Filmmaker Kevin Smith jokes about the Platypus in the opening disclaimer to his film: DOGMA

Remember: Even God has a sense of humor. Just look at the Platypus. Thank you and enjoy the show.

P.S. We sincerely apologize to all Platypus enthusiasts out there who are offended by that thoughtless comment about Platypi. We at View Askew respect the noble Platypus, and it is not our intention to slight these stupid creatures in any way. Thank you again and enjoy the show.

The Platypus

Genus: Ornithorhynchus
Species: Anatinus

While categorically a mammal, the Platypus has physical characteristics of birds and reptiles as well. Studies have proven that the Platypus was the first species to diverge from reptile to mammal and therefore, evolutionarily speaking, it is sometimes thought of as The Missing Link.

It is also one of five surviving mammalian Monotremes – the other four are species of Echida, or spiny anteaters.  Monotreme meaning: “single hole”, from which, the female lays eggs.

The females have a pair of ovaries, but only the left ones work. Per annual mating season, that lone ovary produces 1 – 3 eggs which are fertilized in utero, gestate there for a month and then are laid and incubated for two more weeks until they hatch. The females have no teats.  Instead, the babies lick the fur around the mammary openings, where milk is secreted.

Their relationships are polygynous, so as soon as the male mates, he moves on to the next ‘single hole’, and the resulting Platypuppies are left to be raised by single-moms. And when they’re ready to go, they leave the nest forever. Platypus don’t live in packs or prides or schools. For the better part of their 15-year lifespan, they’re loners.

Platypus (note to the View Askew folks: the plural is the singular, like Shrimp or Sheep) have no external ears, small eyes and have bills, like a duck, hence the common moniker: Duckbill Platypus – regardless of the fact that there is no other kind: no Pelican-beak Platypus, Elephant-trunk Platypus or Rhinoceros-horn Platypus. Their bills are different than ducks’, in that Platypus’ are uniquely equipped with electroreceptors, a food-finding GPS, since they can neither see, smell nor hear their prey. However, since they are onlysemi-aquatic animals, they have to come up to the surface in order to grind what they catch into a mushy pulp. That’s right: along with everything else, they are toothless, losing their three measly baby teeth at puberty, never to return.

The Platypus have a fatty tails, like beavers. The tail serves as a paddle, working in tandem with their fully-webbed front feet. The back feet are pretty useless for swimming, what with only flimsy half-webbing, but instead, work as rudders. Males have an additional venomous claw on their hind foot, the poison in which is potent enough to kill a dog or severely injure a human. Which is pretty cool, considering that the largest max-out at around 5 lbs.

They were very nearly made extinct by European pelt-hunters, but in 1974 the Platypus became protected by Australian law and have sufficiently repopulated themselves in Eastern Australia and Tasmania, but surprisingly enough, not under human care. Very few have survived in captivity, and if they did, it was for considerably shorter lives. They do much better left alone in the wild.

All of that is to say, the Platypus is one egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed, feral, utterly mind-boggling animal.

Truly, one of a kind.

* * * * *

I remember first learning about the Platypus from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, specifically the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Ana Platypus and her parents, Dr. Duckbill and Elsie Jean, lived there.

They were minor players in Make-believe at best, but I remember being fascinated with the oddity of the Platypus – how it could be so many things at the same time: Mammal and Bird and Reptile.

So I never questioned the possibility of growing up to become This and That and the Other. I never limited myself to being just one thing. I could be whatever I wanted and I could be them ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I mean, if the Platypus – God’s little joke – could do it, why couldn’t I?

There are a lot of us Platypus around, I think. Oddities who don’t function quite like the rest. Who swimand burrow, who gestate inside and outside, who are shy loners and who strike out with venom, who function better not only outside the box, but without a box anywhere in sight.

And we’re doing okay.

God takes care of the Platypus.

So what if He laughs a little?

“I don’t know how to break this to you, but I’m baking the penis cake.”

My wife shook her head, defeated. She knew that morning that there was nothing she could do to stop me. So instead, she made me promise that if the cake wasn’t well-received at the party, I would make a public announcement saying that she had not approved of it.

I agreed.

The brilliant idea had come to me the night before, when I was thinking of what hors d’oeuvres to bring for my friend Jessie’s Inaugural Ball. This hang out, drink and dance party was an excuse for a bunch of graduate and post-graduate students to dress up in formal wear and celebrate the joyous swearing in of Barack Obama.

Looking over recipes in my kitchen, I was struck with what my filthy mind perceived as pure genius: What if I made a chocolate penis cake in honor of the first black president? It would even come with its own tagline: Barack Obama—Breaking our nation’s long history of white dicks in the Oval Office.

It was perfect. But was it so completely politically incorrect that my cohorts would recoil in horror? Would I become a social pariah? The “inappropriate girl” who doesn’t realize that she has grossly offended everyone in the room?

I needed a second opinion. So I emailed my friend Travis.

And I found my first measure of support with him. “Two things come to mind,” he wrote. “1) It would only be a social faux pas if the penis were anything shorter than 12 inches, because let’s face it, Obama ain’t swinging a little dick, and 2) try to avoid having any white icing spewing forth from the tip in a celebratory, I-just-got-a-new-president load.  Otherwise, I think you’d be fine.”

Before bed, I floated the idea past my wife, who would be accompanying me to the party the next night.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “Not if I’m coming with you.”

“But what if I snuck it in and it just ‘showed up’ on the snack table?” I asked.

She raised an eyebrow. “Everyone would know it was you.”

She was right.

In the morning, I called my older sister—who shares my corrupt mind, as do all my siblings—and mentioned my vetoed pastry creation.

“Oh my God! You HAVE to do it,” my sister insisted. “That would totally make the party.”

My second measure of support was all the more justification that I needed. I hung up the phone and went to the store to get cake mix.

Fast forward to the party: When I walked in the door with a large bag in-hand, someone asked, “What’d you bring?”

“Oh. Snacks,” I said, and made a bee-line for the kitchen. I set the cake out on the counter, along with its accompanying “inaugural balls” cupcakes. Then I abandoned ship.

“Did you bring cake?” my friend Sara asked before I could get away.

“What?” I said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She leaned over the cake pan and gasped. “Oh my God,” Sara said. “This is fabulous.” She picked up the cake and brought it to the living room. The other guests passed it around like communion, changing it from hand to hand and laughing. When it made its way back to the kitchen, it came with friends.”

“This is fucking hilarious.”

“Awesome cake, Laura.”

“Did you have a mold for this? Or how did you make it?”

All night long, I received a stream of compliments. They shook my hand. They hugged me. People I didn’t even know greeted me in a warm embrace. The chocolate fudge phallus cake—extra moist—was a raging success.

I wish the same for our new leader.

The woods of northern Michigan can be unseasonably cold in July. Even when the temperature reaches 80 degrees, the moment you venture into the dark, Tolkien-esque forest, it might as well be mid-February. It’s damp and unpleasant and the ground is still frost-bitten from the winter. It’s where happiness goes to die. You can feel the chill in your blood, particularly if you’re just wearing a wet bathing suit and flip-flops.

There are many, many places I’d rather be than wandering through this god-forsaken Midwestern jungle. I’d rather be swimming in Lake Michigan, for instance. And that’s exactly where I was just ten minutes ago. I should still be out there, floating in the blue water and trying to assure myself that the ominous-looking shadow swimming just below me isn’t a bull shark. Instead, I’m on an expedition to find a man with a brain tumor.

I’m not sure what I should be yelling to get his attention. Is he in any mental condition to recognize his own name? Wouldn’t it make as much sense to yell French toast or Bolshevik Revolution? What does it matter? If he was thinking clearly, he wouldn’t have gotten lost in the first place. I want to mention this to my mom, but I don’t think she’d see the humor in the situation.

“Tiiiiiiiim,” she yells, her voice straining, not from fatigue but emotional weariness. In the deep, dark part of her brain, I think she’d be relieved if we just found his body lying in a bed of leaves. She’d never admit it out loud, but I know she’s getting tired of being his caretaker, and with the sting of my father still fresh, she’s in no mood to bury another husband.

“Let’s just forget this,” I want to tell her. “The cancer’s had its way with him. His brain is like oatmeal now. He’s playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with his synapses, and he’s losing.” But I don’t say that. Not because it isn’t true, but because it’s mean. I should be saying happy things, supportive things, things like “He’ll turn up” or “We’ll all laugh about this tomorrow.” Not “There are worse ways to go then ending up a squirrel buffet” or “At least my dad dropped dead in the kitchen. If you’re going to keel over, have the common decency to do it someplace where people can find you.”

