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I feel pretty good about the short lecture I gave today. Though I probably scored an “E” for technology use, I think the “A” I deserve for improvisation more than makes up for the lack.

Our county bar association has a speaker at every monthly luncheon, and I agreed to fill in with a short presentation on litigation organization at today’s meeting. I expected to use my own LCD projector to play the PowerPoint presentation I’d cobbled together. But when I tested the machine yesterday, the bulb blew out. Fortunately, my friend Jimmy owns a projector and graciously lent it.

Jimmy assured me any idiot could operate the simple device, and owning one myself I didn’t expect any difficulties. Except I’d never stored files on my projector’s internal hard drive; and I didn’t know how to select between internally stored files and ones contained on an external zip drive. Jimmy apparently had stored at least one item in his machine, and it (rather than the contents of my zip drive) began playing when I queued up the first slide at my lecture.

No one was more surprised than me to see a photo of an open fishing tackle-box, instead of the bullet points on the topics I planned to cover. Though I couldn’t fathom how it’d mixed with my slides, I knew my tenuous hold over the audience’s attention wouldn’t abide any pauses to work out kinks in the presentation. So I improvised, telling my listeners that “the evidence for a lawsuit is like a tackle-box; if it’s not organized properly, a lawyer will never land the big verdict.”

Ignoring the blank stares from some audience members, I moved on to the next slide – one depicting a fishing rod and reel. That’s when I realized I’d inexplicably keyed up the photos from Jimmy’s recent fishing trip (the one I’d declined to attend), instead of my litigation organization panels. Nonetheless I pressed on, illustrating evidence gathering and categorization issues using the rod and reel picture, as well as ensuing photos of a) Jimmy’s friend casting his line from their motor boat, b) Jimmy wrangling in a large fish with his net, and c) an open cooler containing the day’s haul. I even equated a shot of Jimmy chugging a beer to the perils of rushing ahead in discovery without proper case organization. And guess what? In the end, my inadvertent, spontaneous pairing of fishing photos and lawsuit systematization proved a lot more entertaining than the lecture I’d planned.

Jimmy laughed hard enough to pass a kidney stone when I told him what happened. In contrast, I didn’t chuckle so much as breath a huge sigh of relief when he showed me how fortunate I was … that the fishing trip photos had played instead of the other file he’d stored on the projector’s internal memory. I would’ve been hard-pressed to conjure an acceptable case organization analogy from pictures of a wild bachelor party, especially ones featuring a pair of lesbian strippers performing eye-opening acts of “sisterly love.”

 
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My wife and I turned another corner with Prometheus last night. For the first time, we let the puppy sleep without a middle-of-the-evening potty break. And his crate remained bone dry too!

Until last night, one of us always set an alarm for 2:00 a.m. so Prometheus could empty his tiny bladder in the yard where pee-pee properly belongs (as I’ve repeatedly told him). Those late-night strolls have taken their toll though. As should seem obvious by now, I’m not the most careful soul under ordinary circumstances. And waking from a dead sleep to take a puppy out has proved anything but ordinary. I haven’t been at my best, and the periodic blunders caused by my sleep-deprived brain have tasked poor Sophia to her limit.

Between the puppy’s arrival on Father’s Day and the last accident a couple of weeks ago, the incidents my wife’s had to endure, courtesy of yours truly, have run an ugly gamut. 

Early on (blessedly, before the Mrs. bought her pistol), I spent consecutive nights practically peeling Sophia off the bedroom ceiling, after I forgot to deactivate the burglar alarm before stepping outside. We haven’t used the alarm since.

Her decision to purchase a handgun no doubt resulted from the boo-boos I committed after we stopped activating the burglar alarm. Though I’m sure the four times I forgot to lock the front door after the dog did his business played a large part in her decision, she didn’t pull the trigger on the pistol purchase until I neglected to shut the door one night. She was spitting mad the next morning, pointing out that it could’ve been a murderer who walked in and slit our throats while we slept … instead of the unidentified wildlife that treated our pantry like a woodland smorgasbord.

One night, a couple of weeks ago, I felt particularly muddled and was functioning on autopilot. Prometheus seemed dead tired too. Consequently, when he and I returned to the darkened bedroom, I thought it safe to briefly set him on the floor so I could rearrange his crate’s interior. I finished tidying and blindly reached down to the spot where I’d placed him. When my groping fingers made contact with fur, I put the dog in his crate and returned to bed.

