Thursday, October 30, 2008


I owe my mother plenty, to be sure. She raised me by herself from the age of eight. She instilled in me an intense work ethic. She made untold sacrifices so that my sisters and I could grow up without wanting for anything except basic cable. She was always there for me, no matter what. But perhaps the greatest thing she ever provided me with was gravy.

Gravy. That strange elixir of flour, fat, and milk. Simple. Wholesome. Delicious. A staple of the Southern diet, gravy graced a large percentage of our daily meals, and thankfully so. Why, you might ask, has gravy been such an important ingredient in my life? There are many comfort foods such as spaghetti, chili, meatloaf, and chicken soup. My mother made all of those, and they were all delicious. But the flavor and texture of rice and gravy, pork chops and gravy, chicken and gravy, bread and gravy, have made me who I am today. Unhealthy though it may seem, gravy has shaped my life. And I will forever be grateful for it.

I was thirty years old, and had all but given up on the prospect of marriage. Then I chanced upon a store bought redhead that would change my life forever. She was young and beautiful. Impetuous and intelligent. Sensuous and seductive. She was everything I was looking for, only I had no idea what she was capable of. Until one morning, when she went into my kitchen and made me biscuits and gravy for breakfast. From scratch. It was love at first bite.

A couple of weeks later, at Thanksgiving dinner, dining with my family, apart from my newly beloved, feasting upon turkey, dressing and, you guessed it, gravy divine, I asked my dear mother about diamond rings and set into motion the events leading up to my engagement. My family was quite astonished, not having met this wonderful woman who's culinary musings spoke to my familial urges, yet they were supportive and hopeful, perhaps thankful at last that I had found someone who could tame me; grateful that I was finally considering settling down.

Now I shall not pretend that it was gravy alone that led me down the aisle. She had plenty of other tempting traits upon which to hitch my star. But it was gravy that opened the door to my heart, that allowed me to see her bountiful offerings. And although it has not been entirely without it's lumps, our marriage is still as rich and flavorful as my favorite childhood delicacy. Yes, my life, it seems, is just a bowl of gravy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


The wife thought it would be a good idea to send the kids to a Mother's Day Out program one day a week. This, she purported, would help our precious Ella with her detachment issues. Jack has never met a stranger, but Ella, on the other hand, is wary of everyone she doesn't see on a daily basis, including immediate family members. She latches on to us like velcro, and cries big crocodile tears if we try to separate from her.

Mother's Day Out is not inexpensive, and although I outwardly supported the idea because I love my wife and pick my battles carefully, inwardly I questioned the merits of straining our budget so that she could play online Scrabble for four uninterrupted hours a week. It was a brilliant performance, and I must give credit to the Stravinski method and Mrs. Boyle, my high school Drama teacher for making me so convincing.

The first week, after the twins were dropped off, I was awakened by a distraught wife telling me what a horrible mother she was and how my little girl cried and screamed when left with the other kids. Not having time to get into character, my reaction was to roll over to mask my inner dialogue which said, "You asked for this. You knew it was coming. Why are you waking me up to complain about it now?" There would be no second take, as this was a live performance, and I had blown it. "You don't care," replied the wife as she stormed out of the room, leaving me guilt ridden and sleepless and disappointed in my ability to improv.

After some soul searching, I decided to embrace this Mother's Day Out thing. After all, didn't my wife deserve some time off? Hadn't I been taking her for granted? Wasn't I being selfish and shallow? Couldn't I be more supportive? And wasn't it big of me to recognize my faults and take some corrective measures? I decided that the answer to all of these questions was undoubtedly "Yes."

So I surprised my wife by waking up early and helping to drop the kids off at the church around the corner. I watched as my son plodded happily into the classroom and started playing without hesitation and my daughter threw one heck of a fit. We waved goodbye and went on our way. As we left, I suggested that the wife and I have a "morning date" and hit some garage sales before going out to lunch, just the two of us.

