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Saturday, December 24, 2011

HO HO HO Now I have a machine gun!

Dear Dad,

               For Christmas this year I would like to give you the gift of the ultimate Christmas movie. You may be thinking to yourself that you have already watched it. Possibly you have witnessed Peter Bailey’s realization that all is well. You think you know that a BB gun is all little Ralphie needed to be happy. You cheered when Clark Griswald added twenty percent to his holiday bonus. Maybe you enjoyed Tim the Tool Man Taylor getting fat and growing a beard. Yet after all your holiday movie viewing you have yet to watch the one true Christmas movie. I am of course referring to the 1988 classic brought to us by ‘John McTiernan‘ starring ‘Bruce Willis‘ and ‘Alan Rickman.’ The one and only ‘Die Hard!’

               Bruce Willis not only provided us with an everyman type of hero, he also gave us a holiday movie with a real message. Let’s look at it shall we. The movie starts out with Christmas music and a giant teddy bear. The movie ends with Christmas music, a dead terrorist and a giant teddy bear. Our hero John McLane finds himself in the worst possible situation. His holiday hopes of wooing his wife back into his bed have come crashing down around his head. Visions of sugarplums are replaced by German terrorists with English accents and automatic weapons. Terrorists that turn out to be just burglars. Burglaring John’s holiday lay.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Missouri Hise and the Temple of D.M.V.

Dear Dad,

               It has been a life long dream of mine to own the cheapest versions of all the cool things rich people have. Over the years I have accumulated many ‘cool’ pieces of crap. Homeless people have long been envious of me. It’s to be expected, everyone loves a treasure hunter. I thoroughly enjoy my life as king of the lower middle class.

               I bought a boat this week. It is called a ‘Bass Raider 8.’ Not because it is the eighth model of a bad-ass bass boat, but because it is eight feet long. Essentially it is a rectangular canoe. It has two highly placed swivel seats and an electric trolling motor. While I don’t dock it at the local marina, I truly couldn’t be happier with myself. I can’t wait to do some raiding!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Flushed but Not Forgotten

Dear Dad,


               Too long have we men labored under the delusion that in our homes there lies in wait a throne. A cool porcelain seat, surrounded by four soundproof walls through which no nagging hails can pierce. A place of solitude and peace. A room where the magazines rule and time has no meaning. Well, it DOES NOT EXIST! This scrap of suburban lore has been smited like the dragons of old. The throne rooms of our forefathers are overrun by piles of dirty laundry and yellow bathtub ducks. Ducks that mock the precious few moments we have to ourselves. No matter how many times we gather the laundry and stomp on those ridiculous ducks, the next day will find more mildewing pairs of toddler whitey tighties and a smiling, squeaking, water squirting damn duck! A truer tale about man and his throne should be told.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In honor of the Halloween season I present you with 'A Trip to the Zoo'

Dear Dad,

               I decided to take advantage of my time in the great metropolis of St. Louis and invite my wife and children to join me at the zoo. Money is always an issue in my family and I felt that the zoo was the answer to my children’s complaints of never getting to do anything. The zoo is free after all. I called my wife from my hotel and made the arrangements. I would escort the five of them through the FREE wonderland that is the St. Louis Zoo!

               I stayed in St. Louis that Sunday. While my wife was getting the children ready and preparing to endure the two and a half hour car ride with four sleep deprived yet excited children, I slept in. At the last possible moment I drove the ten minutes to the zoo. There I paid eighteen dollars to park in the parking lot as opposed to seven miles away for the free pre zoo marathon so many others were partaking in. I called my wife and prepared her for the eighteen dollar lot entry she too would have to fork over.
My wife got there (late of course) and after she chewed a bit of my butt off for looking so chipper, we gathered the children and like Dorothy and her fellows we skipped into Oz hand in hand. Colton my three year old son informed me that he JUST WANTED TO SEE AN ELEPHANT!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cinder Man 3, No More Leftovers!

Dear Dad,


               When you have children nothing lasts for long, let alone forever. Sometimes it seems as if every time I turn around something else is broken. In the summertime, when sound carries the best my neighborhood is full of dog barks, child’s yells and Fathers shouts of ‘Hey what the hell happened in here!”


                When I met my wife I already had one son from my first (practice) marriage. It was this prior experience that gave me the courage to mock my wife’s nervousness. I remember when she was about six months pregnant with her first child she brought me a bunch of white plastic trinkets and doo-dads. She said she wanted me to ‘Child Proof’ the house. I looked at that young sweet innocent face, and then I laughed. I laughed hard and long until her face didn’t look so sweet anymore. Sometimes when it is quiet outside in the dark of night and the wind picks up just a little you can still hear ‘The Man’ giggle a bit. I threw the plastic latches in the trash, drove down to the local national guard armory and purchased the things I knew we would need through a contact of mine. I reinforced all the studs in the walls with solid steel beams. I put auto firing turrets by all the breakables and reinforced deadbolts on the silverware drawers. This is what experience does for you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cinder Man and the Dishwasher

Dear Dad,

               My lovely wife still doesn’t believe I am always right! After years of marriage and countless offerings of proof she still insists that I am wrong from time to time. I don’t know how to resolve this issue with finality so I just continue to provide proof of my infallibility. One such opportunity presented itself with the replacing of the dishwasher. The boss suggested that I have professionals come out and take care of it for me. However since I had never before removed a dishwasher or installed one and since I wasn’t sure how the machine worked, I decided that the missus was wrong. I informed her that hiring someone to do the job would be absurd. Of course I can do it. Yes dear, I know what I am doing. No dear, you don’t have to leave the house. Of course I am not going to burn anything down. I know that is what I said about the deck last year.

               My argument went on for some minutes until she was thoroughly convinced I would screw up. I believe that fixing things that seem difficult to fix is one of the few arguments a man can win resolutely. All that is needed is some raw determination, a good hardware store and a thesaurus with an adult theme to help keep your swears original. (I find that the more original swears often make spouses believe a job is much harder than it actually is thereby increasing the reward factors exponentially!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cinder Man

Dear Dad,

               The ‘Honey do’ list is a document that I refer to regularly. Early in my marriage this infamous list of chores was often times full of things I wanted to do. There were Items on the list like, ‘Teach wife how to shoot pool‘, ‘Buy wife bigger television‘, or ‘Date night with wife’ and even ‘GET WIFE PREGNANT!’
              
               Somewhere along the way though the nature of the honey do’s dramatically changed. I didn’t notice it happening at the time. The slow graduation of tasks was artfully handled by a fiendish mastermind. Even my own masterful man skills couldn’t save me every weekend from the webs spun by the chore master. The fight wore on for some time but I am beginning to think I may have lost. My skin is pasty and white, my eyes are permanently adjusted to the grey air of the garage and tool shed. When did I become this thing you may ask. I suppose if I had to narrow it down it was probably around two children ago.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Spaghettio's anyone?

Dear Dad,

                 Early spring nineteen eighty a beautiful woman gave birth to a relatively fat baby boy. Upon realizing the sex of the child as male, and associating that realization with the fact that the said child would never himself have to endure the pain of child birth, she did what all women in similar situations do. She cursed the child. She closed her eyes and prayed that some how, some way this infant male would be troubled by his own children in the future. Of course one silent wish alone isn’t a guarantee that a curse will stick. Mothers, in their infinite wisdom know this, so over the child’s next eighteen years the hex is reapplied with every minor indiscretion the boy commits.

                 As you know I have given you four grandchildren. What you don’t know is that I have succeeded where most men have failed. Apart from each child’s first few weeks home I have essentially avoided the dirtier parts of fatherdom. I am certain of this fact because my wife is very good at pointing it out to me.


                After so much time spent avoiding the effects of such a powerful curse, it only stands to reason that even I, ‘The Man’ would falter.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

For the 29th Time...

Dear Dad,

                In 1982 you took my mother out on a date and you allowed a fat two year old to tag along.

                In 1983 you gave me a new last name, even though no one pronounces it correctly it is incredibly easy to spell, so kindergarten would be that much easier.  Thank you.

                In 1984 you gave me my first Spaghetti-O’s with meat balls.  I thought it was poop in the bowl. I still don’t like meatballs, much to my wife’s frustration.  You also gave me a little brother that year.  He would become my sparring partner, my best friend and my worst enemy.

