Tag Archives: lifestyle

Going the distance – albeit with short bursts of speed

man jogging down path

Because priorities.

I’m more of a sprinter than a long-distance runner.

Actually, let me clarify. When it comes to track, my preferred position is spectator.

But if you were to drag me back in time to high school, re-enroll me in my sophomore year, and force me to fulfill my physical-education requirement by taking a semester of track (you heartless time-traveling bastard, you) —  then yes, I’d be more of a sprinter than a long-distance runner.

My dad’s the same way. We work best with short bursts of energy, and not prolonged periods of continual exertion.

Case in point: I can’t write every day.

I’ve tried, but it’s a goal I’ve struggled to keep … sort of like my New Year’s resolution to jog each evening. (Come to find out, binge-watching Top Chef at night puts a damper on my daily exercise regimen.)

I know writing every day would be good for me. And it’s something I’d like to do. After all, the most successful writers are the ones that train themselves to make writing a habit. They treat it like a job.

Although I suppose I treat writing like a job, too – only it’s one that involves a shovel, a pile of cow dung, and knee-high wading boots.

That is to say, it’s not only an unenjoyable job – it’s often downright excruciating.

Part of that is my penchant for perfection. Rewriting and editing are important parts of the process, but it’s easy to wring the heart from a piece through rigorous revision. That’s a problem I know all too well.

There’s a vein of creativity that runs through the mind, and my best work emerges when I can tap into it and transcribe the thoughts that stream effortlessly through my fingertips.

On the other hand, striving for technical precision suffocates the life from my writing, leaving me with a series of grammatically accurate sentences that collectively lack a soul.

Another issue I have is writer’s block. There are so many days when I sit down to write and nothing’s there. It feels like I’m wearing concrete boots and slogging through a mental cavern of thick cobwebs. (Unfortunately, today is one of those days.)

Other days, I’ll feel clear-headed and energetic, and I’ll dash out two or three blog posts in one sitting.

It’s weird, but apparently, it’s how I work.

I still try to write every day, but if nothing’s there, I’m not too hard on myself.

I also remind myself to have fun. If I’m not enjoying what I’m writing, then likely no one else will enjoy reading it.

I also remind myself that perfection is an illusion, and striving for it will suck the life from my writing. When it comes to creativity, good enough is truly good enough.

So if you see me on the track, just know I won’t be running the mile full-steam. I’ll dash forward, walk for a while, then dash forward until I run out of oomph.

Again, it’s how I work.

And maybe that’s OK. Because whether I’m sprinting or walking, I’m still going the distance. I’ll get to the finish line eventually.

It’s just that it’ll be on my own terms — and, apparently, in my own sweet time.

An essay of epic proportions

man standing alone in barren desert

Funny thing, but I enjoy writing more when I don’t take it so seriously. Who would have thought?

I sat down to write a blog post the other day, and this overwhelming sense of exhaustion draped over me.

The idea of piecing together a coherent essay – complete with a gripping lede, a compelling thesis, and a succinct conclusion to tie it all up – seemed daunting and not worth the strain. I was tired from a full day of work, and I couldn’t summon the strength to compose a compelling journalistic masterpiece.

I sighed and rested my head in my hands.

Why do I even keep a blog? I thought to myself. It’s all work and no play. It’s not fun anymore.

And right on cue, as if to reaffirm a lesson I already knew, a scene from the 1996 movie Mr. Holland’s Opus started playing in my mind.

In the film, Richard Dreyfuss stars as a high-school music teacher. It’s not his dream job — he’d much rather be at home, working on his own compositions — but throughout the movie he enriches the lives of generations of students by instilling in them a love for music.

There’s a part where a girl is staying after class to practice the clarinet, but she keeps hitting a sour note. She gets frustrated and wants to give up.

So Dreyfuss puts a record on the turntable. It’s “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen. He tells the girl that even though the music is simple and really not that good technically, he loves it.

He loves it, he says, because music is supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be torture and drudgery and endless hours of frustration. It’s supposed to be enjoyable.

