when I started this blog five years ago, I was a pet sitter and the name animal-crackers made sense. now I'm a stay-at-home-dad and freelance writer, but rather than confuse everyone by getting a different blog, it's just easier to keep posting things here.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bad ideas

Here's a little note written in the file for one of my sits:

"When walking her please keep away from kids, other dogs, cats, elderly, the infirmed, and anyone else who might not like a dog bite."

Ok, I made some of that up.

The dog is a border collie. Although not the largest or meanest looking dogs, border collies are among the most aggressive.

And this is a dog with a history. I have no idea who it had attacked before -- but I suspect animal control wasn't involved. Otherwise, she'd have been put down.

Now in the living room, the dog has a bed. And next to the bed: a baby swing.

Yes, this bright young couple places their infant next to the aggressive border collie.
posted by todd at 9:22 PM 4 comments

More strangeness

I had a sit today taking care of two dogs, two cats and two parakeets. The birds are the only animals who actually live in the house.

While feeding the dogs, Bella and Sherlock, on the back porch I couldn't help but notice the weight bench. Yes, a bench, a bar and a standard set of weights. Out on the uncovered deck. Next to the grill.

However, it all seem to fit in with the 4-foot-by-15-foot inflatable pool, the sloop sail boat and other assorted goodies.
posted by todd at 2:27 PM 0 comments

Friday, July 29, 2005

Dylan Jack

Yup, we've picked a name for the little bugger.

Dylan Jack Gernert.
posted by todd at 10:47 AM 1 comments

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The History of Music

1986 was a big year.

Two years earlier, I had saved enough change to buy my very first cassette tape -- Madonna's Like a Virgin. Then it was Phil Collins' No Jacket Required, and in 1985 it was Simple Minds' Once Upon a Time. I played these tapes until the tape nearly broke.

But in 1986, life began to change. I finished eight grade at the middle school -- possibly the only enjoyable year since kindergarten. My brother graduated high school and joined the Army. During this time Peter Gabriel's So was released. And once again, I found music I could listen to obsessively.

With summer came John. He was the neighbors' grandson. A year older than me, he had spent every summer in Alba since as long as I could remember.

When he arrived that year, he brought a special treat. Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil and Judas Priest's Defenders of the Faith. I remember listening to these on his Walkman and wincing with pain. My ears hurt. But I was determined not to let it show. So I listened to it until my senses numbed.

Later that summer, I returned to Nordmont Christian Camp. (Um, yes. I used to be quite religious.) Again, life was changing. Although relationship between boys and girls had slowly evolved over the years, there was something markedly different that summer. And I felt left out.

The music also changed. I don't remember what we listened to before, but that summer was all about Violent Femmes and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. We rocked out during the Friday dance to "Add It Up" and shocked the counselors when everyone started singing "Why can't I get, just one fuck! Why can't I get, just one fuck! I guess it's got something to do with luck, but I waited my whole life for just one..."

Oh yeah, the counselors were NOT happy about that little incident.

When school started in the fall, I was a freshman in high school. Although on good terms with most everyone, my friends were Kevin, Doug and Brian. But even this was changing. Brian and I were hanging out more. He made me a copy (a really poor copy) of his favorite cassette -- Judas Priest's new album Turbo.

It rocked. It fucking rocked.

This was my first real foray into metal. And for a moment in my life, it looked like I wouldn't be doomed to a life of dork.

Then in January 1987, two days before my birthday, Brian was killed. He and his brother were sled riding down their driveway into the dirt road at the hill's bottom. A car came around the corner and that was that.

Over the next three years life seemed to fall apart. Most significantly, the friendship between Kevin, Doug and I became bitter. We couldn't stand each other, although no one had the guts to say it.

My taste in music also suffered. Poison. Slaughter. Bang Tango. Babylon AD. White Lion. Whitesnake. Van Halen post Roth. The only bright spots were Metallica and Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. Quite a match there, huh?

I started to pull myself together in 12th grade. I had a "fuck it" kind of attitude, and it showed in my playlist. The Ramones. Sex Pistols. Faith No More. And a return to Violent Femmes.

In college, I met people who again changed my life and my musical tastes. Black Flag. Sonic Youth. The Pixies. Ghetto Boys. But most importantly -- Public Enemy.

And in 1991 shit really started flying. Nirvana's Nevermind and Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine changed everything. Everything.

Pearl Jam's "Alive" became an anthem for my new friends -- a weird mix of frat boys and punks. The Replacements became a favorite and "Alex Chilton" found lots of airtime on the CD player.

