Sunday, May 11, 2014

I'll Have a Salad.

Greetings, WYMOP readers!
Occasionally I'll be  with Handsome, and he'll say or do something that causes me to immediately say "Okay, that's a blog."
This was one of those times.
Here's the story:

I went grocery shopping with Handsome this past Sunday.
Grocery shopping with Handsome consists mainly of finding a place to sit still and wait, while the boy goes on “hunt and destroy” missions. He snakes through the crowded aisles with an almost serpentine grace and a complete lack of manners that only the young can get away with: if I were to try to follow him, Security, the police, and possibly even the FBI would be speed-dialed by panicked folks who had, just moments before, merely shaken their heads at the antics of an overgrown 11-year old and wondered what kind of parents he had.
I am that parent, and you can usually find me sitting over by the deli.
The deli, by the way, is the perfect place to stop and wait a while in a grocery store if you’re an anti-social boob, like me. Everyone there is standing at a sort of attention, eyes fixed on the number display with all the focus of a dog who’s just heard the can opener, and clutching the small slip of numbered paper that tells them where they are in the queue.
If you get too bored, then look closely and see if you can spot the Dancer. The Dancer can be either male or female, and for some reason there always seems to be one. The Dancer is the person standing quite close to the counter even though it’s not their turn, who stares at the number display like they’re trying to set it aflame through sheer force of will. If you watch, you’ll see they’re also shifting from foot to foot, almost as if nervous about something. The price of  Imported Hickory-Smoked Yak Ham, perhaps?
The Dancer has to go to the bathroom. Has to go quite badly, in fact —  elimination with extreme prejudice is in their future. But they can not leave the deli counter. If they do, then their number is immediately called out and they miss their turn, forcing them to take another number and start all over again. This is part of the magic of the deli, and is unexplainable by either science or mathematics, but it is rather fun to watch.
Other than the Dancer, the deli is usually pretty quiet. There is a sort of “elevator” feel to the place, where everyone stands in their own space, doesn’t talk, and would rather take a dripping baby gherkin to an unprotected eyeball than make actual eye-contact with any of their fellows in waiting.
Away through the crowd he went, and then back he came, one of those pre-cooked, rotisserie chickens in hand. He dropped it into the cart and was away again.
And came back again. This time with a package of thin-cut steaks.
Away again. Back again. Boneless pork chops.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
Eventually he came to rest, standing just to the other side of the cart, gazing at me across the mound of foodstuffs he’d collected with his (sometimes startlingly) blue eyes.
“Can we go? I’m hungry.”
“Sure,” I said, looking over the cart’s contents. “What do you want for dinner?”
“Can I have a salad?”
I gave him a squint worthy of a B-movie actor with a Clint Eastwood fetish.
“A what?”
“A salad.”
From behind me came a shout, a joyous sound almost giddy with delight. I shifted the cart sideways about a two feet, moving it well out of the traffic lane. Then I stared into it, poking about and moving the larger stuff, just in case I was missing something. Milk, bread, yogurt, cereal, chips, hamburger rolls, peanut butter, soda… and, of course, hamburgers, steaks, boneless pork chops and one whole chicken.
Nothing green, or leafy, or that was grown in the ground for as far as the eye could see. Or at least to the other side of the cart.
“You want a salad?”
A nod.
There was a commotion behind me, then a fast repetition of words.
“Excuse me, pardon me, excuse me…”.
I recognized the voice as the joyous shouter from moments before just as a cart whizzed through the space in the traffic lane I had so recently vacated. It was the Dancer I had spotted earlier, a woman in, of all things, blue leopard-print pants, raced along in a half-run that was a curious mix of pride and desperation.
“From what? There’s nothing but meat in here.”
“Well,” he said, big round eyes growing bigger and rounder. And, somehow, bluer. “Can’t we just put strips of steak and pork and chicken into a bowl?”
My eyes were as wide as his.
“And that’s a salad?”
Right there in the middle of the store, the boy threw his fists in the air like the home team had scored the winning touchdown, and shouted two words:
I stared at him.
“Man-salad?” I said.
“Man-salad,” he said.
So I thought about it.

I put bacon bits on mine. It was delicious.

Talk to you later!

...and as a little extra, just for laughs (if you're into this kind of thing -- I have to say, it made me laugh), here's a little prank video!
Make sure you have your sound on, and listen to the guy on the left breathing in the end. Oh my God!