When Tim got sick, there wasn’t the same circling of the wagons like after my father died. Maybe it’s because it took longer. Cancer takes its time, plotting against your body like a chess player, while a heart attack knocks you out in one punch, a Mike Tyson swing to your coronary artery. When he was diagnosed, Tim’s family and ours were just quietly shocked, and I think that made it more difficult. We’d forgotten that sometimes the only logical response to tragedy is to trace it to the punch lines.

The timing of Tim’s cancer couldn’t have been worse. Not that there’s a convenient time to find out there’s a softball-sized tumor claiming squatter’s rights on your brain, but he and my mother had only been married for six months. That has to be the worst honeymoon gift ever. Personally, I think you should be in a romantic relationship with somebody for no less than two years before asking them to help you die. Anything less than that is just rude and presumptuous. But my mom stayed with him, becoming his full-time nurse and getting acquainted with his bodily functions in ways that no human being without a medical license should ever have to.

I’ve never been a fan of those “Love Is” comics. You know, with the naked children with the big methed-out eyes and scary lack of genitalia. But I’m pretty sure they never published one that read: “Love is… giving him sponge baths and cleaning up his poop as he waits for the sweet release of death.”

We’re so deep into the woods by now that my Blair Witch paranoia has kicked in. I’m scanning the trees not just for a confused old man but for shadowy glimpses of vengeful spirits or evidence of a Wiccan hootenanny, like a burned-out firepit or a pentagram made out of branches. Even my mom has stopped calling out Tim’s name, not because she shares my occult alertness but because her voice has gone hoarse. We study the forest like it’s an optical illusion painting, convinced that if we just unfocus our eyes, Tim’s face will magically appear in the foliage.

“You know,” my mom says, breaking the silence. “He had the tumor before he met me.”

I stare back at her but don’t break my stride. I’m afraid of where this is heading. “You don’t say?”

“That’s what the doctor told me,” she says, her voice calm and measured. “He said Timmy probably had the tumor for years. That’s why it’s so big. It’s been growing in him for longer than I’ve known him.”

I nod and try to look busy, squinting to get a better look at some rustling leaves in the distance.

“It’s possible I never really knew him at all,” she says, more to herself than to me. “The cancer could have changed his entire personality. Who’s to say he wasn’t completely different before it took over? So maybe I didn’t fall in love with him, I fell in love with the tumor.”

I just smile and squeeze her hand, but my mind is reeling. Her offhand comment has sparked my imagination. As we walk in silence, I get a vivid image of my mom being wooed by a tumor, brown and smooth, like a lima bean with arms and legs.

When my mother announced that she was bringing Tim to our summer cottage, I braced myself for the worst. He was recovering from several brain surgeries, in an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the tumor (or, as I’d now come to recognize it, my mom’s actual second husband), and my mom warned us that he had some cranial swelling. I expected… well, I don’t know what I’d expected. I’d never known anyone who’d had his head twisted open like a stubborn mayonnaise jar. When I finally set eyes on him, it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. Sure, it was difficult not to stare at the almost comical scar that stretched across his forehead, and his head was definitely bigger than I remembered. He reminded me of a golem or that translucent, big-brained alien in the “Sixth Finger” episode of The Outer Limits.

Otherwise, he seemed normal enough. He didn’t blurt out random verbs (again, what I’d been anticipating), but he did sometimes act… peculiar. His eyes would go in and out of focus without warning, and his gaze would drift aimlessly around the room, like he was lost in thought or pondering philosophical tangents we couldn’t begin to comprehend. My brother and I did everything in our power to ignore his quirks and be sociable. We engaged him in polite conversation, bringing up innocuous topics, laughing at harmless jokes, and somehow avoiding the questions that begged to be asked.

I was a volcano of inappropriateness. I could’ve blown at any moment. “What’s it like to know you’re going to die?!” I wanted to scream at him. “Do you just not think about it, or are you clinging to hope that the tumor’s going to give up and come crawling out of your ears, carrying all of its belongings in a hobo bindle? Are you like those death-row inmates who convince themselves that the governor’s going to call at the last minute, just before they throw the switch, and issue an official pardon? You know it doesn’t work like that, right? The state has no jurisdiction on cancer.”

When talking about nothing lost its appeal, my brother and I turned our attention to the recreational activities we usually enjoy during a Michigan summer. And Tim, unsupervised and momentarily overconfident in his ability to navigate, wandered out of the house and disappeared. When my mom realized he was missing, she organized a search party. My brother scoured the roads leading in and out of town, and my mom and I braved the forest. There are plenty of clearly marked hiking trails in the woods surrounding our cottage, but they probably mean nothing to Tim, whose brain has betrayed him and is likely whispering bad directions to him.

Every few dozen yards we bump into hikers, and we try not to alarm them with our questions. “Have you seen a guy wander past?” we ask. “He’s sixty but looks much older, big Frankenstein scar on his head, lurching but in a non-menacing kinda way, maybe muttering to himself, acting vaguely tumory. No? Okay, if you see him, please don’t chase him into an old windmill and burn it down. He’s with us.”

The sun is getting lower in the sky. Within less than an hour, it’ll be dark and we’ll need to go home. I can tell my mom doesn’t want to call the police. It’ll invariably lead to helicopters and searchlights, and she doesn’t want the neighbors to talk. She’s managed to downplay his condition – brain surgery scars aren’t nearly as noticeable if you’re wearing a variety of hats – but this is just the sort of embarrassing spectacle that leads to whispered gossip at neighborhood potlucks.

“So what’s he like?” I suddenly ask.

“What’s who like?”

“This tumor you’re all head over heels for,” I say. “Is he like the bad boy that your parents don’t approve of but every time he drives by the soda shop in his ’57 Chrysler convertible you can’t resist jumping into the back seat?”

She eyes me uneasily and I wonder if I pushed too far. It was a tasteless and totally inappropriate thing to say, especially to a woman well on her way to being a widow for the second time. But then she smiles at me, and it’s the first smile I’ve seen from her in months, so I decide to take a chance and press on.

I tell her my theory. She’s dressed in a poodle skirt and curls, I explain, and the tumor is wearing a wife-beater and jeans, flicking cigarette butts and smirking like James Dean. I imagine her in her parents’ kitchen, yelling at them, “You don’t know him like I do! I can change him!” But the truth is, she likes his devil-may-care attitude. She likes that he has a chip on his shoulder and gets into bar fights with T-cells and can’t be tamed.

“I don’t know, I pictured him a lot differently,” she says, her grin widening. “Like maybe he has a really thin mustache which he’s always pinching.”

“You mean in a silent film villain kinda way or an Ivy League grad student writing bad poetry in a coffee shop kinda way?”

“Definitely the poet,” she says. “He’s a vegan for moral reasons and only watches French New Wave movies.”

“Ah yes, I know the kind,” I say. “He smokes American Spirits, wears an ascot and self-published his own chapbook, which he insists is a modern take on The Canterbury Tales.”

“He has strong opinions about pinot noir and jazz, and a huge collection of spoken word vinyl.”

“He lives alone with a cat named Chairman Meow, and he’ll explain the pun to you whether you ask or not.”

“He’s painted his bedroom red because he thinks it’ll affect his dreams.”

“Wow, mom,” I mutter, shaking my head with exaggerated sympathy. “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your tumor boyfriend is a pretentious prick.”

And that’s when we both lose it. It isn’t polite, restrained laughter. It’s like air being let out of a balloon. It’s Reefer Madness laughter. The kind of hysterical guffawing that people initially join in with but then stop abruptly and stare back at you like they think you intend to hurt them. Have you ever been at a funeral when somebody farts and you can’t stop yourself from laughing? That’s what it was like. It’s when somebody sucks the sad out of a room by doing or saying something juvenile and disrespectful and completely stupid.

We eventually track down Tim. Turns out he’d never gone anywhere near the forest. He’s been sitting on a dock down by the beach, staring out at Lake Michigan, and for some reason he’s dressed only in a bathrobe and my brother’s moonboots. He flashes us a feeble smile, and we know there’s no way we can scold him for wandering off. So we sit down next to him and watch the sunset.

I want him to say something profound, because that’s what sick people are supposed to do. If this was a short story, Tim would share an inspirational platitude that wouldn’t seem out of place on a fortune cookie. “I used to think I was lost, but then I realized we’re all exactly where we should be. Home is where you choose it.” Fiction and the movies have taught me that cancer turns everyone into Buddhist philosophers.

Instead, he just grins at us, like a baby looking up at the goo-gooing faces of adults. “The sunset sure is beautiful tonight,” he says, his scar glowing like it’s radioactive.

We nod but say nothing. We watch the sun slowly disappear behind the lake. And then my mom turns to me and says, “Yeah, he definitely wears an ascot.”

We both start laughing again, rolling around the dock and clutching our sides. We’re laughing so hard we’re almost heaving. Tim looks at us, confused and a little scared, but we don’t bother to explain. He wouldn’t understand.

He doesn’t know it yet, but my mom is breaking up with his tumor.

