Tuesday, January 25, 2011


"Our living room window is cracked from the cold.....when should we notify the drill sergeant?"

This was the message I received from Corb at around eleven. The drill sergeant, in case you were wondering, is our affectionate little nickname for the second in command at our apartment complex. Most efficient woman, she is.

I guess I'm not surprised. It's been so cold here in New England these past few days. This morning I think it was about one degree outside. One measly degree. If I were a window, I think I'd crack, too, under the pressure.

About a half an hour later, Corb emailed me a photo of the crack, along with a sweet note, composed from his desk, located at the Eldredge satellite office for Binkley International. The note went as follows:

"I sent you a photo...I love you, and it was nice knowing you. When you come home, I will be a frozen ice cube. I have the oven on and candles lit for heat."

Hey, how can a guy resist something like that? I just had to call him right away. At the very least, I needed to find out whether I'd actually come home to a huge six foot five ice cube that night. A cube that size could come in real handy. At the very least, it would keep my martinis chilled for quite some time.

"That crack looks nasty," I said. "Don't worry, I called the drill sergeant. But are you sure the crack came from the cold? There might be other reasons. Maybe a bird flew into the window."

"How could a bird flying into a window make such a huge crack?" asked Corb, skeptically.

"Well, it's so cold out. The poor bird probably felt like a frozen turkey. Imagine a frozen turkey hitting our window!"

"But the crack's on the inside," said Corb. "How in the world would a frozen turkey get inside our apartment and fly around?"

"Hmmmmm." I thought about it for a moment. "We do keep our front door open an awful lot. Maybe it snuck in while we had our door open one day? You know...waited until no one was looking...crept in on little frozen turkey legs..."

Corb laughed. "Okay, so apparently we have frozen butterball turkeys trying to sneak their way into our apartment. We should be so lucky! And why would this frozen turkey then decide to break our window?"

"He got bored. Listening to you take calls for Binkley International isn't always the most exciting thing in the world, you know. The butterball got bored and lunged at the window. It was a death wish!"

"To try and get out?"

"Yep!" I could tell from Corb's silence that he wasn't buying any of this. "Look around, behind the curtains. Don't be surprised if you find a frozen giblet or two lying around."

Well, he didn't, but I tell you, it really is cold enough around here for a wild turkey to freeze.

I'd hate to be homeless in weather like this. For some reason, that's been on my mind a bit lately. I've heard several times that homeless shelters are currently at total capacity, and I believe it. It's not a pleasant thought, being outside on the streets in weather like this.

Cracked windows or not, at least we have a roof over our heads. There but for the grace of God...that's a level of shattered I never want to endure.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Jesus Stump

It had been a long day at work and I knew the evening was only going to get longer, because this was the night I was going to pick up the 'stang from the dealership. Five days without my baby had been tough, but she was in perfect shape now, after being so sick, and if I didn't have a 40 minute drive to pick her up, I probably would have been a little more excited about the reunion.

So as I pulled into the parking lot in front of our apartment, half listening to the radio, I was tired and a little grumpy, and just wanting to get upstairs and hop in the shower for a quick five minutes. Corb wouldn't get off work from his job at Binkley International for about fifteen minutes, so after I fed the cats, I was free and clear to

That's when I saw it, through the windshield of my car. In the woods next to the parking lot.

It looked like a person at first, but then I shook my head and realized it was too short to be a person. Then I thought it was possibly a statue. But who would place a statue in the woods like that?

A plastic bag? No, no, not exactly.

What could it be...? And then it dawned on me, and a chill went up my spine.

I realized I was looking at a tree stump in the shape of the Virgin Mary.

"I've just seen a tree stump in the shape of the Virgin Mary!" I said to Corb after he hung up on a caller.

Corb looked as if I had just told him that Bette Davis was living in our refrigerator. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm serious! I just saw a stump in the shape of the Virgin Mary! It's a religious miracle, I tell you. Come on, you have to see it to believe it."

Ten minutes later, we were back out in the cold, and Corb was standing at his car, looking a little startled. "Well, I don't think it looks like the Virgin Mary, but...well, it is kind of strange looking, I have to admit."

