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Archive for January, 2009

[Note: This week’s story for 52 stories is here: Happily]

Unlike the rich friends I had in high school, I was not afforded a brand spanking new BMW upon receiving my license in 1980. No, I had to purchase my very first car on my own. It wasn’t easy to save money on my four dollar an hour salary I got for slicing lunch meats at my uncle’s deli, but I scrimped and saved and cut down on my drug and alcohol expenditures and soon had enough to get myself a decent used car. I had these visions of getting a used nice car, like a Chevelle or Mustang or even a souped up Nova like my neighbor had, but my dreams were crushed when I realized exactly what kind of car $800 would get you in 1980.

I became the proud owner of a 1973 Oldsmobile Omega. Maybe it wasn’t sporty or fast or sexy or brand new, but let me tell you, that car was one solid piece of machinery. When I was behind the wheel of that thing, I felt invincible, like I was driving a tank.

Soon after I got the car, my younger sister got her learner’s permit. She begged me daily to take her driving, but I kept blowing her off with the excuse that with her permit, she was only supposed to drive with someone over 21. Sure, at that age traffic laws are meant for breaking. Unless not breaking them is convenient for you. I just did not my sister driving my car, so I feigned obedience to the law.

And then one fateful day, her constant begging and nagging wore me down. I picked her up from school and decided to let her drive home, just to get her shut up. Oh, you see where this is going, don’t you?

She pulled out of the school parking lot, made the left at the light, did all the right things like turning on her directional and checking her side view mirror. It was going good. I relaxed a bit. She accelerated as we hit the main road and got it up to 50 before I reminded her that the speed limit was 40. But she wasn’t paying attention to me. She was waving out the window to get the attention of her friend who was standing on the corner.

“Jo….” A traffic light was approaching. She kept waving at the friend.
“Jo…..” That traffic light was red. The friend on the other side of the street was waving back.
“JO!” The light was not just turning red, not briefly red, but red as if it had been yelling “Stop, you moron!” at us for the past ten feet.

By the time I actually got the words “Fucking brakes!” out of my mouth it was too late. I saw the car coming at us on my side. It was barreling through the intersection at a good clip and, well, it had the green light. I’m sure as that driver lazily sped through under her green light, she wasn’t expecting to see a car zooming in front of her. But there were were.

I braced myself for impact, which is what you are not supposed to do, in theory, but what your body automatically does, in practice. The sounds of the Clash’s Brand New Cadillac coming from my cassette player gave way to the sound of metal upon metal and screeching brakes. The other car slammed us broadside, so hard that its license plate became embedded in my back passenger door. The Omega spun and turned and ended up on the median, a “No U Turn” sign inches from my face in front of the windshield.

When the car stopped moving, I took stock of the situation. I was alive. My sister was alive. In fact, we were both kind of sitting where we had been at moment of impact even though neither of us were wearing seat belts. The engine was hissing, the woman who had hit us was screaming something, and Brand New Cadillac was still playing. I heard voices outside the car “Holy shit, did you see how hard they got hit?” “They have to be dead!'” “I’m afraid to look in there!” “Dude, that was sick!” There were people milling around the car. Finally, someone poked his head in the driver’s window and was surprised to find two young girls, very much alive and not the least bit hurt.

I turned to my sister, trying to be a bit compassionate since she was probably very shaken up. I resolved to save my abject anger at her until later.

“Are you ok?” She looked up at me, nodded, and then:

“I broke my fucking nail!”

That’s when I started punching her.

That the car completely wrecked and we escaped unscathed, is quite the testament to the strength and tank-like qualities of the 1973 Oldsmobile Omega. They don’t make them like they used to.

To this very day, my sister will insist that her light was green, maybe yellow, but not red yet and the lady that hit us was in the wrong. I have given up pointing out the obvious, like the fact that the other lady got nary a ticket, or that she couldn’t get her license until she was 18 because of the accident, or that there were several witnesses that refute her story of innocence. She can believe what she wants to believe. In my world, she wrecked my first car and, while I’ve forgiven her for it, I make sure to never let this story rest.

So, what was your first car?

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25 things

In case you haven’t heard (most likely from me complaining on twitter), I’ve been down with the bubonic plague the past few days. Just in case my seven or so readers have been wondering about me. And it seems in those few days I was AFB (you know, away from blog), I was tagged several times in another one of those “tell me more personal details about your life so we can further strip away any anonymity the internet provides you” memes. Well, I just recently did the seven things and it’s pretty damn hard to come up with 25 more things that would be semi-interesting even for someone who liked me. But I’ll certainly try. In a roundabout way.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. Ok, then.

