I pulled this classic movie stunt in Denver a few months ago, and it still kills me to watch. The planets aligned perfectly: my friend was across the street with his iPhone, I saw the bus coming, and I happened to take note of that metal utility box. The rest is magic. Thankfully he knew to hold his phone sideways.
I don’t ask for much and my dreams are fairly mild: so long as I’m happy and financially comfortable, my family is provided for and healthy, and I someday get to launch those hot-air lanterns up into the sky from a beach like they do in Thailand or Japan wherever, I’ll be fulfilled in life.
So far, things are going smooth. I’m not writing for TV or movies - a dream I simply chose not to chase because, ugh, such a hassle - but I’ve got a career I enjoy and side projects that keep me creative and doing all kinds of cool things. That’s a track I’d like to stay on, so long as it someday takes me to a place where I can light a fire underneath a paper hot air balloon and watch it soar up into the night sky, and maybe be hammered at the time because let’s face it booze just makes everything better, besides operating machinery.
They did the lantern thing at the end of Hangover 2, which sucked except for the scene where they all launch the lanterns into the sky from the beach (they are actually called sky lanterns). Wikipedia tells me they are also known as Kongming lanterns (first sentence!) and that these bad boys are indeed big in Asia. I hope I don’t have to go to Asia in order to fulfill my single lifelong dream of launching a little balloon, yet I’ve never seen them for sale at Party City (not that I’ve looked) so I may have to go overseas to reach my goals. That would really put a kink in my life plans, because a trip to Asia is about 20 hours, fairly expensive (more than $200) and you probably have to get all these shots, and I hate needles.
Sure, I may not yet be a published author with a lakehouse like Richard Gere in one of those romantic movies with Diane Lane (where like his desk looks out over the water from his Pinterest-worthy attic office), and the book I started six years ago is still lost somewhere in my Dropbox. But I’m doing just fine. My lifestyle allows me to buy good clothes, have a cozy home, and subscribe to Amazon Prime, which at only $80 is actually worth it if you order enough stuff (you have to buy all your toiletries and small, individual items under the $25 free shipping minimum in order to beat their system). Still, even with all the weddings I’ve been to over the years, I’ve not yet gotten to light up a Kongming lantern surrounded by my best friends, close family, and more than likely a few people from high school or college who I absolutely hated. Regardless, I feel like we would all be one as we peacefully watched our paper lanterns turn to stars in the night sky on the beach of some Chinese province that I can’t pronounce. Someone will probably be puking from all the booze though.
And hopefully the sky lanterns wouldn’t accidentally crash in mid-air and cause a huge Kongming balloon catastrophe. If that happened, then yeah, at that point I guess you could say my whole life would be ruined.
We’re having guest at our house later this month, although the specific date isn’t set in stone and more the median of a three-to-five week range. We know only that she’ll only give us about a day’s notice before she gets here. Our houseguest won’t call or text or send an email informing us of her arrival; no, she’ll simply inflict tremendous pain upon my wife then show up a day or two later. Our houseguest will also arrive completely naked.
And really, that’s all we know about our guest: it is a girl, and she will show up not wearing any clothes.
Of course, we also know that she will be staying with us for quite some time, likely 18 years followed by a four-year break during which she will attempt to drain my bank account. Depending on how her life goes after that, hopefully she’ll be able to get her own home move out of the guestroom we’ve decorated for her. I’m sure by that time we will be ready to have our house back to ourselves, although it is plausible that she could temporarily move back into our home after a career snag, a breakup with that biker guy who I warned from the start was trouble (I don’t trust anyone who smokes those blue-tip e-cigs), or after making a few poor life choices despite my best efforts during her early years - standard lessons all young people must figure out on their own. So long as she never shops at Hot Topic or has any friends with those metal dog collar spikes on their belts or writes a bunch of crappy, sad poetry in the comment section of her Instagram posts, she’s more than welcome to stay here during her mid-20s.
Our houseguest will not know how to use our toilets or showers. Or feed herself, make her own food, dress herself, talk, walk, stand, sit, take a punch, critically think, read, do Seinfeld quotes with us, remember, own a phone, or take care of herself in any way. She will shit everywhere, so much so that it will cause our friends who also have houseguests who shit everywhere to believe that the topic of houseguest shitting makes for good conversation; we have promised to do our best not to discuss with others the details of our houseguest’s shit habits.