I still can’t believe I mistook a stuffed animal for my live canine. While the plush toy snuggled peacefully inside the dog’s sleeping quarters, our uncrated puppy ran amok, chewing three pairs of Sophia’s designer shoes in the process!

Thankfully, that was the last of my late-night accidents. I wish I could say the snafus ended because I grew more careful in my behavior. No doubt Sophia wishes too, since she’s been the one waking up at 2:00 a.m. every evening since then.

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Last night, my wife’s brother Giuseppe informed her that their cousin from Sicily said to send Sophia “his love.” Her cheeks bloomed a surprising shade of scarlet at the announcement. When I asked what was up, Giuseppe answered: “You mean, my sister never told you about the kissing cousin? Oh, you’ve got to hear this!” I listened, and the tale did not disappoint. Here’s the story.

Sophia attended an all-girls Catholic high school: St. Mary’s. Early in her senior year, she went to a party hosted by one of her older cousins. There, she met a nineteen year old boy named Carlo. He spoke little English. But between the smattering he knew and her limited Italian, she gathered he haled from Sicily and was visiting relatives in Jersey. Those were the days of my wife’s rebellious phase, part of which entailed an attraction to bad-boy types. Carlo perfectly fit the mold. 

Despite St. Mary’s strict edict against students fraternizing with boys on school grounds, Sophia brazenly invited Carlo to borrow a car and pick her up when classes ended the next day. He readily agreed. When he pulled into the school parking lot that afternoon, his mere presence violated St. Mary’s rules. Yet Sophia decided to flaunt school mandates even more egregiously by making out with her new beau in the vehicle. A bigger no-no didn’t exist at St. Mary’s. Not too surprisingly – given the couple’s less than circumspect behavior – one of the nuns caught them in the act and the headmistress summarily suspended the wayward girl.

Suddenly realizing she’d gone too far, Sophia asked Carlo to drive her home. Irrationally, she hoped the presence of a fellow paisan from Sicily would soften her parents’ reaction to the suspension news. The two of them bumped into her mother as they walked through the front door. That’s when an eye-opening exchange of greetings occurred. At the same time Sophia said “Hi mom,” Mrs. Gambino took one look at Carlo and cried “Nephew!,” while Carlo got a load of his date’s mother and queried “Zia Maria?” A scant second later, Sophia and Carlo shared identical looks of horror as Sophia blurted “Aunt Maria?” at the same moment Carlo uttered “Mamma?”

Maria immediately realized something wasn’t right. But before she could ask the two teens why they’d suddenly turned green, the telephone in the foyer rang and she moved to answer it. After lifting the receiver, she listened intently for a time and then voiced her disbelief: “She’s been suspended? … for having sexual relations with a boy in the parking lot? … this afternoon?” Still holding the phone, she turned to glare at her daughter, only to spy both Sophia and Carlo cringing noticeably. That’s when she put two and two together … and fainted.

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My friend Steve devised a clever means to address some unfortunate added responsibilities at home. With his wife bedridden for the next couple of weeks after surgery, he’s had to become “Mr. Everything” — family chef included.  He’s jumped into his new role with gusto, even creating a weekly restaurant-style menu from which his wife and kids select their daily meals. I liked the concept, but I thought it could work even better with a bit of “Sternifying.” Consequently, yesterday morning I typed up my own fancy looking menu and sent it to Steve for his perusal. As I’d hoped, he loved it and told me it had really brightened his day.

The story doesn’t end there of course. In addition to e-mailing the menu to Steve, I also left a hard copy on the kitchen counter for my wife’s review. Sophia didn’t get a chance to look at it though, and I forgot to put it away before yesterday’s dinner party.

Our guests last night were a nice family from Saudi Arabia who recently moved down the street. I’d met the clan’s patriarch, Hassan, while walking Prometheus one day. We’d had an enjoyable conversation. At Sophia’s suggestion, I returned later that afternoon and invited their whole family (Hassan, his wife, mother, daughter and three sons) over for a “welcome to the neighborhood” dinner. 

Sophia decided to cook an authentic Saudi Arabian meal for our guests. Not only did she carefully investigate the types of foods that might offend a Muslim, but she also found an excellent website with traditional recipes from our neighbors’ native land. I thought she prepared a fabulous meal. Once we managed to sufficiently calm down Hassan and his family, they did too.

