My hands shake all the time now. Well, that’s a lie. They don’t shake all the time. They just shake when I try to do something with them. It’s partly because of the otherwise harmless lesions hanging out in my cerebellum. It’s hard to describe. Think about it as if my cerebellum is the bottom floor of the fraternity house in the movie Animal House. The lesions are John Belushi and Tim Matheson and those other wacky guys throwing a party down there. My hands are that kid Pinto upstairs struggling to unhook a bra, which is hard when Otis Day and the Knights are making the house vibrate like a Dodge Charger with a 426 engine and straight pipes. The good thing in this scenario is that the lesions never make so much trouble that Dean Wormer shuts us all down, unlike in the movie. So, it could be a whole hell of a lot worse.

The other perpetrator of this shaking nonsense is the undercurrent of stress swirling beneath my daily activities. I’m waiting to find out whether I worked for a year to produce a repugnant pile of shit. You see, I wrote a novel last year, and this spring I had the amazing luck to pitch it to a cool literary agent. At least I feel she’s cool because she asked to see some chapters. I wanted to send them five minutes after she asked, but I made myself wait a couple of days so as not to look desperate.

A month later the agent emailed me a fantastically helpful note. She liked the first chapter, but nothing after that would make anyone want to read the awful, nasty tome. That’s not entirely true, I guess. She didn’t say awful and nasty. But she did give me some specific advice and say that she’d not be averse to looking at it again after a “thorough rewrite.”

I’m not quite positive what percentage of a book needs to be changed in order to qualify as a thorough rewrite. I can say that over the past two months I’ve changed a bunch of it. After rounds of editing that would qualify as OCD behavior, I sent the first three thoroughly rewritten chapters to her a few days ago. And now I simmer like gumbo.

I like the book, which I suppose is a good thing. It’s a comic fantasy novel, although not in the traditional fantasy mold. It contains just one magical being, and magical things happen about once per 50 pages. There are no magic rings, enchanted swords, effeminate elves, depraved wizards, or poems in dead languages that are so pretentious you want to beat yourself to death with the book.

What the heck does my book have then?

A hero who can’t keep his mouth shut, tries to bite off his enemy’s ear, and earns everything he ever wanted while suffering dreadfully along the way.

Three appalling villains, one with mythically destructive feet.

A vivid depiction of how it feels to be so in love that you’re the craziest person on Earth.

A number of shocking and nightmarish deaths.

The most bureaucracy-afflicted fairy in the history of literature.


It also includes what I believe are a lot of laughs. Everybody’s sense of humor is different, so that’s no guarantee you’ll be laughing until you choke on your own spit.

For example, I like the line, “People are as crazy as three chickens in a sack.” I read it to my wife last night. She said it was understandable. Although she didn’t laugh, she did say it sounded better than “three chickens in a bag,” which is undeniably true.

Maybe the final test is one of my favorite sentences:

“Had the thing stood up and produced blocks of sweet Gouda cheese from its ass I could not have been more astonished.”

Yes, that sort of sums up the product of a year of my labor. Maybe you can understand my stress after asking an agent to pass judgment on a book that includes ass cheese.

This gorgeous photograph depicts none of the scenes appearing in my book. But isn’t it cool?

Photograph by Robin Müller.

Wild horses in Erlebnispark Tripsdrill, near Cleebronn, Germany

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license.

Last weekend I yelled at a foreign man for wasting my life. I might have been overreacting, but it didn’t seem that way at the time. Abe Lincoln said that nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. I suspect I didn’t even make it past the adversity test.

My wife bought a new laptop computer on Sunday to replace her seven year-old Dell laptop that weighs 13 pounds and gets as hot as fresh microwave popcorn. She can’t work without her laptop because she’s a court reporter, a job that I couldn’t do if I had a thousand years to prepare. So, she needed a new machine, and I agreed to help.

My sweetie and I are not as different as night and day. We’re as different as night and a total eclipse that can blind you, even if you’re an orphan, because it just doesn’t give a shit. I’m not saying which one of us is which, but she wasn’t the one yelling at the nice foreign man.

In spite of those differences, when hunting for a major purchase we cooperate like lions on the veldt. We made checklists. We researched. We visited electronics stores so she could handle different models while I glanced from the corner of my eye at cameras and giant TVs. We Googled customer reviews for the models she liked, and she selected her target.

