Throw Back Thursday (#TBT)


  • Too much beige, whatever that is

    This column first appeared in a newspaper in April of 2008.

    On Thursday morning, I was standing in our kitchen talking to our German shepherd Shilo.

    I do that a lot, by the way. I talk to my dog. I like talking to Shilo. She, unlike my wife or my 10-year-old daughter, Emma, seems to listen to me. Although, to be fair, Shilo — like my wife or Emma — normally doesn’t have a clue what I’m talking about. She just stares at me hoping I’ll say something she understands. You know, words like “Walk.” Or “Rabbit.” Or “Limbaugh.”

    Thursday morning, I think I was talking about the Kansas City Chiefs’ draft. I told Shilo I thought the Chiefs did a pretty good job in the draft. I think Shilo was getting ready to tell me that the Chiefs should have drafted a center for the offensive line, but before she could my wife screamed from upstairs.

    Because my wife yells at Shilo a lot, Shilo immediately assumed she was in trouble and tried to hide behind my legs. But because my wife yells at me a lot, I also immediately assumed I was in trouble and tried to hide behind Shilo’s legs. It got confusing in our kitchen for a minute or two.

    When my wife came downstairs, I manned up and asked her what was wrong. She told me she had to change tops. I asked her why. (I am, if nothing, a gifted conversationalist.) My wife told me she had to change tops because the one she was wearing had “too much beige.”

    I told my wife that made sense to me, even though it didn’t.

    First of all, I’m sort of unsure about beige. I’m not really clear what beige looks like. I have six brothers and sisters so a lot of times, as a kid, I got hand-me-downs. One of the things that sometimes got handed down to me were crayons. So even if we were lucky enough to have a box of crayons that carried the exotic color of beige, by the time I got the box the beige crayon would have been lost. I’m also unsure about aqua for the same reason.

    I think beige is some sort of off-white, or off-gray, or off-brown. Really, all I know about beige is that it’s “off” something.

    But even if I was sure what beige looked like, I didn’t understand why having too much of it would force my wife to change tops. I guess having too much beige is a fashion no-no. I guess having too much beige is the equivalent of wearing a blue denim shirt with blue jeans. Although, to be honest, I was under the impression that you could wear blue denim shirts with blue jeans. I seem to remember doing that a lot. I seem to remember a lot of people doing that a lot.

    My wife told me that I’m correct in my memory. The only problem, my wife said, is that my memory was from 1978 and this, as my wife is fond of reminding me, is not 1978. I don’t understand that. Well, I understand that this is not 1978. What I don’t understand is if it was OK to wear blue denim shirts with blue jeans in 1978, how come it’s not OK to wear blue denim shirts with blue jeans today?

    My wife said it’s not OK because she says it’s not OK. I asked my wife if that means I can’t wear my blue jean sports jacket with blue jeans. My wife told me that she threw my blue jean sports jacket out years ago.

    I asked my wife if she also threw out my Larry Bird Boston Celtic’s jersey out. My wife said no. She said I threw it out when I discovered that it was too small for me.

    That’s too bad, I said. Because I was really looking forward to wearing my blue jean sports jacket with my Larry Bird Boston Celtic’s jacket and blue jeans.

    My wife told me she was married to a moron. I asked her if he was bigger than me. My wife told me that was an old joke.

    After my wife swapped her top with too much beige for a top with no beige, she left for work. After she left for work Shilo and I looked at each other for a second. Then I asked Shilo if she knew what color beige was. Shilo didn’t say anything. Then I remembered that Shilo is a dog and, as such, can’t see color.

    Then she told me the Chiefs also should have drafted another cornerback.

  • Maybe next time James

    This column first appeared in a newspaper in August, 2003.

    Sometime this evening, James Taylor will take the stage in Kansas City and thousands of people who think “rap” is something you do with presents will grab their walkers, jump to their feet and yell the same thing.

    “What happened to his hair?”

    My wife and I were supposed to be among those thousands of people, but instead newsroom staffer Scott Meeker and his wife Brett, will be sitting in our seats.

    We had to sell our tickets to the Meekers because tomorrow is our 5-year-old daughter Emma’s first day of kindergarten-something we didn’t realize three months ago when we spent roughly 15 hours on the phone ordering concert tickets through some sort of “Ticketron, Mastertix, Tix R’ Us” service.

    Ordering concert tickets over the phone is no fun.

    “Welcome to Ticketron, Mastertix, Tix R’ Us. If you are using a touch-tone phone there will be $99 service charge. If you agree to the charge please press #1. If you are using a rotary phone WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU? THIS IS 2003. WHO USES A ROTARY PHONE ANYMORE? WHAT ARE YOU SOME SORT OF JAMES TAYLOR FAN?”

    The people at ticket-ordering places tend to be a little surly.

    Call us crazy parents but we didn’t feel like taking off to Kansas City this weekend and getting home at 1 a.m. on the day Emma starts kindergarten. My wife in particular has determined that Emma’s first day of kindergarten will be a special day at or house.

    My wife has already spent countless hours labeling, coloring and decorating all of Emma’s school supplies. She decorated Emma’s pencil box, the mat Emma is supposed to sleep on, her glue bottles, her scissors and every individual crayon.

    My role in all of this decorating has been mainly to hang around and make supportive comments like “Hey, what’s with all the school supplies?”

    Emma’s role in all of the school preparation has been to question whether she actually needs to go to kindergarten. It’s not that Emma is against public education, it’s just that she has some concerns.

    Her concerns, in no particular order, are as follows:

    Can I bring my bear Sammy for nap time?

    Will I have to take a nap even if I’m not tired?

    Will Molly, Beth, Jazmyne, Ashleigh, Hadley and Sabrina all be in my class?

    If Daddy takes me to school will he at least try and comb his hair?

    I don’t remember much about my first day of kindergarten, but I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t make that big a deal about the event.

    I have six brothers and sisters so each year on the first day of the new school year, my mom would walk into our living room where we were all gathered and she would point her finger at some of us and say “You, you and you go to school. The rest of you stay here.”

    Mom was kind of busy.

    So, tonight, instead of sitting with a bunch of former hipsters trying to remember the words to James Taylor songs (“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, I’ve seen sunny days I thought would never end but I…something…something…something…can’t believe I’m not still married to Carly Simon”) my wife and I will lay out all of Emma’s new school supplies and her new “first day of school” clothes and then we’ll tuck Emma into bed.

    Then we’ll go downstairs and maybe we’ll pop in a James Taylor CD and sit back and think about how our little girl is not so much a little girl anymore.

    And then, as James Taylor sings “Smiling Face” we’ll both sigh and think the same thing.

    “Seriously, what happened to his hair?”


  • ‘Full House’ upside down

    This column first appeared in a newspaper in the spring of 2005.

    I hopped over another parental hurdle this week.

    I learned how to put our 7-year-old daughter Emma’s hair in a ponytail.

    Ha! That’s a joke. Emma hasn’t let me touch her hair since she was three.

    No, the parental hurdle I hopped over was the TV show “Full House.”

    Thanks to the magic of reruns I know understand “Full House.” I used to think that “Full House,” was a lame situation comedy featuring a few adults and several kids that, for some reason, was allowed to stay on TV much longer than you would have thought it should have been allowed.

    And on one level that’s probably true. But I have recently discovered that there is more to “Full House,” than it appears. Don’t get me wrong, from my perspective, “Full House,” is still mostly a lame TV show but at least now I understand why it’s been allowed to stay on TV as long as it has.

    Seven-year-old girls.

    Emma loves “Full House.” And when I say Emma “loves ‘Full House,’” I mean that in the sense Dick Cheney “loves” the Fox News Channel.

    Because Emma is seven, she doesn’t exactly have a long attention span. Goldfish have longer attention spans than 7-year-old kids. Except when it comes to a television show that grabs their attention. A television show like “Full House.”

    Emma normally starts watching a TV show sitting in an upright position in one of our living room chairs. If she likes the show, after a few minutes, she’ll sort of slump over to one side so her head is leaning on one arm of the chair. Then, if she thinks the show is really interesting, she’ll swing her legs and feet over the other side of the chair. She will then gradually start moving her feet up over the back of the chair while, at the same time, slowly move her head to the bottom of the chair. At this point, Emma is completely upside down, yet somehow still engrossed in her television show.

    Emma loves to watch “Full House,” upside down.

    Sometimes, when I’m in the kitchen, I’ll hear someone laughing in the living room. So, I’ll walk into the living room, look at the chair and say to myself, “That’s odd. There is a pair of feet laughing at ‘Full House.’ I don’t get it. The show’s not that funny.”

    Then I’ll go back into the kitchen.

    I don’t ask a lot of questions in our house.

    Now, if my wife were to walk into the living room and see a pair of feet laughing at “Full House,” she would say, “Emma get your feet off the chair and sit up.”

    My wife pays attention to detail a bit more than I do.

    She’ll, for example, will notice the chocolate Pop-Tart crumbs on Emma’s face as she is walking out the door to go to school.

    Wife: Emma did you wash your face?

    Emma: Yes, and Daddy said I did a good job.

    Wife: Mike!

    Me: I said “good” not “great.”

    I’m not given much responsibility in our house.

    Here’s what I now understand about “Full House.” What is lame to an adult is pretty much the exact opposite to a 7-year-old girl. Emma thinks “Full House,” is fall-down funny. As in Mel Brooks fall-down funny.

    Here is a typical scene from a “Full House” episode.

    The guy with the big hair will walk into a room and do, what appears to be, an impression of Elvis Presley. Then the guy who plays the alleged comedian walks into the room and says “Cut…It…Out,” and the skinny guy who went on to host that “Sort of Funny Video” show comes in and says “I love you guys,” for no apparent reason. And finally one of the Olsen twins (does it really matter which one?) waddles in and says “You got it dude.”

    At this point in the scene Emma is laughing so hard that tears are running down her cheeks.

    Well, actually the tears are running up her cheeks.

    That’s what happens when you’re laughing upside down.


  • A certain ring to it

    This column first appeared in a newspaper in 2009.

    My wife likes ring tones.

    For those of you who don’t have cell phones (and God bless you if you don’t), a ring tone is a sound, or perhaps a bit of music, that you can somehow program onto your cell phone so when someone calls you, the sound or bit of music will “ring.”

    I’m not so much a fan of ring tones. I don’t see what’s wrong with a simple “ring-ring” to signal me that someone is trying to call me. It seems to me that “ring-ring” was working pretty well long before cell phones came along. I don’t seem to recall anyone saying — back in 1974 — “Wow, I can’t wait until 2010 when we will have flying cars and, instead of going ‘ring-ring,’ my phone will play ‘Let it Be.’”

    Maybe folks back then weren’t as forward-thinking as folks are today, but “ring-ring” wasn’t a big deal when I was a kid.

    In particular, my wife likes to pair certain songs for certain people who call her or, who she calls, so when a certain song plays on her cell phone, she will know who’s calling. My wife also likes to do the same thing with my cell phone even though I have explained — many, many times — that I don’t want her to put songs on my phone.

    Last week, we purchased new cell phones, and my wife decided it would be fun to put new music on our phones. My wife knows that I like Jimmy Buffett, so she figured I would like Jimmy Buffett music on my cell phone.

    To be honest, for once, I had a hard time finding a flaw in my wife’s logic.

    My wife thought it would be “cute” if she programmed my phone to play Jimmy’s classic romantic ballad “Why Don’t We Get Drunk?” whenever she calls me. For those of you who aren’t Jimmy Buffett fans (and what is wrong with you if you’re not?), “Why Don’t We Drunk” is not the complete title of Jimmy’s song. The full title asks the musical question “Why Don’t We Get Drunk?” and then asks another musical question that is definitely not family newspaper material.

    Although I appreciated my wife’s sense of humor, I wasn’t sure I wanted my cell phone to play “Why Don’t We Get Drunk?” There was a possibility of a certain amount of awkwardness if my phone were to ring, is what I said. My wife told me I was a “fuddy-duddy.”

    I had never been called a “fuddy-duddy” before. I’m not even sure what a “fuddy-duddy” is. I just know it doesn’t sound like someone who is the life of the party.

    So, I let my wife program my cell phone.

    Thursday afternoon, I drove up to Lamar to check out the groundbreaking ceremonies for St. Mary’s Catholic Church. I went to the groundbreaking ceremonies because Pat Williamson, a very nice lady, invited me. I like the folks at the church, and I was happy to see that they were moving so quickly to rebuild their church after last year’s fire, so I decided to make the drive north.

    That, plus the fact the trip would get me out of the newsroom, and I could spend some quality time in my car listening to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station.

    The groundbreaking ceremony was neat, and afterward, we all ambled into the parish hall for coffee. I was standing there chatting with some nice folks when Bishop James Johnston Jr., of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, walked into the hall and approached the group of people I was chatting with.

    As Bishop Johnston approached, I frantically tried to recall how I was supposed to address him. “Your highness” seemed a little over the top. So did “My lord.” But I was also pretty sure that calling the Bishop “Bubba” wasn’t the way to go either.

