So that happened…


The time has come. The Miami Face Eater has clarified the situation. It’s time to piece together the Zombiepocalypse team and craft the game plan.

Am I overreacting? A naked man was spotted eating the face off another naked man in Miami. A cop shot him, and he just looked up and “continued chewing.” Continued chewing another man’s face flesh.

Now, the victim survived. A lot of people were surprised that he was alive during the face eating, but not me, because zombies do not eat dead people. And, I hate to be insensitive – seriously, I do! – but I hope the survivor was restrained once hospitalized so that whatever was left of his face wasn’t able to bite anyone else.

Also, there was a cyclist who tried to separate the two. Has anyone checked that guy for bite marks?

Meanwhile, let’s all get to high ground, or head to a colder climate. And, we need to cobble together the team.

George and Riley – duh. Who else would bother to save my ass?

I’ve kicked around grabbing my brother Buddha, who’s super handy with a cross bow and is most likely to be able to hunt and then know how to generate food from the dead animal than anyone I know. On the downside, he is the loudest person alive. There’s just no whisper setting on that guy.

Also, I need to get to Vermont to grab my brother-in-law Jeff. Eagle Scout – that’s got to come in handy. Of course, he’ll insist on bringing his family, so let’s weigh the pros and cons. Cons: his daughters eat more than several full grown men. Pros: they’re very small, even for small children, and could easily scurry up trees to keep an eye out. His wife, my sister, is a massage therapist – so, basically, always welcome. Plus, that’s about as close to a medical person as we’ll have. Of course, Buddha’s a paramedic. Jesus, can we just get that guy to put a cork in it!

And Liam Neeson. Obviously.

George recommends Bruce Campbell. He’s put on some pounds, but he has the experience we’re looking for. Nice one, honey. Oh, and Woody Harrelson.

I draw the line at Sammy Haggar.

So that happened….

Road Trip!

Around this time last year, Riley announced plans for a road trip with his band. Not a set of gigs or anything. The group was going to pile into a van and drive to North Caroline to see my brother Buddha, stopping along the way to camp.

Five teens load up a van and take a trip into the Deep South. I have seen this movie. It does not end well.

I’m not a camper by nature, nor am I especially comfortable in the south. Or the outdoors, to be honest. I’m not even sure I like vans. Wisely, Riley waited until all other members of the band got their parents’ OK before springing this waiting, bloody disaster on me.

Surely to most people – George, for instance – a summer road trip with buddies seems like the most natural and fun thing to do with some free time. See the world! Bond with friends! Camp! So again, wisely, Riley told us together.

What is it these humans don’t understand? Have they not seen Cabin in the Woods? Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Wrong Turn? The Hills Have Eyes? These films offer the kind of education I believe we should all take into account before planning any adventure.

I wasn’t thrilled.

Lucky for me, Riley would be the handsome leading man, meaning he’d likely survive to tell the tale. I’d hate to be the comic relief sidekick, and God help the underage girls!

They mapped out their destination, got the car tuned up, carried a AAA card for emergencies. All they needed was camping equipment, which my friend Christie kindly supplied. She lent them tents, chairs, a lantern and other recreational whatnot. What she did not provide was the know-how to use the equipment.

Unlike his mother, Riley is not afraid of the woods or strangers or animals or the dark or the south. He would realize, though, that like his mother, he does not care for camping. Terror aside, camping totally blows. You work really hard to provide all you need for a good night’s sleep, only to find that tents don’t suit anyone over 5 foot 5, they leak if you don’t know how to properly set them up, and a sleeping bag on a tent floor over ground is exactly as comfortable as it sounds.

Plus, bugs.

He also learned that getting lost at night on country roads that offer no streetlights, no helpful gas station attendants, and no cell phone reception really is scary – even if there are no inbred cannibals in the vicinity. (Not that you’d know until it was too late!)

Eventually they made it to my brother’s house and spent a day with Buddha and his son in what amounts to my version of a nightmare. 

He has several acres about a mile from any road, about 30 miles from any town. There are woods, fields and swamps on his land, which lend themselves to bears, gators, backwoodsmen, and naturally, bugs. I’m not sure how many of those creatures actually infest the property, but my nephew did once hit a bear with his car, so at least we’re sure one manner of carnivore lives there.

