Over the years my wife and I have gotten into a routine of making goofy Superbowl bets with each other to be paid off during the ensuing year.  Back massages, kisses, chores, themed dinners and vacation weekends have all been won on things like the coin toss, touchdowns, first beer ad brand, number of first quarter camera shots of the QB’s wife, time of the first blimp sighting, first team to have a player lose a helmet… We make the more complicated bets we have to keep track of earlier in the game because when we watch at home, there’s also sometimes a drinking game attached to things like penalties, scores, soda ads, head coach sightings…. That can sometimes get out of control very quickly like the infamous heavy penalty / high scoring game a few years ago that caused us both to take a much-needed third quarter Super-Nap.

Last year, prior to arriving at the ‘family friendly’ Superbowl party we attended, my wife and I quietly bet each other if any guests would have a hard liquor drink (stronger than beer/wine) before the third quarter. We found ourselves snooping about looking in people’s glasses and asking leading liquid questions. When an unexpected round of scotch was poured a mere two minutes before the third quarter began, I lost the bet when someone took a premature sip moments prior to the second half kick-off toast.  I still say my wife rigged it! 

This year the Superbowl was different; it was the first time in 17 years we did not watch the game together. She was out of town dealing with a family emergency. In a failed attempt to create some sense of normalcy in a year that has already proved to be far from routine, we texted each other a couple of goofy game bets but it was not the same. It is tough when the world is spinning out of control faster than the Tasmanian devil in a Red Bull factory.

This past month has been particularly hard for the two of us. We have had to deal with the passing of one of our mothers and the other not doing well after being pulled off a cruise ship in Belize with complications from pneumonia that got her sent on a scary two-hour ambulance ride to an extended stay in the ICU of a Mexican hospital (the inappropriate joke I can’t say out loud is ‘I wonder which was worse’).  While trying to wade through the mountain of estate, funeral and hospice care paperwork, we also had to deal with two other family members wrecking their cars in winter storm accidents. Oh yeah, did I mention that water pipe that burst during a recent freeze while we were having 10 feet of damaged sewer pipe replaced under the house (neither covered by insurance) causing us to have no running water for 10 days? Add in that we now both have careers that feature being the one responsible for solving a daily barrage of emergency crises that are constantly tossed at us like mental dodge-balls, and you have a mental stress test from hell. 

At this point, things are way beyond a pour, so as the obscure song goes, ‘when it rains… it snows’ and right now we are stuck in a blizzard of berserkness. Through it all we are trying to be optimistic this ugly tide is ebbing but maybe that is just because we’re not sure how many more crashing waves of craziness we can handle.

This is certainly not the first time I have felt like I was standing on the shore trying to hold back the water. I recall the last really bad snow and ice storm that shut down Dallas happened days before the locally held Superbowl in February 2011. That was the first time my wife and I thought we might not be able to watch the game together. She was in California on business and not only missed the forced vacation snow days off but between the airport closure and so many people coming to town for the game, she was not sure when she would be able to get home.  Knowing how hard it would be to get my Mini down our steep driveway, every few hours during the storm I went out into the frigid quiet crunchy mess to shovel and salt. But the snow just kept falling and like trying to stop those waves from hitting the shore, eventually, the futility of my repetition became obvious. As expected, a few days later when things thawed out, all my work proved irrelevant and unnecessary.

The other night lying in bed not sleeping, I imagined myself as a little old man, the sole survivor of a society-destroying nuclear bomb, out in front of my house repeatedly trying to sweep clear the continually dropping layers of fallout dust from my front walk. Trying to create an illusion of normalcy during the uncontrollable. In a strange sort of way, that is kind of my goal right now. Amid the chaos seeking comfort in the routine. Unfortunately,  as bulletproof as my wife and I sometimes see ourselves, we are forever changed by the events of the past month. Doomed to never get over it but simply charged with the task of finding a way to carry on with our little slice of the world being forever different.

I look forward to the passage of time and to next year’s Superbowl. A year can help heal a lot of wounds.  A year is long enough for some good to creep back into our lives. A year is long enough to consider playing a silly Superbowl drinking game for fun versus escapism. And a year is long enough to come up with some new wacky Superbowl bets to help us laugh and smile through the game. 

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We did not fart. Nope. Never happened. Not in the house I was raised. Well, maybe I should elucidate that statement. Over the years there was definitely our fair share of odiferous gas blowing out our butts. Especially on nights Mom boiled up a couple of pots of store-label guess-a-meat hot dogs and Heinz Brand bland baked beans. And it is true that Dad, in his usual Fruit Of The Loom white t-shirt and boxers after a hard day’s work half-napping in his faux leather recliner, could peel Mom’s decorative mirror tiles off their bedroom wall with his fog-horn volumed flatulence. But we did not fart.