I must admit that I was wrong about Mother's Day Out. It is well worth the money spent and will certainly be helpful to our darling daughter. She is doing better every week. And my wife deserves it, too. We had a wonderful time on our date, and it had been far too long since we had put aside some time for just the two of us. We were like a young couple in love again, without all of the distractions and headaches and stress that two toddlers can inflict upon a marriage. It was a blissful break, but by lunchtime, we were more than ready to pick the kids up, and they were very happy to see us, indeed. We all went home and had a family nap, and nobody slept better that day than me; the wonderful slumber of redemption.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


It has been many months since the spit-up phase. And truthfully, I never got it as bad as my wife did, bless her heart. I recall visiting Dad in the hospital, and within moments of our arrival with the twins in tow, Jack hosted an impromptu wet T-shirt contest in which my lovely wife was the sole contestant, and consequently, the winner. The prize? The loss of dignity and a trip to the car for a change of clothes. Dad laughed so hard that he would have surely wet himself had it not been for the catheter, and that may have been the last time I saw him so happy. Thanks, Jack. Sorry, honey.

But now the hurling fairy has paid us a visit. The twins just can't seem to keep anything down. There is no fever, and they seem to be fine otherwise. They have plenty of energy. They talk and play. Then they hurl and cry. This is our first encounter with spewage, which is far worse than spit-up. It requires much more cleaning, and we are quickly running out of towels. The wife is seeking advice from every mother she knows on the best way to remove spewage from carpets, couches, and crotches. And the worst part is, I myself was just treated to a lap full of chunky Pedialyte. Eww.

I do find it curious that our children can get away with things that I never could and somehow become even more loveable for it. After covering the wife (and the cat) in regurgitated milk, Jack gets cuddled and hugged while the wife glows like a harvest moon. A small part of her is happy when they get sick, because they like to be held and comforted, which plays to her maternal instincts quite well. If I had food poisoning AND the flu and was throwing up blood, the wife would throw me a towel and the car keys and say, "Clean up your mess before you go to the doctor, please."

It's hard to watch those little ones heave and wretch. You feel so sorry for them, and so helpless at the same time. I would gladly do the hurling for them if I could. I'm practically an expert after years of honing my craft with a bottle of whiskey on an otherwise empty belly. At one point in my single life, I actually looked forward to my morning spewing, as I knew that I would actually feel better after getting it out of the way. But those little ones... Poor little angels. They don't deserve this. So it's off to the doctor we go, with our fingers crossed, as we thank the Lord for leather seats and rubber floormats. Wish us luck!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Kids are cute by design. The good Lord makes them that way, I'm convinced, so that we'll love them no matter how gross and disgusting they truly are. If all babies were ugly, they would be left to fend for themselves the first time they peed on Dad or spit up all over the couch. But their inherent cuteness combined with their pristine innocence packs a one-two punch strong enough to overcome even their most repulsive accidents.

Nothing shocks me anymore. The sight of half chewed food rolling out of the mouth of one of my toddlers is commonplace and expected. Sometimes I think they just want to see what it looks like in it's ABC stage (Already Been Chewed) before they complete the mastication process. To watch my son lift his diaper and pee on the floor only fills me with pride to know that he has already realized the joy that comes from peeing while standing, an emotion that his sister may never enjoy. But there is one thing that always amazes me whenever it occurs: the blowout.
Not to get too scatological, but the blowout is defined by a presence of poop at least six inches from the point of exit. It can go in any direction at any time; down the leg and up the back being the most common. How it escapes the diaper is beyond me. It's like Houdini in a straitjacket locked inside a trunk underwater. You just can't believe it got out of there. Removing a toddler's pants to reveal a brown smear almost to the knee is quite a surprise indeed.

My personal favorite is the up the back variety. Newtonian physics cannot explain such a strange phenomenon. Or can it? If every action creates an equal and opposite reaction, then the poop exiting the toddler in a downward fashion can only turn in an upward direction when encountering the resistance of a size five Huggie. It is inevitable that with enough force, the elastic barrier of the diaper will fail like the levees of New Orleans, spilling feces into the ninth ward of my precious daughter's lower back, thus proving the existence of dark matter. I always did like physics.

I have seen plenty of videos of less manly Dads with their gag reflexes triggered by foul excrement. This, I am proud to say, has never happened to me. I have dealt with many colors, textures, densities, fragrances, and amounts of poo and have never once tossed my cookies as a result. I have wiped it from the cracks and crevices of my children for nearly two years without incident. Oh, sure, I've gotten some on me, and sometimes the smell is akin to mustard gas, bringing tears to your eyes, but I soldier on. From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, tell your friends and spread the rumor that no poop's too great for me!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Few things in life are absolutely certain. Death and taxes aside, little else can be predicted with great accuracy, which is a fortunate fact for weathermen and bookies alike. Nostradamus had a pretty good run, but some of his predictions were a little off to say the least. You'd think a guy that smart could have spelled Hitler correctly. The wife likes to take advantage of such universal chaos, attempting to irritate me occasionally with the phrase, "You never know."