                In 1985 you taught me how to ride a bike, and as if that wasn’t enough you also taught me to catch a Frisbee with my face.

                In 1986 I rode my bicycle directly into the side of your vehicle.  I remind you that you trained me.  You didn’t get too mad though.  After all this was only the first time I broke one of your cars.

               In 1987 you began making me pick up the monstrous large piles of dog poop in our yard.  I still do not like meatballs.

               In 1988 you taught me a few jokes that mothers might not approve of.  I would say you birthed my sense of humor.  Many people today hold you responsible.  You also made the mistake of sharing with me the rebel rock music of the 60’s and the 70’s.  I am sure the resulting attitude of my teen years was not your intention, but there you go, it’s your fault.

               In 1989 you gave me the responsibility of walking my little brother to school.  He does not become my best friend for some years yet.  We were at the time of course sworn enemies, so thanks for that.

               In 1990 you allowed me to have a paper route, and then you didn’t allow me to quit the first Sunday I had to get up at 6 am.  Thanks for the work ethic.

              In 1991 you let me take martial arts classes.  I used this of course to deter my brother from being a pain in the butt.  It did not work however.  I give you credit though for trying.

              In 1992 you evened the playing field by sending my brother for martial arts lessons.  Then you sent our mother so that she would be better equipped to separate the two of us.  As an adult and a studier of men, I now realize this was just a ploy to earn you more napping time.

             In 1993 you gave me a little sister.  Almost immediately she pooped all over me.  I will never eat a meatball.  Thank you.

             In 1994 I snapped the tree off the steering column of your car.  I understand it was quite expensive to fix.  You didn’t get too mad.  It was only the second car I broke.  You cut all my hair off that year too.  Thanks.

             In 1995 you never once embarrassed me in front of a girl, even though you promised to every day that year.

             In 1996 you bailed me out….sorry.  Oh yeah I also ruined the clutch in your car that year.  I believe it upset you a bit that time.  It’s not your fault, the third time is the charm after all.

             In 1997 you helped me buy my first car.  To my utter disappointment you also taught me the difference between a Pontiac Firebird and a Pontiac Sunbird.  It was still a wonderful car, and to this day remains my favorite.

             In 1998 you turned me loose on the world.  We said our goodbyes and you did a good job of not scowling at the hole I called my first apartment.

             In 1999 you moved away to Phoenix, Arizona. I stayed in Missouri and began my quest to spread your noble name.  I was having fun practicing for this task.

             In 2000 I succeeded in letting the world know how old you are by bestowing the title of Grandpa upon you.  I also married that year.

             In 2001 you met your grandson and shared in the joy with me.  You taught me the true value of a nap.  A value I have not been blessed with for some time now.  I am enrolling my family in martial arts this year.  Thanks.

             In 2002 my house was hit by a tornado.  You instilled me with calm and assured me that all was not lost.  Turns out you were right. (Rainbows are round though.)

             In 2003 I began what would inevitably become a divorce.  You assured me that there is nothing wrong with a practice marriage.  You pointed out in all your wisdom that greater men than I had trod that path.

             In 2004 I met the woman who would become my second wife.  Yes it was quick work, and while I would like to credit you with the genetic passing on of my good looks, I am afraid that has to all go to my mother.  You did give me the spirit that won the girl though. Sorry and Thanks.

             In 2005 I remarried and introduced you to my wife.  After our 3 day visit you declared her a mute, and I cannot blame you.  Although I assure you she talks as much as any woman we have ever met.  I believe that in your presence many young people find themselves speechless.  Take it how you will.

             In 2006 I gave you a granddaughter.  I know you were pleased.  Pleased to have a granddaughter and pleased that I would now suffer the burden of raising two children.

             In 2007 I bought my first home.  It still needs a lot of work.  I remember how good you are with tools, so I will take this opportunity to thank you for not helping.


              In 2008 I gave you your 3rd grandchild. Another boy, to carry on the mispronounced name of Hise.  I had finally fully inherited the curse to be as burdened as you were with children.  Thank goodness I had such a great teacher.  Both my boys pick up the dog leavings.

               In 2009 I surpassed your burden and had a fourth child.  Another boy.  I am sure you are still laughing.


               In 2010 I turned 30.  It’s amazing how old you must be!

               Well Father it is 2011 and for the 29th time I bid you a HAPPY FATHERS DAY!  You sir, are indeed ‘THE MAN!’

                                  Love,
                                           Your truly grateful and sarcastic son.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The One that Got Away

Dear Dad,
               The other day I found out that I would have to leave the state an entire month for work. It’s all part of the job so it doesn’t usually bother me, but this month happens to be snagging season. Not just snagging season but the first season I have participated in. I promised myself that I was going to catch a spoonbill this year and now with thirty days left in the season I only have one last opportunity. I got up this morning at five a.m. At five p.m. I was driving three hundred miles to my hotel room in Indiana. I knew this would prove to be a long day. I woke up my oldest son and we crept out of the still sleeping house. I knew that my wife would understand and I promised myself I would be back by eleven to spend time with her and my other three children. She had seen the gleam in my eye when my friend called and offered to get me out on the river one last time, she knew there would be no stopping me.

               My boy and I arrived at the river at 6 sharp. The sun was still down and it promised to be a nice morning. My buddy pulled up with his boat and away we went. I have spoken to you before about snagging. It is an interesting way to fish. Basically you just jerk incredibly large treble hooks through the water and hope for the best. You cannot catch a spoonbill paddlefish any other way. We did have a fish/depth finder so that gave us some idea of where to cast.

               Two hours into the adventure nary a bite (it’s still referred to as a bite, I don’t know why) had come our way. My son was starting to grumble of boredom and my nerves were a little frazzled. This was my last chance and I had bragged to so many people that I would land a monster. My friend suddenly perked us all up by shouting out that he had a fish on. Quickly I reeled in my line and passed my rod to my son. When the fish surfaced the first time, the clouds parted and a ray of sunshine descended upon our little boat.
                “It’s a spoonie!” came the yell, echoing across the water. We got it reeled into the boat, my jealousy subsided a little bit though as we put the tape measure to it. From the eye to the fork of the tail, this fish was only 22 inches long. That’s two inches too short. Bear in mind that a twenty two inch fish is still pretty big when compared to most freshwater fish that anglers keep. So in my mind even though we had to throw it back it was still pretty exciting. We decided to take a picture of it. I handed the fish to my ten year old son. I figured it would look bigger with him holding it, and I knew that his boredom would be almost permanently cured. Sure enough he was all smiles as he turned it loose.

               Now I had proof that these monsters of the deep were indeed lurking in my river, and with renewed vigor I cast back out. Perched up high in a rotating pedestal chair, freshly rewarded with evidence of fish, my deep sea rod held in my hands a bit of song escaped my lips. “Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies…“

               As we slowly worked our way closer to our starting point I finally received a thrilling tingle. It started somewhere in the deep and crept up my one hundred pound test line and vibrated down the fishing rod through my fingertips finally reverberating somewhere in the center of my brain. Without thinking I set the hook. Immediately the rod jumped in my hands three or four times.

               “FISH ON!” I yelled. I began reeling at a frantic pace. The line was dragging out as fast as I was reeling and the result was comical. In my head I envisioned smoke drifting out of the reel. Thoughts of Ahab and Captain Quint raced through my mind. I adjusted the drag and leaned back against the pull on the rod. Suddenly I was nearly ejected from my seat. It was if my line had suddenly become snagged on a submerged log or rock. For a fleeting moment I believed it. There was just no give at all.

                My friend laughed and said, “you’re snagged dude.”

                “No, It’s a fish!” I cried.

                Still chuckling, he replied “are you sure?”

                 I leaned back against the rod again. It bent to the near breaking point. Twenty yards off the bow of the boat a huge paddlefish surfaced.

                 “One hundred percent sure!” I shouted.