I've run out of time, so I'll have to finish this with the History of Music Part Two.
posted by todd at 9:55 PM 6 comments

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Published (almost)

Okay, to elaborate on yesterday's post -- cleverly entitled YAY!!! -- here's a little background.

"And Midnight Never Come" was the first real short story I ever wrote. It's a science fiction piece with a simple plot -- humans try to build a star, the plan goes horribly awry, bad things happen.

After a few initial and well-deserved rejections, I did a complete rewrite and started sending it out again. I had received six rejections by the time I sent it to Nth Degree Magazine in January.

In May I did another complete rewrite and submitted it to the short fiction writers group of which I am part. With a few changes, I sent Version 3.1 to SCI FICTION and was summarily dismissed.

To date, I've received 17 rejections for seven stories. And I have five stories out there to nine publications.

Then yesterday I receive the e-mail from Nth Degree. How exciting?!?!?

The magazine pays five contributor copies and a year subscription. Not much -- but more than enough to make me happy.
posted by todd at 6:49 PM 3 comments

Monday, July 25, 2005



Thank you for submitting your story, And Midnight Never Come, to Nth Degree. Sorry to keep you waiting, the good stuff always ends up getting run through the mill a couple of times. Verdict: I'd like to use your story for the print zine.

I'll keep you posted on when your story will run.

Thanks again,
posted by todd at 11:04 PM 1 comments

Sister Circus

1990: I graduate from high school and attend Penn State. My father's company goes into Chapter 11 bankruptcy -- that's the restructuring kind.

1991: My 17-year-old sister, Suzie-Q, moves to Florida to live with our aunt and uncle for a year.

1992: PaxarFuck Inc. buys my father's company and closes its two plants in Troy. My dad is transfered to Waynesville, N.C.; my uncle is transfered to Hickory, N.C.; my aunt, step-grandmother, some cousins and 100 other people are fired.

Also 1992: Suzie-Q wears out her welcome in Florida and moves to Waynesville to finish high school.

1993: Suzie-Q graduates from high school. A month later, PaxarFuck Inc. fires our dad. He finds a third-shift supervisor job in Greensboro, N.C.; Suzie-Q attends Western Carolina U.

1994: Suzie-Q drops out of college and I graduate. We both move in with our parents. So now the four of us are sharing a three-bedroom apartment.

December 1994: After eight months of shitty jobs I'm hired by The Daily News of Eden, N.C. It's about 40 minutes away from my parents' apartment.

January 1995: Suzie-Q moves in with me. She has a factory job that involves molten metal. She comes home most every night with burns on her hands.

April 1995: The Franzen Brothers Circus arrives in Eden. I write a story about how the circus pays $50 per day for temporary workers. Suzie-Q takes off a couple of days to work for the Franzens.

The circus has one elephant, two camels, two or three tigers, a dozen horses and about 20 employees. It's even dumpier than you can imagine.

As the circus is packing up, the owner asks Suzie-Q if she'd like a full-time job. Suzie-Q LOVES animals. She has worked with horses since she was 6-years-old. She quits her factory job and the next day I drive her to Roanoke, Va., to meet up with the circus.

Our parents are NOT pleased. A month later they buy a house in nearby Winston-Salem.

August 1995: I move to New Bern, N.C. and meet Andree.

September 1995: Andree and I start dating. (She just doesn't know we're dating.)

December 1995: Suzie-Q, now 21, returns to visit while the circus is on break. She brings home her 44-year-old boyfriend, the Snake Handler. (Holy crap, I never thought of this until now. But if you do the math, Suzie-Q may have conceived in our parents' house. Ewww.)

August 1996: I ask Andree to marry me. My attempt to seem spontaneous results in the world's most pathetic marriage proposal. Despite this, she says yes.

September 1996: I'm at Andree's apartment when my mother calls.

"I have two pieces of news," she says. The first is my older brother, a 10-year Army veteran, is being sent to Kuwait for a year. Since he was supposed to be my Best Man, this sucks on many levels.

"And there's something else," she adds. "Your sister called. She's in Pennsylvania now and she just had a baby."


Yes, Suzie-Q and the Snake Handler had spawned. They were working a gig in Scranton, Pa. when my sister became ill. They thought it was food poisoning and rushed her to the hospital to run some tests.

After several hours of tests, the doctor sat down with Suzie-Q and asked her: "Do you think you might be pregnant?"

"Pregnant? No, of course not."

"No," he repeated. "Do you THINK you might be pregnant?"

