Make Christmas Suck Less


Black Friday just passed. If you’re like most dads and fathers, what to get you crossed nary a mind, while the women in your life were camped out on a sidewalk in $300 worth of new tent to save a whopping $100 on some new thing to replace the perfectly good one you already have at home.

Christmas gifts are the biggest screw jobs imaginable, especially if you have young kids. Between ugly ties, shoe horns with extended handles, and knockoff cologne sold from the trunk of an Armenian’s car, Christmas Day has become a contest to see who can give Dad the most useless gift.

OK. The duct tape wallet is kinda cool, but did you really have to go through three rolls before you got it right? That stuff’s pricey.

Duct tape walletKids are the worst about gift buying for Dads. Mostly because they don’t have any money, and if they use what little they do have…well, you know how that turns out. Your gift is a piece of macaroni art and a pack of Black Jack chewing gum.

The little ones have an excuse. They don’t have much to work with and are making the best of their resources. I admire that. They also don’t have a firm grasp on the concept of time.

I don’t know about your house, but around mine the worst part of any child buying me a gift is that it is most likely accomplished with my money because they operate in a very cash-poor existence.

However, I hold the teenagers to a little higher standard. They have magnificent plans, that I won’t be able to finance, laid out for the rest of their lives, but act surprised when they wake up Christmas morning  empty-handed because they “couldn’t make it to the store in time” or I’m “just so hard to shop for.”

Both of those excuses are horseshit. Christmas is the same day, every year, and like most men, it takes almost nothing to make me happy. Silence is always a good start.

I’ve got a great idea for a gift that won’t cost a penny. Do your fucking chores without being told.

That’s the gift that keeps on giving.

That and herpes.

Don't Blame the Shirt.
Don’t Blame the Shirt.

Despite being detail orientated, women screw up gift giving, too. It’s not their fault. A woman’s sensibilities are just different from a man’s. Men fail in picking the correct color or size of a gift. We always go small, not to make you feel fat, but to avoid the accusation that we think you’re fat. It’s really a no-win situation.

That’s why men love to give flowers. No sizes to worry about. No whining about calories or recriminations about hoping you’ll share with us like there is with candy. Not only that, but flowers can be given to a woman of any age and any relationship to the giver.

As a caveat to flowers, I would say to be cautious about roses. There’s a whole hierarchy involving rose colors that is more complex than semaphore and the Gay Hanky Code combined.

Just be sure to spend the couple of extra bucks for a card. There are a million of them out there, so finding an appropriate one is a snap. Don’t go for perfect. “Good enough” works fine.

At least, Christmas isn’t some made up, phony baloney holiday, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Kwanzaa.

My Name is Raaaaalph!
My Name is Raaaaalph!

I guess I can’t complain too much. My family has figured out that a liquored up Carlos is willing to go through the ceremony without too much complaint. As a friend of mine once told me about receiving gifts from wives and kids,

“It’s not about you or a gift you actually want, asshole. You have all the shit you want already. It’s about them showing their feelings about you.

So, put on your big boy pants, shut the fuck up about it, and let them have their moment to express their gratitude to you.”

Sorry about the language, but that’s the way men talk, when the wife and kids aren’t around.

Where women miss the mark in selecting gifts for their men is not understanding exactly how basic most men are. Sure, there are a few men floating around who would love tickets to Nutcracker, but most of them already have boyfriends.

For the most part, men are super easy to please. Weekend road trips, fancy dinners, and antiquing are the last things that come to mind when our woman says she has a surprise for us. The first thing we think is “Threesome.”

Women, your best bet is to look around the house (and better yet, the garage) for a guide to what your man would most appreciate as a gift. If he is a handy sort with a pegboard full of tools, there is your starting point. The same goes for a workbench covered in remote control airplane parts, a large cigar humidor on his desk, or a set of golf clubs that are always in the car trunk.

Free of charge, I will now provide you a tip of such profound insight that you will swear it was passed down from grandmother to granddaughter going back to the dawn of time.Reading

Walk into the bathroom your man habitually uses and look around. Most likely on top of the toilet tank (perhaps in a wooden rack or wicker basket, if you have managed to civilize him) will be a collection of magazines he uses to help wile away the time while responding to nature’s call.

If you see car magazines, your man likes cars. If you see gun magazines, your man likes guns. If you see nudie magazines,…well, you get the idea.

The point is a man’s leisure-reading interests are an excellent clue to the activities he enjoys. That point is only profound in the sense that it is often overlooked. Actually, women are the same way.

That probably explains why my wife’s bookshelf is filled with gardening books and romance novels.

Once you have an idea what interests your man, try to put yourself in a position where you accompany him to a store specializing in those items. Even if you have zero interest in the activity, ask to go with him or include a stop there while you’re together running other errands. Even if he suspects you are setting up the situation, any man worth his salt will keep his mouth shut and play along. It actually works better if he is suspicious, and you will see why in a moment.

When you arrive at this retail establishment that specializes in his interest, you will see a transformation occur. One idiom everyone understands is “kid in a candy store.” Your normally calm, staid man will develop a gleam in his eyes and become antsy. He may even drool a bit. That is when you know you have come to the right place.

Pay attention to everything his picks up and examines. Home in on those items because that is his heart’s desire. If he examines two of essentially the same item, he is comparing them in contemplation of acquisition. Ninety percent of your gift selection work is done.

This is where you have to get sneaky. Pretend to be interested. Ask what the differences are and why one is better than the other. Good men relish the opportunity to pass on our knowledge. You’ll be tired of listening before we are tired of talking.

That’s why young men should find an older guy to hang out with; they know about stuff and are willing to explain it. It’s something that comes with getting old.

Again, don’t worry about your man figuring out what you’re up to. It will actually work to your benefit because he will say something like, “If I were to get one, it would be this one.”

And that is exactly how easy it is to buy a gift for a man. Like I said, we are not complex. We like useful gifts that accomplish a task. With that in mind, here are some gift ideas for the men in your life, so you can plan ahead:

images (4)Tools: A man without an assortment of easily accessible tools considers himself slightly less masculine. The first step to modern man was Homo Habilis.

The Tool Man, or Handy Man depending on which scientist you ask, was the first of our ancestors to use implements to make life better. Shortly after discovering tools, I suspect Mrs. Habilis started writing out the first Honey-Do List, and weekends have never been the same.

Modern man continues with the innate desire to fix things. In my garage, I have no fewer than two dozen hammers. I don’t blacksmith as a hobby, which by the way requires a huge number of specialized hammers. Neither do I collect antique hammers. I have accumulated specialized hammers for different applications.

You don’t frame a house with an upholstery hammer or the other way around. And don’t even get me started on how many sets of screwdrivers I have. The way to many a man’s heart leads through the Tool Corral at Home Depot.

images (17)Firearms and accessories: I am a Gun Guy. Or as a friend of mine once called me, a Gun Queer. I wear the title proudly, even though the entry on Urban Dictionary is derogatory. Whomever wrote that definition can screw off.

I’m changing the definition starting right here, and I proudly proclaim that I’m gay for guns.

Firearms themselves can be a big ticket item, and your budget may not allow for the purchase of a new Remchesterby Ultra Deluxe Extra Mangum Rex. Have no fear, loving woman.

Ammunition in any of the common calibers is always a good choice. It says, “I’m not exactly sure of your tastes and preferences, but I get you on a deep emotional level.” It’s far more personal and heartfelt than a gift certificate. Even if it’s a caliber he doesn’t have, it’s a good excuse to make another gun purchase or to use later for barter. Either way: Mission Accomplished! download (12)

Liquor: Even men who are not connoisseurs of The Devil’s Drool will not turn up their noses at a bottle of firewater. Scotch is my libation of choice. Not just any Scotch, mind you. I am a single malt man, but I have developed a taste for Bourbon over the past few years. Yes, they are both whiskey, but they are entirely different from each other and wonderful in their own special ways. If your man has a preferred drink, you should know it already.

If you can’t remember your man’s favorite drink and how to prepare it, can you really expect him to remember your favorite flower and lingerie color?

When in doubt, ask him what he drinks already and get him more of it. Just like ammunition, more of what he likes and uses is never a bad thing. Alternately, ask him what he would buy, if he wasn’t afraid it would take away from paying for essentials. If you’re dead set on making it a surprise, ask one of his friends whom you trust to keep his mouth shut. Lacking a trustworthy buddy, ask your dad, grandfather, or an uncle. One of them will either know or know someone who does.

images (54)Knives: These could almost be categorized under tools were it not for the fact that virtually all tool manufactures turn out piss poor knives. So, they get their own entry.

Edged tools, which is arguably what knives are, hold an important place in life. Look around your kitchen for an idea of how many forms they take and ask yourself why one may be better than another depending on the task. You would have a tough time carving a roast with a vegetable peeler.

A man does not have to be John Rambo or running a trap-line to have need of something with a sharp point and the ability to cut. Even something as simple and utilitarian as a single-blade, folding pocket knife is a heartfelt gift your man will cherish the rest of his life.

My wife figured this out years ago. As a result, I have a dresser drawer full of pocket knives that rotate through my pocket the way a business man rotates his ties. Good quality brands of knives can even be found at Walmart.

download (21)Grooming: Men may look scruffy sometimes, but we all have need of grooming supplies. Even men with beards have need of them. Give him a thrill every morning with the gift of a shaving brush. Not just any old shaving brush. Pay the extra money for a badger hair brush.