1. Michele does not have herpes.
2. Michele is not currently doing the Humpty Dance.
3. Michele has the “fail whale” as her desktop background at both work and home.
4. Michele now refers to Firefox as “Mozzarella Firefox” thanks to her best friend’s kid.
5. Michele does not really enjoy talking about herself in third person.
6. Michele will therefore stop talking about herself in third person after this.
7. I am good at keeping my word.
8. I rather enjoyed Chocolate Rain, in a completely unironic way.
9. I cry at the end of Armageddon.
10. I only watch the end of Armageddon and have seen the complete movie only once, but the ending about 25 times.
11. I want to know what love is. I want you to show me.
12. I have never wished I was an Oscar Meyer wiener just so everyone would be in love with me. But I did wish I was a little bit taller.
13. I will possess your heart.
14. I have never had a sexually transmitted disease.
15. I have a tattoo on my ass that says Property of Todd.
16. I have no tattoos. I am also a liar.
17. I have, since fifth grade, been living with the suspicion that someone is watching every single thing I do on a giant movie screen somewhere and this affects me to the extent that I sometimes get embarrassed if I sing the wrong lyrics to a song when I’m alone.
18. I believe that everything you need to know about me is wrapped up in that last sentence.
19. I will not go quietly. Unless I die in my sleep, then I suppose I have no choice.
20. I’ve got to let you know, you’re one of my kind.
21. I right now, at this very second, am experiencing a head throbbing that might be a tumor.
22. I am an alarmist.
23. I am also an overthinker.
24. And I am really big on going with worst case scenarios.
25. I think everyone hates me and you’re all plotting to kill me, which you will accomplish by contacting the guy who is watching me on the movie screen, because he can tell you when I’ll be alone in my living room, crying over Armageddon, which would be a really good time to kill me.

Now I’m supposed to tag 25 people, but fact #26 about me is I don’t have 25 friends. So consider yourself tagged if you read this.

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do the terrier dance!

So some group did some survey about some dogs and some stupid dogs made it to the top of some stupid list as somebody’s favorite dogs ever. Do I sound jaded about bitter about that? Well, I’m NOT. I’m just astounded by the poor choices and bad taste of some people when it comes to dogs. Because everybody knows that miniature Schnauzers are the greatest dogs EVER. I mean, look at this. Come on, LOOK AT HER.

friday morning, eager

Could you die from the cuteness? Lili Von Shtupp is an awesome dog. And not just because she’s MY dog. It’s because she’s a Schnauzer. A cute, little, mini Schnauzer.

These are the top 10 dogs on this year’s list:

1. Labrador retriever
2. Yorkshire terrier
3. German shepherd
4. Golden retriever
5. Beagle
6. Boxer
7. Dachshund
8. Bulldog
9. Poodle
10. Shih Tzu

Ok, Labs are nice, but too big. Same with German Shepherds though, in my experience, they are pretty stupid dogs. Poodles? Lame. Shih Tzus? Those are not dogs, those are little balls of annoying fur. If you can carry your dog in your purse, it’s automatically disqualified from being the best anything, besides fashion accessory. Also, if you dress your dog in clothes? SHAME ON YOU. When the dog revolution comes, you will be first against the wall!

My awesome, incredible dog is a terrier, by the way. And terriers, well, allow me to quote the brilliant Kids in the Hall here:

Terriers are my very favourite breed
Cute, cuddly easy dogs to feed
Terriers were there in the 11th century
Napoleon had one to prevent misery

Anyhow, I was wondering about you, as I often do. But this time I’m not wondering about what color your boxers are or how I can fit safely between your hedge and your window without anyone noticing me, I was wondering about your dog preference. Because the answer to this might be a deal breaker in the “friending you on a social media application” thing. So, if you have a dog, what kind of dog do you have? If you don’t have a dog, what’s your favorite breed, and don’t say hot dogs.

No matter what you choose, I will make up my own answers to this informal poll and announce later on that the Kennel Club is wrong and Miniature Schnauzers are, indeed, the greatest dogs EVER.

Feel free to link to pictures of your amazing, but not as amazing as mine, dog. Ok fine, stick your cat in their if you left out.

[and while I have you here, don’t forget to check out TisP, where today I anger die hard Clash fans. And also, I really need to update my blogroll. Y’all have some awesome blogs I’ve been trying to catch up on]

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tag, you’re it

I was tagged by several people to do this questions thing, in which you have to answer each question using only one word. I ignored it for as long as possible, but it seems my blog needs a little inanity today. So do I. So let’s do this.

Two things first: a) I cheated, kind of. b) I stopped at 16, otherwise I’d be wearing pajamas to work.

1. Where is your cell phone? here
2. Your significant other? significant!
3. Your hair? messy
4. Your mother? fanatic
5. Your father? mets
6. Your favorite thing? mmmm
7. Your dream last night? god
8. Your favorite drink? water
9. Your dream/goal? writer
10. What room you are in? mess
11. Your hobby? click
12. Your fear? insane
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? there
14. Where were you last night? coma
15. 40. What are you doing tonight? game
16. Muffins? blueberry

Now I’m supposed to tag people, but I don’t have time, so I’ll just tag everyone who is reading this. Hah! You’re it!

