So that happened…

Cot Troubles

We drove to the Land of Cleve Tuesday to watch a 62-year-old make dozens of thousands of Ohioans look like anemic, easily exhausted old people. Bruce Springsteen puts on an impressive show, that’s all I’m saying.

We were lucky to get tickets, but it appears we were luckier to get a room.

We had splurged a bit on our scalped and excellent seats, and we fully intended to drop some cash on souvenirs (one tee apiece, plus a shirt and set of guitar picks for The Boy, who couldn’t come because, well, we didn’t get him a ticket). Plus there’d be food and, let’s be honest, beverages aplenty. We decided there was no need to pay up for an expensive room as well, so we booked at the Red Roof Inn by the airport.

So, apparently, did about a million middle aged softball players.

We hadn’t been aware of what appeared to be a tournament of every all-male fiftysomething team in the state, so it’s just blind luck that we check in prior to the show. When we saw the hand written sign taped to the door post-concert, we were glad we had.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, your reservation may not guarantee a room.

It makes you wonder how they define “reservation.”

But we didn’t care because we’d already check in, so unless they’d decided to share our room against our will with a couple of balding shortstops and a pot bellied catcher, we were fine. Except that somehow we’d lost our room key and needed a replacement.

I mentioned the beverages?

The late night line at the check in counter was lengthy and unpleasant. Another handwritten sign reminded would-be guests that “reserved” means something totally different under the Red Roof, but by now the grumbling sleepyheads understood they weren’t getting a room.

One guy, though, who was lucky enough to have a room, wanted more. He wanted a cot, and the clerk was running out of different ways to say “we don’t have any.”  

“But I just need a cot.”

“Yeah, we don’t have any.”

Repeat six times.

Finally, after the clerk had resulted to puppet show and interpretive dance, the man slinked away, still cotless.

The clerk turned his attention to George.

Their eyes met. The air grew thick with anticipation as each man knew what was to come.  Fate had given George a gift, and he could not refuse it. The moment was so perfect that future generations of hotel clerks will speak of it with grudging respect.

“Can I help you?”

“Do you have any cots?”

And that, kids, is how one room almost became suddenly available!

So that happened…

Bearded Ladies and Drunks in Bars

As far as I can tell, there are three undeniable truths in life.

  1. Kids are stupid.
  2. Boys smell bad.
  3. Weird things happen when you sit near the restroom in bars.

Here’s a tale to exemplify Point 3.

George and I were out recently, minding our bees wax and drinking a beer at a neighborhood establishment when a fellow imbiber stumbled toward the ladies room. Sure that was not the spot he wanted, George hollered after him: “Hey, that’s the ladies’.”

The fully bearded human turned around to respond, “I am a woman,” and then entered the ladies room.

We sat in astonished silence for a minute, and then commenced drinking.

Soon enough, Beardy McClearlyaman emerged from the restroom and meandered over to our table.

“A hole’s a hole, right?” he said.

“Just keep walking,” George responded.

“But I wasn’t walking,” Beardy said, clearly baffled.

“Then please do,” I piped up.

The guy stood there, confused and staring, then laughed, “Oh, right,” and stumbled off.

I swear to God this happened.

I don’t even want to talk about the guy who kicked the door open and shouted, still standing in the bar, “It’s shittin’ time, fellas!”

Although maybe that was like a public service announcement, I don’t know.

Scary movie blog

Happy Friday the 13th!

To celebrate, I sat down to a marathon event of all twelve episodes of the summer camp slashers because I have a tragic and time consuming weakness.

This iconic villain has been whored out so many times since he burst from the lake in the last moments of the 1980 flick that the real task over the years has been finding new and interesting ways to exploit him.

For instance:

Friday the 13th (1980): The first installment boasted the quirky, over-the-top Tom Savini FX that gave you something to look at beyond the revolving door of shrieking, dying knuckleheads. It gets points for almost engineering a genre on its own. Although it lifted entire scenes from Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood, and there were several slashers prior to this film, its epic popularity dialed the slasher genre up to eleven. Also, of course, is the outstanding Kevin Bacon death scene. (Kevin Bacon Death Scene – I love them! I think I saw them open for Skinny Puppy in ’88.)

