Wednesday, March 31, 2010

God Must Hate America—He gave us Fred Phelps

I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. I am second to no one in my respect for the freedom of speech. Even hate speech.

But I draw the line where hate speech crosses the line to incitement of violence. Even if I don’t like the group that violence is being fomented against. Or in this case, upon themselves.

I am speaking, of course, about Fred Phelps and his “G*d Hates F*gs” and “G*d Hates Am*rica” organizations. These are the far-right-of-right creeps who picket American service-members’ funerals—those who have died in the line of duty—with signs and chants claiming that the deceased soldier is in Hell because he died in the service of America, which is a terrible nation because it coddles fags.

And seriously, “coddles fags” is the nicest way I can paraphrase the key part of their ideology. I won’t repeat any of it verbatim just so my nice little Daddy-blog doesn’t get found by nuts searching for their rhetoric. But that’s what they do. They verbally abuse the grieving in public.

In case you think I’m making this crazy-ass shit up, you can find these gape-mouthed dullards online by adding a simple “.com” to the * bits a couple paragraphs ago. I won’t provide a link as that would only be feeding the maw of this rough beast I have sat down today to damn.

They even wrote a song about it and it goes like this.

Warning: It’s not for the faint of heart. Also important to note, this is not a parody. These are real Americans… you know, underemployed rural white folks from the Midwest.

So that’s their gig. Go to military funerals and heckle the bereaved.

And as I read the law on the link attached, it seems like the law is on the side of G*d Hates F*gs.

What’s most telling is the last line of the story, which starts out, “The American people keep my spirits lifted a lot and give me hope. I think most of the country is on my side on this issue, he said. “Too many people have died to protect our rights and freedoms to have them degraded and spit upon…”

Quick, who’s making that quote—Fred Phelps or the plaintiff in the case?


It could apply equally well to either party (on the law; one of the sides is no longer feeling the love of the American people), which is the whole point of the First Amendment. That’s both the strength and the frustration of living under the rule of law. It has to be applied equally.

And as hateful and wrong-headed as Fred Phelps is, all he’s threatening people with is existential unhappiness (an eternity in hell with Beelzebub and, apparently, all their loved ones), which as far as I know, isn’t illegal yet.

All the reprehensible things that it is, it isn’t illegal to threaten someone with bodily angst. Even at a loved-one’s funeral.

How we deal with people like Fred Phelps defines us as a nation. That he is allowed to do the hateful things he does—where and when he does them—is both our deepest shame and finest hour.

But if current public-discourse trend lines continue the way they are (tip o’ my hat to the Teabaggers who really helped get that ball rolling), these military families aren’t going to sit quietly and take it forever. I’m a member of a military family myself; believe me, we have as many crazy motherfuckers in our family as anyone else. Some day, somebody’s gonna snap at one of these funerals.

Then Fred Phelps will have another juicy lawsuit on his hands and he’ll probably win that one on points, too.

Sometimes the air gets mighty thin up here on the moral high ground. G*d Bless Am*rica.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fang’s Folly (revisited)

Well, that didn’t take long. Meet Jacob, so named by the 10-year-old son of the lady I bought him from today (in Paradise, California, I shit you not). It was also first-runner-up to The Boy’s name when we were deciding what we’d call him. And if Jacob from Lost does turn out to be evil, we can start calling the new pup Jake.

It’s a win/win/win. Except that he’s already crapped on my office carpet. Good news? He didn’t crap in the car on the 2-hour ride back to Christmas Island!

The best part is, when The Missus gets home from her parents’, where she fled in grief for having to give up our previous dog, she will be happy. She’s happy already.

She’s been lobbying pretty relentlessly for a new dog, and sooner rather than later. And while she lobbied, she remained sad and sadness settled over the house.

I realized I had a big problem to fix and the only thing that would work was throwing a puppy at it. Having done so, the forecast for life on the homefront is sunny and warm… but full of pee and poo again, now that we’ve finally got The Boy just about housebroken. Oh but it’ll be a small price to pay to bring happy back to the house.

He’s so cute. He’s curled up on the floor next to my feet as I type this. It’s his first night without his littermates (there were three pups left when I arrived to get him) and I suspect it may be a long one. I tried earlier to put him in Obi’s cage (after I washed it out), which produced a grating, incessant, high-pitched yipping, like if you fast-forwarded The View with the sound turned up.

Like I said, whatever I do, it’s gonna be a long night.

My caveat regarding getting a new dog this early (which I admit—on paper—could reasonably be characterized as “hasty,” or “ill-considered”) was that any new dog had to come from a litter, not a pound or a rescue organization. This dog, young Jacob, comes with no previously installed bad wiring. Tonight will be the first emotional trauma of his life, and I will be there to install the buttons I will spend the rest of his life pushing.

It’s good to be king again.


