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Of Birthdays and Saints

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

When did I get old?

Nine pm used to mean there were 4 more hours left to pack in every inch of an exciting life. Later on, 9 pm meant another 2 more hours in the day.  Now 9 pm means I’m late for my medication and need to get to bed as soon as I can. What the hell happened? 

When the kids were going through puberty – when they started, that is, since they’re not all completely finished with the process – we got them a book called something like “Hey, What’s Going On Down There?  A Teenager’s Guide to Your Changing Body.”  

We need to update this book.  

Now that I’m staring down the barrel of 50, I think we need a book of our own:  Same concept, same title, but a drop-head like “A 50-Something’s Guide to What the Hell Just Happened to Your Body.”  It would include chapters like “Is it Supposed to Look Like That?”, “Never Trust a Fart,” and “Three Ways to Tell if You’re Actually Urinating RIGHT NOW!”  (Hey, it’s not like we can see it anymore.)  There could be a handy guide in the back for dealing with insurance companies.  

My parents gave me The Talk when I hit puberty, but I feel like they fell down on the job with the “Next Talk,” which parents should have with their kids when you hit about 45 or so.  Not their fault – as a society, we don’t talk about this kind of thing.  I guess women talk to each other a bit about menopause, but trust me that guys Never Talk About Anything.  No 50-something dude has ever swiveled his chair around, leaned over to the cubicle next to him, and asked a co-worker, “Hey, Tom, is yours getting smaller?”  We don’t talk about it. 

(Imagine if he did, though:  “Does it still work?  As long as it works, size is NOT the biggest issue.”)

So, I’m getting old.  I’m so old that I remember when loose coupling described a dating technique and then, later, a programming technique.  (Although honestly, for most of us geeks, it described a programming technique and a dating concept with which we would have liked to become familiar.) 

As I reflect on my birthday today, I realize that these days, loose coupling describes the relationships between most of my bodily functions.  

We need to be talking to our kids as they hit their late 40s and early 50s, and try to prepare them for these changes.  Imagine Carrie’s 30th High School reunion, wondering why we’re all suddenly incontinent?  “Son, your shit’s gonna start falling apart, and that’s OK.”  I’ve had shit stop working that I didn’t even know I had in the first place.  Plus I’m still in denial about my glasses.  Luckily, I don’t really need them, except to read and to see things at a distance.  Other than that, I’m fine.  

But it’s not all bad.  As I rack up birthdays, I realize that I still don’t have even half as many as The Queen Mother of Pink, who’s 99.  With any luck, I’ll have years to complain about my shit slowly falling apart.  Gram doesn’t complain, though – she just powers through.  Ninty-nine years old and still, she persists.  Pretty good role model, if you ask me.

The Three Lunatic Children are getting funnier, too, and faster on the draw, so that’s another advantage to getting old:  watching them grow into their own.  Sometimes they go out of their way to sound like me, which is most certainly going to get them into trouble one of these days.  I mean, look how I wound up?  The oldest one got me a few nights ago:

HTR:  I was thinking about déjà vu.
BUMD:  I‘ve thought about that before.
HTR (without missing a beat):  I knew you were gonna say that. 

Birthdays – they’re like the ultimate déjà vu, until they’re not.  But since it’s my birthday, I want to tell you about St. Patrick, who is the reason my middle name is Patrick.  (Actually, that’s not true:  My godfather, Mike Burke, is the reason my middle name is Patrick.  I understand the conversation went something like: “If he’s born on St. Patrick’s Day, you HAVE to name him Patrick!”  “No.”  “Middle name?”  “OK.”   I owe him a debt I can never repay.)

St. Patrick died around 493 – pretty good gig to be remembered for more than 1500 years, to say nothing of having libations drunk in your name every year.  I’m not much given to prayer, but since I seem to have a patron saint of my own, I’ve been thinking about asking him about that whole deal with the snakes.  I’m thinking we could use a good old-fashioned snake drive these days.

So I’m not as old as St. Patrick, nor even half as old as the Queen Mother of Pink, but with the luck of the Irish, I’ll get there!  Perhaps in a thousand years, they’ll be drinking libations in my name as well.  It could happen!  In the meantime, I’ll have one of whatever that man on the floor’s having.

And so, happy birthday to me, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you, Dear Friend, Fond Relation, and Gentle Reader!  Beannachtam na Femle Padraig, and let’s get all these snakes out of here!

Oh, look at the time!   I didn’t realize it was that late – I need to get to bed.

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Don’t Panic.

While I am certain that I do not speak for all Americans, which is these days mainly a question of decibels and volume, I feel comfortable speaking for some reasonable percentage of us when I describe how many of us feel this morning.

If you haven’t read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you should.  There is a scene very early where Earthman Arthur Dent has just regained consciousness on a Vogon spaceship, where his friend has rescued him from what is now the smoking remains of what had been our planet.

“…There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parents and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket two days before and felt a sudden stab: the supermarket was gone, everyone in it was gone! Nelson’s Column had gone! And there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry! From now on Nelson’s Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.
He tried again: America, he thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it. He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, has sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every “Bogart” movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonald’s, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald’s hamburger.
He passed out.”

That’s how many of us feel right now.  The enormity of the situation, the magnitude of the mistake – there is no way for our imaginations to feel the impact of climate change denials and LGBT rights reversals and ACA repeals all at once.  It’s too big.   America has gone.  We can’t grasp it.  Many of us never seriously believed it existed anyway.

Don’t panic.  Yes, the Vogons control both houses of Congress, and we’ve elected The Donald to the White House, Zaphod Beeblebrox with one head and small hands.

I have learned a lot from having kids.  One of the most interesting things we noticed is that all of them – the Human Tape Recorder, Number One Son, and the Reigning Queen of Pink – all went through some of the same mechanisms of growth and development; parenting books and the internet tell us that most children do this as well.  When the kids were little, we’d watch them becoming older, more mature, and marvel at their independence – and then suddenly they’d be clingy and fearful.  It seemed they had regressed two years overnight.  Then, a few weeks or a month later, they bounced out and moved on, standing taller than ever, butterflies with new wings.  They had just needed that reassurance, that sense of touching home base, of being sure that there was a safe place behind them before they moved on to the next part of their broader world view.

That’s how I see America right now.

EIGHT WHOLE YEARS with a black president?  All that LGBT legislation protecting the dignity of all people?  The hard-line conservative core reacted like 6-yr-olds.  There was just too much change, too fast.  With this election, conservative America had a chance to regress for a while, to touch home base, and that’s the way the country voted.

Just like my kids at that age, though, we’ve *seen* the broader world.  The genie is out of that bottle.  We know it will be waiting for us; we know we’re going to go back to it.  America would just like a few more years under a fuzzy blanket, please.   Give us 8, 10, 15 years and we’ll be back where we were and then some; we will remember this episode as an embarrassing and brief blip in our history.

That’s my hope, anyway.  Don’t think it’s inevitable – it’s not.   Don’t think it won’t take a lot of effort – it will.  We need to do our best, as the parents of this still-young country, to keep prodding it to be better, to keep calling our elected officials, to keep yelling when yelling will help. to keep whispering when whispering works, to keep loving the country and the idea of the country.

It seems very dire right now, and many of my friends worry that the current spectacle is reminiscent of the Nazis.  They’re not wrong, and there is evil afoot in the world – it looks like intolerance, it looks like intransigence, it looks like the willful suspension of belief in facts, and we must speak against it when we see it.   Fascism is a scary specter, but don’t think it’s inevitable – it’s not.

America may not have been ready for the social progress that it made, but it will be.  This is a road we’re paving slowly, and the pendulum will swing back toward education, toward tolerance, toward dignity and a more worldly world view.

That’s my hope, anyway.

In the mean time…

Don’t Panic.


Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Of Meteors and Voting

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Last night was one of the great days of summer, with the chance to lie on the grass and watch stars shooting overhead, as the Perseids come streaking through our atmosphere, heating up and burning themselves out in a flaming blaze of glory as they crash.  The Human Tape Recorder and the Reigning Queen of Pink stayed up all night last night, on beach towels in the backyard, to watch one of natures great fireworks displays.  Around 1230, they woke me to join them.

I’ve always loved meteor showers, so I did as I was told, brought a blanket outside for a while, and stared up at the stars.  Within about 5 minutes, the score was Team Perseids 4, Team West Nile 3, and Team Zika was up to 7 with a hat trick.  Mosquitoes love me.  The girls were sad to see me go back inside, although that may just have been because I had been drawing fire from the flying vampiric plankton that flies around my back yard.  I itched my way back to my own bed and wished them well, but that’s not what I came to tell you about.

I came to talk about the draft election.

Are you on the fence about voting this November?  Let’s say you vote for Trump, and then let’s fast forward a few years into his administration with the current GOP platform.  (Go ahead, read it.  I’ll wait.)  Now, ask yourself these questions:

If your daughter wants an abortion, or worse, needs an abortion, and she can’t, legally, have one, how will you feel about having voted for a misogynist-in-chief? How will you look your daughter in the eye and tell her that you voted for this man knowing that he doesn’t believe she has the right to make decisions about her own body?

If your teen-aged child, maturing in this political environment, is conflicted about their sexuality and wonders about their possible attraction to their own gender, how will they ask you about it? Knowing that you voted for a party that holds hate in high regard, a party that has pledged to repeal laws allowing adults who love one another to marry, how will you look your child in the eye and tell them that you’re looking forward to their straight sibling’s wedding, but that you voted against their right to have one?  If your gay child should leave the nest to live with their same-sex soulmate, will you remind them that you’ve voted against their right to legally adopt your grandchildren?

When your Muslim friends ask about celebrating Eid in their public school and are laughed at, or worse, while walking past the Ten Commandments or the Christmas tree in the school office, how will you look them in the eye and tell them that you voted for a government that values “America’s Judeo-Christian heritage” more highly than America’s heritage of freedom? Will you remind your Hindu friends that you voted for a party that believes a good understanding of the Bible to be indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry?  Just the Bible, not the Koran, not the Talmud, not the Upanishads, or the Tao Te Ching.

When your neighbor asks you to attend their young son’s funeral, how will you look them in the eye and tell them that you voted for increased magazine capacities in automatic rifles?  That you voted for the right of anybody who hears the voice of god whispering in their ear to carry that gun anywhere they go, Linus with a 5.56-mm security blanket and a hundred rounds in the clip, a good guy with a gun until he saw that kid in the hoodie with his phone, wrong place, wrong time, his mom didn’t know he’d stopped taking his meds two weeks ago, our thoughts and prayers are with you?

When your neighbor asks you to attend a loved one’s funeral after they succumb to an anaphylactic allergic reaction because they ate something that wasn’t accurately labeled, how will you look them in the eye and explain that you voted for a party that has pledged to repeal federal mandates for food labeling?

When you look in the mirror in the morning, will you be able to look yourself in the eye knowing that you voted for a party that holds monochromatic monotheism in higher regard than modern medicine, a party that puts faith before fact, a party that will sideline science, social justice, and STEM schools because stem cell research might offend their narrow notion of God?

You don’t have to vote for Hillary Clinton.  I understand.  She’s a career politician, and she’s made the Faustian bargains that career politicians make.  She’s competent, she’s qualified, and she’s not cuddly and likable.  You don’t have to vote FOR anything.

Against, now – that’s another story.   When you go to the polls November 8th, don’t vote FOR anything.  Press the button that says Hillary Clinton.  You’re not really voting for her.  You’re casting your vote against.

Vote against misogyny.

Vote against racism.

The Trump campaign may flame out like a Perseid meteor long before November, a spectacular magnesium flare streaking across our political sky as millions stay up late to watch.  But it might not.

And if it doesn’t, and if in November you find yourself faced with the dilemma of decision, I urge you to cast your ballot for sanity and competence.   If it really bothers you, remind yourself that you’re not voting for Hillary Clinton.

You’re voting against hate.






Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

A Homestead Weekend

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

So there we were, once again on the open road, driving into a cloudbank from hell. The rains that we drove through that Thursday in June killed 20 people, destroying homes and families alike. The weather is capricious – many people were devastated, while the biggest impact to us was a cleaner car, proving that there is no justice to be found in this world.    It also resulted in a more full hotel, but we would only find that out later.

We were driving into the Homestead, which bills itself as the oldest resort in the country and has the provenance – and sense of antiquity – to back it up.  view2Celebrating 250 years in business this year, it boasts 15,000 acres of fields and forests, with activities ranging from wading and swimming pools to hot springs and warm springs where Thomas Jefferson used to “take the waters” for his health and welfare, from horseback riding and falconry to archery and skeet, from hiking the gorge to just sitting back on the veranda and watching the world go by.  Sitting, typing this from the veranda, I present my view.

I can easily imagine my friend Mark Twain sitting on this same veranda. Mind you, this particular building wasn’t completed until the 1920s, so he certainly didn’t, but he would have enjoyed it.

Thursday dinner was at their Casino restaurant, with a table that couldn’t stop moving.  While the table was loose from the base, and the base was not stable on the floor, we still knew it was actually the Reigning Queen of Pink causing our dinners to bounce – the table was rocking in rhythm. Any of the rest of us and it would have been rocking asymmetrically; with her at the helm, our dinners were executing a perfect sine wave.  The restaurant at the Casino (which turns out of be a word used in its original meaning, which has to do with indoor sports and has nothing, to my regret, to do with gambling) had a small army of staff milling about, which was odd because none of them seemed to be able to find our table.  I mean, the movement might have been throwing them off, but still.

fireworksAs the Homestead is celebrating 250 in business this year, they are setting off fireworks each Friday in the summer.  To further commemorate this 250th anniversary, they’re serving a different cake every day of the year, in the lobby with tea from 3-4pm.  Friday’s was lemon blueberry – most excellent! I can’t imagine more than about 100 ways to do cake; hats off to their chef.

Prom_King_and_QueenSpeaking of Anniversaries: allow me to digress a moment on the reason for the trip. My parents this June celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The same month saw my mother turn 70 a few days later.  They are amazing!  (For those of you doing the math at home, yes, my father plays up the fact that she was a teen-aged bride.)

My father, having been a math major, added 50 with 70 and declared it a 120 celebration – and celebrate we did, with them and the Very Clever Aunt and Her Michael. We are, at least on my side, new to the “resort” scene. In this case, certainly, I could get used to this in a hurry.

Friday we were joined by the aforementioned Very Clever Aunt and Her Michael; dinner was at Jefferson’s.  There any number of amazing restaurants at the Homestead, plus four bars.  In point of fact, dinner was preceded by drinks with Kipling, who went out of his way to ensure that we had excellent seating and an excellent time.  Jefferson’s was a great dinner; I enjoyed braised lamb to die for with gnocchi and sage.  One of the funniest bits was actually a few hours before dinner; I got a call from the restaurant confirming our dinner reservations – they had meant to reach my father.  I decided that I might not be “the” Lang, but I was “a” Lang, and I was qualified to confirm our reservation.  The RQOP, who’s first name starts begins the alphabet, stepped out of the shadows and announced that no, SHE was “A. Lang,” by god.  I stood corrected, but I confirmed the reservations anyway.

nomsFollowing dinner and the fireworks, we retired to the Very Clever Grandparent’s room.  We had all been carefully instructed: “no presents.”  We decided that “no presents” didn’t count if the presents were consumable and stood a good chance of not leaving the grounds.

During the course of the trip, I posted a postcard or two – and found a wonder. I have always wanted to drop a letter into one of those old-fashioned “mail your letters here in this box on the wall” boxes; the old Cutler Mailing System letterboxes.   mailboxAs a former letter carrier, those things were cool – a blend of art and function, usually with old art-deco styling to them.  I doublechecked first, since many times you see them and they’re no longer being serviced or checked on, but the Homestead confirmed that theirs is still in use, and if you’re on the upper floor, you can still drop your letter in the upper box and it will slide into this one.

This town is small enough that the post office closes before noon on Saturday, and the Homestead doesn’t bother – so any mail that misses on Friday will go out Monday.  I am perhaps irrationally excited to have mailed things from a Cutler box.

The next day dawning bright and clear, we hiked the Cascades Gorge. That sounds simple, but it isn’t.  The reason it isn’t is named Brian La Fountain, who is the funniest, most well informed, most energetic, most passionate tour guide I have ever encountered. Number One Son, who does NOT want to go outside much, not only expounded on his appreciation for the hike, but gave Brian a hug – a rare compliment from a 16-yr-old boy.

falls2The hike itself was amazing. I shall include only a sample of the views, because if I posted all the pictures I took, this post would take more time to load than we took hiking the gorge.

