Friendly Only Goes so Far


Canada learned again this week that they are just as much part of “The Infidel” as the United States.  As far as the Saracen is concerned, our ruddy-cheeked cousins to the North are decadent perverts fit only for death.  Please learn your lesson well, as they become more costly at each remediation.  Stick with us, Canada.  We’re used to the world hating us, and we’re actually pretty OK with it.  However, we have to discuss something first.

The World Trade Center attack heightened American awareness of plots hatched by wackos to do its citizens harm.  From the beginning, we had our own homegrown Islamist terrorists starting with John Walker Lindh and going all the way to Alton Nolen, the meat processing plant employee who absolutely, positively did not cut a former co-worker’s head off out of a sense of jihad.

But we are no longer the only ones with a homegrown terror problem.  Canada just had a shooting in Ottawa that, too their credit, is being categorized as “terrorist.”  They are still mopping up the blood and trying to figure out exactly what happened, but it is nice to see Canadians still have enough backbone to call a spade a spade.  Welcome to the Big Leagues, but I still harbor my doubts about my former English co-colonialists, not just for the socialized medicine, the gun control, or the RCMP trying to switch to synthetic fur for their winter hats.

You see, shortly after the September 11 attacks, I discovered another group of extremists had been covertly infiltrating the United States for generations.  They had been at work longer than the Al Qaeda network and are more dangerous than any ISIS jihadi because of their proximity.  And they were trained, funded, and sanctioned by the Canadian government.

Who Doesn't Like Mounties?
Who Doesn’t Like Mounties?

Yes, Canada–our friendly neighbor to the north.  Often thought of as the US without the guns, violence, and crime.  The uncovered plot implicated Ottawa in the funding of sleeper agents who went about their normal lives until called upon to rise up and spread Socialism.  Their dastardly goal was to nationalize healthcare, reduce infant mortality rates to below that of a third-world African nation, and make all American streets safe to walk on at night.

Those Mother-Canuckers!

The insidious insertion of these highly trained operatives began shortly after Canada became an independent dominion on July 1, 1867.  Remembering the US invasion during the War of 1812, the Canadian Parliament initiated what later became known as “Operation Snowback.”  Agents of the Canadian government, known as Snowbacks, took advantage of the longest undefended border in the world to slip into the United States undetected.

Their primary mission has not changed: to infiltrate American society, principally through the arts, media, and entertainment.  Lest there be any doubt, here is a short list of uncovered Snowback operatives:

  • Pamela Anderson
  • Tom Green
  • Peter Jennings
  • Alex Trebek
  • Tommy Chong
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Rich Little
  • Lorne Green
  • Monty Hall
  • and their Spy Master, Justin Bieber.

The list goes on.  These are just the agents that have been discovered.  Luckily, their exposure reduces the threat, but untold thousands of Snowbacks roam American streets with impunity, taking jobs from US citizens while waiting to transform the national sports from football and baseball to hockey and lacrosse.

Clearly, the northern US border needs to be shut down, and tighter controls placed on Canadians already here; particularly those snotty French pricks from Quebec.  To that end, the Anti-Canadian League has convinced Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to cosponsor the Subversives Among our Midsts Act.  The SAM bill will require the immediate deportation of all undocumented Canadian nationals.   It also requires all persons of Canadian origin, naturalized or not, to display a brand on either cheek in the shape of a maple leaf with the initials of their province of origin inside the leaf.  Denoting province of origin will assist in tracking and prosecution should any of the ice fishers get out of line.

In addition to shutting the US-Canadian border and identifying all Canadians, the SAM bill will outlaw subversive products and terms that have weaseled their way into the American lexicon.  For example, Canadian bacon will henceforth be called “ham.”  The National Hockey League will be disbanded, and all professional players will be assigned jobs with the Ice Capades.  All ice skates not designed specifically for figure skating will be confiscated and burned in a bonfire at various state capitols.  The story of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, in all media forms, will be prohibited, as well as sales of Canadian Mist, Seagram’s products, all Canadian whiskeys, Canada Dry, and Yukon Jack.