Still, Riley and crew had a lovely time in Ivanhoe, North Caroline. They fished, went to the beach, visited a creepy store (like the one in the Chuck Connors flick Tourist Trap, I assume), ate a lovely meal, did not die, and headed back toward Ohio.

They made it home safely – tired and slightly sunburned, but healthy enough. The only casualty turned out to be Riley’s driving record: he got a speeding ticket somewhere around West Virginia.

The one thing I forgot to worry about.

So that happened…


Honestly Officer, my dad did it!

My next door neighbors in Tiffin were the sainted Celinda and her two smashing sons, Michael and Timothy. My extended family – aunts, cousins, whatnot – literally refer to her as Saint Celinda. This is perhaps due to her unreasonably calm response to the theft of her sons’ bicycles at the hands of two of my visiting cousins, but really, there are countless other reasons.

Had Celinda been a true-born Madden girl, she’d be situated between my brother Buddha and sister Ellen. But this small, olive-skinned Italian girl in the middle of giant, pasty-faced Irishmen was never going to pass as a Madden. I suspect this disappointed my parents.

Long after the genetic Madden kids had split town, Celinda and the boys were looking after our dad. Timothy and Michael shoveled his walk, mowed his lawn, and put up his Christmas tree. Celinda popped in every few days to make sure the man was still alive. 

I know this makes him seem like a decrepit and ancient fellow, but indeed, he was in his sixties at the time and capable of surviving if not thriving on his own. He was just too lazy and too fond of being looked after to do it.

So how did he return the favor? He stole her newspaper, dropped in unannounced for dinner, burned down her kitchen, and on at least one occasion he snuck a peek at her in her underwear. Yet he was surprisingly endearing through it all. 

Though Celinda has long been one of my dearest friends, I started off as her babysitter. Sure, there were “better” babysitters. Some “quality” caregivers learn CPR, read aloud, plan craft projects, prepare the occasional vegetable. But that’s not my bag.

About once a month I’d spend my full week’s wages to take the boys to Pizza Hut and a movie – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or the sequel, Big Top Pee Wee, for example. You know – the classics. Otherwise, our schedule was pretty consistent: all morning we watched cartoons; most afternoons we watched bad, syndicated sit-coms; all evening we watched movies. 

Some afternoons we’d take a break from Charles In Charge to play. Playtime is important in the development of the youth. We generally developed by pretending we were Transformers or Ghostbusters or Thundercats.

The latter often stirred up controversy because Timothy thought I should be Cheetara, the sole female Thundercat, but I insisted on being mighty Lion-O. I think, secretly, Tim hoped to be Lion-O rather than always getting stuck playing Snarf.

Characteristically, Michael settled on playing the wise, soft spoken Panthro. If they were smarter, the Thundercats would have made Panthro their leader instead of that showboat Lion-O. I believe it was just that weakness that always gave evil Mum-Ra the upper hand, my friends.

Back to the story. It was, indeed, while I was “babysitting” that my dad set Celinda’s kitchen on fire.

I had a hand in it. I had turned on the wrong burner on the stove. Rather than heating up the canned ravioli I’d planned for the boys’ lunch, I heated up last night’s hamburger grease on the skillet on the back burner, which caught fire. 

It was quite spectacular, but entirely controllable. I turned off the back burner and went to the cupboard to find something to douse the flame – baking soda, flour, something like that. In the meantime, I sent the boys to my house next door, just to be safe. Naturally, they told my parents about the fire.

In burst my dad. Cursing under his breath at my clear, perhaps criminal incompetence, he rushed to the sink and began filling a pot with water.

“It’s a grease fire, Dad,” I called from the pantry.


“It’s a grease fire, Dad!”

He continued filling the pot. Then he turned off the faucet and moved, pot in hand, toward the flame.

“DAD! It’s a GREASE FIRE!!” 

No good. My dad’s deaf. 

So, water hit the flame, which rolled up the wall behind the oven, taking out the curtain over the adjacent sink then fanning about a third of the way across the ceiling before burning itself out.

 And still they mowed his lawn.

So, you see, Saint Celinda.