Every year since 1975 (I know, quite a few of you weren't even born then), my brothers, cousins, anyone we could convince to walk in from off the street, and I competed against one another in an annual Wiffleball Tournament.
The winner of said tournament would win the oh-so-classy trophy pictured above. Then he (or she-my daughter has played in the last few tourneys) would host the following year's competition. According to one of my brothers (you know him as 'Gary'), it was kinda like hosting the Olympics. Your home is swarmed by all these people eating your food and drinking your beer (especially those smarty-pants from East Germany). I suspect this attitude lead him to complain of a knee injury a couple years back. This resulted in me winning by default and him coming in second.
Hmm....seems too convenient, if you ask me.
I really don't know which is sadder:
1. The fact that we actually have a trophy for this (I still have it).
2. Last year, one of my other brothers (you know him as 'Phil') and I "retired" from this contest because it got too tough to recover (yeah, imagine that). So, now me and the other old-timer just play team wiffleball during family get-togethers.
And reminisce about the time Gary weenied out of playing me in the 2008 Championship Game.
Hard to believe, but the A-Z Challenge is just about over.Oh, sure, I still have ‘Z’ to do, but it’s going to be a quick cartoon that I thought of while trying to feign interest in biology class (in fact, I awarded it to the teacher.Who promptly awarded me with a ‘D.’I wonder if that was a reflection of my work in class or my cartoon?No matter).
That being the case, I really won’t have much of chance to say “thank you” to all of you who (or is that “whom?” Better ask my English teacher) took the time to read my verbal diarrhea and, more, saw fit to comment on same.For those “You suck!” comments, it was a snap to have them deleted.
And to put a flaming bag of dog poop on your front porch.
I learned quite a bit over the past 25 days: how “delayed posting” is a boon for procrastinators, that there are 26 letters in the alphabet (I always forget ‘Q’...maybe because, in Scrabble, you rarely use it without a ‘U’), my invitation to the Royal Wedding won’t be forthcoming, and that there are a WHOLE BUNCH of talented bloggers out there.
You put me to shame.I feel privileged to have gotten to know you and (heaven help you) struck up a cyber-relationship with a few(you know who you are).
For my old followers (including Mom), thanks for hanging in there with me.It’s not easy reading about Old Man Toe, colonoscopies, piss cream, and vasectomies, I know.Look on the bright side, though.At least it isn’t happening to you.
For my new followers, thanks for stopping by.I hope to give you a laugh every so often (if nothing else, take a look at my picture.Hey, I bathed.).
I’d like to give a shout-out to Arlee Bird from Tossing It Out.If it wasn’t for him, many of you wouldn’t have gotten a chance to know me.Any hate mail may be sent to him at http://tossingitout.blogspot.com.
To the rest of you happy campers, as Elvis said, “Thank you, thank you very much.”
NOTE: The following is a tale of the newest member of the X-Men. My favorite comic book characters growing up were Superman, Spiderman, and Little Lulu. As I grew older, my childish proclivities (fancy word meaning ‘predisposition.’ You’re welcome.) shifted from “funny books” to the classics. Like the underwear section of the Sears catalog or anything I found in Dad’s sock drawer. In that time, though, I never read any X-Men books. Don’t know why. I just didn’t. That being the case, my knowledge of all things “mutant” is limited to what I’ve gleaned from the X-Men movies (I did learn that Halle Berry is smokin’ hot). So, the below may contain some inaccuracies. Sure, I could have done research, but screw it, the A-Z Challenge is almost over.
Sneezing in the sudden presence of light, especially sunlight, is a phenomenon known as sun sneezing or the photic sneeze reflex. Affecting anywhere between 10 to 35 percent of humans, it has prompted the following question: what in the world is going on?
There is no solid proof of what triggers this, but some hypothesize that it is caused by a gene affecting the center of the brain responsible for sneezing. Even though this specific gene has not been identified, it can be inherited.
