Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Dirty Dozen

It all started with a phone call…

“Michael, it’s Mommy – I just wanted to let you know I’m going to be a little late. They need me to stay at work until…”


“Don’t worry, I’ll still be home in time to color the eggs. I just thought you might want to get started without me. Where’s Bobby?”

“In the driveway, working on his car.”

“Okay. Well, when he comes in, tell him I said to help you and Joe get set up. I already boiled the eggs – they’re in the refrigerator – so he just has to take out all the eggs and mix up the dye for you guys. Tell him the Paas kit is in the hall closet, and the vinegar is on the shelf going downstairs. Oh, and make sure he spreads out newspaper, that stuff stains! Daddy might get home before me, and you know how he feels about messes!”

“Alright. When will you be home?”

“As soon as I can, Honey! Make sure you save me a few!”

I hung up the phone and went to tell my oldest brother, Bobby, the news.

He was none to happy to be dragged out from under his prized Shelby, but realizing the quickest way to get back to working on it was to do as Mom said, followed me back into the house.

“Mom said she boiled all the eggs in the refrigerator, so you just need to take them out and make the dye,” I told him. “I’ll go get the kit and find Joe.”

I fetched the kit from the closet, making sure to pop out all the circles before finding my younger brother, since he always got to do it, and went back to the kitchen.

“Does it say to use hot water or cold water,” Bobby asked, taking the box from my hand. “What the…? You poked out all the holes already? How am I supposed to read the directions?”

“I’m ‘sposed to poke out the holes!” Joe complained. “That’s my job!”

“Well, you can make the ring holders,” I conceded, offering something I could never do without ripping anyway.

“Those are stupid! They never stand up…”

“Just shut up, the both of ya!” Bobby ordered. “Spread out some newspaper and get the mugs. Where’s the vinegar,” he asked, pronouncing it like my aunt, who had a way of making it sound like a racial slur.

“Going downstairs,” I replied, pushing a chair over to the cabinet to fetch the soup mugs we (only) used for coloring eggs, while Joe counted out the tablespoons and covered the table with the morning paper.

After much measuring, stirring, spilling, and sniffling from the acrid spell of the vinegar, we were finally ready to color. 

“Man, that’s a lot of eggs,” Bobby observed, noting the six dozen sitting on the table. “Don’t we normally only do five?”

He was right.  We traditionally did a dozen each, my mother’s way to ensure that there was no arguing amongst her five boys over who got to color more eggs.  As we (they) got older, and it became more of a job for just Joe and me, we, for some reason, still stuck with the five dozen rule.

“I don’t know,” I said, stalling as I replayed the phone conversation in my head for clues. “She said she boiled all the eggs in the refrigerator…”

“Whatever,” Bobby said, using the waxy white crayon to write his annual, “Eat Me!” message on an egg and dropping it in the dye. “I’ll be in the driveway if you need me.”

The second he left, Joe and I lunged across the table to gather up our three dozen eggs, both fighting for the full ones.

“Not fair,” Joe whined, after winding up with the carton missing the egg Bobby did. “Gimme one!”

“No, then you’d have more than me! Plus, Mommy said to save her some, so we can’t do them all anyway.”

“Well then I get the Dunker,” he proclaimed, grabbing the wire egg dipper and bending it into shape.

Take it, I thought to myself, the eggs never stay on that stupid thing anyway.

We managed to color the majority of eggs without incident. As our other brothers, Richard and Johnny, passed through, either coming home from work or heading out for the evening, they’d stop and color a few eggs, so that by the time our mom got home, there were only about a half a dozen left.

“Wow!” she exclaimed over our efforts. “These look beautiful. Looks like you didn’t need me after all!”

But of course we did, as she was the only one who could draw the bunnies and chicks on the eggs – which she proceeded to do without our encouragement.  

As she placed the last of the eggs into the carton to dry, a strange look appeared on her face. I watched her head nod as she counted the cartons to herself.



“What did you do?” she asked, racing the refrigerator, where as she suspected, ALL the eggs were missing.