You may have noticed I stopped writing about politics awhile ago. It had gotten boring. W was finally out of the White House and Obama was really, really slow getting out of the gate. I was tired of bagging on the GOP and my side wasn’t giving me very much to crow about.

Well, finally politics is finally getting interesting again.

Just caught former mavericky Senator John McCain on CNN, defending Sarah Palin’s most recent outrageous act—writing on her Facebook page that now that they’ve lost on health care, it’s time for her mouth-breathing fan base to “re-load.” This at a time when Black and gay members of Congress are having derogatory epithets hurled at them, and being spat upon in public. When even GOP stalwarts who voted “correctly” are having their office windows shot out in the dead of night. The political cauldron is boiling over, there’s violence in the streets, and Palin is using the language of hunting to describe the next step her admirers should take.

Naturally, a principled independent like John McCain isn’t going to see anything wrong with that. Especially when he’s in a tough re-election fight and Palin is stumping for him this weekend, even headlining a fundraiser. She could put out an open contract on Obama’s life, advertise it on billboards in the DC metropolitan area and post an animation of the imagined assassination on her website and McCain would find some ethical wiggle-room to defend her right to incite violence. I can hear it now... “Let the free market determine if the money she has offered for Obama’s death is reasonable. Or are you a Socialist…?!

My other Conservative friend (besides The Last Boy Scout), The Boyhood Pal, wrote me this morning, promising to read my thoughts on the passage of the health care bill a couple posts down, then get back to me with his “Neanderthoughts.” He’s a funny guy. I wrote back and told him: Neanderthoughts. That’s great. I should start a blog by that name and post crazy right-wing ravings there, except with Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck leading the forces of conservatism, you guys have become awfully hard to parody.

And it’s true, but he’s just that good. He actually did a pitch-perfect job of comically but accurately defining how wrongheaded the Right’s thinking is these days. Neanderthoughts. I’ll bet Neanderthals spat on their enemies in public and called them dirty names to their faces, too. I suppose Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis are lucky they didn’t have tea-partier’s poo thrown at them as well. Yet.

And when threatened, violence would certainly be the Neanderthal’s first thought of response.

On Palin’s Facebook page, they’ve moved beyond the rhetoric of “targeting” opponents for defeat in their reelection efforts to placing actual hunter’s targets over points on a map of America (above). It looks like something you’d see taped to the wall of bin Laden’s cave, not the calling card of an American citizen hoping to become President one day.

Even the things that piss them off are logically inconsistent. I find it downright farcical that the same bunch of Neanderthinkers who didn’t blink an eye at dropping a trillion dollars on W’s Excellent Middle-East Adventure are today crying doom and apocalypse over the same amount being allocated for domestic health care guarantees.

Obviously, I’m painting all Conservatives with a pretty broad brush here. For example, I’m sure neither of the two conservative pals I’m mentioned in this post would participate in the extreme activity I’ve described above. But it’s always the people doing the most outlandish stuff who are going to define your movement in the public arena. If you don’t repudiate the ugliest words and actions of those who carry your banner, Senator McCain, you are at least complicit in whatever bad behavior follows.

I believe when history remembers the birth pangs of universal health care, it will be the same way it remembers suffrage and civil rights: That Conservatives fought tooth and nail to block implementation of what has since come to be seen as a fundamental American right.

Only two classes of people ultimately prevail in bringing about political change of any consequence: Progressives, through the strength of their ideas, or Fascists, through the strength of their arms. Everybody else is just a footnote.

And the Neanderthinkers seem determined, now more than ever, not to allow themselves to become a footnote.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

“Lost” is going out on top of its game

I’ve made no secret of it. Me and The Missus are huge Lost fans. If you’re not familiar with the show, now in its sixth and pre-ordained final year, it’s about… oh, never mind. Stop reading now, in that case.

The Last Boy Scout and his missus are also big fans, so most every late-Tuesday night he and I email our thoughts and theories to each other about that week’s episode.

I, for instance, was bored by last week’s show, the Sawyer-centric one. Turns out that even though he’s a cop in his flash-sideways (I warned you to stop reading if you’re not already a fan), his character remains a self-centered shit-head both on the island and off. Dramatically, it was uninteresting to me. He’s the exact same guy in both timelines as he was in the pilot episode. That’s not a character arc, that’s a character flatline.

The episode was especially disappointing following the previous week’s excellent “Dr. Linus” episode where Ben appeared to be redeemed in both timelines. I say appeared because there’s still seven episodes left to go, so we don’t know if this is the final twist yet for Ben’s character. But what a great, unexpected, completely character-driven episode of weekly TV.