Holy shit. Suzie-Q went through nine months of pregnancy without knowing it. (That's her story. She's a big girl and highly irregular. So it is not outside the realm of possibility.)

A few hours later she gives birth to a healthy girl. That week, my mother's parents drive two hours to pick them up and take them home. Then my parents drive to Pennsylvania and take them back to Winston-Salem.

The Snake Handler moves to Winston-Salem for about three months and tries to be a father. But he quits and returns to the circus.

February 1997: After years of cancer, my mom's mother goes into the hospital. My brother flies in from Kuwait; I fly in from New Bern. For a week, the family's all together. I return to North Carolina and a few days later, Grandma dies.

May 1997: Andree and I are married.

Also 1997: Suzie-Q's former boss, the owner of Franzen Brothers Circus, is mauled to death by one of his tigers.

* * *

Except for a few brief episodes, Suzie-Q and her daughter have lived with our parents ever since. My niece is a troublemaker. But she's also beautiful, smart and healthy.

She'll be 9 in September.
posted by todd at 4:46 PM 5 comments

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Hooking up at Grandma's

I arrive at the house shortly after 1 pm and find the front door unlocked. As I step hesitantly inside, I see a young man, perhaps in his early 20s, sitting cross-legged in front of the television.

"Hi," I say. "You must be Sallie's...."

"Grandson," he replies.

"Hi, I'm Todd. One of the pet sitters. I hope you don't mind, I'm just going to take care of the birds and puppies."

"No bother at all."

The two dogs look fine, if rather sedate. Normally they're bouncing off the walls. With one eye on Junior, I take care of the three canaries. Fresh food and water, fresh newspaper, etc.

As I'm doing this, the young man gets up and I see there's now a young woman with him. He asks me if I have a key before they leave with a couple small pieces of luggage. I survey the house to make sure nothing big, like the computer or a television, is missing. And it didn't smell like they were smoking or drinking.

But obviously, something was going on. And I'm just trying to imagine how the precursory conversation went.

"Hey, my Grandma is out of town. Wanna go over to her place and make out? She's got cable."

Or was it something more subtle:

"Hey, I need to stop by my Grandmother's and pick up some, um, Ben-Gay. It'll only take a few minutes."

Or maybe:

"My Grandma has this huge collection of musty clothes. Vintage stuff. You really need to check it out."

This is probably the most likely scenario:

"My Grandma has an ass-load of liquor at her place, and the old drunk is out of town. Let's get fucked up."

Yeah, it's probably the last one. I know it gets me every time.
posted by todd at 3:43 PM 4 comments

Spies like us

I'm in a rush to get to work this morning. But I thought this might make for fun reading. It's yesterday's testimony of former CIA agent Jim Marcinkowski.

* * *

Good morning. I am Jim Marcinkowski. It is an honor to appear before this Committee and I want to thank all of the members for making this effort, especially in a time, as described by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, where “we have entered what may very well prove to be the most dangerous security environment the world has known.” It is because of the danger of these times that the unprecedented exposure of a clandestine intelligence officer is so detrimental to our intelligence capabilities and national security.

I would like to address two separate issues, first, the unprecedented act of exposing a clandestine intelligence officer and the consequential damages, and second, the myths reported in the media that tend to downplay the seriousness of this event.

To my knowledge, the United States government has never before released the name of a clandestine officer. Until recently, there was never even a question that such an outrageous act would unequivocally cause immediate danger and damage to our national security.

Many of us who have spoken publicly in outrage over this incident were classmates of Ambassador Wilson’s wife. The vitally important message I bring to you this morning is simple yet devastating. My classmates and I have been betrayed. Together, we have kept the secret of each other’s identities for over eighteen years. Each and every one of us have kept that secret, whether we were in the CIA, in other government service, or in the private sector.

This issue is not just about a blown cover. It is about the destruction of the very essence, the core, of human intelligence collection activities – plausible deniability – apparently for partisan domestic political reasons. There are only two entities that can definitively identify a clandestine officer, the officer himself or herself, and the government that employs them. When operating overseas or even working in the U.S., the cover of the majority of CIA employees may be a mere “fig leaf.” Someone may suspect or presume that a particular person is a CIA officer, but that officer still has the ability to deny it.

Plausible deniability, combined with the personal skills of the individual officer, provides the security for the officer and all of his or her contacts. Blown cover probably happens more than anyone would like. The deliberate exposure and identification of Ambassador Wilson’s wife, by our own government, was unprecedented, unnecessary, harmful and dangerous.