According to her, the things that I never know could probably span the globe. I try not to pay too much attention when she says "you never know" because it is such a hard argument to dispute. There is just too much uncertainty in even the most improbable examples. Still, it gets my goat and danders my fur. This week I have been a little under the weather and more easily agitated than usual. One might even say I've been cranky. Like a wolf praying upon a wounded jackrabbit, the wife made her move.

I have been suffering from my first ever migraine headache and am surprised how weak it has made me feel. It's like having the flu without the vomiting. My eyes are sensitive to light, my ears to sound, and I just want to sleep. "Maybe you should take an iron pill," said the wife. "You could be anemic." I protested as loudly as my pounding head would allow, assuring her that I was not at all anemic. "You never know," she said. Inarguable and annoying.

While watching a show about moving houses from one location to another, she said "Next time we buy a house, we should do that." I told her that the cost of moving a house can be as much as $80,000. She quickly did the math, "$80,000 to move it, $10,000 for a lot to put it on, and $10,000 to get everything hooked back up. We could have a nice house for just $100,000." When reminded that she had not included the purchase price of the home, and that I was doubtful that anyone would just give us a house, she just said, "you never know." Irrevocably irritating.

And when discussing our finances and our budget and our future plans, I made the mistake of setting her up once again. "It's not like money will just fall out of the sky, " I said sarcastically. "You never know. It's happened before," came the reply. This was her ace in the hole and she had D.B. Cooper to back it up for her. Irrefutable, and yet utterly unlikely to happen again, at least in my presence.

So by this logic, and this uncanny and optimistic point of view, I could one day be crowned King of France, and on my coronation day I could slide down a rainbow and land on the back of a magnificent unicorn who would parade me around the streets of Paris as I drink vintage champagne from a slipper and monkeys fly out of my butt. After all, you never know.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I love my In-Laws. Not many people can say that and mean it, but I am one of the fortunate few. They are both very talented, intelligent individuals who have welcomed me into their family from day one. They are entrepreneurs who have run more than one successful business, and if ever I need advice, I know they are just a phone call away. I am very lucky to have found my way into their good graces.

This is not to say that we don't have our differences, as we surely do. We may not see eye to eye politically, and that's OK. We may not drink the same whiskey or root for the same football team or agree to drive domestic automobiles, and that's just fine. That being said, I must draw the line in the sand somewhere and state, for the record, that my Mother-in-law now has two strikes against her.

One morning as I was rummaging through a stack of CD's in order to select the soundtrack to my workday drive, I came upon a most offensive selection whose origin was unknown to me. Admittedly, I am somewhat of a music snob, although, in my defense, I can hardly help the fact that I have impeccable taste in this arena and that far too many people tolerate the inferior talents thrust upon them by the mainstream media. How else can the American Idol phenomenon be explained? Anyway, you can imagine the shock and horror I felt in my soul as I yelled to my wife, "Who brought a Kenny G CD into my house!?" I have a serious jazz collection and Kenny G does not play jazz, no matter what anybody tells you. He is soulless and self indulgent, and perhaps the reason that America's only original art form, jazz, is dying out. "I think it belongs to my mother," was my wife's response. I was mentally unbalanced for the rest of the day. Strike one.

This morning, I was doing my fatherly duty of reading stories to my wonderful children. They love books and being read to, and when I finish one story, they climb out of my lap and race to find another book. We go through half a dozen or so before my coffee gets cold and I have to stop for a refill. So, a couple of stories in, Ella returns to my lap with a copy of "Barney sees an insect". The prehistoric purple pre-school predator pretends to educate by stealing popular tunes and writing new and uninspired lyrics for them. If Sesame Street is John Coltrane, then Barney is Kenny G, and you know how I feel about Kenny G. Therefore, Barney is banned from my house.
And how did this book find it's way into my precious little girl's hands? "I think mom got it for them," said the wife. Strike two for the Mother-in-law.