-Ferris Jabr and Michael Easter
9 Nov 2009
X-Men: The Rise of Mucousa
Professor Xavier (played by Jean Luc Picard), seeking the release of fresh air, wheeled from the front door of Hogwarts (yes, I know. This is where Harry Potter goes to school. I had to put something down).
He coasted to a stop. The weather was pleasant, he happily noted. A soft breeze wafted through trees just beginning to shake off the torpor of winter. The noonday sun, dazzlingly bright, poked from behind a soft cloud. Not yet blazing with the heat of summer, its soothing warmth bathed his face.
Refusing to surrender to a blissful reverie, his mind shifted to the reason why he had come outside.
The new student, Mucousa, while certainly sincere, was not exactly what the X-Men were looking for.
“Looking for, professor,” Xavier harshly reminded himself. One must never end a sentence with a preposition. It’s not a good habit to be saddled with.
Oh, sure, he continued, sneezing by command was an impressive feat. One which most people on Earth were not blessed with.
Crap, the professor thought, there I go again.
As unique as this power was, he doubted its utility as a crimefighting tool. Maybe he could give a foe a cold, but what good would that do when the incubation period for upper respiratory infections was measured in days?
Bad enough we have the Athletes Footster, he thought, but a photic sneezer? He decided to give the Justice League a call. Maybe they could use him. After all, they had that know-it-all, Aquaman.
He heard a noise behind him.
“So, what are you doing out here, Professor?” he heard the voice of Wolverine.
Xavier turned and saw his burly friend, accompanied by Storm (as noted above, played by Halle Berry. Hubba hubba).
“I thought you wanted to get in on the Jenga tournament,” she said.
Before he could answer, they each heard, “Sadly, there will be no Jenga tonight.”
They quickly turned. Their hearts froze as they saw, descending from behind the branches of the nearest tree, the menacing form of their archenemy, Magneto (played by John Gielgud in the movie. No, that’s not right. Malcolm McDowell? No, that doesn’t sound right, either. Okay, the guy who played “Gandalf” with all those hobbits).
“Magneto!” Xavier shouted.
“Very good, professor,” Magneto smirked. He raised his right hand and, immediately, the metal arms of the professor’s wheelchair folded inward (the professor’s normal chair being in the shop for its yearly inspection, he was given a cheap “loaner”).
From off to the side came an enraged roar as Wolverine, deploying his fearsome claws, charged the villain.
“My boy, you never learn,” he said, raising his left arm. Instantly, the metal coursing through Wolverine’s body was seized in Magneto’s magnetic grip (that it was magnetic is something I felt I didn’t need to explain) .
Paralyzed, Wolverine dropped to the ground.
WRITER’S NOTE: Magneto says that Wolverine “never learns.” Since I’m an X-Men expert (did I mention the movies?), it seems that “Wolvie” always charges Magneto, forgetting that he has more metal in him than the Terminator. I think Wolverine is kind of a dope. We continue...
Turning his attention to Storm, Magneto hissed, “Don’t think I’ve forgotten you. I’ll get you, my pretty. And your little dog, too!” (Oops, sorry. Wrong movie.).
Suddenly, the metal rails leading from the door lift, snakelike, from the ground. Like a snake (yeah, we get it), they quickly wrapped themselves around Storm’s smokin’ hot body. Her arms pinned to her side, she was unable to use her powers of smokin’ hotness to control the forces of the weather.
“And, now, my helpless friends,” Magneto thundered, “Degrassi is mine!!” (is that closer?) He then gave the patented bad guy laugh, most recently used by Dr. Evil.
Suddenly, “Hey, guys, what’s going on? I’ve got Jenga all set up.”
Standing in the doorway was the new recruit, Mucousa. Not nearly the image of a superhero, he actually looked more like a cross between any one of those guys on The Big Bang Theory and Wally Cox(except Wally Cox is dead, so maybe that’s a bad example).
USELESS PIECE OF CRAP: Did you know that Wally Cox was the voice of Underdog? Yeah, how ‘bout that? We continue...
“Who is this puny, pusillanimous pipsqueak?” the redundant Magneto sneered.
