On unclear relationships

1179px-CousinTree.svg.pngThis isn’t so much a customer gripe as a WTF moment that could have happened anywhere.  I had a pair in last night that appeared for all the world to be a dad and his, oh, I dunno, 10-year-old son.  I don’t know for certain that I ever heard the boy call the man “dad,” but they were very clear that they were looking for barstools for the kid’s mother as a Mother’s Day present.

I leave aside the question of whether barstools are a great present for Mother’s Day.  It’s perhaps an unorthodox choice.  But they were convinced she’d be happy, so whatever.  They ended up picking some red stools that were available in several other colors, mostly because red was Mom’s favorite color and were definitely the color she wanted.  Okay, cool.  $58 each, bropeople, thanks.

An hour or so later, the phone rang.  It was Mom.  I recognized who she was from her name immediately because their name was one of those hyper-Polish collections of consonants that are thirty letters long and somehow phonetically identical to “Smith” when pronounced.

And then something really weird happened.

“My husband and my…”

two second long, uncertain pause

“…friend were in there earlier, and they bought some bar stools for me?”

Now, I immediately can reconstruct what’s going on if it’s her “…friend” and her son.  That’s a somewhat uncertain relationship between two adults.  Cool.

But in what world is your relationship to the ten-year-old, a kid who calls you Mom, weird enough that you pause before describing him as a “friend” to the furniture salesman who you have never met on the other side of the phone?  Especially when she’s just calling to see if they’re returnable for another color (they were) and you don’t really need to go out of your way to name your relationship to these people in the first place unless you want to?

Creative writing assignment, guys:  figure this nonsense out.

Feel free to psychoanalyze me

2016_1.pngThe Olympics start tonight, if you’re into that.  I personally am not.  For my part, I’ll count them a success if none of the athletes die and the Games themselves don’t lead to a global pandemic.  My years as an educator have predisposed me to high standards, you see.

I’ve been having weird dreams lately, guys.  I generally don’t remember my dreams at all– more than one in a month that I remember past my morning shower is unusual.  So the fact that I can still remember dreams from three of the past five days and am pretty certain I can reconstruct the other two given some time is Goddamned weird, and possibly a sign that I’ve been a bit too sleep-deprived lately.  And, again, in addition to the fact that I’ve remembered them, they’ve been weird dreams, mostly dreams about people I have little contact with outside of occasional Facebook likes and haven’t seen in years.  One of them was about trying to get a woman to take me back after a mutual breakup; in the real world we not only never dated but I was never even into her like that.  She’s married with a couple of kids now and we haven’t spoken face-to-face in damn near a decade and a half.  Another was about going to New Orleans with three of my oldest friends– or, to be a bit more precise, two of my oldest friends and one of their husbands– only to realize partway through that the husband was with the wrong woman and that everyone had been really uncomfortable the entire time and I just hadn’t noticed.

Also, I swear to you that I’ve had dreams set in this weird proto-New-Orleans before.  I’ve never been to Louisiana, much less New Orleans specifically, so it’s really odd that my brain has this chunk of NO mapped out well enough to revisit it in more than one dream.

Oh, and I woke up seriously mad at the husband, and had to fight off the urge to text one of them to tell them about it.

Three hours until my eye doctor appointment.  I have high hopes that fiction might actually be accomplished.  Or at least lunch.  Cleaning.  Something.  I also got Searching for Malumba available at Smashwords.  It is, naturally, griping at me about Various Issues, so it’ll pop up at the other non-Amazon services as soon as I get around to fixing whatever it’s mad about.  But it’s up at Smashwords!

More later, if anything interesting strikes me.

Tinted back window with a bubble in the middle

51NDuZehByL._SY355_.jpgMy car is a 2001 Ford Escape with just over 150,000 miles on it.  I got it when I traded in my beloved Toyota Yaris (shut up, it was the perfect city car) for something with a backseat big enough to put a car seat into.  I literally walked into the dealership with one car and walked out with another; the Yaris was paid off and we did an even swap off the lot.  I traded a relatively new vehicle for a much bigger, older one.

Calling it a hooptie is probably overstating things.  It actually runs pretty damn well for its age; there’s an oil leak deep in the engine where it’s not worth the money to fix, and the brake lines chose a surprisingly convenient (that’s not a typo) time to blow a couple of years ago, but it’s done well for a car that is itself actually old enough to drive.

The running boards were rusted out enough that several months ago I tore them off the car barehanded.  For the last little while, then, these ugly, rusty, sharp brackets have been hanging off of the sides of the car where the boards used to be attached.  I finally got around to trying to remove them myself last week and my ratchet sheared off on the first bolt, so today I took it in and had professionals remove them.  My car looks 50% less garbage now than it did this morning, which is nice.

There was a television in the waiting room, which made the experience way more surreal than it ought to have been.  First of all, I’m so glad that the primary is just a few days away and that our usual television-watching methods don’t involve commercials, because holy shit does Ted Cruz have a lot of commercials.  And he’s simultaneously running against Trump and Clinton, which is kind of hilarious.  There was one Trump commercial and what seemed like a hundred Cruz commercials during the hour or so I was waiting.

The actual program being shown was the Today Show.  The Today Show was celebrating 90s hiphop for some reason.  Either that or I took some very serious drugs this morning before dropping my son off before school and then forgot I did it, which… might be possible?  I guess?  I brought a book, and was buried in it when the first verse of Ice Ice Baby broke into my brain, and I looked up to see Vanilla Ice dancing on a stage with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And the word live was up in the corner.


I thought, for a moment, that I was either hallucinating or had gone back in time.  Only the crowd, filled with old white people, managed to convince me that the body shop hadn’t warped back to 1993.

