I can hear everything…


Photo on 2015-02-25 at 09.17

When I decided to move my “office” into the basement, I thought it would be a good idea.

Space of my own.

More room to set up all my gear.

Greater distance from the fridge.

All good things.

Now I’ll be able to concentrate, I thought. Now I will be able to finish that screenplay I started (in 2003). I’ll become prolific in my creation of music, maybe even do a podcast or develop some videos like all the other millions of people with too much technology on their hands. All my creative ambitions will certainly coalesce in this new space, I mused.

So, after I moved all my stuff “below deck” and set it up on the new media desk I built with my own two hands, I sat down, ready to create.

Then the toilet flushed.

I could almost hear my son’s school lunch rattling through the pipes.

Next, the furnace.

Funny thing about the furnace…I never really noticed it before when I spent most of my days on the surface with the other humans. I took it for granted as it silently warmed me and kept me comfortable. But now, sitting in my subterranean lair next to this aluminum box of noise, it’s all I can do to try and convince myself I’m not on a transatlantic flight sitting in the seat adjacent to the starboard wing and its pair of Pratt and Whitney turbine jet engines. The cruel irony is that even though my proximity to the furnace is closer than ever, I enjoy none of the heat it generates.

I’ve gotta’ admit…it’s cold down here. Especially during these sub-zero days.  Even the cats spend little time here, except to visit the litter box which thankfully, doesn’t flush.

Speaking of cold, I think I just heard the cold water rinse cycle begin on the washing machine. Or was that the toilet again? More than likely. My son is lactose intolerant.

I did attempt to record some vocals for a song I’m working on. However, on playback I could hear the distinct sound of one of our cats working up a furball. I suppose I could auto-tune the gacking into the song. (Curmudgeon alert!) Could it be any worse than some of what’s currently passing for music these days?

By the way, did you know that when you have a teen practicing taekwondo, a high-energy ten-year-old and a wife with a penchant for chunky shoes, the squeaks, creaks and pounding on the hardwoods from above sound a lot like  a couple of sumo wrestlers battling a flock of geese and four restless golden retrievers in a kitchen?

Strangely enough, there are some sounds I cannot always hear down here… the doorbell… and sometimes, my wife.

And for that last comment, I’m sure to get some heat…just not the kind I need down here… 🙂

If you’re gonna’ say “Breathe Happy,” at least sound happy…


Febreeze.

If you have a cat, dog, guinea pig or just a smelly person living in your home, you’ve probably used this product. But I’m not here to comment on the effectiveness of this odor masking spray. No. I have a bigger fish to fry (and by he way, according to this commercial, Febreeze will take care of that odor, too). I have an issue with the “Breathe Happy” tagline and how the voiceover is delivered. Watch the spot…

Now watch the commercial again and listen closely. Does the voiceover announcer sound like he’s “breathing happy?”  Does he sound happy at all? Is he breathing?

I don’t know about you, but if I have a product that’s exhorting the public to “Breathe Happy,” I think I might want an announcer that doesn’t sound like he’s a pissed-off funeral director on lithium.

 

 

Hurt in a car?


I’m not a big fan of lawyers who shamelessly self promote 24 hours a day. In my neck of the woods, there’s William Mattar.

What gets me about this guy is his slogan (and I know many of you reading are familiar with it):

“Hurt in a car? Call William Mattar.”

What I find so interesting about Mr. Mattar is that it seems he is basing his whole practice on the fact that his last name rhymes with the word “car”.

Which led me to wonder why he has so narrowly defined his practice. Surely he could cover more issues to increase business — so I’ve come up with a few suggestions for him:

… head stuck in a jar?  Call William Mattar (Winnie the Pooh…are you listening?).

… career not going very far?  Call William Mattar.

…couldn’t pass the bar? Call William Mattar.

All this rhyming also made me wonder how Mr. Mattar would actually try a case…

“Your honor… Miss Smithers is quite seldom compliant. And sometimes she is quite defiant.  But she has lots of cash from a previous crash, so that’s why I made her my client.”

There are many more words that rhyme with Mattar but I guess, on further reflection, “car” was his most viable choice. Everyone gets in car accidents.

Very few people ever get hit in the head by a fiery star.

Anyway, in the meantime, I think I’ll be sticking with my lawyer, Mr. Puckett.

Sometimes it’s OK to blow your own horn.


I know I promised humor on this site.  And maybe this post might evolve into something humorous, but I can’t make any guarantees.

You see, my Dad passed away on Father’s Day, June 19th. I always knew the day would come but I just didn’t feel like it would come so soon. Of course, death is always too soon even after you’ve enjoyed 48+ solid years of love and hugs from your biggest hero.

And that’s what my Dad was to me.

Of course, being a WWII veteran made him a hero to many strangers, too, as he was part of the global effort to help defeat fascism and totalitarianism during one of the darkest times in human history.

