The Bow and Arrow and The Wedding Dress

IMG_1618Some of my most interesting experiences happen when I’m walking my dog.  I meet a lot of fellow dog-walkers who are generally nice humans. Except that stern, rod-straight man and his neurotic, uber-focused Border Collie that I’ve seen every day for the last I-don’t-know-how-many years on their way to the beach.  Neither of them look happy, if you ask me. The man never smiles, rarely speaks and looks exactly the same every single day. This is not an exaggeration. I could spot that guy anywhere in the world in a throng of identically looking men at any given time.  Same khaki pants, same backpack, same hat, same red jacket, same green Chuckit toy. I kick ass at Where’s Waldo because of this guy.

I give the man props for taking his furry companion to the beach every day but for the love of Dog give the poor thing some Prozac before he starts licking the walls from too much training!

But this post isn’t about dogs or grouchy neighbors. It’s about twins.

Twins fascinate me.  They always have.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to admit that I secretly wanted to have one.  But that would have been a cruel twist of fate for my parents especially if the cosmos has cursed them with an identical set of me.  I’ll leave the reasons up to the reader’s imagination.  To be clear,  it’s fraternal twins that I’m fascinated by.  Specifically, the differences between them.  I mean, if would be silly to “compare identical twins”, right?   Wouldn’t that be oxymoronic? (or is it just me?)

It was my recent good fortune to cross paths with a gorgeous set of twin girls. They looked to be about 6 and were drawn to my dog who is a very handsome dude, if I must say so myself.  I overheard them ask their father if they could pet him and he replied they had to ask me nicely first.  This made me like the dad immediately.  I said yes before they even asked.  These two cherubs had eyes the color of the ocean behind them and the blonde braids that I longed for in my teen years and still covet as an adult.  They were  very similar in appearance but their differences were abundantly clear.  Cherub #1 was gregarious and talkative and enveloped my dog with brave hugs and nose kisses despite the fact that he was eye-level.  Her hands were dirty with whatever it was she had explored on the beach and her braid was coming apart at the seams.  Cherub #2  stepped in once she saw her sister getting major face licks.  She was clearly more cautious and definitely cleaner like maybe she used a sand shovel to dig for that buried treasure rather than her bare hands. She wore a frilly hair trinket that kept her braids from abandoning ship.

Cherub #1 sported a tattered denim skirt, a stained cotton tee-shirt and fleece camouflage boots.  Cherub #2, a feminine tutu and an equally girly-girl top.  Her fleece boots were brilliant pink and adorned with a million sequins.

When I commented on their boots, Cherub #1 volunteered they got them for Christmas. When I asked them if they were twins, it opened up a floodgate of information delivered in a spray of machine-gun-fire consciousness devoid of pauses:  we’re twins and we’re going to be six and we were born on the same day but we’re not identical and our birthday is August 21st and we’re going to have a big party when we get home and we love dogs and we’re on vacation and live in Idaho and this is my dad his name is Jeff but my mom could come because she had to work and do you want to know what we want for our birthday?

My head was still reeling from all that information and I was searching for bullet holes in my chest but hell yes, I was dying  to know.

“I want a bow and arrow,” she said.

When I asked Cherub #2 what she wanted, she replied with a clear and confident voice.

“I…want a wedding dress.”

Dad laughed out loud, not the least but surprised by any of this.

“As you can see…they only look alike,” he said.

I could tell by the way he looked down at them he was head over heels in love with his angel twins and their myriad differences.  He was proud of them and it showed. It made me like him even more.

All I can say is those little nuggets made my day. And even though the encounter was fleeting and random,  I’ll never look at a bow and arrow or a wedding dress as long as I live without thinking of them.

I told you twins were fascinating.

Or maybe it’s just me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sound Of My Voice

When I was in the second grade, I got a rude awakening.  It was parent’s night.  Probably 1969 or some year where the technology had words like reel-to-reel or mimeo in the description.

I was a shy kid who never spoke up in class or misbehaved for fear of being sent to the principal [gasp!!].  It can still run chills up my spine just thinking about what might have happened had I acted up.  The principals of my era are all extinct now.  Relegated to peeling, photographic archives that hang on the walls of pre-60s elementary schools.  I don’t remember them being on the endangered species list but I read a while back that fossils of human-like remains clutching large, wooden paddles were found buried near an asphalt playground.