The badger isn’t harmed. He’s wrestled to the ground, a clip of fur is taken, and he is released back into the wild. Well, not really, but you can tell yourself that, if you’re one of those animal rights folks.

This is a situation of a natural product being far and away superior to anything man-made. A good quality badger hair shaving brush will last your man the rest of his life. It can literally be handed down to his grandson.

As a matter of fact, if you have the funds and the inclination to search for one, there are exquisite examples of shaving brushes made in the 19th century set into handles of exotic hardwoods and even ivory. We are talking usable antiques.

If you insist on going the modern route (I recommend boar hair, at a minimum), get a set that includes a shaving mug, stand, and a cake of soap. There is a huge range of shaving soaps available in different scents and ingredient combinations to suit your man’s skin type.

My wife makes my shaving soap (among other types) here on the farm, so give us a shout, if you’d like to try some.

To be really adventurous, include a new safety razor. Or if you’re going with the antique theme, ask grandma if she has one squirreled away someplace. Again, if you go new, go quality. You’ll be money ahead in the long run.

On a special safety note: This is a different kind of shaving that has a bit of a learning curve. Don’t hurry and don’t try to learn it while drunk or tired because it can be a little dangerous at first. However, once mastered, a safety razor provides a smooth, extremely kissable face you did not know was possible.

For the man with facial hair, nothing cleans up a mustache or shapes a beard quite like a quality pair of scissors. I’m talking about purpose built, micro-serrated along the edges shears used for nothing other than keeping your man’s facial topiary in tiptop form. They may seem a bit pricey for a pair of scissors, but like anything else in life, get a quality tool and it will never need replacement.images (55)

Sausage and cheese combo packs: My wife scoffed at these until I explained. For those who don’t know what these are, you see them in front of checkout registers starting about Thanksgiving every year, but thanks to the internet and retailers such as Bed, Bath, and Beyond, they are available year round. I guess “beyond” has more of a ring to it than “sausage and cheese.”

“Bed, Bath, Sausage and Cheese” just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way.

Those packages of assorted dry cured sausages and various cheeses are proof that God loves us. The really fancy ones have tiny little jars of assorted mustards and crackers (and for the adventurous, chutneys). I squeal like a little girl who just discovered a spider in her underwear drawer when I receive one of these.

They are the perfect gift for the man who has everything or if selecting from one of the above categories still makes you nervous. How better to say “I love you the way you are and don’t mind if you get a little chubby”? Maybe that was a poor choice of words.

You can’t ever have too many of these combo packs around. They keep just about forever, and have protein and calcium without too many carbs from the crackers. As a quick meal for the gentleman on the go or a bachelor sitting in front of the boob-tube in his boxers, who doesn’t feel like cooking and can’t order take-out because pay day isn’t until Friday, these combo packs are better than a supply of Meals Ready to Eat stashed in the basement.

I have instructed my wife to keep a supply of them somewhere in the house for those times when we need a last minute gift for a man. However, she has to hide them because I will ferret them out like a…well, like a ferret down a rabbit hole.

That’s it, ladies (or men. I’m not picky when on the receiving end….damn, another bad word choice). A guide to buying gifts that will make any man think you’re the coolest chick he knows.

Grandpa Was a Homesteader


1sanjorgeMy Grandfather Miguel grew up on our family farm in the Azores. The term “farm” to describe my ancestral home would be a bit of a stretch. It certainly wasn’t a farm in the American sense, with amber waves of grain to the horizon and a John Deere Combine Harvester.

Grandpa’s farm was more of the subsistence type. The goal was to provide for the needs of the family, with excess production either stored, sold locally, or turned into another product that was used or sold.

For the uninitiated, the Azores is a remote, rocky clump of nine volcanic islands way out in the Atlantic Ocean that belong to Portugal, another piece of geography most people can’t find on an unlabeled map.

My Grandfather likely never heard the term “homesteader,” but when I describe how he and the family lived, it sounds like homesteading to me.

I suspect Mike would have called it, “Just the way life is.” Grandpa was a homesteader.

I suspect a portion of what I imagine would have been Grandpa’s blasé attitude about being a homesteader was more a function of necessity than desire.

Out in the middle of nowhere in the days before satellites brought internet, television, and phone service, the forms of communication and entertainment were slow and shoddy, at best. Airplane service to such a remote location was still fairly new, and virtually all cargo was transported by ship; which explains a long tradition of Azorean sailors, fishermen, and stowaways trying to get the hell out.

A static encumbered AM radio signal or two would skip off the ionosphere from the mainland 1,500 miles to the east, assuming you had both a radio and electricity to power it, but for most people, evenings were quiet and kerosene hued. This probably helps explain Grandma’s nine pregnancies. That, and strict Catholicism.

Limited contact with the outside world also explains tangles in the Cunha family tree like my Uncle-Cousin Jim.

Out of nine pregnancies, three were miscarriages, with one being far enough along to know for certain it was a boy, Grandpa’s fondest wish in life. I suspect he may have been stillborn, since he was preserved and buried with Grandma.

1Grandpa1Whether the other two didn’t meet the threshold to keep around for half a century or they were discarded because they were not readily identifiable as boys, is a mystery to me. Grandpa had the capacity to be, and sometimes was, a first-class bastard. According to my wife, it’s the least endearing of the Cunha traits.

However, if you knew the women in my family, you would realize the latter wouldn’t happen. The last thing any of them can be called is a feminist. Rather, each of them understand the deep and profound power of nagging.

Every last one of them harpies knew how to make their man’s life a living Hell until he saw the light.

My Grandfather’s father was a literal bastard. No small handicap in the late Nineteenth Century. After being kicked out by her family and shunned by the father’s family, Great-Great-Grandma found a family willing to hire her as a farm laborer in exchange for letting her live in one of the outbuildings.

Magnanimous Christians to the end, the husband eventually convinced his wife to allow Great-Great-Grandma into the house for meals, instead of passing a plate of food through the kitchen window.

She gave birth behind a stack of firewood. No doctor attended because there was none. No midwife or friend attended because she had none.

She swaddled him up and laid him in the hearth of the bread oven while she returned to the field to work, coming back every couple of hours to check on him. These are the sorts of people my family produces; wild, tough, and ornery with spines of steel.

In the late 1950’s, Grandpa left Grandma and six daughters in the Azores to work on a California dairy for two solid years before saving enough money to bring them over. My generation has a couple of us who left behind family and comfort for hardship and danger in search of a better life, too.

Even after moving into town, where there was a grocery store within walking distance, Grandpa kept a garden, grew fruit trees, and jammed grapes into corners too small for trees. He grew enough grapes to make his own wine each fall. It wasn’t anything great, but it was the fruit of his labor and he enjoyed doing it until his last autumn.

1Grandpa2Grandpa also made this concoction that can only be called “hooch,” which consisted of fruit and sugar added to vodka and allowed to ferment. When I think about it, the nearest thing I can think of is Jailhouse Wine made by convicts.

Grandpa never did any hard time, as far as I know, so I don’t know where he got the idea to do this or why he continued after leaving the Azores. At least, nobody ever went blind from it.

He and Grandma kept chickens well into their sixties, but I don’t think Grandpa cared for them because the chickens were disposed of shortly after Grandma died.

I had just turned twelve when she died, so I only have a child’s memory of my Grandmother. However, I knew my Grandfather as a man, which is worlds apart from knowing him as an adult.

Shortly after I left home, I came back to town to visit for the Holidays. Since my mother was in town as well, she went with me to Grandpa’s. Halfway through the visit, Grandpa hops out of his recliner like a man half his age and hobbles out of the room. He returns with two shot glasses and a bottle of his hooch.

There were just two shot glasses because Grandpa only drank with men he respected, and he sure as Hell didn’t drink with women. To her credit, my mother didn’t say a word as the old man and I polished off about half the bottle of sickly sweet fruit and vodka syrup.

She sat in her chair, smiling, and demonstrated that she did, in fact, know when to shut up. I think my mother was possibly even a little proud of me that afternoon. Not because I tied one on with the old man, but because he wanted to do it with me.

The man I knew was every bit as irascible, obstinate, and independent as family lore portrayed him.

At eighty-seven years old, give or take a year, Grandpa, wearing gray, polyester slacks pulled up to his navel and a white wife-beater tee shirt, wobbled up an aluminum ladder with a bucket of tar in one hand, a package of shingles over his shoulder, and a tool belt around his waist to patch a leak in the roof. Not too long after kneeling down onto the inclined roof, he passed out face down under the noonday sun.

Grandpa awoke to the sun setting, him beginning to shiver, sunburned, and the right side of his face stuck to roof shingles. He had fallen face first into the area of the roof he was patching when he passed out.

And what does old Mike Cunha do? Grandpa puts palms to shingles on either side of his head and does rooftop push-ups until his head breaks free, leaving flaps of grit-encrusted tar hanging from his face.

Once free, Grandpa used the remaining twilight to finish the interrupted roof patch and make his way back down the ladder. In concession to his advanced age, Grandpa pitched the remaining shingles off the roof onto the ground and hung the pail of tar from his tool belt because, as he put it later, his head hurt and he was having trouble keeping grip of things.

After putting his tools away, Grandpa went into the house to inspect the damage. The bathroom mirror revealed thumb-sized patches of tar on his neck and upper chest to compliment the palm-sized patches on his head.

He spent the next hour or so scraping up the edges with a pocket knife until he produced enough of a flap to peel the tar patches off, along with the top couple layers of skin and hair.

