#290 – How We Met

I haven’t read the statistics on couples who met through the internet, but I know many have. With a multitude of online dating sites to choose from, technology-based connections have become commonplace. Yet some who found each other online feel embarrassed to say so. They concoct false “how we met” stories, rather then tell their friends and family the simple truth. Frankly, I don’t get it. My wife and I met through a matchmaking website, and we’re not ashamed to admit it. Jamie and his girlfriend, Tammie, also hooked up online, and they’ll happily share their story with anyone who asks. Of course, there’s a time and place for that kind of sharing, as even the two of them now admit.

Jamie went to high school with my friend, Jimmy. As I learned last night, the two of them have remained close, despite going in separate directions as adults. Jimmy took the path of college, white collar employment, and family life, while his unscholarly buddy moved directly from high school to a job selling garden supplies.

Unlike Jimmy, Jamie’s never been married. Tammie is his first serious girlfriend, but not because he’s a troll or anything. While he’s a bit scrawny, only average in height, and wears his receding hair in a ponytail, he’s a decent looking guy overall. His longstanding bachelorhood, as he freely acknowledges, stems mostly from a lifestyle choice. And Tammie – a cute, petite brunette who works as a hair stylist – is the first woman with whom he’s ever desired a real relationship.

When Jamie bared his soul to me last night, as Tammie and Jimmy listened in, I asked the natural follow-up question: “How’d you two meet?”

He matter-of-factly answered: “Online.”

“No kidding,” I replied. “So did my wife and me. Which site did you use: Match.com; eHarmony; christiansingles?”

Unabashedly, he answered: “Nah, we hooked up on ‘Fuckbook.’ The best lay ever! After one wild ride in my pickup’s flatbed, I knew she was the one for me! Isn’t that right, babe?”

“You know it, sugar!” Tammie agreed.

My jaw must’ve dropped, because Jimmy cracked up before chiming in: “Richard, you should see yourself. You know, he always says that story the same way, no matter where he is or who’s doing the asking. In fact, Jamie, tell Richard where you were when someone last asked how you and Tammie met.”

This time, Jamie seemed more than a tad chagrined when he explained: “Yeah … umm … that was last month, at my nephew’s baptism.”

I don’t know how many couples met using this site, but most of them probably won’t admit it.

#291 – The Problem to the Solution

I’ve been asking myself a question: when does the solution become the problem? In the present circumstances at least, the answer seems painfully obvious: last night, after dinner!

The problem itself stems from my unintended propensity to irk my wife’s family, and others. If an enraged Gambino doesn’t do me in, then maybe a pissed-off client will pay me with bullets instead of cash. Either way, I’m starting to think my days are numbered.

Nonetheless, should the chopped up pieces of my body find their way to a county landfill, I don’t want the son of a bitch who murdered me to get away with it. That’s why a Nova YouTube video showing how to extract your own DNA excited me. As I figured, with a DNA sample on hand, the police can identify the bits remaining of my corpse and more easily apprehend my assassin.

After viewing the video a week ago, I obtained all the necessary ingredients and recreated the experiment. I first gargled a mixture of bottled water and table salt and spit the fluid into a cup. Then I stirred in a single drop of dish soap. For the next step, I slowly poured rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring into the cup containing the regurgitated water and salt. Voila! A few minutes later, as promised, I could make out white clumps and strands of DNA forming in the mix. Because the video didn’t explain where and how the resulting sample should be stored, I decided to extract the clumps and strands of DNA from the solution and freeze them for safekeeping.

Last night, my wife invited her parents, brother, and sister-in-law for dinner. I delayed my return home as long as possible, but I still arrived before Sophia’s guests departed. I resignedly joined them at the kitchen table. In an effort to fill the conversational void, I raised the subject of DNA testing and explained how I’d extracted mine. Of them all, only my brother-in-law seemed interested. He at least found the topic fascinating and asked if he could view my creation.

I couldn’t find the DNA in our freezer, so I asked Sophia: “Honey, I left my samples on the top shelf, but I don’t see them. Do you know where they are?”

She sarcastically answered: “No, Richard. I don’t know where your disgusting DNA samples are, or why you stored them in our freezer to begin with. Anyway, where were they? Behind the ice cube tray?”

While still rooting around, I called out: “Not behind the tray; in the tray. Did you see them?”

Sophia didn’t immediately respond. When I poked my head out to investigate the sudden hush blanketing the room, I noted five pairs of eyes staring unblinkingly at their water goblets … and at the “ice cubes” bobbing within.

Amazing — a way to extract your DNA at home!

