Sugar and Spice. Snakes and Snails. Kabblammo!

Let’s ease back into this Childish Man blog with something kind and supple. How about GUNS. (I intend to avoid the tired Second Amendment vs. Gun Violence discussion and hope your comments will do the same.)

A few weeks ago I began looking for a movement, an effort, something to which I could dedicate my energy and help “make the world a better place” not only for myself but especially for my kids. Nothing gets me emotionally bothered quite like framing an otherwise out-of-mind issue in a way that seems to threaten children. “Is your attic infested with Brown Recluse spiders? Your kids may be in danger!” Next thing I know I’m climbing up there with a flamethrower.

So my mind listed for me some choices that included collecting belly button lintsquirrel taxidermy, sous-vide cooking (sous-vide from the French meaning “eat raw food out of a Ziploc”), and gun control. I see now that this was a set-up from the beginning.

At this point I had little more than an opinion that guns are basically dangerous.  Clearly I needed to be more self-righteous before stroking a check to the Brady Campaign, marching a downtown street with a painted placard, or yelling obscenities from the balcony of a legislative chamber of my choosing.

As I often do, I began my research with some YouTube demagoguery. I watched videos of NRA hit man Wayne LaPierre. And then some tear-jerking clips of moms talking about their gun-murdered children. After a day shifting between rage and uncontrollable sobbing, followed by a few hours of bad whiskey sleep, it was time to sober up with some concrete numbers.

Before I continue, I must admit to being under a self-imposed news blackout for most of my SAHD (stay-at-home dad) days. With my battering ram of an 8-year old son who needs constant attention and a 5-year old daughter that is frequently in or recovering from yet another surgery (something I will get to in future posts), I don’t feel like spending my remaining time on news from Crimea or even from a few miles away.

Keeping in mind my blissful ignorance about gun statistics, and my general awareness of the emotional sensitivity that dominates the gun issue – the sadness of gun control advocates, the Obama-fueled paranoia of gun show retailers, and the mutual contempt that both sides seem to have for each other – I expected the statistics would blow away the competition in a manner of speaking.  Or at the very least that gun death numbers, when compared to other causes of death in children, and the relative sizes of the associated campaigns to save lives in those areas, would be fairly equal. To my surprise, they aren’t even close.

I’m not going into the numbers because, unfortunately, it isn’t terribly interesting.  I will let you visit the CDC WISQARS database and search the numbers on your own (and see the dreadfully formatted summary table below.  Sorry.  Click on it for a larger image). It is my conclusion, and perhaps it should’ve been all along had I cared to look, that if I am truly concerned about the safety of my kids I should be far and away more concerned about car safety, suffocation, fires, and drowning than about guns. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that any parent worry about or fear cars let alone anything else, rather that a healthy concern represent the risk. Unfortunately I don’t see passionate pleas from a Million Moms nor dollars flowing through lobbyists and political campaigns concerning the kids who die from burns or from drowning, things that kill children in greater numbers than all circumstances involving guns combined – intentional, unintentional, or suicide.

10LCID_All_Deaths_By_Age_Group_2010-a

For the record, I don’t like guns. I don’t own any. And I don’t want any. In my life and  in my community, no matter how often gun rights advocates tell me otherwise, they are unnecessary. I feel sorry for the victims of gun violence and their parents, families, and friends. But I also feel sorry for people who live in a shadow of fear of their fellow man, a shadow so dark that they spend hundreds if not thousands of their dollars on weapons, and even more lobbying for expanded “freedoms” to take guns into more places, like churches, bars, and airports.   The fear conjured by both sides is, to me, unjustified.

I have recently become a fan of Dr. Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician and health policy researcher at Indiana University School of Medicine. He summarizes what I said beautifully, though it only touches briefly on violence, and I recommend at the very least that you see the video below about risks and our fears about them. In fact, I recommend that you subscribe to his HealthCare Triage videos as well as to his articles on the WordPress blog (www.theincidentaleconomist.com). I’ve found some great stuff here to help me temper my little crusades about washing hands (anti-bacterial soap) and even drinking milk.

Thanks for reading!

CM

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Hello, Again

Israeli_Stop_Sign

I’m back and hopefully I’ll stay awhile.

But, I am changing the format of this blog. If you’ve read CM (The Childish Man) in the past you know I used to pull stories from my strange life to make you laugh. I hope some of them did. But within a few months I learned that writing humor is exceptionally difficult.

Humorists like James Thurber and David Sedaris and others put humor in their writing almost constantly. Rarely does a paragraph go by without a shock, bizarre metaphor, or at least a tickle. And although, from my experience, some of these bits come up easily, most of them require a finger down the throat, by which I mean not only that it’s unnaturally difficult but also that it burns afterwards. Whether self-deprecating or judging others, humor can get nasty and raw and this is often done unintentionally. It just comes out that way. This, along with the temptation to embellish didn’t sit well with me.  So I quit.