Then we didn’t do anything. We waited a week to be sure the smell of blood hadn’t driven us crazy and made us choose the wrong prey. We were both fine with that. That’s how well we work together when on the hunt. It’s what happens after the kill that leads to yelling and snippy comments and walking out of the room with loud steps.

A week later we went to buy her laptop. Once in the store we got distracted. My wife wanted to transfer everything from her old laptop to her new one, including the software, in one simple step. If possible, she wanted to wave her hand like the fairy godmother turning mice into horses, and it would just happen. If it was more complicated and required her to wave both hands, well that would be okay too. We found software that promised amazingly easy transfers, and it had good reviews, so we grabbed it.

When the laptop salesman walked up, my wife pointed at the model she wanted and directed him to bring her one. He had none. He checked with his company’s other stores, and they had none. He could order one, but he had no idea when it would arrive. Apparently the demo model was just there to amuse people, like a little mechanical horse in front of a grocery store.

I didn’t feel too concerned. Other stores might carry it. My wife was nice to the salesman, but as we bought the magic software and walked to the car she muttered and fumed and said some alarming things. This is one of the differences between us.

The next store didn’t have her laptop either, which sucked. But it had the newer model, which also had great reviews, and it cost less. We bought it and carried it home, giggling all the way.

Here’s how the day disintegrated from there.

My wife unpacked her beautiful, lighter, cooler laptop. She read the magic software’s manual, which might have been written by someone who studied English in another country where people who speak English are punished. She called the manual and its writers and their relatives some bad names. Nearby, I assured her that manuals are overrated anyway.

She put the magic software’s disc in her laptop, and it did nothing but make the sound a grasshopper makes when trapped in a cardboard box. But it worked fine with other discs, so maybe the disc was bad. She growled and accused the magic software and her laptop of doing this on purpose. I nodded in sympathy as I got my car keys.

We returned the magic software, but the store refused to take it back because it worked fine in every other computer they tried. The problem must be my wife’s laptop. Both grumbling, we went back to the store where we’d bought the machine. They spent an hour showing us that the laptop played a bunch of other discs just fine. The laptop and the magic software disc were clearly the god damned Romeo and Juliet of information technology, just fated to never be together. The technician suggested we download the magic software from its website and install it that way. My wife nodded and hefted her laptop bag like John Henry hefting his hammer. In the parking lot I spit on the ground and swore never to shop at either store again.

Back home my wife downloaded the magic software, as relentless as if she had twenty acres to plow. I stomped around the room and bitched about having technology more complicated than a sharp stick. At 8:00 p.m. we started the transfer, which would take several hours. My wife sat on the couch to watch True Blood. I sat next to her with my own laptop and ignored True Blood.

An hour later my wife checked her laptop and saw that some transfer catastrophe had occurred. She sighed and examined the manual as if it were a cookbook that might say she’d just forgotten the eggs. I disconnected and reconnected the cable, and each time I jammed a cable back into a port I imagined I was jamming a knife through the lead programmer’s mouse hand.

We kicked off the transfer again, and 40 minutes later it crashed again. My wife set her jaw and narrowed her eyes. She looked like the NASA engineers must have looked when one of the early test rockets had blown up. I thought about having a drink, but instead I ripped out a rope of profanity, cursing Alan Turing and Nikola Tesla, and Bill Gates too while I was at it.

The magic software people offered 24 hour support, so my wife called and put them on speaker. When the rep answered, my wife concisely explained the problem, while I added occasional frustrated and near-hysterical details. It didn’t help that she had to ask him to repeat almost everything he said because he had only slightly better diction than my cat.

The rep was polite, and an hour later he’d accomplished four things: (1) he successfully replicated the scans I’d done before we installed the magic software; (2) he verified all of our power settings; (3) he screwed up our network settings; and (4) he started another transfer. Then he said both the old and the new machines had to be in “perfect condition” for the transfer to work, so that might be our problem. I did not yell at him at that point. My wife rolled her eyes but said nothing.

