#20 – Time to Shampoo

I can still hear the shower running.  Sophia’s been in there almost an hour now, and I fear all that scrubbing will leave a nasty rash if she doesn’t get out soon.  If there’s a moral to this story, it must be: some people aren’t meant to swim.  

We’ve lived in a pool and tennis association for the past five years.  Though I’ve used both facilities on numerous occasions (in an effort to get my money’s worth from the absurd annual recreation dues), my wife hasn’t deigned to dip even a single toe into our aquatic paradise until today. I’m not quite sure why she hadn’t previously partaken of the watery pleasures. She knows how to swim more or less, and she claims to enjoy the activity.  Yet before finally getting cornered this afternoon, she’d always managed to disappear every time I grabbed a beach towel. 

I happened to be kicking the vending machine – trying to extricate the half-dropped Snicker’s Bar I’d already purchased – when the screaming began.  Thus, I didn’t personally witness the unfortunate occurrence. Yet despite the difficulties of interpreting frantic and nearly incoherent ramblings, I believe I can paint a fairly accurate picture of the events. 

Sophia had waded into the pool at last.  To her surprise, she enjoyed the sensation of the warm, soothing waters.  She even began questioning why she’d waited so long to take her inaugural dip. After a short while her pleasure and confidence grew, to the extent she submerged herself completely and commenced a brief underwater exploration of the surrounding area. 

In the midst of her wandering in the deeps (eyes tightly shut), Sophia felt a soft unfamiliar object brush across her forehead.  Reflexively, her eyes popped open. She peered about, attempting to identify the obstacle with which she’d collided and to ascertain whether any other similar or more dangerous items lined her path.  It took her several seconds, but she succeeded in putting a name to the thing she’d already bumped into, and confirmed the presence of a good deal more of the same in her immediate vicinity.  That’s when she shot out of the water like one of those dolphins you see on the National Geographic Channel, screaming for all she was worth. 

Our Association suffers a few incidents every summer.  No matter the warnings; no matter the inconvenience to our entire community; and no matter the cost involved.  At some point during each pool season, as yet unidentified parents let their toddlers swim without rubber diapers. One of the potty-challenged tykes invariably craps in the middle of the pool. There, the offending substance sits and often spreads, until either a lifeguard or some unsuspecting swimmer happens to discover it, or worse bump into it … like today for instance.

rubber diapers


#21 – Lessons Learned

I just filled my quota and then some in the “learn something new every day” field.  This morning, I finally took the plunge and signed up for Facebook.  An amazing tool!  Within minutes I managed to track down one of my high school buddies, Seth Harris. Seth and I played Dungeons & Dragons in a group of mostly-likeminded purveyors of curses and off-color humor, the raunchier and more perverse the better.  He accepted my “friend” request, and I dashed off a suitable greeting to him early this afternoon. 

A half hour ago I received a reply from Seth, which brings me to today’s first lesson learned: the career path you expect a high school kid to take can vary significantly from the one he ultimately selects.  Who would’ve thought?  Of all the unlikely professions, Seth chose teaching. 

The manner through which Seth conveyed his professional background leads me to the second of today’s lessons.  Did you know there’s a difference between posting on someone’s “wall” and sending them a private message?  I do … now. 

That brings me to the final lesson learned today: apparently, not every third grade teacher appreciates a good pedophile joke.

private message

The Facebook private messaging screen

#22 – Itsy Bitsy Spider

I nearly soiled myself last night when Sophia – in a note of clear distress – suddenly yelled from the bedroom: “Honey, come quick!”  Grabbing my phone in anticipation of an imminent 911 call, I raced to her side and quickly spotted … nothing: no arterial spray; no bone fragments jutting from exposed flesh; no dog with his little noggin caught in the headboard slats, again; no obvious sign of any disaster.  Nonetheless, Sophia latched onto my arm as soon as I entered the room. In near panic, she pointed toward a carpeted spot in the far corner and gasped: “Richard, do something about that spider!” 

“A spider?  You cut five years off my life for a spider? Why are you bothering me with this?” 

