Friday, July 21, 2017

The Proper Etiquette of Meatsicles

Meatsicles are a beautiful thing.
When you're famished, when you wanna get right to it, when you don't want to hassle with such unnecessary utensils as knives, when you're absolutely exhausted, a meatsicle is your best friend.

Just jab a fork into a pork-chop and collapse onto the sofa in front of the TV. An oldie but a classic. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

So, the other night--in an ongoing, concerted effort to get away from the TV while eating--we gathered for dinner at the dining room table. I served pork chops.

My fork stabbed a chop, I hoisted it up. Before I took a bite, my wife shut me down.

"Stuart! What do you think you're doing?"

I looked around, looked at the dog, looked for logic. I kinda thought it was apparent what I was doing. "Um...eating." I gave the meatsicle a hearty shake.

"No. Use a knife."

"But...we always eat meatsicles."

"Not at the table we don't. Act civilized, for God's sake."

I said, "Fine, then let's go sit in front of the TV."

Well. That didn't sit well. 

Still, I couldn't understand where I'd gone wrong. I thought we'd long ago incorporated meatsicles into our culinary regimen. I was mistaken.

My wife went on to explain the rules about when and where meatsicles are properly accepted.

Stunned, I asked, "How come I've never heard of these rules before? Is there a book or something?"

"Just get a knife," she groaned, rolling her eyes into orbit.

This world is confusing enough without new rules being thrown at you left and right, especially when the rule-maker doesn't let you know. It's kinda like Trump tweeting new policy and unless you follow him on Twitter, you're in the dark.
Since the beginning of time, meatsicles have been a perfectly acceptable form of food and eating. Sure, cavemen didn't have forks, but it's a well-documented fact they'd jab meat onto sticks, an early precursor. And it's also a well-documented fact cavemen didn't have TV, so when they sat down at the dinner table, meatsicles were completely acceptable.

The way civilized people ate, not like those uncouth dinosaurs. 


Speaking of peculiar, you ain't seen nothin' yet! My new book, Peculiar County, is up for preorder and out July 31st. More about it next week.

In the meantime, click here to preorder one very peculiar reading experience (seat belts are mandatory).

Friday, July 14, 2017

We went looking for a TV and all we have to show for it is this stupid new house!

Bada-boom. And not really. But almost.
My wife--wise and almighty--told me we should never go shopping while "hangry," a term a candy bar commercial adeptly coined, equating one's hungry physical being with an angry mind-set. Ergo, don't make snap purchases at the grocery store.

Back to pertinent business, recently our TV went blinky, double-vision blue and red. It's fine if you wear those awful 3-D glasses with the impossible to clean and always smudged plastic lenses, but otherwise, unacceptable. 

Sunday afternoon, we set out to ogle new TV's. The modern technology mind-boggled, fossilized me into the prehistoric era. I didn't have a clue, still playing videotapes at home, for Gawd's sake.

Out of desperation, over-whelmed, we quit. Made a promise to research. Just like back in school.

On the way home, we saw a house for sale. "Open House," the sign read, a beguiling treasure trove awaiting we failed hunters. Being no fools, tired, "hangry," disgruntled, we slept-walk inside. And fell in love.

Thankfully, keener senses prevailed. We were in no position yet to buy a new house. (Just thinking about our collection of books and movies throws my back out of whack).

But enlightenment struck that day. Food shopping while hungry is one thing, a minor faux pas. Making major life decisions while your mind belongs elsewhere is another.

"Oblivi-shopping." Remember the word. I'm trademarking it.

Contracts should be enacted while oblivi-shopping. Within a 48 hour time period, buyers of a life-changing purchase should not be held responsible if the following preexisting conditions exist:


I've made remorseful purchasing decisions under the influence of seven of the eight pre-existing conditions.

It's about time someone started looking out for hungry, irritable, stupid, tired, drunk, hemorrhoid-ridden, and sometimes insane people like me!

Caveat Emptor!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Our Dog Year (and it's only half over)

Pity poor Zak.
Healthy Zak!

Our beloved rescue dog was found as a puppy scavenging through trash, never possessing good taste in food. A mixed breed of indiscriminate nature, obviously Zak was at least part pit bull terrier. Because of that, he's faced a life-time of prejudice. My mom won't even go near him, terrified (even though her bite is much worse than his). People go out of their way to cross the street when we're out on walks. Upon Zak's entry at daycare, other pet-owners slip him wary, highly suspect looks. (Yes, Zak goes to daycare.)