Brian explained a dozen things in a dozen ways, and did so while keeping up a running patter of puns and jokes that jollied even my jaded children into enjoying themselves. He is a terrific guide; making sure people can hear him, making sure we understood the rules and their reasons. falls1I also noticed his quiet attention to the details that he didn’t talk about – he was very careful about counting the group, making sure that everyone was keeping up and doing OK with climbing over the wet bridges and steeper rocks, without making it at all obvious that he was doing so: The mark of a great guide is that you don’t see the attention he’s paying. He’s a great guide. He also has a gift for stand-up comedy to rival Leno.  He told us only one lie: He said he was 50 years old.  No one with his exuberance, good looks, and joy de vivre could be so old.

treeballsThe interesting views of nature are not limited to the gorge, however.  Right outside our door was a tree.  Well, a few dozen trees, really, but one of them stood out – most trees, growing as they do straight up and tall, have a somewhat phallic look to them anyway.  Very few have the balls to show for it, though.  (The Human Tape Recorder decided this one much be named Johnny One-Nut.)  The most embarrassing bit is that I took the picture, then sent it in a text to a good friend, female type.

BUMD:  Tree balls – bigger than I thought they’d be!
Her:  Wow that’s an interesting tree.  That protrusion looks quite phallic.
BUMD: Oh my god, I’m sending you deciduous dick pics. I’m so busted!

So, I’ve joined the ranks of the Bros who send dick pics.  I feel so basic!

indoor_poolIn addition to the amazing nature scenes, there are outdoor pools and spas and springs, plus there’s an indoor pool – in case it’s raining, or you’re just feeling indoorsy.  And when I say indoor pool, I mean This Is What I Want My Basement To Look Like.   Is that too much to ask?  This pool is larger than my house and would have made the Romans proud.  One of the best parts of swimming was seeing Her Michael’s tattoo: It says “#FFFFFF TRASH” – which is funny on a lot of levels, not least that it’s only supported by Netscape 5.0 these days.

We had a terrific time all around.  SOBUMD and I were instructed on our golf swings, the girls went horseback riding with FOBUMD, and the ladies took in the wonders of the Spa.  We all wound up in the outdoor pool (of course it has a bar, why do you ask?) at one point or another, complete with its massive water slides.  Canoeing, however, was cancelled due to the torrential rains that we’d driven through – a good call on the part of the Homestead.  There was a delightful dinner at a grill named after Sam Snead, who is famous in the golf world and called this town home.  linda_remingtonOn top of all that, I was very lucky and, with 5 minutes to spare, had the  chance to satisfy a life-long interest in falconry with Remington, the Harris Hawk.

Falconry is fascinating.  It turns out that while much falconry is in fact accomplished with falcons, much more is done with hawks here in the United States.  The Homestead has many birds and trainers; I was introduced to Linda – and Remington.  You need 2 and half years of training apprenticeship to receive a falconry license in the US.  Linda names some of her birds, such as Remington, after guns – because as far as the US fish and wildlife department is concerned, in her hands, that’s a lethal hunting weapon.  remington1This is somewhat incongruous considering that you need practically nothing to own an actual Remington.

Wearing the gauntlet, I had Remington land on my hand and then, with a slight flick of the wrist, sent her aloft again, on her way to the nearby roof.  Despite a wingspan of close to 3 feet, she weighs only slightly more than 2 pounds – and can fly through any opening wider than her chestplate.  Linda had her demonstrate this by standing us increasing close together and convincing her to fly between us – impressively nearly knocking my phone from my hand in the process.  I was wing-whacked a few times – it was an experience I’ve thought about for more than 40 years, and I was thrilled.

boyThat evening was the last, and as fitting of a final dinner at such a place and to commemorate such a 120 celebration, dinner was in the formal dining room.  If you’re picturing something from Downton Abby, you’re not too far wrong.  We dressed, we all dressed.  Even those of us who do not, as a rule, dress for dinner, dressed.

That’s right – the kids cleaned up.  Even Number One Son, who looks slightly like Kramer from Seinfeld in this picture.  Glamour seems to come more naturally to the girls.  girls I tend to wear business attire pretty much every weekday, so the whole business of getting dressed up wasn’t as traumatic for me as it was for Number One Son – he dressed for the ages, for one of the most formal events of his young life.  I dressed for a Tuesday.  Hardly seems fair, really.  Also, the Very Clever Aunt and Her Michael were not exempt from this!  While the caption over their heads states “Birds of North America,” they are from Baltimore, and so technically I think this is a picture of Orioles.jani_michael

The dinner was sumptuous, with live music, yummy wine, appetizers, and dancing – until SOBUMD took her first bite of her dinner and had an anaphylactic reaction to something in the sauce. She’s highly allergic to cinnamon, and while the staff didn’t think there was any in the dish, there must have been something close enough to it.  She had been looking forward to that plate since before we’d arrived, so not being able to eat it was killing her – unfortunately very nearly literally; it took me 20 minutes to get her back to the room, along with several hits from her emergency inhaler and enough Benadryl to stop a horse.  (She decided against the epi-pen only because that would have involved an ambulance ride to the nearest ER, and the Benadryl and inhalers were starting to kick in – along with not wanting to further complicate the evening.)   The rest of the crew was able to finish dinner (although the prime rib evidently got the better of Number One Son), and we all made it to our respective beds.  Luckily, we all woke in the morning as well.

backdoorI woke early and took a few pre-dawn pictures of the place for posterity, to compliment the pictures of the previous evenings.  The building is too large for any one picture; these only just begin to provide a sense of scale.  There are nearly 500 rooms, all of which were full while we were there – largely because The Greenbriar, firepitwhich is only a few dozen miles away, had flooded in the recent rains and sent a lot of its overflow to The Homestead.  Our building itself had taken some water, but nothing compared to the devastation around us.  The wet grounds provided morning fog for the sun to burn through, the kind that armature photographers love.

Eventually the sunrise did what it always does to such times, and it was time be under way, back to the open road, and home.  We returned to our lives feeling like Muggles, bereft of the magic words that had sustained us for the past days:  “Please charge this to room 7155.”   It turns out that doesn’t work at my local grocery store at all.  We also missed the whole concept of having cocktails served before going through for dinner.  mistysunriseThis is an inherently civilized thing to do.  If I could have brought the redoubtable Kipling home with us, I would have.

The after action report on the 120 celebration and the Homestead Weekend was best summed up in an email exchange between FOBUMD, who organized and funded the entire trip, and the rest of us.  A few days after we arrived home and became reacquainted with our more usual standard of living, he sent the entire party a note thanking us for celebrating with them.

For a change, I was speechless.  The English language doesn’t have a lot of good words to convey the sense of appreciation we felt, but I was reminded of FOBUMD’s description of an evening he spent, years ago, with his brother George. “A brother is someone who picks you up in the rain with little notice, takes you home, stays up past 2 am while you talk and finish all his Scotch, then drives you back to the airport in the morning and says ‘Great to see you’ – and means it!”

2dad_julesA father, to continue this example, is someone who celebrates a set of anniversaries and birthdays by taking the whole family to an amazing resort, coordinates specific activities for specific people, makes sure the logistics are so seamless as to be invisible, pays for it all, and then thanks US for coming – and means it.

He concluded that we have the best family in the world, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree.  We’re looking forward to the 100th anniversary!




Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Ten Years

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

If this blog had any formal education, it would be in 4th Grade and almost as smart as Donald Trump.

Ten years ago I opened the Big Ugly Man Doll for business.  I had no idea what I was doing, just that I was doing it.  For the record, SOBUMD dragged me into the digital age kicking and screaming all the way.  She did not simply encourage me to start blogging.   She set up the initial account, over at LiveJournal, sat me in front of the screen, and said, “Type.”

This is all her fault, and I’ve never truly thanked her for it.  Thank you, my love!

My First Post was as follows:

First Post!  w00t!  Somehow it’s less exciting when it’s my own journal. It’s like getting all worked up about being the first to write in the new diary, and then remembering that you live by yourself, in a tower, with only the howling wind to read your deathless prose. Not entirely unlike the sense of serenity and satisfaction you got from watching your digital wristwatch flip to the new year at midnight. (You knew that you could reset the time to watch it do that whenever you wanted, and that it was usually off by 2-3 minutes anyway, but it didn’t matter, did it? We were crazy then.)

So, welcome. You’re probably in the wrong place.  I am the Big Ugly Man Doll.  Stick around and I’ll tell you why.

We’ve come a long way in 10 years.  Road trips.  Pigs.  The ManFAQ, still one of my favorite bits, to be honest.  An entire year of weekly horoscopes – and wow, that was a beast!  Do you realize there are 12 of the damn things?  Every week?  And I have met people I would never otherwise have met – wonderful friends, fellow bloggers, some of whom I’ve met in person, some of whom I’m simply looking forward to meeting in person some day.  Amazing people and storytellers, sharing snippets of real life.   There have been a few passes at the end of the world (which, yes, predicted the rise of the Donald back in 2011), and countless musings.

It’s tapered off recently, not because I’m any less irritated at the state of the world – quite the opposite, in fact!  I simply find myself at the confluence of the rivers of Time, Inspiration, and Energy with decreasing frequency these days.  It will get better.  I’m sure I’ll grab the tail of that highly caffeinated tiger again, and you’ll all be forced once again to read my deathless prose over the roar of the howling wind in that tower.

I don’t think I ever mentioned this, but that bit in the last line, “You’re probably in the wrong place” – I stole that without shame or remorse from Steven Brust’s blog, the DreamCafe.  He’s changed the tagline now, but it’s still a great blog (and he is a great writer).

So thank you all, Dear Friends, Fond Relations, and Gentle Readers, for staying with me for the ride.  I shall remain BUMD, and I shall get back to writing more often.  Real Soon Now.  And for anyone who’s thinking, “oh no, thank you, BUMD” – trust me, thank SOBUMD.   I wouldn’t be here without her!






Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

They all start like simple, innocent days, uncomplicated, routine.   And then BAM – your 13-yr-old is discussing her sexuality in the kitchen while you’re cooking, and you have to use your brain.  Parenting:  The most interesting roller coaster you’ll never get off of.  It’s not just the unexpected plunges, drops, and loops that really get you, either – it’s the sarcasm.

As evidence of this point, I present a conversation that took place the other day among The Reigning Queen of Pink, Number One Son, and myself.  It should be noted that at 13 years old, the RQOP does not so much question her sexuality as interrogate it.  I wouldn’t put her past waterboarding.  (It should also be noted that the below is transcribed with her express permission.)

RQOP:  “In gym today I was talking to my friend E_, who really goes by L_ but I already know someone called L_ so I call her E_, and we were all talking about our sexuality and I mentioned that I was probably bisexual but hadn’t really decided yet and E_ is bisexual and she told me that she wished that someone had told her this when she was thinking about her own sexuality and so she would tell me that if I ever wanted someone to talk to about it, I could talk to her, and I thought that was very nice of her so I gave her a hug.”

(Note:  E_ is *also* 13 years old.)

BUMD:  “That’s very nice of her, and it’s great that you can talk about these things with your friends.  While I think you know that you can also always talk about anything like that to me and Mom….”

RQOP, interrupting:  “Oh yes of course, that’s the best thing about you guys is that you don’t care about anything!”

(Note:  It’s possible that this side effect of our admittedly liberal and somewhat laissez faire parenting style was not exactly the impression we were aiming for.)

BUMD:  “Well, it’s not so much that we don’t care, as that however you grow up won’t affect how we love you or treat you or anything like that.”

RQOP:  “Yes, I know that’s what I meant – you don’t care about THAT.”

BUMD:  “Right.  OK, but what I wanted to say is that it while you can always talk to me about that kind of thing, it’s possible that I might lack the some of the perspective your friend might have.  I know it’s hard to believe, but I actually haven’t ever been a Bisexual Teen-aged Woman.  So it’s nice that you might have someone like E_ with whom you can talk things out, or … ”

RQOP, to Number One Son who was standing near:  “HOLY SHIT!  Did you hear that?  Dad just admitted he’s not omniscient!”

NOS:  “Holy shit.  Need to write this down.”

Now as every parent knows, The Assumption of Parental Omniscience (TAPO)™  is as important to successfully parenting kids over the course of 20 or 30 or 80 years as The Assumption of Papal Infallibility is to successfully managing a church for 2000ish years.  I certainly wasn’t going to let go of my TAPO™ without a fight.  The church didn’t forgive Galileo Galilei for thinking outside the box for close to 400 years; I figured there was historical precedent.  Besides, it’s an election year.

BUMD, in my best Richard Nixon voice:  “I said no such thing, I made no such admission!  My omniscience is not to be questioned.  What I lack is a certain perspective.  Being omniscient, I know everything, but I may not always perceive every point of view.  I lack onmi-perspective-ed-ness-ish.  I lack omniperispactity.  I lack…  I lack a word for what I’m saying.  What the hell word means that?”

NOS:  “Omniperspectieieieie….   Yeah.”

RQOP:  “Omperspec…  Yeah.”

We eventually settled on Panopticonalism, which is certainly close enough even if it doesn’t have that omniwonderful prefix that 266 popes and I have found so useful.  Having distracted the children down my lexicographical rabbit hole, I was able to exit the conversation with my TAPO™ intact.  Dinner was served, and my roller coaster flattened back out onto one of the smoother sides of the track for a while.

Perspective, perschmective.  At least I still have my TAPO!™





Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

A Bavarian Weekend Story

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

“I’ve lost the bride.”

There may be no words in the English language more terrifying, more fraught with angst than those. (Well, possibly a sign stating “Sorry out of coffee” in a diner window, but that’s a story for another time, and besides, they’re closed.)

Let’s look at these four words.

I’ve – It’s personal, and it’s past tense. This is something I did, something I have done and cannot undo.
Lost – The absence of a thing, the lack, with the understanding that it’s something I had at one point, but have no longer.
The Bride – Sheer. Unadulterated. Terror.

These are the words SOBUMD and I heard a high-heeled, gown-wrapped woman utter as we walked past her into the Bavarian Inn last weekend for our Anniversary. I, luckily, have never lost the bride. It’s been 25 years since we held hands and jumped over my sword, and while I haven’t misplaced her yet, we decided to get lost for the weekend to celebrate.

The Bavarian Inn, should you find yourself in Shepherdstown, WVa, has all the amenities you could want from a getaway spot: rooms for sleeping, fireplaces, rooms for formal eating, rooms for less formal eating, swimming pools, and a view of the great Potomac River that could inspire poetry, or at least that kind of “huh, wouldja lookit that” sigh that passes for poetry among most folk these days. There was even a decent-sized hedge pig just outside our balcony, rooting among the flowers and the hedge, having a grand old time.

Bavarian View

Potomac River

Since we were only there for an overnight, we decided to maximize our time and headed straight for the pool – despite the 50-degree weather and the on-again off-again drizzling blatter of the rain. It couldn’t really even be called rain, truly – a heavy cool mist that couldn’t make up its mind to piss down or just piss off and let the sun through. It certainly wasn’t going to prevent us from getting into the mostly heated pool, the infinity edge of which appeared to drop off as a sheer cliff face to the curving bend of the Potomac River, 200 feet or more below us.

The view was wonderful, the water was warmer than the air around us – albeit not by a wide margin, but warm enough to get in and float around. After all, this was our own private pool! I realized that it wasn’t really our own private pool, but it seemed that way since we had it all to ourselves. We paddled and splashed our way to the edge, enjoying the vertiginous sight of the mighty river below, pondering the story arc of the past 25 years and contemplating the arc of the next 25, dreaming of the stories we will write together.

Paddling around the pool at the Bavarian Inn recalled for me a different story, one told by David Niven in his autobiography “The Moon’s a Balloon.” He recounts a chilling tale of Bavarian skiing one day, years ago before modern ski equipment, and mentions that he “suddenly felt coldest where he should have felt warmest,” if you get his drift. He got down the mountain as best as he could, and went straight to his friends and the doctor at the lodge, concerned about frostbite in a place most men should NEVER be concerned about frostbite. The consensus was that he should warm the afflicted appendage in an alcohol solution, and so a (presumably inexpensive) brandy was poured for him in a (presumably large) brandy snifter – which he then carried gingerly into the men’s room. He stood in front of a urinal, his chilly willy dunked in the drink, thinking about the horrors of amputation and reconsidering his recreational hobbies, when a casual acquaintance entered the room and took up arms at the urinal next to his. He glanced over.

“My God! David, what are you doing?”

Being David Niven had its advantages. His immediate reply was, “Why, I’m pissing in a brandy snifter. I always do.”

So there I was, hand in hand with SOBUMD, watching the river flow under the trees playing hide and seek with the mists and the rain, when David Niven’s story came rushing back to me as a kind of satori of embarrassment. One of the downsides of having a very new bathing suit is that one could forget that this new one might happen to have a zipper.

No brandy snifters were required, but I was quite glad to have realized my condition before our reverie was interrupted by six basic bros, all of whom had brought their beers with them, and most of whom might have been muttering things about lost brides. None of them looked particularly put out, and so I have to assume the erstwhile groom was not among them. (If he was with them, I will assume the wedding hadn’t been entirely his idea.)