(Illustrations by Scott McCloud. For more, go here)

There’s a Star Wars kite that flies through my imagination. It fights a plastic parrot over a lonely section of the city. Cars zoom past and we all ignore them. The kites dart and dodge. They batter one another. They’re  not really even there. But I can open the front door of my apartment and see them flying across the apartment tops in a pool of blue sky.

On a rainy day I can still imagine the summer sunlight, the kites fluttering, dipping with each tug, and two little boys with hands wrapped in string.

I suppose it might not mean anything that when I needed to move again, I moved right back into the same apartment where I used to live. In an entire city block of carbon copy apartments it’s the same exact one. About thirty feet outside the apartment is a little area of cement. Dates and initials are carved from the mid 1990s. I lived there with my mom and my sister. My mom died in 1998 from an aortic aneurysm. My sister now lives somewhere in the mountains south of Bakersfield (about 70 miles north of LA). I’d left the apartment around 1996 and thought I’d never look back.

Sometimes it’s really disturbing living someplace I thought I’d left far behind. It’s tough convincing myself that I really did make progress in my life. I’ve seen and done a few things since then.

My mother watched “Singing in the Rain” a lot. I can see her doing that when I’m passing through the living room.

Sometimes I go and kick dirt off the initials in the cement. I think of dreams I once had while living in the apartment the first time. I can still see those too.

On occasion, when the front door opens, like today, I can hear a little boy crying from atop a swatch of grass. I gaze upward as his Star Wars kite breaks off into an uncontrolled arc across the sky. It goes crashing outside of the apartment sea, over a fence and alley, and into a row of homes, never to be found.

A megastar movie based on a New York Times best-selling book based on a Sex & The City episode drops February 6th. Fashioning an acerbic advice book into a screenplay is a feat only writers like Charlie Kaufman can safely ignore.

He’s Just Not That Into You was published in 2004 and struck a significant chord. It seems only fair if not mildly treasonous to return the favor to men.

My baseline position is that men usually know when a woman is just not that into them (unlike women, who are masters of self-delusion, false optimism and denial). You men, you don’t care. You get off on a certain level of pursuit. Experience has taught you the power of persistence. Sun Tzu’s Art of War, etc.


But for those men who are tired of treading water, sick of being a chump and especially for those poor souls who have clearly lost their way, let the following be your guide.

1. She’s Just Not That Into You if she doesn’t offer to pay for shit.

Women will keep men in their lives they have no feelings for simply because these men whip out their wallets on cue. Practical necessity? OK sometimes. Learn to spot the far more common garden variety greediness. It’s not something we’re wracked with guilt over either (hello, we still make seventy five cents to your dollar for the exact same job. If you want to try to make that up to us, we sure as hell will let you). Unless we’re really into you. A girl who’s into you will at minimum offer to pay. It’s the gesture of offering that tells a man how a woman feels and, additionally, if she’s up to the task of true partnership. Even a woman earning diddly squat will pick up the tab for cheap things like coffee or breakfast. And she’ll give you stuff: books, burned CDs, baby cactuses, bus passes. Tokens of her affection. If your girl don’t pay for shit and don’t give you tiny little presents, she is using you for your money.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you bank. You don’t even mind paying for every single bar tab, restaurant bill, movie ticket, airfare, trip to the mall. It makes you feel generous and important and manly to be able to provide such things for the girl in your life. Especially if said girl is hot, and she’s in school getting her degree and can’t afford those sexy Nine West stiletto boots…

Dude, you are being used. If you’re ok with that, you have self esteem issues. You need counseling. A month surfing solo in Costa Rica. Something. How can you not know how many badass women are out there? Women who have their shit together financially and everything-else-ily?

Getting used for money is so 1998. Grow a fucking pair. You can rent someone’s heart or you can experience the bliss of love. Do either with open eyes.

2. She’s Just Not That Into You if she claims she’s “not over” her ex.

Both genders use this tired excuse – it’s the easiest way to turn someone down. Soften the blow. Even get some sympathy. Do not be fooled or moved! Do not try to help her through it! Do not stick around! Be smart and disappear. The only appropriate response to a girl making this claim is, “I sincerely wish you best of luck getting over so and so. I really hope you can work though it and feel better. Give me a call next July.” And she might. But the point is, the truth is, most people will suck it up and throw some duct tape over their busted heart if a new person they consider attractive, smart and nice comes sniffing around. Plus the only surefire way to get over an ex is to date someone else so it’s pretty counterintuitive to play the “oh it’s too soon” card. Go ahead and call bullshit. TIP: a good vetting device? Date people close to your level of singlehood. Single for seven months? Nice to meet you. Broke up last weekend? Excuse me gotta go.

3. She’s Just Not That Into You if you’re doing her.

Hooking up leads to love as often as LinkedIn leads to a dream job. Why do we pretend it can work? Because it’s a convenient belief. Because we’re horny. Women are dying to get off too you know and sometimes biological urges override our emotional braking system. Still, we’re all apprised of the odds. Chances are if she’s really into you, she’s terrified of messing things up between you two by adding horizontal gymnastics into the mix. She’s probably dying to get naked but resisting the impulse with varying levels of success. Conventional wisdom holds that good relationships sprout from causal friendships, which progress at normal speed into romances.  Love rarely blooms after a night of hard drinking at Lucky Lounge.  It’s also wise not to underestimate the effect of squawking norms from yesteryear which told women they were “sluts” if they “put out” too soon. Many women still equate sex with leverage somehow. So if you and your girl are having doggy style Thursdays it’s not love. It’s not even in the neighborhood of love. It’s sport. Cool? Cool. Just don’t go around pretending you’re her boyfriend. You’re not. Which isn’t to say you won’t ever be. C’est posible. People win the lottery every day. The odds never change, but it does happen.

4. She’s Just Not Into You if she speaks flippantly about excretory or menstrual functions.

These are topics of excrutiating shame in the romantic realm, at least initially. And at least initially a woman will usually avoiding pooping in a five mile radius of a guy she’s really into. It’s not healthy or easy but it’s what we do. If a girl is reporting her bowel movements or flow density in an offhand manner/in graphic detail, you have been relegated to Friend status. It could take years before she realizes you’re boyfriend material. Don’t you think you deserve a woman who isn’t voluntarily blind? Who can plainly see how awesome you are? Get this girl a Costco bulk pack of Always with Wings and tell her you can’t wait forever.

5. She’s Just Not That Into You if she takes her sweet ass time returning your calls.

If a woman never calls you, you cannot tell anything from this. Through various channels of public mockery women have been made aware of our tendency to call men too much. We sorta for the most part get it. You don’t like being stalked. Roger that, loud and clear. But not returning your calls is something else entirely. If she doesn’t call, email or text you back within a day or two sorry she is just not that into you. Keep on moving.

6. She’s Just Not That Into You if some guy is slapping her ass at the bar.

If she is openly giving other guys attention right in front of your face (see also: getting hit on and loving it), she is an attention whore. Let her be one. Peacefully walk away. Far away. As my friend Lisa*, avid collector of men she’s not really into puts it, “A girl who’s really into you doesn’t create a space for that to happen.” If you two are at the bar and some guy’s patting her butt while she giggles and meekly swats his paw away, you’re choopped liver. See the exit sign over there? Follow it. Go to the next bar. Meet the kickass woman who’s waiting over there for someone great like you.

7. She’s Just Not That Into You if you get the side hug.

How does she hug you? It’s important. It says a lot. The side hug, the one arm, or worse, the Oprah hug (greets with all body contact blocked, interlacing fingers of both hands with yours) speak volumes. The hug of a girl who’s really into should include both arms. Some breast contact. Pelvis touching or nearly touching. Slow to part. Hugging her should be warm and slightly dizzying. It should feel good.

This concludes my post.

All the TNB ladies, all the TNB ladies

All the TNB ladies, all the TNB ladies

If you take umbrage with any of the above points, do feel free to explain or contribute your own ideas.

Men, you are welcome.

Today’s story comes from the “Things that could only happen to me” file. Previous entries in this popular series include:

  • I’m 16 years old, it’s summer in Orlando, and I’m working the register at a retail store. A heavyset female customer pays for her items by unbuttoning her blouse, reaching into her bra, and producing a large, sweaty wad of cash.

Part One: The archipelago.

I’ve decided I wanna come back as a Galapagos sea lion. Seriously. They’re livin’ the dream. Bountiful food, no predators, plenty of companionship. They loll around in the sand most of the day lounging all over each other, waddle around looking for shade, or a good meaty ass to rest their head on, do a little fishing now and again, take an occasional dip just for the hell of it—seriously, they’ve got it dialed in. They are truly joyful creatures to watch. The bulls are a little surly at times, and downright scary when you get too close to them in the water,  but the mothers and the babies are nothing less than playful when you swim with them—and they’re amazing swimmers, too, totally graceful and athletic. The penguins are amazing swimmers, too,  kinda sprite-like in their quickness, now-you-see-them-now-you don’t. Manta Rays freak my ass out. It’s like somebody ran over a shark with a steamroller then mated it with a flying saucer.