"More like a man?"

"Like a monk," he said. "With his hands, reaching out..."

"Like a Jesus?"

Corb shook his head. "It could be Jesus..."

"That's it! It's a Jesus stump! Corb, we're living next to a freaking Jesus stump. Can you believe it?"

Now, I know what you're thinking. How in the world could a tree stump possibly look like an image of Jesus? But I took photos, I have a proof! I know, I know, the pictures don't do it complete justice. It was hard to take a clear photo of what we saw. Still, even in the photos, I think you can clearly see the outline and the image.

So, there you are, the Jesus stump. I expect lines to form, pilgrimages to begin. I expect miracles to occur and holy men to drop by. Heck, if a big deal can be made about the face of Jesus in a corn flake, I certainly think that my crazy little stump warrants just as much attention and publicity. Don't you? So, start spreading the word, true believers.

"I kind of like finding a Jesus stump in our front yard," I said to Corb, as we headed off to pick up the 'stang. "I think it's a good omen. 2011 is going to be a good year. Our year."

I know, it's crazy. But then again...it honestly did make me sleep a little better last night. Wouldn't you?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Monday night football.

"I don't wanna watch Pretty Little Liars!"

"I NEED to! I've seen every episode so far. It's the only show I actually watch on TV."

"But it's stupid! I don't wanna watch it!"


I knew the moment was coming. I gritted my teeth and gripped the wheel tighter. "Why can't you watch it in your room, Ashes?"

From the back of the car, I could hear Ashes punch the back seat. "Because it'll be on during supper and besides, we don't get that channel in my room. Stupid basic cable."

"Do to!" Theo said belligerently, sitting right next to me in the passenger side,

"Do NOT!"

"It's on channel 26, you moron!"


I slowed the car at a traffic light, irritable after a full day of work. "Give me a minute, wouldja? I swear, you guys fight about everything. Ask anything, Theo, you'd say it was black. Ashes, you'd say it was white. And you're always, always asking me to somehow make it gray."

Theo smirked. "Where'd you hear that one?"

"I didn't. I made it up myself." Then I paused. "But I may have to write that one down, later..."

Thirty minutes later, and the TV arrangements had been made. Ashes would watch her Pretty Little Liars, which Theo was not happy about. Now came the time for the food battle. After a bit of nagging, I hesitantly said, "Now kids, we can either have chicken breasts or Hamburger Helper."

"Oh, God," groaned Ashes. "Anything but Hamburger Helper."

"But I like Hamburger Helper!" yelled out Theo from his room.

"Well I don't!" Ashes called back from the couch, with equal intensity. "It tastes like crap!"

"If it tastes like crap, then I should start eating what comes out of my bum!" Theo called back.

Score another one for Theo. At the very least, the kid can make me laugh.

We settled on English muffin pizza, and as a compromise, watched Theo's show after Pretty Little Liars was over PS: PLL was pretty and little and frankly, abysmal. So, I lied. I didn't feel like fighting with Ashes over it. Hey, if it's the only show she watches each week on TV, who am I to knock it? Besides, we had agreed to only watch it in the living room on alternate weeks, so I won't have to see it for a while.

Another Monday night crisis averted. But I'm left marveling anew at my father's rules for dinner, when I was growing up: no television at the dinner table, and you like what mom makes. Things were so much simpler back then. The only time we'd get to watch TV was when dad had a meeting. That's when mom would give us a treat.

Or maybe, she was giving herself a break. Come to think of it, not having the TV on would mean we'd actually have to talk to each other. Maybe mom had the right idea, after all. Conversations coming from the tube are so much less stressful than conversations coming from those chitlins. It's hard making shades of gray all the time.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's the Most Skankiest Time of the Year (2011 edition)

"So, how was your New Year's eve?" asked Betty Barnacle the Frog Killer, as we met up with her and my dad for lunch. It was a mere side trip for them, on their way as they were to the nearest casino.

"Oh, it was fun," I said, picking over a salad. "We spent the night at Pauline's, did our annual Skanky swap..."

