Why do my kids need braces?



I didn’t have braces and my teeth are fine.

There’s only one reasonable conclusion: their mother; her genes.

The kids’ bad behavior?  Yep, blame it on mom.

My son can’t dribble a basketball to save his life.  I want to cry.  Growing up, basketball was my religion.  He got this from his mother.  (I’ve seen her shoot hoops.  It isn’t pretty.)

My oldest daughter punched my youngest in the nose, and sprang a leak.  Where does this violence come from?  Moi?  No way.  Just because I joined the Marine Corps doesn’t mean that I’m not a pacifist of the highest order.

I’m a neat freak, and no one cares.  (Tell me that this isn’t because of you know who!)

At night, the entire house is lit up, and and there I go on a rant, flipping switches room to room.  They look at me like I’ve lost my marbles.

“Seriously, dad.  What’s the big deal?”

I tell them about the big deal.  In unison they roll their eyes – a defiant, all-too common act that I swear they rehearse when I’m not around.

Okay.  The farting antics.  I’ll own those, and why the hell not?  Farts are funny … until the little miscreants cut one in public and blame you, run away gagging and holding their noses.  What are you going to do?  Tell everyone that it was your kid and not you?  I’m a bad parent, not a monster.

And the thing about turning their underwear inside out to stretch another day, all me.  (I know, brilliant, right?  Flip them again and you got yourself another.)

Sadly, a side-by-side comparison of their parents’ report cards explain the bad grades.  I yell at them to shape up and stop making me look bad.  To be more like their mother.

The hugs, yeah, that’s mom.  When one of our little criminals comes up and “shares” with me a hug, I put them in a headlock and demand answers.  “You drop my iPhone in the toilet again, butterfingers?”

Scientists believe that soon they’ll be able to splice the best from both mom and dad.  If that isn’t good enough, they can splice from a third-party donor, and wa-lah: the perfect child.

Of course, the intent is to wipe out genetic defects, which is noble.  However, it will only be a matter of time before medical boutique shops promise perfect smiles and grades?  Every kid money from the three-point line.  Home work done, hands washed, and lights out by nine.  (Am I dreaming?)

But if that’s the future thank God I’m not in it.  We got braces, bad grades and bloody noses.  We got lights, cameras, and action.  Tantrums and defiance, and really lame excuses.  In other words, we got it all, baby.  (And they got the best from me!)


Wait until you read what happens in this post …

You’re going to be amazed.

But do you know what?  I’ve never been amazed.  Never!

Not when the squirrel was riding on water skis, not when the flash mob visited a mall and sang a Christmas carol, and not when Mayor Ford of Toronto said that he had more that enough pussy to eat at home, thank you very much.

But that’s the hook on social media, isn’t it?  How amazed we will be when we click on the link.

You’re not going to believe what happens next.

Only … it’s totally believable.

Like when the fat kid picked the skinny kid who was bullying on him, and body slammed him onto the pavement.  Believable.

The Russian gymnasts.  Totally believable.

The dancers who form cars and hearts with they shadows, cool, yes, and also believable.

So please stop telling me otherwise.  I’m a sucker with the links, but mostly I’m worried.

Yes, worried.

What if something unbelievable happens, and because I’ve become jaded I miss out?

What if a guy really does rip off another guy’s head and shits down his throat?  “You are not going to believe what happens when the driver of car one cuts off the driver in car two.  Totally unbelievable.”

And what if I don’t take the bait and miss out?

That’s something I really want to see.

What if a young lady sneezes with her eyes open, and both baby blues go flying from her skull like yo-yos?  Priceless, and totally unbelievable.  At last, something we can’t believe in!

I want to see a guy shit his pants out, literally.  Like, literally.  He gets up off the shitter, and there in the toilet is a soiled pair of bluejeans.  “I’ll be damned.  Honey?  Bring the video camera.”

This is horrible to say, but wouldn’t it be cool to see someone get their face ripped off?  Who wouldn’t watch that?

I’ll tell you who?  Me.  Because I don’t click on those links anymore, goddamnit.

What if someone actually kills someone with kindness?

And here I am, missing out!  I mean … it’s eating me up inside.

Jesus, what if I miss out on someone getting eaten up … from inside?

And what if a woodchuck chuck’s wood?  How adorable!

“You are not going to believe what happens when it starts to rain!  Click on the link to find out.”