Just before last night’s show started, I was reading “Lamb; The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.” One chapter opened up with the narrator referring to Jacob from the book of Genesis doing battle with an angel, and defeating him. How it was the first time a human had bested an angel. I reflexively applied this context to the “Jacob” character on Lost and was rewarded with an insight: Perhaps Jacob and his nemesis, the unnamed Man In Black, not-Locke, are supernatural beings. One, not-Locke, a fallen angel and the other, Jacob, tasked as his warden. I have a feeling they’re both being punished for something, but only time (and the remaining 7 episodes) will tell.

TLBS referenced “some” fans who have complained that the show has added too many new characters this year and had lost the focus on the show’s core characters, mostly cast regulars from the series premiere.

Personally, I’m a bit bored with most of the original characters, including Jack, Sawyer and Kate (still interested in Hurley and Sayid, if you’re keeping score.). It’s the constant infusion of new blood (Michelle Rodriguez and Mr. Eko, Ben, Juliet, Eloise Hawking, Lapides, Miles and Farraday), new storylines, new storytelling techniques, that keeps this show exciting for me. I think it’s remarkably cool that some of the most vital, interesting characters have been added to the show late in its run.

What other show would have the cajones, in the middle of their swan-song season, to devote an entire episode to the backstory of what had up until that point been a minor character like this week’s Lost did? And unleashed major, massive revelations, just like I predicted they would when I heard this week’s show was going to feature the ageless Richard Alpert character.

Good Lord, it even worked as a love story for me. The guy playing Richard (Nestor Carbonell, inset), is terrific and I’m delighted he had a whole episode to himself. I hope Emmy voters were watching. (If you like him, you’ll have to check out the live-action “Tick” TV series to catch some of his earlier work as BatManuel.)

Additionally, the writing and directing this week were jobbed-out to relatively no-name writers and directors. None of the show’s producers (Lindelof, Bender, et al) were even credited with this week’s game-changing episode.

I think by series’ end, the first-season castaways will be back front and center. And they’ll probably be interesting again.

I have another prediction, too. I don’t follow the online fan forums so I don’t know if anybody else has put this idea out there already: I think Desmond & Penny’s baby, named after the character “Charlie” who died at the end of season three, is somehow going to grow up to become Charles Widmore. So far Widmore’s connection to the island has never really been explored. We know he was there for a while as a young man, and as an old man is obsessed with trying to find it, but other than that, bupkis.

This week really raised the bar for the rest of the season, in this geek’s humble opinion.

Here are the titles of the remaining episodes of the season, starting with this week’s:

6.9 Ab Aeterno (“since the beginning of time”)

6.10 The Package

6.11 Happily Ever After

6.12 Everybody Loves Hugo

6.13 The Last Recruit

6.14 The Candidate

6.15 Across The Sea

6.16 What They Died For

6.17 TBA

6.18 TBA


Monday, March 22, 2010

Not sure what he calls it...

...but I like it!

This just in: He calls it a lion.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Obama initiative finally achieves climax!

I have to write about the health care bill.

Because unless I do, Obi’s picture will stay at the top of this page and I won’t be able to bear to visit it. And it’s my own page for Christ’s sake.

While The Missus and I walk around like the living dead because we failed then bailed on our dog, The Boy has a peculiarly devil-may-care attitude about Obi’s absence. The Missus remarked to me this evening that The Boy had asked her about Obi three times since yesterday. I could tell it was taking a toll on her. Then after that, sitting together with The Boy on the couch, he looked at me with almost a smirk and asked “When is Obi coming back?” Then observed me closely, clearly looking for a big reaction. I told him to knock it off and that it wasn’t funny.

What the fuck is up with that? I hope his lack of missing the dog is a result of the basically adversarial nature of their relationship. Obi was almost always bumping into, brushing against and occasionally scratching The Boy, but never once went psycho on him. He seemed to understand that in this pack, turning on The Boy would have been an unresolvable tactical error.

And the house is still filled with empty spaces and missing rituals. Even shitty rituals like locking him in his steel cage every night are missed, in spite of the fact that at the time, it made me feel more like a warden than a pet owner.

But as usual, I digress. This post is meant to turn a page… at least get Obi’s mug shot “below the fold,” as it were.

I don’t know anything about the health care bill that was just passed. If it’s not my issue (inflated valuation of the back-issue comic book market), I’m not really a big detail man. But in this case, I wanted to know more, so I switched around to all the cable news channels. Even MSNBC had broken away from their usual weekend fare of what might as well be called The Tragedy Channel. Usually true-crime shit, Life In Lock-up, that sort of thing. MSNBC has made good on Andy Warhol’s 15-minutes-of-fame promise for the American prison population. Their weekend lineup usually makes The History Channel’s programming look like a warm summer afternoon on the porch with Mr. Rogers, but even they broke in with the news when the House finally voted tonight.

