Don’t Touch That Button!

I have a pretty simple morning routine: wake up, push up sleep mask, dislodge dog from whatever part of me she’s currently squashing, make and consume vast amounts of coffee, wash face, brush teeth, get on with day.  Yesterday happened much as all other days do, except for my face washing water failed to get hot.  This was a pretty big “oh no” situation because it meant that my half-sized electric water heater had shuffled off  to join Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain at a round table reserved for dead people too cool to hang out with me.  The chances of calling a plumber to fix said heater were next to none as I have been recently tapping the parental ATM excessively – to the tune of a new mattress.  I calculated how long I could live without hot water, and thought I could hack it for a pretty long time — especially since summer is coming and the water pours from the spigot at 95 degrees anyway.

I dreaded telling Dad (the Great Provider – G.P.) about the situation, and decided I’d better make some moves to fix it before calling him.  I went outside to the garage and stared blankly at the electrical panel for a few minutes.  I don’t know about your board – maybe your house was previously owned by some super organized person who owned a  label maker and by God knew how to use it – but mine looks like the last person who tried to write “washing machine” on it was a drunk Klingon with a thick-tipped red Sharpie.  After staring uncomprehendingly, I gave up and flipped every single circuit, including what I assume was the main.  Power did go off briefly and then come back on in the house, but that was the only indication that the thing was even connected.  I literally might have caused a mild panic in some Class 5 Klingon Warship without knowing it, but that’s what they get for siphoning off my electricity.  My house secretly powering interstellar travel (I’m imagining a really long extension cord) would finally explain the expense of my monthly energy bill.

I went back into the house, reset all the clocks (again), and waited.  Normally, when the water heater is doing his job, it makes a sibilant sound like a content boa constrictor out and about happily doing snake stuff.  There was no sound, but I waited for 20 minutes before turning on the hot tap just in case.  The water did not heat up as it ran.   In fact, I’m pretty sure it got marginally colder.  It was time to open the blood red cabinet that housed the beast.

The only creature behind the two doors (without handles – like it’s a bad idea to even think about opening them) is the heater.  It’s not very scary, really.   It’s a small, squat, water heater.  It’s not worrisome in the least until, upon further examination, you notice a variety of lines that look a lot like thick extension cords wired to the large metal cylinder.  That gave me pause.  In third grade science, Mrs. Klepperman taught us about water conducting electricity by saying, “if you screw in a light bulb while standing in a puddle of water, YOU WILL DIE.”  That kind of lesson sort of sticks with you, even after you screw in about a billion light bulbs with damp tootsies and fail to croak.  Mrs. Klepperman was more concerned about SAVING LIVES than strict, scientific accuracy.

I found the release valve first — but it didn’t look like one.  It was a red numerical dial with a strange, hinged piece of dangling metal.  I discovered (via experimentation) that if you turned the metal deal-y (technical term) just right, a whooshing noise would come through the attached PVC pipe and water would flow into the black plastic pan underneath.  “Okay,” thought I. “Good to know, but not what we’re looking for.”  Not that I knew what I was looking for…something to do with heating water probably.

There was only one place left to look.  Two pieces of long, bowed pieces of metal were screwed into the side of the heater.  “Now YOU look like you got something to hide,” I accused in my best hard-boiled detective voice.

It’s possible that when Sears made my water heater, they put those metal plates on the side to deter idiots like me from opening the panels.  They also threw on a lot of stickers in DANGER colors that said “WARNING, DO NOT OPEN” in multiple languages – evidently Sears sells water heaters to people who only read Farsi.   Ignoring the warnings due to the fact that we now have to be warned about everything, including that we might drown in a bucket, I pulled the 8 foot long screws (obviously magic since the tank itself was only about ¼” thick) from the top and bottom of the panel and was greeted by a Styrofoam housing with a little handle on the top part. I gingerly opened the lid. Inside the housing was some cotton wadding.

“Hmmm, this is beginning to look more and more  like a bomb,” I thought, as I carefully removed the cotton only to find a thick piece of translucent plastic that covered up: 1) a bunch of wires 2) a gauge of some kind that was not temperature and 3) a big red button.  The plastic had the words: “DO NOT REMOVE WHILE POWER IS ON” engraved in it.  I carefully pulled it off, REVEALING THE BUTTON.

I was well aware that the power was on, and I had no idea if the big red button was a reset or a detonator.  “I should turn off the power first,” I thought as my right index finger crept ever closer to the enticing button as though it was caught in a tractor beam.   I tried to restrain myself.  My internal chicken was screaming about stupid people blowing themselves to kingdom come while trying to recall the current condition of my underpants … but still my finger edged ever nearer.   At the last second, I closed my eyes, whispered, “Goodbye cruel world,” and pressed the button.