While there may be a damage assessment conducted specific to this case, there is a host of incalculable damage that flows from this exposure:

• damage to our ability to assuage the security concerns and personal safety of our current and potential agents overseas;
• damage to our reputation to maintain confidentiality with friendly foreign governments who share intelligence with the United States;
• damage to our image in attracting our own talented young people who may be contemplating working for the CIA;
• damage to the credibility of this country’s efforts to safeguard the wellbeing of its own citizens; and
• perhaps striking at the heart of the matter, regardless whether this incident falls within the purview of the criminal law, what moral message has now been sent as how this government will respond to the misdeeds of the keepers of the public trust? Second, the arguments being made in the media in an apparent attempt to downplay the effects of this incident demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of undercover operations.

It defies logic to pretend that anyone involved in this exposure did not know they were dealing with someone who was an employee of the CIA, which is by definition, a spy agency. To have any effectiveness, the agency relies upon secrecy. Not even the janitor at the agency should report that he or she works for the CIA since that would, or could, make that person a target of a hostile intelligence agency.

It has been reported that Ambassador Wilson’s wife’s status as a CIA employee was not important to the initial story. If the identity wasn’t important, then why was that information in the story? The disclosure of the identity was evidently newsworthy since it was included in the story that was reported by the national media. The disclosure of the identity must have been important to the motive of the story since the disclosure was highlighted and given additional credence and buttressed by the notation that the status of Ambassador Wilson’s wife was known to “senior officials.” One can assume that most people do not think that “senior officials” are familiar with the clerical staff at the CIA.

Therefore the agent known to the “senior officials” is implicated as an important, and therefore knowledgeable, person. The agent’s identity was obviously included to give the entire report more credibility and to maximize the effect of the other information in the story.

It has been reported that the release of this officer’s identity was not deliberate. How can anyone even pretend that the disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity to a reporter could be done by accident? The fact is that the release of this information by “senior officials” was deliberate and done for a purpose. It is equally clear that the purpose of these “senior officials” was certainly not to advance the national security of the United States.

Reasonable minds cannot differ as to the deliberate nature of this action by these “senior officials.” (Anyone who would care to try to portray this action as merely negligent, as opposed to deliberate, should also be prepared to explain how anyone so completely inept as to divulge this information by accident ever became a “senior official” in any organization, let alone an organization running the country.)

It must be assumed that “senior administration officials” would have at least a rudimentary working knowledge of the media, an understanding of what is “on” or “off the record,” what information is “on background,” and so forth. The fact that such basic ground rules, if you will, were not used to protect the identity of Ambassador Wilson’s wife exceeds any reasonable definition of gross negligence. This disclosure was not an accident, it was a cynical effort to advance an interest deemed so important by these “senior officials” as to potentially place lives at risk. The interest being advanced by this disclosure was certainly not national security.

Somehow the issue of disclosing the names of intelligence workers must be addressed and it must be resolved. This Congress has appropriated billions of dollars for use in enhancing the security of this nation’s homeland. National security is the primary purpose of the government. Intelligence gathering regarding foreign threats has been highlighted as a continuing national priority. Living, breathing Americans, and the foreign nationals they are able to recruit, gathering information, piece by piece, are essential to the security of the United States.

The intelligence community was roundly criticized after September 11 as having let the country down. I am certain that every single person working for the CIA redoubled his or her commitment to superior performance and service on behalf of this country on September 11. To perform well, to do the job of enhancing this country’s security, requires that the entire government work as a team with a shared goal and with a clear understanding of the risks that face the country and those intelligence officers committed to protecting this country.

Obviously, these “senior officials” lacked that clear understanding. The harm, short and longer term, created by these “senior officials’” callous and complete and total disregard for the health, welfare and safety of intelligence employees and their foreign contacts cannot be overstated. I am speaking out to highlight this problem when others are not able to do so. I can tell you that I am certain that intelligence officers and their contacts the world over are looking to see what the solution to this problem will be.

The only adequate solution will require the resolve to create both a short- and long-term situation that results in rebuilding and restoring the level of confidence needed by our people in the field to perform the job they are so willing to do. One of the tools required to do the job in the field has just been severely compromised by these “senior administration officials.” The people in the field, if they could be here, would ask that you fashion a response that would be sufficient to restore your own confidence if you were at risk while working in the field to protect this country. Anything less decreases our ability to protect and to defend ourselves - that cannot be acceptable.
posted by todd at 7:53 AM 2 comments

Thursday, July 21, 2005

My first can of spray paint

When I was nine-ish, I took a can of black spray paint and very neatly printed my name on the white garage door. (It was an old garage with doors that folded accordianlike horizontally.)

