth across the pages of important journalistic endeavors like In Touch magazine and the National Enquirer. There’s just something about getting left out of a party that leaves a lasting impression. Tread marks on your forehead may come and go but a social slight is forever.

Besides, isn’t it nice to be the better person instead of getting involved in a mass sneaker rebellion? Your picture on the front page of the paper sitting coyly in a garden party chair with a plate full of dinner mints and petite fours, your ankles crossed and both shoes on your feet in proper order is going to win more support than the one showing you with a grimace and one armed cocked back in preparation of hurling half a pair of Converse All Stars. Think of all the pictures you’ve ever seen of a baseball pitcher in mid throw. Kind of makes you think of someone in need of a good roto-rootering, doesn’t it? When you finally get your picture on Time Magazine or Martha Stewart Living, you don’t want to look like the middle reliever for the Braves or the guy in the Pepto Bismol ads.

So, let’s all agree to take a civilized stance and show these politicians how to behave. If they can’t act in a manner benefitting a world leader and get down to the business of world peace, we won’t chuck Chucks. We just won’t invite them to our next election.

Let them act like the part of the horse that doesn’t need shoes to begin with. We'll win in the home stretch.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Terrible Waste

Those crazy kids Barack and Michelle made the cover of In Touch magazine this past week sharing the secrets that keep their love alive. Is it just me or does anybody else have a problem with the President of the greatest nation in the world dishing on his love dare in a trashy magazine? I can see him giving up his diet tips to help reduce the need for national healthcare, but isn’t it a little undignified for the First Couple to act out their version of the Presidential Dating Game in the cheap seat glossies?

I appreciate candor as well as the next person, but I don’t want a President that kisses and tells. That’s just un-American. That sort of thing is supposed to be exposed by freedom of the press.

My problem is this. If the man doesn’t keep quiet about keeping the First Romance alive, how can we expect him to keep his lips locked when it comes to lying to the Russians about how many nuclear half baths we’ve added to the White House? How do we know he won’t leak the National League standings to Fidel and Charlie McCarthy Castro?

I refuse to encourage the media in meddling in the private affairs of the President and his main squeeze. I’m proud to say that I did not buy that magazine. No siree, I read that puppy right there at the cash register, leaning against the Snicker bars and Juicy Fruit gum.

Speaking of puppies, I’m wondering how long true love is going to last now that they have a pooch on Pennsylvania Avenue. A few episodes of Doody Gate and there’s going to be a drop in the polls for the love match.

I can just see the President getting up and shrugging on the First Plaid Bathrobe in the middle of the night and padding along the White House shag when all of a sudden the First Feet find a squishy gift left unnoticed by the new puppy Bo who, at five months old, is still a better leaver than Retriever. The first thing the man of the house is going to do is blame it on the Missus.

“Michelle!” he bellows over the handy Intercom.

A few minutes later a sleepy voice answers back. “Baby, I’ve been up interviewing with trashy magazines and modeling longwaisted dresses all day. This had better be good.”

“There’s POOPY in the White House!”

Silence. Then, “Baby, this is America. There’s been poopy in the White House for 200 years.”

Mr. Obama, wise in the ways of political excrement, thinks to himself a minute. “The situation is foul and stinky and I put my foot in it and smeared it everywhere. I need someone who’s an expert in smelly waste to help me out.”

So he calls Bill Clinton.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Dilemma

Last night Sons One and Two were piled up on each end of the recliner couch, conserving energy in preparation for Earth Day.

I headed toward their room with a bucket and a broom, an activity that generally raises their alertness level to at least DefCon 1.

Son One peered suspiciously at me over his elevated Reeboks, an alarming feat considering the size of the feet. “What are you doing?”

“I thought I’d liberate some earth in preparation for tomorrow. You guys have enough free range topsoil in there to grow an acre of organic asparagus.”

He made the icky face. “I don’t like asparagus. Can you grow cake?”

I took a peek through their doorway. “Maybe Devil’s Food.”

“Funny, Mom. What’s with the bucket?”

Not wanting to compromise the integrity of my mission, I shot a wary glance at Son Two. He was staring intently at a tiny screen in front of him that he appeared to be massaging with his thumbs. Wires sprouted from the pockets of his hoodie and disappeared into his hair in the vicinity of where ears should be located. We haven’t seen his ears since 2003, so I’m a little apprehensive about confirming their whereabouts.

“Shhhh. I’m going to return his rock collection to the wild.”

The recliner at the end of the couch popped open like a mouse trap with reverse action. Music disappeared down flying headphones like water down a drain. The only thing dearer to Son Two than his rock collection is whatever he happens to have in the six million pockets of his camo jacket. Or a pizza. Or a six pack of YooHoos. This kid rotates his priorities like a farmer rotates crops.

