Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#081 In which our hero gets some very bad news.

Here we go again.

Last Monday, shortly after I posted my dumb ramblings about shoes, my boss called me into his office. Actually, he met me at the door to his office and gave me a “let’s go this way” hand motion. So I follow him to “executive row.”

A little aside so you can better appreciate this tale: the advertising agency at which I work is housed in a renovated warehouse. I think I’ve mentioned before that advertising folk are crazy about renovated warehouses. Don’t ask me why. But they love it. So the president bought this warehouse and had it renovated. So understand, it was a warehouse, just a big empty box. It was tastefully done and not the typical mish-mash of exposed brick, diamond plate steel, chrome, and glass which seems so in favor. Anyway, the executive offices (president, VP and business development director) are all clustered together. Most everyone else has a cubicle. But, to get to this cluster of offices you have to walk up three steps. I don’t know if it was the architect’s idea or the president’s, but it always struck me as stupid that there was this useless elevation in the middle of the agency. Of course, you can draw your own conclusions about the mindset that requires upper management to be physically elevated over the rest of us rank and file drones. Anyway.

So I follow my boss up to executive row, assuming that we’re going to meet with the president to talk about some job. Instead, we go into the vice-president’s office. He gets up and closes his door.

Suddenly, I realize that this situation is very, very familiar.
ME: Are you firing me?!
VP: Unfortunately, because of the state of the agency, we have to lay you off --
ME: Son of a bitch!
Then came to typical “let me stress that it has nothing to do with your job performance” bullshit that I heard less than two years ago. Now, when I got laid off from my last agency job I was really busted up about it. I loved working there, and I especially loved the people. My boss was fantastic. Matter of fact, it wasn’t until I went to work for the human cock that was sitting next to me while I was getting fired that I realized just how great my last boss was.

To make it even better, I was told that “this move does not benefit the agency.” And y’know what? They’re right. This move sure as fuck does not benefit the agency, it hurts it. And I’m not saying that just to be egotistical, but because they have cut their creative department down to one fulltime person. And now they have no writers on staff. No one to ask, “hey, is it ‘will’ or ‘shall?’” Or, “what’s a better word for ‘facilitate?’”Nor will they have anyone to proofread materials, or create new materials for that reason.

But their plan for that last item is to keep me around as a freelancer. I’m not thrilled by the notion of still doing the same work but getting paid less for it. But, the situation is such that I have no choice. And I told them so. Actually, what I said was, “Sure, I’ll freelance for you. I have no choice. I have a new mortgage and a baby on the way, so as much as I’d like to tell you all [and here I turned to look at my boss] ‘Fuck you,’ and walk away, I can’t.”

More than anything, what angers me is that not six months ago, I went to the president of the company and asked about my future. I told him that my wife and I were expecting, and we were thinking of buying a new house, and if something drastic was going to happen, I needed to know, so I could plan. And at that time he assured me that the agency had always had a copywriter on staff, and always would. “So just fucking relax,” he told me with his giant cheeseball smile. “Buy your house, take care of your family. It’ll be fine.”

Naturally, I mentioned this, and was given the run around… “I don’t know what the situation was then, but the situation now is…” blah, blah, blah. What are they going to say? “Yeah, the president is a ball-less lying fuck that couldn’t even be bothered to come in here and face you in person.”

So now, The Scientist and I are shitting our pants. The situation is grim. I need to find another job paying at least as much as I was making, or we’re fucked. Well, that’s not entirely true, both our families have offered to bail us out, and we’re really lucky in that regard… but we’d rather not have to borrow a bunch of money if we can avoid it. But we’re certainly not so proud that we’d turn it down if it comes to it.

And we’re having another baby in two months. I hope that eats at the people that just fired me; I hope they feel shitty about it for years to come.

Now… reassess, retool, restock.

Plan for the near future.

Don’t freak out.

Wipe your ass.



#080 In which our hero talks shoes.

This morning, I am thinking about shoes. This train of thought is not new to me, but today it was prompted by reading this post at The Midwest Grrl.

Now, I say this isn't new because I have openly wondered in the past about women who collect shoes and just how crazy must they be. Or men, for that reason. I mean, collecting shoes? I just don't get it.