When my father came to beat me I blamed my sister.

I'm not sure which was more retarded.

My parents sold the house when I was 20 and my name was still there in big black letters.
posted by todd at 10:49 PM 4 comments

It's a boy!!!

We're having another boy!

Today was the big day at the obgyn. After 50 minutes in the waiting room we finally got our turn. A quick survey with the ultrasound showed the baby was healthy and active. He was kicking and swinging like hell.

At the beginning of the exam, his head was near the bottom. But by the time we were done, he was sitting upright again. Freaky fetal acrobat syndrome.

We saw the legs and the bladder, the head, the heart and the stomach.

"Here's a cross section of the waste," the doctor pointed out. "It's as if we were to cut you in half -- kht (that's supposed to be a cutting sound) -- and looked down. You can see the spine there."

Thanks doc.

Then the moment we were all waiting for. The plumbing.

"Is that it there?" Andrea asked, as if reading my mind.

"No," the doctor chuckled. "That's the arm."

Thank god.

Actually, Andree's obgyn is the best doctor EVER. We saw him every week for three months before we lost Jack. He removed the 12 fibroid tumors and septum from her uterus. And he delivered Josh. Through it all, he showed nothing but compassion and he laughed at all of our stupid jokes.

The rest of the examination involved looking at his arms and spine and ribs and face. (We have a picture of him that looks like the Crypt Keeper.)

Now comes the hard part. The Name.

We had a girl's name picked, but not a boy's. We're still thinking Biblical -- Noah or Benjamin. Probably not Abraham, Isaac, Aaron or Gump.

Any suggestions?
posted by todd at 12:58 PM 4 comments

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Five Things

It's weird how these things make their way through the land of Blog. I took it from:

• Andree who took it from
• Betty. She thieved it from
• Mamma Zoe who stole it from
• Hunterpoo. Who knows where she found it.

So here we go.

Ten years ago: I was 23 and living in Eden, N.C. a town desperate to become something other than the dunghole it was. My friends were a bunch of 19 year olds I had met the previous summer while working at Pizza Hut.

Five years ago: I was 28 and only six months into the worst job EVER. Also I had just been excepted into UT's new Evening MBA program.

One year ago: I was 32 and beginning my new weekend job as a pet sitter. It was either that or bag groceries.

Yesterday: I was determined to keep Josh healthy enough to go to school today. He'd been cooped up inside for five days with a sinus infection.

Today: Josh went to school! I cleaned house and replied to a Realtor who wants me to design her Web site.

Tomorrow: I need to get Josh out of the house. Maybe we'll go to the bookstore.

Five snacks I enjoy:
1) Yoplait yogurt
2) Apple pie a la mode
3) Mixed nuts
4) Corn chips
5) Strawberry milkshakes

Five bands that I know the lyrics to most of their songs:
1) Midnight Oil
2) The Jimi Hendrix Experience
3) Foo Fighters
4) Pearl Jam
5) Nirvana

Five things I would do with $100,000,000:
1) Buy homes/condos in NYC, Italy, Alaska, Sydney and Costa Rica.
2) Buy Andree anything she wants
3) Pay off the debts for family members I liked
4) Buy a boat. A big boat.
5) Invest in Treasury Inflation-Protected Securites (because it's gonna get ugly folks)

Five locations I'd like to run away to:
1) Italy
2) Switzerland
3) Alaska
4) Australia
5) Hawaii

Five things I like doing:
1) Painting
2) Reading
3) Singing
4) Taking care of Josh and Andree
5) Writing fiction

Five things I'd never wear:
1) A fraternity/society ring
2) Speedos
3) A toupee
4) Contacts
5) A watch

Five TV shows I like:
1) Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
2) Desperate Housewives
3) Law and Order SVU
4) Vegas
5) Jimmy Neutron

Five famous people I'd like to meet:
1) Kurt Vonnegut
2) Stephen King
3) I can't think of anyone else at the moment.

Five biggest joys at the moment:
1) Playing hide-and-seek with Josh
2) Learning how to design Web sites
3) Writing my first novel
4) Cooking on our new grill
5) Watching cartoons

Five favorite 'toys':
1) New computer
2) Digital camera
3) Grill
4) New set of paint brushes
5) Air conditioner
posted by todd at 12:08 AM 1 comments

Monday, July 18, 2005

Oddities and Ends

Perhaps the most interesting part of pet sitting is seeing how people live.