#292 – The Cinnamon Challenge

I’m not always up to date on the latest trends. For instance, before today I’d never heard of the “cinnamon challenge.” I didn’t know it’d been around for years or that it’s experienced a resurgence of late through YouTube videos. Thanks to this afternoon’s internet research, however, I can safely say I’m now as informed as anyone on the subject.

For the few of you who haven’t heard of the “cinnamon challenge,” the simple test entails swallowing a spoonful of cinnamon powder. The exercise isn’t as easy as it sounds though. Cinnamon powder doesn’t dissolve well in water and can be toxic in substantial quantities. When people swallow mouthfuls, they inhale much of the caustic substance into their lungs, and intense coughing, choking and, worst of all, vomiting often result.

Notwithstanding such perils, the internet presently abounds with videos of morons taking the cinnamon challenge and failing miserably. I watched several of the clips this afternoon, and I couldn’t believe the idiots pursued their vain attempts despite having already witnessed disgusting outcomes from others.

I first learned of the cinnamon challenge during my weekly mentoring session at the elementary school today. Naturally, when my mentee raised the topic, he didn’t say a word about the contestants coughing plumes of cinnamon dust into the air and gagging wretchedly, before violently expelling the contents of their stomachs. I had to experience those effects firsthand, after Ernie produced the spice bottle and spoon he’d “borrowed” from home and dared me to take the challenge!

As an adult, I probably should’ve known better than to accept a third-grader’s dare. The school librarian certainly thought so, as she made clear while escorting me to the nurse’s office … before summoning the janitor to clean up the evidence of my failed cinnamon test.



What moron thinks swallowing a spoonful of cinnamon is a good idea?

#293 – Through the Looking Glass

Though I represent people with marital problems, I nonetheless think of divorce as a last resort. I said as much to the woman who met with me this afternoon, adding that I didn’t think her marriage had reached the point of no return just yet. In fact, as I told her, it sounds like her relationship needs a strong dose of night school more than it requires formal dissolution.

When I initially asked “Shara” why she wanted a divorce, she responded: “My husband’s besmirched my reputation! He called me a slut and a liar because I ‘allegedly’ did the nasty with eight dudes before we met and didn’t tell him about ’em. And before you ask: No, I didn’t sleep with any of them.”

“What made your husband think you had?” I inquired.

“Well, he saw their names tattooed on my stomach.”

Though several questions immediately came to mind, I began with the most obvious: “How long have you two been married?”

“A little over a year,” she replied.

“I’m confused. He must’ve seen those names on your stomach from the start,” I wondered aloud. “So why have they suddenly become a problem?”

Shara had a ready explanation: “The names are spelled backwards, and you can only read them in the mirror. Last week, for the first time since we’ve been together, ‘Henry’ came up behind me while I was standing naked in front of a mirror. When he put his head over my shoulder, he got a good look at the words. That’s when he falsely accused me!”

“I see. Do you mind me asking why you had the names of eight guys tattooed on your stomach, spelled backwards no less?”

Once again, Shara answered without delay: “First of all, they’re not really ‘guys’; they’re Presidents. I dropped out of high school after I failed an American history test, and I always regretted it. I promised myself I’d go back to school someday and move up in the world. To make sure I’d follow through, I got a tattoo with the names of the eight Presidents I’d messed up on that test: Martin Van Buren; William Henry Harrison; John Tyler; James Polk; Zachary Taylor; Millard Fillmore; Franklin Pierce; and James Buchanan. I asked the artist to spell them backwards so I’d read them every time I got out of the shower.”

Since her explanation made sense, of a sort, I had only one further question: “Is your husband’s false accusation the only reason you want a divorce?”

Her matter-of-fact reply? “I don’t want a divorce ’cause of what he said to me. I want him out ’cause I’m trying to better myself, and I can’t be held back by a dumb-ass who doesn’t know the difference between a dead President and a boy from the Hood!”

One of our former Presidents.

#294 – Stranger on a Train

Used to be I could read, work on a crossword puzzle or take notes, while motoring in all types of conveyances, without fear of losing my lunch. Nowadays, I can’t even think about eyeballing the written word whilst in transit. I’ll also admit to feeling jealous of those who don’t yet know the annoyance of motion sickness, like the guy sitting beside me this morning.

I had a court hearing in Atlanta at 9:00 a.m., and rather than suffer through the city’s ungodly traffic, I opted to take the train. At that hour. every rail car was packed, and I consequently acquired a seat-mate. The guy looked to be in his early twenties. If I had to describe him to the police, I’d call him neatly dressed (in jeans and a sweater), slightly built, medium height, with short brown hair and glasses. In other words, he appeared average in every way.