Well, ok, we farted per se’, but absolutely never ever used the term ‘fart’… ever! Mom would never allow such a vulgar word to be said by one of HER children in HER house. I once got slapped for saying ‘crap’, imagine what would have happened if I uttered ‘fart’. It’s not that we were prim and proper; we definitely were not a pinkies up prude brood. Mom just had some distinct rules of propriety that based on how bad we broke, we either got the dreaded silent raised single eyebrow, the count to three or at worst the dreaded slipper swat to the butt.

So no, we did not fart. We had ‘boomsies’. Yes, ‘boomsies’. That’s right, we had no cutting the cheese, roaring the rear, backdoor sneezes, barking spiders, fragrant foofs, floating the air biscuit, butt bazookas, air bagels, anal ahems, heinous anuses, butt volcanos, popping fluffys, blasting the butt tuba, Vladimir Pootins, bench warmers, boom-booms, booty belches, brown clouds, cheek flappers, duck calls, hum-erroids, methane mating calls, one gun salutes, poop poofs, rectal raspberries, rump rippers, skunk baits, sphincter songs, duck squeezers, tail winds, toot toots, trouser trumpets, ringos, under thunders, anal acoustics, breakin winds, booty bombs, colon bowlin, cornhole tremors, fanny frogs, fecal fumers, pop tarts, stale wind-a comin, stinky steamers, taint ticklers, whoopee whippers, buttock bassoons, dutch oven delights, fumigatory essences, the nether belch, prison breaks, whootzies or the state of the union address. And without a doubt, no farts.

Nope. In our house, we only had ‘boomsies’. Mom was smart. With four boys, boomsie was a positively embarrassing word to say. The usual giggly ‘fart’ talk and jokes didn’t happen thanks to ‘boomsies’. I’m still embarrassed to say it. Could there be a less manly word for gas?

It was not until I was out from under Mom’s wing on the mean streets hanging with the tuffs and rumblers down in the kindergarten and 1st-grade classroom where I first got an earful of potty humor.

On my first day of school, little Lynn Weisman got stuck in the toilet seat. Squeaky cries of help came from within the small classroom’s adjacent restroom. The teacher rushed over and pushed open the door for all to briefly see tiny Lynn wailing away from her wedged perch, half on and half in the bowl.

I’m not sure if poor little Lynn still carries the scars of anguish and embarrassment from that day. Doomed to a life in the dimly lit alleys of society hearing the constant echoes of children’s gut-busting laughter bouncing around her head every time she goes to the bathroom. But for the other 5 year-olds in that class, it served as a conversation starter for an education in bathroom humor.

What were these potty terms all the other kids were using? In my house we made sissys, doody and the occasional aforementioned boomsie. I did not know I was expected to learn a confusing new numeral system the first day of school. The pressure was enormous. What if I raised one finger if I really had to make a two? And all the other far more descriptive fun words to say. Words that if said out loud almost always garnered a laugh, at least from the boys in the class.

There was a whole world I did not know about. How could I go back into my house and abide by our goofy bathroom word rules. It was just after the Summer Of Love in 1968 when I started school. The year of anti-establishment protests, student uprisings and young people demanding freedom. Freedom to say pee and poop instead of sissy and doody. And most importantly, the freedom to never have to boomsie again!

Yeah, it did not work out that way. The thought of breaking Mom’s rules still seemed scary to five-year-old Dan. Not liking the taste of Ivory soap, I stuck by her rules of the house. I might have been pretty damn obnoxious and whiney pushing her patience to limits but I was smart enough not to break her laws of language… when I was home. And except for Dad in his easy chair, the rest of us really tried not to fart in front of each other.

As soon as I moved out for college, I made my last boomsie. In my adult life, as my name transitioned from Danny to Dan, so did boomsie to absolutely one of any of the other above listed fart synonyms. Sure, hanging with the guys, I can let one rip with the best of them but in normal public situations, I try to be somewhat proper. Hell, I try to never fart in front of my Wife. I want to continue making love to her and my odds of that go down as my disgustingness level rises.

As I have gotten older, fart-wise, I have had to be more careful about what I eat. A bowl of Post Raisin Brand was my absolute favorite breakfast for years but I do not eat it anymore because raisins now give me dramatic, frequent olfactory-assaulting gas. It seems about every five years I forget about that problem and I excitedly buy a new box only to re-learn a very ugly lesson.

