If we’re going to blame anyone, let’s blame Susan Cooper. If Ms. Cooper hadn’t settled behind a typewriter to punch out all the letters and punctuation and blank spaces (the very most important bits; if you don’t have blank spaces, you just have letters bumping into each other with an alphabetical cacophony of “Sorry!” and “Why, excuse me!” and “Hey now, watch it! Can’t you see I’m pregnant?”—The Bs get away with that last one all of the time. All. Of. The. Time.) of The Dark is Rising, no one would have given a second-hand copy to me for my 8th birthday.

Bird, bird, bird, bird is the word…

I finished the series and wound up entranced by this mythical realm of far-away Wales. (The Welsh might be surprised to discover their country is mythical, but the Welsh need to slow their Celtic roll and just go with it.) So, when my Freshman Spanish teacher (I was a Freshman; she was a Spanish teacher) volunteered her plans to head to the U.K. over the holidays, I asked her for a Welsh-English dictionary. (Pre-web, guys. Sourcing stuff was harder then. Like, you know, so much more difficult.) Surprisingly, Senora Adams delivered and I was and am forever grateful.

One day I, too, will be as smart as a cover cartoon character…

Despite all my best intentions over the decades, I still can’t speak Welsh. But I can pay Google Translate exactly nothing to convert gab for me, so my go-to language when I want fun and fanciful is Cymric.

Except. Except this one time, this one most important time, it failed me. When the InstaPrincess was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, I sought my usual linguistic refuge to write about it, and instead of curious vocables such as hyfrydwch or tywysoges or Damn poeth, fy ngwraig yn boeth! my search result simply ended up as:


Welsh dropped the e but kept the rest. Which merely illustrates that cancer fuckin’ ruins everything.

We don’t know how this cancr journey will go. We have hopes (as does everyone who’s been hit), and yes, it pays to stay positive, but cancr isn’t kind, it isn’t ethical, and it isn’t anything more than a mindless barbarian silently disintegrating the gates.

So, tonight, a few hours after her first chemo treatment, and after slinging back a bottle of Riesling Auslese Nahe (it’s what we had—shut up… also, I bought it, so no regrets!) I wearily sit on the couch, a bit numb, and a lot wishing I lived in a Susan Cooper book where magic gets shit done.

We’re the bazillionth family living with cancr, I get this. But, our nerves are still on the red side of raw and we still approach it with gallows humor (that might never change); and while I feel its way performative to say it on a publicly-accessible blog, I rather fiercely love the InstaPrincess, and I will ride this Riesling rocket to write Susan Cooper right away and demand she spin me a magical Welsh spell to erase all the other goddamn letters of my wife’s cancr.

Mary, King of Scotch

This might be the Scotch talking, but I think if we all communed with God a little; if we all tied on our Robes of Important Thinking; if we all bogarted the smelly, probably-shouldn’t-view-this-in-a-blacklight, futon located in the dorm room of our inner Buddhist synagogue, we’d all agree that the best movie soundtrack of all time is, without doubt, Beverly Hills Cop (MCA Records, don’tcha know).

Hear me out. No, wait, don’t. It doesn’t matter. We just all agreed that we all agree, so there’s no need to hear me anything. What’s important is that when we tell this tale to our grandchildren, we acknowledge the king-making powers of the ’80s synthesizer, and how the world has dimmed a little since we abandoned its abundant use.

“But, Skippy!” You protest. “What about the soundtrack to ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’?”

Meh. Have we learned nothing about sequels? They get caught in jet engines; they get wrapped around revolving doors; they get snagged on rockets. (I may be confusing them with capes.) NO SEQUELS!

“Fine,” you acquiesce, not even suspecting you know how to spell ‘acquiesce’ (you don’t, but that wavy color line in your browser does), “what about the soundtrack to ‘The Karate Kid’?”

A quality challenge, indeed. Huzzah! Joe Espisito’s “You’re the Best” is almost insurmountable; it’s the montage tune all other montages inspire to be… but it suffers one fatal flaw.

I didn’t own that soundtrack. I was a kid, poor. Shut-up.

Danny Elfman, Patti LaBelle, The System, Harold Faltemeyer, Rockie Robbins, Shalamar… all artists who are relevant and I’m pretty sure still alive today; real taste-makers; bards and minstrels who influenced innumerable bands and rock stars such as The Beetles, Elves Presley, Bon Jehovah, Prunce, and Stevie Wander.

When I cycle with my kid to his school in the mornings, do I listen to his dreadfully painful tales of art, gym, social anxiety, and who offered him drugs the day before? No, of course not. I’m pedaling along, mentally rocking out to “Don’t Get Stopped in Beverly Hills” because it speaks to me, man. It says that one day I, too, will stuff a banana up the tail pipe of a cop car.

Do I love the Insta-Princess? Sure, why not? But do I love her more than Junior’s “Do You Really (Want My Love)”? Here’s the thing: marriages last forever when you never ask questions. (It’s a thing you can look up on the Internet. I promise.)

When they asked in the hospital after his birth, I named our second kid, “The Heat Is On” but won’t need to ever tell my wife because it’s her fault she was all epiduraled-out at the time. I don’t negotiate with terrorists or druggies. It’s a moral imperative, I feel.

