Leaving This Planet

Suicide Booth Recording: You are now dead. Thank you for using Stop and Drop, America's favorite Suicide Booth since 2008.

Futurama, “Space Pilot 3000” (3/28/99)


Fair Warning: this is going to be kind of a rambling post. If you make it to the end, Congratulations! and thanks.


The Internet in its present form has been around for awhile, now. We’re at the point where college-age people don’t remember a time when there wasn’t some form of “being online.” Being a little older than that, I do remember those dark days. These kids today, they have no idea where stuff like “LOL” came from. They don’t know where stuff like 🙂 or :-/ or :-O came from. It came from US, kids! We didn’t invent these things (most of them date to the 70s and 80s), but we certainly brought them into wide use.

Remember when you got hundreds of floppy disks? And then it was hundreds of CDs? In the early 1990s, there were three major ways to access the Internet. Even then, it wasn’t the same thing by a long shot. But your choices were pretty much Prodigy, CompuServe and America Online. After a couple of years, AOL was pretty much the only game in town. One of America Online’s big draws was something called the “Chat Room”, a virtual space in which like-minded people could gather and communicate via text in real time. Boy oh boy, those were the days. We made all kinds of friends across the nation and even had ourselves a couple of parties which were practically weekend-long bacchanalias.

As the Internet became more of a presence and the need for something like AOL began to fade into the background, many of us jumped over to the IRC, which stands for Internet Relay Chat. The IRC (yeah, I know that “the” doesn’t really belong there, but that’s how we say it) gave us a lot more control over the spaces: we could give superpowers to some people, ban the trolls, and best of all the rooms were of infinite size, unlike the AOL rooms, which were limited to the strange number of 23 participants. The IRC is supposedly still a pretty big deal but I don’t think that it’s still the social center that it was in the late 90s.

The problem with the AOL Chat Rooms and the IRC channels was the drama. Oh my god, the drama. The incestuousness and the drama. And I am the first to admit that I was easily sucked into it. I’m not going to get into the details, because it’s a long story and I come out kind of bad in some parts of it. But I did learn some valuable lessons, the biggest of which is not to get too involved in the lives of people I meet online. This is a character named "Tubey." Really.

Which brings me into the recent past.

My more recent participation with online communities has been largely through blogs and online forums. For awhile I was heavily into Television Without Pity (in the days before Bravo took over), and I was a frequent commenter on other blogs when this one was in its infancy, six years ago. You may see me from time to time commenting in the Baltimore Sun’s blogs, although I don’t comment on “Inside Ed” anymore. And I spend some time on The Viewscreen to maintain my nerd cred. And, of course, Facebook. But here’s the thing: because of all I’d been through ten years earlier, my interactions on the forums have been more limited, my comments a little more guarded, my details a little more private. So while there were some really tight communities going on out there, and while my presence is usually acknowledged, more often than not I’m not one of the “in” crowd over there. And in general that’s fine by me.

In the more recent past:

As I mentioned above, I spent some time on Television Without Pity in their forums. I participated in the forums for Survivor, Trading Spaces, Joan of Arcadia, Numb3rs and a couple of others, but I definitely spent the most time in The West Wing. I spent enough time in there that when a get-together was proposed to take place in Washington, DC, I threw caution to the wind and actually attended that weekend. I didn’t stay in the hotel; I was a commuter each day. During the day, we’d tour Our Nation’s Capitol and by night we’d hang out in the hotel suite and play games or just chitchat, with the TV constantly playing episodes of The West Wing and Sports Night.  And it did have some effect on the stuff that we put into our TWOP posts in the forum, and the information that we shared with one another. But in the long run I still held back somewhat.

Then The West Wing ended, and few of us had another show in common, so the forum dissolved, and while some people managed to keep in touch with one another, I did not. I certainly missed that bunch, but it was time to move on and all that.

In the quite recent past:

So I re-discovered a few of the folks from the TWOP West Wing forum on Facebook, and I put in a couple of friend requests. I was starting to re-connect with that crowd, a little bit. However, one of the people didn’t accept my request, and I don’t know if they ever looked at it.

Earlier this week, one, and then another, of my FB friends from that bunch posted something about the person who didn’t accept my request. It was a generic “so long, we’ll miss you” kind of post, and it left me a little confused. I asked one of them what was going on but got no reply. Then another friend posted some extra information: she had died; what’s more, she’d committed suicide.