“You colored ALL the eggs? We always do five!  I bought an extra dozen for breakfast.  I only boiled the five – the other was still raw!”

“Bobby did it!” I automatically exclaimed, once again replaying the phone conversation in my head. She did say all the eggs, right?

But poor Bobby got blamed anyway, since, as my mom said, he should have known better than to listen to a six-year old.

“Plus,” she added. “We always do FIVE dozen! You better figure out a way to fix this before your father gets home. If he finds out, he’ll throw them all out.”

With grease still on his hands, Bobby set about the task of separating the raw from the cooked. Using a complex system of spinning, shaking, floating them in water, and something he called “candling,” he soon had a dozen eggs divided from the pack. And just in time, as the garage door opening signaled my father’s arrival home from work.

“Oh, you did them all without me?” he asked, with feigned sadness, kissing my mother hello while accepting the martini she held out.

“Oh, we did them all, alright” I chirped, drawing a warning look from my mother.

“They look good,” he noted. “Did you remember to do the Dollar Eggs?”

“We did a did three Dollar Eggs…and a FIVE Dollar Egg!” Joe responded, prematurely announcing our plans to weasel more money from the Easter Bunny.

“A five dollar egg?” our dad repeated, with an arched eyebrow. “The Easter Bunny better hide that one real good!”

We all laughed, and eventually went to bed, secure in the knowledge that the Easter Bunny would come and hide the eggs we had colored - which thanks to Bobby, were all hard-boiled. Or so we thought. But give the poor guy credit: his unorthodox methods did manage to identify nine of the twelve raw eggs.

We awoke the next morning and instantly set about the task of finding the eggs, blissfully unaware of the three messy landmines hiding among them. Fueled by jellybeans and hopped up on chocolate, we searched the house as our parents slept, and by 9:00, all but the Five Dollar egg were found. Had we thought to check the trash, we might have found the discarded shell of a late-night snack my dad enjoyed that just so happened to be the former five-dollar egg.

But that was the last egg he got to enjoy that year, for as (bad) luck would have it, he managed to “find” all three raw ones!

The First Egg was found just before church. Dressed in his Sunday best, and taking advantage of a quiet few minutes as my brothers and I got ready, he got out the salt shaker, selected an egg from the basket, and proceeded to crack it.

As for what happened next, let’s just say church was not the first place we heard “JESUS CHRIST!” that morning. In fact, I’m pretty sure our neighbors heard it too.

“What the hell?” he muttered, pawing at the yellow egg running down the front of his white shirt. “How the…? Who the…? Sonofabitch!”

He left to change, and confront my mother, who deftly explained that it must not have cooked all the way through.

“All the way through?” my dad challenged. “Look at my shirt – it was completely raw!”

“It must have been on top. The ones on the bottom cook faster…”

“On top? What difference should that make? They were all IN the water, weren’t they?”

Never one to lie, my mom simply nodded, as technically they all were in the water with the dye – she just left out the part that some never made it into the boiling water.

Egg Number Two was found the next morning, this time while my dad was driving to work. Running late, he grabbed the salt shaker and a few eggs from the fridge as he headed out the door. A few minutes later, he hungrily cracked one on his knee at a red light.

I wasn’t there to hear it, but I’m sure “SONOFABITCH!” was uttered. Loudly.

He was still mad when he got home that night, and didn’t seem all too accepting of my mother’s explanation that, in his rush, he must have taken a raw egg on mistake.

“A raw one? It was BLUE!” he hollered, stomping off to change out of his egg-encrusted pants. “Bright blue with yellow chicken stickers on it!”

The Third Egg didn’t turn up until two weeks later, when after deciding that the eggs had sat in the refrigerator long enough, it was time to throw them away. He unceremoniously dumped the half-full basket into the trash, when he saw one break open, spilling its guts.

As did my mom, who when confronted a third time, only now with indisputable evidence, finally fessed up and said, “Bobby did it!”

Dedicated to the memory of my brother, Robert L. Wood, who, when all was said and done, turned out to be a pretty good egg

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Rebirth of a Dyeing Tradition

Eli, coloring eggs (Note the cup of dye that JUST spilled!)