Talk about stealthy. Tiger sharks are lazy fuckers from what I observed. They just kinda hang out under rocks floating there in the shadows like turds. Not exactly man-eaters —though, to be sure, you won’t find me swimming around down there in the shadows. I’m no fishologist, but damn there’s some garish colored fish down there. Bright orange and hot purple and bright blue. Some skinny fuckers, too. They’ll be swimming right at you like a sheet of paper, then bingo-bango , they turn a corner and your looking at an Italian flag with lips. There were these other schools of fish I’d swim through that were almost transparent. You could swim right through the middle of them and they’d swish aside like silk curtains. Fuck if I know what they were called. You’ll just have to believe me. I thought I saw Nessie, too. But it was just a penguin head.

It was pretty cool to see a pink flamingo without a mobile home behind it.

I saw A LOT of giant sea-turtles humping. A LOT. Not all that sexy, really. The dude just sort of hitches a ride on the female as far as I can tell. And they hump for a long time. Longer than I’ve ever humped. Which isn’t saying much. Saw giant land tortoises humping, too. What can I say, there was romance in the air. Not that I got humped. Okay, maybe once. The cabins on our boat weren’t exactly conducive to humping. Or sleeping, for that matter. The food wasn’t exactly conducive to shitting, either. But I loved the cook, Victor, anyway. He was a sweetheart. He had a genius for dry meat. He cooked me a t-bone that would have made a pretty decent catchers mitt. And for the record, hot dogs are the breakfast sausage of choice on the equator. Victor slathered them in an orange sauce reminiscent of Spaghettios. Nobody ate them. But old Victor never got the hint. Can’t fault him for that.

Yadida the bartender was my buddy. Go figure. She had a way of tying a napkin around a beer that was inspiring. By the way, if you’re a beer aficionado, go ahead and skip Ecuador on your brew tour. The local swills are nothing to write home about, but they’re pretty tasty on the deck of a boat after you’ve been snorkeling and hiking all day. And did I mention Yadida’s superlative napkin work? Every beer looked like it was wearing a prom dress. The second mate Pedro was in love with my wife. Poor guy. Speaking of my wife, she was a pleasure the whole trip. Even if she didn’t hump me all the time. I’ll bet you old Pedro got something for the spank bank. Don’t worry, my wife never reads my blogs.

I love my in-laws to death. We spent eighteen inseparable days with Lauren’s folks and it was a joy every minute of the way, seriously. They’re the best. Not too many people I could get along with for that length of time under those conditions.

Other cool animals I saw in the wild: frigate birds, pelicans, albatross, blue-footed boobies, masked boobies, marine iguanas by the hundreds, lava lizards, fur seals, sting rays, eagle rays, and my favorite animal of all, fat ladies from Texas. Can you believe they have fat ladies from Texas with hair like Bill Parcels in the Galapagos? When you think about it, that’s way weirder than lava lizards.


One of my favorite moments in the Galapagos involved a fat lady from Texas. She had hair like Bill Parcels. Positioning herself behind a baby sea lion for a photo op on Isla Santa Fe (okay, I admit it, I don’t remember which damn island it was—its all a blur of colorful fish and napkined beers), this fat lady from Texas was standing on the beach with a big shit-eating grin, looking like Bill Parcels after a third down conversion, totally unaware that the mother had waddled up behind her. She took a step backward and tripped over the mother sea lion and fell flat on her big Texas ass. I know it’s wrong, but I almost pissed myself. You should have seen it! The sea lions were laughing.

My own crowning moment as a gringo involved six margaritas and a hollowed out tortoise shell in a bar on Isla Santa Cruz (and I know what island it was, cause it was the first night). This particular scenario pretty much sums up all of my ambivalence about human impact on the Galapagos. Let’s face it, that’s fucked up. But wouldn’t you wanna get inside a hollowed out giant tortoise shell after six two-dollar margaritas and walk around a bar like that if you had the chance?


My dad is pretty infamous within my family for his over-the-top hobbies and do-it-yourself home improvement projects. In the early 90’s, when my family still lived in Modesto, Calif., my father decided he was going to try his hand at woodworking. He then proceeded to purchase approximately 30 books on the subject, subscribed to Woodworking Magazine, and began researching all of the tools he would need to be an expert woodworker.

We spent a lot of time at Sears in those days, as my dad began purchasing every saw, workbench and sander known to man. He cleaned out the garage, which, by the way, was the first time I think I’d ever seen the garage floor in my lifetime, and set up his “workshop.” There was a pile of wood in the garage that took up a good third of the floorspace. For all of his efforts though, my dad only ever managed to make little tchotchkes. You know, the little “Home is where your heart is” signs and whatnot.

There were many projects that followed this one, but the one that’s been on my mind lately was his attempt to put a pond in our backyard a few years after I had moved out of my parent’s home. This was when they still lived nearby and I saw them on a weekly basis. When I heard that my dad was starting another home improvement project I just rolled my eyes and laughed with the rest of the family. I got to the house one day to see my dad surrounded by books about building a backyard pond, along with some tubing and pumps that he was busily testing. Weeks passed and I quickly forgot about my father’s plans for the pond.

Then, a few months later I arrived at my parent’s house to discover my youngest brother seated on a giant rock next to a gaping hole filled with rainwater and mud. The picturesque pond my father had envisioned had never materialized. Instead, it was more like a swamp, which suited my then 4-year-old brother just fine. My mom told me that Peter would spend every afternoon out there playing in the mud and watching the frogs and toads who were loving this new habitat my father had seemingly created especially for them.

I joined my brother out there and he told me all about the “magic” frogs that lived in the pond. At first I couldn’t see any frogs. I actually thought they were my brother’s imaginary friends. After all, he was 20 years younger than me and five years younger than the next youngest child. Unlike the rest of my brothers and sisters, he spent a lot of time on his own.

But then I flinched as I saw one of the frogs hop out of the pond. Peter thought this was hilarious, but, unlike any of my other brothers, he didn’t begin trying to catch them and taunt me with them. Instead, he showed his sensitive side and explained to me that the frogs were “really nice” and that they wouldn’t hurt me. He picked up a couple of the frogs, and petted them to show me I had nothing to fear.

Since then, my brother has formed a very complex personality. He loves to do lots of the things stereotypically reserved for little boys, like riding his bike and playing in the dirt. But he also loves putting on performances in which he sings and dances to his own songs. He’s comfortable around girls and loves to show off by doing cartwheels and walking around in my sister’s high heels. Like any big sister, I think this is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. But the rest of the world associates his more “feminine” behaviors with him being a homosexual. While I’m totally fine with this and would absolutely love to have a gay little brother, other people have stigmatized the gay lifestyle to such a point that even at 8 years old, my little brother, who has absolutely no concept of gay or straight, cannot feel comfortable with being himself out of fear of being marked as an outsider.

See, unfortunately, my family no longer lives in California, which, until Prop. 8 passed, seemed to be a more tolerant state than others. Instead, that pond was filled in a few years back when my parents sold their home and moved away to Idaho, and later Utah. Now I rely on updates about my two youngest siblings from my other family members and I heard the saddest news last week about Peter. My sister, Jess, called to fill me in on the latest family gossip about me, while at the same time giving me the scoop on the rest of the fam. This is when she told me that my little brother is avoiding school because he’s been being harassed and beaten up for being gay. She said he asked if he could transfer to a school near her so he wouldn’t have to go back to his regular school. He also asked her if doing cartwheels would turn him gay – apparently one of the accusations of his persecutors.

It’s obvious to me that the other children in his school are getting some skewed educations at home on what it means to be gay, along with the message that it is something to be avoided at all costs. And worst of all, they are somehow coming to the understanding that it is OK to discriminate against and harass gays. Each time a state passes another law discriminating against gays – no matter how trivial the issue may seem to the larger population – this message is reinforced both in the minds of adults and in the minds of our children. My younger brother is only one of a great many children who are being harrassed at schools across the nation for not conforming to gender norms. I only hope he can make it through without adopting the same mindset as his peers.

When asked to describe the epitome of man’s best friend I imagine few people would include phrases like “moderate to severe separation anxiety” or “urinates in the house.”  Fewer still might imagine a dog who clearly lost the ability to survive in nature earlier in their evolution than, perhaps, a Chinese Crested

or a Chihuahua.

Chihuahuas, after all, are tenacious, aggressive, and while they may shake through it, one might at least lose a finger in a standoff.

