Friday, March 30, 2012

Regression analysis

My six-year-old Max loves Skylanders. If you don’t know, it’s a video game that uses little statures and a wireless portal to change the characters in the game. The concept didn’t impress me at first. Sounds like a money suck. The execution is so artful I am now a convert. The zealous kind, like new born-again Christians or long-distance runners. Because you can make your characters better – and their betterness is stored in the statue – the game is really, really addictive. And if you have an addictive personality . . .

I have the collector’s gene. CLT 13. It compels you to gather multiples of Hot Wheels cars, baseball cards, real cars, post modern paintings, first editions, movie posters – you know the type. When I started reading comic books, the urge to go back and find everything that came before me was tremendous. Luckily my paper-route-based income blunted my habit.

Skylanders are extraordinarily popular. Stores run out almost immediately. Max and I check whenever we visit Target or Best Buy, 99 percent of the time we gaze at empty shelves. Until last Friday. Toys R Us received a big shipment and there they were: All kinds of these 32 different characters that we didn’t have only now I’m not 11. I’ve got a Visa card. My wife is 2,300 miles away. I start grabbing every figure we don’t own. Nina, the 11-year-old, tells me I have a problem. I hand her two dragons, a ghost and what looks like a very angry tree-stump. She asks for my phone and I’m very glad, in that moment, that she doesn’t have her own. I realize this is bad for Max – much too much for no reason. So I start trying to conceal what I’ve grabbed. Holding things tucked up and folded over, using one bubble pack to hide another.

The employee behind the electronics counter looks at me. And I’m glad. A middle-aged guy, receding hairline, sweater vest and rimless glasses doesn’t fit his image of a shoplifter. Good. Maybe he won’t profile anymore. I’ll confuse him AND champion civil rights.

I tell Nina to distract her brother while I scoot up to the register, cash out and get these in two bags: Ones he’s seen and ones he hasn’t. I’ll save some for an Easter Basket or injury or, God forbid, an combination of both. I check out, make sure I didn’t actually steal anything, run to the car, hide some in the trunk and go back to escort the kids through the parking lot. I have spent more money than I’m willing to cover in this story.

In the car, I give Max is bag with four, count them, four new Skylanders. He’s very excited, then asks where Flameslinger is. He saw him in my armpit when I went to the checkout line. And Terrafin, too. Nina asks for the phone. She’s calling mom.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Exterminator, Pool Guy or Dentist

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A dentist, a pool guy and an exterminator are all on your schedule for the day. The pool spent its winter emptying out, squirrels have moved into your eaves – paying no rent – and it’s time for your yearly checkup and cleaning. I wished they’d walked into a bar. I wish I’d met them all at a bar. I understand why bookies and loansharks work out of pubs. All the unsavory and all.

Anyway, ridding myself of the squatting rodents will cost me almost exactly what I made writing my last novel. To cover the pool, I’ll need to write nine more. Or one that’s nine times better, I guess. Don’t know that I’ve got that in me.

The dentist was by far the best part of my day. After reading my x-rays he said I have mouth of a 20-year-old, proving to me, finally, that exercise really can pay off.

Worst joke ever.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Underwear of the Habit Hung

The phrase “creatures of habit” never made much sense to me because all creatures have habits. There’s no one and nothing organic in a state of permanent chaos. Still, I understand the need for the phrase. Some people are “overly habituated”, “habit dependent” or “habit hung”. I’m one of those and I’m quite sure it’s not good for me.

I swim every weekday at noon. It’s a routine so engrained that I rarely even check the time. This week, however, I altered my schedule: Drop daughter at school and go swim. No need for the normal morning shower. I’d take care of all that at the gym. Cool. Get up, swap pajamas for clothes, drive to school, drive to the pool and enjoy the rest of the day clean and healthy. This worked so wonderfully on Monday, I continued the practice Tuesday, then Wednesday.

Dress, drive, swim, shower and dress again. Wednesday was different though. The boxer shorts felt so rose petal soft. And they looked so . . . the same. My new routine didn’t include new underwear.

Holy crap do I need to shake things up a bit. Seriously. I’m in a rut so deep I can’t change my shorts. An assassin with my contract could take me out on day two. Good thing I’m not a Colombian drug lord. The DEA could wait by the coffee machine and nab me at 10. There are Roombas with a more diverse life-style than mine.

But no more. From now on it’s going to be like “where’s Michael?” “I don’t know. He might hang-glide in any moment now.” Yeah. I’m going to change. Starting tomorrow. Maybe the day after. I don’t know. I’m going to be unpredictable. For this new creature, even the way I change is going to change.