Monthly Archives: January 2010

Talk the Talk

The other morning as I was drinking a cup of coffee my son, Clyde, came into the kitchen and said, “I just had a poop so hard it bruised my butthole.”

Not quite sure what to do with this information, I took another sip and said, “Maybe you should try drinking more water.”

Clyde scratched his belly and seemed to seriously consider what I had just said for a second or two before finally replying, “I dunno. Last week I drank water all day long at school, and then the poop just shot out of my butt.”

“Hmm,” I said, momentarily stymied. “Well then, I don’t know what to tell you.”

“That’s okay,” he said, smiling as he left the kitchen. “I just wanted to let you know.”

Umm . . . thanks?

Without a doubt, my son Clyde is the King of TMI—Too Much Information. You might think that this was impossible. That someone as young as Clyde—possessing neither a cell phone nor his own reality show—could not even be in the running for such a title, but you would be wrong. Because even though Clyde’s opportunities to overshare might be a little more limited than some, he easily overcomes this slight disadvantage by telling absolutely everything to everyone.

I know that this is probably a trait I should try and discourage. The thing is, though, that after spending my day trying to pry the tiniest little bit of information out of his teenage sister, Clementine, Clyde’s tendency to overshare can be rather nice. While I might get too much out of Clyde, it helps make up for the fact that I get absolutely nothing out of Clementine.

Talking to Clementine is like talking to the chief PR flack of an oil company that has just managed to drop a fully loaded tanker smack in the middle of the rain forest. They know they have to say something, but they’ll be damned if they’re going to give out any more information than necessary. And any information they do release is run through so many internal monitors that what comes out can hardly qualify as English.

“How was school?” I might ask.


“Anything interesting happen?”


“Is that a yes?”


“A no?


“Just tell me this: is there anyone I need to call up and apologize to on behalf of our family?”

Ask Clyde, on the other hand, how his day went, and I’ll get a twenty minute description of what happened before the first bell even rang. What’s more, if I show the slightest interest, I’ll get pictures, and sometimes even a map. “Okay, see, this one guy—you know, the guy whose mom we saw at the store? He looks like this. Anyway, he went here, and then this other guy came up here . . .” The end result of his story usually turns out to be something like, “Well, anyway, they almost ran right into each other, but didn’t. And then I pooped. A lot. ”

Meanwhile, I find out later that Clementine’s “Mm” actually translated into “Two girls got into a fight in the cafeteria, and one of them broke the other one’s collar bone, and then the cops came and we had to spend the rest of the day in an assembly talking about non-violence.”

Surely there must be something other than the King of TMI and the Queen of Obscurantism.
Unfortunately, just like in a deck of cards, I think that that thing must be the Joker. And if that’s the case, then I’m sure that—as usual—the joke’s on me.

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Crack Boxes

Recently, I needed to sit down with my son, Clyde, so that I could ask him a few serious questions about his juice box consumption. Clyde, I said, once you start drinking juice boxes, do you find it difficult to stop? Are you consuming more than seven juice boxes a week? Are more than fifty percent of your friends also juice box drinkers? Do you find yourself worrying about the next juice box, even while you’re still drinking one? Do you try to hide how many juice boxes you have drunk? And finally, as the result of excessive juice box drinking, have you ever wet the bed?

His answer to all of these questions was the same: one long, drawn out slurp on his straw. It didn’t matter, though—I already knew all of the answers myself. And so I just sighed, pulled the sheets off of the bed, and started to plot how best to remove juice boxes from Clyde’s life.

The best thing to do, of course, would be to keep him away from places were juice boxes were likely to be found. The “lead me not into temptation” route. Unfortunately, some of the most tempting places include soccer, friends’ houses, and, of course, school. The only way he could be more surrounded by juice boxes would be if he worked at the juice box factory.

One place I do try to keep juice-box free is my own house. But this isn’t so much because the juice boxes are a temptation to him, but rather because they are a torment. It’s like cocaine: I have always heard that the basic problem with cocaine is that there is never enough of it—no amount is ever sufficient. (Think about Al Pacino in “Scarface;” obviously, he had lots of the stuff, and yet he was still pretty funny about people taking it.)

In my house, it’s exactly the same—but with juice boxes. As far as Clyde is concerned, there are just not enough juice boxes in the world for him to have to share. It doesn’t matter how many we have, a bag full, or a truckload, it always ends the same: with Clyde up all night, grinding his teeth in worry, ever alert for the soft susurration of straw piercing foil. It means that he will come sliding into the kitchen every time the sink drains, thinking that the last gurgle is the sound of one of his precious juice boxes being slurped dry. It means that whenever I retrieve anything from anywhere on the shelf where the juice box is kept, Clyde will be at my elbow.

“Whatcha’ doin’? Can I have a juice box?”

On those rare occasions when juice boxes have made it past my perimeter defense and into the house, I know I should probably just sit Clyde down at the table with the whole case and say, “Here you go—knock yourself out,” but I can’t. It’s not that I have a problem with him drinking a gallon of juice—it’s just that I have a problem with him carving out his own corner in the landfill while doing it. I feel the same way about individually wrapped cheese sticks and cookies—they’re great for things like road trips and classrooms, but here, at home, where we all share the same germs anyway, can’t the cookies all touch each other in the bag? And can’t the juice all slosh around together in one big bottle?

Apparently not, because Clyde—who will not eat a piece of fruit unless it is rolled in bacon grease—will not drink juice out of the bottle.

Sometimes, it’s enough to make me wonder what’s really inside of those juice boxes. Who knows? Maybe they have more in common with “Scarface” than I thought.

