Sunday, November 21, 2010

Points Deduction (not mine for once)

I'm giving my mom a Style Points Deduction for buying the dogs chew hooves that smell like cow manure when chewed. Of COURSE Quito loves he's been gathering them up and burying them under the clothes on the floor in my room. This morning I gathered them up and tossed them all into the yard. It's OK if the yard smells like a pasture. It is NOT OK for my room to smell like one.

She also bought them peanut butter apple stuffed femurs. It blew my dad's mind. He's a simple guy. He doesn't believe in peanut butter stuffed femurs. My mom informed him that she could have purchased banana yogurt or bacon filled femurs. He thought that was funny, and asked her who did the prep work for the chef.

Dad is giving the scientist from last night's PBS special on wolverines a Style Points Deduction for inter-species adoption. Dad does not believe in inter-species adoptions because they are "unnatural." I pointed out that we "adopt" dogs. He told me our dogs didn't count, because Mom buys them peanut butter apple femurs, which "blurs the line a little."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Communists and Kurt Warner

My parents are devout Dancing With the Stars fans. The are also big Cardinals fans, so they were doubly excited when Kurt Warner was announced as a contestant on this season of DWTS. My father in particular thinks Kurt Warner is a model citizen, and deserves the Mirror Ball Trophy for his character and quarterbacking skills alone.

Len Goodman disagreed. In the first week, he panned Kurt, giving him a 5 (the other two gave him 7s and noted his "potential") and saying that he didn't like him this week, and didn't expect to like him next week either. Here's an approximation of my dad's reaction:

"Bullshit! Bullshit! That is KURT WARNER! You do not disrespect KURT WARNER! He's an American great! I refuse to watch this show! Horse shit! You are a COMMUNIST if you don't like Kurt Warner. I can't watch this crap! This is disgusting!"

For remainder of the week, Dad kept calling Len a communist and saying how he couldn't stomach the show. We watched it again the next week. Thankfully, Len had more positive things to say about Kurt, sparing me another round of McCarthyism. For a week.

The peace was short-lived, however. After one particularly contentious round of judging, Kurt received 6s for having "big hands" "bent" rather than "flexed" knees, despite a rather clean performance. Bristol Palin received straight 7s and glowing praise for forgetting almost all of her steps, but remembering to smile. And unfair assessment to be sure, but Dad couldn't handle the politics.

"This is a set-up! A conspiracy! I mean, she's graceful, but that is KURT WARNER! She was not better than KURT WARNER! (itn's true...she wasn't) Len's a communist! This show has no credibilty! I refuse to watch it! Anyone who doesn't like KURT WARNER is a COMMUNIST!"

We watched it again the following week. And so it went until Kurt was finally eliminated. To this day, my dad still randomly mutters about communists and Kurt Warner.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


My blog has been silent since June. While the lack of activity seems to suggest a static style points count, that is not the case. I lose at least a point for each day I continue living in this house. I lose ten each time I reveal my living arrangements to someone. I may lose up to 100 depending on their reaction, which can range from mild disdain (a raised eyebrow) to moderate disdain (two raised eyebrows + mouth contortions) to flat out disgust (two raised eyebrows+mouth contortions+commentary/ridicule and/or air of superiority).

Living with one's parents is a mark of shame in our culture. It is much more respectable to live independently. Paying inflated rent prices on a studio apartment while concealing all evidence of fur children to avoid a pet deposit, being generally broke, eating solely from the frozen food group, and falling asleep on the couch alone at 7pm is indicative of only one thing - SUCCESS. And success garners respect.

I miss my townhouse.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer Vacation; Week Three

Today I went swimming. I skimmed 16 bees, one cockroach, and one wasp from the pool, along with several hundred pyracantha buds. This was the highlight of my day so far.

I need a summer job.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Amityville continued...

After a dramatic start to my day I tried to settle into my regular vacation schedule, which typically involves a couple of hours spent drinking copious amounts of coffee and partially reading then getting disgusted with and abandoning every article in the Republic.

This is where I should mention that I'm incredibly field dependent, which is a nice way of saying easily distracted by weird noises and mystifying facial expressions. And hammering falls into the category of weird noises, especially when there are four or five hammers hammering different cadences on different parts of the roof. And each hammer creates it's own unique pitch. And all this was amplified by exquisite attic acoustics, which filtered into every part of the house through AC ducts and the new man-sized hole in the roof. This lasted for ten hours. Ten. Hours. Annoying, for sure, but if I can teach a kid with Tourette's Syndrome, I can handle a little hammering.