“I am not ‘bothering’ you, Richard. You know spiders scare me to death. When you said ‘I do,’ you implicitly promised to remove insects from the house.  So take care of it!” 

Having delivered her edict, she not only exited the room but fled to the far side of the house, awaiting receipt of my “all clear” signal. 

I don’t like taking orders. I also don’t appreciate being interrupted in the middle of one of my computer baseball games.  At the time my wife raised her SOS call, I was enjoying a nail-biter between the Yankees and Twins.  I’d abandoned the game with the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, with Jeter at the plate!  And needless to say, I felt anxious to return ASAP to observe whether “Mr. November” would come through in the clutch yet again.  That’s probably why I didn’t waste more than a minute searching for the elusive spider, who’d seemingly vanished from plain sight while Sophia fled the room. 

As I saw it, I had two options.  First, I could truthfully notify the Mrs. of my failure to locate the bug, and then listen to her bitch and moan at me to stay in the room until the insect deigned to reappear. Second, I could shade the truth a tad by telling her I’d already taken care of the problem, while buying time to corral the critter at my future leisure.  I went with option two, figuring it highly unlikely that the spider would show himself again that evening. 

Now I know why I’m no statistician.  When I got ready for bed an hour later (after the Yankees triumphed), the bathroom light wakened Sophia.  Upon opening her eyes, she happened to catch sight of the same spider I’d supposedly evicted.  She felt pretty sure it was the same bug anyway.  Admittedly, the creature taking its ease on our comforter — six inches from her face — looked much bigger than the one she’d seen earlier from the far corner of the room.  I didn’t hear those details until this morning though, when a somewhat calmer though no less angry wife filled me in.  Last night, all I heard were the screams.

spider

#23 – Happy Birthday to You, or Not

Since the unfortunate events involving my dog with the Virgin Mary and my niece with Cee Lo Green, I haven’t dared show my face at the residence now occupied by Sophia’s parents, her brother Giuseppe, and Giuseppe’s wife and kids.  But with Giuseppe’s birthday falling yesterday, I saw my chance to make amends. I placed an online order with one of Atlanta’s best bakeries for a decadent, seven-layer chocolate cake. 

On the drive to the bakery late yesterday afternoon, I realized I’d forgotten to request an inscription for the cake.  I found a small sheet of notepaper in my pocket and scribbled a boring but safe message: “Happy Birthday, Giuseppe!”  Once in the store I pulled the paper from my pocket, handed it the clerk and waited. It took longer than expected, but at last I received a sealed, beribboned box containing my purchased delicacy. 

I barely made it to the dinner table on time, pausing only to shove my container into the refrigerator.  In the dining room, I found the usual suspects along with one addition. Sophia’s first cousin, Angelica, has just arrived from Sicily for a week-long visit. She possesses two attributes which feature in this tale.  First, she doesn’t know any English.  Second, she likes to be helpful. 

When the time for dessert arrived, helpful Angelica retrieved the cake from the fridge and prepared it for delivery to the birthday boy.  She returned from the kitchen, my beautiful cake in hand, with a single lit candle planted atop.  Determined to be of equal assistance, I turned off the lights for added ambiance, and everyone commenced singing “Happy Birthday to You.”  The song ended as Angelica placed the cake before Giuseppe, who made his wish and blew out the candle.  That’s when I turned on the lights. 

With the cake shielded from view, I initially couldn’t understand why Giuseppe — in a tone smacking of disbelief — suddenly questioned: “Get Levitra?”  Nor could I understand why everyone in the room except Angelica turned and leveled their iciest stares at me.  And then I saw the writing on the cake.  You guessed it; the words “Get Levitra” appeared in flowing frosted calligraphy. 

How did this accident happen, you ask?  As I learned after reflexively reaching into my pants’ pocket, I apparently had stored two sheets of identical notepaper.  One, the blank sheet on which I’d written Giuseppe’s birthday greeting, was still in my pocket. The other, gone missing, was the reminder I’d given myself the day before to refill the prescription for my erectile dysfunction medication. 