And when you click on the link, it’s raining cats and dogs.  Real cats, and real dogs.  Falling from the rainclouds, splattering on the cars and the pavement, the little old lady crossing the road with an umbrella.  I would watch that shit in slow motion, especially the part about the cats, fucking cats, and maybe even download it and cut it with music – Ride of the Valkyries.

So please, stop saying that it’s so unbelievable.  I’m begging you, because when the unbelievable stuff starts to actually happen I want to see it … with my own two eyes … popping out of my skinless skull like yo-yos, my head ripped clean with shit down my throat and my bluejeans soaking in the shitter.  Now that’s the life for me!





Yeah, I stole a car. You gotta problem with that?

Not that I’m in a whimsical mood; however, writing about an old and murdering friend got me remembering about a time in my life that I’d rather forget.

Yes, we stole a car.  A pickup truck to be exact, but don’t get all high and mighty just yet.  Imagine if Justin Bieber or Lady GaGa was playing at a nearby venue.  Iggy Pop.  The Wiggles.  And you were in a mood to rock out with your cock out.  Certainly  you would have sneaked around the neighborhood looking for unlocked cars with keys beneath the floor mats.

FYI, don’t leave your keys beneath the floor mats, or on top of the visors, just like you shouldn’t leave your wallet in your shoes when you take them off to bowl.  Sure, it seems like a foolproof idea, perhaps even brilliant at the time, but everyone’s doing it, even the crooks.  Little miscreants like us, sneaking around with barely enough money in their pockets for nose-bleed tickets to the show.

We didn’t exactly hit the jackpot.  The truck was a POS, short for piece of, well, you know.  A hoopty with a bad muffler and no heat, with a half tank of gasoline.  An AM radio, and we listened to the Mighty 690.  We had a stash of beer and a baggie of weed, but I’ll never admit to this in a court of law.  We had Ozzy on the brain, Crazy Train and War Pig – in the field the bodies burning, as the war machine keeps turning.  To a couple of teenage boys, that song was the freaking bomb.

Entering the city, we followed the signs the Portland Memorial Coliseum, found parking in a handicap zone.  Was that wrong of us?  What’s worse, stealing a truck, or stealing a handicap spot … with a stolen truck?

We bought our tickets and went inside.  It was our second concert, the first being the Oregon Jam at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Quiet Riot – Come on feel the noise, girls rock your boys – with Loverboy, Joan Jett and Night Ranger –  Sister Christian oh the time has come, and you know that you’re the only one so say … okay!  And so we were seasoned professionals, cocky and hip, tucka tucka tucka!  And because we were in a stealing-kinda-mood, we found better seats on the floor, closer to the action.  We sang along, riding a contact high to the encore.  We high-fived people that we didn’t know and hugged others.  We yelled Ozzy countless times, and if felt great.  What a perfect name.  Ozzy!  Imagine Nigel or Benjamin, it wouldn’t have been the same.  Benjamin, Benjamin.  Too many consonants.


When it was over, we made out with a couple of girls in the parking lot, and then one of their fathers pulled up and honked his horn.

Back at the truck, we threw away the parking ticket.  Not our problem.  (I imagine now the poor old man getting this in mail, a parking ticket from a city hundreds of miles away when he was home that night asleep, oh the injustice.)

We must have been the only kids from our small town who attended, because the drive back home was lonely.  The time was north of midnight, and we were heading south on Highway 26.  Literally, there was no one else on the road.

The gas was getting low.

There was no way that we were going to make it home.

In this, our time of need, I turned to religion.

I asked God for help.

If we run out of gas how will we suffer the cold or coyotes, there on foot for another hundred miles with snow on the sides of the roads?  Amid the vast and harsh Oregon wilderness?

Karma, that’s what it was.  Still, I prayed to God.  Just do me a solid, oh Lord, and I’ll turn over a new leaf, be better, stop smoking weed and drinking, get good grades.  Obey the Ten Commandments.  You name it, I’m there!

The engine puttered  and then starved, and we were coasting.

God would be putting us to the test after all.

And karma is a bitch.

But I swear that this next part is true, and would do so with my hand on the bible and in a court of law, for sure!  Fo sho!

From behind us some headlights appeared.  Another car, and perhaps the occupants were friendly.  Distant, but closing in on us as we coasted to a stop.

We hit the hazard lights, and waited.

When the car neared, we exited with intentions of flagging them down.

They could have been murdering lunatics for all we knew.

A religious cult.

Gang members on initiation week, out to kill a couple of doped-out honkies.

We had no other options, so please, God, I’ll be good from now on, promise.