Friday the 13th Part II (1981): Gone is the novelty of the grief crazed mother, replaced by the far more potent (franchise-wise) image of an unstoppable killer in Jason Voorhees. Wearing a burlap sack over his deformed face, the now fully grown Jason finishes off the last survivor of the original, shows a loving affection for his mother’s disembodied head, and kills everyone at the reopened camp except for Ginny, who – in huge cop out fashion – awakens in an ambulance without explanation as to how she made it out of that barn alive. Lame.

Friday the 13th Part III (1982): The first of the series’ many “final installments,” Episode 3 is mostly famous for introducing the iconic hockey mask. An annoying young woman is trying to recover from an earlier attack; meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, Jason is recovering from Part II’s injuries in her barn. Jason smooshes a guy’s head so his eye pops out – in 3D! The film ends with an unsatisfying dream sequence followed by the sighting of Jason’s dead body. So, clearly, he’s gone for good. Whew!

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984): Would that it were. This second attempt to end the franchise inadvertently begins what I like to call the Tommy Trilogy. Part 4 also sees Crispin Glover (professional oddball and Back to the Future’s George McFly) get laid (and, then, of course, get a meat cleaver to the face). Later, Eighties icon Corey Feldman chops Jason Voorhees to pieces. Feldman plays Tommy, and Tommy just chops and chops and chops. Chop him up good, Tommy! Not that it will help.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985): A profitable franchise, like an unstoppable murdering machine, is hard to kill. Since that last installment left little possibility for Jason’s survival, but so much more money to be made, the unavoidable 5th installment had to come up with something novel. So, we open on a dream sequence that has Jason’s killer Tommy witness Jason’s graveyard resurrection. But that’s too nutty – surely that didn’t happen! No, instead we get a copycat Jason slaughtering teens in a halfway house. Yawn.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986): Tommy – remember him, he chopped Jason to bits in episode 4 then went to a halfway house in episode 5 after dreaming that Jason could be brought back from the grave? He does the unimaginably stupid and brings Jason back from the grave. The local sheriff deems Tommy nuts, tries to jail him, tries to run him out of town, then is bent in two by Jason as he realizes he’d perhaps judged Tommy too harshly. Dumb as it sounds, this one actually feels smarter than all previous films – self referential, even comical.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988): By the late Eighties it was impossible to keep each one straight, and yet the most famous Jason doesn’t enter the picture until this 7th installment: fan favorite Kane Hodder. Hodder’s Jason is released from his lake prison by a confused telekinetic. Think of it overall as a kind of Carrie vs Jason. Terry Kiser (Bernie from Weekend At .. fame) plays a total dick of a doctor. A lot of weird shit happens in this one.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989): We were all so tired of Jason by 1989. So tired. So writer/director Rob Hedden decided to freshen things up by leaving Crystal Lake behind and spending an interminable amount of time on a row boat, a big boat, on docks and in sewers in an attempt to make a comment on the ugly modern times in New York. Except that we see almost no NYC, Jason barely comes into contact with New Yorkers, and the end sees him melt down into a frightened little boy. What the hell?

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993): Speaking of hell. So Jason’s a demon by this point, killed in an FBI sting – blown to bits, regardless of what happened to him in the last installment. Unfortunately his black heart keeps beating, and he slides from one poorly drawn character into another while some nonsense about his bloodline and a mystical dagger is bandied about. Things get nutty in this one, I won’t lie to you. And it ends with Freddy Krueger laughing.

Jason X (2002): He’s been to hell. Where to now? How about deep space? Well, there is a difference between quality bad and worthless crap, and this movie plain old sucks. The great David Cronenberg plays the mad scientist who cryogenically freezes Jason Voorhees. Flash forward 453 years, and the frozen carcass is found, brought aboard New Earth’s space craft, and Jason Meets Aliens unspools.