Neither Sophia nor I at first realized which document Hassan had picked up off the kitchen counter, or why he and his family members suddenly convened together and commenced babbling Arabic. Only when an irate Hassan demanded to know if the paper in his hand represented that night’s dinner menu did I recognize what’d happened. That’s when my red-faced series of explanations began. 

Explanations or not, I deemed our guests tremendous sports for sticking around that evening. In their shoes, I probably would’ve bolted through the nearest exit after reading my joke five-course “menu,” featuring the following gourmet dishes:

            Soup – Cream of Wild Mushroom and Cat Urine

            Salad – Field Grass and Weeds in Walnut Saliva Dressing

            Appetizer – Garlic Hummus with Rat Droppings, over fragrant Cedar Chips

Entrée – Ravioli stuffed with Lobster and fresh Fromunda Cheese; side of Lemon-Herb Vaginal Discharge with Craisins

            Dessert – Chocolate-Ganache-Coated and Rasberry-Mousse-filled Donkey Rectum

Perhaps what amazed me most was the fact that Hassan didn’t herd his family out the door after he asked “What is this ‘Fromunda’ Cheese?,” and I sheepishly answered: “You know, from under your balls.” That’s what I call impressive cultural tolerance!

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My mother-in-law doesn’t drive, and until quite recently she’d never used a computer. In terms of shopping, those represent two considerable drawbacks. Maria’s the first to admit she’s a bit long in the tooth to begin driving. But much to the whole family’s surprise, she’s decided to give computers and the internet a go.

As expected, grasping the concepts of screen savers, search engines and URLs has proved a challenge.  Nonetheless, the old lady’s determined to master the basics of online shopping, mainly by combining incessant questioning of relatives with constant prayers to Jesus and the Virgin Mary. I don’t know about Jesus and Mary, but we less saintly humans at some point have all considered beating Maria senseless with a keyboard, upon fielding her tenth iteration of: “Tell me again, how do I ‘Goggle’ something?”

Thankfully (for sanity’s sake), Maria’s finally getting the hang of things. A week ago she made her first solo online purchase, successfully ordering two pairs of the HD sunglasses she’d seen advertised on TV. A few days later she stumbled on the Williams Sonoma website. From what I heard, a new Espresso machine and a set of Le Creuset bakeware are consequently en route to the Gambino home. 

At this juncture, her largest hurdle (other than my father-in-law’s apoplexy when he sees the charges his wife’s rung up in her new hobby) involves locating unknown websites. The concept of entering targeted inquiries in a search engine continues to elude her. Indeed, just this morning she couldn’t figure out how to find a suitable toy for her granddaughter’s impending fourth birthday. That’s when she called me.

As it happened, I’d already bookmarked a perfect website. It’s called “Tabytoys.com” and it displays links for various sites selling toys for humans and pets of all ages. For a guy like me who despises going to malls, Tabytoys’ collection of related sites seems a godsend.

I thought it’d be good computer practice for Maria if I e-mailed her the link. So I typed the URL into a message and hit “send.”

Twenty minutes later, as I congratulated myself for the easy brownie points I’d earned, Maria phoned again.  Though I found it difficult to interpret her confusing blend of Italian and English, I knew a rant when I heard one, especially when it focused on me. I got the gist of the issue eventually. Seems my e-mail had contained a typo. Instead of sending her the link to Tabytoys.com, I’d mistakenly typed “Tabutoys.com.” Tabutoys does sell toys, except they’re slightly more adult in variety than those found through Tabytoys. And apparently, my mother-in-law doesn’t consider the “Shane Diesel 10 inch Cock & Balls” a suitable present for a four-year-old.

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I survived my first mentoring session this afternoon, barely. Curiously, when the teacher introduced me to my mentee, Ernie, I saw no overt signs of berserker. He looked rather ordinary: a bit stocky perhaps, and (from what I was told) on the tall side for his age. Nothing in his outward appearance suggested Satan’s spawn. Frankly, I thought his cherubic face, innocent brown eyes, and close-cropped mat of black hair more reminiscent of a harmless Chia pet than the marauder he morphed into.

At mentoring orientation, the program administrator said some adults take their charges to the school library and play games there. Others, particularly on nice days, spend their time outside. With the weather seeming decent enough, I asked Ernie if he’d like to join me at the playground. He didn’t exactly gush with enthusiasm at the prospect. Shrugging his shoulders, he sighed: “I guess so.” I resigned myself to a dull half hour moping around and laboring to extract conversation. 