                 My friends jaw dropped and my son stood up in the boat craning his neck to get a better view. We could all tell this one was going to be big. The beast had rolled and my line was wrapped about it’s body several times. I was now dragging it against the current sideways accounting for the sudden difficulty. It was no snag. IT WAS A MONSTER. Finally we got it into the boat. I was shaking from the excitement and physical exertion. My cheeks hurt from smiling so big. I don’t believe that I have ever smiled that big. My heart was pounding in my chest. It was enthralling. We didn’t even bother with the measuring and weighing. I just hoisted it up and had the picture taken. We tied it up and I secured a knot around the pedestal chair on the bow. We slid the fish into the water and turned the boat around to see if there were more monsters lurking in the same spot.

                  As my friend piloted his vessel I leaned over the side and snapped another picture of the fish in the water. I planned on taking many more photos. As I was putting my phone back into it’s holster the fish began to roll head over tail. Right as I was looking, disaster struck. I don’t know if the animals flesh gave way or if the line stretched in the water and slipped through the snap hook. The spoonbill broke free of it’s tether and disappeared in a final ripple and tail slap. The line floated in the water unbroken. Before either my son or my friend even knew it happened they heard the noise of anguish. No swears, no tears no blaming, just a long guttural howl emerged the bowels of my throat.

                 “NNNNOOOOOO0000000oooooooooo…..”

                 Birds lifted in mass from their roosts, taking to the skies. The wind picked up and the waves lashed out at the boat. The sky grew dark and in the distance thunder clapped. My knuckles grew white as I gripped the side of the boat trying to comprehend what had just happened. These are the lessons we learn. I have had a lot of fun telling this story and the best parts of fishing are the catch, the fight and the photos. Still no spoonbill in the frying pan this year. Am I THE MAN, I believe so. I had the most invigorating fishing trip of my life. I left town for a month, but I left my oldest son with a smile on his face. I have a picture that I fully intend to frame, and there is always next year my friend.

                 Love,
                          Your traveling, nautical angling son.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Early Bird My Foot!

Dear Dad,

               You know how I know that spring is here?  It’s the trail of ants in my kitchen.  I came home from work today and my wife informed me that we have ants.  We get them every year.  I spray the perimeter of the house with a mild insecticide and the problem goes away.  It’s easy but tedious work that always turns into a day of honey-do’s.

                Today was my birthday though, and I didn’t want to work so I told the missus what I always tell her.  “Honey, I’ll take care of it on the very next nice weekend.”  I of course was referring to the weather, and since it snowed today, I figured I had bought myself some time.  The problem is I used this same excuse at least twenty times this winter.  The list of things I am going to have to do on the next sunny Saturday is getting pretty extensive.  I sat down and began devising a plan to further avoid all this work.

                Don’t get me wrong I love plying the handyman trade all around the house.  All men do, but we like to do it on our own terms.  Men don’t work well with deadlines.  I like to just wake up one day and decide, TODAY I AM GOING TO CLEAN THE GUTTERS.  When it’s my idea I have fun doing it.  Don’t believe me?  Think about it.  I get to climb on the roof, get dirty, live dangerously, and of course I have a high pressure water sprayer.  It has so much power that last year I had to replace a small section of gutter.  It was AWESOME.

               As I sat pondering this dilemma my eyes fell upon an old ‘Bass Pro’ catalog.  Quickly becoming distracted by the colorful lures and deer antler shaped furniture I drifted to sleep.  Two things occurred to me in my sleep.  The first is that I am finally old enough to enjoy an afternoon nap with out being hung over and the second thing was the simple solution to my problem.  As it turns out I realized that all men have this exact same problem and invented the fix for it years ago. 


               Fish bite ALL DAY long.  They bite all night long too.  All men know this, it’s why fishing trips last so long.  No self respecting man gives up fishing at ten in the morning because it’s not early anymore.  Hundreds of years ago, retired men working Saturdays in their wives’ flower gardens got together and created the legend - “The early bird gets the worm.”  They used this slogan to dupe women into thinking that if their husbands didn’t leave at the crack of dawn then the fishing trip would be ruined.  It’s perfect!  Why it works I don’t understand.  Birds eat worms all day long, and the word fish isn’t in the saying at all.  I guess older generations were smarter, because those guys made it work.  All winter long we promise to fix the chain link fence and spread the mulch.  We say we’ll spray for pests and do the spring garage cleaning, and we say we’ll do all these things on the first nice weekends.  Women are natural caretakers so they don’t really want us out in crappy weather anyway.  The ruse works.  Then on that fateful sunny Saturday, husbands everywhere slip out of the house before the sun (and the wife) comes up.

                Sorry dear, the early bird gets the worm, and then we don’t come back until dinner.  After dinner it’s dark.  Can’t work in the dark.  Sunday is church, brunch and visit the in-laws.  Thank you old men from history for being so dang smart.  Last weekend I actually spent a partly sunny day organizing my fishing gear and building a rack for my rods and reels.  I was way too busy doing that to get out and do any other work.  Now I am fully prepared to get on with some procrastination and avoidance.

               Dad, you might want to kill me for putting our secrets in print but the message to get across here is this.  Ladies need to let us think the work is our Idea and not only will it get done faster but we’ll have fun doing it.  Oh sure there will be the occasional emergency room trip caused by some over zealous power tool usage but the work will get done.  Don’t assign us work because we are way to good at avoiding it.  We will create a story so powerful it becomes a saying that stands the test of time.  WE ARE THE MEN!!
Early bird my foot, come on!  You actually bought that crap!  Now don’t go getting righteous on us ladies, I believe there is another saying about getting to the retail outlet store early also, because all the good deals will be gone.  Come on!  We’ve been in retail clothing stores.  They have four thousand of each shirt, skirt and flowered flip flop on the racks plus extras stored in the back.  Tit for tat.

               Now while I don’t mind ruining lies for you, I would appreciate it if my wife never read this letter.  I really do have some fishing to do.  Thanks.

               Love,
                        Your scheming low down sneaky son.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Grills

Dear Dad,

                March is here and we have had our first week in the seventy to eighty degree range.  My wife has begun to drop hints about barbecuing, and she is making promises to the kids.  I am probably going to grill some burgers and dogs tomorrow night, just to break in the grill after it’s long winters nap.  In preparation I’ll have to clean the grill inside and out, check and probably replace the propane tank.  All this work for hotdogs and cheeseburgers seems a little crazy and uncharacteristic for me but I like to give my grill a little spring training every year.  You can’t expect your grill to wake up and just knock a brat or steak out of the park, you have to coach it a little.  Send it back to the minors for a day and let it work out any issues it may have.

                All types of grills have their shortcomings and a lot of people scoff at the propane grill calling them less manly and complaining that they can taste the propane.  These same people use microwaves all winter long, so they’re pretty much full of crap.  Besides the charcoal grill is a single mans tool specifically designed to entertain the ladies.  Oh yes, that’s what I said!  Entertain the Ladies.  First the young buck invites them over.  He reduces the standard female inhibitions with alcohol, he arranges the briquettes showing her that he could have been an engineer if he wanted to.  He lights the fire with a match, maybe singeing the hairs on the back of his hand and earning sympathy and hopefully some nursing as well.  Now he gets a half hour of guaranteed time she has to spend with him.  That’s thirty minutes of beer drinking and chit chat all aimed at one goal.  Then he gets to dazzle her with his culinary skills and feed her as she has never been fed before.  If he’s smart he ensures the coals stay hot by adding some more right after the food is done.  This way when dinner is over he can roast her a marshmallow over the white coals and make her a smore.  (That is a freebie for all you youngin’s taking notes.)  Ah yes the charcoal grill is an excellent tool not to be underestimated by young men or for that matter by the young ladies.

                 After marriage and children (4 in my case) a man is in a hurry when cooking out.  First you have to do the dogs for the children.  Then the real food for the adults.  There is more food to make so you need a larger grill.  It doesn’t work to use a charcoal grill to try and hide outside and avoid household chores.  A wife is smarter than that and she just sends the children out to play.  She sticks her head out the door and casually says something like ‘honey keep an eye on them while your staring at those coals.’  Listen close enough after the door shuts and you can hear her laughing softly as she slides into a fresh drawn bubble bath.

                 Needless to say ‘THE MAN’ cannot be fooled.  I purchased a large propane grill several years ago.  Now I produce barbecued animal flesh at an assembly line speed.  I’ve always maintained that married men strive to do everything (except one thing) as fast as humanly possible.  It’s an excellent grill, and if you use sauces and seasonings and good meat then that is what you will taste.  I recommend hickory.  If you're tasting propane then either you're doing something wrong or you need to see a doctor about your mutated taste buds.