And the thing I hear missing from all the coverage—remember, not a detail guy—what I hear missing among all the rebukes about how Obama had to (sigh) “ram through” the legislation without a single Republican vote, and how in the past, such social legislation always garnered bipartisan support. Even LBJ picked up a few Republicans on his way to the passage of his civil rights legislation, every channel reminds me.

Then they ask, what’s wrong with Obama? How did he fail to gather even a single Republican vote?

Simple. When other landmark human rights legislation was being passed, there were statesmen in the opposition party (always the Conservatives, by the way, standing in the way of what later becomes landmark civil rights legislation). Men and women of principle over politics. The difference is, this time none surfaced.

Moreover, I reject the premise of the question itself. What I hear missing is anybody in the mainstream media asking, “Why is this generation of Republican lawmakers such a bunch of lock-stepping party-liners?” That’s the real outrage. That, and the fact that Obama wasted an entire year on hopeless attempts at bipartisanship with such an entrenched, unyielding opposition. That first year of a President’s administration is a real valuable commodity, and to have squandered most of it on such a blatantly futile attempt as bipartisanship with this current crop of Republican Congresspeople, well, I think that’s an outrage too. I don’t think there’s been true bipartisanship in Washington since Bill Clinton and Trent Lott were secretly cutting deals in the middle of the night. And even that had to be done under the cover of darkness.

Now the GOP incumbents are in the unenviable position of having to hope that the government’s public health initiative fails. It’s like praying your own team loses the big homecoming game because you put all your money on the other side. It’s dirty pool and they’re going to come off as worse than poor losers. They’re betting on Americans, their own constituents, to lose.

It’s the textbook definition of “anti-American.” It’s anti-us.

If these Republican legislators want to run on health care later this year, that is absolutely the way the Democrats need to frame the debate. It’s a winnable argument in no small part because it is a true argument. The GOP has already promised that if this bill (or any variation thereof) passed, they would run against it in November.

I hope that’s an oath they plan to keep.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fang’s Folly

I returned Obi to the SPCA today. The pet Nazis who received him—with extreme caution, just the same—looked liked they hated me about as much as I did. You don’t take a dog in for over a year and a half then throw in the towel. It’s shitty and it’s unsportsmanlike and oh yeah, it’s shitty too.

Especially with a head-case like Obi. There he stood, at the SPCA extravaganza outside the local big box pet store, literally quaking with fear in the presence of so many other dogs. I tried to calm his nerves the best I could, one last heartbreaking time, and filled out paperwork with all kinds of questions I couldn’t answer because we had never gotten an honest answer from the SPCA about them in the first place. Breed: Unknown. Age: Unknown.

What the hell had happened to him before he came into our home that turned an otherwise sweet, touchy-feely lap dog into an occasional raving psycho? Unknown.

After about 40 minutes of dicking around there in the chaos in front of the store, I was finally able to leave. I’ll spare you the details because the image I would paint would be much too sad for The Missus to read. I made the decision, it is altogether fitting that I should have to live with the full extent of the consequences.

The picture below was taken on the drive to Petco. I don’t think Obi really had a clue. He lived in the moment. And just then, we were taking a swell car ride with all his stuff conveniently in the back seat. Life was sweet.

I don’t regret returning him, I regret failing to rehabilitate him. I made a commitment to that dog, a commitment which I have failed to honor. He wasn’t a bad dog (just a really good dog with unfortunate moments of psychotic misbehavior); I should have been able to straighten him out.

So now I’m home and I’m missing his damned fool presence already. I’ve already walked into the front room a half a dozen times and asked myself, “Where the fuck is that dog?” I’ve had a piece of cake and left it half-eaten in one room while I grabbed something from another and realized with a start that I didn’t have to race back into the front room to make sure Obi wasn’t devouring it the moment I turned my back.

And The Missus and The Boy haven’t even returned yet from their playdate with the Esteemed Local Celebrity and his kids. So far The Boy hasn’t blanched when being told that Obi has to go away, it’ll be another thing altogether to see if his disinterest continues when he realizes that Obi is not gonna be back again, ever.

I know I did the right thing. He was a hazard to this family in a variety of No Little Thing kind of ways. Just a couple weeks before he chomped me, he tried to chomp the father of one of our son’s preschool friends for absolutely no outward reason. Like I sniveled to SPCA lady today, he was a tragedy or a lawsuit waiting to happen.

The best thing about the SPCA is that they are Pet Nazis. They’ll find a place where our former malcontent can flourish. The last thing they’ll do is put him to the needle. Not when he’s so goddamn sweet most of the time. Up until the second he loses his mind and tries to take a chunk out of you, he was just about the best dog in the world.

One of the reasons I named him “Obi” was because I looked forward to referring to him in his old age as “Obadiah.” It sounded like a name with a lot of gravitas, which I expected he would have earned by then. Flecks of grey in his muzzle, his eyes relaxed slits, carrying 5 to 10 extra pounds… I anticipated seeing in old age together with this dog and I’ve just thrown him to the wolves instead.