So you think a hero would get a little respect.

When you’re a veteran of any service branch, and you’ve passed on, the government will usually send an honor guard of two to three uniformed soldiers to present an American flag and to play “Taps” at your graveside.  Now here’s something you might not know: today, most buglers who play “Taps” at military funerals are not buglers. They are enlisted men and women who are handed a digital bugle that they hold to their mouths and feign like they are playing…puffed Louis Armstrong cheeks and all.

So, what exactly is a digital bugle?  It looks like a bugle and feels like a bugle and even has keys that press up and down like those on a real bugle… but it’s not a bugle. It’s a digital musical instrument with a speaker that plays “Taps” like an mp3 player. It’s the military’s answer to a shortage of buglers, I guess. But in my opinion, it’s a cheap and disrespectful way to send off any deceased soldier…especially one from the greatest generation.

Why not just put a boom box on the coffin and hit play? What’s the difference?

And as anyone who has owned any form of electronics knows, they can crap out on you.

Imagine this happening at your loved one’s military funeral…

With all of this in mind, I got through the wake and the funeral mass but was dreading the graveside electronic rendition of “Taps” (which I’m sure could have been downloaded from iTunes) when I looked around and suddenly realized there was no honor guard.

I nervously craned my neck and scanned the cemetery.

No uniforms. No bugles. Not even a boom box on the coffin.  Only a stream of sunshine that poured onto my Dad’s gravesite.

My heart and the hearts of all my family members sank collectively.

Have you ever seen a nervous undertaker?  I have.

Turns out the funeral home and military folks couldn’t get the date right and my Dad was left without his promised traditional military send-off.

Which I guess was just as well.  Actually, I was almost relieved.

Dad had heard of these digital bugles and thought they were a sad and telling statement on where things have gone in this country.  Convenience, illusion and expediency had finally trumped all that was real — diligence, tradition, true respect.

The undertakers did their best to make up for the mistake, delicately folding the flag that was draped on Dad’s casket and presenting it, as best they could, like an officer from the military would have done.

But still, there was no “Taps,” digital or otherwise.

I felt the need to improvise. To do something that would honor my Dad and his service during WWII.  So, at the risk of breaking some kind of protocol, I asked all my family and friends present, and especially those who had served in the military, if we could all pause, face my Dad’s casket and give him our own salute.

Which we did.

Sure, it wasn’t “Taps,” but at least it was real.

We will miss you forever, Dad.

 

Captain Obvious


So here I sit (no, I’m not doing that rhyme!)… in a nursing home hallway. This one happens to be one of the nicest. It connects the patient area with the rehab facility and is long and quiet with big windows and the slight hum of a failing air conditioning unit nearby. People walk, roll, stumble and/or run by. The runners are the patients who have escaped from the more “secure” part of the facility. It’s amazing how fast some people can go dragging a 20lb tank of oxygen.

As you might have surmised, my Dad is still recovering from his bout with pneumonia. Actually, it has sort of snuck back up on him and he’s back on antibiotics. Amazingly, he’s finally getting a good powernap. Usually, no sooner than he shuts his eyes someone comes in with that overdone, loud, assuming-you’re-not-only-old-but-deaf, voice… “Mr. So-and-So?! I’m here for your sponge bath!”  “Mr. So-and-So?! Time for your meds!” “Mr. So-and-So?! Do these scrubs make me look fat?”  OK… no one ever asked that (though the scrubs aren’t very flattering).

Anyway, like I said, I’ve found a peaceful little spot with a nice cushy chair and a view of trees and the occasional bird taking a crap on a patient dozing in the sunshine outside. I have to admit… it’s hard sitting in my Dad’s room. And not because of my Dad but because it’s a room filled with all kinds of medical noises. They just remind you that life is short and that we all take for granted this wonderful thing we call “good health.”

With that in mind, here is some medical advice from my upcoming book, “No shit, Sherlock: the musings of a man known for overstating the obvious”

1) Don’t smoke. Ever. I don’t care if it’s your right or if you think it makes you look cool or if you just “can’t stop” because you’re so addicted or if you just enjoy it. Stop it or don’t do it. It will ruin your lungs and will kill you. You’re not much good to your family as worm food.

2) Exercise. Yes, get off the couch, futon, La-Z-Boy or one of those little portable chairs you carry to sit and watch sporting events. Just get up. You can do P90X or you can just walk. But do something. Do you really want a future of sponge baths from Hilda— the nurse with the long, coarse hair growing out of her elbow?

3) Eat…right! Skip the fast foods that will make your arteries look like cannolis. Get those fruits and vegetables in your system (as long as they’re not from Germany…as of 6/6/11 they’re the cause of e-coli over there). This is so important. About three years ago I was eating “clean” as us former P90 x-ers like to call it, and I really never felt better. A nasty old burger on a rusty old grill isn’t “clean” in so many ways!