"Skamp swap? What in the world is that?" asked my mom, as if she had never heard this before, which I'm sure sure she actually has.

I think that the idea itself is pretty clear. Actually, way back in the days when Yankee Swaps first became the rage, my mother and father held swaps every Christmas. That tradition died over time, but about a decade ago, Josie and I decided to take the concept and twist it just a bit. Originally, our "Skanky Swap" was supposed to be a giveaway for the ugliest, most obnoxious gift received for Christmas, but over time it became more than that, with people rummaging through yard sales and dusty attics to set aside the ugliest or most useless item encountered throughout the year, for proud presentation on New Year's eve.

Many a truly abysmal item has passed through this swap. Pictures painted in poop, stinky old sneakers, a New Year's cake made out of tampons and pads...and every year, my best bud Buns turns over whatever present she's received from her mother-in-law that year for Christmas--always some type of lighthouse decoration. "For some reason, she's gotten it into her head that I like lighthouses," according to Buns.

This year, she received as her gift not one, but ten ugly lighthouse Christmas ornaments. "REALLY went overboard," Buns said grimly.

My contribution: an ugly painting of Elvis I had received from Hunchback Mike while I was directing Fiddler on the Roof.

The funny thing is, though, that often times, amidst all the ugliness, a bit of kitshy beauty can sometimes make its way through, like a plant shoot poking its way up out of manure. For quite some time, for example, the group would pass around from year to year a really fun purple velvet lamp that everyone just had to have in their house. (Where did that go, I wonder? For some reason, I think Corb and I have it up in the attic...)

The winner this year: hands down, a ceramic cookie jar of a Carmen Miranda look-alike. I tell you, it's a real Chiquita banana! The minute we saw it, Corb and I shot each other a look: we knew we had to have it. Somehow, despite several tense rounds (and Andrew, Josie's fiance, trying to get it passed on to someone else at the last minute), we were able to snag it.

It's not occupying a special space in our apartment. We've decided to call her Maria Elana. Isn't she beautiful?

The swellest Skanky Swap gift of 2010...Maria Elana!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Possibly the best gift we received this Christmas?

I know it sounds crazy, but I think it was the first one we opened at my parents' house on Christmas eve. My mother brought it over to Corb during dinner, along with a huge smile on her face. "This was the first present we bought this year," she said. "Ted's dad saw it and insisted we get it."

And that's when Corb met...Rudolpha. It was love at first sight.

(Actually, Corb insists that Rudolpha's name is actually spelled "Yrudolpha." He says the Y is silent. I personally think he's crazy...er.)

Okay, so the first question you may be asking is: why in the world would my parents feel so compelled to buy Corb the disembodied plastic head of a frog?

That answer's fairly easy, actually: Corb's nickname for my mother is Betty Barnacle, the Crazy Frog Killer, after all. For those of you who watch Little Britain, it's kind of a variation on the crazy frog lady from season two. For those of you who don't...well, YouTube it, for God's sake!

So, for the past few years, we've been buying my mom frog-themed presents. Last year, she received a light green froggy watch that she brings with her as a good luck charm to casinos all over the world. This year, she decided to turn the tables on us.

Of course, the thing is, once you actually HAND Corb a disembodied plastic frog head that you can manipulate like a hand puppet, you know you're in for a lot of trouble. Half an hour later, we were all laughing so hard our stomachs were hurting, and Corb had come up with a name for his newfound friend.

Rudolpha. Named after a character in an absolutely abysmal Christmas film he had seen the day before called "Twice Upon a Christmas," starring Kathy Ireland and with Miss Patti from Gilmore Girls as the Tooth Fairy. According to Corb, Miss Patti actually wore a horrendous costume with wings on her back. (It sounds too awful to be true, and my eyes are bleeding just thinking about watching it.)

These past few days, Rudolpha has been with us everywhere. Corb's even figured out ways to get her to pick things up with her mouth. As we speak, he's trying to figure out a way to get her to answer phone calls for his job at Binkley International. He's having a little trouble fitting the headphones onto her head, though.

Anyway, so please to meet Rudolpha! I'm sure you'll be getting to know her quite a bit in the months to come.