A tale of three (practical) jokes …

The best practical jokes were the simplest.

Do you have a three-hole punch in your office? Does it have a bottom on it that collects the punched holes and, after a lot of usage, needs to be emptied?

If you answered yes, then you my friend have a great, ready to go, practical joke.

What you do is this. Take the hole punches and empty them on to your desk. Then push them all into a neat little pile.

Next you take an important-looking memo, document or folder and, on the back of that item, you tape a smaller piece of paper, or light cardstock, with only one piece of tape so that it makes a trap door. Then you load hole punches between the document and the trap door and carefully place the whole thing on the targets keyboard or desk so that when they pick it up, hole punches rain down like confetti.

We called this trick confetti bombing.

I learned this little trick working with a group of guys who perfected, then redefined and further perfected the office practical joke.

I’m not kidding. During the years 2000 to 2002 I worked with a group who took office practical jokes to a level I never considered possible.

These are some of those stories.

A lot of you know Mike from my Facebook feed. He’s a good friend, the best of friends actually. What you might not know about Mike is that he’s a retired Marine. A retired gunnery sergeant, in fact. If you know anything about Marines you know this — befriend one and you have a friend for life.

While Mike was taking his son to school one day, his truck had a flat tire. Fixing a flat, as you know, takes time. This made his son late for school, but hey, that’s what flat tires do, they make you late. Mike assumed this explanation was good enough. A flat tire is a reasonable reason to be late. Unfortunately, for Mike his son already had some tardiness issues and his son’s proclamations that Dad’s truck had a flat fell on deaf ears. The school threatened to suspend the boy unless Mike stopped by the office that day.

Mike, being a bit hot under the collar, did not understand why the school would not take his son’s word for it. At the conclusion of the school day, he pulled into the parking lot and proceeded to drag the flat tire straight into the principal’s office. I know he did this because I was in his truck with him when he did it. Mike and I taught photojournalism to military students at the time and as such always had a camera of some sort with us. I took photos of Mike leaving the school’s administrative offices carrying a flat tire with a slightly apologetic smile on his face.

Flat but with more anger.

Flat but with more anger.

End of story right?

Yeah no.

We were devious bastards. When it became known that Mike had gotten hot under the collar and taken his flat tire into the office of a local high-school principle the others in my officer were giddy. This situation was ripe joke fodder and ideas began to gel.

We ran with it. Someone, I don’t recall who, drafted up an official-looking memo, purportedly from Mike’s Marine Corps leadership, instructing Mike that he would have to repay the school community for this gross transgression. First, the letter directed, Mike was going to have to give a class to the entire student body about anger management, second he was going to have personally apologize to the principal and staff for dragging a tire into their office, and finally, he’d have to write a personal letter of apology to the principal, Mr. Seymour Dicks.

Both Marine officers in our department, who were all too happy to help with the joke, called Mike into the senior guys “office” which was nothing more than a glorified cubicle with little, if any, privacy.

So about the letter. You see what we did there right? The three things Mike was directed to do filled him with so much rage, he never noticed the “see more dicks” part of the joke. It took one of the officers actually verbalizing to a red-faced Mike that he’d have to write a letter of apology to “Mr. See More Dicks,” for Mike to finally get it. The officer has to literally break it down for Mike because he was so furious.

“No Gunny, you’re not getting it. You have to write a letter to a Mr. See. More. Dicks. Get it? See more dicks Gunny.”

When Mike’s lightbulb went on, all eight or nine of us gathered outside the cubicle erupted in a wave a laughter that seriously caused several of us to have to sit down. I don’t recall if it was relief that the whole thing was a joke, or that he the realized he’d just been a butt of a pretty elaborate practical joke (or a combination of both most likely) that caused Mike to, between his own fits of laughter, swear revenge.

It was that kind of office. Were you in hurry to leave early on a Friday? Did everyone know it? Expect to find your car keys in a frozen bowl of ice in the office freezer. Did you not lock your computer before leaving to teach a class? Then you could expect to send an embarrassing email to the rest of the staff in your absence. Your car would even be routinely moved and your keys placed exactly where you left them so that after work you started to think you were losing your mind.

We had a Coast Guard warrant officer who was an insanely talented photographer, a great instructor, a huge, with a capital H, fan of baseball and a devious-practical joker.

He was about to depart for a few weeks of leave and I started thinking about how I was going to get him back for the jokes he’d played on me. I had seen a photograph on the internet of someone having their cubicle filled with packing peanuts. I knew from experience that our supply people routinely had vast, and I mean vast (they couldn’t be carried by one man), bags of packing peanuts.

Like this but with less foil and more peanuts.

Like this but with less foil and more peanuts.

Chief went on leave and I mentioned my idea to a co-worker. The details were worked out and yeah the Chief’s cube was duly filled with packing peanuts. I can even recall thinking we set up the joke too quickly. The Chief wasn’t due back for a few weeks and every visitor to the office wanted to know what the hell was up with that office cubicle.

In fact, the joke was almost anti-funny by the time he finally returned. Anyone on vacation for two weeks in that office knew they were walking back into a joke scenario of some sort. He came back, cursed and laughed, tore open the saran wrap barrier we had erected to hold in the packing peanuts, packing peanuts went everywhere, we eventually cleaned it up for him (hey it’s only fair) and everything was rainbows and puppies going forward, right?

No, that devious motherfucker’s head got to thinking. I mention before that this guy was a huge baseball fan and had all the memorabilia to prove it. All of it was in his cubicle. A hat signed by some famous baseball player, an autographed glove and above all a shit-ton of baseball cards. Many of them prominently on display.

He was really into baseball cards.

He waited about three days to enact his revenge, and then came to talk to me in my cube.

It was a great joke he said, he wished he’d have pulled it off himself, he said. He thought it was great, but there was one problem: One of his more expensive baseball cards was missing. He asked me when we had filled up his cube, and he said he needed to know because if it was right before he returned it could mean someone stole it from his cube. I told him we filled it up the day that he went on leave.

He sighed.

He told me that he thought we might have thrown the card away during our cleanup efforts. There was really no other explanation and it kind of made sense. There were fucking packing peanuts everywhere for the love of god. I knew, I’d cleaned them up. Had we inadvertently thrown away a valuable baseball card? It was possible.

Now, if we’d have pulled the prank the day before he came home, then there were all sorts of other explanations about what might have happened to the card, but considering that the cubicle was covered in packing peanuts, there was only one real explanation.

I debated with him for a moment or two, but it became pretty obvious to me that yeah, I’d probably somehow swept it into a bag with all the packing peanuts. I admitted that I was likely the cause of the loss and asked him how much it would cost to replace. He told me. I don’t recall how much it was, but it was enough that I was going to have to tell Dagmar about my fuck up.

I told him I’d bring him a check the next morning and he thanked me, apologized again for the situation and let me stew until the next morning when I showed up with the checkbook (which Dagmar rarely let me use) before falling on the floor in a gut-busting fit of laughter and let me off the hook.

Yeah, maybe revenge IS the funniest joke after all, dickhead.

And so it went.

There used to be (and for all I know still is) a feature in Microsoft Word that allows you to automatically change a word into another word when its typed in a document. Did you just type the word “awesome?” Well, there was a way to make word “awesome” automatically change that word to “fuckface.” It was a handy feature for the jokesters. Endless fun was had by those in the know when some new person came along. A favorite in my office when I was teaching photojournalism was to change the word photograph to pretty picture. Oh, the howls you’d hear from the uninitiated.

The third and final epic joke involved one of those “executive” cubicles with the walls that almost, but not quite, reached the office ceiling. It belonged to one of the instructors who taught the advanced courses and it had a door that locked. The key to the door had long ago been lost so if the door was closed you were forced to climb over the wall and jump down to open the door.

It was a rarely used gag employed to get a quick laugh if the instructor was in a hurry.

Someone, I don’t recall who, suggested we fill the fucker with balloons. At first the idea seemed folly. How the hell are we all going to fill enough balloons to cover such a huge area? Then someone mentioned they had an electric air compressor that could easily fill balloons and the idea went from “if” to “when” territory.

When the target of the joke took a Friday off,  poor guy took time off, it was game on. We became some sort of assembly line of mischief, filling, tying off and placing balloon after balloon into the locked cubicle. Some evil bastard even placed a few water balloons on the floor so the poor guy couldn’t just pop them willy-nilly. We honestly worked late into the night making it happen. Eventually, the cubicle filled up.

Monday morning, all of us gathered around the community meeting area with cups of coffee and watched as the target once again climbed the outside wall of his cube, only to discover his office filled with balloons. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This normally mild-mannered, soft spoken, polite and well dressed man turn his head toward us from atop his cubicle wall and said, “You motherfuckers.” It’s a speech I will never forget. Someone told him about the water balloons (I think we had rethought the wisdom of that decision over the weekend) and one of us volunteered to jump in and open the door. As always we cleaned it up. It’s not funny if someone suffers, the only fun is the reaction.

It all ended of course. Nothing that awesome can go on forever.  A new member to the team came, and a few people knew her and warned me about her. I was the guy in charge by this point and I’d been taught to let people stand on their own legs. Don’t prejudge. Which is what we all agreed to do, let her stand on her own two legs and we’d form our own decisions.