    Fortunately, just as the bishop got to me and held out his hand for me to shake, I remembered what I was supposed to say.

    “Your excellency, it’s an honor to meet you,” is what I said.

    Well, that’s what I said. I don’t think that’s what the bishop heard. Instead, I’m pretty sure what the bishop heard was:

    “Your excellency” and then, because my wife picked that moment to call my cell phone, which was in my coat pocket, I’m pretty sure the bishop heard Jimmy Buffett singing “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and. …?”

    While the bishop stared at me and while Jimmy Buffett sang, I made a mental note to kill my wife.

    I’m pretty sure there is not a jury in the world that would convict me.

    Unless I got some fuddy-duddy judge.

  • Peace on earth verus peace between mother and daughter

    This column first appeared in a newspaper in 2008.

    All I can say to George Bush is: I feel your pain.

    I understand what you’re going through. I realize how hard your job is and how what a tough task you have been up against all these years. You, Mr. Bush, have an impossible task. You, Mr. Bush, are the father of TWO daughters. Twins, even.

    As the father of one daughter, I can’t imagine what you must have gone through. As the father of one daughter, I can’t imagine how you managed to negotiate any sort of peace between your daughters and your wife.

    I know, Mr. Bush, that many people have criticized your attempts to broker a last-minute Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. I know they have said your efforts are naive and unrealistic, but those people don’t know what I know. You, Mr. Bush, in the past, have managed to bring peace between TWO daughters and your wife. I know that after creating peace between TWO daughters and a wife that creating peace between Israel and Palestine will be a day at the beach.

    I’m a veteran husband, and I am slowly becoming a veteran father of a daughter. Although real veteran fathers of daughters will tell you that you can’t really call yourself a veteran father of a daughter until you have managed to survive the teenage years.

    Remember those scenes in your classic World War II movies when the raw replacement troops would run into a long line of war-weary, battle-scarred soldiers returning from the front lines? Remember the looks in the eyes of the grizzled veterans as they looked at their young replacements? It was a look of both pity and contempt.

    That’s the sort of look veteran fathers of daughters who managed to survive the teenage years usually give fathers of daughters who have yet to encounter the teenage years.

    “You thought 10 was rough? Ha. You pansy. Wait until she turns 16,” is what the look says.

    I understand that attitude. My daughter, Emma, just turned 10, and I know that in the veteran-father-of-a-daughter timeline I’m still a raw replacement. In the veteran-father-of-a-daughter timeline, I’m still in boot camp.

    But still … boot camp can be tough.

    I have mentioned this before: My wife and Emma adore each other, but there are times when they can’t stand each other. It’s a paradox wrapped up in a riddle and double-bagged in a conundrum, is what it is.

    What will happen is my wife and Emma will develop a slight disagreement on — oh, I don’t know — clothes. My wife will be of the opinion that a certain outfit that Emma has selected to wear is not school-appropriate. This, of course, despite the fact that my wife knows that, for Emma, picking out a school outfit is not something to be taken lightly. A lot goes into an Emma-picked school outfit. Emma must take into account — among other things — the weather, the school-related activities slated for that day, the stock market and her hair. So by the time a school outfit has been deemed Emma-worthy, a lot of outfits have been eliminated.

    When Emma hears my wife criticize her outfit, she tends to take the opposite position in the outfit discussion. Like most discussions between my wife and Emma, the school-outfit discussion will start out innocently enough. My wife will state her opinion on the outfit, and Emma will listen and calmly state her opinion on the outfit. Then things start to go downhill.

    Wife: I don’t care what you think. I’m your mother.

    Emma: But that’s not fair.

    Wife: I don’t care.

    From Emma’s perspective, being told that her mother does not care whether or not Emma is being treated fairly is incomprehensible. As far as Emma is concerned, the whole point of any disagreement with her mother is whether or not she is being treated fairly. So Emma will continue the discussion even after my wife pronounces it over. This is always a mistake.

    Wife: Emma, I said no and that’s it.

    Emma: But Mommmmmm.

    Wife: Emma, I don’t want to hear another word.

    Emma: But …

    Wife: EMMMA!!!!!

    Emma: B-

    Wife: MIKE!!!

    Emma: DAAAAAAADDDD!!!!

    See, this is when I get called in to broker a peace deal. Or this is when I would get called in to broker a peace deal if I wasn’t hanging out with George Bush trying to figure out how to solve the problems in the Middle East.

    Granted, solving the problems in the Middle East may not be any easier than brokering a peace deal between my wife and Emma.

    But it’s safer.

  • What happens to Bunny?

    The column first appeared in a newspaper in January, 2005

    I spent most of Tuesday night worried about a girl named Bunny.

    I was worried about Bunny because she is the main character in a book our 7-year-old daughter Emma brought home from school.

    Emma is in first grade, so she has to do a lot of reading. Much of that reading needs to be done out loud, to either my wife or me.

    I think I can speak for most veteran parents out there when I says this. Look, I love our daughter. I love the fact that’s she’s reading. I love to listen to her read aloud. I love to see her make progress in her reading. But seriously, sometimes I would rather listen to John Kerry tell me his life story than hear Emma read.

    “I was born in Colorado. But my parents moved us to Massachusetts. We were rich. We were poor. In high school, I voted for the class president before I voted against the class president. I….zzzzzzzz.”

    Having a first-grade kid read to you can sometimes get a tad boring, is what I’m saying.

    But I’m nothing if not a dedicated parent so I listen to Emma read. Granted, I do this by muting the TV so I can listen to Emma read while still watching basketball.

    I’m a multi-tasker, is what I am.

    One problem with listening to a first-grade kid read is that there is no such thing as a “quick read”.

    You think this column sort of drags on? Imagine having to listen to a first-grade kid read it to you.

    For a first-grade kid, each word is like a brand-new discovery and has to be treated as such.


    It’s like listening to George Bush trying to read a speech.

    Tuesday night, Emma was reading a book called “The Best Teacher in the World,” to me. In the book, Bunny is picked by her teacher to deliver a note to another teacher in her school.

    According to what Emma read to me, getting picked by Bunny’s teacher to deliver a note is a very big deal and Bunny was very proud she had been picked.

    Unfortunately, not all of Bunny’s classmates took her being picked to deliver the note as well as they should have and, instead, made fun of her.

    But Bunny was to proud she had been picked to deliver the note to notice some of the other kids were mocking her.

    But and this is where the plot really thickens, Bunny’s teacher forgot to tell her where, exactly she was to deliver the note and Bunny was too proud to ask. So, poor Bunny wandered the school halls for a while.

    I’ll let Emma take over the story from here.


    While Emma was reading, I was getting nervous. As I sat there listening to Emma and watching the basketball game, I found myself thinking “Charging? How can that be charging? Clearly he was moving into the lane.”

    Ha. I joke.

    No, I found myself thinking, “She wandered where? Come on Bunny just ask for help. KEEP READING EMMA. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO BUNNY.”

    As it turns out, Emma also wanted to know what happens to Bunny. And, as I listened to Emma read, I forgot about the basketball game and noticed something. Emma was really reading. She wasn’t just reading to get from one word to the next but really reading. Emma was reading in an “I-can’t-wait-to-turn-the-page-and-see-what-happens-next” kind of way.

    Sure, she was still reading sort of slow, but she was reading with a purpose.

    And I was proud. But I was also just a bit sad. I started thinking about all of those books my wife and have read to Emma for the past seven years and wondering where the time has gone.

    Where was the little girl who sat on our porch swing and listened while we read “Are You My Mother”? to her.

    I wondered where the little girl who laughed when I read “The Monster at the End of the Book” to her had gone.

    Then I realized she was sitting right next to me. Reading to me.

    So I turned off the TV.

  • Yikes, home alone with a 6-year-old

    This first appeared in a newspaper in 2004

    I spent last Monday at home alone with our 6-year-old daughter Emma.

    Spending a day alone with a 6-year-old is like spending a day at a pharmacy with Rush Limbaugh.

    There’s a lot of activity, is what I’m saying.

    Emma had the day off from school and since my job consists mainly of searching the Internet for Paris Hilton jokes, my wife decided that I should take a day off from “work” to stay with Emma.

    I was looking forward, at least, to the first part of our day together because Emma is sort of hard to wake up on school days. It was easier to wake up George Bush for National Guard drills then it is to wake Emma up on a school day.

    So this is what I figured my day off with Emma would be.

    6:00 a.m.-Giggle as my wife’s alarm goes off.

    6:01 a.m.-Go back to sleep.

    8:00 a.m.-Tell my wife good-bye. Or, since I’m still asleep, tell Sarah Jessica Parker “Good thighs.”

    Noon-Get up.

    1 p.m.-Wake Emma up.

    3 p.m.-Emma finally gets out of bed.

    3:30 p.m.-Put “Lizzie McGuire” DVD in the machine.

    6 p.m.-Welcome wife home.

    But unfortunately, the little alarm clock that every 6-year-old kid carries in their heads on non-school days went off in Emma’s head and so this is how my day off with Emma actually went.

    5:30 a.m.-Emma comes into our bed and asks me to fix her a chocolate Pop-Tart.

    5:30:05 a.m.-Wife giggles.

    6:00 a.m.-Wife’s alarm goes off. Of course I don’t hear it as I’m downstairs watching “Freaky Friday” on DVD with

    7:30 a.m.-Wife comes downstairs at the same time “SpongeBob Square Pants” comes on. It’s the one where SpongeBob upsets the giant clam. A classic.

    8:00 a.m.-Wife kisses Emma goodbye and then laughs at me.

    8:01 a.m.-Emma utters the three words that send chills down every parent’s spine: “I’m bored.”

    8:02 a.m.-Emma rejects suggestion that we watch the repeats of “SportsCenter” from the night before.

    8:15 a.m.-I begin to teach Emma the card game War.

    8:30 a.m.-Emma beats me in the first game of War.

    9:30 a.m.-Emma beats me in War for the fifth time.

    10:00 a.m.-I announce that I’m bored and begin to check for new Britney Spears video on VHI.

    10:01 a.m.-Video comes on and then I remember Emma is in the same room. Decide to see what’s on the Cartoon Network.

    10:30 a.m.-Emma wants to look at “Old-timey pictures”. Asks where I keep my high-school yearbook.

    11:00 a.m.-Can’t find my yearbook. Instead, we find my wife’s yearbook.

    Noon-Emma and I finally stop laughing and decide it’s time for lunch.

    12:30 p.m.-After delicious lunch of Campbell’s Chicken & Stars and a peanut butter sandwich, Emma decides it’s time to ride her bike. I give her a map of the town and tell her to have a good time.

    12:30:01-Seconds before Emma bursts into tears I tell her that I was kidding.

    12:30:05: Emma kicks me in the shins. I break into tears.

    1:30 p.m.-We find our dog Shadow’s leash and Shadow and I start walking while Emma rides her bike ahead of us.

    2 p.m.-Emma decides she is tired of riding her bike and asks me to carry it for her. Unfortunately, we are about a mile from our house.

    3 p.m.-We arrive back at our house and Emma asks if we can do some “outside activities”.

    3:01 p.m.- My suggestion that daddy drinks beer while Emma runs around in circles is rejected. Instead, Emma suggests we play baseball.

    4 p.m.-After 378 pitches, Emma manages to hit the ball for the second time. Declares that she just kicked my “booty” and announces it’s time to go inside to watch “Kim Possible.”

    6 p.m.-Wife arrives home. Wants to know why I was dreaming about Sarah Jessica Parker and kicks me.

    6:01 p.m.- I burst into tears.

  • The swing set challenge

    This column first ran in the paper in June 2001 

    As a male person and the parent of a 3-year-old, I know nothing matches the sacrifice and pain women go through during the miracle of childbirth.

    I mean miracle, of course, in the sense a human being blows up to roughly the size of Rush Limbaugh and develops strange cravings for sardine and Malox sandwiches and retains the warmth and sensitivity of Barry Bonds.

    Buy, hey, we men have our own burden.

    I’m talking, of course, about the burden of having to put together one of those large wooden swing sets that come with attached forts.

    My wife and I recently bought such a swing set at our local Toys Cost and Arm and a Leg for our daughter Emma.

    I have mentioned Emma once or twice before in this column and I will probably drop her name occasionally in the future.

    At least until she gets to that awkward age where that kind of stuff embarrasses her.

    Then I’ll do it all the time.

    But back to the swing set.

    I should have suspected I was in over my head when the sales guy refused to look at me when I asked how long it would take to put the swing set together.

    He kind of looked at his shoes and mumbled something that sounded like “six hours”.

    I discovered later he meant six hours in dog years.

    I don’t want to say that the swing set and fort we bought is big, but my first college dorm room was smaller than this thing.

    We had to get permission from the FAA to put it in our backyard.

    The swing set and fort is big, is what I’m saying.

    Complicating matters is the fact I’m not exactly Bob Villa when it comes to working around the house.

    To say that I’m not good with tools is like saying Gary Condit is not good with relationships.