A half-dozen Beano pills won’t prevent next-day ugliness if I have too big a serving of those yummy Bush Baked Beans either (where were those when Mom was dishing out those tasteless vegetarian Heinz beans). Luckily, I am okay with the typical veggie offenders like asparagus, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts.

Sometimes there are issues though. A couple of years ago I was waiting at the airport before taking an 11-hour flight. When my hopes for an upgrade to business class collapsed, I decided to pick up a snack to nibble on the flight rather than relying on the sometimes scary coach food for my only meal of the day. I poked around the terminal stores when a big bag trail mix caught my eye. I had not had that stuff for years. It looked yummy, filling, didn’t have to be refidgerated and, for an airport, reasonably priced.

I dug into my seat, caught up on a few semi-popular movies and munched my way across the Atlantic getting through almost the entire bag of amazingly delicious trail mix. I kept thinking why don’t I eat this more often. Then about two hours before landing I got delivered my first reminder why.

Yeah, I again forgot about the raisin thing and I ate a lot of them. I hate to admit it but I was THAT guy on the last leg of the flight. Even calling it a ‘boomsie’ would not soften the stink I inflicted on my unsuspecting fellow passengers. I’m not sure Europe has forgiven me for the abhorrent aromatic assault I delivered to the continent.

After landing I was still feeling bad, releasing my bodily chemical weapons. I tried to stay far from other people as I used multiple forms of public transportation to get to my hotel. Feeling an embarrassed shame after getting off a bus, I hunkered away from others waiting for a city tram. Away from the crowd I noticed a frail thin woman standing in the darkness down a nearby alley almost half smiling at me. I wondered to myself, she looked vaguely familier. Could it be Lynn Weisman, enjoying a long awaited dose of karma.

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For many years I have been telling my wife that I would like the music of The Shaggs exclusively played at my funeral/memorial. They are one of my all-time favorites. Besides, I don’t think it is possible to be sad when The Shaggs are playing. Actually, it is hard to feel or think of anything else but The Shaggs when their music (?) is on.   It is a fairly overwhelming all-encompassing experience. They are so entertainingly hideously bad, your brain has to pretty much dedicate every last synapse to process what your hearing. The Shaggs music is original, primitive, out of tune, lyrically loopy and wackily wonderfully addictive.

Knowing my obscure music tastes my sister-in-law gave me a copy Of The Shaggs album when I was in High School in 1980, right after the record company she worked for re-released the 1969 infamous classic. It was, and still is, the quintessential Dan record. To more politely paraphrase my friend Charlie’s repeated comments about my music tastes, ‘no one else has a better ear for the absurd’.  I have no doubt that if someone heard the Shaggs playing while they walked through a cemetery, funeral home or chapel, they would know exactly which direction to head to get to my service.

I have had a lot more cause to ponder funerals lately. It is one of the things that accompanies getting older that no one warns you about. Even back a zillion years ago when schools taught you things you might actually need in the real world, like home economics, personal finance, careers, and civics, there was still no class or lesson that prepared you for dealing with death, mourning and all the things that surround the process. That stuff just kind of gets thrust upon you when you are already at your weakest.

There is no training in life for the handling of funeral arrangements. No one readies you for the anguish and guilt involved with trying to balance what you think your loved one would want, with everyone else’s wants, and still keeping it in a budget that does not bankrupt the entire family. Dying can be a lot more expensive than living. ” OK Mr. Bereaved, if you do not want the EDEN8000 Cadillac of Caskets made of polished pressure-treated solid Mahogany with platinum hardware to complement the angelic hand-quilted velvet lined interior that will cradle your loved one into the blissful after-life, let me show you the DOA200 economy model made of six pieces of warped particle board hammered together by underpaid blind special ed children from a third world country, lined with Motel 6-grade hand towels and cursed with eternal damnation by Satin himself…. now if that’s what you think your loved one would want…”

The story of The Shaggs has been the subject of books, an off-Broadway play, and the movie rights were once held by Tom Cruise but are currently bouncing around Hollywood waiting to be produced. As the incredible story goes, many years ago a palm-reader told Austin Wiggin’s mother that her young son would one-day ‘grow-up to marry a strawberry blond woman, he would have two sons and also raise three daughters that would form a popular music trio’. After the first two predictions came true, an adult Austin became staunchly determined to make the third part of the preminition a reality.