I once dated a woman that "collected shoes." I put that in quotes because it seems a little bullshit to me... I don't think she really collected shoes, as much as she just bought shoes when she was moved to. I don't think she really went out and searched for particular shoes to, you know, round out her collection or something.

Hmm. I suspect I may not be making sense. I will try to clarify.

I collect comic books. And this is an honest-to-god hobby, a real collection. On a weekly basis, I go to the comic book shop (shout out to North Coast Nostalgia) and buy new comics. I take these comics and put them in special bags and store them in special boxes. I've been to comic book conventions for the explicit reason of finding back issues I missed. I have a largish collection of sequentially numbered books from a variety of publishers. See? It's a collection, not just a random grouping of products.

So, you see, I'm dubious about the entire concept of "collecting" shoes. But more than that, what's the point? With my collection, I can pop open a long box, sit down and easily kill four hours just re-reading old books. I enjoy my collection. But how can you enjoy a shoe collection? I mean, sure, if you have the perfect shoe to perfectly match your perfect dress, I get how that would be satisfying. But can you relax on the weekend by trying on different shoes? Maybe you can.

And that's the thing, really. Shoes are completely utilitarian to me, a means to an end. I need shoes that don't make my feet hurt; and if they look cool at the same time, well, that's good, too. I make zero effort to match my shoes to my outfit. Now, you might say that I have no style, and you'd be right. But even if I did, I have to wonder if I'd need 100+ shoes, which is what my pervious girlfriend had. All piled in a heap in her closet, I might add. You'd never catch me treating my comic books like that.

So, back to the post that inspired me to think about shoes again. She mentions taking her shoes to a repair place. I did this once with a pair of dress shoes. They were comfortable, and I liked the way they looked, the only problem was that the sole was wore down. So I had them resoled. It cost me something like $40. Of course, my buddy had to point out that I could have easily bought a brand new pair of shoes for that price. So I felt pretty stupid about it and have never bothered to repair a shoe since.

Whenever this topic comes up, I like to say I own only three pairs of shoes, and that is more than enough. However, now that I really think about it, I own more than that. Much more. Here, in order of most often worn, is my "shoe collection" :
  1. Doc Marten brown shoes

    I bought these before starting my new job. They are just regular lace up shoes. Here's how little I know about shoes: I had to look them up on the Internet to figure out what to call them. Loafers? Flats? Hell, I don't know. I would call them lowtops, like they were sneakers. In case you're dying to see them, here they are. And apparently they are just called "shoes."

  2. White lowtop sneakers

    I want to say they are New Balances, but since I'm at work and don't have them with me, I don't know. I got them at Payless because they were cheap. If it wasn't for the bullshit dress code of my current employer and The Scientist's insistence that no shoes be worn in the house, these would be #1.

  3. Black combat boots

    I wear these to practice once a week, and occasionally on weekends. And if you don't know me and are wondering, "to practice what?" then I'm afraid you'll have to keep wondering, since I don't even want to try to explain that.

  4. Crappy white lowtop sneakers

    These are my working around the yard shoes, which means they are usually some shade of green and caked with dog crap. Should probably be in a tie with the combat boots above, but get edged out by the fact that winter lasts for eight months in Cleveland.

  5. Furry slippers

    Do these even count as shoes? I guess so. And they certainly get more play than a lot of my other shoes. Furry on the inside only, leather on the outside. Tend to make my feet a little sweaty. Just so you know.

    Now we get into the shoes that I own, but don't wear on any sort of regular basis. Even the boots... I'd much rather just wear my sneakers in the snow and bitch later about how my socks are wet.

  6. Black nylon boots

    When I am wearing snow boots, like to shovel the driveway, these are the boots I wear.

  7. Black slip-on low shoes

    These are cool slip-ons with a butch knobby hiking sole. I got them for cheap and used them for utility shoes, i.e., slip them on to fetch the paper, etc. I made the mistake of wearing them to pick up the dog's poop in the backyard and the soles became completed filled with dog shit. So, instead of just cleaning them, I've let them sit on the back patio for three months now.