    My wife once actually stopped in the middle of a phone conversation with her mother because she saw me walking through the kitchen with a screwdriver.

    Her exact words were “Mom, I’ll have to call you back. Mike has a screwdriver.”

    But I am a man not without a certain amount of pride so this time I was determined to do what normal dads do.

    Walk around the house in boxer shorts making rude and unexplainable noises.

    Hah! I joke. I’ve been doing that for years.

    No, what I was determined to do was get out in the backyard and build something with my own two hands, damn it.

    So, armed with an impressive array of tools (all borrowed from my brother-in-law) I stepped outside on Sunday afternoon ready to build Emma a swing set.

    This is how the day went.

    Noon-Open box. Began reading directions.

    12:15-Develop headache go lay down.

    1:15-Begin reading directions again.

    3:00-Discover the directions are in French. Should have figured that out when each sentence began with the words “L’American d’idiot”.

    3:05-Begin reading the directions in English.

    3:10-Go back to the French directions.

    5:00-Mange to get two sides of the fort frame together.

    5:05-My wife comes out. Takes one look and tells me frame is upside down. I utter a long series of bad words.

    8:00-Finally get fort frame together and go inside.

    8:01-Fort frame falls over. Apparently, a nearby squirrel sneezed.

    8:15-My wife calls our friend Craig. Offers him food and all the beer he can drink if he will come and help me.

    The following Saturday

    Noon-Craig shows up.

    12:05-Craig discovers problem. Takes everything I have done apart.

    12:06-Fort frame done.

    12:30-Fort done.

    1:00-Ladder and swing set frame done. Craig and I take a break to have a beer.

    6:00-Back to work.

    6:30-Finish swing set. Ask Craig how much I owe him.

    6:31-Call Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. They agree to step up production.

    7:00-I stand in the backyard and look with pride at the swing set. My wife comes out and puts her arm around me and says, “There is a house for sale that would be perfect for us. I think we should move.”

    7:01-I utter a long series of unbelievably bad words.


  • Our morning walks are back

    We lost Shilo on Christmas Eve day. She was a great dog and lead a long, happy life. This column ran in the paper in August of 2003.


    Shilo and I have our morning walks back now.

    That’s one of the few good things about the end of summer: Shilo and I own our mornings again. I don’t have to get to work as early as some people do. So once my wife and I get our 9-year-old daughter, Emma off to school and my wife heads off to work, I have a little time to hook Shilo to her leash and take her for a walk.

    I like our morning walks. For me, our morning walks are a chance to relax, a chance to think about how to avoid doing any meaningful work. The walks mean a little bit more to Shilo.

    See, Shilo is a German shepherd who spends a lot of time indoors with nothing much to do but terrorize our two cats. And, let’s face it, terrorizing cats loses some of its appeal after a while. But a morning walk, on the other paw, is a grand adventure. A walk is a chance to see if her buddies Jack, a Labrador retriever, or Carson, a golden retriever, are outside. A walk is a chance to check out every tree and every lamppost to see if anyone new has been walking through the area. And a walk is a chance to bark at a rabbit or a squirrel or, if she’s lucky, a strange cat.

    When Shilo figures out that it’s time to go on our morning walk, she gets a little excited. She will jump and express her pleasure by whining, barking and turning around in a circle by our breezeway door.


    Sometimes I forget how important our morning walks are to Shilo. This summer, when I was busy getting Emma to one of her 294 different summer activities, I didn’t have much of a chance to take Shilo on a morning walk. In fact, we probably went almost two months without one. So last Friday morning after my wife left for work, I walked into the kitchen, where Shilo was lying by the door and dreaming about a walk, and I poured some coffee into a travel mug. Shilo watched me. At first, Shilo didn’t react. See, she’s seen me pour coffee before. But then she must have noticed that the travel mug was the same mug I used to take with us on our walks.

    She went nuts.

    I thought that was pretty neat. Like I said, it had been two months since Shilo and I took a morning walk. That means, based on my dog-time continuum theory (one human year equals seven dog years; therefore, one human hour equals seven dog hours), in Shilo’s mind it actually had been 14 months since our last morning walk. Shilo was eager; she was ready.

    Actually, so was I. Morning walks are a pretty good way to notice the way things change, the way time passes. The way things change from week to week, from month to month. From one season to the next. From one year to the next.

    A long time ago, I used to walk the very same neighborhood with a different dog. I was younger then, newly married. My wife and I were living in a comfortable but small, two-bedroom rental house. I used to think about stuff on those early morning walks too. I’m not sure what I used to think about then, but I doubt it was about things like the way time passes. But I think about time now when I walk by that same rental house where my wife and I lived 16 years ago.

    Tuesday morning, I noticed that some of the trees in our neighborhood are already dropping their leaves. Not many, but some. It’s early, of course, and way too warm for serious leaf dropping, but it’s out there. In a month or so, it’s going to start getting a little cooler when Shilo and I walk, and it will be time to put away the shorts and pull out the jeans. Later, in October, when the maple trees that line the streets change and unload their leaves in bulk, I’ll have to grab a jacket before we leave the house. I’ll notice frost on the ground, and I’ll use my mug of hot coffee for warmth as much as anything else. Thanksgiving will come and go. So will Christmas and Emma’s birthday.

    Sooner or later it will snow, and the sidewalks in our neighborhood will be covered with ice. Through it all, Shilo and I will keep walking. We’ll walk as the snow and ice start to melt, as the brown grass starts to turn green again. We’ll walk as the bare maple trees begin to bud out and flowers start to reappear. We’ll walk until it’s summer again. Then we’ll stop walking for a while so I can run Emma to her 294 summer activities.

    And then, some morning in the middle of August, we’ll take Emma to school, and my wife will rush off to work, and I’ll walk into the kitchen and pour coffee into my travel mug.

    And Shilo will go nuts.


  • A tribute to Regis

    This column first ran in the Joplin Globe in 2006.

    Sometimes you hear about something you instantly know is going to be gold.

    Like when Willie Nelson and the late great Ray Charles teamed up. Or when Bing Crosby and Bob Hope agreed to make a few movies together. Or when George Bush and Dick Cheney decided to start a war.

    Wait. That last one is probably not a great example. But you get my point.

    So, when I read in this paper on Friday that Regis Philbin and Donald Trump are going to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” together on Regis’ upcoming Christmas album, I thought “Fort Knox City.”

    It would be gold, is what I’m saying.

    I mean, somewhere Gene Autry has to be smiling. Come on, Trump and Philbin? How great is that? It’s like Lennon and McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel and Josie and the Pussycats rolled into one.

    How can it miss?

    OK, there might be that the little matter of Trump probably not being able-to use a technical musical term-carry a tune in front of a grand jury.

    But really is talent that important?

    I don’t think so.

    You’ve still got Regis and I’m being completely honest when I say this: I love Regis.

    I know among some of the tragically hip, it’s not cool to like Regis. But I’m pretty much the opposite of tragically hip.

    As a singer, I think Regis is just OK. But at being Regis, I think Regis is the best.

    Look, the biggest mistake folks can make in a profession is to take themselves too seriously. To assume that because you’re good at one thing, you’ll naturally be good at something else.

    Like when Bob Costas thought he was more than just a sportscaster. Or when Sylvester Stallone thought he was an actor. Or when Geraldo thought he was human.

    The most successful people, I think, don’t take themselves too seriously. They know what they do well and they tend to stick with what works.

    That’s why I think Regis is so cool. Regis knows who he is. Regis doesn’t take himself too seriously. Regis knows what’s he good at. He’s good at making people feel comfortable. He’s good at making people laugh. Either with him or at him. He doesn’t care. As long as you laugh.

    David Letterman has made fun of Regis for years. When Dave first started making fun of Regis, I thought it was funny. But then, after a while, I started to feel sorry for Regis.

    But then it dawned on me that Regis didn’t really care Dave was making fun of him. He just cared if people were laughing.

    And that’s when it also dawned on me that Dave loved Regis. Dave knew Regis understood how to entertain. He knew that Regis understood how to be a good broadcaster.

    Regis has more than paid his dues as a broadcaster. He used to be the announcer on the Joey Bishop. Does anyone remember the Joey Bishop show? Does anyone remember Joey Bishop?

    I don’t mean that in a bad way. I loved Joey Bishop. I’m just saying the Joey Bishop Show was on TV a long time ago.

    After Joey’s show got canceled, Regis was suddenly just another out-of-work announcer who could sing a bit.

    So, he turned to local TV. He did morning shows all over the country. He worked in Los Angles. He worked in St. Louis. He worked wherever someone would have him. Later, he had some sort of fitness show on a cable channel back in the 1980s.

    Then, he landed in New York. He got a little local morning talk show. Then, a lot of people in New York noticed and the little, local morning talk show got picked up nationally. Then, after all of those years, after all of these towns, after all of those shows, Regis became an overnight sensation.

    Everyone now knew who Regis was. Mainly because Regis was everywhere. In addition to his morning show and his appearances with David, he hosted a silly game. Later, because people liked Regis hosting that silly game show, ABC-TV executives had to back a bunch of Brinks Trucks up to Regis’ house and unload bags and bags of money to keep him happy.

    So, Regis, if you want to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with Trump, go ahead. I’ll laugh with you, not at you.

    I will, however, laugh at Trump. But come on, who doesn’t?

  • How expensive? Don’t ask.

    This column first ran in the Joplin Globe in January of 2005.

    Last week, the very fabric of the American family was on the verge of coming apart.

    Of course, by the “American family,” I mean my family.

    The threat to the fabric (I’m going to say denim) of my family did not come in the form of the NFL playoffs, which I will watch pretty much nonstop this weekend while my wife and 6-year-old daughter Emma will…well, I’m not sure what they will do but I hope they have fun.

    No, the threat I’m talking about came in the form of something called an American Girl Doll.

    For those of you who don’t have 6-year-old daughters, I should tell you that the American Girl Doll is a bugged-eyed doll roughly the size of Tom Cruise.

    Emma wants an American Girl Doll very, very badly. How badly, you ask? Well, in the preceding sentence I used the word “very” two times. That should tell you something.

    The problem-at least for my wife and me-is  American Girl Dolls are very, very, very expensive.

    How expensive, you ask? Again, count the verys.

    To give you an idea how expensive an American Girl Doll is, I refer to the following quote from the famed economist John Maynard Keynes.

    “Holy #%@# those American Girl Dolls are WAY expensive.”

    The thing is, Emma didn’t know she wanted an American Girl Doll until she and my wife watched a Hallmark Channel movie that featured an American Girl Doll. This may come as a shock to some of you who aren’t parents of 6-year-old girls, but the movie was produced, in part, by the people who make the American Girl Doll.

    Emma loved the movie and for Christmas, Santa brought Emma an American Girl movie on DVD and a small replica of an American Girl Doll. Santa, however, did not bring Emma a real American Girl Doll because-let’s face it-Santa didn’t get where he is by being stupid.

    Even on Christmas Day, Emma wasn’t sure she wanted an American Girl Doll but then something, we didn’t expect to happen, happened: An American Girl Doll catalog arrived in the mail.

    Apparently, when “Santa” brought Emma the American Girl Doll stuff, “he” put Emma on an American Girl Doll mailing list.

    Giving a 6-year-old girl an American Girl Doll catalog is like giving Bill O’Reilly a cell phone with unlimited minutes and no roaming charges.

    For the past week, Emma has been walking around our house carrying her American Girl Doll catalog and sighing. Because we raised Emma correctly, she hasn’t been walking around our house constantly dropping hints that she wanted an American Girl Doll.

    She just came right out and said she wanted an American Girl Doll.

    Me: Good morning Emma.

    Emma: Daddy, I want an American Girl Doll.

    Me: No.

    My wife and I are not inclined to get Emma an American Girl Doll for three reasons.

    Reason No. 1– Emma already has 4,895 dolls.

    Reason No. B-We want Emma to learn that she can’t always get everything she wants.

    And, perhaps, most importantly:

    Reason No. III-American Girl Dolls are WAY expensive.

    But we’re not totally heartless. Because Emma has quite an extensive financial portfolio consisting of tooth-fairy money and grandmother and aunt and uncle money, my wife and I told Emma that if she used some of her own money, plus whatever money should could earn by helping around the house, she might be able to get an American Girl Doll when she graduates from college.


    Just kidding. We told Emma if she worked hard, we would help her buy an American Girl Doll in the spring. Maybe.

    Kids hate when parents add a “Maybe” to a possible kid-parent deal. But parents know if they don’t add a “Maybe” to a possible kid-parent deal they lose all of their leverage.

    And, as everyone knows leverage is a big deal in any possible kid-parent deal.

    But, a few days ago, Emma discovered something. The large, 24-hour retail store in our town carries something called a Tolly Doll. The Tolly Doll looks like an American Girl Doll but is petty much the opposite of WAY expensive.

    When Emma found out that she had enough of her own money to buy a Tolly Doll now, she weighed that fact against the “maybe” kid-parent possible American Girl Doll in the spring deal and opted for the Tolly Doll.

