Monday, April 30, 2012

Dealing With a Deceased Pet: Okay, We're Not Positve It' s Dead.

Are you a pet owner? I'll bet you are.

You've probably got a fuzzy mammal or two running around your house, chewing and scratching and scarfing and panting and drooling and occasionally puking and licking split-pea-soup-covered Tupperware lids.

But oh, so lovable.

My family is no different; we've got a couple warm-blooded four-legged furry things patronizing our inner sanctum, or at least, we did. You see, here's the problem:

The cat is accounted for, but we haven't seen the hamster for three weeks.

Yes, I'm afraid that Cotton the hamster, who'd barely had the opportunity to say how dee do, is missing and presumed dead.

At the risk of boring you, here's a little back-story: My twelve-year-old daughter has been badgering my wife and me for the past year to get her a dog. And let me tell you, this kid was locked onto the idea with the same vigor that that Secret Service Agent was insisted his two-for-one Groupon worked in Columbia.

She'd seen a TV ad where a kid prepares a PowerPoint presentation to convince his parents of the benefits of dog ownership, so my kid followed suit in a lower tech fashion, using single spaced college ruled notebook paper. Basic sales pitch of encouraging responsibility, health benefits from daily walk, yada, yada, enchilada.

After contemplating several factors—our child's work ethic, her departure for college in six years, her unwillingness to even examine the organic Almond Roca in our cat's litter box, my bride and I opted against the canine route.

Tears and yelling ensued for forty-eight hours until a compromise was reached. I felt like Lee Freaking Iacocca sitting down to negotiate with United Auto Workers; epithets were exchanged, accusations hurled, but finally the impasse shattered in the eleventh hour, the result of which is most likely lying dead under the house somewhere.

As I've mentioned frequently in the past, I live in Seattle. The city's bylaws include provisions against animal cruelty, such as mandatory sun shields for dog strollers and no-scalpel vasectomies for male pets rather than the barbaric practice of neutering.

We chose the Seattle Animal Shelter as our hamster adoption agency, since you could drive off the lot with your creature for five bucks. Oh yeah, I also had to sign some paperwork pledging to eventually have the little chicken cordon bleu checked out at an exotic animal vet.

Seriously? The thing cost five dollars and I'm going to take it to some vet who specializes in hamsters, gerbils and rabbits?

What kind of person does that? What little kid says, "Mommy, some day I'm going to be a healer of rodents"? I'm picturing a kid who then asked his Mom  to the homecoming dance.

Anyway, I signed the papers, we put the rodent in a little carrier, spent one-hundred-and-seven dollars at Petco for all the hamster swag, brought the little creature home and two weeks later she was AWOL.

My daughter was predictably despondent. She was great with Cotton during that fleeting honeymoon but I think she left one of the little cage doors unlatched. We've spent the past three weeks hoping she'll turn up alive, but now I'm attempting damage control with theories of large urban hamsters who grow competitively large and prosper in the wild after escaping.

Now it's time to welcome a new creature, mostly to get my kid to talk about anything besides hamsters. When my wife brought up her obsession, she replied, "Well, I can either talk constantly about hamsters or do drugs. Which do you prefer?"

Wow. Those are the only choices?

We'd like to go back to the same shelter for a new rodent, but we're not sure we've proven ourselves to be fit adoptive parents, returning only a month after acquiring the first one. I suppose we could claim that the animal succumbed to swine flu or our one of our pet bald eagles.

I'm not sure our fragile emotions could handle the scathing consequences of our honesty.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Newt Finally Crushes His Solo Cup and Leaves the Kegger.

When you were younger, did your mom or dad ever bark out, just before you left the house for the evening, "Just remember, nothing good ever happens after midnight!"?

Depending on how you define the word, "good," I've grown to believe it's a fairly accurate statement. And in the case of Newt Gingrich's presidential foray, it's now so long after midnight that the birds are chirping and the paper boy only has half his route left.

Yes, Newt is the guy, that guy we've all known, who stayed too long at the party.