We also know that our houseguest will eat our food and drink our drinks and offer no funding toward rent, utilities, or Netflix, even though she will ruin our Recommendations section with her Disney Channel stuff. We don’t own a Brita, but if we did, she wouldn’t even know how to refill it. More than once, our houseguest will attempt to kill herself by pulling a chair on top of her; opening a cabinet to drink a spray bottle of 409; dumping a shelf full of pots and pans onto her head; or attempting to climb our entertainment center to stick her finger into the television. She will, once she turns seven or eight, begin to take out the trash from time to time and bring her hosts alcoholic beverages upon request. At this time, maybe we can discontinue safeguarding our cabinets from a houseguest who has become more responsible and has learned that drinking bleach or poking your finger into a flat-screen TV is not an appropriate thing to do in someone else’s home, or ever.
Still, I am pretty sure we’ll find it in our hearts to open our arms and be very hospitable towards our guest. After all, we’re the ones who invited her to come stay with us.
Grandma recently received a call from someone claiming to be me as part of an oft-performed con called the “grandparent scam.” As the deception typically goes, it was a guy saying he (I) was stuck in Ecuador with my friend Ryan (and I do have a close friend named Ryan), and that I was in deep trouble after having been caught with a small bag of cocaine. Point being, I needed money to get us out of Ecuadorian jail.
Don’t tell anyone, the scammer said. She was the only person I could call, don’t say anything to mom and dad, just please help by wiring $5,000 to me. Grandma was smart enough to figure the whole thing out, and the caller eventually hung up realizing his fraud attempt against a little old lady was futile.
My issue with the whole thing, however, wasn’t that some lowlife was trying to con my sweet grandmother out of a few retirement dollars. My problem, rather, is what if I someday find myself in Ecuador with my friend Ryan? Perhaps we’ve gone down for a long “guys weekend” of hiking Incan ruins, visiting historical sites along the coast, and ingesting massive amounts of cocaine into our noses and ears.
The trip quickly goes from narcotic-fueled to horrible after we are caught by the Ecuadorian policia and wind up in a jail cell. The cops find our “horse” (a common cocaine nickname). After pleading with the guards, I am given only one phone call. But unfortunately, I can’t call my grandma, because a con artist has already cried wolf and ruined any hopes I have of getting bailed out of Ecuadorian jail.
Grandma seems like an optimal choice for that phone call. I wouldn’t want to scare my wife who would also be mad because of the reefer (more cocaine slang), and when I got back to America after being released from Ecuador jail she’d probably make me do stuff on Saturdays as punishment since she knows I hate doing stuff on Saturdays (unless it’s cocaine-focused).
My parents would be enraged and mom, most likely, wouldn’t let me light the candles during Sunday dinners at their house, because she knows how much I like lighting candles (even more than “riding the horse”). I can do this cool trick where, using only one hand, I open the matchbook and light the match. The trick impresses many folks, but if I ever went to Ecuador jail for cocaine possession, I’d have to do my magic trick away from mom because she’d be all pissed off about the aforementioned jail-slash-cocaine issue.
I guess I could call my brother or sister, but maybe they won’t have phones in the future. Plus, I forget their names. Friends would be an option, but they may never look at me the same again once I return home, and I’d forever be known as “Mr. Cocainehead” - or even worse, by my middle name, which is Gary.
So it seems grandma will be a solid choice to help clean up the mess I plan get myself into down in Ecuador. And now, thanks to a fraudster, I have no one to call when I get out of hand and into a bind.
Although I guess Ryan could just call his grandma instead. Let’s hope she’s never been scammed before because then we’d really be in trouble.
Attached is a photo of a car parked in reserved spot 316, and the vehicle is not authorized to be parked there. I will be calling the tow truck in a half hour, which is around 1:25 p.m. eastern standard time depending on when and where you are reading this email.
I would be remiss not to mention, to the owner, that your car is a bit dirty and could probably go for a wash. It shows up quite clearly in my photo even though I snapped it with a first-generation Samsung Galaxy. Dirty cars can really diminish a paint job over time, so it’s important to try and keep your vehicle clean. It’s something I regularly had to remind my wife, until earlier this year when she became my ex-wife.
I also noticed you are from Ohio, that’s great! Lived in Indiana for several years during elementary school. Indiana is near Ohio, right? Did you go to Denison, or do you just know someone who goes there, or went to Denison? Something must have compelled you to put a Denison sticker on your rear windshield. If you went to Denison: did you know Jeremy Epperson? We went to elementary school together before my family moved to Missouri. He played lacrosse, I think. Graduated in 1998 (maybe?). You probably don’t know him, I know, but figured it was worth a shot. He had brown hair, if that helps. So did Susan (ex).