But the thing is, Zak's a lover, not a biter. His licking might scrub your skin raw, but he won't hurt anyone. Unless of course you wear the U.S. Postal Service uniform. Then all bets are off. But for everyone else? He wants to meet you. Become pals. Have you toss a squeaky toy around, one he can tear apart in seven seconds.

Then Zak's world went grey. Six months ago he developed a limp. Of course, it didn't seem to hold him back. He powered through it, the way he doe everything. Problem is Zak's as stoic as Humphrey Bogart with paws.

We took him to his vet, who sent us to the animal hospital. Zak'd completely blown out his knee ligament. We faced several choices, none of them ideal. We settled on an expensive surgery, one where the doc would basically cut Zak's knee bones apart and reattach them in a new fashion, screws and a metal plate keeping everything in place until the bone healed.
Zak in first post-surgery Cone of Honor
Afterward, we found out just how much work was involved on our end. At least four months of keeping Zak quiet and calm in a small room. (Good luck with that, especially during mail delivery). Short walks, four times a day. Drugs, hot and cold compresses, massages, leg exercises...King for many, many days of sovereignty.

Alas, Zak couldn't climb steps. I volunteered to sleep downstairs with him in the guest bedroom on a lumpy twin bed, apparently built with masochistic, diminutive people in mind. Four months of sleepless discomfort and back aches.

Nothing mattered, though, not really. Zak was our dog, dammit. Besides, the neighborhood's rabbit population had grown out of control without his watch-dogging. Seriously. He needed to come back and rein in the terror.

When it came time for a check-up, bad news smacked us like a two by four to the head. Two screws had broken with the third bent. Somewhere along the line--a fall Zak had, too much exercise, something--things went haywire. But all was not lost. His bone had partly healed. Still, it was back to surgery for the dog, the metal parts had to come out.

After this new operation, Zak's incision started draining, then bleeding a lot. Several Sundays were spent at the animal hospital as the staff tried to diagnose it. At first, it'd been tagged as a seroma, nothing to worry about. But Zak's limp persisted, grew worse. The doc was concerned. For good reason.
Zak showing off, posing for Midwest Dogs Gone Wild. The final night before the BIG operation.
Zak went back under the knife for exploratory surgery. All day long, we waited. Silence. Finally, the doc called.

The news completely blindsided me. Zak's leg bone had developed a deep infection, rendered into mush. The doctor said we could put Zak through another iffy surgery, involving pins, pain, and many months, and the outcome didn't look rosy. Or we could amputate his leg, the doc's recommendation.

We chose amputation. It hit us hard, surprisingly so. Much more than it bothered Zak himself, I'm sure. But it felt like a deep loss. Mostly because Zak lived life hard, played like a hurricane, ran to beat the band and outrace all the other dogs in daycare. Frankly, he isn't food driven. Play is his ruling motivator. 

SO. Five months, four surgeries later, Zak's making a comeback. Eventually we hope to get him back into daycare, something he misses dearly. (My wife says I'm anthropomorphizing. The eternal debate in our household continues...).

My wife said it best..."It's better to have a healthy three-legged dog, than not have our dog back."
Ready for his first off-leash, three-legged rabbit hunt!
Hurry up, Zak! Those damn bunnies are multiplying like...well, bunnies!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fender Bender in Suburbia!

It's tough living on the mean streets of suburbia, Kansas.
Day in and day out, one never knows when you might get accosted by a terrifying, sociopathic gang of grey-haired mall-walkers. Or be attacked in one's home--one's own home!--by a siding salesman. Fear the crazed dog-walker who allows his dog to poop in your yard...and doesn't even pick it up! Beware the out-of-control street gangs, riding their bicycles, listening to their loud music, and wearing their hats sideways and pants hanging off their arses!

It's a jungle out there.

Life on the streets of Shawnee Mission, Kansas is hard, at its worst in grocery store parking lots where people jockey for close parking spots and compete for life-sustaining food.

Last Saturday, my wife and I'd just completed a food run. Packed up in the car and good to go, my wife started backing out of her spot. Some jackass in a truck behind her started backing out, too. My wife stopped, laid on the horn. The guy kept coming.


We get out. So does the vehicular would-be manslaughterer, a typically middle-aged sports fan with a beer gut tucked into a Kansas City Royals T-shirt. Very typical of the unsavory criminal element to be found in the scarier parts of suburban Kansas.

He takes a quick gander at the destruction, chuckles, says, "It was just a little bump."
In Kansas, you don't argue with people. Everyone--no matter how crazy--is allowed to carry an armory with them. All you gotta do is walk into Quik-Trip or buy bulk at Sam's Club or whatever.