A performance by Salt n’ Pepa followed, which was also weird, as I could have sworn that at least one of them had sworn off rap forever.  Kid n’ Play were interviewed.  Fucking Kid n’ Play.

This is why I never leave the house, guys.

Creepy Children’s Programming Review: SPECIAL AGENT OSO


This is, I believe, the fastest I’ve ever written one of these things, as my son just discovered this terrible program last night.  I banned it forevermore before he went to sleep, only to get up this morning and discover him watching it again, apparently because my wife overruled me.  I shall have my revenge, I swear it.  Because Special Agent Oso is godawful, and I will not have any of its stupid songs running through my head.

Lets start with the theme song, which is like 20 minutes long.  First of all, Oso’s last name is Special.  Oso Special.


Oso is a special agent for some unnamed agency, and the names of the episodes always contain James Bond references, which is the only interesting thing about the show, because it’s not like any of the kids watching the show will get any of them so they’re clearly the result of the writers trying desperately to entertain themselves.  This special agency hires stuffed animals– yes, Oso is a stuffed bear, and the theme song specifically describes him as such.  He’s not a real bear. He’s an animated toy.  What dark magic allows his limbs to move is also left unclear.

At any rate, the episode always starts with Oso doing some secret agent shit, which would be cool if it weren’t for the part where Oso does not know how to do even one thing.  It’s amazing that he can even breathe given how dumb the show represents him as.  But they’ve got him doing all sorts of stuff.  He was in freaking outer space in one episode:

At some point the show will cut away from Oso doing his secret agent shit and find some kid on Earth who has a completely random problem.  This problem is always terribly minor on a level reminiscent of Super Why.  At that point the doohicky on his wrist will vibrate and Mr. Dos will let him know that he needs to drop everything and go solve this kid’s problem.  This is true no matter what he is doing or where he is.  Including outer space.  Go help this kid find the library or tie his shoes or whatever.  LEAVE OUTER SPACE FOR THIS.

You may wonder how they find the kids who have the problems, because these kids never actually contact the agent themselves.  It’s because this horrifying organization has the entire world under drone surveillance.  Think I’m kidding?  I’m not kidding:


The drones, who are always watching you, tell a floating space station that there’s a kid with a minor inconvenience, and then Oso is notified.  He finds the kid and then begins asking questions that make it clear that he has no idea what the hell he’s doing and shouldn’t be a secret agent.  For example, on TV just now, he asked what a circle was.  Secret agents should be able to identify circles.

And then the worst part happens.  He asks his chest computer, who is called his Paw Pilot, what his “three special steps” are to solve the kid’s problem.  There are always three steps, and, underpants gnome style, the second is always “do the thing.”  For example, if the problem is you need to find a book at the library, the second step is “find the book.”  Need to wrap a gift?  The second step is “wrap the gift.”  It’s fucking weird.

Also fucking weird?  The floating animated head that is the Paw Pilot sings a terrible song and looks like nothing so much as Mystique giving birth:

You see it I KNOW YOU SEE IT
You see it I KNOW YOU SEE IT

Let’s pause for a moment to let that image sink in.

So, yeah.  Initially he will know literally nothing about how to solve the problem without help, but spoiler alert: he’s gonna solve the problem, whatever it is.  He solves the problem, Paw Pilot sings another terrible song, and then something about whatever he just did helps him with whatever his special agent shit was at the beginning of the episode.

They also always manage to contrive some way to have a 10-second countdown at the end of the episode as Oso is trying to solve the problem.  Is Oso trying to write his name on a library card?  10 SECONDS UNTIL THE LIBRARY CLOSES.  Is Oso trying to wrap a present for someone’s little sibling?  MOM WILL BE DOWNSTAIRS IN 10 SECONDS.  Kite Day starts in 10 seconds.  It’s never anything where could ever possibly matter if the thing he’s doing takes 12 seconds.  Ever.

I hate this show.

A curious psychological phenomenon

South Bend is celebrating its 150th anniversary this weekend.  They’ve been pulling out all the stops; there’s been a crazy amount of shit going on downtown all weekend and while at least a couple of things probably ought to have gotten somebody killed from what I’ve been hearing and seeing most everyone’s been having a good time.  My wife and I brought the boy downtown this afternoon for a bit, mostly intending to just walk around.  As expected, finding parking was a bit of a difficulty.

Now, you’re just going to have to trust me, because I didn’t get a good picture of this part, but a lot of the streets near the event downtown were filled with cars parked right next to “NO PARKING SATURDAY OR SUNDAY” signs.  Apparently what the signs mean is don’t park on top of the sign, because there were plenty of blocks that were completely full of cars except for the small amounts of space taken up by the actual no parking standees.  Again, I should have gotten a picture.

It’s been a long time since I lived in Chicago, but I was well trained during my time there.  If your ass sees a No Parking sign in Chicago, what that sign means is if you can see this sign with a telescope, you shouldn’t park here, because those motherfuckers will fine you if there is a sign underneath a car six blocks from where you’re parked.

Now, I watched a ton of cops stroll right by those cars without ticketing anybody, despite the potential bonanza in ticket fees.  Watched people pull out.  Drove right past some empty spots.  Did not park.  I’m a Chicagoan still.  I know better.

We finally found a spot.  A whole road, even.  This is the view behind my car:

IMG_2585Let me make sure y’all understand the logic here:

TONS OF “NO PARKING” SIGNS: park wherever the hell you want, nobody cares.

I swear, I was nervous leaving my car here.

There’s a word for this, I just don’t know what it is.