Seeing a chance, the Professor gasped, “Mucousa. Sun. Engage.”
“I don’t know if we can take a fifth playe...ohhhhh!” Mucousa protested, just before he took the Professor’s meaning.
Suddenly assuming a stern look, he gazed sharply at the sun. His eyes began to water and his face screwed up in what could have been misinterpreted as a “sex face.”
But, the Professor knew better. He knew what was coming.
His eyes shut tightly and nose lifted slightly, Mucousa walked rightly (sorry, I love adverbs) to the contemptuous rogue (I love thesauruses).
Starting to laugh, Magneto blurted, “What in the-“
He never finished his sentence. Mucousa let loose with a thunderous sneeze, drenching the purple-clad scoundrel with a torrent of...uh...mucous (geez, I would have thought that would have been obvious. Given the name).
Disgusted, distracted, and discombobulated, Magneto’s concentration was broken for a brief second.
Long enough for Wolverine to pounce like a wolverine (ohh, I get it now). With a savage roar, he swung his arm in a mighty arc. His talons easily ripped through Magneto’s neck, severing the head from the body.
The head thudded to the ground, its dead eyes staring at the robin’s egg blue sky and an “Oh, crap!” expression crossing its lifeless face.
From behind him, Wolverine heard Storm, “Think that was a little dramatic, Logan? I was just going to surround him with an electrical field.”
Wolverine shrugged. Storm complained. In her skintight cat-suit.
But, the Professor smiled.
Six months later.....
Wolverine dashed into the Superhero Dormitory (I don’t know what they call it. Give me a break. We’re almost done here.).
He called to the newest X-Man, “Hey, Mucousa! Suit up! There’s an evil force eating Chicago. They’re calling it ‘Oprah!’”
Leaping to his feet, Mucousa jumped into his orthopedic shoes and snapped on his inhaler belt.
His face grew dark.
“Looks like someone’s going to come down with a head cold.”
Apparently, some mouth-breathers in the New York State legislature have taken it upon themselves to declare that certain children’s games are inherently unsafe. No doubt victims of the athletically inclined (or even competent) when they were kids themselves, they have proclaimed that Red Rover, Tag, Capture the Flag, Disemboweling the Slow (ok, I’ll give them that one), and Wiffleball (wiffleball!!) are as dangerous as a Seder at Osama Bin Laden’s house and, so, should be banished as activities for our youngsters.
Of course, concerned parties could petition the state for a waiver. Then, for only a $200 fee, they could outfit their kids in head-to-toe bubble wrap before venturing forth to play Four Square (where their self-esteem is in jeopardy if they get chalk on their pants).
Luckily, common sense and a flood of bad publicity stopped these knuckleheads from carrying out their plan. For now.
Just to be sure, though, I’m asking Butchie Zowine from my old neighborhood (he may be out on parole) to head up to Albany. Where he will give atomic wedgies to these idiot legislators if they change their minds.
We loved wiffleball when we were kids. It was the perfect game to while away hot summer days when nobody actually felt like heading to High Park to chase a baseball around.
You didn’t need nine players on a team, you didn’t have to run the bases, and there was zero chance of breaking the neighbor’s windows or each other’s jaw (are you listening, New York?).
In fact, since we first started playing by pitching to each from across the street, the worst thing you had to worry was zinging a passing car driven by a large man. Or losing your ball when it went into Mrs. Pender’s rose bushes.
Prickers and bees. Yikes!
It was one of my brothers and I favorite activities (until we discovered girls). It even stayed with us when I went into the Navy. To this day, we continue to play it.
As a matter of fact, there’s an annual Wiffleball competition that is held primarily on the East Coast (details on www.wiffleup.com. I’m not making this up).
Two of my brothers and I competed in this in 1999. Of course, we were disqualified when some joker poured super-glue in our armpits and we couldn’t move our hands.
Our own children have taken up the mantle and play against us. Although, I have to admit, they’re better (also “faster,” “agile,” and “less prone to sore muscles”). But, my brothers and I can drink beer, so it’s kind of a wash.