Works of literature written by Jack London will be exempted since they show the truly miserable nature of life in Canada.  Women will no longer be allowed to joke about their girlfriend who “always gets her man.”  All maple trees will be uprooted and dumped just over the border.  All Loons found in the United States or migrating over its airspace will be shot down.  Jim Carrey and Dan Aykroyd will be hunted down and killed for crimes against comedy.

The scourge of Operation Snowback must be stopped before Canada manages to convert the United States into a nation of healthy, peaceful lumberjacks who say “Eh” at the end of every sentence.  Support SAM.  The fate of a great nation hangs in the balance.

Note:  Please don’t make me explain satire.  And be sure to get your copy of L’homme Theroux.  It’s available just about everywhere you can imagine.

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My Neighbor Wants Me in Prison Because I Hate Coons


I am sick to death of L’homme Theroux and ready for a break.  And yet, I’m not.  It came out Sunday to as much fanfare as I could muster, and so far, has been a bigger disappointment than a virgin on her wedding night.  Was Victor Frankenstein this disappointed by his monster?  Sure, it was a monster from the beginning, but it did a wicked Vaudeville routine.images (6)

One of my many faults is that I’m impatient.  But more to the point, I’m demanding; especially of myself.  I realize this whole novel thing takes time and the proverbial runaway bestsellers are notable precisely because they are so infrequent.  As it sits right now, I am not pleased with Thomas Theroux, but he’s going to have another adventure whether he likes it or not.  I’m taking a few days away from him, so he has the chance to make me proud.  In the meantime, I’m going to tell a story…

I consider myself a bit of hippie.  I love the outdoors.  Out in the fields and woods is where I like to spend my time.  Being cooped up inside makes me surly.  My ultimate goal is to have a refrigerator, freezer, and panty full of foodstuffs I created myself.  If you want to see Carlos at his best, toss me an ax and say that we need firewood.  You’ll be up to your ass in cordwood by sundown.  In a similar vein, hand me a rifle and mention the freezer is near empty.  It will be full of protein quickly.  And that horrifies a lot of people.

Depending on your personal feelings, I am either a barbaric, illiterate redneck or an enlightened steward of the environment because my most recently discovered way to spend time outdoors is trapping.  Yes, the evil steel trap in one of its many forms and sizes is my best friend when I square off with my nemesis, Procyon lotor.  The North American Raccoon, or as we call them in the South “coon.”

I hate coons.

If you’ve ever had them get into your trash cans, you probably hate them, too.  I wouldn’t mind so much if they didn’t make the world’s biggest mess in the process, but they throw trash all over the place and then poop in your flower bed to add insult to injury.  Coons are also wasteful.  They will kill a chicken seemingly for fun and not eat it.  The body is just left on the ground with its head missing.

Look at Me.  I'm so Cute.
Look at Me. I’m so Cute.

I’m undecided  whether they are geniuses in fur coats or voracious thieves driven to stupidity.  I wonder because sometimes I outsmart them, and sometimes they outsmart me.  The expression goes that we only catch the dumb ones, but if that were the case, shouldn’t coons be attending college by now?

These sneaky little nocturnal ominous are nature’s con artists.  They have that mask everyone seems to love and have behavior we humans anthropomorphize.  That is how coons trick us.  They pretend to be friendly and docile in exchange for handouts.  They are the animal equivalent of welfare recipients.  Try feeding a family of coons for a few weeks and see how angry they get when you stop the freebies.

Damn Coons
Damn Coons

They’ll run riot across your property like Obama supporters.

Don’t let the cute act fool you.  A snarling, snapping coon charging toward you will get your heart racing.  An angry opossum is more menacing, but they waddle along slow enough that they can be pretty easily outrun.  On a side note, my wife recently chaperoned a field trip to a zoo that had opossums and fell in love with the feel of their fur, so I guess I will have to get over my disdain for the nasty little creatures and skin out a few for her.  The things I will do for my woman.

I'll Hurt You.
I’ll Hurt You.