Bob Dylan once wrote that most people don’t do what’s right, they just do what’s most expedient, then they repent. Well, the reason people choose to not to do the right thing is because the right thing is usually so motherfucking hard. It’s how you know it’s the right thing to do.

So why I do I feel so debased and cowardly? I don’t feel like a Good Guy at all.

The next dog (oh and there will be one) is coming directly from a litter, fresh off his Mama’s teat. I don’t want to take the chance again of anyone else fucking up my dog’s head before I get him (or her). I’ve had real good luck raising a dog from scratch before and I’m going to return to my strengths next time.

I’m sorry, Obi. You were a fuckwit, but a gentle, loving, boisterous spirit most of the time. Most of the time you made this family better and this house happier and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to fix you.

I miss you something awful.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jesus was cool, Glenn Beck is not

Usually I don’t write about clowns in this space (myself excluded), and Glenn Beck’s latest idiocy ought not to be an exception. Because even if you write a thoughtful, heartfelt piece damning his words and/or actions, all you’re really doing is adding another voice to the bloody din over “news” manufactured specifically to raise a bloody din.

This brief post then is just a shout-out to the Christian evangelical leader who called Beck out on his latest moronic blatherings.

Kudos to you, Rev. Jim Wallis, for having the courage to point out that Christian churches of every denomination are supposed to preach the “code words” of “economic and social justice.” It’s right there in the back of the Good Book, between the endless begetting and fire and brimstone of the Old Testament, and the bloodletting and fire and brimstone of Revelations.

Four stories about a fellow named Jesus, whose entire ministry the Book claims was dedicated to preaching and practicing social justice. What part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-7) do you suppose Glenn Beck doesn’t get? They’re not “code words,” they’re the fundamental text of Christ’s mission here on earth! The responsibility to social justice they spell out is as plain as the goggle-eyes on Glenn Beck’s face.

I am well pleased that some preacher somewhere finally found the balls to call one of these these charlatans out on their macabre misinterpretation of the central message of the Gospel stories.

Social justice isn’t a perversion of Christian philosophy and practice, it’s the whole point!

On Papacy and predation

As a former recovering Catholic myself (yes, ‘former’ because I am so over it), I can’t say I’m surprised by allegations that the current Pope helped shuffle pedophile priests around earlier in his career. Probably roughly half-way between Hitler Youth and the Papacy.

Of course, everyone forgives him his Hitler Youthdom because in Nazi Germany when he was a kid, you were either with Hitler, or in a cattlecar on the way to a “relocation center.” So he gets a Mulligan on that one.

But that’s as generous as I’m willing to be.

My guess is that the Catholic church hierarchy works somewhat similarly to the way the Nazi hierarchy did, at least where it comes to keeping the organization’s dirty little secrets secret: Lead, follow or name of next of kin, please? Except the church doesn’t ship you off to a concentration camp, just a parish in deepest Bumfucked Egypt (no pun intended, it just happened).

But these latest appalling revelations put the Catholic church in a pretty pickle. Can they weather the P.R. shitstorm if they don’t throw their top guy to the wolves? Is there even a mechanism for removing a Pope besides death from old age? Even if there is, and they do, where are they going to find a Cardinal to replace him who has never shuffled at least one pedophile priest around to keep his unholy crimes from blowing up in the church’s face?

This is what happens when your religious order forbids you to have sex, to ignore one of mankind’s strongest, most basic, primal urges. Either good people get twisted under the pressure to adhere to an unnatural, wholly unreasonable standard (even Jesus is alleged to have struggled with celibacy, and Hello, He’s God!) or you attract people who are already twisted and looking for the perfect cover to practice their perversions. Or gay guys who in good conscience think that the church’s fabled vow of celibacy will be enough to keep them from acting on what they’ve been taught are unnatural urges.

Anyway you look at it, it’s a picture of predatory activity just waiting to happen.

And when you’ve been condoning, enabling and expediting predatory activity for as long as the Catholic Church has, when it’s been a part of the day-to-day responsibilities of running a parish for as long as it’s been, they’re gonna have to look pretty far and wide to find a high-ranking clergyman who hasn’t enabled child predation somewhere along the path to his lofty position in the upper echelons of the church.

The next time white smoke escapes the Vatican chimney during a meeting of the college of Cardinals, it’ll probably just be church records being burned.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I am a succulent morsel

But don’t take my word for it, just ask the neighbor’s dog. Or ours.

In what continues to be a week full of excitement and surprises, while returning from picking up our mail from the box down the street, The Boy and I ran into our neighbor the contractor. He has four dogs, big, powerful, playful ones, and he was loading them up into the truck, presumably to go look for something to kill.