During his year-long foray in pursuit of our nation's highest office, Gingrich wallowed in irrelevancy for half of it. Despite a primary win in his native Georgia as well as a victory by a wiry, silver back hair in South Carolina, Gingrich hasn't held a polling lead since 2011.

Okay, and that was back when frontrunners rotated in and out of public favor like toothless skanks to Ted Nugent's dressing room at an NRA convention.

Since then, Newt has whored himself out to a sugar daddy casino mogul whose super PAC kept our fuzzy Muppet stocked with enough Sugar Free Red  Bull and mutton jerky to sustain Callista and him through those all-night steel horse rides. Yet he's still managed to rack up six hundred thousand dollars in debt, plus a forty-thousand dollar per day Secret Service tab at our expense.

And we all know those Secret Service guys have better things to do.

But alas, Newt has decided it's time to fish his car keys out of the bowl and leave the party. The floor is sticky, the keg is empty and the hosts have been yawning since around 1:30. They thought that putting the remaining pigs in a blanket into freezer bags might have signified a strong enough hint, but Newt stayed.

Rick Santorum left a couple of hours ago. He and Michele Bachmann's husband, Marcus, had to be somewhere to lay hands on a guy and speak in tongues to cure him of his gayness.

Michele puked after accidentally taking a huge drink from a Solo cup filled with Rick Perry's chew spit, but old dependable Herman was there, as usual, to give her a ride home.

Perry went out for another can of Copenhagen but couldn't remember how to get back.

Sitting in his van in the driveway, Ron Paul never did make it into the house, which left Gingrich alone in the living room with no one to talk to.

And so, after nodding off a couple of times with one wing-tipped shoe up on the coffee table, Newt Gingrich wiped the drool from his cheek, hoisted his carcass off the sofa and staggered out the door without even saying goodbye.

That's okay, though, I can say it. Bye, Newt.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Helping Our Child Choose a College Using the Immature Approach.

I know it's irrational and I know it's immature. I should feel fortunate that she's on the college path and that my wife and I can drum up the means to support her endeavors.

Why should I give a rat's gluteal hemisphere about her post high school preference? It's not about me.

Sophomoric rivalries be damned, yes?

I was already reeling from the fact that my firstborn daughter, a high school junior, is fresh off completing her ACT exam and is currently in the midst of a preliminary college search. Few parents with whom I'm acquainted are fully copacetic when their downy gosling prepares to bail the nest.

It seems like just last Thursday I was using a flattened Huggie as a fecal missile defense shield while blow drying her dimpled little arse to stave off fiery diaper chafe.

So yes, it's been difficult enough dealing with her impending emancipation.

My angel traveled without me to eastern Washington a couple of weeks ago to check out a private university and a couple of publics. Having been spared this excursion, no self administered Thorazine drip proved necessary since I wasn't present to witness her face light up like Iranian uranium after laying her eyes on Washington State University.

And that's where my profound immaturity entered through the back screen door. You see, the WSU Cougars are the bitter cross-state rival to my alma mater, the University of Washington—they're the Donald Trump to my Rosie O'Donnell, the Roundup to the indigenous dandelions in my asphalt cracks.

I'm a Husky, and this is not a logical thing. During the summer, when I rise with a slurping pucker from the back yard barco lounger, a purple and gold sweat stain in the shape of my sagging latissimus dorsi tattoos the woven back rest.

If my kid enjoyed her visit to my collegiate arch rival, so be it. As long as my cherub is happy, right?

And she was happy for sure, but Collegiate Tour 2012 had yet to perform its curtain call, and this time, I was the chauffeur. The destination was Eugene, Oregon—home to the University of Nike, I mean, Oregon.

While I'm not dialed into the pulse of most teenagers, I feel fairly synchronized with my progeny, and she's a Nikette all the way. Gazed upon through her child-labor-blinded blinders, anything Nike is cool. The University of Oregon, which boasts the cradle of Phil Knight and his mega marketing mark, Nike, Incoporated, beckons our nation's youth with its slick branding and impressive athletic cred.