  8. Black "beach sandals"

    Bought for our honeymoon in Hawaii, and have ever since been called my "Hawaii shoes." Hardly ever used, I'm not really a "beach sandals" sort of guy. I had written "thongs" but The Scientist tells me they aren't really thongs, since they don't have "faggy strap that goes between your big toe and second toe."

  9. Red Chuck Tyler All-Stars, lowtops

    Awesome shoes that have seen better days. Probably the shoes I've owned the longest. Currently in a box somewhere, weeping from disuse.

  10. Brand new white running shoes

    Again, New Balances, I think. Never worn. Bought on sale at Sears when the weather was warm, anticipating starting to jog again. The 14 inches of snow outside tells them they will continue to be unworn for some time to come.

Ten pairs of shoes? That's nuthin'. Guess I'll have to work on my collection.


#079 In which our hero is hurt by his tooth.

So, I'm at work. This would be unremarkable, insomuch as that I'm always at work during the week (the generous five days of vacation time I've been granted will be wholly exhausted once the littlest girl appears. And I only have to work here three years to get another week! As if the agency will still be solvent by that time...) but this day, I'm not supposed to be at work, I'm supposed to be recovering from a root canal, daintily sipping ginger ale and watching daytime TV. But not. Here's the deal:

As a child, I didn't take very good care of my teeth. If I could go back in time, I'd shake 10-year-old me and say, "Christ, could you spend more than 30 seconds brushing your teeth?" I have a big mouth full of fillings as a result.

Well, about nine years ago one of my fillings started to hurt. At the time, I was living in Columbus and going to a fantastic dentist that I loved. That's right, I loved my dentist. He was a cool buy and did good work. Since, as an adult, I learned the error of my poor teeth-brushing ways, he never did more to me than a cleaning. Which, I might add, he actually did himself and didn't foister it off to some sadistic lackey. So anyway, I go to my dentist and he tells me that the filling needs replaced.

I opt to go with the new space-age tooth-colored composite filling instead of the old hunk of lead jammed in your tooth. My plan was to gradually replace all my fillings with this stuff; then, when I opened my mouth wide you wouldn't see all the fillings. You might even mistake me for one of those kids that brushed their teeth like they were supposed to.

Flash forward to about three years ago. This tooth (a molar on the lower right side, if you care) starts to bug me again, mostly when I bite on it too hard. I start to eat on the other side of my mouth and ignore the problem. Finally, about a year and a half ago, I can't ignore it any longer. Occasionally I bite down on this tooth and it fucking lights me up.

By this time I'm living in Cleveland and have a new dentist. I ask him about it, and he tells me that the composite materials that were in use just five years ago weren't that great; most likely I have a micro-fissure around the filling that is allowing bacteria and god-knows-what-else to creep inside my tooth and throw a party. Eventually, the tooth will become infected and I'll have to have a root canal. When will this happen, I ask. "You'll know when the time comes," I'm told.

So, a year ago or so, I decide that this finally needs to be done, no more screwing around. The time has come.

However, before I schedule, my wife (the holder of the better family insurance plan) changes jobs. Suddenly, my dentist is no longer in network, so I have to find another one. Bother.

As previously mentioned, I go see my boss's dentist. He tells me that from the X-ray a root canal doesn't seem to be indicated, but he'll do it anyway. But, despite my boss's assurances that his dentist will accept my insurance even though he's not in my network, he won't. Being that I don't want to shell out $600 of my own cash, I have to find another dentist.

I go to the dentist that my wife's HMO makes me go to. Aside: my wife's dental insurance sucks. She works for a hospital, but it's crappy insurance. How the hell does that happen? Anyway, this new guy sees me, tells me that it doesn't look like I need a root canal, but if that's what I want that's what I should get. However, he doesn't do root canals.

Now, this annoys me because when I called his office to schedule, I made it clear that I needed a root canal. Now, I'm sitting in the chair and he's telling me that he will refer me to another dentist that does root canals.

And that's where I go this morning; a little apprehensive, but happy that it'll be done. I get there, he X-rays my mouth, and tells me I don't need a root canal. After fussing around with my molar for a minute, he tells me I have a cracked tooth. Root canals will not help cracked teeth, he tells me. What I need is a permanent crown. Is this something that he can do? Of course not.

