Sunday, March 20, 2011

Conversation with my Father - a Ghost Story

I got to thinking about my father the other day. He's been gone for some time now, and as I sat there playing with my iPod, I wondered what he'd think about that amazing little gadget. I realized too that there are a slew of other things that would be new and different to him if he were only here to see them. And then I figured, I pretend to be a writer, right? Why don't I bring him back and have a conversation with him?

And so I did.

And here he is.

Folks, meet my dad.


It was Tuesday evening and I'd been feeling kind of off the whole day. Rather than stop in for Happy Hour, my usual Tuesday evening plan, I went straight home instead. As I unlocked the door and started inside, I could sense that something wasn't right. I turned on the lights and there was an old man, sitting on my sofa, staring up at me.

My jaw hit the floor, and I collapsed backward into a conveniently placed arm chair. Thank Dog I'm the one writing this piece or I might have fallen flat on my ass instead.

"What...who...Dad, is that you? But it can't be you. You're dead."

"You're ugly. What's your point?"

"You can't be here. It's impossible. You're dead."

"Yeah, and you're old. Judging by how you look, I'd rather be dead.

I stared at him for what seemed like forever but was, in reality, only a minute or so. He sure looked like my father did the last time I saw him alive.

"So, what's new?" he said.

"Wait a minute. You show up, unannounced after--what--almost forty years and ask me what's new?"

"It seemed like a good place to start."

"This is insane. I don't believe in ghosts. You can't be here."

"Why not? There's no sign. Besides, I won't stay long. I just thought I'd stop in and check up on you."

"I'm fine. Things are fine. But you're still dead."

"I thought we established that earlier."

"We did, but I still don't believe in ghosts."

"Okay, then. How about this instead? I'm not a ghost. And, see, I'm not your father either. I'm a violent, tiger blood drinking Torpedo of Truth. A warlock from Mars, flying the F-16 of Winning, while crushing my enemies with my flaming fists of fire."


"Okay, that's a lie. I saw some guy on your T V who spewed stupid like that. What an idiot. But I really am your father. Believe it or not, I don't care. Either way, I'd like to ask you some questions anyhow."

"I guess. Sure. Why not?"

"Okay. I was looking out your window and I saw a bunch of kids. They were wearing baseball caps. You know baseball caps?"

"I know baseball caps."

"See, they had them on backwards with the bill pointing behind them and off to the side. What's up with that?"

"That? That's just a style thing. All the kids do that nowadays."

"But it makes no sense. They can't keep the sun out of their eyes with the bill in the back. What are they trying to do, keep the sun off their asses?"

"Man, you've changed. I never heard you use the word 'ass' before."

"You loosen up once you're dead."


"But about those kids, there was this one kid. I swear, his trousers were down to his knees and his crotch was dragging on the ground. You could see they guy's underpants."

"Another style thing. Hip-Hop."

"Hip-Hop? What's that supposed to mean?"

'Beats me. Nobody ever explained it to me either."

"You're not much help, are you? Anyhow, you remember those kids with the baseball hats? They had wires in their ears."


"Yeah, wires. One on each side. "

"Oh. I get it. No, see, those are earbuds for their MP3 players."

"Thanks. That's clear as mud."

"They were listening to music. It's kind of like the old transistor radios were. Only smaller and a lot more efficient."

"Not all that efficient. One kid walked straight into a tree. In fairness, it might have been because of that thing he was holding. He kept tapping it with his thumbs."

"Ah. He was texting."


"Yeah. That was his phone. People can type messages into their phones now and send it to whoever they want."

"Why don't they call them instead?"

"I never understood that either."

"Maybe you're not as dumb as you look, but these kids today--"

"Hey! Lighten up on the kids. I've got grandchildren now, you know."

"They let you reproduce? What were they thinking?"

"Come on. You saw one of my daughters. Even got to hold her in your arms. That was a couple of weeks before you died."

"Yeah, I remember. She was a cutie. Didn't take after you at all."

"And I've got another daughter you never had the chance to meet. You'd like her too. And five grandspawn between the two of 'em."

"Five? Any of them smoke a pipe?"

"Nope. People don't smoke too much any more."

"Even you? I remember when you used to sneak those cigarettes on the back porch. You thought you were getting away with it."

"Nope. Even I don't smoke any more. And besides, I knew you knew. You just didn't want to get Mom all riled up is all."

"Trust me. It was better she didn't know."

"You're probably right."

"But enough of that. Tell me what else is new nowadays."

"Well, for one thing, pretty much every home has a computer now. We use them for everything--email, news, entertainment, paying bills, banking..."

"Is this your computer here?"


"Doesn't look like much more than a fancy typewriter. Besides, it's defective. It doesn't have a 'cents key.'"

"We don't need a 'cents key' any more. Stuff costs way more than you remember. When people get pennies back in change now, they leave them at the store. They don't want to bother with them."

"You're depressing me. Tell me something that will make me feel better."

"Well...we have a black President now."

"You're kidding."

"No, it's the truth. His father was born in Kenya."

"Well, I'll be. I never thought I'd live to see a black President."

"You didn't."

"You don't have to be so blunt about it."

I shrugged. He sighed. Then he checked his watch.

"Well, I guess I've taken up enough of your time. I should be getting back now."

"Wait. You can't go yet. I've got questions too. Lots of questions."