SOBUMD and I headed back to our fireplace and changed for dinner, which was sumptuous, as was breakfast the following morning. The weekend was topped off with a stop at a small Shepherdstown Bookstore that was large enough to hold the secret of a long and happy marriage:  There, among all the stories on the shelves, you can get lost together or separately – but tucked in between the poetry, the biographies, the fiction, and the cookbooks, there’s always something for everyone, and your story never ends.

Just don’t lose the bride!

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Bathroom Break!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Dear Friend, Fond Relation, and Gentle Reader:  Welcome back!  I’ve been away a while. I’ve missed a few marks and notes; I missed commenting on my birthday.  Yes, I missed commenting on your birthday, also – sorry about that!

But I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the state of America’s underpants. We seem to have them twisted, bunched up, slightly damp, and certainly uncomfortable. We can’t stop talking about what’s in who’s pants and what we need to do about it – particularly in the bathroom.

So, in my capacity as the final arbiter of sanity, good taste, decency, and gender equality in this country, and speaking as a Real Man, I figured it was my civic duty to take a break from this semi-retirement and assist the country as it grapples with the deep, penetrating question of who should use which bathroom.  What could go wrong?

Without further ado, and in the interest of the complete objectivity for which I am known, I give you the answer to the Great American Bathroom Debate:

The men’s room is for Real Men.

It’s that simple. If you’re a Real Man, use the men’s room.  Now, I know that not everyone knows at a glance if someone is or isn’t a Real Man.  (Someone else, that is.  If you’re not a Real Man, you probably know that.  If you’re wondering whether or not you’re a Real Man, you’re not.  If you are a Real Man, the question just doesn’t occur to you.)

Just as a handy checklist, here are a few things that differentiate a Real Man:

  • A Real Man will ask what you need, not what he can do for you. There’s a difference.
  • A Real Man does not use the words “I promise” lightly.
  • A Real Man cries watching True Grit, but not at the part you’d expect.
  • A Real Man will have a 20-second imaginary conversation with his broker when a 3-yr-old child hands him a plastic phone and says, “It’s for you.” Even if he doesn’t have a broker.
    • This is a particularly American phenomenon:
    • An Real Italian Man will have an imaginary conversation with his mother.
    • A Real British Man will talk to an imaginary member of the aristocracy.
      • If he *is* a member of the aristocracy, he’ll talk to someone above him in station – a Baron will have received an imaginary call from an Earl, the Earl a call from a Duke, the Duke a call from the Queen.
        • It is unknown if the Queen has ever been handed a plastic phone by a 3-yr old, but I think it’s safe to assume she would answer it.  The Queen may or may not be a Real Man, but the Queen is a badass.  A very, very polite badass.
    • A Real Frenchman will have received an imaginary call from his cheese monger.
    • A Real Russian Man will pretend to listen to the phone in stony silence for 20 seconds, say “Nyet!” and hang up.
  • If he walks in and says, “I gotta take a piss,” he’s a Real Man.
  • If he walks in and says, “I gotta take a wicked piss,” he’s a Real Man from Boston.
  • If he walks in and says, “I gotta take a fuckin’ wicked piss,” he’s a Real Man from South Boston.
  • If he walks in and says, “I gotta take a fuckin’ wicked fuckin’ piss, get outta the way,” he’s a Southie and he’s drunk. You really don’t want to ask him about what’s in his pants, because he’s gonna fuckin’ show ya, ya chucklehead.
  • A Real Man is known for complete objectivity.
  • A Real Man walks in like he owns the place, regardless of where he is.
  • A Real Man is only interested in what’s in your pants if he’s hoping to get into them.

You can always tell a Real Man – he’s using the men’s room.  After all, it’s a guy thing.

You might notice that none of these things are affected by physiology, size or shape of genitalia, or sexual orientation. Those things don’t matter, any more than color or religious beliefs matter – not in the bathroom, and especially not to a Real Man.

So, if you’re in the men’s bathroom and you’re wondering if the person next to you is a Real Man, you’re the one in the wrong bathroom. Real Men don’t care.



Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

The Making of the True Reuben

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

It has been explained to me several times in recent days that I have neglected you, gentle reader, and that I should be ashamed – but more than ashamed, I should be writing.

In an effort to make amends AND stay current, I will tell you about the Reuben sandwich I had last night – a Reuben, I must add, of my own making.

You see, it starts with good corned beef, yes, but it cannot end there.  If you have it in you to corn your own beef, so much the better – and more power to ya, I don’t have that kind of time.  So, spend the extra 50 cents per pound and splurge on the meat.  You won’t regret it.

But the True Reuben is not just meat.  Oh no.  There is also sauerkraut.  and on your sauerkraut, you can aim as high or as low as you want – of course, you can make your own sauerkraut at home as well, and again, I envy you your obviously superlative time management skills.  The only thing in my house that I can find time to pickle is my liver, and that’s only because I can multitask while drinking.

Back to our sauerkraut.  It doesn’t matter what kind you buy.  You’re going to put it on the stove, in a pot or saucepan, with all its juices.  You will then add about a quarter of the caraway seeds you have left on the shelf, assuming you haven’t used any of them for anything else.  If you’re below half the jar, use them all.  Boil that.  Yes, you can add some beer, but it won’t help.  and besides, weren’t you going to drink that?  Doesn’t matter.

The important bit is that you have your pans set up, your rye bread – you got rye bread, right?  We’re not doing this without rye bread – buttered on both sides, and your Thousand Island (or Russian dressing, which is another name for “that oddly tasty orange oil slick some people put on salad’) close at hand, with a basting brush handy.  And the Swiss cheese, at least halfway decent, the kind you wouldn’t be ashamed to serve to your grandmother, assuming she was from the old country and would know better in the first place, but you don’t have to break the bank for it.  Get someone to slice it pretty thin but not really thin.  If you can read the paper through it, thank a teacher, but it’s too thin.

Ok.  You’ve got the best corned beef you can afford, some generic sauerkraut that isn’t going to know what hit it anyway, good rye bread – I like the pumpernickel swirl, but then I like Jackson Pollock paintings too, so who the hell am I, you know – and you’ve got at least two, maybe three pans on your stovetop, staying warm.

You buttered the bread, right?  Both sides?  Real butter?  Yes, real butter has salt.  No, margarine doesn’t count.  If you have any margarine in the house, throw it out.  That’s not food.  If you have a heart condition that dictates your butter consumption, you shouldn’t be eating Reuben sandwiches in the first place.

OK, take the first two slices of bread, put them on a pan, buttered-side down.  That’s a joke, they’re buttered on both sides.  Take a good whack of the sauerkraut, and how much is going to depend on the size of your bread, and put it on another pan – you’re going to cook off the juice, and it’s going to love you for it.  Now put the first sandwich-worth of corned beef on a pan – could be the same pan as the sauerkraut, doesn’t matter.  This pan will be a little hotter than the one with the bread.   Cook the individual strips of corned beef until they’re shriveled a bit, then flip them.  Now’s a good time to flip the bread, too.  Once flipped, pour a good dab of the Thousand Island on one of them, baste it all over, and spread the excess on the second one.  Just enough is enough.  Then, move the corned beef on top of the first slice of bread, then the sauerkraut on top of that.  Next, put your tools down and add two slices of the Swiss cheese.  Picking your tools back up, put the second slice of bread on top, orange-side down.  (That’s not a joke.)  Stare at it for a moment, thinking about the proper ratio of meat to kraut and wondering what’s become of the life you dreamed of when you were young, and then flip the sandwich onto the hotter pan.  When you see the cheese melting like Frosty in the summer sun, you’re ready.

Here are the tricks, the things you only find out later:

  • You have to have enough corned beef to tell the sauerkraut to fuck off. If you let the sauerkraut have its way, you don’t have a Reuben, you have a pickled cabbage sandwich with orange-flavored meat on it.
  • You have to have enough Thousand Island to tell the Swiss cheese to go to hell as well. You don’t want to overdo it, but the Swiss are bastards about their cheese, and it will shine through like a stripper at the office Christmas party.
  • You have to toast, technically fry but it’s more politically correct to call it toasting, the rye bread into submission – but without burning it. You need to make it understand that it’s no longer in charge, that it lost all control when you buttered it and that its sole purpose is to support the meat.  Not the sauerkraut, the meat.  If you let the rye bread get in too tight with the kraut, you’ve already lost control of this sandwich.
  • Your first sandwich will suck. Expect to toss it to the dog.  Not only will it fall apart, but the first one sets up the seasoning for all the rest.  With the second sandwich, your pans already smell of butter, of sauerkraut and corned beef, of love.  If you don’t have a dog and you’re making Reubens for several people, decide now which one you love least.  Being allowed to eat first is not a blessing in this case.

Remember:  the True Reuben is not just about the meat.  The True Reuben is a mastery of perspective, rye and Russian in harmony, corned and cabbage fried together and united by the bonds of Swiss cheese and love.

I hope my little recipe inspires you to aim for your own True Reuben experience.  A parting gift of advice – wear an apron.   The Naked Reuben is a great name for a band – and a bad idea.

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Well, the year got away from me.  I know, it’s been a while, and I’m hoping to be a little more present and active in 2016.  In the mean time, I know that you haven’t forgotten me, since many of you ping me about not posting, and rest assured that I never forget you, dear friend and gentle reader.

In the spirit of the holiday season, and in honor of the many friends who are sharing, with me, the 72-degree Christmas weather here on the East Coast, I give to you a NEW holiday song, a new Christmas Carol, with which to brighten your snowy Yuletide evenings.  (And yes, I’m shamelessly cross-posting from Free Range Poetry!)

It’s called, of course, Go Home, Winter, You’re Drunk!

The holidays are jolly, hanging wreathes and hoisting holly
with the reindeer and the snowmen standing guard
The Christmas season’s calling as the mercury is falling
From Baltimore to Boston’s Harvard Yard

T’is the season to be freezin’ while we shovel ’round our hovels
And we’ll celebrate the Winter, young and old
But the temperature’s not dropping, while we’re out here Christmas shopping
‘Cause this Winter doesn’t seem to like the cold!

Go Home, Winter, You’re Drunk! I’ll toss your coat back into the trunk.
Autumn’s riding shotgun, cause Springtime has the keys
Winter’s in the backseat with its head between its knees
Summer’s gonna hold your hair / while you toss snowballs everywhere
Go Home, Winter, You’re Drunk!

Frosty’s sipping boat drinks, singing songs about the ice rinks
and I guess the weather’s really lost its head
The elves are all in short sleeves and the snowman’s having dry heaves
Won’t someone put this Wintertime to bed?

This Christmas is so green it’s blue, cause Winter’s got the Irish flu
and the snowplows and the road crew’s out of work
The Solstice and it’s 82 / degrees, and I am telling you
Twelve beers has made this Wintertime a jerk!

Go Home, Winter, You’re Drunk! I’ll toss your coat back into the trunk.
Autumn’s riding shotgun, cause Springtime has the keys
Winter’s in the backseat with its head between its knees
Summer’s gonna hold your hair / while you toss snowballs everywhere
Go Home, Winter, You’re Drunk!

Winter’s just might sober up
the snowfall forecast’s climbing
and we might just get some inches after all
It looks like things will whiten up
Shame about the timing
‘Cause it ain’t gonna snow here till next fall!

Go Home, Winter, You’re Drunk! I’ll toss your coat back into the trunk.
Autumn’s riding shotgun, cause Springtime has the keys
Winter’s in the backseat with its head between its knees
Summer’s gonna hold your hair / while you toss snowballs everywhere
Go Home, Winter, You’re Drunk!
Go Home, Winter, You’re Drunk!


So, that’s the good news.  The bad news is that I’m writing a dozen more and I’ll have a Big Ugly Christmas Album out for next year!  Happy Holidays to you all, and to all, a Good Night!


Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

She Knows Where Her Towel Is!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Today, I couldn’t be more proud.  Mind you, I couldn’t be more late in updating this blog, but that’s a different issue.  Right now, I couldn’t be more proud of the Reigning Queen of Pink, Grand Duchess of Fluff, Lord High Protector of Barbies, and Baroness of the Hummingbirds.

RQOP:  “Can we watch Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy now?”
BUMD:  “Yes!”
RQOP:  “OK, I’ll be right back!”  (runs off)
BUMD:  “OK……..”
RQOP:  (having returned with two dish towels.)  “Here you go!”
BUMD:  (blinks)
RQOP:  “We can’t watch without our towels!”

Too bloody Belgiuming right we can’t!  What a cool frood she’s growing into – as a Douglas myself, I am very proud!



Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

So there we were, once again on the road home, when it all went to hell – that’s right, somebody had to pee.

It all started, like most weekends do, on the previous Wednesday, when SOBUMD took the Reigning Queen of Pink to Baltimore to see Wicked on the Baltimore version of Broadway. I stayed home and hung out with Number One Son and the Human Tape Recorder, and by hung out I mean mostly they ignored me, which is about par for the course at 14 and 16 years old, I suppose. As the RQoP and SOBUMD returned from their sojourn, we started packing in earnest for the trip to New Jersey for Easter. We hadn’t been up to see family in far too long, and it was time to cross state lines, nail some beers, and resurrect relationships – all the trappings of Easter, without the suffering. Some say you can’t really have Easter without suffering, but we were willing to forego full verisimilitude for the sake of skipping the whole agony bit.

The universe, of course, had different plans, but we didn’t know that as we packed.

Saturday morning saw us with wheels up at Oh-Dark Thirty, which was in reality about “Oh it’s getting pretty light out at Six AM.”

The gods of the highways were with us that morning, and we were well under way before the sun was up in earnest. (People in Ernest, PA, are probably pretty tired of hearing about things happening in their town from the rest of us.) We made NJ by 1030, stopping once in PA for the chance to pay FAR TOO MUCH for gasoline, or, as SOBUMD put it, “support the local economy.” Once there, hugs and hellos unfolded into lunches and dinners, which were interspersed with opportunities to acquire beer. Beer was acquired along with marshmallows, and the evening devolved wonderfully with a fire, conveniently contained in a fire pit, and the roasting of marshmallows, buns, bunions, and booties. I left the firepit once I realized that not only was I the only Big Ugly Man Doll there, but I was in fact the only man there at all – I ran like the coward I am, and left the fire to its feminine fate. Therefore I only heard about the sautéed bunions after the fact, but I’m reliably told that booties were shaken and bunions were toasted. Only the fire pit knows for sure, and it’s not talking.

Easter Sunday dawned with promises of miracles, and we were not disappointed. There is a Muslim guy in New Jersey making bagels, and he’s open Easter Sunday with nice, fresh, hot, Jersey bagels – the kind you can get in New York, but not here where I live here in Va. We’re too far south of the Mason Dixon to get a decent bagel, and too far north to get decent BBQ. It’s a culinary purgatory – I have to assume I was a bad chef in a past life. Anyway, we jump at the chance to get *real* bagels when we travel north. These were wonderful!

Driving home from NJ, we stopped at the Clara Barton Memorial Rest Stop, which is clearly owned and operated by Cinnibon, to pee, and the fans blowing the scent of cinnamon were at full blast. (Note: I’m sure if Clara Barton were to come back to life and tour the NJ Turnpike, she’d be horrified to find out someone named some nasty turnpike piss pass and drop stop after her. “What the heck is this? This place is filthy! Get a mop, and take my damn name off that sign! Why did you name this crap after me? Susan B. Anthony got a damn dollar and all you could manage for me was filthy gas station restroom on the Turnpike?”) Anyway, we got back in the car, SOBUMD started driving down the road, and in about 10 minutes she was coughing. And coughing. And more coughing. Eventually I looked at her and asked if she wanted me to drive. Nods head. “Can you talk?” Shakes head. We switched drivers on the left shoulder of I-95, always fun, and I pulled us over at the next exit. She sat there sucking for air with an anaphylactic asthma attack until she could breathe enough to swallow a bit of water and get 3 Benadryl down. 2-3 more minutes and I’d’ve stuck her with the epi-pen. Got the rest of the way home by midnight; took her to the urgent care folks the next day, since she still couldn’t take a full breath, where they said “You don’t have an inhaler? Now you do; tape it to the epi-pen and carry both at all times.” So she’s back to breathing again.

All three kids were pretty much silent the rest of the way home – they were pretty freaked out at the thought that she might die there. I didn’t think she’d die, but I was unsure enough that I pulled us in front of a place called the “Country Pride Restaurant” instead of the Subway, which was next door. I figured if she *did* die, I wouldn’t want them reminded of it every time they passed a Subway. Too many of them. I told SOBUMD my thinking on this later; she laughed. She also gave me the finger, but at least she laughed.

As my aunt used to say, another Easter shot to hell.

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Happy Birthday to Me!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

And Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you.  I know, I’ve been away a while, by which I mean the whole of 2015 to date, but I’m on my way back, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to thank everyone for all the many green St. Patrick’s Day Birthday wishes, and to explain that I have had a decent day all around, and I think this foretells a pretty decent year upcoming.  I certainly hope so.

