Power of Attorney

In Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2, the nefarious character ‘Dick The Butcher’ says, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” when describing his version of Utopia.

Now, far be it from me to be so presumptuous as to correct the Bard on a matter of such importance. After all, how many of my sonnets are still being forced down the throats of self-important MFA candidates? Only 4, that’s how many. Shakespeare has at least 7.

But this time I am going to suggest – DEMAND – a correction. Dick should say, The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. Except one.

That one exception? The lawyer who just kicked the shit out of St. Anthony of Padua.

That’s right, Tony. You AND your stupid, rapacious, namesake hospital just got canonized right up the ass by a 5-foot-4, 20-something “Legally Blonde” wanna-be.

I should mention here that I’ve just started drinking heavily in celebration. All vocabulary, grammar, and spelling errors should be addressed to the previous sentence. (NewWifey(tm) is away on a weekend stitching retreat in support of her business. But we just chatted, and she’s now getting hammered as well.)

Yeah, so we just got a letter from our lawyer telling us that St. Anthony Shithead Hospital has agreed not only to stop trying to squeeze the financial lifeblood out of us, but we also don’t even have to pay the insurance corrected amount for the test procedure, AND they’re paying our lawyer fee. (If you’re new here and curious what I’m on about, click this.)

FUCK yeah. In your face, patron saint of Portugal. (A lovely country, otherwise.)

Amazing what a bit of letterhead can do. Our lawyer made the EXACT same argument to the EXACT same people we did before we hired her. But because the top of her written correspondence  starts with “From The Law Office Of…..” instead of “From the Basement of Dangerspouse’s Mom’s House“, they snapped to attention. A few counter-offers were proposed by the hospital, offering to let us off the hook if we paid various percentages of the original bill. But our little girly-girl lawyer told them where they could stick their offers, finally demanding they dismiss the whole thing or take it to trial. St. Anthony may be a money grubbing bastard, but his lawyers aren’t stupid. They dropped the whole thing. Smart move.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am. Not because the emotional tidal wave has rendered me unable to verbalize the enormity of what I feel. It’s because the Maker’s Mark is finally kicking in and I’m starting to have trouble focusing on the keyboard. So I gotta wrap this up.

I’ll just add that there are a lot of things to love about America, Trump & Co. not withstanding. I mean, I’d stay here just for the BBQ flavored pork rinds if it came down to it. Sure beats balut. But goddam, why does the country that’s not only the richest in the world but also the one that has it in writing that its government is “of, by, and for the people”, seem so intent on killing us unless we’re wealthy? It horrifies me to imagine what would happen to my blogging buddy AnnaNotBob4 if she lived on this side of the Pond, given her and her daughter’s distressing health and economic travails. They wouldn’t stand a chance without the NHS, or a system like it. In other words, they wouldn’t stand a chance here.

I know how lucky I am here. If my friend and co-worker didn’t happen to be a lawyer, I wouldn’t have stood a chance either. Bankruptcy, and probably refugee status, would have been a very probable outcome. There would have been no respite, and all because NewWifey(tm) got sick.

So…fuck you Saint Anthony. Fuck you Shakespeare. And fuck you still Orville and Wilbur.

Alright, enough. My BAL must be 1.2% at least by now. I’m heading off to sleep the Sleep of the Just for the first time in three years. I feel like a 200 pound saint has been lifted off my shoulders.

Oh, and just for good measure: fuck you Portugal. Your patron saint is a dick. And has lousy lawyers. You’re better than that, with your eponymous wine and cork trees and pork-and-clam national dish. Drop the loser shaman already, willya? You don’t need the financial hit. (Although if he does come after you, I know a good lawyer. Gimme a call.)

Good night, kids. Stay healthy.

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Oh wait – I gotta add this!

My loooooooong time blogging buddy HCatty – who now no longer blogs because SHE GOT HERSELF KNOCKED UP AND FOR SOME REASON THINKS BRINGING UP HER “LITTLE DUMPLING” IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KEEPING ME AMUSED WITH HER WRITINGS – sent me this out of the blue:

Hey Corgious bag and shirt

Actually she just sent me the tote bag, but I coudn’t resist propping it with the corgi shirt I got NewWifey(tm) for Christmas (10 bonus points if you know the anime it’s from).

How stinkin’ cute is that, huh? NewWifey(tm) and I both cracked up when we saw it. HCatty was around way back when Casey The Wonder Corgi featured large in many of my blog entries, and so this was a very thoughtful and touching gift. Thank you, HCatty, I’ll never forget it. I’ll also never use it, since NewWifey(tm) has already laid claim to it. Sheesh. (BTW, I promised HCatty I’d send something back in return, out of gratitude. But I’m a man, and all men lie to women. Sorry, H.)

Ok, NOW to bed.

Ciao!

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My Bloomers

No funny stories today.

I pulled in to my driveway this afternoon and saw my daffodils (well, NewWifey(tm)’s daffodils…I could give a shit about them) were dilling (that’s what daffs do). It’s actually kind of amazing, as the last of the winters’ snow only melted a few hours ago.

Then I came inside to check how many fawning comments were left on my previous post (did I mention I WON SECOND PLACE in a photography contest?). Whilst scrolling through the hundreds and hundreds of them… ok, both of them …I saw Cee’s famous Foto O’ the Day, Flower Edition was…daffodils!

Desperate for more Likes, I grabbed the Nikon and hit the dirt.

I like this composition, but I didn’t nail the focus. That foremost flower should be super sharp. I hope they don’t come and take my SECOND PLACE RIBBON back (did I mention I took SECOND PLACE in my very first photography competition? Well I did.):

Daff 1

Too shallow depth of field, but I like it anyway:

Daff 2

What a difference a couple of hours makes. The sun went down right behind the thing, giving it a surreal glow:

Daff 3

I think I posted this last year, but pretend I took it today, ok? I mean, we’re all friends here, right? Right:

Daff 4

Ugh. Looking at that now I cringe. Talk about the newbie mistake of over sharpening! I don’t have an editing program, but the little viewer that pops up when I upload a photo lets me choose from a few suggested “improvements”. I think the power went to my head and I clicked “YES! YES! YES!” to everything for the first few months until I actually looked at the results and recoiled in horror. Now I pretty much just post ’em as the camera sees ’em.

Finally, these are not daffodils. They’re my neighbor’s dogs. Hounds, to be exact. Who do not. shut. up. for. anything. When I come out to glare at them they glare back…then start baying at the top of their lungs again:

Wexlr Dogs resize

They also use each other as footstools. And sometimes (often) sex toys. It’s shameful.

Ok, it’s Friday night. Go get drunk.

Ciao!

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Picture (almost) Perfect

Guy Crossing Tracks Vignette

Remember that story about my local newspaper printing the photo I submitted of the baby bird I named after Oprah’s vagina? This photography story isn’t as interesting, but I’m posting it anyway because I love to brag. (I’ll assume no one gasped at that.)

First thing to know: I HAVE NO FRIENDS. And I don’t mean, “I have no friends who are into photography“. I mean, “I have no friends. Period.” It’s all part of the pact I made with the Devil years ago in return for him making me a morning drive radio star. Plus I live in the middle of a secluded forest and go to bed when most people are only just getting drunk after their long day at work. That helps too.