They came bounding up to The Boy and me. Wasn’t worried about the golden retriever-looking one, even though it was heading straight for The Boy. The two black Labs, litter-mates, were roughhousing with each other and the husky brown dog with the shitty attitude was heading right for me. About the level of my gonads.

I put my hand down, palm open, fingers pointing down about six inches in front of my fly and the cocksucker jumped at me and took a nip.

Now to be fair, he could’ve taken as much of my hand as he wanted. A more squeamish person might have freaked out, but I recognized that it was the fuckin’-stupid-dog equivalent of a shot across the bow. His way of saying, “Back off, motherfucker.” The dog’s owner leapt forward and ordered the dog to retreat, then glanced at my hand and declared that it wasn’t a “bite,” she had only “put her teeth on my skin.” By which I assume he meant she had not drawn blood, which was in fact true. He apologized anyhow and assured me from now on he’d check to make sure the street was clear before unleashing his four big-ass dogs from the yard again.

And all the time I’m thinking, “Jesus, it’s a good thing for all of us the dog bit me and not The Boy.”

We retreat inside then with our mail. The Boy and I are still talking about the excitement, walking through the kitchen, when our own fuckin’-stupid-dog goes nuts and lunges at me, biting the exact same spot as the neighbor’s dog. Except our idiot dog draws blood and has left me with a red lump and four distinct points where his teeth broke my skin. His message was considerably heavier than “Back off, motherfucker,” and was received loud and clear.

I chased his ass into his cage and settled The Boy down. It’s one thing to see Dad take a nip from one of the neighbor’s pack, it’s another to have the family pet fly by you to attack the Old Man in what should be the safety of your own home.

All my life I’ve never been bitten by a dog and today and I get nailed by two. I’m sure there’s some clever ending in there about teaching an old dog new tricks or something, but I’m too weary of listening to me talk about myself to find it.

Can you believe how dry my skin is in the picture at top? When the liver spots start to appear, they’re going to look like the polkadots on a Twister mat. I can’t wait.

Sick Little Man

Check it out. The Missus had a multi-day out-of-town obligation this week, meaning I had all kinds of grand designs about what I would do with the little bit of extra free time that would buy me. Tasks. Projects! Maybe a little extracurricular sleep…

Naturally, all of my plans relied upon The Boy being at preschool during the day. Naturally, the day before she left town, The Boy was sent home from preschool with a runny nose, low energy level and persistent, hacking cough.

And I can’t even say I’m surprised. For one, we could see he was getting sick a few days before preschool made it official. This town we live in, if it’s not hotter than the surface of the sun outside, it’s cold, grey and rainy. And kid-borne illnesses are spread around preschool like magician’s paper in a backdraft.

The other reason I wasn’t surprised, and we’re moving into a self-pity zone here (or as I call it, My Comfort Zone), where scheduled time off is concerned, my plans invariably go awry. It’s even worse when I’m the one who’s supposed to be ‘getting away’ for a few days. At least in the current scenario, every fucking thing goes wrong while I’m in the comfort of my own home.

Since The Missus was flying out Wednesday at noon, The Boy was struck down 24 hours before, gratefully just after I’d accomplished the majority of my week’s work. (My work-week starts on Friday—today, as it happens.) So I was able to run over to his school and grab him without having to juggle parenting a sick child with producing a newspaper under work conditions that could best be described as retarded (according to Webster: backward, disabled, handicapped).

Now there’s nothing I like more than spending quality parenting time with my son, but when he’s sick, which seems to be about 50% of the winter months at least, “quality parenting time” is an oxymoron. If you’ve ever been tasked with sole caregivership of a sick little kid, you know just what I mean. It’s like being given guardianship of a terrorist made of porcelain. And it is a 24/7 position for as long as it lasts.

Wednesday night was the worst. I was worried that he’d get a fever because he usually does when he gets sick and a couple days later, we end up at the doctor’s, getting antibiotics for his latest ear infection, for whatever reason the usual spot his colds curl up and decide to call home.

So I tip-toed in at 2 a.m. to touch his cheek, to check his temperature that way.

The good news is, he was cool as a cucumber. The bad news, the really bad news, is that I woke him up and he started coughing. The entire rest of the night and into the day. And his super-cool super-inhaler (which we picked up the last time he was this sick, about a month ago) can only be used twice a day and I’m not going to fuck around with risking putting too much steroids into The Boy.

We stayed up the rest of the night together, me trying everything short of dropping an anvil on his head to get him to go back to sleep, but his insistent cough made that impossible. He was one miserable little man. Until sunup, when his body rebooted—or his brain did, anyhow—and he was raring to go, coughing fits or not.

By then I was able to give him another blast of enhanced inhaler, which worked its wonders. His coughing decreased about 90%. Unfortunately by then, my body was screaming for sleep. Shrieking, howling, begging for sleep, which he was having none of.

