Thursday, August 28, 2008

Safety First

In order to be more healthy, I've decided to start taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator. This isn't some rinky-dink commitment, either, like getting a colonic before the Oscars. I work on the eighth floor, so when I go upstairs there are a lot of them for me to climb.

I've also started eating healthy lunches. For example, today I had a ham sandwich, an orange, some potatoes, and a bottle of water: nothing but health food for me. Okay, it is true that the potatoes were fried and salted, the ham sandwich was a foot long and covered in mayonnaise, and the orange had chocolate on it, but it was healthier than my usual lunch eating spoonfuls of sugared lard out of the container.

After I was finished, I decided I wanted a chocolate waffle. So I grabbed some change out of my desk and headed down the stairs. Since I didn't know how much the waffles cost, I decided to grab 1.50, which was a fifty-cent piece, two twenty-cent pieces, and six ten-cent pieces.

For reasons not entirely clear to me, I decided to toss the handful of coins up in the air and catch it as I walked out into the stairwell. I caught eight coins, but the ninth (a ten-cent piece) got away from me and went "Ching!" on the stairs and bounced up into the air.

Plonk! It hit the handrail and went vertically.

Whack! It hit the wall on the other side, and then in a totally improbable bounce it ricocheted off the stairs again. I couldn’t have done it if I wanted to. So now the coin was on the landing for the 7th, and I was on the 8th.

Ching! Plong! Whack! It ricocheted again, dropping another flight of stairs, and was on the 6th. I couldn't see it any more, but I could hear it echoing through the stairwell.

Ching! Plonk! Whack! Fifth floor.

Ching! Plonk! Whack! Fourth floor.

Ching! Plonk! Whack! Third floor.

Ching! Plonk! Sploink!

"OW! Dammit, my eye!"

That didn't sound good. I waited a moment and heard no more coin bouncing, but I did hear a great deal of cursing from the bottom step.

"Hey, asshole, you just hit me in the face!"

I held my breath, saying nothing. I didn't recognize the voice, but it was one of those voices that sounded like it might be coming from somebody with hairy knuckles. And statistics show that hairy-knuckled people are both prone to violence and typically bigger than you are, probably because they're more closely related to gorillas.

"That's it, fucker, I'm gonna come up there and kick your ass!" the hairy-knuckled, overreacting, angry man said.

I heard heavy treads on the steps far below, which is no mean feat since they're made of concrete. This was definitely somebody I didn't wanna meet in the stairwell.

"There's no way you could make it all the way up ten flights of stairs!" I used the huskiest voice I could muster up to try to sound tough.

He continued to climb. "Bastard! You're gonna be shitting shoe leather for a week!"

That really didn't sound good. "Yeah? Well, you'll be making change from your eyeballs!"

And I threw the entire handful of coins down the stairwell, trusting in luck that at least one would hit its mark. Preferably the fifty-cent piece, since it was the biggest.

Ching-ching-ching-ching-ching-ching-ching-ching! Plonk-plonk- plonk- plonk- plonk- plonk- plonk- plonk! Whack-whack- whack- whack- whack- whack- whack- whack!

And so on and so forth, until around floor four I heard the sound I'd been waiting for:


Followed quickly by "Son of a biiiiiiiiiiitch!"


Then silence for a few seconds, followed by an ominous groaning.

I decided I didn't need a chocolate waffle after all and went back to my office.

And I also decided to go back to eating sugared lard.

Clinton Simply Following Obama Pattern?

New York's Junior Senator Hillary Clinton may have ended her 2008 presidential campaign last night by encouraging her supporters to acclaim Barack Obama the nominee, but make no mistake: she's following a template forged by the master politician himself.

"Think back to the 2004 convention, when the Democrats nominated their weakest candidate in a half-century," said a source at Politico. "Who delivered an electrifying address that catapulted him onto the national stage? An unknown Illinois politician with thin credentials and a far-left background named Barack Obama, that's who. Is there any reason to think that 2012 won't see history repeat itself?"

Though many were sad to see the end of what has been called "Donna Reed meets Cinderella meets Mr. Smith goes to Washington", Clinton Supporter Evelyn Millbanks put the loss into perspective. "Four more years of seasoning and accomplishments will definitely put her on the short list for 2012. After all, a dream deferred is still a dream, right?"

Pundits said that, while few rated her chances late last year, her campaign success has opened eyes to just how far a woman can go. "To come this far, and almost grab the brass ring, really shows you how far this country's advanced," said one commenter. "There's no shame to losing out to two political heavyweights like Barack Obama and Joe Biden, that's for sure. She can be proud of what she did."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

These Things I Believe

It's platform season, so I thought I'd supply a list of things that I believe, because one of the things I believe is that people who believe differently from me are wrong.

And I'm not afraid to say that.

1) I believe that stupidity is both hereditary and catching, so if you have stupid parents or consort with lots of stupid people, it's almost certain that you'll be stupid, too.

2) I believe that when my wife painted my son's fingernails last week, that was wrong, and if we were to divorce that should be grounds for me getting custody of the children.

3) I believe that paper clips should only be stored in a small bowl, and never in one of those mock-guillotine-radiation chambers so you have to stick your finger down in there and worry about getting erectile dysfunction.

4) I believe that the government shouldn't subsidize art or sports, except for the activities I enjoy, like football and musical theater.

5) On the subject of governance, I further believe my taxes should be lower, but that your taxes should be higher.

6) I believe most art is crap and artists are stupid, which can be proven by listening to them explain their crappy art using stupid, meaningless phrases. I think this correlates to my first belief.

7) I believe caring people don't let their loved ones get degrees in sociology.

8) I believe that it should be legal to wedgie people who use Latin phrases in arguments.

9) I believe the plural of platypus should be platypi, because platypuses looks like the name of an STD that you hope your girlfriend doesn't have.

10) Also on the subject of language, I believe the plural of moose should be meese.

11) I believe that when you discover that everyone else thinks you're wrong, you should suspect a global conspiracy to hide the truth. Anything else would be irrational.

12) I believe that monkeys in the zoo should be required to wear pants, because they make you look bad in front of your date, and their libertarian nudism and wanton scratching is further demoralizing to those of us who chafe within our Dockers on a hot summer day.

13) I believe that we should set aside a Hawaiian island and allow people to hunt criminals who have received the death penalty, and film it, and then we'd have a hit show on our hands.

14) I believe we were wrong, as a people, to stop putting ne'er do wells in the stocks in the town square and pelting them with garbage. We were also wrong to stop wearing the great big black hats with gold buckles on them. We were not wrong to do away with the dresses that went from chin to ankle, though, because ta-tas are meant to be enjoyed, not bundled away like flatulent relatives when visitors come over.

15) I believe that you can't buy love, but you can buy hair and vodka, which should get you pretty close.

16) I believe that if you work hard, stay out of trouble, pay close attention to your investment portfolio, and treat people right, you'll end up paying far more taxes than the slovenly drunkard who has repeat appearances on 'Cops' for beating up total strangers, and in the end you'll both be dead and he'll have been on TV a lot more than you will have, unless you do something crazy like die in some seedy motel room while having a sexual tryst with a B-list celebrity.

17) I believe it's impossible for us to say which person in the preceding statement led the fuller life without knowing which B-list celebrity it was.

18) Speaking of has-been celebrities, I believe the biggest problem with shows like Dancing with the Stars is that it leads people to believe that would-be porn stars like Kim Kardashian are stars, whereas they are in fact skanks.

19) I believe you've spent more time reading this list than was probably justifiable.

20) I believe that kids these days are wrong, and it was better in my day. I didn't use to believe that, but then I turned 30.

Grammar Not Included

This is a pathetic statement:
Sea ice is the primary habitat of polar bears. They depend on it to hunt their primary prey, ringed seals, which create lairs on ice for breeding maintain breathing holes with powerful claws.
Not because I feel bad for the drowning white agents of icy death, but because it makes no sense whatsoever. Try reading the damn thing a second time! Who's maintaining breathing holes with their powerful claws? The bears? The seals? The Leviathan waiting to be released by Gaea to destroy us all for our crimes against Earth?

Sheesh. And I still labor to get over 20 hits a day. I must really suck.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First National Bank of Love

It's not on accident that I have been married for fifteen years. For most of those years I was married on purpose. And fifteen years is a long time, especially once you consider that the average celebrity is only married long enough to cheat at their reception.

Friends sometimes ask me what it takes to stay married for so long. Or at least, they would if I had friends. But I don't have friends, which is one of the secrets of staying married for a long, long time.

I'm kidding. If you're a man, then the real secret to staying married for a long time is realizing that your marriage is like a bank. It works like this:

When you get start dating someone, you open a "Love Account" with them. From then on, everything that you do is either a deposit or a withdrawal from this account.

Surprise her with flowers? Deposit. Run over her dog in the driveway? Withdrawal.

Take her to a chick flick? Deposit. Get caught opening an account in another branch? Big withdrawal, both from this account and possibly from the blood bank.

And so on and so forth.

If at some point you bounce a check (by, say, sleeping with her best friend and her sister in the same night) then the relationship is over, and your account is closed without further penalty, except perhaps her making disparaging comments about your male adequacy to everyone that you know.

This problem can be easily solved through relocation.

On the other hand, if you build up a large enough account at a particular branch, you can purchase a Diamond-Backed CD. Every CD is unique because they have various rates of return, depending on the branch, and their lifespan is not fixed. But some points are common to all Diamond-Backed CD.

Your branch will, on some routine basis, credit your account. Rates and periods vary by branch, but you can generally figure out the rate and frequency of return before purchasing your CD if you pay close enough attention.

With this periodic payment, you can begin to make routine withdrawals without worrying about zeroing out your balance, such as adopting the habit of sitting around in the living room every Sunday afternoon in your underwear watching Baywatch and scratching yourself with the remote.

Remember, though, the principle of deposits and withdrawals still holds. Only now if you bounce a check it's a big deal, and will end up costing you massive bank fees and penalties (generally half of what you have, plus a monthly fee until you die).

It's also worth noting that the exchange rate from when you first opened the account has changed. Things that were valuable before are worth less after purchase, and what was worthless before may now be highly valuable. The exchange rates will not be posted, nor can you find them online.