The next morning, my Aunts Fatima and Rose visited Grandpa. For reasons that will become important later, I have to mention that Rose and Fatima look and sound like stereotypes of Guatemalan housekeepers. Imagine the housekeeper from the television show “Family Guy,” and you won’t be far off.

1Grandpa4After an hour staring and talking about everything except the gigantic red splotches on Grandpa’s face, my aunts worked up the courage to ask. They’re worried that he fell down (literally, something that never once happened) or got into a fistfight with some other old codger (something that did happen every couple of years) or tangled with poison oak (which happened somewhat less often than the fistfights).

Two hours of begging, yelling, and denials later, my exceedingly annoyed grandfather and ultimately frustrated aunts were in the Emergency Room of O’Connor Hospital.

I suppose that after two heart attacks and a quadruple bypass, an unexplained loss of consciousness in an octogenarian might warrant a visit to the doctor.

My grandfather was already pissed at having been harassed into going to the hospital for a minor mishap. My aunts were near hysterical and pestering every nurse in sight as to when Grandpa would be seen. For his part, Grandpa sat in the waiting room with his arms crossed across his barrel chest and mumbled curses in Portuguese.

An odd quirk I’ve noticed in life is that Portuguese speakers have little difficulty understanding Spanish, but Spanish speakers typically don’t understand Portuguese without some training. Mexican prime time soap operas, called “novellas,” are just as popular with Portagees as they are Mexicans. However, the Portuguese counterparts are dubbed into Spanish before being broadcast on Univision.

Both languages are part of the Latin-based Romance Language family (along with French, Italian, and Romanian, of all things), but I’ve never come across someone who spoke Spanish who understood Portuguese. I figure it’s either a conspiracy to get all us Portagees on board with Spanish as the primary foreign language or none of them Mexicans wanted to listen to a gabacho prattling on in their tongue.

I told you all that so you understand when I say: not a single fucking person, who was not related to me, in that entire God-damned hospital could understand my Grandfather or act as translator.

You may ask, “Why couldn’t one of your aunts translate?” And that is a perfectly reasonable question. Let’s put on our Investigator Hat for a moment and review the circumstances.

An old man who speaks broken English is brought to your hospital emergency room by two middle aged women, whose accents remind you of your maid, claiming to be his daughters. He is clearly upset to the point of Old Man Belligerency and mumbling to himself in what the women claim is a language neither you nor any of your colleagues speak. However, even a Spanish 101 student would recognize several of the words uttered by the old man. There is just enough that is understandable in what the old man says to think they’re full of shit.

5grandpaWhen asked the reason for the visit, the women say they think he is having a cardiac event, but the old man is a little too lively for someone dying from a ticker on the fritz. And to top it all off, they have this wild-ass story about a nearly ninety-year-old falling asleep face-down in a patch of tar on his roof in the middle of summer to explain multiple red marks about his head and torso.

Why “falling asleep”? Because that’s what Grandpa said to the nurse in broken English. The stubborn old jackass wouldn’t admit to having passed out, most likely because it isn’t manly to lose consciousness.

As an aside, when I told my wife this story, all she could do was pinch the bridge of her nose between her shut eyes, shake her head, and say, “Jesus Christ, it runs in the family.”

It took about six hours to track down an interpreter who was not a relative and that the hospital would believe was giving an accurate translation. Turns out that he was a fireman with the Half Moon Bay Fire Department, just a few minutes shy of an hour drive up the San Francisco peninsula when there isn’t an accident or rush hour.

On the positive side, my Grandfather said he met some very friendly police officers, paramedics, and janitors, who couldn’t understand much of what Grandpa said, either. He even met some social workers who tried to explain this completely foreign concept of Elder Abuse and Neglect, and didn’t believe him when he told them he could still pick up a sack of cement in each hand and toss them into the bed of a pickup.

The social workers thought he was demented. I had seen him do just that less than a year previous. Oh, Grandpa. If you only had an iPhone and took selfies.

Grandpa told me later, “Neglect, my ass. I can’t get these harpies to leave me alone.”

And Grandpa was right. Sitting next to his hospital bed four years later, there was a seemingly constant stream of people, between healthcare providers and family filtering in and out. I don’t know if it was because he had good insurance from the construction workers union, the nature of ICUs, or dumb luck, but Grandpa had a room to himself.

The foot traffic centered around him, and he hated it all. He knew he was dying, and so did everyone else. He and I were willing to accept it.

Late one night, when the nurse visits died down, his daughters had collapsed on the waiting room couches, and the adult grandchildren, having had enough of feeling uncomfortable under the old man’s gaze, melted away to do whatever it was that was more important, I sat in the recliner next to Grandpa’s hospital bed. He was sitting up, fighting sleep as the heart monitor beep, beep, beeped a slow rhythm.

As I watched his head bob up and down along with his eyelids, the beeping of the heart monitor slowed…and slowed…and slowed.

“Well, I guess this is it, old man,” I thought, as I watched the green, electronic graphic that represented his heartbeat edge closer and closer to a flat line. “I should get the Aunts.”

“Fuck ‘em,” boomed my Grandfather’s voice in my head. “Whoever thinks it’s important should be here, already.”

6grandpaSo, I sat and watched as the graph flattened to a horizontal line and all the readouts ticked down to zeros. I briefly considered holding his hand when it occurred to me that he would probably come back to life just long enough to punch me in the dick for being such a pussy.

I rested my forearms on the bed rail, with my chin on the backs of my hands, watching the last couple of breaths exit.

I don’t know why, but I expected nurses with a crash cart to come hauling ass into the room and push me out of the way to begin frantic resuscitation attempts. Nobody came.

Son of a bitch. Nobody came.

I stood up and started to pack up my gear to grab the next flight home. I had done what I had come to do. The public breast beating and slicing of the scalp with clam shells could be performed by those who were interested in the attention.

While my back was turned, I heard a beep from the heart monitor. And then another. And another. They sounded off closer and closer together until they were back to where they were a few minutes prior.

I looked at my grandfather and saw his chin lift from his chest as he nodded himself back to consciousness. Or as he would prefer, woke up.

Grandpa lifted a liver-spotted hand and shook a thick, gnarled finger at me.

“Almost,” the old man said, in English. “Almost, but not this time.”

3grandpaThe next morning, Grandpa told me to get back home and take care of my family because there was no need for me to neglect them, as he put it, “just to watch an old man die.”

He died while I was on the plane ride home, and I was back in San Jose the following week.

You know you are definitely an adult when you are tapped to be a pallbearer.

Being at the end of the casket, I gently jostled one of my cousins aside so as to be the one to give Grandpa the last push into the crypt, where he joined my grandmother and the uncle no one ever knew.

My cousin was put out. He snitched me off to all six of the daughters and anyone else who would listen. They were put out on his behalf, and they joined together to create a fuss. It seems that last push was their last straw.

I haven’t been back to the Bay Area since. I should have gone back one more time, but, like Grandpa was nearly a hundred years ago, I was in the middle of nowhere, halfway around the world.

I suspect Mike would have called it, “Just the way life is.” Grandpa was a homesteader.

Just What I Always Wanted


Father’s Day gifts are the biggest screw jobs imaginable. Between ugly ties, shoe horns with extended handles, and knockoff cologne sold from the trunk of an Armenian’s car, Father’s Day has become a contest to see who can give Dad the most useless gift.

OK. The duct tape wallet is kinda cool, but did you really have to go through three rolls before you got it right? That stuff’s pricey.

Duct tape walletKids are the worst about gift buying for Dads. Mostly because they don’t have any money, and if they use what little they do have…well, you know how that turns out. Your gift is a piece of macaroni art and a pack of Black Jack chewing gum.

The little ones have an excuse. They don’t have much to work with and are making the best of their resources. I admire that. However, I hold the teenagers to a little higher standard. They have magnificent plans that I won’t be able to finance laid out for the rest of their lives, but act surprised when they wake up the morning of Father’s Day empty-handed. It’s the third Sunday in June every year.

Maybe we should do like we’ve done with Independence Day and call Father’s Day “Third Sunday of June Day” to make it easier. Or how about, “The Weekend Mom and Dad Begin Looking Forward to Y’all Going Back to School”?

I don’t know about your house, but around mine the worst part of any child buying a Father’s Day gift is that it is most likely accomplished with my money because they operate in a very cash-poor existence.

I’ve got a great idea for a gift that won’t cost a penny. Do your fucking chores without being told.

That’s the gift that keeps on giving.

That and herpes.

Don't Blame the Shirt.
Don’t Blame the Shirt.

Despite being detail orientated, women screw up gift giving, too. It’s not their fault. A woman’s sensibilities are just different from a man’s. Men fail in picking the correct color or size of a gift. We always go small not to make you feel fat, but to avoid the accusation that we think you’re fat. It’s really a no-win situation.

That’s why men love to give flowers. No sizes to worry about. No whining about calories or recriminations about hoping you’ll share with us like there is with candy. Not only that, but flowers can be given to a woman of any age and any relationship to the giver.

As a caveat to flowers, I would say to be cautious about roses. There’s a whole hierarchy involving rose colors that is more complex than semaphore and the Gay Hanky Code combined.

Just be sure to spend the couple of extra bucks for a card. There are a million of them out there, so finding an appropriate one is a snap. Don’t go for perfect. “Good enough” works fine.

Much like Mother’s Day the month before, Father’s Day is a phony holiday dreamed up and shoved down our collective throat by a housewife with Daddy issues and too much free time on her hands. Once the Greeting Card people got hold of the occasion, every father’s fate was sealed.