You know, I’ve been depressed before. I’m sure we all have, at one time or another. When I was going through this (this was almost 20 years ago), I used to think very clinical, detached thoughts about what might happen if I just took my hands off the steering wheel. But there was always something in me that wanted me to keep climbing the tree, keep checking out the view. As long as there’s tree, I’ll be climbing. So I never let go of that wheel. I’m feeling better now, thanks.

So despite having had that level of thought, I still don’t quite understand the suicidal mind. I know that, statistically, I have more days behind me than ahead, and the idea that I’m going to die someday has me pretty pissed off. I’m not looking for immortality, but I wouldn’t complain too loudly if we were allowed a lot more time, plus the option to just voluntarily discorporate when we decide “OK, that’s enough of that, now.”

Many of the famous people who commit suicide, I’ve noticed, have certain creative sparks that the rest of us don’t. In the land of Rock & Roll, that would include Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence and Ian Curtis. (One could make an argument for Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Keith Moon, but let’s not quibble just now.) In literature, you’ve got Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Hunter S. Thompson and Spalding Gray. In science you have Alan Turing, George Eastman and Edwin Armstrong. There are many others, but I think you can see the pattern, here. All of these folks were very smart and very creative and they also had some serious neuroses going on, enough to fry the wiring in their heads.

These are people who had some resources available to them, and they still went this extreme route. What chance do we have, the ordinary schmucks who also have some neuroses going on? I think this is the thing that infuriates me when someone famous chooses to end their life; their action tends to romanticize it for someone else.

So someone who’s been in my life is gone from it forever, by their own hand. Could I have intervened if I’d retained my original level of involvement with that crowd? Would I have noticed the warning signs? Some who knew her better speculate that they probably wouldn’t have noticed because of this person’s public persona, but one never knows, I guess. In the meantime, I’m still up in my tree and still climbing.

Q. Also, A.

Dibala: Don't ask me questions you don't want to know the answers to.

–House, M. D., “The Tyrant” (10/5/09)


It’s time once again for Mister Answer Guy, who takes the hardest of questions and provides answers that sound almost like he knows what he might be talking about.

This is Vince O'Brien. He was a character actor who died just a couple of months ago. He's probably best known as the Shell Answer Man. He won't be taking questions just now.

Q: Can you use a quotation from a blacklisted author to explain why you say “once again” when you’ve never done this before?

A: Certainly. To quote Ring Lardner, “’Shut up,’ he explained.”

Q: Has baseball ever killed anyone?

A: Raymond Johnson Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was hit in the head by a pitch and died a day later. This was in 1920, so presumably they’ve worked out that particular kink in the game.

Q: What do the following bands have in common: Marshall Tucker Band, Steely Dan, Derek and the Dominoes, Eve 6, Fountains of Wayne?

A: Oddly, they all have a person’s name but there’s no person by that name in the band.

Q: Which Yankee manager never won a game in Yankee Stadium?

A: This is a trick question. Bill Virdon’s entire career as a Yankee manager took place during the 1974-75 seasons, during which the Yanks played their home games in Shea Stadium while Yankee stadium was being remodeled.

Q: Speaking of the Yankees, why are Baltimore Orioles fans so hostile toward the Yankees?

A: If I had to guess, it’s jealousy. The original Baltimore Orioles moved to New York in 1901 and were re-named the New York Highlanders. In 1913 they became the Yankees. Meanwhile we’re stuck with a great stadium and this suck-fest of a team.

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty "Hi Yo Silver!"--Oh, all right. It's John Reid. Q: What is the Lone Ranger’s real name?

A: Don’t be stupid. He’s fictional.

Q: You did so well with the first musical question, here’s another. What do these acts have in common: Tom Jones, Sheena Easton, Duran Duran, Paul McCartney & Wings, Carly Simon?

A: I’ll let you percolate on that one a little first.

Q: Do you remember Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

A: Of course I do. Next ques—

Q: Wait, I wasn’t done yet. There’s a scene where a guy suggests that “very small rocks” can float. Was he right? Smarter than they look.

A: Hey, if it’s in a Monty Python bit it must be true. But yes, pumice is a rock that floats.

Q: Back to that musical question. What if I added Shirley Bassey to the list?

A: Then the answer is obviously, “James Bond”.

Q: Is there something wrong with Michelangelo’s “David”?

