It’s All in My Head

Periodically, I post something to Twitter or Facebook about having a headache. For those of you new to my life, either through those social media sites or here, my having a headache doesn’t mean I can pop a couple of aspirin and feel better. It means I feel like I’m about to birth an alien through my face. Here’s the scoop:

I used to have a headache of some severity every. Single. Day. I got so used to them, I ceased to notice them until I had a bad one. Lindsey finally grabbed my shoulders and told me, “This is not normal! Do something about it.” It took three doctors, two years, and numerous tests – one of which was extremely unpleasant – to figure out my issue. I know what you’re thinking, “Rhonda, all tests are unpleasant. What makes this one special?” I’m glad you asked. Imagine, if you will, an alien anal probe. Now replace “anal” with “nasal.” A doctor shoved a footlong probe up each nostril just to look around. The ENT said he didn’t find anything remarkable, but I beg to differ, because while he was probing in there, I saw all kinds of lights and wavy lines. My butt levitated from the chair, seemingly of its own will. Come to think of it, our cable reception has been stellar since that day. Coincidence? But I digress. Sorry. You should be used to that by now. At the end of roughly two years, I had a good list of things I wasn’t suffering from — sinus headaches, migraines, allergies, or pesky tumors. My TMJ wasn’t causing the issue either.

Two years ago, I was referred to a neurologist specializing in headaches. After evaluating me, he determined that I am, indeed, suffering from migraines, but they don’t present as such. I don’t get warning signs like a normal migraine sufferer. I have no auras, no loss of vision, no weird smells (that can’t be attributed to a gassy dog). My head just feels like I have a bit of a sinus headache, without the congestion. Sometimes the hurt goes away on its own. Sometimes it gets worse. I have no way of knowing which way the pendulum will swing until I notice my head is suddenly in a vice, and I can see my pulse.

Another fun headache symptom is what I like to call “headache brain.” As people who saw me last Sunday can attest, headache brain resembles drunkenness. I stare. I have problems choosing words. I slur a bit. I apologize profusely for my headache brain and, despite the fact that I’m holding a bottled water, I’m sure people think I’m completely hammered. I’m kind of like Dudley Moore in Arthur, except with better hair, way less money, and a severe lack of Sir John Gielgud.

Thanks to my neurologist, I have an arsenal of rescue meds, backup rescue meds, and a backup to the backup. Through management meds, my headaches have been reduced dramatically. If I have them, they’re usually minor. They only occur once a month and for possibly a two-week period. I love my neurologist. He’s been a godsend. This month, however, the headache period has been really bad. I’ve been in some form of pain since Saturday. Sunday night, I resorted to the backup to the backup rescue med for the first time in a year. It’s an injectable, which is always a joy. By “joy,” I mean “humiliating process that is made worse by trying to perform it while in extreme pain.” Here’s the drill:

  1. Pull down pants to expose thigh.
  2. Remove evil-looking self injector from case.
    Seriously, guys, how evil does this look?
  3. Remove safety mechanism.
  4. Hold evil-looking self injector against thigh and wonder if you’re pressing hard enough, because you don’t feel any.. [FOOP!] Nevermind.
  5. Remember to ignore the puncture pain and hold the evil-looking self injector against your thigh for five seconds while the medication is injected.
  6. Power through headache brain to remember how to count to five.
  7. I think that was five seconds. Was it? Crap. I should hold it here longer.
  8. Remove evil-looking self injector from thigh.
  9. Stop the bleeding.
  10. Remember your pants are down, and pull them up.
  11. Experience the face flush and extreme tingly feeling I call the “carbonated head rush.”

