I am missing a front tooth. I used to be a bouncer.

(These two statements are completely unrelated, although both are true. It just made the opening seem much more interesting.)

In the late 90s, I hung out at a bar named Albuquerque Mining Company. I don’t remember how I became a regular there; I guess at the time it was the most welcoming bar I had found, and before long, I’d spend a number of my evenings there. I must have liked the atmosphere and the people, because I wasn’t a drinker then any more than I am now; soda or coffee were my choices.

I became friends with the cashier at the door, hanging out there and talking to him. Before long, people started showing me their IDs while I sat there on a stool, and not much longer after that, I started getting paid for it. Thursday nights were the busiest nights, and the bar’s manager, Midnyte, hired me to officially check IDs and help out around the bar.

In doing so, he opened a door and personally led me into a fascinating adventure featuring the bizarrity of humanity. Starting my very first night.

I sat on my stool checking IDs while George the ever-present cashier collected the cover. When the line died down enough to allow, I’d make a round through the various rooms of the bar. As I passed through the dance floor, the bartender waved me over- a number of patrons had told him of some sort of disturbance going on in the smaller room off to the side of the DJ booth, and he asked that I take a look.

The small room had low lights, and it seemed even darker coming from the swirling lights and strobes of the dance floor. The bed sheet that immediately hit me in the face didn’t help my eyes adjust any quicker.

After removing the sheet and adjusting to the dim lighting, I joined the circle of people staring at the center of the room, where there sat a folding chair. On the chair sat two women with one head.

No – one very large woman. In only her underclothes.

On top of her three women with one head another large woman frantically removed her clothing in flagrante delicto. I realized I held the woman’s shirt, not a bed sheet.

The alcohol servers certification class I had taken did not prepare me for this. Neither did Roadhouse.

Ignoring all others, their hands writhed across each other’s body in time to the music; they hungrily mouthed each other’s face as if they’d been smeared with honey.

“Excuse me,” I said, gingerly poking the smaller of the large women with my finger on what I hoped was not a breast.

No response.

EXCUSE ME!” I bellowed, straining to be heard above the dance beat and gelatinous sucking sounds.

Without stopping, their eyes opened and looked up at me. “YOU CAN’T DO THAT HERE!” I shouted down at them. I tossed the bed-shirt over their heads, and walked away. A few minutes later, they swept past me out the door and into the night, holding hands and giggling.

And so the spectacle began.

Another Thursday night, and again I made my rounds through the bar. Some of the rooms had themes- including the dungeon, lit only by TVs in the corners and the small light behind the bar the bartender used to read labels.

It usually smelled like leather, and wet pennies.


(This was the first time in my life someone actually said “psst!” to me.)

I looked down at a round man with slicked back hair. I’m not overly tall, standing six feet, maybe 6’2” in my boots, but he only came up to my chest.

“Hey … do you have any powder?” he hissed.

I drew a blank. Powder? I had no idea what he could mean … unless!

“Why?” I asked, concerned and puzzled. “Are you chafing?”

He looked at me, confusion obvious in his close-set beetle-black eyes, then shook his neckless head, and wandered away.

(I eventually understood what he wanted, but it took me a number of years. I wasn’t yet completely without innocence.)

Most other nights were not nearly as busy as Thursdays. To bring in more business, Midnyte hired talented local boys to dance on the bar, wearing as little as the law allowed.

This included Shorter Dancer and Taller Dancer. Shorter Dancer was wiry, and wore little more than spray-on glitter. He told me once how he managed to express such high levels of ecstasy while giving lap dances.

“I close my eyes, lift my arm, try to bury my face in my armpit, and open my mouth like I’ve just stubbed my toe,” he said.

(Go ahead, try this at home. It really works!)

On one of the especially slow nights, a few other employees, dancers, and I all sat around the corner of the front bar. Brian tended bar, and for ten minutes entertained us by rolling his bar towel up in such a way that it looked like a cooked chicken, then making it dance for us. Finally, he shook out the towel, threw it back over his shoulder, and took a long drag off his cigarette.

He put a plastic salt shaker on the bar, and looked at the taller of the bar’s two dancers.

“I’ll give you 10 bucks if you can pick that up without using your hands or arms,” he said.

“Ok,” said Taller Dancer.

