Category Archives: Things I Like

Blue Hair Who Cares

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I dyed my hair electric blue for the second time in life. The first time I did it I was 19, and this time I am 35. The first time I did it to be different, or maybe I did it to fit in. I worked at a record shop where everybody was a little different, but all in the same way — a weird hair color, a piercing, a tattoo, a cigarette in hand, a band. I had all of the above, well except for a band. I have zero musical talent, possibly negative musical talent. Actually, I tried to teach myself ukelele this past summer, most likely for the same reasons I’ve dyed my hair blue. And I have no idea what those reasons are, but that’s why I’m writing this, and maybe we’ll both find out at the end of this thing.

The first time I dyed my hair, I did it to say look at me, here I am. Now I see myself in the mirror and say, a-ha, there I am. It’s a slight, barely-perceptible change in perspective: back then I was “here.” These days I’m just “there.” Here I am was an announcement of existing. There I am is simply a fact of such.

(Also, dear God, please don’t look at me. I’m a withered, quasimodo-like, shadowy figure. My kid was awake at 2am. And 3am. And 5am.)

Back then I did it impulsively. I woke up that morning whatever morning, well most likely it was late-afternoon, and decided I’d dye my hair. This time I did it as an idea, one of my many ideas that I carry around for months, years.

I should eat a hamburger and blog about it. (I haven’t eaten meat in twenty years.) I should buy a statue of a pirate. I should start a stamp collection. I should buy a summer house and rent it out to pay for it. I should learn how to brew beer. I should 1) buy a skateboard, 2) learn how to skateboard, and 3) skateboard down the boardwalk at Ocean City wearing a shirt saying Skateboarding is Not a Crime. I should build a computer. I should build an arcade cabinet. I should build a Tiki Hut Thing Barge on my deck, totally half-ass it, and watch it fall apart under the 30″ of snow we got last week. I should learn to play ukelele. I should dye my hair blue.

Maybe it’s part mid-life crisis. (Even though I’m not having one, and honestly, I’d rather buy a Porsche if I was going that route.) Maybe it’s boredom. Gotta be a little boredom mixed in. I spend 33% of my free time watching Daniel Tiger’s Neigborhood with the kid. Maybe it’s just a new way of looking in the mirror.

Self, mirror:
– Eyes, two
– Lips, nose, et al.
– All original teeth, except for one, lost in a biking accident. Actually it was more like a dirty street race. Okay, it was really a bicycling race when I was nine, but the other kid played it dirty for real.
– Three inch streak of a scar, barely missed the eye — bar fight. (Yeah right, Pizza, we know it was your toddler with his Freddy Krueger nails clawing your face like some kind of crazed rabid cat because you turned Daniel Tiger off.)
– Blue hair. Heh. Why the hell did I do this.

Impulses become ideas. Here becomes there. Winter becomes spring, I hope because I hate this cold weather. Blue becomes washed-out green. I should buy a flannel coat and look like 1994. There. I’ve figured it out. If anyone asks, this was my end goal all along. The dream of the 90s is alive.

The First Time I Ate a Cannoli. A Love/Mystery/Tragedy Story.

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I’m feeling sad today about David Bowie. To be fair, I’m not even a huge fan outside of the hits, and I’ve never seen the 1980s generational touchstone Labrynith. Yet I feel the loss of a true weirdo in a world of normals. I feel the loss of a bold creative energy in a land of corporate togetherness.

I haven’t been doing a good job lately of keeping up with my own creative energy, writing-wise. Today’s loss reminded me that I need to put stuff out there, to be weird, to create, to string stupid words together hoping that someone will glean some stupid meaning from them.

But write about what? I don’t know. Why am I in such a rut creatively lately? I don’t know.

Welp, I guess I’ll just have to REGALE you with the story of the first time I ever ate a cannoli. Yes, I’m not just telling this story; I am REGALING IT. This story is part romance, part nostalgia, part mystery, part tragedy, part suspense…and more.