Monday night marked the first time I’ve ever had to use the injectable two days in a row. I’d already stayed home from work that day, which was the first time I ever missed work due to a headache. It was also the worst headache I have had in my history of headaches. On a scale of 1-10, the pain was “GAH!” You know how circus elephants balance on a small ball? Imagine that ball was my head. And the elephant was balancing three more elephants on its trunk. And those elephants were jumping rope. I realized I was lying on my back, but in a fetal position. I was nearly crying. The evil-looking self injector was looking pretty good. Lindsey brought me everything I needed, but I still had to sit up without throwing up and inject myself. Then Lindsey brought me a heated Bed Buddy to lay on my eyes and an ice pack for my neck. In hindsight, I prefer having Lindsey to having Sir John Gielgud. Among other amazing things, she is the best in these situations. An hour later, I was pain free enough to be falling asleep on the couch. I can’t deny that stuff works. I can, however, deny that this is normal or any way to live. There’s an alternative.

My doctor suggested a new treatment. It involves putting a catheter up my nostrils to administer a sphenopalatine ganglion block in my nasal cavities. Since SPG controls head and facial pain, a blocker means the absence of both. It’s apparently highly effective. At this point in my headache journey, I’ll have had more crap shoved up my nose than Liza Minelli at Studio 54, so what would this hurt, other than my wallet? Of course, insurance does not yet cover this procedure. I’m very close to selling a kidney and not caring.

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Be True to Your School

So back in the 1960s, even before I was born, the Beach Boys oozed out of speakers everywhere extolling the virtues of hot rods, surfing, and high school. I don’t know if high school was actually cool back then, or if the Beach Boys were just an early incarnation of Gretchen Weiner, and “high school” was just their “fetch.”

But hey…Rah Rah, and all that crap.

Coincidentally, my high school was also born in the early 1960s, and someone somewhere decided our team would be “The Rebels,” and our mascot would be Johnny Reb. Rebel flags were all the rage. I believe the school was at the very least, 99% white at the time. The school was more diverse by the time I became a sophomore, but whites were still the majority, and I even admit to having a Rebel flag. At the time, to me, it was just a flag. I had absolutely no frame of reference for it having any alternate symbolic meaning.


Nothing says “sports victory” like a menacing soldier with a gun.

No, seriously. This was our mascot, Johnny Reb, until he was stolen as a prank by our own students, who remain largely unknown. He was missing for a year or two, and then reappeared mysteriously in the school’s front hallway one day. We had a live mascot my senior year. By saying we had a live Johnny Reb, I don’t mean we conducted a dark ceremony to bring a Confederate soldier back to life to wander up and down sidelines at football games. We just dressed a guy up. But I digress. Whatever.

Symbols are funny things. Different people see them differently. What some see as historical and innocuous, others see as shocking, offensive, or intimidating. Confederate flags, for example, are fairly benign to, say, white people in the South who are not racist, but are proud of being Southern. However, hate groups use the flags as symbols while they demonstrate, and while they perpetrate acts of violence. As a result, a number of minorities, even those proud of being Southern, view the flags in a much different light. I get that now. I remember being at work one day, and one of my coworkers walked up to my desk and plunked down a lapel pin with a swastika on it. I literally gasped, my eyes wide open, just staring at this symbol I perceived as hatred in wearable accessory form. My coworker was proud he’d acquired something of historical value and was really puzzled by my reaction.

He smiled as he said, “This is an authentic WWII German officer’s lapel pin!”

My eyes were so wide, Little Orphan Annie thought I was a long lost cousin. “You know I’m Jewish, right?”

“Yeah, that’s why I thought you’d appreciate this.”

“What is wrong with you? Is there some alternate definition of ‘appreciate’ I’m not aware of?”

“It’s history!”

One man’s history is another woman’s extreme shock. Perspective matters.

Earlier this week, my home school district met to address some of the local team names that might be offensive to certain groups, namely African Americans and Native Americans. My high school was on the list. Through the magic of a Facebook group set up for “early year” alums for my school, I learned that a number of, shall we say, pale alums from my high school’s early whitebread period were outraged.

“I graduated a Rebel, and I’ll always be a Rebel!” Dude, you graduated a Rebel in 1972, when it was still considered OK to pat strange girls on the butt, because you’re “just telling her she’s pretty, and she likes it.” Today, that’d get you a kick in the crotch and a face full of pepper spray.