So now I want to write about my life and other topics with humor as a tool instead of an objective. I am still a self-emasculated Childish Man who also happens to be a husband and stay-at-home father of two. Therefore, this blog will cover parenting, but that’s not all.

Having been at home for five years now, I want to get back to some kind of work, though I don’t know what. The fear of job searching at age 43 after years of meal planning, laundry, and baseball/soccer practice logistics scares the shit out of me and it deserves attention. To say the least, it has been challenging to think about my life in terms of its outcome (“being happy” or “making a difference”) as opposed to its inputs and processes (“I cleaned up vomit today” or “I successfully avoided the temptation to drive into a fucking telephone poll”).

Perhaps I should make no promises about what this blog will become. At the very least, maybe we can all get through it.

NRA Chief Quits, Finds New Passion

Wayne LaPierreIn a shocking letter received by the newsroom at thechildishman.com on Wednesday, the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced he was stepping down from his post, effective immediately. “I’ve been with the NRA a long time,” he wrote. “But, well, this is just too damn easy. I mean, we outspend the gun control advocates over at the Brady Campaign a gazillion times over. I’m just spit-balling, of course. And, honestly, what else is left to do? Americans own about 200 million guns, privately. That’s about one gun per American aged 20 to 80.”

At times, in the letter, LaPierre even taunts gun control advocates. “We gotta voucher muthafuckas! That’s right. Some aristo-crackers about 225 years ago wrote that we could have guns, as many as we want. And can you believe lawmakers and judges have not only continued to uphold this interpretation of the vague language in the Second Amendment, but they’ve actually started letting us walk around with guns hidden under our coats? I mean, that whole concealed weapons thing started as a joke. ‘There’s no fucking way they’re gonna let us carry firearms shoved in the back of our pants,’ we said to each other when the idea came up at a happy hour. ‘But I’d be pretty jacked to walk down the street knowing I was locked and loaded in front of all my piss-ant neighbors who were none the wiser,’ I added. ‘I guess there’s no harm in trying.’ Un-fucking-believable!

Third Amendment“But I admit,” he continues, “that my heart just isn’t in it anymore. So it is with great excitement that I announce my new endeavor – the Third Amendment Foundation (TAF). For too long the Second Amendment has stolen too much thunder and taken too much glory. My brothers and sisters, no more! There is a threat, right here in your town, that is virtually hidden. And that threat is the government’s infringement of your right to not have military servicemen quartered in your home. Oh but that doesn’t happen! you say. Wrong! Let me tell you a true story.

“Just a few months ago. I was living happily in my home and a nice, fit twenty-three year old blond woman friend who shall remain nameless, was living not far away in her home. Her husband was serving in Iraq or some other fucking place. And since she was lonely I often kept her company. Well, lo and behold, this guy comes back from overseas and now he’s, like, living there and shit! But wait a second, I thought as I do on occasion. This guy is an active member of the military. And she says she doesn’t want him there any more. She wants me! This isn’t right.

“So I pulled out the Constitution and actually started to read the Amendments. Wow. I should’ve read it before because there was some really good stuff in there, though I hoped there wasn’t much more since my head was starting to ache. Luckily, there it was, this poor bastard Third Amendment languishing between the gun-loving Second and the you-can’t-touch-my-shit-without-a-warrant Fourth. And that was it for me. I knew I had to do this. For my friend. And, oh yeah, for all those other fuckers out there.”

LaPierre makes it clear in his letter that he is not “quitting to spend more time with my family. Honestly. Doesn’t everyone know that just means the guy is banging his secretary or neighbor? Something I’m absolutely not doing.”

LaPierre ends the letter with a hand-scribbled post-script: “Oh, and sorry about that few days of silence over the weekend. Our servers were being all slow and crap, so I kinda took one of the AR-15s hanging on my office wall and tried to correct the situation. A few hundred times. And then again with my grenade launcher and flamethrower.”

Your Holiday Horoscope

horoscope-chart2Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21) – You will wake up with the phrase “mature self-expression” on your lips.  And by the end of a day playing hookie from work, you will have finished your masterpiece…a 15-foot high snow erection on your front lawn.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19) – A sudden and extreme hunger this week will cause you to pull into a nearby drive-thru and, once and forever, disprove the adage that even a bag of Krystals will make a turd.