So, it is with no small amount of disgusted amusement that one of the most cherished games of my childhood (beside “Fling Dog Poop at Kathy”) has been designated lethal to life, limb, and tender sensibilities.
As I was tagging along with my wife on one of her grocery shopping excursions, I noticed a summer barbecue set-up near the ice cream. Predictably, there were lounge chairs, coolers, sun screen and, lo and behold, a collection of wiffleball equipment.
Ignoring her pleas to help load a crate of bathroom tissue into the cart (“Hey, it’s on sale! I don’t care if it’s a hundred rolls! We can always use toilet paper!!), I took a look at the collection of little yellow plastic bats and balls (hee, hee, hee. I said “balls”).
Upon further inspection, I noticed that, printed on the cardboard sleeves, were directions how to toss the ball up into the air. Essentially, how to pitch to yourself.
I thought, “What kind of pathetic loser doesn’t have any friends that he can play wiffleball with?”
Having children is a wonderful thing, especially if you’re a man.
All we have to do is get the ball rolling, so to speak (a euphemism if there ever was one), sometimes more than once if we’re lucky. Then, following a few weeks of pensive waiting (during which we get to keep the ball rolling-if you know what I mean), our wife/girlfriend/woman we met in a bar looks lovingly into our eyes (hopefully, not during the ballgame).
In a soft, trembling voice suffused with tender devotion, she whispers, “We’re going to have a baby.”
Then, she goes to throw up in the toilet.
The next nine months, 30 weeks, baseball season (whatever) then becomes a non-stop rollercoaster ride. Mixed with equal parts of emotion and curiosity over whether she’ll eventually explode like one of those critters on “Alien,” we arrive at the magic time for our baby’s entry into the world of songbirds, sunshine, and Charlie Sheen.
Hopefully, in preparation for an induced labor (so a perfectly good weekend isn’t messed up), the woman settles in for the blessed event. Followed by several hours of screaming bloody murder at the evildoer who did this to her.
Just so you don’t think we men have it rough, don’t forget: while you’re trying to force a bowling ball through a garden hose (I know that’s not original!), we’re struggling just as strenuously. You think it’s easy to watch television with all that racket going on?
Soon enough, we’re given a gift from God (although the deity wasn’t in the room). Mother and father tenderly hold their precious bundle, bathed in the warmth which comes from the knowledge that they are a solid family unit.
Only later that night does Dad mark on the calendar when he can start the ball rolling again.
Luckily for me, Mrs. Penwasser presented me with two beautiful children (beautiful because they don’t look like me). I have a son who is the model of the man I wish I was and a daughter who is everything I wasn’t in high school: popular.
With that in mind, we both decided not to press our luck. Odds were that a third child would look like me, act like me, and use my jokes.
That, along with a state law that forbade me from further reproduction, compelled us to seek methods of permanent sterilization.
We first considered having my wife’s tubes tied. But, since that conjured up a vision of a rodeo where a chaps-wearing doctor would wrassle my wife to the operating table, we didn’t want to try that.
I also considered radiation to fry my “boys.” But, since taping a cell phone to my crotch was impractical and sticking my junk in front of the microwave delayed dinner, we decided on a vasectomy.
Since this decision was made while I was still in the Navy, there was no worry about how we were going to be able to pull this off (an unfortunate phrase, that). The local Navy hospital was more than capable of performing the procedure (NOTE: No way was I going to have this done on a ship. A MOVING ship.).
So, after talking a couple of the guys into joining me (the hospital was having a special. Bring a friend and get 10% off a car wash), I decided to close the “Being Fruitful and Multiply” store.
The three of us were ushered into what looked like a MASH operating room. After a couple of questions, like “Have you eaten in the past 12 hours?”, “Are you sure you want to do this?”, “Have you shaved this morning?” (ever the wise guy, I stuck out my chin and asked, “Sure, but what does that have to do with it?”, we were instructed to disrobe from the waist down and cover ourselves with a white sheet.