Nonetheless, my boyfriend and I have been hard pressed to find these so-called faults with our dog important.  I believe in his own words my better half admitted that, while he knew it was wrong, he would willingly clean up lakes of pee rather than imagine a day without our dog.  I feel much the same way.  This may go a long way to explaining why we have as yet been unable to solve this annoying and unsanitary problem.

Taxi—that’s the dog—is a mixed breed pound puppy who I rescued from the New York City municipal shelter.  I imagine the aforementioned problems may have prompted his placement there, as it certainly couldn’t have been his looks.

I mean honestly, have you ever seen a better looking dog in all your life?  If your answer is yes, you can keep it to yourself.  But the inability or lack of desire, shall we say, to potty train is, more often than not, counted as a serious problem.  Lucky for him, I had no idea this lay ahead and within 2.5 seconds after we met, it no longer mattered.

Since his homecoming, Taxi has been through a battery of training, including the unparalleled, behavior-influenced methods of Cesar Milan.  We were devoted Cesar fans, watched his show, The Dog Whisperer, on television and read both books.  Cesar’s Way appealed to me as the daughter of a scientist and an avid amateur animal behaviorist.  His approach seemed most focused on communicating with your animal in a way he/she would best understand.   That they are not people and should not be treated such is a theme both in the books and television series, as well as the recurring mantras of ample exercise and inner strength by the “pack leader.”  That’d be me.

Somehow, I don’t think the dog views me as his pack leader.  I’m reminded of this every time I try to take him for a walk.  Instead of leaping around, anxious for his leash, he walks to his bed, lies down and lifts his leg for a belly rub.  Come on man, are you a dog or not?  Not, I think is his answer.

“I tell my clients to take their dogs for a good long walk, run, or even a Rollerblade session first thing in the morning…Really tire her out.  Then it’s feeding time.  By the time you leave the house, your dog will be tired and full, and in a naturally resting state.” – Cesar Milan, Cesar’s Way

Uh huh.  What if the dog won’t go, Cesar?  I know he has to pee.  I’m sure of it.  After I sleep all night, I do and I want to do it in my toilet not on the floor under my Dad’s desk.  But every morning I carry my dog out the door and down the stairs before he’s ready to actually walk a bit.  Then, as soon as he’s done his business, around he turns and back we come.  And God forbid if it’s raining or otherwise inclement.  That’s a non-starter, that is.

“By humanizing dogs, we damage them psychologically.” – Cesar Milan, Cesar’s Way

Oh my God, the guilt.  Although not Catholic or Jewish, I am no less immune.  But anthropomorphizing the dog seems virtually impossible to avoid.  He’s got lips like a man and features that are all too human.  His apparent understanding of the world around him muddies the waters and, as I mentioned previously, the boyfriend and I are suckers.  I’m sure talking to the dog the way we do is not allowed.

“Who is a very big dog?  Is he big and handsome?  He is very special and his Mommy loves him, yes she does!”

This is said in a horrible, baby voice and he loves it.  Worse, we can’t stop ourselves.  It’s wrong!

Yesterday I came home to what I thought was a successful day.  Only gone a few hours and the boyfriend home the whole time, I didn’t expect there to be a problem.  Taxi seemed happy and relaxed, in no hurry to go outside and very pleased with himself.  I gave him a bone and sat down at my computer do to a little work before fixing dinner.  Unfortunately, because of my latest cold I was completely unaware of what lay behind me.  A few moments later my boyfriend came in and pointed it out.  There it was, a big pile of poop on our throw rug and the dog happily chewing his bone on the couch right above it.  Sigh.

So after years of obedience work, behavioral work, and advice from dog trainers, we are no farther along than we were when we started.  I’m sure this is my fault.  It’s always the mother’s fault and besides, that’s what all the books say.  In the end, I guess we’ve just decided to manage.  I keep a stock of Nature’s Miracle and a bucket and mop on hand at all times.  We continue our work to achieve potty training but we’re obviously poorly suited to it.  I only hope this dog might be able to teach an old girl some new tricks and one day help me figure out how to get him to pee outside.  Otherwise who knows; I might start peeing under the desk too.

There was a raccoon problem at Victor’s fraternity at Cornell.  Every night an enormous raccoon raided the fraternity’s garbage and made a huge, annoying mess.  The raccoon lived in a sewer pipe.  Victor always enjoyed solving problems, so he told his fraternity brothers that he would handle the raccoon problem.

His plan was to make a little bomb that he would place in the opening of the sewer, which would explode, making a large noise thereby frightening the raccoon into moving closer to some other fraternity.  Ba-boom, the garbage problem would be solved.
(I don’t have any college pictures, but this is his senior picture from High School.  He didn’t look much like this once he started college.  Imagine the same face but with a really big blond afro, bloodshot eyes and no tie.)

Victor set up shop for his bomb making in the fraternity’s living room.  He had an empty Old Spice deodorant stick container made of plastic.  He emptied ten M80s of their gunpowder and poured it all in the Old Spice container. Since the top needed to be sealed, he thought that sealing the top with wax sounded like a good idea. He found a candle and lit it.  As the wax melted it dripped slowly onto the top of the gunpowder.  All was going according to plan until Victor saw a tiny flame slowly follow the dripping wax down into the gunpowder.

There was a large explosion.

All the windows in the living room blew out.

Victor was bleeding profusely seemingly from everywhere on his body.

He thought he should wash off all the blood, so he took a shower. Meanwhile, his brothers called an ambulance.  When it arrived the ambulance rushed him, sirens wailing, to the hospital.  Victor had copious injuries, since the plastic Old Spice container had exploded into innumerable shards, which embedded themselves in a random pattern inside Victor.

The doctors removed about a dozen of the largest shards of Old Spice container, suturing up those wounds and then quite a few more from which he was still bleeding.  Victor’s eyebrows and eyelashes had to grow back since he no longer had any.  His hair was singed off above his forehead. He stayed the night in the hospital and returned to the fraternity with an astonishing number of nascent scars.

If you ask him, he will let you feel the lumps of Old Spice plastic which to this day he bares internally in two locations in his right arm, one in his face and several in his chest.

The fraternity still had a raccoon problem.


Comment by jmb |Edit This
2009-01-22 11:07:44

College stories are the best stories aren’t they?

I dont think kids make deodorant bombs anymore and in a sense, what a shame.

I’ve got scars along my arm from a pesticide in a trash can fire bomb.

Good times.

Bon voyage friend!

Comment by Laurie |Edit This
2009-02-03 08:36:15


Seems to me I’ve heard this story. A very believeable Victor tale. Better not talk about this one in the airports.

Must run. We’re off to Mexico. Enjoy Africa.


Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-02-03 10:05:20

But, Laurie, have you felt the plastic?

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 11:36:05

James Michael Blaine,
I am so impressed! A pesticide burn from a trash can fire bomb.
Those were the days, my friend.

(I’ll take lots of pictures.)

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-01-22 11:52:55

Well, I should have called Victor when I had the roof rats. Think of all the money I could haved saved. Probably enough to go with you to Africa. Yes. Really. Take pictures of the elephants for me.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 12:35:21

I already have Indian elephant pictures I can show you, but I’ll get African ones too.
I think Victor is out of the bomb-making business now. You’ll have to come up with a new plan for rat evacuation.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-24 14:07:23

I just checked the itinerary and one of the journeys we take is on elephant back. Another is on camel back. I hope I have a smaller elephant than I did in India, cause I had to do a side split to sit on him and it really hurt, my not being as limber as I used to be and all.

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-01-27 12:01:38

I like elephants,,, camels,,,, not so much. Camels are nasty spitting animals.
Giraffes I like also, maybe because I have always wanted a long slender neck,but have been stuck with this short chubby turtle neck I have.
Have a great time Irene, I will keep things going at the hospital while you are gone, )


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Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-27 15:34:51

I like giraffes too! I think everyone likes giraffes, though. I will do my best to get a good actual photograph of a giraffe. (Otherwise, I will buy a postcard with a picture of one for you.)

Love, Irene

Comment by ksw |Edit This
2009-01-22 12:42:21

just think, the ship that sails the ocean is sailing through victor’s body parts. at least his subcutaneous tissue will smell good.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 14:58:01

Oh, ksw,
You have to be of a certain age to understand that comment.
(I always thought it was why he never had objectionable body odor.)

Comment by Josie |Edit This
2009-01-22 12:43:43

Serves him right, trying to blow up a poor little critter like that – Dumping a bottle of Old Spice on the creature woulda been torture enough! lol

Take these well wishes, and take lotsa pictures

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 15:04:27

He never intended to harm the little fellow. He only wanted to frighten him so he would move to another set of garbage cans.

Old Spice used to be everyone’s Dad’s scent. Boys only used it for a short time when they were still trying to emulate their dads. Of course, that didn’t last too long after leaving the house. Everything Dad-related was pascutsva. (That is the phonetic rendering of the word for disgusting in Polish, I think. Victor’s uncle used to use it to describe Fernet Branca.)