I emerged from a “duck and cover” position to hear the happy hissing of the heater.  It was a reset button after all.  Equilibrium has been restored, although the water is perhaps a little hotter than it’s ever been.

Now to figure out how to unplug those parasitic Klingons.

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Brooklyn Bar-be-BLECH!

This weekend, alert reader Lena Tulk (yes, you probably know her) threw up some pretty huge caution cones about a new trend that is possibly sweeping the world: Brooklyn Barbeque.  Before we get too much further, even prior to posting the picture of this travesty, I’d like you to remember NOT TO PANIC.  Your barbeque will be almost certainly be just fine.  In my experience, Texans tend to have a remarkably low tolerance for tampering with delicious tradition.

Barbeque grossness

As you can see from this photo, the world (at least in Memphis, TN) has taken some level of umbrage to this plate of what looks like horse meat, King’s Hawaiian rolls, and pickles which are probably in that paper boat because they’re frantically trying to escape.  Lena and I had several things to say about this:

A: I’ll bet those pickles are $17 each. That’s a New Jersey college fund worth of pickles right there.

L: The guy actually says, “I feel like Brooklyn BBQ inspired the world.” Dude, no one buys New York style barbeque sauce.

A: This would be a sorry $3.83 BBQ plate at a Stuckey’s in Idaho. Also, how is Brooklyn trying to take credit for what are obviously King’s Hawaiian rolls?  I mean, another state is literally in the name of the food.

L: Where is the sauce? Moisture? Onion? SHAME!

A: It’s espresso rubbed, Lena!  Because coffee is really the only thing that meat has been missing.  Salt? Pepper? Too pedestrian! Use espresso, ground from free range happiness beans harvested by stoned unicorns in an otherwise untrammeled Sumatran rainforest.

L: Only if conflict free leprechauns are riding the unicorns

A: Of course.

L: Coffee doesn’t even sound good as an ingredient — even if this plate didn’t look like God smote it with mighty lightening.  It looks like they saw the bark on good BBQ and thought, “Hey, that looks like coffee grounds from my French press! I’ve been looking for a way to up-cycle those!” It just looks so dry!

A: It’s like a beef desert.  If that’s beef…the more I look at it, the more I suspect that it’s someone’s ancient leather recliner.  Zoom in.  See if you can find part of a Lay-Z Boy logo.

L: Finely aged and tenderized by years of personal contact with your very own beef consigliore, Hank Funkner, a life-long resident of Withering Cold, Wisconsin.

A: It looks like it was recently part of a leper.

L: It’s like a failed attempt at reconstituting a desiccated lizard.

A: It looks like someone cooked a cocker spaniel with an arc welder.

L: It looks like that bat that took off with the space shuttle … after it fell off.

A: It looks like “Budget Cut Day” at America’s crappiest high school cafeteria.

L: It’s what they serve at a maximum security prison when they want to really encourage everyone to just give up.

A: “Found that one part of my tire…”

L: It makes eating silica packets seem like chugging a glass of water.

A: “Desiccant!?! That’s not positive thinking.  Around here, it’s desicCAN!

L: Fricassee of Tommy Lee.

A: It’s nothing fancy.  Just your average, every day slab of C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller)

L: Same difference.

A: “Craft” pickles.

L: More like Kraft.

A: “Hey, Manny! Looks like we finally found Jimmy Hoffa!”

L: Do you think they just taped a dead rat to the exhaust pipe of a taxi?

A: I think that’s probably the basic definition of “Brooklyn BBQ.” Someone should alert Wikipedia.

I’m going to argue that Vice was incorrect in reporting that Brooklyn BBQ was “inspiring the world,” especially since their evidence revolved around the fact that a BBQ joint in Columbia looked like…wait for it…A BARBEQUE JOINT. “I walked into La Fama – which calls itself the first Southern North American BBQ restaurant in Bogota. The strings of Edison bulbs, picnic table style seating and exposed brick walls had me second guessing exactly where I was.”  I’m guessing there were also red checkered table cloths and pitchers of iced tea.

So far, it appears that this Brooklyn restaurant doesn’t have a lot to teach Texas about BBQ.  It’s worth noting that the Vice article was originally posted in 2014, and was reposted last weekend for some reason.  The Washington Post reports that while the restaurant in question is still in business, this dish is no longer on the menu.  Some signature!

One statement is correct, this plate did inspire the world – just more in the direction of outright mockery than in terms of barbeque preparation.  At least the Memphis P.D. is on the case!