(Aside to NewWifey(tm), whom I know is reading this. Yes, yes. You are my friend. I’m referring specifically here to friends who won’t grudgingly have sex with me.)

So ever since I got back into photography last year, it, like all my other hobbies, has been a very lonely pursuit. This is partly because I bought the camera primarily to take pictures of NewWifey(tm)’s products down in our basement. But it’s also because, like I said, I am devoid of human contact in general.

But then I discovered that a photography club meets at the senior center in our town once a month, and they welcome new members. The only catch was, they meet at 2pm. I work until 1pm in a building that’s an hour away. Since I’d have to divert home to get my camera and spend ten minutes peeing first (thanks, prostate), I’d never make it on time.

However my work hours have just recently changed. I now get out of work 15 minutes earlier, which means I’d have enough time to grab the Nikon, pee, and even down a fortifying beer before the meeting. So I went and checked them out last month.

That first time I went they had a guest speaker talking about the finer points of street photography, and after that they scrolled through everyone’s pictures.

The guest speaker was ok, but the follow-up presentation of members’ photos …..zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I couldn’t believe it. There must have been 40 pictures put up, one after the other, and after each one….dead silence. No discussion of the picture’s merits by the members, no explanation of what was happening by the photographer. Just 30 or so people sitting with their arms crossed staring dully at the screen until it was over when they all put on their coats and left.

I was aghast. I thought these people were supposed to be enthusiasts. Why weren’t they enthusiastic? I’ve seen more spontaneous emotions burst out at Japanese tea ceremonies.

I decided to join anyway.

When I signed up the president told me that every month the club posts a Theme and members are supposed to bring photos representing that theme to the next meeting. She handed me a sheet which said that for April the theme was “Transportation”. She also asked me what level photographer I was, Beginner, Intermediate, or Expert. I’m probably really a beginner, since this is my very first DSLR. But you know how men are. Levels equate to penis size.

I chose Intermediate.

For the coming April meeting I knew I’d be in for 2 hours of people staring glumly at picture after picture of cars, bicycles, horses, trains, and all the other obvious choices. But I had a plan: I was gonna submit 5 pictures (the maximum allowed), none of which on the surface seemed to be about transportation. Then I, a professional wordsmith who’s not embarrassed to flaunt it, would stand up and spin a tale around each of my pictures explaining why it actually did conform to The Theme. That would get conversations going amongst the peanut gallery, then others would do the same with their pictures, and all would be right with the world. I couldn’t wait.

So this past Tuesday was the April meeting, my first as a paying member and contributor. I had my script for each photo memorized, and I was raring to go. I was gonna save the Vernon Camera Club single handed!

Or so I thought.

To my surprise there were easily twice as many people seated around the tables in the meeting room as there were the previous month. And they were all chattering away, lively as could be. What was going on…?

Then the president of the club stood up. “Please sit down everyone” she said, “and if anyone hasn’t submitted their entries yet, please do so now if you have them on a thumb drive. The judge will be here in a few moments.”

Entries? Judge? What was going on?

I went trotting up to the president to find out.

Oh yes” she said. “This month is a competition event. I believe we ran out of notices when you were here last time, so you probably didn’t know. But don’t worry, I included all 5 of your pictures in the Intermediate category.”

WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

NO!!

I was doomed.

Not only was I not gonna be able to deliver my well crafted remarks to wild applause and guffaws of appreciative laughter, but my pictures were about to be judged against 60-odd others in a category that I shouldn’t be in. Judged, I found out, by the soon-to-arrive guest professional photographer who has also been an accredited photography judge since 1975. On top of that, during the judging no one was allowed to talk. I couldn’t explain why my pictures really were about transportation, even if on the surface they didn’t appear to be.

I braced for impact.

Right at 2 the judge arrived, and after he introduced himself and gave a short speech about how good a judge he was our pictures were put up on screen in random order, with no attribution as to photographer. That, at least, was good. Nobody would know it was me who put up all those pictures which seemed to not fit the Theme.

First up were all the pictures in the Beginner category. I groaned. They all looked better than mine. The judge studied each in turn, discussing what he liked and didn’t like, and giving it a score. At the end he put his favorite five up on screen together and decided on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places from them. Everybody clapped.

Then came the Intermediates.

My first picture was #7 in the cue. It went as badly as I thought it would.

What the hell is this?” said the judge. “I thought the theme of the competition was ‘Transportation’. Didn’t this member get the memo?” He gave my picture the lowest possible score.

It was the same when my next picture popped up. And the next. And the next. I could tell Judge F-Stop was getting more and more peeved every time he had to ask if someone didn’t get the memo. I just sunk further into my chair and tried not to make eye contact.

Finally near the end of the pile it was my last picture’s turn. It was a shot I took this past Christmas Eve. I’d gone into town to take pictures of Christmas decorations, and just as the sun was going down a commuter train from NYC pulled into the station. There was only one guy on the entire train, some poor schlub who had to go in on the holiday and was now finally going home. As soon as I spotted him I sprinted down the tracks as the train was pulling away, then laid down between the rails to get an interesting perspective and took the photo as he crossed the street, all alone. I had to rush it, and I didn’t think it came out very well with a somewhat skewed horizon and other technical difficulties. But I included it anyway because I wanted to spin the tale about it to the audience. I expected to get shot down again.

Now THAT is a great picture” said the judge. “The guy in the photo is a little too dark – it took me a moment to spot him. But otherwise the composition is terrific, and it really conveys a story.” He gave it the top mark possible.

The woman sitting next to me, some rangy old bird in her 70’s with an ill fitting Samantha Stevens flipped bob wig, leaned over and sniffed, “This judge doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That photo is awful. Look at all those shadows!” I nodded in agreement.

A few more photos, and then he put his top 5 up on screen.

Mine was one of them.

Ok, let’s take these two out” he said, swiping away two that weren’t mine.

Now there were three. I was guaranteed a ribbon!

Ok, this one is third“, and he picked…not mine!

That left just me and some loser who shot a picture of a row of golf carts. I held my breath.

The judge studied both pictures for a solid 2 minutes. Finally he said, “If the guy in the train picture wasn’t so dark it would have won. But he was, so I’m giving it 2nd place. First goes to the golf carts.” Everybody applauded, and the president handed me a red 2nd Place ribbon. (For all my snark, it really was a very good golf cart picture. I found out later it also happened to have been taken by a very nice woman who had been very helpful getting me set up earlier. I was very happy for her.)

After that he judged the Expert category, and those were some REALLY spectacular photos. To tell you how good they were, one of the entrants was a retired professor of photography at a nearby college and none of his pictures even made it to the Top Five. The winning shot was far and away the class of the entire competition, and easily coasted to a well deserved victory. The judge said it was good enough to be displayed in a professional gallery, and I wouldn’t argue. And the club president apparently has some real photography chops – she got the 3rd place ribbon.

But…

I got second place in the Intermediate category! Against 63 other people! In my very first photography competition! A competition I didn’t even know I’d entered, and with pictures I never would have entered if I’d known!

