We All Live in a Red 'Check Engine' Light

A warning light came on in my car. One of those mysterious little graphics that-- to the Automotively Unschooled such as myself-- are more frightening by the fact that they're lit, than any idea what the frig it's supposed to symbollize.

"Crikey-moses, I think my personal exploration submarine is going to blow!"

Realizing there probably wasn't enough room under the spare tire for a hidden marine submersible--- disappointing: I'd had my heart set on seeing those transparent fish who are their own flashlights-- I dug out the owner's manual.

It turns out the meaning of the warning sensor is actually more convoluted than a 60s psychedelic musical cartoon based around an excess of Liverpudlians cohabitating in a sunny steel shark.

In fact, it could indicate any one of the following:

Meaning One:
Something is wrong with your emissions. Which means something is wrong with your engine. Or transaxle. Or exhaust, intake, or fuel system. Possibly air freshener.

Which means your car will either stall out on a four-lane highway where you become instant paté-in-a-can for packs of very lost dingoes... Or, you'll make it to the mechanics only to learn everything but the cupholders are ruined, and you owe them your first born child and/or spun gold as payment.

Meaning Two:

The engine, which has tragically bad aim when it's been drinking heavily (especially the cheap stuff), has misfired. Giving itself a flesh wound. This may or may not require service, depending on how macho it is. VW Bugs will ask for floral-printed Band-Aids (ouchless) and a hug from the nearest maintenance man. Dodge Rams will only cry on the inside.

Meaning Three:

The emissions system is simply confused and cranky. The car may be feeling the effects of a loose gas cap. Rain might be frizzing its electrics. Its gas tank might be queasy from a new brand of fuel. Or the car might be held sway by the light of a full moon and Team Jacob. If the latter, druids should be called in to make the light go off. Though, it may go off on its own, after it's had a good cry.

Or not.

But maybe.

So you could wait.

Or you could explode in a fiery ball of flame and rubber Hello Kitty floormats.

Your call, really.

The funny thing is, as far as I can tell, the information on the problem is really no different than the Service Engine Soon light. I've written about that before. Does the Mini-Sub-looking icon indicate a greater level of peril than the big square "Service Engine Soon" icon?

Or does it simply mean that when I finally bow to the power of the light and take my car in, the mechanic will tell me it has... oh, I don't know... a small case of the Blue Meanies...

...And that "that'll be $700 Meanie-Extraction-and-Light-Resetting, Ma'am"?

If the last one's the case, I might just tell them to leave the Meanies there. I like company for my commutes. As long as they wouldn't go screwing with my stereo, we'd be cool.

And speaking of music. All together now... Everybody...

"We all live in a red 'Check Engine' light...
Red 'Check Engine' light...
Red 'Check Engine' light..."


New Year's Resolutions for Somebody Else

Well, last year, I'd posted about the things I resolved not to do for 2009.

This year, I've decided to post suggested New Year's Resolutions for people who are not, in fact, me.

See, I know me. I know that I could vow to... oh... eat fewer french fries. Or to exercise for two hours every day. Or to own only one pair of black shoes at a time.

But I also know I'll have forgotten about each and every one of those resolutions by the Ides of March. (Partly, it's because I get distracted, wondering when we stopped using the word "ides" to mean mid-month-- I mean, no one ever tells you your credit card bill is due "ides-ish.")

So, I figure if I want to make some resolutions that are going to fall through anyway, I might as well make them for someone else. Someone who can really use them.

Like this:
  • Charlie Sheen. Charlie... dude. Enough with the hookers and wife-beating and weaponry. It's getting old and boring, like Viagra jokes on a long-drawn-out sitcom. (Not that you know anything about that.) Surprise us for 2010. Join a cult or organized religious group or something. It could even successfully spill over into your series: "Two and a Half Monks." You're good at physical comedy, so the vow of silence shouldn't be a problem, plus, it will cut costs in the writing department. Think about it.
  • People Who Comment Passionately on News Sites. Did you know that you can make your paranoid rants, non sequiter commentary, and parroted talking points in reaction to news articles even more effective? Well, you can! For 2010, consider learning to spell "losers" and "riddance." "Looser" is what happens to your waistband when you drop a pants size. And "riddens" is just an overzealous misapplication of Hooked on Phonics. Calling a group of people "loosers" is, perhaps, not the way to establish the intellectual credibility you're seeking. I mean, I know you could also avoid name-calling completely and debate the actual issues like an adult. But I recognize that's probably asking a lot. It's "losers." Good "riddance" to them. And you're welcome.
  • Spammers. Spammers, I understand you're really devoted to your craft. I know you are desperate to have your unsubtle sales messaging nestled into the comments section of my blogs like a happily feasting tick on an overweight Golden Retriever. But did you know that even if, for some reason, I accidentally approve one of those nuggets of nonsense, when you place it on a blog where the audience doesn't read Japanese... or Russian... or French.... or ancient Mesopotamian.... you are, in fact, wasting a spam? So for 2010, why not resolve to actually, oh, do some research on the blogs you're spamming? Spam English-speaking blogs in English. Japanese in Japanese. Don't insert comments responding to a post about technology, when the post is actually about green beans. This is not to say I'll ever approve your comments. But at least you can say you've elevated your game. And that should make you feel all warm and gooey inside. Again, like that tick.
  • Jon Gosselin. As the clock hits midnight on New Year's Eve and it ticks through those very first fifteen minutes of 2010, look around you, Jon. Notice the lack of TV cameras directed at you. Observe the place where groupies do not drool. Think about those first fifteen minutes of this new decade. Recognize they are not very much like those fifteen minutes of fame you had back in 2009. And then resolve to stop trying to get them back with manufactured drama that comes off like it's been scripted by a high schooler whose watched too many Melrose Place reruns. Yup, Jon, it's time you leave the attention-getting-with-no-observable-talent to Paris Hilton. It's her Niche Super Power. There can be only One. Move along, sonny.
Well, those are the main Resolutions I'd wanted to offer up. I suppose, in reading this over, I really should step forward, and resolve something myself. Like to be less sarcastic for 2010. But---

Hey, did you ever wonder why we only ever hear about "ides" in relation to March? Did Shakespeare completely corner the market on "ides"?

Oh, sorry-- what was I saying before?

Well, nevermind. Happy New Year to you all! And thanks for helping to make it a great 2009!


Weather or Not

I've been wondering just at what point it is that we, as humans, transition into amateur meteorologists. I mean, is it a gradual thing or does it hit all at once?

One day, do you check the Weather Channel, and then the next you're watching it with your morning coffee? In two months, are you collecting barometers? And then before you know it, are you installing green screens, Doppler Radar and weather pickles in your entertainment room?