                All this barbeque talk reminds me of an incident early in my marriage.  I always used the same Webber grill and employed all the tactics previously mentioned.  Those tactics will work on a wife too if you're still newly weds with one child or less, and you replace the beer with margaritas.  You need a little more kick now, because she knows that if you get what your wanting, she might have to go through labor again.  I picked up a travel size mini grill for free at a garage sale one day while I was on my way home.  When I got home it was a pleasant enough day, so I figured I would use it instead of my classic Webber.  I set it down on the deck and loaded and lit the coals.  I wondered why it wouldn’t come with legs.  Seemed to me that you wouldn’t want to set a grill on a plastic deck table.  I just assumed that the mini grill was manufactured not to conduct heat to the lip the grill’s bowl rested on.  I walked away from it and went inside to my television.  I’ve been married too long to employ the chit chat tactic and I was out of margarita mix.  Ten minutes later my wife came running into the room telling me the deck was on fire.  I rushed outside and picked up the mini fire starter from hell.  I set it on top of my Webber grill and turned to stare at the perfect sphere of scorched deck where the travel p.o.s. had been sitting moments before.  I started swearing and grumbling, I blamed the manufacturer for not putting a larger lip around the bottom of the stupid thing.  I yelled out to the heavens “No wonder it was FREE!”  I shouted to my wife “There should be legs or something on this dang thing!”  Later that night after we ate and the stupid defective grill had cooled down, I carried it down to the trash.  I was even more upset when I noticed that because I had set it on top of the Webber, I also melted the plastic knob of my only other grill.  I felt the same way about that Webber grill as Tom Hanks felt about his volley ball.

                 “WEBBER!!!”

                 As I turned away from my trashcan to head back inside I saw the underside of the nemesis grill.

               There folded inwards, were three extendable legs.

               It’s been years and my wife won’t let me forget about it, neither will the deck.  It reminds me every summer day by winking a giant perfectly spherical black eye at me. 

               It’s OK though, my sweet wife has given me permission to build a new, larger deck as soon as I can afford it.  What she doesn’t know are my plans to drop a hot tub into the middle of the new deck.  Oh yeah!  Who needs tactics when you’ve got a hot tub.  I’ll get to spend hours in hardware stores.  I’ll get to buy new tools and spend half a summer stretching that project out.  No diaper changing, no ‘honey do’ list. Just me, a hammer and my deck.  I also got to purchase my new baby, the propane giant that’s been feeding us for years now.  I can’t wait to attack my wife’s defenses with evenings spent in a hot tub.  So as you can see, even when I am not the smartest man, I AM STILL THE MAN!  Guys need to remember to turn their dumbest mistakes into the greatest of victories.  Also keep several fire extinguishers in the house.

                 Love,
                          Your singed & smoky, super crafty son.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Snagging the West

Dear Dad,

               I would like to break from tradition and talk about something a little broader than just my family and my successes in the realm of manhood.  I have an annual tradition coming up that is as important to me as opening day of deer season is to a hunter.  You know of course that I love to fish and I live very close to the Ozarks.  The Ozarks are a hilly place surrounded in mist.  ‘The Waltons’ lived there I think.  Nowadays the Ozarks are full of boozed up college kids and party yachts.  Fifty year old divorced men from Chicago with too much money, pounding down Busch beer and filling my lake with urine.  Still on the quiet side of the lake and on down past the damn in the rivers, we MEN gather to forage for food and entertainment.  There around the bend pointed south you will find me ‘THE MAN’ searching for the elusive.  I am of course talking about the great Spoonbill spring spawning.  Trout fishing is for weenies and city slickers.  If the fish doesn't weigh more than my children I’m throwing it back.  Snagging is what my friends and I do.  What is snagging you ask?  Let me explain.

               Missouri is a state populated primarily by the great-great-great grandchildren of lazy frontiersman. Few people can admit this, but it is wholly true.  A lot of people will talk about the outlaws that ran amuck around the state.  They will claim to be the descendants of Jesse James or Coleman Younger.  They will tell you that while he shot up New Mexico, Billy the kid spent his childhood in Missouri.  They will point out that Wyatt Earp grew up in Missouri and The Clantons he shot also were from Missouri.  They shout about Bonnie and Clyde and the hills that sheltered Ma and Pa Barker, Pretty Boy Floyd and Dillinger.  Well that is but a small percentage of the population, I assure you.  Most Missourians are far too lazy for bank robbing and such.  That is a lot of work. Let me tell you how Missouri actually came to be.  In the days of exploration and westward settlement, St. Louis was the ‘Gateway to the West.’  Settlers would travel by train to this burgeoning city and purchase the needed supplies to mount their expeditions.  From there they would set off across the Great Plains in search of the perfect piece of land.  They wanted nice flat land with black soil and plenty of clear water.  They searched for the blue skies and purple mountains majestic they sang about back east.  They wanted to toil and work and build their futures with their own two hands; or with the hands of their children who were building character.

               The people who settled the town I live in drove their wagons a mere one hundred and fifty miles. The land was hilly, but they were tired.  There was only an inch of red clay atop hard limestone, but their feet were already sore.  The water was muddy and brown and dangerously fast and large bodied, it tasted like limestone, but the sky was growing dark.  The weather changed every day and the only native wildlife were squirrels, opossum and raccoon.  Still they thought it tasted good with enough salt.  Salt they had plenty of, so they stopped forward progress, and declared themselves westerners.  One man made it an extra twenty miles and named his town California.  As if that would fool anyone.  I figure this is my ancestor.

               We hail from the ‘Show Me State.’ People always ask me what that means, they think it means that Missourians need proof of a thing before they will believe it.  That’s not true.  We believed we were in the wild west and there was irrefutable evidence against that position.  ‘Show Me’ means show me an easier way to do what those other states are doing.  We’re great at it.  Missouri, the land where the mobile home was born.  The beginning of moonshine and hillbillies.  The state where goats have almost completely replaced the lawnmower.  The land of the free, the home of fish that are caught with ease and eaten in great quantity.  I love it here.  I may never leave.

               Missourians have a rich and proud heritage of being lazy.  That is why we invented all these new ways to fish. We cast aside our fly rods and throw nets. Soon rods and reels too went away.  Even regular cat fishing became too tiresome, I mean you have to watch the tip of that rod all night long.  It’s exhausting! Jugging, Trot lines, limb lines and outright arm noodling replaced sportsmanlike fishing in this fine state. I love it!  There is nothing better than setting your lines or floating some jugs, taking a nap and then crossing your fingers and seeing what you've got.

               Now it is snagging season, it is time for me to get prepared. To snag the spoonbill or ‘paddlefish’ we still need rods and reels. We use very heavy rods rigged with salt water sized reels and tackle. We attach a large weight on the end of the line. Three giant treble hooks are spaced apart on the line behind the weight. Next, like police searching for a body in the river the lines are cast out from a boat and said boat is driven at three to five miles per hour. The forward motion of the boat pulls the lines trailing behind it off the river bottom. The cow like fish that hover in mid water eating plankton become ’snagged’ in the hooks and line. These poor fish don’t even have to be enticed to swallow bait. Oh sure every now and then you have to recast and the line is heavy. The lines will get caught on underwater obstacles and that is a hassle. If you do get a fish they are very hard to bring in weighing between thirty and one hundred and twenty pounds. It’s impossible to get rid of all the difficulties. Primarily though you just tool back and forth along the river or lake at a leisurely pace. It’s so easy it should be Illegal. Maybe we are outlaws but if so we are lazy ones. The season opened on the fifteenth and I am itching to get out there. Spoonbill is a delightfully good tasting white fish that goes great with batter and a deep fryer, (goes pretty good with beer too.) Wish me luck.