    Now, all I have to do is keep that Tiffany’s catalog away from my wife.

    P.S.: In the interest of fair disclosure. I should point out that Emma did get an American Girl later that year. And, no, we didn’t make her help pay for it. 

  • Mother-daughter fashion fight? No thank you

    This column first ran in the Joplin Globe on April 25, 2004.

    My wife and our 6-year-old daughter Emma had a fashion discussion the other morning.

    Well, it wasn’t so much a discussion as it was a debate.

    Wait, “debate” might not be the right word either. Let’s see, I’m searching for the most accurate word to describe the fashion discussion between my wife and Emma.

    Oh I know… “fight.”

    As I understand it, the fashion fight began because Emma rejected the dress that my wife handed her to wear to school. In my wife’s defense, this was the same dress that Emma had asked her to iron the night before.

    But something happened to Emma between the time she asked my wife to iron the dress and the time the ironed dress was presented to her.

    This was Emma’s reaction when my wife handed her the freshly ironed dress.

    “I don’t want to wear that dress. It’s hideous.”

    My wife’s reaction to Emma’s dress rejection, I thought, was fairly restrained.

    “Fine. Go to school naked then.”

    My reaction to Emma’s dress rejection?

    “Well, at least she used the word ‘hideous’ correctly.”

    Like most veteran husbands, I tend to stay out of mother-daughter fashion fights.

    Most veteran husbands would rather get involved in the Middle East peace process than get involved in a mother-daughter fashion fight.

    After the initial positions on the dress were established my wife and Emma exchanged several “I don’t want tos,”at least three “toughs,” 27 “fines,” and much stomping of the feet.

    The stomping of the feet is the high point of almost all mother-daughter fashion fights. Here is the conclusion of  a typical mother-daughter fashion fight.

    Emma: Why?

    Wife: Because I said so.

    Emma: But I don’t want to.

    Wife: Tough.

    Emma: FINE!!!

    Wife: FINE!!!!



    Me: Who wants waffles?

    As it turns out the problem that Emma had with the dress in question was that it was “too puffy.”

    Now, from a veteran husband’s perspective a dress that is “too puffy” is not a big deal.

    But to a 6-year-old female person wearing a dress that is “too puffy” is like Britney Spears wearing a dress that is “too covery”.

    Eventually my wife and Emma came to a compromise. Emma would wear the “too puffy” dress and my wife would let Emma wear sandals to school.

    My wife’s decision to let Emma wear sandals to school was a major concession. Imagine if George Bush at least week’s news conference had said “Weapons of mass destruction? OK that was our bad.”

    Emma had been wanting to wear sandals to school since…well since she had been going to school. But for some reason my wife had taken the position that Emma would not wear sandals to school.

    I’m not sure why my wife didn’t want Emma to wear sandals to school. It’s possible that, at some point, my wife carefully explained her reasoning to me but it’s also possible that when I heard the word “sandals” I quit paying attention.

    Veteran wives know that veteran husbands quit paying attention the minute a clothes-related topic is raised. Unless, of course, the clothes-related topic is lingerie. Then we’re all ears.

    After resolving the fashion fight Emma came downstairs wearing her white sandals. As she watched me place a chocolate cupcake in her lunch box Emma politely asked if she could have two cupcakes.

    Me: No.

    Emma: Why not?

    Me: Because I said so.

    Emma: But I want two.

    Me: Tough.

    Emma: FINE!

    Me: FINE!!


    Turns out it’s sort of hard to stomp your feet in sandals.

  • Time from a dog’s perspective

    This column first appeared in Feburary of 2003.

    Our dog Shadow will be 11-years-old this spring.

    We’re not sure exactly when this spring Shadow turn 11 because her original owners weren’t really big on paperwork.

    This type of question probably has no place in a column like this, but I’m wondering, is it too strong to suggest that people who dump puppies by the side of the road should be beaten so severely around the head area that Bill O’Reilly actually makes sense?

    Just wondering.

    The fact that Shadow is 11-years-old actually means-according to the oft quoted formula-she is 77 in dog years. But I’m proud to say that she has the reading level of a 79-year-old.

    The formula I’m talking about of course is the one that says one human year is equal to 7 dog years. Now, how someone arrived at the formula I don’t know and I don’t care.

    The only reason it’s germane (It’s a word. I looked it up) is that several years ago my friend Jim Otey and I were sitting around our former workplace discussing this dog formula when it dawned on us that by carrying it further, we could explain a lot about dog behavior.

    It also occurred to us that the fact that we were having that conversation indicated that we had way too much spare time at our former workplace.

    Granted our mathematical progression may not be-technically speaking- correct, but we figured that if one human year is equal to seven dog years, that means one human minute would be equal to seven dog minutes.

    Say I’ve just sat down in front of the TV to watch a basketball game and Shadow walks to the door wanting to be let outside.

    Me: Not now Shadow. I’ll let you out at halftime.

    Shadow: (To herself) #$%^

    The reason Shadow is mad is because the first half of a basketball game takes at least an hour. That means Shadow must cross her legs (figuratively) for a minimum of seven hours. You try that. (Again, figuratively).

    The Pound-Otey formula also explains the “YOU CAME BACK” phenomenon.

    Virtually every weekday morning since my wife and I have owned Shadow, we have gotten up and gone to work leaving Shadow at home.

    At the end of each day, when we get back home, Shadow scrambles to the door, jumps up and down and acts astonished to see us.

    In her tiny little border collie mind, she’s thinking “YOU CAME BACK! YOU CAME BACK! THANK GOD YOU CAME BACK. I DON’T HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO USE A CAN OPENER AFTER ALL!”

    But think about that from Shadow’s perspective.

    On most work days we normally are gone from our house for about nine hours. According to the Pound-Otey formula that’s 63 hours to Shadow.

    The last time I was away from my wife for 63 hours was for my bachelor party.

    That explains why, when we’re home, Shadow is constantly following us around. She’s afraid that-on a moment’s notice-we might take off for a couple of days.

    Shadow’s habit of following us around drives my wife crazy because every time she turns around, she bumps into Shadow. My wife bumps into Shadow so often that Shadow thinks her first name is “Move.”

    A dog’s begging habits can also be attributed to our formula.

    I open a bag of chips and Shadow comes and begs for a chip.

    Me: No Shadow.

    Shadow: (To herself) @#$%

    Three minutes later.

    Me: Shadow, I said no.

    Shadow: (Again, to herself) Yeah, but that was like 20 minutes ago.

    This formula can also be used by humans to their advantage.

    Using the formula, I have often said to my wife, “What are you talking about? I haven’t had a beer in 210 minutes.”

  • St. Patrick’s Day and Basketballs

    In honor of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day a TBT column that ran in the Joplin Globe on March 17, 2002.

    St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.

    But it’s hard to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without thinking about Monsignor Keogan bouncing a basketball off of somebody’s head.

    Keogan was the pastor of St. Xavier’s Catholic Church in Junction City, Kansas and by extension the superintendent of St. Xavier’s Catholic school which I attended.

    Every year on St. Patrick’s Day Keogan would call the whole school to a special assembly. He would tell a few jokes that most of us had heard many, many times, sing an Irish song or two and then, depending on his mood, give us the rest of the day off from school. Which was cool as far as we were concerned but, looking back, I’m wondering if Keogan bothered to tell our teachers or parents that he was planning on cutting us loose.

    He was kind of unpredictable.

    When I was attending St. Xavier’s Keogan, who was an Irish immigrant (Go figure, an Irish priest. What are the odds?), was probably in his 60s.

    But even at that age he loved soccer and never missed a chance to show us “lads”-which, I think, is Irish for “punks”-the proper way to kick a soccer ball. Of course, since we didn’t have any soccer balls Keogan had to settle for whatever he could get his feet on. Which in most cases meant the schools limited supply of Wilson basketballs.

    Every year Keogan would drop by the first day of high school, junior high and sixth-grade basketball practice to give each team a rambling pep talk that touched on such diverse topics as St. Joseph, Bob Cousy and boiled potatoes.

    I think.

    Keogan was kind of hard to understand. Think Casey Stengel with a thick Irish accent.

    Keogan would always end his pep talk by calling for a basketball and then asking a volunteer, normally some new kid, to run to the other end of the basketball court.

    Keogan would then kick the basketball at roughly the speed of light and bounce it off the unsuspecting volunteer.

    I remember when Keogan stopped by my sixth-grade basketball practice. Gerald Butler, in a misguided effort to curry favor during his next confession, agreed to be the volunteer.

    Butler ran to the other end of the court and Keogan, who seemed remarkably spry that day, stepped forward and kicked the holy water out of the ball which managed to hit Butler in the head so hard that his glasses flew off his head and landed in the top row of the bleachers.

    After making sure that Last Rites weren’t needed, Keogan laughed and said something that sounded like “Gaad bless ya. Ya little punk” and ambled on to the next practice.

    Butler, by the way, wasn’t hurt too badly. He did miss a few days of school and, later, developed a strange habit of occasionally laughing out of context.

    But other than that, he was fine.

    Keogan also liked to drop by the locker room before our sporting events to lead the team in prayer.

    For example, before our football games, Keogan would lead us in “The Lord’s Prayer” and then after a solemn “Amen” would yell “Now go out there and slaughter them”.

    It was kind of a mixed message.

    Speaking of Butler’s kicking mishap, at least once a year a nun would get tattooed in the head by a stray kickball. This was always an accident because no one that I knew-not even Jimmy Becker-had the guts to take on a nun.

    It was some kind of mortal sin, I think.

    In those days nuns still wore habits. The habits weren’t like those big, jumbo 747 things that Sally Field wore in the “Flying Nun”. They were more like the outfit the nun in “The Blues Brothers” wore.

    Whenever a nun would get hit in the head by a kickball the top of her habit would bounce one way and her head would bounce the other way. It looked kind of like a really slow-moving tennis match.

    But no matter how funny the nun with her rotating head and habit looked, every kid on the playground knew better than to laugh.

    Laughing at a nun who has just gotten hit in the head by a kickball is always a mortal sin.

    So, instead, what you heard was 50 or 60 fifth-and sixth-graders all trying to stifle their laughter.

    It sounded like frogs with hiccups.

    So, tonight, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I will pop in our well-worn copy of “The Quiet Man” open a Guinness and toast Monsignor Keogan.

    I’ll also take a moment to wonder what ever happened to Gerald Butler. And if he’s still laughing out of context.


  • Relationship advice for men

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on Feb. 14, 2013.

    If you know anything about me at all, you know that I am an expert on romance and relationships.

    Look, some people can hit a curveball, and some people can help others with matters of the heart and if ever there was a day when matters of the heart really matter, today is that day.

    Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year when men everywhere can express their love for their significant others by purchasing a card with a heartfelt, romantic message written by someone else or by buying red flowers picked out by a complete stranger,

    Sadly, some men still are confused about their role on Valentine’s Day. In the past several weeks, several of these men have reached out to me, seeking advice on ways to woo their love on this romantic day.

    The first thing I told them was to quit using the word “woo.”

    Women hate that word, and if you say it the wrong way, it sounds like “WHEW” which doesn’t suggest romance as much as it does relief.

    One gentleman named Rufus wrote me to say that his wife complains that he doesn’t share his feelings with her.

    “Mike, what are these things called ‘feelings’ that my wife speaks of? Do I have them, and if I do am I legally obligated to share them?”

    Rufus, I get this question a lot. Feelings are the things that make you tear up when you watch that Coke commercial where the football player tosses his game jersey to that little kid. Feelings are also the things that make you smile after a really good burp.

    And, yes, you are legally obligated to share your feelings with your wife. But trust me, after you’ve shared your feelings with your wife for a few days, she’ll ask you to stop.

    Burt wanted some advice on gift giving.

    “Mike, I have been married for 10 years, and I keep hearing people talk of Valentine’s Day. What are my responsibilities vis-a-vis my wife when it comes to Valentine’s Day? Also, did I use ‘vis-a-vis’ correctly?”

    Burt, according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, instead of using “vis-a-vis” you should have used “whom.”

    Now, to your more pertinent question. It doesn’t really matter what you do for your wife on Valentine’s Day as long as you do something. Burt, like most men you have set the bar so low that simply knowing that it’s Valentine’s Day will win points with your wife. I bet if you go home tonight and greet your wife with a heartfelt “Hey, I read on Twitter that today is Valentine’s Day,” then grab a beer and plop down in front of the TV to watch “SportsCenter,” your wife will wait at least 30 minutes before she leaves you.

    Finally, I received an email from a guy named Ralph who also said he was confused about what to do for his wife on Valentine’s Day.

    “I just don’t get her. Last year she complained that I never give her anything on Valentine’s Day, so I got her a bowling ball, and she got even madder at me. I pointed out that I went to the trouble of getting her a red bowling ball, but she told me that she didn’t even bowl. My question is this: Do you know anyone who wants to buy a red bowling ball? If so, email me at”

    You raise an interesting point, Ralph. Sometimes what we think is a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift is not so wonderful to our wives. For example, scented vacuum bags make a lousy Valentine’s Day gift.