“I never heard anyone complain about it when I was in school.” Just because a minority doesn’t complain to the majority about unintended racial issues, doesn’t mean mean they’re happy or accepting of it. Did you ever ask?

“People are way too sensitive and PC. This is dumb.” To you? Sure. Then again, I don’t think anyone carrying particular flags have come marching down your street to yell at you, scream at you, or intend to do harm to you or your property. Your demographic has likely never been on the receiving end of organized virulent, violent hate hiding behind certain ideals and symbols that others feel are just history. Mile. Walking. Someone else’s shoes. Just saying.

What I’ve really found interesting about this outrage is that I’d be willing to bet that an overwhelming majority of those screaming loudest haven’t even stepped foot in the school’s hallways since they’ve graduated, nor would they have given the place a second thought if the Facebook group didn’t exist, or if this issue hadn’t come up. But now, someone’s going to change something they were a part of 30 – 40 years ago, and they’re all

Really? This upsets you? Things change, people. Our time at that school is long over. Yeah, we were Rebels, and a new mascot won’t change that or affect our memories. This change is not about us. We’re gone. We’re out of there. Most of us never looked back. While we were out living our lives with no thought at all to our alma mater, the neighborhood changed. Society changed. The school demographic changed.  Maybe some of those students want to be able to cheer for, or play for, their team without feeling conflicted. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a person of color to be on the field, pouring out sweat and blood, for a crowd waving Confederate flags. Forget sports, how difficult is it for a student of color to even feel pride in attending a school that shoves in their faces symbols that have never given them warm fuzzies? So, why is our antiquated rah rah sis boom bah seemingly more important than that of current students — you know…the people for whom the school exists? Why are people so angry over a topic that is neither about them, nor affects them?

The bottom line is kids and their families should feel pride in their school. They shouldn’t feel alienated. They shouldn’t feel intimidated. Those who do, finally spoke up and did something about it. This is not a bad thing. Unless the new team name is something that can be eaten by, or get the shit beaten out of by, a cardinal.

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I Was Lucky

I couldn’t find the shirt I wanted to wear this morning. I know I washed it. I know I folded it. I have no idea what kind of journey it is on post laundry basket, but it is not where it should be. As a result, I’m wearing a whole other shirt today. It’s a complete coincidence that, on a day we’re supposed to be wearing purple to support that bullying is bad, I’m wearing a lavender shirt. Sorry, folks. While I don’t support bullying in any way shape or form, I didn’t get the memo about wearing purple, and I was completely prepared to wear a black-and-white striped shirt today.

Today I’ve read a few blog entries online from people who were bullied as kids, including one from Wil Wheaton, which implore parents to teach their kids to respect others, rather than make excuses for them. These blogs made me think about my own childhood and I realize that, as weird and different and not being especially pretty as I was, I was never bullied. This is not a complaint.

Being weird and different and not especially pretty didn’t exactly make my childhood super happy fun times all the time, but no one ever laid a hand on me over it. Oh, other kids said things, mean and hurtful things, that are the root of any self-esteem issues I still have today, but no one continually taunted me, or went out of their way to find me and be mean to me. I thought about that as well. I’m well into middle age, but things people did say to me as a child have stuck with me a very. Long. Time.

All too often there are stories in the news about some kid committing suicide, or going postal, after being verbally or physically abused by classmates, and how social media makes that bullying easier. As much as the comments I got as a kid truly got to me, I can’t imagine being a kid now with Facebook, and text messages allowing 24/7 mean kid access, as well as the added courage of not being face-to-face with the person being taunted. I can see how a barrage of horrible comments can make a kid feel less than. Less than what, you ask? Fill in the blank with “good,” “attractive,” “wanted,” “smart,” “human.” Eventually, something is going to give, and the results can be tragic.