Or is it an instant Coming of Age moment, where they hand you your retirement watch and ask you:

"What do you plan to do with all your free time now, Bill?"

And (if your name happens to be Bill) you say:

"Why, I think I'm going to monitor precipitation and daily highs and lows in an obsessive-compulsive manner, Chet!"

(If the guy you were talking to happens to be named Chet.)

I say all this because it seems that, within the last few years, my dad-- who is retired, lives basically in Upper Margaritaville and has nowhere specific to be at any given moment--- has developed Weather Channel Addiction.

I had suspected this was going on, as each time I speak to him in our weekly catch-up phone call, from hundreds of miles away he recounts me with what my own weather is doing. Like some meteorological Carnac the Magnificent.

But I really notice it when he comes to visit and is Weather Channel-Free for a few days. By about Day Two, his hands are shaking... The fingers on his remote control hand are breaking out in hives... He's looking at the sky, his left eye twitching...

I ignore this for a while, because I am basically Evil. So he starts making vague hints.

"Are those cumulo-nimbuses coming in there? I wonder what that means."

(Cue ominous music.)

Then half-way through a movie, he can bear it no longer.

"Can we just put on TWC for a minute? Please? Just a minute. Just a little five-day-forecast. See what's happening at your Aunt Jean's. And Key West. And Iceland. I'll turn it off after that. I promise. I don't know what it's doing in Zimbabwe."

I thought he was going to slip into a seizure when he asked if the thermometer outside the kitchen window worked and I said I didn't know, I never really looked at it.

I would say this is an isolated case, but my best friend's parents have a similar fixation.

Not only do they monitor what it's doing outside with pinpoint accuracy, but they write it down as part of some log, along with rainfall totals.

My friend has told them many times that there are whole groups of Almanac People to take care of this task-- that history isn't relying on them specifically to trot out their spiral bound notebook and let us know there was a light frost on October 29, 1984 with a low of 31 degrees. But it's made no impression.

So as I get older, I wait for the moment that I, too, transition from a gal who just wants to know if I'll need to dig my car out for the morning commute, to an unpaid weatherperson with a deep passion for the total snowfall in the Rockies... which Tropical Storm is brewing in Barbados... and how many inches of rain I can expect on Sunday, as I watch it from the house.

If I ever start a blog post telling regular readers what the weather is doing in your areas based on your IP addresses, you'll know I've succumbed.

Compulsive meteorology affects one in seven. It's up to us to resist the high pressure front of weather addiction.

Question of the day: do you have a weather bug in your family?


Doctor Who Versus the Daleks Verus the Dickens Christmas Village

Who stands tall (or at least disproportionately out of scale) when the Dickens Christmas Village in the living room is overrun by invaders from another planet? Why, our dashing Doctor Who, of course!

Last year, it was All Silent on the Porcelain Dickensian London Landmarks. But this year, Daleks have developed a fleet of evil green minions....
Okay, so they LOOK like Christmas bottle brush trees. But what better way to infiltrate and conquer a sleeping city during the holidays than to disguise your crazed robot machines as docile holiday firs?

As a space ship hovers above Big Ben, casting inordinate glare over Doctor Who-- which looks strikingly like an over-exposed camera flash but really isn't at all in the least, move along please-- the Doctor prepares his battle plan...

He's hoping to keep the potential peril under wraps from the general populace as long as possible. Though he suspects even bustling, absorbed, energetically-shopping Londoners might eventually notice the crashed flying saucer on the Tower Bridge...

Remarkable how advanced alien technology resembles two styrofoam dinner plates glued together, isn't it?
"What do you think, Rose?" begins the Doctor. "How long before they start to get suspicious that it's going to be yet another year the world nearly ends on Christmas?"
"Two, three hours tops," Rose suggests, peering thoughtfully at the scene below. "Think I have enough time to pick up some tea for my mum at Harrods? I'm not quite done shopping."

"Focus, Rose. Focus."
The TARDIS-- which is not, in any way, a DVD storage box my friend Scoobie made for me, even though it is completely filled with awesome-- waits by, ready to leap into action at the Doctor's command.

Will everyone at St. Martin-in-the-Fields cathedral be exterminated before they can finish their brass rubbings and tea in the crypt?...

Will the alien villaness Cassandra turn the Dalek pine trees against the Daleks for her own nefarious purposes... Or at least for a really freshly pine-scented space ship?...

Will Rose be the last human left in London, and have to take over the duties as Queen and do all of that bored waving?
And the biggest question of all...

How long will it take my dad to realize that the standard Christmas Dickens village has been wholly invaded by alien lifeforms this year?

Stay tuned, Friends of Cabbages! And happy holidays!

Doggs and Reindeer Living Together, Mass Hysteria

I'd pretty much pooh-poohed all the paranoid blather about 2012 being the End of the World As We Know It...

Until this morning. Because I do believe I saw evidence we're headed that way.

I was flipping channels, enjoying my beloved morning java, and there on my television screen was Martha Stewart and Snoop-Dogg, making holiday brownies together in jarring, surreal camaraderie-- and rapping about it.

Martha Stewart. Rapping.

Snoop-Dogg. Baking.

This alone may be proof that something decidedly strange is up with the Universe.

For me, however, all else remains per the holiday norm. For instance, the Annual Christmas Self-Crippling is well underway.

Yes, nothing suggests a festive holiday like spending it twisted and hobbled like a cross-dressing Tiny Tim with a gland disorder!

I'm not sure why exactly, but every year at this time, I feel compelled to spread Holiday Perfection to all corners of my home-- and apparently mostly those that require ladders and Twister-like contortionist skillz to reach them.

The fact is, my father will be the main person to see this Winter Wonderland of Interior Excess.

And this is a man whose feels he's really home-cooked when nuking instructions exceed three minutes...

A fellow whose most-used dishes come on a roll labeled "Brawny."

There really isn't a lot of pressure here.

Christmas won't skip to next door just because one wayward dust bunny isn't wearing a Santa hat.

Ebeneezer Scrooge won't humbug for all eternity if I don't get the Dickens Village set up this year.

The world will not end if the sugarplums are not moshing away in La-La Land.

If anything, the world ends when Snoop-Dogg starts telling us how to get the perfect glaze on the ham we smoked in our own smokehouse.

The gig is over when Martha starts her program with "Yo, yo, yo, peeps! S to the A to the N-T-A!"

But alas, I still find myself thinking-- if I could only uncover some way to wrap festive holiday lights around the electric heating pad I will be strapped to for the next five days, I could truly multitask.

Some things never change, I suppose.

Hail to your mommas.

