Me and my Big Brother

(In a nutshell: CLICK HERE to read my actual entry.)

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Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

I wrote an entry for the Daily Prompt’s “Triumph” prompt today, but it’s not showing up on the Daily Prompt’s “Daily Prompt” page. Not promptly, anyway.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

I suspect, unless there is just more than the usual lag this time, that my title might be to blame. Do they have a naughty word and/or double-entendre filter over there that flagged me?

If that’s the case, THIS title should pass muster, being merely an innocuous play on a famous book reference, without any prurient meaning explicit or implied. (Not particularly witty though, but sometimes ya gotta really stoop to conquer the folks over at miniluv.)

So yeah, if you want to read my REAL “Triumph” entry just click on my post immediately previous to this one. You’ll like it. It’s got naughty and/or double-entendre stuff out the wazoo.

And a picture of peanut butter bread. Really.

Sheesh. I feel like a doubleplusungood duckspeaker sometimes….

(Oh, and if it really IS just an unusual lag, not censorship, and I see that my Naughty Titled entry shows up on the Big List o’ Submissions, I’ll delete this here stupid backdoor.)

Ciao! (Again.)

Midnight Pussy

When I came home from work a couple of weeks ago there was a dead cat in our yard:

Midnight 1

“There’s a dead cat in our yard” I said to NewWifey(tm).

WHAT?” NewWifey(tm) shot out of her chair and ran to the back porch. I followed, stopping only long enough to knock together a sandwich and open a beer.

Outside, NewWifey(tm) was leaning over the rail peering at the little black form sprawled in the scree at the base of our stone wall. Something must have attacked it head on, because large patches of fur were missing around its ears and eyes.

Goddammit” said NewWifey(tm). “Why the fuck do these things keep coming to our yard to die? Remember that fox last year? And the giant turkey – remember that one? There must have been twenty vultures sitting on our railing that day, and ten more on the ground tearing it to shreds. God, what a mess.

“I remember” I said.

She sighed. “I guess we better at least put the poor thing in a trash bag before we have another feeding frenzy on our hands.”

“By ‘we‘, I assume you mean ‘me‘, right?” I said.

She handed me a plastic bag. “Try not to get any ticks on you.”

Rats. I put my sandwich down and made for the deceased, stopping a few feet away to take one last picture.

But just as I hit the button:

Midnight 2

It was alive!

“Hey honey” I called to NewWifey(tm), “the cat’s not -”

Whoooooooooosh!

NewWifey(tm) went flying by, elbowing me out of the way and letting out a high pitched “Squeeeeeeeeee!

The cat immediately leaped up, vaulted the rock wall, and disappeared into the forest. “Midnight!” NewWifey(tm) called. “Midnight, come back!

“‘Midnight’?” I said, “You named it already?”

She shrugged. “Everything has to have a name.” She stared forlornly into the trees.

“How do you know it doesn’t already have a name? It might just be somebody’s pet out chillin’ on a nice day.”

Did you see how ragged he looks? That’s a feral cat. And his name is Midnight.”

“Fine” I said. “Just don’t encourage him to keep coming back. They carry all kinds of disease, not to mention fleas and ticks.”

She nodded.

So of course two weeks later I came home, looked out our back screen door, and saw this:

Midnight 3

GAHHHH!

“Honey, would you come here a second?”

No response.

Huuuuuuunnyyyyyy. Where are you, baby?”

Nothing.

I searched up and down but NewWifey(tm) was nowhere to be found. Finally I gave up and went into the bedroom to get changed. I opened the closet door and reached for my SpongeBob lounge pants and a t-shirt.

A pair of blue eyes stared back at me between a couple of dress shirts.

“Honey” I said. “Get out here.”

NewWifey(tm) walked out of the closet, head down.

Is this about Midnight?” she said.

“No, not at all” I said. Her head lifted. “OF COURSE IT’S ABOUT MIDNIGHT!” I yelled. “I thought we agreed that feral cats are walking disease agents and we wouldn’t do anything to entice this one to come near us!”

She stiffened. “You’re wrong” she said. “I checked online. It turns out poor abandoned kitty cats are NOT harbingers of doom.

“Yeah, well, they still carry ticks and fleas, and THEY carry disease.”

I don’t care. His name is “Midnight”, he’s my cat, and I’m going to take care of him.”

“He’s YOUR cat?” I said.

Yes“.

A bit of background here, for anyone who isn’t a long time reader. The week after returning from our honeymoon (in 2001), NewWifey(tm) surprised me with two orange tennis balls. One turned out to be a tiny little welsh corgi puppy, the other was the tiny little kitten the pet store threw in for free. Casey and Gloria were to feature large in our marriage, and my stories, for the next 15 year.

“Casey the WonderCorgi” got the most press because, well, corgis always do. The internet loves corgis, I don’t know if you noticed, and for good reason. They’re impossibly cute and endlessly entertaining and OH SHIT HE’S HERDING A FAMILY OF BEARS RIGHT INTO OUR YARD! I never wanted for material when Casey was around.

“Gloria the Liquid Cat” made the occasional appearance also, but being a cat she wasn’t as prone to spectacular, story-worthy hijinx as the dog, and so wasn’t mentioned as often. Still, I did relate the time she dove into the toilet while I was peeing, the time a hawk dive bombed her as she leaped into my arms, a few cooking adventures, and famously, the time I fucked her with a Q-Tip (it’s not what you think…ok it is, but I had a good reason).

We loved those animals. But of course, they are animals, and animals don’t live as long as us animals. Almost three years ago we said goodbye to Casey. Then not long after that, Gloria, who seemed to pine at his passing as much as we did, disappeared one night and we never saw her again.

I still miss that cat, as much if not more so than the dog.

Gloria & Spider!

As does NewWifey(tm).

HNI_0069

We decided not to get any new animals because of circumstances, but that decision was tough on her. She really, really took Gloria’s disappearance hard. That cat was her Cuddle Muffin, snuggling with her the long hours I was away at work early in our marriage. Having Gloria gone, with no prospect of another to replace her, has been an ongoing void in her heart.

And now a new cat, scraggly and hungry, has wandered into our yard. And if NewWifey(tm) has her way, into our lives as well. “Midnight” may not be Gloria, but NewWifey(tm) wants another Cuddle Muffin, even if it means risking rabies, fleas, Heps A, B, C, and D, Lyme Disease, and the Dreaded Lurgi.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I came home from work Friday and saw this in our kitchen:

Midnight 4

NewWifey(tm) frantically motioned me to be quiet as soon as I entered the room, not wanting to scare the beast. We both stood stock still while Midnight ate, then watched as she stood, looked around, and slowly walked out the open back door onto the porch. Through the window we saw her trot down the stairs into the yard then disappear into the woods.

NewWifey(tm) exhaled a long breath. “That’s the first time she’s come inside!” she said in a tone of supreme triumph. “I’ve been placing the dish closer to the door every day, and today I finally set it on the kitchen side…and she came in!”

“Great” I said. NewWifey(tm) was too elated to notice my obvious insincerity.

Soon I should be able to pet her, and then I can take her to the vet for a checkup, and then we can -” she looked at me and stopped. “Pleeeeeeeeeease??

Sigh.

What could I do? For one thing, I still miss having a cat too. But really, the over riding factor is that no matter what I say or do, NewWifey(tm) is gonna do whatever the fuck she wants anyway.

I gave in.

“Ok, yeah, sure” I said. “Just make DAMN sure you bring it to the vet if it gets that far. I don’t want my liver falling out or anything if it scratches me.”

She gave me a hug and let out another squee.

Yesterday, then, NewWifey(tm) once again set a little banchan bowl filled with cream on our kitchen floor and opened the back porch door. She then placed one of our cushioned dining room chairs on the opposite side of the kitchen and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

NewWifey(tm) sat in that chair from 8 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon. I brought her cups of coffee and cookies – I wasn’t allowed to cook, in case Midnight showed up and the rattling of pans scared her – and when she needed a bathroom break I took watch for her.

But…no Midnight.

2 o’clock.

3.

At 4 o’clock I decided to do an intervention.

“Honey” I said gently, “get the fuck out of that chair. Midnight isn’t coming. She’s probably frolicking with her buddies or dead or something. So get up, let’s have a proper meal, and I don’t know if you remembered but we had a date today.”

She looked at me horrified. “How can you even think about sex?” she said. “OUR CHILD IS MISSING!

Hoooooooo boy. I backed out of the room.

At 6 o’clock I brought her a sandwich and a beer.

At 8 o’clock I handed her another beer and kissed her goodnight. By 8:15 I was fast asleep.