My fellow passenger sat and pulled a book from his backpack, together with a highlighter and notepad. For the rest of the journey, he studiously pored through the text and highlighted various passages. He occasionally scribbled on his notepad too. All these tasks he accomplished without the slightest sign of discomfort.

Naturally, I envied his stable equilibrium. And with no other means to occupy myself, I also grew curious about his endeavors. I couldn’t see his book’s title though, and it would’ve seemed rude to bend over for a closer look. Instead, I began imagining the paperback’s content and themes, as well as its reader’s purpose.

Finally, my curiosity got the better of me. I interrupted my co-passenger and inquired whether he was studying something for school. Cryptically, he responded: “You could say that, I suppose. I’m definitely studying, and I hope to put these lessons to good use.”

He didn’t volunteer additional information; nor did he seem open to further dialogue. Just the opposite, he twisted his body to shield me from further view of his novel.

From then on, I considered it my mission to catch a glimpse of the book’s title. I found an opportunity when he prepared to exit the train. As he closed his literature, its cover at last revealed itself.

Often times, the title of a book doesn’t say much concerning its content. In this case, however, I learned all I needed to know about the young man’s focus from the words I spied: Letters to Penthouse.

The title speaks for itself, I believe.

#295 – Playing Favorites

I remember listening to a discussion on The Bert Show about a mother-in-law who charged an hourly rate to babysit one set of her grandkids, while offering to watch another larger and rowdier group for free. At the time, I couldn’t decide if I agreed with those condemning the woman for such unequal treatment or with those supporting her right to bill as she chose for daycare. I know where I stand now, however, having suffered a similar slap in the face this morning.

My wife’s mother never charges her son and daughter-in-law for daycare services, no matter how many hours she’s stuck with their kids. Although the two preschoolers often run amok, the old lady cheerfully assumes custody over them three or four times a week; and always gratis! But this morning, the first time I ever asked Maria for babysitting help, she had the nerve to say: “Alright Richard. I’ll do it, for fifty dollars.”

Realizing I’d be out much of the day at a deposition, I had no choice but to agree. I wasn’t happy though, and I called my wife to complain as soon as I paid the outrageous fee. Incredibly, Sophia attempted to excuse her mother’s conduct! I cut her off in midsentence, warning: “I know everything you’re gonna say, and I don’t buy any of it! Don’t try telling me your mother’s time is valuable and she deserves to get compensated if she wants. If ever there’s a woman whose time has no value, it’s her! She should pay us just for giving her something to do with all her empty hours!”

Sophia began to respond, but I trampled her words with my continued ranting: “And don’t tell me your brother’s situation differs from ours, because he and Gina live with your parents and they don’t have the same financial means as us. We’re not so well off we can afford a scalper’s rate for babysitting.”

I barely paused before moving on: “You know what this is, honey? It’s blatant favoritism! As you damn well know, your mother doesn’t like me at all, and she clearly prefers your brother’s kids to our boy!”

Sophia finally had a chance to squeeze a word in edgewise: “Richard, I’m sure mom’s not out to punish you.  If she’s playing favorites, she has good reason. Franco and Maria are her own flesh and blood. And as you well know, they’re not the ones who peed on her Virgin Mary statue, chewed the feet off her Jesus figurine, and disfigured the Baby Jesus from her manger set. Those honors go to Prometheus, the same puppy you want her to watch for free. ”

Despite my wife’s arguments, I remain unmoved. As I see it, if a grandmother won’t charge to babysit her unruly human grandkids, she shouldn’t demand payment for watching the disorderly canine ones either.

If I have to pay for doggy daycare, I’d rather pay a professional.

#296 – His Cheatin’ Heart

My wife and I generally feel disdain for those who cheat on their significant others. And when the victim is someone we know and like, we tend to view the philanderer as our personal enemy and act accordingly. We spotted one such “enemy” last night. My reaction, though well intended, achieved the same result as a hand grenade against a single mosquito: the mosquito died, but he wasn’t the only one.

The wife and I ate a late dinner at a local restaurant yesterday. As we sat down, Sophia spotted her secretary’s boyfriend at another table, accompanied by another woman! The tart didn’t look familiar, but the sights of her hand clasped in his and her mooning eyes left no doubt of a romantic entanglement.

Sophia’s secretary happens to be the sweetest, most lovable person we know. She’s pretty too! Until yesterday, we couldn’t imagine any man who’d won her heart desiring another. Yet there her beloved boyfriend sat, wining and dining some unknown strumpet!