Yes, I am Captain Obvious but if you could see what I’ve seen here, you’d take care of yourself much better than you are. It’s not just for you but for your family. So there. That’s my rambling thought process for the day. The hallway is becoming less quiet and man, those birds are now on a major dive bombing mission.

Whoa! Right in that lady’s Ensure.  Well, protein is protein.

Purge the dirge.


The ethereal music pumping out of the nursing home’s ancient sound system would have been appropriate at a church service or maybe even a funeral, but as background music in the lounge at my Dad’s post-pneumonia rehab center, it struck me as a bit off putting, to say the least.

Imagine all these people trying to get well but hearing this haunting dirge as they lifted their weights, climbed their steps and navigated their hallways on the latest Hugo Elite walkers.

I understand trying to keep the atmosphere light and relaxing but if I were 84, I’d feel like I was being set up. I half expected the playlist to go into a quirky choir rendition of “Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door.”

When I first walked in to visit my Dad in the rehab wing I had to pass through the residents wing. Smack dab in the middle is the cafeteria/performance stage and on it was a woman with an acoustic guitar singing, no lie, “The way we were” by Barbara Streisand. “Memories, like the corners of my mind. Misty water-colored memories, of the way we were.”

Really?

I’m 48 and I wanted to commit hari kari on someone’s cane. Imagine being in your twilight years.

I mean, we’re all gonna’ go sometime, but sheez. Talk about depressing. You always hear this talk about “quality of life” when you get older but having to listen to songs that only remind you that your time is nearly up seems counter productive.  I suspect the pharmaceutical companies must program the playlists because the more depressed you can make the residents, the more meds you can push.

“Astra Zeneca can help.” Suuurrre they can…

So during my visits I vowed to talk to and smile at as many residents and rehab patients as I could. And if you’re visiting a nursing home, I’d advise you to do the same. In most cases, faces just lit right up. Some people couldn’t react physically but you could see the smile in their eyes.

And I swear I heard one poor soul mumble “Play some freakin’ Buddy Holly!”

Just not, “That’ll be the day…”

Jimmy Crack Corn… and I DO care!


You’re gonna’ hate me for this posting.

It’s all about the little tunes that get stuck in your head. Read on if you dare!

You see, just the other day as I was getting back to cleaning out my garage (since the world didn’t end I now have time) that stupid little tune from childhoold “Jimmy Crack Corn” came out of nowhere and creeped into my consciousness.

So I’m sweeping…

“Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care…”

…and I’m moving boxes…

“…Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care…Jimmy crack…”

…and suddenly I get whacked in the temple with a 2×4 that comes flying off a shelf.

Jimmy crack corn and Mikey crack skull.

When I finally get the blood out of my eyes, the song is still there. It was insidious, like there was a little Bose implant in my head (with surround sound) that I just couldn’t turn off.  I finally had to think of another song to hopefully break the hold “Jimmy Crack Corn” had on my grey matter. And what did I get?

This…

What did I do to deserve this aural torture? Didn’t I just try to save a baby cardinal that fell out of its nest the other day? Do I not give enough to charity? Have I posted too many liberal comments on Facebook?

With Jimmy still crackin’ corn and images of a slovenly Oscar and anal Felix dancing in my head, I decided to do a little research to see why I (we) get these songs stuck in our heads and where they come from. I won’t get into the details here but some have called the phenomena a “brain itch”  or an “earworm.” Here’s a link from the BBC for some insight: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3221499.stm

I hope the article gives you a better understanding of why sometimes just the suggestion of a song can put our brains into broken Karaoke machine mode.

Oh, and just for fun…

“It’s a small world after all…”

Good luck shaking that one loose. 🙂

A Snore Subject…


I have sleep apnea.

Maybe you’ve heard of it.

My neighbors have (I’m usually awakened by their distant cursing). And my wife is intimately familiar with it.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which your airway becomes blocked as your throat muscles/tissues relax when you sleep.  And then you begin to snore…loudly. I was diagnosed with this wonderful malady about 10 years ago. I was told that at some points during my sleep study that I stopped breathing for over a minute.

You’d think someone at the study would have woken me up.

Anyway, people like myself who are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea are usually prescribed a special device called a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Air Pressure. The CPAP machine is basically an air pump that comes with a mask that, when worn, forces high pressure air into your airways thus preventing them from collapsing during sleep. You’re supposed to wake up refreshed because you’re not constantly having your sleep interrupted by incidences of breathlessness.

Problem was, I could never get to sleep. Ironic, isn’t it?

The CPAP and sleep do not go together.  First off, wearing a mask connected to a high pressure air hose on your face makes going to sleep more like preparing for a shuttle launch. If you’d like a more descriptive analogy of what wearing this mask and hose is like, imagine being an elephant laying on your back with someone shoving an air hose up your trunk.