Freddy vs Jason (2003): At long last! Here’s the skinny: Freddy can’t hurt anyone if he’s forgotten, so he (somehow) brings Jason back from the dead and sends him to Elm St. to carve up some youngsters, knowing that the carnage will revive the town’s memory of the old nightmare killer. The memories make Freddy strong enough to kill again, but now Jason won’t get off his turf, so they have to duke it out. Some highly augmented and imaginative teens piece this puzzle together and hope to find a way to finish both monsters off for good. Will they succeed? Does it matter? And who will win this battle between the iconic bloodletters? With a little fresh blood spilling from these tired old veins, don’t we all win, really? 

Friday the 13th (2009): Unfortunately, Freddy V Jason wasn’t the capper. Not a remake at all, 2009’s Friday the 13th is just another sequel. For the most part, you get what you should, by now, expect: drinkers, sluts, jocks and drug users die; quirky, eternally single ethnic friends brought along for comic relief die; disposable youth mostly fall victim to hatchets to the back, machetes to the skull. There’s also a return to the old “boobs a’bouncing” school of slashers. (This bouncing usually takes place just prior to a hatchet to the back or a machete to the skull.) In fact, there seem to be no tired formulas the film is wary to trot out. It’s as if Jason pulled out the Way Back Machine to revisit the land of 80s horror film cliches. Too bad he didn’t stay there.

So that happened…

Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants

It’s 11:45 pm on Monday night. I’m dozing off. Then, I’m awake! Why? Because someone is apparently having a traumatic, extremely loud telephone breakup underneath my bedroom window.

I assume, as is my way, that it’s some hyperdramatic teenage girl bawling into her iPhone about some imagined slight. Because, as you know, kids are stupid. But my prediction is off. The ruckus comes from a fully grown woman, pacing up and down the alley behind my house, yelling loudly enough into her phone to keep me wide awake. 

And she doesn’t even have the courtesy to be articulate. I can’t understand a damn word she’s sobbing into her phone. If you’re going to keep me awake, at least be eaves droppable!

It would be one thing if she would move in a single direction. Sure, my neighbors and I would all be roused, but we could quickly drift back to sleep were it not for her circle back approach. It’s loud, it’s loud, it’s less loud, it’s even less loud, it’s quiet, it’s growing louder again, she’s screaming shaky voiced and weeping under my bedroom window again.

I hate to kick a sobbing woman when she’s down, but honestly, enough is efuckingnough. My next door neighbor has three kids under the age of 5. There’s a 4-year-old on the other side of the alley, a 4th grader next to him. Basically, her stomping and screaming ground runs back and forth outside the bedrooms of many, many sleeping kids and working parents.

Which has nothing to do with anything because, let’s be honest, I like my sleepytime and she is disrupting it.

So, I muster up my energy and send George out to deal with her.

“Hey, be quiet!” George hollers with noticeable sympathy out the window toward the pacing wailer.

“Fuck you! Oh, great! Fuck you!” she elegantly answers.

“Shut your mouth or I’ll call the cops,” he responds. Nice! That’s my honey bunch!

So two great things are accomplished this Monday night. One: I finally go to sleep. Two: we are officially the neighborhood’s “Hey you kids, get off my Goddamn lawn!” couple.




So that happened…


I am planning a heist.

I uncovered valuables at lunch yesterday, valuables that are kept unguarded in my very home. My husband George has more than 900 points on his Subway card.

George and I appreciate a little Subway at lunchtime on Saturdays. The branch we visit sits right across Northwest Boulevard from the Chipotle where we eat dinner about three days a week. Our house has no kitchen at all.

Well, it does, but you’ll find a lot of cobwebs there. And pop tarts.

How lucky for us all that Columbus is the fast food capital of the world!

Two weeks ago we stopped by our favorite Subway location, and a new guy was working. Our new favorite Subway guy. Sure, we love Ben, the Cavs fan who looks like Brad Paisley. But this new guy, he made subs that looked like the advertisements. Delicious, filling subs overflowing with meat and vegetables, toasted perfectly. Big. 

