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Help, I Married a Gum Litterer

14 May

It’s a miracle that I’m able to write today during such a difficult time. Here’s the problem: I just found out that my wife is a litter bug.

I’ve been asking myself: Should I alert the authorities? Should I file for a divorce?

I know. It’s not like she killed someone. She littered.

But before you stop reading because you think I’m a crazy person, know this: she’s not your typical public nuisance, she’s a chewing gum litterer, an assault to shoes all over Madison County.gum-dailymail

The first time I stepped in someone’s chewed gum, as a kid in the early ‘80s, I instantly hated all people who had ever spit their gum out on the sidewalk and hated unborn people who would someday spit their gum out on the sidewalk for innocent people–kids like me!–to step on while wearing their favorite and fastest pair of running shoes. (I didn’t particularly care for those who even had a passing thought of disposing of their gum improperly, but thought better of it. If you’re related to someone who has spit their gum out on a sidewalk, I hate you. I hate everyone!)

It’s a cruel twist of fate that I would end up married to one of those people.

I found out from our responsible (non-littering) fourteen-year-old daughter.

Here’s how it went down. While pulling out of our local Home Depot, my wife removed her well-chewed gum of indeterminate brand and flavor and chucked it across the front seat and out of the passenger side window onto the ground. She kept driving and apparently didn’t look back. The gum practically zipped right under our daughter’s nose, so I have no reason to doubt her account of this incident.

Obviously, it’s difficult to admit that I’m married to this woman. We took vows and stuff!

When confronted, she shrugged and said she was trying to throw it in a bush. Like that makes it okay.

You’ve probably stepped in chewing gum too. What a mess, huh? Maybe you went through the familiar stages: confusion (Why does it feel as if my right foot is partially sticking to the ground at every step?); anger (I’m going to break the friggin’ neck of whoever left their gum here!); uncertainty (How am I going to get this gum off my shoe without touching it?);  resignation (I’m going to throw this fouled shoe into that pond and walk home with one bare foot!); and finally, practicality and acceptance (I’ll scrape off what I can with this stick and deal with the rest later.)

Stupid gummy shoe in a pond.

Stupid gummy shoe in a pond.

Of course, I’m not perfect. I littered like a madman as a teenager. I would eat an entire McDonald’s meal while driving and, without guilt, toss all evidence of its existence–including the receipt and straw wrapper–right out the window. But I stopped littering during the Clinton administration. Before Monica Lewinsky! Over the years, to avoid littering, I have swallowed enough chewing gum to choke a stable of thoroughbreds.

And I thought she stopped too.

There were signs.

Two years ago she tossed a banana peel from a moving car and seemed surprised at my disgust.

Her response: What? It’s organic! It’s not littering when it’s food.A discarded, gross banana peel

We’ve all seen a rotten banana peel on the sidewalk or side of the road. It’s not pleasant. And here’s something I have never said during such an encounter: “Oh look, some thoughtful citizen has started a compost heap right here in downtown Edwardsville.”

I think it’s safe to say that no person has ever said that about food scraps thrown from a car window.

But it’s my nature to find the silver lining in sour situations. And here’s mine. I realize that I have raised a daughter who, instead of repeating such a foul act, would report it. Obviously, gum littering is not okay with her or she would not have even thought to tell me about it. Thankfully, after being raised by one littering parent and one non, she has taken the path NOT fouled with globs of synthetic rubber.

Like her father, she wraps her chewed gum in its wrapper that was thoughtfully saved and placed in a pocket, or, again, like her father, she dutifully chews gum that long ago lost its pliability and flavor until it can be disposed of properly.

No, this won’t end our marriage, but we’re going to renew our marriage vows to reflect our current reality. I’m working on a couple of spots where I can insert some common sense.

Until death or gum litter do us part.

And, I promise to be true to you until you throw something gross from a moving car.

Let me know what you think.

The Adventures of Biking a Cat to the Vet

12 May

(Before I get into what happened last week, I’m going to get heavy and serious for a few words. Hang with it.)

Yeah! We’re winning! We’re winning!

We’re kicking ass in emissions from burning fossil fuels. The following is in billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide.

USA 95.4  (gold)
Russia 38.9 (silver)
China 33.9 (bronze)
Japan 24.4
Germany 22.7
UK 20.1
India 9.7
France 9.4

I’m not a scientist. But I do read. Here’s what’s going on in the atmosphere:

the concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the milestone level of 400 parts per million (ppm).

Here’s an excellent column from the same publication on this milestone.

Here’s why I care about this: I have two young daughters who might well have their own children. Their children might have children. And on and on. My life philosophy is based on fear that something horrible will happen to my descendants due to how we’re living today and how humans in the western world have been living since the industrial revolution.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be dead before the real terror begins, but I have a good imagination and I already love my great, great, great grand kids.