Then, just as my dream of circus midgets, two trained German Shepherds, and a giant vat of cottage cheese (small curd) was about to reach its climax, I was jolted awake by NewWifey(tm). She jumped on the bed, straddling me as I lay face down drooling into my pillow, and shook me by the shoulders. “WAKE UP!!

Hnnnghhgnn…gnnn…snorklflax….whuh? Huh? What’s up? What – what time is it? Is something wrong??

Midnight finally showed up!” she yelled. “I waited until 11:30, but she finally came! And…I PETTED HER!! She let me stroke her back while she ate! I’m so happy!!!!!

NewWifey(tm) could hardly contain herself.

And that’s how I got Midnight Pussy.

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In Low Carb news:

A shrimp sale led me to make Vietnamese summer rolls (Goi Cuon) a few days ago, which NewWifey(tm) and I ate on the porch while playing Chutes-And-Ladders and getting hammered on a very accommodating Rose d’Anjou. To go with the rolls I whipped up my version of peanut dipping sauce: smooth peanut butter mixed with Hoisin sauce, 5-spice powder, sesame oil, a little soy sauce, sometimes a bit of brown sugar, and water to thin it out. It’s not traditional, but NewWifey(tm) creams her jeans over it every time. I made plenty, knowing she practically inhales the stuff.

I actually made so much that there was still a fair amount left when we were done – a real rarity. So despite having put myself on a low carb thingy a couple of weeks ago, already dropping some flabbage as a result, I decided to revive my “Will It Make Bread?” experiment just for today. (If you haven’t read my previous entries regarding this, I have a theory that any liquid which doesn’t kill yeast can be made into bread by adding flour, yeast, and maybe a prayer. So far I haven’t been proven wrong.)

Trumpet flourish please.

Behold! Peanut Butter Bread:

Peanut Butter Bread

I added some extra peanut butter to the dough to intensify the flavor. And while it may indeed have boosted the peanuttyness, it also made the dough very heavy so it didn’t rise as much – or quickly – as other loaves. I think the first rise took 4 solid hours, the second rise about 2. But MAN. The flavor was awesome.

Yes, that’s a little ramekin of grape jelly on the plate. Welch’s finest. Matched perfectly. But you knew it would, right? It was actually pretty funny eating a PBJ without the PB. We ate half the loaf this morning, the other half I’m saving to make a bread pudding or something later.

Fuck Atkins. Some things are worth the weight, Skippy.

Ciao!

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A Crack in the Sand

I swear to god I don’t know where my brain is sometimes. I wrote this last Wednesday, but forgot to hit “Publish”. Please pretend it’s last Wednesday, ok? It’ll make more sense then.

NewWifey(tm) and I just got back from a little mini vacation at the Jersey shore. This was a working holiday for NewWifey(tm), who’d been invited by a stitching shop in Cape May to teach one of her designs to a class of paying hens. I had no intention of accompanying her initially, but she promised a seafood dinner (expensed to her company) if I shared driving duties.

Every man has his price. Mine is a lobster roll and two crab cakes. I went.

I actually, despite all expectations, had a splendiferous time.

Having grown up in New Jersey I spent more than my fair share of time down the shore in my youth (handy tourist tip: it’s “down the shore” in NJ, not “at the shore” or – most egregious – “the beach“). My grandparents owned a bungalow just outside Seaside, and every summer until I was 14 my parents booted me down there so they could enjoy a few weeks of relative peace. Then through high school and college there were the usual weekend/break trips, and so on.

So now I’m sick of the Jersey shore. The ancillary parts of it, anyway. I still love swimming in the ocean and eating ice cream waffle sandwiches on the boardwalk and riding the Tilt-o-Whirl and smelling the salt air and wearing a bikini.

But I’m sick of everything else. The madding traffic on the Garden State Parkway, the maddening parking insanity once you get there, the maddening lines at the ice cream waffle stand, the vomiting kid on the Tilt-o-Whirl, the embarrassing bikini tan lines. Not to mention the sand fleas. All of them are so…maddening!...that I just have no enthusiasm for any it any more.

Now despite that litany of objections, NewWifey(tm) has spent the last 15 years trying to make me get over them. Growing up in that trailer park in PrairieLand, USA at exactly the halfway point between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, the closest she ever got to either of them was a Bud Lite commercial. When she moved to NJ she was so excited to see her first seagull that she immediately went out and bought her first ever bikini, as well as her first ever little plastic pail and shovel (stupid Bud Lite commercial). Then she cried when I told her no way, no how, was I gonna take her to the beach. Hey, it was “for better or worse“, remember? Suck it up.

Now about 5 years ago I did relent a little bit, and just once. I forget why, but we were driving down the Garden State Parkway one cold January day and on impulse I took Exit 82 in Toms River, just like I used to when I was a kid. We headed east on Rt.37, right to where it ends in Seaside Heights. There was nobody else at the beach. It was 12 degrees out.

I parked right in front of the boardwalk, a near physical impossibility any other month of the year, and let NewWifey(tm) out. “Ok, here’s your big chance” I said.

NewWifey(tm) looked at me like I was crazy but got out anyway. Then, in full winter parka, boots, and gloves she clomped across the sand down to the water line. The wind was howling like mad in typical January fashion, and the surf was choppy and erratic, shooting steel grey jets in all directions every time a wave crested. Still, NewWifey(tm) was not gonna let this one and (possibly) only opportunity pass her by. Sitting safely back in the Mighty WRX with the heat blasting and Japanese anime theme song compilation CD cranked, I watched her sit down, laboriously remove one boot, then hop on the other foot right to the edge of the surf. When the next wave pushed a line of water to within inches she dipped a toe in, screamed, and hopped back.

I did it” she gasped when she made it back to the car. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

That shut her up for a while. I don’t know if it was because the experience was so painful, or she finally realized the futility of trying to get me to go during a less meteorologically traumatic month. Either way, I didn’t hear about it for the next several years.

Then she booked the gig in Cape May, and it was game on again. “Come ONNNNNNNNN” she whined. “It’s two weeks before tourist season so it won’t be crowded, and we’re staying in Wildwood not Cape May proper so there’ll be even LESS people. I already booked a motel room, and the guy said the place isn’t anywhere near filled that weekend. You don’t even have to drive. You can get drunk and stretch out in the back playing Animal Crossing on your GameBoy while I take us there. C’monnnnnn!

“No.”

I’ll buy you crab cakes and a lobster roll.”

“….ok.”

And just like that, I was going to Cape May.

I’ll cut to the chase here, partly because I don’t remember the trip down. She wasn’t kidding when she told me to get drunk and get in the back. I was just another piece of luggage. When I came to, we were already at Exit 0. (Yes, there’s an Exit 0.)

I have to say, despite my prophesies of doom we had a very nice time. There were indeed blessedly few people clogging roadways or beaches, the food was great, and our motel was literally one building off the sand. This was our view from the balcony:

Balcony resized

They even had a heated courtyard swimming pool, if the early May ocean waters were too cold for you:

Pool resized

The room itself, while tiny, was remarkably clean and tidy. We found out that the young guy who owns it is the 3rd generation of his family to run the place and he takes enormous pride in that. Every year he paints the entire building inside and out, and even lays down new carpets in every room. We were the first people of the 2017 season to spill a mai tai on the new rug in Room 30!

Guess how much we paid? 80 bucks per night, off season! We spent more on food than we did on lodgings.

NewWifey(tm)’s teaching gig only lasted 3 hours of one day, which meant that for the remainder of the 3 days we were there she could finally get all the touristy stuff she’s been dreaming of out of her system.

Like:

Taking pictures of our feet in the sand:

Feet resized

(hers are the bigger feet)

Getting that windblown selfie with ocean backdrop she wanted (even if it was cold enough that a top AND sweater were warranted):

Windswept resized

She built a sand castle with her 15 year old plastic bucket and shovel. We ate crab cakes and lobster rolls. And everything else they could drag out of the sea and put on a plate. We drove around Cape May and looked at the Gingerbread Victorian Houses:

Cape May Houses

And we almost had sex on the beach.

One of the things on NewWifey(tm)’s Beach Bucket list was “midnight walk on the beach with my husband“. How sweet, right? I gotta tell you though, staying awake until midnight after two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, a tureen of She Crab Soup, two lobster rolls and a half dozen crab cakes (each) was a feat in itself. The one thing that helped was that it was unseasonably frigid. As soon as we stepped out the door and onto the sand we immediately snapped to attention.

Needless to say, we had the beach to ourselves. On that clear, moonlit night we could see up and down the beach for miles. And all we saw was sand, water, and a few whale carcasses. (I think. They might have been abandoned stolen cars. This is still New Jersey, after all.)