Can you tell I’m a bit excited? I’ve got a room full of motorcycle racing and fencing trophies, but this stupid little red ribbon draped over my desk makes me giggle with delight more than anything I’ve won since that time I took third place in the Miss West Virginia pageant.

All the other meetings scheduled for this year are just regular ol’ Show-n-Tell stuff with a few guest speakers and an outing or two. Except one. Later in the fall it looks like they’re gonna have one more competition. And when they do, that blue First Place ribbon will be mine. MINE, I say! BWAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!!

Er, not that I care, of course. I’m way too suave and sophisticated to get myself worked up over some dumb podunk little photography competition for geriatric losers.

*cough*

Yeah. Fuck that.

I WILL CRUSH THEM ALL! BWAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

Especially that Elizabeth Montgomery wanna-be. She’s goin’ down.

Ciao!

2nd Place Ribbon

Pretty cool ribbon picture, huh? I’ve really been nailing my product photography game lately, if I do say so myself. Thank you, thankyouverymuch.

And for being such a good audience, here’s a bonus picture I took of my watch. I was practicing how to photograph highly reflective objects because some of NewWifey(tm)’s products have mirror-like finishes, and watch faces are more mirror-like than even mirrors. After a few dozen hundred thousand shots, I think I got it:

Rios Strap 1

I wish I knew how to do post-processing, though. I probably would have saved a good hour at least if I could have made it look this good in PhotoShop or Lightroom, instead of getting it perfect in-camera with no editing afterwards. Oh well, it’s not like I had anything better to do….

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Pound of Flesh

Here’s how much stress I’m under. I bought a ball pit and filled it with golden retriever puppies, and it didn’t help. It didn’t help.

Check this out. Saint Anthony is suing us.

“Saint Anthony?” you ask. “Saint Anthony of Padua? The patron saint of the poor and sick? That Saint Anthony?”

Yes. That Saint Anthony.

Well, his namesake hospital is anyway.

Yes, a hospital proclaiming to the world through name and oversized lobby statue that it provides succor to the destitute, is suing our ass because they had to provide succor to us when we were destitute.

On a completely unrelated note and apropos of absolutely nothing: to my friends in the green and pleasant land that is Great Britain: can we borrow your NHS? Our market-based healthcare system here in the U.S. seems to be broken. We’ll return it when we’re done. Ta.

Here’s the really condensed version:

NewWifey(tm) got really sick in 2016, so we brought her to our local hospital (St. Anthony’s). This has been our hospital since 1999.

They took our insurance information, then recommended a really expensive test. They told us our insurance would cover the majority of it.

A week later they sent us a letter (not a bill) that said, “Hey we forgot to mention – we don’t participate with your insurance company any more. You’re on the hook for the whole thing.” They wanted a 5-figure sum.

When we expressed how dismayed we were, and how the amount they wanted to wring from us was more than we, our cars, my Le Creuset collection, and all of my Playstation-2 games were worth combined, St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the poor and suffering, said, “Bless you my child, go in peace. Be well, and worry not.”

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I’m just kidding.

They turned us over to a collection agency.

They hadn’t even sent us a bill, and they turned us over to a collection agency. On the strength of our merely questioning the amount we owed they assumed we weren’t going to pay, so they decided to save the stamp and go right for the sharks.

We got calls, we got letters, we got ulcers. And we got it for a good two years.

(Pleas to our insurance company to honor what (we thought) was in our contract went nowhere, btw. As you knew it would.)

Then… a lull. For almost a year we heard nothing. I told NewWifey(tm), “I think we outlasted them.” We were home free, finally.

Nope.

Out of the blue, right around my birthday this past January, we got a letter from a hospital lawyer. St. Anthony of Padua apparently keeps a stable of them on retainer. I guess God’s not licensed to practice in this state.

The letter cordially invited us to appear in Sussex County Superior Court this coming March. “Bring your checkbook” it said.

Shit got real.

At first we thought we could represent ourselves in this matter (“pro se“). Surely any judge worth his gavel would see the injustice of it all and not only dismiss the case against us but also award us punitive damages to the tune of “WOO HOO!“, and clap the entire administrative staff of St. Anthony’s in irons for a week to let the villagers pelt them with cabbages. Seems fair, right?

On the other hand, if for some reason the judge was not quite as enlightened as we imagined…are Debtor’s Prisons still a Thing?

We decided to lawyer up.

Only problem was, “lawyering up”, we quickly found out, meant ponying up. Like, possibly as much as the hospital was demanding. Which left us to imagine the following scenario: we lose the case and now owe the hospital the 5-figure sum plus lawyer fees, AND have to pay our own lawyer a similar amount.

I’ll ask again: are Debtor’s Prisons still a Thing?

We didn’t know what to do.

But then….

Deus Ex Juris Doctorem!

There’s a girl I work with whom I’ve known for quite a while. Years ago I was the traffic reporter on her radio show, and when she was fired I stepped in and was instrumental in getting her hired with us.  I was one of the few people from our work who were invited to her new baby’s birthday party last year. We’ve gotten drunk off our asses together on more than one occasion.

And now she’s a lawyer.

Unbeknownst to me, she’d been going to law school at night and recently passed the bar. She never told any of us because…I don’t know, frankly. Maybe she was too drunk to remember. Maybe she was just modest. Perhaps – and most likely – she was worried we’d all start hitting her up for money if we knew she had a real job. Whatever. The point is, she now has a degree and her own practice.

So when she heard me sobbing in my studio, then heard my story, she said “I got this.”

And that’s when we lawyered up.

She’s giving us the “Friends and Family” rate btw, not charging us for things like phone consults, email consults, boxes of tissues for when I start sobbing again, etc. I might only have to sell half my Le Creusets.

So that’s where it stands now. She’s taken over our case, already firing off letters to the saintly hospital’s lawyers telling them to Bring It, Bitch. She’s also expanded the case to include our insurance company, and another party whom she thinks deserves to hang also. She’s also counter-suing so we can get her fee back, plus damages. (She was less enthusiastic about my demand for stockade and cabbage retribution, though.)

I like this girl.

But I’m also still terrified. It’s nice that she’s projecting an air of confidence when talking about the case with us, but…I’m still terrified. If despite everything we still lose, we lose everything. No matter how good the odds are, ANY chance we could lose is terrifying. I haven’t been sleeping well.

I also haven’t been writing much. Or doing anything fun, for that matter. I’ve neglected correspondence (Jar of Porter – I’m sorry! I haven’t forgotten your veg!) I’m almost paralyzed by fear, unable to imagine anything but worst case scenarios of the worst case scenario sort. Most of my after work hours since we got that letter have been spent sitting in a chair, dully staring at whatever NewWifey(tm) has on the tube and eating tub after tub of ice cream. Even my porn consumption has dropped to a mere few hours a week.

I did start writing the opening paragraphs of an entry right after Valentine’s Day, hoping it would distract me. Uh-uh. I got halfway through and just couldn’t bring myself to continue. Risible hurts. It was a pretty funny story though, so I may just finish it sometime down the line when this mess is finally resolved (assuming we don’t lose the case and they take my keyboard). I’ll post the half I did manage to write, down below.