The romance part: I was about three months into dating my now wife/then-girlfriend at the time. We were in that glowing, giddy stage of our relationship before kids, before joint accounts and bills, before we knew each well enough to even be able to disagree. We were in the “let’s spontaneously go to the beach” stage. So we’re in the “having a weird, wild, drunken time, sleeping it off in the sun all day, and doing it all over again at night.”

But first, on this sauna-like hottest morning of the summer, we needed breakfast. It was June, in Maryland, and it was 100 degrees outside. And we were a little hungover.

What would be a great breakfast idea? Some dark off-the-boardwalk hole-cave that serves eggs and hashbrowns, right? Nah. I was living large at the moment. I was high on life. I decided I wanted a cannoli for breakfast.

Now, these days my wife would look at me and say, “that’s the most digusting idea you’ve ever had, what the hell is wrong with you wanting to eat a cannoli for breakfast in 100 degree weather.” But back then she just said, “okay.”

The nostalgia part:

Here’s the exact scene of the crime. This picture I found online is appropriate — this would be the exact child’s-eye view of  Julia’s, a place I’ve shuffled past down the boardwalk, every summer since childhood and beyond.

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I’d never had a cannoli. I did not even know what a cannoli was. For twenty-seven years, my sole reference for a cannoli is the very illustration you see here.

Why had I never had a cannoli? No idea. I guess my family was more the standard-grocery-store-fare of Entemann Donuts and boxed Rice Krispie Treats for dessert.

The suspense part: Was it a doughnut-like thing? A savory cheese-filled thing? What was it? And just what would happen when our brave heroes ate the rich, thick, heavy desserts in the thick, heavy heat of the morning, on empty, unwell, hangover stomachs?

The weird part: it was like 8am. Why was a dessert place even open at 8am? I swear I’ve never seen it open that early before or since. It’s kind of like the movie Big where that random fortune teller machine is just randomly there at that exact moment.

The romance part 2: Derp, maybe I was sorta kinda trying to impress the girlfriend as well. She’s half-Italian and was always talking about how we had to go to (legit, actual Italian pastry shop) Vaccaro’s in Little Italy to get cannolis sometime. I was all like WHY NOT HERE WHY NOT NOW. LET’S JUST DO THIS CANNOLI THING RIGHT HERE ON THE BOARDWALK AT 8AM.

So we ordered cannolis and we sat down at the one of the picnic tables. I took a bite of the overtly-rich, heavy, sugar-laden dessert…and realized it was not a breakfast food. I could already feel it sinking like an anchor in my stomach, ready to sit like an undigested uncomfortable brick of sugar FOREVER.

Me: “Wait, this isn’t a breakfast food.”

Her: “I know.”

It was a Han and Leia moment with that dialogue. She knew the whole time. And I think, in that moment, I first loved her. Because she put up with my dumbass wanting a cannoli, fully supported my crazy idea, ordered one for herself, and went along gamely.

The mystery part: Julia’s has been on the boardwalk in Ocean City for a billion years. How? How does a cannoli stand thrive in a beach resort town? Who could possibly want one when it’s perpetually 105 degrees every day in the summer in Maryland?

The tragedy part: My stomach the rest of that day.

Penny Pie’s Christmas Miracle

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If you asked me how my Christmas was, I’d answer it like this: “oh yeah, good, I got a xbox, some Star Wars stuff, some socks, and the dog was divinely healed by God after coming down with a rare viral meningitis confimed by MRI and spinal tap, brought near-death, paralyzed and blinded, and then was miraculously better twenty-four hours later.

And you’d think that answer was either  insane or the byproduct of some scorchingly dry sense of humor. Or you’d call it a Christmas miracle. Or you’d say dogs are just like that. The answer is some combination of all of the above, perhaps with the heaviest emphasis on the latter.

Advice from my dad, to be read in a monotone dad voice who has seen it all: “dogs aren’t like people — they go down real hard, come near death’s door, and then the next day they’re jumping around and playing like nothing was ever wrong.”

One day in the future, some desperate googling person is going to come across this post in a panic, seeking answers about dog encephalitis and viral meningitis. You’re going to be me eight days ago, searching for any kind of stories on the Internet, and only coming up with generic PetMD results and Yahoo Answers garble.