Okay, there's also a university in there, somewhere, and a pretty good one. But who really cares, because those Oregon Ducks have kicked my Huskies' furry asses all over the fake turf since Lewinsky delivered cigars to Clinton.

I did my utmost to overcome the childish pangs of vitriol as we assembled into small groups for campus tours. Our sciences guide, Grant, hardly fit the prototypical U. of O. student profile. While I'd envisioned being shown the lay of the land by a hardened co-ed wearing a green sports bra and sun-visored ponytail, Grant cut the figure of a shy science geek who performed campus tours solely to afford World of Warcraft upgrades.

Grant proved to be a very sweet, slightly doughy kid wearing a tucked-in green polo,. He spoke painfully softly and chose the loudest places to stop and talk to us, lingering in construction zones, just below open dorm windows blaring hip hop and next to other tour groups whose guides' voices projected considerably louder than his own. Every time I stepped toward Grant to hear what he was saying, he strode backward to maintain his expansive personal bubble.

Grant insisted on walking backward. My daughter and I surmised that he took pride in his elite calf and Achilles Tendon condition, because the guy walked backward the entire time; we're talking two-and-a-half hours.

His technique proved incredibly distracting, however, since our group's singular focus was Grant's safety. Every thirty seconds, someone in our entourage interrupted Grant's backtracking spiel with "Tree!" or "Stop sign!" or "Deep mud followed by rhododendron!"

At the tour's conclusion, everyone was so exhausted from watching out for Grant and not hearing what he said that we just walked—forward—back to our car and breathed deeply as Eugene vaporized in the rear view mirror.

My kid's now visited six colleges, which is six more than I examined as an eleventh grader. On the five-hour drive back to Seattle, we both agreed to enjoy what's left of her high school experience and knock off the college talk for a while, since we've been a little obsessed as of late.

The decision ultimately lies with my daughter, and no amount of purple and gold M&Ms on her pillow will change that. Right?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Winning Partnership: How to Utilize the Police in Co-Parenting Your Children.

All right, so maybe the cops went a little too far, but she was totally trashing the place. They had to do something.

Plus, name one time when law enforcement hasn't practiced professional restraint and sound judgment when dealing with a disrespectful and potentially violent protester.

Okay, there was the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and the 1999 WTO thing in Seattle. Oh, yeah, also that Occupy dealio last fall in Oakland.

Yeah, well, forget that I asked, but what options did the men in blue have at their disposal when faced with a six-year-old Georgia girl visiting harm upon her school and its principal?

Police were summoned to Creekside Elementary School on Friday to respond to an unruly juvenile, and arrived to discover the child on the floor screaming and crying. After noting damage already inflicted on school property and attempting to calm the kindergartner, the officers handcuffed the girl "for her safety" and transported her to the local precinct.

I can't believe I never thought of that.

Over the past seventeen years, my two girls have choreographed the finest conniptions since Mel Gibson realized he'd been drinking Yiddish Pale Ale. They've performed so many blasphemous soliloquies, I'm waiting for John McEnroe to call and ask for his daughters back.

And all this time, all I had to do was phone the police.

I'm from Seattle, which is home to the "treat your kid like a small adult" school of parental reasoning. It's not uncommon to walk through a park or playground and overhear a conversation like, "Listen, honey. I'm not judging you, but the reason your friend Idaho is crying is right there in your clenched fist. It's a bloody clump of his hair, isn't it? I need you to walk over there and tell him that you're chi is off today and offer him some of your unsalted pine nuts, Mmkay?"

Granted, publicly disciplining your child is tricky. It's far easier to tolerate your child's tantrum in the sanctity of your household than it is at, let's say, a shopping mall.

Did I say shopping mall? That's odd, because it's the very locale where my wife encountered her parental Waterloo when my older daughter was five. To this day, my bride has retained only fragments of the experience due to obviously undiagnosed PTSD.