Friday, April 11, 2014


Greetings, WYMOP readers!
I'd like to take a moment this weekend to tell you a little about last weekend.
Ready? Here's the story:

The stereotype is that teens are surly and oft-times ill-tempered with their parents. We see it in books, movies and on television. Little kids are always cute —  just look at the
Olson twins on Full House (“You got it, dude!”) —  and teens are always angry at their parents for not understanding them, quite often storming from the room with a shouted “I hate you!”
Those middle kids, though, the ones they call “tweens” (ages ten through twelve, no longer a kid but not yet a teen, they’re stuck in-between) are a little harder to pin down. Usually they’re portrayed as confusion in expensive footwear, the girls wearing too much makeup and push-up bras (though they have nothing, as yet, to push), the boys wearing odd hair, clearasil, and pants they should really only wear to the proctologist, all of them
looking ahead at their teen years with a mixture of anticipation and dread, but about as much understanding as I exhibit when confronted with tax forms.
My son, though, is what I’ve decided to call “eleventeen”. What I mean by that is he’s eleven, sure, but he’s advanced. Oh, he still wanders around packed with enough
uncertainty and self-doubt to make even Tony Robbins wet his pants, weep uncontrollably and take fierce hold of something large and safe-feeling until help arrives; in that way he’s just like all the other tweens around. That’s not the way in which he’s “advanced”.
He tells me he hates me. Just about every day. He doesn’t do it in that shouting, arm-flapping, “this is where the script says dramatic exit” kind of way. He does it, instead, in a flat, no-nonsense, “this is the way it is” fashion that would make Joe Friday turn from the witness he was questioning and stare in open-mouthed, but understated, awe.
And it gets me every time.
I know he’s kidding when he says it. I know he’s thinking of it as kind of a cool, funny way to interact with his old man (My father used to be “the old man”, but now it’s me. @#$% you, Time!), but eventually it starts to wear on me. Eventually I’ve had enough, and I snap, like the broad back of the camel under the weight of that single, proverbial straw.
This is the story of one of those times.
I snapped last weekend.
The casual mentions of “I hate you” had built up to the point where I had to physically climb over them in order to enter the house. I opened the door, scraped a couple of left-over “you”s off my shoes, and strode on in.
“You!” I shouted, leveling a finger at him. “Boy! Get ready to go with me for the night. I’m taking a quick shower, and then we’re out the door!”
“Where are we going?”
“Out the door!” I repeated.
“But where are we going once we go ‘out the door’?”
“Into the Jeep!”
He hadn’t moved, just sat there staring at me with bewildered baby blues.
“Where are we going in the Jeep?”
“Someplace,” I boomed, then paused dramatically, leaning close as if I was about to take a confidential tone.
I didn’t.
“Else!” I shouted, then spun away to stride majestically toward the shower.
“But where?” he shouted.
“Time’s a-wasting, Boy!” I shouted back. “We don’t want to be late!”
“For what?”
I pretended not to hear him over the rushing water, and proceeded with a 5-minute shower. Including shaving my entire head and face, that’s maintaining some major momentum. My fresh shirt clung to my half-dried back as I hustled through the house en-route to the driveway, followed by a confused-looking eleventeen-year-old carrying his overnight bag.
“To the car!”
“I thought you said the Jeep,” he said.
“To the Jeep!”
We mounted up and I pulled out into traffic, then cast an eye at the dashboard clock.
“We’ve got twelve minutes to get there, and it’s in the next town over. God I hope there’s no line!”
“But where— ”
“I’m in a hurry, Handsome, and I’m from Massachusetts,” I said, tapping the horn and swooping around someone slowing to take a left. “ You know what that means?”
He buckled his seat belt.
Then he joined me in reciting the Massachusetts State Prayer for Drivers in a Hurry: “No cops… no cops… no cops…”
I managed not to kill anyone (through judicious use of two sidewalks and one well-tended front lawn) and was pulling into the parking lot in nine minutes.
“We’re going to make it!” I shouted, overcome with Happy Face.
The parking lot was full.
“Crap!” I shouted, overcome with Sad Face.
I zipped up and down the aisles like a Supermarket Sweep contestant on speed, looking for the elusive “empty space”.
I started to pull into an empty space, only to slam on the brakes when I discovered a Mini Cooper taking up the front half of the spot.
Beside me, the seat belt had just saved Handsome’s face from a forceful introduction to the dashboard, and he was busy laughing at me.
I went around again, Pac-Maning through the pattern like Inky was on my tail and Blinky was closing fast (That’s a reference to an ancient form of entertainment called Pac-Man, kids. Look it up!). Then, as I came around a turn, I saw an empty space straight ahead, at the other end of the lot.