So one day, I spot my neighbor loading a live-trap into his truck.  Pacing back and forth inside the trap was the biggest boar coon I’ve ever seen.  From three houses down, this thing looked enormous, so I knew it was a big one.  As I drew closer, I began to understand how this monster was kept penned up.  My neighbor had reinforced the trap to keep Mr. Coon from pushing his way out.  Note to self: Good idea because I lose more coons than I keep in a live-trap.

I complimented him on the catch and started in with the small talk hoping to ease my way into a free coon.  I figured if this guy was in it for the pelt, Mr. Coon would be pretty close to room temperature by now.  Just as I was about to ask the Sixty-Four Dollar Question, my neighbor dropped a bomb.

“There’s some sick bastard mutilating cats in the neighborhood.  We found one on the back porch with a bear trap on its leg.  I’ve still got the trap as evidence, and we’ve called the police.  That guy belongs in prison.”

At that point, I knew I was dealing with a moron.  If you trap, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I was also pretty sure that I wasn’t getting my trap back.  My 1 1/2 double long spring had gone missing a few weeks prior.  It had upset me because it was my favorite, and I don’t have many traps, since I only nuisance trap on my own property.  I purposely bait and set my traps to avoid by-catch, so assuming the story is accurate, that cat just had bad luck.

My Favorite Coon.
My Favorite Coon.

My activity was perfectly within the law of that jurisdiction, but since dealing with the authorities is a pain in the ass I would rather avoid (even when I’ve completely in the clear), I didn’t push the issue over a trap that was free in the first place.  Not surprising, my neighbor, Perry Mason that he was, knew with absolute certainly the illegality of my trapping, but failed to understand his plan to relocate his nuisance coon to a public park was illegal as well.  I love people who know exactly what everyone else is doing wrong, but let their stuff slide.  If you want to be Johnny Law, you should keep your nose clean, too.  It’s that whole throwing glass houses thing.

1 1/2 Double Long Spring
1 1/2 Double Long Spring

The point of my neighbor being an ignorant idiot was driven home a second time when he repeated himself a minute later and the cat was now missing a leg from said bear trap that was drug to his porch.  He wasn’t clear on the mechanics of exactly how a device has the ability to both completely amputate a limb and remain attached to be drug somewhere.  Many people (me included) have caught their fingers in traps, both accidentally and on purpose to prove a point.  It won’t even break the skin, much less amputate an appendage.  I began to think I was dealing with someone mentally unbalanced.  Looking back, I think he was.

So, the short version of this story is that I lost my favorite foot-hold trap, lost out on a great pelt, and was indirectly told I should be incarcerated.  The world is full of snitches and bullies.

It’s Good to be the Number Two


Since we are dealing with the subject of sequential siblings, I would like to talk about the first thing first.  I discovered that Mondays are terrible days to make blog posts, so here is yesterday’s, since judging by the stats so far, you probably missed it.  Dirty Talk in the 19th Century examines…well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

Also, L’homme Theroux debutes October 12, 2014.  More details to come.  And now, on to the second thing second.

The second in line of royal succession is definitely the primo spot.  Yes, you still have the same silliness to deal with that any Royal would have.  And I suspect the grooming is similar, but if the Spare Heir doesn’t learn exactly which fork to use or how to bow just right, is it really that big of a deal?  He is more or less going through the motions.  In this day and age, there is very little chance of the Spare Heir being used.  He winds up sitting in the trunk, slowly going flat from benign neglect.

It would take a literal act of God (or a very cleverly orchestrated crash of the family car) for Harry’s ass to ever be rubbed on the English throne.

Both English princes lost out on military assignments they wanted due to their position, although Harry did go to Afghanistan as a Forward Air Controller in Helmand Province before being pulled out after two and a half months (I spent a few days passing through his base during the time he was assigned there.  The little shit never once visited me).  Both the job and the location were fairly risky assignments, so I think that reinforces the point that the Spare Heir is allowed more latitude in what he can do.