My reasoning for this post isn’t to share my own tragic story, because my story isn’t tragic. It’s to show that, if the negativity I received as a kid affects me as an adult today, imagine how full-on bullying affects a kid through adulthood. I would love this post to call attention to a few things we can do to make this better.

  • We’re the adults. If a kid comes to you about bullying, assume it’s bad. Kids don’t talk about being bullied until it gets bad, so do something about it. There should be no excuses.
  • If another parent or teacher comes to you about your kid bullying another, do something about it. No kid is the complete angel his or her parents think they are. Talk to your kid. If your kid professes innocence, fine. But let them know your eyes and ears are open, and there will be consequences if you learn differently. If you learn differently, follow through on the consequences part.
  • Yes, kids will be kids. But ya know what? How about parents be parents, and teach their kids the concept of boundaries and respect. We were all little shits as kids. Each of us was mean to another child at least once, but I would guess that most of us never tormented or beat another child just for the hell of it. Parents need to provide consequences if their kids exceed those boundaries or disrespect another kid. Hint: As soon as your child beats the crap out of another kid, and it wasn’t self defense, it’s time. Another hint: If your kid is going out of his or her way to verbally threat or torment — in person or online — another kid, it’s time.

The bottom line is that we can wear pretty colors all we want, but until we do more about this than make a conscious wardrobe choice, the bullying will grow.

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And With a Series of Bangs, It Was Gone

I’m getting to the age where places from my past are, quite literally, going up in smoke. The buildings in which I graduated high school and college no longer exist, nor does the hospital in which I was born. This is my way of saying, “I’m old. I hate your music. Get off my lawn. Is it time for Matlock?” Sunday, September 22 marked the destruction of another building in downtown Houston. Some people know it as the downtown Macy’s store. For those of us who grew up here, that building will always be Foley’s, a department store chain born in that building in Houston well before I was born.

I know what you’re saying. “But, Rhonda. You hate shopping. The sole reason you want to create a clone is to send a more willing Rhonda to buy your clothes. Why so emo about this?” Well, for me, Foley’s was “the store where Bonpapa works/worked.” For 20 years, my grandfather designed and altered furs for Foley’s, putting into practice the trade he’d learned and practiced for years before coming to the United States. When I heard about the plans to destroy the building, apparently to make room for yet another nondescript office tower, I felt sad, partially because another Houston landmark was being torn down, and partially because news of the demolition made me realize how much I still miss my grandfather. I sat with my mom that Sunday and we did what Jews do — we ate, had coffee, and reminisced about about relatives.

In case you missed the three-letter word above, yes, my grandfather was a furrier. He had a job that now ranks only slightly lower on the politically  incorrect scale than “head researcher for Rush Limbaugh.” But the man was a master craftsman. In Europe, he would make coats for my grandmother to wear, but they were never really her coats. They served as advertisements for him. “This is the furrier’s wife. That must be the best coat in the history of coats! I must have it!” And they would. And Bonpapa would make Bobonne another coat.

My mother’s coat, made from Persian lamb, with a mink collar.

Back in the day, even in this hot and humid place, fur was a status symbol and completely accepted. Women wanted it, and department stores like Foley’s, Sakowitz, and Neiman Marcus not only sold it, but they provided a storage service to preserve the fur during the summer, or what we in Houston like to call “April through October.”

When my newlywed parents moved to Houston from South Bend, IN in the late 50s, my grandparents weren’t far behind. Moving from Indiana to Houston meant giving up a few things like, oh, winter, which is kind of important to those in the fur trade. Down here, there were few independently-owned fur shops, but Bonpapa didn’t want to work for anyone else, so he worked for a dry cleaner for a while. Later, realizing opening his own fur shop in the Land of Perpetual Summer, was a horrible idea, he found work with someone else’s shop. Not surprisingly, the shop was not overly busy. Later, he applied for a job at Foley’s, because department stores tended to do more business. Bonpapa’s ability to perform pretty much all tasks associated with designing, creating, and altering fur coats all but assured his getting the job. Foley’s was his professional home until his retirement in 1981.

