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A man can take only so much physical and emotional neutering before he breaks. In my opinion, the lack of minimally necessary imprimaturs of gender inevitably will wreak havoc on his psyche. I’m also confident these principles apply just as much to dogs as humans, as poor Prometheus can attest.

Simply because our dog is a Shih-Tzu/Yorkie mix weighing only six pounds, my wife pampers him as if he’s a human infant, and a special needs infant at that! Whether it’s the oversized pocketbooks she carries him in or the pink ribbon with which she ties his hair, she repeatedly emasculates our “Shittie” in ways no creature with a y chromosome ever should suffer. I’ve told her countless times: “The fact that he’s neutered doesn’t give you the right to treat him as if he lacks balls!”

Always the good sport, Prometheus to date has tolerated Sophia’s abuses. Nonetheless, I’ve held high hopes for his eventual rebellion. I’m constantly urging him to defend his inalienable rights as a male of his species. At the same time, I’ve warned my wife to expect payback for her insidious feminization efforts. Those dreams and warnings may’ve finally borne fruit. At least, I pray that’s the case.

Late yesterday afternoon, Sophia and Prometheus returned home from what I’d been told was Sophia’s “mani-pedi” appointment. I expected her typical five minute dissertation on the “your puppy is so cute” reactions typical of those encountering our mutt; yet, curiously, she mumbled only a few unintelligible words and then headed upstairs for a “quick shower before dinner.”

In the meantime, while clearing the kitchen counter to prepare supper, I came across what I initially took to be Sophia’s mani-pedi receipt. A closer inspection revealed that the receipt emanated from a facility for canines, not humans! Adding injury to insult, it showed a $45 charge for a “Spa Treatment!”

After Sophia finished showering, I confronted her with the document and demanded answers. Under withering interrogation, she confessed to procuring a “blueberry facial” for Prometheus that afternoon – a treatment meant to make his face “clean and kissable.” I went berserk, of course, ranting about the “ultimate indignity” she’d perpetrated on our boy. I also demanded that she subject Prometheus to no further “emotional castrations.”

Sophia raised no objection, an omission which I found highly suspicious. When I questioned her prompt surrender, she grudgingly conceded that Prometheus hadn’t enjoyed the spa’s ministrations to the extent advertised.

“What makes you say that?” I asked.

“For one thing, he whined from the moment the woman began the facial, and he kept trying to lick the stuff off his face. But mostly because, when we drove home, he climbed onto my neck and refused to move … until he’d crapped down the back of my shirt, on its inside!”

The Blueberry Facial

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I try to be honest about my shortcomings, one of which entails babysitting. Seems I tend to underestimate the level of vigilance needed to watch a child. When toddlers are involved, like yesterday, my lax supervision proves particularly troublesome.

My wife volunteered to babysit our friends’ children yesterday. While I worked on a brief in my office, Jimmy dropped off his seven-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. 

I stepped away from my desk only twice that afternoon. The first time occurred when Sophia foisted her charges on me. She’d planned an all-day outing with them, but her allergies nixed the idea. Even worse, she realized she wouldn’t be able to function unless she procured prescription medication from Urgent Care. She drafted me as her stand-in babysitter and issued minimal directions: “Jimmy packed a bag with toys and snacks, and it’s in my car. Grab it and entertain the kids till I’m back.”

As Sophia prepared to depart, I found Jimmy’s bag on the floor behind her driver’s seat and delivered it and the kids to the media room — where I figured the tykes could entertain themselves. She left the house, and I tuned the TV to a children’s channel. Placing the seven-year-old in charge, I told him: “Keep an eye on your sister and call me if you need something.” Then I returned to my office.

Shortly after, Myles called out: “I think Lacey’s bored.”

Realizing I’d forgotten about their father’s supplies, I shouted back: “Your dad packed a bag with toys and snacks. It’s on the cocktail table. Can you pull the toys out for her?”

I followed up a while later, yelling: “Hey Myles. Is Lacey playing with her toys?”

He called back: “Yep. She’s been chewing on one of ’em! I think she’s thirsty too. There’s water and a cup in the bag. Can I give her some?”

Presuming my friend wouldn’t have packed any toy he feared his daughter ingesting, I focused on the beverage request. “Sure,” I answered from my chair. “Just try not to spill it.”

Almost an hour passed before Myles called out again: “Lacey’s hungry. Can she eat something?”

Recalling the sack’s advertised contents, I shouted back: “Yeah; there should be some snacks in the bag too.”

