Save the whales or a killer birthday present

Last night I texted my daughter.

” I hope you remember that I want a remote controlled inflatable shark for my birthday.”

My birthday coincides with one of my sophomores. This is the card I got her. “YOU’RE FOUR!”

belle birthday card

birthday gifts belle

I also gave her a princess crown and wand and some zombie body parts that grow in water. The dollar store is a magical place.

She handed me a soft five by six inch item wrapped in Christmas paper. If you’re reading this: CHEAPSKATE!

The following is what makes  me believe in astrology. Only someone like me would do this to someone like me.

I unwrapped it. There was a second layer gift wrapped. And a third. Then it was wrapped in saran wrap. Then more gift wrap. then more saran wrap. It took me ten solid minutes to get to the center. There were 42 layers of wrap. Yes. I counted.

birthday schoolwrapping paper

birthday index card

And what I find at the center is this: a 3×5 index card that says : Happy Birthday! HA! Love, name name name name name.

Me:  You shouldn’t have. Really.

Then some others got up with the real gift. A remote controlled inflatable killer whale , five feet long.

birthday killer whale box jpg

Does it get any better than this? I couldn’t wait to tell the French teacher.

killer whaleWhale sans fins.

She stared off into space with a perplexed look on her face for a long time. Finally she said

“This does not bode well for me.”

You betcha.

is anybody out there?

Sometimes when I text my daughter, days will go by before I get a response. This past week it was four days. I usually have to text something that will jolt her into a response, but she  randomly left a response  at 3 A.M.

At a more normal hour…

Me: I was about to text you that after the explosion, our house fell into a sinkhole and we are living in a tent on the sidewalk.

Her: I spent yesterday sleeping.

Me: Aren’t you even worried about us getting frostbite living in a tent? That’s ok. Ignore the woman who suffered in labor 9 hours to bring you into the world.

Her: Where did the tent come from?

Me: The rescue mission.  I could have been driving a new car. But no. We bought you a thimble instead.

( For those who do not read this blog, we bought her a boat when she was ten. When asked what special thing she got for Christmas, she replied, “I got a thimble!“)

Her: The thimble definitely would cut into those car savings, that’s true.  Especially if you get the thimble at the rescue mission. They just jack up thimble prices like nobody’s business.

Me: We got you the best thimble money could buy.  You only talk to  me for my entertainment value.

Her: When I’m low on tweets, really.

Me: I am so showing up at your office unannounced wearing pink hair curlers. And white socks with sandals.  And I will address you as “pumpkin” in a loud carrying voice.

Her: And everyone will say, that explains a lot.

Me: Meet me at the elevator. I’m wearing clogs.

Her: 🙂   ( a smiley face? )

Me: You wait. I’ll take my birthday off and inconveniently appear.  You don’t take me seriously.

Her: And that is so strange given your somber demeanor.

Me: Hey, I can be funereal and lugubrious if need be. And morose.

Her: You just like using words with lots of vowels and/or syllables

Me: What’s the matter? Did you have to look them up?

Her: You do know I’m still at work, right?  ( ah, now we’re getting defensive)

Me: I can’t help it if you waste too much time thinking up witty comebacks.

Because she could have answered all the other posts at 3 AM too.


One time I hosted an academic competition.   One team had a super competitive personality who had his hand up first time every time, making sure no one else ever answered a question.

Finally one of his team mates, who really really wanted a chance, shot his hand up first. Type A student looked at him apprehensively. I asked the question, which I must admit, was a really really easy question.

The team mate beamed happily, and proceeded to cheerfully give the wrong answer.

Type A student let out a bloodcurdling scream:”  AAAAIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! ” and slammed his head full force down on the desk in despair.

A classmate sitting on the floor looked at him seriously and said: ” You know John, you  need a valium and a good woman.”

Unfortunately, I had a mouthful of coffee at the time. It never got swallowed.


When my daughter was 4 we lived in a warehouse which was  next door to  my dad’s house. My daughter would walk across the driveway to have breakfast with him.

One morning after he made the 4 year old her cream of wheat, being a very personable guy, he attempted to have a chat with her. She put down her spoon and looked at him.

“Pop Pop, I came for breakfast. NOT for conversation.”

And with that she picked up her spoon and went back to the cream of wheat.

not exactly suburbia

I grew up on the bay. I was named after a boat, a mahogany Chris Craft speed boat. It sank. That boat was  named after a moth boat that my dad won championships with. That was hit by a truck.  Those are my namesakes. One of my cousins pulled the steering wheel out of the sunken boat and gave it to my dad as a gift.

When I was about ten, my cousin and I found some old wooden boats that no one wanted. (With good reason)  We dragged them down to the  marina and spent large amounts of our summer vacation caulking leaks. A shame we didn’t know how to fiberglass, but we were ten.

There was a boatyard down the street that had a number of boats up on blocks. Some had been there for years. We climbed in a small cabin cruiser and my cousin, in his manly style, ripped out the sink. We drilled a hole in the side of my boat and installed it. However, the running water (which we had to supply) only went one way. Out.

We conceived the idea of a canopy. My cousin  blithely dismembered all his mother’s mops and brooms for the handles, which we nailed to the side of the boat.