"Well, hurry up then. One question is all I have time for. Make it a good one."

"Okay. What's it like? Being dead, I mean. Is death a terrible place to be?"

"Well, let me put it this way. I've been in worse places. You ever been to Cleveland?"

I shuddered, he laughed.

"It's time now," he said.

"Are you coming back again?"

"No. One trip is all we get. Besides after all you told me, coming back would only mess with my head again. It's not worth it."

"Dad? Once I got over the shock, it was good to see you again."

"It was good to see you too, Son."

We shook hands, then he stepped back and waved good-bye. As I returned the wave, he slowly faded from view. "See you soon, Steve," he said, and then he was gone.

"Okay, Dad. Bye. I--



"Come back.

"What do you mean you'll see me soon? How soon?

"Do you know something I don’t know?


"Get back here.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Clean Garbage

I've always been an admirer of women. No, it's not just because they have breasts. That would make me a sexist at best and a misogynist at worst. So my admiration is about way more than that. It's about way more than those soft, conical, perky protuberances that drive men wild. Way more.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah.

It's not about breasts, and I am not a misogynist. I believe men and women are equal. In fact, I'm convinced that in many ways women are superior. Take the art of logic, for example. Women are logical in ways men can't possibly comprehend. I first learned this from my mother when I was just a young'n.

My mother worked full time midnights as a nurse, and of course in those days husbands did little to no housework, so my father was no help to her when she became ill. It was necessary, they decided, to hire a woman to help my mother with laundry, ironing and some general housecleaning.

The day arrived and I awoke to see my sickly mother furiously racing through the house cleaning everything in sight. The cleaning lady wasn't due for a couple of hours. "Mom," I said, "What are you doing? The cleaning lady's gonna be here soon."

"I don't want her to think we're not a clean family," she said.

Well, I couldn't wrap my head around that one. Neither could my father, apparently. The cleaning lady didn't last out the week.

My ex taught me an important logic lesson too. One day I noticed she washed the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Sensing redundancy, I jumped all over that.

"Why are you washing dishes before you wash them?" I asked her.

"You've got to clean the crud off before you put them in the dishwasher," she said.

It took a while for my mind to form the rebuttal. "Why do they call it a dishwasher rather than a dish rinser, then?"

"Take out the garbage," she said.

Which brings me to the purpose of today's post.

I first got an inkling about female logic, at least as it related to garbage, from my oldest daughter. I'd been invited over to dinner at her very first apartment. After the meal I decided I'd be a nice guy and help her clean up the table. I grabbed the dirty napkins, opened the cupboard under the sink, located the trash container and tossed the napkins inside.

"Not in the clean garbage!" my daughter shrieked.

"Clean garbage?" I asked.

"Yes. I just put on a new trash bag. I want it to stay clean," she said.

"Oh. Then...then where do I put the garbage?"

"In the dirty garbage."

"Wait. Are you telling me you keep two garbages?

"Of course."

"What? You mean you keep one just for display?"

"Take the dirty garbage outside, Dad."


I've learned more about female garbage logic from my girlfriend, Hunny. Our first ever argument was about the garbage disposal. I had the water running, the disposal turned on and I was scraping leftover food from the dinner plates into the swirling water.

"What do you think you're doing?" she said.

" off the dishes before I put them into the automatic dish rinser."

"No! Don't do that. The food will get caught in the disposal."

"Dear, it's called a garbage disposal. You're supposed to scrape food into it."

"No, no, no, no," she said, clearly frustrated with me. "Just put the dishes on the counter. I'll take care of them later."

Well, I never have to be told to not do something twice, so I set the plates down, popped a cold one and plopped myself in front of the TV where either the Lions or the Pistons--I don't remember which--were losing yet again. You see, I've learned that sometimes it's best we don't try to understand. Sometimes it's best to just go with the flow.

Much time has passed since that day, but in all the time I've known her, Hunny only used the disposal once. Even then all she was doing was cleaning the unit with baking soda and water, although why she needed to clean something she'd never used was beyond me.

Things got worse when we finally got into the real garbage issues. We'd had KFC for dinner and afterward I dumped all the bones into the bucket, popped on the lid and dumped it all into the trash.

"Don't do that," Hunny said. "It'll stink."

"Not for a few days," I said. "And besides, it's supposed to stink. That's why they call it garbage."

"Not in this house," she said. She pulled the container from the garbage and put it in the refrigerator. "It won't stink in there."

Call me silly, but it didn't seem right to me that we should keep our garbage in the refrigerator. Refrigerators were meant to be a cold storage place for beer. I thought everybody knew that. But as time went by I noticed other strange things happening. For example I found a Glad Bag full of banana peels, an empty tuna fish can and three French fries, probably leftovers from some grandspawn's Happy Meal.

I picked up the bag. "Why?" I cried plaintively, thrusting the bag accusingly toward her.


"Put the garbage back in the refrigerator where it belongs," she said.

It was time for me to give up the ghost. So now I've bought into the concepts myself. Women's logic has prevailed.

There's only one thing about female logic that troubles me at the moment--the fact that Hunny just cleaned the toilet. What that means is that I'm not allowed to use it. She's already nixed my using either the kitchen sink or the bathtub. And, you know, a guy can only keep his legs crossed for so long. So, if you've been reading this, please think nice, dry thoughts, and whatever you do, don't let the faucet drip.