After several more minutes of silence, I followed up: “Hey Myles. Did you find the snacks?”

He yelled: “Yep. Lacey ate all of ’em too!”

Sophia returned a half hour later. As she entered the kitchen, with a canvass tote in hand, I emerged from my office for the second time that day. She immediately lit into me: “Richard, why didn’t you take Jimmy’s bag from my trunk like I asked you to?”

Upon hearing her query, a suspicious idea began percolating in my brain: If that’s Jimmy’s bag, then … what’s …

Before I could complete the thought, Sophia piped up once more: “By the way, have you seen Prometheus’ new travel bag? I loaded it with a couple of bones, his drinking cup and water, and a baggie with his favorite dog treats. I could’ve sworn I left it on the floor of my car, but now I can’t find it.”

Every canine travel kit should have these

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In at least one woman’s opinion, I’m a terrible teacher. I’m not so sure though. Like I told Ms. McDaniel today, even the best educator requires minimally adequate brainpower from his students. It’s not my fault Ernie’s mental battery isn’t fully charged.

Today’s issues stem from last week’s mentoring session, when my third-grade charge asked me a simple question: “Who do you think’s the greatest American ever?”

He didn’t say why he wanted to know, and I didn’t bother to ask. Instead, I merely queried if I could choose anyone at all.

“No, not just anyone,” he replied. “Pick from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt.”

I pondered carefully and chose Roosevelt. In turn, Ernie inquired: “What’s so great about him?”

For the next twenty minutes, I provided a thumbnail sketch of President Roosevelt’s numerous accomplishments. I explained that he: a) was our first and only four-term President; b) got elected and served despite being confined to a wheelchair after contracting polio; c) battled the Great Depression by lifting American’s spirits with his fireside chats, and by implementing innovative economic programs such as the New Deal; and d) led the country to victory against the Nazis and Japan in World War II, despite dying before final victory. In short, even without knowing about the lad’s homework assignment, I handed him all the information he’d need to write a first-rate essay on our 32’d President.

“Oh, really?” Ms. McDaniel skeptically questioned, after I’d related my conversation with the boy. “Would you like to see how Ernie interpreted your presidential summary?”

Without awaiting my assent, the teacher passed over a one-page paper entitled “Why I’m the greatest American, by Franklin Roosevelt”:

I’m the greatest American because I’m the only president who played polo in a wheelchair. All the people back then were really depressed because they didn’t have clothes. But I cheered them up by sitting in the fire and talking to them. I also gave them a nude deal so everyone was able to buy pants. Then I started a war with the notsees. They were a bunch of blind people I think. I killed them and won the war but I died too.

Suffice it to say, I promised Ms. McDaniel I’d leave the educating to her from now on.

Perhaps the greatest American?

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Three themes feature prominently in today’s musings. Ordinarily, none of their spheres would overlap. But this week, they all inconveniently collided.

The first theme concerns my propensity to misplace personal possessions, like my car keys. I’ve found them in dresser drawers, coat pockets, and under couch cushions. They’ve also turned up in the unlikeliest of places, including our toolbox, the freezer, and even the dishwasher! Sometimes I lose other items too. For instance, my digital camera vanished for days before its whereabouts finally came to light this morning.

That leads me to my second theme, nanny cams. As most anyone knows, they’re the hidden devices employed to record the behavior of home daycare personnel. Yet proving nanny abuse represents only one of the technology’s potential applications. Alternative, less justifiable, uses also exist. For example, certain unscrupulous landlords have installed hidden camcorders in tenants’ bedrooms or bathrooms to satisfy perverse, voyeuristic urges. The resulting gross invasion of privacy typically prompts expressions of outrage from the victims themselves and society in general; understandably so.

Of course, my digital camera isn’t a nanny cam, even though it records video. It lacks motion-activated functions, and its construction and lens position don’t lend themselves to hidden photography, as needed for a concealed recorder. In my opinion, only the most suspicious of souls, ignorant of current technology, could mistake a simple digital camera for a nanny cam.

Which brings me to today’s third and final theme: namely, my mother-in-law’s relationship with her priest.  While I’m sure many Catholics feel close to their clerics, I seriously doubt any parishioners other than her have their spiritual leader on speed dial. Maria, however, regularly phones her holy man for guidance on issues of faith, albeit guidance mainly concerning the alleged failings of others. As I can attest, her communications most often request the Father’s skills as an exorcist, to combat supposed evidence of demonic possession, vampirism, and/or devil worship — my alleged demonic possession, vampirism and devil worship, that is!

