Dancing with My Limits

My niece called me up the other day to ask me to help her with a school project. She is the sweetest thing this side of the Olsen twins, and I couldn’t say no. Her sixth grade class was compiling a short written history of the stories of their families. Coming from a family of seven kids (and therefore from an endless supply of stories), I was honored that she included me. I quickly agreed to help in any way I could.

Then I got the written instructions. Thermonuclear reactors require less documentation.

To make a long story short (and, trust me, it turned out to be a veeeeeeery long story), it ended up taking two days for me to finish my contribution. Eschewing sleep in order to complete my pieces before her deadline, I struggled under the pressure to “come through in the clutch.” I wrote, then rewrote, then realized that I had to take out all the inappropriate references and allusions to the crimes of her father. In short, I had to do many of the things that James Frey should have done: spare her some of the more embarrassing details.

When, at last, I was able to send off two finished stories that adhered to the project requirements, I’d felt as if I’d just finished a book. I was free! I could actually turn back to the stack of student papers that rose from my desk like a flimsy paper finger pointing toward the sky…

Her next email started out thusly: “Dear Uncle Robby,
Thank you for sending me those two stories for my project. They were very funny. I have to have the next two by Tuesday.”

This might be why I don’t have kids. I love my nieces and nephews more than life itself, but I’m going to have to miss “Dancing With The Stars” in order to finish now.

My love has limits…

An Open Letter to My Clock

I know what you’re doing, and I don’t appreciate it.

You think this is funny? I know for a fact that you’re not moving as fast as you should because there’s no way I just checked my Inbox for the third time in ten minutes. That would be crazy; CRAZY, I say!

How could an agent possibly reply to a question that I just posed a mere four minutes ago? It’s ridiculous, and yet… nope, still nothing there.

No, it’s obvious that you are messing with my head. You do it when I post something on LJ, too- I keep checking back for replies only to find that it’s only been up for only two minutes. How can this be?

I think you save up the time that you steal from me at night, when I wake up feeling so tired. Then you slip it in when I’m waiting for something, making it take forever. I’m on to you now.

It wasn’t always this way. Before I started writing, I had a perfectly acceptable relationship with you. I still remember the day I picked you out: you were so shiny with a hint of green, such a vast improvement over the glaring red numbers that roused me from my slumber for years before. I reveled in your dual alarm settings and your “Sounds of the Forest” sleep feature.

Now you mock me with each submission I send, grinning your digital indifference every time I scurry back to my Outlook Express to check for acceptance.

“Back already?” you seem to say, snuggled in between a lamp and the TiVo remote on my nightstand. Lately you’ve developed a French accent in my head.

I check again: No New Messages. Maybe it’s broken: I close out of it and open it again. No New Messages. My eye is drawn to you as you crawl to 6:03.

Oh, I know what you’re up to, all right. And as soon as I finish rebooting my computer to make sure that the mail is coming through properly, I’m coming after you next…


Why This Page Is Useful

Why do I blog? I don’t do it much, actually. However, it does give me a forum to discuss our toilet seat.

I’m not leery of offending anyone’s sensibilities by admitting that we never replaced the seat when we first moved in four years ago. Nope. We scrubbed that sucker with some ammonia and then subjected our most holy of holies to whatever remained. I put more thought into the reading material that sits on top of it than I did the idea that using someone else’s toilet seat might be utterly disgusting.

I’m not averse to sharing that it cracked about eight months ago, snapping like a pretzel rod right in the middle of David Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Some might be too embarrassed to write that they didn’t rush out to replace the seat at this point. Not me. I waited until the other side cracked as well, just as I was starting James Frey’s My Friend Leonard.

I know of many people who would rather die than disclose that they merely maneuvered the broken part of the seat back into place for a few days rather than brave Home Depot for its replacement in the middle of the week. They would never reveal the sense of danger, the teeth-chattering fear one must live with every time one reaches a little too far for the toilet paper.

I’d have to look long and hard for anyone else to own up to the fact that they finally broke down and bought that new toilet seat (ooooh, wood grain) a week ago, but that it still sits in a corner of the bathroom, entombed in cellophane wrapping.

Most importantly, I’m not afraid to say that Mrs. Walsh is the coolest thing since sno-cones because she hasn’t killed me yet. We share more than the pointy, jagged dimples on our heinders after using this toilet; we share the utter exhaustion of teachers who’ll put up with almost anything after a long week in front of middle schoolers.