With the flexibility of the young, he squatted over the salt shaker, pressing it into his sweating bum crack. As the minutes passed, he repeatedly clenched, strained, and grunted, but every time, the salt shaker slid free when he tried to stand. Finally, his cheeks (and face) red, he admitted defeat and hopped down off the bar.

Shorter Dancer immediately ran over and started sniffing the salt shaker.

We all howled with laughter, and a bit of disgust. They both earned $10 that night.

Towards the end of my time there, I sat at my usual place at the bar, wearing my usual outfit – trench coat, black clothes, boots, etc. Nursing my cherry coke (Brian always gave me extra cherries), I lamented to him that, for as much of a meat market the bar was reputed to be, rarely did anyone hit on me, besides the occasional drunken lesbian.

“Wellll …” he said, drawing out the word like he didn’t want to move on to what was to be said next, “It’s because everyone’s afraid of you.”

“Afraid of me?!” I asked, incredulous, after returning from the parking lot where I had just tackled another lesbian trying to throw a cinder block through her estranged girlfriend’s windshield. (“Suck my diccckkk!!!” she screamed at me from the car window as they drove into the night.) “Why the hell would anyone be afraid of me?”

“Psst …” came from behind me.

“Oh, go away already!” I snapped.

Eventually, the late nights started taking too great a toll on my day job, and I gave up my life of breaking up fights, lugging around the occasional beer keg, dodging the talon-like fingernails of Central’s finest “ladies” of the evening (the prettiest ones were always men in drag), and putting out the occasional flaming garbage can with a fire extinguisher, as well as the occasional heated couple in the bathroom, and left my job.

Decades have passed since, and I lived in another state when the Mining Company shut its doors for good, but not before one final blowout of a party that I would have loved to attend. Even the building is gone now, torn down to make way for a modern pharmacy.

Nothing’s ever going to tear down those memories of the crazy nights of dancing chickens, dueling drag queens, and daring dancers, however. Somehow, we all managed to keep each other sane.

I have no regrets, but these days, I’m long past the age of being able to hang out at bars until the wee hours of the night and still function the next day, let alone stay awake.

I’ll leave the new adventures in the capable hands of today’s uninhibited youth. Perhaps one of them will rise to the challenge, and finally manage to pick up a salt shaker without using their hands.

Or not.

But hopefully, someone will at least try.



All dogs are special. Especially to their owners.

But this is the story of an EXTRA special dog.

I met him when he was just a pup. There’s a picture from that day, of me hugging a 20 pound yellow lab (just like my older dog, Ike) as he blissfully points his nose at the ceiling, staring into space.

Mater belonged to my coworker and friend Cory and her husband Jack. He was special in another way- it wasn’t until all of his litter mates were gone that Cory and Jack realized Mater was blind. He followed his litter mates around initially, but even on his own, it was difficult to tell he couldn’t see. He had an unerring ability to get around, only rarely bumping into objects in his way.

Mater and I bonded immediately. He also bonded with Ike. When Cory would watch Ike for me, he was Mater’s best friend, whether he wanted to be or not. Ike loved to fetch, and Mater would run right behind him until Ike picked up the thrown stick. Mater would work his way up Ike’s side, then latch on to the other end of the stick and let Ike lead him around.

Mater loved spending time with Ike; Ike exhibited a grumpy patience with him, and being with them both filled me with a quiet happiness that’s difficult to explain to someone who’s never experienced it for themselves: the comfort of the fall, the quiet simplicity of the sun, the contentedness of furry warmth, and the omnipresence of being these creatures’ utmost importance.

Cory moved on to another job, and every time I’d see her, I’d always say, “Hi! Where’s Mater?” Frequently, he was waiting outside in the truck. It was always disappointing when he wasn’t.

While Mater loved everyone, not everyone understood his handicap, or how well he usually overcame it. Shortly after arriving at a Christmas party one year when he was still very young, I watched a group of children playing with Mater by calling his name from behind a desk across the room, and then laughing hysterically when he ran face-first into it trying to reach his playmates.

I decided playtime was over, and took Mater outside for a walk in the snow. And we walked, for the next two hours, while the house echoed in the distance with party goers.

I enjoyed myself far more with him than I would have if I’d stayed in the house.