So we walked along the water line for a while, NewWifey(tm) looking dreamily at alternately the ocean and me. It was her Hallmark Card moment, and she was loving it. I could practically smell the contentment radiate from her.

I decided to break the mood.

“Wanna fuck?”

She yanked her hand out of mine. “Here? Now? It’s probably 40 degrees out! Are you crazy?”

“No! I mean, I’m not saying we should go all out and do the “From Here to Eternity” thing. But if we duck behind one of these dunes, that’ll block the wind, and we don’t even have to take all our clothes off. Just unzip, hop on, hop off, done. Do you want to go through your whole life never having had sex on the beach?”

She looked at me warily. “Have YOU had sex on the beach?

“Sure, plenty of times” I said. “Granted, it was always by myself. But it was still pretty awesome.”

She snorted and looked out over the water. After a minute she said, “I must still be drunk, because I can’t believe I’m saying this. But ok.”

Woo hoo! Thank you, New Zealand sauvignon blancs.

I looked at the line of dunes behind us and made for the one with the tallest leeward side. NewWifey(tm) trudged behind muttering something incoherent under her breath.

“What was that dear?” I said.

I said, I better not end up getting sand in my crack.

“Oh, don’t worry” I said. “That’s just an urban myth.” I crossed my fingers that it was.

The dune I chose was perfect. The leeward side was dry and sheltered from the wind, and it was tall enough that any insomniacs in the nearby motels couldn’t spot us from their balconies. I got down on my knees.

Wait” said NewWifey(tm). “Spread your jacket down first. I’m still worried about getting sand up there.”

“No way” I said. “I don’t want to end up with a wet spot on my jacket. Do you know how embarrassing that is?”

Do it” said NewWifey(tm).

I did it. Small price to pay, I guess. I mean, it’s almost a badge of honor, right? I took my jacket off and spread it on the sand.

We got down.

Without getting too graphic, I’ll just say that it was a helluva lot of fun. I mean, it was sex so of course it was. But it was sex behind a dune on an empty beach while pretty much fully clothed and half drunk and bathed in the smell of seaweed and the sound of ocean waves, and you just don’t usually get that on a weekday night after coming home from work and just Doing It after dinner because there’s nothing on Netflix that sounds good and so what the hell. Yeah, I was diggin’ it.

NewWifey(tm) was diggin’ it too. After some initial trepidation where she would stop and brush away every imagined grain of sand that encroached on my jacket, she started to loosen up and get in the spirit. It was a hoot!

Until –

YEEEEEEEEEOWWWWWWWWWWWW!” NewWifey(tm) let out a scream mid-thrust and threw me off her. She leapt to her feet.

Something bit me!” she yelled. “Something bit me on my butt!” She tried twisting around and looking, but couldn’t see her butt in the dark. Her pants were down around her knees, and she immediately hiked them up.

“Hang on” I said. “Pull your pants back down so I can take a look.”

Reluctantly she did. There was just enough moonlight that I could make out a raised red mark on her left cheek, and a little critter hanging off it. “You got a sand flea!”

A flea? There are FLEAS at the beach?!

I laughed. “They’re just called that. They’re actually itty bitty little crustaceans. They’re harmless.”

Harmless?” she said. “One of them bit me right on the ass!

“Pinched, dear. They don’t technically bite.”

Fuck you, Jacques Fuckin’ Cousteau. I was BIT. If it was you that was attacked, I bet you would have said – ” She stopped. “What the hell happened to the jacket?

I looked around. My jacket/blanket was several feet away, wadded up. “It must have shifted while we were rolling around” I said. “No big deal. I can wash it.”

No big deal? No big deal? MY CRACK WAS IN THE SAND! I’M PROBABLY FULL OF SAND NOW!

“Oh calm down, you’re fine. Let me get that flea off you and we can go shower up back at the room. We weren’t on the sand long enough to load you up, I’m pretty sure.”

NewWifey(tm) bent over, and very gingerly I prized the tiny crab off her ass. I held it out to her. “Wanna have it for lunch tomorrow?” She swatted it out of my hand and pulled her pants up. 10 minutes later we were back in Room 30 showering off.

Now it’s about 1am, and we’re lying in bed. NewWifey(tm) has finally calmed down.

Y’know” she said, “Other than the ass attack, that really was turning out to be more fun than I thought.” She was silent for a minute. Then, “You wanna finish what we started?

“I thought you’d never ask” I said. I rolled over, planted a kiss on her belly button, then started working my way south.

Ok, we weren’t on the beach and there were no waves crashing on the beach and we were pretty much sobered up by then. But it was still great. I mean – 80 dollars a night! That’ll put ANYONE in the mood. I went at it with gusto.

When all of a sudden:

HAAAAACK! ACK-K-K-K-K-K!” I started gagging and hacking uncontrollably.

What the hell?” said NewWifey(tm). “Are you alright down there??

I couldn’t answer. I was hanging my head over the side of the bed, choking and gasping for air.

My god honey!” NewWifey(tm) started thumping me on the back. I finally got my breath back and started coughing and spitting rivulets of sputum onto the brand new rug.

After a minute I stopped convulsing. NewWifey(tm) was white as a sheet watching me, not knowing what to do. I motioned to her that I was ok, and a few minutes later I was able to talk again.

“I just swallowed a load of sand” I said. “You must have half a dune up there!”

NewWifey(tm) smiled. “I know. Now maybe you’ll listen to me next time when I say I have a concern.”

Goddammit. Women! If it weren’t for the crab cakes and lobster rolls, I wouldn’t even bother with ’em.

Oh well. Have a good night, y’all. It’s time for me to flea.

Yes, that was a crack….

Ciao!

Bear Necessities

After reading my previous entry, a long-time reader wrote saying, “Yo, Danger, that bear story sucked compared to that other one you wrote. How about re-posting that one?

Fair enough. I guess. Still, I’m not sure which one he was talking about. I mean, I’ve done bruin entries about:

Watching a bear get catapulted into a pond by an SUV that hit it at probably 40 mph, only to see it reemerge from the water, shake off the mat of algae, and contine on its way…

Reflexively crapping my pants when I crawled headfirst into a rock cleft near my house and almost bumping noses with a bear cub who was awaiting the return of his mother…

Watching my little welsh corgi chase a bear deep into the woods, only to have the beast turn on him and launch him 30 feet down the trail like a furry helicopter with a paw strike…

Spotting a Volkswagen Beetle parked in the middle of my street one night that turned out to be the largest black bear I’ve ever seen in my  life…

Our neighbor who discovered in the spring that a bear had been hibernating all winter under her front porch when she spotted it while planting bulbs…

Another neighbor who left a bag of groceries in her car and realized it when the bear who tore the car’s front door off to get them got his butt jammed against the horn…

And NewWifey(tm) running down our driveway banging on a pot to scare away the cub that was about to tear apart yet another one of our trash bins:

Bear Trash 2

Bear Trash 1

Then spotting Mamma Bear and 2 more siblings coming up the street to join the picnic:

Bear Trash 3

Bears Trash 4

Before wisely deciding it wasn’t worth trying to save another 27-dollar trash bin, and retreated. (Notice the unconcerned neighbor in the background. He knows my trash smells better than his so he has nothing to worry about.)

There are a lot of bears where we live.

As if New Jersey wasn’t already dangerous enough.

The point is, I’ve had occasion to write a fair number of entries over the years regarding encounters with our local mega-fauna. So this reader has left me rather adrift by requesting a reprint, but not specifying which.

Knowing him though, it was probably this one. It was called:

Bear With Me
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This is not going to become a golf blog. I promise. But this particular entry is about golf. And bears. Who may or may not golf.

Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about golf. I’m adding some helpful notes for the non-plaid-pants wearing public (ie: you), and have every confidence you’ll be just fine…..

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On the way back from work Friday I stopped at my local Golfsmith to see if they were running any one day sales. They were: a clearance special on a number of used clubs. One caught my eye: a Cleveland CG12 60-degree for 19 dollars.

Nineteen dollars! (Helpful Note #1: They’re normally more than that.)

Woo hoo! I had been toying with the idea of trying one of these lofted wonders (HN #2: a club that hits the ball very high, but for only a short distance.), but didn’t have the $$ for a Wishon (HN #3: brand of clubs I play.) to match my irons. This used Cleveland looked in pretty good shape, including grip. Just in case though, I brought it back to the club maker counter and asked the guy if he thought the head/hosel/shaft (HN #4…you know what? Fuck it. You’re on your own from now on. Just Google anything you don’t understand. Jesus.) looked ok. He was very nice, gave it a good look, and pronounced it fit (not that I wasn’t gonna buy it for 19 bucks anyway, but still…). Then he said “gimme a sec” and ran a re-grooving tool on it. Next stop: cash register.