But first….

I was at least able to bring myself to carry on one tradition here at DangerHouse which I always look forward to: redecorating.

Every year at this time NewWifey(tm) goes away for 2 or 3 weeks on a business trip. And every year I redecorate at least one room of the house while she’s gone and send her pictures of my handiwork. A couple of years ago I set up our 15 foot long outdoor hammock in the living room and –

Well, here:

Hammock 3

This year I decided I missed Christmas, so I dragged the tree and all the decorations back down from the attic, and on the first day of March I sent her:

Spring Tree 5

It’s still up. She’s not due home til Thursday. I can’t wait til she opens her presents!

Ok, I’m gonna go drink to forget again. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. No lawyer jokes til I get back, ok?

Oh and if you’re the praying type, please send up a prayer for St. Anthony of Padua to intercede on our behalf, will you? I understand he’s the go-to guy in these situations. Thanks.

Ciao!

Ok, here’s the Valentine’s Day 1/2 story:

stupid-cupid

When I was young I was almost beaten to death by nuns.

I’m looking at that sentence now, thinking ‘I bet people are gonna take that as hyperbole, or a euphemism, or some other impressive looking word I use all the time but don’t really know the meaning of.’

But no. When I was a kid I was almost beaten to death by nuns.

My parents, believing a rigorous Catholic school education would result in a smarter son, enrolled me at Our Lady of the Valley RC School as soon as I managed to graduate kindergarten.

I lasted just over 4 years.

All the teachers there, nun and lay person alike, subscribed to the “spare the rod, spoil the child” method of education. But the nuns embraced it with  particular zeal. It was almost admirable really, the dedication these “Brides of Christ” had for the commission of their duties. Any miscreant forgetting his homework, running in the hall, or even coughing without permission, would immediately find himself nursing a new welt or weal somewhere on his body.

Being a rather animated child I was targeted more often than most.

Many mornings I cried over breakfast, begging my mother not to make me go to school again. But my mom, good Italian Catholic that she was, had popped out 5 kids in 5 years and was too exhausted and dispirited to care. If one of them was dealing with some minor issue like torture, well, she needed saving too. So off I went, every morning.

My dad? My dad was working 30 hour days to support 5 kids in 5 years (but thanks to the Pope he at least didn’t have to waste money on condoms), so I’m not sure he even had time to learn our names, let alone our travails.

True story: in the third grade I developed a bleeding ulcer.

At first my parents didn’t recognize it as an ulcer. But once I started vomiting blood on a fairly regular basis they began to have their suspicions. They finally took me to a doctor.

Once diagnosed, my parents sent a note to the school asking that I not be put under any undue stress for a while. But this seemed only to spur the nuns to greater depths of sadism. One memorable incident, which I’ve recounted here previously, saw me vomit up a gutload of bright red fluid all over my kiddie desk after a nun threatened to kill us all over some infraction. Rather than do the obvious when one sees an 8 year old covered in blood (for future reference: send him to the nurse’s office) the Good Sister had me clean up the mess on my hands and knees while she stood over and berated me for not being man enough to control a simple medical condition.

I’m thinking forced sexual abstinence may cause unintended side effects in some people, y’know? Gotta let off steam somehow….

Finally, a month into 4th Grade, my parents yanked me out of that 10th Circle of Hell and sent me to – gasp! – the local, secular, public school. My dad, a Jesuit with a minor degree in theology, took over the religious portion of my education, nights and weekends.

Meanwhile, over at the secular School Of Iniquity, I immediately became smarter, happier, and less prone to anemia.

Shocker: I also became, eventually, an atheist.

(Perhaps oddly, the turning away happened later, in college, over theological misgivings. Not over being tortured by penguins.)

Fast forward to today….

NewWifey(tm) is not an atheist. She’s a Methodist. She knows the rituals of the Methodist service and can sing all the songs, even if she only goes to church on Christmas and Easter. But anything deeper and it’s kind of a crap shoot. In typical Modern Religious fashion she’s more than a little fuzzy on the particulars. She’s sure we have a soul for instance, and there’s a heaven and hell, and you shouldn’t kill other people or steal their SUV’s. But pre-marital sex? Divorce and re-marriage? Coveting thy neighbor’s Manolo Blahniks? Cooking a lamb in the milk of its mother? (Deut. 14:21) Wellllllllllll.…….God didn’t really mean that stuff, did He? He’ll let things like that slide as long as she’s overall good, right?

Right. She’s going to Heaven.

And that’s why our marriage works. She’s happy to delude herself, and I’m happy when she’s happy.

So what does this have to do with me not getting laid this Valentine’s Day, you ask?

It’s because of Saint Hedwig of Silesia.

Here’s the thing. I may be an atheist now, but I was raised by Jesuits. For about 20 years, until my apostasy, regardless of which school I was in, my parents endeavored to hammer as much theological academia into me as possible. I read the Bible, I read books about the Bible, I read apologias of prominent theologians, I read biographies of the saints, and in a nutshell, you wanted me on your team for Bible Trivia Night.

When I was young especially, the stories of the saints really grabbed me. A martyr has his head cut off, then his headless body picks it up and carries it to his grave! A girl gets swallowed whole by a dragon (!) and cuts her way out with the cross she always carries! Some guy who lived on only communion wafers and water is suddenly able to bi-locate (be in two places at once)! One of the founding saints of Ireland (Brigit) turns the water in her bathtub into beer! (I wanna marry Brigit. I could save thousands of dollars a year just right there.)

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A New Wrinkle

Chapter 1: The Masked Surgeon.

I mentioned in my last entry that I had to have some minor oral surgery done last week. The bones that hold my teeth to my face are “bumpy”, and apparently that’s enough of a problem that a surgeon has to now go in and un-bump them. This involves peeling my gums back and then vigorously applying a Dremel to the bones until they un-bump. Then they sew my gums back on, and I resume chewing. It’s being done in 4 stages: upper left, lower left, upper right, lower right. Last Thursday was lower left’s turn.

I like my surgeon, which is good because you don’t want to harbor ill feelings towards someone while they’re reshaping your skull with a hand tool. Shaking with rage might result in blood, or a third nostril or something.

However….

When he entered the operating theater last Thursday, the first thing he said was “I’m not going to shake your hand because I have a bad cold. But don’t worry, I’m wearing a mask.”

I worried.

I obsess about getting a cold. Having a stuffy, runny nose and a scratchy throat is hell when your job consists of talking for 8 hours a day. And wearing headphones amplifies any sinus headache into a conflagration similar to those described in the Book of Revelations. I’d rather have Ebola than a cold. AIDS. Cancer of the toenail. Endometriosis. Anything. Just not a cold.

And now some guy with a cold is about to stick his un-gloved hands into my mouth while his own mouth hovers mere inches above my face for about an hour.

But of course, this is not just “some guy”. He’s a surgeon. If he tells me a piece of cotton gauze over his mouth is sufficient protection, who am I to argue? I don’t see the initials “MD” after my name on my Connecticut School of Broadcasting diploma.