A: Well…other than being a Jewish boy who hasn’t been circumcised, no.

Q: I have a glass of champagne and a raisin. How can I keep myself amused for awhile?

A: Drop the raisin in the glass of champagne. Amusement will ensue.

Q: What is the international area code for Antarctica?

A: That would be 672.



That’s it for today, kiddies. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions you’d like to see answered in this space!


Jason O'Day: I've got no patience for kids, especially runaways!

Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)


My morning routine usually involves taking Wee One to school, then coming back home for a few minutes of relaxation and perhaps a cup of tea before heading out to my own job.

As I said, “usually”. Today was the exception.

This is the evil dog. This morning was also Trash Day in my neighborhood, and for whatever reason we had more than the usual complement of refuse this week. The bags were full of dry, relatively light materials, so we kept them indoors so they wouldn’t blow away with all the winds we’d had lately. So this morning I grabbed up the bags and pushed out through the front door. And right behind me, one of the dogs, the small white one, boogied outside and up the street toward Harford Road.

This dog has a habit of doing this sort of thing, and frankly I’m tired of it. My attitude toward most of the pets is: “My job is to pet the animal”, so training and chasing ain’t in that job description, thank you very much. And the hell of it is, in almost any other situation he’ll come when you call him. But when he gets out the front door, he’s Gone, Baby, Gone.

I simply turned to Wee One and told her, “He went thataway.” She ran outside to find him. A few minutes later she came back crying; she couldn’t find him. Sigh. Get in the car, kid.

Thirty minutes later, we gave up. I dropped Wee One off at school, a half-hour late. Fortunately, the principal was also getting to school late and walked her into the building. I still had something to pick up from home, so I stopped back in and called one of my co-workers to let her know what had happened, and to tell everyone that I was on my way to the meeting.

So naturally, as soon as I hung up and opened the front door to leave, there he was sitting on the porch, the little rat bastard.

You Don’t Mess With the Monkey

Jack Butler: [Trying to get Kenny to give up his security blanket] I understand that you little guys start out with your woobies and you think they're great… and they are, they are terrific. But pretty soon, a woobie isn't enough. You're out on the street trying to score an electric blanket, or maybe a quilt. And the next thing you know, you're strung out on bedspreads, Ken. And that's serious. 

Mr. Mom (1983)


I actually got to do a paper on the film Mr. Mom when I was in college. Being a Communications student was a riot.

When I was a kid, my little brother had a stuffed monkey. This thing followed him everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE: to the table at meals, to the bathroom, in the car, they slept in the same bed together…I’m sure you know the drill. Either you had this kind of attachment to something, or one of your siblings did, or you’re a parent and know the score. You don’t mess with the monkey.

My neighbor S is returning to China sometime tomorrow to finish out her year of International Law study. For whatever reason, the plane she’s taking is leaving out of Newark Airport, so they decided to pack up her stuff early and then she, and her husband B, and their two kids would ride up to Newark and just be in town in plenty of time to catch her plane. The kids, both girls, are (almost) three and six years old. The three-year-old is also going to China. And yes, she’s bilingual now, although she only speaks Chinese to the Chinese people and only English to the Americans. So if you want her to tell you the Chinese word for something, you have to ask her, “What does Ayi [the nanny] call it?”

This morning, a few of us put together a Farewell Brunch which I hosted: French Toast, Bacon, Sausage, Eggs, assorted pastries from Woodlea Bakery (Fenwick’s is closed on Sundays, and that’s a whole nother blog post), and mimosas or hot beverage. S & B asked a small favor of us: their teenage son has a test tomorrow at school, so he couldn’t go to Newark with them. He’s going to stay at the house, so could we pop in on him and make sure he’s OK? Certainly, we said.

Since the rest of the afternoon promised to be pretty crazy, we said our goodbyes then and there, and they went back home. We kept the boy behind and dragooned him into helping us clean up around the house, which was fine by his parents. After dinner we sent him to his house and made sure that he was well-armed with the usual warnings.

At a little after 9:00, the phone rang. It was S, asking me if we were still awake. Of course we are, it’s not that late. Apparently there was a crisis. I looked out the window to see if their house was still there. It was, and it wasn’t even on fire. That wasn’t the problem. 