Bonpapa in the Foley’s fur workroom with a young visitor from Belgium. 1977

In his last months, my grandfather lived with my parents. They’d gone out one night, so I went over to visit with Bonpapa. We started talking about fur, and he pulled out a box in which he had a few skins. He dug one out and set it on the kitchen table. He closed his eyes momentarily and caressed it. Then he explained the meticulous process of piecing furs together so they looked like they were part of one skin. As he spoke, I noticed the way his hands seemed steadier when he would show me, on the fur, how he would mark a pattern, and how he would lay it alongside other skins. It was the last time I would see the twinkle in his eyes.

Sure this looks like tiger…

…but a close inspection shows they’re numerous individual strips of mink, meticulously sewn together to create the effect.

As much as a box of animal skins makes my grandfather seem like the Leatherface of the animal world, he was really more like a Polish Native American. My mother mentioned being a child and watching him in his workshop. He would sadly, and respectfully caress the fur, much as I witnessed that night on my parents’ kitchen table, and utter something like, “poor animal” before starting a project. One other thing Bonpapa did was take scraps of fur from the shop and make other things — sometimes stuffed toys for my brother and me, sometimes rugs, throws and pieces of art. He respected the sacrifice of the animal, and tried to be sure as little as possible was was wasted by making things that made people, mostly his family, happy. It was always the pieces he made for us that meant the most to me.

Here’s my mother’s bunny dog. It’s a stuffed dog made from rabbit fur.

He made a cowhide and suede vest for me to ensure I had something Western to wear for Go Texan Day.

Even my dolls reaped the fur benefits! Here’s a pair of rabbit fur doll booties.

My grandfather worked for years on a piece, made of Persian lamb. The piece steadily grew to enormous size, until my grandmother said, “Enough! You’re through with it, already!” Seriously, I could hide under this fur piece, and still have room for two other people. In 1974, Bonpapa entered the piece in an arts and crafts fair Foley’s had for its employees. He won.

Sugar added for scale. This piece is huge. Click to view a larger image.

Goodbye, Foleys. Thanks for the memories.

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What’s New, Pussycat

The title of this blog post might imply that I have a new cat or, at the very least, that I might be delusional and am attempting small talk with members of the feline kingdom. As blogworthy as those two ideas are, I have not lost the few marbles I have left. I just feel it’s time to catch the few of you up on my life, and why I’ve been silent for the last few months. Here it is in a nutshell.

I was really busy at work the first part of the year. I’d been working on a product release that was overdue. We finally released to great fanfare, but a bit too late to change the company’s performance for the fiscal year. A couple of weeks later, much to my surprise, I was laid off, along with 129 similarly surprised other people worldwide. I put up a brave front while simultaneously starting to think about the body parts I might have to sell in order to keep the house if I didn’t get another job before my severance ran out.

Thanks to some serious networking, I was interviewing within two weeks. Six weeks later, thanks to a recommendation from my former boss, I had a job offer in hand and retained possession of my vital organs. What did I learn? Job hunting has changed significantly since the last time I had to look for a job.

The last time I found myself (sorry, Shakespeare) from employment untimely RIFed, the only thing you could do was spend hours at the Texas Employment Commission, standing in a series of lines to get your unemployment benefits set up. Then you had to update your resume, and print copies of the resume on nice, conservative paper stock with matching envelopes.

You got on the phone to call old colleagues and friends, you scoured the paper, subscribed to snail mail job lists, and you never left the house, unless you owned an answering machine. In short, you mailed shit out, and you either received a rejection letter or an interview. After the interview, you either received a rejection letter or an offer.