She honestly fit right in. You couldn’t leave an unlocked email account around her, she had an excellent ability to bullshit and she honestly brought a fresh viewpoint the jokes.

Case in point. We had one massive classroom that, in the back had several cages the held the student’s camera equipment. Each instructor had the key to his own cage. She waited until all the students were out of the room and had her students move my camera equipment cage so that the doors were reversed and against the wall. She had her kids drag this huge metal cage out. Turn it 180 degrees and put in back so that it looks completely normal until my kids tried to put their camera’s away.

Well done, well fucking done. She was upping the game.

It ended with a piece of cake. That’s it a piece of cake.

Someone on my team took a photo of the new girl eating a piece of cake. Then, in what in that office would’ve been considered a rather boring joke, photoshopped the cake to make it look like her plate held a massive amount of cake. Get it? In the photo she’s eating a lot of cake, like an amount of cake no person could ever possibly eat.

On a funny scale of one to ten it’s barely a two. No one considered it even anything more. It was a sort of lame, vaguely funny but not really joke.

Except she didn’t think so. Turns out she had a bulimic, anorectic or what the fuck ever eating disorder as a kid and didn’t find it funny at all*. She went straight to the grownups. The school’s leadership got wind of it and before you knew it I was sitting before the man assuring them that the games were in fact over, that we would stop the shenanigans and yes, I understood that this time they really meant it.

But all the while I couldn’t help but think, really? This is what pushed us over the edge? This cake photo? You’re kidding me? Did anyone ever tell you about the time we signed that Air Force guy up for all the gay newsletters?

Really, this ends with a cake photo?

* In hindsight, getting older and heck I don’t know, just trying to be a better human I know completely understand that this could’ve been traumatic for her. She didn’t ask to be assigned to our little joke-filled office and did her damn best to keep up until a seemingly innocent joke from our point of view stirred up some crappy emotions for her. I’m sorry Air Force lady, no one ever meant for a second to upset you.

An insane person cleans my house

After this many years of marriage you would think I’d have a clue. But here’s a clue: I don’t. I don’t have one clue about when the deep clean is about to happen in our house until I walk into the middle of it. This usually means I walk into a room on a Saturday morning to discover my wife has morphed into a Tasmanian devil and is vigorously scrubbing each cat with Pine-Sol while yelling something about cleansing our home of germs with fire.

I think my wife, when she’s in the cleaning mood, could be declared legally insane. I’ve often considered recording her actions and showing them to mental health professionals for future legal use when she eventually decides my innards are germ-encrusted disease factories (If you’ve ever smelled my post beer-binge farts you might agree.), and she fixes that problem by knocking me out and administering an ammonia enema or something.

Like this, only with hatred for germs.
Like this, only with hatred for germs.

You think I’m kidding?

Let me explain a few of her maniacal cleaning antics.

Our house is strewn with rugs. Not carpet — rugs — the kind that can be flipped upside down. During these psychotic cleaning sessions not only does she vacuum the tops of the rugs, she turns the rugs over and vacuums the underside. Now, I can hear you say, “That’s a good idea, there’s dirt there and vacuuming both sides of the rug is a great way to ensure it’s clean.”

To which I say, you’re a fucking mess and are probably just as dangerous as she is.

There’s one thing I want to be clear about here. I’m not just some husband who is bitching about cleaning the house.

We clean our house basically every weekend. It’s not the kind of cleaning where we rip apart our entire house and ruin our weekend in search of dirt.

It’s a pretty normal kind of cleaning. Vacuum, mop, dust, laundry, wipe down the kitchen and “sanitize” the old internet history (if you know what I mean), kind of clean the house.

I do that with her every weekend. I’ve learned a lot by doing it. I know I can’t run a vacuum for shit, but I can fucking mop like a pro. I know not to clean the countertop with Windex if the wife is looking. I’ve learned I’m better and faster at changing the sheets on the bed. I’ve learned I suck at the washing of the laundry but rock at folding it, and I’ve learned I’ve gone on too long now about my household cleaning abilities.

I’m not talking about a husband who hates cleaning the house. I don’t like it, but hell, I helped dirty it, so I don’t mind helping to clean it up. What I’m talking about is when she has the desire to strip a room of everything and absolutely create a cleaningpalooza atmosphere that will take exactly the entire weekend to finish. That’s today’s topic: Those odd moods when she gets to just go all Rambo on the house and fires off disinfectant like a commando.

I get that cleaning the house to within an inch of its life is a needed and valuable thing on occasion. We humans are filthy beasts. We’re constantly shedding skin flakes, we urinate and defecate, we prepare food that can be thriving with germs and viruses and I fart a lot.

What I don’t get is why the decision to clean the hell out of the house has to commence with the secrecy of a military operation. She has never given me any warning that she’s decided she’s going to do it some particular weekend.

Never once has she said, “This weekend we are going to napalm the fuck out of all the germs in the house.”

Not once has she ever turned to me on any weekday and said, “Hey this weekend — I’m going to work you like a rented mule cleaning every nook and cranny come Saturday.”

That’s the part that drives me nuts. Why? Why would that be so hard to do? Just fucking say, “Hey honey, here’s the plan for the weekend.”

Why the secrecy? Are the germs on guard, tucked down in bunkers waiting for an invasion? Dagmar launches these attacks seemingly out of the blue. After all these years I have nary a clue when the weekend is about to be consumed in pursuit of germocide. One minute it’s Friday night and I’m swilling beer, and the next it’s Saturday morning and I’m hungover holding a mop. It’s like I went on a bender and was drafted into some weird cleaning crew army while blacked out.

It could even be OK if she made an announcement that very morning over coffee.

“Enjoy this rare moment of calm, honey, because I’m about to go ape shit on some full-fucking house cleaning, so strap the fuck in,” she could say as I flicked the sleep boogers from my eyes.

But nope, it just happens.

The signs are clear once they appear. Every room is systematically stripped of anything she’s strong enough to move, which is most of it. The last time it happened I came up from the basement (where the man cave is located) and discovered a heap of living room rugs on the stair landing. I knew it was game on. I’ve played this game before, I’d seen this movie a thousand time and I was just as terrified as the first time I experienced it.

The best move I can make on “kill all germs in the house” day is too listen to orders and when possible, escape. I valiantly volunteer for missions I would normally balk at.

Need me to run to the store to return 25 items you bought but lost the receipts for honey? Not a problem. Need me to pick up feminine hygiene products that won’t scan correctly at the check out? I’m your man. Need me to stab myself in the eyes while driving away from this crazy, crazy scene? Hell honey, let me start a list, because I am going to do all these things for you if it gets me out of insane clean the house day.

Here’s some things about “kill all the germs in the house” day that I’ll never understand:

1: Vacuuming both sides of the rugs. But we’ve already covered that.

2: The lifting of TVs, DVD players and assorted electronic devices so the area under them can be dusted.

3: Removing the ceiling fastened lighting domes from every room and washing them in the sink.

4: Using toothbrushes that are dedicated to getting to the bottom of who knows what. I’m too terrified to look. I think it involves plumping though.

5: Routinely moving major appliances to clean under them.

She used to scrub all the floors on her hands and knees, because, I don’t know. One of the greatest accomplishments of my marriage was the introduction of the mop. It was like showing an undiscovered primitive tribe in the Amazon a Bic lighter.

She once instructed me to move a stack of firewood in the garage to the other side of the garage so she could sweep where the pile of firewood once was. I’m not joking at all. That was literally the request. This is the same woman who will sweep the dirt up from a patio into a trashcan and not into the grass.

This is the level of weird cleaning I’m dealing with.

There were warning signs in the beginning that this would happen to me, sure. But I ignored them all because who the fuck as a newlywed notices shit like that?

“Sure honey, I’ll scrub the tile with a toothbrush with you because hell, we’re naked together,” was my reaction back then, but now it’s just like, “Why the fuck are we scrubbing anything with a toothbrush? This is just fucking weird and we’re wearing clothes for fuck’s sake.”

Facebook weighs in ...
Facebook weighs in …

Post script:

As I was writing this, I learned a lot by talking to you all on Facebook.

I learned that most of you reading this are either lazy as fuck or filthy animals. In some cases probably both. How many of you fucks are billionaires or some shit.

“Well, Todd, I don’t do a deep-clean or clean at all. I have a person who does that for me, it’s called the cleaning lady.”

What the fuck? You have people come clean your house? Seriously and shit? That thread is like 80 responses deep and I went way off the chain in it, but seriously, a lot of you either just don’t clean or have a house cleaner? That’s amazing.

OK, I wanted a house cleaning person too and joked with Dagmar for years in the military that when I was promoted to master sergeant we were hiring a cleaning person. Then, when I found out I made master sergeant and I called and told her about my promotion, she said something like, “Great, but we’re not getting a fucking cleaning lady.”