What led you to buy a Mitsubishi? (I think that triple-diamond logo is a Mitsu, right?) Just curious. You never really see commercials on TV for Mitsubishi anymore, so was it word-of-mouth or perhaps a social media campaign that led you to that brand? I’ve been looking at the new Lancer recently and learned about them through the great social media presence of Mitsubishi motors. (Sidebar: outside of being a facilities specialist, I’m studying digital marketing at Southern New Hampshire University online in the evenings.)
Did you know Susan? She went to Denison, too. Graduated in 1992.
The parking space also clearly says “COMPACT,” so you really shouldn’t be in that corner spot. The Galant is mid-size sedan, and I believe one of the best in its class (Car & Driver says otherwise, but what do those bozos know?). If you want compact car, but still demand the quality and comfort of a front-wheel drive Mitsubishi, you should have looked at the Lancer. Susan actually drove a Focus ZX4, although I haven’t seen her in almost two years so she may own something else by now.
I think this may actually be the second time I’ve asked your particular car to move from a reserved spot, if memory serves. Please be sure only to park in your authorized, non-compact space unless you trade-in for a Lancer!
By the way, I zoomed in on the picture just to be sure, and indeed, you need to get a new car registration this month as yours expires at the end of September. You do know that you can be pulled over and fined for a late vehicle registration, don’t you? And remember: the registration is different from getting your vehicle inspected. Lots of people don’t understand that, but it’s actually two different and generally unrelated stickers. I swear, you are just like my ex-wife!
And I loved my ex-wife. Adored her. She left on her own terms, over nothing I did. Nothing. Look, I know this may seem premature, but If you’re feeling something here, between us, email me back. We can forget about the parking space. Forget it ever happened, I swear. We’ll go slow. Whoever you are. And if not, the tow truck will be here in 10.
I recently spent a week at the beach and did so for the very first time under the status of a Grown-Up. We hit the beach every year, but trips in the ’80s and ’90s I was still a kid, so my responsibilities back then were limited to doing whatever I wanted until being told to stop by an adult. Recent annual beach trips have been as an adult with friends or with my family, which - immediate or extended - no longer contains toddlers. Yet after my recent week hanging out with a group of small children, I have come to believe that a toddler’s ultimate goal is to try to get away with killing itself before a grown-up can stop them from doing so.
Without grown-ups present, a beach house on the coast of North Carolina in late July would have witnessed multiple child drownings, stabbings, heat strokes, one fork to the temple, a glass table to the face, and at least one three-story fall onto concrete.
This year’s beach trip was with my wife’s side of the family, which contains six kids and a seven-month-old. As a childless man with what I would like to believe is an above-average muscle tone (not to mention a naturally olive skin complexion and taut legs, but that’s beside the point), I stepped up to the plate and took on a much different role than normal: one of hauling a majority of the beach gear to the sand, keeping an eye on small children, and carrying sometimes-screaming children to the sand. Frequently I did all three at once: hauled gear, carried kids, and kept an eye on other small kids, most of which were screaming or inexplicably walking in the opposite direction of the ocean. “Ax man, we’re going this way,” I shouted at the 3-year-old, walking westward. I should also note that most if not all of this activity took place under the influence of alcohol, or the remnants of it.
While swimming in the pool one day, my 9-year-old niece asked if she could massage my back. “Maybe later, but not right now,” I explained, knowing there would never be a “later,” ever, based on rules that I just assume are in place these days regarding giving wet uncles back massages. Which sucks, because I was told she’s quite good at massages, and I’d kinda thrown my back out hauling kids and all their shit to the beach.
Terminator 2 just happened to be on Netflix one evening because I knowingly put it on TV, so - since it was on - I let the 10-year-old in the house watch it with me. “It’s a soft R,” I explained to another adult, who questioned whether the kid should watch it. She left the room moments before a liquid metal spike impaled a character’s head as he drank from a milk carton, a scene that quite frankly still scares me. I mentioned to the kid that if he told anyone that I let him watch T2, a robot from the future would go back in time and try to kill him.
I let two nieces - nine and six - who had never lit a match before fire up a charcoal grill. They didn’t ask to do so or anything; it was more of a situation where I said, “Psst. Hey girls. You two ever lit a match before?”
Mornings are louder in a beach house with six kids. Stomping begins at 6 a.m., with the first crying wails of the day rumbling forth two minutes later. These tears are followed by a crescendo of sound that continues in what seems like a game of which the objective is to yell and shriek louder than the other children. Still in bed, childless grown-ups try to ignore the sound until we are ultimately forced to give in and just go ahead and get out of bed Entering the kitchen a few minutes later for coffee, we are greeted by parents who have been awake for an hour. “Boy, you are a late riser,” they’ll say, with a straight face, as the sun crests over the horizon.