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365 and #3 of 52 stories)

52 stories.

He held his breath as always when he entered the tunnel. Counted to ten. Exhaled. Inhaled. In with the good, out with the bad. It would be over soon. Just a few minutes until the light at the other end.

And then he was stopped, the tunnel filled with the red glow of brake lights. Horns blared and echoed, curses could be heard floating in the air. He felt the familiar lurch in his heart and talked gently to himself. Calm down. Probably just some idiot who didn’t know how to merge. Or a stalled car. Or an accident. Or a terrorist attack. Zombies. The wrath of God.

He closed his eyes and waited a full minute before opening them. The Toyota in front of him hadn’t moved an inch. A truck driver stepped out of his cab, leaned leisurely against his truck and lit a cigarette. Whatever was going on up ahead, it wasn’t going to clear up anytime soon. The cacophony of car horns and shouting died down as people realized they were stuck.

His heart raced. He started sweating. And then the cold feeling started trickling through his veins, startling him with its quickness. His hands, feet, head all seemed to go numb at the same time as the panic set in and fear took over. His breath started coming in shallow gasps. His mouth and throat dried up and when he tried to swallow a gulp of air, he imagined his throat had closed up. He leaned his head out the window and gasped for air, taking in huge gulps before he could choke on his own imagination. He reached for the water bottle on the passenger seat, unscrewed the cap clumsily, spilling half the water on the gear shift. He finally got his shaking hand to deliver the water to his mouth and he swallowed greedily. Then he opened his car door and puked into the tunnel.

The amount of vomit that came out reassured him that his throat was not closed up after all, and he leaned back against the head rest, car still idling, traffic at a standstill. He closed his eyes and imagined all the things that could cause such a jam. His mind finally settled on a car fire, and then he waited, breathing unevenly, for the flames to suddenly shoot down the tunnel and trap him in a deathly inferno. He had seen a tv show about this once, one of those World’s Wildest! shows, and they did a computer reenactment of what happened in some deadly tunnel fire years ago. He wondered if this tunnel of death would be on a tv show some day. Would they do a computer model or would they have actors play it out? Would the actor who plays get the part right? But how would they know? They couldn’t know that two minutes before fire came raging out of control down the tunnel, he had vomited the day’s breakfast into the street.

He waited. Still no fire. But no sirens either. It must be Armageddon out there, then. The world had ended. They were saved by being in the tunnel and soon some brave man would come stumbling through the wreckage, telling them to follow him to safety. They’d form a tight knit group together and go out in search of other survivors. Perhaps start the world over again. Do it better this time.

The imagining of ridiculous (but possibly true) scenarios lulled him into a light sleep. He dozed off right there in the middle of traffic, his engine running, his radio tuned low to static, people walking by, voices going in and out, somebody calling him….

“Wake up, Jimmy. You’re having that dream again.” His wife was shaking him. He rolled over, looked at the clock in his nightstand. 4:59. He hit the button before the alarm could go off. He lay back on his pillow for a moment, remembering the dream.

He thought this might be the day. Maybe he’d quit today. Maybe he’d tell them how much he hated all of them, the whole building, the work, his desk, his boss, his computer, his briefcase, all of it. Then he looked at his wife and remembered why he only thought about this every day, but never did it. He kissed her gently on the cheek, got out of bed, popped a Xanax and prepared to face another day feeling like he’s trapped in a tunnel.

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This was originally published at Pajamas Media on November 5, 2008, where it was received with, shall we say, criticism.  That’s putting it nicely.  I thought I’d reprint it here today in honor of tomorrow’s inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America. And hopefully get a better reaction.

We have a black president.

Yes, we have a new president. We have a Democrat president. But we have a black president, and that’s an important distinction to make, because it means something.

It means this nation has progressed. It means the line Jackie Robinson broke in 1947 has been extended to the farthest possible reaches. Imagine going back in time to 1955 and telling Rosa Parks, “One day a black man will be president.” It would be like going back to the 1940s and telling people we would one day walk on the Moon or fly to Mars. What seemed impossible in one time, becomes reality in another. That is progress. Progress is something to be proud of.

Of course, we elected Obama the man, not just the black man. We elected his ideals, his vision, and his hope. We elected him because we wanted change. And now that the time for change is here, we need to embrace it, all of us.

As Americans, it is in our best interest to greet each new president with hope. Regardless of whether you voted for Obama, he is going to be your president. Each new president needs to be given the benefit of the doubt from the people who did not vote for him. He may not be your choice, but he is your president. This is your country. What better way to usher in new leadership in the White House than with a country that can come together and hope for the best?