DSC04075 The problem was that the three-year-old had left her stuffed Piggy back at home. Piggy, of course, is her version of my brother’s Monkey: it goes pretty much everywhere. So here are her parents, who were moments from entering the New Jersey Turnpike, realizing that they have to turn around and go back to Baltimore because there’s no way that S is going to get on a plane for sixteen hours with a kid going through Piggy Withdrawal. So she called me to let me know that they’re already heading back, and would I do them the huge favor of meeting them partway with Piggy? Of course, I said. I dispatched Wife to get Piggy from next door, while I put on my shoes.

Into the car, fired up the iPod, and…crap. I need to get gas. OK, detour to the Texaco station around the corner and now I’m ready to hit the road.

About thirty minutes later I pulled into the Maryland House, somewhere around Mile Marker 81. I did a quick sweep of the parking lot but I didn’t see their car. Then I realized that Maryland House has two lots, each one used primarily by drivers going in a specific direction. I was in the Northbound drivers’ lot. I worked my way around the building and looked again. Sure enough, their car was in the second lot, the one for Southbounders. B was in the building, presumably in the rest room, but he was emerging as I crossed from my car to theirs. S was dozing in the passenger seat but brightened as soon as she saw me. She got out of the car and they both gave me Thank You hugs & kisses. Then S said, “You’re going to blog this, aren’t you.”

“Of course I am,” I said. “I had Wife take pictures before I left so I’d have artwork for the post.”

As a gesture of gratitude, B offered me a fifth of whatever I wanted when he got back from Newark. I declined the offer.

Because this is what you do sometimes. And you don’t mess with a kid’s Monkey. Or their Piggy.

That’s the Way the Cookie…no, I can’t do that one.

[Mr. Parker phonetically reads the side of a box containing a prize that he won]
Mr. Parker: “Fra-gee-lay”. That must be Italian.
Mrs. Parker: Uh, I think that says “FRAGILE”, dear.
Mr. Parker: Oh…yeah.

A Christmas Story (1983)


Cookie Jar When I was a youngster, one of the things I remember always being on the kitchen counter was a cookie jar. The jar was shaped like a monk, who had a kindly face. Inscribed along the bottom of his robe was the phrase, “Thou Shalt Not Steal”.

In 1961 or thereabouts, before my parents were married, my mother spotted the jar in the window of a shop, and she fell in love with it. The jar cost $25 then. Twenty-five bucks is on the low end of typical nowadays, so I’m sure you understand that, in 1961, it was pretty steep.

So she started saving up her money, and before she’d scraped the money together, a couple of her co-workers chipped in and bought it for her as an engagement present. It did hold cookies for a long time; then at some point about twenty years ago or thereabouts, she started putting books of matches in it. And when my mother and stepfather traveled about the country on their frequent road trips, they’d snag matchbooks here and there and put them into the jar.

So the cookie jar was actually a bit of a fire hazard for awhile there, what with the souvenirs from King Kullen supermarkets on Long Island (featuring artwork from the 1980s), and restaurants in Las Vegas, NV; Biloxi, MS and Washington State, to name a few. There was one pack from a restaurant called The Good Steer, which I remember eating at one time as a kid.

Flash forward a little bit.

As part of my inexorable slide into decrepitude and, ultimately, The Big Sleep, the odometer on my body clicked over yet another notch this past Friday. I’m 47 years old, now.

My mother called me early in the week to tell me that she was sending a package my way for my birthday, so I should keep an eye out for it. Thursday afternoon, when I arrived home, a box was on the porch. The box had a bit of a ding in the side, but I didn’t think anything of it since I didn’t know its contents. It also didn’t specifically bother me that it rattled, for the same reason. Then I got it inside and opened it up.

There were two items in the box. Wait, that’s not quite right. What my mother had mailed was two items. What arrived was a couple of dozen pieces of two items. One was a statue of an elephant, about eight inches high and perhaps nine long. My mother had picked it up in a shop some years ago. The other…was the cookie jar. It, like the elephant, was absolutely shattered.  No fewer than twenty-one pieces of broken porcelain, among several dozen unused packs of matches.

It was clear that she’d packed the hell out of it, but it didn’t help. Some of the cells in the pillow packs were no longer filled with air, such was the damage.

I sat there for a long time, just staring at the carnage. I knew my mother was expecting me to call her with all kinds of delight and surprise and pleasure, and instead I was absolutely heartbroken. I knew what it meant for her to send it to me, and to have to tell her that it hadn’t arrived safely was going to be one of the harder things I had to tell her. I picked up the phone and got it over with.