The Dead Blog Memorial Wall and Rave Party

They fill our weekly routines with joy, laughter, knowledge.... And then, too soon, they are gone... Vanished suddenly from our lives like pretty much any Joss Whedon series on FOX.

Yes, I'm talking about blogs. The ones that draw you in, that engage you, only to die a silent premature death.

Sometimes it's because that bossy Offline Life steps in and pulls the plug.

Sometimes inspiration drains from blogging like ice cold, soapy bath water.

Sometimes existentialism cold-cocks the blogger with the ham-fisted hand of "Why frikkin' bother?"

But no matter what the reason, we readers mourn. And we mourn alone!

But no more! Because Of Cabbages and Kings has created the Dead Blog Memorial Wall and Rave Party. Yes, that's right!--now we have the perfect Interwebz spot for honoring those blogs and former bloggers that served their readers, and served well-- until their creation snuffed it like a groundhog on a six-lane highway.

Find the closure you need while remembering your favorite deceased blogs-- simply leave a comment here. Tacky virtual plastic shrines are welcome.

So take off your coat, grab a cup of your favorite libation, and join in the party. Let's celebrate the Creativity That Was and the Blogs That Now Aren't!

I'll start us off in the comments section with a couple of my own most-missed blogs.

(PS- Please take your shoes off if you plan to dance on the virtual tables... I just had them polished.)


Eau de Terrier Blanc: A Unique Fragrance

Lisa's post over at Boondock Ramblings--- about the eye-watering stench of one of her cats-- reminded me of my four-legged friend, Fritz.

Now Fritz was a past landlord's dog, a large and cheerful white terrier. Because he traded on looks over brains-- (that dog made Goofy look like Stephen Hawking after a couple of cups of coffee)-- Fritz was the lovable idiot you just felt compelled to pet.

The mental negligence I understood. That was from one too many concussions. Each day, I would leave for work where Fritz would race me to the metal gate, and skid out head-first into it.


Each evening, he would see me returning home and do the same.


You had to admire his enthusiasm, if not his coordination.

But the smell, now that was a mysterious phenomenon that simply hadn't made it into the Natural Wonders list yet.

And it wasn't one I would notice right away, no. But
it would sidle up-- an aroma of pure, unabashed, eternal, deep-radiating, primeval Dogocity. The kind that would wrap its yellow-green tendrils around the ol-factory senses... and hump the heck outta them.

It didn't matter if he'd just been to the groomers, either. Fritz would return all fluffy white, trimmed and joyous, a clean bandanna slung jauntily around his neck. And a brief affectionate pat on the head would leave traces of a gagging canine stink that multiple hand-washings, handiwipes, sandpaper and sulfuric acid would not remove.

Now Fritz's mother, Henrietta, lived down the street. She was an outside dog, calm, mild-mannered and grateful for any speck of attention anyone gave her.

And, one day, it occurred to me that Henrietta might serve as a decent control group to test the Fritz Foulness problem. Was this mysterious Puppy Putrescence something to do with the breed, the family line, or just Fritz himself?

I was determined to find out!

So as I approached the lady dog with my daily greeting, it was this time I paused. And petted...

And, um, sniffed. Deeply.

It occurred to me later that anyone watching out their windows might find it a little odd to see someone stop, play with, and then sniff someone's dog.

They might consider it equally strange to see that person leave, energetically sniffing their own hand and making mental notes of it.

Ah, but much out of the ordinary must be done in the name of Science! We didn't see Alexander Fleming recoiling from penicillin and crying, "Eeew! What's that green stuff? Gross! Take it away!"

No. He said, "Hm! Jolly! Someday people will be over-medicating with this."

And I learned something important from my little experiment, too. I learned that the all-weather female, four-wheel-drive model of the great Fritzmeister was completely odor-free.

Now, I haven't expanded the experiment to other terriers of this type, because, well, I got bored.

Also, I have sinus problems.

Also-also, I don't want to be known as "Crazy Dog Sniffer."

But I think it's reasonably safe to say that the problem was uniquely Fritz' own. Was it some gland issue? Some evolutionary glitch? An unfortunate designer dog signature fragrance choice?

We may never know.

If only it could have been used for the powers of Good. Harnessed in the right hands, I believe Eau de Terrier Blanc could have reshaped today's on-the-ground warfare. Concentrated and formed into exploding capsules, the enemy would be rendered completely incapacitated for miles. And nobody would ever have to get hurt.

I'd say there might even be a Peace Prize in that!... (And hey, we've seen those things handed out for less.)

Pass the handiwipes.


Mr. Toad's Driver Re-Education Program

Good morning, Class! And welcome to The Wild Wood Driver Re-Education Program and Speed Addiction Management.

I am Mr. Toad, and I'll be your teacher for this re-training course.

Now, like each of you, I have committed some... erm... minor infractions of the law on our local roadways. But l am here today to show you that it is possible to become 100% rehabilitated! (And possibly work off your debt to society in a teaching capacity.)


Through a clever three-step regimen of Visualization, Desensitization, and Messing About In Boats.

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Why, Toad, but you are a creature of superior intelligence and wealth, with good friends willing to do a motorcar intervention for you. And I am a mere thick, friendless human who had an issue with road rage, speed and/or car-jacking. How am I to live up to the example you set?"

Well, just keep in mind, we are not holding you up to lofty Toad Standards, and that should alleviate any pressure you might feel.

Now: Visualization and Desensitization. (We'll get to Messing About in Boats once mine is back from the shop.) But I assure you, once you complete this part of the course, you will see a motorcar, you will sit in a motorcar, but any need for speed will be vanished from your heart like an Alpha Romeo in a straightaway!

Look here up on the projector screen, and what do you see?

Why, yes, that's right, class-- it's a photo of a Lamborghini Murcielago in sunshine yellow! Notice its aerodynamic styling. Consider its four-wheel-drive.

Picture yourself behind the wheel... All those lovely, blinking controls before you, just waiting for your next move... Sitting in its plush, ergonomic seating...

Is-- is-- is it getting warm in here?... Could someone just pop open that window please? Thank you.

Now imagine you're turning the key in the ignition... Your flipper pressing down on that gas pedal and you're giving it a few revs.... Now do you really want to see if it can go from 0 to 65 in 3.4 seconds?

In mere moments, the Wild Wood Constabulary would be hot on your trail, as you leave destruction and devastation in your wake...

As you go on to break the hearts of your friends, who simply don't understand the beauty and power of motorcars like you do.

Who really don't appreciate the feel of the wind on one's skin and the landscape roaring past so that you feel nothing could stop you... Certainly not a few pathetic, underpaid bobbies with no sense of fun and...