I have been on the losing end of elections before. I know the feeling of despair, the feeling of rejection and even anger that comes after your candidate loses. I may have been disappointed and perhaps a bit angry, but the one thing I always remained, above my emotions, is an American. As a whole, we all want what we think is best for the country. Isn’t coming together to support our new president part of what is best?

In his concession speech last night, John McCain said:

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited. Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

We are all Americans. Look at the pictures and videos from people around the country, even around the world, celebrating. There is an overwhelming emotion out there, and it is called hope. This is what Obama brings to the White House. This is what he brings to our country. You have to ask yourself, do I want to be a part of that hope? Or do I want to continue to live in fear of the unknown? To my Republican friends out there who voted for McCain, my hope is that you follow your candidate’s advice, and take his words to heart.

Benefit of the doubt. That is something the people who did not vote for Obama need to give to the president-elect right now. It does America no good to throw stones. It does American no good to draw more lines when we just crossed such a huge one. You can have hope that Obama listens to the whole country, and not just the people who voted for him. You can hope that things go better than you think they will. You can hope that whatever fears you have for the economy, for the troops, and for America as a whole are proven to be unfounded. But we all need to have hope. We need to be Americans together, not Americans apart. For the last four years especially, this country has been a divided one. It is my hope that Obama can close that divide and bring us together, by being a man of the people, and a man for the people. We all want the same things. We want to fix the economy. We want to find a way to bring the troops home without disturbing the peace process in Iraq. We want to feel good about the future. We want to hope, and we want that hope realized.

As I listened last night to friends and relatives who voted for McCain concede their hope for a Republican victory, I was buoyed by the optimism that existed within their resignation: “This election did not go the way I wanted it to, but that does not mean I give up as an American.” “I hope he can bring some unity to this country.” “I wish him the best, because I wish America the best.”

Look around you. Look at the tears of joy, listen to the voices of hope. When was the last time you saw this many Americans — black, white, old, young — experience such joy and hope together? Could Obama be the president who finally makes American whole?

Well, that is not really up to Obama. He can set the stage for it, but the rest is up to us. It is up to us.

As Obama said in his acceptance speech, America is a place where all things are possible.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

United. Are we united? Can we prove to the world, after this election, that we are a united country? That is part of my hope.

This is, indeed, an historic election. It is an historic day for us. We have shown that we welcome and accept change, that we are open to ideas that once seemed absurd, that we can affect change that once seemed impossible.

To quote John McCain once again:

And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Believe in America. Believe in the hope those of us who voted for Obama believe in.

History has been made. Let’s embrace it, together.

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raising hell

What follows are posts from a long ago, long defunct website called Raising Hell, where I used to write sometimes funny, sometimes heartfelt stories about parenting with some other crazy parents, and I just recently found all this stuff – which I thought was lost forever – at archive.org. So for my posterity and hopefully your amusement, some Raising Hell. All of these are from 2002/3.

1. Letters Never Sent

Dear Natalie and DJ,

Hi. This is mom. I’m writing this at 3am, after coming home from one of our relative’s weddings. It’s really not important whose wedding it was because you’ll probably never even meet these people and if you do it will only be at the funeral of another relative you probably don’t know. I mean, our family is so big there are probably people I run into all the time that I am related to and don’t even know it. Geez, maybe I even dated some of them.

Anyhow, I’m writing this thinking that someday I’ll give it to one or both of you, depending on which one of you is still living at home or not in jail or if your therapist has told you to never talk to me again. Most likely I will look at this tomorrow morning, laugh maniacally to myself and burn it.

So if I give this to you years and years from now, when you are out of high school and on your way to becoming a famous author (Natalie) or a famous baseball player (DJ) or cashiers in K-Mart or professional students, I want you to answer some questions for me:

Was I a good mother? (This is not multiple choice or essay. A simple yes or no will do)
DJ, do you forgive me for the insect repellent incident?
Natalie, do you forgive me for embarrassing you at every chance I got? (Please note here that I forgive you for embarrassing me).
Did all those video games have any lasting effect on your view of life?
Did you actually enjoy when I sang to you or were you just humoring me?
What one incident sticks out in your mind as a defining moment in our relationship? (Nat, the time I lost you at the Bronx Zoo doesn’t count, and DJ, neither does the time I took a picture of you in that dress and told you I was saving it for your first girlfriend).

So anyhow, I just wanted to tell you guys that I love you and I always tried to do the right thing by you even if it seemed to you at the time that I was being the meanest mother in the world. And every time I said It’s going to hurt me more than it will hurt you, I meant it. And every time I said, this is for your own good, I meant it. And every time I said you guys are gonna drive me to drink, I meant it. And every time I said I love you to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond, with a big fat cherry on top, I meant it.