But it wasn't just the hammering. (I should also mention that I've inherited the family traits of neuroticism and anxiety, which I can usually counterbalance with my two most obvious personality flaws: detachment and aloofness. This makes me seem pretty calm most of the time, but if the balance of power tips in favor of neuroticism or anxiety by, let's say, the presence of a highly anxious or neurotic person who moves their limbs rapidly and unexpectedly, I will have a meltdown of Chernobyl-like proportions and I'm pretty sure that there is enough reactive energy pent up in my body that if I ever did have children they'd have two heads or tails or something...but that's neither here nor there.) So anyway, my anxiety was already high from the hammering, but I was being detached by staring glassy eyed at the TV and I was doing OK until my dad started hopping out of his seat every ten minutes to check on the workers. And every time he opened the door, the dogs would bark. All five of them. And each time this happened all humans present would start shouting at the dogs to shut up. Hammering. Barking. Shouting. My hair-trigger fight or flight response was starting to kick in. I decided to lie down.

In my room, it was much more peaceful. I even started to like the sound of the hammering. It muffled the sound of the dogs, who were once again rage-barking at the door. Just as my blood pressure started to drop, I heard a baby crying. Wailing, really. That gut-wrenching "hurt and scared" cry.

I bolted out of my room just in time to see my sister in law scoop up my niece and carry her to the couch. My niece was sobbing and clutching her little leg, which had a nasty bruise, some scratches, and what looked like a puncture wound or two. My dog, who is also prone to neuroticism and an inexplicable fear of small children, had bitten her as she tried to navigate the pack of overstimulated dogs clogging the front hall. My heart broke into a million pieces. It's bad enough someone you love is hurt and upset. It's doubly bad when the cause of the hurt is your loyal, loving, yet hideously ugly rescue dog that everyone else already hates.

In the midst of the pandemonium, my aunt had arrived. She thinks she's Cesar Milan, even though she has never owned a dog. Immediately, I got an earful about what a bad pack leader I am and how Quito needs to be trained better and she's punctuating all of this with a weird sound - "Aeh! Aeh!"- that's supposed to be the auditory version of pepper spray for dogs.

So now there's hammering, barking, crying, shouting, and "Aeh aeh!." I pretty much checked out right there and started breathing through my mouth. Not good.

My mom offered me a cocktail.

I opted for the heavy artillery. Nerve tonic, ice cream for dinner, playoff hockey and a night cap of Tylenol PM.

At least the Blackhawks beat Philly.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Amityville Horror? No, just my regular residence.

Out of the twenty-two Mondays of 2010, this was hands down the shittiest. It started shitty, revved up to shittier, and if I don't quit reading my novel du jour, we might reach superlative levels of shittiness. Consider the following.

I awoke from a less than restful slumber at 7:30 a.m. to what sounded like a herd of buffalo running sprints on the rooftop. Roofers...already. I could have buried my slightly throbbing head under the pillow and eked out a few more hours of sleep...but then I heard my mother shrieking something unintelligible. I knew it was bad, because then all she could get out was "Oh my God,"and she had that tone she gets when she's trying not to cry, but the cry is winning.

At this point I was wide awake. My first thought was that Quito had eaten one of her cats. I did some quick mental calculations of the contents of my bank accounts to see if I had enough for deposit and first months rent, and therefore enough incentive to save his life. But just as I was about to leap out of bed and defend him from certain death, I smelled his unmistakeable stench and felt his fuzzy mullet tickling my foot. Sweet relief.

My second thought was that the roofers had destroyed her koi pond. That would suck.

Suddenly, I heard her shouting from the backyard. "Get your $@&%* off the roof! GET OFF THE ROOF RIGHT NOW!"

I groggily rolled off my bed and peeked out of my bedroom door. My mother was storming down the hallway.

"Come look at what your father did!" She was raging! Gingerly, I followed her to her bedroom. She led me to the doorway of the master bathroom...which seemed uncharacterstically sunny and warm...splintery and fiber glassy. There was a giant hole in the ceiling above the shower.