I have a problem with taking lots of pictures, Josie. I have about 7,000 from India. I’m sort of nuts about pictures, (among other things.)

I am REALLY going to miss you guys!

Comment by Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) |Edit This
2009-01-22 13:35:13

I thought Victor was born with bloodshot eyes. . .

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 15:05:55

Marcia, I can only attest to the time after which I knew him. He absolutely always had blood-shot eyes. I do imagine, though, that as a young child his eyes must have been more normal-looking.

Comment by Rob Bloom |Edit This
2009-01-22 13:43:04

Why don’t more stories begin with the line:

There was a raccoon problem at Victor’s fraternity at Cornell.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 15:09:15

He’s extremely fortunate that he didn’t sustain eye damage from his “solution” to the raccoon problem. I suppose he would’ve had to be something other than a Retinal Surgeon, in that case.

Unfortunately, our children seemed to have taken after the young, impulsive, risk-taking Victor, rather than the grounded, solid, risk-averse man he was to become.

Comment by Pamela Norinsky |Edit This
2009-04-01 01:08:16

To be young and not think about the consequences of making a bomb. Lucky Victor!!!

We, too had racoons enter our attic several times. The last time they set up house Ron(the husband) set up kleig(sp) lights and drove them crazy 24/7 till they decided to take up residence elsewhere!!! I must admit he was quite clever.

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Comment by Amy |Edit This
2009-01-22 14:32:26

Goes to prove that at one time in our lives we all think we are invincible.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 15:11:55

I’m pretty sure that victor was an exception to that rule. He felt he was invincible until he had his first child. Then he became the epitome of resolute solemnity.

Comment by Ben |Edit This
2009-01-22 14:36:51

So we are clear… our father who for years became silently, but palpably, enraged over the literal spillage of milk spent his former years blowing himself up, stabbing himself and frequenting prostitutes?

I wish I had known this stuff when I was a snarky teenager. It would have been far more valuable.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 15:13:31

Ben, why would we allow you this dangerous information until you could no longer use it?
You will do the same with your kids, when they come along. I promise.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-01-22 19:12:22

what the hell makes you think we even NEED legitimate ammo against you guys anymore? i have no problem destroying you irrationally.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 19:17:27

The corruption of your standards of acceptable behavior has gone out of control.
You get no Valentine’s Day card from me this year, Missy!

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-01-22 19:29:21

or anyone else.
you heartless bitch.

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2009-01-23 01:26:42

Screw Valentine’s Day. I think we should all build bombs of our own and mail them out disguised as Valentines.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-23 05:00:43

They are totally kidding here, Homeland Security. This is what you call sarcasm. Our family is known for it, not for bombs. Ineptitude in bomb making to save garbage from a mega-raccoon and sarcasm. Okay, Homeland Security? Seriously.

(You’re not getting a Valentine’s Day card, either, Mister!)

Comment by Ben |Edit This
2009-01-23 11:15:25

We make no apologies.

Viva la revolution!

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-23 16:25:20

Okay Ben Guavara,

You are endangering the family here.

Think of your nascent children!

Comment by lonny |Edit This
2009-01-23 19:44:56

so many things i dont know about my father and my brothers and my sisters and my mothers

for instance i just found out i only have one mother

i dont recall ever getting a valentines day card from you mom
at least not recently
not that i want one really
i like holidays about eating food
candy i have a minor appreciation for

oh and did they teach you bomb making in the navy tim?
i know dad learned it on the hard core streets of nyc
i unfortunately never learned
woe is me

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-24 16:33:27

Lonny, I was so many places at one time that you probably thought that there were more than one of me. (That one was easy.)

You got plenty of Valentine’s Day cards, you ingrate, you just have no memory.

And. Just WHEN have I not fed you silly when you were here? HUH?

NOwadays, bomb making is a task you should not undertake. People watch you and then try you and then put you in jail. Dad’s was a sweeter, looser time.

Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-01-27 14:48:24

I personally have no stories from my teenage years that could ever be used against me, much like my mother. Ben, on the other hand, has quite a few…

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Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-27 15:08:43

OH. Oh. Oh. Do tell, Kate, newest daughter of my heart!
Please. Do tell….

Comment by Christine |Edit This
2009-01-22 17:08:22

Your Timothy looks a whole lot like Victor. Last time I saw you both I remember thinking “well, that’s what Tim will look like when he gets some mileage on him.”

How does one person stab himself, blow up a bomb in his own hands, get hit by cars (and all the other things I hope you tell us about soon) and live to tell? I think we found our Superman folks. Victor Zion. Superman.

) Love you guys, have a safe trip. I am on the edge of my seat awaiting your after-trip photo collage.

Be safe,
Christine, the jew cat

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 17:20:56

Hi Christine!

Victor’s far from Superman now, but he did kick butt back in the day, oh yes he did. How he survived his schemes and misfortunes is a mystery to me. Maybe he was Superman for a while, but probably someone else has taken up the mantle.

Tim is the image of Victor at every age. It’s downright eerie.

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-01-22 17:29:30


It is astonishing to me that someone as capable and as *not stupid* as my father could be such a moron.
I mean, *really.*

And normal people call exterminators, now, don’t they?
Even back in the day, there were exterminators.

I’m just saying: there’s an easy way and a hard way to do things.
I think that Dad is an expert at doing things “the hard way.”

He may have better stories, but I’ve never burned off my eyebrows or had Old Spice shrapnel wounds.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 19:10:15

Sara, maybe they didn’t have exterminators in Ithaca, New York back then.

Are you SURE you never burned off your eyebrows? No shrapnel wounds at all?

Well, you DID get hospitalized in Thailand for virulent food poisoning….

Give me some more time, I’ll come up with some “hard way” stories, Sara, I just can’t think of any right now. I’m sure it’s my memory. You probably screwed up all the time. (Yeah, that’s the ticket!)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 19:23:31

Sara, are you saying that Dad should have had this animal KILLED?
Some vegetarian you are!
Dad only wanted the poor critter to change addresses.
(HA! Got you there!)

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Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-01-23 22:46:53

Normal people call exterminators, sure. But the truly brilliant among us get all Rube Goldberg on them varmints.

…Preferably without collateral damage to our persons, however.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-24 06:53:15

Yeah, Adam. That WAS the idea. He had ideas like this all the time but they usually worked.

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2009-01-22 18:01:00

Deodorant bomb.

I think I dated him once.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-01-22 19:11:29

how embarrassing for dad that he was in a fraternity. LOSER!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 19:19:16

At that time and in that place, it was what was done.
How are you going to put yourself in other people’s shoes in your practice, anyway?
Loser schmooser!

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2009-01-23 01:29:46

And you guys had “mixers” and shared a malt while listening to the rock and roll.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-23 05:02:38

If it weren’t for Fat Harriet and the mixer, none of you would exist.
Put THAT in your malt and drink it!

Comment by lonny |Edit This
2009-01-23 19:47:17

mom what does that mean?

also just fyi i think i might have dated fat harriet once

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-24 06:54:27


What does WHAT mean?

You may have dated A fat Harriet, but you couldn’t have dated THE fat Harriet.

Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-01-27 14:53:03

this is really more a response to tim, but i couldn’t comment on his comment.

i never heard of any malts or mixers going on; i only heard about the pig parties.

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Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-27 15:11:44

Kate, do you even know what a malt is?
So innocent, you young ones are!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-22 19:13:51

You make me laugh out loud when I’m sitting here all by myself. I’d look like a total idiot if anyone were here.
Trust me, you’d’ve remembered Victor.
(After all, he was part plastic.)

2009-01-22 21:49:51

Ooh. Part plastic. I’m having sex outercourse with “him” right now.

I gotta get me one of Lenore’s pens.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-23 05:05:10

Oh God. I didn’t read Lenore’s post yet. Oh God. How horrible is it going to be this time? I have a baaaaad feeling if you’re speaking of outercourse, Kimberly.
Is 7 AM too early for a drink?

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2009-01-23 08:55:05

NEVER! Bloody Marys and Mimosas are all well and good, but a real woman will have shot of Maker’s Mark! )

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-23 11:06:07

I’m pretty sure I’m a real woman, but I just can’t drink anything brown. Maybe I’m a partial woman. I’ll bet I can drink you under the table with Sake, though!

Comment by Christine |Edit This
2009-01-22 21:36:16

I didn’t get the privilege of molesting his inner deoderant plastic shards. I’m offended. ;) Not really, I think my life could be complete without it, but you never know. Next time old man, next time!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-23 05:06:44

Victor is OFF-LIMITS to all people below the age of me. That means all of you. I think I’m going to vomit. “Molesting,” Christine? EEWWWWW!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-23 05:41:18

Okay. I read Lenore’s blog.