Thankfully, our car appeared to be undamaged. The guy apologizes, jumps back into his big rig and takes off to perpetuate crime elsewhere before we even got a chance to exchange insurance info.

It's a big, ol' frightful world in the suburbs of Kansas, just like the Wild West all over again.

The absolute worst thing about our near-death experience? We had a witness. As my wife had laid on her horn, this woman walked toward us, watching the ensuing tragedy unfold.

Did she stop to help? Offer her witness testimony? 

Hell, no! She just laughed the whole way, shaking her head like she'd never enjoyed such hilarity, and kept on going. (The grocery store was having a big sale, after all.)

I kinda wanted to enlist the vehicular thug to run her over, but he'd already long vanished in a cloud of environmentally unsafe smoke.

All I'm saying is it's tough and scary on the well-manicured streets of suburban Kansas, absolute chaos, folks running around ignoring laws and especially, social niceties.

I'm off to Costco now to pick up a batch of guns.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Overnight, I became my Dad!

A couple weeks ago I ranted and kvetched about how there needs to be a time when you should stop bringing your parents to movie theaters due to their embarrassing behavior.

My mother-in-law responded with, "Watch it, Dad. It'll sneak up on you, too."

I started thinking about it. I'm not that guy yet, surely not. I'm way too enlightened to ever become that guy. Right? C'mon...right?

Carefully, I audited my behavior in theaters, out in public, restaurants, at church this Easter when my mom emotionally blackmailed me and my daughter into attending. And...and...

Oh, crap! I am that guy! 

In retrospect, my behavior at church had been pretty sucktacular. I imagined Baptists wanted to lynch me, conduct a good ol' fashioned, down-home, cross fry on my lawn. 

I can't say I blamed them.

During my excruciating stay in church, I made no secret about how I didn't want to be there. Sullen like a teen, I sighed, constantly checked the time on my phone, nudged and whispered to my daughter. I over-exaggerated the "polite chuckle" thing at the pastor's attempts at humor. Just trying to be the funny dad. You in the good, old days. When my daughter thought I was actually hilarious and could do no wrong.
Sigh... Sad thing was I hadn't even realized how crappy I'd behaved until my daughter pointed it out to me. On Father's Day of all days.

She said, "Oh my God, you were worse than a little kid at church!"

When did everything change? When did I transform into my dad? When did I stop being the most important person in my daughter's world?

That last question can probably be traced back to many Halloweens ago...

"What're you dressing as on Halloween this year?" I asked.

"Slutty Red Riding Hood."


My daughter and I had crossed a bridge that day, one I barely wobbled across. The Halloween before, my daughter would've been content as good, ol' what-the-hell's-wrong-with, plain-Jane, clean-cut, innocent Red Riding Hood.

But things change. Kids grow. And we, as parents, apparently revert back to awful, childish behavior by still trying to make our kids laugh in the most embarrassing ways.

Now I kinda get what my dad had been going for when he struck up an extremely loud, particularly unfunny, conversation with the characters on-screen last time I took him to the theater.

(Hanging head in shame...)

Friday, June 16, 2017

What has Liam Neeson wrought?

Over the past holidays, my wife and I were traveling to Oklahoma and got bored. On her IPad, I sought out the most critically acclaimed films of the year that we needed to see. Boring. So we ventured into the worst reviewed films of the year.

Much more fun. And very eye-opening.

Several actors popped up, 3 to 4 times each, none of these films ever in theaters. I got excited, on the track of excitement.
Nicolas Cage! Bruce Willis! John Travolta! Pierce Brosnan (I always confuse him with the Perfect Strangers "Belki" guy. Anyone else?)! These actors...several academy award nominated...apparently have sunk into direct to DVD territory. The winds of change in Horrorwood.

Oddly enough, all of them appear in a crappy movie with hype like this: "Rock Hardguy is an ex Navy Seal. Bad guys have kidnapped his son. Rock won't stop 'til he gets his son back. And cause all kinds of mayhem and destruction while doing so."

Extremely jingoistic. Making movies great again!
Thank you, Liam Neeson! This guy cornered the market, made revenge a genre unto itself, just won't quit. I just saw there's a TV series based on this movie series. Good Gawd, how many times can a man's kids be kidnapped? 

The above-mentioned actors are all honing into Liam's turf. For God's sake, Keanu of all people, got into the act, violently enacting revenge for his dead dog ("Whoa.").

First of all: kids, if your dad's Liam Neeson, seek emancipation. Second, Liam, you're probably the worst father in the world. Finally, are people really watching all of these ridiculous revenge films?