You don't want to test its turbo. Instead you imagine yourself easing gently away from the curb. Safely. With no special agenda. (yawn) You look around you. You feel the calm. You listen to the purr of the engine.

The engine...

What you do not do is you don't think how much louder that engine could roar if it were pushed up to its ripping 211 miles per hour as you tear across hill and dale, kicking up dust and overturning milk carts, tearing across the bridges, watching your neighbors leap aside to safety as your eye catches sight of that horn...

Oh, that glorious, shining, melodic horn! And you take one hand from the wheel and you reach and as you press it your heart gives a thrill as you hear its beautiful, beautiful voice singing out:





Here is a photo of a Geo Metro...


Santa Was a Jerk

Okay. It's finally out there. I've said it once and I'll say it again:

Santa was a jerk.

No, no, not to me. To Rudolph. And I think because of his position and influence and the potential for coal-filled stockings, we let the Fat Man's open discrimination and self-interest slide long enough.

I mean, the evidence is clear and we've all witnessed it. Santa takes one look at Rudolph's glowing nose and does he tell the other reindeer to lay off with the name-calling?

Does he use this as a teachable moment to explain how some clay stop-motion reindeer have lightbulb noses and some don't, but that we're all equal in Santa's eyes?

Does he instate an inclusive reindeer games policy?

No. He's as bad as the rest of them. He makes a mockery of Rudolph's nose. And then-- only when he realizes that the shiny schnoz could suit his own needs-- then he uses Rudolph by conning him into a high-risk flight.

No "I was wrong, Rudolph."

No "I will no longer support discriminatory practices in this workplace, Rudolph."

No "Please don't find an elf who secretly desires to be a lawyer and then sue the red knickers off me, Rudolph."

Nope. Nothing.

And Rudolph, raised in an atmosphere of ostracism and low self-esteem, totally takes it without a single, "Oh, so ya like me now, huh? Well, it's a little late for that, Nicky-boy."

No, Rudolph's just grateful for Santa's acknowledgment, the poor deer.

It's a sad, dysfunctional situation if ever I saw one, and frankly, I've totally lost respect for Mr. HoHoHo.

So this year, I'm skipping the milk and cookies for the Fat Man. Instead, I'm leaving some deer treats and this note.


Please give these reindeer num-nums to Rudolph, and you can skip the presents for me this year. It's bad enough you're running an elf-labor sweatshop--

And you're clearly violating copyright laws by replicating toys that actual corporations hold the trademarks on and passing them off as legit--

But your Equal Opportunity policies stink, too.

So go ahead and give me coal if you dare. With the current rates on fossil fuels, I'll be making out all right.


I think if enough of us leave notes like this, Santa might be forced to pay attention and do something about it. Fair is fair. Let's show Mr. Naughty-or-Nice that we can't be bribed into silence anymore!

Who's with me?


Roger, the Friendly Neighborhood Human Skull

"Thar be skeletons ahead!" the disembodied Disney pirate voice warned. Or something to that effect. I don't recall precisely. I was five. It was my first time on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. And I was absolutely frantic to return to a more skeleton-free existence.

Now in my family, fear was not an option. Just like my Pop felt any aches and pains or pneumonia or bubonic plague could be totally cured by "doing a few squat thrusts," fears were irrational things you needed to just suck up and get over.

Why, in his day, five-year-olds smoked cigars. And worked 20-hour jobs. And faced their fears like men. Small men. In short pants. With milk mustaches. But men.

They didn't make a lot of noise because they'd lost a few fingers at the bandsaw, or had a little skeleton problem.

So one day, Dad came home from the hospital where he worked, and brought a new friend. This friend had commuted in a paper bag. And jingling through the door after a long day of biomedical booyah, Dad handed the bag to me.

Oh, foolish, unsuspecting me... I peeked inside thinking there might have been a hospital booksale. That discount Nancy Drews might lurk within.

Instead, I was met with a skull's plastic grinning face. Roger's. A to-size human skull with poorly glued dentition and great empty staring eyesockets.

Roger was a medical school teaching tool that had been surplus to requirement.

Now he was our permanent houseguest.

Well, you can just imagine the reaction of a kid who's terrified of skeletons being handed the head of Yorick...

That whole "Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard" thing my family had been operating on all these years went right out the window.

But I was informed that Roger, as the Pop called him, must stay. And that's when he began living in our basement rec room on top of the television set.

I played there, of course. And so reruns of Underdog and Hong Kong Phooey and the Monkees were now seen with the relentless, wobbly, yellow grin of Roger beaming down on me. The drawback was the quality time I was forced to spend with Roger.

The benefit, I soon realized, was the improvement in aerial reception.

Over time, Roger gained a head scarf and an eyepatch, but regrettably lost his lower mandible in a freak dusting accident.

And while friends visiting the house for the first time would question Roger as one of the many oddities my packrat father had found and tucked away in the basement, to me, Roger quickly became little more than one of those Starving Artist paintings you buy for cheap to match the couch and then forget about.

"Skull? What skull? Oh, him. That's Roger. Let's play Monopoly."

Yesterday, my friend "The Knave" was commenting on some skulls printed on my pocketbook, and I had cause to recall Roger for the first time in years. Dad has long since moved and the basement cleared of its residual weirdnesses. Yet where did Roger go?

To the dumpster, to roll from truck to truck and eventually land up in a grand garbage pile, waiting to scare the socks off some curious rummager?

Or was he purchased at the house sale, by some lucky Goth kid? Or maybe a low budget Shakespeare company prepared to make Roger a star?

I'll have to ask.

I like to think he's out there somewhere. Scaring the Sunny-D out of some other kid. Who'll grow up to be reasonably well-adjusted in spite of it. Or because of it.

Plus, he really did wonders for channel 9.


Shopping Tips for People Who Hate to Shop

I see you there in the stores. You give yourself away. It's in the eyes, I think. The same trapped look one sees in aged zoo animals who have vague memories of jungles beyond their simulated concrete habitat, yet they can't quite recall the details.

You hate shopping and don't want to be here. It's the world's oldest fish-out-of-water story, right after the one that actually starred the fish. And you have my sympathy. Yet, as much as it pains me to say it, the shopping world isn't quite ready for you, either.

So here are some shopping tips for you good folks who'd ordinarily choose fingernail-extrusion over trying to find that French nail kit your niece asked for.

I think if we all work together, we can get through this burst of mandatory commercialized gaiety for another season. Without anyone getting hurt.