And he’s right. The music that touches people comes from the heart. It may not be technically precise, but it’s got soul – and soul is what resonates. It reaches people on a deeper level and evokes all sorts of emotions.

Essentially, Dreyfuss was telling the girl to lighten up. By treating her practice sessions as excruciating struggles toward perfection, she was forgetting why she wanted to play music in the first place. Her determination to be perfect was draining all the joy from what should have been a pleasurable pastime.

No one decides to become a musician – or, for that matter, a writer – with the hope that the challenges will be agonizing and impossible to overcome.

They decide to do it because they want to express themselves – and because they derive enjoyment from pursuing their craft.

And that was my issue. Like the girl in the movie, I was treating my hobby as if it were strenuous toil. There was no fun in it anymore because I was taking it too seriously.

In my unyielding determination to succeed, I had forgotten why I started blogging in the first place.

I realized, too, that blog posts aren’t high-school essays. They don’t have to have an outline, or a thesis, body, and conclusion. There’s no strict headmistress looking over my shoulder, ready to rap my knuckles with a ruler if I split an infinitive or misplace a modifier.

Blog posts can be whatever we want. There’s no structure required.  Mental wanderings are perfectly acceptable, if that’s your thing. You don’t have to write an essay of epic proportions.

Like music, writing should be fun. Fun writing flows from the fingertips, while strict writing requires endless tinkering and unwavering deliberation.

So like the girl in the movie, I’m going to try to loosen up and enjoy myself. After all, I’m here to have fun.

And just as technical precision doesn’t infuse a piece with heart, a single sour note doesn’t deprive it of its soul.

Being curt doesn’t make you businesslike

two businessmen in officeI’m noticing a trend lately where people respond to e-mails with an abrupt, terse tone.

No greeting. No “please” and “thank you.” Just a curt, one-sentence response, with a sprinkling of condescension.

I imagine they’re trying to sound confident and authoritative. After all, real professionals don’t waste time with pleasantries or kindness. Real professionals are tough and domineering, and they command respect with their aloof detachment and emotionless demeanor.

But if goal is to sound cool and confident, I’d like to remind these people that they’re failing spectacularly.

Instead, they’re just proving themselves to be clueless jerks with no skills to back up the swagger.

In fact, there’s a direct correlation between a person’s curtness and their incompetence.

The more curt the e-mail, the more incompetent the worker. It’s a rule.

I’d also like to remind these people that real competence stems from patience and understanding and putting yourself in another person’s shoes.

True professionalism comes from listening to the needs of others and responding to the best of your ability.

Genuine respect is earned by appreciating others and recognizing their contributions.

Humor and warmth go a long way in cultivating relationships and building trust. A person who can laugh projects much more poise and confidence than a sleaze-ball who tries to control others through fear and intimidation.

Most people want to be perceived as competent and able. It’s understandable. And our professional correspondence speaks volumes about our personality and the image we’re trying to project — even more so than the way we dress.

But please don’t mistake aloofness for ability. Don’t confuse curtness for competence.

No matter how stiff your upper lip, being a prick will never make you a professional.

So let’s cut it out with the abrupt, terse e-mails, OK? Si “hi” in your greeting. Tell someone you “hope they’re doing well.” Respond with a “thank-you” when they fulfill your request.

After all, isn’t common human decency worth a slightly cluttered inbox? If someone doesn’t appreciate a “thank-you” e-mail, then they always can delete it.

I’ll never subscribe to the notion that civility and decorum have to be sacrificed for the sake of doing business.

Skill and proficiency may define a professional, but it’s kindness and compassion that constitute the soul.

Giving directions using long-ago landmarks

giving directions vacant lot.

Me giving directions to a newcomer in town.

I used to work as the receptionist for a small real-estate office. A guy walked in one morning.

“I’m new in town, and I just rented a house from you guys,” he said. “Do you by chance know where the FedEx pickup box is?”

“Sure,” I said. “Just go to the shopping center where the post office was twenty years ago. The box is in front of what used to be the veterinary clinic.”

The man frowned. “What are you saying? The box is next door to the post office?”