Some readers, who may perhaps have known me for far too many of my increasing years, may recall that often my sending a short update concluding with “long letter follows” tends to mean that yes, a longer letter might follow, but generally my correspondent was left to write it themselves and then send it to me.  In this case I will not profess that a longer post shall follow, but at least MORE posts shall follow, in the fullness of time, and without too much further ado.  You have missed me – and I have missed you all.  Thanks for hanging in there!


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Say not Goodbye, but Hello!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Historically, I review the past 364 days at the end of the year. I’ve decided not to do that this year, for a variety of reasons, starting with being high as a kite on cold medicine right now. I probably couldn’t name all the weeks days months whatever of the year right now anyway, much less get them in the right order. 2014 wasn’t a bad year, as they go, but it wasn’t all it could have been, and so I think it’s time better spent to look forward to how awesome 2015 can be.

As Banksy reminds us, as of tomorrow, we will be as close to the year 2030 as we are to the year 2000. Since I have vivid memories of a great little show called “Space: 1999″ this strikes close to home for me. By 2030, we should be permanently on the Moon, with at least a research station on the way to Mars. We were promised flying cars by this point – I think there is a company working on this, perhaps more than one. By 2030, we should have them. By we, of course, I mean the affluent 5% of the more than 8.3 billion people who will be clawing for their share of the Earth’s increasingly finite resources by then, unless the next wave of Ebola takes care of us first. I myself will be more than 60 years old, and no closer to retirement than I am now, but that’s OK.

On the plus side, in the next 15 years, we have real opportunities to accomplish and achieve things that were just as “Sci-Fi” as flying cars were when I was young. We may let the blind see, the deaf hear. We have not “put a stopper in death,” nor can we ever – nor should we – but we may slow it to a trickle, putting the stopper in senescence until we’re ready to pull the plug ourselves. When you combine the magic of stem cells with the magic of 3D printers, there is probably a limit to what we can do, but it’s not a limit I can imagine right now. Mind you, that may be the cold medicine talking.

Speaking of cold medicines, my good friend Dr. Hartley at Musings on Infection has postulated an International Geophysical Year for medicine; an International Biomedical Year. I told suggested that we target the year 2020 for the IBY – these things take time to set up. With that in mind, let’s make 2015 “The Year We Got Ready.”

And so, without further ado, I will thank you all for sticking with me this year, and I wish you all, dear friends, fond relations, and Gentle Readers, a happy, safe, prosperous, invigorating, enlightening, and educational new year. Come on, 2015. Show us what you’ve got!

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Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

The Reigning Queen of Pink, Grand Duchess of Fluff, Lord High Protector of Barbies, and Baroness of the Hummingbirds just walked up to me this evening and announced that, quote, “Daddy, it wouldn’t surprise me if you were Bi.”

BUMD:  “Um, what?”
RQOP:  “You’re Bisexual.  Or at least you’re probably Bisexual.”
BUMD:  “Okaaaaaaaaaaaay…  May I ask how you came to this conclusion?”
RQOP:  “Oh, nothing.  I just have a feeling.”
BUMD:  “So, I’m setting off your Gaydar.”
RQOP:  “Well, Bi-dar, but yes.”

So, I guess I’m bi.  Who knew?  Mind you, this ties in with my theory that pretty much everyone is about 3 drinks from bi, but I really didn’t expect to be outed, while sober, by a 12-year-old whose total sexual experience is limited to The American Girl Body Book and a handful of tampons. I guess I’d better pick up some flowers for my boyfriend tomorrow.

Bi-dar?  I’ve known this little pink thing for 12 years and she can still make me say “huh?”


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Thankful on Thanksgiving

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Thanksgiving is a time for making lists of those things for which we are thankful, and this year is no exception. Without further ado, a short list of things for which I am thankful:

  • I am thankful for my health, without which I would need to actually pay attention to all this Obamacare stuff.
  • I am thankful for my wide and extended family and friends, some of whom still read this once in a while despite the lack of updates.
  • I am thankful for my kids, who still find ways to make me say “Huh?”
  • I am thankful beyond measure for SOBUMD, without whom I would still be pumping gas in Hope, Arkansas.
  • I am thankful for my job, without which I wouldn’t have any reasons to get good and angry about things, which considering my low blood pressure is one of the few things keeping me alive on a week to week basis.
  • I am thankful for Thomas the Tank Engine, who was finally fished out of the subwoofer the other day, after about 8 years. We’d wondered where the hell that thing had gone.
  • I am thankful for beer, more than I can ever say.
  • I am thankful for being a middle-aged, middle-class white guy in America right now. Guilty, and sometimes nauseous, but thankful. My life is not easy, but it is not hard.
  • I am thankful for ridiculous password requirements, which provide me an excuse to type really vile swearwords in the office every morning.
  • I am thankful for coffee, for many of the same reasons as beer, but in the morning.
  • I am thankful for all the assholes in the world, who make the few really nice people stand out in sharp relief. If you’re not casting a shadow, think about which group you’re in.

And finally, I am thankful for ducks, without which I would have to cook and eat another damn turkey today.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and all of yours!

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Halloween & Happy Birthday

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Sixteen years ago, on this day, our lives were changed forever on the occurrence of the birth of the Human Tape Recorder.  Her life was changed just as much, in that she was born, which is, when you think about it, probably just as bizarre as having a baby.  We went from DINK yuppie scum to frightened parents in the blink of an eye, and she went from floating in a safe warm dimly-lit room to a weird, brightly-lit cavern with wind and air and stuff, and people poking at her and talking to her.  Her first reaction was to poop, and I was so nervous I nearly did the same.  We’ve come a long way since then!

So without further ado, Happy Halloween and Happy Birthday to the Human Tape Recorder!  Sixteen years old and she’s still my walking memory bank.

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Happy National Pink Day

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Since the Reigning Queen of Pink, Grand Duchess of Fluff, Lord High Protector of Barbies, and Baroness of the Hummingbirds is the only one in the house who wasn’t born on or around a holiday, we are hereby, by the authority vested in me, declaring that August 21st, Her Royal birthday, shall henceforth be known across the land as National Pink Day. 

My understanding is that, not having received her Hogwarts letter on time last year, she is this year expecting her letter from Pigfarts Intergalactic School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which as I’m sure you’re aware is on Mars.  I sincerely hope that the intragalactic mail system is on time this year, and that she has a super-mega-foxy-awesome birthday.

And so, happy birthday to the RQOP!

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Fly, Be Free!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Robin Williams has said “Fuck it” for the last time. 

I was all of 9 years old when Mork and Mindy hit the television.  Along with much of the rest of America, I practiced sitting on my head, drinking through my thumb, and answering questions with a cheery “Nanoo Nanoo!”  He was the funniest person I’d ever seen, and I wanted to be like him.

By the time I got to college, I’d been introduced to George Carlin, Billy Crystal, and a dozen more – and Robin Williams was still the funniest person I’d ever seen.  His stand up routines and shows were so far out there, and yet still so close to the heart.  He made us laugh until we cried, and then made us laugh until we thought. 

Last night, we watched Good Morning Vietnam, as a memorial.  The kids lacked the context of the Vietnam War era, but it otherwise stood up well.  (“Da-Nang me, Da-Nang me, why don’t you get a rope and hang me?”) 

There are so many:  The Fisher King.  Patch Adams.  Good Will Hunting – which we would have watched, but no one was streaming it and I don’t – yet – have a copy.  Aladdin – and it became real for the Reigning Queen of Pink when I explained that Adrian Cronauer was also the Genie from Aladdin, and he was dead. 

One of my many, many favorite scenes was actually from Mork and Mindy.  He’s just made Mindy a sandwich, trying to cheer her up and make her feel better, and he turns to offer her the plate.  “Sandwich?” he asks.  She shakes her head, not feeling up to it, and he holds it out again, saying, “It’s very clean – untouched by human hands?”  That bit, it turns out, wasn’t in the script, and Pam Dawber visibly lost it, trying desperately to stay with the role while she cracked up laughing.  Between that and the whole bit with throwing the eggs into the air (“Fly! Be free!”) – only to watch in horrified confusion as they crashed back to the ground and shattered – he didn’t have to say anything.  The look on his face captured his inhuman confusion so well that we all laughed. 

Fly, Robin.  Be free.  Nanoo Nanoo.

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Everybody’s a critic

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

So there we were, at dinner, and to the surprise of no one at all, Number One Son says something that was, by any definition, highly inappropriate.  What it was, precisely, is not relevant to our story.

NOS:  [Highly inappropriate and disturbing remark]
BUMD:  ”Son, that’s not appropriate.  You need to learn ….”  And here, I paused, trying to think of how to phrase this message.  After a pause of perhaps 20 seconds, I gave up.  It’s been a long week.
BUMD:  ”Do you know what?  Never mind.”
Reigning Queen of Pink:  “Dad!!!  What the hell kind of pep talk was THAT?  You really suck at this!” 

Thanks, kid.

SOBUMD was howling with laughter.

I can’t WAIT to be a grandfather.  My kids are going to be SO frightened to bring their kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s house….

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Everybody’s a critic

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

So there we were, at dinner, and to the surprise of no one at all, Number One Son says something that is, by any definition, highly inappropriate.  What it was, precisely, is not relevant to our story.

NOS:  [Highly inappropriate and disturbing remark]
BUMD:  ”Son, that’s not appropriate.  You need to learn ….”  And here, I paused, trying to think of how to phrase this message.  After a pause of perhaps 20 seconds, I gave up.  It’s been a long week.
BUMD:  ”Do you know what?  Never mind.”
Reigning Queen of Pink:  “Dad!!!  What the hell kind of pep talk was THAT?  You really suck at this!” 

Thanks, kid.

SOBUMD was howling with laughter.

I can’t WAIT to be a grandfather.  My kids are going to be SO frightened to bring their kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s house….

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A Definition of Friendship

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

It took 14 years.  We really didn’t think it would happen.

Number One Son is downstairs, playing video games with his friend, who slept over last night.

When was the first time you had a friend come over and play?  Just swing by, hang out for a few hours?  You were, what?  Five years old?  Maybe you were all of 8 or 9.  I think I was 8, honestly, but I could be off by a bit – I don’t remember the 70′s well, for obvious reasons.  But Number One Son has never had a friend come over to play with him – ever.  Not one.  This past Wednesday, he mentioned to SOBUMD that he was going to step outside for a few minutes.  “OK,” said she, “just come in before it rains.”

This was unusual in and of itself – he doesn’t going outside much, willingly at least.  “Dad, I went outside *last* week – sure, the graphics are amazing, but the gameplay sucks.”  So SOBUMD wasn’t surprised when he came back in 3 minutes later.  She *was* surprised, though, when she heard more voices.  She went to check.

“Hi, I’m Owen,” said the boy we’ll call Owen.  “Number One Son has stayed in touch with me over the summer.”

“Nice to meet you!”  We’d heard about Owen from school; they were friends.  This is the first time Number One Son has ever stayed in touch with anyone.  We just didn’t know he lived in our neighborhood.  “Do your parents know you’re here, or are they out frantically looking for you?”

“Oh, no, they know exactly where I am – after all, Dad dropped me off.”

Whoa.  It turns out, Number One Son had organized this whole thing – he just left out the bit where he told us about it.  The boys communicate for hours, it turns out, over their headsets on the servers that they’re logging into for gaming.  So, fast forward 2 days, and suddenly we’re hosting a sleepover.

Number One Son and I just drove Owen home, pizza, Coke, and a good time having been had by all.  On the way home, I got this question:  “So Dad, is this what friendship is like?  A loss of interest and enjoyment in the things that you used to enjoy, unless your friend is with you?”

I said yes.  The more I thought about it, I told him that that might be one of the best definitions of friendship I’d ever heard.  It took him 14 years, but I’m very glad he’s finally found friends who really get him.  There’s hope for us all!

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Take Me Where?

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Hey, yes, I know, it’s been forever.  Or at least, far too long.  As always, time gets away from me, and things get complicated.  In any event, this was worth sharing.

You might not be surprised to hear this, but I’m the kind of guy who walks around singing a lot.  This is somewhat unfortunate, considering my singing voice, but still.  Considering my advanced age, it probably won’t surprise you that many of the songs that I walk around singing are, shall we say, less than current.   Yesterday, while getting out the door to go shopping for cat food, Coke, and a 16-foot long 2×12 (you should see our dinners), I found myself singing Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight,” which I must have heard on the radio recently, since I seem to remember some of the words.

“I can feel your heart beat faster / Take me home tonight / I don’t want to let you go ’til we see the light / Take me home tonight…”

Whereupon Number One Son, in all his 14-yr-old glory, looks at me and interjects, “Well, OK, but you could at least buy me dinner first.”

 Fourteen years old and he’s still making me say, “Huh?”

I leave you with Eddie, Ronnie, and the ’80s. But please, buy her dinner first.




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I’m not out of touch…

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

I’m just 30 years out of sync.

Number One Son has been asking me to walk to the local park with him for a few days, and this morning seemed like a good time.  I brought my coffee, he brought an apple, and we got there in record time.  This works well for a morning activity, since he gets to swing as long and as high as he likes, and I get to sit quietly and watch him and the birds while I have my coffee – it’s almost like having a deck, except 3 blocks away.

Anyway, after building up a good head of steam swinging, he decided he was done with that, and came over to my bench with his phone.  “Here, you have to listen to this.  Do you know Radioactive?”

“Yes,” said I, “I know the song Radioactive.”

“Cool.”  And he played a parody of the song, set in the Portal videogame world, something about being a non-defective turret.  Or being a defective turret.  Or something.  He kept watching my face for a reaction.

“Sound familiar?”


“Getting anything?”

“Really, no.  I’m not familiar with this.”

Big sigh.  “Daaaaad, that’s why I *asked* you if you knew the song Radioactive!”

“Son, I do know the song Radioactive.  It’s just a different song.”  Since we’re both walking around with phones, I whipped out mine to play it for him – and realized as soon as I searched for it that he’s thinking about a band called Imagine Dragons, while Dinosaur Dad is stuck in 1985 looking for The Firm.  If you’re a little more recently plugged in than I am, you probably already know it’s not a remake.

I played him mine:  “Got to concentrate / Don’t be distractive / Turn me loose tonight / ‘Cause I’m radioactive.”

He played me his:  “I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones / Enough to make my systems blow / Welcome to the new age, to the new age / Welcome to the new age, to the new age / Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive.”

Welcome to the new age, indeed.  Not my thing, maybe, but not bad.  Number One Son conceded that 1985 might have rocked as well.  We leave the final analysis to you!

The Old…


And the New!

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Painful Flashbacks

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

My friend the wonderful and funny Diane Henders recently posted a few notes about times she’s managed to hurt herself in somewhat embarrassing fashions, and called for comments.  As I commented, it occurred to me that many of you might appreciate some of my pain as well.

Despite having inadvertently proven that I cannot support my body weight with my left arm at full extension, by dint of dislocating said left arm at the shoulder  … twice  ….  my best, if that’s the right word for it, was actually an incident involving the lawn.  I was outside, mowing the grass.  (I suppose this would have been a much more interesting story had I been inside mowing the grass.)    I decided that the grass needed to be shorter than I was making it, so I stopped the mower – of course I stopped the mower!  I’m not stupid, after all.  I stopped the mower, then adjusted the wheels next to me.  Being always economical of motion, which is not the same as lazy, thank you very much, I leaned over the mower to adjust the wheels on the other side.  I realized I didn’t have the leverage to quite reach, so I leaned on the top of the mower with my right hand.

Do you know what’s on the top of the mower?  The exhaust manifold, it turns out.  Can you describe the exhaust manifold of a gas mower that’s been running for 10 minutes or so?  If you said, HOT, you’re right.

There were two parts of this that were embarrassing.  The first was that my wife insisted on driving me to the local ER/Clinic.  This is not a full fledged ER or hospital, this is just a “patch them up, put it in a cast and send them on their way” type station.  We walked in and the people behind the desk started panicking, telling us, “No, no!  We’re not equipped, we can’t do this here!”

That’s when I realized that they were looking at a man walking in under his own power next to his 8-and-a-half-months pregnant wife.  SOBUMD waved them off, pointed at me, and said, “Don’t worry, I’m with Stupid.”

The worst part of the ER trip was that this time, SOBUMD was with me when the nurse asked me when my last tetanus shot had been.  “Oh, I don’t remember, but certainly in the last 3 or 4 years,” said the guy who hates needles and really didn’t want a tetanus shot.  “You liar,” piped up my lovely bride, “we’ve been married more than 11 years and you haven’t had a tetanus shot since I’ve known you!”  WHAM, right in the shoulder, like my body didn’t hurt enough already.

But that wasn’t the MOST embarrassing part of burning myself on the lawn mower.  That was reserved for the scar, which was, essentially, a brand.  You see, the exhaust manifold of the mower assumes that you might not read English, so the warnings are in symbols.  Specifically, there’s a picture of a hand – a right hand, even – inside a circle, with a big line through it:  a universal Do Not Touch.  This symbol, along with several of the holes from the exhaust manifold, was now neatly branded onto my palm.