So if by some error of judgment I actually do give you this letter some day, maybe you can look back and laugh at the fact that your mother was out of her mind some time. And maybe you can use this as evidence for your therapists.

I love you guys,
Mom.

2. Life’s Harsh Lessons Learned in a Pet Store

One Saturday afternoon, the phone rings. It’s Natalie. She is calling from the pet store, where she’s with her stepmother.

Nat: Hi Mom, I’m at the puppy store.
Me: No.
Nat: But MooooooOOOOom (that’s about 8 syllables there)
Me: No.
Nat: This is the cutest puppy ever, I even pet him. I would even sell my computer if we could get a puppy. I don’t want anything else but this puppy!
Me: We have discussed this before. We don’t have room for a puppy, and no one wants to buy your brother so we can make room.
Nat: Mom…I pet him, and I fell in love with him and now I have to have him!
Me: That’s what life is, Nat. Falling in love with the unatainable.
Nat. Whatever, mom.

3. The Absolutely Wrong Way to Discuss Sex With Your Child

The day eventually comes when your child asks you THE question. How are babies made, mommy? It’s natural curiousity and, depending on the age of the child, you either sit down and have a frank discussion with them or you tell them that babies grow in the garden and the baby fairy picks them when they are ripe.

But when your child phrases the question in a different way, it throws you off and sends you on a trajectory path to that odd world of a kid’s brain.

DJ had just gotten out of the bath the other day when he said he had a Very Important question for me. Usually his Very Important questions revolve around Derek Jeter’s batting stance or how CatDog goes to the bathroom. Not this time.

“Mom, what are my balls for? I’m not trying to be disgusting or anything, but what are they for?”

I would normally phrase my response to Very Important questions carefully, but he threw me for a loop with this one. I didn’t have time to think of something that would answer his question in vague terms and put an end to the conversation at the same time.

I explained, in child like terms, about seeds and fertilization and babies.

DJ is a realist. He stopped believing in Santa because no one could explain to him in scientific facts how reindeer could fly. He thinks along straight lines, and he needs proof and written explanations of how everything works. So there is no lying to him. Not even fibbing.

“So, how does the stuff a guy has down there get into the woman?”

“Ummm, the guy puts it in there.”

You have to understand, it was morning. We were trying to get out of the house to our respective schools and jobs. Morning mayhem plus Very Important questions equals mommy getting into areas she didn’t intend to. And giving really bad answers.

DJ contemplates my answer for a minute. Then his face scrunches up in a look of horror and appall.

“IN HER MOUTH?? HE PUTS IT IN HER MOUTH??” The color has drained from his face.

I stutter. I stammer. I do not laugh. I forgot that DJ, at 9, knows basically nothing about the human anatomy that does not involve his own little area that he is so fond of well, fondling.

I do my best to explain to him how the sperm gets into the woman.

His jaw drops. His mouth hangs open. He sits in stunned silence for a moment.

“No, really. Don’t make up stuff to me. Tell me the truth.”
“Really, DJ.”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“It would have been better if you just said God made babies. I would have believed you.”

I probably have scarred him for life. But I’m glad I cleared up the mouth issue. That could have caused problems for him later on in life.

4. The Baby Eater

The kid at the pet store swore that we were buying two male hamsters. So when they began retreating to a corner of the cage and performing nasty deeds with each other, we just shrugged and figured they were gay.

Kobe, the smaller of the two, gave birth this morning. So much for the “two males” theory.

Natalie and DJ were standing by the cage, watching Kobe run around while a tiny mutant looking thing dangled out of his backside. Akuma, the molester hamster, was trying to pull the mutant baby out.

Ok, the babies weren’t exactly mutants but have you ever seen a newborn rodent? They look like miniature versions of ET.

Anyhow, I grabbed Akuma out of the cage, put him in the attached cage, and took off the tube separating the two. Some maternal rodent instinct kicked in and I was sure that I was doing the proper thing. It just didn’t look right for the father to be pulling the baby out with his teeth.

Natalie screamed. “SHE’S EATING THE BABIES! SHE’S EATING THE BABIES!”

Sure enough, Kobe was stuffing the mutants into her mouth like they were treats.

“Maybe she’s just storing them in her cheeks so she can take them to the upstairs cubby,” I said.
“Right, mom. She’s chewing.”
DJ was staring intently. “Do you think they taste good? I bet they’re really nutritious.”
“You want to try one?” I pretend to open the cage up.
“Ewwww mom! Hey, how come there’s no blood or anything squirting out when she bites on them?”
“She’s eating them whole.”

They stare for a few minutes then a look of horror crosses DJ’s face.

“Umm..mom? Weren’t they from the same litter?
“Yea, why?”
“SHE DID IT WITH HER BROTHER!!!”