Both Mater and Ike had their share of serious close calls – Ike nearly succumbing to pancreatitis; Mater being run over by a tractor. In his fearless nature, he didn’t know he ran in front of it until it was too late. Luckily, the ground and manure he was running over was soft enough that he sunk in under the weight of the tractor tires, barely leaving enough fur sticking out to show where he lay. Onlookers were sure he was dead, but astonishingly, he suffered only a broken leg.

After a few months in a cast, he was once again bounding around the farm with no cares for any danger.

Like any other lab, Mater loved to fetch. He’d listen to the ball or stick impacting the ground, and run for the sound, sniffing around until he found the toy, and then running back to where he’d started, helped along by the calling of his name.

I tried to make his play time a little easier. I bought a toy called a “Babble ball”, a ball with an electronic cartoon voice! Mater loved his new toy, homing in on it unerringly as it called out silly doggy words for him to follow. He nuzzle it with his snout while he rolled around on his back in his happiness.

Ike was already an old man by the time Mater came along, and a few years later Ike was just too tired to go on any longer.

Mater continued to greet me with his boundless joy, even though I visited him alone now. He had gained a few more animal friends to play with, a new litter to follow.

After Ike’s death, Cory finally cleared up a mystery that puzzled me from the day I met Mater. While Cory had a heart as big and warm as the sun, Jack had the gruffness and practicality of a long time rancher, and before Mater had come along, always stated that he’d never own a dog as a pet; that a farm dog had to earn its keep, and when the time came for the dog to be put down, he’d only do it himself if he had to.

So I’d never really understood why they took Mater home, although I certainly understood why they kept him.

As it turned out, they’d had a bit of a nefarious reason. They knew Ike wasn’t going to be around forever, and had planned on giving Mater to me after Ike was gone. Ike, however, lasted far longer than anyone expected, and by then, Jack had gotten far too used to sharing his four-wheeler rides and easy chair with Mater to ever give him up. It was just as well- Mater had a job to do, working the ranch, spreading his own brand of love and happiness to everyone and everything wherever he went.

The yellow lab with the biggest heart of gold. Cory referred to him as a four-legged saint. Blind, he still  managed to see the best in everyone.

I visited Mater for one of the last times when Jack was recovering from open heart surgery. He told me before he went into the OR,  he made sure everyone knew that if anything happened to him, Mater was to come to me.

Thankfully, that was never needed.

Soon after the visit, I moved far away. Mater still remained a bright point in my world; knowing he was out there and safe enabled me to feel that quiet happiness once more, even at a distance.

A few months ago, Cory wrote to me to let me know that Mater’s health suddenly started to decline, and they’d had to make the final trip to the vet. The vet initially thought Mater was suffering from fluid build up around his heart, but in the end confirmed what all of Mater’s friends already knew – his heart really was the biggest, over twice as big as it should have been.

I’ve never gotten another dog after Ike. Now, his erstwhile replacement is gone, too, leaving my world a bit darker.

But it’s still brighter than it would have been if Mater the blind dog had never come along.

Those two silly yellow labs are playing fetch with each other again, together always in my heart’s fondest memories.

I’m very good at putting things off. For instance, I intended this to be written a month ago. I’m also working on my list of New Year’s resolutions. There’s a few holiday cards I haven’t sent yet… And filing papers … and dusting …

So many other activities and stuff to be done keep interfering with with this activity and other stuff to be done, however: housework. Brushing the cat. Spontaneously re-caulking the entire tub. Staring blankly into space.

You know, important things.

Of course, I never expect any amount of significant time to go by when I put things off. Last week, I finally got around to cleaning some of my art pens. The ink inside had dried to a crust, and it was only then that I realized I’d last used them an entire year ago.

I’m a master procrastinator.

(There should be a word for that. I should think up one. And I will. In a bit.)

I put off the things that don’t have a built-in reminder. For instance, laundry has a reminder: there’s only so long I can go without washing clothes before I’m out of clean socks to wear and can’t really justify buying another pack of socks again.

Not that I’d ever do that. Between paychecks, at least.

These types of activities have direct, immediate benefits: do laundry- fresh clothes. Clean house- clean house. Feed cat- less bleeding.

I need to develop a way to get rewards for doing the tasks I’d rather put off.

(Professional procrastinator? A pro-pro? Eh… no.)