There are few things that have ever managed to highlight my own idiocy as effectively.  I couldn’t use my mouse hand for week.  This was also about the time that my neighbors stopped letting me use power tools….

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Time for My Mid-Life Crisis!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

First, as I hit the mid-stride of the afternoon of my 45th birthday, I have to note that I cannot remember spending any previous birthday shoveling snow.  I’ve done a lot of different things on past St. Patrick’s Days.  Some of them involved drinking, some involved being born, and some involved drinking to sufficient excess that I wished I hadn’t been (I’m looking at you, dear Ma’am), but none have involved shoveling.  So, that’s a new thing.

New is not the same as good.  Get this winter over with.

However, I think 45 should be more than just looking back, however fondly or blearily, at the years gone past.  I’ve decided that I will not worry about all the things I have thus far failed to accomplish, all the almosts, all the maybes.  I will not consider for one minute the fact that when John Keats was my age, he’d been dead 20 years.  No.  I shall keep my eyes due north, face forward into the wind, and imagine what comes next.

Based on statistics and actuarial tables, I can reasonably assume that I might live to 90, assuming a smooth downhill road and a good tailwind.  That means that today marks my halfway point, my middle life.

So, Dear Friend, Fond Relation, and Gentle Reader, I ask you for input:  What’s a good crisis to have?  I’m ready for my mid-life crisis, and I’m entertaining ideas!  Bungee jumping?  Skydiving?  Fast cars?  Loose women?  Pot is now available legally in 2 states, and I’ve never had any – is that a decent option for a mid-life crisis?  Recreational alcoholism is old hat; nothing new there to try.  My understanding of how this works is that I realize my own mortality and then try to distract myself from same by spending inordinate amounts of time and/or money on something I don’t usually do.  Since there are thousands of things that I don’t usually do, the field is pretty open here.  I want to keep the financial aspects of this crisis to a minimum, so please don’t suggest I start a Ferrari collection – unless you’re willing to donate the first one as a starter, in which case I’m all in.

So, what should I do for my mid-life crisis?  All comments welcome!

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On Being the Best Person

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

The Happy Couple, on the Books!

The Happy Couple, on the Books!

I was in a wedding this morning!  I was all atwitter, aflutter, and excited – and honored beyond words that I’d been asked to stand up for my friend’s wedding, as her best person.  My friend Brenda and her fiancé Darla finally tied the knot.  I met them at the courthouse with the rest of the wedding party, handed the right ring to the right bride, and watched as two people in love became one couple in the eyes of the law.

As Brenda and Dar get married, as Brenda’s best person and having been married for half my life, I thought I’d say a few things about marriage.   Mind you, I also met Brenda more than half my life ago, when we worked together at the US Postal Service, and so I will tell you that marriage is like mailing a first class letter.

On the inside is a secret message, just for the two of you.  Everyone knows that!  But on the outside, there is still some very important information.  It tells you about where you’re from, and about where you’re going.  There’s no superfluous data on an envelope.  Just as in marriage, everything – even the small things – are important.

Plus, there’s trust involved in mailing a letter, just like there is in a marriage.  When you put your stamp on the envelope, you’re trusting the post office to deliver your message – and as Brenda can tell you, they will.  That stamp is a 49-cent contract that they will deliver:  through rain and through snow, in  sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.  That stamp is the government seal of approval for your letter.

So congratulations to Brenda and Dar today, not just on getting married, but for persevering long enough for our government to realize that everyone deserves a stamp!  I am glad and grateful to have been a part of their day.

To the happy couple!




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A Quick Valentine’s Day Book Review

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d re-read and review one of the best love stories ever written.  It’s particularly appropriate, since the book turns 100 years old this year, and I thought I’d see how it’s held up over the century.  Don’t worry, you know the story.  It’s Tarzan of the Apes.

So, yeah, I know, it’s not the first thing that jumps out at you as a love story.  Oh, sure, it’s got beatings, killings, maulings, beheadings, and all sorts of good jungle violence.  Some characters die for vengeance, some die because someone else was angry – or just hungry.  At least 16 men or apes are killed before chapter 10 – and I mean right in front of you, with guns, knives, or teeth.  All told, there are probably around 80 deaths in the book.  There’s a lot of blood.

Warning:  Hereafter lie spoilers.  I know, you think you know the story.  Disney didn’t cover the books very well, and many people really don’t know the original story.  If you’re interested in reading the original, I’m going to give away the ending here – be warned.  (Also, for those who know me well and are curious, no, I don’t have a first edition.  I’m reading a later reprint, from around 1916.  If anyone wants to get me a first printing/first edition, they’re most welcome!)

But still, it’s a love story.  The first time Tarzan lays eyes on Jane Porter, his world changes – as does hers.  He goes from wondering about his purpose in life as a man among apes, to a man with a mission – Jane.  She left the jungle without him, against her will while fearing him dead or worse, but left him a love note.  For Jane, he leaves the jungle, learns the ways of civilization, and crosses continents.  He went to Paris, then to Baltimore, only to find she had moved to Wisconsin.

He makes his way to Wisconsin, just in time to save her from a raging forest fire, and then moments later from a loveless marriage to a miser.  He gives her father enough money to cover his debts, restoring the family’s honor.

And then, at the end, Jane has a crisis of faith, and agrees to marry William Cecil Clayton, Lord Greystoke, who inherited his title, wealth, and lands when his uncle was declared dead – his uncle, who was Tarzan’s father.  Tarzan, for his part, receives a telegram from Paris just moments later, from his friend who had been investigating the matter, stating:  “Finger prints prove you Greystoke.  Congratulations.” 

He realizes that at a word, he can have Clayton stripped of his title, lands, and money – and in doing so would strip them from Jane, too.  Clayton chooses that exact moment to walk up to him, thank him for all the help he’s been, and ask how he had wound up in the jungle anyway.

“I was born there,” said Tarzan, quietly.  “My mother was an Ape, and of course couldn’t tell me much about it.  I never knew who my father was.”

Yes, Burroughs was a privileged white man born in Illinois in 1875, and wrote what he saw.  The impression he had of Africans as savages, the idea that women were little better than chattel, the concept and conceit that British nobility would of course shine through despite a life lived as a brute among brutes, all of those products of Burroughs’ time that we now look back on and cringe – these are all here in this book.  The anachronisms, the patois of racism and privilege, grow worse with each passing year.  As a book, it doesn’t hold up well to modern morality.

But – that’s a love story.  He swept her off her feet, she fell in love with his savage nobility, and at the end he renounces his true identity and birthright, giving her up, to secure her happiness and well being – without telling anyone.

I hope everyone had as Happy a Valentine’s Day as that kind of love can bring!


Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Not Bad – For a Monday

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

OK, this came to me driving in to work this morning, and as usual I felt the need to inflict this on share this with you all!  I’m blatently cross-posting from Free Range Poetry, where it can be found at http://www.freerangepoetry.com/?p=149.  Also, you need to remember - Jimmy Buffet is singing this to you.  Not me.  As you read it, imagine Jimmy Buffet singing it.  In fact, if any of you know Jimmy Buffet, please point this out to him and let him know it’s for sale! 

Without further ado…

“How ya doin’?”

“Oh, I’m not bad…  For a Monday.”

Well I’m not bad for a Monday
I could use another Sunday
I need a weekend with One More Day
But even if I had it I know I’d say
That I’m not bad … for a Monday.


I got into the office and it’s too damn loud
My feet are on the floor but my head’s in a cloud
And the prospect of the work-week has my spirit cowed
But I’m not bad – for a Monday

And my wallet’s empty but my head is full
Of angry squirrels, with maracas, and no sense of timing
But I’m OK.  Not bad, really. 
For a Monday.

Well I’m not bad for a Monday
I can’t remember much of Sunday
I need a weekend with One More Day
But even if I had it I know I’d say
That I’m not bad … for a Monday.


Well the weekend was a blur, it went by so fast
My arm’s in a sling and my leg’s in a cast
And I don’t really know what was in that pipe they passed
But I’m not bad for a Monday

My ex won an Oscar for playing herself
In a movie she wrote about what a jerk I am
But that’s all right.  Not bad, really. 
For a Monday.

Well I’m not bad for a Monday
I can’t remember much of Sunday
I need a weekend with One More Day
But even if I had it I know I’d say
That I’m not bad … for a Monday.


Friday it all started out so well
Half a case of beer for our thirsts to quell
Who could guess how fast it would all go to hell
But I’m not bad for a Monday.

I don’t think that beer was half the problem since we were OK until
My half-brother’s sister’s cousin showed up with that Tequila,
But we forgive him.  It’s OK.  Not bad, really. 
For a Monday.

Well I’m not bad for a Monday
I could’ve lived without Sunday
I need a weekend with One More Day
But even if I had it I know I’d say
That I’m not bad … for a Monday.

I don’t remember much of Sunday
I need a weekend with One More Day
But even if I had it I know I’d say
That I’m not bad … for a Monday.
Yeah, I’m not bad … for a Monday.



Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Goodbye 2013

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

So here we are, at the end of 2013. Back in January, I declared 2013 an unruly teenager, and decided to review and assign each month a grade. As I recall, January got a C. Needless to say, my resolve to grade each month lasted about as long as teenaged boy’s resolve to remain master of his domain, to wit, less than 3 hours. But in the spirit, I think it’s only fair that I review and grade the year as a whole. Since I’d dropped it for so long, I’m going to cut the year a break and let it go Pass/Fail. Let’s see how 2013 did, shall we?

We started well, with a Starbucks opening in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It took a long time, but we’ve won, and Jane Fonda owes us all Venti Caramel HoChiFrappaMihnos. Shortly after that, the Almighty tried to pick up a spare when the most powerful meteor to strike Earth’s atmosphere in over a century exploded over Russia, injuring 1,491 people. International reaction was swift, calling for studies regarding the vulnerability of all humanity (with the obvious exception of Keith Richards) to meteor strikes. The Russian reaction boiled down to, “Was that a nuke? Eh, it must be Friday.”

In science news, 3D printers came into their own when scientists were able to print a human ear, and some yahoo shared his plans for to print a handgun. The idea is that someone could someday have an organ printed to order, and then get shot for having funny-looking ears. Also in February, Benedict XVI resigned, and about damn time, and King Richard III was exhumed in Leicester. On feeling the first sunlight on his old bones since his internment in 1485, he was heard to mutter something about the winter of his discontent being made glorious summer by this sun of York; the University of Leicester chaps buried him right back up again.

March came in like a lamb with the first Jesuit pope, and it’s a good thing the weather was nice that day because March also saw Canada become the first country to withdraw from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Because, you know, Canada’s really just inches away from being the next freaking Kalahari. Whatever. March went out like a lamb, too, with the death of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, and not a moment too soon.

On tax day, two loons bombed the Boston Marathon. I have to wonder, who thinks it’s a good idea to piss off Bostonians? These two failed their history exams, is my guess. April sucked, really – we saw the demise of Roger Ebert, Margaret Thatcher, Jonathan Winters, Richie Havens, George Jones, and Deanna Durbin. On the plus side, in May, researchers from Oregon Health & Science University created human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Can you imagine a clone made from Margaret Thatcher and Jonathan Winters? My head hurts just thinking about it.

In June, Edward Snowden decided that he was smarter than the NSA, and promptly moved to Russia. (The Russian reaction was, “Are you crazy? Eh, it must be Friday.”) Later in June, flash floods in India kill more than 5,700 people. For further proof that nature is better at killing people that people are, Richard Ramirez, who killed around 2 dozen people, died in prison before California could get around to killing him. Just pull the trigger already, you know?

In July, Croatia joined the European Union, which made Greece jealous, and Prince George of Cambridge, future King of England, graced the world with his royal presence, which made Prince Harry jealous. On the downside, Helen Thomas is now attending press conferences in the hereafter. Also in the hereafter are Elmore Leonard, Seamus Heaney, and Frederik Pohl, three great writers who now have being dead in common.

In another example of science advancing the sum total of human knowledge, September saw the publication of a world-rocking study showing that guys with smaller nuts are better dads. The Internet couldn’t leave those headlines alone for a week. October, of course, treated us to a government shutdown, with Republicans blaming Democrats, Democrats blaming Republicans, and everyone blaming the media. They only go through all this because they know we’re watching. If they thought no one was looking, they’d work together and just get things done. Mind you, they’d screw us all, but they’d get things done. October also saw the signing of a UN treaty to protect human health and the environment from emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The 140+ signatories of the treaty were promptly sued when Mercury Records stock nosedived the next day.

October was a busy month: Saudi Arabia became the nation to reject a seat on the United Nations Security Council. (The Russian reaction was, “Are you crazy? Eh, it must be Friday.”) Plus, October 22nd was the 16,000th day of Unix time. No one will ever know if Tom Clancy knew that, except for him and the CIA spooks who killed him for his latest plotlines. (You can imagine the Russian reaction.)

In November, Typhoon Haiyan “Yolanda”, proved once again that nature an kill more people faster than we can, with a death toll higher than 6,100. On the plus side, Iran agreed to limit the number of nukes it will try to build if only we start letting them buy food and cigarettes again.

As we round out the year in December, we have to note three deaths: Nelson Mandela, whose name became synonymous with peaceful resistance; Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, whose name became synonymous with armed resistance; and Peter O’Toole, whose name was double-phallic. Finally in December, we saw the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 3, carrying its Yutu rover, become the first spacecraft to soft-land on the Moon since 1976. There were questions about why China wanted to land a rover on the moon; the Yutu is widely seen as “Me Too.”

And so, despite disasters both natural and otherwise, despite twerking and Justin Bieber, despite deaths both small and large, I think I have to give 2013 a Passing grade – but only just barely. 2014 starts on academic probation, and if it starts skipping classes, I’m going to know about it. I’m happy to see 2013 in my rear-view mirror.

In the meantime, I wish you, Gentle Reader, a fantastic New Year.



Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Long story short, I got a new job.  Actually, I got the old job, but with a new company.  Anyway, long story, but I have a new crew that I’m working with, and on my first day back, three out of four of us decided to go out for lunch – the fourth guy was already eating his sammich by the time we got decided, so he stayed.  After all, we were just going to lunch – no big deal.

I drove up to the 8th St restaurant row, planning to hit Ted’s Bulletin, which is a decent place for lunch, if a little loud.  By the time I found us parking, it was later than I’d planned, and also freezing.  One of my co-workers offered to pay for parking with his parking app, which he did, before remembering that he needed to tie the app to my car, which he then tried to do, eventually succeeding, but not until we were even colder than we’d been when we got out of the car. 

Having based my parking decision on expedience rather than proximity, we found ourselves walking briskly toward the restaurant when the other of my coworkers made a sharp left into an Irish place called Molly Malone’s.  He told us he’d based this less on any particular reviews of the place and more on “getting out of the cold.”  We agreed that made sense, and followed him in.  He had a steak sandwich, my other co-worker had a soup and salad, and I enjoyed a shepherd’s pie, which was delightful.

As we were eating, a small group came in behind us and went upstairs for lunch; as they were going upstairs, one of them waved to all of us and said, “How’s everybody doing today?” 

It was the President of the United States. 
And the Vice President of the United States. 

By the time we had finished our lunches, the Secret Service had set up a rope line blocking the door.  Since we couldn’t leave even if we’d wanted to, we stood by the rope line for a bit.  Then we met and shook hands with Barack Obama and Joe Biden.  For the record, the President has enormous hands – I can palm a basketball, but I need to make an effort.  For him, it must feel like a softball would for me.  Joe Biden, on the other hand, has a more firm grip.  Make of that what you will.  They were both funny and gracious, and looked just like their pictures. 

We still can’t quite believe it.  So, how was YOUR first day at work?

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!


Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

This does not usually happen to me.  I do not, as a rule, become conflicted about things – do something, don’t do something, make up my mind and get on with my life.  I try, most of the time, to be a person of action – I don’t tend to over analyze or overthink things.

But, Ender’s Game has come out on the big screen.  I’m going to go see it, on the big screen.  There’s no conflict there – I’ve been waiting for this flick since I heard it was in the works.  It has Indiana Jones, for Pete’s sake.  And, oh yeah, it’s based on one of the greatest works in sci-fi history.  Ender’s Game is so good, it’s the only sci-fi book that my mother has read, to my knowledge.   I read it in college, more than 24 years ago, and as I was nearing the end of the book, a really gorgeous redheaded girl that I’d been hoping to go out with some day called me and asked if I wanted to go out right then.

I told her I couldn’t. 

