The Christmas Tree From the Bad Place Part 2

There was no snow this year in Bethlehem.

There was no snow this year in Bethlehem.

“Do not wrestle with the Baby Jesus!”

I’m not exactly sure when I realized that my kids had completely missed the meaning of Christmas, but I had an inkling that it had happened as I watched all four of them wrestling on the floor.  It was like the quarterback had dropped the ball – only it wasn’t a ball – it was the baby Jesus they were scrumming over.  It was a melee of screaming, crying, writhing humanity as they battled for the glory to be the one to put the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the baby with the upturned arms onto the waiting bed of ceramic hay.

I did what all good parents do: I took the baby away from them and gave it to the one who cried the loudest.  Molly got to do it.  It wasn’t that she deserved it, quite the opposite, but if she hadn’t been chosen she would have pitched a royal tsunami and to be perfectly honest, I was still a bit afraid of her at that time.  To keep the festive dog-pile from happening again, I wrote her name on the creche box and then explained to “all the dear children in thy tender care” that every year from now on we would each take turns putting the Savior of the World onto the manger.

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The decking of the halls always begins with the placing of the creche.  A pad of cotton is placed upon the piano top because everyone knows that it was snowy when Jesus was born.  I then put together the lean-to that Mary sits under and place it on the cotton pad.  Each child in turn then gets to choose and place each figure on the “snow.”  It goes round and round until the “Child of the Year” gets to place baby Jesus on the “hay.”

It used to be a sweet and touching tradition, but in recent years it has turned somewhat preposterous.   It seems that the ox and the ass are prone to wander into the manger where they try to eat the scarf off Mary’s head and the three wise men huddle in the corner, either throwing dice or trying to decide on which play to run next.  Joseph, stuck on the outside of the shelter and far away from his wife and son, looks disinterestedly at the camel like he wonders why it only has one hump.  Mary alone sits calmly amidst all the chaos and along with the cow, serenely looks at her baby as he lays on the manger with no blanket covering him even though the ground is covered in snow.

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Dream Crusher loves Christmas like no other holiday and wades into the fray with her ruler, slapping hands away from the scene with the practiced rhythm of one who would have been a good nun.  She quickly restores order and peace is to be had once again in Bethlehem.

There is Christmas music and it’s not tedious, but rather nice and soothing for the first few minutes.  The boxes are brought up from the storage room and D.C. takes out all the things she wants displayed this year and the kids get their ornaments out and ready to place on the tree.  Every year we give each of the kids an ornament and at this point in our lives we are awash in festive tree adornments.

When the kids were little they were always excited to decorate the tree, each placing their ornaments as high as they could reach.  When they were finished, the tree looked very bottom heavy, but it was beautiful and in their eyes it sparkled magically.  The next morning the kids would come downstairs to look at the tree and see once again where they had placed each ornament, but disappointment would quickly set in because in the middle of the night the Ornament Fairy had come and moved them uniformly around the entire tree.

“Mother! Why did you move our ornaments?!” they would whine in unison.

“Well, you didn’t put them in the right spots.  The Ornament Angel made everything perfect.  Doesn’t it look better?”

The tree from the bad place looked unlit even with every single strand of lights we owned draped loosely around it.  It was like a black hole from which light could not escape.  I am convinced that the National Weather Service noticed a distinct change in the ebb and flow of the tides because of the gravitational pull from our tree.   It took me over an hour to sling the lights around and over its carcass, but still I was forced to head to the store for more lights and even then it cast but a faint glow in the gloom of night.

This giant sequoia also ate ornaments for lunch.  There was such a gaping maw of greenery that once you put an ornament on a branch there was a chance that you would never see it again.  The Ornament Fairy didn’t stand a chance.  There were just too many bare spots and not enough ornaments to move them to.  D.C. was so distraught that she almost allowed me to put tinsel on the thing, which we all know is the cardinal sin of tree trimming.

When it was finally done everyone stood back and took a good hard look at it, but aside from the obvious bare and dark spots there was something terribly wrong.  The darn thing looked crooked.  I climbed underneath and undid the screws while the kids pushed and pulled on it, but no matter what we did it still listed to one side, like a ship taking on water.  There was nothing to do about it, but enjoy it as it was.  Not only was the tree big, it also rode the short yellow bus.

Everything was fine until we were about a week away from Christmas.  We were coping and had adjusted our routine to living with a tree.  We took turns using the one chair in the living room you could get to without crawling under the branches.  We watered it on the hour every hour for 18 hours a day because Dream Crusher demanded that it be hydrated.  She did not want this tree to dry out and spontaneously combust and blow the doors off of the house.  I think the thing actually put down tap roots and grew a few inches when it lived with us.

Moses prophesied ten plagues that would descend upon Egypt.  We experienced three of the ten, four if you include spiders.  There was so much entomological activity taking place within our tree that we were afraid the EPA would find out and declare our tree a wetland and never let us remove it.  The cobwebs hung from the chimney with care and spiders skittered around the ceiling like something out of a Steven King novel.

The gnats were so thick that a black plume arose from the tree if you brushed against it.  I got so used to swallowing the occasional gnat that I actually gained an appreciation for their taste.  The locusts didn’t swarm, but their smaller cousin, the cricket, made its presence known every hour of every day.  It got so bad that we almost killed an unblemished lamb and smeared its blood on our doorpost just to protect our firstborn.

On the second day of treemas my true love gave to me: a phone call telling me that the tree had fallen over.  I was at work, but she just wanted to let me know that water was everywhere and that she hoped the presents weren’t ruined.  There was a thick hint of sarcasm as she told me she “just wanted to let me know.”

I raced home and was able to get the tree upright and lashed to one of the ceiling beams.  That tree was going nowhere.  We filled the stand with water, but it was so dry that tree drank faster than we could keep up.  I must have put two gallons in it before I realized that the stand had cracked when the tree fell over and all of the water had spilled all over the presents again.

I may have said a bad word.

I won’t go into the gory details, but I bought a new stand, unlashed the tree and with the help of my son, a pair of 2x4s and some back strength, we lifted the tree high enough to allow Allison to crawl under and arm wrestle a new, industrial-sized stand to the bottom of it.  By this point I hated this tree more than D.C.  It was possessed.

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Christmas finally arrived.  We all crowded around the outside walls and the girls passed out the presents. As usual, there were way too many and the kids each piled them like a fortress.  We always open our presents one at a time (D.C. says it’s to make the day last) and as we went from child to child opening presents one thing became apparent.  The wrapping paper was sticking to everything.   It was like static electricity on a balloon only it wasn’t static – it was pitch. Everything underneath the radius of the branches was covered in it. The judicious watering had cause the thing to “bleed” like a stuck pig.  There were little ant hills of pitch, built drip by drip, rising from the floor like mini stalagmites.