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As I child, I never predicted that one day my personal happiness and safety might be compromised by the relative horniness of the common ground squirrel.  Being honest, though, if my childhood fortune telling was at all accurate I would now own a raccoon named Stanley and ride a flying unicorn to work.

The squirrels are really back at it though.  Spring must have sprung in their tiny little rodent brains.  They’re running to and fro like maniacs, with no regard for traffic, screaming up trees so fast they’re little more than a blur.  As you might expect, my intellectually is having some trouble concentrating on the dog jog.

For you new readers, I exercise my dog by putting a leash on her harness and allowing her to run alongside my bike.  This is safer than it sounds because after about the first mile (I call this part “Cannonball Run”), Stadler settles into a beautiful trot beside Gertrude (my bike) and we have a time exploring our world.  When the squirrels are ripe with animus, however, our delicate balance is upset like an apple cart on a high wire in a tornado.  Basically, I just hang on like a monkey on the back of a charging rhino, screaming, “NO SQUIRRELS” at the top of my lungs.

Stadler loves squirrels with the kind of deep and meaningful love she otherwise reserves for rides in the car and a treat called an “Oinkie” (yes, they’re made of pig).  I have caught her on several occasions trying to sneak whole bowls of dog food out to the fat, glossy grey squirrels who inhabit our backyard.  Stadler sometimes disappears and is quiet for long periods of time.  I call this the “Dog Project.”  I’ve tried about a thousand times to sneak up on her to figure out what she’s doing, but she always catches me – trotting around the corner of the garage to say hello with a suspiciously guilty look on her face.  I’m pretty sure that “Dog Project” is really just Stadler being social with squirrels.

Because of this, I’m also pretty sure the dog doesn’t want to eat a squirrel if she catches one, but she cannot resist the urge to chase something that’s running away.  Pure instinct combined with 74 pounds of raw power is not the safest combination.  The squirrels have no respect for poor Stadler, optimistic eater and Omega female.  Yesterday, one ran out into the road and angrily shook his fists at us.  Leave it to us to be the one woman/dog exercise team to incur the wrath of the elusive protest squirrel.

Increased running around has also caused an upswing in the amount of increasingly flat squirrel corpses on the road.  Stadler says she would very much like to sniff/roll in all of these, but is too polite to fight me on it.  They do speak to my imagination, however, and I wind up imagining dramatic squirrel conversations regarding the apocalypse:

“Good morning, Mr. McFluffington! Did you see that Bill Pouffypants got raptured?”

“Why no, Mr. Snowybuttcottontail!?!

“See that sort of furry stain over there?  That’s Bill’s Earth clothes!”

“Lucky Bill!”

“We all just have to keep running across the road and hoping, I guess. Have a good day at the Nutwerks.”

For some reason, contrary to all observation and physical evidence, both squirrels in this conversation were wearing fedoras.

The other day, the whole dog-fascination-with-squirrels problem hit a new level.  We were riding past the house that I call the “Cattery.”  This home is always problematic because about 15 cats live there.  These cats love to lounge disdainfully in their yard and watch the road with unblinking feline scorn.  From what I’ve seen, they rarely move.  Stadler gets very excited every time we go by this house because for a few years of her life her very best friend in the world was my parents’ cat, Hot Fat, who died a few years ago.  Since then, Stadler has been actively angling for a replacement kitty, but the Rev (my Mom) has “developed an allergy,” and I don’t want one.  Stadler is out of luck, but try convincing her of that.

I’ve gotten her pretty well resigned to the idea that she can’t go visit the kitties at the Cattery, but the other day, she witnessed an event that caused her to absolutely lose her mind.  Stadler saw a white cat chase a squirrel up a tree.

I don’t know how to put into human terms the level of excitement this caused in my dog.  She leapt straight up in the air, turning an entire 360 before landing, completely tangled in her leash, still jumping up and down.  I got Gertrude stopped, managing for a change not to land on my head, and tried to untangle my dog who had by now functionally hog-tied herself.  Stadler was shaking in joy as she waited for me to set her free.  “DID YOU SEE THAT AB!  KITTY CHASE SQUIRREL!  KITTY CHASE SQUIRREL!” She kept trying to tell me all about it, much like a little kid telling you all about a movie you just watched with them.  I’ve never seen her that excited about anything.  This was obviously a canine meta-moment.  Remind me to never show her a Whack-a-Mole game.