She was definitely upset but snapped into business mode after a minute or two, telling me that she’d call the UPS Store from where she’d shipped it and get back to me. She called me back awhile later with instructions that, I discovered the next day, turned out to be incorrect. But we got that part straightened out and as of right now UPS is doing some investigating, so how that shakes out still remains to be seen.

I’ve done some research into restoring the jar, and apparently there are services which can make repairs, even to this level of damage–which, technically, is called “Disaster” breakage. Anything that’s more than two or three pieces is “disaster” level. And the cost is directly related to the level of restoration: if you want it presentable, it can run you about $100. Full restoration, which as I understand it would actually bring it back to food-grade, can run to several times that figure. The photo above came from a place that would sell a replacement for about $75. Cheaper, but not the one that was a gift to my mother.

In the end, I realize that it’s just stuff, you know? And yet, I’ve had to leave so much stuff behind throughout my adult life that this feels like a genuine loss. My next step with this will be a carefully-considered one.

2009 in Review

Ralph: Just remember, you can't put you arms around a memory.

Alice: I can't even put my arms around you.

The Honeymooners, "Better Living Through Television" (11/12/55)


This is a post that changed very quickly from idea to execution. The original intent was to do a fun recap of some of the news events that took place this year, but as I began to do some of the research involved, it came to me that most of the stuff that was newsworthy wasn't really worth writing punch lines about. Some of them were already punch lines, in fact; they were kind of tough to top. 

The other thing that happened was a weird little confluence of events that took place this past week. It started with a joke that I'd posted to Facebook: 

It sucks that someday I'm gonna die, and people will gather, and they'll all say nice things about me, and I won't be there to hear it. And the big shame is that I'll have missed it by only a couple of days.

This was a paraphrase of something I'd nicked from Garrison Keillor. It was one of those little absurdities that amused me, so I tweaked it and posted it. Unfortunately, I actually wound up worrying a few people, especially when my next post started to move into the medical tests I was going through. That engendered another rash of comments, some of which were general "good luck to ye" comments, some of which were "I've been there, you'll be fine" comments, and a few which were more in the "don't go dying on us" realm. 

These comments, all of them, took me to a different place. It was a place where I wasn't soliciting comfort, or encouragement, or anything really, but I managed to get it anyway. And much of it–most of it, really–came from people I haven't laid eyes on since Pat Benatar was still tearing up the pop charts. But we've managed to reconnect in some small way, and those folks took the time to send a few positive words, and it really meant a lot to me. 

So while a lot of weird, bad stuff happened to me this past year, such as almost getting Dooced this summer, and being in financial straits the whole rest of the year as a result, and losing a family member, I've decided to instead focus on the positive things: I've got a wife who seems to have some measure of affection and respect for me (only god knows why and he ain't telling); I've re-connected with some other family members with whom I haven't had much of a relationship for the past several years, and I'm not only re-building relationships with folks from high school, I'm establishing new ones that weren't there the first time around. And I hope to continue building on all of this in the year to come. 

Here's to 2009, and to an even better 2010. 


Alvy Singer: [addressing the camera] There's an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.

-Annie Hall (1977)


Housekeeping Note: this is another post I started several days ago and didn't finish until just now, so I'm clearing out some mental cobwebs getting it out there. 

WKRP-Tukery-Away_l  One of the things I've noticed about having a blog, and later on a Facebook account, is that you never know what's going to spawn a response and what isn't. Usually when I do a FB post that's related to The West Wing, I'll get a couple of "likes" and maybe a comment or two. This year I got nothing. On the other hand, an offhand reference to an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati launched all kinds of conversations. Likewise, another comment I made about watching TV on Thanksgiving Day launched a similar number of responses. 

A short while back I did a post about the high school friends I have nowadays, and the relative lack of overlap that the modern-day group has with the friends I had then. It's not a big deal, just something I noticed. And while the post itself has no comments attached to it (at present), it has engendered several responses. Most of them have been about what a funny/witty guy I am, and how they never suspected that in high school. (My stock response is that I was funny but not especially witty, which I think is more or less true.) But there was one brief conversation I had with someone that actually touched me, a little. Much of what you'll see here is heavily paraphrased. My memory isn't that great. 