Mr. Wiggin purchased his three teenage daughters Dot, Helen and Betty musical instruments and a few rudimentary music lessons. After the eldest wrote a dozen or so songs, he drove them from their small-town New Hampshire home to Boston where he rented some studio time for an afternoon in a deal that also included having 1000 copies of the album pressed and distributed. Thus, was born The Shaggs’ debut album Philosophy Of The World.

My parents had no such musical mystical mandate with us kids. Instead, they toiled for decades raising us to be individual free-thinkers with questionable music tastes. But now my folks are both getting on in years, with Dad’s 90th birthday coming soon. When my Father’s parents passed, he had to make all the last minute distressing what, where and when final arrangements. That stress caused my parents to prearrange every possible detail surrounding any serious future illness, funeral arrangements and burial preferences that they could. That has not been the case for my wife, who, unfortunately, has had the burden of some of those things recently fall on her shoulders. Her ailing Mother made some loose arrangements but in the real world, the best-made plans rarely go as expected.

It turns out Austin Wiggan had paid his money to a swindler. The con-man disappeared after producing only 100 copies of his daughters’ record and broke all of his promises about advancing their career. Over the next few years the Shaggs played a few free concerts at the local Town Hall and such but eventually, the band broke up and the three girls went on with their lives marrying and raising families.

But like Rocky Horror and The Room, the few circulated copies of the album took on an unintended life of their own. One fell into the hands of eclectic musician Frank Zappa who in a late 1970s interview declared the Shaggs “better than the Beatles”.  In 1980, more than a decade after it was recorded, a Boston underground musician found a copy and convinced a small local label to finally release the album. With tongue firmly in cheek, Rolling Stone magazine voted it comeback record of the year. And thus started the Shaggs unexpected rise to famous/infamous cult status.

Through school and a big chunk of my adult life, I made a lot of ‘mix-tapes’ for family and friends. Thanks to Guardians Of The Galaxy, Millennials now understand what those homemade multiple artists themed music tapes were.  As geek-a-riffic as it sounds, I took a lot of time and energy on my tapes trying to make them as entertaining and relevant as possible for the recipient. I frequently slipped in a Shaggs song into the assortment of music if it fit the mood or message I was creating.

Yeah, I still kinda do the similar dorky thing on stuff like my Spotify playlists but it’s not the same. Then the other night while offering to help my wife as she was dealing with some ugly early preparations for the inevitable, she asked me to find some clean digital versions of some of the hymns and songs her Mother had liked that would be appropriate for her eventual funeral. I stared blankly at the computer having flashbacks of all those hundreds of tapes I had made, but none of those prepared me for this.

I spent weeks putting together the mix of music for my wedding reception but that paled with the pressure of doing this seemingly simple task. I spent hours on Amazon and I-Tunes not satisfied with any of the hundreds of available versions available of a particular popular hymn. Not enough organ, too much harp, too impersonal a chorus, too country, too pop… I needed solemn and sad but hopeful and uplifting. I did not want to let her family down as I tried to sum up the beauty and greatness of a person’s entire life in a song. I wanted to do this simple little task for my wife but I was useless and made her pick a from a group I found. This mixtape was too important.

I guess that old palm reader was right about the Shaggs as their legacy and legend still grows with each passing year. They made a single follow up album after the first one gained notoriety with Austin himself even taking a shot at the vocals on one song. They had actually learned a few chords over the years and at times the second disc is almost melodic, but it is undoubtedly still the Shaggs. Unfortunately, even the wackiness of the Shaggs is not strong enough to cheer up my wife as she muddles her way through the difficult road in front of her. I might have been useless to help the other night but at least by making it clear that I want a Shaggs only funeral, that is a decision she will never have to make again.

To quote the Shaggs:

We do our best

We try to please

But we’re like the rest

We are never at ease

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Two things my wife dislikes are crowds and waiting. That is why she hates the supermarket check-out lanes. I’ve tried to distract her by dramatically reading out-loud the headlines from the nearby trashy tabloids. Standing there impatiently, she never lets on if shes actually amused by my serious deep newscaster voiced orations of the ridiculous Weekly World News, Globe, and National Enquirer’s preposterous articles. As for the other shoppers around us waiting their turn to get on with their lives, some seem entertained but most do that ‘overt ignoring’ move like the folks lining the streets watching their undressed leader parade by in the Emperor’s New Clothes.

FBI Captures Bat Boy, Space Aliens Love Country Music, Surgeons Cut My Head Off And Sewed It Back On, Titanic Survivors Found Alive Frozen In Floating Iceberg… all were actual headlines.