And don’t even try being intimate with your spouse while wearing it. Every time I breathe I sound like Darth Vader… which would be great, I suppose, if my wife had a Star Wars fantasy. (“Luke, I am your father,” and “Use the force” would not be phrases I would use anyway.)

So, it didn’t take long before I dumped the mask. I decided I’d rather take my chances and be able to doze off (albeit with the potential of never dozing on) than to stare at the ceiling all night. Besides, I thought, there could be worse ways to die than going in my sleep.

With my decision made, I was left with my CPAP machine. And whether or not you think it’s responsible, I’ve found some great uses for it:

• quick inflation of pool toys

• impromptu compressed air gun to clean off my computer keyboard

• mini leaf blower

• balloon inflation for parties (if you can keep the balloons on the hose)

• hair dryer (even though I have none)

• lottery ball floater

I’m sure there are many more ways to put this machine to work. My wife, family and some friends say I’m foolish for not using it but the sleep study people said I snored very little when lying on my sides so that’s what I do. Though I still need to get around to sewing a tennis ball in the back of the t-shirt I sleep in so I don’t sleep on my back.

To those of you who have had success with this device, God bless you for your perseverance…

…and “may the forced air be with you.”

Spain on a train?


We have Caller ID. It’s probably the only calling feature I don’t find rude or offensive (Call Waiting anyone?). I can see who’s trying to call and if I don’t know them, I don’t answer. I always figure if it’s anything important, someone will leave a message.

So when the phone rang at 8 a.m. Sunday morning and the display read “Discover Card,” I rolled over and tried to restart my dream about making that winning shot in my high school basketball game (yes, it still haunts me that it was rejected so brutally and we lost…).

Despite my indifference, my wife picked up and by the words being exchanged I immediately surmised it was no ordinary conversation.

“Spain?”

“Train?”

I was beginning to think I was sleeping next to Doctor Doolittle.

No, it was my wife and yes, she was talking about Spain and a train.

“Madrid?” she blurted with astonishment.

No, we haven’t been to Madrid in the last 24 hours, though our son did have a sleep over the night before… or did he?

Apparently our Discover card had been compromised after 22 years of never having a problem. I suppose that’s a pretty good streak, especially in today’s world of fraud, ID theft, hacking, smacking, whacking, whatever… The charge in question had been a rail ticket to Madrid. My dream of missing the winning shot suddenly morphed into missing a train to Madrid because I hadn’t shown up to class all year (don’t ask… that’s just how my brain works when left to its own devices).

Anyway, the folks at Discover thumped their chests proudly and told us “you are never libel for any fraudulent purchases” and told us a new card would arrive within the week (OK, here’s the endorsement)…

I’ve always been impressed with Discover, mostly for their cashback bonus program.  We purchase most everything on the card and pay it off every month. With every purchase we earn cashback bonus points which translate into at least 1% back (sometimes higher) on all our purchases. It adds up. For example, I’ve rarely ever paid a dime at Lowe’s because of all the gift cards we get.  But now I’m even more impressed with Discover. The speed with which they contacted us from the time the ticket was purchased was amazing.

I’d like to think the bastard who tried to travel through Spain on our dime is now stranded but I’m sure someone, somewhere else in the world will be awakened by a phone call like ours. My advice?

Don’t roll over.

The shot always gets blocked, anyway.

You’re in the way…


It wasn’t a very important tv show (in fact, what tv show is?), but I had invested enough minutes of my life into the act of watching it that I thought it might be nice to see the outcome.

That’s when it happened…

Just as the announcer says “And here’s the play that will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time…”, my wife comes down the stairs and, as if on cue, squares up directly in front of me and begins to speak, drowning out the announcer and obstructing the view of one of the greatest plays of all time.

There was no way to put it nicely if I wanted to catch “the greatest play.”

“You’re in the way!” I said.

I swear I heard my cat gasp.

“Excuse me?” was her reply.  The look that followed could have been filmed and included in a “Scared Straight” video.

She walked out of the room.

I did the only thing I could do at that moment… I awkwardly finished watching one of the greatest plays ever (it wasn’t so great, by the way). But then, it dawned on me…Now I’m going to have to pull off a pretty impossible play myself. Not only did I wave off her moment of spontaneous affection, I did so callously with those four vicious little words: “You’re in the way.”

Of course, my only defense was that they were spoken in frustration, I really didn’t mean anything by it and besides, wasn’t the timing funny how you walked right in front of me just as the guy was saying “here’s the greatest play…” ?

She grudgingly laughed and agreed. All is right with the world again.

Now you can see why I called my blog “HandyHumor.”

Of course, some of you might not be as adept at diffusing this kind of tricky situation. If you’d like to avoid the aforementioned scenario, my advice to you can be summed up simply with three letters:

D-V-R.