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Okay, I know it’s been well over a month now, but I just have to weigh in on the whole Adam Lambert/American Music Awards thing. (*Spoiler Alert* Anybody out there who hasn’t yet gotten a chance to watch Adam Lambert’s man-kissing, trolley-stopping—this is a real term; look it up—dancer-dragging, and, lest we forget, face-in-crotch-smashing, epic performance at the AMAs needs to youtube it right now.) I also know that the whole incident has already been covered extensively by every publication from People to the Wall Street Journal, but, really, I have to comment on it, too.

Not because I’m a huge “American Idol” fan. (Actually, I’m a little scared of Ryan Seacrest, in the same way I’m a little scared of Dick Clark. There’s a “portrait of Dorian Grey” thing going on with both of them that I’d rather steer well clear of.) And not because I’m a big fan of awards shows in general (I don’t even like award sceremonies where I’m the one getting the award—why would I want to watch somebody else doing it?) No, the reason I need to comment on the Adam Lambert thing is because of the argument so many commentators have made against Adam and his performance—namely, the one where they said “But what about the children?.

What about the children? Okay, let’s forget that the American Music Academy must have been aware of the fact that the song in question, “For Your Entertainment,” is an homage to rough sex. (Which is probably why is was scheduled at air at 11 pm. On a school night.) And let’s forget the fact that when Pink performed a similar song and dance at the AMAs a few years earlier, no one batted an eye (much). Let’s forget about everything except for the one argument that has yet to be made, and the one that I am making now.

What about “Barnyard”?

Have you seen this show? It’s a cartoon that’s on in the mornings before school, and one whose advertisers consist entirely of Nerf, Barbie, and Hasbro. In fact, I think it’s pretty obvious that, considering its time slot, its advertisers, and its medium (animation), this is a show that is marketed to kids. And yet, the star of the show is a pre-operative transexual bovine. In other words, the lead character is a milk cow named Otis. A guy cow with an udder.

The first time Clyde watched it I didn’t think anything of it: I could only hear the dialogue from the next room. The next time, however, I was actually in the room, and I couldn’t help but notice that whenever Otis stood up on his hind legs (which was a lot)–well, let me just put it this way: Otis would have no problem getting beads at Mardis Gras.

“Who’s that?” I asked, intrigued by the combination of Barry White’s voice and Pamela Anderson’s physique.

“That’s Otis,” Clyde said.

“And is Otis supposed to be a guy cow, or a girl cow?”

Clyde rolled his eyes at me. “A guy cow. His name is Otis.”

Oooo-kay. Hey, I don’t have a problem with it: the more the merrier, I always say.

But I can’t believe that the same people who are going to let that slide at 7 am are the ones throwing a fit about one hot guy kissing another at 11 pm that same night. Then again, we’ve always been more tolerant of our animated friends then our real ones: the only time Bugs Bunny ever put on any clothing at all was to dress in drag and try to seduce Elmer Fudd. Come to think of it, he even sang and danced while he did it, too.

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That storm we had last month was some storm.

It reminded me of the storms we used to have, back when I first moved to Flagstaff twenty-five years ago. Back when it snowed on Labor Day (once), and Veteran’s Day (often). And yes, I know: everything was better back in “the old days.” But it really did use to snow more—just ask Al Gore. During this most recent blizzard (blizzard—how cool is that?) I ventured outside during the height of it, walking downtown at 2 am. It was incredible: the wind howled, the snow swirled, and I felt like the last person on earth—at least until another lone pedestrian swirled up in front of me, only to silently disappear again back into the darkness.

I ended up walking down the middle of the street, in part to reinforce my delightful post-apocalyptic fantasy, but also because, in the middle of the storm, none of the sidewalks were yet shoveled.

That was okay—mine weren’t either. Who shovels snow in the middle of the night? (Besides temporary city workers, of course. Bless every one of their hourly hearts.) The next day, however, was a different story.

The magic of the blizzard was gone. In its place were just these enormous piles of snow, and sunlight so bright it hurt your eyes. I felt like I had had a one-night-stand with Ol’ Man Winter, and awoke in the morning to nothing but empty bottles and regrets. And shoveling.

Or at least, that’s what I woke up to. And my neighbors. What you woke up to, I’m not so sure.

Yeah, I’m talking to you. The one who didn’t greet the morning after with a shovel in your hand. Or if you did, you only wielded it long enough to shovel out a path to the four-wheel drive Ford Valdez you keep parked in your driveway.

Look, I’m happy for you. Really. Words can’t express how happy I am that you finally got a chance to put that behemoth into four-wheel drive, even if it was only long enough to make it up and over the berm the snowplow left in front of your driveway. But here’s the thing: you still have to shovel your sidewalk. All of it. Every last bit. Even the parts that you, personally, don’t walk on. (This means that you can’t just shovel a path from your front door to your mail box and garage.)

You do this not because it’s the law (although it is), and not because it’s a great cardio workout (ditto), but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the neighborly thing to do. And you do it because, if you don’t, and you happen to live on one of the streets that my kids need to walk down to get to school, I’m going to kill you.

I really don’t know how to make it any simpler than that. When you don’t shovel your sidewalks, my kids are forced to walk in the street to get to school. And, I don’t know if you realize this, but my kids are idiots. The fact that they are surrounded by two-ton vehicles being piloted across ice-slicked roads by people who are forwarding funny porn shots on their iPhones does not even cross their tiny little minds as they push and shove each other in front of oncoming traffic. They are idiots. They are children.

But they are mine. And I happen to like them. A lot.

So, shovel your damn sidewalk. And when the snowplow finally comes by and plows your street, piling all of the snow back on top of your nicely shoveled walk, shovel it again.

And again.

Because it’s the neighborly thing to do. And it’s the law. And, oh yeah: if you don’t, some crazy, irate mother just might kill you. (That would be me.)

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