He did the surgery.

And I caught a cold.

I still have it too, although I seem to be over the worst of it. I think I have *just* enough left to pass it back to him when I go in this afternoon to have my stitches removed.

Maybe I should warn him to wear a mask. Then call his office in a week and laugh when they tell me he’s got another cold.

Chapter 2: The Long Con.

My last entry also mentioned in passing that the 27th of January was my birthday. Normally birthdays at DangerHouse are a debauched descent into obscene amounts of food, sex, and “Girls und Panzer” episodes. Mouth surgery this year though meant severe limitations on the first two. (No problem with the anime.)

One other tradition that is also strictly adhered to is the “Giving of the Le Creuset”. I think I’ve detailed this in every other birthday entry I’ve done, but if you’ve missed them here’s the concise version: when I was dating NewWifey(tm) I told her the sad tale of how we had a great Le Creuset dutch oven when I was a kid, but my kid sister snagged it after my mother died. That year on my birthday NewWifey(tm) gave me a Le Crueset dutch oven. And she’s done so every birthday since.

So after the sex and the bowl of soft gruel with the candle in it and the second round of sex, I knew what had to be in the big box with the bow on it that she placed in front of me.

But first –

Here’s your card” she said, and handed me this:

envelope 1

“What happened to it?” I asked. “Did the cat get to it first?”

She laughed. “Open it.”

I did, although the envelope was fragile enough that I inadvertently added to the already impressive wrinkle count.

Out came:

envelope and card

Inside was some sentimental and instantly forgettable corporate approved pap. But I had to pat her head anyway.

“Awww, what a nice card. Thank you honey, I’ll remember this one for a long time.”

No you won’t” she said.

“Of course I will!” I said, “It’s really special.”

Pretty memorable envelope too, right?

I laughed. “It sure was. I won’t forget THAT for a while, either.”

Yes you will.”

“What are you talking about?”

She pulled out her phone and started scrolling.

Here, look at this.” She handed it to me. It was a selfie of her holding my birthday card and envelope.

“I don’t get it” I said. “You took a selfie with my card before giving it to me?” I looked closer. There was a Post-It Note stuck to her chest that said: ‘2016 – 1st Year. His comment: ‘I’ll always remember this card‘.

“You got the year wrong.” I said.

Scroll right.”

I scrolled. Another selfie of her holding the same card. But she was dressed differently than in the first pic, and the envelope this time had a tear and a few wrinkles.

And another Post-It Note: “2017 – 2nd Year. His comment: ‘Did the cat attack the envelope or something?’“.

“What’s this all about?”

Scroll.

I scrolled. Same card, but the envelope was now decidedly more battered, with several tears and pronounced crumple zones. A different outfit on NewWifey(tm) yet again, and this time the Post-It read, “2018 – 3rd Year. His comment: “What happened to the envelope? The cat get to it first?

She took the phone back. “This is the FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW that I have given you this card. In the same envelope. And every year you’ve ripped it open and added new wrinkles, and said the same thing: ‘did the cat get it?‘ FOUR YEARS!

“I…what…how…” I fished for something to say.

NewWifey(tm) just smirked. “Do you know that ten years ago my mother sent you a birthday card that was the exact same card as the one she sent you eleven years ago? And she’s been sending you that same card every year since?

I looked at my Mother-In-Law’s card lying on the table that I’d opened earlier that morning. “She did?”

NewWifey(tm) dropped a pile of cards in my lap. They were all identical, just with different years hand written inside them. “I noticed the very first time she repeated the card” she said. “I called and asked her about it and she said, ‘Oh, I buy cards by the box for any man I have on my list. They never notice. I gave the same anniversary card to your father every years for 48 years, and he went to his grave not realizing it.’ So I thought I’d see if she was right.

“I guess she was” I said. “I even said the same stupid thing about the cat.”

Yup.”

“Men, huh? Amiright, girls?”

Yup.”

“So, uh, can I open my present now?”

Yup.

It was, as expected, Le Creuset. Unexpected though was the fact that it was a matching saucepan and small frying pan. It looked old.

I found it at an antique store” NewWifey(tm) said. “The guy said it was from the ’70’s. It looks like it’s in good shape, and the price was right. I hope you like it.”

“I do!” I said. “Er…you didn’t give me this one last year, did you?”

Nope.”

“I knew it. I always remember these things.”

Yup.” She kissed me on the head. “Happy Birthday, baby. I love you. Don’t forget that.”

Waaaaaaaaait – didn’t she tell me that last year? She can’t fool me!

lecreuset2019birthday2

Chapter 3: Largess.

Of course, I had to give the new pans a try that night. So even though I wasn’t supposed to chew I decided on the spur of the moment to make Spanish garlic shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo), which seemed tailor made for that lidded saucepan.

And it was:

birthday dinner 2019

Normally one serves this dish with a loaf of fresh bread to sop up the soppings, but…we’d already eaten the entire loaf of bread I’d made earlier that day. So I made pasta. Pasta that I didn’t have to chew:

birthday dinner 2

Come to think of it, I didn’t chew the shrimp either. I have a very large throat.

Speaking of large, how’s this for largess:

See that bottle of wine? That, and several others of various varieties from the same vineyard were shipped out to my by my buddy Dawson and his wife Annie as a Christmas present to me and NewWifey(tm). They cost more than my first car (a 1974 Beetle, dark blue).

The shrimp were good, but pairing it with that exclusive chardonnay sent it to a level few of my dishes have reached before. Daws, I can’t thank you enough for your thoughtfulness and generosity – again. I’ll never forget it.

Or, I’m pretty sure I won’t. Maybe I should write it on a Post-It note and take a selfie, just in case….

The End.

Have a great weekend everybody! Remember to…uh……

.

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116

Couple of quickies before we get going:

1. I was driving along the road that skirts our lake last week, taking it pretty slow because of all the ice, when a freaking bald eagle shot right in front of me carrying a (presumably) dead squirrel. He was hauling ass, trying to outpace the dozen or so smaller birds right behind who were either trying to steal his take-out, or just getting him the hell out of their territory (“I have an idea: let’s build a wall! Oh wait, we can fly….“). That close up and with wings fully extended he looked bigger than my dad’s Cessna. If I had been going just 1 mph faster I would have had fresh Eagle and Squirrel Pie for dinner that night. Welcome to New Jersey, national symbol.

2. I took a really horrible picture of really wonderful food:

egg tarts

Ok, follow along here.

I like pecan tassies, and had enough cream cheese in the house to make the traditional cream cheese crust. But I didn’t have any pecans to make the filling.

I like Chinese egg custard tarts, and had enough eggs and cream in the house to make the filling. But didn’t have enough butter to make the traditional puff paste shells.

You guessed it: Chinese Egg Custard Tassies. Those things on the left.

The thing on the right?

Well, I still had cream cheese paste left thanks to my usual disdain for things like “measuring” and “advice”. So I decided to wing a larger tart with that remaining lump of dough. I whisked up some more custard and….