For instance, let's look at flowers. When you first open your account, buying flowers is a big deposit, like when you used to find five bucks in college and knew that tonight you'd eat something other than uncooked Ramen noodles.

Once you've bought a Diamond-Backed CD, buying flowers represents a much smaller deposit. It moves the account up some, true, but it's not going to buy you much more than an evening in a bar with your friends. If you want to go to a strip club, or if your friends are women, you'll have to either make a bigger deposit or accept that your balance will drop.

Luckily, new revenue opportunities do arrive when you purchase the Diamond-Backed CD. You can make a deposit by, for example, scrubbing the toilets or changing the baby. You will also receive a substantial insurance payment if you receive a spider-related injury. Before, these opportunities didn't exist.

Unfortunately, most branches do not offer a routine statement of account beyond giving you general signs of your fiscal well-being, such as slapping you every time you touch them when your balance has almost dropped to zero. Investors are advised to carefully monitor their branch for signs that their account is critically low before making any serious withdrawals, such as buying a sportscar with their children's college funds.

What most men do not realize, though, is that the Diamond-Backed CD also offer rewards for maintaining a high balance (some branch offices do not offer this, which is why many men choose to sell their Diamond-Backed CD at a loss of half their net assets in order to open a CD at a more appealing branch). These rewards far surpass a mere 1% cash back on travel to the continental 48 states on weekdays in the winter.

Your branch may give you such exciting gifts as a free pass on forgetting things, control over the TV remote, private modeling of lingerie, and a wide variety of sexual diversions delivered to the privacy of your own home (or office) in a completely legal and cost-free fashion.

How's that for fringe benefits?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Democratic VP Candidate Shocks Nation!

[Until we have a democratic VP candidate, I'm running one of these each day.]

Registrants on the Obama Warning System have just received the following text message, shocking supporters and opponents alike:

"VP: Ashton Kutcher!"

"It's a perfect choice," said an Obama strategist. "We need somebody who makes Obama look coherent without a teleprompter, and Ashton can certainly fit this need. Plus, he helps us shore up the youth vote, becuase kids love a good Ashton Kutcher romp."

Movie critics look forward to the convention video, which will doubtless be titled Dude, where's my bounce?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Democratic VP Candidate Shocks Nation!

[Until we have a democratic VP candidate, I'm running one of these each day.]

Registrants on the Obama Warning System have just received the following text message, shocking supporters and opponents alike:

"VP: Scarlett Johansson!"

Reporters swooned over what was quickly dubbed "the most beautiful ticket in generations" and "a match more perfect than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers."

"They'll dance their way out of the convention and into our hearts," said a hard-bitten, cynical, New York Times reporter. "Finally someone has come to sweep away the cobwebs of bitterness and replace them with sunshiney rays of wholesome happiness."

A feeling of euphoria spread over the land, resulting in a major poll bounce for Obama, bringing him within 4 points of John McCain, or just outside what might be considered within the margin of error for the poll.

I Turned Over My Testicles, Too

The other night I was playing a video game with my children. We were all having a lot of fun: it’s a cute little game where you have a little farm and you run around doing stuff like growing vegetables and whatnot. Well, you can also go fishing.

Since I’m all about fun, I went fishing. I spent the equivalent of twenty days in the game fishing. All my crops died. All my animals wandered off. My barn burned down. I lost everything except my shanty, which is how I understand that all farms turn out anyways.

What did I have to show for it? One fish, that I caught on my very first try. Every other attempt I caught nothing. Zilch. Squat.

So along comes Wifey, who plays a lot of video games, if you count the self-checkout aisle in the grocery store. Without that, not so much. She did play Galaga back in the day, but after that she stopped.

The phone rings, and I handed her the controls. “Here,” I said. “You can go not catch fish if you want.”

You know the rest of the story: she caught sixteen fish in ten minutes. It’s like they’re mesmerized by her tits or something and they just can’t help but jump up on the bank with her. Sure, I feel the same way, but damn! At least let me have a shred of pride here, all right?

So I came back from the phone and took the controls away from her, wrestling them out of her hands. “Now that the game has fixed itself, I’m sure I can catch fish!” I declared.

“No you can’t,” said the girl. “It’s mommy’s speciality.”

“Yeah, dad, you suck,” said the boy. “You’re too much of a dork to catch fish.”

An hour later, I hadn’t caught anything. Hell, she’d even caught a pair of boots. Me? Nothing.

I would like to officially note that this cheeses me off.

So I took the children outside to jump on the trampoline, leaving her to angle alone. Hey, it’s not like she doesn’t make me do lots of stuff by myself, too.

We were bouncing, having a grand old time. I was watching the kids do flips and drops and stuff, and I had the worst idea ever for an out-of-shape over-thirty guy on a trampoline with his kids.

“Hey, watch this!” I said. “I’m gonna drop on my butt, then spring back up on my feet!”

“Do it!” said the girl.

“Yeah, do it!” said the boy. “Can I sleep on your side of the bed with mommy after you kill yourself?”

“Oh, ye of little faith!” I said. “Watch me!”

“Make sure you keep your hands behind you,” said the boy.

Listen, I’m not going to trust little Oedipus on anything, so I just scoffed at him. “I don’t need your help!”

I got up a good bounce, about four feet in the air, and then I pulled my legs up and prepared to triumphantly spring back onto my feet.

Only, I got twisted a little: after my butt hit the trampoline, I began to rotate backwards, and soon I was headed back towards the ground head-first. So I did what any normal person would do: I yelled a swear word and panicked.

I landed head first, wrenching my neck, and I got my feet tangled up in the net. I ended up hanging there for a few seconds as the children paddled my butt and yelled “bad daddy!” because we’re not supposed to touch the net when we bounce.

Finally, I extricated myself and crawled inside.

“I think I’m crippled!” I said. “Help me!”

“Just a minute,” said Wifey. “I’m pulling in my sixty-eighth fish!”

If I wasn't so afraid of her, I'd call her a dirty name right now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Things Your Coworkers Don't Want to Hear

Most coworkers exist in a different place in your life than your family and friends. They're acquaintances, but not particularly close. After all, the only reason that you and they are together is mere happenstance and not any particular desire to spend time with one another.

Some coworkers, though, don't really understand this and will often transgress the bounds of propriety. Below is a list of things that I think every coworker should understand are just not typically acceptable.

"Can you look at this rash/mark/mole/lesion?"
Unless your colleague is a doctor, don't go to them for medical advice. If it can't be pulled off with a staple remover, odds are that they won't know how to help you. An extreme no-go is anything you have to disrobe to show to somebody. Remember: whatever ugly thing is growing on you will be discussed around the coffee machine for the rest of your career.

"Let me tell you about my children…"
There's a chance that your coworkers want to hear about your children. It's about 0.5%. If they're curious, they'll ask. Otherwise shut your pie-hole.

"I'm leaving early to go to the hospital for an operation."
This only counts if nobody knows why the hell you're going, and you don't tell anybody anything other than this. It's a big gray area: do we ask what you're having done? Is that too intrusive? Does the fact that you told us mean that you want us to ask? Thanks for ruining my whole day worrying about the appropriate response to your potentially grave health problem that might actually be getting botox injected into your ass.

"This girl was so freaky!"
As impressive as your sexual conquests are, remember that you're at work, not in the gym locker room. Keep your speech appropriate for the occasion. By all means, blow off some steam with your male colleagues by regaling them with your freaky girlfriend stories. Just do it outside work hours. And remember that nobody likes a braggart, so even if it's true you might want to soft-peddle it just a tad.

Anything that involves crying
When a woman cries in your office, and nobody died, you really don't have any idea what to do. Run away? Hug her? Kill yourself? Even worse is when a man does. Call me an overmasculine creep if you will, but it's all I can do not to say "man up and stop your bawling, dude."

"I'm having trouble at home…"
Good, keep it there. Unless your homicidal husband is on the way to the office with a gun right now, I don't want to hear about it. My wife bitched me out over the way I do dishes last night, but I'm not dumping that in your lap. This is a double no-no because it always ends in tears.

"You look so sexy. If I wasn't married/dating/working with you/whatever…"
It doesn't matter how true it is, how innocently it's said, what the reason is, or anything else. It's creepy. It's super-creepy if she works for you or is a lower level than you. As Confucius so wisely said, "Never stick your dick in the cash drawer."

"It's that time of the month…"

LALALALALALALALA! I can't heeeeeeeaaaaaarrrr you! Here's a quick tip for women: the only time a guy cares about your monthly cycle is when he wants to have sex with you and this information is pertinent to your availability. Otherwise, we don't wanna know. It's not like I'm jogging across the hall to tell you that my balls itch really bad this morning. Show some consideration, okay? Please? For the love of God, think of the children!

Democratic VP Candidate Shocks Nation!

[Until we have a democratic VP candidate, I'm running one of these each day.]

Registrants on the Obama Warning System have just received the following text message, shocking supporters and opponents alike:

"Prez: Hillary, VP: Obama!"

Hillary Clinton quickly swooped to make it official, declaring that "I am pleased to have finally taken the proper position atop the ticket, where I so truly belong. The democratic party is now unified, and any attempt to modify this arrangement should lead to riots and bloodshed that will destroy the tattered remnants of this once-grand political mainstay."

For his part, Obama calmly accepted his demotion to vice president. "It's where I belong, really," he beatifically told supporters. "I just got outmaneuvered, again, by somebody who spent eight years worrying about keeping the Israeli and the Saudi Arabian delegates seated at separate tables. Do you really want me as your president?"

John McCain, out of great respect for Hillary Clinton, announced that he plans to withdraw from the race. "I said it'd be the politest race in history, and what is more polite than a gentleman stepping aside for a lady?"

In related news, John Edwards mentioned that his wife still has cancer and that, for her sake, he should be considered a viable candidate for an important post in the Clinton-Obama cabinet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bombshell Allegations Threaten to Sink McCain

For the second consecutive presidential election, a candidate's war record has come under fire from those who served with him. This time, however, it is the Republican candidate who will have to answer serious charges about how he really spent the war.

The charges, which are dubbed "Swift Boat 2: The Revenge" after the scandal that sunk John Kerry's presidential bid in 2004, have been circulating for weeks in the blogosphere but have recently caught nationwide traction following advanced publication of excerpts from a damning book titled "Industrial Light and McCainiacs: the Real Story of the Hanoi Hilton."