He's going to refer me back to the boner that sent me there for a root canal in the first place. Needless to say, I'm not really keen on returning to the dentist that misdiagnosed my problem in the first place. But who knows? Maybe he's just overly cautious, and not an idiot. Or maybe he is.

So now I'm back at work, my tooth still hurts me, and I'm not any closer to getting the damn thing fixed that I was a year ago.

So, yeah, I'm a little salty this morning.


#078 In which our hero calmly cleans up poop.

The more observant of my readers (all four of you) will have noticed that Skat Watch 2005 ended... and, as it could not have ended in any other fashion, it ended badly.

Well, truthfully, as far as shitting on the floor goes, this was good. Allow me to explain.

We took the ultimate step in dog containment two weeks ago, we bought Invisible Fencing. I didn't realize that they made an indoor version, but The Scientist did all due diligence in her research, and decided that this would be the best thing. Well, the best thing after all other things had failed.

It's pretty straightforward how it works: a little radio transmitter is installed in the house (it looked exactly like a fire alarm) and a shock collar is installed on the dog. When the two get too close together, the dog gets shocked. In the parlance of the Invisible Fence people, he gets "corrected."

The collar makes a beeping noise when you start to get too close, so there's fair warning. The Scientist and I spent several nights with the dog trying to teach him what the beeping means and how to escape the "correction." Of course, the collar wasn't turned on to start.

We finally get to the point where we think the dog gets it. At the very least, he's standing on the far end of the hallway, looking at us as if to say, "Okay, I get it. If I get too close to those little flags the collar beeps and you shoo me away. I'll just stand here until you retards decide it's time to move."

So we turn on the collar and let him move around. Let me describe the environment: we want him to stay in the foyer or the laundry room, which are attached by a door. We put his nice comfy bed in the far end of the laundry room, far from the shock zone. The transmitter is set up so that the zone covers the doorway into the living room, the doorway into the family room, and the steps upstairs. It's actually very convenient the way the house is designed. For us, at least.

The dog has a run of 12 feet or so before he gets into the "pre-shock" zone. He can pace around and not get shocked, has access to his water, has a nice chew toy, and is as comfortable as we can make him. He only has access to a limited area, true, but it's not like it's a cold cement kennel or anything.

So we turn the collar on, and wait to see what happens. He wanders into the zone, apparently ignoring the beeping and gets his first "correction."

You'd think the dog had just been attacked by a swarm of killer bees.

He yelps and whips his head around, trying to see what's biting his neck. The Scientist and I immediately shoo him out of the area, hoping he'll make the connection. He doesn't and walks back in for his second "correction."

This only has to happen twice before he says, "All right, I don't know what the fuck is over by those stairs, but I'm staying the hell over here."

Mission accomplished.

However, now the dog is terrified of the little Invisible Fence flags and collar. Even though every expert The Scientist has read and/or conferred with says that this is the best, safest and most humane way to contain your dog, it still seems a little heartless.

And I know, that's saying a lot coming from me. The dog's not my best friend, but like I said before, I don't want him to suffer. So The Scientist talks to some other experts that assure her that this will pass, that he'll get to the point where he doesn't look like he's about to have a coronary every time the collar is pulled out of the closet.

So, on to the pooping on the floor portion of our show.

One evening, the entire family, sans dog, piles into the truck and heads out to dinner. We set up the warning flags, put the collar on the dog, and head out. When we return, we discover that at some point the dog managed to close the door between the foyer and the laundry room. Now, this is nothing that either The Scientist or I had anticipated, and I'm still not sure what the heck happened. But, naturally, the dog ended up on the "bad" side of the door, i.e., the side nearest the shock zone.

And what really sucks is that since he can't escape to the laundry room, he had maybe four feet to move around before things start getting uncomfortable for him. And by "uncomfortable" I mean he gets the shit shocked out of him.

And naturally, that's exactly what happened.

At some point he just couldn't take it and unburdened his bowels right in front of the door. Now, usually, this would generate a fair amount of anger from me, as dog crap cleaning is not one of my more favorite activities. But, my heart went out to the dupe this time... trapped in a room without any way to escape the invisible swarm of stinging bees. So I put him outside where he could crap au nautural and cleaned and bleached the tile. That had a lot to do with it, too... it was a fairly easy clean up, which was the whole reason behind keeping him on the tile in the first place.