She hasn’t forgotten it either.  Each day as we ride past the Cattery, she looks at that tree, just waiting for the Great Kitty Miracle to happen again.  It hasn’t yet, but at the rate horny squirrels are getting “raptured’ in our neighborhood, it just might.  Either way, it’s good to see the spring.

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What’s in a Name

This Christmas, my niece (who is now in college and as fully grown – at least in terms of height — as she can be expected to get) announced to the Rev that she was considering changing her name.  “I just hate it,” Jessamin-call-me- Jess complained.  “All the old ladies in the nursing home ask me about it, and then I have to tell them the entire story. It takes FOREVER. I just lie and tell them that it’s short for Jessica.”

Jessamin has insisted upon being called “Jess” since she was around eight years old.  It’s an unusual moniker, and I’m pretty sure she caught some grade school flack for having a strange name in a small town filled with Jennifers, Lindseys,  Heathers, and a few unfortunate Ciaras.  I know how she felt.

Abigail isn’t a terribly common name now, but was even less so when I was growing up.  If you wanted to name your kid something Biblical, you stuck with good, stolid “Sarah.” I didn’t meet another Abby until I was 15, and she spelled it Abbie. We hated each other because the variance in spelling guaranteed that no one would ever get our names correct on anything.

I never had personalized license plates, necklaces or friendship bracelets because they didn’t exist.  In first grade, when we were learning vowels, they made me use my whole name (Abigail) with 4 total.  The next closest kid was named Owen. I’m still mad about that.

I got stuck with the name Abigail because my father had a “Lunch Line Policy of Naming Children.” The G.P., about to become a first-time Daddy, decided he wanted his child to be right out front in life for everything good.  Mom argued with him, noting that this strategy would put me up first for a lot of bad things, too, but Dad prevailed. Grandma Betty was positive the G.P. was going to name me Aardvaark, and forced Mom to promise not to take any drugs during the delivery (just in case). The Rev’s still resents that.

I can tell you that, after decades of practical experience, Dad was mostly wrong.  I was first in line for lots of things — book reports, tetanus shots, lice checks and chin-ups to name a few – but generally you don’t have to force kids to get into alphabetical order for fun stuff. In terms of lunch lining up, fortune tends to favor the bold.  Even if they reversed the order and used our last names first, I still got stuck way out in front. It’s possible that I’ve had more scoliosis checks than any other student ever. Very few people ever got ahead of Bair.  How I prayed for an Aaron Aaronson or an Adam Anderson.

It should be noted the “Lunch Line Naming Policy” was only ever applied to one of my parents’ children.  My brother’s name is Josh – smack dab in the middle.  The Rev may not win every battle, but she sure tends to win the wars.

And so I grew up hating my name and singled out because of it.  Bair isn’t great either, so I felt like I got hit with a grand slam double whammy of existential awkwardness.  How I wished to be a Smith or a Jones! All through high school I got teased.  This kid named Rob would sit alongside the lockers with his feet stretched out (the better to trip me with) and yell, “BAIR, GRRRR” every time I walked past.  No, it wasn’t because he liked me. It was because he was a little jerk.  Although, with a name like “Rob,” he probably ought to have avoided being hyper-literal.  I hope his cell is nice, but not particularly roomy.

College didn’t change much, except  that I got so sick of no one ever being able to spell my name correctly, that I changed my nickname to Abi (from Abby) insuring that it would be forever unspellable.  “That’ll teach them!” I thought, relishing what I thought would be an ironic revenge.

Even then, my name continued to feel like an ill-fitting shirt, awkward, constricting, with a weird binding sleeve – as though it was cheaply made in China for a much smaller person.

I thought about changing my name, but no other seemed to fit me either. Was I an Amy or a Cindy or a Cheryl? A Mary or a Celeste or a Penelope? None of them worked any better than Abigail.  I didn’t really like my moniker, but I was sure stuck with it.

The reason was this: it wasn’t my name that was awkward — it was me. Changing wouldn’t have helped in the least.  “Amy” would have chafed just as much as “Abi,” the only difference is that jerks would have to find something else to make fun of me about. And they would have. Hate your name or love it, it’s part of you, your history, who you were and who you’ve become.  You can change the word all you like, legally adopt a name like Miss Black America (I met her in a doctor’s office – she didn’t win, so she changed her name), but it won’t make you anything other than who you are.

Jessamin Elizabeth’s name is special, anyway – at least to me.  She was named after both of my Grandmothers: Jasmin and Elizabeth.  I always thought she got her name because her mother (Lace) was trying to brown-nose my wealthy Grandma Jasmin.  I was angry about it because this insured that I wouldn’t be able to name my daughter after either of my grandmothers.  Lace didn’t like the name Jasmin (which happens to also be my favorite flower) so she changed it to Jessamin.  This aligned with the name Jesse (my brother’s best friend growing up), so it suited everyone.