“It took all my life to collect that highly specialized representation of rock types. Throw out your own stuff.”

Who says there's no communication between generations?

“I can’t. The only stuff you guys haven’t commandeered for personal use is my makeup and my dangly earrings. I’ll give up my CoverGirl complexion before I part with my highly specialized collection of bright and shinies. Besides, my stuff isn’t environmentally friendly.”

“What about those silver earrings with your birthstone?”

“Sorry. Ashes to ashes. Amethysts to earlobes.”

I was blazing a trail across the carpet in their room when I was stopped in my tracks by a line of crusty laundry that would resemble that long wall in China if seen from space.

I went back, popped some popcorn, and joined the boys on the couch.

I know when I’m beaten. I can shovel my way through shag, but I can’t fight the Great Wall of Chinos.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taxing Times

“Why is our refund so. . .numerically deficient?” I paused without signing the tax returns and wrinkled my nose in an “Okay who made the stinky?” face so Bill Dear would appreciate the gravity of the situation and conjure a larger refund out of random bits of dust and dog hair.

“That’s all we get.” He said with a shrug and a blank look. He is not as proficient as I am in the art of conversation by facial expression. Now that I think of it, his blank look is the only conversational facial expression he has, excepting his “Everyone is going to die” face, which I can cause him to produce with astounding regularity.

“But last year we got twice as much.” Here I added my “This deficit is obviously the fault of some politician who owes me money. Otherwise it’s your fault in which case you’d better cough up some dough” face.

“We could only claim one son.”

“But I’ve got the stretch marks to prove two children and a small elephant.” I have a face for this, but it couldn’t possibly help the situation at this point.

“It doesn’t matter. We can only claim one son as a dependent.”

“I cook potatoes five nights a week. Anything that moves slowly through my kitchen gets grill marks. There is enough ice cream in our refrigerator to open our own Baskin Robbins outlet store. And there is a pallet of Fruity Pebbles sprouting groves of fruit trees with artificial flavors on the back porch. Don’t tell me they’re not dependent.”

“Son One has a job. He filed his own tax return.”

“Oh sure, I wait 20 years for him to do something by himself and he picks tax time. Why wasn’t he this prompt when he was potty training?”

“Because he didn’t get something nice direct deposited in his bank account for that.”

“He gave me a direct deposit, but I can’t say it was that nice.”

“Just be glad you didn’t get dividends.”

“No, but I got a surprise in his bathwater once.”

“That’s okay. If we kept good records over the year we can itemize and maybe we'll come out better.”


“Okay, where’s the box?”

“The box?”

“The box with all our receipts so we can see what we spent.”

“Oh, we didn’t have a box that was big enough.” I handed him a huge, black garbage bag, it’s contents bulging like it belonged to a pre-Christmas Eve Santa.

He peered inside. “There’s nothing in here but empty Girl Scout cookie boxes.”

“Right. You wanted to know where our money went.”

“It all went for Girl Scout cookies?”

“Yep, but I was smart.” I dug way down past flattened cardboard cartons, crinkly wrappers and cookie crumbs and pulled out one last perfect box full of Thin Mints.

“What’s that?”

“I’m way ahead of the government." I took a bite of cookie heaven. "This is our stimulus package.”

Bill Dear gave me a look. And it wasn’t his blank expression.

I think I'm gonna need a bigger box.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Seek and You Shall Fail

"Before beginning a hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it." -- Winnie the Pooh

I appreciate the earnest wisdom of Winnie the Pooh as much as the next bear of very little brain, but in all deference, what I could use is a little bit of insider information on the location of the thing I’m looking for. Here we are teetering right on top of the time of year when well-honed finding skills are of utmost importance and I couldn’t track down an Easter egg with an Indian scout and a dedicated Coonhound trained on pastels. What I need is for Microsoft to create a search function that works in my back yard.

Since the seek-fail gene is not the sort of genealogical wonder that skips a generation, my sons Ca$h and Wrongway have this happy talent splashed all over their DNA like egg dye.

My older son is 20 and, while he has no use for hen’s eggs died to match the purples and polka dots found in nature, he has a keen interest in plastic Easter eggs which are known to harbor money or crispy chocolaty goodies in their recesses. But since he is not able to get in touch with his inner GPS, this year he requested that the Easter Bunny hide his eggs in a row on the kitchen table, marked with his name and initialed by quality control. He’d have no problems if the Easter Bunny simply left a check.

