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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dragons Ho!

“You’re a thief and a rogue.”

“I’m a people person!”

It’s kind of a glass half full discussion between species. The guys are playing Dungeons and Dragons with Bill Dear, a Dragon from way back.

One has lost an arm, one has been tenderized with a meat cleaver, and one has suffered a paper cut while filling out his character form. It doesn’t look good for propagation of the species. If Darwin’s theory is accurate, this planet is going to be populated by broadsword-wielding elves before I have grandchildren. Of course, if they look anything like Orlando Bloom’s Legolas in Lord of the Rings, I don’t have a problem with this plan.

So far it’s taken an hour to decide who’s who. The same thing happens every day with Hollywood royalty. If everybody there is two degrees from Kevin Bacon, these guys are all related to Mr. Ed, the talking horse. Here in the kitchen, I haven’t noticed anybody that’s liable to end up with a star on the Adventurer’s Walk of Fame.

One player gathers up all the dice and rolls. They hit the table and there’s more numbers scattered across the imitation woodgrain than on all the tombstones in a country graveyard. Everyone groans. Apparently the luck of the roll left our rogue out of the gene pool when it comes to strength. What we have is a tough guy that would lose in a street fight with Richard Simmons.

Another roll of the dice and the character has approximately the same IQ as a cabbage. I think the same thing happened with my Aunt Edna. She was always terribly sweet, but let’s just say the needle on her compass never pointed True North.

The characters are gathered around the table, eagerly poised on the edge of a great adventure.

I just hope they have a better compass than Aunt Edna or they'll never get out of the kitchen.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Got This

Why is it that whenever impending doom perches on your shoulder like Cinderella’s bluebird, the man of the house will say, “Trust me. I got this.”

Is that a Man Term for, “Flying monkeys are on the horizon! We’re all going to die!”

Other languages have masculine or feminine nouns. English has entire phrases. If you happen to overhear a conversation beginning with, “Hey man, look what I can do!” not only is it masculine, the country’s defense code has just moved up to Defcon Four. On the other hand, if you hear, “We really need to talk,” the phrase is feminine and there’s imminent nuclear war on the horizon.

If I had a daughter, I would teach her that the hearing the words “Trust Me” is an indication she should take the little poison pill in her secret spy ring because the game’s up.

Don’t get me wrong. I love men. I married two of them and only threw one back. I raised two boys without calling 911 once unless you count the time Son One threatened to notify Emergency Services after the broccoli incident.

But if the roof is leaking and I hear one of my guys say, “Don’t worry, I got this,” I pull out the lifejackets and cover the couch in plastic because there’s going to be a flood through the living room shag that Noah would be proud of.

Yesterday, as I was peeling the potatoes for dinner, the ice maker in the refrigerator began to leak, the dishwasher pitched in with a Ka-Thunk noise, and the microwave produced an array of pops and sparks. I didn’t bother to wait for the guys to spring into action.

“I got this!” I screeched, drove a For Sale Sign in the front yard, and went out to dinner.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Oprah Envy

I don’t hate Oprah because she’s worth more money than major studios rake in by making movies about attractive, charmingly incompetent pirates. I don’t even hate her because she has a house big enough that if she weren’t speaking to her husband, supposing she’d found a nice model for a good price on Ro-Day-O Drive, he wouldn’t know for six months. Or because she can speed dial any number of people who can prevent her from ever having a bad hair day.

I hate her because she can afford to gain weight.

There are three sections in my closet. To the right are clothes that I have worn within recent history—which includes the eras that boasted Edith and Archie Bunker, Sonny and Cher, and the Beatles. With enough time and dedication to the study of fat content on spaghetti sauce labels and ice cream wrappers, I might wear these clothes again. I might also don a tricorn hat and sail with Johnny Depp on his next voyage, but that's beside the point.

The middle section of the closet is devoted to clothes I can wear right now. This section contains a pair of faded blue jeans, the black top my niece gave me with a buckle that’s guaranteed to draw the eyesight of innocent bystanders away from unsightly ripples in the terrain, and six pairs of stretchy pants.

The section to the left holds selections for days of bloat, hormone fluctuation, and random binges of drinking whole milk. My fat clothes.

My budget allows me these three small sections, although there are days when the power bill, car payment, and rent deadline band together like wayward musketeers to encourage me to sell the buckle shirt on eBay. I dream of a day when there’s enough money left after the cable bundle that I feel comfortable throwing out the bra with the broken wire.

I imagine Oprah’s closets. She probably has whole rooms devoted to different sizes of clothing. If she has an off day and, say, indulges in salad dressing or puts a dab of sour cream on her potato, she goes to the blue closet and pulls out a clever chiffon that skims the hips, conceals arm pendulums, and erases under eye circles.

Last week I went for a walk on the wild side, the closest thing I have to a workout plan, and plunged a chip deep into the salsa at the Mexican restaurant. Without a single thought for future wardrobe planning, I ate the whole thing without sharing a crumb with anyone else, including my lap. Today my jeans wouldn’t zip, my blouse wouldn’t button, and my Victorias threatened to spill their secret.