As to his brother being a Search and Rescue pilot, my gut tells me William had just as dangerous a job.  Those guys get themselves into some serious trouble on occasion.  Of course, neither was a ground pounder, so my guess is there was at least a little protectiveness going on in their selection of jobs.  Even in combat zones, aviation is a very safe field.  We are what is known as risk averse.

But back to my point of second place being best.  When was the last time you heard of a second child complaining about all the pressure to succeed?  If my family was anywhere near typical, parents put all their hopes and dreams onto the first born.  Assuming that kid doesn’t have to wear a foam helmet or lick the windows of the short bus, the second child has a pretty easy path.

All the hard, foundation work was done by the oldest.  He wore the parents down on getting another car.  He did yeoman’s duty getting curfew pushed back.  The younger kids never get in serious trouble for dancing on a table with their pants down or giving fascist salutes in Germany.  An oldest child would have been in jail because he should have known better and is an example for his younger siblings.  The oldest child always takes the heat for all manner of getting in trouble and breaking down the parents to the point where they cease to care what any of the other kids do, so long as it doesn’t interrupt Dr. Who.

Yeah.  Being the Spare Heir is where it is at.

Dirty Talk in the 19th Century


I’m currently editing L’homme Theroux, as you probably know from my continual babbling.  I am a third done with the first round of edits.  The next step will be to get it out to my Beta readers.  As I slog through this drudgery, two things have occurred to me.  First, is that I do not like editing.  I just finished writing the damn thing, and now, I have to read it?  Crap.

On a side note, I have noticed I like parts I wrote more recently than parts I wrote earlier on.  My suspicion is I have knocked a lot of rust off my skills writing this novel.  Hopefully, as I progress, there will be less rewriting to be done.

The second thing I noticed requires a little background by way of spilling a secret.  I am a writer who reads very little fiction.  However, I read a metric ass-ton of non-fiction on various topics of interest to me.  As I have to sometimes work in areas that prohibit electronic devices, there are days like today where I am left with only old-fashioned, traditionally bound, printed on paper books to while away the hours between bursts of things going haywire.

A friend of mine recently read The Count of Monte Cristo and passed it on to me when he finished.  As an author, I should probably discourage this practice, but I plead a War Zone Exemption.  I am halfway through, so please don’t spoil it.  Despite its antiquated prose style, my knowledge of the basic plot from movies, and halfhearted attempts to read it in school, I thoroughly enjoy the story.

count

With themes such as revenge for wrongs, personal justice, and perseverance when all seems lost, The Count of Monte Cristo appeals to the teenager in me who still feels compelled to read Call of the Wild every few years.  And that got me to thinking about the Young Adult Fiction category again.  I’ve written before about the violence in L’homme Theroux and acceptable limits in Young Adult Fiction, but let me summarize what I have read in the first half of this book.

The Count of Monte Cristo has:

  • Shooting deaths and multiple stabbing deaths
  • Suicide and contemplation of suicide
  • Slavery
  • Drug use, opium and hashish mixed together as sleeping aid (so perhaps it was prescription abuse)
  • Attempted infanticide
  • Mob violence
  • Guillotine deaths
  • Transvestism of a teenage boy (Of course, that was just to lure Albert into his kidnapping)
  • Civil war, usurpation of power, and violent overthrow of government
  • Neglect and abuse by prison officials that would be prosecuted today
  • Sexual innuendo, including flirting at the Roman festival where women taking off their masks is the 19th century equivalent of women flashing their boobs at Mardi Gras in New Orleans

I understand in the context of the novel’s time period and the time it was written, both being pretty much the same, some of these things have a different hue to them than they do to us today.  However, knowing what I do about Victorians, many of the topics listed above were more taboo to them than us, even if the topics were familiar.  Dumas went to pains illustrating why things like suicide, slavery, and infanticide were, while well-known during the time period, just as horrific and outside the bounds of society as they are to us today.

Just for grins, I visited Amazon and found the exact same Bantam Classic edition I am reading (ISBN-10: 0553213504).  The age range is listed as twelve and up.  The grade level is seven and up.  There is no arguing The Count of Monte Cristo is not a classic.  We would not still be reading it and torturing students with it 170 after it was written, if it was not.  And depending on your definition, it was not written by a dead white man, so that should thrill the Liberals.