Writing would attract my attention so much more if every sentence finished delivered a piece of candy. And yes, I know some things should be their “own reward”, that accomplishing a goal should simply deliver “satisfaction” etc., etc. However, I guarantee I’d enjoy a peanut butter cup a heck of a lot more.

I don’t think I lack in self-discipline, either. Sometimes, it’s not that I don’t want to do something, it’s just that there is so much more I’d rather be doing instead. There’s also times when I feel guilty about doing one thing when there’s other things I feel would be a better application of the time I have.

It’s hard to sit through a movie for two hours, when I could be reading for that same amount of time. And it’s hard to read for two hours when I could be playing a game instead. And it’s hard to play a game when I know there’s laundry that needs folded before the cat sheds on it because I really need to brush the cat right now but I could make cookies too.

Mmm, cookies.

(Promasternator? That … that could lead to confusion. And strange looks.)

I suppose I need to learn to focus. Try not to get distracted by all the things I want to do, but chose one thing, focus on it, stick to it, finish the task. Receive cookie. Assuming I haven’t already focused on all the cookies until they were finished as well.

Turns out I did.

Focus on baking more cookies.

(Now that’s an excellent example of an accomplishment that’s its own reward.)

Still, even once I know what tasks need to be taken care of and have decided where my focus should be, there’s also the time factor to, um, factor: there’s only so many hours in a weekend that can be dedicated to anything that isn’t baked goods.

To be more existential about it, the older I get, the more aware I am of the time I have available. I’m only going to have a finite number of weekends in the future, and I don’t know how many that will be, even. Sometimes, time isn’t so much precious as it is terrifying, especially with the faster it tends to pass with every minute that goes by – time has momentum, it’s running down hill, and no one’s bothered to put in any speed bumps.

I think the cat is also aware of the passing of time in its finite allocation, which is why he interrupts mine so frequently.

(Masterpro! No, that’s just redundant.)

I think the only way to slow the speed of time is, ironically, with accomplishments. Finishing a book, finishing a movie, each lends to a dedicated segment of time that can be easily measured and marked – I watched that movie; I read that book, and in my head I know how much time it took. And the next one doesn’t negate the last one – it just keeps building.

Writing a column, finishing a drawing, painting the garage, they’re not their own reward – the reward is that by spending time on doing something that in many ways has no reason to be done other than because I choose to do it, I’ve slowed down the passage of time by creating something that I can measure it against in terms of the achievement.

It’s not that time passed slower, but my perception of it did. Getting lost in the moment is far different than wasting a moment.

Still, it’s always going to be easier to focus on the concrete than the intangible. One cookie in the stomach is worth two in the hand … or something like that.

I’m always going to put things off.

But by being aware of the problem, I can work on finding a solution, so that eventually, I’ll be Mr. Get-to-it-and-do-it instead of a procrasti-master.

Ha! See? I knew I’d come up with something eventually. That first description though … it needs some more work.

Maybe tomorrow.

Being that Halloween is so recently put behind us, I have a confession to make.

I am the repository for all unwanted candy. That which is left behind in the bags of trick-or-treaters – it belongs in my stomach.

See, I don’t believe in bad candy- some candy is just better than others. This is a spectrum I’m sure I share with many people.

My spectrum, like so much else in my life, appears to be completely opposite that of many, or even most, of my peers.

Perhaps even all of humanity.

For my favorite candies are the ones others tend to not only dislike, but actively hate.

Here are some examples:

Circus peanuts: those slightly-indeterminately yellowishly-orangey spongy (marshmallow?) vaguely peanut-loaf-shaped candies that are always in the store but which no one but me ever seems to buy. I enjoy the way they collapse in my mouth in a yellowishly-orangey flavor, as well as that slight, almost flesh-like resistance as I chew on them.

Like all candies on this list, I can easily put away a bag of these in a short period of time.

Mary Janes. Yet another candy that tops the disgusting Halloween candy list of so many people, this very well may be my favorite taffy of all. As a lover of peanut butter, what can possibly be better than peanut butter taffy, especially when that peanut butter center bursts open on the first chew?

Granted, their longevity in the mouth is tempered by the tendency to stick to my teeth in a way that probably makes every dentist reading shudder (assuming they haven’t already turned away in disgust at the mention of candy. For all tooth-care practitioners that are still reading, not only do I salute you, but I promise to brush and floss.)

