Archive for October 2010
I’m considering raising my children to be inconsiderate, slothful ingrates. It’ll be so much easier for them to encounter the same values outside home as inside, and not face the confusion of inconsistent social standards.
This would obviously require owning a TV with antenna or cable, because there’s only so much rudeness that one set of parents can muster at a time; we’d have to outsource to accomplish our goal more efficiently. Fortunately, the experts on the lowest common denominator over at HBO, Fox and their ilk are more than willing to fill my kids’ brains and hearts with all the moral swill they can absorb.
But since the two TV units in our possession lack a connection to anything other than a VCR (purchased in 1999, and it still works!) or DVD player, and the number of objectionable titles we own is pitiful, the only course of action consistent with the values we aim to instill would involve stealing video cassettes or DVDs, or possibly illegally tapping into a neighbor’s cable or satellite stream. Granted, we could go down the dubious avenue of burning someone else’s movies to disks, but there’s enough moral equivocation about that that the kids might not get the wrong idea.
Since we would also try to inculcate laziness as a value, expending too much effort in obtaining access to media trash is out of the question. Which leaves us to find other ways of saturating the little dears in perversion.
Fortunately, a casual stroll down the street provides a good measure of bad influence: the well-mannered gentleman who so generously left his dog’s output at the entrance to the property next door apparently made a return visit, considering the fresh evidence that lies just to the left of the vintage material; litter festoons the street and many of the adjacent alleys and public gardens; cigarette butts lie where pedestrians and drivers alike have flicked them; drivers galore ignore traffic signals and signs, not to mention basic safety and consideration; car horns, instead of functioning as warning devices for safety purposes, have become vehicles of expression for messages such as, “The light turned green 0.000003 seconds ago! Hurry up!” and, “I have a horn. It is loud. Hear me toot. My horn speaks more elokwently than I can.”
The availability and convenience of myriad negative influences just outside our door provides reassurance that if we do decide to take the plunge – preferably when some old lady is passing by underneath – we need not expend very much effort at all in the process. I’d say wish me luck, but offering encouragement is not a value I want to encourage.
Being such an unbiased observer, I should face no difficulty in asserting that my children are the cutest. After consulting with such experts as all four of their grandparents, the results defy contradiction (actually, the grandparents tried to get all diplomatic and claim that they find all of their grandchildren the cutest, not just ours, but come on).
Since uploading photos is far too much work for a busy guy such as yours truly, some non-visual evidence may be necessary to convince the lot of you – some of you who probably have children of your own, and therefore suffer from severe prejudice that renders you unable to face the objective truth: with all due respect to your children, or grandchildren, or godchildren, or whichever yung’uns you once found most attractive, they must all cede the honors to Thag’s quartet of cuteness. To wit:
- Does your eighteen-month-old think that “Hello,” means “Look! I’m wearing someone else’s shoes on my hands!”?
- Does your three-year-old wait to run to the toilet until she gets acknowledgement of her “Peepee!” announcement?
- Does your six-year-old insist on a special pair of underwear to wear with his pajamas? Every single night until they get grungy or urine-soaked, whichever comes first?
- Does your nine-year-old think that on the top bunk bed with the lights on is a proper context for dancing around with nothing on?
- Do you have six kinds of jelly donuts? (Oops. Dunno how that one got in there. But I do know it is hard to type with one hand concealing my moustache).
I realize you may have vignettes that you think compare to the above, but you must come to terms with fact: you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you answer with a cute turn of phrase, I will merely recall our toddler’s tendency to throw everything he can find either into the street or the kitchen garbage can, possibly including his sister’s new dress shoes, which we cannot find. This fate resembles what we strongly suspect became of a missing boot, as well, though that one probably disappeared at the hand of a previous toddler. That, in turn, joins a number of objects whose vanishing likely occurred when our oldest still wore the size 4 diapers. Not that we’re naming names.
In any case, the grandparents, whose authority on the matter we invoked earlier, know from cuteness: they have a total of twenty-two, not counting various grandnieces and nephews and more distant relations upon whom to base their comparisons, all of whom could content in the World Series of Cuteness, a concept that makes me retch with such violence as to stun the pigeons nesting on our roof. Or so I wish. What kind of abusive, short-sighted parent would subject a kid to that kind of shallowness? Don’t answer that question – we know exactly what kind: the kind who would fake their kid’s disappearance just to get media attention; the kind who would enroll little Ashley in a little kids’ beauty pageant; the kind who would name their kid Ashley in the first place; the kind who thinks that imbuing heir children with the notion that the superficial is paramount does no harm. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a generation of warped, maladjusted creeps (aka every single ninth grade class for fifteen years running, according to teachers I had).