No one bothered to tell Grandma about her “namesake” until after Jess was born and the birth certificate was singed.  Gran’s actual response was somewhat less rosy than anticipated: “Jessamin was MY birth name! I hated the damned thing and changed it to Jasmin just as soon as I could.”

I laughed so hard I shot most of an Arnold Palmer out my right nostril.

A good story is worth a quite a few teases and derisive cat-calls from the “Federation of Future Felons.”  At the end of the day, we are our stories. You might as well hold tight to the great ones. Maybe names aren’t quite as interchangeable as Ms. Juliet would have us think.

I’ll love Jess whatever she chooses to call herself, but I believe I’ll keep my names. I am, however, willing to hyphenate.  Anybody know a cute, single, employed guy with the last name Buns?

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A Street Cur Named Rowlfie

To make a long story short, the big chestnut stray with a crocodilian jaw started

Bruce and Rowlfie at BFMG

Dad & Rowlfie at Barefoot Mardi Gras

following Stadler and I on the dog jog in January, 2016.  The first time he barreled toward us, I thought big trouble was coming, but it turns out that he wanted exercise and companionship.  The mutt started showing up every morning at 8:03, raring to go.  One day, he was so mannerly that I rewarded him with a biscuit. That sealed the deal. He sat on my cold concrete driveway for seven hours, looking through my window wearing the saddest expression in canine history.  Finally, I told him not to pee on the rug, and let him in the house.

I began to search for his owners putting posters on shop doors and light posts.  I called rescue organizations and posted his picture on their Faceboook pages. I checked with vets to see if he was reported missing.  He had a microchip, but all the phone numbers were disconnected.  I also left this notice on

“I have taken in the big, brown, shovel-headed, neutered male dog who has been running collarless for at least a month. He is housebroken, trained, smart, and is now my homie. He likes food, chillin’, and sleeping on the rug. He is not dog aggressive, although I’m pretty sure his farts are the equivalent of a declaration of war under the Geneva Convention. He also snores, but is quite genteel about it. Anyway, if he’s yours, or you know where he goes, please let me know.”

None of these efforts generated an owner, so Mom and I decided to keep him.  My father was in Mexico at the time.  For years, Dad carped about how he never gets to pick his own dogs, so we were pretty leery about introducing Rowlf.  “He’s MY dog,” said the Rev, “but he may have to stay at YOUR house.”

Dad stole Rowlfie in under a week.  Although the dog showed clear signs of abuse (he was terrified of men), he fell in love with the G.P. nearly instantly.

They belonged to each other.

The G.P. and Rowlf walk at least twice a day — neighborhood royalty. The two go everywhere together. Rowlfie loves car rides, and often snuggles on the couch with the Rev.  He follows my father like a lamb, usually with a goofy expression of abject adoration on his face.  Rowlfie is  a different dog.  He’s not skinny, filthy, or terrified, and he smiles most of the time (even if it is often in total befuddlement).

Rowlfie and Mom chillin' on couch

Rowlfie and the Rev sharing the couch.

In light of the above description, it’s difficult to cast my father as the abusive Stanley Kowalski from A Streetcar Named Desire (and even tougher to turn Rowlfie into aging belle, Blanche Dubois), but that’s what happened.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the armchair vigilantism that takes place on the  People submit “crimes” constantly with little or no evidence to support their claims.  A few weeks ago, someone reported that an old man was observed beating his dog with a chain leash.  The description of the event was as follows:

“Last night around 8:30 my husband and I were on a walk when we came across a loose dog with a red flashing collar. Soon after we spotted his owner down the street with another dog (who was on a leash) and also had a red flashing collar. As we approached the man to tell him that we just saw his other dog racing down the street, he suddenly took started screaming profanities at his leashed dog and proceeded to WHIP the poor dog EXTREMELY HARD and very violently with the metal leash he was on. The dog whimpered and tucked his tail between his legs!”

Here’s the crux.  Rowlfie is a large brown dog. Dad is an old man. Rowlfie has a chain collar because (although he’s otherwise a very good boy) he has declared a fatwa against felines world-wide, and will occasionally try to mete out ultimate justice.  He weighs 84 pounds and can hit the end of the leash with enough power to tow a small moon.  That choke chain has saved a lot of Mr. Fluffies and Captain Pounces. Rowlfie has a green cloth leash, does not wear a flashing collar, and is an only dog.  Dad is usually in bed by 8:30 p.m.