I got out of the habit of vociferating the silly faux-news when we started using the self check-out lanes.  There, like at those quarter operated self-carwashes where I flail like a maniac with the hose-wand and soapy brush, I always try to break my previous speed record scanning feverishly through my cart-full of groceries. Unfortunately, there always seems to be multiple annoying hold-ups where we have to stop and wait for the near-invisible clerk to pokily come tend to some annoying scanner price override, employee approval code or coupon redemption.

We finally realized it’s faster and less frustrating back in the old manned lanes with the disinterested teen cashiers, the bread crushing disabled baggers and check writing grannies.

Even though we are back to waiting passively by the crowded cramped conveyors, I have had no the desire to read aloud the goofy papers anymore. I think I’m overwhelmed with that stuff.  The outlandish actual national current events, the out-of-control world affairs, the Fake News accusations and both political party’s irresponsible devolving of government into a selfish kindergarten playground mentality have made the real-world woes as far-fetched as Bat-Boy meeting Elvis, hitchhiking honky-tonk UFO riders, reattached Head Man necking and the frozen Titanic survivors on a really extending cruise.  It no longer feels like silly fun.

The modern world depresses me; it makes my head spin when I read either the real or exaggerated news.  I wonder though, is the world really more tense and out-of-control or have I hit an age and station in life where I am perceiving things differently? Would I feel these same overwhelmed emotions if I were at this exact same part of my life but in a different era, under different leaders, in a different society?

Look I have no illusions I would be of aristocracy in any era. I’m sure I would have been slogging through my days trying to keep a smile on my face whether I was an Elephant wrangler trudging through the Alps working for that grumpy-ass Hannibal, a peasant slinging sloppy porridge for the name stealing Nebuchadnezzar II in messy Mesopotamia or a lowly Turk-Head workshop upholsterer making ottomans during the Ottoman Empire for the snooty ruling class.

Maybe if I lived in 1000AD,  I would have had no time for a Medieval Middle Ages mid-life crisis. Or maybe as the poorest of the peasant farmers, I still would have the exact same dreams I have today, like living near the ocean. Schlepping my way through my difficult life longing to become the first surfing serf.

Would I feel the same emotions if I were at this exact point in my life but living in Roman Times? Maybe I’d of been more appreciated in that society? I think I have the right legs to look damn good in a tunic and toga wardrobe.  All through high school and college I practically lived my Key West Kino sandals. Those are not far off from what they were sporting in 100 AD. I might have been a pretty content camper in that era, saving up my dēnārius for retirement in a CDI-K account. Who am I kidding, I’d probably be a slave farmer on some estate picking grapes and plums for the power elite or tending to their domesticated rabbits.

But until Professor Peabody invites me for a ride in his Way-Back machine, I think I just need to keep my head in the life I have. Although things are rocky right now, my universe really is not that bad. Maybe in these tougher times, a little Titanic surviving severed head alien Bat Boy diversion is not such a bad thing.


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Crash. It still echoes loudly in my head. Or maybe it’s just the 50 years that have passed that have amplified it to an epic volume in my brain. Either way, it was not good. Just home from the party at my Aunt’s house on that frigid December night, the whole family had just started unloading the car full of opened presents. As Mom was rushing back to warn us kids that nobody but her should touch Grandma’s just passed down family heirloom vase, the box slipped out of my brother’s frozen hands and smashed on the slick icy driveway. Crash.

Mom would never purposefully emotionally hurt one of her children but her cries of upset shock sent shivers far more biting than those of the frigid weather. Still very young, I just stood there feeling helpless and all these decades later as so many other memories fade I remember that moment with strange clarity. I was not used to seeing Mom upset. Before she had time to think of the ramifications her angry words escaped into the frozen air like the visible vapor of her breath, then flipped from fiery accusatory to consoling in seconds. But it was too late and the sharpness of her words hurt my brother, who I also was not used to seeing upset.

They both quickly got over it but I obviously held onto that vignette like a small forgotten scar that when occasionally noticed takes you right back to the time of injury. I was the baby of the family who at that point was still either oblivious to or shielded from the real world. In the scheme of all the heartbreak life regularly doles out, a smashed vase is pretty minor but I remember it. And the crash reverberates in my head. And it tinkers with my perspective. And it affects how I see things. And it still alters my behavior. Crash.

More than 30 years later I was living with the woman that would eventually become my wife when her Father unexpectedly passed away. They were extraordinarily close and I remember her shocked cry when we got the horrible call. That sound too is forever etched in my head. The weeks that followed were not good as everyone worked hard to get her Mother out of the house where she so desperately no longer wanted to live. Crash.