My school was one of those probably built with lots of asbestos and lead paint and all those great construction materials we didn’t know would eventually kill us.  Fortunately, I’m still alive to tell the tale of my very first “recording”.

Parent’s night always gave me the jitters but this one was downright nerve-wracking .  Our teacher, her name escapes me so I’ll just call her Teacher, had us all read in class one day so she could record it on her big metal tape-recorder (probably shared by the entire school) and play it back for the parents on parent’s night.  I wondered if  this would tack on unnecessary time to “the big night” and make us all fidgety and irritated.  T.V. was a big deal back then and most of us just wanted to get home and watch the latest episode of Bonanza in stunning black and white.  I know I did, because I was in love with Little Joe.

There was only one last thing to do after Teacher gave my parents the glowing review of Julie never utters a peep in class and can spell her own name and keeps her hands to herself  and doesn’t eat paste….you know, all the really important stuff.

The recording.

Teacher flipped a button on the hulking device.  The plastic spools spun and whirred to life….and  spewed forth the most horrifying voice I had ever heard.   Turned up to the right decibel level, they could have used that voice in a North Vietnamese prison to extract information from an unbreakable John McCain.

My head felt like it would explode.  I think I actually stumbled backward like the words were made of buckshot. I just wanted it to stop.  Doesn’t anyone see my ears bleeding?  I’m only eight for cryin’ out loud!

Peace finally came and I wiped the blood from my neck.

“Who the hell was that?  “That gul can’t say hu awws!”  I asked which was the most I’d ever uttered in a classroom to date.   The public smack upside the head for using the word hell went a long way in conquering my shyness so that’s the silver lining in all this.  I mean, once you get publically smacked by your parents most inhibitions fall away… until the time you give birth which puts the icing on the cake of who-the-hell-cares-what-anybody-sees.

I still hate the sound of my own voice….but I can say my Rs now.

Supermarket Faceoff

I do not enjoy shopping for food.   As far as domestic chores go, I would rather clean a toilet.

I can handle Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s but something called SAFEway gives me pause.    Why do I need to be convinced that the food they sell is safe?  Of course, this makes me think it isn’t.

And another thing:  I have become paranoid about touching the handles of those nasty metal carts.  Not to mention the fact that somebody ALWAYS leaves some sort of questionable “something” in the bottom of the cart.  Crumpled wrappers, empty cups of god knows what.  One time I found a diaper.  A DIAPER!

Who does that??

Um….probably the same people who leave them in fast-food parking lots side a disgusting pile of cigarette butts from their emptied ashtray?? There’s nothing like the sweet smell of baby shit mixed with a smoldering pile of unfiltered Camels to brighten your day, right?

But I digress as I so often do.

Here’s the real question:  why the hell is it necessary to have those crazy, brightly colored  plastic “kid carts” the size of a Zamboni?  You know what I mean.  Those ridiculous plastic behemoths the kids gets shoved in  so they don’t scream bloody murder when mom (or the nanny if you happen to be in Malibu) snatches the Volkswagon-sized box of Lucky Charms from Junior’s vice grip??

Now, I like kids as much as the next guy but there has to be some balance here.  What happened to being satisfied with those adorable pint-sized metal carts that the kids could fill up and slam into the shins of other shoppers?  Wasn’t that good enough?

If supermarkets are going to force me to endure 3 year olds on ice rink equipment, the least they can do is provide some basic adult necessities like LED flat screens playing endless re-runs of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

For the record, I am a rabid supporter of  Whole Foods.  They do not condone the use of Zamboni machines in their stores.  I do most of my food shopping there when my friends start using words like “scurvy” to scare me into replenishing my cupboards.

 

 

Resistance Is Futile

Noah Angel and DevilI want this t-shirt.

I also want these eyes but not even surgery can give them to me.  Trust me, I’ve looked into it.

This is my gorgeous great-nephew.  He is both gorgeous AND great and completely irresistible.

He likes clothing with a message.

He now has a baby sister.

Anna is her name.

I am compelled to come up with a nickname for her since I am known for creating nicknames that (unfortunately at times) stick.

I must choose wisely for Anna.