The very next day, Dad and Rowlf were enjoying a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood when a man in a white car started taking Pop’s picture while loudly accusing the G.P. of whipping his dog.  My father had read the post on “It’s B.S.” shouted Dad, hurt that anyone would accuse him of beating his beloved Rowlf. Dad’s picture was posted on the site, with a caption that said the driver had “confronted” my father who seemed “defensive.”  Honestly, what he got from Dad was pretty tame compared to the tongue lashing I would have doled out.  I’m retaining few key phrases that hover around “chicken [bleep]” “old man assaulting” and “douche canoe.”

The original post on Nextdoor has been edited at least twice, with some important details changed. The person posting added that she couldn’t be “sure” that the person who whipped that dog wasn’t my father, but subsequently says no one is accusing Dad. No other witnesses came forward to corroborate her story. For a little perspective, recently someone complained of a “man with a white dog refusing to pick up poop. Within two hours, seventeen witnesses confirmed the story.
Often, I leave my curtains open so that Stadler can tell off other dogs who have the temerity to walk by our house. “SCREW YOU OTHER DOG!” barks Stadler.

“YOU TELL ‘EM, BEAN,” I respond.

Between this and our family’s copious dog exercise routines, neither Dad nor I have EVER noticed a man matching this description.

I’m not saying the whole thing was made up, but it definitely COULD have been.  The idea that no one would think to question the primary truth of such a statement – especially when someone innocent could by assaulted because of it – is mind boggling to me.  We all know people who overstate things, or make them up out of whole cloth just to get attention. Social media sites exacerbate the situation.  Is it because we see the accusations in writing, without vocal nuance?  Is it because people can edit their cases to make them seem stronger?  Is it because we believe that anonymity excludes us from basic decency?

Be careful what you believe.

Like everything, social media is both good and bad.  I’ve personally witnessed the Nextdoor site bring people together, facilitate business, and reunite owners and pets. We just have to be cautious and not assign undo credence to the hasty claims of the laptop Chicken Littles. The sky probably isn’t falling, and if you see my “Daddy Kowalski” out in the street screaming, “STADLER!!! STADLER!!!” please don’t assume my intellectually challenged black Lab is fleeing a beating.

It’s much more likely that she’s gotten herself stuck in a bush while trying to befriend a squirrel.

Posted in Humor | 2 Comments

The Dating Game

This week, alert reader K. R. wrote the following to my Island Moon editor, Dale Rankin:

“Will please set up a dating game have the staff find ten men then find one out of the ten for Abigail Bair and make sure Rev & GP helps with finding THE ONE for her PLEASE!!!!!!!”

Thanks for your concern, K.R.  I appreciate your careful reading, and that fact that you took the time to write in.  I think, however, that there are a few key problems with what you’ve suggested.  First off, I don’t know many adult women who want their parents selecting their boyfriends for them.  I understand that watching the Rev and the G.P. debate the various merits of ten suitors would be hilarious, but they wouldn’t be able to agree on even the most basic traits that my beau should have short of “a damned job.” Second, I have to thank you for vastly overestimating the number of dudes who could be effectively bamboozled (even by the likes of my auspicious colleagues) into the suggested situation.  Experience tells me that the number of reasonable (and by “reasonable” I mean people who wouldn’t try pick me up in a mobile meth lab) who would apply for your version of the dating game hovers closer to around negative five rather than ten, ecstatic bachelors. I sincerely appreciate your optimism, though.

Also, Ms. K, I take issue with the subject heading of your email which was “Abigail needs a life.” Fortunately for me, I don’t consider my single status on par with death, despite how much I lament it in print.  In fact, my life is quite rich.  How many of you can legitimately say that in the past three weeks you have:

Ridden your bike over 150 miles with your dog

Been attacked by fire ants to the degree that you had to tape ice packs to your feet

Had your brand new roof leak

Had your hypochondriac car die in a parking lot and refuse to start because it hallucinated a robbery

Learned what an axle key is in relation to a riding lawn mower

Been legitimately worried that your 73 year old father was in a Mexican hoosegow

I can put a smug little check mark by each of the items listed above.  My life is mainly bug bites and dog poop rather than candle lit dinners and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Frankly, I don’t worry about that too much because the former is pretty much what life is made of for everyone — although you might have to change out the type of poop for total accuracy. My life may not be romantic, but it’s certainly full.

I would like to assure you, K.R.: I did try diligently to find “the ONE” for a quite a long time.  A couple of years ago, I even resorted to online dating. Predictably, it did not go well.