Now the laundry room door is securely tied open, so the dog doesn't need to get anywhere near the shock area. Thus ends Skat Watch 2005. For now.


#077 In which our hero loves his little girl.

I've done a little soul-searching recently regarding this Web site. I enjoy writing it, and it's good for me (in a polishing your skills and banishing your demons sort of way), but recently, I've been asking myself, in my best internal Dennis Hopper voice, what's it all about, man?

I read a fair amount of blogs, and most can be easily classified: mommy blog, daddy blog, relationship blog, etc., etc. And I know there are countless permutations out there (I love peanut butter blog, anyone?) which I don't read, and have no interest in. So, what's about, anyway?

Well, I don't know. It's about me, and whatever drifts through my head. And, apparently, it' about my dog peeing on the floor. And, while I decided that I have no interest in defining this mess as being about something, I realized something else: I don't write about my baby nearly enough.

Simply put, my baby is awesome.

I mean, really awesome. If you have a baby of your own, I'm sorry, but he or she isn't jack compared to my daughter. Not only is my little swee'pea off the charts for height, weight and head circumference, she's smart as a whip, too.

Aside: why head circumference? I mean, sure, height and weight are pretty intuitive measures of a baby's development, but the size of their noggin? Is this such a wild card that you need to chart it? Why not ankle length or buttocks roundness... it seems to make just about as much sense to me. Anyway.

I'm constantly amazed at what my daughter understands. She's only a year and a half old, and doesn't really talk yet (but she says some words clearly, most notably "no!" and "mine!"), but I really think she understands nearly everything we tell her.

I'm sure there comes an age when your children are no longer a constant marvel, but I'm enjoying her so much right now. The Scientist asked me last night what I like most about our daughter, and I answered, "the same thing I like most about you. She makes me laugh."

And she does. She's so funny, and when she starts to giggle and laugh, it slays me. Especially when she laughs so hard that she snorts and gives herself the hiccups. Ha-larious! I've been sitting here trying to think of a particular incident that really sums up what I'm trying to express, something that would make you say, "ah, that's the most adorable thing I've ever read!" But I'm coming up blank. Not that she doesn't do exactly that on a daily basis, but not in ways that necessarily translate well into words.

Then again, I may just be a doting father, and you wouldn't be impressed by my little angel. Nah, that's crazy talk. All will fall under the spell of my offspring!

And, just so you know, if they measured buttocks roundness, she's be off the chart for that, too.


#076 In which our hero cleans up his act.

I like to swear. I've fought this for some time, told myself that I don't need to swear, that I mostly just swear for effect, often comedic effect. And while there is no denying that this is true, it's also true that I just enjoy it.

As a word guy, I sometimes chide myself for not being more clever. When I'm surprised by something terrible (the dog crapping on the floor, stepping in cat puke, the little girl eating fire, whatever) I should let loose with a "Jesus tap-dancing Christ!" or "By the Hoary Host of Hoggoth" (a little extra for us comic geeks, that one) or "Well, slap my ass and call me Sally!" But no, generally I resort to the ole' standby: fuck.

I love to say fuck. Many others have waxed prosaic on fuck's perfect ability to work as adverb, adjective and even noun, so I won't. But it's nearly the perfect fucking word, y'know?

I don't think I've called Tucker anything but "that fucking dog" for at least a month now. I go to work every morning to my "fucking job," I constantly shoo "my fucking cat" away from the door, and last night's fried chicken dinner made "a big fucking mess" in the kitchen. The last one was pretty gratuitous, I'll admit.

While "fuck" is probably my #1 favorite, I also enjoy "cocksucker" a lot. That word is always used in regard to other people, no surprise there. Mostly in traffic. "Motherfucker" is right up there too. Usually said like this: "Muh-ther-FUCKER!"

A couple of years ago The Scientist and I gave up swearing for Lent. I don't really remember why now, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And we really did nearly excise profanity from our speech entirely. For a time. And we felt really superior and did a lot of "we don't have to swear to express ourselves" back-slapping. But, we lost our way and again swear like sailors.

But... that has to change.