So I’m going to tell you every last detail so you can analyze and compare and fret. But honestly, that stuff gets you nowhere. It got me nowhere but deeper into a very dark place. I lost all faith in God. When my three-year-old dog, not-quite out of puppyhood, still  very much becoming the adult dog she was meant to become came near death, I gave up. My mom died two years ago around the same time. Fuck this.

But God didn’t give up on me. God asked me to put all my faith in him. God showed up for me through the dog. My mother, a true dog-lover, always reminded me that dog is God spelled backwards.

So before you fret and compare to my dog’s story, which you will, I know, I’m going to tell you to pray. Ask others to pray. Ask me. Comment on this blog and I will talk to God for you. I’m not saying any of this will work, but I am saying that when people have a conversation with God, life is easier.

I’m not even a super religious person. I only put that paragraph in there because God is making me do it. Sometimes you gotta keep up your end of the bargain and spread some of the good word, ya know?

So two weeks ago, the dog got weird. A little off. Our normally-hyper, jumpy, kissy, slightly-embarrasing around-guests dog started acting withdrawn. She didn’t greet us as effusively. It was harder to engage her in play. She was tighter with her kisses and cuddling. But she still did all those things. Plus, a month earlier, she’d also had a weirdo episode like this, but then she’d gone back to normal.

I took her to vet for both episodes, but since she was still eating/drinking and not vomiting or anything, and since her temp was normal and she showed no pain, they told us it was anxiety. Anxiety made sense since we have a 17-month old kid who is constantly terrorizing her.

But this time the weirdo episode didn’t go away. Instead she got gigantically worse each day. She began shaking. Then yelping. Then barely moving. She refused to jump. She hated the walk I took her on. I took her back to the vet, who gave us an anti-inflammatory ibprofen-like med. He told us she might have slipped a disc and to keep her confined.

Two more days passed, and at 4AM, the dog awoke yelping in pain. She just sat in a miserable hunched position, panting. I rushed her to the emergency room. They gave her two stronger painkillers, but noted that it was her neck that seemed to be the worst of her pain.

That night I took her back to the regular vet for bloodwork and xrays. Both came back normal. The doc started the dog on a steroid. We were still treating her for the slipped disc, which wouldn’t haave shown up on an xray, but it seemed like that’s what it was.

A few more days passed. The dog didn’t get better, but the painkillers relaxed her a little, so we thought we’d just have to ride out the backpain before getting our girl back.

Then on Sunday, five days before Christmas, I went upstairs to see a disturbing sight — the dog was lying there stiffly with a wild look in her eyes. I carried her downstairs and began to fully understand what was happening. She was having a seizure. They were terrible, violent grand-mal seizures with foaming at the mouth. She had eight of them in my arms as we rushed her to the emergency vet. The dog’s body was limp and my shirt was soaked in saliva as I carried her in. It was a nightmare.

They admitted her to the hospital where she continued to have seizures and slipped into to a coma-like state. The docs floated the possiblity of meningitis, and that the dog would need to see the neurologist and get an MRI and spinal tap. We scheduled the MRI for Tuesday.

Then Monday night we got the phone call. I’d been down this road with my mom. I know there’s always the call. The dog’s blood pressure had spiked. Her heart rate had dropped. She was nearing cardiac arrest. The doctor asked if we wanted to resusitate her should that happen. Not wanting to drag a dying dog into a $3000 MRI, we said no. We desperately called around for one of our parents to babysit our kid, and the wife and I drove over to the hospital to say goodbye.

The dog was still non-responsive, seized in a rigid, unnatural position, twitching horribly and paddling her legs helplessly. She was blinded by the brain swelling. We held her for two hours saying goodbye. We told her what we’d gotten her for Christmas. We told her the story of her adoption day. We told her our favorite walks with her, and how we’d loved taking her on vacations. We said goodbye. The doctor gave her a less than 50% chance of surviving the night. Once home, I sat in the dark living room with the Christmas tree lights still on, late into the morning, sitting with the emptiness of the house. I slept thinly.