Then he said that if the problem was too hard for him to solve, we’d need to pay for higher level support. That’s when I yelled at him for wasting my life, or at least the last hour of it. I’m not proud of myself. But at least I didn’t reach 12,000 miles through the phone and tear something off his body that he or his wife might want later. My wife looked at me the way she looks at the cats when they puke on the bed, and then she thanked the nice man before ending the call.

The transfer did not go well, choking after 13 minutes. I almost offered to just load everything myself, but I saw that my wife was determined to make this work. Every other person who had ever touched a computer would have to die before she’d give up. While I sat on the couch watching Duel at Ganryu Island, she tried the transfer twice more, and each failed. At midnight she called a temporary cease fire, since the next morning she had be in court to write everything said by some inept lawyers.

As of this writing the transfer’s still incomplete. My wife is considering whether to pay the magic software people to help us, but I’m arguing it would be faster to hire a chimp to load everything.

When this all started and the problems were small, my wife fretted like a girl with a lost toy. But now, when hope is almost lost, she discusses her next steps like a chess master thinking 20 moves ahead. When this all started I addressed our small problems as calmly as an elephant addressing a ripe watermelon. Now when I think about this mess I behave like a tiger with his nuts caught in a gate. This is one of the ways in which my wife and I are different. It’s not even the most significant. You should see us in the car together.

My sweetie’s new laptop computer, containing nothing but this picture of her that I copied onto it. She looks innocent and harmless holding that cat. Keep telling yourself that.

When a new thing comes along there’s always a guy standing around expressing indignation. When the spear was invented, this guy said, “What do I need that spear thing for? My rock is perfectly good. It’ll kill anything a spear will kill. And I can’t believe you paid three muskrat skins for that thing. Don’t you know you can just pick a rock up off the ground?”

You’ll be happy to hear that you no longer have to listen to that son of a bitch, because I killed him. And while I’m confessing, I must also admit that that son of a bitch was me.

This homicide was effected over a long period of time, like stirring a pinch of arsenic each morning into a man’s Fruit Loops. One day I was standing strong, saying, “Bah!” to haircuts that cost over $8 and crying, “Insanity!” to sneakers more complex than Converse high tops. The next day I was mocking this dumb-ass “World Wide Web” thing that cost the crazy amount of $10 a month to access. Then the next day I’m signing up for my own email account, and the day after that I’m hyperventilating if my home network goes down for 10 minutes. Now I regularly send email to a guy who sits less than eight feet away from me rather than walk three steps around the corner to talk to him. I have crumbled like a tower of cheese.

It’s not that I’m a Luddite—my geek cred goes back to 1981, when my first computer had a smoking hot 48 kilobytes of RAM. It’s just that I grew up in the church of “What’s that damned thing good for?” and I considered myself a faithful disciple. My positions were clear. Why should someone lay out a bucket of money each month for a mobile phone when there’s a pay phone on every corner? I have 500 video cassettes containing all the movies I love, so why should I pay 20 bucks a pop to replace them with these DVD things? Why spend money on a digital video recorder when I don’t even watch the stupid TV that much anyway?

My clear positions have subsequently eroded. I didn’t just get a cell phone, I bought an iPhone, which is the personification of frivolous crap. I amassed a DVD collection of such splendor that I intend to be buried with it, much like Tutankhamun and his golden urns. Initially my DVR grabbed episodes of “House” and “Bones” when I happened to be out of town, but eventually I commanded it to seek out and capture gems such as “Afro Samurai”. After all of that, my indignation was grievously wounded, and I was desperate for a bulwark upon which to make my stand.

Along came Facebook. I could not imagine a single useful thing that Facebook might provide that could justify the untold hours poured into it like the blood of innocents cast into a belching volcano. I was clear and immovable on this. I would not budge. Then people posted on Facebook some things that were important to me, and I couldn’t see them any other way. So, I signed up and looked at them. That was fine, but I didn’t care to hear when people went to the cleaners, or got laid, or wanted me to farm their fish, or whatever. I didn’t need to share at that level. If I shit a titanium turd in the image of Christ I might post something about it, but probably not.

I was standing firm. I stood firm in a firm and solidly immovable manner. And so I stood for a while. Then I was possessed by the spirit of an alcoholic carnival geek from Alabama, and I posted something that I thought was important. Then I commented on someone else’s post that I thought was cool. Later on I uploaded some photos, and I answered a poll. Then I created a Facebook application. And then I did a lot more stuff until finally, just recently, I created a post on Facebook about my water heater being inspected. That was the act that murdered me and my indignation.