In the moment of quiet before several voices began simultaneously yelling at me, I and everyone else distinctly heard Giuseppe ask a single question to his wife.  Guiseppe used the same tone Julius Caesar must’ve employed when Cassius and Brutus stabbed him in the back: “You told them?”

 

birthday cake

#24 – Anything but the Marlboro Man

I hate smoking in general, but I’m especially against marketing tobacco to our youth – Prometheus included.  Yesterday morning a cigarette butt cast aside on my front lawn, courtesy of some unidentified douchebag, proved too tempting a morsel for the young canine. No, he didn’t light up; I have a strict rule
against minors playing with matches. Yet he did swallow the item whole. 

One frantic call to the Vet and teaspoon of “Ipecac” later, the puppy vomited up the illicit material without any apparent lasting effects.  Well that’s not quite true, since the incident may have achieved at least one long-term beneficial result.  Today, Prometheus happened on another used cigarette and granted it only a cursory sniff before moving on. 

The event with my dog reminded me of a similar and equally successful dollop of negative conditioning employed on my sister Lisa many years ago.  During school hours one day, my father caught his sixteen-year-old daughter smoking and drinking with some other kids.  He elected to punish her by purchasing a carton of cigarettes and a quart of vodka … and forcing her to smoke and drink until she puked her guts out.  In today’s more enlightened world, Dad’s conduct likely would’ve earned him a charge of criminal abuse.  Lisa probably would’ve been removed from our house, for her own protection, by the
Division of Youth and Family Services.  Of course, times were different back then. No one called the cops on Dad and nobody tried to take Lisa away.  Best of all, Dad’s unusual training method worked exactly as he’d intended.  Lisa never smoked or drank again, other than the occasional glass of wine. 

Come to think of it, I don’t want a drunken dog any more than I want a smoker.  So where’s that bottle of vodka and Prometheus’ extra water bowl?

 

cigarette carton vodka


#25 – One for the Crapper

Yesterday, when Sophia’s sister-in-law and mother both came down with some sort of violent bug, my wife graciously volunteered “our” services to host her niece and nephew for the evening.  I could tell Gina and Maria must’ve been sick as dogs, since neither of them said “boo” at the idea of leaving the tykes in my questionable company. 

Sophia decided we’d take the children (little Maria – age three, and her brother Franco – age four) out to dinner.  Naturally, the car rides and restaurant outing featured all-too-familiar scenes of whining, crying and screaming.  But who could blame me? 

After dinner, Sophia announced her intent to purchase a new outfit for little Maria.  She left me at the shopping plaza’s mega bookstore with Franco, promising to return in ten minutes.  She also whispered a parting instruction: “And honey. For the love of God, this time don’t screw things up!” 

No sooner had the pair vanished from sight when my bowels made a sudden, insistent announcement of their need to evacuate.  Given Sophia’s warning, and all too aware of my already-shaky status with her family, I knew I couldn’t dare take my eyes off the kid.  So I dragged him along to the men’s room and into a stall with me. 

Under the best of circumstances my sphincter is a tad shy.  And a four-year-old standing two feet in front of me, staring down at my junk, hardly qualifies as the best of circumstances.  I had to tell Franco to turn around and face the door before I could begin to concentrate on the task at hand.  Even then, his new position worked more harm than good. The young jokester felt compelled to twist my nipples by repeatedly unlocking the stall’s door and swinging it open, all while laughing maniacally.  Thankfully though, we seemed to be the bathroom’s sole occupants.  

When I became momentarily distracted trying to free the next roll of toilet paper from the dispenser, the pint-sized malcontent suddenly sprinted from the stall. He left my line of sight, and I heard him turn the doorknob to exit the men’s room. Naturally, I panicked.  I couldn’t chance the future member of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list getting lost while in my care.  In a desperate effort to catch him before he vacated the premises, I stood up and duck-walked out of the stall, pants and underwear draped around my ankles. 

After I’d managed several steps, Franco jumped from behind a trash can yelling:“Surprise!” I grabbed him by his shirt collar and turned to escort him back to our stall.  That’s when I briefly noted a bug-eyed teenager standing beside the bathroom door and gawking at me … just before he fled the room shouting “Security!” at the top of his lungs. 