I was done.  Christmas was dead to me and while the kids opened their presents in the dining room, I took what ornaments I could find off the tree and chainsawed the thing into tiny pieces and dragged them to the backyard.

Pitch burns really, really well.

This year’s tree.

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The Christmas Tree From the Bad Place Part 1

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We are not the Charlie Brown type

The Dream Crusher and I have been married for close to 25 years and in that time we have had our fair share of disagreements.  I hesitate to call them arguments because we’ve never really had a true “argument.”  Oh sure I’ve made her cry a few times, but it’s nothing to the overwhelming number of times she has made me cry.  If she weren’t so darn stoic I’m confident my antics would bring her to tears more often. But as it is, she usually laughs in the face of my “fury” and ends up spooning cold water onto my petty grievances and because of that (and because I’m really, really afraid of her), we get along as well as a Rabbit and an Eeyore can be expected to get along… except at Christmas

As I’ve gotten older this season of good cheer, Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Black Fridays and Kings named Wenceslas just seem to irritate me more and more. When I was little Christmas was a magical time of throwing up on Christmas eve, sleepless nights,  mounds of presents and heaps of food (including one shriveled orange and six hazelnuts in the toe of my stocking so that mom could feel good about the rest of the stocking being filled with candy).  I relished calling my friends to gloat over the new Fat Track I got and to make fun of the new underwear they got.  There was always deep snow and a roaring fire and the afterglow of a binge belly filled to make up for the emptiness of the night before.

Then came adulthood and responsibility and the never ending tundra of whiteness that the singer is always dreaming about on Christmas, but doesn’t have to shovel.  It isn’t always a powdery snow that sheds so easily off the backs of excited travelers as they enter the house in their Norwegian sweaters and balaclavas.  Sometimes, most times, it’s slush and it always melts to dull brownness.  Too much money is spent on too few kids, but  everyone seems so happy because of it.  But then the GI Joe action figures are inadvertently called “dolls” by my wife and the boys refuse to play with them and the dream of my sons having the exact same magical “Kung Fu, action- gripped” childhood that I had also melts into dull browness.

It is the season where someone is always getting their wings or telling George Bailey that she’ll love him ‘til the day she dies or wondering why they have to have so many kids (in that moment I am on George’s side).   There is the ever present  BB gun with a compass in the stock and the Bumpasses’ dogs and shooting your eye out and someone is always getting their tongue stuck to a flag poles and no one ever knows where Flick is.

Cindy Lou Who is always cute (though she now plays in a punk rock band) and the Grinch’s heart is in a perpetual state of growth because Christmas isn’t about the presents, it’s about friends.  There is always a kid in the street ready to get the biggest goose in the world from the butcher shop down the street and Tiny Tim is always tiny and he always lives, but there is no mention of that other thing, the X of the season.

Washed up and drug addicted singers are constantly singing of the baby Jesus or new shoes or wanting Santa Baby to give them something expensive and Michael Jackson is always freaked out because his mom is making out with Santa next to the Christmas tree (wrap your head around that one and see if it doesn’t explain a lot of things).

The avalanche of Christmastide is continual and relentless from the day the month chimes November and doesn’t stop until I get to the point where I wish Jesus had never been born and then I realize that this season has nothing to do with Jesus and I swear that next year I  will donate all the money I would have spent on Christmas to an orphanage in Bangladesh and then I have a hot buttered rum and things somehow get better.

And there is always the ever present Christmas tree.  Some of our biggest disagreements have had to do with the Christmas tree.  The “issue” rears its ugly head the moment we all pile into the car and head out to wrangle us a Christmas tree.  For some reason, every year, Dream Crusher has this idea that our Christmas tree needs to be the size of a small topiary – just tall enough so that we can smile for the camera as we put the angel on top without standing on a chair.

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Her husband and children, who are thankfully made of sterner, Irish stock, have dreams of vast vistas of Christmas trees that need extension ladders in order to put the angel on the peak.  Since we are legion we get our way.  In Dream Crusher’s mind she’s trying to keep the leg lamp out of the window, except that our lamp is a Christmas tree with a trunk the size of an East German woman’s thigh – a thigh so massive that it needs to be tied to the beams in the living room to keep it upright.

Last year’s Christmas tree was a definite low water mark in our marriage and almost caused the cancellation of Christmas in the O’Bryan household.  Weeks before we were to get our evergreen object of worship, Dream Crusher began her annual campaign for a slightly smaller tree.  But all I heard when she brought up the Christmas tree was something on the order of blah, blah, blah tiny tree, blah, blah, blah microscopic tree.  I’m sure she had her reasons for not wanting a big tree, but I had a hard time hearing myself think with all that yakking going on.

When the time came to finally get the tree and we were pounding holes in the snow with our feet out on the tree ranch, I realized that this was one dream that wasn’t going to be crushed for we had inadvertently stumbled onto the secret steroid tree farm where all the trees were the size of Redwoods.  Kelly begged us to turn around and allow her to buy one from the tree lot.  I was having none of it.  We were on an adventure.  We were making memories.  You don’t get memories from a stinking tree lot! Besides, for some strange reason, in that expanse of sky, all of the trees looked amazingly reasonably sized.

The kids and I picked out a remarkable tree that like King Saul, stood head and shoulders above all the others.  I plopped onto my back and shimmied under the tree to get at the trunk with the saw.

“John?” D.C. asked in a quavering voice.  “Are you sure this is the tree we want? I can’t see your feet.”

It was too late.  The proverbial axe was already laid against the trunk and i was already on my back sawing like a madman.  There was a loud crack like a howitzer had gone off next to my head and the tree started to tilt.

I yelled “Timber!” but I was so muffled by the branches that I knew no one could hear me and I prayed they would run in the right direction.  When the tree crashed to the ground I felt like I had received an answer to the age old question of whether a tree makes a sound in the forest if no one is there to hear it.

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It took a good thirty minutes to drag the beast to our Subaru and then another ten to wrestle it onto the roof.  The entire body of the car sagged and moaned as the tree engulfed our tiny red Forester.  I climbed through the back and rolled down all the windows so I could lace the rope through the interior because roof rack was completely hidden and useless.  There was a small group of children that I heard ask their parents why they weren’t getting a man-sized tree like our family had.  I felt an immense sense of pride when I eased the car slowly out of the ranch, like I had just killed and skinned a moose and was bringing it home for the family to feed on all winter.  Subaru even used the picture of our tree topped Forester to demonstrate how awesome Subaru owners are (true story).