Had family over, so I couldn’t try it Saturday. But Sunday they left and and we had a bit of a warm snap, so I grabbed the Cleveland, set up my net and…really sucked. Really, really sucked. Seriously, I should have spent those 19 dollars on a softball bat and just beaten myself over the head with it. The effect would have been the same: instant headache.

But after, I dunno, 5 or 6 thousand swipes I finally forced my fat middle aged body to stay down long enough to get the club to hit the bottom of the ball for once (popping it over the net in the process), and began to see marginally better results after that. I don’t think I’m gonna add it to my bag yet, as my “success : suck” ratio is still about 1 : 384. But I’m not toying with the idea of exchanging it for a used softball bat any more either.

Anyway, after about an hour of “swipe…skull. ..swipe….skull….swipe fat….swipe….skull” I saw, out of the corner of my eye, my little orange cat come tear-assing around the side of the house and dive into the woods across the street.

“That’s odd” I thought. “She normally doesn’t rouse herself for anything but food.”

I ambled over towards the side of the house to investigate.

I’d only gone about 10 feet when all of the sudden the cuuuutest little bear cub appeared from around the corner, heading towards me.

Then another.

And another.

They were soooo cute! Fwuffy widdle bearkins with big black eyes and widdle black noses and….

And I was scared shitless.

Where there are baby bears, there are mommy bears. And every nature documentary I’ve seen about bears always takes great pains to point out that mommy bears tend to err on the side of extraordinary violence if they think their cubs are in danger. I didn’t want to hang around long enough to find out if that was just media hype.

The problem was, the 3 cubs were now midpoint on the line between me and my front door. And Mrs. B. was due to round that corner any moment I was guessing. Should I charge past the cubs and chance a face-to-face with her before I made it to safety? Should I join my cat? Run around the house the other way and risk ramming mom from behind?

Actually, none of those options crossed my mind. My mind had left the building. All I did was drop my new wedge and bolt. Towards the door.

I don’t even remember the trip. Funny about that. I know I either had to have weaved around, or leaped over, one – or more – cub, because the next thing I can actually remember was being halfway up the stairs to the door.

I’d made it!

At the top landing I stopped and looked down, just in time to see Mamma Bear rounding the corner. She saw her cubs ahead, sniffed the air, stood up, and sniffed the air again. She was probably as tall as me when vertical, but with a set of 4-inch steak knives at the end of each paw. She dropped back on all fours and shuffled across to her little ones.

*Whew*

Bears are actually simultaneously cute and majestic when hanging around as a family doing bear stuff on your lawn. Yeah, their poops are as big as a Smart Car and smell like rotting salmon and slow hikers. But other than that, it was fun watching the cubs tussle and yip while mom plopped down at the base of a tree and kept an eye on them.

So cute! (Have I mentioned that?)

And then.

And then….

And then one of the cubs spotted something shiny in the grass and trotted over to investigate.

My club! My new 19 dollar, never to be found at that price again, Cleveland CG12 60-degree wedge!

THAT I FINALLY MANAGED TO HIT A BALL WITH!!

To hell with cute and majestic. I was pissed.

I almost started to scream “No! Bad bear! Bad! Go away!” when I spotted all the other bears, including mom, heading over to check out the bright sparkly thing too. Discretion being the better part of survival (bears can climb porch stairs, I’m pretty sure) I shut up.

At first, like for maybe 3 seconds, the cubs just sniffed at it. But then one of them grabbed the club head in his mouth and started running around in circles with it. My new Cleveland wedge!

Well of course the other cubs immediately wanted in on that action. They piled on and fought to be the one who got to run around in circles carrying the magic stick in their jaws. All I could do was watch.

All Mamma Bear did was watch too. But after a few minutes of what to her was probably another in a series of silly kid fights over a tree branch, she turned and started for the woods. Halfway across the street she turned and gave a loud grunt, and the three cubs immediately stopped their play and trotted after her.

With one of them still carrying my club in its mouth!

NNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooo……..!

Fifteen seconds later a mamma bear, her three cubs, and a Cleveland CG12 60-degree wedge disappeared into the 6,000 acres of Wawayanda State Park that surrounds my home.

And I didn’t go after them.

I may be a golfer, but I’m not a SCOTTISH golfer. I’m not mean enough to face down a family of bruins on my own and demand they hand over their new toy.

That’s what wives are for. And mine’s Irish, which is close enough. I’ll just tell her that one of them stole my club AND called her fat, and she’ll be out there with a Bowie knife and a snarl before I can yell “Fore, right!!

Hmmm. On the other hand, if something should happen to her I wouldn’t have my laundry done for weeks.

Maybe I’ll just wait for the Spring thaw and see if they’ve dropped it somewhere along the trail by then.

Or maybe I’ll see one of them at my course later, hitting ’em close from 30 yards. You never know. They’re a talented species.

.

Well there ya go. You made it. Not too painful considering it was about golf, now was it? And if it was, don’t worry. I’ll make up for it next time with a rollicking tale of sexual mishap and public humiliation. Yes, again. But until then….

Ciao!

*********************************

That was the story as originally written. However, there was a postscript added later:

The following fall a hunter came across the club deep in the woods, and since I put name/address labels on all my shafts he dropped it off at my house on his way home. There were a few scratch marks up and down the length of the shaft, and the rubber grip looked like it had been hit by a cheese grater a few dozen times, but the club was otherwise relatively undamaged. In fact, I had it re-gripped, and still play it to this day. I mean, it’s never gonna look like a brand new club after going through an ordeal like that. But it’s not unbearable….

.

White Trash

Sometime last decade I attended my maternal grandmother’s 90th birthday party. It was great! We had cake, and then more cake, and then cake for dessert. My nutty grandmother decked herself out in a princess tutu with a gigantic tiara that had flashing LED lights all over it, and danced with every guy she could drag away from the cake buffet. And of course we all had to take pictures with her.

We were all sent copies of the pictures the next day. I was flipping through them when I stopped on one and laughed. It was a wide angle shot of the crowd, with my grandmother right in the center talking to some huge fat guy. “Hey honey” I yelled to NewWifey(tm), “come look at this. My grandmother is talking to Jabba the Hutt! Who is that guy? I don’t remember seeing him.”

“That’s you” she said.

Wh-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-t?

Noooooooooooooooo!

I ran to the bathroom and dragged out our scale from under the vanity. It was covered with a thick layer of dust, enough that it was registering “1 pound”. I gingerly carried it outside to the back porch and blew it off.

Then I got on.

250.

Two hundred and fifty pounds.

Wh-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-t?.

The scale must be broken. That was the only explanation. I ran out to NewWifey(tm).

Honey, we need to buy a new scale. This one says I weigh 250 pounds!

She looked surprised. “Wow, you’re right. You weigh MUCH more than that.”

Wh-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-t?.

I quick threw on a mu mu and drove to WalMart, where I bought the most expensive high tech digital scale they had.

It said I weighed 249.5 pounds.

Gahhh!!! How did that happen?! Other than eating too much and not getting enough exercise, I mean?

I guess if I hadn’t had a lifelong aversion to cameras I might have seen sooner that I was starting to inflate like the Michelin Man. And maybe my attitude that “eh, scales are for chicks” didn’t do me any good either. Or perhaps if NewWifey(tm) had stepped in and bitched slapped me when I was trying on clothes at the store and said “man, they’re making Extra Large shirts a lot smaller these days, the bastards” I might have had the denial knocked out of me.

But none of that happened. So Grandma ended up talking to Jabba the Hutt at her birthday party. (He had a plate of cake in his lap the entire time, too.)

To my credit, I actually did the right thing: I told NewWifey(tm) that she was to blame. Then I had some cake to console myself.

Ok, that’s not what I did. The first thing I did was make that photo of me and Grandma the wallpaper on my computer. Talk about incentive. Then I called our family doctor, who is also our good family friend.

Doc!” I said, “Why didn’t you tell me I weighed an eight of a ton at my last physical??

“I didn’t want to upset you” she said. “You’re my friend. Besides, I figured you must know. Look how tight your shirts are!”

I rolled my eyes on the other end of the line. “Well listen Doc, I don’t want to weight an eighth of a ton any more. What do you suggest?

“Eat less and exercise more.”

For gods sake Doc, THAT’S not very helpful. I want a quick fix!