Written by noted POW expert Colonel Robert E. Hogan, the book is set to be published in September just after the conventions. The book was slated for publication much earlier but was derailed by the untimely death of Hogan in what some have called a government hit job calculated to look like an ordinary death by influenza and falling down stairs onto several knives and at least three bullets.

Hogan's book alleges that McCain's captivity was actually fabricated by the US government in order to create "the perfect political candidate to prevent any outsiders from ever challenging the establishment and taking the presidency." This candidate, John McCain, would only be used in very limited circumstances, such as the accession of a minority to the presidency or the potential return of liberalism, which the government previously prevented by the assassination of the Kennedy twins.

Hogan's research showed that McCain and his captors, rather than being held in the steamy jungles near Hanoi , were in fact captive on the island of Molokai . While the other prisoners believed they were in a Vietnamese prison, McCain knew the truth, and his long periods in "solitary" were actually spent reading and playing ping-pong in the Officer's Mess.

Many have speculated that this is why he recently stole a Soltzenietsen anecdote as his own, and that his limp is due to slipping on a shuffleboard disc, which, unlike most normal people, he was a fan of long before he became an elderly person.

The retired army Colonel also provides a photograph showing that the head jailer of the reputed prison was, in fact, played by Pat Morita. The photo was declared "true and accurate" by an independent research company, Mapes/Rather Investigative Services.

"The worst injury John McCain suffered in the war was tennis elbow," said a spokesman for the book. "Colonel Hogan proved this, and that's the reason that the government had him killed. But the truth must out, so we're doing our part to let people know what kind of vile man John McCain really is."

But not everyone is convinced. Right-wing sites have been spreading misinformation about the book, particularly by defaming its author. "Everybody knows that Hogan was a pervert," said one angry commenter on the right-wing hate site "He caught bird flu at a chicken orgy and was convicted six times of public indecency with farm animals!"

Democratic Chairman Howard Dean emerged from hiding, where he was hoping the election would not collapse into failure and prove his incompetence, to demand that McCain address the charges. "John McCain needs to come clean with the American people and prove that he didn't actually spend those years in captivity in Hawaii and that there's no gigantic, secret conspiracy that has destroyed every shred of evidence to the contrary. If he can't do that, then he's not fit to lead this country."

Barack Obama, the probable Democratic nominee for president, called the issue "a distraction from the real issues" and called on McCain to "answer them fully and completely with corroborating evidence and faultless timelines so we can focus on debating the future of this nation."

Democratic VP Candidate Shocks Nation!

[Until we have a democratic VP candidate, I'm running one of these each day.]

Registrants on the Obama Warning System have just received the following text message, shocking supporters and opponents alike:

"VP: Hugo Chavez!"

"It's the perfect choice!" cooed an Obama supporter. "He speaks Spanish, has loads of executive experience, is internationally known, and loves America even more than Barack does. They're the perfect team!"

John McCain called the pair "an axis of evil" because he is hopelessly out of date with today's hip youth culture, which would really have preferred to hear them dissed as being "not hizzle with the schnizzle."

In related news, John Edwards mentioned that his wife still has cancer and that, for her sake, he should be considered a viable candidate for an important post in the Obama-Chavez cabinet.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I am the world's foremost Bigfoot authority

Let's get one thing straight: they're extinct.

I got a letter from Amanda Beals at, where Jim Cramer desperately needs an editor. She wanted me to link to a piece about how much a makeover for Bigfoot would cost, which I'm not going to do because they clearly left out the services of a taxidermist, which of course you'd need to properly prepare a Bigfoot for display.

Because, and I repeat myself here, they're extinct.

A quick search reveals that the prolific Ms. Beals somewhat papers blogs trying to drum up links, which sent me from "feeling special" to "feeling cheated upon" within a two-nanosecond interval. I have no idea why this should be, since all she's doing is what every responsible blog owner does: try to publicize their product.

Well, except me. I just spam by cross-posting everything to those foolish enough to sign me up as a coblogger.

Guido, Bow Before Me!

Wifey and I went bowling over the weekend. It's been some time since we did this; in fact, if memory serves, we went bowling a little over a year ago on our last US vacation. Oh, sure, we've been playing Wii sports since then, but that's hardly the same.

Or is it?

To start off, I was captivated by the single greatest bowling innovation I have ever seen: the shoe conveyor. They have about thirty trays, each of them holding 4 or 5 pairs of shoes, and as you watch the trays are continually rotating from bottom to top. When your size passes by, you simply take them off the tray and go your way.

It was awesome. I took four pairs just to fully enjoy it.

Once we were ready we headed to our lane, #5. To our left was a group of four 20ish students, and on the right a 40ish couple that liked to bowl a couple of frames between fondling one another at the scorer's table. You might say that first she stroked his balls, then she threw hers.

The students were an altogether different matter. One was a Guido (flipped-up collar and sweatband included), one a sweaty drunkard, one a full-on glasses-wearing math major, and the last a fugitive librarian catching a few moments away from the books. The librarian was the only female, and the males were desperately competing for her attentions by showing off their bowling prowess.

Little did they know that a heaping helping of American Emasculation was cruising towards them, like Jaws surfacing beneath a skinny dipping hippie.

Wifey and I selected our balls and I went first. I waited for Guido to finish his first throw, and then I took my shot.

WHAMMO! A strike for Plebian. Not a wobbly strike, either: pins flew everywhere, like a Tomahawk missile had hit the back of the lane.

The Guido simply stared at me, open-mouthed. And it was then that I perchanced to look upon their scores: seven frames gone by, and not a one of them over 60. Amongst their group, if you bowled 105 and didn't win it was because somebody had the game of their life and maybe got to 110.

Now, I don't like to brag, but I can bowl well. Oh, not wonderfully or anything, but anything less than 125 means I had a horrible game. When I'm in practice I get 160 to 175. My personal best is 195. This is mainly because I can do two things consistently: throw the ball straight and throw the ball hard.

I calmly walked back to our table, and Wifey said "You suck, you know that?"

Then it was her turn. Wifey is a competent bowler, usually able to do around 90 to 110 if she's in practice. Her first shot wasn't nearly as impressive as mine, mostly because she got distracted by the guy to our right doing a tonsil-and-panties check on his wife right at the end of their lane.

I figure he was congratulating her on her robust showing the previous frame, where she knocked over four of the ten pins. Don't laugh; she didn't even break 50 in the three games she bowled while we were there. She seemed to average about 30.

I jumped up, hurled the ball down the lane, and got another strike. And, once again, it looked like an explosion at the end of the alley.

The quartet to our left were awestruck. Not only had I gotten two strikes, I had gotten them in a row! The librarian dared to speak to me, and asked me if it was my first time.

"Not quite," I said. "I grew up bowling."

My next two shots? Both strikes. Yes, I opened the game with four strikes in a row. Wifey also put in a strike and a spare, so she had nothing to be embarrassed about. But I was on fire.

By the fifth shot, all motion ceased when I was preparing to bowl. While everyone else waited with baited breath, Wifey yelled out encouragement to me:

"You suck!" she said. "Choke! Choke! Choke!"

I hurled the ball, and immediately winced. Bad throw. "Shit!" my yell echoed throughout the silent alley.

WHAMMO! A fifth strike. Wifey laughed and gave me a big kiss, much to the disappointment of the women in the adjacent lanes. The dude to our right gave me the stinkeye, as his 62 now seemed almost as impressive as John Bobbit on a porno set. Sure, it has some shock value, but next to the real thing it's just pales.

In hushed tones, the math major noted that even my bad throws were better than their best. To his friends, he wondered from whence this awful specter came to ruin their chances to score with the frumpy librarian, who was now enraptured by my bowling acumen.

The answer is yes, I did blow your night on purpose. Vive l'America!

On throw six, my arm started aching. Hey, not only am I out of practice, I'm not as young as I used to be. I still wish I could tag out when I'm putting on my socks some mornings. So my aim fell off, and although the end of my game was not an embarrassment, it wasn't up to my standards.

Final score? 197. This is not that impressive on a US lane, but in these surroundings that made me PBA-eligible. Consider this: take the two highest scores from Guido and chums, sum them, and you'll still have enough to fit in the woman to the right's average score.

So the bystanders were impressed, and more than a little bit awestruck.

Wifey and I bowled a second game, and I actually didn't do very well (129, mostly because my arm was killing me by then). But my two-game sum was highly remarked-upon by our neighbors, and when we left, they were sorry to see us go.

Wifey, it must be said, would have been competitive within Guido's group, despite the fact that she had what was (for her) an awful game and didn't break 100.

"So," I said to her as we left. "Did seeing that display of bowling prowess give you a new appreciation for just how awesome I really am?"

"Not really," she said. "I've seen you with your pants off."


After that we went to play mini-golf in an indoor, black-lit course. All I'll say about that is this: mini-golf is an evil game and everyone who is any good at it is a she-devil, particularly those who won't even flash their husbands on a vacant course because "I think they have cameras in here and I don't wanna get thrown out."

Pffft. It's Europe! As long as you don't get body fluids on the course I'm pretty sure anything goes, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I would like to publicly thank Wifey for not only allowing me to publicize our vacation, but also for her copious note-taking, without which I'd have forgotten half the funny stuff that happened to us. Trust me, the blog was much richer because of her assistance.

Now, can we please forget about the whole keys-in-the-shoe thing?

You know who's demure? Jen.

I would like to say that Jen at Demure Thoughts is the most Demure person on the internet. In fact, Jen=Demure. Demureness becomes her. I vote for her as "Most Demure" on the Internet.

Of course, I also vote for her as "most likely to be mauled by a demure bear with flaming genitals" but that's a whole different matter. San Antonio is dangerous.

These Keys Were Made for Walking

Two years ago when we made our pilgrimage to the US, Wifey put her cell phone "in a safe place" so that if robbers broke in and did a non-rigorous search they wouldn't steal it. This had the humorous side effect of rendering it unfindable when we came back a month later. We searched for it for two weeks until I wearied of the constant complaints and did what comes naturally: bought her a new one.

Listen, I enjoy letting my loved ones beat themselves up over forgetting where things are as much as the next guy, but there's only so much I can stand.