You’d think this would take some of the spirit out of the Easter morning egg hunt, but it’s actually a lot less painful than squiring a twenty year old to and fro past the back gate squealing, “Look! What's that behind the third tulip from the left? No, the other left.” Meanwhile, woodland creatures are gathering behind the bushes to place bets on how many eggs stay in the yard for another year.

He did find a group of colored eggs one year. Our Golden Retriever, who never met a food based item he didn’t like, rolled all the dyed eggs into the middle of the yard and licked the Crisco off. I thought the Crisco was to make them shiny, not lend them dog appeal. That's like rubbing meat tenderizer on the cat. Son One got up Easter morning, collected eggs like a hayseed in a henhouse and went back to bed.

My other son is an ace with Easter eggs. He has a multi-sensored tracking device embedded in his brain that can secure the enemy egg’s location in a nanosecond. It’s our house that he can’t seem to locate without help. In his defense, he hasn’t had his driver’s license long enough for the plastic smell to wear off. On his way home from the mall one day, he discovered a new school. In a different county. My cell phone rang that evening and an eerily familiar voice said, “Mom, I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore.” "Honey," I answered, calmly twisting the telephone wire into accordian pleats, "We live in South Carolina." So I can count on him to come up with the goods on the annual egg hunt. If he can find our yard.

I don’t understand it, though. I’ve seen these guys play video games. Either one can pick out a sniper across three continents hiding in the broom closet in the basement of a fourteen story building made of concrete slab with no windows. If the sniper is crouched under an overturned mop bucket wearing an invisibility cloak, all the better. The only decision is weather to sneak across a landbridge with a simple shotgun or a fall back on a weapon with a little more finesse, say a flame thrower.

But for now, our Easter eggs are safe. Unless he drops them in an underwater volcano somewhere in the mid Pacific. Personally, I hope he hides them on a certain ship or two located off the coast of Somalia.

Those stinkin' pirates wouldn't stand a chance.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Pirates!

When Barack Obama campaigned so hard against Hillary Clinton for the prize of the presidency, he probably figured that anything that came afterwards would be like taking candy from a Republican. “What could happen?” Barack probably said to Michelle, chuckling good naturedly as they worked side by side tilling the fertile soil of the First Garden. “An attack by pirates?”

Um, yeah.

It was exciting to hear this week’s news story about pirates capturing a ship flying the American flag, but even more interesting to read the spirited account of the Americans uncapturing the vessel. At this point in time, I am fully confident that the American government will launch a failed top-secret mission to secure the release of the ship’s captain who gave himself up as a hostage to save the crew. At that point, Navy Seals will go in and just tear up those pirates.

For future reference, however, here are some handy hints to keep in mind to prevent or thwart a pirate attack:

Create and install a GPS disarmament system, perhaps a dedicated seagull who has been trained to think the device is a stray hot dog bun or cheeseburger wrapper that is a part of his natural diet.

Maintain a fleet of small terriers who will rush the pirates, yapping voraciously and relieving themselves on deck, creating a series of water hazards.

Play really loud music on board to jam the pirates’ electronic equipment and eardrums with harsh signals. Music by Madonna. Or the Jonas brothers. Or Britney Spears. In case of Britney Spears, you could also use video.

Man all vessels with gentlemen of the plaid shirt with cut out sleeves variety from the southern United States. Tell the gentlemen that pirates hate Nascar. And beer. And their mamas.

Train ship captains in the art of negotiation as taught by the World Wrestling Federation. They can offer a stimulus package in return for the safety of the crew and vessel. Get off our ship and we won’t suplex or duplex your sorry butts.

Meanwhile, the president is considering every angle as the eyes of the world watch for his next move. The pirates, who appear to have a fondess for granting interviews to international media even though they are not agented, nor in possession of a good stylist or makeup man, are gathering forces. Hopefully Mr. Obama will study the situation carefully and realize there is only one thing he can do.

It’s time to turn on the Bat Signal.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Is The Shoe on The Other Foot?

Our postal workers are off the hook. Apparently the going occupation for the overstressed and ethically challenged loner career person in the South these days is mortician. I’m not talking about the solemn, well-dressed individual always ready to pull out one of the appropriate condolences he keeps handy in the breast pocket of his morning coat, and who is associated with a fine institution that has served us faithfully since the days when our granddaddies perished from reckless driving in the family wagon.

No, I’m referring to the type of guy whose day is so full of drinking clear liquid out of a mason jar and cleaning his ear with his pocket knife that he just doesn’t get around to cremating that day, so, as we all do, shoves his work aside says “to heck with it” and goes out to play in the sunshine. Unfortunately his work, having been dead for an uncomfortable length of time already, gets pushed to the corner of his desk and forgotten.