In retrospect, probably selecting Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate  “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” the motto on the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno as my username MAY have been an early tactical error.  However, in all the literally hundreds of men I talked to, only one knew what it meant/bothered to look it up.  It is possible that many would-be suitors caught the reference and deliberately chose not to talk to me because of it (wise move), but that possibility didn’t factor into my original strategy.  The results were (predictably) inauspicious.

Before I address the crop of beaus generated by my online endeavors, I’d first like to ask a question: WHAT’S WITH ALL THE PRIVATE PARTS?  A guy will send you an unsolicited picture of his nether regions online before he’ll tell you what his last name is.  Usually, the first dating site conversational sallies go something like:

Him: Hey

Me: Hey

Him: *sends highly inappropriate picture

I’m not sure why this is the case, although I have a working hypothesis that one woman actually requested pictures of said junk (probably for her Master’s Thesis on the Sociology of Modern Urology), and became some kind of urban legend.  Since her ill-fated request, genital extroverts have latched onto the idea that women everywhere are dying to see all their personal (brief) business — blazing cases of the mumps notwithstanding.

Needless to say, I first eliminated all the men who sent me pictures of their downstairs.  Further dismissals were then made based upon the content of their messages. Rejection makes people angry, I guess.  I was yelled at for not “understanding culture” because I didn’t want to date someone who bragged about methamphetamine use (this is actually a different person from the guy who tried to pick me up in the mobile meth lab).  I got berated because I said in my profile that I’d like to date someone with a similar educational background.  One guy (who looked like he hadn’t put on a clean shirt since the third grade) offered to let me come over to his Mom’s basement and see his in-the-original-box-Yoda toy, but only if I made out with him.  When I refused, he said I wasn’t really a ”true” Star Wars fan. Some “gentlemen” (six to be precise) thought that my refusal to date them meant that they could pay me for other “services.”  To be clear, being solicited for prostitution is not high on my list of “fun stuff to do on a dull Tuesday.” There was yelling – this time on my part.

But the actual dates were even worse.

One guy got so drunk the breathalyzer the State had installed in his car prevented the vehicle from starting.  I had to pay for his cab home (which was better than driving him). Another gentlemen, who actually seemed promising, casually dropped the words “parole officer” into the conversation over appetizers.  A simple background check revealed he had priors for possession and domestic violence.  One guy told me I “looked good for a woman of my age.” He was ten years older than me and looked like my hamster, Charlie, after he fell through a knothole in the floor into the maw of a jam jar and dehydrated.

Let it be said, however, that I’m pretty tough to get along with.  The most common question people ask on dating sites is, “What are you looking for on here?”  Generally, I think guys ask that question to determine whether you’re looking for a relationship, or if you’re (as the bros say) “down to clown.”  Since I had stated my intentions (I want a relationship) clearly at least three times in my profile and by selecting “I want a relationship” in the “What are you looking for field” when I set up my account, I didn’t have a ton of sympathy for those who asked.  I generally responded with:

“I just want someone to marry me so that I can get super fat and go on Maury after they cut me out of our doublewide.”

That probably scared off a lot of dudes.

In the end, I decided to delete my profile from all the sites, and just lean into being single.  I have a lot of reasons to maintain my status: I don’t like sharing my stuff, most human beings annoy me, and I’m busy trying to figure out how the dishwasher works. Mostly, though, I don’t think it’s fair (under the Geneva Convention) to make another human being watch what I do to a taco salad when I’m really, really hungry.

Thanks for your letter, K.R.  I promise, though, I’m fine as a singleton, at least for the time being. I don’t even own a single cat.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

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This is a difficult column for me to write, mostly because it’s about vacuum cleaners and I have great difficulty reliably spelling the word “vacuum.” Honestly, it’s right up there with “bureaucrat” and “hors d’oeuvres” (if either of these words is spelled correctly here, it’s because Jan or the Rev fixed it.  I tried.  Microsoft Word doesn’t know what I’m talking about).  Anyway, I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that my ancient Bissell rug sucker shot craps.  Vacuum cleaners tend not to last very long around me. It’s like I generate some kind of field of electronic resonance that causes them to keel over, wheels up, having shuffled off this mortal coil – kind of like bug zapper vs. mosquito.  Either that, or it’s the truly excessive amount of dog hair that lurks in unexpected crevices around my house.

I took the old vacuum completely apart three times, and cleaned it out with the much smaller Shark vacuum that I own because I have to remove fuzzy sub-Stadlers from my couch.  Maybe because this was an act of forced cannibalism, it didn’t work, and I wound up with a still-broken rug sucker and eight extra screws which may or may not belong somewhere in the motor housing.  I called the Rev to inform her of the familial loss.  The burgundy Bissell had been her vacuum cleaner for six years before I stole it, and I thought she might mourn its death with me.  “It lived a good, long life,” said my mother, in a fashion so undramatic you might think we weren’t actually related.