You know the rest of the story: two days later she found her old phone, which she much preferred, hidden beneath her clean socks. By some miracle of laundry we'd keep the pile full and thus kept her from getting to the bottom of it. So she went back to the old phone and I got a new phone and that was it.

Last year when we came back from the US, Wifey couldn't find a handful of things that she always carries in Europe: a US-European conversion card, some IDs, the bank card, and other miscellaneous stuff. We searched and we searched, but nothing turned up. A week later we found it, underneath a pair of jeans on the floor that we hadn't bothered to look under.

As we prepared to leave this year, we were laughing about the travails of finding things the last few years, and she made a bold statement: "this year I'm just leaving everything out. If somebody breaks in and steals stuff, more power to 'em." And this is what she did with everything.

Except for her keys, which I pleaded with her to "put in a safe place where we'll be sure to find them." We both remember this. What we don't remember is where that place actually is. Oh, sure, we easily found the car keys left on the table, and the other car key hung on the kitchen peg board, but the house keys were simply gone.

To say that it drove Wifey slightly made is an understatement. It drove her a lot mad. She proceeded to tear the house apart, day and night, searching for her lost keys.

I was glad to leave home to go to work, quite frankly. But each day I came home and there were no keys, but I did have a frazzled wife. Not much of a trade-off, I can tell you.

Finally this grew to such a fever pitch that it consumed my entire family: myself, the girl, and Wifey were all searching for the keys. The boy couldn't care less, and spent his time playing Paper Mario on the Wii.

Wifey and I ended up in our room, determined to either find the keys or burn the house down and start afresh.

"For some reason I'm drawn to right here!" she stood in front of her closet. "Do you know why?"

"All I remember is you telling me to help you remember where you put your keys," I said. "And then you put them in a place where we'd be sure to see them when we returned."

"I wanted to just leave them on the nightstand, but you wouldn't let me." She sighed. "Do you remember this magical place where we would automatically find them?"

"I bet you put them in your shoe," I said. "Did you check in your shoe?"

"What kind of a moron puts them in their shoe?" she asked me. "I'm not a mental patient. Of course I didn't check in my shoes."

So I pulled out her shoes and, sure enough, they weren't in there. But as I picked them up, suddenly a memory, clear as lightning, fired through every synapse in my brain:

Me, putting her keys inside my work dress shoes, which I wear to work every single day. The logic was this: I'll have to put on my dress shoes to go to work, and then I'll find the keys, and so it's not a problem.

Only, if you remember, I bought new dress shoes. And they were so comfy that I have been wearing them since my return.

Without thinking things through, I picked up my old dress shoes and heard the familiar clinking of keys.

"What was that?" Wifey was on me like a hungry bear on a fat hiker. "I heard keys."

"I think it came from downstairs. You better check it out."

"Are my keys in your shoes?" she asked me.

"It's an audible illusion," I said.

"Show me the shoes," she held out her hand.

"There's nothing to see here," I assured her. "Move along."

"Let me check."

I tried to palm the keys as I handed her the shoes, but only ended up scuffing her fingers and dangling the keys out in front of me.

"I have been tearing my hair out and kicking myself the last three days wondering what happened to those damn keys! What are they doing in your shoes?"

"I found them!" I said. "What's my reward? Are you aroused by my searching genius?"

"I won't kill you," she said. "I have to decide whether or not to Bobbitt you."

I'm starting to think burning the house down might have been the cleaner solution.

[Quick temporal note: I've been home a week. The vacation blog lagged real time by 2 days, which grew to a week over the course of writing it for various reasons. But we're all synchronized as of right now.]

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Like a Boomerang

All good things must come to an end, and so too my vacation. So it was with heavy heart I awoke on my last day of vacation. True, with the time change the day will be something like thirty consecutive hours of waiting, flying, and security probings, so it's more like two days than one, but you get my meaning.

We ate a light breakfast and packed the bags. In order to do this, I had to bring all the luggage inside to weigh it on the bathroom scale at Aunt Awesome's house. Because with airlines looking to cut costs, I didn't want to show up with an overweight suitcase and have to pay the exorbitant fine to get it on the plane.

Here's what we finally ended up with: two hard-sided suitcases weighing 45 pounds each, two big red suitcases that came in right at 50 pounds, the purple vomit case weighing 49 pounds, a medium red suitcase at 30 pounds, and a smallish duffel bag that was more strained than the seat of Michael Moore's pants that weighed only 25 pounds.

And how did it feel to lift each of the seven suitcases up and down repeatedly despite having a burgeoning hernia? Not so great, thanks. But in order to look tough to Wifey I had to gut it out.

She was particularly not interested in any suffering on my part because she'd re-sunburned her back and arms yesterday at the pool, and since it had been my fooling around that led to my injury.

Once the suitcases were weighed and stowed back into the car, we bid a fond goodbye to Aunt Awesome, who insisted that next time we needed to come stay longer so we can visit their cabin in Northern Georgia.

"Why, you need to cash in the insurance money on it?" I asked as the fallen tree outside trembled in the wind and the roof quivered underneath.

Then we were off! We had a 5:15 flight scheduled, and it was 1:20. Plenty of time, right?

We punched in Atlanta-Hartsfield to the GPS, a Tom-Tom, which has flawlessly led us across the US. After all, you can't go wrong with Tom-Tom! It's Wifey's, and she chose the English Female's voice for it, so we call her Tommy. She's like a family member now.

She decided to take us through the most convoluted string of streets to get to the interstate, which is okay: Tommy knows best. At 1:35 we stopped along the way to grab a quick bite at McDonald's.

Because I am absolutely insanely anal about airport time, I suggested getting food to go. Wifey hates to eat on the run, so she said this in response to me:

"I think we've got enough time, but if you think that would be better, then that's okay."

Here's what that means once you've passed it through your husband decoder ring: "If you make me eat in the car and then we end up sitting in the airport twiddling our thumbs for thirty minutes waiting for the plane, I will hold it against you for a minimum of three months and remind you of it in perpetuity."

I decided to stop and eat in Mickey D's. Thirty minutes later, we were back on the road.

Atlanta traffic is unpredictable, but thanks to HOV lanes and my blatant disregard for posted speed limits, we made good time to the airport and arrived at the Hertz return area around 3:05.

T-2:10 and counting. No problem. Sure, they tell you to be three hours early, but that's a conspiracy between the gift shops and the TSA to force you to buy airport porn after you've gotten in a fight with your wife because the kids drove you both crazy by bouncing off the walls for two hours because there's absolutely nothing for them to do.

When I turned in the keys to the nice lady at the car return, the first thing she did was point out that I didn't have a license plate. I showed her the small piece of paper taped to the tinted window that served as a temporary plate for the van, and she was happy.

Then she read my mileage. 5,548 miles, on a car that I picked up with 6 miles.

"Oh my gosh!" she said. "You put a lot of miles on this car!"

"Well, I have had it for a month, and I did pick it up in Salt Lake City," I said.

"That's true," she admitted, but still gave me the stinkeye.

Fine, I won't tell her about the key fob that I dunked in water. That'll learn her.

Once the car was paid for (and it cost less than I expected: yay!), we had to make it to the airport shuttle, which is located at the other end of the giant concrete desert that is the car return.

Why do car rental companies do this? You return the car at point A, then you have to walk across the entire lot to Point B, where the bus is. Then, just to make things extra-super-difficult, they put all the luggage carts at Point B. Now, really, does that make any sense? Who's gonna walk from A to B to A to B? Fools, that's who.

Is it really so hard to stick the luggage carts at A? Well, it is if you're a car rental place. Forget all the other slogans; I'll rent from any car rental company that advertises "Our busses aren't in BFE!"

So I quickly arranged the bags in perfect order, strapping them together into a massive behemoth that weighed somewhere around 400 pounds and required sixty newtons of force simply to get underway.

Wifey looked at Mount Samsonite dubiously. "I'm not pushing that," she said.

"I will," I said. "And I'll carry those other two bags and wear all the backpacks so your sunburn doesn't hurt."

Apparently, her sarcasm detector had been damaged in the pool, because she only shrugged and said, "Okay. You're a sweetheart."

So we took the luggage over in shifts, me dragging the giant pile once, then carrying the two big hard-sided suitcases over. But in order to help my children darted back and forth and filled me with dread that they'd get run over in the parking lot by lazy Hertz attendants who weren't paying a bit of attention to where they were going.

However, soon we were safely on the bus and whisked quickly over to the airport terminal. Time? 3:20.

T-1:55. No problem.

I don't know if every US airport has these, but Delta in Atlanta has a system where you sign in for all flights via Kiosks. At these machines you scan a piece of ID (credit card or passport) and it finds your reservation. Then it prints out your boarding passes, and you go turn your luggage over to an attendant who sticks the bag tags on it (which print out automatically) and sends it on its way.

I've used it without trouble the past 2 or 3 years, and I have to say that I'm a fan. And they have about 100 of these things, so one is always open. It is, for airlines, surprisingly efficient.

So I scanned my passport and it told me I didn't have any reservations that day. No problem; I whipped out my E-Ticket and punched in the digits and soon had my reservation. Whew.

After entering all sorts of information, I had to scan the passports for the entire family. First, me. No problem. Then, Wifey. No problem. Then, the girl.

"Passport is about to expire. Please see attendant. Check-in terminated."

Problem. It was 3:25.

So I quickly managed to locate the line that said "Kiosk Help." There were only two people in line in front of me, and there were three people being helped, so odds were good we'd have this little problem sorted out in no time.

See, it turns out that I knew all about this problem. The kids' passports expire in September. So before I left Europe, I called the consulate and asked them if that would be a problem to re-enter the country, because some countries say if your passport is within six months of expiring you can't enter.

"No, not in the EU," the helpful lady told me. "You can come and go right up until it expires."

I jumped in line and began to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

At 3:40, there were still two people in front of me in line, but now there were lots and lots of people behind me. The three people who were still being helped fell into three categories:

1) The man who wanted to ship a large, suspiciously-packaged box marked "FRAGILE" on a flight he wasn't on.

2) A couple that didn't have the proper documentation.

3) The man for whom there was no reservation, but who insisted he had a reservation based on (and I kid you not) a series of illegible numbers scrawled on a napkin. Better, he was dressed in a suit that Sonny Crockett would have found a little garish.