Frankly, I wanted to go all nude, but my friends chickened out. I think they were jealous.
Anyway, the three of us laid (or is that ‘lied’? I can NEVER get that straight) down on the table, sheets draped across our laps, our “privates” (wait a minute, we were in the Navy-we didn’t have “privates.” Okay, “seamen.” There, that’s better.”) poking through holes. I swear, we looked like a row of ghosts wearing Jimmy Durante masks.
Assisted by a dour-looking corpsman, the doctor (whose Sonny Bono mustache drooped so low he was able to suck on it. Ewwww.) stood in front of us. He reassured us that the procedure would be painless. Especially, he laughed, for him.
Yeah, I know. Laugh clown, laugh.
There would be, he cautioned, a small “stick and a kick.”
Starting with me, he injected my laddies (the “stick”) to numb them. This was immediately followed by a substantial “kick.” Visions of playground bullies at Saint Stanislaus immediately swam into focus as I struggled to breathe. Before I had the chance to lie that I was okay, though, the parts surrounding my fun factory lost all feeling. I gave the mustache-sucker a thumbs up.
So, it went with the rest of us. In no time, the genital assembly line (thanks, Henry Ford!) was closing up shop. Gingerly putting our trousers back on, we cracked jokes about unloaded guns and laughed about whether we should show our scars at the next family reunion.
Still, we were happy that we were finally taken off the playing field, in a matter of speaking. Instead of being put out to stud, we knew that the limited edition of “us” was finally at an end.
As we got our parking validated and received our car wash vouchers, we took comfort that our lives would be spared from future unplanned, unforeseen “Uh-ohs.”
Even more, we were thrilled that we would be able to “get the ball rolling” in only a couple weeks.
Unless SportsCenter was on.
REMINDER:Only one more week until Prince William and Kate get married! I still haven't received my invitation, which really hacks me off. Especially since I mailed them my handmade collection of troll dolls made to look like the Royal Family. So, I guess I'll have to wear my powder-blue tuxedo on the streetcorner as I wave a sign advertising the latest sale at Mens Wearhouse. "You better like the way you look. Because the prince stiffed me!"
FULL DISCLOSURE: This is a repeat of an earlier blog. No, it’s not a lame attempt to get extra mileage out of something I’d already written without taking the time to come up with something new. Well, okay, it is that. But, I also thought it would fit in dandy with the A-Z Challenge for ‘T.’ I had written a post on the demise of our pet turtle, Cecil (not the amphibian behemoth we caught while fishing), but decided to hold onto it until sometime next month. As I was changing socks this morning in honor of spring, I looked down at my feet and was inspired to dust off this little jewel instead. So, if you’ve read it, carry on, there’s nothing new to see. But, if you’re a recent follower and haven’t read it (because, really, how many of you actually dig into past posts of blogs you just started to follow?) feel free to have a look. You may like what you see. Unless it your toes..
Old Man Toe
I suffer from "onychomycosis."
Quick, what does that mean?
One of the marvels of the modern world is not indoor plumbing, as cool as that is. No, it’s the opportunity to visit with a physician on a regular basis. At least one who doesn’t use leeches.
It was during one of my visits to the doctor that I was informed I was a carrier of a disease whose name is as hard to spell as osteop....ossteyo...osteeo...uh, that bone disease thing. You know, that one that Sally Field always crabs about during commercials for Boniva (which I thought was a type of Viagra).
Does this disease spur telethons? Do smarmy celebrities wear ribbons at the Academy Awards in faux empathy with the afflicted? Does it inspire one of those snazzy car magnets? Do we need to notify medical authorities if it lasts longer than four hours?
Well...no, no, no, and-thank God-no.
Rather than some exotic malady which energizes world governments on the order of a “Save the Banana Slug” frenzy, onychomycosis is nothing more than an infection of the nail bed. Or, as I call it: “Old Man Toe."
Brought on by a fungus (EWW!!), Old Man Toe manifests itself primarily on-you guessed it-the big toes of middle-aged men. This results in discolored, brittle, and hardened nails.
