driving me crazy

I have discovered the root of all evil.

It is not religion.

It is not television.

It is the automobile.

People in cars are mean, angry, overstimulated, heedless humans.  They speed, drive recklessly, follow too closely and are thoroughly convinced of their own uber-importance.  Being sheathed in hundreds of pounds of metal and glass makes them feel invincible and as though they’ve been granted a free pass from civility.  People who, as indicated by their bumper sticker choices, are in other realms reasonable and thoughtful behave boorishly and with appalling manners.  Despite clear evidence of the dangers of their ways (shattered glass and tail lights littering the side of the road, deep black tire marks ending abruptly on the pavement), they careen about impatiently and irrationally. 

We’ve been given this ability to go FAST, in our personal petroleum bubbles, and it has turned us into horrible, horrible people.

I’ve taken to driving 2 miles under the speed limit wherever I go.




Just another minute…

A couple of weeks ago, Egon remarked, apropos of nothing:  I’ve seen my friends every day this summer.

And by friends, he meant ALL of them.  There has been a permanent pile of bikes in the backyard, and an ongoing battle to keep edibles, any edibles, in the house for any length of time.

Leading up to the return to school, his comments have run thusly:

3 weeks before school starts:

We should go buy school supplies.  Pencils, notebooks.  Stuff.

(We agree that perhaps we still have some time to do that.)

1 week before school starts:

Can we go buy school supplies?  I need all of them.

(But then vanishes in a cloud of teenage boys.)

5 days before school starts:

Tomorrow, let’s go shopping for school supplies.

(I don’t see him at all the following day.)

3 days before school starts:

Tomorrow we need to go shopping.  OK? It’s a date?

(When offered a trip to Office Depot, he demurs, saying he’s got plans.)

2 days before school starts:

We notice that his shoe is no longer actually intact. We decide to make a trip to the shoe store in addition to office supply stores.

But not right now, OK?  Friends are coming over.

1 day before school starts:

I come home early from work to take him shopping.  While there are a half-dozen bikes on the back lawn, and all doors are unlocked, there is noone about.  I call his cellphone and leave the message that I am home and ready to shop.  10 minutes later, he returns the call –

I just learned from Jack that we don’t need to get supplies until after the first day.

I ask about perhaps buying shoes that actually cover his feet.

That can wait.

He is wringing every last sun-drenched second of freedom out of the summer before being forced to go to bed before 3 am, and having to do homework before video games.


Just picked tomatoes in a salad, chilled rose in a glass, in the back “yard” with the whole family plus Mya & Mr. P, on an absurdly pleasant August evening.

Bliss, thy name is summertime in Madison.

Season of the Corn

There must have been a mighty ambitious squirrel in the ‘hood last fall.   This summer there are corn stalks growing all up and down the street.    The common consensus among neighbors seems to be to let them grow.  There are stalks sprouting out of vegetable gardens, in flower beds, straight up from lawns.  Nobody seems to want them gone.  Some approach my height of 62 inches.

I’ve been watching the stalks in the side yard, and one appears to have produced a tiny ear of corn. 

I’ve never seen corn growing feral in the city before.  Perhaps a combination of last summer’s intense heat and drought and the late arrival of this spring, followed by torrential downpours has created the perfect corn storm.

Egon’s been having a summer.  The horde roams the hood nightly, on bikes and long boards and foot, getting into absolutely no trouble whatsoever.  Less time than I anticipated is spent in the basement – in part due to Jack’s recent acquisition of a jetski and a stand up paddle board (Note:  stand up paddle boards are modern naval warfare equipment, NOT recreational devices).

There are forays out behind the old feed mill with airsoft guns and paintball – Egon’s acquired an army jacket, goggles and an ammo belt for these outings.  Turkeys and deer have been spotted back there – spotted, but not shot at.

He stays up until 4 am on his Asus Republic of Gamers uber-laptop, then sleeps until noon or one. 

I’ve brought him in to work to do some data entry, payment for which went toward the purchase of a Thompson airsoft machine gun rifle.

When I got home from work today, four of them were lolling about the living room, trying to decide on a plan of action. Their final choice:  making cookies.  A not-so-quick run to the store for white sugar, and then into the kitchen for massive mess making.

One was overhead to say: “Is that the Joy of Cooking?  That’s the only cookbook you need.”

These are not your average 15-year-old male americans.


Throwing a birthday party for a 7-year-old:

Build a treasure chest.  Purchase/collect/create treasure to fill chest.  Bury chest in friend’s backyard.  Write clues on parchment paper in “pirate” script, hide around neighborhood.  Bake a cake, frost and decorate.  Sew many black eye-patches.  Cut out pirate sword shapes from cardboard; purchase paint and decorative items for them.  Sew pirate “booty” bags.

Escort swarm of kids through clue search and follow, digging up (in the rain) of muddy chest, opening and distribution of loot.   Feed kids cake and ice-cream.  Manage mass chaos of decorating pirate swords.  Open presents.

Throw out wrapping paper and detritus.  Wash clothes muddied by treasure chest excavation.  Wash dishes.

Throwing a birthday party for a 15-year-old:

Hand kid $50 to feed him and his horde of friends.  Wave good-bye as they disappear into the night.

Bake cake.

Game Plan

Some of the most wrenching images from the Oklahoma tornado wreckage are the animals.  Dazed, terrified, injured, alone.  A photo of a woman comforting a dying dog lying amidst rubble on a rain-soaked street choked me up completely.

Our animals rely on us.  Despite Leo’s insistent ferocious yowling and Mya’s desperate need to stalk and chase ALL THE SQUIRRELS, they are not the hunters their ancestors were.  Our beasts in particular are unlikely to have any idea what to do in a disaster — except hide under the bed, which might actually be smart.

Anyway, I have established a plan of action in case of emergency.  There are 4 beasts and 4 humans in the house.  We’ve each been assigned one animal to take care of – getting them into the basement in case of tornado, or outside in case of fire.

Karen – Mr. P

Daniel – Mya

Shara – Leo

Egon – Iggy

Upon sharing this scheme with the kids, Egon thought for a moment and then said:  “What if we don’t take Leo, but rescue the chickens instead?”

Some discussion and we decided chickens can fend for themselves, but that we should all, in the event of impending doom, run downstairs and grab plastic baggies, and then scoop out the fish, put them into the baggies and hustle them to safety.

(In conclusion – unless we adopt more human members of the family, we cannot take in any more pets, or our disaster plan will be for naught.)