There were a lot of old restaurant booths stored in my dads warehouse. We cut large swaths of the vinyl upholstery to use for a canopy. We had enough to have pull down flaps for extra shade.

We didn’t understand why our parents convulsed with laughter, calling it the African Queen. In case you aren’t an old movie buff, that was a Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn film.

african queen 1

african queen 2This is what it looked like. About ten feet shorter, no flags and no engine blowing smoke.

One birthday party to end them all

I had a friend who never had a really great birthday party. So of course we threw one for her.  We started down by the boathouses, which were gaily lit up with christmas lights on the bay. We had a huge strawberry shortcake. At some point the cake got tossed on the ground and people danced in it. Then, to wash off the icing, people jumped in the bay. Fully clothed. A few shimmied up pilings. Fully clothed. Fully wet clothed.

The birthday girl decided that what she really wanted out of this party was mud wrestling. Lucky for her, my father had recently dredged up mud from the bay and had large hills of toxic, glass and metal laden mud on his property by the warehouse. Birthday girl and a minion left the boathouses and walked down the street to create a mud wrestling pit.

mud wrestling

My parents, being older, sane, and sober, climbed up on top of the ten foot mud piles to avoid being dragged into the pit.

mud pile

Other friends and family cheerfully threw themselves into the fray where they emerged with multiple cuts from the debris in the impure mud. Caution was thrown to the winds. People jumped in the water who didn’t know how to swim.

Finally everyone, except my parents and most of the women, was pretty filthy, and the guys were invited in our house to take a group shower. While they were in the shower, six women, including my sister, who had a camera and wasn’t afraid to use it, entered the bathroom and had a long discussion about whether to pull the shower curtain down. We didn’t. It was an epic lost opportunity.

When the evening ended, I put my friend to bed on our couch. She was so happy with her party.

I covered her up with a blanket and then put a life size inflatable skeleton on the toilet seat of the bathroom she would use.

At two a.m. I heard her.

inflatable skeleton

Lock and Load. A story of gun control to entertain my daughter’s friends and coworkers.

When my daughter was 9, my brother showed her how to load an SKS Soviet semi automatic rifle with a bayonet.

I’m like, “She’s loading what?”

sks rifle

He was like, “Oh, it’s got a safety.”

I am not making this up.

When she was 10 or 11 he decided she was ready for her own BB gun.  She was a little worried about the bb pellets, but he told her they were virtually harmless, and shot a seagull to prove it.

It keeled over and died.

dead seagull

She wanted to perform CPR.

Her cousin, only 4 years older, was outraged that she was allowed to have one and he wasn’t.

Me: Yes, but she won’t hide under the boardwalk and shoot tourists in the butt.

He was unable to argue with this.

We came home one day and found the rifle leaning against the kitchen counter. She was eating cereal.

Us: What is the bb gun doing out here?

Her: Oh, I thought I heard someone in the house.

Us:  And just what did you do?

Her: I searched the house room by room with it. There wasn’t anyone here.

Us: Why didn’t you call us? Or the police? Or leave the house?

Her: MOM! I had Roger with me.  (Roger was the dog)

What can you say? “So, did you do a perimeter sweep as well?”

the nerd wars

The other day in class one overachiever said to another ” Wasn’t that a brutal history test? It was so unfair”

The other overachiever said, ” No, I thought it was very fair.”

“What, are you crazy? He never gave a test like that before. We always just wrote down a couple of facts on a note card.”

“Well we spent two days on it. You should have more than just two facts.”

“I suppose you got an A?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“Yeah, well, I’m 7th in the class and I have a GPA of 112.”

“Yes, but we’re talking about history. Who has the higher average THERE?”

Third student chimes in. ” He has a point. You WERE talking about history.”

First student just wanted a little agreement, a little camaraderie, and he’s not getting it.

” Well, who cares about this stuff other than you?”

Fourth student pipes up. “No wonder he hates you.”

Fifth overachiever speaks up. ” Why are you guys so mean to him? I think he’s AWESOME.  You are totally brilliant and awesome and these guys are just jealous.”

Fourth student backpedals. ” Oh, you know I was kidding.”

Fifth student verbally smacks him. “Oh, now you’re just trying to save yourself.”

Sixth student:  “It’s a poet to poet thing.”  Sixth student is often on an alien planet. This remark makes total sense to him.

The Christmas Boat

When our daughter was 8 years old we bought her a boat for Christmas. It was a dinghy that had a sail, oars, and a small outboard motor.



Yes, this is a little unusual. No one bought us our first boat. We had to roam the boatyards to find some abandoned boat, or build our own, or even use our own money.

It was too big to put in the house, so we put it on the deck that faced the living room and kept the blinds drawn.  Christmas morning our child opened up boxes of clothes, books, craft supplies, jewelry, a sewing kit. Then with a drum roll we opened the blinds and presented the boat.

My sister, who knew about the boat, called her. ” What did you get for Christmas?”

” I got lots of books. I got some clothes and a necklace. And a sewing kit.”

My sister pushed. ” Did you get anything else? Something special?”

My daughter thought hard. ” Oh, Oh yes.  I got a THIMBLE!”