Humor Minus Time

Dear Will:

I’ve heard that Mark Twain once said: “Humor is tragedy plus time.” So it’s probably too soon for me to be sharing with you my most recent misadventures under the kitchen sink. For the rest of you, just watching it live from a few feet away would create sufficient time to transform the unfolding tragedy into double-you-over, spasmodic-giggle-inducing humor, but for the incompetent handyman who lived through the ordeal, it’s still a little hard to crack a smile.

I cracked just about every other part of my body, however. Any time you have to stick a bald head in a tight space you are pretty much inviting unsightly gashes. Meanwhile, my arms look as if I came out on the losing end of Fruit Ninja Live. The loss of blood isn’t that big of a deal—the stuff regenerates, right?—but the lost dignity may never be recovered.

First of all—just so that we’re all clear on this subject—we’re talking about plumbing here, and plumbing is evil. I’m pretty sure they’ve done studies to show that no plumbing project, no matter how innocuous or straightforward, has ever taken less than the entire day on which it was begun. And they have also shown that if there is an imminent event of some import—dinner guests, say, or perhaps the UCLA vs. USC football game, or maybe a looming Thanksgiving Day feast—or, God forbid, ALL THREE—the chances of everything going smoothly are less than zero. I don’t know how that math works out exactly, but it’s science, so it must be true.

So imagine my unbridled euphoria when we discovered a small, almost imperceptible drip under the sink last week. My expert diagnosis determined that the hose on the faucet was at fault. Well that seems simple enough, I thought. Just unscrew the old one and put in a new one. Even I can do that. [INSERT SPONTANEOUS, OFF-CAMERA LAUGHTER HERE.]

I will spare you the details—not that you wouldn’t enjoy them—but I just can’t bear to relive the whole thing. So I’ll give you my Saturday in a series of 140-characters-or-less tweets instead:

  • [1:34 pm] That Price Pfister hose costs 70 bucks. Smarter to just replace the whole faucet. Heading to Costco. #priceypfister
  • [3:49 pm] How do you loosen a corroded flange you can’t even reach? AND HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO PLUMBING WITHOUT SWEAR WORDS? #muffledgrunts
  • [5:04 pm] Game’s starting and I don’t even have the old fixtures out yet. Bringing in Manuel for reinforcements. #nothappy #mannyfromheaven
  • [6:29 pm] Home Depot. #lovemyDVR
  • [7:08 pm] One last trip to Home Depot. #almostfinished #gobruins
  • [7:29 pm] Back at Home Depot. #notamused #watchthegamewithoutme
  • [8:02 pm] Home #$*&@% Depot.
  • [8:43 pm] Fifth trip to Home Depot. Bruins win. Or so I’ve heard. #worstSaturdayever

And in all of this I’m leaving out the part about finishing at 10:30 pm, about smelling smoke when we turned on the dishwasher, about the visit from the electrician and the malfunctioning reverse osmosis system that we discovered after he left. But all of that is in the past. Today is Thanksgiving, and we have a brand new kitchen faucet, and were it not for the fact that last night we discovered something dripping under the kitchen sink, those pangs in my gut might be signs of hunger.

May your days be filled joy—rather than, say, humor—throughout this holiday season.

PW

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This I Believe

Dear Will:

Do you ever listen to NPR? Over the last several months they have been running this series of commentaries from both the famous and the not-so-famous entitled “This I Believe.” It is a brief opportunity for someone to get a little personal about whatever. I figured that since NPR is unlikely to want to put me on the air, I would foist myself on you instead. You know, just like I do every month.

Here’s what I believe:

  • I believe in that magical feeling you get around a newborn baby.
  • I believe in blue jeans any time you can get away with them.
  • I believe in warm cinnamon rolls and really, really cold milk.
  • I believe the USA basketball team was robbed in the finals of the ’72 Olympics.
  • I believe in the sound of the ocean as the sun is going down.
  • I believe in lots and lots of laughter.
  • I believe in the UCLA Bruins. (Not really. I just desperately want to believe.)
  • I believe in decorating your office with your children’s artwork.
  • I believe in the sight of a mom, snuggled up with a child, reading a book out loud.
  • I believe in quiet Sundays at home.
  • I believe in occasionally having breakfast for dinner.
  • I believe in the power of really good writing.
  • I believe in occasionally letting the kids stay up late—and more than occasionally getting them to bed early.
  • I believe in the awe-inspiring National Parks.
  • I believe in laptop computers.
  • I believe in the smell of fresh cut grass.
  • I believe in peaceful music.
  • I believe in regularly setting aside your own needs to take care of somebody else’s.
  • I believe that I have no idea how the world and all its wonders were created but that for sure it didn’t happen by chance.
  • I believe that everyone should try really hard to be nice.
  • I believe in the power of prayer.
  • I believe that God knows me personally and will help my in life when I ask . . . and when I’m ready.
  • I believe in prophets and scripture and promptings of the Holy Spirit.
  • I believe in Jesus Christ.

I also believe that I have spent enough time telling you what I believe. Now it’s your turn. What do you believe?

PW

Lumberjacks, Cartwheels and Soccer Trophies

Dear Will:

In spite of our best efforts—or perhaps because of them—we are compelled to admit that we live in a fairly strange place. For instance, earlier today Seth was playing a matching game called Husker Du. He said he was winning, which seemed a little strange inasmuch as it appeared that he was playing alone. He soon clarified: “I have 4,” he said, “and my soccer trophy has 2.” (Immediately you think to yourself: “Ah, so the kid learned all of his social skills from his old man.” Perhaps so, but you’re missing the point.) Seth’s imagination is only limited by the number of hours in a day. It’s all fun, with or without a living, breathing friend to play with.