The Rev had recently purchased a Dyson on Cyber Monday.  “It was half price,” she argued, “and by God, I have earned a good vacuum cleaner.” For months, Dad had been dragging an enormous shop vac around the house in an effort the clean up the drifts of dog hair.  What wound up happening was that (while some ingress was made in terms of cleanliness) he’d abandon the shop vac in the middle of the hallway and everyone would trip over it for two weeks.  Sometimes, even though the shop vac was a natural impediment (think “Titanic” and “iceberg”) he’d forget where he’d left it and drag in a second, even larger shop vac to “finish the operation.” However, like diamonds and herpes, dog hair is forever and the task never quite got completed.  The hallway was a veritable pile of black hose and orange tubs, which constituted a pretty serious tripping hazard since you had to negotiate the equivalent of a blue whale’s intestine of cords, tubes and buckets to get to the bathroom.  There was yelling.

The Dyson arrived (in spite of my father’s protests about not needing it, citing from memory the entire history of familial vacuum cleaner expenditure (“It’s got to be in the damned billions”).  Mom refused to let him use it until he read all the directions.  “NO!!!  YOU DO NOT JUST TURN IT ON!” yelled the Rev, waving the instructions at my father as though he might absorb knowledge of proper vacuum cleaner usage via osmosis.  In an effort to avoid all-out war, Dad read them.  He says you basically just turn it on.

The Dyson is a beast so impressive that I’ve named it Mike.  Like its namesake, the vacuum possesses a tough demeanor  – like, if it was accused of domestic violence, you might say, “Yeah.  I could see that.”  It looks like it probably owns a tiger, which it walks daily on a logging chain.  Mom offered to let me use Mike, but I was terrified of breaking it.  Fear didn’t stop me from sneaking over to Mom’s and adhering stickers to the side of its tank, though.   Probably, lots of adults sneak over to their parents’ house during naptime and dress the new vacuum cleaner up to look like Mike Tyson, right?

I ordered a new rug sucker from Amazon.  It was small, but it came with a variety of nifty attachments for cleaning things other than just floors.  Since everything around here is covered in a fine film of dog hair, I was pretty excited about the accessories.  The new vacuum didn’t work super well on the rugs, but it really did a good job on the vents and tops of door frames – until about 40 minutes into my intensive cleaning session when the motor committed suicide via self- immolation.  It literally caught on fire, which made me think (momentarily) that perhaps a flame thrower was the real solution to the dog hair crisis.

I sent it back to Amazon and ordered another Bissell, per the Rev’s recommendation.  By the time it arrived, fluffy tumbleweeds were drowsily floating across all the floors.  The house was embarrassing, even by my somewhat loose, that-pizza-is-fine-in-the-box-on-the-counter-for-five-days standards.  I dragged the box (so big it could double as my coffin if my brain melted from frustration) into the house.  The new vacuum was easy to assemble, and I had it going in a couple of minutes.  I gotta tell you, I really expected more from “cyclonic” technology.  Upon close examination, I couldn’t find a single witch on an antique bicycle whirling above the dust cup.

I bravely tackled the living room rug, immediately sucking up an entire Stadler’s worth of hair (the metric system unit for dog hair measurement is the “Stadler”).  The new vacuum was good – so good, in fact, that I feel like it’s judging me.  “Did you never clean before I came,” says my new appliance, “You didn’t, did you?  You just left all this here for ME to take care of.”  Maybe I’m only projecting because once a housekeeper I had hired hit me with an identical rant regarding the condition of my bathroom. I do, however, feel that maybe this vacuum is just a little cocky.  I’m thinking of naming it Luke Rugwalker.  It has lessons to learn.

I angrily relegated it to the spare bedroom, rather than the place of honor in the utility closet. The old burgundy Bissell still sits there. Like everyone on Earth, I’m hanging on to my old, worn out, crappy vacuum for no apparent reason.  It‘s too old to use for parts, and it spits all the dirt right out of the back of the brush roller when you try to use it.  A friend of mine said that he understands this impulse because he currently owns three vacuums, none of which is fully functional.  I reckon most of us have at least one broken rug sucker stashed somewhere “just in case…” Maybe we should combine all of them into one gigantic Frankenvacuum – like a huge Transformer – and use it to suck up guys trying to steal Talaveras pots on the Island.

I get to drive first.

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