I had 75 pages left, and I couldn’t put it down.  Probably for the best, since I found SOBUMD, but still – the book was that good.  Since then, I’ve stood in line for signings, met Orson Scott Card, and bought all of the books in the Ender series, and many others as well.  Back in the day, before the Internet made everyone as connected as they are now, no one really knew that he held views that were incompatible with those expressed in his books.  It is still amazing to me to find that he espouses such hate-filled homophobic views and yet has written such lovely, loving, and open-minded characters.   I write, or at least I try to pretend that I do, and I’m not sure how I could do that; nor even the other way around and have one of my characters spout nonsensical vitriol and hate without having some other character standing there to point out what an asshat the first one was. 

So, I’m going to see his movie.  I’ve heard a lot of talk about “separating art from politics” and the quote from Oscar Wilde about “The fact of a man being a poisoner is nothing against his prose.”   Mind you, even Wilde, no paragon of virtue there, went on in the same article to say, “Of course, he is far too close to our own time for us to be able to form any purely artistic judgment about him. It is impossible not to feel a strong prejudice against a man who might have poisoned Lord Tennyson, or Mr. Gladstone, or the Master of Balliol.”  In our case, Card is far to much a part of our time to be able to easily wholly divorce his odious and onerous views from his towering literary achievements. 

And so, I find myself conflicted.  I’m going. I’m probably going to like the movie.  I still recommend the book, and its sequel, and the rest of the series.  They’re that good.  But, I feel the need to caveat them to people with, by the way, the author’s a right-wing homophobic nutjob, but if you’re into good sci-fi, you need to read this anyway.  (At least the first two.)

I’ll post a few thoughts, if not an actual review, about the movie once I see it.  Anyone else going?  Not going?  Conflicted?




Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Happy Birthday to the Human Tape Recorder!  She is 15 today, and sometime in the next 12 months will start, god help me, a car.  And, like, drive it.  I don’t know how we got here, but here we are!

Here’s hoping the next 15 years will be filled with even more wonder and adventure than the first 15!  Happy Halloween, and many happy returns of the day!

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

I know, I was doing the whole Shutdown Countdown thing, but I got furloughed.  Luckily, I’ve declared myself essential personnel, and I’ve brought you, yes, no, that’s right – another song.  You know the tune.  And now look – I sang the last one.  You know you don’t want me to do that again, so I’m asking you to sing this one for us.  Post it to YouTube and let me know, and I’ll update this with a link to your version!  You know you want to!  Come now, sing, and fiddle with me while the Titantic goes down, and Rome burns, and we can mix drinks and metaphors until the sun comes up on the smoking remains of our economy!  After all, there’s just a few more hours….
There’s just a few more hours.
That’s all the time we’ve got. A few more hours
Before we go ker-splot.

There are budget deals all over Washington,
and Congress has to track ‘em down in just a few more hours!

We’re gonna default in the morning! Crash bang!
The banks are gonna fail. Pull out the stopper!
Let’s have a whopper!  ‘Cause they’ve left us in the lurch this time!

I don’t wanna wake up in the mornin’
I sure don’t wanna watch the news prime time.
Europe, come and kiss us;
Show how you’ll miss us.
‘Cause they’ve left us in the lurch this time!

They’ll take a vote, Roll Call the Floor.
And it will fail, and roll right out the door!

For We’re gonna default in the mornin’
Crash bang! the banks are gonna fail.
Kick out this Congress, Show them the egress;
they’ve left us in the lurch, left us in the lurch,
‘Cause they’ve left us in the lurch this time!

We’re gonna default in the morning
Crash bang! the banks are gonna fail.

Jail ‘em or stone ‘em – vote out and disown them!
They’ve left us in the lurch this time!
I’m gonna sleep in, in the morning!
What’s the point of lookin’ at the time.

The Senate ain’t able, to pass a pay bill,
And they’ve left us in the lurch this time!

Because we’re debtors, they’ll grade us down.
And if we default, 
China takes the crown!

For We’re gonna default in the morning!
Crash bang! the banks are gonna fail.

Feather and tar ‘em;
Brand and disbar ‘em! They’ve left us in the lurch,
Left us in the lurch…
‘Cause they’ve left us in the lurch this time!

Starlight is reelin – time to vote now.
Midnight is ticking like a bomb.
The markets are waking…
DC is shaking…  Good luck, you fools,
Perhaps you can pass it with aplomb.

No – we’re gonna default in the mornin’
Crash bang! the banks are gonna fail…
One-finger salute ‘em – Then haul off and boot ‘em…
they’ve left us in the lurch, left us in the lurch,
‘Cause they’ve left us in the lurch this time!

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

“Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo. I do believe it, I do believe it’s true.” – Simon and Garfunkel, 1967

04 October 2013, Washington D.C.: As the US Federal Government continues to bicker about whether John Boehner and Barack Obama are both actually the biological sons of Frank Sinatra, the National Zoo finds itself struggling to maintain its mission, feed the animals, and avoid PETA protests.

Unlike the chaos around the big cats and the zebra enclosure, Adélie Humboldt, who works with the penguin exhibit, says she’s had no problem with her charges. “It’s like they’re self-sufficient,” she said. “I don’t know how they got the National Aquarium to donate all those fish, but we’ve got plenty of food for the penguins. They’re a resourceful bunch.” A brief check around the small, flightless avian enclosure revealed a patchwork of tunnels, several caches of weapons, six badly forged Canadian passports, and three sets of webbed tracks leading to and from the nearest payphone. Graffiti near the phone said “Cute and cuddly my imperial flightless ass,” which Humboldt said hadn’t been there a few days ago. A call to the National Aquarium confirmed that they’d received an anonymous call requesting the Piscean package. “Honestly,” said Aquarium spokesperson Terry Nazon, “it was a relief for us. We didn’t know how we were going to feed all the damn things, and the sharks can’t eat all the time. They were going to clog up the filters.”

Walking back up the trail from the penguins, I spoke to Ranger Castor Canadensis, who works with the zoo’s beavers. “I just love beavers,” he said. “I know some of the other factions here at the zoo would really like to eat them, but I don’t want anyone else eating my beavers.” Not seeing any beavers in evidence, I asked him about their absence. “Oh, they’re kind of shy. You really have to wait for them to get to know you, bring them dinner a few times. Some of the bolder ones will let me pet them.” Asked how many beavers the zoo has, Canadensis remarked, “Oh, we think there are six or seven, but I’ve only ever seen one at a time. Seeing two beavers at once is really a dream of mine – it’s why I took this job, and why I’m here today even though I’m not getting paid for it.” I heard the sharp smack of a tail as I turned up the embankment toward the gate, and saw the Ranger blush as he smiled.

Back in the Monkey House, Zoo Ranger Mike Papionini explained the current commotion emanating from the new chamber of what he called the Primate Parliament. “Most of the great apes are in favor of holding a vote to decide if they should start foraging for food or just follow the penguin’s lead and order take out,” he said, “but they can’t bring it to the floor because everyone’s talking about that Macaque there in the middle of the room.” There was a large Macaque standing on its hind legs in the center of the chamber with several other primates walking around it and looking at it. “It has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen,” said Papionini. “There are rumors that its mother’s brother may have been Frank Sinatra.”

Clearly, even the primate world, scandal and politics go arm in hairy arm.

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

“If ‘pro’ is the opposite of ‘con,’ what is the opposite of progress?” – Paul Harvey

03 October 2013, Washington D.C.: As the US Federal Government continues to bicker about how many toppings they want on their healthcare reform, the National Zoo finds itself in the cross-hairs, forced to feed the animals in their care – whatever the cost.

Zoo Ranger and spokesperson Griffin Waccatee, who wishes I’d stop citing her in public, mentioned today that the situation will get even more dire if the government does not re-open before Saturday. “We’re going to need to feed the reptiles eventually,” she said, “and right now, that looks a lot like the lemurs. In the meantime, the regular locksmith is out, and so the Orangutans have popped their locks again and let out all the rest of the primates.”

A brief check of the Monkey House confirmed that all the major primates – High- and Lowland gorillas, Orangutans, and the chimpanzees – had all gathered in the main hall and were working out a set of parliamentary procedures in order to establish a National Zoo Government for themselves. A small faction of the chimps had been holding up the debate, but politely bowed to the majority opinion for the good of the greater nation without conceding their position. They agreed to disagree for the sake of progress.

Over by the zebras was another story of cooperation for a common cause, albeit a less heartwarming one – unless your heart is warmed by watching a pack of hungry alpine dingos bring down one stripy-assed hoofed ungulate after another, pausing only to share the meal with the raptors – which the chimps had let loose in the spirit of bi-partisanship. “God I love nature,” said Elle Fantus, taking a break from monitoring the elephants to catch a quick smoke and watch the terrified zebras run screaming through their small enclosures as the dingos circled around. “Right now, this is the best damn zoo in the world. It doesn’t get closer to nature than this shit, man. I hope they never solve the budget.”

The last stop of the afternoon was at the Zoo’s public relations office, where Mr. Bob Dobbs was busily preparing a flyer. “We’re asking for the public’s help during this time of crisis at the Zoo,” he said. “It’s the chance of a lifetime! Come feed the lions! When do most people get to do that, outside of the Serengeti?” His smile was rather unfortunately feral, even for a PR guy.

When asked if they had reached out to any other zoos, he smiled again. “Oh no,” said Dobbs, “We’re fighting fire with fire. If Congress doesn’t pass that budget in the next few days, the baby panda meets Mr. Lion. Shutting down the government is one thing, but I’m sure no one who votes to kill the little panda will ever hold office again.”

He’s probably right. As I left, I saw four Orangutans circling a payphone and holding their oversized hands in front of their eyes. I’m sure they were trying to call their congressperson, but of course she doesn’t really have a vote anyway.

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. – Mark Twain

02 October 2013, Washington D.C.: As the US Federal Government continues to bicker about the budget, twerking, Obamacare, and whether Miley Cyrus would make a better ambassador to North Korea than Dennis Rodman, the National Zoo finds itself in the cross-hairs of history, caught in a landslide of media attention and budgetary brouhaha.

“The biggest issue with giving 800,000 Federal workers a few days out of the office is that they’ve suddenly got ALL DAMN DAY to watch the Panda Cam, instead of the usual 3-4 hours they waste on it,” said Zoo Ranger and spokesperson Griffin Waccatee, speaking on condition of anonymity since she was furloughed as well. “We had to turn it off before it melted – it wasn’t built for that kind of load.”

Another issue Waccatee noted was the crushing fiscal burden of continuing to feed the animals through the shutdown, despite having no budget. “We’re really doing triage here,” she said, “just trying to figure out how to feed more than two thousand critters, large and small.” The small ones, of course, are less of a problem – Waccatee said that the slender-tailed meerkats, for example, will eat pretty much anything. “We’ve just been bringing in our compost from home. Those bastards don’t care.”

The elephants, of course, are another story. “We’ve started giving them massive doses of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), which is cheaper than all those vegetables anyway,” said Elle Fantus, who works with the over-sized proboscideans when their non-essential handlers aren’t available. “They’re basically a bunch of walking piano keys that eat,” she said, “and I don’t play piano.” Fantus reports that the ivory-tusked mastodon-wannabes have lost a few pounds, but seem a little more irritable than usual. “It certainly keeps the costs of their food down, and I wasn’t enjoying that diet anyhow.”

When asked about the big cats, Zoo Ranger Waccatee sported a small, sly smile. “Like I said earlier, triage. Ninety-eight percent of Americans don’t know what the fuck a Tapir is, anyway – and the lions needed some exercise. Problem solved.”

If the shutdown continues more than a few days, Waccatee said that they would expect to just open a few more doors and let the various species forage the grounds for themselves. “Hey, there are clearly a bunch of dumb animals grubbing around Congress,” she said. “Why shouldn’t we let our animals have some fun? It’s not like they’re paying us over here.”

The Panda Cam is expected to remain off for the duration, despite the howling protests of the entire Internet.

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Wake Me Up When the Shutdown Ends

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

OK, with all due respect, rights, and mad props to Green Day, I present for your reading and humming along pleasure my cheerful filk on one of their best songs. You can just please read, hum, and pretend you’re hearing Billie Jo Armstrong bitch at Congress.  (And not, you know, me.)


The fiscal year has come and passed
 And so it goes, just like years passed
 Wake me up when The Shutdown ends

ObamaCare is all they say
 but Congress gets paid anyway
 Wake me up when The Shutdown ends

Here comes the vote again
 The Budget’s on the Floor
 Now send it back again
 Amending it some more…

As my savings start to drain
 I’ll never forget to VOTE again
 Wake me up when The Shutdown ends

You’ve passed a budget once before
 Do you need there to be a war?
 Wake me up when The Shutdown ends

Shut down the Feds again
 Like we did in Clinton’s Day
 Wake me up when The Shutdown ends

Here comes the vote again
 The Budget’s on the Floor
 Now send it back again
 Amending it some more…

As my savings start to drain
 I’ll never forget to VOTE again
 Wake me up when The Shutdown ends

This Congress is just a big disgrace
 Your sorry asses can be replaced
 Wake me up when The Shutdown ends

ObamaCare is all they say
 but Congress gets paid anyway
 Wake me up when The Shutdown ends

Wake me up when The Shutdown ends
Wake me up when The Shutdown ends


Really, you don’t want me to sing that.  Billie Jo has it.  I don’t have it, and I can’t carry it in a bucket, either.  YouTube channel notwithstanding. 


Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

This Friday is once again answer time at the ManFAQ, and so I don my manly mantle as Sage of the Sexes, helping demystify the more malodorous gender for those of the gentler, as we add to the list of questions women have asked about men over the years.  Actual questions, posed by real women, and answered by a REAL man.  Like the man said, ”What could go wrong?”

Question:  There’s a study out that says men with smaller testicles make better fathers.  Is this true?

Answer:   No.  Assuming I remember my math and the commutative nature of addition, which also applies to spurious studies, if A equals B, then B also equals A, and therefore your question is actually better phrased as, do great dads have small balls?

No, no we don’t.

The study making headlines these days postulates the notion that human men with comparatively smaller testes might turn out to be, as a group, comparatively better fathers than those men with larger testes.  And when I say “making headlines,” I mean there were more than 20 at my last glance, all debating the relative merits of the study with various levels of aplomb, decor, and punch lines.  Most of them stick pretty closely to the standard “Testicle size linked to father role,” or “Men with smaller testicles may be more nurturing dads.”  They move quickly into “Do better dads have smaller gonads?”, “Small testicles equal big parenting skills?”, and “Men with smaller testicles predisposed to hands-on parenting.”  Once we’re done thinking about how anyone managed to run a headline with the words “testicles” and “hands-on” in the same line, we get to these gems:  “Size Matters: Testicle Size Linked To Nurturing Skills,” “Study: Choose Dads With Smaller ‘Nads,” “Aw, nuts! Nurturing dads have smaller testicles,” and “Dudes With Smaller Balls Are Better Parents, Says Science,” as well as some that have leads of “This is nuts!”

We’re left with the perpetually feminine-leaning Huffington Post, who turns it around: “Men With Big Testicles Less Likely To Be Caring Fathers.”  That’s right – it’s not that John Smallberies is a great dad, it’s that John Bigbooty is a bastard.  (Like that was news, right?)  The Week Magazine is the only one in their camp: “Do big testicles really make for bad fathers?” They’re at least asking it as a question; HuffPost just goes straight to “they’re all bastards.”

Now, this here study was based in Atlanta, GA, and included no more than 70 men, almost all of whom were Caucasian.  What can we infer from these facts?  First, what is it with those southern boys feeling up each other’s junk?  Second, dudes, why so few black guys?  Were they afraid to skew the results?  Third, Emory University clearly has too much time on their hands.   Also note this quote from the study:  “We’re assuming that testes size drives how involved the fathers are … but it could also be that when men become more involved as caregivers, their testes shrink.”

This sounds a lot like a couple of academics looking to get an endowment to explain their under-endowment, as it were.  They want a plus side – “But hey, at least I’m a good dad!”  They want an explanation – “What?  No no, they were bigger, um, just this morning, I looked, I swear – they must have shrunk as I was changing the baby!”  I’d also love to hear how they recruited volunteers for this study.  “Well, first they bought me dinner…”

And so I here cheerfully refute this premise, coming to my conclusion by generalizing from one example (which everyone does – or at least, I do) – to wit, the hunk with the junk can be an awesome dad as well.   I leave you with some final thoughts from those paragons of brilliant parenting, AC/DC.




Now you know.  Please, feel free to comment!  Also, forward any questions you’d like answered to BUMD – at – biguglymandoll.com!  As always, your anonymity is guaranteed!



Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!


Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

It was raining 4381 days ago today, pouring, a terrific lightning storm in the early evening outside the window to my home office.  I was watching the rain and lightning as I typed something (now long forgotten) under the window.  As I glanced up again at the pounding rain, I noticed the wireless router with its two antennas, silhouetted in the flashing lightning.  As I watched, the hairs on the back of my neck started to stand up and a green glow started to form between the two antennas. 

Two things went through my mind very quickly.  The first thing was that having a set of wifi antennas on a wifi device in a windowsill during a lightning storm might been a bad idea. 

The second thing was:  duck.