My Name is Raaaaalph!
My Name is Raaaaalph!

I guess I can’t complain too much. My family has figured out that a liquored up Carlos is willing to go through the ceremony without too much complaint. As a friend of mine once told me about receiving gifts from wives and kids,

“It’s not about you or a gift you actually want, asshole. You have all the shit you want already. It’s about them showing their feelings about you.

So, put on your big boy pants, shut the fuck up about it, and let them have their moment to express their gratitude to you.”

Sorry about the language, but that’s the way men talk when the wife and kids aren’t around.

Where women miss the mark in selecting gifts for their men is not understanding exactly how basic most men are. Sure, there are a few men floating around who would love tickets to Nutcracker, but most of them already have boyfriends.

For the most part, men are super easy to please. Weekend road trips, fancy dinners, and antiquing are the last things that come to mind when our woman says she has a surprise for us. The first thing we think is “Threesome.”

Women, your best bet is to look around the house (and better yet, the garage) for a guide to what your man would most appreciate as a gift. If he is a handy sort with a pegboard full of tools, there is your starting point. The same goes for a workbench covered in remote control airplane parts, a large cigar humidor on his desk, or a set of golf clubs that are always in the car trunk.

Free of charge, I will now provide you a tip of such profound insight that you will swear it was passed down from grandmother to granddaughter going back to the dawn of time. Reading

Walk into the bathroom your man habitually uses and look around. Most likely on top of the toilet tank (perhaps in a wooden rack or wicker basket, if you have managed to civilize him) will be a collection of magazines he uses to help wile away the time while responding to nature’s call.

If you see car magazines, your man likes cars. If you see gun magazines, your man likes guns. If you see nudie magazines,…well, you get the idea.

The point is a man’s leisure-reading interests are an excellent clue to the activities he enjoys. That point is only profound in the sense that it is often overlooked. Actually, women are the same way.

That probably explains why my wife’s bookshelf is filled with gardening books and romance novels.

Once you have an idea what interests your man, try to put yourself in a position where you accompany him to a store specializing in those items. Even if you have zero interest in the activity, ask to go with him or include a stop there while you’re together running other errands. Even if he suspects you are setting up the situation, any man worth his salt will keep his mouth shut and play along. It actually works better if he is suspicious, and you will see why in a moment.

When you arrive at this retail establishment that specializes in his interest, you will see a transformation occur. One idiom everyone understands is “kid in a candy store.” Your normally calm, staid man will develop a gleam in his eyes and become antsy. He may even drool a bit. That is when you know you have come to the right place.

Pay attention to everything his picks up and examines. Home in on those items because that is his heart’s desire. If he examines two of essentially the same item, he is comparing them in contemplation of acquisition. Ninety percent of your gift selection work is done.

This is where you have to get sneaky. Pretend to be interested. Ask what the differences are and why one is better than the other. Good men relish the opportunity to pass on our knowledge. You’ll be tired of listening before we are tired of talking.

That’s why young men should find an older guy to hang out with; they know about stuff and are willing to explain it. It’s something that comes with getting old.

Again, don’t worry about your man figuring out what you’re up to. It will actually work to your benefit because he will say something like, “If I were to get one, it would be this one.”

And that is exactly how easy it is to buy a gift for a man. Like I said, we are not complex. We like useful gifts that accomplish a task. With that in mind, here are some gift ideas for the men in your life, so you can plan ahead:

images (4)Tools: A man without an assortment of easily accessible tools considers himself slightly less masculine. The first step to modern man was Homo Habilis.

The Tool Man, or Handy Man depending on which scientist you ask, was the first of our ancestors to use implements to make life better. Shortly after discovering tools, I suspect Mrs. Habilis started writing out the first Honey-Do List, and weekends have never been the same.

Modern man continues with the innate desire to fix things. In my garage, I have no fewer than two dozen hammers. I don’t blacksmith as a hobby, which by the way requires a huge number of specialized hammers. Neither do I collect antique hammers. I have accumulated specialized hammers for different applications.

You don’t frame a house with an upholstery hammer or the other way around. And don’t even get me started on how many sets of screwdrivers I have. The way to many a man’s heart leads through the Tool Corral at Home Depot.

images (17)Firearms and accessories: I am a Gun Guy. Or as a friend of mine once called me, a Gun Queer. I wear the title proudly, even though the entry on Urban Dictionary is derogatory. Whomever wrote that definition can screw off.

I’m changing the definition starting right here, and I proudly proclaim that I’m gay for guns.

Firearms themselves can be a big ticket item, and your budget may not allow for the purchase of a new Remchesterby Ultra Deluxe Extra Mangum Rex. Have no fear, loving woman.

Ammunition in any of the common calibers is always a good choice. It says, “I’m not exactly sure of your tastes and preferences, but I get you on a deep emotional level.” It’s far more personal and heartfelt than a gift certificate. Even if it’s a caliber he doesn’t have, it’s a good excuse to make another gun purchase or to use later for barter. Either way: Mission Accomplished! download (12)

Liquor: Even men who are not connoisseurs of The Devil’s Drool will not turn up their noses at a bottle of firewater. Scotch is my libation of choice. Not just any Scotch, mind you. I am a single malt man, but I have developed a taste for Bourbon over the past few years. Yes, they are both whiskey, but they are entirely different from each other and wonderful in their own special ways. If your man has a preferred drink, you should know it already.

If you can’t remember your man’s favorite drink and how to prepare it, can you really expect him to remember your favorite flower and lingerie color?

When in doubt, ask him what he drinks already and get him more of it. Just like ammunition, more of what he likes and uses is never a bad thing. Alternately, ask him what he would buy if he wasn’t afraid it would take away from paying for essentials. If you’re dead set on making it a surprise, ask one of his friends whom you trust to keep his mouth shut. Lacking a trustworthy buddy, ask your dad, grandfather, or an uncle. One of them will either know or know someone who does.

images (54)Knives: These could almost be categorized under tools were it not for the fact that virtually all tool manufactures turn out piss poor knives. So, they get their own entry.

Edged tools, which is arguably what knives are, hold an important place in life. Look around your kitchen for an idea of how many forms they take and ask yourself why one may be better than another depending on the task. You would have a tough time carving a roast with a vegetable peeler.

A man does not have to be John Rambo or running a trap-line to have need of something with a sharp point and the ability to cut. Even something as simple and utilitarian as a single-blade, folding pocket knife is a heartfelt gift your man will cherish the rest of his life.

My wife figured this out years ago. As a result, I have a dresser drawer full of pocket knives that rotate through my pocket the way a business man rotates his ties. Good quality brands of knives can even be found at Walmart.

download (21)Grooming: Men may look scruffy sometimes, but we all have need of grooming supplies. Even men with beards have need of them. Give him a thrill every morning with the gift of a shaving brush. Not just any old shaving brush. Pay the extra money for a badger hair brush.

The badger isn’t harmed. He’s wrestled to the ground, a clip of fur is taken, and he is released back into the wild. Well, not really, but you can tell yourself that if you’re one of those animal rights folks.

This is a situation of a natural product being far and away superior to anything man-made. A good quality badger hair shaving brush will last your man the rest of his life. It can literally be handed down to his grandson.

As a matter of fact, if you have the funds and the inclination to search for one, there are exquisite examples of shaving brushes made in the 19th century set into handles of exotic hardwoods and even ivory. We are talking usable antiques.

If you insist on going the modern route (I recommend boar hair, at a minimum), get a set that includes a shaving mug, stand, and a cake of soap. There is a huge range of shaving soaps available in different scents and ingredient combinations to suit your man’s skin type.

To be really adventurous, include a new safety razor. Or if you’re going with the antique theme, ask grandma if she has one squirreled away someplace. Again, if you go new, go quality. You’ll be money ahead in the long run.

On a special safety note: This is a different kind of shaving that has a bit of a learning curve. Don’t hurry and don’t try to learn it while drunk or tired because it can be a little dangerous at first. However, once mastered, a safety razor provides a smooth, extremely kissable face you did not know was possible.

For the man with facial hair, nothing cleans up a mustache or shapes a beard quite like a quality pair of scissors. I’m talking about purpose built, micro-serrated along the edges shears used for nothing other than keeping your man’s facial topiary in tiptop form. They may seem a bit pricey for a pair of scissors, but like anything else in life, get a quality tool and it will never need replacement.images (55)

Sausage and cheese combo packs: My wife scoffed at these until I explained. For those who don’t know what these are, you see them in front of checkout registers starting about Thanksgiving every year, but thanks to the internet and retailers such as Bed, Bath, and Beyond, they are available year round. I guess “beyond” has more of a ring to it than “sausage and cheese.”

“Bed, Bath, Sausage and Cheese” just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way.

Those packages of assorted dry cured sausages and various cheeses are proof that God loves us. The really fancy ones have tiny little jars of assorted mustards and crackers (and for the adventurous, chutneys). I squeal like a fat little girl who just discovered a spider in her underwear drawer when I receive one of these.

They are the perfect gift for the man who has everything or if selecting from one of the above categories still makes you nervous. How better to say “I love you the way you are and don’t mind if you get a little chubby”? Maybe that was a poor choice of words.