DJ and Natalie alternate between making gagging sounds and cracking up. Meanwhile, I go to the computer to look up FAQs on hamsters. I talk to the incestuous rodent.

“You should have thought about this before you started humping her, you know. What did you think was going to happen? Now you get stuck in the little apartment and she wants no part of you. Oh yea, I know, she’s partly to blame. She could have said no. But you’re going to have to go back in there and take responsibility for your actions.”

I read through the FAQs as I talk to Akuma. “Now, Akuma, you go back in there and umm…lick the babies and eat the placenta. And then umm…clean up your girlfriend, too. And help her out with the babies.”

I envision myself giving this talk to DJ some day. Without the placenta eating part. I think “It’s never too early to start handing out condoms.”

You can learn an awful lot from a rodent.

There’s plenty more where that came from, if you want them.

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Today is Popeye’s 80th birthday. Don’t ask why I know this. I just do.

Popeye has always looked 80, at least to me. For a man that’s wanted by the hottest gal in town, he sure doesn’t look the part of hot stud. No, Popeye looks like the kind of guy that wakes up at noon, heads for the same old bar and the same old barstool, has the same old drink while he tells the bartender the same old stories about life in the Navy. Ah Guh Guh Guh! And then we tattooed him with a branding iron right on his butt. Ah Guh Guh Guh! The bartender probably just stares at him and tries to work up the nerve to ask Popeye why his right eye is always closed like that, leaving him in a perpetual state of winking. If the barkeep ever does get up the nerve to ask about the eye, he should also ask Popeye why the muscles on his arms are in the wrong place.

The basic Popeye episode went like this: Our hero wants a date with Olive Oyl. Olive Oyl is busy being stalked by Brutus. Wimpy wants a hamburger. Popeye comes upon Brutus wreaking havoc on either Olive or some townie. Popeye engages Brutus in battle and when he is near death, pulls a can of spinach from out of nowhere and beats Brutus to a bloody pulp. If there happens to be an innocent bystander – say, a cow – Popeye will beat the crap out of that cow as well, with just one punch sending the animal up into the air, and when it comes down, it will be in the form of a couple of sides of beef and a few steaks. Wimpy, there’s your hamburgers!

Not that Olive Oyl is much of a catch. She’s a self-centered tease and a tramp. She may play the part of the weak woman, but inside she is shrewd, calculating and spiteful. She plays Popeye for a fool, often feigning helplessness just to see what lengths he will go to in order to prove his love for her. She plays Brutus/Bluto for a fool as well, making him think that he has a chance when she’s just using him to drive Popeye insane.

And what do these two guys see in Olive, anyhow? Her arms are made of rubber, her nose looks like a penis and she’s clearly anorexic. Maybe she’s the only game in town. I don’t remember many other women in Popeye land. Or maybe it’s just a macho fixation with wanting what your rival wants. And Popeye did get what he wanted, marrying Olive ten years ago. We haven’t heard much from the couple, but I imagine that they are living in a trailer (at least it’s not a garbage can) with five kids and Popeye attends anger management classes while Olive turns tricks to pay for her husband’s spinach flavored crack. Of course, she’s probably having an affair with Brutus, who also married recently, but whose wife has a restraining order against him.

About that spinach: I think that might be the cause of Popeye’s strained look. Spinach is loaded with iron. Iron can make you constipated. Look at that face. Seems to me that what Popeye needs is not a kiss from Olive Oyl or a beatdown from Brutus, but a good laxative and a better diet. You gotta figure that if he’s trying to squeeze one out all the time, he’s probably pretty cranky. One good dump, maybe even an enema (applied by Olive Oyl), would go a long way towards making a kinder, gentler Popeye. Perhaps then he could turn the other cheek when faced with Bluto’s aggression.

The real problem as I see it is with Popeye’s self-esteem. Why would a guy go through so much trouble for a scrawny, screechy woman who makes him run through hoops just for a peck on the cheek? Surely there is some kind of deep, psychological need for Popeye to prove himself. Maybe he had parents who were never pleased with him. Maybe all those years in the Navy did a number on his psyche. There has to be some reason for this guy to so crave Olive’s love, devotion and body that he takes so much mental abuse from her and physical abuse from Brutus. Perhaps a psychologist is in order. Or Prozac.

Olive, on the other hand, is just a bitch. She gets off on having two guys fighting over her. Neither of them is good looking, neither have much in the way of personality. But they both want her and that’s good enough for Olive. The poor guys don’t even have any idea that Olive has been giving Wimpy handjobs behind the hamburger stand for a dollar so she can save money to get a much needed boob job. Which is why Wimpy never has any money for hamburgers.