The dog survived the night. The neurologist thought she was still stable enough for anathesia, so we got the MRI and spinal tap. At 7pm on Tuesday, we finally had our answer: the dog had viral meningitis. Normal white blood cell count in the spinal fluid is less than five. Penny had over two thousand. It’s rare. The regular emergency docs had seen it once, twice each. The neurologist had seen it a few times. Would she get better, we asked? He shrugged. “It’s a crapshoot,” he said. 50/50.  We started her on a steroid and antibiotics.

I knew I’d had other people praying for my dog all along, but until this point, I hadn’t said a single one. I thought to myself that all these other people had faith for my pup, but not me. So I prayed for God to show us his ability to heal my dog. It’s all I said.

The next day, Wednesday, the dog was still basically non-responsive. But she did attempt to stand — although she quickly fell right back over. It was something. She showed no response to me, no recogniton of any surroundings. But that tiny attempt to stand was hopeful. The doc pulled me aside and gave me the speech about quality of life versus existing.  The doc told me this would take weeks, months — not hours, not days.

Then a few hours later, the dog could miraculously see, stood up, could walk, could run, jump, became super hyper, and came home on Christmas day and played like a puppy with all of her gifts.

WTF.  (Oh yeah, see the above stuff about God.)

Penny is continuing to do well. We need to keep praying that the meningitis will stay in permanent remission once she stops the meds.

Me? How am I doing? Exhausted, somewhat depressed with a weird grief-hangover, thankful, grateful, ready to play my new xbox.

Countdown: This Weirdo Stocking Stuffer

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I found this oddity at Target in the stocking stuffer aisle. For five bucks, it promised I might find an actual diamond in 1 out of 24 boxes.  Plus it was in an irresistably shiny foil box. SOLD. Whatever this item was. SOLD.

And when I opened the box and discovered these items inside, my excitement was 10/10. Maybe even 11/10:

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I mean, look! Tiny digging instruments! A near-useless brush! A GIANT HUNK OF HARD BLUE SAND.

10 minutes later…

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ADHD Me has arrived. I can’t take it anymore. This thing is grindy to do. This mallet is useless. I’m ready to take this thing out back and throw it at a wall.

20 minutes later…

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Welp, I didn’t get a diamond. Enter day-ruining soul-crushing disappointment. In the words of Charlie Brown, I got a rock.

 

Countdown: Treasures from the Toy Show Part 2

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I really really really wanted to post today about the McDonald’s Holiday Pie. WHAT IS IT? I mean, yeah, duh, it’s a pie. But really when you think about it WHAT IS IT? DO YOU EVEN REALLY KNOW?

I was going to find out. But my local McDonald’s didn’t have it yet, so I’ll have to wait to solve that mystery another day. Onward with the toy treasures.

First up, I nabbed this big Leonardo action figure from the classic, critically-acclaimed, much-heralded film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3. The toy line for this movie was so popular and so frenzied, that there was Black Friday hysteria and bloodletting at the time. Retail toy store veterans trade war stories about the days of Tickle Me Elmo, Super Nintendo, and Samirai Leonardo 14″ figure.  In fact, this figure goes for $750 on ebay.  Everything I’ve written is true. This is an amazing treasure I’ve found. You’ll never convince me of anything otherwise.

Next treasure rules just as hard:

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Yo, Toxic Crusaders Colorforms, sealed. I bought this mainly because I love the colors. NEON GREEN NEON YELLOW NEON ORANGE. It’s so beautiful. I’m pretty sure I’ll crack this open one day to play with my son. But for now it stays minty mint in the box like a beauty queen. (I have no idea if that sentence makes sense, but it was ringing in my head like a line of a poem, so hell yes, I did just compare Toxic Crusaders Colorforms to a beauty queen.)

Finally, the new crown jewel of my collection:

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It’s a Madball Super ball! Or a Madball Football! Once upon a time, they tried to extend the Madballs line into larger sizes. Only two were ever released: this football, as well as a nasty-looking soccer ball. I had the soccer ball as a kid, so the nostalgia factor was strong with this one. I’ve wanted one of these for years, though never really felt like plunking down $40 on ebay for one. Coming across it in person was once of those collector’s daydreams, and for only twenty bucks to boot.

Dreams do come true! At least, dreams about Madballs do…