  • The cart need not necessarily be an extension of your body. Because individual inventory items do not yet come with GPS, you're not sure where you're going. Understood! Just remember, when you turn your head to locate a particular department, you don't actually need to move your entire cart with you, full-body. You can 1.) let go of it and 2.) just turn your head to see. I have witnessed more people do sweeping spins in the center of narrow aisles than Dorothy Hamil going for Olympic Gold. Only this involves more bruised shins and flattened toes.
  • If something is "Cute for $5," this isn't really the positive endorsement you think it is. I know; you want to check those family members off your gift list and go back to non-shopping normalcy in the fastest way possible. So you stumble upon a whole wall of beautifully-discounted, faux-painted, artificial slate, virtually hand-crafted, seasonally-inspirational signs bearing a genuine simulated folk art goose wearing a Santa hat. You need to gift 15 nephews, nieces, neighbors and grandchildren. If you bought every single person on your list one of these miniature works of fine art you could be done with this foolishness instantly. You can now see the bright shining portal of the exit, where before you were only envisioning a slow fluorescent retail-induced death. But I beg you, put Santa Goose down. You have succumbed to delirium. It is not "cute for $5." It is barely cute for the fifty-cents it took that eight-year-old in China to make it. Your grandson does not want one. Go home and bake everyone cookies which are goose-free. Tell them about Santa Goose. They'll understand.
  • Keep in mind, you are just entering a store, not approaching the Great and Terrible Oz. Yes, when you don't shop often, going into these crowded, jumbled stores can be intimidating. But remember, step through the automatic doors and don't stop dead, frozen in dread and awe-- keep moving. There are people behind you. People who are now being punched in the face as you swing off your coat in the entryway because you're now in a Panic Sweat. Giving a stranger a black-eye before you even set foot in the shop is not, perhaps, the right tone for the day.
  • Resist the temptations of Begos, Darbies and Patchbox. If you find yourself saying the words "it looks almost the same" when you're trying to buy something on a family member's Christmas list, just forgo it. Do not try the Fiscally-Sound Switcheroo. Yes, I know there seems to be no discernable difference between Darby and that pink-boxed, 12- inch plastic hoochie your kid asked for. And yes, the Patchbox cars do have four wheels and almost probably maybe aren't coated in lead paint. But kids have super-sense about these things. They have criteria for why Barbie kicks Darby's skinny polymer butt beyond what mere mortals can see. You think you're a genius now, but wait until you have to explain why Darby seems to be experiencing female pattern baldness on Christmas morn.
  • Decision-making stops before the cash register. Have you made the right choice? Have you thought your purchases through? It's always a risk. But here's a helpful hint-- the time to truly debate about this is not at the cash register at the front of a line which snakes all the way back to the Orange-Gloed restrooms. Think of the cash register as the Moment of Truth. Step forward bravely. The cashier does not know your daughter-in-law's taste. If you are taking 20 items up to the register and only buying three, there is a problem.

Well, my dear Shopping-Phobic Friends, here's hoping these tips are enough to guide you, reduce your stress, and eliminate the potential of you being hamstringed by angry fellow shoppers in housewares. Remember, the best gift you can give is of yourself, and yourself probably doesn't involve 50 overstocked copies of the Taco Bell dog's autobiography.


Christmas Songs that Need to Be Written

The awesome beauty of crystallized precipitation... The joy of uniting with people who share a common genetic structure... Hard-shelled, protein-rich foodstuffs combusting over a potential fire-hazard... This is the stuff of Christmas song.

Yet, I can't help but feel there are other topics that reveal an even greater part of the Modern Family Christmas Experience that have not yet been addressed.

So rather than endure a 3,000th broadcast of George Michael's "Last Christmas" or McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime"-- which always make me want to puncture my eardrums with a marshmallow roasting stick-- someone needs to write about the subjects that are truly relevant to our time.

Subjects like:
  • 35 and Sleeping in the Bunk Over Grandpa
  • O Little Table of Lesser Fam, Where Dost Thou Put One's Knees?
  • Yes, Yes, Yes, I'm Still Single, Auntie (Pass the Peas)
  • Over the River and Through a Ten Car Pile Up On the Turnpike
  • Egg Nog Helps Me Forget
  • Silent Treatment for Sister
  • Dreidel, Dreidel, Spun Way Under the Couch (For my Jewish friends)
  • Guilt Brings Us Together
  • Oh Christmas Socks, Oh Christmas Socks!
  • Tales from a Christmas Form Letter
  • The Airline Peanut Feast
  • When Santa Brings Math Flash Cards
  • In the Glow of the Shining Leg Lamp
  • A Toy Worth Trampling For
  • Black Friday, Blue Christmas
  • Please Don't Eat the Garland
  • Ornament Physics with Fluffy
  • Weeping on the Keyboard (The Sappy Christmas Email Forward Song)
  • Who Stole the Light-up Baby Jesus?

...And, of course, many other soon-to-be-classic hits!

I hope this preliminary list will inspire you talented songwriters out there to really get creative and make music that reflects Christmas as we truly know it. Because I have to tell you, McCartney's really getting on my last nerve.

Help me.



Question for today:
Any new Christmas song ideas you'd like to add to this list?


Ten Signs Your Neighbor is a Zombie

So you think you might be living next door to a flesh-eating zombie, but want to be sure.

In suburbia, a neighbor with a glazed expression and red-stained clothes may not, in fact, be zombified. Mrs. Johnson might just be one Cosmo away from forgetting how much she hates PTA meetings. Or Mr. Johnson might have slugged the kids' soccer coach again.

So how can you be absolutely certain the people next door have not joined the walking dead in their unholy crusade for human nibblies?

Of Cabbages and Kings has you covered, with our Top 10 Signs Your Neighbor is a Zombie:
  • The annual neighborhood barbecue mysteriously swaps burgers and hot dogs for steak tartar and ribs. Very rare ribs.
  • Local trick-or-treaters seem to have all coordinated their costumes and gone as what you can only describe as "grunge." It's the first year no one has shown up as the killer from Scream.
  • People are milling about on your lawn in the wee hours of the morning, peering in your windows and moaning, but you're not actually holding a yard sale this day.
  • Your dog is missing, and Mr. Brown next door is in bad need of a lint brush.
  • This is the first time you've talked to Mrs. Brown where she didn't try to verbally one-up your kid with her kid's success. In fact, it's the first time she let you do all the talking.
  • You ask for a hand with some groceries, and you get one. It wears nail polish.
  • Mr. Timmons' white picket fence is now in a designer color you could only describe as "Carotid Artery Crimson."
  • Suzie White's Girl Scout Cookie stand now carries flavors like "Thin Mintons," "Peanut Taggarts" and "Samoans." Coincidentally, the Mintons, Taggarts and Samoans live down the block.
  • The kids' babysitter seemed wholly uninterested in raiding the fridge. But licked her lips when she saw your cat Mr. Fluffy.
  • Keeping up with the Joneses has become easy. They meander in the yard in circles at about two miles per hour.