Mario Andretti would have wept with joy at how hard I stomped on that gas pedal.
I slid into the spot, with a squeal of tires on left-over winter sand and a very loud “Woo-hoooo!” Then I saw the sign at the end of the spot, wavering at me through the heat rising off my hood.
Zip-Car Parking Only
“Son of a bitch!” I shouted, gesticulating wildly at the sign as if  
  1. it could see me and be insulted, and
  2. it had no right to be there.
Neither of these was true.
I backed out of the spot, jumped on the gas to take another turn about The Parking Lot from Hell, then hit the brakes again, Handsome bouncing into his seat-belt, then into the seat, then into the seat belt like it was a roller coaster. I stared in the rear-view mirror as some dude in a sports car ripped into the spot I had just vacated with the squeal of tires on leftover winter sand and a shouted “Woo-hoooo!”. He then began to shout incoherently while gesticulating wildly.
I laughed, thinking what an idiot, completely overlooking the fact that I had just been that idiot. Feeling better about the whole thing for no discernible reason, I stepped on the gas.
Only to jam on the brakes again.
There was a lovely young gentleman crossing the aisle just in front of me, thumbing a key fob. Car lights flashed to my left, and I realized this excellent and handsome specimen of humanity would be getting into that bright and shiny car and leaving the lot. I threw the Jeep into reverse and backed up a bit, giving him room to pull out, then sat with my directional on and watched the dude in the sports car behind me.
He’d backed out of the Zip-Car spot, cut his wheel to the left, and was now jammed right up to my rear bumper. His rear bumper was nestled in tight to the parked cars behind him, and he really had no where to go. I wondered for a moment if my backing up had anything to do with his predicament, but stopped worrying about it when I saw he was still shouting at the Zip-Car sign, now making some inventive finger gestures as well. I had no idea why he would tell a sign to “Get that piece of @#$% out of my way!” and “Where the !@#$ did you learn to drive?”, but I turned up the radio to drown out the obscenities filling the air, and continued to wait.
And wait.
And wait.
And wait, while the mentally deficient troll in the @#$%box ahead of me took his own damn time vacating his parking spot. The engine was running —  I could see the exhaust coming from his tail pipe—  but he just sat there. Checking his mirrors. Making a phone call. Having a career and raising a family. Empires fell and new ones arose while this complete and utter dick just sat there, letting me wait.
Handsome was writing down some of the more inventive language coming from the car behind me, no doubt planning to score big points on the schoolyard for using a 5-F word combo even I had never heard of.
I turned up the radio.
Eventually, after keeping us waiting for nearly sixty whole seconds, the vomitous mass in the Chevy backed out of his spot. I slid into the slot so quickly I may have actually gotten there before he left. Ignoring the risk of the aforementioned time-space paradox, Handsome and I leapt from the car.
The gentleman who had been stuck behind me, rather than zipping along the now unobstructed aisle, paused to exchange a few friendly words. Apparently he was a butcher who was very interested in promoting his wares, as he kept repeating that I should eat his meat. Though it was a terrific offer, Handsome and I were now running late, and I had no time to talk. Waving to the man over my shoulder in a friendly fashion, I didn’t even have time to use all my fingers.
I’m sure he got the message from just the one.
We sprinted across the parking lot, Handsome still asking where we were going.
“This way! Keep up!”
We reached the edge of the parking lot, our way blocked by a river of traffic in the road beyond. Without hesitation I launched myself into the street, landing right in the center, legs spread in a heroic stance, one arm thrust skyward, palm out.
Picture Thor on traffic duty.
As I landed, I screamed a single word at the top of my lungs.
Traffic skidded to a halt. Handsome tottered across the road behind me.
“Thanks!” I shouted over my shoulder and led him into the movie theater as a cacophony of horns rose up in the street. It was 7:04.
“Two for the 7:00 show,” I said to the bespectacled blonde hair running the ticket window, “if there are any left.”
“Eighteen dollars,” he or she said. No, the person under that hair was definitely a he.
I think.
I paid the fee, took the tickets, and started across the lobby at a trot.
“But what are we going to see?” shouted Handsome, jogging alongside. I merely pointed to the door ahead, the entrance to theater #3, above which was a sign reading Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
From the corner of my eye I saw the boy stop dead. I paused, turning to see what was wrong. The eleventeen-year-old threw his hands in the air with a smile to make orthodontists weep and toothpaste advertising execs drool.
“I love you!” he shouted.