You might think the previous paragraph would dissuade me from pressing the claim. On the contrary; I think that once the world sees for itself that in fact my children can out-cute anyone’s, they will cease to pursue their futile pursuit of the limelight, and focus on more constructive endeavors, such as warming up the planet. Unless they’re Tea Party devotees, in which case they’ll focus on denying that they’re warming up the planet.
So you see, this is not only a campaign for the unvarnished truth, but a selfless mission to reeducate humanity. Now that I’ve convinced you, feel free to express your support through PayPal. That “Send Payment” button is so irresistibly cute, isn’t it?
Our six-year-old had had enough. The intensity of his displeasure became more and more evident, until finally he burst into tears and yelled, “I wanna do my homework!”
Absent any other information, this declaration should prompt any or all of the following courses of action:
- Demand DNA testing to verify whether this child in fact carries my genes.
- Take child immediately to a mental health professional or medical expert.
- Explode in hopeless laughter at the irony.
- Take advantage of this suddenly diligent person in order to get other unpleasant tasks done, such as cleaning the kids’ bathroom.
- Call his teacher and interrogate her as to what the hell she did to transform this infuriatingly stubborn/delightful child into a devoted student.
- Alert the authorities and news media to the first indisputable evidence of extraterrestrial life.
Of course this episode in context only serves to underline the delightful/infuriating thing he’s got going. Mrs. Thag worked pretty hard to persuade the guy to do his homework, and he set about it. He got so caught up in it that when his brother blurted out the final answer, that threatened his sense of order. He thus objected with growing vehemence until everyone acknowledged the bitter injustice and finally calmed him down.
My wife and I did manage to suppress our laughter, with mixed success (he did not appreciate it, even after we explained to him the humor). But damn. Even accounting for the psychological factors that set him off, I would never say such a thing. In general, he needs to have things done in a specific way or order, and any change to that order meets resistance – passivity, shrugging, ignoring, hostility, anger, or whichever reaction the fates deem appropriate (read: most unmanageable) at that moment.
I do wish I could record it. Than play it back for him whenever he claims not to like homework. But that might teach the aliens to improve their cover, and how would we detect them?
If you’re ever sitting around waiting for the muse to strike (mine uses a fly swatter), all you need to do is sit by the front window of my house. You’ll overhear all the drama you want, and that doesn’t even include what happens with the neighbors.
Last night, for example, at about 1:30 in the morning, a police car loudspeaker informed all within earshot that a white Hyundai in front of number seven must be moved. I’m reasonably confident in our police force that the officer in question had not been roused from deep slumber in order to make this announcement, but surely he could not expect the vehicle’s owner to hear everything the first time around, considering the propensity people have – and I base this on three and a half decades of observing human behavior – to be fast asleep during the wee hours.
It appeared that one announcement sufficed, since we did not hear anything after that. But we do indeed have a Hyundai, which we tend to park in front of number seven, directly across the street (no parking on our side). So the details I managed to pick out of this explosion of words and sound (signifying nothing) certainly had me worried for the indeterminate fractions of a second before I processed the “white” and plate number that did not remotely resemble our own.
It also turns out that the number seven in question was the property right next door to the number seven in front of which we park our car. Not a 7A and 7B, but two discrete number sevens. If the Brainless One who tried to deliver our mail this summer had so much trouble with a straightforward twelve, I can’t imagine the trouble the two sevens gave him. Come to think of it, it’s likely he just delivered it all to the first one he saw, having been frightened off by the Beware of Dog sign that festoons the other. Of course they haven’t had a dog in at least six years, if ever. We certainly never saw one in all the time we’ve been here (almost six years, in case your cognitive skills resemble those of the Brainless One, which they might, considering your current choice of reading material). Then again, it’s also possible he thought Beware of Dog is actually the name of the family that inhabits the place, and they simply happened not to receive any mail at all the whole summer, even the electricity and water bills that everyone gets without exception.