She sighed. “Ok, ok. Come in tomorrow and I’ll give you a physical to see if you have anything obviously wrong. I’ll research some diets in the meantime.”

The next day I stripped to my SpongeBob boxers and stepped on her office scale.

“You weight 249.5 pounds.” she said. “There, you happy now?”

Actually, no. Weren’t you afraid that would upset me?

She hit me on the head with her reflex hammer.

For the next half hour I got poked and groped and had blood taken and got a bunch of electrodes glued to me. When it was all over she said, “Well, I have to get the results of your blood work back before giving you a definitive answer. But I would say that, other than being clinically obese, you don’t appear to be otherwise in horrific shape.”

Gee Doc, thanks. That’s very comforting.” I got dressed and went home.

The next afternoon she phoned with the results. “Your lab work came back, and it looks good. The only problem I see is you have elevated triglyceride levels. That often indicates a diet too high in carbohydrates. Do you eat a lot of cake?”

You know what I eat, Doc. You’re here at half our meals. Just tell me what you suggest.

“Well, I’ve been scouring the literature and frankly I think your best option would be to go on the Atkins Diet. It works fast, it’s easy enough for even a dummy  like you to follow, and recent long term studies have shown it’s actually a very healthy way to eat.”

Healthy? The Atkins Diet? I thought they were notorious for only allowing you to eat bacon and heavy cream.”

She laughed. “I’m sending you over a copy of the book.”

When I got the book I spent the next two days reading it. And yeah, at first you eat a lot of meat. For the first two weeks you can eat as much flesh as you like, as well as some heavy cream and cheese, plus – and this surprised me – up to 3 cups of primarily green veggies. After the two week mark the book encourages you to start substituting more and more vegetable matter for meat. Basically, only eat minimal amounts of anything beige unless it was cauliflower or heavy cream, until you reached your goal weight.

So I gave it a shot.

A year and 3 months later I weighed 182. That was 8 pounds less than my boxing weight of 190, but I also had less muscle so it was to be expected. I felt great, went down from a 42 inch waist to a 35, and donated every bit of XL clothing I had to Goodwill. Jabba the Hutt was dead.

God bless you, Dr. Atkins. I’m sorry you had to die like that.

The next 5, 6 years I stayed right around the 180 mark. A little more during the holidays, a little less in the summer when I was bicycling.

Then I had elbow reconstruction surgery on my right arm. For a year and a half I had limited mobility, and had to give up bicycling and motorcycling.

A year and a half later when it healed, I had to have elbow reconstruction surgery on my left arm. Another year and a half of therapy ensued (which I’m not quite finished with as I write this). So, still limited mobility.

Two weeks ago I finally, finally, got the go-ahead to resume light workouts. I set up my weight area in the Man Cave again, and also got my bicycle and dirt bike cleaned up. The first thing I tried, of course, was the dirt bike. For over 3 years I haven’t been able to ride because I couldn’t grip the bars or twist the throttle. But lo and behold, now I could again! Same with the bicycle. I could finally grasp the bars hard enough to make it to the end of my driveway and back! Laugh if you will, but that was about as impossible as jumping all the way to the moon for me this time last year.

That was the good news. The bad news? When I went to put on my workout clothes, they’d all shrunk! So did my riding pants and jersey! I carried them up to NewWifey(tm).

Honey, did you wash these while I was convalescing? They seem to have shrunk a size or two.”

“No” she said. “You just got fat again.”

Wha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-t??

I ran to the high tech digital scale I haven’t use in probably 5 years.

220.

Two hundred and twenty pounds!!

Oh my god, how did THAT happen?

Shut up. I know.

Yep. Almost half a decade of not being able to work out and – more importantly – boredom scarfing had apparently done the predictable. I’d gained back more than half of what I’d lost.

Why didn’t you tell me I was blimping up again?” I said to NewWifey(tm).

“I didn’t want to upset you” she said.

Sigh.

Oh well, nothing for it then. I dragged out my Atkins book and started at Page 1.

That was two weeks ago, and I’m already seeing results. I’ve also gotten back into workout mode, which has helped stop boredom eating.

Which is why the other day I was in my garage riding my bicycle.

Normally I take my bike out on the roads like any decent human, but this particular day it was pouring out. But that is not a factor with me, because I have these things called “rollers”. I got them when I used to race bicycles some years ago, as a training aid. They’re, well, rollers. Connected by bars. You balance your bike on them, and as you pedal, the back rollers start rolling. In turn, that spins a big rubber band that goes around them and connects to a roller that your front wheel rests on. That creates a gyroscopic effect, allowing you to “ride” your bike indoors. You pedal like mad, but you don’t go anywhere. It’s just like life!

So that’s what I did that rainy day. I set up the rollers, placed my bike on them, and started cranking. I opened the garage door in front of me so I could watch the rain come down.

And a bear walked into the garage.

AAAAAAAAAUGH! A BEAR!!

No, seriously, this probably 400 pound black bear, soaking wet, came around the corner of my house not two minutes after I started my go-nowhere ride and walked right into my garage. And I was right there!

I leaped sideways off my bike – no easy feat, since I was wearing toe clips that bolt me to the pedals – and landed hard on the concrete floor, shoulder first. I didn’t feel a thing though. I scrambled to my feet as fast as I could and bolted for the back door. I could practically feel the beast’s hot breath on the back of my neck as I ran! I wasn’t gonna make it! The claws were gonna sink in to my soft, delicious flesh any second now!!

But they didn’t. In fact, the bear took no notice of me at all.

He wanted my trash.

Remember where I mentioned that the first two weeks of Atkins you’re bolting down almost nothing but meat? Well, that means I’ve been throwing away almost nothing but meat scraps, meat scrapings, meat bones, and leftover meat. My trash smells like a Syrian abattoir.

And that’s why the bear made a beeline for my house. I have the best smelling garbage on our block. To them.

There were two bags in my big plastic trash bin, the one with the snap-close lid that was advertised as “bear proof”. I guess this bear couldn’t read. In a flash he had the bin toppled and the lid half torn off at the hing. I saw his head disappear about a foot in, then immediately emerge with one of the two white trash bags in his maw.

Then, as quickly as he arrived, he disappeared. I watched him lope down my driveway and across the street into the woods, his treasure in his jaws.

It was over.

White Trash 1

I went inside and baked myself a cake.

Fuck Atkins. That diet’s too dangerous.

G’night kids. Don’t forget to recycle.

Ciao!

.

.

Ticked Off

Any engineers here? I need an explanation for this one.

We have 3 cars in our driveway.

One is the new Nissan Rouge I mentioned in an earlier post. We bought it so NewWifey(tm) wouldn’t be in danger of breaking down in the middle of the night and getting eaten by cannibals during one of her many cross-country business treks.

The other two, a 2001 Ford Escape with 280,000 miles on it and a 2006 Subaru Forester with 230,000 miles, are the vehicles I take to work every day. I alternate between them to hopefully make them last longer. Both have issues, so I’m constantly in danger of breaking down in the middle of the night and getting eaten by cannibals. (But I’m pretty sure I taste terrible (based on NewWifey(tm)’s testimony) so they’d probably leave after one bite.)

One of the issues with the Escape is a set of gradually leaking tires. I think they came from the factory that way. All four shoes need a fresh air injection at least once a week or you’re down to psi’s in the single digits. Drives me nuts because there’s still enough tread on them that shelling out for a new quartet feels like a real ripoff.

It’s not really a problem, though. I just make it part of my weekend routine to pump ’em up so I’m good to go til the next weekend.

So last weekend, like all the others, I pumped ’em up. On Monday I drove it to work, then Tuesday I switched to the Subaru, and Wednesday went back to the Escape.

However when I got out of work Wednesday, the Escape had a flat. Not the 7 or 8 psi “really low” kind of flat I’m used to seeing if I don’t do the weekend pump-up. No, this was a “riding on the rim” kind of flat, the kind you get when you back over a set of security spikes after discovering your GPS just directed you into an Army bomb testing range instead of the porn shop next door.

As any number of people who know me will attest, I’m not the manliest of men. However there is one typically male stereotype I do embody: I’m pretty good at changing tires. Years of racing cars, motorcycles, and bicycles has meant years of getting flats on cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. By now I’ve had so much practice at swapping out rubber on vehicles that I can practically do it while they’re still rolling.

So when I saw the back right tire on the Escape was pancaked I just rolled my eyes a bit. I was annoyed because I was in good work clothes and I was tired from working all day. And I wasn’t looking forward to driving an hour home on a donut spare. But otherwise it was no more than a minor inconvenience, a 15 minute kink in my plans, tops.