Curiously, it was Maria’s priest who disclosed the location of my misplaced digital camera: in the Gambinos’ bathroom, where I’d apparently left the device after helping my father-in-law hang a new mirror some days ago. Except, that’s not exactly how the cleric framed matters when he telephoned this morning. He wanted to pass on his parishioner’s discovery of my “secret video recorder” in her bathroom, and to vent outrage on her behalf and his own at my immoral attempt to covertly record the woman’s ablutions.

Fortunately, two logical observations convinced the priest of my innocence: “Firstly, Father, had I intended to clandestinely photograph a woman showering or going to the bathroom, I hardly would’ve placed a ‘hidden recorder’ in plain sight on top of the sink. And secondly … have you seen my mother-in-law?”

Only a technological Neanderthal could confuse a digital camera for one of these babies!

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I try not to lie to my wife. At the same time, I don’t correct her when she fails to ask the proper question. Sophia thinks I draw too fine a line with that distinction, but the lawyer in me says otherwise. In all probability we’ll debate this subject forever, and last night’s argument will go down as merely the latest, but not last, salvo in our war of words.

I’ve been taught as an attorney to demand precision in language. For example, I instruct clients appearing for deposition to answer no question unless they’re sure they understand what’s being asked and believe the query has a single interpretation. I act similarly when admitting or denying allegations in a complaint or discovery requests. For instance, if an opposing party asks my client to admit that “you removed all of your personal property from the premises,” I’ll deny the assertion if my client left behind as little as a pack of gum.

On occasions where my wife poses potentially problematic inquiries, I answer truthfully, but only to the letter of the requests and no further. That’s what happened Sunday. While I was at Jimmy’s house watching the Flyers-Penguins playoff game, my cell phone rang. A perturbed Sophia informed me that she’d invited her sister-in-law over to view the “Lionel Richie and Friends” concert she’d recorded, only to discover the show missing from our DVR’s saved contents: “Richard, I programmed it to tape Friday night, and Gina and I specially set aside this afternoon to watch it together. But it’s nowhere to be found! You didn’t delete it, did you?”

I answered emphatically: “I did not delete your show, Sophia!” Upon hanging up, however, I issued an audible “phew!”

Cracking up, Jimmy challenged my veracity: “You lying dog, Richard!”

“Not so, Jimmy,” I corrected. “I truthfully answered her question as framed.” As I went on to explain, had Sophia inquired whether a) I’d taped a hockey game Friday night while watching another, b) a message had appeared on-screen telling me the TV channel would soon change to CBS, unless one of the two current recordings or another scheduled recording was canceled, and c) I’d made an executive decision to continue watching one game while recording the other, my answer admittedly would’ve differed.

Jimmy expressed doubt Sophia would split hairs the same as me. Naturally he was right, as last night’s “discussion” confirmed. During our live viewing of American Idol, a message appeared on screen advising of an impending change of channel, unless we canceled one of the two shows set to record. Sophia, holding the remote, asked me what to do so we could continue to watch the live show. Reflexively, I replied: “Just cancel one of the two recordings, and we can stay on this channel.”

She made her selection, but then paused as her internal light bulb flashed: “Wait a minute! …”

The show my wife was hoping to see.

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Temporarily storing a friend’s sex doll wasn’t a favor I undertook lightly. And it’s a gesture I’m not likely to repeat. As I learned today, even the most innocent of associations with such a product can have unanticipated repercussions, no matter one’s precautions.

When Jamie first asked if could “do [him] a large one,” I cringed. I felt no less reticent when he ambiguously explained his request: “Richard, do you think you could take Loretta for a few days?”

I didn’t know any Loretta, but more to the point, I couldn’t understand why a guy I’d met only once – a month ago – would think to ask me for a favor. Caught by surprise, I simply blurted: “Who’s Loretta?”

“Sorry Richard, I assumed Jimmie told you. She’s my ‘Real Doll.’”

“Your what?”

Jamie explained: “You know; a sex doll. My girlfriend’s mother is gonna’ stay with us for a few days, and Tammie wants Loretta out of the house while her mom’s here.”

A host of questions came to mind, but I went with a practical one: “Can’t you toss ‘Loretta’ and replace her after Tammie’s mother leaves?”

“You want me to throw away a seven thousand dollar doll?!! Are you crazy?! I’m not getting rid of her, Richard, and you’re the only guy I know who doesn’t have kids and won’t try to take her for a test run.”

