Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I'm Thinking About Adopting a Terminally Sick Hamster For My Son

Throughout much of April and May, our backyard was home to a garter snake. My son Uri considered him an outdoor pet. "Let's go see the snake," he'd say, excitedly. Docile the snake slithered among the grass nearly every time we visited the backyard. (The name Docile is earned). Eventually, my son emboldened himself to touch Docile. When our family returned home after an Easter weekend away Uri was eager to greet his friend. Instead, he discovered Docile upside down and ripped in half. "The snake's tail is all broken," he said.

The following is inspired partly by that moment.


I'm thinking about adopting a terminally sick hamster and giving it to my four-year-old son as a pet. Ideally, he'll will fall in love with the hamster shortly before the damn thing dies. I want this because I love my son.

Stay with me…

Here's what I imagine: I visit a Pet Smart on a sunny low-humidity Sunday afternoon, and stroll by all the dopey "pwease take me home…pweeease" looks on the faces of the puppies and kittens. I stop at the hamster cage and scan the critters for the one most likely to croak within a week or two. "Hey, look at the pathetic balled-up one, half-buried in the cedar bedding—the shaky 'lil bastard with all the shit coming out of his bloodshot eyes. Please plop that one in a box for me, my good man. My son will be so excited."

Surely enough, my son is swamped with glee when he unfolds the take-out box with air holes. I tell my son his new pet's name is Squiggly. Though my son seems bemused by the sludge bubbling out of Squiggly's nostrils, I assure him that his new pet is healthy. At least Squiggly isn't smothered in vomit crust. Hours later, when Squiggly barfs all over his fur, I say "Don't you worry, boy. Squiggly is fine. Hold him. Love him. The muffled banshee squeals are hamster-speak for 'You’re my best friend.' Hear that? Squiggly is telling you he'll be here forever and ever. "

Okay, listen, I know this seems morbid—it is morbid—but hang in there.  My son is endlessly affectionate. The aforementioned stunt, albeit fantasy and confined to a blog post, is cruel. But stay with me, please. I'm not as think as you sick I am, officer.

Anyway, my son falls in love with Squiggly, despite the critter's waning existence as a cuddly petri dish for the Bubonic Plague. My son carries him everywhere in his tiny palm, and pets his new bestie with his tiny inger. Everything Is Awesome (the theme from the Lego Movie, duh) thumps from the stereo while my son claps and skips in hopes of enlivening the wheezing fur ball in the five gallon aquarium. Amid her weekly phone call, Grammie is regaled with tales about how Squiggly crawled along the plastic Duplo train tracks, and collapsed near Thomas the Tank Engine. My son's daycare playmates are tired of hearing the excitable boy yammer on about the toddler love triangle between himself, Squiggly, and their sparkling future as owner and pet. In an infinite universe in which there are an infinite amount of things to fall asleep staring at, Squiggly is who gradually fades from my son's loving gaze in the pale nightlight -- another unwilling surrender in the nightly war to stay awake forever. Goodnight you two buggers. 

My son loves Squiggly.

But Squiggly dies overnight.

“Fix Squiggly,” my son says.

“I can’t,” I reply. “He’s broken, buddy. He’s broken forever.”

“FIX HIM,” he repeats, holding Squiggly against his chest.

“BROKEN FOREVER,” I say. I pry my son’s fingers from stiff chilly Squiggly one-by-one as tears drip onto the corpse that had been a dear companion hours ago. I dig a small hole in the back yard, hold Squiggly out like a dirty sock and drop him by the tail into the hole. I replace the dirt then tamp it down. Snot is smeared about my son's contorted red face.

I'm sorry, kiddo. Truly.


I would be right to gift a four-year-old a terminally ill hamster. Sure, the mere thought of my son's reaction to Squiggly's death is heart-wrenching. But it's for the best. Squiggly’s death would constitute a life lesson. Yes, I could try to explain to a four-year-old the concept of loss, but I might as well be having a heart-to-heart with a gardening trowel. Loss, if it is to be understood appropriately, needs context. Only the emotional impact of a palpable loss—Squiggly in this case—would prepare the boy for further adventures in life. Yes, my teaching method is perhaps unsavory, and god knows I'm no child physiologist, or even an experienced parent, but surely the benefits to my son are understood.

I'd say "long-term emotional scarring be damned," but that's the point. A scar is a reminder of pain, but is not painful.

Moreover, Squiggly would spend the last few days of his miserable life in the presence of my son's love. So Squiggly wins too.

I have to prepare my son for a future of life on Earth…THIS BEAUTIFUL, INSANE, TOO OFTEN GROTESQUE EARTH. I don't consider myself a tough love parent. I'm not going to tell my son to touch the stovetop burner so he learns it's hot. I'll just tell him it's hot. Besides, physical pain is easily forgotten. Wait until he's a teenager at a river lot party and he drops his cigarette too close to the fire pit. Wait until he does it again the next weekend. He can blame drunken instinct and a momentary lack of self-awareness when he curses the blisters on his fingers.