“No,” I said. “I’m saying it’s next door to where the post office used to be. The pickup box is in front of the old veterinary clinic.”

“So the vet isn’t there, either.”

“No. They moved away ages ago.”

“So there’s nothing there now?”

“I’m not sure what’s there now. All I know is it used to be the veterinary clinic.”

The man narrowed his eyes. “I’m not sure I know where you’re talking about.”

“Sure you do,” I said. “There was a pizza place in the same shopping center. It’s not there now, though. It burned down in the late 1990s.”

“I’m not sure if I was clear earlier,” the man said. “Did I mention I’m new in town?”

I looked at him, blinking. “Oh.”

“So how would I get to this shopping center?” the man asked. “Do you know what stores are there now?”

I shrugged. “I have no idea what’s there now. I know the FedEx pickup box is there, but I don’t know about any stores.”

“Can you give me a landmark? Anything?” the man asked.

“Well,” I said, “it’s across the street from where the gas station used to be.”

The man sighed. “So the gas station’s not there now?”

“No. They tore it down fifteen years ago. I have no idea what’s there now.”

The man glared. “I can’t believe you get paid to work here. Do you really consider yourself useful?”

“Well,” I said, shrugging, “I used to. I’m not sure I do now.”

The incessant whining of House Hunters couples

House Hunters RenovationIf I were a masochist, I might reach out and flush the toilet while showering.

Or, I could stick my hand in a beehive and pluck off a chunk of honeycomb.

Or, easier yet, I could simply watch a marathon of House Hunters reruns over the weekend.

Talk about excruciating agony.

If you’ve read this post or this post — or this post or this post — you’re probably aware that I watch a lot of House Hunters. I’m not sure why. I didn’t think I was a masochist, but I have to admit, I get a certain thrill watching spoiled brats looking at gargantuan houses they can’t afford.

These homebuyers often are in their early twenties, but they’re always looking at 4,000-square-foot McMansions on 20 acres with cobblestone driveways and Olympic-sized swimming pools. (When I was in my early twenties, I was living in a firetrap hovel, eating Top Ramen, and pursuing a degree that wouldn’t help me at all in my professional career. Because I’m forward-thinking like that.)

What’s more, these people are incessantly whining about everything.

And I mean everything. For these people, every minor cosmetic feature is an endless source of insurmountable frustration.

“The countertops are granite, but they should be quartz,” they moan.

“The floors are laminate, but they should be hardwood,” they bellyache.

“The bathroom has a step-in shower, but not a jetted tub,” they sniff.

“Shut up!” I scream, throwing an empty bowl of Top Ramen at the TV. “You whiny entitled scumbags! You don’t deserve a house! Shut up!”

The show has a spin-off titled House Hunters Renovation, where the pampered jerks not only pick out a house to buy, but renovate it as well.

This version is almost harder to stomach, because instead of the people simply whining about inconsequential cosmetic features, we get to see them spend good money to replace those features – even if they’re perfectly adequate.

And they all use the same terms when describing their plans.

For example, a beautiful kitchen with oak cabinets and a tile backsplash must be “gutted” so that the finishes can be updated.

A random wall must be “blown out” to make a living space larger. (And guaranteed, that wall will be load-bearing and require the installation of a $3,000 beam. I’ve watched enough of these things to predict the storyline.)

A bedroom with a walk-in closet must be “reconfigured” to include a reading nook.

Money never seems to be an issue for these narcissistic scumbags. No expense is spared when renovating their precious high-dollar palaces.

A designer often joins the couple to plan the renovations. (Because who can’t afford to hire a designer when navigating the treacherous waters of the home-buying process?)

What’s amusing is that no matter what the designer’s taste or artistic sensibility (and there’s no guarantee they’ll even have an artistic sensibility, given how many of these people dress), they always design a kitchen with the same three features: shaker-style cabinets, subway tile, and a barn door.

Seriously. It’s all the time — on every episode. Shaker-style cabinets, subway tile, and a barn door.

The homeowners claim they’re updating the fixtures to make them more modern. Oak and granite are apparently out, and it would be inhumane for a homeowner to have to tolerate a popcorn ceiling or laminate floor. The outrage!