After silently contemplating the attributes of a seven thousand dollar sex doll, I reluctantly agreed to host Loretta. Jamie dropped her off yesterday.

It turns out seven thousand bucks buys quite a lot. Not only does Loretta have lifelike proportions and heft, but her features look incredibly real as well. At a glance, she seems human: comatose or deceased perhaps, but human nonetheless. Even her private parts resemble their flesh and blood cousins! (C’mon, you’d peak too, wouldn’t you?)

I took precautions to prevent any embarrassment as a result of Loretta’s stay. I laid her down on our guest bed and closed the door to the room. In addition, I explicitly warned my wife about the doll, making clear that I’m merely storing her for a friend. I warned my sister-in-law too, but only because I’d asked her to feed Prometheus and let him out of the house during my court appearance this morning.

I didn’t think to alert my mother-in-law. Since she had no reason to visit our home and wouldn’t know a sex doll from a vibrator, I thought the precaution unnecessary. I didn’t see the flaw in my reasoning until I arrived home early this afternoon, only to discover that Maria had inherited my sister-in-law’s dog watching duties. I also learned that the ever-suspicious woman had felt obliged to open the one closed door she’d happened upon. Naturally, I tried to explain that “the dead lady” she’d seen atop the bed was nothing more than an inanimate doll belonging to a friend. It took some doing, but I eventually convinced her … and the deputy sheriff whom the 911 operator had dispatched in response to the old lady’s call.

You can call her Loretta, if you like.

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Personally, I see nothing wrong with the concept of a “work spouse.” I had one myself when I toiled at Schwartz Meisner, and my relationship with her never crossed the line. Nonetheless, I’m aware not everyone agrees. Some believe the bond between male and female co-workers creates unnecessary temptations of the flesh. Others claim that, even without sex, the duos’ emotional attachment violates their marital vows. Then there’s Betsy, who made clear yesterday that she also frowns on such office relationships, but for different reasons.

My friend Ron met me for dinner last night while our wives went out with his kids. The women hadn’t returned by the time we got back to his place. When we walked into the kitchen, we found only his wife’s ninety-year-old grandmother present. Ron said hello to Betsy and asked: “Did Julie call?”

Before Betsy could reply, I questioned: “Who’s Julie?”

Ron answered: “She’s my work wife…”

Whatever else he intended to say got shouted down by Betsy, who suddenly unleashed on him: “A work wife?!!! How dare you!!! You have a perfectly good wife at home, and you go off and marry some other tramp?!!! Mind you, I don’t think that’s legal. But that’s neither here nor there. You’re a no-good cheating bastard, Ron!!! And I call that other wife of yours a husband-stealing whore!!! She’s lower than a pig’s ass and she’s going straight to Hell!!!”

“Whoa, slow down there Betsy!” Ron begged, when she at last paused to take a breath. “I’m not married to Julie. ‘Work wife’ is just an expression for a good friend at the office; someone to have lunch with and share job troubles; that sort of thing. There’s nothing going on between us. Tracy knows it, and she’s perfectly okay with the relationship. So will you stop yelling at me?”

Betsy pondered a bit before grudgingly conceding: “Fine, but I still think you’re courting trouble.”

Sighing noticeably, Ron went on: “Your opinion’s duly noted. Now, back to my original question; did Julie call?”

“As a matter of fact, she did,” Betsy casually replied, before adding: “I suppose, when you call back, you might tell her I’m sorry for saying she’s a husband stealing whore and what not. Also, let her know I won’t be coming over to beat her senseless with my cane … like I promised.”

Not everyone believes a work spouse is permissible

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I’m in favor of healthy living, in theory. Nonetheless, I enjoy meat too much to go the vegetarian route. And after this morning’s experience, I know I could never emulate my friend’s version of a vegan, all-natural, holistic lifestyle.

I’ve known Amy since college. Back then, she was already a strict vegan who refused to wear leather or fur and limited herself to homeopathic treatments. Nor have her lifestyle views changed since those days. Long ago, she became the queen of fresh vegetable smoothies, supplemented by a variety of healthy but noxious natural additives. She’s also remained a staunch opponent of all pharmaceutical remedies.

These days, Amy lives in a suburb of Phoenix, with her husband Dave and the family’s newest addition. At the advanced age of forty-four, she became pregnant for the first time. She gave birth two days ago – at home, without painkillers, and with only a midwife beside her.

About a month ago, I’d subpoenaed a witness for a deposition in Phoenix. It’s scheduled for tomorrow. Back then, Amy insisted I stay at her house, not realizing she’d deliver her baby the night before I flew in.  Despite the changed circumstances, she and Dave refused to relegate me to a hotel. 