But still, that lingering peanutty sweetness in my mouth lasts for a significant time after I discard the slightly-oily candy wrapping. It’s blissful.

For a change of pace, I turn to the candy my fellow collegiates would lick and stick to the wall – Necco Wafers. I’ll admit, their chalky texture may not be for everyone, but for me, there’s a certain satisfaction to the crack they make (Dentists – look away!) as they shatter against my teeth. Each one has a subtle, unidentifiable flavor that ranges from almost-orange to barely-banana to probably-peppermint.

These wafers do have a preternatural ability to stick irremovably from a surface once they’ve been wetted with saliva; I’m fairly certain there are still a few attached to the ceiling of the Student Union lounge at my alma mater.

Similar in structure, I also enjoy Canada Mints, those Pepto-Bismol-pink wintergreen mints seemingly found in every elderly woman’s house, but which no one ever seems to eat (I sense a theme). Their color belies their taste, and while I haven’t eaten one in years, I can still bring to mind their minty, lightly medical flavor and the slight sting of the sinus when they finally begin to dissolve in the mouth.

Candy Corn seems to top the list of many as their most-disliked candy, but I adore these honey-flavored delights, whether corn- or pumpkin- shaped. The flavor never actually seems to change with the color of the corn, and while I’ve seen them recolored for different holidays throughout the year, they really come into prominence in the fall. The beginning of October can easily be determined with the arrival of candy corn on store shelves.

How can anyone possibly not enjoy these candies? They’re colorful, they resist just slightly when chewing them, and more importantly, they can easily be eaten by the handful.

Or simply poured from the bag straight into the mouth. Whatever works best.

I completely disregard as irrelevant anyone’s claim that these candies are “Chalky!” or “Too sweet!” or “Holy crap I just puncture the roof of my mouth on one of these suckers ahhhh I’m bleeding …”

People like that just need to develop their palate and stop raining on my candy corn parade. Eat a Canada Mint; they’re medicinal.

But topping my list, the creme of my crop, my absolute favorite candy flavor, spread across various types of candies, is black licorice. This delicacy waters my mouth like no other, whether found in the candy-coated pink and white Good & Plenties, or left behind in the bowl when all the other colors of gumdrops have been eaten, black licorice tastes like the best part of the soul. The darker, the better; but while the taste can be sugary and light à la anise, or heavy and dark like a shower of molasses; I’ll take any and all with gusto. Heaven to me is a cascade of black licorice mix, all types and colors coming together in one sweet, sweet tsunami of decadence.

Granted, my love for black licorice may be genetic, passed down to me by my paternal grandmother. She also had a fondness for black jelly beans and licorice sticks. I’m not sure anyone else in my family shares the same fondness, however.

But hands down, the best part about all of my favorite candies?

No one ever tries to take them from me. In fact, many people willingly try to give them to me. All the better.

Sadly, with Halloween behind us, many of these will become harder to find as the inevitable march of Christmas-themed candies take their place on the store shelves.

Including those colorful, Christmas ribbon candies.

Those, you can have.

They’re just nasty.

I’m 46 years old, and I’m teething.

It’s complicated.

My teeth and I have always had a casual relationship. I don’t remember spending a lot of time with them growing up, and really only noticed them when they started falling out- naturally, on their own, to be replaced by adult teeth.

I went through the entire tradition of having dangling teeth pulled by my parents and swallowing one or two accidentally (teeth, not parents), quarters from the Tooth Fairy (it was the 70s), gap-smile school pictures, trying to scam the Tooth Fairy (didn’t work), the weird feeling of an empty socket and how it was impossible not to explore it with my tongue, and finally discovering my parents were actually the Tooth Fairy after all (I pretty quickly had my doubts anyway.)

See, according to my mother, soon after losing my first tooth and receiving my first quarter under my pillow, I was overcome with greed and devised a plan with my brother to pull the teeth from a random jawbone we found in our yard (I don’t know where it came from; they just showed up periodically. Probably drug home by the dog. I doubt they were human jaw bones, but I never really checked.) and put them under our pillows, then rake in the cash.

Apparently, we were tripped up by our lack of strength and inability to extract the teeth from the jawbone.

I don’t remember this happening, but I was clever enough to have planned such a scheme, so I have no reason to doubt her story.