One evening there was a fight between two cats in the front yard of our beach house, and one cat killed the other. My sister-in-law, acting swiftly as to not let the children see a dead kitten, put the feline into a nearby trash can that rested alongside the house’s driveway. We worked hard not to mention the “dead cat” in the children’s presence for the rest of the week, but sometimes it slipped. We’d cover ourselves with lines such as, “No, I said your ‘mom’s fat,’” or “No, I said ‘How ‘bout that?’” or “Yeah, there’s a dead cat in the garbage can. Be a man about it and finish eating your lasagna.”
Now is also a good time to also mention that my 31-year run as a childless man is expected to come to an end on December 28. I’m cool with it, so long as having a child doesn’t interrupt my current way of life whatsoever, increase my expenses, or prevent me from doing whatever I want whenever I want. If that’s the case, being a grown-up will continue to be awesome.
I’ve written lots of print advertisements and a billboard or two and speeches and press releases, but never a moving picture. Here’s a little web advertisement for reading glasses that I dreamed up and wrote. I appreciate the outcome.
Today would be the shirt’s last chance. I would give it just one more attempt to not act like a complete fuck-up right off the hanger, or else we would finally part ways.
It’d been months since I’d worn it: a gifted J. Crew oxford with navy and olive-colored checks across a white backdrop. Made in a country that no one can point out on a map (Mauritania, don’t even try, I’ve looked and Google can’t even find it), the five-year-old shirt has always had a penchant for somehow ruining my day within just a few hours with its odd fit and even more peculiar feel, despite the material being 100 percent cotton. It’s as if the neck is too large despite the shirt being my size, or it’s not cut correctly, or the second button drops too far down, or the collars are too flimsy and sit improperly on what I believe to be my well-formed clavicles.
Sure enough, it took only 40 minutes and getting a distance far enough away from home to allow for a quick wardrobe change to instill in me a sense of insecurity and discomfort that would last the rest of the day.
"Morning Jeff, is that video finished? We need it by 3 o’clock."
"This shirt completely hides my upper body form, doesn’t it? It’s like a blanket. Look at it. Look at it. You have no sense of what my body profile is like underneath this thing, do you?"
"I don’t really…"
"Is it just me this collar larger than the other? Look how these things sit on my clavicles. Watch, when I move my head, watch what happens to the collars. Watch. See how they move? See that?"
In addition to the shirt ordeal, it was a humid Virginia day, so my hair was frizzy and unmanageable; the elasticity on my socks has been giving out, so they kept sliding down my calves; and earlier this week, I read an article about Nazi Germany which sent me on a substantial and ongoing Wikipedia kick to learn everything I can about the Holocaust, and I can’t seem to pull away. I’ve learned a lot about World War II Germany and the Third Reich, but for what cause? Himmler was a horrible guy - as bad or worse than Hitler, who seems to have simply been a super convincing public speaker - and YouTube offers computerized, recreated tours of some of the camps (viewing them easily eats up a common lunch break). This afternoon, I also noticed that the right knee region on my jeans is lighter than the other, leading to an asymmetry in denim coloration that I fear will be noticed by acquaintances someday. What is with that guy’s jeans’ knees? Is he properly educated?
Much of the shirt problem, I have come to believe, was due to not wearing an undershirt today. This morning I lacked clean V-necks, which are my preferred undershirt over the O-neck and the less common &-neck. I had some O’s, but they hang long - longer than the overshirt - and I wanted to reserve the option of an untuck if things fell to shit early on in the tucked day. That being said, the button-down is still too long when it’s untucked, yet not quite long enough to tuck without popping out and giving the wearer an awkward front-opening at the top of the belt, which leads to multiple re-tucks throughout the course of a day - an average of one per hour as opposed to the men’s standard of one every 180 minutes.
There were moments today when I considered walking down the street to the men’s clothing store to buy another shirt. But I didn’t. There was also a period, on the way home, when I thought of pulling up to the Goodwill trailer and handing them the shirt off my back, then driving away freed from the pain and misery brought upon me by that shirt. But I didn’t. It’ll be in a Goodwill soon enough, though. Indeed, the next time this shirt is worn, it’ll be by some college kid who needed a costume for a Halloween party he’d been looking forward to all year, only to have his night ruined by a single article of clothing that just doesn’t seem to properly fit.