We all know that families are defined by their customs and traditions, so for me, one of the biggest challenges of being a step-dad was stepping into a situation where it was expected that we continue the ones that had been previously established  before my arrival while somehow managing to create new rituals of our own.   

The “problem” is, my wife and I both come from close families, yet we rarely come close to agreeing on how holidays should be celebrated. Nothing major or upsetting, mind you, just simple things, like when (and how) Christmas presents get opened.  Christmas Eve on her side looks like a ticker tape parade down Broadway, while Christmas morning on mine resembles a quiet kindergarten Show & Tell. Or how to decorate for Halloween. My side goes for the elaborate haunted house look, while her side says, “You decorate for Halloween?” Thanksgiving dinner at my house coincided with halftime of the football game, while her family prefers the TV off in order to talk and visit. My family stops celebrating birthdays with parties between the ages of 15 and 40 -  her’s never stop!

But I’m a go with the flow kind of guy.  I’m more than happy to make their traditions my own. And if no one wants to join me as I race around the house beating a pot with a spoon at midnight on New Year’s, so be it. But there is one tradition I will not allow to "dye" 

My first WTF moment in marriage didn’t come until eight months after we were married. It was the night before Easter, 7-year old Julianna had just gone to bed, and I was getting out the eggs for the “Easter Bunny” to hide.

“You’re doing what now?” my wife asked, eyeing the basket of eggs warily.
“Um, hiding the eggs?” I said, confused.
“In the house?”
“Of course in the house!”
“Real eggs?”
“Uh, yeah! Why do you think we colored them all?”
“To put in the basket…”
“Right!  You put them in the basket as you find them!”
“Wrong! The Easter Bunny puts them in the basket along with the candy!”
“He does not! He puts them in your shoes. And behind the curtain. And under the couch. He even unscrews the ceiling light and drops one inside. Then he hides the basket!”
“Real eggs? The kind that need to be refrigerated else you get salmonella? The kind that stink and smell like sulphur? That’s what your Easter Bunny does?”
“No, that’s what THE Easter Bunny does.”

And so it went. Eventually we settled on a compromise and hid some plastic eggs around the house. And while Julianna seemed to enjoy the novelty of it, I could tell she was more aligned with her mom on this one, so that was the last time we hid the eggs. But that’s all about to change! Thanks to an egg that I fertilized, I now have a new kid that I get to raise from the ground up. And this year I’m putting my furry foot down and being the Bunny!

 Of course, with Eli only being two,” hiding” the eggs will consist of leaving them out in plain sight for him to collect. But after a year or two of practice, he’ll be ready for the big time. Now if I can just find a place to hide the remote on Thanksgiving so that no one can turn the game off, I’ll be all set!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Squeezing Weenis with Don on the Double Dong

This is probably one of those stories that ends abruptly with an unfulfilling “I guess you had to be there” disclaimer, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway – and while I’m at it, three or four shots might help you get in the right (altered) state of mind required to appreciate the following.

It was my friend Don’s 40th birthday, and a group of us got together at a local dive to celebrate. Many of us had not seen each other in years, and after all the wives were met, photos of the kids passed around, and careers updated, we got down to the real purpose of the evening…drinking.

Now as followers of this blog know, I gave up drinking for Lent – but as this event was on my calendar for months, I had saved one of my “outs” for the evening, and let’s just say I took full-advantage.

So there I was, blitzed and buzzing with good friends and cheap booze, listening to the handsome half of Hubinger St. playing an acoustic set. when Don is called to the dance floor to be presented with a special gift. The crowd gathers as he opens the bag, and pulls out this…

Now, from my POV (pint of vodka?) it appeared as if Don was just given some sort of sex toy as a gag gift.  Not that I have ever seen such an item, but the phrase “double dong” popped to mind when I saw him hold it up. Even the name, Vibra-Slap, sounded like it came from some adult store.

So I’m giggling like a schoolgirl, watching straight-laced Don deal with the double dong, when he decides to take it up to the stage. The band starts playing again, and I’m thinking, “Good for you Don! Pretend to play that vibrator and put the joke right back in the giver.” Only he really starts playing the thing. And it sounds good!

