Cross-pollination begins in the home

I’m not a great self-promoter.

If you visit here regularly, you probably know this. If you’ve never been here before, see above.

I bet most people who stop here don’t even know I have another blog. Yeah, it’s mentioned in the sidebar, but sidebars are the last refuge of people who are not great self-promoters.

To take it to center stage for a minute, I have another blog: scottnagele.com. On that blog, I write about . . . well . . . writing. I know it sounds like a real hoot, but give it a chance. I mean, some people make good livings marketing online videos of themselves playing video games. It has to be better than that. Right?

Good bloggers with multiple blogs cross-pollinate their readership. I’ve never been disciplined about that, which goes a long way toward explaining my opening sentence. I’m giving it a try. Let’s see how it goes.

One of my favorite things to do over at that other place is to post flash fiction. (Read more flash fiction from scottnagele.com.) In the spirit of cross-pollination, I will blatantly plagiarize a short-short from my other blog below. I hope I don’t get sued. I’m definitely suing.

What’s in Your Wallet?

I asked the nurse to hand me my wallet. She fumbled it a little and a condom fell out. She kept a straight face, discretely picking it up and setting in on my blanket. Then she left the room, not wanting to burst out laughing in front of me.

Rocky, my roommate, grinned at me from his bed. He was 50 years older than me, with his scraggly beard and glassy eyes.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

Rocky chuckled. “I understand. I was a young buck once. You a college boy?”

“Yeah.”

“I never went to college, but I did have my fun.” He nodded at an inevitable transition. “Then I got married. Margie and me was married 40 years, and I liked that a whole hell of lot better than carrying one of them things in my wallet.” He gestured toward the condom I struggled to stuff back into its home.

“40 years? That’s awesome!” It seemed like the right thing to say.

“It was.” He sighed. “Except for the last few. She got Alzheimer’s. I carried her license in my wallet ‘cause she’d lose it otherwise. She’d lose anything you gave her.” He shook his head. “Then she’d snip at me about it. Finally I said, ‘Margie if this next 40 years don’t go no better, I’m calling it quits.’ That was the last joke I told her.” He frowned. “Not a very good joke.”

“I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“She passed almost two years ago.”

I didn’t want to say sorry again. “Do you still keep her license in your wallet?”

“No. I couldn’t look at it every time. It only reminded me of the past. But I guess she told the last joke. After all that time wedged in that little sleeve, it left a faint impression of her picture on the plastic, like a ghost staring up at me.”

“Did you get a new wallet?”

“Oh no. I don’t mind the ghost. It doesn’t give me bad memories; it says she’s still with me. And being how I already invested 40 years, I guess I’ll keep her.” He turned his wet eyes toward the window and spoke at the sky. “Yup, I guess I’ll keep her.”

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Homeless caveman squats in area sunroom

You can’t really call a room with coordinated throw pillows a man cave. It’s the closest thing I’ve got though.

My house is too small and my family is too big. I have only three children, but my boys have a way of building themselves in to a horde. They are everywhere, and even when you can’t see them, you can still hear them.

I lived many years in our home without feeling the need for my own special space. In the past year, things have changed. First, the living room TV has been taken over by video games. I have two kids addicted to PlayStation and one kid who is happiest when his brothers are playing it. Intently preoccupied boys have not one second to waste vexing a younger brother.

Second, I recently discovered I can read again, after a 10 year hiatus, if I hide myself well enough. Being better equipped to distract themselves now, these bloodhounds don’t hunt me down as constantly as they used to. I might be able to slip away for 20 minutes of solitude.

I need a sanctuary.

The bedroom doesn’t make for a good man cave, and it’s the first place they look. The basement is too cool and humid, and occasionally it floods. I’m not trying to spelunk in my cave. I just want to watch sports and read.

Over the summer, I discovered I could slip away to the Three Seasons Room to catch moments of peace. I even read an entire book out there, over three seasons. These stolen moments were a delight, but I can’t say I established a man cave.

Color coordinated pillows. Humbug! I can hardly bring myself to nap on them.

There are many flaws.

  • The name, Three Seasons Room, is pretty generous. It’s more of a Two Seasons and Spare Change Room. Maybe round it up to 2.5 seasons. November through March are cold, barring a very mild day with hours of sunshine.
  • The room is right off the kitchen, so if any kid needs help getting an emergency cup of juice, I’m the first responder.
  • It was furnished by the lady of the house, which means it’s tasteful, and worst of all, inviting. It has matching stuff, no neon, nor any of the other assorted, tacky paraphernalia that tells people to zip it when the game is on.

    Breakfast nook with table centerpiece. I expect this to become a man cave essential any day now.

  • I made the mistake of putting a Roku TV in there. It’s kind of a poor man’s smart TV. It’s a TV with an average IQ that seems genius compared to the dim-witted TVs I’ve always had. Now, anybody can watch Netflix movies at the push of a button. Maybe I don’t know enough about man caves, but I don’t think they’re meant for men to watch Smurfs with their families on football Sundays.