My teeth and I didn’t really talk much until I neared the end of my third senior year in college. Years of less than adequate concern and care caught up with me, and I needed a series of fillings done on my teeth. The dentist did a number of them at once, leaving me fantastically numb across the lower part of my face when he was done.

Hungry, I stopped for a roast beef sandwich, and ate it as best as I could manage with my compromised mouth control. The sandwich seemed to be of far lower quality than normal for this particular fast-food joint, with nearly every bite finding yet another piece of gristle grinding between my front teeth.

Finishing my meal, I discovered it wasn’t barbecue sauce I’d been dripping uncoordinatedly from my chin.

I’d been chewing on my lower lip the entire time.

For this and other reasons, including an irrational fear of having a dental tool dropped down my throat during an exam, I avoided dentists for the next few years.

As an adult, I bounced around a number of jobs that didn’t offer dental insurance. Even with the higher level of care I now gave my teeth at home, their condition worsened, until I had to face the choice of a root canal and a crown to save a tooth, or an extraction to remove it. The first usually cost more than I took home in an entire paycheck, so I invariably choose the latter.

By the time I’d reached a level of adult capability where I could actually pay to save a tooth, I’d already lost nearly all my molars, and one front tooth that I’d delayed work on for too long and needed to be removed because the bone in my jaw was dying off around it. My smile now permanently matches one of my grade-school pictures. Second grade, probably.

There were times I regretted my new level of responsibility, such as when I was having a crown put on one of my remaining back teeth. Suddenly, the dentist slipped, and $600 dollars worth of gold dropped down my throat. I bolted upright, my throat muscles clamped tightly, and somehow managed to cough it back up and out again. Thank goodness for that – I really didn’t want to have to delay the procedure for a day while waiting to retrieve the tooth from nature’s course.

There’s only so well something can be cleaned off. At least I confronted, and overcame, my fear of swallowing dental equipment.

But it almost bit me in the behind.

My wisdom teeth came out when I was 30, and that’s an adventure of which I remember little, but I’m told I giggled all the way home afterwards. (To me, this is even more far-fetched and difficult to believe than the story of trying to rip off the Tooth Fairy, but again, I don’t remember well enough to argue.)

Because one of my wisdom teeth had decided to drop down perfectly alongside a molar in such a way that it supported its roots, the oral surgeon decided to leave it in place as to not compromise the structural integrity of the molar, since it wasn’t causing any other issues.

I just giggled and agreed.

Years later, that molar finally decided it had had enough and it was time to come out. After numerous fillings and reconstructions, I wasn’t in the mood to argue with it any more, so in January out it came. Once again, yet another dentist had to dig out their extra-big tools for me. (I’ve always suspected at least one borrowed some from a local veterinarian.)

My dentist speculated that the wisdom tooth would either cause unspecified problems in the future, now that it had been freed, or it might decide to play nice, and slowly move its way into the gap left behind by the missing molar.

Seven months later, that seems to be what’s happening. It’s been so long since a tooth has broken through my gums that I actually didn’t realize what was happening. It’s sore, but nothing to cry over (take that, babies!) I’m looking forward to actually gaining a molar to finally replace one of the many I’ve lost, even though I’m planning on getting some dentures when I’ve finally reached that next level of adulthood where I’m able.

Especially since I want to replace that missing front tooth with a gold one. I think it will add a little bit of character to my smile.

Second-grade me would be delighted.

I don’t like children.

In general. For the most part. There have been exceptions, but considering how many children there are in the world, the exceptions make up such a small percentage that the result is negligible, and can simply be attributed to measurement error.

This isn’t just some random proclamation. I’ve had enough experience with children to rationalize my decision.

Some people are good with kids. I am not one of them.

(There are those that find this difficult to believe. I point out it’s difficult to believe baby oil is just mineral oil with artificial baby flavoring.)

It’s just as well then, that I don’t want to have children of my own.

(See? I do care about the world!)

This comes from experience, of course. Children are loud, random, and difficult to control or understand. While they have their amusing moments, so do many other things in the world that don’t demand nearly as much attention, or smell nearly as bad. Like monster truck rallies.

Although I don’t like those, either.