Now I’m cackling like a jackass at the quality of sound Don is getting from the thing, when someone asks me what’s so funny. I look at them like, are you serious? Don’s playing a dildo up there.  I start to explain, but am quickly corrected that it is indeed a musical instrument, and not any sort of sexual device. Sure it is, I say, thinking they’re still trying to get their money’s worth out of the joke gift, but then they show me the box, and I realize the joke’s on me.

Feeling foolish, I wander over to the bar, and immediately get my weenis grabbed.  No, it wasn’t that kind of a bar. And a weenis isn’t what you think it is, unless, unlike me, you already know what a weenis is.  Turns out, the weenis is the name given to the puckered pouch of skin that covers your elbow. See...

And for some reason, this part of the body is totally devoid of pain receptors. Seriously. Reach out your arm, pinch that little patch of skin, and squeeze the shit out of it.  You feel nothing, right?

At the time, I thought it was just an effect of the alcohol, as people were pulling, tugging, twisting, and even biting each others’ weenises, without inflicting a single shot of pain, but when I pinched my weenis the next morning, still nothing. It’s sort of amazing actually. I’m thinking maybe superheroes and X-Gamers must be made completely out of weenis skin, which is how they can absorb so much pain.

If only my liver and brain cells were made out of weenis, this story might have a happier ending.  But, alas, there’s a price to pay for being forty and partying like a kid half your age. It’s called a hangover, and it is nowhere near as funny as the movie of the same name. Hopefully I’ll recover by the time Don hits 50, because I’ve already got an idea for the perfect gift: the Viagra-Slap!

I had planned to end this by coming back full circle to the "you had to be there" idea by posting an video from the actual evening - but - to protect the innocent, while still satisfying anyone's curiosity of what a Vibra-Slap sounds like, I've decided to post this YouTube clip instead:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Karm(hic) Justice

Regular followers of this blog may recall my recent announcement that I was giving up alcohol for Lent (click here for reminder). A sacrifice made all the more impressive when you realize I’m not a big church goer, or even a believer in a God who has nothing better to do with his time than to spy on us to make sure we’re not eating meat on Fridays. In fact, I’m pretty sure the people at Pizza Hut were the ones who made up that rule.  But, regardless of my beliefs, I did have faith that I could go 40 days without drinking. And I can…just not all in a row.

I made it to Day 28 before breaking down, when my friends’ band played a show for the first time in forever, making it more of a reunion than a typical night out.  And what goes better with old friends than cold beer? So I thought to myself, What Would Jesus Do? And when I couldn’t come up with an answer, I decided to ask him. I put a crumpled up piece of paper in one hand, held them both out, and told my nemesis Renee to pick one, after saying, “Jesus, if you don’t want me to drink tonight, make Renee pick the hand without the paper and I will obey.”

She picked the hand with the paper, and I raised my hand to signal the waitress. That first beer was sooo good, and so was the second. But soon, I found myself hiccupping uncontrollably. And not the cute little “hic” ones either, they were the big, chest caving, throat clenching kind. I’m not going to say they ruined my night, but they definitely hindered it.

Twenty-four hours later, I was still hiccupping away. And that’s when it occurred to me that maybe someone “up there” was angry at me for breaking my Lenten promise and was smiting me with hiccups. Stranger things have happened. In fact, it reminded me of another time, long ago, when I found myself the “victim” of karmic justice.

Back in my Deadhead days, I would often buy tickets to sold-out out of state shows from this broker (aka scalper) for ridiculously marked up prices. It sucked, but I thought it was better to pay more to have a guaranteed ticket rather than drive 12 hours and risk not being able to score one at the show.  So this one time, I ordered  a pair for my friend Matt and I for a Friday show in Albany. The tickets showed up one day under my doormat – I wasn’t home, so the delivery guy just left them there, even though I was supposed to sign for them.