               Love,
                        Your lazy countrified outlaw son.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NAVY MAN

Dear Dad,

               Your two boys are all grown up now. Two men spending their time doing manly things. There is a difference though between the family mans’ and the unhitched military mans’ activities. These differences slapped me in the face when my little brother came to visit me this past week. I had an assortment of things planned to occupy our time. We went to the shooting range, we went fishing on the second largest river in the country, we even visited the hardware store. Of course that last one was because my wife also had an assortment of things planned to occupy our time. Her list greatly resembled the list of things around the house I haven’t yet fixed. My brother also wanted us to devote some time to our favorite video games and a strategic ‘World War 2’ board game. He also wanted to get out and visit a bar, like he said ‘He’s’ still single. I had four days to make all these things happen.

               We went to the shooting range first. He had just gotten a new pistol and he wanted me to shoot it. I set him up with my favorite exercise. Three shots from three yards, three from seven, three from fifteen, and a final shot from twenty five yards out. It’s a great exercise for scoring targets and improving your ability. We both went through it once with our .40 caliber pistols. I walked towards the targets to see how we did. I hit seven out of ten. That’s not bad, that means I missed two at fifteen yards and the one at twenty five. Oh well, it was just the first set. I looked at my brothers target. There was only one hole in it. That means he missed twice at three yards. Ouch. I figured pistol marksmanship must not be too important in the Navy. He must have known what the results would be because he shuffled towards me with a sheepish grin on his face.


               ‘I think there is something wrong with the sights’ he said. I looked at him a little sideways, a different kind of grin on my face.

               ‘Let me see that thing’ I half laughed it and half growled. I feigned disgust as I snatched it out of his hands. I raised his gun and stepped towards a beer can on the ground. Yes, as unsafe as it sounds there are always beer cans on the ground at the gun range. It’s alright to have a drink at the range, just watch out for a man saying, ’Hey you guys watch this!’ If that happens set your beers down and leave. I loaded five rounds into the clip and let them chew on the beer can. When I was done there was just one gigantic hole in the top half of the can. Four out of five of my rounds hit the can in the exact same place. I AM THE MAN. I handed the gun back to my kid brother.

               ‘Seems to be OK to me.’ The smile on my face couldn’t have gotten any larger. It was a delicious moment and I let the sarcasm drip from my words. My brother is a man though and he took it in stride. I gave him some pointers I inherited from my friends and soon he was hitting the target as often as myself.

              We went fishing in my friends boat later that week. My brother learned what ‘jugging’ was. We taught him one of the laziest fishing methods there is. We tied lines to empty two liter bottles. Hooked them, baited them and sent them floating down the river, we floated after them nursing beers and soaking up the quiet. The way jugging works is simple. The line ties around the neck of the liter bottle or ‘jug’ and when you get a bite, the jug stands straight up and down in the water. Then you just motor over to it and pick it up. At one point in our river trip we stopped to bank the boat. A line was tossed to my brother so that he could tie the boat up. He hesitated and asked me how to tie it off.


               ‘Aren’t you in the Navy?’ I said.

               ‘Yes, but it isn’t my job to tie off the carrier.’ He made a good point. He was always quick witted and even I laughed out loud at that one. So I showed my Navy war veteran brother how to tie a bowline knot. Despite his witty retort, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of tying and retying that knot.

                He whipped me pretty bad those evenings back at home at the video and board games, I have come to realize that I am not as hip to those things as I once was. He drank his beers faster than I did too. The next day I had to go to the hardware store. Things were broken and the Missus wasn‘t having it. The front door wasn’t locking. I had to get a part for it. I already knew how to fix it and what I needed. She wanted me to get a new dead bolt for the door too, but I told her I couldn’t do that until I got a new router and routers are expensive. My wife conceded, and I grabbed my brother and we went to the store. While I was there I looked at some deadbolts and chains and such, but I didn’t see any that I wouldn’t need a router or at least a special bit kit to install. I bought the part I needed and headed home. When we got back my brother told my wife that I almost got her what she wanted but I changed my mind. He thought he was doing me a favor letting her know that what she wanted was on my mind. I saw the frown on her face though. I pulled my brother aside. I had to explain to him that you don’t tell a woman about the gifts you didn’t get her. That just makes her think about it. She’d already forgotten about it. I was in the clear. What a goof ball move. I shook my head, he’s got a lot to learn.

               I’ve been picking on my brother a lot in this letter but there is one more thing that happened. Everywhere we went, women behaved weird around my brother. I couldn’t put my finger on it until one day we made five stops and at each store there was a woman behind the counter. They were flirting with him. It’s been so long since I have seen flirting, I actually thought they were being rude or something. They were out of their minds with the need to get his attention. I thought it was amazing. We look alike, we sound alike, why the hell weren’t they flirting with me. The answer came to me in Wal-mart. We were walking down a main aisle when a young lady stepped from between two displays and slammed right into my brother. In keeping himself from falling down his hand landed on her shoulder, or from my angle her right breast. Whatever though, he says shoulder so I’ll say shoulder. Now most men would auto react with an ‘excuse me ma’am’ or ‘I’m sorry’ or just an ‘oops’ and move on. My brothers automatic, instinctual and immediate reaction was to say… ‘How you doin‘?’ WOW! Well that explains it. It’s the ’Kavorka.’ Pure animal magnetism. ’Kramer’ from ’Seinfeld’ , ‘Joey’ from ‘Friends’ and My Brother. Long story short, while we may be different kinds of men, My brother is definitely also THE MAN.

               Love ,
                         Your hip shooting, lazy fishing, less appealing son.


               P.S.     My wife read this and decided that from this point forward my

                           Brother and I cannot go out unless a female chaperone joins us. 
                           Being THE MAN is tough.

              .

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Moving Buddies

Dear Dad,

               One beautiful Sunday the sky was a cloudless blue. The birds were singing and I’ll bet the fish were biting. There was even a gun show in town I was thinking on looking into. The temperature was a perfect seventy degrees, and I had nothing on the immediate ‘honey-do‘ list. So naturally when my buddy called to tell me he was moving I decided to give up my day and help him out.


               I agreed to meet my friend at his house at one o’clock in the afternoon. I got to spend a good portion of the morning moving all my work gear out of my truck and stacking it up in the driveway. I had my ten year old son meet me at the truck. I thought this would be a good character building experience for him. Boys need to learn to work and it seems to me that sweat is the only character building tool in a fathers repertoire. Every now and then you have to make your kids do stuff they don’t want to do, isn’t that right Dad?

              We got to my friends house right on time. The street was a parking lot of suckered men with pickup trucks. All of us marveling at the fact that this was the first nice weekend day of the year and we were going to work instead of play. After the ceremonious milling about and joke telling it was time to get down to it. There were supposed to be four trucks there, we only had three. Someone was probably attending my gun show, or catching my record winning fish.

               The very first thing we had to move was a couch and loveseat combo. Right away we discovered they didn’t fit through the door. Now I am an expert furniture manipulator so I took charge and we turned and twisted that couch every which way possible. Finally I decided to remove the door. After making that decision My buddy said something like, “Yeah, that’s what we had to do to get it in here.“ I was about to hit him a good one upside the head when I saw him fumbling with a small screwdriver. He had already started working on the first hinge. Quickly I went to my truck and grabbed an 18.8 volt cordless drill. It’s difficult to always have the right tool at home and on the road, but I work hard to be prepared. So in my truck is a drill with 3 batteries and a charger.  I strode onto the front porch, my drill resting in it’s patent leather holster on my hip.  Neighbors and local shopkeepers rushed to get indoors as I lightly fingered the handle. An array of bits dangling from my left hand sparkled in the sunlight.  The high afternoon sun cast my shadow over the door. The wind whistled through the trees and my friend feeling the eclipse of manhood, turned and cowered before Craftsmen engineering and glory. I asked him to put his ‘little tool’ away as I brushed him aside. I removed twelve screws in three seconds flat. The doorway was widened.  Angels sang and church bells tolled. Finally the sofa yielded to us (men and boy) and was carried artfully to the bed of my truck. I AM THE MAN!

               After that it was all down hill. We loaded all three trucks and I dug out my tie down straps. At first I couldn’t find them and the impending embarrassment of asking the others for an extra strap loomed on my horizon. As I searched the same bed box for the third time the straps presented themselves. There was no need for panic, I AM STILL THE MAN. I lashed everything tight, and checked the other two pickups. One of the other guys was lashing down his load and the third truck had a strap on the ground waiting to be utilized. Feeling good about my own load and knowing where the destination was, I left well ahead of the convoy. After three miles on the highway I did my due diligence and pulled over to retighten my straps. It struck me as a little odd that no one passed me as I did this. I mentioned it to my son. I knew he would be paying attention to the traffic. Boys love to be in the leading vehicle of convoys. He confirmed it for me, no one had passed us yet. Good, I thought. That means everyone else is being as careful as I was.