My first inclination, of course, is Anna Banana.  It is not creative but has a nice cadence and I’m all about rhythmic flow.

There are really only two viable words choices if I want a rhyming nickname for Anna and that is aforementioned fruit or maybe bandana.  Anna Bandana.  Has possibilities.  I will think on it.

But… I may have to just go with Kitten.  That is what her little mews sounded like when my niece held the phone up her mouth the day after she was born.  They are far, far away.

Yes.  Kitten it is.

Gorgeous angel above I call Buckwheat.

Could be the boots.

Yup.  It’s definitely the boots.Noah in Boots

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Lying: The New Truth

It’s kinda like gray being the new black but more fucked up.

My first experience with a person who used bullshit as their own reality was in the third grade.  Her name was Carla.  I won’t give her last name even though she is one of only about three kids I remember from grade school.  There was also Lisa and Jay, both of whom smelled like urine….always.

I was envious of Carla’s page-boy haircut and freckled nose.  She was darling.  I can still see her.  She did not smell like urine.

But she did have a dark side.

I remember being profoundly puzzled by Carl and her strange, manipulative behavior.

Funny how childhood lessons suddenly come flooding back when you’re faced with the adult version.

It takes on a more disturbing tone when you’re older.  You know what I mean.

So Carla….

She was just like the rest of us, I thought.  None of us kids had money or family with money or friends with money or friends of friends with money (except cousins of my father who ran a farm implements company rumored to have had money despite the fact they never wore anything that didn’t have an Oshkosh B’Gosh label on it).  We were accustomed to never asking for anything because we knew we couldn’t have it.  On the rare occasion that I DID ask, my mother threatened to pull out the infamous “ledger” to show me just how hard it was to raise 4 kids and there wasn’t anything more boring to an 8-year-old than looking at a bunch of numbers in a 3-ring binder.   My mother knew how to shut us down.

The only claim to fame I had as a little kid –  besides brick rather than ply-wood on the front of our house – was a green stingray bike (not a Schwinn) and anything that the great outdoors had to offer which was free.  This made it all the more fascinating when Carla claimed to have the latest Barbie Dream House and an Easy-Bake Oven.  She knew I lusted after the Easy Bake Oven with its tiny little cake mix and single, bright lightbulb that gave it delicious, gold-brown life.  I don’t know why I was so fascinated by this invention but I was and obviously made that known throughout the halls of Rosewood School.

If only I had an Easy Bake Oven.  How grand life would be!

And there-in lies the problem.

Carla promised to give me her Easy Bake Oven.  All I had to do was come to her house and play.

You have got to be fucking kidding!! (of course I didn’t use the F word since the only curse word I knew in 3rd grade was “hell” but if I were in third grade today, I would probably use the F word)

After the choruses of Ode to Joy faded away, I remember thinking this was odd because I would have gone to her house to play even without the toy bribe but this offer was beyond my wildest dreams!.   Can’t blame a kid for caving to temptation….every good pervert through the centuries knows that, right?   Obviously, Carla was no pervert but you get what I’m saying. I also asked myself how all this wealth had been so well hidden for so long.  Hmmmm.

So off I went to Carla’s undoubtedly palatial estate that had mysteriously escaped detection in our metropolis of 15,000.

It was not what I expected.

Carla lived in a single-wide trailer.

Her parents were nowhere in sight.

She did not have an Easy Bake Oven nor a Barbie Dream House.

I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed but it was a profound day in my very young life.

It was when I learned that not everyone tells the truth.

It was when I learned that there are those who cannot see past their own desires and will do and say whatever it takes to get what they need be it friendship, money, recognition, a career.

For the record, Carla and I had a perfectly fun day doing what all small-town kids did in those days: making up stuff in the great outdoors and just being kids.

Lately, I’ve thought a lot about Carla and her need to tell such big lies at such an early age. It had to be more than a single-wide because none of us had a whole lot more than that and nobody cared.  I wonder what deep and ugly place that need came from.   Carla taught me the dark and pathetic side of lying that day and it stuck with me all my life.

Not long ago I saw a news segment about an author who wrote a book directed at recent college graduates.  In a nut-shell it was about why one should lie to get ahead because if you don’t, the next person will…better you than them.

I do not understand this thinking.