Our young family had been shoe shopping at a large apparel retailer in Southcenter Mall. I had assumed baby duty for our nine-month old, stroller- bound daughter while my wife tended to the needs of our older child. As we turned to leave after having purchased some sparkly new Stride Rites for our clan's soon-to-be kindergartner, her sonar locked onto a Madeleine Doll under the checkout kiosk.

"Mommy, can I have Madeline?" she asked, relatively calmly.

"No, honey," my wife replied. "We're done now."

"But I want Madeleine. Buy me Madeline."

"Not today. Come on, now. Let's walk to the car."

"I want it!"

A few people turned as my angel's voice grew in urgency and volume.

Now she wailed. "I want Madeline!"

We each descended upon our screaming kid, whispering emphatically about consequences and timeouts and...other stuff, but nothing worked.

Like most department stores, the kids' shoe area could only be located on the top floor with the assistance of satellite triangulation, and it would require considerable time to get the hell out of there.

"You take the baby down in the elevator and I'll meet you outside, in front of the store. We'll go down the escalator." My wife's voice waded through the piercing shriek of our splotchy-faced five-year-old.

She partially picked up the writhing child and dragged her away, and as I pushed the stroller into the elevator, I did my utmost to deny what I'd clearly heard spewing from the kid's mouth.

"Help! Help!"

Her pleas faded as the elevator door closed. Shit, I thought. My stupid, stupid daughter is screaming for assistance while being carried down the escalator by her own mom. If I'm lucky, I'll see them both before the mother of my children is tackled and arrested for kidnapping.

After a very long elevator ride, I wheeled the stroller out of the store and rendezvoused with my wife and the lunatic. They each sat silently on a large planter, their eyes glazed over, displaying the trauma they'd both freshly endured.

"I have never been more embarrassed in my life."

I wasn't sure to whom my wife was talking, but she said it slowly and calmly. "You would not believe the number of people who stared at us and I could tell they were wondering what to do. I'm sure half of them were about to call security. Oh, my God."

We walked to our car silently, wondering what we could have done differently to quell what's now referred to as "The Southcenter Affair."

When actually, all we had to do was call the police and ask them to arrive with handcuffs at the ready.

Lesson learned.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Why Shouldn't the President's Escort Service Have an Escort Service?

April 15.

It's a date which conjures tangible angst for many. On the Ides of April, we're forced to correspond with the Internal Revenue Service, an entity about as fun to contact as my great aunt to whom I was forced to send a thank you note for some Amway acne cream she sent me for my birthday.

On a personal note, tax day formerly personified the glimmering apex of a season working in the trenches as a young, mulleted accountant. And make no mistake—after twelve weeks of toiling nights and weekends to assure our clients' minimal tithing to the exchequer, we partied like the Secret Service.

With one exception: unlike the President's elite personal guard, we'd already negotiated a sliding fee arrangement acceptable to both us and our sultry Colombian prostitutes, and hence no media fallout ensued.

I don't know, the whole a la carte prostitute business doesn't seem like it should be that complicated, especially for anyone who's mastered Arby's drive-through menu.

Aside from the annual American tax festival, several other notable events have occurred on the fifteenth of April in the annals of history.

The RMS Titanic sank exactly one hundred years ago, on April 15, 1912. Due to its centennial status, it's been top of our minds of late, and unfortunately, Paramount Pictures has opted to dredge up that old James Cameron whinefest in three-dee, starring Leo and Kate.

Horrific factual events aside, it's too bad songs aren't capable of drowning. Call me callous, but I wouldn't have been at all traumatized to witness "My Heart Will Go On" snapping in half and sinking into the frozen murk.

After having been shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending Our American Cousin at Washington's Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln died on this date in 1865. I've always wondered, however, subsequent to protecting the President for the entire duration of the Civil War, how could Lincoln's security detail have allowed an assassin to simply stroll up and shoot the President from point blank range.

Oh, right.