A few days ago someone took the time to send me an Instant Message on Facebook. She opened with "I owe you an apology." This actually confused me, since I didn't recall her saying anything odd, or mean, or unusual, in the recent past or ever, really. 

She went on to say that she'd read my post, and it had gotten her to thinking back to high school. And the bottom line was that, if she'd said anything rude to me, or purposely ignored me, or done anything mean in my general direction back then, then she genuinely apologized for it. 

What do you do with something like that? 

In my case, I thanked her and told her (truthfully) that I hold no ill will toward anybody from school. She noted that there were some people from those days who seem not to have changed at all, and others who surprised her by going a long way in life. (Apparently I was in the second batch.) We chatted a little bit about some of the people–not by name–who pretty much peaked in high school and how you never really know. At that point I had to sign off so I thanked her again and bade her good-bye. 

You know what? That was a pretty brave action on her part, and you don't get a lot of opportunities to do something like that in life. I tried once a couple of years ago: I wanted to re-connect with someone from my past so I wrote a letter and sent it out. I never got a reply. But at least I took that opportunity. 

So thanks to you, RFP: you didn't do anything to make my life more miserable back in the past (that I know of, anyway), but you did brighten my week a little bit in the present. 

Nostalgia Ain’t What it Used to Be

Don Draper: Nostalgia – it's delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, "nostalgia" literally means "the pain from an old wound." It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It's not called the wheel, it's called the carousel. It let's us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.

Mad Men, "The Wheel" (10/18/07)


So here's a weird side effect of Facebook that I hadn't anticipated: most of the people with whom I communicate through FB aren't the people with whom I associated during high school. 

I certainly didn't hang out with many of these people, mostly because I wasn't the type to "hang out" at all. I had my circle of friends, and god only knows why they put up with me because, in retrospect, I don't think I was an especially good person. 

I don't mean that I was knocking over liquor stores or anything, but there are a few things that stick out in my head that suggest that I might have been kind of a jerk. There's also the comment that one person had for me not long ago that went along the lines of "you were kind of full of yourself, then." 


I say all this not as a means of soliciting "You're a great guy" comments, and not really by way of atonement, either. After all, it's popular to say that it's the aggregation of your past which combines to create the person you are today. I regret nothing, as the philosopher (or the Nazi, depending on where you look it up) says, because I think I'm an OK person now and I'm doing the best I can. 

And yet…and yet. The missed opportunities, the relationships that didn't happen, the friendships that didn't last through the years because they weren't there in the first place. How would things be different today if I knew then, even a small sliver of what I know now? Would I be more successful, or with a greater circle of friends? Certainly I wouldn't be living in Baltimore, given the life path that led me here. Would I still live on Long Island? 

I'm sure we all think about these things from time to time, but not many people are able to wallow in it for a few hours the way I can. 

Surely You Remember Children, Sir…When You Were Younger You Used to Beat Them Up

Veronica Mars: Congratulations. You've been named the world's biggest cockroach. This award is given in recognition of your unparallell lack of decency and humanity. Bravo. You're gonna die friendless and alone.

Veronica Mars, "Hot Dog" (4/19/05)


Wife has been sick for over a week now, with god-knows-what. We know it's not Swine Flu because when she went to the doctor, they isolated her until they'd finished testing. Her fever is finally down but she's still acking up stuff and sounding cruddy and I have to wonder if she doesn't have herself a case of pneumonia now. 

All of this is prelude to the fact that I had to take Wee One to the football game on Saturday so that she, and her fellow cheerleaders, can cheer on the Parkville Patriots. While there, I also managed to get roped into holding down the Bake Sale table for the first half of the game. I did have a nice chat with another Cheer mom, so that was good. 

After the game, Wee One had a birthday party to attend, over at Skateland in Perry Hall. We got there an hour late (we'd given the girls' mom fair warning), and as it happened, they were about to serve the pizza and beverages. Wee One scarfed hers down and went to the skate rental window to get a pair to put on. 

(Sidebar: this is why I don't rollerskate. I'm not putting my feet into shoes that hundreds of other people have worn. Even during the time that I bowled, I had my own damn shoes.)

She got her skates on and managed to go a few laps. Meanwhile I stayed back and chitchatted with a couple of the adults. One of them noted that she hadn't been in Skateland in twenty years, and it hadn't changed a bit. I looked around me and allowed that this may be true: it didn't look as though anything had been changed in that place in a long time. maybe some new paint here and there, but not much else. 