    I know that now.

    Also, be careful with workout DVDs, gym memberships and subscriptions to Sports Illustrated.

    I hope this column has been a bit of help for those of you out there who are still trying to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Just remember, when you give your loved one her Valentine’s Day gift, ask her if she wants you to share your feelings with her.

    I’m guessing she won’t.


  • I’m Dog Tired

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on May 6, 2006.

     If I fall asleep while I’m writing this, then please just go about your business.

    I know, I know. Normally if anyone is going to fall asleep it will be you, the reader, and not the writer.

    And I, to paraphrase our president, are the writer.

    I are also a dog owner.

    We have a new dog at our house. Well, to be honest, we don’t have a new dog at our house, we have a new puppy. Anyone who has raised a puppy knows that there is a big difference between a dog and a puppy. One of those differences is bodily functions and the place where those bodily functions need to take place. Properly trained dogs know that bodily functions take place outside the house. Puppies don’t know that. Puppies think bodily functions take place wherever the puppy happens to be at the time of the bodily function.

    As far as I can determine, puppies do three things: sleep, whine and do bodily functions.

    It was my wife’s idea to get a puppy and, even though I’ve answered this question many times before, I know what you’re thinking and once again — no, my wife does not smoke crack.

    My wife thought a puppy would make a nice gift. Our dog, Shadow, died last May and we had been talking for several months about getting a puppy for our 8-year-old daughter, Emma. But our discussions have centered more on the planning and not so much in the doing. My wife wasn’t sure she wanted a new puppy. Emma was sure she did. I was in the middle.

    Emma wanted a puppy that would grow to become a horse. My wife wanted a puppy that would actually shrink. Again, I was in the middle. So I was surprised when, last Friday night, my wife and Emma told me that they found a puppy that was part Labrador retriever and part border collie. I was even more surprised when my wife said we could pick it up on Saturday. But I agreed to go. That’s what you do when you’re in the middle.

    When we got to the Joplin Humane Society on Saturday, the Lab/border collie puppy was gone. But Emma noticed a black and tan puppy in a cage. The card on the cage said the black and tan puppy was part German shepherd and part Labrador. I’m no dog expert, but I’m thinking a German shepherd/Lab mix is not going to be a small dog. When I looked into the cage, I think I could actually see the puppy growing.

    “Let’s get her,” my wife said.

    For the last time: NO, MY WIFE DOES NOT SMOKE CRACK!

    Emma named the puppy Shiloh after a book series she likes. Of course, in the book I think Shiloh is a male. I suggested we call the puppy J-Lo (it does have a big butt for a pup), but Emma and my wife decided to go with Shiloh.

    To help Shiloh buy into the concept of outdoor bodily functions, my wife and I are using the crate method. In the crate method, you take all the puppy’s indoor bodily functions, put then in a crate and mail them to Rush Limbaugh. Ha. That would be redundant.

    No, in the crate method you leave the puppy in a crate until it wants to do a bodily function. Then you take the puppy and watch it wander around for 30 minutes. Then you put the puppy back in the crate where it does a bodily function. You do this every couple of hours. Even when you would rather be doing something else — like sleeping.

    My wife and I are starting to get tired of the crate method. We are both starting to feel like we will fall asleep at the most inopportune ti-zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    WHAT? I’m up. I’m up. Let’s go, Shiloh.

  • Slowly venturing into world of Twitter

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on July, 19, 2012

    I continue to evolve as a member of the 21st century.

    A few years ago I managed to grasp the concept of texting, and then, last year, joined the world of Facebook. I don’t do much texting and I don’t really understand the world of Facebook, but at least I have dipped my toes into the waters of both.

    In the past few weeks, I have slowly ventured into to the world of Twitter and have even begun to tweet (If tweet is, in fact, the correct word) on my own. To be honest, I had no interest in tweeting until the folks here at the Globe told me I had to learn how. Tweeting, at the Globe, is much like compulsory military service except we don’t have to wear uniforms.

    It was explained to me that Twitter would be a great way for me to connect with the readers of our paper.

    “But what if the readers of the paper don’t want me to connect with them?” I asked.

    I was told that if the readers of the paper didn’t want to connect with me they didn’t have to. I was told that the world of Twitter is pretty much voluntary. In order for me to connect with someone on Twitter, I was told, someone would have to have agreed to “follow” me. The goal, it was explained to me, is to accumulate as many “followers” on Twitter as possible. It’s sort of like accumulating hotels in Monopoly.

    Kelsey Ryan was the person at the Globe assigned to teach me how to tweet. Kelsey is a young person and, as such, was born with a computer keyboard in one hand and a smartphone in the other hand. In five minutes, Kelsey was able to teach me all about Twitter. Then, after those five minutes, Kelsey had to spend an hour explaining what she had taught me.

    I was not a quick study.

    Eventually, I was able to figure out the basics of Twitter and discovered that I sort of like it. First of all, because you are limited to 140 characters in Twitter, it’s easy to do. As a columnist, I am required to write a certain amount of copy each day. With Twitter, I don’t have to write as much copy. The way I figure it, I’m getting paid the same amount of money when I tweet as when I write columns but am having to do way less work.

    I like that.

    Despite the fact that Twitter is less work than writing a column, I still haven’t tweeted (Is that the right word?) much. As of Thursday afternoon, I had only sent six tweets. Here is a what I said in my first tweet: “Going to the Webb City Farmers Market. Who wants pie?”

    When I typed that tweet, Kelsey looked at me as if I had burped at her wedding. “You really want to say that?” she asked.

    Kelsey hurt my feelings.

    Carol Stark, my editor, said I should use Twitter to let our readers know what I’m working on, which might be difficult since I seldom know what I’m working on. For example, as I type this I have no idea what I’m doing.

    From what I can tell, millions of people use Twitter every day to tell other people what they are working on. Some people use Twitter to tell people that they aren’t working on anything. Some people use Twitter whenever a random thought pops into their heads. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, but sometimes that’s a good thing.

    I “follow” Steve Martin on Twitter, and this tweet from Steve just popped up on my screen.

    “My M.D. has asked me to stop calling him a ‘durn polecat’.”

    I think that’s funny.

    So now I tweet, and tomorrow I … well, I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow.

    I should probably tweet about that.

  • Garp logic: Cardinals get the win

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on Sept. 24, 2006

    As the St. Louis Cardinals appear to be heading for the playoffs, they have lost their closer, have lost their big-time left-handed starting pitcher, have a center fielder experiencing dizzy spells and blurred vision, have a shortstop who has trouble running and have a pitching staff that is erratic in the sense that erratic means awful.

    And you know what?

    I’ve never been more confident that the Cardinals will win the World Series in my entire life.

    There’s a scene in the movie version of John Irving’s novel “The World According to Garp” in which Garp, played by Robin Williams, and his wife, played by some actress, are considering buying a house. While they are standing outside the house checking it out, an airplane crashes into the home. Right away, the Robin Williams character says that he and his wife will buy the house even though there is a small plane stuck in it.

    “Honey, the chances of another plane hitting this house are astronomical,” Williams says to his wife.

    “It’s been pre-disastered.”

    That’s the way I feel about the Cardinals this year: They’ve been pre-disastered. In the past, the Cardinals would wait until right before the first game of the World Series for something to go wrong. As evidence of that, I point to the 1985 World Series “tarp incident.” If you remember, the 1985 Cardinals were built on speed, not power. I may have made this up, but in 1985, Jack Clark led the Cardinals in home runs. He hit two home runs. I think Ozzie Smith was second that year. Ozzie hit one-half of a home run.

    By far the most important player on that Cardinal team was Vince Coleman. Naturally, on the day before the World Series against the Kansas City Royals was to begin, Vince was run over by a tarp. (Note to you young people: This is not a joke. The Kansas City Royals did appear in the World Series. Actually, they appeared in two.)

    That’s right – a tarp. In his own home ballpark!

    Later, in game six of the series, umpire Don Denkinger might have, just maybe, missed a call at first base. The call was important only in the sense that the Cardinals probably would have won the game and the series had Denkinger not sort of misjudged the play at first base. Later, television replays would clearly show that while the Royals’ Jorge Orta was still at least a foot from first base, Denkinger was standing in line at the concession stand trying to order a plate of nachos.

    In 2004, when the Cardinals faced the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, someone – and again I may be making this up – broke into the Cardinals’ clubhouse and stole all their bats, forcing the team to use Wiffle bats for the entire series.

    But this year, I feel good. I mean, what else could go wrong? Well, that’s a dumb thing to say. Plenty can still go wrong, but I don’t think it will. I mean, what’s worse than losing your closer? Or your center fielder? Or your left-handed starter? Or your shortstop?

    See, this year when the idiots – er, I mean experts – on ESPN start talking about the playoffs, every one of them will say something like, “Well, the Cardinals don’t have a closer, and their center fielder is dizzy, and their starting pitching is weak, so they can’t win. Oh, and BOO-Ya.”

    I don’t know why the “experts” on ESPN have to yell BOO-Ya, but they do.

    But my point is that the ESPN experts are morons – well, except for Joe Morgan – so if they say something will happen, you can pretty much count on the exact opposite to occur.

    I don’t think the ESPN experts have seen “The World According to Garp,” so they don’t understand about being pre-disastered.

    So, this year I’m saying the Cardinals will win the World Series. Why? Because right now, they sort of suck, which means they are in perfect shape to win the Series.

    Well, unless Albert Pujols comes down with a case of food poisoning after eating in his own restaurant.

    Or, if Don Denkinger decides he wants to umpire again.


  • Studying for some mettle tests not necessary

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on May 18, 2010.

    Some men of a certain generation, I suppose, occasionally wonder how they would react if their mettle were to be truly tested.

    I, for one, wonder that. I also wonder what, exactly, my mettle is and why someone would want to test it.

    Monday night, my mettle was tested, and I think I reacted as I thought I would. I got the hell out of the way. My wife and I were at a Springfield Cardinals baseball game. I love going to Springfield Cardinals baseball games. For my money, Hammons Field in Springfield is one of the best places to watch baseball in the country. There truly is not a bad seat in the stadium, and Monday, thanks to our friends Don and Gloria, and friends of theirs who I can’t mention because folks would think I was sucking up, my wife and I had really, really good seats.

    The seats were in a suite. See, Don and Gloria were given access to one of those fancy-schmancy suites for the Monday night game, and Don, knowing that I’m a large baseball fan and specifically a large St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, invited my wife and me to join them at the game.

    There was a time when I would have thought watching a baseball game from a fancy-schmancy suite was sort of above my raisings. There was a time when I thought watching a baseball game in a fancy-schmancy suite was — I don’t know — sort of Republican.

    Ha! That’s just a joke for my Republican friends.

    Who were in the fancy-schmancy suite.

    But then I found out that they have free beer in most fancy-schmancy suites. When I found that out, I pretty much said, “Obama, you’re on your own.”

    But I don’t want you to think I’ve gotten spoiled with all my fancy-schmancy suite sitting, free beer drinking, baseball watching. I’ll have you know that I spent almost the entire game sitting in the outdoor seats in front of the fancy-schmancy suite. And it was cold Monday night. And I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved Stan Musial T-shirt.

    I know!

    The only time I left my outdoor seats to go into the fancy-schmancy suite was to get a beer. Or another bratwurst for my wife. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m still a  man of the people.

    One of the advantages of sitting in a fancy-schmancy suite at Hammons Field is that you are in prime foul ball territory. The disadvantage to sitting in a fancy-schmancy suite at Hammons Field is that you are in prime foul ball territory.

    Here’s the deal. When a batter hits a foul ball, at least to the fancy-schmancy suite I was sitting in, the ball tends to get there in a hurry. These are not the types of foul balls that are typically caught by someone with his bare hands. Unless that someone does not intend to use his bare hands for the next year or so. What usually happens to someone in a fancy-schmancy suite at Hammons Field who tries to catch a foul ball moving faster than a BP oil executive for the border is that the baseball breaks the hand of the person in the fancy-schmancy suite and falls down to a 10-year-old kid with a glove. The kid picks up the ball while the paramedics are rushing into the fancy-schmancy suite above his head.

    It was somewhere in the middle of the game. I was sitting in my seat outside the fancy-schmancy suite when a batter — I think it was Hank Aaron — hit a vicious foul ball in my direction. As the ball got closer, it was clear I had two choices.

    Choice No. 1: Stick my hand through the aluminum bars next to me and make an athletic bare-handed catch that so impresses the Springfield Cardinals manager that he phones the big club and I’m immediately whisked away to St. Louis and penciled in to bat behind Albert Pujols.

    Or Choice No B : Get the hell out of the way.

    Here’s the deal. I didn’t just see the baseball coming in my direction. As it got closer, I heard the baseball. It was making that whoosh-whoosh noise that only things traveling very fast make.

    There are not many rules of life that I choose to live by. But one of the rules I do choose to live by is this rule: If you can hear a baseball coming at you, get the hell out of the way.