But my question is, what are these people going to do when shaker-style cabinets, subway tile, and barn doors go out of style?

Because you know it’s going to happen – and probably sooner rather than later. You know that someday these people are going to list their homes with goal of upgrading to an even more luxurious McMansion. What are they going to say when potential buyers scoff at their outdated design elements?

It’s a harrowing question to ponder.

What’s even more baffling is that many of these people complain about living in cookie-cutter homes and planned-unit developments, because they want their houses to be “unique” and to have “character.”

Yet when they renovate their kitchens, they insist in using the same modern-day design elements as everyone else.

It reminds me of Cheech and Chong discussing uniforms for their band: “If we’re going to wear uniforms, then everyone should wear something different.”

Except it’s the reverse: “I want to live in a unique house with character that looks like everyone else’s.”

As for me, buying a house is currently out of the question, given the sky-high prices. Besides, many of those homes have popcorn ceilings and oak cabinets, and my years of devouring Top Ramen and pursuing a worthless degree have entitled me to enjoy the finer things in life.

If I did buy a house, I’d clearly have to renovate it. The first project I’d tackle is adding shaker-style cabinets to the kitchen.

But then again, maybe I should consider remodeling the master bathroom. Given my rampant binge-watching of House Hunters, I might be better off flushing the toilet while showering.

What your real-estate agent is really telling you

Large mansion with outdoor swimming pool.

Not-so-useful real-estate advice

Real-estate professionals speak a language all their own. However, with the right training (and a couple of evening real-estate courses), you, too, can comprehend the baffling jargon agents use to confound their clients — as well as impress each other.

“Today we’re going to be looking at a cozy bungalow that’s right in your price range.”

“I’m showing you this miniscule dump because it’s all you can afford.”

“With your budget, we’re going to have trouble finding a home that has all of the features you’re looking for.”

“You’re too destitute to afford anything nice.”

“The home just needs a little TLC.”

“This rat-infested pile of crap needs to be completely demolished and rebuilt from the ground up.”

“Wall colors are easy to fix.”

“Obviously, I’ve never touched a paintbrush in my entire life.”

“The kitchen appliances might need updating.”

“Your great-grandmother used to cook with a stove like this.”

“The carpets do show some wear.”

“Be sure to wipe off your shoes before stepping outside.”

“The backyard is a blank slate for your imagination.”

“This patch of weeds would look nice with a fence, some lawn and a couple of trees.”

“You could build your dream home here.”

“Here’s a vacant lot. I give up. Do whatever you want.”

“You might have to duck to get through the doorway.”

“Please excuse the low ceilings; a family of hobbits used to live here.”

“I’m not sure you’re seeing the big picture.”

“You’re bellyaching about brass cabinet handles and completely ignoring the rest of the house.”

“There aren’t many listings available that offer the features you’re looking for.”

“No house will ever be good enough for you.”

“You may not have noticed, but you have views of downtown from this balcony.”

“This million-dollar vista might not have leapt right out at you because you have to lean over the railing, squint your eyes, peer through your neighbor’s trees, and stretch your neck to see it.”

“I wanted to show you this amazing property, even though it’s above your budget.”

“I know I’m not going to make much of a commission off you, but you can’t blame me for trying.”

“I’m really excited to show you this property.”

“I’m praying you’ll actually buy a house one of these days so I can pay my bills.”

“Yes, the counters are granite and not quartz, but look at the shape they’re in.”

“The granite countertops are perfectly adequate, you entitled jerk. Quit turning up your nose at everything.”

“Keep in mind that location is everything.”

“This deteriorating hovel is only a mile from downtown, so it’s worth the $500,000 price tag.”

“I understand that the bedroom window faces your neighbor’s house, but you can always put up blinds.”

“I’m trying really hard not to be a sarcastic SOB, and I’m failing miserably.”

“The yard boasts mature landscaping.”

“You’ll need a machete to hack out a path to the front door.”

“This is a bank-owned property.”