Comment by Erika Rae |Edit This
2009-01-23 08:04:07

Oops. I read it. (giggle giggle)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-23 09:53:56

Erika RAE,

You do NOT follow directions. Go stand in the corner!

Can no one STOP her?

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Comment by Erika Rae |Edit This
2009-01-23 08:05:31

At least he didn’t try and explode a squiggle wiggle pen. That might have been ugly if misused.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-23 09:55:42

Erika Rae,

I’m sure they didn’t exist back then. And how could you turn a squiggle wiggle pen into a bomb, anyway? You are allowing Lenore’s perversity to seep into your brain.
I warned you.

Comment by Autumn |Edit This
2009-01-23 08:10:45

Let’s just be thankful that Victor’s parents never gave him a chemistry set. I hope.

I hope as well that you have a wonderful trip and I will miss your posts but I’m sure you’ll have some doozies when you return.

Did I miss something you posted in the past. Prostitutes?

p.s. Don’t read any more comments on Lenore’s last post. No reason.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-01-23 09:59:21

Victor’s parents DID give him a chemistry set. In fact he was a Chemistry major at Cornell. God only knows what else he’s done.

Thanks. I’ll take notes and pictures.

Prostitutes? Oh God. I’ll have to tell THAT story now after I return. (Sheesh!)

I know you are right, Autumn, but I am compelled to see just how embarrassing she can be to me. She WORKS at it, you know.

Comment by Autumn |Edit This
2009-01-23 21:45:29

My p.s. about reading the comments on Lenore’s post, was just my ploy to try to keep you from reading what I wrote. I didn’t mean to imply you should stop reading altogether. Some things just don’t come across correctly when I am writing the way I would say something. )

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Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-24 07:00:19

But, Autumn, I always like to read what YOU write. It’s Lenore’s stuff that is giving me hives! Silly Rabbit.

Comment by Autumn |Edit This
2009-01-24 16:57:07

In the theme of being honest and up front with parents when we’re all grown up, while my sister and I were at my mother’s today, I broke it to her that it was my younger sister, not I, who first lost their virginity. In defense of my snitch like behavior, my sister was going on about what a well behaved and good child she was and how I was the corrupt one, and I had to set her straight. No harm done, just a shocked look and laugh from my mother.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-24 17:20:47

Well, Autumn, your sister obviously had it coming. I totally support you in snitching.

My kids only tell me things WWWAAAAYYYY after I can do anything about it.

e.g. Sara, oldest, called me from sophomore year at MIT. Exact dialogue:

(I have an extremely good memory.)

“Mom, remember when you wanted me to take piano lessons and I wouldn’t do it?”

“Uh huh.”

“Remember how you begged me and tried to bribe me?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well. You should have MADE me! I’d be playing the piano by now!”

Sara now hangs up phone. I am left looking at the receiver.

You get the drift….

Comment by Kyndra |Edit This
2009-01-23 18:03:34

Amazing story! Victor has more lives than a cat. Are you sure he’s mortal?

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-23 19:37:13

He’s definitely mortal, Kyndra, on account of his aches and pains and the whole aging thing.
He could be a cat, though. I’ll think on that.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-01-23 22:39:18

Leave it to a college boy to screw up a simple bomb.

My friend Bill and I were just recently musing over how few scars we came out of our preadolescence with, and believe you me, we worked with more lethal materials than deodorant canisters much of the time.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-24 06:56:42

You were the next generation.
You could probably get C-4 at the Ace Hardware store when you were a kid.
In Victor’s time it was all primitive.

So Adam, what DID you do, pray tell?

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-01-24 11:04:57

Look, we’ve got Ben and la revolución already. Let’s do no more to turn this forum into a metaphoric tree stand for DHS.

It’d be no good, anyway. These stories require at least one solid evening of drinking to tell right, complete with hand gestures.

Suffice it to say, it’s due more to luck than to genius that we don’t all walk and talk funny in our adulthood.

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Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-24 14:01:59

I agree, Adam, that hand gestures compliment the telling of stories like this, however, since I can’t be filmed reading my stories, I guess everyone has to supply the hand gestures that fit according to their imaginations. How sad.

I agree that luck pays a greater part than genius that we are all, each of us, basically in one piece.

Comment by Ursula |Edit This
2009-01-24 09:54:08

What stories you can tell. Embedded plastic, how were you able to keep that to yourself for so many years without your kids knowing. As to making bombs now, well it is a different story.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-24 14:04:25

ALL the kids knew this story. They can all probably tell you where the shards of deodorant plastic are located in their Dad’s body. It was a favorite “Look how stupid I was and don’t you be the same” story.
Lordy, but we had oodles of those!

Comment by Cayt |Edit This
2009-01-25 18:51:17

So, Victor is where they got it from? Or are there many scandalous stories that involve you that you have thus far neglected to tell us?

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-25 19:11:32

Cayt, my dear, I am pure as the driven snow….

Comment by donald |Edit This
2009-01-27 07:33:08

no i mean really….a superhero…maybe a mutant or something???

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-27 11:28:07

Oh Donald, I think you’ve got a hold on it now. He’s a mutant. That makes more sense than anything else I can come up with!

Comment by alex |Edit This
2009-01-29 17:25:08

wow dont like bombs and fire works either but im scared of victor is he indistructable a hidden superman well glad his okay im sure he didnt try that again or did he. Irene have a safe and fun trip we will miss you and please keep writing so i can read something once in a while besides the sports section and comics hahahahahahahaha

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-29 19:38:34

Alex, He was destructible. He was just really really lucky.

Thanks. I won’t write anything for a month while I’m in Africa, but then I’ll be armed with lots of stories. You won’t be able to shut me up!

Comment by Cecile |Edit This
2009-01-30 14:55:47

I am not sure if the actual story or the comments that followed were funnier!! This is mostly a family dialogue, but I can envision Victor doing everything you said because I continually hear college bomb making stories every time we go to a William and Mary reunion which has been for the last thirty-nine years, and every time it is the same tale. The difference between Ira’s tales and Victor’s are only in the details. Have a great trip and travel safely.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-01-31 07:10:52

Are you kidding, Cecile? Ira MUST comment on his college bombs! This bomb-making-for-fun thing must have been rampant in their days in college. Oh my but it was another time. Things are so scary different today. What a pity.

A friend of mine said something to me the other day:

“A man would rather date a smoker than a woman who is overweight.”

Another friend of mine confessed that she dislikes overweight people. “Not just the usual chubby that we all get to be from time to time,” she said, “but really fat people. “ She told me just couldn’t find anything to relate to. Felt nothing but disdain and disappointment and from the sounds of it, actual contempt.

And both of these women are people that I consider to be kind, understanding, generous, humanitarians. People who care about people. Give-you-the-shirt-off-their-back types.

I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. As someone who has struggled my whole life with weight issues, I have been plagued by these two conversations ever since.

* * * * *

My own eating disorder started way back in the days when my devout parents would celebrate Lent; a time when ‘Good’ Catholics deny themselves simple pleasures to commemorate Christ’s time spent in the desert wrestling with Satan before his eventual crucifixion and consequent resurrection.

During those six weeks, my family and I would strike “Alleluia” from our Lenten lexicon, we’d double-up on our cake-walk confessionals (I lied to my mom, I cussed at my brother), we’d get contact-highs from the incense overload, and we’d don our purple dresses and palm fronds for the live-action parade on Palm Sunday, complete with ugly shouts from the crowd and a live donkey.

But the biggest thing I remember, other than switching our Friday night McDonald’s orders to Filet-O-Fish Happy Meals (hardly representational of Christ’s forty-day fast-a-thon), was the easy opportunity to lose weight without the embarrassing admission of being on a diet.

I would sacrifice chocolate (or candy, or French fries, or BBQ potato chips) not because eating it was so hedonistic and giving it up was cause for canonization, but because maybe I would feel more Christ-like if my ribcage stuck out from my bathing suit bikini top – akin to skeletal representations as painted by Goya or Caravaggio.

I would be a better Catholic (person) if I were a thinner Catholic (person).

* * * * *

When one uses the words “eating” and “disorder” together, the phrase often invokes images of either Karen Carpenter** or Mo’Nique.

I was neither.

I was the girl who ate her problems.

I would use food to mask the agony of being imperfect.

When I was twelve years old, and I couldn’t lift my body in some sort of “simple” contortion that should have required hydraulics vs. mere under-developed ‘tween arms, my gymnastics coach, tired of heaving me onto the uneven parallel bars, said: “If you want to win, you have to lose weight.”

And thus, a lifetime of chronic fasting began.

I blame Mary Lou Retton.

* * * * *

That, my friends, is not just an eating disorder, it’s a billion-dollar industry.