I digress. I didn’t mean to go off on a tangent and into the sordid life of Popeye and friends, but the whole premise of the show has always irked me. Boy wants girl. Boy fights for girl. Girl kisses boy. Then girl kisses other boy. Would you bring flowers to a woman who was fooling around with your arch rival and doing it right in front of you? A girl who locks lips with a man who has more than once tied her to railroad tracks just to make Popeye piss his pants in fear? Passive-aggressive much?

I’m just saying, the dude is 80 years old. You would think he’d have learned by this age that Olive is just playing games with his heart. I would have liked to see an ending to the Popeye saga; one where Brutus and Popeye finally had their fill of Olive’s antics and they kill her and leave her body by the river’s edge. Then Crispin Glover discovers the body and Dennis Hopper has this blow-up doll and…..sorry, wrong story.

Anyhow, happy birthday Popeye.

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you must learn

[What follows is a rambling, unedited vent born of frustration with myself and certain situations I put myself in, currently and in the past. This has nothing to do with my family life and everything to do with things going on outside my little cocoon I call home. Just to preemptively clarify]

No matter what you do or where you go in life, there will always be someone around who is jealous of you. Jealous of your position, your clothes, your personality, your happiness, your money, your car, your attitude. They will resent the things you have they don’t. Instead of trying to attain those things for themselves they will harbor a grudge against you. Instead of being pleased for you, they will quietly seethe.

Sometimes they will try to have those things taken from you. They will play down your achievements so you don’t feel as accomplished as you once did. They will find a way to cut from you the things that make you – in their eyes – better than them. If they can’t have it, you can’t have it. If they are miserable, you need to be miserable, too. And no matter how hard you work to maintain a civil relationship with these people, no matter how humble you are about what you have that they don’t, it won’t make a difference because your humility, your grace or your empathy with their situation only serves to aggravate them. They don’t want you to be understanding. They don’t want you to be sympathetic. Their jealousy and resentment build up to a point where they can no longer let go of the pettiness that now consumes them. They hate their situation. You are not in their situation. So they hate you, by default.

They might not even realize they’re doing it. But over the course of a few months you notice a change in a friend’s behavior. You notice a strain in your relationship. You notice there are certain things they don’t want you to talk about. They don’t want to hear about your happiness because they are shrouded in misery. It doesn’t matter that you once felt like they do, you can’t possibly know now. It doesn’t matter that you worked hard for what you have now, that you went through hell to get it. They have forgotten all the things you have in common, all the things that made you friends, and they’ll concentrate on the one thing you have that they don’t. And they’ll hate you for it.

We can’t have nice things because the people without nice things would rather level the playing field by making sure we’re all without, than trying to make sure we are all with. It’s easier that way.

Stop trying to placate these people. Stop making yourself think you are somehow to blame for their shift in attitude. Stop thinking it’s up to you to repair friendships that were damaged when one person ran roughshod over them. Stop giving people the benefit of the doubt, stop being the one who rolls over and plays dead just to keep the peace. You owe yourself the fight. You owe yourself more than struggling to maintain civility to the point where you comply, give in and give up.

But you can’t, can you? You’re just not that kind of person. You’d rather be passive than aggressive. You’d rather make sure everyone gets what they want, even if it means downsizing what you want. You just keep on avoiding confrontation, because to confront would mean to cause a stir, and people like us don’t cause a stir. We just smile and say, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

We’re the people you put the extra tasks on. We’re the people who say yes to everything. We’re the people who will do your menial tasks while you sit back and file your fingernails. We’re the people you go to day after day for the extra things, because we are the least likely to complain about them. We get shuffled, moved, forgotten, taken for granted, taken advantage of and we’re rarely thanked for our extra efforts because these things are expected of us. We have set ourselves up to this way, to be the doormats of society and no one even thanks us for letting them wipe their feet on us. We volunteer our time for projects that no one else wants and all those people who wouldn’t do what we are doing will still find a way to complain about the way we do it. They don’t want to help you fix it, they just want to tell you what you are – in their eyes – doing wrong, and walk away. They have no solutions, only problems.

We are the people who struggle to maintain friendships. We are the ones who make the calls, write the letters, try to wonder what we did wrong to make us drift apart like that. We apologize for the drift as if it were our own making. And when it’s obvious the struggle is one way, we mourn the friendship while you move on to someone else as if all those years of shared lives mean nothing. We need friends, you need someone who is going through the same thing as you at the same time as you because that is the only way your feelings get validated. You just want someone to listen to you, but you don’t want to listen in return. You want do dump and vent; we want to share and help. You need someone to help justify your existence; we need someone who can make each other’s existence a bit better.

There are people who want you complacent and compliant, who want you to just lie still and take it and maybe try to smile as they slowly kill your will. There are people who will try their hardest to make you believe you don’t deserve what you have and you dont’ deserve what you want. There are people who will lie to you and sweet talk you and tell you everything you think you want to hear and when you let down your guard and trust them and trust their words, they’ll pounce like a vicious lion and hold you between their teeth until you’re nothing but a rag doll. Another trophy kill for them.