In the basement of their old Iowa home was a large jade plant.I don’t think anyone recalls when or how it originally appeared but apparently, the plant had been a permanent fixture as my wife grew up and out of the house. It had changed rooms and locations over the years but no matter where it was, it kept growing. Ignored or pampered, in the living room sun or the dank basement, the thing thrived. At some point during those chaotic weeks of readying the house for sale, the idea surfaced that we should take home some clippings and continue the family tradition of having a Jade plant in the house.

As opposed to my wife’s father, who could make things grow as fast and hardy as Jack’s magical beanstalk, I grew up with Jewish city folk who were more comfortable pitching a fit then using a pitchfork. You don’t see a lot of New York Jew farmers. You can’t blame us, the smog and concrete does not offer much in planting opportunities and remember, historically my people did spend a lot of time in deserts.

Growing up we were not completely without greenery; there was a small patch of grass and hedges in front of our old house that the dog was very comfortable watering. Also, when I lived in a Miami during High School weeds started growing out of the swatch of astroturf my Dad plopped down on our 5th-floor condo balcony but I think that was due to the tropical conditions versus anybody’s greenish thumb shade.

During the 15 years, I was on the road for work, I frequently purchased a houseplant for my corporate apartment or hotel. As most of my old girlfriends would admit, you had to be strong and independent to live with me. So whenever I took on a plant-y roommate I never watered them the first week. It kinda tested their strength and taught them who’s boss. I had better luck convincing plants I was in control than humans who mostly emotionally stomped all over me. My plants usually thrived but like most of my relationships, they often did not last long. I usually gave them away before I left town, so I can’t attest to their long-term health and heartiness.

All these events combined in my head when my not-yet-fiance showed up with a half dozen tiny clipping’s from her Dad’s jade snipped from its branches before they gave the now behemoth sized tree away. Thinking of my Mom’s pain of losing a family heirloom and my wife’s agony mourning her Dad, I approached these tiny little plants like they were precious treasures. With the most careful kid gloves, I planned to coddle and coax these little two-inch jade nubs to strong maturity. These were inestimable irreplaceable prized artifacts of family history that were being placed in my care. In my head they were as important and precious in lore and love as the Shroud of Turin, the Buddha’s Tooth, the Ark Of The Covenant or the Holy Grail. I was not going to be the lout that destroyed a slice of history. Hell, I had already purchased an engagement ring; I was not going to be cast out of the family for sacrilegious violations before I even joined it.

The tiny plant pieces looked sad but I was determined to raise them to maturity with the loving care of Mother Theresa and the innovative skills of George Washington Carver. I took something of a crash course in crassulaceae, researching how to best handle them in our climate and region. I placed them in their own individual little pots. I slightly varied the amount of water and sun each received to learn what would be the optimum way to nurse them to adulthood. I was going to be this century’s Theophrastus. Dan, king of the jade botanists and upholder of family lore. Descendants will tell the tale of the mysterious Jade Ninja of the 2000s who stepped into the scene just in time to save the family’s traditions.

Not long after they entered my care, the second largest of the jade nubbins had a misadventure with one of our cats that apparently decided it not only shouldn’t be on the windowsill but also needed some chomp mark customization. I did not have the heart to tell my not yet wife so I dug through the dozens of specimens at the largest local plant store and obtained a rouge substitute jade clipping of extremely similar size and appearance.

Over the next few months, one of the jade babies got over-watered and turned a scary shriveled brown while the others stayed basically the exact same. They did not grow, nor did they die. They sprouted no roots. They just were. But I never relented on my attentiveness. Then one day I came home from work and my future wife had decided they needed a little more sun so she put them outside in the blazing Texas summer heat. Within a week I was faced with the dilemma of either telling her she killed the jades, getting five more stand-in substitute sprouts or throwing myself on the horticulturist’s sword taking the blame for being a family heirloom killer so she would not be upset with herself. There was no good option. My Jade Ninja dreams crashed.

In comparison to everything else she had recently gone through the dead jades turned out to be no big deal but it was decided that we should always have a jade plant. We made a big deal of it on one of our weekend shopping trips and together purchased a nice hardy new one to start fresh. This was OUR jade plant with no clouded memories or baggage. A new tradition took root. Until a few years later when the plant shriveled and died. As did the next one…um, and the next one. And well, frankly, I have lost track of how many Jade plants we have gone through… but our idea has not crashed and burned. Since we have been married my wife and I have strictly followed our tradition and always have had A jade plant in the house… just not the same jade plant.