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When we got home I had everyone stand back while I cut the cords holding the tree to the car.  They loosed with a twang like a baby grand piano wire snapping.  The tree leapt from the roof like a freed criminal and took out a rose bush and a gutter downspout before it rolled to a stop next to the front porch.

Undaunted, I trimmed the excess branches off the trunk so I could attach the plastic tree stand.  It should have concerned me when I counted the tree rings and it turned out to be older than I was, but manliness is blind, and with the help of my chainsaw and some judicious trimming I was able to finally sledgehammer the stand to the end of the trunk.  The kids quickly tightened the “thumb screws”  as I leaned against it.

Everyone helped push and pull the baby Sequoia through the front door.  Everyone, that is, but Kelly. She was still lobbying (translated as beseeching ) me to take the vile creature away from her house and return it for a full refund, minus shipping and handling of course.  On we went (ignoring her pleas), sounding like a rowing crew manning the oars, chanting “pull, pull, pull.”  With each chant the tree inched closer to its final resting place, taking molding and paint along with it until with a loud whoosh the branches, trunk and all were lying on its side in the living room.

We don’t have a huge living room; it’s good sized and has vaulted ceilings, but when we wrestled the tree into a vertical position and I had tied her off on one of the overhead beams it filled the entire room – and I mean completely filled.  It was so big around that we literally could not see each other if we were standing on opposite ends of the room.  It was like a bottle brush and our living room was the bottle.

“There,” I said, as nonchalantly as possible as I stood wedged between the branches and the wall.  “Fit’s perfectly.”

Dream Crusher fought her way out of the living room like a small jungle explorer, turned and said, “Yep.  Fits just like a glove.” and then she was gone.

The look in the kids’ eyes was one of awe, sheer awe, like the entire real forest had come to our house for a sleepover.

I climbed under the tree to see if could maybe push it closer to the window in order to give us more room. It didn’t budge, but the blind did fall off the casing. Ignoring the house as if fell around my ears I pulled with the strength of Samson after his hair was cut, but my hands gave way and slipped off the trunk.  Blood flowed freely, but I couldn’t feel it because my hands were frozen.  Even though the house was set to a balmy 68 degrees, the inside of the tree it was freezing.  The stupid thing had its own micro-climate and fog was washing over me from above as the tree warmed from the outside in.

I called for my loppers and when they were firmly duct taped to my frozen hands I began working my way up the back of the tree, cutting every branch as close as I could to bare wood without losing all of the green. With one half of the tree gone it snuggled up nicely against the window.  From the living room side it was beautiful.  However, from the window side it looked like it had been dragged behind the car all the way from the tree farm.

I sat in the couch and marveled at this beauty that God had created.  Pitch and needles and discarded branches were everywhere and the living room looked like a Picasso painting, but we had our tree – the state record for that year I think.

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I Was Six Years Old Until I Was 47

This is not me, but my dad wearing the safest flotation device on the planet.

This is not me, but my dad wearing the safest flotation device on the planet.

I finally turned 47 when my dad died.

I’m still not sure how I found myself, a 40 year old man, sitting in my dad’s boat with an orange “Mae West” floatation device strapped to my body as we looked for his crab pots in a lee inlet within 100 feet from shore.  Then again, I was fishing with my dad and something would have been amiss had I not been wearing it.

It was just the two of us and there were other perfectly good life vests in his 16 foot Lund, but for some reason he wouldn’t let me in the boat until I strapped the bright orange life preserver to my body.  Dutifully hanging it over my head, I snapped the rusty clasps shut with as much anger as I could muster.  There was no arguing – I had to wear the vest, but there was no way I was going to attach the strap that goes under the legs to keep it from flying off in in case you do fall in, so I let it dangle behind me like dirty white tail hook.

“Snap the leg strap, John!”

I turned without a word and walked with as much dignity as I could muster through the sunbathers, fellow fishermen, and families enjoying a pleasant day at the beach.  Ignoring the snickering and pointing children and tugging at the tail strap every few feet to free it from the cracks and crevices it kept getting stuck in, I made my way to the boat.  I climbed in and sat there in the bow, knowing that I wouldn’t be allowed to push the boat off from shore for fear that I might fall in or get wet.

Putting on a “Mae West” life preserver may keep you safe in the event that you get knocked out and thrown overboard, but there is a reason that no one has ever called it a “dignity preserver.”  There is nothing life-affirming about wearing one.   It’s like wearing a “cone of shame”  to keep you from biting or scratching yourself or like being forced wear adult diapers on the outside of your pants  and then having to walk down main street.

I was wearing this particular flotation device because, in my dad’s eyes, I was in a perpetual state of being six years old.  Because I labored in this perpetual state of sixness I was never allowed, in his presence, to start the gas grill, lean against a deck rail, use spray paint or solvent, and, I always had to stand at the top of the boat ramp while he launched the boat by himself.  If anything he owned could potentially kill me he would not allow me near it.  It was like his house had been child-proofed for his 40 year old son and all potentially harmful items were removed from his garage, shop or house and stored in an undisclosed location when I came over.

It’s not like I’m totally helpless.  I change my own oil, remodel houses, use chop saws regularly, drive boats, mix gas, use a snow blower, and carve a really mean turkey and never once have I had to make a quick trip the ER with a piece of my body on ice so it wouldn’t die before it could be reattached.  But in Earl’s eyes I was the kid that had to wear a “special” helmet when I walked down the street in case I fell down or accidentally walked into a street sign.

His entire life he worried that something would kill me unexpectedly and his relationship to me always reflected that.  He didn’t go as far as smoothing all the sharp corners in the house, but he did give away his boat, his classic car and his golf cart so I wouldn’t get them after he died.  His single greatest fear was that something he once owned, that I now owned, would kill me or one of my kids.  It was so frustrating and made me want to scream and run circles around him with a pair of scissors in each hand and a butcher knife clutched between my teeth point first.

Because of Earl’s morbid fear of my death, there were certain rules that I always had to obey in his presence and one of them was to never, ever stand up in a boat. This had been so thickly ingrained in me for so long that when I took a ferry ride from Seattle to Port Townsend I never stood up once.

If you have labored under this particular penal institution then you will know that there are certain things that are made extremely difficult if you aren’t allowed to stand in a boat, like pulling up crab pots or peeing over the edge.  I never got good at pulling up crab pots while seated, but I became a master at the other.