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18) – Your talent for ad-libbing holiday songs with words like “poop” and “fart” will earn you a solid fan-base among your seven and eight year old relatives and neighbors.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20) – If anyone else jokes to you about that stupid Mayan prediction, you’re going to fucking lose it.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) – Something compels you to transcribe every 23rd word from Section A of tomorrow’s paper, to reveal:  Powerful deranged squirrel won’t finance black honey martyr.  You assume John Boehner is the squirrel and, well, we’re totally fucked.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20) – Because your family expects you to be the son-of-a-bitch you usually are around the holidays, you will go to the opposite extreme this week and agree with everything they say.  But you will still come across as a son-of-a-bitch.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20) – Despite being heavily sedated, you will still be able to feel your chubby nurse tweak your nipples.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22) – You begin to worry if your sign has something to do with your immediate health.

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22) – While distracted by the smartphone you bought your spouse for Christmas, you will mistake the statue in front of your office building as one of your stupid co-workers giving you the finger.  But you will become surprisingly proficient at texting with your nose before the surgeon removes the pins from your knuckles in early March.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22) – Your only resolution for the new year is to answer every question with “fourteen,” which will, despite your innocence, land you in a state penitentiary for the next 20 years.

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22) – Tired of a world filled with moochers and copycats, you will stroll out to your favorite cork tree and sit there under its shade, just quietly smelling the flowers.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21) – Look to your left.  Sucker!

The Seer and The Skeptic

A week before our trip to Mexico, my wife became inspired by a co-worker’s recommendation to visit some Mayan ruins.  “But I don’t want to just stand there and look at them,” she said. “I want to walk up the steps to the temple!”

DSCN0601Having walked up and down stairs my whole life, I didn’t quite see the attraction.  I could even, from my own recliner, imagine what it might’ve been like on top of a temple a thousand years ago.  There I am, strapped to a rock slab while a short, painted man in full plumage dances around me and then swiftly relieves me of my head.  Having no want of mine since he’s been getting complaints from the Mrs. about having too many human heads at home already and now the neighbors are starting to gossip and why can’t he just get paid in goat’s milk and venison like Mr. Chicxulub does, he tosses it down the stairs to the crowd below, which, to show its appreciation, starts “the wave.”

Once in Mexico, we spoke to the resort concierge who mentioned Coba, one of the sites that still allowed walking on the structures.  But I jumped on the fact that it was three hours away and began to moan about spending “our entire vacation trapped in a van.” In light of that, the concierge suggested Tulum, which was closer although somewhat restricted.  At about this time, a woman I’ll call Margaret and her husband joined our conversation and said they were planning the same trip and asked if we might want to go together, split the cost of hiring a driver, and so on.  We agreed, and the next day we were off to Tulum.

On the way we chatted pleasantly, comparing family trees and asking the driver questions like “why do the Policia carry fully automatic weapons?” and “is that drug war thing really so bad?” or “what is the most popular drug down here?”

On the way back, Margaret asked my wife “so, what do you do?”  She gave a succinct yet detailed description of her entire career, while I looked out the windows hoping the subject would change.

The question bothers me.  I wish I had the guts to tell people I was a haberdasher or a monk, some fantasy life I could don for a few hours and then discard.  But I am burdened with a reality that includes having no prepared remarks about what I do, despite the fact that what I do is write, a deliberate and creative employment of words.

When it was my turn, I rambled on and on, or as I’ve heard it put, “talked the balls off a rhinoceros.” And in my bout of verbal diarrhea, I mentioned that one of my biggest challenges is finishing a piece – the how does a writer know when he’s done problem that I’ve written about before.  And that, as a result of this, I abandon some pieces in favor of something new.

“You have adult attention deficit disorder,” she interjected.  “And did you know that it’s really a respiratory problem?”

Having already used most of the words in the English language, I could find no others suited for a response.

“I’ve noticed you have a little trouble breathing” she said.

“The cold that I have, perhaps?” I suggested, reaching for yet another tissue in my backpack.  But she shook her head.  A cold.  Please.

“You have a chronic lung irritation, and didn’t you say you’re a ‘light sleeper?'”  It was true I shared this, in addition to admitting my fear of snorkeling and how I believed “Hola” can mean hello, goodbye, or thank you depending upon your inflection.  She continued, “so, your brain resets during the day.  That’s why you have trouble focusing.”

Now my silence was intentional, and it gave her ample time to explain her experience in holistic medicine and why I wouldn’t read about any of this in the relevant research literature.

Margaret is a lovely person with whom I could even be friends.  A person just right for a company of travelers to the epicenter of the coming apocalypse.  Which brings to mind some advice I remember – don’t listen to anything someone says before the word “but.”  

But, my dear, I don’t buy it.

I am a skeptic, maybe sometimes to a fault.  I am dubious about someone’s ability to diagnose the condition of, let alone the causes for, something as complex as the attention of a human mind merely from a rambling response to a common question.  I must admit that she had blown herself up as a credible source even prior to this free behavioral consultation.