I have no interest in being around children or interacting with them. Annoyingly, many of them are attracted to my disinterest, and I end up becoming their best friend in the whole room. Their lack of comprehension and refusal to obey orders compounds my discomfort – this is the only rational explanation for how “Please don’t sit on my lap” is interpreted as “Fall asleep and stay there forever.” And it seems that if the child isn’t yours, it’s looked down upon if you shoo them away. Especially if it’s toward danger, no matter how inadvertently.

It’s an illogical reaction anyway, especially when it comes from the parents that ask if you want to hold their newborn. That just seems like a risky venture to me. What if I don’t want to give it back? What if I’m hungry? What if I’ve only been your friend for the past 20 years because I knew one day you’d turn your back after handing over your child and I could finally distract those hungry Russian wolves chasing my sleigh?

This willful placing of a child in danger is, in my mind, far more egregious than accidentally hip-checking a toddler into the side of a couch.

Even worse are the parents that don’t bother to ask before suddenly slinging their infant into my arms. My instinctual reflex is to pull away, not pull towards. I suppose some people enjoy seeing the look of horror on my face when I’m handed a child. Just like I enjoy the look of horror that results when it turns into a game of baby hot potato.

(No, I’ve never dropped a baby. I just resent being put into a position where it could easily happen. Seriously, for all they know, I just put lotion on my hands.)

I don’t begrudge other people for having children; I’m sure they have their reasons. I just can’t fathom what they are, any more than I ever understood the rationale that led to my own birth.

I’m guessing my parents must have been bored.

Really, really bored. And momentarily witless. Maybe the TV was broken.

They already had one child. That should have given them pause before creating me. Secretly, I’ve always believed they weren’t particularly happy with the outcome of the first, which is a possible reason for trying for the second.

(The third child that followed after me could only have been an oversight.)

I’ve had enough contact with kids to know that my lack of parenting ability isn’t going to be overcome. I can even list specifics. For instance, somehow, a friend convinced me to babysit once. (I’m guessing I was promised food.) I went into it with an open mind and every intention to do the best job possible.

I did well, until the unavoidable occurred and the child needed changed. I could only keep the baby’s diaper on by using duct tape. I thought this was a better solution than using a new diaper and letting one go to waste, just because the tabs weren’t nearly as strong as they look in commercials, but apparently only some creative solutions in parenting are acceptable and worth printing in motherhood magazines along with the hundred-and-one-things that can be done with an empty formula can.

This same child wouldn’t eat one evening. She did, however, express interest in what I was eating. While it was still in my mouth. After I had chewed it.

This was before she was old enough to use utensils. Which is just as well, as I don’t think I’d want a fork in my mouth not under my direct control.

At least she didn’t go hungry.

Children learn from their parents. Parental wisdom comes easily to some people. I don’t think I’m one of them, so I’d be stuck passing on the wisdom my parents gave me, or at least what little of it I remember, such as: don’t pick at it.

Granted, that’s good advice for a multitude of situations and circumstances, but I feel a parent should be able to offer up more. Heck, my mother was quick to turn anything into a learning situation, like when she told me that a dying child in a tv show had eaten a peach pit. Or the woman with the badly cut arm had been playing with a ripped soda can.

I wasn’t old enough to know that a child hit by a car wasn’t dying because he ate the seed out of a peach, but I was old enough to understand the peach tree in our backyard would kill me, and to avoid metal cans at all costs.

(This is the woman who also let me fry my own eggs for breakfast when I was three. So she had her off days, too.)

I guess lessons don’t have to make sense to teach a valuable point.

There are people who stumble into being parents and do a fantastic job at it, just as there are those who know their entire lives that they want to have children someday. I think it’s just as important that there are people (like myself) who are just as capable as recognizing that they’re not parental material, and recognize as well the wisdom of not trying to change the person’s mind.

So if there’s any kind of a valuable point in this nonsensical lesson, it’s that parenting is easy enough to screw up even with the best of intentions – why encourage it under the worse of circumstances?

Nobody really wants to see someone die from eating a peach pit when they’re cooking eggs, you know.

It’s the Holiday Season!


The holidays snuck up on me this year, managing to find me even though I tried to hide as best I could to ignore them in the hopes that they’d go away. Even so, I suddenly realized that I was getting into the holiday spirit when I was wandering around the grocery store last week humming “Monster Mash”.

Unfortunately, as it was now late December, this meant I missed out on all the good Halloween costumes available in stores. There was one bedraggled Bill Clinton mask that looked like it had been regularly marked down since 1993, but I passed.