To say Ernie underwent a startling transformation after setting foot on the playground doesn’t begin to capture his metamorphosis. His alteration reminded me of the movie “Gremlins,” except instead of water turning a cuddly creature into a rampaging monster, sunlight did the trick. Ernie felt the warm caress of the sun’s rays … and ran amok. While I stood paralyzed with disbelief, the kid caromed through the playground like an old-fashioned pinball. He bounced about willy-nilly, from slide to monkey bars to jungle gym to swings, cutting in front of or knocking aside any children in his way. As he rampaged, he also shouted unintelligibly.

I didn’t know what to do. The orientation session hadn’t mentioned riot intervention. Nonetheless, the disapproving glares from a couple of teachers showed they expected some action from me. So I nervously flashed them the “okay” signal, unglued myself and chased after Ernie as fast as I could.

Let me tell you, that kid proved one speedy bugger. A snail had a better chance of outracing a motorcycle than I had of running Ernie down. When I commanded him to stop, he ignored me like an untrained puppy.  If it hadn’t been for the chocolate bar I’d stored in my pocket for later, I might still be on that playground, gasping for breath, sweating like a pig and enduring even worse than the back spasms I suffered in my failed attempt to grab his ankle.

My chocolate bar belatedly lured Ernie to his classroom, fifteen minutes beyond our slotted time limit. Thanks to the aspirin and ice pack graciously provided by the school nurse, I managed to ease my aching body into my automobile and drive home. Since then, I haven’t done more than type this post. But that’s no mean achievement, performed as it was while lying face-up on the floor.

Next week, I’ll try mentoring in the library. In the meantime, I better find out if there’s a limit to the amount of chocolate I’m allowed to feed Ernie.

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I wasted this entire morning, spending almost four hundred bucks in the process. And all I have to show for the time and expense is one used, decorative water jug. Or to be perfectly accurate, the several pieces of a second-hand decorative water jug.

The absurd scenario began and ended with Prometheus of course. Recently, I expanded the puppy’s training to include healing off-leash. This morning saw his initial test drive along our normal walking route. On the outbound journey he performed smashingly, sticking by my side as we meandered over the sidewalks. The return trip saw entirely different results, however.

I’m still not sure precisely what caught the dog’s attention. Obviously, he thought he spotted something of immense interest. Why else would he suddenly bolt toward the shrubbery fronting a neighbor’s house? But why head for the pottery? The rust colored, roundish object with a flared mouth lay unobtrusively on its side with its opening pointed toward the street. As far as I could tell, nothing about the item demanded closer inspection. Yet Prometheus seemed frantic to reach it.

He reached it all right, and then some. Executing an acrobatic leap worthy of an Olympic gymnast, my puppy scored a bulls-eye, hitting the jug’s mouth at full speed … and sliding his entire body into the container.

I didn’t need an engineering degree to realize Prometheus’ exit from the jug would prove far more difficult than his entrance. After examining the object from every angle, turning it on its head, lifting it and shaking it, I could see only one way to extricate the critter. That explains a) how I came to purchase the decorative item in question from its previous owner, at an exorbitant price, and b) the pottery’s subsequent impersonation of Humpty Dumpty after he fell off the wall.

You may be wondering why it took the whole morning and cost so much money just to free one little dog from a water jug. Well, let me break it down for you in order of expenditure:

  • Vase purchase (negotiated with zero leverage): $230.00
  • Wasted locksmith’s trip charge (apparently, a clay pot without an actual lock doesn’t fall within a locksmith’s purview): $19.00
  • Hammer and chisel purchase at hardware store (no coupons): $50.00
  • Visit to the Vet, to ensure no lasting damage to puppy: $90.00

 

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I had a unique client consultation this morning. I figured it’d be a doozy, since the first words out of the guy’s mouth were: “Whatever I say here’s confidential, right?”

After I assured him of the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege, he explained his novel legal issue. He expected his ex-wife to file papers seeking an increase in child support, and he wanted to know whether he could fight her application. Nothing unusual there, since dueling ex-spouses often seek to redo their divorce terms. But his story morphed beyond the norm when he told me the basis of her claim.

“She says she has to pay a lot more for Corey’s grooming, so she needs more money from me.”