At one house, lying on the table next to the cat-feeding instructions was a Bowel Prep Kit prescription. Ouch.

At another house I found a bottle of Clamato Juice in the fridge. Never heard of Clamato? It's clam juice and it's tomato juice!

Of course, there's Chez Plush, but I've already complained enough about that place. Thank god her owner is back in town today.

And then there's Le Maison de Atticus and Scout. The interior is French Country -- American style. It looks like Martha Stewart vomited a Decorating for Dummies book. It's not my thing, but it's tidy. As long as you stay in the common areas -- the kitchen and dining, living room and family rooms.

Upstairs, the house is a disaster area. You can't even see the floor, it's covered in clothes and books and magazines and CDs and computer crap and boxes and stuffed animals and food containers and god-knows-what. The master bedroom has a narrow path from the door to the bed to the bathroom. It's looks like a canyon that cuts through a plateau of junk.

Now, this isn't a poor house. There's a Mercedez parked in the driveway and a Beamer across the street. The backporch has an amazing view of the surrounding hills and woods. I would guess it's a $300k home.

People are strange.
posted by todd at 5:18 PM 2 comments

Friday, July 15, 2005

Poor Sick Josh

Our son is sick. He started coughing Wednesday night before going to bed. He slept miserably, waking up six or seven times. At one point he vomited a large gob of mucous down my back.

He was up early on Thursday and didn't understand why he couldn't go to school. Surely all the kids want a sinus infection and 100.5-degree temperature, right?

Josh was sweet all morning. We couch potatoed and watched cartoons. Napping was impossible, though. Between 1 and 5 pm, he woke up four times screaming. Damn monsters.

But it was worth it. He was happy and sneezy the rest of the evening. Andrea and Josh sprayed for monsters, which seemed to help him sleep through the night. He woke not less than five times, but didn't scream. Around midnight I heard him mumble "you can't scare me."

Thank god his temperature came down a little today, to 99.5. Andrea came home from work and they took a nap at 3 pm. By 4 pm, he'd already awoken twice.

Time to break out the monster spray.
posted by todd at 4:11 PM 2 comments

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Nyquil non grata

Last night I took some Nyquil to knock out my allergies long enough to sleep. At about 11:30 pm it kicked in an I nearly passed out.

Then this morning I woke up hung over with this horrible feeling in my mouth. It's not a taste, but sort of a sensation. It's the feeling that lingers at the back of your throat after an evening romance with a fifth of vodka. Or tequila. Whichever.

I knew it was the Nyquil, but I couldn't figure out why it was giving me such a horrendous hangover.

Then I checked out the expiration date. July 2004.

Guess it's time to clean out the medicine cabinet.
posted by todd at 8:09 PM 5 comments

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

55 things about me

1) I hate labels.
2) My parents have been married 38 years. To each other even.
3) I've been married eight years.
4) My brother and his wife are both Army staff sargeants in Iraq.
5) I have mixed feelings about our invasion of Iraq.
6) My sister ran away to join the circus. She and the snake handler had a daughter.
7) I love telling that story. I don't know why.
8) Most people would consider my life boring.
9) I like it when people express their opinions. I ignore many of them.
10) Before we met, my wife and I interviewed for the same job.
11) I got it.
12) They offered her a better position.
13) Including temp work, I've had 18 jobs over 17 years.
14) In college I was the Balloon Baboon. I would dress in a gorilla costume and deliver balloon bouquets. And sing.
15) Once, I was supposed to sing "You are my sunshine" -- and I forgot the words.
16) While employed as the Balloon Baboon, I worked several gigs as the Big Purple Dinosaur. Not Barney. Barney is trademarked.
17) Kids love to beat the shit out of Barney. They thought I was Barney.
18) My wife and I used to smoke Marlboro reds.
19) We used to wheeze a lot too.
20) My favorite food is pizza.
21) I'll eat most any food.
22) I won't eat mushrooms. Mushrooms are evil.
23) Except the magic trippy kind. They're not evil. They're anti-evil.
24) I've never had a magic trippy mushroom.
25) I think I tried LSD once.
26) Since I didn't hallucinate, I'm fairly sure I paid $5 for a tab of paper with a picture of Beavis and Butthead.
27) I have an MBA from an internationally ranked business school.
28) Fat lot of good that did me.
29) I like coffee.
30) My grandfather turned 18 in 1943. He joined the Army, finished infantry school and was on a boat heading for Japan when the US nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
31) If hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians hadn't died horribly painful deaths, my grandfather probably would have been killed and I probably wouldn't be here.
32) What the hell am I supposed to think about that?
33) In second grade, I was placed in the gifted program.
34) In sixth grade, a number of us gifted kids took a 10-day trip to Europe. In Amsterdam, two older boys thought it would be funny to lock me on the hotel room's small balcony. It was on the second floor.
35) I thought "I'll show them" and tried to climb down using my secret spy training. I got stuck and cried until someone pulled me back up.
36) Yeah...I'm gifted.
37) I like books. I also like maps and globes.
38) I wish I had a library in my home.
39) Our house is a fixer-upper. Although we aren't very handy, we've done okay.
40) We didn't notice two of the three bedrooms lacked doors until after we moved in.
41) Now they have doors.
42) In college I studied Hebrew, Arabic and Latin.
43) Fat lot of good that did me.
44) I would like to get a PhD in something.
45) I owe more in student loans than most people make in a year.
46) My wife and I aren't very happy about that.
47) My dad's mother took her life with a shotgun when he was 15. He found her.
48) When I was 17 my dad and I got in an argument too complicated to explain here. He ended it with "My mother blew her head off with a shotgun and I never needed a shrink. I'm just fine!"
49) That was the first time I'd heard about how my grandmother died.
50) My dad's father married his girlfriend and moved her into the house. I'm not sure how long he waited after my grandmother's funeral, but I think it was less than a year.
51) My dad and his two brothers left and moved into an apartment together.
52) My dad's father died of a heart attack about eight years later.
53) This is my dad's favorite joke: "There are three kinds of people in this world. Those that can count. And those that can't."
54) He's a funny guy.
55) I need to go pick up Josh from school.
posted by todd at 1:25 PM 5 comments