(Too scary? Maybe.)

The thing about store bought costumes is they have a rather high mark of demarcation for quality- store bought costumes really don’t look good until a dangerously high amount of money is spent. Far higher than my bank account has ever reached, at least.

So for the most part, all of my Halloween costumes have been homemade.

The earliest costume I can remember having was probably around the age of of 3 or 4. I had a love for bears then, and I was given a bear mask and an adult sized, brown corduroy overcoat to wear. The next part I remember is arriving … somewhere .. and a woman asking me if she could take of my coat, and I reacted as well as a real bear being skinned.

A number of years passed before I would try the animal route once more. While going through a box of my mother’s things from growing up, a strange gray onesie was found. As it turned out, it was all that remained of a donkey costume from long before I was born. Two wonderful coincidences coincided with that discovery which led to my halloween costume that year: I was big enough (or the costume small enough) for it to fit, and I’d also developed a fondness for donkeys.

(Some would even say, an affinity.)

The original head long gone, my mother set to work making a new one. I’m not sure how long she spent, and I wasn’t allowed to watch, but somehow she managed to take a few paper grocery bags, some newspaper, and gray spray-paint and fashioned a donkey head that fit perfectly over my own. It even had big ears and a long nose, just like the real donkeys we owned at the time. Black gloves and boots finished the look to perfection.

I couldn’t see a thing out of the mask.

Either of the eye holes could be looked out of, but not both at the same time. Even then, the long nose dominated my field of vision.

Once again my mother came to the rescue, dressing my younger brother as a farmer leading me around with a rope.

(I don’t remember how either of us felt about this arrangement – it’s entirely possible we weren’t allowed to have any feelings about this arrangement.)

Halloween night, we went into town to walk in the Halloween parade. The parade was typical of small-town parades all over the country, with people winning prizes they didn’t deserve because they weren’t me. It especially stung that year, since I really felt like I was wearing a prize-winning costume, even occasionally making braying sounds.

Worse, my younger brother won the prize for “Best Cowboy”, when the only effort he’d put into his costume was putting on a straw cowboy hat. As it turned out, the prize he won was two hats, so we each got one.

(I don’t remember how either of us felt about this arrangement – because we definitely weren’t allowed to have feelings about this arrangement.)

During this time in my life, I had a pet ram. Not the most usual of childhood pets, but he had been bottle fed after being born and followed me around like the dog he thought he was. I decided one year that I was going to be Mary leading around my little lamb at school. I was in the fifth grade, and it was the last grade that still had holiday parties during school time. Once again I experienced a coincidence of my being big enough/my mother’s old square dancing dress being small enough that my costume was easily assembled. Even better, the dress came with a bonnet.

When the time came for all the students to put on their costumes and parade around the school before the festivities, my mother arrived with Snoopy the sheep, and the two of us walked around, certainly the sight to see.

Once again, I don’t remember winning any kind of award, though one was obviously deserved. Snoopy, however, was a resounding hit, even after he tried to eat another student’s costume.

My halloween costumes of the years that followed weren’t memorable enough to be anything more than forgotten blurs at this point. I vaguely remember trying to make a mummy costume in high school, discovering an awful lot of effort is necessary to make mummification bandages look convincing and even more effort is required to keep the bandages in place (which is probably why most mummies just lie around all the time.) On top of that, it’s also mostly impossible to mummify oneself. I would have had better luck crawling into a sleeping bag and going as a cocoon.

In college, I somehow ended up with a cow costume, udders and all, that served me well for a number of years, even though I never managed to work out a way for it to give milk.

But that really was the end of not only my animal-based costumes, but costumes in general for me. There were occasional exceptions, but considering how many of those costumes involved a black dress neither big enough for me nor I small enough for it that it’s probably best not to bring them up.

I doubt I’ll ever were a Halloween costume again, although that’s not to say that I don’t still have the little black dress, because I do. Rather, the older I become the less whimsical I am. No matter what Halloween costume a person chooses to wear, a certain whimsy is required to even consider dressing up as something else, and that kind of imagination requires more energy than I’m willing to expend these days.

Besides, after all this time, too many other people continue to win prizes that really should be mine.

I guess I do still have a little whimsy in me. A cow can dream, can’t he?