So, why do I blog? Because where else can I expound upon my fearlessness about my toilet seat?

TiVo Shame


TiVo has exposed us again; it’s brought us to a new low. We feel dirty, embarrassed.

The first time it happened was a few years ago during the World Series. Manny Ramirez was up at bat, the count was 3-2, and all the people we’d invited over for the party had their eyes glued to the TV. The pitcher reared back, poised to deliver the pitch that could change the game when… South Park came on.

The very reason we got TiVo in the first place, the Season Pass feature that lets you record an entire season of a show with one click, was the cause of our Shakespearean downfall.

“What the hell is this?” demanded one irate Boston fan. “Turn the game back on!”

“You wanted to watch a cartoon instead of the game?” another asked.

“I think he’s taping the whole season,” whispered another.

I jumped up and struggled with the remote, trying to get to the screen that would let me stop taping and return to the game. In the process I had to go to the Now Playing screen, where everything we’d taped was displayed for all to see.

Have you ever invited people up into your bedroom to look at your underwear drawer? Probably (hopefully?) not, but giving outsiders a chance to peek into your TV world has the same effect. There are things in there you need but don’t discuss openly: most of it is drab, strictly functional. However, you might have a few “frillies” in there as well, a little something to kickstart the ‘ol adrenaline.

Our Season Pass contains Survivor, The Daily Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and even a little Charlie Rose. These are everyday, mom-and-pop shows. Dig a little deeper in the drawer, however, and you hit Victoria’s dirty little secrets: The Family Guy, The Biggest Loser, Breaking Bonaduce, Wondershowzen, The New Gilligan’s Island, Amish in the City, etc. We’re not proud, but there you have it. Sometimes, we need to feel dirty, and so we’ll watch repeat episodes of Gene Simmon’s Rock School or Growing Up Gotti.

“Is that a whole season’s worth of Hogan Knows Best?” my father in law asks me as I fumble through the Now Playing screen.

I know the worst is yet to come, because I have to scroll down to the S for South Park, and I know that my wife’s Lifetime Original Movies addiction is going to rear its ugly head. We’re not into smutty movies, but you’d never know it to look at the Lifetime movies on our Now Playing screen. The titles read like three-word pornography: Crimes of Passion, A Dangerous Affair, A Lover’s Revenge, Seduced and Betrayed, Sex Lies & Obsession, Sin and Redemption, The Lover Awaits, etc.

“What is Sins Against Decency?” asks the ten year-old son of one of my neighbors before his mother’s hand covers his mouth.

“No, it’s not… it’s a movie, but it’s… it’s not what it looks like,” I say, punching at the remote control in full panic. “See? It’s TV-14.”

The damage done, I finally get the TiVo back to the game. The inning’s over now, and evidently Manny didn’t come through. I walk red-faced back to the couch, glaring at my wife, while the commercials chatter in the background.

“Anyone else need a beer?” I ask, voice cracking. No one responds, their eyes cast downward.

As I pull another Amstel out of the refrigerator, I overhear one of my friends whisper, “Amish in the City? Who takes the time to program in an opportunity to watch Amish people?”

Who indeed? Damn you, TiVo… damn you to hell.

Dick Clark Doesn’t Drop Ball


I was never in the “It’s not New Year’s Eve without watching Dick Clark” camp. His deal with the devil left me feeling creepy: how the hell can anyone look that young for that long? Last night that changed, however, as Dick Clark showed his human side. Returning from a major stroke, he wasn’t doing much Rockin’ but he was inspirational (can we ask for anything better to start off a new year?) as he hosted the festivities from Times Square.

It was calming to see the ABC cameras cut to him after yet another overly-enthusiastic explosion from Ryan Seacrest, his cohost. You could almost hear the effort Dick spent the previous year practicing his final countdown,

and it’s the first time I’ve ever looked forward to tv coverage of this event.

His replacement from last year, Regis Philbin, evidently caught the bug: he ended up hosting his own gig on Fox. Still, the star of the show was America’s own Corpse Bride, Mariah Carey.

She’s looking very… zoftig. It seems after her latest career rebirth (she was the year’s top seller in 2005) she finally got permission to eat again.

Still, that deal with the devil comes at a great cost: Dick’s return meant someone else had to go… YOU’RE MY BOY, BLUE! Rest in peace, Patrick Cranshaw (1920 – 2006)