You can’t ever have too many of these combo packs around. They keep just about forever, and have protein and calcium without too many carbs from the crackers. As a quick meal for the gentleman on the go or a bachelor sitting in front of the boob-tube in his boxers who doesn’t feel like cooking and can’t order take-out because pay day isn’t until Friday, these combo packs are better than a supply of Meals Ready to Eat stashed in the basement.

I have instructed my wife to keep a supply of them somewhere in the house for those times when we need a last minute gift for a man. However, she has to hide them because I will ferret them out like a…well, like a ferret down a rabbit hole.

That’s it, ladies (or men. I’m not picky when on the receiving end….damn, another bad word choice). A guide to buying gifts that will make any man think you’re the coolest chick he knows.

They Ain’t Shorts ‘Till You Can See the Pockets


“American by birth. Southern by the grace of God.”

You’ve seen the bumper stickers, I’m sure. They are usually in close proximity to a Confederate battle flag, not to be confused with a Confederate flag. There is a difference.

Confederate National Flag (top) Confederate Battle Flag (bottom)
Confederate National Flag (top) Confederate Battle Flag (bottom)

I prefer to have the Flag of the Confederacy sticker on my car to encourage the uninitiated to ask questions, so I can watch their reactions.

Despite the occasional social opprobrium, a Confederate battle flag on your front lawn is quite possibly the world’s best alarm system. Add an eighty pound dog of questionable lineage with free range of the house, and you can literally not have locks on your doors.

photo
Yes, that really is my bathtub.

As an Adopted Son of the South, I’ve had to get used to little oddities like not being able to buy liquor on Sundays and having strangers wave as I drive by. In exchange, no one raises an eyebrow at chickens in the bathtub, slapping Hell out of your kid in the middle of Kroger, or shooting a deer in the backyard through your bathroom window. As a matter of fact, the last two will earn you praise.

Life is different down south and gets even different-er when you can’t see your neighbors.

Due to the specter of possible legal action, I am only willing to admit to chickens in the bathtub. If you ain’t got video of the other two, I’ve never done either.

Shelby
Shelby, one of my breeder does, has her first litter due in a week.

If you’ve been following my writing for any length of time, you may have heard me mention my rabbits. Now, these aren’t pet rabbits. They are livestock. Little fifteen pound blocks of white meat on the paw. Basically, their job is to get fat.

Actually, their job is to get muscular. I’d start them juicing steroids and build them a weight room, if I could get them to use it.

The recently acquired chickens (who spent a month in the Protective Custody Unit of my bathtub before release to Gen Pop) exist on a pay-as-you-go system; provide yummy eggs for my breakfasts, and I continue to feed, shelter, and keep other animals from killing you.

It’s Prison Rules around here.

I think the exchange is a fair one. It’s the equivalent of me having a job that provides for my needs in exchange for drinking scotch, smoking cigars, and chasing the wife around the house naked. The downside of this arrangement for them is the retirement plan stinks.

Dumb Chick

Probably the most useful thing I have learned keeping chickens is that they are stupid and mean, which is a bad combination in any creature. Add the desire to be photographed, and they could run for elected office. Thank God chickens aren’t the size of people because we wouldn’t win that fight very often without being heavily armed.

I have a dozen chickens at the moment, but I might not by the end of the week. I have one hen in particular that seems intent on breaking the covenant. Honestly, I’m not certain she’s a chicken. I swear I was sold a turkey. Not a metaphorical turkey. I mean an honest-to-goodness Meleagris gallopavo. Compared to the other chicks we bought at the same time, the girl is huge.

She’s the biggest chicken I’ve ever seen up close and personal, but that’s not saying much since this is our first foray into chicken farming. Or would that be chicken ranching? I have a lot to learn about homesteading, but I haven’t killed anything accidentally, yet.

Fat Chicken 3
Fat Chick

From what my wife tells me, this chicken is likely too fat to lay eggs. Watching the way she waddles around the chicken coop (the chicken, not my wife), I tend to believe her (my wife, not the chicken).

I frequently scold my sons that the first tenant of manhood is to produce more than you consume. The same requirement is imposed on livestock in the Cunha household. We also have a standing rule of “behave or be eaten.” This portly pullet clearly wasn’t paying attention to the pep talk I give all new additions.

Not only has she refused to learn to forage despite being surrounded by eleven other chickens who freely demonstrate the behavior, my husky hen will body slam any other chicken that gets between her and store-bought feed thrown on the ground. It’s like watching a fat bridesmaid dive after a wedding cake bouquet.

Fat ChickenScratching about the yard for bugs and grasses on their own is a technique we use to defray the cost of feed. We do the same thing for the rabbits in some nifty ground cages I built called rabbit tractors. I don’t know if animals experience quality of life in the same way as humans, but they seem healthier and faster growing when offered more variety in their diet and some room to frolic.

In addition to our fatty boombalatty literally being on the chopping block, we have another yard bird who violates the “behave or be eaten” standard. My youngest daughter describes the situation best, “I named him ‘Pecker’ because he pecks everybody. You should kill him first.”

From your lips to Daddy’s hatchet, my dear.

At first, I thought it was the exaggerations of a nine-year-old. The little fella was probably doing rooster stuff like strutting and flapping his wings that she took as aggression, so I entered the coop to observe. Entering as calmly and unobtrusively as I could, I crouched in the corner. I was the Jane Goodall of chickens watching them mill about while chuck-chuck-chucking in chicken conversation.

Pecker approached to within arm’s reach and stopped. I reached out a steady palm-full of Purina’s finest chicken treats in an effort to form whatever passed for friendship in the world of chickens. Pecker eyed the crumbled treats and stretched out his neck for them. I waited for the gentle tap of Pecker’s pecker picking pieces of pullet pellets from my paw.

A good hand in Portuguese Poker

Instead, the little bastard tried to impale my hand. He pecked the web between each of my fingers before I realized he had turned on me. It felt like a game of Portuguese Poker gone horribly wrong.

Pecker will be culled along with his fat girlfriend.

On the farm, “culled” is a euphemism for killing an animal that doesn’t make the grade. Maybe it’s sick. Maybe its genetics are not what a breeder is looking for. Maybe it’s simply the wrong gender. One of the many harsh realities of farm life is eugenics is alive and well. We rule our little versions of the Fourth Reich like Josef Mengele swishing our riding crop left or right as livestock run around us in a large circle.

Two additional cockerels will be enjoying an afternoon in the stove-top Jacuzzi for no better reason than they are not as friendly as Brownie, our congenial cock.

^BA4F8386E1C70D6685153A50F065D2A232217C4607CCA10E02^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr (2)
One of my creations. I’ve since added a watering system.

We do even worse for the rabbits. My wife and I fret over whether they are too hot or getting enough minerals or watching too much television. I pay more attention to the breeding does’ ovulation cycles and prenatal care than I did my wife’s for any of her pregnancies.

When it comes time for breeding, I’m a one-main peep show audience as I stand by the cage making sure my breeding buck Sampson performs the one job he has in life. My wife and I endlessly discuss breeding schedules, due dates, and possible genetic combinations to achieve desirable results. Our alternating obsessions with miscegenation and genetic purity makes Heinrich Himmler look like a hippie.

Three and a half weeks later, my wife fusses over kindling boxes and changing rabbit moods. She sneaks out to the Rabbit Condo in the middle of the night to see if we have squirming, pink additions to the family.

We fuss over these animals more than grandparents over grandchildren. Then we kill them, cut their corpses into pieces, and eat them. It’s that Circle of Life thing.

Chicks with chicks.
Chicks with chicks.

But in the meantime while they await their ticket on the Freezer Express, they have a pretty good life. The chicken pen, at about a thousand square feet, is bigger than my first apartment, and what I refer to as the Rabbit Condo is better constructed than my house.

I don’t know if the way I raise my livestock is particularly Southern because I don’t have a basis of comparison. I didn’t raise any prior to living in the former Confederacy. What I do have experience doing as both an Adopted Son of the South and as a Yankee is going to Walmart.

Whatever your particular Walmart politics, here are my Walmart Truths:

  1. If Walmart ain’t got it, I don’t need it.
  2. Walmart ain’t never done nothin’ but make my life better.
  3. I love me some Southern Walmart in the summer.

That last statement cements my wife’s belief that I’m a dirty old man. And she is probably right, but she is also on record saying she would not have me any other way.

However, I have parental concerns that the skimpy nature of the attire worn by the young women in our locale is having a detrimental effect on my children. While working in the yard last weekend my youngest son walked out onto the back deck wearing this:

David
Don’t blame the shorts.

Son: “Dad, do these shorts make me look gay?”

Me: “It’s so much more than the sorts.”

Son: “Are they too short?”

My wife: “Carlos, aren’t you the one who says they ain’t shorts ’til you can see the pockets?”

Time to Hang Up the Badge


Freddy GrayFreddie Gray, another poor, innocent Baltimore black man, was murdered by the Baltimore Police in the latest in a long string of institutionalized racism and abuse of power propagated by the white power structure…

Who am I kidding?  I can’t say this shit with a straight face. Freddie Gray was a street-level dope peddler with a rap sheet longer than Wilt Chamberlain’s list of sexual conquests.

Looking at this guy’s background, the community of Baltimore is better off without him.

But what do I know? I’m just some Southern bigot.

Baltimore_Riot_1861Hold on, isn’t Baltimore technically in the South? My history books said despite being part of the Republic during the War of Northern Aggression, Maryland was a slave-state.

Oh, that explains it. The state is conflicted by its past. Feeling guilty over its involvement in the slave trade, Maryland has spent generations creating a de facto slave class with grants of cash and valuable prizes in exchange for Democrat votes.