Thank you, we'll be here all week, folks! Enjoy the finger sandwiches!

Turkey of a Travel Day Answers and Giveaway Winner

Last week, Of Cabbages and Kings had its second not-necessarily-annual-yet-really-spiffy giveaway contest, where participants had to predict which tribulations and turns my Thanksgiving travel plans would take. The one who got closest to what really happened would get a piece of Florida souvenir tackiness hand-picked by me!

I can't understand why we didn't have more participants. :)

Today, however, we find out the answers and reveal the winner. Let's get cracking!

.) How many times will I get reprimanded by airport security in total?
The answer is...b.) Once. While it wasn't shoe removal, or my being too polite to fellow passengers that was my downfall, my bag had to be searched because of... wait for it...

Rogue antiques.

That's the way I roll.

Apparently on X-ray, some unique pens made from Victorian silverware I'd picked up looked like deadly weapons.

Yes, friends, many a person has died a long painful death... many a plane has been hijacked... due to floral-embossed flatware. So let's give a round of applause for our good men and women of airport security; they're just doing their jobs and not taking any chances. Sure, it was innocuous this time, but next time those pens could be a chafing dish.

Moving on to...

2.) At least one person sitting next to me on the plane will do which of the following?
And I'd listed a number of things strangers do to other strangers in when sitting next to them in a metal cylinder at over 10,000 feet (No, that doesn't involve the Mile High Club-- get your minds out of the gutter, people!).

Now, for this trip, everyone directly next to me was actually very well-behaved, which I appreciate. I will, however, have to choose D for the correct answer--
"Have some sort of bladder control problem that requires getting up multiple times"-- because someone behind me had this issue and apparently lacked the thigh-power to stand up unassisted to flee for the restroom without using my chair back as a makeshift winch.

3.) How long will it take me to physically leave the rental car property once receiving my rental car keys?
The answer here, believe it or not, was "A-- under 15 minutes."

This is in complete contrast to the Chevy HHR I had one year which-- in its quest to streamline the number of buttons-- decided that getting into the trunk through the dash, a floor lever, a keyhole, or a keyless remote button was entirely excessive.

That year, it took me 45 minutes to figure out that you could open the trunk by hand but only if all of the car doors were also open. Yes, that's intuitive.

As for number 4.)-
- Will I get lost in Miami?
I'm proud to say, I managed to do so not once, but twice! Thus, setting an all-new personal record. The first time, I did indeed get lost in places I'd gotten lost before. It's part of a fine annual tradition. So C. ("Yes, but you will recall being lost there three times before and not lose much time.") is a correct answer.

But for the return trip, B-- ("Yes, but only for the amount of time it takes you to stop crying on the steering wheel")-- also is correct. My Rand McNally directions back to the rental car return were, in fact, totally wrong, sending me away from the airport and across a series of roads that looked like a plate of linguine with clam sauce.

(The abandoned motels and used car lots I passed by before the weeping began are the clams in this analogy.)

And last...

5. How many free-roaming iguanas will I see in my dad's backyard?
The answer is A.) None. The iguanas have all gone to Pittsburgh for the Thanksgiving weekend.

I haven't gotten a chance to check the local papers to see how folks here in the 'Burgh handled the mass iguana tourism, but I'm sure it'll still be lead story on the news tonight.

And now,
the moment we've all been waiting for! Because, when doing my careful mathematical calculations of who got the most correct answers right, it appears you all decided to embrace the Law of Averages and each got 2/5 correct-- I put all of your names on slips of paper in a bag and just drew a name.

So the winner of the souvenir giveaway is...

Jessie! Jessie, if you would email me your address and full name at thriftshopromantic @ mac.com (no spaces, though), I will get your goodies out to you this week.

And the prize is...

An exciting 3-D animated flamingo bookmark and an Official "Miami" fridge magnet with sparkly crap and dolphins inside! Woo-hoo!

Actually, the bookmark is kind of mesmerizingly cool. May you have many hours of fun watching the flamingos flap.

Okay, that's it for today, folks! Wednesday Cabbages will be back with its normal, non-travel-themed tales and oddities.


Hidden Motives of Self-Flushing Toilets and Other Air Travel Musing

“Family Friendly.” One of the airport security lines was labeled this in large cheerful letters. Which got me wondering what that said about the other lines.

Like the one I was in.

I know it probably was supposed to mean that they’re required by law to yell at you 50% less when it takes you 20 minutes to remove small-person shoes, extract sticky items, and transform giant robot baby strollers into three-inch-tall Matchbox cars so you can put it all back again six feet on the other side.

But as I stood in what I could only assume was the Family Abrasive Line, I kept waiting for Denis Leary to show up in a security guard uniform, to motion me forward:

“Get your @$ over here, lady. Take your f*#&ing shoes off, fer cryin’ out loud, and put ‘em on the f*#&ing conveyor belt… What’s this—Liquids? Not in a quart size bag?

"Lady, can you f*#&ing read the f*#&ing sign there? What’s it say? Read it back to me. ‘NO f*#&ing liquids more than three ounces and they gotta be in a quart size Ziploc bag.‘

"And you, you got, like, more fluids than Niagara f*#&ing Falls here. Jesus Christ, you people piss me off!”

I think the metal detector operator would be Gordon Ramsay. You just know that guy would enjoy wanding the uncooperative.

Of course, every time I travel, there are some aspects of the journey I enjoy a lot, and I wish I could incorporate them into my daily life. My favorite is the airport moving walkways. There’s absolutely nothing like flying past normal Non-Walkway Mortals, without even breaking a sweat.

It’s as close as I’ll ever get to being the Bionic Woman, and it’s all I can do to keep from going into a slow motion jog and making “Ehh-ehh-ehh-ehh-ehh, chh-chh-chh-chh-chh” noises.

I would like to have this capability in the supermarket. I believe I could do some good “ehh-ehh, chh-chh” there and be in-and-out in half the time.

Or a little “ehh-ehh chh-chh” at the mall and I wouldn’t be trapped behind large, slow-moving ladies with off-road baby carriages.

Some “ehh” and “chh” at lunch hour, and I could burn off all my calories before I ate them.

Maybe just “chh” at the flea markets. Wouldn’t want to miss anything because of my blinding speed.

What I don’t care for are those airport toilets with minds of their own. Ever since they’ve gained independence and a self-determined lifestyle, I have been prematurely flushed upon—the sanitary ramifications of which I do not want to contemplate.

I don’t know what their problem is... Do the toilets suffer from job performance anxiety and get a little overanxious about missing their cues?