    And that’s what I did.

    Oh, Don and Gloria and the guys whose names I can’t mention because people would think I’m sucking up: Thanks again for the invite. And I forgive you for making fun of me about the whole not catching the foul ball thing.

    Oh, in case the rest of you are wondering, I got a C on my mettle test. I nailed the essay.

  • There’s plenty to do on a rainy Saturday

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on May 9, 2006.

    It had all the makings of your basic busy Saturday.

    There was a time when, for me, the words busy and Saturday were mutually exclusive. When I was single, my idea of a busy Saturday was one when I had to get up before noon – on Sunday.

    My Saturdays, in those days, were not exactly chock-full of accomplishments. They weren’t the sort of days when I had to sit down and make up a “to-do” list. If I did make a Saturday “to-do” list in those days, it would have read something like this:

    No. 1: Wake up.

    No. B: Find out where I am.

    I’m married now, and I have an 8-year-old daughter named Emma. So my Saturdays are a little different from when I was single. Some Saturdays, we even have to set our alarm clock and make a “to-do” list.

    Last Saturday was one of those Saturdays. Emma had a soccer game at 9:30 a.m. I am the coach of Emma’s soccer team, which means I pretty much need to be at the game too. After the game, Emma was supposed to go to a birthday party in Joplin at 11 a.m. Then, at 1 p.m., she needed to be at Missouri Southern State University for something called “Young Authors.”

    It was to be a full day.

    On Saturday morning, the alarm clock went off at 6:30. At 8:30, we got up. Emma was already dressed in her soccer uniform and working on her third Pop-Tart. At 8:45, I went outside to get the newspaper. I noticed it was raining. At 8:47, my phone rang. It was a parent of one of Emma’s soccer teammates. She wanted to know if the game had been canceled. I told her no. She didn’t sound happy. At 8:50, our phone rang again. It was another parent wanting to know if the game had been canceled. I said no. She didn’t sound happy. At 9 a.m., my wife came downstairs. She wanted to know if the game had been canceled. I said no. She didn’t sound happy.

    At 9:15, we drove out to the soccer fields. Well, we think they were the soccer fields, but we couldn’t really tell what with the water and all. I stopped a guy and asked if the soccer games had been canceled. He said no. Then he swam away. He didn’t sound happy. At 9:45, I told the two parents who showed up for the game that they might as well go home. They didn’t sound happy.

    At 10 a.m., we arrived home, and my wife told Emma to hurry and change for the birthday party. At 10:15, my wife found Emma, still in her soccer uniform, watching TV. My wife asked Emma why she hadn’t changed her clothes yet. Emma said, “Oh, did you mean today?” My wife said something else to Emma. She didn’t sound happy.

    At 11:05, we arrived at the birthday party in Joplin. Emma was mad at my wife. My wife was mad at Emma. They both were mad at me. And it was raining.

    Emma had fun at the party. A lot of her friends were there. She ignored my wife and me. At 12:30 p.m., my wife told Emma we had to leave the party to go to Young Authors. Emma didn’t want to leave. My wife told Emma she had to. So Emma said goodbye to her friends. She didn’t sound happy.

    At 12:40, I dropped Emma and my wife off at a big building at Missouri Southern and went to find a place to park. I found a place to park next to a sign that said “Welcome to Kansas” and started walking back to the big building. That’s when I discovered that I had left our other umbrella at the birthday party. Did I mention it was raining?

    Emma had a great time at Young Authors, and so did her mother and I. It’s a neat deal. During the school year, participating schools have their kids write stories in class, and they send them to the folks in charge of Young Authors. The folks in charge of Young Authors read all the stories and then invite kids from each school to attend the event at MSSU. On Saturday, the kids got to meet and talk with two real authors. The authors talked to the kids and their parents about writing. They told stories and talked about their books. We bought Emma several books, and she had them signed by the authors.

    When we drove home, it was still raining. My wife and I listened to “A Prairie Home Companion” on the car radio, and Emma read one of her new books.

    As we pulled onto our street in Carthage, my wife told Emma that we were very proud of her for being selected to participate in Young Authors. Emma said, “Thank you.”

    She sounded happy.


  • Small talk goes better with beer

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on Oct. 1, 2011

    My wife had several important work-related events this weekend that required my presence.

    I don’t like my wife’s work-related events that require my presence. Mainly, I don’t like my wife’s work-related events that require my presence because they often require me to make small talk. I’m not very good at small talk.

    Actually, I’m not very good at large talk either. Unless the topic is sports or beer, I’m not much of a talker. Here I am trying to make small talk with the Queen of England.

    Me: Hey, Becky.



    Me: Boy, I hate the designated hitter rule.

    Queen of England: Oh sure, like everyone is just dying to see pitchers bat.


    Me: Want a beer?

    I’m not much of a deep thinker. I don’t spend much time thinking about things. So, when I have to make small talk, I’m pretty much out of things to say after about 30 seconds. My wife, on the other topic, is wonderful at small talk. My wife has an amazing ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. My wife could make Marcel Marceau talk.

    By the way, when I Googled Marcel Marceau, to make sure I had spelled his name correctly, one of the options that popped up was “Marcel Marceau quotes.” I thought that was funny.

    My wife and I were once standing in the food line at a social function when my wife struck up a conversation with a young man standing in front of her. At the time, I was talking to my younger sister, Chris, who doesn’t like to make small talk either. Chris and I were talking about the fact that my wife doesn’t mind talking to complete strangers. After a few minutes, Chris and I stopped talking to listen in on my wife’s conversation with the stranger in front of her. As it turns out, my wife wasn’t so much talking as she was listening. The stranger was telling my wife about his time in prison and about a pending assault charge against him that he said was “bogus, man.”

    As my wife listened to the stranger talking about his bogus assault charge, she gave me a look that said “If you don’t do something and get me away from this guy, but without being rude, I will rip your lungs out and use them to line our new kitchen cabinets.”

    It was, as it always is, a heck of a look.

    In return, I gave my wife a look that said “Don’t look at me, Oprah. You’re the one that started talking to John Dillinger here, so as far as I’m concerned, you’re on your own.”

    Mine, also, was a heck of a look, but it was a look I would later regret.

    I will say that I find it much easier to make small talk with a beer in my hand than without a beer in my hand. When I have a beer in my hand, I always know that I have a way out. If the small talk making begins getting awkward. All I have to do is look at my beer and say: “Look at that. I’m out of beer. I better go get another one” and then I can walk away leaving the person I was small talking with to say “Whew, I thought he would never finish that beer.”

    At many of my wife’s work-related events I find myself making small talk with Robert Corn, the Missouri Southern State University men’s basketball coach. Robert doesn’t like to make small talk either, so we always seek each other out so we can stand together and not make small talk.

    “What did you and Robert talk about?’ my wife will ask later.

    “Nothing,” I will say, and my wife will be amazed.

    ‘How can two people talk about nothing?” she will say.

    “Look at that; I’m out of beer,” I’ll say and walk off to find the Queen of England again.

  • Optimism shouldn’t be just for the dogs

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on May 2, 2007.

    I wish I was more like our German shepherd Shilo.

    Not because I could lie around the house all day sleeping and occasionally scratching myself. I get to do that on the weekends. No, I wish I had Shilo’s optimism. Shilo is just over a year old. We’ve been taking daily walks since she was a couple of months old. About six months ago, Shilo began taking a keen interest in birds, squirrels and rabbits. Her interest in birds, squirrels and rabbits can be summed up as follows: “I’m interested in wanting to catch them and seeing what they taste like.”

    So for six months now, whenever Shilo has the chance, she will chase any bird, squirrel or rabbit that happens to catch her eye. I need to be clear here: Shilo has absolutely no chance of catching any of the birds, squirrels or rabbits she comes across. First of all, birds can fly, so whenever Shilo gets near one, it — follow me here — flies away.

    I’m not sure exactly how smart Shilo is. I’m guessing she is at least as smart as your average member of Congress, although it’s hard to tell. But I’m pretty sure Shilo has noticed that birds can fly and she can’t catch them, but she keeps trying. She’ll see a bird in our back yard, and all of a sudden she’ll change from a relatively lazy family pet to a stealthy, wild jungle hunter. Although, to my knowledge, there aren’t many German shepherds hanging around the wilds of the jungle. She will slowly creep forward (how she learned to creep I don’t know) until she’s ready to pounce. Of course, just before Shilo begins her pounce, the bird she’s after will calmly fly away.

    Squirrels and rabbits can’t fly (I’m not getting too technical here, am I?), but they can run. Very fast. Squirrels have the added advantage of being able to climb. For six months now, Shilo will see a squirrel or a rabbit and give chase. The chase never lasts long. Yet Shilo keeps trying. I’m sure that every morning when Shilo wakes up, the first thing she’s thinking is, “How come my food bowl is empty?” But after that, Shilo is thinking, “Today’s the day. I’m going to catch a bird, a squirrel and a rabbit.”

    See, I’m just not that optimistic. I mean, I’m optimistic, but I’m not THAT optimistic.

    I don’t get up every morning and think, “Today’s the day. The Pulitzer folks are going to call.” Or, “Today’s the day. The Kansas City Chiefs will call me about their quarterback position.”

    I wish I was THAT optimistic. I wish a lot more people were that optimistic. See, I think we have too many pessimists today. Optimists make things happen. Pessimists keep things from happening. If a pessimist had discovered fire, it never would have caught on.

    “Owwww. Fire hot. Fire burn. Fire bad.”

    No, fire obviously was discovered by an optimist. “Me cold. Fire hot. Me not cold. Fire good. Now put baby back ribs on fire. UMMM … fire really good.”

    This country was founded by optimists. Guys and gals who were optimistic enough to think, first of all, that the British could be beaten. I mean, even though the British talked like sissies, they did have a pretty tough army. Then the guys and gals who founded this country were optimistic enough to think that something called a democracy would work.

    Optimists have been responsible for the some of the greatest medical advances in history. Jonas Salk? Your basic optimist. Right now, even as I write this, optimists are working on new and promising tools to fight cancer. Also, there are hundreds of thousands of optimistic cancer patients, fighting their disease, who are convinced that those tools are just around the corner.

    Optimism, like fire, is a good thing. Optimism gives you hope. Optimism gives you a reason to get up in the morning. Optimism gives you a reason to try.

    Just ask Shilo.


  • Politics and the art of panhandling
    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on Sept. 24, 2009

    I don’t get many letters anymore, what with that whole e-mail thing. So I was surprised the other day to get a letter from some guy named Jack Goodman.

    The envelope was addressed to me and appeared to have been produced by an old-fashioned typewriter. At least it had that typewriter look; of course, it’s also possible that the computer people have somehow managed to make a font style that looks like it was written by typewriters but really wasn’t.

    But that’s not my point. My point is, that in this day of all e-mail all the time, some guy named Jack Goodman wrote me a letter. Sure, in the return address corner of the envelope I did notice that Jack was associated with something called Jack Goodman for Congress, but I figured that was OK. I mean, if a guy wants to run for Congress that’s his business. I was just happy that Jack wrote me a letter.

    “Hey,” I thought to myself. “Maybe Jack knows that I’m a big-time (OK, small-time) newspaper columnist. Maybe Jack wants to pick my brain about what he should do if he were to get elected to Congress. Maybe, like me, Jack likes to watch ‘The Daily Show.’”

    Then I opened the letter. I decided Jack probably doesn’t like “The Daily Show.” The letter started off OK. There was a quote from William F. Buckley Jr. at the top of the letter. I liked William F .Buckley Jr. I didn’t agree with him most of the time, but I liked him. Then Jack told me that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid called a bunch of people “un-American” and “evil-mongers.” I understood the “un-American” part but I was a little unclear how someone goes about mongering evil. But, again, it was nice that Jack thought I should know what Nancy and Harry said.

    Jack went on to tell me how Nancy, Harry and Barack Obama were trying “… to dismantle America to usher in the new age of American Socialism.”

    I wasn’t so sure that was true, but what the heck do I know? Besides, if Jack thinks it’s true, it’s OK with me. Again, I was just glad he took the time to write and share his thoughts with me. It was nice, is what it was.

    Later in the letter, Jack mentioned that he was running for Congress, which, I suppose, explained the Jack Goodman for Congress logo on the front of the envelope. Jack said he needed my help to run for Congress. Again, I thought that was nice but I wondered what a big-time (OK, small-time) newspaper columnist could do to help Jack run for Congress. Then I read the next paragraph.

    “Oh,” I said.

    Here’s what Jack said in the next paragraph:

    “I need you to be one of 200 people to join in the Goodman Brigade this month by contributing $100 before Sept. 30, to our campaign.”

    My first reaction after reading Jack’s request was: “Cool! A brigade. Do we get uniforms?” My second reaction after reading Jack’s request was: “One-hundred bucks? Are you crazy? I don’t even know you.”