And then, like a dream, he vanished. We haven’t seen him since. George lunches at Subway sometimes on weekdays, but since the dream Sandwich Artist hasn’t returned, I’d lost interest until I realized how many points George’s lunchtime visits had accrued. Yesterday I overheard the cashier remark with amazement about George’s collection of Subway points. How exciting!

“Did we just get lunch for free, then?” I inquired.

“No,” he answered. “I just paid cash.”

I was confused. What was the purpose of collecting enough Subway points to make a cashier gasp – and of denying me my beloved beans and rice – if not to save money on toasted cold cut sandwiches?

“I just like collecting them,” George explained.

It’s like he’s George Clooney in Up in the Air, hoarding those frequent flier miles: “Let’s just say I have a number in mind.”

“But you have so many,” I said, dismayed.

“Yeah, we could probably eat free for a month!” he said excitedly. “But I’d rather collect more.” He said this as if it were in any way sensible.

It was like the time he and our son Riley began collecting Star Wars cans. 

Back around the time George Lucas was ruining memories from my childhood by releasing the craptastic Episodes 1 – 3, Pepsi began issuing collectible cans with character faces on them. I alone put away more than enough Diet Pepsi to quickly seize Queen Amidala and C3PO, but what then? How were we to gather the coveted Jar Jar, Darth Maul or Chancellor Valorum – and why do I let people who care live in my house? Surely we’re not going to start buying Pepsi and Mountain Dew just to fill out this collection of empty cans, right?

Correct. Instead, both my boys rummaged through gas station trash cans to bring home the precious, discarded Mountain Dew and Pepsi cans that would complete their set, which still sits proudly in our basement. Well, some people are proud of it.

We won’t even talk about how I’d have to empty my pockets daily while they searched for missing states to fulfill their quarter collection. How, exactly, was I supposed to pay for the pop to satisfy their can collection if they kept taking all my quarters?

 But here’s the difference between this Subway point collection and those others: I want something out of it.

 Sure, sure. I love my chicken burritos, but let’s be clear: my favorite flavor is free.

 Plus, I can’t eat meat on Fridays and meatless Chipotle is just bean dip.

 No, obviously I must steal George’s Subway card and fill my belly with free processed meat deliciousness.

All I need now is a tiny Chinese acrobat, a bomb specialist, and Brad Pitt.

Oh, and I also need a plan to get that Subway card.

So that happened…



Last night George ran past Pierce Field, the big park less than a block from our house where we spent hundreds of hours over the years watching and coaching baseball. A high school JV game was finishing up. Someone got a little teary with nostalgia. It wasn’t me.

It’s true that, although our little slugger Riley is now a college freshman, we still find ourselves drawn to that diamond. Seeing the kids out again this spring in their still-clean uniforms stirs something sentimental in George.

It reminded me of that entire season that Riley neglected to bring home his baseball socks for laundering, wearing the same nasty pair again and again until they ran off on their own to raise an army of filthy boy clothes dedicated to evil.

George assistant coached with his friends Bill and Dan for little league in spring, a summer league at Ohio State, and a fall travel team. For years on end, about 11 boys and their families committed to seeing each other basically every single day from spring thaw to winter’s first snow. Luckily, they’re all very nice – or at least entirely tolerable – people.

Except this one dad who drove us insane year after year.

But aside from that guy, we became a unit.

I can’t define for sure their opinion of me. They’re tolerant, anyway.

I accidentally took the entire team to a mildly inappropriate film on one occasion (that their parents know of), and I never once volunteered to work the concession stand. That second thing, friends, is the mark of a bad baseball parent.

We had a few catastrophes over the years. There was that game George was nearly tossed for his sass mouth, for example.

And the time Riley took a pitch to the hand, breaking his finger. I had to restrain my oldest sister from rushing the field to aid her suffering nephew.

She did blow kisses to my pre-teen hitter, sitting in the dugout, though. I kid you not. Whether or not Riley was kidded is another matter.

We earned a handful of championships over the years to offset the traumas, though, and shared a lot of sun block, bug spray, and juice boxes. And thanks to Kyle’s mom Beth, we always knew the inning, score, and whereabouts of the next game.