Sophia burned to give “Teddy” a piece of her mind. Although equally outraged, I devised a more subtle approach to transmit the same disapproving message. The restaurant had hired a lone singer/guitarist to perform for its patrons. I figured he’d agree to play an appropriate tune of my choosing, if properly motivated.

As I knew from past get-togethers with Teddy, the purebred redneck enjoys country music. I’m not familiar with many of that genre’s songs, but I recalled one famous ditty I felt sure would do the trick. With that tune in mind, I approached the entertainer. Slipping him a twenty, I asked if he could play my selection immediately. He said he’d gladly oblige, but he’d already been asked to sing a special request next. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have quibbled, but I saw a waitress bring Teddy his check, and I knew it was now or never for my message. I consequently pulled out a hundred dollar bill and “suggested” that the special request could wait.

Moments later, the first chords of the country classic, “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” echoed through the dining area. As I’d hoped, the song’s meaning didn’t escape Teddy. He looked like somebody’d goosed him. Gazing about wildly, he spotted us. We waved to him. He grabbed his date and practically sprinted from the restaurant.

It wasn’t until Teddy sped away that I happened to notice another couple deriving personal meaning from my chosen melody. Since the pair sat close by, I easily heard the young woman’s comments to her man: “This is the ‘special request’ you arranged just for me?!!! You know, that was a long time ago, and you said you’d forgiven me. But now I see nothing’s changed, and you’ll never put the past behind us. So, you want an answer? Here it is: I don’t!!!!!”

With that, the distraught woman burst into tears and fled the restaurant. Her date sat motionless, staring dumbstruck at her vacated seat … as the song I’d paid for ended, and the first notes rang out of his delayed special request – Train’s “Marry Me.”

Hank Williams – creator of that famous country ballad, “Your Cheatin’ Heart”

#297 – The Shit List

I’ve decided to get serious about my bucket list. After weeks promising my wife I’d create one, and repeatedly overstating how close I am to completion, I see no choice but to focus on the things I most want to accomplish before I cast off my mortal coil. I have a long way to go though. Thus far, I’ve only managed to jot down one item: “Finish the damn bucket list!”

For New Year’s, Sophia resolved for the two of us to craft bucket lists and then help each other cross off one wish by summer’s end. She presumed we’d need substantial planning time, and she’s been nagging me incessantly to finish so we can get going.

Although I’ve tried a number of times, I’ve failed to make much progress. I’m having trouble deciding on my life’s goals. Do I want to visit every state in the U.S. or trek to every country in the world? Not so much. Do I desire to bungee jump off the Golden Gate Bridge? Well, maybe. Would I really wish to switch places with Hef for a day at the Playboy Mansion? — Not that I’m willing to admit in writing, so long as my wife is alive and armed!

Frankly, I find it much easier to think of the endeavors I’ll never, ever want to undertake, under any circumstances. Every time I attempt to create my bucket list, I instead end up expanding my roster of most dreaded experiences, which I’ve internally denominated as the “shit list.” That menu, at least, has progressed nicely, without having to include unrealistic activities, I might add. Instead of the unsavory but absurd “serve life sentence with a lonely, 300 pound cellmate named ‘Bubba’,” I’ve focused on experiences which foreseeably could occur, but which I fervently pray will not. My number one item to date reads: “Perform as a clown at children’s birthday party.”

To stop Sophia from pestering me, I’ve somewhat misrepresented my bucket list’s state of completion. I’ve also conveyed the slightly mistaken impression that the paper she often sees me scribbling on represents said bucket list, not my shit list as has actually been the case. For my protection, I’ve concealed the document from her prying eyes, since even untitled, there’s no mistaking its entries for lifetime goals.

The old saying goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Sophia certainly has the will, and she eventually found a way to peruse my guarded paper. Having done so, she took her sweet revenge this afternoon. Not that she admitted payback as her intent. No, she insisted she was simply helping to cross off an item on the document I myself had denominated a bucket list. She didn’t smirk at all either, even when handing me the clown costume I’d wear while fulfilling “your dream” to perform at a party for more than a dozen screeching six-year-olds.

Who doesn’t love a clown?

#298 – The Age of Innocence

It’s perfectly normal for children to long for adulthood. What little kid hasn’t wished he was old enough to drive, to stay up late, to drink, or even to vote? Indeed, don’t most pre-teens mimic their parents in an effort to seem more mature than their years? I’ve witnessed such behavior on many an occasion, and always found it amusing. But what I’d never seen was a little boy anxious to move directly from baby teeth to social security … until this morning, that is.