In another powerful moment in history, on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in the major leagues in his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Having served in World War II and playing a brief stint in the Negro League, Robinson was recruited by Dodger president Branch Rickey, who'd been determined to end the unwritten rule of segregation in Major League Baseball.

Even though Robinson was often forced to eat his meals and sleep on the team bus while his white cohorts enjoyed the comforts of restaurants and hotels, he still enjoyed the freedoms to endure racial harassment at every stop while contributing his athletic talents to the financial betterment of his franchise.

Talk about a win-win.

Pol Pot, Cambodian leader of the Khmer Rouge who personally decimated his nation's population by twenty-one percent, died on April 15, 1998. The man committed such atrocities that all I'd like to say is his demise happened far too late and I sincerely hope Pol Pot and Adolph Hitler are engaged in an eternal shank dance in Hell over who gets Ted Bundy as his bunk buddy this week.

April fifteenth is convincingly a date of dubious repute. It's neighbor the fourteenth doesn't pack nearly the punch; Wait, I take that back; it's the day Barbara Streisand tied Kathryn Hepburn for the Best Actress Oscar in 1969. Talk about riveting television.

As for the other side of the bookends, on April 16, 1972, Apollo 16 departed for the moon. Not a huge deal, though. By then, the lunar surface was already dotted with a Sleep Country USA and three Starbucks.

Obviously, the fifteenth of April is this month's big dog, capable of chasing those lesser mutts off the stoop. Now stop reading this and finish those taxes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

President Romney? Excuse Me While I Lose Full Muscle Control.

And then there were two.

Well, okay, actually four, but I think the only reason Newt is still around is for the free grub at those rural Utah diners.

I can just hear that old fuzzy Muppet now: "Good morning, North Ogden! Hey listen, I understand that I may be disqualified from the Utah primary ballot since my five hundred dollar check bounced, but gee whiz, this strawberry rhubarb pie sure is tasty. Hey Callista, are you gonna eat yours? I didn't think so. Slide it over, babe."

And of course, Ron Paul's not going anywhere. He's stayed the course with his message, asserting that our Constitution upholds his freedom to accumulate fewer delegates than Mitt Romney's great-great grandfather had wives.

So yeah, we're down to the big dogs now—our President and the aforementioned Willard "Mitt" Romney are about to step into the octagon. But I'm going to try something new this time when comparing these battle-tested candidates, since in the past, my writing's been laced with subtle hints of liberalism.

Oh hell, as my great uncle would say, it's downright commie horseshit.

I'm going to analyze the competitors based only upon the merits, solely on platforms which they've firmly established through years spent in realms both private and public. Let's begin.

Core beliefs on faith:

Barack Obama—while some stubbornly maintain that the President was born not of our nation and was raised Muslim under the radical tenets of an Indonesian madrassa, he is actually a Christian and a former member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He keeps his current church private for the safety of his wife and daughters.

Mitt Romney—while some, including the former Massachusetts governor, stubbornly maintain that his Mormon religion is a form of Christianity, others contend that Christianity's belief in heaven and hell contradicts the three levels of Jesus' kingdom which Mormonism proscribes.

Romney has chosen to go all-in on a belief in the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom and the telestial kingdom, a three-storied condo, hopefully with a car elevator.

Oh, yeah, and the whole Book of Mormon thing was supposedly transcribed by a former snake oil salesman turned prophet, who enjoyed smoking the weed. Lordy, if I had a nickel for every Book of Mormon my friends and I came up with during college...

Core economic beliefs:

Barack Obama—Dating back to his earliest days as a community organizer, President Obama has focused on empowering the poor, in providing resources to the least fortunate under the auspices that "a rising tide lifts all boats."

Mitt Romney—Dating back to his earliest days at Bain Capital, Romney has focused on consolidating wealth through purchasing corporations, gutting and outsourcing their workforces and selling them at a profit for maximum shareholder return.

His infamous proclamation, "Corporations are people, my friend," illustrates that in Mitt's opinion, "trickle down" means it's fine for a corporation to piss all over its employees.