In the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo, I anticipated having some “splainin” to do. Then I looked down, and comprehended the vast understatement of my assessment. In the moments when the mortified teen first entered the room, Franco apparently had reoriented himself: facing toward me, eye to eye with Little Richard and less than a foot away. All I could think was: Who’s the best criminal lawyer I know?

ricky and lucy

A “splainin” situation


#26 – Lest Old Acquaintance be Forgot

Until yesterday, I never gave much thought to my death.  Then again, prior to last night I hadn’t talked to “Zero” Moskowitz in 35 years. And I probably would’ve passed another three decades without communicating with him if it hadn’t been for the mistaken “friend” request I sent on Facebook (having confused him for someone else). 

I knew Zero from Camp Cherokee, the sleep-away “paradise” I first attended as a ten-year-old. That’s where Zero earned his nickname, the operative word being “earned.”  Since he wasn’t exactly a friend of mine there (more of a victim, to be perfectly honest), I’ll admit to some surprise when he accepted my “friend” request. I felt even more astonished, and suspicious, when he sent me a private message referencing our camp days together and inviting me to give him a call, “to catch up.” 

I couldn’t imagine anyone, much less Zero, wanting to “catch up” by reminiscing about stories which would undoubtedly begin: “Remember the time we did ___ to you?”  So when Zero asked me to telephone, my first thought was: insurance salesman

Nonetheless I called him, mainly out of a sense of morbid curiosity.  A woman answered the phone and I said: “Is Zero Moskowitz there?” 

Her reply caught me off guard: “This is the Moskowitz residence, but there’s no one here named ‘Zero.’  You must’ve dialed the wrong Moskowitz family.” 

Before she could hang up, I heard a distant male voice announce: “I think it’s for me.” 

A moment later, a rather perturbed Zero announced: “Richard, I’m an adult.  People call me by my name, ‘Alan.’  Nobody’s called me ‘Zero’ since I was a kid.” 

Will surprises never cease? I guess it never occurred to me his nickname wouldn’t stick for life.  Indeed, I would’ve expected his Rabbi to use the moniker in Zero’s wedding ceremony, in the unlikely event he ever married (which he had, so he claimed). 

As I’d surmised, Zero didn’t want to talk about the good old days, other than to tersely advise how he hadn’t eaten peanut butter for 35 years – a reference to the backfiring of a particularly gruesome prank.  Instead, he quickly reached his real reason for catching up, asking me: “Richard, have you made plans for your death?” 

Ever the wise-guy, I replied: “No, but judging by the argument my wife and I had last night, I expect she has.” 

That’s when I learned Zero does not sell insurance.  He sells gravestones!  And as of last night, one of his particularly fine granite specimens has been earmarked for yours truly.  I told Zero I’d get back to him later … with the closing date.

camp cherokee

Where Zeros were welcomed!

#27 – No Price for Beauty?

You know those beautifying masks women cover their faces with for toning, exfoliating, revitalizing, etc.?  Those ridiculous, multi-hued pastes which turn the loveliest of women into exiles from the latest mime festival?  The clay-like facial cloaks which prompt a guy to ask his wife: “Didn’t we schedule clown sex for tomorrow night?”  Well in case you weren’t aware, those beautifying products can be expensive, some considerably moreso than others.  And as I regrettably discovered, it’s best to know which ones are the costly items before using them as props for immature practical jokes. 

I can’t swear to the method’s accuracy, but I now suspect beauty industry names and packaging offer a fair indication of relative price.  For instance, “Masque – Orchidée Impériale,” which I found in Sophia’s bathroom cabinet, comes in an elegant glass jar with a golden lid and  costs $357.00. In contrast, the plastic tube of toning “Mask” resting beside the stunning container runs for about $40.00.   

Sophia informed me of the differences in masking products and their prices when she returned home from work yesterday … and found me standing with bare butt cheeks slathered in half the contents of that gorgeous glass jar.