Except for having to give up my dream of being a world-class grape stomper, though, OMT hasn't really bothered me. Luckily, I can live a happy, productive life, never worrying about being stigmatized-except at the beach.
However, since it IS yucky looking, my doctor deemed it prudent to cure my podiatric leprosy.
He told me there wouldn't be too many side effects, apart from possible liver damage. Whew, what a relief! I thought it was serious.
Ominously, he also brought up the traditional bugaboo of possible sexual drawbacks (isn’t that ALWAYS a potential side effect?). But, since I don’t use my toes for that sort of thing, anyway, I wasn’t terribly concerned.
Sadly, OMT is only the latest sign that I'm inching closer to senior citizen discounts at the movies. That, and being relieved each time I wake up.
I try hard not to drown in self-pity as my body lurches inexorably toward total breakdown. Still, it's hard to ignore indicators that I'm no longer a fresh-faced 18 year old. Indicators like...
When faced with two options, I choose the one which will get me in bed before “The 10 O’Clock News.”
I stubbornly hang onto my collection of LPs, never mind that a replacement stylus for my record player is as common as mood rings.
There was a time when the most uncomfortable part of a physical was having my blood drawn. Oh, in this age of the digital exam, would that were still so!
I remember when bell-bottoms went out of fashion. Before they came back INTO fashion. If leisure suits ever come back, I'm just gonna call in sick until I die.
There are people working for me who weren't even BORN when I graduated from high school.
To those people, I find myself saying, "Well, back in MY day, an internet was used for fishing and microwaves were how Munchkins said goodbye!"
There was a time when Mick Jagger didn’t remind me of my grandfather in spandex.
My hairline is receding to my collar, but I can braid what comes out of my nose (it’s a lot like Rapunzel that way. Only gross). I also have sock rings on my calves, dents in my head from bifocals, and a varicose veins road map on my shins. Yep, I’m a hottie.
Forget stereos at Christmas. Give me a warm pair of socks anytime.
I eat antacids like I ate Doritos. And Doritos like I ate broccoli.
I own a tee shirt which says ”Old Guys Rule.” Yeah, at the “Villages.”
I can never figure out whether I'm "jiggy" with it or "down" with that. I guess old guys should never speak "hip" language. Like earrings and ponytails, it makes them look silly.
At the amusement park, I more often than not say “No, that ride makes Dad a little queasy.” And that’s the merry-go-round.
Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Marilyn Manson...what freaks! The Who, KISS, and Alice Cooper...now THERE'S music!
I know the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure. And what "good" cholesterol is.
Donald Duck and I have something in common. Neither one of us wears pants in the house nor can anybody understand us.
I know the words to the theme song from "H.R. Pufnstuf", prefer Curly over Shemp, and remember Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. Now, if I could only remember not to shove a VHS tape into the toaster, I’m having a good day.
Wilfred Brimley may be onto something with that whole oatmeal thing.
Hot dogs give me gas, beer makes me sleepy, and fiber is my friend.
I’m disappointed when the mail doesn’t come on time.
We had party lines, kids have cell phones. We had mailmen in pith helmets, kids have unlimited texting. We had Pong, kids have Call of Duty. We had mindless entertainment on network TV, kids have MTV. Oops, let’s just call that one a draw.
Of course, the moral of the story is be happy, for youth is fleeting. As inevitable as death, taxes, and Charlie Sheen in rehab, the youth of today will be in expand-o-slacks tomorrow.
And, wearing black socks with sandals to hide Old Man Toe.
My best friend’s father had just dropped me off after spending a week at church summer camp.
(NOTE: Even though it was a “church” camp, our devoutness to the Lord was limited to, “Jesus, look at the size of that spider in the latrine!”).
Considering I’d just spent seven days communing with nature (nature not having indoor plumbing, you know), my most pressing need was the bathroom. A shower could wait, the food in the pantry wasn’t going anywhere, and I had yet to develop the fanatical obsession I would have with television in my later adolescence.