NB: Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit.  I WAS able to stand up in a boat on occasion, but only if my dad or mom had a hold of the back of my pants, which made it difficult and more embarrassing to do the aforementioned.

As I got older I almost always patently refused to get in the boat with my dad, but he had promised that people were hauling crab by the bucketful and that he had dropped his pots the day before and would need help hauling them.  I love crab so much that I was willing to endure almost anything and that is how I found myself sitting in the bow of the boat wearing a bright orange life vest on a sunny, flat calm day as people frolicked and played all around us.

The trip to the pots took all of about sixty seconds and as my dad cut the motor I began preparing to pull the pots.  I stood up slowly (so I wouldn’t swamp us) and leaned over the railing to get the buoy, but before I knew what was going on his hand shot out and had me by the back of the pants.  He was a very strong man and had dug deep and had such a large handful of pants and underwear that I could barely move.

I squeaked, “Dad!  You’ve got to let go.”

“Grab the pot.”

“Dad!  Let go!”

“You’re going to miss it.  Grab the pot.”

I stood there for a second facing away from him with my arms crossed and his hand firmly clasped to my posterior, giving me an unintended atomic wedgie.  Defeated, I leaned over to grab the pot and found myself stuck in a sort of limbo between the water and my struggling father.  I grabbed the rail of the skiff and pulled myself closer and stretched my arm out to grab the buoy, but the more I stretched towards the buoy, the more he tried to keep me in the boat.

“Dad!  You’ve gotta give me some slack.”

“You’ll be fine.  Get the buoy.”

“Dad, lighten up.  Let go!”

“Get the buoy.”

He was like the counter-balance to my 200 pounds and my pants were the fulcrum.  I leaned as far as I could and felt my pants reposition.  Cold air greeted areas of my body that were not used to the elements and I knew that I was exposing my white shininess for all the world to see.  I was giving Earl a harvest moon in the middle of the summer and it made the indignation somewhat easier to bare (sic).

As I struggled, the “Mae West” ran up around my ears (effectively shutting out all sound) until all that could be seen of me was my hat and eyes. The muffled world that I was now lost in gave me a renewed focus and all that mattered was grabbing the buoy.  I was vaguely aware of Earl’s voice, and assuming that he was telling me not to kill myself, ignored him and pushed off hard with my legs, stretching my entire length and catching the buoy like a rider catching the ring on a carousel.

I held it up in triumph and grabbed for the side of the boat to pull myself in, but the extra weight of the buoy and wet line tipped the scale in my direction and I felt my pants slip down quite a bit more.  I was floundering, literally, as I flailed to catch my balance.  I made a last ditch effort to fling my arm over the rail and as I twisted, the belt on my pants gave way and I hove into the water with a near perfect entry (except for a large splash that would have resulted in a 5/10 deduction from the Russian judge).

The “Mae West” is designed to flip an unconsciousness victim over in the water to keep them from drowning.  It worked as designed and I bobbed once face down and then, against my struggling will, was on my back looking into a clear blue sky.  I was also looking at a ski boat filled with people, none of them wearing life vests, mind you (in fact there were one or two women wearing less than life vests).

I bobbed there between the boats trying desperately to keep my pants from falling down and trailing beneath me like a Portuguese Man-of-War.  It was impossible to re-embark into my own boat with one arm holding my pants up and if I used both arms I was sure to burn up on re-entry.  My dad (all thoughts of me gone from his mind) was having a pleasant conversation, telling these nice people where the best fishing and crabbing was.

Ever the gentleman, he pointed to me.

“Any of you ever been to Pullman?” he asked. They all nodded. “My son runs WSU.  Go Cougs! Right John?”

I feebly waved and tried to tell them that I worked at the bookstore.

Dad interrupted me to tell them where he had once caught a huge salmon.  He pointed and gesticulated with my belt and even gave them his number to call him if they needed further information.  For the life of me though I didn’t see any fishing gear on that boat.  They waved, turned off their cameras and sped away.

After they left I pulled myself over the side of the boat like a walrus beaching itself (Dad was still waving and yelling, “Go Cougs!, Go Cougs! Go Cougs!”). I struggled to reattach my belt to my wet pants and thought of pushing him in as he watched them speed off.

“You know,” he said without turning towards me, “nice people.  I’ve never met anyone from WSU that I didn’t like.”

I hadn’t let go of the buoy when I fell in and it sat at my feet.   I stood to pull the pot and dad’s hand instantly reached for me.  I spun towards him and held up my finger (my index one in case you were wondering).

“Uh uh! Don’t even think about it.”  He turned away slowly and then quickly back again.  That trick hadn’t worked in 34 years and I hadn’t moved.  Defeated he sat down, rummaged through his bag and poured himself a cup of coffee.  I flinched instinctively and began pulling up the pot.

It was heavy and when I finally got it to the boat I could see that it was stuffed with crab.  I hefted it over the rail and the crabs ran all over the boat.  I deftly picked up the little ones and the girls and tossed them over the edge.  The legal ones I plopped into a 5 gallon bucket.

My dad sat on the back seat and pulled the bucket between his legs and began cleaning the crab by ripping off the shell, breaking them in half and washing them in the water.

I was still chasing the small crabs around the boat and trying to clean the star fish and sea weed from underneath the seats when my dad let out a blood curdling scream and strung together the finest pearl necklace of profanities that I have ever heard anyone utter.

I turned to see him making a valiant effort to shed a crab that had reached up, in a last act of defiance, and grabbed a beautiful clawful of the tender skin right smack in the middle of Dad’s inner thigh.  If the Dungeness had reached for the low hanging fruit I would have felt terrible, but as it was it seemed to me to be about the right amount of retribution and I smiled inwardly, a warm glow filling my heart.

With a spring that only joy can produce I leapt  over the seat and with a hard tug pulled the crab from his leg (like ripping a band-aid off of a hairy leg, quick, but not pain free).  Dad howled in agony as the crab came free and he leaned back, gripping the bleeding spot with both hands.  When his back was turned I slipped the offending crab over the edge of boat and plopped it into the water.

Dad turned, looking with death in his eyes for the crab.

“It slipped out of my hands, Dad, and fell into the water.”

“Well, shoot.” Only he didn’t say shoot.

He looked in disbelief over the edge of the boat and watched as the crab sank slowly to the mirky bottom.   My cheerfulness left me as I saw the pain in his eyes and I reached up and grabbed firmly onto the back of his pants – just to be safe.