And here’s the weird shit to toss around in your brain. While she fucking cleans like a maniac, other shit in the house that you think would bug a clean freak doesn’t seem too. Our bath towels aren’t fit to dry a homeless dog. Most of them are threadbare, frayed fucking antiques that predate our marriage. They don’t so much as dry you off post shower as sandpaper the water off of your skin. I wouldn’t use one to apply pressure if either of us were ever bleeding from a knife wound. They’re that sketchy. Yet I’m expected to dry my balls with them. A shitty fucking towel tucked into a spotless cabinet. What the fuck sense does that make? I’ve suggested more than once we just replace all of them and I always get a look from her that makes me think I’m the weirdo.

 

WTF is going on with law enforcement

When I was about 15 the cops gave me a “ride” home after I confessed to having a joint.

My friend and I were in the bushes along a canal in Phoenix when a patrol car rolled by and my friend started to run away. I continued to sit there as if sitting in the bushes on the banks of a canal was a completely normal thing to do. (Technically, it was normal for us. We did it a lot. There we’d sit every day hunched in the bushes smoking a joint.)

When the cop came by, we had vastly different reactions. My friend’s reaction was to run, where he hoped to run to I have no idea, but my reaction was to basically wave hello.

“Great, the police are keeping our canals safe from canal pirates,” I thought. Or something. Who knows what I thought, I was a stupid teenager.

Now, I don’t remember what I was wearing because, and I’d swear to this, it was non-descript. I was likely in jeans and a polo. My friends, on the other hand, had some rougher edges from a fucked up family life and that fact was advertised by a mohawk, leather jacket and a straight up fear of the police.

My friends sudden interest in improving his cardiovascular fitness alerted law enforcement to our marihuana-flavored activities. Moments later they were out of the car questioning and searching us.

For reasons I don’t understand or have forgotten, the police felt a cigarette pack through my friend’s leather jacket and, without pulling out the cigarette pack,  asked him what was in there. He confessed there was a joint in the packet.

Submitted as evidence, a joint.

Submitted into evidence, a joint.

When the cigarette pack was searched and no joint was found all eyes turned to me.

I cheerfully volunteered that I had the joint. I think my logic went along this line: They will search you, they will find it and they will be angry. Offer up the fucking joint and that defuses the situation a bit.

The point of this is that I’m white, I’m male and I guess I’m sort of privileged. I came from a middle-class family and was raised to trust the police. In the house I grew up in, in a suburban middle-class neighborhood, I was taught to trust the police.

The police caught me doing something wrong. That meant it was now cooperation time, not make the policeman madder time.

Friendly police officer. Only with 100% less tactical vest.

Friendly police officer. Only with 100 percent less tactical vest.

This mindset didn’t change going forward. I moved to Europe in 2003. So between that little joint incident and my coming here something like 20 years have gone by. My police interactions after that have been confined to a few traffic stops where I was likely in the wrong and once when my stepdaughter complained about the treatment of a neighbor’s dog. Her assessment of that dog’s treatment was completely correct and I was happy to help the officer take a statement.

As I said a moment ago, I live in Europe. I’ve lived here far too long, I freely admit. But in this day and age it’s not hard to immerse yourself in U.S. news via the internet even if you live abroad. Following the U.S. news it just seems like the police there will just ruin, if not end, your life without asking any questions. The police in America have tanks now, they storm your bathroom while your pooping and do other crazy thing.  From here, across the pond, it looks like they’ve been going and are continuing to go, fucking crazy.

What I’m getting at is, I get the rage in Ferguson, even if I’m a stupid privileged white guy whose only serious interaction with the police was as a dumb teenager with a joint.

Since moving to Europe, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of U.S. law enforcement officers while traveling to the U.S. Mostly the big wigs I traveled with would head into some meeting and I’d be stuck outside with the people who were charged with protecting them, ordinary cops who drew the protection detail that day. We always hung out and just shot the shit. They were salt of the earth people it seemed. Everyone of them. OK, the LA cops were a bit fucking insane, but the guys working in New York City and Chicago were reasonable enough. Sure, they’d spout off about some kid walking by with sagging pants and a backward baseball cap, but it was more of a, “How’s that kid going to get a job looking like that?” I’d comment that said kid would hopefully change before participating in any serious interviews and they’d bust my balls, not literally of course because my balls remain unbusted.

They weren’t scary, they had some hilarious stories and where the kind of police I remembered as a kid. I’d happily walk my, white and privileged, 3-year-old nephew up to any one of them to have a quick discussion about how police catch bad guys and about how you can always ask a policeman for help.

But again, living over here and relying only on news coverage, that seems less and less like a sane idea. I know there are more than 780,000 police officers in the U.S. (I thought that would be a higher number actually) and that if you count it as number of police officers per citizen we rank way down on the list with one cop per 248 civilians and I learned that if you keep screwing around with that spreadsheet you’ll learn just how little you know about the different countries of the world. Where the hell is Saint Kitts and Nevis anyway? What the fuck country is that?

There are a hell of a lot of cops and the ones who make national headlines aren’t making them for helping little old ladies cross the street or rescuing kittens from terrorists. I understand that, that isn’t the stuff of news. But take it from a law-abiding (generally), white dude with a pretty positive view of American law enforcement, you mother fuckers need a public image makeover.

To close out the story I started this blog with, the police took us both home and handed us over to our parents. No police report, no judge, no nothing other than the ire of an Irish Catholic mother with rage in her eyes. That was the extent. I think my mom and I had to meet with my friend and his dad at a coffee shop some days later to discuss the severity of the situation and I was grounded as fuck, but that was it. No legal trail, no criminal background and no “The Cure” concert that I really, really fucking wanted to go to and already had tickets to.

If I’d have been an inner city black kid back then caught doing the same shit, who knows what the outcome would have been. Night in jail, the start of a criminal background I couldn’t have escaped and I sure as fuck wouldn’t have gone to a “The Cure” concert, but that was unlikely even without the joint incident.

Not a The Cure concert.  (image credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

Not a The Cure concert. (image credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

I asked my high school friend to read the part about the joint incident to see if I was basically on track. Between the two of us I figured we could reasonably piece that story back together. He approved my retelling and reminded me of another gem from my past.

This was an incident involving the Phoenix Police Department, that, thankfully, didn’t involve drugs.

My friend had gone with his dad to Mexico on a fishing trip and brought back some M-80 firecrackers, which were rumored to actually be a quarter stick of dynamite and would explode underwater. So, because we had the mental capacity of 15-year-olds, we immediately headed to the canal to test this theory. They didn’t explode underwater, but they made great explosion, after explosion, after explosion. We’d never had such fun. We were having so much fun that we didn’t notice the cops had arrived until it was far, far too late. As this story could be a blog about police conduct when you’re a stupid white kid in a middle-class neighborhood, I’ll save it for later maybe. The consequences of our lighting off the firecrackers? They were confiscated and we were told us to stop fucking off at the canal. I think the phrase was, “We’re going to let you criminals off with a warning.”

This is a shitty story

A few years ago I was traveling a lot for work. It was always hectic and I was constantly running here and there, staying overnight in a new hotel in a new city three weeks out of the month.

This proves to be a slight problem for a homebody like me, most especially when it comes to pooping. Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t act like your shit don’t stink. We all poop. It’s a life necessity. You know the old saying, “You only have to do three things in life, pay taxes, shit and die.” (OK, so I made up that last part. Whatever.)

Anyhow, I am very particular when it comes to pooping. I choose to only drop a deuce in the sanctity of my own home, or in the glistening private toilet of my hotel room when traveling.

Another monkey wrench when it comes to traveling is that my normally Dagmar-dictated healthy diet is interrupted by my inability to turn down garbage food.

Hot dog ...

So, so delicious. I’m salivating right now.

When traveling I tend to eat the most unhealthy food you can imagine. I don’t want to join my coworkers at some vegan, breast milk-sauteed, kind-harvested, free-range lettuce bar.

I’m more of an overcooked convenience store hot dog kind of dude on the road. My diet sinks to the lowest of the low and then sinks even lower.

Pork rinds and beer for dinner? Sure. Spaghettios eaten cold from the can and washed down with beer? Why not.

When I’m away it’s just “garbage in.”

So let’s review

I’m a very-private pooper and when I’m home my wife does her best to make sure I’m eating healthy, but when traveling I shovel processed bullshit down my pie hole.

On a business trip a few years ago these two quirks collided.

After a full day of traveling, I’d arrived at the hotel before my room was ready. Normally that would be a bitch, but on this trip it was no big deal because there was no time to dawdle before getting down to business. My only option was to leave my luggage at the front desk and collect it after work.

Moments later, my traveling partner and I headed to the office where our duties would commence. Because we were in Europe and dealing with people on the East Coast of the U.S., we worked through the night to compensate for the time difference. We didn’t wrap up until about 2 a.m. the following day.

In the midst of working I just ate whatever was at hand.

Because my body was accustomed to eating well, I could feel the familiar bad travel food bubbling in my stomach. Since I was nowhere near either aforementioned proper pooping place, I decided to suffer through the pain and hold it.

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Need I say more?

A normal person would listen to their body, ignore their idiosyncrasies and head to the nearest bathroom. A normal person would be like, “It’s just shit. Get rid of it, brutha.”

But not my stupid brain. Nope.

My idiot brain says, “You can hold that until later. We’ll go back to our hotel room and do it there.”

Because my brain hates me.