Today, you can search for a job in your underwear. Wait, that implies jobs are hiding in your Victoria Secrets. If that’s the case, you need not have a resume. But I digress. Let me try this again. Ahem…Today, job hunting is like computer dating — every neurotic, excruciating part of computer dating. You fill out the form, make yourself look good, press “Submit,” and wait. Eventually you’ll get a call, which is either a phone interview or a screening call during which the phone interview is set up. If there’s mutual interest, you get to set up the face-to-face date interview.

So you get all excited, and you put on your best outfit to meet your potential new girlfriend boss. You meet each other, smile, sit and have some small talk, and then you talk about how you would be the perfect spouse employee.

After your date interview, you go home and send a followup email detailing how perfect you are for each other. Within a day or two, you have heard nothing. You start to wonder, “Is it too early to call? I don’t want to seem like a Stage 5 Clinger. Why, God? Why won’t they call?” Then you get a call, but it’s to arrange a date to meet the parents management team.

Realize that, much like ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” you’re dating interviewing with multiple suitors companies, which introduces a bit more stress. Which will pick you? Which will you pick? Do you pick the first one who asks, or wait for something better? Can you even afford to turn any of them down? After all, you’re well over 35 unemployed, ya know.

As someone who actually gave up computer dating (and, pretty much, dating in general) before meeting Lindsey, you can see how this could have gone to hell in a hand basket rather quickly, landing me in a tub full of ice and a body devoid of one or both kidneys. Luck was on my side (luck and some great recommendations). Social networking is the employment matchmaking of the internet, but I refuse to call my former boss Yenta.

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Go Get ‘Em, Tiger!

Funny thing about having a blog. You have to, you know, actually write entries. If you hop into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine, you’ll see I’ve been in a state of literary silence throughout 2013. That changes tonight, thanks to something I saw on my Facebook feed. One of the bicycle pages I follow is having some kind of contest in which people are invited to describe their first bikes — the one that sparked their love of cycling.

Yep, I am a cyclist. I’m one of those people in Lycra, you sometimes see on the road or in Memorial Park. I love the smell of bike shops. I drool over the terms “carbon fiber” and “titanium.” I know enough about the term “monkey butt” to know I’ve never had it, and I don’t want it. Two-thirds of the vehicles I own have two wheels. I believe, much to Lindsey’s chagrin, that bicycles live inside. Cycling must be in my blood. After all, the greatest cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx, is a Belgian. Why, here I am not winning the Tour de France.

Not Winning the Tour de France

But where did this love of two-wheeled things start? As with most kids, learning to ride a bike was a rite of passage, that major step from a tricycle with streamers on the handlebars to a bike with streamers on the handlebars. The only thing I remember about my first bike is that it was red, and had rickety training wheels. To be fair, though, it might have been my dad’s rickety handy work at play in that instance. Once the training wheels were off, I was zooming around with the other kids in my suburban jungle.

If you ask me what I really remember about my first bike? It had the coolest grips on the face of the earth. I could try to describe these grips to you, my rabid readership of eight, but I couldn’t do them justice. You’d read it, and think, “Really? What was so cool about that?” I decided to go to my guru on top of the mountain to get insight into this problem. Guru Google was most insightful. I know the bike wasn’t new, so much as it was new to me. Guru Google not only verified that fact, but he found photos of the grips — a 1965 Esso advertising gimmick.

Rawr! Best. Grips. Ever!

Rawr! Best. Grips. Ever!

I tore up the sidewalks on my little red bike, with the awesome tiger grips, which gave way to the five bikes I’ve owned since. None of my bikes, including my current bike, makes me smile the way the mere memory of my Tiger Bike does. Guru Google informs me I can actually buy a set of these things. Now, is there a way to put it on the Giant?

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My Family’s Glorious Military History

I generally don’t blog about my family, mostly because there are only four of us now, and I really want them to still like me. I also don’t think we’re incredibly blogworthy. As families go, we are quiet and assuming, and there are no interesting stories, even though it’s a long-running joke that my family tree doesn’t fork as much as it should. I still remember going to my parents’ house and my mom saying, “Good news! Your dad’s parents weren’t first cousins. They were second cousins.” This past weekend, though, I learned a new story, and I realized there was definitely a theme with regard to my family.

