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!”

I can see why they don’t believe you

When my daughter was born, we lived in a boathouse.  Not a houseboat.

(I had a long argument with my first grade teacher about this)  Shacks that people stored boats in around the prohibition period. They were built out on a wooden pier over the bay. When they took the boats  out for the summer, they moved in a bed, a lot of beer, and a toilet on top of a hole in the floor. (They’ve been somewhat upgraded since then. But not a lot.) Did I mention the beer?

boathousesOk, it looked a lot better 20 years ago. This is the day after Hurricane Sandy. Well, it looked a little better.

Whaddya want? They’re BOATHOUSES for crying out loud. They’re quaint. Rustic. And this is also the day after the hurricane.

boathouses 2

Then we moved into a warehouse. Just down the street. It used to be the Evening Star Yacht Club. It was still just a big warehouse with a bunch of sailboats in it. So we built an apartment in it and lived there.


The warehouse was on a marina. When my daughter was about ten she put a sign in the marina store that said

“Hypnotist: 2 hypnotisms for 75 cents.”  And she got customers.  She hypnotized boat captains.

My father lived next door in what we called the Little House, which was not small, but was to distinguish it from the Big House, which was not big, right down the street. He had a pet seagull named Jonathan (for Jonathan Livingston Seagull) which being hand fed by my dad grew to be as big as a turkey.

He went out in the morning with food and cawed to call him. So imagine the seagull on the far right, only an old guy with a resemblance to Abraham Lincoln.

seagull cawing He would sit on my dad’s car and crap on it mightily. My dad moved his car two buildings away. The seagull was found on it every morning.

My daughter randomly mentions these things to people. They don’t believe her. I can see why.