Finally, the couple left and the head of the line (another couple, as it turns out) took their place. Then, right after, the guy with the suspicious package left. I was next!

It was then that Wifey approached me. "We've got a problem," she said.

"No kidding!"

"No, it's the boy. He has to pee."

Nearest bathroom? The other side of the airport. The question? What to do with the luggage mountain?

"Just leave the girl in charge," I said. "I can kind of see her all the way over there on the other side of the kiosk forest." She looked at me a moment, as if to ask me something, and I silenced her with this comment: " I will not leave this line for anything short of a fire in the terminal."

So off she went, the boy in tow. And, amazingly, the couple was finished quickly and I quickly reached an attendant. It was 3:45.

As a side note, the man with the napkin refused to leave, despite the fact that his nonexistence in their system meant the airline could do nothing for him. And Delta, in their wisdom, did not open another Kiosk Help Lane despite the 30 or so people waiting in line.

I'm guessing there were some missed flights in there somewhere.

"Hi," I said cheerily to the lady at the desk. "I am an American but I live in Europe and I am flying back there on the 5:15, but my children's passports expire in September so the kiosk won't check me in. I called the consulate before I left in July, and they assured me that this wasn't a problem and I could go back home."

"Oh, yeah, don't worry," said the agent next to her working with the family that didn't have passports for everybody. "You're going home."

Unfortunately, my agent was much more suspicious. She picked up a piece of paper and proceeded to read it for five minutes. We did not say a single word to one another. I have no idea what was on the paper. Instructions? A love note? Garfield Cartoons?

Couldn't tell you. Eventually Wifey came back. "What's the problem?"

This snapped the agent out of her trance. "Do you have any proof you live over there?"

"What difference does that make?" Wifey asked.

Now, listen, I know this much about airport security: even the appearance of giving anybody any lip whatsoever will get you not only thrown off the flight but banned from ever going in the airline again and put on the terrorist watch list and cavity searched by gate agents with cold, meaty hands.

So I shushed Wifey. "Here's my identity card and driver's license," I said, holding them out.

The agent did not so much as look down, concentrating on her piece of paper. "I gotta go check with somebody,"

Then she wandered off.

And did not come back for 15 minutes. It was a little after 4:00.

Wifey was getting angrier and angrier, probably because somebody had snored all night and she hadn't gotten any sleep. I blame the tree.

"Why don't you go keep an eye on the kids?" I asked.

"I want to know how this turns out!" she said.

"I'll tell you everything," I promised. "Don't sweat it."

So she went back to the children. Eventually, the agent came back.

"How are you gonna renew these passports from over there?" she challenged me.

"I'll just go to the consulate in the embassy and have them renewed, like I did with my passport two years ago when it got mangled."

"Oh," she said. "Do you have any bags to check?"

Now, since I am over here and safe from airline repercussions, I would like to officially say: what the fuck? I mean, seriously, that's it? I wasted a good thirty minutes of my life because you're so damned stupid you don't know that the US government has overseas offices that can help me with this kind of thing?

Geez, when you fell out of the stupid tree you hit every branch on the way down, didn't you?

So I came back with this clever retort: "I have seven bags. Let me go get them!"

I put the first bag up on the scale: 51 pounds.

"It costs 80 dollars for an overweight bag," she said.

"I just want to pay it," I said. "And get on the plane."

"Okay," she said.

I put the second bag up on the scale: 54 pounds.

I frowned. Third bag: 30 pounds. Duffel bag trying to pop free: 25 pounds. Hard-sided suitcases: 48 and 49 pounds.

Big red bag? 57 POUNDS!

"What the hell did you do when you weighed these?" Wifey asked me.

We decided to stop for ice cream, and we each got our favorite flavor: the girl go Reese's Pieces and Oreo, Wifey got a chocolate shake, and I got Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

The boy? Plain vanilla, in a cup, with a plain spoon. It's the only ice cream he likes. He only ate two bites of it, too, then declared himself done. Sometimes I worry about him.

As chance would have it, I ran into a co-worker who had spent his vacation in Canada in the dining area. We chatted a moment, which was a good reminder to me of why I keep him at Acquaintance instead of upgrading him to Friend.

"Who's that?" Wifey said when I sat down.

"Nobody you want to know," I said.

At 4:45 we headed over to the boarding area. When we got there, it was empty and they were just making the final boarding call for the flight.

"Wow, you guys boarded early!" I said.

The flight attendant became incensed. "We always board this flight an hour early!"

Now, listen, I've taken this particular flight six times. It has never boarded early, and usually boards late. So I didn't buy her BS. But, knowing that if you sass a flight attendant it's worse than if you sass a desk attendant, I let it slide. "Okay," I said. "But we're here on time."

"5:15 is the time in the air," she insisted. "We will close those doors at 5:00!"

"Okay!" I said, rushing into the tunnel with my hand clamped over everyone in my family's mouths.

For the record: the doors closed at 5:30, and the plane took off at 5:50. And that's all I'll say about that, since the TSA may be reading my blog even as we speak.

On the airplane it was pretty standard, although this time we didn’t have any personal movie devices, so Wifey’s super power didn’t come into play. The plane wasn’t full, so we ended up with an extra seat. Wifey sat alone on the far side, with the kids and I sitting in the middle three seats.

This turned out to be a good thing, because the jerkoffs in the seat in front of Wifey decided that they needed to recline the seat as far back as possible. When jerkoff #2 shoved his seat back, he crashed into Wifey’s knees.

“OW!” she said, and turned around and looked at her.

He then proceeded to shove his seat back not once, not twice, not thrice, but five times, crashing into her over and over and over again.

Wifey was now at what I like to call the “cover your crotch and get out of town” phase, where she is about to snap. I kind of wished there was more than a whole aisle between me and her.

Mt. Wifey finally died down, and I was thinking all was well and good. Jerkoff #2 drifted off to sleep, and an hour passed with no issue.

Then she struck, like a rusty bed spring erupting from beneath to rupture your nut sack without warning. What she did (and I admired the evil cleverness of this) was to reach down and grab her backpack, then lift it up. We were, at the time, going through a bit of turbulence.

And she proceeded to hit the seat in front of her so hard with the backpack that Jerkoff #2 fell into the aisle, whereupon his hand was crushed beneath a passing trash cart.

“AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!” he yelled, waking everyone in the plane.

“Oh my God!” she leapt up out of her seat and helped him to his feet. “I am so sorry, sir, I accidentally hit your seat. Are you all right?”

“You….you…” he glared at her a moment.

“You really should have had your seat belt fastened,” she said. “Airplanes are dangerous places, especially if you sleep.” Then (and I am not making this up) she rubbed her hands together and let out a Mwu-ha-ha chuckle that would have sent chills down the spine of Vincent Price.

Jerkoff #2 spent the rest of the flight wide-eyed awake in terror flinching every time the plane so much as jostled.

Wifey slept like a baby.

The rest of the flight passed quickly and without event, which was probably because everyone within a ten-row radius was terrified of the crazy lady in 39B. I played it off like I didn’t know her.

We found nothing but luck back home, not only getting all our luggage quickly but also finding that the cab that awaited us was a van and that traffic was light, and the house still intact when we arrived.

And you can't ask for more than that, can you?

I'm already thinking about where I want to go next year…

[Author's Note: Thanks to everybody for reading this, and I hope you enjoyed it. I appreciate all the comments, good and bad. And don't worry: I'll keep blogging as per usual, and I'm sure something worth reading about will happen!]

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Penultimate Injury

Miracle of miracles, we awoke the next morning, all still alive despite having a tree hanging over us all night. In the clear light of day, it was obvious that the damage was much more impressive than previously thought, particularly judging by the number of golfers who stopped by to marvel at the tree.

I asked if Aunt Awesome wanted me to go chase them away with witty commentary or a Potato Gun, but she declined. I was somewhat disappointed, but had to acquiesce since I was a guest.

Over the course of the morning the cousins came by, along with their children. I hadn't seen any of them in years and years, so they all looked older and fatter than I remembered. I suppose I'm older and fatter, too, but I think it makes me look distinguished.

Finally Mini (the youngest cousin) drug herself in, bleary-eyed from a long night of partying. She recounted a tale of woe that was as boring as it was nonsensical, and had something to do with obtaining a low-priced keg that would fit their beer bong. Or maybe that was the other way 'round, I'm not sure.

After brunch (which was mighty delicious) we headed over to the Condo Association's pool. It was here that I was reminded, once again, that the rich live differently than you and I do.

Specifically, they live better.

I lived in a condo once, and our "pool" was a six-by-six rectangle that held fetid water and an unknown number of mosquito larvae and tadpoles. You could swim in it, but only if you wanted to have leeches in close contact with your privates under murky water.

And the Jacuzzi? Let's just say the bedspread at a porno shoot is only slightly more hygienic than that cesspool of human filth.

So I was somewhat skeptical that fun could be found at the Condo Association pool. In fact, I was looking forward to a fast retreat to a McDonald's Playland and drinking a milkshake. Because this belly fat didn't put itself there, you know. I had to help it.

When we entered, through the secured gate, I was awestruck at what Aunt Awesome had described as "our little community pool."

First of all, there were two pools. One only about 18" deep for the children, with a giant mushroom fountain at one end and a playing area at the other end. Spaced around it were hundreds of lounge chairs, and a covered area at the end for barbecues. The other pool was an adult pool, between 3 and 5 feet deep, large enough that you could swim half-laps from one side to the other.

And off to the side of the Adult Pool was the five-foot basin for the water slide, complete with one and a half loops, which you accessed by walking up the stairs in a tower that was about 25 feet high.

It was better than the crappy water park that got auctioned off in White's City, and I said so to Wifey.

"Can't be," she said with a twinkle in her eyes. "You won't get to see anybody flaunting their privates here like you did in White's City."

"The day is young," I said. "There's hope yet!"

The pool was well-staffed and apparently all hiring decisions were made by a man, because the lifeguards were all good-looking 20-year-old women in tight speedos who lounged provocatively under umbrellas.

We quickly applied sunscreen, then my children spent all of 20 seconds deciding what to do first: "The water slide!"

So we went and did several turns on the water slide. It was as fast as it was impressive, and I soon learned to respect the velocity one could gather coming down it.