I opened the back hatch and lifted the floorboard over the spare. In the well was the donut tire, and clamped over it was the scissor jack. I took both out and reached into the bottom of the well for the lug wrench and folding jack cranking arm.

Nothing.

There was nothing there. All I felt at the bottom of the spare well was the bottom of the spare well.

What the hell? Where were the lug wrench and cranking arm? In the 16 years we’ve had the car (we bought it new), I’ve never had a flat on the road and had to use them. They should still be right where the factory worker on the assembly line put them. I couldn’t figure it out.

So I called NewWifey(tm).

Dummy” she said, “You used them to jack up the Subaru last year, remember? You must have thrown the crank and wrench in there, instead of back in the Escape.”

Shit! She was right, I did. We bought the Subaru used, and the previous owner must have kept those two key parts for some reason. We didn’t find out til months later, when we needed them. That’s why I poached them from the Escape. And didn’t put them back.

Good as I am at changing flats, I still need a lug wrench to do it. My teeth just aren’t strong enough (I found out the hard way once) to undo the lug nuts on a 6,000 pound SUV. That cranking arm for the jack is pretty much a must-have item also. And now both those items were 50 miles away.

I guess I could have called a tow, but 1. oh, the indignity! “Hi, tow guy? I got a flat. YES, I’m a man...”, and 2. if I’ve been balking at scraping up the $500 for a new set of tires because we’re so tight with cash right now, spending half that to get flat-bedded to some shop for just ONE tire would be galling beyond my ability to describe. I needed a Plan B.

“Plan B” turned out to be begging my co-workers. I went back up to the 9th floor and headed for the producer’s area to see if any of those scumba…er, highly respected co-workers would dig through the trunk of their car and lend me the necessary equipment. Asking one of my fellow announcers would be useless of course, because they were all on the air. I had to lower myself to taking to – begging! – producers. Oh, how the mighty have fallen….

This turned out to be less traumatic than I initially feared. After some guffaws and good natured ribbing (“You’re fucking pathetic, you know that Danger? You must really be a piece of shit thinking you can come here and ask us for a favor after all the fucking shit you....” etc.) one of them grabbed his keys and grudgingly led me out to his car. He scrounged around in the back and lo and behold, emerged with a wrench and crank. We walked to the other side of the parking lot and my wounded Escape.

And his wrench didn’t fit. There are two sizes of lug wrench in the world, and his was in the other camp.

Back to the producer’s pen for more begging. Another producer finally rolled his eyes and grabbed his keys.

This time the wrench fit. “Just fucking make sure you bring it upstairs to me when you’re done. If you steal it, I’m gonna fuck up your newscasts” the producer guy said as he walked back to the studio.

I got to work. The frame on the Escape has a bump that fits a depression on the top of the jack, and it slotted in perfectly. I was on dry, flat ground so this should be a snap. I cracked the lugs and started cranking. The only real problem was the crank arm that he lent me was really short – they gotta save money somewhere on those bottom-of-the-line Hyundai’s, I guess – so it took freakin’ forever to get the jack up to the point where it actually started lifting the car. But hey, at least it WAS cranking. I should be done in an hour, at most.

Fiteen minutes later I was still cranking. (This was a REALLY short crank arm. It was like trying to crank with a pencil). But I could tell it wouldn’t be much longer. The scissor jack was almost fully extended. Another 5 or 6 rotations and it would be at its limit.

However – and I can’t believe I didn’t notice this earlier – although the jack was extending, the car itself wasn’t actually lifting all that much. All that was happening was the spring on the shock was extending.

What the hell? Why the hell would they place the car’s lift point where it couldn’t actually lift the car??

Gah. I started un-cranking.

For the next twenty minutes I turned that stupid pencil crank arm until the jack was all the way down. Then I moved it under the shock body itself. That should do it.

Another 20 minutes of cranking.

Sure enough, that got the ass end of the car high enough that I could shimmy off the flat. The jack was about fully extended, but it did it. I tossed the wheel to the side and grabbed the donut.

Oh NO! The car wasn’t up high enough to put the donut on!

Being flat, the regular tire’s diameter was much reduced. So reduced that the donut spare was actually larger than it by a good three inches. I was able to *just* sqeeze the flat full sized tire off, but putting the larger donut back in its place was impossible.

This was crazy! Ford supplied their 2001 Escape SUV’s with a jack that was too small to do jack shit! What the hell?? I fully intend to call the Blue Oval’s world headquarters in Dearborn Michigan tomorrow and demand to speak to the engineer who designed that system. Crazy, I say!

There was one option I might have tried at this point, which was to un-crank the car again then put a chunk of wood or a rock or something between the jack and the car, effectively making for a taller jack. The problem was, when it was fully down there was barely enough room to get the jack under the car as it was. I had maybe an inch to play with, and that wasn’t nearly enough.

I called NewWifey(tm) to see if she had any suggestions.

Call a tow truck” she said. “Dummy.”

Nuts. It was looking more and more like I was gonna have to grit my teeth and go that humiliating, and expensive, route.

But I decided to try one more thing. I pushed and wiggled and kicked and cursed the flat back onto the car, then spent another 20 minutes lowering the jack, then tightened the lugs up.

Then I got in the car and, at about 1 mile an hour and with my hazards on, I drove the half mile/half hour up the shoulder of Rt.17 to the LukOil gas station where I knew they had an air pump. Maybe, just maybe, the tire only had a worsening leak rather than a cut or split.

There was a brief moment of panic when finally, a sweaty half an hour later, I pulled into the station and I saw the pump cost a dollar “only quarters“, and all I had was a bill on me. But a sympathetic attendant changed it for me, and I plunked them in.

Success! The tire pumped up…and it held! I didn’t know for how long, but it looked promising. I didn’t hear any telltale whistling, or feel a 40 psi breeze on my face. I hustled back to work so I could return the crank and wrench to the producer, then raced as fast as I could back to Dangerhouse. At least if I sensed deflation along the way there were a few tire stores I could pop into and buy a new one without needing a tow.

However the tire held the whole way home. I almost couldn’t believe it, but it did. I was pretty filthy from lying sideways on a New Jersey parking lot in my good work clothes trying to muscle a jack and two tires around for almost two hours, but that was small price to pay, considering. I stripped down, showered up, and hit the bourbon.

The next day I took the Subaru. And the day after that. At work, between reports, I’ve been researching tires trying to find a set that won’t break my meager budget yet still has things like tread, and a round shape. It’s been hard.

Then Friday after work, while relaxing at home playing “Animal Crossing” on GameCube, I got an itch on the back of my shoulder. I absentmindedly reached over to scratch it, and felt a lump.

?

I put my controller down and went into the bathroom to take a look, stripping off my shirt along the way. But as I took my shirt off, I felt…something odd. Like a little pinprick, for just an instant. And within less than a second I heard a very faint “plink” sound near my feet. I looked down.

There was a marble rolling on the wooden floor next to my foot. I reached down and picked it up.

Uh-oh.

It wasn’t a marble.

It was a fully engorged tick.

Engorged with my blood!

Dammit! I need that blood!

There was no way of putting it back, though. I went and showed NewWifey(tm). Her eyes grew big with what was, for once, genuine concern.

Oh god, that’s one of those deer ticks. I hope you don’t get Lyme Disease.” She thought a minute. “Or that new one that there’s no cure for. I think it’s called Pocahontas or something.”

“Powassan” I said. “I had to report on it in my news cast.”

Well I hope you don’t have either one” she said. “I’m too busy with my business to spoon feed you and change your catheter if you become incapacitated.”

“Thanks honey. I love you too.”

Thankfully our good family friend is also our family doctor. I called her and she drove right over to take a look at me and the tick.

It’s a deer tick alright” she said. “When you die, can I have your VitaMix?

Of course she was kidding – I think. I mean, who doesn’t want a VitaMix? But anyway, she wrote me out a prescription for Doxycycline and told me what symptoms to watch for in the coming weeks that might indicate I need further treatment. I asked her where she thought I might have been exposed to the tick, since it had been over two weeks since I’d last tramped through our woods.

Ticks are really bad this year. You could have picked one up anywhere” she said. “In fact, if I had to guess I’d say you got it from lying in that parking lot when you were changing your tire. Your building is right in the Meadowlands, and that’s Tick Central Station down there with all the wildlife. They’re probably all over, not just in the meadows themselves.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing video golf and cooking. Around 7 she said her goodbyes and headed down our driveway to her car.

Which had a flat.

I changed it – in 10 minutes, using our portable hydraulic jack – but if I get another tick, she’s never getting my VitaMix ever. Ever.

***************************************

Food!