Monday, July 11, 2005

Allergies suck ass

I grew up in a very rural region of Pennsylvania. Dairy country. Endless fields of hay and corn surrounded by vast forests of maple, oak, walnut and cherry. Oh so pretty.

I was allergic to it all. In spring it was the trees and flowers; the summer, grass; the fall, ragweed. When I was about 10 I tried to get a summer job helping a local farmer bring in hay. My brother and several other boys were working there too.

After 15 minutes in the hay loft, my eyes swelled shut. A few weeks later my mom took me to an allergist. This is a big deal in the country since we had to drive more than an hour to get there.

He pricked my arms about 30 or 40 times with various allergens. All of them reacted. Two-thirds were faint to average. The remaining dozen were bright red, very itchy, nickel-sized circles. The doctor prescribed shots. So once a week for 18 months, I walked from school to a trailer that was a local clinic where a nurse jabbed a needle in my arm.

The allergies never went away until I left for college. Suddenly I was in a new environment and not sneezing. After four years of college, new allergies slowly crept into my life.

When I graduated, I moved to North Carolina and voila -- my allergies were gone again. Mostly, at least. Again new allergies popped up, but nothing like before. Probably because I moved around quite a bit. After five years there, Andree and I moved to Texas.

For three golden years I lived allergy free. And again, it was only temporary. You see in Texas they have what's called Cedar Fever. Everyone gets it. I lucked out for a while.

My body has finally succumbed to the allergens. Claritin helps quite a bit and my eyes no longer swell shut. But still.

Allergies suck ass.

Question for comments: Are you allergic to anything?
posted by todd at 12:34 PM 2 comments

Saturday, July 09, 2005

It seemed like a good idea...

I've been a pet sitter for a year now and Andree and Josh have never seen me in action. Or rather the pet sitting equivalent of action. So we all went tonight.

I had just two sits -- both were a pair of golden retrievers. They're big and energetic, not the ideal breed for a three-year-old. But they're good dogs.

We go to the first house and the retrievers are mobbing us. Very pushy and licky. We make it outside and Josh alternately loves them and fears them. He's yelling some while he runs around the backyard, but not loud enough to draw out the neighbors. Back inside, it's a little too crowded, so Andree and Josh leave to go home.

A few minutes later and I'm ready to leave. I walk out and I find they're still there. Andree says Josh wants to see the other house. Okay.

The second house is a little nicer than the first. More neighbors prowling the streets. But I figure what the heck.

These two retrievers turn out to be worse than the first. They're outdoor dogs with a nice yard and a small plastic children's pool filled with murky water.

We walk outside and the dogs are just freaking out. They're bouncing everywhere, jumping on us, assaulting Josh. Playfully, of course. But still, way too aggressive and I'm getting kind of nervous.