Never will.

I’ll tell you what else I don’t understand and that’s  how that tiny lightbulb could actually bake a cake.

The Incident

More often than not, I question my own smartness.

I wonder if it I’m coming down with some sort of environmental retardation that hand sanitizer can’t kill.

I mean, I thought I was generally intelligent.  I can spell my own name and fill out rudimentary forms.  I know enough to wear clean underwear in case of an accident and sometimes I think I have TiVo figured out.  But the other day my confidence was dealt a serious blow.

Truth be told, this kind of thing is happening more often than I’d like to admit but to hell with pride and shame.  I might as well us these idiotic vignettes to my advantage since I’ve taken the time and effort to keep this blog going in all its self-indulgent glory.

“The Incident” as it shall be known henceforth, went a little something like this:  (names have been changed to protect the intelligent and formatting is not within industry standard)

INT. RESTAURANT – DAY

TWO COUPLES, a PROUD GRANDMOTHER, a 2-YEAR OLD and ME occupy a large round table.  A high chair adorns one end.

PROUD GRANDMOTHER

You know, our little Cally here took swimming lessons this summer.

She points to the beautiful 2-YEAR OLD who is deeply focused on picking up minuscule pieces of chicken between her thumb and forefinger.

ME

Cool!  I love to see kids in those little blow-up water wings.

PROUD GRANDMOTHER

Oh, no!  She doesn’t wear those things!

ME

That’s a little scary.  One time I saw this National Geographic special about how infants naturally hold their breath underwater.  I thought it was kind of disturbing seeing week old infants being tossed into the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.   But come to think of it, they DID hold their breath.  And they sort of did this little dog-paddling thing that I found even harder to watch.  I don’t know, they just didn’t seem to…well….have any choice.  The concept seemed a little out there for my taste.  Then again, those catchy phrases like “sink or swim” had to come from somewhere, right?

PROUD GRANDMOTHER

Well, that’s not how they do it these days.  When the babies cry, the teacher just dunks them under and they stop.  They get used to it after a while.

ME

Okay.  That sounds so much better.

The Proud Grandmother reaches for her cell phone and opens it.

PROUD GRANDMOTHER

She goes underwater, eyes open, mouth open grinning ear to ear.  She can dive clear to the bottom and back up again.

The Proud Grandmother hands me the cell phone on which there is a darling picture of a smiling 2-year old, eyes wide open floating weightless in crystal clear, chlorinated splendor.

And I thought to myself….I wonder how they managed to get that cell phone under the water to snap that picture.

When I accidentally dropped mine in the toilet, it stopped working.

When Toddlers Go To Prison

noah-in-jail

 

It can be lonely for a bloke like me in the “yard”.  Sometimes I just pace back and forth, thinking, dreaming of the outside….planning.

And one day it came to me.  It was brilliant.  So utterly simple…and right under my own nose.

noah-explains-his-breakout-tools1

I just took these sticks, see?  And I slid ’em into the lock and jammed it, see?  And at 7 pm lights out, I pushed the door open, grabbed a spare Pampers and made a run for it. 

But not before ‘Ole Eagle Eye spotted me.  But I was prepared.  ‘Ole Eagle Eye was a sucker for the sweet stuff.  And I had the sweet stuff in spades, see?

 

 

noah-gets-rough-with-a-prison-guard1

But that tough old bird had me dead to rights, I’ll give him that much.  My back was against the wall.  When things got a little dicey, I had to give ‘Ole Eagle Eye a bit ‘o toddler what-for. 

 

 

 

 

 

noah-bribes-a-guard3

Then I went straight for the heavy artillery.  A right hook to the sweet tooth and he was putty in my hands.  I walked outta that big stone lonesome and never looked back. 

But it ain’t easy for a tod like me; always on the run.noah-makes-his-way-in-the-world

Takin’ odd jobs to survivenoah-on-the-lookout.

Always lookin’ over my shoulder. 

But you see, it’s worth it ‘cuz I’m innocent.  As innocent as they come and life is good for me now.  Sometimes I wonder about the tods I left behind but they’ll find their way just like I did.

noahs-freedom1

 

 

And what about ‘Ole Eagle Eye and his ilk?

I got just one thing to say to those grizzled old birds.

So long suckers!