It often felt like there would always be a next game, as little league turned into middle school turned into high school. Riley even umped for a few summers.

George really misses it. How can I tell? Because he just bought wiffle balls and bats for our nieces, ages 4 and 7, who’ll come for a visit this summer. No doubt he’ll have them set up with uniforms, cleats and gloves by the time they actually get here in July. “Vivian’s a lefty!” you can hear him exclaim from time to time.

I miss it, too. But to be honest, this whole meandering down memory lane has done more to fill me with dread over the potentially filthy situation with Riley’s socks than anything.

So that happened…

Dad’s Gadgets

I was in Radio Shack recently. I didn’t know they were still in business, actually. I was looking for a digital audio recorder for my brother, and I’d been underwhelmed by Target’s offerings. As a general rule, if I can’t find what I want at Target, I go without. I’m not what you’d call a strong shopper. But on this day I remembered my dad’s old haunt Radio Shack and figured they would likely have the wares I needed.

And amid their low-priced, knock off brand electronics I did, indeed, find a recorder that fit the bill. But that walk down brightly lit aisles brought me more than just an adequate gift for my brother; it brought one particular memory rushing loudly to my brain.

Dad, who loved Radio Shack almost as much as any local Catholic church or that donut shop in downtown Tiffin, frequently picked up bargain bin gadgets. On one shopping adventure he nabbed two items he felt would help him notice when the phone rang.

Dad wore two hearing aids and rarely heard the phone, even with the bell turned all the way up. Late in his life he took to randomly picking up the receiver to see if anyone was there. That’s how you’d get in touch with him: let the phone ring 40 or 50 times in the hopes that he’d be meandering past his end table and decide to chance it. How he expected to hear the conversation on the odd occasion that someone happened to be on the line was a mystery. His concern was how to know it was ringing.

One night, while I was still living at home and working at a nearby restaurant, I’d gone to bed somewhat early. Dad wasn’t home – he’d gone to Toledo to visit my sister.

In the pitch black I was shocked from slumber by the loudest ringing ever heard outside the tower at the Notre Dame cathedral.


I bolted upright, which made me a tad dizzy as I woozily grappled with what had just happened.


You know, because the phone rings every few seconds until someone answers. I hadn’t yet pieced it together in my sleep addled brain, but by that second ring I realized it must be the phone, or some phone-like monster nearby. There were no extensions upstairs, so I tore clumsily out of my bed in an attempt to make it to the first floor before that insane sound returned.

I fumbled down the dark hall, nearly fell headlong down the stairs, and hit the landing just as the phone rang again.

I fell over completely at that point, fairly certain I was simply having a seizure. Maybe there was no ringing at all. Maybe something was eating through my brain.

In the pitch black of the living room, the ear splitting bell was accompanied by a rapid fire flashing light.

He’d purchased – without mentioning it to me – not only an enormous, wall mounted speaker to attach to his phone, but also a large strobe light.  

By the time I recovered enough to answer the damn thing, it had stopped ringing.

So that happened…

Presidential Visit

by Hope Madden

My company’s new president spent all last week in the Columbus office. Her agenda included one-on-one meetings with each of us. Nice, eh?

This kind of information makes you look at your office with new eyes, though. What impression was that Zombieland poster going to make? Or the shrine to Springsteen? Or the other shrine to Duran Duran? What would she think of Raoul, my life sized cardboard zombie stand up?

I decided it wouldn’t matter, though, as long as her first impression was an accurate reflection of me.

Then I remembered the last time I was introduced to a new corporate authority figure.

My editor Linda, an incredibly dear and sweet woman who worries a great deal about what I might say at any moment, brought our new Editor in Chief Paul down to my office to meet me a few  years ago. She clearly was a little anxious about the introduction, which made her a bit giddy and that got her to chatting nervously until she was dizzyingly out of control.

Linda: This is Hope.

Paul: Good to meet you.

Linda:  She’s a twin!  Her sister’s name is Joy! Hope and Joy!

Me (thinking): Good God.

Linda: They were born near Christmas! Her sister is a little person!