My life will never be like Oprah’s. Maybe I’ll try for Jerry Springer’s. If my clothes have a story to tell, let them tell it to somebody who will make the most of it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kids, Kennedys, and Pizza Coupons

News sources reveal that there’s another Kennedy in Rehab. That’s like having a media blitz to announce that Paris Hilton has bought a new pair of pumps. In a country where politics have always been a playground for the wealthy and eccentric to display the lack of judgment that would reward the common man with enough state-provided room and board to last until Social Security kicks in, the Kennedy Family is to public decorum what Kirstie Alley is to the Jenny Craig diet.

If the Kennedys would display as much talent in social interaction as they do in politics, the world could be their Facebook page. This family has had so many members graduate from the Betty Ford clinic, they have their own yearbook, homecoming queen, and valedictorian.

But it’s not really sporting of me to pick on these guys. Having raised two teenagers to angsthood, I remember times when pouring bourbon on my cornflakes was more preventive maintenance than problem drinking. The first time I faced a thirteen year old boy with one body hair wielding a safety razor and a pack of bandaids, I put the insurance company on speed dial and chugged a bottle of the first thing I could find in the cupboard. And while Mrs. Butterworth’s isn’t bad for a complimentary cocktail, the effect wasn’t as soothing to my nerves as I had hoped. But it turned out okay. We just plucked that hair out of his ear with a handy pair of tweezers.

Raising teenagers teaches you about alternate reality. My kids live in a video game world where a quick plunge over a nearby cliff means you just have to wait for your extra life to kick in. Try to explain to the bearer of a beginner’s permit that the family Chevy doesn’t operate like the car on Crazy Taxi. Sure he might be able to drive the whole course backwards with virtual passengers, but load up a real life SUV with two toddlers, three soccer balls, and a Labrador with bladder retention problems and there are going to be more pit stops on the way to the Dollar Store than Dale Earnhardt makes all season.

One thing you can say for the Kennedys is that once you’re on Team Kennedy, you’re a member for life. Where I come from, we don’t put down roots so much as set out sprouts and pray for rain. We don’t even write our names on the mailboxes in permanent marker. I put labels in my husband’s workout clothes that read “Current Resident” and our address.

And nothing says, “It’s a holiday” like the 2:00 p.m. child custody rotation and swap meet. At the designated time, alternate sets of parents arrive and we exchange children like they were pizza coupons. Even now that my kids are old enough that I can no longer claim them as co-dependents, they’ll jump up at 2:00 on Sunday afternoon and run to the car clutching their headphones, a spare pillow, and two video games to be named later.

But the entire Kennedy clan will be engaging in freelance flag football at Hyannis Port on the Fourth of July long after they list my name right before “survived by” and “served as volunteer taster for the county BBQ festival” in the twice weekly hometown paper. Millions of dollars in memorials for charitable foundations will follow the death of even a minor Kennedy.

Just make the checks for me out to Diapers for Dogs.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Trash Talk

I lobbed a blackened cabbage toward the trash can and groaned as it bounced off the side and spun across the linoleum. It sounded like an eighteen wheeler losing a retread at ninety miles an hour.

“I need a vacation.”

“You need a free throw coach. That was a terrible shot.”

Bill Dear and I have discovered that teamwork activities are a cheap form of marriage counseling. Cleaning the refrigerator may not seem like an exercise in compromise, but we’ve found that many of life’s problems pale in comparison to a quicksand patch of Mrs. Butterworth’s that’s about to claim the life of a helpless pot roast.

We are presently in the kitchen seated side by side in wooden chairs, facing what he calls the Rottery: three shelves of timeworn tuna, meatloaf meltdown, and a swamp of sweet tea that could support a pontoon brigade.

The whole affair has the engaging scent of a garbage barge on an extended search for a home port.

I handed him a largish hunk of something that once resembled cheese. “Okay, Michael Jordan. Your shot.”

He banked the object off a handy Labrador napping nearby.

“Swoosh! That’s how you do it.”

“No fair. You had an assist.”

“And you had a vacation. Remember last month? You stayed home for a whole week.”

“Five days at home with two flu-ridden kids is not a vacation. It’s an internship.”

He attempted a three-point shot with a stray Brussels Sprout. The Lab intercepted the object with a snap on the downward arc, swallowed the thing in one gulp, and looked accusingly at his Pop. He hates Brussels Sprouts.

“Sorry, buddy.”

With a sigh, Bo settled his chin on the floor between his paws.

“That’s the trouble with dogs. They’ll forgive you for anything.”

“That’s why we take them on trips in the car instead of our wives. If you would act nice, I’d let you ride to the dump with your head out the window, too.”

I popped him with a wilted celery stalk.

He pulled a Tupperware bowl from the bottom shelf. The lid was puffed up like a chef’s hat, and a peculiar life form was clinging to the inside like a fruit bat.

“Have we ever had anything that color?”

“I don’t think they make food that color.”