“You might be able to move in by the time your kids graduate from college.”

“No, the home does not come with a washer and dryer included.”

“You’re spending $750,000 on a house, and you want someone else’s used appliances? Really?”

“The home does not have the fourth bedroom you’re looking for.”

“With your budget, you’re lucky it has a roof.”

“Due to a previous commitment, my partner will be showing you this home today.”

“I can’t stand working with you anymore, you picky bastard. Good luck with your new agent.”

Where I was from

Dogs playing in river

My three dogs swimming in the Carson River, circa 1988. This photo was taken when I was about 6. The dog on the left, Timmy, lived until I was a freshman in college.

“I am always drawn back to the places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods.” — Truman Capote

“There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.” — Joan Didion

My childhood home is destroyed. Abandoned. Most of the back fence has blown down, and where a gazebo once stood sits a pile of garbage. A foreclosure notice is taped to the door, and peering through the grimy front window, I can see an array of junk lying on the ripped-up carpet. Where the couch should be is — quite inexplicably — a canoe left behind by the previous owners.

The surrounding homes are gorgeous, with fresh coats of paint and well-trimmed yards. The sad irony is that growing up, I always thought my house was the most beautiful. My parents landscaped both the front and back yards themselves, molding the tough clay dirt into our own little oasis in the desert.

Now that oasis has vanished, and the desert is reaching in through the loose fence boards to reclaim the yard. Weeds and sagebrush are scattered about, as if there was never a lush yard here — and, by extension, never a happy home, and never a young family.

I’ve always had a penchant for the past — a yearning for the way things used to be. I’m not sure if it’s healthy. For me, innocent nostalgia often transforms into wistful reminiscence, as I think about the way things were and how much simpler life seemed to be.

As I drive through my hometown, all I can see are the buildings that no longer stand, the boarded-up storefronts where nobody shops. The small town I grew up in is mutating into an impersonal hodgepodge of parking lots and gas stations — yet to the well-trained eye, it’s brimming with memories and the outlines of ghosts. Driving past a concrete pad in a vacant lot, I can still see the pizza place that burned down nearly 20 years ago. I used to play Paperboy in the arcade there, feeding quarters into the slot, the controllers slathered with grease.

child haunting Easter eggs.

Me hunting Easter eggs in 1988. Our house and yard were brand-new. My three puppies are in the background, along with the dog house my father built.

overgrown yard

The yard as it looks in 2016. The dog run is gone, and the dog house was dragged to a different corner. The lawn is dead, almost as if it never existed.

Seeing my childhood home in this condition, I wish I’d never come back. It’s hard to see past the dirt to the warm memories of my youth. The lawn where I kicked my soccer ball around is gone. The gazebo where I splashed in my wading pool is gone. The sign marking my pet turtle’s grave is gone; the combination swing set and slide that my grandparents bought me, gone.

It’s not as if another family has moved in to live their own lives and make their own memories. It’s worse. It’s as if all that warmth, joy and love never existed. Of course, I have my photographs and memories, where the warmth will forever remain alive, but seeing the trampled-on ground with the overgrown weeds and the gnarled sagebrush, it’s as if an aching emptiness is trying to gnaw away at the core of my being, grasping for my happiness the way the desert is reaching for — and reclaiming — the once-beautiful yard.

So many things are running through my mind as I step over a broken fence post, ambling through the litter-strewn lot. I think of that scene in Annie Hall, when Woody Allen takes Diane Keaton and Tony Robbins to his childhood apartment, and the present-day adults watch and comment on Allen’s long-ago family. In the same way, gazing past the dilapidated house, I can almost see my 8-year-old self bounding down the back stairs to try out the pogo stick Santa Claus brought him for Christmas.

A friend is with me, and through the weeds I point to the spot where one of my dogs is buried, and where the neighbor across the street once shot a firecracker over the house and set the sagebrush on fire. (Needless to say, he wasn’t the most responsible adult.)

Of course, my friend can’t see what I’m seeing in my head. I wish I could walk her through time — the way Woody Allen did with Diane Keaton — to take her beyond the trash and the dirt to the whimsical impressions unspooling in my mind. Every nook and cranny I look at brings back another memory.