Earlier, while eating lunch, I mentioned something about wearing sunscreen and trying to avoid further run-ins with skin cancer.

“You need to eat green algae and seaweed.  Skin cancer is not only preventable but reversible.  I had a friend that had this rat (maybe she said it was a guinea pig) and it had a big tumor.  It wasn’t doing well and couldn’t even walk.  So I took it in and started feeding it fresh greens and vegetables.  And it lived another 18 months.  It’s all reversible!”

DSC02169So here I was, sitting at a little shack of a restaurant on the beach, drinking a local brew and eating fresh grilled fish that likely came from the clear blue-green water before me.  But more incredible than all of this was that I was eating lunch with the modern-day Jonas Salk.

Back in the van on the return trip, I managed to keep my cool and not turn into Asshole Man, a lesser-known superhero and close cousin to Childish Man, whose superpower is mocking and annoying his enemies until they shut up or go away.  And I managed to ask her, before my brain reset and its attention squirreled away somewhere, what I could do to fix myself.

“Oh, that’s easy,” she said.  “Eat turmeric.”

Oh BFD! (Bad Food Decisions)

I had a great conversation last night with a few neighbors. (What a great hook for a blessay! That’s a blog essay, not to be confused with a bletaphor, blumor, or blotographs, which will come later. But wait, there’s more!)  And so now I’m going to tell you about this conversation whether you like it or not. (Always a good idea to berate your audience in the first paragraph.)  But I regress to some seriousness.

We spoke about how important it is, imperative really, to eat well, especially in the morning.  Not how a poor diet effects weight gain or loss, or about cholesterol, or anything else in the canon of dietary morals that we’ve all heard so many times and don’t hear anymore.   I’m gonna shove that bolus of saturated fat called a breakfast burrito into my face despite knowing it could precipitate heart failure.   I’m gonna smoke that pack of cigarettes despite the huge warning on the label.  Rather, it was about blood sugar.  But even that is perhaps too science-ish.  I’m talking about how eating makes you feel – physically, and even emotionally.

[By this point, you may have noticed a slight departure from Childishman’s normal banter.  Well, maybe that’s all part of being a childish man.  You want me to go this way, so I go that way.  Maybe out of spite or just to give y’all an early Christmas surprise.  You’re welcome!  But I won’t get into the details of blood sugar management nor the Hypoglycemic Index.  You probably know it or can it within seconds if you care to.  Back to my tale.]

I felt guilty about the three pieces of pizza I’d just eaten because I know better.  Both Thanksgiving and my 10 year anniversary tour have passed so I can’t use those as excuses any longer and hope to look at myself in the mirror without disgust, at least not without electroshock therapy or some serious plastic surgery.  I intended to get my shit together again.

When I awoke this morning, I got out a breakfast casserole we’d made over the weekend (ingredients: eggs, cheese, sausage and about a loaf of cheap white bread), popped a serving in the microwave and ate it before the kids came down and I rushed them off to school.  By the time I’d dropped them off, I was hungry again.  I needed a few basics from the store anyway, and as luck would have it (but it’s not luck at all is it!) there’s a refrigerator case right inside the entrance with prepared foods – old sandwiches, hot dogs wrapped in foil, and (dum dum dum) biscuits.  Chicken biscuits, a dollar each.

Chicken WrapperHmm.  I shouldn’t.  I’m pretty sure the reason I’m already hungry is because of all the bread in that—

But they’re only a dollar!

I dunno. I can’t even see what the biscuit looks like since it’s bundled in some kind of fishwrap.

Only a dollar. And hungry we are!

I can’t even read how to prepare it.  Is that font size legal?

It’ll be fine. It’s only a dollar!

You know I bought it.  When I got home, I had to take a picture of the back label and download it to my computer so I could blow it up in order to read how to heat up the damn thing.  And when I finally read it, it warned me not to take the biscuit out of the wrapper before microwaving.  One might think this is for uniform heating, but this is basic consumer psychology.

The makers of this processed food product know well that any of us would run batshit crazy out of our homes and move to Canada if we saw what one of these uncooked things looked like.  This response is practically hard-wired in humans.  And they also know that if they can get us to nuke the crap out of it – and I mean that not only to be crude but also literally – if they can get us to zap the well-developed civilizations of bacteria inside that disc of chicken mush, which also releases a smell reminiscent of actual food, then they’ve got us.

Well, at least they got me, for 320 calories and 44 grams of carbs.

The point(s) is/are:  I’ve done this before.  I’ll probably do it again.  I’m a professional (numb nut, that is).  Don’t try this at home.  And, finally, the best intentions, ideas, and knowledge don’t mean a damn thing if I don’t pay attention to what it feels like to do this.

Bathroom ReadingAt least I’ve got a well-stocked shelf of good bathroom reading material.  Because I just might be there awhile.