"Your father decided to put a skylight in the bathroom!"

The wee hours are not my finest cognitive moments, but I could tell from my mom's caustic tone and the unorthodox shape of the hole that this was not a planned renovation. He had fallen through the roof.

I quickly assessed the damage. No Dad on the floor. No blood on Mom's hands. He must still be alive. I walked out to the living room and found him sitting on the couch, looking very humble. His legs were scratched and his pants were torn, but I think his pride had taken the brunt of the fall.

"I told you to stay off the roof," I chastised.

He nodded. "I broke a coffee cup this morning. Maybe that was a bad omen. Maybe someone's trying to tell me something."

If only the string of misfortune had ended with a broken cup and a hole in the roof.

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I get no respect.

This happens to be my fathers favorite line, but I'd like to borrow it for the evening. Like Rodney Dangerfield, I get no least from my siblings. Unlike Rodney Dangerfield (or perhaps like him...I don't really know), I typically get vindicated. And there's nothing I love more than a concession from my doubters...except maybe the opportunity to say "I told you so."

You see, my parents are in the midst of some home improvement projects. New roof, new patio, new exterior paint. The most debated project, of course, is the paint. Everyone wants to have a say in the new colors. Here's the thing: I know paint. I understand the nuance of color, and how to coordinate shades, and which accents will be too much, and which will be too little. I can gauge that perfect balance between too modern and too quaint (it's a 60s ranch style, after all). And I know which colors will possibly give my father an anxiety attack and so I keep those to myself.

And somehow, despite my Jedi master knowledge of color, my choices are ALWAYS controversial. So Adam put Brad in charge of C blocking me.

My mother, being the intelligent woman she is, gave me first dibs on color choices. The new shingles were called "terra cotta," and I was initially told that they were the same color as Spanish tile. So I picked a nice warm neutral or two...with a sage trim color. My dad mom agreed. Brad stared... squinted...contorted...balked...then agreed. Too easy, right? Right.

It just so happened that my mother couldn't find the shingle sample she'd gotten from the roofing company, so she looked on the Owens Corning website, and there it was. On a ranch style home no less...looking way less terra cotta than any Spanish tile I'd ever seen. It was more brick, actually, with some mahogany undertones. Way too cool for the warmer colors I'd picked out. I knew we'd have to use blue. So I said it. "We'll just have to pick a lighter neutral...and we could use a blue for the trim." My father looked absent-minded, my mother looked thoughtful, and my brothers looked like I'd just tried to force- feed them dog crap.

Brad snarked me immediately. "This isn't Ga-REECE!"

Adam's face contorted into a disgusted look. "You just lost more style points!"

"FAIL! You FAIL again, P!"

I shrugged, tossed my hair, and said "Fine. I quit." (I plan on saying this every time I get a points deduction.)

They seemed satisfied. I pretended to be satisfied. But the real satisfaction came later that evening, when my mother actually tried some paint colors on a virtual house. Her current favorite combination consists of a lighter neutral for the base color...and a blue shade for the trim.

And she saved the image under my name.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Self Esteem Issues? Here, let me help you out.

This past weekend the sum of my immediate family got together and rented a beach house on Mission Bay in honor of my sister's graduation from law school. I could spend several minutes describing the blue shag carpet that caused great distress to my older brother, or the laquered wood and bamboo construction, or the view, or the swan spigot in the master bathroom.
I could explain what it means to Steve (or Double Steve, if you're inclined) or I could tell you about my new signature cocktail called The Goldie, and how sugar adversely affects my niece.
I could tell you all about my sister's graduation, and her very public engagement, and how the Goldies and the Pedicones met for the first time.

But that's all pretty normal in the scope of family affairs, and that's not what this blog is about. This blog is about what makes my family special and unique, such debating the self esteem of certain family members right in front of though they weren't actually there.

Here's how it went down:

Me: blablahblahblahblahblahblah (I don't remember what I said, but it was "wrong.")
Brad: Oh P, I'm going to keep track of all your failures this weekend!
Me: (crickets)
Sister: That's awful! Why would you do that?
Me: my self esteem needs to take a hit right now.
Brad: P has great self esteem...I need to take it down a few notches.
Sister: No she doesn't. Peeps has terrible self esteem. She practically hates herself.
Me: No I don't!
Brad: Oh, really? Sorry P. You're good at hiding it. I won't point out your failures then.