Have you tried the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack? I mean, REALLY tried it? Give it a whirl. Slip on your most fashionable housecoat; spray on your shiniest Soul Glow; feed your family the tastiest rat poison you can buy at the dollar store; do what you need to do to sit back, relax, and groove with the almost mystical desire to pack drugs in crates full of coffee grounds and open an art gallery. You’ll thank me.

Man. Scotch is maybe the best thing, ever.

Limping at 9PM, Part II

Dear Internet Lawyer Pals: You’re not my lawyer, I’m not your client, you don’t have a license in my jurisdiction, you’ve probably never heard of my jurisdiction, Fax mentis incendium gloria cultum, et cetera, et cetera… (Memo bis punitor delicatum!)

I’d like to sue my left knee. For treachery. For pain. For suffering. For leaving me over a mile away from home, limping, caught in the rain, and totally without an umbrella. (It was his night to bring it. My right knee brought chopsticks just like it agreed to do.)

My left knee hurt me, and now I’d like to hurt it right back. Left back. Whatever. Is there precedent for this? If my knee refuses to hold me up, do I lack standing? Can I sue for damages from it being a knee-jerk? Most importantly, if we dig up the corpse of Learned Hand to officiate, will he be biased?

Thank you. If you need to contact me, I’ll be over here in the corner crying. Manly crying, with tears made out of arsenic and fire, but crying.

Running at 9 PM, Part I

There are dangers embracing a moonlit run that don’t exist with a pre-sun early morning jog. Namely, people. That is, where 5 AM was a game of solitaire, 9 PM is Texas Hold ‘Em. Except, I don’t know how to play Texas Hold ‘Em, no one invites me to their silly games, anyway, and I’m not at all bitter about this stupid, stupid simile, so shut up.

All I’m saying is that when “Oh, Sherrie” accidentally (!) stumbles its way onto your MP3 player, you can’t just start belting it aloud at 9 PM because you might have an audience. An audience who DOESN’T appreciate your spot-on Steve Perry impression, mind you, and they yell “What?” at you as you sing-a-jog by.

“Our love holds on,” I answer back, which is a total lie because I was raised a weekend Catholic and I grew up thinking Steve sang “Our love hosann”–a shortened “hosanna”.

So, anyway, my runs are holy. I’m pretty sure that’s what this update boils down to.

Running at 5, Part IV

There’s a lot to say, but I’ll be upfront since all 223 of you are my closest friends, ever. This isn’t easy, but 5 AM and I are going through a trial separation.

Wait, wait! I know. “But you’re so good together!” We are, and I’ll never forget the way 5 AM and I met: A sleepless night, a new pair of shoes, no one around but the two of us. Call it fate, call it kismet, call it insanity… we just hooked up.

It’s my fault, really; I’ve grown inattentive: today I ignored 5 AM, and when I finally went over to 5 AM’s place, I saw that 5 AM had moved on without me. There were tears (there were always tears; I cried a lot during the relationship), maybe an accusation or two, but I feel it’s for the best. Plus, my visits with 5 kept interfering with the Insta-Princess‘ rendezvous with 5’s younger brother, 5:30.

Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I’ll move on. Why, just last night I saw this hot little number outside. Called herself “9 PM”. And maybe 9 PM looks a little like 5 AM, but they’re different.

I promise.

Running at 5 AM, Part III

I did some (not quite academic quality) research on the Internet, and it turns out that 5:00 AM was totally invented by Hitler. With an assist by Charles Manson. I’m no longer sure I can support 5 AM and enthusiastically suspect that it will soon be tried for war crimes.

Running at 5 AM, Part II

Clad all in black this morning and shielded by the leftover night, I was a ninja: silent, steady, treading the sidewalks with barely a pebble disturbed (also, no moths). I was invisible… except for the streak of neon yellow the shoe salesman insisted was an okay trait for running shoes.

So, a ninja with style, that’s what I was. Better, even: onlookers would be blinded by the flashes of neon yellow, leaving me yet unseen. No one knows where I am; they can’t find me; Google Maps can’t locate a healthy, jogging ninja.

… unless Google can pinpoint sounds, because then it might lead the curious to a suburban ninja whining, moaning, begging a deal with the devil or divine to (and I quote): “Oh, God! Take me, take me now! Jogging’s so painful! I’ve gone ten feet and it hurts–it hurts! I hate jogging–I hate jogging’s stupid face! End me! Tell my wife and child good-bye and just make the misery stop!”

Silent. Deadly. Ninja. Me.

Running at 5 AM, Part I

It’s too dark to run (and see) at 5 in the morning, and to prove it a moth–just getting up for its constitutional–gobsmacked me right in the mouth. “Hey now, I’m in a stable relationship,” I told it as it continued to French kiss me. “I’m not that easy.”

Who the hell was I kidding? “Gimmee sugar, powder-winged and flighty.”

Unfortunately, as many an ex can attest, my morning Godzilla breath doesn’t make for good romance, and Mothra died mid-smooch. Satisfied, I hope, but being too dark to see…