That’s part of the reason Ainsley and I used bicycles to take our big cat, Trouble, to the vet last week. We hooked the flatbed trailer to my recumbent trike, strapped a giant storage container to the trailer, and then lowered the cat crate into the bin and set off for Edwardsville Pet Hospital.

After he received his shots and we forked out $92, we had an unexpected adventure outside when we noticed a little black boy in ill-fitting clothes walking down the sidewalk, unattended. He was heading towards busy-as-hell Buchanan Street, so we pedaled over to follow him.

My heart pounded as he reached Buchanan and turned the corner around a building out of our sight. When we reached the corner he was approaching a particularly dangerous area where people drive too fast and where they enter and exit a busy little shopping center. I yelled at him to stop and, amazingly, he did. I motioned him over away from the road into the landscaping.

Where’s your mommy or daddy? 

Mom left.

Did you leave your house without telling anyone?


Where are you going?

To find John.

How old are you?


What’s your name?

It’s all right.

I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. What’s your name again?

It’s all right.

Either he was telling me it was okay that he was wandering around downtown Edwardsville by himself or I didn’t understand what he was saying.

A truck pulled into the parking lot.  They had seen him walking alone too. A woman asked him the same questions. We learned his house was green.

We called the police.

We pedaled away shortly after they showed up and were stopped twice on our way home by concerned citizens in the neighborhood: a group of old men sitting outside at a donut shop who had watched the police arrive and then a cosmetology student around the corner who had heard a rumor of a missing child.

This was not a fun experience, but it made me think about our involvement and how it would have differed if we had driven our cat to the vet like normal people.

Would we have noticed the boy walking down the sidewalk? If so, would I have followed? Would we have been stopped to get the scoop afterwards? The answer to all three could be no, sadly.

Automobiles keep us sealed away from the real heartbeat of the community. We’re going too fast to notice much of what’s going on. We fly by all kinds of interesting and important things.

So, sure, we didn’t add to the pollution that day, but it turned out to be another example–it happens over and over–to confirm that there’s something special about exploring our community on bicycles, outside of the cage, at a comparable snail’s pace.

Note: I assume the police quickly figured out where the little boy lived, but I have a sinking feeling that there’s some less-than-optimal care and nurturing going on inside those walls.

A Random Act of Kindness for People Who Hate Change

27 Feb

Old Man Reading Newspaper_opt

I hurt myself while performing a good deed this morning. Oh, stop crying–I’m okay. I didn’t mean “seriously” hurt. It’s just your average bump-your-leg kind of deal. Jeez.

Here’s some background:

An elderly couple in our neighborhood receives two daily ANALOG, finger-staining newspapers. Each morning I walk the dogs by their house and notice the papers in the most random spots. I’ll see the newspaper in the blue plastic way over there and the newspaper in pink plastic way over there. (I’m pointing to the opposite end of the yard.) The next day they could be switched. It leaves me wondering if monkeys are delivering the news in my neighborhood.

It would be nice if the two newspapers were always nestled together to be scooped up in one creaky elderly motion. The yard slopes severely towards the road, and the four legs in that house must be shot all to hell at this point. One day I’m afraid I’ll find one of them lying face first on the sidewalk in a puddle of blood.

But once in awhile–today, for example–the paper is within my reach. As the dogs urinated on a pile of dirty snow, I leaned over their little retaining wall and reeeeached–almost got it!–and cracked my goddam shin. With clenched teeth I straightened and flung the paper 15 feet towards the house. The paper somersaulted four times and landed with a thunk right up against the other paper. I really wanted to do some fist pumps and pretend I hit the game winner against the Heat, but my leg hurt.

As I finished my walk (with a slight limp), I couldn’t help thinking that if they were my parents I would buy them tablets and digital subscriptions. Then I would train them how to use them. I would say something like this:

Okay guys, I know you’re old and you hate change but this is 2013–you’re the last ones left receiving “paper” news, so I got you tablet computers. When you wake up the news is waiting for you. You just turn it on! No more going outside to hunt for your newspapers. And look–see there!–you can make the words as big as you need ’em for your failing eyes.

Then they would thank me and hug me for an hour and I would leave and they would never cancel their home delivery and they would use their iPad minis as coasters.

And then their thoughtful, clumsy neighbor would continue to kill himself trying to be kind.


Oprah and Lance on the Editing Room Floor

20 Jan


Marriage is Like an Old Sock in a Landfill

8 Jan


I’m married. That means I’m not just one person. A part of me died (not saying this is ALL bad) on our “got married” day and I have this other partial human attached to me. And I’m not saying she is part monster or beast or anything like that. I mean that part of her died too and what’s left of her is attached to what’s left of me. It’s a messy situation calling for a big needle and much thread.