Dan and sam in snow

Lil’ Dan & vase dropping brother in the front yard snow on the other side of hedges from the icy slick driveway

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Let me start off by saving you some trouble and admitting right off the bat that I already know that I’m crazy… and my Wife is not too far behind me on the nutty highway. It’s good to have things in common. Even if it’s a lack of sanity.  This is likely not new news but it helps the following story make sense.

The moment I met my Wife nearly 18 years ago I was positive she was the one for me. She, on the other hand, was a bit skeptical of this traveling dufus with a highly responsible yet difficult to describe non-traditional career, a less than savory relationship resume, a somewhat shady sounding home life, and an unpredictable propensity for being either the life or lump of the party.

Luckily her two cats quickly approved of me so she figured I could not be that bad. To be closer to her, and the felines that helped get me in the door, I moved from breezy beachy Florida to ocean-less scorching northern Texas (that little strip of mostly industrial gulf seven hours away does not count) thus proving the extraordinary lengths I was willing to go to be forever at her side… and front… and back…

During that first year together, the real world tossed some ugly stuff at us to handle but through it all the cat’s love for me never wavered so she hung in there with me. Eventually there was a 10-month engagement and a non-traditional wedding on one of those sunny Florida beaches. Thus, were the humble beginnings of our goofy little adventure together.

Not sure of how long we were going to be living in the area, we picked as our first home together a pseudo-permanent non-committal semi-luxury apartment with a strict lease. Because we wanted to be able to leave the sliding glass balcony doors open so the cats, who I owed a huge debt of gratitude to, could hang out on the porch without supervision while simultaneously not letting the joint fill up with a Texas-sized hive’s worth of flying, buzzing, stinging, Dan-hating insects, after way too much contemplation and debate I made my own screened in porch with a couple of rolls of fine woven mesh wire screen and a staple gun. Then we just hoped the crazed fine-issuing landlord didn’t complain about our modification or bill us for the several hundred staple holes. They didn’t.

It was important to me that I kept the cats content. I might not have won over my wife without them. Luckily the porch modifications were a hit. The cats were happy. Which means my wife was happy. Which means I was happy.  Then we moved.

The longer we lived there the less semi-luxurious it felt.  Five years of not wanting to make a commitment to staying in the area caught up with us. We desired something more real. More permanent. More grown-upy. We built a house.

As the house was being constructed, we checked on the status at least every other day. After work, we were constantly driving 40 extra minutes out of our way to stare blankly at stuff like stakes in the ground, a bare foundation slab and the initial plumbing. We didn’t know what we were looking at or for, but we figured looking was better than not.

Then the wood frame went up to our future home, our protection from the elements, our biggest investment, our shelter to help satisfy one of the most important oldest basest primal human needs. Unfortunately, it appeared as stable as toy castle built of chopsticks by an antsy three-year-old in a Chinese restaurant high chair waiting for their egg foo young dinner to be served. I was sure this feeble card-house like structure would topple over with the first gust of West Texas winds that blew through town. It didn’t.

After we moved in, I was never really comfortable in a big storm. I know mentally that most houses nowadays are built the same way but I usually do not see the flimsy guts with my own two eyes. All worked out well except it lacked a screened in porch for the cats to hang out on unsupervised that would not let our brand-new abode turn into a Dan despising Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Bug Kingdom. That would make the cats happy. Which would make my Wife happy. Which would make me happy. It did.

Eventually out back in our huge yard with the unobstructed view of the sunset over the varmint-laden army corps of engineer forest, we built one. Or should I say, since my wife saw my handiwork with a staple gun at the old apartment, we grossly overpaid other people to build one.  Then we decided to move.

OK, we lived there for 9 years and had the porch for almost 8 of those but after nearly a decade, the world changed. Our world changed. The city caught up to our far-off quiet suburb with a Wal-Mart and strip malls replacing the farmlands and cows we drove by on the way home. Our jobs changed, tripling our commute time. Our neighbors changed too; as our brand-new neighborhood became the ‘older’ subdivision, like the slightly weatherworn houses themselves, the folks around us started looking less fresh, kinda rough around the edges and a little more run-down.

The wife and I packed up our three different cats and dog, to move the opposite direction of everyone else. We bought an even older house in a closer to town suburb very near our jobs. You would have thought we would have learned our lesson but the new house did not have a screened in porch for the four-legged ones to spend time on unsupervised and not let in the swarming slews of anti-Dan city bugs. That was not going to do, so even with moving into an older place that needs a decent amount of other major projects addressed, very soon after moving in we had the folks that built the last porch come back and charge us even more for another one. I guess my wife still remembers the staples because there was never even a discussion about Dan heading out there with a pile of tools.