Thinking I would morph to the shape of whatever skinny spokesmodel was hawking it, I spent years and years following one fad diet after another, each time with moderate results and the consequent return of the lost pounds, plus five.

When I was thirty-three, the same age as Christ as he hung on his cross, I was a scale-tipping 188 lbs at 5’-5”: well beyond most physicians’ recommended limit.

It was then I decided to stop the cycle.

I had to break the fast.

Just like I had lost the weight of Religion (note the capital “R”) so many years before, I had to lose the literal and figurative weight of constant dieting by — can you believe it? — eating.


I had to gain control over what I was eating. How I was eating. When I was eating. Rather than stuff my face, I had to face my stuff.  Talk myself through emotional difficulties. Claim responsibility for my actions. Release myself from pressures that weren’t mine to take on. Forgive myself when I felt like a failure. Forgive others when they failed me.

Turned out, food had very little to do with my eating.

I had to ‘Let Go and Let God’ (as it were).

So NOT dieting became my new religion (note the small “r”). Never again would I categorize food as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. Nor would I blame my problems on a hapless pork chop. I would not be afraid to admit that I wasn’t perfect to other people, OR to myself. I would not judge others based on their appearance. I would not judge myself based upon my reflection.

I would stop repeating my daily mantra: “If I could, I would liposuction my entire body.”

I would finally allow myself to fail; but in that permission, I found success.

It took 18 long months, much more than 40 days, to find that kind of self-acceptance.

I still struggle with it every single day.

It’s my cross to bear.

Comparably, my own effort may seem small next to Christ’s temptations in the desert, but I feel like wrestling with the demon of self-acceptance is a hell of a lot closer to what Christ did for forty days than what I used to do by selfishly giving up M&Ms or French fries.

I’ll happily down a Filet Mignon (4 oz, sans bacon) on Fridays since I know that I’ve long-suffered for self-acceptance.

In fact, I’ll follow it with a decadent, dark chocolate-covered strawberry, injected with Grand Marnier.

But only one though.

The fast may be over, but so is the feast.

* * * * *

**That link is to SUPERSTAR, quite possibly the most brilliant Todd Haynes film, ever. When you have 43 spare minutes, WATCH IT!!!**

I think I’m dying. Okay, maybe not dying exactly, but definitely in need of an oxygen tank. Meanwhile, these guys are standing around in their short shorts and florescent mesh tank tops looking like they could go another three miles.

In what could only be described as a historic effort, I just completed a 5K. I say historic because it’s the first time in history that a Bloom not only signed up for an athletic competition but actually paid to do so. See, prior to today, I happily subscribed to the age-old Bloom philosophy (circa 1946, Brooklyn) of “why run unless you’re being chased?” You have to admit it’s a good point. I mean, this is supposed to feel good?

The backstory: my wife Julie and I booked a trip to the Grand Canyon. The trip is a few months away but we thought it’d be fun to buy a guidebook and learn what one can expect from a visit to the giant hole. After flipping through a few photos, it became perfectly clear what we could expect: sweating.

The people in these photos were nothing like us. For one thing, they were all about 6 feet tall and incredibly tan. What’s more, they genuinely seemed to love the outdoors (NOTE: My beef isn’t with the outdoors itself. Just bug spray, the way your skin smells after you put on bug spray, and the lack of TiVo access). Anyway, there they were in their flannel shirts and hiking boots, exploring one of our nation’s greatest treasures (no offense to Bea Arthur), and all together looking very, very fit. It soon became clear to Julie and me that if we were going to make the most out of the Canyon, we needed to:

a) get in better shape.
b) invest in self-tanner.

And so our quest to get in shape began (not to be confused with previous quests of the same name, which incidentally date back to the last millennium). We started by asking each other “what’s our first move?”—a reasonable question we could’ve answered had our mouths not been filled with pizza. The next morning however, we got serious. And that’s when, in a moment that could only be classified as pure insanity, we signed up for a 5K that was only two weeks away.

It takes guts to jump into something like that. It takes stupidity to do it when the race is part of the Bryn Mawr Running Club, a local group who runs, get this, for the fun of it. We had two weeks to prepare. Julie did this by running on a treadmill five days a week. I took the less conventional, albeit more creative, route of humming the score from “Rocky,” hoping that I could somehow conjure some of Rock’s fighting spirit without having to do, well, anything that resulted in sweating.

Two weeks later, Julie had run roughly twelve miles. I, on the other hand, had come up with roughly twelve reasons not to run the race (Reason #8: Running Sucks). The day of the race arrived. We pulled up to the running park and I instantly felt like I did in summer camp when I’d be standing on top of the high dive, looking down at the pool waaaaay below, scared out of my mind. The only difference there was that all the other kids were just as terrified as I was. Here, at the scene of the race, I was surrounded by real runners who were, you’ll love this, running a mile just to warm up! I had a bad feeling.

The clock was ticking down. While most used this time to stretch and talk strategy (“I’m gonna weave through the post and then, WHOOSH, I’m gonna find the pocket!”), I had more important thoughts racing through my mind (“Didn’t we pass a Starbucks on the drive over?”). Suddenly, it was time to race. A man with a megaphone assembled the herd to the starting line and, I’ve got to admit, for a brief moment, my feeling of dread had vanished and I was genuinely excited. “Who cares if I’m not a runner,” I thought. “We’re all one big group here!”

A siren sounded and, no kidding, the next thing I remember is seeing a cartoonish blur fly past me. It’s possible that at one point I, quite literally, ate someone’s dust. I can’t really describe what happened next, namely because my brain stopped forming memories after I got lapped by a middle aged guy with a portable oxygen tank. What I do remember, however, is forcing myself to keep going. So did Julie. And eventually, we crossed the finish line together. And while I’d like to end this by saying I learned something from the experience, the honest-to-goodness truth is that it was slightly less fun than undergoing lengthy and unnecessarily invasive dental surgery. Now where’s that guy with the oxygen tank?

The inaugural poem by Elizabeth Alexander had one of the greatest audiences for poetry in the past 16 years or so, ever since Maya Angelou in 1993.  It seeped over its huge audience just yesterday.  Do you remember any of it?  How about the opening?

“Praise song for the day.”

How about the opening two words?  These were repeated several times in the poem as an unstructured refrain.  I wonder if you remembered any of it, even those two leading words, by the time John Roberts misremembered the thirty-five words of the constitution’s presidential oath.  If you didn’t, does it make you question the entire point of the inaugural poem?

Recently I wrote a novel. Well, I didn’t write the whole thing recently, but I did recently finish it, and by finish I mean I’m waiting to hear from my agent if he likes it or not. He’ll suggest changes and so will an eventual editor, so it’s not really “finished.”

It has been a long winter, and the season isn’t even half-over. I see in the news today that Snuggie has sold over four million units. How many times have I seen the Snuggie commercial? Too many. So many times, in fact, that I actually know what a Snuggie is, not to mention how stupid it looks, or the three lame, universally unflattering colors it comes in.

My kids are each clamoring for a Snuggie. No way in hell, I think to myself. “But it comes with a booklight. Two booklights. The whole situation is two-for-one,” my pragmatic nine-year-old daughter says. I picture the family swathed in Snuggies—teal green, red, royal blue (with one color repeating). All of us looking like mental patients, camped out on the couch, vegetating in front of the television or reading separately with our blue, clip-on book lights.

“Those lights are a $15 value!” my youngest exclaims. I think to myself how many book lights I’ve personally gone through. Fifteen dollar value, ha. I am sure those things are made in China, as is the Snuggie itself, probably. I bet the hem is unfinished. I bet it pills up the first time you wash it.

“You can save money on your heating bill if you have a Snuggie!” a child shouts, trying to seal the deal as I stumble from the room, away from these kids who have been sadly brainwashed into wanting Snuggies.

The problem isn’t the Snuggie itself, of course. The problem is television, and too much of it. The problem is also the weather, which has been awful, cold, rainy, gray. The problem is that I have so much work to do when I’m at home, and tapping away on my laptop while the kids play computer games or watch “Sabrina, the Teen-Age Witch” is just convenient.

I also recently broke my ankle, so skating is out. Dog-walking in on hold for who-knows-how-long. I want to take the kids indoor rock climbing at GoVertical, but I’m not sure I can do it right now. My ankle is packed with metal hardware, and it’s not very flexible. I’m not good for much, lately.

As this miserable season slowly passes, I daydream about living somewhere warm, some state where the cold won’t seep into and stiffen all the screws and plates that are holding my ankle together. Giving in and buying a Snuggie, wrapping myself in palpable polyester defeat and lying on the couch until springtime seems tempting, but also akin to writing a suicide note.

So play on, Snuggie commercial. I have cut up my credit cards. I am wearing a sweater. My house is highly insulated. I am immune to your siren song. I won’t be lulled into buying that cowl-necked, fluffy hospital gown. It would feel too much like impending death.