However, I knew that if I didn’t release the angry beast within me (probably how Michael Moore’s mom felt), there would be an unholy mess that even FEMA couldn’t handle (ok, that was probably a bad example).
I burst through the door and tossed a perfunctory, “I’m baaaaccckkk!” to the family gathered around our black and white TV (“Hold the friggin’ aerial right, Phil! I can’t see Red Skelton!”). Squeezing my cheeks so hard I could probably make butt diamonds, I bounded up the steps, two at a time.
Just as I reached the threshold, my sister stepped in front of me, blocking the way to the Lavatory Promised Land.
“He’s done it again.”
Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and I hissed, “What’re you talking about?”
She grabbed my arm. “Before you go in there, remember: while you’ve been at camp, he’s been on vacation.”
The urge I had been suppressing suddenly fled. To be replaced by a disturbing image of a crazy man running unchecked through our home.
Instead of schlepping to work at six every morning, coming home at five every afternoon, and falling asleep in front of the TV at seven every evening, our father had the run of our poor, unsuspecting house for the past seven days.
A cold shiver ran down my spine as I remembered his past adventures in “fixing” things. Seeing as these usually resulted in a call to a repairman or visit to the emergency room, I took Kathy’s warning seriously.
“You mean we can’t use the bathroom?”
“Oh, you can use it, all right.”
I took a wary glance around me.
Hmm, didn’t see any scorch marks when I ran up the stairs. Ever since the time he set the hallway on fire after dropping his cigarette into a bucket of turpentine, the old man was extremely careful with flammables.
I also didn’t see any whacky paint schemes. He was still living down the grief he got from our neighbors after he painted the house bright yellow and black. Or, as they called it, the “bumblebee house.”
No, nothing looked any more remiss than it usually did. Sure, the plastic folding partitions still leaned in tattered flaps away from where our bedroom doors used to be. And, I noticed our garish firehouse red beds made from pressed wood hadn’t been confiscated by the Good Taste Police.
So, what could it be? Racking my brain for any explanation, my eyes drifted to my feet. I suddenly realized what Kathy was talking about.
A couple weeks earlier, my father backed his truck into our dirt driveway a couple hours earlier than normal. Hoping he’d brought something home from that new McDonalds down the block, we rushed to greet him.
He threw us a happy wave as he leapt from the cab. “Look what I got,” he said, dropping the tailgate.
There, piled in the bed of his truck, were three spools of differently-colored shag carpet.
He tossed the gold roll onto the driveway. “You know how they’re building that new Holiday Inn next to where I work?”
We silently stared as gold was joined by blue and green. “Well, they were just throwing this crap away. Can you friggin’ believe it?”
Even at 14, I didn’t buy his claim that he just found this stuff in the garbage. Like wood paneling, lava lamps, and aluminum Christmas trees, shag carpet was very trendy in the 70s. I couldn’t imagine anyone getting rid of one, let alone three, rolls of it.
Even though Mom looked suspicious, she didn’t say a word. I just think she wanted some of the glitz that only a Holiday Inn could bring.
That night, my father schemed on how he was going to use his new-found fortune. Sketching floor plans on the back of a pizza box, he paced from living room to porch, tape measure in hand and pencil stuck behind his ear.
Finally, he hauled the green roll in through the front door. Without a word, he dropped it in front of the TV, much to the annoyance of my sister, who was mesmerized by the polyester antics of the Brady Bunch.
Telling Kathy that that “crap will rot your brain,” the master craftsman grabbed his pizza box for reference and disappeared down the cellar stairs.
Minutes later, he reemerged with a carpet knife, yardstick, hammer, and plastic jar of little black tacks.
He sat down and drew the roll towards him. Quickly consulting his sketch, he flipped the rug on its side and grabbed hold of the end. After smoothing out a length, he set the yardstick across its grain.
I figured he was going to cut off a piece which would wrap around the bottom of the staircase.
Heedless of the damage he was causing the wood underneath, he drew the knife toward him. After only a foot, he stopped and made another foot-long cut at a right angle.