I'm not sure which I found most appalling...the fact that Brad wanted to actually tally my "failures", or that my sister thinks I have terrible self esteem. Or that they actually had this discussion in front of me. Wouldn't it have been more polite to talk about me behind my back?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bacon Roasts and Crowbar Rage

This weekend marked the return of the semi-annual backyard bacon roast. For those of you who were unlucky enough to NOT have eastern European immigrant farmers as forefathers and mothers, a bacon roast is the quintessential family affair. (Although it should be noted that no one born after 1950 actually eats the bacon...we eat hot dogs.) Basically, family members sit around an open barbecue pit between 1 and 2 pm (no earlier or later) with squares of slab bacon on skewers. The bacon is scored and roasted, and the sizzling grease is dabbed on rye which has been spread with sliced radishes and green onion. This roasting and dabbing is repeated until the bacon is adequately cooked...then it's shaved off on to the bread and eaten. Slab is scored again, and the whole process continues until participants have had their fill of pork fat. Then, the younger generation is chastised for eating hot dogs and "not knowing what's good" and the elder's talk about the historical roots of the bacon roast. It is then customary to drink some liquor and pass out in lawn chairs.

In the long tradition of bacon roasts, this weekend was a success. I always do my part in presenting myself for chastisement, and then drinking and napping in the lawn chairs. However, this year I suggested I might even take part in the roast if I could roast strips of bacon, and not slabs. I found out that this is "not how it's done" and would be "an abomination of tradition." So no bacon for me.

On an unrelated note, I got to watch my brother and my dad destroy the back porch in preparation for the new porch construction set for next weekend. It was pretty entertaining. I watched the whole thing from behind the safety of the arcadia door, which was open just a crack to allow for eavesdropping. The highlight was definitely watching my little brother take out his frustrations on the aluminum roof. His job was to separate the aluminum sheets from the framework, and he did this by wedging a crowbar into the seam and popping the nails out. About halfway through, he got nuts and started working at meth-addict speed. When he finished, he waved the crowbar wildly in the air and screamed "WHO'S NEXT!!!!"

On a second unrelated note I lost more style points this morning by dropping a Carolina's tortilla on the floor. If you've ever had a Carolina's tortilla, you know that loosing style points is totally justified.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Turtle Walking, Professional Dogs, and Style Points.

I really wanted to turn this into a full blown narrative to show the reader just how entertaining and eccentric my home life is, but it's impossible. The interesting parts are too strange and disparate and do not lend themselves to fluidity. All you need to know is that the very day I moved back in with my parents, my family memebers exceeded all expectations in terms of peculiarity. Yes, even I was amazed.

Peculiarity #1: When I arrived at my parents house to unload the Uhaul, my mom was outside "walking" the turtle. Now, my mother is a collector of worn-out, unwanted, lost, and behaviorally challenged animals. They flock to her like emotionally disabled/psychologically damaged humans flock to me. This turtle arrived in the backyard gray, dehydrated, and dog-chewed. "Mr. Turtle", as he is known, has become my mothers latest animal project. She sprays him down, changes his moss, regulates his temperature, and buys him premium turtle food with "100% real ground crickets in every bite!" And she walks him. I witnessed this myself. When I asked my dad what she was doing, he stated "Walking the turtle." His nonchalance collided with my incredulity and created a vaccuum for a few seconds. Then he said, "I did it last weekend."

Peculiarity #2: As my mom was walking the turtle, my dad was brushing Moses. Technically, Moses is my dog, but he loves my dad and my dad loves him, and due to the dog's inability to climb and descend stairs my parents retained custody of him while I lived in my townhouse. Anyway, Moses is an extremely large red-furred beast with raging allergies that manifest in itchy skin. My father ritualistically brushes Moses to help give the poor creature some relief. This is not peculiar. This is good pet ownership. What is peculiar is how my dad talks to the dog. He say's things like "What a handsome guy!" and "Grandpa loves you." and "You are the King of Dogs! King Dog!" and "You're a professional've read all the books!"