I know still that I might not have been in the picture were it not for the cats so I respect the priority of that project. Luckily the new outside area made the animals happy. Which made my wife happy. Which made me happy.

Dan Attacked by Plumbing

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I can’t seem to focus. Maybe the bitter cold weather this week has frozen my brain cells like the unhappy atrophying cactus outside my front door that I forgot to cover when it dropped to 12 degrees the other night. Maybe it’s my leftover uneasiness of 2016, lingering into the New Year.  Or maybe I’m just woogy from my new diet. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it but I’ve become one of those people.

For decades, just on principle alone, I refused to ever go on a clichéd January 1st diet. Could anything be more trite?  I truly hate being as predictably hackneyed as Wyle E Coyote’s backfiring Road Runner nabbing schemes or someone inevitably slapping one those useless decorative elastic skull-gouging thingies onto a newborn girl’s head before taking a photo or somebody yelling ‘Freebird’ at absolutely any rock concert. I don’t wanna be THAT guy.

New year, new diet, oy vay. I used to laugh at all the folks in the gym that would magically appear on January 2nd and be long gone by mid-February.  Of course, that is when I was going to a gym almost every day. Maybe if I was still going to the gym at least once almost every decade, I wouldn’t need to go on this banal New Year’s Diet.

I guess I should embrace it. At least finally I am now like everyone else. For the first time in my life, due to six months of sloth-like laziness and recklessly bad eating habits, I finally fit in with the masses. Every yearbook I have had since 6th grade is filled with comments like ‘you’re so different but…’, ‘you’re so weird but…’, ‘you’re so crazy but…’ and sometimes just ‘you’re so different, weird and crazy…’ without even the backhanded complementary ‘but’.

Well, look at me now. I’m not different at all. I’m like a gazillion other resolution starvers all going cross-eyed loopy on a New Year’s Diet. All the extra cops that spent New Year’s Eve nailing drunks, should stay on the roads this week to stop the grumpy hungry woozy dieters from road raging each other to death. I know it’s making me nutty. I’m obsessing about the food I am not eating and it’s messing with my noggin.

I tried to distract myself by watching one of the 6,783 college football bowl games, but it seemed like every ad featured close-ups of gooey bubbling pizza, seared juicy burgers, frothy beers and my true weakness, crispy salty potato chips. With all the frustratingly tempting food commercials, I turned off the tube deciding the hunger pains made it not worth watching Shimer College vs. Deep Springs U ‘Puritan’s Pride Doctor’s Best Sustained & Immediate Release L-Arginine Anti-Erectile Dysfunction Bowl’.

I am all out of sorts. I hate the beginning of a diet. It’s hard to write something witty here when all I can do is think about food. I feel like I have gone cold turkey off anything with flavor and my stomach is growling like two feral cats in a hefty bag fighting over a fish bone. I’m going crazy like an alcoholic that has not even scored his first 24-hour chip. MMMM  chips.  That sounds good. Those spicy Kettle ones are great. But you know the English call French Fries ‘chips’. I guess they do not want to use the word ‘French’ to describe something they like.  But yeah English style chips with a curry sauce sounds really good right now. Well actually, might as well make it Fish and Chips with malt vinegar, a Guinness and…  awwwww CRAP.. my brain is food drifting again.

I need a distraction.  I’ll go put some laundry in the washer. Clothing won’t make me think about food.  You can’t eat clothes. Well, I guess they do make those kinky edible underwear. Does anyone actually buy those besides for a gag gift? Do they come in different sizes? I mean, they are made of sugary candy; is there a diabetes warning on the 3X size?  I guess they could make sugar-free edible undies Too bad the name ‘Sweet And Low’ is already taken.  I guess matching edible socks would be a different fetish.

Ahhh, I’m going so kookoo here.  I’ve linked laundry to snacks. Chores have nothing to do with food unless it’s cleaning out the refrigerator. I gotta get out of the house to take my mind off my grumbling gut. I could go clean out the gutters, that nasty rotting mess in there will help me forget about food. And I certainly won’t be like everyone else. Who else is insane enough to climb up a metal ladder in 19-degree weather New Year’s Day to clean out the decaying leaf soufflé rising under my eaves. Now what can I do to spoil my appetite the rest of the year?



Pic of the Pup and I has nothing to do with anything whatsoever, but people love doggie pictures.


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