So, comparing all I’ve listed above with my misgiving about acceptable topics and levels of sex and violence in Young Adult literature, I still come back to my original two guidelines to qualify for the Young Adult category:

  1. The protagonist is the same demographic as the reading audience.
  2. The reader has to be able to see himself in the character.

These two are really the only constants I have be able to figure out.  I’ve wracked my brain and spilled a lot of ink over this subject, and these are the best I can come up with?  There has to be more.  This cannot be all there is to it.  Will someone please set me straight?  I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something really important in what is very likely my oversimplified view of this subject.

Ice Bucket Bullies


Thankfully, the juggernaut that is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has lost its momentum in under thirty days. It lasted less time than Zuit Suits, flagpole sitting, or the Pet Rock craze.  On the upside, it caught on far better than my pathetic attempt to raise awareness for Testicular Cancer with the Moose Knuckle Challenge.

As far as fads go, if you measure by longevity, I’m not even sure the Ice Buck Challenge should qualify.  Is there a minimum time mob hysteria must last before it transitions from simple stupidity to actual lightening in a bottle?  I fervently hope the various ALS charities had the foresight to annuitize the millions and millions of dollars they have raked in this month because they will soon return to being an orphan disease with a monthly income slightly above the federal poverty level for a family of six.

If this does not qualify for a “Windfall Tax” similar to what Democrats would like to impose on for-profit companies, the word “windfall” should be immediately redacted from every dictionary in existence because it has lost all meaning.

My vitriol is neither for those who suffer the disease nor those who must watch an ALS patient atrophy and eventually drown on their own saliva.  Watching a loved one slowly die over the course of years is terrible.  I reserve my venom for the behavior of their “supporters.”

A special note about Anthony Carbajal, the “I’m the Face of ALS” guy who in addition to suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease takes care of his mother with ALS:  You crossed the line into “supporter” when you hit the “post” button on YouTube.

I was tricked into watching his video because it came back as a result while searching for “white t-shirt ice bucket challenge.”  Despite my initial disappointment at Mr. Carbajal interrupting the nipple-fest, I enjoyed his satire.  However, my empathy for him ended the instant he began blubbering like a little girl.

I get that he is scared nearly out of his mind.  Men can be scared.  They may even cry in private, on occasion, but to make memorial his emotional breakdown for the world to see is the height of manipulation.

Women and children cry to get their way.  Men don’t.  Turn in your Man Card immediately, you pussy.

There is a no more enthusiastic apostle than a convert.  Those caught up in the Ice Bucket Challenge hysteria have been duped into the Church of Awareness.  Posting their Ice Bucket Challenge on social media is baptism into the faith, after which, they immediately search out non-believers to convert, extort money from, or both.  Those who do not succumb to the peer pressure are bullied by their former friends, who have chosen the Cult of Socially Aware Philanthropy over them.

Cult leaders such as David Koresh, Charles Manson, and Jim Jones knew all too well how cult conversion works.  Vulnerable people who have suffered loss and are looking to fill a void within themselves are prime recruits for groups looking to exploit them. The recruits gladly participate in silly (and occasionally dangerous) rituals to gain inclusion and acceptance of the group.  They also turn over resources to the group in the forms of money, property, and labor.

Part of the indoctrination is isolation. At least, isolation from those not already in the cult.  On declination of friends and family to join the wonderful new world of the initiate, old friends and previous family are discarded.  Parents will never again see children, spouses never again see each other, and friends will be shunted to the side.

After ritual participation and acceptance comes spreading the message.  New initiates appeal to logic and the desire for a better world to bring in the next crop, sort of a religious cult Multi-Level Marketing scheme.  When those appeals fail, the proselytes resort to bullying, strong-arm tactics, and guilt to manipulate the non-believers into participation.

Am I the only one who sees the similarities?