When he was done, he held up a perfect square of shag and pronounced, “Ain’t that something?”
Thinking he was just making a test cut before tearing wholesale into the carpet, I told him it looked great.
“Yeah,” he nodded, “it does, doesn’t it?”
Then he flipped the square over and promptly nailed it to the floor. Staring blissfully at the little island of shag adrift in the middle of our living room, he called my mother in from the kitchen.
“Whaddya think?” he crowed.
Even though she liked shag carpeting, she looked a little doubtful. “You’re going to put more down, aren’t you?”
“You betcher ass,” he said as he cut another square. Little did we know at the time, but his transformation to the Dr. Frankenstein of Interior Decorating was nearly complete.
In no time, the lonely little square was soon joined by a couple hundred of its friends. What was once a hardwood living room floor became a shaggy sea of green.
Flushed with success, the mad doctor next decided to cloak our stairs in a hairy swathe of green. Each evening after work, he quickly inhaled dinner and proceeded to wail away on our stairs like Geppetto on speed. Before you knew it, shag carpet treads snaked a finger upstairs, stopping only at our bedroom doors.
As he concluded his march to the second floor, we breathed with relief. There was no more green carpet to be had. Maybe the master decorator was satisfied with all he had wrought.
Unfortunately, we were wrong.
Proclaiming our sleeping quarters in desperate need of a face-lift, he selected the gold roll for our bedrooms.
Like a man possessed, he ripped the beige Peel-N-Stick carpet tiles from around our beds until all that remained was its foam backing. Undaunted, he poured a bucket of glue remover on the rubber, which did the trick of separating it from wood.
Unfortunately, its noxious fumes sent Duke howling to the cellar and caused Phil to see the ghosts of Dukes I-IV. Gary also vomited in our fishbowl, but that may have been normal for Gary.
Oblivious to the smell of hair dissolving in his nose, the crazy carpet-layer of New England then began cutting up more tiny squares.
For the next three nights, he roared through each of our bedrooms, methodically laying a mantle of cheesy gold as he went.
By the time he was done, bedrooms, living room, and stairs were smothered in the finest carpet a man could “find.” Surely we had raised the value of our home by the thousands, my father proclaimed.
“Yep,” he grinned as he scratched his back with a dinner fork, “nothing says classy like a couple hundred square feet of shag.”
For the next few days, everything remained unusually quiet. We were distracted by our summer pursuits and Dad, thankfully, had to work a lot of overtime. Like Grandma at the nursing home, the remaining roll of blue carpet sat, ignored, on the porch.
We thought we were safe. We hoped the scourge of parasitic floor covering had run its course. But, alas, no one noticed our father eyeballing the remaining roll each time he came home from work.
Little did we know.
Last Saturday morning, we gasped in dismay as he dragged the blue roll inside. Even more horrifying was the carpet knife hanging from his belt and container of tacks jiggling in his shirt pocket.
Refusing help, he cut dozens of blue squares and set them aside while we helplessly watched. Once done, he gathered them into his arms. Ignoring my mother’s protests, he began hammering away in the kitchen and dining room.
By the end of the day, the places where we ate our meals were draped in a veil of what strongly resembled blue algae.
My father proudly stood like the Jolly Green Giant of interior design. To him, it was the masterpiece of a talented homeowner. To us, it was an invasion of a freak mutant strain of synthetic kudzu.
The following morning, he dropped me off at camp. Even though he had the next week off, I didn’t worry because I thought our nightmarish summer of shag was finally over.
There were no rooms left to defile.
Caught up in the wonders of the natural world and the chance to crap in the woods, the "Great Rug Epidemic of 1972" slowly slipped my mind.
Until Kathy barred me from the bathroom.
Overcome by an overwhelming need to see what he had done, I shoved her aside. Steeling myself, I grabbed the knob and pushed the door open.
Just as I feared.
The bathtub and toilet bowl were covered in blue shag carpet.
“Hey, Al,” I heard my father call from the backyard, “you want to give me a hand?”