But focusing all my energy on the months-old story of a hopeless nitwit cannot possibly be healthy. A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, has its benefits. So I’ve taken up this practice – and I highly recommend it to everyone who can manage it – of trying to sleep through the night. It took a couple of years to get the details of it down, but I can say that it’s been my default mode for a good thirty years now. But thanks to the driver of that white Hyundai, my health is in peril.
I think I know how he spent his summer.
All you first-time parents are just praying that some more experienced souls will swoop in and provide critical advice.
Like hell you are. We veteran parents know full well that unsolicited parenting advice, even from otherwise dear relatives, engenders a level of disgust usually reserved for oppressive dictators (unless you happen to be ultra-liberal, in which case the oppressive dictator is actually a noble warrior in the quest to free the developing world from the iron fist of American-Zionist-Capitalist-Globalist imperialism).
Nevertheless, at the risk of alienating people who wouldn’t read this anyway, I have compiled a list of children’s authors whose work comes highly recommended, along with a companion list of authors you would do well to avoid.
RECOMMENDED: NOT RECOMMENDED:
Dr. Seuss Dr. Lecter
Helen Lester/Lynn Munsinger Hugh Hefner/Bob Guccione
Sandra Boynton Boy George
Mo Willems Mahmoud Ahmadinijad
Mercer Mayer Meyer Lansky
Maurice Sendak Philip Morris
Roald Dahl Leni Reifenstahl
Norton Juster Norman Bates
E. B. White D. H. Lawrence
Margaret Bloy Graham Mike Tyson
A. A. Milne 2 Live Crew
Shel Silverstein Gertrude Stein
I trust this list will hold you in good stea- hey, shouldn’t he be wearing a hat in this weather? He’ll catch cold! What kind of negligent parent are you?
If a police officer pulls you over and approaches your vehicle, one of the worst things you can do is begin berating him in a most profane fashion.
Not that I have much experience in this department, mind you, since the only time I was ever pulled over was in the spring of 1999. Or possibly fall of 1998. Either way, it was quite some time ago. So you must take my advice with a grain or two of salt. Things might have changed in the intervening years; it’s possible police departments across the nation have reoriented themselves toward a more stoic model of law enforcement, actively encouraging their officers to welcome unprovoked, obscene epithets from suspects. It’s also possible gravity is an illusion, as well, and no one has told me.
In any case, I did not display the slightest bit of irreverence; in fact my show of contrition and ignorance somehow gave the state trooper the impression that I had borrowed the car from the mother of the youthful-looking front-seat passenger (my wife, who did not change her name when we married). I was far too ashamed to disabuse the trooper of this notion, which led him to let me of with what amounted to a fine and a warning for going 65 mph in a 45 mph zone.
It did not occur to me at the time, as you might imagine, to speed off as the cop walked over. That could not have ended well. Nor did I consider pretending I was armed and dangerous. These are not the kind of thrill I seek; stick me in front of a dangerously luscious chocolate fudge sundae instead.
But of course later, as I turned the events over and over in my head, I wondered what I could have done differently. Many thoughts came into my head, and I must admit none of them involved running the guy down as he approached on foot. Nor did I think I should have opened the conversation with questions about his mother’s fidelity to his father. I did consider whether it would have been wise to address the trooper in a foreign language, but I’m not so sure how that would turn out (in these parts, rumor has it that about twenty years ago, a foreign driver could dissuade a cop from giving him any trouble by opening the conversation with a cheerful, American accented, “I am a pencil!” in the local tongue; I dare you to try that in any country).
Of course the most reasonable position involves not speeding in the first place, but come on. What are all those numbers on the speedometer for? In the case of my four-cylinder minivan (you read that right), they’re clearly for decoration; the thing will start shaking, then stall, if the AC is on and I push it just above the highway speed limit. But if I ever get even stupider and drive a car that can go fast, remind me to practice my Klingon.
We’ve known each other for almost a year and a half now – my entire life. So I think it’s high time we straighten out some misconceptions you seem to have about the way the world works. Below you will find a delineation of my approach to life, and I hope you will adapt accordingly.
1. Adult crotches are for running into headfirst at maximum speed. My maximum speed might not be very high, but velocity is secondary in this case; the important thing is asserting my presence.