Upon my arrival, Dave apologized in advance for their anticipated lack of hospitality, adding: “Richard, since things are a bit crazy around here, we want you to treat this place like your own. Help yourself to anything you need, and don’t bother asking permission.”

I took Dave at his word. When I entered their deserted kitchen this morning and noticed one of Amy’s patented vegetable smoothies in the blender, I helped myself. I tasted carrots, bell peppers and tomatoes for sure, yet I couldn’t identify another flavor permeating the mix. It wasn’t awful, per se, but it carried a tang somewhat reminiscent of liver (which I’m not a fan of). Of course, the ingredient couldn’t have been liver, because Amy’d never let animal flesh pass her lips.

After swallowing a full glass, I sat down to read the morning paper. That’s when I noticed a document resting beside it. As I grabbed the sheet, Dave entered, walked to the blender, and greeted me: “Richard, if you can wait, I’m going to take this up to Amy and then whip up a fresh ‘jumbo juice’ for breakfast.” Upon spotting the page I held, he continued: “I’m glad you saw the recipe before you accidentally drank Amy’s ‘special cocktail.’ Lucky break, since I didn’t have a chance to warn you.”

As Dave headed upstairs with his wife’s custom beverage, I belatedly peeked at the recipe used to create it … and promptly regurgitated the drink onto their kitchen table. Apparently, even my iron constitution couldn’t stomach the thought of “Placenta Cocktail,” featuring ¼ cup of fresh, raw placenta!

A far tastier concoction than Amy’s special cocktail, I’m sure!

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With a two-hour wait ahead of me, now seems as a good a time as any to discuss this morning’s deposition snafu. The one problem I didn’t anticipate during my first-ever use of a translator was an issue with the speech decipherer himself. Under the circumstances, I suppose he’s no more to blame than my secretary. Even so, I’m admittedly itching to find some scapegoat for this mess, other than Karma.

I’m in Phoenix, where I’ve journeyed to depose a non-party witness in a suit alleging wrongful interference with a business relationship. My client claims the defendant stole various internet customers, and the defendant listed today’s witness as its largest purchaser. This same individual previously was my client’s biggest customer. In discovery, the defendant identified him as Juan Lee, a resident of Phoenix.

I’d arranged for service of a subpoena on Mr. Lee in Arizona, in order to take his deposition there. Shortly after, someone had called my office on his behalf and informed my secretary that he doesn’t speak English. When she, in response, asked where he hails from, the caller had answered: “Mexico.”

I consequently contacted an Arizona firm and hired a certified Spanish translator to attend this morning’s deposition. The proceeding seemingly began without issue. The witness, who appeared without an attorney, stated his name for the record. The translator, Mr. Ortega, asked whether Mr. Lee would swear to tell the truth, prodding him with “si o no?” In response, the witness answered “si.” Similar nudging from Mr. Ortega elicited another “si,” after the translator conveyed my typical deposition instructions and asked Mr. Lee if he understood them.

The first sign of trouble occurred when the witness refused to answer my initial inquires. Rather than respond, he stared questioningly at the translator. His intransigence caught me by surprise, since he had no stake in the outcome of the case and no apparent reason to withhold information.

Only after several questions did Mr. Lee finally break his silence with a series of unsolicited statements. That’s when Mr. Ortega revealed his linguistic shortcomings. Instead of converting the commentary into English, he announced: “The translator regrets to say he does not understand the witness.”

Well, I hadn’t understood him either – a fault I attributed to rusty high school Spanish combined with a local Mexican dialect that made Mr. Lee’s Spanish more difficult to comprehend. But I would’ve thought a professional translator could handle any linguistic variations. I said as much too, prompting a testy response from Mr. Ortega: “It’s not some local dialect confusing me; it’s the fact that the man’s not speaking Spanish!”

We managed to isolate the problem a half hour later, after Mr. Lee spoke by phone with various members of Mr. Ortega’s company. At last, one translator understood our witness. The two of them conversed for a bit, whereupon the professional reported back to us: “While he did come to Phoenix by way of Mexico, he previously moved to Mexico from his home country, China! And incidentally, his name isn’t ‘Juan Lee.’ It’s ‘Huan Li’.”

The Chinese translator said he’ll get here in a couple of hours, which leaves me plenty of time to contemplate the improbability of my present circumstances.

This Arizona company can supply you with a translator for almost any language.