The adults gathered in the water slide basin, where we were ostensibly watching the children come down the slide. In reality we were gabbing and waving as they made the near-continuous loop to and from the slide.

Occasionally one of the cousins would take a slide, and once she'd sobered up Mimi took several. However, soon they approached me after a particularly impressive slide.

"How do you go so fast?" they asked me. "You're shooting down that a lot faster than we are!"

Never one to miss a chance to be pedantic, I dropped into Confucius mode. "Grasshopper, in order to be a rocket on the slide, you must be like the slug underfoot: without friction."

"What the hell?" asked one. "Can you say that in English?"

"You can't let your suit touch the slide," I said. "You put your shoulders and your calves down and arch your back to keep your butt off the slide. You'll go faster."

And, sure enough, I was right. Soon they were rocketing down really, really fast. Eventually Denny was making huge splashes, too. I would say it's because he's fatter than me, but the reality is that he's not, he was just going down only on his back, legs up in the air, and then shooting out the tube like a cannonball.

I was insanely jealous, so I had to try the same thing. Big mistake on my part.

Listen, I'll be the first one to admit that I'm not in the greatest shape of my life. Unless you count "soft" as a shape, which most people don't. If I had to pick which Herculoid I most resemble, I'd pick the little yellow shape-changing paisley thing.

Even so, I should be able to go down the water slide without injuring myself. But the reality is that I can't. I started down on my back, but got turned around and was going head-first halfway down. But going head-first is against the rules, and I didn't want the hottie lifeguard to yell at me. As I tried to spin my body to correct this, I felt a wrenching in my stomach.

Specifically, it felt like I'd been stabbed by a Zulu spear three inches over from my belly button. I ceased sliding and began rolling, and when my corpse finally tumbled off the end of the slide my splash was pathetic. The others didn't hesitate to let me know that.

At least, they let me know once I'd dragged my sorry ass over to them.

"What's wrong?" Wifey asked. "You don't look so good."

"I'm fine!" I gasped.

"Dude, your splash was totally lame," Donny said. "I can fart and kick up more water than that."

"Yeah," said Mimi. "Even I can splash more than that, and I'm a girl!"

"Oh….yeah….I'll….show….you!" I gasped as I struggled out of the water. The invisible Zulus were stabbing me again, this time with flaming spears.

"Why don't you rest a moment?" Wifey said. "You can go in a minute."

"No!" I said. "I'll splash or die trying!"

And so I struggled up the stairs, with the boy passing me 3 times as I tried to climb my way to the top. Then, as I caught my breath, I let him go four more times just for good measure.

Then, I was ready. Mimi had just arrived behind me, sent by Wifey to see if I had died.

"What's the matter, old man, did you chicken out?" she asked me.

Up until then, I had begun to think that further sliding was not in the future. But not now that I had to impress a 23-year-old cousin-in-law that I barely know who thinks I'm an idiot anyways, even if it meant getting a compound hernia that landed me in the hospital.

Because I may be a dork, but I have my pride.

So I launched myself down the slide again, with the reckless abandon reserved for the young and drunken. Bear in mind that I was neither.

I realized I was having a more serious problem than a simple hernia halfway down. In addition to Zulu spears stabbing at my stomach, and being reversed again, the integrity of my swimming trunks was becoming questionable as I began to feel the slide hurtling by beneath my bare butt.

I tried to reposition myself and grab the trunks, lest I lose them on the slide proper, but that sent my body spiraling all akimbo. Given the somewhat feeble state of my stomach muscles, I was unable to really get my body under control, and at this point found my consciousness a mere rider on the sack of meat that my soon-to-be-waterlogged corpse had become.

Splashdown! Witnesses told me that the splash was impressive, mostly because I came flying out of the tube on my back, arms beneath me, legs in the air, and head first. I don't know about that, but I do know that when I hit the water two things happened to me:

1) I inhaled six gallons of water

2) My swim trunks ended up around my knees

The lifeguard began blowing her whistle and telling me that headers were not allowed and that I needed to get out of the landing zone. The others cheered my splashing. Wifey looked on with some concern.

I wrestled with my trunks and the feeling that a good 25% of my innards were trying to escape via a hole they were gnawing in my abdomen and made no progress on either the trunks or getting out of the way.

Let me tell you, there's no particularly good way to pull your swim trunks up in 4' of water when they're down at your knees without readily broadcasting this information to the world, and there's no way to swim away from the slide without losing the rest of your trunks and hoping that public nudity laws are more lax in an Atlanta condo pool than in the rest of the United States.

So I was flailing when the flux of water down the slide suddenly vanished, like the tide rolling out is a harbinger of a tsunami. I looked up in horror and…

BAM! Mimi landed on me.

This is not a situation that you want to be in: trunks around ankles, possibly herniated, and your wife's 23-year-old cousin sitting on your head with you underwater. There simply is no graceful way to extricate yourself from this situation without coming off as a little bit of a pervert or a whole lot of a dumbass.

So I did what any quick-thinking person would do: I blamed her.

"HEY!" I yelled. "You pulled my shorts down!"

"Oh my God!" she said. "I'm so sorry!"

"What's wrong with you?" I asked as I struggled to pull them up. "Weirdo! Pervert! Sicko!"

"Geez, sis, that's low," said Donny. "Pullin' a guy's shorts down just because he upstaged your splash."

And just like that, crisis was averted. We proceeded to make fun of her and I studiously avoided sliding again for fear of a repeat problem. I still felt like I'd been hit in the stomach by a Buick, but I figured that would go away in a few months. Pain is temporary, right?

Unfortunately that night was not months away, and I lay in so much agony that I couldn't give Wifey a proper "last night in the states," for which she was not terrifically appreciative.

Damn water slide.

Tomorrow: The Return

Friday, August 8, 2008

What, More Shopping?

As punishment for my transgressions yesterday, today's plan was to visit vacation hell. That's right: we were going shopping again! Oh joy, rapture, just what I needed: several hundred dollars more crap to jam into already-stuffed suitcases.

Can you tell how excited I was?

We went to a store named Kohl's, no relation to the former German leader Helmut. It's kind of like Wal-Mart meets JC Penny's, only without the computer games or anything else interesting and with prices that will make you wince.

But don't worry, it's tax-free shopping day, I was assured.

"You know what? If we don't buy shit, then the oppressive tax system never comes into play in the first place!"

I was told by all involved to shut up and drive.

Up first at Kohl's: school clothing for the boy. We'd looked for all of about five minutes when his shopping stamina gave out, and he started vetoing every single choice he was presented.

"You have to take something!" said Wifey, exasperated.

"That," he said pointing to a pair of Batman pajamas with a cape on them. "I want that."

After some negotiation, we got him two pairs of pants, some shirts, and the pajamas he wanted. Plus, I bought him a shirt with a tank on it so he could look menacing at his school in the fall. Because I'm pretty sure in Europe there are no shirts with tanks on them.

Then we started looking for the girl. Typically she's not a very excitable shopper, but on this occasion she was quite gung-ho. I guessed it was to humor her aunt, but at any rate, it quickly became a girlie expedition to Darkest Rackica in search of the greatest outfits ever assembled.

The boy and I were bored silly.

"Can we go yet?" the boy asked me.

"Yeah, let's bug out of here," I said.

So I told Wifey that we were going to go look for a suitcase, and off we went. I didn't know if the damn place even had them, but I resolved to look everywhere but in the girl's department to find them.

What we actually stumbled across was lava lamps. Lots and lots of lava lamps.

Did you know that if you shake a lava lamp, I mean really shake it hard, all the little bits of lava break up into a billion pieces and it looks like a snowglobe of hell? We had a lot of fun doing that, until the boy thwacked a nearby teenage girl in the exposed midriff.

"OW!" she yelled. "That burns!"

He looked up at her and his eyes suddenly filled with anguished tears. "I'm sooo sowwy," he said to her. "I didn't see you dere, wady. Pwease fuhgive me." I have no idea where the speech impediment came from. "You can hit me wif it if you want."

"Oh, no, that's okay," she said. "Would you like to burn me again with it, little dear?"

By the time he was done with her she looked like a rooster that'd been plucked. I swear, I don't know how he manages such things. If it'd been me I'd be writing this blog from prison.

Figuring we'd done all the damage in lava lamps that we could, we swung back by girl's clothes. They had 5,472 outfits and were trying them on in every conceivable combination, so I figured we still had time to kill.

So we went looking for luggage. I actually found it, every shape and size and color you can imagine, and all only about 50% more than what it would cost at Wal-Mart. I don't care if they do abuse the working man, next year I'm making them my Official Vacation Sponsor.

I selected a fancy-looking bag from Ricardo's of Beverly Hills. Now, it had some cool features, like an interior separator to make two compartments, garment bag adaptor, and a matching tote bag, but none of those was why I chose it.

I chose it because it was the God-awfullest color of purple I've ever seen, and the interior looked like Bozo the Clown ate his makeup case and then vomited up the contents.

Listen, when you're standing next to the belts after an 8 hour flight and the kids are going crazy and your Wife is about to bite your head off because she couldn't eat the creamed crap they served, the last thing you want to do is try to figure out which of the 64 million blue-black bags on the conveyor belongs to you.

So all my luggage is either red (a rare color) or, now, purple (a very rare color) with bright pink fluorescent ribbons on them. I'd have bought the lime-green puke luggage if it'd been big enough, but it wasn't.

Because judging from the pile that the girl was trying on, and what didn't fit in the suitcases we had, we needed every inch of luggage space I could muster.

I returned to the girls with my find and they were suitably impressed. Then, they asked for my opinion on the clothing they'd chosen out for the girl.

I was in kind of a quandary: everyone wanted my opinion, which really should have no value, yet I had no opinion, was bored, and couldn't really care less whether she wore a paper bag to school or not.

Worse, Wifey wasn't giving me the subtle hints of whether I should say yes or no in this high-pressure decision. I was expected to actually decide something! So I just randomly vetoed some and accepted others, and for some reason everyone accepted that opinion like it was valid.

The fools.

Finally we paid the tab, which ended up being some hundreds of dollars. For every 50 bucks we spent, we received $10 "Kohl's Cash" that could be spent between August 11 and 17. Only, we'll be back in Europe then, so we ended up giving $60 to Sis-in-law.