              I arrived at my friends new residence and we were indeed first. Ten minutes later the second truck got there, but no third truck. I got out and threw my hands into the air, as if to say “what the hell fellows!” I was then quickly informed that the driver of the third truck neglected to use straps and he lost a box spring mattress on the Missouri River bridge. The absolute worst place for that to happen. I knew that meant the mattress was gone. If you’ve ever seen furniture hit the highway at high speed you know it turns into splinters and shredded cloth. I lowered my head and nodded it slowly side to side. We have talked about preparedness before. Let the judging begin. The driver with the mattress load decided that the strap wasn’t needed. The owner of the mattress agreed with him. The real owner of the mattress (his wife) was pleased to get the leverage she needed for the incredibly expensive bed she had been bugging her husband for.  I offer this up as a lesson to all men that our little mistakes will always cost more than we can realize at the time.


             Of course the door at the new house had to be removed also and the couch still just barely fit. There was only one trip left to make and that was primarily for the big screen television. Considering the mattress fiasco, I decided to volunteer my services. My friend gladly accepted. A man’s television is an important thing afterall. Priority wise it goes Wife, Children, Other Family members, Television. They should make cradles for TV sets, I believe a lot of men would rock them while they are still new. 

              My son and I avoided the highway taking back roads, we even stopped for a second strap check and a soda. Needless to say the television arrived unscathed, and as I headed home for the evening I lectured my young son on the importance of doing something right. He paid heed and nodded at the right moments. I believed I had finally gotten through to him. He will be a Man. When we pulled up in front of the house, he jumped out of the truck while it was still running, ran across the street without looking and tripped on the stairs, scraping his knee. Normally I would yell at him but today I just smiled. Boys will be boys. Whether they are thirty or ten.

              I could use a new television, I think when it is time to move I will have my son and the driver of that third truck come help me out. Sixty inch L.E.D. Sanyo 3-D gateway to heaven here I come! If you want his number give me a call, after all who couldn’t use the extra leverage to get their spouse to agree to buying something new.
           
                       Love,
                                Your tool toting, strap packing, truck driving son.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Me and Sam Elliot

Dear Dad,

                A few weeks ago I found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror reflecting on a one week old mustache. My wife doesn’t understand how much is involved in this most manly of undertakings. As a matter of fact it is my understanding that most women find the mustache unattractive. Of course there have been some star studded exceptions over the years. Tom Selleck’s mustache for example could show up on the red carpet all by itself and be recognized.


               Women’s’ opinions aside, most men at one time or another tackle facial hair. I’m not talking about Luke Perry sideburns, or the Johnny Depp dirty lip. I’m talking about the bushy monstrosity that captures the flavor of your food and holds it there for you all day and night long. A full fledged Marlboro Man, Sam Elliot glorious soup strainer. The trouble of course is this gun fighting, bull tossing, rodeo riding image cannot be captured without enduring several weeks of a prepubescent face. We men spend all this time wearing stupid on our face, because regardless of what our wives tell us, we know that it will look good soon.

                 We say , “It will come into it’s own real soon, you’ll see.” What wife hasn’t heard this as she rolls her eyes and walks out of the room.

                 A week later I strode into the bathroom a victor. My mustache and goatee, and even that cool looking little triangle of hair under the bottom lip, had finally achieved a thickness I could run a comb through. It was time to trim. After all, the point is to look good, right?

                The trimmers were in their tray next to the bathroom sink. The light reflected off of the blades and the green L.E.D. glow on the handle indicated a full charge. I grabbed them with confidence and stared into the mirror one last time. A fierce lumberjack character stared back at me and shook his head as if to say, ‘don’t do it sonny.’ Very gingerly I began to even out the stray hairs that wouldn’t comb. I pruned and nipped away like a professional barber competing in the hair Olympics. When I was all done I put the trimmers down and turned to leave the room. I knew the missus would be pleased. I caught a mere glimpse of reflection in my peripherals.

                ‘That’s not even’, I thought to myself. Perturbed I snatched up the clippers again. In my agitation and haste I may have hacked away with a little less caution. The situation was beginning to get out of hand as I re-evened and re-re-evened. In less than five minutes I was left with a mustache that very much resembled the one I sported my sophomore year in high school. Three weeks of taking crap from my work buddies and my wife literally went down the drain. Just when it was about to pay off too. I am sure that I would have gotten the ‘Beef it’s what’s for dinner’ endorsement with that Wyatt Earp masterpiece of a mustache.

                I removed the guard from the trimmers. My eyes glistening, I cleaned the canvas I had so patiently cultivated. I wet a razor, foamed up and finished smoothing my face. Dejected I headed toward the living room. Determined not to say anything or smile, I sat down in my recliner. The only fun part of shaving everything off and starting from scratch is the game we men all play. For some reason family members who live with you day and night can stare you in the face and that drastic ZZ Top to Justin Bieber difference does not register.

                Well, almost instantly my four year old daughter jumped into my lap and said, “Daddy, your handsome now.” My wife gave me a sweet smile, and smartly, I let her assume that I had done this for her. Later I was well rewarded for my ‘thoughtfulness’ and sacrifice. I truly AM THE MAN. My mustache is retired until next year. Next year is going to be my year, I can feel it. It will come in to it’s own.

                Love,

                          Your baby faced razor burned son.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Judge, Jury and Man

Dear Dad,   
            
                 I have been observing the interactions between men doing manly things for some time now. Like an anthropologist, I mentally record repetitive behaviors and unspoken traditions. I have found that there is a common misconception in modern lore that suggests men judge each other based on size and power. This just isn’t true. Men do not judge each other the way that women or famous Germanic psychologists think they do. Nor do men judge each other the way women judge one another. Men judge each other based on general preparedness towards daily ’manly’ trivial tasks. I want to talk about two separate experiences I have recently had that support this hypothesis. I think Dad, that if women knew this about men a lot of domestic disputes could be avoided entirely. 

               A few days ago I gathered up all my guns and headed out to a local firing range to meet some friends. A shooting range is typically a getaway, a place for men to show off their skills. We always pretend that the weapons just need to be sighted in. The truth however is that guns are loud and scary, and therefore manly. Throw in the competition angle and you have got yourself a recipe for man gathering. My friends met me at the appointed hour (never late) and we began to assemble our arsenal. One of my friends brought out a couple of assault rifles. I had to turn my head to wipe the tear of happiness from my eye. The smell of the gun oil and the silence that would soon be shattered, created an atmosphere of pure joy. That’s when it hit me. My two friends would watch me shoot these assault rifles for the first time. I can hold my own with a hunting rifle, a pistol or even a shotgun but I had never before fired an assault rifle. As I picked up the first gun, I could feel their eyes boring into the back of my head. You see men don’t judge you by the size of your gun, or even by how many guns you have. The judgment comes when you are loading the weapon or how you hold it. Did you flinch when the gun went off?  It’s all about preparedness. We laugh for weeks about the guy that put the ammo in backwards, or the guy who fell down when the shotgun hit back a little too hard. It’s not even important to hit the target the first time. It is very important though to adjust your aim after missing. Men notice if you miss in the exact same manner over and over again. Fully conscious of the stares, I went through the first twenty shots before finally hitting a target over a hundred yards away. The enjoyment I felt at the decimation of a gallon jug only lasted a second. The jug flew through the air and landed in an awkward, hard to see spot. I only had 10 shots left and my friends were still watching, fully expecting me to hit home again. I did, and with just one shot to spare. I quickly and surreptitiously fired that shot into nothing, as if to say ‘My work here is done.‘ I certainly didn’t want the pressure of hitting the target a third time with just one shot left. The test was passed. I was judged and found guilty. Guilty of being ‘THE MAN.’ Next week I am going to barbecue at the range. I cannot think of a manlier way to spend the day.