When my coworker and I arrived back at the hotel lobby he decided we should chat about what the following day’s schedule would be.

At this point, literally, all I can think about is going to my room to use the bathroom.

As he drones on and on, I start daydreaming about using the hotel lobby restroom. But I’ve held off shitting for so long now that, even though I’m fantasizing about breaking my stupid rule, I continue to hold it because I’m a complete moron.

Seriously think about that fact for a moment.  In the hotel lobby at two in the morning when my coworker and I are the only ones there I refused to go use that bathroom.

I have no idea what my coworker was saying. My head was swimming. When he finally says goodnight, I’m panting and sweating. I rush past a bathroom and make a beeline for the elevator.

Here’s where it all goes to shit.

In the elevator it’s private, quiet and two in the morning.

My body, wracked with pain from holding back what I can only imagine is a monumental turd of epic proportions, tells my brain, “Hey, this place is perfect. Take a load off,”

My brain tells my body to shut the fuck up because we’re in a goddamned elevator.

My body is tired of being told to shut up.

I don’t know exactly what happened and I can’t recall any specific trigger point, but it began with a shudder and then a roar. There was no way to stop it. My body was in full revolt and, obviously, full of shit.

There’s just no delicate way to say this: If my bowels could talk they would have bellowed, “Freedom!” like Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

I just simply began to shit my pants. I don’t mean I farted and a little bit of poop came out. I mean, I started to shit my pants. I was like some weird overfilled Playdoh spaghetti maker. I had to literally – in the proper use of the word – hold my ass cheeks together with my hands in an effort to maintain some kind of control. But the reality was, there was no way to control this torrent.  My colon, or whatever I have down there, had enough and the shitgates opened. This wasn’t a solid shit either. Solid never follows belly bubbles. This was liquid and it was not going to be easily contained. As an uncontrollable waterfall of scat spilled down the back of my legs, the elevator doors opened and I waddled in some spastic duck walk to my room. After fumbling with the key card to get in, I did a combination duck-walk bunny hop into the bathroom.

If the bathroom could talk it would recount the moment by quoting Revelations 6:8 “and hell followed with him.” (Shit, is that blasphemous?)

Dirty bathroom

This bathroom is relatively clean in comparison.

Before I could lift the lid to the toilet my body just said, “Fuck you, we’re alone now in the bathroom, I’m letting loose.”

And let loose it did.

As I desperately tried to pull off my pants, my ass was just spraying shit. First it was spaying shit in my pants. Then, as I lowered my pants and aimed my ass at the toilet, it sprayed shit on the wall. As I tried to raise the toilet seat, it sprayed shit on the toilet seat.

By the time I managed to actually sit on the pot, the fire hose was a trickle.

I took inventory of the situation before me.

There was shit in my pants and on my pants. It was in my shoes and on my shoes. It was on the walls. It covered the toilet. It was all over the floor. I sat in dismay and disgust just surveying the damage and thinking about what the fuck happened.

I mean, there was shit on the toilet paper roll mounted next to the toilet for fuck’s sake and I hadn’t even wiped yet.

At some point you just have to start “recovery operations” in a story like this.

Every great “there was shit everywhere” story has a moment where you start to clean up. I stripped off my pants, shorts, socks and shoes and dumped them into the bathtub and began running hot water. Next up, I grabbed all the washcloths and hand towels and began to wipe up my filth, little swath by little filthy swath. Each wipe was followed by hot water and soap. Wipe, wipe, rinse, rinse. Before long the bathroom was reasonably clean looking (the smell was disgusting sure) and every towel in the joint was stained.

I looked at the muddied bathwater and realized the pants and socks were a total loss, but I was still wearing my shirt, and tie …

Holy fuck, I realized, the pants were not only a total loss, but they were now soaking wet. Soaking wet shit-covered dress slacks.

And I had no luggage.

In my hurry say goodnight to my coworker and rush to my bathroom, I hadn’t picked up my luggage. I had no clothes in the room.

I was trapped.

While I won’t name the hotel I will say this about it: It is a hotel that caters to military people. It isn’t a major chain and I knew the staff on hand numbered no more than five at this hour and wasn’t going to be very responsive.

But, I was naked from the waist down and everything I could wear to cover my naughty bits was covered in shit and soaking wet.  I pondered putting on my dress shirt, wrapping a towel around my waist and going to lobby to get my luggage.

That particular course of action seemed to fall into the “last resort” category for reasons that are obvious.

It was hopeless. I was going to have to call the front desk for help.

As the phone rang, I converted to Christianity.

“Please Jesus,” I prayed, “make sure a dude picks up.”

You see, I was going to have to ask someone to bring up my bags, and when they balk, and they will balk at the idea, I’m basically forced to be honest about why I can’t go down to the lobby to pick up my bags.

Ring ….

“Please Jesus, let it be a dude. I’ll sacrifice a goat or something.” I don’t know a lot about religion, but whatever Jesus likes I’m willing to do at this point.

Ring …

“Jesus, please, cut me some slack. I know my pooping proclivity is ridiculous. I’ve seen the error of my ways. Please, Jesus, let a man answer the phone.”

Ring …

A man’s voice said hello.

I tried to play it coy and asked if my bags can be delivered, but he said no can do, I’d have to come down.

I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I full-up told the guy at the front desk what happened.

“Dude, I can’t.  To say I just pooped my pants would be a gross understatement.  It was basically a shit apocalypse.  I can never wear those pants again,  I’m trapped,” I explained. I decided the best way to play it was to be funny while also conveying my desperation. I laid it all on the line. When I finished telling the story there was silence for a split second before he just busted up laughing.

Ten minutes later he delivered the bags. I tipped that fucker $100 dollars and assured him the money was reasonably clean.

The next morning he saw me in the lobby. We made eye contact, shook our heads and enjoyed another private laugh.  I then discretely slipped out the door to deliver my bag of crap-encrusted pants and socks to a dumpster behind the hotel.

I can’t fix shit and your indifference isn’t helping

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I have the mechanical aptitude of an eraser, which means I also suck at analogies.

Maybe I have the mechanical aptitude of a stick. Not a stick that someone chooses from the forest floor and then lovingly sharpens into an effective tool, but the type of stick you’d normally walk over. The second type of stick is the kind you pick up out of necessity. It might be good for smacking rabid cave bats, or — more likely — it  will disintegrate upon impact revealing a totally rotten core.

Probably rotten

Probably rotten

What I mean is, I’m kind of,  sort of, mechanically disinclined. I can fix basic shit. And by basic shit I mean anything that takes less than 15 minutes and/or has a well done “wikiHow” dedicated to it.

Putting together a piece of furniture? On a scale of 1-10 I’m a nine.

Unstopping a drain? I’m a five.

Fixing something electrical? You’ll find me in the corner of the room sucking my thumb and sobbing softly.

But, this lack of knowledge about household repairs or the fact that I don’t even possess a basic set of tools does little to dissuade me from trying.

For example, several months ago I ran over, with the lawn mower, an electrical box that once powered a pump that fed a koi pod in my backyard. (Some of you remember my koi pond tribulations from Facebook. Those of you who do will receive a HadaFewBeers gold star in the mail in the coming weeks.)

Not mentioned, don't let drunk guys mow over power cables

Not mentioned, don’t let drunk guys mow over power cables

After the lawnmower incident, not only did our koi die of suffocation (or whatever is the opposite of suffocation if you’re a fucking fish), but our house kept losing power when it rained. Five drops of rain would fall and BAM, I’d have to reset the breaker. It was maddening, but I was too mechanically daft to put two -and- two together.  It took an electrician exactly five minutes, having never been to my house before, to diagnose the problem.

I live here and was just utterly baffled by what was causing the blackouts.

I bring all of this up because a while ago when I returned from three weeks on a business trip, I discovered the American Forces Network signal coming into our loving abode was fucked up. The video was choppy and the sound cut out every few seconds.

It was clear to me that the dish had become misaligned during a storm.

Had it been up to me, I would have wished the American Forces Network a fond farewell and tossed the whole thing– satellite dish, receiver, remote control and associated wiring — into the trash. I’d have been happy to never subject myself to another AFN commercial. But my wife, she still found the weekly line up of, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, So You Think You Can Dance and, I cringe, Desperate Housewives interesting.

Reminding you not to commit suicide, drink to much, commit sexual harassment, suffer from PTSD and other stuff for years.

Reminding you not to commit suicide, drink to much, commit sexual harassment, suffer from PTSD and other stuff for years.

Maybe AFN provides invaluable information and quality programming to service members and civilians stationed overseas, or maybe it’s the number one cause of boner cancer, I don’t know. I’d happily dump it all for one good dose of late night European television boob-o-rama marathon.

But the wife likes AFN. Using my craptastic mechanical diagnosis abilities (I pressed the signal info button on the remote) I discovered the signal strength was only one (on a scale of 1-10). It had been seven the last time I checked (which was when it was installed so god knows what it was when I left) and one was just not cutting it.

Despite having worked directly for and with AFN for years I had never actually touched an AFN dish. Well that’s not true, I’d touched them, but I’d never actually done anything more than load and unload them into my car. I might have once, in Italy, helped a friend install one.