“Well, they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” He lobbed the offending container toward the trashcan.

The bowl dropped to the bottom of the can like a laser-targeted depth charge. The lid spun for a minute before rocking back into place. We watched silently, ready to run if an explosion seemed imminent.

Bill Dear leaned back with the self-assured air of an NBA star at a post-game interview.

“But if it’s packed in Tupperware and the top is rising like a shot from center court, save yourself the painful learning experience and throw the whole thing away.”

We closed the refrigerator door and stood up.

“So now can I have a vacation?”

“Sure. Come with me.” He picked up the trash can and held it at arm’s length. I’ll take you to the dump.”

“Now that's foul.”

He loaded the car and I watched as he headed down the driveway with the big Lab perched happily in the passenger seat.

I dropped into the chair at my computer to Google exotic vacation destinations. The cat padded across the desk and nestled in my lap.

"Well, Kitty," I purred as I typed in a verification, “If life is a basketball game, I'm about to be charged with traveling."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Close Shave

Back in my day when men carried wallets instead of purses, it was commonly thought that if a man had enough spare time to shave his back, he was either a ward of the state or he was living off Mama’s welfare earnings while she made pot roast and homemade yeast rolls with cream puffs for dessert.

Any man caught moisturizing body parts that Nice People couldn’t see would be subject to ridicule and excommunication from his bowling team. In extreme cases, license to own and drive muscle cars would be suspended. I know of one man who shaved his body to satisfy the whim of a roller skate waitress at the new drive-in. She was later caught pulling on the pony tail of a Harley biker at the drive through.

I come from a section of the country where any male over the age of 21 who doesn’t have a scar that precludes hair from growing on some part of his body is considered a Mama’s Boy and is subject to exclusion from all-you-can-eat wing night with the guys. Show me a man who shaves his face, waxes his chest, tweezes his eyebrows, and has his legs lasered, and I’ll show you the next winner on Project Runway.

Really, I’m just being self serving about the whole thing. In these days when it’s the fashion for men to keep their body slicker than an icicle, there’s nothing to keep the surface temperature at a desirable level once frost dusts the peaks and points. I like a man with some heat conductors left intact. When winter comes and my behind is colder than a Butterball turkey the week before Thanksgiving, I want to know that I’m snuggling up to somebody who doesn’t think of defrost exclusively as a microwave activity.

But for now it’s warm and winter is way beyond the horizon, so I'll just while away my time watching all the Hollywood hunks in the summer movies. I’ll start with Wolverine.

A little hair of the dog never hurt anyone.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cutting It Close

“If I don’t come back, remember me for who I was!”

Jeffrey is on his way outside to cut the grass. He is 18 and displays a significant tendency toward the dramatic. Cutting the grass rates almost as high on the enjoyment of life scale as going shopping for foundations with his mother, something he has steadfastly refused to be a part of since he was four years old and I asked him publicly whether to get the T Rex or the Superman briefs.

His grass cutting clothes are cleverly designed to protect him from his archenemy, sunlight. He is sporting black sweat pants, a black T-shirt with a dashing dragon motif, and a camouflage jacket. I'm not sure if they started out that way, but even his sneakers are black. He looks like a black hole in the jungle.

The sun will never recognize him, but the fire ants who live throughout the neighborhood in well-crafted red dirt condos think he’s a walking hors d’oeuvre. They scramble to assemble relay teams designed to bring back tender flesh for a glorious repast. These are some of nature’s most bloodthirsty creatures and should be required to post Predator signs in front of their homes and turn out their porch lights on Halloween.

The fire ants did not reckon with the maze of clothing covering Jeffrey’s body, which has not been exposed to the air since he emerged from the birth canal. They reconnoiter and launch an attack on Bill Dear, whose sole defense is a pair of hiking boots and the ability to swear like a seaman.

I’ve heard that grits are to fire ants what Kryptonite is to the Man of Steel, so as Bill Dear dances past the back door, I spring into action, flinging packet after packet of stone ground goodness at his convulsive form like he was a bride at a redneck wedding.

You would think he would be more appreciative of my efforts to help. How was I supposed to know that the proper grits annihilation technique does not involve hurling them at the attacking hordes? Nor does it involve instant grits.

But if I’m ever in Germany, I’ll know what to say if someone cuts me off in traffic.

Meanwhile Jeffrey has mowed the front lawn in a fairly accurate representation of the crop circles we’ve heard so much about, and is showering—probably still wearing the camo jacket—in the guest bathroom with the fancy soap. By the time Bill recovers from the fire ant fox trot, Jeffrey will have left the building, borrowed the car, and forgotten the trauma of having parents.

I peer out the front door. The circles cut into the lawn resemble a peaceful rippling pattern. In all the excitement, I’ve forgotten to remind Jeffrey to feed the dog, empty the dishwasher, or clean his room.

They say in the old days families had handfuls of children so they could help with the planting and harvesting of crops, taking care of the livestock, and seeing to the household chores.

I don’t see how they got anything done.