It was a white utility pickup truck, and it pulled up behind us.   A man exited, and asked how we were doing.  Asked if there was a problem.  We informed him that we had run out of gas, and he turned, went to the back of his truck, and returned with a gas can.

“I work for the state,” he said.  “Canvas the roads looking for people who need help.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah.  I got gas, water and food.  You boys hungry?”

In fact we had the munchies.

“There’s chips on the front seat,” he said, removing the gas cap to our stolen truck.  “Help yourselves.”

We ate Doritos while he put gas in the truck.

We must have reeked of booze and pot, but when he was done he just smiled and patted us on the backs.  “You boys take good care.”

“Thanks, mister.  You too.”

We started the engine and drove away.  He followed for a while, and then flipped around and drove the other way.

From the passenger’s seat my murdering friend said, “We got a fatty left.  Wanna smoke it?”

“Hell yeah, bro.  Spark that shit up.”


Dear Journal

I remember a boy named Tony Yee.  His father was estranged, and his mother remarried.  Her name was Judy Nathan.

Tony and I first met in the sixth grade.  His family moved in next door from California, and he was an only child.  Their’s was a small ranch-style home on the corner of First and H Street, in a poor mill town in central Oregon.  Tony’s stepfather was an American Indian, and worked at the Warm Springs Indian Reservation some twenty-odd miles north of our town.  His mother, Judy, worked as a cashier at a local convenience store.

Our town was barely on the map, the census back then around 1,500 residents, a place where everyone knew your business.  Buses ran to and from school, but it wasn’t uncommon to take to foot and walk.  The junior high was a stone throw from our neighborhood, the high school a bit further.  Oftentimes we stopped by the grocery store before or after school, drinking sodas and playing video games.  Astroids was all the rage, and Defender.  On the weekends we hunted for soda and beer cans, and exchanged these for nickels.  When we weren’t in school we threw rocks along the rivers, and when in a more daring mood we crossed the train trestles that lay several hundred feet above the gorge, listening for the distant horns from encroaching locomotives.

We both came from broken homes, but never spoke of this unseemly bond.  We needed escape, and found it in each other, running the streets in innocent games of tag or kick the can, down at the school at the outdoor basketball hoops.  Fashion was unheard of, but we tried like hell to be cool.  Upon entering high school, we succumbed to peer pressure and smoked weed and drank beer.  No one told us that we couldn’t.  My grades slipped, and his fared even worse.  But what did it matter?  The future was a luxury that we couldn’t afford.  However, there were times when Tony talked about becoming a garbageman in San Francisco, the city from where he moved.  A friend of the family was making fifteen bucks an hour, and after thirty years planned on retiring with a life-long pension and money in the bank.  Sadly, Tony’s dreams were better than my own.

My sophomore year was dark with drugs and alcohol.  I look back now and hate the kid that I was.  He was everything wrong with society, a rebellious loser, having spent a few too many nights in the county jail for offenses that no parents ought to be proud of, and mine weren’t either.  Mostly, my parents were indifferent, because dad had problems of his own.  No, he wasn’t an alcoholic or abusive.  Dad was slowly dying, and toward the latter years it became rather ugly.  Pain medication wasn’t helping, and my mother had had enough, was slowly losing her mind.  The family was unravelling, and so what did it matter that I turned to alternate means of managing the pain that was my own?

In the summertime we worked for the local farmers, moving irrigation pipes or hoeing mint in the myriad fields.  We spent our money on clothes, shoes and drugs.  To pay off our debt to society, a judge ordered us to community service, wherein we spent a good portion of the summer washing county cops cars or cleaning the horse stalls down at the fair grounds.

Halfway through our junior year he and his mother moved back to San Francisco.  We kept in touch with phone calls and remained rather close.  That summer, we convinced our mothers that it would be in our best interests if he moved in with my family to finish out high school.  What happened then was inexcusable.  Our behavior was not something that I am proud of, and never would I allow my children the mere thoughts of such criminal antics.  We took to drinking and driving, stealing cars and money.  We fought with whomever wherever, and avoided the law by flight of foot or by car.  My grades plummeted, and so did his.  My senior year was the glitch in the DVD, a fragmented schism, but I know that it existed.  I have the yearbook to prove it, and there I am in the photos.  And there’s Tony, and oftentimes we’re standing together.

Judy drove up for graduation, and discovered at the ceremony that her son, Tony, wouldn’t be graduating.  He had missed too many classes, and his grades were abysmal.  How I managed to squeak by remains a mystery, for I had Fs of my own.  Tony went home with his mother, back to San Francisco, and I never heard from him again.