The extent of my assistance consisted of drinking her beer, handing her a wrench and saying “Yep” a lot while channeling Hank from King of the Hill.

So clearly, I was overqualified to absolutely make a bad situation worse.

That following Saturday, with a beer in one hand, a wrench in the other and a recently downloaded iPhone app that allegedly helps align a satellite signal, my overinflated ego and I went out on to the balcony where the dish was mounted.

I could totally do this.

And actually I could. The app kind of worked, the iPhone compass worked, the internet gave pretty good instructions, all I needed was a tiny bit of help in the form of a “watcher.”

I don’t know how satellite dish alignment normally goes, but in my house it went like this: Dagmar sat in front of the television while the satellite signal and strength menu was on display; I moved the dish back and forth; she hollered the results.  As soon as I loosened the bolts securing the dish to the patio railing the dish became completely misaligned and both the signal and signal strength values became zero.

Warning, viewing this image may cause drowsiness.

Warning, viewing this image may cause drowsiness.

Apparenlty, the dish was barely aimed at the satellite when I started, so when I loosened the bolts holding it in place, it was no longer pointed at the satellite at all. What I needed Dagmar to do was for about 30 minutes intensely watch a screen that would likely not at all change and report back to me that nothing had changed all the way up until something did. I move the dish and she has to yell at me, almost every minute or so, “nothing yet” unless the signal did change and then she needed to yell that at me.

My wife has a higher tolerance for shitty TV signals (and shitty TV shows) than I do. She couldn’t quite grasp the logic of what we were doing. Sure, the signal sucked but it worked right? Also, she knows me and likely figured that barring a professional satellite installer showing up, a shitty TV signal was better than my attempting to do anything about it.

For a solid five minutes she dutifully stuck to it. But, having been married many, many years, I could tell that after about five minutes she wasn’t really paying attention anymore. As the minutes passed, her replies to my, “Any signal yet” query were met with decreasing enthusiasm .

Well, fine I figured, it’s not exciting watching an unchanging menu on a TV screen while someone asks you over and over again if anything’s changed. Finally, though, she just stopped answering all together. This I understood to mean success!

I tightened the bolts on the dish and walked back into the house to revel in my accomplishment when I find my wife’s phone abandoned near the TV. She’s in the laundry room separating the dark clothes from the whites (she’s totally racist). Her response was that aligning the dish was\10oring.

As for the TV, there was no picture at all. This really pissed me off since I felt as though I was on the precipice of a successful repair. This could have been my saving grace. I could have been a hero. But alas, Dagmar (and I say her name with a growl here) was too darn busy and too darn bored to give a shit.

Fine. My response was to leave the dish unaligned for a week. No Dancing With the Stars, no The Voice, no TV at all. Hell, I’ve said it before, I don’t watch the damned thing. I get my news from my computer/iPhone. And if I did watch TV programs I’d watch online.

If she didn’t care I didn’t care. I put the wrench away and deleted the satellite finding app.

It was kind of a tough week for her. Every day I heard about it. I pointed to the vast ocean of DVDs we own, or the library of books downstairs. I handed her the iPad she had to have a few years back and showed her how to navigate to this or that site. But nothing would satiate her.

This is only the Girls Gone Wild collection ... there were many others.

This is only the Girls Gone Wild collection … there were many others.

The week passed, slowly. Well, slowly for her.

The following Saturday I decided to tackle the dish issue again. This time her responses to the question “anything now”  were fast and loud. Every single time I called out, she cheerfully reported back. Half an hour later, the signal was on money.

For once I was right.  Suck it married life, I was right.  It felt good and it will be trotted up during every argument we have in the future.  “Oh yeah, well maybe I was wrong about that thing I did that day, but remember that day in 2014 when I was right?  Well in your face!”

Leaving the Military? Four things you can’t leave behind.

I’ve touched on this topic before, but it’s a deep well and I’m diving back in. Also, don’t dive into wells. They’re dark, cold, generally small and not meant for diving into. That’s a pro tip.

The urge to salute never goes away.

Muscle memory is a bitch. Once during a briefing before “leaving the wire” (fancy words for driving to Kabul from Bagram Airbase, a very, very safe trip) an infantryman in charge of our convoy’s security asked everyone in the convoy how long it takes a repeatable physical action to become muscle memory. In other words, how long do you have to do something before it becomes something you do just automatically?

I’m stupid and I thought it was like seven times or something. But turns out, it’s thousands of times. You have to repeat that same action, like exiting a HMMWV in a hurry, thousands of times before you can just do it automatically. To a seasoned infantryman, aiming a rifle, firing rounds and reloading are muscle memory movements.

Coffee and Puppy salutes are never wrong.

Coffee and puppy salutes are never wrong.

For me, opening a beer, touching my penis and writing stupid shit on the internet are muscle memory and not much else, except saluting.

Saluting for anyone in the military has likely become a muscle memory kind of movement. If you spend enough time in the military, retire and then go to work with military people you will feel, at the very least, a physical twitch in your arm when salutes are rendered while walking past a group of people of different ranks.

Sir and Ma’am.

Let’s be honest, and if you’ve ever been around military groups you already know this: there’s a shit ton of ego in the military. Pilots, commanders, Navy captains, infantrymen, all of them exhibit a shit ton of ego. Hell, the fucker slinging my eggs last Tuesday in the military dining facility had a chip on his shoulder.

Ego is important. You want a military that’s sure of itself. You want a military that has its chest puffed out.

I’m not sure where I was going with the whole ego thing except to say that by referring to someone as sir or ma’am is a great counterpoint to ego. It immediately defuses any situation. Everyone talking knows the pecking order and there’s no getting around it. In fact, in my opinion, it’s so much easier than actually remembering a person’s name, it becomes a crutch. It makes you lazy.

After I retired, I knew that I had to change my vernacular, but that shit’s hard. It’s tough when you’re hired on not to revert to the comfortable and easy back and forth of calling people sir or ma’am.

I was even yelled at about an email I sent to a U.S. Army major where I was basically telling him what was going to happen. Trouble is, I started the email with, “Sir.” My boss ripped me a new one.

“Hey fucktard,” he said with the affection only a pissed off boss could muster, “we’re the fucking higher headquarters here. We tell Major Limp Dick the next few days are going to go as follows. He can call his mom and cry if his feelings are hurt. Calling him sir starts that conversation in the wrong direction you idiot.”

Actually, it was a very professional conversation with my boss where he kindly took the time to break it down for me. I don’t think he even once used the term “limp dick,” “fucktard” or even “idiot”. I just like to remember the conversation that way because it’s way funnier if it happened like that.

That said, there may be a few people I work with laughing right now. Fuck you both. They know when I’m flustered, I still quickly slip back, into the sir or ma’am speak. It’s not funny you assholes, shut up.

Walking on the grass:

Grass — the kind that grows in the yard and not the kind George Carlin talked about in the ’70s and was just legalized in Alaska — remains a difficult thing to walk on. Any bit of grass that’s on a military installation can’t be walked on. On the occasions that I do walk across grass on a military installation I can hear the voices in my head, yelling.

“GET THE FUCK OFF THE GRASS!”

Oddly, the voice is yelling just like that too, in all caps. Then, at the end of the sentence, they beat me with the exclamation point. Seriously, the voices throw the dot on the bottom of the exclamation point at my groin and then use the top part like a baseball bat and just wail on me.

The voices in my head are weird, I admit.

Please come walk on us, for ever and ever and ever.

Please come walk on us, forever and ever and ever.

Once in the mid ’90s in Korea, as the editor of a weekly newspaper, I ran a photo of a military bomb-sniffing dog that was about to retire and was looking for a home. The wife of some colonel adopted the dog. Later, she told me that for weeks the dog refused to walk on the fucking grass.

Not walking on the grass can be so fucking ingrained in our military heads that even the fucking military working dogs fucking get sucked in.

Another story, this one told to me by a major I worked for in Iraq, is about the movie Blackhawk Down. This major was hard. He had badges for everything. If the Army had a badge for the most badges he would have had that badge. He had so many badges that at the top of his uniform where the badges were displayed it said, “See other side.” He had a lot of badges.

While he was assigned to a ranger regiment that worked with the crew on the movie Blackhawk Down several of the actors enrolled in a ranger familiarization course. Spend a day firing weapons, spend a day rappelling, spend a day doing PT. I’m sure it was just a, “Get these actors familiar with the basics of life as a U.S. Army Ranger” kind of thing. Not too tough, just a taste of what it’s like.

On the first day, the new “rangers” had ranger haircuts, were wearing Army-issued physical fitness uniforms and were standing on the grass outside of the headquarters for the “training” to start.

There the gaggle of actors stood, chilling out, drinking sodas and smoking cigarettes as hundreds of blades of grass were unmercifully crushed to death under their tender feet. They were horsing around. And they were a sergeant major magnet. The ranger unit’s tops NCO, unaware they were actors and not new ranger candidates, lost his mind.

The sergeant major started to lose his shit as he walked up from the parking lot and could only be talked down once the my boss was able to explain the situation to him.

Don’t fucking walk on the grass.