During the weekend days, apparently, Skateland is like Chuck E. Cheese with wheels: all they do is kids' parties at that time of day. Then they shut down around 4:00 and re-open with the usual crowd in the evening. There were no fewer than a half-dozen kids celebrating their birthdays, with adults and guests and presents and such, all sharing the same space in the Snack Bar area. It was pretty crowded in there, and as it happened, the party that Wee One was attending had about a dozen kids, crowded into two of those picnic-table type setups with the plastic molded benches that might hold two adults comfortably. The kids on the ends were constantly in danger of getting bumped to the floor. For whatever reason, the adjacent tables were not used to feed kids. 

The kids were called back to the table so that we could sing "Happy Birthday" (© 1935 by Patty and Mildred Hill) and have some cake. Wee One worked her way back to the table, carefully because she was still on the skates and struggling to maintain her balance. Candles were lit, songs were sung and the cake was cut. Wee One was among the youngsters who couldn't find a place to sit. The adjacent table to one side had another party in it; the one to the other side had an older couple who wasn't with our party. Wee One got her plate and started to eat standing up.

Of course you know what happened next: her feet went out from under her, the cake went a-flying, and she landed on her butt. She wasn't hurt but her pride was definitely wounded. This is when the guy at the next table turned around, said something that he thought was clever (I can't remember what it was), and offered her a hand up. He got her on her feet–I'll give him credit for this–and another slice of cake was procured (fortunately, there was a LOT of cake). I said to him, "Hey, maybe you could let her sit and eat her cake." 

Nothing. Well, if you've read this drivel for any length of time, then you know how I enjoy being ignored. I tried again: "Hey…why don't you let her sit so she can eat her cake?" 

At this, he turned around and said, "This isn't your table…it's our table." My hands were full at that point, so I couldn't really do the "whoa" hands, but my eyes rolled so hard that I think I sprained one of them. Now, he and his wife were the only ones sitting at this table, and god only knows where the rest of his party was located. I said to him, "It's not a matter of whose table it is, it's a matter of doing a decent thing for a little girl who's clearly struggling to stay on her feet." 

Believe it or not, this douchebag was ready to give me ten minutes of argument about it, what with his "what is your problem?" and whatever else before I stopped listening and literally turned my face away from him at that point. We found another place for Wee One to sit and I did my best to keep this guy thinking that I was going to start the argument up again. I'd see him gearing up all over again, but I wouldn't say anything and he wasn't brave enough to start without new provocation. Every time he gave me the stink eye I'd look directly back at him until he broke eye contact. That's right, I was playing with you, Dickhead.

The psychological warfare, it is truly fun. 

Surprise! All Nude, Didn’t React Accordingly

Brooke Penelope Davis: Oh my god, I'm internet porn.

One Tree Hill, "Just Watch the Fireworks" (2/15/06)


Every once in awhile I get a little curious to see if I can find out what's been happening with people I knew back in the day. Now, of course, my first place to peek is Facebook, but even these days I usually rely on Google or some such search engine to see if they have any electronic trails going on. Recently I got on one of those kicks again, looking up people from my past.

And there was a girl once…she wasn't pretty in the classical sense, she was several years my junior, she was kind of flighty, but she had a certain way about her that was fun and quirky and a free-spiritedness that was a nice antidote to the weight of the world that I'd been carrying around at the time. We were very attracted to one another but at the same time we were doomed to fail in a spectacular way. And despite knowing this, when she started dating another guy, my head exploded. As the song goes, she done tore out my heart and stomped that sucker flat.

Shortly after that, I had a pretty big, bad event take place in my life, and I don't think I ever felt more alone than at that time. I went to her and told her what had happened. And even though she didn't want to–I saw the moment of hesitation–she pulled me into the room, closed the door and hugged me for a long, long time.

It wasn't common knowledge then, but she wasn't a healthy person, and about a year later I moved away and we lost touch. I figured that by now, she could easily be dead. Not long ago I learned that she is, indeed, alive, so I tried to look her up through the usual channels.

In addition to a plain vanilla Google search, I also do an image search because hey, you never know. Imagine my surprise when I learned that she has the same name as a porn star. I remember her as friendly, but not that friendly.

So the search is over for now, until I get another clue. But until then, this one is for her:

Bonus points if you find the hidden message.