My local grocery had baby back ribs on sale yesterday, ninety nine cents a pound, one day only. Ninety nine cents! I normally like the meatier spare ribs, but for .99/lb I’m not gonna argue. I picked up two full racks and BBQ’d them today.

First I brined them overnight in a salt/sugar solution, then this morning I coated them in a dry rub, some liquid smoke, and some oil. Let that sit for about an hour soaking it all in. Then onto a rack on a half sheet, and into a low (250 f) oven for 7 hours.

Now I know what BBQ purists are thinking here. They’re thinking, ‘BBQ in an oven? LIQUID SMOKE?! You will be consigned to the lowest, hottest, reaches of hell for all eternity for such heresy, son. You can ONLY do BBQ in a smoker!’

Yeah, yeah. I know. But what can I do? I don’t have a smoker. Even if I did, it’s been too cold and rainy up here to use one. I gots to go with what I’se gots. At 99-cents a pound I wasn’t gonna turn my nose up at the whole thing just because I wasn’t gonna win the American Royal with my recipe.

So waddaya think?

Ribs 14

(Photography note to self: next time us a bounce flash, idiot, so the pale green homemade coleslaw with dark flecks of celery seed looks pale green with dark flecks, and not like a snowy pile of shredded coconut.)

For the last hour and a half I basted them lightly every half hour with the last of my precious “Three Little Pigs” BBQ sauce that NewWifey(tm) hauled back from Kansas City on her last trip there. That stuff is more precious than gold, and it killed me to see the last of it come out of the bottle. But it was worth it. Their BBQ sauce could make wallboard taste like a Michelin 3-star dish. If anything was gonna help this Yankee’s oven-made ribs, it was that. And it did. It was outrageously good. (Noting that, no, there is no fire ring when you cook anything in the oven. But that’s easy enough to fix. Just close your eyes when you eat it.)

**********************************

Ok, gotta hit the sack. Time is ticking away. Tick…tick…tick….

G’night!

Depends.

I’d like to start this entry with an old, but illustrative, joke.

Cast your risible timeline back to 1956. Back to when American Jews were legally restricted from so many resorts – among other things – that they had to start their own in the (then) backwoods wilderness of the Catskill Mountains. Back when America was “great”, in other words. At least according to those in red baseball caps.

The most famous of these resorts was Grossinger’s, and it’s here that our Borscht Belt joke takes place….

It’s the first weekend of summer at Grossinger’s and a group of Yenta are hovering near the check-in desk carefully eyeing every arriving patron. When they spot an elderly gentleman coming through the door that they’d never seen before, one of the women immediately accosts him.

“You don’t look familiar” she says. “Are you new here?”

The man looks down at the floor. “I was just released from prison” he said. “I spent the last 40 years behind bars for killing my wife. I strangled her when I saw her talking to another man, then put her body through a wood chipper.”

The Yenta’s eyes grew wide. “Oh my god!” she said. “So you’re single?”

I haven’t been able to update because my dad came to visit for a couple of weeks, and our computer room is also our guest room. I was sweating it out the entire time he was here that he would start my computer and click the “PORN FOLDER! DON’T CLICK!” folder. (I should probably name it something no one will click, like “My Poetry“. I should also probably not have it be the only folder on my screen.)

My dad is really, really cool. Even though he’s getting up there in years he still blasts around the country on his motorcycle, works part time restoring classic British sports cars, and plays a mean accordion. He’s funny, well educated – a retired research hematologist – and doesn’t wear black socks with sandals.

He’s also single.

My mom died fairly young, of a rare cancer, about 20 years ago. She’d married my dad right out of school and in true Italian Catholic tradition immediately started pumping out kids – 5 in their first 7 years together. Her knees didn’t touched for almost a decade.

Growing up I never once heard my parents argue, let alone fight. I honestly can’t remember either one even muttering something derogatory under their breath when the other wasn’t around. They were still desperately in love 30 years later when my mom left, and afterwards my dad never dated. He still wears his wedding ring.

So last month my dad called and invited himself to Easter dinner. He’s been doing this more and more lately at holidays. Partly it’s because I’m the best cook among the siblings (of course). But mostly it’s because it gives him an excuse to drive one of his restored Triumph TR-6’s for 5 solid hours with the top down, pretending he’s competing in the Mille Miglia.

Here are his two babies:

Dad's Triumphs

I don’t know what he took that picture with. Probably something he got free with a magazine subscription. Or in a cereal box.

I absolutely love when my dad comes up for a visit, even if I know it’s just to sample my cooking. We really get along great, and on top of that he always brings beer. NewWifey(tm) loves him too, and for the same reasons. So when he invited himself for Easter we gave a hearty assent.

The day after that invite I took a call from our good friend “Ella”. Ella is one of NewWifey(tm)’s stitching buddies, but I like her a lot too. She often comes over – again, for the food mostly – and we always have a good time. So when she phoned and NewWifey(tm) wasn’t around, I felt comfortable chatting her up. At one point in the conversation I happened to mentioned that my dad would be joining us for Easter dinner.

There was a pause. “Are you making a lot of food?” Ella said.

“Don’t I always?”

Another pause. “Would you mind if I joined you this year? I was supposed to go to my nephew’s, but his daughter got sick and.…”

“Of course you can come!” I said. “You’re always welcome, you know that.”

Thank you. I’ll bring wine.”

When NewWifey(tm) came home later that night I told her that Ella would be joining us for Easter dinner.

NewWifey(tm) immediately turned pale.

Why the hell did you invite HER?!” she said.

I was shocked. “What do you mean? She’s one of our oldest friends! We’ve had her over for plenty of holiday dinners before. What’s wrong with inviting her to another one?”

NewWifey(tm) sat down on the sofa and put her head in her hands.

I don’t know what we’re gonna do” she said. “This morning Ruth called. I told her SHE could come over then.”

I stood in front of her not comprehending. “What’s the problem with that? They’ve both been here plenty of times, and they get along just fine. I don’t understand….”

NewWifey(tm) raised her head. “Are you dense? They both want to come over because they know your dad is gonna be here.”

I snorted. “That’s crazy. They want to come over because I’m the best damn cook either of them have ever met. They tell me that all the time. I mean, c’mon. They’re not interested in men any more at their age.”

NewWifey(tm) shook her head. “Are you that fucking clueless about women? They’ve each met your father separately, and neither of them have been able to shut up about him ever since. It doesn’t matter how old they are. They’re single, and he’s a catch. If they both show up at our house on the same day he’s here, there’s gonna be blood.”

“Well at least it won’t be menstrual blood” I said. “That ship sailed long ago.”

She shot out a heel and caught me hard across the shin. “You just watch. They’re both going to arrive dressed like you’ve never seen them dressed before. And when they spot each other, I’m telling you, it’s gonna be a very restrained, very ladylike cat fight to the death.”

I shrugged. “Whatever. It’s not like dad’s gonna notice anyway. He’s not interested in ANY woman.”

That’s irrelevant” said NewWifey(tm).

Fast forward two weeks to Easter. Dad arrived the Thursday before, and he’s already fashioned a new quarter panel out of sheet metal to replace the one that was rusting through on our Ford Escape, helped NewWifey(tm) replace the bad faucet in our back bathroom, beaten me on my own track on our dirtbikes, and purchased three cases of beer for the feast.

On Easter morning Dad and NewWifey(tm) went to some church service (I’m still a devout atheist), while I got started prepping dinner.

For the record, I made:

Individual braided Easter breads, with the egg in the center (I actually made these the night before because of oven space considerations, and also so they’d look good on the table when the guests arrived).

Asparagus and shallot soup puree.

Potato salad.

Roast ham with an apricot, orange, whisky, and thyme glaze. Plus a tureen of gravy made from extra glaze mixed with ham stock.

Stuffed leg of lamb cooked in a Romertopf, roasted on bed of baby potatoes, garlic, and thyme fronds, with a rosemary and fennel top crust. Gravy made from pan juices.

Brandied pan roasted mushrooms with summer savory.

Bowl of extra roasted baby potatoes from lamb dish.

Curried rice and squash biryani.

There were a few oddities in there, like the potato salad in addition to roast potatoes, and the biryani. But they were specifically requested, so there they were. I exist to serve. Or cook, anyway.

While I was midway through my prep work Ella showed up. Three hours early, and in a full Christian Dior Jackie Kennedy outfit – a red sleeveless number that hugged every fold of her fat. Plus 3 inch heels.

She was also carrying a case of wine. “I didn’t know what kind to get” she chirped. “So I got a bunch.” She looked around. “Did your dad come up...?”