Formative years and exposure to American society:

Barack Obama—Raised by his grandparents and single mother in lower middle-class households, Obama experienced the daily life lessons which exemplify the challenges and struggles of ninety-nine percent of America.

Mitt Romney—Raised as the youngest son of American Motors Company president George Romney who later was elected governor of Michigan, Mitt attended Cranbrook, a private preparatory school and formed early bonds with a privileged progeny of corporate moguls. He met his future wife Ann while she attended Kingswood, the sister school to Cranbrook.

The dossiers continue to paint portraits of disparate worldviews, like Romney's desire to repeal Roe vs. Wade and his reluctance to release his personal income tax returns, which Obama has revealed back to the year 2000.

Okay, and here's the last thing. Barack Obama is just a likeable man, the kind of guy I could sit with over a nice IPA and NFL playoff game. Okay, that's not fair. I suppose I could have a beer with Mitt Romney, no wait, a coffee, no wait, a nice glass of water, no wait, a Perrier.

Forget it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mike Wallace Is At the Door...and He Looks Pissed.

So much has already been written since his death on Saturday, so many apt tributes have cluttered the internet, that anything I scrawl about my admiration for Mike Wallace has likely already been stated verbatim somewhere in the ether of cyberspace.

However, in deference to a man who dug his journalistic incisors into a story with the tenacity of a pit bull to a bag of teriyaki turkey jerky, I'm going to elbow my way onto Wallace's bandwagon.

My earliest memory of Myron Leon "Mike" Wallace is awakening each weekday morning around seven, toppling out of my bed and usually extracting a Superman pajama pant wedgie as I dragged my sleepy four-year-old carcass across the braided oval living room rug while he suavely reported the CBS Morning News. His jet black, Brill Cream-slathered coif flickered unstably on the screen of our black and white RCA console.

Like most little kids, I cared little what he had to say; I only knew that my favorite show, JP Patches, would follow immediately thereafter on Seattle's local CBS affiliate, and I'd better reserve a seat on the couch before my brother and sister swooped in.

Mr. Wallace would re-surface a few years later, but this time his glistening 'do was obscured by a combat helmet while he ducked low and barked out the latest developments from the jungles of southeast Asia.

Debuting during this turbulent era was a side project of Wallace's, an exposé-themed venture entitled 60 Minutes. The year was 1968, and, while my worldview hadn't yet expanded beyond the range of my Huffy sting ray, I could tell that the man was in the business of riling folks—a lot.

How he had gotten that guy to cry? I remember wondering.

And by the time I'd aged enough to understand the nature of his program and the blunt force  of his interviewing style, I discovered that he exuded honesty through his stark exposure of the dishonest.

I loved it.

Before Dateline NBC created a Friday night franchise out of busting sweaty pedophiles who foolishly strolled into the dragnet toting a bag of wine coolers and half a pack of condoms, prior to Barbara Walters asking Richard Gere if there were any truth to that whole gerbil thing, Mike Wallace was nailing crooks to the hardwoods.

An explosive interview Wallace conducted in 1996 with former Brown & Williamson Tobacco executive, Jeffrey Wigand, uncovered that company leaders, despite their adamant denials under oath before Congress, had absolute knowledge that nicotine is addictive and that a cigarette's primary function that of a "nicotine delivery device."


He grilled with impunity celebrities and criminals, heads of state and athletes. One of my favorite pieces was Wallace's chat with Roger Clemens, who pitched in the major leagues for twenty-three years and won seven Cy Young Awards as his league's most valuable pitcher.

Late in his career, Clemens also testified before Congress, claiming he'd never once used performance enhancing drugs, despite allegations from his former trainer that he had injected Clemens with human growth hormone and anabolic steroids on numerous occasions.

In the toe-to-toe interview, Wallace candidly stated that it "seemed impossible to throw the ball and compete at the age of forty-five without the use of drugs."