I remember wearing one of my dad’s army shirts when I was in high school. I was a punk, and wearing military shirts and jackets was a very punk thing to do. My dad still tells army stories now and again. He served with pride, and I believe he enjoyed the experience, which led him to his lifelong profession as a pharmacist. Of course, as an immigrant to this country, it makes sense he’d be the only one to serve in the US Army. But what about my older relatives in their native countries? Read on.

Months before my maternal grandfather passed away, we chatted on the couch in his small retirement apartment. I’d learned to listen when he told stories about his youth. Those stories were rare golden nuggets of family history, and the man had a way of telling a story with a smile and a charm that I miss to this day. On that evening, I learned about how he immigrated from Poland to Belgium. Bonpapa was drafted into the Polish army. He showed up at the appointed time and place, along with all the other draftees. After the briefing, the new soldiers were told to go home, pack a bag, and come back the next day. My grandfather said, “I thought it was stupid, so I went home, packed a bag, and went to the train station.” Yep, my grandfather got to Belgium by way of Germany after deserting from the Polish Army. Lest you think that makes him a coward, I’ll sit your ass down and tell you what he did for his family when the Germans invaded Belgium and, inevitably, came for the Jews. Oh yeah, and the man single-handedly overturned a US tank. It wasn’t on purpose, but that’s beside the point, and another blog post.

When Dad came to the United States, he lived with his Aunt Esther and Uncle Sam in South Bend, IN. I only met Uncle Sam once, when I was about two years old. Esther was Dad’s mother’s sister, so I know she was Polish, and despite being only five or six years old the last time I saw her, I remember her having an accent. During a recent conversation with my parents, I realized I erroneously assumed Uncle Sam was American, but he came to the US from Russia. I told my dad I didn’t remember Uncle Sam having an accent, but there were a few things I did remember — Uncle Sam had black horn-rimmed glasses, he wore white buttoned shirts and black slacks, he used a walker, and he was missing a finger.

“Do you know how he lost his finger?”
I turned to my dad and replied, “Didn’t you once tell me it was a work accident or something?”
Slight smirk from both parents “No.”
Dad went on to explain that Uncle Sam was drafted into the Czarist Russian Army and had no desire to serve the czar, so he did what any young man in that position would do to avoid serving. In a slight fit of irony, he shot off his trigger finger.

With this said, I will point out that my paternal grandfather did serve in the Russian/Polish military during WWI. He was sent to the front, and was promptly shot in the leg, thus ending his war service within less than 24 hours.

Because everything is about me, I’ve internalized all of this, mostly because it explains so much. I have no patience for stupidity, I have made rash decisions, and I’m a little accident prone. It’s just a family tradition.

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And There Was No Pie

Despite our best intentions, Lindsey and I did not take part in our Black Friday tradition of Pie in the Park. Instead, we were wooed to the zoo by Lindsey’s dad and step-mom. It was my first trip to the Houston Zoo in years, and my first ride on the train since I was a kid.

We even fed the animals.

For more photos, click here.

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Screw Black Friday. There’s Something Better!

Every year, people leave their Thanksgiving tables before they even have a chance to unfasten their top button and pass out on the couch, just so they can be the first in line at Walmart to get a flat screen TV, and they don’t care who they have to trample to do it.

Black Friday is the reason Thanksgiving is forgotten, and it’s the most stark representation of the hypocrisy of the Christmas season. “Get your hands off that TV! I saw it first, Buddy! Merry effin’ Christmas, douchebag!” Good will toward men, indeed. So what do we do the day after Thanksgiving? We toddle our butts over to Kroger ,and get a day-old Thanksgiving pie or two, which are now on sale, and then we pack up our pie, our pup, and sometimes our pals, and engage in the best post-Thanksgiving, alliterate tradition in the world: Pie in the Park (photos by Lindsey)!