So I quickly understood why it was we had to go shopping at Kohl's today. Dammit, I will have my vengeance. Next time I fly her over here to visit us, I'm requesting a seat in the lavatory.

Then we went and had lunch with Luggage at Pizza Inn. He's a cop, and had to work, so he came to meet us. It was very good, and afterwards we got to pet his police dog and marvel at his cruiser. The kids were thrilled

(Side note: why aren't there more Pizza Inns? Was there a plague there or something? I like that place. Good pizza, great tattoo machine, and sluttily-dressed waitresses that flounce around for no apparent reason. What more can you ask for?)

Then it was off to our last vacation stop: beautiful Atlanta, to visit Aunt Awesome, Wifey's favorite relative. Aunt Awesome is retired now, but up until recently she owned a successful business that she recently sold. I have met Aunt Awesome several times and I have to say she's my favorite of Wifey's relatives (with the possible exception of Sis-in-Law, who is always good for a laugh).

Aunt Awesome has four kids, each of them sharing the first letter of their name with their father. So we'll call them Danny, Donny, Denny, and Mini. While Danny lives with Aunt Awesome, the others all have homes and families of their own.

So we pull up and the kids eagerly ring the doorbell, their favorite part of any visit. I swear I don't know why I buy them toys: a box and a doorbell would make them happy forever. They almost went to fist city over who got to press the doorbell.

"Hey, welcome, y'all!" says Aunt Awesome. "Come see the tree that just fell on our house!"

Yes, that's right: moments before we arrived a tree fell on Aunt Awesome's house. Can I officially say that my vacation is designed to bring woe on all whom I visit? Especially since I stopped up three toilets that I never told anybody about.

The house sits on a golf course, and one of the big old trees behind it has crashed into it, knocked off a big section of gutter and cracking the roof in the bathroom that Aunt Awesome had just painted.

After I had surveyed the damage (which is just as effective as having one of those Europussie leaders review his outdated army) we sat down to dinner and caught up. Then, because it was late, I sent the children to bed.

When I came in to check on them, I overheard the girl saying sadly to her brother:


"Good-bye;" he said solemnly.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

He started to tell me. "She told me that tonight-"

"Shhh!" she said.

"What did she tell you?" I asked.

"Tonight the tree is going to crash through the house and crush the bed and kill us both," he said happily. "So it's good-bye tonight because we'll never see each other alive again."

"It is not!" I said. "If the tree crashed through the roof it'd actually land right on our bed and kill mommy and I, and maybe take Aunt Awesome and Uncle Mustache with us. But you guys should be okay."

Sadly, that seemed to comfort them.

Then it was time for bed, but I couldn't sleep, because all I could think about was ten tons of arboreal doom waiting to crush me flatter than a pancake while I slept.

Tomorrow: One Last Time at the Swimmin' Hole

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Batting 1.000

Today Wifey was going to go have her hair cut for the first time in two years. No, she's not a cultist; she lets her hair grow out long enough so she can cut it and donate it to Locks of Love, who use the hair to make wigs for children with cancer. She's been doing this for years.

It's a way to help reimburse society for all the horror that I inflict upon it. She's a saint, that woman.

Also going with Wifey was the girl, who intended to have her hair cut as well, although she hadn't decided if she wanted a trim or to cut it short. She also has long hair, but so far in life has resisted every effort to have it cut.

And of course Sis-in-Law was going as well, as it was her salon they would be visiting.

The boy and I were going to go "do something" with her boyfriend, Luggage.

As we busied ourselves to get ready, I questioned her one final time. "Are you sure you want to get your hair cut?" I asked. This is code for "I like your hair long and don't think you should cut it."

"Yeah," she said. "I like it short. It's much cooler in the summer."

"Okay," I said. "But I'm not sure that Locks of Love can use it, since there's so much gray in it. You might want to tuck in a twenty to cover the cost of dying it."

Note to self: this is neither safe nor conducive to intimacy.

For lunch, we jetted over to Ruby Tuesday's, because this was located adjacent to the hair salon. Plus, I love Ruby Tuesday's, even though they've changed the menu too much from their heyday and they're becoming metrosexual squishy, which I hate.

If I wanted an Applebee's clone, I'd eat there. And yet I don't. Differentiation, please!

All was proceeding nicely until the food came. A young woman about 20 or 21 years old, who was not our server, dropped off the food. I was sitting on the end, with the children next to me. Across from me were Wifey, Sis-in-Law, and Luggage.

After putting down the plate the waitress, for no apparent reason, grabbed her breasts and proceeded to grope herself in slow motion right at the end of the table, stretching up on her tiptoes and letting out a long sigh.

I was waiting for the 70's-era "bwount-chicka-chick-bwooon" music to start and gaping.

Then she turned and left with big greasy handprints on her shirt over her boobs. I looked incredulously at the others.

"Did you guys see that?" I asked. "Oh my God!"

"See what?" Wifey asked.

"I didn't see anything," said Luggage.

"Where?" asked Sis-in-Law.

"Who?" asked the girl.

"Can I have some of your drink?" asked the boy.

Now really, what could I say? Try to explain that I'd seen Pornowaitress on the prowl? I'd sound like a raving lunatic. And it's not like I could explain it in front of the children anyways.

"I guess it was my imagination," I said.

Then I resolved to tell no one what I had seen, lest I be accused of imaging perverted stuff. Of course, they all three read the blog, so I suppose now they know what I was talking about.

After lunch, we dropped the girls off at the salon and headed over to a place Luggage knew about, a toystore who's name I forget. It was awesome, with a huge train set and every kind of toy known to man.

Inside, as we wandered throughout every aisle, I stumbled across something that I thought had been lost to the ages: one of those windup kangaroos that flips itself over.

I immediately seized it, because Wifey had one of those things thirteen years ago and loved it. She used to show it to everybody who came into the office. Then it was broken in a moving accident when some idiot packed it in a box with a bowling pin with a sumo wrestler on it and it got smashed to pieces.

You can guess who that was.

So I took the kangaroo and a similar windup toy (a car that flips itself over, one of my favorites from childhood) and purchased them for the whopping price of 6.35. Best toy store ever, I tell you.

If you're ever in Huntsville, it's about five minutes away from the Ruby Tuesday's located near a hair salon, and it has a train set inside. Be sure to stop by.

Then it was back to the salon to pick up the girls. "Now remember," I told the boy. "Tell them they look nice and beautiful, no matter what, even if they look like a platypus farted on their heads."

He laughed. Five-year-olds are an easy mark.

Waiting outside were Sis-in-Law, who had not had anything done, the girl, who looked exactly the same, and Wifey circa 2002. I swear, cutting her hair made her look about five years younger.

"Wow!" I said. "You guys look great! You're beautiful!"

"Man, what a job!" said Luggage. "Awesome!"

"You look beautiful," the boy said to his sister. "Mommy?"

"Yes, hon?" she asked.

"I think you look wonderful!"

"Thank you, honey!" she said.

"Why did daddy say a platypus pee'd on you when we pulled into the parking lot?"

"I bought you something!" I held up the bag between Wifey and me in hopes of defusing what could become ugly quickly.

"What's that?"

"Here's a kangaroo just like the one you loved that got smashed in that inexplicable accident!" I said. "Isn't it great?"

She looked at it, then at me. "So?"

"So, uh, you love it, right?"

"Wasn't that your kangaroo?"

Hmm. You know, upon further reflection, she may be right about that. So it doesn't look like the kangaroo alone is going to make up for a string of gaffes on my part, since it pretty much ends up being for me.

"What else did you get?" she asked.

"Who wants to go to the space museum?" I asked.

"WE DO!" the kids yelled.

So off we headed, to the NASA space and rocket center in Huntsville. True fact: if you go to the center, and you have more than 5 people, just buy a membership. That's what I did, only I put it in Sis-in-law's name, because she might use it again.

I'm a four-star brother in law, aren't I?

Inside the center, you can see the Saturn V rocket that went to the moon (aka the flying phallus), the space shuttle (aka the winged phallus), and the rocket garden (aka the phallic flowers). Oh, and you can see a model of Skylab (aka the flaming vagina that almost destroyed Australia).

I may be misremembering the nicknames for those things, though.

Seriously, it is awfully cool. And you will learn some neat facts, and they have the actual lunar rover that was used when they faked the moon landings! Plus, a terrifically lame ride simulating a Martian Roller Coaster (I wish I was making the last part up).

The most interesting thing was discovering that Luggage is a rocket nerd. He sported a woody and a pocket protector the whole time we were in there, and was spitting out space facts like you wouldn't believe. Personally, I was shocked, because I thought his IQ was only slightly higher than Forrest Gump. Of course, Gump did know a lot about shrimp…

(I'm kidding. Well, about the IQ part. He did turn into a rocket nerd, which I was not expecting.)

At one point Luggage and I went into the G-Force simulator with the girl, while Sis-in-law, Wifey, and the boy stayed outside.

"Are you sure you don't want to come?" I said. "It might trigger your G-spot."

"Well no one else has for the past fifteen years."

In retrospect, I guess I walked into that one.

Inside they spun us around really fast, until the girl started yelling about how she was going to die. At one point the slabs you're laying on lift up about six inches, which we were ready for. What we were not ready for was when the machine slows down and the slabs fall back to the ground.

Unless you only weigh 50 pounds, in which case they don't drop down quite as fast. "Daddy!" yelled the girl, alarmed. "I'm not falling!"

"That's because they open the top and shoot out little girls," I said.

"WAAAAAH!" she began to cry at 2 G.

Not my proudest moment as a father.

After that we were pretty much ready to go. We cooled off back at Sis-in-law's, walked the dogs, and dithered about where to eat.

Being a decisive alpha male, I made the decision. Indecisiveness is, after all, for the weak. "Honey, where do you want to go?" I said to Wifey. "We'll go where you say."

"Red Robin," she said.

Being a good husband, father, and brother-in-law, I dropped them off and parked the van eight nautical miles away. When I finally arrived, I found my family sitting awkwardly on the porch watching a little girl turn red and scream at the top of her lungs, totally inconsolable.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Her brother got a balloon, and-"

"SAY NO MORE! I can solve this problem!" I leapt into action, eager to show that I am also a top-notch stranger.