Clemens acquitted himself in front of a prime time audience as a dim-witted jock bully who'd finally met his match. He rambled and protested and ultimately emerged as a lying prima donna, just the opposite of the misunderstood victim he'd been hoping to portray.

Didn't Roger Clemens understand that when Mike Wallace calls, you let it go to the answering machine? Hmm...apparently not.

Wallace chatted up every Iranian political leader of the past fifty years, from its deposed Shah to Ayatollah Khomeini to current President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, whom he challenged to "have the courage" to answer a question regarding his personal opinion of the American people.

Okay, is that a good idea when you're sitting in the living room belonging to a guy who thinks the Holocaust is as fake as Iran's elections?

Nope, it wasn't a good idea, but then, Mike Wallace didn't care, and that's why we loved him.

And for all the great work he did expose those dirty deeds, for all his efforts to make sure the wrong-doers didn't rest peacefully...

...I hope he does.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My teenager: If I'd known what she didn't know, she'd know by now.

Bulldozed again.

Just when I felt like I'd attained my parental sea legs, right when the ladder felt sturdy beneath my Chuck Taylors, someone started gesticulating that creaky old thing from the ground below.

And that someone, again, was my teenager.

She's sixteen. Actually she'll be seventeen in a couple of weeks, but I'll acknowledge that milestone in due time, because, well, I'm not ready just yet.

Anyone who lives with a teenager, and I'm including that old guy who's married to Courtney Stodden, understands the role sarcasm plays in the dynamic of a parent-teen relationship.

It's an omnipresent force, and the adolescent human, usually by his or her mid teens, has honed the craft to an adult-level mastery. While my daughter can infuriate my wife and me with her facetiousness, beneath my steaming layers of indignation and bile, I often feel oh-so-faint tingles of admiration at her adeptness and wit in slinging verbal compost:

"You're right, Dad. I thought about unloading the dishwasher but I didn't because my soul is nourished whenever I see that vein stand out on your forehead."

Is this an appropriate time to gush with fatherly pride? Hardly.

The problem is, although she can converse in an adult manner, this child of mine is still a child in just about every other facet of her personality.

She and her friends giggle relentlessly. Her favorite TV shows are "Gossip Girl" and "Jersey Shore." When I walk into her room, I'm just as likely to crush a cheddar cheese Goldfish under my shoe as I was when she was four.

Her brain continues to develop; in fact, it won't completely seal up until around the age of twenty-five. And my challenge, now more than ever, is to be mindful of that.

My girl is currently a high school junior, so college preparations have seeped into our world. Last weekend, she traveled to eastern Washington with a friend and her dad to tour three schools— two public and one private.

She returned highly impressed with the private university. In fact, she wanted to start immediately.

"Oh, the campus was awesome and the people were really nice and everyone looks like they have so much fun. I really want to go there."

My wife looked at her. "Great. How much is tuition there?"

"Um, I don't know. I didn't ask."

"Why not?"

"Come on, Mom. That would've been really rude, and I didn't want to offend them."

Poker face. Keep your poker face, I commanded myself, as retorts cascaded through my consciousness. Within seconds, my reply had been cemented:

Look, kid. It's not rude to ask an admissions counselor about tuition. They're not on the list of people whom you go out of your way not to offend, like food service workers, hotel maids, I.T. people or anyone who is presently adjusting your I.V. or palpating your prostate.

But I didn't say any of it, because I realized she was serious. And at that moment, the bug-splattered windshield over my gray matter received a cleansing squeegee.

We've always stressed that broaching topics like money, religion or politics is a risky game with those we don't know. Our daughter was just following the game plan.

The muddy slope that is parenting dictates that we release enough information to our offspring that they can make some sense of the world without receiving a full dose of its cynical and cruel reality.

Because of that, our messaging is often mixed. We warn them about talking to strangers, then require them to order their food at the restaurant like a big girl. We teach them to show compassion but then explain that the woman holding a cardboard sign can't be trusted.

We assume the know too little and we presume they know too much.