I told her that he and NewWifey(tm) would be home shortly, and she could make herself at home. She sat primly at the kitchen island, pretending to be interested in how I tunnel boned out a full leg of lamb, making inane small talk. All the while she kept her head cocked so our front door down the hall stayed in view.

About an hour later I heard NewWifey(tm)’s car coming down the road. I went to the front door to greet them, Ella right beside me.

NewWifey(tm) and dad pulled into the driveway.

Right behind them came Ruth’s car.

I heard a faint gurgling sound on my left. It was coming out of Ella.

Ruth got out of her car wearing a sleeveless red Coco Chanel dress, probably a size too small, and 3 inch heels. My dad went to her car and lifted out the case of wine she’d brought along. She put her hand on my dad’s arm as he carried it to the house.

The gurgling sound became a prolonged hiss.

“Oh, hey, look who’s here!” my dad said when he walked in the door. “Ella, it’s great to see you again!” He gave Ella a peck on the cheek. “NewWifey(tm) didn’t tell me you were coming. Let me just put this wine away and we can all chat while Danger cooks.” He walked towards the kitchen carrying the case. As soon as his back was to us Ella shot a feral look at NewWifey(tm), who stared straight ahead with a completely blank expression.

I went back to the kitchen.

For the next three hours I chopped and mixed and kneaded and basted and basically kept too busy cooking to notice what was going on elsewhere. In the other room I could hear my dad laughing and chatting breezily as he always does, our two guests tittering along every time he laughed. NewWifey(tm), meanwhile, didn’t really talk much that I could hear. But every 15 minutes or so she would come into the kitchen for another glass of wine, the same blank expression on her face.

At 2 o’clock, right on time, dinner was ready. NewWifey(tm) had made a very nice table setting as usual:

Easter Table 2

As we often do, we set an extra place in case anyone showed up unexpectedly. It’s happened too many times in the past for us to neglect this. Being the best cook anyone you know knows has its drawbacks sometimes.

I sat at the head of the table, NewWifey(tm) opposite me at the far end. My dad sat immediately to my left. After some covert glaring and very subtle elbowing, Ella sat across from him, Ruth to his left. The smell of Avon ‘Eau d’ Wildflower’ perfume was overwhelming. I set out three of the 24 wine bottles they’d brought, and NewWifey(tm) grabbed one and placed it right in front of her.

My dad gave a brief and cheerfully fulsome prayer, then we dug in.

Or rather, my father and I dug in. Ruth and Ella each made a show of lifting every bowl, platter, or tureen that was passed to them. But when it was all over there was barely a forkful of any one thing on either of their plates. NewWifey(tm) didn’t even bother with the pretense. She just poured herself wine.

Dad and I, meanwhile, neither noticed nor cared. Each of our plates were spilling over with two kinds of meats, two kinds of potatoes, a kaleidoscope of gravies swirling together, mushrooms, etc. We tore into the breads, drank the soup right from our bowls, and worked our way through the two remaining bottles of wine while laughing and talking alternately about my work and his cars.

None of the ladies said a word. Ruth and Ella studiously kept their heads down and pretended to lift food to their mouths, while NewWifey(tm) just got more and more plowed.

By the way, I do want to pause here for a moment and mention something about ham.

You’re making ham wrong.

Yes, you are.

In the future, please make your ham like this:

Easter ham

Thank you.

Now back to the story.

Actually there isn’t that much of the story left to tell (you’re welcome). After about an hour and a half of being completely oblivious to the fully pitched feminine battle going on around us, my dad and I patted our bellies and declared the feast a success. My dad gave some heartfelt expressions of thanks to the ladies for their generosity in coming up to join us (not to mention the 2 full cases of wine). In return they gave overly effusive expressions of appreciation for being able to see him again. “And my, your son is quite the talented cook! You must have been a wonderful father for him to have turned out like that.” They each plastered on a smile that would have put the Joker to shame, and each patted one of his arms. While looking at each other.

NewWifey(tm) still hadn’t changed expression. It had been hours.

My dad stood up and made to clear his plate from the table, but Ruth swooped over his arm and grabbed it first, just barely beating out Ella who was simultaneously lunging for it from across the table.

My dad didn’t notice a thing. He thanked Ruth for being so thoughtful, then headed for the living room. Ruth shot a smug grin at Ella, who instantly turned the color of blue ice. To her credit though, she did manage to force a treacly smile in return.

For the next hour or so we all sat around the living room chatting. I set out a platter of small pastries and a variety of liquors, along with a pot of tea and coffee. Ruth and Ella flanked my dad on the sofa, laughing overly loud when he made a joke and smiling brittle smiles at each other when my dad addressed them both.

Eventually though I could see that the effects of alcohol and several metric tons of holiday foodstuffs were taking its toll on him. His head started lolling back into the cushions, and the gaps between his sentences were getting longer and longer. I knew from experience he wasn’t going to be able to go nap-less much longer. I had to wrap things up.

“Well ladies” I said, “it’s been wonderful having you both here to share our Easter dinner, and we can’t thank you enough for all the wine. But unfortunately I do have to go to work tomorrow, which means I need to get to bed in about an hour. So I hope you don’t mind if I pronounce this feast over, and kick your asses out the door.” (They’re old enough friends that I can talk to them like that.)

They in turn thanked us for hosting them, and each gave a way too long hug and kiss on the cheek to my father. Then the two red dresses marched down the driveway to their respective cars, and after a moment where they each glared wordlessly at each other from behind the wheel, they drove off.

I closed the door and turned back inside. My dad was already asleep on the couch, head fully back, mouth open. NewWifey(tm) was in the wing back chair next to him, a fresh glass of wine in her hand. She still hadn’t changed expression.

I gently shook her shoulder. “It’s ok honey, they’re gone” I said.

NewWifey(tm) gave a short shake of her head, as if waking from a dream. She looked around, then took a deep breath. Color started returning to her face.

Are they really gone?

I nodded.

Jesus” she said. “The same dress. The same fucking dress. It was worse than I thought.” She drained her glass. “We better get your dad to bed and clean up. You have to be up early for work, remember.”

“Yeah, I remember.”

.

I went to work the next morning, and by 2 o’clock I was back home. NewWifey(tm) and Dad were having lunch. Leftovers. I joined them. We drank another bottle of wine. I told them about my day, what news stories I was covering. My dad told me he wanted to go into Manhattan while he was here and check out some museums. NewWifey(tm) said she’d take him if I was too busy working.

After the meal my dad excused himself to use the bathroom. When he was out of earshot I said to NewWifey(tm), “So, did he say anything about Ruth or Ella?”

Depends” she said.

“Depends on what?”

No – Depends. Adult diapers. Your dad found a pair of them in the bathroom when he got up this morning. One of our two combatants must have left them there by mistake in her haste to get back to your father.

“I’m guessing he didn’t find that a particularly alluring revelation about them?”

She laughed. “Let’s just say he’s too much a gentleman to admit it skeeved him out. But both called this morning to thank us – him – for the ‘wonderful time’ they had yesterday. And both times he waved the phone away and had me tell them that he’d gone out sightseeing.

“Are you going to try to find out who the culprit is?” I asked.

Are you kidding? I don’t have a death wish” she said. “The one who left it would be mortified, the other would be furious that you father could think it might have been her. Both would probably try to strangle me for not finding it before him. I’m just gonna let this one slide.

I nodded. “Yeah, it’s probably for the best that they never know. Still, I can’t help but think that if he played his cards right he’d probably be in for a 3-some.”

Ewwww!” said NewWifey(tm). “With THEM? Would you?

I thought about it a moment. “Depends.”

And with that stupid joke, I finish this entry.

Almost.

My dad stayed on another couple of weeks, and had a great time. He fixed a bunch of stuff I’d been too lazy or stupid to address, we ate a bunch of great food, rode motorcycles, watched “Girls und Panzer”, did some sightseeing. By the time he left most of the gifted wine was gone, also. And on the last day, just as he was leaving, he handed me two wrapped packages.

Give these to Ruth and Ella next time you see them, will you?” he said.

“What are they?” I asked.

Depends.”

I stared at him, mouth open. He laughed.

I’m just kidding. I got them each some pignoli cookies from Little Italy. They didn’t eat much when they were here, but maybe when they’re not fighting over me their appetites will return.” He hopped into his little British Racing Green Triumph TR-6 and blasted down the road towards home, an arm breezily waving goodbye as he left.

Well goddam. I guess my father, at least, isn’t that fucking clueless about women. How did that skip a generation…?

G’night kids. Don’t forget to check the bathroom before you go to bed. It could cost you a 3-some.

Ciao!

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