               The very next day I joined yet another friend on the launch of his new boat. A boats maiden voyage is a great thing to be a part of, and because the seating is limited it is an honor to be invited. So we two men headed to the lake with boat in tow. Upon our arrival at the boat access ramps, we found the parking lot full. Men were milling about preparing to leave or waiting their turn to launch. My compatriot jumped out of his truck and got into the back of his boat and I slid into the drivers seat. I found myself in the unique position of driving someone else’s ‘baby’ and backing a trailer down the ramp with a crowd of men waiting breathlessly for me to fail. Already nervous because the boat and trailer were brand new, I eased the truck backwards at a steady five miles per hour. Not too fast, not too slow. I knew what the spectators would appreciate seeing. I wound up too close to the curb, but I was committed. The worst thing I could have done was to pull forward for a second start. As the boat entered the water millimeters from the curb, I heard my friend shout out to our neighbor launchers, (there were two ramps side by side) “It’s hard to find good help.” There was some light laughter and I knew that I had narrowly avoided being the butt of many lake side jokes. Seconds later my friend jumped up in alarm and yelled for me to pull the boat back out of the water. I pulled forward a few feet and turned in my seat. His face beet red from embarrassment he climbed into the back of the truck and tried to whisper to me that he had forgotten to put the plug in the boat. It was too late, the damage was done. The knowing smiles on the other anglers faces told all that the judging had commenced. I however felt redemption in the face of adversity. It is no small thing to triumph at a task in the presence of your peers.

              So you see now what I mean. Men can get stressed over a trivial daily exercise. Especially when other men are present. This is why we don’t ask for directions. We don’t care that we are lost. Other men won’t judge us for getting lost. Everyone gets lost. We don’t want another man to have to tell us that if we had driven just two more miles down the stretch of road we were already on, the solution would present itself. That is what embarrasses us. Men are supposed to be problem solvers. The ultimate man is probably a cross between ’Indiana Jones’ and ’Sherlock Holmes.’

              A few weeks ago I wrote you a letter referring to my ineptitude when working on cars. That did not bother me. It would have been embarrassing though to write you and say that I didn’t even try. For the most part women don’t get this. My wife doesn’t understand why I own tools I have never used. She doesn’t get that I cannot be the ‘guy’ who always needs to borrow tools. I need to be the ‘man’ who loans them out. When your neighbor knocks on your door to borrow a deep well socket, you don’t bring it to the door. You invite him in, you show him your tool emporium, you bask in the glory of it. It doesn’t matter that he knows how to use the tool. He wasn’t prepared. Is it embarrassing to call a friend with four wheel drive to un-stick your car from the mud? Sure, a little, but it is nowhere near as embarrassing if when he shows up he doesn’t have to get out of the truck. You being the prepared man that you are, have the tow chain in hand and hook it to both vehicles yourself, in the proper place. Redemption, respect, they go hand in hand. Men know this. This is why men get mad when they are forced to try and retry parallel parking in a tight space or when they need to ask someone for directions, or when they can’t find the tie-downs they need to help a buddy move. This is even the reason so many men who hate helping a buddy move, still own a truck when they have no other reason to own a truck. A well prepared man is a manly man. We are raised this way. A man always has a pocketknife. If you don’t have one when you need it, then you run the risk of other men assuming you are effeminate. Ask yourself this, have you ever judged a man on the size of the deer he shot? How about on the story he told you about getting the deer back to camp? He forgot his rope, his four wheeler ran out of gas, he didn’t field dress it before trying to move it. Those are the things we judge. This is why we don’t like shopping. A man wants to walk into a store, grab what he was there for and be out in ‘8 seconds’ or less. As a matter of fact everything we do (except for one thing) is done as fast as possible. Life is a rodeo. You ever struggle tying on a fish hook?  Out come the excuses followed by the frustrated swears. I won’t bother trying to explain this to my wife again, she listened to my hypothesis for a minute and dismissed me Immediately as incorrect. The Image we have of judging by size or style is so deeply ingrained in society that many women will never understand.

              Well I can say that my last two trials ended well. I came out a man, judged by a jury of my peers. It is only a matter of time before I find myself once again the defendant pleading for a second chance to prove myself. All I can do in the mean time is be prepared. If my wife loves me she will help me be prepared. I need a new fishing pole and I could really use a leather punch. I don’t yet know what leather needs punched, but I’ll be damned if I am going next door to borrow one.

              Love,
                       your boating, shooting, fully prepared man of a son.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Motor Miracles

Dear Dad,

               When it comes to automobiles I have never been real mechanically proficient. I know the basics. I can respond to the lights on the dashboard. The check oil light comes on, I check the oil and maybe add a quart or two. The temperature light comes on, I add some engine coolant. The check engine light comes on, I pull over, pop the hood and make sure the engine is still there. I have friends that watch NASCAR and rebuild transmissions, so I don’t need to know much. What I do know I have put to excellent use in a pinch. I have most of the tools, and I do enjoy taking things apart. That and a little ingenuity is all you need right?

              I was in my recliner the other day, minding my own business and generally enjoying pretending to nap. My wife stormed into the house seconds after leaving to run an errand. She said her car wouldn’t start and gave me ‘The Look.’ You know the look I’m talking about. It’s the one that suggests everything is your fault and if you don’t get up and do something about it your demise will be described in morning headlines across the nation. I believe John Wayne Bobbitt ignored ‘the look’ once. I craned my neck to the right so as to look out the front window and noticed that her car was pulled out in to the street blocking traffic. This, in conjunction with ’the look’ meant that I had to go to work on the problem immediately instead of putting it off until one of my buddy’s could come over. It was a Sunday so I couldn’t even call a professional. I resigned myself to the inevitable and stood up. My Wife explained to me what happened. The car started and she pulled out about halfway into the street. She realized she forgot something, so she parked right there and got out, when she got back in, the car wouldn’t start.

               OK, before I even began I knew it was either the battery or the alternator. I bundled up for the sub freezing temperatures and walked out to my truck. After I got my truck turned around I ran jumper cables between the two vehicles. Her car started right up. I walked around to the hood and grabbed the jumper cables. Now this is the real moment of truth. There is only a fifty dollar difference in the cost of a battery verses the cost of an alternator. A battery is much easier to replace though and most times only needs to be recharged. I prayed that she had just let the battery run all night and my work would be done. You see, a battery just starts a car. An alternator creates the electricity that runs the car. That means that if the alternator is bad, then when you remove the cables the car will die. The battery of course will already be dead from trying to run the car. I eased the cables away from the battery posts and gritted my teeth.

               The car died and just like that, my whole day was ruined.

               Never baulking at a challenge, I went to the tool shed and filled a bucket with the necessary tools. I removed the serpentine belt, metal support straps and a coolant reservoir. Then I went to work on the rusted bolts holding the alternator in place. There was one bolt left that wouldn’t budge no matter how much I sprayed it with WD-40 and strained against it. I called a buddy up and asked him for a breaker bar. He brought me a torque ratchet with a heavy handle, and that did the trick. He could have done it himself much faster, but he is a police officer and he was on duty. He was in full uniform and never came within two feet of the greasy mess I was trying to make sense of. I removed the alternator and drove it (in my truck of course) down to the auto parts store. This whole process took only about an hour so far. I was immensely proud when I plopped the alternator down on the counter. I knew I would be done in an hour and I had some serious napping to do. That’s when it happened. The shop attendant had disappeared around the corner with my accomplishment in hand. He returned in a minute and told me he tested it and it tested good. There was nothing wrong with it. I told him how, ‘I knew’ that it was the alternator causing the problem. He just shrugged at me.

               My victory high gone and my temper flaring, I hurried home to figure this out before it got dark. On the way home I decided that the problem must be in the wiring from the alternator to the various devices that need power. I got home and immediately removed more car parts until the wiring was exposed. Then I took a twenty minute break to retrieve my wrench. It is physically impossible to work on a car without losing a tool in the no-mans land between the radiator and the front bumper. This is where tools go to die. They never hit the ground and you can never reach the perch they landed on. That’s what that rattling noise is when you get your car back from the mechanic. It’s his favorite tool entombed forever under the hood of your car. That’s also why mechanics charge so much, they have to replace their tools. Well I left most of the skin from my hand on the radiator, but I got my wrench back. I toned out all the wires leading away from the alternator, I tested all the breakers under the hood and all the fuses in the cab. I brushed down all the connections and cleaned all the wiring harnesses out. I never found a definitive problem. It was getting dark so I put everything back together, breaking my friends expensive looking torque ratchet in the process.