My indignation and I would like a tomb if you don’t mind. Marble cherubs would be nice, and perhaps unicorns if they’re tastefully done. Please lay my indignation and me to rest within this tomb, sing a couple of weepy songs, and put us in the past with hopefully fond memories. And on the tomb please carve the words: INDIGNATION – “This must have cost a fortune. You couldn’t just dig a hole and throw me in it?”

No cherubs? No unicorns? This sucks.


My brain and I are no longer on speaking terms. He’s given me the central nervous system equivalent of a sharp kick in the shin. Or to put it another way, if he were my roommate he would have just stolen the last piece of my birthday cake from the refrigerator. I’m quite put out, and refuse to have anything to do with him.

I used to rely on my brain’s unfailing companionship. He figured tips, and he remembered who Archimedes was, and he knew how to spell “eviscerate”. He once took over and completed a 3 ½ hour essay final exam on Differential Mortality, Gender, and Agrarian Economics while I looked at the cute girl by the window. That was real friendship. He even got an A.

But it hasn’t all been marshmallows and kittens. My brain has occasionally led me astray, like the time he said, “I’m 19 and smart enough already—who needs to finish college?” (That one was fairly painful to fix.) Or that time he said, “Three months is plenty of time to get to know each other—go ahead and get married!” (That one was extremely painful to fix.) He tends to approach all problems with an A + B = C mentality, and I suspect that’s not always the best choice.

So for a while my friend the brain has been yanking me around, as he sometimes has done in the past. I don’t know where the hell he goes at night, but during the day he walks around all the time with some kind of freaky hangover, which is pretty annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that brains get a little weird when your body produces a smidge too much of something or other, or when things get out of whack in the lobes, or sometimes really for no reason at all. But there’s only so long you can go with your brain making you act like a crazy man before you say a dignified, “Enough.”

I’m not positive what my brain has to say at this point, because we’ve only been communicating through my thyroid. For example, I’ll say to my thyroid, “Hey, ask my brain how to calculate the distribution of a chi square test,” and the thyroid will come back a little later and say, “Your brain answered, but it was just a bunch of squiggly symbols I don’t understand. How about some extra hormones instead?” That’s not as helpful as I might wish.

I am now accepting applications from other organs interested in replacing my brain. I imagine there will be many fine candidates, because the job of brain is pretty prestigious, the hours are good, and you get excellent access to the eyes in case anything interesting comes on TV. I might even solicit an organ or two to get the process rolling. Is the uvula an organ? I’m not sure because I’m no longer talking to my brain. But it’s welcome to send me a resume anyway.

This is what’s left of me after five weeks of my thyroid running things.



I like almost everybody. That’s why I hate to be around people.

I don’t mean that I like everything about everybody. That’s some kind of psychiatric illness, and I’ve already got all of those I need. And there are a few people I’d just like to stab a lot and be done with them. But I can find something to like about almost everyone, even if I just appreciate seeing my own folly in them. For example, at midnight when I’m eating my pancakes at I-HOP, maybe a guy staggers in drunk, knocks over the trash can, screams an apology at the cash register, and passes out in the booth behind me, mumbling in his sleep about some girl named Christie. I think, Yeah, I remember doing that. Hang tough, brother.

So if I like people, why don’t I want to be around them? It’s just exhausting, that’s why. Dinner with a couple of friends is pretty easy, but big herds of people wear me out. First, I’m deaf in my right ear and too vain to get a hearing aid, so I spend a lot of time trying to guess what people are saying. I’m not a good guesser, so my guesses are often a lot more colorful than what was actually said. Someone might say, “Next Saturday is the Jam and Jelly Festival,” and I’d probably guess something like, “Next Saturday is the Fast of Sweaty Genitals.” When I respond to that person, my statement will seem logical to me, but to the 20 people around me at the Chuck E. Cheese birthday party it may seem eccentric.

Second, even when I understand what people say, my immediate response tends disrupt the conversation because I say weird things. I know that will shock my friends. For example, a person may say, “My neighbor’s tree is growing over my backyard. It’s getting to be a problem.”