Peculiarity #3: As my brother's and I were unloading the U-Haul, my little brother kept deducting "style points" from me. Apparently, there is a wrong way and a right way to unload and move boxes and furniture. In my mind, it is right to move them from Point A to Point B without damage. It is wrong to NOT move items from Point A to Point B, and/or damage them in the process. As it turns out, it is much more complicated than that. There is a style, a finesse, a je ne sais quoi that I just don't have. I lost style points for loading the end tables "backwards" on the dolly. I lost points for using the dolly when I should have carried the furniture. I lost points for carrying furniture when I should have loaded it onto the dolly. I also lost points for grip, strength (or lack thereof), endurance, clearance, and steering. Who knew?

I think I will be experiencing this type of thing more frequently. I realize that the Osbourne's really have nothing on my family...except perhaps wealth and profanity.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Morning Coffee

This is a typical weekday morning at home. I usually drink my coffee and attempt to read the sports page while my dad tries to engage me in esoteric conversation. Today, the topic of choice was a James Brown song. This is an actual transcription of our interaction.

(Dad singing)
"Get up offa that thang,
and dance 'til you feel bettah!
Get up offa that thang,
and try to release that pressha!"

"'Get up offa that thang' means get off your ass." My dad looked pointedly at me.

"I know that, Dad." I went back to reading my paper.

(Dad continues singing)
"Get up offa that thang
and shake 'til you feel bettah!
Get up offa that thang,
and try to release that pressha!"

"Notice how he doesn't say 'presSURE', but 'presSHA'.

I put the paper down. "Yeah, Dad. I did notice that."

"That's called ebonics," he declared.

"That's not ebonics Dad, that's just dialect."

"Oh. Do you think dancing really relieves pressure, or is he just making that up?"

"Dad, I think you're reading too much into it."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You Can Go Home Again

The decision about where and when to move had been a point of contention in my former household for several weeks. Actually, contention is too strong a word. It was more like a watered down cocktail of resignation, apathy, and poor communication. We'd been living in a house of cards for the better part of the year, and despite the fact that it could come tumbling down at any moment, there was very little motivation to find safe harbor.

Now might be a good time to mention that I had no rental history. None whatsoever. I lived with my parents until I made enough money to buy my own place. I think I might have a visceral aversion to the concept of renting...especially from strangers. It's so strong that I even (for 2 minutes at most) considered buying a camper and living in my truck. Strong enough to fortify my ego against loosely drawn parallels between me and the principal character on the early 90's sitcom "Get A Life." Such deeply held convictions cannot be overcome in mere weeks.

Luckily, my bro got the ball rolling. Subsequent internet searches produced several reasonably priced, relatively decent rental options. The one at 7th Street and Bell caught my eye. It was a nice little patio home, with double master suites...perfect for myself and my brothers. It even had a little backyard area for the dogs, and a two car garage. It was seconds from the 101, which meant a shorter commute for me. Best of all, the rent would be half what my mortgage had been. I asked my brother to call on it.

I would have done it myself, but I'd relinquished all responsibilities months earlier, and could only be counted on to bathe and dress myself.

Anyway, my brother called, and it was available. We decided to look around some more...which really translates into "We procrastinated." For three weeks. Finally, at the end of February, I wanted the monkey off my back. I asked my brother to call and set up a showing of the property. This is a loose transcription of our conversation:

Adam: "Are you sure?"
Me: "Well, yeah. Aren't you?"


Adam: "I just think we should see what our options are."
Me: "Our options are 'move' and 'get evicted'. I don't want to wait for that! Let's do it now!"


Me: "Are you ditching me? Don't you dare ditch me!"
Adam: "No...we're not ditching you."


Me: "What's going on?"
Adam: "I'm thinking we should move in with Mom and Dad."
Me: "I am too old to move back home! That's embarassing! Is it OK with them?"
Adam: "They think you should. They thought you should've done it months ago."
Me: "Did they tell you that?"
Adam: "Yes."
Me: "Why wasn't I in on this conversation?"
Adam: "Everyone knows you don't listen. You're gonna do what you wanna do."


Me: "I don't listen?"

My sister later confimed that I don't listen, and that my parents did indeed approve of my moving back home.

So it was settled. I would be returning to the nest just a few months after my 31st birthday.


2009 was the Waterloo of my adult life.

However, instead of submitting to exile on a South Atlantic island, I took a more drastic approach to dealing with troubling domestic issues.

I moved back home.

Napoleon should have been so lucky.