To this day, I feel weird walking on the grass on a military installation. I mean I shortcut the shit out of any walk I’m doing because it’s a stupid fucking rule, but yeah, I still think to myself, “Holy crap, I’m walking on the grass!”

On the spot corrections:

If you’ve never been in the military or around the military let me explain what an “on-the-spot correction” is. You’ll wish the civilian world had it, honestly.

It’s the ability, duty even, for someone to stop someone else and say, “What you’re doing right now is wrong, fix it.”

My best example is seeing a kid, clearly younger than I was (and thus likely lower ranking), at a military shopping facility wearing a shirt that read, “If this shirt is on your floor in the morning, you’ve just been fucked.” Funny shirt, I admit, but not the kind of shirt that should be worn at a military shopping facility. An on-the-spot correction is the ability to pull that individual aside and fix the situation. In this case, it was the ability to make the person in question literally go change their shirt, come back and prove they’ve changed their shirt.

I think he's saying, "pardon me friend, but you might have some toilet paper on your shoe."

I think he’s saying, “Pardon me friend, but you might have some toilet paper on your shoe.”

Many times its something much less extreme. Someone walking on the grass is a great example. Even a person junior in rank can correct a person senior in rank if they’re in the wrong. It happens occasionally. It’s the civilian equivalent to telling someone that they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe I think. It’s more a, “Hey, before you embarrass yourself” kind of thing than a, “GET THE FUCK OFF THE GRASS!” kind of thing.

I always tried to be super cool about those minor corrections, ’cause I’m not a dick generally. Even with Mr. “You’ve just been fucked” shirt, I just pulled him aside and didn’t make a big deal.

“Psst,” I said sidling up to the dumb little bastard, “that shirt is wholly inappropriate, so run home and change it and I’ll wait here for your return. ” in my recollection a dark stain appeared in his crotch area as he scurried away. I likely didn’t scare the piss out of him but he came back in a Nautica Tshirt. The shirt was shit but at least it didn’t say fuck.

That shit is hard to stop doing. Dagmar and I constantly correct each other on the spot. OK, that’s a lie. She constantly calls me out and I just mostly ignore stuff ’cause I’ve managed to let it go, but she, and many more I know, can’t seem to do it.

The 1950s: Bouffants, leather jackets and me in a wet T-Shirt

So we went to a 1950’s themed birthday party. Not the most exciting thing in the world maybe, but I didn’t bitch about going because my costume consisted of a pair of cuffed jeans jeans, a white T-shirt, Converse sneakers and a leather jacket.

The finishing touches were a pack of smokes rolled up in my sleeve and a crap ton of hair goop that, in my advancing age, made me more like a crappy vampire than a 1950s ruffian, but that’s neither here nor there.

My total prep time for the party was like 20 minutes, and that included the goop in the hair.

Dagmar dressed appropriately in polka dots and sporting a bouffant hairdo, nailed it of course.

The party was OK, kind of fun actually. Serving drinks behind a bar was a 19-year-old over-the-top gay kid in a bowtie around his bare neck with a slightly overweight Goth-chick sidekick.

To me, those two alone made the night worthwhile.

The lady who hosted the party went all out. She’d  set up a professional tent complete with wood flooring and one of those propane heaters, there were strobe lights (likely unheard of in the 1950s) and there were more than a few chicks just slinging boobs, likely not very party-theme-appropriate, in low cut dresses.

It even had posters, poster without cleavage but still, posters.

It even had posters, poster without cleavage, but still, posters.

About that gay kid, he was serving up some kind of a drink in a margarita glass that was red, sweet (I had a sip) and that the ladies would’ve had out and out sex with if they were able to. It was a popular drink at the party, that much was obvious after Dagmar had her first one and declared, all too loudly, “This was the best fucking drink ever.”

A bit of background. Dagmar informed me a few weeks ago that we were going to this party. We were almost guaranteed to know only a handful of people there because we barely knew the person who invited us. I hoped, god I hoped, that Dagmar would forget about it, but as the day drew closer that became less and less likely.

It was one of those things that I think husbands agree to because their wives want them to, but all the while secretly hope they’ll be able to weasel out of it.

There was no weaseling out. Dagmar talked about it endlessly for weeks beforehand. Oh, there was going to be no weaseling out at all.

I knew the moment we arrived and my wife loudly proclaimed that the “red drink” in the margarita glass was better than sex, that I wasn’t drinking. I asked the gay kid if he would kindly brew some coffee and settled into what was clearly my rotten luck this night.

Funny thing happened though. I was having a good time — stone cold sober. Tweaked out on coffee sure, but otherwise sober as a priest, or judge or whatever profession is normally associated with sobriety. National president of Alcoholics Anonymous maybe, I have no clue.

I worked the room, talked to the hostess, stared at the hot chick with exposed cleavage. Maybe I’ve missed the boat and this sobriety thing isn’t so bad after all.

One chick, who I’d met before and who is absolutely fabulous, had on a particularly low-cut dress, the kind of dress that said, “The minute this party has a slow point, I’m out and I’m going clubbing.” I think the dress also said, “Watch out, I might make some decisions I regret later that involve nudity and/or hot slippery sex with you, Todd?”

Drunk Todd would like to call "party foul" on sober Todd.  The French chick on his left is clearly hotter.

Drunk Todd would like to call “party foul” on sober Todd. The French chick on his left is clearly hotter.

Dagmar wouldn’t let me find out the answer to that question.

She’s a kill joy.

Anyway, at some point in the night — again with me completely sober and my wife getting drunker and drunker on “Red drink” — it was determined I had spilled coffee on my T-shirt.

This fact was discovered by my wife.

At a party.

Like most parties, there weren’t a lot of bright lights, so how she noticed this is a mystery for the ages. But sure enough, there was, in fact, a small brown drop where I’d spilled coffee on myself.

Dagmar whisked me off to the guest bathroom, tore off my jacket and ripped off my T-shirt. Finally, I thought, “hot party sex in a guest bathroom!” I momentarily thought of inviting big-titty chick in for an awesome threesome to prolong the inconvenience to other partygoers by occupying the only bathroom for an inordinate about of time, but quickly dismissed that idea because I didn’t want to stop the heat of the moment.

Then, when I felt our passion was rising to a point that no guest bathroom could contain, she tossed my shirt into the sink and began to run cold water and hand soap over it.

I’m now topless in a guest bathroom with a drunk person who has decided to “wash” my shirt in a sink. Keeping the water only on the area with the coffee spill was quickly overcome by inebriation. Before I knew it my entire shirt was in the sink with coconut-smelling bathroom soap being vigorously rubbed into it.

Hot and wet bathroom ... tee-shirt washing.

Hot and wet bathroom … T-shirt washing.

I don’t often get a chance to watch “drunk logic” while sober, but this was an awesome example if I’d ever seen one. There was no questioning her decision to wash my shirt. My fancy logic about the party being a generally dark place and the coffee stain small and not at all noticeable fell on deaf ears.

I’m not a hairy guy. I have some hair in the middle of my chest, around my belly button and nipples. That’s it. But sure as shit, when I put on the ice cold rag that had once been a fairly clean white T-shirt I immediately  sympathized with everyone woman who’s ever entered a wet T-shirt contest.

If “hairy nipple dudes” were a sexual fetish for any of the partygoers I might’ve made their night.

While the jacket covered most of it, the T-shirt was still very obviously wet and clung to me.

The next hour or so of the party was filled with me answering why my shirt was wet.

“There was a wet T-shirt contest in the front yard,” was the best answer I could come up with and it actually worked for a few seconds if said with an absolutely straight face. I could see the partygoers minds click through the thought process; wet T-shit, in the front yard, I just missed it … hey wait a minute, you’re a fucking guy, guys don’t enter wet T-shirt contests.

Well, I did pal, and I lost.

Hot pool boy, blistering Iberian sunshine and an annoying rug merchant

Sunny Spain! The Iberian peninsula! Bullfighting, seafood, long beautiful coasts and those things Spanish chicks click when they dance.

Having just returned from two weeks there with my family, I can assure you it was a completely awesome vacation because no one in the family killed anyone else in the family.

Sure, there were a lot of stab wounds, but they were non-lethal stab wounds. What’s a non-lethal stab wound among family anyway but a, “wound of love?”

On an unrelated note — if any of you are thinking of shoving four adults into a small, REMOTE, two-bedroom house without English-language television, a functional internet connection or other distractions of any kind, call me.

I may have some useful advice.

Our only collective distraction at the house was a deck of cards purchased by my stepdaughter at the airport. By the end of week two those cards were broken, beaten, stained, torn and falling apart — much like our ability to remain in such close quarters for another moment.

So, pretty standard family vacation I think. Starts off like a honeymoon, around the middle everyone is slightly annoyed by everyone else, and then, by its conclusion, you’re mentally flogging yourself for having gotten into this mess in the first place and everyone hates everyone else.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. Where’s the fun in that? Family drama, betrayal, a hot pool boy named Juan and tears? Oh no, I’m saving that shit for the book, you’re not getting that story free. I mean none of you even click the fucking ads here for Christ’s sake.

Sorry ladies.  This is what happened every time a photo was taken of Juan.

Sorry ladies. This is what happened every time a photo was taken of Juan the hot pool boy.