Teaching Molly the finer points of crabbing

Teaching Molly the finer points of crabbing

Grandpa Earl wasn't the only one with a crab pinch.

Grandpa Earl wasn’t the only one with a crab pinch.

Hot Coffee, Stained Pants and Skin Grafts

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My dad’s coffee gave me the jitters.

Earl was 70 years old when had his first latte.

“Betty, you ever had one of them double Lah..Tays!?”  Betty is my sister (and from Seattle – the latte capital of the world) and it was more of a statement to her than a question.  “It’s the best thing I’ve ever had.  One of the guys bought me one on the way to the golf course today.  I like them!  You ever had one?”   He was off and running before she could answer.  “You ever watched Meerkat Manor?  It’s about these animals that stand up on their back legs and look at stuff.  It’s my favorite show.  Speaking of animals the democrats are ruining our country.  Did you watch the Mariners last night?  They lost again.  Can’t hit to right field.  I played  terrible golf today.  Couldn’t see the ball.  Couldn’t care less.  It was a great round.  Hey, have you ever had a  double Lah..Tay before?”

Earl had never mainlined coffee and I can only imagine that the heavens must have opened for him and he saw salvation on every street corner with a drive-through.   Folgers was the gateway drug into a pure, undefiled, caffeinated woop-woop, heck, I’m going to live forever,  look out, Earl is on the loose feeling!  If his ADHD was bad on Folgers, it was on afterburners when he was on the good stuff.  His crash that evening must have been epic – like taking Nyquil with a whiskey chaser.

As a child I never really understood my dad’s love affair with coffee, but from my earliest years I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t working through at least one cup and hollering at my mom for a refill when it was empty.  Heck, there were times he didn’t even holler, just raised the cup above the daily paper and shook it back and forth like a beggar shaking his tin cup at passersby and my mom, in her beaten down exasperation, always got up and refilled his cup.  At the time it seemed normal, but now I wonder why she didn’t pour it over his head.  I guess it was always so much easier to do what he demanded than to fight with him about it.

NB: When I was a teenager I turned agreeing with Earl into an art form.  I could agree with him in such a way that it would give him apoplectic fits.  When he berated me for my lack of motivation and told me I would amount to nothing better than a ditch digger (the epitome of the lowest of the low), I would tell him in my best Disney voice that if that happened I would be the best darn ditch digger I could be.  Combine that insolence with my innocent expression and hand motions and I could bring him to the brink of violence in a heartbeat. 

In reality I was petrified of Earl’s coffee.  I know it may seem odd to be afraid of coffee, but I had seen what it could do and wouldn’t come near it after mom set it next to him.  In her hands it was safe.  In his hands it was a liquid hand grenade in a cup.  It was a hot blue mug of steaming nitroglycerin ready to explode at the smallest provocation and my dad was always that provocation.

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Earl had ADHD before anyone even knew what ADHD was and I lived in constant fear that his searing hot coffee would engulf me in a tsunami of brownness and scald me over 90 percent of my body.  He wasn’t one of those burn-your-kids-on-purpose kind of dads, but his distraction drove me to be very attentive whenever there was coffee around and especially when we were in the car.

Drinking while driving was one of the monkeys that my dad was never able to get off his back.  But that monkey had nothing to do with alcohol and everything to do with coffee.  The family’s AMC Jeep Wagoneer was a marvel of American ingenuity in every way but one – it had no cup holders.  It could climb a waterfall of ice in winter, carry enough gear to outfit an entire baseball league, and haul the carcasses of six dead deer and one Christmas tree all at the same time, but it lacked that one very important feature. And, if anyone on this planet could have used a cup holder, it was Earl.

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Driving anywhere with my dad was an adventure, but heading to a baseball game always brought his frenzy to a different level.  He would open the driver’s door and throw in his Thermos, shattering the insides like a Christmas ornament (he purchased the glass inserts by the gross), jump in beside it and set his cup of molten lava onto the expansive dashboard.  I usually offered to hold the cup for him (against my better judgement), but he would always bluster about me worrying too much and slap my hands back as I reached for it.

To say that my dad liked his coffee hot would be a gross misunderstanding of the word hot.  If the coffee in his cup wasn’t the temperature just below the point where water turns from a liquid into a gas, he would dump it out and have mom get him a new one.  And it was this boiling hot cup of pumice that he would set on the dash.

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As soon as his butt hit the seat he would go into the Wagoneer starting routine.  His arms and legs were a blur of motion as he mashed the gas pedal repeatedly, yanked the choke and turned the key back and forth countless times until the engine roared to life. He would instantly jam the Jeep into gear with his foot still on the throttle so it wouldn’t stall, all thoughts of the cup gone from his mind.

The mug would hiss as it slid across the dash.  Earl would slam on the brakes and stab at it like he was wearing boxing gloves and the coffee would spray over everything and everyone like Vesuvius burying Pompeii.  I had mastered the art of making myself really small, hugging my legs to my chest, but I was rarely spared and still have the scars on my arms and legs to prove it.

I was convinced that my dad had no feeling on the tops of his legs.  He would cuss and swear at us for spilling his coffee, but he did nothing about cleaning himself up and seemed to enjoy the feeling of having hot coffee running down his leg into his boots. I’ve had an aversion to wearing wet clothes ever since and looking at his pants clinging to his chicken legs made my skin crawl, but he would just turn on the heater and go his merry way.

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This always led to another problem. So much coffee had been spilled into the defroster that the green dash had a brown sheen and whenever we turned the blower on (which was every time we went anywhere), brown cumulonimbus thunderheads spewed forth turning the car into a full-bodied Nescafe rainforest.  Driving in that car felt like sitting in a sauna where someone had poured old coffee over the hot rocks and then forced you to sit in it your entire childhood.

Old people at my dad’s baseball games used to love me, not because I was particularly lovable, but because after riding in the Wagoneer I smelled so much like a cup of hot Sanka.  They would hug me and linger just a bit too long for my comfort, sniffing all the time like an old dog at a carpet stain.

Earl coached baseball for over 25 years, mostly, I think, because of the free coffee he got at the ball park.  It was hot, like it had been plumbed from the depths of Hades and it was to be had in abundance.  (I tried their hot chocolate once and I was saddled with a speech impediment until the scab finally peeled off my tongue.)  He had fourteen kids on his team, nine of them for the field, four as back-ups, and one as the coffee runner.  I know that on at least one occasion the coffee runner peed in his Thermos.  I’m not sure at what point my dad realized it was tainted and I was never brave enough to ask.