2. Hair, glasses, necklaces, earrings and noses constitute an invitation to grab and pull. Why would you allow me so close to them if you do not intend to bring them within my grasp?
3. My hands will roam where they damn well please while you are changing my diaper.
4. Just because you think a sharp knife is dangerous doesn’t mean I shall refrain from sucking on its blade.
5. Items on surfaces accessible by stepstool shall be summarily seized, given cursory examination and cast onto the floor. If they smash, they smash. Too bad about those two glasses, dude, but at least now we know your gravity still works.
6. We both know I can’t speak yet, beyond such useless exclamations as “hello” and “cat”. What you don’t seem to realize is that I purposely whine and cry to make you agonize over what’s wrong. You should see yourself go crazy trying to figure out what to do about my mood.
7. No, I do not yet possess the coordination to get the spoon or fork into my mouth on my own without losing its contents somewhere along the way, and yes, I insist on doing it myself.
8. I am fully aware that I am the cutest damn thing ever to crawl the Earth, and I press that advantage. Pamper me, peon.
9. It’s only you so-called grown-ups who reserve toilet paper for wiping tushies. In reality, TP is for unrolling, if possible down the steps.
10. Why don’t you big people ever play peekaboo with each other? It’s an absolute riot.
11. Since I don’t know how to sit still for very long, let alone read, books serve the same function as any other blunt object: whacking my sleeping older sister.
12. I cry when you pick me up from daycare because I’m trying to make up for all the crying you didn’t hear me doing while we were apart. I was having a great time; I just know you need your daily dose.
That will be all for now. It’s time for you to drop everything else and walk around holding me in an excruciatingly uncomfortable (for you) position until I fall asleep, and then hold that position for a further ten minutes before I will allow myself to be put down, if at all.
Let’s get this straight: I am NOT Hannah Montana.
I am not Betty Friedan. I am not Gloria Steinem. I am not the late George Steinbrenner. Nor, God help us, am I Geraldo Rivera. Is that clear?
I do apologize for the abruptness of the above, but you people really must have way too much spare time if you spend it ineptly trying to figure out the identity of a blogger whose obscurity makes the Wilkes-Barre Red Barons look positively world-renown. But for the sake of everyone’s sanity, let us establish the following points, easily proved from the context of the other one hundred sixteen posts:
1. I am male, age thirty-five. The prose, the persona, the mode of expression and myriad other pieces of evidence demonstrate that I am male. So all those imbeciles thinking I am really Michelle Obama pretending to be some guy halfway across the world can go jump in Lake Michigan.
2. I write with some frequency about my family and neighbors, all people bearing not the slightest resemblance to Chuck Norris.
3. People have in fact told me that I look like Pierce Brosnan, Bob Saget, Stephen Colbert and the late Tyrone Power, but I am none of those, especially not the last. Really, now: would Tyrone Power be blogging from the afterlife about the trivialities of life on the Mediterranean basin in the early twenty-first century? If you answered yes, stop reading right now and go soak your head in brine.
4. Although I do like baseball, my involvement with the professional level of the sport has consisted of buying oodles of baseball cards back in 1986. No, I am not Don Mattingly or Tony Gwynn. I did briefly consider being Stan Musial, but his family would have none of it.
5. I would never, ever voluntarily snack on radishes.
6. No one has ever threatened me with a four-foot zucchini. Sorry, you’ve got the wrong guy.
7. I have published an article or two in my life, but not a book contending that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was actually a squid.
8. The acting in Knight Rider was atrocious. Not that this has anything to do with misperceptions about me; I just wanted to make sure we all knew it.
9. There is no number nine.
I hope that clears everything up. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must return the call of my mother, George Soros.
Fans of small-market baseball teams have an advantage over the rest of humanity: they save countless valuable hours by not having to agonize over how far their team will advance in the postseason.
Philadelphia and Yankees fans, understandably frustrated with their teams’ high-priced talent coming to League Championship Series naught in six games, must now cope with a fall season bereft of local baseball hype. By contrast, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee seldom confront such a challenge (we shall omit, at least for the moment, the challenges they face in fine ethnic dining, not to mention a shortage of Elvis impersonators).