I’ve had a block of plums preserved in…. I don’t remember – booze? spiced wine? simple syrup?…sitting in my freezer since last September when I made another batch of Slivovitz but purchased too many plums. I got sick of seeing that block last week and decided to turn it into plum jelly. But that left me with a block of strained plum solids, which turned out to be delicious. So I spread them out onto a Silpat like a lumpy sheet of Fruit Rollups, and they’ve been sitting in my fridge ever since. (The jelly is wonderful, btw.)

Ok, so I rolled out the remaining paste and lined the tart pan with it, made some more custard and poured it in, scattered the rest of the plum goop over the top, then tossed on some slivered almonds and baked the whole lot off. It looked like – well, let’s just call it “rustic”, shall we? – but tasted wonderful. As it happens, NewWifey(tm) doesn’t like plums, so guess who ate it all in one sitting?

(I did insert a sliver of that plum glop into one or two of the small tassies. That’s what’s poking out of the middle one in the photo.)

You are soooooooooooo jealous right now, aren’t you. You should be.

3. One of the most hallowed of all hallowed radio traditions is the tradition of sending a reporter to the grocery store whenever a big storm is forecast so they can describe the roiling mass of human locusts stripping the aisles clean. So when the big storm hit earlier this week we sent a reporter down to the local Food-n-Shit to get some audio of the mayhem. Most of it was the same ol’ same ol’. But one cut cracked me up. A woman being interviewed said in a very exasperated voice, “Look at this. They’re all grabbing bread! Milk! Eggs! What is there, a French Toast Crisis or something?”  The chef in me applauded her immediate recognition of Pain Perdu and I put it on the air in my very next newscast. Maybe there’s hope for humanity after all.

4. I’m going to make this soon. Yes, I am.

And now, on to The Story!

In our last exciting episode I posted pictures of dead alpacas, live alpacas, and a bar of soap. I also posted pictures of NewWifey(tm) squeee-ing in delight at all of them (although the one picture of her indignation over being ignored happens to be my personal favorite).

One thing I neglected to mention however was NewWifey(tm)’s reaction to those pictures.

I don’t recall her words verbatim, but the general gist went something like:

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Honey? What’s the matter?

“I put on weight is what’s the matter!” She jabbed a finger in my chest. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?!”

What?

“All those times I said ‘does this make me look fat?’, why didn’t you say ‘yes’?”

Honey, are you familiar with something called the ‘self preservation instinct’…?

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Oh come on baby, you don’t loo-

“This is YOUR FAULT” she said. “All those stupid French sauces! That never-ending bread experiment! All that goddam ice cream! Scones! Cheese! Wine! THIS IS YOUR FAULT!

You know babe, there are three cucumbers in the crisper even as we speak. Untouched.”

I nursed that black eye for a week.

One thing about NewWifey(tm) that I’ve always admired: no matter how upset she is, she can clamp down on her emotions and rationally chart the best course out of whatever problem caused her fury.

THEN she blows a gasket.

So I wasn’t surprised that after she stomped off I didn’t hear anything more about it for two days. I let her stew.

On the third day – and by “day” I mean “middle of the night two hours before I had to wake up and go to work” – she jabbed an elbow in my ribs and said “I want you to research FitBits.”

This time I do recall verbatim my response. It was, “xrnfff…wu…huh? wha…OW! Da fuck?!

She pressed on, oblivious. “I’ve asked on Facebook and all my stitching ladies say they heard from their nephews that FitBits are the new ThighMaster. You’re a news guy. Find out it that’s true.”

I didn’t bother explaining to her that product reviews generally don’t feature in any of my newscasts. When NewWifey(tm) gets it in her mind to do something, she doesn’t even hear me. So I just shut up and researched FitBits as best I could during my few breaks at work the next day.

Cut to the chase: I got her a FitBit Charge 2 for Christmas. Purple.

“Why purple?” she said when she unwrapped it.

It matches my Le Creuset tart pan.

“Yeah it does, but what does that…oh, never mind. Thank you.”

(Side note: it’s a refurb. Got it for 50% off, with full warranty.  The trade off? They only had ’em in purple. But it does match my tart pan. That’s important too.)

She read the manual (people do that?), watched an online tutorial, bragged to her Facebook ladies, then put it on. Now a month later the only times she’s taken it off have been to charge it, and to shower. (So, 4 times….)

I gotta give her credit here, she’s really sticking with it. Every hour she gets her ass off the couch and marches around the house a few times, then goes up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs til she hits her Steps Taken goal. I’m very proud of her, and I always tell her that from where I sit with my pork rinds and 6-packs of Guinness.

(She’s not achieving her sleep goals, though. Every day she shows me the graph of her previous night’s snooze pattern. And every day the readout says she’s getting substandard deep and REM sleep compared to “normal” women her age. “Who are these bitches, and how are they able to nail a perfect pattern night after night? I hate them! I’m so mad I can’t sleep!” I didn’t point out the obvious.)

However, inasmuch as stomping around the house and tramping stairs is meeting her Minimum Daily Steps requirement, she’s been getting absolutely zero credit for “Working Out”. Apparently mere motion isn’t enough to qualify. You’ve got to get your heart rate up to at least 116 beats per minute before Sergent Purple pins that medal on you.

If this was spring, or if we lived someplace like Mordor, NewWifey(tm) would just hop on her dirt bike and get her heartbeat up to 116 within seconds through sheer panic. Or she could mow the lawn with the manual push mower she got for some reason. That would do it. Maybe engage in some power gardening. But as this is winter and we live in Planet Hoth, New Jersey, the gas in her bike is frozen solid, the lawn is under 3 feet of snow, and the only possible gardening she could do is trim her own bush. So…hallways and stairs. Heart rate: 80 BPM. No medal.

Internet to the rescue!

She posted her frustration to her stitching group on Facebook, and the group immediately sprang into action. Women who hadn’t seen their toes since the Reagan administration waxed authoritatively on the best way to keep weight off while building lean muscle. (I was heartened to see more than one recommend “eat cucumbers”). A virtual storm of URLs were hurled at her, running the gamut from astrology sites to genetic engineering labs.

Guess which one she clicked on?

Get In Shape Through Better Sex!

Yup.

I was completely oblivious to all of this, by the way, as I was at work when she got the idea to enlist her “friends”. The first I learned of it was when I walked in the door and found NewWifey(tm) standing naked in the middle of the living room. The only thing she was wearing was the FitBit.

Uhhhhh…is the thermostat up too high for you, baby?

“Shut up. Take your clothes off.”

Don’t get me wrong honey, this really is a pleasant surprise. ButI just got home from work. Can I get some lunch first?

She pushed a sandwich into my hand. “I figured you’d say that. Eat this on your way to the bedroom.”

In between bites I got out, “Why the urgency? You binge watch a bunch of Robert Pattinson movies again?

“No. An article I read said that sex raises your heart rate and burns calories more than even mowing the lawn. I have to get to 116 beats per minute to get my badge, so stop talking and fuck me so I can lose weight.”

She rolled onto her back and spread ’em. I started to protest, as I still had half a sandwich left, but…what the hell. I jammed it into my mouth and hopped on. Something told me she wasn’t worried about formalities.