Nope, I want to talk about Tangierien rug merchants, because I sure as shit don’t want to discuss the weeping I did after my stepdaughter repeatedly crushed my soul during our 4,379th game of rummy.

Really, who beats someone at rummy 498 to -865, tell me that.

Tangier, if you’re somehow unaware, is a city in Morocco which is a country in Africa. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to visit Africa, so when the chance arose to stop being beaten like a rented mule while playing rummy and to instead take a trip to Tangier came up, I took that shit.

Like this but with more of my tears on them.

Like this, but with more of my tears on them.

We boarded the ferry to cross the Straits of Gibraltar just an hour south of our beautiful vacation home in Spain-turned prison. The ship’s bow cut through the water majestically, the sea breeze filled the air and the boat had a bar.

Beer in hand, I looked toward the approaching African shore with a tear in my eye (the sea breeze was salty).

I recalled Julius Caesar’s quote when he tripped disembarking his boat on the African coast. In an attempt to play off the misstep with his superstitious comrades, he cried out, “I embrace you Africa!”

If I tripped that was exactly as I was going to play it. I. EMBRACE. YOU. AFRICA!

"I didn't trip," Julius Caesar.

“I didn’t trip,” Julius Caesar.

But mostly I drank beer and thought, “Wow, I’m going to Africa.”

Before we had left, a friend of ours who lives in Spain had visited Tangier many times suggested we contact a tour guide she’d worked with by the name of Majidhumidikawordsgoheredaifia.

OK, the joke about his name is only “so” funny so I’ll drop it. His name was Majid, as in “Mah-jid”. He’s a tour guide in Tangier and through some miscommunication he thought we were arriving there at 8 a.m. when in fact we were arriving at 10 a.m.

After some initial difficulty we linked up and shit was wonderful!

Majid was great. He spoke perfect English, had a van ready and waiting with the A/C blasting and explained that normally Tangier serves beer, but because Morocco was a Muslim country and Ramadan was ongoing, the city was dry as a bone at the moment.

Sigh …

But still it was a great tour. My stepdaughter and her wife rode camels. Dagmar and I having once had the “pleasure” of an hour-long camel ride declined the privilege (both our asses still have bruises). There was a snake charmer with a no-shit cobra. We were also driven to all the places where scenes from the movie, “The Borne Identity” were filmed.

Also there were snakes.

Also there were snakes.

The fact that none of us had seen the movie deterred Majid not one bit.

“This is where they filmed the gun fight on the roofs,” he explained while we  shrugged and promised to watch it the moment we could.

There were stops at several historical landmarks where Majid patiently described this or that historical event.

Here’s the marker where the ancient city of Carthage set up a trading post and there’s where the car bomb scene from the Borne Identity was filmed and here are Old Roman walls and there a new harbor is being dredged.

I hung on to every word. This was the best tour ever.

He even asked if we were hungry. Everyone was. There wasn’t much time, but we could have a little snack once we arrived in the old city.

That seemed perfect.

Then it happened.

I should’ve seen it coming. I should’ve known it was coming. The words, “I didn’t see it coming” should be tattooed on my forehead as a warning to others.

Walking through the old city, pestered constantly by merchants selling trinkets of dubious value, our foursome was led into an oasis by Majid.

It was, to borrow from Hemingway, a clean well-lighted place.

The ground floor was a beautiful mixture of amazing crap you can only find in a place like Tangier and crap that is sold to tourists around the world. Replicas of ancient muskets, jewelry of a hard-to-define style, swords that … look it had a lot of stuff. The owner of the shop, hell the whole building, took us to the roof and pointed out that from his rooftop you could see the a mosque, a synagogue and a Christian church.

Truly, Tangier is a place of religious harmony.

“Is anyone hungry, does anyone want some tea,” the owner asked. The girls did. Hell I did. I did want some tea! I was hungry.

We descended from the rooftop and the owner, after offering us some snacks and tea, kicked a fucking rug show off.

Bear with me a moment.

Dagmar and I had been through almost the exact same set up once before years ago and we didn’t see it coming this time. There’s a tour with the promise of refreshments followed by a high-pressure sales pitch. Last this had happened to us it was in Thailand and it was cheap gold. This time is was rugs. Woven, you can call them oriental if you like, rugs.

Here’s the problem no one involved anticipated. Dagmar and I have almost five years in Afghanistan and Iraq under our ammo belts. We have so many rugs I could have rivaled this guy with on-hand inventory alone. Literally, I have a stack of folded up of oriental rugs in my basement right now. That stack is about four-feet high.

I have honestly given rugs away to friends and others to family members.

Rug merchants in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t rely on high-pressure sales tactics. I think with the guns, bombs, abject poverty and death there just isn’t time. It’s more of a back and forth. I’ll give you X amount of dollars, you tell the merchant. He counters with Y and you settle on Z.

Voila, rug is purchased.

Not so in Tangier. It’s more of an hour-long class about how the rug is made. I think virgin-nomad women weave them out of dream fiber unicorns shit out during full moons or something. Admittedly, I wasn’t really paying attention. I considered paying a few thousand for two rugs just so we could get the fuck out of there, but then remembered that my fucking unused rug collection would be a few feet higher for my efforts.

Nothing I said made any headway with the rug merchant.

“We already have too many rugs of this nature,” I said.

“Yes, but they were not hand knitted with elf penis on the African plain south of here,” he countered.

“It’s the exact same rug! The color is different, the pattern is different but really it’s the exact same rug,” I said.

He literally tried to set his rug on fire with a lighter at one point to prove they were better rugs.

They might have been. I’ve never tried to set any of my rugs on fire, but maybe I should if only to reduce my inventory.

I’ve never, yet, been to one of those high-pressure timeshare sales pitches. I figure this was like that though, only you don’t really know it’s coming till it smacks you in the face.

After a painfully, painfully, painfully (I’m going to say it again), painfully long time we were able to leave the rug shop.

Majid continued his tour. Oddly, he seemed agitated, though. I couldn’t figure out why. I chalked it up to his not being able to drink water or eat because of Ramadan.

“Poor dude,” I thought. Early afternoon must be the hardest part. I’d be grumpy too.

The girls went into another shop he took us too and I stayed outside with him.

“What’s taking them so long,” he griped.

“I don’t know, lemme go police them up. Chicks and shopping Majid you know,” I replied wishing I could sooth his Ramadan hunger/thirst.

“You know those were actual knots tied by Berbers,” he said to me outside another shop.

“Yea,  well my rug’s knots were tied by Bedouin nomads … dude I think all this shit is just made in China,” I said.

He just sighed.

Slowly we made our way back the boat.

On our way back to the boat someone put a monkey on my daughter-in-law’s shoulder without Majid’s permission and he lost his shit at the guy. My daughter-in-law seemed to enjoy it, her wife seemed to enjoy it and hell I thought it was awesome, but Majid was not fucking amused one bit. Some very frank, native language was exchanged, the monkey was extracted and we were through customs a moment later and on the ferry.

The Ferry slowly filled with passengers and we took a seat near the bar. The engine started and we slowly pushed away from the dock. I ordered beers and relaxed.

Available at the Ferry bar for the low, low price of all of your Euro ...

Available at the Ferry bar for the low, low price of all of your euro …

Wow, what a day. Majid was super awesome. Well he was super awesome for the first part of the day at least. After that he became cranky. Who can blame him though. Ramadan must have that effect on almost everyone. Up until the rug shop that guy was cool as …

Up until the rug shop …

Holy shit, the rug shop!

I got the attention of all three girls, most of whom were trying to sleep. I put on my serious face and asked in my most serious of voices, “Hey do you all think Majid was in on the rug shop sales pitch?”

I think it was Dagmar who, after a long, awkward silence, said, “You finally figured that out, Einstein?”

Honey, why did you give away my beer fridge?

An open letter to my wife.

Why did you give away my beer fridge? No, really. Why did you do that? If I was some degenerate and we were broke and needed money, I could kinda understand it. Only, I still don’t understand it because you gave it away.

My beer fridge magically produced chicks that served me beer.  Fuck you, it did.

My beer fridge magically produced chicks that served me beer. Fuck you, it did.

At least if you had sold it we’d have sweet, sweet money. But we (I) have nothing now except a long walk to the basement from the backyard to get a cold beer.

To be fair, the beer fridge was given to us by friends, so, yes, the initial investment was zero. Had you sold it for $20, that would have been like a billion-percent profit or something.

But you didn’t sell it, you gave it away to some fuckhead you work with who lives in an apartment.

Now sure I have some culpability in all this. I agreed with your decision at the time. But that agreement was akin to confession under torture considering my circumstances. I wasn’t in a frame of mind where I could make such a decision rationally you see.

You took advantage of my weakness but more on that later*.

The fuckhead you gave it to, the one living in the apartment — he’s likely never more than a room away from his kitchen in which, I presume, there is refrigerator. That’s like 30 steps in order to get a beer. I bet he’s placed my fridge in the room he likes to drink beer in. Now he only has to take like five steps in order to get a cold one. Lazy bastard.