Specifically, I want him to learn, before puberty, that shit is fucked up. Real shit, I mean. Not stovetops and camp fires—they always have been, are, and always will be, HOT. Don't touch them, idiot. I'm talkin' real shit, like neurotoxins in the drinking water, or North Korea aiming a long-range nuclear missile at Sunshine Garden Daycare. I'm talkin' real shit, like a loved one getting splayed about Route 22 after being t-boned by a half-asleep overworked Big Ron's Transport driver, or mankind's murder-suicide of Earth; it's easier to ignore Bill Nye than do the one simple thing he suggests will save the planet from becoming a dystopian greenhouse—"everything, all at once."

You know what I mean. You read the news. Not to suggest that "things are worse nowadays" as the cliché goes. Hostility has actually decreased since the advent of the printing press, or thereabouts. (Thanks Steven Pinker) "Nowadays" worldwide coverage is 24/7, be it CNN or social media, and the rockets and bombs are deadlier. People, on the other hand, like stovetop burners and campfires, have always been, are, and will always be, HOT.

As a father, I sometimes feel like a con man. Part of my paternal assignment is to shield my son from shit reality, or, at least, distract him from it. (What?! Some jackass martyr rammed a dump truck into the maypole festival! Look kiddo…a butterfly!) 

I morph into the blanket monster and tickle him into oblivion. I sacrifice my back to give him laundry hamper roller coaster rides. I read him Frog and Toad Are Friends at bedtime; those two amphibious amigos continually find themselves in a heap of trivial burden but always wind up cozy and carefree, and together. Although I never tell my son that everything will always be fun, or be cheery like the ending of a Frog and Toad adventure, I certainly give him that impression.

Believe me, I want his life to be endless tickle traps and breakneck hamper rides. But I'm selling him snake oil, in a way. I turn out the bedroom light and rub his head while he drifts to sleep, and I tell him I'll see him in the morning when the whoopee and hoopla will begin anew. Literally two minutes later I'm watching babies choke from the effects of sarin gas, or Kim Jong-Un leak pre-cum at the notion of an intercontinental ballistic missile lambasting Seattle. Or Donald Fucking Trump. So when I whisper bedtime pleasantries into my son's ear, I kinda' feel like a goddamn fraud. I do. 

But not the night Squiggly dies.

"Sorry about Squiggly, son. He was a good friend; you loved him and he loved you. But he's broken forever. Sometimes good things just go away. Poof. And sometimes bad things take their place. For now, rejoice. The water isn't poisoned, your daycare isn't leveled, Dad's guts aren't strewn about the interstate, and global warming hasn't yet…well, forget that one. Well, don't forget it-forget it. Take heed of it. Lots of heed. But don't worry about those other things. They don't affect you, yet. Hopefully never will. Probably never will, actually. But maybe. Regardless, all I can promise is that the blanket monster will tickle you and you'll swirl though the air in a laundry hamper as long as Dad has his faculties. But Dad's faculties are tenuous. Someday he may not be strong enough to lift you, and his brain might go wonky and he won't recognize your face. Who knows? Hopefully you will have grown too big to fit in the hamper by time Dad is diagnosed...if he ever is, but he probably won't be. Listen, I'm not trying to scare you. But everything you have in life...everything is like Squiggly. Squiggly, be he a dead hamster, is also a metaphor. It's really just a matter of time before...poof. But some "Squigglys" last a long, long time. Sometimes you vamoose first. Oh Jesus, let's not go there. I'm not trying to spook you into not falling in love with something, or someone. 

Love stuff, boy. Love stuff fucking hard. Love stuff the way Dad loves you, if you feel so compelled. You're like my Squiggly, less the hemorrhaging. 

Bottom line here -- just don't forget how much you loved Squiggly, and planned on growing old together. And don't forget that, now, he smells as putrid as a...well...what I mean to say is that...ah...maggots are feasting on his...ah...he's rejoining the circle of life. Anyway...TICKLE TRAP!"


Besides kiddo, Squiggly's death rattle and pus trails should've been red flags concerning your impractical-reptilian-brain commitment to inevitable disappointment and ruin. Where's your critical thinking skills, boy? You don't want to be one of them*, do you? Ah, but that's a lesson/blog post for another day.


*Trump voters/GOP Congresspeople/concussed second graders

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

An American Patriot’s Apology to Those Not Pre-Selected to Board the "Fuck You Alex Baldwin" Deep Space Colonizer

Stop whining. You can't be in too dire straits if you're reading this. I mean, you're alive, right? Right? I bet your latest monthly heating bills chart like an upside down hockey stick. Huzzah! Atlanta is now within a carefree Sunday jaunt of the creeping Georgian coastline. Surf's up, brah! Hell, you can fry lizard meat on a rock in Missouri. You know, in case you're in a "Most Dangerous Game" type situation and you desperately need food.

You're welcome, by the way…Ugh!