Then I might say, “You have sort of a Sudetenland problem. You have to hold the line with these guys, or before you know it they’re on your patio, and then they’re dive bombing your garage, and then they’re sitting around the pool with all the cute French girls drinking your wine and invading the shit out of Russia. Then you’ll have to bomb them into rubble, and then you’ll have to rebuild their house and station troops there for 50 years. So just cut the damn thing down in the middle of the night and blame it on raccoons.”

At that point everyone stops and looks at me for five or ten seconds. They’re all really uncomfortable, and then they go back to eating and drinking and talking about assassinating the president of their homeowner’s association as if I’d never spoken. All right, I just made up the assassination part, but that emphasizes the problem.

That sucks. I don’t want all those people to be uncomfortable. After all, I like them. So I try to instead say something like, “Bummer. Have you asked them to trim it? Maybe bring them a pie?” That’s an okay response, but the effort required to not talk about the Sudetenland and to instead talk about pie is fatiguing. When I come home I’m exhausted, and I have to hibernate in my cave for a few hours to recharge.

This causes problems for my wife. She likes people, too. At least she likes me, which proves she’s forgiving enough to like just about anybody. But she loves being around people. It charges her up. I suspect it’s because she’s not expending much energy to stop herself from saying whatever she’s thinking, because she isn’t thinking about the damned Sudetenland. That must be nice. But she wants to go to every let’s-drink-wine party and jam and jelly festival that comes along, and I only want to go to the birthdays of my less popular friends, attended by three guests and a blind dog. After 20 years of this she’s comfortable going to big parties by herself, which I appreciate. But it can still be awkward when she walks out of the house looking like a kid who expected a bicycle and instead got a scratchy wool hat with pom-poms and pink bunnies crucified all over it.

I do better when I have a job. When I can cut slices of cake, or hand out name tags, or calculate way too big a tip, I’m a lot happier. I don’t have to sit there guessing what people are saying. I don’t have to hold back from explaining the parallels between the shell casing ejection mechanism in automatic rifles and my dinner partner’s hemorrhoid problem.

Alas, not many social invitations specify a job. “Please join Sherri and Bob at their Baby Shower to help them celebrate the joyous upcoming birth of their daughter. You’ll be washing the dishes. Bring gloves.” That sort of invitation is sadly uncommon. So, if I don’t show up at your birthday party, please don’t be offended. It’s only because I like you.

What about you? Do you avoid public gatherings like you’d avoid syphilis, or do you hit every party as long as the guests are conscious and there’s at least one dirty glass to drink from?

The last party I went to felt kind of like this.

Photo by Ant Mulligan, from Mala Mala Game Reserve.




JIM’S PIC OF THE DAY has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. I’m honored to get this nomination from such a fantastic site. Jim posts a ton of beautiful and artistic photos, mainly of wildlife and nature subjects from his extensive travels. I’ve shared links to a good number of them on FaceBook, and they always get great and appreciative responses. Please check it out—you will NOT be disappointed.

Upon receiving this award I have several responsibilities, including,

  1. Thank the person who gave me the award.
  2. Post a link to their blog.
  3. Select 15 other blogs.
  4. Nominate the 15 blogs.
  5. Tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

My nominations are, in no particular order:

  1. Always Never Quite Right
  2. The Yellow Prose of Texas
  3. My Parents Are Crazier Than Yours
  4. Bean on Parade
  5. Rantings of an Amateur Chef
  6. What Does That Make Me?
  7. Who’s the Minion Here?
  8. Marvelous Mo’ and Me
  9. B Mused
  10. ThatFunnyBlog
  11. Temerity Jane
  12. The Joy of P Ash
  13. OAK – Only Abundant Knowledge
  14. Confessions of a Fat Superhero
  15. Colorful language + Colorful woman – Skittlefrau

To the nominees, I recommend they go to the Versatile Blogger Award page for more info.

Things about myself:

1. In 7th grade we were allowed to order books from a scholastic book program. Hidden among Little House on the Prairie and Treasure Island was Woody Allen’s Getting Even, a book of humorous essays entirely inappropriate for 7th graders and mostly inappropriate for oilfield workers. I don’t know what they were thinking. I do know that for the next week I got nasty looks for laughing out loud during our silent reading periods. Woody Allen taught me that writing can be hilarious, unexpected, and appalling all at the same time.