To me, the yard is like one of those 3-D Magic Eye posters, where if you let your eyes unfocus, images from the past will come tumbling into shape. But once you shake yourself away, the past dissolves like a fleck of water evaporating off a hot sidewalk. It’s here one moment, and the next — just like that — it’s gone.

For the most part, I’m able to keep my composure. Sure, seeing the home in its present state roils up a list of emotions, but I’m not so nostalgic or connected to the past that I’m feeling overly sentimental. The past is the past, I remind myself. It was a part of my life that I enjoyed at the time, but now it’s time to leave the old behind and to embrace the new. You can never reclaim what you once had because life not only moves forward — it progresses and evolves. That’s why high-school reunions are always so awkward and disappointing (not that I’ve ever been to one). It was a time and a place that made sense at the time, but now it no longer does.

So, despite this trying trudge down memory lane, I’m not feeling wistful or overly emotional. Like I said, I’m keeping my composure … at least, that is, until I see the dog house my dad built tucked away in a corner, crammed against the front gate.

a brand-new dog house

My dad built this state-of-the-art dog house in 1988 for our three new puppies. I never imaged that it would still exist in 2016, nearly 30 years later.

A weather-beaten dog house

The dog house in 2016, stained by weather and time. I think that’s my old swing set in the foreground.

That’s what sets me off: the dog house. Although I don’t cry, an overwhelming sense of sadness drapes over my heart, and my intestines knot with a deep-seated aching for days gone by.

My dad built that dog house in the 1980s, and more than 25 years later it’s still here, though stained by weather and scarred by time. When I was a child, I wanted a dog so much. We took a camping trip in the hills, and out of nowhere seven puppies scampered into our camp, their little bellies concave from starvation. Someone had dumped them for dead, and we happened to be there to find them.

We kept three of the dogs and gave away the other four to happy families. One died at age 2 (it was the runt), another when I was in high school, and the third saw me through my freshman year at college. When they were puppies, my dad built them an insulated dog house with a window for ventilation and a doorway covered by a flap.

Seeing it here in the yard, abandoned with my childhood home, I’m flooded with memories of walking the dogs, rubbing their bellies, throwing sticks in the river for them to fetch. (Or not — sometimes the current carried the sticks away too quickly, so the dogs clambered onto shore and shook off next to me, so that I was flecked with dirt and smelled like wet fur.)

It occurs to me that unlike my family and I, that dog house has never left my childhood yard. When I graduated from high school, it was here. When I graduated from college, it was here. When I got my first professional job, it was here. While I grew up and carried on with my life, that dog house never left.

But what does it matter? I tell myself. It’s not a living thing. It doesn’t care. It’s not like the dog house misses me or was waiting with hope for me to return. It’s not The Brave Little Toaster. It’s a bunch of lumber hammered together with nails — that’s all.

Yet looking at it, I can’t see the wood or the shingles or the general structure. All I can see is the past in its water-color clarity, and all I can hear is the patter of paws clicking excitedly across the wooden floor.

“Come on,” someone says, tugging my sleeve. “It’s time to go.”

I look up, startled. It’s not my friend summoning me. Rather, it’s the present, with its harshly defined edges framing the dreary lot that used to be my backyard.

Used to be. It’s not anymore. I don’t belong here. Although I have many happy memories here, those moments can’t be rekindled into reality, no matter how tightly I close my eyes against the onslaught of tears.

I realize that I don’t want to forgo the present by living in the past. Life is a natural progression. Like a river carrying a stick, it flows toward unseen curves and bends. And although it’s murkier and choppy in some places, so many of the stretches are serene and beautiful, and the entire ride is worth taking.

So I take one last look at the dog house, as if saying a formal goodbye, and then I turn and leave, stepping over weeds and empty bottles of Crown Royal, to return to the car. I walk down the driveway where I used to ride my bike, stepping past the corner where the neighborhood kids once waited for the bus (perhaps they still do).