This past weekend, our friends Ron and Tracy took their two youngest kids to visit Tracy’s sister in Kentucky. Since Tracy’s grandmother also went along, no one remained home to care for the couple’s eldest child, eight-year-old Ben. He didn’t make the journey to Kentucky, because his parents planned to return home this afternoon and they didn’t want him to miss a special school activity today. Always the helpful friend, my wife volunteered to host the tyke at our place during his parents’ sojourn.

Although Sophia ministered to Ben over the weekend, she left me in charge today. I ventured to the kitchen bright and early and found the lad already seated at the table, perusing the morning paper. The sight of his chubby face, oversized ears, and mop-topped head peering studiously at what I presumed to be the daily comics cracked me up, on the inside. Outwardly, I kept a straight face and merely asked: “What’cha reading there, Ben?”

Without looking up, the squeaky-voiced kid replied: “The obits.”

“You’re reading the obituaries?”

“Yep,” he answered.

“You mind telling me why?” I queried.

“Me and grandma look every day, just to see if any more of the old gang’s kicked the bucket.”

“I see. And have any of your ‘old gang’ met their makers yet?” I asked.

“Not yet, but like grandma says, it’s only a matter of time.”

Shaking my head in disbelief, I moved on to the primary matter at hand, breakfast. Ben happily accepted my offer of pancakes and bacon. When I asked him what he’d like to drink, he said: “You got any prune juice?”

The answer to his question happened to be “no.” But before delivering the unwelcome news, I incredulously inquired: “You drink prune juice? Why?”

“A man’s got to stay regular, you know!”

After Ben finished breakfast, with milk in lieu of prune juice, I suggested he brush his teeth and don his school clothes. He suddenly grabbed his lower back and groaned as he stood. Fearing a trip to Urgent Care, if not the emergency room, I concernedly asked what ailed him.

“Oh, it’s just my sciatica acting up again.”

In my opinion, this kid’s spending way too much time around his great-grandmother. The only saving grace is, he apparently hasn’t adopted Betsy’s catchphrase yet. At least, over the weekend I didn’t hear Ben say “fuck ’em” even once, despite several prime opportunities.

Keeps a person regular, among its many advantages

#299 – On the Cliff’s Edge

My wife and I learned something about ourselves last night. In my case, I could no longer deny my tendency to hear what I want to hear. As Sophia realized, she shouldn’t let her desire for us to spend more quality time together push me into pursuits for which I’m ill-suited … like literature clubs.

She’s been dogging me for months to participate in her “Revisit the Classics” book club. Insisting my membership could only strengthen our relationship, she pestered me incessantly to give it a try. Her typical sales pitch went: “Reading a classic will be good for you, Richard. And we’ll have something fun to talk about, even outside the club!”

In response to each request, I asked Sophia to identify the title slated for the next meeting. None of them interested me in the least. As a result, my answer remained the same rote refusal: “Maybe next time, honey.”

Last month, having once more primed my standard reply, I instead found myself wholeheartedly opting in, upon hearing Sophia announce Lord of the Rings as the next classic to be read. Tolkien’s trilogy is my favorite literature of all time, and I felt more than willing to tackle the epic tale again. I grew so excited, I didn’t ask her follow-up questions. She didn’t ask me any either, probably because she didn’t want to chance a change of heart.

The book club met at our house yesterday after dinner. Having missed the meeting’s start due to professional obligations, I arrived to catch the tail end of a speaker’s pseudo-intellectual hogwash: “Obviously, when something that precious is stolen, there has to be a desperate need to get the property back. It’s that desperation which ultimately caused the plummet to his death. And plainly, Sameric’s passivity was instrumental in allowing the tragedy to play out.”

People who think they know it all really push my buttons, especially when they’re clearly bullshitting. Upon hearing this spouted gibberish, I couldn’t help but call the ignoramus out: “Can I ask you a question? Did you actually do the reading, or did you pull your observations from Cliff Notes?”

Surprise, surprise! He came clean. Admitting he’d lacked the time to read this month’s selection, he guiltily acknowledged perusing the Cliff Notes version of the tale. Having apologized, he turned to me and asked: “But how did you know?”

I confidently replied: “Well, for one thing, if you’d read the full story, you’d definitely know the hobbit’s name was ‘Samwise,’ not ‘Sameric.’ And after reading how he saved Frodo at Minas Morgul and fought Gollum on Mt. Doom, you’d never have called Sam ‘passive.’”

After listening to my analysis, the book club’s leader offered a minor correction: “Umm, Richard. I hate to tell you, but this month we’re reading Lord of the Flies, not Lord of the Rings.

A perfect entry for a book club, if you ask me.