Twenty years after leaving Alaska he had that first latte.  A continuous diet of antacids helped him stomach the reconstituted freeze dried crystals he drank for so many years and that first taste of liquid heaven in a paper cup must have been an epiphany because the next day he bought himself his very own espresso machine.

Let’s just say his level of awareness stayed the same, but his level of awakeness went through the roof.   I’m just glad that his friend hadn’t bought him a Red Bull on the way to golf.  I don’t think his family could have taken it.

How a Group of 8th Graders Killed Dracula

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Wax lips, Pixie Stix & Zots

Even though my daughters stand over 5’9”  they have both been Chunky Little Princesses more than once in their lives.  They really had no choice in the matter.  If they wanted the candy – they had to put on the snow suit.  I don’t know whose idea it was to celebrate Halloween on the last day in October, but in the northern climes hypothermia sets in pretty quickly when you dress up as Michael Phelps and we tend to see more werewolves and Sasquatches than cheerleaders and belly dancers on All Hallows Eve.

Halloween always began with pleadings and tears and ended with our kids begging us not have to wear coats or snow suits with their costumes.  But there was no way on this frozen planet that we were going to let the girls traipse through the streets in nothing but a Little Mermaid costume in the middle of winter begging for candy door to door.  So every Halloween, starting when they were old enough to have an opinion,  we would put them in their snow suits and then pour them, kicking and screaming, into their Littlest Princess dresses, instantly transforming them from cute little Disney princesses into Japanese nuclear accident versions that might date Ultraman.

People would open the door and my girls would yell trick-or-treat and the people would look at them and say, “Oh, what cute little sumo wrestlers.”  The girls would quickly say “princesses!” and then turn their sour faces to Kelly and me as if to say, “I told you so,” and then try to stomp in exasperation, but not be able to because they couldn’t lift their legs high enough in their snow boots.

My boys fared no better when it came to Halloween.  For three years in a row Kelly dressed them in the cutest little clown outfits you have ever seen (outfits big enough to fit over winter coats mind you), with little clown hats and little red noses.  Of course, she had made these costumes and love, love, loved to see the boys all dressed up.  She might even have pinched their cheeks more than once.

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This mockery of all that is decent came to an early demise the moment Wesley, who was just at the age of cognitive reasoning, saw his best friend dressed as an Army man.  Christian was too busy stuffing M&Ms and Tootsie Rolls into his face as fast as he could to care, but the indignation that lit Wesley’s face when he realized exactly what his mother had been putting him through all these years could have been cut with a Ka-Bar fighting knife.   The rest of the evening he was the spitting image of the clown from IT.

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The next year when she tried coax him into the clown costume, no amount of money or promises of a new puppy could get him into the clown spirit.  He dug his heels in and flatly refused, going boneless as she tried to force his body into the suit. I finally had to step in with the camo face paint and a black headband to make things right.

I used to love Halloween when I was a kid and considered it the third high holy day of the year, with Christmas and my own birthday being the first and second.  There was some debate amongst my friends as to whether Easter should be considered the third of the trivium, but only amongst those who got presents on Easter and weren’t required to eat a hard boiled egg (my mom used all kinds of tactics to get rid of the six dozen she had made and hid for me) each time you wanted to have a piece of candy.

Since my mom was an excellent seamstress she always made my costumes and they were always amazingly awesome and authentic.   Being from Alaska, I’m not sure I should have liked getting dressed up so much, but I loved it and especially the accolades I received from my mom when I put her costumes on.  Oh vanity, vanity.  You played me false.

One special year she made me a cape out of black velvet and red silk (so my skin wouldn’t chafe) and bought me a pair of black knit pants.  It was a phenomenal  costume and made me feel more like Dracula probably than Dracula himself.  I ran around the house, raising myself high on my toes and stretching my arms out like a gangly, oversized, slightly flaccid bat and then pretended to pounce on the unsuspecting living, making them the unsuspecting living dead.  I slunk around with the cape pulled up to my eyes and darted furtively from corner to corner looking for my next victim.  This is normal imagination for a boy of six.  I was 13.

My mother was too busy pretending to be scared of her little “Dracula” to stop long enough to consider that maybe my actions weren’t appropriate for a boy my age.  Why she didn’t slap me upside the head and give me the what-for is beyond me, but since she made the costume, I’m sure she didn’t want to see it go to waste.

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Had my dad seen me he would have gone into an apoplectic fit, with the vein in his eye bursting again, giving him that deranged and demented look like the time my sister had used her curling iron to give my hair some bounce.  “You look like a girl for God’s sake!” he bellowed as he made me wash out my greasy locks (I think I only showered once a week back then).  I’m sure he would have been beside himself if he had seen me, but he was either at work or at one of the many different lodges (Moose, Elks, Masonic) or starting a fight with someone.

By the time it was dark I was dressed for action.   My face was a pasty, powdery white, a slightly whiter shade than normal and I had lipstick blood dripping from both corners of my mouth.   My hair was slicked back revealing a hairline that most adult men would have hidden underneath a comb-over and when the plastic vampire teeth were inserted, I was the spitting image of a 13 year old trying to pretend he was Dracula.  Awesome or awful is probably a matter of opinion, but in my mind I was pretty awesome.

 “Just one more house” had been my mantra with Butchie, my best friend at the time, all evening.  We had been out for three hours and he had been pushing to head home for the last 30 minutes. But the lure of free candy and the mystery of what I would get next drove me on with a passion that only candy or caffeine can cause.  Oh, that I would have listened to him, because that was the night fate decided that is was time for him and me to meet.

The take, up until the blue house, had been magnificent.  I had already thrown the apples and popcorn balls deep into the woods (my dad wouldn’t have let me eat them anyway because the apples always had razor blades in them and all popcorn balls had been laced with dope by the hippies), but my bag was still crammed full with countless gigantic, medium and small sized candy bars and the sheer number of wax lips and wax straws I had in the bag would keep me busy for weeks.   The sorting that evening was going to be epic.

I can remember with absolute clarity walking through the gate of the white picket fence and the feel of the wood on my knuckles as I knocked on the door of the blue house.  It slid open silently; the soft yellow glow of shaded lamps and muffled chatter met me as it did.

It’s cliché to say that time seemed to slow down, but time seemed to slow down.  It was like a small hole in the continuum of my happiness had been sliced open and my soul was slowly being sucked out of it.  My voice sounded odd and distant and slow and vaguely not mine,  like I was shouting through a pool of thick molasses as I delivered my standard line of “trick-or-treat” in my best Transylvanian accent.  The word “treat” trailed away as if my lungs had just collapsed and didn’t have enough air to finish the word.