And I leave then, my chest feeling taut, my heart heavy and sad. Memories of my dogs replay in my mind, as well as birthdays parties gone by, and lazy summer days on the swing set.

I turn for one last glimpse, and looking past the torn-down fence and the brush-scattered sand, I can still see that oasis in the desert … as well as three exhausted dogs lying atop a lush carpet of lawn, resting and panting from their walk to the river.

I tried to help out my aunt on Thanksgiving, but I ended up being the turkey

Turkey with dog face

Thanksgivings with Aunt Elvira are always interesting. Instead of listing the things I’m thankful for, I just write down all the insults she hurls at me. (But at least Thanksgiving happens only once each year, so I’m very thankful for that.)

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I went to my elderly great aunt’s house to clean up the debris in her front yard. I pulled weeds, trimmed hedges and pruned branches, then mowed the front lawn and shoveled off the poop deposited by the neighboring dogs.

Only I guess I should have shoveled off the poop first, and then mowed the lawn, as I discovered to my dismay when I went to clean the lawnmower blade afterwards.

“At least he’s a well-fed dog,” I said to myself. “Clearly.”

As I raked the debris into a pile, an old man hobbled onto the front porch.

“Hey!” he screamed. “The hell you doing in my yard?”

I leaned on my rake, wiping some sweat from my brow. “Isn’t this Elvira Colane’s house?”

“No,” he said, holding his gut. “Her house is across the street.”

I turned to look at the house across the street. Its yard was choked with a dense collage of overgrown bushes, trees and a lawn that looked like a cornfield.

“Oh,” I said.

The man glared at me, frowning. “Why are there dog-poop footprints all over my front lawn?”

I grabbed my shovel, rake, and other implements of destruction, then dragged them across the street.

“Hey!” the man said, calling from his front porch. “You forgot to deadhead my tulips!”

As I unloaded all my tools across the street, my great aunt hobbled out of the house and bopped me on the head with a rolling pin. “The hell have you been?”

“Easy, Aunt Elvira!” I said. “I forgot what house you lived in.”

She put her hands on her hips. “If you visited me more often, Turkey Brain, you wouldn’t forget! Now get working, you lazy bum! If you want your turkey roll, you’re going to have to earn it. I’m not going to tolerate no freeloading comic-book writer ransacking my pantry unless he puts in an honest day’s work.”

“I’m a comedy writer, Aunt Elvira, not a comic-book writer,” I said.

“The hell you are. The only comedy around here is your pathetic work ethic, you useless sack of turkey giblets.” She bopped me on the head again with the rolling pin. “Now get moving!” Keep reading…

I scream, you scream — we scream at each other about ice cream

ice cream man

One is Breyer’s ice cream and one is Dreyer’s. Can you tell which is which? (Because I sure can’t.)

Earlier today, I went grocery shopping for my friend, Vanessa. As I carried the sacks into the apartment, setting them on the kitchen floor, Vanessa unloaded them and put things away.

“Uh oh,” she said, as I carried the last bag inside, closing the door behind me. She was standing in the kitchen, the refrigerator door wide open.

“What’s that?” I asked, trudging into the kitchen.

“Did you follow the list I made for you?” she asked, frowning at a carton in her hand.

“Of course I followed the list,” I said. “I always follow the list.”

“So you’re aware that my lists are detailed and specific and denote exactly what to buy?” Vanessa asked.

“Exactly. And that’s why I follow them to the letter. I know I’m not allowed to think for myself when I’m grocery shopping. That’s why you always give me a list.”

“I don’t think you followed the list,” Vanessa said, extending her arm. She was holding a container of ice cream.

“Ice cream was on the list!” I said. “I remember that specifically, because it was one of the last items I bought. I didn’t want it to melt in this heat.”

“But what kind of ice cream did I specify?” Vanessa asked. “Do you remember?”

“Of course I remember. It was vanilla.”

“Not the variety. The brand. What brand of ice cream did I specify on the list?”

I frowned. “I … I don’t recall that you specified a brand.”

“Yes I did,” Vanessa said. “And this is not the ice cream I requested.” Keep reading…