Yesterday, the little girl and I were doing something, and I let fly an "Ah, fuck!" And my beautiful, delightful, innocent little daughter immediately said, "eh, f-ha!" Not a clear "fuck," but she was definitely heading down that road.

Now I need to clean up my language. And I'll be the first to admit that I'm much worse than the wife. But with the dog pissing on the carpeting on a daily basis, it becomes all the more challenging to properly express our level of frustration without referring to him as a "cocksucking motherfucker."

But I'll fuckin' try.


#075 In which our hero takes the dog to the vet... again.

So, the dog.

I haven't written anything about him recently because... well, because it's not that funny. Tucker will be 13 in August, and as a large breed dog he's just not built to last much past 12.

Just like the world did for the Pope, The Scientist and I are on deathwatch... waiting for the poor old boy to finally kick. However, unlike the Pope, Tucker shows no signs of quietly fading away.

His intermittent stomach/bowel problems (and if the phrase "bowel problems" doesn't fill you with fear, that you've never had a 90-lb. dog crap up your house) seem to be getting worse. It seems like every so many weeks he refuses to eat, prompting us to change his diet from the already easy-to-digest special (and none too cheap) dry food to boiled chicken and rice. After a week of this king's diet, he usually recovers, his poop firms up, and things go pretty much back to normal.

Well, most recently the chicken and rice wasn't doing it, so we took him to the vet. The Scientist and I had talked about all the worst-case scenarios -- ulcers, stomach cancer, liver failure -- and were more than a little apprehensive about the results.

An aside: the other day my wife says to me, "It makes me sad that you hate the dog." My first reaction was I don't hate the dog! ... but, upon further reflection, I think that yes, I do hate the dog. I mean, I don't hate the dog ALL the time, only when he is destroying our new house. I mean, I could go into detail and explain how, for example, when he wasn't keeping any food down that we laid old towels all over our bedroom floor and down the hallway just in case he yakked in the middle of the night and how he then proceeded to go to the very end of the hall, to the only two foot square bit of carpet that wasn't covered and puke there, and then made a quick detour into the little girl's room and leave a little spatter there, too, bringing the ratio of carpeted areas that he has pissed and/or vomited on to carpeted areas that remain unstained to 6-8. Once he manages to hit the two spare bedrooms, it'll be a grand slam.

And yeah, I fucking hate that. This is the first house I've ever owned (the old house belonged to The Scientist, I wasn't on the mortgage, she was just kindly enough to let me live there for free as long as I cooked) and it's the house I plan on living in forever. It's a grown-up house, complete with fireplace and office, a great house to raise kids in. But now, the floors are covered with faded beach towels and the family room is covered with this hideous area rug that my wife and I literally found on the side of the road. Right now, this place could be every college apartment I ever lived in. I just need to start collecting empties for the beer can pyramid.

And, as I've explained to The Scientist before, she's known the dog for 13 years, the vast majority of which were spent in walks and playing and rolling around on the floor having fun. I've known the dog for about six years, the majority of which have involved cleaning up his puke, steam-cleaning his shit out of the carpet and fighting with him to remain in his kennel. And while there were plenty of playing moments for me, too, the bad has been so bad that it makes it hard to remember the good times.

But, my constant rage with this animal doesn't make me completely heartless. I'm still concerned and I don't want him to suffer. Truth be told, I would be lying if I said I didn't want him to die ... I mean, daily puking and being yelled at isn't fun for him, either. Drifting off quietly to sleep and never waking up wouldn't be the worst fate. And lord knows this can't be the way he imagined spending his golden years. There's a three-foot person in the house now that wants to pet the doggie all the time, and there's another one coming... his share of the affection pie has been lessened considerably. We still try to play with him, but the spontaneous trips to the park have pretty much evaporated. Health issues aside, this must suck for him.

It was with these thoughts in my head that I sat in the sterile little room at the vet office, waiting to hear how bad the news was. But, as it turns out, the dog's bloodwork all came back fine. Other than the inflammatory bowel disease which we already knew about, the animal is in fantastic shape for his age.

And, we're told that this condition is cyclical in nature... there's nothing we can do to avoid flare-ups. They will come, regardless of what we do or do not do, and subside. For maybe a couple more years, this is just how it's going to be.

Let the toga party begin.