I have to say, it wasn’t the most erotic of boinks. NewWifey(tm) held her wrist in front of her face the entire time, monitoring her heart rate. I had half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich sticking out of my face, and because I couldn’t chew or swallow while both my hands were bearing my full weight on the mattress, a constant stream of saliva trickled past the breading and onto NewWifey(tm)’s forehead.

After about 3 minutes she pushed me off. “This isn’t working. Let’s try doggie style.”

I hurriedly downed the rest of the sandwich while she got in position. I wish she’d remembered milk.

I saddled up, and we took off. NewWifey(tm) had one hand down on the mattress, the other bent in front of her face so she could read the numbers.

Another three minutes and then, “You really suck at this. My heart rate isn’t going up at all! Get off.”

Man, talk about a college flashback.

As I mentioned earlier, I really admire NewWifey(tm)’s ability to rationally formulate a plan in even the most stressful of situations. And believe me, this was stressful.

“Ok” she said. “Lie on your back. This time I’ll do the work.”

That scared me, mostly because of the look on her face when she said it. “Grim determination” is not the expression you want to see on the face of someone who’s about to start bouncing up and down on a particularly vulnerable member of your…well, on your particularly vulnerable member. But I didn’t have a choice. I lay back and braced for impact.

You know what I discovered? It turns out it doesn’t matter WHAT kind of look is on the face of the naked girl bouncing on top of you. It feels great.

Too great.

NewWifey(tm) heard me starting to breath hard and tore her eyes off the FitBit. To her horror saw that mien start to creep across my features. The mien that said, “In about 40 more seconds I’m gonna suddenly fall asleep.”

“You better not!” she said. “Goddam you, DON’T. I’m at 109 – if you stop now I’ll kill you. Think about dead puppies! Nuns! Nuns killing puppies! Puppies killing nuns!!

I closed my eyes and thought of nuns, but all I could see was Jane Curtin’s nun character tearing her top off in the movie “Nasty Habits”. This wasn’t helping.

Desperate, I went nuclear.

Let me call you ‘James‘” I gasped.

WHAT?!

Just do it!!

“Fine, if you think it will help.” She resumed bouncing.

It helped. “Hey, James” I said.

That’s all it took. Crisis averted. I was good to go again.

110

111

112

113

114

115

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115

.

.

115

.

.

.

.

She screamed. “ONE SIXTEEN! I DID IT!!

So did I.

40 seconds later I was asleep. No stamina at all.

I think I better get a FitBit….

.

This Sunday is my birthday, and in case you missed it NewWifey(tm) has a tradition of making me an authentic Sicilian cassata cake every year on the day:

cassata-1

cassata-2

Sierra Exif JPEG

Guess what I’ll be having this year, though?

Mush.

I had to have some minor oral surgery yesterday, and my mouth is now full of stitches and raw nerves. For the next week I can’t shovel in anything that needs to be chewed, so I’ve got vats of congee, rice pudding, and various smooth soups lined up in the fridge. Guess I’ll stick a candle in one of them and call it a party.

Can’t even drink.

Pity me.

.

cucumber20cartoon

Waka/Alpaca

Happy New year!

I guess it’s time for my “What I Did on Summer Vacation” entry, huh?

Ok.

What I Did on Summer Vacation, by D. Spouse

This all started because I wanted a hat. A warm hat.

Living above the snow line here at the top of Mt. Crumpit it gets cold, oh, 12 months a year. Sometimes more. I mean cold. I don’t even own a refrigerator, just an uninsulated steel locker on the back porch.

Our first night in DangerHouse my alarm went off at 3am. At 3:30 I stepped out the door to go to work.

At 3:30:01 I stepped back inside and put on my coat, hat, and gloves.

It was August.

By October I knew I had to up my hat game.

Since starting in radio I’ve become a scarf guy. I drive to work in the middle of the night, then jump from my car straight to yakking into a microphone. If my pipes are frozen when I arrive at work I sound like Bobcat Goldthwait on helium for the first hour. So I wrap a scarf around my neck like a Palestinian kid slinging a rock at a Merkava Mark Iv.

That was pretty much all the barding I needed for quite some time, but as I say once we moved to Ice Station Jersey it was a whole ‘nother story. A mere scarf wasn’t gonna cut it. What good was having my throat warm if you could hold a curling tournament on my brain? I needed a warm hat.

And so began what has turned out to be a decades-long Grail Quest.

I just cannot seem to find a warm enough hat. Everything I’ve tried, from K-Mart specials to well trained Pomeranians, has left my size 7 3/8 shivering.  The latest fail was an “Authentic 100% Wool Navy Watch Cap Guaranteed Warm to -71 Celsius!” from Amazon that turned out to be…well, not an “Authentic 100% Wool Navy Watch Cap”, unless the US Navy is now contracting out its hat production to Vietnam, and “100% Wool” now means “10% Wool, 5% Polyester, 85% ‘processed recycled plastic’ “.

Then a couple of months ago NewWifey(tm) asked me if I wanted to accompany her on a work trip to Cape May. A shop there hired her to teach a class at the beginning of October, so she was gonna take a long weekend and get ‘er done.

Now I had gone with her the previous spring to that same shop for another of her classes and had a good enough time, I suppose. The seafood was spectacular and never-ending, our room was half a block from the beach, and we even almost boinked in the sand. Best of all, the tourist tsunami that turns Cape May into the Calcutta of New Jersey every May through September hadn’t arrived yet so we were able walk on the beach again without stepping on a fat dog food salesman from Iowa in a Speedo, or a hypodermic needle.

But…I dunno. Watching a bunch of beehive hairdo’s sit and stitch alphabets and pictures of cats onto swatches of glorified burlap wasn’t really my thing. “I think I’ll pass this time” I said to NewWifey(tm).

She was nonplussed. “What? Why not? I thought you had a great time, other than the abbreviated boink.”

“Eh. I just need a break from the smell of Ensure and Depends. Why can’t you book a gig with the Girl Scouts one time?”

Aw c’mon, go with me. You don’t have to hang out at the event itself, you know. Why don’t you go online and see if there’s any attractions in the surrounding area you can drive to while I’m working?

“Oh, alright….”

So I did, but nothing really grabbed me. I went back to NewWifey(tm).

“I don’t know, babe. I mean, there are a couple of wineries that are open to the public, and even a distillery where I can get really plowed. But they’re pretty far, and frankly Jersey wines are just a step above gasoline. There’s some naval museum or something not far off, but I’m not gay. And there’s an alpaca farm a little further out.”

I added that last one just as an afterthought, and immediately regretted it. I’d forgotten how much NewWifey(tm) loves alpacas.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! ALLLLLLLLLLPAAAAAAACCAAAAAAAAAAS! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

“Honey, I – ”

Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease take me there! I wanna see alpacas! Please! Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease! I’ll blow you! Right here. Right now. I WANNA SEE ALPACAS!!

She did, so I did.

When we passed through the farm gate the first thing we saw was a dead alpaca:

alpaca s

Then another in the background:

two dead alpacas

“This doesn’t look promising” I said. “So far we’ve seen two alpacas, and two of them are dead. That’s not a good ratio.”