Me though? I have to mount an expedition to get a beer. While I should be basking in the few rare months of warm weather in Germany, I’m instead hiring Sherpa’s, plotting desert (aka living room) crossings, descending steps into the basement and then repeating the process in reverse, as if I’m some schmuck who doesn’t have a beer fridge.

Because I am now a schmuck who used to have a beer fridge before you gave it away. Sure it was an absolute piece of shit, I know this. It raddled when it turned on, it was banged up and it had those weird hooks in the back that were once used to attach it to a kitchen countertop.

But I didn’t insist that our guests come look at it. I didn’t keep it in the dining room, guest bedroom or bathroom (except for that one time and I admitted I was wrong). No, I kept it in the garage out of sight.

The beauty of it was that is kept beer cold and handy, which I think is everything anyone could ask for in a beer fridge. Google turns up exactly no results for “beautiful beer fridge.” Go ahead check that, zero links. The temperatures this week in Germany have been in the 90s. That means by August the temperature outside will be “death in a fiery ball of heat.” If I had my beer fridge I could at least endure “death in a fiery ball of heat” with a cold beer. But I can’t. You gave away my beer fridge.

I know you hated it. You did, don’t lie. I know this because of that one time I came home and discovered you had unplugged it and exorcised it of its empty beer shrinkwrap, unopened beers and large chunks of weird-smelling freezer ice. You think I forgot that shit? Well, I didn’t. It’s filed away under “Weird shit wives do,” right next to the file about the time you cleaned out my toolbox.

Yeah, you hated my beer fridge. If we owned a shotgun, (and this is the reason we do not own a shotgun) you would have blasted a hole in it. You always hated my beer fridge.

The aftermath

The aftermath

Sure, we’ve agreed I can buy a “new” beer fridge, but that beer fridge will probably suck. You see, a proper beer fridge is something that isn’t fit for “fridge” status anymore. A proper beer fridge is one that works beautifully, but is ugly as hell and, in an epiphany, gets transformed into an amazing beer fridge. Anyone reading this who bought their beer fridge new agrees with me. If we store baby formula and food in our “beer fridge” we know instead that is a refrigerator and not a proper beer fridge. Sure it’s capable of storing beer, but it’s not a beer fridge. A proper beer fridge always smells vaguely of mold, has innumerable dents that are like notches in a headboard measuring the years of good times, and is never, ever a clean reflective white. Why did you get rid of my beer fridge?

Sure if you're fucking Ned Flanders

Sure if you’re fucking Ned Flanders

* To be fair you asked me if we could give the beer fridge away when we were in the fucked-up stages of moving houses that involves me carrying a lot of heavy shit up and down stairs. Movers put your weight set in the basement and you need it on the top floor, OK honey. Movers put the TV you like to use in your workout room in the subbasement and you need it on the roof, OK honey. What’s that, the movers put your collection of lead-filled lifelike statues of Henry Kissinger busts in the neighbor’s basement and you want it moved to the second story only to decide after I set it down that it really looks better in our basement? OK honey.

If you’ve moved a lot you know this stage. It’s the “you mean I won’t have to carry that up/down or sideways” question. It wasn’t fair and I resent it. My muscles overruled my beer brain and concluded that the beer fridge was 40 fewer pounds they’d have to cart somewhere so they agreed. Fuck you muscles, I always hated you too.

Impossibly (un)Rotten Tomatoes

Every spring I get a giant garden boner and start obsessing about plants.

Yeah,  that’s what I’m going to write about, gardening. No one is coming here for Kim Karsashian wedding news so there shouldn’t be any complaints about my garden boner.

I blame my love of gardening — or more truthfully — thank, my mom. Her love of gardening rubbed off on me. In my youth, my family and I lived in a modest home in a middle-class suburb of Phoenix and despite the lack of “farmable land” Mom always made a go of gardening. She even enlisted me in my teen years to dig up and till parts of the backyard in a desperate attempt to scratch out a few fresh vegetables from a meager 15-by-15 foot plot of land under an unrelenting Arizona sun.

While I toiled away, I pretended I was busting sod like some 1823 explorer in northern California,  and she enjoyed cheap labor. It was a win-win.

It mostly worked. Despite my father’s insistence that whatever was planted was just another obstacle to mow around, a decent bit of veggies could be harvested and I always found that cool.

I didn’t want to eat any of them, mind you. God no, they might interfere with my diet of Big Mac and weed.

My mother’s love of plants never left me and for that I’m thankful and always look forward to springtime. That bug has long since also bitten Dagmar and it’s become a mutual labor of love.

Because we move around a lot, Dagmar and I plant our gardens in containers. Over the years we’ve amassed a fine collection of pots and every spring we dutifully drag them out to the backyard and carefully discuss the planting options for each container.

Then we go to the gardening store, collectively lose our minds, buy a shit-ton of plants we hadn’t planned on along with some potting soil and come home.

Once home, I unload the plants from the car while she lines the backyard with plastic bags explaining to me that this is how Martha Steward gardens. I then call Martha Steward a fucking retard because who cares if potting soil gets on the lawn. Dagmar then storms inside the house mad at me for debasing the benevolent Martha Stewart and I’m left to pot my plants in peace for three minutes.

Page 27, "Use a trash bag to protect your lawn when potting a new plant."  Seriously look that shit up. Actually while captioning this I asked her and now she claims she saw it "somewhere".

Page 27, “Use a trash bag to protect your lawn when potting a new plant.” Seriously look that shit up. Actually while captioning this I asked her and now she claims she saw it “somewhere”.

Once I admit that Martha Stewart isn’t an idiot and Dagmar admits that potting soil isn’t bad for a lawn, we get down to the serious business of arguing about root balls. Specifically, how much you should fuck with a root ball.

I think that our new family member should be introduced to their new home by gently loosening the root ball of the plant. Dagmar prefers some sort of “fuck your roots, you’ll grow new ones” approach.

So while I gingerly shake the soil from the new plant’s roots, Dagmar prefers the “kill the old soil and roots with fire” approach.

rootsoutside

We’ve had mixed success stories obviously.

One of our recent plants never looked good, not even the morning after we planted it. (She planted it, of course.) Throughout the week it looked worse and worse. When I finally checked on it I discovered she’d separated the plant from the roots. Physically broken them apart and hadn’t realized it.

Point mine, honey. Point mine.

Back to the story.

I bought one of those gimmicky tomato plants sold in gardening stores that already has a bunch of cherry tomatoes on the vine. Some are ripe, most of the tomatoes are still green, and fuck, why wouldn’t you buy one of those?

They’ve got tomatoes you can eat right now!

They’re perfect because they’re so easy. But yeah, nothing good is really ever easy is it?

When you garden you can expect failure. Some plants don’t get enough sun, some plants get too much water, some plants have their roots molested to death by Dagmar and some plants can’t handle being peed on a few times by some drunken ass from the house.

You know, failure.

The gimmicky tomato plant was a failure. Inside of a week, the leaves looked like hell and the branches drooped. Although the tomatoes themselves looked awesome, the plant was in that, “well that’s going to die” phase anyone who’s been around a blade of grass longer than a week can recognize.

Dagmar and I debated the plant’s root treatment. She accused me of just pulling it out of the plastic pot it came in and sticking it directly into the ground. I accused her of violently attacking the roots like a vicious tomato plant hater.

We unceremoniously ripped it up from the stem because neither of us knew why it was dead. It was an impulse purchase, it was a gimmicky impulse purchase and yeah, it was almost dead.

Dagmar cried, I said a solemn prayer and … who am I kidding, I just took the mostly dirt-free root ball plant to the back of the yard behind the shed where I dump all the failures, ash from our BBQ and urinate when I’m drinking outside.

The dead plants are all piled up behind the shed. I like to call it composting and not dumping, but really, it’s just a pile of dead plants. I occasionally poke the pile with a stick, sometimes I pee on it and rarely do I give it a second thought.

The gimmicky tomato plant went to join the natural order of things in that ungodly pee-infested “compost” pile.

End of blog post right? I made some fun jokes about how my wife and I differ in our methods of gardening; you now know I pee in my backyard;  I worked in a Fuck-Martha-Stewart reference; and shit let’s crack open a beer and high-five, blog is done. Fuck those tomatoes!

But it isn’t — because that shit happened like a month and a half ago and look at it now.

See, root ball destroyed

See, root ball destroyed

OK, OK, I’ve since hung the “dead” tomato plant on a tree branch, but shit, after like three weeks back there (I pee back there more often than I’ve let on), I started to wonder why the tomatoes weren’t rotting.

I’ve tossed tomato branches from normal tomato plants (started from seeds or bought as starter plants) into similar piles and the fucking tomatoe’s rot right along with the rest of the plant.

This is some weird Chernobyl shit right here. Why (and this photo was taken last week*) do those red tomatoes still look delicious? The leaves and vines are withered and dead. Why do the green tomatoes not rot and fall off or more importantly look exactly the same as the day I tossed them back there?

What the hell is going on in my garden … what kind of madness is this?

* Okay since writing this, the tomatoes have started to rot. They’re getting kind of gross now in fact. I’m not at all sure what the point of this whole thing was, I thought the tomatoes weren’t rotting, but it turns out they are? Fuck, no idea. Let’s just all forget this and move on okay?