Anyway, I can’t do whatever the hell I want like before. I have a wife looking over my shoulder. That’s marriage, for better or worse. I think she would describe it similarly. Marriage just isn’t all Bright and Rosy. Sometimes it’s Dark and Crappy.

The good parts are boring, though, so I rarely write about them. The bad bits suck when experiencing them, but writing about them later can be fun and cathartic. That’s what I’m going to do this morning. With a big creepy smile on my face, I’m going to give you some “dark and crappy.”

But, really, it’s nothing that bad. BAD is what I overheard Saturday night in books-a-million. I sat down with my coffee next to an intense, public argument between a couple in the midst of some financial crisis. I gathered that he spends too much money on hunting gear and has an unpaid for Harley in the garage that rarely gets any ass. He mentioned pulling the kids from private school. Crying, she said she’d rather home-school before she’d put them in public schools. Serious stuff.

Now I feel silly about our problems, but I’m going to trudge on with this. Just because we have no serious problems now doesn’t mean we won’t some day. I mean, I’m sure we will. That’s life.

It’s important to note that we both recycle, Freecycle, compost, drive a Prius, and all of that annoying “tree hugger” stuff.tree_hugger_opt

The dashboard of our car displays the cumulative miles per gallon. Last week we had a real argument about who was responsible for lowering our mpg from 50 to 47.9. Seriously. Go ahead and groan. We argued about an unimportant digital reading that’s probably not accurate anyway.

When we bought the car, she read online about how she could alter her driving habits to obtain the best gas mileage. Later she bragged about her efficient driving performance, while criticizing my gas pedal feathering skills, or lack thereof. I don’t pay much attention to the number and I rarely drive. But this weekend I noticed the 47.9 and, kidding, said “Oh, what happened to your 50 mpg you were bragging about?”

Of course she blamed me even though we were wrapping up a week in which she had driven it 210 miles to work and back and I had driven it 4 miles taking Chloe to a friend’s house. I’m still arguing about it in my head, but, really, who knows why the number dropped and who gives a f*@k, right?

Okay, second story: I mentioned last post about remodeling our family room. This was Jennifer’s idea and she got the project moving by hiring her dad to do most of the work.

Her project created 20 cubic yards of garbage that’s now languishing in a landfill. In the month of garbage accumulation I said NOTHING about how that junk will be sitting there for hundreds of years.  I understand her wanting to update the family room; she spends more time in there than anyone. Whatever.


Not our bag of socks

So yesterday in the basement bathroom I felt a strange coldness on the heel of my right foot. I thought There cannot be a damn hole in this sock already. But I looked and, darn-it, there it was, a quarter-sized hole. I peeled it and tossed it into the garbage.

Then last night we were both in that same bathroom and, after spotting the discarded sock, she says “That sock would make a perfectly good dust rag. It doesn’t need to go to the landfill.”


The most awesome part of this story for me is I didn’t say a word. I could have said: “Your recent decisions sent three thousand pounds of trash to the landfill and you’re calling me out for throwing a sock in the garbage?

I lifted the sock from the garbage and set it out (for show) knowing that I’d re-toss it at some point in the next twelve hours.

(I put it back in the garbage this morning. We hire to have our house cleaned and they bring their own dust rags. And if I saved every ruined sock from a family of four we’d have bags full of “dust rags” that would still be with us when we die. Our girls, going through our junk, would be like “Why the hell did our bizarro parents hoard all these old socks?”)

Well, I feel better and I’m out of coffee.


It’s Thanksgiving and I am in HELL

23 Nov

I am in hell.

I’m trapped in a rolling 110 cubic feet of space with one other human for three hours in a span of eight. Other human is in the driver’s seat. Human driver declares: DRIVER MUST BE COMFORTABLE.

Between us, available to human driver ONLY: on/off radio with volume adjustment knob, on/off interior “climate control” with temperature adjustment knob.

I have no headphones. No battery powered fan. No ice cubes. No gun. No pills.

Exterior atmospheric conditions: 55°F. Sunny.

I notice temperature of cramped interior space is comfortable 70°F. Human driver twists temperature knob to Red Zone. I send sideways glance to human driver. Interior temperature climbs to 85°F within minutes. I take my thin hooded sweatshirt off. I sense moisture on my upper lip. The hair under my arms scream and wet themselves. My temples moisten. I become irritable. I take my t-shirt off. My bare chest glistens. I think about the pros and cons of taking my pants off. With eyes and mind, I eject human driver.

Simultaneous to heat punishment campaign, human driver turns radio volume to uncomfortably loud level. The sound waves bounce from the glass, shoot all around and assault my ear drums non-stop. I turn the volume down to 6. Human driver turns it up to 9. I turn to 6. Human turns to 8. I give up. I think about ear plugs. I think about gun. Helpless, sad. I look at watch six times in ninety seconds.