Me (thinking): It sounds like Joy’s a midget. He probably has a circus act in his head right now: giant and midget twins.

Paul: Smiles politely. Shifts uncomfortably.

Me: It’s great to finally meet you. I hope you have a good visit.

Linda: Yep, she’s our local anarchist.

Me (thinking): WHAT??!!!

Paul: Clearly uncomfortable.

Linda: Yep, she sure hates President Bush.

Paul flees.

So, about as well as it could have gone, right?

Anyway, I decided to switch my nameplate with that of a colleague who’s out on maternity leave and just meet the new president in her office. Problem solved. Except that now she thinks my kids are Asian.

So that happened…

My sister Joy needed to go to Europe. She hadn’t been to Europe in 6 years. Six whole years! I’ve been to Canada.

Anyway, she needed me to babysit while she was away. The trick was, because Ruby was already in school, I had to go to them. They couldn’t come to me. So, I agreed and off I headed to the wilds of Vermont.

Joy and her family live inside the woods. I mean, Vermont is heavily wooded – it is our nation’s most heavily wooded state, in fact. But inside that wooded state, she lives inside the woods.

I have a pathological terror of the woods, did I mention that? I keep it at bay so that I can see my sweet Vermonsters Ruby and Vivian. Oh, and of course Joy and her husband Jeff. They’re very important. It’s not like I assume they moved to Vermont specifically to get away from me or anything.

And I have even been alone with the kids before, but never for an extended visit. I was a little freaked.

As I arrived, Joy let me know that a couple of albino peacocks had escaped from a peacock farm a short distance around the lake out in back of their house. How sad, I thought, but I had missed the point.

“Have you ever heard the sound a peacock makes?”

I had not.

“They sound like a child screaming.”

Now I understood. At any time – likely very late in the evening – I might glimpse a white wraith in the woods and hear the sound of a crying child. That would certainly not unsettle me in my condition of constantly stifled panic.

Well, those wraiths never did appear. We had a couple of bumps, though.

I think our only continuing problem had to do with the girls’ preoccupation with princesses. I can get behind lots of things, but I cannot pretend to be a princess. Footman, servant, giant, troll, villain of any kind – but not a princess. You can’t come right out and say that to a 7-year-old and 4-year-old, though. Not if you love them and hope to keep their love.

“What will your princess name be?” Ruby asked.


Vivian grimaced. “That’s a bad princess name.”

“How about Shimmering Pearl? You could be Shimmering Pearl,” Ruby tried to lure me.


They grew so exasperated with my ugly princess name that they relented and we played hide and seek. My plan worked beautifully.

Eventually, the girls convinced me, finally, to take them on “The Trail.” It was a walking path through the forest that surrounded what they considered a neighborhood. It was deep woods stuff as far as I was concerned – once in, all you could see in any direction was trees.

I didn’t want to impart any of my tree terror on the week ones, and Ruby – a Brownie – guaranteed me she could find our way home. And she’s much smarter than I am, so I believed her and in we went.

You know what I never realized, in that I would never set foot in the woods for any other reason than to please my sweet Vermonsters? The woods suck. Not just in the unrelenting terror, but in the general sense. We saw lots of assorted woodsy whatnot, but the bugs were insane. Insane! Does everyone know this and still go in?

The Vermonsters drew my attention to a bewildering variety of colorful mushrooms. We saw birds and rodents and had a generally lovely time until I heard the sounds I felt sure, even if subconsciously, I would hear in this isolated place: the slap of running feet accomapnied by heavy breathing. Someone was running.

It was a man.

He was running toward us.

The cherubic bunnies rattled onabout tree fairies, mousies and mushrooms while silently the panic rose in my throat.

I could see him out of the corner of my eye. A shaker sweater, jeans and boat shoes. In retrospect, I feel sure he was a lost tourist hoping I was a local who could direct him. I’ll never know, though, because long before he could ask for directions I’d already tucked one girl under each arm and football carried my nieces in a  dead out spring out of the woods.

Princess games suck, but they are so much safer.

Hope Madden and George Wolf … get it?