I stood, naked to the world, so to speak, as  I realized that the room was full of my 8th grade classmates having an actual party.  Every single one of their eyes locked onto mine and the room became still and silent.  I realized in that moment that not one of them had a costume on, but I did.  I knew without having to be told that they were “in” and I was the teenager, three years away from driving, five years away from being an adult, standing in the doorway dressed in a Dracula costume that my mom had made.

It was like the dawn of morning had found Dracula standing in a field and he and I were shriveling into dust and being blown away on the wind.  The punch to my heart was palpable.   I was drowning in an unfamiliar sea and had to run, but couldn’t.  I was frozen.   I saw the shock on their faces and then the joy, as if their lives had somehow just been made complete.  The room erupted like a giant burp of laughter being belched simultaneously from every gaping mouth.

Mercifully, the hole in the time continuum chose to snap shut at that moment and my legs instantly came to life on their own.   I bolted from the house (leaving Butchie to his own fate) with the roar of their laughter pulsating into the darkness as I ran.

As I sat on the beanbag in my closet late that night with waxed lips firmly clenched between my teeth, a candy bar in one hand, and a cherry Zot nestled into my cheek, I wondered if it was all worth it.  I smiled a little and thought that it probably was, but I made a mental note to stay away from the blue house next year.

My Chickens Were Marxists

untitled-5066Guess What?  Chicken Butt!

When I was but a wee lad I used to get picked on all the time.  It wasn’t as though I was a small, sickly kid.  I was actually quite fleshy for my age and if I had it in me to hurt someone, I probably would have been able to hold my own in a fight, but I just could never bring myself to actually make a fist and hit someone who was threatening me in the face.  I’m not sure why, but the thought of punching someone in the eye conjured up slow motion images of a huge, bulbous orb squishing into its socket and then rebounding and popping like an overfilled,  blue and white beach ball of  jello.  It just kind of grossed me out.  Consequently, I got beat up all the time.

Maybe saying “all the time” is a bit of an exaggeration since I really didn’t get beat up all that much, but I did get picked on and threatened to be beat up all the time.  I didn’t mind it very much because I was really good at avoiding most confrontations and developed all kinds of defense mechanisms to keep from getting hit or picked on, most of which have stayed with me to this day.  I think it’s the one reason I get along so well with people.  Watching me navigate my way through a crowded room of people is a thing of beauty because I’m afraid if I don’t make everyone happy, I will have to pop someone’s eye out of their socket using my awesome purple belt skills (I was one test away from being a brown belt when for religious reasons I had to quit – actually, the gym got really stinky and I couldn’t take all the sweaty teenagers dripping on me when we sparred).

Because I was such an easy target for both teachers and classmates, I was pretty much universally abused verbally by everyone and called all kinds of names which still bring up feelings of dread when they come to mind (man, I hated school).  If the anti-bullying laws were in effect when I was a kid I would have been the only kid in school.

Thinking back on the names I was called I can almost universally come up the etymology of each one and realize how and why it applied.  However, I knew the term chicken was a derogatory term, but only because it was applied to me on those occasions where I thought it best to flee than fight, but no one I knew ever had chickens and so how the name came to mean what it meant was a mystery to me. That is, until I got chickens.

The term is absolutely apropos because anything will scare a chicken – noise, feathers, shadows, food scraps, other chickens, small dogs, water, air, leaves, dirt, sun, snow, etc.  If a chicken sees something it’s not sure of, you can bet that the chicken thinks that thing is trying to kill it and will run from it.  And when one chicken gets scared, they all get scared.  You name it and a chicken will run from it.  It’s an amazing defense mechanism and one I employed quite often as a kid.

Imagine for a minute that a group of chickens (or grade school nerds) need to get from one enclosed edge of the lawn to the other enclosed edge 30 feet away.  I say need, but it’s more like an unfulfilled and unreasonable desire. One chicken, the “scout,” will sneak out a few steps and turn its head quickly back and forth and when it feels relatively safe it will start a mad sprint to the other side.  Seeing that one chicken running will set off three thoughts in the mind (yes, it is one collective mind) of the other chickens.  1. I wonder if she sees something to eat.  2. If she’s running then she must be running away from something which means that we are definitely not safe on this side of the lawn.  3.  I need to start running.  This happens in a split second as the pea-sized synchronized brains of the chickens work as one unit and then they’re off chasing after the first chicken like a bunch of old women in a three legged race with their skirts tucked up and their bloomers flapping in the breeze.

Aside from being incredibly stupid, chickens are actually one of the most amazing creatures in the universe. When you see them in their natural habitat, scratching in the morning mist, with the sun coming through the trees, it’s as if they know something you don’t and for a split second you can almost imagine Jane Goodall trying to work her way into their confidence by grooming and communicating with them through sign language.

NB: Okay, that was an inadvertent shout-out to the Far Side.  I didn’t do it on purpose, but after I reread it I realized what I had done.  I guess Gary Larson has wormed his way into my head so deeply that I sometimes don’t realize that I’m writing him out loud.

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If you ever get a chance to look closely at a chicken (other than in the meat department), they look almost prehistoric with their unblinking eyes (they actually have a sheath that cleans the crud off their retina when it gets dry or dirty, which I guess could be called a blink); fleshy crowns of red goo that expand and contract with the weather and often get frostbite, turn black and fall off in the winter; scaly, reptilian legs and huge claws.   When they raise their lips and expose the rows of sharp fangs it brings a chill to my heart.  I’ve seen them peck the crap out of each other just for getting too close to a sunny spot on the lawn.  Vicious and angry creatures they are and, oh, so unpredictable.

Never try catching a chicken if you have a faint heart.  Unless you corner a chicken, it is very difficult to even get close to it and, when you do corner one, you had better be ready for the fight of your life because they will come after you with fangs bared and claws unsheathed in an effort to rip your heart from your chest.  Okay, maybe not, but they will flap a lot and scare the crap out of you if you don’t get a hold of them right.

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Chickens are the original homing bird and probably could have been used in WWI if the letter wasn’t urgent and the recipient could wait for the sun to go down to receive it.  Chickens will always make their way to the coop unless the door is closed or they can’t remember how to get back into the fence they escaped from; then they will lay down outside and wait patiently for something to eat them.  They are the opposite of Dracula, in the sense that when the sun goes down they fall into a stupor (a lot like my uncle Lyman) and nothing will wake them, not even the sharp teeth of a raccoon or skunk as it eats them from the neck down.