2. I entered a county-wide poetry contest when I was 18. Since it was Tarrant County, Texas, that sounds kind of like entering a corn-shucking contest in Manhattan. But a few dozen people entered, and I won with a funky little poem about youth. It consisted of 86 words, and 60 of them had just one syllable. I wrote it in Venice (the real Venice, not Venice, Texas), which would be awfully romantic, if I hadn’t been wasted on the first wine I’d ever drunk. I bought a quart of it for a buck from a kid on the street, and it had about an inch of sediment on the bottom. The moral of the story? Even a poem you write puking in Venice is better than any poem you could write in Texas.

3. I’ve never written anything that, by itself, convinced a woman to have sex with me. I therefore consider myself to be a failure as a writer.

4. For about 15 years I didn’t write a damn thing apart from business memos designed to obscure information rather than communicate it. Instead of writing, I spent my spare time on acting and improvisation. I was able to use them to convince women to sleep with me, so I declare success.

5. I once broke out of the Tarrant County Courthouse using nothing but a rusty nail. It was my finest hour.

6. My sister, Cyn McCurry, is a highly regarded professional artist, combining contemporary art with classic Italian realism. When we were kids, Cyn could make fine distinctions between hues such as Downpipe, Wet Stone, and Antelope, while I couldn’t tell the difference between black, navy, and dark brown unless the light was particularly bright. I still can’t.

7. I’ve written two novels, one of which I’m shopping. That one is titled Six White Horses, and it’s the story of the mice in the Cinderella fairy tale. It’s a bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, but for mice, as it follows them through their own story while big parts of the Cinderella tale are taking place elsewhere. I’m working on a third novel about how Santa Claus went from being a juvenile delinquent to the world’s best loved jolly old elf. It doesn’t have a title yet. I hate coming up with titles.

I’m watching this movie called Red Beard, and it’s a cool Japanese movie, even though it doesn’t have any sword fights. It does have Toshiro Mifune in it, who was a Japanese movie god in his day. For Japan, he was like Clint Eastwood and Robert DeNiro put together, except his face didn’t look as weird as either of theirs. He’s a doctor in this movie, and after he pounds the ever loving shit out of about 20 guys, he sends his orderly to carry them back to the clinic to get all their shattered arms and legs splinted. Then he tells his intern how bad it was that he, a doctor, beat the crap out of these guys, and how he’s a weak-willed person, and that it was an all-around awful thing he should be ashamed of. And he says it without sounding pathetic, or whiny, or preachy—like he’d do it again if he had to, but he’d be sad about it later. And you totally believe it.

That’s how god damn cool Toshiro Mifune was.

The really fun thing is that right after that scene the movie stops for an INTERMISSION. I mean, music plays and the screen shows a Japanese character that I assume says “intermission,” because that’s what the subtitle says, and that lasts about five minutes. That’s how long it takes me to jog out to the men’s room, drop off 36 ounces of Diet Coke, and jog back, so an intermission is a pretty neat thing to have in a movie that’s three hours and forty-five minutes long.

Somebody once asked Alfred Hitchcock how long a movie should be, and he said the length should be proportional to the endurance of the human bladder. The director of Redbeard, Akira Kurasawa, who himself wasn’t exactly Mortimer Snerd when it came to making movies, clearly agreed with Alfred. At one time, if a director made a film much over two hours long he showed some mercy on his audience and their urinary tracts. Long movies like My Fair Lady, Gandhi, and The Great Race all had cozy little intermissions.

But now movies like Independence Day, Dark Knight, and anything with hobbits in it give their audiences a stiff punch in the bladder. And what was up with that god damn Titanic? Three hours into the thing I leave for a five minute restroom visit, and when I come back I have to ask my wife, “Why the hell are they running around below deck with freezing sea water up to their nipples? Does this have something to do with the old lady’s necklace? Did you take notes?”