    I don’t mean to pick on Jack here — but, hey, he’s the one hitting me up for 100 smackers — but do I understand that it takes money to run for public office. And I understand that folks running for public office sometimes need to ask people for money, but the whole thing seems sort of rude. Asking folks you’ve never met for money seems like … well, it seems like panhandling.

    I also don’t mean to pick on Republicans running for office because Democrats are just as bad about panhandling as Republicans are. But so far I’ve only been hit up for money from Republicans. The funny part about the whole getting-hit-up-for-money thing is that I — to use an economic term — don’t have any money.

    See, I work for a newspaper and my wife and I have an 11-year-old daughter.

    Several years ago, the guy who was the Missouri Speaker of the House before Ron Richard became the speaker used to ask me for money. I didn’t have any money and I didn’t know the guy, so I didn’t give him any money. But he kept asking.

    Ron, on the other hand, knows me. That’s why Ron has never asked me for money. That’s why I think Ron is smart. I’m not saying Jack isn’t smart. I’m just saying next time he’s looking for 100 bucks he ought to get to know who he’s asking for money from. Even real panhandlers size up the mark before they hit them up for cash.

    Toward the end of his letter, Jack said he will “work to make sure American families get to keep more of their hard-earned money …”

    I’m with you on that one, Jack.

  • 2007: The year in preview (Part 2)

    This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on December 28, 2006.

    Well, the fact that I didn’t hear anything from Rosie O’Donnell leads me to believe it’s safe to continue with my annual look forward.

    So today we complete “2007: A Year in Preview.”

    July: The nation’s economy hits a slight speed bump as the price of gas rises from a relatively modest $5.79 a gallon to $27.99. A Big Oil executive denies that the spike in price has anything to do with the fact that the summer driving season is officially under way. Then he buys Europe.

    In response, a furious Democrat-controlled Congress immediately launches a series of hearings into the Dick Cheney hunting accident.

    In sports, the NBA playoffs, which began in February, finally end. In a frantic championship game, the Miami Heat defeat the Los Angeles Lakers by a score of 456 to 455. No one seems to notice.

    Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump get into a fight with the guy Dick Cheney shot.

    August: With gas prices now at a record $77.99 a gallon, American consumers begin to think about “maybe someday cutting back on our driving just a little bit.” Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. launches a new line of super-sized, jumbo, mega-SUVs that get a whopping three miles per gallon. Most people buy two.

    With an approval rating of 2, George Bush heads to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, for a brief, two-month “working vacation.” No one seems to notice.

    In entertainment news, Michael Richards’ comeback attempt hits a snag when, during an appearance in Nome, Alaska, he tells an off-color joke involving an Eskimo and two polar bears.

    Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump get into a shouting match with an Eskimo.

    September: As the summer driving season winds down, the price of gas falls back to a more reasonable $20.99 a gallon. Faced with diminished profits, the Big Oil executive is forced to sublet Scotland.

    In politics, Hillary Clinton announces that she has raised “like 27 jillion dollars” and says she is close to deciding if she is considering whether to run for president.

    Meanwhile, John Kerry announces that he has raised “about 30 bucks” for his presidential run. No one seems to notice.

    In sports, New York Yankees outfielder Babe Ruth is suspended for violating the league’s hot-dog policy. George Steinbrenner immediately trades his own soul for the soul of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. The deal falls through when Steinbrenner’s soul fails to a pass the required physical.

    Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump are seen holding hands and shopping for china.

    October: Work on a fence designed to run the length of the Mexican border is halted when immigration officials discover that the fence actually is being built along the border between North and South Dakota. No one seems to notice.

    In Washington, Republican members of Congress vow to block Democrat-controlled hearings into George Bush’s pronunciation of the word terror by “lying on the floor and kicking their feet.”

    In baseball, the Kansas City Royals defeat the New York Yankees to win the American League pennant. An enraged George Steinbrenner fires “everyone in America.” Two weeks later, the Kansas City Royals defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.

    In a related story, the devil announces that for some reason it’s “getting really cold down here.”

    Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump announce they will be married in December.

    November: With the holiday season officially under way, the price of a gallon of gas rises to an unprecedented $279.99 a gallon. To celebrate, a Big Oil executive buys the rights to the phrase “Who’s your daddy?”

    In television news, Fox launches a new reality show starring Mel Gibson and Michael Richards. Executives say the new show — titled “Guess Who’s NOT Coming to Dinner” — will be tasteful, “in a racist sort of way.”

    In a related story, Rush Limbaugh accuses Stevie Wonder of “pretending to be blind to sell more records.” No one seems to notice.

    And in order to show her serious commitment to Donald Trump, Rosie O’Donnell announces that after the couple’s marriage, she will adopt Trump’s hair.

    December: Nancy Pelosi announces plans to launch a series of hearings into President Bush’s pardon of the holiday turkey. Meanwhile, Bush, with an approval rating of minus 1, holds his first news conference in four months. No one seems to notice.

    Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt announce that they will name their second child Trigger. Meanwhile, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise announce that they will name their second child Done. The baby, the couple explain, will be named after Cruise’s career.

    And finally, Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump are married in an elaborate ceremony in New York City. Later, at the couple’s wedding reception, Danny DeVito throws up all over their gifts.


  • 2007: The year in preview (Part 1)

     This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on December 27, 2006.

    Some people spend a lot of time looking backward.

    That’s why everywhere you turn this week, you’ll find news folks putting together those “Year in Review” stories. You know what I mean? The stories in which they look back at the major news events of the previous year and remind you how important those stories were. Well, to me, that’s spilt milk (to quote James Garner). That’s why I don’t do “Year in Review” stories.

    Instead, I like to do “Year in Preview” stories. See, I’m a forward-thinking guy. Besides, it’s a lot easier to do a “Year in Preview” story than it is to do a “Year in Review” story.

    So here we go with “2007: A Year in Preview.”

    January: The year gets off to a rough start when Dick Clark, broadcasting live from New York City’s Times Square, decides to go to bed at 10:15 p.m., and Rosie O’Donnell steps in to take his place. Rosie then picks a fight with the New Year’s baby.

    In politics, Democrats take control of Congress for the first time in more than a decade. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi vows that her party will soon start accepting “more dignified types of bribes.”

    February: In a Valentine’s Day special on the television show “The View,” surprise guest Danny DeVito walks onto the set and throws up in Barbara Walters’ lap. Later, Rosie O’Donnell gets into a fight with Cupid.

    In politics, President Bush, with an overall approval rating of 3, requests TV time for a “very important speech. Really, I mean it.” The NFL Network is the only network to agree to carry the speech.

    “What the heck?” an NFL Network spokesman says. “All we had to air anyway was a replay of the 1977 Super Bowl.”

    Speaking of the Super Bowl, this year,  it features a record 37 hours of commercials and no actual game. No one seems to notice.

    In other sports news, major league baseball players report for spring training. In a related story, the Kansas City Royals are officially eliminated from the pennant race.

    March: Britney Spears and Paris Hilton go out on the town again. The next the day, the Internet crashes around the world.

    In an effort to block congressional hearings on the lead-up to the Iraq war, Republicans — in a cunning parliamentary move — vow to hold their breath until they turn blue. Also, Nancy Pelosi stirs up controversy when she is spotted in a white pantsuit before Easter. Rush Limbaugh calls the fashion faux pas a “slap in the face of our brave soldiers.”

    In sports, the Kansas University basketball team, in a minor upset, loses in the first round of the NCAA tournament to a junior-high team from Ohio.

    Also, Rosie O’Donnell picks a fight with Bob Knight.

    April: President Bush returns to Washington, D.C., after a month-long vacation. Democratic members of Congress respond by saying, “Oh, were you gone?” Later, appearing before a congressional committee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admits that the entire prewar strategy on Iraq consisted of “a Ouija board and that cool 20 questions game.”

    In sports, the New York Yankees, in a blockbuster deal, acquire Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Later, a happy George Steinbrenner says: “All it cost me was the souls of my grandchildren’s grandchildren. Oh, and Derek Jeter.”

    Rosie O’Donnell immediately picks a fight with Babe Ruth.

    : New York Sen. Hillary Clinton finally makes it official when she announces that she “might be considering the possible formation of a committee that will determine if I will think about running for president.” In a related story, the FOX news channel announces plans to run a “docudrama” titled “Hillary: The Antichrist.”

    John Kerry also announces his plans to seek the Democratic nomination. No one seems to notice.

    In entertainment news, Mel Gibson announces plans to film a remake of the Barbra Streisand film “Yentl.” Gibson says his film will be much like the original, except “not so Jewish.”

    In sports, the New York Yankees lose 12 games in a row. George Steinbrenner trades for the soul of Billy Martin. Then he fires him.

    Later, Rosie O’Donnell gets into a bar fight with Martin.

    June: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt announce that they are expecting their second child. Initial plans call for the baby to be born on Mars. Not to be outdone, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes announce that they, too, are expecting a second child. The couple say the baby will be born on Oprah’s couch.

    With an approval rating of 2.7, President Bush announces plans to invade Sweden. No one seems to notice.

    In sports, the Kansas City Royals reel off 22 consecutive wins and seemingly lock up a spot in the baseball playoffs. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration confirms reports of pigs flying.

    In a surprise move, Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump apologize to each other and later are seen picking a fight with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

    That’s all for part one of “2007: A Year in Preview.” We’ll look at the rest of 2007 on Friday.

    Unless Rosie O’Donnell picks a fight with me.


  • Leather chair prompts fear of PETA protest

    When I say “We,” I mean my wife picked it out and told me we were buying a new chair for our bedroom.

    Wife: We’re buying a new chair for our bedroom.

    Me: Why?

    Wife: Because.

    Me: I see.

    I really didn’t see.

    Seriously, we are in week 27 of a major redo of three upstairs bedrooms and, because of that, I can’t currently see the furniture in our bedroom. So I didn’t understand why we needed a new chair.

    “Since we can’t see our current furniture, why don’t we just say we bought a chair?” I asked my wife.

    Basically, what my wife said was for me to put a sock in it. So I did. Not literally, that would be stupid. But I dropped my chair objection.

    Well, until my wife told me that we’re buying a leather chair for our bedroom. I’m uneasy with leather furniture. I don’t exactly come from leather furniture people. I have six brothers and sisters. In my family, having leather furniture would have made as much sense as a family of Labrador retrievers having furniture made of squirrels.

    I’m always afraid I will slide off leather furniture. Plus, I’m not sure how, exactly, they make leather. If they make it the way I think they do, I’m afraid somebody from PETA would eventually knock on our door if we owned leather furniture. At the very least, I worry that those cows from the Chick-Fil-A commercials will picket our house.

    My wife, however, does come from leather furniture people. I’m not saying my wife’s family actually had leather furniture. I’m just saying they could have had leather furniture if they wanted.

    My wife thought a leather club chair would add class to our bedroom. I told my wife that a crystal chandelier and Gary Grant in a tuxedo couldn’t add class to our room.

    That time my wife told me to put a *&^%$#@ sock in it.”

    My wife told me she found a leather club chair for our bedroom at a large store where we pay money to shop. I’ve never understood the concept of paying money to shop in a store, but I guess that doesn’t matter because one Saturday, a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I drove to the large store with the cover charge to buy a leather club chair. When we got to the chair aisle, my wife pointed to a chair high up on a shelf.

    “There it is.”

    “OK, let’s get someone to pull one from the back,” I said.

    “No, I want you to sit in it first,” my wife said.

    “I thought this was the chair you wanted,” I said.

    “But I want you to try it to make sure you like it,” my wife said.

    “But I don’t want this chair,” I said.

    “I know. But I want you to like it,” she said.

    “Do they sell beer here?” I asked.

    Even though we paid money to shop at the large store, we couldn’t find anyone to help me get the chair off the high shelf. So I did it myself, nearly having a heart attack in the process.

    “Now sit in it,” my wife said when I finally got the chair on the floor.

    I sat in the chair.

    “What do you think?” my wife said.

    “I think I’m having a heart attack,” I said.

    Then I slid out of the chair.

  • He’s just not a briefcase guy

    The time in 2008 when I discovered I was not a briefcase guy.

    This was published in the Nov 16, 2008 edition of the Joplin Globe.

    I can’t carry a briefcase.

    I mean, physically I can carry a briefcase, but mentally I’m not briefcase-worthy. Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to be one of those cool briefcase-carrying guys. You know, the sort of guy who strides confidently into a courtroom carrying a briefcase, smartly sets it on a table, unsnaps it and, with a flourish, pulls out a stack of papers that not only hold the key to his client’s innocence but also holds the key to the future of the entire free world. Resulting in the following dramatic exchange:

    Judge: Wait a minute, aren’t you the janitor?

    Briefcase Guy: Yes, I am. But I’ve got a cool briefcase.

    Judge: So you do. Case dismissed.

    I want to be briefcase guy, but sadly I’m more a lunch-bag guy than I am briefcase guy. It takes a special sort of guy to be a briefcase guy. George Clooney, for example, could be a briefcase guy. So could that guy on “Mad Men.” Which guy, you ask? It doesn’t matter. All the guys on “Mad Men” look like briefcase guys. Especially that guy who looks like Anderson Cooper. By the way, Anderson Cooper could be a briefcase guy.