Vehement attacks have been leveled against people whom, for various reasons, decline to participate. They are promptly made pariahs.  Fellow WordPress blogger CindyPRN, who dared decline diverting dedicated donations to her already established charities and participation in the indoctrination ritual, received hate mail on her blog demanding to know why she would not donate to ALS research.

Kendall Breitman, writing for Politico, published a piece publicly outing Ice Bucket Challenge Haters, all of whom took far more principled stances on their objections than any of my aversions.  In a Washington Post piece, Caitlin Dewey wrote,

“Hey haters, this might annoy the heck out of you every time you log into Facebook or Vine … but it’s producing actual results for organizations battling a crippling neurodegenerative disease.”

She is absolutely correct.  The website for Time reports ALS donations topping $100 million.  Now, let’s see these same organizations produce results of their own.  How many millions of dollars would Ms. Dewey like to see spent before we throw in the towel on this one?

On my first exposure to the Ice Bucket Challenge, I wrote it off as another internet phenomenon for various attention seekers; celebrities, insecure women wearing white T-shirts, and internet slacktavists who want to assuage their guilt with minimal effort.  It has grown beyond that.  It has become a vehicle for cyber bullying, emotional manipulation, and public cries for attention.  The good news for those who mindlessly go along with whatever is cool and popular is it gives these assholes another cause for which to raise awareness.

I Caught the Epilepsy Over Labor Day Weekend


As I wrote the last chapter of L’homme Theroux, I realized it was missing a couple of subplots that would fully flesh it out.  Essentially, I begin a subplot originally slated for Little Crow’s War, the second book, in L’homme Theroux.  It gives an important character time to develop more fully (and more time for me to torture her).

The second subplot was accidental.  Neither it nor the new characters were in the outline.  I added them as an afterthought as I wrote the first scene in which they appeared.  As I neared the end of the book, their potential was clear.  These two chicks became real important real fast, and now I will to have to see how they may or may not fit into the second book.  It is like discovering a branch of the family you didn’t know existed a week before Halloween and having to rearrange Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I’m unsure at this point what will become of these girls, but I like them.  I like them as much as the character I had to kill off.

And that is what has been giving me fits all weekend.  I had to go back and develop these two as fully fledged characters when I realized their importance.  The last thing I want is a one-dimensional character, and to understand their actions later in the book requires them demonstrating why they are the way they are.  All of which has me reconsidering previous thoughts.

For some time, I have been wrestling with the concept of what makes a Young Adult novel and what are the acceptable levels of violence (and to a lesser degree, sex).  As near as I can tell, opinions are all over the board and no two are quite the same.  Everyone has their limits, and I come away reminded of an old expression;

“Anyone kinkier than I am is a pervert.”

And I think that is the real issue.  We measure the world with ourselves as the standard.  Everyone is their own yardstick.  That’s great for the “We Are The World” types, but I prefer to have some hard-and-fast rules to break and strict guidelines to violate.  How in the world can I be out of bounds when everyone in the stadium keeps re-chalking the field?

My two big take-aways for what qualifies as Young Adult fiction are:

1)  The protagonist is the same demographic as your audience – I understand that adults, whatever age that now begins due to extended adolescence, frequently read Young Adult literature.  They are free to do it, but I don’t see the attraction.  Then again, I can find things to bitch about in a Ken Burns documentary.  Ultimately, the main character should be somewhere in his teen years, old enough to have a certain clarity in perception of the world, but still be mightily confused and finding his place in it.

2)  The reader has to be able to see himself in the character – I suspect this is why the list of acceptable topics in Young Adult literature is so broad.  Violence, sex, drug abuse, human trafficking, incest, bullies, molestation, etc., etc. are topics a teen either faces, could face, would like to face, or knows someone else who does.  It also explains my childhood reading habits.

With the above in mind, I am reasonably confident as long as my characters are roughly the same age as my readers, and those readers can easily see themselves as the protagonist, I am safe writing just about anything.  Which as a parent is a little disconcerting since that renders the Young Adult label virtually useless as a tool for exercising good judgment regarding suitability for my children.