Even The Avengers pushes two and a half hours with no break. Apart from the fact that some of it’s funny enough to make me pee, I’d like to be able to hang in there to see the after-credits fun without an embarrassing accident. Come on, Joss Whedon, you’re a rebel. We know you’re on our side. Don’t be afraid to stand with giants such as Hitchcock and Kurasawa. Bring back intermissions, and help us out. It’s hard enough for young people to get a little action on a date without having to waddle out of the theater like a penguin with a crotch infection.

The spirit of Toshiro Mifune says, “We’d better start seeing some intermissions around here, or filmmakers will think back fondly on the days when they still possessed all the parts required to urinate.”

Image from Doctor Macro.


My cat dragged my boxer shorts under the bed this morning. I failed to retrieve them because she defended them like a Kodiak bear protecting her cubs, and because my shorts had already been smothered by the herd of dust rhinos that roams under our bed, migrating as the air conditioner blows them around. We graduated from dust bunnies in 2005, and by now we’re unsure what we stored under the bed all those years ago. When we move I expect it will be like a grisly birthday surprise.

My shorts were vulnerable because they fell off the bathroom vanity. Today I leave on a business trip, and I generally pack enough shorts, socks, shirts, and other clothing so that I can wander around Baltimore or wherever in a non-filthy state. I otherwise might find myself unwelcome to return, and I’d never see Baltimore again. Do not laugh. That would be more distressing than it sounds, because there’s a great bar downtown that serves pomegranate martinis and cheese fries. But I require a spot to lay out all these travelling clothes, so I can make sure I haven’t packed too many handkerchiefs and not enough undershorts, which we all agree would be bad.

I lacked the counter space I required. I lost my skull and crossbones boxer shorts, which I wanted to wear on my trip so I could be extra mean to people. I now have to be mean to people while laboring under a handicap. I am vexed. Our bathroom provides two sinks and a sizable vanity, so why is all that space, apart from an area the size of a skillet, occupied? I don’t know, but I suspect that it has something to do with the blinding array of mysterious bottles and tubes my wife has arranged on all of the flat surfaces in the bathroom.

Seriously, on the vanity alone these bottles require a space the size of a Toyota Corolla’s fender. They’ve even crept up the walls. I can’t complain that they’re untidy. She’s arranged them vertically by size and horizontally by alphabet, a feat worthy of any ancient Greek mathematician. I just don’t know what the damn things are and why we have to have them. I asked her once, but she just gave me a Renaissance smile, lifted a red bottle, and rubbed a dab behind her ear. I forgot about the problem for a few hours, but then it returned like a car warranty telemarketer.

I possess half a dozen containers to cover my personal grooming needs: soap, shaving cream, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, and an unopened bottle of English Leather my mom gave me for Christmas in 1998. Combined they take up an area the size of a softball. Any second grader can understand what those things are. One day when my wife was off having her eyelashes dyed, I poked through her collection of bottles, tubes, and boxes. I tried to understand them, but their labels said things like “Juniper Mango Hydrated Skin Revitalizer and Elemental Body Essence.” It was like deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls. Was this some kind of soap? Shampoo? The name included the word “body,” but that didn’t help—everything is part of your body. Maybe it was a toenail cleaner. It also said “revitalizer” and “essence,” so perhaps the stuff raises people from the dead, in which case I’m happy to devote vanity space to it. I put the bottle down and wandered back to the den, hoping that some Bruce Willis movie was on TV.

I could purge the bathroom of these space-consuming, odd-smelling vessels of mystery while my wife is away, but I fear that might end badly. She’s built this collection from the time we met, and she might feel sad if it just disappeared. Plus, I doubt I could blame the deed on anyone else. Apart from that fact that I lack the ability to fool her about anything, no one else but the cats lives in our house. They can and do knock over bottles, particularly in the early morning when we’re asleep, but she’d never accept the premise that the cats stole her bottles or perhaps ate them.

When I get home I’ve decided to buy some plywood and build my own vanity in my closet. I feel a bit like Neville Chamberlain giving up the Sudetenland by surrendering this way, but my wife has strategically outmaneuvered me, and I might as well admit it. I may choose to move this struggle to another front, just to save my pride. I mean, when did our kitchen cabinets fill up with so many shelves full of fancy mugs and teacups?

My lovely wife retrieved the skull and crossbones boxer shorts and left them for me here on the vanity. How nice. This means war. Again.