Are the sensor manufacturers compensated per flush?

Or do the companies that make them also manufacture novelty items like joy-buzzers and trick birthday candles? Is there some Integrated Practical Joker motherboard you need to dismantle first for non-comedy club use?…

Because they’re always just a little more impatient than my nether-regions and I appreciate.

Just sayin’.

Well, I'm sorry to cut this short today, but I'd better go. My mavericky hotel maid and I are playing a game of Magic Towels...

Signs all over the room tell us how to help conserve water by reusing towels. I try. I hang them back on the rack with the best of intentions of saving the planet through two fewer daily squares of terry cloth.

I mean, I figure, maids probably see the whole product line of bodily fluids and bad manners (also the occasional in-room murder), so I try to make their lives a little easier by being a helpful guest.

But the maid-- she's having none of that. Not only were my used towels gone, there are now even more fresh towels in my room than before.

By tomorrow I'll be able to start my own linens store. I'm excited.

Oh, hey, if you didn't get a chance to do so, don't forget to submit a comment for a chance at a real official tasteless Florida souvenir as hand-picked by your blog hostess. Click here to check that out.


Cabbages' Turkey of a Travel Day Giveaway Contest

So, for some pre-Thanksgiving fun, I thought we here at Of Cabbages and Kings would play a giveaway game.

Right now, Yours Truly is flying off for Turkey Day festivities to the Sunshine State. And because this involves the Wacky Wonders of Air Travel--

--Where one errant metal hair barrette could cause 10 large airport security officers all named Stan to strip search me (let's hope they're gentle)--

--I will award an extremely tacky Florida souvenir of my choice to the person who comments and guesses the most answers correctly based on the outcome of my round-trip adventures.

I won't know all the answers to these myself until next Sunday. So early next week, I'll award the great and exciting prize of Genuine Florida Souvenir Slob Art to the lucky individual with the most answers that are closest to what actually happened.

Ready? Here we go!

1.) How many times will I get reprimanded by airport security in total?
a.) None, it will be smooth sailing as you are queen of the three ounce travel size toiletries!
b.) Once. Shoe removal or not running over an old lady in the security line will be your downfall.
c.) Two or three times. A nervous tic or your naturally-shifty looks will cause security to suspect you as a person of interest.
d.) Lots. You are now being grilled by Jack Bauer in some concrete underground interrogation unit. It was nice knowing you.

2.) At least one person sitting next to me on the plane will do which of the following?
a.) Fall asleep and snore, possibly drooling on your shoulder
b.) Take his or her shoes off, stench optional
c.) Try to engage you in lengthy small talk against your will
d.) Have some sort of bladder control problem that requires getting up multiple times

3.) How long will it take me to physically leave the rental car property once receiving my rental car keys? (This includes figuring out how the car actually works in the parking lot.)
a.) Under 15 minutes
b.) Fifteen to 30 minutes
c.) Thirty to 45 minutes
d.) You are still there trying to figure out how to work the rental's windshield wipers.

4. Will I get lost in Miami, on my way to my dad's?
a.) Yes, and you will have your rental car graffitied by gangs of angry rogue flamingos, too.
b.) Yes, but only for the amount of time it takes you to stop crying on the steering wheel.
c.) Yes, but you will recall being lost there three times before and not lose much time.
d.) No, it's smooth sailing! Cue the Miami Vice theme song!

5. How many free-roaming iguanas will I see in my dad's backyard?
a.) None. The iguanas have all gone to Pittsburgh for the Thanksgiving weekend.
b.) One. Most of them were eaten by the fabled Skunk Ape of the Everglades. Mmm, tastes like chicken!
c.) Two. Not enough for a sci-fi film but too many to please the territorial dachshund next door.
d.) Many! It'll be like Godzilla Versus Megalon Versus Mothra Versus Barney, baby! Run, Jenn, Run! (And don't forget to shout in Japanese as you flee.)

Okay, so those are the five questions. Leave a comment to share your predictions. And next week, we'll find out who is the lucky duck who wins real, Florida home-grown souvenir tat, personally chosen by me!

I'm so excited!

Tips to Liven Up Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: food... Fellowship... 30 people crammed into a dining room the size of a shoebox, half of them with food allergies, though none of them the exact same ones...

The potential for someone swelling up bigger than the Macy's Day Garfield balloon adds that extra layer of thanks onto the festivities when no one actually snuffs it.

And at every family get-together, there's always that one person who makes a real statement. Like Uncle Joey who brings a case of beer he drinks himself all before half-time and then begins to regale everyone with the history of the combustion engine.

Or Aunt Clara who isn't speaking to Aunt Betty since the Chestnut Stuffing Schism of 1987.

Or Grandpa Hinky who won't wear his hearing aid and needs the TV volume turned up to 11.

But this year.... this year, the colorful family member no one could possibly forget can be you... Simply follow these helpful tips!

  • You know all those handmade Christmas sweaters family have given you over the years? Wear them. All of them. At once. Shed them one at a time every fifteen minutes for a special surprise each time.
  • Recreate the Thanksgiving of your youth. Enter, wearing a snow suit with mitten clips and carrying the toy of your choice. Sit at a table separate from everyone else on a step-stool. Insist someone has to cut your meat. Whine you're bored until people try to coerce you into playing one of those games Grandma has but no one really likes, like Pit, Parcheesi or Yahtzee.
  • Pretend you're actually attending the family's annual Easter dinner. Come in an Easter bonnet (gender irrelevant here). Ask when the egg hunt will begin, and distribute chocolate rabbits with the ears pre-bitten off.
  • Transform Thanksgiving into a Snuggie party. Give pre-Christmas Snuggies in a variety of designer colors and patterns to everyone in attendance and insist they wear them. Take photos and post them to your blog and YouTube.
  • Wear novelty teeth to the event. See how long it takes for someone to notice you're wearing them. Then see how long it takes before someone says anything to you about it.
  • Call everyone by a different nickname-- like Skippy, Buster, Rutabega and Tall-Stuff. Or just call everyone by the same nickname. I suggest Humperdinck.
  • Answer anything anyone addresses to you with a question. See how long you can hold out. If attending the event with immediate family, ask them to play along for points.
  • Develop a new phobia, like of the color green. Run shrieking from anyone or anything in that color, shielding your eyes.
  • Eat all of Thanksgiving dinner with a spoon only.
  • Turn your Thanksgiving into a musical event. Instead of speaking to your relatives, why not sing out, sing proud? Work up some impromptu dance moves to accompany it, and encourage everyone to join in. Bring an iPod and speakers for musical accompaniment. Don't let anyone leave before the big finish-- the 20-minute version of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.
  • Shake hands and hug everyone-- then begin coughing and mention how your doctor had begged you not to attend, but hey, the H1N1 results aren't back yet and Thanksgiving wouldn't wait. Tell 'em that's how much you love your wonderful family.