    Know who cant’ be a briefcase guy? Carrot Top. Know who else can’t be a briefcase guy? George Bush. Barack Obama is definitely a briefcase guy. John Madden is not.

    And neither am I. First of all, I don’t look like a briefcase guy. I like to wear Hawaiian shirts, and I always look like I need a haircut, even if I’ve just had one. Guys who wear Hawaiian shirts and are in need of a haircut are not briefcase guys.

    To be a briefcase guy you need to have something important enough to put in a briefcase. You need important papers.

    I’m a newspaper columnist. The most important papers I deal with come in rolls. And nobody wants to see someone pull that out of a briefcase. Now, there are people who work in the newsroom here who do carry briefcases. But those people are reporters. People who actually do news work. People who deal with important stuff. People who don’t write about briefcases. Or beer.

    It would be silly for me to carry a briefcase. It would be like Sarah Palin carrying a book. I mean, what’s the point?

    I had to carry my wife’s briefcase the other day. My wife, by the way, is a briefcase woman. My wife looks cool carrying a briefcase. My wife has important papers she needs to carry. My wife has a big calendar in her briefcase where she keeps track of all of her important meetings. I don’t have any important meetings that I have to attend so I don’t carry a calendar.

    My wife’s calendar is huge. I know this because my wife left her briefcase at home Thursday morning. So she called me and asked me to open her briefcase, find her calendar and tell her what important meetings she had scheduled. So I did. When I got to November in her calendar, I told her that she didn’t have any important meetings to attend. I told my wife she had something scheduled for the next day but nothing for Thursday. My wife told me I was looking at the wrong calendar. I told my wife she was crazy. My wife again told me I was looking at the wrong calendar. I told my wife I was looking at her November calendar.

    “What year?” my wife asked.

    I told my wife that I was looking at this year’s calendar. I told my wife she would have to be crazy to already schedule stuff for next November.

    “What year does it say at the top of the calendar?” my wife asked in that tone of hers that makes it sound like I’m a moron.

    “2009,” I said.

    I hate that tone of my wife’s.

    My wife told me to bring her briefcase to work with me. She told me she would come to the newspaper and pick it up. So, I carried my wife’s briefcase out to my car. I opened my car door and causally tossed my wife’s briefcase onto the front passenger seat. I felt pretty cool. Then I drove to work. While I drove, I occasionally glanced at my wife’s briefcase. I felt cool. I felt sophisticated.

    When I got to the parking lot at work, I got grabbed my wife’s briefcase and got out of my car. I walked across the street, confidently carrying my wife’s briefcase. I walked past Ed Hershewe’s law offices. I wondered if people driving by thought I worked in Ed’s office. Then I wondered what Ed would think if he thought people thought I worked in his office. I decided Ed wouldn’t like that.

    Ed’s a briefcase guy. I’m not.

    I’m a Hawaiian shirt-wearing, haircut-needing columnist carrying his wife’s briefcase to work.

    I just hope that my wife won’t get too mad at me when she’s in the middle of an important meeting and she opens her briefcase and dramatically pulls out … a roll of toilet paper.

  • Child’s vision not so perfect after all

    Originally published in the May 22, 2009 edition of The Joplin Globe.

    I’m having second thoughts about our 11-year-old daughter’s eyesight.

    Last week, I mentioned that Emma expressed a hankering for reading glasses. And, yes, I did just type the phrase “expressed a hankering.”

    This is a little-known fact, but in Bill Shakespeare’s first draft of “Romeo and Juliet” the lovely Juliet stood on her balcony and said “Romeo, Romeo, where forth art thou. I would like to express a hankering for a kiss and what not.”

    I was an English major in college, so I had to read a lot of Shakespeare. I’m proud to say that in all of my reading I never once was able to figure out what the heck he was talking about. To me, reading Shakespeare is a lot like reading George Will, only without all the Ronald Reagan references. Of course, back in the day, I’m sure picking up a copy of the latest Shakespeare play was like picking up a copy of the latest John Grisham novel.

    And, yes, I did just type the phrase “back in the day.” Sometimes I type something even though I have a sworn hatred for what I’ve typed.

    “Back in the day” is one of those phrases I hate. I first heard someone use “back in the day” on NPR years ago. The person who used the phrase was talking about the Great Depression, which I figured qualified as being “back in the day.” But now teenagers say “back in the day” to refer to junior high school kids.

    Scooter: Remember back in the day when we had to take algebra?

    Biff: You mean last year?

    Scooter: Yeah.

    Biff: No.

    As far as I’m concerned, a minimum of 50 years needs to pass before you can refer to a time as “back in the day.”

    Now, where was I? Oh yeah, I was talking about Emma’s eyesight. Last week, when I talked about Emma’s eyesight, I mentioned that she had near perfect vision, but now I’m not so sure about that. On Thursday morning, Emma reported that her backpack was missing.

    If you don’t know, for elementary school kids, a backpack is like Superman’s cape. They have to have it with them, although it doesn’t appear to serve any useful purpose.

    When Emma reported that her backpack was missing, my wife suggested that Emma look for it in the car. Emma went outside and came back in seconds later.

    “It wasn’t there,” is what Emma said.

    “#@$%!” is what my wife said and then she went out to look for Emma’s backpack in her car. Seconds later she came back inside carrying the backpack.

    “It was in the front seat,” my wife said to Emma.

    “I didn’t see it,” Emma said.

    Emma also didn’t see the two pairs of tennis shoes that were laying on the floor in our dining room. Since the tennis shoes belonged to Emma, I suggested that she pick them up.

    “What shoes?” Emma said.

    “There,” I said pointing to the tennis shoes that were literally at Emma’s feet.

    “Oh, THOSE tennis shoes,” she said.

    I don’t understand that. How can someone who can spot a clothing store from a mile away not see two pairs of her own tennis shoes parked next to the pair of tennis shoes she is currently wearing? For that matter, how can someone with (Caution: Obscure Gary Cooper reference ahead) Sgt. York-like vision not see the Rush Limbaugh-sized pile of clothes in the middle of her bedroom. Or the 389 pieces of dance-related clothes and shoes lying next to her dance bag parked next to the hall tree?

    In her defense, Emma comes by her lack of awareness honestly. Emma’s mother has been known to ignore items that most folks (me) find hard to ignore.

    In the past, I’ve mentioned my wife’s habit of letting her clothes pile up on a chair in our bedroom. I’m not saying my wife has let the clothes pile up on the chair in our bedroom for a long time, but somewhere at the bottom of the pile is a “Welcome Back Kotter” T-shirt.

    Currently the pile of clothes on the chair in our bedroom is roughly the size of the U.S. budget deficit and, like the deficit, does not appear to be getting any smaller anytime soon. I suspect that my wife’s plan is to leave the large pile of clothes on the chair in our bedroom for future generations to deal with. But I don’t know.

    The other day I gently suggested that my wife do something about the clothes deficit on the chair in our bedroom. I told her I wanted to sit down in the chair. Well, actually I expressed a hankering to sit down. You know, like I did back in the day.

  • At the end of the day, it is what it is

    I hate the expression “At the end of the day …”

    I think it’s dumb, but it is what it is.

    Oh, and I hate the expression “It is what it is” too. Sports guys say “It is what it is” all the time, and I don’t like that.

    The thing is, saying “It is what it is” sounds like you’re actually saying something, but really you’re not. Saying “It is what it is” is like saying nothing. It’s language-light, is what it is.

    OK, I will admit that saying “is what it is” is probably language-light too. But this is my column, is what it is.

    I think the next time a sports guy finds himself about ready to say “It is what it is,” he just shouldn’t say anything. He would be accomplishing the same thing. The other day I, was reading a story about Jim Edmonds, the great center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. Jim was talking about an injury he suffered a week or so ago, and he actually took “It is what it is” and used it in the past tense. Jim, talking about the injury, said, “Whatever it was, it was.” When I read that, I had to agree with Jim. I said to myself: “Yes, Jim, I can’t argue with you. I guess whatever it was, it was.” But I’m not sure the thought actually needed to be verbalized to be true. It sort to goes without saying, is what I’m saying.

    OK, I guess saying “is what I’m saying” is pretty dumb too. But again, it’s my column, is what it is.

    But at least sports guys have an excuse for saying “It is what it is.” Sports guys have to talk to sports reporters. Most sports guys hate most sports reporters because they think the sports reporters will screw up whatever they say and make them look bad. That’s why most sports guys like to say things that don’t mean anything. You know what I mean. Things like “Well, I was just looking for something to hit,” or “We came to play,” or ” Hey, the better team won today.”

    Most sports guys figure that most sports reporters can’t screw statements like those up. But most sports guys figure wrong. I need to make it clear here that when I’m talking about “most sports reporters,” I mean the sports reporters in big cities. Not the sports reporters at, say, The Joplin Globe. See – and this may be a gross generalization – most sports reporters in big cities are – to use a sports term – jerks.

    That’s why sports guys say things like “It is what it is.”

    Now, if you can explain why politicians, TV talking heads and business people say “At the end of the day, …” then you are smarter than I am. Actually, even if you can’t explain that to me, you’re probably smarter than I am. I’m not projecting false modesty here. I’m just being realistic.

    Like “It is what it is,” the expression “At the end of the day …” really doesn’t say much. And besides, when people say “At the end of the day, …” they don’t actually mean at the end of the day. What they mean is at the end of whatever it is they are talking about. Say a Congress creature is taking time between bribes to talk about an upcoming legislative session. He might say something like, “The important thing to remember is that, at the end of the day, we will do the right thing.”

    The Congress creature doesn’t mean at the end of the day on the day he is talking. He means at the end of the legislature session. So why doesn’t he say “at the end of the legislature session. …”?

    Sometimes people really get the whole “end of the day” expression all screwed up. They’ll say something like “At the end of the day, I think we’ll find out that we had a pretty good month.”

    I think that’s dumb.

    But you know what? It really doesn’t matter what I think because, at the end of the day, people are going to say whatever they want to say.

    I mean, it is what it is.

    Originally published in the Joplin Globe on Jun 11, 2006.

  • Sales for frog phone hoppin’

    Originally published in the Sep 3, 2006 edition of The Joplin Globe.

    I’m one of those people now.

    You know the people I mean. The people who have kids in school. The people who bring school fund-raising stuff to work for you to buy. Stuff like – oh, I don’t know – Christmas wrapping paper, magazine subscriptions, candy, cheese, meat or meth.

    Ha. I’m just kidding about the meth, but it does make you wonder how come schools don’t sell meth as a fund-raiser.

    Oh, sure, there are the obvious legal and moral reasons why schools don’t have their kids sell meth, but let’s be practical for a moment. There is, apparently, a certain segment of the population that does want to buy meth. So if those people are going to buy meth anyway, doesn’t it make sense for the schools to benefit from the meth-buying segment of our population? Call it a modest proposal.

    This year, our 8-year-daughter, Emma, brought home a fund-raising catalog and announced that she needed to sell 25 items.

    I thought that was a lot, so I asked Emma why she needed to sell 25 items.

    “So I can get a frog telephone for my room,” she said.

    “Well, as long as you have a good reason,” I said.

    Look, when you’re 8, wanting to get a frog telephone is a pretty good reason to do just about anything.

    First of all, you have the fact that my wife and I are not so sure we want Emma to have a telephone in her room. That’s one reason to want a frog telephone. The other reason, of course, is that it’s a FROG telephone. Oh, and it’s not just any frog telephone. It’s a “hands-free, light-up and ‘Ribbit’ sound frog phone.”

    Emma has to have that phone.

    But the thing is, the stuff in the catalog that Emma has to sell isn’t exactly cheap. Even if my wife and I wanted to order 25 items from the catalog, we wouldn’t because that would be dumb. We would be better off taking the money we would have spent on the 25 items and just buy Emma a frog telephone. If we did, we would still have enough money left over to send her to college at a moderately priced Ivy League school.

    Instead, we did what any parents would do. We badgered our relatives, friends and co-workers.

    See, I have this theory that people get married and have children because they get tired of having to buy fund-raiser things from their married friends who have children. I mean, after a while, it’s cheaper to just have a kid of your own.

    Normally, I feel guilty hitting up relatives, friends and co-workers to help out with Emma’s fund-raisers, but this time it was different. This time, there was a frog telephone at stake. So Monday, I brought the catalog to work and put it under a sign that Emma made. The sign basically was a desperate appeal to help Emma get a frog telephone.

    As I write this, things are starting to look good for the frog telephone. Emma has sold 23 items which means she is two shy of her goal. When I called my wife to give her the good news, my wife said, and I swear this is true, “Well, if she sells 30 items, she gets a pizza party, too.”

    So if you’re not married and you don’t have kids and need Christmas wrapping paper, magazine subscriptions, candy, meat or cheese, give me a call. But if you need some meth, I’m sorry, I can’t help you.

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