My 2.5 Seasons Room is not much of a man cave, but it’s a baby step forward. I’m not greedy; I don’t need a whole cave. I can live in a man cubby for a while.

Everything’s going stale, except the vodka

With three boys, it’s a challenge keeping foods fresh in their original packaging. Little boys can’t read the instructions on packaging. Older boys can, but reading is a chore reserved for schoolwork, not to be mingled with the pleasures of gluttony. You’d swear our victuals were opened with a sledge-hammer.

The impatience of hungry children leads to bags and boxes ripped beyond recognition, incapable of keeping contents fresh until the next feeding frenzy.  This serves the little piglets right, and would be a great lesson, except sometimes Daddy seeks an edible morsel from the pantry.

We have lots of random foods sealed in storage containers.

Sometimes you can’t blame the kids. Some foods have been packaged to combat freshness.

Exhibit A

 

embrace the stale

Defuse this time bomb.

Saltines, in their waxy, rectangular sleeves, have vexed me since my first bowl of Lipton Noodle Soup.  I learned how to mix the soup powder in water 45 years ago. I’ve still not figured out how to open a sleeve of saltines.

I feel like a bomb disposal recruit trying to defuse the end of a saltine packet, gingerly tugging at the corners, visualizing the package blossoming into a neat square opening. In spite of my great care, I will send a gash halfway down the sleeve.

Even when opened perfectly, there is no good way to close up a sleeve of saltines for later. After the first use of saltines, I might as well throw the remainder of the sleeve away.

Exhibit B

I consider the 1/3 portion that will be wasted as tribute paid to the Universal Baking Mix Gods.

The bag inside a box of Bisquick is recycled from old bullet-proof vests. You have to be a strongman competition winner to open it with your bare hands, and if you do, you’ll find yourself lightly breaded. You can cut it open with scissors, if you have scissors tough enough to pierce Kevlar.

Bisquick does not deteriorate like saltines, but I find myself spilling a good portion of it, pouring it from the bag I mangled during the “attack with sharp objects” step of my baking recipe. When the bag is empty, I can get three more pancakes from the loose mix accumulated at the bottom of the box.

Exhibit C

Do they still even make the triangular hole punch can opener anymore?

Dole makes delicious pineapple juice, but was it packaged in 1918? A sealed can of juice? I suppose that makes it easier to ship to our troops fighting Kaiser Wilhelm.

As it happens, pineapple juice is a great mixer for vodka. When you’ve made vodka your summertime choice for that after-getting-the-kids-in-bed relaxer (because it’s much cheaper than scotch and goes good over the rocks with pineapple juice), you’ll want a supply of pineapple juice that will keep in the fridge. No matter how you manage to open it, a metal can is hard to close up again.

That liquid in mason jars in my fridge isn’t liquor. It’s pineapple juice, which I happen to mix with my liquor, which, by the way, comes in a bottle, with a cap, that I can put back onto the bottle to keep its contents safe and civilized. Now that’s packaging!

Mr. Owl, why do they keep making brown Tootsie Pops?

Remember this guy?

“Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”

Wise

When you have to say “I don’t know,” but you want to appear wise about your own ignorance.

Mr. Owl is almost as old as I am. The Tootsie Pops he’s selling are older. Tootsie Pops were my favorite lollipop in those days. My boys seem to enjoy them as much as I did.

In all the years I’ve been eating Tootsie Pops, one thing has never changed: the chocolate ones (wrapped in the brown paper) are horrible.

All the other flavors are delightful, but the brown ones just plain suck. Even the texture is off-putting. The worst part is the brown always seem to be the most plentiful color in the bag.

study in brown

How did an orange one survive this long?

This is a photo of our candy bowl. It could have been a photo of any waning stash of Tootsie Pops from my childhood. The other colors disappear but the brown ones just sit there forever. Eight kids grew up in my house. We competed like wolves for treats. The brown ones collected dust.

Today, the tradition continues. Big Man is our most avid fan of Tootsie Pops. Whenever I see him with one, I tell him he shouldn’t be eating that color. “The [insert non-brown color] ones are for me,” I say. “I bought the brown ones especially for you. Those are the ones you should eat.”

He laughs like that’s the most ridiculous thing ever mentioned to him. “No. The brown ones are yours,” he answers. “You have to eat them.”

For a long time, I wouldn’t buy bags of Tootsie Pops simply because I feared my house would become full of uneaten brown ones and I’d have to move my family to a place with more storage.

But the orange ones won’t stop calling my name.

I stave off temptation as long as I can, but between me and a bag of Tootsie Pops I’m the biggest sucker.

Why do they keep filling the bags with the awful brown ones?

The world may never know.