Simultaneous to heat and sound punishment campaigns, human driver introduces Mind-Fu*! campaign: Human driver switches radio station 400 times  in three hours. I think about movies: passenger jumps from moving car, survives without a scratch. I stare at door handle.

Station change. Station change. Station change. Two seconds of a song I like. Station change. What the F*!*! Station change. Bon Jovi. Thanksgiving can bite me. Human driver singing. Just kill me. Station change. Station change. Journey. Human driver singing. Two seconds of a song I think we both like. Station change. What the fu*!! Unidentified song from 1963. Human driver singing. Station change. Two seconds of a song I like. Station change. Two seconds of another song I like. Station change. Bon Jovi. Human driver singing. I wonder if there’s something pointy in the glove box? Station change. Unidentified song from 1974. Human driver singing. Unidentified song from 1978. Human driver singing. Prison can’t be THAT bad.

Sweat in eyes, headache emerging, desperation setting in, I weep quietly with head on cool glass. I notice brainless cows covered with flies and filth. Feel jealous.

I am in hell.

Psoriasis of the Inner Glove

20 Oct

While walking the dogs last week, on four consecutive days we passed an abandoned glove in the middle of the road. Each day it seemed to move closer to the curb, closer to our side of the street. I didn’t pay much attention to it.

Until Friday. I saw it was a Seirus glove. I bought a pair of Seirus gloves at Sports Authority last year. They’re expensive. And nice. I picked it  up and looked it over. This glove was a step fancier than mine. It was thicker. I wondered if its owner was mourning the loss. I would be. I pictured some random dude out running, trying to get in shape with his fancy new gloves. But his hands get warm so he tucks his fancy gloves into a pocket. Then one falls out and is left behind, probably lifting a limp finger going “Waaaait, you dropped me!”

I’ve jogged outdoors dozens of times with gloves. I would notice if one went missing. I stood there admiring it wondering why the dude hadn’t come looking for his dang glove. I glanced around for people before slipping in on my left hand. Perfect fit. I looked around again. Am I being set up for an appearance on What Would You Do? Granted, it would be the crappiest scenario ever, but I’m paranoid like that.

Okay, you’re probably wondering why I wanted the stupid glove in the first place. They come in pairs, dummy! Well, this new glove would be an upgrade on my left hand. Sure it would be nice to have matching gloves, but I’m the type of guy who can comfortably wear mismatching gloves. My right pant leg doesn’t necessarily have to match my left. The left side of my head is superior to the right and I’m fine with that. No cosmetic surgery needed.

Besides, if I don’t take the glove it will just sit there in the gutter and rot. Eventually, someone will rake it up with some leaves and burn it or send it off with the city lawn refuse collectors.

I slipped my hand out of it and stuffed it into my hoodie pocket. Do you you know that feeling you get when you buy something awesome? Well, I experienced a little more than half of that feeling the moment I resumed our walk. I had just acquired a kick-ass glove for jogging and biking.

The only thing that could go wrong would be if the mystery runner returns, retracing his route, looking for the missing glove. Maybe he suffered a stroke after that run. My god!–what if he dropped from a heart attack right where I first saw the glove? Who cares about a glove–no matter how fancy it is–when your heart has just stopped functioning. Did I just steal a glove from a dead man? Of course, I’ll never find out what happened, so the best thing to do is to just forget about it.

I’ve worn my new glove five times. It’s, by far, my favorite glove. And I have, like, six pairs.

Update: I wrote the above and forgot about it until this week. I biked to Glen Carbon for my annual appointment with my dermatologist. (She prescribed me Tazorac, not for acne, but to make me look 15 years younger; it erases sun damage. By the way, I found this on WebMD in case you’re considering this stuff: Do not apply the medication in the eyes, eyelids, or mouth, or inside the vagina. I found this odd considering it’s use. But then I saw it’s also used to treat psoriasis. So I searched Google Images for “psoriasis of the inner theigh.” Don’t click on that link because there are some disturbing images, some unrelated to psoriasis. But now I understand the warning. And I hope to god I never get psoriasis. )

On the way home I zipped past another abandoned glove. This was on busy and fast Illinois Route 159, so I figured nobody was going to return for it. And I didn’t have time to stand around pondering the situation like before, so I grabbed it, put it on, and pedaled away. Another freakin’ left-handed glove! (I think the law of averages will kick in so when I have found my 100th lost glove, I should have a near 50-50 split.)

Unfortunately, it’s a bit large, but it’s a nice glove, probably marketed as some type of work glove. The next time I pick up a shovel or rake, my left hand will be protected from blisters.