Eventually, right after lunch, I was able to convince him that Daddy really needed a nap. He didn’t need one, he assured me, speaking over the dark saucers around his eyes. Yes, I agreed, he was tip-top, he was, but Daddy needed a nap. A lot, not a little.

And the cool part was, I was able to convince him to do me this solid. He would lay down in his bed and “try” to rest—even though it was, by his calculation, altogether unnecessary—and I would pass out disgracefully in mine. I talked with him instead of to or at him and by treating him like he was a partner in this decision, instead of leaning on my own parents’ reliable stand-by: because I told you to!, we came to an accommodation like men. No tears, no bribes, no tit for tat. Simply one guy taking a hit for the other guy because we loved each other and wanted the best for each other.

As parenting moments go, honestly, it was everything I ever dreamed about when I used to think about how I’d like to raise a kid if I ever had any. No threats, no clobbering and lots of actual calm, rational conversation.

All of which led to me getting a desperately-needed hour of surprise shut-eye (my body simply will not sleep for longer than 60 minutes during daytime hours, sun or so no sun. It’s really fucked up) and The Boy slept for three hours. He might have slept longer, but since part of our negotiations included me not putting him into a pull-up for his nap (after all, he was only doing me a favor, he had no intention of actually sleeping), I had to split the difference between him getting as much sleep as he could and hopefully not waking up swimming in his own urine.

I’m happy to say I nailed it. He got up, went to the bathroom, and the rest of the day unfolded like it was a brand-new day. I’ll tell you, after my single hour of shut-eye, I was a whole new Daddy. We even went Big-Wheeling at his suggestion. Ate lots of protein-packed food, took a nice long hot bath, watched “Planet Hulk” again—warning to parents, this cartoon is way too violent for your 4-year-old—played a little guitar, ate some more, watched “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and then I lulled him into a sleepy state again by throwing on an episode of “Kung Fu.”

And this time, as soon as he went down, I did too, just in case. And just as well. It turned out he didn’t take last night’s inhaler all the way down into his lungs so he began his deep wracking coughs from the other room just as visions of sugarplums were beginning to dance in my head. Got him up out of bed and gave him another spritz, instructing him that he had to breathe it all way into his lungs (I tapped him on both sides of his chest). This time he got it right; I could see some of the spritz in his breath after he exhaled. Bogie in black & white never looked any cooler to me than he did in that moment. I could almost picture him wearing a raincoat and fedora, leaning against a streetlamp, waiting for a dame. Put him back to bed and he’s been sleeping soundly for almost ten hours now.

Technically, I could probably send him back to preschool today. Oh Lordy, would I love to have this morning to myself.

But the fact is, when he gets up, he’s still going to be less than 100% by quite a bit. I’m going to follow my initial inclination, formed when I picked up the phone on Tuesday to hear the preschool lady’s voice, to keep him home the rest of the week. I don’t want to send a just-recovering kid into that Petri dish of cold germs and flying snot. I’ve faked my way through a lot of important shit before this (“Thank you, you’ve been a lovely audience!”), but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna be a phoning-it-in parent. In for a penny, in for a pound.

No getting around it, this whole week is toast.

And I hear him beginning to stir now. No time to proofread. Up this goes and I’m off…!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Mouth of Horrors

Here’s the quick re-cap of yesterday’s dental drama:

We never even got to the molar that has to be pulled. My front tooth was save-able but required a surprise (to everyone but me, because I have been conditioned to expect the worst at the dentist) root-canal and cap, and the tooth next to it was discovered to be a disaster area too, so she stripped that one away and put a temporary crown on it, too.

And because my front teeth are especially sensitive to pain, she had to poke me repeatedly, throughout the entire ordeal, with the Long Needle containing the most powerful novacaine known to modern dental science.

Oh, and she also had to do some impromptu gum surgery, leaving me feeling this morning like my gums survived an attack by a pack of angry wolverines, but just barely.

My mouth still tastes like a combination of blood and death and I’m on antibiotics for the next few days to ward off infection.

I’ll say this. My dentist is as good at her job as John Henry was at swinging a nine-pound hammer. Hmph. And the similarities don’t end there, but I’m sure I don’t need to draw you a picture on that one.

All told, I spent just under three and a half hours in her chair, tilted upside down, sending me home with a raging headache on top of everything else. They were vacuuming the office as she was finishing. The appointments she had following mine yesterday got rescheduled and for my return visit, they booked me for the last appointment of the day—at 2 p.m.

There is dentistry and then there is heroic dentistry. My dentist, at 4’11” and less than 100 pounds, practices super-heroic dentistry. She even “donated” a bunch of yesterday’s services because she knows I just lost one of my jobs a couple weeks ago and have already maxed-out the year’s dental insurance by this, the first week in March.