And when did Liam Neeson become a bad-ass? Wasn't he kinda' a Shakespearean, hoity-toity dandy, all up in art and what-all? What's next, the brothers from "Fraser" as tough guy hit-men? "Death Wish" with affectation and a slight kick in the step?
Anyway...back to the awful film-fest. Wine helped, but didn't quite diffuse the stink. We watched Kevin Spacey turn into a cat. We groaned as John Travolta portrayed a redneck power and company man whose brother is electrocuted in a tragic line accident (and do I have to tell you when his brother dies, he raises his arms in the rain and yells, "Nooooooo!"? Sublime.). Nic Cage flew a plane while the world was whisked away to the Rapture. And we watched it all in shock and awe.

Thank you, Liam. Thanks a lot.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Expiration Dates on Parents

Every parent has an expiration date. (Well, I mean beyond the obvious). Of course I'm talking about the proper time to stop taking a parent to the cinema.
But it's true. Ask around. I imagine you'll find a bountiful bevy of bad behavior tales at the local multi-plex. When I tell my friends of my experiences, they have stories of likewise woes.

I dunno how it happens. I mean, when my parents took me to movies, they didn't display the same bad behavior that they later did.

Hang on. I suppose that's not entirely true. I kinda think my mom's expiration date happened long ago. In her defense, my dad's pick of "good wholesome, family viewing" probably didn't help matters.

Ye gads. 

I got my first glimpse of female nudity while watching "Billy Jack." I learned how to curse from Burt Reynolds and Sheriff Joe Don Baker, the man who walked tall and sweat oceans. Gratuitous violence became entertaining (and likewise, forbidden) during "The Getaway." I grew incredibly bored with "Doctor Zhivago," trekking through those endless snowy roads, back and forth. (But we'll disregard this last movie 'cause it doesn't really fit in anywhere with my Mission Statement. Fair disclosure: I never said I was a journalist).

Anyway, Mom at the movies... As a strict, uptight, proper Baptist, she'd sit through these films--tight and white lipped--and exclaim  "Huh's!" and "Mercy's!" during the running time. So embarrassed (we went to the cheap, neighborhood theater where many school mates hung out), I'd slink down into my seat and wanted to skate away on a floor of sticky, spilled soda.

Besides the fact I never understood why Mom kept going to (or Dad kept picking) these movies, I found Mom's behavior mortifying and unlike her at-home viewing demeanor. When I was even younger, I spent many late weekend nights watching (pseudo) spooky classics like "The Birds" and "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" with Mom. She didn't utter disgust once during the films, not that I can remember. I imagine because the TV viewings were censored.

Anyway, Mom's expiration date at the movies passed many years ago.

("Doctor Zhivago" side note: For what seemed like months, Mom would walk around the house, directing an imaginary chorus with an invisible baton, bird warbling that damn Doctor Zhivago theme song. I suspect she chose to overlook the entire adultery angle of the flick.) 

Dad was another story. Again, he fostered an early love for the movies in me and was always glad to take me. After a while, it whittled down to just the two of us (as my brothers had no real interest in cinema). In those days, Dad always remained on his best behavior, respecting the proper protocol of cinema viewing.

Until the fateful day of "Dick Tracy," a day that lived on in infamy. (To anyone who was in the audience those many years ago, I apologize, I apologize, I apologize...)

But, I thought, "Why not? It's no western, but Dick Tracy's got old cars, old music, old stars...Dad should have a blast." So I took him to a sold-out, jammed pack screening.

BIG mistake.

Again, I don't know what happened. Why Dad changed. Or when "The Change" took place. But it happened that very night. Throwing away every manner he'd ever learned through sixty or so years of cinema-going, Dad apparently thought he was ringside at a rasslin' match.

He hooted and hollered. He kept up a running dialogue at the top of his lungs, one full of really weird and annoying statements:

"Looks like ol' Dickie-Boy's in a tight spot now!"

"Dickie-Boy won't stand still for that!"

And my personal favorite: "Dickie-Boy's sure got a way with the ladies, huh, Stu?"

I don't know where "Dickie Boy" came from, but during Dad's constant narrative, he came off like a crazed Disney nature narrator ("Here comes a frisky little fellow.")

I just turtled into my shirt, sunk lower, couldn't wait to bolt out of there. Felt like I should take the stage and make a public apology.

I loved my dad. But it was the last time I took him to see a film. 

What happened? Why the change? Is it something that's mandated, along with failing health, once you get older?

It simply makes no sense.

On that day, I vowed to not repeat the mistakes of the past while going to the movies with my daughter. But...if this is just part of the Circle of Life, who am I to ignore nature? 

I better start practicing now...

"Hey! Hey! Is that a Wookie or a walking carpet?"