Over the weekend, the Baltimore riots have (according to media reports) metamorphosed into the Woodstock of social justice. Formerly angry black faces peering from behind masks fashioned from bandannas and their token middle-class, white kid sidekicks wearing Guy Fawkes masks who were bused in from Northern Virginia have magically transformed into something more resembling a Puerto Rican Day parade.

MayorStephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore, future disgraced Congresswoman from Maryland, and permissive parent, might as well have thrown up some gang signs and shouted Thug life when she announced, “We also gave those who wish to destroy space to do that as well.”

“Haters gonna hate. Rioters gonna riot. YOLO, bitches.”

I would love to see how she deals with a two-year-old throwing a tantrum.

Fellow political social climber and Maryland prosecutor Marilyn Mosby has Prosecutorbrought charges against six (count ’em, six) Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray. Her shotgun approach to prosecution is being described by fellow lawyers, always quick to be charitable when faced with the incompetence of a colleague, as an attempt to leverage one defendant against another.

Having made a living in occupations with a reliance on turning one person against another, I can verify the need for a solid case against the targeted snitch before you can turn him.

There is a criminal law concept called a “Lesser and Included Offence,” with which Marilyn Mosby should be well acquainted. For example, since a theft is part of a robbery, theft and robbery can’t be charged for the same event. The prosecutor has to pick, and usually charges the most serious crime in the expectation of the charge being reduced later for one reason or another.

images (24)I don’t know the specifics of Maryland law, but I know enough about legal concepts in general to conclude the six officers were massively overcharged. The six officers likely know this as well, since they make their living in the field. The only real hope Marilyn Mosby has of successfully flipping a stool-pigeon is to have gotten to one of them over the weekend before a defense lawyer. That is why they were arrested on a Friday afternoon. The hope is they neither ask for an attorney nor have access to one because he is out of town.

My favorite attorney-client scene was on Breaking Bad when Sal Goodman barged in on Jesse’s questioning by police asking, “Did you say anything stupid? And by ‘stupid,’ I mean anything at all.”

When the arrests were announced, I immediately scoured the internet for photos of these bloodthirsty, rogue cops. I could barely find their names, much less their photos, because neither were being released by Prosecutor Mosby’s office.

My wild-ass theory was she made and announced arrests to placate the mobs destroying Baltimore, but had a delicate situation on her hands because one or more of the officers arrested was black.

I wish I had been able to finish this post when I conceived of it on Friday, but I had to help a friend fence off his field and a chicken coop to build so I could get the pullets out of the bathtub. Take a look at the photos of the Baltimore Police Officers arrested for killing Freddie Gray and tell me my theory was nutty.

Cops

So here is what I see as the future of police work in America. Political leadership will continue its push to neuter police officers until the remaining decent cops are either imprisoned, pushed out, or so thoroughly disgusted they abandon the field entirely, leaving it to the in-touch-with-their-feelings types who have spent the last generation or so turning police work into another branch of Social Services.

Have you heard the expression “If you like sausage, don’t watch how it’s made”? The same goes for police work.

It’s a rough business that attracts hard men who seek out the job precisely because it puts them in harm’s way. As my wife once told me when we were dating, “I don’t trust a man who doesn’t like getting into a fistfight once in a while.” That sounds like a pretty good question for the Police Department application, if you ask me.

To prove my point, I’ll ask my readers of the feminine persuasion (gals or guys, it doesn’t matter, as long as you like men): When “The Bad Men” come, as my daughters used to refer to them, do you want them met by someone capable of just as much violence and ferocity as them or by someone concerned he might accidentally kill the people who came to kill you.

There’s not a “right” answer to this question, but it has significant implications.

If we want our policemen to be social workers, be prepared to have cops with limited effectiveness when the really nasty things in life come around.

471375348-youth-throws-a-rock-at-police-on-april-27-2015-in_1.jpg.CROP.rtstory-largeHad the Baltimore Police Department put a bullet or a load of buckshot into that first teenager during his wild wind up and running start to throw a rock at them, much of the rioting would have ended there. Word that the police will shoot you for committing (what is, at least) Assault with a Deadly Weapon would have spread quickly and deterred those not fully committed to raising Hell.

The thought process that such a reaction would push more otherwise normal and law abiding people to engage in escalated violence betrays a fundamental, and possibly intentional, misunderstanding of the terms “normal” and “law abiding.”

The future of police work is to treat all uses of force equally by stripping away the assumption of righteous. Any civilian who carries a firearm does so with the presumption that he will find himself on the ground at gunpoint when the police finally do arrive, regardless of how legitimate the reason to employ deadly force.

That’s at minimum. Most expect to be arrested, spend some time in jail, be charged, and face a judge. Aside from the emotional toll of taking a life and the inevitable wrongful death lawsuit from the surviving family (because the guy you found in your bedroom raping your wife at gunpoint was clearly there asking directions to the nearest Bible study), having to answer to a judge like some common criminal is expected.

Every cop who employs deadly force will be tried for murder. Likewise, any who use their baton or Taser will be arrested by the next cop who shows up on scene for Assault with a Deadly Weapon. The act of making an arrest will result in two trials; one for the bad guy, and one for the cop on Battery and Kidnapping charges. God, forbid he collected any evidence because that would be a theft charge. The officer driving the transport vehicle would be subject to Abetting Kidnapping.

And all of this will be in the name of fairness, social justice, and accountability. It will also help minimize rioting since law enforcement seems to have given up any pretense of being able to keep control of the areas they police.

Michael Slager and the actions of the South Carolina law enforcement establishment have set the precedent of preemptivedownload (16) arrest for police officers. If you doubt me, ask yourself how much rioting there has been in North Charleston.

I know there are cops out there who are still men, and my advice remains the same. Get out before your number gets called. If you are eligible to retire, take it. If you have another skill set, put it to use. If you’re considering a career in law enforcement, reconsider it. Whether you realize it or not, you have been targeted.

My grandfather was right when he told me twenty-five years ago, “The people you will protect don’t deserve your protection.”

I Made My Wife Pee in a Casserole Dish


My family has never been what you might call “lucky.” If something can go wrong, it usually does, but I wonder if that just makes us average. Optimists, with their eternally upbeat and positive outlooks, will say that every day above ground is a good one. They’re so full of shit. Ask the guy who spent twenty-six months in a bamboo tiger cage in Vietnam if every day above ground is a good one. I’m pretty sure he would disagree.

Some folks argue that considering the near misses of catastrophe in life, luck surfaces in little ways every day. I’m not so sure about that, either. Not that I’m a pessimist. I firmly believe the harder I work, the more luck I have. Unfortunately, that eats away at the defining characteristic of luck. I guess I’m more of a “probably-ist.”

A probably-ist spends his day not courting disaster. His catch phrase is, “That’s probably not a good idea.” That doesn’t mean something cannot be accomplished or should not be attempted. The probably-ist simply uses knowledge, experience, and common sense to evaluate the likelihood of success for a given task.

The Portage who jumped into the lion enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo a few years ago was definitely not a probably-ist.

images (19)
Oh, your stupid ass is mine.

He was a dumb fuck and deserved to die. He earned death. It’s not like this ersatz lion tamer jumped in after a child that fell into the enclosure. He did it on a lark for the thrill. A probably-ist can like thrills and can be spontaneous, but likelihood of a given situation going sideways is always on his mind.

chainsaw-safety-clothing-header
I’m a fan of protective gear.

The point is that a little circumspect caution goes a long way in life. It lessens the likelihood of an early or horrific death. Sometimes, both. Despite wearing ear and eye protection religiously when operating power tools, sooner or later, some little piece of flying debris makes its way into my eye. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s probably a good idea to wear protective equipment.

That’s not to say gruesome injuries and spectacular deaths do not visit the probably-ist. Equipment malfunctions. Lapses in attention happen. Unforeseen and statistically unlikely events occur.

  • I had a grandfather who died of a brain embolism attributed to a broken ankle from when a horse stepped on it a year prior.
  • My step-grandfather (his replacement) died at seventy-seven years old when a well drilling tower broke loose from its moorings and fell on him.
  • A great-uncle bled to death from a chainsaw accident while logging.
  • My mother-in-law cut a thumb off with a circular saw, and a previous father-in-law cut a pinky off in metal press.
  • A cousin died after being struck by a train. I suspect suicide, but he did work for the railroad, so it’s in the books as an industrial accident.
  • At eleven years old, I sutured two of my father’s fingers back together after a firewood splitting incident while camping deep in the woods and several hours away from professional medical attention.
  • In one particularly humorous incident, a distant cousin drowned in a privy (It probably wasn’t a good idea to go stumbling around drunk in the dark, so this one shouldn’t count).

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    Portuguese Library

Looking back on this list, the thought occurs to me that the victim in each of these scenarios was middle-aged or better when these occurred. Perhaps I should employ someone to follow me around and keep me from dying. Maybe that what sidekicks really are; professional spotters.

Just remember that when one of the Cunha boys says, “We had a little mishap,” that means someone nearly died.

Lacking a tradition of falling ass first into good things (except for that time in 1996 when I found a twenty dollar bill in a parking lot), I was surprised when my wife excitedly texted me this photo.

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My two youngest were farting around in the river at the back of our property when they came across this rusty pistol. Knowing their father as well as they do, they decided to bring it home. If they expected to keep the pistol, they certainly didn’t mention it. I suspect they had visions of it finding a new home in their room. However, since I pay for the place, I get first dibs on keeping anything found there.