That was so worth it.

Talk to you later!
~ ~ * * ~ ~

For a fun video this week, I'd like to show you what it does look like when I'm confronted with tax forms. Or, what it would look like if I were. I do my best not to.

From the BBC show Black Books,
Bernard doing his accounts.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Parent-Normal Activity.

Greetings WYMOP fans. I want to tell you a little about my day.

So there I sat this afternoon, working on a story. It’s a good story —  could be a great story—  and it kind of came out of nowhere.
Sometimes, those are the best kind.
It’s a story about an old man whose wife has passed, and he finds something a little surprising waiting for him when he goes into the basement to do laundry for the first time.
A little surprising.
A little strange.
A little scary.
But the story has become more than I meant it to as my character starts, over the course of the story, to come to terms with her passing. Not just “coping” with it, but actually looking at it and how it’s making him feel. Some of what he’s finding out about himself comes as a bit of a surprise to him —  and to me, too, since this is in addition to what I’d intended, which was surprising, strange and scary.
And short. I forgot to mention short. I started this story last week, and it was supposed to be my Friday Fright. Just 1,000 words. No more.
It’s over 9,000 words and climbing, and I’ve really no idea how long it’ll wind up.
So as I was sitting there this afternoon, just happily banging away at the keyboard, I was reveling in the power of a writer’s imagination and the places it can take me without any conscious direction. It’s like the world’s biggest movie screen and adventure ride, rolled into one.
I was happy.
Then I heard a sound from downstairs. One I recognized. Two I recognized, really. The slam of the back storm-door closing, followed by the bang of the back door itself closing.
Wow, I thought. I thought I was all alone in the house.
Then I thought about it. I’d heard the outer door close, then the inner. That meant someone had come into the house. My dad, I assumed, had come home for lunch. Then I looked at the clock.
Lunch or something, I thought. It’s only 10:20 in the morning. A little early…
So I went downstairs to see what was going on. What I found was… nobody.
I was right. I was alone in the house, and though I’d clearly heard someone coming in, there was neither a person on the ground floor, nor even a car in the driveway.
That’s odd. I could have sworn I heard…
Now, if this were a movie, this is the point where we would show a flashback to earlier in the week when I watched two movies: Paranormal Activity, and Paranormal Activity II —  a pair of haunted house movies. Said flashback would include every scene where doors swung all by themselves. Usually when no one was looking. Sometimes they swung open, but sometimes they swung closed. With a slam, or a bang.
A slam or a bang usually preceded something bad happening. Generally to the poor slob who was all alone in the house.
If this were a movie, the scene would cut back from that flashback to a shot of me, pounding up the stairs toward my office.
Which I did do.
It would show me sitting back behind my desk and tentatively tapping at the keys.
Which I did do.
It would show me pausing in said tapping, frequently, to look back over both shoulders. Just  to make sure everything back there was still right where I’d left it.
Which I did do. 
So I sit here this afternoon, unhappily banging away at the keyboard, trapped in the power of a writer’s imagination and the places it can take me without any conscious direction. It’s like the world’s biggest movie screen and scare ride, rolled into one.
I am unhappy.

I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for the doors banging like that. I’m sure my father simply came into the house noisily, only to turn right around and leave quietly. The thought that he has never left the house quietly in my adult life has flitted about my head looking for a way to get in, but I am steadfastly keeping it out.
Away, damn thought. There’s no place for you here.
I’m continuing to work in my little office upstairs, and ignoring any and all sounds I hear coming from downstairs, especially when I’m alone in the  house.
Yes, comes the thought, because that tactic worked so well for the people in the mov—
Away, damn thought. There’s no place for you here.
So anyway, I’ll keep working on scary stories up here in this little office. Because nothing is wrong. And nothing has happened.

So far.

Talk to you later… I hope.