If you've ever been to Red Robin, you know that the entryway is festooned with six million balloons so that kids can take one. I sprinted inside, grabbed one of every color, and came charging back out like a firefighter trying to rescue a flaming baby cat.

"Here, little girl, it's a rainbow of balloons!" I thrust the balloons into her face and awaited the inevitable chorus of thank-yous from the girl, her mother, and society in general. Who knows? I might make Parade Magazine for this, or even Reader's Digest American Heroes section.

"GET THOSE AWAY FROM ME!" yelled the girl.

"What are you trying to do, you idiot?" yelled the mother. "She's balloonopobic and allergic to latex!"

At that the girl started to cough and her pupils dilate. "Help! Police! Maniac!" somebody yelled.

Thankfully, the pager sounded at just that very moment. "Force, party of six, Richard Force, party of six."

"Gotta go!" I let go of the balloons and sent them heavenward.

"Daddy!" cried the girl. "You lost our balloons!"

"I wanted that one!" the boy sobbed. "But now it's gone!"

"Um, uh," I looked at the growing angry crowd on the porch. "I had to send them to heaven so that your dead relatives could play with them," I said.

For some reason, this made the children cry even more.

"Nice going, dipshit," Wifey said as she breezed by me.

Inside, we were treated to Red Robin's specialty, a menu so complicated you need to be a rocket scientist to decipher it and figure out what you want. Thankfully, Luggage was up to the task and took care of it.

When we'd finished, Sis-in-law pointed out one of our neighbors, a very large man with a tattoo on his arm that said "Big Log." It looked like it'd been either put on in a basement or a prison.
"What do you think it means?" she asked.

"He's a baseball fan," said Wifey. "It means he plays baseball."

"He likes to go camping and sit on a big log," said the girl.

"I miss my balloon," said the boy. "I love that balloon."

I exchanged glances with Luggage, then leaned in close to the women. "I think it means he has extra-large equipment."

"No," said Sis-in-law.

"Why don't you ask him?" said Wifey with a twinkle in her eye.

"No way in hell," I said. "What if he got that in prison and the girl's right that he likes to make people sit on his big log?"

"Yeah," said Luggage, who is a cop. "In prison you'd definitely be somebody's bitch."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence."

With that we got up and left, with me giving strict instructions to the children not to touch or bother Big Log Man in any way, shape, or form. Better safe than sorry, I say.

After we'd tucked the kids into bed, we played a rousing game of Battle of the Sexes. If you've never played, don't. It's an awful game and Luggage and I got our asses handed to us.

Only, it turns out that if you're amazingly lucky you can win despite any skill. So Luggage and I won on luck alone, despite the fact that everyone present knew that we'd been outplayed the entire game.

Then it was off to bed.

So to recap: I'd called Wifey old, bought a gift for myself, taught the boy to insult her haircut, terrorized a stranger in front of Red Robin, and then won at a game despite my own incompetence.

Yes, I did end up sleeping on the couch. How did you ever guess?

Tomorrow: More suitcases?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Not the Riveter

We had two goals for today: pack all of our belongings in the bags which we originally came over with, and not die in a fiery crash. Fortunately we managed to achieve one of them.

See, we’ve been doing this for the past four years, and each year we end up with more luggage than we started with. See, in addition to the clothing we bring, we always buy all our back-to-school, electronics, food supplies, and gewgaws that you either can’t get or pay too much for in Europe.

The first year, this meant we had to buy two 28” suitcases to fly back in addition to the 3 that we’d brought. The second year, we inherited two hard-sided circa 1970 suitcases in addition to the 5 that we had. The third year, we bought four suitcases (three with a duffel bag) and used three in addition to the 5 we had brought (two had worn out).

So this year, I had a master plan: we packed a small suitcase inside a large suitcase, an empty duffel bag, and another suitcase was full of souvenirs for our American friends. So we had 4 suitcases on the way there, but on the way back, we had two entire suitcases and a duffel bag spare space.

Even avaricious Euro-wannabes like ourselves should be content with that, right?

So we started packing. In order to facilitate this, Grandma and Grandpa took the kids away to Toys R Us, in order to get some last-minute bribing out of the way.

Apparently not. Someone (and I blame Wifey) waaaaay overbought, and we ended up with enough loose crap that it became clear we needed another small suitcase. Not a big one, mind you; just a small one.

I began to suspect this during minute 1 of our packing. “We need another suitcase,” I said. “Want me to run and get it?”

“No,” Wifey said. “I’ll make it all fit.”

“In that case, you wanna get naked and do it on the pool table?” When she looked at me like I was insane, I added “The kids will be gone for another couple of hours at least.”

She rolled her eyes at me and continued packing. Personally, I think that’s the sign of a mental imbalance. I mean, here is perfectly good sex (well, sex at least) begging, and she goes on working on packing.

Isn’t that a warning sign of OCD or something? I bet if you look it up it is.

So after about three hours packing, during which time I continued to whine and complain about how hot it was as an excuse to shed clothing, she had roughly packed the bags. In her rational mind, she’d accepted that we needed to buy another suitcase. But in her animal mind, which I think Freud called the Stubbornego or some such, she still thought we could fit it all into the suitcases we had.

Meanwhile, I was wandering around naked trying to entice her. “Hey, sexy, want a back rub after all that hard work?” I asked.

“No thanks,” she stuffed a pillow into the middle of one of the hard sided suitcases, and it hung open about four inches. “Hey, fatass, come sit on this and see if you can force it closed.”

“It’s too dangerous in my condition.”

“What condition?” She finally looked at me.

“Naked,” I said. “I might catch my junk in there.”

“Ridiculous,” she said. “That lip is more than two inches high, so your manhood is well clear of the opening.”

“But can’t you think of other things you’d like to do with my endowment?” I asked. “It’s almost as big as Harvard’s.”

“Just close the damn case with your fat ass, which is almost as big as Shoney’s Big Boy.”

More than a little disgruntled, I sat on the case and closed it. Let me tell you, that conversation didn’t do much for my self-esteem, nor was it conducive to intimacy.

Oh, hell, who am I kidding. I was still pretty much ready to go.

Once we got all the bags packed, the children came home, thus depriving me of any erotic alone time with Wifey. Not that anything would have happened, but I like to keep the dream alive.

The girl had managed to convince Grandma and Grandpa to buy her about 500 Pokemon cards, in several collectible tins that would not only take up space in the suitcase but were guaranteed to hang around the house underfoot for years to come.

The boy had gotten himself a Ben 10 Omnimatrix watch, a Backagon collapsible dragon (whatever the hell that was), and several collectible tins of Yu-Gi-Oh cards. If you don’t remember hearing about those during the vacation, it’s because you hadn’t. I have no idea why he bought them, other than to have collectible tins that were even larger than the girl’s Pokemon tins.

It was clear that we needed a medium-sized suitcase now.

“Oh joy,” I said to my parents. “I’m so glad that you bought them so much.”

“Well, since they can’t take their Furbies, we thought we’d make it up to them somehow.”

So, with an additional twenty pounds of cards, tins, and shattered hopes for a little naughty alone time, we set off, heading for the home of Sis-In-Law.

The drive was largely uneventful, other than discovering that the direct route went from Tennessee to Georgia to Tennessee to Alabama. Yes, the southern border of Tennessee is largely flat, but for some reason the road curves up and down. I blame the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Finally we reached her house, which is located at the end of a well-hidden street next to a garage door company with a banner-sized sign that says “SIGN OVERPASS PETITION HERE.”

I didn’t sign the petition, but it’s possible that Eustus P. Hogg III did.

Sis-in-law was quite happy to see us, and the six of us went out to dinner (my family, sis-in-law, and her boyfriend, who we will henceforth refer to as Luggage; he knows why). We chose Rosie’s in Huntsville, which is a Mexican restaurant. It was named Rosie’s in honor of the owner’s mother, whose name was Maria.

No, I don’t know why either. Nor do I know why the wall features a twelve-foot painting of a buxom Mexican woman with her cleavage spilling out of her low-cut white blouse. I mean, I liked it, but it’s not particularly the way I’d choose to decorate the wall of a restaurant named after my mother.

But Rosie’s not my mom, so I ogled like there was no tomorrow. Because if we don’t ogle, the communists have already won.

We had a good dinner; in fact, I would say that the dinner was excellent. Particularly noteworthy was the waitress who immediately fell in love with my son and brought him anything his heart desired, from extra drinks to extra straws to walking him to the restroom when he had to go potty.

She even brought him a handmade napkin blanket when he complained that the restaurant was too cold, and had a busboy climb up on a rickety ladder to close the overhead vent.

Yes, I do worry that he will have lady trouble in junior high. I worry a lot.

Once dinner was over, the girl whipped out the comment card and began filling it out in crayon. She heaped fulsome praise on Rosie’s and the waitress. The boy, who had abused her hospitality all night, was ready to go as soon as he’d finished eating. Once he’d had his way with her, he was done.

Sometimes my worries keep me up all night.
After that we left. Once we’d reached home, Wifey turned to me and asked “where did you put the hip pack?”

My response: “You mean the hip pack that you’ve been carrying the entire vacation that has your ID and your medicine and the cash that you don’t let me touch? I think I put it in your hands three weeks ago and haven’t touched it since.”

You know what else I won’t be touching for three weeks?

“I saw it!” sis-in-law said, averting violence.

“Where?” asked Wifey.

“On the bench at Rosie’s as we left.”

“Then why the didn’t you ing grab the ing thing, you ?” Wifey said.

For a minute, silence hung uncomfortably in the air.

“I’ll go get it,” I said. “Right now.”

“I’ll drive,” said Luggage. “Let’s roll!”

And we were out of there. I don’t know what happened later, but by the time I got back two hours later everything had calmed down.

Since Wifey made it abundantly clear that my slip-up earlier had cost me, I stayed up blogging on Sis-in-law’s prehistoric dialup connection and AOL account. I realized two things: ADSL has spoiled me, and AOL sucks ass.

Then, I watched a little bit of “Witches of Breastwick III.” You know, it’s not nearly as good as parts 1 and 2. I think because Jack Nicholson isn’t in it.

But that Cher sure has some big tits. I didn’t realize she did nude scenes. And at her age! That’s impressive.

Tomorrow: POW! To the Moon!