Dad was near death, and I had to get away.  From everything.  From the town and from my family, from all the influences and the drugs, and start life anew.  I took the remedial classes at Oregon Tech, and eventually earned credit hours that could be applied toward graduation.  My head cleared, and then my body.  How I went from one extreme to another I’ll never know.  A guardian angel?  Some internal drive that didn’t awaken until I turned 18?  Oftentimes I wonder on my younger years had I not met up with Tony.  Was he the catalyst for my near destruction?  Was I his?  Or were we simply bad together?

When I graduated from Southern Oregon I joined the Marine Corps.  My head was clear and my heart was strong.  The trials of Officer Candidate School were nothing compared to those that I had grown up with.  From Quantico, Virginia, they sent me to flight school in Florida – the beginning of a career in aviation.  I’ve travelled the world, and I believe that as a United States Marine I’ve done some good.  Perhaps enough to balance me out; perhaps enough to make me whole.

Late last year, in 2013, an old high school friend sent an email.  “Look up Tony Yee,” he said, and so I fired up Google and went to work.  His full name is Anthony David Yee, and I found several articles in different northern California newspapers.  From high school, Tony joined the Marine Corps, but from what could be gleaned he ran into trouble and was soon forced out.  From there he spent time in and out of prison, until years later he found himself homeless and alone.  According to an article, Judy wanted nothing further to do with him.  She was living alone.  One day she left home for work.  Later that night, upon returning, she found her son waiting …

… a man of forty five …

… my best friend growing up.

Several days went by, and Judy failed to show for work.  Her coworkers phoned the police, and informed them that Judy was afraid of her son, who had showed up out of the blue days ago seeking shelter.  The cops went to her house, where Tony answered the door.  Inside, the cops found signs of a struggle.  They arrested Tony, and eventually found Judy.

In court, Tony confessed to murdering his mother.  At first he attempted to strangle her with a rope.  When she successfully fought him off, he grabbed a ball-peen hammer … and went to work.  That night, he drove around looking for a place to hide the body.  Out of ideas, he returned to his mother’s home and stuffed her body down a neighbor’s septic tank.  A judge sentenced him to life without parole inside of a high-security California prison.

Several thoughts have come to pass.  Is he inherently evil?  Certainly there’s an argument to be made.  Had he gone crazy and desperate?  Since we were best friends, and considering our debauchery together, am I too inherently evil?  Which, I don’t believe to be true.  Perhaps we become what we nourish, society quick to forgive the criminal antics of a juvenile, but not so much with a man and his murder.  Interesting in that we both joined the Corps, and where he failed I in turn flourished.  What I know of my time in the Corps: we are a rag-tag group of war fighters, comprised of both good and bad men intent to keep evil at bay.  Which again, existentially speaking, puts into question my nature.  In killing other men, I would sleep easy.  In killing his mother, does he?  I wonder if he still dreams?  Or are his nights full of monsters?  Was I there at the turning point of his life, like the night when we stole a truck to drive to Portland and, of all things, watch an Ozzy Osbourne concert?  Was it the night he dropped acid?  The list goes on, and does it even matter?  He nourished the evil inside, his nature be damned.  Although I too feel the evil, always near, I drop to my knees and pray to a God that I hardly believe in.  An illusion perhaps that allows our species civility and life, that governs demonic desires.  Perhaps mankind is inherently evil or good, some percentage of both?  Who really knows?  Pondering the meaning of life is an exercise in futility.  We live, we laugh, some murder, and in the end we all die.

I remember his laugh, and wonder whether it held joy or cruelty.  If he ever knew love?  If we were ever really friends, or associates in crime?

Has he since examined his life?  Have I, and have you?

One night I’ll never forget: we were juniors in high school, and I was spending the night at his house, which wasn’t often.  Judy and her husband went off to bed.  Before long they were having sex.  It was obvious.  Tony and I were sitting in front of the television set, high on weed.  The living room was dark, just the glow of the television set.  He grabbed the remote control, and turned down the volume, which had the effect of amplifying the sounds from the master bedroom.  He looked at me, and didn’t break eye contact.  Just looked at me with the dead and hateful eyes of a Rottweiler, and didn’t say a word.  Looked at me until I got up and walked away, into the bedroom, closing the door.  Was he embarrassed?  Did he hate his mother for loving another man?  Who knows, but after all these years I know the look in his eyes while he waited for his mother to come home from work.  How he sat in the darkness with the television on and the volume turned down.  Sat for her, and waited.