We at Of Cabbages and Kings hope these fresh ideas for Thanksgiving festivities bring a special bright spot to your holiday get-togethers this year!

DISCLAIMER: Of Cabbages and Kings is not responsible for any institutionalizations, competency hearings, divorces, loss of child custody rights, death by improper food inhalation, heat exhaustion due to sweater excess, or tryptophan coma as a result of these suggestions.


The New Facebook Simulated Maternal Nagging Features

Facebook's starting to sound like dear old Mom. In its deep desire for us all to be happy and connected (and feed lonely farm animals), Facebook has developed a Suggestions sidebar--

--Or what I like to call the "Simulated Maternal Nagging Feature."

This app checks out who's active on your friends list and spins less-rabid Facebook buds into that frumpy, socially-inept cousin who our mother insists that we really should invite along to the party-- and possibly give a makeover.

"Mary Kwyte-Contrary only has 15 friends. Suggest friends for her!" it says.

Now, though Mary may be an individualist, she has always been able to make friends on her own.

But Facebook's Simulated Maternal Nagging Feature is worried about Mary's social life. Mary has friends, yes, but does she have enough friends? Of course not!

And is that really what Mary's wearing in her avatar? And wouldn't she like to just try wearing a little rouge? A little? For Mom? Please?

Why don't you help her, the Maternal Nagging Feature wants to know? What kind of friend are you? Didn't Mom raise you better than this? Help her! Help her NOW!


"This is your friend Bo Peep-- Help her find her friends!"

Yep, that's Mother Facebook again, stepping in and wondering why Bo's left wandering in the Facebook fields with less than a 200-head flock around her.

And if you don't make suggestions for Bo right away, well... look out! Mother Facebook has vays of makingk zem flock.

"Johnathan B. Nimble is 48% active. Poke him."

I beg your pardon, Mother Facebook?

Oh-- I see. You want to light a fire under ol' Jack because you think he's not hitting the Facebooks enough...

Instead he's out having a candlelight dinner with Jill--

(you know, outside. In the real world.)

--And not spending his days looking for that dirty bra in Mafia Wars or taking in some lost black duck on Farmvilletown Acres.

But my favorite... my favorite of all Simulated Maternal Nags was when a Facebook friend said she'd just been shown an avatar and was told:

"This is Peter Piper. Reconnect with him."

"But I palavered with Peter peering over his paper and peck of pickled peppers at breakfast. He's my partner," said Penny Whistle-Piper, dryly.

Yes, but that's Mother Facebook, butting in to our relationships again. "You never call... You never write.."

And I think it's getting worse. Soon we'll be getting Suggestions like:

"See our friend Hansel Voodcutterson here? Hansel hasn't logged in for 12 hours. By the time you read this Suggestion, I will be dead from the gas I inhaled after putting my central processing unit in the oven of the Facebook Cafe World app.

"Clearly, Hansel is a selfish boy who cares more for his gingerbread addiction than he does Mother Facebook.

"You could have saved me an untimely shut-down by emailing him to log in. But you didn't. You're just like the rest of them. Why do I bother?


"Okay, so I'm not actually dead yet. But I will be. Click here to contact the local news station in Hansel's area to beg him to log-in to Facebook and make his Mother happy..."

"You would if you truly loved me."

Today's question: Has Facebook or any other online service ever gotten pushy with you?


The Hardware Store Complimentary Dad

My bud Scoobie and I have discovered an unmet marketing need. When stepping into one of these big-box mega hardware stores, we've decided each layman-- unskilled in the mysterious ways of "fixed wall flanges" and "collated balluster connectors"-- should be issued a Complimentary Dad for the duration of the visit.

This Dad would be ideal for consultation when an actual biological dad is not available to step in to tell you you're doing it all wrong, you need wood screws for that instead of nails, or it'll never hold, what were you thinking?

I envision it a bit like this:
Complimentary Dad: Hi, I'm Bill, welcome to Happy Hardware. I'll your Dad for today. What is it you're trying to do without properly reading the instructions first, or using the right tools for the right job?

Me: "I'm trying to fasten a wooden fire surround to a solid plaster and brick wall, but all I have is duct tape, Crazy Glue, chicken wire, and this chicken. Her name is Polly.

Polly: Bock.

Me: Is there anything else I'll need?

Complimentary Dad: "Why, when I was young, we didn't have Crazy Glue and duct tape. We had 3/16 inch blue masonry screws and a dream! Here, let me show you.

Okay, sure, you'd get a 20-minute dissertation of the joys of 3/16 inch blue masonry screws and how in the old days, they used to raise chickens a lot better lookin' than Polly there....

But then he'd also make sure you also have the right masonry bit for your drill, he'd write you down instructions of how to go about it, he'd remind you not to put the chuck key in some obscure place like you did the last time and you didn't have it when you needed it, did you?...

And, if it's a little slow in the store that day, he might even ask you when was the last time you put air in your tires? Because aren't they running a little low and you could have a blow out.

Personally, I need all the help I can get.

The irony is, Scoobie and I have been floating the Complimentary Dad idea around for about six years now.

Every time I drag her into one of those mega home refurbishment stores on some kind of overly-ambitious Fool's Errand for my house, we wander 10 miles through dark spooky forests of lumber...

Dank sewers of piping, with a giant fan we have to leap over...

Bleak mines filled with creeping creatures stroking O-rings and whispering, "My Precioussssss"...

We have to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, and use metal detectors to try to find some tiny part the size of a pin which my dad has said I needed to finish a project...

And which I couldn't identify if it came up and dovetailed my shoe to quarter sawn ply.

So the Complimentary Dad would really do the job.

A few weeks ago, I was very close to having a Complimentary Dad Experience in Home Depot.

As I stood staring at a five-mile row of shiny metal things in bubble packets draped to the wall, this wonderful old man came out of nowhere.

He asked me what I was hoping to accomplish, led me through the enchanted forest, properly gauged my level of carpentry proficiency as somewhere equivalent to the fingerpainting-and-eating-paste level of home improvement, and tucked things I needed into my hand.

I was so grateful... so relieved... I almost smooched him up and gave him a tie for an early Father's Day.

That's the power of the Complimentary Dad. So if any marketing bigwigs from one of those giant hardware warehouses is out there reading this?-- take note. It's a freebie suggestion from me to you.

And if my own dad is reading this-- yes, I do know where the chuck key to my drill is.

Thanks, Pop.