Seeing an opportunity to screw the scalper, and score an extra pair of tickets to the show, I called the broker a few days later and complained that the tickets I ordered never showed up. He put a trace on the package, learned that the delivery company had no proof that the package was delivered, and was forced to overnight an extra pair of tickets to my house. Huzzah!

Before leaving, Matt and I decided it would be really cool to use the extra tickets to “miracle” someone (Deadspeak for a free ticket that is bestowed upon a stranger in need) – but – on the way up, the plan changed to where we would trade the extra pair for the Saturday show and see both.

We were barely off the highway before we saw a guy selling tickets. We explained to him that we were just looking to trade, and he accepted willingly. He even offered to “upgrade” our Friday tickets to floor seats. We thanked him, gave him our four Friday tickets and drove away with two new pair for both shows feeling like we were pulling a fast one.

Turns out the tickets we traded for were counterfeit. We ended up having to buy another pair, for even more than the originals, and missed most of the first set. And while I can't say our entire weekend was ruined, it was definitely hindered.

Twenty years later, after a day spent hiccupping and regretting my decision to drink, I realized that maybe the Lord does work in mysterious ways. I went into this feeling pretty secure that there was no one up there paying attention to what I did, yet there’s no denying someone is messing with me! And for once I know it’s not Renee (for she was smited too, and spent the next day in bed with a raging hangover!)

So, if there is someone up there, please know I’m sorry for listening to Jesus and breaking my promise. It'll never happen again.

Oh, and that ticket thing was all Matt’s idea!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dumb Things I've Done

I came home yesterday to a clogged toilet. Nothing too terrible, or overflowing, just slow to no flush action.  Repeated plunging did nothing to help matters, nor did the old coat hanger down the chute trick. So I went out and bought an auger.
Nine dollars, and twenty disgusting minutes later, we had a functioning toilet once again. Granted, the inside of the bowl was now all scratched to hell, and my "new" auger resembled a…well, let’s just say it was gross  - but the toilet flushed. And I was flushed with pride, for I’m not exactly the  Mr. Fix-It type. I’m more of a Mr. Fux-It Up.
But not always. For some strange reason, I’m not too bad with BIG jobs. I’ve designed and built a house-length front porch, put in a sub-floor and tiled the kitchen. Built one of those giant timber playscapes.  Put in bathroom where there wasn’t a bathroom before (albeit with lots of help from a plumber and my nephew Robert, but still, I did it.) And all without major incident or injury – and - with a modicum of success.
But the small jobs?  
- Replacing a ceiling fan sent me to the ER for stitches when I foolishly used the giant glass bulb as support while unscrewing the mount. I held my hand under the bulb, using my free hand to remove the last screw that was bearing the weight of the entire fan –when CRASH! And slash. Blood and glass everywhere.
- Putting a cap on chimney to keep squirrels and leaves out of it nearly asphyxiated my entire family, when, while up there I noticed a lot of heat escaping from the chimney and thought, hey, I should stuff it with some insulation and cardboard to keep all the heat (and carbon monoxide) from exiting the house. Thank god, and Geof, for listening to my prideful boasting eight hours later, and questioning why I would seal off the only vent for my furnace.
- Most recently, I managed to (literally) cut my family off from the free world though the simple act of installing a book shelf, which somehow resulted in me cutting the wire that provided all our phone, internet, and television service.  I should further admit, lest you assume that the wire was buried behind the wall and I accidentally cut it while driving a screw or something – the wire was in PLAIN SIGHT! Mounted to the wall in a plastic phone jack type box – but - I wanted the shelf to sit flush against the wall, so thinking the wires were from an outdated phone line, grabbed some kitchen shears and cut it! Thank FIL Dave for being there (and being an electrician) as my wife and kids were all pretty ticked at me for making them go even twenty minutes without facebook and Yo Gabba Gabba.

So, all things considered, I was pretty proud of myself for my toilet repair (even with the unsightly scratches) as I knew things could have gone much worse. But I’m not going to start patting myself on the back just yet, as so far it’s only had to handle a few test flushes and a single pee. So if there's anyone out there willing to come give it a real test drive, there’s a free, “gently” used auger in it for you!