I dived off my chair, getting my head down and flying for the floor as fast as I could.  The net effect of this was that my left hand went up while my right hand and head went down, as the boom shook the house and my eyes were nearly blinded despite being tightly shut.  I felt the shock in my left hand, down through my elbow, and into my shoulder, where it stopped.  I picked myself up off the floor a moment later (this was all in the sub-second response time we expect from lightning) to find surprisingly little damage – the window wasn’t broken and my hand wasn’t burned.  My left arm and shoulder hurt, but that was it – aside from the wireless router, which showed no external damage but never worked again; no surprise there.  My arm was fine by the next morning.

It is not surprising that I remember the incident so well – literally burned into my memory, as it were – but I would not ordinarily be able to recall the exact year, much less the month and date.

But the next day was September 11.

SOBUMD and I met working at a newspaper and have always been “print media” people, no matter how techie we get.  Of the thousands of questions we all had in the aftermath, one of the less important ones going through my mind after 9/11 was, “What will the New Yorker magazine do for the cover?”

I can no more forget it than I can the events of the day itself:  Art Spiegelman’s cover was black, completely.  I remember being a little surprised that they thought that was enough – and then I turned the magazine, just a little, and you can see the faintest outline of the towers, in darkest gray.

It was a powerful reminder that no matter how dark it gets, while we remember, they will never be all the way gone.

Wishing peace for us all on this day.

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

So there I was, driving in to the office again, and still listening to the CD I’d started nearly two weeks ago. I should mention it’s a new car, which I bought completely by accident a month or two ago (long story), and one of the perks (which I found only after the car followed me home) is that the CD player also plays MP3s.  Since SOBUMD used to have a car that could do that (we replaced her old van as well, but at least we did that on purpose), we had a few CDs with MP3s laying around collecting dust.  One of them was marked “BUMD Mix,” so I popped it in the new car and decided to see what was on it. 

That was nearly two weeks ago.  Since the CD was probably made before Obama took office, I had no earthly idea what was on it.  Those of you old enough to remember “mix tapes” from the ’80s will know what this is like – a walk down memory lane with a few songs you know you’ll like, since you put it together yourself, even if you don’t remember doing so because you were totally baked at the time.  The difference with a mix of MP3s on a CD is that there are more than a hundred songs. 

As I played the CD, I noticed two things – first, I liked all of the songs, which makes sense, and second, they were completely random, which was surprising.  Not sure how they got copied onto the CD, but it’s a pretty trippy bunch of segues.  Not bad, just surprising – like listening to a radio station tuned specifically to you, but you’re just along for the ride.  And it made it even more fun to guess when the ride was going to end, because I had no idea how many songs the thing held. 

So I’ve been shaking my head at these totally random segues of good song into good song, until this morning’s drive.  I’d gotten nearly to the end of the CD, more than a hundred songs, and I’d gotten used to the randomness – until I realized that I’d followed David Bowie with the Cranberries, followed by Tom Petty, followed by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. 

Do you see it?  Yep.  Ziggy Stardust, Zombie, Zombie Zoo, and Zoot Suit Riot.  Real random.  My life would be so much easier if I could spell.  I leave you with Ziggy, because every day should start with some God-given ass.



Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

But today is one of those days!   Break out the party hats, the Reigning Queen of Pink has turned eleven!  She was actually brevetted to 13 the other day, to get her an account she probably shouldn’t have on FanFiction.net – she’s found the wonder that is FanFic, and hasn’t looked back.  I didn’t realize the effect all this had had on her until a few days ago, when she mentioned that she wanted the account – not to read, which is reasonably open, but to post her own FanFic short stories, set in the Harry Potter world, with some Dr. Who thrown in once in a while.  I decided it was worth the jump in grade to encourage that sort of thing – and she’s pretty good.

So happy birthday to the RQoP – keep writing, and I’m sure your letter from Hogwarts is on its way by owl even as we speak!

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Come Fly With Me!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

I know, it’s been too long, and I’ve missed you too – but you can’t have a triumphant return if you don’t take some time to gather your mojo now and then.

Besides, today is an auspicious day.  21 years ago today, SOBUMD and I stood up in a church in front of family and friends and made promises until death did us part, and to our surprise no one said anything when the priest asked the crowd, “If anyone feels that this marriage is not in the best interests of baseball, speak now or forever hold your piece.”  At 21 years, our marriage can now go pick up beer at 7-11, but it looks so young that it would still get carded.

But rather than reminisce on the last 21 years, I’m going to focus on the last 4 days.  To commemorate those blessed nuptial celebrations, we woke up before the crack of dawn this past Sunday and drove to North Carolina’s Outer Banks – wheels up at 0430, and as Adrian Cronauer said, the “0″ stands for “Oh my God, it’s early.”  We were packed and loaded for bear, by which I mean I managed to bring 4 different pairs of shoes, because I’m a girl.

Driving pell-mell down the coast in the gathering sunrise, stopping only to fill the car’s tank and empty our own, we made Stack ‘Em High pancake house by 0900 – good time by any measure.   It turns out I can’t stack ‘em as high as I used to, but I still put a respectable dent in my hotcakes.  Pancakes were followed by finding the hotel, and since we couldn’t check into our rooms until four, we used their access to the beach and headed for the open water – stopping first to apply sunscreen in greater or lessor amounts.   Everyone enjoyed the beach, including myself and Number One Son, who is starting to be old enough to notice that some of the bodies on the beach make grown men think of wardrobe malfunctions, and prison terms.  We enjoyed the beach for several hours, by which I mean the Human Tape Recorder and I went out and got lunch and brought it back to the beach, and we hung out until we could check in.  Lunch, for those scoring at home, was from a place called Ten 0 Six, which was great – nice people, good food, neat local art for sale on the walls.

But I’ll skip to the lesson here – the kids burned. Well, that’s not wholly true. Number One Son burned. The Reigning Queen of Pink didn’t burn so much as boil.  (Note to self: do not let small pale pink things apply their own sunscreen.)  Of course, once applied and everyone was frolicking happily in the surf, no one gave it another thought – we HAD applied sunscreen, pretty liberally, all over, after all.   The Human Tape Recorder is in pretty good shape; she got a little pink but not too burned.  Number One Son’s nose is a study in epidermal conflagration, and the RQoP has blisters on her cheeks and chin.   The only positive here is that neither of them will ever again question anyone telling them to put on more sunscreen.  To say that we feel terrible would be gross understatement.

Dinner was a quick jaunt to Armstrong’s Seafood, which boasts a few tables, a big local fish selection, and a waiter who could get a smile out of a burnt prune.  The food was good, plus they had Black Radish beer, from my beloved Weeping Radish brewery – a taste I’d been missing for the past 14 years or so, that being how long it had been since we’d gotten to the Banks.  We hit a Brew Thru on the way back to the hotel, mostly because the kids didn’t believe us that there were places like that, and got to watch a particularly amazing lightning show from a large storm just north of us.  The storm had no chance of keeping us awake, however.

A little after 3 am, though, I woke up enough to step out onto the balcony of the hotel, facing the Atlantic, and looked out at the waves.  That being the prime night for the Perseids meteor shower, I was graced with the spectacle of distant lightning from the receding storm, the pounding surf, and a couple of shooting stars, all displayed for my viewing pleasure.  It was amazing, and I was asleep again inside 5 minutes.

Breakfast found us at Bob’s Grill (motto: Eat and Get the Hell Out!), and should you find yourself in Nags Head, you should find Bob’s as well.  Great food fast and a very friendly staff, motto notwithstanding.  Since the order of the day was to try to stay out of the sun, we found things to do that were not the beach – to wit, the Wright Brother’s Memorial.

The Doors of the Wright Brothers Memorial

The Doors of the Wright Brothers Memorial

There is a bowl on the top of the memorial that at times holds a marine beacon like those used in lighthouses.  The beacon wasn’t there when we saw it, making it look like there was a large salad bowl on top of 1200 tons of granite. There is also a set of doors, wonderfully wrought with stylized images of the conquest of the air.   There is no information anywhere to suggest what might be inside this vault, leading one to all sorts of dreadful speculation about what horrors it could hold, and wondering if the bowl on top were to be filled with the blood of human sacrifices, would some creeping eldritch terror from the dawn of flight come flapping out of the vault below to consume all the Piper Cubs in the world?

On December 17, 1903, Wilbur flew for 59 seconds.  His girlfriend back in Dayton, on hearing the news, was heard to remark: “59 seconds? Sounds about right.”  But the memorial does make you think about a world where flight was impossible in one decade and routine the next.  In 1903, the trip from Kitty Hawk to Dayton took 7 days.  This can now be made in less than 11 hours by car, and flown in several hours less than that.  There was a small piece of the Kitty Hawk plane that went up to the moon and back with Neil Armstrong.  As a nation – heck, as a species - we went from the standing on the ground wondering how the hell birds did that, to the surface of the Moon, in just 66 years. That is more technological advancement in the space of a human life than there was in any other two thirds of any century, ever.

SOBUMD at the top of Hatteras

SOBUMD at the top of Hatteras

I’ve decided the Outer Banks is a magnet for engineers.  Proving this, our next stop was the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  I took a quick picture of SOBUMD at the top of it, and she remarked that it had been 17 years since I’d taken her picture there.  I told her that I’d never taken her picture there.  It took her a minute to remember that the lighthouse had been picked up and moved 2900 feet west in 1999.   I mean, sure, it was going to be eaten by the ocean, but that’s a fate that pretty much all of us are going to share eventually.  Who the hell just picks up and moves one and a quarter million bricks, stacked 187 feet high?  We do.  We’re crazy like that.   Since it’s mostly decorative in today’s age of GPS and lighthouse apps on the iPhone, you would think as long as they were moving it they could have made the damn thing a little shorter, or put in a lift while they were at it.  All this engineering magic and I still have to haul my ass up 257 stairs?  Sheesh.

We got back down again and headed for the hotel, and some rest.  By rest, I mean that 257 stairs notwithstanding, the HTR and I still took our pet kite (Joe) for a walk on the beach – if you can’t fly a kite at Kitty Hawk, you can’t fly a kite at all.  Joe the kite went up easy, and I tied him to my belt.  If you think having a kite 200 feet in the air tied to your belt would look odd, you’re pretty much right – it looks just as odd as you think it does.   We returned in time for – you guessed it – more walking, this time to the Red Drum Taphouse for dinner.

Here’s a neat thing about walking to a restaurant for dinner – if you get there and the wait is 40 minutes, you’re still going to stay and wait, because you’re not walking back.  With the magic of the hat, and a few well placed “wow, these kids are troopers to have walked here” comments, a 40 minute wait suddenly became 10 minutes, for which I am eternally grateful.  In addition to good food, the waitress at the Red Drum also had a sense of humor about the name of the place – you can’t tell me people don’t pronounce it “Redrum!” all the time.  I understand the head chef is a guy named Dick Hallorann. Walking back to the hotel proved worth the effort, as the last of the Perseids fired a few shooting stars overhead, and we made one last stop on the beach to watch them before bed.

Obligatory Sunrise Picture

Obligatory Sunrise Picture

The following morning rose with the dawn, and the HTR and I took Joe the Kite’s sister Betty the Kite to the beach, early.  If you can’t fly a kite on the Kitty Hawk beach, it could be the lack of wind, but we decided that Betty the kite is afraid of heights.  After a few dips and dives, first by the kite and then by us, we headed back to check out and find some Duck Donuts, which are every bit as good as you think they are.  The lemon icing is particularly amazing, and the coffee’s worth the wait by itself.

A Very Pink Horse

A Very Pink Horse

We made a few stops along the way out, first to pose the RQoP next to a horse even more pink than she is, with wings, of course, because what’s the point of a horse that can’t fly on Kitty Hawk, and then on to Kitty Hawk Kites, to find a new kite who might serve as a therapist for the clearly neurotic Betty.

It began to rain as we left, proving that even the weather was sad to see us leaving.  SOBUMD got her final island wish granted as we headed west over the Wright Memorial Bridge to the mainland, as a large pod of dolphins broke the water to frolic and wave farewell to us, with a flashes of fins and something that sounded suspiciously like, “So long, and thanks…”

If the island was weeping for our leaving, it could only have been weeping like the Radish weeps for my tasty beer at the Weeping Radish.  I’m not much for lagers, but the Black Radish is one of the best.   The best part of that stop was that I was the only one to eat the sauerkraut, unlike the last time we were there, 14 years ago, when we fed it to the baby, who loved it.  Driving home 2 hours later, we had the windows down and tears in our eyes, and we didn’t love it quite so much.

But all good things come to an end, and thus our trip started as it began, later in the day but with the mighty tires still turning the earth beneath us, bending the planet around to where we wanted it to be.  It is interesting to me that two of the best known tire brands are called Bridgestone and Firestone.  What’s with that whole “stone” thing?  We haven’t made tires out of stone in thousands of years, or at least since the invention of the bumper sticker.   Despite bumper stickers being the main source of idea sharing in America these days, there were only two notable bumper stickers from the road trip home:  One that said “If you’re going to ride my ass, at least pull my hair,” and another that boasted “This car is running on clean, renewable bacon.”  Now THAT’s engineering!

And so today, as SOBUMD and I celebrate 21 years of church-sanctioned Hey Hey, I bid you, gentle reader, Hello Again.  Inspired by the Wright brothers, I’ll try to keep this thing off the ground a little more this year.


Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Friday is once again answer time at the ManFAQ.  And so I don my manly mantle as Sage of the Sexes, helping demystify the more malodorous gender for those of the gentler, as we add to the list of questions women have asked about men over the years.  Actual questions, posed by real women, and answered by a REAL man.  Like the man said, ”What could go wrong?”

Question:  Dear Big Ugly Man Doll, at what point should I request/insist my spouse address the 14 hairs sprouting on my 14-year-old son’s chin? –when the black one on his cheek passes one inch long? –when the chin hairs could, theoretically, be braided? I have mentioned it enough times that my Cool Mom status is in serious jeopardy. Shouldn’t someone who actually shaves (his neck, quarterly) have to deal with this?

-Sincerely, Hairy-legged Mom of Boys

Answer:  Dear Hairy,  Let me say first that you are wise and wonderful to approach this with some delicacy, or at least to make it your spouse’s problem.   They say you never forget your first girl, and I assure you as a former 14-yr-old boy, you never forget your first shave, either.  Mind you, I was 13.  My mother looked at me from across the room, rolled her eyes, and told me to go wash my face.  I returned a moment later, and she said “I thought I told you to go wash your face!”  “I did,” I protested.  “Come here.”  She realized that mere soap wasn’t going remove the incipient mustache that was darkening my lip, and immediately called for my father. 

So I have to side with you on this one – someone familiar with the razorly arts should sit him down in front of the mirror, bust out the whipped cream, and show him how much fun it is to scrape a phenomenally sharp blade across your features until you bleed.  Even for women who shave their legs, it’s just not the same thing.  (Women who regularly shave their faces don’t tend to have this particular problem in the first place.) 

But the question of when – when he’s ready.  (After all, if you’ve mentioned it to him, he’ll get to it.  No need to nag him about it every six months.)   No, OK, not really.  You’re going to need leverage.  Your best bet is to explain to the 14-yr-old that Fu Manchu never got girls, and that his own best chances of getting girls someday – some far disant day 4 years from now, perhaps, but still – is to chafe those cheeks and trim the scraggle-chin.  When he brings up ZZ Top – and we all bring up ZZ Top - tell him that when it comes in like theirs, he can grow it out like theirs – but until then, Gillette is still the best a man can get. 

Good luck!



Now you know.  Please, feel free to comment!  Also, forward any questions you’d like answered to BUMD – at – biguglymandoll.com!  As always, your anonymity is guaranteed!



Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

ManFAQ Friday: Who’s the Asshole Now?

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Happy Solstice!  We’re taking advantage of the extra daylight today, on this longest day of the year, and making sure that Friday is once again answer time at the ManFAQ.  It’s been a while, for reasons good and bad, but we’ve been getting actual questions – sometimes from actual women – and the start of a new season is reason enough to start answering them.   Mind you, we can’t answer questions we don’t get – send yours today! 

Today we turn to a question from my own father, FOBUMD, who, despite not being a women, posed a pretty good question.  Thus inspired, I don my manly mantle as Sage of the Sexes, helping demystify the more malodorous gender for those of the gentler, as we add to the list of questions women have asked about men over the years.  Actual questions, posed by real women (and sometimes my dad), and answered by a REAL man.  Like Dad used to say, ”What could go wrong?”

Question:  The instructions on your MANFAQ tab clearly indicate that this section of your blog is dedicated to answering questions from women.  I’m not one!  In fact BUMD, it’s FOBUMD here and I have an English grammar question related to gender.