It's true that these offenses are small in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps my passion for my children and for jazz has left me jaded and overprotective, but I will not apologize for that. I will instead remember that I love my Mother-in-law in spite of these faults, which are quite petty and ridiculous to anyone but me. I hope that when she reads this, she will forgive me for my objectionable opinions, and accept me for who I am so that I will remain her favorite (and only) Son-in-law. And I hope that Barney and Kenny G rest in peace in the landfill where they belong.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


As a restaurant manager, one of my essential responsibilities is to ensure guest satisfaction through what is called the "table visit". This is the moment where I actually get to make a connection with my customers, although it can be a bit of a gamble. Sometimes people have no interest whatsoever in talking to me. Other times they are very outgoing and we indulge in several minutes of pleasant, even enriching conversation. Yet, occasionally, I chance upon a personality so deformed and vapid as to actually cause a chafing to my psyche, invoking my flight mechanism which must then be suppressed for fear of offending a potentially lucrative although utterly detestable customer. This was the case with The Repeater.

My innocent opening question was met with a puzzling retort. "The food is great, but we think the quesadillas are a little overpriced," replied the man in a mild southern drawl. Little did I know that this would be the opening of the floodgate for The Repeater. "Yeah, nine ninety-nine is a little expensive for only four quesadillas." The Midwest accent was like an icepick through my hearing canal. "If there was six of 'em, or if it was two dollars less it would be better."

I should explain that the Shredded Beef Quesadillas are comprised of a quarter pound of roast beef, a cup of shredded cheese, a quarter cup of pico de gallo, and three ounces of salsa garnished with lettuce and sour cream. All of this is placed into a twelve inch tortilla, folded in half, grilled, and then cut into four pieces.

"Like the potato skins... there's six of 'em and they're only six ninety-nine." she continued. "So if there were more quesadillas, or they were cheaper, I'd order it again." As she spoke I likened her to a cross between a pug and a goldfish; big, bulging eyes, upturned nose, and a mouth that could only look good with a hook in it. She wasn't fat but appeared to have been overinflated, perhaps with a bicycle pump. And those eyes... huge protruding orbs that could only have been held in place by ocular nerves stretched as tight as guitar strings. They looked like a knot on the side of a tire, and I was sure they would explode at any moment from her piercing, shrill Michigan speech.

"When we ordered 'em, I said, 'Nine ninety-nine! I bet there's only four of 'em for that' and I was right. But if there was two more, or they were two dollars cheaper, then that would be worth it."

I could feel the blood drain from my head as I tried to demonstrate my comprehension of the situation by feebly stating, "So you just don't see the value of that dish at that price. I understand."

"Yeah, I mean, either put more of 'em, or lower the price. Either put six of 'em, or charge two dollars less."

"But they were cooked correctly and they tasted great, right?" I had to get out of there before I lost my cool and snatched an eyeball from her head with my bare hands.

"Oh, yeah, they were great. Like I said, there should just either be more of 'em, or they should cost less. If they were two dollars cheaper, or if there was two more of 'em, it would be fine."

Luckily, the man interjected that they eat out all the time, so they are prone to see things that we as managers, being so busy and all, just don't have time to observe. He then inquired about more fruit based desserts, informing me that they frequently go to Shoney's to enjoy a slice of Strawberry Pie or a delicious Hot Fudge Cake. (Apparently, Vanilla ice cream is considered a fruit only when wedged between two layers of chocolate cake and ladled with hot fudge.) He also added that in Michigan, where The Repeater was from, they still have Big Boy restaurants and still offer a smoking section. This pitiful banter was a welcome relief from the "two more or two less" refrain of the bulbous-eyed Repeater.

But at the mention of the size of one of my competitor's quesadillas, The Repeater struck her chord once again. "Yeah, like I said, either put two more quesadillas on there, or just lower the price by two dollars. Otherwise they were fine."

My nerves were unravelling like a rope bridge in an adventure movie when the man suggested we divide the restaurant into "children or non-children sections". Reaching my limit, I put on my brightest smile and tried to sound sincere as I said, "That's a great idea! You know, you guys should really open up your own restaurant!" As I turned and walked away, I completed my thought, "So you would know what it's like to deal with idiots for a living!"