                The total elapsed time involved was approaching five hours. I jumped my wife’s car one more time and went to remove the jumper cables, preparing myself to push the car back into the driveway. I don’t even know why I jumped the car again. I was tired, and wasn’t thinking logically. I removed the cables and THE CAR KEPT RUNNING. It was a miracle. It was illogical. It was absurd. There was no great explanation. Maybe it was a faulty connection and I caught it in my desperate every wire check. Maybe the alternator just needed to be knocked about a bit. Maybe the auto gods felt sorry for me because I didn’t know what I was doing. Maybe the wrench I dropped jarred something in there, maybe the car was never broke, maybe it was just tired, or maybe, just maybe… I AM THE MAN. Well my wife thought so anyway, as she finally left on her errand. I had her pick up a soda and a snack for her man while she was out. She found me back in my recliner when she got home. I was all cleaned up and sleeping with a small contented smile on my face.

                Love,
                          your greasy, wrench laden, rev'ed up son.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sideways User Names

Dear Dad, 

                I pride myself on my understanding of technology, after all I install internet and set up networks for a living. I am new to things like ‘Facebook’ and ‘smart phones’, but I have been quick to catch on and for the most part successful. Today I encountered my first techno wall. It was large and formidable. Unlike most walls, this one protected nothing important, my task was a meager one. Their was no maiden waiting to be rescued, no children’s lives were in peril. So why did I endeavor to persevere, why does it deserve a letter? Well judge for yourself.

               I was relaxed in my recliner, my laptop was where it was made to be, in my lap. My phone was on my belt. The children were playing on the floor, doing something more cute than average. I saw this and because in this day and age real time updates are of such extreme importance I ripped my phone from it’s holster quicker than ‘Doc Holiday.’ I flipped the camera selector to video and shot a thirty second clip of the kids. Now on this phone I can take a photo and then ‘one-touch’ share it on Facebook. As it turns out I can not do that with a video. The option just wasn’t there. It did give me an option to e-mail the video though. If I could e-mail it to myself, then I could save the video to my computer and post it online the ‘normal’ way. So I tried it. The phone gave me a very polite error message. The file was too large to be sent as an attachment. It was 5.27 Mb and 5 Mb is the limit. Murphy’s law prevails. Now I am starting to get a little pissed off. I mean what’s the point of being able to shoot video with your phone if you can’t do anything with the resulting video. I shouted this to the furniture in my living room and threatened the phone with destruction and cancellation of service. It paid no heed and continued to give me the same error message. Yes, I like most people refuse to believe the first error message, as if it must be mistaken. So I stubbornly tried to e-mail the video three times. Surely I, (the Man) can’t be wrong.

             Then I figured it out. The phone had a link to ’YouTube.’ I could send the video there and then post it for my friends. I clicked the appropriate boxes and the phone asked me to sign in to YouTube or create a new account. I typed in my e-mail address and filled out all the pertinent information. Then the phone asked me to select a user name. I think that everyone has experienced this nightmare. I crossed my fingers and nervously typed in ‘missourian.’
             Enter
             Sorry this user name is already taken.
             ‘Missourian’
             Sorry, you’re an Idiot, try again.
             ‘themissourian’
             Sorry loser, any other bright Ideas.
             ‘TheMissourian’
             Sorry, please get a clue, it is taken.
             ‘the missourian’
             Check user name, character not allowed.
             ‘fuyoutube’
             Sorry, sarcastic user name is not allowed.
             ‘garrett’
             Sorry dumbass did you think you were the only garrett in the whole world.
             ‘garrettehise’

             All of a sudden the phone did something else and I knew that I had finally succeeded. It was about time too. If my GI Joe kung fu grip had gotten any tighter, I would have broke the phone. In the split second the phone was thinking I mourned the loss of my usual user name ‘Missourian.’ It is a very cool name. I first starting using it on first person shooter games on my Playstation. I got the idea from the old western show ‘The Virginian’ and for a fleeting moment it occurred to me that it must suck to live in Ohio or Illinois because how do you say Ohioian or Illinoisian.

             Right at the peak of this enjoyed levity my phone informed me that an account already existed with that e-mail address. My god, I must have had this address for five years now, and one night probably after a night at the bar, I must have created a YouTube account. Well hell, I spent the next ten minutes guessing at all the passwords I have ever used. Finally I gave up and used my wife’s e-mail address, my new username and my common password. Success. I posted the video to YouTube, transferred it to Facebook and prepared to revel in my glory. Well the video showed up sideways. Anybody who watches it will suffer afterwards from taco neck. Six hours have gone by and my sideways video earned zero comments. Nobody even checked the ‘like’ box.

            I did it though, I conquered the wireless dimension. I AM THE MAN. After the yelling, swearing and tears, my wife brought me her phone and said, “honey, will you help me post this video on Facebook.” I’ll probably have to call in sick to work tomorrow, but we’ll get it done.

            Love,
                     your tech support getting, wired in, www.son.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Garrett Holmes

Dear Dad,
  As you know I have been reading the complete edition of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and thoroughly enjoying them.  It has been almost an obsession.  I have been reading none stop for days now.  I believe that I am in Holmes / Doyle’s head as much as anybody can be.  I love the Idea of any kind of problem being solved logically, because in a lot of ways that is what I do for a living.  I am so invested in these books that I envision Holmes in some of today’s prime time TV shows.  I see him as the Dr. in ‘House’ and as the Detective in ‘Law and Order Criminal Intent.’  I do this a lot you know, I seem to become obsessed with every little project or hobby I start.  I always read one genre or author at a time with fervor until the supply is exhausted.  Well on with the story. 
My wife approached me last night and stated that she has been thinking of having me pull the carpet up in the bedroom.  We already know that there is a hard wood floor underneath it.  She told me that her only reservation was that we might then have to rent a machine and finish the wood surface.  She figured this would be very expensive. (Notice that it never occurred to her how much work for me it would be.)  Now you should understand that the majority of the house already has hard wood flooring except for the billiard room, the back add on and the master bedroom.  I admit I was a little annoyed by the interruption, I put down my book and gazed at this lovely creature who finds all these things for me to do.  A small smile begin to play at the edge of my lips. 
I got up from my chair and began to pace the room.  I lit a cigarette and then sat back down.  I quickly turned to Misty and in my best educated British accent, said "My dear girl, calm yourself.  Have a seat, while I solve this little problem of yours. You say that you need the carpet removed so as to expose your pretty little floors but you cannot afford the expense of a nice finish. Quite so, well it is rather simple, just remove the carpet and I assure you the floor is already quite complete and finished gloriously."
She gasped and nearly feinted on the spot.  (In my imagination of course)  "Come now" said she, "How can you be so sure."
I raised my eyebrows a little and relished the next pull of my cigarette. "It's all very elementary” I said.  “Notice that the carpeting in the bedroom is Identical to the carpeting in the homes rear addition. The hard wood floors are original but the addition is obviously not.  So from this one can deduce that both rooms were carpeted at the same time, long after the floor was finished.  Haloo!  By jove!  What is this?  Here is a further proof for your peace of mind. Notice old girl that the Bedroom is exceedingly small, which suggests that it was carpeted as an afterthought, for as you well know carpet is bought in large quantity at a discounted rate.  The faux wood paneling in the addition suggests a do it yourself project, so we can assume it was done by a previous tenant.  Anyone who likes that kind of paneling is also the type of person to buy carpet as cheap as possible.  So we can be sure that the three carpeted rooms in the house were all carpeted at the same time.  By the by whatever you do, you need to retain the carpet in the addition.  The sub flooring in that room is almost certainly bare plywood.  Good evening to you Madame, I wish you happy remodeling.  I must retire now for there are many more things that shall require my attention in the morning."
And that concludes the case of the missing hardwood floor. Yep that's right I AM THE MAN.  Of course this whole adventure may have been designed by some criminal mastermind (wife) because as you have already guessed, yes that's correct.  I now have to remove carpeting.        
Love, your OCD crime solving pipe smoking son.