Being nearly 70 years old and having grown up on the streets of Chicago, then spending 26 years in the military including 12 months in Vietnam, I believe I’ve heard every curse word in the book.  I’ve heard them used in almost every conceivable way, correctly and incorrectly I might add.  In fact, I’ve probably used every curse word in the book and could give lessons on their proper use.  That’s why it surprises me that I have never before pondered the question that struck me several days ago.  I’m wondering if the word “asshole” is male specific.  Now I’m not talking about sphincter muscles here.  Both sexes surely have those.  I’m asking about using the A-hole word pejoratively to describe a person that… that… that… well, you know, “is an asshole.”

I guess I started to ponder that because it dawned on me that I’ve never used that term for a woman, only for men.   Now, I might have shot that term out there a few times to other drivers, not knowing the driver’s gender.  That’s different, of course.  So, you being both the English major and the ManFAQ person, I was hoping you could shed some light on this topic, unless this is where the sun don’t shine.

Answer:  In keeping with the serious and erudite nature of this blog, and particularly the ManFAQ, we will constrain our reply to refrain from gratuitous, puerile, prurient profanity and turn to that mighty (and somewhat phallic) pillar of erudition, History.  We shall start with History’s Arse. 

As one of those great four-letter monosyllabic words for which English has become so famous, arse has been with us since way back in the day.  As with many other words for the buttocks, tail, rump, or base of the spine, it came from the Proto-Germanic, and has cognates in Old Saxon, Old High German, Old Norse, Middle Dutch, Greek, Hittite, Armenian, and Old Irish – and of course in modern German, Arsch.  (“Wenn’s Arscherl brummt, ist’s Herzerl g’sund!”)  Near the start of the 1400s, someone stuck a hole on the end of it:  arsehole!  At the time this was pronounced arce-hoole, presumably at the top of ones lungs while shouting at someone who’s donkey had just cut in front of yours on the way to the market.  It wasn’t until the early 1700s that we lost the “r” before the “s” – as we did with many other words (burst/bust, curse/cuss, barse/bass, and, in Texas, horse/hoss) – and our old arse became our ass.

Now, in addition to losing its Rs (thank you, thank you very much), English has long since lost most of the genders on its nouns, so for clarity we’ll look to a language that hasn’t suffered this loss.  Specifically we shall turn our gaze on the German asshole, which, like all good German nouns, has a gender.  Or does it?  It turns out that das Arscherl is, in fact, neutral – presumably since, as noted in your question, everybody has one. 

The donkey, on the other hand, der Esel, is masculine, as it was in Latin – asinus, from which all our asses are descended.  (Also, note that unlike assholes, not everyone has a donkey.)  Since English has been politely interposing “donkey” for ass since Shakespeare transmogrified Nick Bottom in 1594′s Midsummer Night’s Dream, it is not surprising that we would subconsciously bring over the sense of masculinity from the donkey. 
The other reason that we tend not to use asshole when specifically referring to a woman may have to do with the plethera of richer choices of epithets that are usually specific to the feminine gender, which I will here gleefully enumerate for the sake of my ratings on internet search engines inner George Carlin: bitch, slut, whore, Ann Coulter…  Well, you get the idea.  Suffice it to say that the list tends to be  longer for women than it is for men.  Interestingly, in researching this, I ran across a note that the term “douchebag” tends to be more often directed at men, despite its obvious association with women. 

Looking briefly at pop culture, Hustler magazine has a regular column featuring people they don’t like, called the “Asshole of the month.”  For the record, they’ve included women in that list over the years, so certainly Hustler believes that there’s nothing semantically incorrect with calling a woman an asshole. 

Mind you, they might simply not care, either, and I hesitate to put words in their mouth lest I make the list.  Not that it wouldn’t be a great honor to be Hustler’s Asshole of the Month.

A brief review of the vast literature on the topic shows that you are far from the only asshole to ponder this, and that most people concur that the sense of asshole is masculine – saying something like “Jane’s an asshole” comes out sounding wrong to most ears.  At the same time, the concurrence is that intellectually, it should be gender neutral – it’s just seldom used so.   As to why, I think we’re left with our residual sense of old Asinus the Donkey taking the masculine form, and transposing that gender onto its cognate, ass, within the asshole in question. 

But I could just be an asshole here.



Now you know.  Please, feel free to comment!  Also, forward any questions you’d like answered to BUMD – at – biguglymandoll.com!  As always, your anonymity is guaranteed!





Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

A Happy Teenaged Birthday

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

It’s June again, and that means birthdays at the BUMD house – there are more than 5 of them!  As usual, around the start of summer, Number One Son has one of them – and today, he is a teenager.  Today, he is 13.  Honestly, I think he’s as surprised as the rest of us.  Following the infamous episode of Screw the Song, we’ve learned to just press on and go straight for the cake – or in this case, cupcakes! 

So Happy Birthday, Big Man – you made it another year!

Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Do you know what today is? You should.

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Hi, yeah, I know, it’s been a while.  Things are busy, and the usual flow of humor seems to be constipated – an uncomfortable blockage if ever there was one.  We’ll try to get back here a little more often in the coming weeks.  

In any event, that’s not a reason to miss a decent shout out for Convoy Day – I posted this once before, but hey – that was 5 years ago.  It’s worth repeating, fer sure fer sure!


Uh, breaker one-nine. This here’s the Rubber Duck
You gotta copy on me Pig-Pen, c’mon? 

Uh, yeah 10-4 Pig-Pen, fer sure, fer sure
By golly it’s clean clear to Flag-town, c’mon? 

Yeah, that’s a big 10-4 there Pig-Pen, yeah
we definitely got the front door good buddy,
Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy. 

Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth pullin’ logs
Cabover Pete with a reefer on
An’ a Jimmy haulin’ hogs 

We’s headin’ fer bear on I-one-oh
‘Bout a mile out a’ Shaky-town
I sez Pig-Pen, this here’s th’ Rubber Duck
An’ I’m about to put the hammer down 

Cause we got a little ol’ convoy, rockin’ through the night
Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy, ain’t she a beautiful sight?
Come on an’ join our convoy, ain’t nothin’ gonna git in our way
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy acress the U.S.A.
Convoy, convoy… 

Uh, breaker Pig-Pen, this here’s th’ Duck
an’ a-you wanna back off with them hogs? 

10-4, ’bout five mile or so, 10 roger
Them hogs is gittin’ in-tense up here. 

By the time we got into Tulsa town
We had eighty-five trucks in all
But they’s a road-block up on the clover-leaf
An’ them bears was wall to wall 

Yeah, them smokies as thick as bugs on a bumper
They even had a bear in the air
I sez, callin’ all trucks, this here’s the Duck
We about to go a-huntin’ bear 

Cause we got a great big convoy, rockin’ through the night
Yeah, we got a great big convoy, ain’t she a beautiful sight?
Come on an’ join our convoy, ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy across the U.S.A.
Convoy, convoy… 

Uh, you wanna gimme a 10-9 on that Pig-Pen?
Uh, nega-tory Pig-Pen, yer still too close
Yeah, them hogs is startin’ to close up my sinuses
Mercy sakes you better back off another ten 

Well we rolled up Interstate forty-four
Like a rocket sled on rails
We tore up alla our swindle sheets
And left ‘em settin’ on the scales 

By the time we hit that Chi-town
Them bears was-a-gittin’ smart
They’d brought up some reinforcements
From the Illinois National Guard 

There was armored cars and tanks and jeeps
‘An rigs of every size
Yeah, them chicken coops was full o’ bears
And choppers filled the skies 

Well we shot the line and we went for broke
With a thousand screamin’ trucks
And eleven long-haired Friends O’ Jesus
In a chartreuse micro-bus 

Uh, Rubber Duck to Sod Buster
Come on there, yeah, 10-4 Sod Buster
Listen, you wanna put that micro-bus in
behind that suicide jockey?
Yeah, he’s haulin’ dynamite and he
needs all the help he can get 

Well we laid a strip for the Jersey shore
And prepared to cross the line
I could see the bridge was lined with bears
But I didn’t have a doggone dime 

I sez Pig-Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck
We just ain’ta gonna pay no toll
So we crashed the gate doin’ ninety-eight
I sez let them truckers roll, 10-4 

Cause we got a mighty convoy, rockin’ through the night
Yeah, we got mighty convoy, ain’t she a beautiful sight?
Come on an’ join our convoy, ain’t nothin’ gonna git in our way
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy across the U.S.A.
Convoy, convoy… 

Uh, 10-4 Pig-Pen, what’s yer 20? …Omaha?
Well they ought know that to do
with them hogs out there fer sure
Well, mercy sakes, good buddy, we gonna back on out a here
so keep the bugs off your glass
and the bears off your…tail
and we’ll catch you on the flip-flop
This here’s the Rubber Duck on the side…we gone..bye, bye…


Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Driving for Fifty

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Fifty years ago this past Saturday, SOBUMD’s parents got married.  Fifty years later, the fact of this event on this date remained sufficient to propel us out the door and into the car, facing the open road again - facing our destinies, our destinations, our debts, and our dreams.  After the last few months, it required Jimmy Buffet at an unreasonable volume to help us reach escape velocity, rocketing us out of the existential horror of our suburban Margaritaville and onto the open road, but we did it. 

It was a good weekend for gambling. The powerball was at 600 gazillion bucks, and the Preakness was running that night.  For our part, we were betting that we could get three lunatic children and a lot of beer up I-95 to PA in time for the anniversary party at 3pm.  The highway traffic was betting against us, and I didn’t like our odds.

Of course, on a larger scale, SOBUMD and I were betting that we will someday have kids setting up a 50th anniversary party for us.  Higher stakes are there none, but I like our odds.

Jimmy Buffet and the soundtrack to the Broadway musical “In the Heights” got us in range of the only decent radio station left on the East Coast, Philly’s WMMR.  Thanks to MMR, the Gin Blossoms, the Ramones, Led Zeppelin, and a host of others rocked us through the overcast miles, past bathroom breaks, past pit stops and snacks, past road signs and portents, and past a police-escorted motorcycle processional that blocked I-95 northbound for 25 miles or more.  By the time we lost MMR, we were within hailing distance of our goal, by which I mean a few well placed Billy Joel songs saw us pulling in just in time for lunch.

Lunch was preceded by hugs and Christmas.  As this was our first road trip in quite some time, there were Christmas presents that had been sitting under the metaphorical tree for so long, they’d had to be dusted.  I remain grateful and thankful for my big present, which turned out to be a case of exceptional beer, from the Breckenridge Brewing Company, called 417.  It’s a double IPA, bottled on the lees, and it’s truly great beer. 

But where was I?  Oh yes, heading over to the party down the street at SOBUMD’s sister’s house.  We brought in the beer (though not my Christmas present beer – it was not cold, which mercifully saved me from considering bringing it for the party), a few errant bottles of wine, and the revelers.  Revelling was again preceded with hugs, the aforementioned beer was quaffed, and the revelry commenced forthwith.  All the kids were there, and all the grandkids, and the bride and groom’s best man and his wife, and the groom’s sister, niece, and a friend they’d brought with them.

Immediately on the commencation of revelry, I spotted that friend – the one and only Dandelion Deb.  Alert readers will remember Deb from a post many moons ago; I was delighted to have her make a repeat appearance. The party and the social requirements kept us from picking dandelions, abut there might have been a dandelion or two rolled into the cigars we smoked on the deck.  And when I say we, I mean her, with the Human Tape Recorder and I merely enjoying the aroma. 

Such delights cannot last forever, of course, and the revelry soon devolved into more base pursuits, centered on the words “There’s a full sized ping pong table in the basement!”  Uncle Jeff and I battled valiantly, then acquitted ourselves admirably against the 13-and-under crowd.  All too soon, it was time to toast, time to tell tales, and time to head home. 

The Sunday dawned with a minimum of fuss, fond farewells were exchanged, pictures were taken, and cars were loaded. 

I’ve written before about the hell that is the PA Turnpike, but I’ll repeat it – there is no nastier stretch of road to be stopped on that the PA Turnpike.  Luckily, we had the radio on and Tom Petty wouldn’t back down.  (Every time I hear that, I flash back to a few days after Sept 11, when a group of musicians and celebs put together a fundraiser concert to raise money for the victims.  Paul McCartney wrote a new song for the occasion, which was pure money.  Tom Petty realized he’d written one already, and sang “Won’t Back Down.”  Priceless.)

Eventually, we got off the Turnpike and made it to I-95, with an eye toward Baltimore, because it was time for a pit stop. In this case, a very literal pit stop. 

Chaps Pit Beef is coal fired.  Chaps Pit Beef has been written up on many sites and foodie shows.  Chaps Pit Beef is as good as they say it is.  Is it in a nice part of Baltimore?  No.  There were two billboards next to it.  The near one explained the schedule for the Gentleman’s Club next door.  (“Daddy, what’s a lap dance?”)  I was just glad she didn’t ask about Swinger Saturdays.  The other billboard advertised Tyrese Orr, who’s wanted for murder.  They even had his picture.  He looks like such a nice guy – I’m sure he couldn’t have done it.  Except a quick search turns up that they evidently want him in Chicago as well; I don’t know if the Chicago cops think he’s in Baltimore, or he’s just on an interstate inner city murder spree.  Regardless of the local sights and sounds, Chaps Pit Beef was everything everyone has said about it – worth the stop, if you’re ever up near Baltimore with your appetite. 

Our need for good road food thus satiated, we wound and wended our way the rest of the way home.  In doing so, we passed an old brick trestle bridge, that with the aid of the amazing iThingy I was able to find out about.  It crosses the Patapsco River in Elkridge, and is part of a State Park.   http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/patapscoavalon.asp  http://www.patapscoheritagegreenway.org/history/HistPersp.html Barring anything else, it’s probably a great place to hide if you’re wanted for murder in more than one state. 

Home at last, we stretched our legs and checked our bets.  Oxbow won the Preakness, dashing the chances of a triple crown winner again this year; the winning Powerball ticket was sold in Florida, dashing my chances of immediate and wholly unnecessary wealth; and SOBUMD and I were on our way to our 50th, coming up in what is really not all that many years.   Until next time, we will continue to dream of the open road, and wish you fair skies and following winds.  Bet on it!



Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Oh Really?

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

Yeah, I know, I’m late on the ManFAQ.  It’s been busy around here, and I’m running out of questions anyway.  In the mean time, I thought most of you would appreciate this exchange.  

Merchant’s Tire and Auto of Springfield called me a few minutes ago about my car.  It’s happy fix the damn cars day here at the BUMD house, and in addition to the internal work the Blackfish needed, three different organizations had told me I need new tires, badly.  So, since they’re cheap when it comes to tires and within reasonable walking distance, Merchant’s Tire and Auto of Springfield is putting new tires on for me.  The phone rings:

BUMD:  Hello!
MT&A:  Hi, we’ve looked at your 2006 Outback, and it looks like you need some work.  The front left wheel bushing is cracked, and if that breaks your wheel could actually come loose while you’re driving.
BUMD:  Really?  Oh wow.
MT&A:  Yeah, your car looks like it’s never had a tune up.  Your spark plugs are rusting out, and you may want to replace some of the hoses.
BUMD:  Do you know, I’m REALLY surprised to hear that.  I mean, I picked it up from the Sheehy Subaru dealership in Springfield just this morning, after they did a 60,000 mile tune up on it, and you’d think they’d have noticed those things.  I drove it straight from there to your place for the tires.  I really don’t know much about cars, though – could those plugs have rusted out during that 6 mile drive? 
MT&A:  Oh, hold on – am I confusing your car with the other one?  I’m sorry, I’ve got two Subarus side by side in the docks, just one second while I double check that.
[Queue brief musical interlude]
MT&A:  Yeah, I totally had you mixed up with the other car.  Your car’s fine!  Sorry about that!
BUMD:  So, you’ll just be putting those tires on, then? 
MT&A:  Yeah, we’re going to put the tires on. 
BUMD:  Right then.

I can just see how someone could mix up two cars like that.  I’m $ure it happens all the time. 




Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

Great Answer

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. You can comment here or there.

So there we were, me and the Human Tape Recorder on a Saturday morning attending her first guitar lesson.  These are free lessons from the local Guitar Center store, which they provide as an inducement to buy something a public service.  She brought the guitar she got for Christmas and, never being one to be left out, I grabbed one off the wall of the store and figured I’d learn a little myself. 

Since everything I know about guitars would fit inside a box to hold your guitar pick, with room left over, I grabbed the cheapest one I could find, in case I broke it.  I was amused to see the instructor walk in a grab one off the wall as well – with a $1900+ price tag.  It’s nice to know what you’re doing.  (Seeing that, I would have traded up a few hundred bucks, but I figured I wouldn’t fret about it.)

There were about 6 of us there for these lessons, and the old grizzled dude next to the HTR turned to her and complimented her guitar – which is very pretty, in addition to sounding great.  She mentioned it having been a Christmas gift, and he asked her if that was the one she’d picked out, had fallen in love with, etc, etc.  She gave him a little bit of a shy smile, and said, “All I asked for was a beat-up six-string…”

She can’t play it yet, but she’s no foreigner to great music!


Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!

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