Whether it’s gold doubloons, a rusted shut pistol, Indian remains, or a unicorn, the rules are the same. Finders keepers; losers weepers…And Dad gets the really, really fun toys.

154-MMS-1421791262-attachment1-VZM (2)My wife continued to send me photos, and from what I could make out through the corrosion was a stamping “Western …” That clue and an understanding of firearm nomenclature was all I had to go on. So, I turned to my good friend Google. I don’t even remember anymore how we got along without the internet. I’ve blocked it out of my mind, it seems.

A little research revealed my kids aren’t exactly Mel Fisher. The pistol, clearly a single-action from the photos, is a Western Six in .22 caliber. These were no-frills pistols made from the 1960’s until the every early 1980’s. There is absolutely nothing fancy or collectible about them even in pristine condition. It’s what you call a “truck gun” in Texas; kept in the glove box of the car for those time you need to shoot something. They are small caliber, relatively quiet to shoot, effective without making a mess all over the place, and inexpensive enough that you don’t care if they get beat up or rusty. Depending on where you’re from and how you use it, some call it a “farm gun” or “trail gun.”152-MMS-1421791138-attachment1-IMG952015012095155803 (2)

Whatever you call it, the idea is the same; simple, cheap, and effective. Those are my three favorite qualities in a tool.

I rushed home to inspect my prize. It was in worse condition that I imagined. Every nook and cranny was packed solid with river sediment and tiny stones. The entire length of the barrel, the cylinder chambers, and the whole cylinder gap were packed solid with the mire. Not surprisingly, the ejector rod spring and large chunks of its housing were eaten away. Nothing moved. The whole shebang was frozen up into a solid mass.

Those who know me can attest to my love of both firearms and a challenge. I resolved to bring this abomination back to life. Of course, I use that term very loosely. I would consider it a success to load a cartridge in each chamber and make it go bang six times in a row without losing my eyesight or needing medical attention.

To that end, I have embarked on a quest to find the nastiest, most powerful, rust removing, grease cutting, supremely caustic solvent that has ever existed. The sort of stuff that requires a prescription, an OSHA MSDS Safety Sheet, a permit from at least two Federal Government agencies, and a note from my mother.

164-MMS-1421791836-attachment1-IMG952015012095160953 (2)The Home Depot and Lowes have failed me. Tractor Supply Company wasn’t much better. The best the O’Riley Auto Parts could offer me is a gallon of brake cleaning solvent. In desperation, I soaked the poor pistol in a Pyrex casserole dish full of urine. Let me tell you. It took some convincing to get my wife and kids to help with that one, but I managed it.

As the project stands right now, I have a rusted solid pistol that probably retailed, at most, for sixty dollars. I’ve already sunk close to that amount into trying to resurrect it. Plus an assortment of scrubbing pads, dental picks, and caustic liquids I normally have sitting around the garage. To purchase a brand new pistol of similar quality (when it was new) with the same form and function would be all of $120. I’m already halfway there, but that isn’t the point.

That’s not the point at all.

When I succeed in breathing life back into this little bitch (and believe me when I say that I will succeed, if it’s the last thing I do as I am hauled away from another “little mishap”), the pistol will be worth exactly…nothing.

Am I going to have to break down and buy a power washer to blow all this crap out? I mean, I’ll take any reason to buy a new tool, but then I’ll have to power wash every single thing outside to fully justify the purchase.

IMG_0180So, before I go off to purchase one more tool of questionable necessity, can you kind folks leave comments with your suggestions on how the get all this river gunk out the clockwork of my pistol? The second option is to mount it to a plaque with the inscription “The only pistol dug out of a river bank in the southern United States that was NOT owned by Jesse James.”

But that will only serve as a reminder of defeat. And I don’t like to lose.

No Means No, Grandma


yes means yesCalifornia’s Affirmative Consent Law, popularly known as “Yes means Yes,” was enacted by the California Legislature this past August. It threatens to withhold state funding from colleges that do not adopt a student sexual assault policy compliant with the Federal Government rules. I just saved you an hour’s worth of reading and translating lawyer talk.

If you really have trouble sleeping, you can view the bill yourself. If you don’t want to take my word for it, but also don’t want to wade too far into the realm of paper-based Unisom, here’s the important part:

“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”

OK. This all makes sense. It’s a pretty reasonable standard and seems like common sense except for the occasional 7cf6c13d2a2a97085d291e0711c0fee3ffc31eccknucklehead who thinks “yes” means “maybe,” “maybe” means “yes,” and “yes” means “anal.” There’s one in every crowd, and if you laughed at that joke, you’re not him. If you’re aghast at that joke, you’re likely some sort of feminist and might want to stop reading right here, call me a jack-wagon,” and go about your day trying to prove Jack London was a closet homosexual.

It was wonderful of the State Legislators to include the phrase “the other or others to engage in the sexual activity.” The California State Legislature knows how wild and kinky a place college can be. Thank you, California for giving the nod to collegiate group sex. I can imagine the Public Service Announcement now. Suitably somber, serious, and sober celebrities shot slightly off center in black and white against a blank background. “What’s the difference between a gang-bang and a gang-rape?” each asks as the camera cuts among them every second and a half. At about the twenty-second mark, a slate flashes onto the screen that reads, “Regret.”

That would probably make a terrible PSA, but if I could find an organization that didn’t get the joke, I’d love to make it. I’ve made PSAs before, and I can tell you from experience the people and organizations involved in these projects are not the brightest group.

Let’s face it. If they had any brains at all, they would get jobs in the private sector instead of basing a career on spending other people’s money on nebulous concept campaigns to “raise awareness.” Please show me one statistically verifiable instance where bringing a problem to the attention of someone riding a public bus led to solving the problem?

There is not some undiscovered scientific genius riding past a bus stop on his bike who stops and says, “What the deuce? You mean to tell me that women get cancer in their tits? Oddly enough, I was running a hypothetical Monte Carlo algorithm yesterday that cured it every single time, but I didn’t think it would be useful. Who knew? I’d better call the breast cancer people and let them know.”

So, the next time you see a Public Service Announcement, watch it with a keen and subtle eye. Think of alternate meanings for words. Be especially watchful for arcane definitions that when substituted inject humor or change the meaning entirely. And if you pay very close attention, you may see a familiar (albeit much younger) face show up once in a while. I’m just sayin’.

All the verbiage about “continuing affirmative consent” sounded terribly familiar when I first read it. Something about the wording made my ass twitch, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.  I dug out my text book and notes from when I took Criminal Law back in the Stone Age to do a little fact checking. As it turns out, my memory is not nearly as feeble as I feared. These legislators lifted the definition of consent straight from the California Penal Code.

Then the bill goes on to require a set of requirements colleges must implement. I suspect meeting these requirements will be massively expensive and employ lots of people who would otherwise have to venture outside the insular bubble of ivory Changetowers to find work in the big, mean old real world.

Repeat after me, drones. “Competition is bad. Tenure is good. Down with the capitalist ruling class. Affordable healthcare is a human right. End the war.”

Lest you think I’m more of a Neanderthal than the anti-hunters would paint me, I’m not a fan of rape. At least, not real rape; the type outside of an agreed upon scenario where “no” really doesn’t mean “no” and having an established safe-word. Other than that narrowly defined situation, “no” carries the standard meaning found in any dictionary.

My complaint about the law is that it largely reinvents the wheel. Apparently, the California State Legislature feels the campus police they employ (who, by the way, are fully certified peace officers) and whichever local police force has jurisdiction are more or less incapable of dealing with a sexual assault investigation. That’s the only conclusion I can come to when a bunch of college administrators are tasked to identify the elements of a crime, interview victims, preserve evidence, and conduct an investigation. Hell, while they’re at it, why don’t they make the arrest and mount a prosecution, too?

Just what the world needs. Another layer of government with a largely redundant purpose.

I don’t say this from the perspective of a beneficiary of white male hegemonic privilege. I say it from the perspective of a victim.

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Home Sweet Austere Home
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Eight Full Grown Men Living Together

My career has taken me to many shit-holes. The sorts of places that include “austere conditions” and “danger pay” in the job description. Oddly enough, neither my physical safety nor my virtue were ever in more danger than in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Johnstown is the sort of small town America a person escapes as soon as possible; whether sent there or born there. It’s a one-industry town brought by a Senator representing the district. No one in that industry lived within the city limits, and precious few of the business owners serving the town’s one industry lived there, either.

In 2003, U.S. Census data showed that Johnstown was the least likely city in the United States to attract newcomers

Outside of office hours, the place was a ghost town. Friday and Saturday nights at the bar on the ground floor of the town’s only hotel and the Coney Island Hot Dog joint were the only exceptions. The Downtown Revitalization Commercial Business District of Future Growth, Prosperity, and Commerce Excellence consisted of an old Macy’s building anchoring one entire street and small restaurants and shops along the other three that bordered a public park, complete with a life-size statue of a Union soldier to represent the men who struck off to preserve the Republic in the War of Northern Aggression.download (9)

It’s quite a nice statue, except for the fact they were fighting for the wrong side.

Johnstown has a long history of surviving disasters; floods in particular. Lake Conemaugh, located on the grounds of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, was 450 feet above Johnstown. In 1889, the levy holding back Lake Conemaugh upstream of town burst from lack of maintenance after six to ten inches of rain in twenty-four hours sending a cliff of water down 450 feet of elevation. That’s a lot of water flowing very fast with a lot of energy behind it. After the initial rush of water, the wave hit the end of the valley and rebounded, flooding the town a second time in under twenty minutes.