Big Trouble in River City


So, let me get this right.  I drop a quarter into the Zoltar Fortune Machine and the next morning, I’m back as a twelve-year-old?  I can imagine how many bloggers will absolutely hate that idea; especially, the women.  Mostly, because they probably felt awkward, unpopular, and picked on as children.  I have to admit schadenfreude, but I am looking forward to what I think will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth as the responses to this prompt pile up.

Like everyone else, I was picked on at times and as far as I remember, was never cool or popular.  I regularly embarrassed myself by saying and doing stupid things.  I failed miserably many times, but for reasons I still don’t understand, I kept coming back for more.  I’m hard-headed like that.

The prompt wasn’t specific, so I’m going to make a couple of assumptions:  1) I’m in the same body I was at twelve.  2) Same school, same home, and same parents.  But I’m not sure that matters much.  3) Since the prompt did not mention time travel, the year is 2014.  This will matter greatly.

My response to suddenly being my twelve-year-old self in 2014 with the benefit of a quarter century of life experience?

Lock up your daughters.

Lock up you wife.

Lock up your backdoor

and run for your life.

I suspect my mother supplemented my breast feedings as an infant with steroids, because I developed early.  I don’t think she supplemented me at all for the breast feedings past infancy.  The other kids in school would have said something.  Right?

At twelve, I was six feet tall (with another two inches to go, as it turned out) and a smidgen over 200 pounds.  I wasn’t as muscular as I am now.  I was strong and athletic, but clumsy as a newborn moose.  I towered over all of my classmates and most of my teachers.  I learned quickly that physicality and athleticism is one very effective way to navigate middle school.

A good analogy is prison.  The first order of business is to establish your bona fides by pummeling the living hell out of someone.  Preferably, someone bigger than you and with whom you have no beef.  Yes, there may be consequences from the various levels of authorities, but I guarantee you will only have to do it once because word travels fast.  Big Brother is not everywhere and a sufficiently thorough thrashing turns people into John Banner saying, “I know NOTHING, Hogan.”

Having established social dominance (and let’s be honest, even being led away in handcuffs, the goal would be accomplished), I would go about gathering my harem.  Now, according to my wife and mother, assuming they are telling the truth, I was a good looking kid.  I have seen the pictures of me from that age and I do not disagree.  My problem at twelve was that I was unaware of the fact.  So, combine a good looking middle schooler who is able to draw upon my experience…ahem, wooing women?  I would do well.

When I was growing up, I firmly believed that my parents were Asian because they believed in the Korean Grading Scale:

A – Average

B – Below average

C – Can’t have dinner

D – Don’t come home

F – Find another family

Luckily, I have never found academics terribly difficult or challenging, so I wouldn’t study any harder than I did.  I might hit the math a little more, but overall, my grades were mostly B’s because that was the sweet spot of blurring through the work as fast as possible and keeping my parents mostly off my back about grades.

I figured out in college that C’s got degrees, which was never explained to me as a child.  I was that jackass most people disliked because for half of my classes, I showed up the first day and on test days.  I also completed just enough of the test to earn the grade I desired and left the rest blank.  I once refused to do a project that was worth a quarter of the overall grade because I had earned sufficient points for the semester to get my C without it.  The professor was quite miffed when I pointed out the syllabus specified grades were on an accumulation basis and nowhere did it say the project was mandatory.

What can I say?  Over seventy is over kill.  And my attitude as a tween wasn’t much better.  That is probably why I am suffering the Mother’s Curse.

But the big thing I would do would be to not take life or myself as seriously as I did.  I would cut class more often.  Instead of experimenting with beer, I would refined my palate on Scotch.  And even though I was a voracious reader, I would read even more.  Twelve was also about the age I began writing.  I would definitely write more.  How much could I have written had I applied the discipline I have now?

I would spread the word that there is no such thing as a “permanent record.”  The closest thing we have to that is the internet.  I would also tell my grandmother I loved her more often.  She died when I was twelve.  But now, I’m changing the rules to allow for time travel.