Orchidee imperiale

#28 – The Funniest Man in the HOA

Tuesday night, Sophia showed me a Homeowners’ Association letter to her parents advising that their statue of the Virgin Mary on the front porch requires approval from the Architectural Design Committee.  I didn’t much appreciate her tone when she doled out my marching orders: “Take care of this, Richard!  If you can fix things for my mother, maybe my family will let you through their front door again.” 

After grudgingly marking Mary’s current location with an “X” on the in-laws’ property survey and typing appropriate header information on an application form, I decided to show my wife who’s boss by completing the form as a mock approval application submitted by my father-in-law.  I took great pleasure in imagining Sophia rolling her eyes when she read the fake document.  This is what I wrote: 

Transplanted lunatics from New Jersey (with suspected Mafia ties) seek HOA approval to display obnoxious religious statuary in a manner guaranteed to offend neighbors and passersby alike. A survey of the applicants’ property is attached.  The survey has been marked as follows: a) one “X” to indicate the front porch area where the gaudy, three-foot-tall image of the Virgin Mary currently rests; and b) a second “X” to denote the proposed backyard site for your burial in the event this application is denied. 

Yesterday morning, I left the marked survey and “completed” application on the kitchen table for Sophia’s review.  Then I went for a run.  By the time I returned, Sophia had already driven to work and the documents were nowhere to be seen. 

I waited all day for the call from my wife berating me for my “childish prank.”  But she never phoned, and she didn’t yell at me when she came home last night.  To the contrary, she thanked me for taking care of her parents’ issue.  My responding look of dismay prompted Sophia to reveal that she hadn’t bothered to read my application package. Instead, on her way to work, she’d simply dropped off the papers at the Association Manager’s office.  Why?  Because, as she put it: “You’re a great lawyer, Richard; if you write something, I know it’ll get the job done.” 

There’s a moral here somewhere, but I’ll be damned if I can figure it out.  Naturally, I expected an immediate rejection of the application followed by my lifetime ban from the Gambino household (both of which admittedly offered their advantages).  What I did not anticipate was the Association Manager’s telephone call to Sophia’s father this afternoon, telling Vito: “Your hilarious application for the Virgin Mary statue has been approved.  All the Board members think you’re the funniest person in the development!” 

What’s the upshot?  Vito, who may in fact possess the tiniest sense of humor in our subdivision — if not the entire State of Georgia — remains somewhat baffled … while I, the anonymous funnyman, am once more welcomed at the Gambino residence.

welcome mat

#29 – Ambition

I normally admire a man with ambition, up to a point.  Unfortunately, I fear Prometheus has reached that point.  I can only hope neutering is the answer. 

My little shitty turned 13 yesterday (13 weeks that is).  He’s through his second round of shots and the
Vet said it’s okay for him to be around another dog, but just one.  So yesterday, I let the critter tag along on
a visit to one of my dog-owning friends. My friend has a female Great Dane named “Susie” who weighs close to 150 pounds.  Obviously, she’s a bit larger than Prometheus.  Who am I kidding?  She’s taken dumps bigger than him.    

Despite the size differential, Prometheus clearly took a shine to Susie.  I could tell because, five minutes after our arrival, I glanced at the Great Dane only to see my boy draped around one of her hind legs furiously humping away.  Though his stationary victim mutely endured the outrageous assault on her person, the withering look of indignation she visited on the unwelcome hitchhiker spoke volumes. 

Now that’s what I call ambition!  And since Prometheus would need a stepladder to do any real harm to Susie, I felt inclined to view his youthful enthusiasm as “harmless” aspiration.  I even chuckled over the whole incident, calling the puppy a “chip off the old block.” (Not that I’ve ever humped a Great Dane, mind you.)  But that was yesterday. 

Today proved an entirely different story.  Once again Prometheus tried to bite off more than he could chew.  Only, this time the leg my mutt chose to assault happened to belong to the 60-year-old man who met me to discuss potential legal representation. I suspect the guy will now look elsewhere for an attorney, since he wasn’t smiling when he told me, after shaking Prometheus off his leg for the third time: “You know, I’ve been screwed by lawyers before, and I expect to be screwed by lawyers again … but not like this!”

 

great dane

The Great Dane — a large, patient dog