And when I expressed mortal fear at the prospect of having to come back to have the back tooth extracted, she recommended her dentist husband to me (some kind of Specialist who employs all manner of swell nerve-settling gasses) because she could make sure that he would be significantly cheaper than any of my other extreme-dentistry options.

Because as good as the idea sounds on days like yesterday, mid-procedure, I really don’t want to die of a self-inflicted drug overdose in the dentist’s chair.

So to sum up, I am cursed with the mouth a lifetime of stupid decisions has earned me, but blessed with a better, kinder, sweeter dentist than I will deserve if I live another ten lifetimes.

Hopefully, this will be my last teeth-related post for a while. You are now free to return to your consumption of carbonated beverages and crystal meth, but I really can’t recommend it. Even if your dentist wears a cape and flies to work without an airplane.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Manifest Dentistry

I just brushed a couple of my teeth this morning for probably the last time. Who am I kidding? I’ll probably brush them again in a little while, for auld lang syne.

I’ve been compartmentalizing this afternoon’s dental appointment all week. Went in last week to get a couple of minor cavities filled and my 6-month cleaning, but as so frequently happens, much greater devastation was uncovered. A full battery of x-rays revealed a number of red-flag areas, including two so bad they needed to be dealt with right away.

And by dealt with, I mean probable extractions.

Let me explain. I made a lot of poor lifestyle choices along the way to where I am now. Meth. Mountain Dew. An at-best casual acquaintance with ongoing dental hygiene. More Mountain Dew. I’ve written about this just recently. I guess this is kind of a follow-up on that report.

Here’s the headline to that follow-up: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

The Boy has been just incredible about stopping the thumb-sucking cold. Bam, just like that. Now when he watches TV he kinda scratches at his upper lip and chin with his thumb and forefinger. If that replacement behavior lasts much longer I’m going to have to do something about it, too. It’s okay to have tics, but proper chaps have the courtesy to limit theirs to ones that can be easily concealed in the presence of company.

But it’s like he just flipped a switch off. I swear to God, nothing would make me happier than to discover my son didn’t inherit my addictive personality. Honestly.

And I have been off all carbonated beverages for one week today. By which I mean Mountain Dew. Even been to a few restaurants that were Pepsi venues (as opposed to Coke, God forbid any place offer both!) and had water or lemonade instead. I’ve dealt with the caffeine withdrawal (I don’t do headaches gracefully) by gobbling two Excedrin every morning; today I start a week of one Excedrin every morning, after which I intend to step down to zero. So far so good on that front.

But I only had my Come To Jesus Moment with soda pop (oh yeah, and chewing gum, which I used to chew a ton of) after last week’s catastrophic dental examination.

When the dentist got all depressed, looking at the x-ray results, I started to get worried. Then she’s poking individual teeth and talking about “watching these,” but it’s with the air of the TV judge who is rendering a decision and always gets possible mitigating factors out of the way first before delivering the death penalty to the accused.

Right on cue, (“Bailiff, remove that man!”) she identified the pair of emergency situations—after I had heard her discussing with her assistant earlier about what deep roots my teeth have—that would likely lead to extractions. One of which, coupled with all my other missing teeth, she worried might make it difficult for me to chew, and the other one perilously close to the front.

Although I don’t have access to my actual dental x-rays, I found an image online that comes pretty close:

And that’s when I decided, when I knew for a fact it was too late to do anything to salvage my oral health, to quit doing the rest of the things that had directly contributed to its unnecessary annihilation. Now that it was strictly a matter of principle, I figured I could do it.

Thank God I didn’t wait for my liver to fail to quit drinking. What a fucking idiot. My little sister hasn’t been to a dentist in decades and her teeth are rotting and falling out, just like mine, and it hasn’t cost her a cent. Who’s the Smart Guy now, Fang?

What a fucking idiot.

So now I’m frittering away the morning writing this before I go in and whatever happens, happens. I will leave instructions with my lovely wife, Dr. The Missus, regarding what to tell the dentist to do in the event this happens or that happens. Because my current dentist doesn’t offer gas to help calm the nerves, I’m forced to drug myself silly beforehand. And I still have a deathgrip on the arm of the chair the entire time and I still remember every minute of the pain afterwards. Just the same, communication becomes very difficult about an hour into a procedure of this scale.

It’s a terrible, stupid, embarrassing and expensive thing I’ve done to myself. And I’ve spread a lot of the embarrassment and expense around to my wife, to whom I apologize.

I’m so goddamned sick of this slow, painful death by a thousand extractions. I want someone who will just knock my ass out, remove whatever remains, and give me a couple of full plates like my dear old Daddy had. If I could take my teeth out every night, I’d do a lot better job of taking care of them. Maybe in the new town we’ll find the resources, and the dentist, who can make that happen.

Until then, though, for all my crimes and misdemeanors against my own teeth [drum roll, please], let this be my dentistry.