What’s a poor mortician to do? Why he simply pops the customer in a convenient hole out back until he gets a chance to do the proper thing. Sort of like filing, funeral director style. That’s what a mortuary in Georgia did a while back, and although it made the news when it got around, it sure saved a ton of money on matches.

The newest headliner is a thrifty South Carolina mortician who was faced with an untidy problem of a too-tall customer. Or a too-short place of eternal rest, it’s hard to say. Anyway, our handy free-thinking guy took matters into his own hands. He sliced the final resting feet off just above the ankles, tucked the whole package neatly inside the casket. Sort of an assembly-required overnight express delivery for the Pearly Gates.

The whole thing would probably have disappeared over the horizon like flexible bangle bracelets, Earth shoes, and any television program I vow to watch regularly, but in a small town a tale of removable tootsies is going to travel like it has winged feet, which is probably what this guy had once he got to heaven.

The rumors flew, authorities got involved, and the body was exhumed. There inside the casket, like a Mr. Potato Body with interchangeable parts was the customer. And available separately, were his feet.

Now that’s what I call thinking outside the box. From the inside.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Right to Assemble

Never mind Mars and Venus. There’s nothing like a do-it-yourself project to bring out the beast, er best, in both men and women. This one came in a long, flat, heavier-than-it-looks box full of parts marked with letters of the alphabet. In my euphoria at finding just the right desk for my computer after months of stalking office supply stores, I assumed everyone in the house (Bill Dear) would share my joy and jump at the chance to put my new desk together, whistling a happy tune like so many dwarves in a diamond mine. It turns out this particular mine was missing more pieces than a yard sale jigsaw puzzle.

“Where did the boys go?” Bill looked around the house as if subcontractors would pop up from behind the recliner.

“They’re both out of service. One is napping and the other is at Gumpy’s house killing zombies. You’ll get help from little shoemaking elves before you get anything out of those two.”

Luckily two enthusiastic helpers appeared suddenly in the form of our Mostly Labradors, Hunga Din and Whatzit. Hunga specializes in outdoor labor, such as supervising the weekly trip to the dump and barking at the lawn mower. Whatzit takes over the indoor chores, such as chasing stray beams of light and barking at the vacuum cleaner. Combined they are an awesome team, and in minutes they successfully scattered all the desk parts throughout the house, chewed a decorative pattern on one leg (not mine), and placed muddy paw prints on every bit of the instructions that came after the “If You Speak English” section. Thank goodness they were on the job, but if either one spoke Mandarin Chinese, that desk would have been in place within the hour.

“Don’t worry,” I chirped scraping up spare screws and particle board dust from under the coffee table. “I’ll be glad to help you.”

Bill Dear rubbed his face, a sure sign that he was counting his blessings.

“What do we do first?” I asked, waving a hammer. I try to be patient, but the man is something of a slow starter. He insisted on inventorying the parts and locating the instructions. Meanwhile I practiced my hammering on a scrap of artificial woodgrained paneling-type material. Lord knows, they name office furniture parts like they name snack food. The first time I came across macaroni and cheese product with artificial nondairy flavoring, I thought it came from the toy store.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Bill Dear is given to hysteria when confronted with a take-charge woman.

“Practicing my hammering,” I answered, holding the panel up for inspection. I have to admit I was pleased with the results.

“Great.” More face rubbing.

I smiled contentedly.

“Except that you used the nails we need to put the backs on the drawers, and you filled the modesty panel full of holes.”

He never appreciates anything I do. No wonder nobody wants to help.

“Here.” He handed me a sheaf of paper approximately the size of War and Peace. “Tell me what to do next.”

“Well, take these instructions and. . .”

“Watch it.”

“I was going to say wipe them off. They’re covered in muddy pawprints. I can’t tell where to insert Part B.”

Bill made strangling sounds. I decided he must need a drink of water, so I got up and carefully made my way to the kitchen.

“Would you stop kicking stuff out of the way?”

About that time I hit a spot that was supposed to be carpet, but turned out to be cardboard box, slick as Elvis’s hairdo and long as a mullet. I surfed the living room deep-pile like a seasoned pro at Big Sur, dismounted with a somersault at the hallway, and threw my hands in the air like an Olympic gymnast after a solid gold vault.

Bill Dear was neck deep in my file drawer. “Hand me the specialty screwdriver on the table, will ya?”


“Well that was a great landing, but I wouldn’t turn pro.”

Next time I’m paying extra to have the store put my purchase together and deliver it.

The right to assemble puts a serious damper on my pursuit of happiness.