It’s been an (almost) annual tradition, and it beats the hell out of shoving someone’s granny out of the way so you can be the first in line for a new Wii U.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and don’t forget about the little things. Those are often the best things in life.

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I’m Rich! Rich, I Tell You!

If you’re like me — and if you are, you should be frightened, but that’s beside the point — you likely get spam in your email box. I seem to get about two messages a day. If I had a Viagra for every bit of spam offering cheap Viagra to me, I’d have…well, I’d have a shit ton of Viagra. I’ve also been informed, numerous times, about magic penis pills. I almost replied to one of those, because I really wanted to know about a magic penis. However, I was just content to visualize Harry Potter waving one around like a wand.

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to be offered copious amounts of money from nice princes in Nigeria who just happen to trust me with their riches and will reward me handsomely. By this point, I have to wonder if these scams still work. Do people fall for them so often that they’re still viable? At least one reverse scam site and one epic prank exist, yet these emails still show up. Today, I received such an email and was feeling saucy, so I decided to reply. Here’s the exchange.

From “The Bank”

International Settlement Dept.
Banque Internationale du Benin
24hrs VISA ATM Service
ATM Card Number: 4061730455000133

Dear Beneficiary,

Having reviewed all the obstacles and problems surrounding the transfer of Your fund ($2. 5 Million) Two Million Five Hundred United States Dollars and your inability to meet up with some charges levied against you due to the Past transfer options, we the Board of Directors, Banque Internationale du Benin (BIB) have Ordered our Foreign Payment Remittance Unit to issue you a VISA ATM CARD where Your payment will be uploaded.

Today, we got the notice that your Payment has been uploaded into this VISA ATM CARD and also have registered it with TNT INTERNATIONAL. For your information, the delivery charges have been paid and they are supposed to have shipped your packaged (ATM CARD) but they insisted that you must re-confirm to them your current delivery address to ensure accurate delivery.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Due to the content of the package, TNT INTERNATIONAL mandated that before your package will be shipped; a Stamp Duty MUST be procured according to the new Shipping Creed on all packages leaving this Benin. The essence of such Document is to ensure a hitch-free delivery and the amount Of the Stamp Duty Fee is Ђ200 Euro. When this is done, TNT International will issue you with the tracking numbers for you to keep track of your delivery status.

Therefore reconfirm your current delivery address. Do not forget that this Ђ200 Euro is all that you should send to them, the rest of the Fees have been paid. Finally, for security reasons and considering the huge amount the ATM VISA Card contains, the Package was coded thus,Registration Ref:TNT/ATM/10. This is the code number that you will send to the courier company while contacting them.

The Information of the courier company is here-by given below, and re-confirm to them your current delivery addresses to ensure accurate delivery. 1. Your full name: 2. Your physical address: 3. Your house phone: 4. Your cell phone:

Mr. Michael Dean
Email:  tnt.expressinternational2012@
TEL: +229-6807-9889
cell phone: +229-6740-3002

Please hurry now as your package might incurs demur-rage if it stays more Than 4 days with TNT Express.

Mrs. Patricia Ehiosun
ATM VISA CARD Department
Banque International du Benin

My Reply

Wow…you mean a bank, with which I’ve never had contact, is loading up an ATM Visa card with $2.5 million? For me? How could I be so lucky? And you’re saying all I have to do is send roughly $250 dollars to TNT International Express within four days or my package will become demur-aged? That sounds bad. I shouldn’t let that happen. No way!

Sadly, I do not have $250 to wire across continents. However, I’m expecting an ATM Visa card loaded with $2.5 million. Please instruct the Banque International du Benin to pay this fee, which should be nominal for a bank, and then have them deduct the 200 Euros from the $2.5 million with which they are loading the card. When TNT receives this fee, please contact me for the information you need to send the ATM, now worth $2,499,750. I just can’t believe I’m this lucky!

J. Roger Beneficiary

I’m sure my ATM card will arrive any day now.

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