“Grooming” seemed an odd word choice for a child’s haircuts, but I didn’t want to nitpick. I simply asked the first of several obvious follow up questions: “How old is your son?”

“In dog years or human?”

I immediately looked for a hidden camera but failed to spot one. Because the guy hadn’t cracked a smile, I saw no choice but to take him seriously. “Are you telling me Corey is a dog?”

“Yeah, an Alaskan malamute.”

I peered closely at his eyes, hoping to catch any sign of a practical joke. Yet none appeared, so what else could I do but play along? Forget about my prior list of anticipated, obvious questions; only one inquiry seemed pressing: “Are you paying child support … for a dog?”

Apparently, disbelief must’ve crept into my voice, because my prospective client not only answered in the affirmative but also whipped out a very official-looking divorce decree with an attached property settlement agreement. He then pointed out the agreement’s explicit provision obligating him to pay monthly child support to the couple’s “son, Corey Alan.”

I was so dumbfounded I didn’t think to ask him why the dog had a middle name and why a husband had agreed to pay “child support” for a canine. Instead, all I could think to say was: “Why does the dog need more grooming?”

That’s when I heard the real eye-opener: “My ex wants Corey’s nails clipped every week, so they don’t scratch when he’s screwing her. Do I have to pay for that?”

As you might guess, I couldn’t answer his question immediately, since I’d never come across this particular issue. I told him I’d need to research the subject and get back to him. 

Only after he left did I finally examine the caption of his divorce case and belatedly notice the alleged malamute fucker’s name: “Lisa Sharon Greenspan.”  Aha!  I’ve been wondering if my sister would retaliate for the recent desk plate fiasco. Now I know.

 
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As odd as it sounds, if my brother hadn’t spent so many weekends yelling at Eli Manning, he’d probably have a fourth wall in his family room by now. Instead, Frank can expect at least another week with his unwanted airy view.

Frank loves football. For as long as I can remember he’s been a diehard New York Giants fan, and an emotional one to boot. He anchors himself in front of the TV for every game, yelling at the set as if the players can actually hear him. Since 2004 he’s directed the bulk of his verbal assaults toward the Giants’ quarterback, Eli Manning. He relentlessly rides Eli, cursing him out as if he’s the worst quarterback in the franchise’s history and not a two-time Super Bowl winner.

Frank’s wife Ellen refuses to watch football. But that doesn’t mean he’s alone on Sundays. Since the 2004 season, the couple’s parrot “Bob” has watched every game with him. 

Bob is one smart parrot; and he’s amassed an impressive human vocabulary in his seven years. From Ellen he’s learned endearing phrases like: “Hello Honey” and “Who’s a good boy?” From Frank, he’s mainly picked up bits and pieces of the emotional diatribes leveled by his master at the Giants generally, and Eli Manning particularly, while watching football together.

Last Sunday, Eli threw a critical interception and his team lost the game. Frank ramped up his verbal assaults to their nth degree. As he told me yesterday, Bob faithfully echoed those insults during the game and kept imitating them straight through Monday morning.

Ellen and Frank are currently renovating their house. What began (in Frank’s mind) as a simple shelving installation in their family room somehow (i.e., Ellen) transformed into a one-third expansion of their entire living space. One wall in the family room was demolished to make way for an addition, and the shell for the new space went up a week ago.

Their contractor, coincidentally also named “Bob,” had promised to fully frame the family room this week so Frank wouldn’t have to watch another Giants’ game from his bedroom. But when Bob made that promise, he had no way of knowing his framing guy would suddenly quit on Monday. Now the contractor has informed Frank that his family room’s enclosure will suffer an indefinite delay, pending Bob’s hiring of a new framer.

Frank became mighty pissed on hearing the bad news … until his contractor explained why the framer had resigned. In another bizarre coincidence, the framer happened to be named “Eli.”  When Eli arrived Monday morning, he and contractor Bob greeted each other. The parrot must’ve thought Eli’s “Hi Bob” was directed at him. Understandably, when contractor Bob answered with “How’s it going Eli?,” the parrot mistook the framer for the Giant’s quarterback, and proceeded to regale the framer with Frank’s abusive highlight reel from Sunday’s football game.

Even my brother could hardly blame the guy for losing his cool after a three-hour harangue, featuring: “you suck, Eli!”; “get your head out of your ass, Eli!”; and “that’s not what you’re getting paid for, Eli!”

 
Bob and Eli