NewWifey(tm) was as white as that one ex-paca. “This can’t be” she gasped. “They can’t all be dead…can they?

We drove further in.

A few tense minutes followed as we wended our way slowly down the dirt road. Then around a corner a barn came in to view, and –

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! ALLLLLLLLLLPAAAAAAACCAAAAAAAAAAS!”

Alpacas. Live ones.

After parking you first encounter their most adorable specimens in a small pen, guaranteeing face time. The pen is attached directly to the gift shop. These guys know what they’re doing.

The first one we saw had a penis for a tail.

alpaca g

NewWifey(tm) seemed appreciative.

The main group was just steps away.

alpaca c

NewWifey(tm), being NewWifey(tm), was determined not only to view alpacas, but also befriend them.

alpaca h

I’m gonna feed them” she said. “I think they like grass.”

That seemed reasonable. They were all eating grass.

So NewWifey(tm) picked a fresh stalk from our side of the fence, nice and long and succulent, and held it out.

Every alpaca in the place ignored her.

alpaca i

NewWifey(tm) grew increasingly agitated at their indifference.

alpaca b

Look you guys!” she said, waving the stalk. “Here’s a nice one – better than those stubs you’re eating. You can have it, really. C’mon you stupid alpacas. DAMMIT, EAT MY GRASS!

Nothing. She was actually poking them in the nose with it in an attempt to get them to open their mouths. They just walked away and started grazing on stubs again.

By contrast, the little fuckers seemed endlessly fascinated by my camera.

Alpaca D flip.jpg

alpaca 3

NewWifey(tm) was miffed, but still determined. “Let’s go in the shop” she said. “I want answers.” She grabbed my arm and dragged me through the door.

Inside, she stopped. The entire place was filled not just floor to ceiling, but across the ceiling, with alpaca shit. There were alpaca t-shirts, alpaca hoodies, stuffed alpacas from rice grain to life size, alpaca wool blankets, alpaca wool jackets, scarves, hats, coats, throws, gloves, snuggies, and area rugs, plus alpaca statues, alpaca paintings, alpaca snow globes, alpaca puzzles, alpaca keychains, alpaca shaped chocolates, and for all I know actual alpaca shit. NewWifey(tm) just stood there with her mouth open.

“Honey” I nudged her, “Didn’t you have a question?” I pointed to the sales lady, who was almost invisible against the far wall. In her alpaca wool eared hat, shawl, skirt, leggings, stockings, fingerless gloves, and booties, she perfectly matched the wares around her.

NewWifey(tm) walked right up. No preliminaries. “Why are there two dead alpacas inside your front gate?

The woolly sales lady just smiled. “You’re the ninth person to ask me that. They’re not dead, that’s just how they sleep. They’re like those fainting goats. They just plop right over. Don’t worry, they’ll be up and around at feeding time.”

I could see NewWifey(tm)’s forehead smooth some of its lines. That one must have been bugging her. But then –

Speaking of feeding time, how come they won’t eat the nice juicy grass I picked for them? I poked them in the nose with it and everything!

Another smile. “Yeah, they’re funny that way. They eat the crummy little nubs in the field, but not good stalks from your hand. You know what they will eat from your hand, though? Carrots. Alpacas love carrots.”

NewWifey(tm)’s face fell. “We don’t have any carrots.” She looked at me. “Do we?” I shook my head.

“If you buy something” the woolly sales lady said, “I’ll give you a bag of carrots.”

“SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

She grabbed a basket and took off.

That place knows what they’re doing.

Two minutes later NewWifey(tm) dumped a pile of alpaca t-shirts, alpaca hoodies, 5 different sized stuffed alpacas, an alpaca wool blanket, a jacket, three scarves, a hat, a coat, two throws, gloves, two snuggies, an area rug, an alpaca statue, four alpaca paintings, an alpaca filled snow globes, three alpaca puzzles, two alpaca keychains, a bar of soap in a felted alpaca wool sleeve, and seven boxes of alpaca shaped chocolates on the counter.

“That will be $1,749.50” said the clerk.

That snapped NewWifey(tm) out of it. She put everything back except a pair of gloves and the soap cozy.

“$34.90” said the clerk. Turning to me she added, “You know, we have some very warm mens knitted caps. Does it get cold where you live?”

I stopped NewWifey(tm)’s hand reaching for her wallet.

“How warm?” I said.

“Alpaca wool has been used to keep people alive at the top of the Andes since the Incas.”

“How much?”

“$22.50 lined, $34.90 for 100% wool.”

“Honey, give her $69.80” I said to NewWifey(tm), and went to pick out a hat. A snow white model had my name on it. I couldn’t wait for winter to hit so I could laugh at it.

NewWifey(tm), meanwhile, couldn’t wait for something else.

Where’s my carrots?” she said to the clerk, who laughed and produced a baggie. “Here you go” she said. “The bigger pens are out back.”

“SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

Gone.

I followed behind.

alpaca e

Zoom in. Check these guys out. They know that smell a mile away:

alpaca r

It was at that point I lost NewWifey(tm) completely. She wasn’t this happy on our wedding day. Or night.

Behold the magic of carrots:

alpaca j

alpaca l

alpaca m

Somebody’s not happy at being overlooked:

alpaca n

alpaca o

She had to boot these kids out of the way to get to the last group:

alpaca p

They had a nice chat about carrots. The alpaca was in favor of them.

alpaca k

The drive home, all three and a half hours of it, consisted primarily of her beginning sentences with, “Did you see the alpaca that….” Which was fine with me. It was a nice change from listening to the usual three and a half hour long diatribe about anything from periods to how much wax beans suck.

Now then.

The reason I delayed writing this entry until now is….the hat. The 100% Unlined Alpaca Wool hat that kept the Incas alive 722,000 feet up a mountain in the Andes in the middle of winter. *

I wanted to see if that hat would actually be the hat I’ve been waiting for since I moved to the top of Mt. Crumpit in 1999. I wanted it to survive at least one December before reporting back.

The verdict?

The search continues.

The hat sucks.

My head froze wearing that thing – and that was only in November! How the hell did the Incas manage to survive that long if that’s what they were wearing?

I actually called the Alpaca Store.

You should have gotten the lined one” the woolly sales lady said. “They’re warmer. 100% alpaca wool is so fine it makes a very open weave.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that when I bought it?”

Your wife was drooling. I just wanted you out of the store.”

Shit. It’s back to the hot water bottle and babushka, I guess. Until we go back next year when I can get the lined one.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

(Hey, you know what DID live up to the hype? That stupid felted alpaca wool bar of soap! Get in the shower, soak it til the lather seeps to the surface, then run that soft, wet, rounded bar over your body and it’s almost impossible not to rub one out. I’ve never been cleaner in my life, I take so many showers now.)

hat and soap

Ciao!

.

.

*Wait, do they have winters in the Andes? I guess it doesn’t matter. At 722,000 feet (thank you, Wikipedia) the Andes are probably as cold as the surface of Pluto year round. Seasons are moot.

(10 bonus points to anyone who knew the title was a Frank Zappa reference.)