Several years ago, my then-three-year-old daughter approached me as I sat on the couch nursing a cup of coffee. "Here, you should give these back," she ordered, handing me a pair of strappy black shoes.

I didn't understand. "What do you mean we should give them back?"

"Dad, they're Mary Jane's. I've had these a long time and she needs to have them back."

Aha. Through her thousand-day-old lenses, they weren't Mary Janes, they were shoes which belonged to Mary Jane.

My sixteen-year-old daughter has reached the point where she can obliterate her old man in a game of H-O-R-S-E. She can solve complex math problems and break down a mitochondrion. She can bake a bitchin' batch of brownies and text faster than I can type.

She's even taller than I am now. But she's still a kid.

To be continued.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April Foolishness: The Week in Review

Sunday marked the informal yet infamous "April Fools Day."

Legend holds that the custom of playing tricks on friends originated in France during the middle 1500s. The European calendar, which formerly recognized the first day of the new year as April 1, was shifted in 1564 to January 1 by decree of King Charles IX.

Those who disliked the decision and continued to observe the first day of April as New Year's Day quickly became the butt of jokes and tricks by friends who dubbed them "April Fools."

I know it's hard to fathom such rudeness from the French, but it's all right there on the internet.

And like the twelve days of Christmas or the eighteen of March Madness, last week seemed to coagulate into the Seven Days of April Foolishness.

Perhaps I became sensitized to these acts of idiocy based on my own behavior. On Wednesday I weighed myself twice at the gym—once before taking a shower and again afterward, somehow rationalizing that a pot-roast sized piece of filth had been surreptitiously pried off my scapula by the water stream and rendered me a peck lighter.

Or maybe my cackles were elevated when my eleven-year-old daughter and I, after purchasing a five-dollar hamster, were advised by the pet shelter lady to have the rodent neutered by an exotic animal veterinarian, even though it faced a life of solitary confinement.

Isn't that kind of like asking Charles Manson to invest in an IRA?

Whether or not last week provided a larger than average dose of foolishness, I'll let you, the enlightened reader, decide. Here's some of the nonsense  that went down:

Former Massachusetts governor and current clueless blue blood, Mitt Romney, felt compelled to relate a joke to Wisconsin voters:

"One of the most humorous I think relates to my father. You may remember my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors...and as the president of the company he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin.

Now later he decided to run for governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign...Every time they would start playing 'On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin,' my dad’s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop, because they didn't want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin."

Hang on a second. Ever tried typing while laughing so hard that your eyebrows grow? Whoa. Okay, better. Nothing busts me up like a good old fashioned closed factory joke. I hope I don't think about that while riding the bus tonight. People will move away from the cackling lunatic.

Then there was Geraldo Rivera—you know, the guy who led the search for Al Capone's vaults, the most epic snipe hunt in the history of the small screen?

Yeah, same guy, and last week he claimed that Trayvon Martin was partially responsible for his own death because he'd been wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Geraldo, you've got a point, and but for the grace of God, so goes Bill Belichick after all those years trolling the New England sideline rocking that notorious thug wear.

Finally, the coup de grace of a week drenched in nitwittedness occurred Saturday night, when drunken University of Kentucky basketball fans rioted in the streets of Lexington, setting cars and couches ablaze and hurling beer cans in a celebratory orgy over their team's Final Four victory.

As asinine as is the act of destroying property to express happiness, go ahead and slather on another coat of imbecility to this behavior, because the basketball team hadn't even won the championship game yet—for all these cretins knew, they were overturning Ford Escorts and USA Today dispensers over a second place finish.

I could list further examples of idiotic behavior last week, like the British supermarket chain which distributed forty-seven thousand David Beckham posters to English school children which displayed Beckham's large arm tattoo of his wife in lingerie, or Rick Santorum saying something on tape and then denying he said it and getting really mad at a reporter for bringing it up.

But you get the idea. And since Santorum and Romney have rendered their verbal gaffes a weekly occurrence, I'm wondering if Groundhog Day might be more a more appropriate metaphor.