For instance, every day when he gets home from school Seth goes directly to the back yard to play whichever sport is in season. It’s more important than lunch, even if—and this should give you some idea of his fervor—lunch is at McDonald’s. He plays all positions on both teams (so far the trophy has not been invited to join in) and also serves as the announcer. Thus, rain or shine, you’ll hear backyard play-by-play delivered (who knows why?) in an impassioned falsetto: “Three-pointer by Seth! UCLA leads the Pistons 57-23! . . . Pistons have the ball. SETH STEALS IT! Slaaaaam dunk!”

Although he is only five, Seth has already revealed himself to be the most ardent sports nut in the household—which, though cute, is also irritating if you’re hoping to read the sports page before you go to work. Each morning he examines the box scores as if he were checking the status of his Wall Street investments, reading them out loud, one-by-one, under the apparent assumption that everyone cares deeply whether the Hornets beat the Warriors and by how much. “Dad, the Pirates lost to the Expos!” he’ll shriek, and then he’ll run into the other room to share with Mom the shocking news. His favorite teams include some obvious ones (Angels, Lakers, Bruins) and a few not-so-obvious ones (um, the Toronto Blue Jays?–don’t ask). Also, if there’s a game on—no matter what the sport—you can pretty much count on him rooting for whichever team is ahead and becoming distraught should they fall behind, even if he never heard of them before he turned on the TV.

Speaking of falling behind, we tried to send Bryn to bed an hour ago and she still hasn’t so much as brushed her teeth. We’re guessing (hoping) that’s fairly normal, but what we suspect is not normal is that it took her 7 ½ minutes to go 10 feet down the hallway to get her toothpaste. How is that even possible? you ask. (Well, maybe you didn’t ask, but we ask it all the time.) The simple yet maddening explanation is that there is nothing linear about Bryn. For instance, she cartwheels everywhere she goes. Down the hall, into the kitchen, across the crosswalk, even heading to the bathroom at a highway rest stop, Bryn twirls and spins and does one-handed round-offs as if it were the most practical mode of transport available. It may make it harder to finish your homework, but isn’t life about more than just homework?

Apparently so. Thus Bryn’s hyper-imaginative, ten-year-old mind has her alternately composing music, producing stage plays, writing poetry, devising recommended reading lists—all while (supposedly) doing her chores. She organizes, plots, devises. Plays the piano and (squeak, honk-honk, screech) the clarinet. Sings Broadway showtunes. And more than anything, she dances. Beautifully.

In fact, Bryn is at the ballet studio so much (about five days a week) that Luke insists that she is never around. (“It’s a good thing too,” he says in typical big brother fashion, “because she is so annoying.”) All that time at the barre is paying off (not literally—it’s costing us a fortune) as Bryn has begun dancing en pointe and was recently cast for the first time in her life as a soloist in her company’s winter concert.  No doubt Seth is hoping she’ll get a trophy out of the deal, and Luke is hoping he doesn’t have to attend. As for us, we’ll be satisfied if the discipline she is learning as a dancer at some point will help her brush and floss in less than 20 minutes.

Luke’s passions are no less obvious than Bryn’s, but they produce a wider range of emotions in his parents:
1—writing (thrilled, proud); 2—computer games (aggravated, intolerant); and 3—girls, or should we say, girl (panicked, hyperventilating, freaked out big time). Since he’s fourteen we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this, of course; but at the same time, did we mention that he’s only fourteen!? (pant, pant, palpitate).

To better cope with his reactionary parents, Luke has enrolled in the Orange County High School of the Arts, a secondary school dedicated to the production of actors, dancers, and other future restaurant workers. To be fair, the kids there are fun and quirky and extremely talented, making OCHSA a very cool place indeed. Luke is enrolled in the Creative Writing Conservatory, through which he receives 12 hours a week of after-school writing instruction. This semester his coursework includes: Literature into Film, the Art of the Short Story, Screenwriting, and Hiding the Fact that You’re More Articulate than Your Parents. (OK, so we made that up, but we’re hoping they’ll offer it next semester.) It makes for very long days, but when you consider that’s three additional hours of parent-free existence, you might go for it as well.

Besides, attending school with a bunch of highly creative people has its perks. For instance, every Tuesday Luke attends the weekly meeting of the Lumberjack Club—which we’re guessing you haven’t signed up for yet. The purpose of the club is a little fuzzy, but it seems to involve a secret handshake, flannel shirts, eating flapjacks (“not pancakes,” we are reminded), and watching “lumberjack movies.” (Question: Lumberjack movies?) Like we said, these kids are quirky—and probably having a lot more fun than the rest of us. Kind of annoying, isn’t it?

Sort of like this letter. Rather than put you through any further misery, then, let me conclude by making it clear that the eccentricities of this threesome have almost nothing to do with genetics (although Dana can be a bit bizarre from time to time). Dana and I continue to try to set an even-keeled example for them, but it is for naught: they quit paying much attention to us several years ago.

Finally, on behalf of all of us—the parents, the kids, the dog, and the soccer trophy—may I wish for you more of what you need, less of what you don’t, and a generous smattering of what you want.

PW