All joking aside, how were we supposed to know that shit on Earth would get so catawampus? It's not like internationally respected scientists Neil degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye "The Sorry-But-The-Planet-Is-Royally-Screwed-You-Idiots Guy" weren't exploding our Twitter and Facebook feeds daily with grim warnings that our Earth would careen toward desolation if we didn't curb our fossil fuel dependency. How could any sane person take either seriously? For Christ’s sake, Tyson wore those god-awful flamboyant science-y suit vests, and Nye taught seven-year-olds how to make whirlpools inside 2-liter bottles of Coke.

Sure, there was also the other 97% of worldwide nameless climatologists who were proclaiming the same ominous predictions. But they weren't personally bothering us on YouTube, so….

Of course, what if all those guys were flat-out wrong? The remaining 3% of climatologists are climatologists too, right?

Besides, throughout history, science has changed its mind sooo many times. Remember when we were told acid rain would ruin everything? Nowadays, I'd swear "acid rain" was a nickname for a newfangled street drug. Remember that so-called hole in the so-called ozone layer? I sacrificed years of dousing my pompadour in Aqua Net, and for what? That shit musta’ closed up overnight. Hell, not too long ago scientists were worried about “global cooling”. Hah! That Doomsday prophesy was forgotten real damn quick when those beady eyed nerds with their dorky numbers realized with nearly 100% certainly that industrial carbon dioxide was rising to the atmosphere and trapping heat, thus threatening humanity. "Global cooling?”…FAIL.

"What if these climate alarmists are hoaxers?" we wondered. Surely one can understand that stance? Intellectual luminaries such as ex-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin sure as hell thought the jig was up. And what right-minded patriot wouldn't paint her likeness into the Last Science Supper alongside fellow geniuses Carol Sagan, Steven Hawking, Dr. Emmet Brown, Bruce Banner, and...ah…other super-duper smart experts. Hell, Ted friggin' Nugent thought global warming was balderdash too. You know, 70's rock icon Ted Nugent—the dude who penned the classic ballad "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang," and once adopted a 17 year-old so he could legally fuck her. I'm sorry, but when Ted Nugent screeches incoherently between bouts of snarling at himself in the mirror, I listen.

Okay. Okay. Palin and Nugent aside, what honest-to-goodness blue-blooded star-spangled American wouldn’t take as gospel the worldview of the freely elected leader of the industrialized world, the 45th-47th President of the United States, Our 1st Big League Vanquisher of Intergalactic Binary Star Systems, Donald J. Trump? He warned us from practically day one of campaigning that global warming was a big fat joke perpetrated by China. When you connected the dots, it seemed to make perfect sense: The worldwide scientific community was actually a clandestine horde of Chinese foreign actors—students of the Inspector Clouseau School of Foolery—hiding in plain sight behind lab coats and novelty periodic table ties, and planted in these United States to punk the American people into ditching their gas-guzzling Hummers for much, much, much more economical two-door Ford Focuses, recycling trash bags full of empty Schlitz cans, and preventing millions of children from suffering the lifelong effects of asthma.

Personally, I figured the whole charade seemed nothing more than a highly coordinated Chinese scam to sell Americans Bonsai trees on Arbor Day.

Donald Trump was a godsend. Finally, here's a fearless non-politician politician who actually spoke his mind, man. Bully for him. Not only that, the guy assured us he was very highly educated. He knew words. In fact, he had the best words. Who were we simple-minded peons to fucking question a juggernaut like him?

Alright, so maybe we goofed. I'll admit that some among us became a little concerned when, within exactly 37 seconds after taking the oath of office, President Trump pledged to gut climate change research, and signed an executive order to halt carbon dioxide emissions regulations. But Uncle Biff didn't despair, boy. He tossed his coal miner helmet in the crisp, clean air like it was friggin’ graduation day. "Fuck yeah! Coal won the war on coal," he screamed in delight. The family took him to Chuck E. Cheese's and bought him a pack of multi-colored glow sticks and five spider rings to celebrate. He was so giddy that he almost forgot his iron lung between the out-of-order Dance Dance Revolution game and the animatronics stage.

Uncle Biff is dead now. He never got to use that coal miner helmet again. Actually, that ain't altogether true. He was buried in it. So, yeah, I guess you could say he got to wear it underground again. RIP Uncle Biff.

Anywho, apologizes to those who weren't pre-selected by The Divine Overseer of The Ministry of Perfect Human Specimens Steve Bannon ("his DNA be praised forever and ever") to board the "Fuck You Alex Baldwin" Deep Space Colonizer with Trump and the boys. I wasn't one of them either, if that makes you feel any better.

Seems Bill Nye was right—Earth is royally screwed. Moreover, that blasted Hillary Clinton never was fitted for that orange jumpsuit after all, so this whole knowingly destroying the planet thing was all for naught, but whatever. For me, I'm just going to wash my hands of this whole dang mishap and die guiltless, knowing I had my reasons.

Hey, look on the bright side. No one is worried about their internet service providers selling their browser history to "evil " corporations anymore. Hah! Now excuse me while I put a lil' "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" on the ol' stereo and let The Nuge power chord my worries away…"Wang dang, what a sweet poontang. A shakin' my thang, as a rang-a-dang-dang in the bell. Ohh baby…"