Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Channelling my inner 7 year old

Everyone has strengths. Can we agree on that? Because if we do, that makes the realization that we all have weaknesses that much easier to bear.

For example: I have strengths. No crossword puzzle is safe from me. I can quote MacBeth in a pinch. I'm a decent poker player. I play the guitar. I have strengths, is what I'm saying.

Apparently, I also have weaknesses, as illustrated by an exchange between Toots and me just this past evening.

You should know that it makes me crazy when she speaks to me like I was a child. It's one of only a small handful of things that can generate a guns blazing, full tilt boogie screaming match. I'm old, for chrissake. I don't need to be told what to do step by step like a child.

Or so I thought.

After dinner, as is my wont, I trundled downstairs to watch the Red Sox cough up yet another eighth inning lead. On my way down, Toots asked me if I wouldn't be a love and take the sheets that had just finished washing and put them in the dryer, which I did with great aplomb.

About an hour later, I hear her voice tumbling downstairs.


"Yes hon."

"Did you put the sheets in the dryer?"

A perfectly valid question. I forget things. I forget things ALL THE TIME. I've been told I'm the archetype absent-minded professor. I forget by whom.

"Yes, hon."

"Did you actually turn the dryer on?"

Now was this question completely necessary? Well, as it turns out, yes. Because there have been plenty of times where I've put clothes in the dryer and not actually turned the beast on. So that's one reason why I took this question in stride.

The other reason was, for the life of me, I couldn't remember if I did or didn't.

"That's...that's an open question, dear," I said as cavalierly as I could, getting up from the couch.

My job was now clear. I had to go to the laundry room and confirm that I had, in fact, turned the dryer on. The problem was, I had no idea at all if I had or not.

I stared at the dryer. It stared unblinkingly back at me.

The laundry room smelled faintly like laundry, so maybe I did.

I reached out a tentative hand to the top of the dryer. Cold. Hmm. Maybe I didn't.

There was only one thing left to do. Open the dryer and reach my hand in, and consult the "was the dryer on" manual, which states:

Clothes cold and wet: dryer not turned on.
Clothes warm and dry: dryer turned on.

I opened the door with a hand that shook ever so slightly. I placed my shaking hand on a bedsheet.

Dry. Blissfully dry and still a little bit toasty. Whew! I had performed a task that any seven year old child could have done without thinking. I was so proud.

"It's all set," I yelled upstairs. "What do you think I am, a child?"

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My Conversation with God

Maybe it was a blob of mustard, an undigested bit of cheese. Maybe there was more of gravy than of grave with the Lord, but either way, He manifested Himself before me.

I will say this: He looked serene. He was dressed in a cotton oxford shirt, impeccably tailored, and a pair of blue jeans that were perfectly worn to the shape and contour of The Holy One, Blessed Be His legs without looking at all ratty. In His hand was might and power, and the keys to a BMW 7 series. On His brow was wisdom, and a pair of Ray-Bans that, it hardly need be said, fit him perfectly.

"Hello, my son," he said, and His very voice was musical, lyrical, and melodious. "We need to chat, you and I."

"Hey, can this wait?" I asked in my impertinence. "I have to, er, do a thing, see a guy about a thing about another thing..."

"Sorry, no," saith The Lord. "You're stuck with Me for the next little while."

"Well, ok," I said, agreeably enough. "What can I do for you?"

"You're a sinner, a horrible sinner, and I need to discuss your sins with you."

"That's a little harsh, isn't it? Sure, letter of the law and everything, I suppose I'm a sinner, but I'm not that bad. Like how many of the ten commandments have I broken?"


"Oh," I sputtered. "Are you sure?"

"Shall we go down the list?"

"OK," I said. What are you gonna do, say no to God?

"All right," he said, winding up. "One. I am the Lord thy God."

"I'm an atheist."

"My son, I stand here before you."

"I'll deal with that later."

"Two," He said, moving forward. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me, nor make any idol."

"OK, well, I do like money, I gotta give you that one too."

"Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain."

"Guilty," I said, not even bothering to try to protest.

"Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy."

"A-ha!" I said. "I keep the Sabbath holy!"

"Son," He said with infinite patience, "Sitting on your hinder and refusing to clean out the litter box does not constitute keeping the Sabbath."

I was left precious little time to reflect on the fact that God used the word "hinder" when He continued.

"Five," the Lord plunged forward. "Honor thy Mother and Father." Before I could utter any word of protest or defense He looked down His graceful, aquiline nose at me. "All the time."

I sighed.

"Six," He said. "Thou shalt not Murder. This one, you're clean."

"Thank G..." I started, before remembering Commandment Three. "Thanks."

"Seven," smirked The Lord. "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

"Listen, don't mean to contradict you here, but I haven't."

"Lust in your heart counts, My son," He intoned.

"Oh shit," I said. "Then I've broken that one tens of thousands of times, haven't I?"

"Two hundred forty three thousand, seven hundred nineteen," said God. "I compliment your imagination."

"Thanks - I mean, sorry," I said. I was starting to feel pretty miserable.

"Eight: Thou shalt not steal. Need I remind you of the Cinnamon Gum Incident of 1973?"

It was only too true. When I was four I took a pack of gum off the shelf, not realizing that my Mother would start to wonder where I was getting all this cinnamon gum. She hauled my ass back to the grocery store and made me apologize to the manager. Very humiliating.

The Lord took my silence as an invitation to continue.

"Nine - thou shalt not bear false witness."

"One time," I said. Sheesh. I was ready to testify that my very drunk buddy wasn't the one driving the car he got stopped in. That's what friends do, right? And anyway, I never actually had to do it; they threw the case out before it even came up.

"Ten," quoth the Lord. "This is a three parter. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house..."

"Clean," says I.

"...or thy neighbor's wife..."

"Wow," I said, stung. "So lust in your heart breaks TWO commandments and murder only breaks one??"

"...or thy neighbor's ass."

"Well, if you mean, thy neighbor's wife's ass, then sure."

He paused for a while, observing me with a slow yet deep look up and down.

"My Son," He said, "These are some serious transgressions. What have you got to say for yourself?"

Seemingly without anything else to say, I said the only thing I could say.


He smiled. Even for a non-believer like me that felt pretty good.

"Can't say fairer than that," He said. "My blessings go with you, even though you're an atheist."

"Well, you're probably just indigestion," I smiled. "But it was good talking to you."