Then while I'm trying to occupy the dogs I see Josh kneeling at the edge of the deck, about six inches above the ground. Apparently he was reaching for something, lost his balance, leaned forward, but couldn't stop his momentum.

He fell on top of his head.

And started wailing.

That's when the dogs attacked him. Playfully, of course.

We quickly pick him up and shuffling him inside while he's screaming. He's okay. Just a little scare, a little dirt and a few dog licks.

It seemed like a good idea. But I don't think I'll be bringing him along to any more sits.
posted by todd at 8:34 PM 2 comments

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I'm pilfering this idea from Phil who lifted it from Kelly.

Opening credits: Doll - Foo Fighters
Waking up: Monkey Wrench - Foo Fighters
Average day: Float On - Modest Mouse
First date: From Out of Nowhere - Faith No More
Falling in love: What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
Love scene: Fade Into You - Mazzy Star
Fight scene: Hysteria - Muse
Breaking up: Don't Speak - No Doubt
Getting back together: Reunited - Peaches and Herb. This American Life just did a segment on this.
Secret love: Don't You (Forget About Me) - Simple Minds
Life's okay: These Are Days - 10,000 Maniacs
Mental breakdown: Basketcase - Green Day or Welcome Home (Sanitarium) - Metallica. Actually, half of my collection seems to be dedicated to this topic...
Driving: Alex Chilton - The Replacements
Learning a lesson: We Can Work It Out - The Beatles
Deep thought: Imagine - John Lennon
Flashback: Everything Zen - Bush
Partying: Trip Like I Do - Filter and the Crystal Method
Happy dance: Friday I'm in Love - The Cure
Regretting: Black - Pearl Jam or Hey Jealousy - Gin Blossoms
Long night alone: 200 More Miles - Cowboy Junkies
Death scene: Feed the Tree - Belly
Closing credits: New Way Home - Foo Fighters. Doesn't seem right to start with Foo and not end with Foo.
posted by todd at 11:09 PM 2 comments

Super Josh

Compared to Andree's day, my life is boring. So here's a picture of our favorite superhero, Goldfish Lad.

posted by todd at 4:22 PM 2 comments

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

We forgot the camera!


We had a great time at our friends' house yesterday for the Fourth. It was just the five of us playing in the pool and eating fried chicken, potato salad and watermelon. Very relaxing.

This was the first time Josh really enjoyed the pool. He's been in them a few times. But not like this. He practiced his swimming, tossed the basketball and chugged around on the floaty. He was laughing and splashing and didn't want to get out.

But did we remember the camera? No. We're losers.

Question for comments: What did you do yesterday?
posted by todd at 7:03 PM 2 comments

Monday, July 04, 2005

Long weekend

Hope everyone is having a nice Fourth of July weekend.

I've been working all weekend. Seven pet sits on Saturday, 10 yesterday, six this morning and two more tonight. Except for a Plush three-peat, it's been okay.

Saturday I was caring for an overstuffed beagle named Roxie and an ancient shar-pei named Tootsie. (I love shar-peis. We had one named Toby for about four years. Best dog ever. Then she died from a mysterious and horrific infection.)

So I'm done feeding a caring for Tootsie and Roxie and see that their owner left a note. "Here's pictures of the plants in the backyard that need to be watered every day." Okay, so I grab the six pics and go outside.

It's 150 freakin degrees out again.

I fumble around with the hose, but get it working. Find the first set of plants, water them. Find the next, water them. So forth. I finish watering everything shown in the pitures, look around and realize -- THAT WAS ALL THE PLANTS IN THE BACKYARD!!!

WTF? Why not just say "please water the all of the plants in the backyard"? Then, as I'm thinking this I hear some music blaring over a PA system. It's something by John Philip Sousa. And there's a car horn honking.

I climb up to look over the fence and there's a pick-up truck being followed by five people waiving American flags. Five people? That's all they could find?

It seemed really retarded at first. But after thinking about it I decided I'd rather be part of the five-man dork parade then be one of the uptight pricks in this uptight neighborhood. (Oh, did I fail to mention the street is Plantation Drive? Yeeah.)

• Sits: 25
• Dogs: 10
• Cats: 11
• Fish: one catfish, three koi
• Cups of coffee: six
• Miles: 293
• Number of times I had to perform animal CPR: zero
posted by todd at 1:11 PM 0 comments

Friday, July 01, 2005

July showers

Today we played in the back yard with the garden hose.

Josh cleaned the house and the tree.

And then it was my turn...

Damn, that water's cold.

posted by todd at 11:19 AM 2 comments