There comes a point in your life when you have to say, no more. There comes a time when you have to give up the ghosts of those friendships, when you have to find some pride and dignity and stop letting people walk on you. Realize that whatever good has come into your life, you own. You earned that good, you earned that happiness and no one should be allowed to make you feel guilty about it. Realize that you can say NO. You can stand up for yourself. You can fight for what is rightfully yours. Stop apologizing for being you. Stop apologizing for what makes you who you are. Fix what can be fixed and what can’t be fixed, throw out. Stop trying to make everyone happy. Make yourself happy. Look at you. Look at how far you’ve come. How dare you let anyone else make you feel like you don’t deserve that? How dare you let anyone else make you feel like you need to hide what you have because they don’t have it? You owe yourself more than that. And you certainly owe yourself more than, at this point in your life, to be doing something that is making you completely miserable. Change isn’t easy, but it is possible. Dumping old baggage isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Taking back your life from the hands of people who just want to push your head under the water every time you come up for a breath is an enormous task, but it can be done. It will be done. It has to be done. Even if you have to claw your way out of the box you put yourself in, do it. Even if other people tell you it can’t be done, that you’ll never do it, you’ll never change; that’s their jealousy speaking. We owe it to ourselves to not let the envy and pettiness of others keep us from our appointed rounds. You know deep in your heart what you were appointed for. Go achieve that. Stop letting other people’s issues become yours because it’s impeding your way.

I always thought the best advice in the world was “Be excellent to each other.” But you have to never, ever forget to be excellent to yourself. Without that, you’ll never find your way.

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Oh sure, I could add to my list and tell you stupid little things about me like how I can’t burp and the way I freak out about where I sit in a restaurant and what happened with the dog during sex last night, but I’ll refrain from all that and give way instead to seven things about the wonderful, beautiful, amazing, funny, single @sokeri. She doesn’t have a blog so I told her I’d host her things here. Her seven things. Not her things. Though I’d “host” them anytime.

@sokeri’s seven things

1. When I was not quite 5 years old I fell. Over the side of some stairs, about seven feet up, onto a parking lot. Shattered my skull. Shaved head, staples, missing piece of skull grew back, a million stitches.Called a cute “little boy” for many months due to my buzz cut. I still show my scar to those lucky enough to catch me in a sharing mood. It’s pretty impressive. think Dr. Kimberly Shaw but without the need for a wig.

2. I used to have an annual after hours Yahtzee! party. Saturday after Christmas, after the LaLuna (RIP) anniversary party, only night of the year I allowed people to smoke in my apartment. breakfast for those left at the end of the game. and yes, we actually played Yahtzee!

3. I’ve never grown wisdom teeth, still have my tonsils and my appendix.

4. Greg Dulli pulled stun gun on me after a show. He was joking. I think.

5. I had a borderline unhealthy obsession with Elvis when I was a teenager. in the 80s. yeah, he was pretty dead.

6. I have in my life owned more than 2 pairs of vinyl pants. and a white vinyl jacket. and I still have my faux fur animal print mini. sigh. (skirt should be made into some art piece as there is no way in hell I’ll ever fit into it again)

7. I have never seen any Rocky or Die Hard franchise, Forrest Gump or any Lord of the Rings. I have never read a Harry Potter or Twilight book (no, of course I haven’t seen the movies).

Now, a lot of people have finished their seven things, and TBMimsTheThird (one of the funniest people on twitter) was awesomely awesome in compiling the links to a whole bunch of them. So I copied them from him. I’m off to read all about these fake internet people that give me real laughs all day long.

@adamisacson
@aedison
@abigvictory 

@alegna24
@alinasmith
@AprilSTL
@balut
@bcompton
@beeroux
@benmarvin
@bsheepies
@CaryRN
@cleversimon
@detweiler
@drinkerthinker
@eatfoss
@eclaggs
@empirebetty
@emzbulletproof
@entropyas
@eoporto
@erikprice
@fakeweiler
@fatherjack
@frageelay
@franconachapman
@frostinglickr
@Hello_Nurse
@hrobs
@insooutso
@ivegotzooms
@jessabelle2o7
@joeschmitt
@jonathaneunice
@kariedwards
@krabigail
@lindstifa
@luckyshirt
@mamitamojita
@mayjah
@mflanders
@porto_rock
@printartist
@redrabbit
@secretsquirrel
@sekimori
@sniffyjenkins
@steelopus
@sween
@texburgher
@tdavenport
@toldorknown
@Tony_D
@trelvix
@vmarinelli
@vmason
@weselec
@zolora
@expat_erin

If I missed you, leave a link to yours.

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