The New York generation that came of age in the nineties differs markedly from the one that preceded it (mine, in case you were keeping track), and I don’t mean even crappier taste in music (as if that were even possible after the seventies and eighties). No, the sole bright spot in New York baseball between 1979 and 1996 was the 1986 Mets. Oh sure, the Yankees made things exciting for a couple of years after Bucky Dent and Reggie Jackson and Thurmon Munson worked their October magic, but the decline was swift and bitter. Those 1986 Amazin’s constituted the only hope in a massive baseball championship drought that lasted, according to diehard fans, approximately three centuries. We feel for you, Cubs and Indians fans. Just not when our teams play against yours.
It must be even more difficult for fans of the Twins, whose small-market status means their streak of postseason appearances grows ever more precarious as their homegrown stars near free agency. All eight of Tampa Bay’s fans (it turns out one guy was mistakenly counted twice) have been shaking their heads for a couple of weeks now, wondering how long Carl Crawford will stick around before the Mets, Yankees or other moneyed franchise snatches him away.
Some measure of comfort exists in the Schadenfreude of the ousted Goliaths, of course, not to mention the tragically, comically inept bumblings of the Mets, on and off the field. And those plucky Giants and Rangers, who will play to a massive World Series audience of at least seventy-five people outside Texas and northern California.
So I’m undecided, all things being equal, whether I’d choose to become a fan of a small-market team. I might eventually reach a decision, though. Just wait till next year.
The superhero inside me, just waiting to burst forth, received a dose of encouragement this morning when a friend commented that I looked like I had a secret superhero identity. This is not completely unexpected, since as kids, both my brothers’ looks prompted comparisons to Superman (I, on the other hand, had to settle for, “You look like that guy whose brothers look like Superman.”).
Since I’ve yet to decide, at age thirty-five, what I want to be when I grow up, superhero remains a possibility. Not a comic book superhero, mind you; those make for high drama, low-cut blouses and dubious moral rectitude. I prefer a more down-to-earth, practical type of vigilante, one that I think you will agree is sorely needed.
For example, last Saturday night, as Mrs. Thag and I were trying to unload the kids and belongings from the car, we saw and heard a neighbor confront a dog walker who let his pooch poop in the lot in front of their house (next to ours) and began walking away as if nothing were wrong. Though I didn’t catch the offender’s exact words, this woman felt sufficiently miffed at his response that, at a loss over how to handle such flagrant disregard, she called over her husband. At this point the jerk began leading his animal away, with the deposit still lying there. As he passed me, I remarked how considerate it was of him to leave his mess for others to clean up. ”I’ll make messes wherever I want,” he barked as he continued, and followed with a threat of violence if I persisted.
Well, what’s a wiseacre to do but persist? “You’re so manly! Everyone can see how manly you are! We’re all so impressed!” He probably didn’t hear everything I directed his way as he went around the corner, but I felt I had done enough, under the circumstances, to defend the honor of the wronged.
But as a superhero, I could go the extra mile and mete out actual justice: my super speed and vision would track this scumbag home, where I would deposit his lost object, with interest, on his bed and/or dining room table.
Others who would feel the long, uh, arm of retribution: those who board the subway and stop in the doorway despite the space available further inside the car (they would find themselves removed to the very rear of the crowd); litterbugs (see above regarding the dog poop), with special treatment meted out to smokers who dispose of their butts in places other than ash trays (they will awake in the middle of the night to find those butts in their nostrils); drivers who neglect to make sure the intersection is clear before entering it, thus generating gridlock (car removed to somewhere inaccessible), as well as the drivers further back honking at those in the front to proceed into a not-yet-clear intersection (they will find their horns automatically administer an electric shock); parents who do not buckle their small children into car seats (videos and reports submitted to child welfare authorities); and drivers who exercise their right to freedom of expression by blasting “music” from their car stereos at a volume of eleven (strapped to a chair and forced to listen to Barry Manilow at half speed for eighteen hours at a time)(that may be a bit harsh, but not very).
Such a superhero would find his time constrained, considering the number of offenders whose violations of simple courtesy, not to mention safety, require this special kind of therapy. So I shall have to allocate specific hours during which to fight the rising tide of inhumanity. Morning and evening rush hours obviously top the list in terms of urgency, but a few late nights ought to take care of the other creeps.
That would leave me time to blog, as well. It’s a win-win situation. Unless you happen to be one of my readers.