I have a great love of all things chicken (especially chicken strips), so it was a sad day when I realized that it might be time to get rid of my chickens.  I had two choices: separate them from their heads or send them to the “farm” (if you know what I mean).  Actually, I did send them to the farm where a friend of mine said they would live out their lives in peace and harmony.   I know it sounds like a euphemism for eating them , but this friend has a good heart and I trust her.

So, if I love chickens so much why did I feel the need to get rid of them? Well, my teenage girls, while fascinated with them for about three years, kind of lost interest when they learned to drive.  It’s not quite cool cappuccino conversation when the boys ask you what you like to do and you say, “feed worms to chickens.”  The boys tend to smile and move slowly away while keeping their eyes on you to be sure that you don’t make any sudden movements (unless they’re FFA boys who say “neat!” but they wear those funny coats and my girls kind of smile and back away  from them;  it’s a vicious cycle).  They stopped digging worms for the chickens soon after they noticed boys and that left the feeding and watering squarely in my lap.

When I started doing all the work, I realized after awhile that  I was running a Soviet style chicken operation where I was feeding and watering and housing and getting nothing in return since their egg production all but diminished.  It was like my little flock of “Olgas” were done with their earthly task and weren’t willing to work any longer.  It was also almost winter and there is nothing worse than trying to keep a flock of chickens alive through the winter when the coop isn’t heated.  They were big-bodied girls and good at keeping themselves warm most of the time, but having to keep the water free of ice and the heat lamp on got to be too much for this old man.  It was time to send them to the farm.

So, how does one transport chickens from one farm to the other without first cutting off their heads and plucking their “fur” you ask?  I’m not sure how others do it, but I used individually personalized chicken boxes (aka beer boxes).  I surely wasn’t going to put them in the back seat of the Wagon Queen Family Truxter and buckle them in.  Looking into the back of my truck , I realized that if one of the local frat kids had broken into the back he would have thought he had struck the mother-load. That is, until he opened one of the boxes only to have a chicken explode out of it and peck his eyes out (which I might pay to see).

It was very difficult getting the chickens into the boxes because of their girth and their large talons and they flapped like heck going into the box, but once in (they were duct taped in), they became like sheep to the slaughter, quiet and docile.  They even talked to us in their clucky soft chicken voices as we transported them to the truck, like they were confessing their sins before heading to the electric chair.

In the end, the chickens got a nice ride on an SUV 4×4, awesome popcorn for dinner (no movie though) and a new home.  Now all I have to do is clean the coop and turn it into a sewing room for my wife.

Seven girls down and two to go.

These Are Not the Clubs You’re Looking For

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“They’re for sale if you want them.”    (Ben Kenobi)

I once had a 50 yard drive with one of my clubs, and, by one of my clubs, I mean one of my clubs actually flew 50 yards.  I stood there for a minute looking at the ball still sitting serenely on my tee and asked the guys if they minded if I put the ball where my club lay 50 yards away in the middle of the fairway and hit from there.  It was my best drive of the day.  It’s not like I’m a terrible golfer and I never throw a club in anger (break them across my knee on occasion, but never throw them), it’s just that I’m way too cheap to buy nice clubs (or new grips) and so I often find myself in these awkward situations on the course.

Don’t get me wrong – I would love a new set of clubs, but the Dream Crusher has this crazy idea that the kids need to eat and so we (meaning her) have always chosen food for the kids over new golf clubs for me.   Maybe in a few years when we finally decide to cut the cord I’ll be able to buy a new set of clubs, but until we do, I’m stuck with having to cobble together a set of clubs from the area pawn shops and the drug dealers.  Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not by much since I often feel like the addict venturing into the inner city to try and score a hit without spending a fortune doing it.   “Hey buddy, wanna buy a wedge?”

Maybe I’m so bad at golf because I have never bought a new club and  have only purchased other people’s rejects out of the “used and abused” bins at Goodwill.  For me it’s like walking into the Humane Society and seeing all those sad faces staring at me and knowing that I will be walking out with the St Bernard- Dachshund mix that nobody wants.

To say that my bag is filled with rejects from the land of misfit toys would be an understatement.  It is stuffed with every infomercial reject known to the golfing world and looks like something that the Vietcong would use to make man traps.  My clubs are all different lengths and they stick out at odd angles because my bag has lost its shape. Many of the clubs don’t reach the bottom when I shove them in after a shot and two or three are always sticking out above the cart and in danger of being ripped of by low hanging limbs.

The real problem is that I’m a sucker for new innovations, but am relegated to old technology with awesome sounding names that make you think that the next swing will launch a gargantuan drive.  I want space tourism, but am stuck with Apollo 1 technology (burned up on the launch pad).  I want a Ferrari, but have to settle for a Desoto (defunct).   My clubs are like a testament to all that’s wrong with golf and the history of trying to hit a little white ball straight.

My golf bag does ooze with chest thumping masculinity and virility though.  When I pull clubs named Burner, Tornado, Big Fire, Launcher, Blaze, Jumbo and Krank out of my bag I feel like I’m about to drive the ball 600 yards using a member of the WWF.  Is it any wonder my sphincter tightens and I tense up like a hammer thrower about to launch a 50 pound weight down the field with the force of a canon every time I address the ball?

NB: Did you know that a whiff actually counts as a stroke and hurts worse than getting hit by a linebacker?  There is something very humbling in trying to explain to the wife why I can’t mow the yard because I hurt myself playing golf.  She’s educated and so I haven’t been able to convince  her that golf is actually a contact sport and that I hurt my back when the guy in my cart clipped me from behind during my follow through.

Someone once said that golf is like a walk in the park spoiled by a little white ball.  This is the stupidest saying I’ve ever heard.  Golf has never been a walk in the park. It has always been an instrument of torture that slices open your soul to reveal the shriveled black thing you used to call a heart.  It breaks down every semblance of pride you have ever had and makes you scream like a little girl and the worst part of it is that you pay to inflict it upon yourself.

But, like an addict, I keep coming back time after time to inflict the pain on myself again and again.  I guess I’m like a cutter.

I am convinced, however, that the pain would stop if I had brand new clubs.  My clubs are fine I guess, but they are not good for me.   I think my next set of clubs will have zen like names.  Maybe names that kids would call their ponies or kittens.  They will have names like “Fluffy” and “Smooth” and “Easy.”  They will be all the same brand and length and will nestle into their own fur-lined grooves in a leather cart bag.  Golf will bring peace and tranquility to my life.

…But really, where’s the fun in that?

However, I did bring the entire group of clubs in my post to the pound.