Part of the initial wave diverted at the end of the valley toward the town’s steel plant. As the flood tide crested in Johnstown for the second time, flood water inundated the plant.

Stop for a moment to consider what happens when water is tossed onto a hot skillet. Now, scale that up to lots of water and molten metal. The water rushing into the vats of liquid steel was converted into steam with such force that solid metal vessels were torn apart and blobs of molten metal rained down on Johnstown, setting ablaze everything above the waterline. It took Clara Barton and her newly formed American Red Cross nearly a week to get to the scene due to the remoteness of the area and destruction of infrastructure leading into it. Not just Johnstown was destroyed. The entire area was a mess nearly to Pittsburg. Virtually every building in town was damaged beyond repair. None survived unscathed.

Not to be dissuaded, the surviving residents rebuild…and had major floods again in 1894…and 1907…and then again in 1924…and another in 1936…and finally the last in 1977.  For the love of God, will you people take a hint and move to higher ground?

The town’s history of isolation and calamity bred a culture of proud self-reliance and hardscrabble survival. Or maybe they have always been dangerously stupid Hillbillies.

One night after work, ten of us classmates decided we just couldn’t take another night of sitting in our hotel rooms pretending to study. Our boss, who was also one of our instructors and deploying to the field with us, had been assigned to the Johnstown office for the previous decade, recommended the most popular and happening bar in town. Like idiots, we took his advice.

Our boss was right. It was the best bar within driving distance. However, “best” and “within driving distance” are both subjective and comparative measures.

After driving into the surrounding mountains for forty minutes (the same mountains that accelerated a reservoir worth of water to destroy Johnstown in 1889) and passing the well-hidden turnoff three different times, we pulled into a gravel driveway that led to a squat building with neon beer logo signs in the windows and Christmas light strung along the eves.  It was April.

All ten of us piled out of two rental cars, took a quick look around to size up the caliber of trouble that awaited us, and made for the door. What we found was the least smoke-filled and best lit drinking establishment I have ever seen. The place was bereft of patrons at eight o’clock.

“Y’all open?” I called to the woman tending bar. At least, I think she was tending bar. From my quick survey, she was wiping the bar down with a rag and gossiping with what I presumed was a waitress leaning against the liquor rack while she masticated a mouthful of Hubba Bubba. For all I knew, we had walked in on a burglary, and this was an elaborate ruse to escape.

“We sure as shit are, sugar,” the bartender said, breaking off her girl gab session. “We got a mess of tables in the pool room downstairs, so you can sit together.”

“Downstairs” was accurate in only the most technical sense. The stairway was exactly three steps deep. I was beginning to believe words have different definitions in Pennsylvania.

It was a spacious room with elevated tables and tall bar chairs.   The felt on the pool table was neither torn nor some God-awful color that wasn’t green. Also, the dart board was new enough that the darts didn’t fall out during a match.

Being responsible degenerates, we verified the Designated Driver, a Mormon kid named Greg who after jumping out of perfectly good airplanes for the Army took up instructing others how to jump out of perfectly good airplanes for fun, was in possession of both sets of car keys. Exactly how he would manage two carloads of drunken law enforcement types never entered my though process. I’m pretty sure it didn’t enter anyone else’s, either. All we knew was he wasn’t going to pay for anything that night in exchange for keeping us out of jail.

Three hours later, the place was packed. It was a smoke-choked swamp of hillbilly humanity. It had transformed into my kind of bar. Old-time, twangy Bluegrass played on the speaker system. Patrons dropped peanut shells on the floor. About every twenty minutes, someone let out a Rebel Yell. Young women snatched the hats off men they fancied and donned them (That’s a definite invitation where I come from, if you get my meaning).

When my turn to buy a round came up (please don’t ask how many rounds or how many turns. I lost track), I wobbled to the bar. The waitress hadn’t yet come to the realization that it would be safer for the hardwood floor and everyone involved to deliver the drinks herself.

About Like That...Just Less Chest Hair
Has More Hair Than Me

I was wearing what I call “San Diego Camouflage.” Somewhere during the approach to middle age, men in San Diego begin to wear Hawaiian shirts. I’m pretty sure it’s a city ordinance. Some are pastel and subtle. Some are fluorescent and loud enough to drown out conversation. However, all are short sleeved, baggy, and possessed of a top button that falls somewhere in the vicinity of the wearer’s sternum. There isn’t even a button where the collar would meet should the wearer be modest enough to try.

Being most recently from San Diego and rapidly approaching the middle of my life (assuming I die, as expected, prior to collecting my first Social Security check), I proudly sported my geographic identifier. The problem was that I am between 6’2″ and 6’4″ (depending on the security camera), clock in at 265 pounds, and can literally lift a compact car by the bumper until the wheels clear the ground. Combine that with the magnificent facial hair of Grizzly Adams, extensive tattooing, and the swagger of a gladiator. Yeah. People notice me when I walk into a room.

Typically that means when I go to a bar, some little drunk fucker decides I’m the guy he wants to pick a fight with. That’s why I prefer to drink at home. If I feel like fighting, I am perfectly capable of finding one myself.

While waiting for the four pitchers of draft beer to be…drafted, I wondered whether I was stable enough on my feet to make the beer delivery in one trip holding two full pitchers in each hand while doing my best impression of the St. Pauli Girl logo. Deep in thought pondering my dilemma, I hear a creaky voice I identify as likely female and definitely a minimum of two packs a day belt out, “Mabel, will you look at that.” I turned around as a boney pair of hands begins to paw up and down my forearm.

“Oh, my God. He’s got ’em all over his chest, too,” Mable wheezed from where she stood looking over the shoulder of my new fondling friend. Her voice sounded like a chimney flue. Mable stepped forward, reached out a hand as gnarled as a ginger root, and stopped herself. “It is ok if I touch them?”images (13)

“Touch them”? Aren’t you already touching me? Then again, I would have used the same phrasing had the bartender popped her boobs out from her shirt, so I guess fair is fair.

“Knock yourself out, honey,” I slurred. “Just don’t start fighting with your girlfriend.”

“June there’s my sister,” Mabel said, as she inched closer and traced her fingers over the design on my chest. Mable sneaked her hand around the small of my back and smiled as he pulled me toward her. “We learned to share a long time ago.” On cue, June slid one hand from my forearm, ducked it under the front hem of my shirt, and laid her palm just north of my belt buckle.

One thing that hunting and listening to Kenny Rogers over the years has taught me; know when it is appropriate to run and when to stand your ground.

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Get Your Sexy Ass Over Here, Sailor

I’m not one to turn down feminine attention, but I know enough to do so when not in the presence of my wife. Had she been there, my wife would have been giggling herself into a coughing fit while these two threesome-prone sisters felt me up.

Hopefully, my wife would have stopped the geriatric live sex show before I wound up laying on a pinball machine reenacting Jodie Foster’s roles in “The Accused.”

Knowing this situation fell squarely in the “no go” category due to lack of spousal supervision, my beer besot brain began to search for a polite way to escape the clutches of these succubi with my virtue and drink order intact.

Just as I was about to flail about shrieking, “Off, damn harpies! Back to Hades with you,” my Designated Driver Greg swooped in to my rescue.

“Hey, Battle Buddy. Need help carrying those?”

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POW Covert Communication

Sometime during my molestation, the bartender had brought the four pitchers of beer I ordered. Greg had been tracking the situation from afar and decided it was time for an extraction because I was in over my head. Even three sheets to the wind, I recognized “Battle Buddy” as being out of context for a direct address and understood Greg was there to get me out of a sticky situation. Kind of like when POWs slip in covert communications when filmed or photographed.

“I could use an extra set of hands,” I mumbled, as I stepped backward out of the hooks of Grendel’s Aunts and picked up a pitcher in each hand. Greg picked up the other two and led the way to safety.

“Excuse me, ladies. Mr. Popular’s presence is required elsewhere,” he said, breezing past them. I followed as closely as I could without appearing to run. However, I did not escape unscathed.

Mabel purred and made kissing faces at me as I passed. June took advantage of my occupied hands to grab my ass hard enough to make me slosh beer out of the pitchers I carried.

This chick may have been old enough to have been Andrew Carnegie’s nanny, but she still had the grip of a steel worker. Considering she lived in Johnstown, she probably was at one time.

As I made good my retreat, I could hear June and Mabel cackle. They called out “Send him back for the next round. Well pay for it” and “Get back here. I haven’t seen all the tattoos, yet.”

I felt embarrassed and unclean. I had been objectified and manhandled. All I wanted to do was go back to the hotel and scrub every inch of my body until the skin was raw. These dirty old women had taken advantage of my intoxicated state and assumed my lack of struggle was consent. Had an Affirmative Consent law such as passed by the State Legislature of California been in place for Pennsylvania, I would have had some recourse to this blatant sexual assault.

Oh, who am I kidding? I had a blast. Greg and I immediately recounted the incident in all manner of exaggerated and glorious detail, complete with live-action demonstrations, to the rest of the party. They even made wagers as to whether I could “seal the deal” with the Eriksson Twins before they decided to change their hunting grounds. One of the women in the group asked how I liked experiencing what women have to deal with on a regular basis.

Honestly, I kind of liked all the attention and offers of free stuff. It struck me as a fair trade. Does that make me a gold digger?